open thread – December 8-9, 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.

{ 1,601 comments… read them below }

  1. KK*

    How is the dress code at your work? At my work, it’s business casual Monday-Thursday, and jeans on Friday. Usually on Fridays (along with jeans), people tend to wear tennis shoes and hoodies in the winter. It’s pretty much “anything goes” on Fridays as long as what you’re wearing is clean, and appropriate (not talking about The Office style “casual Fridays”!)

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I don’t know what our formal dress code is; my colleagues wear anything from jeans and t-shirts to suits, mostly varying by their hierarchical level.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Oh, and I wear anything from jeans, a blouse, and a blazer to wrap dresses. I wore a suit for the first time (in this job) this week, actually — I gave a presentation to the CEOs of several Fortune 500 companies, which is very much not my usual work day. :)

      2. JokeyJules*

        We are somewhat like that as well. Only the higher ups (who typically are also working in sales for the company) wear any sort of “business” clothing.
        The rest of us are in jeans and t shirts or whatever we threw on that morning. The handbook specifies nothing vulgar, hateful, or violent, but otherwise “use your best judgement”.

        We also all have pairs of slippers under our desks and frequently walk around in just socks.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      For me, it’s been highly varied, workplace to workplace. At my current job, I have to wear a specific kind of shirt (representing our department). At my last job, I could wear whatever (short of being obscene). The job before that, I had to wear business casual / semi-formal (depending on whether it was work or work event). The two jobs previous were quite casual (flip flops and t-shirts were totally cool).

    3. Amber Rose*

      No really loose clothing, dangly bits or scarves, no open toe shoes and no shorts or skirts, because of the machinery.

      Otherwise, whatever. Jeans, graphic T’s, bright colors. Any day of the week, it’s all good.

      1. Libby*

        Same here. Even though I don’t work with the machinery, because I’m around it I follow the same dress code as those who do.

        1. Amber Rose*

          Yep. I can wear a skirt or open toe shoes if I have a good reason for doing so, but then I’m confined to the office and can’t go into the production areas, which is pretty inconvenient.

      2. bloop*

        I work in a reference laboratory and it’s similar for us. No dangling jewelry, long pants, close-toe shoes. Long hair has to be tied back. And of course, we all wear lab coats while we work. But other than that, we can wear anything. I usually wear scrubs because I like having so many pockets, but I have coworkers who wear jeans, sweat pants, leggings. One guy on my team exclusively wears pajama pants and old hoodies. We work third shift, so most of us like to stay casual.

    4. Anonymous Poster*

      If we’re meeting with a customer, shirt/tie or the equivalent is expected. Ties can be foregone in the summer.

      Otherwise, nice jeans/polo are okay if just in the office, but generally people would just wear a button-down shirt and slacks in case a customer comes into the office. In these cases most people just work from home though.

    5. BlueWolf*

      Business casual with occasional “jeans days” on a Friday where you pay a certain amount that is donated to charity in exchange for being allowed to wear jeans. Occasionally, there will be a free jeans day on a Friday before a holiday or something.

    6. Murphy*

      I don’t know if we have anything formal. We’re basically business casual with jeans on Fridays. Director level and higher people tend to dress more formally. Some people wear jeans and more causal stuff during the week, but I tend to keep it to Fridays.

    7. anonanners*

      Business casual most days, with jeans and school attire or school colors on one day of the week (I work at a university). We don’t really do tennis shoes. Different departments have different codes, though – many non-student facing departments are allowed to wear jeans/sneakers all year round.

    8. D.W.*

      On the books we have a business casual dress code Monday-Thursday. However, folks show up in leggings, “nice” sweatpants, some in nice jeans, and others in suits.

      Fridays are casual.

    9. Tired Scientist*

      Ours is officially “business casual” but the dress code also says jeans are ok as long as they are not ripped. This, in practice, means that managers dress traditionally business casual while others wear jeans/t-shirts every day.

    10. Ainomiaka*

      My dress code is literally “clothes appropriate for job duties ” and no see through or backless tops. People can and do wear athletic wear, pajamas or leggings. That said I work in a lab, so business casual or business formal doesn’t really make sense here.

      1. Phlox*

        Yeah I’m the same. Currently wearing spandex and hiking boots. Just came from working outside and wearing overalls. But I mostly do office work and am in jeans and a t-shirt. Occasionally it’s more formal business clothes for external meeting and very two years, my suit

    11. Nervous Accountant*

      We wear anything and everything. Only thing off limits is shorts and ripped stuff.

      Amusing anecdote. We have a guy who is always dressed very formally (compared to most of us). Shirt tie slacks. One day he comes in wearing shorts cz it was 8000 degrees outside and the next day we get a mass email from my boss saying that shorts aren’t allowed. (Don’t get me wrong It was a very nicely worded email). It was amusing.

    12. starsaphire*

      My building’s full of engineers, so, sneakers and jeans and polos/dress shirts/sweaters is the go-to. Plain T-shirts are also seen a lot. I haven’t seen any Ts with graphics or writing or slogans, so I’m assuming there’s a rule against them somewhere, but I couldn’t say for sure. Some of the women enjoy wearing dressier clothes, but jeans and sweaters this time of year is pretty standard.

      One occasionally sees a suit and tie or a blazer over a nice dress, but that usually just means there’s a meeting going on somewhere.

    13. QualitativeOverQuantitative*

      For the first few years that I was at my current company we were just shy of business formal. Earlier this year we changed to business casual, but there hasn’t been a huge shift in how most of us dress on a daily basis. We all owned business formal attire, we’re not going to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe. Plus, if my boss is wearing a suit, I don’t want to be the person dressed casually even if it is technically allowed.

      The one problem with a more formal dress code is that my entire wardrobe is work-appropriate, so on the weekends I am either over dressed or in my pajamas.

      1. Rainy*

        My office is business casual–lots of people wear jeans etc. but I wear skirts and dresses exclusively (I prefer them, not a religious thing), with tall socks or leggings under and cardigans over in the winter, which is fine, but like you, I have basically work clothes and loungewear. When I’m at home I wear pajamas and if I’m running errands or going out socially I either wear a more casual skirt or dress, or yoga pants.

    14. De Minimis*

      It’s almost nonexistent. My boss [finance dept] dresses up somewhat, as do I, but I only do because I have all these business casual clothes from previous jobs.

      I work in a nonprofit.

    15. 42*

      Globally recognized digital company here.

      Very casual. Jeans and t-shirts are pretty much the norm every day. Everything goes, but I’ve never seen sweat pants here. Zippered sweatshirt hoodies yes, but never sweat pants.

    16. Red Reader*

      On-site: Business casual (skewed less casual for people who are higher on the org chart), no visible tattoos or unnaturally colored hair or denim of any color. I think that mostly covers it. We’re in a hospital, but not clinical, so scrubs are also specifically verboten for us. My manager tends toward slacks and sweaters, the level above her mostly sheath dresses or blouses and pencil skirts. (We currently have no male management in my direct chain of command for like, four or five levels above me. The one we did have for a while tended to wear polo shirts and khakis all the time.) Normally when I go on site, I do skirts and solid colored v-neck tees with a cardigan of some sort over top, and almost always in some combination of black, white and red. (The logo’ed cardigan I keep in my car is black with our white-and-red logo on it.)

      However, I work remotely 98% of the time, so today I’m wearing Hard Rock Cafe Rome sweatpants and a t-shirt that says “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”

      1. Not In US*

        My office is business casual (based on what people seem to mean on this website) but on the more formal end for anyone in senior management. So I wear sheath dresses, pencil skirts and occasionally black pants with a more formal blouse (or sweater in the winter). However, I do not have naturally coloured hair at the moment and no one blinked. I keep my dress of the formal end of things and my hair…well it’s not (think vibrant non-traditional colour). That said, we also get to wear clean, dressy jeans on Fridays.

        1. Red Reader*

          One of our locations (that’s in a non-patient-seeing building) does jeans on Fridays, but my onsite is generally in one of the hospitals proper, and no jeans there.

          My hair is actually usually dyed some combination of purple, green and/or blue in the bottom 6-10 inches of its length (I have butt-length hair), but I always put it up in a bun when I go onsite and nobody can tell. Though one time I went to a short town hall meeting at the non-patient-seeing building on a Friday, so I wore jeans and forgot to put my hair in a bun instead of a braid, so my great-grand-boss does occasionally refer to me as “the team lead with the peacock hair.”

          It’s not the hair rule that annoys me personally, it’s the tattoo rule — I have 23, including several that are below the elbows/knees, and while it’s not really a HARDSHIP to wear long sleeves (I’m in medical administration and our on-site offices are full of women who are nearer to menopause than I am, so invariably I’m wearing a sweater and still freezing while they’re fanning themselves), it’s annoying to have to always wear dark hose with a knee-length skirt. It doesn’t bother me so much during the winter, when I wear tights or whatnot anyway, but in the summer…. that’s why I usually end up just wearing maxi skirts instead of shorter ones. No hose AND no visible tattoos. :)

    17. Etak*

      We just switched from business casual to casual although we were already fairly casual before. Most people are still wearing the same outfits but now with jeans instead of black pants

    18. Can't Sit Still*

      Clean, neat, and appropriate for your geographic location (and job duties, if applicable). Best dress code I’ve ever had.

    19. RachelR*

      I work at a tech company in the engineering department. No one cares what I wear so long as I’m not naked/partially naked or in literal pajamas.

      I have blue hair, a lip ring and visible tattoos. People have come in wearing yoga pants or ripped jeans and no one gets bent out of shape about it. It’s great.

    20. Erin*

      I work at a marketing company so it’s very casual. Jeans, etc. The main rules are no tank tops, no jeans with holes in them, and tee-shirts can’t have sayings on them. If we’re meeting with clients we’re more likely to step it up.

    21. Berry*

      Basically nonexistant, I’d call it “smart casual.” Our handbook says (paraphrasing) “dress for what makes sense for the clients and colleagues you’re seeing.”

      That being said, I’ve never seen anyone wearing anything outrageously casual like pajamas, the most eyebrow raising being unusual lipstick colors and ‘business shorts’ in the summer.

    22. Aislinn*

      Our office is pretty casual, I’ve seen people come in gym shorts and sweat pants and no one says anything to them. The majority of people wear jeans with a collared shirt or dresses with leggings and stuff like that though.

    23. ThatGirl*

      Ours is very relaxed and I love it – the dress code is basically “no shorts, no gym clothes, no grubby athletic sneakers”. I wear jeans every day. Our staff is probably 70-80% women and most of us wear dark jeans, boots/heels/nicer shoes, cardigans or blouses, that kind of thing.

    24. Nan*

      Jeans/tshirts/sweatshirts. Sneakers. If we have C-suites or clients coming in, it upgrades to business casual or business dress, depends on who’s coming. Jeans are ok for C-suites, but sneakers and t shirts aren’t.

    25. Middle School Teacher*

      Our students wear uniforms so teachers wear business clothes (still business-casual but the higher end of casual, if that makes sense). For example, today I’m wearing a dress, nylons, and boots. We get jeans once a month with theme days. This month people can wear jeans (clean, no rips etc) with a green, red, or white top.

    26. JoAnna*

      Casual. Jeans, shorts, t-shirts, etc. are acceptable any day of the week. From what I can recall, the employee handbook just says that our clothing needs to be neat, clean, and office-appropriate (e.g., no visible underwear).

    27. Claire*

      I work in a smallish tech company, as long as everything is clean, covered, and unoffensive, we’re good. With one exception: no basketball shorts. Just those specifically. I have no idea what happened to ban them, at this point I’ve been here too long to ask! Apparently everyone gets the same talk during orientation so it wasn’t just a one off mention either. Our President/Founder wears jeans to work pretty much daily which set the tone for most, but some stick with regular business casual. Another woman in the department I wear a lot of athliesure now that afternoon yoga is provided. It is a sweet gig, unless your entire wardrobe is basketball shorts I guess.

    28. KMB213*

      I work in a three-person office – we really have no formal dress code. I try to wear business casual during the week, as my boss will often schedule meetings with clients that he doesn’t add to his calendar and forgets to let me know about, and I like to be a little more dressed up when we have clients in. I do keep a wrap dress in my car and a cardigan at my dress in case a client is coming in on a day when I’m dress down a bit.

      If I do wear jeans, I’ll wear a blouse. The other two people in my office are both men, and will sometimes wear jeans with a polo. When they have clients coming in, they’ll go with jeans, a dress shirt, and a blazer, but only wear full suits on extremely rare occasions.

      When I have to work on a weekend (rare, but it happens), I pretty much always go with jeans, but I still try to go with nicer jeans and blouse instead of casual/distressed jeans and a sweatshirt or t-shirt.

    29. zapateria la bailarina*

      mine is basically the same. every now and then someone will wear jeans randomly during the week. no one says anything and the rest of the outfit is usually dressier than what they would wear with jeans on fridays. i find myself dressing more and more on the casual side of business casual. a lot of the men here where tennis shoes every single day.

      1. zapateria la bailarina*

        also, i once asked for an employee handbook (so i could see the actual dress code) and was told we don’t have one. hr asked why i wanted it and i said, so i can take a look at the dress code. they never responded. part of me always wanted to go ham with my outfits afterwards, but i just can’t bring myself to be that unprofessional lol

    30. KR*

      So our company is based on the east coast and I’m on a team in the west coast in a small office with two other employees. When we have visitors or if I’m visiting the east coast offices (which are larger offices and spaces in skyscraper like buildings) I wear the formal end of business casual/business wear. Out here I go between dressing up because I feel like it or just wearing jeans and a shirt. Today I’m wearing jeans, a too big company t shirt, sneakers, and a big sweatshirt because it’s cold and I don’t give a f. I wear sneakers almost every day except if I’m going in the field and then I wear boots, and I usually try to wear a nice shirt and do my hair and makeup as opposed to wearing a t shirt and sweatpants, but that’s it. I love being in a small remote office!!

    31. MLiz*

      It’s not quite “come as you like”, but it’s relatively relaxed. My manager dresses VERY nicely, but she’s often in meetings with people a few steps above the rest of us. Jeans are okay if they’re nice jeans (no holes), I haven’t seen anyone wear sneakers, the men wear often button downs but by choice, t-shirts are okay if they’re ‘dressy’ (no motto shirts, no holes). In summer for women sleeveless is fine as long as the shoulder is generally covered (so no spaghetti straps, but if the curve of where shoulder becomes arm is exposed no one cares), no cleavage.

    32. Antti*

      When I first started, it was business casual through and through. On Fridays you could wear jeans, but you were supposed to donate $1 to the charity our department was collecting for for that quarter if you wanted to do it. I don’t remember exactly when, I think at the end of my first year, the entire company decided to relax the dress code to allow jeans (but still forbid T-shirts, athletic shoes, etc.), since most of us don’t have client-facing positions where we would be interacting in-person.

    33. ms-dos efx*

      Super casual. I wear leggings and t-shirts most days. I also work in an academic setting in a famously casual city, to the point where “[city name] business casual” is a whole other level of commonly-understood business casual and corresponds to what most of you probably wear at home on the weekends. LOL!

      I’m very grateful for this as comfort is my #1 priority and I am very easily irritated by sensory things. I don’t want to be distracted from my work by the way my outfit feels on my body.

    34. Arielle*

      Ours is literally “We want to foster our employees’ sense of style but please don’t wear anything you’d wear to the club or to the beach.”

    35. Alli525*

      I’ve been at my current job, at a college, for about 18 months now. For the first 17 months, I just mirrored what I saw from my bosses – biz cazh, no jeans – unless it was the day before a holiday or the weather was terrible, in which case I wore jeans. However, most people in my department wear jeans occasionally if not regularly, so recently I’ve decided it’s okay (if I don’t have any meetings that day) to wear jeans once or twice a week. I’m probably going to go buy a pair of gray slacks and keep them in my desk, just in case something urgent ever comes up.

    36. Beancounter Eric*

      Save for shareholder meetings, job interviews, and the VERY rare “coat & tie” event – client visiting the office for instance, chinos and a button-down shirt have been the “uniform” for 20-something years ….Fridays or snow days (Atlanta, where the mere mention of snow induces panic buying of bread, milk, and beer)..cargo pants and weather appropriate shirt.

    37. kible*

      basically whatever you want as long as it covers appropriately and isn’t ancient/full of holes/faded…most of the dudes wear t-shirts, jeans, and sneakers. some of the older people stick to nice shirts and khakis. i (girl) personally wear nice shirts and not typically tees, slacks or jeans, and sneakers unless it’s raining.

    38. Jenny*

      My office is business casual on Mondays & Wednesdays, business/business formal-ish on Tuesdays & Thursdays, and casual on Fridays.

      Our business formal is more like men in full suits and women in skirts/blazers but it’s such a far cry from our Fridays of jeans, tees, and sneakers that it takes a whole getting used to for new people.

    39. Buffy Summers*

      Pretty casual here. Jeans most of the time, or business casual. Unless I have a board meeting, in which case I need to dress up a bit. The rest of the office is also pretty casual. We dress it up for visitors such as monitors and auditors, though.

    40. Anon non non*

      The official “on the books” dress code is fairly strict – business casual every day, no jeans, no sneakers, no tank tops, no flip flops or thong sandals, no shorts, etc. I work in a small branch of the larger company. The person in charge here does not enforce the rules at all. Basically we can wear anything we want unless someone is in the office visiting at which time we’re asked to wear the official look for the company. I tend to lean towards jeans, sweaters and business casual tops.

    41. Bored IT Guy*

      Jeans/Polos and sneakers … I’m in IT, and almost all of my meetings are virtual. If we have an important on-site meeting, I’ll move up to Khakis, nice shoes, and either a polo or a button down. Full suit for interviews.

      1. RachelR*

        You don’t have to answer it over and over. You are, in fact, completely empowered to scroll past and completely ignore the question.

        1. Fact & Fiction*

          Yep. I often use the expand/unexpand thread option for the topics I’m not interested in. And considering how many people chime in on this type of topic every time they come up, they’re obviously popular with many. Open thread is the perfect place for these topics and that’s why we have the expand feature. No need to even scroll if one isn’t interested.

    42. LBG*

      We are lawyers, so I mostly wear suits, although many women here dress more casually. One calls it “lawyer casual.” On Friday we have business casual for a dress code, although people do sometimes wear jeans. Our clients are either uniformed military or civilians in business casual. A few execs wear suits.

    43. accidental manager*

      For the office, there’s no formal dress code. I usually wear jeans, running shoes, and short- or long-sleeved t-shirts without writing, but sometimes a hoodie, leggings, or flipflops. On Hallowe’en I wore a dress, expecting that someone would say “why are you dressed up?” but nobody did.

    44. clow*

      I work for a tech company, so…t shirts/tanks, jeans, shorts, pajamas. Basically just come wearing something. I generally like to at least look put together, but i dont dress up, that would be weird.

    45. Anon for This*

      We are business casual M-R and then casual Fridays with a long list of things we can’t wear.

      For example, no skinny jeans, no flip flop type sandals in the summer, no t-shirts that don’t have a local sporting logo. However, as casual Friday’s was only instituted a couple years ago, I’ll take it!

      1. KK*

        Just curious, why are skinny jeans off limits? I only OWN skinny jeans, I don’t know what I’d do on Fridays if I couldn’t wear mine!

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Most of my jeans are the skinny variety as well, so I’d have a problem with this. However, I get why some companies ban them – some folks go too skinny and then don’t wear long enough shirts to cover their bits. That is not a professional sight to see.

    46. HannahS*

      In medicine in my area, it seems to be the most casual version of business casual. No sweats, sneakers, jeans, shorts/tank tops, but people definitely wear khakis with a t-shirt and sweater, or thick leggings with a long top. I like it.

    47. Lemon Zinger*

      Business casual every day. Some people wear dark jeans and don’t get caught, but I would never do that… my boss is one of the best-dressed people in our organization and I strive to be like her!

      1. KK*

        Admittedly, I’ve worn black jeans during the week. But, so does my boss (and several of my coworkers).

    48. TheCupcakeCounter*

      Jeans but no hoodies, graphic t-shirts, flip flops, typical sneakers. We are the main office of a trucking company.

    49. Kelly L.*

      We don’t really have one, but I unilaterally impose something a lot like yours on myself. ;) Mon-Thurs I try to wear business casual tops and non-jean slacks, or a dress. Friday I wear the business casual tops with jeans. And it’s cold as balls in my office, so all of these things get layered with a ginormous cardigan.

    50. GriefBacon*

      I’m in the offsite administrative offices for a mental health non-profit. Just HR and accounting. So we’re technically business casual with casual Fridays, but I’ve found that non-profit business casual in our city/state is what casual Friday would been everywhere else I’ve worked (think Chacos with khakis, puffy vests everyday, etc). So I mostly wear skinny khakis/chinos and sweaters or flannels, with dark wash jeans on Fridays.

    51. Xay*

      Business casual Monday-Thursday and jeans on Friday. Slightly more formal for meetings with external partners and funders.

    52. Toxic Workplace Refugee*

      The dress code at bad old job was casual to the point of sloppiness. This was at an educational institution. The sloppy old torn and faded blue jeans with holes torn in the were the worst and there were some employees who were absolutely poured into them. Shorts and flip flops were common for both men and women, and it was also common for men to wear tank tops. There was a middle aged woman who would wear capri pants with anklets and flat sandals.

      While there were slobs of both sexes, it seems to me that the men were the worst. Several men would wear those long baggy gym shorts and you could tell they weren’t wearing any underwear. There was a male graphic designer who would sit in his office behind his drawing board shirtless. (He was young, fit and handsome, though.) Related to dress is the matter of hygiene, but I’m not going to go there in this post.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        Yeah, not seeing how capri = sloppy? At all? Capri pants come in all styles and are perfectly capable of reading as “casual workwear” and not “bumming around the house wear.” (And anklets? What…what is wrong with an anklet? Or flat sandals?)

        1. PhyllisB*

          I’m guessing, but maybe she means flat sandals and ankle socks? That would not be a good look with capri pants

    53. Sandra*

      I work at a finance and economics firm. Suits must be worn every day (no exceptions ever). We also aren’t allowed to wear any sandals or open toe shoes, and our hair can only be colors found in nature. It is a very formal and conservative dress code and applies to every single person who works here, no matter their title/position.

      1. Rainy*

        Strictly speaking, most colours are found in nature, especially if you consider frogs and tropical fish.

        1. This Daydreamer*

          I have long had a dream of owning a bead store. Now I know what the hair color rule is going to be if I ever pull it off.

    54. Sled dog mama*

      Our dress code is complex, not the clothing part that’s pretty simple.
      For clinical staff its scrubs, for non clinical is sort of business casual. Usually I wear dressy trousers and a nice shirt, today I’m wearing courduroy ones. My male coworker wears a polo shirt and dressy canvas trousers. The only hard and fast rules on clothing are no denim and no leggings, so far I haven’t gotten in trouble for wearing leggings with an otherwise appropriate skirt.
      Where the “dress code” goes a little off the rails is because we are a health care organization it requires no scents (no perfume, no scented lotion etc.), that all staff members wear deodorant of some type and shower regularly. Jewelry and hair style is determined by individual departments (color is supposed to be naturally occurring but isn’t enforced). Nails are to be no longer than X (can’t remember exactly because mine start splitting well before that point) and any nail polish must be clear or a natural color and in good condition ( although it’s preferred that we skip the polish).
      I don’t disagree with most of this since it’s really about cleanliness I do find it pretty funny that it’s written out so explicitly.

      1. Sled dog mama*

        Oh I forgot shoes, closed toed low or no heels are required
        One lady wears something like (
        every day (she works in the office) but she changes into them when she arrives and out of them before she leaves.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I used to watch M*A*S*H and would get mad at Loretta Swit for having big long fingernails in later seasons–there is no way Margaret Houlihan would have those in a military field hospital setting. It was so unrealistic it would throw me out of the story.

    55. inkstainedpages*

      I work for a small non-profit, so it’s pretty casual! Officially, no t-shirts unless they have our logo on them, and dress professionally but casually since we’re customer facing. My typical outfit is dark jeans, heels, a blouse, and sweater, but I go more or less formal depending on my schedule for the day. Board meetings/community meetings are usually black pants or a dress instead of jeans. Days when I know I’ll be just nose to the grindstone in my office, I’ll wear a company t-shirt, dark jeans, and flats.

      Since it’s Friday and I don’t have any meetings scheduled today, I’m wearing a black t-shirt with our logo on it, dark skinny jeans, and heels.

      My colleague usually wears jeans with a t-shirt or polo. I’m the exec director, so I feel like I usually need to be a little more dressed up.

    56. Elizabeth West*

      Exjob was t-shirts and jeans, unless clients were in the office, and then we were expected to wear business clothes (not formal). Most people worked from home those days, haha. We weren’t supposed to wear graphic tees other than company tees, but everybody wore nerd shirts anyway. Some people wore business casual all the time because that’s what they liked, and execs tended to dress in suits, etc.

    57. Ashley C.*

      Casual – jeans and tshirts all week long. There isn’t much of a dress code other than “use your best judgement”, but if we have clients in office, we’re expected to wear business casual. (Can still wear jeans, though).

    58. Rebelliously Positive*

      Weirdly enough, the entire organization I work for is fairly business casual, though we’ll get notice if Very Important People come our way so we can dress up a little bit more. Despite this, I still dyed my hair mermaid colors and HR was completely fine with it, so I think it’s just a perception thing. Just be presentable, and no ripped jeans on casual Fridays.

    59. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

      We’re technically business-casual in the office area, and scrubs/clean casual that follows safety requirements in the lab. However, we tend closer to casual than business in a general sense. As long as we’re clean, in good repair, non-vulgar, and compliant with safety regs, it’s fairly lax. The bosses give us a heads-up if there’s a plan to have a client come visit us, or similar type event, so we know to spruce up more for those.

      So, offices: Anything from work-professional attire to jeans and a tasteful t-shirt on regular days. No flip-flops.
      Lab: Scrubs, jeans and tshirt, closed-toe non-fabric shoes forever

    60. kittymommy*

      Ours is really dependent on the office your in and job. Mine is business: no jeans, tennis shoes; I tend to wear suits, dresses, tailored slacks with blazer. The one next to me is”professional dress” ties and jacket for men, not sure how they define women. Other areas can do jeans on Friday, no t shirts though.

    61. QuakerBanker*

      The dress code at my job is extremely relaxed, and I love it. People here wear anything from dress pants and a polo/nice top to jeans and leggings. There are also no rules about hair color, visible tattoos, piercings, or jewelry. A coworker did wear pajama pants one day, and she was told that she needed to go home and change. But a formal dress code doesn’t really exist here. At my previous job, the dress code explicitly stated that white tube socks and thing underwear were not permitted. I often wondered how that rule came about, or how one would go about enforcing the no thong underwear rule.

      1. Ali*

        I’d assume that the no thong underwear rule is just “if we can tell by looking at you you are wearing a thong…. nope” at least I’d hope so but having heard of a Catholic school that back in the 80’s actually checked (according to an ex-student) maybe not. (No I don’t know how that could have been a thing either)

        1. PhyllisB*

          At a Catholic school, I can believe it. I went to a Catholic boarding school back when dinosaurs roamed the earth (early sixties) we of course wore dresses to Sunday mass. We were required to wear girdles and hose. This was just before pantyhose became a thing. And yes, they checked. The nuns would line us up and run their hands down our legs to see if we had on stockings. Occasionally they would even make a girl raise her dress and let her verify that she was wearing girdle and not a garter belt.

    62. TootTootTootsieroll*

      Large company. Business casual Mon-Fri which includes being allowed to wear jeans (dark wash, not ripped, not distressed), can have brightly colored hair, cannot wear sneakers, not supposed to wear open-toed shoes (but people sometimes do -across all levels, so C-suite is just as guilty as admin assistants), no t-shirts. Those who are having meetings are expected to dress up in more formal business wear on those days (dress slacks, formal shoes, etc). So if you never go to meetings, you can sit in the office in your adult garanimals, while the person sitting next to you might be in a suit.

    63. periwinkle*

      Business casual Mondays-Thursdays.
      Business casual or Seattle Seahawks jerseys on Fridays, even if it’s not football season.

    64. Pat Benetardis*

      We are also business casual, which means women wear suiting separates, or sometimes a sweater as top layer instead of a jacket. Men wear dress pants and long sleeve button downs, no jacket or tie.

      Friday is jeans day and most people wear really nice jeans and a nice top, shoes or boots. Men often still wear a button down, but maybe a more interesting one. Or they break it up with a sweater.

      Our business casual is the alternative to business dress, vs the khakis and golf shirts kind of bus casual.

    65. voluptuousfire*

      Jeans, really anything you like as long as it’s appropriate. Today I’m wearing a pair of leopard print leggings one of my colleagues called my “snazzy pants.”

    66. tigerlily*

      I work for a preschool and we are extremely “come as you are.” Like, more than one teacher has come to work in a onesie on occasion.

    67. Fortitude Jones*

      It’s the same at my new company, even though our official handbook policy says business dress Monday-Thursday. Our division apparently said, “Eff that – business casual,” but we are technically sales people in a relaxed field (transportation) so there’s that.

    68. JD*

      My office is so varied. Some days we are in gym clothes, most days just casual. I will wear a dress or jeans and a blouse. If we have clients in the building, which is not too often, think formal. I prefer to dress pretty formal overall though all the time. Not personally a fan of going to work and people wearing t shirts. Mainly because there are always those few people who take it too far and look sloppy, have holes, etc.

    69. NaoNao*

      We’re business casual, but people interpret it pretty widely. Jeans are okay (as long as they’re not holey or shredded/ripped), sneakers and athletic shoes are okay too. Leggings as pants would probably be out, but I haven’t seen it in the “enterprise” (exempt professional level as opposed to retail, call center or field) employees.
      There are a few very sharp dressers; sheath dresses and leather shoes/heels. Suiting pants with sweaters and a button down and tie. But that’s like 10% of the company here.
      Most people were knitwear, jeans, or khakis with a button down or sweater.
      My outfits range, but I generally wear “nice” jeans, comfortable but non-sneaker shoes, and a knit top with a jacket. My wardrobe is all over the place since my side gig is selling vintage clothing and I’m a fashion lover so I occasionally do “fancy sweateshirts” with “street sneakers” type of stuff.

    70. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      I’ve gone from formal uniforms which was nice to anything goes as long as the right body parts are covered. In my current workplace, common sense is the rule. We are adults and dress like adults. Right now I’m wearing long sleeve t-necks because I’m always cold. I only wear black pants because they go with whatever top I choose in the morning.

    71. H.C.*

      My everyday is layered top (polo/button shirt w cardigan/sweater) & khaki or black denim pants (or blue jeans on Fridays), occasionally suiting up for more formal occasions (e.g. press conferences, meeting with top-level higher ups). But I’m in LA, where dress code does lean more relaxed overall.

    72. Annie Mouse*

      We have a uniform. Determines pretty much everything from tshirt to shoes. Don’t get casual days but I like it, don’t have to think about what I’m wearing that day!!

    73. Higher Ed Database Dork*

      It’s kind of like business casual and gets more casual the further down the chain you go. So most of the directors wear slacks and button downs, the manager wear slacks, button downs and jeans and polos, and then all us worker bees tend to wear a lot of jeans and non-slack pants and various tops. On Fridays most people wear jeans and sneakers, including all the higher ups. I’m trying to look more professional and “dress for the job I want” so I tend to wear nicer things most of the time, but good lord I hate slacks and button downs. So my typical uniform is ponte skinny pants (yes I know they are dangerously close to leggings), long tops and sweaters, and ankle boots.

    74. I See Real People*

      A lady from another department came into my office wearing leggings as pants. Not the simple black ones either; these were loudly printed. Somehow, “Jeans Friday” has taken on a new meaning.

    75. Scubacat*

      Our dress code can be described as ,”No pjs or thongs. Don’t wear clothing with a swear word on it. No tattoos on your forehead.”

      Usually I’m dressed in 1950s inspired retro dresses.

    76. Book Lover*

      We are business casual all day every day. Suits for the men usually, sometimes three piece and sometimes slacks and a jacket, but mostly standard suits.
      The women do mostly suits or skirts and tops. I used to stick to different colored suits but have done more dresses in the past few years. I think I will head back towards suits but don’t feel like buying new so have to lose a few pounds maybe to fit into the old…. Everything gets boring after a while so switching back and forth is something to do.

      1. Book Lover*

        Huh, just went back and read the other comments and I guess it is business formal though weirdly I never thought of it that way.

    77. Leela*

      i’m pretty sure that as long as I’m wearing them, it doesn’t matter what they are. I work in games so we are very (very, very, very) casual. Unless I just showed up in a bathing suit or a shirt with something outlandishly offensive, I don’t think anything would ever be a problem! It’s fantastic and I hope I never have to give it up

    78. tink*

      My current job is at a grocery store bakery, so slip-resistant shoes, long pants (no leggings, nothing full of holes, not so baggy customers can see your underpants if you bend over), shirts with sleeves of some sort but no logos unless they’re for the store or approved vendor swag (and sometimes sports teams, if the store manager’s cool with it). The chef’s coats completely cover shirts in my department, but the front of house doesn’t have that coverage and the rules are the same for everyone.

      My last office job was business casual and people really stretched the letter and spirit of that, plus it was poorly and inconsistently applied. I generally wore khakis or more relaxed black slacks with a polo or less casual blouse, but some people lived in those really thin knit dresses that barely extend past the butt.

  2. Amber Rose*

    Yesterday I asked my boss if I could use 2 of my 6 sick days in 2018 for surgery instead of taking them out of my vacation time.

    His reaction, paraphrased, was to roll his eyes and say, “you were sick a lot this year, will you be less sick next year?” He then said he didn’t legally have to give me sick days at all if he didn’t think it was worth it, and repeated the bit about how people notice I’m gone a lot and it makes them sulky or suspicious or something.

    I called in sick 8 days this year. It was a bad year for my chronic illness, which I’ve been up front about having. I took those 2 extra days unpaid willingly.

    I can’t stand it. I find it impossible to focus on my work or care about any of this when I’m basically treated like untrustworthy scum because I dared to have an illness.

    How the heck do I focus? I can’t realistically job hunt until the new year and it’s gonna take a long time anyway. Every day I’m here I just feel like garbage.

      1. Anonymous Educator*


        Even though I have an allotted number of sick days, I know my boss isn’t keeping track. My boss has specifically told me and my co-workers we can use sick days for mental health or even to take care of a sick spouse or child. People using sick days here actually improves morale (instead of making people “sulky or suspicious”). And, lo and behold—since we’re adults being treated like adults, nobody is taking advantage of the system. People aren’t calling in sick excessively. They’re actually doing their jobs!

        1. Amber Rose*

          Yeah, in all the places I’ve worked that had paid sick time, I’ve never seen people abuse it. Or if someone did, they usually had some other issues going on.

          1. LKW*

            My first job out of college, I was an admin. We had sick time. The others in the department would each get sick once a week. 7 women, 5 consistently got sick once a week. And no one ever got sick on the same day. Eventually the manager left and they promoted me (hey, I showed up every day) and I put a stop to that nonsense. Eventually by actually having people show up to work I was able to reduce the staff down to 3.

    1. RVA Cat*

      You are NOT garbage. They are being insensitive jerks, and treating you like a machine – actually worse than one, because most people realize machinery needs regular maintenance.

    2. Myrin*

      Oh man, that sounds totally sucky. I don’t really have any advice but FWIW, I’m almost certain that the ominous “people” who “notice [you’re] gone a lot and it makes them sulky or suspicious or something” are actually just your boss. In a fulltime job with people I see 40 hours a week, 8 days missed (that is one single day about every six weeks, even less if some of those were taken at once) absolutely wouldn’t even register with me at all.

      1. starsaphire*

        This, this, this. Generally speaking, the vague “people are saying” usually means “I am thinking, and therefore just assuming other people think so too.”

        Your boss is a jerk, and unlikely to change. I’m so sorry you have to deal with this. *hugs*

        1. Althea*

          And sometimes, “I’ve complained about this to other people, and they have nodded and smiled so I assume they agree with me 100%.”

      2. Amber Rose*

        It’s not the first time I’ve heard that lecture either, which honestly has been kind of hurting my relationship with my coworkers a bit. I’m scared they’re complaining about me. :(

        1. OhNo*

          If it helps, think of it this way: can you come up with the exact number of sick days each of your coworkers has taken this year on the spot? Probably not. Neither can your coworkers. I bet if you asked, they’d probably just say, “You were out sick? When?”

          (And tbh, if they are tracing your days off, they’re just as much of a jerkbutt as your boss is, and their unreasonable opinions officially Do Not Count.)

        2. Mishsmom*

          Your boss sounds like an ass. And I can’t imagine your co-workers complaining to him about you being gone 8 days a year. Are they going up to him personally and saying “so and so is out again and it’s the 5th day she’s taken this year”? No, they are not.

        3. JulieBulie*

          I had a boss who said things like that to me, and one of my coworkers overheard him.

          That coworker took me aside later and told me that it wasn’t true, that they didn’t resent me, and that I wasn’t making their jobs harder. (I didn’t think I was, but that doesn’t mean that people won’t complain just to be spiteful, so it was good to hear.) That meant a lot to me.

          I’m very skeptical that they’re complaining about you, especially if they know about your health issues, but if they are, then I hope they remember this when they need time off to deal with a personal or family crisis of their own someday. Very few people get all the way through life without something like that coming up eventually.

          Also, keep in mind that he might be treating your coworkers the same way, in which case, they’re too worried for themselves to notice your absences.

          OK. Later, I DID have a coworker (different company, different boss) who complained to our boss about my attendance and tattled about my punctuality. (Coworker did not know anything of my health issue.) I had logged something like 24 sick days that year (that’s right, three times as many as you), which I had to cover with sick time, vacation, floating holidays, personal days, etc. I also got all of my work done on time, often on weekends. Our boss told the nosy coworker to mind his own business.

          I hope you get a boss like that.

      3. KayEss*

        I mean, I’m noticing right now when people are out sick, but that’s because our department is at 1/3 staff and everyone’s looking for new jobs… so when someone’s out I kind of hope they’re secretly at an interview.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        This is actually a failing on the boss’ part. If employees are sulking around or carrying a poor, suspicious attitude that can be addressed. We are not responsible for other people’s attitudes, it’s not your fault these folks are sulky. The boss needs to tell them to get over it and they need to resume having professional behavior.

        I don’t know if I would do it or not, but I would be tempted to tell the boss that the people who never take sick time tend to be the people who die young. No job is worth dying for.

    3. Anonymous Poster*

      Focus on controlling what you can and making sure you’re doing the sorts of self care I’m assuming you already do – get enough sleep, do some things you enjoy, etc.

      I’d also suggest seeing about starting to job search ASAP. I know you said you can’t until next year, but I’d do whatever is possible now, from polishing your resume and writing down places you want to look to practicing job interview questions. Whatever you can do to shorten the job hunt timeline, the better.

      Most supervisors want to be good people, and would understand these things happen and not hold it against you. This sucks and is not normal.

      1. AJ*

        I agree – make job searching a top priority. In the mean time, you can get through your day by reminding yourself you are better than your boss – you are a kind person and he is not. If you were the boss, you would never manage in such a crappy way. He doesn’t “get it” and he probably never will. You get it. Getting it means you are on a higher level. I agree with others that your coworkers probably don’t care as much as you think, but if they do and if they are “sulking” they are being jerky and don’t get it. It sucks right now, but this situation has given you experience in how to be a good boss and good coworker (not that you needed to learn that, but I have found that being treated poorly has only made me more thoughtful and empathetic towards others). So, joke’s on him! He’s making you a better person! If you have trouble focusing on work, remind yourself you need to finish as strong as you can to support any reference you may need. Pick very specific small goals/tasks to achieve each day that if completed mean you have been successful. Change something in your work space/desk to pull focus from the situation – like a colorful desk blotter or poster. My town has an art supply store that sells beautiful craft paper. Really pretty/intricate designs, marbling, etc. Artists use them for book making. They come in big sheets and are relatively inexpensive for all the uses you can find for them. Find a new interesting podcast to listen to during your lunch hour. Schedule something after work you enjoy doing so you can have something to look forward to. You can do it!

    4. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Damn, that must be really difficult.

      8 days of sick time is not a lot. He’s mean and petty.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I have worked for places where one or two days was an unforgivable sin, right up there with murder.

        The reality is that people get sick. Many treatments take time and require numberous appointments. I don’t know what these bosses will do when faced with a chronic illness themselves.

    5. L.*

      Ugh. This year I used up all 10 of my allowed sick days, 3 vacation days, and a lieu day on sick time this year – whereas last year I had 4 or 5 sick days left over. It was because this year I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and had TONS of appointments in addition to living with the effects until I was diagnosed and treated, and then I got a brutal double ear infection last month that took me out for a week. My boss just said, “You know what, Lauren, it happens. You can’t control when you get sick and I don’t want you here infecting everyone and not being productive.” She’s awesome (for that and many other reasons). She’s even letting me borrow a couple of vacation days from next year so I can keep my Christmas vacation.

      Your boss sucks. He just sucks. This is a terrible way to treat someone, flat out, let alone the worst way to motivate someone to dedicate their time and energy to their job. You’re not garbage, and you deserve to be in a workplace that values you as a person.

    6. Jessie the First (or second)*

      Being gone 8 days in one year is NOT being gone a lot. Not at all. For pete’s sake, one bout with the flu would do that. He’s being an a&&, and also completely unrealistic.

      And hey, maybe in your state the company didn’t have to give you sick days – but the company *did* give them, making that a completely moot point. Those sick days are part of your total benefits package, and complaining that people use what you gave them is downright stupid.

      I am sorry you work for a jerk.

      1. Amber Rose*

        That confused me too. Like, if you want to take away sick days, go for it. That’s your call, whatever. But why get mad at me because I assumed I could use them when I was told I had them?

    7. PB*

      What a jerk. Who the heck notices someone missing 8 days over the course of a year? That’s not much! “Sulky and suspicious?” It’s 8 days!

      I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. Please know that this guy is a jerk and you don’t deserve this. If you can job hunt, I hope you do. Even if it takes a long time, getting out of a toxic environment is so worth it. In the meantime, take care of yourself, and just remind yourself that he’s the one with the problem.

      1. Bleeborp*

        I am in no way defending the boss but depending on the kind of work it is, yeah, coworkers will notice 8 days if every time the person calls in, another person has to cover (if it’s a job that requires shift coverage.) Of course, it’s just the reality of working with humans and everyone wants to benefit of the doubt if they get sick or develop a chronic condition but in the moment, when you’re inconvenienced, you might feel less charitable and grumble about it.

        1. Troutwaxer*

          On the other hand, since her boss is an ass, he is probably lying about what her coworkers think.

        2. Amber Rose*

          I’m a department of one. If I’m not here my work just doesn’t get done, which doesn’t matter since nobody knows or cares what I do all day.

        3. SignalLost*

          I work a job that requires shift coverage. If people call out or don’t show, we make do with the people we have or borrow from other departments. What we don’t do is make the person who called out feel like crap because they were sick. Don’t blame shift jobs for a terrible boss who lacks empathy.

    8. Marley*

      It’s been a bad year for me medically. I ended up using vacation time for surgery because I was out of sick time six months into the year. But you *have* sick time–why in the world couldn’t you use it? Get a good doctor’s note as back up for how long you will need to be out, and make sure you cc HR when you send it to your boss.

      Hunker down and do your basics now–refresh your linkedin profile and set up some job searches in your personal time if you can, and you’ll be ready to apply in earnest in the new year.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I did end up asking my boss what good is having sick time if we get dinged for using it. That is the same as having NO sick time. She had no answer.

    9. KMB213*

      I know can be really difficult, but I just completely mentally separate work from everything outside of work (or, at least try to). It hasn’t made work any better, but it’s made me a lot happier when I’m spending time with friends and family.

      I’m glad you’re already planning on job hunting next year – you deserve better!

      (Also, 8 sicks isn’t really that much, even for someone without a chronic illness. You boss is a big time jerk.)

    10. Cube Ninja*

      If you’ve been there more than a year and qualify for FMLA, file for it! Especially in light of your boss’ ridiculous comments. If you have a chronic illness that falls under FMLA (or ADA), having that on file gives you standing to have HR “correct” his behavior if needed. If you already have FMLA or an ADA accomodation on record, now would be the time you need to involve HR.

      1. Amber Rose*

        This is Canada, so no FMLA, and we’re too small for HR. I have no recourse but to job hunt, unfortunately.

          1. Amber Rose*

            Only for federal employees. For everyone else, it’s determined by their provincial government, and as far as I can tell my province doesn’t have anything to that effect.

            1. Not In US*

              If you’re in Ontario you will now have to be given at least 10 sick days although not all of them must be paid. If you need time off for surgery you should probably look into when EI provisions kick in. They may not in your case, but I do think there are some federally mandated provision for sickness depending on the short term versus long term status.

              1. Amber Rose*

                Alberta, actually. I only need two days, short term leave is for 3-7 days. Also I’d have to submit it as an insurance claim and wait several weeks, whereas I could just suck it up and take them out of my vacation pay with much less hassle.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  **shakes fist at Alberta**

                  I was going to say intermittent FMLA, too, before I saw the Canada issue :( Your boss is a great big jackhole, and I strongly suspect your coworkers are not as horrid as he is.

            2. Cube Ninja*

              Well, there’s the AHR Act medical leave stuff that looks like it could apply. Works a bit differently from FMLA, but…


              Prohibits employers from discriminating based on disability, medical conditions, etc. Doesn’t necessarily solve the whole issue, but certainly it looks like you may have standing for the “I think we’re actually not allowed to discriminate based on medical conditions” discussion.

              Of course, that assumes your boss is a reasonable and functional human, which sounds like it may not be the case here.

              1. Amber Rose*

                Yeah, but is it discrimination? He didn’t turn down my request for leave, merely pointed out that he prefers I use vacation time for it instead of sick days.

                1. Cube Ninja*

                  It probably isn’t *yet*, but the type of person who’s going to make the type of comments you’ve described also strikes me as the kind of person who’s going to drop it into an annual review or something along those lines.

                  For the record, it is intensely weird that an employer would deny the use of sick days to cover time you’re having surgery. It’s probably legal, but it’s not very smart if you want decent employees to stick around.

                2. Parenthetically*

                  But… I actually don’t understand how surgery isn’t a “sick day.” Like… you’re in the hospital? I have no advice, but this guy is an ass and this sucks and I’m sorry.

              2. Amber Rose*

                I don’t get it either, Parenthetically, except that I guess sick days are specifically for contagious stuff in his mind.

        1. Cube Ninja*

          Shame about the company size issue. :(

          Best of luck in getting yourself into a better situation soon. Also, hello from a fellow Albertan now in the US. :)

    11. Seal*

      As others have said, your boss sucks. What kind of an idiot questions your using sick time for surgery? That’s what it’s for!

      Last year I suddenly the vision in one eye due to an autoimmune issue. Fortunately, with aggressive treatment my vision came back, but since then I’ve had numerous visits to specialists as well as surgery. In looking at my records, I’ve taken 3 weeks of sick leave each of these past 2 years; that doesn’t include time I’ve made up or taken as vacation. Since this is still an ongoing issue, I expect to take more sick leave in the coming year as well. Obviously I didn’t plan this – going blind in one eye is absolutely terrifying! But no one has ever questioned my need to take care of myself or made me feel bad because I had take sick time. Quite honestly, I was so stressed by all of this that I’m sure I would have had some choice words for anyone who dared to give me a hard time about it.

      Hang in there, OP!

      1. Cinderella's Mistaken Identity*

        OMG! Did you have CSR? I’ve been dealing with that for the last year and a half.

        I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

    12. straws*

      +1 to your boss is awful. Tons of good vibes your way that you find a better job quickly in the new year.

    13. clow*

      thats awful, your boss is a jerk with no soul. First, 8 days in a year hardly counts as “people notice” and second, you are a human being not a robot, you deserve to be treated better than this. I hope your health improves and I hope you find a new job soon.

    14. MagsM*

      Ugh. All I can do is empathize, wish I had help to give.
      I’m in a similar situation, in August I had my review and got highest marks on being at work on time and energized, but since then I keep getting hit by the various bouts of disease getting passed around the library (the supervisors sent emails around telling everyone to stay out if sick to try and stop it). So this Monday their going to be meeting with me about the problem of my getting sick so much and how I can’t miss more work without possibly loosing my job. Which is just infuriating because the assistant supervisor is one of the worst at showing up and sharing his contagions ( he came in slightly sick on weds and then absolutely hacking wheezing sick on Thursday and was planning on staying most of the day so he could shout at a staff member he blames for getting him sick, I may have ended up pointing out to him he can’t blame her for it when his staying was exposing everyone else also).

    15. Cynicalrella*

      This is what I don’t get. If I take a day off for surgery, and that is a vacation day, why do the recovery days also have to be vacation days?

      And just because the surgery is scheduled, why is it a vacation day? Because it wasn’t a surprise?

      1. Amber Rose*

        Sick days are just for contagious stuff I guess. If it’s not going to spread to others, suffer at work or take a vacation.

        My bead on this is he thinks I’m lying about the surgery to get extra vacation days, but won’t just friggin ask for proof because then he wouldn’t be “cool boss.”

        1. Drew*

          Part of me wants to urge you to come back from surgery, expose the surgical wound, yell out “THERE ARE MY SICK DAYS, FLUFFERNUTTER!” and get back to work.

          I don’t listen to that part of me for practical advice, but it sure keeps me entertained.

    16. Not So NewReader*

      The only way I could focus was to tell myself to live my resume.
      This can go two ways, it helps me to think about all the things I have accomplished and it helps me to look for ideas that I could do and then later use on a resume or use at an interview. This is sort of like creating more content for your resume.
      It’s a mental shift, you are not working for this boss/company you have shifted to working for your NICE resume. It accidentally benefits the boss/company but the primary target is your own benefit. Be that sterling employee, find/do more good stuff to toss on your resume and get out of that place.

    17. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      8 sick days in one year is less than once a month. That doesn’t sound unreasonable to me. Your boss is not a nice man. Good luck with your job search:)

    18. LaterKate*

      When i read your comment the first time, i though you were saying you need to have surgery this year, and want to borrow sick time from2018, rather than using vacation time from 2017. I could sort of understand your boss making you take vacation time in that case (although either way, the rest of the comments are passive aggressive and rude), but now I’m rereading and i think your asking to take 2018 sick days for surgery you’re having in 2018? That is literally what those days are for! Surgery is a perfectly appropriate use and your boss sucks. Also, 8 days in a year doesn’t seem over the top imo.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Yeah, it’s scheduled for the middle of January. The recovery time is only supposed to be four or five days but I have to do a 24 hour post-op checkup, so I figured I’d take a Thursday/Friday for that and use the weekend for the recovery. One of the reasons I didn’t want to use vacation time was in case I need Monday off as well, which would be way more suspicious if everyone thinks I’m off having fun than if I’m up front about it all from the start.

        I didn’t think 8 days was so bad but I get so many conflicting messages it’s messing with me a bit.

    19. ten-four*

      BOO your boss sucks! You are 100% right to move on from that place. You said you don’t have time to search until the new year, but you don’t have to launch an Official Job Search. Instead, you can channel your negative feelings about your idiot boss by doing one thing every day that advances you towards your goal of getting a new job. Shoot, the first thing can be brainstorming tiny steps you can take: Send an email to a professional friend letting them know you’re thinking about going back on the market and asking if they know of anyone hiring! Draft bullet points for your resume! Read 5 job listings in your field! Go to a networking cocktail event!

      A coworker from my first “career” type job taught me this method, and it’s made a world of difference to me – particularly after I got laid off in the recession with a newborn. I loathe job searching, but treating it like a set of small, concrete actions really helps reduce my anxiety and keep me grounded. Good luck!

      1. Amber Rose*

        A position with a company I want to work for has opened in the field I want to break into, so for now I guess I’ll just apply for that. A serious job search can wait, but the occasional look at what’s there isn’t so bad. My cousin has also offered to look into stuff for me. :)

    20. Samiratou*

      Yes, your boss sucks.

      Why would you need to use vacation for surgery? That would certainly fall under acceptable sick leave around here, and we have a similar 6 days per year thing.

  3. D.W.*

    The recent thread about weird office food stories has me on high alert.

    I have signed up for our office Holiday Cook Off. The categories are broken up into meals (breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, dessert), so I’m really at a loss of what to make. We have a few gluten intolerant individuals, so I need to make sure it’s something everyone in the office can enjoy. It would be easier if it was cake, cookies, chili, etc.

    Historically, what are some dishes or characteristics of dishes that have done well in your office cook/bake offs?

    The first rule is, “Your mom can’t make your entry.”

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I haven’t done any bake-offs, but homemade chocolate or butterscotch pudding is a good gluten-free dessert, and all you need is a burner. (Chocolate mousse is also good, but seems like more people would go there?) Peanut-butter semifreddo was labor intensive, child was ‘eh’, spouse and I loved it. Brittle, popular for mashing and sprinkling on your semifreddo, is also gluten free.

    2. Amber Rose*

      My caesar salad always vanishes. I don’t add croutons, just leave them to the side, and I make the dressing myself without anchovy paste so anyone with seafood allergies can have some. I make the bacon bits myself too, and put them aside for people to add if they want.

      It’s not perfect, the cheese isn’t great for lactose intolerant people, but nothing is perfect.

      1. Hope*

        Romaine lettuce with bowls of the various things on the side is a wonderful idea for an office potluck.

        1. Anon non non*

          Occasionally we have meetings where food is provided. One of the restaurants we used this past year did this. A big bowl of lettuce and then smaller bowls filled with different meats (Chicken, shrimp, steak), toppings (tomato, peppers, onions, carrots, etc), cheeses, and dressings. It was the most popular lunch we had here. At first glance there was worry about there being enough food but the worry was unfounded since people picked a little bit of everything from the bowls. Most people had 2 servings of salad and there were even leftovers. It was a great place!!!!

    3. Lucky*

      Does your dish have to feed a large number of people? I would go with the breakfast or brunch category and do an egg-y caserole or for a smaller group, indvidual baked eggs in muffin tins. Look for recipes on Smitten Kitchen or Bon Appetit. Lots of ways to jazz up eggs and stay gluten free.

    4. Snorlax*

      I think chili is a great idea. I recently went to an event where someone made vegan chili, but had various sides that people could use to tailor the chili to their liking. The sides were things like ground beef, cheese, and onions. That way the vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores could all partake.

    5. Charlotte Gray*

      I brought salsa to our Thanksgiving potluck and it was a huge hit (both with the gluten-intolerant and everyone else). Chips and salsa totally counts as a meal :)

    6. Temperance*

      FWIW, if someone has celiac disease, they should probably not partake in any potlucks due to cross-contamination risk. If they just don’t eat gluten, well, that’s a whole separate thing.

      I do think it’s nice that you want to cater to everyone, but with celiac, it’s just not really feasible on the whole since it can be so risky. (My SIL has celiac.)

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Eh, it depends on the individual person. One of my coworkers has celiac, and several others have a wheat allergy, and they partake in potluck when the person who brought the food is someone they can trust with being careful and knowing what to avoid. I have a wheat allergy, and if that were my own allergy, I’d be willing to take a risk on some of the food with the same caveat. For other Celiacs, you’re right, it’s better for them to just avoid it.

    7. Etak*

      I’m a miserable cook, so my go to is rice krispie treats. If you feel like being a bit fancy, just drizzle something on top. I just made them with sea salt caramel on top. Minimum cooking effort and a very common favorite :)

      1. Foxtrot*

        Rice Krispies actually do have gluten, so they might work for anyone who’s jumped on the fad, but they definitely can’t be eaten by anyone with legitimate gluten issues.

          1. Awkward Interviewee*

            The brand name rice krispies have gluten because they have malt flavor which has gluten in it (I think because malt is from barley). You can sometimes find other brands that don’t have the malt flavorings, but you have to read labels carefully.

            1. OhNo*

              You can follow the same basic recipe with a gluten-free cereal, though. My friend makes amazing gluten-free chex bars using the same method as rice krispie bars. Just swap out the cereal, and it should be good to go!

              1. Specialk9*

                There are gluten free rice krispies (likely with a different name – I didn’t say rice puffs because that can be a very different thing). I’ve had gluten free rice krispy treats. Yommm!

      1. Shiara*

        Lasagna, but substituting in spaghetti squash for the noodles can also be a great gluten free option. (although not for the lactose-intolerant, obviously)

      2. Specialk9*

        My favorite gluten free noodle is Banza chick pea pasta. It comes in lots of shapes and tastes amazing. I tried a bunch of options and most were horrid – mushy, weird tasting, etc. Banza chickpea pasta is impeccable. And it has a tiny bit of protein.

    8. Lala*

      Casseroles with rice as a base are a good approach for gluten-free people. You can keep it vegetarian (broccoli cheese casserole) or dairy-free (coconut chicken curry) to give an additional subset of people another option.

    9. paul*

      Carne asada was a big hit at our last one, but my coworker ain’t sharing her recipe (I asked).

      I’m a fan of chile verde pork stew…that seems to do well

      We’ve got an Iranian coworker (recent hire) who made a great Persian dish that got demolished…uh, spinach, lamb, some sort of rice I wasn’t familiar with…I ate a ton of it, it was awesome.

      As far as allergies…I always just label what’s in mine and appreciate it when other people do the same. There’s a *ton* of food allergies out there and it woudn’t surprise me if there’s ones you don’t know about at your office.

    10. Nan*

      Homemade caramels. Gluten free, and everyone will be impressed, but they aren’t that hard, really.

      Divinity. Gluten free, it can be fussy, but it’s not hard.

      Peanut brittle or nut brittle. Bonus points if you put a layer of chocolate on the top.

      A trifle.

    11. JD*

      My mom always makes breakfast casseroles for xmas day breakfast and I thought of that. They look and taste impressive and are easy to make. Everyone always love them.

    12. notsorecentcollegegrad*

      I’m gluten free and there are so many recipes out there!
      I’m not sure how breakfast & brunch differentiate, but for either you could do a frittata or a self-serve huevos rancheros dip with corn and flour tortillas (or corn chips if you prefer).
      For lunch/dinner a lot of asian dishes easily adapt to be gluten free, just be sure to use GF soy sauce. I’m also a big fan of chicken wings, taquitos, and I’m using a crockpot buffalo chicken meatball recipe for my potluck in a couple of weeks.
      Dessert, I will always recommend cheesecake because I freaking love cheesecake and there are so many options for gluten free people. Fudge is also a very easy once to adapt and you can add in things like candy canes, nutella, and if you havethe type of office where you can do this, Baileys!

        1. Specialk9*

          And Pinterest has tonnnnnnnsssssss of gluten free recipes.

          Flourless chocolate cake or flourless fudge cookies.

          I keep meaning to try those whole cheesy spiral cut potatoes. Some call them tornado and others hasselhof potatoes.

          Indian food is a great option. Aloo gobi is delicious and easy.

          If you have an Instant Pot, make a big pot of whole fat yogurt (or bring in Brown Cow yogurt, so good), and make several flavors of fruit curd. Lemon, raspberry lime, passion fruit, pineapple. Fast, easy, and impressive. (The curd is fast, the yogurt takes overnight.)

    13. Matilda Jefferies*

      I’ve made this salad for every potluck for at least ten years, and it’s always a hit. It’s GF and vegan, and super easy to make.

      ~1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
      ~1 – 2 ripe avocadoes, diced
      ~2 cups shredded cabbage
      ~1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
      ~1 – 2 green onions, chopped
      ~1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
      ~1/2 teaspoon salt

      Directions: throw everything into a bowl, mix. :)

    14. rosiebyanyothername*

      My office has done taco potlucks a lot, so everyone brings in a taco ingredient (beans, salsa, various meats, cheese, tortillas, lettuce, etc) and everyone assembles their own taco or taco salad. We have gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarians, etc., and it always works out, people just skip over whatever ingredient they can’t have. Yummy and people-pleasing–who doesn’t like tacos?

      1. Anon non non*

        You could also do this with a breakfast version. (Scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, cheese, and other toppings). Breakfast tacos are my favorite meal any time of the day.

        I actually make a really yummy dish that I call Breakfast Squares. It uses broken up hashbrown patties as a crust and then is topped with eggs, cream cheese, green onion, ham or sausage, and shredded cheese. You bake it until firm and then top with tomato and more green onion. It’s so yummy and it reheats well as leftovers.

    15. HannahS*

      I like “build a taco” stations, because if you provide a non-meat protein option (like fake ground meat, or even just refried beans) then there are options to make a complete meal that’s gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, paleo, etc. It’s more preparing than cooking though, so I don’t know how much fun it is for a cook-off.

      1. Ktelzbeth*

        Lots of fake meats have gluten, so be careful if you have a gluten free vegetarian. Otherwise, this is a great choice to make lots of people happy.

    16. LadyKelvin*

      Crustless cheesecake (also if you usually put flour in the batter, use cornstarch or just omit it), pie with macadamia nut crust, serious eats has an awesome recipe for gluten-free pumpkin cupcakes. There are a surprising number of gluten-free alternatives to baking that don’t require you to spend a fortune on almond flour if you look around a bit. My coworker has Celiac’s and I love to bake, so we’ve been discussing/testing things that she can eat. (Pumpkin pie with macadamia nut crust was a huge hit a T-Day!)

      1. Anion*

        I was going to suggest cheesecake! Great idea.

        I had a friend stay with me once who had a serious gluten allergy. I made a chocolate-cherry pie, with a crust made of gluten-free graham cracker crumbs. It was a big hit, and very easy; I can dig up the exact recipe if you like, but basically (if memory serves, which I think it does) I melted two pounds of chocolate and added enough heavy cream to make a thick ganache (I think it was about 1/2 cup?), one egg, and the liquid from a jar of maraschino cherries (you could add some cherry extract as well for more flavor). Pour it into the cooled crust and let it set in the fridge, and you’re done.

        My eggs were pasteurized, btw, so there was no worry about that.

    17. TheCupcakeCounter*

      A white chicken chili is always a hit as are breakfast casseroles. Both can be made gluten free quite easily.

    18. Sled dog mama*

      I saw a great recipe for gluten free empanadas the other day that would probably be a hit.
      I bake and at old job I would always make the effort to bring something that our single vegan could enjoy and she was always so happy to be included.

    19. Newton Geizler*

      My go-to dessert for every work event ever is cake mix cookies, which can be successfully done with gluten-free cake mix (I’ve used a lot of brands and they all seem to work with this recipe, probably because it’s horrible for you and mostly made of fat). I had a co-worker with celiac in my last workplace, and the cookies were always very popular. Since everything pretty much comes straight out of a package into the bowl, it’s easier to avoid cross contamination. The general recipe is as follows:

      -1 box gluten-free cake mix
      -1 8 0z package of cream cheese, softened
      -1 stick of butter (or 1/2 cup), softened
      -1 egg
      -1 cup of add ins (chocolate chips/nuts/etc)

      Using a hand mixer, mix together the cream cheese, the butter, and the egg until the mixture is smooth. Then, slowly add in the cake mix. The batter will be very thick. If you’re having a hard time mixing in the cake mix, you can add small amounts of water until it comes together. Fold in your add ins. They bake for ~10 minutes at 375F. The final cookies have a cake texture when they’re done and stay soft and chewy for up to a week.

      My favorite combinations are Devil’s Food Cake flavored mix with white chocolate or peanut butter chips.

    20. TootTootTootsieroll*

      Chocolate Magic Cake.
      and you will want to include the raspberry or strawberry garnish dusted with sugar.

    21. Ktelzbeth*

      It’s a bad recipe for allergies in a different way, but I have a peanut butter cookie recipe that doesn’t use flour. That cookbook is packed away at the moment, but maybe the internet could help you out.

      1. BatteryB*

        1 cup peanut butter
        1 egg
        1 cup sugar (brown or white)
        1 tsp. vanilla (GF)
        Optional add-ins: butterscotch chips (my favorite, chocolate chips, chopped up candy bars, etc.)

        Mix all of the ingredients together. Roll into small balls and cross-hatch with a fork. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

        You can experiment with different flavored peanut butter. My sister has also made this with non-nut butters. She found a yellow pea butter at WF that works well.

    22. Buffy*

      Maybe chili? Although I’m not very familiar with all the places gluten shows up so it may be a no-go.

    23. Half-Caf Latte*

      Oprah’s killer Quinoa salad. I’m ALWAYS asked for the recipe. (Please google it, I’m mobile and links get wonky)

      Gluten free, and dairy/meat free, which makes it an attractive option for sitting out on a table for a while, as well as for vegan/vegetarian.

      Not nut free (although you could eliminate the almonds). I’ve always dressed the avocados in lots of lemon juice in the morning and never had them go brown.

      So tasty, and hearty enough to be a lunch. Roast a pork tenderloin and you’ve got dinner.

    24. H.C.*

      flourless chocolate cake or a cheesecake with a nut-based crust (I used almond/hazelnut meal); the recipes for both are more forgiving than you think

    25. AJ*

      I had good luck recently using a mix of 1 cup pillsbury gluten free flour, 1/2 cup coconut flour, and 1/2 cup almond flour in a recipe that called for 3 cups all purpose. It made the cake really soft and melt in your mouth. Sometimes you can get good deals on GF flours at TJ Maxx

    26. Aealias*

      Pulled meat is always a favourite at our potlucks.

      That said, I prefer to bake, and like sweets. The gluten-free chocolate-Quinoa cupcakes at are SO GOOD. They’re my go-to cupcake, and there are no gluten-sensitivities in my house or work anymore. I still run a batch by to my former co-worker with celiac when I bake em, though, cause it’s fun to share. They also gobble them up.

  4. Snorlax*

    I had an interview yesterday and found out the company is starting an unlimited PTO policy next year. It sounds great, but for those of you with unlimited PTO: do you find that people take more or fewer days off with unlimited PTO than they did when they had a specific number of PTO days allocated to them?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I think it really depends on the office environment and your manager. If your manager makes it seem like people using unlimited PTO are slackers or that there’s too much to do so you can’t really take a break, then people will use less PTO than if they’d had explicit vacation days. Likewise, it helps if your manager is a good model (i.e., she actually takes long vacations, too).

      That said, I feel there’s always a danger in taking too much vacation (even if it’s theoretically “unlimited”). After a certain period of time, if it looks as if the office doesn’t need you, you may have your hours cut or your job cut completely.

      Done right, unlimited vacation time can be good, but there are lots of caveats.

      P.S. It’s very possible (probable) you won’t get paid for unused vacation time if you have “unlimited” vacation time.

      1. Snorlax*

        Fortunately, I know my potential boss and grand boss from another company and they are not vacation averse. I agree about the danger of taking “too much” vacation. Really I think I would aim for 20 days, which is what I have now. I’d be delighted not to have to decrease my vacation days at a new job.

    2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I would ask about whether they set minimums. That is: unlimited PTO, and it doesn’t accrue (so doesn’t become a liability on their books, which I’m sure is the main reason for instituting this policy), but they expect all employees to take at least 15 days of PTO (etc.)

      The best PTO policy I’ve ever heard of was for executives at a local hospital system. I don’t actually know how much PTO they got — I just know that my friend who worked there was expected to take 8 weeks of PTO a year. 8 weeks! And her manager held her to it.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        My favorite was that at a certain level of banking you MUST take 2 consecutive weeks off, so any illegal stuff you’re doing has the opportunity to fall apart.

        1. Ama*

          My dad is a senior executive at an accounting firm and every three years he has to take a full month’s sabbatical for just that reason.

        2. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

          My friend has this but shes in forex. She usually takes those two weeks to do a big ski marathon somewhere, but the policy also means that they are short-staffed a lot of the time.

      2. Blank*

        My employer gives all FT staff 8 weeks of leave. I’m only on a 30h/week contract, so I’ve got the equivalent of 5.5 weeks of leave.

        (Last year I didn’t know what to do with it all, but this year I’ve been approved for 3 whole weeks in late Dec/early Jan.)

    3. Tired Scientist*

      Fewer. My company has PTO days for all but the most senior people, who are “untracked”. Those people are gone basically never.

      1. ha2*

        Yeah, unlimited pto means that the appropriate amount is informal and enforced inconsistently. People tend to take not very much pto when in a situation like that.

        It’s not a huge red flag, but don’t think of it as an awesome perk either, unless you know that you personally have a strong enough personality and enough job security to make it into one.

      2. Chaordic One*

        They tend to be the kind of people who, if they do ever go on vacation, are glued to their laptops and constantly checking in by phone and skype.

    4. AdAgencyChick*

      I’ve always hated it. I think it makes people take less. It certainly made me take less the one time I worked at a company that offered it.

      1. Snorlax*

        I work in advertising, too. At my last job, we had a lot of people who used far fewer days than they were actually allocated. And the company didn’t roll over unused vacation days. It was use it or lose it. I lost a few vacation days once and vowed not to do that again.

    5. Awkwardest Turtle*

      I have a friend who works at a startup that offers unlimited PTO and she actually uses it. She’s taken multiple international trips in the last 6 months or so. But she works her butt off (late hours, weekends) when she’s not on vacation so I guess that’s the trade off.

      On another note your username made me imagine a Snorlax coming into an office with a suit and tie on to interview and it was a delightful image.

    6. yup*

      My company switched to unlimited PTO about two years ago. I thought I would hate it, but I actually love it… However, that is because my boss is amazing. I would say I take a little more, maybe going from approx. 15/ year to approx. 20/ year, but nothing too dramatic.

    7. Emotionally Neutral*

      My spouse has unlimited PTO and I do not. He takes more than me, for what it’s worth, because he can take time for things like meeting repair people, pets’ vet appointments, etc. when I can’t afford to do so.

    8. KMB213*

      At my last workplace, several of us were promoted at/around the same time, and were switched from ~20 days of PTO a year (we started out with 20, but some people had one or two more due to years of services, there were technically 10 vacation and 10 sick, but you could always use sick days as vacation days once you ran out of vacation days and vice versa, and sick days were paid out at the end of the year, whereas vacation days carried over) to unlimited PTO. The majority of us still tracked our own days and stuck with ~20 a year.

      I’ve read several articles that state that unlimited PTO policies tend to lead to fewer days off, but I think it really depends on the general culture of the workplace.

    9. Arielle*

      Fewer. Way fewer. I hated unlimited PTO because there was nothing to point at and say, “I’ve earned X amount of days and I’m taking them.” It was also super underhanded because in my state you have to pay out unused days when an employee leaves if you have days that accrue. My job now has (very) generous accrued vacation days with unlimited sick days and it’s perfect.

    10. Crylo Ren*

      It really depends on the team/manager. I worked at a place that offered unlimited PTO and certainly there were people on some teams who took full advantage of that, I knew a few people who took 4-week vacations.

      However my particular team had a strict manager that discouraged it so we actually took less time off (and even when we did, we were expected to be on-call the whole time so it wasn’t a true vacation). Also, because it was unlimited, it wasn’t paid out at the end of your tenure (I worked in California where this was normal).

      Can’t say I was a fan of the policy in general…but YMMV.

    11. Lora*

      Fewer. Everywhere I have worked that had unlimited PTO just had so many things to do. There was no end of work, I’d have to come in weekends and holidays and stuff, until HR put their foot down with management and said everyone who is owed comp time must take it off by the end of the year Or Else. One year I got the entire month of December off, because I’d had to come in for so many emergencies and weekends.

      They also really pushed flu shots and exercise and the cafeteria salad bar. They wanted to make sure you wouldn’t get anything worse than a cold.

    12. bookartist*

      Personally I take more 3-day weekends when my son is out of school; overall I think I’ll end up with taking ~ 5 days more than I had when our PTO was limited. Some folks have started taking 2-week vacations, and those of my reports who do come back much more focused and happy than those who don’t, so it makes me happy too.

    13. Zathras*

      I started this year at a company that has unlimited PTO, and the culture is definitely one where people use it. In addition to planned vacations people feel comfortable taking days off for sick kids, home repair issues, etc. There’s also plenty of flexibility to do stuff like take the morning off for a doctor’s appointment. So I suspect most people end up taking more.

      I previously worked for a university with generous PTO that accrued up to a maximum. A few of my coworkers had been there 20+ years and had the maximum vacation banked, so they would end up doing stuff like taking every Friday off in the summer just to make sure they used up all their vacation.

  5. Almost Violet Miller*

    I would like ask for your opinion on and experience with going back to academia.
    I am in my late 20s, apart from summer jobs/internships I have been working for 3 years since graduation (MA level). I have been doing really well and have had a lot of success in my 3 jobs (2ys, 3m, 1y so far) and am enthusiastic about work and our products (teapots), no matter how obscure and strange they are compared to products my friends/family work with.
    Both of my 1+yrs jobs until now have required a lot of international travel and unpaid overtime. My positions are important ones, above entry-level, where time to time I get to interact even with the C-suite of the international company I work for. The salary is also ok (compared to my yrs of experience but not the level or responsibility or time put in; but in my region/country I can consider myself very lucky).
    I have always thought of/dreamt of continuing my studies and doing a PhD but I didn’t know what career path I could have afterwards (we are talking sociology). I was also afraid of the downgrade in salary (the grant I can apply for would mean 35% less income per month and no bonus). However, there is a research topic I am passionate about (not just enthusiastic), loved the university where I would be applying and there are many other reasons for this change (huge interest in research and teaching etc.).
    I am also tired of doing my very demanding job and see no possibility of having a better work-life balance here and anywhere in my field. I have a hard time leaving work at work and the current setting (overtime, lack of global strategy in the company, lack of HR, overwhelmed boss and colleagues) doesn’t help with that either.
    Your thoughts would be more than appreciated. Did you go back to school? Did you like it or regret it? Did you regret not doing a PhD?
    (There is no part-time course and I don’t have a family to support.)

    1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

      I’m in a similar spot and would love to hear some insight about this.

    2. AnonStudent*

      Currently getting a PhD, also late 20s. If you are at all content in your current job (time off, salary, bosses, projects, intellectual stimulation) I’d say don’t do it. It’s been a terribly long journey here and it’s draining. If you’re in the US there’s some major tax concerns right now too (making 20k a year, under new code will be taxed as if making 65k). It’s exhausting and the pay is terrible.

      It’s rewarding in the learning, in the first time you identify something no one has seen before. You’re young, if you do want to get a PhD now is easier than later when you might have dependents (elderly family, pets, spouse etc). It’s a terminal degree, no more what if’s.

      But there’s a lot of uncertainty, what if my PI leaves this university, what if my research doesn’t work, what if i cant get this paper accepted, what if the grant doesn’t come through? Academia really doesn’t believe in time off, so the have trouble leaving work at work is now no longer a trouble, it will be expected of you. Work life balance gets pretty toxic. If you already have a masters, and you want to quit the PhD program what will you gain? Can you get a second masters in a related field?

      Long term, what jobs can you get with the extra degree that you can’t get now? What about those jobs appeals to you? Can you meet those appealing things elsewhere? Check out they have some amazing resources that can help you figure out what skills do you have, what skills do you want, what jobs intersect those categories and what do you need to get there. They are heavy on the science side of things but I found them helpful in terms of aiming toward industry or aiming toward academia decisions.

      If you do decide to go for it, make sure you connect with a PI (head researcher whose lab you want to work in) before joining the school. Make sure you can get your requirements spelled out, these classes required and when are they offered. Don’t mess around, I wasted a year because they changed the requirements on us twice and I didn’t follow the change. Talk to your bosses, one of the guys in my lab is doing his phd at night and works full time still. That’s even more exhausting but can help the cash flow problems.

      Also, definitely talk to some non burnt out people. I’m more of the exhausted student side, find someone whose made it through to the promised land of higher pay and actual office with walls. Good luck!

    3. PB*

      I work in higher ed. I have two master’s degrees and no PhD, and I have no regrets. PhD’s take a lot of time, both in terms of years to complete, and the amount of time required while you’re in classes. Unless you’re lucky enough to have your tuition fully funded, they are very expensive. (And if you’re in the United States, you might want to keep an eye on the current tax bills going through Congress. Some of the proposals would have an impact on graduate students’ taxes. At this point it isn’t clear which provisions will pass, but it is worth knowing about.)

      All of this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t go back to school. I would advise you think about what the PhD would get you first. Will you be able to get a better job in a field you want to work in? Will it be enough to account for any debt your might incur? I know you mentioned applying for a grant, but also consider what you’ll do if you don’t receive it, or if you receive funding for a year or two, but not for the full time it will take you to earn the degree.

      Good luck with your decision!

    4. fposte*

      It sounds like you’re not in the US, so I don’t know how much US-centered advice will apply, but what the heck, and it sounds like somebody else is asking who may be from the US. You have a passion for a specific research topic, which is excellent; you’re hugely interested in research and teaching, which is excellent. Many people interested in PhDs do not have those, and I really wouldn’t recommend a doctorate for somebody who doesn’t.

      What do you know about the job market right now for somebody with the specialty you’re thinking about? What do projections for it look like a few years down the line for when you’re finished? Where are the people who got that degree from that school last year and the year before? (Make sure you don’t dismiss the people who quit job-hunting–that’s usually a meaningful sign, whether they’re saying it’s because they had kids or not.) A lot of fields both in and out of the US have a PhD glut. If that’s your field, what will you do if you don’t get a job in the field, or if the only job you can get doesn’t pay very well? If all you can get is adjuncting–cobbling together a living salary by being paid per course at different institutions–is that a workable life for you, and what would you do if it isn’t?

      1. LadyKelvin*

        I was coming here to say exactly this. I love my job and I’m very happy that I got my PhD (in a math-heavy STEM). However, it is not what I started out doing. I got my master’s on a different topic (same field), saw how hard it was for my friends to get jobs with a PhD and realized that I needed to be strategic about my next move to make sure I had skills that were in demand. So I didn’t pick a topic I was passionate about it I picked a topic that I knew there was a demand for skills in. I do think what I do is really interesting and I don’t have any regrets about what I do. Most of my friends are still job searching/jumping between post-docs and I landed a full time permanent position as a research scientist for a research institute a month after I graduated. So make sure you figure out what the job prospects are when you are done and maybe tweak your topic of interest to make sure you have skills that are in demand.

    5. Another person*

      Honestly, if you are in the US I would wait and see what is happening with this tax thing and tuition waivers, because if that happens, grad school is going to majorly suck for everyone. I’ll be right on the edge of getting out, but I don’t know what people in the middle of degrees are going to do.

      Also, while I do personally enjoy my Ph.D, I don’t really know if it is a significant improvement of work-life balance (it really depends on how much overtime you were working before–for instance, it would be better than the 80 hours a week my husband is currently working). Ph.Ds are super awful for leaving work at work–I don’t really know anyone who has successfully done it. There is also the Ph.D trap–if you are in a job and it goes badly, you can leave after a couple years (and still get credit for the experience), but it is a lot harder to leave your Ph.D program before you are done even if it goes awfully, because if you do all the work that you have put into it will just disappear. Also, do you have a specific plan on what you want to do with your degree? Academia can be nice but is also insanely competitive and there are way more graduating Ph.Ds than positions. I’m not sure what field you are going into so I don’t really know what benefit the job market would see your Ph.D as.

      On the positive side, people I know who have gotten their Ph.Ds after several years of work experience do tend to do better in grad school, because they have just more experience at life (compared to people like me who come straight out of undergrad and have to figure out some of life things as well as grad school things). I think you just want to really make sure that you have a plan and goals because grad school can be just really hard on people (mentally especially)

    6. blackcat*

      PhDs take a long time, and I know very few people in academia who actually have work-life balances that I would like to have myself. No one leaves work at work. The joke is that academia is so flexible! You can work any 70 hours a week you want!

      That is actually a perk, kinda. I work from home 60-70% of the time. I often work 6am-8 or 9am, exercise mid day, lunch, head into the office. I love my work. But I am seriously considering returning to my previous career–high school teaching–when I am done. It will be about the same pay and less work than staying in academia. I do not regret my years spent in grad school, but I also have a financial cushion that most people don’t.

      -signed, current 5th year PhD student, married to a PhD holder who now works a regular person job and has far more free time than he ever did in grad school/post-doc-ing.

      P.S. Wait until this whole tax bill & tuition waiver thing gets worked out.

      P.P.S. You don’t have a family now, but in the 5-7 years it takes to complete a PhD, you may want to start one/find a partner/etc. A PhD is a long commitment, and life can change a lot in that time. One of my friends managed to get married, have a kid, and get divorced all while enrolled in a PhD program.

      1. Blank*

        Yup. Someone in my PhD year has left their academic job (a part-time adjunct teaching role) before the end of the fixed-term contract because they figured it’ll be easier to teach high school.

        Also, for the OP, if you’re in the UK, it’s possible to knock out a PhD in 3/4 years.

        1. Rainy*

          I left my PhD ABD with my diss 2/3 complete because not only was the job outlook grim for ANY job in my field, but having gotten a better look at academia, I realized I was never going to have the life I wanted even if I made it. The brass ring I was being told to reach for increasingly just doesn’t exist.

          I now work in higher ed in another capacity, and with the exception of the time I was a PI on a major federal grant and spent 20 hours a day worrying about grant stuff, I leave my work at work.

    7. sugarplum*

      I didn’t go “back” to school in the sense that you’re describing, in that there was never a point pre-PhD when I thought my education was done and then changed my mind. I did take some time off between undergrad and grad school, and worked close to full time in a career-type job while completing my MA, for several years before starting doctoral work. I intended to stay in academia and was working toward a life on the tenure track. I finished my PhD (in the social sciences) in 2014, went to an academic postdoc within a non-academic organization, and now work in a position that requires academic/research training but is a non-academic position within that same organization. I have not decided for SURE for sure, but feel unlikely to go back to academia.

      I do not regret getting my PhD. It has taken me places I wouldn’t quite have intended to go, and it was definitely a rough journey at some points, but I have no regrets. My program was extremely collegial, for the most part I was able to get what I needed, the training was good, and it was fully funded, so while the income was meager, I incurred no debt. However, you mention that you don’t have a family to support – does that mean you are unpartnered, and/or that you have no family to support you? The drop in income is no joke. The pay is legitimately terrible. If you live with roommates and are frugal, you can get by, but it is by NO MEANS comfortable. My classmates & colleagues who were genuinely single throughout grad school definitely scraped by more than those of us who had partners who could pick up some of the financial load. Also, keep in mind that a fully-funded program – for the length of the program – is EXTREMELY rare. Most people are on the hook to raise their own support after the first year or two, and that is not always easy to do.

      Also, think ahead. Two things you said stood out to me. One is going to grad school to get away from work for a while, and the other is to get better work-life balance. If you really feel strongly that you cannot do what you want to do without the PhD, do it. But it is a TERRIBLE, TRULY AWFUL time to be an early-career academic right now. ESPECIALLY in the humanities and social sciences. Jobs are scarce and many exploitative. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but it is really, really tough. It is a hard time to be just starting out, which has contributed to my shift away from the academy and into the private sector. Also, keep in mind that – again, especially in the humanities and social sciences – you will not recover that drop in income soon if ever. Because my post-doc was in the private sector, I was literally making more as a post-doc than some of my colleagues who just got tenure at a large R1 university. Let that sink in for a minute. At a major research university, in the social sciences, I stood to lose $10-20K a year from my private-sector income, and would not have recovered that level of income for 7-10 years. Obviously this varies by region and institution, but by and large, it takes a LOOOOOOONG time for an academic position to become as lucrative as people think they are. Finally, don’t bank on academic jobs having great work-life balance. They do tend to be VERY flexible, and people interpret that to mean they are balanced. And they can be, but more often, they are flexible because there is NO balance. So sure, you can come in whenever you want, and leave when you want, and work from home, and so on, but there is often an expectation that you are, more or less, working all the time.

      A lot of these things I knew (at least in concept) when I was young and more idealistic (and more importantly, single and childless). I am none of those things now, and I just don’t know that – for me – the phenomenal amount of work and stress it requires just to GET an academic job is justified by the reward of working yourself to death and trying to fund 96% of your own salary and working until you fall asleep every night. Your mileage may vary.

      1. Rainy*

        Yeah–the work-life balance in academia more often than not is the freedom to work 18 hours a day from whatever location you please.

        1. As Close As Breakfast*

          Or the same location at whatever time you need to be there. Sure, I could decide I was going to go run errands on a random Wednesday morning and that was pretty awesome. But I’m not sure it made up for the many, many, MANY, SO VERY FREAKING MANY times I would be running tests that had 3-4 hour intervals and I would set a test, go home, come back and switch them out, go home and go to bed, get up in the middle of the night to drive to the lab and switch out again, go back home to try and get a bit more sleep, go to work, lather, rinse, repeat. (Which may help explain the severe depression I ended up in and the ultimate decision to leave the program with only about a year of work left to do…)

    8. Simone R*

      I would suggest doing some more research on your end-it might help work things out. It seems like you’re only looking at one school, so I would suggest reaching out to people there to see what their students go on to do after graduation, what the graduation rate is, and whether or not someone who can act as your advisor is also taking students. Other people have discussed the downsides to the PhD here already, and it does seem like it could be possible for you to find a regular job that you are more passionate about that also pays less. Look for those other jobs, see what education requirements they have, and see what paths might lead you to a job you’d really like someday.

      This may be different if you’re not in the US, but here it often doesn’t help you in a phd program if you already have a masters. Many times you still have to take all the classes with everyone else, so you’d still have to spend a year or 2 doing that and then a lot of time TAing, so I would check if that holds true for you!

    9. Blank*

      I’m 2 yrs out from finishing my (arts/humanities) PhD and I’m almost starting to recover. It’s a hard slog, the job prospects are weak, and I’m one of the few in my year (and years above/below) who has found an academic job. I’ve been on rolling 6-months-or-less, part-time, fixed-term contracts since I finished up, with no security or permanence in sight. Leaving work at work is hard, and teaching eats up more linear and emotional time than you’d expect going in. If you’re looking for a good HR, solid global strategy, and a boss and colleagues who always seem on top of their work – well, don’t look for a job at my (main) university, anyway.

      It’s stressful as hell, and my awarding institution has only given me minimal support aside from some hourly-paid teaching and admin work. (But, according to friends still struggling to find something, I’m one of the lucky ones.

      On the other hand, I’ve met some great people, enjoy most of my current coworkers, have flexible working conditions and a boggling amount of leave. My role (at the moment) is weighted more towards research than teaching, which suits me. For the last year I’ve only been working for two universities AND started taking home a bit more than what my PhD stipend had been! Win!

      It sounds like you’ve got a decent work ethic and a good job history to fall back on. If you can swing the tuition and can handle the hit in salary, you stand a good chance of getting through the course unscathed, and might even enjoy yourself on the way.

      1. Bibliovore*

        I suggest reading the book Professor is In for an unvarnished look at what it means to be in Academia.
        Link in next post.

          1. Blank*

            I’ve seen her speak, and have looked through the book. OP – lots of the advice is applicable to the US market, not as much to elsewhere. YMMV!

    10. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I hate to be doom and gloom but I would consider this very carefully. Although I am glad I finished my PhD it was eight years of soul-destroying suckiness and I have been more or less unemployed ever since I finished, five years ago. Part of this is because I did not do a good job but also the job market for academics really sucks and has done since at least 2008. Of the people I know who were getting degrees around the same time as me, most of them have not gone on to a job in academia. Many of them are juggling multiple underpaid adjunct posts and struggling to make ends meet. If you can get a grant that will cover your expenses then I’d consider it, but like everyone says above, I’d wait until this tax thing is finalized because it might have huge ramifications for graduate students. I’d also try to research as much as you can about your proposed topic and job prospects for people working in that area.

      On the other hand it is quite satisfying and I am glad that I stuck it out and finished mine. It was something that I always wanted to do and I at least have that satisfaction, even if it didn’t quite work out how I hoped it would. You might have a much better time of it than I did, especially if you have developed better work habits through having a real job (which I didn’t, to be quite frank).

      If you are enthusiastic about your work field I’d consider ways that you can make it more appealing to you in the long term. A different job, training opportunities, joining a professional society where you might have the chance to do research?

      1. new_one*

        I agree with this comment.

        I have a PhD in Sociology and it has never helped me to find a job. Actually, the opposite is true. Professionally I’m several years behind the people I studied with as they didn’t waste time for PhDs. Despite my excellent results and all kind of scholarships I received in the past. And despite the fact I really learnt a lot during my PhD. And despite the fact I got excellent reviews for everything I did after my PhD.

        The sad truth is, for the huge majority of companies it’s more important that you have 8 years of experience in your CV than how good you really are.

        And I was lucky enough to find a relatively job after my PhD, there are plenty of people who weren’t so lucky.

        A PhD may make sense for science graduates, but not for social scientists.

    11. Reba*

      Not knowing your location, I think it makes a difference whether it is a European-style (straight to research) or US-ian style (coursework requirements) PhD program. If you have the passion for the project, and the university/state will pay you to do the project, and that in itself is enough for you (i.e. you’d be content pursuing a non-ac career as you are now or an academic one), I’d say go for it. If it’s going to be a 6 year long slog without enough money to live comfortably on (you say your pay is currently on the low side and it will be a lot lower!), AND you will be jumping into the academic job market at the end, think hard.

      I’m nearing the end of my US humanities fieldwork-based PhD. I don’t at all regret doing it, but if asked whether I would do it the same way again… I’m not sure. I wouldn’t really recommend others to do it, as much as I feel immensely privileged to have pursued my project and met the people I’ve met, etc. I started my studies in 2011 (MA) and I’ll be done with the PhD in June. It’s a lot of time. And it’s been easier for me than for some others I know–I have a partner in a well-paid field, I did my coursework in a low cost of living area that’s also a nice place to live, and I had a very supportive department/environment which is definitely not always the case.

      Consider whether there are other ways you can get the satisfaction of researching and teaching in your life — because even if you do the PhD there’s no guarantee that you’ll continue doing those things afterwards in a university job.

      Good luck!

    12. Roza*

      I did a PhD in a social science and fled immediately to the private sector, which I’ve enjoyed working in. I’d second the other comments about a PhD program being unlikely to provide much in the way of work-life balance. Even with deadline crunches and overtime at my current job, it’s nothing like the stress I experienced while doing a PhD. The private sector seems like magic–working weekends is the exception, not the norm?! There is no expectation that I live and breathe my work 24/7 because it is who I am?! One of the nails in the coffin of an academic career for me was having *multiple* professors tell me with pride about their nervous breakdown/destruction of first marriage/severe stress-induced health problems on the tenure track because they were *that* dedicated. Um…no.

      That said, most of the stress in grad school (assuming you are fully funded for the entire program) is self-induced. If you don’t want a career in academia, and don’t care if your professors consider you a slacker, you can set boundaries and enjoy a few years of studying interesting things, and then go back to a non-academic job. It’s a terrible decision from a financial/career-advancement perspective, but it also might be personally rewarding enough that it’s worth it for you. Think of it as akin to taking a year or two off to travel the world.

      I also second what everyone said about keeping an eye on the tax issue if you’re in the US.

      1. Don't turn this name into a hyperlink*

        I’m just curious, did you have to deal with potential employers labeling you as “overqualified” because of your PhD? This seems to be a really bad problem in North America and the UK.

    13. SophieChotek*

      I have a PhD and while it is an accomplishment of which I am proud, it took a long time, has probably hindered my job prospects outside of academia, and honestly it is not something I am sure that I would do again. To be fair, I did not go back, I went straight through, BA, MA, and PhD all in a row and at different schools. (So all I got to do was rack up 6 figures of student debt.) If you are in the U.S. I would wait to see what happens with tax laws — I mean, I hope whatever gets enacted can be overturned/revised with a new administration – but all these things take time, etc.

      That said, if you really want a PhD and love the academia and the research — I would say go for it–I also don’t want you to have regrets later. But really ask the profs (and see if you can talk to recent grads in the area) about how they see job prospects etc. and how you can use this if you don’t get a job in the research area.

    14. Gene Parmesan*

      I recently finished my PhD at age 38. I started the program in 2013, and had had a career in education prior to grad school. I am currently working in a non-academic job, in an administrative role at a college (the PhD focused on education policy, so the job is relevant to the degree). This job is research-focused and is generally considered a PhD-level position.

      I don’t regret getting the PhD, because I overall really enjoy my research, both in my degree program and at work. I am married and have young kids, and I think I maintained a pretty decent work-life balance. I am married and have young kids. In fact, I had a baby during the PhD program (I am a woman), which was challenging, but my husband is highly involved in child care tasks, and my adviser was extremely supportive.

      My caveats are to clarify to yourself and be realistic about your career goals. The academic job market is super tough. There are way more PhDs being produced than there are tenure-track faculty positions. Many PhDs take nonacademic jobs (e.g. me), by choice or necessity. For those who do go into academia, the tenure-track jobs at R1 universities are scarce, and many PhDs get jobs at less research-focused institutions. For example, the college where I work is very teaching-focused, and professors here generally have a 4-4 teaching load and their pay is not great. I would not want to work here as a professor. One blog I really like about academic jobs and other issues of academia is The Professor Is In–check it out.

      The other caveat I’ll say is don’t enter a graduate degree program if you’re paying out-of-pocket (cash flowing it or with loans). Only go to graduate school if you will get a tuition waiver and stipend. And tuitions waivers are a whole ball of uncertainty right now in the US, so keep abreast of that situation.

      1. Gene Parmesan*

        Oops, a sentence got repeated there in the second paragraph. I apologize, because I do know how to use words.

    15. Science!*

      I have my PhD in the biological sciences so my experience may be slightly different than yours would/will be. My program was based out of a school of medicine so the benefits were slightly higher stipend levels (biomedical pre-docs tend to have higher stipends because there’s a lot of grant money) and a very low teaching requirement (no TAing for undergrads, just had to TA one graduate class) and everyone was on a research stipend, with health and dental.

      This all sounds great on paper, but there is a LOT of pressure in the medical sciences for publications and cutting edge research and not getting scooped. Graduate students work crazy hours and there’s no such thing as overtime. I had no official sick or vacation days, taking time off was at the whim of my mentor (luckily mine was good but I know people who basically never took vacation and came in sick always). It is so easy to get burned out and burning out is going to happen if you don’t have a strong, clear goal for your post-doctoral life.

      Don’t think about the degree, think about what kind of job you want to have and then find people who have that job and see what degrees they have or do not have. If you think you love research, look at whether there are positions available as a research assistant. They get paid better than PhD students and you will learn whether you like doing the research. It will also give you a chance to interact with graduate students and post-docs and see how they operate and what their lives are like.

      I will also suggest that you very carefully choose a pre-doctoral advisor. Your advisor will make or break your career. All the people I know who hated their PhD had a really difficult or non-supportive advisor. Getting a PhD is as much about being trained to be an academic as it is about doing research. You want someone who is both successful in their field and also good at mentoring.

      1. Gene Parmesan*

        I agree with looking closely at potential advisers, but this is difficult to assess. My adviser had a reputation for being difficult and pushy, but I worked very well with her for over two years, and I thought it would be fine since I get along easily with almost anyone. And she was really supportive in helping me figure out my class schedule and relieving me of duties when I had just had a baby. Fast forward to the last year of my program when I was finishing my dissertation, and I’d made it clear that I wasn’t going on the career path she wanted for me. Then she became really crappy to work with and threw up some ridiculous obstacles for me to finish, and bullied my other committee members to go along with it. (As in, it instantly became a cautionary tale in my department and another department that we work closely with.) I don’t know if this story has a helpful takeaway, just try to choose a good adviser to work with.

    16. Bess*

      So it’s tough, because if you’re burned out right now on unpaid overtime, not being able to leave work at work, etc., that is only going to get 100x worse getting a PhD. Yes, your schedule is more “flexible,” but your workload is often infinite, and you make a fraction of what you’re really worth.

      This can be worth it to pursue research for some very dedicated people. I personally have trouble leaving work at work, and I have found that my advanced degrees only amplified that problem to a very unhealthy degree, compared to a professional role anywhere else. My first advanced degree I regret full stop. I don’t regret my second degree (the passion degree), but I was frankly miserable a lot of the time. Overworked and underpaid.

      It might energize you to change course a bit, pursue this thing, focus on research, and that can get you through. But it’s not a solution to these problems you mentioned above. So you’d just want to make sure it’s really worth it to you.

      The career thing is important. I knew a direct career pipeline was unlikely for my second degree, but I also didn’t get further into debt on it, so I was willing to take that exchange because I was also just ready to live in a new place and pursue something totally different for a while. (I do use my degree extensively in my current job, but I wouldn’t be considered working in “the field”).

      If you think you want to teach, it’s so competitive and underpaid, many never pursue it. So again, what you mention above about overtime, taking too much work home, won’t be solved by a teaching career. Work-life balance simply does not exist in many areas of academia.

      So if you’re motivated by the research, new pursuits, possibly new living area, etc., the other stuff can be worth it. It won’t solve your feelings of being trapped in a field with no work-life balance, though. And it’s 5+ years of very low pay–you’re sort of out of the job market during those years and not advancing when you would have professionally elsewhere. Something else to consider.

    17. Don't turn this name into a hyperlink*

      Sorry for the long rant. I’m writing this after being up for 4 hours with a stuffy nose; my apologies if this sounds cranky, as any frustration is not directed at you but rather at my sinuses :(

      This is meant to be detailed PhD program advice from a sort-of-inside position. My father had a PhD in physics and a tenured professorship. I was able to talk to my father frequently, while he was alive, about his work. I also was on a more academically- than industry-oriented track in my undergrad, although again this was physics.

      Since this draws from academic physics, and since I’m from (and live in) the U.S., this advice may not apply 100% outside these areas. But these are still points I’d strongly suggest you look into before making a firm commitment to PhD study.

      In general, I’m going to echo the comments about work-life balance. Grad students take their work home with them. IME professors aren’t as accommodating of work-life balance requests as good managers in industry, because professors also have to push themselves extremely hard to get annual funding. The work never dries up unless you retire. And that’s on top of teaching.

      As my father used to say, “40 hours a week is the *bare minimum.* To get actual results, you should be working more like 60.” He’d routinely work late into the night – like midnight or later – and get up again at 5:30. His grad students frequently worked those hours alongside him. Most of the successful academics I’ve known in STEM have a commitment to finishing something on the day that it’s started, or soon thereafter, no matter how long it takes and how exhausted you feel afterward.

      I don’t mean to sound too snarky or mean, just being honest: you can’t expect to be productive and well-regarded, especially by your advisor, if you use the 40-hour work week and enlightened work-life balance as your guide. Academia can be incredibly rewarding if you’re the academic type, but it can be incredibly draining.

      PhD student burnout, anxiety, and depression, and even suicide, is a really dirty secret. I’d strongly suggest talking to current and recent grad students in your desired area of study about these things to make sure that this path is something that won’t do more harm than good. In fact, they could tell you which schools and advisors are better from that standpoint than others.

      I’m assuming since you have an MA that you’re aware of the pitfalls of academic politics, but you should also check through whatever grapevine channels you can as to which departments have potentially toxic structures. The University of Rochester, in fact, is facing lawsuits over sexual harassment *of faculty and a grad student* in the brain and cognitive sciences department, and faculty have urged a boycott of the university. The cancer research center at the University of Hawaii is another example of a toxic entity, since its head, Michael Carbone, is regarded as an all-around SOB, has been the subject of complaints, and has *still* not been fired (to my knowledge). Arguably, academic dysfunction is more insidious than industry-related dysfunction, since at least the latter doesn’t have tenure.

      If you haven’t already visited, say, Reddit, and asked about this stuff, I’d really suggest doing so as soon as possible. Visiting prospective campuses might also help you get a sense of what things are like, especially if you can interview faculty and students. (They might not disclose any unseemly stuff, but from the standpoint of work culture and expectations, this can teach you a lot.)

      Also, specifically for the U.S.:

      Funding might be an issue in your field of interest. I know that it was in physics during the recession, when there was a lot of competition for grants. Just before my father died a year ago, he found out that he received *zero* funding for the following year, even after reaching out to very highly-placed contacts in the government. Given the budget situation for this decade, I doubt that much has changed. In fact, things might be worse with the current government.

      If you plan to stay in academia after you graduate, be aware that STEM postdocs can bounce from low-paid gig to low-paid gig and not make it into a tenure-track position for a long time afterward, if at all. You might be better-positioned to return to industry if academia doesn’t work out for you, since you’ve got some pretty good experience under your belt. But also be aware that professors may not be able to advise you on industry-related work, owing to their experience and possible biases.

      *******Also: if you’re going to work in the U.S., Canada, or the UK, make sure that a PhD won’t make you overqualified at your current or near-future experience level. This seems to be a general Anglosphere issue, although I don’t know enough about Australia and NZ to say for sure, and I don’t know about the rest of the world either.

      (These were all factors, incidentally, in my decision to switch from physics and get a Master’s in engineering, so that I could switch over to industry.)

      Lastly, about the tax bill:

      From what I’ve heard, based on talking to my father and the grad students who worked under him, a stipend is barely enough to live on, especially if you’re in a high CoL area. If those stipends get taxed, then depending on your situation, that could become catastrophic. I know that even without taxing stipends, grad students supplemented their incomes with tutoring because they were only paid half-time.

      (All the faculty knew that half-time salaries weren’t enough, but the admins didn’t listen, so…)

      I’m like you – late 20s, re0discovering interests that could best be pursued in a grad school setting. However, if I were to go through with this plan, I’d probably end up trying to get an employer to sponsor me, or, if I really wanted to do take the leap and sponsorship was not an option, try to get into another English-speaking country with a more student-friendly tax code. I have a feeling this second option would be very difficult, given that I’d need to travel and pay for rent/food/transportation until any university-provided financial benefits kick in. And I don’t know enough about the situation of international students at these places from a monetary standpoint, although I’ve heard that Oxbridge is incredibly expensive if you’re not a domestic student. This isn’t even taking into account the visa process. And I don’t know how things would work out with my existing student loans were I to do this.


      Does any of this mean that you shouldn’t go back to school? Not necessarily. But you should make sure that all requisite facts are in hand before making this decision.

      Hope this helps. Sorry again if I came off as grumpy or brusque.

      1. another person*

        I do want to make a brief comment on the stipend taxing. At least in the US, we do get taxed on our stipends–I pay federal and state income taxes on that. The current concern for many grad students is that they are now making tuition waivers taxable. So if I get paid $30,000 as my stipend (biology, which is very manageable for a single student IMO) and taxed on that $30,000, it is fine. But there is about $50,000 of tuition that is waived that they want to tax, which would mean I would get taxed on $80,000 even though I only receive $30,000 of that money.

    18. Kay*

      I finished a PhD in an allied social science field 3 years ago. I think you’ve received some good food for thought here, but I wanted to add one more thing to consider. I did manage to end up with a full-time academic job, and it was entirely by accident — I was hired as the semester-long replacement for an ill faculty member who ended up getting much worse and was unable to return, and the cash-strapped uni couldn’t get approval to do a TT search so I was hired into a permanent contracted position. I fully realize this was 100% luck, and that I have benefitted incredibly from someone else’s misfortune. None of my peers have had this “luck”.

      I was the only person in a 5-year graduation span to get such a position, and this is from a prominent university in our field. Some of the other members of my cohort have really suffered. The life of the mind is kind of a cult. These were very bright, capable people who were told for many years that the only “real” way to do our research is to be in the academy, so now all other work is undesirable to them. It’s given them tunnel vision. This hasn’t been the case for all, and some have found ways of relating their academic experience to nonprofits, but like others mentioned, they would have been better off working at the nonprofit for 5 extra years rather than do the PhD. They are meaningfully behind their peers who have been working longer, and the PhD isn’t going to leapfrom them in front of people with more practical experience – managers just don’t see the value of a PhD that way. But the number of people who have not done this, who continue to adjunct for starvation wages with the hopes of getting a TT job next cycle or who are being turned away from mid-level positions in their late 30s/early 40s because their PhD has made them overqualified, is significant. I talk with my peers frequently and truly don’t know what to tell them. I have multiple friends who left decent-but-not-perfect careers and are now trying to support families on under $20K/year, because “academia said so”.

      I think if you are considering a U.S.-style PhD, you will not find your situation improving because the issues that you list with your job are pretty ripe in academia as well, especially the work-life balance, overworked boss (PI) and colleagues (classmates and other faculty), and the lack of rules and oversight that make a workplace functional. If you do decide to go for it, pay attention to placement, advocate for yourself, and stay open to multiple paths forward and not just academia. Good luck!

    19. Almost Violet Miller*

      Thank you so much for your answers, it’s great to have the insight of such a diverse community! You’ve helped a lot with how to approach my decision.
      I haven’t made up my mind yet. I will keep you posted.
      (I also wanted to add a few things
      1) I am not in the US or the UK and I’d only enroll if I got a place with a tution waiver
      2) I mentioned being overworked because I’d much rather work this much if I am passionate about the topic and feel like I gain more than just experience (advancing at my current place or in general in our job market comes with even more overtime – think e-mailing every night till 11am and being available on weekends and holidays unofficially, some of which I am already doing because there is no other way to cope with the workload)
      3) I have a degree and experience in a more ‘practical’ science/field to which I can always come back, even if I will have the disadvantage of being away from industry for a couple of years)
      Thank you again!

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        As far as email goes, when I was working on my PhD late at night I’d sometimes send emails to my supervisor expecting that she’d read them the next day at 2 or 3 AM. She’d almost always reply straight away, because she was up half the night trying to cram everything into a day too!

  6. Sunflower*

    What do you do when people complain to you about your boss- and you silently agree with them?

    My boss started about 4 months ago and hasn’t gotten off to the best start with the people we support. There are a few issues going on but it’s mostly that she doesn’t understand how things flow or work in biglaw- but she doesn’t reach out to our team for guidance (I’m not sure if this is her not understanding she’s not doing this right or if it’s her trying to exert control over the team as I’ve had issues with her doing that come up). Because of this, people don’t really trust her so they end up coming to me for help or flat out telling me they don’t want to work with her. This puts me in a bad position for a few reasons- mostly because I’m not a big fan of my new boss and I do agree with a lot of the complaints that I receive about her. I think I mostly receive these complaints because I’ve worked with these people for a while and we are good ‘work friends’- we chat and hang out at work/work functions but I don’t spend time with them outside of work.

    I never know what to do- I feel like I can’t defend my boss nor agree with these folks. I mostly try to direct them upwards- like if they have an issue, they need to talk to Grand boss but most seem reluctant to officially do that. This would be ideal for me since if I do decide to talk to my grandboss about my issues with boss, it would be nice to have this backup from other people.

    1. Naruto*

      I would suggest they either talk with your boss or with her boss. Really, I’d lean hard toward the former. Escalating without raising issues with your boss first isn’t going to be a good look, so that’s where they should start. If they still have problems that aren’t going to be of the “suck it up and deal” variety (common in biglaw), then and only then should they escalate above her. (Probably; this may depend, some, on her particular position at the firm, and theirs.)

      Regardless, you don’t have the authority to make your boss change how she’s doing things, and they shouldn’t be bringing these issues to you because you’re not the right person to resolve them. So I favor your approach and would just stick with it.

    2. Temperance*

      Are you an attorney, or do you work in a different department in Biglaw? You don’t have to get too specific, but it honestly depends on what department you’re in and what function you serve, and what kind of role Grandboss has.

      I think you should chat with your GrandBoss and let him know that you’re getting a lot of complaints regarding your boss, and that you think they’re warranted.

      1. Sunflower*

        I’m not an attorney- I work in Marketing and the people complaining are other ppl within our dept who support attorneys. My grandboss is also in my dept.

        1. Temperance*

          Okay yeah, Marketing is a very critical department, and if someone isn’t fitting in, that’s important knowledge. I would mention it to your grandboss if you have a good relationship with him.

    3. Althea*

      I don’t think there is anything wrong with telling people you’ve experienced similar issues. “Yes, I’ve had trouble with not having our input solicited as well.”

      But you could also just say, “That’s frustrating. What are you going to do about it?”

      People who want to vent will usually realize they don’t plan to do anything about it at all and will just shut up about it. People who actually haven’t considered how they could solve the issue might talk with you about possible solutions, at which point you could decide if it’s something you’d want to support and help.

    4. LKW*

      Seconding the recommendation to talk to her. BigLaw is filled with direct people. They should discuss with her. If she’s at all self aware, she’ll correct. If she’s stubborn or dismissive of criticism, she’ll fail. Just do what you have to do so that you don’t get caught up in the latter.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      You can-
      Redirect them as others are saying. I like this one because I am not a dump, I am not willing to let people vent their problems day after day. I am willing to help them when they are ready to move forward. You could say, “let me know when you reach a point where you want to do something.”

      Tell them, “it is what it is” and change the subject. Parallel comment, “Yes, it seems that several people have mentioned that.” What I like about this if I get hauled into the office by this boss, all I have done is make a statement of fact that several people have mentioned it to me. This buys me time to figure out what I will actually say.

      Running concurrently you could try helping the boss in the ways the boss will let you help her. Some times we can wear down a rigid boss by building up some trust. Unfortunately we can only work on that in the areas they let us. I have had bosses who were out of their league, so any time I said anything they would jump on me. It took time to figure out where they would let me help them. I handled those things well, which encouraged the boss to let me handle a few more things. I built up a base slowly.

  7. Petra*

    I work with another co-worker, “Tanya”, who is older than me and has been training me. Tanya sometimes mentions the fact that I have my master’s degree. I *never* told Tanya about my degree- she either saw it on my resume or our manager told her. I’ve never talked about it with anyone at work either.

    If I am told to do something instead of her, Tanya gets upset and will say, “It’s probably because you have your masters.” I try to say that she has more years in the industry than I do and try to make her feel better, but I am getting a little irritated.

    Again, I never told her that I have the degree and other people in our department and the company also hold degrees, some have 2 masters or a PhD!

    I want to make Tanya feel better, but don’t know what to do. Plus, I’m getting uncomfortable with her mentioning it. What do I do?

    1. Really though.*

      Tanya is being unreasonable. Hopefully someone will come along with some scripts you can use, but you’re in your rights to shut her down whenever she brings it up necessarily.

    2. Myrin*

      I’d be very direct! Something like “You’ve brought this Masters business up a few times now. What’s up with that?” and see where it goes from there.

      1. AK*

        +1 to this, and depending on where the conversation goes you can follow it with “I don’t think any of those things have to do with my masters, but they do fit my skill set (or availability at the time, etc) and job description”

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      I don’t think it’s your job to make Tanya feel better. Her comment (“It’s probably because you have your masters.”) is immature and unproductive. I’d recommend either asking her “Why did you say that?” or just ignoring it when she says things like that.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        I was going to say this. Tanya’s insecurity is not your problem to solve, Petra. Ignore her.

    4. David S. Pumpkins (formerly katamia)*

      It’s not your job to make her feel better, though. This is her issue. You’re not rubbing it in her face. If you report to the same person, try talking to that person.

    5. Amy*

      I don’t think it’s on you to make her feel better about it. Sounds like you’re not openly going on and on about your degree or even mentioning it at all. When she brings it up you could always just ignore the comment or say “who knows” and continue being kind and professional toward her. Ultimately she’ll probably get over it and drop it.

    6. Not a Real Giraffe*

      I want to make Tanya feel better, but don’t know what to do.

      It’s not your job to make Tanya feel better. It’s Tanya’s job to decide how to manage her jealousy/resentment/whatever about your own achievements.

      Next time she pouts that an assignment gets delegated to you instead of her, redirect her to the person in charge of delegating tasks. “I’m not sure! You should bring that up with Jim.” And then end the discussion.

      If you want to, you could try adopting a genuine tone of confusion and ask her something like, “you keep mentioning my degree. Is there something you’d like to talk about?” But I think that’s leaving you open to a discussion that again, isn’t your job to manage.

    7. Frozen Ginger*

      Have you tried just telling her to stop? No placating, just “Tanya, it makes me really uncomfortable when you bring up my degree, especially because you do so in situations where it’s not pertinent. Please stop bringing it up.”

      Also, do you know if she’s doing it to others? If she’s not, throw that in too. “I don’t know why you bring it up so much especially because many others in the department have more education than I do.”

      1. zora*

        This one. I would tell her to stop. You have more important things to do with your time and energy than manage another adult’s *feeeeelings*.

    8. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Don’t feel like you have to make Tanya feel better. I agree that you want to address it with her because that’s weird and annoying, but Tanya is responsible for managing her own feelings about it. You can ask her to stop bringing it up but don’t bend over backwards to make her feel better about herself in the process.
      (I’m having a very exhausting week avoiding emotionally managing my coworker so I may be a little sensitive to this right now).

    9. Temperance*

      Ugh. You should be proud of your degree, and screw Tanya! Does she have a degree at all?

      I am kind of a lot more aggressive than you, so I might make a sarcastic comment or just agree with her. I don’t think you should try and manager her overly sensitive feelings.

      1. Lisa*

        Same here. I think my answer would be “Yes, that’s probably it. You should go get one too!” and then every time it came up again ask her if she’s enrolled.

        1. AJ*

          The next time she says something, take out a mortarboard and framed copy of your degree and march away dutifully to complete your task.

    10. A.N.O.N.*

      “What an odd thing to bring up. I don’t see how that’s relevant.”

      “You seem to mention my master’s degree a lot. What’s up with that?”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This, this. Just ask her what is up. Some places equate years of experience as being on a par with a higher degree. You could also point out that she has the hands-on experience which is why she is training you. You have the theory and the backstory but she has the practical experience and the built up knowledge base that goes with it.

        Being a trainer is a position of trust. The company trusts her to convey necessary information to you. You can say that you do not have that position of trust, or that standing with the company.

        Or you could just break down and say, “You know you mention that a lot. And it makes me feel bad. I want you to know that I think [insert true compliments here, this could be that she knows her stuff or that she is a great trainer or whatever it is you see about her].” Let her know (if it’s true) that you are happy you met her and happy that she is training you. And you hope that at sometime in the future you will be able to “pay” her back in a meaningful way for the help she has given you.

        We are forever in debt to people who do a good job training us. We can’t take these people for granted because they are not as common as one would hope.

    11. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I’d probably be pointed about it, as that kind of whining annoys me, and say “Actually, Tanya, you’re the only one who ever mentions it!”

    12. Liane*

      Honestly, don’t worry about Making Tanya Feel Better. As Carolyn Hax (iirc) has pointed out, you don’t get to make others a feel a certain way; they are going to feel the way they feel. Just worry about shutting this down. Maybe reply, “So you keep telling me” to any comments about your degree. I suppose if she makes a lot comments about your degree getting you certain projects you could try, “Huh. Have you talked to Boss about being able to take on more tasks?”

    13. JD*

      I woudn’t worry about making her feel better because he issue is in her mind and not based on reality. I’d do the Alison take “Tanya, you mention this a lot, is there something wrong?” all while internally rolling your eyes.

    14. strawberries and raspberries*

      You don’t have to make her feel better. This is juvenile. I used to have a coworker who would constantly rib me in front of other people about things she perceived about me that weren’t always true, mostly related to (her impression of) my income level and my parents, and sometimes to my having a Master’s degree. For the things that weren’t true, I would shut it down with things like, “Wow, I didn’t realize I was rich, thanks for the heads-up,” but for things like having a Master’s degree I’d be really passive-aggressive like, “Yeah, it’s so amazing to have had the opportunity to receive a quality education, I’m really lucky.” After that, any attempt of hers to bring it up again just looked like jealousy.

    15. Reba*

      This made me laugh, as an old friend of mine used to say (in a clearly joking, over-the-top petulant tone), “I have a *Master’s Degree*!” whenever something didn’t go quite his way.

    16. The New Wanderer*

      It’s not unique to your Tanya, that’s for sure. I’ve gotten flak from a few people with master’s for having a PhD, like pointedly calling me “Doctor” (PhDs in the US don’t generally use the title unless in academia). It’s the character of the person doing it, not the degree or lack of.

      Beyond trying to care less whether Tanya is bothered, since it really isn’t your problem or anything you can fix, I would just respond to every one of her mentions with “Yep.” It sounds like she’s trolling for you to fall all over yourself praising her industry experience as more valuable than your piece of paper, and that’s just obnoxious.

    17. Rainy*

      Stop coddling her about this. Refuse to engage on it.

      She wants you to reassure her in a ritualistic fashion every time this specific topic comes up, and I would recommend that you stop doing so. When she says that next, say, one time “Tanya, I don’t think education has anything to do with this, and I need you to stop bringing up my master’s degree in this way.” Going forward, either remain silent, or say “That’s a weird thing to say” and turn the subject. Redirect, redirect, redirect. When you are no longer giving her the hit she wants (reassurance that she’s better, more experienced, smarter, whatever it is you tend to say), she will spend a small amount of time tantruming (which you will ignore) and then she will move on to someone else.

  8. AnonyMs.*

    An incident happened at work the other day that I have no idea how to handle. I heard a co-worker yelling into his phone as he walked by my office door, then he went outside to continue his phone conversation. He was right outside my office window and I could hear every word. This happens (people on their phones outside) and is mildly annoying, but I usually don’t care. However, this guy started screaming, and I could tell (from his end of the conversation) that he was talking to– literally screaming at– his son. Right outside our office door, in our office complex, close to the door of a neighboring office.

    I’m really disturbed by this. People have private conversations, even heated ones, all the time. However, the volume and vehemence made me uncomfortable on so many levels. First, I think it’s inappropriate to lose one’s temper so publicly at work, and second– and this is totally personal– I had a really hard time hearing a parent yell like that to a kid (his son is in elementary school). To add to the discomfort, this guy has an office with a door he can close, so I don’t know why he chose to have this call outside.

    I haven’t brought it up. I was too shocked at the time. What’s weird is that our boss was out that day, and I would bet this never would have happened if he had been here (his office is next to mine, also with a window). Do I say something? Wait and see if it happens again? He and I are peers; if he reported to me, I would have spoken to him immediately about office decorum and keeping a cooler head. Or maybe I’m blowing this out of proportion? I’m finding it kind of hard to face this guy, though I will probably get past that in a day or two.

    1. Justme*

      You’re not blowing this out of proportion. He was unprofessional (completely ignoring that he was yelling at his kid, because that’s another thing altogether). Maybe hint to him that you can hear telephone conversations that happen right outside your office?

      1. JulieBulie*

        Right – I imagine he went outside, thinking that people would be less likely to hear him there. Unless you think you can make some money selling tickets to the next show, you should probably let him know. You can do it in the guise of friendly advice that he wouldn’t want the boss to hear him too.

    2. Lehigh*

      Wow. Honestly I think the fact that he did it at work is a lot less of a big deal than literally screaming at a child that age. That is totally not okay, and I’d be concerned that he’s doing worse when he’s home.

      I don’t have any advice per se, but I don’t think your feelings are out of line at all.

      1. anon24*

        Yes, without knowing what exactly was said while he was screaming, I’m concerned for his child. Even if he’s not in physical danger, being screamed at constantly is so harmful for long term mental health. Again, I don’t know what exactly was said so I’m possibly blowing this way way out of proportion (and I’m sure I am!), but if this in any way made you feel like coworker was being verbally abusive and if you have any evidence that it wasn’t a one time lapse of judgement, I would consider reporting this to Child Youth Services.

        1. AnonyMs.*

          I don’t think it’s quite at that level, and I say that as someone who was verbally and emotionally abused by my father. That’s why the yelling shocked me so much, but admittedly, my radar is not well calibrated. I’m also not a parent, and I am well aware that perfectly fine parents can lose it. I have no way of knowing if he apologized to his kid later, you know?

          Certainly, if this becomes a pattern for him that I can see, I’ll speak up. But right now I feel like I only have a “right” to process the workplace part of it.

          1. Specialk9*

            I don’t think your radar is calibrated due to your past. It is really not normal to scream at a child like that (what’s fairly normal is to get an impatient tone occasionally, or even after long extended bickering or naughtiness to admonish them loudly) – screaming, and extended screaming, is whoa- that’s seriously out of control and would be terrifying to me as an adult from a stranger, so how much worse a child from his much bigger parent who has all the control. What you’ve seen is emotionally abusive, and he doesn’t seem worried about doing that in public at top volume. The question is what he is doing at home out of sight. I don’t usually say Child Protective Services, but someone needs to be checking on this kid regularly.

          2. nonymous*

            I’d check to see if your EAP group offers any brochures about family stress and put them in a public area (or even a friendly encouragement if it’s possible to supervisors to advertise the benefit), in addition to the heads up directly to co-worker. Yes, this absolutely could be a perfectly fine parent losing it, but imo even that suggests the parent could use a refresher on some coping skills.

            Also wanted to add that, since severe discipline and authoritarianism is so much less prevalent than in decades past, it really puts kids who are experiencing it at a huge disadvantage. Isolation magnifies the negative impact and the skills that a young child internalizes to survive an abusive environment are detrimental to healthy experiences in the rest of their life.

      2. Liz Lemon*

        Yeah. I was cringing and upset, thinking we were talking about a screaming 15 year old. But elementary age!?! That sounds like verbal abuse to me, and I’m not one to say that lightly.

    3. strawberries and raspberries*

      I actually had an almost-identical thing happen to me a while ago, except the person in question was an indirect report of mine. I approached him shortly thereafter to ask if everything was all right, and gently let him know that his voice carried and I would hate for anyone else to be able to hear sensitive family business of his (rather than put him on the defensive by making it sound like he was the disturbance). He was mortified. (He was even more mortified when it later turned out that the thing he was yelling at his kid about was something that turned out to be his own mistake and his kid was in the right.)

        1. strawberries and raspberries*

          He did. I’ve actually met his kids a number of times and they often have conversations like, “Don’t let me forget to go that meeting at your school-” “Dad, Mom’s already there right now. That’s why I came here.” or “Who told you you could walk there by yourself?!” “You did, Dad, yesterday!” No more yelling, though, fortunately.

    4. Ann Furthermore*

      Ack, how uncomfortable to overhear that! I like the other commenter’s way of addressing it, saying that you wouldn’t want anyone to overhear sensitive family business. It lets him know that he was overheard without being nosy or seeming like you’re accusing him of anything.

      As a parent I can tell you that sometimes you do lose it with your kids, especially if it’s due to them doing/not doing something you’ve talked to them about over and over and over again. I went over the edge with my daughter awhile back because we had talked at length about her being responsible with using technology, only to have her spend all her time watching stupid YouTube videos and not get her chores/homework done before bedtime, or “forget” to take a shower. It makes you insane, and the one-sided conversation with your kid would sound pretty bad to someone without the context. (In her case, it seems that karma evened things up a bit, because she got sick a few weeks ago and barfed all over her Chromebook, and so is now on a forced technology break until Santa comes.)

      I worked with a contractor once who would get into these horrible arguments with his wife on the phone in the office — like once or twice a week. One time they were fighting about something, and he said, “I f***ing hate you!!!” and hung up. I was appalled. Another time, he was talking to his teenage daughter, who was upset about something her mom had done, and this guy said, “Well come on, honey, we all know your mom is crazy.” A bunch of us (including him) were having lunch one day and he was being very critical of her, and told us that she’d had 4 abortions when they were younger. No matter what your personal feelings are about that, I’d hope everyone could agree that’s a very private matter, and there he was blabbing about it to people she didn’t know. I honestly didn’t understand why they were married because it was obvious that they hated each other. Yes, it’s true that I didn’t have all the context for those situations, but I can’t imagine talking to or about my husband in that way, no matter how pissed off I was at him.

    5. Windchime*

      You’re not blowing it out of proportion. Something similar happened when I brand new at my current job. A man who sits very near me (but isn’t on my team) was yelling at his daughter on the phone while sitting in his cube. He was speaking very loudly in the office which was otherwise quiet. He kept saying things like, “You’re a LIAR!”. It went on and on for a good five minutes, which is a LONG time to listen to someone be hateful on the phone.

      I couldn’t really say anything because I was brand new and he’s not on my team, but it was super uncomfortable.

  9. Nonnonnon*

    Glassdoor reviews!

    I really want to write a scathing one for my former employer, based on my #metoo and retaliation experience. However, there are of course a lot of drawbacks. Any advice?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Is your former employer a large company? If it’s large enough you can be truly anonymous, go for it. I’ve wanted to leave reviews for some of my former workplaces, but they’re tiny, and it would be super obvious who I was.

      1. Nonnonnon*

        It’s definitely not large enough to talk about the harassment and subsequent termination without outing myself. The company has fewer than 100 employees. I could write a review on the site for the much larger parent company, but even that could be traced to me too.

      2. Nonnonnon*

        Unfortunately, there are fewer than 100 employees so I would definitely out myself. Even if I wrote one on the site for its much larger parent company, it could be traced to me.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I’m kind of torn between totally getting and telling you to walk away– as I have convinced myself to do with a former tiny company– but on the other hand… Do you think your experience was completely unique to you? As in, do you think they learned a lesson or would be less likely to do something similar to another? If yes, then I would err on the side of anonymity, but if no, then I would encourage you to write something. I firmly believe that we must take care of ourselves before we help the greater good, but if you think what they did was egregious and likely to happen again, then I would write the warning. Think of it as an acquaintance coming to you for advice because she has a job interview coming up.

          1. Nonnonnon*

            This is a good way to look at it. I reported all this way before the avalanche of #metoo came out, which makes me wonder if they would have responded differently if the complaint was made now. However, my manager and HR smeared me in the past and I’m sure will double down on their lies just to protect their reputations.

            1. Jules the Third*

              Don’t get specific with it because they will know who you are. The damage they can do to you is not worth it. Consider an unflattering review based on less identifying factors, like “disorganization” or “unprofessional management.”

              I say this as a #MeToo too and ardent feminist / far left progressive. I’m loving the moment, but I don’t think it’s going to trickle down to small / medium businesses anytime soon, and we’re due for the backlash any day now.

            2. Specialk9*

              “my manager and HR smeared me in the past and I’m sure will double down on their lies just to protect their reputations.”

              Well… Which bridge are you burning, exactly? They’re going to talk smack about you anyway, and give a bad recommendation.

              But, if I may ask, why is Glassdoor your main option? What they did was illegal and unethical. Talk to a lawyer. At a minimum you may be able to force them not to give you a bad reference or to spread lies, and you may get a settlement and be able to get justice.

    2. Ainomiaka*

      My advice is do it, but can you make it not obviously you? I did leave a bad glassdoor review for one company, but the issues were widespread enough that I could have been anyone in a reasonably sized department.

      1. Nonnonnon*

        Unfortunately it would be hard to be vague with the situation (termination after complaining of harassment). I’ve considered more general examples of the toxicity, but I want more of the story out there! The problem is that the company will try to crush me.

            1. Ainomiaka*

              Other question is do you have a new job? You probably want a baseline of at least a year or two at another place, but after you have demonstrated that you are reasonable, trying to crush you will make the company look crazy, not you. When you are an unknown quantity it’s easier for them to try to undermine you. But if you have a track record of being dependable and reasonable everywhere else, the pattern will stand out. This is a long game, sadly, but I do think it’ll cut down on their ability to say anything.

            2. Windchime*

              Can they legally do this? I know that’s a separate question, but jeez. This doesn’t seem right at all; it’s retaliation.

    3. A.N.O.N.*

      Really review Glassdoor’s policies regarding reviews to make sure it can’t be flagged for anything. My previous employer was awful, but very often when coworkers have tried to leave negative reviews, the company would flag them as being inappropriate and they would get taken down.

        1. A.N.O.N.*

          Glassdoor will only take down posts that violate their commenting rules. Upper management at my former company would spend more time nitpicking reviews to craft arguments as to why the negative posts violate Glassdoor’s rules than actually fixing the problems employees were complaining about.

          The result? Employees rewrote their reviews, and made sure they were very careful in their wording.

    4. JulieBulie*

      Since you say they’ve already smeared you in the past, I’m not sure you have much to lose. At best, they probably won’t say anything that will help you. And it sounds like they might smear you again even if you say nothing.

      I don’t want you to get into any trouble, but do consider whether that ship has already sailed.

      1. Specialk9*

        That was my thought too.

        I was in your shoes, years ago, and it taught me that women really do have to shut up and let powerful men get away with it. But… I think that has genuinely changed, abruptly. I think you could actually get justice.

    5. Champagne_Dreams*

      You can always split the difference, and don’t tell the whole story, but pepper your review with things like “good old boys network” and “misogyny”. Women will get the message, without you outing yourself entirely.

  10. newbie here*

    What do you do when your co-workers gossip and some like to stir the pot? I don’t want to alienate myself from them, but I don’t want to get sucked into all of the drama either. Sometimes it’s funny, but other times it’s plain mean and I don’t want to be that kind of person. Any adivce?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I just go with alienation. I’m more than happy to pal around, but when things get too gossipy, I just back away. I’ll do some light gossip, but when it really is more about increasing tensions than blowing off steam, I’m out.

      1. Bleeborp*

        We luckily no longer have the worst offender at my work any more but that was my method as well. I love my workplace but there can be a little bit of a communication lag where you don’t know what’s happening unless you happen to chat up the right people and he was aaaaalllwaaaayss chatting with all the people so you really did have to gossip a little with him to know what the hell was going on. He was wildly manipulative and shady and it very much rubbed me the wrong way but he could also be really funny and I got along with him on a personal level but anytime I let something personal slip I was always kicking myself afterwards thinking “damn, I guess evvvveryone is going to know that now!” I was not sad when he left.

    2. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Become the master at redirecting the conversation! What are you doing this weekend, did you watch the football game, etc. There may be others in the group who would like a break from the negativity as well.

      1. Sunflower*

        Agree with this- esp if you can make a kind of confused ‘hmm’ face before you do it. You will get your point across and I agree that there are probably others in the group that feel the same way as you.

    3. Lumen*

      Insert sudden subject change. Do this consistently.

      Or walk away, consistently. Alienating people like this is probably in your best interest anyway; even if you stay on their good side, that’s no guarantee they aren’t going to turn on you next when your back is turned. Chances are they are already known by others in the office as the meanspirited gossips, and if people tend to see you hang out with them (even if you’re not encouraging or joining in the bad behavior), it will be hard to tell that you aren’t just like them.

      It is also okay, in my opinion, to go from laughing to “okay, that was actually kind of mean”. If they don’t like it, maybe they should behave better/watch their tongues.

    4. Windchime*

      My workplace is pretty gossip-free, or at least most people don’t gossip to me. One guy has decided that I would make a great sounding board, so he has tried bitching about our mutual boss to me. I just listened and didn’t say anything the first couple of times, but I am now prepared with what I’m going to say if/when he does it again. This is my script:

      “I can tell that this is really upsetting you, but you’re putting me in a tough position. Boss has been really good to me.” Then STOP TALKING. Hopefully that will put an end to it.

  11. Not a Real Giraffe*

    Does anyone have any tips for how to best organize work email through Gmail?

    I am coming from nearly 15 years of using Outlook, where I had a whole system set up for how to organize and track my work/emails (rules, folders, flags). My new job uses Gmail and I am having such a hard time getting used to it and applying my previous organization system to it. I feel like my inbox is untrackable and out of control!

    1. Amy*

      I’ve had a lot of lock with the labeling and starring system in Gmail. I just have different labels for all of the categories I need and they basically act like folders in Outlook. I sometimes star things that are important but more often than not I leave them unread so I remember to pay attention to them. I have my indox set up so all of my unread emails are at the top.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Some people use labels. Honestly, the only thing I do is star messages that are on my to-do list (i.e., I need to get back to them or do something with them). Otherwise, I just leave it. The Gmail search is good enough that I can find old messages I need to.

      1. Not a Real Giraffe*

        I think where I struggle is that I like to keep my inbox as my to-do list, so in Outlook, I would move emails that were either info-only or contained a completed task into its respective folder. On a good, productive day, I could get my inbox down to fewer than 20 emails. On very, very few occasions did my inbox contain more than 100 emails. Labels for now are not cutting it for me, organizationally. But I guess maybe it’s just something I have to get used to (plus stars in place of flags)?

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Yeah, it’s a culture shift. When I used Outlook, I did the same thing. I basically had an “archived” folder, where I put all my old messages, and the ones remaining in my inbox were my to-do list. But Gmail doesn’t have a real folders concept, so even if you archive old messages or take them out of the inbox, it’s not as easy to just keep your inbox clean, because the inbox isn’t a real folder.

          1. Mints*

            You can both archive and label a message, and you can keep your inbox clean. I had this system with Gmail

        2. Mr. Rogers*

          You can move items into folders in Gmail too, and not just have them labeled! Poke around a bit, it’s there :)

          1. Amy*

            I remember being so frustrated with Gmail before I realized I could do that. It was such a huge relief when I finally figured it out.

        3. Hermione*

          I do the same thing with my inbox as an active to-do list. In Gmail, I label liberally with whatever folder the item would be, then click archive on all my done tasks to file away and get them out of my inbox. I never have much trouble finding things with the searchbar.

    3. Ashley*

      Try the additional star options. I can’t remember if it is a lab or just in settings. Also Google Keep is really helpful for to-do list stuff. Also the search features are awesome.

    4. TCO*

      I love Boomerang as a Gmail plugin. It allows you to schedule e-mails to send at a future time and it also allows you to have e-mails return to your inbox at a future time. You can choose whether you want that e-mail to return at a future time no matter what, or only if no one replies. It’s such a great tool for managing inbox chaos because it means that you don’t need to keep e-mails around that you don’t need right now, and it makes it easy to keep track of whether or not someone responded to you.

      1. Elizabeth*


        Boomerang is amazing. If you have confidential information in your email, don’t use it, but if you have confidential information in your email, don’t use a Google product, period.

        1. Buffy*

          I came across an interesting free tool to combat that – Blinkcloud. It takes in text, encrypts it, and you have a link to send to someone. It can only be accessed once and then it’s destroyed. (Not Mission Impossible style however ;) Good way to send confidential info if you have to over e-mail or text.

    5. Detective Amy Santiago*

      My gmail inbox is set up to add labels automatically depending on where the email is from. This works because I add filter information to my address.

      Example: my email is

      For the Staples website, I use
      For the Llama Grooming supplies website, I use
      And so on and so forth. It still sends the email to my inbox because it basically ignores anything after the plus sign.

      BUT, I have filters set up so that emails sent to “amysantiago+staples” automatically have the “Staples” label added. And then my labels are all different colors.

        1. MoinMoin*

          It also ignores periods, so MoinMoin@gmail, Moin.Moin@gmail, and M…oin.M.o.i.n@gmail would all read the same as well. I didn’t know that about plus signs! That’s way easier than remembering what groups I assign to each different period configuration.

      1. LadyKelvin*

        I also have filters set up so that some of my emails skip my inbox entirely and are just filed into my folder for “IT issues” or whatever. I also use multiple inboxes (a plugin) with a box for starred emails, emails that I need to reply to, and my normal inbox. I’ve switched between outlook and gmail multiple times for various jobs and I’ve never had trouble using the same organization method in both. They are just named different things/take different steps to set up.

    6. Mints*

      I LOVE Gmail and am so sad I have to use Outlook for this job. The beauty of Gmail labels is you can cross label so you can label an email “Acme customer” and “Dark chocolate” as like a matrix so you can go look at all projects for a customer or all customers who ordered dark chocolate. Also, the rules are basically the same as Outlook so you should be able to copy the logic.
      The best thing for me though is having two labels for things I do regularly and need a lot of follow up. One is the “pending” label. So like “”Completed orders” and “Pending orders” and I check the pending label all the time to bug people, and when it’s done I move it over.
      Similarly I’d have longer term follow up labels, like “End of month” “January” for when people responded that they needed a few weeks to get back to me. (And they could still be labeled “Dark chocolate” and “Acme” without duplication.)
      I rarely rarely lost emails or had things fall off my radar

      1. Amy*

        That’s a great system. And I love the search functionality of Google more than Outlook. I felt like I could never find anything in Outlook even though I knew it was there somewhere. I’ve never had that problem in Google.

    7. Ally A*

      I love the labeling feature of Gmail, because you can label emails multiple ways, instead of picking a single folder. So if you get an email that refers to Program A and also to Person B you can label it both things. As soon as I read an email in my inbox, I immediately label it and remove it from my inbox. I manage multiple programs, so each email is labeled by the program and then further labeled (like registration, invoices, materials, etc.). I have about 23 labels and sub-labels I use. I don’t use the star feature very often, instead I have a “follow up” label that’s neon green so it’s easy to see. Then I set up as many filters as possible to skip the inbox and automatically label emails. I never have more than one or two emails in my inbox at any time.

      Also get very familiar with how to search within Gmail. You can find all of the search operators you can use in Gmail in Gmail Help.

    8. msroboto*

      You know that it is possible to read and organize GMail using Outlook.
      Google setup gmail in outlook you will find it.

    9. Troutwaxer*

      Unless your company prohibits it, you can use Mozilla Thunderbird to download your mails from Gmail onto your computer (just be sure you leave them on Gmail too, as a backup.) Then you can use Thunderbird to organize your emails, (folders are easy) and there are many extensions available for Thunderbird which you can install.

    10. bee*

      Inbox Sections is my favorite gmail organizational feature! Using this, and the archive and search functions has kept my inbox clean and actionable for the last 3 years. I had a tough transition from Outlook to gmail – I tried using it like Outlook (labels as folders, stars as flags…) but it just wan’t working for me. If you try this and don’t like it, it is easy to revert back to what you had before.

      1) Go to Settings>Inbox>Inbox Sections.
      2) Set #1 as Unread, #2 as the label Follow-up, and #3 as the label Pending Response (you can create the labels from this spot and have whatever labels work for you). This is how the inbox will be display and the sections are collapsible.
      3) When I get a new email, it sits in Unread. As soon as I read it, I either archive it, respond, or mark it as follow-up. I mostly use the pending response label from my sent items if the response might cause action on my part.
      4) When the label no longer applies, remove it and archive the message.

      You can have other labels if there are some you’d like to quickly find but don’t want to see them in your inbox (don’t set them as an inbox section). For example, I get lots of emails with various webinars and training opportunities. When I get the email, I label it Training and archive the email so it doesn’t show in my inbox anymore. Later, when I want to look through the emails, I click the Training label on my left sidebar to see all those emails.

    11. Brontosaurus*

      I use outlook at work and gmail for
      Personal and my non profit board work and I HATE it. I find it so difficult to organize and move around. I’m loving these ideas too but hope they work!

    12. Certain Someone*

      I’d love to have Gmail instead of Outlook for my work email! Once you get past the initial learning curve, I think you’ll prefer it. It’s much more intuitive and less glitchy than Outlook.
      I am also someone who uses my inbox as my “to do” list (which I think you mention down-thread), and you can move emails to folders instead of just labeling. Every label functions as a folder AND a label. The best part is that emails can have multiple labels. I keep my email folders at work very organized; oftentimes an email really belongs in more than one folder, but I still have to choose just one. With Gmail, you can apply multiple labels, so it will be easier to find it later. (For example, I might have an email that belongs in the FRAP folder and also the Regional Group folder, and when I’m looking for it later, I have to make an educated guess — or three — as to which folder I put it in, to narrow down my search. With gmail, it can be in all applicable folders simultaneously.)
      In general, the functionality of Gmail is superior, from my experience.

  12. OlympiasEpiriot*

    Tons of small tasks that all need to get done, plus I need to finish a presentation and submit for certification so ppl who come to it can get their continuing ed certs.

    Also, it occurred to me the other day that if suddenly all workplace sexual harassment stopped and I no longer had to ever think about it, dealing with it, avoid it, deflecting it, warning other women about ppl, backing up other women, etc., etc. … I could not imagine what that world would look like. I can’t imagine what it would be like to not have to think about it.

    1. Camellia*

      I hear you. I had to deal with it and hoped my daughter would not. Well, she is 32 and that hasn’t come to pass. Now my granddaughter is 6, and I wonder if we will get this right by the time she has to deal with it. I feel like that will be ‘no’ also.

      And it’s not just the older men. My daughter was interviewing candidates for an Operations Manager slot and interviewed a man who was 35 (he mentioned it, she didn’t ask). He checked all the boxes of experience that she needed and she had mentally moved him to the top of her list. Then, when she walked him out, he said, “Thanks, sweetie!”. Big nope!

      1. GG Two shoes*

        The person who groped me at the holiday party was younger than me (he was 25 and I was 27). After a couple years of “not making a big deal of it” and “just letting it go” I finally told my supervisor/HR. While the guy doesn’t work here anymore, he’s still friendly with some folks so if he ever tries to work here again, I want it in his file.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Sometimes “just letting go” is pretty much impossible. All that happens is we keep it to ourselves.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I know this was in 2005 or 2006, but that’s still more recent than I’d like. The HR/Accounting manager (female) who hired me at OldExjob interviewed a guy for a sales position. After he left, I asked her how it went. She said he rolled his eyes when he saw her.

        He did not get the job.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          That’s barely an eyeblink!

          There’s stuff going on Right Now in supposedly egalitarian environments. It was only in the 1970’s that the term Sexual Harassment was even coined.

          Glad he did not get the job

    2. nep*

      I keep thinking about the women who can’t do anything about sexual harassment and even abuse in the workplace because if they did they’d lose their job and their only means of feeding their children.

  13. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    Havarti and I got into a brief discussion about training and facilitation (on the “the person who holds the job I’m applying for doesn’t like me” post). I had to rein myself in, because I can talk about facilitation all day. So: if anyone is interested in talking more, let’s have at it!

    The conversation we had started with (what I think is) the interesting challenge of how to disagree with your co-facilitator without undermining them in front of your meeting/class/etc., and the particular importance of doing this well in cross-racial or cross-gender facilitation teams.

    1. Naptime Enthusiast*

      I was part of an organization in college where we gave partnered presentations multiple times per semester. When practicing, we had facilitators that would listen without interrupting, take notes, then at the end critique us. Sometimes, the feedback was brutal but really important to hear. We would tweak our script and presentation right there, then try again. If needed, we came back for another practice session the next day. I think this would have taken care of a lot of the issues that came up in the LW’s situation.

      Of course, you can’t always predict what questions will be asked during Q&A. What I found to be really helpful was each presenter speak to their experiences. This gives both people an opportunity to speak, and ideally the second person would be able to say “I had a completely different experience, and here’s why”, then contradict what the other person said without fully disagreeing.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        That sounds like a great way to prep for a presentation — even without the feedback, it forces you to practice, which I think a lot of people don’t bother with.

        It’s a little different if you’re facilitating a conversation, rather than giving a presentation. In my work, even when we’re training for skills or knowledge, we spend very little time in front of the room speaking from a script (we have a practice of never having a presenter speak for more than 10 minutes without breaking that time up with active learning). Almost everything we do is based on what’s happening in the room, the ideas that the participants bring, the level of experience or knowledge that they have, etc.

    2. fposte*

      So how do you disagree with your co-facilitator without undermining them? That’s the kind of thing it’s always useful to have some scripts for. I’ve co-taught in situations with long relationships where it’s fine to just be open about a different ideological approach, but 1) that would be different with somebody I didn’t know and 2) the example in that post wasn’t just a different point of view but a need for action. So whaddya do?

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Two reactions quickly:

        First, talk about it with your colleague beforehand. Plan out how you want to handle various scenarios, like: What if I strongly disagree with something you say? What if I say something that’s objectively wrong (a wrong date, etc.)? What if I just have an idea or example that I think would help illustrate something you’re saying?

        Second, tell your participants how you and the co-facilitator plan to work together. You don’t need to cover all the possible scenarios, but I often say something like: “Sarina and I have worked together for a long time, and we developed this training together. You might notice that we jump in and share ideas — or even corrections! — when the other is speaking. That’s our style of working together, and we think it helps make the best use of your time.”

        If, instead, you’re going to stick with a more formal breakdown of who speaks when on an agenda you could say: “Sarina and I bring different experiences and lenses to this topic, and that means that we sometimes have different ideas — that’s why we’re teaching this session together, so you can come at this topic from more than one direction. So don’t be surprised if you hear us offer different interpretations and feel free to ask for clarification throughout our day together.”

        It’s also legit in most cases, I think, to decide not to correct each other in public. You could instead let your co-facilitator know privately during a break that they misspoke, or that you disagreed with what they said, and ask them to make a correction. Or, if there isn’t that opportunity, you could send a follow-up clarification: “During the session, we said that the new fiscal year begins in January. That was a mistake — our fiscal year runs from July to June.”

        And, of course, it’s important to make all of these decisions with attention to power and oppressive dynamics. Like: If my co-facilitator is giving her first training, is it more important to correct her immediately (so she doesn’t lead participants astray due to her inexperience), or should I wait to correct her in private (so she isn’t undermined in front of the people she needs to continue to teach?). If I am a white man, and my co-facilitator is a woman of color, how will my interruptions of her read to our participants (even if we agreed ahead of time that we prefer a free-flowing style)? etc.

        1. The RO-Cat*

          I co-facilitate more often than not. Nowadays I have strong relationships with my colleagues and we go along almost without the need for words. Still, it happens sometimes for me to disagree with a certain approach. I have a system of appraising the need to intervene (or the lack of need) and phrasings as follows:
          – marginal topic, slight disagreement – I let it slide or we talk after the course
          – marginal topic, great differences – we do talk it out later
          – important topic, marginal disagreement – let it go and maybe talk later
          – important topic, big diference due to different viewpoints / experiences – I intervene when timing allows it and present it as a different approach for the participants to choose from
          – important topic, big mistake (it happens sometimes) – I wait for a good moment, I present the correct version / approach as an alternative / more useful way to look at the topic and signal my co-facilitator to join me at the first break.

          At he beginning I had to step in hard a couple of times, but it was – in all cases – because my colleague was unexperienced and got cornered (stirred up the us-vs-them mindset and couldn’t cope with the sudden revolt), but as we got to know each other and she got more seasoned things began going smoothly more and more.

  14. WellRed*

    I know you aren’t supposed to ask for a raise because you need it, but what about a cost of living increase? For context, I haven’t had a raise of any sort in six years. Biz is hanging in there but we’re a tiny company that has downsized a bit. My workload has remained steady. Of course, any increase would be so tiny as to almost not be worth it to ask.

    1. EmilyG*

      I think this is reasonable! What makes people roll their eyes is when someone says “I bought an expensive car and now I need a raise.” (Well, maybe no one is actually that brazen, but you know what I mean.)

      1. HRperson*

        People are that brazen. I fielded a “I need a raise because I got a more expensive day care” request last week.

        1. Jules the Third*

          That’s not brazen, daycare can be really really really crazy. In the US, rates are going up as fast as college tuition, faster than medical inflation and something like 10x as fast as general inflation. Going from home-based care for a 2yo to center-based care for a 3yo can double the cost, easily.

          1. Data Analyst*

            Yes. It may not be the most tactful but since the reality is often “I can’t afford to send my kid there, and if I can’t afford it I will need to quit” it makes sense to me to be open about it.

        2. tigerlily*

          Yeah, day care is outrageously expensive. You may very well be correct that they chose to go to a fancier, more prestigious, more expensive one on their own, but knowing the absolutely horror that is finding quality, affordable childcare in my city, that wouldn’t be my first thought.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      If you haven’t had any raise of any sort (even cost-of-living) in six years, then you definitely should ask for a raise. You’re actually losing money, because cost of living has increased, but your salary hasn’t.

      1. Specialk9*

        There are good inflation calculators by year. I like the WestEgg one.

        So let’s say you made $50,000 starting 6 years ago (salary chosen for ease of calculation). What cost $50,000 in 2010 would cost $56,558 in 2016.

        But even worse, $50k on today’s dollars is only $44k in 2010 dollars! They’ve actually taken $6 thousand out of you’re pocket this year. So guesstimating that $1k lost in 2011, $2k in 2012, $3k in 2013, $4k in 2014, $5k in 2015, $6 k in 2016.

        You’ve lost $21 thousand over only 6 years because of them not giving an inflation adjustment.

    3. Jessie the First (or second)*

      6 years without any adjustment? That’s not okay, and I think you should seriously consider asking for an actual raise because you have earned it.

      You wouldn’t be asking for a raise because you need it. You’d be asking for a raise because you have 6 years more experience than you did when you were first offered this salary! 6 years of experience getting to know the ins and outs of the business, the industry, the needs and processes your company values. 6 years to be become really adept at your job. And after 6 years with no raise, that is a de facto pay cut because cost of living has increased. So you are providing more value to the company than you did 6 years ago, but the money you earn does not reflect that value.

    4. Natalie*

      COLA’s are completely different than raises because, as was mentioned, with inflation you are making *less* money every year. In my humble opinion, companies that don’t do inflation adjustment without being asked are jerks, just the same as if they expected their employees to take paycuts every year for no reason.

      $1 in 2011 is about $1.12 now, just for reference. (Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator.)

    5. KJDubreuil*

      What is the pay range for people doing your job in your industry? If you are at the bottom of that, start looking for a new job but at the same time you can think about talking to your current employer about your pay.

      As in, ask for a meeting. At the scheduled meeting ask your employer if there are any additional responsibilities you could take on. Ask if they are perfectly satisfied with your performance. Ask what you could do to become a more valuable employee to them. If they say you are great, offer you additional responsibilities or say that they highly value as an employee then and ONLY THEN, point out that you are at the bottom of the pay range for people doing your job in your industry and say things like “I think I am currently more valuable to the company than my current pay reflects” and “people doing my job in this industry make $XX to YY an hour and I have been here six years without a pay increase and am only making $XX ” and “I’d love to train to become a Teapot Inspector. Once I was certified in that would there be a pay increase associated with it?”

      DON’T walk into your boss’s office and blurt out “Can you give me a raise? ” or worse “I need a raise or I will have to quit this job.” That will annoy them and alienate them. Maybe they are currently thinking about firing you for tardiness, poor client contact skills or laying you off because of decreased business or many other reasons. Instead, be tactful, request a scheduled meeting (but be ready if they say ‘right now would be fine’) and try to show them how you can help pay for yourself.

      I am a boss(owner of small business) and I routinely raise prices to my customers to enable pay raises for my staff. I also give only merit raises (based on productivity and job performance) and am much more likely to raise the pay of someone who consistently makes my days easier instead of harder. Source of unnecessary drama and stress? No raise for you because I am actually hoping you will move on, but am not really needing to fire you over it.

      1. Natalie*

        You seem to be talking about an increase based on performance, but WellRed is asking about a simple adjustment for inflation. They’re not the same thing, and an employee shouldn’t have to get certifications or take on additional tasks simply to keep making the same amount of money as they were before.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          I happen to be lucky. Where I live there are regular inflation checks, and once it increases by a certain amount (usually annually) everyone gets a small payrise. Is there some kind of similar check you could use? (economic data, basket of goods survey etc.)

  15. WG*

    My employer is undergoing downsizing and offering incentives for people to voluntarily leave. I’m a bit later in my career, but not anywhere near close enough to being able to retire. My boss has implied my job is safe if I want to stay, but there are no guarantees.

    I’m torn about whether to stay, which had been my plan all along – to stay here until retirement. Or should I explore other opportunities while I still have 15 or more years until retirement?

    Are there others who’ve switched careers or industries that have advice? What things should I be considering in making a decision?

    1. Sunflower*

      You should 100% be looking at other opportunities even if you don’t take them.

      I would put a ton of weight in your bosses last point- there are no guarantees. And that doesn’t matter if your company is downsizing or expanding or if you’re 25 days or 25 years on the job. 15 years is a long time and anything can change in that time frame. This is just one event of downsizing- it doesn’t mean more are definitely to come but it’s probably not a great sign either.

      Do you have to switch industries or careers to switch positions? I’m not sure how much time you have to decide but there is no cost to exploring what else is out there. I’d strongly encourage you to see what else is out there before you make the decisions to stay or go.

      1. WG*

        Unfortunately, there’s a short window for the incentive to leave. But I think you’re right that I should be looking. Because if the incentives don’t generate enough interest, the next step is probably layoffs.

        1. Jerry Vandesic*

          How good is the incentive? It it large enough to cover more time than you would likely be able to stay in a job that is at risk? For example, if they are offering 3 months of severance, but you would likely not lose you job in another layoff for 6 months, then it would be best to stay, and start looking immediately for a new job. You are better off having a job when searching for a new one, especially if you are an older worker.

    2. Phlox*

      One thing to consider, depending on how many folks are leaving, is what impact the smaller team will have on your work flow and team culture. Are enough senior employees leaving that institutional knowledge will be impacted?

    3. Marley*

      I would definitely start looking for other jobs, to see what’s out there.

      How generous are the incentives? Could it fund essentially a sabbatical while you look for another job?

      1. WG*

        The incentives aren’t overly generous. It would only support a short gap before I’d need to have steady employment again.

        1. Hermione*

          You might also want to be careful to figure out if you would be one of those who would be offered an incentive. If your job is one that wouldn’t be eliminated – that is, essential enough that they would need to replace you – perhaps you wouldn’t be offered an incentive and then would be effectively outing your own job search?

    4. Slippy*

      If you can switch jobs without changing careers or industries you may want to start looking. With downsizing there is generally downward pressure on wages and raises; on the other hand going to a new company means that you need to start accruing vacation all over again. You should look at the overall health of your current organization and determine if the organization is downsizing to trim excess people/functions or if company is in financial trouble. If they are in financial trouble you want to be one of the first ones out the door.

    5. Where's the Le-Toose?*

      I have two comments in one–the first from my wife’s perspective and one from my own.

      For my wife, she had an experience similar to this 2 years ago. She was working for a Fortune 500 company that was downsizing. They offered incentives and not enough people took those offers. Even though her boss said her job wasn’t in jeopardy, when it came time for layoffs, they started targeting a lot of highly compensated employees. Since my wife was making more than others in her job class (because of 20 years experience), they let her go notwithstanding the comments from her boss.

      At first she was really upset by this. But she did get a severance package and the early layoff became a benefit because with the layoffs 9 months after my wife’s layoff, there was no severance package. All people got was their last check and an empty box to clean out their office. So she made out in the end.

      My wife’s advice is that in the private sector, the first round of layoffs may not be the only round of layoffs, and she feels you should start looking.

      As for me, I’m also in a similar position to you, but without the pending layoffs. I’m a managing attorney for a public sector agency, and I plan on retiring in another 16 years. While I love my job, I am looking for different opportunities, but still as a lawyer. (Side note–if I had to give up law, I’d work at Trader Joe’s or run a forklift at Costco). For me the biggest consideration is salary. I’m finding that if I want to stay in the public sector, my options are really limited unless I’m willing to take a pay cut, which we can’t afford. But my job is really secure, so I can afford to be more picky. The other issues I’m considering are the mission of the agency (e.g. looking at government positions where we are helping the general public), work-life balance, and commute.

      Best of luck to you WG. And please let us know how things go for you!

  16. Solaire*

    I need help with asking for ADA accommodations.

    Here’s the story: I’ve been in regular treatment for years for a psychological condition I have. Outwardly it’s invisible – I don’t have an inhaler, walk with a cane, or anything similar.

    A couple of jobs ago, I requested accommodations for the condition. My boss at that job didn’t like HR telling him how to treat me, and ignored the accommodations I got and filled my personnel file with fake write-ups. He was considered a rock star, so HR let him bully me out of that company. Since then I’ve been afraid of going through the accommodations process.

    Now I’m in a new job. Recently my disability has been getting in the way of work. A few days ago, my boss sent a “come to Jesus” email to me saying he wanted to see significant changes now, with no excuses.

    After that I realized I can’t put off talking to HR about accommodations again. I sent them an email asking to begin the process. No reply (this is a recurring problem with our HR). I sent them another one the next day with “formal request for ADA accommodations” in the title. They didn’t reply to that one, either.

    I can’t approach HR in person because they’re in a different county than I am and it’d be a 2 hour trip to get there. And I’m nervous about calling them because I don’t want anyone else in the office to find out that I have this problem. I’m afraid people would think I’m an entitled millennial trying to get out of working.

    What should I do? I’m thinking of telling my boss, because HR tends to respond very quickly once he’s involved. On the other hand, he said “no excuses” … but ADA is a law, not an excuse.

    Please help. I’m losing sleep and worried I’ll be fired.

    1. Florida*

      I have requested accommodations once at work (several times in college). I have epilepsy and couldn’t drive because of it. Our office had multiple local sites. I was primarily at one site, but occasionally had meetings at another.
      In my case, I told my boss very early on that I can’t drive right now because I have seizures. I can arrive at whatever location he wants me at in the morning. Ideally, I could stay there all day, but if not, the reasonable accommodations I would need is for someone to drive me to the new site. Sometimes he would schedule a meeting, and I would always say, “Any chance we can meet at this location. Otherwise, I’ll need the company to accommodate my disability.” Usually they would change the meeting location, unless I could ride with another person going to the meeting. They never had someone specifically drive me there (although, they would have had to, if was necessary)

      It doesn’t bother me to tell people I have epilepsy, but don’t feel like you have to explain your specific situation. I spoke directly to my boss. He was understanding, so HR never got involved. In retrospect though, it might have been smart to include them on emails just to cover my butt. I liberally used the words “disability” and “reasonable accommodation”. Sometimes I phrase it as “ADA accommodation”. I also approached it as if it was going to happen. This was not a request that would be helpful of convenient. This was a request that the company is required to do.

      1. Solaire*

        I’m autistic. I left that out of the original comment because it’s stigmatized, but I was diagnosed as a child and I see a therapist regularly to practice CBT so I can learn to handle myself better in social situations. The negative stigma around autism spectrum disorders is one reason I’m very nervous about calling HR.

        I’ve learned from the past and am trying to politely but firmly assert the rights I have.

        1. cryptid*

          I have really really struggled to get accommodations – I’m also autistic. Bosses and HR have mostly ignored me when I ask. idk how to fix it, but I wish you luck.

    2. AngelicGamer aka that visually impaired peep*

      Is it possible for your doctor to write out a note for you to take to your boss? That way, it’s less excuses and more that it is a recognized medical condition, at least in how he spelled it out in the email. Also, I’d be clear in saying “this is not excusing my behavior. This is so I can work better for you and I apologize for not bringing it up before as I thought I could handle it”. Good luck and (((Hugs))) as I hope it helps.

      1. Solaire*

        My boss has said he wants to see certain things right now, and my next appointment isn’t for two weeks. December is a bad time to try and schedule a medical appointment.

        My therapist and doctor have spoken to HR at old jobs for accommodation purposes in the past. I think including that I’m willing to put HR in touch with the medical professionals I work with would be a show of good faith, at least.

        1. Temperance*

          I would prepare a list of accommodations that will help you before reaching out to your boss. Proactively show him how you can do your job and meet his requirements with X, Y, and Z supports.

          1. Solaire*

            Because I’m autistic and that has a negative perception problem, I worry a lot about confiding my condition in someone. But I don’t think there’s much of a choice here.

            1. On The Other Side*

              If it helps, I’m autistic and my boss/co-workers think it is awesome. I’m in tech, so they assume I’m a savant wizard of all coding and logic things. They cut me some slack when I don’t catch social cues, and they challenge me to come up with new tech solutions that they wouldn’t ask of anyone else. It was actually cool to come out of the spectrum closet.

              1. Solaire*

                Thank you. This was very relieving to read. I’m also a software engineer, and when I can spend most of my working hours on that, I do great. I can basically hold an entire medium large scale system (100KLOC) in my head.

                Outside of work, I’m much more relaxed and aware of social cues. But when I’m on the clock I feel a constant mental pressure to not make any mistakes, not sound stupid, anything like that. Someone stopping by my desk to ask me for something can be a blur for me: I shut down, and I can’t remember any of it.

                If this sounds like anxiety, you’re right. I’m also in treatment for that.

            2. Someone else*

              I don’t know if this makes you feel at all better, and I realize everyone is different so your circumstance may not play out as mine have, but I’ve found the stigma about autism to be significantly less than stigma about mental illnesses in general. Regardless of which one is the reason for your need for accommodation, as both are entirely valid, anecdotally I’d expect less flak from a less-than-decent employer learning about an autism diagnosis. In an ideal world they’d not be a jerk about either way if you’re asking for an accommodation.

              1. Solaire*

                Thanks. Unfortunately, you’re right. I have some close friends who are bipolar and they’ve gotten a lot of flak for it.

                My hesitation to “come out” to my boss and ask for accommodations is part the cultural perception of ASD, part my previous experience with it, part my boss saying “no excuses”. Asking for legally required accommodations for a disorder is totally different from making an excuse, but there’s a lot of nuance and perception stuff there that I have a lot of trouble with.

            3. Specialk9*

              I think that telling people you’re autistic can actually make them much more inclined to cut you slack on things. I’d include a mini-tutorial on what that means for you, since it’s a gigantic spectrum with wide variety – eg “I’m on the autism spectrum, so that means that I need you to tell me things directly instead of hinting or communicating with body language, because my brain isn’t able to read those signals. I also sometimes tend to fidget, and find big groups stressful. But I’ve been dealing with this for a long time and have strategies that work, so let me know if there’s a problem and I can fix it.”

    3. Rex*

      Have you tried to call HR yet? That would be my next step. After 2-3 calls with no response, then I would be looping in my boss. Are you in the US?

      1. Solaire*

        I am in the US, and my company falls under ADA requirements.

        After reading the comments here I’ve decided that I should email my boss and be very clear that it’s not an excuse for previous performance, but a desire to do better. I have some trepidation about that because of my past experiences, but Natalie’s post convinced me I need to go for it.

    4. Temperance*

      Solitaire, I think you should call from a conference room, if you can, for privacy.

      I also think it might be a good idea to have a chat with your psychiatrist and ask him or her for suggestions on how to work with your issues.

    5. Bibliovore*

      There is a lot going on here. I am not a lawyer but I do have ADA accommodations.
      First thing- HR is not your friend, not your advocate, and not there to help the person with the disabilities. They are there to make sure that the employer is complying with employment law and not going to get sued.

      Second- put everything in writing.

      Accommodations are about enabling you to do your job. Are there reasonable accommodations that would do that? Depends on the job. If a receptionist has to sit at a front desk and be there on time every day at 8:00 am sharp, even if she needs an accommodation due to a disorder that prevents her from arriving to work on time, the accommodation is not a reasonable one and yes, she can be fired.

      A person in my position sometimes has to lift heavy boxes. I am unable to lift more than 5 lbs. The accommodation is that I ask for help and someone else lifts, carries, shelves boxes. It is a small part of my job and not essential and this is a reasonable accommodation.

      You can google to get the ADA compliant language that fits your situation.

      1. Solaire*

        I’m autistic. I didn’t include that in the original post because there’s a lot of stigma around ASD and I try to avoid it.

        Unfortunately, I’m familiar with everything you said re: HR. I have personal copies (BCC’d) of my emails which all have titles like “Formal Request For Accommodations Under The Americans With Disabilities Act.”

        Because I have difficulty with prioritizing and speaking in social situations, I am asking for things like all deadlines in writing ASAP. My bad boss refused to do that because he was too busy. My current boss seems more reasonable, but I’m very anxious about telling him because of his “no excuses” line.

        Since this isn’t my first rodeo, I’m trying to cover my bases. So I’ve decided to email my boss and tell him that I’ve requested accommodations from HR. It will look much different if I’m let go immediately after I ask my boss for accommodations than if he never hears about it.

        1. Bibliovore*

          Okay this makes sense.
          First things first.
          Look at your job description.
          Note the things you are doing well- that is meeting expectations.
          Note the things that your supervisor has a concern about.
          For example- are you not completing assigned tasks in a timely manner?
          Note in writing that you own up to this.
          In the same email note how you will succeed in meeting this expectation. Create a plan.
          For example- you supervisor passes by your desk, talks a mile-a-minute assigning Task A. You are now already working on task B. and C. and are unsure of the priorities.
          Immediately send an email describing the new assignment, the time it will take to complete. Confirm the competing tasks for your time and their due dates.
          Suggest a completion time- like Friday end-of-day if one isn’t assigned.
          Communicate if you are not going to complete by that time.

          If the accommodation you need is to have all your assignments in writing and your supervisor is incapable of doing that, how can you work around this?

          I did have an employee with this need. I did put every assignment in writing and asked for an email back confirming an understanding of task and due dates.

          1. Jules the Third*

            I really like these suggestions – they:
            1) Demonstrate that you recognize your boss’s concerns
            2) Show that you *want* to work on them
            3) Give a constructive path on how you can improve

            In the end, your boss wants the performance. A good boss will help you get it. Your other boss was an awful boss.

            As for the stigma around autism, yes, it’s real, but it’s not universal. A growing number of people have family with autism, and are becoming more aware of how it works – the challenges and benefits of neurodiversity. (Background: My kid has autism; I test with a lot of autistic traits but not enough for them to diagnose an adult woman; I’m totally with you on the CBT for my OCD) I have been pleasantly surprised the two times I disclosed my OCD at work – I met with a lot of sympathy. I’ve even been able to trade tips with a co-worker whose daughter has OCD. I still don’t go around sharing it widely – your experience is too all too possible.

          2. Solaire*

            Thank you very much. This is almost exactly what I need.

            To be honest, I’ve tried doing that, but most of the time I don’t get a reply…

    6. Natalie*

      Maybe it helps to remember that, from what you’ve written here, your *worst case* scenario is not bringing this up to your boss. If that happens, it sounds like it’s pretty much settled that your performance will continue to suffer and you will risk being let go. If you don’t mention it, it sounds like there is a quite low chance of a positive outcome.

      Bringing it up with your boss, on the other hand, has some risk of the same outcome as saying nothing. But it has a much higher chance of a positive outcome than saying nothing does.

      Your mental health doctor is also a good resource to help you get this figured out.

      1. Solaire*

        Thank you. You laid the situation out clearly for me.

        I think that in the worst case, that would go like:

        1. I send him an email saying “Boss, I am autistic and I have reached out to HR about accommodations for my condition. Please let me know if you have any questions about this and I’ll do my best to answer them”
        2. He sees the email as an excuse or back talk and refuses/fires me/etc.

        There’s a pretty clear paper trail.

        This could go a lot of different ways, but I think that telling him (and saving the email!) will only help. Again, thank you.

        1. Natalie*

          Other people are better at wording than me, but one thing I would add is to make it more clear that the accommodations you’re requesting are directly related to the performance concerns he has raised.

          1. Solaire*

            Yes, absolutely. One thing I’m going to add is “because of my ASD, I have trouble with processing information in face to face conversations, which is a cause of the issue you brought up” or something very similar to that.

        2. XK*

          I’d also suggest, just on your end, to really think about what accommodations you need, and how they would enable you to do your job well. As a manager, the part that I would find frustrating would be to learn that you knew you needed certain accommodations to do your job, but did not ask – thereby causing serious problems. (I’m assuming serious since it’s gotten to the breaking point) I’m not asking what you need, as that is not important for us here, but I think if mentally you can line up “If A, then B” you will be better positioned to talk with HR/your boss.

          1. Bibliovore*

            Now reading this. I emphasize as a supervisor for you to be specific about what accommodations that you need to be a success at this position. If you don’t know perhaps there is a someone in employee assistance who can make suggestions.

            I had an employee once whose therapist requested that I provide the employee with more creative work as the repetitious work that the department needed to get done and was part of her job description triggered anxiety. Yes, this became an HR thing. No we could not accommodate her.

            1. Solaire*

              My requests for accommodations qre much more concrete than the example of being more creative.

              They include advance notice for face to face or phone meetings (5 minutes is fine), and all deadlines in writing.

              What is frustrating to me is that I have literal months worth of unanswered emails asking for deadlines and a project roadmap, but management is now telling me they don’t want to hear about that.

              1. Academic Library Specialist*

                I do sympathize with your frustration but I see how this might be the problem. I will respond as a supervisor.
                “What is frustrating to me is that I have literal months worth of unanswered emails asking for deadlines and a project roadmap, but management is now telling me they don’t want to hear about that.”
                I see from further down
                The accommodations I’m asking for are:
                1. Advance notice of all face to face meetings or calls by email. 5-10 minutes would be enough.
                I would not be able to do this. Given my own schedule and responsibilities, I am would find this an unreasonable request. I am not going to be able to stop in the middle of a train of thought, write and email a notice to you for every interaction.
                2. “Assignments with deadlines in email. I can provide this myself but in that case I’ll need some confirmation from them; just replying “That’s right,” or “please do this other thing first” is enough. ” I think this is reasonable but if you supervisor is not giving you deadlines or feedback, if you put the project plan and deadlines in writing and meet those expectations, at least if it comes up in a one-on-one you can point to the non-response as a confirmation of right action.
                3. Change of seating. Right now I sit in a windowless area that also is very high traffic, and all of that gives me a lot of background stress.
                Is there another area in the office that would work better? Are you discomforting someone else with this request? Have you tried headphones or some other solution.

                Advice for a when interviewing- always ask to be shown where that position would be working .

                1. Solaire*

                  if you supervisor is not giving you deadlines or feedback, if you put the project plan and deadlines in writing and meet those expectations, at least if it comes up in a one-on-one you can point to the non-response as a confirmation of right action.

                  This is what I attempted to do with my boss before, but he didn’t want to hear it. I don’t know if that’s something which should be brought to HR: that he’s saying I didn’t do X when I have it in writing that I did and he never responded.

                  I think that trying to “debate” my performance with him would go worse than asking for accommodations for a disorder which the law says I’m allowed to ask for.

                  Is there another area in the office that would work better? Are you discomforting someone else with this request? Have you tried headphones or some other solution.

                  We have open seats in a different area. Part of the problem is that right now, I sit far away from my team. I sit next to another team. The other team has lots of people coming to talk to them, and those people mistake me for being on that team. If I’m wearing headphones they’ll tap me on the shoulder which makes me very uncomfortable.

                  Advice for a when interviewing- always ask to be shown where that position would be working .

                  I did, but by the time I started there there were no free cubicles left in that area. A few months later, there’s unused cubicles back by where I was shown.

        3. OhNo*

          It would probably be good to include in this email a request to meet with him and discuss it, since he’s undoubtedly going to want more information and assurance that your performance will improve. That meeting would be the best place to tie the accommodations you’re requesting directly to the performance issues he’s worried about. I’m picturing something like this:

          “Boss, I’m really taking your concerns about my performance in X and Y seriously, which is why I’m requesting these accommodations now. I didn’t want to/don’t like to share my disability status, but I realized that the best way for me to meet your expectations consistently is with these adjustments to the workflow: (list of accommodations).”

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I like this a lot. It shows a plan to build a path out of the issues the boss has raised.

          2. Solaire*

            This is very good. I’ll be sending him something very similar to this when I get into work on Monday morning. Thank you!

        4. Half-Caf Latte*

          I’m not an HR/ADA expert, but I’d encourage you to change your wording in #1. To me, it reads as “I’ve asked HR for accommodations, not you, but I’ll tell you only if you ask.”

          While you are not wrong in engaging HR for ADA accommodations, from reading your other comments it seems as though the accommodations you’re asking for are things that need to come directly from boss.

          If I were the boss in this scenario, I’d be miffed that my employee went to HR to request accommodations, but wasn’t up front with me about what those accomodations were (in a way that made clear that they were accommodations vs. employee trying to push her preferred work style), even though they directly impacted me.

          1. Solaire*

            Oh no… I sent off an email pretty similar to what I wrote out.

            How can I recover from it? What I thought to do was send out the requests and the reasoning (like, “I would request that assignments and their deadlines be sent to me in email, because I have trouble with understanding things like tone of voice due to my ASD”), but I really don’t understand a boss’ mindset.

            1. Half-Caf Latte*

              So what stuck in my craw was the “please ask me if you have any questions”.

              Of course boss is going to have questions – in order to give you the accommodations, boss needs to understand what they are. This isn’t like you’ve asked for a special chair for a bad back, you’re asking for boss to change the way they interact with you.

              If you didn’t specify what the acoomodations are, boss is left to speculate whether it is something immensely burdensome/expensive/whatever.

              “Please ask IF you have questions” makes me feel you think that boss shouldn’t have questions, or that it’s not up to you to communicate your specific needs. This needs to be a two-way dialogue, not an email.

              OhNo gave you a nice script above, which I think you could incorporate into a follow up.

              If you did lay out the accommodations- follow up by saying “I realized I’d actually like to meet about this to make sure we are on the same page.”

              If you didn’t address the accommodations, I’d say that you realized you neglected to include them,
              Briefly explain what they are and how they’ll address the performance concerns, and request a meeting.

              Don’t worry, your initial email wasn’t awful sounding but I want you to set up the most positive working relationship you can!

              1. Solaire*

                I see exactly what you mean. I’m uncomfortable even describing myself as autistic and wanted to end the “conversation” as soon as possible… but my boss is not a mind reader. Thanks!

    7. Thursday Next*

      A small point alongside the great suggestions offered here—would it help to approach it as a neurological, rather than a psychological, condition (which is how you describe it in your original post)? Framing it this way can shape the discussion of accommodations differently. Sadly, people are all over the map in their view of psychological conditions, while they may translate as “mental illness” (which shouldn’t be stigmatized, but often is).

      Advocate for yourself matter-of-factly—you are legally entitled to these accommodations, which you’re seeking in order to better your work performance. I think as several posters suggested, it’s really helpful to approach situations like this with an of-course-we-are-all-on-the-same-page attitude.

      My son is HFA, and I think a lot about how to help him advocate for himself as he gets older. Sending good wishes your way!

    8. Solaire*

      Here’s an update.

      HR finally replied, yesterday afternoon. The entire reply was “I’ll look into it sometime.” That isn’t very relieving but I have personal copies of all the emails. So in the worst case where they never handle the request and I get fired, it’ll help me with getting unemployment.

      I emailed my boss, but he didn’t reply either. I didn’t see him in the office today, but he did reply to other emails, so I’m not sure what’s going on. He could need a bit to process it or it could be something worse. I’m trying not to assume anything though, but I’m pretty stressed out by this, as evidenced by me posting about it on Saturday morning. Either way on Monday I’m going to email a list of accommodations and offer to meet with him face to face when he has time.

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

      I know that however it goes, I can handle it. And at future jobs I’ll be more proactive about requesting accommodations, within the first month.

  17. Murphy*

    I had a baby this year. Her daycare took cute pictures, so my husband and I had them made into Christmas cards. They only let you order in batches of 25, so we ended up ordering way more than we need. Would it be weird to give some to a few co-workers (leaving aside that they’re explicitly Christmas)? It’s just a photo of my daughter, and it’s signed “The Warbleworth Family. Fergus, Murphy, Daughter, Dog 1, and Dog 2.” FWIW, we have friendly small talk about kids and stuff all the time.

    1. Erin*

      First of all I’m jealous because we got Santa photos that you could order in batches of 25 or 50 – we went with 25, ended up needing like 30, so I scanned one and ordered more from Shutterfly, and they’re just a bit fuzzy. So a few people are getting subpar cards. Lucky you you have extra!

      Anywho, I’d advise against this. I’m planning on giving my coworkers cards, but no kid pictures. I don’t think it would be a crazy faux pas, but I’m worried it might be a tiny bit presumptuous or weird. My coworkers like to see pictures of my baby, but I feel like they probably don’t need to actually have one.

    2. KL*

      I think it depends on your office. Most people in my office give each other Christmas cards, including the personalized noes like yours, but it’s not required. To us, it’s not weird.

    3. Temperance*

      I would love to receive a card like that. Do it! Seriously, a former coworker gave me a card LAST YEAR with an extremely cute dog photo, and it’s still up.

    4. marymoocow*

      I wouldn’t recommend giving them to coworkers, particularly since they also carry the awkwardness element of being tied to a specific religious holiday, unless you know that each one would be receptive. But there are lots of cute things you can do with the leftover pictures. You could frame them, turn them into Christmas ornaments, save one with all the cards your daughter receives and turn it into a “baby’s first Christmas” album, and more. And that’s just for Christmas. If you want to think long term, you can put them into a photo album that shows your daughter growing over the years (take a similar picture every year!) and give them to your daughter when she graduates.

    5. Lemon Zinger*

      What is your relationship like with your coworkers? Do they know and like your baby? If not, I think it would be a little odd.

    6. zora*

      If you have a few coworkers you are friendly with and talk to about non-work things occasionally, go for it!!! People love getting cute kid photos, and even though I am not Christian, I wouldn’t be offended or anything, I would think it was just a nice friendly co-worker thing.

      However, I did have a kind of weird thing this year. One of my coworkers who works in another city sent her family Christmas photo card to Every. Single. Employee. It was mailed to my home address. I have maybe emailed with her a dozen times since I started working here, and we spoke in person for about 5 minutes at a company meeting one time.

      I felt like that was a little odd and over the top because I have never had one personal conversation with her ever. And it’s not like everyone in the company does it, hers is the only one I’ve received. So, I wouldn’t just indiscriminately pass them out to everyone just because you have extras. I think it’s appropriate for people you have had a couple of conversations with and feel friendly with.

    7. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

      I think it would be a bit odd, but you could give one to the people you are closest to. I’d try to come up with some cute craft things for the extras myself.

      This reminds me of my high school graduation photos. My uncle was a professional photographer so he did the pictures. My aunt got some kind of deal and decided to order 100 copies of the wallet sized photos. I did not know 100 people who would want a photo of me. I thought it would be funny to turn them into a deck of playing cards but I never got around to it.

  18. 42*

    Hi everyone –

    Here’s something I never understood regarding exempt, salaried positions (which I am): The law states that if you work any part of a week, you need to be paid for the full week. If an exempt employee runs out of PTO (sick and vacation) and they get sick again and need to take time off, how does that work?

    This is not happening to me or anyone I know; but a hypothetical that I’ve always wondered about but never remember to ask here. Online searches don’t make it any clearer to me.

    Thanks, happy Friday!

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      The law states that if you work any part of a week, you need to be paid for the full week.

      I’m assuming this is for where you live, because I don’t believe this is universal.

      If an exempt employee runs out of PTO (sick and vacation) and they get sick again and need to take time off, how does that work?

      That said, I actually got hit with a bout of sickness once at a job that was fairly strict with the rules, and I just had to come in when sick, because I’d used up all my sick days. It was kind of ridiculous.

      1. Natalie*

        I’m assuming this is for where you live, because I don’t believe this is universal.

        It’s universal within the United States, as its part of the FLSA. However, there are some common exceptions:

        – first or last week of work, if it is a partial week
        – unpaid suspensions
        – full day absence for personal reason other than sicknesss
        – full day absence for sickness if the company has a “bona fide” sick plan

    2. Tired Scientist*

      When I first started at my current job (salaried exempt), the company had a shutdown week a few months after my first day. I hadn’t accumulated enough PTO for the whole week, and HR was unsure what to do with me. I ended up taking some days unpaid, which was fine with me, but I got the sense that HR wasn’t sure that was ok.

      1. Natalie*

        If the company was closed for an entire week, they were perfectly fine – you only have to pay exempt employees for weeks in which they do some work, so if you did no work that week you weren’t required to be paid. There’s no federal law governing PTO, so they can charge all of it or none of it or some of it to whatever extent they want.

    3. Jessie the First (or second)*

      Exempt employees can be made to take unpaid sick days without losing exempt status, if they run out of PTO and it’s consistent with the company’s policies.

      What an employer cannot do is dock pay for an employee who, for example, shows up 30 minutes late on a workday. And an employer who tells an exempt worker to stay home for a day because (for example) the company thinks it doesn’t happen to have work for the employee to do that day cannot dock the employee’s pay for that employer-mandated absence.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        And by consistent with policies, I mean – if the company offers a real paid sick leave program, the company can allow exempt employees to take unpaid days off once they have exhausted their sick leave. (According to federal law, anyway – some states have broader sick leave rules).

      2. 42*

        >>Exempt employees can be made to take unpaid sick days without losing exempt status,<<

        But isn't that contradictory with having to be paid for the entire week if they worked part of the week?

        1. Natalie*

          The deduction is allowed “if the deduction is made in accordance with a bona fide plan, policy or practice of providing compensation for salary lost due to illness”.

          1. 42*

            What would be an example of that? I’m not trying to be dense, I promise – just trying to understand it.

            1. Natalie*

              Typically your standard sick time policy that you find in the handbook. As long as their is some kind of standardized plan to provide some amount of compensation for sick time, that’s a policy. Once the person runs out of sick time, you can deduct for any full day absences.

              But if you were a small business and gave your employees zero PTO, you would not be able to make any deductions for illness until the person had been out for a full week.

            2. Jessie the First (or second)*

              42, the DOL has said that it means a company offers specific paid sick leave, tells its employees about the benefit, administers it fairly, and it isn’t designed specifically to avoid the rules on paying exempt employees on a salary basis.

              So basically, does the company provide a certain number of sick days to people upon hire (or after some initial waiting period)? Are the days generally standard across the whole company (allowing for differences in, for example, elgibility/waiting periods)?
              If so, that’s a bona fide plan.

    4. KJDubreuil*

      You can’t work 30 minutes every Monday or Friday morning and be paid for the whole week for weeks on end. You are either out sick or back at work. However if you work Monday and Tuesday but are out sick the rest of the week you would get a week’s pay. The employer can require you ‘not’ to come back to work until you are well enough to expect to be able to stay at work all week. This is a very gray area, because even exempt employees cannot expect to have ‘unlimited paid sick days’ unless their employer offers that. As an employer I struggle with this because the way the law is written (in my state that is the law) and the practical application of it are quite far apart in my business. I think the law is intended to protect employees that are ready, able and willing to work but whose employer has told them not to come in for business (financial or logistical) reasons.

      1. 42*

        >>You can’t work 30 minutes every Monday or Friday morning and be paid for the whole week for weeks on end<<

        Of course, and that's not the nature of my question.

        Here's the gist: If you work Mon, Tues, And Wed, and then get sick on Thurs and Fri, but you're out of PTO, how does THAT work, if you're salaried and exempt and must get paid for the whole week?

        1. CAA*

          For your specific example, there are a couple of choices:
          1) The company can require you to borrow PTO from the future and keep a negative balance on the books. If you leave the job before earning back the borrowed PTO, then some states (e.g. California) will not allow them to deduct the advanced vacation pay from your final paycheck.
          2) If the company has a bona fide sick plan (as described above) and you’ve used up all your allotted sick days, then they can decide not to pay you for the Thursday and Friday.

  19. Nervous Accountant*

    I had a super weird/interesting conversation. All I can do is SMH bc I don’t know what else to do here.

    My mgr gave me feedback from our boss that I’m super negative. He doesnt think I am and I have a good attitude and relayed that to her but she says that since I report to him of course I’ll be good in front of him.

    (isnt that what I’m supposed to do? behave well in front of the ppl I report to ???)

    She pointed out that I talk too much to someone else and she thinks that person is very negative*.

    I’m not negative but geeee, you think i’m stupid and don’t deserve to be paid fairly and you constantly berate my team, maybe I do have every reason to be negative? (I’m not) -___-

    It’s ridiculous. There’s so much favoritism that it’s ugly. someone can be extremely unprofessional** (we’re a relaxed office but….still), and everyone lets it slide or laughs it off. There are people who do absolutely nothing and actually complained about being bored, and they’re not swamped with more work to do like the rest of us.

    (* FWIW though, I’ve realized that person is pretty negative so I’ve lessened contact lol but how is it any of her biz who I’m friends with?!)
    ** this is a totally sad, unrelated story that I wanted to share here.

    1. Jesca*

      Yes. You definitely can be judged by those you choose to hang around. It does suck, but its not terribly uncommon for people to do it. This is especially true if that person making the assumption doesn’t have regular contact with you. I would just take this as a heads up that the bosses boss is actually watching more than you may realize.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        I get that (begrudgingly) birds of a feather and all.

        I’m confused by “of course she behaved well in front of you”… isn’t that what I’m supposed to do?

        1. WellRed*

          Well, you are supposed to be well behaved at work, period. Not just in front of your boss. So, either she’s implying that when the boss’s back is turned, you’re not behaving well. Or, you’re actually behaving badly and she’s noticed.

          1. Jesca*

            Yes this is exactly my read as well. Like a “Oh course she isn’t going to show that side to you or myself! But, it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening” kind of thing.

    2. Jessie the First (or second)*

      “I’m not negative but geeee, you think i’m stupid and don’t deserve to be paid fairly and you constantly berate my team, maybe I do have every reason to be negative? (I’m not) “….. “There’s so much favoritism that it’s ugly. someone can be extremely unprofessional** (we’re a relaxed office but….still), and everyone lets it slide or laughs it off. There are people who do absolutely nothing and actually complained about being bored, and they’re not swamped with more work to do like the rest of us.”…

      I mean, you sound in this post like you absolutely hate the place you work, and so perhaps your poker face about that isn’t as good as you think it is, and that’s really what your boss is picking up on? That’s something to consider. If you don’t want to appear negative, be aware how much your angry feelings about your employer are showing through. Might be more than you think. Your friend who is negative – I suppose that could be a real boundary violation by the employer to notice, care, and try to police who you hang out with, or it could be a reasonable heads-up – that depends on the specifics of that coworker (like, is the coworker a gossip who is a little negative, or is the coworker a toxic explosion of negativity causing trouble? And are you seen talking a *lot* at work, or just normal friendliness?)

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        I don’t hate it, well not all of it. I enjoy the work itself and (most of) my coworkers. There are a few things about this place I don’t enjoy. I was simply venting bc I’m frustrated about this conversation but otherwise I have mostly good days and get good feedback.

        And that person, yeah we were close. It’s been a while since we spoke though and I picked up on that a while back about the negativity. It irked me that she was berating my whole team along with me. *shrugs*

    3. Helpful*

      Well, it can be helpful to know how you’re perceived. You can work on being perceived as more positive. That might help. It might be true and your manager doesn’t want to have an awkward conversation, or it might be true only in certain interactions. To me, it’s notable you think you (only?) need to behave well to the people you report to; does that mean you don’t feel that same obligation with others? If not, that could be subtly influencing others’ perception.

      If nothing else, fake a positive attitude while you work on the job hunt.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        No I didn’t mean that I can act badly in front of others, that’s absolutely not at all what I meant. I’m pretty relaxed around my manager and I’m the same way in front of others.

        1. NW Mossy*

          “Relaxed” can be a double-edged sword at work, especially in an environment like yours where there’s a lot of office politics. Just because your direct colleagues/boss have earned enough of your trust to get your candor doesn’t mean that those who haven’t can’t still hear what you’ve said in less guarded moments.

          One of the things that’s helped me step in it less often was to make a game of phrasing my comments in a way that is both truthful but scrupulously professional, as if I were a BBC commentator. There’s a certain power in being able to express yourself that way, and with practice, it buys you a lot of freedom to raise issues without worrying that you’re going to be ridden out of town on a rail.

          1. SignalLost*

            I love playing that game. I can be incredibly critical of something in a way most people don’t catch fully. It’s hard to explain in a way, but it’s like … imagine you’re being sued and you have to say something critical of the person suing you but you don’t want to add anything to the suit. So instead of calling someone a neat freak, you point out that they’re overly detail-oriented. Anyone who listens understands what you said, but you said nothing that would be perceived as negative by most people.

      2. Jennifer*

        I have gotten in trouble for being too negative. I literally had to stop talking all day in my office to combat that. (Of course, it’s fine for my coworkers who reported me to talk whatever shit they like….sometimes my mind boggles at the shit said. But for them it’s fine!)
        If anyone’s complaining about you, you’re way better off not talking!

        1. Nervous Accountant*

          Yeah, it’s tough. I actually love talking to my most of my coworkers and I hate having to be so careful. Sucks doesn’t it? I don’t feel like I can be quiet. Having to be quiet. Just triggers some bad times I went through in my personal life.

    4. Nervous Accountant*

      Seriously, am I not allowed to have a negative feeling and vent about it on here without being told that I AM performing badly at work or behaving badly around others ? I thought ppl were allowed to vent their frustrations here.

      1. CAA*

        Since this is an advice board you should probably expect that the default responses when you post here will be from people giving you advice. That’s pretty much what we all want and expect to do when we’re reading here. If you want us all to do something else, it’ll probably go better if you say something explicit like “I’m just venting, no advice needed”.

        1. Nervous Accountant*

          My bad, my initial draft had “I’m venting” in it but I edited it a few times. I ask for advice many times here and take it too! but sometimes I want to vent some frustrations without being told I actually AM doing the bad things I’m being accused of venting about

      2. Bibliovore*

        yes, this is a place to vent. The weird vibe of your vent is what caught people’s attention.
        A person is called on the carpet for having a bad attitude and hanging out with others who have a similar affect.
        The person complains about being reprimanded but displays the language of a bad attitude in the complaint.

        1. Nervous Accountant*

          Idk. I guess it’s hard for me to really convey a lot of things when I’m typing from my phone since I can’t access this site from my computer. I’m working throughout the day so I just don’t have a lot of time to pick and choose my words super carefully. I thought nitpicking On someone’s word choice or tone was against the site rules and honestly I’m feeling that this is happening.

          1. TL -*

            Hmm. You’re clearly not happy at this job and you’ve complained a lot about it here. Your boss does sound pretty bad but I think there’s a good chance you’re coming off more negative than you realize, at least from the sum of your posts here.
            We’re not nitpicking language or tone, we’re pointing out that actually you have lots of issues with your workplace and that kind of thing tends to show.

      3. Panda Bandit*

        Vent away! It sounds like the boss who complained about you doesn’t really have a leg to stand on. She needs to give concrete examples, because right now it looks like she’s decided to pick on you middle-school style. It’s good that your manager stood up for you.

        1. Nervous Accountant*

          Thank you! That’s what I said too-that she’s grasping at straws. She also told him that I had a long conversation wth her about how unhappy I was and upset about things here and that’s absolutely NOT true. Again I never have any interaction with her, and he knows and sees this as well so he was taken aback at that accusation

      4. Jessie the First (or second)*

        Of course you can vent.

        I don’t see people here saying “you are bad at your job and behaving badly.” I mean, I said maybe your feelings are more visible than you intend them to be – that’s not you behaving badly or being bad at your job, that’s just the reality of how our emotions work a lot of the time, you know? And NW Mossy is just pointing out that “relaxed” atmosphere can sometimes lead to trouble in environments with lots of office politics. And WellRed was just laying out the different options for why your manager said that. Basically, this is just…advice, based on the limited info we have.

        Vent away. I don’t see how these comments are really critical of you. You’re in a job where there are some difficult issues.

  20. Q*

    So I have my first office Christmas-thing on Monday. It’s a potluck. What do people who can’t cook bring to potlucks? Cookies and chips are already claimed (Also, I moved this weekend, so I don’t even have anything to cook with!)!

    It’s also a white elephant and I can’t bring a gift card, but I guess I’ll…find something when a friend wants to go Christmas shopping with me this weekend.

    1. JoAnna*

      if you have a crockpot, bring hot apple cider! if you want some extra pizzazz, add some mulling spices.

      1. Bored IT Guy*

        Or if you can’t afford the good cheddar and pricey crackers, cheez whiz and a sleeve of Ritz crackers? :)

      2. Havarti*

        Yes! Trader Joe’s has this cracker trio in garlic, rosemary, and chili flavors that I adore. I have to get some for gifts I’m assembling (and for myself!)

      1. Paquita*

        I’m late reading this but I took a bag of clementines to my sister’s house for Thanksgiving. Gave one to everybody to take home. They thought it was a good idea!

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I made this comment above– sort of– but personally, I love dip of all kinds. It doesn’t have to be fancy. I love to cook and I’m pretty good at it, but I still think a party isn’t a party without onion dip. Homemade onion dip is ok, but if you were my co-worker and brought in the kind made with a pint of sour cream and some Lipton mix and a bag of really good potato chips, I would be very happy.

      On the dip theme… Tex-Mex layer dip is really easy and no-cook, too. A can of refried beans, a jar of salsa, some sour cream, shredded cheese, store-bought guac. Delicious. (Usually there are seven layers and it’s called “Seven Layer Dip”, but the layers I listed are the only ones I want.)

      Nice hummus and a tray of crudite would also be welcome. Check out the prepared foods case of your local supermarket for other dips. Even Costco makes a really awesome spinach and artichoke dip. I could seriously eat nothing but dip and be very happy.

      1. Cathy*

        I make a fabulous dip called Mexican Mess. You make it in the microwave so you can make it fresh for the potluck! No cooking skills required – just opening cans and unwrapping cheese.
        Put an 8 ounce package of cream cheese in a 9×9 square pan and nuke it until it’s spreadable. Smooth it over the bottom of the dish.
        Dump a can of chili with no beans on top and spread it evenly.
        Add a bag of shredded cheese. Microwave until cheese melts.
        Serve with a sturdy chip like Fritos scoops – the dip is fairly heavy!

        1. Parenthetically*

          My mouth is watering. I would eat that forever.

          Similar dip requiring only minimal cooking is a package jimmy dean sausage (browned), a box of velveeta, and can of ro-tel in a crockpot, with similarly sturdy chips. It’s… insane. Like I can feel my arteries clogging but just do not care.

    3. Libby*

      Check the prepared food section in your grocery store for things like pot pies, casseroles, or salads. Or maybe volunteer to bring drinks, like apple cider or egg nog.

    4. Q*

      I wonder if something like a container of peanut brittle might work? I don’t think anyone’s allergic to nuts.

    5. paul*

      If I don’t have time/don’t feel like cooking I’m big on veggie/fruit trays. I don’t get premade ones most of the time (too pricey, tend to be crappy selection and quality). Cut up a mix of bell peppers, get some strawberries and grapes, cucumber, whatever’s seasonal.

      If your budget allows cheese trays are nice but holy crap that’s expensive.

    6. Lisa B*

      Rice Krispie treats. Someone mentioned them above and they’re always a hit! Plus, ahem, you can buy them pre-made if you REALLY can’t cook, then unwrap them, put them on a pretty plate, and cover with aluminum foil. Not that I have ever done that. Nope.

      1. Q*

        Last time I made rice krispie treats, I burned the marshmallows and they came out brown, if that’s an indication.

        (although really, I don’t have a casserole dish or anything to make them in).

        But that’s a good idea, too!

    7. Tired Scientist*

      The deli at the grocery is your friend. Get a large container of whatever you choose, and put it in your own bowl. Nobody needs to know where it came from.

      For the white elephant, “local” stuff is always a hit. My grocery has a section of local foods, like jam, salsa, honey, etc. Depending on the budget, you could make a little basket of locally-produced food.

    8. Marley*

      Buy or make a fruit bowl or veggie tray.

      When you’re at the grocery store, buy some really nice coffee or chocolate for your white elephant gift.

      1. fposte*

        Pro tip: always give a bought veggie tray a good sniff. I have been burned by lethal broccoli a few times.

        1. OhNo*

          Seconded. Twice in the past year, I’ve bought veggie trays for events and had everything be a-okay except the broccoli, which probably could have been used as a biological weapon.

          Buying bags of pre-cut veggies and arranging them yourself can sometimes be a safer option, if the age of the veggie tray is suspect.

    9. DCGirl*

      I bring a tabouleh salad that is constructed as follows:

      1. Buy a box of Near East brand tabouleh
      2. Follow the directions on the box (which involve adding boiling water and the spice packet) and then sticking it in the refrigerator
      3. After it’s chilled, stir in a a diced tomato, a tablespoon of lemon juice, and a tablespoon of olive oil
      4. Chill some more, then add a package of feta cheese

      My husband’s boss requests this for his office potluck every year.

        1. Turkletina*

          I’m picturing someone making a very nice tabbouleh salad and then just leaving a full block of feta on the top.

          1. OhNo*

            “Behold! My (in)famous deconstructed tabbouleh salad. It’s a bowl of uncooked tabbouleh with a block of feta and a whole tomato balanced on top.”

            1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

              As long as you stick a plastic fork in it I don’t see the problem.

    10. Ms. Meow*

      Check with the people who are organizing it. Our Admins who do most of the grunt work for parties gladly take cash for incidentals (plates, cups, napkins, condiments, etc) if you can’t and/or don’t want to bring food in.

    11. [insert witty user name here]*

      You may not even be set up enough to do this, but potentially. This is my go-to for potlucks and people LOOOOVVVEEE them: veggie pizzas.

      Roll out two tubes of crescent rolls into a baking sheet (you could do a disposable aluminum one) and press the seams together to form the base. Bake until lightly golden brown, usually a couple minutes less than the directions (since they are rolled out, not rolled up). Mix together one 8 oz brick of cream cheese, one cup of mayo, and one packet of dry ranch dressing mix. Spread over the cooled crescent roll base. Top with the following (you can usually get these pre-cut at most grocery stores too!): matchstick carrots, broccoli (chopped into bite size pieces), diced red bell pepper, sliced green onion, and shredded cheddar cheese. Cover with foil and press down lightly (helps everything adhere better). Chill for at least two hours; better overnight. Cut into squares and enjoy!

      As for the white elephant, get a mug (or something similar – check the christmas section), fill it with candy and scratch-off lotto tickets. Wrap with tissue paper and ribbon. Done!

    12. Yorick*

      Salad wouldn’t require you to cook. Small sandwiches of some sort might be easy.

      You could also volunteer to bring the plates, bowls, etc.

      1. As Close As Breakfast*

        I love to cook but when I need a dish and don’t have time or feel like cooking, I always go the salad route. They make some amazing salad mixes these days, where you literally just have to open the different little packages and mix everything together. I’m going to a potluck party tonight actually, and in the 30 minutes I’ll have between getting home from work and leaving for the party, I shall be mixing together the Costco Chinese Style Salad Kit (I like this one because it comes with chicken.) You have to purchase the bags of lettuce separately, but it’s SUPER easy and always gets eaten up.

    13. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      Easiest dip ever: 8oz block of cream cheese – let sit out so it can soften and spread on bottom of dish (generally a smaller serving type thing that can fit in a microwave), then pour a can of hormel chili w/o beans on top, then cover with about a cup of shredded cheese. Just before you have your potluck pop into the microwave until the cheese melts. It’s good with tortilla chips.

      1. As Close As Breakfast*

        Another couple of easy cream cheese ‘dips’:

        1. 8oz block of cream cheese – pour a jar of pepper jelly over the block and serve with crackers
        2. 8oz block of cream cheese – pour shrimp cocktail over the block (shrimp and cocktail sauce already mixed together) and serve with crackers

        1. JJtheDoc*

          And the most requested cream cheese appetizer in my recipe collection:
          coat a block of good quality cream cheese in coarsely ground black (or rainbow) pepper and place on the serving plate. De-seed 2-3 small tomatoes, and cut up into small dice. Arrange a line of chopped tomato lengthwise down the center of the block of peppered cheese and put the rest of the chopped tomato around the block. Serve with crackers, baguette slices, etc.

    14. calonkat*

      If you have a crockpot, this is what I bring to potlucks. Dunno where we got the recipe, but we modified it to use whole containers of ingredients so we could just buy everything on the way to work (since we forget such potlucks a lot) The stick of margarine is the only thing that isn’t a whole unit, and you can leave it out if you like.
      Cheesy Potato Goodness
      32 oz pkg frozen hashbrowns. (we like the shredded best) thaw them in microwave if you pick them up on the way to work or put them in the fridge the night before.
      16 oz container sour cream
      3 tablespoons oleo/butter (optional)
      8 oz pk shredded cheddar cheese
      2 cans cream of chicken soup
      Mix it all together in the crockpot and cook on high until potatoes are done.
      We use crockpot liners to save cleanup, especially when taking this someplace. It not, then spray the crockpot with a non-stick spray.

    15. CAA*

      Another no-cook potluck dish is one of those salad-in-a-bag things. Just dump everything into your own bowl and you’re good to go. Lots of times if there’s a sign-up list, the cookies, chips and drinks get taken quickly, but really this kind of salad is almost as easy.

      An easy white elephant gift is a coffee mug filled with chocolate kisses. Wrap in cellophane, tie a ribbon round the top and put the whole thing in a gift bag with some tissue paper. You could also put some envelopes of fancy hot chocolate mix with a candy cane in a mug; or an assortment of tea bags with one of those mini jars of honey. There are lots of combinations that aren’t too difficult or expensive.

    16. Jules the Third*

      Fruit tray or just chopped fruit salad. My husband laughed at me when I picked up the costco fruit salad for a pot luck. It was the first dish to empty out. Everyone else brought desserts or heavy casseroles, and that one poor veggie tray – half full still at the end.

      That said, there’s two easy dishes that get gobbled at the regular pot lucks I go to: deviled eggs or quiche tartlets. You can get hardboiled eggs from the store, and there’s tons of deviling recipes online. You can get the tartlets from many grocery stores’ frozen food aisles, but they only work for evening pot lucks, or ones where you have access to an oven.

    17. ClownBaby*

      White Elephants…omg. So I always did White Elephants as a “Dig through your basement and find some old crap to give away” type thing…so when my office did a white elephant, I thought nothing of it. I dug through my basement and found some creepy talking Rodney Dangerfield doll/puppet thing. It was great. Well…imagine my surprise when all the other gifts are $20 gift cards to the local mall, nice and new headphones, tickets to the pro soccer league games….that poor, poor soul who ended up with my old Rodney Dangerfield doll…

      When did people start buying gifts for white elephants?!? I am only 27…it’s not like times should have changed that much. Was my white elephant tradition of old crap just weird? I’d done several with friends and sports teams before with no problem!

      Also, I am a terrible cook, but dips are so super easy. You can just bring a bag of Tostitos and make buffalo chicken dip (just google buffalo chicken dip for an easy recipe).

      1. Q*

        Not weird. It depends on the group, I think. I’m actually on the team who has to plan this kind of thing for the office, and when we were discussing doing it, one of my other young coworkers is like, “but you have to give me people weird, terrible junk! From Goodwill or your basement or regifts or whatever.” and one of my other coworkers was horrified and didn’t want to play with him.

        We were given a price limit. If I wasn’t 24, just moved out, and have no spare ANYTHING, I’d consider finding something in my basement.

      2. CAA*

        White elephant means different things to different people. Some groups regift kitschy or useless items, others do it by buying something new under a given spending limit. Some groups differentiate between a yankee swap and a white elephant, some don’t. Best thing to do if you’re doing one with a new-to-you group is to ask how it works for them. A lot of people won’t even realize that their understanding of the rules is not universal.

      3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

        I’d never heard of white elephant being anything but wacky or weird gifts, either! In my world the point was to come up with the funniest or strangest gift. So I would definitely have brought some weird thing and then been embarrassed when I got something nice!

    18. Jemima Bond*

      Slightly OT but I am learning so much about American culinary culture from this mini-thread. So far I have googled velveeta, ro-tel and cheese-whiz and learned that in the US cream cheese comes in block form and you can buy powdered salad dressing. (No disparagement meant btw; you are contributing to my education!)

      1. Specialk9*

        I didn’t know what Rotel is either and I’m American. I’m sure I’ve had both Velveeta and Cheez-Wiz at some point in my life but have never bought it. Oh! Philadelphia has sandwiches (Philly cheese steaks) that are shaved beef and lotsa toppings, and the traditional cheese topping is cheez-wiz. I tried it once and wished I had bought real cheese.

  21. Copy Editor*

    I started a job as a copy editor for a media company back in July. My duties mainly consist of editing online articles for publication (the company runs several news sites that are political in nature) and making sure article content adheres to AP style.

    Whereas I have experience as an editor, my previous job (of 8 years) consisted of republishing state, federal, and international regulations to our company website and editing them against the source doc to make sure the two documents were identical.

    This is… very different. I had familiarity with AP style, but until this job I hadn’t used it since college. There’s a LOT to remember, and I cringe every time the senior editor brings up my mistakes (usually minor, like leaving a word capitalized that should be lowercase). Any tips for improving? I’m also trying to balance quality with speed, as we have a lot of articles to get through on a given day.

    Also, is it bad that I’ve been here four months and am still making mistakes? I feel like I should be better at this by now, and it’s frustrating.

    1. 42*

      I’m an editor, but I follow AMA style. I actually think the whole concept of style guides are so fascinating that I pretty much read the AMA Manual of Style from cover to cover. The result being a general familiarity; so when something comes up, I may not remember exact the AMA preference, but I do remember that I did read something about it (if that makes sense – ie, there was definitely a rule there somewhere), and I’d go back and look it up and refresh my memory.

      I have a hard copy, but my company also has an account with the website to access the online version. Maybe you can ask for them to pay for access? When in doubt, look it up.

      As for the 4-month mark and still making mistakes, I don’t know. If I’m making mistakes, I consider it a big spotlight on things that I don’t know, and I make sure to not let it happen again when I invariably encounter it again. After a while, your own knowledge base gets bigger and bigger. Good luck.

    2. Mad Woman*

      I was previously an editor in my first post-college job. I had AP Style beaten into me as a student but I had forgotten a lot of it. My advice would be to get a AP Stylebook and read through each chapter. It sounds silly, but it will help you recognize broader topics that you can look out for (ex. times of day, titles, etc.). Then, keep the book at your desk and check anything you have a question about. To save time, I added tabs to my stylebook for the most frequent topics I had questions about.

      It felt like it took me almost 6-9 months to feel comfortable, and a year to know that I was GOOD at what I did.

    3. Lizabeth*

      I’m not a copy editor but I have to proofread my own work due to the fact the people I have available to proofread my work are crap. The best trick I have is to set it aside to the next day and look at it one more time first thing when I’m fresh, and I have caught stuff doing this. You will get better over time! It’s practice, practice, practice…and 4 months is too short to be beating yourself up over it.

      1. K.*

        In addition to reading things with fresh eyes, which I totally agree with, reading things aloud can be helpful.

    4. Copy Editor*

      I have a hard copy of the AP stylebook, and I can usually find info online about anything that is questionable. We also have an in-house style guide.

      My problem seems to be that if I’m dinged on something, I make an effort to focus on/remember to look for that issue, but then something else seems to slip my mind — even something I’ve gotten right in the past. I’ve thought about making a checklist, but it seems like it would be six pages long given all the little rules to remember.

      It doesn’t help that I’m dealing with chronic sleep deprivation, as I have a 10-month-old who still wakes up several times at night.

      1. fposte*

        A six page checklist is shorter than a whole style manual. I’d go ahead and make it; even making it will help inscribe the tenets deeper in your brain. Read through it once a week or so. Then see if you can identify any pattern to what you’re not catching. Is it punctuation, capitalization, formatting? Times, names, titles? A one-off isn’t necessarily worth extra emphasis, but a repeated error bears some prominence even if you get it right most of the time; start collecting those.

        1. Mockingjay*

          Also, do things in the same order every single time. Be methodical. This is what I do:

          1. Check document format. We use MS Word, so I check the Style Codes for Headings, Body Text, Headers, Footers, etc. I find it easier to edit and proof with a clean document.
          2. Read through entire document to absorb content.
          3. Edit content. Use track changes and comment balloons. I am looking for meaning: topic scope, technical information. Discuss with author to clarify.
          4. Edit for grammar. Subject verb agreement, punctuation, etc. This is where a style guide or style sheet listing company or industry particulars for that kind of documentation comes in handy.
          5. Check acronyms. I work in a tech-heavy field, so this is an entire separate step for me.

          Whatever your industry, breaking the editing into steps and keeping those steps consistent should help.

      2. 42*

        Yeah, I’d actually make the checklist for a couple of reasons –

        1- It would show me a pattern of the type of misses I might tend to make.
        2- I’m more of a visual learner, and if I wrote down or typed out a list of misses, it would trigger my memory of ‘having seen that before’ as I read through a new piece to edit.

        To further illustrate the benefit of this, one of my colleagues actually DID make a checklist of her common misses, and then circulated it to the rest of us. It’s now a bit of a living document on our server, where we add little tips and hacks to help each other. We found that many of our errors as a whole were universal. So don’t beat yourself up!…just make it a point to learn from then and not repeat them in whichever way is most meaningful to you.

    5. ARCopyeditor*

      I work as a freelance editor working mostly on books in Chicago Style rather than AP, but the work is very similar. My best advice to you is just keep working at it, and if you’re in doubt at all about something, look it up. I’ve been working as an editor for over a decade and still look things up if I’m not totally sure. CMOS has a website where I can search terms to make the process easier, and hopefully AP has a similar system. The more you look up things, the more familiar you will become with the guide, and eventually it will be second nature. I don’t think you should feel too bad about making mistakes still at four months. Style guides are so huge and comprehensive that it is just going to take time to learn it all. Be kind to yourself while you’re learning. Just be sure to really be aware of the mistakes and use them as learning opportunities so you’re not continuing to make mistakes. Taking feedback well and taking it to heart is an excellent way to learn!

    6. Elizabeth West*

      If there are mistakes you make consistently, I’d make a checklist of them. I did this at Exjob for stuff like checking footers, page numbers, trademark names, etc. because there was so much cut-and-paste activity in certain reports that it often messed up pagination and consistency too, if someone cut and pasted from an old report.

      I also made a style guide for myself and for the department. So if I forgot whether Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes had TM for unregistered trademark or R for registered, I could glance at it. If I kept missing it, the name went on the checklist.

      I had time to do more than one pass-through, so I did substantive edits with one each for language, format, layout, etc. It also helped if I closed it and then went back to it after attending to something else. I couldn’t print them out because each report was 200+ pages, but the small break helped reset my brain and I would sometimes catch an error I’d missed before.

    7. Where's the Le-Toose?*

      I’m a public sector managing lawyer and I edit and approve other attorneys work. While we don’t strictly adhere to the AP Style Manual, we do use it frequently and what’s helped our office is to put together a condensed spelling and word use guide that’s taken from the style manual. It’s about 25 pages and what we do is have a cover page that discusses the rule and then an attachment that has a bunch of examples. We have a section on commonly misused words (principal v. principle; biannual v. biennial), punctuation, hyphenating v. one word v. two words, and capitalization.

      The condensed guide is really useful and I open it hourly. And I’ve found that I catch a good 90% of the errors using the condensed guide and our editors are fantastic and they always catch the rest.

  22. The Curator*

    I am pretty excited about my new blog. I have been getting good responses to the postings. I am working with a children’s book artist to create spot art of a Blue Ox.
    I appreciate the AAM community for encouraging us to be brave, try new things, and push through anxiety and fear.
    Thank you.

  23. Performance Punished*

    Anyone else floating in the sea of Performance Punishment? (looking to vent and commiserate)

    I am taking a long vacation over Christmas and New Year’s and have worked extra hard to get my work all caught up before I go. But all my managers see is that, Oh look she has capacity to do all this extra/overdue stuff from everyone else on the team. And then they’ve dumped it all on me. I’ve reminded them I’m leaving next week so maybe this or that should just stay with whomever had it before but it all falls on deaf ears.

    I mean I get it, I’m helping out my coworkers and the team, but I can’t do EVERYTHING. Plus, once I touch something once it magically ends up being mine forever.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      Don’t let your conscientiousness push you into doing more than you can in a reasonable workday to get the projects into a place where they’re “good” to hand off when you go on vacation.

      Hand them off in whatever state they’re in. Your coworkers are getting a favor, but you don’t need to bust your ass to make it an extra-big one.

      1. Performance Punished*

        I struggle with this so much. Because once I’m working on something I want to do it well and to the best of my ability. If I can push it back before I ever get started it’s easier. Once I’ve touched it it’s harder to let it go looking a mess.

    2. Snark*

      Been there. I just end up dumping it back on the original person’s desk. “Here’s what I’ve done so far, I’m out of town for two weeks, you own it again, kthxbye.”

        1. Snark*

          And if they expect you to continue to work on it, say, “Oh, I’m happy to help Fergus get caught up with his project, but I’m assuming it’s still his project. I’ve got a pretty full plate these days.”

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      Your managers suck. Keep pushing back. And if that doesn’t work, find a new job. I know that sounds glib, but there’s honestly only so much you can do. You can either change your circumstances or you can’t.

      1. Performance Punished*

        I’ve been casually looking around within the company and nearer to me commute wise. There seems to be an over abundance of sales positions right now. Everything else I’ve applied for has given me the ole Thanks but no thanks.

        What I’m focusing on right now is what can I control in my 3 feet? So next year I’m going to ask to change my hours and see how that goes. One tiny change at a time.

        1. Jesca*