an affair is causing work drama, I feel slighted by my work anniversary gift, and more

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

1. An affair and tons of drama at work

I have worked for a small company in the midwest for about seven years. I generally like my job and I am good at it. About four years ago, we hired a salesperson named “Jane.” Her role was to travel to various clients and vendors around the country about a dozen times a year and usually with our president and founder, “John.” Jane was a good coworker and I considered her a friend. During her tenure, Jane was promoted up the ranks eventually and everyone, save for the president, reported up to her. Last year, it came to light that Jane and John had been having an affair for the previous two years. Jane was forced to resign, John remained, and she has been out of our lives ever since. Or so we thought.

John is now going through a divorce and custody battle with his wife because he and Jane are back together. Jane repeatedly claims that even though she is no longer an employee, she has John’s ear and is helping him make business and personnel staffing decisions. This information comes from two former employees that still are in contact with her. I should mention that John is an alcoholic and Jane enables him.

Here is my concern. Jane continues to text me and other coworkers asking us to get drinks or go to dinner because “she wants to catch up and hear all the work gossip.” We do not have an HR department, nor do we have proof that she is “running the company from his bed” so it may be a lot of bravado. Do I ignore her semi-frequent requests to hang out and risk her potentially poisoning John against us, or do I bite the bullet and get drinks thereby potentially opening that door and knowing that whatever I say will get right back to John? In general, I don’t encounter John for more than a few hours a month and I enjoy my job overall so I don’t want to quit.

I can’t see any benefit to accepting Jane’s invitations, unless you truly yearn for her company … and even then, it seems like a bad idea.

This sounds like a ton of drama that so far you’ve managed to stay out of, and there’s no reason to change that plan. Continue doing your work, let John’s drama play out however it’s going to, and stay away from Jane. If you’re worried that Jane will complain about you to John if you ignore her texts, come up with an ongoing outside-of-work commitment you’ve taken on that’s taking up all your time, so that you can send short “sorry, I go straight home to take care of my grandma these days” texts if you need to reply to her.

Also, be prepared for for the possibility that this could all implode at some point, and it might be smart to have other options percolating for yourself in the background.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. I feel slighted by my work anniversary gift

I think I just need to know whether I’m being too sensitive.

Background: I am an executive assistant, working for a large multinational company for 10 years now. It’s a high-stress, high-expectation company; we all signed up for that. The company is great, it rewards well, pays well, and has great perks. I work amongst many teams and get along great with my colleagues.

For milestone years, our company gives us a monetary award and your team does something special for you, usually a lunch outing, spa treatment or similar. For the 10-year gift, employees receive the monetary gift, a larger outing (day of golf, spa day, night in a nice hotel, etc.), and flowers or something that the employee would like. Our company is thorough and does not take these things lightly, in that the manager would normally find out the employee’s likes and dislikes and gift them appropriately — it’s a process that is taken seriously because we value the time and energy the employee has given to our company.

Now there’s me: For my 10-year gift, I got a stuffed bear. That’s it. I don’t like stuffed toys (and I am embarrassed to keep it at my desk in case someone asks me why I have it) and I’ve been trying (unfortunately to no avail) to not be insulted by it. But I most certainly am hurt. I can’t understand why no one took the time to do the same for me as everyone else in this company. I thought it could have come down to my being admin, but when I picked up my bear at reception, the receptionist said to me she had a half-day at the spa and a nice lunch with friends for her gift. I can’t reconcile this and I’m feeling slighted. Should I just suck it up? Am I being ridiculous?

You’re not being ridiculous! That kind of significant disparity in treatment is hurtful. Are you just not supposed to notice the difference between a stuffed bear and a night in a nice hotel? Are you supposed to notice it but draw no conclusions from it? I understand why you feel slighted.

Is there anything that could explain it? For example, do you have multiple managers, and they might have each thought another was handling it? Is your manager’s job currently vacant, and so the person who’d normally do this isn’t there? Or is your manager known for sucking at this kind of thing? Are you the one who normally arranges the gifts and so when it came time to do yours, the stand-in flubbed it?

If there’s no obvious explanation, I do think you could ask your boss about it. It’s not petty to say, “I know the company usually does something big for 10-year anniversaries. I feel weird bringing this up, but should I read anything into the fact that we didn’t for me?” That way you’re not saying “WHERE’S MY GOLF DAY?” but you’re highlighting the fact that something may have gone wrong here or at least wasn’t communicated well.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. I got rejected for a job, but an employee wants to meet up with me

I recently had a day-long interview at a company, but soon after received a rejection note. However, during my interview day, one of the employees and I got along really well and had a great conversation. He said he’d be happy for me to email to connect/catch up for coffee to talk more about the industry/jobs at their company/his team. So I emailed him to ask for feedback about my candidacy.

He replied offering to have a coffee to discuss it. He was present for a lot of the interview, so I think he’ll have great feedback. But I’m just not sure what I should prepare myself for, or how these things normally go. Is it safe to assume this will be a casual conversation? Could he be considering giving me a second chance (he’s a manager, so I doubt he’d so easily give up his time to meet someone who he didn’t think was a good investment of his time). I don’t want to make any assumptions, so I wanted to ask an expert. I’d love your insights! Does this happen often?

I wouldn’t assume this is about a second chance; that doesn’t usually happen just because someone asks for feedback after a rejection. It’s more likely that it’s a sort of networking and/or mentoring coffee, where he’ll give you feedback and general career advice. That’s a thing that sometimes does happen. Sometimes it’s that the candidate made a particularly good impression, or you had particularly good rapport with the coffee-offerer, or you remind him of himself at your age and so he wants to help, or there’s some specific piece of feedback he wants to deliver and think it’ll go over better in person, or he’s just someone who likes doing this kind of thing.

That said, I wish I didn’t have to mention this, but there’s also a possibility that he sees this as a social coffee, not a professional one — like a date or a prelude to a date. He shouldn’t, because your overture was a clearly professional one. But people offering up professional help in order to hit on you is a thing that sometimes happens (if they’re creeps), so if you do see signs that he’s treating it that way, don’t second-guess yourself or figure you must be misinterpreting. Hopefully that’s not what’s happening here though.

4. What careers exist?

I feel silly asking this, but to be honest, I have no idea where to even begin looking for an answer: what professional careers exist? I studied criminology and counseling in college and can only ever picture social service types of careers — social worker, counselor, anything ending in officer — and other really basic ideas, like doctor, lawyer, scientist, retail, administration, journalist, artist, teacher, etc. I’m not sure why I have such a complete brain block when it comes to this kind of thing, but whenever I see you discuss a professional career on your site, I struggle to imagine what that could even be! My imagination always jumps to generic business-people working in advertising or sales, Mad Men style.

Looking at people around me doesn’t help too much because they’re all in similar fields to the one I studied and my college was small enough that it didn’t offer many varied degree options. I’ve tried looking at the program listings from other colleges, which has helped a bit, but I encounter that same brain block of how those courses translate to a real life professional career with an advancement path. I tried to talk to a vocational counselor about this but was met with a blank stare! Any thoughts?

Try looking through job postings! Looking at college program descriptions won’t show you all the ways people go on to work in those fields, but looking at actual job postings will show you a huge range of options, along with details about the work of those jobs and the requirements to be hired into them.

These posts may also help (post 1, post 2, post 3).

5. How to explain why I want a part-time job in another state

I am relocating to a different state this summer for my partner’s career. I have a phone interview scheduled for a part-time position in the area where we’ll be living. What is the best way to deal with the inevitable questions about why I’m moving here and I want a part-time job? I’m not comfortable talking in depth about my personal situation, especially regarding my relationship status and the fact that my partner will be the primary earner?

You don’t need to talk about any of that! You can just say, “My partner and I are relocating to the area in July.” If they ask what’s bringing you there, you can say, “He got a job there.” That’s it. There’s no need to discuss your relationship status or your financial arrangements! (I assume you’re worried that an interviewer might ask leading questions about those, but a good interviewer won’t do that.)

As for why you want a part-time job, answer with the truth, whatever that might be. If the answer is that you don’t really want a part-time job but this is the one that’s offered you an interview, answer with why you’re interested in doing this type of work, and say, “I didn’t set out to look for part-time, but I’m interested in the job and can make part-time work.”

{ 588 comments… read them below }

  1. LouiseM*

    #1: I hope this isn’t too off-topic, but the situation you’re describing really gets my goat. President of the company has an affair with a subordinate, the subordinate is forced to resign in scandal, and the powerful man who abused his power gets to keep his position. An unfortunately common situation.

    In general, I have no sympathy for either party in an affair, but this situation really bugs me and makes me feel bad for Jane. She might just be reaching out because she has been isolated from all her work friends (because of a situation that was much more John’s fault than hers) and misses you all. That doesn’t mean you have to accept her situation, of course, it’s just my read on where the behavior could be coming from.

    1. JamieS*

      In general I agree but OP also said John was the company’s founder which very likely means owner. Barring going out of business it’s nearly impossible to fire the owner even if he’s a POS.

      1. Nacho*

        You can’t fire the owner, but I don’t think his girlfriend should be the one to bear the burden of the drama created when he cheats on his wife.

        If OP doesn’t like Jane, she doesn’t have to hang out with her, but it kind of sounds like OP’s only real problem with her is the affair, and maybe Jane should be cut a little slack here. OP doesn’t have to be Jane’s best friend, and she should be conscious that Jane is her boss’ girlfriend, but I don’t see the harm in having a few drinks with her since she and OP used to be friends.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I’m torn because on one hand I agree with you, but on the other hand, I would want to stay far away from the work drama, too. It’s ok for OP to not want to socialize with “the other woman,” even though I personally do not like when the non-cheating female partner gets the short end when it’s the cheating male partner who broke his vows. So that could be reason enough not to hang out, even if any of us disagree with OP re: “blaming” Jane for the affair.

          (Although, OP, I wouldn’t take on faith that she’s bragging about “running the company from his bed,” which is a really awful thing for people to say, especially if it’s an exaggeration or untrue.)

          But in light of what OP has described as her reservations with getting caught in the broader work drama, I totally understand feeling like you can’t hang out with an old work friend until the drama is resolved (maybe never). It sounds like OP kind of doesn’t want to hang out with Jane, anyway. It’s ok to decline to get together.

          1. Say what, now?*

            Definitely look at who the people are saying these things about Jane. But even if they’re known drama llamas I would stay away from the boss’s girlfriend in general (even if they were both single prior and she weren’t part of an affair that broke up his marriage). Relationships change and influence can wane so even if she’s got his ear now later on she may not and whatever she says (bad or good) will be nothing compared with the reputation you built yourself.

          2. Another Human*

            I’d be wary of the “running the company from his bed,” thing as well. I worked in a service department where technicians were billed hours, and the lady at the front desk started dating one of the techs. She was accused by many people on adjusting his hours worked on customer equipment et cetera, but there was literally no evidence of it. The only time that she had to adjust his hours was because he forgot to clock into a job, and she asked permission from management to do so.

            That did not stop people from saying he billed so many hours because of his “angel above,” even though he was billing high hours from working hard before she even came to the job!

            1. AnonEMoose*

              I tend to think that this kind of gossip says more about the people spreading it than it does about the people being gossiped about. In your case, since it sounds like there was no evidence of any impropriety with the hours, it seems like people were just acting like jerks. Which seems unfortunately common, in my experience.

              In the case of the OP, it’s more difficult to say. I do feel for Jane, a bit, as it seems like she is getting the short end of the stick. But in the OP’s shoes, I’d probably want to stay far away, too. Because of the drama factor. And if Jane knew the guy was married – ok, she didn’t break any vows, but she was still involved in the deception, and I’d be a little wary of trusting her for that reason.

              1. Susana*

                I hardly think having an affair makes a person inherently untrustworthy in every way. If that’s the case, hearing boss – the one who was actually married here, and was actually the one having the affair – should not be trusted with any business decision, ever. I realize people feel bad for an injured spouse when an affair happens, but it does happen. And yeah, I’m with LouiseM – I’m bothered too that he gets away with no fallout and she loses her job. That being said, both of them should be making sure the staff doesn’t get drawn into their personal drama. It’s not about having an affair – it’s about maintaining professionalism.

        2. JamieS*

          As far as Jane bearing the burden from an ethical standpoint I agree. From a practical standpoint I don’t think it’s realistic to expect someone in Jane’s position to retain her job even if it’s unfair.

          As for OP having drinks I disagree on that point. If OP was particularly fond of Jane they can catch up later but right now best to just avoid the drama and start freshening up the ole resume before the drama implodes.

          1. Anna*

            Agree, but it really feels like OP is damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t. It seems like the only option is really careful consideration of what is in her best interest. And a focused job search, because none of the information the OP is getting bodes well.

    2. Lexi lynn*

      What bugged me is the implication that the OP wants to avoid Jane because she’s running the company from his bed. John cheats, has an affair with a subordinate and she gets spoken about as if she’s trash and John’s given a pass.

      1. Sherm*

        I think OP would prefer to avoid *both* of them until this drama tornado winds down, but since John’s the boss, OP needs to maintain a workable relationship with him.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          That’s how I read it, as well. It sounds like in addition to avoiding drama, OP may also find Jane and John’s behavior distasteful. But since OP can’t fully avoid John, they’re focused on how to manage things with Jane.

          1. Someone*

            Having to see the owner only a few hours per month is listed as an upside, so I’m with you on that.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Yes, and I would guess if she had to interact with Jane a few hours a month she would put on a professional face and do it. But she doesn’t have to; it’s optional. And could be laden with Rodents Of Unusual Size.

        2. Indie*

          Yes, but I think OP should seriously consider jumping his ship too. She enjoys the job now – but the fish rots from the head.

          1. Say what, now?*

            Yeah, like Alison said, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a strategic out plan. I say this more because he’s an alcoholic that is being enabled by his girlfriend, though. If he starts dropping things it won’t be pretty.

          2. Greg*

            I was thinking of a slightly more off-color expression, about “stuff” rolling downhill.

            But yeah, if your company’s owner is an alcoholic who carries on a self-destructive affair with a subordinate, you should not assume you will be insulated from all of that. The fact that Jane is reaching out to OP is kind of a blessing, in that it’s giving her a big honking warning signal.

        3. RVA Cat*

          This. I agree that the OP also needs to be job searching – this sounds like the sort of thing that could blow up John’s business. He may need to sell it anyway depending on how the divorce settlement goes.

        4. SarcasticFringehead*

          And John’s not the one inviting her to drinks (and explicitly making the invitations about “work gossip”).

      2. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

        It’s a little ambiguous, though – and you’re correctly calling out LW1’s presumption that Jane is claiming that she’s running the company from John’s bed (it seems like this is all second-hand). On the other hand…like, I might be misreading your comment (it’s 1:45 AM where I’m at right now), but it seems like you’re claiming that the issue LW1 has is with the affair, while I read the letter as LW1 having an issue with Jane claiming to run the company.

        On top of that, Jane’s interactions don’t read as totally innocent here – she texted her former colleagues asking to “catch up and hear all the work gossip” (and I’m guessing those are Jane’s words, since LW1 put that in quotes). I might be reading way too far into this, but it seems like with the repeated text messages explicitly asking to discuss work gossip, it seems like Jane is a little more invested in her old workplace than is healthy for LW1 and herself at the very least. Like, if one of my old coworkers called me up and asked to meet up and discuss the latest gossip and drama at my job on the regular, I’d probably be a little bit put off.

        1. Genny*

          That was what really concerned me. There are enough yellow flags (claiming to still have a part in running the company, relationship drama, the alcoholism/enabling aspect of their relationship, etc.) that adding the specific request to catch up on work gossip pushes it over the line for me. I have no interest in being in a situation where everything I say can and will be used against me, and I’m not sharing work gossip with someone who can potentially suck me into the drama.

          1. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

            I actually thought about taking the allegations about Jane running the company from John’s bed and all the other messiness associated with their relationship at face value, but a lot of people brought up good points about other people at the company not being reliable narrators. I mean, she COULD be doing all that. But she also could be thrown under the bus by people loyal to John or John’s ex-wife.

            The text messages were the yellow flag to me, since that seemed like the most reliable indicator. It doesn’t confirm the rest, but it makes it more likely.

        2. Someone else*

          This was also my reading. The concern seems to be about the claims of Jane still being behind-the-scenes involved in the business and then wanting to meet to catch up on the business. That whole situation strikes me as something very reasonable to want to stay away from. I took it as OP saying basically, if Jane really is shadow-involved in the business, meeting with her is a sketchy idea, but not meeting with her might lead to Jane thinking negatively of her, which could make its way back. But if she’s not actually shadow-running-the-business, then meeting with her to gossip about work is also bad but in a different way. So I can see how it might feel like a no-win situation, but safest still does seem to be to keep a distance.

        3. Tuxedo Cat*

          This is how I read this. I also saw this as more of the gossipers claiming that Jane is influencing the company’s decisions for kind of BS reasons- like Jane is friends with Laura, so she should get a promotion even if her work is mediocre (just an example).

      3. Temperance*

        I don’t think he’s been given a pass. He’s the owner.

        I would feel disgusted if my boss was only promoted due to an illicit affair.

      4. MommyMD*

        John is trash as well but he’s also OPs boss. She has to deal with him. She does not have to deal with Jane and their soap opera drama and her persistent overtures to get all the “office gossip”. This disaster is rowdy daytime talk show fodder.

    3. MK*

      I find it really dispiriting that equality often ends up meaning adhering to the lowest common denominator. I don’t feel bad for Jane, she got what she deserved. I do feel bad that John also didn’t get what he deserved, but the argument that Jane should get sympathy for that reason is beyond me.

      1. Indie*

        Yeah completely. It’s like when lower rung drug dealers get caught but the big cheese walks free. Jailing the lesser members doesn’t mean anyone is happy about power protecting someone from justice.

      2. Specialk9*

        I don’t think any person to date has said that Jane was fine and deserves sympathy. We’re saying to keep it firmly in mind that the *boss” holds most of the guilt for abusing his power multiple times, and not to shift his blame to her like our culture often does.

        It feels that the OP and co-workers are labeling the fired female subordinate as the primary problem, rather than the male boss who abused power in a very very serious breach of business ethics. Most companies would fire a manager that violated business ethics that way. (And well before MeToo.)

        It’s made worse by the fact that it’s a male manager treating his female subordinates like his personal harem. Ick ick ick this isn’t a 1970s porno!

        And he was the one who took vows and broke them, not she.

        So if we’re assigning blame, 80% him, 20% her. But then he made his abuse of power *even worse*, and fired the subordinate. Wow. This guy is SCUM.

        Doesn’t mean you have to approve of either of them, or want to get sucked into the drama your boss created. (Please don’t! Keep your head down and be kind but don’t socialize with *anyone* in this work abuse/domestic meltdown triangle.)

        But have this firmly in your head as abuse of power by a married male boss, and don’t get sucked into pinning it all on the woman, who had the least power of any kind. That’s a common and really ugly thing that happens.

        1. MK*

          This thread alone has several comments along the lines of “it’s unfair that Jane is the only one who got fired, the OP shouldn’t be avoinding her”; and it’s a pretty common response in general to say “X only did what men/rich people/white people/(insert priviledged group here) have been doing for centuries” as a sort-of justification for bad behavior, which is what prompted my comment.

          Also, I don’t really get the sense that the OP ( or her co-workers) are labeling the fired female subordinate as the primary problem in general, only as far as regards herself. John isn’t asking anything of the OP and they have very limited, rare and presumably strictly professional interactions; his employees don’t have to take any action or even think about his drama. Jane, on the other hand, seems to be trying to inappropriately insert herself into her former workplace via her ex-colleagues, who need to find a way to deal with her overtures, while also keeping in mind that she is someone close to their boss. In this context, Jane is the OP’s problem, not John.

          And we shouldn’t be assigning the “blame” as if it was a set sum, because these two people didn’t actually do the same thing jointly, as you point out. Jane is 100% to blame for having an affair with a married supervisor; John is 100% to blame for having an affair with a subordinate while married. What he did is much worse, but it doesn’t detract from her blame. By the way, I don’t get what you mean by the harem comment.; this guy had one extra-marital affair with one, apparently willing, subordinate, which he absolutely should have lost his job over, but that’s it.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I would draw a line between “it’s unfair that Jane is the only one who got fired” (true, yet oh so predictable) and “the OP shouldn’t be avoiding her” (it’s fine to avoid people you fear want to entangle you in a workplace drama you’ve managed to avoid).

            And if you want to avoid both people involved in an affair, but one of them is your boss–or neighbor, or fellow soccer parent–while the other one is now removed from your circles of required contact, there’s nothing wrong with ignoring the invites. It’s not like the job imposing 0.5 hrs/week with John means OP owes Jane 1 hour of drinks every two weeks for fairness.

            1. The Supreme Troll*

              And it’s perfectly normal for someone to have morality issues that are itching at him or her (as I believe that they are at the OP, apparently). The OP cannot shun or avoid John and expect to keep her job, but she has some leeway to do so with somebody who is no longer with the company. And yes, I believe what is itching the OP is coming from both John and Jane.

          2. Say what, now?*

            It feels a bit much to say that “it’s a male manager treating his female subordinates like his person harem.” There is only one case that we know of and for all we know this is a case of real personal connection that blossomed into a real, mutually respectful relationship. Neither party was acting correctly. He was married and they were in a professional setting with power dynamics in play. It shouldn’t have happened at all, but the fact that it did isn’t evidence of anything more insidious going on.

            1. Specialk9*

              Ok, you’re right that harem implies multiple. So ok, he treated his female subordinates like a candy jar he got to choose from. It’s still creepy behavior, that honorable managers don’t do.

              1. LBK*

                I’m confused by this – are you saying it’s impossible for a woman to ever genuinely want her boss? By all accounts here it seems like that’s the situation given that she got back together with him even after she was no longer working for him.

                1. Say what, now?*

                  This is my line of thought as well. They apparently broke it off because he wanted to save his marriage and/or they knew it was an issue for this dynamic to exist in the workplace. But once they were no longer working together they resumed their relationship. To me it says that there is a real connection there rather than a “Mad Men-esque Secretary Fantasy.” It was ill-advised for many reasons but I don’t think it’s a power fetish thing.

                2. myswtghst*

                  Yeah, I’m a little hung up on this as well, as I think the way Specialk9 is framing things is removing all of Jane’s agency in the situation. I agree that dating a subordinate is bad news all around, and that a power differential clearly exists, but it isn’t doing Jane any favors to act as if her role in this was entirely passive.

                  I mean, it’s possible that Jane was completely taken advantage of by the big boss, but it’s equally possible that they genuinely fell for each other and both benefited from the relationship. We don’t know, and we don’t need to know, to recognize that for right now OP still has to interact (minimally and professionally) with John, but can choose whether or not to interact with Jane.

                3. LBK*

                  Right – I think it’s important to recognize the power dynamic and how it could influence Jane’s choices, but that also doesn’t mean she wasn’t making choices. Her agency may have been impaired, but we shouldn’t be denying her the agency she does have by insisting that she wasn’t actually making her own decision to be with him.

                  I mean, full disclosure, I had a huge crush on one of my former bosses and we did eventually have a relationship after we stopped working together. We’re both men so the gender dynamic wasn’t there, but the crush came about by us both being human beings who had things in common and got along well, just like any other crush. I wasn’t brainwashed into believing I liked him because he was my superior. Bosses are still people and being a manager is still just a job – sometimes the person you end up liking happens to be a manager. It does happen, and it almost feels like gaslighting to insist that any woman who falls for her boss isn’t actually making a consensual decision.

              2. Anion*

                My husband was my supervisor at work when we met. Are you saying that he’s a dishonorable predator, that I’m a moron incapable of knowing when I’m being preyed upon, or both?

                Or are you saying that any one of my co-workers could have ended up where I am now, because he fooled all of his female reports into thinking they had a special connection and then continued that connection even as they became first his colleagues and then his former colleagues, and I just happened to be the one who fell for it?

                We’ve been married for eighteen years. I guess his Svengali-like abilities to mesmerize poor, innocent little girls like me is pretty good, huh? Here I thought I fell in love with (and married) the best man on the planet, but apparently he just hoodwinked me into that and I’ve thrown my life away.

                Sometimes people meet and fall in love, even if one has “power” over the other at work (and my job was never my entire life or the sole thing by which I judged/saw myself, so I really didn’t GAS about the “power” he had over me a year before we started dating; so what?). IMO the dishonorable thing John did was cheat on his wife; if he fell in love with a subordinate and she fell in love with him (as an adult woman who can make her own decisions, hopefully, because I like to assume grown women are capable of doing so), as long as he didn’t actually treat her any differently from any of the others then there’s nothing *inherently* dishonorable about that (again, IMO). The fact that this affair went on for *two years* with no one being aware of it seems to imply that such was the case.

                You have no reason at all to believe that he looked at his female subordinates “like a candy jar he got to choose from,” and again, to assume that’s the case is to assume that there’s nothing special or attractive or interesting about Jane, but that she was simply the one who fell from the dispenser into his bed. Do you think *all* women are interchangeable, worthless fools ready to fall in love with a man at the slightest hint of kindness or interest, or do you know something about Jane that we don’t?

                (P.S. It is actually possible Jane seduced *him,* rather than the other way around–at least, it’s possible if we think of her as a grown woman with agency, and not as a simpering, naive child who does whatever it’s told.)

                1. Specialk9*

                  Anion, you’re quoting me so presumably are responding to me… But I’m more than a little baffled as to why you’re equating your situation to the OP’s boss.

                  I said he’s scum because he 1 – had sex with an active subordinate, 2 – broke wedding vows, 3 – fired his subordinate because she slept with him. Those are really bad things to do, and each one magnifies the former offense.

                  In your case, your husband was *not* your boss when you got together, and was already separated and in divorce proceedings when you got together. No part of me thinks that this is problematic! It sounds like you’re both pretty decent, ethical people, and I’m glad you’re happy together.

                  I posted several links above that indicate that ‘manager sleeps with subordinate is unethical and cause for a-firin’, so I’m not treading new ground here. Don’t sleep with subordinates, managers. Especially don’t fire them for sleeping with you.

                  And yeah, I get what you’re saying about agency, it’s a good point actually. I’ve had LOTS of crushes on bosses and haven’t acted on them either. It’s just that the power differential is real, and skews things enough that it really is a thing even when people think it’s not a thing. I’m not saying she’s blameless, just that he deserves a lot of blame but seems to be escaping scot-free despite acting so scuzzy.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  For what it’s worth, I don’t think we know that he fired her. The OP says she was “forced to resign,” which could mean that when it all blew up and was a big mess, the two of them talked about it and mutually concluded it would be better for one of them to leave, and if John owns the company, it makes sense they’d conclude it would be her.

                3. Elizabeth H.*

                  I totally agree with your comment. It’s good to be conscious of power differentials when professional relationships and personal relationships get tangled together but I find it really disturbing to insist that any relationship where one person is in a higher level role to another person is abusive and victimizing. This point of view completely removes women’s agency and encourages seeing women as victims in any relationship scenario.

                4. LBK*

                  I said he’s scum because he 1 – had sex with an active subordinate

                  See, I disagree with you right there. It’s definitely *unwise* to sleep with a subordinate, but I don’t think it’s inherently scummy, assuming they’re both genuinely consensual parties to it. The affair is the immoral part here. And I agree with Alison’s assessment that as presented in the letter it doesn’t sound like he directly fired her – it seems clear at least one of them couldn’t remain at the company, so someone had to go.

                  I understand that you’re very cognizant of the “other woman” and riding a wave of how that idea is shifting in our culture, but I think those shifts still have to allow for nuance in interpreting specific situations.

                5. Specialk9*

                  LBK, I said he’s scum because 1, 2, AND 3. It kind of feels like you’re deliberately mis-stating my position for argument’s sake.

                6. tusky*

                  Sure, very few things are black and white. However, generally it is unethical for a supervisor to engage in a romantic relationship with someone they are actively supervising because the inherent power differential means that it can easily lead to coercion, even if unintentional (i.e. the supervisee worries about saying no to something in the relationship because of how it might affect their job). To say this is not to say that the supervisee has no agency, or is incapable of consent, or that the supervisor can’t genuinely care about the supervisee. But for the supervisor to put the supervisee in such a situation is unethical.

                7. LBK*

                  LBK, I said he’s scum because 1, 2, AND 3. It kind of feels like you’re deliberately mis-stating my position for argument’s sake.

                  I…am confused. Is that not a list of reasons you think he’s a scumbag? I’m specifically disagreeing with one of the reasons you listed. I agree with the other two, that’s why I didn’t call them out.

                  And if you’re saying it’s the combination of those three things that makes him a scumbag, not any particular one in isolation, I disagree that sleeping with a subordinate is part of that mix. I think it’s certainly stupid and probably a fireable offense just because it’s extremely bad judgment, but bad judgment doesn’t equate to scummy behavior. To me it’s fireable because it’s opening the door to a million problems – not because it necessarily is a problem in and of itself, depending on the specifics of the situation.

                8. LBK*

                  @tusky – I guess “unethical” feels like the wrong word for me. I agree it’s an extremely bad idea because it’s so fraught and it could definitely stem from or lead to unethical behavior, but I don’t think something opening the door to unethical practices is in and of itself an unethical act. It’s just bad management.

                9. Anion*

                  Specialk9, I apologize. The tone/wording of your comment stuck right in my craw, so to speak; in large part, I think, because when my husband and I did get together, there were a few people who implied that we’d been together a lot longer than we actually were (i.e. that we were actually having an affair while he was still my supervisor) *because* we’d hit it off so obviously right from the beginning, and there was a sort of pointed “Well, Husband was always so *popular* with the ladies,” tone to it because we’d been pretty much an all-female team and he was in fact a very popular and well-liked supervisor. The implication, basically, was that he’d been using our team as a sort of potential dating pool, and I happened to be the standout. So I think this is my issue, not yours.

                  I don’t really agree with your characterization of John’s character in all of this–not because you’re wrong, per se, but just because we don’t know if you are or not–and I still think the phrasing about the candy jar is dismissive of Jane and the other females on John’s staff, as well as being dismissive of John himself. And to be honest, while I do disapprove of managers dating subordinates, I think all these sweeping statements here about power dynamics and consent (not specifically from you, but in general) just sort of bewilder and irritate me a little bit anyway, because they imply that adults cannot have relationships outside of work or cannot relate to each other on anything but a professional level, or…I don’t know. They just seem overdramatic and overly narrow, to me.

                  That’s how I feel about it. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to your own feelings about it or your own opinions, and it doesn’t mean I didn’t respond to you in a way that was unnecessarily aggressive. I did, and I apologize for that.

                  Honestly, I’ve been having a lousy week or so and today was an especially lousy day. I’ve long given up the idea that astrology is anything but nonsense, but I’m at the point where I’m wondering if this particular Mercury retrograde is actually having an effect, because it’s just problem after irritation after problem after annoyance after problem here for the last ten days or so, and it’s making me grumpy and sharp-tongued.

                  FWIW, while I don’t always agree with you here, I have always thought of you as a decent, ethical person as well, and I genuinely appreciate the compliment.

                10. tusky*

                  @LBK–that’s fair. I considered whether “irresponsible” might be a better word, but I guess it felt like splitting hairs.

            2. Indie*

              I would be wary of a male boss who had only done this once. If he thinks it’s ok to ask a subordinate to dinner; I’m out.

            3. Anion*

              Yes, thank you. My husband was my supervisor at work for several years. I left the company before we actually got together, but if I hadn’t it certainly wouldn’t have changed the fact that he didn’t “groom” me or abuse his power in any way; we had an instant connection that continued the entire time I worked there, and stayed after I was promoted to his level and then after I was laid off.

              He was also married at the time, and again, they separated and started divorce proceedings before we started dating, but we both knew (without acknowledging it) that as soon as that separation happened, so would we.

              My husband (of eighteen years now) was and is not a user, or a scumbag, or a cheater who wanted a harem. He was and is a good man–a great, wonderful man–trapped in a loveless, abusive marriage, who hit it off with a member of his team, and that friendship lasted a couple of years and finally gave him the strength to pull the plug on the loveless, abusive marriage and move on to a chance at happiness.

              Not saying either person in the letter handled it well, and not saying John definitely is a good man in a difficult position or anything like that. But it’s a leap to say he was definitely abusing his power, and it’s offensive to imply that Jane (and women in general, IMO) was so starry-eyed by the fact that he owned the company that she isn’t/wasn’t capable of making her own decisions or knowing whether or not her feelings were/are real.

              1. Specialk9*

                I’ve already responded to your prior comment, that your situation is light years from the situation at hand, and I’m not throwing shade at you. I’m glad you guys found happiness.

                1. LBK*

                  But Anion’s feelings for her husband still started while he was her superior, so in that sense it’s the same – you’ve espoused the idea that there’s no true consent between a superior and a subordinate, which is what Anion’s point is. It played out differently than the letter, but the starting point – boss/employee – was the same.

                2. LBK*

                  Is your point just that the safe thing for a superior to do is wait until the power dynamic is no longer in place, that way they can be sure there’s no possibility of that power dynamic influencing the (former) subordinate’s consent? That while they’re still working together, the superior can’t truly know what’s going on in the subordinate’s head, so it’s his obligation to avoid doing anything that would even present her with a situation wherein she might feel pressured because of their work relationship?

                  I think we might be missing each other here – all I’m trying to say is that I do think it’s possible for a woman (or man, for that matter) to genuinely develop feelings for a superior. That doesn’t mean I think it’s all well and good for them to start dating while still working together, even if no one’s married to someone else.

              2. DogG*

                Absolutely anion. I am so glad you’re posting your story which is persuasive and powerful.
                I am an active volunteer in my church and my pastor is my “boss”. He got me and my son (a baby at the time) involved in behavioral therapy for abandoned pit bulls. This organization used children to soothe the pit bulls, many of whom came from fighting rings. He was my boss so maybe some people here would argue that I was pressured, but what I saw with that room full of small children and toothy dog smiles uplifts me to this day.
                Adults know right from wrong and know a good thing when they see it. I don’t need a 20-year old feminist to lecture me on abuse.

        2. Indie*

          I don’t think THEY are labelling her. Jane is. She herself is misusing her influence and creating a problem. Shes sending out messages she has power over them.

          1. The Supreme Troll*

            Yeah…I’m getting this vibe too, as if Jane is sort of seeing herself in a co-president type role with her lover.

      3. Lara*

        I’m not sure why an employee’s behaviour in their personal life is relevant to their job, unless there is a direct impact (which I guess there was in this case). Characterising Jane as ‘getting what she deserved’ seems pretty OTT tbh.

        1. MK*

          A romantic and sexual relationship between two people who work closely together is by definition relevant to their job, in my view. And having an affair with your married boss is a perfectly valid reason for dismissal; I don’t think Jane was treated unfairly. The problem is that John was.

          1. Specialk9*

            I’m not sure you’ve caught up to business ethics. He took vows and broke them, not her. He used his position of power in an abusive manner, because there is no other way when one person is the boss and the other the subordinate.

            1. MK*

              In this case Jane appears to have been a willing participant; there is zero indication that he pressured her. Sure, their situation has an inherent power imbalance, but I am not even sure what your point is.

              1. biobottt*

                I think their point is that John acted unethically and abused his power, regardless of whether Jane willingly participated or not.

      1. Specialk9*

        That’s second hand, likely from the very same gossiping people who have made sure the OP knows quite such an extraordinary amount of intimidate detail about a boss she sees so infrequently. I’m skeptical.

        But even if she did say that, she’s still not the one who holds 80% of the blame. This is an ugly triple ethical violation by the male boss, and he should own that.

        1. Indie*

          Ok but the OP isn’t sceptical of these sources, she’s sceptical of Jane, based in part on Jane’s behaviour and texts. She knows these people we don’t.

          1. Specialk9*

            Yeah but we know gossip dynamics enough to point out to OP that she might consider whether she’s sure that was really said. Maaaaaybe she was told by someone with a passion for accuracy who never embellishes and isn’t trying to enhance status by having the latest info… In which case, ok, cool, maybe that’s trustworthy info. But it doesn’t pass my sniff test.

            Without that rather repellent piece of gossip, she’s just someone who slept with someone who fired her and wants to have a drink with a work friend and talk about the main area of overlap they likely have. Enh.

            I probably still would stay out of the drama bubble, but I’m not going to decide she’s a raging bullet dodged, ya know?

    4. FD*

      Yeah, honestly, this bothered me too.

      If you decide to cheat on someone, that’s crappy and you’re doing a crappy thing. But being crappy alone isn’t fireable. You should get fired for having an affair with a subordinate though (because there’s too much risk for abuse of power). So often it’s the lower rank person who gets forced out and I think that’s gross.

      In this case, I suspect the president is actually the owner as it’s a small business. But to be honest, I would be looking for other jobs because I would have a really hard time working for someone who I felt had shown both a lack of ethics and potentially willing to abuse that power.

      1. FD*

        (To clarify, I personally consider it to be ‘cheating on someone’ if you knowingly and willingly have a relationship with someone you know has promised to be exclusive to someone else. This would be in contrast to a situation where someone genuinely didn’t know the other party was in an exclusive relationship.)

        1. Specialk9*

          Yeah I agree, I have never knowingly dated someone who’s in a supposedly exclusive relationship, and that’s not accidental at all. But I definitely think that the one who made and broke promises holds most of the responsibility for that. That’s useful mostly just to counter the ugly ‘Other Woman’ cultural sexism.

    5. MLB*

      You had me until “because of a situation that was much more John’s fault than hers”. Saying that is not much different than the fact that Jane suffered all of the consequences of the affair (at work at least). It takes 2 people to have an affair, and unless she was completely unaware that he was married (which I see no evidence of in the letter), she is just as much at fault as he is.

      1. Merida Ann*

        There’s an imbalance of power, though, that puts John more at fault, because it’s harder for Jane to say no to a relationship that could affect her employment. Because he ultimately has control over her finances, he inherently has added power in the relationship and therefore added blame in the resulting affair.

        Jane is less at “fault” by some margin (I’m not saying how much of a margin, could be large or small) because her decision on whether or not to participate in the affair had to include to some extent the question of whether or not refusing a relationship with John would put her job at risk.

        1. Jesmlet*

          We simply do not know enough about the circumstances to divvy up fault shares. She may have instigated it, he may have pressured her, it could have been completely mutual. The fact that they’re still together leads me to believe it’s possibly the latter. Not every married boss-subordinate relationship has a victim aside from the cheated on spouse. The point is, they both did something wrong and they should both suffer consequences.

        2. LBK*

          I mean, she got back together with him when she was no longer working there, so it seems like she’s genuinely interested in him romantic, irrespective of the power dynamic. It’s especially clear these days with the Me Too movement at the forefront of our culture that it’s an extremely fraught situation where women do often have to weigh whether they’re risking their career by rejecting romantic advances from a superior, but that doesn’t completely eliminate the possibility of a woman actually falling for someone who just happens to be her boss. I mean, to this day, Monica Lewinsky says she was in love with Bill Clinton.

          1. Anna*

            I think what also should be included in the discussion of the power dynamic is that a person in the position of power also has the responsibility of deflecting advances specifically because of the imbalance. Monica Lewinsky may have been in love with Bill Clinton and Bill Clinton may have thought Monica Lewinsky was hot to trot, but if he had been a better person, he would have realized that not only was it a shitty thing to cheat on his wife, it was also a shitty thing to have an affair with a woman who was a subordinate. The argument here that Jane and John probably are really into each other doesn’t mean it’s okay John participated in the affair.

            1. LBK*

              I’m not saying the whole thing is fine because it’s consensual, I’m just saying that not every relationship that involves a male/female power dynamic is predatory.

                1. LBK*

                  I guess I don’t understand how, unless the power dynamic is adult/child where you can more cleanly argue that the child doesn’t have the decision-making capacity to understand what’s going on. If I, as an adult, made a move on my boss, would the boss still somehow be preying on me? That makes no sense.

                2. bonkerballs*

                  You making a move on a boss who immediately says “No, this is not okay” doesn’t make him predatory. But a boss who goes along with it and says “Yes, this is a great idea, let’s totally enter into an inappropriate sexual relationship!” definitely is.

                  And let’s not forget, the power dynamic is not just an issue because of predatory issues. It’s now a problem this this subordinate can no longer be supervised properly and their in an imbalance between treatment of this one subordinate vs the rest of the staff.

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                This isn’t so much a male/female thing. It is a boss/employee thing. The genders/sexes of the participants are irrelevant.

                Saying “male/female power dynamic” like that implies that males are inherently more powerful than females. This is not only wrong but it’s an insidious idea that oozes into every facet of society…so much so that we unconsciously apply the power dynamic with the male as dominant and the female as submissive.

            2. Anion*

              That’s true, but IMO there’s some mitigation here/difference in the situations simply because (again, IMO) there’s a huge difference between the “power” wielded by the owner of a small business and the actual power wielded by the President of the United States.

              I mean, I’m agreeing with you, I’m just saying that Clinton had *more* of a responsibility to turn Lewinsky down than John did in this letter wrt Jane. Not only was he incredibly powerful, but she was an intern–not a high-level government employee on her own–and was, what, twenty years his junior? That’s a lot worse than the owner of a company having a relationship (marital status aside) with a high-level employee roughly the same age as himself.

              Do you know what I mean?

          2. Specialk9*

            Right. But Monica Lewinsky is the perfect example, though it gets political. She considered herself to be making a consensual decision, but she couldn’t be, as an intern with the President of the world. Bill Clinton abused his position. (And as you may notice from my posts, I’m an ardent, proud liberal.)

            1. Relly*

              Here’s what kills me (and I’m also an ardent liberal, for the record!)

              When the affair started, she was twenty-two.

              I was a complete idiot at 22. Everyone is a complete idiot at 22.

              He was one of the most powerful people in the world, and she was 22. Of course she thought she was in love with him. Who wouldn’t?!

              1. Specialk9*

                And it’s interesting that years and years and years later, with her life burned to the utter ground, the roots dug up and then the roots burned too (because that 22 year old was the ‘Other Woman’ and had to be *punished*) — she’s only now saying, I mean, yeah, it was consensual on my end, but I mean, it kinda wasn’t because he was the President and I was the intern.

                Maybe that’s been coloring my response. I’ve been thinking about this case a LOT lately. The 90s were such a different time, thank the gods.

                1. LBK*

                  Is that what she’s saying? When she gave a Ted Talk about online bullying a few years ago she seemed to pretty unequivocally say she was in love with him, that’s where I’m taking it from. If she’s changed her stance since then I missed it.

                2. LBK*

                  Thanks for sharing that – I definitely didn’t realize I was working with outdated information! That being said, I stand by my belief that broadly speaking it is possible for someone to genuinely have feelings for their superior (as evidence by my own life and Anion’s story above), even if the particular example I gave isn’t ultimately applicable.

              2. blackcat*

                I have briefly met Bill Clinton. The man is INTENSELY charming and magnetic. He inexplicably made me feel warm and fuzzy inside while talking about policy. It’s actually really weird, like a superpower.

                Having met him, I 100% see how he could exploit that.

                (On the other side, Hillary makes you want a hug and get a drink. And she gives really great hugs. She’s less magnetic and more like your aunt who is somehow the coolest despite being the biggest dork ever.)

            2. LBK*

              I guess I just don’t understand this – saying that you can’t trust a woman’s own self-assessment of her emotions, even decades later with the benefit of hindsight, doesn’t feel like an especially liberal position to me. It feels almost condescending to insist on her behalf that what she felt was false.

              1. Anion*

                It doesn’t feel “almost” condescending to me, it feels flat-out condescending (welcome to modern feminism). It’s also interesting to see the relationship discussed in this light at all, considering that when it happened the “liberal” position was to claim it wasn’t harassment (it was for everyone else, to be clear, just not when Clinton did it), that people who had a problem with it were prudes and boors who were denying Lewinsky her agency and just trying to “get” Clinton, that it didn’t matter anyway because it was just s–e–you know what and Bill Clinton could do no wrong, and the women accusing him of rape were lying “bimbos.”

                I generally felt the same way at the time, btw, because I was young and a big fan of Clinton for most of his terms in office; it wasn’t until I read an article quoting feminist leaders explicitly dismissing the idea that it was harassment and hand-waving the whole thing (including the perjury) as NBD that I started to rethink things a little, but that’s not my point here. My point is just that I remember it well because at the time I agreed.

                1. LBK*

                  Well, wait, I’m a feminist too. Modern feminism is not a monolith incapable of internal disagreement (see: many vocal feminists breaking with the Women’s March recently because of their association with Farrakhan). And past events can be revisited and seen in a new light as cultural awareness changes. That’s not hypocrisy, that’s growth.

                2. Specialk9*

                  I mean, they *were* absolutely trying to get Clinton, and it was a witch-hunt. He was still wrong, and Lewinsky has gone on record recently saying exactly what I’m saying (which is why it’s on my brain): she made a free choice, but the power disparity was so extreme that it really *wasn’t* consensual. (Which is a big change for her – she’s someone who has long owned up to her shit.)

                  So… Sorry/not sorry my feminism isn’t up to your standards, but I’m noodling through this stuff just like everyone else.

              2. Specialk9*

                Yeah I understand your point, about her agency. That’s part of the argument I’ve been having internally all day.

                I guess if I didn’t feel like the decks were stacked, culturally, to crucify the Other Woman and let the cheater get off with a mumbled apology, I’d be harder on women who sleep with partnered men. As it is, it feels like everyone in Salem grabbing their pitchforks.

                It’s a very valid point though!

                1. LBK*

                  Interesting – I think I also don’t see acknowledging the agency of the “other woman” in the situation as inherently crucifying her, or at least equating her to the man. There can be levels of culpability in between “both parties are equally guilty” and “the man is solely guilty,” and recognizing that the woman has some role here just places her in that continuum without pinning her to a spot on it.

                2. Specialk9*

                  I don’t think that acknowledging her agency does that at all. But I think that the *only* thing that toxic sexist culture looks at is her agency, ignoring everything he has done. (Which is usually just adultery – but in this case is adultery with subordinate who loses her livelihood because of his penis’ actions) So I’m likely pendulum’ing too far in reaction.

                  But look at this situation. The married man walks away with everything; the jilted woman loses everything – her job, her work friends, her reputation. It feels pretty crucify-ey to me.

                3. LBK*

                  In the context of this site, I think there’s more discussion about her role in the situation only because there’s more to discuss – whether he’s a bad person is a lot more clear cut. It does result in her getting a disproportionate amount of the attention when she was clearly less at fault, which I agree feels weird when the man is the one who should be in the hot seat. But debate doesn’t equate to guilt, and the actual content of the debate still pretty squarely positions him as the bad guy, at least from my view of the conversation.

                  As for the consequences, that’s so much more complicated – definitely more complicated than “bad things happen to woman and man gets off scot-free,” especially since based on the OP’s letter it doesn’t sound like he’s getting off scot-free at all, the consequences might just still be brewing. Everyone still seems to think he’s a scumbag, sometimes it just takes a little longer for the fallout from that to manifest because (and here’s where the power dynamic comes into play) they don’t have the authority to make the kinds of fast changes he does. His behavior will probably drive people out of the company, but it will take time because everyone isn’t going to quit overnight, for the sake of their own livelihood.

              3. bonkerballs*

                I think there’s a difference between one woman’s emotions of specific situation she experienced and the larger cultural ideas around it.

                For example, I have never thought of myself as an attractive woman. I’m plain, I’m chubby, I’m often too lazy to be overly fashionable. I was catcalled while walking home from work yesterday and the experience left me smiling and put a little spring in my step. But just because I kinda liked it this one time, doesn’t mean we as a society shouldn’t still consider cat calling harassment. Monica Lewinsky may have been 100% in love with Bill Clinton. She may consider everything done 100% consensual. Her feelings on the matter don’t stop Bill Clinton’s actions from being predatory.

                1. LBK*

                  Her feelings on the matter don’t stop Bill Clinton’s actions from being predatory.

                  It’s not about her feelings, it’s about her consent. I don’t understand how it can be predatory if there’s no prey, so to speak. The Clinton case may not be the best example but I still disagree with what you said above, that if I make a move on my boss and he doesn’t reject it, he’s somehow preying on me. That makes absolutely no sense to me.

                2. Anna*

                  @LBK Maybe it isn’t predatory, but it is a huge ethical problem that can lead to exploitation and for that reason, the person with authority should refrain.

                3. LBK*

                  And that I agree with. But “ethically fraught” and “predatory” are extremely different.

  2. LouiseM*

    #5, I think you can also get away with “moving to be near family.” That’s what I would do if you’re eager to avoid any follow-up questions, although I agree with Allison that there should be none if the interviewer respects boundaries. I hate to even mention this, but the “family” line is also helpful if you want to obscure the gender of your partner (not sure of either of your genders, but I noticed Allison defaulted to “he” pronouns for your partner).

    1. Antilles*

      Presuming that “near family” is not actually true, I don’t think lying is a good strategy here.
      1.) Moving for a partner’s job is such a common and normal reason to move that there’s no real reason to lie. At absolute most, what you’d get in terms of follow-up questions would be “oh, that’s great! what’s your partner do?” or some similarly meaningless politeness. Which you just answer with a brief one sentence “oh he’s a (job), working for a (small/medium/big) firm in (suburb)” and that ends the entire line of questioning since the interviewer doesn’t really care.
      2.) If the interviewer is the type to ask follow-up questions about “moving for partner” rather than just moving right along, they’d probably do so “moving to be near family” too. After all, if someone’s moving near family, the interviewer might innocently ask “Oh, that’s cool, where in the city is your family at?” – not as a means of tricking you or hunting down info, but again, human politeness makes it a natural ‘friendly’ question to ask. However, in this case, since OP doesn’t actually have family there, now she’s much more likely to come off weird because she’s trying to make up a follow-up lie on the spot.

      1. Not Today Satan*

        The idea is that the partner IS family, not that there’s a fictional family to be with. Moving “with” family might be better.

        1. Clare*

          But it means two different things. Saying moving ‘with’ family just sounds strange and is going to invite more questions. What family? Parents? Siblings? If someone says they have family in the area most people take that to mean parents/siblings/cousins already live there. Moving with a partner is very common, i see no reason to make it overly complicated, and it will come across as a very weird thing to try to hide.

            1. Clare*

              No, it isn’t. The point here is not whether something is “technically” correct, it’s still deliberately misleading. It is never a good idea to be misleading during a job interview.

              LW, I think you need to reframe how you are viewing this in your head. It’s not personal, it’s business. I moved out of state last year and 100% of interviewers asked me why I wanted to move (most asked more than once, first during the phone interview then again in person). They aren’t trying to dig into your personal life, they just want to know that you are serious about moving before they invest a lot of time and effort into considering you as a candidate. Saying that you are moving with your partner because of your partner’s job is perfectly acceptable and very common. It should work to your advantage actually, because it tells the interviewers a few things:
              1) That you are serious about moving and will definitely be moving by X date, whether you get this particular job or not
              2) That even though you will be new to the area you will have a support system, so it will help alleviate concerns about how you will be able to adjust to a new area
              3) You don’t need to go into detail about your financial situation, but most people who live on their own can’t afford to work part-time. So giving them context about the fact that you live with a partner will also help address potential concerns about how serious you are about wanting part-time work. They want to know that you won’t leave as soon as you have the chance for a full-time job.

              I know it might feel personal, but really these are all legitimate business concerns that any employer will have about out-of-state candidates. It’s important to be able to address them in an honest way, but you can be honest without going into lots of details.

              1. OP*

                OP here. So it is a same-sex situation, hence saying partner. Asking about sexual orientation is illegal, so that’s why I’m hesitant to bring it up since it’s no one’s business. But also, I would rather know up front if it was going to be an issue with future coworkers. My partner works in health care and his earnings will be magnitudes higher than mine. I just want to be able to say a part-time salary is acceptable without coming off as sounding like money doesn’t matter to me, since I have bills to pay too.

                1. Nonprofit worker*

                  I think it would be good to emphasize the hours and the role. When we hire PT people we look for people that actually want PT work. We’ve had quite a few people come into PT positions hoping they would evolve to FT, and when it didn’t they quit so it might be a selling point that you really do prefer PT.

                  “We will be new to the area and PT works with our schedule.”

                2. LBK*

                  Just want to clarify – are you in a state that bars discrimination by sexual orientation? There’s no federal laws to that effect, and generally speaking you can still ask someone questions that probe protected traits, you just can’t actually use them in your hiring decision. Unless this is a local law, I wouldn’t want you to be under the impression that broadly speaking it’s illegal to ask about someone’s sexuality.

                3. SarcasticFringehead*

                  I was going to say what Nonprofit worker said – a lot of companies will be be thrilled that you’re for real interested in working part time and aren’t going to be bugging them for hours they can’t give or looking elsewhere for full time work. You can just say that you’re lucky enough to be in a position where you don’t have to work full time and you’re excited to be able to consider [job you’re interviewing for] that wouldn’t be an option if you needed full-time hours.

                4. synchrojo*

                  echoing comments below about “for family reasons” being a great way to avoid using the term partner if you’re uncomfortable with interviewers making assumptions about the gender of your partner (unless you’re moving to CA where people use partner all the time to refer to significant other regardless of gender/marital status). My experience is that it’s fairly easy to get a “vibe” about the org fairly early in the interview as to how “safe” it is to use terms like partner– sometimes its obvious that it’s a super welcoming work environment, sometimes I’m tempted to drop the term just to see how the interviewers respond to gauge how comfortable I think it’d be to work with these folks on a daily basis. If you’re following your partner for work and are willing to accept a part-time gig, I’m assuming you actually have a bit more leeway to be choosy with the job you accept, so think about the environment you want to work in. Also, I’m pretty sure there are a couple of good articles in Allison’s archive about dealing with questions that reveal info about membership in a protected class.

              2. Someone else*

                There’s no logical reason for the interviewer to delve into the details of what the OP might have meant by “family” though. I don’t disagree it is slightly vague and if one wanted to interpret vague as “something to hide” or “intentionally misleading” one could, but if saying “family” and not elaborating invites a larger discussion, that’d be red flaggy on the interviewer from my perspective. There’s no reason not to take the statement at face value and move on. You’re stressing how it’s just business, but the moment they start inquiring “what family members? where why how?” it’s turning into a personal discussion that there is no need for.

                1. OP*

                  Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer. I don’t know specifically about state non-discrimination laws where I’ll be moving, but the non-discrimination statement in the job advertisement includes sexual orientation. It is also an organization subject to Title IX. Either way, I see it as something analogous to telling a potential employer about a medical condition. It’s not right for them to ask, but you can share that information with them, but why would you?

                2. Anna*

                  Agreed. I’ve just been coaching a student about not being specific about certain things if she knows she’s going to turn down a job offer from her internship site. It’s none of their business and if they start digging in after a vague answer, that actually gives the OP a lot of information about the company.

          1. Artemesia*

            People move to be with a partner all the time. My husband did it, my son-in-law did it twice, my daughter did it. My best friends both had spouses, one male, one female who did it. No one blinks. My partner has a new job in the city and we are moving here. Saying family when you mean partner may invite more questions or seem a tad off as if you were trying to hide something. This is a matter of fact and move on sort of deal.

            1. Luna*

              Yeah, I agree, not sure why people think this reason needs to be covered up in any way. LW doesn’t want questions, so the more matter of fact he can be the better to avoid confusion and questions.

        2. Antilles*

          Yes, the partner is family but the way people talk, if you’re moving to be “near” family, that usually implies a completely different scenario where there’s some other relatives near there that you’re moving to meet up with – not that “my partner is already there”.
          Frankly, going down the whole “moving to be near family” route just seems to be way more confusing and indirect to me than simply stating the exact truth of “partner’s job”. Really, if a company has any issues about “moving for a partner’s job” as a reason…well, don’t you want to know about that red flag ahead of time?

          1. Clare*

            Exactly, and if someone says they are moving to be near family most interviewers will then ask who the family member(s) are and where in the area your family lives.

          2. Luna*

            I tend to agree, the more vague and unclear the response LW gives, the more likely it is to get follow-up questions- which is exactly what LW wants to avoid. “My partner got a job here so we are moving in July” is simple and understandable, and doesn’t need any clarification.

          3. Skunklet*

            I moved to upstate NY with my husband to be near family 6 yrs ago. And absolutely no one asked any probing questions when I said that we were moving up to be near family. Trust me, I would’ve remembered if I had to explain that I was an only child and my mother had dementia and we needed to be closer to her.

    2. Specialk9*

      I like that too. Your partner is family! Heteronormativity means that a woman moving to be near a partner whose pronoun is ‘him’ is fine, but ‘her’ can be a problem. The vaguer answer can be just as truthful and valid.

      1. LouiseM*

        Exactly, well said. And frankly, outside of my academic social circles, I still think in most of the U.S. “partner” has a definite overtone of a same-sex relationship. I think if most people, especially of a certain age, hear “partner” they are not thinking of a man and a woman.

      2. lost academic*

        I always say “we’re moving the family” or something like that. Sure, there are only two humans in my family currently, but it’s harder to move the animals! Plus it gives a stronger connotation of this deliberate planned joint decision which implies planning and thoughtfulness.

    3. VioletEMT*

      I’d also recommend this if you’re not married, regardless of your partner’s gender. There’s still a ton of stigma about “shacking up,” and there’s the perception that unmarried relationships are temporary. To interviewers, if your boyfriend/girlfriend is the thing bringing you to the city, it’s the only thing keeping you there, so if/when the relationship ends, you’ll bail on the job and move “home.”

      1. Clare*

        I really don’t think there’s that much stigma anymore, unless it happens to be a very conservative area. Plus using the word partner implies a more serious relationship than boyfriend/girlfriend, so carries less stigma.

      2. Lindsay J*

        I haven’t found this to be true at all.

        I’ve moved twice with boyfriends, once from New Jersey to Texas, and once from one city in Texas to another. I didn’t have an issue finding a job either time, both times I told them that I was moving because my boyfriend got a better job, and nobody seemed to think anything of it.

        (Though it may have helped that we were older at the times. Late 20s the first time and early 30s the second time. Someone in their early 20s might have a different experience I guess.)

      3. LBK*

        I think this is pretty regional – I’m in Boston and I’d be really surprised if an interviewer were taken aback by talk of “living in sin”. Where many couples are waiting until they have more money and stability to get married, it’s not unusual for people to live together for years just as significant others and not spouses, at least in more liberal areas.

    4. Flower*

      I used “for family reasons I want to be near (east coast city)” when I was asked about moving from the west coast after having grown up in the middle of the country when my partner wanted to move to (east coast city) and we had in fact been long distance before that. This was also for a grad program that was the one of the only ones in the city that fit my research interests, so the motivation for the grad program was one thing, and the interviewer wanted to make sure I’d thought through moving to a whole new place that I’d be in for a few years. That answer was accepted without question.

      1. MommyMD*

        Family reasons is much more pertinent to the situation than the misleading “to be near family” which suggests extended family relationships. Good answer.

        1. Elizabeth H.*

          Agreed, they’re both pretty similar, nonspecific, and innocuous statements but I think people usually use the phrase “for family reasons” when they mean it’s a decision that makes sense for their family (nuclear family, like their partner, partner’s job) vs “to be near family” which pretty much directly implies extended family. It’s a small difference but the phrases are definitely used differently.

          1. Anne of Green Gables*

            How about “my family is relocating” ? You don’t really need more info than that and it obscures both marital status and gender of the partner, neither of which should matter to an employer but we all know that we don’t live in a perfect world.

            1. Clare*

              That could work, although to me that phrasing implies that the family includes children (otherwise most people tend to say “my partner & I” or “my spouse & I”), and also doesn’t explain why the family is relocating. It’s definitely more honest, but the LW might have to be prepared for potential follow-up questions.

              1. bb-great*

                Who are you interviewing with who’s so obsessed with exactly which family members live where and why? They shouldn’t care, and frankly most people don’t.. The point is you have a personal reason for moving to the area; that’s really the only information that’s pertinent to a job interview.

                1. Clare*

                  It’s really not an uncommon question to get when interviewing out of state. When asked why I wanted to move, I would say to be closer to my family, so inevitably the next question would be asking me something like if I grew up there, where in the area did my family live, etc. It comes up all the time if you are using it as your primary motivation for wanting a job in a particular geographic area.

              2. Anna*

                In what world? Literally no good interviewer is going to care if family includes children or two people either married, unmarried, etc. And it’s none of their business why anyone is relocating.

                OP, saying “for family reasons” is both true and vague and any reasonable person will understand they shouldn’t dig deeper because it’s none of their business. You don’t need to worry about whether or not the interviewer is having some sort of weird internal monologue about recommending school districts or nannies.

      2. LouiseM*

        Love this, “for family reasons” works very well. The point is, stick to family and avoid mentioning the partner.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          Ooh, I also like “for family reasons” very much. But I think “partner” would work fine, too, so long as the OP is comfortable with it.

    5. Librarygeek*

      That’s fair and something I’ve been thinking about using. My partner is nonbinary, so unless I feel like coming out *and* possibly having to explain the singular “they” in a job interview…

  3. LouiseM*

    #3, I hope this is actually a useful professional experience for you! It would be above and beyond and very kind for an interviewer to do this, and the idea is inspiring me to be more generous with my time as well.

    And yes, it could be a fake interview date. It disgusts me that there are any men who use the workplace (broadly speaking) as hunting ground for women, but it’s sadly not unheard of. But I would go into it assuming that you may get some useful feedback and could potentially strengthen a professional contact, which could go in all kinds of directions.

    1. LilyP*

      And on the off chance it is some weird quasi-date thing, please feel no qualms about standing up and leaving as soon as you realize.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        I 100% agree. If you do get a vibe that this person sees it as a date, you’re not under any obligation to stick it out and be polite. If you feel like it, you can say something like “We seem to have had a miscommunication. I assumed you had invited me here to discuss our work in the industry. I’d prefer it if we kept our interactions at a professional level.” If you don’t feel like saying that, it’s absolutely okay to leave anyway.

    2. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

      I’d also say there’s some sort of possibility that, while the OP is not getting a second chance at this role, perhaps another role will be opening up down the line and the Manager liked the OP enough to keep in touch for this role or offer some pointers for general future roles. Or maybe mangers has a connection elsewhere that they could point the OP towards.

      Don’t mean to get the OP’s hopes up. I just would definitely meet with the manager. Hopefully something good will come of it! But do keep an eye out for creep/date thing. It’s also possible (unfortunately)

  4. Mr. Cholmondley-Warner*

    #4 You are me, 20 years ago. I had no clue what to do with my life, and I didn’t even know what my options were. Then someone said “Hey, how about ?” So I said “OK”, did my 4 year degree, and now I have a “career” that I was never really interested in. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

    1. Nacho*

      Same for me, but 7 years ago. I got lucky though and managed to land a career in customer service which I at the very least don’t hate (though it’s completely unrelated to my degree). It’s certainly better than some of the alternatives, so I can’t really complain.

      1. Specialk9*

        I have always had goals and been driven, but life has taken me in such weird turns that I’ve given up on the idea of planning out life. (And actually, careers today are so specialized that one often does stumble on them.) I have guiding principles, and make sure to work hard and help people out whenever possible. Things open up in life when you do that.

        That said, OP, you seem to get stuck considering careers that are ‘noble but underpaid because women do them’, which if that’s your passion, awesome, but if not perhaps make a high reliable salary a significant goal.

        One of the best ways to do this is to get professional certifications, especially for IT, finance, project management, and business. Professional certs are a protective wall against layoffs, and a staircase to better with with more money. Nothing’s perfect, but they’re one of the best investments of time and money you can make.

        So let’s say you’re working an office job, go find online tutorials on Excel and learn how to use their equations and pivot tables, then look into Microsoft certification. You work with a widely-used tool, do self learning, and/or ask work to pay for training and take an exam to get certified.

        Every career has professional certifications, so research what the top ones are, work away on the requirements and exam and get them. So for instance, PMP (project mgmt professional) is one of the most powerful certs you can have, in any business, in any country.

    2. LW 4*

      Hi! I’m letter writer 4. It hit me just now, seeing your reply, that I think I’ve been so anxious about job hunting and finding the “right” listing because I’m scared that I’ll end up in a career path I’m not happy with, just like I ended up going to college for what I did because it was close to home so I went the easy route. I know your comment was short but you’ve given me a lot to think about. I’m definitely going to keep looking at different options to see if something calls to me :)

      1. Anancy*

        I also went the path of going to the easy route college and then being clueless about where I was headed. (Didn’t help that I had friends with super specific goals!). I ended up doing some seasonal and temporary work (working at a ski resort, outdoor adventure type school, beach resort) and that ended up giving me some work experience and then helping to tip me into a career. You don’t have to have a career right out of college, this is when you can have some fun and try out things.

      2. lurker4ever*

        LW#4: Have you considered working as a social worker or counselor for the courts? I have a friend who was/is a licensed independent social worker and substance abuse professional working in the addictions and mental health field and burned out. He changed jobs and now works as a social worker at criminal court meeting with prisoners to draft opinions for parole, sentencing, etc. It would marry your two interests. I quickly googled “social worker court” and found several interesting links that might give you some ideas to start.

        1. Specialk9*

          My coworker with a degree in criminology became a DC government contractor, and worked on, then managed projects (starting small and expanding over time). She became a subject matter expert in her field (critical infrastructure emergency planning) through learning on the job. But her core work was project management, at its heart. I feel like most things in life have project management at its heart, including social work and nursing etc.

          My friend makes probably $175k, in her late 30s/early 40s. (Which even with DC cost of living is doing ok.)

          Other people who were consultants / contractors I’ve known have had degrees all over the place – forest management, business, law, engineering, IT, psychology…

          If you decide you must have a masters, the most universally applicable one I’ve seen in my career is an MBA. (Well, engineering or IT are pretty great too, but that’s a big leap from the humanities that you’re in, whereas business decidedly isn’t).

        2. strawberries and raspberries*

          I agree- alternatives to incarceration and restorative justice are huge in social work right now, and it lets you do a really broad spectrum of different tasks (advocacy, trauma-informed work, employment readiness, etc.). It’s difficult, but it’s growing and it’s a great way to get a lot of applied experience very fast.

      3. Feli*

        Hi LW4! One more example of a career option for you! I used to manage a team that included social researchers at my previous job in a government regulator, and one of them had a degree in criminology. The basic requirement for social researchers was that they had training in social research methods, so lots of degrees counted.

      4. anon scientist*

        LW4, in addition to the other advice you’ve gotten, here are some things I wish I had taken into account when I started down my career path: 1) how many jobs are there in that field? In mine, jobs are few and far between, therefore job searches can take years (which often means being stuck in a bad job while looking). Look at job boards to see what kind of jobs are frequently being posted. Not just entry level jobs, but mid-career, too, because presumably you’ll want to move up in your career. My field has not a lot of entry level jobs, but even less mid-and-upper level jobs; 2) where are the jobs? Is it a career where you could find a job in that field in pretty much any city? See #1, but I’m often stuck taking a job where I don’t necessarily want to live, because that’s where the job is. People in my field are rarely able to say “X city is where I want to live, now I will look for a job”. The best you can get is to narrow it down to a geographical area; 3) realistically look at the amount of education (especially if it means student loans) versus the salary. I made a big mistake taking out a lot of loans for a career that will rarely pay well.

        This all being said, I like the field that I’m in. I just wonder sometimes if I would have like another field enough, and been more happy overall with more flexibility in the other aspects of my life. My life is determined by my career, and as I get older, sometimes I’d rather have my life be determined by other factors (friends, family, hobbies, etc.) rather than work.

        1. Batshua*


          Look and see if the field is growing and likely to continue to be relevant.

          You do NOT want to switch careers mid-life because you *have* to rather than because you *want* to.

          1. No Green No Haze*

            For US readers, the US Department of Labor still (so far, as of right now) maintains an Occupational Outlook Handbook that lists jobs by growth rate, projected number of jobs, projected income, projected income growth, and drills all of this down regionally as well via the Office of Employment Statistics (OES).

            It’s a really, really good resource to browse if you’re trying to figure out what on earth to do, how well it pays, if it’ll keep paying, and where.


        2. CMart*

          Those criteria (how many jobs? where?) were essentially the only things I looked at when trying to figure out what to do with myself as a career as a 30 year old essentially starting from scratch (though a BA sitting on my shelf certainly gave me a small boost).

          What did 30-year-old me want out of a job? Regular hours. Benefits. Salary that could support a family alone if needed. Always hiring. Found anywhere. I find pretty much everything at least a little interesting, so the options were wide open to me.

          So now I’m an accountant! It definitely took nearly a decade of post-undergrad aimlessness to get to a place where I really didn’t care if I found my career fulfilling. I have a nice job with a nice compensation package close to home, and as far as I can tell as long as I don’t suck I won’t ever be hurting for employment. What did I want to be when I grew up? Stable.

          That isn’t everyone’s goal, but it was for me.

          1. No Green No Haze*

            What’s the day-to-day like? Stable is my goal too; with the secondary goal of Not Working For Evil.

      5. Blue*

        Hi, LW! I think it’s also worth remembering that people’s career paths often unfold in unexpected and sometimes bizarre ways as they gain new experiences/learn new skills and as new opportunities present themselves. And changing careers (not just jobs) certainly isn’t outside the realm of possibility. So if you don’t know exactly what you want to be doing for the rest of your professional life, that’s ok. Thinking, “What do I want to do in 30 years?” can be really overwhelming and stressful when you’re this unsure, so I think it could be helpful to think shorter-term. It’s easier to get your head around jobs that make sense for you right now.

        Alison’s suggestion of looking at job postings is a great one – it gives you a clearer picture of some of the options that exist. If you find some career options that intrigue you, it might be worth doing some additional research in the form of informational interviews, etc. Alison has advice on that in the archives, too.

        And for the record, I pursued a path for ~5 years post-graduation before admitting it wouldn’t work for me long-term. I switched to a related field, and even though I wasn’t overjoyed with the work, I was good at it, and the trade offs (like being able to go home at 5:00) were worth it, to me. In the new job, I had the opportunity to take on projects that weren’t strictly within my job description but that I really enjoyed and excelled at, and in the seven subsequent years, my responsibilities have steadily shifted to focus primarily on these fun projects. I pretty much tripped my way into this work I really like, and there’s no way I would’ve predicted that before I made the switch.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          People’s career paths often unfold in unexpected and sometimes bizarre ways.

          This is very true. OP, I would suggest a combination of an okay-seeming job that fits your training (to see how it fits) and doing things that put you in contact with other people (this can get harder after school) because so often life turns do come down to “Cersei talked about her sister’s job, which sounded interesting and like it drew on my skill set.”

          1. Flinty*

            So agreed with this! I also graduated with very little idea of what I wanted to do (all I managed to figure out in college is that I did NOT want to actually work in the field I majored in.) I ended up doing two terms of AmeriCorps, through that started volunteering with a different org on the side, then eventually got a job that I absolutely love with that org.

            It’s not a job I even knew existed before I graduated (case management) and at the time I felt very stupid for having gotten an expensive college education and then having loans but no AMAZING DREAM JOB right after to show for it, but it all worked out in the end!

            1. August*

              Oh, cool! I hope this isn’t too off topic, but how do you feel about your AmeriCorps terms in retrospect? I’m currently considering a second VISTA term.

              1. Flinty*

                Overall, it was a good decision for my particular situation. I did two terms at the same organization, so I was able to build on projects I’d been working on and take on a lot more responsibility (definitely a benefit of small orgs – many hats and lots of responsibility, even for entry level jobs!) and my accomplishments in that role helped me get my current job.

                If you’re thinking of doing a second term at the same org, I would definitely try to negotiate a raise of some kind. Orgs can’t technically give a VISTAs a larger salary, but my employer gave us an additional “housing stipend” instead and increased it for the folks who did a second term. A good AmeriCorps member is invaluable, so you should be in a pretty good position to negotiate:)

      6. laylaaaaaaaah*

        I would very much suggest just going for one of the jobs you mention- or anything that sounds halfway interesting to you. Since leaving college, I’ve worked as a teacher, recruiter, and now a HR person, and each of those jobs has given me new skills and taught me things I didn’t know about myself- plus, taught me what other jobs were out there, simply by dint of coming into contact with people doing those jobs (i.e. school admins, vendors, parents and coworkers who did/had done other jobs, etc).

        Keeping your options open is a good idea, in short! You’re probably not going to find your dream job just yet, if ever, but you just might get there eventually.

        1. laylaaaaaaaah*

          Also, I would heartily suggest ‘What Colour is Your Parachute?’ by Richard Bolles. As a fellow arts grad who was floundering, it was enormously helpful to me.

      7. Glowcat*

        You can always change your mind, and it’s very normal not to know what to do when you’re fresh of college.
        I knew what field I wanted to work in since I was a teen, but this did not mean I could picture my daily life; I’m discovering how the ‘daily life of a scientist’ is now that I’m already working, and I met a lot of people who make it to the end of a PhD and then decide to go for an office job. You’ll probably figure out your goals on your way. Good luck! :)

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          When my kids were around elementary age we got ahold of the old Jonny Quest videos, and it was embarrassing to realize just how much they had formed my idea of What Scientists Do All Day. I didn’t think I would have a private island, but the rest of it was basically a documentary of fighting evil doers while doing brilliant sciencey things.

        2. anon scientist*

          The ‘daily life of a scientist’ made me laugh a bit. At my old job we often had high school or early undergrad students who wanted to “shadow” us. I rarely did this because my daily life is sitting at my desk fighting with R code, or editing a manuscript or writing a grant. Pretty boring to sit and watch that for 8hrs. The “fun stuff” only occurs a few weeks a year during fieldwork for me and most of my colleagues. But maybe it would have been good for them to see that the job is pretty much 95% office with a little fun stuff thrown in.

          1. KRM*

            HA! I just spent my morning yelling at Excel for choosing how I want to present my data in a graph. It wouldn’t really be interesting for a student to hear me yell “EXCEL NO WHY NOBODY WOULD WANT TO DO THAT” for the 8th time as I stare at a bunch of bars. I mean, I do have about 70% labwork–but that is also kind of boring in that you transfer liquids from one tube into another most of the time!
            Note: I adore my job and think it’s amazing. But most younger kids wouldn’t find shadowing me very exciting because the part where you get data and finally wrangle Excel into submission to see your exciting results is relatively short.

            1. Kathleen_A*

              As I like to say – and as all Excel users know, I have many chances to say it – “There’s a good reason why ‘Excel’ rhymes with ‘hell.'” I am actually using AAM to postpone my own personal wrangle with Excel’s graph-making…eccentricities. Best of luck to you, KRM!

              Yeesh, I’d better get back to work now.

        3. Queen of the File*

          I did an extremely useful vocational assessment test several years ago that actually compared your responses with the daily tasks and experience of people in different jobs rather than the broader interest in subjects you may have. It’s possible it was the Strong inventory but I can’t remember for certain.

      8. Fortitude Jones*

        OP, in addition to the social research suggestion above, I’d also suggest you look into something market research/marketing related since your background in counseling means you understand how people think and why they do what they do. You’d probably be very good at figuring out what products people would by and why.

        Also, insurance is a field I highly suggest for people who have no clue what they want to do with their lives after graduating from college. You would do really well as a liability claims adjuster given your criminology and counseling background – again, understanding how and why people behave the way they do is a plus for this kind of role. And depending on what kind of insurance you go into (I always recommend commercial insurance), you can make really good money at it too. I was a property and liability claims adjuster for four years and loved it (though not the office politics at my former company) – it may be something to look into. Oh, and I have a journalism degree, so not what you would expect for a claims adjuster.

        1. grace*

          +10 for market research. It’s a great way to get your feet wet in a lot of areas, get some of that stats/survey detail needed for a lot of grad degrees, and explore new areas. If you’re into the healthcare side of counseling, pharma has tons of market research opportunities – for treatments, for figuring out the patient journey, etc.

          Full disclosure that this is the field I stumbled into with my political science background … so I mean it when I say it’s a great entry level option, lol.

      9. Natalie*

        A career path isn’t like a toll road, where you can only leave at a few specific points and with some difficulty. For lots of people it meanders quite a bit, and for others it’s something that’s only visible in retrospect. Very few decisions in career life are irrevocable.

        Ignore this if it doesn’t apply to you, but if you struggle with planning excessively and worrying about outcomes, you might benefit from better strategies to manage anxiety. On of my only real regrets in my life is I let anxiety paralyze me from making decisions when I couldn’t guaranty the outcomes, and I missed out on a lot.

      10. MommyMD*

        The easy route very rarely ends you where you want to be. A college catalog listing all majors has virtually every career you could possibly be interested in, but you have to be willing to do the hard work to get there.

      11. KimberlyR*

        1. Careers can change. You can do something for 10 years, decide it’s not for you, and completely change. Don’t be afraid of getting it “wrong”-you are allowed to change anytime you want! Money/bills can be a factor so definitely keep that in mind. But take some of the pressure off yourself and allow the idea that your career path can change (in a small or dramatic way) and that’s ok!
        2. Some jobs want you to have a Bachelor’s degree but don’t care what it’s in. You aren’t limited to criminal justice and social work jobs. Troll different job listings and see what’s out there-you might be surprised!

      12. Yorick*

        You don’t have to marry a job! If you start down a career path and later think it’s not for you, you can then switch gears and do something different down the road.

        As far as listings go, don’t stress over each one, just apply! Don’t forget you can turn down an offer if the job wouldn’t be a good fit after all.

      13. Jules the 3rd*

        Heh – I did the same – graduated Poli Sci / econ. Spent a couple of years in retail mgmt, a few years in tech support, a few years in web development, then back to school . I found The Right career for me in grad school – Supply Chain, where I get to solve problems (puzzles!) and analyze / summarize data for decision makers. A business degree does give you exposure to a lot of different opportunities.

        Not to say any of my meandering were wasted time – I learned a lot. I did have some things that made it easier:
        No school loans for undergrad
        No children or other dependents
        Reliable room mates

        These things gave me the financial freedom to try different things.

        So don’t get to committed to ‘career’ right now, take some time to try different things and see what interests you.

      14. foolofgrace*

        I recommend the book “What Color Is Your Parachute?” to find out what areas you might want to invest in. I’ve often seen it in libraries if you’d rather not out and out purchase it. Check it out! It helped me.

      15. Anon for this*

        I’m pretty much outing myself here, but I have worked for two software companies that k12 school use to protect students using school tools (email, computers, etc.). We look for students who are struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, students who are struggling with cyberbullying, and students who are planning violence. I did the hiring for teams at both companies, and I look for people with backgrounds exactly like yours.

        Student Safety is a pretty niche area, but a lot of social media companies have Trust and Safety departments who look for similar things in their user bases. It’s a new thing, so it’s not always T&S, some companies use different terminology, but that’s definitely a field your background would be great for!

        Good luck!

      16. Insert Clever Handle Here*

        I’m a History BA with a minor in Anthropology and I bid, negotiate, write, and manage contracts for a public utility. I certainly didn’t want to be a “Contract Administrator” when I was a little girl, and I wasn’t that interested in it when a family friend told me about it after I graduated (in the midst of the 2008 job market crisis), but I needed a job. Eight years and two companies later, I really enjoy my job. All of the writing I had to do as a History major is really useful, as is the ability to research and consider issues from different angles.

      17. KTZee*

        Hi LW! Because I work in the criminal justice field, one thing I’d suggest is looking at think tanks/policy groups/consultant-type organizations that have justice practices. Some examples: RAND, Urban Institute, Vera, CNA, IIR, Booz Allen Hamilton, IACP, Police Foundation, PERF. Those groups span a diversity of approaches and missions, but if you look at their job postings and also their listed programs and projects, you should get a feel for what kind of things you could do with a Criminal Justice degree. The counseling degree is an incredibly valuable complement to that, as there is a ton of emerging interest in better incorporating psychology into criminal justice research and practice.

        I’m not sure if Alison ever connects commenters to LWs individually but I’d be happy to chat with you over email about my field and what I do and see going on in it!

      18. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

        I feel for you SO much! And I have a very similar educational background/situation.

        First – I was in the same place – feeling like I had no idea how to pick a “career”. Unfortunately the only way for me to figure out it was to get out there and start working in very basic office jobs. I envied my friends who had targeted ideas, but really all I did was look for entry level office/professional jobs that might hire me with my limited work experience (lifeguarding in high school, waitressing in college and a part time-school sponsored “research job”, aka conducting telephone surveys). It was hard because I wasn’t even targeting by industry, and I definitely bounced around a bit in a way that doesn’t look great on my resume, but I just needed to be in it for things to start to make sense.

        So I guess my advice would be – if you’re still struggling to make a plan, maybe just try to get out there and into something that sounds vaguely interesting. Changing up your career path or switching gears is not ideal, but it is doable! If you need some time in the working world to figure things out – that’s ok.

        Now a specific recommendation for you to explore – have you looked into Compliance – either in finance or within healthcare?

        Again, my educational background is very similar (I have a bachelors in Forensic Psychology – which was just a bunch of psych/sociology/counseling classes with some basic law/criminology/criminal justice classes). I’m in compliance in the financial industry and I LOVE it. I have no background in business or finance, but I’m not finding that to be a major issue. The biggest thing is understanding and interpreting rules/laws/regulations and 1.) figuring out what they mean to the company, 2.) what the company needs to physically/operationally do to adhere to them and 3.) figuring out how to prove/document that the company is adhering to them. The other thing I’m finding is extremely helpful is my psychology background – because all of this stuff is taking place within a business, populated by… PEOPLE! So having some background in psychology, I think, helps me make operational recommendations or create procedures that take into account the human element. People are not robots, so you can say “you must do x, bc of law y”, but you have to figure out the best/easiest/most intuitive way for employees to do x – so that they’ll actually do it consistently. Or how to explain things to people so they’ll understand why they need to do x (so that hopefully they are more likely to actually do it).

        Also, FYI, compliance is a pretty solid field to be in. It is super in demand right now and the salaries are, well, in line with the finance industry (aka – pretty high). There’s a bit of uncertainty in the finance industry due to the political climate (if certain post-recession regulations are rolled back, there might be less of a need in the US), but on a global level, the trend is absolutely moving towards tighter and tighter regulation – so any company that does business internationally will still need to follow the regulations of those companies (usually).

      19. Memily*

        Hi LW!

        I just want to put out there—I have two degrees in music. (Yep, like an idiot…) I toyed with different ideas—teaching, speech therapy, academia.

        I’m now a bookkeeper for a construction company. That’s the good news—you’re not stuck! Lots and lots of people end up in jobs that don’t directly relate to their degree. My DH has a law degree and is in banking. It’s ok not to know, and it’s ok to try different things (within reason—give them a good shot) until you land in something you enjoy.

        Also remember—lots of college students seem to think that they have to find their Passion. That if you’re not completely fulfilled by their job, it’s not worth doing. Let me tell you, that’s a red herring. If that’s what you end up in, great! If not, that’s great too! I enjoy my job, I’m good at it, but it’s not the end-all-be-all of my life. And that’s just fine.

      20. Persephoneunderground*

        Big thing for me was that to know what jobs I’d be good at I needed some time in the real working world to figure out what I am particularly suited for. Apparently I’m incredibly detail-oriented so if something has to be perfect people come to me. So I work with our accountant now. For the same reason I started looking into marketing and Web development and design because those things are important to get right and take precision. You might turn out to be great with difficult people, or good at problem solving with tricky workflow problems, and those skills can get you investigating fields or roles that use them best. I’d consider temping or try to get a starter job in a small business that is willing to let you help out in different areas (they tend to be more than happy to let people help other departments when those departments are slammed). Also just look up industries rather than jobs to get an idea of what offices do all day. I’m at an event planning company for instance. Good luck!

      21. 221Tea*

        There are a huge number of careers that don’t care what your degree is in, so long as you have a degree. I work as an administrator and got a BFA. A family friend who makes quite a lot of money as head of an auto parts warehouse got her degree in Home Economics! Many acting students go on to unrelated careers and excel because their communication skills are so excellent, and they have no fear of public speaking! Aside from the specific topics your classes taught you, think about what else your degree taught you that you can bring to a career: research skills, writing/communication ability, leadership or team skills, problem solving, time management… those are all very useful skills that a degree is proof that you have, aside from the specific topic your degree is in. Don’t feel like you’re limited to “criminology jobs” just because that’s what your degree is in.

      22. Just Allison*

        LW4: I think its also good to keep in mind that you dont have to stick to one field forever. I started out going to business school and working at a call center, that call center led to an investment banking job, which led me to quit business school and start work as an office manager while studying elementary ed. none of that was related to anything. I am now a finance manager at a dealership, finished my business degree and I teach every summer with an exchange program while finishing up my elementary ed degree. I found that I wasnt happy with just doing one thing, and I was lucky enough to try alot of options before finding what I love to do! Ive made a career in finance and a career in education! So my advice would be to dabble away, take classes, get certifications, find what you enjoy! With more skills come more career paths.

      23. periwinkle*

        There’s no set path, no guarantees that what you’re doing now will suit you in the future, no knowing if something you don’t like doing now could be something you enjoy later… Just keep building your skills, trying out new things, taking on challenges, and re-evaluating your strengths and interests.

        I majored in political science. I went into IT. By accident, I fell into HR. Now I’m in HR Development. Some of the things I learned in other fields are valuable still, even if they weren’t valuable then.

        And don’t worry if it takes time. I moved into my current field after completing a masters… at age 47. And I’m still open to learning new things that could even shift me into another path.

      24. Kendra*

        Even what seems like the “wrong” listing could still work out in your favor in the end – maybe it’s not the job you want long-term, but it helps you figure out what you do and don’t want in a career or introduce you to a good friend or contact

    3. Jo the clueless grad*

      I completely empathise with letter writer #4! I finished university with an Arts degree in Ancient History and Archaeology, and was fully planning on going on to a PhD and academia because… It was the only thing anyone told us we could do related to that field, with that degree? Then I took a random detour into a graduate program in government policy and my whole world opened up – suddenly there were all these things that I realised people did as their ceres that I literally had no clue existed! I mean, I am a smart, switched on person, but my uni did nothing to prepare us for actually finding a job and what that could look like. I didn’t even know that things like consulting firms existed!

      So #4, you are definitely not alone! And I would highly recommend looking for graduate programs, islf those are offered in your country. They will often move you around different areas of a company, so you can get a real feel for what you could be doing there. The other advice I would have is to be curious and not rule things out – I have become fascinated by all sorts of things I never would have considered myself interested in since starting my professional career two years ago! Also, talk to lots of people, wherever you go, about what they actually do (more than just ‘I work for x company’). That will help too!

      1. Rogue*

        Just wanted to say hi! My BA is in History and Anthropology and minored in Art History. I too was planning on getting my MA in public archaeology and museum studies, but the economy tanked as I was finishing up. Any of the entry level jobs in museums in my area vanished and I was lost. I work in oil & gas now.

        1. Ashley*

          Art History BA here, I was intending to go into museum research but every entry level job had two hundred applicants and a lot of the vacancies went to retired major donors looking for a hobby. I went into insurance admin and from there to financial services in general. An odd way my degree helped my job- I’d spent a lot of time working on authentification and spotting amendments to paintings (like when a detail is added/removed a hundred years later), that attention to detail really helped with spotting fraudulent documents. There’s a lot of fonts that look very similar but if you have to eye for it you can spot when single digits on a bank statement have been changed.

          I never would have thought of going into fraud/legal work from my degree but once you’re out of education things can really open up!

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            That’s fascinating about the details.

            A science example is walking across gravel in the Arctic with people who can spot tiny fossils. Those with the training will look over a pile of small broken rocks and be like “here is part of a mouse’s jaw.”

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Should say, training and tons of practice. The other people had the training, and they could professionally agree that it was a mouse jawbone. They just couldn’t scan a vast array of gravel and say “aha, 800 of these are rocks but this one has a fish fossil.”

        2. Natalie*

          I got my bachelors in history but decided pretty instantly upon graduation that I didn’t want to get a doctorate. I’m an accountant now.

      2. Persimmon*

        I agree that you shouldn’t rule things out. Fellow Art History graduate here who almost went on for a PhD and academia. Abandoning this plan was the best choice I ever made. Now I’m a software developer in a professional services firm. I’m not passionate about the subject matter of my work, but I like my coworkers, I earn enough money to enjoy life, and I live in the city of my choosing.

    4. Specialk9*

      One of the greatest gifts for someone on this situation is the Johnson O’Connor Foundation. It’s a career aptitude test, but not the usual kind – they have you assemble a small kit, order paint chips by subtle color gradation, I forget all the tests. From that they come to some fairly mind blowing conclusions that have been spot-on and actionable for the 3 people I know who took it. Like: you’re gifted at assembling things, but not with short timeframes, so a factory job or assembling closet systems isn’t for you, but designing or inventing or stress testing would be. And things like: you shouldn’t work for large corporations, you’re best suited for start-ups with an exciting mission. Then they give you a list of careers, and match up what you’re suited for. It’s kind of expensive, 6 hundred, but its been transformative.

      1. Specialk9*

        I get why you’re saying that, I was skeptical when my friend used it to make a major career transition, but it worked and she raved about it for years.

        My husband was looking at going back to grad school, but in what FFS?!, and we had gone around and around for a couple years.

        $600 saved us probably $60,000 in grad school and gave us both insights into why some jobs hadn’t been good fits, why some had been, and what to do going forward. It was the most incredibly helpful process I can imagine – and I still use the insights I gained from his brief-out in our marriage in unexpected ways. So I figure we saved $59,400 dollars with that one test.

        The job he found next is a really good fit, and has him motivated and excited about his career path. So I’m a fan.

        That said, it may not be for everyone, and I totally get that that’s an awfully lot of money for many people.

    5. BlueWolf*

      Yeah, after college I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Eventually I got a job through someone I know and gained experience there for a few years and then leveraged that into getting a similar job with better benefits and pay. I think a lot of the time people just kind of stumble onto a profession.

    6. ThatGirl*

      I thought I was going to be a journalist. I spent years in high school and college, taking classes, working on the school paper(s), did internships, and then four years out of college found myself unemployed with a recession looming, newspaper jobs falling away, and had to reinvent myself.

      Ten years after that, I’m nowhere near where I thought I’d be at this point in my life. I’m not even totally sure what my career path is, as such. But I know I have a ton of skills and experience that make me a great fit for a variety of jobs and career.

      1. Persephoneunderground*

        If you’re good at editing, try coding/programming- just a couple classes or online tutorials to see if you might like it, maybe start with HTML and CSS since they’re concrete. The way your brain works to be good at coding and writing/editing are surprisingly similar.

  5. Engineer Girl*

    #1 – If the founder is truly an alcoholic then it’s time to polish up the resume. This is especially true since his life is falling apart. There’s too much potential to go into free fall.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Agreed. I get that OP is currently happy, but it may make sense to put feelers out for when the bottom falls out.

    2. Rebecca*

      I totally agree, especially due to the divorce. It’s entirely possible the business could be liquidated or sold to settle up with John’s wife.

    3. Lara*

      Seconded. Just the fact that OP *knows* her boss is an alcoholic is cause for concern, because that means it’s either a) screamingly obvious b) common knowledge, in which case there is a culture of gossip that could get toxic very quickly. An impression seconded by the whole ‘Jane is running the company from the CEO’s bed’ thing.

    4. FD*

      Yeahhh, for sure. I work for a small business and love it, but if the founder has this many personal issues…frankly it’s time to get out of dodge.

    5. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Yep. Even with making absolutely no judgments on the moral aspect of the situation (which is gross but ultimately not directly relevant to the OP), this is a situation that sounds very, very likely to result in the whole company going down in flames.

      OP, there is no shame in ditching the sinking ship. Start looking for a lifeboat.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Agreed, OP. The core problem here is that you have an absentee boss with a drinking problem. Granted, he could be out doing work for the company. BUT, nature abhors a vacuum. While he is away, Jane is jumping in. She’s not even on payroll.
      The owner is letting his personal life mix with his business. This is not how to run a business.

      I understand your question is about meeting with Jane. I see several options:
      Option 1. Go and find out what she wants. Then tell her that you can’t keep having these meetings because you are not on the clock/ you should be talking to the boss about these matters/you have nothing more to add to what she already knows.

      Option 2. Avoid going entirely. “I don’t see how I can help you.” Or go with the sick grandma type of idea. Sick grandma is a great idea because it puts the blame for unavailability on something Jane can do nothing about.

      Option 3. You go and you meet with her repeatedly. You have already indicated you have no interest in the drama so I can’t see this as being an option you would even consider.

      For the long run, I think you know this is a sinking ship, the owner has lost control over his business. Here is the deal, it’s hard to soar like an eagle when we hang out with a bunch of turkeys. These people are too interested in their own personal lives and not interested enough in growing the business. They have lost their focus and lost their way. IF you stay for any length of time you will find yourself spending way to much time protecting yourself and NOT growing as a professional. The focus could become day-to-day survival, stuck on the ground with a bunch of turkeys. Time to start looking around and figuring out your next gig, OP. I think you know this.

      1. Bolistoli*

        I don’t think the boss is necessarily absentee. She just said she only interacts with him a few hours a month. My company is small too, and I don’t have any reason to interact with the owner, except to chat when I run into him in the kitchen. Also, there is no real evidence that Jane is stepping in for him. Just some second hand gossip that may or may not be repeating some false bravado on Jane’s part.

        I think another option is to be somewhat straightforward along the lines of advice Alison has given related to other work changes that put colleagues who were friends in a new professional dynamic: “Jane, I’m not really comfortable talking about work outside of the company/office. But thanks for the invitation and I hope you are doing well.” All said very pleasantly.

        1. Bolistoli*

          Oh, and I agree with the advice to start looking. It can’t hurt to see what’s out there and she can probably find a much better environment where the owners/managers don’t have affairs with their employees.

    7. Sara without an H*

      Yes. OP#1, you may not be interested in drama, but drama is interested in you. I can’t think of any good reason for Jane trying to recruit you as a source of office information, but I can think of several bad ones. Be friendly, but unavailable.

      You say you like your job and don’t want to quit. But based on what you put in your letter, that job is becoming unstable. So update your resume and start looking at what’s out there. You’ve been seven years with the same company — no hiring manager is going to question your desire to look for new opportunities.

  6. Emmie*

    2: You’re not being petty. That’s really hurtful, and I’m sorry they’ve seemingly forgotten to give you that reward. Please speak up as Alison suggests.

    One side note: If you began as a temp, your ten year anniversary date may be your conversion date. That sounds unlikely given your token gift. I also wouldn’t display the bear on my desk. It feels juvenile to me, but others may feel differently.

    1. Augusta Sugarbean*

      I agree. I think you are totally justified in feeling unhappy here. I’m really sorry and I really hope it was just an oversight.

    2. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

      Perhaps display the bear and when co-workers ask, note that it was your anniversary gift. Though that would be a very passive-aggressive act.

      1. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

        I once received a coffee cup from an employer as a thank you for dropping everything and working on a time sensitive project that didn’t even fall in my departments scope of work. The project, if uncompleted, meant the company wasn’t in compliance and that the government could levy a six figure fine against the company. The thank you we received was a company branded coffee cup. It was one of those chalk board cups that could be written on with regular chalk and then rinsed and re-written. For months I would write a different phrase or word on the cup that meant “cheap gift” in a foreign language. And then I prominently displayed it so that anyone walking by would be able to see it. I know several people used to use google translate to find out what I’d written every day. My boss (whose idea it was to give these cups to the team who worked on the project) was one of those people. The next gift was better – lunch on the company dime and a $25 visa gift card for every person on the team.

        1. OP #2*

          Well it’s been living under my desk and will soon be re-gifted. I thought about lopping it’s head off but figured my kid might like it.

            1. lost academic*

              Create a photo album of the beheaded animal in various death scenes, make it your screen saver. Train tracks required in one shot.

              1. Pomona Sprout*

                Is anyone else here old enough to remember a book called “101 Uses for a Dead Cat?” I immediately flashed back to that when I read this, picturing an album of “uses for a dead teddy bear”!

          1. Artemesia*

            I totally empathize with you on the bear. When I retired we had a new director who had been a bit sideways with me on an earlier project. To be clear I had literally created the program that saved the company 25 years before and had had a very distinguished career in the field with national visibility and been honored by the organization on a couple of those occasions including a big fancy reception for one important award. I had also received rare bonuses as one of the top 5 producers a couple of times. These were not huge but also we didn’t do bonuses so it was a big deal to be chosen for these bonus type awards. i.e. I had not been overlooked over the years by the organization in either notice or promotions. But traditionally there is a retirement event when long term people left and the director took charge of mine and she added in honoring a colleague who worked part time and had been there only a few years who was leaving around the same time. He got a fishing hat with lures and a funny speech about his hobbies i.e. personal notice. I got a generic crystal box, the sort of thing no one wanted ever and a rather generic speech. It felt like the Teddy Bear in comparison to what other retirement events looked like. Most people also had events where the entire organization was invited and so people across other departments would attend when they were close to the retiree; the director apparently tried to save money by just including our department. I had people for weeks coming up to me and apologizing for not coming to the event because ‘we didn’t know about it.’ It isn’t the thing itself; it is the comparison with what is done for everyone else and the sense that you have been singled out for something special to you that is missing. I suspect in the OP’s case, the problem was that the task was given to someone clueless or someone careless, but yeah it feels pretty icky to feel left out.

      2. GG*

        Another passive-aggressive idea, that I fully acknowledge is a bad idea, but still can’t quite shake…

        Keep the bear until the next opportunity to re-gift it back to the manager.

        1. AKchic*

          Give it right back to the boss and say “since we went so cheap for mine and are hurting for cash on gift-giving, we may want to regift this for the next person”?

          Call them right out?
          It’s direct. It’s confrontational. But it gets the bear out of your possession.

          1. LissyLou*

            This is exactly what I would do, though I tend to be kind of an ass when people are inconsiderate jerks.

    3. Joie de Vivre*

      It sounds like someone dropped the ball. If the company gives a service award, HR is usually involved. The spa, golf, dinner gift from the team – if the team members are personally paying for it, my personal opinion is that needs to stop.

          1. Corner Nook*

            The next question is was the money given to you higher than what it would have been normally? Is there a chance you got the bear as a token physical gift but extra money?

              1. Corner Nook*

                Mention it to your boss. Something has obviously been missed by someone. It could be you missing something, but it is most likely your boss who has missed it and is probably not even aware. Mention it. The worse they can say is that the bear was a thought out choice, in which case they are horrible off base people.

                You can do this.

    4. FYI*

      From what the letter says, staff gets a MONETARY gift in addition to spa day, etc. LW, did you not receive that either? I would for sure speak up about that. That’s essentially bonus money, and you’re being passed over for it. Frame it as a review issue: “is there something I need to know?”

      1. OP #2*

        OP here!
        I did get the monetary gift which was part of why I don’t want to appear ungrateful. I had a brief conversation with the lady who nudges the managers on these milestone anniversaries and she told me that despite her directive to my manager, it was not heeded and she didn’t feel like pushing it further. She pretty much told me she didn’t care and that’s why I received a toy. I had no words.

        1. Brandy*

          OK the petty part of me puts the bear back on my desk. And when asked say this is apparently what they think of me, since she said she didnt care and your boss didnt care. And now you know where you stand with the company. They dont care. Maybe its time to brush up the ole resume.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              Would it help if you called it the ‘No Care’ Bear? Maybe on a ribbon around its neck? Just for a week until you take the ribbon off and pass it to your kid.

              Because you’re right, it is sucky.

              Sometimes humor can put that into perspective though. You did get the financial reward; your boss is bad at personal things. But that’s one piece of data out of the whole picture – do you feel valued and respected in other ways? Are you paid fairly, and treated ok about PTO or personal errands?

              If this is just one piece, and you’ve already asked about it, then take a breath, make a joke, and let it go. Don’t let one piece poison a good place. If it’s one out of many problems, well, sucky doesn’t change, start looking at your options.

              1. yaspebra*

                I get this — take this as one piece of the overall picture, but the boss messed up. The company has a policy (unofficial or otherwise) to acknowledge a ten-year anniversary (which is a very big deal) with a monetary gift & a more personal gift tailored to the individual. What should have been a nice gesture which left the OP with good feelings about her company was mishandled & now the OP is pretty upset.

                I don’t know that I could just let it go, it would really bother me. The boss couldn’t be bothered to make time to do this nice thing for a ten-year veteran?

                Some of the other commenters have noted very hard work, going above & beyond, really pitching in to help out when it was absolutely needed, saving the company tons of money. My pet peeve is when “they” thank the folks who helped out on a major project & can’t be bothered to get everyone’s name: “I’d like to thank Jane & Fergus for killing it by working 80-hour weeks to get the XYZ project done one time & everyone else who pitched in.” Meanwhile, the “everyone else” wonder why no one took the time to find out their names & call them out personally.

                1. DDJ*

                  When my former “big boss” retired a few years ago, our direct group of 9 was at the event. During his speech, big boss personally thanked and mentioned 7 folks, by name, and left me and one other employee out. He was going off a written speech. And you know, the other 7 had all been there longer than the two of us, I’ll admit. I’d only been with the group for 7 years at that point, and my coworker for 4. So, newbies, right? Easy enough to forget.

            2. Bow Ties Are Cool*

              I hope you will update us when the situation is resolved, however that comes about. That’s a pretty horrible thing for them to do, it’s obviously treating you differently than everyone else, since it’s not even about job type based on what the receptionist said.

            3. Liz2*

              As an admin, I usually get to put on all the “employee appreciation” things, which is eye rolling on many levels. It does mean I get exactly what I want when it’s time for me to get my own gift.

              But it’s NOT petty to ask about it, when a company established a standard, they have to keep it. Had a manager bring up the idea of gifts for recognition this week until I pointed out he would need to maintain it once he started…not so much then.

            4. Engineer Girl*

              Is it possible that your boss asked the receptionist to order the gift? That would explain the bland response from her.
              Your boss needs to know he missed the mark. Either he’s clueless or desperate or someone he delegated messed up.
              Because the only people that think teddy bear gifts are appropriate are companies that make teddy bears as gifts.

            5. Anon attorney*

              In your place I would find another job and have the bear deliver my resignation letter in its little paw. If you can somehow manipulate the bear to appear to be giving the finger, even better.

              It’s unbelievably stupid to alienate a long serving employee like this and replacing you would cost the company a hell of a lot more than giving you a proper gift. But I would give the boss one shot at fixing this first. If s/he isn’t interested then that’s a pretty clear message that you are not valued and while that sucks at least you now know the real situation and can address it accordingly.

        2. Observer*

          Unless she actually said “I don’t care”, please try to make sure you’re not projecting. Not that I think she should have left it, but there is a difference between “I don’t care” and “this is not something I’m going to burn political capital on.” This is especially true if she’s not in a position of authority over your boss.

          But you DO need to have a conversation with the your boss. It’s not like your manager “forgot” etc. This was something the DECIDED to do, and it’s perfectly legitimate for you to ask why your manager decided to treat you so differently. Has your manager given gifts to other people, or are you the first? Also, you might want to ask the person who “nudges” people if your boss told her why they are doing this.

          1. OP #2*

            Well, when she mentioned it she shrugged her shoulders and said, “oh well”. I interpreted that as “I don’t care”. Maybe that’s projecting but yes, maybe it’s one of those battles she didn’t want to ‘pick’ and maybe she was overwhelmed with other tasks. To tell ME that, however is kicking me while I’m down!

            1. observer*

              I definitely agree that her response left something to be desires, to say the least. But the person you really should be focused on is your boss. He’s the one who clearly doesn’t care.

            2. Anonymous Ampersand*

              I would cry if this happened to me. Possibly in work when being handed the bear. I’m so sorry :(

              1. OP #2*

                Well, I did. I locked myself in the private bathroom for about half-hour to compose myself and then sulked like a child for the rest of the day (internally)….so maybe I needed that bear after all! The source and comfort for both problems!

            3. Narise*

              You should save the bear and give it back to either the person who shrugged their shoulders or to your manager on their next anniversary/special day etc. with the message ‘Now we both know how we feel about each other.’
              J/K sort of.

            4. Marthooh*

              “…she told me that despite her directive to my manager, it was not heeded and she didn’t feel like pushing it further. She pretty much told me she didn’t care and that’s why I received a toy.” — Nope, you got a toy because your manager doesn’t care. It’s not this lady’s fault! She wasn’t kicking you while you were down, she was telling you that she did the right thing and your manager didn’t. This whole bear thing really sucks, but put the blame where it belongs.

            5. Genny*

              Is nudging bosses about anniversary gifts actually part of this woman’s job or is this something that just kind of fell on to her plate? If it’s not technically her job, I would also factor that into my assessment of the situation and my feelings towards her. The situation sucks, but the person really at fault here is the manager.

            6. Crystal*

              Do you not feel you can bring this up with your manager? I would go the wide eyed route as if you hadn’t spoken to the “nudging lady” and use Alison’s script.

        3. MLB*

          In that case, I wouldn’t mention it. You’ve basically been shown how your manager values you if she couldn’t be bothered to provide a sincere gift, and will know from now on to keep your expectations low.

          I would also give the bear away and if anyone asks what you got, be honest.

        4. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

          Oh, I’m so sorry, OP2.
          That’s pretty damn awful of your manager.

        5. Vesty McVestPants*

          The lady who nudges the managers knew about the bear but didn’t care enough to intervene. Ok…that’s crappy but perhaps she didn’t feel invested enough to do anything else. Your manager, whom you note later in the comments you’ve worked with for 4 years and you get along great, should be invested. Highly invested in putting in effort to show appreciation. Who knows why he didnt put the type of effort into this as he’s seen put into other’s anniversaries. But if it was me, I’d definitely say something. Even if it didn’t result in getting an appropriate gift, I’d want him to know that his ‘recognition’ of my decade long tenure was insulting and I know he put zero effort into it. I wouldn’t expressly say those words but I certainly wouldn’t let him off the hook by saying nothing.

          1. Anne of Green Gables*

            I agree. I would say something to the manager. Think of it this way: if you were a manager and had an employee who was as upset as you are, OP, wouldn’t you want to know? And then if nothing changes and you get shrugged off by the person who could/should actually care, then you know where you stand. But I’m a firm believer that people can’t fix problems they don’t know about.

        6. Joie de Vivre*

          Wow. Your manager wouldn’t spend the company’s money to do something nice for you. Your manager stinks. Unless your manager is stellar in other ways, it might time to consider an internal transfer.

        7. Meg Murry*

          While this kind of stinks, I think you need to reframe this away from “and all I got was this crummy bear” – because in fact you got a bear and money, while it sounds like other people were given outings or “things”. Your boss apparently isn’t good at coming up with a “thing” for you, but you can take the money and use it to treat yourself to a nice 10 year anniversary gift or dinner out for yourself and a loved one.

          Now if others usually got the thing or event AND money, and you only got money and a stuffed bear, that is worth being disgruntled over. But if you only got money instead of something planned for you, while I can see how that feels insulting, it isn’t quite the same as “I only got this bear”.

          1. ThatGirl*

            She said in her original post that everyone traditionally gets money AND an experience/event.

            1. Marthooh*

              “For the 10-year gift, employees receive the monetary gift, a larger outing (day of golf, spa day, night in a nice hotel, etc.), and flowers or something that the employee would like.”

              So money + an outing + a token gift, which I assume is what the bear was meant to be.

          2. JokersandRogues*

            I think they get both the money and the outing usually. So she got money and…a bear.

        8. Lucky*

          Is she the one that chose to give a child’s toy to a Grown Ass Woman? Please, people – all of you delightful AAM readers – do not give stuffed animals to your GAW coworkers.

          1. OP #2*

            THIS ^^^ Let us all take heed at Lucky’s advice. If nothing else, please all let us remember this.

            1. Klaxons*

              Cosigned, my mom’s boss knew she had a cat, so for her birthday they gave her one of those ugly Beanie Boos with the googly eyes? It was a neon pink stuffed cat. She kept it for a while and then donated it. Like what is she supposed to do with it? She was 55 years old lmfao

          2. babblemouth*

            Yes yes yes. I work for a toy company, and we don’t give toys as gifts to GAW (or GAM) unless that have explicitly stated in the past that they enjoy collecting the toys we make. And even then, there’s usually a fruit basket or somesuch going with it.

        9. pancakes*

          I wonder if the bear maybe had a gift certificate or something meant to accompany it that went missing, either by accident or theft. Something like a spa gift certificate in an envelope is very easy to “misplace.”

        10. I See Real People*

          I’m an executive assistant. I often find that if there is a team of middle managers, the assistants to them or the executive assistant to their boss often gets overlooked in the Thank-You-For-Your-Service events/rewards. It’s almost like assistants are not a whole employee to them for some reason, i.e. not a director or manager or executive, or your in your own category of personnel so no one feels it’s their job to reward you.

        11. Ruffingit*

          Talk to the manager directly. This is ridiculous. And sad. I’m sorry this happened to you and I hope speaking directly with your manager will resolve it.

      2. Irene Adler*

        Good approach. What an awkward spot for the OP.
        Probably not the case here: Could there be something tucked inside the stuffed bear that got missed?

        1. Tardigrade*

          I realize it’s unlikely far-fetched, but I wondered if they expected her to be angry and rip the bear open and, what ho! Tickets!

          1. Adlib*

            Even if that ended up not being true, then the ripped bear could be displayed after the fact. This made me chuckle.

            1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

              I can envision a somewhat “fixed” bear (duct tape?), displayed on the OP’s desk to invite questions. “Oh, I assumed that my (spa day/hotel stay/etc) must have been inside the bear so I inadvertently destroyed my anniversary gift.”

              I soooooo couldn’t pull this off but would love it if someone else could.

              1. LissyLou*

                I can picture it perfectly… The bear is sitting on her desk, on a pedastal. The abdomen and extremities cut open, then half-assed wrapped in duct tape with fluff falling out everywhere. Maybe one eye hanging by a thread…and a pair of scissors and the roll of duct tape sitting next to it.
                A perfect accompaniment to a wide-eyed explanation of “Oh, I assumed that my (spa day/hotel stay/etc) must have been inside the bear so I inadvertently destroyed my anniversary gift.”

    5. Kathleen_A*

      OP, that is awful – and hurtful – and ridiculous – but I am just as sure as a stranger over the internet – who of course knows nothing about you or your company – can be that this just HAS to be an oversight. Somebody, and probably a couple of somebodies, dropped a ball big time.

      So yes, do bring it up using Alison’s script and I’m pretty sure somebody will do something to make it right. And maybe it will even serve as a reminder to the company that it needs a better way of tracking anniversaries so this doesn’t happen to anybody else.

    6. Lily in NYC*

      I agree. It shows that they just don’t think of us the same way. I am also an executive assistant and have been treated differently than others many times (depending on my boss at the time). For my 5-year anniversary, I was given a key chain. The same exact key chain that was in my welcome packet on my first day. A tacky key chain with our logo on it – but we had since changed updated the logo so it wasn’t even the right logo! I laughed in my boss’ face when he gave it to me and opened my desk drawer to show him the box of 50 of the same key chains; I had them to give out to guests as stupid little presents. Thanks for nothing, job!
      We have new HR now so they are much better about this stuff. Now we get a catalog full of tacky stuff and we can choose something out of it. Nothing spectacular, but better than stupid key chain.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          He was such a dick. He said something like “oh great, another one for your collection”. I was trying to get the nerve up at that very moment to give him some work-related bad news and it became much easier after that! I was like “oh, by the way, Bad Thing happened” and then walked away and left him alone in my cube. I am so petty – he is long gone but he often writes editorials in major news outlets and whenever I see his byline I leave a snarky comment. I know he reads them – he even responded to me once! (He has no idea it’s me) Small victories.

  7. Mad Baggins*

    #4 When I was asking the same question myself, I found the Kent University career explorer helpful (link in name). There is lots of info about how to think about career fit and even a tool where you take a short quiz about what you like to do (work with your hands, help people, do a different thing every day, use spreadsheets, be creative, etc.) and gives you some options that might be a good fit. I took some of those career titles and googled “what is X” (“What is HR” is actually what led me to this site!) which gave me more career titles, and also more phrases describing the nature/type of work (like “work with frequent interruptions”) so I could decide if it was a good fit. As you build up a vocabulary you can ask your networks for more tailored advice, and you’re better able to answer “what do you do” at parties!

      1. Part-time Poet*

        I live in a city that has two nonprofit/for profit organizations, a high quality fancy restaurant and a bakery with two stores that hire former prisoners and poor people needing jobs to work in their businesses to teach them work values and skills. Both are hugely successful and produce great food. And they teach how to construct a resume and provide job coaching. Your degree sounds like a good fit for this type of organization, if this sounds interesting to you.

    1. Sparkles*

      Another KSU grad here! YES YES YES. That tool is SO helpful! If you can find something like that through your school, I would highly recommend it. They also should have services that help you brush up your resume (at least Kent State did)

      1. Sparkles*

        I just realized you had Kent University, and not Kent State University. My bad! I got too excited. lol

    2. Had Matter's Pea Tarty*

      I got Technical Author, Translator, Information Officer, Librarian, Applications Programmer, Advertising Copywriter, Computer Helpdesk/Support, Multimedia Programmer, Research Scientist, and Secretary when I filled it in.

      …None of these are jobs that I’m qualified to do (then again, with a Criminology degree, no work experience, and autism, am I really qualified to do *any* job?), want to do, or would be any good at. I’m not organised or efficient, I have no people skills, I don’t know anything about programming or advertising, and oh yeah I have no people skills.

      1. Mad Baggins*

        Hm, well what did you fill in? It sounds like you’d like a computer/desk job where you can think systematically (as opposed to creatively), work independently, have some control over the pace of your work, and content-wise do something with data manipulation or converting information from one format to another and doing some investigative problem solving. Maybe you can use that as a jump-off point to research entry-level jobs (not data entry per se, but something to get your feet wet) and then you can recalculate once you have that benchmark.

        1. Mad Baggins*

          Actually this sounds a lot like me, and I work as an “HRIS analyst”. I sit on a computer and email people about data and processes in a system that tracks employees. Maybe that can be a benchmark for you!

    3. SavannahMiranda*

      Ha! I just completed the explorer, and the top result IS my job! (A slight variation in title on my job, but my current job). And the list of runners-up are fields I’ve strongly considered re-training for. Go figure.

      Hmmm. I’ll have to give this some thought. Maybe my by-chance career path was actually a good match for me.

      Thanks for this brilliant link!

  8. Casuan*

    OP1: What Alison said, especially “This sounds like a ton of drama that so far you’ve managed to stay out of, and there’s no reason to change that plan.”

    When Jane texts you, respond to invites with how you’re schedule is too busy or whatever makes it clear that you’re not available to meet for the foreseeable future.
    Only respond to the first two or three times she does this, preferably two. Then ignore her. If after that she texts “How are you? Let’s get drinks & catch up!” then every so often [& only if you want so that you don’t burn a potential bridge, assuming there still is a bridge] you can respond “I’m good though swamped! Hope you are well.”
    Definitely you do not & should not respond to every text & definitely resist talking with her.
    Might she call you? If so, have some prepared responses so you’re not caught off-guard & inadvertently contributing to more drama.

    Also, depending on your position at the company, might you be able to notice work that’s being ignored because of this drama? If so, please refer to HannahS’ excellent comment from the other day because it can help, IMHO.

    OP1, it’s commendable that you have been able to stay on the outer edges of this. Do what you can to stay there!

    1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

      Also, with a contentious divorce, custody battle, alcoholism and the other woman still involved with the company, texting Jane especially from or about work could drag you into the legal aspects of this situation.

    2. Naptime Enthusiast*

      I used this method for a coworker I was trying to diffuse my friendship with, it’s worked out really well so far. I’m not willing to completely burn the bridge but I only hang out with this person in group settings now, maybe that’s a compromise you can live with once in a while? Go as a group and get lunch so you’re not talking office gossip, and rather catching up with one another instead.

  9. Louise*

    #4 Just a note, but to be a social worker you need a degree in social work and some states require an active license to use the title. Social worker is not a catch-all for social services workers and should not be used interchangeably for people with related degrees working in social services.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This is also a good reminder that sometimes people mean “profession” in different ways. Sometimes a “professional” means a person who undertook special training and must have a license to practice in that field (social work, construction, law, engineering, plumbing/electric, librarian, medicine, chiropractics, nursing, etc.). And sometimes it means your career arc or trajectory.

      I read OP’s letter as listing the fields OP is most familiar with as different career paths, not as suggesting that social work (or law or medicine) are “new college grad” jobs that can be undertaken with a bachelor’s degree.

      1. LW 4*

        Yep! That was just an example of a path some of my peers are taking – they’re pursuing the social work license. Definitely not a fresh-out-of-college option, but I wanted to highlight my complete lack of imagination, hah.

  10. Engineer Girl*

    #2 – I’m sorry, but teddy bears (or any stuffed animal) are not appropriate gifts for adults. If you want to do it for you significant other, OK. But never in the work context.

    OP, I’d definately ask. And if they admit to it I’d laughingly treat it as a “you can’t be serious” joke.

    I love Alison’s script. It lets the giver know that the gift makes you feel devalued.

    1. Reliquary*

      Yes, the teddy bear gift is totally inappropriate because it is infantilizing. While I like Alison’s script, I’m not totally satisfied by it, because it is really difficult to interpret that kind of “gift” as something other than an intentional insult.

      I’d change “I know the company usually does something big for 10-year anniversaries. I feel weird bringing this up, but should I read anything into the fact that we didn’t for me?” to “I know the company usually does something for 10-year anniversaries. I feel weird bringing this up, but should I read anything into the fact that I was given a child’s toy?”

      1. Engineer Girl*

        I’m not sure that it’s an intentional insult. It could very much be extreme laziness or neglect on the part of the giver. But neglect says “I don’t care about you.”
        I do agree that It is wildly infantilizing.
        The only stuffed animal that I liked as an adult was a small kitten. That’s because my male cat adopted it and carried it around by the scruff as though it were his baby. I even found it plopped down next to the food dish as though he was trying to feed it.

        1. MK*

          Laziness usually leads gift givers to pick generic things like flowers, chocolate, perfume, etc. A stuffed animal is just plain weird gift for an adult (unless you know the person collects them or something).

          1. Myrin*

            IDK, I’d definitely put “generic stuffed animal” in there with your flowers and chocolate. Might be a cultural thing? I’ve absolutely seen stuffed animals as cutesy gifts for adults of all genders and ages (and I mean in professional settings, not personal ones).

            1. Rachel01*

              Is the gift inside the teddy bear. It’s possible the gift card, or spa and/or gift paperwork was misplaced. I hope that is the case. They could have assigned the purchasing to someone that had no clue how to handle it or were plain lazy. Your manager may be unaware that the ball was dropped.

              1. OP #2*

                Alas, no gift inside. I thought about ripping it up at my desk but figured that wouldn’t be a good look ;)

            2. Lindsay J*

              This, but then I would see all of those items as mainly generic things a significant other buys you. Like I would find it just as weird for my work to buy me perfume as I would a stuffed animal.

              1. MK*

                That probably cultural. Where I am from, scent is a perfectly neutral gift for both men and women, and it’s common to send flowers on special occasions. Florists know and can offer suggestions about what to send to, say, a retiring co-worker, as opposed to your spouse on an anniversary.

        2. Justme, The OG*

          I like stuffed animals. I have toys at my desk. This gift is so inappropriate, I don’t even know where to start.

        1. Reliquary*

          You can and should say it, OP#2! I, for one, would love to find out what the reply is when you do!

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Infantalizing and sexist. When I read this post I was like, “WTF?? Who gives stuffed animals to anyone except a kid or their girlfriend???” Because, let’s be honest, boyfriends and husbands don’t receive stuffed animals.

        I’m outraged on behalf of OP. This is so unbelievably disrespectful I can’t believe it.

          1. Lindsay J*

            I got my boyfriend one as well for the same reason. I even made it at a build-a-bear type place.

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              Ha, okay, I stand corrected. I should have said “anyone except a kid or their significant other.” But still, I’m guessing that 99% of the time it’s the females who get the stuffies.

              1. SineNomine*

                I’m a man and when I was in the hospital my niece bought me a small stuffed bear with my favorite sports team logo on it. Mind you, that obviously isn’t a work context, but it was a fine gift to me. This whole thread is starting to make me feel like I should’ve felt worse about being fine with it though and I’m starting to become embarassed…

                1. Slow Gin Lizz*

                  Ha! Again, I stand corrected. I shall change my response again: “anyone except a kid or their significant other, or if the gift comes from a kid or significant other.” That’s sweet of your niece.

      3. CatCat*

        I like this because it still gets to the point, but also really delivers on the awkward for the gift giver since it highlights how absurd the gift is. There’s just no possible good explanation for such a gift.

    2. Glowcat*

      Yes, this. We celebrated a colleague’s 60th birthday last week, I can’t picture myself or anyone else going to them with a teddy bear. I do love stuffed animals, and I keep buying and receiving them from friends, but they’re just plain inappropriate in a work context. OP#2, I really hope this was a mistake!

    3. Overeducated*

      Seriously! If you’re going with generic, small, and impersonal, at least get flowers, which are appropriate for most adult occasions.

    4. WillowSunstar*

      I agree. Something like a bouquet or a nice plaque would have been more appropriate, even if the company was having cost-cutting issues.

      1. Dame Judi Brunch*

        OP2, Definitely ask about it!
        This sounds like something that would happen to me. Small comparison, but the it made me feel awful in a similar way. At old old job, you were assigned a birthday buddy. They brought in a treat for your birthday, you did the same for theirs. They ended the program, mid-year, in my birthday month. Old old old job you got a birthday gift, $10 range. Someone else was assigned to go out shopping. I got nothing.
        Every monthly meeting, they’d acknowledge any anniversary. Mine were never mentioned.
        So glad they’re old old job!

        1. Nan*

          We used to do a birthday pool for our teams at work, we don’t anymore. The lead just brings in snacks and we decorate the birthday person’s desk. At any rate, when we did do gifts, I once got a book about Ted Kennedy, because I liked to read. I have never, ever, ever once brought a political book, or said anything about Ted Kennedy at work. I’m pretty sure it came from the dollar store.

          However, the dude who was assigned to my present got fired shortly after, because he dropped an F bomb, and it picked up on someone else’s phone call, and on the answering machine of the person we were calling. Person’s young daughter listened to the message and called to complain. He was fired. Now I guess he has time to sit at home a read a Ted Kennedy book.

          1. Dame Judi Brunch*

            Whoa, that’s crazy!
            So sorry about your crummy gift. Goes to show some people are thoughtful in buying gifts, others aren’t.
            Gift pools are difficult to pull off at work. Even party planning committees can display favoritism.

          2. Naptime Enthusiast*

            I’m getting a little off-topic, but that seems like a really extreme reaction to cursing, unless the person that got the voicemail was Super Important or there were other serious issues with the guy’s performance.

            1. Anonymous Ampersand*

              I’m fairly sure it was the parent that called to complain, but I’m imagine my small child (<10 y o) phoning to complain about a swear word he heard on a voicemail and chuckling to myself!

            2. Dame Judi Brunch*

              I’m guessing you are right, Super Important, plus Serious Issues. That may have been the final straw.

            3. Nan*

              Dude was a schmuck. And we were calling on behalf of a hospital. Hospitals don’t want their names being associated with leaving F bombs on answering machines. Intentional or not.

          3. Lily in NYC*

            That is a crappy gift! I can relate; I got “Who Moved My Cheese” from a secret santa exchange. But I think a Ted Kennedy book is way worse.

          4. OP #2*

            LOL. I like bears as a species I guess but yeesh not a stuffed one. Where do people get their ideas (or lack thereof)?

          5. Kelly L.*

            There is this weird thing that happens sometimes when people who don’t read for fun buy gifts for people who do read for fun. It’s the assumption that books are pretty much all the same, and a person who likes books will like any book, no matter the genre, topic, quality, or anything else.

        2. Eye of Sauron*

          This reminds me of my company. We went through a period of different ownership for about 4 years, every time I would get close to a milestone the company would change hands and I’d find out that the new company had a different milestone program from the previous.

          It got to be comical as it was happening to me and another woman, so at least we knew we weren’t being singled out.

        3. rocklobstah*

          i have had these experiences too. Having my five-year plaque shoved at me as boss was heading out the door one time when everyone else got a nice lunch and big deal presentation still makes me pissy. And with a January birthday, they always managed to “economize” right beforehand.

    5. Bea*

      Yeah. I’m a dork who enjoys stuffies and my friends will send me one once in awhile as a “saw this unicorn, it’s a limited edition, just like you!” and I adore them. However as a gift for a big event from a company that spends on events and spa days, that’s bad and rude.

    6. Trixie*

      So I just have to reply to OP because I know how you feel. For my 5 year gift at a huge, well-respected company, I got…a booklet saying congratulations that had several pages inside telling me why said company is so great. It was so insulting that I would much rather have gotten nothing.

      That being said, the bear is way more insulting than that….

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        I got nothing when I left a job. A few months prior, a colleague was essentially fired and a card was passed around. She did nothing special for our office- nice person but I don’t think she was any nicer than I. My friend, who still works there, was quite bothered.

        It still stings. I wish companies would recognize how much this hurts.

        1. Trixie*

          Exactly! Even a card, or a $5 Starbucks card, at least shows they took a moment to think of you. But a card is worthless if only some people get it; it just makes the person who was “forgotten” feel even worse.

          1. Tuxedo Cat*

            On these matters, being pretty equal in treatment makes sense. It doesn’t bode well for morale for the remaining people, unless you are one of the known favorites.

    7. Totally Minnie*

      The last time I gave a teddy bear to an adult, I was about ten and the adult in question was my mother. Outside of that scenario, no. Giving a children’s toy to an adult woman is infantilizing and not in any way cool.

  11. WeevilWobble*

    Agree with the advice to #1. But, as an aside, really if John is this big a mess having Jane run things from his bed may be for the best!

    1. kb*

      Yeah, it honestly seems like they should have kept Jane and replaced John. I get that he’s a founder, so that probably wasn’t completely doable, but he was definitely the one who committed the worse offense. Having an affair with a colleague is unprofessional on its own, but having an affair with a subordinate is definitely worse.

      1. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

        I wonder how many people have executive decision – LW1 says it’s a small company, so if John’s the sole person that can make decisions at that level, that would…probably be why Jane left.

        Totally agreed with Weevil that John is a hot mess, though. Like, Jane doesn’t look great in this, but he looks out of control personally and professionally.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          And yet, if John’s the only person who can decide who has to leave and who has to stay, it seems like he would have kept Jane.

          1. Genny*

            Depending on how it came out, he may have chosen to get rid of her in order to prevent his wife from learning about it or to protect himself from further fallout with his wife (unclear the exact timeline of who knew what when and how things exactly unfolded…not that we need to know). For instance, maybe he and wife were trying to work things out and this was a sign he was serious about it (except he wasn’t at all serious and got back together with Jane)?

          2. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

            Point, but…Genny kind of gets what I was trying to say. It’s a terrible situation all around and it’s largely John’s doing – but he’s also at least the founder and possibly the sole owner (LW1 doesn’t say, but they say it’s a small business). If one of them had to leave, it made more sense for Jane from a practical viewpoint.

            It doesn’t make it right. But I can sort of see the logic.

  12. sam*

    OP4- there are endless ‘professional’ career options, and some are kinda niche… I didn’t realise my job role was even a thing until I saw it advertised and thought “hey I can do that stuff!”
    I am currently in quality assurance, and prior to that was in document management. I’ve spent over a decade in mining and resources, and while career paths are kind of siloed here, it’s nice to get a perspective of the kinds of roles that exist and what I can potentially sidestep into. I’m now studying online comms and have my own side biz building websites, because I put my hand up for a bunch of intranet and systems development that I wouldn’t otherwise have encountered in my job. I don’t mind QA, and it can be a ‘proper’ career, but I don’t want to do it forever.
    So yeah, in this company alone, off the top of my head, there’s areas such as marketing/comms, QA/auditing, technical/trades (electrical, welding, gas fitting, etc.), HR/IR, governance, doc/info management, HSE (this is a big one), accounts/finance, contract/project management, procurement/purchasing, engineering… there is very little Mad Men-esque stuff going on here :)

    Also if you want to consider other careers that aren’t office based (or ‘professional’, though I’m not sure what that means, tbh) there’s things like chefs or nutrition (my sis is a qualified chef and just finished a nutrition degree), events management, trades, journalism/comms… the world is your oyster. I’m 34 and only just figured out what I want to do, and unofficial polls amongst friends shows me that few of us have proper career aspirations even at this age.
    I think it’s wise to consider HOW you like to work, as Mad Baggins says. I like to work alone, preferably at home, I hate the phone, I’m a perfectionist, I don’t enjoy teaching or instructing, and I like short tasks. I am a fast reader, quick at edits, learn new programs quickly, and enjoy faffing around online. Therefore, online comms is my jam.
    My husband loves wine, the outdoors, and doing both physical and mental tasks, and will be starting viticulture studies this year.

    1. LAM*


      And then there are career paths that you never would have thought you’d be good at, until you stumble upon them.

      My friends from high school (10 years ago) still laugh that, out of all of us, I’d be the one who thrives in sales (and customer service)…

      1. sam*

        Exactly! I have stumbled into all my jobs, and it’s been hit and miss but also an interesting lesson in what I can achieve and what I enjoy.
        I honestly admire people who are great in customer service roles! I can do them well, but I burn out so quickly. Good salespeople are worth their weight in gold.

      2. Nan*

        Yup. I stumbled into mine. I hit my 10 year anniversary this June.

        Maybe I’ll get a teddy bear :)

      3. Emmie*

        My job didn’t exist when I was in college. My organizations were in its infancy. When I started in my last two companies, I was either the first person to hold my job, or launched several newly created positions. Sometimes our career crystal ball or outside resources cannot contemplate where our career will go. If you are still uncertain after getting your degree, focus on building your skill set, being good at your job.

    2. LW 4*

      Thanks for your reply! A comment above made me realize I was getting tunnel vision partially out of job-hunt anxiety, and the fear that I was somehow going to end up in the “wrong” career. It’s really good for me to hear that you also have a side business and are pursuing personal interests – it’s helping alleviate my fear that I’ll somehow dig myself into a trench (or head into the wrong silo) and just continue on one path that might not even be right for me forever. And it’s great to have the reminder that any company/organization has a lot of roles that go into making it function.

      1. sam*

        You’re very welcome!
        I mean, also consider that us humans live for a looooong time (and retirement age is like, 70 now), so you’re certainly not trapped in a career forever. I still have that fear now with my web comms stuff, to be perfectly honest, but I also feel a bit empowered because I know I can pursue new ventures and avenues.
        The beauty about large corporations like the one I’m in, is that you do interact with so many other people and you can see what they actually *do* as a job, rather than having vague notions. I’ve also had chats with a woman in recruitment who was super helpful, and laid out the kinds of things I’d need to be able to do to in order to get different jobs here, so if you ever have that kind of brain-picking opportunity- take it!

        I do hope you can find something that you enjoy. It doesn’t need to be the perfect career or the perfect job right out of the gate, but so long as you’re gaining some satisfaction (and decent pay!) you’ll have some breathing room to really ponder everything, and put out feelers, and see what you like and dislike. Best of luck :)

      2. Agent Diane*

        It’s great you’re reflecting on things. I’m another career-careener. I left uni with an arts degree, planning a year off before going back to do an MA and become staff (having been voted “most likely to become a lecturer” by my year group). I took a temp job in a tech firm where I got to learn everything about business (accounting, stakeholder management, soldering and coding). What I liked there I focused on, and built up experience until I jumped tracks again into comms. It’s not a traditional path, and I would never have convinced my undergrad me that I’d be doing what I do now. I do, in fact, give lectures and seminars so my year group were right about my future (if wrong about where I’d be doing it).

        You can see there’s heaps of us who just grabbed the tail of a passing wind and sailed out without a carefully plotted course. No-one knows how far you’ll go… ;)

        1. Mad Baggins*

          There’s a moon in the sky and the wind is behind you, OP! Soon you’ll know how far you’ll go!

      3. Tardigrade*

        Also remember that it is never too late to re-educate yourself. You can sometimes get a master’s degree in a totally different thing than your undergrad.

      4. Lindsay J*

        You can always switch careers as well. It’s a bit more difficult, but it’s not like you have to choose one thing and then be stuck with it forever.

        My mom is my inspiration. She went back to school to get her masters degree in teaching in her early 30s, and has gone on to have a long career as a teacher, including winning teacher of the year awards, etc. Also, her school paid for her to do continuing education every year, and so she used that money to go to school again to be licensed to become a guidance counselor and that is what she is doing now.

        I went into college thinking that I had things all figured out and that I was going to become a high school band director. Until I got to the student teaching experiences at the end, and started working with bands as a tech in the summer, and realized that that wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

        I sort of fell into working at an amusement park since it was local, and was promoted pretty quickly because I had basic levels of competence. But that’s a rough field to be in and I knew I didn’t want to do it forever. Now I work in aviation, and I really enjoy that.

        Also, on a side note – look into working for an airline or aviation related business. There are a bunch of different career paths that you normally wouldn’t think of.

        Purchasing – procuring parts to repair the airplanes

        Materials planning – getting parts from one maintenance base to another to be there for the plane that needs it

        AOG – sort of goes along with purchasing and materials planning. Getting a hold of parts when you need them immediately for a broken plane

        Repairs coordinator – sending out broken parts to licensed vendors for repair work

        Crew scheduling – making sure there are enough flight attendants and pilots for each flight, and that none of the laws about flight time or rest periods are violated

        Maintenance planning – making sure that all the planes get required maintenance done at the correct intervals, including making sure that the planes are at maintenance bases to get them done, that the maintenance bases have enough personnel, etc

        Production control – inputting maintenance work packages into the computer system, while making sure that everything is signed off as being done correctly, printing and distributing work cards to the maintenance personnel

        Aircraft records – double checking the maintenance work packages for completion and accuracy, archiving them to be able to respond to records requests by the FAA

        Training coordinator – making sure that all the maintenance employees (or flight attendants, or whatever) are up-to-date on all training requirements and maintaining training records for each employee

        Stores clerk – shipping and receiving aircraft parts, maintaining parts warehouse,

        Operations – preparing and delivering flight documents to the pilots, making sure that the planes are correctly catered, etc

        Tech Pubs – technical writing and publishing – making sure that all manuals, work cards, engineering orders, etc are up to date, accurate, and available in paper copy or online

        Cargo sales – maximizing the cargo revenue from each plane

        Fleet service – people who clean the inside of the planes (usually minimum wage)

        Recruiters – especially for pilots

        Analysts for all different areas of operation – staffing, plane usage, incident reports, etc

        Irregular ops coordinators – dealing with rescheduling passengers from cancelled flights

        Coordinators that do things like arrange travel, order supplies, act as the go between between the airport badging office and the airline to get employees badged, file reimbursement paperwork with accounting, etc
        On airport but not working directly for the airline are aircraft fuelers, catering companies,

        Then there are areas like maintenance (aircraft or ground service equipment), dispatching, or being a flight attendant or pilot that require other certifications. And there are paths that go up from those like being head pilot or maintenance control.

        And the more visible jobs like ticket sales, ticket taker, etc.

        One of the things I like is that it’s pretty easy to move between different positions to find something you like doing.

    3. Mad Baggins*

      Exactly as you say! If you’re not beholden to one industry, or can see yourself being happy in a lot of different industries (almost every one has “sales”) then at least knowing HOW you like to work will tell you what will make you satisfied day to day, and you can start there and try it out!

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        This is how I determine what jobs I’m going to apply for now. I make a list of the things I like to do versus the things I absolutely loathe and will not ever do again, then cross-reference job postings to see what fits my plus column. That’s how I landed in my current role (proposal manager for a transit company), and I couldn’t be happier with my work right now.

        1. Mad Baggins*

          Yes! That thought process gives every terrible, horrible, no good, very bad job meaning–it’s one more thing you know about yourself, and having suffered through that, you are one step closer to being happier now!

      1. Becky*

        It really is! I’ve brought this up before but in my software QA department we have degrees in photography, math, music, English, linguistics and biology. We all kind of fell into QA one way or another.

    1. Casuan*

      That was my question, too.

      Does it make sense for OP2 to ask the receptionist [who gave her the bear] to intervene? Or another executive assistant?
      Although this is contingent on their relationship.
      Or just straight to boss as Alison suggested?

    2. Snorks*

      That was my thought, or the bears eyes are actually diamond earrings and this is just a really messed up delivery system.

    3. Borne*

      I had a stuffed bear that had a zipper at the back. One could put an small envelope/gift card in the bear.

    4. Glowcat*

      This, or maybe there’s a surprise party for her. It must be so, or I fell on the wrong planet. I really want to believe it.

    5. Yetanotherjennifer*

      Or that the bear came with an envelope that hasn’t been passed along. Think of how easily a card can get separated from its gift.

      1. Brandy*

        or the envelope was stuck on the bear, in its paws, and someones sticky fingers picked it up.

    6. OP #2*

      No, unfortunately. I was even asked to be sure I received it (I had stuffed it under my desk when I got it because I was so embarrassed) but nothing attached and nothing inside. I thought maybe someone was playing a joke or that there was some context I was missing. There wasn’t. It’s just a stuffed bear.

      1. TheCupcakeCounter*

        I’d put the bear on my boss’ desk and give resting bitch face when asked about it. But I am a master at passive aggressive and cold shouldering.
        Probably that would have been better right after you got it.
        I’d be pissed and really demoralized so more practically I would pin my resignation letter to the damn thing.

        1. Emmie*

          I understand the desire to do passive aggressive moves like this. I don’t recommend it. OP unfortunately should maintain her professionalism despite crappy circumstances. If OP decides to leave, she should think carefully about her last impression being something like this. It could undermine her reputation. I know it’s not fair.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          OP2: Assertive is better, and make sure you look at the whole picture. If your boss and job are good all around, then this is your boss’s weakness. It’s not a comment on you, and probably not even a comment on how you are valued, it’s a comment on his inability.

          You said you like the job and boss overall – don’t read too much into the boss’s error. Look at the whole picture.

        3. Bolistoli*

          Hah! Of course not good to do this for most of us. But if you did, you could accompany it with the statement: “Oh, I couldn’t possibly accept such an extravagant gift. I wouldn’t want other employees to think there was any favoritism in the office.”

      2. Someone else*

        My first thought was “did they give you a nanny cam as a gift?” but I’m assuming you’ve ruled that out.

  13. Casuan*

    OP4: Do you know yet what you’re willing to do as preparation for the as-yet-to-be-identified career?
    ie: You studied criminology & counselling; do you have degrees in these fields? Do you want a career that focusses on these fields or do you really have an interest in insects & want to study entomology? Would you be okay with going for a Master’s Degree or higher?
    Do you envision yourself in upper management or running your own company? Or do you think you’d be okay with a steady, yet low-key career?
    Are you willing to move for the career of chice & if so, what is your criteria: what size town, within so many miles from family, snow-free, somewhere with a beach…?
    What are your interests?

    Once you start learning the various careers then you can start to narrow things down. The above is just a place to start; you might not know these answers yet or if you do then you can always change your mind.

    Also, OP4, you might have felt silly asking AAM your question although I’m glad you did. Please don’t feel silly! And that vocational counsellor was a jerk.

    suggested sources
    [if you’re not in the US, this can still give you useful infos & probably your country has an equivalent system]
    [be sure to look at the “See Also” section]

    AAM Open Thread [on Fridays]:
    Ask commenters for off-the-beaten-path jobs they’ve had or have heard about.

    1. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      If you just want an office job that would probably be interesting at least occasionally, your criminology background might get you a position in fraud detection/prevention, perhaps for a financial institution? Retail fraud prevention can be pretty slimy, based on all the stories my friends of color tell me about being followed around in stores.

    2. Overbooked*

      OP4, I was you! And I still do wonder how people make their ways into their jobs. Besides Casuan’s excellent sources, you might look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ O*NET and Occupational Outlook Handbook sites. Lots of clear descriptions of more jobs than one could imagine. Another idea is to find out what professional organizations exist in the fields you’re interested in, and see if they offer mentoring.

      1. 5 Leaf Clover*

        I came here to say this, too – I found the Occupational Outlook Handbook ( incredibly helpful when I was looking to change careers. I went from being an editor to a speech pathologist, which led me to medical administration and research. There is a lot out there!

  14. fort hiss*

    Alison, is there a reason I missed that you used “he” for the partner in number 5? It threw me off since I’m so used to she in the responses!

  15. Starling*

    #4, get over to USAJOBS and read the job description of anything you find interesting (either really cool or really awful.) I suggest USAJOBS because the federal government tends to give long-winded job descriptions with actual pay scales. The idea is to see if you can picture yourself in the role they describe. Don’t worry about whether you have the qualifications, just ask yourself whether you might enjoy being a whatever it is. I actually did this when I was trying to figure out my career trajectory, and it sent me in an unexpected direction (+ 2 years of grad school, but it was totally worth it.) Good luck!

  16. Confused*

    #2 I don’t think anyone can answer this without more information. You didn’t mention your manager. Are they new? How well do you get on? Is this in keeping with how they’ve been or really surprising?

    1. OP #2*

      I’ve been with my manager for 4 years. He and I get along great. He’s accompanied me to present other 10-year gifts to our colleagues so it’s not like he didn’t know what to do or how to do it.

      1. Observer*

        So, he knows what he is SUPPOSED to do, and he made the decision. You really should ask him why.

        1. BadWolf*

          The only “good” spin that I can put on this is if it’s a really nice bear (like a premium brand with plush fur, well sewn, etc,etc) and the manager once heard something OP said that he interpreted as “Really likes bears and/or stuffed animals.” And now thinks he got an appropriate gift.

          Like how someone decides you like to collect something and starts buying them for you. You once said that narwhals were cool and now you get a unicorn figurine every Christmas.

      2. Brandy*

        But he didn’t seem to care about yours. I hate that its hard for you to change jobs because then Id have no shame job searching for another job. Him to know better and still slight you. Im angry for you.

      3. CmdrShepard4ever*

        You said he accompanied you to present other 10 year gifts were you the one who arranged them for those people on behalf of your boss?

        1. OP #2*

          Sort – of. The overseer (the one who shrugged her shoulders when told I was getting a bear) reaches out to significant others, friends, colleagues to see what the person would like. I then get the info and sort it out and do a whole ‘to-do” with donuts (or similar) and flowers (or not) and present the gift with all of their colleagues who all give a heartfelt ‘thanks’ or ‘congrats’. He attends these with me and a couple months back one of the guys received his ten-year gift as a golf-day and invited my boss along. I arranged their tee-times, caddies etc.

          1. Inspector Spacetime*

            So… because you weren’t the one to organize this one, everyone just shrugged their shoulders and went “oh well”? That’s infuriating. Especially because they didn’t even bother to do their normal part and come up with an idea for you!

            Maybe I would ask my boss, “I’m sorry, did I misunderstand and was I supposed to organize my own day as well?” I think you are entirely justified in letting your boss know that you’re pretty upset about this. Politely and calmly, of course.

            1. Jenny Next*

              I think you’re on to something here. The boss had no one to organize this, and was too lazy to arrange something.

              Perhaps OP #2 could just take off a spa day and charge it to the company.

              (My own story: After I had worked with the small group for > 20 years, no one could be bothered to arrange a group sympathy card for me when my father died. This was only one of a number of incidents, but cumulatively they added up. I thought I was part of a community, but apparently I was part of the furniture.)

              1. Kelly L.*

                Yep. I’ve seen this happen a bunch of times. When the usual organizer is the honoree, nobody else has any idea what goes into the organizing. Insert emotional labor rant here, because that’s exactly what this is!

                1. Pebbles*

                  For the past year, CurrentJob has been having layoffs about once a quarter. People are demoralized and are also leaving of their own accord. For both types of departures, I’ve been organizing happy hours to celebrate/commiserate with the person leaving. I’ve been a bit vocal as of late that I should start looking as well and have been told by a few people that I’ll need to organize my own happy hour when the time comes. *sigh* Thanks guys.

              2. I See Real People*

                “Part of the furniture”…That is so how I feel sometimes! I’m laughing on the inside!

          2. YouresoJae*

            After reading this comment, I do think it is worth using Allison’s script with the boss. If he is used to you and the other party handling these things, he should have known better, but might have assumed the other person would handle it; many higher ups are guilty of that kind of behavior.

            It is possible that she told him everything was on track, but because she doesn’t like you/doesn’t care about this stuff/had something else going on at work/pocketed the money she was supposed to spend on your gift/is having a personal crisis and is distracted/etc., she settled on the easiest possible thing, thinking it was unlikely to get out. She says she mentioned it to the manager, and that he didn’t want to pursue it, but I know with many bosses of mine, I have to follow up with them on projects. She might have put it as a throw away line in an email or mentioned it in passing, and then never followed up.

            From what you described, it sounds like she triggers the process by investigating your likes/dislikes… if she decided not to do it, would anything move forward?

            Call me cynical, but if she essentially became the only person responsible for making this special, some people would use that power to make someone feel slighted, for whatever reason.

            1. mf*

              Yup–he asked your coworker would handle and when she didn’t (chose not or forgot), he didn’t follow up or communicate with her about it. And when he realized that nothing had been planned, he ran to the nearest store and bought a stuffed bear to cover his ass.

          3. Student*

            I understand this is important to you. That’s reasonable! You are reasonable to expect that you get the same consideration as others in your company for milestones.

            You might not understand that not everyone views these things the way you do. Most especially, this is very strong evidence that your boss does not view it the same way you do. If you want to have a productive conversation with your boss about it, you have to go into that conversation with some awareness of his point of view. You’re going to have to start by explaining that this is important to you and acknowledging that it’s not important to him. His view is, frankly, the view of the large majority of the world – most places do not do something comparable for job anniversaries. Personally, I find the much more mild things my company does to recognize work anniversaries to be annoying – if they tried to give me a spa day or a golf trip, I’d tell them that I’d rather just have a bonus payment instead (and I’d strongly wonder if somebody was getting shady kick-backs from the spa/golf course).

            And, frankly, next time, if this is important to you and you are the one who usually organizes it, next time you should do more to set yourself up for a happy win instead of this disappointment. I know that’s not fair, and I’m sorry it isn’t fair. It doesn’t look like both “fair” and “an enjoyable milestone” are on the table for you, though, so pick the one you care about more.

            Think about work milestones like a birthday party. Not everyone cares about birthday parties, but some people care about them a lot (or care about certain milestone birthdays a lot). It’s incumbent on adults who want other people to celebrate their birthdays to broadcast that pretty clearly, or preferably arrange their own celebration. Work milestones are usually more like that. In most jobs, you have to do some self-promotion or internal lobbying to get that kind of recognition that you give out routinely.

  17. longtime reader infrequent commenter*

    I feel like we might be overthinking #3. It could be entirely possible that this person isn’t aware you’ve been rejected yet. Maybe his reference to conversation about her candidacy meant he’ll give her his honest thoughts on how her interview went and how she can approve, then wish her luck.

    I know this may not be the case, but I do enjoy arguing the contrary and playing devil’s advocate, so… I couldn’t resist. Take it for what you will! No harm, no foul.

  18. Miaw*

    #2 do you think there are gold bars or Vacation Vouchers inside the Teddy Bear when you rip it open?

    Just joking…. i think you are justified in feeling hurt.

  19. AJ*

    #3 – I would put good money down that it’s a date. OP – be prepared. You don’t have to say no, but 1. Ask yourself “how would I feel if it turns out it’s social” (maybe you would want to date him – you said you got along well, or maybe you’d think this is 100% inappropriate) and 2. How do you want to react if it turns out to be social? What exactly will you say and do?

    1. Artemesia*

      This was my first thought too, based on the fact that in my long career this sort of thing has happened to me several times i.e. not after a job rejection, but a ‘professional’ or ‘mentoring’ or ‘networking’ meeting that turned out to be stage one hit. This felt likely to me.

    2. #3 OP*

      Hey AJ,
      I’m normally very cluey about these sorts of things (men taking advantage of women under the guise of mentoring). I feel confident it’s not that (though I suppose you never can be 100% sure). The main thing that puts my mind at ease is the context in which he offered it:
      We were sitting at a group table, in a huge room of people, including several employees – some of whom were also company directors (same as him). We were having a conversation but a couple of people beside us were also listening in attentively, and his offer was to me but he gestured openly.
      Throughout the networking event we only spoke again one other time, and it was in a group. He treated me the same way he treated everyone else and I got zero hint of anything off at all.

      I get the impression that what we talked about (company culture and cultivating a ‘family-like’ team) is really important to him, and after what Alison said I’m thinking that that’s what is motivating him to give me feedback to improve my chances of securing a job next time. :)

      1. zora*

        I think there’s a good possibility this is a networking coffee, not a secret date. Our staff offer this all the time to interview candidates, because we are in a small industry and honestly do want to keep in touch with possible future candidates or partners or clients!

        I’d definitely prepare some questions for him!! Not just about this specific job, but about his career trajectory. What he recommends your trajectory might be (what next steps you might take, what your goal in 5, 10, 20 years might be). And this is a great time to learn some of the things we talk about here all the time, the general culture of the sector he/you are in, what to expect at future jobs, work/life balance, hours, expectations. Who are good companies to work for, who you should avoid. Think of it as you have a huge opportunity to ask honest questions without the pressure of trying to get a specific job!

        1. #3 OP*

          Thank you so much for this advice – a few other people have also commented that it’s how they’ve made great connections in their career. I’ve written down all the things you mentioned into questions to read over so I can ask him some great questions on the day – thank you!

      2. Persephoneunderground*

        Yeah, I wouldn’t jump to the date conclusion- after all, if people assume that in all similar situations how can women in male-dominated fields ever get mentored? The small number of other women would be a tiny pool to draw from in, say, IT. This also hits a chord for me because my husband is trying to help increase diversity in his field (software engineer) and worries a little about recruiting efforts being taken the wrong way. I of course am totally in support of this.

    3. LBK*

      Hmm, I’m not sure I get that vibe here mostly because the OP is the one who initiated the exchange that led to him inviting her for coffee. If he’d reached out out of the blue and said “Sorry to hear you got rejected – I’d love to meet up for coffee and give you some feedback on your candidacy” then I’d be more suspicious.

  20. Beth*

    #2: I’d be hurt too. That’s a huge gap. Even if they thought you’d really like the bear for some reason, that doesn’t justify the cost difference. It’s basically equivalent to everyone else getting a large bonus and you getting a cheap Starbucks gift card.

    1. Artemesia*

      The bear works ONLY if it is holding an envelope with a voucher for the spa or some such.

      1. Kir Royale*

        “I’m a bit embarrassed to bring this up, but typically 10 year gifts include a voucher, and if it was attached to the bear, it must have fallen off because I didn’t get one.”

      1. OP #2*

        Anything but a bear, c’mon! I’d be happy with just a sincere thanks with a pat on the back.

  21. Comms Girl*

    #2: that absolutely sucks, and you have all the right to feel slighted. It would be one thing if everyone got cheesy gifts like that, but given what’s usually gifted there, I’d feel undervalued and slighted too. Do bring it up using Alison’s script.

    Not exactly the same thing, but I can relate to that kind of feeling: on my last year of highschool, my class (same people during all those three years) started collecting money and giving a gift to everyone on their birthday. It would normally be something the person would like: a perfume, a pair of shoes in line with the birthday boy/girl’s style, a fancy t-shirt, etc. When my turn came up, I got… a Daisy Duck underwear combo, because my fellow girl friends, through intense research and observation in the locker room, decided that my underwear wasn’t fancy/trendy enough for a teen (they would all wear thongs and animal prints, while until this day i abhorr animal prints and prefer far less uncomfortable undergarments). Needless to say, that combo never saw the light of day afterwards.
    (I also smirk nowadays at the irony of thinking that a Daisy Duck underwear combo is something “trendy” or “edgy”)

  22. E.*

    OP #2: The whole time I was reading your letter, I was curious what your gift was going to be. A lunch when others got a dinner? A golf trip when you hate golf? A B&B for 2 when you just got divorced? A gift card to a sea food restaurant but you’re vegan? All those relatively reasonable gifts would have been reason to feel slighted at a company that takes this so seriously. Nothing could have prepared me for it to be *a stuffed animal* – seriously, I am shocked, I don’t even know what to say other than that I feel for you. Please address this with your boss (and send in an update!).

    1. Gaz112*

      E – I read your list and started singing to myself:

      “It’s like rain on your wedding day
      A free ride when you just got paid” :-)

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        Hey I will take a free ride any day, especially after getting paid it makes my money last that much longer.
        I prefer college humor’s version “actually ironic.”

    2. OP #2*

      LOL Isn’t it ironic? Don’tcha think?
      My company prides itself by finding out these little details to ensure people get something they will find useful or that they would like. It’s so out of character for my colleagues and I wondered if maybe I’d angered someone and they decided a passive-aggressive bear would sort me out! I do feel insulted given that someone knew about it and decided to do nothing (and told me this).

      1. Observer*

        I do think you’re focusing on the wrong person, though. Your boss is the one who made the initial decision. That’s the real issue you need to address.

      2. Caro in the UK*

        I think the fact that it’s SO far out of the norm for your company gives you an opening to use Alison’s wording. Something along the lines of “The gift I received was so different to what we usually do for 10 year anniversaries here, I’m concerned that there’s some context I’ve missed. Could you help me understand if there are any issues with my performance or our relationship that you feel I need to work on?”

        Obviously your manager will (hopefully) say that, of course, there’s nothing wrong with your work or your relationship. But it should prompt them to realise how their lack of effort is being perceived by you, and potentially others, and how much they need to rectify it.

        1. OP #2*

          That was sort of the angle I was looking to approach this with – my problem is the nerve to do it and the priority level I am perceiving. I almost feel like this is so low on the priority list for him that he will feel like I’m being petty. I typically over-read almost every situation so I did think maybe it was that my performance was bad or that there was a lot going on that week so your milestone wasn’t really that big of a deal in the grand scheme and I don’t want to bring attention to myself to mean that I NEED another gift. I am told in a lot of my performance reviews are that I am humble. Maybe they figured I wouldn’t balk and that I would just take what I was given and shut up.

          1. TheCupcakeCounter*

            Oh then that is even shittier! After 4 years with someone that is a knife in the back.

          2. Tardigrade*

            Maybe if you approach it with an “obviously, you meant to do this for me” attitude, then that could help mitigate the priority issue. Because you are not a low-priority and I hate they made you feel like that.

          3. Michelle*

            I am also the kind of person who sometimes can’t find the nerve to speak up for myself. For our milestone anniversaries, we get gold star pins. After 5 you can “trade” your pins for a 5 year marker. Then “trade” again for a 10 year marker, etc. When I changed departments, my new manager forgot my anniversary pins for 2 years in a row. I finally decided that I had to ask. So using something similar to Alison’s script asked what was up. Turns out he had them, put them in a drawer, then forgot when we got a big project so they were buried in his drawer. He was extremely apologetic and even put my anniversary date on his calendar to make sure he didn’t forget.

            Sometimes it is just pure laziness , but sometimes it could be an simple oversight. Maybe he has some personal things going on so even after the “nudger” reminded him he forgot. But please ask because you deserve to be treated equally.

          4. Adlib*

            Gah. OP, the more I read your responses, the more irritated I am on your behalf! How insulting! (Also, I love your earlier “passive aggressive bear”. I may have to use that in conversation now.) Please come back and let us know how the conversation with your boss goes once you have it. And the lady who shrugged it off? UGH. Just because you are “humble” (and/or a “nice person”) does not give them the right to gloss over a milestone like 10 years!

            I hope they come to their senses and make it up to you!

          5. Queen of the File*

            I totally get this… but the longer you wait on the conversation, the more weight it’s going to accumulate.

            Even if you get a disappointing answer (“I genuinely thought you would like this bear more than a golf day”?), I think you’ll feel better if you clear the air directly with your boss. I think Alison’s wording is great.

          6. Rusty Shackelford*

            I don’t want to bring attention to myself to mean that I NEED another gift

            That’s what’s good about Alison’s suggestion, because it’s not about “I want more than a bear,” it’s about “since our company prides itself on doing X, and X wasn’t done for me, it makes me wonder if you’re satisfied with my work.”

          7. Mockingjay*

            Who does the planning/coordinating for these anniversary gifts? The individual managers? These gifts seem rather personalized. If you have a boss who isn’t good at picking out gifts for people (some people really, truly aren’t – I am married to one), he might have been flustered and did the only thing he could think of.

            If he is otherwise a good boss and the compensation is satisfactory, maybe you could overlook it. Or do what I do for hubby – provide him with a couple ideas for him to pick and “give” to you.

          8. Blue Eagle*

            Hmmm, have you thought about what you would have like to receive? If you are the person who usually does the work to arrange the special day, maybe noone got around to doing what you normally do to arrange these things. What about if instead of asking why you received a child’s toy you asked why you didn’t receive _______ (put your suggestion here) similar to other employees and perhaps add that you would be happy to arrange it for yourself if noone else has the time to do it, similar to what you have done for other employees.

            Approach your boss as though you are asking because you are curious why you didn’t receive ___________ as opposed to being upset about the child’s toy.

            Hope this idea helps because I feel bad on your behalf.

            1. willow*

              Yeah, I see nothing wrong (mostly) with asking loudly, “Where the hell is my SPA DAY?”

            2. Totally Minnie*

              I think it’s 100% reasonable to let him know she’s not happy to have received a child’s toy. It’s infantilizing and not an appropriate gift for the workplace.

      3. Jennifer Thneed*

        OP2 — you say you’re in an admin position. Have other people in admin positions received 10-year gifts? (I hope you say yes, because then this treatment is personal, which is shitty, but the reverse would honestly be even shittier.)

  23. Sparkly Librarian*

    OP4, poke around in an Occupational Outlook Handbook (there are a few, and you might check your local library, but here’s one from the U.S. Department of Labor: and see what sounds appealing/like a fit for your skills and accomplishments. Bear in mind that local/regional salaries may vary greatly from the median salary posted.

    1. OtterB*

      A related source is O*NET at which lets you look at occupations in multiple ways and links to the occupational outlook information.

      Also, I second that the vocational counselor was a jerk. There are good counseling services out there.
      And I agree with the commenter above who mentioned social research. If you had a stats class and are reasonably comfortable with numbers, check out positions with “analyst” or “research assistant” in the title in a field that interests you.

      Don’t think of a first job as committing you to a lifetime on a particular occupational ladder! Think of it as the beginning of developing a portfolio of knowledge and skills that you can take to future jobs. Yes, it’s often easier to continue in the same line of work and/or same industry, but people change directions all the time.

  24. Ruth (UK)*

    4. So I had no idea what sort of jobs existed really until a few years ago either (I’m 27). I did retail/fast food for a couple years after uni. The I did hospital bookings, so here’s some jobs that exist related to hospital admin, just to give you an idea:
    I was someone who phoned up patients who had been referred by their gp for an appointment and gave them one. Then I processed the relevant documents/stuff on the system to book them in and make sure they had the correct info/letters.

    There were lots of admin roles in the GPs, and I. The hospital and in the referral service who dealt with different aspects of admin related to this process and other types of referrals, and collecting data on patients etc. And a lot of people who dealt with the funding for it etc. We also did things like phone up people who were eligible for free flu shots or other injections (eg. Certain age ranges can have shingles vaccines etc) and get them to come in for that. There are medical sectaries as well who are sort of like a personal assistant to a GP. And the people who work on the receptions.

    Now, I’m an admin in a psychology department in a university. There are admin people in different departments who deal with stuff like purchasing equipment, processing expense claims, arranging flights or trains or accommodation for academics or staff who are traveling for work, or for visiting academics or speakers. Looking after certain equipment, keys, time sheets, school budgets. There’s also a specific finance team in each faculty. We have technicians who help with technical equipment and kit. Research assistants and data collection assistants and participant coordinators for studies and research. Then there’s the people who manage those people and authorise spending requests. There are groups of people in the uni who keep track of time tabling, and people who do things like room bookings for classes. A student support team, and also the people who look after the central key stores, or fix the lights when they break, or man the security hub, and of course an HR, and a recruitment team for staff and also an admissions enquiries team for prospective students, and so on. There are people where part of their job is to keep the website updated, and the social media accounts of the uni or departments. Or deal with enquires, or organise school visits or events or applicant days. Then of course there’s all the academic roles including associate tutors and student advisors and so on…

    I think once you start thinking of all the work you need to run a university then you can also start thinking of what can exist in other companies. If they have tea a biscuits at a meeting, who arranges that? Who decides of a meeting can have tea and biscuits and what the budget is? Do all meetings get them? Do they get posh cakes or do they get off brand digestives? Does the company pay for it at all? Should we have a meeting to discuss this? Maybe we should sample all the biscuits. I’m getting off topic, but I think I’m hungry.

    Anyway as Alison says, of you start looking through job postings especially maybe at the sort of placed you might like to work, you’ll start to get an idea.

    1. Ruth (UK)*

      Ps ugh sorry for my typos. Scrolling back is tricky on my phone screen and I can’t edit once posted :(

  25. Cornflower Blue*

    #2 That is honestly a very odd gift! Even if they somehow got the mistaken idea that you love bears and/or stuffed toys, it’s hard to imagine the value of it adding up to a nice night out or one of the standard gifts.

    I would definitely advise checking in because it’s POSSIBLE (looking on the bright side here!) that the bear came with an envelope that got lost in transit. A small envelope or one that wasn’t securely attached might’ve fallen off when it was being delivered. Checking in with the boss with let them know you never actually got the real gift, only the delivery method.

    Also it’s an alternative phrasing (though I think Alison’s in great) insofar as you can go, “Was there a card or anything meant to accompany the bear? I’m a little puzzled to only have a stuffed bear when something more special is the company norm for the ten year mark.”

    1. CTT*

      I was thinking that too. OP, you mentioned that people usually get the great gift AND flowers or something similar, so maybe the bear was meant to be the something similar? Hopefully this was a case of the card not getting there, or people getting their wires crossed, and they meant to get you the awesome gift but it wasn’t delivered.

      1. OP #2*

        I wish that were the case. It wasn’t, sadly. I did check on this. I commented previously that I found out that someone knew what the ‘gift’ was going to be – they knew it was wrong – but I was told she didn’t care enough to step in.

        1. Anyplace*

          The milestone thing at your company is so far outside business norms. Is it possible your boss just disapproves of this bizarre practice, and refused to encourage it when it fell to him? Have you ever talked about it with him in a broad way? Does he seem to enjoy the practice, or just trudge along behind you and do his minimum duty when you set these up for others? He may broadly disapprove of so much money and time being spent on this kind of event, but feel like he can’t put a stop to it for cultural reasons.

          If he likes your work, he may wrongly assume you’re on the same wavelength as him about it – that you disapprove of it too, and wouldn’t want something splashy.

        2. Cornflower Blue*

          That is really sad and I’m sorry to hear that. :< I hope Alison's script works for getting this rectified.

      2. Anon for this*

        Yeah, this was my thought too. At my old job, I had usually gotten about a $100 gift card or cash for Christmas. Now, of course, I wasn’t entitled to this, and it was a really nice thing for them to do, but it was weird the one year I instead got something like a $25 gift certificate to somebody’s MLM. When I thanked the department for it, they all kind of went “oh shit,” because that wasn’t supposed to have been the only thing–they’d just gotten their wires crossed and the MLM thing had reached me before anything else.

        I’m sorry to hear that it doesn’t sound like that was the case here. :(

  26. Steph*

    Op2: you have ripped the bears head off to find the cash inside, haven’t you?

    Nope, this is quite insulting and weird – something has gone awry. Totally go an have a chat.

    When I was a new grad nurse, I had been on one ward for 6 months before taking some leave to get married and go one my honeymoon. The ward was quite tightknit and over the past 6 months I had seen people have their birthdays, babies and weddings celebrated a variety of ways – afternoon tea and small shower party, combined gifts and cards, nights out. I got nothing. Absolutely nothing. Oh, sorry, I tell a lie – as I was leaving my last shift before my leave started our team leader said “Oh, we probably should have gotten you a card or something”.

    1. OP #2*

      That’s horrible. Doesn’t it just make you feel like nothing?
      I was going to rip it’s head off (it’s been hiding under my desk) but then I thought instead I’ll just chuck it in my kid’s Easter basket. At least someone will appreciate it!

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Something similar happened to me years ago, although definitely not on the same level as this. Someone left the company and she got a gorgeous leather briefcase. When I left, I got bath products. And not the nicer ones, like Bath & Body Works, but more like the no-name Walmart ones. Granted, the other person was further along in her career, but it still sucked; I felt terrible.

        I’m so sorry, OP. I like the idea of giving it to your kids. If anyone asks, you can tell them you gave it to your kids since you figured they’d get more use out of it. Depends how “nice” you’re feeling that day when asked about it. ;) And I read your comment up-thread that the woman who nudges the managers was lazy and didn’t care to “push things further.” I guess she can at least say she did *something*….Awful people.

        1. Anonymous Ampersand*

          Oh god I took redundancy from my last job on the same day as some of the directors who were getting literally well over five times my payment. They’d mostly been there much longer and were on far higher salaries so it was kind of fair enough. BUT for some reason I ended up holding the collection for one of them, which is how I know it contained a hell of a lot more than mine did, and my gift was crappy. It’s not so much that I mind that, as much as it felt like they rubbed my nose in it. It left a bitter taste.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            Yup. I love bath products–that I buy for MYSELF. But to have coworkers give them to me made me feel like there was an implication of bad personal hygiene there. Maybe not, but that’s definitely where my mind went.

        2. Queen of the File*

          I feel like we need a whole thread just about “recognition fails” :)

          I left a job I had had for 7 years, two weeks after a colleague did. For my colleague’s last day, we had a lunch with little speeches and took a collection for a card and modest gift. For mine, my boss sent an email to the whole team (I was on cc) saying, “Because Queen of the File is leaving on we will not need to do a card or lunch for her last day.” The technicality was that I was being transferred to a different office to do a different job (the same “technicality” my colleague was leaving under). Thanks, almost-the-worst-boss-ever!

          My colleagues did send me under-the-table thank yous and goodbyes though and I really appreciated it.

          1. Jess*

            Yes, I’m skipping through these comments just to see who has replied to #2 about recognition fails! I’d love to see what’s out there…

            My ten year anniversary at my workplace is coming up – I figure it as 31 March, but I started on that date as a temp so I have a feeling my workplace has the date about a month later. I’ve mentioned it to my manager a few times in casual conversation, so I hope that she knows that *I* know it’s coming up and feel it’s worth remarking on, but I have to admit I’m going to sit back now and just…wait to see what happens.

      2. Marie*

        Don’t put it in your kid’s Easter basket. Every time you pick it up to put it away or see your kid playing with it, you will be reminded of this unpleasantness. Keep that ungrateful token out of your home and donate it instead!

        1. Blue Eagle*

          You beat me to saying this. My cousin received a pricy retirement gift from her awful boss and was stressing about keeping it because it would remind her of him every time she saw it. My solution was to return it to the store it was purchased (luckily it had a tag on it so the store took it back for store credit) and she used the store credit to buy gifts for other people.

          Don’t keep it around your house where it will bring back unpleasant memories. Maybe gift it to a relative or friend’s child?

          Or if the discussion with your boss is ultimately unsatisfactory, use the suggestion someone made above about their inexpensive thank you gift where it is displayed on your desk with changeable notes to say “My name is xxxxx” (just replace the xxxxx with “ten-year anniversary gift” in different languages). Well maybe not, but it feels good to say it.

        2. Totally Minnie*

          I agree with Marie. Find out if there’s a battered women’s shelter or children’s hospital near you that takes donations for children’s items and donate it there. I wouldn’t want a reminder of this experience in my house if it were me.

    2. essEss*

      I think I’ve shared this before, but in one former company they would ask for donations each pay period to a flower fund. The purpose of it was to have a fund to pay for flowers to send to employees for major events such as weddings, funerals, and hospitalizations. I used to throw in $20 each pay period into the fund because I wanted to be a good team player. I did this for several years and saw many nice bouquets go out for events. However, when my wedding rolled around…. Nothing. When I was in the hospital for a week…. Nothing. I was so angry that I had given all that money but I wasn’t even thought of when my events occurred. I didn’t give another penny to that fund. When I was asked why I didn’t contribute any more, I told them exactly why.

    3. Friday*

      I’m sorry OP and I can commiserate – in my company, it’s standard to decorate someone’s desk for their bday and take them out to lunch. My birthday last year – nada. We’ve also had three babies born in my dept in the past 18 months and yours truly was the only one who didn’t get a baby shower. And after mine was born unexpectedly early, there was a bit of frostiness and again, general lack of acknowledgement from my company. No all-company “Friday’s baby was born healthy and here’s a pic!” email or anything, like with the other babies. I’ve been back at work long enough to know that there isn’t some “friday SUCKS” conspiracy or anything; it’s just a lack of consideration tied up in our company culture, and especially in my rapidly changing department. But it still feels lousy.

      1. Friday*

        Should say, “unexpectedly early during our busy time” so I was out of the office a couple of weeks where I otherwise would have had a lot of timely tasks to do before my planned leave, that couldn’t have been done earlier than those weeks due to project timelines.

    4. StillAnnoyed*

      Written this up here before I think.

      Department head decided to hold an office birthday party for his favorite employee. Cake, a few gifts, and champagne! We were standing around enjoying the cake and booze when the conversation got around to who favorite employee shared a birthday with… you know, famous people. He mentioned a couple of people and then I realized – we shared the same birthday. I brazenly said “oh you share your birthday with [other famous person] because so do I.” Everyone turned to look at me and a few gasped. I put down the cake and walked out of the office.

      Really if you’re going to hold an office birthday party for your favorite, and require others celebrate your favorite’s birthday too, make the effort to ensure your other staff aren’t so deliberately and obviously snubbed.

  27. Unacademic*

    Hey #4, another (fun) way to look into this is to listen to some work-related podcasts. The one I’m thinking of specifically is Slate’s Working, where they interview people with all kinds of different jobs about what their day-to-day is like there, how they got into the work, and so on. They have a lot of the big-ticket jobs, but also some more obscure ones as well, and you’ll probably be surprised at what some of the better-known jobs are actually like. The first episode is an interview with a pastor, and it’s very different from what I expected! I know there are a few other podcasts out there that do a similar kind of thing, and if you do a little bit of digging, you might even be able to find one that’s tailored more to the fields your degrees are in.

    A few other thoughts on this: I think it’s important to note there’s no one perfect career out there for you. People talk about dream jobs, and some people have very specific aspirations (“I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was in diapers!”), which can be pretty intimidating if you’re not sure about your own direction. But in truth, there’s a number of different careers you could be happy in, some of which you might learn about, some of which you might not, and that’s okay! You don’t have to meet every person in the world to pick people to be friends with, and you don’t have to know about every career in the world to pick one you’ll be pretty happy in. That’s not to say it’s a bad question to ask, because it’s a very important one (and awesome that you’re thinking about this so early!), just that it’s not worth putting the pressure on yourself to choose the ideal career. Plenty of people also find their career path goes down an unexpected direction, maybe because the original job turns out to be different than what they thought it would be, they’re presented with opportunities they didn’t know about before, they develop a peripheral skill that becomes a core part of a job, or their interests and goals change over time, etc.

    I second the people who said to think about the traits of jobs you might like. Based on your fields, do you want to have a job where you’re performing a service of some kind to the community, do you want to work closely with people, do you want to work with certain types of populations or not? Would you prefer to do a lot of writing, or research, or advocacy? Would you like to travel a lot or stay in one place? How much time do you want your job to take up in your life, versus other parts of your life? Be honest with yourself in these answers , and also consider the factor that external expectations play in your answers. Do you feel guilty that you don’t really want to do something service-oriented? Are you shying away from certain types of careers that might otherwise be attractive because they have lower prestige? Do you feel pressured to have a passion when what you really want is a steady job which funds your hobbies and makes a certain lifestyle possible? Because that’s okay too! There’s a million questions you can ask here, so as you research different types of jobs with some of the advice other people offered, think about what traits make them appealing or unappealing, and see if you can create a checklist of the things you’d like in a career, and that could give you a starting point for looking for things which fit most of those traits. Some of mine are: combines science and creativity, doesn’t involve customer service or sales (because I’ve done those jobs and don’t want to keep doing them), lots of variation over the year, allows me to be outside a fair amount. I’m working in wine production after floating around in restaurants for a few years, after getting an unrelated (science) degree. I pretty much just stumbled upon this career path because I was in restaurants (treading water since I knew I didn’t want to do that forever), realized I was interested in wine, thought about the traits I would like or hate in a job and what kind of wine jobs matched up with those, and just forced myself to make a decision about what I was going to do!

    And one last thought: entry level jobs related to your degree field are often going to be easier to get as a fresh graduate. If you consider something related to your field versus something that doesn’t require the degree you have, it might be a good idea to give the thing related to your field a try first. It can be tricky to get a foot in the door with a degree that’s a few years old and a bunch of unrelated experience. Of course you’re not obligated to do something closely related to your degree, just something to keep in mind as you weigh your options!

  28. Sled dog mama*

    Lw#4 I was in a similar situation. I went to college and studied what I found interesting (with an idea of what I wanted to do with it) by senior year I had discovered that the career I thought I wanted was a super poor fit. So I thought I’d teach, I at least have enough self awareness now to know I am a terrible teacher (I still feel bad for the students I taught).
    What I found really helpful in finding my current career ( which is a great fit and I love) was the YWCA career center. They do charge but on a sliding scale so it’s very affordable. The counselor had me do several inventories that narrowed down interest areas and working conditions then helped me look for careers that fit.

  29. MuseumChick*

    OP4, is my field careers include but are not limited to: Curator, Collections Manager, Registrar, Exhibit Designer, Front Line/Customer Service, Interpreter, Eductions Developer, Fundraiser, Grant Writer, Volunteer Manager, Director, and so much more.

  30. Murphy*

    OP#4 I’d like to echo Alison’s advice about looking at job postings! I found my field because I started searching for jobs that required skills I already had, not knowing what I wanted to do. I found a job that looked good and it said “This job would be a good fit for someone looking to get into [field].” I didn’t know what that field was, so I looked it up and it was more or less what I’d been thinking I wanted to do.

  31. FD*

    #2- But did you get an extra hour in the ball pit?

    In all seriousness, given what you said elsewhere about the person who keeps track of such things, I would definitely have the conversation. But you should also think about your work in general. Do you feel appreciated? Do you feel there’s room for growth in the ways you want to grow (whether that’s development in your role or promotion)? Ten years is a while at a job these days, really. Depending on what happens in that conversation, it might be time to polish up the resume.

      1. FD*

        I’m glad. :3 I did go a bit back and forth on “eh, is that too niche of a joke for this site?” so I’m glad people got it.

    1. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

      Your first line is totally reblog worthy.

      You do bring up a really good point – is this a one-time oversight (but a pretty major one) and LW2 is generally appreciated, or is this the latest in a long line of slights? If the latter, I’d start looking. But hopefully it’s just the former! In which case, they should at least do something a bit bigger for her.

    2. OP #2*

      LOL I did feel like I was about to throw a tantrum!
      I’m not even sure how to answer your questions, I think I feel stuck really but that’s not their fault exactly. From day one I’ve felt a bit like I’ve been thrown in to my work with not much direction or knowledge. I do quite a bit more work over my admin-level job-description and I work hard to navigate the things I feel are out of my depth and I do think I do them well. I can’t move jobs, there isn’t much out there (if anything). For context: I live on a 22sq mi island in the middle of the Atlantic.

      1. Clare*

        I think that you are selling yourself short, OP. I was in a similar situation to yours at my last job (also an admin but doing way more than my job description). If you are doing that much work and are good at it, they should be able to give you a promotion or at least a raise after all this time. Do they do annual performance reviews? If so, do they ask about your career plans and goals? Do they offer you any advice or help to meet those goals? Or do they assume that because you’re an admin you can’t possibly have career goals of your own?

        I finally left my last job after 6+ years because it became clear that no matter how much work I did or how good I was at it, they were never going to view me as anything more than just their assistant.

      2. FD*

        That makes sense.

        FWIW, in my experience, a lot of times when people feel stuck, they believe they have no choices. Sometimes, I’ve found it helpful to clarify things by refraining in terms of my priorities.

        For example, “I have to stay with this job because otherwise I’ll never get promoted,” might become “My priority is to develop my career, and this job provides the best opportunity to get promoted.” This mental change often does two things. First, when I mentally put myself in the driver’s seat, I feel less stuck because it feels more like a choice I made, and less like one forced on me. Second, it forces me to state my priorities and the reason that this choice fits them. That sometimes forces me to think more critically about it. For instance, is developing my career actually my top priority? Am I choosing it at the expense of other priorities that actually matter more to me? Is this job truly the best opportunity, or would I actually be better off getting promoted in a job change?

        In this case, it sounds like you don’t love the job but you feel you have no choices. There’s nothing wrong with just being ‘okay’ with your job! Lots of people do the job because it brings in a paycheck, or because the location or hours or good. If being in this location is a top priority for you, then it might make the most sense to shrug your shoulders and deal with the slight.

        But if not, it might be worth deciding what really does matter to you, and consider at least looking for jobs that take you elsewhere.

      3. Nita*

        Oh. That’s just too bad about the island. I’m sure it would have been very satisfying to present your boss with the news you’ve found a new job, but that does limit your options.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*


      So, if I understand correctly, your manager was the one who selected the bear? Knowing full well that other people got much more lavish gifts? And the person you talked to was aware you were getting the bear, and chose not to step in, but she wasn’t your manager and therefore wasn’t in charge of picking your gift? If that’s the case, then no matter how much influence that other person *could* have had over the gift, it ultimately comes down to your manager, so shift your anger/frustration back to him. I’d definitely use Alison’s script. If you don’t feel comfortable now, you could bring it up at review time.

      On a related note… several years ago I had surgery that kept me off work for several weeks. A year or so later, a coworker had the same surgery, and we had a meeting to discuss what we could do for her. I think she ended up with some meals delivered, some restaurant GCs, and a gift basket. At one point during this planning, another coworker turned to me and said “Did we do any of this for you?” Um. No.

      1. OP #2*

        Eesh. That stings. At least someone mentioned the slight and the hope was that the faces in the room were a nice shade of red with apologies all around!
        I think review time would be the ideal time to mention it because right now I am still pissed.

      2. Queen of the File*

        “but she wasn’t your manager and therefore wasn’t in charge of picking your gift”

        I agree… depending on the company, for all that person knows the manager actually *did* want to send OP a message by only giving her a bear. I don’t think it’s fair to expect her to “push” any harder than maybe letting the manager know it’s out of the norm and checking to make sure that’s what they want. I do understand feeling frustrated though! It would have been nice if someone had stepped in. But ultimately–this is really on the manager.

      3. Nita*

        I was in a sort of similar situation and it was so awkward. In my case, I got sick after the whole thing with going the extra mile for a sick coworker. My department then tried to start the same thing for me, but it felt like no one would have done it except they didn’t want me to feel left out. Thankfully someone approached me in advance to ask what kind of meal I’d like delivered, and I asked them to please do nothing because I’d have plenty of help at home and didn’t want to inconvenience anyone.

        Gifts are such weird and touchy things, sometimes starting a gift tradition creates more awkwardness than not doing anything at all.

      4. willow*

        I like the idea of bringing it up at review time – preface it with how you feel like conducting a 360 degree review this year.

        And I hear you on the surgeries – 3 fairly major ones over the last 25 years at three companies, and nary a card, phone call when I was home, visit when I was home, the hospital, nothing, just radio silence, like I had ceased to exist in people’s minds for those periods. This year I got a couple of texts, I guess that’s because it’s easy. It really does make you feel like nobody notices when you’re gone.

    4. Lynca*

      I know someone that worked Artist Alley at that.

      I definitely would bring this up with the manager. It sucks that the person that typically nudges this along didn’t take more initiative with your manager. But ultimately this is on your manager, who knows what the expectations are and should have met the minimum.

      I would look to see what this manager has done for others on their 10-year anniversary. If there is a massive disparity, it needs to be brought up because they shouldn’t be treating you differently than the other employees.

      1. FD*

        I know someone that worked Artist Alley at that.

        My sympathies. I hope it didn’t end up being too much of a financial hit. I felt the most bad for the folks who spent money to be presenters or artists.

  32. MommyMD*

    Unless that stuffed bear was full of cash, it’s a slap in the face. I would say to my manager, “a stuffed animal? For ten years? Really?” Better to have gotten nothing. I’m 20 years in and recently got a nice additional 401k deposit. I’m sorry for you.

    1. OP #2*

      EXACTLY. I would have appreciated a pat on the back and a thank you with no other gift than to get a stuffed bear. It was demoralizing and embarrassing.
      CONGRATS on your 20 years!

      1. mf*

        Do you have a coworker with kids? I would go up to them when your boss is in earshot and say, “Hey, I have no use for this toy. Would little Johnny like to have it?”

    2. Clare*

      Yes! The fact that they actually went out and got the bear shows they were willing to put in the time to get SOMETHING, but made the deliberate choice to have that something be a child’s toy. Would have been better to give just the gift card.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I could understand a bear as a gift if it was a very limited Collector’s Edition Steiff Bear, and I happened to collect limited edition bears, but they are definitely not toys.

        That would suggest the research had been done about my hobbies (bear collection, golf etc.) And the limited editions would cost a similar price to a spa day (based on my local toy shops and spa)

        This unfortunate bear sounds as if it was the first one plucked off the shelf! May I suggest it is regifted to a loving home?

  33. History Chick*

    LW #4 – I was a history and theater major who had a 13 year field-related career in the museum field. However, I was struggling to make ends meet and I completely burned out. I realized that it wasn’t what I wanted, I wanted to make a career change, but I thought that there weren’t any other options for me. That this was what I was qualified for and nothing else! So – I understand what you are going through.

    However, a comment from my uncle changed all of that. He’s a big wig with a huge national insurance company and he said “Why don’t you look in my field.” My initial reaction was – there is nothing there for me. I don’t want to be an agent. He replied with “there are so many other options than just selling insurance.” So I started looking at job listings (like Allison suggested) and started looking long and hard at my skill set and what I could transition to. For a bit I stayed in the non-profit field, but switched to communications work. Then I realized out of communications I loved design the best. I spent time learning and honing my craft. And now – after about 4 years of trial and error I’m in a job I love (with an insurance company of all places like my uncle suggested) working as a full time multimedia designer. And I love it.

    Every day I meet someone new at this company and I think – oh, there are so many job possibilities here that I didn’t think of that I could do. Corporate training? I could do that! Event planning? Yes. Work for the company’s foundation? With my nonprofit experience, yup! Even go back into communications instead of design. (When you work in a nonprofit and wear so many hats you get good experience in so many things, which makes it seem like you have to stay in that field instead of using that experience in something else.) There are so, so, so many options out there that I didn’t know existed. (It took until I was almost 40 to have this epiphany!)

    I think it’s about really looking to see what’s out there, and really thinking about your skills and/or what you want to spend time doing and cultivating. I would also be remiss to say that networking also really helped. Talking to friends in different companies, applying places where I could put a trusted name down in the referral box. (I didn’t do this haphazardly but with real professional connections, which I know helped get me in the door for interviews.)

    I do have friends still in the nonprofit world who think I totally sold out. But you know what, I’m happier than I’ve ever been professionally and I am using my art/liberal arts background more every day in this position than I did in my field-related job! So go, get out there, and explore!

  34. Alli525*

    OP4: Does your school or program have an alumni database that you can browse through? (Mine included the ability to search by major/concentration.) If not, look for alumni on LinkedIn – people’s career paths take all sorts of weird turns, and I bet you could find some interesting ideas in one of those places. You don’t even need to reach out to those people, just look at the various titles and industries they’re in.

    1. QMS*

      Definitely agree with poking around LinkedIn. Looking at profiles of people in industries you are interested in can help to better understand what people’s career paths can look like. 15 years ago, you’d rarely know what people’s resume looked like, and now LinkedIn is basically a database of all different types of career paths :-)

  35. Purple Jello*

    OP#2: I feel for you. At my 1 year anniversary we were moving to a new office building, so instead of the congratulations and official company jacket presentation, HR handed the wind breaker to me in the middle of the move, and forgot to make the announcement. My 5 year anniversary, several other 5-years were mentioned and applauded, but me? … nothing. When I said something I was told they’d mention it at the next all-staff meeting. But never happened. When I was here 6 years, they started giving out really nice gifts for every 5 year milestone. I’m on year 8, and I love my job and my company, but am a bit cynical about this.

    1. Adlib*

      That’s wrong. If they can’t do stuff like this evenly, they need to stop doing it all together. Stuff like this leads to an overall decrease in morale.

  36. Yorick*

    OP4: You studied criminology but you may think the “social service” and “officer” kinds of jobs aren’t for you. There are many positions within criminal justice agencies that aren’t the first ones you’d think of. Police, district attorneys, and correctional agencies have positions in communications, data analysis, victim advocacy, project management, and other administrative functions that are very unlike the typical “officer” job. Try looking at listings at your state and local agencies to see what might be out there, or browsing through their employees on LinkedIn.

  37. Another Lawyer*

    #3 – I’ve met some of my best work/professional circle friends in exactly this way

  38. Joielle*

    OP4 – If you have any interest in public service, I’d recommend pulling up your state’s jobs website and perusing the listings. It takes a lot of different people to run a state government! In my experience, the pay is ok, but the benefits are great and it’s pretty stable work.

  39. Not The Maid!*

    To OP 1. Please listen to Alison’s advice. its the best route. Not You really dont want to get personal with people in this situation. This is going to end badly. its best if you are not in harms way whenit does.

  40. In Todd We Trust*

    #2 – At the busiest time of the day, put that stuffed bear in the middle of your desk, pull out the biggest knife you can find and cut that baby open “Looking for your real gift”. Nothing the sight of flying stuffing and fur to get your point across. Besides, if anyone is offended you can just say based on past gifts to other employees you were sure the real gift was just hidden inside as an unusual delivery vehicle. And when it’s all over, post pics. We love that kind of thing.

    1. StillAnnoyed*

      Or take a letter opener (if those things are still around) and use it to stab teddy to inside of the partition. If people remark on it, glance at it and say anything.

  41. runnerkid*

    OP4 – not your exact situation, but I’ve been trying to make a complete career change for the past couple of years and have had similar thoughts. I’ve known for a while that I want to work for a tech company but I wasn’t sure in what capacity. So what I did was every time I heard about a company that was doing cool things I went on their careers page and clicked on all job openings that sounded like something I could plausibly do or learn how to do (so for example not “systems architecture” because that requires deep technical knowledge but maybe “user experience”). I can’t even count how many job descriptions I’ve read at this point. What that accomplished was a. it gave me a really good understanding of a tech company’s ecosystem and b. actually helped me figure out that I want to be a product manager. I never even knew that was a thing! Reading PM job descriptions was the first thing that made me go “this sounds really cool and something I’d love to do” and a lot of further research has compounded that (but obviously you can’t do research until you have some specifics of what it is you’re researching). So this might not be 100% applicable to you but I think it’s a good way of starting your exploration (here’s a company that seems interesting, these are the 10 types of jobs they hire for, these 2 I would be interested in, how do I get there from where I am). Good luck!

  42. OddJob*

    OP #4, I was a teacher before I went on to get an MBA, not knowing AT ALL what jobs would be available in a corporate or otherwise “normal” professional environment, so I do sympathize with your story.

    Just to add my own anecdote to help open up the possibilities and put some other things on our radar outside of advertising and sales: I manage the material supply chain for a well-known footwear and apparel brand. I have developed technical expertise in materials, and I’m responsible for relationships with suppliers, negotiating prices, and supporting problem solving with the factories where product is made.

    There are so many different kinds of jobs out there!!

    This kind of career may not be on your ra

  43. Lady Phoenix*

    You have an alcoholic boss who is willibg to abuse his power to sleep with his subordinates and then throw them out. He is also going theough a nasty divorce with his wife.

    You also have an ex coworker who you believe is enabling your boss alcoholism, is still dating him, and invites you for alcohol and gossip.

    This is might be the Titanic with all the craziness going on and who knows when or if the iceberg hits. I would start sending your resume out while it is “quiet” and keep both of these people well beyond arm’s length.

  44. WillyNilly*

    #4 Years ago, sort of floundering with direction, working as a temp, I read a great book, Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs (edited by Bowe, Bowe, and Streeter). It is literally what the title implies. Its just a collection of essays or interviews of people talking about their various jobs, entry level through higher, in all sorts of random industries. It was fascinating. And enlightening.

    If you look around, literally just look around yourself right now: the chair you are sitting on was designed, materials sourced, manufactured, marketed, transported (probably a few times), sold. There were people working on doing that each step of the way. The coffee you are drinking was planted, harvested, transported, roasted, packaged, sold to stores, sold to consumers. Again, jobs along each step.

    1. LawBee*

      That show How Its Made really opened my eyes to this. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that someone has to make the little plastic bit that holds the screw in, but yeah.

  45. Hiring Mgr*

    #2, it’s very strange..I’m sure this has been mentioned or thought of, but is it possible they’re cutting back on these things, and yours is the first one? Otherwise there’s no real explanation,

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      It reminds me of a company I once worked for which gave all the staff gifts for St Nicolas Day (6th December)

      Year 1 – Choice of gift from a catalogue (scanners, basic food processors, garden furniture children’s plastic outdoor playsets) Plus chocolate and biscuits
      Year 2 – Silk Hermes scarves for the women, leather wallets for the men. Plus chocolate and biscuits
      Year 3 – Small box of posh chocolates and the usual chocolate and biscuits
      Year 4 – A large cellophane bag each of the chocolate and biscuits.

      By this stage, I was finalising a move to another company!

      1. The Supreme Troll*

        How ironic: the experience of the staff flowing upwards, and the appreciation for the staff flowing downwards.

  46. wonderin'*

    I hate to make this statement, but I can’t help but wonder if you are female and classified as hourly support staff and they view you “differently” because of it.

  47. Lady Phoenix*

    OP#2 reminds me of the recent drama on this video collection site I use to watch. My favprite videomaker said he was leaving the group do to some drama. He was a longtime and active contributor to the website for 10 years.

    And what did the website do? They deleted all of his videos and generally his entire prescence from the website itself. Luckily he has his own channel and his videos are hosted on youtube.

    They did the samething to another longtime contributor too just for mentioning on twitter his plans for departure.

    Let us just say that this company is AaM’s worst nightmare.

  48. Anna*

    LW 4, there are a lot of great resources to see if your industry is growing and to see what careers line up with your field of study. will give you lists of careers related to whatever field you enter and then tell you what kind of training or education you need. The state where I live has a website that can tell you about the growth of certain occupational groups. Check out your state employment department website to see if they offer anything like that.

  49. AKchic*

    Letter 1 – Start looking for a new job ASAP.

    Jane is disingenuous. The flags are a-wavin’ and it isn’t signaling anything good.
    John and Jane both knew what they were doing when they had a two year affair. Jane knew John was married. She didn’t care. John absolutely knew that what he was doing was wrong, and he didn’t care. He got caught and probably wanted to save his marriage at that time and “got rid of” Jane to appease his wife. However, he still wanted both cake and pie and chose to continue eating both and cake decided to leave the table, which is why he is going through this divorce.
    LW1 has heard from coworkers that Jane claims to be running the business from John’s bed during these drink and gap sessions. Since Jane has been gone, she has not reached out to LW. Only now, after the divorce has started, did she start reaching out. And only to talk about the work gossip? C’mon, we weren’t born yesterday. This is to both assess where employees’ sympathies/loyalties lay and image management of John and Jane.
    This is a big divorce, with a company involved. It is highly likely that John’s wife could get partial ownership of this company. Or John may lose a lot of his personal “fortune” and only have the company left (and still have to share it with his soon-to-be ex-wife).
    It may also be that they are priming the pump to have Jane return and they are scoping out the lay of the land.

    I encourage LW to find work elsewhere. An alcoholic with a cheating problem who is dealing with a messy divorce and an enabling girlfriend who seems to thrive on drama is no place to work.

  50. Trixie*

    OP #3, it’s possible that the manager who wants to meet up truly does have a job in mind for you. I had this happen when I interviewed once: the original hiring manager’s group ended up going through a hiring freeze, but the other manager she brought in to team interview me liked me so much that he ended up offering me a job in his group! It really does happen sometimes! If you meet with him, at the very least you might get some good career advice, like Alison said. I didn’t get any sort of “interested/dating” vibe from this letter, but I could be wrong. I hope it works out well for you!

  51. Oxford Coma*

    LW #2 if commiseration would help: On my work anniversary, my boss took me out for lunch. As the food was served, he dropped the bomb that I would have to relocate to a different (tiny, crappy) desk in a different (falling apart, unsafe) building, Milton-Waddams-style. I had to start packing up as soon I got back to my cubicle that day.

  52. LawBee*

    LW2: A stuffed bear.


    LW, you are 100% right to be irked by this. I’m angry on your behalf.

  53. mf*

    #2 — When I left a job I’d been at for 7 years, my boss asked me to organize my own goodbye–I always handle those events because the admin and apparently he couldn’t figure it out himself. I wasn’t mad, but it made me feel kind of crappy. It’s not much of a gesture of appreciation/recognition if I’m stuck doing all the work.

  54. Officials' Anonymous (UK)*

    #4 – I switched the other way having got a pair of pure science degrees and realising that I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do with them.

    I ended up in an entry level job in social care and discovered a career path I didn’t know existed, much less that I knew anything about (nonprofit Business Development) because I was offered a secondment. Five years later I’m at C level and wouldn’t change it for the world, although it’s hella stressful and we’re probably the youngest directors in the industry through burnout.

    The career path you decide on after college isn’t what you’re stuck with – and consider nonprofits as if you get an entry level job you’ll often be exposed to all sorts pretty quickly

  55. kms1025*

    OP #5: I think it would be helpful to simply say “I am moving into the area and part-time work is best for my personal schedule.”

  56. Jemima Bond*

    LW 4 I second Alison’s advice to look at job postings. You might spot something you never thought of. That’s what I did – I had planned to do a masters degree (probably, to be brutally honest, because I wasn’t sure what career I wanted) but that fell though so I set to looking at all the national newspaper job sections to see what was out there (this was 2000 so internet wasn’t as much of a thing). I saw they were recruiting trainee ninja assassins and read more about the job and the training offered and thought, ooooh interesting… I have had three or four slightly different jobs within the same arena, and have regularly thought to myself, I can’t believe I ended up in this career! In a good way of course. I am currently the scourge of large-scale teapot smashers, raining down vengeance upon those who damage delicate tea sets, throughout the country. And sometimes the world. The only downside of this is it’s government work so I’ll never be rich, and I have a few great stories I can’t tell you all without the teapot metaphor becoming so tortured I’d breach the Geneva convention.

    1. Yorick*

      This reminds me of important advice: Don’t go to grad school if it’s just a way to postpone making decisions.

  57. Klaxons*

    OP #2, I’m sorry about your bear.

    At my retail job we had a special birthday poster in the break room that would get switched out every three months. Everybody’s birthdates were written in their birth month and on their birthday they’d get a card signed by everyone and a small gift card. Nothing fancy, I usually picked whatever restaurant they liked and had management store expense it for ten or fifteen bucks. If several birthdays converged in one week we got cupcakes. Upper management for balloons also, because kissing up. I typically made the cards custom through the photo dept and was the one who went around getting signatures because otherwise everyone would get the same Winnie the Pooh card with a couplet about having a nice birthday or whatever that was sold in the store.

    On my birthday, I didn’t get anything. No card. Not even a “happy birthday.” In fact, it was the day before annual inventory, so I spent my birthday cleaning rigorously and my teenage coworker thought I wasn’t working quickly enough and left a mean note on my to-do list. Certainly boded well for my 26th year. But I got over it.

    Then one of the managers’ birthday was about a week and a half after I left the job, and I texted her a quick happy birthday, and she answered to thank me and tell me I was the only one who acknowledged her birthday that day. Same thing happened to her. She said she was called to the office by the store manager and she was expecting a “hey, I’m headed out for the day, but happy birthday,” but when she got there, SM told her she had missed emptying one of the wastebaskets the night before, and then left.

    Maybe there is someone else, another assistant level employee or someone who gave the boss ideas for gifts, who is usually in charge of stuff like that and for whatever reason they weren’t available for this one? i.e. maybe Klaxons got fired. (Just kidding.) I think Alison’s idea is a good one, but I’ll be the first to admit that when it was me, I just said nothing and added it to the growing discontent I had with the job.

    Congrats on your milestone. But more importantly, wow, congrats on your bear!!

    1. OP #2*

      LOL I think I’ll start a new use for the ‘passive aggressive bear’ at the office, since he’s beginning to make a name for himself for those-in-the-know: Going forward he will now be known as the ”Take Your Anger Out On Me’ bear” and we will use him as a punching bag when we feel stressed/angry. He will be useful in some way!

      1. AKchic*

        “Bring me… The Bear” can really be a big statement to those in the know. Especially if people see someone punching this lone teddy bear.

        Its not the bear’s fault. Give him a Deadpool costume (or t-shirt) so he can be indestructible and let people go nuts.

  58. Empty Sky*

    I love question #4. “You’d be amazed” is the short answer.

    There were a series of ads here a few years ago, run by a job board company, envisaging a series of probably-imaginary jobs and asking people what they liked about them. One was a safety inspector for the display cannons and artillery that you find at war memorials and the like, who made sure that they didn’t go off by accident and hurt someone. Another worked for a supermarket and was in charge of repair and wheel calibration for shopping carts. The piece ended with him pushing a shopping cart across the floor, and giving a fist pump when it went silently in a dead straight line.

    One of the things I do when I give career talks at schools is go through the different kinds of job people do at my workplace (project managers, business analysts, developers, testers, architects, security analysts, usability specialists, admin support…) Usually my audience are unaware that at least half of them exist. It’s an excellent question to ask employers at career fairs and the like.

  59. M*

    #2: I had a similar thing happen to me. I have been working for a company for 4+ years and have always received SOMETHING for my birthday. In 2015, I got a $200 Visa gift card, flowers, lunch, and a few small gifts. The past two years, I’ve been working remotely in a different state and received nothing – not even a happy birthday text or message.

    I finally messaged HR and asked what was going on, because I was upset and felt like I wasn’t getting fair treatment. They did end up sending me a gift (nothing monetary, however). I spoke with a coworker and she said she received a simple gift this year, too.

    So it’s possible they are starting to downsize on gifts or something of that nature. I definitely recommend speaking to someone if possible.

    1. guinnessgal*

      #2. I was looking forward to my 10 year anniversary at work last year as I’ve helped a many people in our 100 person office over the last decade. On the month of my work anniversary, I received a phone call from my functional manager (who works remotely in a different state) congratulating me on my years of service. 6 weeks later my certificate of service was left on my desk with a post-it saying congratulations. That was it. Unfortunately my milestone anniversary hit during a year following a company restructuring. I’m happy to report my office now recognizes milestone anniversaries during quarterly All Hands meetings but I’m still a little salty that my anniversary passed unnoticed.

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