misbehaving coworker doesn’t know I’m about to be his boss, communal microwave is on my desk, and more

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

1. A misbehaving coworker doesn’t know I’m about to become his boss

I’m in a tricky spot — I was recently granted a promotion that will put me in charge of my current team. Because we have a big project launching a month from now, my boss has concluded that it’s best to keep everyone focused, and not announce the restructuring (and my new role) until after this project wraps. The issue is that I already have tension with and big concerns about one coworker who will report to me (let’s call him Jeff), and the situation is rapidly getting worse.

I don’t think it’s a personal beef with me: Jeff has made some big missteps in the past year and received a lot of criticism for it, so I suspect he’s just feeling defensive and disengaged. But in recent meetings he’s been combative and curt with me, and another coworker recently divulged that he’s taking regular time out of the office to interview at other companies, offloading major components of his job onto an unqualified freelancer, and hiding out in conference rooms where he watches baseball games on his laptop instead of working.

Jeff is clearly looking for an exit, but in the meantime, his behavior is impacting our team and he’s not taking pains to hide it from me because he doesn’t know I’ll soon be his manager. How can I intervene right now, seeing as the promotion won’t be public for another month?

You probably can’t. You just don’t have standing or authority to do anything about it right now. However, you can talk to your boss about the situation so that he’s in the loop, and to ensure that he’ll have your back in dealing with the situation right out of the gate when you your promotion takes effect.

For now, you’re getting the benefit of getting a really clear look at a problem you’ll have to deal with soon though, and it sounds like you’re seeing more of it than you’d see if Jeff knew you were soon to be his boss. You’re not obligated to tip him off in order to protect him from himself (especially since that would mean divulging information you’re not authorized to divulge yet). And it might actually be useful that when you do become his boss, he’ll realize that you know the situation; that could make it easier to have a candid “you’ve got to cut this out” conversation with him.

(And meanwhile, you can hope that one of those interviews turns into a job offer, which sounds like it would be the best thing for everyone.)

2. My coworker has none of the skills she said she had

My manager recently hired a woman, I’ll call her Sue, as a programmer in our IT department. Problem is Sue knows nothing about programming, let alone the specific languages she said she knew. So, all day long she asks for help on everything. My other coworker helped a lot at first, even though we knew she was totally lost — we thought maybe she could pick it up. But Sue retains nothing, asks the same questions over and over, and can do nothing on her own. When we get very busy, this will be a problem, as we can’t do her work and ours. Unfortunately, my manager — as she hired Sue — seems to be reluctant to face the fact Sue is incompetent, though we have told her, gently, that is the case. Recently, I told Sue that it was her project and I was not going to write it for her, so now she badgers my colleague. I used to love this job, but having Sue around just gets me aggravated. Any suggestions?

This is your manager’s problem, so let it be your manager’s problem. It has to be that way because she’s the only one who has the authority and tools to actually deal with the situation.

So when Sue asks you for help, tell her that you’re sorry but you’re busy and can’t help, and suggest that she talk to your manager if she’s stuck. Make “this is not my problem” your own internal mantra in your head, because it’s not — and if you’re tempted to step in and try to help the situation, you’ll make it easier for your manager to avoid dealing with it. (You might point that out to your coworker as well and suggest she use the same approach.)

3. Is it wrong for me to settle for a while?

I hear a lot about how people want to push the envelope when it comes to work, always moving upwards, looking for bigger, better paychecks and offices. And while those things are definitely nice, I wondered if sometimes it’s okay to just, settle for a while?

I’ve spent the last 10 years working through high-stress jobs, first in a management position I was not prepared to handle, then an incredibly toxic environment, then a year of temp jobs after the toxic one fired me. My job now is very low-key, low-stress, makes use of my talents, and I very much like the people I work with.

Everyone around me, though, keeps asking when I’ll move on, look for something better. And while I’d love to get something better paying, this covers my bills plus a little, and I feel like it’s doing my mental state a world of good and I know there is room for some elevation within it. I’m not saying I don’t have ambitions, but right now I’d just like a little quiet. Is that wrong?

No! You get to do this however you want. You have a job you like that, you’re earning enough money (it sounds like), and there’s no reason you need to do this differently just because other people have a different idea of what you should want.

The one thing I’d say is to be thoughtful about how this might impact things you want to do in the future (for example, if you dropped out of a field you think you’ll want to go back to eventually, it would be smart to figure out what, if anything, you need to do to ensure that path is still there when you want it). But you sound happy with your situation, and that’s enough.

When people ask you when you’ll look for something better, you could simply say, “I’m actually really happy with this right now.”

4. There’s a communal microwave at my desk

I have recently taken a new position. The desk that I am assigned has been empty and the other folks in the area have placed a communal microwave at the desk. Having the shared microwave on my desk will drive me nuts with the food spills and smells as well as having people hovering at my desk. Do I have the right to ask that it be moved and how do I go about it?

Good lord, yes. It’s actually on your desk? It’s more than reasonable to say, “Now that I’m using this desk, it’s not really working to keep the microwave here. Is there another spot it can go in?” If you get any push-back, explain that the smell and people using it are too distracting while you work. (And if anyone argues with that, you can say, “It really does distract me, but if you don’t think it’s a big deal, can we move it to your desk?”)

5. I’m annoyed at how my boss handled my dress code violation

I’ve been at my company for almost three years now, two at my current office location. We have company-wide policies, but my VP is a little lax in enforcing things. It’s a bank and there’s a dress that goes with that.

Something I enjoy doing after work is running. Another coworker runs as well, and 5-10 minutes before the work day is over, if there aren’t any customers, he’ll duck out to the bathroom and change into his running gear. I’ve also started doing this as well. I don’t do this every day, but two or three times a week I’ll grab my gym bag and change. I’ve been doing this for the past three months.

Today I did the same: about five or 10 minutes before the end of the work day I changed into my running clothes and went back to my office with a few minutes before the “official” close of business. My boss rounds the corner and tells me that I need to be sure to wait until the actual close of business before changing into my clothes, and that I don’t want to be perceived by my coworkers as “that person” who cuts out a few minutes early when everyone else is still working. He said he mentioned this to me because he saw me going to change.

A couple of things struck me as inconsistent: 1) My boss has seen me do this before and has made no indication that this was a big deal, as others do it from time-to-time as well. 2) I know where my boss was when I was walking out of my office and I know there’s no way he would have been able to have seen me go to change.

There are two coworkers who I don’t get along with in my office. They’ve been there for 10+ years and sticking around solely for their paycheck and my theory is that one of them said something to my boss because they are the only ones who saw me once I had changed. None of my coworkers are fans of conflict and prefer passive aggression to acting like adults and bringing something up to the person that they actually have an issue with. At the end of the day, I don’t particularly care about working through until the end of the work day and waiting to change. That’s fine, and it’s completely reasonable. What I’m having trouble getting over is the idea that my boss lied to me when his story doesn’t add up. It’s petty, it doesn’t matter, it’s office life, but I can’t seem to shake it on principle.

You should let it go. It’s true that in a business with a dress code and customers, you shouldn’t be changing into running clothes before the end of the day, whether that’s enforced consistently or not. It’s possible that the reason your boss said something to you this time when he hasn’t before is because he figured he’d let it go once or twice, but now it’s a pattern so he needs to correct it. And even if your coworkers did alert him this time, he didn’t lie to you — he didn’t say “I noticed this entirely on my own.” He just addressed it, and figured that how it came to his attention wasn’t particularly relevant (because it’s not!).

{ 463 comments… read them below }

  1. Engineer Girl*

    #5 – Please don’t tell yourself stories. You really don’t know if your coworkers said anything. Blaming them based on assumptions is wrong.
    Alison’s explanation makes more sense. Your boss didn’t say anything until he perceived a pattern. You’re in the wrong. Let it go.

    1. Mookie*

      Yes. The LW thinks this

      My boss has seen me do this before and has made no indication that this was a big deal, as others do it from time-to-time as well.

      is a sign of inconsistency, but I’d interpret it differently. He gave her the benefit of the doubt, maybe thinking the first or second times were one-offs. Skirting obvious rules (dress codes in banking and finance are well known the world over and no secret) doesn’t remove them from the rulebook.

      Also, the boss didn’t “lie.” Management are not just allowed but expected to consider feedback from colleagues when considering advising or disciplining their employees. Beyond that, if this has been carrying on three times a week for several months (so, the majority of every week), chances are when the boss turned the corner he expected to see the LW in running gear.

      LW, if you don’t mind following the rules here, there’s really no beef. If it’s “passive aggressive” to want co-workers available until the workday ends, it’s “passive aggressive” to make an unannounced wardrobe change during that crucial period. You’d be fine if they asked you directly to stop doing that? It doesn’t sound like you’re fine with your boss doing so, so perhaps you need to re-calibrate how approachable you are perceived to be at the office.

      1. Anion*

        Not to mention that he also made a comment about “being perceived by co-workers,” which could be him telling her/acknowledging indirectly that her co-workers did complain. So there’s no lie here; he specifically acknowledged the possibility that her co-workers said something to him. And what does the LW want, for her boss to say, “Your coworkers have complained about you doing this, so don’t do it anymore?”* I don’t think many managers would come out and say that.

        *I don’t mean that to sound mean or rude, LW, just that in your boss’s eyes, the alternative to what he said would sound unpleasant and possibly create tension.

    2. Sam*

      I agree. I often let things go once or twice so as not to be too rigid, but if something becomes a pattern I’ll deal with it. I would have no problem with an employee doing this once (maybe she has dinner plans and wants to squeeze a run in really quick after work, no biggie) .. but several times a week? Nope.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        Yup. Enforcing the letter of the law to the fullest extent possible is exhausting and will make your employees resent you. The rules are in place to ensure professional conduct. Changing into work-out gear on company time is not professional behavior no matter how you spin it. As an occasional thing: no biggies. As a regular thing: nope.

      2. Snark*

        Yeah, at several times a week, that’s not a great look. If your position is coverage-based, you’re paid to cover until closing, not until there aren’t any customers (because one might come in 10 minutes before closing) and I just really want to go running and….

        If you can wait until 10 minutes before closing, you can wait till closing. As a very occasional thing, whatever, but if it’s routine, nope.

      3. Sara without an H*

        Moi, aussi. LW5, you really, really don’t want to work for a manager who calls out every small infraction immediately. But if you’ve been doing this on a semi-regular basis, it’s a pattern, and he’s right to talk with you about it.

    3. I Herd the Cats*

      Yeah, OP is focused on these details, but they’re the wrong details. You’re supposed to be changing into your workout clothes at the end of the day, and it doesn’t matter if X is doing it or appearing to get away with it, you don’t want to be that guy/gal. Griping because your manager finally said something to you and wondering if your coworkers ratted you out is missing the point.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Agreed. You’re being paid to work until X o’clock. Wait until X:01 to go and change.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, there may be no customers around at 4:50 but that doesn’t mean there won’t be. When I worked at a bank, if a customer walked in at 5:00 he got helped. So it’s really not great to duck out to change early, even if it’s just a few minutes.

          1. Snark*

            And we’ve all been that customer who walked at 10 minutes before X o’clock and got heavy sighs and eye-rolls from the crew, who was already counting out drawers and planning to peace out at the stroke of the hour. It doesn’t particularly make you feel like your custom is valued.

            1. Lindsay J*

              Especially for things like banking, where, if I get there 10 minutes before close, it meant I had to leave my job 20 minutes early to get there and deal with whatever I needed done while they were still open.

            2. whingedrinking*

              I will say in defense of “peacing out at the stroke of the hour” – if you are being paid by the hour, that is exactly when you expect to leave, for a variety of reasons. It’s not just the principle of the thing – though consider when insisting that non-exempt workers stay “until the job’s done”, whether they could just head out fifteen minutes early under the same circumstances. I was sternly warned at my first job that routinely clocking out too late would result in a writeup (the dreaded overtime!), and working off the clock, or when you’re supposed to be off the clock, is the stuff of nightmares from a legal perspective (worker’s comp! Lawsuits!). No, people shouldn’t roll their eyes or get huffy at customers, but I’m routinely surprised by how many people in this community treat it as unreasonable when employees do their level best not to work for free.

              1. Birch*

                True, but that also means LW is being paid to work till the stroke of the hour, not 10 minutes beforehand. It’s really not that big a deal to wait an extra 10 minutes to get ready for your hobby. And if it is that painful to wait, LW should look for another job.

                1. whingedrinking*

                  No, that’s fair enough in the case of the LW – she doesn’t say exactly what her job entails, but I absolutely agree that changing into her running gear isn’t part of it and her boss is entitled to tell her to cut it out, especially if she’s violating dress code. I’m referring more to Snark’s general statement about pulling drawers and so on, with the implication that if people are expecting to leave work on time, it’s because they’re lazy or have a poor work ethic. In every customer service job I’ve ever worked, there’s been the understanding that closing procedures begin before close; you had to learn to find the delicate balance between serving customers and getting out of there before you got in trouble for working overtime.

      2. Myrin*

        Yeah, I, too, thought there was a bit of a “tilted” focus in this letter – it might help OP to try and calibrate how she views the situation.

      3. Chelleski*

        I think she’s annoyed bc she never would have done it if other people weren’t doing it, which signaled to her that it’s okay. Now she feels a bit singled out.

        1. sap*

          This is the impression I got too, but it also sounds like she does it much more frequently than the other coworkers, so I hope that can give her some perspective.

        2. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*


          I also took it as – OP’s annoyed because she *thinks* that the boss only reprimanded her because co-workers complained, not because boss actually has a problem with her doing this. IE: boss just told her to stop to quiet the “passive aggressive” co-workers (because manager doesn’t have the backbone to tell PA co-workers they are ok with it or manager doesn’t understand that as manager they CAN approve certain exceptions or maybe manager personally is ok with it, but is afraid PA co-workers might tattle on both OP and manager to a regional director or something – who knows!) .

          Anyway – if that’s the case – I get the OP’s annoyance. It’s annoying to feel like a small privilege is being revoked for non-business related reasons or that you’re being singled out for minor infractions (that other people do as well) again, for non-business related reasons. Doesn’t change the fact that OP is technically in the wrong here, and it is what it is.

        3. Anion*

          Yes, and that does suck. Let’s hope the boss has made similar comments to her early-changing co-workers.

      4. Seriously?*

        Also, the OP did not face any negative consequences. They were not reprimanded or punished, just told not to do it anymore. It is possible the other coworker was talked to as well. Or the other coworker is known to be a slacker and the manager is trying to help the OP not gain a bad reputation that could harm their career advancement.

    4. Kathleen_A*

      I agree with Engineer Girl and the others who are indicating that you are, really and truly, in the wrong here. It doesn’t matter how your boss discovered it. The plain fact is that if you are leaving your desk to to change before quitting time on a regular basis, you are essentially clocking out early. More than once/week, or so it sounds. Assuming that part of your job is to be there, ready to help customers, until closing time, that’s not appropriate.

      I would just add that even if this bugged one or more of your coworkers enough so that they complained to the supervisor, that was actually a perfectly correct thing to do. Assuming none of them have any authority over you, how else were they supposed to handle it? Sure, they could have hinted that this isn’t the way things are usually done, but since it sounds as though none of them have the standing to actually correct you, hinting is about *all* they could have done. So turning problem behavior over to the supervisor is a perfectly legitimate way to handle it.

      But it also sounds like a pretty minor problem, so if you correct the behavior, there shouldn’t be any further consequences. It sounds like you just misread the room a little, OP. It happens.

      1. Luna*

        Your 2nd paragraph is really important- OP seems focused on labeling the coworkers as passive-aggressive by not speaking to her directly, but that is not always the best course of action and the coworkers were correct to instead talk to the boss. This was the boss’s problem to deal with.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          Exactly. “Acting like adults and bringing something up to the person that they actually have an issue with” sounds sort of reasonable, but really, if one of my coworkers – over whom I had no authority at all – made a habit of stopping work early, my options for direct intervention would be limited. I could say, “You know, we really are expected to work until 5 most of the time”…but that would be pretty much it. And I wouldn’t blame a less assertive person if he or she recoiled even from that. Correcting employee behavior is the boss’ job, not the coworkers’ job.

          Because actually, working until you’re supposed to even if nobody is checking up on you is also “acting like an adult,” IMO.

          1. Snark*

            I think OP is conflating the norms that apply in social/friendship type relationships with those that exist at work.

            1. Kathleen_A*

              Yep – that and “This really ticks me off even though in my heart, I know that I’m not entirely in the right, but I will feel better if I can declare that someone else is in the wrong, too.” :-)

        2. Artemesia*

          Co-workers have no obligation to police the behavior of the OP. How many letters do we see here of people goofing off or not doing a good job and the co-workers frustrated because it isn’t her place to say anything? When you are wrong the issue is your behavior not whether someone else ‘ratted you out’ which they couldn’t do in the first place if you weren’t doing something wrong. The changing clothes is minor; the attitude is major.

          1. Snork Maiden*

            In the words of Bob Loblaw, “Why should you go to jail for a crime someone else noticed?”

    5. paul*

      And, OP…sticking around for the paycheck?

      Yeah, no kidding. That’s why most people work. To quote my favorite economist, “Money can be exchanged for goods and services.”

      You’re taking fairly reasonable feedback and making a federal case of it. You’re looking to blame everyone but yourself and it won’t go well.

      1. Snark*

        I think the overall point with that little aside was that they’re boring lifers picking on the younger, more ambitious coworker who is Going Places because they’re not.

        1. Epsie*

          Homers brain when he found money in the couch cushions while looking for peanuts. Money can buy many peanuts…

        2. paul*

          I thought about using the 20 dollars buys many peanuts quote instead but went with this one :)

    6. teclatrans*

      How he found out is so irrelevant, I couldn’t even read that part (and I always read everything). OP, your boss simply set a boundary with you — I see no indication that you got an official reprimand or write-up — and a completely legit one at that.

    7. AKchic*

      And we’re not talking just ten minutes a day for three days a week sitting in her running gear (out of dress code compliance). We’re also talking about the time wasted on her doing her wardrobe change while on the clock. Because I’m sure she isn’t taking an unpaid break to go do her wardrobe change. So, let’s be generous and say it only takes her 5 minutes to grab her gym bag, go to the bathroom, change her clothes, toss everything back into her bag and walk back to her office. Let’s assume that in order to *not* offend customers, she doesn’t see customers at all during those last 10 minutes at her desk. Effectively, she is getting paid for 45 minutes a week to sit in her running gear at her desk, impatiently waiting for her after-work run. Or, giving the impression of impatiently waiting.

      You’re paid to have a certain image while on the clock. “Ready for a run” isn’t that look. Stop focusing on who may have complained and realize that your habit is just that, a habit. A pattern. It wasn’t what upper management wanted the company to look like and you were asked not to do it. That’s it. I feel like you’re trying to nitpick so you can justify feeling hurt about it.
      Would you have preferred a passive-aggressive all-staff email reminding everyone not to change clothes before the close of business day, where everyone would have known it was you and the other person? At least in this way, it was direct and called little attention to you and the other offender.

    8. Eileen*

      Re: No. 5 – Yes, your boss is being stupidly petty about this. I had a similar thing pop up at a location I had to do some work at and I swear I looked at the boss who got snippy with his employee about this and said, “Really? This is a hill you feel like dying on? You have a good employee who does good work, meets their obligations and otherwise shines in their position and you want to bust their butt about 15 minutes at the end of the day. Why? To gain what? This is penny wise and pound foolish.”

      But alas, No.5’s boss has the right to be petty about this if that’s what No. 5’s boss is insistent on being. Its stupid, but the boss has the right to do so.

      1. Where's the Le-Toose?*

        But if it’s your obligation to work until 5 pm, working until only 4:45 pm isn’t being a good employee.

      2. Not a Morning Person*

        This isn’t a job where employees can make up their own schedules. It’s a customer service position with regular, posted hours. It’s not petty to expect that a customer service professional be available to actually serve a customer during those hours. Those last few minutes before closing still count. It’s appropriate for a manager to expect that customer service professionals be ready to serve customers during the time that the business is open, right up till closing.

        1. Anion*

          And in some positions, those last ten minutes are always when the guy with a million issues to solve show up.

          I will never forget my mom’s story about a clinic where she worked (she’s an RN)–basically a doc-in-the-box. They closed at midnight. A guy walks in at 11:58 with a problem/pain in his knee. They ask how long he’s had the problem and he says, “Well, let’s see, I’m 59 now…”

          Turned out he’d had this problem for twenty years, and he finally decided to see a doctor about it at 11:58 pm on a weeknight. It took them ages to get him out of there.

          1. whingedrinking*

            I used to work in a bakery and you’d be amazed how many people would call at 5:58 PM and want to talk about wedding cakes. Hint: it was only slightly less than the number of people who’d get angry when I told them that everyone from the owner/head pastry chef to the second-most-junior apprentice had gone home. They’d demand to know who was there that they *could* talk to, and were generally not best pleased to discover that their options were the most junior apprentice, who was just about trusted to wash the dishes and re-stock all the flour bins, or me, the cashier who rang up croissants and coffee between philosophy classes. I never suggested that unless the wedding was Kant-themed I probably couldn’t help them, but I came quite close a couple of times.

  2. Yvette*

    #5 Is it possible that someone higher up noticed and said something, or a customer? You said you don’t do this every day but only two or three times a week. A complaint could have been made earlier, but your boss waited until it happened again to say something. In either case, the end result is the same, you really need to comply.

    1. Canadian Teapots*

      What I’m wondering is where the co-worker is in all this. Did they also get reprimanded? If so then probably someone higher up threw a snit.

      If they didn’t get reprimanded, then OP is being singled out for something. Given that the worst case scenario is the dress code violation may be an excuse to terminate for other more fundamental reasons it’s worth checking in that the rest of OP’s work is up to snuff in, say, their weekly or monthly check-ins, following one of many of Alison’s suggested scripts for the purpose.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        I think it’s perfectly fair for OP’s boss to bring this up. I certainly hope he brought it up or is planning to bring it up with the coworker as well, but even if he hasn’t, that doesn’t negate his right to say something to OP.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          OP wouldn’t know if boss talked to the other coworker though. Or shouldn’t.
          Correction is done in private.

          1. Czhorat*

            True, but if the co-worker continues to change early then it’s potentially selective enforcement and not a fair and reasonable way to run a business. If one getting away with it is of a different race or gender it may even be part of a pattern of discrimination.

            If it’s a tightening the screws across the board so people don’t start checking out early then it is what it is and there’s really no way to fight it. Whether or not this is a good idea is another question – I can see both sides of it — if there are no customers at ten minutes before five it’s unlikely that you’ll cause any disruption by changing, and odds are most people are in clock-watching/chit chat mode anyway, but it IS still time on the clock and some offices are sticklers for having everyone work from bell to bell. If it’s indicative of strict adherence to rules overall, that’s a potential shift in the culture of this particular office.

            1. bolistoli*

              I think this depends on if they report to the same manager. Different managers can enforce different rules. Even the same manager can make different arrangements with different employees. You never know if the other employee comes in earlier, or other reason. In any case, the OP needs to worry about herself. At this point, discrimination is a pretty far stretch since it seems to be just 2 employees – hard to discern a pattern of discrimination. Just because one employee gets a perk (or alternate arrangement), doesn’t mean everyone gets it too.

              1. Czhorat*

                True, but in a reasonable workplace people in similar roles have similar rules and expectations.

                If there are multiple first-line supervisors for a larger group, it’s best for them to be on the same page in terms of how strict or lenient they’ll be with work time for a harmonious group. If everyone has to be at their desks in business dress until the clock strikes five that’s understandable. If one group gets a bit of slack and the other is held to the letter of the law that will feel arbitrary.

                If OP sees that nobody is changing their clothes at 4:50 anymore than they should probably just drop it. If others ARE still doing so then I can understand them feeling singled out.

                1. Someone else*

                  That’s true, but at the same time “so-and-so gets to break the rules therefore I should too” isn’t really a great argument, and seems like it’s where OP is coming from. I could see feeling bitter if the other(s) continue, seemingly unimpeded when she got asked to stop, but in that case OP needs to reframe her frustration to “they are continuing to ignore the rules and are cruisin’ for a reprimand”, rather than “Only I am not allowed to do Against the Rule Thing”. Because that’s really the more important thing to remember: this is against the rules and has always been against the rules. So being asked to follow the rules is not some big injustice. Others not being held to the same standard might be, but the resolution in that case is everyone stops, so either way the outcome for OP will be the same.

                2. AB*

                  Sounds like that would be a case of punishing everyone because of one person. Maybe the manager is fine with people occasionally getting changed / taking a person call / doing other non-work activity right before the day ends, but doing it regularly is taking the mick. If one person is taking advantage then you should talk to THAT person. If other people are being reasonable then leave them be.

            2. Clorinda*

              If OP had the bad luck to be caught by a customer at 4:55 and that hasn’t happened to the other guy, it could easily end up looking like discriminatory enforcement even if it isn’t. Probably the manager should make sure everyone’s following the dress code, and maybe some of the other “little” rules too–it looks like a culture of slackness has started to develop.

      2. JamieS*

        I was wondering about the co-worker too. Some possibilities I thought of were: co-worker was also reprimanded, there’s a difference in behavior between co-worker and OP (such as co-worker usually changes 5 minutes before close and OP usually changes 10 minutes before, OP has changed when there are still customers and co-worker never has, etc.), they have different jobs and it’s a bigger deal for OP to change early (like if OP were more customer facing or coworker is higher up the food chain), or OP is right and someone told on them so the boss doesn’t even know about the other co-worker doing the same thing.

        I could probably think of a few more possiblilities but decided there wasn’t enough info to make any sort of determination and it was a moot point anyway since it doesn’t change what OP should do. Besides even if OP is being reprimanded for something someone else is getting away with fighting to be allowed to duck out early to change into a running outfit doesn’t seem like the hill to die on.

        1. Kelly L.*

          My guess was that co-worker may just directly report to a different person who doesn’t mind as much.

      3. Penny Lane*

        Why would you think the OP should know whether the other coworker was reprimanded or not? That’s a little off. The OP received an appropriate reprimand, he or she should wait til the end of the day to change, and then move on.

      4. kb*

        It’s likely that the coworker who does the same thing was also asked to stop in the same way as the OP was (or will be asked to stop the next time they change early). It’s also possible that the coworker got permission to change early for some reason unknown to OP.

        While it’s never a bad idea to evaluate your work performance and make sure everything is on track, I don’t know that the OP really needs to be worried. It seems like the boss handled this in a v normal, chill way. As long as OP wait until COB to change from this point forward, they’re probably in the clear.

      5. Irene Adler*

        Could it be that co-worker asked for, and was granted, permission to do this ? The OP writes that she just followed suit. Maybe that’s part of what’s driving the VP’s request to curtail such behavior.

        1. Snark*

          It’s also possible that the coworker does it much less often and on more of a contingency basis, rather than regularly.

          1. a name*

            My thought is there’s a gender component. Women’s workout clothes cover less than men’s, so the manager may see “Tom in his basketball shorts and tech tee” and “Jane in her short shorts and tank top.”

            Even if both are perfectly acceptable and modest running attire for running, the women’s clothes will stand out more in the workplace.

      6. TheCupcakeCounter*

        I am also wondering what OP’s running gear looks like vs coworkers running gear. I.E. my running gear is skin tight cropped pants, sports bra, and a tank with cutouts because I get hot. There are exactly zero customers where I work and I would not dream of changing into my running clothes here at all let alone if there were a chance that customers might see. It could be that boss doesn’t care that OP and the coworker change on the clock except that the workout clothes are extremely inappropriate for the office and it is safer to mandate no changing until the doors are locked than to critique the attire.

        1. Anion*

          I wondered that, too. Maybe the co-worker was spoken to privately (hopefully), but it’s also possible that co-worker simply puts on t-shirt and loose jogging pants whereas OP’s gear is biker shorts and a crop top. Maybe co-worker changes pants, puts on t-shirt, and puts blazer or button-down back over it, or something, so from the waist up she still looks professionally dressed.

      7. Kate 2*

        OP says coworker, do they mean someone in the same department/position (customer facing and hourly, which it sounds like they are) or someone who also works in the bank. Because I have seen coworker used both ways.

        It’s a very different thing for someone who doesn’t see customers to spend 5 minutes (as long as a normal bathroom break) changing, another thing entirely for you to change 5 or 10 minutes early and hope no customers come in.

    2. Ginger ale for all*

      I was someone who reported a co-worker for getting into work out clothes before her shift ended. She would do it three times a week and then sit at her desk and tell everyone else to go up and help the library patrons because she couldn’t because she wasn’t dressed for it. I would have to stay past my shift with no overtime because she did that. You had better believe our supervisor found out.

      It ultimately doesn’t matter who told on you. You weren’t supposed to be doing in in the first place and you only got a verbal warning. Small potatoes.

      1. Canadian Teapots*

        Okay, but here’s the thing – OP has reported that this clothes changing near shift end provided there are no customers is a somewhat common practice engaged into from time to time by not just that OP, but others as well.

        For $BOSS to give OP a specific hard time over this suggests something deeper may be afoot than what is in all essentials a minor issue if reasonable discretion was (albeit informally) granted in the past.

        Also, unlike your situation it doesn’t sound like the running gear thing 5-10 minutes before shift end is negatively affecting other peoples’ work.

        1. Em Too*

          It doesn’t sound like a ‘hard time’ to me, just a reasonable and polite ask. Which the other person may also have heard.

          1. Kathleen_A*

            That’s how it sounds to me, too. All the OP says is “My boss rounds the corner and tells me that I need to be sure to wait until the actual close of business before changing into my clothes, and that I don’t want to be perceived by my coworkers as ‘that person’ who cuts out a few minutes early when everyone else is still working.” I don’t hear any “hard time” talk in there, and if the boss had been harsh or anything, I’m pretty sure the OP would have told us so. It just sounds like an ordinary “Here’s something I’ve noticed” kind of talk to me.

          2. Jen S. 2.0*

            Agree. OP was taken aside privately, and neutrally asked to stop (which, as others have noted, Other Coworker may have gotten as well).

            While no one likes hearing, “Hey, would you mind cutting back on this?” it is hardly a humiliation. It sounds like OP would rather not hear it at all, and / or wants it directed at others, and / or wants someone else to take some blame, because it wasn’t 100% positive. The fact that you were called out — once, privately, and not angrily — on something you were legitimately doing wrong doesn’t mean you’re getting a hard time.

            How else are you supposed to be given necessary corrections?

            1. CMart*

              A few months ago I was taken aside privately, and it was neutrally suggested to me that I should not be “on my phone all the time” (ie: walking to and from the bathroom/kitchen) because it was being noticed in an unfavorable way.

              I didn’t like hearing it. It was a little embarrassing, my impulse was to be defensive (really? people are monitoring where my eyes are on my trips to the bathroom? this is asinine), but my manager brought it up because it was important. She didn’t scold me, it’s apparently a big deal in my office (I just celebrated a year here) to look open and approachable and therefore staring at a screen on your way to get water is a bad look and it’s a behavior she wanted me to correct.

              I’m still grumpy about how petty it seems, but I’m certainly not upset with my manager for coaching me on it. Being corrected like that is about as professional as it gets.

              1. AKchic*

                It’s also the perception of safety. If you are paying attention to your screen, you can’t be certain there aren’t obstacles/hazards on the floor in front of you.

        2. NextStop*

          Maybe others have been reprimanded and OP doesn’t know about it because it’s none of her business.

        3. lamuella*

          I think one question here is whether “no customers” means “nothing to do”. Even in an entirely customer focused job there’s still things that could be done in this time.

          1. Antilles*

            Even in an entirely customer focused job there’s still things that could be done in this time.
            In fact, in a lot of customer-facing jobs, the last few minutes of the day when there aren’t any customers can be *extremely* valuable for prepping things for the following day. There are a lot of minor tasks that are lower-priority than serving customers but are still very useful – decluttering areas, cleaning, organizing files, etc.
            If everybody else is doing these sorts of minor tasks in the last 5-10 minutes of the day while OP is in the restroom not working…well, I can certainly see why a co-worker might get irritated.

          2. Hey, Oi, Let's Go*


            She is changing her clothes during work-time. Ok, one certainly can have a break or two (next to lunch) during a work day. No problems with that. BUt I do know that at the end of a working-day, there are specifict tasks to do, especially in customer focused jobs.

            1. lamuella*

              as my old boss said during slow periods at the book store: if you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean.

          3. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

            This is a good point. When I worked at a bank the last few minutes of being open, *especially* if there were no customers, was an all hands on deck to get everything closed up so we could go home. If you are scheduled to work until close, then you have closing activities to do. And customers are kinda known for wandering in two minutes before closing. It would have been a big deal to be in running gear and working. And I worked at a branch that kept beer and wine coolers in the break room fridge for after we closed at the end of the day. It was definitely the most relaxed bank I ever worked at.

            1. Seriously?*

              That last part is key. Just because there are no customers at the time does not necessarily mean that no customers will come in and the work will be off loaded to the coworkers who are not changing. Furthermore, the OP only indicated that one other coworker changes into work out clothes. Depending on that coworkers role, it is possible that the manager didn’t see it or that they have different managers.

            1. Laoise*

              Exactly This!
              My coworker frequently leaves 7 minutes before end of day because “no one’s here and we have nothing left to do.” But our position MUST be staffed by someone till closing. So that’s always me.

              Every single time someone calls 1 min before closing, I’m the one who deals with it. I’m the one who stays late unpaid. Its me who’s running frantically to get stuff actually done. Every. Single. Time.

              It’s happens 3 times in April already and I’m already fed up. My coworker still thinks it’s no big deal because she’s never involved in the moment.

        4. hbc*

          Just because there are no customers 10 minutes before the end of the day doesn’t mean there will be no customers 5 minutes before the end of the day. And she’s doing it for half the days of the week! Maybe those other employees would like an equal chance to bail on work 10 minutes early but have to be there covering the front just in case.

          1. mirandaze*

            Also, either way, it’s 10 minutes. Surely it’s not too much hassle to stay on for those few extra minutes and help get everything closed up properly, so nobody has to stay on later than they’d planned?

          2. sap*

            Yeah, especially in something like banking that keeps very close to Regular Business Hours but needs to service a lot of people who work 9-5, I think it’s really super common to have last 10 minutes customers rushing in because they could only duck out of work 10 minutes early themselves. I know I always get to the bank ~5-10min before closing, which I understand is hard on the closing team, but also I have to be at work until 15 minutes before that and there is traffic. This isn’t like showing up to a restaurant 10mim before close–banks provide a vital financial service in a very limited window, and it’s not like you can just go to the bank next door.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              This. At my bank, the drive-up windows are open later than the lobby, but for certain tasks, you have to go in. I would definitely have to leave work early to make it and that’s just not always possible.

        5. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I don’t see a “hard time” here at all. It sounds like the boss was calm and reasonable, more of a, “Please don’t do this,” than a, “I saw this and I am so mad and how dare you.” I also don’t see the point in pushing back, either vocally or by behavior. Changing is indeed a minor issue, but so is NOT changing. Just wait 5 minutes.

        6. serenity*

          Who cares, she is in the wrong. Let’s not engage in nitpicking the situation on the OP’s behalf.

        7. Samata*

          But you don’t know if it is affecting others or not. If this is banking customers can come in up to the last minute. If she is customer facing and someone else has to stay late because a customer comes in while OP is changing can become an issue over time, especially multiple times a week.

          Rules are rules, giving someone a hard time for not following them does not mean something else is afoot. It means its happening often enough to be addressed.

        8. paul*

          Telling someone to adhere to a reasonable dress code and not change into a workout outfit is not “giving them a hard time”.

        9. Not a Morning Person*

          It’s splitting hairs to say, “Oh, because there is not a customer here 10 minutes before closing, then I can quit my job for the day and get started on my personal routine.” So what happens if a customer comes in at 9 minutes before closing? Or 3 minutes before closing? or 15 seconds before closing? It’s the nature of the job. Customers expect to be served when they come in during operating hours.
          It was probably embarrassing to be called out for doing something that hadn’t been an issue before now, but now it has been called out, and the thing to do is to comply with the dress code and be gracious about it. The manager didn’t make it a BIG thing; he pointed out a violation of policy and said it needed to stop. If the OP spends time coming up with all kinds of reasons that the expectation shouldn’t apply in her situation, then it will become a BIG thing, if only in her mind, and will interfere with how she feels about her job, her coworkers, and her manager. If OP has ambitions about growing in her organization, then this is an example she needs to keep in mind of how a manager gives appropriate feedback. It might come in handy in the future.

      2. Julia*

        Yeah, my only co-worker (in the department) used to change before our lunch break actually started, so if something urgent happened right before lunch, I was always the one stuck with it since she was already in the bathroom and then left right away…

      3. Oxford Coma*

        I had a serving colleague who would disappear for a cigarette the moment we showed out the last table and locked the door behind them. Conveniently, this meant she never did closing side work. I don’t think she replaced a condiment or sanitized a table in a year. You bet I complained.

    3. Bagpuss*

      two or three times a week is a lot. Your boss may not have seen you on the day he spoke to you, but it seems likely that he had seen you on other occasions, and possible that he came to your office/ desk at that time knowing there was a likelihood you might be going to change early.

      I don’t think that the fact he has seen you before and not said anything is relevant. I think it is the sort of thing where a manager would be happy to overlook it as a once-off, or even as a rare event, but if you are effectively stopping work 10 minutes early 2 or 3 times a week, that’s much more of an issue.

      You don’t have any way of knowing whether he has also spoken t your co-worker. Either way, you should stop doing this,and if you notice your co-worker continuing it do it on a frequent basis you can decide whether that is something you want to flag up with your boss, if only to query what the circumstances are in which he is OK with someone leaving early to change. It may be that co-worker is perceived as a better worker over all, or that he does or has been asked to do extra work and this is off-set against leaving early. It is also possible that you are perceived as the better worker, and that this means it is more noticeable, because there is more likely to be someone looking for you when you go, or that your boss wanted you to address it so it doesn’t come back to bite you if he puts you forward for a promotion!

    4. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD*

      Bosses have bosses, too. In some jobs a visible sign that employees are checking out early (like in the letter, or groups of employees clustering and goofing off) can get the boss chewed out. Bosses’ bosses can weight optics in judging a manager’s ability.

      A middle manger’s job can be pretty awful, just cut him a break and comply with the rules. :) (VPs in banks tend to be middle managers)

  3. LouiseM*

    OP#3, it’s so wonderful that you’ve found a job that you like and that pays your bills. Personally, I would be really steamed if someone tried to make me feel bad about that. Something similar happened to me and it really showed me who my true friends were. At ToxicOldJob, I was doing the work of six people and was bullied every day by my manager, but the company was prestigious and I was rubbing elbows with some big name celebrities. When I finally managed to get out of that awful job and found a less glamorous one that didn’t make me hate my life, you would not believe how many of my so-called friends wanted to know why I didn’t consider going back. I realized many were not friends, but grifters.

    On the other hand, many *thought* they had my best interests at heart, but they were actually projecting their own ideas of success onto me. I think this is probably the case for you, OP. For the true friends, the problem was solved when I gently asked, “would you rather I still be working at [ToxicOldJob] and complaining to you every weekend?” They quickly got the point.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      Not killing yourself to be at the front of the rat race =/= settling!!! If you are employed, and reasonably engaged, and making enough money, and being treated well, and happy, that is a serious B+, at worst. A LOT of people would kill for that.

      Your job doesn’t have to be the only place you find fulfillment and development. As has been discussed around here many times, it does not mean anything is wrong if your job isn’t perfectly challenging and fulfilling, and stretching you all the time, and using your degrees perfectly, and developing you as a professional, and providing you with the perfect path for advancement. It’s not your job’s job to do all of that. Great if it does, but mostly, your job asks you to do tasks and pays you in return. That’s more than fine.

      1. Specialk9*

        This! Work is not all of one’s identity. If it is, one should find a hobby. Porcupine juggling, Neanderthal reenactment, knitting… Something.

          1. Specialk9*

            Oh yeah, surely you have a chapter near you? People gather, dress in period costume (and argue about historical authenticity of various animal skins with a focused pedantry), then reenact a famous pitched battle, with clubs. Nobody really wants to be the Australopithecines, but somebody has to be if you want it all to work.

            1. katelyn*

              I love the comment section here for the advice, but also for the wonderfully absurdist tangents that sometimes appear! <3 this comment!

        1. AlexandrinaVictoria*

          I just found out from 23 and Me that I have a LOT of Neanderthal DNA. I think I’ll have to look into the reenactment stuff…they’re my people!!

          1. starsaphire*

            Just, you know, don’t wear a Mammoth-fur belt until you’ve earned one. Those are reserved for the Order of the Sabretooth… ;)

      2. RVA Cat*

        This. Plus let’s remember this whole competitiveness is very much a(n upper) middle class fixation. There are simply not enough of those types of jobs.

      3. agmat*

        Yes, yes, and yes! Quite a few of my friends, and my husband, have advanced degrees in niches of biology, as do I. Many of them found positions of passion. Probably 80% of the time they have to work on a weekend it’s a fun project and something they enjoy. They live and breathe their work. And that’s great.

        I found a position in regulation. No research projects, lots of giving people bad news, and lots of report writing that probably no one will read unless it goes to court (almost never). But it pays well, I don’t work weekends, I have plenty of time to do other things in my life, and it is interesting overall. I am passionate about doing my job well and being dependable, but I’m also passionate about detaching at 5pm. We have a baby on the way and I am barely worried about how we’ll manage the schedule adjustment because I have flexibility in my day. That right now is most important to me.

        I can tell some of my friends have a bit of a “oh, poor you” attitude about my position. They can’t image life where work isn’t, well, their life. And that’s okay, that’s how some people function. But I think that’s a minority of people. Once you go to grad school you may think that’s how you’re supposed to be, along with everyone around you. But it’s not.

        1. Science!*

          This is such a thing in science and academia. There’s an equation between passion and quantity of work. I was told once that I don’t have enough passion for biology because at the end of the day I like to go home and relax with my family. That Drive = Passion. But I think they are two different things, sometimes complementary, sometimes not. I have a lot of passion for my subject, but I’ve learned over the years that I don’t have the drive to publish and write grants. I actually love research, and love giving presentation, and love reading about science, but I like to put it down on weekend to pursue my other passions, like my family, knitting, reading for fun, and writing for fun.

          So I’m getting out. I’m taking a non-academic position where I can problem solve research questions, go out and give presentations about specific science topics, meet and talk to people from all the different areas of biology but also be able to have the day end when I leave work, and aside from a couple trips a year, I will never have to work on a weekend. I’m also keeping my contacts, so if I want to do some research on the side, if I have time and a project that I am passionate about, then I might be able to. We’ll see.

          1. Julia*

            There’s also the factor that most people (I guess) work better when they take breaks from their projects for a little while and look at them the next day with fresh eyes. Your ideas have to come from somewhere.

          2. Sara without an H*

            True. Universities, as we know them, were invented in medieval Europe and staffed by monks. Sometimes I think academic administrators still assume that.

        2. JustaTech*

          Oh my goodness, agmat this “Once you go to grad school you may think that’s how you’re supposed to be, along with everyone around you. But it’s not.” is so very, very true and there are a lot of people (myself included) who could avoid a lot of stress and heartache learning this.

          I get paid well and I work a 40 hour week in a field close to what I went to school for. Why should I work an 80 hour week for half the pay?

          1. Rainy*

            My bff got a tenure track job in our field. I bobbed around a bit and wound up doing something that my experience as a grad student made possible. I love my job, what I do is very important, and it fulfils my values in work (and life). I also get to leave work at work. She works from the moment she wakes up until the moment she goes to bed, every day except during breaks, when she doesn’t but feels guilty about it. I did that as a grad student and I am totally over it.

      4. Allison*

        Absolutely! People sometimes give me a hard time because I’m not using my degree, probably because in college I was a stubborn little you-know-what who insisted on sticking with political science instead of a degree that would lead to a more lucrative career, because I wanted to “change the world,” and now I have a corporate job. But you know what? I love my corporate job. I don’t feel overworked or underpaid, I don’t hate Mondays, I don’t find myself constantly sighing and going “ughhh, this day” or “ughh, this week.” My boss likes me and appreciates my hard work, I don’t even mind staying late when I need to because it almost always pays off! That right there is worth its weight in gold.

      5. Tort-ally Hare Brained*

        I liked the phrase I just read in “Radical Candor” to call your steady, talented employees that aren’t necessarily looking for advance as rock stars, since they are the solid rock of the department/company/etc. It was refreshing to see acknowledgement for the people that hold everything together through transitions and do their jobs really well.

    2. Not Australian*

      I’ve been down this road, too. “Oh, you’re far too intelligent for this job, you won’t stay long,” they’d say. Then I’d have to explain that I had a father with cancer and a mother with Alzheimer’s and I would really, really like my job to be the least stressful part of my life thank you very much. There were days when just mechanically typing reports and leaving at a regular time felt like the only predictable thing I had going; I almost literally found work a very welcome break from all the rest of it.

      1. Mookie*

        (I hear you. I’m in the same boat and, shit, work is a holiday compared with the rest of my existence, with regular hours and the surprises are more often pleasurable than soul-shattering.)

        Also, intelligence and work ethic don’t always go hand in hand. You can be book-smart (me, at least when I was younger) and very capable in your present role (this I try) without possessing any ambition (me always). For a lot of people, occupying a permanent holding-pattern is crucial for their mental health. They’re good at what they do; let them have and enjoy this!

        1. Blue*

          I confused the hell out of my boss when he mentioned promoting me at the end of the year, and I told him I wasn’t interested. He saw that I was smart and capable and committed to delivering high-quality work, like him, and so he assumed I would have the same career goals as him. But it’s really important for my mental health that 1) I do work that doesn’t completely drain me, and 2) I can walk away at 5:00. A promotion in this office means moving into a management role. It’d be most of my job, and I would hate every second of it.

          And, yes, I would like the recognition for the work that I’ve done recently. I’d also like the extra money (I live alone in a major city, so life isn’t cheap). But while my current salary isn’t huge, it’s enough to live on and still save some, and I genuinely like most of the work that I do. For me, moving forward in my career means getting to spend more time on projects I really enjoy, and I’m content to wait until such an opportunity arises because that’s the better option for me right now.

          1. miss_chevious*

            ” He saw that I was smart and capable and committed to delivering high-quality work, like him, and so he assumed I would have the same career goals as him.”

            This happened to me recently with my new-ish boss. He was a bit startled when he realized that I did not have the same level of ambition or high level career goals as he did. I think it required a bit of a reset with regard to how he provides motivation to his team, since many of us are more the “excellent worker bee” than “aspiring manager” type.

          2. AMPG*

            When I was a new supervisor, I had a really hard time managing someone who didn’t want to move up through the ranks, as I did. My first direct report was hired without my input, and we weren’t a great match (we worked very closely together due to the nature of our work). Part of that was due to actual performance issues on her part, but a lot of it was that her personal circumstances meant that she wasn’t really interested in moving up, and I didn’t know how to motivate or reward her as a result. It took me longer than I’d like to admit to learn how to be an effective manager to someone with different career goals.

      2. Harper the Other One*

        I sympathize deeply with this! I’m not in your exact position but I have a variety of family circumstances that are definitely factoring in to my career decisions. Right now, that means part-time, highly flexible work while my kids are young enough that someone has to be home when they get back from school; in future, it means something where I will be able to clock out and leave work totally behind. That’s much more valuable to me than climbing a ladder for the sake of it.

      3. Oxford Coma*

        + a million to this. Sick family means work is an escape. Plus, staying somewhere stable for a longer period also (hopefully) lets you bank PTO for when end-of-life issues/estate problems factor in.

      4. laylaaaaah*

        Oh god, me too. Between depression, ADHD and being a carer, I do /not/ need work to throw a bunch of extra stuff at me. I want to show up, do a decent job, and go home at five, free to not think about anything work-related until 9am the next morning.

    3. Kali*

      I’m picturing that scene from The Devil Wears Prada, when Andy’s jerk friends are being jerks.

      1. Hera Syndulla*

        That has always bothered me as well. All the more because Andy says – on multiple occasions – that she only has to stick up with that job for a year.
        I would hate working for a Miranda too, no doubt about that. But if I had an opportunity like that, and a (in my head) fixed timeline of a year that would help me career-wise, I’d hope my friends and family would support me during that year and forgive me if I am not always there at social gatherings.

        1. LouiseM*

          Eh, I see both sides. I think the way she behaved, especially toward her partner, was pretty terrible. But I also know how it feels to have a toxic but “enviable” job take over your life. There’s no winning!

          1. Brittasaurus Rex*

            I remember her boyfriend being pretty awful, but that could be my dislike of the actor!

            1. Kate 2*

              Yeah, that whole scene where he says he wouldn’t care if she was (I think he said stripping?) working what he considers a really unethical job, as long as she was honest about it was such bs!

              Also chefs tend to work really difficult hours. Early mornings to select produce, never dinners together, always working holidays, etc. What a hypocrite he was!

    4. Bagpuss*

      I agree. If you are happy and solvent, enjoy!

      I’m not sure if you are getting pressure from outside, or simply second guessing yourself, but if you are getting push back from friends, maybe think of a response which focuses on the positive things about your current situation? So rather than focus of the job itself, mention that you’re really enjoying being in a position where you have the time and energy to enjoy [insert hobby here].(Or for closer friends, say what you said here, that while old job might have been better ‘on paper’ it was highly stressful and difficult, and you are taking a breather and enjoying working in a more positive environment.

      It’s up to you to determine what kind of work/life balance is right for you, both long and short term, it’s only an issue if you want to move on to bigger challenges and can’t, so as Alison says, do consider what you want, longer term, and whether there are specific skills or connections you need to think about maintaining or acquiring, in order to be able to keep those options open.

    5. Specialk9*

      It’s also reasonable to need some time to recover and recharge. Someone posted once about how long it takes to recover from a toxic job, and people posted their answers, which were broadly a half year to several years. If OP left the toxic job for a whole series of uncertainty and turnover, that’s added stress and not recovery time. They’re likely still very much in recovery mode.

      So OP, please be kind to yourself. Biology is simple – if you deplete your systems, you need to rebuild, and that takes time. Tell yourself that now is healing time. If you later start to want to climb ladders, you can do it then. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to. Other people can make choices on how they live their own lives – that’s all any of us get to determine. You get to do you, exactly how you choose.

    6. Hera Syndulla*

      Dear OP3, as long as you are happy about your work and it gives you the financial support that you need, do whatever you want. Many people would do a lot to be in the same position as you.

    7. Kathleen_A*

      In my job, I do work a lot of hours – no walking away at 5 p.m. for me, at least not all the time. But the thing is, I oversee *projects*, not *people*, and that’s very important to me. However, I have a lot of seniority here, and so when all three of previous my bosses left, everybody kept asking me if I was going to apply for their job. What I said aloud was “No, I’m happy where I am” (which is true). But what I thought was “No, no, no, no, noooooooo! Managing seven people, keeping track of a multi-layer budget, dealing with the president, the COO, the board – no, no, no, no, nooooooo!”

      And I’ve never regretted it.

  4. LouiseM*

    OP#4, it’s official…I can’t read this because my eyes bugged so far out of my head they have popped out and rolled away. Excuse the typos, LOL!! But seriously, this is mind-boggling. The smell of *my own* microwaved food makes me sick, never mind someone else’s. I wouldn’t be able to stand it. If I got any pushback at all for asking to move the microwave, I would move it myself…to the roof, the bathroom, wherever you can find space. What a disgusting way to welcome someone to a new job.

    1. Artemesia*

      This is one of those thngs that should have been handled on day one where noone would find it odd to hear ‘where can we put the microwave now that I am working at this desk?’ when you put up with something ridiculous, it begins to seem less ridiculous to others. So tomorrow, get this thing moved. If it has nowhere to go, then it heads for the storage closet until a spot is located. Never accept the unacceptable and the first day on a job is a good time to set that sort of boundary.

      1. laylaaaaah*

        This is one of those things that should have been on the company’s onboarding list of things to do before the newbie even showed up, tbh. How can you not make sure your new employee has a decent desk space?

        1. the gold digger*

          I changed to a different division at my old job, with a month’s notice.

          I arrived at my new job – on the third floor instead of the fourth floor, on my starting day to find not only had my boss not ordered a computer for me but the only place he had for me to sit was at an open plan desk next to Customer Service.*

          “This space is OK for you, isn’t it?” he asked. “We could build a cubicle for you, I suppose, but do you need one?”

          He had a window office. With a door. Because open plan is so great.

          * And then he asked me to call a prospect in Mexico. As in, day one, I don’t know anything about the product, and I am supposed to speak on the phone in Spanish while ignoring the three customer service people talking next to me.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            This happened to me at Non-Profit Job. For the first few months, I was stuck downstairs near reception, while my entire department was on the second floor. Should have been a warning sign, really.

        2. Amber T*

          I think it’s one of those things that’s *so* obvious that someone will handle, everyone assume’s that someone will handle it, right? Which inevitably means no one ends up handling it. Check lists!

          I also don’t think it’s unreasonable, OP, if you move it yourself. “Now that I’m here, I’m just gonna move this microwave to this corner/open space/free area over here.” Because if anyone gives you a hard time… I’d be real surprised.

        3. Jam Today*

          I showed up to a new job a couple of years ago and there was no computer for me, with a concurrent expectation that I would start working immediately. I actually worked on my own laptop for three weeks before they ordered me a computer.

          It definitely augured something bad about the company, and I left after three months of intense frustration (and also because the lead engineer resigned when I asked him for a ballpark estimate of how long a design change would take. All I wanted was the unit of measure: days, weeks, or months, and he submitted his resignation that afternoon instead of answer me.)

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            I’ve taken to asking during the interview or when I accept the job what the usual timeline is for a new computer to show up. That tends to get things rolling faster than otherwise. At least once, someone realized that just maybe, my first day should be AFTER the computer arrived, and we adjusted plans accordingly.

            1. JustaTech*

              One job it took the computer at least a week to show up, a week when I was supposed to be doing online training. I brought in my personal laptop, but because the wifi was locked down I had to use the intermittent signal from the coffeeshop downstairs.

              The next job, my first day in the office there was no power cable for my desktop. (At least that got fixed in about an hour after my boss called IT.)

        4. AKchic*

          I spent my entire 3 month probationary period with nothing to do and no computer. Government, union job. I brought in a portable dvd player and knitting. I filed for about 30 minutes a day. I got a 20 minute spreadsheet assignment once a week. That was my whole 3 months of probationary period.
          I’m still here… my 2 year anniversary is coming up. I did get a computer about 4.5 months in.

            1. AKchic*

              It pays the bills. More than pays the bills. I’ve even had the “but you’re overqualified to be here!” speech followed by “why are you here?”. *sigh* I’m here because I’m a high school drop-out who doesn’t want to go into debt and go to college to get a degree that I could never pay off. I spent way too long working in the non-profit sector where I would never advance without that degree I could never hope to advance without. Now I make 3x what I did with 10x less stress, which affords me more mental energy to spend on my hobbies (ren fair, among other things). This job pays for my hobbies (oh, and my kids. I guess I can’t forget them).

      2. Tardigrade*

        Yep, and if day 1 has passed then any subsequent day is the next best day for moving the thing somewhere else.

    2. Penny Lane*

      OP with the microwave – you may want to think about your passivity. It’s completely a reasonable request to move the microwave and frankly I’d just move it myself to whatever seems like an appropriate spot under the theory that “well, of course it’s ridiculous to have a mw on someone’s desk.” So many AAM letters are about people who don’t assert themselves in reasonable situations – I can’t help but wonder if you have a general tendency towards passivity and how well that works for you.

      1. LS*

        That’s a bit over the top. It might be their second day, and the first time they’ve actually gone to their desk.

      2. Kathletta*

        That’s a bit insulting to assume, especially from such a short letter. The whole point of this blog is to ask for advice, I don’t think we need to critique her personality for it!

      3. Kelly L.*

        I feel like you say this fairly often? I doubt everybody who writes in is passive! I think people are mostly just trying to figure out the most diplomatic way to say things, since they have to keep working with them potentially for years.

        1. BeautifulVoid*

          Agreed on all counts. And I think it’s especially unfair to make such a sweeping judgment on a LW’s personality based on how she acted on her first day (or even first few days) at a new job, where she’s still trying to figure out office culture, different personalities, hell, even everybody’s names. On top of, you know, her actual work responsibilities. But hey, I’m sure there are people out there who don’t find any of that even the slightest bit overwhelming. *shrug*

        2. AMPG*

          Yes, it’s SO unhelpful to respond to a basic “I’m navigating a new work culture – is this reasonable?” question with “clearly it’s your personality that’s the problem.”

      4. Seriously?*

        There may not be an obvious place to move it. Starting out a new job by moving things around to make room for a microwave without talking to anyone first is not necessarily the way you want to start. It is easy enough to talk to someone saying it is a problem and asking where it can be moved to.

        1. Observer*

          That’s 100% true. It’s completely sensible for the OP to ask to have it moved. And if they get push back, just move it. But to do that FIRST, without checking is a bad idea since you don’t know enough to make a sensible choice. Once you run into lack of cooperation, it’s different – at that point your response to any criticism of your choice is “Well, I asked for help but since no one could move it or tell me where to move it I just did my best.”

        2. AMPG*

          Yes, it stands to reason that if there were an obvious non-cube place for the microwave, it would’ve been put there in the first place. So they’ll have to do a little thinking about it, which is totally OK, and it shouldn’t be OP’s job to manage that process.

      5. soon to be former fed*

        I would have called facilities and asked them to move it, sometimes commercial microwaves are heavy. No way I would have tried to work at that desk, even if people were courteous enough not to use it while the desk was occupied. So nasty and inconsiderate! If I couldn’t move it myself, I would have at least turned it around so it was unusable. Where is OPs manager? I am pretty bold and assertive, but not everybody is and that is OK. But OP should know that it is OK to have reasonable boundaries.

      1. LouiseM*

        I don’t quite understand your comment! Surely if you’ve been reading AAM for awhile you know a lot of commenters have smell sensitivities :)

        1. pleaset*

          Getting sick is a severe reaction. I wouldn’t do something in my own life that makes me sick. I’d eat food cold or find another way to heat it up rather than get sick.

            1. soon to be former fed*

              It was a pet peeve of mine when people would put food in the communal microwave and then leave the break room. I don’t want to handle other people’s food but I’m on a time limit. Besides, odors can linger.

      2. EB*

        Not Louise obviously but, I totally have issues with the smell of my own microwaved food! And am definitely aware it’s weird, ha. I was a super picky eater as a child but yeah, I really can’t handle the smell of food *before* it’s microwaved. It’s a miracle I eat leftovers at all.

          1. Snark*

            It’s actually a particular chemical compound that develops in cooked meats at low temperatures that creates that smell – you’re reacting to a real thing!

    3. NYC*

      actually, I would move it right away, period.

      Well, no, I’d say, “where is the microwave going?”
      And then yes, if no one suggested a spot, I’d simply unplug it and set it in the nearest community area, without further comment.

      I was a little confused by the tenses ; I’m not sure whether the Letter Writer is sitting at that desk already, or moving to it soon.

  5. Bibliovore*

    I know. Find another space for the microwave and move it. If there is no other space., speak to your supervisor about purchasing a cart and moving it far from your desk.

  6. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

    No. 4 Great answer. A perfect response to anyone objecting to the removal of the microwave is to ask them if they are volunteering to have it placed in their office. Please don’t accept, “We’ll get it a small table in the corner so it won’t bother you” as an answer.

    1. Irene Adler*

      Procuring a small table is fine. BUT! The microwave is off the desk TODAY. Even if it must sit on the floor in said corner awaiting small table purchase.

      1. Dragoning*

        It’s really not fine. It won’t solve any of the issues, like the smell, or the hovering.

      2. Clorinda*

        OP doesn’t even want it in their office/workspace, which seems very reasonable to me. Simply moving it from the desk to the corner doesn’t deal with the disruptions and the smells.

      3. Yorick*

        I have to say, I think putting it in the floor wouldn’t be a good idea. Imagine trying to heat up your lunch and finding the microwave is out of order because the new person put it on the floor instead of working with someone to find a real place for it. If there’s no obvious place to put it, at least take it to the most obvious person to handle it and ask them to find a place.

        1. Kelly L.*

          It would still work on the floor, though of course it would be awkward trying to bend down to use it!

          I’m sure there’s a spot *somewhere*. We recently had to move our coffeemaker because the new copier was in the way of it. We all tried to go to the old spot on muscle memory for a while, but we adjusted.

    2. Mockingjay*

      A desk is a workspace, not a food prep space.

      What happens when someone spills their soup all over your desk, ruining your laptop and the freshly printed pages of the TPS report? Not to mention who is going to wipe out it out to reduce odors and avoid vermin.

  7. [insert witty username here]*

    OP#4 – I would make a slight tweak to Alison’s script and say “WHERE would you like the microwave to go?” And then put it there ASAP. I wouldn’t leave room for “oh, we don’t really have a spot right now so let me think about it and get back to you.” Go into the conversation assuming that OF COURSE they will find another spot for a microwave! Yuck – sorry you have to deal with that.

    1. Former Employee*

      The problem with asking someone where they want something to go is that they can say that it’s fine right where it’s currently located.

      1. This Daydreamer*

        Haha you are so funny! Can you imagine working with the microwave on your desk? It would be an OSHA nightmare! Anyway, how about on that table over there? We could make room by…

        Anyone who is slightly reasonable can see how the situation is untenable. If you talk like you assume they’re joking about sharing your desk with everybody’s lunch and popcorn it will be hard for them to insist that the microwave has to stay put.

        Of course they still might push back. There’s no way to guarantee that you’re working with reasonable people. Worst case scenario is that you realize you have to get away from the toxic office quickly enough that you don’t have to put it on your resume.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Everybody will have to reprogram their brain to carry their food somewhere else. Change is bad! People asked to be big-picture reasonable by changing their established routine can dig their heels in, no matter how low the hurdles look from outside.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I’d just make a little tent flyer that said, If you’re looking for the microwave, it now lives at [Becky’s desk] [the table near the copier] [Asgard]. Welcome to Elizabeth’s cube! Or something like that.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              If there’s one thing I’ve learned here, it’s that a box of doughnuts atop the microwave in its new location can do a lot to assuage wounded feelings. “I had to walk all the way over… ooooh, sprinkles.”

      2. Penny Lane*

        No. just move it. It’s obvious to any reasonably normal human being that it’s inappropriate on the OP’s desk. This is like having a wad of used tissues on your desk and saying “golly gee, can I move this?” Just do it.

        1. The Original K.*

          Yeah, it’s pretty nuts to expect a coworker to have a microwave on his desk. I don’t think this requires asking permission. Leave it in the kitchen, or any other communal area if there’s no kitchen.

          1. Seriously?*

            That works if there is an obvious place to move it like a kitchen or common space. If there is no obvious place then talking to someone is probably the best thing to do.

      3. Mookie*

        “It’s not fine for me, so this is going to be moved. Do you have a preference for where to?”

        1. Cordoba*

          Don’t ask for preferences, just move it to any other logical spot.

          “Logical spot” in this case being any horizontal surface in a common area where it won’t cause a safety hazard. From this point if somebody else has a strong preference they are welcome to pick it up and take it wherever they want, as long as it’s not LW’s desk.

          LW doesn’t need permission and a public hearing before they can relocate random objects from their work area.

          1. rldk*

            Well, no, LW doesn’t *need* that, but in the interest of not accidentally creating a scene while she’s still new, it’s not unreasonable to get permission/approval of the office to move it. I doubt she want’s to be branded “LW, the Microwave-Moving Troublemaker” with the office at large if they haven’t yet stopped to think about the feasibility of the current arrangement.

      4. Rusty Shackelford*

        But if you say it while you’re standing there, holding the microwave that you unplugged and removed from your desk, it carries a little more weight.

        “Hey, this was on my desk, and I need to move it. Where’s a good spot?”

  8. RioC*

    #2 – Programming is one of those skills where I’ve learned to not trust that someone will just pick it up naturally on the job. Tried grooming a coworker up to take up my previous role’s tasks because he took a few CS courses in freshman year college (roughly 6 or 7 years ago at that point) and talked about wanting to pursue a masters dealing with programming. 4 months in and we need to pull him off because he’s not retaining anything at all and taking too long to produce basic functionality (that I need to step in and tweek/finish anyways). I figured this out about 2 weeks in, but he was literally the best person of the internal group I interviewed and my manager insisted on training him up. Since then, we only move forward with internal candidates who display some kind of initiative (eg. maintains a personal GitHub) and who also pass some basic programming exercises in the interview. It’s a weed out process through-and-through, but I don’t think it’s fair to toss someone into a role they’re going to struggle in, especially if they struggle with a basic concept like switching values between two objects.

    1. Artemesia*

      Anyone who hires a programmer without tasking them to program during the interview process deserves what they get. Make this the manager’s problem sure, but if you can try also to influence the hiring process so that finalists demonstrate their skills before they are hired.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Not programming, but I once worked with a new person who was supposed to have lots of experience on a particular skill needed for our job.

        However, it became clear after a short while that they didn’t, and kept asking me for help with basic tasks. (e.g. how to save a Word document) As I was busy at the time trying to juggle my own work, having to keep breaking off from what I doing was tough.

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          At one of my old workplaces, this kept happening with skills that were standard to their position. We learned very quickly to not do their jobs- it wasn’t helping any of us get ahead or feel good, it wasn’t good for my research group.

      2. RioC*

        I originally did want to issue some sort of programming task, but had to settle with the (non-programming division) manager and instead, present a simple task I regularly deal with and see if it looked like something they can manage. Not even testing them on it, just….seeing if they’ll respond with “yeah, that doesn’t look so bad”. Ultimately, it was a combination of a lot of things that would’ve made finding an immediate successor impossible.

      3. Tau*

        Yeah, I’m a little… boggled at the idea of hiring a programmer without doing a skills test. Not even fizzbuzz?

      4. Ellie*

        I’m a programmer with 15+ years experience. I have never had to do a skills test before being hired. There is always a technical person in the interview but I’ve never even been asked anything difficult. Maybe it depends on how many people with the right skills are available? There seems to be a chronic shortage in my area.

        Also, telling the dead weight that you won’t help them and referring them to their boss wouldn’t fly in any places I’ve ever worked, because the project must get done regardless. You can definitely bring up the issue with your boss, but everyone works together because they have to. I’d talk to your supervisor one on one about it, prioritise the most important work (which probably means doing yours first), and try to give them enough so they can keep going a little longer, until theirs becomes more important, and so on. Just keep your boss in the loop so they know why things are taking longer.

        Also, is there any chance that your systems are just difficult to understand/poorly documented? If so.. maybe give them the job of documenting some of them? It might help them understand it, or at least give them something useful to do.

        1. Myrin*

          Regarding your second paragraph, it sounds like OP has already done exactly that, though, and successfully: “Recently, I told Sue that it was her project and I was not going to write it for her, so now she badgers my colleague.”. It doesn’t sound like in OP’s case, they necessarily do need to work together but rather that everyone has different projects of their own.

        2. AcademiaNut*

          If you’re hiring a programmer that doesn’t have demonstrated work experience that would show that they are familiar with the language or programming techniques needed, it’s a very good idea to figure out if “Sure I know python” means they are proficient and experience in the language, or if it means they spent a few hours with a programming tutorial.

          As far as helping people – there’s a difference between helping a colleague get up to speed, and being expected to teach basic programming to someone who doesn’t know what a for loop is, and is incapable of searching for things on Stack Exchange. If the OP is getting interrupted every fifteen minutes with basic questions (and the same questions repeated), or is being expected to spend hours a day leading someone step by step through basic tasks, she can’t do her own work.

          In the OP’s situation, I think I’d need to go to my boss and explain what helping Sue would mean to my own productivity, and ask how I should prioritize (ie, that spending 3 hours a day helping Sue means that my productivity is going to go down by ~1/3, so I won’t be able to do my usual tasks, and that 3 hours help a day is the minimum help she needs to get through her work.

        3. Mookie*

          I’m totally ignorant about this. Do programmers ever provide or have a need to create portfolios, or is that not done?

          1. David*

            No, not really. When looking for a job as a programmer, at least in the tech industry, usually what makes or breaks your application is the technical interview, where you actually have to write some code on a whiteboard (if it’s an on-site interview) or through a screen-sharing session (if it’s remote) or something like that. Good interviewers are more interested in seeing how candidates reason through a simple programming task, and not so interested in the finished product.

            Informally, a lot of programmers will put links to some of their previous work (e.g. a Github profile) on their resume, and that’s kind of like a portfolio. But usually that’s nothing more than a way to pique the attention of a hiring manager or recruiter. Even if the code is fantastic, it’s not going to get you a job or an interview on its own, and even if it’s lousy, it’s not likely to disqualify you.

            Of course, that only reflects what I’m familiar with and what I’ve read about. I’m sure there’s a lot of variation across different companies.

            1. blackcat*

              The exception to this is if you create some code that becomes insanely popular/has a high number of downloads.

              This is how a friend of a friend got hired at Google. He had no previous tech work experience, but someone at Google with hiring power found his widget extremely useful and decided to hire him.

          2. Rick*

            Yes and no.

            Historically, no. Candidates are primarily evaluated through skills tests, either through a quiz, a challenge problem to be completed on their own time, or a “whiteboard” coding problem during an interview. The interview coding problems are by far the most common.

            With the dramatic rise of github, many candidates use it as a portfolio. It’s very common for candidates to include a link to their github page on their resume. This is partly generational, with younger candidates more strongly using github. Unfortunately, most younger candidates have only their college homework assignments on github, which don’t actually demo very well.

            For those who don’t know, github is a collaboration tool for tracking code changes online. Sort of like Google Docs for code.

            Some hiring managers weigh github contributions very highly and others not at all. It really depends on what they’re looking for. I’ve never known a hiring manager to require it, but there are probably some out there who do.

          3. Risha*

            It also depends on the type of programming/development you do. Straightforward projects in modern languages, sure. Something web based, definitely. If you do mostly something like COBOL and JCL, or have an obscure specialty software package, not so much, because your code probably isn’t anything that can stand on its own anywhere accessible to the outside world.

            1. Judy (since 2010)*

              It also depends on what non-disclosures you’re required to sign. I’ve not yet had a job where it would be possible for me to share code with anyone.

        4. ChaoticGood*

          “I have never had to do a skills test before being hired.”

          I’m not doubting you, but… have you not interviewed much in the past couple of years? I know back in the day it was more common to forego this, but in my (limited, 5 years) experience it is a total industry standard – and I can’t see trusting any company that didn’t give me a code problem beforehand, hand in a solution, then come in to talk about it during an interview.

          1. sap*

            I know my husband simply refuses to interview at companies that do the standard programming skills tests. There is a lot of research saying they’re not actually bery good, and he’s got enough experience that he doesn’t feel like wasting his time on jobs where they’re not testing candidates (at his level) well.

            1. Dzhymm*

              FWIW, when I’m interviewing a candidate for a programming/software engineering position, I’ll often give a *very* simple programming task to whiteboard. While the task I choose is typically well below the skill level of a seasoned software engineer (e.g. “Write a routine in C/C++ that counts the words in a string”) I find that the candidate’s approach tells me a lot about them. On the one end, there are those candidates who can’t program their way out of a wet paper bag, and this weeds them out fairly quickly. On the other end, if somebody does something correctly that’s not stated in the original problem (e.g. validating the input before proceeding) they get extra points.

              1. sap*

                I was more responding generally to incredulity that there hadn’t been a skills test interview for some of the commenters–there are plenty of positions out there without skills tests! But your interview style works for you and that sounds great!

          2. Ellie*

            I interview a couple of times every couple of years – basically when a project finishes, to see what’s out there. I’ve worked in defence for most of my career, maybe that’s a factor? Past work can’t go on github, it would be personal projects only and I don’t get time anymore for them.
            For what it’s worth, I think it’s incredibly hard to work out who is a bad/good/great programmer before you hire them… the best I ever worked with came from a totally different field with no relevant experience at all. He was hired because we were desperate, turned out to be a genius who lifted everyone around him up a level.

        5. Anon to me*

          I’m not a programmer, but I work on project based work, and when we’ve had someone who wasn’t pulling their weight, it didn’t change the deadline or the work involved. I think that is pretty common.

          I do think too many bosses/supervisors are afraid of conflict and so bury their heads in the sand and make their other employees deal with a situation, when they shouldn’t have to.

          1. Yorick*

            Bosses are definitely sometimes afraid of conflict and don’t deal with the incompetent employee.

            But coworkers sometimes assume the boss is fully aware of how bad the guy’s work is, when the boss has no idea because coworkers are fixing his work so much that it looks acceptable.

        6. Cordoba*

          “because the project must get done regardless.”

          This sounds like a problem for the boss that hired this non-programmer, not her peers.

          If I were on this team the project can take longer for all I care, and the boss can then explain to her bosses that we’re behind schedule because she was hiring people who were not able to do the job.

          If the peers just keep picking up the slack indefinitely because “the project must get done” then there’s really no reason for management to fix this problem.

          1. Tuxedo Cat*

            Not in programming, but I had a supervisor who had that attitude. We had people who couldn’t do their jobs. Coworker and I would speak up, because we were burning out while the people who couldn’t do their jobs were cutting out early, not helping with other tasks they could do, and were generally all around bad for other reasons.

            While management eventually saw the light, management also felt like we were trouble makers or complainers. It was useful information so that I knew to get out.

          2. Ellie*

            But a truly bad programmer won’t just do nothing, they’ll actively break other people’s code as well, introduce new bugs, rediscover old ones, not test things properly… then it’s you explaining to your non-technical manager why the bug you fixed yesterday is suddenly back again. If you help them, at least you know where they’ve been.

    2. MillenialAnalyst*

      I look at the difference between skills a smart person can “pick up” vs ones they can’t without some outside help very similarly to the difference between soft and hard skills. You can learn through experience how to be less off putting; you can’t learn C simply bc your program failed to compile many times. To not do a light skills screen is setting people up to get fired quickly.

    3. Not Ned Stark*

      I didn’t do a technical assessment and it came back to bite me (see comment way, way below). Granted, we do front-end coding that’s easier to learn, but I won’t be making that mistake again.

    4. Annie Moose*

      Programming is a weird thing. Some people, no matter how hard they work to pick up the knowledge, just don’t have the mindset/personality needed. When I was in school (and I’ve seen it with a couple interns at work too), I ran into a handful of people who could not get a grip on the logic/problem-solving side of programming, especially when it came to debugging. It wasn’t a lack of knowledge or intelligence, they just weren’t wired that way.

      I don’t know if this is something innate from birth, or it depends on how early you learn programming (although I’ve known plenty of programmers-as-a-second-career who did just fine); I’m sure it’s something a person could learn eventually, but I have no clue how to teach it.

      1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

        I find that data analysis is like this too – you really have to be wired to recognize patterns and draw conclusions from mass data sets, and I’ve worked with a lot of people who see nothing but gobbledygook no matter how much training they’re given. It reminds me of that quote from The Matrix – “I don’t even see the code anymore, I just see blonde, brunette, redhead…”

        1. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

          Oh – statistics in general (like, as a class). It was the easiest class I’ve ever taken. Everything was just common sense to me. I had to learn all of the official names for things, but all of the concepts were just like, “well duh, obviously”. However I had friends (some with the same professor) who just did not get it. They kept saying it was like a totally different language and nothing made sense.

          But then – I have the same issue with certain creative writing concepts. Like unless it rhymes or has a very structured concept (ie: haikus) I cannot for life of me figure out how to create poetry. I get it when I’m reading one, as in I understand that it’s somehow different than typical prose. However, no amount of explaining seems to allow me to understand how to create a poem. It just does not compute in my brain.

          1. tangerineRose*

            Interesting. I did well on statistics because the teacher was good, and I studied, but it was absolutely not intuitive for me. Most of it felt like there was something wrong with it conceptually. I don’t know why.

      2. MJ*

        I can definitely see this — I was hired into a technical role from a non-tech role years ago, and was lucky enough to be wired in such a way that I picked up programming logic, how to write the proprietary code, etc. really quickly. (And enjoyed it!) It’s sort of comforting to know that it is an acquirable skill for a bunch of us; maybe why it’s relatively easy to transfer into a tech role?

      3. Dragoning*

        Well, programming is hardly the only career option or skillset that relies heavily on logical problem-solving and proofs.

      4. Academic Addie*

        You know, for the longest time, I thought literally anyone could learn to be a competent practitioner of programming. But this year, I have a student intern who cannot grasp it. Like, will try to run command-line software without an input file, and cannot work his way through the debugging flow chart (even the basic steps like “List the directory and make sure you have a data file” and “Compare your datafile to an example datafile to see if it’s in the right format”). Everyone else who started with him in August is confidently and happily analysing data, writing little programs to parse results, and being productive. I’ve never seen anything like this, and I’m so incredibly confused by it.

    5. Bea*

      Omg this reminds me of the times I’ve been asked to train people in accounting and the applicable software when they have no experience let alone a clue where to start. Most things take years to get into via a more apprentice approach like that.

  9. Someone else*

    #4 might actually be an OSHA issue. I have a vague memory of a friend whose desk was right next to a communal microwave (not on the desk itself but a table right next to it). They repeatedly asked that it be moved and got a no because the office was so small and ended up looking up all sorts of regulations and it turned out it’s not actually OK for it to be within a certain distance of someone’s primary workspace. That got it moved. Not sure if that might’ve been a local reg or not.

      1. Someone else*

        I actually can’t remember now if they moved the microwave or the desk. But yeah, that whole situation was bad. That office had more than twice as many people in it as it was designed to hold, and a full sized fridge, and toaster and the offending microwave. It was jenga.

  10. OperaArt*

    #4 reminded me of a time when I was meeting someone in her office in an old modular building, and the air conditioner for the room was installed so it was sitting on her desk. We’re not talking some little portable unit here, it was a very large window unit.
    I was stunned, but she was OK with it.

      1. Short fuse*

        And throw hot air out of the part that hangs out of a window. This sounds remarkably dumb.

        1. Bea*

          It’s the AC for that unit so the hot air is forced out the other side, it has to be up get proper circulation and do us job. So she’s being blasted 27th straight cold AF air.

        2. OperaArt*

          If I remember correctly, it was venting to the outside. There was a hole in the wall for that. But for reasons I can’t fathom, they hadn’t made an opening big enough to hold and support the entire unit.

    1. AngelicGamer aka that visually impaired peep*

      She could be one of those people who need the place cold as a freezer to be comfortable so she didn’t mind. Also, depending on her work, she might not have needed the desk space.

  11. Elsie*

    #4: I would just assume that people put the microwave there because the desk was empty. If I were in your shoes, I would assume no one would think it’s reasonable for me to have a communal microwave at my desk, move the microwave to a reasonable location, and when asked, respond matter of factly that I’ve been assigned this desk, but the microwave is now over there.

    1. Oilpress*

      I think that’s a safe assumption. I’m cringing at the thought of having a microwave that close. Our workplace keeps all of its microwaves on a special lunchroom floor, 30 floors away from our offices. That’s just barely enough distance to avoid sniffing the warmed over seafood. Of course, the lunchroom is virtually unusable.

    2. Eplawyer*

      That is most likely what happened. It got put there and now that’s the spot for the microwave. It just literally never entered anyone’s head to move it. Asking will get some looks like “But of course that’s the spot for the microwave” but it will get moved. Don’t let them think about it though. Move it yourself.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Yeah, I think the fait accompli is the best approach. The move will mean some people walk farther, some people can barely see the microwave (e.g. on top of the file cabinets), and everyone has to reprogram their brain to carry the lasagna to a new location. Best not to ask. If there is an even better place, let someone else deal with relocating it from Off Your Desk to The Perfect Spot.

    4. Workerbee*


      We use empty cubes as catch-alls with the understanding that if the cube is to become occupied, the catch-all goes away before said occupancy.

      Not that it should be your problem to move it, but if you feel more comfortable asking first and you do get push-back, you have every right to move it away. (Lunchroom, breakroom, conference room, chief pusher-backer’s desk, floor…)

  12. This Daydreamer*

    OP4 I have to admit I don’t understand why anyone would see anything wrong with your current job! You love it there! You’re paying the bills! That’s what work should be like! I’ve got to stop using exclamation points!

    Who knows what the future holds? Maybe you will be ready for something different later. Maybe this job will lead to something else you love even more. Maybe some people should learn to shut their yaps and live their own lives. In the meantime, you don’t have to justify staying where you are happy.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      People are weird about that. It’s like a family member of mine who was top of his class and then went into a skilled trade. Everyone was shocked because how could HE be satisfied with BUILDING things when he was so smart? But he’s super happy with his work (and incidentally now makes a foolish amount of money because his trade is seriously in demand.)

      1. Specialk9*

        The book Shopcraft for Soulcraft, written by a PhD who worked in a thinktank before switching to motorcycle repair, does a great job of breaking down the false narrative about intelligence and blue vs white collar work. I’m in white collar work and often think about it. It’s right on.

      2. laylaaaaah*

        I went to a really prestigious secondary school (I think it was like, no.5 in the country at one point while we were there?) and a friend of mine HORRIFIED everyone by going first to a badly-regarded college, then into retail afterwards. They’ve got their own niche interest shop now, and much happier than they would have been if they’d followed the pressure into something more highly-paid.

      3. Tace*

        I heard the best response to that kind of classism: “Why on earth would I want to do piecework on the factory floor of a paper-shuffling plant when I could be a skilled craftsman instead?”

        I love it because it reframed the whole issue so beautifully

      4. Merci Dee*

        I’m fortunate to know a guy who’s one of the more clever and charming people I’ve met, and has a wide range of knowledge and interests. He owns a landscaping business, and he’s out working in the yards every day, right along with his employees. He would absolutely curl up and die if he had to work inside at a desk job, so he put his love of learning and love of the outdoors to work for him and got a degree and a master’s in landscape architecture. He’s designed and made some of the most gorgeous landscapes and installations (trellises, cabanas, retaining walls, etc.) that I’ve ever seen.

    2. Queen Esmerelda*

      Because in the U.S. you’re not supposed to be happy with your current job; you’re always supposed to be working for that big promotion. If you don’t want to keep moving up, people think there’s something wrong with you. Like being happy in work is abnormal.

    3. Tuxedo Cat*

      I think it’s universal but some fields I believe have this happening more than others. You’re supposed to strive to reach whatever is perceived to be the top positions and fulfill your perceived potential, whether it makes you happy or it’s even realistic.

  13. Triplestep*

    The way I read it, LW#4 is describing a desk she is not sitting at yet. She’s taken a new position, has been assigned a desk, that desk has been empty and there’s a microwave on it now. She’s assuming the microwave will stay once she’s working at that desk and “will drive [her] nuts with the food spills and smells” etc. The headline makes it seem like this is happening today, but the letter itself makes it seem like it’s immanent.

    LW, if I’m reading this right, I suspect they are planning to find another place for the microwave before you have to work at this desk. It’s not uncommon for empty spaces to take on storage or other functions, and then get cleaned out when they are needed workspaces again.

    1. Artemesia*

      And if it isn’t gone when you arrive if that is the case, your first order of business is to ask where it should be moved to or to move it yourself to the storage closet.

      1. LW#4*

        LW4 here… I just got a peak at my desk and asked about it. The rest of the folks intend for it to stay at my desk. Because I haven’t officially taken over the desk I didn’t want to make big waves during the initial introductions. On the official take over, I intend to ask to move it

        1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

          Oh Heck yeah. If the microwave is still there when you begin then insist on it being moved. If necessary can you unplug it and place it out in the hallway? Because this is something that to me is unacceptable. No privacy, how can you lock your office door? A constant stream of people going back and forth? What happens when someone wants to use it and it’s already in use? Are you going to have dishes sitting on your desk waiting their turn? Are you going to chase people down when their food is ready and they aren’t there? Several people have a chat next to you while waiting for their food? Who cleans up the inevitable spilled mess? Where is their garbage going? This is almost worse than Coffee Wars 2018.

          1. the gold digger*

            And the noise. I hate the alarm that goes off when it’s done. I have tried to figure out how to silence our microwave at home, but there does not appear to be a way.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Good plan. And I agree with the people who suggested making it a matter of fact thing. “Now that I’m going to be working here, where are we putting the microwave?”

        3. Triplestep*

          I agree. Unless any of “the rest of the folks” you mention are your direct supervisor, I don’t think you’ll have to contend with a microwave at your desk. It would be pretty unusual.

          If you all have the kind of job where most of your work takes place away from your desk and you only return to it for paperwork/computer work, your co-workers might think it’s not a big deal to have a microwave there – but they’d be wrong! I like the idea of talking about it matter-of-factly as others have suggested, and if that does not work, raise the issue to a supervisor or manager.

        4. Specialk9*

          “Of course since I need my desk to work, and this could get us in trouble with OSHA, I’m going to move this to this back hallway while its new home is being decided.”

          1. essEss*

            There is nothing in OSHA about a microwave oven. I just looked. They are concerned with actual microwaves (in hospital and labs) but the only parts I found about ovens specifically say that OSHA is not concerned about the use of ovens in the workplace.

            1. sap*

              Maybe the beep exceeds the decibles when sitting literally in front of it? I’m a bit boggled by the concerns about OSHA as well.

            2. fposte*

              I dove a little into that too, and I think that you’re right that there aren’t straight out rules, a workplace could still be vulnerable here. While it’s pretty unlikely that even a leaky microwave oven could exceed 10 mW/cm2, the base limit of OSHA safety, it also says that “OSHA recognizes that the use of small appliances in offices or break rooms may be comparable to their use in a household and thus would not be expected to present a higher level of hazard.” And this use *isn’t* comparable with that–it’s a shared office microwave, therefore more frequent exposure than a personal appliance, with extraordinary proximity.

            1. Triplestep*

              +1. It’s just over-the-top. It’s reasonable not to want to share a workspace with a microwave.

        5. Rusty Shackelford*

          On the official take over, I intend to ask to move it

          Don’t ask IF it can be moved. Ask WHERE it can be moved to. “Obviously I can’t work with the microwave on my desk. Where should I put it?”

        6. soon to be former fed*

          Really? They intend for it to stay? Is this a hazing ritual or something? Remember, in some cases, it is better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission, and this is one of them.

        7. NYC*

          feel free to mention the microwave to your boss before the move.

          If I were your new boss, I’d be planning to move the microwave, but I wouldn’t have gotten around to it–I might move it right before I left for work on the last day before your start.

          But I’d mention it, and also mention any comments you’d heard about it staying where it is. (were I your boss, I’d want to know about the idiocy on the parts of the people who work for me).

        8. Observer*

          Actually, speak to the office manager or whoever is in charge of on-boarding before you get there.

          Tell them that you were told that the microwave is supposed to stay on your desk, and you wanted to clear that up because it sounds like a misunderstanding. If they tell you that it’s supposed to stay there tell them clearly that it’s not possible. You will not be able to work with a communal microwave on your desk and it needs to be moved. Be clear – this is not about your personal hangups. Unless you job is to be in charge of the food, the office microwave has no place on your desk.

  14. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. I wonder whether the announcement of the OP’s promotion ends up making Jeff move to a new position elsewhere? Certainly I know of situations where there have been supervisor changes and somebody leaves as a result. (Or at least it looks that way!)

    1. J.*

      It sounds like he’s already trying to get out anyway, so it would probably just be coincidental.

  15. limenotapple*

    OP#3: many years ago my Important Job was making me crazy and I left. I took a job doing something pretty menial and… It was great. Still one of my favorite times in my life. When I was ready to move on, I did, and that time away was what I needed to be ready for the next phase. Good luck! I’m glad you are doing well!

    1. Lynca*

      Agreed. Also if your manager doesn’t want to deal with the problem, the fact work isn’t getting done is on them- not you. They need to hire someone who can actually do the work.

    2. Specialk9*

      Yeah, people sometimes get fired. Picking up their slack makes it your problem instead of the problem of the decision-maker.

    3. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

      When I had to work with a Sue, it was easy to say than done. We explained what had to be done and walked her through her tasks, but when it was her turn to work on her own she delivered buggy code that exploded in production. Before she went she reported our manager to HR for aggressive behavior and tried to get the rest of the team against him.

  16. Bagpuss*

    OP#1 You can’t intervene yet as you don’t have the standing to do so, but you can (a) make sure that your manager is aware of the problems and (b) push back if he tries to off load work on you.
    Depending on how bad his attitude to you is, you could also address that in the moment or with your boss, as appropriate, both of which you could do even if you were not going to be promoted.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      I wonder if OP could also start putting together documentation, even if not officially in a supervisory role yet, so that when the promotion happens the very first conversation can be, “so here are details of what I’ve noticed.” It might make OP feel less stuck in the situation to be doing something productive.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Yes, and that could work whether the primary purpose is to keep current boss in the loop, or to take action once the promotion is announced.

      2. Emmie*

        I came here to say this. Yes. Put together documentation now. Document it all. I’d also talk to the current manager about starting the performance improvement plan now while major project is happening. It may make it easier to have a defined time frame and a recruiting plan to back fill his job. I’d also think about the skills it takes to do his job well because you may need to update the job description when he moves on.

    2. Sue*

      Yes, maybe pop in (if feasible) on the baseball viewing so he knows that you know what he’s doing. That should hasten his exit when your role is revealed, or at least prevent his denials when you raise issues as his manager.

  17. Detective Rosa Diaz*

    OP #5 if you are paid hourly that’s an issue with you not wanting to finish the shift. Even if salaried presumably it being a bank you have set hours. I’m on your side in the whole wrapping up last minutes who cares etc but unfortunately with shift work you really do have to meet those expectations. Ex: I was most productive on my team in a CS job. But was often 5-10 min late and I was repirimanded and put on pip. Though I was otherwise a great worker. And it sucked but it was fair because I had agreed to those hours.

    1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      OP5 said she was fine finishing off the shift in her normal clothes (it was a hard sentence to parse, though).

      1. fposte*

        And I think that’s what she needs to focus on. She’s been told to finish in her normal clothes, she’s fine with finishing in her normal clothes, now she’ll finish in her normal clothes. It doesn’t matter if they could have told you that before or if other people might have mentioned it to the boss or that you don’t know if the boss knows about the other changers so it’s not a good use of energy to get sidetracked by that; it’s pretty standard to have to stay in work clothes until the end of your work day, and she’s been told she needs to do that.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking, and I have to admit that’s also the reason I had some trouble parsing what exactly the problem was in #5.

          The “passive-aggressive” coworkers get some attention (in quotes because I’m not sure the term fits in this particular situation – coworkers don’t exactly have any standing to challenge you on this), but the letter actually seems to boil down to “the lie”: “What I’m having trouble getting over is the idea that my boss lied to me when his story doesn’t add up.”

          And that’s just such an unimportant detail in the larger theme of this letter and its particular situation. OP might have erred regarding the boss’s location when she left to change; the boss might have seen her go change on another day and spoken in a more general sense; boss might have seen OP coming back from changing and misspoke; boss anticipated OP was going to go change but upon speaking to her felt more comfortable seguing into the conversation saying that he saw OP.

          But no matter the reason, it doesn’t make his feedback invalid.

          But OP, since the meat of your question comes down to feeling like you can’t “shake [this] on principle”, I really think the only actionable advice we can give you is to bluntly say that this sounds like something that you’ll just need to get over mentally.

          1. Luna*

            I’m also confused as to what the “principle” is that OP objects to so much. As far as I can tell from the information provided the boss didn’t lie about anything, had every right so tell OP to stop doing what she was doing, and the coworkers are allowed to complain.

            1. fposte*

              I think this is just one of these situations where you get nettled that you have to change what you’re doing and you’ve found something to hang it (the nettling, not the changed clothes) on.

            2. Myrin*

              I think the principle is “my boss lied to me”, without recognising that there are different “tiers” of untruths.

              I’ve certainly called out “Oh, Lumpganella, since I’m just now seeing you, can you come over here for a second?” when I’ve actually seen Lumpganella walk past three times already but just didn’t feel like dealing with her yet. That’s technically a lie in that this wasn’t literally the first time I’ve seen her all day and my first opportunity to reach out but I don’t know many people who would actually consider this a lie. It’s just word lube.

            3. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

              I actually read the ‘principle’ as ‘my coworker is doing this and not being reprimanded, why am *I* being reprimanded?’

              1. Not a Morning Person*

                I can see that interpretation by the OP, but if so, she’s creating a story in her head to validate her feelings of being singled out and targeted. Unless she is always around her manager and the other “changer” how would she know what the manager has said to the other?

    2. Close Bracket*

      Did you stay 5-10 min later or perhaps shave it off your breaks? I would argue that expecting 8 hours of work out of you is fair, but nitpicking over specific 5-10 min intervals is micromanaging (unless there was a meeting you were missing part of).

  18. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

    LW3 – I’m not sure why your co workers think it’s any of their business what you do with your career?

    1. Emmie*

      It could be friends or family also. A lot of people meddle in other’s career choices when they should not.

    2. LilySparrow*

      If “everyone around me” includes LW’s manager or managers of other departments, they could be doing long-term planning to give LW more responsibility, or sussing out what their options are for an internal promotion that might open up in the future.

  19. hmm what?*

    How does one get a job as a programmer without any programming knowledge…Don’t you usually have to demonstrate some knowledge during the interview? Makes my mind go

    for a_loop in :

    1. Nita*

      Lying on the resume? My mom’s a programmer and her office somehow doesn’t do technical tests as part of the interview. They just have someone competent from the department sit in on the interview and ask lots of technical questions. Usually works out OK, but one time they hired a guy with two skills: getting fake references, and sounding competent in interviews. That’s it. He acted exactly like Sue when he was hired – just about having coworkers write his code for him, total inability to retain explanations and suggestions… My mom was actually the one who helped interview him and thought he’d be good, so like OP’s boss she felt awful about admitting he’s incompetent. But she did admit it, because he was a dead weight and dragging others down. His performance was re-evaluated shortly after, and of course, he was fired.

    2. Dzhymm*

      At a previous job there was one person who couldn’t program; turns out she had her husband write the code for her programming test and coach her just enough to be able to pass the interview. Later when confronted about this she said she thought she could pick up the necessary skills on the job. She didn’t last long…

    3. Ellie*

      Programming in very old/low level languages is very different to modern languages, as is small projects versus large. It’s possible it’s just a really bad fit, and in another role she’d be fine. If she really doesn’t know anything at all then she must have lied… but I can’t see how someone like that could make it through an interview, even a basic one… could she have known someone and they skipped it?

      1. soon to be former fed*

        Hiring practices need to be examined when totally unqualified people are hired. There were qualified candidates passed over to hire an impostor. Were references not checked, employment not verified, meaningful interview questions not asked? This is important because discriminatory practices are perpetuated by poor hiring practices. Not to mention the negative impact to company operations and the cost of refilling the position.

    4. One legged stray cat*

      It is pretty common. Good programmers cost a lot of money and are still in high demand. Sometimes you can get lucky with a kid still in school or a self taught but inexperienced kid being good and pay them less. Many bosses of IT departments don’t have more than a basic understanding of programming themselves and often judge candidates more on how they fit the programmer stereotype (things like not dressing up in a suit for an interview and being self taught instead of getting a degree in college).

    5. Close Bracket*

      Maybe it depends on whether you are getting a job as a programmer versus getting a job that requires programming. I am an engineer, and the jobs I apply for are engineering jobs which require programming knowledge. I was hired once into a group where the last person the manager had hired had lied about their programming skills. Rather than improve her interview methods, the manager punished me for the last person’s lies by hiring me as an intern so I could prove my skills before making an offer to me. So that’s the kind of craziness that can happen in hiring!

  20. Elan Morin Tedronai*

    Op1: If you’re about to become his superior (and presumably one with hiring/firing power over Jeff), why would you document whatever he’s doing now and then deal with it when you become his boss? He’s clearly not helping your team and it’s quite likely his behaviour will persist (albeit much more subtly) even if you become his boss and if his new job offer doesn’t materialise.

  21. lamuella*

    the concern for me about #5 is that you’re changing on the clock. You say you go and change if there aren’t any customers: is dealing with customers the only part of your job? Would you just be standing around idle if you weren’t changing? This hasn’t been true of any customer service focused job I’ve had.

    1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      Because she mentioned that she has her own office, I’m assuming she has only a partially customer facing job, and that customer interactions would be much longer than 5-10 minutes, and as such the end of the day duties would be more like making sure her files were saved and secured, her desk tidied, and her window closed/computer shut down/plants watered.

  22. Susan K*

    #3 – This is so annoying, when people try to push employees to move up when they don’t want to. Not everyone aspires to be a manager or take on more responsibilities, and that’s fine! You would think that people would be happy to have good employees who want to stick around for a while.

    1. Garland not Andrews*

      Absolutely! The thing is, not all of us are cut out to be managers, nor do we ever want to be. There is nothing wrong with finding your niche and being happy there!

    2. Massmatt*

      I had a report like this, he was very good at his job (customer service/sales)and didn’t want to move on/up the ladder. His way of putting it was “There is still much more to learn about doing THIS job well, I can still improve, I’m not bored, I like it”. If you are really great at sales, why would you not want to do sales?

      Many times a more prestigious role (and higher pay) comes with taking on supervisory duties which require completely different skills than the role they supervise, not everyone likes or is cut out for it. As the many letters about awful supervisors here attest!

  23. Quickbeam*

    #5. This became an issue where I work. It only took one person doing face to face customer service in their running shorts for the hammer to come down. Wait until you are off the clock to change.

  24. Hillary T*

    #5- I have been in retail banking 25 years (and do NOT just stick around to collect a paycheck) and this practice would have ended the week it started. Yes, we all have one offs where we want to change just before we leave. But, as pointed out, just because someone isn’t in the bank then, does not mean someone won’t come in. And now you have two people who can’t serve them. Which means someone who might have been working on something else now has to help the customer, causing people to have to stay later. If you don’t have anything to do, ask if you can help someone else. You all may end up finishing sooner.

    1. EvanMax*

      I really don’t like the “just for a paycheck” wording in the letter. I mean, I enjoy my work, and appreciate that what I’m doing means something, but if there was no paycheck involved, I wouldn’t come in and do my job on a volunteer basis…

    2. Mickey Q*

      It’s bad enough when they have casual Friday and the tellers wear ripped jeans. You can’t help but think if they use such bad judgement with their clothing then are they going to use bad judgement when handling my account?

  25. Miss Elaine e.*

    #5: The way I see it is this:

    The LW is taking off 5 to 10 minutes early two to three times a week to change clothes. That’s up to 30 minutes a week.
    Also, is it taking 5 to 10 minutes to physically change clothes? Plus, the additional minutes that the person cannot deal with customers because of not being professionally attired?

    We don’t know if the situation is such that a customer/client/patron can come in while the LW is changing.

    We don’t know if the other coworker has been reprimanded (whether formally or not) but to have at least two people doing the same thing seems to be a bit much.

    I get it, the LW and the coworker want to leave on the dot. We all do, but it’s time to just suck it up and change after the workday.

    1. EvanMax*

      Back when I was in retail leadership, employees champing at the bit to get at of the door ASAP after closing was super annoying. There are things that need to be cleaned and reconciled, and for me there were often back-room matters that I needed to finish up (or at least get to a stopping point on) that I couldn’t complete mid-day because there was a rush of traffic and I had to get out on the floor. Staff who couldn’t deal with staying the full half-hour after close that they were scheduled (let alone potentially after that, if the store really needed) were a real hassle to close with, and when possible I’d schedule them for shorter mid-shifts, instead of longer closing shifts, because they were often more harmful at close than helpful.

      Of course, the flip side was staff who realized that if they took long enough counting pennies that could squeeze out some overtime every week. That’s a whole other can of worms…

      In the end, I’m just happy to be out of retail.

      1. essEss*

        I used to see the same thing when I worked at a hospital. There would be a HUGE line at the time clock with hundreds of people waiting for the exact minute to punch out, with their coats and purses with them. That meant that they had finished at their departments and had changed and gotten their things, and then stood and waited at the time clock for over 15 or more minutes (especially the first people in line) which was all time that they were supposed to still be WORKING. That was a lot of wasted time that people were getting paid for every day.

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      My local library used to “close at 6:30”. What that meant in practice was they would lock the doors at 6:15, but patrons who got there before 6:15 could still leave. Who cares, you ask? I cared a great deal. Between work, traffic, and daycare pick-ups, it was the difference between being able to reliably patronize my library and not.

      I was really fast. I just wanted to return the audiobook for Great Courses: Philosophy (Part 1) and check out Great Courses: Philosophy (Part 2). I resorted to waiting for someone to leave, and slipping in. Still irksome that I had to, when I was arriving at 6:20 and leaving at 6:22, for an establishment that “closes at 6:30”.

      1. Miss Elaine e.*

        As it happens, I used to work at our library, so I get what you’re saying. On the flip side, we always got the people who would show up at 8:25 (8:30 closing time), insisting we help them on their major research project due the next morning.

        Customer service, ain’t it grand?

        1. Antilles*

          The restaurant industry is famed for this. Companies will (a) expect you to serve every single customer until the exact time on the door, (b) expect the restaurant to be cleaned afterwards…but also (c) often get livid if people stay even one second behind the 30-minutes-past-closing on the schedule.
          You want to know why the restaurant wasn’t cleaned last night? Because we had a big group of customers show up at 9:59 pm and the manager insisted we serve them. So by the time we finished with them it was 10:15 pm, but the manager still insisted everyone leave at 10:30 pm on the dot. No, we can’t clean the entire restaurant in 15 minutes.

          1. CMFDF*

            Once had a party of ten who showed up at 9:20 – we closed at 9:30. I got their drinks immediately, got their bread, got their appetizer order in by 9:26. Appetizers were out in less than 10 minutes. I try to take their order at 9:30. Then at 9:35. Then at 9:40. Then at 9:45. And they kept waving me off, telling me they weren’t ready to order, why was I rushing them, I needed to relax, etc. They demanded to see the manager when I tried to take their order again at 9:50. The manager had been cashing people out in back, and wasn’t aware that the table hadn’t yet ordered.

            He strolled out, asked what the problem was. They complained their server was not letting them relax and enjoy their time together. He said, “Oh, well we’ve been closed for 20 minutes, and our cooks have to shut down the grill and fryer in 10 minutes, so if you WANT food, you need to order like…right now.” They ordered immediately. A few minutes after their food came out, he turned the lights up and turned off the music. They were out in like half an hour.

            He was the best manager.

            1. Antilles*

              The typical way to handle that is with a polite announcement when you sit down that the kitchen is closing in X minutes. Handle that right up front – we’re still open for 10 more minutes and we’re happy to serve you, but we’ll need an order as soon as possible due to the kitchen shutting down.
              The lights and music thing is a classic “please leave now” server move, right up there with moving tables/chairs around, mopping the floor, and dropping off the check without being asked.

              1. Julia*

                Restaurants here in Japan usually have a “last order” time that they tell you about when you pop in close to closing, which is pretty helpful.

          2. sap*

            This drove me nuts about restaurant work. I worked as both bartender/cook at a place, and it was always a huge pain to explain that I can keep the full menu available until close, or I can leave by 30 minutes after close, but if they wanted me to clean the grill, the pizza oven, and the last dishes as required by health department, I couldn’t do both every time.

          3. Lindsay J*

            Retail, too.

            I worked in an Old Time Photo studio. The entire process, from getting people dressed, to doing the photo shoot, to getting them changed back, to selling the photos and checking them out, was expected to take 45 minutes. I was fast and could get smaller groups done more quickly. We were required to take groups right up until closing time.

            Then after closing we had to sort through all the clothing to put it back into size order, pull out anything that needed to be washed, reorganize the sets and put all the props away, wipe down the desks and all communal surfaces, and vacuum the floors, and count out the registers and do the deposit. The entire closing process took about an hour.

            We were not allowed to start vacuuming until about closing time, because we didn’t want to scare away any customers from walking in 5 minutes before close who might have wanted a photo shoot. Some of the other stuff – like organizing the clothes and sets could be done afterwards, but you closed by yourself so if you were busy helping customers there just wasn’t time to do it.

            I got reprimanded by the owners for staying too long after closing time. I started clocking out at exactly the prescribed time and leaving the rest of the work to be done in the morning. Was reprimanded for that, too.

            1. smoke tree*

              I just wanted to say that I worked at an old-time photo studio too! I don’t run across too many other people who share this particular experience. Did you also find it a supremely weird place to work? In my case I think it was partly because it was a family business and both the business and the family were massively dysfunctional.

      2. Someone else*

        I’ve been places before that had explicitly posted hours that they “close at 6” but also that “no one admitted after 5:45”. I’m assuming from your story this was not the case at that library, but it’s not unusual to me that some places have separate (posted) times for “when we don’t let anyone else in” vs “when we stop serving people who are already here”.
        Doesn’t apply to banks though.

      3. Happy Lurker*

        My library did the same to me. I was “spoken to” about coming in 10 minutes before closing to pick up my pre-ordered book. I also discovered they would change the hours, but not update the website.
        I gave up on my library and found that the one in the next town stays open until 8pm. I now have my books delivered there instead. The staff are much nicer too, even when I walk in at 7:50.

      4. Pebbles*

        I’ve found that the best time for me to shop at Costco is to arrive 10-15 minutes before closing. At that time it’s easy to find a parking spot, I don’t have to dodge carts in the aisles, and it’s quick to check out. I always have a list and only get a few items so I can be in and out in under 15 minutes. I invariably get the person checking your membership card on the way in say “You know we close in 10 minutes?” I’m not the average Costco shopper apparently. :)

      5. BettyD*

        Our library tries its best to work right up to the line, but please also recall that most libraries are nonprofits being funded by local government. We want to stay open to serve the public who fund us, but we can’t “stay till the people are pleased” like a retail store does because then we are accused of using too much taxpayer money on overtime for the hourly workers who staff the circulation desk. It’s a no-win situation for everyone.

        1. Doreen*

          But it actually doesn’t have to be. Nobody really expects the library to stay open until the people are pleased – but if the library is actually going to lock the door at 6:15 then maybe the posted closing time shouldn’t be 6:30. As a customer, I’m not really interested in knowing what time the staff leaves. I’m interested in knowing the deadline for me to get there, pull my reserved book off the shelf and use the self-checkout machine. And if the door locks at 6:15, then that’s my deadline. But I don’t know that if the posted closing time is 6:30. ( And I also don’t know who to blame – the door locking at 6:15 for a 6:30 closing could be a system-wide policy or it could be that the staff at my branch wants to walk out at 6:30 when they are scheduled to lock the door at 6:30 and walk out at 6:45)

      6. Observer*

        Keep in mind that what you were doing is quite atypical. And you can be sure that LOTS of people swear up and down that “It will only take a minute” where “a minute” and “a minute x 30” are the same thing in their minds.

  26. Lily*

    #5, it’s possible that your running coworker has some kind of accomodation or special arrangement that allows him to change clothes earlier but that doesn’t mean you can just start to do the same without asking. This isn’t a culture where everyone is doing this, only one coworker does it.
    If you wanted to do this, you could have asked your boss if she had any problem with it. Presumably she would have told you that it was not okay and there it would have ended. But don’t just do something just because one coworker seems to do it. And if you thought you were better off to not ask because it was likely they said no, well that’s your answer.

  27. Veronica*

    What stands out about letter #5 is that the OP is focused on whether her boss and/or co-workers are treating her fairly, but hasn’t stopped to think about how her effectively clocking off early affects her co-workers and her boss, and whether that’s fair. She’s effectively leaving work 5-10 mins early, because once she is in the workout gear, she can’t deal with any customers that come in.

    If it shouldn’t matter cause it’s only 5-10 mins, then it shouldn’t matter to change in the 5-10 mins after your work officially finishes either. I wouldn’t personally choose this particular hill to die on, where my boss is concerned. Just wait until the working day is finished – it’s a very reasonable ask from the boss.

    1. Specialk9*

      Excellent point. Asking “Am I really being fair to my coworkers” is as important as asking if they’re being fair to you.

    2. TootsNYC*

      If it shouldn’t matter cause it’s only 5-10 mins, then it shouldn’t matter to change in the 5-10 mins after your work officially finishes either.

      This is the thought I had.

      I suppose that if everybody has to leave right away, at once, that there is no time to actually change afterward, but then I think the OP should be asking if it’s possible to accommodate that.

  28. Detective Amy Santiago*

    LW #3 – Working a full time job takes up nearly 1/3 of our adult lives. There is nothing wrong with wanting that time to be low stress. The idea that we should all be stressed out and pushing ourselves 110% is ridiculous.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Exactly. I’m sure there are other stressors in your life; why should work also be one?

  29. Frances*

    OP #3 – Having a sane work environment and great colleagues is worth gold. You are not settling. You are taking stock and learning what does and doesn’t have value for you. Just think about all the crazy work environments that get written about in this blog and count your blessings :)

  30. LAVEndarsblue*

    Lw#3. There is no shame in being happy with your job and wanting to stay there. However, be careful that you are not pinning your future on a role that your company sees as a stepping stone – one that they’d want the turnover as it is a way to grow their staff. So stay, but do continue to grow your skills, so that if a move is necessary you don’t find yourself obsolete and left behind.

    1. Beatrice*

      In my experience, roles that can be stepping stones also need some continuity! My team is a mix of people planning to step up to a higher level role after a year or two and people who will stay for years. We’d stagnate if everyone stayed, but if everyone was looking to move up, there would be too much turnover and we wouldn’t have enough advancement opportunities for all of them. A mix is good.

  31. Roscoe*

    #1 This situation kind of rubs me the wrong way. Not that OP is doing anything “wrong”, however she is basically thinking as his boss when he doesn’t know that, and basically preparing how to deal with him before she is even his manager. I understand everything going on. Its just that maybe co-worker wouldn’t have told OP he was looking for jobs or about the baseball watching if they knew the promotion was happening. He was dismissive of you in a meeting, but maybe that was a personal beef he has (even if you don’t as well). Not that I’m defending his behavior, but I think there is a bit of an imbalance there that just doesn’t sit right.

    With all that said, I completely agree with Alison’s advice here that you can’t do anything right now. However, maybe you should wait and see if/how his behavior changes once the promotion is made before you make too many judgments. I’m not sure who he reports to now, but its very possible that can have an effect on it as well. I had a boss new once, me and her just didn’t get along at all. I was even put on a PIP with her. My previous boss loved me, but she nitpicked everything I did (and I admittedly kept doing things the way that worked for me even if she didn’t like them). She got fired, and I got along much better with my new boss, and when I went to leave a few months later, she really wanted me to stay. I was a good employee, its just was a bad fit with me and the other one

    1. sap*

      I mean, but she’s going to be his boss in a month. There’s a known performance issue. She *should* be planning how to deal with that, just like you’d plan for anything you knew would be on your plate on day 1 of a new job even before your first day if you knew you’d need to solve that problem (presuming it’s not interfering with #1’s current duties, which it sounds like it isn’t?)

      I’m not sure what’s wrong with preparing to transition into a new role–she’s going to be his boss, she should be working on a transition plan for how to manage former co-workers because that’s what she’s going to be doing! This isn’t a job she’s interviewing for–this is her new job!

      1. Roscoe*

        I’m not saying she is doing anything wrong, in fact I specifically stated that. I just said it doesn’t sit right that she is making these plans without him even knowing he is angering his future boss.

        1. sap*

          I get that, but what do you think would be a better way for her to handle the situation? Or for the company generally to handle I This is a pretty typical way for internal promotions to be handled–usually the promotee knows for at least a week or so before their soon-to-be former co-workers. I’m just not grasping what isn’t sitting right–he’s got a performance issue that’s clear to her and all of her current peers, and… she is as aware as the rest of her team.

          1. Roscoe*

            I think its maybe the length of time that is bothering me. A week or so is one thing, this is over a month. Looking for a new job or something for a month where you new boss knows this seems like a long time, when you can’t even make reasonable efforts to hide it from that person.

            1. sap*

              I guess I think that if you’re this open and notorious about looking for a new job, I don’t think you have any particular expectation that nobody will tell your *current* boss during that month either, so I don’t see it as a particularly higher level of disasdvantage.

        2. TootsNYC*

          listen, it’s no secret to him that he’s behaving like a bad employee!
          His current boss could be disciplining him for all this stuff even now, and HE KNOWS IT!

          Sure, he’s getting away with it because his boss can’t be bothered right now, but Slacker has to know that at any moment, his current boss could decide to start enforcing some discipline. Just because his boss has put up with it doesn’t mean his boss is locked in!

        3. Kate 2*

          I mean, maybe he should be cheating his employer then, and spending company time hiding and watching baseball and collecting a paycheck when he should be working? We reap what we sow.

    2. Beatrice*

      Jeff created his own problems by gambling with his career. There’s always a risk that someone who is not one’s manager can become one’s manager someday.

    3. Snark*

      “I admittedly kept doing things the way that worked for me even if she didn’t like them”

      So how, then, did you not deserve that PIP?

      1. Roscoe*

        Because my job was getting done, just not her preference in how. It wasn’t sales, but it would be like if I was a top sales person, yet she didn’t like the way I managed my sales pipeline.

        And I’m not trying to argue the merits of my PIP. I’m saying the problems really stemmed from the fact that we just didn’t work well together at all. Sometimes you can have a good employee and a good manager, yet they aren’t good together.

        1. TootsNYC*

          but that’s not what’s going on here–Jeff is not a good employee, and everybody knows it.

    4. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

      For what it’s worth – I’m with you about it rubbing me the wrong way just slightly.

      There’s a huge difference in how you treat and interact with a co-worker vs a boss. I’d feel pretty duped if I found out that the my co-worker I’ve been interacting with for the past month or so knew they were going to become my boss (which is often a difficult enough transition) AND was already viewing already me through their new “management lense”.

      I also second waiting to see how things go once the OP is Jeff’s official manager. Observe now and keep those observations in your back pocket, sure, but give him a fresh chance (at least a short one) to see if the issues continue under your management. Do the signs point towards Jeff magically becoming a respectful direct report and highly productive employee – nah, there’s a good chance that it won’t happen. It’s not impossible though (like Roscoe points out – this could just be a fit issue btwn Jeff and his current manager), and I think we’d all appreciate the opportunity to be evaluated on we act after being given all of the relevant information.

      1. Massmatt*

        I completely disagree, IMO Jeff should already be fired or at least on a performance improvement plan, why is the current boss either clueless about these glaring performance issues or passing the buck to the newly promoted supervisor to deal with?
        “We’ve got a big project due” so you’ll pay someone to disappear to watch baseball and turn in half-assed shoddy work that other team members have to take time to fix? This is dysfunctional.

        Similar with #2, Sue is incompetent and the manager either doesn’t know because others are doing her work for her or or knows but doesn’t want to deal with it for fear of embarrassment by the admission that she made a bad hire . This has got to be the manager’s problem to solve.

    5. LilySparrow*

      If you’re watching TV instead of working, and dumping your work on someone who isn’t qualified or authorized to do it, you are going to get busted sooner or later. That’s something the manager should know about, and if the co-worker wouldn’t have told the manager, they are wrong to cover for Jeff.

      Jeff isn’t just a “bad fit.” He’s actively undermining his team and not doing his work.

      And, it seems, being a jerk to his co-workers. If OP hadn’t known in advance about the promotion, they’d still know Jeff is acting unprofessionally to his teammates and slacking off.

  32. Not Today Satan*

    #1, It looks like there are problems with Jeff, but like Alison said, interviewing isn’t one of them. Sometimes a job doesn’t work out. Whose fault it is doesn’t really matter, but he needs to find a better fit (which would benefit you too).

    This isn’t your fault, but it’s one of the many ways employers like to have their cake and eat it too. They only interview candidates during the day (thus requiring their candidates to cut out of work), but if their own employees have too many “doctor’s appointments”, they’re mad. They have a policy against providing references to former employees, but they require 3 references for every candidate. Sigh.

    1. boop the first*

      Tsk… yeah and every business wants 2 weeks notice before the end of employment, but none want to give their new workers two weeks grace to serve out the notice. So now I’m on some kind of hook 7 days a week and it’s getting hard to keep track in my sleep-deprived mind which job I’m heading off to today.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yuuup. One of my former employers won’t even *confirm whether people worked there*. The hypocrisy is stunning.

      1. Massmatt*

        Is that even legal? Wow.

        Do they require references/verification of employment to work there?

  33. LW #3*

    LW #3 Here –

    From what I understand this position has been something of a revolving door for the past eight years or so, and while it’s not exactly a stepping stone job, a lot of people use it as their first foothold into this company. Several of the former position holders are still around, actually, just moved up a bit. To that point, there are a few positions I could see myself moving into in a few years, when the current holders retire. So maybe I’ll use it as a jump-off point as well, just not as soon as everyone expects.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I suspect you might have been described as hard-driving in your last roles, because that was the only way to power through them rather than curl up in a ball. It’s fine to want a breather. Or different amounts of stress at different points in your life. If the comments are from new job, then I expect the skilled hard-driving thing carried over, and they aren’t used to people who come in like that staying put. But it’s okay if you do! Your psyche seems to be unfolding with a vast AAAAAAH and you should listen to that over any “but are you striving super hard enough?” whispers.

    2. Naptime Enthusiast*

      That definitely gives more context for your coworkers’ push. For the record, you don’t need to move up just because others have, or as quickly as they have either! And if you change your mind and decide you want the challenge and the extra pay that comes with it soon, that’s okay too.

    3. Bea*

      That’s even better because more than ever you’ve got the power to determine your destiny and over all stress levels.

      I dropped into a less stressful job to detox from my previous situation. Thankfully nobody badgers and I can’t move much here anyways, I’m good with it, I’m still licking a few lasting wounds that I foresee another 1-2 years doing. Then I’ll have a boss I can actually use for a reference when I set sail for more responsibility.

  34. MuseumChick*

    LW #5, I get it. This is something I’ve done before. Only a few minuets left in the day, 95% change no customers are going to come in, so why not change into your running clothing? The problem is, you are still on the clock. Effectively you are taking work time to do something personal AND yes, breaking the dress code, if only for a total of 15 – 30 minuets a week.

    Your boss had every right to tell you not to do that. You can disagree about how big of a deal it is but the nature of the working world is (with all the usual caveats) what your boss wants, and says, is what goes.

    1. Enough*

      It also how often. You are talking about 40-60% of your work days. What would happen if you came in late 60% of the time?

  35. Not Ned Stark*

    #2 – Last year, I was your manager. I had hired someone for a position that had both development and non-development components, and my Sue (she was Sansa when I came here for advice) did not have the technical skills she said were ‘no problem’ in our interview. From experience, I can say, please be less gentle in telling your manager about the problem. I’m not saying to be harsh and mean, but be very clear about what Sue is asking you and how often. Encourage your colleague to do the same.

    In my case, I was getting conflicting stories, and I wasn’t close enough to the work in my position to really know what was going on. As it turned out, only one person was telling me the truth, and others were covering for Sue because they liked her personally. It took eight months for things to get bad enough that I could let her go. Don’t let that happen to your manager, if you can!

  36. Mike C.*

    I don’t understand OP5’s complaint that she has coworkers who are “sticking around solely for their paycheck”.

    Don’t we all work for a paycheck, as mandated by law?

    1. Murphy*

      I think we know what she means by that, though I’m not entirely sure why it’s relevant to the rest of the letter.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        They’re coworkers she doesn’t particularly respect; if she thought the issue was raised by someone she respected she’d feel differently about it. (Not good, but different.)

        i.e. It’s another distraction with nothing to do with the actual issue, which is that her manager asked her not to duck out early.

      2. Mike C.*

        Who is “we”? I certainly don’t know, which is why I’m bringing up the question.

        She works in finance, I thought pretty much everyone in that industry works for the paycheck.

        1. Murphy*

          I feel like you’re being deliberately obtuse.

          She means people who don’t like their job/don’t care about their job/aren’t invested in their job. Which to me actually makes it seem less likely that they’d complain about someone else.

          1. Mike C.*

            That’s incredibly unfair. If I say I’m confused, it’s because I’m confused.

            If I wanted to be critical or say something nasty, why wouldn’t I just say something critical or nasty? Why would I go to the trouble of double-speak?

            1. Tardigrade*

              I thought it was a fairly common idiom to describe what Murphy stated above. I don’t think it’s a great phrase, because very few people would work without a paycheck, but I’ve definitely worked with people who meet that description and they are not great coworkers.

    2. Bea*

      I think it’s funny that phrase is used here. They’re “there for a paycheck” aka don’t care about the job. However she’s ducking out upwards of 30 minutes a week to gear up for a run. Sounds like she’s just there for a paycheck too in that sense.

      1. sap*

        YES, this is what rubbed me wrong about thae use of that phrase, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

      2. tangerineRose*

        That bugged me too. I mean if she’s really committed to this job, why is she ducking out early?

    3. Close Bracket*

      Nah, bro, we work because we have a passion for our job and we would do it even without a paycheck.
      There are definitely work places where you better not admit that that is not the case.

    1. Murphy*

      I don’t get that from the letter at all either.

      OP could have said “My manager recently hired a human being, I’ll call her Sue”, but that seem awkward.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I don’t think it is. She could have said “…hired a llama, I’ll call her Sue” but then we would have all been “Wait, a llama? I think that could explain the problem with her typing skills.”

      The sentence works with “hired a woman,” “hired a person,” or “hired a coder.”

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        It’s an unnecessary distinction. Just like “hired an Asian,” “hired a Black man.” Further, saying “hired a woman” as the OP does suggests that man is the norm or the default, and woman as something different that needs to be pointed out.

        1. Kelly L.*

          But if it had been a man, LW probably would have said “hired a man” or “hired a guy.” For whatever reason, the way the English language works, gender is kind of the very first thing we say about someone. It has its problems, especially since not everybody fits the binary, but it’s something most of us do. LW could have said “hired a person,” but naming her Sue would have gendered her immediately afterward anyway, this not being a Johnny Cash song.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          We are explicitly asked not to nitpick the word choices of letter writers.

          And your examples don’t work because race will not be relevant to assigning anyone pronouns. I almost put in “Green Bay Packers fan” as an example, but it is irrelevant, just like height. Gender is the default in English. It’s just easier to parse a letter, especially with multiple players, if they are referred to as she (site default when not indicated) or he (some people are men), and given names like Sue (employee) and Juliet (manager) rather than Kumquat and Banana and Grapefruit.

          tldr: She’s called “she” and “Susan”, so getting het up about the word “woman” is particularly inappropriate. The boss is also a woman, which we can all deduce from the pronoun used.

      2. tangerineRose*

        “Wait, a llama? I think that could explain the problem with her typing skills.” I love this!

    3. Elena*

      He or she probably didn’t even think twice and just described a situation. Most people aren’t choosing their language so carefully.

      It’s possible to say “woman” and “bad at coding” in the same context without it being a global slur against all women’s coding ability.

    4. Cordoba*

      If I were the OP it would be a factor for me.

      I am male. I would be very quick to directly call out an incompetent male peer as an incompetent who should be retrained, moved, or fired.

      Were this same peer a female I would *definitely* spend more time up-front to more thoroughly assess the degree to which my judgment of them as “incompetent” was a result of my own biases or attributable to the larger dynamics of the male-dominated programming field.

      If I eventually determined that she was in fact genuinely incompetent to do the job I’d probably put more effort into framing my criticism beyond the “this guy sucks, fire him” that some bro who could’t do the job would get. This is because I’d like to preemptively head off any criticism that I am just mansplaining her job to her and build an airtight case that this is a true performance problem rather than one of bias of perception.

      Is this the wrong approach?

      1. LilySparrow*

        I think that’s being mindful of gender dynamics in a constructive way.

        If you try too hard to be “blind” to gender or race, you can wind up being blind to real issues, or blind to your own assumptions.

        1. LilyP*

          +1, this is a really good way of looking at it! But it doesn’t sound like it’s impacting the OP’s thinking at all.

  37. Lily*

    First I read “misbehaving microwave”. Then I read “microwaving coworker doesn’t know I’m about to be his boss”. Both of these versions seamed not unlikely.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Well, sure, early on Monday your week may not be that crazy. By Thursday we’ll be deep into the “I want to open the microwave door early to get my popcorn, and my colleagues complain I am messing up their microwave background radiation experiment–I’m just hungry!!” letters.

    2. Murphy*

      Haha, it’s like an Ask a Manager letter mashup!

      “The communal microwave is on my desk, so I helped myself to someone else’s food, and it was so spicy I got sick!”

  38. WellRed*

    Lw 5, what is your real problem with your job/boss/coworkers or even yourself? I feel there is something bigger going on here that you haven’t even identified yet to yourself. Meanwhile, Alison’s advice is the way to go.

    1. Parenthetically*

      I really agree with this. Whatever else happens, it’s worth examining that note of contempt toward your coworkers, LW5.

      1. Luna*

        Yes. Contempt. That is the exact word I was looking for, perfectly describes the tone towards the coworkers.

  39. FairfieldComms*

    OP #3: I took a job five years ago that shifted me out of my expected career path and the upward trajectory I had planned — and I couldn’t be happier. My new career is not as ‘prestigious’ as the one I planned to have, and I took a bit of a pay cut to make the change, but I’m working in an industry I love doing work that challenges and fulfills me. My work-life balance is unbeatable (I commute from my bed to my desk); my colleagues are amazing; and my stress is basically gone. I have the time and energy to go on adventures that I never would have dreamed, and could never have done if I were still commuting two hours every day to my toxic job.

    I’m probably not going to progress up the proverbial ladder, and I’m okay with that. I’m still ambitious. I find new ways to challenge myself every day, and I’m happy with my performance — I’ve even won awards for my work. Sometimes, you just need to redefine what ‘success’ looks like for you.

  40. EB*

    LW 5– It’s annoying but I’d get used to the dress code being enforced unequally and try not to insert a motive where there probably isn’t one. I can see both sides of the this. I had two coworkers that were working out at lunch and would NOT change afterward– that was both gross and totally unprofessional. I’m not even talking about “nice looking” athleisure clothing– bright neons, cropped halter tops, exposed sports bras, tight crop leggings– as unprofessional as workout clothing gets.

    No one ever said anything to them as far as I know. We’re in an office where we don’t have customers walking in, but still! After a couple months of this, I figured the dress code had relaxed so I wore a long tunic top and leggings to work. I was almost immediately called out for wearing a tunic top that was still too short for my leggings.

    Eventually, the two that didn’t change left and now tunics and leggings are really common so even the outfit I was originally dinged for is okay now. I’ve pretty much given up on consistent dress code enforcement!

    1. Close Bracket*

      “I would get used to the dress code being enforced an equally”

      Oh heck no, I wouldn’t! I would definitely push back using something like, “Can you give me some clarification on the policy for changing clothing before the end of the workday? I’ve noticed it seems to be a practice that people engage in, and I just want to make sure I understand what the limits are.”

  41. Michelle*

    I’m agreeing with many of the comments on #3. I have been at my current company 15 years in 2 different positions. While there is room for me to “move up” approximately 2 titles, I am totally fine with what I am doing now. It has the right mix of responsibility for me without becoming overwhelming and I really do enjoy my job. Like any job, there are a few things I don’t particularly enjoy and a few of my coworkers could benefit from a course in how to be an adult, but overall I am happy and doing very well. There is no shame in being OK with where you are at. If the time comes when you are ready to move up, that’s when you make moves to rise, not when other people think you should.

  42. Higher Ed Database Dork*

    OP #3, that’s not settling. You are doing what is best for you and what works for you right now. We all go through seasons and our priorities change, and we need to do what is best for us at the time. You don’t always have to keep “pushing onward.” You can enjoy what you have!

    I have a job right now that I love, mostly because of my team and my bosses. Could I make more money somewhere else? Absolutely. Would it be more prestigious? Probably. But coworkers are great, my bosses are like rare unicorns that actually manage well, and I’m learning and growing and getting to do exactly what I want – for reasonable pay, not even low pay. They also treat me like an adult with a life outside of work, and don’t expect me to just dedicate myself 24/7 to the job. So I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. These are my priorities right now. I don’t think I’m settling, I’m taking care of myself and doing what is best for me and my family.

  43. AdAgencyChick*

    #1, while you wait for your promotion to become official, it wouldn’t hurt to try to observe yourself some of the bad Jeff behavior your other coworker told you about. That way when you become his boss (like Alison said, hopefully he’ll quit first, but if he doesn’t), your first 1:1 with him can be about how X, Y, and Z need to stop. It’s much harder to manage a problem like that when you’re basing your knowledge on hearsay, because he’ll probably try to argue that what you’re hearing is exaggerated or based on someone being out to get him. If you’ve seen it yourself, he won’t have a leg to stand on.

    1. Snark*

      Even if it is based on hearsay, that’s 100% valid and OP doesn’t need to entertain a lot of rules-lawyering and loopholing when that conversation happens.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Not saying you can’t. I am saying it’s harder.

        If you have only one witness to the behavior, it’s their word against Jeff’s. If you have more than one, or you’ve seen the behavior yourself, you can say, “multiple people have brought this to my attention,” or even just start the conversation with “Jeff, I’ve seen you doing X, Y, and Z.”

        1. Snark*

          No question, but I’ve fallen into the trap of arguing with someone about a performance or conduct issue before, and it’s not a debate.

  44. Allison*

    #4 Before I moved to my current cubicle, I noticed there was a scanner in the cube when the former occupant worked there. Thankfully they moved it before I took over, but I was prepared to have it moved myself if needed, because having people come into my workspace to use equipment like that wasn’t gonna work for me. Communal equipment goes in communal space, therefore wherever that equipment lives, people might mistake it for communal space.

    Unless someone needs something from me, or has an update on a project I’ve been working on, I really don’t want them coming into my cubicle, making small talk, humming awkwardly, or complaining that the machine they’re trying to use isn’t working and expecting me to fix it, or worse, assuming that if a communal machine is on my desk, I must be in some sort of administrative role.

    So yeah, that microwave shouldn’t be on your desk, and it’s totally reasonable to want it moved to a more communal space.

  45. Bee Eye LL*

    OP #4, don’t feel so bad. I started a new job once in tech support where they didn’t even have a chair for me to sit in, nor did my computer have monitors. Luckily, one guy was out so I borrowed his chair and monitor and then had to wait for them to order some for me. Their excuse? They forgot I was starting then. I quit after about a year because it pretty much set the tone for how they ran things. That being said, I would move that microwave somewhere else and not even ask.

  46. TeacherNerd*

    OP #3: This is apropos, timing-wise. I have a colleague who has made several joking remarks about how she can’t keep up with me: She has a bachelor’s degree; I have two master’s degrees, and am close to hitting the next salary lane change (Masters + 30; my district would’t accept one of my graduate degrees for this lane change). I’m consistently doing professional development, taking classes, going to conferences, etc., and she just isn’t. I’m about 10 years younger than she, am newer to my field, had a financial windfall most people my age don’t have that allowed me some freedoms most folks don’t have until they’re much older, and wasn’t able to have children, so I don’t have the financial constraints that she has. I’ll probably take a breather once I have that next salary step, but truly, I’m mostly doing these activities for the raise at this point. I think my colleague is happy where she’s at, professionally-speaking, and if you are, too, then have at it! I’m finally at the point where I’m ready to be settled, myself – I’ve never had a full-time job where I could have that.

  47. stitchinthyme*

    #2 – I’ve occasionally heard people in the tech industry rail against “whiteboard coding” in interviews, but this letter makes a great case for it. My current company asks interviewees to write a simple function on the whiteboard — nothing complicated, just reversing a string or something similar — in the language of their choice. The point is simply to make sure the person can write code; doesn’t matter if it’s perfect or if it would compile on the first try, as long as it’s reasonably close to correct. This seems like a good idea to me.

    #3 – I have been doing more or less the same thing (at different places) for about 25 years now, and I have never had any ambition to rise higher. I enjoy coding, I make a good living at it, and that’s all I want out of my career. If you’re happy where you are, you don’t need to “move up” — now or ever, if you don’t want to. I would not be a good manager, not least because I am not a “people person”. I know my limitations, and thankfully I’ve found a career that works well for me. I don’t need more than that.

    1. Lynn Whitehat*

      I am all for whiteboard coding interviews. I am frankly dubious of people who claim they are good programmers but can’t get through a whiteboard exercise. I mean, the interviewers know you don’t have your IDE and bookmarks to common libraries and everything. They choose the exercises accordingly. If you can’t get through fizz/buzz or “is this string a palindrome” under your own power, you are not ready to write software for a living.

      I would never hire without putting the candidate through a whiteboard interview. Otherwise, this is what you get–people who cannot code their way out of a wet paper bag. And no, you can’t just “pick it up on the job” in a couple of months, while also somehow producing useful work. If it was common to be able to do that, the job wouldn’t pay what it does.

      1. stitchinthyme*

        Yup, exactly. Doesn’t have to be anything super-complicated, but if you can’t write a simple function, you probably can’t handle a developer job.

        On a similar note, when my husband (a sysadmin) has to do interviews (as a peer — he’s not a manager, either), his standard question is always, “What’s your favorite text editor?” The point there is not the actual answer, but that anyone who works in an SA role has to use text editors on a regular basis, so if you don’t have a ready answer to that question, it says a lot about your experience level.

      2. Close Bracket*

        I have written software for a living (not primary duty, but one of my functions), and I would fail the bejeezus out of a white board test.

        There are a number of things that I have done for a living that I would fail a white board test on either because I haven’t done them in a while or because it was a minor thing that I didn’t do regularly. I think it’s good to get a sense of somebody’s knowledge, but there are ways to do that beyond making them write a function as part of an interview. For example, you could ask a reference to confirm that that was part of their duties. Since references won’t always talk about that kind of thing, you could also ask them to talk about the project in a larger sense, like ask how many people worked on it and how parts were integrated, etc., etc., things that somebody engaged in software development would have to know. You could also ask about how they find out how to code something that they don’t know and ask for an example.

        1. stitchinthyme*

          The last interview I participated in at my company, the interviewee struggled with the whiteboard test. My coworkers coached her towards a correct solution and we hired her anyway, because everyone could see that she did know how to code; she was just nervous and having problems with the particular question she was asked. At least here, the point isn’t a perfect piece of code, just demonstration of knowledge of the general principles of coding. They’re trying, in other words, to catch people like in letter #2.

  48. Elise*

    OP #3: Just to show that you are not alone, I’ve recently done some soul searching after realizing that without leaving my department to get more supervisory experience, my current job has topped out as far as advancement opportunities. When I really thought about it, I decided that I prefer a job I don’t have to think about after I leave. I make enough money to live in the area of town I want to live and still enjoy life. I’m working in a professional position that requires the masters degree I have and has the rare benefit of a Monday-Friday 9-5 schedule. I’m honestly not sure if I will ever want the added stress and less desirable schedule required for moving up. I’m not a climber and I get my enjoyment from life outside of work (though I do really like my job, which helps). You do you!

    1. TeacherNerd*

      Yes, this – my husband (and I, to a lesser extent) are also not climbers (I work in education; there are ALWAYS more classes to take, especially if one wants to renew one’s teaching license). Neither my husband nor I want to become supervisors. I can’t entirely leave my job at work (I’m a teacher; even if I leave my grading at school, which I can do 95% of the time, my students are still sometimes in my head), but while we both really like our work, we LOVE having the time together outside of work even more.

      1. Elise*

        My parents are both retired public school teachers so I definitely know you have to take some things home! I’m in charge of some of the digital systems here where I may have to do something on my days off, but it is rare. If I was the manager, I’d be the one taking all of the weekend calls about issues and farming them out to my staff. I’ll take my rare weekend tasks over that any day.

  49. soon to be former fed*

    There is more to life than work. Americans need to learn that. We are overly stressed and it plays out every day in the rude and nasty way people routinely interact. Some folks have callings to professions that are consuming, such as medicine. But corporate drone office work? NAH. I went to a prestigious, competitive university and became a government bureaucrat, no status but excellent pay/benefits, job security, and time to raise my child, which I did as a single parent. I used to feel badly about not having a high powered career, but the truth is I didn’t want one and probably shouldn’t have attended the university that I did. I didn’t know myself well enough at 18 to make a wise decision about college. I do not envy those who are married to their jobs. More power to the contented OP, because no dollar value can be placed on that.

    1. Elise*

      I too wish that I had been self aware enough when I was younger to realize that I am not a career person. Give me a good enough paycheck and a job I don’t hate and I’m more than content.

    2. Bea*

      But sometimes your work is what you enjoy. My mom is a laborer and she’s not interested in retirement, it affords her social interaction and a routine she’s in favor of. Whereas my dad retired early thanks to the recession forcing his hand. He’s thrilled to be home all the time and puttering around.

      Mom’s job supplements income enough that they enjoy weekend trips and frequent meals out.

      I’m more like my mom. I like work. Even in drone mode, I would rather be at work pushing paperwork around and talking to customers when necessary.

      It’s all about what you want from life. I have a partner and a cat, I may or may be able to be a parent one day. If a kid happens may be things will shift or maybe I’ll be the mom who as soon as I’m medically clear I’m back. Not because financial issues but because again, I enjoy work.

  50. Beancounter in Texas*

    OP #2 – If you always reply, “Go ask your manager,” to Sue’s every work question, eventually she’ll stop asking you, because she knows what you’re going to say.

  51. Hiring Mgr*

    On #1, I would second Alison’s advice that you need to start talking to your current boss about these things now..even though you have a big project, etc..it’s a natural part of a transition to discuss the team, how things are going, etc.

  52. AB*


    If I was your manager I would have said something to. It’s not because you sat in your workout clothes for 10 minutes. It’s before you’re using work time to get ready for your after-work activities. From your letter you spent 10 minutes getting ready, but you went 10 minutes before your shift ended so you could get ready during the time you’re being paid to work, rather than use 10 minutes of your free time. If you do this regularly then people will notice and know why, as your manager has.

  53. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #2

    OP, you and your coworkers all need to band together and not enable Sue. You all need to tell her that you can’t help her anymore and refer her to the manager. Enabling her like this is making things worse and will make your life a living hell once it really gets busy. You need to be able to do your own job, so your manager needs to deal with this.

    I once had someone like this at a previous job. She needed her hand held, didn’t have some critical skills, and made no effort to understand the system we were using that was very necessary to her job. Thankfully I didn’t directly manager her, although I was higher up in the chain and had standing to talk to her manager. I was very blunt with him and pulled no punches. I laid out what she was doing (or really, NOT doing), what needed to change, and how it was affecting me and the work I needed to get done, as well as others in the office. He had absolutely no idea any of this was going on until I said something, because the other people she was also badgering constantly prior to coming to me wouldn’t speak up. They just did stuff for her because it was easier. He put a stop to it and told her if she didn’t start making a major effort, she was out. She was out, because it became clear she didn’t want to make the effort.

  54. I'm leaning out*

    OP #2, is Sue actually asking you to write code for her, or just constantly double-checking stuff with you? I guess I’m projecting here, but as a woman in tech who no longer programs because I was being sexually harassed/bullied so much, I have to say that the first symptom of my impending nervous breakdown or whatever was an urge to constantly double-check things with people.

    Also, I would often want to talk out problems with my coworkers, but if I did try, they *immediately* assumed I was asking them to figure out the problem for me, even though I absolutely wasn’t – I just wanted a sounding board. Sue may also just be used to pair programming/talking through problems with coworkers.

    So, my advice is this. Dodge her questions, yes, and don’t waste your time or enable her self-sabotage. But do it in a way that is encouraging, rather than your condescending “I’m not going to write your project for you.” Say things like, “I can’t help you with that, but I’m sure you’ll figure it out,” and “You don’t need to double-check this with me, I trust you.”

  55. Tea*

    #5-Also, these coworkers-it’s not passive if they elect to tell the manager about a policy violation instead of telling you to your face. It’s more professional. It’s not good to confront someone in an office setting if they’re not the supervisor or manager-so they told the manager so he would take care of it. Maybe you think it was “fine” because no clients were around, but you have NO idea if a client is going to just walk in or not. My business also has a dress code/unofficial uniform and the front desk and sales can’t be seen behind the desk if they’re out of code because clients HAVE walked in unexpectedly when they think it’s not busy.

    But, like others have pointed out, this is IF they even said anything. All banks have tons of cameras-your boss may seen you from his office more than once. And there’s nothing wrong with him pointing out a break in policy regarding dress code as long as he didn’t embarrass you or was unprofessional (I once broke dress policy at a long ago retail job with too much cleavage and my manager was super inappropriate with his word choices-like he was right to point it out to me but wrong in his method.) Sounds like he said it exactly as he needed to say it.

  56. Tea*

    Also, if one of them did something, maybe your time changing into other clothes took longer than you thought and left your coworkers hanging with closing processes. Which is Not Cool.

  57. Dos Patos*

    LW #1

    Please go to your boss with your coworker’s bad behavior now. I was in a similar situation – I was promoted and inherited a guy who moonlighted at a bar and slept at his desk most of the day. Soon after being promoted, I started waking him up. The guy actually complained about me. (He claimed that he had been awake and I would randomly pop into his cube multiple times a day and tell him to wake up.)

    Since he was the first to complain, I was put on the defensive. He was a fun guy who was clearly a hard worker because he had two jobs. No one had complained about it before. No one wanted to throw him under the bus, either. My boss didn’t entirely believe me. Then I inherited his girlfriend, who started complaining about me. I found myself in meetings where every totally benign comment I made during the day was being twisted to prove that I was on a power trip. Literally saying “Hey, did you see that great lead that came in?” landed me in a meeting where I was under fire for “questioning whether my staff could do their jobs.” I started to think I was crazy. I read management books non-stop, I tried to take communication classes with a private public-speaking coach, (the problem was never what I said, it was my ‘tone’) but the instructor refunded my money because I didn’t have a problem.

    Long story short, if I had just mentioned to my boss before I started the position that this guy slept all day, my life would have been much easier.

  58. Sara without an H*

    OP#3, you sound as though you’ve landed on your feet. If you like the work, like the people, and the compensation is adequate, then you’re in a better position than a lot of people in the work force. If you don’t believe me, check the AAM archives.

    It might be good to treat this job as a space to recuperate and reflect on your future career path. You mentioned a management position you weren’t ready for, followed by a really toxic job. Now that you have a stable and reasonably satisfying position, you can relax a little, take stock, look for past patterns, and decide what would work better for you.

    Since it doesn’t sound as though this job uses all your energy, you might also want to look for opportunities to pick up some additional skills.

    Anyway, congratulations. Don’t let your friends pressure you into making a move you’re not ready for. It’s not their job, and it’s not their life.

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