open thread – December 29-30, 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.

{ 1,061 comments… read them below }

  1. Now what?*

    I was just let go from work without warning this morning. I’m pretty stunned, I was not expecting this at all.

    I need to find work again immediately – they gave me a last check and claimed they paid out my PTO, but didn’t now that I’m home and actually looking at the check they gave me, and no severance. I unfortunately had gone pretty overboard with Christmas gifts this year because I was so excited to finally have a really “stable” and well-paying job, which is a pretty big life lesson for me right now!

    Anyway, I was at this job for 4 months. My manager seemed very sad to let me go (essentially they have no idea what they want from me or what they want from the position so I’d been having a lot of roadblocks, never got to actually do the things I was hired to do, etc) and said she’d be a reference for me.

    So I’m not sure what to say about this on my resume – do I not list it all and explain in my cover letter or interview why it looks like I haven’t worked since August? If I do list it, how do I credit my “accomplishments?” I did some good things, but nothing that was really tied to the level of projects or work that should have been done for my title.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I’d recommend registering with some local temp agencies for potential short term work just to have some money coming in.

      As for listing the job, do you want to use your manager as a reference? If so, then you kind of have to list it. What was your work history like before this? If you don’t have a history of job hopping, having one short term job might be okay, especially if you can spin it that you were hired for a specific project that never came to fruition.

      1. Natalie*

        And apply for unemployment! It’s not going to be your full paycheck but it’s more than nothing. If you earn something through temping, gig economy stuff, etc, that will usually reduce your unemployment but not by a 1-to-1 margin. That is, if you earn a dollar, your unemployment check for that week is typically reduced by $0.60 or similar.

      2. Anony*

        If you are on good terms with your manager (which it seems you are) you could ask her for advice about listing this position and explaining why you were let go. That has the added advantage of making sure she will be saying the same thing you are when called as a reference.

      3. Anion*

        I am so sorry to hear this, Now What?. That sucks. But I second Amy Santiago’s advice; sign with a temp agency asap. My husband found his (great) temp-to-perm job through one this summer (he is now perm), but even if there’s nothing permanent available it’s a good way to bring in some money and make some connections.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          I third the advice about signing up with a temp agency STAT. There may be some companies looking for seasonal work at the moment, so now would be a good time to get in the door. Try to look for places that do temp-to-hire or direct placements. Good luck.

    2. Happy Lurker*

      I am so sorry to hear this. I don’t have any advice on the accomplishments. I would leave the job off my resume, if there is enough history that it doesn’t raise questions. Best of luck.

    3. KR*

      I would list it until you get a new job, and then after you’ve been at the new job for a while leave it off. Four months is a normal amount of time to be out of work. As for your other questions, maybe some of the other commenters will have better ideas on how to phrase it for your resume. Could you list that the position ended/was eliminated as opposed to you being let go – I think that may sound better and it sounds like your manager might be on board for that. I think after this weekend and you’ve had time to process this you should call up your manager about that and the missing vacation days. I’m sorry – it’s a rotten time to be out of work.

      1. voluptuousfire*

        I agree with this. Keep it on your resume until you find another gig and remove it once you’ve been there awhile. It does sound like you were more laid off/let go than fired, IMO. Hell, it could probably even be spun that you were let go due to a reorganization–letting you go because they don’t know what to do with you.

        Sorry to hear that, but you will get another one.

      2. T3k*

        This. I had a similar situation (let go 6 months into first job after college) so I couldn’t exactly leave it off. After getting only a couple calls, I rewrote my resume to say beside the date like “position eliminated” and I got a lot more calls after making that change.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          I did this too with the first job I had out of college that I was let go from (had nothing to do with performance, they were sad to see me go, and they gave me severance even though I had only been there four months). I don’t include it on my resume at all now.

      3. Natalie*

        This is absolutely a layoff or position elimination. OP, do not say you were fired! In this case wording matters a lot.

    4. LO*

      Wow.

      I am so sorry.
      It seems like such a short amount of time that I wouldn’t include it unless a project you were involved with was a major deal.

      Mostly, I am sorry. I was in a similar position last year and know how you feel.

    5. Teapot Librarian*

      How terrible. I don’t have advice on your resume question, but I am just so sorry that this happened to you.

    6. MissDisplaced*

      I’m sorry, this sucks. Unfortunately, a lot of companies do this at the end-of-year to make their numbers.
      If you were laid off not for any cause (and it doesn’t sound like there is) you will be eligible for unemployment. Use it! At the least, it will give you some cushion for 3 months or so to find something. And I second the temp agencies… Maybe not what you want, but they may have some short-term gigs that pay.

    7. AshK434*

      Omg I’m so sorry to hear this!
      I don’t really have advice about the resume stuff, but please reach out to your employer to check about the PTO

    8. Nita*

      I’m sorry. The timing is pretty awful, not that there’s ever a good time to lose your job. I’d absolutely list it and list whatever accomplishments you can. It’s better than a gap in your resume, especially if you plan to use your manager as a reference. Good luck in your job hunt.

    9. Liane*

      I am so sorry. Since you now know that they didn’t pay out your PTO, you do need to address that with ExJob. You might start with Manager, but you may have to go to Payroll. Since she seems supportive, do talk to Manager to get an agreement on what will be said to reference checkers as well, both by her and HR.
      You need to be very clear on that, preferably in writing, because reference checkers may talk to someone besides Manager. I have a good friend who, years ago, was let go from a job “Because X.” He got a new job quickly–and was fired from it within weeks. They apparently hired and then did reference checks, and guess what? LastJob told NewJob, “We let him go because Y.” I don’t know what X or Y were, but they decided Friend had lied to them and he had no proof otherwise.

    10. Susan K*

      Wow, so sorry this happened to you! I think how you handle your resume depends on a few things. Do you have a lot of previous experience, or is this job the only relevant experience you have (in other words, if you omit this job, would your previous jobs show what skills you have?)? Are there other long gaps on your resume? Is there anything unique about this job that would make your resume stand out (e.g., a prestigious title, company, or project)? Since you were not in this position very long, you wouldn’t be expected to have a long list of accomplishments.

      Can you ask your manager how she will describe your departure? It looks like you were laid off because your position was eliminated. If your manager agrees with that, don’t say you were “let go” because that implies you were fired.

      P.S. If they didn’t pay out your PTO, definitely contact them about that. In some states, they are legally required to pay out your PTO.

    11. Now what?*

      Wow, thank you all so much for your kind replies! I was going to go through and respond to everyone individually, but since I’m feeling a little overwhelmed right now I hope this blanket “Thank you!” counts!!

      I’ve been in the workforce for about 6 years, with a small gap previously where I voluntarily paused working to tend to a family emergency a few years ago. This job was the third company I’ve worked for, and I was promoted several times and had many great accomplishments at my prior two jobs, so I feel good about that representation! This was a more impressive title, but since I was essentially given mostly busy work/completely unrelated work to my field because they didn’t want to do any projects that were actually in my specialty I’m not sure if the title still carries much weight?

      1. Now what?*

        Oh, and yes, they told me I’ll qualify for unemployment so I am filing, and I reached back out to the recruiter I had worked with to find this job (we had kept in touch since I was hired and I had told her my concerns with the flipflopping and contradicting assignments I was getting, so she’ll hopefully understand what’s happened here).

        1. Natalie*

          One great thing about working with a recruiter is that they can fill prospective employers in about your situation without worrying so much about how to word it in a cover letter or what have you. I used a recruiter when my job was being eliminated after approximately a year, and I’m sure it smoothed the path to getting interviews.

    12. Not So NewReader*

      Right in between the holidays, too. I am so sorry. Sending you buckets of good vibes that this set back be very short for you.

    13. Erin*

      Since your former boss offered to be a reference for you I would go ahead and include this on your resume, especially if you have a solid work history behind that (and haven’t only worked at jobs for four monthsish). The good news is that you were laid off without cause, which a reasonable employer isn’t going to hold you accountable for. The fact that they’re offering to be a reference for you is huge. I’d use that.

      And just do your best for the accomplishments. I’m sure there’s something you could include. For instance, at a prior job of mine I literally answered the phones and scanned paperwork – that was it. But I said something on my resume like I completely reorganized their hard copy filing system (which was true), was trusted with sensitive financial information, etc.

      Good luck!

    14. Stellaaaaa*

      List it on your resume because the reference will be valuable to you. It sounds like this might have been one of your first professional jobs? Was it at a small-ish or new-ish business? In my experience, it’s totally common for stuff like this to happen at that type of business. Interviewers understand when you’ve been the victim of a small business’ lack of focus.

      1. Radio Girl*

        I agree with Stella. Small or new businesses are notorious for being unable to plan a straight course or upward trajectory. People know this. I was let go from one, too, but not at Christmas, a month later. It actually turned out to be a happy time for me. The job I lost was stressful.

        I patched together a variety of jobs working for two nonprofits and teaching noncredit classes. Of course, I had no benefits for a while. Temping is a great option.

        There is lots of good advice here. I’m so sorry, thought. Keep us updated.

    15. Gadfly*

      Ask them about tbe PTO. If they said they paided and didn’t, it could just be an error. Just approach it as confusion (“I understood it was being paid but I don’t see it on the check, can you explain?”)

      Best case is they fix it, worst case is nothing changes. Unless they are weird and crazy and resonable questions cause them to have a melt down?

  2. The Cosmic Avenger*

    I can’t get into too many details without risking outing myself, but I put in a very mundane request recently, and the responsible internal department kicked it back to me, stating that I should change something. However, changing that one thing means that we (I) would be overcharging the government…at least, in my take on the policy. They got back to me, but it included a chain of dismissive, sniping emails back and forth.

    I don’t want to make the person who sent it to me feel bad about it, because I know him and actually like him, but I feel like maybe I should state that I don’t like feeling like I’m a bother for trying to get this right when the consequences for getting it wrong could be dire.

    Any recommendations on how to approach it? I’m thinking I might wait until Tuesday and talk to my supervisor, or talk to someone in that department in person, either of which might turn out better than continuing to email back and forth when we seem to kind of be talking past each other.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      If you seem to be talking past in each other in email and it’s not time sensitive, then I would say your best bet is probably to discuss it on the phone or in person.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        And I find in my line of work that phrasing it as something like “not wanting to trigger an audit by the Feds” or similar wording tends to serve as a reality check. Hold it out there as a “we’re trying to protect ourselves” rather than “I think you are wrong and/or bad.”

      2. neverjaunty*

        Normally I would agree, but when the potential consequences are very serious, it’s critical to keep a paper trail.

        1. Liane*

          You can do both, Alison has recommended that several times. Call him or go by his office and talk it out. Then email him, with any needed CCs/BCCs, “As we discussed this morning, using Form 4F instead of Form A1StK is a problem because XYZ…”

          1. neverjaunty*

            Absolutely, but that’s best for situations where you really have to talk in person. Given the snippiness and having to go up the chain, OP is probably better off keeping everything in writing so there’s no “I never said that!” later.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      I wouldn’t say you don’t want to be a bother. It’s not personal, it’s not about you, it’s just about the process.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Actually, some of the chain that was forwarded was somewhat derisive about the question, and by extension me for having had the nerve to ask it.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Not at all! I actually know all of them fairly well in person, and like them, so I think the forwarded messages didn’t have my name on it, but then the last person who knew it was me forwarded it back to me without reading the rest of the chain. That’s another reason I don’t want to reply, although I do really want to call them out on it, because I think they’d take it better from me than from most people.

      2. Rat Racer*

        And also about that person, who clearly showed his tush by berating someone over email when the issue you’re championing is about honesty and transparency. He looks bad, not you.

    3. dr_silverware*

      I think you should do both of those approaches, actually. Talk to your supervisor–at least to advise them of what’s going on–and also go in person to that department to explain why you’re taking it so seriously and what the reasoning is for the change they requested.

      My guess is that going in person to the internal department, or at least talking with them on the phone, will be the most effective, but your supervisor should definitely know just in case you’re about to get stuck in a pile of politics.

    4. CM*

      Is the issue resolved? I would separate the issue from the negative communication. Over email, I would be straightforward and focused on the issue: “Here is the request with the changes you asked for,” or “Thanks, here is the original request as we agreed.” And in person, I’d talk to the person who sent the emails to you and say, “Hey, I felt like that email chain got out of hand and want to talk about how we can improve our communication next time.”

    5. The Consultant*

      Are you sure it would be overcharging? We have government contracts and sometimes with the weird accounting they do with overhead costs, etc. it looks fraudulent but it isn’t. If your sure, ignore me, but if not I would suggest asking how the math works instead of automatically assuming you’re being asked to do something wrong. I’m not saying you’re out of bounds here but it might be worth a little more research.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I’m not sure, but it would cost the government more to do it the way they asked than the way I calculated it, and I can’t find anything that clearly states to calculate it their way. My way is documenting everything by the book, their way requires a little creative documentation based on how they are interpreting certain rules.

    6. tigerStripes*

      Where I work, once e-mails get bogged down (and if they get snippy), we’re supposed to pick up the phone or go to the office and talk to the other person. I usually dread doing this, but it tends to work.

  3. Jan*

    I’ve talked about this before, but I’m at a new job and I work with another woman who is also training me, “Marsha”. We have to enter data into Access and it can be tricky if there are no numbers for certain entries. Marsha figured out a way to do this, but didn’t tell me. (She played dumb when I asked her.)

    Then, when I figured it out, I was really excited and told her. She faked happiness and I overheard her telling someone later that she was surprised that I figured it out. (Um, thanks.)

    Marsha always bangs on about the importance of “teamwork”, but I’m beginning to think that she doesn’t always practice what she preaches. She’ll also throw me under the bus on things, even though she claims to “have my back.” (My boss was jokingly giving her a hard time about something and she shouted out, “Well, Jan also has the same issue.” ) Ugh.

    Other times she seems to avoid me or wants to get away from me- I try not to bother her too much with questions. She’ll then go off and talk to someone else- it’s hard not to feel hurt.

    She also seems competitive with me and I think just wants a reaction half the time or is bored and just toying with me- I’m getting sick of it! Why can’t we all just be friendly and polite to everyone?

    Any advice?

    1. Jen RO*

      She seems like a lovely person… not.
      I wouldn’t say anything right now… maybe Marsha is the boss’s most favoritest person in the world and you’d end up in more trouble complaining about her. When you are more established and you know you work for a reasonable person, I would raise it with your boss because this behavior is the definition of “not ok”.

    2. Second Lunch*

      I think this is an interesting question because I’m a Marsha. Well, without the throwing others under the bus.

      All I can suggest is that you don’t let her get under your skin. Keep throwing out exceptional work, and hopefully she’ll grow to respect you.

      I have a coworker that I can feel myself getting frustrated with because I feel like answers to questions should be obvious or easy to find. I’m a little bitter because I didn’t have anyone to go to my job, so I had to do research to find answers myself, so I kind of expect others to do the same to be resourceful. Personally, I’ll avoid my Jan if something particularly upset me, so I’ll remove myself from the situation to avoid snapping at my Jan or becoming passive-aggressive.

      If she still doesn’t see you as an exceptional worker that she should respect, don’t worry – others (including your manager) take notice in your great attitude and work ethic.

      1. Jen RO*

        This is interesting… I had the same experience when I first got hired, but it pushed me in the other direction: I tend to over-train people and hold hands too much!

      2. Mike C.*

        You expect others to reinvent the wheel? Come on now, if you never pass on your knowledge you’re just causing others to become bitter like you and you’ll be unable to move onto the next big thing because there’s no one trained to replace you.

        Be the change you want to see.

      3. Pollygrammer*

        Agreed. Thinking you’re in competition with your coworkers is going to lead to a toxic workplace. Unless your coworker is really infringing on your time, what the heck does it matter if she gets her answers from you or from personal experimentation?

        I really think you should rethink your attitude.

      4. neverjaunty*

        Why take your bitterness out on others? Possibly if a predecessor had been less bitter, you wouldn’t have had to do so much on your own.

      5. Rat Racer*

        Ha! Interesting – I am the opposite but for the completely ignoble reason that I like to be useful to people because it makes me feel important. Therefore, I’m inclined to give away all my secret tricks of the trade for the little dopamine burst of “look at this clever thing I have figured out, and will now pass on to you, ta-da!”

      6. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

        Wait, I don’t get it – are you responsible for training this person? Asking questions in Jan’s situation is completely normal and reasonable. Withholding Access data entry tips on principle from the person you’re tasked with training is not reasonable.

      7. Jadelyn*

        I feel like perhaps “I had to suffer in this way, so should you” is not the healthiest approach here? It’s a very common thing – witness the people who resist changing broken systems because “I had to deal with it that way, why should the rest of you get a free pass?” – but it’s not healthy or productive for your relationship with the person or people you’re stymieing out of whatever sense of karmic justice.

        I would be interested to know, what do you actually gain from this? How does resisting sharing your knowledge benefit you, the coworker, your team/department, or the company?

        I sympathize, because in my own work I do often feel like a solution to a problem is self-evident, so why the hell are you asking me? – but that’s me speaking from a position of knowing the system and being very tech-savvy in general. My team is not as tech-savvy as I am, and they don’t use the system as often as I do, so it stands to reason that what’s self-evident to me is not equally self-evident to them. So while I may roll my eyes after I hang up the phone, I still politely hand-hold them through it and try to leave them with enough answers to be able to do it on their own going forward.

        Basically, just be patient with people who know less than you do, all it costs you is a few minutes here and there and maybe a fake smile or two, and it builds goodwill you may need later.

      8. Not So NewReader*

        In doing as was done to us, we become the very people we complain about. This is why it is so hard to break abuse patterns. It’s almost in grained in us to feel the heavy weight of the unfairness of how we were treated. The why-bothers creep in. Why bother being that better person? Why bother helping this stranger who was foisted on me as a cohort?

        The answer is because every time we do Less than what we can do, a part of us dies. Additionally, this dis-ease is contagious. Our actions encourage other people to act in a similar manner.

        In my own personal life for decades, I sincerely believed that life was not about the fairness I received, but rather it was about the fairness I GAVE. I know that can be a long, cold road. BTDT. I can honestly say that in the last ten or so years I have been paid back 100 times over for the times I tried to remain fair when everyone else was in meltdown. The people we extend fairness to are not necessary the ones who pay us back in the future. It is worth our while to be fair as often as possible.

      9. Second Lunch*

        Replying to all to clarify. I have never been horrible to my Jan. I understand where OP’s Marsha might be coming from, but I have never acted out like she has.

        I thought that throwing myself out there as a Marsha could help OP Jan get some insight onto what might be going on with her Jan, which could help their relationship. I actually have a great relationship with my Jan – we chat daily and laugh together. I have a good control over my emotions, but clearly OP Marsha does not.

        I’ll gladly help pass on my knowledge – I don’t withhold knowledge because I do want my team to succeed. My Jan is actually senior to my position and uses the good ol’ “You should do it because you’re better” to avoid tasks instead of learning, which is the source of my bitterness (manager has now put a stop to this). Being new in a job is 100% understandable and I taught a lot to my Jan (without being bitter), but we’re 2 years in now and it’s still happening.

        OP, I think other commenters pinpointed on something key where Marsha probably feels territorial, possibly scared that you’ll outshine her. Again, keep on taking the high road and keep on being your wonderful self. Hopefully, she’ll figure out that you’re not out to get her and she’ll lay off her weird defenses.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          You’re not a Marsha. You’re dealing with someone who’s purposely being obtuse so she doesn’t have to do the full duties of her job while the Marsha described is purposely not training her despite Jan wanting to do her job. These are very different situations.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I would not be backstabbing like her, but I would be pleasant and noncommittal, while covering my ass and telling her nothing. That should be enough, because she apparently thinks everyone but her is an idiot and a sucker, so she’ll assume you’re not doing anything she doesn’t know about. For example, when you figure stuff out, tell people who help you, or who you need to know. There’s no reason to share stuff like that with Marsha. If she wants to succeed by backstabbing, let her fail in isolation.

    4. Mike C.*

      CYA. This person is trying to climb up by using your back. Don’t trust this person. I would have asked her in the moment “why are you so surprised”, as I find that things can actually cool down once the plausible deniability goes away. Most reasonable people will realize they can’t get away with that sort of thing and stop.

      As for your own performance, find a niche and do it well. If things get really toxic speak to your boss.

    5. June*

      Oh boy, have I been there!! It’s not fun and I feel for you. I have a few suggestions that have helped me over the years (and will hopefully ease your pain/frustration).
      1. Research, research, research. Find your own answers for the software. This will get Marsha to stop avoiding you. She might see every chat with you as an opportunity for you to ask questions. This would get old for anyone, even if she is your trainer. Bonus – create a training manual for the next person. This will show you as a trainer, not a trainee (even if that is your current status).
      2. She might be jealous if you have a better relationship with your boss/coworkers than her. She might be insecure. She might be competitive. She might be out to cause a negative reaction. Either way, learn to be an expert at your job. Keep the great rapport with your supervisor/coworkers. Later on, when she makes those types of comments, everyone will not put stock in her comments because they know you are the expert at your job/relationships. She will come across as insecure/weak. This is not to make her look bad but to build your reputation above the negative comments.
      3. Make friends outside of the work area (maybe other departments) so when Marsha is in her “don’t want to talk to you” phase, it takes the sting out of the situation.
      4. Read the books, “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers” and “You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life “. Both books were life changing for me and I read them annually so I don’t fall back into bad patterns (being too nice, doubting myself, etc.).
      5. Find ways to collaborate with others on projects. If your whole world is Marsha, then her actions have a greater impact on you. Less Marsha = less impact.
      6. Keep being excited about learning something new. It’s important to challenge and grow as an employee (and person). These newly acquired skills will move you up in your career.
      I know it’s hard to rise above the Marsha’s in the world but I have no doubt that you will succeed!

      1. Mockingjay*

        I like the idea of a training manual. It is a great way to help yourself, help others (teamwork!), and completely uninvolves Marsha!

    6. Jadelyn*

      My only real advice on this boils down to, do not trust her. At all. Do not give her a single inch, a single iota of knowledge about you or your work that you haven’t already freely shared with others. She’s made it clear how she deals with coworkers – gossiping, sniping behind one’s back, throwing people under the bus, etc. – so take that for the big neon sign it is and just understand you can’t trust or rely on her. I’d honestly try to work independently as much as possible, build my own documentation for the processes and systems you’re using, and rely on her only in extreme necessity – go to your supervisor first, and if they ask why you aren’t asking Marsha, explain that you feel like she gets frustrated when you ask questions and she doesn’t seem to want to share information openly.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      The only inroad that I know of in situations like this is to figure out what it is like to be Marsha.

      I am thinking that probably the boss treats Marsha like crap. More often this is why we see CYA behaviors like this.
      It could be that Marsha is burned out on jobs/life and believes everyone is out to get her. You may find that the boss is a fine human being who is stuck with Marsha. I had a boss like this. He is in my top three favorite bosses. He had this dingbat of an employee. EVERYONE in the company avoided her. In the end, she started threatening people with a mob hit if they did not do the simplest task on top of the 37 other simple tasks she just asked for. You needed a chain saw to cut through the stress.
      So figure out what it is like to be Marsha.

      Some things that I have done:
      Never ask the same question twice.
      Line up resources where you can find your own answer.
      Take the time at the end of the day to line up what you will do tomorrow. This is a subtle one. You will have the rest of the night and the early morning of the next day to incubate how you will handle these tasks. Down time is powerful stuff. You might leave with a question at night and when you wake up in the morning you realize your answer.

      You might find ways to handle some of Marsha’s hot/cold behaviors. One thing you might try is asking her if you grouped your questions up would that be better? Is there a better time of day to ask questions?
      You can also say things like “I appreciate you answering my questions, I know it gets tiring training people. So I appreciate the effort.” There, now you have opened the door about how it is tiring to train people. So this means you can say, “Have you had enough of questions for the day?” if is it late in the day and she has been ignoring you. It’s a subtle way of calling out the behavior.

      OTH, I might find three instances of where she walked away and did not answer me and I would go to the boss. This person is supposed to be training me and they don’t want to. I would read the three examples to the boss and ask how he wants me to handle that. This is how I found out the boss in the above story wanted to replace Mob Woman but needed to get someone with her level of skill. I was not that person. I could not fix the situation.

  4. Nervous and awkward*

    I’ve been at my job for 3 months and try to be cheerful and friendly to everyone. (I’m shy, so this is difficult for me, but I’m trying!) But there are still a few people who either don’t make eye contact or only talk to others when I leave the room. This makes me feel awkward and uncomfortable- is this a normal reaction to someone new? Or is it me?

    1. BadPlanning*

      It’s probably not you. Sometimes people forget how to let in new people.

      I have people that I’ve worked with for a couple years and when we pass each other in the hallway, they don’t look at me to do at least a “hey” head bob. I think this is just them either being shy or oblivious.

      1. BadPlanning*

        Another idea — is this a high turnover office? Did you replace someone that wasn’t there very long? Sometimes groups feel sort of burned and want to see if you’ll stick around before they invest in getting to know you time (which is silly because you’ll probably drive people away while waiting to see if they’ll stay around).

    2. selina kyle*

      Is it a bigger work place? That seems odd to me (the people who don’t make eye contact – not you!), but I’m pretty outgoing so maybe they’re just shy. I wouldn’t take it personally.

    3. Jen RO*

      Some people are just rude. Some people are just unwilling to spend the energy to get to meet the new person. Some people are just self-absorbed. Most likely it’s not you, it’s them.

      (And keep being friendly! I also struggle with shyness, especially in a new environment, but cultivating relationships has been invaluable in my current job.)

    4. All Hail Queen Sally*

      Sometimes it takes a while for people to warm up to new people in the office. Every person changes the office dynamic a bit, so it just may be that they are waiting to learn more about you and to see how you fit in with them.

    5. Alternative Person*

      I’d say keep doing your best to be cheerful and friendly. There’s any number of reasons why some people are keeping to themselves/their circle so let them do them and focus on doing the best job you can do.

      1. Jen RO*

        I was going to add this to my reply! I realize that sometimes my shyness/social anxiety probably comes across as arrogance. For example, someone new joined a sports team I am part of. She was very good at the sport, while I am mediocre. I felt insecure, so I barely talked to her. Fast forward a couple of years, now we are coworkers and she admitted that she felt left out when she initially joined the team. Of course, she is a lovely person so I didn’t have any reason to feel insecure… but my brain didn’t really care about that!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          OP, this is probably often the case with new people. I have seen it done to me and in a few cases I have been the one doing it. I could have been intimidated by the person. I remember one time where I knew what the person was walking into and I felt so, so sorry for them that I couldn’t find words.
          Getting more work experience in definitely helped me to over come that hurdle.

          Your best bet is to pretend not to notice. This way you don’t paint yourself into a corner where you have to act a certain way or play a certain game. Just pretend you don’t notice and enjoy the people who do talk with you. You are at the 3 month mark, which I tend to think is still a rocky point for relationships at work. I say give it a year before deciding that you have a real problem with anyone. In the meanwhile, treat everyone in a similar manner- be helpful and friendly. And if your company is a decent size, look around and see if you can build a friendly working relationship with different people. Keep building things up.

    6. Pollygrammer*

      Try doing something just a little out of the norm/memorable. Like “howdy” instead of “hi.”

      Extreme story: I had a coworker who was extremely eccentric. When I was new, he pretty much ignored me besides a vague morning “hey” or a head nod. On impulse one day I responded by casually meowing like a cat. He immediately recognized a fellow weirdo and our relationship skyrocketed in terms of warmth.

    7. MissDisplaced*

      Meh. People can be odd and/or feel comfortable with those they know. 3 months isn’t that long really.
      I highly doubt it’s you, and I’d just keep being friendly.

      I’ve been told I’m not a strong eye contact maker. This doesn’t mean I don’t like people, it’s just something I guess I do (I tend to look down a lot–sometimes because I don’t wear my glasses and it’s a blur). Also, sometimes people may not remember your name and might feel awkward to address you.

  5. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    So, I actually have an issue I hope I can discuss here without breaking the “no politics” rule.

    One of my coworkers is…I think, alt-right.

    Usually we don’t know each other’s views, but I have to walk by his desk to get to the break room and see that he often reads the Drudge Report (a really conservative website) on the work computers. One is allowed to use the normal Internet at work, as long as work gets done, so that’s not the issue.

    The issue is I literally have to work next to him and talk to him daily to get things done, and I’m always out at work. Queerness aside, I also don’t conform to gender norms, and I/my car were attacked twice around the time of the election last year. So he frankly scares me, seeing is that website seems to be just as extreme politically as Breitbart, et al. Coworker has been ok to me so far, sticks to work talk, and even seems to be avoiding me by shifting his hours later in the day since I start earlier.

    I guess I’m just anxious, and wonder now whether I should be closeting myself more for safety.

    1. Sparkles*

      Besides looking at that website, has he done anything or vocalized anything to you that concerns you about your well being?

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Ugh. Is it possible he’s doing “opposition research”? I know a few of my (overwhelmingly progressive liberal) friends regularly read up on alt-right sites to know what they’re up to and what arguments they’re trying to bolster as a group. The shifting of hours might indicate that that’s not the case…or it could be coincidence based on some outside factor.

      Above all, please do stay safe! I guess as long as you stick to being civil and business-like, you can hope that you might make him a little more accepting just by humanizing us to him.

      1. Pineapple Incident*

        Seconding the possibility of opposition research, because I’m SUPER liberal and not that obvious about it at work- I suppose someone could walk up behind me while I have a similar website up to fact-check things and formulate a response if I hear that kind of stuff in public. I don’t know what it’s like to be in your shoes, but I do sympathize with wigging out at cues like these when you’ve been through the experiences you have – I’m sorry you’ve had to go through that, by the way (internet hugs).

        There could be loads of reasons why someone shifts their hours later (my SO has found that he operates better in the latter half of the day, and chose to work the later shift at his previous job, for example) or is on the quiet/avoidant side (again my SO is my example for everything- he is much more reserved at work than he is at home, and prefers not to have even work-level friendships).

        1. TardyTardis*

          Every once in a while I make a strafing run through Breitbart because it feels like fun, though it does throw me off to see Klan members trying to recruit in the comments (so not joking!). But I want to inform myself on what is going on with that part of the population and not isolate myself in my own bubble.

    3. RubyMendez*

      I hope it’s okay to jump in and say that I’m sympathetic — this is really hard. I’m glad this colleague at least sticks to work talk and is okay to you so far. How is the work environment in general? How is the management? Is this colleague at the same level/pay grade as you vs. being your supervisor?

      1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        Work environment is good, although pay could be better! Management is pretty approachable and politically liberal (one complimented my “nevertheless, she persisted” shirt), with strong discrimination protections. I live in a state that protects gay and trans people from work discrimination.

        The colleague and I are at the same level.

    4. Rachel*

      If I were you, I’d definitely write out my feelings and try to determine what is actually happening. You wrote that he sticks to work talk and isn’t trying to spend more work time with you. Sticking to facts, rather than trying to imagine what he believes (and how he might act on it) might help bring down the anxiety.

      FWIW, I don’t consider Drudge Report the same category as Breitbart. Breitbart actively posts hateful articles, where Drudge Report – while conservative – is more of an aggregation website rather than editorial. I saw a lot of mainstream sources linked over alt-right websites. I’m not sure if that makes you feel better.

      1. Christy*

        Strong agree on Drudge. I don’t read it, but my dad does, and he’s far more of a Ron Paul guy than a Trump or Bannon guy. I would put it as conservative, for sure, but I wouldn’t class it as alt-right at all.

        1. Grace*

          It’s really more a compendium of quick links to lots of media and news sites. I wouldn’t be too quick to assume the co-worker is on Stormfront because he’s using Drudge to get to the NYPost horoscope.

    5. selina kyle*

      Ack ack that’s scary. Sending comfort across the internet to you for what it’s worth.
      Was your car/you attacked at work? (I’m so sorry it happened at all but if it happened at work that’s another level of stress)
      I would say just avoid him as best you can (without hurting either of your work/jobs) but also keep an eye out/record anything he says/does that is HR worthy.

      1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        The first time, I was on a break at work, and was walking to a nearby bodega. Two guys in Trump gear shoved me, and I spent the afternoon picking gravel out of my palms.

        The other time, it was at home. Apartment and I park outside.

        1. KatyO*

          So, nobody at work has attacked you or made any negative comments? Honestly, I’d say you’re overreacting but I’ve not seen how you 2 interact so maybe I’m wrong. You don’t want folks to stereotype you but sounds like you’re doing that to others.

      2. Melanie*

        Avoid him as best you can and keep an eye out/record anything you can use to go to HR about him? Are you serious? Poor guy is allowed to have conservative political viewpoints and you are acting like he’s Hitler! Also actively trying to record any little thing he does to try and get him in trouble with HR is pretty crummy. Sounds like YOU have a serious problem with anyone who doesn’t fit in with your beliefs.

        1. Liane*

          And I think you are out of line. Starting with the Hitler thing. Alison expects us to be civil. Go read the commenting rules–the link is right above every Reply/Comment box.

        2. selina kyle*

          Thanks for asking – I am very serious! I think it’s a bit harsh to say I imply he’s “like Hitler”, but I do think that avoiding spending time with someone who doesn’t value queer people as people as best you can is a healthy practice for us queer folks. It’s not a matter of different political views, it’s a matter of ‘does this person view me as evil/bad/gross for a facet of my being that is beyond my control’. As to recording for HR, I meant that in reference to if the attack incidents had occurred at work. But I can see how that was unclear, so I apologize for that.

        3. Not William Buckley*

          +1 to Melanie. This co-worker has done ZERO that is “HR worthy.” You’re allowed to read conservative websites.

        4. Health Insurance Nerd*

          While this comment comes off as unnecessarily harsh, I agree with the context of what you’re saying. Aside from seeing this coworker on a website that promotes views outside of their own, it doesn’t seem that the original commenter has any issues with him. People are entitled to their beliefs, whether you agree or not. It would be one thing if this person were actively speaking out against issues of equality (gender, gay marriage, etc…), but it doesn’t sound as though that is happening here.

          1. Anony*

            I agree. Reading a website or article does not constitute an endorsement of the views expressed in the article. If he makes the OP uncomfortable, for any reason, then avoiding him when possible seems like a good call. But anything else is premature.

    6. bunniferous*

      That website is an aggregate for a lot of links. Unless I am missing something (and I could be, granted) I do not think that would be a marker for alt right unless you had other concerns regarding this worker. I mean, I go straight there when I hear a celebrity died because they are quick to confirm if true. And I am politically unaffiliated.

      I get why you feel nervous but if he is respectful to you and does not show any other signs I would give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

    7. Todd*

      seriously? You are fearful because someone is politically opposite of you? Here is a reality check. Most conservative people(myself included) don’t attack people.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Here is a rules check: “please be kind to fellow commenters”. overcaffienatedandqueer said they have been physically attacked because of their presentation, so it’s not an unreasonable fear, and even if it was, it would still not warrant that kind of derision.

        1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

          Thanks! Also, this summer, a conservative group spread “stop the [homophobic slur]s flyers with awful misinformation about how diseased we are and what bad parents we are, in my own neighborhood. And alt-right meeting flyers on a nearby college campus. There’s a lot going on around here.

          1. Safetykats*

            It seems like the world is becoming a scarier place. I can’t decide if at least some of that is just in my head, but I do think that people who are basically intolerant feel like they can say and do more than they could a year ago. I’m fortunate enough to see only a little of that, but I have friends who are not so fortunate.

            I think there’s not much you can do about a coworker who might have really objectionable beliefs but keeps them to himself.

            I hope you can find the confidence and courage to remain publicly the person that you are. I think the world gets smaller and sadder every time we decide we have to hide ourselves to fit in or to be safe.

            I also hope you have some good support elsewhere at work. If so, maybe some of those people could give you a read on what to think about your coworker.

            And I’m very sorry you’re in this situation. Nobody should have to be afraid in their home or workplace – or anywhere. It’s easy to tell from the comments who haa never has to be afraid simply because of who they are. Some of us do understand.

        2. Not William Buckley*

          Not to put a fine point on it, but labeling anyone who reads a conservative website a potential attacker isn’t exactly “being kind to fellow commentators.” Lots of people on this site are probably conservative. Others may be liberal but sometimes read conservative media.

          1. Louise*

            I don’t think that is what OP is doing. OP is in a marginalized group and has physically been attacked for being in that group, and is now anxious that someone in their workplace might share the belief that queer folks don’t deserve the same rights as everyone else. And it may be that coworker doesn’t share those beliefs, but I think it’s a stretch to say that someone who has been assaulted and is now anxious about their situation and wants advice on handling it professionally is saying “all people who read this website are potential attackers.”

        1. Todd*

          Unless the alt-right website viewer was one of the attackers, I’d say the number of times isn’t really relevant. If I was mugged twice and both times the mugger was black would I then have just cause to fear all black people? Come on people, be adults. Unless this “alt-right website viewer” has done or said something to you that’s derogatory you are the one being the fascist.

          1. Aunt Vixen*

            If you were mugged twice and both times the mugger was someone who had chosen to be in a gang, and then you started feeling like maybe a co-worker was showing signs of making a similar choice, it would not be unreasonable to be a little apprehensive around that co-worker.

            There, I cleaned up your false equivalency for you.

            1. TL -*

              There’s a huge difference between being in a gang and holding or consuming conservative/right-wing political views (and plenty of people are socially liberal and fiscally conservative or vice-versa.)

              He was not reading neo-Nazi or Westboro type websites, which would be infinitely more concerning for coworkers and a better fit for you “fixed” analogy. He just has an interest in right-wing political views and the good sense to not talk about politics at work.

          2. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Did you seriously just make an equivalency between a person’s skin color, and the belief that people of certain races, religions, and sexual orientations are less than human? We don’t know that he believes that, but she has reason to be concerned. All of us who are in some kind of marginalized group have reason to be concerned, as hate crimes have spiked by 20% in the last year, and of course those who have the luxury of never having been marginalized think there is nothing to fear.

          3. Louise*

            Calling someone who is reaching out for advice on how to handle a situation professionally when they’re feeling anxious about their safety a “fascist” is inflammatory and goes against the ethos of this community. I would recommend taking a look at how we like to conduct ourselves here. It certainly does not involve attacking people asking for help because you don’t think their situation warrants it.

          4. Jonny*

            Todd is absolutely right. And if the only thing bothering you is that he’s reading a website you don’t agree with, I think you are WAY overreacting. I’m sorry you were attacked, but this guy has given you zero reason to believe he’d actually hurt you. If he’d wanted to make a disparaging remark, he’s had plenty of opportunity to do so- but he hasn’t. Last time I checked, this is still a free country and people have the right to read what they want. And it’s not like he’s reading Men Kampf. Seriously, chill out a bit. There’s no need for you to be afraid at work. You’ll make yourself crazy if you focus on a non-issue like this.

      2. Louise*

        I think there’s a difference between being politically opposite and consuming media that promotes/condones violence or hate against a group of people. And overcaffeinatedandqueer says they’ve been physically assaulted and had their property vandalized because of how they present, so I don’t think we should judge whether or not they have a “right” to be fearful (people get to have their feelings, whether or not you believe it to be justified). I don’t think it’s helpful to shame someone looking for guidance on how to handle a stressful situation.

    8. Lehigh*

      If this is the only thing that makes you think he might be alt-right, I would try not to worry too much. Some “regular” conservative people read the Drudge Report. TBH I’m not super familiar with it, but if it is far-right he might not realize just how far-right it is. Sometimes there’s this information divide between the left and right in the US which can lead to people reading far more extreme sources than those that would reflect their actual views.

      1. Archie Goodwin*

        Yeah. If all he does is read Drudge, I wouldn’t worry. I’m fairly conservative myself, and while I don’t tend to read it myself it doesn’t strike me as being in the same league as Breitbart. (Though to be fair, I tend to read very little of either…in fact, I don’t think I’ve visited either one in years.)

        As long as he remains civil to you at work, I wouldn’t be concerned. Should that begin to change, then I might take steps to mitigate, but not until then.

        1. Artemesia*

          I am liberal but regularly read right wing outlets; you gotta know what people are hearing and seeing to understand the world we currently live in. I read the NY Post daily and have used the Drudge report as a site to access multiple other conservative sites (although it pains me to use that description since there is nothing ‘conserving’ about most of their policies.

    9. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Do what you have to to feel safe. I understand how that could make one feel really ill at ease.

      Personally, (and, truth-in-advertising, I’m *not* queer and I’m gender-conforming to look at, although my behaviour is nothing like that, so this is all fwiw) I’d think that it was too late to go back into any closet. I’m pretty quick on the physical reactions, even at my age, which gives me a thick layer of bravado to my interactions with potentially scary people. Would it make you feel more secure to take up a martial art? Depending on where you are, you may have access to a wide variety.

      I think it is possible that Cosmic Avenger could be right about opposition research. It is also possible he fancies himself secretly some powerful edgelord. As long as he stays courteous and professional with you, this is good.

    10. Brigitha*

      You have my sympathy. It can be hard to determine danger levels in this situation, and in this climate it’s understandable that something like this would send up a red flag. It’s kind of like a woman determining if an overly friendly colleague will become a little harass-ey. Most of the time no, but you can’t help but put up defenses if you get an uneasy feeling.

      If you have the spoons, and generally feel like others around you are supportive, please don’t closet yourself because of this one thing/person. Being yourself, a kind, hard-working queer person, and not letting this guy’s possible judgement of you affect you is the best thing you could do, imho.

      If you feel like you need to put up a tiny defense, I’ve found that becoming scrupulously polite and professional around people who get my back up makes me feel like I have a little more personal power in a situation.

      And if you have the extra cash, get you a little spy cam for your car.

    11. Kuododi*

      Oh my… I’m sending warm thoughts to you. I’m much more liberal leaning than the typical person in my line of work. The closest experience I had to what you are describing was a few years ago with a psychiatrist I consulted with on a regular basis at my job regarding client medication needs. I would from time to time come in his office and see political and religiously very conservative website on his computer. (This was a few years ago before issues in society had become so….heated?) I decided to not address the websites at all and just stick to business. He turned out to be a phenomenal MD- very compassionate and knowledgeable- an excellent resource and mentor and was a reference for me after I left that mental health center. I wish you good luck and a clear head in your decision making process.

    12. Sled dog mama*

      Do you have a trusted person (or persons) at work (same company or building) who could go with you when you are walking to the store or to your car to at least feel physically safer? And to have a witness if someone attacks you again?

    13. Kate*

      My 80 year old FIL reads Drudge, brietbart, and has Fox News blaring 24/7. He would never harm you, but he might irritate you at dinner conversation.

      My aunt re-posts all kinds of horrific Facebook memes- really vulgar things about how straight, white US citizens are superior to others. But she wouldn’t raise a finger toward you (worst case she’d talk about you behind your back but…she seems to love her queer niece and nephew just fine!)

      Just examples to say that unless you have some other evidence, you shouldn’t have to live in fear of physical attack.

      1. Brigitha*

        I don’t know about this. What evidence do you think would be acceptable point at which to worry? Most often, a person isn’t a threat until they are actually assaulting you … and then we look back and wonder if we missed any red flags. I don’t think it’s abad idea to follow your instinct and protect yourself when you have an uneasy feeling.

        1. Archie Goodwin*

          If I may jump in…I think the question I would ask is, rather, “what is the evidence and what does it tell me?”

          Because to me, that’s the more critical thing here. If overcaffeinatedandqueer had said “I see him reading Breitbart” or…some other site (drawing a blank on which one it might be), then my answer here might have been different. Something along the lines of, “if that’s all he’s doing, then it’s probably nothing, but even so you’re wise to remain alert”. I don’t tend to view Drudge as being nearly as much of a red flag…which is why I’d say that, if all he’s doing is reading Drudge, then it’s probably nothing.

      2. Brigitha*

        And just to be clear, I’m not arguing about your assessment of you family members. I’m sure you know them better than any of us. Just like I’m sure overcaffeinatedandqueer knows his coworker better than any of us.

      3. Louise*

        I don’t think #notallconservatives is particularly helpful here. We’re not here to judge OPs feelings, we’re here to help them navigate a sticky professional situation.

    14. Not So NewReader*

      This is just general approach type stuff.
      Fear often comes from what we don’t know. I am very sorry about the crimes committed against you, I was robbed once and scared out of my mind, I cannot imagine what I would be like in your shoes. It’s scary stuff.

      I assume you went to the police on this stuff. I hope you did. Can you call periodically and see if they figured out who did these things to you?
      Going the opposite way, how is your personal security? Do you carry a phone with you at all times? Do you use a buddy system where it makes sense? It might be time to install an extra lock on your home. This is one of these times where we have to take care of some basic stuff so that we feel more secure.

      Yes, this general stuff matters. When we know we are taking steps to protect ourselves we tend to help ourselves remain calm and remain sharp. A calmer mind can better assess how much concern a given situation or person actually is.
      In short what I am driving at is to use that worry about your coworker to assess everything around you and beef up your own safety. This is an on-going thing, too. Technology changes, the world changes and there is always something we can add to our personal safety plan. This is just general advice that I would give to anyone who has any concern.

    15. LQ*

      I have a coworker who is …Alex Jones level. A few things came up in meetings while we were waiting for everyone to show up or waiting for the projector to connect or whatever. I tried to shut it down pretty hard but I wasn’t successful. I had a pretty bad one where I basically said, hey knock it off we need to talk about work that’s not appropriate. One of his direct coworkers basically said I feel the same way but I don’t talk about it at work dude knock it off. He has knocked it off since and doesn’t talk about it.

      I don’t like having to work with him, but he does a fine job and as long as he doesn’t go off on an infowars rant in a meeting again I know that it’s likely better that I work with him as deeply uncomfortable as it is. I keep an eye open for some of the more insidious things that might happen that I’m concerned about. I don’t think he’s (or your guy is) likely to go onto physical violence.

      I hope that by being visible I become more of a person and less of a caricature.
      This all said, I trust that my workplace, my boss, will 100% stand behind me if something happens and he crosses a line. (I already talked to my boss who said if it was a big deal he’d see about having this guy removed from the team I’m on. I said I would wait and see if it comes up again or if him hearing from someone he considers a peer (and yes, read ALL the problematic things into that) shut him down he would stop, and he has.) If my workplace wasn’t I might behave differently.

      (Just giving you my perspective on this from being in a similarish situation at work, I also feel safer at home I’m in a very liberal immediate area. Safety is critical. If you don’t feel safe that matters a lot.)

    16. Myrin*

      I think the difficulty with situations like the one you describe is that they can be indicative of basically nothing, of basically everything, and, somewhat weirdly, of a rather large spectrum inbetween.

      What I mean is this: Reading this website could be
      1. indicative of basically nothing: He might be interested in politics in general and likes to be informed on all kinds of matters and read different viewpoints; he could have someone he knows writing for that website and be on the lookout for any shenanigans by them; he could be passionately hate-reading the site (yes, that is indeed a thing. It seems to be a bit like an addiction form what I’ve heard); etc.
      2. indicative of basically everything: He’s a die-hard nazi and his reading that website is just one symptom of that.
      3. indicative of a spectrum inbetween: Now here I need to admit that I don’t know that website at all (I’m not in the US) and don’t particularly feel like checking it out but some other comments said it’s some kind of links storage more than anything else? But even without that, he might be conservatively-leaning but not have any problems with queer people in particular; he might also be like a surprisingly big number of people I know who, somewhat strangely, keep saying “X people are weird” but then continue on to be perfectly nice and pleasant to X people, like a strange inverse of what you’d generally expect; etc.

      What I mean by all of that is: You probably can’t glean a lot from the sole fact of his often reading this website. I don’t want to tell you to think the worst of and fear him but I don’t want to tell you to just handwave it away and ignore it, either. I personally think that, since you say you work somewhat closely with him and have been doing so for some time, had he wanted to actively harm you, it probably would’ve happened by now or at least you’d have more to go on to think that than just his visits of a certain website. But that’s just me and I absolutely don’t want to downplay your feelings or quench your instincts – after all, I could be totally wrong in my assessment!

      But do keep an eye out – if he says or does other stuff of the alt-right variety, remember it! You don’t want to be blindsided in case my point 2 above is true. On the other hand, if he is kind and considerate to you, remember that, as well! Finding out that point 1 or even 3 is true may put you at ease infinitely!

      As for the closeting question – I’m not sure if you’re refering to your coworker or your broader situation, so I’ll comment on both. With regards to your coworker, I think that ship has sailed anyway, so there’s not much to do there, if you ask me. In general: Do what you feel you need to do do feel safe and comfortable. I personally don’t feel that the closet is a nice place to be and I wouldn’t ever want to go back (although my situation is admittedly different from yours in that I’m cis and also straight-passing) but that really is a very individual decision.

      I wish you (and you wife, btw, who I remember had health issues) all the best – I’ll be thinking of you!

      1. Hrovitnir*

        I think this is a really great comment. Sending you what internet support I can, overcaffeinatedandqueer.

      2. Lissa*

        Love this comment, Myrin! I am a “1”. I am a political moderate (would prob. be liberal in the USA I think) and I like to read all kinds of things, including extremes on both sides, and I really don’t think it’s #notallconservatives, to make this point. It’s more that currently I think not enough evidence exists.

        I mean I kinda get it though. A few months ago a guy friend of mine “liked” on Facebook a few …questionable MRA-ish articles, and I cringed pretty badly. I considered saying something to him about it but thought it would be really dumb to say “oh you liked this thing on Facebook, now we’ve gotta talk about it.” We did end up having a discussion a couple months after that that touched on it, and from what i can tell he’s not an MRA and I enjoyed the discussion, but it still raised my eyebrows pretty hard!

    17. Circus peanuts*

      When other people ask about situations like this, the book The Gift of Fear, is often recommended. I haven’t read the book myself, but I thought I would put it out there. Jmo, I would be a little cautious. Treat the guy professionally of course but keep your eyes open.

    18. TL -*

      I would not assume him shifting his work hours is about you, honestly. That’s a big leap for a relatively common decision- you’re probably not that important to him. It sounds like he’s perfectly pleasant to work with and respectful/professional to you. If that changes, of course talk to your boss/HR (without mentioning the website.)
      Otherwise, it sounds like he’s probably not someone you’d want to grab a friendly coffee or drinks with, if conservative views are a deal-breaker to you, but it also sounds like you weren’t doing that anyways.

    19. Fear is Ok*

      Two key terms here.

      1. “I think.” You don’t know. Yeah, he’s looking at a website… but what does that mean? Maybe he eats up every word of it, maybe he just likes the site, maybe he was randomly sent a link to it one day and looks it up, maybe, maybe, maybe. You don’t want him to judge you, maybe start by not judging him right away.

      2. “He’s ok to me and sticks to work talk.” Great. That’s really some ideal stuff. You don’t need to be BFF’s with everyone at work. You don’t even have to like everyone at work. One of my best co-workers was one that never brought in drama. We stuck to work talk, we got work done. Sometimes we still don’t talk. It’s wonderful.

      Look, you’re right to be scared. Unfortunately, a very scary world has been created for you. If I were in your shoes, I’d be on my toes all the time, too. I’m not blaming you for your mind going right to this. But let’s say he is Alt-Right. He is treating you like a co-worker… be the best co-worker he’s ever had. Be yourself around him, don’t walk on eggshells. Show him that if he is Alt-Right, he’s wrong. It’s really easy to hate faceless group of people. It’s harder to hate a person. (obviously, you should still be careful, and keep that guard up… but use this opportunity.)

      The problem is that if you do start logging every interaction or treating him anything other than a co-worker while he is treating you like a co-worker, YOU become the problem. If he’s doing his job, and leaving you alone, then there’s nothing you can do. What’s the end result, you get him fired? So then, even if he’s Alt-Right then he has his story he gets to go back to his Alt-Right buddies and tell… I got fired because of this vendetta when I didn’t do anything?

      Truth is, you aren’t going to like what all of your co-workers do. But right now on the side of you having to worry you have… a website. On the side of not worrying, you have a co-worker who is treating you like a co-worker. Don’t jump to conclusions. Treat him with the respect you want him to treat you with. If there’s a real problem, go to HR. Keep your guard up.

    20. So not using my regular name for this*

      I keep writing posts and then deleting them for this. Especially after Myrin’s excellent post. But I want to speak to the conservative people on here who seem appalled by the idea that someone who appears conservative and reads The Drudge might be a threat. I am sure it is because you are all nice people who would never even think about behaving badly due to bigotry.
      That might have been me 12 years ago, I was a middle-aged, middle class, Talbots wearing, straight, white woman. Then I fell for a man who was not white. The Loving Case was over about the time I was born. But still even now I have seen so much crap as his wife, I can’t even begin to list it, from overly rigid rules enforcement (that only happen when he is with me) to slurs to outright threats of violence.
      Yes, there are big difference between conservatives, bigots, and bigots who like to hurt people of the wrong whatever. However, in my experience, most people in all three groups self identify as conservative and read the Drudge Report. It is only after a harm has been done that an outsider knows who is who.
      I wear my seatbelt every time I get in the car, not because I expect to have an accident every day, but because the consequences of not having a seatbelt on if an accident occurs are so severe. I am watchful around strangers, especially conservatives, for the same reason.

      To Overcafinatedandqueer, I suggest that hoping for the best while preparing for the worst is a good plan.
      At work, be pleasantly professional, follow all best pratices, document everything, back up everything, never leave your logged on computer unattended, use good password hygiene, check your bag and coat pockets every time you take it out of the building.
      Outside of work, take a self defense class, get a law enforcement officer to do a home safety in section, get a home security system, and pay to park in secured or escorted lots.
      I don’t feel like the best qualified person to speak about being closeted. Other than to say ideally you shouldn’t have to be closeted anywhere.

    21. Todd*

      While some of the responses here have gone off the rails I think the bottom line here is that you have
      a coworker who has never been anything but cordial to you, works with you.

      If you are scared of him, that’s a you issue, not a him issue. (because he hasn’t done anything, you said that)
      Your being “triggered” by you suspecting his politics is again a you problem, not a him problem.

      I suspect your history of being attacked is clouding your judgement and that you do need to talk to someone about it, just not HR.

      1. Jonny*

        Another excellent comment by Todd, especially the clouded judgement part. I’m starting to feel bad for your coworker – please don’t get him in trouble or cause people to think badly of him when he’s been nothing but nice to you.

        1. CorruptedbyCoffee*

          I don’t think anyone’s really suggested she “get him in trouble.” Let’s not make this more than it is, on BOTH sides.

  6. Mouse*

    I got a new job! I’m going to be an executive assistant. I’ve been working with the company for a while now and have good relationships with the executives, but I’ve never been in this kind of role before, and these executives have never had an assistant before. So, my questions:
    -Assistants: What are your tips and tricks to being great at what you do?
    -People with assistants: What do they do that you love? What do you wish they would do? What makes a great assistant?

    Thanks everyone!

    1. EA*

      I use to be an EA, and I think it’s a tough job. It’s also tough that the execs won’t know what to expect.
      On your first day, I would have a list of possible things you can do:
      -Calendar (get their calendar’s access your first day)
      -Travel
      -Proofread/Presentations
      -Meeting Prep
      -Special Projects
      Ask about their preferences. How do they want to communicate with you? How frequently? What are you authorized to do on your own? What do they see you working on?
      I would say to be a good EA, you need to learn to anticipate needs (does your exec have a conflict on his calendar in 2 months? Take care of it proactively; Does he need materials printed for a meeting? Do it without being asked). You have to kind of get in there to see what needs you can anticipate. Most of my execs were jerks, so learning not to take it personally, and learning what I could control was important.

      1. Real Estate EA*

        I think EA is right. It’s critical to sit down and chat with each person you’ll be supporting to determine their preferences. They may not feel comfortable with you having access to their calendars (my VP doesn’t), but would prefer instead if you helped them with travel/expenses. Some execs are more self-sufficient than others.

        Speaking of calendars, be sure to keep their calendar appointments confidential, too (even from each other, unless explicitly told otherwise). If someone asks, “Where is Donna?”, don’t tell them, “She’s meeting with So-and-So”. I’ve learned to say something like, “She’s not available right now. Did you need to schedule some time with her?” My exec team is fiercely protective of their time and calendars and are not comfortable with others knowing their schedules, even their boss.

        I’ve read some advice elsewhere on this blog, too, about sitting down with them and asking how success in the position looks to each individual. Some execs might need you to help with managing projects, some execs might not. It just depends and it’s good to know where each person stands.

        Congratulations and good luck!

    2. KR*

      Former assistant: one thing I tried to do was look for mundane and routine parts of my managers job that I could easily do and offer to take them over. If they needed his signature I would do all the work and leave them there for his approval.

    3. Neosmom*

      Many congratulations. On to the tips:
      Be professional and helpful with everyone.
      If you are on a critical deadline for your boss and someone asks you for something, gently let them know “not now” plus when you can help them.
      Learn as much as you can about what new boss does so you can anticipate needs and help new boss become more efficient.
      Write a “bible” (or add to the one your predecessor prepared) so you learn and document various aspects of your job (I am not a coffee drinker, but how to use the coffee machine is in my “bible”).
      Keep a small sewing kit at your desk – needles, threads, shirt buttons, safety pins, plus a Tide stick – for emergencies.

      1. Pineapple Incident*

        Seconding the “bible” – I wrote one as a secretary in a hospital clinical unit at ExJob, not as an EA, but the same concepts applied. The one I wrote had step-by-step directions for everything and was definitely useful- especially for things we didn’t do often but were a real pain if we forgot about. Got a tub full of dead batteries that need recycling? I had the number for the guy who handled the pick up. Have a patient whose family needed to mail something and be picked up that day? My “bible” had the locations of the mail drop boxes in the hospital and the pickup times for each one. My unit ended up using it to train my replacement since she was hired after my notice was up.

        Being able to anticipate needs, as EA indicated above, was huge as well- the people I supported liked knowing I would have the phone number to any department they needed on hand (I eventually had the list memorized), and be able to find/reorder obscure supplies we didn’t order very often.

    4. DivineMissL*

      Congratulations, Mouse! Longtime EA here. Just some tips –
      — Your job is to make your boss’s job easier. If you have the time, you can take on small tasks to free up your boss’s time for the bigger tasks.
      — It’s great if you can make your boss look good, or keep her informed when you know about things going on that she should know about. You don’t want her to be surprised or caught off-guard if she doesn’t know something; you are her eyes and ears.
      — Remember that everything you see and hear in that office is confidential. You always want your boss to know she can trust you, that you won’t share information with co-workers (and believe me, they will try to get it out of you).
      — It sounds like you’re going to be working for several executives, not just one. Sometimes more than one of them will be asking you to do tasks at the same time. I used to work for a VP plus 4 directors; the VP’s work generally took priority. If I had multiple work requests at once, I would usually ask them to discuss the priority order among themselves and let me know what they had decided. Once you have them “trained”, the work will start to fall into place.
      Best of luck to you!

    5. Assisting takes a lot of pre-planning*

      Every single day, I pull open all the calendars I monitor and go through them looking for conflicts or things that can be fixed before it ever becomes a problem. I go out at least 2 weeks every day (calendars change daily) and up to 1 month. I use this time to put reminders on my calendar – order lunch, send out agendas, etc.

      You want to be able to answer questions before they’re even asked, supply materials that are needed before your supports know they need them. I never answer, I don’t know – instead, let me find out for you. It’s my job to smooth the path and make their lives as easy as possible so they can focus on their jobs.

      If you find out things that you think they should know, tell them! You never want the person you support to be blindsided. If you see a meet and greet on their calendar, get the resume/CV/bio sketch so your support is prepped for the meeting. It makes you look good if the person you support looks good. If you are looking ahead on the calendars, you can almost always anticipate what is needed for particular meetings. Especially once you get to know your support better.

      I recommend keeping a preferences file. You can note any allergies, travel preferences, etc. for each person you support and also the people they often interact with. Remember, anyone can schedule meetings and make folders, what makes you stand out is the ability to know what they’ll need before they need it and the ability to go with the flow. The best administrative support people aren’t easily flustered by things not going right. Have a plan B and know learn how to pivot to the plan B quickly and without panicking.

    6. Happy Lurker*

      All great advice above. If this is a repeat, sorry. Get their personal contacts. Right away. Spouse, kids and ages, parents, siblings. Then their biggest clients. That way when they are in a meeting or whatever and need to be interrupted you already know who is important. Also, the first time the spouse contacts you you will not feel awkward asking who they are, etc.

      1. Artemesia*

        And explicitly find out who can interrupt them. Does she want to be interrupted by any call from the spouse or child? Or only under certain circumstances? The boss? etc.

  7. Corky's wife Bonnie*

    Well, working while pretty sick (bronchitis after having the flu 3 weeks ago) and there’s a skeleton crew here. So, I need something to cheer me up. What are some of the unusual cubicle/office decorations you’ve seen at your past or present places of employment? Doesn’t have to be holiday (or can be, whatever).

    1. Teapot Librarian*

      I had a pet frog at my desk at my last job. Not sure if a living creature counts as a “decoration” though :-)

      1. hermit crab*

        I had two pet frogs at my desk for a while, in a previous office! They were getting rather up in years when I transferred to another location and I didn’t want to stress them out with the move, so one of my coworkers adopted them when I left. They were a lot of fun and seemed to do well in the office environment!

    2. All Hail Queen Sally*

      I once had a co-worker that kept a book of crime scene photographs on her desk– thankfully the pictures were all in black and white so they didn’t seem so gory.

    3. NoMoreMrFixit*

      One place I worked at as a programmer there was a Jolly Roger hanging on the wall above one person’s desk and a tribble sitting on the top of another person’s monitor. The manager there was the best boss I had in my entire career.

    4. AwkwardKaterpillar*

      Before I started, but I saw pictures, they used to do a holiday decorating event at my work – dept to dept. Apparently the dept I am currently in decided to go with a “redneck Christmas” theme, which included toilet seats being used as décor.

      We no longer hold this event.

    5. Yetanotherjennifer*

      My yearly calendar used to have pictures of porches and I saved my favorites for cube decorations. On a stressful day I’d take mini breaks by picking a porch and imagining myself there.

    6. Pollygrammer*

      Something silly–one of those little battery operated robot fish tanks, maybe.

      A pillow, or something else to make your chair as comfy as possible.

      And plants! Amazing how much better plants can make you feel.

    7. Brigitha*

      I used to work for one of the largest corporate hog farm companies in the Midwest (in the admin/accounting building). Everyone had at least one stuffed pig in their cubical. Many people had multiple little piggies, and pigs were a common decorative theme in thank yous and awards.

    8. Red Reader*

      I’ve worked for hospitals for the last 15 years, and I have a plushy MRSA who always lives on my desk. He has a cape, because he’s a SUPERBUG!

      I also have kakamora (the little coconut pirate guys from Moana) sitting on top of each of my monitors.

      1. Kuododi*

        Ooh!!!Reminds me of quite a few years ago when the drug reps for a well known anti-psychotic medication would come through. One of their marketing knick knacks was a bright purple squishy foam model of a brain you could use as a stress ball. Very popular among the staff when the rep came through!!!

      2. Jemima Bond*

        I got my dad (a retired chemistry teacher) a plush penecillin for Christmas. He ADORES it. He named it, carried it around in the breast pocket of his shirt all day and in the evening made his new friend a home sitting in a crystal port glass – very carefully considered so he could see out (he has little eyes, for the cuteness).

      3. valc2323*

        I work in a place where almost everyone has a collection of stuffed microbes. My favorite is regular staph aureus (flesh-eating bug) because of the embroidered knife and fork.

        For cube decorations, a friend had a “snowflake a day” calendar a few years ago where each page had a cutting diagram on it and the backs were bright colors like origami paper. Our entire row of cubicles had snowbanks on every divider by the end of the year and they were so very pretty.

      4. valc2323*

        I work at a place where nearly everyone has a collection of stuffed microbes. My favorite is regular staph aureus (flesh-eating bug) because of the little embroidered knife and fork. Cracks me up every time.

        As for cubicle decorations, one year a friend had one of those page-a-day calendars that was paper snowflakes, with a cut diagram on the date side and a bright-colored back like origami paper. By the end of the year the entire row of cubes had drifts of cut-out snowflakes on every divider.

      1. LavaLamp*

        There were fake Canadian geese in various states of dismemberment upstairs before my works remodel. I’m still not sure why.

    9. Louise*

      When I worked at the front desk of a preschool we used to print out coloring pages of princesses and color and laminate them to stick on our computers.

    10. Pineapple Incident*

      The Friday before Christmas, my boss was out of the office all morning. Someone in my department must have strung lights around his office and draped them haphazardly around his chair on Thursday after my boss had left, which started a ball rolling. Over the course of the morning, other people put a bunch of other stuff in his office- 2 Christmas tree stars on his chair, garland across his desk, etc.- basically once he returned in order to sit at his desk and work he’d need to unwrap the lights and remove at least 3 other items from his desk area. He’s an entertainer, and likes to joke in the office in an appropriate way, so this was all taken in good fun :) as well as to the amusement of the rest of the office.

    11. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

      The top of my PC tower is “Gotham”. I’m a known Batman fan, and over the years here I have been gifted with various little Batman-related toys. (Things like the mini-POPs from Funko, or the Dorbz, or keychain/LEGO figures). I also have the Best-Three villains in mini-POP form hanging out on top of one of my monitors (Maleficent, Ursula, and Queen Grimhilde).
      My office-mate has Star Wars and Dr. Who stuff, and then the office in general is full of plants. Our pathologists’ offices are practically arboretums too. We’re big on plants here at the lab, haha. Most of them are pothos, and are the descendents from the original pothos brought to us when the laboratory first opened in 2007!

    12. JeanB in NC*

      When I used to work for a children’s hospital fundraiser org, I had a tall stuffed giraffe (about 3 feet high, maybe?) that I pointed towards a tall plant that was in my office so he looked like he was grazing on the plant. I also had all kinds of books and beanie babies that stuck around for a month or two before heading over to the hospital, but I loved my giraffe!

    13. As Close As Breakfast*

      A couple of years ago my company moved into a new building. The decor style is a sort of late eighties / early nineties… thing? All of the second floor offices have wallpaper boarders. My office has a retro woodland creature motif with an endless line of caribou trudging through a stream. It’s the best one I think. Without walking randomly into peoples offices, the other ones that I can clearly picture are a repeating pattern of random lighthouses, framed images of Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post covers, heads of vintage golf clubs, billiards room stuff (dart board, pool cues, etc.), and a sort of random lot of old sports memorabilia (baseball card, football, gloves, etc.) It all goes well with the green carpet.

    14. Elizabeth West*

      At Exjob:
      Lots of plants.
      A very large collection of little tchotchkes, mostly frogs.
      Someone had a tiny row of action figures on the wall at the entrance to their cube.
      Bobbleheads.
      I had a plant named Horace and posters–the original Star Wars: A New Hope one with Luke and Leia, a poster of the Enterprise, and a huge Gryffindor Quidditch poster. My home screen was the TARDIS flying in space. Nobody else in my section of my floor had nerd stuff. One time I went down to the IT support area in the other building to talk to someone, and they had saw Star Wars stuff everywhere. I was like, I am sitting with the wrong group, LOL.

    15. Tuna Sandwich*

      At my desk I have:
      a Shakespeare action figure with moving quill pen
      a Dudley Do-Right poster
      a small pink fan that plugs into my computer tower (decorative and useful)
      assorted Minions

    16. Ramona Flowers*

      One of my colleagues has a big plastic T-Rex. His name is Mittens.

      I have some terrariums (terraria?) with figurines in. They’re pretty fun.

    17. TardyTardis*

      I know someone who had a lot of delightful cut out snowflakes pasted around their cubicle (till we had a couple of feet of the white stuff come down, and then we asked her to put up a nice bright sun as a Subtle Hint).

  8. Ramona Flowers*

    I have a fairly new colleague who is more social and extroverted (or just more needy?) than me. They keep inviting themselves along ‘for the walk’ if I go out to buy lunch, which I often do. 

    I have issues with food and don’t want someone always coming with me and seeing what I buy, or asking me where I plan to get lunch. It’s really, really stressful for me. I am also introverted enough that I need time alone and don’t want someone coming along with me so frequently like they are my shadow. But the food aspect is the bigger problem.

    This person sits next to me and I am beginning to feel like I can’t get away from them. I just cannot imagine sitting next to someone all day long and also following them out on their lunch breaks, so I’m having a hard time working out how to address this. We work closely together and get on well but, hello, give me some space!

    I wouldn’t mind them coming along once in a while, but it’s become a regular thing and I really wish I hadn’t let this happen. Unfortunately I have let it happen. I have been way too accommodating and I just don’t know how to claw back this space I’ve given up.

    They almost certainly know I have some kind of problem relating to food, as we work in an area relating to mental health and I noticeably don’t work on projects relating to eating disorders or read research about them and have once briefly mentioned that this topic isn’t okay for me when they tried to discuss a TV documentary. 

    So if all else fails I can tell the person I need to buy lunch alone as it’s affecting my mental health, as this wouldn’t actually be egregious here (you’ll have to trust me on this), but I’d obviously prefer not to have to.

    They’re part-time and I now dread lunchtime on the days when they work, which is obviously less than ideal. I don’t know what to do. I NEED to set new boundaries in the new year. Do I just breezily say I want to go alone? How do I word that – I can’t think clearly about what to say as I’m so stressed about it? I can’t just get up and go out, as they often ask what I’m planning to do so I need to head them off somehow. I don’t want them to think it’s never an option, just to stop invading my breaktime on such a regular basis. 

    If this was you, what would you want me to say to you? I can’t think like a person who can’t just go for a walk on their own and always needs someone to go with. I do realise it’s probably not normal to be stressed by other people potentially seeing your food choices. I also realise they probably don’t notice or care what I buy (they certainly don’t comment on it) but it’s very stressful for me, I need to make it stop and I don’t know how.

    (Please note: I would appreciate it if people don’t suggest I bring lunch from home more often. My food habits and choices are absolutely not up for discussion. I also do not need advice on treatment or support, just on dealing with my colleague. Thank you for respecting these boundaries.)

    I may not be able to read replies until later and this was stressful to ask but I’m so so grateful for any advice.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I think it’s perfectly reasonable for you to say that you need time for yourself in the middle of the day to recharge. You can frame it as a new year’s resolution to meditate or have more solitary time or whatever if you’re afraid that you might hurt her feelings.

      1. Not a Real Giraffe*

        I love framing it as a New Year’s resolution – it gives you an easy excuse for what might appear to be a sudden change in behavior. A breezy, “Oh my new year’s resolution is to give myself more ‘me’ time during the work week, so I’m planning to spend my lunch breaks on my own. Enjoy your lunch!”

      2. Mints*

        Oh I like this, you can frame it a little more formal too, like “For New Years I’m committing to using my walks for mindfulness. (But I’ll see you when I’m back!)”

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          This wording is great – I love “I’ll see you when I’m back”. Simple but effective and boundary setting. Thank you.

    2. anyone out there but me*

      How about something like, “Oh, you know… I just really need to spend some time alone today. I have some things I want to think over. Maybe we can go together tomorrow!” said breezily as you walk away…..

      If you aren’t comfortable with that, how about telling them you are going to run some personal errands?

      1. anyone out there but me*

        Oh another thought… could you leave just a few minutes before they do and slip out unnoticed?

        I get wanting to be left alone. I am big on alone-time, and when I worked at an office (I work from home now, yay!) I would often times slip out quickly without a word to anyone and take my lunch in a nearby park, or sit in my car in the parking lot while listening to music.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          Unfortunately I can’t slip out unnoticed as we sit together – and I’ve tried, unsuccessfully.

    3. BadPlanning*

      Is it plausible to add, “Oh I have to also run some errands at lunch today” ? At my work location, it would be pretty normal for people to do a Target/drug store/etc run while getting some lunch to go. At least at my job, people take this as “I’m getting lunch alone” and don’t try to jump in and volunteer to ride around for errands.

      1. Snark*

        I’d be honest. “I need some time in my own headspace, but I’ll let you know when I’m up for company!” is fundamentally more straightforward, and doesn’t require the maintenance of any pretenses.

        1. Captain Obvious*

          Exactly. Perhaps invite her along every so often to be sociable, but tell her exactly what you’ve told us.

          1. Snark*

            And I think it’s worth it to invite her along every so often – it’s worth it to build the social capital.

            1. Ramona Flowers*

              Yep, although not too much given we sit together every day and already spend plenty of time together…

        2. The Consultant*

          Agreed. Also, making an excuse implies you would like to hang out if you didn’t have this thing to do. So now you just have to make another excuse tomorrow and the next day…..Seems better to just lay it all on the table all at once.

    4. Collie*

      If I was your coworker, I’d want to hear it straightforward. Next time she invites herself along, a simple, “I appreciate the offer of company but I really need some introvert time. Thanks for understanding!” Repeat as necessary. Once you get to the “once in a while” of her coming along (whatever, whenever that means for you), invite her. At that point, I’d still be fairly specific to avoid any understanding that this will be a standing thing — something like, “Hey, I’d love some company today. Care to come along this afternoon?”

      I know this would be a hard thing for me to do — I’m very protective of my alone time at lunch, too. Good luck!

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I like this – although I might feel kind of bogus framing it as an offer of company when it’s more a request for company. Might have to just push through that.

        1. Lissa*

          I find sometimes pretending people mean things in the absolute best way possible can really really help, tbh. I know this sounds sort of weird, but it sometimes means they then don’t want to challenge your assumption of how awesome they are. I really wish I could think of some good examples of this right now but think, if someone’s asking for a bunch of details because they are being super nosy, and you say “Oh, thanks so much for thinking of me but we actually have it all covered!” sometimes the person will not want to keep going and say “oh I actually didn’t want to help you, I just want juicy details.”

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            I know what you mean – I once shut down a toxic complainer-gossip by repeatedly saying “thanks for letting me know but that’s not a problem for me”.

    5. M*

      Tell them you’re doing a mindfulness exercise resolution for New Year and you have to walk alone to fully embrace the exercise.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        Good plan, or just frame it as a New Year’s thing in general – if not mindfulness (hanger-on may want all the details, your progress reports, etc.) then something about making a resolution to break up the work day with some away-time.

    6. Courtney*

      I think it would probably be best to stick to a short script here along the lines of, “Thanks, but I generally prefer to go to lunch by myself – it’s my quiet time to recharge.” Or something along those lines.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I have used this one. I think once they see that no one else joins you, they realize you meant what you said as you stated it. It’s not a personal slam, in other words.

    7. SLF128*

      When you get up for lunch, maybe tell them you have some errands to run instead and aren’t going to a restaurant.

    8. Colette*

      I think it’s fine to say you want to go by yourself (“Oh, I’m not up for company today”, or “Sorry, I need some quiet time so I’m going to go by myself”). Can you also give more vague answers when your coworker asks what you’re doing? (“Oh, I’ve got some stuff I need to get done”).

    9. Foreign Octopus*

      Hey Ramona,

      First of all, I’m really sorry that you’re dealing with this. I’m like you in the introverted sense, and I would be clawing at the walls going out of my mind if this was happening to me, so I feel for you.

      As for how to handle this, you’re absolutely right. You need to establish boundaries, and the person probably doesn’t realise what they’re doing. I once had a housemate who kept coming into my bedroom and hanging out with me. If I was watching a programme on my laptop, she’d squeeze onto my single bed with me; if I was cooking in the kitchen, she’d join me. She had no idea how much it was bothering me.

      How I handled it was to sit down and talk with her. The conversation barely took a minute but I think I spent days agonising over it. What I said (more or less) was:

      “I don’t know if you realise this but I need a lot more time to myself than everyone else here. I get really stressed out if I don’t have time to myself, and I’d really appreciate it if you’d start knocking before you come into my room, and give me a little space when I’m doing things.”

      She agreed, and we had a great relationship after that without any problems.

      If your colleague is an adult, then they’ll be able to follow the boundaries that you put up without any problems. If they’re not, then that’s a whole other problem.

      Suggested scripts for when they say that they’ll come along on your lunch break:

      “Oh, thanks, but I really need some time to myself today. Can I pick you up anything?” (Temporary fix)

      “Actually, [insert name here], this is a little awkward but I actually want/need to spend my lunch break alone. It helps me relax and sets me up for the afternoon. Thanks for understanding.” (Permanent fix)

      I’m sure others will have suggestions as well but a variation of that might work.

      Good luck!

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        This was so helpful. Thank you for sharing your own experience and being so empathetic.

        I was so scared to read the replies. All the kind and supportive responses have made me cry (in a good way). Thank you.

    10. AnotherJill*

      Politely say that you just need alone time for lunch in order to have a real break. No one who is sane would have any issue with that.

    11. bunniferous*

      I know I am not you but in my case I would be honest. Your coworker just thinks they are being friendly. I assume you like them okay except for this?

      And to be honest-I do not have your issues but this would annoy me as well. If I were your coworker I would want you to speak up because I cannot imagine they would want to distress you this way!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          If you honestly like her then tell her that, too. “I am glad I work with you and I enjoy it. However, I need down time, it’s not you, it’s everyone…”
          For myself, I might say, “I get grumpy if I don’t take some quiet time.” At the job I have now, we have two days a month where the demands on me are super high. My boss knows this. I tell her I need quiet time to clear my head and organize my thoughts for after lunch time. She knows I come back more put together because of the time out from everyone.

    12. Snark*

      “Do I just breezily say I want to go alone? How do I word that – I can’t think clearly about what to say as I’m so stressed about it?”

      So, you can totally do this. “I need some me time, so I think I’ll go alone today.” “I need some time in my own head to recharge today.” “I’m flying solo today, need to recharge. See you when I get back!” Delivered in an upbeat, kind tone, I think you’re in good territory with stuff like that.

      But I think, at this point, the breezy in the moment brush off might not be quite enough. In that case, I think you might want to say, again in a kind and upbeat tone, something like “Hey, you’re really good to work with and you’re great company, but at lunchtime, I usually need some time alone to recharge/keep my own headspace a nice place to be/spend some time in my own headspace/do personal errands. I’d love to have you along occasionally, but most days, I’m going to head out for lunch solo. Can we leave it that I’ll let you know when I’m up for company? “

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        You are all so kind. Telling me I can do this, you have no idea how helpful that is to hear. Thank you.

        1. Snark*

          You totally can! This is really normal, ordinary boundary setting, and delivered with a smile, don’t worry about it feeling fraught. Us awkward folk agonize about this, but have faith that this is totally normal and will be received without drama – “Oh sure! Let me know”

    13. Auri*

      I think that saying you want some alone time is perfectly reasonable and if you are comfortable doing that it is a great option, but if you’re like me and feel kinder having a “reason” they can’t join you I use this one all the time.

      “I can’t today, I promised my (friend/mom/dog) that I would try to call more often and lunch is the best time that both of us are available.”

      Then pop in a bluetooth and carry on. Even if it is only a few minutes you can explain that neither of you are big on phone conversations but you make a point of trying to talk regularly (or something to that effect).

      1. Captain Obvious*

        This is the wrong approach. All that tells the coworker is that ordinarily Ramona would love to have her tag along for lunch, but she can’t do it because she needs to call her mother. So what happens on the next day, when she no longer needs to call her mother? What happens if coworker goes out on her own and runs into Ramona sans phone? I don’t see any need to make up a white lie here. Being straightforward is the best solution.

          1. Captain Obvious*

            I don’t agree. Kind fiction will lead coworker to wonder why Ramona is avoiding her, and what she did wrong.

    14. Solaine*

      I think the above suggestions are all great. I think it’s also okay to make up some excuses like you’re having lunch with a friend, need to make phone calls or have errands to run.
      Maybe after a while they will understand that you use your lunch breaks in a different way.
      Can you say something along the lines of ‘I usually do x during my lunch breaks but let’s have lunch next Wednesday together’? You are of course not obligated to ever eat with your colleague but this might help not to get asked every day.
      Good luck!

    15. dr_silverware*

      It sounds like you need two things–a way to say “not today” and a way to get back any sense of control over this relationship.

      To say not today, this is what I’d do–I’d have a quick conversation in the morning to bring it up. “Coworker, we’ve been getting lunch together a lot, but I’ll probably be getting lunch on my own more often. I’ve realized that I need some alone time in the middle of the day to get a break. I’ll definitely let you know when I am and am not open to having company during lunch.” And then when it comes time for lunch and your coworker makes an uncomfortable joke about whether you’re eating alone today, you can laugh a bit and say, “I’m going to lunch alone today. Of course I’ll say hi if I see you out there!”

      To get back a sense of control, you could also pull the approach of scheduling a lunch or an alternate break with your coworker. “I’m going to lunch alone today, but let’s catch up at our Friday smoke break this afternoon!” You know when/if you’re going to take breaks with her.

      Right now I think you’re on shaky ground because you thought your boundaries were clear–“this is how I do lunch”–but your coworker is making that seem uncertain–“oh no, I guess it’s not clear that this is how I do lunch?” That uncertainty can be poison because you’re not sure where she’ll happily tread next. But if you let her know where your boundaries are, it’s honestly very likely that she’ll be happy to know; so then you know “she won’t tread here, and likely won’t tread on my other, more important boundaries either.”

      Good luck!

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        It sounds like you need two things–a way to say “not today” and a way to get back any sense of control over this relationship.

        Yes I think you are right on this.

    16. MommaCat*

      Do you have a work friend you can ask to take the new person on for at least some lunchtimes? And have your friend invite the newbie. That way, when newbie invites you, you can say something along the lines of, “No, this is great, I actually prefer to eat alone,” but something a bit less passive aggressive.

    17. MissDisplaced*

      It’s generally best to just be honest but kind. People all use lunchtime differently. If your coworker is an adult, they will understand. And if you genuinely DO like there company sometimes, make a “lunch date” every other week or something.

    18. periwinkle*

      Don’t make excuses because they sound like one-off reasons (running errands, “need a little time today”, etc.). I like Collie’s phrasing and use something similar myself. “Oh, lunch is my introvert time. See you when you get back!” Luckily most of my colleagues are fellow introverts so this is a rare problem now, but it’s worked well when I’ve worked with more social teams.

    19. Nita*

      If you really don’t want to get into why you need to go alone, or if they just aren’t the kind of person to get the hint if you say “oh, I feel like going by myself today!” just invent some urgent errands that you need to run on your lunch break. And run errands every day until they back off. Doing what you want on your lunch break is an important thing for your mental health and stress level, never mind the food issues.

    20. fposte*

      “Sorry, I need a people break–I’ll see you when I get back.”

      I think the food stuff looms large in this discussion for you, but I think the situation is really common for people just on general principles. Not everybody wants company all the time.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree the people aspect is quicker to explain and move on than the food aspect. I like taking the easier route, don’t feel guilty about using the easier explanation, RF.

    21. it_guy*

      I’m in the same position where I’m at. The solution that I have come up with is, “I’m going to sit in the park and enjoy the peace and quiet.”

      Dandelion breaks work wonders!

    22. Context Clues*

      The trick is to make it clear you want alone time without negatively impacting your working relationship. When your coworker pops up to come with you, say something like…

      Oh, not this time okay? I like taking lunch time for myself to decompress a bit.
      I’ll be running errands so I’m popping out by myself.
      I can pick something thing up for you but I’ll be reading XYZ and relaxing by myself today

      If all else just tell them you prefer going to lunch by yourself, but you’re happy to do a once a week lunch together.

    23. Shiara*

      Looks like some other people have chimed in with some good in the moment scripts, so I’ll just reiterate that I think a “Oh, actually I was planning a solo walk today, thanks though!” or “Sorry, not today. This is going to be an introvert recharge lunch run!” shouldn’t cause any hard feelings while reraising some boundaries. Treat her inviting herself along as if she’s asking if you want company, and breezily decline the pleasure.

      One thing you might consider is designating one day a week as the official get lunch with coworker day, either out loud with her, or just in your head. So if she asks Wednesday, you might say “Oh, I was planning a solo walk today, thanks! Maybe tomorrow” and then Thursday, make a point of asking if she wants to join you. This might help you feel more comfortable declining on other days, and let you prepare for her presence with you on Thursdays, instead of the current nebulous stress of will you have company, will you not have company, will someone be watching/judging your food habits, will you be alone. Obviously, if this seems more stressful than always declining don’t do it. I just know that for me, scheduling away the uncertainty around whether anxiety causing thing might happen can make anxiety causing thing much more manageable.

      1. ainomiaka*

        I agree that scheduling whatever amount works for you as “with coworker” lunch time will make this go down easier.

    24. Ramona Flowers*

      Thank you so much to everyone who replied. I’m going through them quite slowly and might not have the bandwidth to reply to everyone but I am so grateful to you all. Thank you.

    25. SC Anonibrarian*

      No excuses or reasons – they just open an opportunity for negotiations. You don’t want a negotiaton, you want this to be totally normal and settled.

      ‘hey, actually I need an introvert moment, thanks tho!’

      IF (and only if) you’re up for it and otherwise like this person, i suggest picking a day where you generally have a few spare spoons and going ahead and adding that to your comment ‘but i’d love to catch up with you on x day for lunch (or whatever you’re up for)

      Repeat as necessary until they internalize that it’s always going to be a ‘no’ (except maybe on x day). Don’t be frustrated (visibly) if they keep asking for a while – you ARE changing the pattern. But you don’t have to make it a big hairy deal either. Just friendly and open and …
      ‘nope, sorry – I need a bit by myself to recharge’
      ‘thanks, but this is my introvert time!’
      ‘no thanks, see you on x day tho!’
      ‘i’d be happy to grab you something (if you really truly are) but i’ve gotta drop it and run – need some me-time’
      ‘sounds interesting, but you know me – I need that recharge time. Remind me on x day?/send me a link?/post it to the employee intranet?’
      ‘sorry, no company allowed, introvert moment!’
      ‘me time! catch ya later!’
      ‘yep, still an introvert – see you at the meeting!’

      good luck and happy boundary-building!

    26. Too Witches*

      Your reasons for wanting to go to lunch on your own are so perfectly valid, and I’m another vote for having a quick, no-big-deal conversation with that colleague explaining you need the downtime to be completely away from work (because let’s be honest, even if it isn’t about the food, and even if you don’t talk shop over lunch, you still never get to just *be* when you’re out with a colleague. You still have to be on enough that it’s not relaxing). I love the idea up thread about framing it as a New Year’s Resolution, whatever shape that takes for you – easy out for me would be “I’ve committed to reading more books this year and I really want to take my lunch to get in a chapter or two, I won’t be good company”, and then I’d take a book and not even feel compelled to read the damn thing. If I were in your position, I would also ask your colleague to let you approach them when you want company, so then you don’t have to stress about “oh are they going to ask again today??”. I would hate having to turn them down every day, so I’d nip that right in the bud, and then make a concerted effort to invite them to accompany me in manageable intervals – maybe once a week, maybe once a month, maybe spontaneously on days where you don’t feel stressed around food, whatever works for you.
      You don’t have to justify your feelings around food and eating, and you get to manage your life the way that’s right for you, and I really hope your colleague is chill about it.

    27. H.C.*

      I was in a similar scenario with you when I started CurrentJob (our team is a small one, and the co-workers are used to lunching together, I guess.)

      I’ve used variations of:
      “I have some errands to take care of, so can’t lunch with you today – sorry!” (even if that errand is really just self-care via solitude)
      “I don’t know where I’m going to lunch yet, was planning to walk/drive around and see what I feel like” (which is actually true some times, but I’ve used this when I’ve already decided where I want to solo lunch at)
      “Oh, I’m meeting with a friend for lunch today. Another time!” (even though the meeting might really be just texting over lunch)

      Of course, the more direct “I’d like to lunch alone / recharge in solitude” that others have suggested are totally fine too, but just throwing out some roundabout options for you to use too.

      Over time, my co-workers stopped asking about my lunch every day and basically “see you later” when I announce my lunch break (and on my part, I still lunch with them occasionally — about once every other week — to build rapport.)

    28. Me*

      I would just say that you were running errands. I also think you overestimate how much coworkers pay attention to others’ assingments. It may be noticeable to you that you don’t work on food related topics, but I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t be noticeable to many others

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I get what you’re saying but trust me, it’s obvious. I work in an area relating to mental health, I work closely with a couple of people including this colleague and it is very clear that I don’t work on projects relating to eating disorders (not food but eating disorders specifically). Please trust me when I say this person knows this.

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        Also I have redirected them to other people when they want to ask about or discuss anything to do with eating issues. I’m not overestimating and really appreciate people taking me at my word on things! Thanks!

    29. ..Kat..*

      Please don’t say “…maybe tomorrow” if you don’t mean it. This is stringing her along.

      Do you know people who would like a lunch buddy? Since she is new, it would be a kindness to introduce them.

    30. Ramona Flowers*

      Thanks again for all the replies. I really appreciate it. My relationship with this colleague is not as boundaried as I’d like, and I think it might be a relief for me if I set some boundaries. I need two separate things that had got muddled into one: to stop answering or inviting questions about what I’m eating, and to have alone-time on my breaks.

      I’ve thought of a couple of solutions that might help me take control of this situation and also the wider problem of feeling quite stressed by the communal and public nature of eating at work:
      – I’m going to start spending more of my lunchtimes outside the office.
      – I’m going to ask my manager for an adjustment/accommodation where, if needed, I can take my lunch outside of the official timeframe. I’m going to ask for the option to either take two half-hour breaks, or take my lunch hour much earlier. I know this won’t be a problem.

      I may also tell them I’ve realised I need alone time at lunch and house it as a general issue with being in a workplace with lots of other people / the break room being full etc. If I tell them I’ve changed my lunch times as I need alone time I think that gets the message across.

      I may also tell this colleague that I’ve realised it’s better for me not to answer questions about what I’m eating and that I’m trying to do better self-care around that. I’m willing to name that particular issue to get the result I need and it’s not an egregious overshare here (we work with very difficult subject matter and situations and we all have things we find difficult). But first I’ll try saying I’ve changed my lunch schedule as I need alone time and that might remove the problem.

      Thank you all for helping me find the headspace to figure this out.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Well I read that back and thought: do I really want to change my entire working pattern just to escape one person? No, I don’t think I do. Time to use your words, Ramona. They’re away in early January, but I’ll let you all know how it goes in due course. Thanks again.

        1. Anon for this*

          That was what I was thinking reading this last comment…that’s a complicated way of solving what might be solved with an uncomfortable, but simple, conversation. I think you’re on the right track–use your words! If they don’t work, THEN you can go to the more complicated solution.

    31. WillowSunstar*

      I had a coworker who acted very judgemental about food, and I also have food issues with eating in public. Since being subtle several times did not work, I eventually had to tell him outright that I preferred to be alone at lunch so I could read books (I always brought my iPhone along with me). It worked.

    32. Observer*

      I haven’t read all the replies, so I hope I’m not repeating something that someone said.

      I think it’s important to remember that it does NOT matter why you don’t want to do your lunch runs with him. You don’t owe him an explanation, as long as you are not rude or mean. And you don’t need to have an “adequate” or “good” reason. You just don’t want to do it and that’s all there is to it. The only thing you shouldn’t do is make it about him. Iow “I prefer to do my lunch runs alone” vs “I don’t want to do my lunch runs with you” or whatever wording works for you.

  9. Sunflower*

    How do I sit down with my grandboss and have a real talk with her about my position at the company and where it’s going and what I want? FWIW my boss has only been a few months so my grandboss is the main one evaluating my performance, etc.

    I asked to move to HCOL city that I travel to frequently. It was turned down due to compensation issues but I’m being told my grandboss is still fighting for it. I’m starting to wonder if other things are in play and they just don’t want ME in that city. I also watch people around me in my department (but not on my team) get promoted every year. I kind of got the short end of the stick since I had a crappy manager for my first 1.5 years here and that reflected badly on my team overall(we support the other people in my department). I’m only recently starting to be able to show my skills off but I have a new manager who other folks in the dept are not impressed with yet.

    Moving to HCOL is a dealbreaker at this point. I’ve made it clear I would like to move there but I’m not sure if it’s clear that I will be moving there even if it means finding a new position.

    I value my grandboss and think she does provide me with good feedback but there is nothing concrete there- just a lot of ‘you’re doing a great job, ‘i get great feedback about you’.
    I would really like to stay in my job but if it’s leading down a road to nowhere and this move to HCOL is all talk, I need to get out sooner rather than later.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      If you are planning to move to HCOL regardless, I think you could reasonably sit down with grandboss and say “I know we’ve discussed this before and it doesn’t seem to be on the table at this time. I want you to know that I am still planning to move [within timeline] and I’m wondering if you think this might work out by then. If not, I’m going to start looking for other positions in HCOL.”

    2. ainomiaka*

      I think these are actually two separate conversations. What do they see your future and moving to HCOL city. It sounds like they don’t see your future as a transfer there. Is there any other future you would be happy with? What would you need to be happy with your job in 5 years if that transfer doesn’t happen? If your grandboss says “we’re creating this new department for you to manage, and it’ll be here” would that appeal?
      If the answer is you want to move no matter what and nothing they can offer would make you stay, I think Amy Santiago’s script or something similar can work, but you should be prepared for the response to be “I’m sorry to hear you are leaving us, when is your last day?” Dealbreakers do mean you sometimes just have to walk away.

    3. Anony*

      I would start looking for a new job in that city. If you get transferred there then that’s great and you can withdraw your applications. But you never know, you may find something you like even better.

    4. Where's the Le-Toose?*

      Sunflower, I have two thoughts. The first is in relation to your future at the company. I would only sit down and have a conversation with your grand boss about your future with them if it was about promotional opportunities, new duties, etc–something other than the move to the HCOL city. If the only purpose for the “future” discussion with grand boss is so you can get to HCOL city, then I agree with some of the other comments to just apply for jobs in HCOL city. I manage a crew of 19, and if someone asked to discuss their future but only wanted to talk about moving to New York or San Francisco, then I would be turned off by the discussion and I would feel more like a travel agent than a boss. But if my employee was excited about that Master Llama Wrangler position that just happened to be in San Francisco, I would go to bat for the employee.

      Second, can you move to HCOL city and live off your current salary? Or are there changes you could make to save the office money that would offset the cost of the increased compensation to send you to HCOL city? If there are changes you could make to make that move happen for you, then it would be worth a conversation with the grand boss to discuss alternatives that would allow you to go to HCOL.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Agreeing with this.

        I think I would open the conversation by asking if there were any updates about an opening for me in HCOL city. Since the answers Yes or No are definitive, the only real problem answer is Maybe/Not Yet. That indecision leaves you in limbo. Plan out what you will say if he says maybe or not yet.
        Showing him how it would be to the company’s advantage to move you is an excellent idea.

  10. SLF128*

    I went to college for education. It took a few years into the job to realize it wasn’t a good fit. After that, I didn’t know what to do, so I took a temp job. That turned into a full time position which in turn has turned into promotions & other jobs within the same area of the financial industry. Every quarter we have progress meetings and I always get asked the “where do you see yourself going next” question. Before, it had been easier to answer as there were other steps to take in my area, but now I am at the end, where I need to move to a different division. My company encourages job changing every couple of years. I cannot keep answering this with I don’t know or this is all new to me, but the industry really feels foreign to me. I am good within my area and have that knowledge, but beyond that, I just don’t know. We have corporate wide meetings where I feel at a complete loss, because the concepts they talk about are foreign. Moving to another area where I might not like it or be good fit frightens me, since you cannot apply for another job within 1 yr. So I guess my question is, how do I answer these questions honestly, but also let my boss know that I wouldn’t mind the move if it would be a good fit. And how do I know it will be a good fit. Job descriptions are notorious for not really fitting the job roles here.

    1. Grits McGee*

      Sounds like informational interviews with staff in other divisions would be a good option here, especially if changing job is something your employer encourages.

      Think about what kinds of tasks you excel at or skills you enjoy using, and ask your boss or a mentor about areas or positions that might be a good fit based on that. Try to take some time to research your industry- professional associations often have educational resources, or your colleagues might have suggestions for reading material that would give you a broader picture of the industry.

    2. [insert witty user name here]*

      Do you have some colleagues that used to work in your area but have gone on to other things in the company? Trace their paths to see what skills are transferable, maybe.

      I can totally relate to this. I also went to college for education – and didn’t even end up teaching at all. I also work in a financial setting now and am doing well, but still feel like a bit of an outsider sometimes. No helpful info there…. just wanted to let you know you’re not alone :)

    3. periwinkle*

      If you have a good manager – especially if she’s done several of those internal job movements – ask for her help!

      First, sit down and think about what you enjoy about your current role, what you don’t enjoy, what you’re better at than most people, and what skills/knowledge you’d like to improve. Do this for every job you’ve had, even those early education jobs (figure out why exactly the field/job was a poor fit). Look for patterns. What are the common threads? Is there something you were really good at in each role that, although they were different tasks, share a common skill or environment or outcome?

      Once you have a good idea of your strengths and preferences, talk with your manager or maybe some other folks who have rotated through the organization. “This is what I’m good at, where do you think I might fit?”

    4. Arjay*

      In addition to informational interviews, ask about shadowing for a few hours in areas you think you might find interesting.

    5. Hillary*

      Some business classes (if you’re interested and if the company will pay for them) might also help you learn what’s out there. My undergrad was in poli sci, and I ended up working in business. I didn’t realize how much I enjoy some aspects of accounting until I went to business school and my career ended up shifting directions.

  11. AlexandrinaVictoria*

    My large company has a procedure that states that any qualified internal candidates who apply for jobs have to be interviewed. I applied for a position (that I had actually interviewed for twice before in different groups, and was second place) in November, and received an email about a week ago that it had been filled. No interview. I contacted our HR contact to find out why, and she palmed it off on a junior member of her staff, who has been quite snippy with me in emails. I have a sneaking suspicion, though no way to prove it, that it’s because I have intermittent FMLA for a chronic health condition. Was I wrong to ask why I wasn’t interviewed? And how do I get them to pony up the truth?

    1. Not So Super-visor*

      You weren’t wrong to ask, but you might have to face the fact that you might never get the truth that you’re looking for. It could be an innocent mistake; it could be more nefarious. It’s unlikely that someone would admit that they did it on purpose.
      FWIW, at my company if we have recently interviewed an internal candidate for a position, and the position re-opens (lets say 6 months or so after the interview), we don’t re-interview the person. We put them back in the candidate pool and use the old interview.

    2. WellRed*

      If it’s company policy, it’s not wrong to ask. However, I am not sure you will get a satisfying resolution to your attempts to get them to pony up the truth.

    3. Samata*

      I would say you were definitely right for asking, but I echo what others have said about not getting the answer you want. Any savvy HR person will not admit to denying you a job based on your medical condition – whether they did or not.

      It could be that (unfortunately) you came in 2nd again – though you would think if HR was open to telling you that last month they’d be open to telling you again.

      Like No So Super-visor we have the same policy, but if you apply for the same role within 6 months (even in a different department) we don’t re-interview that quickly because likely not much has changed in that time frame. maybe you couldn’t get clarification on that?

    4. Anono-me*

      1. You were not wrong to ask why you didn’t get interviewed.
      2. Unless they’re dumb as a box of rocks, there’s no way anyone is going to admit to illegal behavior.
      3. Although you didn’t ask, I’m going to suggest being very careful about pursuing this, as it could come back to cause more trouble for you. Especially if you are correct and these people already behaved illegally once.( The first time is the hardest.)

    5. Sam Foster*

      As others have stated, just because there is a policy doesn’t mean it will be followed. Balance carefully your desire for the truth versus repercussions regarding your continued employment.

  12. DoctorateStrange*

    I’m reading The Invention of Angela Carter by Edmund Gordon and I find it to be one of the best biographies I’ve read. I’ve been an admirer of Carter’s work for awhile and I love how meticulously well-researched and well-written this book is. So far, I like how Gordon shows Carter as a fully-realized person, flaws and all, and not some mystical being.

    I’m also going to start on Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast series. I hope to have good fun with that.

    1. DoctorateStrange*

      Oops! Apologies! I did not see that this was for work-related stuff, please disregard my comment!

  13. silvertech*

    I want to share my experience with you all: I used to work office jobs and I was constantly anxious and frustrated about everything, office politics, clients, coworkers, etc. I was laid off and I now have two jobs, one being a cleaning person in a high-end mountain holiday resort. I would have never in a million years thought I would enjoy it but I do! My boss is great, it’s a task-based job where the only measurable goal you have is getting homes clean is a reasonable timeframe, which is rather easy to verify (boss even gave us cleaners a detailed task list with tips on how to clean efficiently, so we know her expectations clearly). Once I’m done my job doesn’t follow me home! I can relax and take a shower without stressing about deadlines and stuff like that. I’m very surprised by this turn of events.

    1. selina kyle*

      That sounds…amazing? Work has been a little slow lately which makes it taxing in a different way (if that makes sense). How does the pay compare?
      I’m glad you find joy in it :)

      1. silvertech*

        Pay is good, I’m in a different country so I can’t really compare with my previous jobs, but the consensus is that cleaning jobs here are paid well, this one is no exception. I find it refreshing, as in my country of origin cleaning people are often underpaid and looked down upon.

    2. BadPlanning*

      I work in software, but I used to cover maintaining some of our testing computers. We started to phase out those computers so every couple of weeks, I would wipe drives and then package them up to get recycled. This was surprisingly satisfying to me.

    3. GriefBacon*

      I used to clean hotel rooms in a national park, and I loved it! I just buckled down and did my thing, didn’t have to think about it too much, didn’t have to be fake-nice to anyone, got great tips (and SO much unopened booze that was left behind!), and was done when I was done! And, because I wasn’t dealing with difficult people all day, I was 100% ready to hang out, hike, go to bonfires, etc in the evenings because I didn’t need any time to decompress.

      1. silvertech*

        Yes to everything you said! I’m allowed to take any food and beverage that guests leave behind, I’ve been seriously stocking my pantry lately. Also, I had a side hustle as a server and oh boy, cleaning is so much better, no to little interaction (sometimes I clean with a coworker or a client stops by to make requests)… I’m an introvert so that’s fantastic!

        1. GriefBacon*

          Yep, my roommates LOVED me because I was always bringing back groceries! And sometimes people would tip me in food specialties from their corner of the world. So fun. I spent a number of years in retail, and cleaning hotel rooms was soooo much better (I’m an extrovert, but I don’t suffer fools gladly, so I do better in introvert-type positions).

          1. H.C.*

            I used to work in catering in college and ditto for roommates loving me for bringing in so much extra food back, which is pretty common since my employer works in a 5-10% margin of extra food for every event (in case of send backs, additional last minute guests, etc.) which typically wounds up being for the staff to eat/take home if it’s left over.

      2. under pressure*

        I have a job where I’m on my feet 6-9 hours per day, and I find I have to physically decompress after work before I can do anything fun OR useful, ARGH. I’m 35 and fit/active but I think my feet and knees are just cruddy.

    4. All Hail Queen Sally*

      It sounds like the job is more physical. Perhaps that is helping with your attitude. I have been an office worker forever and have been thinking of doing something more physical for health reasons. My Dr. keeps telling me that “sitting is the new smoking.”

      1. silvertech*

        Definitely… I gained a lot of weight since I started working office jobs after university and my health declined (not dramatically, but my mental health took a nosedive). Being physically active is difficult right now, as I just started, but I already see little improvements, such as less shortness of breath and foot pain.

    5. MissDisplaced*

      Well… yes.
      There is something to be said for jobs that don’t require a lot of abstract thinking and goals are very clearly defined with start and end points you can see. (And I don’t mean that in a bad way). I worked in a factory when I started and it was very physical, but not mentally challenging. My mind was free to wander and I would actually “write” stories in my head and then go home and write them! Now I work in office environments and career is often life, and you tend to live it all day and night and it’s hard to disengage.

      I think office jobs are like this because the tasks/duties/goals are NOT defined or clear and often feel pretty useless (like why am I making this 200th TPS report for anyway?). Plus with my job, it’s also very subjective and you can work your ass off only to have some higher up say they hate the color blue (or something of that nature). I find in offices, many people like to assurt their authority for no particular reason over silly mundane things. Sadly, it’s often like Kindergarten.

      This was kind of a long rant to basically say that you should do what makes YOU happy. Jobs are just a means to an end. There is nothing wrong with wanting to leave it behind at the end of the workday.

    6. periwinkle*

      When you work an office job, your deliverables are often intangible and not all that satisfying. Cleaning has tangible and highly visible results.

      I enjoy washing dishes by hand because there’s a real result; you start with a pile of food-soiled objects and end with a dish drainer neatly filled with clean dishes and flatware. On a sunny day they sparkle just like in the commercials and it’s truly satisfying.

      A lot of people would grumble at having to take a cleaning job. It’s awesome that you’ve found all those positives to celebrate!

      1. amy l*

        I have two college degrees, am an accountant and one of the most satisfying jobs I’ve ever had was a dishwasher at a popular resturant. It was fast paced, a little physical, and required minimal mental effort. If it had paid more, I would probably still work the dish room.

        1. nep*

          I can relate to this so strongly. I have often thought of getting a slightly physical job, very hands-on (literally), one that I would never have reason to take home…I can imagine being quite at peace with that.

    7. Ramona Flowers*

      After I burned out in journalism I had a job that involved sorting and shredding pieces of paper. It was utterly blissful.

    8. Mints*

      I’m always happy to see these because white collar circles tend to be all “Your job must be amazing because it will be all consuming” and like, I like working in an office and typical jobs but I don’t get my major life satisfaction from it. It’s refreshing to see this acknowledged

    9. copy run start*

      Yes! I daydream sometimes about going back to being a retail slave. If the pay and benefits weren’t so bad, I’d do it. There was enough routine vs. new to keep me interested, I got to move around, the hours were great (I’d rather do 28 hours a week at odd times, especially evening shifts, than 40 hours 8 – 5) for me, and the worst thing that’d happen on a bad day is a customer getting grumpy over something ridiculous.

  14. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend*

    Anyone in the entertainment industry: does anyone do background checks on extras/background actors? What kind of screening process is there?

    1. OperaArt*

      Speaking only as someone who occasionally does background/extra work, I have never had a background check or heard of anyone having one. The time between being cast and showing up for work is usually 1-3 days. In the US, we do need to bring ID along because of all the paperwork—a passport, or a driver’s license/social security combo. I bring my passport.

      That said, reputation does matter. Background casting agencies do learn who is reliable and professional, and who is not. I know I got cast one time because I show up and am not a problem on set.
      The main criteria are that one looks the part, shows up on time, pays attention, is patient, doesn’t bug the cast or crew, follows directions, and helps the process move along.

    2. Louise*

      There uh… isn’t really one. But it’s a very reputation-based industry, so if someone knows someone you’ve worked with, there’s a decent chance that person will be contacted.

      I’m not sure what types of checks happen when you join actors equity or SAG, so I’d be curious to hear if those unions run background checks or anything similar.

      1. OperaArt*

        That’s a good point. I’m nonunion doing background/extra work on both union and nonunion productions. (It’s not easy to get into the performing arts unions, especially in a smaller market like San Francisco.) All I can say is that I’ve never heard of background checks, and can’t think who would pay to do them.
        But essentially, whenever we work on a new project, even if only for a day, we are starting a new job. Therefore, all the tax and right-to-work paperwork has to be filled out just as for any office or retail job. So we do need valid documentation.

  15. CT*

    I think “I need some me time” or “I’m sorry, but I need some time alone” is perfectly acceptable, especially for someone who works in the mental health field.

    You could also talk to her during a non-mealtime and tell her that you enjoy her company, but like doing lunch alone. Maybe arrange for lunch together on a regular day each week, instead of every day?

  16. Teapot Librarian*

    Accomplishments! What have you managed to do this week at work because it’s been otherwise slow? I found my desk under the piles of paper. Cleaning my desk has been on my to-do list since July. Anyone else get stuff done?

    1. anyone out there but me*

      Since I am blessed to work exclusively from home…. I got all my laundry done and cleaned/organized my kitchen pantry, my linen closet and my utility room :) :)

    2. Jadelyn*

      I cleaned out my inbox – I’d been on a work trip for 2 weeks and by the time I got back, despite trying to stay on top of it while I was gone, my inbox had something like 600 emails in it. And having a super-full inbox is very stressful to me, I feel like I’m probably forgetting things that got lost in my inbox or just like the sheer volume of communication is weighing on me. So I went through yesterday and deleted, filed, noted, everything so that I could get it down to a manageable number. I now have 49 emails in my inbox. *relieved sigh*

      1. Teapot Librarian*

        Well done! I’m at 108 but I’m completely with you on it being stressful. One of my employees has *unread* messages in the 5-digits and I don’t even want to think about the things he’s missed.

    3. KR*

      I went to Walmart with my corporate card and bought office supplies to use up my budget this year :) New pens, multicolored hanging file folders, new expo markers, packing tape, zip drive, and a fancy clipboard. :)

    4. LCL*

      I was able to let go of obsessing about my job for a week and enjoyed my vacation. I prepped really really well for my relief so he isn’t floundering, and left him enough time to do some tech writing.

    5. Tuna Sandwich*

      Got caught up on paperwork. Cleaned out my “don’t know where else to put it” drawer. Researched training sessions and webinars I might like to take in the new year.

  17. Sparkles*

    So this might be the pettiest question ever, but I want to see what others think.
    I am not a fan of my job. I work in an office of almost all women, so naturally, there is a lot of gossip and drama. I don’t love my job and I am just sticking through until I know I will have to move again. I am friendly but keep to myself.
    There is this lady who I work with that is the office busybody. She knows everything about everyone and will tell you everything about everyone’s business. Since I work in the city, I have to park 6 blocks away from work and walk to and from my car every day. We both happen to park in the same parking lot, and we both get off at 5 pm. She waits for me at the elevators every day and obnoxiously calls for me until I let her know I am coming. I have never told her that I want to walk with her, and frankly, I dont want to. I want to use that walk to decompress from my day. She chatters non stop and asks really invasive questions that I dont want to answer. I try not to answer the questions, or sometimes I deflect it back to her. I don’t want to come across as mean, but I dont want to walk with her. I cant change the time that I leave. Do I just suck it up and walk with her? I dont know!

    1. BadPlanning*

      Does it work if you tell her you’ll be a few minutes and she should go ahead with you (you, of course, don’t want to hold up her commute home)? Or is she likely to come over and loom at you?

      1. Sparkles*

        She hovers over me and waits for me because I have been doing that lately. I am the same age as her children she has told me she feels that she needs to “be a mom” to me so I am not a female walking alone. I know she means well but UGHHHHH SHES ANNOYING.

        1. BadPlanning*

          Ah, I was thinking she might think you have to walk together For Safety. That’s trickier to disengage.

        2. Rat Racer*

          Could you make something up like: “I’m trying to get through an audiobook for my bookclub, so I’m going to have my earbuds in – sorry! Way behind! Totally understand if you don’t want to walk with me in silence….”

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I’ll give you the same advice I gave Ramona Flowers above. This is a great time of year to set boundaries. Tell coworker that you’ve decided to use that time for [insert solitary action here].

    3. anyone out there but me*

      Make a bathroom stop before hitting the elevators. Wait long enough for her to go down first. Or tell her not to wait up. Tell her you’ll catch up… then don’t. Pretend you are on a call and can’t leave right at 5pm. Pretend you are on a call on your cell and motion to her to go on without you. Sneak by her somehow, take the stairs down a floor or 2, then get on the elevator there.

        1. Sparkles*

          We pay for our lots, and I am in the cheapest lot around. So unless I want to pay double, I cant park somewhere else.
          I have made bathroom stops before I leave and she will wait for me even when I tell her to go ahead. She feels she needs to “take care of me”. Note- I am a grown, married woman who has never said anything about feeling unsafe. I have no idea where she gets that idea from.

          1. RabbitRabbit*

            Would brightly saying something in response like, “No, you don’t!” work? Or similar?

            I had a colleague who would harangue me about going outside without a coat (!) to a meeting the next building over, and she kept this up until I started pushing back with not-actually-joking “OK, Mom…” references. Since this woman seems to relish the position, I’m wondering what would work to push back on. Maybe the opposite, like “jokes” about how you only have one mom, your mom would get jealous/sad?

            1. Anna Held*

              She isn’t being nice. This isn’t about her need to take care of you — which you patently don’t need — it’s about her need to feel needed. And to be nosy. She’s pushing boundaries, and you’re not wrong to push back. You’re a grown woman.

              And I also work in an office with women, and there is no gossip or drama. That is not the norm.

    4. bunniferous*

      This is where you make a stop at the restroom before you go. Metaphorically bring a book if you need to.

    5. CatCat*

      “Hey, going forward, I’m going to start walking to my car alone. I need that walk to decompress from my day. So no need to wait for me at the elevator at the end of the day. Thanks for understanding.”

      I’d start wearing earphones (regardless of whether actually listening to something) for those times when you end up leaving at the same time anyway. If she tries to chat you up. “Sorry, I’d like to listen to my music/podcast/whatever. As I said, this is my end of the day decompression. Thanks for understanding.”

      Also, just FYI, an office of almost all women does not “naturally” lead to a lot of gossip and drama.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        “Somebody recommended [X podcast] so I’m going to start using my walk time to start catching up.” Polite, permanent.

      2. Sparkles*

        I like the headphone idea, and honestly, I dont know why I didnt think of that. I have called people the second I walk out of the elevator but she will walk all 6 blocks right next to me as I talk on the phone. She doesn’t take social cues very well.

    6. PlantLady*

      You have my sympathy, because I’ve been in similar situations before. It’s no fun. But something occurred to me…you say you “work in an office of almost all women”, but it’s not clear if you are a woman. If you are one of the few men in the office, could she want to walk 6 city blocks to her car with a male coworker for safety reasons? If you are a woman, it could be the same issue for her – safety in numbers, etc. Just a thought. (And even if that is the case, I realize it doesn’t change the fact that she’s someone you don’t want to walk with.)

      1. Sparkles*

        I’m a woman! I should have included that, sorry! She has voiced concern about letting me walk alone because I am the same age as her children and she feels she needs to protect me. I am married and not a child and I have never expressed concerns about walking alone. So, I get that she is coming from a good place. She just doesn’t pick up on social cues well. I think I am just going to start wearing headphones on my walk and hopefully, she will get the hint.

        1. Arjay*

          Please forgive me for this, since I’m not your mom either, but do be careful wearing the headphones. Seeming distracted or unaware of your surroundings could actually end up making you a target for something dangerous.

          1. music*

            this is so unnecessary to say to someone. It seems like Sparkles is a grown woman, and as such is perfectly capable of walking down a street and being aware of her surroundings, with or without headphones.

              1. TL -*

                Sparkles is not particularly concerned about the dangers of her walk and I don’t think it’s necessary for us to engender fear in her because she is a woman walking alone.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  This–I take my walk with headphones every day, and I know enough not to turn up the volume so loud that I can’t hear cars or people approaching. I assume Sparkles knows that too.

                  It’s good to be aware of your surroundings, true, and to project that you are, though you can do that with headphones easily.

        2. TL -*

          Being married doesn’t make you any more or less an adult/able to care for yourself than being single.
          Having a majority of women doesn’t make your office any more prone to gossip/drama than having a majority of men.
          In more practical terms, it is super inappropriate for her to mother you and I second everyone saying asking for alone time/wearing headphones and saying you want to listen to music/finish a podcast/whatever.

    7. Oops*

      I also work in office full of women and in fact it is not ‘natural’ that there should be gossip and drama. That is a misogynistic prejudice. Please try to stop spreading that kind of thinking. Hang back and when she starts calling for you, you can tell her what you told us ‘[you] want to use that walk to decompress”.

      1. Sparkles*

        I mean, I didn’t mean for it to come across as misogynistic prejudice. I guess I have just had terrible luck with my work history since every place that I have worked has had that history. I am never included in it, but it still affects me. My problem will be solved when I finish school in a year and I will be freelancing and working from home :)

    8. June*

      I flinched when you said that women = gossip and drama. It’s a shame that your office is that way but let’s not spread the assumptions that all offices are that way. I am sure you don’t gossip or cause drama and that is great! Hopefully the rest of the office will see your example and will cause a cultural swift.

      1. Sparkles*

        I think I have had terrible luck with my workplaces. I am back in school for another career path that will completely remove me from the current field that I am in.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I’ve been in offices of both mostly men and mostly women, and men are just as bad with the gossip and Regina George crap. I think it’s just a people thing. And yes, some workplaces are definitely worse than others. In my experience, sales offices can be really nasty and back-stabby because everyone’s competing for customers/commissions.

    9. music*

      I would try to disengage your brain from the idea that just because there are a lot of women that it’s therefore natural that there is a lot of drama.

      I work with plenty of women, and we’re no more or less dramatic because of it.

      I also notice you think she’s trying to “mother” you, which makes me think your whole office has some bad ideas about gender norms? It is absolutely not ok for her to treat you like her child, and good lord where do you live that walking somewhere at 5pm is in any way unsafe?

      It seems like there are a lot of unfortunate habits and old-fashioned thinking here here, and the predicament you’re in is stemming from them. Simply tell her to leave you alone, draw your boundary, and don’t worry about whether she feels offended or not. It’s really that simple.

      1. amy l*

        Could you say something like, “Please, just go. I will be fine and I really need a people break today.”

        1. ZarinC*

          Have you considered that maybe she is the one who feels uncomfortable/unsafe walking alone–therefore she always waits for you?

        2. ClownBaby*

          This is how I got out of eating lunch with coworkers. So I definitely support this.

          I prefer to use my lunch hour to sit in my car to decompress, read, or just browse dank memes on my phone. Occasionally it is just way too hot or cold to do this (I am not about to turn my car on for ac or heat), so I sit in the break room.

          The same two people would always try to sit with me to talk or gossip…the worst is “HEY WHAT ARE YOU READING?!” Well…I’m not reading any more because your stupid face is making noise at me. After trying to suck it up hoping they’d pick up on my picking the corner table with my back turned toward everyone, the book, and the headphones in my ears, I finally just told them “Hey, I talk with people all day. I use my lunch hour to decompress and get some reading done. Thank you for understanding.” No more lunch time interruptions from those two. And any other lunchers at that time seem to have picked up on the fact that unless I initiate or join an existing conversation, I want no part in their lunch time babbling.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I had to do that at OldExjob–I wrote at work and the guys in the office would come all the way into the break room where I sat behind my personal laptop, with big giant headphones on and my lunch right there, and ask me to do stuff. I would say “I’m off the clock right now; please email me and I’ll take care of it as soon as I come back,” and they would get pissy. I just kept saying it until they finally left me alone.

    10. Bowlos*

      “I work in an office of almost all women, so naturally, there is a lot of gossip and drama.”

      That generalization is offensive.

      1. Frankie Bergstein*

        I am with you on this — I work in a field that’s very, very skewed towards women, and I happen to not have had these experiences.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      Eh, tell her that you need the time to decompress. If you like you can tell her that if she is willing to walk in silence she can decompress/walk with you also.
      It might be helpful to point out that you both decompress in different ways. she does it by talking and you do it by being quiet. This is not a matter of right or wrong, it’s just differences in people.

    12. WillowSunstar*

      Is there a separate exit from the building you can use, like a back door or a side door? I would use one of those. Or perhaps try sitting in a bathroom for a few extra minutes, once your shift is over, until she gives up and goes home.

  18. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

    I’m nervous about the new year from a professional standpoint…

    I am a mid-level supervisor for a special collection of an urban public library system. 2018 will mark 12 years of doing essentially the same job here, and for various reasons, it feels like it’s time to move on and try something else. That being said, I’m comfortable and safe here, with a good salary, great benefits, a favorable schedule, and a short commute.

    There are promotional opportunities to become a branch manager. Since I could use both the change of scenery and the money, I’m thinking about hurrying up and applying for one before the economy inevitably downturns again and the positions dry up. The problem is, the branches in our library system are like the Wild West. The buildings are barely maintained, and the aging technology that patrons rely on is rarely fixed in a timely way; both of those things are also true at the main facility where I work now, but at least here, they get priority to be fixed immediately. I’ll have to work multiple evenings per week and, especially if I’m placed at a far branch, would see my spouse seemingly half as much as I do now. Most problematic is that while there is ample security at the main building, the branches are not provided with any public safety personnel whatsoever, and any urban public library system is full of, well, patrons with many needs. Even if I start at a “good” branch, branch managers are sometimes involuntarily transferred to what some staff colloquially refer to as the “war zone” branches to fill staffing needs. All of the branch’s many problems are going to fall on me, the branch manager, including security. This makes me extremely uncomfortable.

    If I want to move up in this particular system, this is unfortunately the only route I can take. I want to challenge myself in the new year, and this would certainly be one way to do it, but this position would be fraught with problems. My spouse suggests I do an end run around this issue by looking for librarian jobs outside of this system entirely, but I’d almost definitely be looking at a pay cut that we can’t absorb. On the other hand, if I become a branch manager and get a year of real management experience, that might not be true when we ring in 2019. I’m not sure there is an actual question here or if I’m just using a public forum to think out loud, but in any case, thank you all for listening and Happy New Year!

    1. Christy*

      Do you actually want to be a branch manager? It sure doesn’t sound like it to me.

      My wife was a branch manager For 18 months and she hated it. Her situation sounds like yours. How’s the staff at the branches? Hers were challenging, which didn’t help when combined with security and building issues.

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

        Thank you for your comment. There are some aspects of being a branch manager that appeal to me, which definitely didn’t come through in what I posted. In a perfect world, I’d love to have the chance to put my imprint on a neighborhood branch. I also think I’ve become good at managing people in the limited opportunity I’ve had so far and wouldn’t mind a further challenge in that area (to answer your question, the staff at our branches are pretty variable; many branches are lovely and a few have some real challenges). But in an imperfect world where I might end up in a very difficult community with limited to no resources, after re-reading my post and the responses I’ve gotten, perhaps I should re-focus this energy in a different way.

    2. AshK434*

      After reading through your description of what being a branch manager in your current system would entail, I would probably seek outside opportunities if I were you. Are there any universities nearby that would offer better positions? A few hospitals near my also have librarians so that could be a possibility.

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

        The thing I’m concerned about with academic/university library positions – there are plenty of schools near where I am, not sure how many are hiring – is that I don’t belong to any professional organizations (I know this is a poor attitude that I need to change, but I hate meetings and politics and would rather spend my money in a different way) and have never published anything, which I suspect might be a deal breaker. That and a significant pay cut, which all of the academic positions I’ve seen so far would entail. But I’m certainly going to keep my eyes open anyway. “Special libraries” (such as the hospitals you mentioned) are a great thought – thank you for reminding me of this!

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Look into corporate library positions as well. I knew a few who had great pay, decent benefits, and totally loved their jobs because they were never doing the same thing each day (they work in insurance).

    3. Christy*

      Could you look for jobs outside of the system that have a guaranteed promotion system? My wife took a pay cut to leave her job but is due to make more within a year of starting because she’s on a federal career ladder. “Can’t absorb” probably means that this wouldn’t work, but maybe you could absorb it for a year only.

    4. Temperance*

      My local library system has some branches in really rough areas – so rough that they have to pay for full-time security and the librarians end up reviving people who OD on a weekly basis.

    5. Anon librarian*

      It sounds like you would mostly be in it for the money and it’s probably not worth the many drawbacks you’ve noted here.

      I’m in a similar situation myself where the next logical step is to become a branch manager and I’m unsure if I want to take that when a position does open up.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      My vote is for not doing this. Trust your gut. There are too many things wrong with this picture.
      You have the luxury of time, you can look around and be strategic about what you do next. Dig deeper and look for settings where you think you stand a good chance of success.

    7. Library Manager*

      It sounds like there are more drawbacks for you than advantages–being a library manager is not for everyone. I think back to what Alison says about being promoted to management because you are good at your job and it’s the next step and not because you are a manager, where management is essentially a different job. As a library manager I end up dealing with a lot of stuff that I would not have to consider as a librarian–the building maintenance is a big one, security is another, budgeting, staffing, and there are all kinds of bureaucratic paperwork and politics to go through.
      My system is more responsive to the branches, and I view my position as one where I can make changes happen in my community and in my branch. I relish the chance to work in an area where they really need libraries, and I enjoy the challenges of working with diverse populations. However, I’m at a branch close to where I live, I only work one night a week, and have control over the schedule in case I need to switch. In your system, I imagine the branch managers spend a lot of time running from one crisis to another, which makes it hard to see things from a broader perspective–when you have an OD every day, the roof is leaking, and it is hard to keep staff in place, it is harder to focus on making changes.

      If you want to move on, besides trying special libraries, could you consider a more rural library? Sometimes just outside of major cities there will be smaller, independent systems, where you have fewer of the security problems and have more time to address the various problems that inevitably come up.

      Another suggestion might be to see if there is a way to do a job trade or acting in position with a manager to see what it would actually be like. This is something we do at my system in case of medical leave or when there is a vacancy. It is a good way to see what working at a branch might be like as a manager.

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

        Thank you for all of this. I’m not sure a job trade is possible the way our system is set up (extremely bureaucratic) but that sounds like it would be a terrific thought if it were. Moving to work in a rural library is not an option for many reasons… and a former colleague and friend of mine who did says she has the exact same problems in the middle of nowhere as we do in the big city, for what it’s worth. Lots to think about here! But as Not So NewReader mentioned above, I definitely do have the luxury of time.

  19. Teapot Translator*

    On the Christmas open thread, I posted about how I’d been offered a job in my chosen field out of the blue, but didn’t have all the details yet. I now have them. If I choose this job, I would have to accept a pay cut and lose all my benefits (I would be freelance, but with a guaranteed income). So, I’m sad because reasonably, pay cut+no benefits, not a great move; but on the other hand, I would be working full time in my field (and gaining experience). Everyone I’ve discussed this with has said it’s a bad idea. Plus, I recently started a new job (not in my field) because I was made redundant at my old one. I took the job in good faith and stopped my job search immediately.

    So, anyone else ever had to chose between what reason told them and what their heart wanted (professionally)? And what did you decide?

    Thank you to Observer, miyeritari, AnonAndOn and Ramona Flowers for their advice on the previous thread.

    1. Pollygrammer*

      I made one of those impractical moves once, and I don’t regret it. Think about what you’re willing to sacrifice–luxuries, a cheaper living space, etc. (But health insurance definitely can’t be sacrificed no matter what).

      How long would you have to stay in this particular position until you feel like you have enough of a foot in the door in the field? Will there be benefits that don’t exist on paper, like networking, training, mentoring? Is turning it down going to leave you miserable for more than a couple weeks? Have you been at your new job long enough that leaving wouldn’t look terrible, or short enough that you can leave it off your resume? Any way you can fill in with something else part-time to supplement?

      There’s a lot to consider without dismissing it outright as impractical. It definitely might turn out to be TOO impractical, but it might not.

      1. Teapot Translator*

        Thank you for your comment.
        I live in Canada, so while health insurance is not as much of a worry as in other parts in the world, there are a lot of health expenses that I would have to shoulder 100 %.
        This job would give me training and mentoring, which I feel like I really need to assuage some of my “Am I good at this job” fears.
        On the other hand, if I turn down the job, I think I could still freelance for this company (no hard feelings).
        I don’t know why, but I am having an overreaction around this decision (lots of crying today when I’m not much a cryer). I think I’m putting too much weight on this decision, which I always do, but now I have enough distance for some part of me to calmly realize that, while still crying.

        1. Pepsquad*

          Sorry to hear this is really upsetting you. Perhaps it’s too much of a stressful leap to make at this juncture? Or perhaps you feel you would be letting the current company you’re working for down? You mentioned you were made redundant, but didn’t get into the details – is it possible that really kicked your confidence? That would possibly make this a much more stressful decision, especially if you feel like this current company you’re working for ‘saved’ you and now you’re leaving them. I may be entirely projecting, as I think I stayed too long with a bad fit, as the previous company let me go with no warning and severely dented my confidence and my belief in my self-worth.

        2. Pollygrammer*

          Oh, I absolutely agonized over my decision! And after I made my choice, I spent plenty of time kicking myself over it—what if I never worked back up to real security again? I am a fairly neurotic person, and I don’t make big decisions easily.

          Could you ask about freelancing for a while before moving to full time, framing it as you’d be thrilled to work with them but like to transition out of your current role as effectively as possible?

        3. Not So NewReader*

          It’s one of those so near and yet so far decisions, “it’s near where I want to be but so far from what I need right now…”

          It’s very important to remember that this is not the last job on earth. It could be an indicator that the tide is turning in your life and something even better will appear.

          Your solution maybe to freelance for this company while staying at current job. While not ideal, it’s not forever, either.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            It’s very important to remember that this is not the last job on earth. It could be an indicator that the tide is turning in your life and something even better will appear.

            This. I personally wouldn’t take the job (the no benefits thing is a deal breaker for me, especially when you have a job that’s giving you said benefits now), but would see this as my ability to get a similar one in due time – I would wait it out and keep applying elsewhere to see what I could get.

            Your solution maybe to freelance for this company while staying at current job.

            This. I would look into whether or not this is a workable solution for both companies. Never sacrifice your 80 for a 20.

    2. Brigitha*

      If you don’t take this Freelance job now … how likely is it that you’ll have other opportunities to work in this field? Can you freelance part time around your current New Job? Can you continue applying for other jobs in your desired field, and is it reasonable that you could get one with better pay/benefits with your current level of experience? Or maybe teach a workshop or find a volunteer position in your desired field? How much of a lifestyle change/strain will a pay and benefit cut like this mean? Do you trust the other people telling you this is a bad deal with other opinions about this desired field?

      Sorry, that’s a lot of questions, but answering some might help you figure out the right move here. Good Luck!

    3. AshK434*

      Can you reasonably do both? You said the job in your chosen field is freelance so I’m assuming the hours could fit your schedule. Do you have the bandwidth or desire to juggle that? That way, you could get the best of both worlds, benefits and a job in your field.

      1. Teapot Translator*

        Unfortunately, both jobs are full time during the day, so I couldn’t do both of them. :( That would have been nice.

    4. Pepsquad*

      I guess it depends on whether you can afford the pay cut. If you took this job for say a year would it lead to you getting paid within the industry at a more reasonable rate? If it’s officially freelance I guess you can keep looking. If you have savings and can afford to do this then I’d consider taking the leap but are you doing yourself a disservice – this job has been offered – if you actually applied or checked with your network could you get something better ?
      If you were going to take it I’d try and make sure you know as much as possible about the company so you’re not jumping from one short term thing to another although with it being freelance you could also keep looking.
      I’m kinda thinking you might regret not taking it but that’s only if you’re not well established in your industry and are desperate to get an entry point. Otherwise this isn’t a great offer – and only do this if know a lot about the culture, can afford to and are looking around for something else.

      1. Teapot Translator*

        I accepted a full time job recently and, in good conscience, I couldn’t look for another job without giving the full time job a chance (this job is not in my chosen field). My plan was to see after 6 months if I liked it; if not, I could then look for another job. If I liked it, then I would stay 2 years to honour my commitment (this is all in my head, there’s nothing in writing).
        I do feel like I need to establish myself in my chosen field. Maybe I should pass on this opportunity and take the time to put a lot of savings aside so that when I choose to go freelance, I can do it from a more secure position.
        Thank you for your comment. It helps me analyze my situation.

    5. Ramona Flowers*

      I can’t remember what I said before, so I’ll give you the advice my husband gave me when I was deciding about my current job. Ask yourself this: which opportunity will make you look back and wonder ‘what if’ if you don’t take it?

    6. AnonAndOn*

      You’re welcome! I hope you find the answers you’re looking for in regard to making a decision about this job.

    7. ..Kat..*

      One thing to help decide is to make a budget of your current expenses plus additional expenses that you would have to pay because this job has no benefits. Can you meet these expenses at the offered pay? Would you have enough left over for a cushion for unexpected expenses?

  20. Elisabeth*

    Are any of you freelancers / career wafflers that can give me advice? I’d been freelance writing successfully for several years when I got freaked out because of health insurance / stability / tbh a little lonely at home and I applied for a few jobs.

    I ended up at a government project management job and it’s super not for me. I knew it from day one. I miss freelancing SO MUCH. It’s not a bad job but every day I go in I want to cry. I desperately want to quit but I feel awful because I really fill an important role here (it’s been a year) and the people really aren’t bad. Plus the benefits are pretty decent although the pay is meh.

    I also know I’m such a job hopper. Freelancing was perfect for this bc I could always find new work – I just desperately wish I hadn’t even bothered looking at full time jobs! (I was originally looking for part time staff writer roles that would provide steady income and this just kind of fell into my lap). All of my other positions have been 2 years or less – for good reasons. (Got an AMAZING job offer at my dream job…then moved cross country) but I’ve been freelancing for 5 years. I’m just scared if I ever really do need a full time job they’ll see my resume and say no.

    Are there any other creative types that have struggled to commit to the freelancing plunge? I’m really struggling and desperate for any advice!

    1. Pepsquad*

      I’m in a both similar and opposite position, in that I’ve left a full time job which I hated but felt I should have and am now considering freelancing. However will need another role to support me doing this. I stayed at my role 2 years because I believed that my resume looked too much like job hopping. But realistically it probably doesn’t and I was miserable and later became sick in my role. Firstly the org will recover they’ll hire someone else – I learnt that immediately they sought two new ppl when I left when previously I’d been told if I stayed we’d get no further help.
      Secondly freelancing for five years is commitment. Do you have a company name, do you have regular clients (or did you)? Most people see being a freelancer as being hard, and to build up enough work to support yourself takes dedication, drive and skill – as well as discipline. That’s not being flighty. You originally wanted a part-time role – Could you look at that again? Or could you for instance join an organisation or board – to give you a long term commitment? Don’t stay in a job you dislike to satisfy some resume ‘should’ especially when you had 5 years as freelance and 2 years before that. Alternatively would this role consider you moving to part time or reduced hours?

      1. Elisabeth*

        I’ve thought about part-time or reduced hours. They have a lot of contractors. I just worry that with only one year’s experience (in this role), they wouldn’t even consider the option. But I suppose if I present it as “I’m leaving one way or another, but I’m willing to keep on as a contractor” (but with more wordsmithing…!) they might be willing to entertain me. Sounds like a good question for the next open thread!

        1. Pepsquad*

          Whatever you decide, I don’t think a year looks like job-hopping, it’s a significant amount of time to discover that a job isn’t right for you, or at least the way it currently works isn’t for you.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I just can’t, not yet. I don’t have enough experience doing freelance work to make enough to afford ACA and I do need health insurance at my age. My blood-red state did not expand Medicaid so as a single adult with no kids, I am not eligible no matter how little I make. Plus I would need to be making enough to pay someone to help me with the financial stuff (thanks a lot, dyscalculia :P).

      My dream is to write books all day, but I only know one published writer who does that and doesn’t have a day job and he’s been doing it for over twenty years and has multiple irons in the fire. And he doesn’t make much more than I did at Exjob.

      However, I have some freelancing stuff on my resume, and I HAVE been asked about it by employers, so I think many of them do think of it as actual work. I wish I had more so it looked like I’ve been doing something. I tend to stay in jobs for an average of four years unless something happens, but I don’t think a year is too short.

  21. Guacamole Bob*

    Do we get to find out how Snark inadvertently bought an AK-47 today, or do we have to wait for the weekend open thread?

    1. Snark*

      I lol’d, because I forgot I’d brought that up today. Uh…well, I was traveling for my research in grad school. Is that close enough to job related for today?

    2. Foreign Octopus*

      I’m sorry. What?

      How did I miss this?

      (And I’m also not surprised that this happened to Snark, of all people.)

      1. Snark*

        It was just in passing – regarding the person whose business travel had been increased to once or twice a month yesterday, and someone posted something about jeeez it’s no big deal OP, suck it up. I posted something like, I love to travel, I have weird stuff happen traveling, I once inadvertantly bought an AK-47, and monthly business travel STILL sucks.

    3. Snark*

      So here we go. It was in grad school, I was drawing a salary to be there, it’s job-related enough.

      My research was on soil microbial communities, and I had field sites in various mountain ranges, the Peruvian Andes being one of them. We stayed in a little town with like 250 people in it and nearly as many alpacas, situated near a pass at like 17,000 feet, along with some homesick Peruvian Army (or possibly some kind of national police?) fellows who ran a checkpoint. Almost everybody from the area spoke Quechua, Spanish was everyone’s second language, and life was sufficiently hard there that drinking was the preferred coping mechanism, social activity, and pastime when the wind cranked up to 60mph. One drink at 17,000 feet is completely suffient to make even a large fellow with a tolerance a bit loopy.

      So one late afternoon when it was actually sunny and pleasant out, I was enjoying one of our last beers and the warmth when I heard gunshots coming from near the checkpoint, and lots of laughing. I walked down there, and the soldiers were annihilating empty bottles with an assault rifle, as one will. I wandered over and asked if I could take a turn. The inherent danger of hanging out with drunken persons armed with assault rifles and a language barrier did not occur to me.

      The sergeant, who was like 19 but very proud of being in charge, said that ammunition and guns were very expensive, senor, and of course it was his responsibility not to waste government funds. We all stood there for a moment, contemplating the irony of that, while he quietly but visibly panicked that I would point out the obvious. I shrugged and pulled out some sols, offered to purchase the “items” I used – since I couldn’t remember the word for bullets – everybody visibly relaxed, and haggling started.

      Now, at the time, it was something like 0.25 sols to the dollar, but….well, my mental math skills deteriorate with hypoxia and drunkenness, so I quickly argued myself up to something like $25, thinking that I was in the $5 or so range. Money changed hands, and Sarge went over to his motely arsenal, selected the oldest and most battered AK-47, and handed it to me. Beer bottles were obliterated, everyone was quite merry, and as the sun set we all got ready to go inside. I handed back the rifle.

      “Oh, no, no, senor, es tuyo.”

      “¿es mio?”

      “Si….? Te pertenece, por supuesto, lo compraste.”

      “….oh.”

      *much laughter*

      And that’s how I inadvertantly bought an AK-47.

        1. Snark*

          My friend’s comment, on first hearing this story: “See, the thing is….this is exactly the kind of translation error that anybody traveling runs into. It’s just that you somehow mananged to take it to the most ridiculous possible extreme.”

          And my wife, without skipping a beat, is like, “And knowing him, this surprises you why?”

          1. Teapot Librarian*

            Yeah, I bought two sweaters having mistranslated the sign as “two for the price of one” when it was really something like “buy two and we’ll upsell you on jeans.” Ending up with an AK-47 really just takes it to the next level.

          2. neverjaunty*

            Thank you for this comment, because your story sounds EXACTLY like something my husband would have done.

      1. Grad Student*

        This is delightful and I am laughing aloud–and glad everything turned out well! Thank you for sharing.

      2. Not that Anne, the other Anne*

        That’s one of the best “lost in translation” business travel stories I’ve heard recently. It definitely beats my Hot Pink Hotel Room.

        Thanks for sharing!

          1. Not that Anne, the other Anne*

            It’s not nearly as good, where good is defined as involving the inadvertent purchase of assault rifles. However, it’s good enough to be requested to be retold at most office discussions of “crazy business travel stories”, much as I suspect yours is. Everyone needs at least one of those.

            Maybe I’ll tell it on the weekend open thread.

  22. Talia*

    I’ve mentioned Mr. Classified Job here once before, but I would like to invite you to continue to boggle at him with me. I don’t actually work with him, so I don’t need advice, but every time he talks to me about his job I feel like I’m reading an AAM letter from the perspective of the problem employee, so I wanted to share.

    Previously mentioned: He has a Classified Job which he is very proud of, which causes him to have many enemies and which is so secret that he’s technically not even supposed to tell people that he can’t talk about his job, but this job didn’t give him a cover story of any kind. He also can’t date “foreign nationals” (but was fine with the prospect of one as a roommate).

    New: all the “girls at work” hate him. He doesn’t seem to see this as a problem of any kind; indeed, he sounded rather amused by it. (There are no women on his team. At all.) He also went on a long rant about how everyone in a few other departments is currently angry at him, supposedly for things he has no control over and had nothing to do with and it must be because they see him as a symbol for decisions that were out of his hands.

    Since his job appears to follow the academic schedule of the Big Local University where he works, I’m waiting for it to turn out that he’s actually in IT or something and has no classified at all about it.

    1. hermit crab*

      Ha, I love how he’s bragging about how he’s not allowed to tell you things (while telling you about them) and also telling you all sorts of details about his supposedly secret colleagues.

      1. Snark*

        I’ve actually known people with Secret and Top Secret clearances, and [SPOILER ALERT] they have about NINE THOUSAND TIMES more chill than this dweeb.

        1. Talia*

          Oh, people with clearances are a dime a dozen in this town. He’s the only one I’ve met who acts like this about it.

    2. Fiennes*

      This sounds like the infamous “mall cop” who spent so much time online insisting that civilians could have no idea how much danger was involved in patrolling the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

    3. only acting normal*

      Research universities can sometimes do classified work, so…
      But yeah, the “enemies” associated with classified work aren’t supposed to be your colleagues. :D

      1. Talia*

        Oh, this one definitely has classified work in its research programs– it’s known to work with Homeland Security. But I can’t imagine people on those projects are out in an open room where people with non-secure work can hear them like he says he is. Classified stuff is worked on in vaults. He claims that the people not on his team are not on the classified projects and can hear everything they say.

    4. Suddenly Free*

      Hmm. At our local college they post jobs as either “Faculty” or “Classified,” the latter meaning support staff.

      1. Snark*

        ……oh god what if he doesn’t know? What if he was hired for a “classified position” and he thought it was sekrit spy shit! AAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    5. Mints*

      Oh god I know a guy like this! He works at Lockheed and whenever someone asks “What do you do there?” he’s incapable of saying something mundane he’s always hemming and hawing and then “It’s classified” which is bonkers because I knew someone else who worked at Lockheed who said that he worked on satellite software which sounds true enough and it’s boring enough that nobody asked follow up questions.
      The annoying guy ALSO takes pride in being prickly Mr Tell-It-Like-It-Is especially to women.
      These personality traits sure seem correlated.

      1. Plague of frogs*

        Reminds me of a guy at my mom’s church who, when she asked him what he did for a living, looked down his nose at her and said, “You couldn’t possibly understand it.” Turns out he is an electrical engineer. Now, my mom isn’t an electrical engineer, but her father, sister, and daughter are. We have all told her about our jobs, and she certainly has no trouble understanding.

        1. Mints*

          Ha! Electrical Engineer is a job that people have heard of. Even if the details are way beyond their understanding, those are normal sounding jobs

        2. Not So NewReader*

          When I asked a friend’s husband, he answered with, “It’s complicated. You wouldn’t understand.”

          I said, “You’re probably right.” And I walked away. I was going to explain that was rude but then I realized, the explanation was complicated and he probably wouldn’t understand.

  23. Violinist on the Titanic*

    I tend to lurk here, but I need some help. I feel like I’m working on the Titanic as a musician. Literally all of my co-workers at my level have left/ been replaced in the past year. Most people are leaving indirectly/ directly because of bad management, and administrations LOVES. Administration is not seeing the big picture, and I’m alone, in a place where I can’t easily leave like the others.

    Here’s the kicker for me, administration keeps messing up other people’s schedules, and them writing up the person for the issue. More people are going to move on, as they get reprimanded for other people messing up. And we will be shorter staffed. If I bring this up, I am told it is hard to do the schedule and none of my business. I feel like if I’m the one person who can fill the gaps, so it is my business. I can’t plan to do anything on work time, because what I’m scheduled to do will change daily. I’m making errors and missing other tasks because I’m required to step in for other people and do their tasks manning a public facing desk. This will hurt us as we are a tax payer funded organization. As we make missteps, it looks bad and support from the community depends on us being there when needed.

    We are down two full time and one part time people in a 5 person department (3 full time, 2 part time). There is no urgency to fill those positions, and the other part time person and myself have said we can not take on anymore responsibilities. We get platitudes of “you are doing a great job/ we will fill those positions soon/ the work load will lessen” but one full time person left in July, and has not been replaced. The other two have left in the past month, and we were promised they will be replaced by the summer.

    Any advice on a rare slow Friday to help keep me afloat??

    1. fposte*

      Yikes! At least the musicians on the Titanic weren’t told they had to handle the dining rooms and the engine rooms. When you say you can’t easily leave, is it because your job history is spotty enough that you don’t want to move on quickly, or because there aren’t that many jobs of this type in your area, or something else? Because I think that’s the thing you have the most control over here, so I’d go back to reconsider that.

      1. Violinist on the Titanic*

        I can’t easily leave because while there are full time jobs in my area they pay a lot less, and have less benefits, especially sick leave and vacation time . I would leave for the right job, and have applied to a few positions with no success. It doesn’t help that I’ve been at my current employer for most of my professional life, and have few supervisors from the past in my current field. I also have family close, and moving out of the area is not a real option. I am always looking for better jobs, and next year might be my tipping point, as salary and benefits become less important than my sanity.

    2. chica*

      You say you can’t easily leave, but why? Please look carefully at your skills, commute, $$$, whatever you think the issue is and at least try to leave. Your job sucks and is not going to get any better. You can change your attitude about it (not be so invested, if that’s possible! remind yourself that this is NOT you, and you cannot fix it!). Or you can change your job. Please look at the possibility of changing your job. There are many many stories here of people who thought that they couldn’t leave for whatever reason who eventually left toxicjob and are now happily employed in a normal job, they got a raise or better benefits, and are treated like actual people. Please try!

      1. Violinist on the Titanic*

        I’m kind of having a little mental crisis at work now. It’s kind of clear that 2018 should be my year of disconnect and get out. Currently my reasons for staying mostly tie to family, and location. However, it would not be impossible to leave, again for the right opportunity, with the stakes lowering exponentially. Due to insurance reasons, I’m not going to quit without something on the line, and me leaving will not be earth shattering to anyone. Thanks for your clear thinking both chica and fposte!

  24. Junebug*

    I’m planning to try to move up within my current company next summer, but I think they may lowball me because I’ll be an internal candidate. If they do and won’t budge when I try to negotiate, would it be a bad idea to accept and then start job hunting externally after a year?

    For background, I tried to negotiate (rather hesitantly, as the offer was pulled the only other time I’ve tried) the salary for my current position, but the HR rep told me that she’d never seen a higher offer and they wouldn’t go any higher. I accepted because my old workplace was a dumpster fire and the offer was still a significant raise, but recently I found out that two of my coworkers who were hired around the same time are being paid 20% more for the same work than two other coworkers who were internal candidates and me. If it matters, the two higher – paid coworkers are both men, I’m a woman, and one of the lower – paid coworkers is a man who I doubt wouldn’t have tried to negotiate. I’m a grad student with several years of unrelated work experience and will have a much higher earning potential once I’m close to graduating, hence why I want to start applying for those jobs sooner rather than later, but I don’t want to be undervalued in my first one as I know that could put me on a lower trajectory long term.

    Also, my performance review is next week and my supervisor has had nothing but positive things to say about my work. Should I try to negotiate a raise based on my performance and the higher – paid coworkers?

    1. [insert witty user name here]*

      It is ALWAYS OK to job hunt. Unless you sign a contract, you have made no guarantees to your employer to stay for a certain amount of time.

      You absolutely should make a case for getting a merit based raise, but you need to leave the higher-paid coworkers out of it. However – does your company have salary bands for your positions? Do you have any way to get this information? You want to try to be at least the mid-point of your salary band and that’s what you should target. Or, if you’re at the upper end of a salary band, make a case for moving up to the next higher labor category (ie, Senior Teapot Designer, instead of just Teapot Designer).

      1. Junebug*

        I’m not sure- is this something it’s normal to ask HR? And out of curiosity, why would mentioning the disparate salaries be a bad thing to do?

        1. Jadelyn*

          I wouldn’t mention the disparate salaries, since that raises the question of how you know that, and it can put your employer on the defensive because they may take it as an implied accusation of unfair pay. As far as asking for salary band information, it…depends on organizational culture. Some orgs don’t share that, but others believe in salary transparency and do share that info freely.

          Just be aware that if you do ask, that’s going to put someone on notice that you’re looking critically at your salary, which they may interpret as a sign that you’re leaving or at least considering your options, so it may prompt some other questions about why you’re asking. Be ready with an answer to those – I’d probably just say, I’m looking at the long-term earning potential in this role, to assuage fears that you’re about to leave.

            1. AAM fan*

              There’s a lot of info on AAM about this very question. I don’t have a link, but do a search and it should pop up quickly. My memory is that talking about others’ salaries is not considered a strong argument, but then maybe being a woman paid much less than a man triggers discrimination considerations? I know Alison has talked about both of these issues recently. Good luck!

            2. Jadelyn*

              If you have a wide professional network, you could try asking people in similar roles/career levels how much they make – phrase it carefully, cause some people get weird about being asked that – to see what’s market for your role/industry/region.

              There’s also payscale and glassdoor, which have salary calculators where you can put in your title, years of experience, education, location, etc. and get back a range for similar people in similar roles – and assuming you’re in the US, you can check BLS OES (government wage surveys) data, which you can filter down by region.

  25. Jen RO*

    I wanted to give a little update for the people who offered advice regarding my friend’s report (low performer who is really trying, but nowhere near where he is supposed to be; he also claims ADHD but doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it). I wanted to help her with suggestions on how to help him succeed. Two things happened in the meantime:
    * She gave him a 0% raise and told him that his performance was the cause. He said he knows that he has not been performing as expected.
    * She met with our boss who recommended the same thing you guys did: one more shot at helping him succeed (starting a daily checklist of tasks, checklists for the steps of each task, etc) and then managing him out. (Firing someone is very difficult because the legislation here is pro-employee; in general, it’s easier to have a frank conversation with the person and ask them to look for a new job.)

    Other than that… I’m in the middle of a 2-week holiday and I’m enjoying the hell out of it. I got Rise of the Tomb Raider for Christmas, I’m finishing the Portal games I had bought a while ago, Black Mirror just came out and the cats are cute and cuddly. Life is good!

  26. anonymous for this*

    What do you do if you see the writing on the wall? Im a bit in over my head in a small company handling accounting stuff with a system that doesnt work. I spend all of my time trying to get reports to match vs analysing things. I know my boss isnt happy. This is my first corporate job in over 20 years. Help?

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      Are reports not matching due to human error or because the system is flawed? If the system is flawed, I’d ask a peer how they do it. I’d also see if you can ask a peer how the person in that position before you did the job. If there is an issue with the system, I’d be straightforward with your boss and admit that you did not intend to spend so much time just getting reports to reconcile, but the system threw up some roadblocks for you, and ask if they have any suggestions for you, or better yet, come with some suggestions of your own if you have any. Maybe they don’t care if reports are off by a few dollars/hundred/thousands…..I’ve seen that at some small & mid-size companies.

      I think most importantly, you should admit that you know you haven’t met expectations recently, cite your challenges, propose solutions if you have them, and clarify their expectations of you, if needed. And then move forward. Keep the lines of communication open. If the reconciliation issue can’t be resolved, then I’d just tell the boss that there isn’t time to both reconcile the reports and perform the analysis and inquire as to which he’d like you to focus on.

      Best of luck!

      1. anonymous for this*

        system is flawed because the person who created it was not competant. Person I replaced was let go because he couldnt not handle system upgrade. Reports are off substantially in many cases (think, P&L not listing a major account) kind of stuff. In every other way, this is an ideal job and I HATE to feel so defeated by it but it just seems like the issues Im having are not really in my control. Had my review and boss said I needed to be more agressive with programmers. er. ok?

        1. JeanB in NC*

          I was in that kind of a situation and frankly, what I did was just start over fresh. I got the last audited financial statements, used that as a starting point, and just re-entered all the transactions after that point. Now granted that wouldn’t work with a huge company (I work for a small private school), but the amount of time I spent arguing with the old system was ridiculous.

    2. chica*

      if you can see it’s not a good fit, you start looking around for another job. You can also address it with your boss honestly (“this system is very challenging, how did the previous person handle this?” “what are the expectations?”) But if you are getting the vibe that this is not working out, then start looking now

  27. Roseberriesmaybe*

    Just wondering what I should have done differently here…I was volunteering at one of the games of a children’s fun fair. It was a certain amount for one go, and a reduced amount for 3 goes. A woman came up with 4 kids and tried to give me less than it was for 3 goes, saying I could give her a deal. I told her I was a volunteer (with the meaning of ‘I don’t want to rip off the man whose likelihood this is’) to which she replied, ‘So it won’t be a problem’. I let them go and told the owner, but I still feel uncomfortable with it. What should I have said or done differently? There was a big queue behind her and I didn’t want to embarrass her in front of her kids

    1. Antti*

      I’ve found the only way to deal with customers who are being blatantly unreasonable is to just hold firm and stick to the facts of the matter, i.e. “I’m sorry, I cannot give you a special deal. The price for 3 goes is $XX.XX, will you be buying this today?”. Assuming you know owner would back you up on that, anyway. And then if there’s really a problem from there, manager/owner/etc. can hash it out. Your volunteer status isn’t germane to the situation.

      And if it helps, she should be embarrassed. It’s the natural consequence of trying to pull a stunt like that. You’re not responsible for guarding her pride or for her emotional well-being.

    2. Matilda Jefferies*

      I think you did the right thing. If the woman’s family is getting four goes and only paying for 3 (or 2.5), the cost to the owner is probably pennies, or less. Most cost structures have enough flexibility built in to cover this kind of discrepancy, usually dozens of times over. So I wouldn’t worry about ripping off the owner for that amount. I can guarantee it made more of a financial difference to the woman and her children, than it did to him!

      The only thing I think you could do for next time is to do something now, before it comes up. Go back to the owner and ask him how he would like you to handle it, if the situation comes up again. Unless he’s Ebenezer Scrooge, chances are that he’ll tell you not to worry about it. No way he wants to see a bunch of crying children at his fair, over the cost of a dollar or two.

    3. David S. Pumpkins (formerly katamia)*

      When I was cashiering (paid, not volunteering) and people tried to do things like that, I would say the customer would need to talk to the manager because I didn’t have the authority to do that and just stick to “Sorry, I can’t do that” and direct them to the manager if they pushed. It seemed to work pretty well. (The job was pretty independent for a cashiering job in most respects, but my managers were very comfortable with us punting to them for that sort of thing.)

      Also, I kind of doubt that she didn’t have the money. The use of the word “deal” (if she did use that word) reminds me of some of the customers I dealt with at that job who were really just trying to manipulate their way into spending less money. (And, yeah, I didn’t know their financial situations, but there’s an “I don’t quite have enough money but I desperately want this thing and am hoping for kindness” vibe and an “I just want to manipulate someone” vibe. They are not the same.)

    4. Pollygrammer*

      She tried to give you the money BEFORE trying to confirm it was okay? I’m a lot less sympathetic there than I would be for somebody who asked (nicely) “is there any way I can pay for just three of the kids?”

      “You can give me a deal” leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I might have caved in the moment too though.

    5. Pepsquad*

      I think this is where you use the broken record approach and keep stating the price and particulars and says you don’t have authority/permission to arrange, she can always talk to the manager – he’ll be back at x. You are also allowed to say sorry I’m not able to do that.

    6. Jessica*

      I would recommend cheerily saying, “The prices are listed on the wall, please pay or step aside for the next party!” on repeat while ignoring any further attempts to negotiate. If she tries to cause trouble, ask her if you need to call security. You’re not embarrassing her in front of her kids, she’s embarrassing herself.

      1. Mints*

        I like to give difficult people these sort of choices too. Like “I can issue the check for the one you have paperwork for, or you can wait until next week for both when you have paperwork for both.” Like I’m still saying no but it feels a little better to give some semblance of choice even if it’s variations of no

    7. Not So NewReader*

      If this was for charity, I would say, “aww, it’s for cancer/homeless pets/starving children, I can’t take money out of their mouths.” Play the guilt card.

      If you thought the woman had a tight budget, perhaps you could have countered with “for x amount, everyone gets two tries”.

      If you want to just end the conversation, then say, “I am sorry I am not authorized to make any changes in pricing. You will have to talk to the manager and he will inform me what he wants me to do.”

    8. Dzhymm*

      “So, which one of your kids is not worth paying for? The one you love the most, or the one you love the least?”

  28. NaoNao*

    OneNote Power Users! Please give me your best tips! I’m planning on suggesting my team use OneNote as a one stop place to track our dozens of separate initiatives and goals and projects and plans and development, all in one place, and while of course I’ll do my own research and play around, I’d love to get those handy “secret” tips from power users!
    Thanks in advance :)

    1. Footiepjs*

      I am not a power user in the slightest, but one thing I would do straight off is have everyone go in the settings for the program and look at how backups are handled – how often it backs up notebooks and how many are retained. Sections in notebooks can get corrupted and there’s not really anything one can do about it except grab the backup and upload that version to the cloud.

    2. NoodleMara*

      Linking! Using the linking functions to reference other pages with info. I dont personally use it but I know of some people who do and love it

  29. Junebug*

    I’m planning to try to move up within my current company next summer, but I think they may lowball me because I’ll be an internal candidate. If they do and won’t budge when I try to negotiate, would it be a bad idea to accept and then start job hunting externally after a year?

    For background, I tried to negotiate (rather hesitantly, as the offer was pulled the only other time I’ve tried) the salary for my current position, but the HR rep told me that she’d never seen a higher offer and they wouldn’t go any higher. I accepted because my old workplace was a dumpster fire and the offer was still a significant raise, but recently I found out that two of my coworkers who were hired around the same time are being paid 20% more for the same work than two other coworkers who were internal candidates and me. If it matters, the two higher – paid coworkers are both men, I’m a woman, and one of the lower – paid coworkers is a man who I doubt wouldn’t have tried to negotiate. I’m a grad student with several years of unrelated work experience and will have a much higher earning potential once I’m close to graduating, hence why I want to start applying for those jobs sooner rather than later, but I don’t want to be undervalued in my first one as I know that could put me on a lower trajectory long term.

    Also, my performance review is next week and my supervisor has had nothing but positive things to say about my work. Should I try to negotiate a raise based on my performance and the higher – paid coworkers?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      The advice I have read here is to negotiate using the current rate for your area. You can use your performance along with the market rates.

  30. Covered in beeees*

    I have a resume question that is somewhat related to the one that Now What? posted. Like them, I was let go from a job after only a short time there (in my case, two months). I don’t plan on listing it on my resume in any future job searches, but the wrinkle is that I returned to my old job when I got let go. The timeline looks something like this: 2 years at Job A, 2 months at Job B, one month job searching, 9 months at Job A, and now I’m at Job C. How should I display this on my resume? Should I show the 3 month interruption in my employment at Job A, or just use my first start date and last end date?

    1. Jen RO*

      I would show the gap as well. I think it’s too risky otherwise – people may think you were trying to mislead them. Maybe list the job as:
      Job A
      January 2007 – January 2009
      March 2009 – October 2009

      1. Covered in beeees*

        That’s what I was leaning towards. Ideally, there would be a way to leave Job B off my resume that ensured that hiring managers didn’t ask about the gap, but since there isn’t it’s better to be more accurate.

  31. KatieKate*

    “In 150 characters or fewer, tell us what makes you unique. Try to be creative and say something that will catch our eye!*”

    Uhhhh help? This is for an events manager job application. I have no idea what they are looking for.

    1. GhostCat*

      If you were put up against a candidate with similar skills and experience, what is something that would make you stand out or would make you more qualified for the position? I find these questions kind of ridiculous because it’s hypothetical but I think they want to see what you can bring to the table using your own words.

    2. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Ugh, questions like this annoy me so much. I try to imagine the answer to Alison’s “magic question” (what makes someone good versus exceptional in the role) and summarize that in one sentence about myself.

      For events management, I would think this is about anticipating needs, being flexible and adept at making quick on-the-fly decisions, keeping your calm in the face of extreme stress, being meticulous and incredibly detail-oriented, etc.

    3. Matilda Jefferies*

      All work and no play makes KatieKate a dull girl?

      Kidding, obviously, don’t do this either. But honestly, it’s such a ridiculous suggestion that I would have a hard time taking it seriously! The only problem, of course, is that you’ll be competing against people who probably did take it seriously, which means you have to as well if you want the job. Ugh.

      Dear employers: don’t do this. It’s not a helpful way to analyze or screen candidates, unless you’re screening for pre-2017 Twitter users.

    4. Pollygrammer*

      #1: ughhh, that’s a really annoying question
      #2: I would try to come up with a story, and use it to illustrate a point. Have you ever done something super resourceful or found a really creative solution for something?

    5. NaoNao*

      I’d go with either a gushing quote from a “customer” ala “KatieKatie made our event memorable, seamless, fun, and touching, all under our tiny budget!” or I’d go with your “tag line” like “KatieKatie events are for making memories.” or “A KatieKatie event is the bright spot in a lifetime of memories” or “Perfect moments make perfect memories: KatieKatie events” 150 characters is not a lot, so include your name, what makes you stand out in one or two words, and something that is memorable and catchy. So easy, right? /s

    6. nep*

      I like to memorize Shakespeare soliloquies.
      (Any unique hobby or talent you’ve got — not necessarily related to the gig?)
      Just a thought.

      1. nep*

        Thinking on this more — I reckon it would be better to give them something that is relevant and shows why you’re the best one for the job. Something you do / a way you handle things that over time you’ve seen sets you apart from others.

    7. KatieKate*

      Update: I sent in a limrick. A poem application once got me into college, so let’s see if it works here

      1. Plague of frogs*

        Awesome! My brother and I used to write work-related limericks to each other (instead of actually, you know, working). Here is my favorite, after a rough day with some test equipment:

        “Though I like these new innovations,”
        Said the engineer in consternation,
        “I have to confess it,
        The tester can’t test it,
        And my life is full of frustration.”

    8. Arjay*

      I want to use my skills to create an awesome 500 person sit-down dinner that would exceed the expectations of both Judge Judy and Martha Stewart.

    9. Mints*

      I think I’ve mostly answered paraphrases from my “Profile” on things like this. Like “Recent grad from UCLA with a background in customer service, and experience in logistics.” It doesn’t sound like a “fun question” to me

  32. Courtney*

    I’m officially done with the last semester of classes for my degree, and I’ll officially be graduating with high distinction! I enjoy school (I better, since I’m going into education!) but am proud of myself for pulling off the high distinction taking 18 hours a semester with two toddlers at home and all the normal adult stuff to take care of. I know this m is kind of a brag, but I needed to share the good news somewhere! This is especially a huge relief since I’m the letter writer from earlier this year who managed to have a year of bad grades from a decade ago retroactively withdrawn from my transcript. Student teaching begins in a week and a half, and I’m a mix of nerves and excitement!

    Any good book recommendations for teachers? I’m doing secondary ELA. Currently reading The First Days of School and re-reading the literature I’ll be teaching this semester.

    1. Julianne*

      Read some stuff that the kids you’re teaching might be reading for fun! It’s great to be able to talk to students as one reader to another reader.

      1. Courtney*

        Great point! Fortunately, I am a huge fan of young adult lit so I think I’m set there. This is one of those times it’s to my advantage that I still love books meant for teens even though I haven’t been one in a decade, haha.

    2. Almost Violet Miller*

      Congratulations!
      I can’t recommend you anything unfortunately as I am in a different field but I wanted to say how great your comment/update is!

    3. New Bee*

      Congratulations! Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria is a good one. Teach Like a Champion is commonly recommended, though I think it’s efficacy depends a lot on the culture of your school.

      1. Courtney*

        I’ll check them out, thank you! My minor is psych and I focused on behavioral psych, often specifically around prejudice, so I’m hopeful that will also help me with some of the issues discussed in the first book you listed.

    4. CA Teacher*

      Our ELA teachers like “Read Like A Professor,” I also love “Culturally Responsive Teaching,” by Geneva Gay. Congrats!

  33. Beatrice*

    Does anyone have any tips on softening language when you really need to be pedantic about something, or a really great script for advocating for precise language?

    We’re undergoing major process/system changes at my company. We have some right-hand-doesn’t-know-what-the-left-hand-is-doing going on with process design, and I’m finding that the exact same thing goes by 2 or 3 or 6 different names, depending on who’s talking. We’re stumbling over communication because what one group calls a teapot spout, another group calls a pouring tube, and another group calls a liquid tea evacuation point. Sometimes it’s just semantics and I can understand what someone is talking about without clarifying, but often I can’t – either because someone who doesn’t understand the details is using legitimately wrong terminology, or because I’m honestly not certain that we’re talking about the same thing and clarity is critical.

    For example, now I have a problem with the term “TPS Form”. We’ve used TPS Forms for years to document routine operations changes, but with the changes, it’s recently become necessary to start using them to document certain personnel changes as well (if someone is entering/exiting a role that requires a change in certain system authority levels). HR has embraced the change and they’re beginning to send the forms now, but someone somewhere in corporate HR started calling it a “Personnel Authority Change Form” or “PAC Form”, and suddenly that is the name they are all using. Now my team is getting these forms from six different HR groups calling it a PAC Form, but a dozen other groups are sending in TPS Forms to document other access/authority/settings changes, and it’s the same form and needs to follow the same general process (intake/approval/execution). I’m finding myself re-educating a bunch of site-level HR folks – most of whom have never interacted with me before – by saying “thank you for submitting the form; by the way, I know your leadership has been calling it a PAC Form, but I need you to stop using that name and start calling it a TPS Form, because that is the correct name.” I hate that my first contact with some of these people is correcting a terminology problem they didn’t even personally create, but I’m worried that if I let it slide even once, the confusion will fester. (I’ve contacted corporate HR about helping me fix the problem, and they’ve agreed to…twice…and yet it keeps happening…)

    The above situation crops up a dozen times a day. Most of them, individually, aren’t a big enough deal to raise a stink about, but collectively, they pose a risk of death by a thousand cuts, as we’re all working to get our arms around all our recent changes.

    I feel like I have a pretty good handle on when I need to correct these things and when I need to let them go, so I don’t need help with that… What I’m struggling with is that I need to correct them VERY often right now, because so much is new to everyone, and I need to have people take clarity seriously, but I’m worried about developing a reputation as a difficult, pedantic person.

    1. NW Mossy*

      It feels to me like you’re tackling this problem at the wrong level – you’re working with individual contributors one-on-one, but the change needs to happen at the leadership level to stick. If leaders consistently send the message that precision matters because they understand why and coach their people on it, you’ll get the resolution you need.

      It’s not clear to me what your own position is in the hierarchy, which is important here because leaders (like everyone!) tend to be most receptive to messages from their peers or from above, rather than from below. If the leaders you need buy-in from are above you, this is a conversation to have with your boss about how imprecision impacts you and to ask for your boss’s advocacy in addressing it. If you’re peers to or above the leaders, you can do this yourself. And most importantly, do not try to do this over email – in person is best if possible, but videoconference/phone substitutes reasonably well for those not at your site. Email is a terrible tool for this kind of thing – you need to be able to hear how it lands (yay? ugh? snore?) to know if you’re getting traction.

      Assuming you’re the one doing the asking, I’d say something like this: “As you know, Project Fuzzy Kitten is introducing a lot of change, and one of the things I’ve learned so far is that we have a lot of similar/identical forms and processes that have different names depending on who’s talking. It makes it challenging for the project team because we spend a lot of additional time clarifying and it puts us at risk of [missing deadlines, X negative impact to customers, etc. – whatever fits your situation]. To address this, we’re recommending that we adopt consistent language across departments – can you help us implement that in your area?” From there, open it up to questions/concerns they may have about it and be prepared to help them address roadblocks.

    2. Matilda Jefferies*

      First question – DO you actually need to have them call it a TPS form? Is it clear what they mean when they say a PAC form? What’s the actual impact of them calling it by the wrong name? You say it leads to confusion, but what does the confusion lead to? Delays, errors, financial costs…?

      I don’t need the answers to any of the above, and I’m not doubting you when you say it’s important. But if you want people to change their terminology, you need to be really clear as to why. If there’s no actual impact other than you grinding your teeth and going “It’s CALLED a TPS form!” then it may not be worth forcing the change. (As a fellow pedant, I get it! In my ideal world, everybody would use the word “archives” the way I use it, which is the way it’s actually used in the actual archival profession. But it’s not my ideal world, and most people don’t use it that way, and I have chosen to not fight this particular battle.)

      If it turns out that there’s an actual measurable impact to the confusion, and you decide you are going to fight the battle, start by acknowledging the pedantry. “Sorry, I know this sounds really nitpicky, but it’s important
      that we call them TPS forms because…(reasons.) Can I ask for your help sharing this with your team?” You’ll probably have to say it a lot, but hopefully the message will get out eventually.

      1. Anony*

        You asked the question I was thinking. If there was already another form called a PAC form I could see why it would cause confusion, but that does not seem to be the case. Why not simply tell everyone processing them that PAC forms and TPS forms are the same thing?

        1. As Close As Breakfast*

          It’s also possible that the people using them are seeing them as something else, too. Like, “it’s a TPS form for people!! So we shall call it a PAC form to differentiate!!” I agree that a clear reasoning for how using 2 different names/forms will absolutely-positively-NOT-WORK will likely need to be repeatedly given to people. Is it at all possible to embrace the 2 forms? Could the process on your end be altered so that the 2 forms are acknowledged as nearly identical (one dealing with operations changes and the other with personnel changes) and are handled in the same way. I ask only because this can be a very difficult thing to change once it’s started. Particularly if there is anyone higher up on the HR side that is on board with/likes the PAC form differentiation from the TPS form. In short, good luck!

  34. GhostCat*

    TL;DR: Customer went on a social media rampage after a friend, who is also our employee, joked that she was not serving him any more alcohol after he tripped into another customer.

    Back in September my parents extended onto their restaurant with the opening of a craft brewery. We live in a small town and the residents have been so excited to put our tiny place on the map. Reviews on the beer, food, service have been excellent and everyone has raved about it – until last night. I’ll need some advice on how to handle this.

    A man who we’ll call “John” came into the Brewery last night with his wife and 6 other friends (according to John’s wife he had already had some drinks in him before they came to the brewery.) “Donna”, one of the brewery employees, has known John and his wife most of her life and have grown up in the same neighborhood. After an hour of drinking and socializing John came up to the counter and asked Donna for two water cups, which Donna handed to him. As John went to walk back to his table he tripped over his foot and stumbled into another customer who managed to steady John on his feet. The customer laughed and said, “Too much to drink, buddy?” and Donna laughed and replied, “Looks like we’re going to have to cut you off, John!” This enraged John, who threw the empty cups in Donna’s direction and shouted at her to cash out his tab. Donna obliged and began to get his total and run his card. John began shouting and cursing at Donna, telling her that she needs to watch her f***ing mouth when she speaks to him. Donna was shocked and apologized to him, and said she was just joking. John repeatedly screamed expletives at Donna and told her to hurry up and that he was never returning. Once Donna cashed out John’s tab he went back to the table with his friends.

    Immediately we start getting notifications on our phones and John is furiously sending Facebook messages to the Brewery’s “private” messenger account about how it was the worst beer and service he had ever experienced and that he will make sure to tell his friends and family about how awful it was. As we are discussing how to handle the situation we discover that John is still in the Brewery sitting in a corner going through all 250 photos on the Facebook page and commenting “Horrible” on each one. He also leaving 1-star reviews with the same generic message “Horrible beer/service/never coming back and tell all your friends”. Once John’s friends realize what’s happening they seem mortified and quickly come up to pay their tab and leave. As John is leaving he makes one more jab at Donna and tells her she’ll never amount to anything more than working at a brewery. My sister, who was the manager on duty, asks him to leave and he stands at the door and glares at her for over 15 seconds.

    We decided not to respond to the reviews or Facebook Messenger message for 24-hours to see if he sobers up and sees what a jackass he was. This morning the reviews had been removed but the 250+ comments on photos were still there. I feel that we still need to address his abusive behavior towards Donna in the private FB message and let him know that it is not tolerated and inappropriate in our Brewery. Others feel like we need to ignore it and only handle it if he comes back and starts a stink.

    Readers, what would you do?

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I would ban John from my restaurant/bar. He sounds like an angry, volatile drunk.

      I would also delete all of his comments from social media and ban him from being able to comment there again.

      1. Fiennes*

        I think banning him from the restaurant is absolutely fair. However, I’d make it clear to him that this is about his treatment of Donna that night. Nasty as his FB tirade was, you don’t want to give him the ammunition to say you guys ban people only for negative opinions. (Which you wouldn’t be—I just think emphasizing his in-person behavior is key.)

        Probably he *is* mortified. But if that guy responded to a fairly mild joke with such ugliness—and toward an old friend, at that!—he’s at a high risk of causing trouble again.

        1. Snark*

          Yeah, someone who reacts that harshly to an inoccuous joke has clearly a) got some issues with alcohol and b) got some subconscious awareness that his drinking is not healthy.

      2. Caro in the UK*

        This is where I sit too. He wasn’t simply rude, he was malicious and vindictive. And the fact that he has yet to apologise, and has left up some of his social media comments is a problem too (he may well be too mortified to apologise in person, but a message to say sorry, plus deleting all of the comments on your photos would be VERY easy).

        I know it’s a small town, and you may feel pressured to serve locals, even if they behave badly, but if I lived there and heard what had happened, I would absolutely support your decision to ban him (and to protect your staff from abuse). I’m sure most would feel the same.

        1. Anony*

          Blocking him on facebook is probably a good idea. I also think banning him from the restaurant is reasonable. Someone who becomes unhinged when it is pointed out that he is drunk should not be welcome at a bar.

    2. Aunt Vixen*

      I tend to think if you never see him again, fine; but if he comes back, whether he starts a stink or not, you need to let him know that’s not okay. If he ‘s rude (or worse) to Donna in public, it shouldn’t be enough to apologize to her in private.

    3. WellRed*

      I’d wait a bit and see if he apologizes. Chances are, he was mortified when he sobered up. As was his wife and friends, I am sure, by his behavior.

      1. fposte*

        I’d ban him anyway, though. He wasn’t mortified when he was drunk, and a brewery is a venue where he’s likely to be drunk again.

        1. Pollygrammer*

          Second this. I seriously doubt somebody like that is going to be embarassed.

          If he makes any public reviews on Yelp or anything, I might respond–something like “we pride ourselves on a fun and welcoming atmosphere, but we do not tolerate verbal abuse and profanity towards our staff, and we believe most of our guests will agree that this policy does not reflect poorly on our establishment.”

          1. chica*

            ^^^^^ THIS “we pride ourselves on a fun and welcoming atmosphere, but we do not tolerate verbal abuse and profanity towards our staff, and we believe most of our guests will agree that this policy does not reflect poorly on our establishment.”

            And, YES I am on the ban him bandwagon. Honestly, I cannot believe he wasn’t ushered out that night!

          2. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Well, actually, the fact that they deleted the reviews was a big factor in my recommending they consider a measured approach. It’s possible John had a recent trauma and/or has a drinking problem — neither of which make what he did OK, but based on the long history between him, his wife, and Donna, and the fact that this is in a small town, they might want to give him the opportunity to apologize and see if it seems sincere and humble enough.

            1. Pollygrammer*

              Lots and lots of people do things they regret when they’re drunk, but an awful lot of them also double down on them when they’re sober even if they regret them, just so they don’t look weak.

            2. Observer*

              He didn’t regret it enough to apologize or take down the comments.

              Also, “regretting it” is not a “get out of jail free” card. He THREW SOMETHING AT SOMEONE. What if it had been a glass instead of a cup? What if it had hit her – or another customer? Someone who gets that unhinged when drunk is not safe to have in a venue where people drink. Even if they regret it later.

      2. Snark*

        Hard disagree. He should be mortified by his behavior. He should apologize. And neither of those things mean there shouldn’t be consequences for being threatening and deeply nasty.

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      It sounds like even those who weren’t there can probably tell that John is/was acting like a toddler, so anything he does or did is probably mostly going to reflect badly on him, and if it’s the standout in a sea of raves, most people will get the point in short order.

      With the reviews gone, I might wait a week or two to let him finish cooling down, then delete the comments on the photos. I checked a couple of FB pages I manage, and you have to hide the comment, then you can delete it. I actually deleted a comment from years ago, and asked that friend to let me know if she receives a notification. I’ll follow up when I hear back. Either way, I’d still delete them, but I understand that that information might influence your decision.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Of course I got distracted by the technical issue, and forgot to address the rest of it.

        Since you say Donna has known John most of her life, I would get her input before banning him, but make it clear that you are ready and inclined to do so, so she doesn’t feel that it’s on her. I know I would probably want to ban him outright. However, you might want to give him a chance to back down and apologize gracefully, especially in a small town. I’ve never lived anywhere like that, but I can imagine that grudges and ruined relationships take on an outsized importance when you can’t avoid someone very easily.

        1. CM*

          I was thinking that too — if it’s a small community and banning would seem too harsh (maybe this is John’s regular hangout and this was a one-time aberration), then contact John and ask him to apologize to Donna and take down all the social media posts. If he refuses, then ban him.

        2. Anony*

          Asking Donna could put her in a tough position though since she may feel pressure (real or imagined) to be forgiving. This isn’t her call and she shouldn’t feel responsible for it. Even saying that you are ready and inclined to ban him won’t necessarily make her feel like it isn’t on her. Instead, apologize to Donna for the fact that she was verbally accosted at work and inform her that you are banning John from the bar because his behavior was completely unacceptable. If anyone tried to blame her, make it clear that she had no say in the decision.

        3. Observer*

          I would NOT ask Donna – especially because of the small town dynamic that could be at play. It’s not really fair to put this responsibility on her.

          If nothing else, by making the decision without her input, they give her some social cover. And, there is really no downside for them.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        BTW, if it matters, my friend did not receive a notification that I deleted her comment from 3 years ago on an old Page of mine, so John probably wouldn’t know unless he checked the photos.

    5. Snark*

      “Your abusive behavior towards our staff is not tolerated and you are no longer welcome at Brewery.” SCREW this guy. He’s an angry, volatile drunk and his behavior was not just bonkers and insulting but threatening. Stand up for your staff, stand up for your other patrons.

      And if he raises a stink on social media, let him. It’s perfectly obvious to reasonable persons when the 1-star review was written by a lunatic with a weird grudge.

    6. Todd*

      I would block him from facebook page, perhaps put up a note about abusive drunken behavior not being tolerated then let it sit for a couple of weeks. IF he apologizes I could see letting him back in, but make it clear on his first visit that he’s on probation. And monitor his alcohol intake carefully at your establishment.

    7. soupmonger*

      Ban him from the premises immediately on the grounds of ill-treatment of an employee. No-one deserves to be treated that way and if you back Donna up by banning him, it sends a good, strong message to the other employees.

      I’d not wait for him to come in and make a scene – tell him to leave and not return if he comes back.

  35. Really Need New Job*

    Hi all,

    I wanted to ask how would you handle it if you got a job offer from a new company, contingent to good references, and then your old employer suddenly refuse to give you a good reference because you are trying to leave their company when they were hoping you stay longer.

    I am trying to job search even though my current company is going to give me a promotion, because I just don’t like how my company is running things. My managers has always been kind to me even though I am just an “okay” employee who occasionally still make a few small mistakes. My company refuse to hire new employees when old ones leave, and they have us assigned with more workload because of it. Even though my managers are kind, I am not sure if they how they will take it if I announce I will leave after I got my promotion shortly.

    I don’t want to refuse the promotion because it might raise questions and I am not sure what would happen in the future.

    But I do want a chance to change to another job, if I can.

    Thanks,

    1. RubyMendez*

      Is there anyone at old employer who would be willing to give you a good reference? Or a former employee of old employer who would be willing to give you a good reference?

      Or if old employer is current employer — can you ask new employer not to take a reference from there? It’s really hard to get your current manager to support you in your job search (unless you’re a student or temp or somehow time-limited), because they’re acting against their own interests.

      1. Really Need New Job*

        Unfortunately, I do not have any other coworkers who might want to give me a good reference (we don’t talk a lot socially and we do not have a much friendly relationship–this is another reason why I want to change jobs).

        Would new employer be skeptical of me if I can’t get a good reference from my recent old employer?

        I fear their skepticism might cause them to rescind my job offer.

        1. o.b.*

          It is very, very typical (in the private sector—not so much education or public sector, I’ve been told) not to be able to offer your current employer as a reference, typically because you don’t want to let your current employer know you’re searching.

          1. Did your prospective new employer specifically ask for a reference from your current job?
          2. If so, do you have anything you can offer instead, like a performance review? Do you have an HR department that could confirm employment and the status of your record (no discipline or issues, etc.)?
          3. Do you have a few other solid references from past jobs/internships?
          4. Are you comfortable explaining to the new employer that you won’t get a good reference because they don’t want you to leave?

          In all of my private sector jobs no one has ever asked for a reference from my current employer; unless you were specifically asked, I wouldn’t worry—it’s totally normal not to provide that.

          1. Really Need New Job*

            I think I can get a good reference from my manager from my previous job that’s before my current one.

            But I did wrote my current job in my resume. In the past, my prospective employers have asked for references from the jobs that were on my resume. They asked for it after they wrote me my job offer.

            My performance reviews are kept by HR, and I am not too sure if they will give those out to me or to other employers. I haven’t asked them about it.

            My original question was a hypothetical question. I wanted to prepare for the worst case scenario.

            1. o.b.*

              In my experience, it’s super typical (almost expected) to put your current job on your resume but not be able to offer a reference from it. In your practice, it will depend on the company and hiring manager. Worst case scenario, I think, they ask for a current reference, you’re unable to give that or produce any performance reviews, I think you could just explain your perfectly reasonable situation and see if the employer responds reasonably.

    2. Rat Racer*

      Is this hypothetical, or does your company know you’re job searching and has indicated that they won’t give you a good reference if you leave? It’s pretty bad form for an employer to give a bad reference to an employee who leaves on good terms, just because they left! Especially if you give them fair notice and a transition plan… I don’t know your company (maybe they’re totally backwards and evil) but I wouldn’t worry about them sabotaging you unless you have a strong indication that this is their MO.

      1. Really Need New Job*

        This is a hypothetical question. I just wanted to have some knowledge of what I should do in case this worst scenario is happening.

        My manager is typically friendly, but he is not the best manager and the workplace is not an environment I like. I don’t have any other friendly relation with anyone else in my department.

        My manager wanted me to take on more workload, because we have fewer employees than we have in the past. He wouldn’t hire new employees. But I wanted to leave, even though I am needed.

    3. fposte*

      I can’t tell if this is a situation you’re actually facing or a situation you’re worried you might face.

      It’s pretty common in U.S. hiring that you don’t have a reference from your current job for the job you’re applying for. People use references from previous jobs, or clients at the current job who can be trusted to keep the search confidential, or supervisors at volunteer positions, that kind of thing. It’s therefore pretty unusual for hiring to be contingent on a good reference from a current job.

      I think it’s probably #2, so think about who else you might ask for references. Any managers no longer with that company? Who could you contact from previous employers? But above all, if it’s #2, don’t let the fear of your current employer keep you from looking for a new job if you want one. There are ways to work around this kind of situation.

      1. Really Need New Job*

        I know that most prospective employers won’t ask for references from current employer when you’re still in the interview process.

        But prospective employers might want to see references from the jobs you put in your resume when you interviewed them. I had past job offers when that was asked after I accepted the job offer.

        I will put my current job in my resume, since that job has relevant experience, so new employers might want to confirm about my role in my current job.

    4. Thlayli*

      Have they specifically said one of the references has to be from your current employer? If not use references from previous employers. Also there’s no law saying your reference has to be your line manager, anyone who can vouch for your work is acceptable.

  36. Foreign Octopus*

    So I’ve been sick this week but I’ve had to work (damn self-employment! I would have called in sick if I didn’t work for myself).

    I had two lessons yesterday where I thought I was going to fall out of my chair I felt so bad and I had to have a nap in the middle of the day. I’m really glad the weekend is here. I’ve finished work for the day, and I only have one class tomorrow morning. After that, I can curl up with my cat, my book, and my box of Roses chocolate and not have to think about work until Monday.

    Commiserations to anyone else with a December cold and having to work.

    1. Alternative Person*

      My commiserations. I was lucky in that I had already booked yesterday and today off because my voice had completely gone by the end of Wednesday and still isn’t back.