open thread – January 12-13, 2018

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.

{ 2,199 comments… read them below }

  1. A question*

    Does anyone ever regret leaving a job they LOVED/ your dream job for better benefits and pay? Does anyone have any positive stories in doing so?

    1. Amadeo*

      Probably doesn’t count as what you’re looking for, as I never actually worked the job, but there was one I turned down and then later bawled my eyes out over. It was a design position for a K9 magazine and seemed like it would have been incredibly fantastic for me (former vet tech, now designer, in an environment about and around dogs, yes please) only once I’d mentioned accepting it (and fortunately I hadn’t given notice yet at my other job) my dog people friends went “#Name? He went to trial for rape in that town and has a reputation for Not Being Very Nice”.

      So I asked a cousin who was a detective in that area and was told that were I his daughter I’d not be allowed to go to work there.

      So I got back in touch with them and told them I couldn’t accept the position after all, but not why. Dear commenter, I went to bed that night and cried like a baby about it, but everything’s worked out for me in the end regardless. I’m not in a ‘dream job’ right now, but I’m in a Good Job that pays me enough to support a side hustle (and no one cares that I’ve got one, they all know) and has decent benefits. And I didn’t have to go form one conceited blowhard boss to another.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        I wish it was more acceptable to tell jobs you’re rejecting them because they’re awful. I noped out of the interview process with Uber (corporate, not a driving job) because I’d gotten accepted for a lower-paid short-term job at a company that is not widely known to be a misogynist sexual-harassing unethical toxic waste dump, and I wasn’t comfortable saying “I don’t want to work for you because your company is fine with rampant sexual harassment as long as it doesn’t start damaging your business.”

        I WANT them to know that women are turning them down because their company culture is unspeakably horrible, but I’m afraid to risk it!

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          FWIW, I have been on the other side of this (received a note from a candidate saying she was declining an offer because my old boss is a skeevy harasser) and it is actually really valuable for those who are _not_ the skeevy harasser boss, because it puts a very fine point on “this is what this terrible person has specifically cost the organization, in terms of talent.” I think when it’s something like Uber, where its a well-known, public thing, I just don’t think they’re not going to hold it against you personally.

      2. Angela Z*

        I had something similar when a not-very-close family friend referred me to his company. He got me the interview but nothing else, which was fine. My experience and education matched well with a position they had available, and I was handling the interview very well- until the interviewer abruptly stopped it, after 20 minutes of general surface discussion, stating ‘It looks like you’d be better in a different type of job.’ The job I was applying for was exactly my industry of interest, which I had previous experiences in, so it was completely out of left-field. I was taken aback how rude it was, but maintained absolute professionalism. I put on a smile until it finished, stayed polite, and left. They didn’t even bother to say goodbye as they saw me out, opting instead to get into a group conversation at the front desk. I felt *so* insulted by the experience because there are dozens of better, professional ways to end an interview.

        I mentioned it to my mother, who was loose friends with the man that got me the interview- he only heard the interview was ended after 20 minutes, and he was *furious*. Apparently that same interviewer had done the same thing previously, and he was really embarrassed. That interviewer was apparently told to call and apologize to me within 2 days or she would lose her job. I never got a call, so I can only assume they fired her. The experience definitely tarnished my view of that company, so it does make a difference.

      3. MissGirl*

        I quit a job I quite loved for a job I like. I did this because I needed a livable salary and opportunity for advancement. I’m eight months in after a taking a year for a grad degree. Here’s my thoughts for what they’re worth.
        1. I do miss the old job. The new one isn’t as interesting and engaging. I have to wear work clothes and they’re way more strict about hours. However, if I could go back now, which probably I could, I wouldn’t. I finally own a house and got out of a crap apartment. I’m saving for vacations that actually require me to get on a plane.
        2. I remind myself I didn’t like the old job when I first started. It took time to know what I was doing and get engaging work.
        3. This job and company I’m at now isn’t the end-all for me but I’m building skills and a reputation to parlay it into something more.
        4. Change is scary and life is never going to be 100% perfect. There are always trade-offs. What are yours?

      4. Red Wheel*

        I left a job I loved for a job with significantly better pay. New job required leaving a warm, sunshine-y place to a location with terrible weather. New job was definitely a better career move but 6 years later, I am still slightly sad that my career ambitious did not allow me to still be at old job. You mileage WILL vary.

        1. Anonymoose*

          My mileage did not vary…much. I too left a relaxed role (higher education service department) to head the operations of an UBER competitive field office for, like, 40% increase in pay in a place that rains 9 months out of the year (sound familiar?). I liked the challenges of the role but ultimately it didn’t make my heart sing. I was no longer proud of my work and was really just surviving. So I left it hard and fast. I sometimes regret leaving the area that I lived (GORGEOUS!!!), but it became a battle of my stubborn will to succeed at all costs vs my mental and physical well being. The latter had to come first, despite my insecurities screaming for the opposite.

          I’m now in a job that is….alright. Pay is lower, but stress is way way way lower. Not sure of my next steps as I’m still working on my health. But the time away from the Old Job has shown me that I really should be focusing on my strengths which are vastly different than what I had been doing at Old Job.

      5. Kickin' Crab*

        I recently turned down a job I thought was my dream job because the department chairman was skeevy. It was heartbreaking because it was a company I used to work for and loved my coworkers, but the new chair was awful to me. Not harassment, but very sexist, belittling, almost negging. He actually told me during negotiations that I should not speak to anyone but him, and not to believe posted market rates for the position.

        I actually called the person who had been my mentor while I was there, who had been working hard to recruit me back, and told her, in confidence, why I was not taking the job. She was very supportive of my decision, even though I was half-crying on the phone (and totally lost it after I hung up). I still feel a little sad that I won’t be living in that town or working with those wonderful people, but if that chair ever leaves and someone less 1950s comes in, I’m first in line to apply.

    2. Amber O.*

      Yes! I had a job I loved at a small college. I stayed for five years because I loved it so much, even though the pay was sub-par and there were no chances of upward movement. A year and a half ago I was offered an opportunity at a large company for 3x pay plus vacation and benefits, and it was silly to say no. It was extremely difficult, and I missed my old job every day for a year, but at the end of the day the new job gave me so much more… I had the opportunity to learn so many more new skills in the new environment, take on more responsibility than before, expand my professional network, and improve my home life. It also gave me time to reflect that I had so much emotion invested in my previous job, and I’ve since been able to invest that energy in vacations and hobbies now that I can pay for them! It’s hard, but it’s good to grow- you might find that you love this next job just as much!

      1. spocklady*

        I had a job at one of those too. I didn’t _love_ the job, but there were lots of things that I liked/were satisfying about it, and I looooved many of my colleagues. However, in addition to the low pay/vacation and the inability to advance, there were also some fairly toxic things going on. Like, red flags I ignored in the interview because I needed a job so badly.
        I do still miss my old job sometimes, but given the opportunities of the new job, I wouldn’t go back. For me (YMMV) I think ultimately my emotional investment in that job wasn’t actually healthy, and I needed hindsight to see that.

        Good luck making your decision!

        1. Anonymoose*

          I totally forgot to add that part! I was totally and completely emotionally invested in my role at OldJob to the point that it was becoming unhealthy. I still wonder why I cared so damn much, looking back. I had a really full life otherwise so it wasn’t for a lack of purpose. Maybe I just outgrew it?

    3. kas*

      I’d love to see the comments for this. I wouldn’t say I “loved” my job but I strongly like it and have amazing coworkers. I’m so scared to leave because I’m afraid I won’t be as lucky again. There’s one specific company I would drop everything for if they had a suitable position and I’m afraid I’ll still regret leaving my current company if I was offered a position there.

    4. Nonners*

      I am also looking forward to the comments on this one. I love what I do but consider leaving it regularly because it simply doesn’t pay very much, and I get nervous about surviving long-term on this salary.

    5. Specialk9*

      I made the transition I was worried about, and it was the best thing. I was valuing intangibles like leadership knowing me and being respected, over pay. I went to the same job in a new industry, and now have leadership that knows and respects me, but I make over 50% more. I am now a big proponent of getting your pay up earlier in your career – give yourself options and harness the magical ability of compound interest.* The only exception is a truly toxic environment – it’s not worth the hit to your health\mental health, even with a good salary.

      *If you don’t know about compound interest, go look up a compound interest calculator right now, and use 10% interest (average lifetime return on stock market) and 40 years. It’s utterly boggling how much getting interest-on-interest grows a nest egg!

    6. Grandma Mazur*

      I too will follow this thread with interest because, as a European, I find the whole assessment of health insurance, etc., that you US inhabitants have to go through, to compare jobs, mind-bogglingly complicated. When I worked in the US for a year, I recall a middle-aged man telling me he hated his (manual labour) job but couldn’t leave because his daughter was diabetic and he didn’t think he’d be able to get as cheap cover anywhere else, as it would be a pre-existing condition (no idea if he was correct, but it made me glad for the NHS in the UK!).

      1. Jesca*

        I always find that pre-existing condition thing interesting because I have never had a time where I was denied new benefits from a new employer based on pre-existing conditions. As a matter of fact, I have never even been asked. But I have definitely known people who had in many years past (longer ago then my 13 some years of working). Now before ACA, I did know people who couldn’t get insurance privately due to pre-existing conditions. It does make me wonder though if that was still a thing with employers prior to ACA, because it certainly did exist 20 years ago! I am not really sure, but trying to dig out that hard-collected data from the government has been quite difficult.

        1. JeanB in NC*

          Back in the early 2000s I didn’t have insurance through my employer and had to go through a state program for high-risk people because I had depression on my insurance application. I wouldn’t have been turned down for a group plan, though – I didn’t have any problem getting insurance through my next employer (a large university).

        2. Rachel01*

          I think the pre-existing condition would come in play with some employers & insurance companies if someone had a “very” emphasis on “very” expensive medical condition.

          I had something come up once years ago that workman’s comp had paid for, re-injured myself (slip on black ice) and the insurance company questioned it. But that was in the 90’s. That was workman’s comp though. Had injured in an accident in one job — slip on black ice; than turned around 5 years later and injury in same area but being covered by my medical insurance. It was towards the end of the budget year for them, so I’m wondering if they were looking closer during that last month.

          They can find out anything. I worked in one state (1st injury) and 2nd time in a different state, different employer.

        3. copier queen*

          I was diagnosed with Crohn’s in college. It can be a super expensive disease to treat. After college, I went directly from my parents’ insurance to my employer’s. I stayed at that job for 2 years, then went to a new employer. Had I not been able to provide a certificate of creditable coverage, that ensured my health insurance didn’t lapse between parents’ insurance, to employer 1’s insurance and then to employer 2, then during those transitions, the employers’ insurance companies could have refused to cover any treatment related to my chronic illness for one year.
          So yeah…during that time before ACA, had I let my health insurance lapse at all between transitioning to a new job/insurance provider, any dr appointments, procedures, lab, prescriptions, etc., to treat Crohn’s would not have been covered for a year under the new insurance plans. That could have been deadly for me.

        4. Elizabeth West*

          It tends to land harder on conditions that are more expensive (require hospitalization, have the potential for it, require more costly treatments, etc.). I have hypothyroidism, which is one, but it’s so easily managed with $4 medication–that’s gone up to $9 because it was previously manufactured in Puerto Rico–that they don’t bother with it.

          I think you could get it through your employer but it cost more. I remember filling out the paperwork pre-ACA and they asked. They definitely asked.

        5. Natalie*

          If I am wrong hopefully some of the commentariat lawyers will correct me, but I believe ERISA (which dates from the 70s) required most employer-provided health plans to cover pre-existing conditions, although they could impose a waiting period before that coverage would kick in. So the pre-existing condition issue that was addressed by the ACA would have only applied to insurance you purchased yourself on the open market place.

          1. Natalie*

            And to clarify, I seem to recall that the waiting period could only apply to the specific condition, not the health insurance benefits generally.

            1. copier queen*

              Right, I believe it applied to the specific condition, and the waiting period could be up to one year. So that could add up to a lot of dr visits, hospitalizations, prescriptions, procedures, lab tests, etc., that would not be covered for that specific condition.

            2. copy run start*

              This is what I remember. I lapsed in health insurance between college and my first job to offer it pre-ACA, and I had to wait a year for coverage for treatment for my depression. I never even explored insurance during that gap year because it was so far from my reality of counting pennies to buy TP.

          2. schnauzerfan*

            A friend of mine took job working for my employer in the 00’s. His wife has some serious health issues. The didn’t ask about any pre-x conditions he might have, was covered the first month he worked here. His wife on the other hand? Had to be on his insurance for 1 year, they’d cover things not related to her pre-x condition, but not anything related to her illness.

          3. Shop Girl*

            I believe the problems happened when there was a lapse in coverage so if you changed jobs and could not afford COBRA your waiting period at your new job might make you ineligible. This got much worse in the years leading up to the ACA. Watch “Sicko” to get a good view of pre ACA American Insurance

          4. anon scientist*

            I wonder if this actually worked out financially for the insurance companies. I assume that a good portion of people would have to just let their condition go untreated for the whole waiting period, making it possibly worse, and therefore more expensive to deal with once back on insurance. But I guess they must have run the numbers and found this to be an acceptable financial risk. Pretty crappy for the patients, though.

        6. Alice*

          The Pre-existing condition stuff was only if you had a break in coverage for 63 or more days, so if you went from one employer to another, and didn’t have a lapse in coverage, the pre-ex didn’t apply. However, costs of coverage vary so much from company to company, i can see why the guy might be afraid to move companies.

          1. Natalie*

            If my understanding of ERISA is correct, the gap in coverage wasn’t a factor for employer provided plans, except potentially disallowing a waiting period.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Here in New York State I can remember an announcement in the 1980s that employers’ insurance companies could not refuse to cover a new employee on the basis of being a diabetic. My husband was diabetic and we were wondering how he would change jobs. He had been working at his then current job when he was diagnosed, so he was covered at his current job. The law allowed us to exhale.

      3. Enya*

        I keep reading that the NHS isn’t doing so great these days. Then yesterday I read an article in the Daily Mail (don’t know if they’re a reliable news source) that the NHS is at a very low point- even worse than in 2016 when a humanitarian crisis was declared and the Red Cross had to be brought in- ER waiting times are the longest ever (4 hour waits being common) , many hospitals have no available beds, people have to wait several hours for an ambulance, and hospitals are so crowded that last year 17,000 patients had to wait from half an hour to over an hour in the back of ambulances before finally being admitted. I don’t know, doesn’t sound too good to me.

        1. NeverNicky*

          The Daily Mail is not a reliable source. It’s our equivalent of Fox News (and at times Breitbart).
          The NHS is struggling because the current administration is starving it of funds as part of ongoing (and unnecessary) austerity messages.

          1. Jules the Third*

            Also – 4hr wait times in an ER? Puhleeze, I’ve spent 6 – 12hrs with a couple of painful but not life threatening problems, and I have insurance and live in a relatively well-off area (US 1M people metro area, 2 hospital chains, 3 emergency rooms).

            1. TL -*

              Yeah, a 4 hr wait time in the ER is only concerning if you were triaged high priority and that’s the first they could see you.
              If not – well, they’re triaging so you go in by priority and availability, not by who got there first.

              1. Akcipitrokulo*

                Recently there have been issues with underfunded ambulanves nit vetting there is time in a couple of places :( which I can go into a longer rant about deliberate running down and underfunding but not at the moment! But you’re right that the headline waiting times – while unacceptable imo that they are increasing – are for things like “I fell and my ankle is all swollen”… you’ll be seen and treated for free, but the guy with chest pains is going in ahead of you.

            2. Akcipitrokulo*

              Yeah, that’s hiw it works. When my Granda had a stroke, he didn’t wait at all. When my kid fell and had a cut on his head, we were seen quickly to check how serious, then as not life threatening, a couple of hours to get it cleaned up and glued.

            1. Perse's Mom*

              As I understand it, both. And if there’s hatefulness or something salacious that can be added in, they will.

            2. soz*

              False things. The Daily Fail is almost see as a joke. It’s always being sued for lying, also it deliberately makes things seem worse than hey are

              As for the waiting times – I have had an unlucky year where close family members have been to the emergency room. A couple of times it was life threatening and they were seen in minutes, I thought I had broken my wrist in a bike accident it took about 2 hours (but they also said I should have gone to a walk in centre not the emergency room as it was so low priority.)

              My partner was nocked off his bike also, he was there for about 5 hours. (He was 100% fine and walked out) they didn’t give him a bed, but they did get him to wait around and didn’t want to discharge him just in case. Annoying that we had to sit in he corridor, but it would have been worse if he had fainted as we took him home!

              As far as other services – I do sometimes go private, when I was self employed it was the only way to ensure out of hours treatment. (Which is available on the NHS but you may have to wait weeks for an appointment) But if you’re not self employed, by law your employer has to give you the time off to go (and generally it’s paid, I think it’s law they they can’t dock your pay).

        2. Akcipitrokulo*

          problem is that current government is trying to privatise it to some extent… yeah, privatisation is not a healthy thing for the nhs. also if you want to privatise, starving of funds is a good way to convince people it’s necessary. However, it’s still pretty good. If I need to see a GP I can get an appointment that day if I call in morning, or arrange an appointment to suit me jf not urgent. A&E waits for less urgent things can be longer, especially on friday and saturday nights. If you’re sitting in waiting room for that long you’re conscious and able to move to a certain extent… someone with a suspected broken arm that’s conscious and able to speak, but sore will wait a lot longer than more serious conditions.

          So it is wonderful…and waiting times aren’t always the full story… but it is horrifically underfunded at the moment and a lot of us are terrified that this government will fatally wound it and we may end up with a us style system.

          But Bevan and Attlee set it up from scratch :) so there is still hope!

          And daily mail is inaccurate, racist, nasty and bigotted.

        3. MNS*

          The British Red Cross have provided services with the NHS for years. They aren’t there providing disaster zone type help. It’s more like social care, and hey help people to be at home independently, which helps the NHS to discharge patients from hospital more quickly and free up beds. They also provide wheelchair loans to patients who may need them on a temporary basis. It may seem alarming at first when you hear the Red Cross is involved and makes for a dramatic headline but I don’t think that reflects the reality of how they are actually helping out.

      4. Akcipitrokulo*

        When other half was diagnosed with diabetes, we tried to make light of worry (his brother died from diabetes complications) tbat financially we’d be slightly better off… silver lining, you get free glasses and prescriptions now!

    7. Ainomiaka*

      It’s not so much benefits and pay, but I did leave a job that I loved to cut out travel to be able to have a baby. 3.5 years later still no baby. I’m not sure if I would have done anything different, but man. . .

    8. Grouchy Old Lady*

      I did. After 4 years I’m finally seeing the positive. I hate my job and loved my old job. But I’m finally realizing that there are so many things my family and I have been able to do because of the pay. I thought this job would be a learning experience to grow in my career. When in reality it has hindered my career by working with ppl who aren’t knowledgeable. Making me resentful for the last few years. But I have finally realized I have learned a lot of what NOT to do. And have really grown as a person by learning from other’s negatives. I also am finally coming to terms with the fact that despite I loved my old job and thought I would be there until I retired, the toxic person that drove me to start looking, is never going to change. So I am thankful I got away from them.

      1. Smithy*

        I was somewhat like this about 4 years ago. I left a job that I would definitely not call perfect, but it was at a small nonprofit that I loved and offered a number of really fantastic experiences to grow and evolve. However the pay/lifestyle that would forever be tied to that job just became too hard. I left for a job at a larger nonprofit that paid more than twice as much – and it ended up being a pretty dreadful job. Less opportunity, responsibility and exposure to some really dreadful professional habits and practices. But the money undeniably made a difference.

        About four months ago I was able to get another job based on the name recognition of that last org and the amount of time I then had in the industry. I’m now with a great organization and making around four times what I was my first job.

        During the worst of it, it did always help to remember that my lifestyle with job #1 simply was not sustainable. So when I was at my most miserable at the very very bad job and my old job would beg for me to come back – it was critical for me to remember what the bad job afforded me. My work life was dreadful, but what it meant for my personal life was hugely significant.

    9. Don't tell them where I went*

      I left what my husband described as a job ‘so perfect for you that we couldn’t have guessed it existed’ for a similar job at another company last fall. The salary was about a 30% increase and the benefits are comparable. I have to say, I was very leery about leaving the old company, although I had a new and difficult boss there and wasn’t sure how things would play out.

      After 5 months, I have to say…. One of the best decisions I ever made. I realized after leaving that I would never have had the opportunity to achieve there what I have very quickly at the new job. I think people can get pigeonholed at a company (at least at smaller ones) and won’t have opportunities because they have ‘known’ skills and aren’t perceived as capable at or qualified for different tasks/levels. Or maybe it’s that the company was dysfunctional in ways that I couldn’t see while I worked there.

      1. Rachel01*

        I’m dealing with the issue of being locked into a position under a horrible boss, and I’m the only AA that she’s kept past 1 year. Most left after a few months with her. I’ll not get a job elsewhere here because I’m the first one that has been able to work for her and they do not want the upheaval if I accept a job in a different department.

        1. Khlovia*

          Wow. Punished for being stalwart. I hope you have a VERY good sense of humor about the universe!

    10. Anonymous Educator*

      Yeah, I regretted it, but it wasn’t for better pay. It was for other reasons (too long to go into here). Even though I still wish I were there, I’ve also learned so much since having left. I’m coming to terms with the fact I can’t go back.

    11. Not Australian*

      I had to leave the best job of my life when I split from a violent partner. The thought of him turning up at work and harrassing me – and the lovely people I worked with, which he would have done – was just too awful to contemplate. I moved a couple of hundred miles and got an okay-ish job near my parents instead. Loved that job, though – it was as close to perfect as work ever gets, and I beat out over 100 other candidates to get it. Sigh.

    12. Museum Nerd*

      I worked at a very small museum when I was in my 20’s, first as an intern and then seasonal and then staff. I loved the organization and wish I could have stayed there forever. However it was only ever temporary or part-time and I was working another terrible job in order to have benefits and enough money to pay rent. When an opportunity to work a larger museum came along I felt I had to take it even though there were huge red flags during the interview process. Even though the job ended up being a really bad situation for me I won’t say it was the wrong decision because I gained important experience. I’m currently working very happily at a higher-ed organization. Unfortunately the small museum is really struggling right now and may close. But I will always remember my time there with great fondness.

    13. LSP*

      I spent three years working for a State agency, loving the work I did and working with some of the best people I’ve ever met. I loved the job, but I knew that there wasn’t going to be much room for advancement there, due to the strict structure of government and due to budget constraints, I didn’t think I’d ever see a raise. Even so, I wasn’t actively looking for a job, because even though I had an hour commute each way, the pay was good enough and I loved what I did.

      Then, a friend of the family mentioned that her employer was looking to hire someone with exactly my background. Since they were a private firm (though a government contractor), the pay was going to be much better and the commute would be reduced by about 75%.

      I applied for and got the job, with a 50% pay increase, a shorter commute, and more responsibility.

      I like my current job, and most of the people I work with are lovely, but I have spoken a few times with my former director about possibly coming back, but in a better position and higher salary. It’s not that I hate my current job (I’ve been here for three years), but I’m pretty lukewarm about the people and the culture. If I could make a better salary and have a better title, I would go back to my hour-long commute to work with those people again in a heartbeat.

    14. MuseumChick*

      I had a part time time job and two part-time internships that I loved. I was making almost not money but I really loved everything I was doing and the people I was working with. Well, I got a full-time job offer at a company and thinking it was the grown up this to do accepted it. It was a disaster on almost every level. They never set up my health insurance, I wasn’t making the money they told me I would, I found at just a few days after I arrived that two of the main reasons I had been attracted this this job where changing drastically, the owner of the company had a drinking problem and had been in multiple car wrecks, and the immediate supervisor was a basket case who wanted to be my best friend and cried openly in the office several times a week.

      It was not a good six months.

    15. The New Wanderer*

      Kind of – my first job out of college was the job I wanted since I was a kid. It wasn’t perfect, but it was amazing to me. And then I left after a year to go to grad school so that I could progress further in my career than I could without an advanced degree. So I didn’t exactly leave for better benefits/pay, but I left for the opportunity to get where I wanted to be sooner.

      OTOH, most of my colleagues are still there 20+ years later, still working on those amazing projects… I don’t regret leaving as the advanced degrees really did open doors that wouldn’t be available otherwise, but I’m kind of wistful about the “what might have been” if I’d stayed.

    16. Not So NewReader*

      I left the job of my life. This involved crying and a migraine that lasted for months.
      I was pretty angry that I had to leave also. It was a bunch of emotions.

      Then I decided that I needed to think about what I was doing. I realized that I was way too emotionally mixed into that job. It wasn’t healthy to let a job be that important to me. So I promised myself never to get that attached to a job again, and I never have.

      When the dust settled and the rose-colored glasses came off, I realized that: I would never get an advancement at this job; I was working way too hard; the pay was worse than sucky; they were more of a priority to me than I was ever a priority to them; there was some financial shenanigans going on and life got better after I quit.

      To this day, I can remember the good times and smile, but all that upset/sadness is totally gone.

      1. Amber O.*

        I had this same experience. The emotional attachment I felt to my old job, the workplace, and my co-workers was bordering on unhealthy. They felt like my friends, family, and second home all wrapped up in one. I finally had to take the emotion out of my decision and look at the facts of each job: how would it effect my career to stay or leave? Would I get new opportunities or learn new skills? Was the increase in pay worth taking a chance on a new workplace? How would each job effect my personal goals- would they hinder or help me? Once the emotion was taken out of the equation, it was a clear choice. It wasn’t easy, but it was the right thing to do.

    17. TookTheLeap*

      My first entry level job out of college was my dream, working at a solid company (100+ years) with a big name, offered awesome benefits (including pension), opportunities for learning and growth, a diverse team of colleagues, good work-life balance and more. I swore up and down that I’d spend 25+ years there as most people had. Then one day as I was on vacation I got a message from a recruiter that I swore I’d brush off with a polite “thanks but no thanks” phone call. Instead we got into a conversation about my goals and what aspects of my job that I enjoy doing, and the recruiter propositioned, “what would you think of doing teapot making throughout your entire day and a significant salary increase (25%+).” Went through several rounds of interviews and I wouldnt say I fell in love immediately but their transparency about the role and the new challenges I could be a part of fixing intrigued me. I agonized about it for a while, cried, prayed, the whole 9 yards… Ultimately I decided to leave my great job for the new opportunity that offered more opportunities to grow. I can honestly say it was one of the best decisions Ive ever made. Leaving the old environment showed me that I’d never be able to work on this level of teapot making at old job at least for another 5-10 years, Im realizing that rather than constant compliments and so-so performance reviews due to beaurocracy, Im now for the first time being recognized and appreciated in my compensation and personal development, which, quite frankly matters.

    18. LAI*

      Well, kind of. My first job out of college was exactly what I wanted to do and I loved it. I stayed for 8 years. I eventually left for a number of reasons, including better pay and the fact that it was a relocation to the area I wanted to live in. But the main reason I left was because I was getting stagnant and a little bored after 8 years in the same position. I loved it, but I knew every detail of the job and I wasn’t learning anything new. I basically had to choose whether I wanted to keep doing the same thing (for the same pay) for the next 30 years, or if I wanted to have new opportunities and be able to grow professionally. Since then, I’ve had several jobs, none of which were as enjoyable on a day-to-day basis as my first job. I definitely still miss that first job but I don’t regret my decision. I’ve gotten to work with a lot of different people in different contexts, I’ve developed a ton of new skills, and I have a lot more options for where my career can go in the future than if I had just stayed in that one role. So I think some factors to think about here are not just the benefits and pay, but where are you in your career trajectory, where do you want it to go, and how does this job you love fit it?

    19. Ramona Flowers*

      I know someone who bitterly regrets leaving my workplace and feels she’s ruined her life. I’m sorry to have such a negative story to tell.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        PS I should say she left for reasons that didn’t make as much sense as a lot of the stories here.

    20. Anon Pixie*

      I just reached that point this thursday, actually! I love my job and I love my immediate boss, but they’re underpaying in the range of $8k/yearly, plus our vacation/sick time policy is questionable. They were really good when I had a serious surgery and had to be out for six weeks, but the $8k thing is just — it’s too much for me to overlook. My job before this was even worse (think a $20k/year difference) BUT when it came to bad weather conditions they were incredibly smart about sending us home and closing.

      This place? They were open on Jan 4, even though it was terrible (we got ~7 inches). There was no reason to be open; out of a crew of ~75, less than ten people showed up! And of those less than ten people, only half were given any kind of acknowledgement by TPTB for showing up, which makes me both furious and sad when I think about it.

    21. DriverB*

      I left a job that I was really good at, decent pay, excellent benefits, mostly great people, when we purchased a house and my commute became untenable. I tried for 6 months, but the 90 min drive each way in heavy traffic (even when leaving my house at 6am) was just brutal. I also tried getting transferred to a different office, but the director of my department suddenly became very butts-in-seats (even though I was frequently out of the office for site visits anyway and had been there for about 5 years). I found something that was about a 15% raise, and a 20 min bus ride away from home. It was gonna be great!

      Spoiler: it was not great.

      Things were really slow and intractable, and at first I thought it was just the holiday hangover (I started in January), or that I needed to get up to speed and figure out how to work in their culture. But I pretty quickly realized that there was just a lot of bureaucracy and no concrete plan for what my position was supposed to be doing. I did my best to scoop up every extra assignment I could, but I was bored to death and started looking after three months, including contacting my old boss for any leads. It took a while, and I applied to a few other places, but ended up back at my old company (in a different department and office) in October. I took a slight hit in terms of salary and vacation status, but I didn’t really mind – because I was also four months pregnant, and they agreed to honor all the FMLA and other leave policies even though I wouldn’t have worked for them for a full year again before the baby came.

      And now I love my job again. The people are smart and dedicated. I wish that one annoying director hadn’t forced my hand, because it has changed the course of my career a bit. But in taking that risk to leave, I was valuing myself and my time, and I did end up getting what I wanted in the end.

    22. Ann O'Nemity*

      I left a great job for much better pay and benefits. I never regretted it, but I have missed it! In the end, for me, having the extra money (and being able to stop worrying about finances so much) made all other aspects of my life so much better that it was worth it.

      1. Julianne*

        Same! There are many things about the job I left that I wish were a part of my current job (certain job duties, aspects of workplace culture), but I can live with what I have now because the 50% pay increase makes the life I go home to every night so much more stable and comfortable.

    23. Umvue*

      I left my first grown-up job, which I loved, because the conditions (hours, commute) were no longer right for me. Then I left the second job, which I liked, because personal life stuff changed again and I needed a full-time job with better pay. I did not actually enjoy Job 3 very much, but they loved me and gave reliable raises, so I stuck it out for a little while. Then right as I hit my two year mark there, a miracle occurred, and Job 1 recruited me back at a salary that accounted for the raises I’d had at Job 3 and then some.

      So, not exactly the case the questioner was asking about, but I would put it in the bucket of “stories about leaving a good job that have a happy ending.”

    24. Erika22*

      Giving my notice today and am super nervous – first time leaving a job where I adore my colleagues and enjoy (most of) my work. I’m hoping I don’t end up regretting it, but I know that even if things are going well in a job, sometimes it’s more important to make a change rather than getting stuck, especially if you need to make more money or get a higher title. For me at least, stagnant and happy isn’t actually happy (different than stable and happy). And how can you grow outside of work if you don’t have the resources, monetary or otherwise?

      1. Icklebicklebits*

        Me too! I’m thinking seriously of taking this new job, which takes one aspect of my current job and turns that into a full time position (something I’m generally okay with) but comes with a 25% pay increase. The last time I did this it…. didn’t end well, but I did ignore warning signs during the interview.
        My job right now is good, I like my manager and am on good terms with my co-workers, but if I lose the housing I’m in it’ll basically be all over for me bc they don’t pay enough. New job has a longer commute but better pay and stuff. I’m freaking out a little even though they haven’t made an offer. I haven’t thought seriously of leaving this job for years!

    25. I'm Not Phyllis*

      YES! And I ended up asking for my old job (the one I loved) back within two months of leaving. Though the new gig did come with better pay and benefits it ended up not being at all what I had been offered in terms of the job itself and I knew that I would be miserable there in the long-term. I’ve now been back at this job for almost five months and I know I made the right decision.

    26. Alice M Clark*

      Yes! 4.5 years ago I left a role for a much better salary elsewhere. I missed my old colleagues so much and the new commute was tiring – I just felt constantly down.

      I ended up leaving after a year for a similarly levelled job in the city. I think I realised I’d set too much in store for my old job and I needed an even bigger change to make my life better. I still missed the junior role but over time I’m so relieved I no longer work there – there was no room for promotion and I would’ve grown stagnant.

    27. Audiophile*

      While I didn’t leave a job I loved, I definitely left a company I loved and culture I loved. It was a financial company but I was a contractor basically. Despite my best efforts, and encouragement from high level employees, I couldn’t get anyone in HR to seriously review my resume for an internal position. I was there for 4 years and probably submitted between 5-10 applications for various positions and didn’t get anywhere. I eventually just gave up. When I left, I got questions from those some people about why I was leaving “for a marketing job. We have a marketing department here.”

      Leaving that job didn’t hurt as much as being rejected for a job I truly wanted. I cried at work, in front of co-workers when I got the rejection email. It was a small agency, that has some real interesting clients. The interview went well but ultimately they didn’t ask me back in for a 2nd interview. I had been pinning all my hopes on this because it was 2010, and there were basically no jobs in even a closely related field in my major. It’s funny, had I been offered that job, I wouldn’t have worked at the financial company.

    28. Jules the First*

      I left a job I loved a little over a year ago because their bigger competitor offered me a 40% raise. I took the new job for the money, knowing it had a commute from hell, an insane working hours culture, and a reputation for chewing up and spitting out staff.

      I love my new job. My manager is fantastically supportive, my colleagues are almost universally awesome, my desk has a view of the river and a ton of natural light, I eat lunch in the huge gardens around the corner, the commute is actually not that bad (although it’s long), my working hours are actually saner than OldJob (because NewJob is more flexible), and the extra cash is making a huge difference to my quality of life.

      Money alone cannot make you happy, but we tend to grossly underestimate just how miserable having not-quite-enough money makes us.

    29. Bespectacled Elephant*

      Yes, I left a job I was passionate about at a non-profit for a corporate law firm. It was great even though I had a tough transition (first job out of college to my second job). I got valuable experience, contacts, learned alot, livable wage, and benefits.

    30. Mrs. Fenris*

      Last spring I left a job I sort of loved and sort of hated, for a job I…like ok. I guess that all evens out somewhere. I had really balked at leaving OldJob because there were several excellent things about it that I knew I wouldn’t find anywhere else, but on the other hand the negatives were getting worse every day. It was a very difficult transition for me and I am disappointed that the new job isn’t the super awesome dream job I was hoping for, but it’s fine. And yes, it does pay better with similar benefits, so there’s that.

    31. Solaire*

      I have a negative story about something like this…

      Last summer, I started a new job with a company doing things that are close to my heart, and offered a substantial raise and much better work/life balance. The job I left for this wasn’t perfect, but it had a lot of good things: I got along great with everyone there and I had an incredibly easy commute.

      Unfortunately, the new job didn’t turn out as I expected it to. The department I joined is/was incredibly understaffed, and most of what I was told about job duties in the interview was what they thought would get me to take the job. I was told I was going to be doing specific IT-type work, but most of my day to day was doing completely different things: chasing down contractors for things they owed us, managing interns, and some site visits to supervise field techs installing hardware. I don’t have any experience doing any of this stuff, and I didn’t claim to, because my skill set is in demand and pays well.

      Unsurprisingly, I wasn’t very good at most of the things they wanted me to do. My boss sent me a really nasty email saying he was disappointed in my performance so far, and if I didn’t want to be walked out of the office I’d have to improve. I’m on the autism spectrum, and since the stuff I was being asked to do was entirely “people work”, I sent him and HR emails asking if I could exchange these duties with someone else’s technical work as an accommodation under the ADA.

      My boss forwarded the email with my diagnosis to the other managers in my department along with a message about “excuses”, following up with daily emails saying he was disappointed in my work and that I needed to improve if I wanted to keep working there.

      I sent in my resignation email, handed in my badge, and walked out a few weeks ago. I don’t regret it.

    32. KT*

      I have never left a job for the sole reason of chasing better pay, but I have moved into lower-paying jobs – TWICE. I did these moves to be more in line with my values. I loved it and it was the beginning of a full-on career transition for me, to a totally new field (think: full time corporate role with great pay -> full time charity role but with revenue generating responsibilities, thus okay pay -> full time charity role with frontline service delivery responsibilities, thus the pay is on the low side).

      For anyone considering a pay-drop, it really is liberating to shun materialism/consumerism and live on less, but do be realistic about your financial needs. Unfortunately it is still the case that people can work full-time and still experience poverty/be eligible for benefits (the working poor). I was exceptionally fortunate when I took my pay cuts that I 1) lived with a spouse who also worked full-time, and 2) had no children or other dependents (e.g. elderly parents, etc.)

      I have read that as long as you are paid enough to maintain a basically okay lifestyle, additional money on top of that doesn’t really make one happier. But sometimes we are seduced into thinking that we will be happier with that new designer jacket/latest smartphone/bigger house/luxury car. In fact, neurological scans indicate it’s not the case. As long as you have enough money to not have to worry about money too seriously, more money won’t make you dramatically happier. So I’d recommend focusing on making career changes for other employment benefits, as they often have so much more intangible value.

      Of course, while money in itself might not make you happy, it can definitely be used as a tool if you have a goal in mind. E.g. maybe you want to save up seed capital to start your own business, or you want to run for office to effect positive social change, etc. in which case go for it!

    33. Honeybee*

      Ooh, it’s so funny you asked this because I’m curious about the answers myself. I’m in a job I love – great industry, great company, good benefits and pay. But I’m 2.5 years in and I’m starting to realize that if I want to move up in the next 1-2 years into a more senior or management position, I am probably going to have to go somewhere else. Our team promotes very slowly, and management on the team has been the same for a long time (think several years). None of them are nearing retirement nor do any of them seem at all inclined to go somewhere else. I don’t really see a way for me to move into management here (which is something I think I do want in the future – not necessarily soon, but I can see it). Most of the people who have gotten to about 3-5 years have moved elsewhere if they wanted a senior position or a management position.

      On the positive side, the management team is very explicitly training me for leadership…

  2. Just Peachy*

    Would I still be eligible for mileage reimbursement in the following situation?

    I work for a company than has 31 branches nationwide. In mid-March, I have a required weeklong training at our corporate office that each person in my role from each of the branches is required to attend (I am the only one at my branch in this role). We received an email from our corporate office telling us to work with our managers to schedule flights, and indicating which hotel we will be staying at in the city where our corporate office is located.

    However…my branch (and home) happens to only be 30-40 minutes from our corporate office. I asked my manager if I could just drive back and forth from the training each day instead of being put up in the hotel, which he was fine with.

    Can I still collect mileage reimbursement even though it’s my choice to drive up each day and not stay at the hotel? It would still be cheaper for the company to pay me for my travels than to put me up in a hotel for a week. For reference, I travel to clients’ offices 2-3 times a month, and earn mileage reimbursement regularly for those trips.

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      I would think so. It’s probably a cost savings you driving and claiming mileage over a hotel for a week.

    2. Longtime Listener, First time Caller*

      I don’t see why not. Mileage reimbursement are pretty standard, and this seems like a classic example of when to use them.

    3. Yep.*

      Yeah should be fine, but check first. At my place, we can’t claim home to a work event but can claim it as if we went from the office to the event.

      1. Agile Phalanges*

        Yes, if it’s a normal workday for you, I believe you’re supposed to deduct your normal commute. But if the headquarters is farther away than your branch (whether it’s in the same direction or a completely different direction), you should be able to claim the excess. You just don’t get to claim the whole thing if you already would have been driving a certain number of miles anyway. Even if it’s still less than the hotel would have cost. The IRS website has information about this, though it’s kind of a tedious read even with the examples they give. But it should help you out.

      2. essEss*

        That’s similar to the way it has been at all my jobs…. you can claim mileage, but you need to subtract the number of miles you would have driven to your office, and if the distance to the training center is less, then you don’t get any reimbursement.

    4. Murphy*

      I think that would be a reasonable request, particularly if this if further than you typically drive to your branch.

    5. Fabulous*

      Run it past your Travel and Expense person, but it should be OK. They may ask for your manager to send them a formal approval, but as a former T&E specialist I don’t see why it wouldn’t be approved.

    6. Minerva McGonagall*

      Agreed, this should be fine. Most companies ask you to deduct the difference between the distance driven to the special location and your regular commute.

    7. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      Assuming you’re in the US – I’m pretty sure the IRS says you can’t deduct your regular commute. Typically, companies will follow IRS rules because they’re not allowed to deduct that expense if it’s against the rules. So you could possibly get reimbursed for the extra distance over your normal commute. Check with your mgr though to be sure.

      1. Just Peachy*

        I would be calculating the distance from my office to the corporate office, I didn’t mean to indicate otherwise in my post!

        1. Boredatwork*

          This sounds 100% okay to me (I am a CPA). You cannot deduct mileage to your “office” but commuting from your office to a “client site” is allowed. Anyone who questions this expense report is a jerk (and probably won’t want you to order guac at chipotle).

    8. behindbj*

      Not necessarily. If depends on whether or not your company deals with Duty Station commuting differently. If you are reporting to the training location directly, and it is the same (or shorter) distance than to your regular report office, they may consider it a regular cost of commuting and not reimburse the mileage.

      1. Just Peachy*

        It’s longer. My current office is 14 minutes north of my home, and the corporate office is 30 minutes north of my current office.

      2. Where's the Le-Toose?*

        I definitely double down on the duty station issue, Peachy. While I think your request is completely reasonable and saves the office money, a lot depends on your office’s policy about mileage reimbursement and if they don’t reimburse you, what you’re allowed to deduct.

        If they don’t reimburse you and you have to deduct your mileage, take a look at It has a lot of great examples that may help.

        1. Natalie*

          Although keep in mine that the deduction for unreimbursed business expense doesn’t kick in until you’ve exceeded 2% of your AGI. One or two trips is extremely unlikely to make it to that threshold.

    9. Anon-J*

      You should be able to claim the lesser of the mileage from your home to the corporate office or the branch office to your corporate office.

    10. Zip Silver*

      Somewhat unrelated: I’d suggest starting at the hotel anyway, even if you can commute from home. Every time I’ve been to this sort of thing, there’s been after-hours networking with the people staying at the hotel. Dinner, a couple of drinks, that sort of thing. Usually worth it to get to know your colleagues from across the country.

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

        Agree with this. Even if you don’t do it for the full week, it may be nice to see if there are dinners or after hours things going on. Plus depending on traffic and weather it may be a good idea to be closer for start times.

      2. Natalie*

        I don’t know, I think you could still do this and not stay at the hotel. A 30-40 minute drive wouldn’t stop me from going to dinner after the event, plus you miss traffic anyway. YMMV. (Ha, pun!)

    11. Jadelyn*

      I would think so, yes – we had something similar a few months ago when we put on an employee event. We flew in people from the farther-flung branches and put them up in hotels, but there are half a dozen branches within 45 minutes drive of where we held the event, and those people were told to drive (either their own car or a rental, which the company would pay for) and if they used their own car, to submit a mileage reimbursement for the distance between their home branch and the event site (not their home to the event site, since home-to-branch is considered their regular commute and not expensable).

    12. Not So NewReader*

      Just present it as the company won’t have any lodging and dining expense to send you to this conference. Paying mileage has to be a lot cheaper. I bet they go for it.

    13. Apollo Warbucks*

      Yes you can still claim that’s perfectly reasonable, but you might need to deduct your normal mileage from home to your regular office from the total

    14. Mediamaven*

      Ask first but it sounds like you are saving your company a ton of money and they should be thrilled to pay the mileage.

  3. Punkwich*

    I I just cried in a meeting and I feel like an idiot and like no one will ever take me seriously again!! It wasn’t subtle crying, it was fairly extensive. For context – I am 22, this is my first real job, the meeting was about a process that I’ve been doing according to (wrong) instructions for months, I have been trying to correct it but keep being given conflicting information and finally snapped in a meeting and cried! Everyone was nice about it but I still feel very bad about it – how do I make myself look competent again

    1. fposte*

      By moving on from it. If your manager was there, a quick “Sorry that got surprisingly emotional–I definitely still want to be in the conversational loop on this” might be helpful in closing the loop for yourself. But most people will either be sympathetic or, frankly, won’t have much cared either way because it’s not all that important. The more you can treat it the same way, the more you demonstrate that it was a one-off.

      1. Nita*

        That’s good! And maybe should be followed by a discussion of the issues you’ve been having on this project, and asking for advice on how to resolve the conflicting info. It will show your manager that you’re doing your best to deal with the situation professionally, despite running into difficulties.

    2. selina kyle*

      Just keep on trucking and doing well. It sounds minor (and not your fault!) and I’m guessing most people will forget about the tears in a week or so :) Embarrassing moments always seem much bigger to us when they’re ours.
      You’ll be okay.

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

      Pretend that it never happened and most likely others will too. Next time if it gets to the point where you feel like you’re going to snap… do what I do, fake a coughing fit, hold up a hand, and get out of the room to the bathroom or other private place.

      Sorry you got to the point of frustration crying.

        1. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

          When you sip water, your throat will reflexively open up, getting rid of the “choked up” feeling. I learned that in a stress management/female-empowerment-in-the-workplace seminar a good 15 or so years ago when I was just starting as an exec assistant. One of the most valuable things I ever got from the courses the org thought were “appropriately engaged” for admin staff.

    4. Sloan Kettering*

      FWIW, something that you did in your first job at 22 is unlikely to actually haunt you forever (“no-one will ever take me seriously again”). Big picture, this is a blip. Signed – someone who was fired from a very early job and thought my life was over.

      1. Amber T*

        This! When you’re first starting out, something like this seems huge and humongous and incredibly large and will shape everything forever. I promise you, it won’t. Even if it follows you at this current job (which it may, but it probably won’t), no one will know about it at your next job. And there will be a next job. And probably another weird occurrence (or several) and more weird confusing job stuff and screw ups to come. But there will be good stuff too!

        Sit down with your manager, apologize (once) for crying and get clarification on your instructions. Then work your hardest. If you’re still not getting clear directions, speak up early. “Jane told me to do X, but Wakeen said to do Y, so I’m not entirely sure what to do.” And if you’re manager still can’t manage that, then you have a management problem, not a you problem.

      2. Specialk9*

        Yes. You can survive and come back from most anything. I had a manager who wasn’t the smartest or most competent, but taught me such a good lesson: people take their cues from your behavior, so an unruffled manner will make them lose interest. He was king of going into situations in which I would have been committing sepuku, and giving a calm rundown along the lines of ‘oh hey, that wasn’t the right thing to do, we’ll fix it, and speaking of which…’ The circling sharks didn’t smell blood in the water and went to look for another victim.

      3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yep! Most people who have been in the working world for a good long time have enough perspective to see that young people are going to make mistakes in judgment, and it’s part of growing up — we remember our own! (It’s weird to think of myself as someone who has been in the working world for a while — in the back of my head, I still think I’m 23.)

    5. Rachel in Minneapolis*

      I’ve cried in a meeting before. It’s embarrassing, but I came back from it and worked there another 5 years with appropriate raises and promotions.

      The key for me was to acknowledge that I was overly emotional and be vigilant about being professional after that.

      One thing I did learn: If I feel like I might cry, I quickly excuse myself to the restroom. It’s MUCH less awkward to leave a meeting a little abruptly then to cry in a meeting.

      1. only acting normal*

        I’ve a work friend who cries when angry (much to her annoyance). She called a break on meeting that was getting heated because she was feeling emotional – she was later praised by a senior in the meeting for handling the situation so well, and for diffusing things so effectively. So doing it that way can be actively positive (vs a neutral avoidance of a negative).

    6. Penny*

      I’ve cried (multiple times) at work and I’m 10 years older than you. It’s my natural reaction when I feel angry or cornered. It sucks but it’s okay! You move on, pretend it never happened, and commit yourself to doing a better job next time.

    7. Hey-eh*

      I am a known crier.. have been my entire life. I am just an emotional person with anxiety who cries when they’re stressed. The worst part for me is that people always want to talk to me about it after the fact. Luckily (or perhaps not?) it’s happened enough that my coworkers/bosses are used to it. I had to explain to them the first times that it’s nothing that they did, and that I am fine, and that I just needed to take a step back from [insert project]. It’s embarrassing and frustrating, but in all the places I’ve ever worked not a single person has taken offense to it. They just want to know I’m okay – I’m sure that’s how your coworkers feel too.

    8. Amelia*

      They’ll forget it much faster than you. This happens more than you think.

      I once got in an argument at work and managed to leave intact but then ended up crying in a stairwell. A different coworker walked in on my crying and it was so so so so awkward. We got past it. But seriously, who uses the stairs when you’re on the 15th floor!

    9. Business Manager*

      I did this about 2 months ago! I’m 31, ~6.5 years into my career. I cried in front of my boss, grandboss and another VP and they were sympathetic. I ended up crying in front of the CEO too later. I apologized and blamed school stress (semi accurate). Everything’s fine, they all treat me exactly the same and I’m given the same level of trust.

    10. lahallita*

      I’d like to suggest you request a process description in writing from your supervisor. If s/he is unable to provide one, volunteer that you’d like to work on one for her/his review and approval.
      I feel like this will help point out that the issue is there is no documented process (or at least one that is not easily accessible) and you want to solve the problem!

    11. Little Twelvetoes*

      I’m in my forties and cried in front of the CEO a couple of years ago. So embarrassing. I’m also a blusher, and have had that many embarrass me so many times, too. My advice would be the same as fposte – a quick sorry then move on. It should be fine.

    12. CheeryO*

      Just another voice telling you that it’ll be okay! I know it’s not the same thing, but I started crying during my comprehensive oral exam for my Master’s, then continued to cry all through my evaluation, even after I found out that I had passed. It was humiliating at the time (even though everyone was super nice about it), but now it’s like it never happened – I’m pretty involved with my school as an alumni, and as far as I can tell, I’m not known as That Girl Who Cried.

      We’re only human, and sometimes our emotions get the better of us. As others have said, think about possible ways to ward it off in the future – stepping out of the room, taking a drink of water, biting the inside of your lip, whatever, and try to mentally move on.

    13. Bend & Snap*

      Just pretend it didn’t happen! Everyone has moments. We’re all human.

      Also, I’m 40 and I ugly cried this year when I found out I wasn’t going to get promoted because of reasons not related to performance. That’s been a fun one to put behind me. Luckily my boss is an “it’s important to feel your feelings and it shows you care” type of person.

    14. Competent Commenter*

      I feel like if I’d been in that meeting and heard about how you’d been stuck doing something wrong for two months for reasons outside your control, and that you were then getting conflicting instructions on top of it, and you then snapped and cried with frustration…I’d be embarrassed that my organization was treating you this way and would feel nothing but sympathy.

    15. Yetanotherjennifer*

      It sounds like your thinking is still tied into your emotions. This is a teeny tiny moment that gets averaged out among all your other interactions at work and in your entire career. It’s like the mistakes in a craft project that you can see so well but others don’t notice at all. I’m glad for you that it’s Friday, assuming that you have the weekend away from the office. Try and take good care of yourself this weekend: get outside, exercise, keep busy, eat well, sleep, etc. On Sunday, step outside yourself and imagine the whole scenario happening to someone else. How do you feel about that person? I suspect you’ll feel sympathetic instead of critical and that’s likely how your coworkers view you. Also try and break the situation down to just the facts. What happened when and what were the results. It sounds like you have good reason to be frustrated, and it can take practice to deal with frustrations professionally. You might be someone who cries when frustrated and this is good information to have because you can learn to overcome it or at least delay it. I know I’ve seen other letters about this in the archives, but I wouldn’t research that for a while yet. On Monday, go back in the office and behave as normally as you can. Maybe wear a power outfit or item to give yourself confidence. You might find your emotions rising again when you address this issue at work next week, but you should be able to get through it if you focus on the facts and how to fix the situation.

    16. Punkwich*

      Thank you everyone! I really appreciate your comments. I ended up leaving the office early (due to an incoming ice storm) and am hammering out how to deal with the original issue in a meeting on Monday, and will be much more composed and prepared. It’s good to hear that I’m not the only one who’s cried at work before!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        You will do much better because of thinking about it over the weekend. I am prone to frustration tears. So I started training my brain to state what it is I want from a situation that I am not getting. It sounds like you have too many people telling you how to do a process and imagine that, it’s wrong when you do it. [shakes head, of course, you can only be as good as the advice you get] You could need the inputs of just one person who knows how to do this correctly.

        One option would be to have the boss assign one person who does it correctly to train you.
        The boss could train you herself.
        They could do a department wide training so that the whole department does it the correct way.
        The boss could give you instruction manuals where it makes sense and if there are manuals.

        The weekend will be a wonderful thing, because it will give everyone a chance to think about how THEY contributed to your discomfort and poor training. Monday will be better.

      2. Anon Accountant*

        Hey! I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Happened to me several times in the first few years into my career – so prob from 21 – 25 years. It’s has no negative impact at all – I have received promotions, great feedback, mentorship, and been offered a partnership, all at that same job. It’s not a pleasant experience and I’d obviously try to avoid it, but work can be really stressful and it sounds like the conflicting instructions may have made you feel a little helpless.
        I wouldn’t make too big a deal out of it – apologize very briefly and just once. Say something like “I apologize for having gotten emotional last meeting” and then keep it moving.
        Going forward if you can, maybe try to do the following: if you’re already very stressed or emotional, to the extent possible try to defer conversations that are likely to be triggering. Come up with a script of what you want to discuss in your head and run through the scenarios so you’re not as overwhelmed when the meeting takes place, and try not to dwell on / go into too much detail when you describe something that was very upsetting (like getting conflicting instructions), so that your emotions don’t build up too much. Usually you can convey the relevant information in a very short summary, such as “I got really confused when Sam said that all teapot reports have to be filed by date, and Toby said they are filed by client id #, and I couldn’t figure out what the proper way to do it was. How should I have addressed this issue?”
        Keep your chin up! I’m sure people will have forgotten this in a few weeks!

      3. Hmer35*

        I did this with a brand new boss a few months ago. My previous manager was promoted and double-hatting for several months, so by the time they hired his replacement I was ready to go crazy from the stress of taking over many of his job responsibilities while managing my own workload. Totally lost it on a call with new boss less than 2 weeks into his tenure.

        He was very kind about it. I apologized, and then we talked through the issues that had led to the breakdown and discussed some things we could do quickly as a team to smooth the transition. The next time he and I spoke I made a joke about it to give him the “all clear” that I was sane again, he laughed too, and that was that.

        3 weeks later he offered me a promotion on the team. They really do forget about it much more quickly than you will.

    17. BarkusOrlyus*

      Much of the advice above about not making it into a bigger deal than it needs to be is helpful. I find it’s also important to try and avoid letting it happen again. I used to get emotional at work when I was around your age. What helped was not taking it personally (easier said than done, but still effective)—any situation that involves a lot of humans is going to be, at times, tense and frustrating. Radical acceptance of this helped me get to the “laugh it off rather than cry it out” place. There are limits to this, however, so if this job makes you feel backed into a corner too often, it’s OK to move on.

    18. Mr. Rogers*

      This isn’t going to help at the current workplace, but the nice thing about first jobs is that you soon leave them and can put all those embarrassing moments behind you!

    19. Fiddlesticks*

      I’m so sorry you were hit the frustration wall, but like a lot of people are saying, try not to hold it against yourself too much. Work faux pas when you’re 22 are very, very unlikely to follow you around in your career.

      Lots of people here have already given good advice, so I’ll tell you a story that’ll make you feel better about yourself in contrast to 20-something me: after working 12+ hrs every single day for more than a month, a manager pulled me into a conference room to give me a tough talk about how I wasn’t trying hard enough. I went into a blind rage and started anger crying, which only made me angrier, at which point I threatened to throw an expletive chair through the expletive glass wall of the expletive conference room and expletive walk out that expletive day. I wanna say like, “Shocking I wasn’t fired!” except that job was so expletive toxic I still stand by everything I sad that day and that kind of meltdown was almost routine at ex job.

    20. ..Kat..*

      No advice. Just wanted to give you my sympathetic support. I too have cried at work. I got over it by holding my head high and just continuing on. I still work at this job by the way.

      I seem to remember someone here had some techniques for helping to suppress tears, but don’t remember them.

    21. Mimmy*

      Oh this is so timely! I was reprimanded yesterday by my supervisor (she was very kind) and I cried, and couldn’t stop crying for much of the afternoon. I even cried in front of two coworkers – I was a blubbering mess. Thank goodness they let me cry in the office with the door closed – but my supervisor’s office is next door, so I hope she didn’t hear us :/ By the way, I’m in my 40s with anxiety issues.

  4. Behind the Scenes*

    Quiet/non-flashy people in a competitive workplace, how do you toot your own horn, get assigned to projects, or make a case for your ideas?

    1. Squeeble*

      I’m this person. For me it comes down to being flawlessly dependable. I’ve been assigned to certain (sometimes surprising) projects because–at least this is my perception of it–people know that I’ll come through and do a good job. I’m not flaky and I’m a hard worker.

      As far as making a case for your ideas, I think this can actually be a point in a quiet person’s favor. It means you’re not talking for talking’s sake, and if you have something to say, it’s because it’s important. Most people will pick up on that and be willing to listen. That’s been my experience, at least; I’m sure it doesn’t translate to every office, though.

      1. Higher Ed Database Dork*

        Dependability has worked for me as well. I have noticed most of the flashier competitive people I’ve worked with tend to be all talk and no follow through, so following through – even just very simple stuff, like “Thanks, I received your file”, makes a big difference to people.

      2. Annabelle*

        I second this. I’m about as quiet and non-flashy as they come, but I work hard and I’m really good at my job. Also, I’m totally with you re: quiet people making a case for their ideas. IMO, managers and decision makes appreciate quieter folks speaking up with new ideas.

      3. Fortitude Jones*

        This was definitely true for me at Evil Law Firm (was there for nearly three years in three different roles) and then in the first two divisions I was in at my next company. However, it was not at all true in my last division (the job I just left in December, hence why I left). I was one of their best workers, and had the most designations in the group (which is a big deal in our industry), and yet they bypassed me for a promotion to prop up someone mediocre and who had only been in our division for five minutes. Clearly that environment was not for me.

    2. Parse*

      I feel the struggle. I like to think that if I’m extremely consistent with my work ethic (I respond to emails quickly, get things done on time, don’t make excuses, offer to help others, etc.), people will take notice.

      I don’t want to generalize too hard, but I think that eventually, people start to see through those who are “flashy”, aka. “all talk, no action” kinda people. When there’s a big presentation, sure they might go to someone who is more outgoing and creative, but trust that people will go to you when they want to be assured that the work will accurately get done.

      1. Sloan Kettering*

        There is definitely an art to schmoozing that it’s easy to miss in addition to Snark’s points above about being dependable. I haven’t quite nailed it myself – at my job it takes place in one-on-one conversations offline.

    3. 42*

      I would take a person of influence like a manager aside, or schedule a 1-on-1 with them, and ask to be considered for certain projects that interest you, and explain why.

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

        This ^

        As a manager of quiet, non self horn tooters, sometimes I need a hard clue that you are interested in new experiences. 1:1s are great for this discussion. It doesn’t have to be a hard sell, just a word or two that lets me know you are interested in something, especially if there is a specific thing you want to be involved in.

        1. 42*

          >>It doesn’t have to be a hard sell, just a word or two that lets me know you are interested in something, especially if there is a specific thing you want to be involved in.<<

          Exactly what I'm getting at. Just ask.

        2. Artemesia*

          This. You can’t let your sense of self limit you from doing what you need to do. You need to 1. tell your boss what your goals for promotion are or the kinds of projects you hope to work on 2. tell your boss your successes. 2 is most easily done informally but it should be strategic on your part. If clients loved something, you find a time to say ‘I wanted to share this client reaction with you, they were thrilled with our Llama grooming presentation. We were really pleased to have this effect.’ It is always useful to phrase these things as being happy with feedback or happy with X outcome (we exceeded our record week in sales of tea cozies after we placed the ads on Craig’s List). Get over the idea that it is bragging — it is keeping the boss informed and in touch with what you are doing.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        That’s a really good idea. It reminds me of the advice I heard somewhere (which isn’t always true) that many times, if you want a promotion, you need to ask for it.

        Hopefully you have one on ones with your manager (or at least performance reviews), in which the topic is your future plans comes up. If it hasn’t, find time to talk to your manager and state explicitly that you’d like to be promoted, or that a certain project interests you.

        As a relatively quiet person (in some contexts anyway), I find that sometimes managers assume that I’d like to just keep working at what I’m doing rather than advance or develop in any way. Once I made that clear, my boss was definitely willing to do whatever he could to help me learn new skills, take on more responsibility, and get ahead. He also had some good ideas about what parts of the business he thought I would excel at and find interesting.

    4. Future Analyst*

      Keep a folder with “good feedback” emails, and when it’s time for a review/promotion, etc., you refer to those and highlighted what you did well. I find it much easier to showcase things I did well in writing (as opposed to being able to talk about it), but if your office culture dictates talking about things you did well, practice! With a friend/spouse/cat, or even in the mirror, say “Hi __, I’m interested in being staffed to the xyz project, and I think I’d make a good fit based on my work on the abc project. If you recall, Jack and Jill were very pleased with my llama wrangling skills, and I think those would transfer well to the goat rodeo.” It feels awkward, but like most things, practice makes it slightly less so. :)

    5. Specialk9*

      Honestly, I think you need to find ways to speak up, because managers don’t notice the quiet competent one as much. It’s not fair, but it’s likely up to you to find ways to get recognition.

      I am female and look very young, in a male industry. I make a point of making a short, mentally rehearsed comment, delivered with full gravitas and confidence, in every major meeting. I monitor carefully to not be That Person who talks too much or derails, but I speak up.

      I also find ways to be the coordinator. I write the status reports and send the emails keeping things moving. It’s a work focused communication that doesn’t trigger the same shy reaction that public speaking does.

      And I force myself to do public speaking. It suuuuucks, but I practice like crazy, including the warm impromptu sounding bits. Toastmaster is a great resource.

    6. kas*

      Like the others have mentioned above, by being dependable, always being willing to help out and speaking up. I had one amazing manager who knew I worked hard and took my work seriously so when an opportunity came up to work on a project with a more senior manager in a different department, he mentioned my name. I was really able to put myself out there and made new connections. I was then promoted to another position.

      I’m also very vocal if I want to try something new. I’ve had a meeting with a manager before to let him know I was interested in another department at another office and he reached out to his contact to set-up a meeting for me. He also assigned me to a project that would give me more experience to better my resume. He definitely would not do this for everyone.

      Sometimes your work speaks for itself, especially if you have great managers that pay attention. If you feel that you need to speak up, I would just mention what projects you are interested in and if there’s an opportunity to work on the projects. Even if there’s no opportunity at the moment, at least you put it out there for any future opportunities.

    7. Higher Ed Database Dork*

      Something my manager has repeatedly praised me on is my willingness to do my work. This sounds funny, but what I mean is – he’ll come to me and say, “I need you to do X/look into Y” or whatever. I say, “Okay I will do that” and get to work. I don’t immediately throw up walls, ask a million questions, or otherwise stonewall him. Often I will have questions, but I ask them in a neutral, information-seeking manner, and typically they will come after I research whatever I can first.

      In my work life, I’ve encountered a lot of flashy people that take a task their boss has given them and just immediately dismantle it, question it, and otherwise talk a bunch about either why they can’t do it, or how to improve it (when improvements are not needed at that point). Those aren’t necessarily bad things in moderation, but to default to it for every task your boss asks you to do is wearying. My take on it is that the more competitive people I’ve worked with REALLY WANT YOU TO KNOW how smart and special they are.

      1. Squeeble*

        Ooooh, this is such a good point. Being willing to just do the job, even if it’s tedious or thankless, has served me well, too.

        Recently I got the chance to do some last-minute travel to a big presentation because the presenters needed a good notetaker. They were super grateful to me for being willing to come out and do it, and in my head I’m like, score! Free travel! Of course I’ll do it!

      2. Sloan Kittering*

        I’d say YMMV on that one. I’ve read about how promotions and bonuses are typically earned “on the margins” meaning the work that’s outside the core of job descriptions. If you’re doing the coordinating, administrative, support type work and someone else is using that time bringing in a new client, you’re not going to be rewarded in my experience.

        1. Higher Ed Database Dork*

          Oh absolutely, you have to know your workplace and the culture. In my experience, the things I was being asked to do were the exact same things as the more competitive people, so we were on equal footing.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      Speak up. (In meetings, or wherever is appropriate for the goal.) If you weigh in only occasionally, but make really good points when you do, people will notice. But if surrounded by fast talkers, you have to be willing to push yourself forward a bit and seize the floor for a minute to make your good point.

    9. Camellia*

      I’ve read the great comments here and would add one: watch your body language.

      I just had the opportunity to observe this again yesterday. I have a couple of quiet/non flashy coworkers, but one of them hunches their shoulders forward, often with crossed arms like they are huddling in on themselves, ducks their head down a lot, and so forth. The other maintains an upright posture, looks at people when they speak, and so on. They are both smart and good at their jobs but guess which one makes a better impression?

      1. Specialk9*

        YES. I had a coworker/ occasional subordinate (depending on the project) and she was hella smart, but her body language was so look-away-middle-school-girl that it was hard to take her seriously. She hunched her shoulders, spoke softly, stood with her toes pointing inward, and just meeeelted.

        Then one day she started standing straight, speaking confidently, and taking charge of her tasks. It was startling. But suddenly she was someone I’d hand my project over to, whereas before the client would have been eaten her alive.

    10. Dead Quote Olympics*

      It might depend on exactly what competitive means in your environment. If you are surrounded by genuinely competent co-workers who are all competing to get their good ideas or stellar work out there in front of their manager, then you are going to have to find ways to ask for the work that interests you, point out your successes, etc. It’s not necessarily true that competitiveness goes hand in hand with empty flashiness. As others have noted, it could be that your promotion of your work interests gets done in one on one meetings or in less public ways, or you might have to set yourself a goal like “in every third meeting, I will speak up about my work/lay claim to a project” and just practice getting comfortable doing it.

      If, however, you are surrounded by coworkers that skew more to “all hat and no cattle,” then your quiet competence is more likely to be standing out anyway. I have a small but high performing staff who are very low drama in general. There are two who are more high maintenance/high drama about their work, even though they are quite capable on high profile projects. If the drama quotient goes up, I tend to appreciate the quiet, dependable, low drama performers even more.

    11. Yetanotherjennifer*

      I call it the gentle art of shameless self promotion and it is something you need to learn because people who are quietly competent tend to blend in rather than stand out. But I’ll leave the specifics to other commenters. I’ve been out of the office too long and the tactics of the person who inspired the phrase may not be appropriate now.

    12. Not So NewReader*

      Getting assigned projects:
      Tell the boss that you need more to do, if that is true.
      Express interest in a particular type of project, if that is true.
      Remind the boss of experiences you have had, “Boss, I have polished teapots before. I notice you seem to be rotating that project through our group, but I never get it. I can do a decent polish job and I don’t mind taking my turn.”
      Pay attention to what the boss complains about. “Boss, I know you and many others find the overflowing waste cans around here super annoying. I got to thinking about how that could be a safety hazard also. I noticed a noticed a stack of larger waste cans in the back of the supply room that no one seems to want. Maybe we could swap ours for those?” The key in this story is that you don’t give a fig either way about the waste cans. But you happen to notice that others do and you happen to notice a solution. The waste cans are totally irrelevant to what you do and yet it’s a simple fix for some inconvenient big picture problem.

      Making a case for your ideas:
      Know your boss. Every boss has pet concerns that they keep going back to. For example, you know that the boss will frequently respond with, “Regarding your idea on the teapots, how will that effect teapot quality if we do this?” Be ready to answer these types of questions BEFORE you begin presenting your ideas. If you get stuck with not knowing an answer ask for time out, to go find out and come back to the discussion later. Don’t be embarrassed by not knowing, you can build HUGE credibility when you come back with a well researched answer.

      Typically bosses respond to ideas that save money, save time or improve accuracy. Be able to clearly show how an idea will save money/time or improve accuracy. Start by presenting the Best of Your Best ideas. Bring in an idea that you feel is fairly bullet proof, it’s so well thought out and just makes so much sense. Presenting these solid ideas is a good way to build confidence. And there is an interesting side-effect. You will get into conversation with the boss about the idea and you will start to get some insight as to how the boss thinks. Once you have a better idea of what concerns the boss or how the boss looks at things, you will be able to present more and more ideas.
      For example, you could present you waste can solution in the above example. Suddenly, it seems the boss turns the tables and it’s not the over flowing cans that actually bother her. It’s the huge amount of paper that is wasted everyday that upsets her. In this example, consider yourself a day older and a day wiser. You got the boss to clearly state what the actual problem is. A good response here is, “Oh, Okay. I will keep that in the back of my head and see if I can figure out something different we can do.” I have said things like this and it has been a year or two before I came back to the conversation. Do not be embarrassed by taking so long, the sheer fact that the problem is still going on telegraphs that no one else has figured out what to do either. Bringing it up again, when you get that rock solid idea, shows that you are a person of your word.
      A very key thing to hold on to: When you present an idea and the boss ask questions don’t get discouraged. Instead look at the nature of the questions. Bosses who are really considering an idea show a progression in their questioning. They ask thinking person questions, don’t let these types of questions derail you, keep going.

    13. Em Too*

      Sometimes it’s easier to do these things by email, or one-to-one, rather than in a big meeting. ‘Manager, I think it would be a really good idea if this project had someone looking at [specific angle] – shall I look into it?

    14. Jules the First*

      Build a big internal network. The more people who know your work is good and that you’re a good team player, the more likely it is that your name comes up when they’re all sitting around talking about who to put on the next big project. It’s infinitely easier to get on the project if someone says “what about arya?” and everyone around the table goes “oh yeah, arya does great work!” If someone says “what about arya?” and people around the table say “who?” you’re much less likely to get staffed.

    15. Katrina Turner*

      A couple of tips that helped me when I worked in a competitive corporate workplace:

      1) Maybe you can become more comfortable with “self-promotion” by making it more oriented around thanking the people who contributed. A bit like an Oscars award acceptance speech, make an announcement (whether at a company meeting/event or through email or internal social media channel) outlining the success of your project, and list everyone you’d like to thank and why. E.g. “We just pulled off another fantastic program, I’d love to share these photos and results – 100% this and 94% this and 92% that, etc. I would love to thank the following people: Cersei Lannister for running an engaging and exciting workshop. Ned Stark for giving an inspiring presentation. Robert Baratheon for being a great liaison and Jon Snow for your indispensable AV support. We couldn’t have made this happen without such a wonderful team and I’m excited to continue to work with you to drive even bigger and better programs in the future.” That way you are promoting the work you did but making sure you highlight and thank others so it doesn’t come across as ego-centric?

      2) On the other side of the coin, realise that sometimes it’s not a bad thing to “toot your own horn” if it really is something that others would generally say about you. Of course it’s one thing to exaggerate about yourself, but if it’s quite objective and measurable it’s not really being flashy to honestly and openly express it. One experience I had which really helped me realise this was when a manager (not my direct manager, but an influential one in a separate department) encouraged me to be profiled on an internal company site that showcased exceptional performers. Initially I thought “hmmm…” and was a bit reticent/thought I didn’t deserve to be profiled there, but then he went ahead and sent me a full write-up of what he would write for my profile if he was me (I think from memory he had even written it in first-person and everything), and basically said “I didn’t want you to go to additional trouble to answer all the profile questions so you can just copy all this in if you like, don’t think of it as “tooting your own horn” because it’s all 100% true.” He literally used the phrase “don’t think of it as tooting your own horn”, and it helped me realise that if I could hand on heart honestly say that someone else would say this about me, it was probably true enough to be able to say about myself.

      3) Build a strong relationship with a sponsor, or even multiple sponsors, within your company – whether this is your direct manager or someone else, who has the influence and inclination to advocate on your behalf to get assigned to projects, etc. This way you could communicate your ideas and perspectives in 1:1 scenarios rather than having to do it more publicly.

      Hope this helps?

  5. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Since there has been so much policing, nitpicking, sniping and just plain ol’ being out for blood lately, I thought I’d try to interject some kindness.

    I’m still relatively new to the community, but I have enjoyed it immensely. I’ve learned A LOT – both from Allison and the commenters. I’ve also laughed a lot. Maybe even cried a little from some of the stories. You all are some of the best people and storytellers I’ve ever come across. And that includes the letter writers!

    Personally, it’s done me a world of good to see that people from all sorts of different paths see value in each others experiences. Being someone who can often be viewed as unimportant (and is frequently treated that way at my office), it has been heartwarming to know that my knowledge and viewpoint is/should be valued.

    I’d also like to thank Allison for cultivating an intelligent, kind, and thoughtful community. There seems to be a rough patch right now, so I especially appreciate her efforts in moderating. That can’t be easy.

    1. Jo*

      This may (ironically) come across as nitpicking, but has there been much sniping? I’ve been reading here for years (not much of a commenter though) and the tone hasn’t really shifted much.

      1. Someone Else Needs The Wood*

        There’s too much mob mentality and pile on. If someone expresses a dissenting view point, the long time favorites around here will go nuts telling you why you’re wrong and how wrong you are. Snark is the best example of this.

        1. Snark*

          Best example of a longtime favorite going nuts and telling people they’re wrong, or best example of being gone nuts on and told I’m wrong?

          1. Specialk9*

            I read it as an example of mob mentality and piling on. Ie a mob attacking Snark, not a mob made up of Snark clones.

          2. Mike C.*

            The thing that irritates me about these situations is that it gets really hard to reply to everyone, or the rare case where the OP drops in and posts something that changes everything.

            Oh, and the idea that someone isn’t disagreeing just to argue rather than actually believing something.

        2. Emi.*

          There’s definitely a party line. What I find most frustrating is when someone (usually a newcomer) gets piled on and tries to respond to multiple (more or less aggressive) comments in the pile, and then someone gets all “Why do you keep saying this, you’ve already made it perfectly clear that you think [absurd straw man], why are you going on about it?”

          1. Oranges*

            I think that’s because we’ve gotten larger so we don’t realize it’s a pile on until too late? Because yes, it does happen and then people get defensive (both sides of the debate usually) and dig in which isn’t great. I have no clue how to fix though.

            1. Jesca*

              I think we should just make pacts to call it out when we see it. Like hey, this is getting too personal and leaving the world of debate.

            2. Sloan Kittering*

              I will say there are also so many comments on a thread now (which is great!) that nobody can read them all before commenting. I open a comment and the thread has tripled by the time I hit “post” so now I look like I’m repeating 20 other people. It’s almost a good problem to have, but I’m not sure how to address it.

              1. Tuna Melts*

                “I open a comment and the thread has tripled by the time I hit “post” so now I look like I’m repeating 20 other people.”

                Yes, this!

                Great minds think alike, I guess?

              2. Jules the Third*

                AAM needs a better commenting system. It would save so many problems if we just had a simple ‘like / dislike’ option, which I see in a lot of different blog systems, not just facebook.

                The volume of readers has outgrown this simple format.

                1. Elizabeth H.*

                  I really don’t want like/dislike button I like that this is a comments section that’s actually used as a comments section, NOT a message board or a forum. Even though there are weekend open threads for off-topic conversation, which I think can be more of a source of building personal connections among commenters in a forum-like way, I appreciate that it is about substantial discussion rather than popularity of certain posts.

                2. Specialk9*

                  AAM’s comment section is a unicorn-infested wonderland of rainbows compared to Slate’s Livefyre hell.

              3. Emi.*

                Yeah, my specific pet peeve is people attacking the original dissenter for “saying the same thing over and over” in response to the pile-on, so they definitely saw how many comments there were. It’s not the biggest problem but it really gets under my skin.

      2. Future Analyst*

        Also a reader for years, and things have felt rough for a while. Not so much so that I’d stop reading/commenting, but there’s certainly something. Personally, I know that my tolerance for BS has gone down significantly since Nov 2016, so I’m much quicker to call someone on it if they’re saying something out of line. Yesterday’s slut-shaming for women who don’t want to keep their legs glued together for 8+ hours a day really pissed me off.

        1. Bostonian*

          Me too. …women who don’t want to keep their legs glued shut OR who don’t want to change their wardrobe.

          I mostly wear pants and don’t find skirts particularly comfortable/flattering for my body type, so if I were at a workplace where suddenly I had to switch to skirts, it would be a major put-out for me. I imagine the same is true for the inverse scenario.

        2. Emi.*

          I saw a lot of things I thought were unreasonable, but nothing that qualified as “slut-shaming.” Can you link to an example?

          But going off that post, I think there’s generally a problem of (even superficially) similar views being treated as though they’re the same. I did see some non-slut-shaming comments being treated (not by you in particular, and maybe not even at all–I don’t remember) as though they were slut-shaming, just because they also invoked propriety or modesty, or said you shouldn’t sit a certain way in certain outfits. There’s certainly a reasonable version of that, but it sometimes gets thrown in with less reasonable views, and I do think a focus on “keeping people in line” exacerbates that tendency.

          1. Future Analyst*

            Just a few samples below. And to be clear, I don’t think anyone overtly called the OP a slut, just implied that she is less-than because she’s “not as modest” as the person commenting, which is a common way to undercut women. (And conveniently plays into the familiar, “but what were you wearing?” discussion) If you take issue with my use of the phrase “slut-shaming,” okay: I’m fine using whatever other term properly conveys that the OP was being treated as immodest (in part by other women, no less!), and a simple request for updated furniture became an issue of morality. For me, “slut-shaming” is a good short-hand for that, but to each their own. I don’t intend to start a new discussion right here about yesterday’s comments, but would be happy to continue the discussion below.

            “I keep my legs closed when I’m wearing a dress. OPs focus on that feel unbelievable to me” (Implication: I am modest enough to not need a modesty board, OP must be flaunting her goods)

            “I’m having a hard time picturing this being an issue unless you’re sitting with splayed legs or wearing a mini skirt”

            “my mother always drilled in me to keep my legs closed/crossed at all times”

            1. Jesca*

              Yeah, I think they touched on it a little yesterday under that one post I made that a lot of time people don’t realize how conditioned they have been to accommodate less than equal work places and in a society as a whole.

              I think it came across to many people as condescending to suggest that the OP just doesn’t know how to sit correctly, and if she just learned, then she wouldn’t be complaining about something so ridiculous – I like to think people did not mean to come off that way, but it really did.

        3. Plague of frogs*

          “You wouldn’t have this problem if you just kept your knees together” is, like, never the right thing to say. Yesterday pissed me off too.

      3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        As a very long-time reader (and formerly much more prolific commenter), there was a transition in tone several years ago, as the site grew. I enjoy the comment section less now than I used to, but it’s still remarkably thoughtful and engaged compared to pretty much anywhere else online.

        1. Jesca*

          Yes, I have lurked for a long. I do enjoy going back and reading the older posts.

          I think the shift too though also may be because more polarizing posts are coming in than before, and we are all learning that not everything is as black and white as we once thought.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, I think it actually happened a couple of years ago when the commenting community became larger. It’s been particularly bad in the last week or so though, which happens every single year in January (and I assume is related to weather). The tenor of some comments on yesterday’s post about the desks was really awful.

          And in the last year or so, I’ve moderated much less consistently than I used to, since a combination of workload and the volume of comments means that I read a lower proportion of them than I used to. I’ve more or less made my peace with the fact that I can’t moderate as thoroughly/consistently as I’d ideally like to, but I do think this is one of the trade-offs. (That said, I’m hoping to be a bit more active in moderating at some point — just in a particularly work-heavy period right now.)

          Overall, though, I still think this comment section is far better than most when it comes to thoughtfulness and civility.

          1. Dorothy Zbornak*

            Have you ever thought about bringing on trusted volunteer moderators from our pool of commenters, to help with the workload?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yeah, but I’ve never wanted to do it. Everyone makes different judgment calls about when something is over the line, and I don’t want someone removing things that I wouldn’t have removed, or so forth. The logistics of scheduling would also be a pain since my schedule is constantly fluctuating, but the bigger issue is that I’m wary of ceding the judgment calls to someone else. (I also don’t think I could ethically ask people to volunteer their time and work, rather than paying them.)

              And really, right now I don’t think it needs it. People aren’t going to get a perfectly curated experience here and sometimes things will get messier than I’d want, but that’s okay.

              1. Oranges*

                Have you thought of “deputizing” some commentators who would have slightly more authority to go “Stop this” and then call you in if they think it’s warranted? Just to act as your eyes?

                1. Emi.*

                  I personally think that having officially designated Special Commenters would dramatically exacerbate the problem of cliquey-ness.

                2. Eva*

                  Hi Eva. I have you on moderation because of some sock puppetry a while ago (posting under different names to agree with yourself). I’m not releasing from moderation the comment that you keep trying to post here because I don’t want you attacking other commenters. Thanks for understanding. – Alison

                3. Semi regular*

                  There are a couple of posters who have pretty much taken on that role all on their own so she really doesn’t need to do that, her allowing them to do it gives them permission to continue. I’ve never been a super prolific commenter, but sometimes I have an opinion that is contrary (even just a little) to the party line but just decide not to post it because I know that disagreeing with the in crowd is an invitation to be accused of all kinds of “issue-ist” behavior. I certainly read less of the comments too, it’s a little too much sometimes.


                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  There are a couple of posters who have pretty much taken on that role all on their own so she really doesn’t need to do that, her allowing them to do it gives them permission to continue.

                  I struggle with this. I don’t like some of this when I see it, and it’s sometimes not the same call I would have made so I’m not thrilled to see attempts to enforce a rule that I don’t think has been violated. But there are other times when having a community that does self-police to a large extent is very helpful, so I don’t want to shut it down entirely. And there’s no way to say “self-police but you have to read my mind and do it exactly how I want you to,” and so I’ve just lived with this imperfect mix of it, so far at least.

                5. essEss*

                  I’ve seen that get problematic on other chat boards because when a deputy does step in, some people don’t know they have the authority to correct others then it turns into a ‘you can’t tell me what to do’ fight. Conversely, because some people are allowed to correct others, non-deputies begin to correct others because they aren’t aware that they have to be designated as deputies to be able to do it. Then people being corrected don’t know if it is an official correction, or just a busybody throwing their weight around.

                6. Specialk9*

                  Emi, I think it would work fine. Look at Evan (formerly VVU) on Slate – he both moderates, comments, and writes articles.

                  But there are people with consistently respectful, kind, thoughtful posts. (Not me, I have an Irish temper. But other people.)

              2. Todd Chrisley Knows Best*

                What about an option to flag comments? I know I’m some forums there would be people flagging just to flag, but I think we’re mostly reasonable people that could use it responsibly.

                1. galatea*

                  Being able to flag comments would be nice — as it is, sometimes there are comments that are outright offensive that go up and stay up (I remember a comment calling requesting trigger warnings as “autistic screeching”, which — jeez, yikes)

              3. Jules the Third*

                Have you considered changing your comment technology? A simple ‘like / dislike’ or ‘upvote / downvote’ would let people express themselves while reducing the volume of actual posts needed for review.

                Also, there’s ways to handle the trusted delegate that could be real positives for you.
                – Don’t have them ban, have them flag some for you to review
                – Help them with a ‘trusted commenters’ list (Snark, Consuela, Ramona, Victoria are easy for example), and people ‘earn’ their way on to that list with a flagged comments to comments ratio, or some other ‘like / dislike’ metric
                – Think about an internship.

                You *might* even check with local high schools to see if they’ve got any particularly woke / mature students in need of a job. Set it up for remote control and provide a laptop, they could review during study hall and after school. Kids are *remarkably* savvy about internet meanness these days. Yes, there’s quality control issues, but you can put guidelines and training down that mitigate them.

                This blog is getting too big to manage by yourself, esp if it’s a second job. Start looking at how to handle the growth now; you’re already about two viral posts behind.

                1. Ramona Flowers*

                  I am very flattered to be listed here but I definitely post poorly judged comments at times.

                  I think upvotes are problematic as they can fuel a herd mentality.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  There’s a discussion that starts here about why I don’t want to do upvotes:
                  (keep scrolling down)

                  On the other stuff … I don’t want the site to become that, really. That stuff all sounds like a headache to me, and I do the site because it brings me joy and I think helps people. I’m okay with it being a little messy at times because of the growth, if that’s the price of avoiding the stuff that I’m really not interested in taking on. I figured out a while ago that I need to run things in a way that’s sustainable for me and won’t burn me out by turning the whole thing into a headache.

                3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I’m with Ramona! (Although I very much appreciate the implied compliment.)

                  I am too argumentative/hot-tempered, sometimes, to be a reliable flagger… and I do worry that it would create power dynamics that would cause more, not less, friction among the commentariat. :( But I have seen these methods work with other boards/comment sections, and I understand why these approaches can be effective in other contexts.

              4. Magenta Sky*

                There is wisdom in what you say. One of the things I’ve noticed about web forums (this isn’t exactly a forum, but it’s close enough on this) is that once there is enough traffic to need multiple moderators, cliques start to form, and those cliques get very, very good, very quickly, at playing moderators off against one another. And they basically take over the forum. The favorites can get away with anything under the protection of their favorite moderator, and anyone who crosses them, no matter how well behaved they are objectively, is punished. It’s an inevitable facet of human nature, I think.

                1. Lissa*

                  Yes and it isn’t even intentional. There are a few commenters here who get a lot of praise and tend to “get away” with more. I don’t think it’s intentional, and some of these people are those that I like, but it mirrors something I see in the real world too. We give people the benefit of the doubt more if we know them and see them as more than one insensitive comment, but if a new “name” does it people are more likely to all jump.

                  I also wish people wouldn’t post if all they are saying is something like “No, just no” or “Wow.” Or any sarcastic one-liner that’s dismissing somebody’s comment. Especially when there are already a dozen other comments saying the same thing.

            2. Lady Phoenix*

              I too kinda agree on appointing some “Mods” who can make discussions end and ban then trolls.

              But maybe look around, like Doctor Nerdlove and Capatain Awkward.

              But another things, maybe close the comments the moment you post a story if you know you can’t moderate (vacation, super busy, etc)

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I have closed comments a few times when I felt like things were getting really out of hand and I didn’t have time to wade into it right then. But in general, I reserve that for really extreme cases. I don’t love it when discussions get contentious or weird, but I also figure we’re all adults who can handle it or step away if we don’t like it. (I’m less comfortable with that stance when the problem is that a letter writer is being treated terribly, though.)

                1. Lady Phoenix*

                  I guess it is more of if you really can’t commit to moderating the comments for that day—especially on hot issues—that it is better to cut it off at the pass and maybe save it for friday discussions than to come back to a flaming nuke pile of bullshit

              2. LCL*

                I don’t see Captain Awkward as a good example of moderating comments. Sure, she bans trolls, but there’s way too much ‘we’re all victims of something and if you don’t agree you are committing erasure’ in many of her comment sections. And she allows pile ons if you post something against the hive mind. Of course its her site and she can do whatever she pleases with it, but I find her comment section often very distasteful and would hate to see this site go in that direction.

                1. Elizabeth H.*

                  I completely agree. I don’t like that effect and I like that there are dissenting views here.

                2. Natalie*

                  Yep. The only time I read the comments regularly was when I was struggling with a particular thing that comes up there a lot (bad relationship) and the many, many validating comments on those posts were so helpful to me. But since then I find the comments section frankly boring and repetitive at best. Still love the posts themselves, though.

                3. Sloan Kittering*

                  I struggle so hard with that comment section. On one hand, I really enjoy her blog and I think I can up my game on consciousness/privilege things her readers are quick to point out. On the other hand, I feel like it quickly gets into the Oppression Olympics and I have to bail early on that. I see in a lot of liberal circles (and I am a liberal) that there’s a sort of out-victiming that goes on … the greatest victim wins the discussion somehow, so people are always laying out their cards on the table in a way that is weird to me. As you say, though, it’s her own site and she can run it however she likes.

                4. Lady Phoenix*

                  Yeah, especially after one of the previous letters had an OP who was essentially suicide guilt tripping her lover into staying and the commenters were subtly blaming the lover for being promiscuous.

                  I guess it is more like I like how she closes discussions on days she can’t moderate… even though she does have a forum for people to talk about it.

                  As for moderators, Doctor Nerdlove can be good. They will allow discussions and chances, and only block obvious trolls or really rude people who were given a chance to change and don’t.
                  Just this week there was a guy who claimed that it was ok to harass and assault/forcibly hug women because they “love” then and they are “incredibly lonely with 5 years of no human contact”. After a good bit of everyone going “what the hell” he still doubled on this point and the mods were like “yeah, we’re banning him because this dude is not gonna change and he is perpetuating something really awful”

                5. Specialk9*

                  Yeah – Captain Awkward writes glorious blog posts, and absolutely nails how to navigate and detect above abusive dynamics… but also gets really mad in the comments and yells at everyone.

                  And I always walk away from CA giving my (wonderfully feminist) husband the stink eye, which he doesn’t deserve.

                6. Magenta Sky*

                  For bad moderating, nothing, but *nothing* can compare to the roleplaying forums at

                  Moderators inform you they are moderators in their .sigs. If you mention they are moderators in a post, they will ban you (because you are interfering with their enjoyment as participants, I guess).

                  If you dispute anything (and I do mean *anything*) said by someone claiming to be female (even after it is proven they’re a sock puppet), you’ll be banned.

                  One guy was banned for refusing to do something he’d be banned for. (The moderator *said* that.)

                  Captain Awkward’s community does, indeed, have a certain hive mind quality, and will swarm all over anyone who gets in its way, but it’s the picture of civility by comparison to But then, so is the average riot.

          2. Helen*

            Candi told me off hard for posting multiple times in the same question when I had only posted one single time. She was very rude and said she irritated at me for something I did not do (and then she supported someone who actually did post multiple times and said she did because they were not me). I really turned me off from commenting here for a while. Especially as no one backed me up even though I didn’t do anything.

              1. Bostonian*

                I just realized my comment sounded harsher than was intended. The point was: somebody did back you up, so at least that’s something. It’s crappy that you were called out that way incorrectly. I have also been turned off by unnecessarily hostile responses to a comment of mine here and there (so much so that I’ve changed names a couple times), so it definitely sours the experience.

                1. Little Twelvetoes*

                  I have also changed my name. Partly as a way to make me soften my own tone (which I know can sound wrong when I write), but partly because I don’t want to be reminded of past exchanges.

                2. MissingArizona*

                  I’ve also done a name change due to piling on. So much gets lost over text, and some people just go straight to negative. There are still a lot of positive people to defend someone, so I stay because of them.

                3. MilkMoon (UK)*

                  I’ve taken a six-month break from even visiting the site at all, and then came back with a different name, due to reactions to my comments before too. After yesterday I’m tempted to again.

                  I’ve even posted what I could clearly see would be a controversial comment, not to antagonise but because it was my genuine feeling, and then just left the post and never returned, because I just knew people would be awful to me (after reading the other comments) and I didn’t want to deal with it. I really feel like noone should have to do that.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I think one thing to remember — and it can be hard to remember when you’re in the middle of it! — is that this is a large group of strangers from all different walks of life, and people have different ways of talking — some people think they sound perfectly calm but sound really strident to others, and so forth. And then add in that people use comment sections differently — some people come in, skim, leave a comment, and move on. Some people treat them more like discussions where they’re reading everything. So I could see how it could feel like “no one backed me up,” but it could also just be that people aren’t reading that closely or taking note of who said what, etc. (I think too that if someone tells you off for doing something you didn’t do, you’re going to be happier if you just assume that were mistaken and move on — since they’re reacting to something that didn’t happen. But again, I know it’s hard to do when it feels personal.)

            2. Jesca*

              Yes, that quick thread there was really unnecessary there, but others did actually step in and shut it off. If I see someone else stepping, sometimes I don’t comment because it was handled and the “perps” were officially shut down and proven wrong.

              I really hate when people behave the way those did, though. But I would not let them tear you down and shut YOUR voice off. That whole thread there was truly bizarre, and it really had nothing to do with you! It was just ignorance and then a rude defense of ignorance on their parts. That’s how I tend to work through those things myself. I hope you keep commenting!

            3. You're Not My Supervisor*

              I also had someone go berserk on me over something that didn’t even make sense (regular commenter here but I won’t name them). I stopped commenting for about a year, and changed my name when I did start commenting again.

              It’s a shame that this stuff happens, but there’s not much Alison can do given the volume of comments here every day.

              1. Plague of frogs*

                I don’t know what your previous name was, but your new one is AWESOME. Every time I see it I hear Cheryl’s voice shrieking it in my head.

          3. Triumphant Fox*

            January is also just a time when everyone is stressed – so many people are home sick, have just dealt with travel and relatives and cooking for an inordinate number of people who don’t seem particularly grateful. My holidays were lovely, but I get the sense that on top of the weather, January is just a really tough time for people.

        3. Coalea*

          I’m a relatively new reader, so I can’t speak to what things may have been like a few years ago; I do find that the commenters are much more civil than those I have encountered elsewhere. I like the fact that either Alison or one of the “regulars” will remind us all of the commenting guidelines when things start to take a turn for the nasty.

      4. Enough*

        There have been commenters in the past who have been shut down but now no longer comment. Now it seem like the occasional one off. And I think that most of the time it is more a misunderstanding because it’s difficult to write so you understand the tone of the writer.

        1. Little Twelvetoes*

          I stopped commenting for a while, but I’ve come back with a different name for a few comments here and there. I agree that it is so easy to misunderstand the tone of someone before. In one case, I asked for a clarification in someone’s tone, and was so pleased to find that what they meant was more supportive, not negative. I was glad I asked, because now I appreciate comments from that poster (who often has a different opinion than mine) so much more than I used to.

          1. Little Twelvetoes*

            Normally, I wouldn’t try to correct a simple typo, but I have no idea why the word “before” ended up where it did, and it changes the meaning of that sentence!!!

            “I agree that is so easy to misunderstand the tone of someone in writing.”

          2. Not a Real Giraffe*

            Yes, inferring tone can be so hard. There used to be a couple specific usernames I would see that made me immediately groan until I realized the tone I assumed for them was the OPPOSITE of the tone they intended. Some of those commenters have now become my favorites on this site because they often represent a viewpoint that challenges my own, and often in a respectful and thoughtful way.

            But realizing the interpretation of their tone was on me, not on them, help me reframe how I viewed those comments.

      5. Libby*

        I mean it’s still a waaaaaay better place for discussion than most of the internet, but it seems there has been more piling on, making assumptions that aren’t there, projection, and thinking of “this was my experience, so it’s the only experience.” The projection especially.

        But I think overall it’s still a very positive place on the internet with wonderful discussions. But nothing is ever perfect.

        1. zora*

          I think the bad moments stand out more to us because the standard here is so different than the rest of the internet. So it feels more frequent to some of us than it actually is. I agree nothing is perfect, and I try to just shrug off the negative threads and concentrate on the positive ones.

          1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

            Yes – so much this! Logically and overall – this is such a lovely comments section, and definitely stands above most other sections in terms of civility, understanding, general helfulness, etc. But because of this, I’m not expecting the types of behavior you typically see in comments sections, so when it does pop up occasionally it is really noticeable. It almost feels like a betrayal (not saying at all that it is! The feeling is due to my probably unrealistic expectations) – like I trusted you guys (the comments sections as a whole), and was let down.

            Again though, the whole betrayal/let down thing is on me. The issues pop up so rarely that I don’t think anything needs to/could be done to prevent them – just explaining why I think I, at least, might feel disproportionally upset by something that is realistically a minor and/or rare issue.

        2. Jaguar*

          I agree with everyone that this is a really thoughtful and intelligent community, but I agree with you that he speculating and filling in the blanks is a significant negative. Speculating is useful, but a lot of people seem to speculate and then, instead of treating their speculation like a hypothetical, begin talking like their speculation is the truth of the matter. In the most extreme cases, the community is discussing a scenario that barely resembles the contents of the letter. It’s really frustrating to get through, because before you can discuss the letter properly, you now have to get into a discussion of unraveling the speculation, which often comes with its own hostility (“Why are you trying to excuse this person’s behaviour?”).

          The pile-on, though, I don’t think anything can (or maybe even should) be done about. There is a definite slant or zeitgeist to this place and taking a position contrary to it is inevitably going to invite a lot of argument. I don’t think there’s a way around that and, at the root of it, it indicates a positive: it would be nice if people would avoid repeating something someone else has already said, but the fact that it happens so often means that people aren’t afraid to speak up when they have different ideas. Ask a Manager often gets compared to Captain Awkward, but there doesn’t seem to be any dissenting voices there. Speaking up when you know people are going to after you requires a certain level of bravery and people here seem willing to do it. The pile-on is a symptom of that bravery. It doesn’t have to be – there could be a culture of avoiding pile-ons – but it’s not outright a negative, I think.

            1. Natalie*

              It’s the speculation on someone’s speculation on someone’s speculation that seems extra frustrating to me.

              1. Jesca*

                Haha and then the attacks when you call out! Why do people get so emotionally attached to their speculations?

                1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                  I think it’s more that people forget what are actual facts and what is speculation.

                2. Oranges*

                  I’m gonna guess that it’s because they are extrapolating those from their own life/view points?

                  Like when I went a bit… postal once, I look back and see it was because my own past was clouding my judgement. In the moment though? No way could I see that I was extrapolating from my own trauma and truly thought anyone who disagreed with me was telling me my trauma didn’t happen.

                  I don’t know what could have gotten through to me at the time though.

                3. Natalie*

                  Probably most people genuinely either forget the topic drift has occurred or don’t notice it happening in the first place. I’ve certainly had that moment before of “wait, how the hell did we end up talking about this again?” Meanwhile if the speculation has moved into something that trips your emotions, the whole thing is very fraught and emotional now.

                4. Jaguar*

                  Well, ironically, I don’t think you should assume people do it because they’re action emotionally :)

                  It might explain some of the instances, but I can’t believe it explains all of them, and if you assume people fill in the blanks based on an emotional reaction (particularly due to their own past negative experiences), it’s pretty insulting to the people who are doing it clear-headed. Certainly let the knowledge that some people bring the baggage into a situation inform how you interact with them, but I would try hard to avoid making the assumption that it’s what’s happening.

                5. Oranges*

                  @Jaguar I think for the most… strident ones there’s definitely the emotional piece but I think Natilie has hit the nail on the head more than I did.

                6. Specialk9*

                  It seems like speculation is a necessary element of advice. Others ask for advice, and the only thing we can give is based on our experiences – trying to disentangle that seems like trying to peel an onion for the seeds.

                7. Natalie*

                  @ Special9k, sure, but there’s a difference between speculating to give advice – openly, not bringing up a bunch of other issues that aren’t relevant, etc – and digging in to argue about different speculative scenarios.

                8. Jesca*

                  Jaguar, speculation is pretty easy to spot. Its not really all that well … Speculative. Its either the OP mentioned that detail or they did not. If they didn’t, then it’s speculation. Then growing aggitated in order to maintain that that speculation is actual fact is actually having an emotional reaction.

                9. Jaguar*

                  Speculation is totally helpful. But often people don’t acknowledge, or admit, or maybe even realize that what they (or someone else) has speculated is speculation. They say affirmatively, this is the fact of the matter, and will argue with people for suggesting any other scenario. “You’re wrong” or “that’s not helpful” and so forth.

                  It’s the difference between saying “you might be in an abusive relationship” and “you are in an abusive relationship.” The former is a suggestion of concern and healthy speculation. The latter is forming a conclusion with a lack of evidence. They’re similar statements to the ear but vastly different in consequence.

                10. Jaguar*


                  I regularly turn my key the wrong way when coming home, even though I’ve done it thousands of times and only one way makes sense. It’s easy to unlock the door and I screw it up because I’m not paying attention. I agree it’s easy to spot speculation, but that doesn’t mean people always spot it. It’s entirely plausible to me that people can speculate, assume their speculation is correct, and then rigidly defend that position without having what we might describe as an “emotional response,” all without even realizing that they’re baselessly speculating.

                11. Specialk9*

                  Ah, I get what you’re saying. Speculation presented as fact is objectionable. Speculation that is acknowledged as just a possibility is ok.

            2. Lissa*

              I think the main problem I have with the speculation is that it’s rarely a problem when one person says “Well, maybe this person was dealing with a Llama Wrangler” or “Maybe this person is in love with their boss” or what have you. It’s when other people read that, absorb it, and then either forget it wasn’t in the original letter, or see it so much they assume it must be true, so then it’s like this whole game of telephone.

              Or as mentioned below people assume an LW’s situation is just like theirs, and overidentify with someone in the letter, either the LW or someone they’re dealing with, and answer as though it’s THEIR situation. I think this one gets worse when the person they identify with is NOT the LW, because I’ve seen some seriously mean stuff said to LWs when the general tone of the comment thread sympathizes/identifies more with someone else in the letter.

          1. Emi.*

            I think you’re spot-on about the speculation but I disagree about the pile-ons. Plenty of people have said they are afraid to speak up when they have different ideas, or afraid to do so under their usual names. The pile-on isn’t a symptom of bravery; it’s a response, and one that has a particular effect: discouraging others who might also want to step out of line. Sure, it’s not as bad as a comments section where dissent is 100% quashed, but it’s still a negative.

            1. Jaguar*

              Yeah. You might be right, but I wonder how much of a balance there is. There’s always going to be a community’s shared values / zeitgeist / point of view / ideology / whatever you want to call it and it’s always going to hard to speak up against that and doing so is almost always going to result in what can seem like the totality of the community disagreeing with you. How do you ease that apprehension about disagreeing with a community? I think the fact that it does happen a lot at least speaks positively that numerous people are willing to do it, even if some aren’t. Not everyone is going to want to challenge a whole community, regardless of how accepting they are. At some point, I think you just have to accept that some people are unwilling to do it, being out of fear or some other reason (irritation, lack of respect, etc.)

              1. Mallows*

                I recognize you as being one who does at least sometimes go against the tide here. You deserve some credit IMO for a) accepting that there IS a tide here and not freaking out about it and railing against it, which i think is kinda useless and b) speaking up when you wish and being level headed enough about it to actually engage thought.

                I’m probably not saying it very well but I just think it’s cool that someone whose opinion does dissent is ok with hanging around AND inviting debate! You never learn anything in an echo chamber.

            2. Bekx*

              Yes, I’ve created posts in the open thread under a different name because I had a feeling commenters would speculate on something that wasn’t true/there.

              In my case, I was asking a question about my boyfriend and his female coworker and people immediately jumped to him being sexist, which wasn’t the case AT ALL….but I had a hunch it would probably come up because man vs women. Still, I didn’t want it associated with my normal username just in case. Turns out I was right, and that’s what a few people started speculating.

          2. Forever Anon*

            We saw a lot of that speculation-as-fact business in the suspected Nazi letter, some of it from the moderator herself. Not this site’s finest hour.

            1. fposte*

              I didn’t read it that way myself, though; this may be an example of the inability of any one approach to please everybody.

      6. Liane*

        I’ve been on here for several years (and often re-read older posts). To me it doesn’t seem so much that the tone has shifted–because there have always been comments sections that seem to “pile on” an LW–but that there are more posts that bring out the “suck it up & don’t blame person who did/said Awful Thing because Reasons” comments.

        As someone wrote a little earlier, this happens a lot when mental illness is involved.

        Wannabe, thanks for reminding us of all the good things about this site.

        1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

          One of the things I’ve truly tried to implement in recent years is telling people that I appreciate them.

          And I am glad to see so many people feeling the same way (I can’t respond to everyone because then it becomes a Wannabe-Disney-Princess-Palooza). We are a pretty great community!

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Same. Given the increase in temperature in the exchanges/comments, saying kind things to folks who seem to be struggling or taking an unpopular position can be so helpful.

            Especially because it feels like (although maybe I’m wrong and this is just my ~feelings~) that part of the increased fractiousness is because of an increase in personal attacks.

            1. Specialk9*

              That’s been one thing I’ve been trying to do, after really get mad on one thread – stop debating so much, and instead do more affirmations or follow up questions to people who tell about something especially hard. I figure a lot of us don’t talk about those hard things IRL, just here.

              Someone else posted, though, that nobody should post more than 3 comments on an article, so I’ve been second guessing that. (Shrug)

        2. oranges & lemons*

          On the other hand, I have often observed a deficit of empathy when it comes to mental illness. I’m sure this is informed by my own perceptions as well, and I appreciate that it can be hard to see things from the point of view of someone whose experiences/perceptions are very different. I think it comes from the same tendency to speculate based on one’s own experience.

          My real underlying issue is the tendency in many letters to want to assign blame/call out perceived bad actors, particularly when the facts of the letter don’t support it, and when it’s not particularly relevant to the letter writer’s question anyway.

          1. Specialk9*

            That’s interesting, because I feel like the AAM commentariat teaches me about mental health, and points out bias and stigmatization against mental illness, more than any other group I follow. It wasn’t really on my radar before, and it is because people here are open about their struggles and call out what they see. I really appreciate that, because I need to hear this and learn.

      7. NaoNao*

        I comment infrequently and have asked a handful of rather bland questions here and on last week’s Open Thread on the weekend, I asked (what I thought!) was kind of a fluff question and hoo boy. I was very stung by some of the harsh and salty responses (all caps yelling, a lot of outrage, and snarky, salty analogies to prove points were used…more than once) and I was a bit tearful and confused by it.
        I was honestly just trying to participate in the group and it did overshadow my enjoyment of this *otherwise amazing* group for a few days.
        Aside from me, me, me :) …I’ve noticed a certain…tendency to pile on, or get very heated very quickly, which is a bummer, because the kindness and civility and gentleness and general “assume good intentions” of this group has been a beacon in an otherwise Wild West Internet.

    2. Nita*

      You’ve said it! I’m new here too, and this is such an interesting and thoughtful community! All the more impressive considering we’re all anonymous internet strangers.

    3. Jesca*

      “I’d also like to thank Allison for cultivating an intelligent, kind, and thoughtful community.”
      Honestly, I was just thinking about this just this morning! I was thinking that there are not many other places where kind and open discussion is actually favored over overt bullying and accusation flinging. It is so refreshing.

      I am one who takes a long time to form concrete opinions/stances/moral dilemmas on anything complicated and this is usually after extensive self research of all opinions on a matter. I will say that though that after reading question, answers, and comments on here, my stances have changed and/or solidified on many broader social and moral points. And I have also learned a great deal about how I should view myself in the work place.

      But all this is really because Alison has been fantastic at creating an environment where discussion and debate can occur without (for the most part) mud slinging. That is not easy to do at all! But, I think some times people ebb and flow on things depending on what is currently going on in the world or in their lives in general. I am NOT always empathetic myself. So, I just kind of call it out when I see someone else being less than understanding, state my views in the event OP is reading it, and then let that person have a pass.

      1. Oranges*


        I’m actually pretty emotional and sometimes that overwhelms my good sense but I’ve never said “comments, hells nah” on a regular basis which is what I do in other corners of the net.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            I made that mistake on WashPo not too long ago.

            “oh, the comments section here should be safe…” WRONG.

            Sometimes, when I’m in a bad mood though, I’ll troll my local news station’s FB comments to let off steam.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              Ack – sorry Alison. I’m assuming the ‘t’ word tripped the moderation filters. I try to avoid using words that I know are going to make more work for you.

      2. Specialk9*

        “after reading question, answers, and comments on here, my stances have changed and/or solidified on many broader social and moral points.”

        I’ve been going through a similar process this past couple years, thanks to people posting on Facebook, and realizing how little I know about the things other people struggle with, and *wanting to understand*. People complain about Facebook and internet comments, but I’m so thankful for people who post good education that I would never find on my own.

        Things I’ve learned recently from commenters on AAM?
        -Ask permission regularly when tickling my kiddo
        -Ally is not a self designation, and allies need to stop making it about them/us
        -Really working on not using ‘crazy’ or other mental illness slurs in normal speech. (So hard!! I had no idea how frequent that is)
        -Routinely using ‘they’ as default non-gendered singular pronoun

        So thanks all.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Same here! I occasionally will still have an automatic “bristling” type of reaction to certain things, but I have learned that there are times when I need to sit back and listen/learn and I try to really keep myself open to those opportunities (both here and elsewhere on the internet).

    4. Snark*

      It HAS been rough lately, WDP, and thanks so much for doing your best – here and throughout your comments – to serve as a countervailing force and example.

      This week was weird. Left me feeling pretty weird. A few times I legit put my foot in it, but others, it was like I couldn’t get through even a reasonably uncontroversial post without reaping the controversy.

      1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

        Thank you. I usually try (sometimes fail) to be compassionate. I also try not to get involved with arguments unless it’s something I feel passionately about. And even then I know what my limit is. If I’m approaching it, I just walk away – sometimes literally. I can’t control how someone will respond to be, but I definitely can control how I respond to someone.

        1. Snark*

          My problem is that if it gets heated and confrontational, I snap into bulldog mode and get obnoxiously stubborn. I REALLY need to work on that.

          1. Jesca*

            You know how I look at it, Snark? I look at it like everyone has a separate personality, and just like at work, I have to learn to accept and deal with it. It is clear you do not do things to be cruel or hurtful, because show up even more being kind compassionate than the bull dog (my professional nickname for many years, BTW just so you know I can relate haha). I think some people on here (even some major comment contributors) are very hard-hearted, blindly prejudice, and lack an appropriate level of empathy, but I do not include you in that group.

            I have had to tone down my aggressiveness over the years, but mine still comes out as well from time to time. I lose my patience!

          2. Oranges*

            I actually haven’t gotten that from you mainly because you have the ability to say “I might be wrong” which is the main thing that gets my back up. So if you feel strongly about something I know that you’ve thought about it and it’s not (usually) knee-jerk.

            1. Snark*

              Thanks for that, it’s nice to hear. I think my issue is not that I’m knee-jerk, it’s that when that little voice goes “Heeeeey, maybe you’ve made your point as well as you can and just need to step back” another little voice is all “NOOO WE SHALL BURY THEIR ARGUMENTS” and yeah.

              1. Natalie*

                For what it’s worth, I’ve certainly struggled with the compulsion to keep arguing with someone. (Thanks, super argumentative family of origin!) So one thing I have done when I re-open the comments is collapse all, and then *deliberately* do not uncollapse the parent comment of wherever that argument was. If I don’t see it, I can resist my SWOTI syndrome more easily. Now, that does rely on being able to remember where the argument was.

                1. As Close As Breakfast*

                  The collapse feature that Alison added has been awesome! When I feel something getting to me or the conversation has veered somewhere I just could not care less about, I quickly scroll up and collapse the whole section. It actually helps save my sanity at times I think. And I’m mostly a long time lurker! I don’t comment all that frequently (although I’m trying to do it more) but I come up with some damn fine arguments in my head!

                2. Hildegard Vonbingen*

                  As Close As Breakfast, I do the same thing. When I see a long string of posts arguing, I just collapse it. I come here for good advice and commenter wisdom, of which there’s plenty. Not fighting.

                  I was raised Catholic, although no longer a believer. There was a concept they had, called “custody of the eyes.” It’s a concept I put into practice regularly. Thank you, collapse function, for helping me out with that. If I don’t see it, it won’t rile me up.

                  I appreciate this comment board for its civility. The only other comment board, IMO, that’s in the same ballpark is The New York Times, and EVERY comment there is moderated before it’s posted. They have the paid staff to be able to do that. This site is free. Given that, I’m grateful it’s as good as it is.

              2. Jules the Third*


                I might have lost some sleep dealing with that myself.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I agree. I’ve only seen Snark retrench in a stubborn way (as opposed to a thought out way) a few times. Much more frequently, he’s willing to concede if he’s wrong and is willing to think through the disagreement, even if he still ultimately disagrees with the other person.

              And I agree with Jesca that knowing Snark’s overall commenting personality makes it much easier to be compassionate or extend the benefit of the doubt when something hits the wrong way.

              1. KAG*

                Warning: gendered question to follow: I’ve always thought Snark was a woman? Maybe just due to AAM norms.

      2. Jesca*

        I haven’t even been commenting. I feel there are times where discussion is warranted on controversial/complicated topics, and then there are times where I am like, yeah, ya know this question doesn’t really deserve this response and I leave it.

        With that said, there are actually some view points that do need to be shut down, and I think Alison does a really great job with that and explaining why. This is particularly the case when you have people piling on an OP who asked a really basic question or make statements that set back social equality 70 years, and I would like to think that the people doing this don’t actually mean harm, but instead are genuinely confused as to why people are against it.

        1. someone101*

          Totally agree! Long time reader and comments section lurker, there are some letters I would love to express an opinion on but don’t because I think to myself ‘ am I ready for potential backlash today?’ Even though I consider myself a fair and open minded person. I find as well as someone not native to the USA there can be a massive cultural difference in opinions which people don’t keep in mind. Saying that, I love this community and it’s still one of the most intellectual and thought provoking ones out there.

    5. Justin*

      Want to co-sign your thoughts, WDP. I also clicked through to your own site and wanted to offer props for your own honesty. Good luck to you.

      1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

        Thanks! It’s kinda funny. In person I’m open about everything. You wanna talk psoriasis, migraines, depression, anxiety, grief, finding the perfect foundation, etc? I AM GAME. But when it comes to writing about it? I tend to freeze up and stare at the blinking cursor. But I’m working on it.

    6. Specialk9*

      Yeah. I have been bummed by several comment sections lately, too, and felt bad for the people who wrote in for help but got anti-help. But you’re absolutely right that this commentariat is light years better than others, and I am so grateful for this site and for all of you guys.

      1. Oranges*

        I felt really bad about the team lead one.

        The OP was clearly (to me) someone who drew inside the lines at all times and the commentary got a bit angry/frustrated about that also. Added to that people’s emotions were running high because of the sheer horribleness of what one of their underlings did and… yeah the OP responded that they felt attacked and opted out of the comments on their own post.

        1. JennyAnn*

          That one was *rough*. I slip in to read the comments more times a day than I should, but I had back off that one.

          1. Natalie*

            I believe that was the stoma bag photo post. The letter writer left a comment that they felt really attacked by some of the more intense comments.

      2. CG*

        I definitely grumped about this issue on the desks thread yesterday. Specialk9, your “anti-help” reminds me of why this was bumming me out so much. Alison’s insights are brilliant, but the comments provide a ton of useful insight and experience as well, and I love AAM in part because I learn so much from the comments. I feel like the comments section of AAM is part 2 to Alison’s part 1 of advice here, whereas on most other sites, the comments are just reaction and discussion.

    7. Ainomiaka*

      I agree. Yesterday’s skirt post was bad, and I just had to leave this morning’s post with the level of outright cruelty about the miscarriage. It’s started to seriously dampen my love of coming here-though I still obviously do and comment.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        It’s so interesting how different folks read the same set of comments.

        On this thread, we have folks saying that they found the comments on the miscarriage post disturbing because of a lack of empathy for the woman who had a miscarriage… and other commenters found it frustrating because of a lack of empathy for the LW who had been harmed by the woman who had a miscarriage. I’ve also seen comments expressing dismay that the bird-phobic guy got any support from commenters, and comments outraged that the bird-phobic guy was being flagellated for something that was beyond his control.

        I’m taking that as a reminder that we all experience the world differently, and should keep that in mind as we talk with each other.

        1. Dankar*

          The bird-guy post really threw me off, too. That was as close to vitriolic as I’ve seen on this site (from both sides), and I was brought to AAM in the initial intern-dress-code-petition wave!

          I’ve only been taken aback once since I started commenting, which was when someone suggested that I pursue therapy for my own phobia. (It might even have been the bird-guy post.) I’m sure they meant well, but there’s something about being told by an internet stranger that I should be seeing a therapist, that was a bit…off-putting, to say the least.

      2. Caro in the UK*

        I agree about this morning’s post about the miscarriage. I’m always wary to read the comments on posts in which mental illness or mental suffering is a key element of the original question, because although this commentariat is normally one of the most thoughtful ones on the internet, the lack of compassion can be staggering.

      3. Ramona Flowers*

        I went back to the miscarriage post and found some very confusing stuff about kick pleats.

        1. Oranges*

          I didn’t even know about those! I’m gonna have to go home and see if I have any that are sewn shut.

    8. Scott*

      As a long time reader, pretty close to AAM’s inception, I’ve definitely seen the tone of the comments change for the worse. Yes, not everything is as black and white as we once thought it was, but if you dare to disagree on a hot topic (the miscarriage situation from this morning?) you get talked down to by many of the usuals. It’s definitely made commenting a lot less fun and rewarding for me. The commentators have also become a predominantly female community, and I find gendered debates get turned into a discussion about gender inequality far more than necessary, and there’s a lot of pile on with those. But I still enjoy the letters and discussions in the comments.

      1. Oranges*

        I actually am pleased by gendered debates getting at the root of the BS which is sexism. Women are also fed the fuck up (yes, still) because we just got a nasty wake-up a year ago that we’re still “not humans” in some people’s eyes.

        Yes, I feel the same thing you do when I read a predominantly black commentariat, but then I tell myself that my skin = privilege and the least I can do is try to listen to their rage with an open mind. If I can’t that day for any reason walking away from the comment section is a good choice.

        1. Natalie*

          This isn’t really related to the topic at hand, but I follow some blogs and podcasts by black people and made for a black audience intentionally (on lurk mode), for exactly this reason. I live in a really segregated city so I find it good to routinely be in a situation where I’m not the target audience, not being catered to, don’t get the joke as much, and so on.

          1. SpiderLadyCEO*

            Natalie, I think this is a really excellent Idea and would love some recs! My od city was much more diverse then my new one, and I would love to hear people’s points of views that differ from my own.

            1. Natalie*

              A couple that I peruse regularly are The Root (blog), Very Smart Brothas (blog), Ijeoma Oluo’s and Franchesca Ramsey’s facebook (I don’t do any other social media but they both have Twitter of course), Two Dope Queens (podcast), Still Processing (podcast), and Code Switch (podcast). The last one is an NPR show so I’m sure it was created with a multiracial audience in mind, but at least to my ears they do less to tailor things to their white listenership. Obvious disclaimer that as a white lady I’m really not in a position to know how these comes across to black people.

              1. Really Rosie*

                Kinfold Kollective has been one that has helped me see through a new lens. I don’t always love what is said and I would never comment, it is a Black space for sure, but it’s been worth it to get the perspective.

                Also, Pod Save the People.

          2. Elizabeth H.*

            I do the same thing! When the internet is so segmented by taste that we end up getting suggested articles and news and media all by people with our same backgrounds and contexts, one needs to take the initiative to actually leap into a different bubble. Fortunately the segmentation means that all these other bubbles actually exist and are free to read.

      2. Natalie*

        Huh, I’ve been reading and commenting for years (I think like 7 years now, how is that possible) and my impression is that it’s always been a predominantly female community, in the comments at least.

      3. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Perhaps you could learn some things from the gender inequality conversations. I’m presuming from your username that you are male. It could be worth considering why you find those conversations troubling.

        1. Emi.*

          Yes, but it could also be that it’s tiresome when people speculate that a particular letter is about sexism and then it turns out they were wrong about the sex of everyone involved.

          1. Jesca*

            Yes, this becomes problematic when people speculate. More often than not, it is really just because people don;t realize how much they do that is sexist/demeaning or how much they compensate for its very existence.

          2. Scott*

            It’s definitely tiresome that we’re not given any benefit of the doubt. We could both definitely learn about the different challenges that both genders face that are specific to that gender. Discrimination goes both ways these days. I’m not saying it’s better or worse for either gender, but the second a male disagrees with an assessment that something is sexist, we get hit with sarcastic comments about how male privilege. Yes, it exists. Like it shuts down conversation, and so it’s become less interesting to comment in recent years.

            1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

              Oh man. This is a digression, but it’s the second time in the last couple of days that I’ve seen comments from men about how frustrating it is to not be given the benefit of the doubt to be dismissed because of their gender.

              I can’t speak to whether that’s happening (because I’m not involved in every conversation, obviously), but it’s hit me so hard both times I’ve seen that complaint… because that’s what women experience all the time. Like, ALL the time.

              I don’t wish it on men — the solution to ending this problem for women is not inflicting it on men — but I do wish that experiencing it would cause men to reflect on how the same treatment has affected women, and whether they’ve been complicit, and what they can contribute toward ending it… rather than just complaining that it’s happening to them.

              Scott, I hope you don’t experience this comment as an attempt to silence you or dismiss what you’re saying. I’m trying to launch from your comment, not smother it. I hope I struck the right balance.

              1. Future Analyst*

                Yes. I wish that the response to feeling unheard is to think about how we make others feel unheard. It’s possible to advocate for yourself WHILE considering the possibility that you’re inflicting the same lack of listening on someone else . [I’m working on this one myself.]

              2. oranges & lemons*

                It’s really tough. I do find social justice-oriented spaces can get a bit vitriolic and unproductively snipey but I don’t know the answer. I know (firsthand) that it can be hard to adjust to being called out as a member of a group that normally is used to being taken seriously as default. However, I am really against the idea that oppressed groups should have to go out of their way to make the dominant group more comfortable, particularly in social justice-friendly spaces. But in practice, it does make it harder to have a productive conversation. I think a lot comes down to everyone trying to maintain a civil tone and give each other the benefit of the doubt as much as they reasonably can (which of course is very difficult to do in the context of such personal and fraught subjects).

            2. Oranges*

              Discrimination going both ways is both true and BS at the same time. It goes both ways but holy crap does a lot of it land on women and less on men.

              Rambling Story Time Again!
              A white male, white female, black male, black female, Hispanic male, Hispanic female etc. have all lined up for a slice of cake. They are lined up in the order of most privileged to least privileged. The white male is first and gets a rather large slice of the cake.

              Now, for those who are good at spacial intelligence it is obvious that everyone’s slice of cake cannot physically be the same as that first slice. But that can be hard for the first person to see. The first person goes into their room to eat their cake. The next person goes up to get their slice (I’m gonna go with white female). She sees that it’s smaller than the male’s piece that’s not okay. And then she looks at the line of people behind her and thinks, I wonder if they’re gonna get an even smaller piece. Etc etc.

              When they’re all talking after they’ve eaten their cake the white male dismisses that their piece was smaller (or says all pieces were the same regardless of the fact that there’s photographs, or says yes it happens sometimes but not all the time). It’s easier for the white female to believe that the people behind her got smaller pieces because she did herself.

              The next time they line up for cake the cutter tries to make the pieces more even (failing somewhat but it’s at least better). The white male only sees that his piece got smaller and is pissed off about it because to him he’s getting less than the others did (remember he thinks all the cake pieces were the same size). He’s being a prat.

              Please believe us when we say sexism is systematic and that females get the short end of it. Yes, sometimes the cake piece we get is smaller by sheer mistake, but often it’s because of our gender. Sorry if that story got a bit muddied.

              1. Foxtrot*

                *This is what I’ve seen as a white, middle class female from a large town/small city in the Midwest. My dad has a bachelor’s and my mom was a stay at home mom. We lived in a decent sized town, but it didn’t take long to drive into the heart of farm country. The rest of the state was mostly farm country.*

                I see where you’re going with this and I agree that happens. There are also times when people don’t actually care about the smaller cake slice but complain to be a jerk.

                There are also times when every other person in line gets ice cream with their cake on the second go around and the white guy gets told to deal with it. My college had excellent mentoring and tutoring programs for female, black, and Hispanic students. There were always those middle class white guys from the town who had to “make a point” that theeeeyyy would never get a similar program. I couldn’t tell if those guys actually, truly believed it or not, or if they just had to be a jerk. I will agree with you that all else being equal, I will have an easier time than a black or Hispanic female. I’m not going to dispute that. Things got muddied, though, when it came to the white rural kids who were more often than not first generation college students and from less wealthy families. These guys were told by the administrators that they already had a major advantage because they were white males, but if you look at the data, I’m not sure that’s true. First generation students have a really hard time in school because they don’t have family members to fall back on for guidance. Students from blue collar backgrounds don’t have the white collar life already ingrained in them. These students know to look for internships, or even that you should be looking, how to talk correctly, and so on. If you were to ask me honestly if I needed those programs more than one of the farm kids…probably not. The mentoring and career guidance were really helpful in tailoring my resume. I may have needed to overcome barriers because of my feminine name that the male students didn’t. But I also knew I needed a resume, which not everyone did. I guess where I’m going with this is that I saw classmates who I thought my middle class privilege beat out their male privilege even though the school administrators kept telling us otherwise.

                I’m not trying to dismiss what you’re saying! Please don’t take it that way. I’ve experienced my fair share of sexist remarks as well, so I know it’s out there.

                1. another Liz*

                  This struck a nerve with me. I have a real problem sometimes with affirmation action and racial polling. I am technically biracial, my grandfather was native American. Inloved him dearly. However, I look very much like my pale Irish mother. I have never been on a reservation, never been discriminated against, never been called a slur. When I was a kid, filling out my Scantron information on elementary school tests, I would agonize over what bubble do I fill in? After all I look white. But I felt like I was slighting my grandfather, leaving the American Indian (yes I am that old) blank. Fill in both bubbles? Was that allowed? Am I “other”? It was a huge relief, at the end of middle school, to realize I could leave that part blank. I have enough “blood” for lack of a better term to qualify for native American programs and scholarships, but it would just feel morally wrong to me to take part in that, I am not the intended audience. And if I did, I feel like I would be taking money that might mean taking someone else’s only chance at college away.
                  I also speak Spanish (started taking it to get out of winter recess), and since college registration is in August, I was really tan. The woman in registration took my Spanish fluency + my tan, came up with 3, and filled in my intentionally left blank section for me. Which I found out when I got my student ID. I had a hell of a time getting that changed and was really pressured into claiming native status to improve their metrics. So I really don’t care for affirmative action on one hand, but on the other hand I know something needs to be done about the inherent inequities of the system. I don’t have a better answer.

              2. Scott*

                Well, what really got my frustrated fed up with commenting was the gumption post, where someone really really wanted a specific job, for which they had no training, so they got the training on their own, some basic experience as a volunteer, then someone went on maternity leave in that position so he pushed to get that position. Obviously he went about it the wrong way, there were a whole slew of problems with the way he went about trying to get the job, but whenever I explained it like that, I was told that this was toxic male behavior, and that he would no doubt be trying to steal the new mother’s job (even though there’s laws against this), and that yes, this was gendered, and no, no none of this would have happened if he was a woman.

      4. Jesca*

        I think what you are seeing is a general shift in society where people just aren’t going to be so quiet anymore. Hell, I know I used to remain quiet on certain gendered subjects even though I am particularly educated on the topic and many other cultural subjects as well. Why? Because making a comment in the reverse was considered “not appropriate”. I think a lot of things have changed quickly in our society, and some people still are experiencing culture shock from it. I also think it is inherently hard to empathize unless you have been degraded in one way or another before. I mean honestly equality in regards to women really has for years taken the back seat to every thing else on most occasions. There are, like with racism, many mechanisms in place within our society that are sexist – that are meant to put women at significant disadvantages. It is actually quantitative! It is not even speculative.

        But I would honestly not expect that to go away. Women feel empowered right now to educate. I don’t blame you for feeling uncomfortable. I get uncomfortable when other races blame other races for everything that is wrong. But it is something I have to accept because there are a lot of mechanisms in place to benefit one race over another. I also recognize that not all of one race benefits from that race’s entitlement, too, though so I can get uncomfortable with blanket statements. Prejudice exists in many forms. But you would be remiss to think that while people are treated so quantitatively different from another group that people pointing it out is going to go away.

        1. Scott*

          It’s not a matter of feeling uncomfortable. It takes a lot to make me feel uncomfortable. I have a thick skin. But too often here, no one is willing to hear the opinion from the other side of the world in terms of gender. It’s problematic that productive conversations are being shut down, and then others pile on.

          1. Plague of frogs*

            I agree. I’ve seen Snark called out twice this week in a gendered way that was completely unnecessary, and I was bothered by it. (For what it’s worth, I’m female).

            Also, I noticed that most, if not all, of the sexist comments during yesterday’s skirt debate were from women. I would be offended if men were making those remarks from a place of privilege, but I was just about equally offended that women were making them from a place of internalized misogyny.

            1. Specialk9*

              Yeah that female-on-female sexism was utterly shitty. And educational.

              Scott, as someone who is thoroughly in the ‘Fed the F Up with Male Bullshit’ female contingent, catalyzed by 2017, I don’t know what to tell you.

              Yes, most of us are dealing with the rage of a lifetime all at once. I’m sure it’s hard to be on the other side.

              But be aware you’re basically asking women to manage your male feelings about female feelings, and be ‘nice’ so your feelings aren’t hurt. Which are two of the gendered BS things we’re mad about having to do all the time already!

              Maybe we won’t be so mad in a year. I don’t know, maybe take some deep breaths and listen and try to hear us.

              I get defensive when people of color criticize white people. But I try to take deep breaths and listen. You could try doing the same for a bit. Yup it’s hard.

              1. Oranges*

                But be aware you’re basically asking women to manage your male feelings about female feelings, and be ‘nice’ so your feelings aren’t hurt. Which are two of the gendered BS things we’re mad about having to do all the time already!

                ALL OF THE THIS.

              2. Plague of frogs*

                “Rage of a lifetime”–totally agree. I don’t see myself getting over it by next year.

                “But be aware you’re basically asking women to manage your male feelings about female feelings, and be ‘nice’ so your feelings aren’t hurt.”

                I don’t think this is what Scott is asking for. He is asking that comments from men not be dismissed and shut down. This was what I saw happening to Snark this week–it wasn’t, “Here is something you may not have considered,” it was more like “Shut up, you’re just a stupid man!”

                I don’t love Scott’s comment above: “I’m not saying it’s better or worse for either gender…” The deck is seriously stacked against women still (case in point: I am sitting in an office where I am outnumbered by men twenty to one) and it is silly to pretend otherwise. But I took his central point to be that is that it’s not OK to shout someone down based on gender, and I’m totally on board with that.

                (My apologies, Scott, if I misstated your position).

                1. Oranges*

                  I didn’t see the dismissive comments but that’s because I usually only participate in the comment section when the letter catches my emotions/interest. But yes, shutting down comments just because male = not okay. Shutting down ones that are “won’t someone think of the men” or “this is stupid because it only impacts females” = okay.

                  Scott is heading towards being dismissed (by me) because of his “both sides” but I’m trying (maybe not succeeding) in giving him the benefit of the doubt that he hasn’t heard HOW MUCH effort goes into being a female and how much smaller the pay-offs are for our work.

              3. Detective Amy Santiago*

                It just goes to show how deeply ingrained sexism is in our society.

                This is an excellent comment though. And I completely relate to your statement about race. For a long time, I always wanted to chime in and say “I’m not one of THOSE white people” and then I realized that instead of saying so, I need to SHOW it by (a) not defending other white people when they behave badly, (b) calling out other white people when they behave badly, and (c) shutting up and listening when POC are talking about their experiences. My actions speak louder than my words.

              4. Scott*

                See, that right there is the type of gaslighting that got me frustrated with the comments on this site. I never asked anyone to manage my feelings, or to be nice. I’m an adult, and I can manage my own feelings. How about being respectful, and using intelligent arguments and counterpoints, rather than assuming I’m a misogynist sexist asshole because I’m male, and telling me to shut up.

          2. Jesca*

            See where the disconnect starts to happen falls back on the idea of what percentage of the population is “at struggle” and the need to focus on that first. Its hard to make an argument that men have something really hard when actual barriers exist preventing half the population from experiencing the same opportunities. I can understand why you feel that way. I really can. But what people are focusing on is tackling the broader issues that are causing large portiins of the population issue and then focusing on the marginally smaller issues surrounding gender inequality with men. Because no doubt men do suffer in some ways. But for now, I would recommend just listening as half the population finally feels now like they have a voice after sweeping marginalization for years.

            1. Specialk9*

              Yes, this.

              Scott and other male commenters, we value you in this group, and we would like your perspective. I’ll try to watch for pile-ons based on gender. Just… walk carefully, eh? The same way kind people watch parent-related talk around someone who just lost a parent. If you’re posting on gender stuff, double check your wording before hitting send, and listen to us.

              Basically every woman you know is going through the same stages of therapy at the same time.*

              There’s the initial Flaming Locusts stage, where you explore how that thing from years ago that you just lived with was never ok, and then really start digging – what happened, how did it harm you, what ways had it twisted your life and self, how true are those rules you internalized. It is necessary, but hurts, and then you spend several months to years in angry mode, because it really wasn’t ok.

              Then comes the Israeli mode. (Named by my US family after how… assertively I talked after living in Israel.) That’s where you learn about boundaries, and go overboard setting strict boundaries and defending them strongly. I’ve seen even the gentlest most diplomatic go into rawwr Israeli mode for awhile.

              Then comes the Tower of Strength mode. This is a quieter strength and confidence in owning one’s self and getting to set boundaries, without needing the razor wire, floodlights, and dogs.

              Just to say – it’s a cycle, and we’re all in Flaming Locusts stage.

              *From my observation – this may not be as universal as I think, but it’s the data points I have.

              1. Hildegard Vonbingen*

                Just to say, we’re not all in Flaming Locusts stage. I’m not. If you are, I honor that. But please, please do not assume all of us women are alike. We are not. Perhaps you were exaggerating to make a point and that wasn’t meant as a true statement. If that’s the case, my apologies.

                I just want to be treated and seen as an individual, and that’s not always been easy. I’m 5 foot 11.5 inches tall – not typical for a woman. I’m powerfully built and can lift as much as the average man my age. Not typical. I’ve never wanted to get married or have kids – atypical for my sex. If there’s one thing I’ve struggled with all of my life, from men AND from women, it’s the assumptions people make about me, my interests, my goals, my experiences, my capabilities – all based on my gender. It gets old. Stereotypes get my goat, I will admit. Because they seem to deny who I am.

                1. Specialk9*

                  That’s cool. My advice is based on a movement that is wide sweeping, but of course not universal. (Which was what I meant by “basically” – maybe “virtually” would have better conveyed that there are exceptions like you.)

                  Even so, would you be harmed by men stopping and thinking before posting on female-touching issues? Would you be harmed by them learning about the rest of our experiences?

      5. Undine*

        I didn’t read all the miscarriage comments from this morning, but as far as I got, I honestly don’t know which opinion you mean when you say “disagreeing on a hot topic”. I mean, I saw some “Someone who would lie to their boss is someone I’d never trust again!” comments and some “Grief and hormones can make you crazy” comments, and a lot of things in between. At least as far down as I got, I didn’t feel there was one clear winner.

        Sheer volume will affect how comments are perceived. If 5 people are active on a post and disagree with each other, it looks like a discussion. If 50 people are active on a post, with 10 for each possible opinion, but then if 10 people comment on a post they disagree with, that’s a pile-on. Add to that the fact that humans are much quicker to notice the negative (our negative) and it has much greater weight in our minds, and the comment section is inevitably going to feel super negative.

        That said, I often skip discussions about clothes. I don’t care about clothes. My whole career is built around not caring about clothes (which means I do care, but in a different way.) Those of you who care about clothes could tell I don’t care about clothes from a distance of 2 city blocks.

      6. Wow*

        I am in total agreement. I remember the prank gone wrong letter. So many people assumed the pranksters were older men being mean to a younger woman. There was also lots of speculation that the pranksters were white and straight and picking on someone who was not white. None of it was relevant to the situation but there was still speculation.

        Turns out that the pranksters were women. One was gay and one was not white. They were both a bit younger than the prankee. The prankee was white.

        So the speculation was all wrong and was no help to the letter writer.

    9. Thursday Next*

      Thank you, Wannabe Disney Princess, for starting an appreciation thread! Alison, I’m continually impressed by how thorough, compassionate, and nuanced your responses are. I really, truly don’t know how you do it–but I’m glad you do! And so many of the commenters here are wise and witty–I learn so much from this community.

      1. Thursday Next*

        Hit post too soon–even when things get, um, heated, I think the community on this site is much more civil and rational than other commentariats. Typically many comments I ultimately disagree with on this site still give me food for thought.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Totally agree. I still feel that there are many more things going right here than are going wrong. And every day I find something of value to me or something that I can apply to my life/work. I feel it is a privileged to read/participate in this forum. I never expected to find anything like this and yet here it is. Floating in the background of my thoughts is that there will come a day where Alison decides “Enough!”. And that will be a sad, sad day for all of us.
          Thank you, Alison, for all you do.
          Thank you, fellow commenters for enriching my life.

  6. Monsters of Men*

    Made a discovery that aside from the restaurant business, I have worked in every service and hospitality sector. From doctor’s offices, to gyms, to car dealerships, to bookstores, to hair salons, you name it, I’ve done it all. I feel like I have all this useless insider information and nothing to do with it!

    1. KatieKate*

      I would enjoy hearing stories about all of those! Maybe start a blog? Or just write something up for yourself to enjoy?

        1. Goya de la Mancha*

          Yaaaaas! When I worked at a bank, co-workers and I were going to write a book (a bit before blogs were a “thing”) first post was going to be the guy that got mad at us in the drive thru that his check wouldn’t clear immediately and the proceeded to throw the tube out his window and drive over it….smh

      1. Secretary*

        Yes! Maybe similar to what Reader’s Digest does “10 things your waitress/receptionist/doctor/personal trainer will never tell you”.
        Or customer service survival skills. I google that a little more often than I like to admit…

        1. Merci Dee*

          Ooh, that would be a cool idea! A Top 10 Insider’s Tips that could post every week during the Friday open thread! And there are so many ways that could be mined for good information — Week 1: Here’s the things that will annoy your [insert job here]. Week 2: Things your [insert professional here] wish you knew about [industry]. There’s so much potential!

    2. Former Retail Manager*

      Perhaps a book of insider tips and tricks regarding how to save money, deal with dissatisfying customer service issues, etc. Sort of like Heads in Beds, by Tomsky…’s a book about the hotel industry. Fun little mindless read that was partially about his life and times working in the business with tips throughout.

    3. Not the real Slim Shady*

      As a 10+ year veteran of working in Theme Parks and hotels, I hear you. I have thought about writing a book or teaming up with some former co-workers to write a book of (true!) stories. The 2 things that are stopping me are a fear that nobody would buy/read it, and issues stemming from the fact that I’m still employed by the same parent company (although no longer dealing with guests at all), and not wanting to jeopardize my employment.

    4. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

      Tell-All book! “Telling it All: Everything you suspected or feared was true about your restaurant, your doctor’s office, or your hotel”.

      I’d totally read that.

  7. Detective Amy Santiago*

    How are your companies preparing for Winter Storm Hunter?

    We are keeping an eye on the temperature so that we can close the office early if it starts to drop and potentially freeze so we can all get home safe.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      We’re not supposed to get anything from Hunter (it is unseasonably warm here today, which sounds great but is actually quite… creepy), but I think in those situations, so much depends on where you live. I used to live in the Northeast US, where there was infrastructure to deal with snow and ice (salt, plows, etc.). I now live in the Southeast where we don’t have that. We have some kind of preparation, but winter weather is so rare that it’s not worth investing a whole lot into it. We also have people who have absolutely no clue how to drive in this stuff, so it just gets treacherous. It bugs me when my friends in more winter-ready locations make fun of us for being “wimps”, but every locale has its own issues. In a situation like yours, we’d be doing the same– keeping an eye out but kind of expecting to leave early. It helps that my boss is really into weather and that we are all able to work from home if we have to.

      Good luck!

      1. peachie*

        Wow, very same. From the Northeast but I now live in the mid-Atlantic region (so we should be spared this time). I swear, though, if we get a gigantic snowstorm on a weekend, I’m going to be so mad, as I now live in a city that basically shuts down if there’s more than 2″ of snow. I want my adult snow day!

      2. Hildegard Vonbingen*

        Same here. I live in the SF Bay Area. No winter prep needed. In fact, it’s been one of the warmer, drier winters I can remember. What terrifies me is climate change, and the long-term impacts I’m expecting as a result of that moving forward.

        California’s mostly always been pretty arid, and I believe that will get much worse in the years ahead. That really scares me. I’m preparing for that by removing as much grass as possible from my landscaping and looking into a gray-water recapture system for irrigating the remaining live landscaping, which includes five coastal redwood trees (they like water!).

        I’ve lived in upstate New York, so I know from rugged winters. But I’d rather deal with the regular seasonal changes, no matter how rough they are, than with the results of climate change. I think that’s gonna be much worse. And it won’t go away. Scares the socks off me.

    2. CheeryO*

      No formal preparations here, but my manager is great about letting us cut out early if the weather turns ugly. We have to charge the time, but we all have plenty of leave and can charge by the hour. I’m planning on going a couple hours early since it looks like we’re getting the transition to hard freezing rain/sleet right before rush hour.

    3. selina kyle*

      We got the worst of it yesterday – public schools and a couple businesses closed but we carried on. I work on a college campus, so we have pretty diligent snow plow/road salting teams on call, I suppose. It was a bit slippery in the morning still, but it’s cleared by now.

    4. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      I’m in the midwest. Unless it’s gets REALLY bad, we just kinda don’t care? I mean, we’ll adjust clothing, maybe work from home cause we don’t want to deal with it, slow down, etc. We deal with the weather appropriately. But it’s not like the whole region shuts down.

      Actually, though I know that people in various regions aren’t equipped to handle snow and ice, my first impulse is to laugh. Like, seriously you’re freaking out over a dusting of snow?!? We got 6 inches and are grumbling about shoveling. Said reaction isn’t very kind of course so I don’t say it out loud. Because that area really doesn’t know how to cope with whatever they got.

      But if I’m dealing with something pretty extreme compared to your 30 degrees or whatever, I may at some point ask you to stop complaining. Because there’s a huge difference between 30 and -10. I have a cousin in Florida that I regularly tell her to be quiet because she’s whining about something pretty minor and people are literally dying from cold in my area. (the whole scope of her behavior however leans towards the “you’re annoying, out of line, and I don’t want to hear it” end of things though, and after 10+ FB posts about whatever it is, you need to stop.)

      1. MechanicalPencil*

        In turn, we laugh at yall in the summer when you’re complaining about 90 degree weather being so hot when people in the South are dealing with 100+ with people dying from the heat. We all have our weather extremes, just in different seasons.

      2. KayEss*

        I used to have the same reaction (born and raised Chicago-area… I think I had maybe two snow days total in my entire schooling), but then I lived in St. Louis for a bit and saw how the schools had to close over ~3 inches of snow late one year because the city had run out of money to plow side streets and the buses couldn’t drive safely to pick up and drop off the kids. It was really unfortunate.

        1. I'm A Little TeaPot*

          That’s different though – it’s not that they don’t know how, it’s that other issues intervened and made it impossible for them to cope. Honestly, I’d be showing up at City Hall and asking what’s wrong with management that they can’t manage to pay for basic services. Because that’s a government problem.

      3. Solo*

        People die of cold in warmer climates, too. Portland, Oregon had an unseasonably cold winter last year (I think the low was around 15F). I think 5 people died in the first week and approximately 80 people died unsheltered in Portland in 2017. Something you need to understand about warmer-weather climates is that we have a lot more people living outdoors, and death from exposure is entirely possible even above freezing temperatures.

        (I grew up in the Upper Midwest and had a similar attitude until I went through a few winter storms in cities that _really_ are not equipped to handle it. Often the most dangerous driving conditions, even in places that are equipped to handle winter storms, are the conditions right *near* freezing, especially freezing rain storms. That’s pretty much *all* of the winter storms that warmer-climate locations get.)

        1. I'm A Little TeaPot*

          You’re misreading my comment. In areas that really don’t know how to cope with something, I understand. If an area is having to deal with weather that they simply don’t get and thus are not able to cope, of course it’s going to be a problem. Each area has their particular extremes that they know how to cope with. But yes, when Georgia is shutting down because they got a dusting of snow, I’m going to laugh a bit and say they’re lucky they don’t live where I do because it’s a lot worse. But I recognize that Georgia doesn’t get snow, doesn’t have the equipment to deal with it, etc. And if anyone in Georgia reaches out to me and asked how to deal with it, I’ll be happy to talk to them.

          But when you’re dealing with dangerous extremes, it’s really not helpful to have someone else moaning incessantly about their much less extreme version, or making fun of you for doing what’s necessary to cope. My cousin is quite immature and shallow, and it shows sometimes. When it’s 30 in Florida, she’s complaining with no regard to how anyone else is coping. I get very tired of it. If she was asking for tips on how to dress for the cold, I’d call her up and help her out. But she’s not.

      4. CheeryO*

        Not sure if your laughter comment was specific to this storm or to the general trend of freaking out over every storm (which I agree is getting ridiculous), but I’m in a city that gets more snow than just about anywhere in the U.S., and we’re a little bit freaked about this one, just because we’re supposed to get heavy ice accumulations followed by a foot of snow.

        1. I'm A Little TeaPot*

          Oh, generally, not specifically. I think it’s silly to name storms, and we’re getting to the point where the weather people are calling wolf way too much. Over and over they freak out and say “this is really bad” etc, but then nothing really bad happens. We get a couple of inches of snow, not the foot or more they were freaking out about. So when it is really bad, people don’t do anything different because they’ve been trained not to.

          Quite frankly, weather extremes are happening much more frequently than they used to. Everyone needs to figure out how to deal with it in their area, or move somewhere else. There is an element of self-inflicted damage here. As a society we need to enable people to move when they can’t handle the expected weather in their locations. We also need to start moving people out of the path of expected weather events. We’re failing miserably. Live somewhere that keeps flooding? We should not have permanent structures there, or structures need to be designed to handle frequent flooding without damage. Droughts followed by fire followed by rain? We know how that’s going to end, so we need plan for it. Up front, by not building in vulnerable areas or building differently. In the end, we can’t win against nature. Either adapt or move. We’re not really doing either as a society, and people keep getting hurt or dying, and massive economic losses are incurred over and over. A lot of this is preventable. But it takes acceptance of reality and money.

          Good luck with the ice/snow mix, hopefully the ice misses you.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Naming the storms came into use to help with conversation. The idea being that most people cannot remember the storm of 2006 vs the storm of 1995, but if the storms have names then recognition comes quicker. Around here, a person can point and say, “That is damage from Irene that has still not been cleaned up.” People may not remember the year but they remember the huge amount of damage. [Those were random dates I picked, for purpose of illustration. I don’t remember the storms for those years.]

    5. KMB213*

      I am leaving early today. I work in a very small office (three regular/full-time employees). The office is in the boss’s house, the other employee works about two miles away, and I’m about 30 miles away. So, the boss will stay in the office portion of the house and work a normal work day, the other employee will likely work a normal work day, and I’ll work from home for the afternoon.

      I’m in the Midwest, so we’re accustomed to bad weather, but the amount of ice is my boss’s major concern, moreso than the snow.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Ice is terrifying. And it’s been raining pretty much nonstop for the last 12 or so hours here, which means that when the temp drops below freezing, it’s gonna get real ugly real fast.

        1. Dorothy Zbornak*

          We had freezing rain/ice on Monday in Philly and it was a total nightmare. The heat in my building had gone out and the heating oil delivery truck couldn’t get to us because the roads were so dangerous. It was a cold night!

        2. Hildegard Vonbingen*

          Agree. Ice is awful. Because it deprives me of control. And when I’m operating heavy equipment – like my car – losing control can be catastrophic. I don’t have to reckon with that now, but I remember when I did. I dreaded it. I could feel my muscles stiffening up with the dread before I got in the car. Lord, how I do NOT miss that! How I wish I could cast a magic safety net over all who have to contend with it, bringing them all home safe, unharmed, warm, and dry.

    6. Natalie*

      I completely forgot we were naming winter storms now and started daydreaming about an even dumber of Twister.

        1. Gingerblue*

          I used to agree, but now I actually find it really helpful to have names. It’s so easy to read an article online, absentmindedly click on a link on the sidebar, and not realize that you’re now reading about a similar storm from a year earlier because the site’s algorithm thought the article looked similar. It seems like a useful concession to the nature of the internet.

    7. TheCupcakeCounter*

      I live in the snow belt so to us it is just a normal day with a directive to wear boots and walk carefully

    8. Stormy*


      Tomorrow morning, in the absolute thick of the mess, I have to drive 40 miles to take a six-hour comprehensive final exam that is required for me to graduate next week.

      1. JanetM*

        Aiiee. I wish you good luck and safety with the travel (is there any way you could go tonight and stay somewhere nearby?), and success on your comps.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Eeeee be careful!

        I second Janet’s comment. Is there any way you can stay a bit closer and drive out this evening?

    9. Catherine from Canada*

      Ha. I read “Winter Storm Hunter” like “Tornado Chaser”, thinking that some mad person out there was trying to find the worst winter storm ever.

      1. Gingerblue*

        I’m now envisioning this as a particularly cheesy holiday special, complete with a dramatic backstory about how the main character is estranged from his family because of his obsession with storms. Wandering farther and farther north, he eventually becomes lost in a blizzard and stumbles upon Santa’s workshop, learns the true meaning of Christmas, and arrives home Christmas morning in a picturesque-but-not-substantial flurry of snow. For maximum schmaltz, he brings a glass snowflake ornament as a present for his small daughter.

        Why yes, I am extremely bored with my actual work.

        1. Hildegard Vonbingen*

          Sounds like the Hallmark channel version of Into the Wild, with nobody dead at the end. My mom would love it. That movie brought me close to tears, so maybe I would, too!

  8. Hannah*

    Really need advice on how to become more comfortable (and confident) in speaking up during meetings and discussion panels!

    I started a new job a few months back, and had a review with my manager not long ago. The main feedback was that, while I’m doing all the technical aspects of the job well, I’m not proactive enough during meetings, especially with external clients. It’s an issue because it makes me look unengaged and may not communicate our discussion points across clearly.

    The main issue is I have an issue with speaking up ‘out of turn’, if that makes sense, and since I’m the most junior person at these meetings I always feel awkward doing it (for fear of saying something stupid I guess). I’m fine with things like presentations because I /know/ it’s my ‘turn’ to speak, but to jump into discussions can be difficult for me. Being female in a male-dominated environment doesn’t help either.

    So yeah… these meetings are a regular part of my job and I can’t avoid them. (I really enjoy the technical aspects of my job, but unfortunately they can’t be done without the meeting/interactive parts as well). So if anyone’s been in a similar situation before and have overcome it, I’d love to know how you did it!

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Do you do any sort of prep for these meetings? Maybe jot down some notes with potential ideas you could bring up prior to the meeting so you feel prepared. You could even run them by your manager the first time to make sure you’re on the right track. Just say “I want to make sure that I’m contributing appropriately, so I was going to mention XYZ when we talk about the new Teapot Regulations. Does that sound okay?”

    2. Longtime Listener, First time Caller*

      First, so normal to feel uncomfortable speaking up when you feel like you don’t have the authority to do so. But you do! Your manager is telling you that you SHOULD be speaking up. So if you needed permission, there’s your permission.

      Second, I really believe in “fake it til you make it.” So you don’t feel confident speaking up now, but maybe set a goal of speaking X number of times in a meeting. After awhile it won’t feel daunting or uncomfortable.

      Third, read up on Imposter Syndrome. I always think it’s helpful to remember that it is so, so common to feel this way for both men and women. Don’t let it paralyze you. You can do this!

    3. 42*

      If I or have something to add, and it’s a large group, I give my hand a little raise gesture (but not like you’re in 3rd grad and are waiting for the teacher to call on you). The leader of the meeting or others will see it and acknowledge that you have something to say, and that’s when you have a opening. I see others do that too, and it seems to work very well in my little universe.

      1. Future Analyst*

        This can be helpful, but be mindful of your environment: if the men around you just speak, rather than waiting to be acknowledged, it can put you at a disadvantage. Not only are you then waiting to be “called on,” you also seem like you’re asking permission to speak, which is not great if no-one else is.

        1. 42*

          then the gesture can also be used as “I’m about to speak.” It gets eyes on you.

          The worst thing is*starting* to speak and getting interrupted and talked over. This gesture is more of a turn signal on your car. :-)

          1. Merci Dee*

            I used to have that problem with a particular co-worker — he’s an older man, and would pretty frequently interrupt and try to talk over me. I would stop speaking, but quietly fume inside that he’d jumped in like I wasn’t even talking. So I decided one day that I was tired of it, and wouldn’t stop talking just because he decided to start. Not going to lie, I was kind of nervous about my new strategy. But the next time he tried to talk over me, I used that annoyance to keep on going with my train of thought. I was totally surprised when a couple of others in the discussion asked him to hold off on comments, because they wanted to hear what I was saying. I think he was a little surprised about that, too.

            1. Honeybee*

              Yeah, I’ve noticed that in my male-dominated workplace people (both men and women who have adapted) will just start talking over you. It took me a little while but I’ve learned that the response here is to raise my voice a little and keep talking. It’s kind of weird how frequently people just jump in and barrel over whoever is talking. When I’m moderating a meeting myself I try to recognize folks who are trying to get a word in edgewise and intercept the Dominators so someone else can talk!

    4. Kitten*

      I echo Amy’s advice above – note taking really helps me out in situations like this and means you can frame your point nice and clearly.

      Additionally, if it’s appropriate*, sometimes asking probing questions about client’s needs or processes will help you draw information out and opens discussions up a bit more. People like to answer questions about things they’re knowledgeable on, so it’s a good way of building up relationships, and you might draw out some key element that would otherwise have been missed.

      *Obviously, phrase questions respectfully and only ask them if the detail is appropriate to the level of the meeting. The Head of Teapot Delivery probably can’t tell you the specific shade of blue they want on the TARDIS teapots, but the Teapot Painters probably use specific formulations for specific reasons that might need to be considered.

    5. CheeryO*

      I don’t know if this is appropriate for your meetings, but I’m in a similar situation, and it helps me to have more structure (i.e., a prepared agenda and talking points). I have trouble knowing what and when to contribute when things get loosey-goosey, but if I know that this is THE time to talk about anything pertaining to a certain aspect of the project, then it’s easier for me to put stuff out there.

      1. Hildegard Vonbingen*

        I’m surprised that anyone holds a meeting without an agenda that everyone gets, preferably in advance of the meeting, so they know how to prepare and what to expect. Also, action items after a meeting, so we can wrap up and get going.

        I find that, when it comes to speaking up in meetings, listening is critical. I’ll speak up when I feel I have something useful to add, or when I need clarification. I’m less afraid of looking stupid than I am of missing/being unclear about critical information, or having a project go wrong because of incomplete information. I try to attend meeting as well informed as possible, so I don’t ask questions about things I should be clear on. Listening, for me, is key. What I’m hearing tells me when to speak up.

    6. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

      Are you leaving need to know information unsaid?

      I think to answer in a general sense, unless it’s a very formal meeting or you have been informed that you are not expected to talk, you can adjust your mindset as to your role. There are, generally speaking, no turns or order for speaking during meetings jump in when you have something to add or can answer a question. Part of your job is to contribute and add to meetings.

    7. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

      @Hannah. You could start by “piggy backing” off of what one of the senior team members says. For example, Senior Team member: “well I think XYZ would be the way to go in order to enhance your productivity”. You, then could jump on that with: “Agreed. Senior Team member makes a good point. By doing XYZ, it would do ABC in terms of your productivity”. Well, you get the idea. Once you’ve done that a few times, I think you’ll get comfortable with jumping right into the discussions. That’s what I did and it worked for me. remember, at some point, YOU will be a Senior Team Member. :-)

    8. QualitativeOverQuantitative*

      Similar to Detective Amy’s comment, I would suggest reviewing the agenda ahead of time if that is a possibility. I’m not great in meetings if I get caught off guard by something, but if I have time to think through a few things ahead of time, pull relevant documents/emails/etc. together I do well.

      I am also usually outranked by everyone at the table and a woman, so I understand that struggle. I make good use of the “does anyone have anything else” comment that is always made by the meeting lead. I’ve also been with my company for awhile, so I’ve had the opportunity to build a solid reputation and earn the respect of my colleagues. I’m sure this will happen for you too, just give it time.

    9. jack*

      I’m also a female in a male-dominated field that can be technical. I’m like you in that I don’t like to speak ‘out-of-turn’ and didn’t engage too much in the beginning. Honestly, what I did was that I told myself that I owed it to myself and any future women working at this facility to speak up and make myself visible. All these men who were used to meetings with just other men needed to be reminded that women exist.

    10. Happy Friday*

      If it’s available in your area, try attending Toastmasters. You can try out classes for free as a guest, and if you decide it’s something you want to pursue, the fee is very reasonable.

      1. Teapot Librarian*

        I was just going to say this if no one else had. I haven’t been to Toastmasters myself, but it’s my new year’s resolution.

        1. Librarygal30*

          Do it! Toastamsters is great; I haven’t found a new club since I got a full-time job that interfered with my old club. You learn a lot of wonderful skills that can help in all areas of life.

    11. Goosepimple*

      It is a situation where there are moments in the discussion where you could easily break in, but you don’t know what to say? Or is it a situation where it’s almost impossible to get a word in because 1 or 2 people are dominating the conversation?

      If it’s the former–then preparation is the key. Think of some suggested comments prior to the meeting and write them down for a memory jog later. And take notes in the meeting so that you can develop more. It’s more difficult to deal with the second situation, and it might be worth having a conversation with the leader of the meeting (or the problem individuals) to ask that some space be left for your comments.

    12. Jadelyn*

      I’ve gotten pulled into a lot of meetings with very high-up executives, despite being the most junior on my team, because I’m the company’s wunderkind when it comes to spreadsheets and data manipulation, and because anything HR-related winds up crossing my desk at some point because I do a great deal of the work of translating high-level plans into operations-level actions. So while I may not be making the decisions in these meetings, I’m there to offer suggestions and feedback on the practical side of things and to answer data questions as needed.

      And at first I was super nervous – here I am, in my first professional job, a lowly HR Assistant, in a meeting with two SVPs, a VP, and the CEO. But I reframed it to myself as, “They brought me in here for a reason. They wanted me to be in this conversation because my input is relevant to this issue. If I just sit here and don’t speak up, I’m actually failing to fulfill the purpose they brought me in for.” It really helped me get past my nerves and be willing to speak up, even if it meant (gently, delicately!) correcting executives on things I was the SME on.

      1. Stef*

        I came here to say the same! I manage a person with the same issue and I told her during a few 1:1s that if she is part of a meeting, it is because we think her contribution is relevant, otherwise she wouldn’t be there.
        We are part of the technical team in our company too and, even if she is junior, she probably knows more about technical aspects than the client or the account managers, and she is often the one doing analyses and recommending changes, even if I am the face clients see more often, so she knows the ins and outs of most of things even better than me!

    13. Todd Chrisley Knows Best*

      The only way I was ever able to overcome it was in high school when my grade depended on chiming in (with substance) a number of times. (A nightmare for anxiety!) Could you mentally implement something similar? “I need to speak up and contribute or deliberate at least 3 times for the sake of my job.” Even if that’s not the case, mentally spinning it that way may help you get over that hurdle.

    14. DDJ*

      Start small! It gives you practice. I agree with all the commenters saying that you should prepare for the meeting and take notes, and then highlight anything you’re looking for clarification on. Don’t think that you have to give a spiel every time you speak. It does get easier. When I started my job, I was the quiet, very nervous new person who couldn’t say anything without turning beet red and staring down at the table. Now, I’m one of the people who can lead a meeting. But it started with brief questions, or short comments.

      Something like “I agree, that’s a great point.” Or “I hadn’t thought of that, that’s a really great thing to keep in mind as we move through this.” Not the greatest contributions, but nothing that will make people think “Wow, that’s a really long-winded way of saying you have nothing of value to add here.”

      Also, if you’ve taken notes or made some talking points, and they’re raised during the meeting by someone else, you can say, “I had been wondering that as well, I’m glad you asked that question.” Or if you’re asked “Anything else?” you can say “The thing that jumped out at me preparing for this meeting was X, but since we’ve gone over that, I don’t have anything else to add.”

      Another thing is just getting out of the “Everyone is going to laugh at me or judge me” mentality. Even if you do happen to say something “stupid” (which I’m thinking is unlikely, but I totally understand the fear), just know that either someone will correct you, which adds to the discussion, or it’s something that will land a little flat and then the conversation will move on, and likely no one will remember it. And who knows, maybe what you’re worried about as a “stupid” comment or question is actually something that will really benefit the discussion!

      Be prepared for the awkward feelings. Your stomach will feel a little fluttery, you might blush. Acknowledge it’ll happen so it doesn’t add to the discomfort. I get really warm when I feel embarrassed, and I blush, so I just prepare myself for those sensations and if/when I feel them, they’re no surprise.

      For me, it was a case of “practice makes perfect.” Start out small and work your way up. And good luck!

    15. valc2323*

      You said you’re the “most junior person”, so I’m assuming you’re not the only one from your organization present at these meetings. Do you often attend with your supervisor or a mentor, or another person you feel comfortable talking with one on one?

      You could ask them to help you out a little bit with building confidence. Ask them to help you by calling on you every now and then during meetings – “ok, great point, Bob. Hannah, do you have anything you want to add before we move on?” – sooner than you realize, you will start anticipating when someone is going to call on you, and speaking up before they do.

      Good luck!

  9. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

    Do any of you have any insight into or experience with transitioning out of clinical medicine? My spouse is getting burned out and we’re trying to brainstorm a Plan B. There are hundreds of online articles, but most of them presume you want to stay in the hospital setting (and go into administration), and/or have pots of money (to launch that llama-grooming business you’ve always dreamed of!). The first may not be true for my spouse, and I know the second won’t be. Any success stories out there? Advice for taking steps now that will make it easier in, say, five years to do something new? Tips to handle the burnout in the meantime, besides trying a different clinical job to see if that helps? We both work full-time, are many years away from retirement, and have a young family to support, so “flying by the seat of our pants” is less attractive of an option than it might have once been, but so is “sucking it up” indefinitely. Help!

        1. Anony*

          In that case it might be helpful to start setting up collaborations with scientists now. Also start writing case studies to increase publications on their CV. The case studies could also help pave the way in editing a journal if they are good.

          1. Book Lover*

            I could be wrong, so very much just my experience, but at this point there are very few reputable journals with interest in case studies. Maybe case series, but if you want to go into research you really need more than that. At least where I am, you’re not going to get money or research time (or hired) based on some case studies on your CV.

        2. The OG Anonsie*

          I’d look into CROs, biotech, and pharmaceutical companies. Also, tech companies that make products for healthcare settings, whoever might be near you. In all of these cases they often like to bring in people who had worked in a clinical setting before (and therefore understand the customers / collaborators) but have a much more relaxed environment.

          I made a very similar switch myself after finally swearing off working in hospitals forever. A lot of people get sick of hospitals and move out to these places, so the pipeline is actually relatively well established.

        3. BioBot*

          I’d be pretty careful about considering academia as a less-stressful option. I guess it really depends on what position they’re thinking of looking for, but my experience has been that it’s not that conducive to work-life balance. And if you’re not running your own research lab, the pay is probably going to be a big drop. But running your own lab (especially as a new lab head), is *really* not low stress.

          1. The OG Anonsie*

            It depends heavily on what kind of research you’re doing and where. Clinical research is a very different animal than the bench kind, and working on the regulatory end rather than the bench or patient-facing bits is yet another one.

    1. Anon Anon*

      Has he considered moving into pharma? Or going to work for a professional association, publication company, or consultancy? I know several people who transitioned out of clinical roles (mostly because they wanted normal working hours), and now work in a variety of roles. Most of them did have to take a pretty significant paycut (except for the couple people I know who moved to pharma), but most them feel that they have a better quality of life.

      1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

        This is exactly what I hope we’ll be able to say in 10 years: it involved a pay cut, and was totally worth it. It’s so heartening to hear that other people have found ways to make this work. I think part of the problem is that his cohort is still relatively young, so we don’t personally know any people who have made this leap yet.

      2. Bostonian*

        I was going to suggest this. Pharma companies have medical directors that are former clinicians for medical expertise/guidance (NOT involved with actually running clinical trials), and they pay nicely.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      My mother left private practice to work for the government. I don’t know all of the details, but she consulted on disability policy from a healthcare perspective on a pretty broad level; think, advising policymakers on what stages of disease typically looked like. She ended up retiring from that job. Granted, this was a long time ago and I grew up in a geographic area where government work was prevalent, but that’s one “success story” I can think of. Some people around where I live now leave clinical work to consult for pharmaceutical companies.

      What does your spouse enjoy doing in the context of his/her work? Patient care? Research? Writing? That could help us narrow it down. :)

      1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

        It sounds like your mom did really important and personally satisfying work. My spouse is currently doing his own hard thinking about what he likes/dislikes about clinical practice, but I’d say that the high-stakes life-or-death pressure of it has been a big piece of his burnout. Ideally, his Plan B would involve a job that doesn’t have to come home with him at night. My hunch is that that piece of it will be almost more important than the type of work he’s doing, since he seems to enjoy (and is good at) a wide variety of tasks, such as patient care, research, administrative tasks, etc.

        1. Natalie*

          I am not in medicine so my apologies if this is one of those obvious questions that you just get sick of answering, but is there some other medical specialty or a different kind of clinic or something that he could transition to that would be less life-and-death?

          1. The OG Anonsie*

            Butting in, but depending on what he means by life-and-death the answer is generally no. When you’re dealing with clinical anything, even when you’re not in patient care directly, there’s always a bottom red line that’s incredibly high pressure.

            Unless he means literally life and death as in he’s been working in, say, critical care or some other especially high pressure area, and moving to a lower pressure area like an ambulatory specialty clinic in… Oh, say, dermatology, would fit the bill. But in my experience, if you’re burned out in the ER or something, the decompression you get from just switching to an ambulatory is often not enough to feel relieved. Even a mellow outpatient clinic has an element of rush and pressure that’s very stressing. So for some people that switch is enough, and for a lot of us it’s not. By the time you’re going “I don’t want to be in clinical care at all anymore,” I’m guessing you’re in the latter category.

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Trust me on this one– her work NEVER came home with her. :) Mom says that most of the time she was bored silly.

    3. Someone Else Needs The Wood*

      Insurance companies (life, health,dental, disability) always need peer reviewers and policy consultants.

      1. grace*

        Came here to say this! Insurance companies and pharma companies are great about hiring former health care providers, especially if they can link previous experience with their products. A lot of people I know have a thing against “big pharma,” but there’s a ton of companies doing great things — if the morals come up, I highly recommend orphan drug pharma-specialists. They often – not always – have great benefits and a good work environment*.

        I’d also recommend analyst positions – new products happen all the time, and the approval process needs people at every step at the way.

        * Caveat that I don’t work for an insurance company or pharma, but I know people who do, and they’ve loved it.

      2. Hildegard Vonbingen*

        A friend of mine worked for the state of California, Dept. of Health Services, as a medical program consultant. She’s an M.D. She reviewed documentation and made policy recommendations and decisions. Never dealt with applicants/patients. Totally non-clinical. She was making about $15,000 per month, I believe, so less than $180K a year. Not bad by my lights, but everyone’s financial needs are different. I’m sure other states have such positions.

    4. TerraTenshi*

      Most of the transitions I can think of definitely involve staying in healthcare, so whether or not they’ll be attractive probably depends on what is causing his burnout and what parts of his job he dislikes the most. That being said, if being at the hospital is the thing he dislikes, rather than administration work, I’d suggest looking into blood banking as an alternative. I work with someone now who made almost this exact transition and is pretty vocal about how much she likes it.

    5. Hey-eh*

      I work in market research in the healthcare sector so pharma companies are my main clients. A lot hire MDs as “Medical Science Liaisons” who aren’t exactly sales people, but are assigned a particular medical area and they speak to physicians on a peer to peer level about the current drugs of their company and other companies, what’s coming down the pipeline, what’s new in the journals, etc. They help launch drugs and give an MD perspective to brand launches. If your spouse has any interest in marketing or product development this might be an area to explore.

      1. JustaTech*

        My company has a bunch of these people and they’re really vital. They’re not sales (that’s another department) but they talk with doctors about if the doctors should prescribe our treatment and explain how it works and risks and benefits and all that stuff. (Can you tell I work in the lab?)

        Often companies that are looking for MSLs are like for them to have relevant experience, like urology for a bladder drug or whatever. And I think the pay is still pretty good.

        There’s also pharmacovigilence, which is (basically) the people who follow up on every single adverse event and make sure drugs are safe.

    6. Alice*

      Look into switching into translational research support, maybe? It might be hard to find a position on hard money though.

    7. Anony Today*

      Is your spouse a nurse or technician? There are opportunities in eye banking and organ/tissue recovery.

    8. Nanc*

      I know lots of doctors who work for healthcare software/technology companies, mostly in marketing. The things they have in common is they are good at public speaking and writing (or have fantastic ghost writers) and also very tech savvy.

      Is he on LinkedIn? He could join some healthcare tech groups and see if he could get some answers/suggestions.

      Good luck and let us know how it goes.

    9. Kate*

      Do you mind sharing what profession within clinical medicine? Options are going to vary pretty dramatically based on that.

    10. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

      Thank you for all of these replies! It is especially helpful to hear about specific stories. For the folks you know who moved into pharma or government work, etc., did they do anything special to position themselves for that work ahead of time? Any continuing education or credentialling? Or did they just start putting themselves out there? I don’t have a good handle on what a first step even looks like.

      1. second-hand kn0wledge*

        I had a family member who moved into pharma, and the only qualification he needed (as far as I am aware) was the M.D. he already had. I know he worked with head-hunters and recruiters who I think were industry-specific.

        He worked with a big pharma company on ensuring that their clinical trials were in compliance with regulations, and reviewing the results, I believe.

        I have another family member who has spent her career in pharmaceutical companies preparing them for FDA review. Her degree was in nursing, and I don’t think she got further credentials but she made the switch a long time ago, so that may have changed.

      2. The OG Anonsie*

        Without knowing what your spouse’s actual job or qualifications are, giving really specific advice is difficult for me. The opportunities for someone who used to be a nurse are different than the ones for someone with an MD which are different than the ones for someone like me who was not a clinician but worked in regulatory and clinical support. And the direction you go is also going to inform what you need to have, for research vs education vs marketing vs policy…

        I would suggest, and this is kinda dumb but if you’re starting from scratch it can help, that he finds companies (or government agencies) in your area that fall into these suggested categories and look at 1) and employee information you can find, maybe track people down on LinkedIn and see what their histories are and 2) current openings and what the posted requirements are. And actually, doing 2 then going back and doing 1 to see how much existing employees in those roles actually meet the proposed qualifications is a good idea.

    11. sugarplum*

      Healthcare *operations*, rather than administration? Physicians could be pretty helpful here. This would be more widely available at larger health systems than standalone hospitals/practices, but worth looking into. Insurance companies are another option, again, particularly large systems or integrated coverage/care orgs. Depending on their clinical specialty, there may also be nonprofit health-related organizations (either practice orgs or just local healthcare NPOs) that may have administrative roles available that would be a good fit for someone with a medical background, but would be very different from hospital/clinic administration.

      Depending on your location (if you’re in the US): CDC or NIH? Though budgets are obviously a concern there.

    12. 42*

      This was my career path. I was a clinician in a hospital for 14 years. I took some time off when I had kids, then on my own learned the ins and outs of medical editing (because I discovered I had a knack for it), and now I’m in pharma marketing.

      I know the burnout well – nights, weekends, holidays – but I have no advice on how to handle it. I just got so resentful after a time, I couldn’t stand it anymore.

      I never knew work could be fun again and I’m very happy to have a ‘boring 9-5 desk job’. It can be done!

      1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

        Thanks so much for this. “I never knew work could be fun again” brought tears to my eyes. Why does clinical medicine have to be so rough on its providers?! Congratulations on finding such a great way forward.

        1. 42*

          Thank you, and it’s true. I couldn’t believe it.

          It’s so hard on the providers, that’s so true. It’s a difficult life, and I have so much respect for those in it. The best of fortune to you and your husband!

    13. KMB213*

      I was going to suggest pharma, as well. I know several doctors (and a few nurses) who have successfully and happily transitioned from clinical medicine to pharma roles, with only a small pay cut or with no pay cut, but with more work/life balance.

    14. Anony*

      One thing to consider is reaching out to the career center at the university he attended for medical school. Many will give advice to alumni and they may be aware of alternate careers where an MD would be beneficial.

    15. Marketing LadyPA*

      My husband is a physician and just moved into Managed Care as a Medical Director. Basically his company acts as a liaison between hospitals and insurance companies to approve/deny coverage for procedures and hospital stays. He loves it and makes more money!

    16. Die Forelle (The Trout)*

      My husband made a transition out of a clinical nursing role to an analyst-type position. I don’t fully understand his job, and it’s actually a new position at his institution, so sometimes he doesn’t either. I do know that he reviews patient charts to look for accurate charting for insurance/billing purposes, among other things. My husband was also very burnt out from clinical work and really appreciates the “normal” and consistent working hours and less emotionally demanding work. If there are large hospitals in your area, your spouse could watch their job postings for opportunities like this; my husband has said there is probably going to be an increase in the need for this type of position. Sorry I can’t provide a job title or keywords to look for though!

    17. Supply Chain Analyst*

      I work in the Supply Chain for a hospital system, and a lot of my co-workers are ex-clinical. It’s really helpful to have someone who knows how the supplies get used, and can identify key differences in products!

    18. Book Lover*

      I work in a very large group practice. It means no nights, no weekends, vacations and trips are real vacations and trip (i.e. someone is covering for me for messages and phone calls and results). So that works for me – not that I don’t sometimes feel burned out because of patient expectations or bad outcomes, but time away is refreshing. So if he feels unhappy and burned out, it may be the setting and not the clinical aspect (or maybe it is, and he doesn’t want to see patients, but just a thought).

      One person I knew finished her residency and went straight into another in pathology because she was seriously not cut out for direct patient care and was very unhappy. He would need to take a few years of a significant pay cut, but depending on his background, he may be an attractive candidate to a pathology or other residency program.

    19. ..Kat..*

      I am assuming your spouse is a doctor, since you say “medicine.” As a nurse in a high stress area (pediatric ICU), I was able to become part time. This helped me greatly.

      Another option is to talk with his Medical director or boss. Let them know what is going on and ask for recommendations. Rather than lose your spouse, they might be able to make changes.

      I also recommend therapy. Some place to process what is going on.

      Good luck.

    20. Roza*

      If he’s interested in healthcare data, there are a fair number of tech companies in the space that hire MDs to provide clinical guidance on the sorts of analyses they run (eg “We’re trying to identify which doctors treat condition x well, what procedures or prescriptions should we look for?”)

    21. Nerfmobile*

      My sister works for a company that offers case management services (includes direct patient management, utilization reviews, running pregnancy support programs, etc.). They mostly hire nurses, but I think may have one or two roles for physicians (case review, protocols, I don’t know). Looking around in the insurance-related roles may be useful.

    22. Tuesday Next*

      I don’t think anyone else made this suggestion but I know a doctor who moved into a Clinical UX role. He specialises in user experience research and design for medical apps and devices. Your spouse may be interested in something like that?

  10. an anon ymous commentator*

    I have always enjoyed reading here but I have noticed a troubling pattern (especially lately). It seems that when someone is hurt or mistreated by someone else, they are overlooked and the person who hurt them is given a pass because of something like mental illness, or abuse, or a traumatic event. Examples: in the bird phobia letter more than one person wanted to give Jack a pass and there was a lot of victim blaming at Liz. In the letter where the person with anxiety opened their coworker’s pay stub and went to their home screaming and weeping about why the co-worker didn’t like them, some people gave her a pass and said the co-worker overreacted or lacked compassion for that letter writer. In the letter where Jane set up her co-worker for fraud at their financial job some people were scrambling to absolve her because she was being abused while having no compassion for her co-worker, who was innocent and had her life destroyed to the point of homelessness. Even in the letter this morning about the miscarriage people wanted to give Jane a pass despite people who have been through a similar thing saying Jane crossed a line.

    I have noticed the pattern where someone who has been hurt by a person with mental illness or past abuse or trauma is expected to give them a pass and move on, or is not allowed to be upset or react how a victim does. I have seen this play out in real life but I have noticed it especially on here lately.

    I can’t stand it and I won’t be reading the comments going forward because of it (though I will still read Alison’s excellent responses and advice). I do empathize with someone who has suffered from harm or illness but that does not give them the right to mistreat or victimize others. If they hurt someone they are wrong full stop and they need to take responsibility and own up to it. No passes or excuses. The people they hurt do not owe them forgiveness just because they have mental illness or trauma and they should not be expected to roll over and just say everything is fine. They should not have to be compassionate or be the bigger person. They are held to a different standard than other victims of non mentally ill/traumatized/abused people and it is not fair to them. If a non mentally ill person hurt someone who is mentally ill they would be raked over the coals (and rightly so) and people would side with the victim. It should be the same even if the victim and perpetrator are reversed.

    It really rankles me that people who don’t have mental health struggles or past trauma are expected to ignore the fact they are a victim and must spare the feelings of those who hurt them, lest they have people side against them or accuse them of lacking compassion. No one has the right to mistreat or hurt someone and if someone gets hurt they are allowed to be angry and not like the person who hurt them. It is normal and healthy for them to feel this way and they should not be looked down on or expected to feel differently.

    1. Monsters of Men*

      I mean, this is how it is across the board right now. In the midst of trying to reverse all of this stigma we have about mental illness, people bend over backwards to excuse it. It’s like when social justice really became *trendy* and all of a sudden it was hard and fast “you’re either totally innocent or you’re the worst person ever.”

      Eventually, it levels out. It’s the culture of the internet. It swerves from one extreme to another. Hard and fast right and wrong call out culture — you’ll see it on any website you go to.

      1. neverjaunty*

        It’s not about mental illness per se, I don’t think. It’s more that most people don’t like conflict, with a big dose of defensive attribution.

        1. Monsters of Men*

          I should say that my opinion is coloured by the fact that I am on many social media websites, and used to be a big name Tumblr blogger who watched the rise and fall of this kind of culture and was actually one of the “victims” of it. Two years ago it was a lot of “this person is *insert diagnosis here* and CAN’T CONTROL WHAT THEY’RE DOING/HAVE A REASON TO BE MAD/DO NOT NEED THIS DISRUPTION” etc. Now it’s a big conversation about what is good for you in regards to keeping your mental health in line, so when I see this repeating itself, I just have a feeling about which way the pendulum swings.

    2. fposte*

      I have to say I see the situation somewhat differently. I’ve seen a couple of posts to the effect of what you’re saying, but mostly when people are talking about sympathy, they’re not arguing that sympathy should be limited to the person they’re talking about but extended to her as well. That’s what I see happening in the miscarriage post–that sympathy isn’t a zero-sum game and that we’re generally better exercising it more rather than less. And I would definitely prefer to go with less raking over the coals for everybody.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


        It’s possible to feel badly for someone and to extend them understanding even while maintaining that their behavior is not acceptable. That can sometimes be a difficult combination to convey online, and I think we run into some issues where what some commenters see as extending empathy, others see as excusing bad behavior. It’s something the same as the discussion on today’s earlier post about apologies as a social lubricant versus apologies as an admission of wrongdoing.

        1. a girl has no name*

          I really like your take on this. It reminds me of a tweet I saw recently where someone said (about a dead celebrity that had passed) “what if he did both good and bad things in his life.” People were trying to silo the celebrity into a category of good man or bad when really humans are complex and you can do good things and bad things and never really fit either mold. I think this applies to this too. You can be a good person worthy of sympathy and also make mistakes that hurt others.

        2. fposte*

          Yes, I will again hat-tip to great former commenter hildi, who was one of the most talented communicators I’ve ever seen at being compassionate without necessarily being exculpatory.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Man, I miss hildi! I hope wherever she is, she’s continuing to spread her excellence. She and I tended to disagree on things to some extent, but I have bucketloads of respect for her nonetheless.

            1. fposte*

              Well, that was hildi–it was always clear that she respected you even if you weren’t agreeing with her.

              1. broadcastlady*

                Why did this Hildi stop commenting? I’m fairly new! I want to meet Hildi(via commenting).

                1. fposte*

                  I think it was a combination of little kid and changing life. But if you search for “interview with an incredibly diplomatic person” you’ll see Alison’s Q&A with her from a couple of years ago.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Agreed! I always wished I had her skill in balancing compassion/kindness with accountability. But I also admire your ability to gently talk people off the edge, fposte. I wish we had more of it in the comments (and I wish I had more of it as a skill).

        3. Reba*

          Yes, as commenters and as people I think we often struggle with “Both/all things can be true at once.”

          1. Reba*

            Sorry, I don’t mean like “all facts are equally valid” …

            but like, “Someone can screw up AND have hard sh*t going and be deserving of compassion AND the situation still needs to be dealt with by someone in authority AND maybe it will never be made up to the person that’s been wronged AND maybe that’s all the resolution we’re going to get.”

      2. Overeducated*

        Yes. I think there is a difference between understanding and excusing, and people calling for the first (empathy) are not necessarily calling for the second (“free pass”). It is possible to have compassion for both victim and perpetrator, we don’t have to choose a good guy and a bad guy…especially as third parties on the internet with no impact on consequences.

      3. hbc*

        I agree so heartily about zero-sum thinking. It’s like the letter from the person who bit her awful coworker. It’s like, some people ended up arguing that biting is no big deal because otherwise that detracted from the guilt of the coworker. And others that no matter what led it, that OP crossed the threshold into The Aggressor and not any better than someone who chomps down on a stranger for looking at her funny. Two people can be wrong without diminishing each other’s wrongness, and you can acknowledge and take into account motivation without excusing.

        I can feel sorry for Jack *and* Liz. I can feel sorry for Jack even if I fired him because he can’t do his job without injuring people. I can feel sorry for Liz while exploring whether there’s some accommodation we can make where Liz (and everyone else) feel safe.

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

          I’ve noticed this too… not just with the comments here. I think in general we (in the global sense) are used to be polarized in our thinking that we’ve forgotten that it’s possible to be on both sides of an issue or discussion. There are too many assumptions made sometimes.

          In other words, just because I said I like chocolate cake, that doesn’t mean that I hate vanilla.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          That’s how I felt about the miscarriage thing. I felt bad for Jane too, but she shouldn’t have yelled and it’s okay for a manager to let her know that yelling is unacceptable.

          That said, being yelled at once is not unsurvivable, and it doesn’t rise to the level of retaliation. One commenter (I forget who) said that this was the perfect situation for pretending something didn’t happen. If the manager dealt with it, then fine; it’s dealt with, and now the best thing is to move on.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          This is how I typically perceive the comments. I don’t think it’s always as much excusing the bad actor, but I do think there’s a desire to identify a good guy and a bad guy. And sometimes in the letters, as is the case in life in general, there’s shared culpability and/or shared goodness.

          I also suspect many commenters have been through experiences they perceive as analogous to an LW’s experience, and so the situation can sometimes be triggering for them. In those cases, I think the absolutism is usually a protective mechanism to help them reinforce their emotional boundaries to protect against something they endured that was extremely hurtful to them.

          1. fposte*

            I genuinely started to respond to this with an analogous anecdote and realized the irony just in time :-).

      4. Oranges*


        I can feel sorry for Hitler (which yes, I did as a mental exercise) without saying his pain in anyway shape or form excuses or even mitigates what he did.

        Empathizing with other people (even “monsters”) I feel is important because the dehumanizing of admittedly horrible people causes issues in our society since then we don’t see things clearly. Extreme example: Only “monsters” rape people, my friend isn’t a “monster”, ergo the woman must be lying.

        1. As Close As Breakfast*

          Your ‘extreme example’ legitimately stopped my brain for a hot second. And I mean that in the best possible way. I was sitting here thinking about how I don’t necessarily disagree with what’s being discussed but how I often feel like it leads to a sort of “it’s just not okay not to be really empathetic and have compassion for everybody, and you’re somehow not evolved enough if all you think is that the aggressor is wrong and have only bad feelings for them” argument. (That was a really crazy paraphrasing of a very generalized situation, I know!) But your last sentence? It really struck me down to the core of my being. I don’t even know how to describe it yet… but you caused a shift in my head. And I really just wanted to sincerely thank you for that. I may never be a person who’s default is to have compassion for everyone, but your comment here will live in my brain forever. (That sounds creepier than I mean it, I swear!)

          1. Oranges*

            Thanks. I’m blushing (also amused at your last parans since I have a rather… dark sense of humor and it amused).

            I agree that these types of discussions can come off like (or in truth even be) “We (the empathic people) are more evolved than you (judging people)” which just… no. There are no “right” ways to feel but I think trying to be compassionate/empathetic to all humans while also holding them responsible is important. To have one without the other makes society go in very very dark places. I fail at it sometimes but I’m… human. Just gotta brush off and try again.

      5. Annabelle*

        Agreed. I think these types of situations are generally kind of nuanced and complex, and you can’t reallt have a binary “OP is the victim and traumatized coworker is the bad guy” or vice versa. IMO, compassion for all parties is generally always a good thing.

      6. Jules the Third*

        +10000 I had a lot of sympathy for everyone in that bird phobia post, and also for the miscarriage post.

    3. strawberries and raspberries*

      From my point of view, I think what gets people upset are the (few and far between, admittedly) comments along the lines of “mental illness = asshole/bad person,” as if one causes the other. It’s not that anyone is unequivocally excusing asshole behavior by someone suffering from mental illness or trauma- of course they have to be accountable for their bad behavior towards others, just like someone without mental illness. But for the people making the “mental illness doesn’t give you a pass comments,” I think it’s hard for them to understand that when you suffer from mental illness or deeply internalized trauma, the bar for accountability is going to be different because sometimes you literally can’t regulate your emotions or thoughts or behaviors in the same way a “normal” person would. So I don’t think anyone is saying that we should always side with the badly-behaving mentally ill person, but rather that we need to view the behavior in context of the mental illness so that the offended party can 1) not personalize it as much and 2) work towards getting the best outcome from someone who will not respond the way we might expect. (I say this as a social worker with very low tolerance for bullshit who thought Bird Jack’s behavior was reprehensible and wanted to shake the letter writer who opened the paycheck.)

    4. Another Sarah*

      I agree 1000%. I have noticed it in the comments here. And I agree with you that it is wrong. I especially don’t like it when the victim blaming starts. The bird letter for example had so much of that.

      (Weird. The first few times I loaded this thread your comment was the very first one. Now though it has been moved to below 9 other comments that were posted after you. I wonder if it is just me that happened to our why it happened. The comments were definitely posted after you but now they are higher)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’ve noticed that sometimes when I release something out of moderation that was submitted earlier than stuff that’s already there, sometimes it messes up the order but I don’t know why.

        1. Eva*

          In this case though, the nine posts that are now above this one were posted below it. They were there for over 15 minutes through multiple refreshes. They were not in moderation and had replies. Then suddenly they were all above this one. I noticed the same thing as Another Sarah.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I know! That’s what I mean. (Those weren’t in moderation but others were; there are always a bunch from the open thread that go to moderation.) I don’t know why it happens.

    5. Enough*

      Unfortunately this is not really new just more out there. My neighbor 35 years ago worked as a school aide. When the student with documented educational/behavior/mental issue hit her nothing happened to the student. If he had been “normal” there would have been consequences.

      1. Elf*

        I work in schools, and I have to say that while I am in full agreement with you about what should have happened in that case, “nothing happened to the student” is the most common consequence of bad student behavior, regardless of whether the student has a documented disability. It’s also tricky to punish students with documented disabilities, because you have to have a hearing to determine whether the disruptive behavior was “primarily a result” of the disability. It’s meant to protect, for example, a kid with tourette’s from being punished for cursing at a teacher, since profane outbursts are an actual symptom of the condition, but in reality it can make it very difficult to punish a kid with documented difficulties with impulse control for almost anything.

      2. Ella X*

        Yeah as a parent with a kid with special needs/in a special education classroom perhaps it is the people who think kids can be separated by “normal” and therefore “not normal” are the ones who are a detriment to schools/society. Not the people who have empathy and realize that most situations are not black and white.


        1. Annabelle*

          Seriously, people with special needs aren’t abnormal. That attitude is why people are trying so hard to dismantle stigma and ableism in the first place.

      3. Artemesia*

        This is a huge problem in many public schools where children with diagnosed behavioral problems are allowed to disrupt the education of every other kid in the class. I have heard of situations where a kid was allowed to wonder up and down the rows hitting desks and being disruptive and the teacher was not allowed to remove him. Schools are all over the give kids with special need special breaks but not well enough resourced to provide the kind of assistance a teacher needs to have kids like this in the classroom. The pendulum has definitely swung in the direction of depriving most kids in a classroom of significant instruction while tolerating disruptive kids.

          1. Denise in Las Vegas*

            My Daughters 3rd grade classroom. :-(

            I ended up having to escalate to the superintendent of the district to get that kid OUT. Superintendent thought he had me when he stated “what about “child’s” education?” and I could hear his astonishment when I shot back with “what about the REST of the children’s education? 24 kids are getting NOTHING because of ONE KID.” Problem child was moved into a special program a week later.

            Later in high school the principle decided that an excellent teacher could no longer discipline kids disrupting Teachers class. He stopped teaching. That had been an awesome class for my kid. Ruined by kids being allowed to ignore rules.

            I realize this doesn’t count as a citation.

    6. Not really a waitress*

      My 17 year old daughter has major depressive disorder and anxiety. She will lash out, often at me, but her brothers as well. Her favorite excuse is “well i have a mental illness.” I remind her it seems like that she has an illness but her illness is not a free pass to treat people poorly.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        I think it’s good to think about mental illnesses more similarly to the way (non-ableist/generally not terrible) people think about physical illnesses/handicaps. Some life functions are unaffected, some are possible but significantly more difficult, and some may be entirely impossible. I have diagnosed ADHD; that doesn’t mean that I have carte blanche to forget things as soon as I hear them and keep zero track of anything, but most of the people close to me know that I’m likely to forget things easily and they understand that it isn’t an indication that I don’t value them or what they have to say — just the same as my friend who has fibro isn’t declining invitations because she hates me, or because it is physically 100% impossible for her to leave the house, but it’s significantly more of an energy investment for her.

        1. Autum Anon*

          There’s a saying in the Disabled and mentally ill communities I’m in which goes ‘it’s a reason, not an excuse’, which I think is pretty apt, and it’s possibly useful to remember in this kind of discussion.

        2. ..Kat..*

          Right. You have ADHD, and it helps those around you to understand what that means for you and how to help you work around it. BUT, you are also working to help yourself and mitigate the burden on others.

    7. Forever Anon*

      The comments around the abused woman ruining her co-workers life were horrifying. You can have sympathy for a woman going through abuse, while also acknowledging that ruining another person’s life to give yourself an easy out is despicable.

      1. Oranges*

        A actually saw a lot of people saying that. Well, not despicable because that has a pretty harsh undertone but I didn’t see many people saying “Let’s give Jane a free pass” I think most of them were “I… have no idea what to do about Jane.” or “Demote Jane”.

        Because yes, not okay but again we’re not at the same place of “does intent matter”. You apparently say “Nope” I say “intent does matter but it doesn’t magically make the harm go away”.

        It’s why we punish murder one more than we do manslaughter. It doesn’t really matter to the dead person. They still dead.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


          I had a ton of empathy for Jane in that letter because I know firsthand how much of a mindf**k abuse can be. But I still advocated for Jane to be terminated, after a leave period to job-hunt (to be kind to her given the circumstances) because what she did was still a Really Big Deal.

    8. hbc*

      I’m not sure if you’re counting these comments as those you’re not going to read, but what the heck:

      I agree that people shouldn’t get a pass because there’s a reason for their behavior. However, there’s very rarely anyone advocating for a full pass and letting them keep doing it. Liz is just as injured if Jack maliciously pushed her into a parking area with the intention to hurt her, if he panicked and bowled her over in a careless way, if he had a sudden seizure from an undetected but easily treatable medical condition, or a sociopath will kill Jack’s family unless he non-fatally injures her. Liz is a victim in all of these situations, but I don’t think anyone would reasonably argue that the response should be the same in all cases.

      I will never argue against empathy. Having empathy does not mean absolving people, but it involves understanding people and their motivations so you can better respond to a situation. It also allows things like yesterday’s letter where the OP was grateful to a boss who didn’t decide “not showing up at work is unacceptable, I don’t care why” and had some empathy for a tough situation.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Though, respectfully, I disagree that empathy means sympathy or giving someone a pass. People do behave badly because they’re selfish, cruel, thoughtless, or self-centered. You can have empathy for the fact that they’re the hero of their own story without also treating them as if they’re a hero.

        1. hbc*

          I don’t see at all how we disagree. I never argued for empathy giving someone a pass. It *might* lead to it, but it might lead to a lighter “punishment”, the same one, or harsher than you had in mind.

          Heck, if Gavin de Becker can run a world-famous security firm and advocate for empathy/understanding as part of making oneself safer, it sure doesn’t mean letting people walk all over you.

      2. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

        I agree 100%. There is a balance to be struck between being compassionate and giving a free pass or allowing a bad situation to persist at the expense of a wronged party. What that looks like in practice will always depend on the circumstances.

        I do remember comments on the bird phobia post basically saying “Liz should be ashamed for demanding that Jack be fired when Jack is mentally ill,” even though Liz did no such thing (IIRC, after she quit, the company tried to get her back but she wasn’t willing to return as long as Jack was there). I don’t think it was the majority of posts, but I can see some basis for the perception, even if I’m not sure I agree it’s the generally prevailing opinion across the board.

        1. fposte*

          I also think we have a tendency to see some opinions as more representative than they are; I regularly see people recollecting a view as being a lot more widely held than it was if you look at the numbers (or forgetting that it was just one person who said the thing several times). Similarly, I think it’s a natural tendency to put things into our view of the narrative without realizing we’re doing it–it’s pretty common to see “The OP *literally said*” about something the OP didn’t literally say :-).

          1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

            Very true. And sometimes you hear “EVERYONE was saying/doing X” when really, plenty of people were saying Y, but the comments saying X left a bigger impression so take up more mindspace in the recollection.

          2. Myrin*

            Ha, I literally (for real!) did a thought (or deed?) exercise about this yesterday!

            I love reading fanfics and am part of several fandoms (although I’d generally call myself a casual fan of about everything but that’s neither here nor there). In the last couple of days, several big bloggers in one of these fandoms suddenly started talking about how “99%” of fic writers favour a certain problematic trope in their writing. Now I’m sure the 99 was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it was very obvious through several blog posts that they still meant “the vast majority” by it; cue rage-induced ranting about it, lasting over several days.

            This is a small fandom. I have read almost every finished fic there is to it on AO3. And because I had the time and felt petty, I actually went through the whole tag and looked specifically for fics utilising that trope.
            Out of almost 900 fics, 11 had used it extensively and about 5 to 10 had made allusions to it.

            Now, I won’t be starting to participate in these discussions because I don’t see the need to steer attention my way, but I found that very interesting in terms of psychology of exaggeration.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Our news media has been doing this for ages. “Everyone is saying X.” Uh, no, not really.
              There’s an interesting article on Slate regarding the War of the Worlds myth.

    9. Sylvan*

      I see things a bit differently, but overall I agree. I don’t think that disclosing mental illness, trauma, or other difficult circumstances gives someone a complete free pass – or that being hurt or upset by bad behavior makes someone bigoted against those of us with mental illnesses. The last thing isn’t an idea that I’ve heard from the vast majority of commenters here, though, it’s just one that tends to come up once or twice in each comment section on posts like you described.

    10. Libby*

      There’s a big difference between giving someone a free pass and saying they are a horrible human being who should live in shame forever for one action. There is room in the middle for that, and it seems like we’re not getting there.

      1. Libby*

        I wrote that wrong. I mean there is a wide range of responses between those two things in my first sentence and those shouldn’t be the only reactions. Something like that. I’m having trouble explaining what I mean.

        1. Turquoisecow*

          I think I get what you’re saying. Some commenters (people in general) seem to want a mentally ill wrongdoer – or a wrongdoer in general – to suffer horrendously for an action which may have been malicious or not. But while the reason for the action doesn’t change the outcome for the victim, it can and should change the outcome for the wrongdoer.

          To use the bird example, if Jack had maliciously pushed Liz in front of a car, that’s a clear criminal action, and he should possibly face criminal repercussions in addition to losing his job. She’s in horrible pain. If he accidentally pushed her, she’s still in horrible pain, but he shouldn’t be criminally persecuted.

          If it’s a mental illness, the line is not as clear. Does he have the ability to not freak out when he sees the bird? Is he capable of reacting in a way that doesn’t cause harm to his coworker? Should accommodations be made? Should he face criminal repercussions? No matter the result for him, Liz is still in pain and her life has been changed.

          I think it seems like some commenters are disregarding the victim when they discuss what should happen to the wrongdoer. Some people come down hard on the severe punishment side and some people are more sympathetic to mental illness as a cause for bad behavior that injures others (physically or otherwise). The actual result, I think, should be somewhere in the middle.

          1. Forever Anon*

            If Jack knew he had an emotional issue and had failed to adequately manage it, as seemed to be the case, then he is responsible, period. And either way, I hope Liz sues the hell out of him.

            1. Turquoisecow*

              Yeah, but “seemed” is the key word here. We don’t know the whole story, we’re not even hearing from Jack (or Liz, for that matter), and we’re supposed to avoid armchair diagnoses.

              We can have sympathy for a guy managing a serious phobia *while also* having sympathy for a woman pushed into the street by the guy with a serious phobia. Neither of them even needs to be the bad guy.

              Also my point was not to talk about that specific letter, just to bring it up as an example.

              1. Forever Anon*

                If we’re supposed to avoid armchair diagnoses, then all we’re left with is a guy who pushed a woman into traffic. That seems pretty cut and dried, so I’m not sure what your point is. Someone who causes harm to another person through his/her own actions is entitled to no sympathy whatsoever if it could have been avoided.

                1. Jules the Third*

                  ‘if it could have been avoided’

                  Given the complexity of mental illness, and the competing theories (Human Machines vs Mind Independence), there are reasonable rational people, with studies and science behind them, that would say the phobia caused a situation that could not be avoided.

                  I’m not even a big Jack supporter, but the issue of mental illness is not as easy as you want it to be. It gets into a whole lot of Big Picture issues (Free Will vs Human Machines, Social integration vs Social Safety), etc. Your assumptions fall under one psycho-social model, and others are working from a different one, and neither of you are proven wrong, and neither of you are proven right.

                  And until we can come up with effective mental health care, we’re going to need to be able to have these conversations constructively.

                2. Forever Anon*

                  If Jack truly can’t help himself harming other people, then that has interesting ramifications, because he can’t be allowed carte blanche to shove other people into cars whenever he gets spooked. Unless you’d like to be walking alongside someone like that the next time a bird lands on the grass? If he can’t control himself then he has to remove himself. Either way, Jane is a victim, not Jack.

                3. Elizabeth H.*

                  It’s not an armchair diagnosis that Jack has a bird phobia that was the cause of the incident. We were explicitly told by the OP, who provided several points of detailed information, that this is the case. She wrote “Jack told me, my boss and HR he has a phobia of birds and later produced a letter from his therapist stating he has been in therapy and treatment for ornithophobia and anxiety for over two years. He explained it was why he tried to run from the bird and said he didn’t help Liz after she got hit because the bird landed on the ground close to her.”

                  You wrote, “Someone who causes harm to another person through his/her own actions is entitled to no sympathy whatsoever if it could have been avoided.” Do you really believe this true in every context? Imagine a parent whose young child is suffering from leukemia. Leaving a hospital appointment where he’s informed his child has a terminal prognosis, he is trying to drive to work even though he is struggling to concentrate on driving because he is so upset. (He needs his job’s health insurance and has used up sick time so he doesn’t want to call in sick even though he is so distressed that he’s having a hard time focusing on the wheel.) He doesn’t notice that a street light is out so a four way stop is blinking red rather than solid red, and he drives through the intersection mistakenly out of turn, causing a serious crash. Do you have no sympathy for the person who was distracted by grief and let their concentration slip at the worst possible moment? We can say that the person should have avoided the incident by pulling over if they couldn’t concentrate on driving, even if it made him late to work, because it would be better to suffer the consequences at work than to be at risk of causing or contributing to a fatal accident. But even if we believed that, wouldn’t we understand and be able to imagine ourselves in the place of the parent who didn’t decide to pull over? I made up a really dramatic scenario but there are so many reasons even with lower stakes to be sympathetic to somebody who causes harm to another person. It’s such a hard line to take that it borders on cruelty, in my view.

                4. Forever Anon*

                  Nope. In your overly-dramatic scenario, the Dad is in the wrong, full stop. If I have a bad day, get real drunk and plow into a car, nobody’s to blame but me. It’s a matter of self-control, and if you don’t have any, you shouldn’t put yourself in a position to do harm to others.

                5. Natalie*

                  Is it at all possible to NOT re-litigate that letter? It’s been discussed in exhaustive detail at least three times now. I know the OP used it as an example, but that doesn’t mean we have to rehash it for the fourth time.

                6. Forever Anon*

                  Breaks my heart. Talk to someone who’s had their life changed by a drunk driver (an alcoholic who “just couldn’t control himself”) and get back to me.

                7. Oranges*

                  Your model seems to be 100% free will. Mine is 100% genetics/environment. We’re not gonna agree at all.

                  Personally I wouldn’t like living in your world because I want to be able not to worry all the time that I’m gonna be punished for being human (for not being rational 100% of the time since our brains literally cannot do that).

                  My mantra (stolen from Pratchett): It might not be your fault, but it is your responsibility.

                8. Forever Anon*

                  Free will, genetics, doesn’t matter. It’s about personal responsibility. You ultimately are responsible for your actions, and your actions have consequences, especially when they cause harm to others. Good luck in the real world.

                9. Oranges*

                  What makes you think I’m not accepting my responsibility? Reiterated: It might not be your fault but it is your responsibility.

                  What that means: it takes away the shame of the action because “fault”/”blame” have a contextual undertone of “you are a horrible person” judging someone’s entire worth based upon one action = not okay (usually). Then stating it’s their responsibility tells them/us that it doesn’t matter what they intended the other person is still harmed.

                  That is why when we mete out judgement as a society we call on someone who is (hopefully) an outside observer who can weigh ALL the pros/cons of their judgement on the WHOLE of society.

                  Hypothetically if giving a murderer a million dollars and a free pass would mean that you saved 10 people from a gruesome death would you as a complete stranger (aka a judge)? Does that change if you were the victim’s parent? If you were the murderer’s parent? If you were one of the 10 people? The good of the entire society must be thought of instead of our sense of outrage that life isn’t fair/just.

                  Does it do society good if the same justice is meted out regardless of circumstances? It appears that most of us state “no”.

                  Also I’m a grown woman. I have been in the “real world” please don’t condescend to me again.

                10. Elizabeth H.*

                  Also, to clarify. When I say sympathy, what I mean exactly by “sympathy” is imagining yourself in the position of the other person, trying to seriously consider what their experience is like, their background and difficulties they may be facing, and trying to understand how they feel in general and in that specific situation.

                11. Turquoisecow*

                  You seem to be incredibly black and white in your thinking and not understanding how mental illnesses work.

                  As Natalie said, I’d like to avoid rehashing the entire thread. Comments like this are what made that whole discussion make me feel sick.

                12. Jules the Third*

                  You’re right, the ‘Human Machine’ model makes for some *really* interesting discussions – my husband and I have been having them for 15ish years, and the best we’ve come up with is a framework that we can use to discuss specific incidents.

                  We’ve been completely unable to come up with a set of universal guidelines and ethics around it, because it *does* bring up bigger issues like Personal Opportunity vs Society’s Safety vs Society’s Opportunity Costs, and Who Gets To Decide, and When Do They Get To Decide (eg Minority Report (story)). Throw in the difficulty that humans have in deciding these things without causing harm to marginalized communities, and, well, like I said, we’ve been hashing it out off and on for a long time, and we’re not the first, only or even smartest ones.

                  Your answer is simple, and based on the Free Will model (eg, Humans can control themselves because they have Free Will). The science is starting to show that neither model is purely correct. When I’m thinking about stuff like this, I like to think through what the science implies and use that to guide my opinions, and to continually challenge my assumptions.

                  My deepest sympathy for any losses you may have had to drunk drivers. I do see the relevance to the discussion we’re having, and I understand how that experience would guide your perceptions.

          2. Oranges*

            The debate about intent. For me intent is not magical. It doesn’t make the harm you did go away. However it CAN be a balm to soothe the hurt and make it not sting as bad.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              Impact > Intent

              But Intent does matter. As does if/how you attempt to make amends.

        2. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

          I think you’re both clear and correct. Accountability will look different in different situations, but there are definitely options that lie somewhere between “shame and shun for eternity” and “complete and total pass” and those often get overlooked.

    11. Triangle Pose*

      I completely agree. Thank you for saying this. Especially today when everyone is eager to ask for compassion for Jane. There wasn’t enough compassion for OP, who was the person actually harmed by Jane.

      1. DCompliance*

        One the things I realized is that sometimes the comments are based on what the letter writer is asking for. On the miscarriage post, the letter writer was asking is she should apologize. I wonder if the comments may have been different if she was asking if she should receive an apology from Jane.

      2. fposte*

        But I think some of this reaction is because the OP wasn’t actually harmed. I understand that for some people getting yelled at is really traumatizing, but that’s not universal and wasn’t so for the OP; I understand that for some people having the manager talk to them was a big thing, but it wasn’t in this case.

        She had something unpleasant happen, but I wouldn’t characterize that as harm.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Exactly this. There wasn’t really anything to indicate that the LW was traumatized by having that conversation with her boss. She seemed to feel genuinely bad that she inadvertently caused a colleague pain.

        2. DCompliance*

          I agree. I think if the OP was stating she felt harmed or was hurt by Jane, then the comments could have been different.

        3. galatea*

          god +1

          I said this on the other thread too, but — as someone who WAS abused, who tends to go directly into scared/freaked out/defensive mode when I get yelled at out of the blue, if I could choose I’d pick getting hollered at over suffering a miscarriage! On the one hand, I really don’t think it’s possible to truly rank pain and suffering; on the other hand, I don’t know that it does anybody any favors to act like literally every bad thing that happens is exactly the same level of bad, you know?

        4. Triangle Pose*

          Actually, between OP and Jane, OP was the one harmed by Jane not the other way around. That’s my to point. Jane suffered something outside of work and sure we can have compassion for her but she projected her own grief on OP inside the work place and went to OPs manager (!) – this is what needs to be addressed.

          1. DCompliance*

            I do see what you are saying and I would feel harmed, but I don’t feel like the letter writer expressed that in the post. So I think people didn’t go there with the comments because the letter writer was going in another direction.

          2. fposte*

            I think we’re just not going to agree on this. I don’t think somebody yelling at me or saying something to my manager about me is harm. I’m not saying that the OP harmed Jane either, but the thing that happened to Jane is on a completely different scale from the thing that happened to the OP.

            1. TL -*

              Yeah, in the majority of my jobs I have talked to my managers on daily or near-daily basis, so it really wouldn’t be a big deal for me to talk to them about this.
              I also have trusted their judgment, so I would trust that a complaint like that would be investigated, not immediately acted upon.