open thread – March 2-3, 2018

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

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

{ 2,268 comments… read them below }

  1. bluelyon*

    How do you make someone let you finish speaking when your boss reprimands you for asking them to let you finish?

    My coworker is rude, condesending and generally obnoxious. We had a meeting Wednesday where I did not get to finish a single complete sentence let alone a multi-sentence answer to a question. My current method of dealing with this is to stop talking until she finishes and then pick up again as if she hasn’t said anything when she stops.
    I’d like to be able to say “you’re interrupting please let me finish” but the time I’ve done that I was reprimanded.
    This coworker has been trying to undermine me and my successes since I started here 10 months ago so I’m also at BEC stage with her which isn’t helping my case.

    1. Free Meerkats*

      Have a discussion with your boss immediately after it happens next time and ask her how she wants you to handle those interruptions. She may see your current way of doing it as the “right way.”

    2. Yet Another AAM Librarian*

      Who reprimanded you? Interrupting coworker, your boss, or someone else?

      1. Yet Another AAM Librarian*

        Ah, I see that you clarified that int he first sentence. Sorry! What’s the general reaction (from coworker, boss, others) when you take your usual method of picking up after her interruption?

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I would talk to your boss about it sometime that isn’t in the middle of a meeting. Just say “Hey, I’ve noticed this issue where Jan cuts me off repeatedly when I’m speaking. This can result in prolonging the meeting and making it more difficult for people to clearly understand my point. How would you like me to handle that?”

      If you want to bring up the bigger picture about feeling undermined, I would collect specific examples that demonstrate the pattern you’re seeing, and again, come to your boss with an attitude of asking for advice on what you can do differently.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        ^^ This is the one. Point out how is impedes you from doing your job and remain unemotional.

    4. Irene Adler*

      If this interrupting behavior occurs during work meetings, then the chair person should be addressing this. They can tell this coworker to stop. Then return the floor to you to finish your comments. If chair person is not doing this, suggest bringing this behavior to their attention -prior to the next meeting. And also ask them to address this behavior should it occur.
      You can also address the chair person during the meeting when the interruption occurs and ask them to deal with the interrupting behavior (“excuse me, Chairperson, I did not yield the floor. May I complete my comments please?”).

      If this interrupting behavior occurs with private conversations between yourself and co-worker, you can, when interrupted, turn and walk away. Don’t give them audience for their ugly treatment of you.

      1. Yorick*

        In my experience at all my jobs, most meetings aren’t formal enough for this to happen.

      2. Peanut*

        Yes, whoever is running the meeting should be laying out “ground rules” and making sure people stick to them. I don’t know what gender all the people are, but there is tons of research about how women are undermined in meetings by being held to unconscious biased expectations/roles, getting interrupted frequently, having their ideas ignored, etc. Even if OP is a man, it is certainly reasonable to say that on light of all the research, it is best to operate meetings by a standard, agreed-upon set of rules that will help insure that no one (male or female) is being treated unfairly.

        Now if no one is officially running the meetings, that makes it harder. Depending on the company, you could try bringing it up at the start of another meeting, as a meeting topic itself. If no one has started interrupting anyone else yet and you are discussing theoretical issues rather than one which is occurring at the moment, it is a lot harder to argue that everyone should be allowed to interrupt others.

        1. Specialk9*

          My read was that the manager sees the interrupting, doesn’t reprimand the interrupter, but reprimands the one who asks the interrupter to stop interrupting.

      1. Queen of the File*

        This feels very rude in the moment (so is interrupting, of course) but has been surprisingly effective for me.

        1. Naptime Enthusiast*

          This is especially effective on conference calls, since there’s sometimes a delay and people don’t realize they’re talking over you.

          1. MissDisplaced*

            Conference calls are a little weird though. You can’t see, so sometimes misread the cues, thus thinking a pause is the end.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Totally, but it can be helpful to remind yourself that you’re not being the rude person (the interrupter is), which can make it easier to talk past/over them. But it definitely is uncomfortable, so it can be helpful to practice with a friend (i.e., the friend is aware and is roleplaying with you) before implementing it in real life.

      2. Temperance*

        This is the best way to deal with it. I also tend to speak louder in those moments, too.

      3. Peanut*

        Yes, and possibly combining this tactic with a very brief acknowledgement. Something like, “let’s address questions and comments in a moment” (if you’re in the middle of a presentation) or even just “one moment, please” if less formal, with a nod in the interrupting person’s direction. Don’t pause for a response to that but jump immediately back into what you were saying.

      4. Lucky*

        That has worked for me with some interrupters. Where it hasn’t, I will let the interrupter finish, then ignore what they said and start back to what I was talking about. Like this:

        Me: blah blah software testing is going well for X, but
        I’er: We should start testing on Y and Z immediately and also I am way too important to wait my turn to speak.
        Me: As I was saying, software testing is going well for X, but Y and Z won’t be test ready until ABC component is complete.

        I also find it helps stop interrupters when I stand, though that only really works when I’m the one presenting.

        PS Did I ever tell you all about the time that two coworkers interrupted my answer to their question to get into a back-and-forth argument about what each thought my answer would be? That was fun. Ten points if you can guess each of our genders.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Totally agree. If your boss won’t let you call out the behavior, then I’ve found talking over someone as if they’re not speaking to be really effective. Usually the interrupter is relying on you feeling startled by their interruption (and momentarily mute) and then wedging their way into that silence. Don’t give Jan silence.

        I’m sorry you’re dealing with this :(

      6. Optimistic Prime*

        I’ve started doing this when people interrupt me (which happens all the time, it’s kind of the culture here). I raise my voice slightly and just keep talking. It does feel rude initially, but really they’re the ones being rude by interrupting you and you’re just trying to finish what you’re saying so you can understand each other.

        1. boo*

          I was going to say this (and keep saying it if anyone interrupted me!) You also have to power through with the knowledge that people will miss some of what you’re saying, but you can always repeat it later: don’t start repeating yourself while the interrupter is trying to interrupt, or the whole thing breaks down.

          Whatever one thinks of her, Hillary Clinton in the presidential debates is sort of a worst-case training video for this technique. If you don’t want to re-experience that, lots of women in politics do it (Sen. Kamala Harris comes to mind) or you could just come hang out with my mother.

          I know my take on this sounds adversarial, but usually by the time I’m in a situation where someone (or multiple people) feels free to interrupt me repeatedly, it’s already adversarial.

    5. Cajun2core*

      Frankly put, your boss is a jerk for reprimanding you when someone is that rude to you.

    6. DCompliance*

      Did your boss specifically tell you not to do that when your coworker interrupts or was or during another time? is it the words themselves that your boss does not like? Maybe he thinks saying “you’re interrupting please let me finish” could be phrased differently.

    7. bluelyon*

      Thank you all!
      We’re all women but there is an age gap – interrupting co-worker and my boss are about 20 years older than I am.

      Conference calls are a bit easier – I just keep talking since nobody is face to face and as everyone agreed, interrupting is usually an accident.

      I think I’ll try just talking over her – everyone (boss included) tends to let her just keep going – ignoring the interruption may get me further than trying to actually address it.

      I was reprimanded after the fact for saying something to the effect of “I’m still talking can you hang on a second” casual language but it was a casual meeting.

      1. Moonbeam Malone*

        One nice thing about just continuing talking is that even when it doesn’t stop them it can at least make it register in their brain what happened. Some interrupt as a matter of habit and don’t really…think about the fact they’re interrupting? Hard to ignore when you spend 10 seconds talking at the same time as someone else. (This happened to me once with a classmate and while she didn’t initially yield she actually apologized about it after the class. I don’t think she’d have even noticed if I hadn’t tried to keep talking.)

        1. Specialk9*

          Yeah, I’m an interrupter, it’s how I was raised, so I don’t notice I’m doing it sometimes, till someone keeps talking over me. Then I feel awful and apologize. But it’s not on purpose, and it’s actually appropriate in some cultures.

    8. Thlayli*

      It sounds like your boss only reprimanded you once when you asked her to stop talking. So you could try that again. There might have been a particular reason your boss didn’t want you to say that on that particular day, but maybe would be ok with it on other days

      1. bluelyon*

        ugh – In hindsight I didn’t phrase that well – she said it was a pattern of admonishing people for interrupting me. Something I found particularly aggravating because, it’s not like I tell the boss or the CEO not to interrupt me. I ask my peers to let me finish.

        1. Teapot librarian*

          I had someone tell me in what felt like an overly assertive tone to let her finish speaking. I was annoyed at the time because, well, I didn’t think I’d interrupted, but in retrospect I figured she’s probably been interrupted by men a lot and has practiced a “I was still speaking please don’t interrupt me” assertiveness, and just happened to use it on me. All this to say that I wonder if there is something in your tone that you don’t hear/realize/do consciously that is making it come across as admonishment rather than you claiming your airtime.

        2. AnneNotCarrots*

          If there’s a pattern of you having to ask people not to interrupt you – enough that your boss told you to stop – is it possible that you’re domination conversations? Have you looked at your patterns of talking to make sure that people don’t have to interrupt in order to clarify, ask questions, etc? That might be helpful in trying to figure out why this feels common for you.

          1. Specialk9*

            Or if you’re in an interrupting culture and have to navigate it better – they may find you terribly rude because interrupting is appropriate in their culture. Sometimes interruptions are not actually to stop the flow, but to support or encourage or collaborate. Sometimes they’re to take over or guessing (esp aggravating when wrong) what you’re going to say. It could be useful to take a spirit of genuine inquiry and ask an otherwise sympathetic interrupter what it’s about for them and how you should better navigate. Wait vs Interrupt cultures.

    9. Marcy Marketer*

      What if you just kept talking, getting louder as he tries to talk over you? Right now you’re stopping and letting him talk so your boss might not realize how much it happens.

      When they’re talking over you, as you continue to talk, hold up a hand. when they pause, say, “just want to finish this thought,” or “thanks for letting me finish that thought,” in a friendly way.

      If you end up getting into multiple talking-over-each-other battles in a single meeting that your boss is in, talk to your boss after and ask if they’d be able to intervene with the employee. Say that it’s distracting and impeding your ability to share important points in meetings.

    10. Managing to get by*

      Have you tried ignoring her and keeping talking as if you were not interrupted?

  2. Adam anon*

    This morning there was supposed to be a meeting to discuss things relating to a critical project. My boss and the other supervisors and managers instead spent the entire time discussing the lawsuit against Google because they won’t hire white men anymore. There is a memo where the diversity committee is being disbanded and there will be no more diversity stuff in our hiring. A while back the company instituted blind hiring and it didn’t make things more diverse. They bought in a consultant and tried again with the same result. My boss and the others are using this as an example of why diversity hiring sucks (their words) and how they are glad the CEO cancelled everything. I had to gear about this all morning. I want to shake my boss because he isn’t even white. I can’t wait to get out of here. I wish the market here didn’t suck because I’ve been looking for almost 2 years but I need full time, I couldn’t survive on unemployment or part time. I was born and raised in this city and except for one cousin who lives and works abroad every relative I have lives in this city or within a one hour drive of it. No way I am leaving my family. It’s selfish but I just can’t. I just want to get out of here so I don’t need to listen to the stupidity like there was this morning. I didn’t even know what to say to push back.

    1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

      Ugh. For starters google does hire white men still … and double blind is great! I actually specifically request blind so that I am not biased in my hiring as much as possible. Google the won the lawsuit too so this is especially odd that they are using that lawsuit as an example of how what google did was wrong ….

      1. Michele*

        Not sure how Google could have won a lawsuit in that was just filed within the last day or so, unless I am misunderstanding the American legal system? I think you are confused or mixed up because the lawsuit was just filed.

        1. NJAnonymous*

          The NLRB ruled 2 weeks ago that Google did not violate federal law when it fired Damore, after Damore filed a complaint with them. Damore apparently withdrew his NLRB complaint and is now focusing on the class action lawsuit.
          Any legal eagles care to comment on the probability of the class action lawsuit even going forward?

          1. Michele*

            So the lawsuit Adam anon is talking about is brand new and has nothing to do with whoever or whatever Danmore is or the EEOC or class action. It is completely different. Link to follow in my next post.

                1. paul*

                  *If* what the lawsuit alleges is true it seems like it’s a slam dunk…but I have to admit to being hard pressed to think Google wouldn’t know better. Simply saying they won’t interview white males for class III jobs would be a textbook example of illegal discrimination.

                2. Nichelle*

                  I’m a women who is not white. I think AA and diversity hiring is important. I believe in diversity in the workplace 100%.

                  But it’s wrong for a company to refuse to interview people of a specific race and/or gender across the board. If the allegations are true it is not a terrible lawsuit at all. You can’t just tell your hiring people to disregard all people who are X across the board. If Google wanted to be more diverse that is not a problem and should be encouraged. But if they are doing it by refusing to interview white and Asian men that is wrong and illegal and Google has to be punished.

                3. Observer*

                  *IF* what the suit alleges is true, then they’ll almost certainly win. However, I suspect that it’s actually not true. It’s not at all difficult to cherry pick emails, or pieces of emails, to make it look like you have a case. We’ll see what happens when they get into court, though. TOTALLY different thing.

                  Given their employment numbers, the idea that Google is refusing to hire white men, though, is pretty absurd.

                4. Hey Nonnie*

                  Yeah, it’s hard to argue that Google isn’t hiring white men when the very high proportion of white men in their workforce hasn’t changed significantly in years. The proof is in the pudding, as they say.

                5. Autumnheart*

                  For a company that supposedly prides itself on innovation, it apparently can’t operate its HR department without fucking up spectacularly. First they’re under investigation for overwhelmingly preferring white and Asian men in both hiring and promoting, and pay disparity, and now they try to equalize their hiring diversity and do it in such a way that makes them a lawsuit magnet.

        2. Wendy Darling*

          It is one of many lawsuits against Google re: diversity issues so it’s not hard to get confused.

          I’m a member of a programming group that is made up of white men and tends to skew toward college students and recent grads, and I’m hoping they don’t go for another round of “white men are soooooo persecuted because Google wants to hire some people who aren’t white men” — they’ve done it before and if they do it again I’m gonna flip shit.

          1. Mike C.*

            Not that it’s your responsibility to, but if you do so I’ll certainly be rooting for you. Sometimes people need a slap in the face.

            1. RVA Cat*

              Yeah I’m picturing that looped video of Tyrion slapping Joffrey again and again and again….

    2. Reba*


      It’s not selfish to want to live where you want to live. Sorry you have to deal with that and good luck in your search!

      1. paul*

        amen to that. Having a preference on where to live isn’t bad or a sign that you’re selfish. It’s pretty normal. God knows most everyone I know has places they’d prefer to live and places they’d like to avoid living.

        1. Betsy*

          I completely agree. Having moved countries recently has made me realise how much support networks really matter. There’s this idea that everyone should be willing to move around all the time, but no real discussion about how bad moving all the time is for your relationships. I’ve moved around a little bit- four cities in 11 years. I don’t regret the first cities, but I honestly think my friendship networks and social supports are quite weak. Not many people have strong, supportive families, either, and to me, that’s worth a lot more than mobility.

    3. Britt*

      I just want to say that it’s not selfish that you don’t want to leave your family! I worked at a fortune 100 company across the US from my family, and realized I needed to move back to be closer (plus a toxic work environment didn’t help) If family is a core value to you – that’s so important to take into consideration!

    4. neverjaunty*

      These people are garbage fires, but you knew that. Hoping you find something else soon.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      These people are awful, and I’m so sorry you had to endure this. They also clearly have their heads up their asses.

      In my experience, groups like this make it almost impossible to ensure diversity in hiring, even if the organization says it’s committed to diversity at higher levels. I worked at a place like that, where a handful of our POC staff argued we should hire an underqualified straight white guy who had performed poorly in his panel interview (rude to the women on the panel, including the Exec. Director; said horrific things about the populations we served; etc.) because “white men are under-represented in the legal department.” [Cue my head exploding.]

      If people really don’t understand why AA and diversity hiring programs exist, or if they don’t believe that there are still structural barriers for women, people of color, etc., they will always undermine these efforts. I think the only option is to minimize your interaction with them, and to get out—but I think you know that. I’m really sorry :(

      1. Artemesia*

        It is easy for people rejecting white male applicants to make comments about ‘need for diversity’ to soften the rejection. I have personally known situations where men whined about not getting a job because ‘they had to hire a woman’ or ‘had to hire a minority’ where the actual person hired was in fact another white dude.

        1. copy run start*

          Yes. It’s never that there was a stronger candidate, it must always be because that person was a minority race or gender. As if a woman or PoC can’t possibly be a stronger candidate than them.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Right. And you never, ever hear these Chads whining when another white dude gets a job because of his connections. Merit? But Fergus is from my alma mater, bro! Merit is only for when they hire chicks!

    6. Optimistic Prime*

      I have a lot of thoughts about this but the allegation that Google doesn’t hire white men anymore is so absurd it’s laughable.

      I also don’t think blind hiring is the solution – for a variety of reasons, but mostly because blind hiring doesn’t actually change a company’s culture or the hiring team’s mindset to make them value diversity and practice inclusion. It’s great to hire a more diverse workforce, but the next problem on that ladder is retention – you’re going to lose all your diverse candidates if you haven’t done the work to ensure that your team is prepared to work with a diverse staff.

      I think blind auditions in a symphony orchestra is very different from blind processes in jobs where interaction and interpersonal skills are going to be necessary to measure.

      1. Former Employee*

        I heard that blind judging was started by the Metropolitan Opera many years ago to get the judges to focus on the voice/voice quality and not on the appearance of the singers.

        While I agree that interpersonal skills are important, there is so much bias towards people who look like the other people who already work there that I think the people who do the hiring end up being unintentionally biased against a candidate who looks very different from the current group.

        1. anonagain*

          I think that orchestras are a unique situation. It’s not clear to me what the curtain would be in more typical hiring scenarios.I know when we’ve had these discussions in my workplace, the instinct is to remove names from resumes, but is that enough?

          What if the applicant graduated from a women’s college? Or holds a leadership position in the National Society of Black Engineers? Or has publications/patents from over 20 years ago?

          How do you “blind” the people doing the hiring to the applicant’s demographic characteristics without also obscuring their qualifications?

          I worry that this kind of approach serves mostly to give the appearance of fairness and can lead to complacency. If an organization tries blind hiring and nothing changes so there’s no reason to look further at their recruiting, how they are assessing applicants, working conditions, etc.

    7. Jenny*

      This is no way addresses the issue you’re actually writing about… but I’m very curious about why you feel it’s selfish to stay in your current city?? Is staying someplace because you have family there more selfish than moving away for a better career option? I actually don’t see how a decision like this on where to live could be selfish, but a friend of mine said something similar recently, and it left me totally befuddled!

  3. She who has never baked a potato*

    I started a new job recently and my manager is the person who used to have this role. From my understanding she was something of a superstar in this job – she was promoted pretty quickly, and from what I’ve seen of her work (especially compared to that of other people at her level) I can certainly understand why.

    So far she’s been nothing but encouraging and helpful but I keep worrying that she’d judge me against ‘her’ standard, so every time I get feedback that something wasn’t done 100% correct the first time I freak out a little bit (despite her reassuring me she had similar issues when she first started). Even though I know it’s unrealistic to make zero mistakes when you’re new on the job (fresh out of university) but when your predecessor was so great, it’s hard not to try and match that (kind of like trying to live up to an overachieving older sibling I guess).

    So…how do I realign this mindset? Is there some way I can take advantage of having such a proficient manager instead of treating it like some kind of mental barrier? People complain about bad managers all the time so this seems like a ‘good’ problem to have, but it’s still something I need to get over!

    1. Freya*

      Managers don’t expect you to never ever make mistakes. That’s not what matters! What matter is that you’re listening to the feedback and not arguing or, like, throwing stuff. You don’t need to be perfect, just reflective and teachable. You’re good :)

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Ask her how she would like you to handle it if you make a mistake. Seriously, confront the concern head on.
      Generally, people how are superstars got to be superstars in part because of their ability to fix mistakes.

      I do realize that asking about any mistake ever is a big question. So I would ask about specific things from time to time. “Boss, I get concerned about running the X reports. I worry about mistakes a, b and c. Do you have any tips on how to prevent/correct those mistakes?” These types of questions can open conversation.
      Take one concern at a time and ask before you have problems.

      1. Reba*

        This is great advice that mirrors techniques for dealing with recurring anxious thoughts in general: don’t tell yourself (or your child, spouse etc) “Oh that thing you’re worried about will never happen!” The chorus continues, “but what if it does, what if it does”… Instead, talk through what you would do in the event that Thing happened. What would be the worst case, how would you deal, who would you call.

        You don’t want to do an emotional download on your boss, but I definitely think a conversation about mistakes and corrections (so, *not* about insecurity and her freakish performance) would do you good!

    3. Susan K*

      I totally understand how intimidating it can be to follow in the footsteps of someone great, but there are also some upsides. First, you aren’t inheriting a bunch of problems that you have to clean up. Also, you know what good looks like — you should have a lot of examples of your manager’s work to help guide you on how you should be doing it. Finally, you want to learn from the best, right? That means you are lucky to have someone so competent still around to show you the ropes.

    4. a-no*

      I always treat them like my guru, learn from them as much as you possibly can. Learn how she did it and why – then if you need to make changes make them as it’s now your job. I always loved having bosses that were promoted from the position I worked in as it means you have the ultimate resource right beside you and they’re usually very happy to pass on the little nuggets of information they learned in the time in the position giving you a bit of a head start if you listen and apply those nuggets.
      Also frame it the other way around, if you were promoted and hired someone you liked – how would you treat them? How much grace would you have for them? You’d have significant patience for growing pains as you understood what she was going through and the learning curve – it’s the same thing your manager is likely thinking.

    5. OtterB*

      Can you try approaching the job with more of a growth mindset (cf Carol Dweck). Making a mistake doesn’t mean you have revealed yourself to be an ignorant screwup impostor. It means you have now learned something that will make you even better at your job and move you in the direction of being the superstar your boss became in the role.

    6. Turquoisecow*

      Sometimes, the “superstar” title is earned with a little bit of hindsight. An employee starts out as an average newbie and eventually gets good at their job, and when they leave their job, all anyone remembers is the part where they were awesome, not the beginning weeks or months where they struggled. Even if your boss spent less time struggling, there was still a period where she was new and not a superstar.

      As for positives, having a boss who actually has done your job can be a major asset. I’ve had bosses who knew no more than I did about how to do the job when I started – they knew what I was supposed to do, but no idea about the day to day processes that involved. And in a lot of cases, it was hard to figure out how to do those things, because there was no one else in my exact role. Leverage your boss’s actual experience as much as possible. I’m sure she doesn’t expect you to know everything immediately, and won’t think you’re stupid for asking – and it’s better to ask.

      I’ve never been a boss, but I have been a trainer, and sometimes I’ve had people act VERY apologetic for asking what they perceived to be stupid questions. My philosophy is that it’s better to ask then to do it wrong and then possibly need to spend more time fixing the error.

      1. Specialk9*

        Asking dumb questions on occasion is a superhero trait. The biggest freaking cluster of a project I ever dealt with was because the PM refused to act dumb questions – he didn’t want to let on that he didn’t know everything so he pretended he knew everything. After everything feel apart, I took over and asked the dumb question every time I wasn’t sure, and pulled it out (slightly mangled but reparable) from the garbage disposal.

        1. Turquoisecow*

          Oh, the “I don’t want anyone to know I don’t know everything type!” Those are the best. Like, dude, no one expects you to know everything. And even if you don’t admit it, we all know you don’t.

          Don’t be that guy.

    7. Jadelyn*

      It might help to remind yourself that she wouldn’t have hired you if she didn’t think you could do the job. So maybe that will help your confidence.

    8. Mission Accomplished*

      Even superstars make mistakes. What makes them great is how they handle it when they do. Can you treat this as a great opportunity to learn from your manager how best to handle things?

      1. Turquoisecow*

        Yes! Mistakes happen. Sometimes things happen that are beyond your control. Superstar doesn’t mean you have great luck, just that you can deal with stuff when it breaks. And some of that just comes with experience.

    9. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      In the jobs I hire for, there is a LOT to learn and it is a very steep learning curve. I look for enthusiasm to learn and grow, initiative, and strategic thinking. I know there are going to be mistakes. I remind my newer staff who are in your shoes that it took me many years to get the knowledge I have now, even if it sort of appears I ascended quickly.

    10. Trout 'Waver*

      As you point out, your manager is encouraging and helpful, because she remembers all the mistakes she made when she was new.

      You have a manager who understands the challenges of your work and supports you. You’re on the same trajectory she was on when she was in your spot. That means, with your continued effort, you will be at where she is now eventually. You’re ahead of the curve!

      1. Freya*

        And you’re having the same struggles she had. Not different ones. This actually bodes well if you think about it.

    11. EA in CA*

      She hired you, which is a huge compliment to how she views your ability to do the job you are hired to do. I have recruited for my replacement before and let me tell you, my standards were a bit higher than the other of the recruitment committee because I knew all aspects the role entailed, especially all the stuff that would be listed under “other duties as required”. So the fact you made it through the hiring process and was successful is a big achievement.

      It’s going to take you a good 6 months to feel comfortable and confident in your role. You are going to make mistakes. Hell, I am 10 years in to my career and I still make mistakes. It’s how you handle them that is really key. Flagging when you make a mistake and then proactively taking action to correct it is part of a highly valued work ethic/skill. And having that confidence will take some time. I still struggle with controlling my need for perfection and ensuring that I will never make a mistake. It comes from wanting to ever let the people who rely on me down. It seems you are in the same place. Mistakes will happen and most of the time, what I would consider 80% perfection is someone elses 100%.

      Just remind yourself, you cannot compare yourself to her. Her experiences are hers alone, you have to develop your own. It’s great to have someone understanding mentor you and help you succeed in the role. And it seems like she is really trying to support you as you learn the responsibilities. Having a conversation to outline clearly the expectations of milestones she wants to see you achieve as you learn the role may help. Anytime I enter a new role, I sit down with my manager/supervisor/trainer to establish clear and concise what is needed to be successful in the first 3 months, 6 months, year.

  4. Irene Adler*

    Lil help here, please!

    I’d like to assemble a list of behavioral interview questions. Can folks add a few to my list please?

    You know the kind:
    Tell me about a time when you had to work with someone with a difficult personality. How did you make this work?
    Tell me about a time when you had a disagreement with a co-worker.
    Tell me about a time when you could not make a deadline.
    You get the idea.

    Reason I’m requesting this:
    These are the questions I do poorly on during interviews. My brain has trouble conjuring up a situation to answer these questions. So, I’m left with nothing to say except I can’t recall anything (maybe there’s some level of anxiety at play here).
    (Yes, I know about the STAR method to answer these questions. But that is predicated on having a situation to talk about in the first place!)
    So, I’m building an extensive list to practice with. I know I can’t anticipate all possible questions. IJust hoping that practicing will help lessen my anxiety with these questions.
    Thank you so much for your help!

      1. fposte*

        And its complement, tell me about a time you took individual responsibility for a project.

      2. Hannah with an H*

        “There was this time that I was asked to organize a weekly sex club with two other people …”

    1. copier queen*

      Tell me about a time when you had to complete a large project. How did you stay organized? How did you meet deadlines?

      1. copier queen*

        Also, tell me about a time when a client/customer was dissatisfied. What steps did you take to assist them?

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Why not tell the candidate BEFORE they come in for the interview what to expect? Not necessarily the exact questions but indicate that you will be asking for examples of stuff from previous jobs so they can start to think about what they would like to talk about.

      1. Irene Adler*

        Wonderful and sensible way to handle an interview! I was blindsided with an interview that consisted of 20-24 behavioral questions. This was the first interview. No questions about skills, interest in the position, or my background etc. Just “Tell me about a time when…”
        Needless to say, I failed the interview miserably.

        1. kmb*

          Is it unusual for interviews to be mainly behavioral? Of course some questions about interest in the position would make sense, but if I want to know about someone’s skills, I want to know how and when they used them.

          When you answer the more general questions, do specific examples come to mind while you’re thinking about it (Like if they asked you, “how are your Excel skills” and you were thinking “oh they’re very good, I can do these things”, in your mind you also have like “yeah I built that awesome report two years ago …”)? If that were the case, maybe you could re-structure your answers (and give the interviewer a heads up that this is the best way for you to think through this) where you take the core skill of the “tell me about a time when” (like teamwork or autonomy) and you start talking about your aptitude for it in general, which could give you a way to get to your memories about using that skill without trying to call the specific instances up cold, and then you can add “for example, two years ago I lead of team of cats to victory at a sheepdog trials by doing X, Y and Z things”

          I can totally understand it being aggravating if your memory just doesn’t work that way, but everyone wants concrete examples so that’s what they ask for, so maybe you can wire your answers to make it easier to remember those things.

      2. KitKat*

        I did this sometimes, especially for entry level jobs. It was actually really helpful because I could easily dismiss candidates who ummed their way through questions I told them ahead of time I would ask, instead of wondering if I should give them the benefit of the doubt. And good candidates had much better answers!

    3. Penny pen pen*

      Tell me about a time you received feedback on something you hadn’t realised you had done wrong. How did you respond?

      Tell me about a time you intentionally stepped out of your comfort zone to learn something new.

      Tell me about a time

    4. KitKat*

      Some that I’ve heard or ask myself:
      Tell me about a time when your manager gave you feedback that you didn’t agree with
      Tell me about a time when you had to learn a new skill/task very quickly
      Tell me about a time when you failed or felt you had made a huge mistake
      Tell me about something you’re proud of accomplishing
      Tell me about a time when you had to work with a diverse group of people
      Tell me about a time when you had to work with multiple internal/external stakeholders to get something done

      1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

        I’m curious – what is your goal with the first question?

        My answer would be. I smile, thank them for the feedback, and reflect on it more later.

        Honestly the real answer is, unless it’s something like do X instead of Y I ignore the feedback if I disagree. This is usually when a manager tells me something like “You were wrong to feel A”. Also if it’s something that is legally wrong like – do X instead of Y and Y is legally required I would bump it up. Not sure what that tells you about me as a worker though.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Re that last, it tells me that you are the type to keep an eye out for compliance issues on your own rather than blindly doing as you’re told, and you’re not afraid to push back if you see things getting into shady legal territory, which is good.

          If you just answered with the “thank them and reflect later” bit, I’d have follow-up questions for you about “Okay, once you reflected on it, what did you do?” and “What changed about how you handle [whatever issue you’ve described as the feedback thing] after that?” because I’m trying to get a sense of what actual concrete results came from giving you feedback.

          The point is to figure out if you’re going to be the kind of employee who gracefully accepts course-corrections and is willing to listen, or if you’re going to be that PITA who ignores feedback and does what you want regardless of what you’re told, so the manager ends up either having to just let you do what you want or having to fire you. Because I think we can all understand why the latter is a situation hiring managers would rather avoid.

          1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

            I would not answer honestly if you probed more. I may say, well it depends on the feedback. And then use the compliance example. But yeah if you are just trying to get me to say “I ignore feedback” I’m not going to admit to is. The answer is “I ignore feedback that trys to tell me how to feel about a situation” but an interview is not a place where we can dig down that nuanced and it not come across like I am bashing a supervisor.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Well, and that’s your choice – but I imagine many hiring managers/interviewers will be able to pick up on some things not being said, whether they get exactly what is going unsaid, or just that you’re being evasive.

              But in the end that’s just an inherent weakness in the interview system of making hiring decisions, regardless of what you ask – people can lie. It doesn’t make the questions themselves worthless, however.

              1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

                I disagree – the question phrasing really is important. And it’s not a lie to simply not bring up an item that you know will look bad without 20 minutes of context. I think Terra Firma’s 1st question below is a much better way to phrase the question if you are really wanting to understand how someone responds to feedback. In general it’s a never a good idea to put anyone on the defensive if you want the truth. I would ask for example: “Tell me about a time you lied to an employee about raises” that’s just not going to get honest or helpful results.

        2. KitKat*

          I usually only ask that when someone has answered previous questions about teamwork with multiple stories about how they disagreed with a coworker and they were right and the coworker was wrong. Basically if I’m getting the sense that the person can be adversarial and doesn’t like to reconsider their position, I will either ask that question or will straight up ask them to share about a time when they realized they were wrong about something.

        3. Queen of the File*

          I’m not KitKat, and I’m not a hiring manager, but if I asked a question like that I would probably want to get some clues about how a person responds to criticism or negative feedback (or even ‘do X instead of Y’ corrections). Depending on the scenario… did they ask for more information, or reflect on it, so they understood where the feedback was coming from? Did they examine the situation to re-evaluate their thinking or actions? Did they argue/defend? Did they ignore it? Do they seem disproportionately upset or angry retelling the story? Did they take steps to change? Why or why not?

          1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

            To me – how you handle feedback is VERY DIFFERENT than – how did you handle a time you disagreed with feedback? There is a difference between – DIluted you need to improve X type feedback. Which I take and do vs “Diluted you shouldn’t be upset I left you locked outside in the cold two hours.” One feedback I ignore – the other I don’t – and your question makes me think of the second and not the former type situation.

      2. Anon for this*

        That question could be fairly uncomfortable for someone who’s coming out of a job where they’ve had a personality conflict with their manager, or if they’ve recently dealt with an abusive manager. Someone in that situation may have a difficult time coming up with an honest and good example of taking feedback well because they’re receiving even necessary feedback in an abusive way.

        1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

          Yes exactly. I worked for a bully – I ignored a lot of her feedback. That doesn’t make me a stubborn never listens to feedback type – in fact I have recently been complimented at how great I am at taking feedback and how I am an asset to the team because I help garner support at a peer-to-peer level for unpopular changes. I like Terra Firma’s question below much better than the 1st of KitKats to delve into feedback.

          1. Anon for this*

            Yeah, I worked for someone who provided feedback that I would have been able to respond to comfortably had it not been for their aggressive delivery and random personal attacks thrown in the mix. It’s a situation that tricked me into thinking I was some entitled arrogant ass who couldn’t take criticism well because I’d lost perspective.

            Thinking of the interviews I had when looking for my next job, the behavioural questions were less about how I reacted to feedback, but more about how I handled not meeting a client’s or stakeholder’s expectations. Somehow that subtle difference was enough to keep me from tapping into experiences that would have have painted me in a negative light.

        2. Legal Beagle*

          Even a personality/culture mismatch can create this situation. I was once given feedback (by a boss I liked and respected) that I was being perceived as unfriendly for not saying individual “good mornings” to everyone in the office. (I was not a front desk admin or the greeter for the office in any way, and other people didn’t say good morning to me when they passed my office on their way in, so I didn’t even realize this was an expectation.) I thought it was ridiculous but I just said ok because it wasn’t worth arguing about, and then ignored it because I wasn’t going to stop in 10 separate offices every morning to interrupt people’s work for a basic greeting. Ended up leaving that job a few months later and my boss gave me a great reference, so who knows!

      3. Still personable*

        Tell me about a time when your manager gave you feedback that you didn’t agree with:

        I was told it seemed like I had “confidence problems” during an annual review by my outgoing, obnoxious boss because I’m “too shy”. First, I can be shy sometimes but shyness and introversion (what I actually am) are completely different. Introverted people are definitely NOT lacking confidence. I’m quiet at times but am also very chatty with colleagues and clients too. I carry myself professionally and politely but I am just quiet by nature. I definitely know how to perform when I need to. In fact, I spoke to a group of 300+ people months earlier at my department’s conference after only being prepped for about 15 minutes. I did great and my colleagues were really happy for me, especially since most said they would have been too anxious. And for someone who used to be close to tears in high school before presenting, I consider this to be one of my biggest accomplishments.

        The “lack of confidence” comment upset me at first because it reflected on what I’ve always been told as a kid for being too shy. Then, I reminded myself of all of the times I went into social situations with anxiety and I didn’t show it. People love to pick on “flaws” they think make someone else seem inferior. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being shy, quiet, introverted, etc. You just can’t let your doubts or anxiety consume your thoughts.

        I am slowly learning that you can’t take ever comment or criticism to heart because there will always be someone dissatisfied with you and they’ll try to use it to make you forget your strong qualities. : ) And what a boss says to me about MY being doesn’t change how I see myself. Someone’s subjective opinion is just their own reflection of their reality. It doesn’t mean anything unless you buy into it.

        1. Specialk9*

          Good for you! Presenting to 300 people with only minutes to prepare? Yeah you’re killing this.

          People who are not healthy or appropriate themselves are not generally good judges of others, but they seem uniquely inclined to speak up often and loudly so it can be hard to dismiss them.

    5. Terra Firma*

      Tell me about a time you received feedback on an area of development. What steps did you take to learn and improve?
      Tell me about a time you exceeded a target or goal.
      Describe a time you had to work with other members of your team or wider network to achieve a common goal.
      Give me an example of a time you’ve challenged yourself to be the very best at something.
      Describe a situation where you had to manage multiple priorities under tight timelines or circumstances.

      1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

        I like #1 so much better than the “Tell me a time you disagreed with feedback question”.

    6. Britt*

      I would suggest working on the anxiety part – because I think that could definitely be at play here. When I get an anxious moment in an interview – I know I “blank” and I loose all train of thought. And I know how much I hate it and worry about it happening.
      To work on it – I now bring a notepad into the interview. I quickly write down notes about the question so I can refer back to it if I’m talking too long, or get stuck. It’s also OK to ask for a few seconds to compose your thoughts. also! practice talking slower, so you have a bit more time to think about what you are saying… good luck!

    7. Jubilance*

      A Google search for common behavioral interview questions will also get you a lot of results which you can use to practice beforehand. I always do this before an interview, and I write out my answers in the STAR format and then practice them outloud.

      1. Leela*

        awesome, I bet you ace the interviews! I use to work in hiring and I can’t tell you how many meandering or non-answer answers I’d get.

        “tell me about a time you had a conflict at work.”
        “I never have”

        It is much appreciated when a candidate has something to answer with and especially in a format I can use easily. We never (at least I didn’t) ask these questions to catch people off guard; we were expecting that they’d either know these offhand or look up common interview questions

    8. Naptime Enthusiast*

      Tell me about a time you encountered a problem with a project, what was the issue and how did you resolve it?

      1. straws*

        Yes, we use a similar question: Tell me about a time you disagreed with how a project or process was being handled. How did it make you feel, and how did you handle the situation?

        1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

          I like this question, minus the how did you feel part . (Why do feelings matter? It’s actions that count?)

          In general I think it’s a bad move to put people on the defensive though – like tell me a time you disagreed with your boss or your bosses feedback. That’s just awkward phrasing and would feel like you are fishing me to bash my company/supervisor. If I was asked – tell about a time you disagreed with a process – I can answer that. Or tell me about a time you received critical feedback – I can answer that. Without feeling baited.

          1. aNon*

            Diluted – You come across kind of defensive in a lot of these responses. As someone who conducts interviews regularly, I do want to hear about how you felt during a disagreement. Because yes, actions count but I also want to hear if you were frustrated or upset in dealing with a coworker (which is normal) and if so, did your actions reflect your frustration or did you stay professional. And if I’m asking about a time you disagreed with your boss, I want to hear that you aren’t a yes-person who will agree with anything. I want to hear you will bring your own mind to the job and not just be a robot who agrees with everything. Especially if the boss says or does something stupid or unethical.

            All of these questions have been really good and I’m not sure why you are disagreeing with so many of them. Are you going to tell someone in an interview that their question is poorly phrased? Probably not. So it’s good to see the questions people are asking regardless of if you think it is well-phrased because you are still going to see them regularly.

            1. Phoenix Programmer*

              I think it’s important to remember that hiring is a two way street. It’s important to not phrase questions that will turn off the best candidates.

              For what it’s worth I would be turned off if an interviewer asked me how I felt after disagreeing with my boss too. It just puts weighted assumptions and emotions in a place where it does not belong in my opinion.

              I have participated in about 6 hiring decisions and we never asked any questions about feelings or boss disagreements. We do ask questions like “tell us a time you worked with a difficult coworker” and similar variations. We also ask for them to tell us a about a time they received critical feedback.

    9. Bostonian*

      Instead of (or in addition to) trying to anticipate any possible question that might come up and preparing/memorizing an answer to it (you pointed out yourself that you couldn’t possibly think of every potential question!), I strongly suggest also trying the “what color is your parachute” approach.

      Write out (yes, actually write this stuff out) details about your job, your skills, your achievements, with specific examples, and be really comfortable with them. Any question you can be potentially asked is going to draw from this information. This includes:

      -skills you have and have used in your current position (and past positions/volunteer/other work, if applicable)
      -for every skill, list 1-2 examples of how you use that skill in your current work
      -everything you like about your current job (the work, the environment, culture)
      -everything you dislike about your current job
      -how you like to be managed/what type of management allows you to thrive (think of specific managers you’ve had in the past and what has or has not worked)
      -your top 3 or so achievements in your current role (with details about process and any collaboration with others)
      -the top 3 or so challenges you’ve faced (again, with details of process and outcome)

      Good luck!

    10. MoreCheesePlease*

      One thing that’s helped me is taking the opposite approach to preparing: think of 3-4 projects that you are proud of and list out which “categories” they could be applied to.
      For example, if you were the lead llama groomer for the state llama competition and you did an outstanding job, you probably have examples of organizing groups, working with difficult people, quality control, project management, etc. Etc.
      I do try to have at least two different projects that I discuss during an interview but they don’t all have to be unique! I’ve said something like “oh yes, I have had to manage difficult stakeholders! In the example that I just mentioned about quality control (where we won best llama grooming team) there was a VP of alpaca grooming that wanted us to die the llamas pink. I did blah blah blah, which helped her feel better about my decision to stick with naturally colored llamas.

      1. nep*

        Similar approach helps me. I get a bit overwhelmed thinking of the number of possible questions. Instead I think of some good ‘stories’ — some work experiences that I can flesh out well and that can potentially address one or more questions or demonstrate one or more traits.
        (Now to get to the interview stage…)

        1. NK*

          This is the advice I always give too. Recall a handful of work stories that are rich with detail and complexity, and then based on the question, you can tell the angle of the story that applies.

        2. Betsy*

          That sounds like good advice. I tend to do the worst on behavioural questions. I didn’t do so well on one recently, because I struggled to think of a conflict I’d had in a research situation (until after the interview). I usually use a teaching situation when going for other roles, because there are generally a few difficult students to deal with, even if you have great classes overall.

          For government positions, I was actually given feedback that, while I had answered the behavioural questions clearly, the situations I’d presented really didn’t speak to my strengths as much as they could have.

      2. Tau*

        I also do this. I come up with a bunch of projects, events, experiences, etc. that I wouldn’t mind talking about in an interview and think show me in a good light. Then for behavioural questions, instead of trying to dig through my entire professional history (which is just not something that works for me) I just go through the different stories for the one that fits best. I try to have a bunch so I don’t have to use the same one twice, and try to have a diverse range of things to cover the various questions people ask. (E.g.: not just things that went flawlessly, because a lot of behavioural questions are specifically about conflict and failure.)

        1. Irene Adler*

          Bless you for writing this! This is exactly what I’m trying to accomplish. But, I needed questions -such as the ones posted- to assist me on thinking these up. I needed help with the conflict/failure ones. I tend to take the lesson and tuck the memory away for these sort of experiences.

      3. Windchime*

        Side note: I actually went to a horse grooming competition at the state level. My team won.

        Carry on.

    11. Future Analyst*

      Tell me about a time your manager asked you to do something you disagreed with (not unethical, just related to workflow or process), and how you handled that.

      1. Baggage claim*

        I was told to carry a heavy, 15 lb package of equipment (we do events) on a 6 hour cross country flight because in past years our packages had be lost by the post office en route to our conferences. The package would have been my carry-on “luggage” and it looked suspicious too (it was for a game show and had wires and buttons that obviously looked like it could be dangerous).

        So, I told my manager this made me uncomfortable because it looked suspicious and could possibly get me into unwanted issues with the TSA. I told my manager I’d ship it with a tracking number to our conference. My manager (has a habit of roping people into corners to make them uncomfortable) didn’t seem happy with this suggestion and tried to press me but I put my foot down as professionally and politely as possible. Maybe it made me not look like a team player but I refuse to risk my security, especially since flying can be nerve-racking even without these issues. I’m NOT responsible if the post office previously lost packages and I’m not a courier either. The package arrived to the venue perfectly fine too.

    12. paul*

      How do you react to stressful situations? Give us an example of a situation you found stressful and how you handled it.

      IDK how common that is, but it’s one I know we ask.

    13. A. D. Kay*

      Here’s one I got recently: Tell me about a time you had to make a big decision. The interviewers wanted me to walk through my decision-making process, etc.

    14. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      What are 3 work values that you believe are important to have and please give an example where you demonstrated each of them

    15. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Tell me about a time when you had to work with people you did not agree with. What was the outcome?

      This next one may not be as helpful, but we ask it because we’re in legal services, so there’s high stakes but also a tendency toward perfectionism, and it helps us better understand the candidate:
      Would you prefer to be micromanaged, or to fail? Why?

      1. NewJobWendy*

        That’s a great question. I’m curious, but are you looking for a particular answer? (I know what my answer would be! :)

    16. Trout 'Waver*

      The 3 I always ask: (I’m in a STEM field)

      1. Tell me about a time you had to communicate a technical concept to a non-technical person.
      2. Tell me about a time you had to quickly shift priorities. How did you respond?
      3. Tell me about a time you had to make a decision without 100% confidence.

    17. NW Mossy*

      One I ask because it’s very germane to the roles I hire for: Tell me about a time when you had competing priorities and couldn’t get everything done in the expected turnaround time – how did you decide what to do or not do, and how did you communicate that to others?

      I look for people who recognize the need to prioritize effectively and who can show good judgment in what they choose to do, as well as people who can push back on requests that aren’t reasonable or appropriate. Someone who answers this question with “I just work longer to get it all done” is someone who’s going to flounder in an environment like ours where the supply of work to do is basically unending but it isn’t all equally valuable work.

    18. NewJobWendy*

      When I interview, I always ask: “Tell me about a time you solved a problem at work.”

      What I’m looking for in their answer is to demonstrate their ability to think about work, business processes, and taking initiative. One of the best answers I ever received was (summarized) “The company was paying for a shuttle bus to / from public transit stop and the office but not many people used it. I did a bunch of research and we discovered if we switched to Uber we’d save $6,000 a year.”

      The worst response I got was “In basic training someone collapsed during a run and we tried to save him but he died.”

      The first answer is great because the person gave a detailed answer that shows they pay attention (noticing not many people use the service) and they can generate ideas (asking to research alternatives) and see them through to a final solution (making a proposal to the appropriate decision maker).

      The worst answer was bad because handling an emergency that’s happening right in front of you is not always the same thing as problem solving, and it’s a little bit heavy for an interview. It was pretty hard to transition from “I watched someone die in front of me” to the next interview question.

      So give some thought to what you’re answer is actually communicating about you and about how you work / interact with people /shows off your skills etc.

      Practicing is really great! Also, before interviews (like the day before or a few hours before) I always write myself some notes so if I’m IN the interview and draw a blank, I can look at my list. Just cliff’s notes like:

      Problem Solving – big excel project X, array formulas
      Leadership – organizing monthly training
      Saving money – implemented annual vendor review process

      Just a few key situations or accomplishments to prevent brain freeze.

    19. Q*

      Tell me about a time you were in a stressful situation and how you handled it.
      Tell me about a time you were having difficulties with a group you were working with.

    20. Ann Furthermore*

      Have you ever been asked to do something you felt was unethical? If so, how did you handle it?

      Tell me about a time when you disagreed with a co-worker (or boss). How did you handle it?

    21. Brett*

      I like picking specific technologies out of their resume that they are looking for, and probe for their understanding of the pros and cons of that technology. I couple this with their ability to speak out and persuade on technical decisions.
      “On this project, you choose to use this specific technology. Tell me about how that choice was made and what you considered in making that choice. How did you/your team convince other stakeholders that this was the correct choice?”
      Or “In this project, you moved from an existing technology to a new technology. Tell me why the decision was made to make that transition and what you considered in choosing the new technology to move to. How did you/your team convince stakeholders that you needed to use the effort to move from an established technology?”

      Another one I like is, “In job x, it sounds like you worked in a team. How did you divide up tasks and responsibilities in that team? What was your most common role in the team?” … “How did your team make decisions? What role did you most frequently take on in team decision making?” … “Tell me about how your team interfaced with stakeholders, whether internal to your organization or external clients? What interactions did you handle in your team’s relationship to outside teams?”

    22. designbot*

      How do you handle it when a client insists you do something you are sure is a bad idea?

    23. Totally Minnie*

      I think everyone else has listed some really great questions, but I wanted to chime in to say that if you can’t think of an answer to the question, it’s okay to answer in a hypothetical. So if you’re asked “Tell us about a time when a customer you were working with got upset,” and you don’t have a story to tell, don’t just say “that’s never happened to me before” as the entirety of your answer.

      The point of these kinds of questions is for the interviewer to get an idea of what kind of employee you will be, and how you will react in some relatively common circumstances. So it’s absolutely okay if you say “I can’t think of a time when that has happened, but based on my experience in similar situations, I would respond by (describe how you think you would deal with that situation).” That way, at least the interviewer has gained some solid information about you as a person that might translate to what you would be like as an employee.

    24. Kiwi*

      We’re interviewing people next week, so this is very timely!

      I think this kind of question can be split into a few super-questions:
      – how you deal with people – teamwork, difficult coworkers, difficult clients
      – how you deal with difficult situations – ethically-questionable tasks, screw-ups, decisions you disagree with, failing projects
      – how you deal with pressure – conflicting priorities, impossible deadlines, being put on the spot
      – how you deal with new situations
      – how you solve problems

      Maybe you’d find it helpful to list examples of projects or jobs for each of these categories.

    25. Irene Adler*

      Wow everyone! I’m overwhelmed.
      My heartfelt thanks for all the responses! AND, for including the thought processes I could follow to help answer these behavioral questions.

      I’m copying down everything you folks wrote.

  5. Leaving*

    Today is my last day at a job I disliked. I start my new job on Monday. I thought I would feel… happier?

    How long did it take you to shake off the stress from your old (awful) job and relax into your new (better) one?

      1. Windchime*

        Yeah. Almost a year for me. And I still had a bad attack of nerves just today when I drove past that office on my way to lunch. I had to remind myself that is in the past and it doesn’t help me to dwell on it any longer. But yeah, it takes awhile to recover from a stressful work situation.

    1. Katarina*

      About 6 months before I felt like a human again. A bit longer to get my confidence back.

    2. Muriel Heslop*

      It took me 6-8 months to really feel like myself again. Good luck! Congrats on the new job!

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      It took a very long time for me, and I’m still working on it, to be honest. I had four months of unemployment during which I did a lot of “refreshing”, but once I started my new job, I realized I still had a long way to go. My prior job was stressful and killed my self-esteem. Some days I still get those twinges, but I’ve been here over a year and the “omg I’m going to be fired” feelings are much less frequent.

      In other words, YMMV. :) I kind of wish you had given yourself some time off to recharge, but that isn’t feasible for everyone. Just take in all of the information you can, take a lot of deep breaths, and know that the first few weeks are going to be exhausting but you will be fine!

        1. Green Goose*

          I think since you are starting a new job right away there may be stressors about that (new jobs are always a bit stressful at the start) that are overlapping with the feelings from your current job and might be blurring together.

          I had a seasonal job that I hated for about five months and I was planning on working there for six months but I had to get out of there. That relief was pretty immediate because I had a month off in between gigs, but as long as your new job is better, I bet that once you are more familiar with the new role and company you’ll notice that there is no more residual stress from Awful Job.

          Good luck!

          1. Betsy*

            +1 I’m in a similar situation and this helps me to understand it too. I hadn’t really taken into account that starting a new job can be stressful, and I need to move countries too.

      1. Tax Nerd*

        (I am finally watching The Wire on HBO GO, and can I just say that I love this user name now that I get it?)

    4. Seal*

      My first job out of college started out well but within a few years became an absolute cesspool of incompetent management and rampant bullying, much of which was aimed at me. Both because this was a job that supported my outside artistic activities and because I was too demoralized to job hunt due to the ongoing bullying, I wound up sticking it out far longer than I should have – almost 13 years. When I finally got up the nerve to leave – without another job lined up, mind you – I felt a combination of relief and panic. After all, awful though it was, there was some warped comfort in the know versus the unknown. I actually cried all the way out to my car on my last day.

      I was fortunate enough to be able to take the entire summer off, which helped immensely. Then I took a temp job that turned out to be awful for different reasons that my previous job, but it gave me perspective. Still, it wasn’t until I got another permanent job almost a year later in the same field that I have originally left that I was truly able to shake off the stress from my old job. Again, perspective.

      1. Leaving*

        I totally hear you about the known vs unknown! Funny how the brain works. Relief and panic… yeah.

    5. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

      I’d also say 6-8 months. Previous boss was an irrational micromanager and it took a long time for me to recalibrate my settings so I wasn’t bothering my team lead to tell her I was going to the bathroom, and stop walking on eggshells when I had legitimate concerns to bring up to my manager.

      I feel you – I also was not as excited as I’d expected to be when I escaped OldJob. There’s was just this weird unease, waiting for the other shoe to drop and reveal that the new place was just as bad as the old place – or maybe even worse! It took much longer than I thought to trust what I was seeing – that my new company was a much better fit and that my new manager was one of the most outstanding supervisors I’ve ever had the privilege to work for.

      1. DC*

        The whole “other shoe” thing is exactly what I’m waiting for right now, when I start my new job in a week. It’s nice to hear that sometimes it’s just the bleed-over stress from the old place.

        1. Future Analyst*

          Yes– this a good thing to remember, and to acknowledge the feeling without deciding it must be true.

    6. crying at work is fun!*

      I had a really horrible job during the recession that I left pretty quickly. It still took at least a year to get over the workPTSD. (Ask A Manager really helped me re-align some of my worldview to understand just how horrible and not-okay things were; I’d blamed myself for a lot of it.)

    7. Vivien*

      A month working for the family business and then I was hired as a temp to replace a on-leave employee. They decided to leave the position entirely so I was hired on after 6 months. The stress was mostly gone within that time because of the giant step down. I went from being the director to a receptionist. I still have little tics left over from the previous job (certain notification sounds make my stomach drop, for instance.) I have since been given responsibilities of about the same caliber now (I am still working the front desk, but now I’m in charge of several large aspects of the business), and I do not have the same stress reactions as before.

      1. Queen of Cans & Jars*

        OMG, I worked at a job once where the phone ringing sent me into a panic because it was usually someone calling to chew me out. :(

    8. anonym*

      I’m at 2+ years removed from the toxic job, and honestly, I still can’t even find the motivation to start looking for a new job because I’m so dispirited from the whole experience.

    9. Leaving*

      Oh wow, that was not was I was expecting. I’ll have to re-calibrate my expectations. :/ I just thought I would start feeling better right away.

      1. Not a Morning Person*

        It really depends on so many factors! You will feel better and it may be shorter or longer than what others are advising based on their personal experiences. It may also be that there are things that feel better right away and others that take more time. Look for those better things during your first days and weeks and then make sure to remind yourself of them when you have some of that old job-related PTSD. Also, learning a new role and a new company may have the the impact of sometimes wishing you were back in the role you were doing because it was a role and a place you knew…let that fool you! Even when the old job was horrible, change can be uncomfortable and have us longing for the former life only because it is what we knew and got used to. Do what you can to take care of yourself during your first few weeks and months. Eat well, get enough sleep, spend time with people who love and support you. That helps. Good luck and congratulations on your new job!

          1. Leaving*

            Thank you! That’s great advice. The “better the devil you know” attitude is what kept me here for so long.

      2. NewJobWendy*

        Don’t forget that starting a new job is stressful too, even if it’s good stress! So “better” can be a relative term? I changed jobs about 6 months ago and am still dealing with some residual stress and other emotional stuff, but my new job allows me to get more sleep so I ALSO feel so much better physically and am therefore much able to cope with the new / different stress in my life. So you might find you DO feel better fairly immediately, but that may not mean “not stressed.”

        1. Leaving*

          Good point! I know it takes ~6 months to settle in to a new job, but I didn’t think of it in terms of stress.

    10. SparklingStars*

      A full year – but things were REALLY bad and I had been there for 6+ years. Hopefully it will be easier for you!

    11. DC*

      This post is really timely, and something I’ve been worried about all week. Thanks for asking so others can see it, and know you’re not alone!

      1. Leaving*

        I’m glad it helped you too! I’ve noticed a lot of recent posts have been timely for me. It’s great to have this community. :)

    12. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      1.5 years, but I was working at a toxic job and had all sorts of post-work head-f***ed-up-ness. For a job I simply disliked, about 3-6 months before I felt comprehensively happier.

      If the lack of happiness lingers, it may make sense to try out counseling? I’m kind of a therapy evangelist —I think everyone needs a safe, “neutral” place to share their feelings, regardless of any underlying mental health “problem.” But I also find that in periods of stress/transition, it can help to have someone who can listen and help you reframe or identify what may be causing that lingering stress.

      1. Leaving*

        I haven’t had any luck with therapy. I’ve tried multiple counselors over the years but I always seem to feel worse, not better.

        1. Specialk9*

          I also am a therapy advocate. But it took me 5 therapists to find one I clicked with.

          1. Windchime*

            Same here, I’ve had therapists who were too clinical, one who was too cavalier, and some that let me flounder for months with no progress. The one that helped me the most was the one who listened to me and said, “Yeah, your reaction is totally normal for someone in that situation and I agree that you should try to find a different job.” She validated me, let me know that my reactions were appropriate, and helped me formulate a game plan. She was supremely helpful and I only saw her 5 or 6 times.

    13. Bea*

      A week. After a week at my new job I realized all the differences and stress gradually slipped away after that.

      You’re busy learning and creating a new work life. You will be okay.

      I’m sorry you’re not happier but understand. I danced out the door my last day but I was dreaming of dancing on the grave of that shhthole.

      1. Leaving*

        Haha! I thought I felt that way, but I’m feeling surprisingly anxious about leaving. I did not expect to!

    14. ginkgo*

      Solidarity – it’s my last day at a job I hate, too (though I was laid off and am leaving without anything else lined up). This definitely falls under “good problems to have,” but I have a phone interview on Monday and a multi-hour in-person interview on Wednesday for two great companies I’d love to work for, and I just feel too burnt out! This company kept me around for five weeks after the layoff decision was made and I’m literally just coming in and playing games on my phone at this point. My attitude right now is terrible and I don’t want that to come through in my interviews. I wish I had just one week to veg and recover.

      Anyway, please do something nice for yourself tonight and have a restful weekend! (I’m getting pizza and cheap beer and watching Office Space… see, bad attitude :P)

      1. Leaving*

        Good luck with your interviews! I know what you mean about feeling too burnt out to interview well.

        Yeah I was hoping to do something fun this weekend. I’m disappointed because my husband has to work all weekend. Maybe that’s why I’m feeling kinda bummed… I was hoping we’d celebrate together. Since we’re in the grip of a massive snowstorm, I like your idea of staying in, eating pizza and watching shows :)

      2. Betsy*

        Solidarity to you and OP too, gingko. It’s very hard to drum up motivation after a job you really don’t like. I haven’t left yet, but there’s a pile of work I need to get to and I just can’t really bring myself to do it right now. Hopefully our motivation all comes rushing back once we’re in jobs we like again!

    15. Journal it*

      Congrats on the new job!

      I have a habit of internalizing stressful things so it takes me a long time to shake off bad experiences at work. So, I keep a journal and write down my problems/fears about a particular day or event, and then delete the page from my computer after a few days once I’ve processed it emotionally. Once I vent, I don’t allow myself to relive every single feeling. In a new job setting, I am usually so consumed with adjusting the new experience that I barely give myself time to worry about the times things went terribly on an old job.

    16. Fortitude Jones*

      Immediately, but that was because I left a position that was customer facing during hurricane season and moved into one with no customer service facet on my end at all. I was on cloud nine and still get up happy to go to work four months later because I know I won’t have to put up with the extreme BS I dealt with most of last year.

    17. Betsy*

      I was just offered a new job. I’m quite surprised that I’m feeling a bit anxious and strange, because the job is everything I wanted and I get to move back to my previous city. It also pays more.

      I’m nervous waiting on the official offer from HR, because that’s been taking a long time. I’m also nervous in case I won’t be good at it or will find it too stressful. I need to resign from my current position too and I’m worried about that.

      I’ve been annoyed at myself for not just being overjoyed, but maybe it just takes a few weeks to settle down, feel relaxed, feel confident and trust that this will probably be a better environment for you.

      I’ve recently had people who know I might leave, but don’t know that I will leave, trying to sell me on my current job too, so it’s been disconcerting. Even though I’ve had a horrible time, and the new job will probably allow me to advance much further in my career, I have this critical part of me that is saying, ‘You should have stuck it out. Maybe staying longer would have looked much better on your resume. Most other people seem happy enough with it- what’s wrong with you?’

      1. Leaving*

        Ugh, yeah. After something thinking, I realized that some of my regret/anxiety was because people were being nicer to me since they knew I was leaving. They had a goodbye party for me, and my toxic coworker brought me two pieces of cake and cleaned up after, and even got everyone to sing “For she’s a jolly good fellow” (super embarrassing). Peopled talked to me more in my last week, and generally I just felt more like a human being.

  6. Paranoid*

    When you start a new job, when is it okay to take a sick day or PTO day? How do you handle snarky comments from co-workers when you return?

    I started my job 10 months ago and used 2 sick days because I was really sick- brought a doctor’s note back and everything, yet they didn’t believe that I was sick. When I walked away from my desk, one said, “Wow, she really was sick.” I didn’t lie and play hooky or anything. I don’t get it. They don’t do it to other people.

    Yesterday I left 2 hours early for a tax appointment in the city and the next day I received the cold shoulder and attitude because I left. I have the time and the manager said it was okay, so what is the problem?

    My coworker that I work closely with took off 2 days the previous week.

    Is it because I’m new? Is this something to bring up with my boss or should I let it go?

    1. Karo*

      I’m interested to hear the replies on this one. I wouldn’t have thought that 10 months was particularly new anymore, and that once you’re past a probationary period you can use your time off however you want.

      1. paul*

        yeah, the issue here isn’t that you’re new I don’t think. It’s that they kinda suck.

        1. Irene Adler*


          C’mon, everyone gets sick now and then. Two sick days per 10 months is reasonable. AND you brought in a doc’s note to verify. I’d say you did more than necessary so there’s no reason for the coworkers to act as they did.
          Maybe next time, bring in whatever contagious illness you have, and share with these co-workers. It would serve ’em right

          1. Liane*

            Yes. And stay just long enough to make sure all your work is covered. By going to every co-irker individually, standing over them and breathing on them as you ask repeatedly if each one “has everything you need from me, and can you handle ABC. Oh I already got someone to do that, so cover DEF Oh what else will you need from me because it clearly caused you major problems when I was out sick for 2 days last year and I totally don’t want to put you or anyone else to any trouble. Also use your (unwashed) hands to lean on their desks, use their phones/computers to check that you left OOO email/vmail/IM messages, and check the shared printer/copier to make sure you didn’t leave the tray empty or forget your printouts or originals.
            Then go back home.
            (I don’t know how serious Irene Adler is, but I am being totally facetious.)

      2. anonymousME*


        Is it one particular coworker driving all of this? If that person is a bully, I have found it more successful to respond by calmly and immediately directing questions back to the person.

        So for example, if you walking away and you overhear coworker saying in a rude voice, “I guess she really was sick,” you turn back around and say, “you sound like you didn’t believe I was sick. Is that what you meant to say?” in a curious, non-confrontational voice. (Approach it like an a uninvolved nthropologist, meeting the Passive Aggressive Cubicle tribe for the first time.)

        Then just wait. Silence is your friend here as you wait for a response – in my experience, bullies hate to be called on their bullying and back down quickly once they are on a position of acknowledging their own behavior. If the person actually is able to respond to you, give that response full consideration (again, you’re an anthropologist) but address not just the words being said but the body posture and tone.

        Ignoring the problem completely and pretending you didn’t hear anyone make a remark in the first place just tends to make bullies stronger, although often “rising above” and ignoring certain issues is a better tactic for most workplace situations.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yup. Unless your absence had a material, stressful and unanticipated impact on their work (which frankly, the manager should have assisted with by reassigning or reprioritizing work), they are nosy jackholes. Even if it affected their work, they shouldn’t be jerks about it—everyone has to cover for everyone at some point.

        Is it just one coworker? I couldn’t tell from your post, but it sounded like you had one coworker who’s lead bully/instigator, and then others who are also just dour jerks. I’m sorry you’re working with people who behave badly :(

      4. Samiratou*


        10 months? This isn’t a new job anymore. “New job”, for the purposes of not wanting to take sick or PTO time is 3, maybe 6 months most places.

        I have a feeling it doesn’t matter if you’re there 10 months or 10 years, your coworkers will still be jerks.

      5. K.*

        Yep. 10 months is not new. Taking two days off in 10 months should be a complete non-issue. Your coworkers are jerks.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Ten months is WAY more than enough time.

      Like, ideally I think you shouldn’t use PTO (unless pre-arranged) or sick time (unless truly really miserably sick) within the first three months… but after that… ridiculous.

      1. Anon for this*

        You may feel it’s not okay for you to do, but please don’t impose that thinking on your colleagues. Life still happens in the first 90 days of a job.

        1. GG Two shoes*

          Yeah I have a chronic condition and I waited 2 months, but I really paid for it. I should have taken time sooner but I was surrounded by never-sicks and thought they would look down on me. However, I now realize that without my health, I can’t work, period. It’s better to be upfront and explain the situation to my boss and coworkers so they have a better understanding of my situation.

        2. ThatGirl*

          I did say ideally. That was a very general, best-case-scenario, no prior planned vacations statement. I would never judge someone for being sick and taking PTO or a sick day, nor taking a preplanned vacation. In fact, my own husband had to call in sick on the second week of a new job once, because he got a stomach bug. I’m not unreasonable, I’m not a manager, and I’m not judging anyone. :)

          1. Anon for this*

            Well, I’m glad you’re not judging anyone. It’s hard to assume that people aren’t when you’ve dealt with problems over using PTO and are really over trusting anyone to mind their own business, sadly.

            1. ThatGirl*

              If I (or anyone) had said something actively jerky, I’d certainly say it’s fair to call me out on it. But I don’t think I did… and I would have no way of knowing yours/anyone’s personal PTO problems.

              I can only speak from my own experience, I changed jobs last summer, and was asked to try not to use PTO or sick time in the first 90 days if possible. Nobody would have hassled me if I’d truly been sick or if I’d had a pre-planned trip. It was just a general guideline and I don’t think it was an unreasonable one. It doesn’t excuse busybodies, it doesn’t give others the right to judge or snark.

              1. Bleeborp*

                I knew exactly what you meant. Now that I’m well established in my job and have ample sick time and have no other obligations on a particular day, I may take a sick day for something relatively minor that I COULD work through. When it’s the first 3 months of a new job, I wouldn’t take that time off because I know it wouldn’t look good and it wouldn’t have any really negative effects on my own health. Obviously, employers should understand that illness can occur (and often does) at inconvenient times and shouldn’t pressure anyone to come in sick!

              2. Fortitude Jones*

                And see, I’m almost four months in to a new job, and they asked me to take PTO a month in during our slow period (first week of January) so I wouldn’t have to try and schedule it during our busy season (March fiscal year-end and proposal bonanza). Our PTO is use it or lose it, my boss wanted me to use my pro-rated time, so I took her up on it and it was lovely (seriously, I had NOTHING to do in January).

        3. only acting normal*

          I once got food poisoning in my first *week*. It was… colourful, they really wouldn’t have wanted me at my desk. They were fine about it though, because life happens.

        4. Triumphant Fox*

          I took a week off in my first month and a half – I was pretty much comatose with the flu. My manager was like “don’t touch us with a ten foot pole – I do not want to see you until you are well again” and I really, really appreciate it. It’s gone a long way toward making me feel welcome.

    3. Zip Silver*

      10 months? Your coworker is just a jerk and you should ignore it. 2 days in 10 months is nothing.

    4. CM*

      I’m not sure if there is anything you can really do about their attitude. Did your coworkers need to cover for you while you were out? I can see them being a little miffed if you left early and there was a pile of work to do, but the attitude over sick days really has no justification since you did not know you would be out. How is your relationship with your boss? If it is good then you can ask her about the office culture around time off.

      1. Ama*

        Yeah this mostly reminded me of when I worked a job where I had some front desk/basic office admin responsibilities. When I was out my coworkers had to cover some of my tasks like answer the phone and sort the mail. One of them was particularly awful about it (she’d moved up from my position and thought she was too important to do coverage even though it was in her job description) — if I was sick for more than one day at a time she’d send me an email demanding to know how much longer I thought I’d be out (she also once or twice tried to insinuate that I should be responsible for hiring a temp when I was out, which I just ignored because that was ridiculous). I would either ignore her or just say “Well I’m definitely not in tomorrow but I’ll let you know as soon as possible when I feel better.”

        That particular coworker thought she was my manager even though she wasn’t and just continued to try to escalate her attempts to “manage” me until I finally told our actual manager what was happening and she told coworker to back off. So it might not be a bad idea to just mention casually to your boss that some people seem a little irritated by you taking time off and you are wondering if there’s some part of the process you are missing (is it a thing in your office to cc everyone in your department when you’re going to be out?) That way if this is your coworkers being jerks you’ve alerted your boss without accusing anyone of anything, and if there *is* some part of the “system” for PTO you aren’t aware of you can figure that out, too.

        1. Justme, The OG*

          I do not understand people like your coworker. If a department is short staffed, particularly in a position you are capable of doing, you suck it up and help out. In my old department, I was promoted from the front desk position. One day, all of them called in sick. Our supervisor, someone else promoted out, and myself all womaned the desks for the day.

          I do agree that maybe the OP should alert her boss to it, too.

    5. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

      Sounds like your coworkers a BusyBody McJerkjerks. I would ignore their snide comments and instead focus on your performance. In every job I’ve ever had it’s fine to ask for time off to be sick. Especially if you apologize for the impact and are otherwise reliable. Yeesh.

    6. MuseumChick*

      I think you just have some obnoxious co-workers! I had to take a day off 3 months into my new job because I had my first ever migraine (I cannot express how awful I felt). No one questioned me or made comments. They trusted I was an adult who know when and how to take time off if needed.

    7. Muriel Heslop*

      In some places that is just the culture. In my last school, people weirdly judged each other for any time off while still taking time off themselves.

      Your co-worker sounds like a jerk. Maybe you could ask the co-worker with whom you are most friendly what the deal is with people’s attitudes?

    8. Fiennes*

      The first one—I don’t know, it was so early in your tenure that they might’ve been overly skeptical. The comments still seem rude, but maybe the last person in the position abused time off.

      But leaving a couple hours early, with permission, after 10 months in? That’s not something reasonable people should be weird about. Honestly, I’d just flat out say something like, “you do realize I had permission to go, right?” If they’re still snide, keep asking the obvious questions until they either apologize or realize they’re being made to look ridiculous. To me this feels like an attempt to put you down/undermine you a little, and standing up for yourself in a calm but very direct way might end it.

      Me, I’m the kind of temper who would say something like, “so, should I have had my doctor do my CT scan here? Where should we put the machine? Oh, good, there’s a spare outlet.” But I no longer work in offices, which is probably for the best.

      1. TheCupcakeCounter*

        I was also wondering if the LW’s predecessor abused the system or the position was vacant for a long time so they couldn’t use any PTO for a while in order to cover that role and are still in burnout mode so anytime LW takes some PTO they freak.
        Or they could just be busybody asshats.

    9. Hellanon*

      Maybe your coworkers are suffering from a subtle form of Stockholm Syndrome, and see your ability to take days off as a sign that something is wrong with them? My experience is that people who are told something they have been doing is wrong will sometimes fight like cornered honey badgers to protect the belief that they are right…

      1. Earthwalker*

        This. I’ve known coworkers who felt intimidated about taking sick days or vacation, or felt guilty when they did, to take it out on others in just this way. It’s all about them, not about OP.

    10. Adele*

      First, realize you are not doing anything untoward or out of the ordinary. I assume you have accrued the PTO and you have the right to use it or you have made arrangements to make up the time or take it without pay. Your manager has approved it.

      Next time someone says or does something snarky, stop, look directly at them, and ask, “Is there a problem?” The person will probably say “No,” to which you can reply, “Good” and move on. If they do tell you, you can deal with the issue: I was ill; I had pre-approved PTO; and Did my time off affect you negatively? Is there something we can do to make it easier when someone takes time off?

      Then, unless they say something truly egregious, just let it go. It is their problem.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      It could be that they do this to every new person.

      Is there a cohort who seems to be in your corner? Maybe you can ask her for the backstory on why you are seeing this.

    12. Half-Caf Latte*

      Yeah, your coworkers are jerks.

      I started a new job 6 weeks ago, and had to take 2.5 days (thanks, norovirus!)

      Folks either said nothing or asked if I was feeling better when I returned.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        Oh God, that happened to me once! I think I had been there maybe 4 weeks, if that? My boss and coworkers THANKED ME for staying home! (I tried to go in but didn’t even have the energy to get dressed, let alone actually get to the office.)

    13. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      No, it’s not because you’re new, it’s because they’re all banana crackers nuts. No sane employer expects you to go ten months without needing some kind of time off.

    14. Naptime Enthusiast*

      I used my first sick day after 3 months when I had a stomach bug, nobody commented and honestly very few people noticed I wasn’t in outside of my cubemates and direct mentor. Of course this varies on your work, but honestly I think your coworkers suck.

    15. Annie Moose*

      I agree with everyone else. That’s definitely enough time to take a couple sick days off, in my book!!

      When I was about six months in to my current job, I got terrible food poisoning (as in, was lying on the floor of the single-person bathroom at work in between bouts of throwing up until I managed to pull it together enough to drive home) and was out for three and a half days. (had to leave work early on a Thursday, was out Friday, was sick all weekend, then was out Monday and Tuesday of the next week!) Nobody said a word, except to be glad I was feeling better once I came back to work.

      Sicknesses happen–reasonable coworkers and reasonable managers are not going to judge you for taking just two days off!

    16. Jadelyn*

      …I’d mention it to your boss, just so she’s aware, because this is some ridiculous mean girls BS. When you said “new job” I was picturing someone 2 weeks in who takes several days off, but ten MONTHS in? Good lord. That’s WAY past the “it’s too soon to take PTO” point. If you’ve got the time, it’s yours to use, and as long as your manager has approved your PTO, your coworkers have no business judging you for it.

      I mean, even if you were new, 2 sick days and leaving a couple hours early for an appointment is supremely normal, I wouldn’t even think twice about it. Your coworkers are jerks.

    17. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Just to play Devil’s Advocate, maybe the “Wow, she was really sick” was “OMG, she was so sick she went to the doctor and got a note, poor thing!” not, “Oh, guess I shouldn’t have judged.” (It sounds more likely your coworkers suck, but it could be this too.)

      1. Alton*

        Yeah, it sounds like there’s a larger pattern here of people looking like jerks, but if it was just that one comment, I think it depends on tone. Sometimes people say stuff like that as an equivalent of “Wow, you look/sound horrible!” Not always super tactful, necessarily, but not always an expression of doubt. I had people make “Wow, I guess you weren’t faking!” comments once when I returned to work when I was still recovering from laryngitis, but the tone was clearly light-hearted and I didn’t think they meant it in a bad way.

        But these people sound like they might be jerks.

      2. A*

        That’s a good point. Sounds like a pattern of disrespectful attitude in this particular case, but the statement by itself could go either way.

        I sometimes phrase things that can be interpreted the opposite way that I intended. For instance, I was talking about Almond Joys with two other coworkers. They both said they don’t like them. I like them but it doesn’t seem like anyone else does, so I said, “Wow, nobody likes them.” It sounds worse over text, but I meant it like, “Man, no one else seems to like them.”

    18. Master Bean Counter*

      You work with a self-made martyr. Just accept that they are going to have some snide comment every time you take time off. This person has probably come into work with the flu at some point and almost never takes a day off, until it’s their vacation time. Which they think they totally deserve because they work so hard and don’t miss a day the rest of the year.
      Anyway the best way to fight this is to not react at all. Snide remark, just smile and move on. If you get asked why you were out answer with, “I had a thing.” Thing being anything from a cold to needing to do your taxes.

    19. Montresaur*

      It does sound like your coworkers are suspicious and judgmental to a ridiculous degree. Also, 10 months is long enough to have established your reputation in a job, and taking a sick day plus a couple of hours is not a big deal at all.

      For comparison: I took a temp job several years ago, during a company’s peak busy season. At the end of my first week, one of my coworkers (who helped a lot with my training, so we spent most of our shifts working together) mentioned she was feeling ill. I woke up Saturday with the flu and ended up missing half of my second week on the job! I was so nervous that I’d look flaky, and that people would be annoyed at having to pick up my slack, but everyone was understanding when I returned. Didn’t even need a doctor’s note.

    20. Lady Boss*

      I absolutely took a sick day about a month into a new job because I was sick. Those people are just being assholes.

    21. Bea*

      What? We can use PTO after 90 days. NOBODY CARES one way or another and everyone uses their time whenever they please.

      These people aren’t snarky because you’re new. You found yourself in a hellhole who offers PTO but acts as though it’s a sin to use it. That’s a thing, I’ve dealt with it. They suck. Unless you are not staying caught up and burdening them with your away time they can kick rocks

    22. rez123*

      You can take sick day any point when you are sick. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been there. If you are sick, you are sick. As for PTO, I think it’s ok to use them whenever your contrat states that it is ok to use them. if contract doesn’t say anything then i would wait a few months. At 10 month youa re not new. You co-workers are just jerks.

    23. Anon for this*

      Here’s the thing, you can technically use your accrued PTO however you like as long as your manager approves, but some people are going to have a lot of trouble with people who use PTO in a way that doesn’t look like the “normal” ways that people in that environment use PTO. It attracts attention and people get weird about it, even if it doesn’t impact the flow of the work. It can put a target on your back.

      1. Paranoid*

        Plus I’m single with no kids- most of them have families and can use the “my kid is sick/has off/etc.” while I can’t.

        1. Anon for this*

          Yeah, I know that feeling. I’m a hardcore perfectionist and live and breathe work because I feel like I have to overcompensate for ever taking time off and that if I don’t, I’m an entitled millennial.

          But everyone else can get sick and take time off for appointments, no bloody problem at all.

    24. EA in CA*

      It reminds of me of a previous job where I and any junior staff had the same experiences. All those types of reactions came from the office martyrs, the two people who always came in early, worked late, never took any leave or time off unless was made mandatory to them. They were toxic to any new employee to didn’t align to what they thought was right: being at your job 110% of the time so you can dedicate yourself to the cause like them was considered a virtue and anything less was deplorably in their eyes.

      They left shortly after the company was sold and new management came in with their fancy new ideas on flex days and work from home. They couldn’t take the stress of not being allowed to work 60+ hours a week and to have a work life balance that they both quit within a week of each other.

    25. Super B*

      Yea this is ridiculous. Ignore your co-workers, laugh if they give you an attitude. You’ve been in the job 10 months, not 10 days (and even if it had only been 10 days, if you were sick you were sick! and no place should require a doctor notice btw!)

    26. Someone else*

      You work with childish people.
      The only circumstance where this type of attitude might be understandable (note I’m saying understandable, not reasonable) is if there were some conspicuously suspicious behaviour on your part. Like…if you’d previously talked about really wanting to go to some event that was over particular dates, and then suddenly were sick on those days. Then they’d have some fact-based reason not to take your sickness at face value.
      But absent anything like that, your coworkers suck.

    27. MissDisplaced*

      This isn’t really normal behavior. 10 months is a fairly long time to be on the job and 2 sick days when really sick is not at all out of the norm (especially considering flu season this winter). Nor is leaving a bit early or coming in late (like 1-2 hours) for a scheduled appointment once or twice in that amount of time. Usually a doctor note is not required for 2 sick days either!
      Typically, that’s not done until you’re off a week or more for a more serious illness.
      But if it’s your snarky coworkers and not your manager giving you grief, I’d ignore them or tell them to “Go pound sand!”

      I’ve been on my new job for 5 months. I have 1 vacation day scheduled in my 6th month and 5 days scheduled off in my 8th month. NORMAL. I haven’t been out sick at all though.

    28. A.M.*

      That’s crazy. 10 months isn’t new anymore. You can take a sick day when you are sick and need it! But if you can hold out, I would say wait for PTO for 3 months.

  7. Neosmom*

    I’m a female EA. A male member of our customer service team passed my workstation yesterday and commented, “Pretty in pink!” I almost didn’t respond. But then I did reply, “And now, time to be productive in pink.” Saying that felt so good!

      1. Specialk9*

        I was presenting at a professional conference, at a panel for promoting women in the male dominated field. So it was especially fun for a man to tell me he’d stand up to let me get to an open seat in another session because I was so pretty.

        Oh thanks. I was unaware it was 1960, dude. Just sigh.

    1. Free Meerkats*

      Coworker I haven’t seen in a couple of months commented to me Wednesday, “You look great in pink!”

      She’s a she and was commenting on my current hair and beard color.

      1. Liane*

        Where’s the +1 button? And can I damage my mouse or Alison’s server by clicking it a few hundred times in one spot?

        1. Polar Bear don't care*

          Oh! I clicked hoping to be impressed but instead I’m totally delighted! I’m down with a wicked cold and you made my day. You look terrific!!

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      While your response was awesome, what he said was ridiculously inappropriate. I think you know that, but I just wanted you to know you aren’t imagining things—you should not have to deal with that.

    3. strawberries and raspberries*

      Oh my God my hero. I probably would have thought to say, “Vaguely insecure and kind of weatherbeaten in [whatever color he was wearing]!” like eight hours later, when I was at home, after being annoyed about it all day.

    4. Mobuy*

      Why be offended? He was trying to be nice. I don’t get why so many people are looking for ways to be offended.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Um, because it was a highly gendered and minimizing “compliment?” The general rule is, if you wouldn’t say it to a male employee, don’t say it to a female employee.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Also, people should be judged at work for their work, not their looks. People commenting on your looks at work is creepy, especially if it’s a man calling a woman “pretty” at work.

        2. Mobuy*

          No, it wasn’t. I mean, yes, we mostly don’t call men “pretty,” but we do compliment their looks. So what? It’s small talk. It greases the wheels of interactions. He meant to be nice. Nowhere does Neosmom mention that her coworker doesn’t respect her work. Maybe there is context that I’m missing, but if someone commented positively on what I was wearing, I’d be flattered, not looking for an EEOC complaint. (That was hyperbole. It should be obvious, but this thread…).

          1. The New Wanderer*

            I meant literally, if you wouldn’t say “pretty in pink” to a male employee, don’t say it to a female employee. Same category of non-compliment/unnecessary comment as anything in the “Smile!” category where the recipient is almost exclusively female.

            FWIW, I have been flattered by compliments on something I’m wearing. I’ve also been creeped out by “compliments” about how I’m wearing it. There is a difference. Good compliments at work don’t reflect a specific gender’s qualities.

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        Why are you offended? This person was just trying to relay her very real experience. I don’t know why so many people are looking for ways to be offended.

        1. Mobuy*

          I’m not offended at all. I’m confused. She got a compliment. I compliment male coworkers all the time. “Nice shirt.” “You look great.” Not at all gendered. Stop thinking everyone who compliments you is a sexist. They are not.

          1. London Calling*

            I’ve told my (male (CFO) I like his tie and are they his college colours? and I’ve complimented him on a suit he wears sometimes. But I am a woman, if that makes a difference.

      3. Elizabeth H.*

        I tend to agree with the sentiment, BUT I understand finding the remark not great because it’s not especially professional to be told you look “pretty” when you’re at work. I think that’s what the reaction is because of. My guess is that something like “Great pink sweater!” or “That color looks nice on you” wouldn’t have been irksome. Although with the latter (color looks nice on you) I would find it to be a little weird/overpersonal comment unless it was from a coworker I was very friendly with.

      4. Kiwi*

        It’s the connotations of the word “pretty”. People tend to say it to young girls, not adult women, so the subtext is that you’re a child, not a skilled, competent adult. Similar problem with “cute”. Like someone said below, if your male CEO was wearing a shirt and tie that looked great on him, would you tell him he looked cute? No, you’d say “great tie”.

        And yes, connotations matter. A huge amount of the meaning in conversation comes from the connotations.

        1. soon 2be former fed*

          I have been called pretty many times as an adult woman. I think cute is more for children. Doesn’t bother me in the least.

    5. not so sweet*

      Was it Wear Pink to Stand Up to Bullying day where you are, yesterday? It was here.

  8. Social Work Questions*

    Questions for social workers!
    Background: I currently work as a case manager at a nonprofit agency that employs social workers in a lot of different capacities. I want to get my MSW fairly soon, and a lot of programs offer the option to do your first internship with your current employer, as long as it’s in a different capacity.

    Has anyone done this before? How long had you been working in your position? How did you approach the conversation? Did you get paid a different rate or not all for the hours you were interning? What did you do for your second year?

    Thank you!

    1. Sunshine Brite*

      In my state, MN, they can’t do the same job as interning. The employer can be the same but not the position. It’s to encourage branching out and gaining additional clinical experiences. That’s something to consider too when thinking about choosing an internal internship.

    2. strawberries and raspberries*

      Me me me!

      This will largely depend on the state you live in and the school you go to. My school did what you’re describing, in which my first year of social work school I went to classes while still working in my full-time role, and then in my second year I designed my own field assignment that encompassed “new learning” at my organization. I would still be working my full-time job, but I had to devote a minimum of 14 hours per week to the “new learning” component (with agency approval and field supervision and all of that stuff). Then as it happened, I got promoted and moved to a new site halfway through my second year, and the school accepted my promotion and transfer as “new learning” (since it was a totally new contract and my first management role).

      The upside was that I was still making full-time money at my regular job, so unlike some of my full-time student classmates, I didn’t have that struggle. The downside is that I had so. Much. Work. And while I was doing this, I had really no oversight due to infrastructure changes at the agency, so I relied heavily on my field supervisor and field adviser at school to get me through the difficult parts. For entrance into this particular program my school required at least two years of continued employment at one agency.

      1. Social Work Questions*

        This is so helpful, thank you! When you decided to go back to school, was your supervisor receptive to being flexible with you and your position for a couple years or did it take some convincing? And if you don’t mind answering, what school did you go to?

        1. strawberries and raspberries*

          I went to Hunter!

          My supervisor and upper management were fine with it (we’re not that large of an organization, so they know me and they know I could handle the workload- some classmates who worked for larger city agencies ran into some conflict).

    3. harp+dash*

      I did this, but it was my third semester and not my first. I was working in child welfare at the time, which has unending possibilities of work to do. I didn’t get paid extra, just did additional work hours. Choosing to do a practicum at the current place of employment was pretty common at my agency, just for convenience sake. I wouldn’t say it was the BEST learning experience I could have possibly had, but it wasn’t bad and I did learn some new things. Doing an MSW while working full time is really difficult, but I’m glad I finished it.

    4. banana&tanger*

      Look at nursing. School sucks but case management type jobs are plentiful with better pay. I got similarly convinced and am so glad.

    5. Kuododi*

      Somewhat related… when I was working on my LMFT credentials the state where I was at the time allowed candidates to use 50 percent of clinical hours required from my current place of employment. (State mental health clinic counselor). The rest I had to have from an approved MFT clinical internship. It was part of my post graduate degree program so I didn’t have to go hunting for my internship. I would suggest keeping a dialogue with your advisor. She/He would be able to direct you to options within the community for internship, congruent with your training goals to help you when the time is right for internship in your particular program.

  9. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

    Our director’s administrative assistant is driving me and all the other departments’ leaders crazy. He is definitely pulling “Assistant Director” vs “Assistant to the Director” type shenanigans. Let’s call him Ryan.
    Some examples:
    Manager tells their staff to skip an all staff meeting for higher priority work. Goes to tell Ryan not to send staff the meeting quiz – Ryan refuses stating they will have to do it anyway.
    I email director asking for guidance on a project – Ryan responds to do A, B, and C. Turns out all of those are incorrect and he never got the information from director. Just took it upon himself to answer.
    Director asks you to send Ryan and email asking to set up a meeting with himself and the VP. You send along the details stating that the director asked you to set this meeting up with him and VP within x timeframe – Ryan asks if the meeting is really needed? Is it actually a priority? Does VP really need to be there? …. I just told you all I know Ryan!
    You decline a meeting Ryan set up for you and your direct reports and ask him to cancel. He doesn’t cancel the meeting – wasting all the direct reports time who show up while you are at another meeting.
    You send an agenda item for the upcoming meeting and Ryan questions it: is this the best mode to communicate this item? Can’t you just meet one-on-one with everyone instead? If you are just sending this because of A it’s not necessary. No Ryan! There is a lot of context you are not privy to.
    I’ve tried talking to him directly about the business impact of all this pushback as well as getting involved too deeply in some projects and he just gets completely defensive and shuts the conversation down with statements like “I am not one of those assistants who says yes to everything”. I’ve tried talking to our director about it – but he is very hands off on all things he deems “inter-personal” issues and just directs to go back. Ryan also gaslights a bit – stating you are the one getting to personally hurt by him just doing his job and doing it well.
    Anyone have advice? Is this just what a good Admin Assistant does and I’ve only worked with mediocre ones (who only ask questions pertinent to scheduling) or is Ryan really getting too involved?

    1. Michelle (An Admin)*

      Ryan is getting to involved. Good admins do not do these type of things and question every single thing you ask of them. Ryan sucks.

    2. Muriel Heslop*

      Ryan is a terrible admin. I was a terrible admin too, but not like this! (I was immature and disorganized not argumentative and disruptive.) This seems like some weird power-play gaslight shenanigans and I am sorry your director is being a hands-off about it. Can you cc your director on some of these communications with Ryan? Maybe if he sees it for himself he can take a firmer hand.

      Good luck!

      1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

        I have – and when I go to talk about it with director later he states that he saw there was a lot of back and forth and just ignored it. When I mention that the push back caused business delays he goes back to the “interpersonal”. Also Ryan shares an open vent with the director so every time I have tried to have conversations like this he finds a reason to burst in then will text me saying I already told you X! Don’t bother director about it.

        1. Natalie*

          When that happens, would you feel comfortable firmly telling him to butt out (in more office appropriate language)?

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      A bunch of you need to push back with your director about this, saying that it’s not “interpersonal” but a business problem that needs to be fixed.

      1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

        The one time I tried this, I was young and stupid, it went so so so wrong. I read your post on it recently though and see where I went wrong before. I will try this next. See if it’s just me and the one other person or all 6 of us who feel the same way and go from there.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      He doesn’t say yes to everything? Does he say yes to ANYTHING. It sounds like his go-to is NO.

      Don’t do this/ Start telling him the opposite of what ever you want. “Ryan, do NOT cancel tomorrow’s 2 o’clock, okay?”/ Do not do this.

      This guy is contrary just for the sake of being contrary. Someone, ideally a group of someones, needs to clue his boss.

    5. Adele*

      Yup, Ryan sucks.

      Next time you get a message from Ryan questioning/redirecting something in which the Director is involved, forward it on to the Director asking for clarification. He needs to see what Ryan is doing.

      If only someone could compile clips of Dwight Shrute pulling this Assistant Director bullshit and show it at the next leadership meeting.

      1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

        I’ll be honest – I worry Ryan would just delete it. He has read/delete/write on behalf of access to the directors inbox.

        1. Marshmellin*

          Wow. Sounds to me like the director doesn’t care, then. If Ryan has read/delete/write access, then he’s essentially privy to the same information as the director. Is *is* an interpersonal issue, but not the way the director means…

        2. Hey Nonnie*

          I would definitely (and in person) bring up the time when you emailed Director for guidance, and Ryan answered incorrectly on Director’s behalf, causing delays/other problems and how that impacts your ability to effectively do your job.

          You’ve got a number of examples like that, you just need to lead with how this is hampering business. If Director tries to blow it off as “interpersonal,” you and your group will have to redirect him to how it’s causing harm to the work you’re supposed to be doing.

      1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

        All staff meetings are mandatory. If you do not sign the attendance sheet you have to answer quiz questions that Ryan sent out proving you read the minutes. Not my favorite thing but it’s directors prerogative. Also considering that not understanding the staff meeting discussion can lead to someone getting injured I get it.

        1. Natalie*

          Uh, maybe it’s time to look for a different job? This one sounds… kinda messed up.

          I can BS my way through a quiz pretty fast (especially if it’s open book, or open agenda rather), but I wouldn’t retain any of it. I’m not a workplace safety expert but I rather doubt this is considered an effective technique. It sounds like more of Ryan’s weird power complex.

          1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

            This one is legitimately from the director and not Ryan. I agree though – ctr-F makes it easy to answer these questions. I see it more as a concrete – you were told to do x. You didn’t – there is no “I didn’t know excuse”. Agree though that for safety if probably doesn’t make a huge difference. We have other processes for education around these. Staff meetings are just a reinforcement venue for all processes.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              This is insane. No wonder no one is curbing Ryan—the Director is also a petty tyrant!

              1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

                Meh. This is certainly odd, but it’s not one of many weird issues impacting work. It’s one quirk. Director really is supportive otherwise. Just very hands off anything deemed interpersonal. Director has personally supported me getting raises, bonuses, etc. and had to fight HR for it. He fights for other staff privileges. I’m not gonna begrudge him one odd request you know? I think it also potentially relevant that almost all our staff are mobile or remote.

    6. Trig*

      I’m sorry, did you say “meeting quiz”?! Like, they make you do a quiz after all-hands to see if you were paying attention?! I’m inclined to say your company sucks in addition to Ryan! (Though I know that’s just one detail and not a means to judge your whole company. But yeeech.)

      1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

        My company rocks! I love working here. The quizzes are just for people who did not attend. It’s a way to make sure that they understand the processes. A little odd … but people can die if these processes are not followed so I get it.

        1. anonagain*

          So what you’re saying is:
          The quizzes are for people who miss the meetings.
          The quizzes are important since they test knowledge of processes where mistakes can result in death.

          Why is Ryan’s refusal to let some employees get out of taking the quiz because they were busy (this is why you have the quizzes, right?) a problem? It sounds like he’s doing what he is supposed to do in this case.

          1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

            No I explained better up above on the other comment about the quizzes. For true safety issues we have a different process so that’s a bad example and kind of a non-sequiter. I blame my sleep deprivation for conflating that.

            I don’t want to get to industry specific – but as an example. Let’s say you have someone who handles nuclear waste, disposes nuclear waste, and handles invoices for nuclear waste. If the invoice processer misses the meeting … it’s not the end of the world. Also their manager told them not to go – because they are going to review the relevant pieces with them. Having Ryan step in and be like “NO! You take the quiz about nuclear waste handling anyway ” is the problem. Also it undercuts the manager who said – don’t worry about this I will catch you up.

    7. The Tin Man*

      Ryan sounds terrible. And the director does too, being “very hands off on all things he deems ‘inter-personal’ issues “.

      But really, it is Ryan’s job to schedule the meeting and not to dictate the agenda or question if it is really necessary.

    8. MuseumChick*

      Sadly this sounds like something that won’t change until its more uncomfortable for the director. How comfortable do you feel pushing back on the “this is an inter personal issue” argument? Would you be able to say something like “I really disagree. This is a business issue, the work my team and I perform has been severally negatively impacted by Ryan’s behavior. Speaking directly with Ryan has had no effect. I’m very worried about not just the only going effect on a day to day business but also the morale of my team members. Can you give me an concrete idea on how this will be handled going forward?”

      1. Ama*

        I’d focus on the requests that Ryan is directly ignoring. You asked him to cancel meetings and he refused. You were following the director’s request to work with Ryan to set up a meeting and he wouldn’t give you any possible times. Print out emails if you need to.

        I worked with someone like this once — her boss also stayed completely out of it and it wasn’t until a group of department heads called a meeting with the boss to lay out all of the times they’d asked Jane to do X and she’d done Y instead and then refused to correct it that he realized Jane wasn’t just “a little prickly” she was literally refusing to do large chunk of her job. I can’t remember whether she was fired or just reassigned but she definitely didn’t have the role she had up to that point (to much rejoicing from the staff).

    9. Jadelyn*

      No, this is not a good assistant. A good assistant *supports* the work of others, rather than impeding it just to make themselves feel powerful.

      Has anyone talked to Ryan’s manager, the VP? In particular about the things that have real business impact, like being told wrong information about a project because Ryan decided to answer things for himself without consulting his boss. The VP is the one who really needs to know what their assistant is doing to everyone, because what Ryan does reflects on the VP he’s acting as a proxy for.

      Your director is also being a weak manager by labeling this as “interpersonal” and refusing to get involved. How clear has everyone been with the director about the specific business impact of Ryan’s behavior?

    10. Hilary*

      I have no advice and that sucks that the Director dismisses it—can you figure out a way to reframe it as strictly operational, even if it’s a bit absurd?

      But mostly I’m deeply curious about what kind of workplace has meeting quizzes. That sounds like something out of a first year lecture to try to make sure students showed up…

    11. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Ryan is the definition of a terrible admin. This is not what good admins do. He’s way too personally involved, and he needs to stop trying to make executive decisions. It’s having a business impact on your work. Bring it back up to your director, with others, and emphasize the business impact.

      Also, I am side-eyeing your director’s refusal to address “interpersonal” issues. Don’t let him mischaracterize what’s happening as a personality clash. It’s not a personality clash—it’s Ryan’s fundamental failure to fulfill core duties, and his failure to do so is creating waste, redundancy, and the misappropriation of business resources (most importantly, you and your staff’s time, which is finite).

      If your Director continues to be frustrating on this point, you may also want to set up processes so that Ryan doesn’t get to see any of the booking, etc. (i.e., create your own shadow AA). But of course don’t do that if it’s going to get you in trouble with the Director.

      1. Super B*

        Agreed and I just can’t believe the director either. To give Ryan full access to his email and permission to respond and delete messages? WTH? that’s not how those things work… not even the CEOs I’ve worked with give their EAs that much power. No wonder why Ryan is confused about his own role… having that power over the directors communications and possibly some confidential info has gone up to his head big time.

    12. TL -*

      Can you stop arguing with him and just reiterate your request?

      Email: Ryan, Director has asked for a meeting on Tuesday. Please schedule.
      Ryan: What? Why? Necessary?
      You: Please confirm when the meeting is set up.

      Then (especially for meetings with director) if it’s not scheduled, you can follow up in person – “Hi, Director, did you decide the meeting wasn’t necessary after all? I asked Ryan to schedule twice and I never got a confirmation; did your priorities change?”

      If it’s the back and forth that’s freaking out your boss, I’d stop engaging if at all possible. Just send your requests through and talk to Director when they aren’t followed.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Alternatively, what would happen if you just dropped your end of the rope and let it be someone else’s problem (preferably someone higher up). So if Ryan balks at scheduling a meeting, you go back to the VP or your manager and tell them “Ryan wasn’t willing to schedule the meeting” and let them handle it. Or if Ryan is deleting emails, don’t follow up and let things be difficult for the Director.

        It’s very common for an assistant to have access to the director’s email, and to be able to respond to some types of emails, so if the director is okay with the level of control Ryan has over his communication, there’s not much you can do to change it.

  10. Susan K*

    We all know it’s illegal to discriminate against women for pregnancy, but what about discriminating against men who are expecting (because of a pregnant wife or perhaps a planned adoption)?

    I have a coworker, Jim, whose wife is pregnant. Our manager offered him a temporary promotion to team lead for an important project, but then rescinded the offer before Jim had a chance to decide, on the basis that the manager assumed that Jim won’t want to take on extra responsibilities and extra hours when he has a new baby at home. Now, that may be true, but shouldn’t it be Jim’s decision?

    1. Parenthetically*

      What the hell? This seems like exactly the same discriminatory mindset to me. I’ll be interested to see an expert response on this.

    2. Amber T*

      Ooh that’s a tricky one. I have a feeling that falls under “probably isn’t illegal but should be and is definitely icky.” (Not a laywer.)

      1. C.*

        Not a lawyer but a law student who just took a course on this, and that’s sort of my feeling too? Because the Pregnancy Discrimination Act only covers pregnancy/childbirth itself and I don’t think anything else in Title VII covers having kids. I wonder if manager thought they were doing Jim a favor? Do other people in the office have kids and has the manager acted this way before?

    3. Kristin D*

      In California, employees are protected on the basis of their association with members of a protected class. So, in California, Jim would be protected. However, I’m not sure if federal law would protect this, or other state law.

    4. OtterB*

      It should definitely be Jim’s decision, unless perhaps he’s already put in for some significant amount of parental leave that the temporary lead position would conflict with.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Even then, though, if we’re talking about protected leave like FMLA or California’s CFRA, it would not be legal to count that against him when considering promotion opportunities since that would be an adverse action based on using protected leave (or at least this is my understanding of it), and the whole point of protected leave is that people can’t suffer consequences for using it. That’s what makes it protected.

        1. Natalie*

          It sounds like this is a temporary promotion though. It’s perfectly acceptable to not given someone a project because they are going to be on leave *during* the project.

    5. The Tin Man*

      That is suuper unethical but, as others said, I’m not sure about the legality. Perhaps Jim really wanted the promotion because it would be a pay rise and he could help better support his growing family! Or maybe he didn’t, but that is his call!

    6. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

      Being a pregnant woman is only protected by sex discrimination since it’s a discrimination that can only impact women. I’m not sure how easy it would be to prove sex discrimination for denying Jim a promotion. I do think Jim should talk to HR though to get feedback.

      1. Natalie*

        That’s incorrect, it’s a separate law. (Or more specifically, a separate amendment to the Civil Rights Act.) Link in reply

          1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

            Wow! Thanks for educating me. I had it totally wrong. NPR had a segment on this yesterday and was wrong too!

            1. Natalie*

              I think it gets confusing because related things like parenthood or family status (married/unmarried for example) aren’t explicitly protected but can be an aspect of sex discrimination.

    7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Ugh, this is awful. Unfortunately, state law and not the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act will let you know if he’s covered. In California, for example, this is almost certainly an example of unlawful discrimination. The same could be true in the 22 or so other states that recognize discrimination on the basis of familial relationships (which often cover parenthood/pregnancy).

      All that said, Jim might be able to state a claim for third-party discrimination under Title VII under a sex discrimination theory, but it would be a real stretch.

    8. Triple Anon*

      I think that would fall under “family status”, which is on the list of things you can’t discrimminate against in some states.

      *I am not a lawyer. This is just a guess.

  11. Entry level*

    The post – and comments! – about overqualified candidates annoyed me SO MUCH. I got to the post late and couldn’t be bothered to reply to every comment but it grated so much that so many people are okay with overqualified people in entry-level roles. So now in addition to how difficult it is to just get ANY experience at all people genuinely at entry level have to compete with these overqualified people for entry-level roles – as if getting started wasn’t difficult enough as it is!

    1. Parenthetically*

      You know, I sympathize. I remember what it was like trying to get into teaching right out of grad school. But overqualified applicants could just as easily say, “As if getting back into my field isn’t hard enough, I have to compete against folks who are fresh out of school, young, happy to be in an entry level role, have way more energy, don’t feel like they’re embarrassing themselves applying for an entry level position,” or whatever! It’s frustrating for a lot of folks in a lot of fields, and I don’t think it’s helpful to get into a competition over who has it worse. There’s enough crappiness to go around.

    2. Argh!*

      That’s what it’s like to live in an economy that has been screwing people for at least a decade. Those overqualified people thought they would retire at 55 and now they can’t retire until age 67. A lot have been laid off from good-paying jobs in “reorganization” or “downsizing.” What are they supposed to do? Move to cabins in the woods?

        1. Argh!*

          You shouldn’t be. They are going to retire in their 70s if they live that long, and live in poverty.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            Ok, I think I understand — you’re speaking about folks who were close to their retirement when the crash happened. Yes, that’s a uniquely awful situation.

            It’s also a (crappy) generational change that expected retirement age has pushed so far back for young people. I’m Gen X so I’m sandwiched between these two generations, and I don’t know anyone (other than the rare wealthy person) who expects to retire before their late 60s at best. It’s not worse for someone who is currently 55 to work until they’re 72 than it is for someone who is currently 25 to have to work that long.

            1. Argh!*

              If you have 50 years to plan for your retirement, you’re ahead of someone whose retirement income will be based on the last years of their work life, which was cut by 1/3 to 1/2 when they were 50 and whose retirement fund lost half its value in 2008 and has barely recovered in the past 10 years.

      1. Manders*

        Agreed. It’s one of those big structural problems that can’t really be fixed on the individual level–people need to eat and pay rent, and we all make the best choices based on the opportunities we have available.

        (I do totally feel you on the frustration of being stuck outside the job market needing experience to get experience. That was me a few years ago. It sucked, I hated it, but I don’t blame the more qualified people who also needed those jobs I applied for.)

        1. Argh!*

          If you’re 20-something, you can live with parents or with roommates to cut costs. If you’re 50-something your parents are dead and you don’t want to live with 20-something roommates.

          1. Manders*

            That’s a generalization I’m not comfortable making–plenty of 20-somethings can’t rely on their parents’ support, and plenty of 50-somethings have living parents or will happily live with roommates. You can’t always guess a person’s life circumstances by eyeballing them.

            Plus, If a hiring manager is basing decisions on who seems the most desperate for the job, something’s really wrong with that company. They’re not looking for the best candidate, they’re looking for someone who’s more likely to put up with mistreatment or outright shadiness.

          2. JamieS*

            50 somethings have also had the advantage of having had more time to build a nest egg to not need to live with roommates/parents. If they do need to cut costs, they also have the option of living with more age-appropriate roommates if they don’t want to live with 20-somethings.

    3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Did you see the post about how mid-career folks need those opportunities too, because they’ve never quite gotten on their feet due to the recession that began in 2008?

      It’s just hard, for everyone. Employers want to hire the best person for the job — which might be someone “overqualified,” or might be someone who is just starting out. But the “overqualified” people aren’t your enemy; they’re applying for the same jobs as you for the same reasons: they need them.

      1. Natalie*

        But the “overqualified” people aren’t your enemy;

        Indeed. Resist the urge to be a crab in a bucket, pulling your fellows down anytime they start climbing out.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          The crabs in a bucket analogy doesn’t really work in the case of limited opportunities.

          1. Natalie*

            I’m not sure how you figure. If there are limited opportunities, then there is a larger structural problem that isn’t going to be solved by crapping in your fellow workers because they have the temerity to seek out a job.

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              If only 1 crab can make it out of the bucket, then game theory suggests that pulling other crabs down is an optimal strategy.

              1. ginkgo*

                This is the most nihilistic thing I’ve read all day and I can’t stop laughing. I think I’m broken.

                1. Dankar*

                  Haha. Same! But then, nihilistic humor is pretty much where I live these days. I guess I’m broken, too?

              2. Natalie*

                Oh for goodness sake. As it’s an analogy and not a literal bucket, I doubt the OP actually has the ability to pull any other crabs down (that is, keep other more experienced people from getting hired ahead of her). But she sure can work herself into bitterness about other people’s jobs; I’m not sure what game theory says about that.

              3. President Porpoise*

                The last time I put crabs in a bucket, they pulled off each other’s legs. This may be a better strategy.

                1. hermit crab*

                  I used to work with crustaceans (in a zoo setting) and we had one poor crab with some kind of mineral deficiency… so occasionally he would pull his OWN leg off. And eat it!

                  Really, really do not recommend that as an employment strategy :)

              4. Argh!*

                How are older workers pulling younger workers down? It’s the economy doing that, not the people who got laid off in the prime of their career.

              5. Trout 'Waver*

                I’m sensing some hostility here. I think I’ll see my way out of this particular bucket.

              6. Observer*

                Not really true, even according to game theory. Because it STILL doesn’t get you going up. And bedsides, this really is NOT a situation where only either newbies or “overqualified” people can get jobs.

                And, in any case, the idea of actually blaming people for trying to get by and claiming that it’s not ok is not rational in any context, even applying game theory.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        And many times they are not considered, so there is that, too. There are many ways that the world of work is NOT kind and in some ways wildly unfair. I have thought this for a long, long time. The popularity of Alison’s blog here is proof.

        I can remember 30 plus years ago, bosses saying that I had to take a cut in hours because I was only a student and did not really need money. (Thanks for deciding that for me, Boss.) Fast forward about ten years ago I got told that I had to take a cut in hours because tuition bills are more important that homeowner bills. (More important to whom? Could you find a different way of framing that?)

        It’s really important to remember that we all need to eat and have a roof over our heads.
        The next thing to remember is companies are burning people out at a steady clip. We will always have talented people who have had to chose health over level of employment. This is sad, because it’s a waste of human talent.

      3. Luna*

        Yes, and a lot of us who were impacted by the recession have HAD to go from one entry level job to another, because no higher options were available to us. Last year was the first time ever that I finally landed a non-entry level job, and I graduated in 2006 and have a Master’s degree! It took me three years of applying to get the offer, because I was repeatedly told that I now had too much work experience for half the jobs, and not enough experience for the other half. It sucks for everyone.

        1. Argh!*

          If it makes you feel better, as a younger baby boomer, I had to wait a ridiculously long time to move up because the older baby boomers were clogging up the veins of the organizations I applied to.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I’m in this place now. Too experienced and educated for low-level jobs; shut out of higher-level ones. It sucks.
          And you know what? Constantly working low-level, lower-paid jobs means that when I do finally take Social Security, I won’t get much. It’s based on your wages.

          1. Argh!*

            Yup. I got a job paying 2/3 of my previous job after I got laid off. I thought it would be just for a few years, but it’s been 10 years.

      4. SallytooShort*

        Many of them don’t “need” them they just think it will be a nice break from stressful “real” jobs for a couple of years. Lots of comments reflecting that, as well. With absolutely no reflection on how elitist that is.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Well, we could argue forever about what constitutes a “need,” but that’s not helpful.

          In any case, I don’t see that as elitist (with the exception of the “real job” language, which sucks — all jobs are real). It’s true that some jobs are more stressful than others, either across the board or for individual people (e.g., I’m not stressed out by tight deadlines, but I’m very stressed out by ambiguity — others may have the opposite reaction.

          1. SallytooShort*

            You don’t see how dozens and dozens of comments of people who are educated and have had experience complaining about how unfair it is to be passed over for positions for equally qualified *for that role* people can be elitist?

            1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

              I genuinely don’t know what you’re referring to — I don’t see those comments here or on the original thread.

              But I’ll agree that it’s frustrating for both sets of people. Frustrating for folks without experience to never have the chance to get that experience because “overqualified” candidates are being hired; and frustrating for someone who brings extra experience to be rejected in favor of someone who has objectively less experience and skill than them.

              (I reject the idea of “equally qualified” on its face. This comes up in a lot of other situations — folks wonder about how they are supposed to pick between two “equally qualified” candidates, etc. But, as a hiring manager, I’ve never encountered “equally qualified” candidates. Candidates A and B might have the same years of experience and type of education, but Candidate A worked in a real estate office and Candidate B worked in a law office; Candidate A managed a project that got derailed by a leadership transition and developed deeper skill in “managing up,” while Candidate B managed a project that had its funding cut midway through and developed deeper skill in budgeting, etc. etc. etc.)

            2. scorpysuit coryphefuss arterius*

              Just because someone is educated and has experience does not mean that the job market in their particular area of expertise is actually viable or will anyway support their ability to sustain their existence in capitalist society.

              1. scorpysuit coryphefuss arterius*

                *their need to sustain their existence in capitalist society.

        2. Natalie*

          Is it more or less elitist than presuming that stress isn’t an actual negative thing that people might need to get away from?

          1. SallytooShort*

            There are lots of ways to mitigate stress and switch jobs in an industry without monopolizing jobs better off for people who need them.

            1. Clare*

              But there are not always lots of ways to switch jobs. It’s not that easy. That’s why people at all levels end up in these types of situations (needing to take a job that they might technically be over qualified for ).

            2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

              I don’t really know how to respond to your idea about “monopolizing” jobs. Do you really believe that Person A should decline a job that they want and that wants to hire them because an unidentified, theoretical Person B may need the job more than them?

              How on earth do you propose people make those assessments? Should I not work at all because my family could survive with my husband’s income only? Should someone who is trained as massage therapist refuse to take a job waiting tables? If someone with a law degree is unemployed, should they turn down the nonprofit program management job they are offered because a JD isn’t a requirement for the role?

              I hear how frustrated you are, and I’m sorry about that. But other people, doing their thing, trying to make the best lives for themselves — those people are not doing you wrong.

              1. Specialk9*

                Yeah. It’s this weird idea that because I feel annoyed, others should change their behavior, based on a rule I made up. It’s oddly self centered.

            3. Natalie*

              Jobs aren’t a commodity. A person can’t monopolize something they only have one or maybe two of.

            4. copy run start*

              But if someone needs to mitigate stress with a less-stressful position, then aren’t they a person who needs that particular job? By leaving the more stressful position they are opening up a position for someone who was waiting for that opportunity.

            5. Observer*

              That’s just not true. Sometimes the only way to mitigate stress is to change industries or to move a different and “lower” type of job. That’s a reality that is not going away just because you decided that one someone has a high paying job they must never prioritize their mental health over the possibility that someone else might need a job.

        3. Bea*

          Okay, so I should have just literally killed myself because of all the stress instead of taking a breather. That’s cool and not at all destructive.

          I didn’t see a damn thing about referring to a lower demanding job being a fake job and not real. That’s vile if anyone did say it in those words.

          What about career admins and people who never want to move up or who can’t move up due to limitations? Are we just picking at those who could go kill themselves in a high pressure toxic position?

          Have you ever been so overworked due to your skill set you thought of suicide? Because I sure the hell just got out of that situation. Sorry I took a job below my low level executive abilities and that I’m trampling on poor folks who didn’t get to have that wonderful problem.

          1. SallytooShort*

            “I didn’t see a damn thing about referring to a lower demanding job being a fake job and not real.”

            Oh, really? There were tons calling it “underemployed.”

            1. Triumphant Fox*

              That is the technical term for having a job that doesn’t actually meet your qualification level/pay? It’s literally the underuse of a worker’s skills.

              I see this as a false equivalence.

            2. Safetykats*

              Actually, the term underemployed refers to either working fewer hours than needed (as in part-time rather than full time) or working at below your skill level due to necessity. So if I really need and want a full-time job and can only find temp work, I’m underemployed. However, if I take a part-time job on purpose (for example, because I want to be able to spend more time with my kids) I’m not under-employed – even if the job I take is technically below my level of education or skill. In that sense, under-employment is definitely a personal judgement, and I don’t think you can decide for someone else whether they are under employed.

          2. SallytooShort*

            And, yes, I have been suicidal. It doesn’t change the fact that it’s a horrid practice to block people who have limited opportunities from these positions if you have more opportunities.

            1. Specialk9*

              It feels like you want to make universal moral rules that are only applicable to you.

            2. Managing to get by*

              Isn’t staying in a higher-level job also blocking people who are currently at a lower-level and want to advance?
              Any job someone has is not available to someone else while they have it. That doesn’t mean anyone having a job is intentionally blocking others from taking it, regardless of whether their “on paper” qualifications are higher than the minimum required for the job.
              Taking a job that is a good fit for them even if it appears to be below their educational and experience qualifications is not horrid. If someone cannot handle the stress of a high-level job, then they aren’t qualified for that job.

              1. Lance*

                Basically, all of this. And as for the ‘limited opportunities’ point? Everyone has limited opportunities, based on skillset, location, wage requirement, preferences, etc., etc. None of this is about ‘blocking’ people, it’s about finding a job that fits for you.

        4. Lehigh*

          Wow, what? Are you really saying that if Person A has a stressful job she needs to stay there in perpetuity because someone else might “need” the receptionist position (for instance) which Person A would enjoy more? Person A doesn’t get to factor in her own health or well-being?

          Let’s remember that with the high-stress position open, Person B who was just below it can move up, clearing her own job (and pay rate!) for someone another step down the ladder.

          Sure, it sucks to be Person H waiting for an entry-level job to open up, but I don’t see how it confers some kind of special righteousness.

          1. Argh!*

            Person A may have limited options. It’s easier to get a job if you have a job, and being jobless is incredibly stressful, too.

          2. SallytooShort*

            There are lots of ways to move around in stressful careers to deescalate stress without monopolizing the few jobs that should go to people starting out or who don’t have college degrees.

            1. Argh!*

              Nobody thinks “I’ll take away this job from a entitled young person just because I can.” They’re thinking “How can I pay my mortgage and support my 3 kids?”

            2. Natalie*

              And there are lots of ways for young workers to get experience and start in an industry, so you’re really not supporting your argument that they’re somehow entitled to entry-level jobs.

            3. Fortitude Jones*

              That’s not actually necessarily true, though. I had an extremely stressful career in claims and tried like hell to move into less stressful claims or claim-related positions, and yet I kept being shut out of those jobs because I either had too much experience for the claims roles (and, thus, they’d have to pay me more than was budgeted for the role) or they didn’t see me as anything other than a claims person who would potentially get bored and want to transform the position into something more high level than it actually was (the non claims roles). So I ended up leaving the field altogether and took a job in proposal management that has more recently been a role at my company filled by newer grads and/or people with 3-5 years professional work experience (I have 7+). I’m extremely happy with the change, less stressed over all, and I do not feel the slightest bit of guilt that someone entry level may have missed out on this opportunity because the company thought I was the better fit. That’s life – no one is entitled to any job.

              1. Safetykats*

                And this is a fantastic lesson. Sometimes, whether you’re really experienced or less so, you need to make a change to get what you want or need. I’ve gone back to school twice, while working full time, to expand or change my skill set. If there really just aren’t enough entry level jobs in the field you’ve chosen, the obvious answer is to expand your skill set or change your focus. There are fields currently paying hiring bonuses for entry level workers. If you’ve unfortunately chosen a field that just isn’t hiring, the obvious solution is to make a different choice.

        5. Anon and So*

          That is such an offensive assumption that demonstrates a limited understanding of the vagaries in life that can force a transition from a “real job” like that: a health condition, a change in or elimination of an entire industry, or a family crisis or tragedy or an evolving interest. Those are all legitimate and not your business. Check your own privilege in making such a generalization about the circumstances and histories of people you don’t know, and that includes your intimation that a job requiring fewer formal qualifications isn’t “real.”

          1. SallytooShort*

            People chronically unemployed because these job paths are completely blocked off have it so much easier.

            1. Argh!*

              It’s not a matter of who has it easier or not. It’s a matter of everyone needs a job and the most qualified person gets it, not the most deserving or most entitled.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I’m going to ask that you stop comparing who you think has it better or worse; you’re talking about individual people with individual circumstances that you can’t know, and in doing that you’re being pretty insulting to real individual people here. Thank you.

            3. scorpysuit coryphefuss arterius*

              The good news! is that you can be both “overqualified” and chronically unemployed.

              But we (jobseekers, citizens, people) don’t need to pit ourselves against each other just because structural problems make things difficult for so many.

      5. Glomarization, Esq.*

        > “overqualified” people aren’t your enemy

        Thanks for this. The 1-percenter types have made it so the rest of us are fighting for the scraps of jobs that have been left. This is an oligarchical capitalism issue.

    4. fposte*

      Agreeing with Victoria. While I know it’s frustrating for the applicants, when I hire I’m looking to fill the role with the best fit, not to create an opportunity for a particular class of person; I’m not going to set aside the best candidate for a broader point.

      1. Adele*

        Yup. that is spot on.

        It is frustrating for the person trying to enter the workforce but it can also be demoralizing for the person who needs to take a position below his or her training and skills. People make that choice for various reasons (I did, when the hours and stress had burned me out and life circumstances demanded more of my time at home), but others don’t want to be there, they just need a job and after months of not finding one, they apply for and take the best they can get.

    5. Laura H*

      Ok. But on the same hand, I’m sure the overqualified people might not like this either. It’s who’s the best fit for the job. There’s the matter of experience level that plays into it, but also there’s fit and the ability to do the job.

      Just as it’s not equal to be up against someone with more experience, it’s not an equal judgement to pass that all these more experienced folks are taking entry level jobs as a predatory move. You don’t know their story. They don’t know yours.

      (I say this as one who is underemployed, but happy where I am at the moment.)

      1. Argh!*

        It’s also not equal for an experienced worker to be presumed to have out of date skills compared to someone fresh from school. I’ve seen older people being passed over for this reason or even laid off.

    6. An Underemployed Millennial*

      I agree with you so much!! I recently applied for an internal admin-type job I really wanted and did not even get an interview despite meeting all of the qualifications because another internal candidate with a PhD and decades of experience got it. And now, the person who has that job is constantly complaining about how boring it is and I am so angry because it’s like wow, you took that job away from other people who really wanted it and you have the audacity to complain?!

      1. Luna*

        That is really frustrating and I can see why anyone would be upset by that. But I think your frustration is directed at the wrong person. The other candidate didn’t “take away” the job from anyone else, the hiring manager made a choice. In this case, it sounds like a bad choice.

        But if you had gotten that job, there could easily be someone else out there who is currently unemployed
        who might feel like you had no right to apply because you already had a job, and they needed it more. There is always someone else more in need.

        1. An Underemployed Millennial*

          Good point! I actually did need a job because I was a temporary employee and the organization doesn’t allow temps to just be suddenly made permanent, they have to make the temp job a permanent job and take applicants, but I’m definitely more angry with fate than the person who got the job or the hiring manager. I did get another temp assignment pretty quickly though, so that was cool :)

      2. Monsters of Men*

        Ooooh, you just reminded me about how I applied to be a supervisor for my department. It’s shift work and I always worked closing, which none of the supervisors for the other 18 locations did, so it was perfect. I had years of experience, was the incident commander for ten plus emergencies we had, and was completely qualified.

        My coworker got it because she had an HR diploma, even though we worked in recreation — and then two months later she quit for an HR job.

        But I was so frustrated I had quit a month earlier.

        Ahhhhh. Good times.

    7. Felicia*

      I used to feel like that applying for my first entry level job, because it’s not fair, but it’s really not fair to anyone and it’s not the overqualified peoples’ fault. And it kind of perpetuates the cycle of people not getting jobs at their qualification level. I do think it’s unfair when hiring managers think more experience doing something totally different = totally qualified for entry level admin roles, because it’s not really an anyone can do it great kind of thing, and that’s not fair to anyone.

      Basically, sucks for everyone in different ways and it’s not really an indiivdual problem.

      1. Manders*

        Yeah, there’s a lot more going on from a structural perspective, it’s not quite a zero-sum game even if it looks that way to a job candidate. For instance: a lot of companies got very comfortable with burning out salaried workers with too many hours during the lean times of the recession and didn’t really adjust back down to normal when the economy improved, churn and burn became more acceptable in certain sectors of the market, some jobs got easier to automate, some employers really went nuts with expecting employees to hit impossible metrics over the last decade, a lot of people with qualifications on paper ended up underemployed or unemployed for a long time, fields like academia cut out a ton of long-term stable jobs permanently, etc.

        Those are massive sector-wide problems that can’t really be fixed by overqualified candidate A who wants a less demanding job bowing out of a hiring process because entry level candidate B needs the job more.

      2. Argh!*

        A person who has had any kind of full-time work for a length of time has an edge over a first-time applicant because at least they have a track record of being reliable workers. This is why internships and volunteering are so important for recent grads.

  12. slackerbro*

    Question: what percentage of your work day do you do actual WORK?

    (I’m guessing I’m around 75%, which means that I slack off/waste about 2 hours every day on personal emails, chatting with coworkers, surfing the web, etc. This seems excessive to me. My husband says this is totally normal and par across the board of office-working professionals.)

    1. SoCalHR*

      I literally researched this yesterday as part of a time study for the admin team. It seems that 75%-80% is the “normal” expected range, but some studies show people only actually work about 3 hours per day?!?

      1. Wendy Darling*

        I’ve definitely HAD days where I only worked 3 hours either because it was a slow time and that’s all I could scrape up or, common in my current job, the tools I need to do all the work I currently have on my plate broke and it took ops 2 days to unbreak them so I did everything else in my backlog and then read the paper for 5 hours.

        I get the sense that my team is ~80% most days but we drop to like 60% on Fridays. We’re all remote and Friday afternoon is when we socialize in the group chat. It’s definitely not mandatory, though IMO it serves an important function, but it’s not strictly speaking “work”!

        1. paul*

          a ton of my work the last 2 weeks has been being on the phone with different tech vendors running diagnostics to figure out why mission critical software is FUBAR’d on my boss’s computer. Its…frustrating, ties me up, but doesn’t really occupy my mind you know?

      2. Hellanon*

        My uncle oversaw a group in an office setting for many years. I remember asking him once how many people worked there and he said, “Oh, about half.”

      3. Queen of the File*

        I am interested in what studies show! I feel like bias could cause people tend to naturally overestimate the amount of productive time they have in the day–like when asked to estimate how much money they spend on take-out coffee in a year, or how many calories they eat in a day. I think unless we’re actually tracking (which I know some people do), or looking at a job where the boundaries of “working” are very well-defined it’s pretty hard to be accurate.

        I once worked with someone who used to chastise coworkers for being 5-10 minutes late to work when she herself would often spend hours a day wandering around chatting. I think people have different ideas about what constitutes productive work time :)

        1. Betsy*

          Yes, I imagine most people would look back and say, ‘I was really very productive, just checked Facebook for a bit and chatted to colleagues’ and might be surprised about time wasted.

          I do know with me some days I’ll put in heaps of hours and not get much done and other days I’ll get so much done in the first three hours and not achieve that much for the rest of the day.

      4. Little Bean*

        Thank you for this! Until now, I have always worked in very high-demand jobs where I would say I was definitely almost always working a minimum of 40 hours per week, and still not getting everything done. I’m in a new role now where the work comes in suuuuper slowly and it’s on me to figure out what to do with myself most of the time. There’s a limit to how much I can motivate myself to come up with a new project or work on my professional development that will maybe pay off in 6 months. So in my current role, 75% sounds right. I have been feeling really bad about it, but I’m glad to hear that it’s normal for other people.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          I need to work 40 hours a week, but I can really only be productive like 75% of the time, so I’m spending 50+ hours in the office. Oh well!

    2. Forking Great Username*

      100%. But I’m in education, so there really isn’t any option but to constantly work when you have a class of students in front of you. Or when school ends and you have a stack of papers you’ve promised to get back to them with grades ASAP, plus you need to figure out your lessons for the following week, ways to differentiate for students with special needs, and get together all your materials/make copies of them for students.

      On the other hand, today we have a snow day, so woohoo for a day off! (Sort of – working on the previously mentioned lesson plan stuff.)

      1. Muriel Heslop*

        Yes to this. There is no downtime in teaching.

        Except I am drinking coffee while my kids watch a movie about the book we just finished reading. I stayed up until 11 last night grading. I don’t feel guilty.

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        Yes, this. I’ve been “busy” in office jobs, but when I switched from full-time teaching to full-time office work, I always felt no matter how “busy” I was at my office job, it was nothing compared to how busy I was on the “slowest” day of teaching.

        Oh, you can go to the bathroom whenever you want? You have a few minutes to just chat with your co-worker while you’re “so busy” trying to get that report done?

        It’s not that office workers don’t work hard (I do at my current job), but it’s just a completely different level. You are not on all the time. Even when I was a receptionist answering phones ringing off the hook, I was still less busy than when I was teaching.

        1. Julianne*

          My husband is consistently astonished at my perpetual dehydration. “It’s bad for your health!” “So is desperately trying to hold in my pee for 4 hours every day.”

        2. Traveling Teacher*

          “You can go to the bathroom whenever you want”

          +100! I couldn’t believe just how life-changing this one small point was until I completely changed what I was doing, too. The no more grading/insane amounts of time doing bureaucratic nonsense was the biggest obvious benefit, but this one really was too…

      3. Julianne*

        Came here to say the same thing! Sometimes I am sufficiently on top of things that I can “do nothing” during the 30-60 seconds it takes my weekly helpers to pass out papers, or my students to clean up materials before transitioning to a new lesson…but usually there’s someone (or 10 someones) who is confused/having a feeling/bleeding/needing to tell me something during those seconds.

    3. Horse Lover*

      Totally depends on if we’re in our busy season or not. Right it is slow and I am searching for work to do. Once we ramp back up again it will be 100% work.

      1. David*

        Yeah that sounds about right for me too.

        I’m sure the range of acceptable answers (and actual answers) varies wildly by the type of job. For context, I’m a software engineer. I used to be a scientist and I think my answer would have been similar then.

    4. Fiennes*

      I probably did about 5 hours in the average day. Another 1.5 were usually spent waiting for turnarounds or calls back, walking to and from buildings, or sorting through various company communications-the stuff that’s kind of work and kind of not. Other 1.5, chatting, slacking, etc.

    5. Kat*

      90%. 10% for making tea and hiding in the toilet when I need space.

      I’m not allowed to use personal email or surf the web at work, so that definitely helps to keep my productivity high.

    6. Anita-ita*

      Oh I do so much more goofing around than that! My job is dependent on how busy my boss is – and he is gone at least 50% of the time (whether that is at an offsite meeting or traveling for business/fun). When he’s here, sometimes I don’t even have work to do.

      I probably spend an average of 4 hours a day not doing work.

    7. Susan K*

      I am very interested in responses to this, because I’ve often wondered what’s “normal.” I personally work almost nonstop. I do not read or write personal e-mails from work (they block gmail and I only use my work address for work stuff), and I do not surf the web except for things directly related to my job. That includes this site — I only come here before and after work and on days off (today, for example, is my day off). I do sometimes chat with coworkers, usually just while I’m working, but occasionally will stop what I’m doing for a longer conversation. I am allowed a 30-minute lunch break and two 15-minute breaks during my 12-hour shift, and I rarely take more than 30 minutes total in breaks.

      TL;DR: I am probably actively working at least 11 out of 12 hours of my shift, or about 92%.

      1. Naptime Enthusiast*

        You’re awesome for being able to keep up that level of productivity! I need mental breaks during the day.

      2. Zathras*

        I’m the same. I don’t think the company blocks gmail but I’ve never tried to find out. I just don’t do personal stuff on the work computer, full stop. I do usually check personal email and read AAM on my phone at lunch time (like right now) but that’s pretty much it.

        That said my company is really great about work life balance and trusts us to manage our own time. I find this makes it easier to be 100% at work when I am working. If I have extra personal stuff to take care of on a given day I can come in a little late or leave a little early and no one cares as long as my stuff gets done. If I hit a good stopping point at 4:15, I can just leave, I don’t have to pretend to work until 5.* If I need a mental break I take 5-10 minutes to get a coffee from the nicer machine on a different floor, which has the added bonus of a little bit of stair climbing exercise.

        *This is pretty rare, but it’s nice when it happens. The flip side is that sometimes I end up staying very late or jumping back online from home when there is an Urgent Thing.

    8. Naptime Enthusiast*

      Depends on the week, usually I’m at 70-75%. The problem is my conversations with coworkers will start with work talk and devolve into chatting, but my managers will come around and chat with us too so it’s considered fine as long as work is getting done when it needs to. For example, just a few minutes ago a manager noticed my engagement ring in a meeting and asked when I started wearing it (for the record, over a year ago!), so that distracted us for a good while.

    9. Starley*

      Probably 85%, and the responses to this post are making me feel so much better about that! I thought I was wasting too much time. I’m a sprinter, not a marathoner. If I try to focus on work 100% of the time, I end up getting less done.

    10. Not Me*

      I’d say it depends. Right now I’m working around 25% but there are times when I’m working 100%. The reason for this is I don’t have a good manager (she’s good but has too many direct reports) and she can’t give me what I need for a consistent work flow: project managment/product management/etc.

      So things are either on fire and must be fixed now! or the deadline is so far in the future and the project isn’t mapped out/tasked out/etc that it’s hard to actually work on it since the project seems overwhelming and the deadline is so far in the future so what does it matter.

    11. QualitativeOverQuantitative*

      It’s feast or famine in my world (research). When I have multiple projects going or one big one, I spend probably 80% of my day doing real work. But the last two weeks have been painfully quiet, so I’ve probably spent closer to 25% of my day doing actual work.

    12. Not Me*

      PS. I’ve asked for project management for a year now; does anyone know good scripts to get through to her that this is something I NEED? She seems to think she can do it all and then… doesn’t. I’ve kinda given up. I’ve told her I need structure but I can’t figure out how to phrase it so that it doesn’t seem like I’m asking her to hold my hand. I just want a task list with accountability dammit.

    13. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

      Average is 95 – 120% with the odd 50% thrown in there once every year or so. Like today! 120% equals at work for overtime all week taking only bio breaks to crank something out!

    14. another person*

      I track my hours to the minute (for exclusively personal reasons–I’m a grad student in a lab with minimal supervision so if I don’t track my time I find the percent of actual work I do drops off until I’m not getting anything done) and I usually work 6-7 hours of being at work 8-9 hours, so about 75% of the time. BUT my work also has a lot of 5 minute incubation times (depending on what experiment I am doing) which i count as being productive, because there isn’t really anything I can do during those 5 minutes except check e-mails or mess around on the internet (like right now!). I also go in cycles, though, where I get several weeks of 8+ hour days followed by a week or two of 6 hour days.

      1. another person*

        Also, I don’t have set numbers of days I can take off, or whatever (it’s all vague) so some days when everything dies and I can’t do the rest of my experiments I do just give up and go home for the rest of the day, and so occasionally have days where I work 1 hour that ends up getting nothing done. (So much failure in science).

    15. Serin*

      Great thread. My job right now doesn’t have quite enough for me to do, and it’s hell on my work ethic.

      My sense of “normal” may be out of whack because my longest-term previous jobs were church secretary (105%) and small-town journalist (basically no line between ‘working’ and ‘not working,’ and nearly impossible to have friends who don’t also work for the same newspaper).

    16. Mimmy*

      It fluctuates wildly for me, depending on whether I have one or two students in a given period and how much help they need in completing their lessons. In the one “prep” period we get, I try to catch up on notes or reports unless I have a case conference.

    17. Goya de la Mancha*

      Day/season dependent.

      I spend some days doing maybe 15% work when I have to wait for others to finish theirs. Once they get theirs done and I can do mine, it’s probably closer to 90-95%.

      And then there are days where the boss announces that she doesn’t feel like working….so we all do about 5-10% ;)

    18. What is work?*

      Really important question: Do meetings that should take 15 minutes, but are actually scheduled for and take 2 hours because of the inevitable off-topic discussions count as work?

      1. Zathras*

        I had the same thought. My suggestion is – if you have the power to change the meeting, then no. If not, then yes. :-)

      2. Betsy*

        Oh, they definitely count. But sometimes I sit there and think ‘this is the easiest work I’ve ever done’. I’m in a very hierarchical workplace, so they actually seem to prefer that we don’t contribute. I am a good-two shoes and usually like to put effort into contributing to meetings and seeming like a good team-player, but since no-one else speaks except the supervisors, I’m just trying not to be a loudmouth at the moment and sitting meekly.

    19. Delphine*

      There are days when it’s 100% and days were it’s 30%. Last week I had two days in a row where there was just about nothing for me to do. I went into a folder to complete a write-up for next month and found I’d already done it on another slow day! I definitely prefer the 80%/90% working days.

    20. boy oh boy*

      I know this thanks to a cool app called Rescue time. On average, I’m 86% productive! This is based on about two years’ data gathered automatically by the app.

      I started using it because I knew I wasn’t productive, and this helped me find out exactly what the problem was and measure improvements. It also does it with zero effort on my part.

    21. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      well, today, my actual work output appears to be about 0. Next week isn’t looking good either. Not happy about it, but it’s part of the deal right now.

    22. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

      Now that I have a desk job, I range from 50% at the slowest (boss is out of town or it’s summertime) to 90-95% at the busiest – I have done a handful of 100% days when the grants are going in or something else huge is happening.

      In my previous job as a veterinary technician, it was 95-100%, always. We chatted, but while we were doing something else – if we weren’t actively involved in patient care, we were cleaning. If it was truly slow, some of us were sent home. I have to think teaching is probably the most 100% (or higher if you count grading/lesson plans/meetings after school hours) job you can have. Yikes!

      1. Live and Learn*

        I manage projects and as company policy we actually estimate that a full time employee who normally is at work 8 hours a day will only spend 6 of those hours working, so we don’t overestimate how quickly they will accomplish tasks. When people ask we explain it as 6 hours work and 2 hours in meetings, talking to co-workers, taking bio/food breaks, etc but realistically we assume its more like food/bio breaks, slacking time, personal calls/email, etc. 75% seems like a reasonable average.

    23. Bea*

      Depends on day, time of month and time of year. Books go in cycles, if I’m not closing or working on budgets or quarterlies, I’m up to my ears in free time with the scale of accounting required for my one person department. Also I have gaps where I’m waiting for the internal review where if I’m extra fast (which is a lot), more downtime.

      I mean I could do custodial duties but we have a cleaning service and I’m no longer an OM so it would be weird and questioned if I did.

    24. Lillian Gilbreth*

      I bill my hours, and on average I have an hour to an hour and a half of non billable time from eating, browsing AAM, and chatting with my coworkers. Sometimes it’s more (right after New Years work slowed way down and I had 4.5 hours of GO time for a day) and a few times I’ve been so absorbed in a project I literally bill a whole 8 or 9 hour day minus 15ish minutes for bathroom and water breaks.

    25. H.C.*

      At current job, I’d say fluctuates between 50-80%, but there have been moments when it’s closer to 30% and others when it’s 100%. But I think this is industry dependent—I knew my productivity is closer to 90% when I worked in foodservice (where there’s no opportunity to web surf/email/text/chat & an never-ending list of downtime tasks to do during slow periods — and if it’s REALLY slow, they’ll just let you off your shift early.)

    26. user7842*

      100%. More than that actually – I officially have a 0.75 h lunch break I don’t get paid for but normally spend just 20 minutes eating, then work.

      Yes, this is sad. No, I’m not proud of it.

      1. H.C.*

        You should take the full 45 minutes if that’s what’s allotted for your unpaid lunch, use the other 25 minutes to take a walk, listen to a podcast, etc. Your manager/workplace can get in trouble for you doing unpaid work.

        1. user7842*

          My manager does very well I do unpaid work (not only 25 minutes daily) and expects me to.

    27. GG Two shoes*

      Like most, it varies a lot. I thought I would be much busier as head of a department and doing my role, but honestly I found ways to streamline or otherwise delegate out work (to help keep my staff busy too, otherwise they get antsy) that I now have much less work than I anticipated.
      I spend too much time on the internet but my work is quality, turned in early, and better than previous employees and I seek out new tasks so there isn’t much they can complain about. I’m confident I could do this work part time, but I’m not telling my boss that!

    28. Chaordic One*

      Back at Dysfunctional Teapots, Ltd. I probably worked between 90 to 95% of the time. It was an extremely heavy workload and extremely detailed work that required a lot of intense concentration. It was made more difficult by the open office and the constant stream of interruptions. It seemed like there was never enough time to do anything thoroughly and I was always rushing, squeezing 12 hours of work into 8 hours of day. I was very burnt out when I was ultimately fired from that job.

    29. Spelliste*

      A friend who’s a high level project manager (think 10+ teams of 10+ people apiece) and 30 years into her career told me that if she gets 6 hours of work per day out of someone, she’s satisfied. 8 is unrealistic for most people, and interaction and breaks make people happier, better employees, resulting in better product and less turnover.

    30. Jillociraptor*

      On average, I’d say I probably get about 8 hours of actual work done per day, but not all of it is done during the workday. I usually respond to a bunch of emails and texts while I get ready, and then knock out a couple of things every night. A few times a month I get to do my favorite thing (seriously, this is my very favorite way to work), get absolutely in the zone between 12-3am and do about three days’ worth of work in three hours.

      During the 9-5 when I’m in the office, I’d say I’m working about 5 of the 8 hours? I do a lot of strategic thinking and decision-making and I’ve found that I need a lot of extensive breaks–not just 15-20 minutes here and there, but like an hour of apparent time wasting–where my brain is just doing NOTHING, so I can balance my energy throughout the day. I’ve never really had the endurance to keep up a moderate pace over a dedicated period of time. In school and in all of my work experience, I’ve always been more of a HIIT person.

    31. Akcipitrokulo*

      Our sprint planning assumes 6 hours (out of 7.5) per day – that takes into account meetings, but also just being asked things, going for a coffee, etc. It works out pretty reasonably.

    32. Annie Edison*

      I’d say about 75%. I tend to work pretty hard through the morning and can easily get my day’s quota done then. Once I take lunch everything falls apart, I burn out, and I tend to work slowly, check my social media, chat with coworkers, etc. I’d say this is pretty par for the course in my office – my boss doesn’t really care what we do with our time so long as the work gets done.

      When I worked at my dysfunctional job, I worked the full 8 hours, no question. We had to submit detailed, down to the minute time sheets of what we did (to the extent my boss knew how long I was in the bathroom that day, yuck). And we were watched like hawks to make sure we were actually working. If they even saw your cell phone they’d confiscate it and write you up!

    33. Bleeborp*

      I think 75% sounds about right but my husband is much more rigid and doesn’t like to goof around at work as much. We both have office-ish jobs but his is much more output oriented than mine so I think that makes sense but it’s obvious his coworkers doing the same work goof off more than he does and, if anything, he’s the one out of the norm.

    34. Elizabeth West*

      At OldExjob, it was probably 80-85%. I sometimes had slack periods in the late afternoon, after FedEx picked up. However, I couldn’t go online, so I used the time to write. All that typing made me look busy, haha.

      At Exjob, I had long periods of slack time waiting for material from other people, so it was more like 60% and some days even 40%. On days where reports came in or I had to do the revenue data matching, my mornings were busier. Overall, the pace there was much slower since it wasn’t front desk and I didn’t have to answer the phone or deal with walk-ins, vendors, etc. I liked not having the constant go-go-go, but there were times I got colossally bored. AAM helped; so did having homework, which my bosses said was fine for me to do.

      It bothered me that I had so little to do at times, but I found I vastly prefer being left alone to set my own pace. I seem to work better and faster that way. However, I probably won’t be that lucky again, at least not in any jobs I could get here.

    35. Cloud Nine Sandra*

      I’ve had jobs where (including my current one and the one before) where part of the deal was that you might be needed at any time between 8 and 4, so some days you do nothing until you get 5 tasks at 3:30, or some days the tasks come steady every hour and you work all day.

      I’ve generally found there some tasks I do faster than my peers (and just as well) so then I end up with more downtime. Sometimes I still do work – organizing, filing, general background research. Sometimes I’m reading this site, etc. :)

      So I’d say averaged out, I work about 60% of the day.

    36. Super Anon for this*

      Nearly every Corporate America job I’ve had hasn’t had enough work to keep me busy for full-time hours. I’d say on average I have work to do about one-third of the time (at best), and it absolutely drives me NUTS. I honestly have no idea how to address it, because I can’t exactly afford to talk myself out of a job/paycheck by bluntly letting them know that they don’t actually need me there. I have asked “What would you like me to do today/now?” only to be given a ten-minute task and then left to my own devices. I have asked for lists of priorities to work through, and get vague answers and/or a promise to discuss it “later” which of course never happens, and I’m not sure how often or how many times I should be reminding them that I’m still waiting. I have even proposed projects myself, but never get authorization to run with them. I know managers have other responsibilities too, but this is ridiculous; I’ve never figured out how to solve this without clearly risking my job. And sitting doing nothing is really detrimental to my mental health.

      To be clear, if a manager gives me something to do, I’ll jump right on it. The problem comes when I finish it in a few hours and they clearly weren’t expecting me to give it back that soon.

    37. Writelhd*

      Mostly 90%, occasionally I’ll hit a burn out period and it goes down to 70% and I waste time surfing, other times it ramps up to past 100% with lunch breaks skipped and such. Actually lunch breaks are pretty damn often skipped, I just usually recoup them by taking longer ones later in the week to go to the gym. But sometimes too many meetings and site visits and phone calls and I just can’t. For days, weeks on end. But I try to get up and walk around parking lot for 10 minutes or so at least.

    38. Managing to get by*

      In my prior job, about 70%. In my current job I’m slammed all day long and then continue working from 5pm to 7pm to catch up on emails and review urgent issues with my boss, who has been in meetings all day so not available for escalations. It sucks and we both are striving to get back to regular working hours. I’d be happy around 95% to 100% (with an actual lunch period and a couple of breaks, but busy for 8 hours) if I have to get up and drive to the office I’d rather be busy than wasting time.

    39. YaH*

      I’ve been doing a time analysis since the beginning of the year, and I apparently am spending about 95% of my workday actively working. 4.444% of my time each day is spent doing hallway duty, which is my only non-role-specific duty. I work through lunch every day and only get to chat/socialize with coworkers before or after school hours.

  13. Elodie*

    I work with another co-worker, “Sofia”, who is older than me and slightly senior. Sofia and I are the only ones in our department.

    Sofia often asks for my help on projects or the managers assign me to help her.

    Sofia gets into moods and either snaps at me or leaves the room when I enter and goes to talk to other people. If I have a question about something, she claims to not know or tells me to ask someone. (Even though I help her.) She bosses me around, but then asks for my help and in return never helps me.

    Everyone else works together well and they are friendly with one another- they go out to lunch together, get coffee together, hang out, etc. (Except Sofia and I) I’ve tried- we went to lunch together once when I started and that was it.

    I want to straight out ask her what her problem is, but that would be unprofessional, etc.

    What should I do? Should I say something to the boss?

    1. fposte*

      I think this may be a “Your co-worker sucks and isn’t going to change” situation (IIRC from your post last week, she’s also snotty about you having a master’s degree, so she really is just kind of a jerk). If you think your manager would be concerned about how much help you have to give her, or if her refusal to help you slows the work down, you can loop your manager in. Otherwise, you don’t have to be bossed just because Sofia wants to boss you; you don’t have to leap to help her just because she asks; you don’t have to put in work to make her like you or find out why she doesn’t. Don’t use the other team as a benchmark for your relationship, either; lots of workplaces don’t have employees who hang out or go to lunch together.

      1. Spelliste*

        It may do to check with your boss about how much direction they expect you to take from Sofia. And where that should fit with your work priorities. (“Sofia often directs me to XXXX. Since this affects my ability to do YYYY quickly, I wanted to check with you on what your expectations are.” Response could include, “Please help Sofia out, unless you’re working on items A or B. Helping her takes priority over items Y and Z.”)

        This won’t work with all bosses, but I had repeated confusion and tension with a colleague (alarming, first time ever in a decade of working!), and was comfortable enough to go to the boss and ask if he had recommendations on how to work best with the person. Turns out, she likes things very structured, and responds better to working out issues over the phone or in person rather than over email. It was really useful, and I’ve had no problems with her in the year since.

    2. neverjaunty*

      Take an attitude of friendly disinterest – like you feel a little sorry for her but don’t otherwise notice her much. That lets you be professional, but keeps you out of the morass of trying to make nice with her while she’s unpleasant to you.

      1. Purple Puma*

        That’s actually how I generally behave to my own moody bossy controlling coworker (who fortunately I don’t have to work with much anymore). I keep it polite and professional, and otherwise stay distant from her. It’s been super helpful in keeping me sane – another coworker of mine gets pissed off regularly by Ms. Bossy and it adds a lot of stress to her day.

  14. Misa*

    I’m in a job that is not a good fit for me, for over 2 years now… there are a lot of factors and I have tried many things but have come to the conclusion that I have to move on eventually. I’ve caught myself wishing that things would change but now I feel I just need to accept the truth of the situation and plan accordingly.

    But my job is relatively secure and the benefits are the best I’ve seen (people don’t leave and it adds to the dysfunction here). My husband’s company was bought out and they are starting to lay people off and make other changes. So I want to hang in there, a year or two here, start looking slowly for another position and my question is:

    What suggestions do you have for surviving in a job you’re unhappy in, until you can move on? I’ve stopped working overtime where possible and turning more energy to life outside of work but I am struggling with feeling angry and frustrated and it affecting all other areas of my life. I really want to change my thinking, appreciate the good things here (benefits, work from home one day a week, etc.) and make the most of it and not let this place drag me down so much. But I’m really struggling.

    Thanks in advance,

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      There have been several variations on this of late–check last week’s thread. The advice that stuck out to me is to come up with a break-glass plan you COULD implement within a few months if you really wanted to. Rather than framing everything in “two years from now….” terms. And view staying in your job as a way to build up savings, get any optional medical procedures done, etc–steps toward a desirable long-term goal. Putting emotional energy into things outside of work is good; building up savings is good; these may conflict.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Agreed, you survive by making a routine habit to take baby steps that are part of your plan to get out of there.
        So what small steps can you take next week to inch your way toward that door?

        Here’s the deal. When others let us down that is one thing. BUT when we let ourselves down that is a bfd. Promise yourself to work on getting you out of there starting right now. And decide not to let you down. If you want, talk to us here about building an actionable plan.

        1. Quinoa*

          One thing that has helped me tremendously in a toxic environment I can’t afford to leave: a daily reaffirmation of my choice to stay. Every morning, when the alarm goes off that tells me I have 30 minutes to get myself out the door, I shut off the alarm and then CHOOSE to go to work. It’s amazing what a difference that has made for my attitude. I’m no longer there because I have to be. I’m there because I choose to be, and that feels tremendously powerful.

          1. Misa*

            I really like that. I have a really hard time with feeling that I’m trapped and that I can’t leave and have no other options (which I know isn’t true but I can get ahead of myself sometimes). Thanks!

    2. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Im in the exact same spot right now. Honestly, I’ve tried many of the same things you have and there are days when it still gets me down and I need to go home and hide under a pillow for a half hour or so. Even worse, I was in a department where at any given time a third of the team would not really be assigned anything because the higher-ups couldn’t get their act together and decide what they wanted to do. Or I would have work and then it would be taken away from me and reassigned to one of the graduates so they “could get experience”. No, I don’t need to tell you how insulted that made me feel.

      Anyway, I have done the following:
      1) Took a project on another team just to have something to do and a change of scenery to test the question: is it me or this place (answer: this place)

      2) Remembered why I took this job – I gave it a fair shot, realized I didnt want to be promoted to the next level (even though I should have started there), or stay long term. I remembered I took this in order to get healthier and use the benefits to help me transition to a new career

      3) Do something little each day to move you in your preferred direction – for me when I start to flag and feel frustrated again it is usually because I haven’t been as proactive lately. I feel much better when I start to take positive actions towards my goals – setting and working on exercise goals or taking a course in the area I am looking to move towards, attending a meetup, etc.

      4) Being around positive people – this can be in a club unrelated to work or maybe a local career group. Just talking to people can be invigorating and make you feel less alone

      It doesnt work 100% of the time, but it has helped temper some of the wilder swings I experienced in the first nine months. What you are doing with dropping overtime and focusing on life outside of work is good too, but I know how long those 40 hrs a week can still drag.

      1. Misa*

        I can totally relate to what you’re saying and while it’s possibly little comfort, you’re not alone.

        My position for me has turned out to be very remedial and no matter what I try to do to do other work, projects, etc. I seem to only be given grunt work, expected to handle catering for meetings (I have actual skills) while there are so many people here that don’t have skills at all… Some don’t know how to use Outlook and don’t want to learn… And the general attitude is one of indifference… Generally if you want/need something to get done you often have to almost do someone else’s job and…. And it all makes me nuts…

        Sorry… anywho I was thinking of listening to podcasts and doing other things like you mention, to focus on my personal goals while I’m there. Try to get in some walking at lunch (and get some air)… Things like that, to help balance it out. Lately I find I’m always trying to take time off and that’s no way to manage this.

        Best of luck to you. Hopefully there are better things waiting for us, just around the corner!

    3. Chaordic One*

      I would start my job search ASAP, like yesterday. Even though there are a few good things about the job, it will only get worse as time goes by. It is hard to look for another job when you’re feeling down about your current job. Also, since you still have a job, it will make you a more attractive candidate to potential employers, and you won’t feel like you have to take the first thing that is offered to you if it isn’t quite what you want.

    4. LilySparrow*

      I focused on reducing my stress and making myself happier in other ways, including small physical things.

      I brought in some plants and tchotchkes that made me feel good (pretty pencil cup, a favorite mug).
      I quit eating lunch in the flourescent-lit basement break room and went to the gym or walked outside, or even read a book & ate at my desk, instead.
      I planned and packed meals & snacks and started tracking my sleep & water intake.

      All these things had practical benefit as well as sending myself the message, “I am taking good care of myself. I deserve to feel good and be happy.”

      It really helped.

      1. Misa*

        That is so great, thanks. It took me a long time to bring a few things in and then I removed them quickly because I felt like it meant I wouldn’t leave… So I didn’t want any personal items in the office, to make it clear to myself this was temporary. But I can totally have some things and reframe my thinking… And then take them home on my last day :)

    5. foolofgrace*

      I encourage you to read an earlier post here in a different thread by anonymousME — I thought it contained great advice on dealing with difficult people. anonymouseME recommended viewing these people as if you were an “uninvolved anthropologist, meeting the Passive Aggressive Cubicle tribe for the first time.” You could say “Oh here comes Atticus Ponificus, let’s observe his behavior today!” Sorry you’re going thru this and sorry I don’t have more help but I do second the comments here. Hang tough!

      1. Misa*

        Interesting, I’ll look for it, thanks! I have tried to imagine myself as an actress giving an Oscar worthy performance when I walk in in the morning but that hasn’t quite lasted more than a few minutes :)

    6. Safetykats*

      You don’t say why this job isn’t a good fit, and it sounds like maybe it’s not a terribly toxic workplace, just sort of disfunctional? I find it’s a good exercise to try to find one good thing, however small, and concentrate on that. It’s easy to concentrate on the things that frustrate you, but that’s not a helpful strategy if you goal is to make it work out at least until your spouse has more job security. (And I agree that it’s a good thing not to have both of you potentially changing jobs at the same time – my husband and I have always tried for that also, which has sometimes meant that one of us stays somewhere longer than we would like.)

      Another commenter talked about finding a new or different project that might have you working with some different people, or maybe learning some new skills. If you can do that, it might make things feel better. I would also maybe try to figure out exactly what isn’t a good fit, and why, and see if there isn’t something (however small) you can do to change that thing. I think that often we have more autonomy than we think, if we only realize and practice it. That’s hard to do when you’re feeling stuck, but it can make all the difference.

  15. Loopy*

    Does it ever appear unprofessional to do things with a fellow coworker outside of work? Like friend type things? This is someone who could never be my boss, and we are equal peers on a team. We are going to a movie tonight and have referred to it maybe in passing once and I wondered if it possibly made us look less professional to be “hanging out”. If it matters, we are the same gender/sex and both in relationships so I don’t think any gossip could come from it.

    1. dr_silverware*

      I don’t think so, but since you’re worried about it, it seems you may be in a more formal workplace than I am. Still, just don’t brag on it and make people feel excluded; it’s totally ok to be friends with your coworkers. These are people you’re spending 40 hours/week with!

      1. Anne of Green Gables*

        I don’t see it as a problem. I do advise you not to advertise in the office, though. I think who you are friends with is your business, but you don’t necessarily want it to be one of the first things people think when they think about you.

    2. Bridgette*

      I would say as long as you are peers, it it fine. I got to movies with people I work with about 3x a year. Sometimes when it’s a really popular movie or a movie that many people like, we will go as a big group.

    3. grace*

      I think I differ from a lot of others on this site in that I don’t think friendships with your colleagues are inherently bad/something to be worried about – and in this case, it’s definitely not! If you can handle spending time with someone after spending 40+ hours a week with them, I think that’s awesome :)

      Full disclosure that my coworker and I share an office and get along like a house on fire, to the point where people have asked if we’re sure we only met each other after working here. Our office is not formal at all, but I’m not keen to work somewhere this would be frowned on, YMMV!

    4. QualitativeOverQuantitative*

      I think it is totally fine. I had three coworkers over to my house last weekend for brunch. None of us report to each other and we never will.

    5. The Tin Man*

      I don’t think that’s an issue. I would be the same with worrying about it though because I was reluctant to invite my cowork and her husband to a Friendsgiving I was hosting with my partner. I was nervous about how melding work and friends would go but it went very well. We haven’t done anything outside of work since then but I am just fine with that.

    6. Thlayli*

      Maybe in some regions this would be considered unprofessional but I’ve done it in every job I’ve ever had and lots of other people have too

    7. Lindsay J*

      The only way I could see it being a problem is if the two of you are in a department of 3 and so it could be perceived as you excluding the 3rd person.

      Or if the other person is in a different type of role than you, and one of your roles could require the appearance of impartiality. Like if you’re a manager and she’s an HR person, you wouldn’t want your reports to feel like they couldn’t go to HR if they had an issue because they were afraid she would automatically take your side or what they said would get back to you. Or if you were in a quality assurance role and she was in production, you might not want to risk making it look like you would go easier on her than you would on someone you didn’t hang out outside of work with.

      But otherwise, no, I don’t think there is anything unprofessional about hanging out with someone or being friends with them outside of work.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yes, this–and the other thing is that work friendships sometimes tend to fall apart once one person leaves the job, since both parties no longer have that shared experience. But if you have stuff in common and you’ve cultivated a relationship outside the office, it doesn’t have to.

    8. Cajun2core*

      Hell, I have I worked with roommates. Granted, we were on totally different teams. I worked their first (at one location) and then get got a job at a different location. I then moved to his location.

      Everyone knew it and no one had a problem with it.

    9. Elizabeth West*

      The two consultants on my team at Exjob hung out all the time. So did the two leads on the team near where I sat. Nobody ever thought anything of it, other than that they were friends. As long as you keep any drama out of work, and you’re not acting like mean girls to other coworkers, then it’s fine.

    10. Traveling Teacher*

      At one old job, about half of all coworkers were also roommates, so it would actually be quite strange to never do anything with them! (But obviously, this is so not the norm!)

    11. David*

      Depends on the workplace maybe? Everywhere I’ve ever worked, doing friend-type things with coworkers was an extremely normal thing, so much so that it would never occur to me that anyone might see it as unprofessional.

      Maybe your workplace is different about that, in which case you probably shouldn’t take my experience to mean very much.

      1. Safetykats*

        This has been perfectly normal at every job I’ve had. Not everyone hangs out together, but most people have a few good friends they hang out with and work with. In one job it was so prevalent (most people spending at least part of every weekend socializing with people from the group) that when we got a new boss who thought we might need to do some team-building activities we thought it was pretty funny.

    12. Hobgoblin*

      Well, I hope not considering I’ve done the following with coworkers: went to France with her church group, played paintball, married one, all sorts of eating and hanging out shenanigans, and working out. I think it’s a know your work culture deal. We are close knit by default so no one bats an eye but in some places it might be weird? Although, even if it was, I just wouldn’t talk about it at work.

  16. Jane's Replacement*

    I could use some help here.

    I recently started a new job as an analyst for a small organization and I’m worried that I might be getting set up to fail here. I really wanted this job to be the one that I stay in for a while, and so I was careful during the interview process to make sure this job would be a good fit. By all accounts it was! It seemed very similar to my previous job (which I excelled at) except for better pay and benefits. I was told that I would be replacing Jane, who is retiring, and that Jane had agreed to stay on part-time for the first several months in order to help train me. I figured that I would be lucky to have access to my predecessor while learning the ropes.

    It turns out that Jane has been at this company for over 20 years and is extremely good at her job. She has invaluable knowledge about the company’s data and systems as a result of working in multiple capacities during her time here. Everyone here has taken advantage of her proficiency and in return she has enjoyed a high level of autonomy. This is now problematic because nobody- not even my supervisor- knows how to do her job. Although I am able to recreate some of her reports using my own methods, often times a report will come up that Jane has been doing for years and I have absolutely no idea how to address it. Jane and I have been doing our best to document her processes, but I know we will not be able to cover it all before she leaves. She retires in May and has made it clear that she is not willing to work a day beyond that. My boss expects me to be up to Jane’s level by the then. The truth is that I would have to work with Jane for at least another year, preferably longer, before feeling like I could adequately take over her position.

    I want to leave, but I worry about launching another job search because I don’t have the most stable job history and I have already been here for 4 months. Going back to my previous job is not an option, as they have already hired my replacement and have no room for me elsewhere. Is it worth trying to leave? Is there anything I can do to make sure this doesn’t fail spectacularly? Has anyone else been through something similar and lived to tell the tale?

    1. CM*

      It is unreasonable to expect someone new to the job to be at the same level as someone who has been there for 20 years. Hopefully that is not actually what your boss thinks is possible. For you sanity, stop comparing yourself to Jane and focus on the tasks.

    2. Anne of Green Gables*

      Maybe talking with your boss and asking him/her to prioritize what they want you up to speed on most? I know the answer is always “everything,” but you could say something like “I obviously can’t learn 20 years worth of knowledge in a few months. With two more months left to work with Jane, what are your top priorities for what we should be using our remaining time together going over?”

      I agree, it’s ridiculous to expect you to be at the level of someone who has done a job for 20 years in just a few months.

      1. Future Analyst*

        I like this script– hopefully it helps to ask your manager to prioritize what you should cover before Jane leaves. But I don’t think you have to quit, Jane’s Replacement! Give it time, learn what you can, and after Jane is gone, if your manager asks for something that you don’t know, be honest about the fact that you didn’t get to cover that with Jane, and then do your best to come up with an approximation of what’s needed. You don’t have to be Jane 2.0: just show that you are eager to learn and happy to work on what the business needs. If things are still tense/frustrating 6 months after Jane leaves, reconsider if you want to stay, but definitely don’t preemptively quit!

    3. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      My boss expects me to be up to Jane’s level by the then.
      Has your boss said this explicitly?
      There are three routes here:
      1) your boss expects you to be able to functioning at the same level as Jane once she leaves.
      2) your boss expects you to be able to complete all the tasks Jane has when she leaves.
      3) your boss expects you do know all of Jane’s tasks and the processes needed to complete them by the time Jane leaves.

      The first thing you need to do is make a list of all Jane’s tasks. Put a number value between 0-100% next to each one and honestly assess yourself regarding: its purpose, its process (tools and timeline).
      The second thing you need to do is meet with your boss and ask him what his expectations really are.
      Show him your status and come up with a game plan because Jane is leaving whether the boss likes it or not. And better he helps the person who is helped by Jane than let you fail and start the next person without Jane.

    4. Natalie*

      My boss expects me to be up to Jane’s level by the then.

      Is this something your boss has said explicitly to you? If so, you probably need to go back and talk to them again about what’s realistic 1 year in (which, obviously being equivalent to a 2 decade veteran is not). I know that probably seems risky, but just ignoring it is equally or more risky.

      But if they haven’t said it explicitly, I’d start asking yourself how you know this. It could be something you’re inferring that isn’t accurate, they could be making bad dumb jokes that are making you nervous, etc.

    5. TheCupcakeCounter*

      I would also try to have Jane explain to boss and coworkers that things will have to be different after she leaves because there is no way someone 3 months into the job will be able to do everything a 20yr veteran did. Focus on the stuff you do for boss as a priority and try limiting what you do for others (maybe have Jane work with a few of them on how to run the reports themselves as long as there are no access issues).
      New eyes are also a great way to bring updates and new processes into a role. I know when I started at current job that was one of the things they really wanted me to do – take a look and things and see if there were better, more efficient ways to do thing.
      The important thing is start communicating your bandwidth to boss and coworkers so you can adjust their expectations. Have a conversation with Jane and ask her to help you communicate that out – maybe a small meeting with you, boss, and Jane to discuss what will and won’t be possible after she leaves. Having the “superstar” clearly state that their expectations of you are unreasonable will help your cause. A little praise her way (truthful of course) about how much you are learning and how impressed you are with her knowledge might go a long way to getting her assistance in that.

      1. Samiratou*

        Yes, this. I was going to suggest having Jane help set those expectations. I’m a bit of a Jane, in that I’ve been the only one supporting a couple of products for a few years, with nobody else able to cross-train, so if I got hit by a bus tomorrow there’d be a lot of institutional knowledge lost.

        You can’t learn everything. Learn the priorities, and set expectations (with Jane!) that when Jane is gone, stuff is going to change and it may take longer to fix things or make updates as you familiarize yourself with everything.

        But you’ll be fine, and the organization will be fine, and you will find things that maybe Jane didn’t do perfectly or that have changed since Jane created them and you will make improvements and that will be fun, too.

    6. Fabulous*

      I agree you need to talk to your boss about expectations and what’s reasonable by the time Jane leaves. Let her know that a) you’re not going to be able to cover everything with Jane, b) you feel like it will take you at least a year to become 100% proficient on the things you have covered with Jane and you’ll be around 50% (or whatever) when she leaves, and c) you’re both doing your best to get Jane’s processes documented that you won’t be able to cover but there will likely be things you’re going to have to learn on your own. Twenty years of history and knowledge is a lot for anyone to learn!

    7. Emilitron*

      You’re getting good advice about setting expectations. The other thing to remember is that Jane has taught you a lot in a few months – you’re going to be spectacularly good at this job as compared to anybody who never worked with Jane at all. Meaning, you have some leverage here – as soon as Jane leaves, you’re a very valuable employee and hard to replace, even if you’re not as perfect as she was.

    8. anonagain*

      I’ve been in this situation only with a longer overlap period. I echo the advice to have Jane help set up reasonable expectations.

      Maybe sit with her and write out a plan for the remaining weeks and then talk to your boss about it. Be conservative, since you won’t have access to Jane after, but if you do more than you planned that will be a positive.

      Also, get the names and contact information from the people Jane works with. I would try to get information about the contact people’s roles, too, not just their names. That way when someone in another department leaves I still know how to find the information I need.

      I would also ask her if there are other people in the company who you can go to for advice when she is gone. No one will know your exact job, but there will be people who can help with different pieces of it.

      Good luck. It’s not easy to be in this position.

    9. Jane's Replacement*

      Thank you all for your helpful comments and insights!!! I feel a lot better now moving forward with a plan.

      To clarify, my boss has explicitly stated that he expects me to be at Jane’s level by the time she leaves, but as I said before he has no idea the extent of what she does. Per the advice many of you gave, I plan to have a conversation with him and Jane this week to set expectations moving forward. I will also have Jane write down the names/email addresses/departments of her key contacts, and have her introduce us in person if we have time.

      Some of you also made the good point that I have a bit of leverage here as the only person in my position who will have any sort of interaction with Jane. Firing me on performance alone (given that I’m trying my best) probably wouldn’t be the best idea for the company, as its unlikely my replacement would fare much better. With this in mind, I plan to stick it out and see how it goes, and if it’s truly unbearable by the end of the year then I can resume a job search.

  17. Andrea*

    London’s gotten more snow last week than it has for years, and public transport has been problematic (driving isn’t really an option for most). I live close enough to work to not have to use public transport, so I didn’t need to WFH, but I discovered an additional benefit of companies that allow WFH: I got to work in a half-empty office that was nice and quiet, instead of having to deal with irate co-workers who had to deal with bad service in the morning and are anxious about getting home later. So yeah…flexible working arrangements can be good even for people who don’t need them.

    (And yes, colleagues from the US, Canada and continental Europe have been mocking how transport grinds to a standstill in weather they don’t even consider that out of the ordinary, but fact of the matter is the infrastructure here just wasn’t built to deal with these conditions, it’s got nothing to do with how people here are just ‘soft’).

    1. bluelyon*

      I hear you on working in the office when nobody else is in- those are my favorite days. DC is having a wind-crisis today and there are four of us in my office. I’ve gotten so much more done with nobody yelling about coffee pots or walking by to distract me with a 3 minute question etc.

      1. Bostonian*

        Yes! I definitely choose my WFH days based on how quiet the office will be, when possible. Fridays are a great day to go in because 75% of the office isn’t there and the train isn’t packed in the morning :-)

      2. Future Analyst*

        Yes! I love working the week between Christmas and New Year’s day– I have most of the office to myself. :)

      1. Naptime Enthusiast*

        Agreed, if you don’t have enough plows or salt trucks for all of the roads then it really doesn’t matter how much snow you’re getting!

      2. Wren*

        Seattle being one. Sometimes we grind to a halt because it rains too much. Or is too sunny. Really, anything other than overcast with light drizzles.

        1. Merci Dee*

          Yep. Central Alabama stopped completely with 2 inches of snow in December, and with 4 inches of snow in January. Personally, I loved it. Though I told my daughter that she was witnessing a miracle, because I couldn’t even remember a time we’d gotten two rounds of snow in one winter, let along approximately 4 weeks apart.

      3. Managing to get by*

        The Seattle area shuts down with 1-2 inches of snow. No one knows how to drive in it and we don’t have the equipment to keep the hills drivable. I had to go in to the office the day after the last bit of snow – there was no traffic and my commute was great!

    2. Ama*

      Heh, for awhile I lived 4 blocks from my workplace during a year we both got a lot of snow/ice and had a new CEO who had relocated from California (we’re in the Northeast– that winter was bad but not cripplingly so aside from one major blizzard). So she was constantly declaring a “use your best judgment” day for bad weather that my coworkers with longer commutes were more than happy to do work from home for. At the time my significant other worked from home full-time so I’d just walk to work and have a nice quiet day at the office (plus they often bought us lunch if it was actively snowing so we wouldn’t have to go outside).

      Now I live far enough away that work from home is a lot more appealing (depending on if the transit by my house is functioning at normal levels or not), but we have a CEO who only calls for “judgment” days (hee) if it’s truly an epic storm or the peak will hit during the morning commute.

    3. HannahS*

      I’m Canadian, and I’m with you, the performance of toughness over cold weather is stupid and very irritating. Our cities are built to handle snow. We’re taught how to dive safely in snow and ice and freezing rain. We already own suitable clothing and footwear. Why on earth would a city unaccustomed to that kind of weather be prepared for it? When cold countries have heatwaves, people die in far higher numbers than they would in equivalent conditions in, like, the Caribbean, because our buildings aren’t built for it and people don’t know how to be safe in weather that hot.

      My theory is that when the place you live sucks, you need something to lord over other people. Each successively colder city I know of in Canada snarks on the less cold ones–so people from Manitoba make fun of Ontarians, and everyone just sh_ts on Vancouver, but it’s because we’re all jealous. Here’s a response I might use, to just take the fun away from the people ribbing you:
      “HAHA Londoners are so soft, you guys can’t even handle a bit of ice! In Winterfell, where I live, that’s t-shirt weather.”
      *look confused* “Well, yeah, obviously. London doesn’t deal with kind of weather regularly, so we don’t have the infrastructure for it.”

    4. boy oh boy*

      I work in London and have had a lucky few days – my train line has had minimal delays so travel has been simple, if a bit cold. Most of my co-workers have been on strike (unrelated to snow), WFH, ill, or on leave. It’s been very quiet.

      However yesterday, the entire computer networking system died for many hours, and the heating failed due to a leak. Emergency repairs this weekend!

      It has been a very strange week between the pickets, snow and general upheaval.

    5. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      I’ve got coworkers in London, I’ve heard a bit.

      I’ll gently mock anyone who can’t deal with normal or expected weather conditions where they live – and then tell them to figure it out. (If you live where it snows regularly yet you can’t drive in snow, LEARN.) But when you’re dealing with something that really is extraordinary, I get it. I might still tease you, but I do understand.

      Unless you’re my cousin in Florida who has a long history of complaining about lower temps in a nasty way. Then you get zero sympathy or patience from me.

      1. Specialk9*

        Floridians aren’t actually complaining about that ‘cold’ 60° weather in winter, they’re bragging.

    6. Liane*

      “(And yes, colleagues from the US, Canada and continental Europe have been mocking how transport grinds to a standstill in weather they don’t even consider that out of the ordinary, but fact of the matter is the infrastructure here just wasn’t built to deal with these conditions, it’s got nothing to do with how people here are just ‘soft’).”
      If it makes you feel any better, we Americans who live in parts of the US that get very little snow also receive lots of snarks about how we are “soft,” “lazy” or even “lacking work ethic” because we need to call out/work a shorter day/WFH for any amount of snow and ice because there’s no infrastructure for dealing with it. There are many examples of this in the comments on #3 in Wednesday’s Short Answer post. (link in reply)

    7. Thlayli*

      It’s happening where I am too. There was an expert panel on the tv talking about it and they made some really good points about why financially it makes more sense to just have a snow day once every 10 or 20 years than to buy snowplows and make everyone buy winter tyres etc, when you would literally only use them once every 10 or 20 years.

    8. Business Manager*

      Here in Boston where we have shitty weather all the time, and are currently having a once-in-a-generation storm for the second time this winter (But it’s rain not snow, so…), our transit system isn’t faring much better than yours. Because our state government refused to put more money into infrastructure.

    9. Anonymous Ampersand*

      All my work’s office across the whole of country closed. I am still shocked.

    10. Kelly*

      If it snowed like that where I am (Northern California, South of SF, North of San Jose), people would freak the F out.

    11. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I had three snow days this week because there was so much snow that there would be absolutely no point being on site.

      I grew up in Colorado, now live in the UK, and it drives me slightly nuts when people mock the UK for its inability to cope with snow. Back home I was taught how to drive in snow and ice, always got snow tires or all-season tires, knew how to use tire chains if I really had to go somewhere treacherous, and the city had multiple snow plows working all day and night. But we got multiple big snowstorms (like 6-12 inches) every winter, and got huge spring storms that dumped several feet of snow fairly regularly.

      In the nearly 15 years I’ve lived in the UK we have had snow that actually piles up more than half an inch and sticks around for more than an hour maybe three times. It’s perfectly OK to just shut things down when a big storm does happen, because it’s not worth the money to get the equipment, hire extra people, redesign roads, get snow tires, etc. for something that only happens every 5 years or so. It doesn’t make the UK soft or stupid.

    12. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve been following The Beast from the East on Twitter and it’s bonkers. So many NHS people staying overnight so patients can get care. And one person I follow got the ONLY train out of Paddington station (to Cornwall) and tweeted the entire journey like, “It’s the only train and I’m on it!” “This plucky little train is going to make it!” and “I’M HOME!” It was hilarious.

      But this weather is no joke. Everyone stay safe and keep warm!! xx

  18. jstarr*

    My annual performance review is Monday and I crushed it this year. I’ve got glowing reviews from clients, hard data on hand, etc. I plan on asking for a raise or title change but here’s the issue: I’m in academia. Raises and promotions are almost unheard of here and this particular section of academia is known for having people bounce around to other schools in order to get raises. Is there anything else I can ask for perks wise that’s reasonable? We’re in a cubicle farm so an office with a door is out.

      1. jstarr*

        I’m already paid monthly so I sort of set my own hours and PTO is set by the university. :/
        Work from home would be nice but part of my job requires I be in the building for at least a day or two to access files.

        1. Annie Moose*

          What about working from home part of the week? We have several people at my office who are in the office one or two days a week but work from home the rest of the time.

    1. Katarina*

      A training that might otherwise be too expensive, conference in your field (with great network opportunities)?

      1. Naptime Enthusiast*

        Seconding a conference, especially if there’s one that you’ve been dying to go to in the past and they know it would be beneficial.

    2. copier queen*

      New computer, double monitors, new tablet or fancy smartphone?
      I second the comment on them sending you to a great conference (pick somewhere you’d want to visit anyway and tack on some vacation days before or after the conference).
      Also, I would ask for a raise anyway. It could be that raises are unheard of because the highest performers are sometimes getting them, but are asked to keep it confidential since it is not common to your org.

      1. jstarr*

        Our salaries are subject to open record requests so anyone with searching capability can figure out what we make.

        I think the conference might be a good idea.

    3. NoMoreMrFixit*

      former IT tech in academia here. New tech to play with, conferences and training were all perks. Getting to participate in special projects was considered the number one perk. I got to present at conferences and write white papers. Extra one shot duties as the opportunity arose. Same pay but some really cool variations in my day to day working life made it a lot more interesting and even fun to go to work. There was a point I actually enjoyed walking in on a Monday morning because there was so much variety and challenge.

  19. ThatGirl*

    Today is the one-year anniversary of my surprise layoff, which happened the afternoon before the rest of my 15-person team.

    It was not only a big surprise to us all but very weird/bad timing for me – I found out the afternoon before everyone else because I was due to be off the next day to travel for a vacation, and the same night, our water heater failed and leaked everywhere.

    But, I got to literally run away from my problems, then spent the spring/summer job searching, found a great new job last July and here I am. It’s closer to home, pays better, and is more interesting. So I’m happy.

    1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

      Thanks for posting this! I always like to see stories about > life went to crap > then it got better then even before. It gives others in similar situations hope.

    2. [insert witty user name here]*

      Woo hoo! Glad everything worked out for you! It’s funny how that works out sometimes :)

      I was laid off from a job almost 10 years ago. At the time, I was devastated because I was young, had started to switch fields from what my major was, felt like I was going to have to move back in with my parents, and just didn’t know what to do since there aren’t a lot of opportunities in my small town. That first day, I cried a bit then got double stuff oreos and boxed mac and cheese. I literally ate said mac and cheese out of the pot and had myself a little pity party on the couch. I was a little despaired over the weekend, but then realized that between my small severance, PTO being paid out, and unemployment, I’d be fine for quite some time. I ended up being out of work for a little over two months and got a job from my sister’s former boss that ended up being a BIG salary bump and has turned into the career I’ve stayed and thrived in for about 10 years. I actually remember being a little shocked when I got the job so quickly and had to start within a couple days; I was like man, I am probably (hopefully??) never going to have a sabbatical like this again!!!

  20. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    I’m so excited!!!

    I applied for a job Monday. Had a phone interview Tuesday where I was immediately invited to an in person interview yesterday. I’m feeling oddly Zen about the whole thing (probably from reading this site…). I’ll know in a week or two if I move forward to the next, and final from what I was told, round of interviews.

      1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

        Thank you!

        I initially fretted for a bit that the person I met with didn’t offer up a timeline of when I might hear back so I asked (because it’s me, I’m not happy unless I’m panicking about something…). But, one, it’s an extremely laid back company and, two, if I’m already ruled out…why in the world would I want to work somewhere that doesn’t want me?

  21. Poppy*

    Am I undermining myself as a woman by not initiating hand shakes? Had a team conference this week with folks from around the US (predominantly male). I noticed that the men tended to greet each other with a handshake, and give me a little wave. I suspect it’s because they are a little older and are more used to the etiquette of women initiating a handshake. I tend not to initiate because it seems a bit overly formal to me, and also, germs. But am I unknowingly undermining myself in this very male environment?

    1. dr_silverware*

      Maybe? But I think the more important issue is the awkwardness/non-awkwardness of the situation. If it’s an awkward, “uh, hi, haha, I guess we’re not shaking hands” kind of wave, that may be a weird note to start a business relationship with. If you’re forthright and friendly as you wave and introduce yourself, you’re probably ok.

      1. Specialk9*

        If the men are reaching out to shake hands and you’re not, then yes, you’re undermining yourself.

        1. Specialk9*

          Oh and this is from a woman who hates casual touch. But handshakes are just a thing one does, barring pain or cultural alterative like bowing.

          1. dr_silverware*

            I kind of agree (and I like handshaking, and I’m a woman) but I do think it’s possible to not shake hands. On the other hand it would require a lot of social skill and a dollop of charisma to not have it stand out weirdly.

    2. SoCalHR*

      I agree, as a female myself, I feel like sometimes men aren’t sure what to do when greeting a woman. If you confidently go for the handshake, I feel, it reduces the awkwardness. Also, it also serves to ‘assert’ myself as an equal party to the group as I am on the young-ish side and typically not the one leading the meeting (so I feel it helps me not appear as just the lovely silent assistant). Re: the germs – just keep hand sanitize in your purse I guess.

    3. Argh!*

      If you’re in a situation where two men would shake hands, then you should absolutely stick out your hand. They may not be hesitating because you’re a woman but because they sense your hesitation.

      1. Thlayli*

        Yeah this is my thought too. I never heard of this etiquette of women initiating but I think people are better at body language than you think so you may be giving off “don’t touch me” vibes without realising it.

    4. fposte*

      I don’t know about undermining, but I definitely think you should initiate handshakes. I suspect it seems overly formal mostly because you’re not used to it, since the men around you are doing it. It’s a basic greeting ritual that’s good to have in your armory, if only to fend off cheek-kissers.

    5. Anonymous Educator*

      Initiate the handshake.

      Your concerns about germs are very real. Lots of men (gross) do not wash their hands after going to the bathroom. Just make sure you wash your hands before you eat.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          I haven’t done a full-blown study. I just know anecdotally based on what I’ve seen in public restrooms. I’m not saying you, as a man, aren’t washing your hands. I’m talking about other men.

        2. Thlayli*

          There was a study where they put peanuts outside restrooms in a bar and within an hour they had traces of 20 different peoples urine on them. So lots of people don’t wash – I don’t know if men wash less than women, but I do know men tend to physically touch their genitals when they pee while women just wipe with toilet paper. So that alone would indicate men who don’t wash probably have more germs on their hands than women who don’t wash.

          (For cisgender people obviously).

    6. KR*

      I hate handshakes and I have small hands which are easily dwarfed by the average men’s hand so if I’m not offered a handshake I don’t do it, professional consequences be damned. I just make sure I make eye contact and give the person a solid “Hello, nice to meet you.”

    7. LilySparrow*

      There’s also body language and verbal initiation. Do you introduce yourself, or were other people introducing you?

      In most cases, I don’t really see one person initiating a handshake “cold.” It’s two people sort of moving toward each other while exchanging names.

      If you’re just standing there with your hands folded, or something, it is going to seem awkward or unwelcome for someone to stick their hand at you. Particularly if you’re letting someone else speak for you.

      It’s automatic for me to lean forward, put my hand out, and say my name all at the same time. Or if I’m with someone *very* senior who is introducing their team, I’ll do the lean-and-reach while saying, “nice to meet you,” or “hi.”

      I find that initiating handshakes seems to put everyone else at ease, especially in situations that could be ambiguous, like a networking lunch or running into a colleague by chance and being introduced to their companions.
      It just provides clarity and context.

      Most folks do feel momentary awkwardness or uncertainty when meeting people, and are quite happy to have someone make a decisive gesture.

      You can always get more casual after a handshake, but it’s hard to warm up after an awkward wave.

      1. Lehigh*

        Yep, I agree with this.

        Additionally, for *some* of the men, they may be feeling awkward because in some social circles the men shake hands with each other and hug the women. It would be inappropriate to hug you at work, but the handshake may not come as automatically as it does with other men.

        1. Mimi*

          “The men shake hands with each other and hug the women”? It is completely the other way around in my social circle! The guys hug each other and unless the woman initiates a hug they will shake her hand.

          1. Lehigh*

            Oh, that’s interesting! Yes, among most people I know the women hug each other and the men. The men typically shake hands with each other, unless they are particularly close (then they hug, too).

    8. MissDisplaced*

      I’m not sure it’s undermining, but I do sort of see this as possibly showing a lack of confidence.
      I’me very introverted myself, but early on in my career I learned to not be afraid to introduce myself and present an outstretched hand and give a firm handshake more along the lines of a the way a man would do it.
      I don’t know if it makes men respect me more, but at least I know I made the effort.

      And I have to admit, I hate when women have weak, floppy or limp handshakes. I’ve found a lot of women actually turn their hand palm downward in a handshake. What’s that all about?
      And don’t get me started about the awkward European style kiss-kiss greetings!

  22. Travel mug?*

    My workplace is rolling out a new policy for food and drink in work areas and as a result, I need a new mug. I would appreciate recommendations!

    Must be:
    Spill-proof (e.g. with lock-on or screw-on lid, or otherwise advertised as spill-proof)
    Ceramic or glass (for the interior, at least)

    I would prefer it to be on the small side — coffee mug-sized rather than tall take-out coffee-sized. Aesthetically-pleasing is also a plus!

      1. Travel mug?*

        Those are lovely, but it seems like you have to choose between leak-proof and ceramic? I really would like something that is both, and I’m increasingly uncertain that it exists.

      2. Ama*

        Yeah my contigo has never ever leaked when it’s closed even though I throw it into a tote bag in the morning in which it does not always stay upright. Actually I knocked it over once on my desk when the top was open and it only spilled a few drops before I got it righted, because the opening is pretty small.

      3. Margaret*

        Yes! The only complaint I have about my Contigo mug though is that it doesn’t fit well in the Keurig so I have to awkwardly tilt it in. As an accident prone person it works well.

    1. Namast'ay in Bed*

      I agree contigo has some great options, I also highly recommend hydroflasks, which come in all shapes and sizes and are great for hot or cold drinks.

      1. YouwantmetodoWHAT?!*

        I love my Hydro Flask! My husband got me a new one for Xmas, with the straw cap. I use it for coffee. If the straw is closed, it does not spill. As a matter of fact, I knocked it over with the straw flipped up and it barely dribbled.
        Expensive – and totally worth it!

    2. TheCupcakeCounter*

      The best one I have is contigo as well but it is very tall and slim. Ceramic inside, metal outside. Multi-thread screw on lid with an additional twist opening. It literally fell over in my bag completely full and not a drop spilled.

      1. Travel mug?*

        Sounds dreamy. Looks like they’re still available in the wild, even though they’re not on the Contigo website.

    3. CAA*

      Have a look at Keepcup. They have glass cups that are sized more like mugs with plastic sealing lids.

      1. Travel mug?*

        I really like the look of those. Not technically spill-proof but I doubt anyone would inspect closely enough to call me on it….

        1. London Actuary*

          I have a glass one which is spill proof. There’s a thing on the lid that you can rotate to cover the drinking hole.

          However as much as I like my mug, it’s very difficult (for me) to get the lid off. I spilt tea down my front yesterday trying.

    4. NW Mossy*

      I was all excited to evangelize for the Zojirushi insulated mugs (more of a canister shape, really – think slightly slimmer than a S’well water bottle), but I don’t think it’ll work for you because they’re metal inside and out. I’ll still add the recommendation here, though, in case someone’s looking for a spill-proof option – I’ve had mine for a couple of years and it’s only spilled when I’ve overfilled it. It has a locking lid and I’ve never seen so much as a drip, which for messy me is the holy grail of coffee receptacles.

      1. Lindsay J*

        I’ll add that I’ve been using Corksicle Canteens, and I like them a lot. Screw on lid. I carry mine around in my bag and it doesn’t leak. I have ice in my drink at the end of the day like 12 hours after I filled it. I’ve never tried them with hot, but they’re advertised to keep things hot for 8 hours I believe.

        I just like the form-factor better than my Contigo. Also, the one I have holds 24 oz which means I have to refill it less often, and fits ice cubes unlike some other options (and is wide enough to fit a bottle cleaning sponge through it). I usually make iced tea in mine (ice, agave sweetener, lemon juice, teabag, cold water).

        And we threw one really hard against a brick pillar (long story) and while the outside had a significant dent in it, the inside was not misshapen at all and it still works perfectly.

        1. Specialk9*

          I read a magazine that said Corksicles hold a full bottle of wine, so a restaurant used it to keep white wine cold outside in the heat. I have several of them and it makes me smile. Mine just has water, I swear!

      2. Epiee*

        Zojirushi mugs are awesome but they almost keep things too hot. I have made coffee in the morning, put it in my mug, and decided to drink it at 3 p.m. and burned my tongue! That is amazing but I definitely wouldn’t recommend drinking coffee you just made out of one, or coffee that you are going to keep covered continuously when it isn’t being consumed.

        They are perfect for bringing in the rest of a pot of coffee from home that’s had a chance to sit, or if you can pour it into a normal mug at your destination.

        1. Specialk9*

          I have that problem with most of my insulated mugs. It just means I make coffee or tea and then make sure it’s actually a drinkable temp before putting on the lid (with water, milk, ice cube). As opposed to making coffee too hot on the assumption it’ll cool down over the day.

    5. Elizabeth H.*

      Contigo. Contigo. Contigo. You can store them upside down full of coffee in your purse. They have all different sizes. The 14 oz size is pretty small. I’m not sure they get smaller than that though.

    6. Corky's wife Bonnie*

      I have a Bubba Brand Insulated Stanless Steel Travel Mug with TasteGuard and I LOVE IT! I put my hot coffee in it around 7:40 am, and it’s still hot at 10:00 am. I also knock it over or drop it all the time (I’m clumsy) and it doesn’t spill.

    7. Not a Morning Person*

      How are they planning to police the inside of the mug? And what’s the reasoning that the inside must be glass or ceramic? That seems oddly specific.
      I’ve been trying to find a mug that will be spill-proof, keep coffee warm and also work in a microwave. No luck.
      But I really am curious about the fact that the office specified the material