open thread – May 11-12, 2018

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

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

{ 1,691 comments… read them below }

  1. Sweet Summer Child*

    Best tips for surviving a toxic workplace, until you can leave? For me lately, when possible of course:

    Actually taking my lunch and going for a short walk.
    Listening to music or podcasts, while working and during commute.
    Planned a week-long vacation in the fall and other short weekend trips, to have something to look forward to.
    Setting some boundaries with folks I do not actually work for, who try to dump their work on me.
    Going to look through our benefits, to make sure I’m making the most of everything while I’m still here.
    Working on a plan B career path, which is part of my unhappiness and likely, in part, why I chose this place (but they still suck).
    Stopped volunteering for things and avoiding situations where I can be ambushed.
    Leaving on time.

    Maybe I’ve thought of just about everything… One friend recommended farting in the boss’ office whenever possible… lol…

      1. Lorelai Gilmore*

        I quit my job last week and have said this at least 10 times since! It’s funny when the toxic people still try to control you when you’re in your last 2 weeks and onto bigger and better things. It really brings out the Dianne Lockart laugh in me. (google it if you don’t know it, it’s downright therapeutic!)

      2. H.C.*

        I use “not my circus, not my monkeys” so often with ExJobs and sometimes with current job, when it involves other teams I don’t report to ;)

    1. k.k*

      Try to detach yourself mentally from the situation. Like when people are being rude and nasty and such, don’t think of yourself as part of the conversation. Imagine that you’re an anthropologist observing and studying these strange people. So instead of being hurt or angered by a bosses bad behavior, you can just sit back and think, “Hmm…the alpha of the group seems agitated today.”

      1. dg*

        That was me at a dinner with my bosses last night! I’m quitting next week and just kept staring down the middle of the table, thinking of my freedom.

      2. Leela*

        i pretend I’m playing D&D and the worst ones are NPCs that our party is dealing with:)

        1. 41 days left @ toxic job*

          I use situations from books and pretend I’m a character. A holdover from when I was a kid, but it totally works!

          1. 41 days left @ toxic job*

            I work on my exit memo every chance I get! It’s good to be reminded of how much I actually do and remind myself that I’m leaving

    2. EditorInChief*

      That’s a great list. Remember that you can’t control how other people behave, you can only control how you respond to them.

    3. Alternative Person*

      Permitting yourself to (discreetly) roll your eyes/wave your hands hopelessly/ perform any other gesture that expresses your feelings as appropriate/(this can include having a good chuckle related to any schadenfreude).

      Picking what you can do in terms of your work product and letting other things go as much as possible.

      If your co-workers are messy and it won’t cause big problems, tidy up indiscriminately.

    4. Cruciatus*

      This was me last year. All those things sound good. I was a front desk person so I couldn’t get out a lot, but when I had any opportunity I took it. “Oh, you need that to go to HR right away but it’s storming outside?–No problem!” I was able to not think about the job when I was not there (well, I literally thought about how much I dreaded it every day, but I mean that I was not paid to check emails or anything of that nature outside of work so I did not). Maybe you can leave work at work as well.

      Applying to other jobs helped because it helped me realize it was just temporary. I WOULD get out. And I finally I did. I gave a month’s notice, which, NEVER AGAIN (well, at least, never again if I’m in a toxic place I’m trying to escape from. It helped knowing I was leaving, but OMG, that felt like forever–but that too finally passed).

    5. Sleepy baby*

      I would also say making the most out of your non work hours. At my last toxic job I spent all my time not at work, worrying about work. So really try to make fun plans with loved ones in the weekends and weekday evenings (yes weekdays can be social too!). On a particularly bad day, think about what nice thing you’re going to do for yourself when you get home – even if you only have a half hour of free time, that’s still a half hour to read a couple chapters of a good book or to call your best friend.
      Just repeat the mantra – work is not life, work is not life.

      1. LDP*

        This is what’s helping me deal with my toxic boss right now! I try to spend as much time as I can with people who make me laugh and make me feel valued. Even if your workplace doesn’t do those things for you, your friends and family will be there to remind you that you’re not stupid or worthless.

    6. Argh!*

      I write reviews, but I don’t post them. Feels just as good, and no worries that I’ll be found out.

    7. Naptime Enthusiast*

      I’ve turned into my father and have full conversations with myself during my commute, either as practice for upcoming tough convos or responding to something the way I really WANTED to, rather than the office acceptable way.

      It might look crazy to the other people on the road but it does relieve stress!

      1. Sunflower*

        Haha I’ve become this person as well. I take the subway/walk so I turn my phone off and put my headphones in and pretend I’m on the phone having a conversation about what I’m pissed about or just need to vent about! It helps a little bit for me.

      2. Artemesia*

        I am so pleased that phone technologies now mean that when I talk to myself while driving, it just looks like I am on blue tooth, or speaker phone, or have my earbuds in with my Iphone. Nah. Just talking to myself.

      3. Nic*

        I’ve done this all my life, and it really helps script stuff out and give practice at saying it aloud.

        Glad to know I’m not alone!

    8. Antilles*

      Remind yourself why you’re there: Yes, those few hours a day may suck, but your eight hours of shoveling monkey dung are earning you the money to allow you to enjoy what you really like, [sports/Netflix/underwater basketweaving/your hobby here].

    9. AnonEMoose*

      Make up a private (maybe strictly mental) bingo card with the most common horrible behaviors you experience. And when you get a “bingo” you get yourself a small treat. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s something you enjoy doing. A new paperback or Kindle book; go to a movie…whatever works for you.

        1. Anomanom*

          When I had to wait tables to make ends meet, a coworker and I had a really solid restaurant bingo game that we had half the staff involved in on any given night. It makes the soul sucking time go faster.

      1. Buu*

        One toxic workplace, my coworker and I had a secret timer that timed how long our supervisor spent walking around chatting. If it hit certain numbers we would dish out treats for ourselves.

        You may also want to find a token a small subtle thing that reminds you of one of the nice trips you have planned or your exit strategy. Each time you look at it, you can see a little sign of resistance for all the world to see , what they actually see is a postcard, small cactus, or a small plastic pen holder; but you know the truth.

    10. Info Architect*

      I recommend this book (link in name). I have no ties to the author or publisher, but I think it might help. Your current strategies seem to be working. Hope you find something soon!

    11. BenAdminGeek*

      I also found that taking PTO on Wednesdays was really nice. It made each week seem like 2 short weeks of “just gotta get through 2 days”

    12. MtnLaurel*

      Leaning on sane friends, both at work and outside of work.
      Periodic check ins to remind yourself that this is not normal.
      Fantasizing about getting away.
      Taking joy in the small ways you can find. Actively looking for it.
      Take (mental) notes for the tell all book you will write when you’re out. :-)

    13. LizW*

      One friend recommended farting in the boss’ office whenever possible…
      My husband does this.

      1. Bananka*

        To be clear, does the boss routinely do this to the husband on purpose ? If not, then it’s even beyond stooping to the toxic level of the workplace. The only word I am coming up with is disgusting.

    14. Secretary*

      Allow yourself to become obsessed with finding the right next job. It’s really easy to get distracted from a toxic work environment and allow yourself to be exhausted/ill. Apply as much as possible and be choosy with your choices. Also read Ask A Manager all the time and go through the archives for resume and cover letter tips!

    15. A Person*

      All of these things help tremendously!

      Also: keep documentation of your accomplishments to inspire you to seek jobs worthy of your talent.

      And keep documentation of potential trouble just in case you need it someday.

    16. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

      Pay special attention to the good co-workers Even in a toxic workplace there are usually a few who appreciate an ally in all the shenanigans surrounding them.

    17. Oxford Coma*

      I hum Kid Rock’s FOAD under my breath while mentally reciting the words. It has a pretty melody that sounds pleasant and makes anyone who can hear me think I’m in a good mood, and it’s enough of a deep cut that most people don’t know what it is.

    18. HR Recruiter*

      I think that’s a good list. I also daydreamed of what crazy things I would do on my last day and who I would tell off. ( I of course behaved perfectly on my last day but its fun to dream!)

    19. RR*

      It may sound counter-intuitive, but try not to vent, and avoid others when they are venting. I found that my colleagues and I ended up just saying the same (albeit true) things over and over. It didn’t fix anything, and after a while, it just adds to the negative energy. Focus on what you can do, practice detachment, and try to be thankful for what is good (or at least not dreadful) about your job — even if it’s just, hey, it pays the rent and the paychecks aren’t bouncing…. Try to leave work at work. Good luck!

      1. pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

        This is really good advice. There is a lot of research these days that venting is not actually a good thing — it just brings you and everyone around you into a downward spiral: You vent, they agree. They share a story in return, it reinforces your story. The result is even more ammunition for getting angry next time.

        One piece of advice I’ve seen is to write things down in a journal instead because it forces you to slow down your thinking a bit and also, maybe once you see what you’re so worked up about on paper, it’ll help you to come up with solutions, or confront your own responsibility.

    20. AeroEngineer*

      Yep, this is how I am surviving as well, especially the vacations and the leaving on time. My workplace has gotten more toxic/sexist (only female on an all male engineering team) now that they have ‘gotten used to me’, so I have been using these same tips. My required resigning notice is a month here, though I will give more notice to allow my tiny team (who are awesome) some time to find a new person.

      A big thing is that I don’t even think about work when not at work, when I leave the office I have checked out completely. I take lots of walks and really try to fill my free time with things I enjoy so that I feel less like I am just wasting away at work.

      1. Bumbly Bee*

        Such a comfort to read the initial post AND this one from a fellow gal engineer. I got a weird atmosphere happening at work stemming from politics and annoying guys on my team, including a slimeball who one day will talk about an NPR podcast and the next day will casually throw in that his promotion paperwork is going through, while I’ve been told to specifically stop asking about mine (I could go on about the politics around promotions and the lack of them for women in my dept. but I won’t because it’s not gonna change anything and because I am writing on a Saturday). All in all, grateful to read about others’ helpful survival strategies that I will be sure to implement ASAP.

        1. AeroEngineer*

          Ugh, that also sounds terrible. My main issue is that a lot (most, perhaps all) of the people at my job have only worked at this company, and the environment is very lax to the point they are able to push the barrier quite far (and they don’t have good habits from having come from other companies). I always make the joke that I work with 12 year old boys, as a lot of days it feels like that.

          I am afraid a bit to move on to a new environment, but I am praying that if I return to the country I have done a lot of internships in and to a larger company and to a team which I am 100% sure has had female engineers on it who have gone on a career path I want, I will be able to avoid something this bad.

          I am just hoping that something pans out in the next weeks/months, as I would like to move on around Oct/Nov, but all I hear are crickets, or can’t find any openings in the field I want to be in. But as I haven’t been rejected yet from my first choice position (they are required to change the status in the system if that occurs at this company, so I would actually know), I’m still hoping it will pan out.

    21. anony anon mc anon*

      I try to think of things similar to the anthropologist studying human behavior, but I think about how it would be a great SNL skit/sketch comedy. My co-worker would be a great character. Other than that, I always say 3 positive things that the day brought- even if it’s just “nice weather”. I also try to think of the positive side of people and surround myself with those people. If there’s no one (like in last toxic job), then I call/text loved ones. Plan fun things during the weekend so you give yourself something to look forward to or something small- treat yourself to dinner out,dessert, etc.

      I have been really stressed and venting this week, so I’m trying to take all of this advice as well. Try not to dwell on things, etc. I hope you can find your way out and on to a more positive place!

    22. Purple Rain*

      Start something to look forward to outside work – like a monthly meetup for board games or a craft circle. The arts! Sample community theatre, choirs, orchestra. Take an interest class or workshop like learning to draw.

    23. Jemima Bond*

      Do you have a fun hobby or pastime? I find a very good way of avoiding getting too stressed about work stuff is to leave it very determinedly at the office door when I leave, and start thinking about something fun. I’m planning my next quilting or dressmaking project before I even get out of the main gate!

    24. Not So NewReader*

      Good self-care can help give you mental strength to withstand the bs flying about. This means proper rest, go to bed on time and if you cannot sleep read something positive or uplifting. Keep the book beside your bed because you know there will be days when settling in for the evening is too hard. It also means hydration and good meals. Regular walks are amazing at blowing out cobwebs and clearing up the thought patterns. Even a 15 minute walk on a regular basis will help.

      Tell yourself that you are letting them sharpen you for your next job. A good chunk of any job is communication. So how do you handle communication? Big topic, we could write books here. My go-to was to play a straight game. Drama Lama came at me with a river of bs, I would take the drama and break it into manageable, logical parts. Sometimes insisting on logic is enough to break up some issues. “Sue is a b!tch, she won’t let me do x!” My reply, “Did you even ASK her?” I could count on hearing NO. “Well, you should go ask her. You have a valid point about x and here is why. [Reasons 1,2 and 3]. I think if you run down these reasons you might gain some ground.” What happened next is they would either go talk to Sue OR they would stop coming to me with their issues.

      You can also make a list of generic go-tos, such as “There are no perfect workplaces” or “There are no perfect bosses” these things are helpful when people get a little too far out on the deep end. You can tell yourself or tell them these things.

      If you have a boss or cohort who changes plan midstream and you KNOW this is their habit then you can repeat back to them what they are saying. “So you want x then y then z, right?” When they come to you half way through y and ask you where z is, you can say, “I don’t have z. This is why I asked you to confirm you wanted x then y then z. And you said that was right.” People don’t like hearing their own words back, it usually causes them to rethink what they are saying.
      Watch where you are putting your time and energy. Can x be fixed? If no, then let it go, move on to something you stand a chance of getting fixed.
      To me, I think that spending time at home finding ways to search smarter for a new job is equally important. Toxic workplaces can drain us. Try to simplify some at home tasks so you have more time and energy to handle the job search. This can be anything, more crockpot meals or hiring someone to mow the lawn, whatever you think is going to lighten your load for the moment.

    25. Duffel of Doom*

      This is great! The one I’m about to try out is volunteering- my absolute dream job (animal rescue related) doesn’t pay enough for me to do for real, so I’m going to do it for fun. It’ll be good experience and hopefully a nice mental break from my toxic office.

    26. Cute Li'l UFO*

      Steal all the good candy out of the treat dishes.
      Imagine your sweet, sweet freedom and how good it’s going to feel, how light your soul will be.
      Imagine yourself vindictively shaking every single soda in the free drink fridge on your last day.

      I kept reminding myself “Your options are ‘Continue’ or ‘Tough it out!'” in my last awful contract. I took the inspiration from the final boss of Kirby 64 where if you pause the “retry” option is replaced with “Tough it out!”

      It really gave me a lot of hope, oddly enough.

    27. Quickbeam*

      The benefit thing is HUGE. So many people pass up real value to their lives by not knowing what they are entitled to in that arena. At my company we can get free passes to ball games, opera, museums, the zoo…just by asking. You can also get an interest free loan to buy a home computer. Most people don’t even know about it. Also explore your health insurance. I was astonished to find out my company pays 100% for mental health counseling. Who can’t use that!!

    28. pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Good ideas:
      1. If you’re really stuck for the foreseeable future — try to make your space really happy with photos, plants, chair cushions or a chair blanket, cute wall or desk calendar, magnets or push pins, desk toys…
      2. If you are close to leaving — start taking stuff home discretely so that you feel less and less connected. That way, when you do quit, you can just grab your jacket and go.
      3. Make sure you have a personal back up of things you need and are legally allowed to have like evaluations and anything you have signed. It’s better to have it and not need it, than it will be to try to get it later.
      4. If you’ve ever accessed any personal accounts like email or FB from a company computer — change any passwords; in fact just change them anyway just to be safe.

      Evil ideas: Depends on how many people are toxic… if it’s everyone and not just 1-2 people
      1. Go on an all fish diet, 2-3 small meals a day, and use the office microwave liberally.
      2. Farting in the boss’ office is good, but spread it around to elevators, stairwells and the breakroom

    29. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Weekend trips every month or two have been saving my sanity for the last year and a half. There are months when the only way I can get through a workweek is by counting days to the next weekend trip.

      I have also identified a few people who, when they send you a request, take your prompt answer as an invitation to send a new request/expansion of the old request five minutes later… and again… and again… and can go all day. So now, when I get something from one of them that isn’t a legitimate emergency, I type up the answer, sit on it all day, then when I am ready to leave, I hit Send and IMMEDIATELY shut the computer down and leave for the day. Works like a charm. I first learned to do it with someone at an OldJob ten years ago, and just recently remembered this helpful technique. Worked then, and still works now.

    30. Ladylike*

      Don’t take things personally – recognize that you’re not responsible for the rantings and whims of crazy people. Take care of yourself physically to offset the physical effects of stress. This is HUGE and I cannot emphasize it enough – I learned the hard way. Get plenty of sleep, exercise and eat right, and make a point to do things that bring you joy and help you relax. Try to view your job as a means to an end – a paycheck and benefits, but not something that you should emotionally invest in. I hope you get out quickly!

    31. Jules*

      Plan a Disney vacation… You’ll get so sucked into it. Then every time something happens, you can think Disney and feel better.

    32. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      My big one is to remember who you are. You can’t control the toxic people – you can’t make them like you; you can’t make them have better values; you can’t please them – but you can act based on the person you choose to be. So if you are polite, it’s because you are someone who is polite – not because you think you can appease the angry, toxic people. If you are professional, it’s because that’s who you are – not because you secretly hope you’re going to make them ashamed of themselves. If you do good work and show up on time, that’s because the person you want to be has pride in their work – not because you think that if you keep giving, you will win them over.

      Another way to put it would be to say that we use the people around us like a mirror. It’s totally normal to calibrate your values and your behavior off other people. It is mostly a good thing! But at a bad job, you can’t do that, because bad bosses and bad coworkers will reflect back an ugly, distorted version of you. They will try to break you down or make you adopt their bad values and bad habits – and if they can’t do that, they will try to keep you reacting to them. At bad job, you have to look inside yourself and check in against your own values and your own identity.

      This is easier as you get older, and it is easier if you have good people in your life outside work.

  2. JokeyJules*

    Does anyone have any suggestions on “politely encouraging” fellow coworkers to wash their own dishes? The most common excuse is “oh, I forgot those were mine are you sure those are mine?”
    No, the dish fairy must have left them behind just like the dish fairy’s twin sister who washes them for you after they sit there for 2 weeks.
    I sit closest to the sink and it smells nasty, and I’m the admin assistant, so I think my coworkers expect me to just do them because they think they are busier and their time is more important. Except I was not hired to be a dishwasher, and I have a lot to do, myself.
    Anyone have any tips? Suggestions? Commiseration stories to share?

        1. Artemesia*

          Me too. When they start to stink bin them, but not when anyone can see you do it. When the office has no more dishes, problem solved.

    1. Starryemma*

      If the actual dishware is personal dishware (vs owned by the company) you could consider sending out a message that you’re doing a “sink cleanout” every Friday (or every first Friday, or whatever), and that you’ll be throwing away any dishes remaining in the sink at that time, to avoid pests, etc, and ask people to please come collect their dishes beforehand.

      If it’s communal dishware that’s being left, you could consider getting rid of it, if you’re able, to eliminate the possibility of people using and then not washing. It’s not environmentally friendly, but your company could switch to paper or plastic plates.

      1. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

        This is good except…. OP is then in charge of doing the cleanout. Taking ownership of that is just a step away from taking ownership of doing the darn dishes in the first place, so I’d avoid that.

        1. Starryemma*

          It sounds like she’s bothered by the smell. Another option would be to do nothing (or to post signs, which I’ve seen have varying levels of effectiveness), but then the smell still remains.

        2. Seriously?*

          Throwing them away is less gross than actually washing them. And it discourages people from abandoning them in the future so after the first couple times I would be surprised if there was much at all there.

          1. JokeyJules*

            what’s weird is that it’ll be 2 mugs and 7520348750792834523 forks, spoons. and butter knives.
            I recognize that those are a pain in the butt to clean sometimes, which is why i stock disposable cutlery as well.

            1. Former Govt Contractor*

              Please choose compostable disposable cutlery – easily obtained on Amazon – for environmental reasons. Thanks.

            2. ..Kat..*

              Is there a scrub brush and dish soap to make it easier for people to do their dishes? And a drying rack?

        3. Logan*

          Agreed with Seriously?:
          Washing and tossing are not equivalent to me – throwing them out is much faster, and those dishes won’t be clean and ready to be dirtied again so the problem quickly resolves itself.

      2. PlanterFacetous*

        End of week? End of day ! Who leaves their dishes in the office sink for a whole week? If they didn’t remember it on the day they did it, or the following days, they are not likely to remember on Friday. Extra days aren’t going to help them remember.
        No need to let the smell marinate.

        1. ExceptionToTheRule*

          Everybody I’ve ever worked with does this. Tossing them is my boss’s preferred & recommended method of dealing with the problem. He may or may not send out a note in advance.

          1. Midge*

            Sending a note is just common courtesy. I think I’ve left my personal mug sitting in the dish rack once or twice in the year I’ve been at my current job. But if my boss happened to pick one of those days and threw out my favorite mug, well I’d be pretty mad about that.

            1. bmore pm*

              the question isn’t about clean dishes left in the dish rack, it’s about dirty dishes in the sink, so sounds like your mug would be safe.

      3. essEss*

        This should be a daily throwout, not weekly. Dishes in an office have no business sitting dirty in the sink overnight. They need to be cleaned before the employee (the one that dirtied them) leaves for the day.

      4. essEss*

        You should also speak to the managers… cleaning up after yourself is a basic job duty. If someone is consistently leaving dirty dishes in the sink, that’s a job performance issue and goes into their performance review and impacts bonuses and raises.

        1. Emily K*

          That may work for more junior levels, but I have a hard time envisioning a VP chastising a Director or a CEO chastising a VP for not washing their dishes in a performance review. Management isn’t going to risk losing someone who is successfully managing a 6- or 7-figure budget and exceeding their performance targets because they can’t be arsed to wash their dishes. People at those levels who are good at their jobs are often allowed to get away with things even when they’re clearly in the wrong because they bring too much value. You can still coach them, but docking their bonus or raise over dirty dishes is just going to drive them to a competitor who doesn’t care so much about dishes.

    2. Frankie Bergstein*

      My office has a sign above the sink letting us know not to leave our dishes on the sink or around the sink. We also have a periodic fridge clean out where if your food isn’t labeled with your name and a date, it just gets thrown out (container and all, if I’m not mistaken). Could a process of some sort be put in place for the dishes?

        1. beanie beans*

          Those kinds of messages always crack me up because my parents made me do my own damn dishes.

          1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

            We had a dishwasher, but I was still expected to rinse off my dishes and put them in the dishwasher.

            Funny(?) story: When I was a nanny I taught the kids the same thing when I was in the house. One time they asked me if I could be there at night since the parents had an event to get to. I said sure. When I walked in, the kids were finishing up dinner. They each got up, went to the sink, and rinsed their dishes off. The mom turned around, staring and said, “They NEVER do that!” I just shrugged and mentioned that I have them do it so they were probably just getting it out of the way.

        2. Oxford Coma*

          This would not work in my office; there are so many spouses and parent/child teams here!

        3. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

          I used to work with my mom (same company and floor, different departments) and always laughed at those messages, since “But my mom DOES work here!” (and because she wouldn’t have cleaned up after me anyway).

      1. JokeyJules*

        we have a sign (that coincidentally has food splashed onto it)
        Not effective.
        We’ve had emails go out and everyone whines about Boss telling them to do their dishes like they are children.
        But the dishes still don’t get washed…

        1. MuseumChick*

          UGH. Why is it so hard for adults to be adults? Start a policy where any dishes left in the sink at the end of the day will be thrown away.

        2. Brooklyn99wasCancelled*

          If the company provides the dishes, then the company should have a system for taking care of the unwashed when the employees fail to do so. But if these are employees leaving their dirty personal items around, then the company is not obligated to clean them, or provide long term storage of the dirty items. Dirty items will be tossed. That’s it.

          1. Magee*

            WHAT?!? Brooklyn 99 is one of my favorite shows on the air right now! And I know it wasn’t doing too well before, but this season has been SOOO good. Sorry, I know this is off topic, I’m just really sad.

            1. Bea*

              They’re saying it may be picked up by another channel. So we just all need to hold hands and huddle until TBS or Netflix picks it up or just stand close enough to be kind of awkward and stare at each other, whichever works for me.

              1. LH*

                Picked up by NBC! Variety says it’ll be a 13 episode season, probably starting early 2019 :)

    3. Lucky*

      Hidden camera to catch the dish-leavers? Joking, but not. I would like to set up a camera in our kitchen just to capture data on the gender of people who unload the dishwashers. I have been here 3 years (today) and have seen a man do it exactly once.

      1. A Heather*

        I work with techies. There has been plotting of a side project to install cameras/sensors to “remind” people not to leave dishes in the sink. So far, it has not happened, but the problem is not actually that bad here, either.

      2. Nerfmobile*

        Oh yes. I worked at a tech startup for about 6 months. 30 people, and in that time, i’m not sure I ever saw anyone beside me, the head of operations, or the marketing assistant (3 out of the 4 women in the office) ever load or unload the dishwasher.

    4. Ashie*

      Can you eliminate places to set the dishes down? There’s no reason dishes shouldn’t be washed right away, no matter who they belong to. If there’s nowhere to put a dirty dish no one will leave them around.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, I like that; you may need to make sure there’s no draining space, either, but same principle–people can dry their stuff.

      2. Windchime*

        I was going to suggest this, also. We have a tiny kitchen at work and it stays amazingly clean. Once in awhile, someone will leave something soaking in the sink but for the most part, people wash their dishes right after eating. I’m thinking it’s because there is literally no room for even a dish rack on the counter. These are all personal dishes; there are no communal dishes.

        Previous workplace instructed housekeeping to throw away any dishes left in the sink at night.

    5. Kristinemc*

      I saw a sign in an office once that said “Treat your dishes like you treat your partner – don’t let others do them.”

      I’m not sure how effective it was, but it made me laugh.

    6. Seriously?*

      Are these company owned dishes or personal dishes? If they are personal dishes then a blanket rule of any unclaimed dishes will be thrown out at X time every day could work. If they are company dishes, then look into whether they can be gotten rid of altogether since they are being abused. Having dishes is convenient but being overrun by dirty dishes is horrible.

      1. JokeyJules*

        they are dishes donated by staff for communal purposes.
        So nobody claim’s ownership of the dishes… or their mess.

        1. MuseumChick*

          Do away with the communal dishes. Then if anything is left in the sink my end of the day it gets thrown away.

          1. Seriously?*

            I agree. An e-mail that says any dirty dishes in the sink will be thrown away at the end of the day should do it. If anyone cares, they can wash them. Otherwise, you are throwing away dishes that everyone has claimed to not own and not use.

        2. E*

          This is the inherent issue with communal dishes. If there’s no schedule or agreement between those who use the dishes for who will clean them/put away, it’s likely at times that no one will. I agree, do away with the communal dishes if the problem persists.

          1. Totally Minnie*

            I once worked in an office where each work group was assigned KP for a week at a time. People grumbled, but eventually the kitchen was more consistently clean than it had ever been before. Everyone hated being on kitchen duty, so they all tried to make it so there was less work to do overall.

            1. E*

              Sounds like a good system. If folks just took turns keeping the minimum done (dishes washed/dried/put away) and then wipe down a surface or something similarly small during their week, it would keep the whole kitchen in better shape. Without the hassle of deep cleaning.

        3. Samata*

          Yes, be done with the communal dishes. We had to do it with coffee mugs at my old job because people couldn’t be bothered to rinse them out.

        4. Bea*

          Yep. Throw them away. THROW THEM ALL AWAY. Nobody is taking ownership, they’re trash. They’ll cry about it and then you say “Well you couldn’t take care of your mess, it’s called consequences.”

          Just like cleaning a child’s room by throwing their things away because they can’t take care of them.

        5. DDJ*

          Could you mention that the sink is technically also an eye wash station for the office and as such, needs to be kept clear? Make it a safety issue? Depending on your site, it might actually BE qualified as an eye wash station. That’s how it is in our office – we had a safety audit and I was asked where the eye wash stations were located, and I said we didn’t have any.

          That’s when I learned that all sinks can be eye wash stations, they don’t need to be those fancy ones.

          Just saying, it might be a way to sort of…escalate the issue a bit.

          Or you assign kitchen duty. That’s what we did in one group I worked with, and it worked out well. Two people were assigned (to account for possible absences) each week, and the list was posted in the kitchen so that everyone could see who’s week it was. You were allowed to switch weeks, but it had to be changed on the posted schedule so that everyone could actually see who was responsible for it.

          Or you get rid of communal dishes altogether. That would be a last resort, but…people in offices can get really weird about dishes.

    7. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

      I did this with a messy roommate. I took all of her dirty dishes and stacked them in a dishpan and put it in a corner. It saved my sanity because then the sink was emptied of weeks old greasy dishes and I could use it again. The worst part was she never noticed but at least I wasn’t looking at them every time I came into the kitchen.

      1. RestlessRenegade*

        I too once had a roommate who was so messy, she’d leave garbage out for days, dirty dishes, etc. Once, after she’d had a party, me and the other two roommates put everything (dishes, trash) into a garbage bag and put it in front of her door. Probably not the nicest thing to do to an 18-yo who was on her own for the first time, but we really could not function with that mess everywhere.

    8. Manager Mary*

      I throw out dishes in the sink at the end of the day. These are real dishes & flat ware. I don’t buy disposables. If we one day run out of the donated communal dishes, then someone will either donate more or that will be the end of the communal dishes. If you don’t want your personal dishes treated to the communal property rules, don’t put them in communal areas like the sink.

      It’s been VERY effective. People expect you do to the dishes… because you do them! People don’t expect me to do them because I don’t do them. When I started here people were like “omg, are you nuts, you just threw a FORK in the GARBAGE!” and I was like “are YOU nuts? You put a fork in the sink and walked away like you don’t understand what the sink is for, so now you don’t ever get to use this fork again. You can keep watching me throw your forks out until there aren’t any more forks, or you can learn to wash your own forks.” And guess what? Everyone either learned to wash their own forks or they started bringing their own disposables.

      I say skip the polite encouraging. This isn’t a pep rally; this is adulthood. Do your own dishes or lose the dishes. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

    9. Leela*

      I used to work at an office and we actually had to send out reminder e-mails that our admin staff was not our cleaning staff, because everyone automatically expected them to be. It didn’t fully take care of the problem but cut it down by a good 75/80 %? I hope that’s helpful. I hate that offices tend to assume that admin people are dishwashers, good luck with this one!

    10. Sarah*

      Toss them. I’m an early morning person and would stop in on my way to the gym drop my work things at my desk and throw away all dirty dishes left in the sink from the day before. It was much easier than being the clean police.
      People who value their dishes will start washing and taking them to their desk. Also a dryer sheet in the trash helps.

    11. Goya de la Mancha*

      We gave up on politely encouraging. We now just have a sign that says “Your mom doesn’t work here, clean up after yourself”

    12. Traveling Teacher*


      At one school I worked at, several years ago now, there were a ton of communal dishes. Dozens of odd plates, mugs, and cutlery teachers had brought to the school when they’d replaced theirs. At the end of September, the dishsoap ran out, and no one replaced it (I did not use the communal dishes because I hate communal sponges, but the sink and open shelving for the dishes was in the teacher’s breakroom). It perhaps bears mentioning that this particular school was located in an economically depressed area and had a lot of big, systemic problems we were dealing with. The sink perhaps became a visual metaphor for the broken system.

      At first, people would rinse the dishes, then leave them in the sink. Then they started accumulating. By the end of October, there were no clean dishes, and there were two-three dishtubs full of dirty, unrinsed dishes under the sink. Still no dishsoap.

      At this point, I had a mug, sponge I’d cut into four tiny pieces, and a bottle of dishsoap (I was at four different schools and kept a mug and sponge piece at each one). I kept all this on a high shelf at the end of the corridor, labeled in a container with my name on it. (I was of course using instant coffee at this school, rather than the coffee maker…)

      At some point in October, a frustrated colleague borrowed my dishsoap and took it upon herself to wash the dishes. Absolutely not problem from me–I was relieved! And she even replaced the soap. She refused to carry on washing everyone’s dishes after a couple of weeks, and no one else started washing their own dishes, so the situation reproduced itself quickly.

      In December, the same colleague removed the rotting dishes from the sink and floor and put them back on the open shelf. We’re talking dishes encrusted with old tomato sauce, rotting bits of vegetables–utterly disgusting.

      The cleaning lady told the principal that she was contracted for bathrooms, floors, windows, and table surfaces only–we were on our own with the breakroom sink, as it was for personal, rather than public, use. Fair enough. This is France, and people take their contracts and contracted work very seriously.

      In February, there was an inspection, and someone bought paper plates, cups, and cutlery for the inspectors. I assume the same person had the good sense to throw a sheet over the offending shelf.

      It was around this time that my mug went missing. I finally saw another teacher using it, and he remarked, “Oh, I forgot you were here today. I only use your mug on the days you’re out!” Reader, I am fairly certain, judging by the dirty mug pile in the corner of his classroom of at least 20 mugs, that he had not washed out my mug but only rinsed it!!!

      I told him to keep it and invested in a high quality thermos.

      Denouement: In June, a new cleaning lady replaced the old one. I discovered her in the breakroom, up to her elbows in those filthy, filthy dishes, washing them in several waters, muttering to herself about the “Cochonneries des bourges” (literally: “piggeries of the bourgeois”) and wondering whether any of us had the “sense to wipe our own a**es!”

    13. Umvue*

      This isn’t an immediately-practical suggestion for most people, but I will say that in one job I had, the kitchenette had a dishwasher, and the kitchen was basically never gross. It was a small office, so we only ran the dishwasher once a week, but that was enough to keep the communal plates and mugs clean — and the fact that there was an easy and fast thing to do with dirty dishes meant that everyone did that thing. It made me wonder why more office kitchens don’t have dishwashers. They really aren’t that expensive.

      A related fact: when I started at that company I would frequently observe the Director unloading the dishwasher on Monday morning. I loved that, because a man in a leadership position doing it sent the signal that, as a junior woman, it would not be a career-limiting move for me to do it once in a while if I happened to be the first to the office on Mondays. This is in contrast to my previous boss at another organization, who left her nasty-ass crusty oatmeal mug in the sink every damn day as a monument to her own status. Leaders, wash your ****ing dishes.

  3. August*

    Hello everyone! I know there’s quite a few former AmeriCorps members here, so I’m hoping I can get some advice. I’m currently coming up on the end of my term as a VISTA, and I can’t decide if I want to go for a second year as a VISTA or try to find a full-time job in my field. Some relevant factors:

    1) I majored in Political Science and Eastern European languages at school (so….not super employable), and I’m primarily looking for work with nonprofits, higher education institutions, or the US government. Subsequently, there’s not a ton of relevant work in my rural hometown. If I want a job in my field, I’ll have to move.
    2) The second-year VISTA positions I’m applying to are a commutable distance from my house (I live with my parents, so I don’t pay rent). So, if I go with VISTA, I’ll be able to save 90% of my living stipend and put it towards my loans.
    3) A lot of people around me have been encouraging me to look into graduate school. Considering how substantial my student debt is right now, I’d only be able to get a Master’s if it’s completely paid for. A year-long term with VISTA would give me time to look into grad schools and apply for scholarships.

    Really, my biggest reservation with VISTA is that I’m considering a second year because it’s comfortable: I’d be able to stay in my hometown with my family, get more time to be indecisive about my future, my student loan payments wouldn’t immediately come crashing down on me, and I wouldn’t have to worry about a “real job” yet.

    But, simultaneously, I’m wondering if I’m so hesitant about VISTA because it’s not a “real job”; I also have a part-time food service job, and I’m always a little ashamed when people ask about my future, when I graduated, what I’m doing, etc. Rationally, I know it’s not a big deal, but living with my parents and working two jobs is a little embarrassing for me.

    Any thoughts? I’d love to hear about how everyone’s job search went after VISTA, what made you decide to commit to a second VISTA term, etc.

    1. Jess R.*

      I did AmeriCorps (but not VISTA) so I can’t speak to the VISTA experience specifically, but I say go for that second year, so long as you like the work you’re doing. The financial aspect is a huge one, and giving you some time to make careful next-steps decisions is also super worthwhile!

      I didn’t stay a second year in my AmeriCorps program, although I could have — technically, I mean. I hated the work, so staying would have ripped my soul to shreds, but the option was there. I don’t regret not staying, but I do regret jumping into the first job I could find after AmeriCorps because I was so desperate for a change. It wasn’t remotely the right fit for me, and I think if I’d had more time to process and make plans, I would have made better plans.

    2. Mobuy*

      Also, don’t go to graduate school unless a) you want to, b) you can afford it, and c) it will help you with your future plans. It sounds like you are sort of rudderless (not really big problem in itself) so you are looking for something to do. Since you’ve been going to school basically your whole life, it makes sense that you’d go back to what you know. Really make sure graduate school will be good for you if you go!

      1. Jess R.*

        Strong, strong agree! My dad’s a PhD in physics, and when I was talking to him about how I might go to grad school, he said you have to really want the work, not just the end product. You have to really want the process or you’ll burn out so fast and make yourself miserable.

      2. GG Two shoes*


        I have more than a couple friends who didn’t know what to do after their bachelors and got a masters just because. Now they have jobs they could have got with just a bachelors but with 25-40k more debt. A Master’s doesn’t guarantee a job.

      3. Kimberlee, no longer Esq*

        Also agree. Do not go to grad school unless you know what you want to do and you *need* grad school to break into it. Or, I mean, if you’re rich and just want to learn. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. :)

        1. Jules the Third*

          Or if you want to change career fields after a decade of checking out stuff.

          I did an MBA after a decade in retail mgmt / tech support / non-profit / web design. It paid for itself (including lost salary for going full time and not working) within 4 years, and I found a career I really like (supply chain).

        2. David*

          FWIW a lot of PhD programs in the sciences (and maybe some non-science programs too, I’m not sure) pay you a stipend including a tuition waiver – basically you work for the university and earn a salary. So at least you don’t have to be rich in that case.

          But I totally agree with your advice in general.

          1. Julianne*

            My understanding may be incorrect, but I was under the impression that grad student stipends are usually pretty low (although I suppose it would probably still be more than AmeriCorps stipends).

            1. L*

              They are typically low. I went to a private university and mine was about $430/month (after taxes). That was back in 2000, but still. Oh, and I lived in Chicago at the time, so not a small college town with lower living expenses.

            2. Pangolin*

              It really depends on the field you’re in and where the funding’s coming from. I’m entering a grad program in engineering soon, and the stipend’s about $2500/month; it’s a significant step down from what I make in a regular (engineering) job, but still a very livable amount in the region. Not a thing to do if I were looking to get rich, though, and summer funding isn’t guaranteed after the first year.

              If you’re interested, the website in my name (or search ‘phd stipends’ if it didn’t work…) collects self-reported data on grad student stipend amounts.

      4. August*

        Thank you, this is a great tip! I definitely think I would love the experience of grad school (researching and writing papers is something I would do for a living, if I could), but I’m pretty certain that I’ll only go if it’s completely paid for, if I know for a fact that an advanced degree will contribute/relate to my career, and if I’ll be able to get relevant work experience while studying. It’s just figuring out all of those things is such a massive effort that I haven’t gotten anywhere with it, haha!

        1. Genny*

          I don’t know what type of work you’re looking for specifically, but don’t buy into the lie that you can’t get a government job without a masters degree. My first job out of undergrad I was a program assistant in a contract position for the government. There were four of us in the office who had the same job title, same responsibilities. The other three incumbents had their masters degrees. They basically paid $60,000 to get the same job I’d gotten out of undergrad (and BTW, the job only required an associates). I’ve since gotten two more contract jobs with the government, all without a masters degree, though I’d started my degree program prior to getting my current contract job). Having a clearance is far more important for getting gov jobs than a masters.

          1. August*

            I don’t know if it’s just that I’ve been looking in the wrong places, but most of the entry-level jobs I’ve seen in government and universities seem to require either a Master’s or 3-4 years of work experience, which has been a pretty big downer. I’ve mostly been struggling with the fact that I have very shallow experience in a lot of things (my current VISTA position has had me basically running a nonprofit alongside the founder), where most jobs seem to want more in-depth experience in several specific things. But, everyone here is right, I shouldn’t use grad school as a way to avoid confronting this.

            1. Midge*

              If you’re getting solid experience in your VISTA position that will help you with your future career goals, that is GOLD. That wasn’t my experience in AmeriCorps (I was basically a reading tutor), and that was a big factor in my decision to leave. It’s pretty rare for entry level jobs in general to give you that kind of experience. Staying another year where you would get more experience, learn more, and have more accomplishments could really help when you’re looking for a permanent position.

              1. Mobuy*

                Hey, reading tutor was my AmeriCorps experience also! White girl from Utah, here is an inner-city Birmingham school. Have fun! (Actually, it was a blast and I’m a teacher now, but your point is valid.)

            2. Genny*

              Contracting is a good way to get into the government with less experience, as are admin or admin-adjacent roles. You get the experience needed, learn more about what interests you, and then can decide whether or not you still want to pursue a direct-hire career with the government. I highly recommend it.

      5. Genny*

        Yes! If I had gone to grad school without obtaining any experience in my field, I wouldn’t have known which niche of international relations I want to pursue. I wouldn’t have been able to select a school that meets my needs (budget, schedule, prestige, majors, etc.) because I wouldn’t have had enough information about what I was even looking for in those areas. I wouldn’t have gotten as much use out of the program because I wouldn’t have had the experience to inform what I was learning. Only go to grad school when it becomes the logical next step in your career.

      6. Gingerblue*

        Hear hear! And even if you ultimately want to do grad school, August, a second year doing something that’s *not* school is not a bad idea. The people I’ve seen enter grad school with a bit of a gap between that and college are often better adjusted and more ready for the work load than those who go straight out of college. (I did grad school straight out of college, and I was still kind of burned out from my senior year right when I started. A year or two off between would have been good for me.)

      7. CC*

        I got my PhD and another thing I would add is never go into a PhD program that does not give you a full ride and a stipend.

    3. beanie beans*

      If I were in your shoes I’d go for the second year if you enjoy it! There’s totally nothing wrong with being indecisive about your future and needing some more time to think about it!

      And it’s definitely a real job in terms of getting great experience that will be transferable skills to any future job. I’d almost say another year of working experience would be great to have on the resume before getting a masters – lots of people leave their masters program with zero work experience and find themselves with a ton of debt, high salary expectations, and no work experience.

      Working two jobs sounds tiring, but if you like it and can handle it, don’t change just because you’re embarrassed – lots of people work multiple jobs and lots of people live with their parents for a while to save money! Anyone who shames you for that is a jerk.

      But this is such a personal decision – don’t let us sway you too much – go with your gut!

      1. August*

        Thank you! I definitely worry that I’m comparing myself to others too often– I have friends who are entering graduate school, and here I am working food service and living at home. It’s hard to separate that weird stigma from the knowledge that I’m getting real work experience.

        1. J.B.*

          A lot of entry level jobs want 1-2 years of experience. Basically because they can get it. What that means is they want someone who has been working for a bit but don’t expect you to be an expert in any area.

          There’s no reason not to stay in VISTA. You are getting work experience. Finances benefit you. If you want to go for a specific field after, really think during next year about what it is. Also get Alison’s free guide on interviewing. Look at job postings that interest you and think about how you would explain your current work experience to them.

    4. anna green*

      Don’t go to graduate school!! Well. I mean, go if you can see a clear path to how your degree will get you a good high paying job. But don’t go just because you’re not sure what to do. If you want to work in the non-profit world, more debt is not what you need. The only difference would be if you really want to go the higher education route, as a masters is probably important, but I dont know much about that world.

      I was in NCCC, so not Vista. I could see either path working for you. If you stay at VISTA another year and live with your parents, or if you get a regular job in your field and move away to where the jobs are. Will staying at VISTA another year add to your resume? If it’ll give you good experience and you want to then go for it. If it won’t add much, maybe its time to look for the next thing. Or apply to other jobs and see if you get anything and use VISTA as a backup? I dont know if thats logistically possible.

      1. Christy*

        More about the grad school comments. Completely agree.
        I almost went to grad school right out of undergrad because it seemed like a clear path, and many of my friends were doing that. Also, I’ll admit, part of my identity was tied up into being “the smart one” so the idea of having less degrees than my peers was part of the issue.
        I waited and I’m so glad.
        I worked for 5 years first in a couple of different areas (nonprofit – graphic design, local government- program management, state government – legislative) and then the path was really clear. I went part time to grad school (while work helped pay for it!) at a top 10 grad school in public policy which was lead to a very successful career and tripling my income now (which is 6 years after graduation). If I’d gone to grad school right away, I would have gotten it in a field I’ve realized I hate working in.
        I get that grad school may seem like the easy way if you seem a bit rudderless -but I’d encourage VISTA or look for other interesting positions for now while you figure it out. Also, as a hiring manager, we look at VISTA as a real job, so another year wouldn’t be a ding against you.

    5. Washi*

      I’m really glad you posted more details here, because your background is actually a lot like mine! I majored in polisci and Russian, then did AmeriCorps (but not VISTA) for two years after college. It was a pretty good choice for me – I didn’t save a ton (wasn’t living with parents) but I wanted to switch to the nonprofit field, so those two years gave me a good foundation for my next move. I think there can be huge benefits to staying – I got to build on my projects and really see some good results, which gave me more skills and credibility in the field, and if you’re living with your parents, the financial aspect isn’t as tough. I ended up then staying at my organization for another year as a staff member, then moving to a different org after that. Never had a lot of trouble getting interviews, so I think staying for two years really helped.

      What field are you looking to move into? I now work with Russian-speakers in the social work field and LOVE it :)

      1. August*

        Oh wow, what an amazing coincidence, I’m glad your AmeriCorps experience was helpful! Can you explain more about your job in social work? That sounds really interesting, although I’m not quite fluent in Russian, so I don’t know how far I’d get in any position like that!

        Part of what makes me hesitant to continue with AmeriCorps is that my project is ending this year (my project’s VISTA application wasn’t accepted, partially because my supervisor is a mess and made me write it the day it was due); if I want to continue, I’ll have to start as a Year 1 with a completely different project. Additionally, my current project is with a tiny, new organization with zero funding, so there’s really nothing to build on right now.

        1. Washi*

          I work basically as a geriatric care manager, and since my city has a large elderly Russian population that speaks very little English, my agency has a special program dedicated to working with them. You’d normally need an MSW for a job like this, but because it’s so hard to find people with the language skills, there are a couple of us who do the job without the MSW and are closely supervised by a licensed social worker. I help our clients access the resources they are entitled to, make appointments, and do home visits and phone calls to check on how they are doing. You do have to be pretty comfortable in the language though – I’m American, but have basically “heritage speaker” proficiency (I speak Russian like someone who grew up speaking Russian at home but never studied it at school , so basically I talk ok but don’t write very well.)

          If you’re interested in that kind of work, I would look into care management or jobs with supports planning agencies in cities with a large Russian or other population. The other place to look for Russian might be Jewish agencies – a lot of Soviet Union Jewish people were able to get refugee status and come here in the 90s, and many agencies have programs or positions that work with them. Let me know if you have any other questions! :)

          1. August*

            I’ve never heard of that kind of work before, thanks for the advice! I went to school in Pittsburgh (which has a decent Russian population), and I was actually considering looking for work there, so this is a big help!

    6. Jan*

      Former Vista. I did go to graduate school after my first year, because that was the plan for a couple of years. But I almoooost stayed a second year, because I loved my site and the work I was doing. Sometimes I still wish I had (my life would be very different now).

      My advice: don’t do grad school yet, echoing the same reasons everyone else said. It’s expensive and a lot of work, and the people who I saw get the most out of a grad degree came in with more work experience. There’s no shame in doing another year of VISTA, especially with living at home, and getting another education award (right?).

      1. August*

        Thanks for the advice! The majority of the people telling me to go to graduate school are academics, so they might not be totally unbiased on this issue! A solid 70% of the VISTAs I know are getting accepting into their graduate schools of choice, so maybe I’m just feeling a bit pressured at the moment.

    7. AmeriCorps Alum*

      I was actively jobsearching during my first AmeriCorps term (it wasn’t VISTA, just AmeriCorps) and actually found something and worked my “real job” concurrently during the last three months of AmeriCorps along with another part-time job. By the end of the summer I was down to just my one new “real job” and I had paid off my car loan!

      I stayed 5 years at that first “real job” while doing a 2-year graduate program one class at a time. For me this was a great plan. I had a job with tuition benefits and cash-flowed the rest of my graduate school costs. Working for a higher education institution would be a great idea for you. They often have tuition benefits.

      Once I had my masters, I found another job and then was able to move into a supervisory position within local government about a year and a half after that. I’m also a political science major but quite happy working at local government! Maybe you can take a similar step by step approach to working for the federal government.

    8. nonprofit fun*

      I also did VISTA and considered doing it for a second year, but ultimately ended up taking a full-time job.

      My advice would be to put yourself out there for some full-time jobs too. Ultimately you may end up choosing VISTA again, but you never know what’s out there!

      As far as loans, my education award was super helpful the first few months after VISTA. I put the whole thing towards my federal loans.

    9. River Song*

      I looked into a 2nd year of Vista, but ended up taking a job at the agency I did my first Vista term at a few months after it ended. I primarily used Vista to get a professional toehold in nonprofit management and it worked.

      RE grad school–save that stipend for relocating to a city with the jobs you want to do, not grad school. Don’t go to grad school unless it’s absolutely necessary and you’re absolutely committed to seeing it through. Also, remember that your education benefit is counted as taxable income in the year you take it–if you take it as soon as it’s available, you’ll have to pay income tax on it which will be *tough* on a vista income. Consider waiting to apply it to your loans until after you have a job that pays a living wage.

      Are you only doing Vista because you’re worried you won’t be able to get a ‘real’ job? Or are you doing it for other reasons like professional development, commitment to national service, support for specific orgs/causes? If it’s the former, a 2nd term may not be for you. If you have legit reasons you want to do another term, go for it, treat it like a real job, and take the year to plan how you will transition to the next step in your career.

      1. August*

        Thanks for the advice! Really, I’m doing VISTA out of some mixture of the two: I’m so paralyzed by the job search process that I haven’t applied to any positions besides VISTA, but I’ve also gotten a ton of valuable professional experience from VISTA (which, considering how much I’ve struggled in my current VISTA position, is really saying something).

        I’ve spoken with a ton of other professionals during my VISTA term, but networking has been hard because my supervisor has alienated a lot of other nonprofit/social service leaders in the area. If I go for a second VISTA term, it will be with an all new organization, which has both its benefits and its downsides.

        1. River Song*

          I feel you that job searching is terrifying, but if you throw a few applications out to regular jobs that are aligned with what you’re doing now, you might be surprised. Many orgs/NP professionals will be familiar with Vista or be staffed by former Vistas. Start thinking of the work you do in terms of the value it would bring to the next organization you go to.

          It also sounds like you might be doing work well in excess/above the level described in your VAD (‘essentially running a nonprofit’). This might be contributing to some of your feelings of paralysis–I know I often feel super inadequate in my work because I was involuntarily/situationally ‘promoted’ to a level I have no experience in. If that sounds like you, maybe you would benefit from another year’s placement at a larger or more well-established nonprofit with better oversight/training.

          1. August*

            You’re absolutely right– this year’s term has been an incredible learning experience, but it’s also been a bit of blow to my self-esteem. I’ve never felt so inexperienced in so many things simultaneously!

    10. Ann Perkins*

      I also majored in poli sci and did an AmeriCorps year after college (though not VISTA). I graduated in 2009 where they were very very few jobs – almost everyone I graduated with either went to law school, med school or grad school. At least in our area the market ended up oversaturated with lawyers so I’m glad I didn’t go that route. I almost went the MPA route but wasn’t sure if that’s the direction I wanted to ultimately be in.

      For you, I would recommend the second year… grad school may or may not pay off and it’s a lot of debt to undertake if you don’t have clear direction. Having a second year will gain you some solid experience for your resume, even if you’re not making much doing it. One of the reasons I encourage full-time volunteer work post-graduation is that volunteers often end up with more responsibility than what you would have in a typical entry-level job.

      I ultimately ended up working at a law firm as a transcriptionist, then a paralegal, then sort of fell into a job in financial compliance and earning some certificates in that role. It was a total 180 from what I thought I’d be doing but ended up working out very well since it doesn’t require a master’s.

      I will warn you that federal jobs can be hard to break into. My husband is a federal employee and a lot of the people he’s around started as military and that was their “in”.

    11. J.B.*

      I want to say – it’s ok to be rudderless. Really it is. I have 15 years work experience and am going back to grad school now because grad school will help me do what I want to do next.

      Have you looked at state and local government jobs? Fed jobs are really hard to break into, and the barrier to state and local is less. Salary will be low but benefits usually good. Or I really think that nonprofits would be interested in the VISTA experience. Good luck!

      1. August*

        Thank you, and congrats on going to grad school! I really thought I would have more of a plan for my future by now, so this is nice to hear. I initially got into AmeriCorps because it gives you special status for federal hiring, but all of the AmeriCorps-eligible federal jobs are…decidedly not entry-level. I’ve been keeping an eye on state and local government job postings, so we’ll see if something suitable pops up.

    12. Phoenix Programmer*

      Put some money you are saving towards taxes for your VISTA education award. It’s taxed at 10 or 15% I believe and you can not use any of that money towards the tax bill.

      Another advantage to staying in:
      You get a better education award.
      You can list Vista as 1 job over two years with each site as a “role” which looks much better than 1 year stays.

    13. Go VISTA, Go!*

      I work for a nonprofit and have managed several VISTAs. What an awesome program! Our organization has hired a number of employees that started as VISTAs or volunteers in some other capacity. I encourage you to consider VISTA as an opportunity to enter the career field with more experience and aptitude than brand new undergrads, and less debt than graduate program students. If you’re applying for VISTA positions in a field that you’re interested in, you’re getting such valuable experience while also saving money.

      Also- VISTA IS a real job. With the right assignments and supervisors, you can create something meaningful in your community while gaining real world experience. As someone who got a professional job right out of undergrad, I can tell you that I wish I went into it with more career experience, not more education.

  4. QualitativeOverQuantitative*

    I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the role of appearance in regards to career success. If you’re a woman, and depending on your field/office culture/etc., is it important to have your hair and makeup done on a regular basis when you’re in the office? Does it matter more as you age? I go back-and-forth on this, but always end up leaning to the side that says it is important and can either help or hinder your career growth. I’m just curious what others think. For reference, I am 32/female/living in DC.

    1. Anon Today*

      I think that depends on a lot of things. I think the most critical of those is how much of a rockstar you are in your industry. If you are a rockstar then I think that it matters far less as you age having your hair and makeup done. However, for the 99.999% of us who are not rockstars, then I think it still matters especially if you work in a more conservative industry.

      Appearances matter. I wish that they didn’t, but they still do.

    2. Ashie*

      I really think appearance matters no matter who you are. People will see you before you even open your mouth so if your appearance is professional people will think of you as professional. I’m sure this varies by job/industry, but my department exists to share and model professional practices, we have to look the part.

      1. Middle School Teacher*

        Your point about modelling professional practices is well taken. My students wear uniforms. They are expected to be neat, clean, shirts tucked in etc. It would be hypocritical of me to show up looking sloppy.

    3. ZSD*

      I’m also a woman in DC, a bit older than you, and my take is that if you have a “DC-type” job (like government relations, advocacy, etc.), and your role is externally facing, you should probably try to have decent hair and makeup when you’re doing your external work. If your job involves more of just sitting in your own office, or if it’s something non-DC-specific (realty, general service jobs, etc.), it’s probably less important. I’m currently in the kind of job you could have anywhere in the country, and I think not doing makeup isn’t a big deal in my office. But if I were in a role where I went to the Hill, I think it would be important.

      1. QualitativeOverQuantitative*

        This makes sense. I have a very DC type job, though not federal government. Most of my day is spent doing research. I’m not in a particularly outward facing role, so I’m more curious what higher-ups at my think tank believe. When I attend conferences though, I am my best, most put-together self.

        1. sange*

          Are there women higher-ups at your think tank? I agonize frequently about hair/makeup/presentation in my career – I’m your age, in NYC, and the only woman at my level of seniority. All the men above me dress formally but on-trend, so I try to mimic: professional and conservative but still young, some makeup, but I almost never do my hair unless it’s a real Event.

        2. Denise*

          DC can be a little Old South and some people may think a woman without makeup doesn’t have her act together. Hard to predict who those people are.?You could look to see what the senior women are doing or try some makeup and no makeup days and keep a log of how you’re treated.

          1. Specialk9*

            When I lived in the deeper South than DC is, there was a lot of expectation that a woman would wear makeup and have styled hair even to walk the dog. I never really did any of that, because I’m lazy, but I low-key scandalized quite a few people that way.

            DC seemed less of that by a lot, but you’re right that there were still plenty of people like that. In New England, I see a lot less makeup though definitely still some.

            So my broad answer – it’s important to look neat, and better to look not-tired. I think that minimal makeup is a good idea if you need it.
            Eg when I can be arsed, I lightly cover up rosacea, and put on a smidge of smudged eyeliner to look alive. Otherwise I just keep a slim stick of Colorganics — what looks like lip balm but has a bit more color oomph; one can apply it in public and not scandalize the hardcore no-lipstick-application-in-public brigade.

            1. Nines*

              Uh oh. There’s a “no lipstick in public brigade”?
              This has never occurred to me as something that is Not Done.

        3. TheAssistant*

          FWIW, I do not wear makeup or heels.

          I felt a little out of step when I was a Hilltern – it seemed like everyone was more polished than I was, and had more money for clothes and makeup than I did. But I made up for it in hard work and that eventually got me noticed in positive ways. I learned pretty quickly that the Hill was not for me, and the grooming was a part of that.

          I worked at nonprofits (mostly fundraising) for the next 7 years in DC. Nonprofits are more casual, but fundraising tends to be more polished overall. Again, no makeup and heels <1% of my working days, but I always looked polished in the clothing department and worked my butt off. I did just fine.

          Now I'm a data analyst in the produce industry and I think if I wore makeup to one of our Board meetings my Board members would look at me as if I had sprouted two heads. Produce is just much more casual. Sales/marketing staff tend to be young/female/made up, but the rest is just old white men in khakis. My lack of makeup hasn't stopped me from succeeding one bit. It is nice to know that appearance doesn't matter in every industry.

          1. Specialk9*

            I like d’Orsay flats in place of heels. They look chic and polished, but aren’t actually pumps.

            1. Ethical Fashion Enthusiast*

              I am wearing D’Orsay flats today! Judging by the higher-ups at MPOW, a certain level of conformity to these norms would likely aid advancement, but in general people dress and present in a wide variety of ways and it is all considered acceptable (higher ed).

    4. Caro in the UK*

      I think groomed and clean is way more important than “made-up” in most professional environments. I can think of only a few, very conservative careers when having proper makeup on would be considered essential, or even taken into account (consciously or not) when evaluating performance.

      I think as you age it does become more noticeable how much effort you’re putting into the groomed part though (eyebrows, haircut etc.) I wish it wasn’t so, but I suspect it still is.

      1. Environmental Compliance*


        Also – not just for women. Men should look groomed, clean, & presentable as well.

    5. The Ginger Ginger*

      I just got a promotion to a new internal role (which will hopefully be the role that makes my career), and I haven’t done my makeup or hair for….actual years. 3? More? I still don’t do makeup, but I do my hair every third day by putting it in a pony tail and curling the ends, then pulling it back down. But ONLY because my new role came with a new schedule that gives me more time in the morning. And I only do it the morning after I wash it. It’s good to go the rest of the time.

      So, in some work places? Yeah I’d probably have to be more polished, but I’m in a fairly casual work place where my skills far outweighed my appearance.

      1. The Ginger Ginger*

        That said, I’m well groomed, and I wear nice-casual clothes (jeans and cardigans, the occasional blazer or skirt), so I’m not rolling into work slovenly or anything. Just no makeup or perfectly coifed hair: Clean hair, brushed and fresh face is my go to look. I’m 34 in Chicago.

      2. Specialk9*

        Yeah, I put a bit of mousse in my hair at night, do a couple big curls on the front and top layers, and pin with 2-4 crossed bobby pins (crossing them is essential). Then brush out in the morning.

        When I had longer hair, I moussed, top bunned, and brushed in the morning.

        Quick easy volume and movement, the lazy way.

    6. I am who I am*

      Female / 40s / ruralish New England / Conservative but not remotely fashion or media related industry / non-public facing professional role

      I never wear make-up. As in not since senior prom. No one cares.
      My hair is neat, but definitely not styled. No one cares.
      My everyday clothes meet the dress code, and are appropriately ironed and so forth, but are decidedly not fashionable. No one cares.

      The thing that does matter, is that the few days a year it matters, I can show up in a suit and conservative hair style and own the professional persona. The other 360 days a year, no one cares.

    7. Lady By The Lake*

      It depends on the field and your natural appearance. In any field it is going to be important to present a clean, put together look. More formal fields or ones that require a lot of customer/client/court interaction are going to expect a more polished look. If you can achieve a polished look with minimal effort — yay you! On the other hand, if your hair needs a little extra work, or (like me) your skin is red and blotchy and your natural appearance makes it look like you just drank a bottle of whiskey and rolled out of bed, some extra effort will be in order.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        As someone who gets “hey, are you okay??” whenever I don’t wear undereye concealer, I second this.

        1. Delphine*

          I’ve learned that not covering up my under eye circles until people get used to my face is the answer. I have genetically dark skin under my eyes, and it’s pretty tough to cover up reliably without caking things. If I start out covering, people inevitably ask if I’m tired or feeling sick. If I don’t start out covering, and then eventually do a concealer routine, people recognize that I have a bit of makeup on, but at least I am not getting worried questions when I’m barefaced.

      2. Ann Perkins*

        This is what I came here to say. I’m 31 and feel a lot more put together with some BB cream, powder since I have shiny skin, blush since I don’t have much natural color to my cheeks, and mascara. A previous person in my role is about 50 and just naturally looks more classy in sweatpants than I do with lots of effort.

        1. Bleeborp*

          Haha that’s so true- just being kind of self aware about things about yourself that could easily look a little better with a little help. My skin gets shiny- I don’t have to wear a full face of makeup but keeping a little powder around helps. My husband has really fine hair and if he keeps it long on top it can look kind of unkempt if he doesn’t put a little product in it. If both of us decided not to do either thing, we’d be fine professionally but in my mind, if there’s something that could draw negative attention to my appearance that I can remedy easily then it’s in my best interest to do so. Some people look perfectly put together with little to no effort. I spend almost no time on my hair and feel fine about it!

      3. Specialk9*

        “On the other hand, if your hair needs a little extra work, or (like me) your skin is red and blotchy and your natural appearance makes it look like you just drank a bottle of whiskey and rolled out of bed, some extra effort will be in order.”

        This made me laugh. Whoo morning bender look!

      4. Specialk9*

        Btw, if you haven’t tried it, Aveeno Ultra Calming does wonders for calming my rosacea. When it gets itchy, it’s the only thing that helps too.

    8. EditorInChief*

      Keeping a professional appearance does matter. But that doesn’t necessarily mean full makeup, etc. It really depends on your industry. How do the women who are leaders in your industry present themselves? Look to them for direction. As I get older I think it’s actually more important to look put together.

          1. I am who I am*

            Thanks. I’m surrounded by (older, white, straight) men who are so sure they only consider merit that they are blind to their own implicit biases. It’s total coincidence that all of their proteges are young men. Mostly it rolls off my back and I have hope I can change the system from within. Other days it gets me down.

            1. only acting normal*

              I am always boggled that they are *so* blind to themselves. Is it wilful ignorance? A mask for conscious bias? What? How?
              It severely knocks ones respect for them.

    9. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

      Ugh. I hate that I do this, but I do try to have my hair/makeup done whenever I’m visible (either in the office or via videoconference from home). It annoys me to no end that the men I work with are always camera ready (maaaaaaybe they put on a hat if they are home??) and I have to make efforts.

      But, I also know that, like it or not, people respond better to people they view as conventionally attractive. And I feel like I need leverage that if I can. FWIW I’m a late 40s woman working in a male dominated tech environment, so it’s already a struggle to feel like I ‘belong’ sometimes. That means I feel like I ought to conform to standards. But, my inner feminist sighs mightily at this.

    10. peachie*

      It depends on the industry/office, I think. I worked in DC until recently and I was typically on the “more” end of the hair/makeup spectrum. I really don’t think it made a difference; it was normal in my office to wear little or no makeup, and I don’t think I was (/am) seen as more professional for doing so.

      I did start dressing up at work more a year or two into my job, and I think that dressing more formally did have a small impact (but, to be honest, it was less intentional and more “I discovered I love blazers!”).

      1. Samata*

        OMG me too! I wear blazers a lot on casual Friday (have one on today with jeans and leather flip flops…mainly because I LOVE BLAZERS

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        This is me but with skirts/dresses. People think I’m dressed up, but really my stretchy waist skirts and unstructured dresses are way more comfortable than the constriction of jeans.

        1. mediumofballpoint*

          Seconded. Dresses/skirts are really just pajamas that are appropriate for work. I can get behind that.

        2. The New Wanderer*

          It’s almost like cheating! I plan to do that a lot when (if) I have to start working in an office again because at this point it’s hard to swap lounge wear for outside-appropriate pants even for a 30 minute errand.

    11. Chloe*

      I’m going to agree with Ashie. I’m a mid-level manager type, and I always try to look professional and presentable. Some days are better than others. I learned from my mother long ago to dress for the job you want not the job you have. I think that’s a good way to look at it depending on your industry. I work for a very corporate (but becoming relaxed on dress code) engineering company. I try to make sure I look like someone who is ready to move in to more managerial roles and responsibilities. Before this, I worked for a construction company. I was in the field I probably wore jeans 90% of the time to the field, and something nicer but washable in terms of work appropriate slacks when I had important client meetings the rest of the time. But even then I tried to mimic in women’s fashion what the men who were more managers were wearing so they could see me as a potential equal. What I wear and how I look to move up in my company may not be the same for someone in art world or for someone in the financial industry though.

    12. Overeducated*

      As a woman of similar age in DC, I think it depends a little where you work, as ZSD says below. I work in a location and role where looking professional matters (neat business casual wardrobe, slightly dressier for meetings with external partners), but my organization as a whole has a more field-based culture, and that means women are less likely to wear heels, makeup, or dye graying hair in office roles than they might in other DC jobs. In my last job, I actually tried to tone down the femininity of my wardrobe because I worried I wouldn’t be taken as seriously. So I think it does matter, but looking a certain way is maybe less important than looking like you belong where you are.

    13. HeightsHeifer*

      I think professional appearance is going to matter, and that is entirely dependent on the field you’re in. I am a mid-level manager, 33, and in the South, but in a high profile position with a well known organization. I can’t stand my hair in this year round humidity, so I mine is almost always clipped back but presentable. I do tend to wear heavier makeup than I have in the past, but only because I personally feel like I’m taken more seriously with it than not.

      I do think that appearances matter, whether rightly or wrongly. I think it ultimately comes down to how you and others view one another. I’m not one to notice minor stuff, but I do notice if someone is in a crazy wrinkled suit or their hair looks like they just woke up. I think we want to be noticed for our contribution to the organization and it’s easier to do that if people aren’t focused on your presentation.

    14. designbot*

      In addition to industry/location as others have mentioned, I’ve unfortunately found it can also depend on weight. Thin women can get away with a lot more—messy hair, ill-fitting clothes, no makeup—while larger women I think are more easily judged ‘sloppy’ even when done up or not done up to the same extent as a slimmer counterpart. That’s just my experience as a larger woman.

      1. Fiennes*

        This is also true with age. A young face with no makeup may be considered “fresh and natural” while an old face is considered sickly or plain.

      2. HeightsHeifer*


        I’m also a larger woman (surprise! look at the username) and I tend to feel like I’m less harshly judged if I make an effort with my clothes, hair and make up.

        1. mj*

          Agreed. I’m not sure whether others are really judging me, or whether I’m just judging myself harshly, but I definitely feel better about my looks, and more confident, when I try harder with hair, clothes and makeup.

    15. Lucky*

      In my experience, most people only notice looks that go to extremes – like full evening-on-the-town makeup or looking like you just rolled out of bed. At least in my office, I don’t see much difference in young women vs. older women, though the higher-ups tend to dress sharper. O/T I met with a new employee this week – super smart young woman in marketing analytics – with blue and purple hair and the subtlest navy blue brow pencil. It looked so cool.

    16. Lora*

      It depends. When I’m in The Nerdery, i.e. the back office working on the computer, I just need to be hygienic and tidy. If I’m in the field I need to dress for the field conditions so it doesn’t matter (boots, hard hat etc). If I’m meeting with clients OH BOY. I better look like $10,000,000. Nice skirt, blouse, hair in bun, glasses, light makeup, heels. I have some advance warning of clients though.

      When I was fresh out of grad school I was in the manufacturing suites a lot where you never wear makeup or anything other than slacks / blouse / Doc Martens that you can get bleach spilled on. The first time I had to dress for a presentation my boss literally didn’t recognize me.

    17. Emily S.*

      This is a good question. Personally, I never wear makeup to work, and my hair is short and low-maintenance.

      That said, there was a very interesting piece in the NYT several years back. The gist of the research was that women who wear makeup are viewed as more competent in the workplace. This obviously didn’t convince me to wear makeup, though!

      Here’s the article, for anyone curious:

      1. London Calling*

        I’ve always used how well I do my work to demonstrate my competence, but I’m odd like that. (Non makeup wearer except for a slick of tinted moisturiser).

    18. Pet sitter*

      People who work with pets are very casual, like you’d expect. Some women do their hair or makeup, but it’s not by any means expected.

      I know a woman with long, manicured nails, and I am both impressed and a little confused. I have given up on polish because it chips within two days. How does she do it?

      1. CanadianEngineerLibrarian*

        if you get acrylic polish, gel polish, or dip polish at a nail salon, that stuff sticks for weeks.

      2. Specialk9*

        Yeah, gel polish done in a salon is wild how utterly perfect and long lasting it is.

    19. Falling Diphthong*

      To bear in mind: people register change. So if you go from zero to sixty, it can look Tammy Faye Baker; the reverse journey and you look ‘wan’. Those are both judgments based on the degree of change, rather than an objective assessment of what level of makeup is most attractive on you or best suited to your position. I don’t like fake eyelashes, for example, but if someone who always wore them appeared bare-eyed I’d register that they looked less defined–even if I thought this was a better aesthetic look when I step back to big picture, my brain has to untangle that from ‘person looks different’.

    20. Jessie the First (or second)*

      Yes, appearances matter. But that doesn’t mean you have to be “done up” – you don’t necessarily need makeup, unless you are in a particular industries and roles within those industries. And hair just needs to be clean and groomed.

      You need to be neat and clean and dressed in a way that matches the level of formality of your office. For hair, don’t let it it be unkempt – if it is brushable, brush it, if it’s not brushable hair, you know more than I how to manage it.

      I know some people say appearances matter when what they mean is “wear makeup, it’s professional” or “wear makeup, so you look pretty” and, being now in my 40s and having worked in a few fields, that’s just BS. Wear makeup if you want to and don’t if you don’t. In most jobs, it’s not a thing that will hold you back. (If you are in one of the jobs in which it would, I suspect you’d know already.)

    21. Eye of Sauron*

      This is an interesting question… I think that appearance does count. Here’s how I look at it. Each industry and region has a ‘uniform’ for people at varying levels. Uniform being used in a general look sense. Typically people will adopt the ‘uniform’ of the position they are in and the one they want as a signal that they belong. Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean ‘done up’ but it could mean that.

      If I’m striving to be an executive, one of things I’m going to do is to look at the executive women around me, I’m going to emulate that ‘look’. And let’s be honest there are typical looks for many positions and hierarchy levels. So in my example the executive women are going to have some things in common. They are typically older 40+, generally wear tailored clothes, makeup, and styled hair.

      This look could be because they are older, with more disposable income who can afford more tailored clothes and more maintenance heavy hair styles and are at the similar points in life or they could have decided that to fit in they should adopt this look.

      So I used executive women as an example, but I think you could look at other industries and see the same ‘uniform’ examples. For instance if a woman showed up to work with perfectly coifed hair, expensive suit, high heels, and sparkly jewelry as a teacher, that person would be outside the norms for that position/industry, in this case I’d suspect she wouldn’t be taken seriously as a teacher because of the way she’s dressed.

      I think this also is true for men. Look around and you’ll notice they have their own versions of the ‘uniform’.

      I, like you, have been thinking about this as I advance in my career. I do think it matters and am actively re-imaging myself into the next uniform.

      1. Traveling Teacher*

        Ha, the teacher you’ve described is a former colleague of mine, to a T. University professor, though. She always said that she preferred to have her wealth where she could see it. She’s a powerhouse, though, so she can get away with whatever she wants to vis à vis clothing and jewelry!

    22. Fiennes*

      Depends on your industry. I have to say I doubt it would ever hurt you, and there’s value in looking pulled together/sharp by the standards of whatever culture you work in. (Even in very informal/non traditional workplaces, the person with well-fitting jeans and badass boots and a swanky leather bag probably comes across more like “the boss” than someone in 8-year-old khakis and an oversized T-shirt.) It’s wrong that “pulled together” is a more comprehensible/expensive proposition for women than for men, of course. Personally I try to strike a balance between my various needs: not wanting to spend too much, wanting to look pulled together, a hate of spending too much time getting ready; a love for interesting clothes and accessories.

      I’d say, look at the top-performing women in your company/industry and take one of them as your model. Not as someone to copycat, but as someone who’s struck the right balance.

      1. Samata*

        This is where I fall – that you have to look pulled together and sharp for your industry and your role in the company/department.

        My experience has been with fairly conservative standards, but I would say that as I age (approaching 40) I have noticed that for women the emphasis on appearance is on looking neat/tailored/clean/kept as opposed to “does she have makeup on or not?”

        For men I think the emphasis is on a clean shave or neatly kept longer hair and a tailored look (not necessarily a tie but an ironed shirt and pants, belt, clean shoes, blazer fits well if its necessary to wear one)

        I also think as I’ve aged I’m also given more freedom to relax my wardrobe – even though my position has grown I have proven my value to the company and they trust my opinion and my knowledge from working with me over time. Right now I wear BB cream in the winter months when I don’t have a tan, lip gloss and I fill in my brows – which is really more about me liking my looks that wanted to feel more respected at work.

    23. Chameleon*

      Really depends on industry and location, I think. In academic lab science on the West Coast, I’ve found that having more than a quick brush of eyeshadow and wearing anything more “professional” than a casual skirt is thought of as kind of…unserious.

      The same appearance that would signal “professional” in an east coast law firm is going to come off completely different in west coast tech, while the appearance that is “polished” in K12 teaching would probably be considered sloppy in law.

    24. Oxford Coma*

      I work in tech in a construction-adjacent industry. My dress code includes full-length pants and closed-toe shoes at all times. My experience has been that anything overly feminine (makeup, jewelry, long polished nails, et cetera) gives the impression that I’m not willing to dig in and get my hands dirty, both literally and figuratively. The women here who move up quickly are very low maintenance, even tomboy-ish.

      Other people on AAM in similar industries have stated in the past that they enjoy long manicures and a full face of makeup with no repercussions, so obviously it’s very dependent on your company atmosphere.

      1. Sour Grapes*

        This is how it is for me too! If you’re too “fancy” as a woman people dismiss you as they don’t think you can buckle down and do the actual physical work, but you also have to look polished and presentable. Also you have to wear clothes that can get dirty and stained at any time. It’s a really hard line to walk!

      2. designbot*

        I’m also construction-adjacent and haven’t felt judged in that regard, but have definitely adjusted my wardrobe around it still. The last time I wore cute shoes to the office I wound up called out to a jobsite and walking like 6 miles. Now I wear sneakers every single day and look down on anyone who questions that.

    25. What's with today, today?*

      Yes. It’s important. I know that’s highly debated, but it’s important. I’m a woman.

    26. Specialk9*

      In the bureaucratic side of DC, I felt like the role model for women was often older and a tad frumpy, which is so liberating!

      (On the political side, esp on the Hill, it felt like the role model was a weather anchor or female Fox anchor, ie young gorgeous short skirt long curled hair.)

      I think I absorbed some positive body-agnostic messages from all the strong capable women in DC.

    27. Liz Lemon*

      I very rarely wear makeup, and my hair is super straight so there’s not much to styling it. But I do make a point of looking “put together” with regards to my clothes/shoes/jewelry. For better or worse, I think that’s important for everyone, but especially the burden of this falls to women.

    28. Iris Eyes*

      People want to look at people that they like looking at. If you want to be looked at for increased responsibility it doesn’t hurt to be a person people want to look at in general. Not saying you have to but tastefully accentuated appearance for both men and women can be beneficial.

    29. A Panda for All Seasons*

      I refuse to do more than men are expected to do. If I lose opportunities for it, so be it. So, for me that means:

      1. My body, hair, and nails are clean
      2. My clothes are clean and tidy/not wrinkled
      3. My hair (which is quite short) is clean and in a wavy pixie cut
      4. I don’t wear make up/nail polish because I don’t like it

      Professional looks for women do not require make-up, in my opinion.

      1. A Panda for All Seasons*

        I rage over the double standard for women’s work appearance versus men’s (especially when it comes to “fixing” my face’s “flaws”). For me, this is a sword to fall on. I do understand that is not the case for everyone.

      2. Workerbee*


        Perhaps it’s become a personal/professional vendetta for me, but if I want to see change in how people judge/assume/employ/promote, then I’ll be one of the people striving to make that change both for my own career trajectory and anyone I personally hire. I have a lot of built-up ire toward “Women HAVE to wear makeup,” BB cream proselytizing, and basically any form of marketing that tries to convince me that I’m less if I don’t pay $$ for their magic serum.

        I do wear sunscreen, however. ;)

      3. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Agreed with this 1000%.

        I don’t wear make up or do my hair/nails and I prefer comfort/function over fashion with my clothing choices. Even as a big girl, this hasn’t held me back professionally because I’m frighteningly efficient and competent.

      4. Quiltrrrr*

        This is EXACTLY how I feel about it! If men don’t have to wear makeup, then why should I?

        (And I don’t wear makeup, or do my hair. It’s super straight and going grey, so into a ponytail it goes!)

    30. Sarah*

      Yes unfortunately it matters and it is a very fine line. too much makeup and your the party girl that cant get the job done, no makeup then your depressed and not trying anymore. The same with your hair a modest but professional hairstyle and color means hard working, unkempt signals depressed hanging on by a thread, and trendy signals party girl that you are going to have to pull her weight. The same thing with how you dress too tight, too low cut, too trendy, or out of style and frumpy signals wont be able to do her job.

    31. Emily K*

      I’m 33/f/DC and I started considering makeup a daily necessity at work a year or two ago. It’s definitely related to my own personal feelings of confidence. When I had youthful, naturally dewy skin and bright eyes, I only ever wore makeup for special occasions where I could have fun with color.

      Now when I look at my un-made-up face in the mirror…I just see a tired face drained of all color. So now every morning I put on eyeliner, neutral eyeshadow, a touch of blush, and a translucent powder over top to set everything. Every once in a great while I’m running so late that I skip it, and I’ve never gotten any sideways looks or comments about my appearance, but I definitely just feel more confident if I can make myself look a little bit fresher and brighter.

    32. SansaStark*

      I’m in my mid-30s in the DC area and my company is pretty diverse in terms of appearances; however, I’m pretty junior and eyeing a promotion. I *know* that it’s going to work in my favor that our Big Boss notices that I take a lot of care in my appearance for our Board meetings, dinners, conferences, etc. even though I have had very limited exposure due to my junior role. So even though it may not really matter in my company, I think it matters to my Big Boss – for women and men – and that means it matters on my team.

    33. CG*

      It depends on what your field is, how other people there look, and how “put together” you naturally look. IMHO, there aren’t a lot of jobs in DC anymore where there is an expectation that all women will have fancy makeup and hairdos. As long as you find a balance of ways to look “formal”, “serious”, or whatever adjective you’re seeking via a combination of dressing well, doing your hair, makeup, or being naturally put together looking, you’re fine.

      For me, I am not makeup competent and have not worn it since my roll-on glitter days, and I’m lucky to have relatively clear skin. Fancy hair makes me look like a teenager and I value my morning time, so I stick to hair down (but frequently brushed throughout the day), in a ponytail, or in a basic bun. However, I put more effort into finding really good looking work clothes and making sure they fit me right, dressing context-appropriately but slightly more formally than some of the folks around me, researching comfy but awesome-looking shoes (thank you, Rockport/Vionic/Born/Clark’s/Dr. Scholl’s for making hip but comfortable work shoes), and putting enough effort into keeping my skin soft, my legs shaved, and my eyebrows plural that it works for me.

    34. Ladylike*

      I’m also a woman (hence the username), and while I definitely try to look neat and pulled-together every day, it also depends on the situation. For example, my hair is super long – so long that it draws attention and could potentially be a safety hazard in some areas. So I always wear it up on days when I’ll encounter customers, or when I’ll be working in the manufacturing area. Normal days in the office, I occasionally wear it down. I wear minimal make-up, mostly just tinted moisturizer to cover the imperfections that come along with aging. In my industry, a fully “made up” face is actually pretty rare, so a lot of women wear the minimum and no one thinks of it as unprofessional. I focus on being neat, pulled together, and not being a distraction, and I think that’s totally fine.

    35. Just curious*

      I don’t have much to add as I have never worn makeup at work. (It doesn’t seem necessary in my industry.) I am curious by what is meant by having your hair “done.” I recall this phrase as something my mother used to do, going to a salon where they did something (maybe a perm?) that kept her hair looking about the same all week. I wasn’t aware that going “to get your hair done” was still a thing as I haven’t heard anyone say it that way in years. So maybe you mean doing something to your hair yourself? I brush my hair, and sometimes put it in a ponytail to get it out of the way. That’s probably not what you mean. I sometimes go for a haircut but I call that “getting my hair cut” and not “getting my hair done.”

    36. Scott*

      I know you’re talking about this from a woman’s perspective, exploring sexism issues, but maybe this is an alternative position to see. As a SWM, I would never dream of coming to the office not looking put together. Hair neatly cut and styled, clothes fitting, ironed and professional, and less important for office work, but staying physically fit, especially if there’s a physical component to your job (I now this one is more controversial, but allow me to elaborate further on).
      It’s about the perception others have of you, not some arbitrary guidelines some straight old white man has imposed. Our society has clearly defined what a professional look is, and anyone willing to put the effort in will pull it off. Is there more/less importance placed on it depending on the industry/company? Yes. I’ve worked at places where tattered T-shirts and gym shorts were the norm. There I opted for (not torn) jeans and a polo. Now I’m working for a company where dress shirts, pants, and shoes are expected every day. Anyone not following this code looks pretty unprofessional.

      1. Lara*

        I don’t want to be disrespectful but how on earth would you know how women are treated if they don’t wear makeup? I’m afraid your perceptions are incorrect. In some workplaces / industries women *are* expected to adhere to much higher grooming standards than men. And yes, actually, it *is* because of some old white straight men.

    37. Anon nonprofit worker*

      I’m the same age as you and I work in an education-related field in California. I feel like there are conflicting pressures here to look young and youthful but then also to look professional. I’m on the younger side of my specific niche work world and I’ve noticed better receptions when I dress more corporate when I’m meeting externally. I had really long hair for years and I cut it about two years ago and I have noticed a difference, I think people take me more seriously now which is unfortunate.
      My organization allows people to dress casually but there is a mix of people who dress up and people who dress down and I do see the people that tend to dress fashionably (but in a business, non-flashy way) seem to also be the people who are being promoted.

    38. Triple Anon*

      Looking polished makes a difference. What that means specifically varies from person to person. It’s ok to have your own style as long as you look well groomed and within professional norms. If you’re not into makeup, own that and make it part of your overall polished look. There is a lot of flexibility; you just have to find something that works well for your style and your field.

    39. Traveling Teacher*

      I’ve actually been wondering about this myself. I’m in the strictly no-makeup camp and have been for more than a decade–as in, I don’t even own any. The closest thing I have to make up is one tinted lip balm, and that’s about it. I don’t even use moisturizer because my dermatologist told me that it was clogging my pores and causing breakouts!

      But. I’ve made a career transition in the last year, and I might have to meet some professional clients in the near future. Even though I work in a very, very casual, male-dominated field, I want to look my best for an interview or professional meeting with new clients. Last year, I got a BB-cream, but that made me breakout, so I pitched it. I was thinking of trying a couple of makeup samples from Sephora, but I don’t think it’s worth the breakout risk.

      For what it’s worth, on a day to day basis, I think it makes no difference at all. I’m clean and tidy, and I know how to color-coordinate with my skin tones/undertones; there are certain colors I never wear because they’ll bring out the red undertones in my skin and make me look ill! There are a couple of colors, conversely, that make me look good, so most of my work wardrobe is in those colors. Also, my skin is uneven and has large pores. I do not have great skin and never have since I was thirteen, but once I finally stopped wearing makeup, it improved vastly. Obvious-pore face skin is much more attractive than pimply skin with caked-on concealer!

      When I was teaching full time, I did lots of themes, which definitely got a lot of praise from colleagues and students (Pi Day, Halloween outfits, spring flowers, hearts in February, a fake tiara and scepter when studying the royal family, etc.) When you’re the foreign language teacher, a certain degree of strange/unusual clothing and hair choices is both expected and encouraged. :)

  5. Evil HR Person*

    About a year ago, I was working at a (horrible) job where everything I did was A) wrong, B) slow, and C) not my cup of tea. While at this job, I was criticized for being hard to work with and short with people, although when I asked for more concrete feedback – such as to whom was I being short and/or an example of the things I said that made me sound discourteous – nobody could or would give me a straight answer. As far as I knew, everyone was happy to work with me except for the people in my department, which is a tough pill to swallow when you work HR. So I left.

    I found this great job where I am blossoming into a true HR professional – or so I thought. A couple of months ago, during my performance review, my boss told me that in order to sit with the leadership team, I have to cut out the silliness. Um… what?! I went from being curt to silly? Just like that? I, honestly, have no idea anymore. To be sure, my boss loves my work, I love my job, and I’m not looking to leave anytime soon. I’m usually easy to get along with, though an introvert, so I don’t like to “mingle.” My boss doesn’t care about that – but I don’t know what it is about my personality that has me going from one extreme to the other… Obviously, I don’t think I’ve changed – I’m a woman in my early 40’s, how could I? But maybe I did???? Anybody has any thoughts?

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, I was thinking that. What does “silliness” mean in this context? That you’re joking/fooling around when you should be serious?

    1. Blue*

      Yeah, you definitely need more information. What specific behaviors are they considering “silly”? Did he describe what he considered more appropriate behavior?

    2. Evil HR Person*

      I’m in the same boat as before: no concrete examples… again. I do have a tendency to be sarcastic and crack jokes, so maybe that’s it? But I work with very smart people who “get” my sense of humor (at the expense of sounding condescending, that was part of the problem in my last job – a couple of the people in my department didn’t get my jokes and references). Should I tone it down, maybe? Should the evil HR person always be evil, then?

      1. SoCalHR*

        Ugh – not much advice, just sympathy. We sound like we have similar personalities and half the time I’m told I’m too abrasive and then sometimes I worry about making too many jokes since I’m the evil HR. This role can really be a no-win situation a lot of the time.
        I guess my one piece of advice is to try to tone the “silliness” down with the leadership folks, but keep it with the general employees, maybe that would help?

      2. CAA*

        If your humor is the kind where you interject funny comments during an otherwise serious discussion; then yes, I’d say to tone that down. Your boss may see this behavior as derailing meetings rather than lightening things up. Also, she may know that the upper management doesn’t appreciate that type of humor even though everyone in your department does. You can always joke about things afterwards rather than in the moment.

        Another thing to consider is that sometimes sarcasm can come across as cruel or harsh. Of course I don’t know exactly what kinds of things you say, but it’s worth thinking about whether you’re targeting people (or processes owned by people) whose feelings may get hurt rather than events where there’s a general recognition of the absurdity of the situation.

        Lastly, if you have a good relationship with your manager, ask her to set up some kind of unobtrusive signal that she can give you when she sees examples of this silliness so that you get some feedback immediately. It could be tapping a pencil, or a raised eyebrow, or an IM, or whatever works in your meeting environment.

        1. Happy Lurker*

          CAA – that is some good advice. Like the part about wrapping the manager into the situation. It would be the specific information that evilHR needs.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Ah, good analysis–I was reading silliness as goofiness and not as being sarcastic, which can come off as smart-aleck. And yes, good advice about the feedback.

      3. EditorInChief*

        I’m in an upper leadership role in my company and if I’m talking to HR most likely it’s either because there’s a problem/situation with one of my people, or I’m working on finding a new hire. Both situations tend to eat up a lot of time and can be emotionally draining. I would be extremely unhappy to have to deal with a joking sarcastic HR person.

      4. Lily Rowan*

        So that actually sounds like your behavior in both jobs is the same, but the folks at Job 1 didn’t get the jokes and the folks at Job 2 do. Either way, it sounds like, yes, tone down the sarcasm and jokes, or at least be more conscious of setting.

        1. AnotherHRPro*

          I agree. And this does not mean you need to change, but that you need to gauge when your sarcasm and humor are appropriate and when they are not. I would tend to tone it down around your boss as she is clearly trying to gauge if you can do that and act appropriately with senior leaders. You will find that with some people (and in some situations) you can be silly and sarcastic and with others you should not be.

      5. Observer*

        Ask your boss if the jokes and sarcasm are what she’s referring to. Unless she gives you a very clear NO – and is willing to go back and think of what it IS, you should assume that that’s what’s bothering her. It’s also possible that it’s only her issue, but since she’s your boss, you need to please her. It’s not that you have to always be somber. But, you should not be “the person who cracks jokes” in meetings.

      6. Jadelyn*

        I think there’s a difference between being evil, so to speak, and just putting on a bit more gravitas when you’re around leadership individuals. I kind of calibrate my level based on how senior the person I’m talking with is, and try to take my cues from how joke-y they’re being and stay just a hint shy of that level.

        I’m in HR, too, and ye gods the shit my team says to each other behind closed doors is off-the-charts inappropriate some days, but it’s because we’re all close and comfortable with each other and have similar senses of humor, and it helps the day pass on those crazy days when we’re fighting fire after fire.

        But, if there’s anyone from outside of HR present, we behave ourselves impeccably. Not that we never joke with non-HR people, but there’s a very different…tone to it, I guess? I just try to be mindful that EEs will hear things said by someone in HR differently than they’d hear it if someone else said it, and that goes for everything from opinions to criticisms to ideas to jokes. Most EEs will always have a little voice in the back of their head going “…did she mean something by that?” because, like it or not, HR does have A Reputation (that is not entirely undeserved tbh). A non-HR EE snarks about a leadership decision, that’s just complaining, but someone in HR snarking about things gets taken much more seriously. I wonder if that’s what your manager is talking about?

      7. Ann Perkins*

        I would suspect it’s more the sarcasm than the jokes. Not everyone thinks sarcasm is very funny, and it’s more easy to be misconstrued. I don’t see why there would be a problem with references and jokes unless they’re distracting.

      8. Ladylike*

        Yes, I would say since your boss is defining your jokes as “silliness”, I would hold back on any jokes or sarcastic comments unless there’s a general tone of joking in the room (chime in when others joke first, but don’t be the first). But unless you’re doing this all the time, your boss sounds like a real treat. Humor helps us maintain our sanity at work.

    3. MissGirl*

      I’m like you and can be a bit sarcastic and snarky. Then I worked with a guy that had a snarky comment for everything and it got old fast. I realized by working with him that I need to be careful about quantity and turning everything into a joke.

      I remind myself my work personality doesn’t have to be as strong as my home one.

      1. Evil HR Person*

        Thank you! I like this: work personality vs. home personality. I’m going to use this.

      2. Bowl of Oranges*

        Yes! Most of my office is this way–including me. It didn’t bother me for a long time, and in a lot of situations, it still doesn’t. But it gets really frustrating trying to have a meeting and half the people in the room need to make jokes and sarcastic comments every few minutes. It’s definitely a time and place thing.

    4. Leela*

      ooh giving subjective adjectives as criticism without concrete examples is a *terrible* way to convey information to an employee! It’s just enough to stress you out, not enough to act on! I’ve been told I’m too mean, too nice, too much of a pushover, too domineering, too serious, not serious enough, etc etc etc. Never with any specific behaviors that I could actually evaluate and change. It might be worth shooting off an e-mail and saying something like “I value your input on my performance here, and I wanted to talk about your suggestion to cut out the silliness. I think in order to implement this feedback, I need some more information about specific behaviors, whether that’s speech patterns, facial expressions, gestures, etc. When you get a chance, I’d really appreciate the opportunity to meet with you and discuss this so we can be sure we’re on the same page.”

      I hate to say it from just this because I’m not there but it’s very very hard for me to believe that being a woman in your early 40s isn’t playing a part here. I’m not saying it is, I’m saying having worked in HR for years I’ve seen it a million times and it’s very hard not to jump to that conclusion, although it is a jumped-to conclusion. People, both men and women, simply tend to be very willing to treat women like dolls to be dressed up and directed in the work place to a much higher extent than I’ve seen managers do with their male employees. Obviously I hope that’s not what’s happening here but it might help with sanity to realize that no matter how you act you might run into this.

      Whatever’s going on, I hope that this gets resolved for you! If I could give one bit of feedback to every manager that I worked with in HR, it’s that they need to be very specific about things that are bothering them because they have context in their head that makes what they say mean one thing, but it doesn’t get interpreted that way by someone who doesn’t have the same context. I was going over an exit interview with an employee that we’d let go, and we asked if he’d felt he was given everything he’d needed to succeed. His manager told us that he’d told the employee his behavior (eye rolling, scoffing, snipping at people etc) needed to change or he’d be let go. The employee told us that his manager randomly told him in the hall “Hey, while I’ve got you, we’d like to see you be a little more professional sometimes” as he was on his way to the bathroom. No more context, nothing specific about behaviors, no “we need to see these changes or we don’t know that we can keep you”, no timeline, no nothing. That was apparently 3 months before the firing and he’d been told nothing else since. We asked the manager about it who said “well I’d think it would be obvious to ANYONE what that means!” Sigh:(

      1. Jadelyn*


        If I had a dime for every time a manager claimed that they’d tried and tried to coach their EE, but their EE wasn’t listening to feedback, only to find out when we talked with the EE directly that the manager had not been as clear as they thought they had been and the EE was struggling because they weren’t able to psychically glean the manager’s real desires from the conversation…I’d have a really big pile of dimes.

        Heck, we see that a lot here, too – Alison’s advice to frustrated managers almost always includes some version of “Have you actually been super blunt and specific with your staff about what you need from them?” precisely because that’s such a common problem.

        1. Leela*

          I’m glad I see it coming up here so often because I think it’s the most common error I saw otherwise good managers making. I hear you so much about indirect feedback, it’s strange to me that they always seem to think they were so clear!

        2. Elizabeth West*

          This is what happened with Exjob. OldBoss was very open and clear, but getting any information out of NewBoss was like pulling teeth. She assumed I would be familiar with stuff like their install contracts, but I had never even seen them before — they were in a virtual cabinet to which I had no access!

    5. Bea*

      The only person to ever target my personality was an insane person who went from cackling at my sense of humor to flipping it into me being “short and unfriendly” when it turned into some kind of mangled write up.

      I do know that snarky and sarcastic humor is hard in a professional atmosphere. As soon as I reeled that in more, it’s helped everyone involved. Since you’re in HR, it’s better to be pleasant and formal as possible I’ve learned as well. Joking has gotten a lot of us in hot water and I have to get on team members about that too because it’s how lawsuits start popping up. So that is most likely the kind of thing that your manager is aiming towards without making good examples (which is dumb, they should know exactly what you’re saying that’s being classified as “silly”)

    6. Phoenix Programmer*

      I recommend going back to p your manager and along her to be real blind and let you know exactly what is meant by silliness.

      “I reflected on your feedback and really want to improve but I could not nail down what you mean by silliness. Can you be brutally honest with me about specifically what I need to change to be senior leadership ready?”

    7. Not So NewReader*

      In order to sit with the leadership team….

      Does that mean when you are in meetings with leaders you need to be somber/serious?

      Or does that mean that if you want to be part of leadership you need to be more somber/serious?

      Well, either way, you have been at the job for about a year, perhaps a little less? My two cents and consider that I tend to run conservative, is that I don’t do many jokes the first year. Definitely no snark. You can joke and snark once you know them and they know you. It may not sound fair but you want to seem very focused until they get to know you and THEY start to realize you know your job. It’s irrelevant if you think you know the job, they are the ones who have to figure out you know the job.
      So what I do for that first year is take the time to observe what short of jokes and snark fly and what does not fly. We all have our personal limits as to what we think is funny, likewise as a group they have their limits. Learn their collective humor. Once you get the overall idea then wade in slowly with a joke once in a while. Watch to see how the joke is received. Look at their faces and especially their eyes when you joke. While they may not flinch you might see a flinch in their eyes. Don’t do that particular joke again and consider not making jokes of s similar type again when you see that flinch.

      I don’t know if you noticed, but there is a collective humor here on AAM. So you can watch here, too, to see what gets people chuckling on a regular basis.

  6. going anon today*

    I wrote last week about getting called abrasive, aggressive, unlikeable, and scary by management for voicing an opinion they didn’t like, and how a male coworker who voiced the same opinion didn’t get in trouble. Earlier this week, I told my manager that I did not appreciate being labelled with such adjectives because there’s a long, ugly history of calling marginalized groups abrasive, unlikeable, and scary.

    My manager seems to have forgotten that he was the one who used those words. I’m still not entirely sure if they were his words, the words of his manager, or the words of the people who “complained”. But my manager said that if I was dealing with discrimination, he’d be more than happy to set up a meeting with HR.

    He did email HR and they emailed me. I turned down the meeting because I’m honestly too tired of the entire office, and if I go in there and talk about how my manager was the one who used that language – and who apparently forgot he even used that language – and the overall toxic environment in the department, it’s just going to escalate into drama. My manager and his manager holds grudges against people for the slightest thing, and never let them go. I don’t want to deal with that. Every single time someone has gone to HR about discrimination or harassment, my department management just calls them “hysterical” or “difficult to work with” and they happen to be the next ones “laid” off during company wide layoffs.

    But, what do you all think, should I tell HR I do want to speak? Should I just keep quiet and focus on getting out of there? I’ve already decided that if I cant find anything by the end of June, I’m leaving anyway.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      It might be worth documenting this event and any further venets, especially cases where people were forced out after making a complaint. You can take this to HR, or you can keep this to show to unemployment.

      1. Evil HR Person*

        Write everything down with dates and who said what. “Just the facts.” But know that there’s only so much that HR can do – they’re there to protect the company, after all, not necessarily to advocate for you (unless doing so would protect the company). I’m not telling you to not go to HR – a good HR department would have nipped this behavior already… but you have already seen a trend that is likely to repeat itself.

    2. The Ginger Ginger*

      If you’re leaving anyway, and in just 6 weeks, is there anything to lose by having the meeting with HR? Is it possible to be made more unhappy than you already are? And if so, would it be worth it anyway?

    3. Leave it to Beaver*

      I think the question is what do you want to get out of this situation. If it’s job protection or documentation — then yes tell HR. If you want your boss or those who work with you to be more aware of their words and how they might be biased, then it might be best to speak up more directly when a situation occurs, so there’s less time between the incident and the discussion and memories are clearer.

      1. going anon today*

        I did say something when it occurred and was just told it wasn’t about my gender. I just reiterated it earlier this week after my manager asked how I was doing after everything that happened.

        1. Leave it to Beaver*

          Gotcha. It seems like you still have the same two options. You can either talk to HR about it or continue to discuss it when situations arise. What you decide is based on what you want to achieve. If you think you’re being discriminated against and are concerned for your job/reputation/etc then you should document it. Or you can use these situations as teachable moments and request greater clarification from your manager about why he’s using gendered language to describe your performance.

    4. Samiratou*

      Since you’re already planning to leave, I’d say you’ve nothing to lose by bringing it up. It might not do you much good, but if you can add to the documentation around discrimination at your workplace, that could help someone in the future.

      Or if there’s a new HR boss in town or something they might actually do something about it now. Never know.

    5. BlueWolf*

      Sounds like retaliation for reporting harassment/discrimination, which is also illegal. Definitely agree with documenting any interactions going forward.

    6. Bea*

      Document it and go through the HR loop.

      If they lay you off in their next layoff procedure, go to an employment attorney immediately and file a law suit against them for retaliation. They are getting away with this because they aren’t being challenged. I know it’s tiresome and it’s disgusting but without bringing out an attorney who will destroy them next time, they will keep it up.

      Then you can own them all, get unemployment and find a job that isn’t killing you on the inside.

  7. Alternative Person*

    Has anyone ever encountered Fear Of Missing Out in a workplace context? Cause I have a co-worker who never just sits out a question even when someone else is handling it.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      This goes back to a letter that I believe was posted sometime last week. There was a discussion about being a know it all and how to curb one’s know it all urges.

    2. Nonprofit Warrior*

      YES! We have a huge problem in my team with FOMO which results in co-workers stalking one anothers’ calendars, following all company-wide forums, and asking follow-up questions about scheduled time off.

      The only way we’ve found to deal with it is to have our manager make a blanket statement about her open policy for time off and meeting attendance. It helps in the short-term, but hasn’t stopped it from ramping up over and over.

    3. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

      Uggghhh – my last company was REALLY, REALLY opaque. The only way that I could get the info I needed (info that directly effected my core responsibilities) was to keep my ears open and butt in whenever anyone else was “gossiping” about whatever “illicit” info they had stumbled on (I use scare quotes, bc this was just normal everyday work stuff that for whatever reason management deemed sensitive – but it was stuff that people really needed to know to do their jobs properly).

      So I think I developed a bit of what your co-worker is doing – I tried to insert myself into everything so that I wouldn’t miss out on something useful. Again – stuff I needed to know to do my job properly AND that I would be criticized for not taking into account or handling properly had I not found out about it.

      Now I’m at a new company and I’m trying to break that habit. No idea if this has anything to do with your co-worker’s motivations, but its one possible cause.

    4. beanie beans*

      I had a coworker come by my desk a few months ago to ask me a question. My cubicle neighbor walked into my cubicle, physically stood in front of me and answered the question without giving me a chance to answer. When I called him out on it later and asked him why he did that, he said he was trying to be helpful – someone had a question and he had an answer. He was totally clueless on how it looked.

      He inserts himself into every. possible. conversation. I know he’s just trying to be helpful, but it makes it seem like he doesn’t think anyone else in our office knows anything.

      1. Iris Eyes*

        That may be how he sees it but from the comments on the “know-it-all” letter it is more likely coming from a place of insecurity or of wanting to help/be useful to people. So if its FOMO it maybe more social than professional.

    5. designbot*

      Huge FOMO in my workplace. Everyone always thinks that someone else got the ‘good’ projects, or that they’re being shut out of meetings they should have been in. Designers are just a super insecure bunch.

    6. Anon for This*

      So… I do this. Not because I have the Fear of Missing Out but because I’m a nosy Know It All. Or at least, I Think I Know It All. It’s something I’m working on because it’s not really professional or considerate (both at work and in my social life). But when I do it, it’s because I feel like the person answering the question is either answering it incorrectly, incompletely, or doesn’t truly understand what is being asked of them. So I don’t know if that is what is going on with your co-worker, but that’s what’s going through my head when I jump in.

      1. Iris Eyes*

        Yes! I’d be happy to contribute to 97% of the conversations around me, work, store, home, elevator, parking lot ect. I restrain myself from commenting maybe half the time which leaves me participating in a lot of conversations but as an outsider. Maybe I’ve missed my calling in life working at an information kiosk somewhere. My brain just has a habit of collecting random information that it deems interesting for some reason or another. Location of keys apparently isn’t interesting. But what good is all that effort if when it is needed it isn’t utilized?

        Have you ever read the book Queen Bees and Wanna bees by Rosalind Wiseman? I need to reread it, its been a while. But one of the social categories she talks about is basically the information broker, their group role is to keep and spread information. The movie Mean Girls is based on the book and the character Gretchen incarnates that role.

    7. Flinty*

      I have a coworker who does this as well. She’ll jump in to answer even when she hasn’t heard half the question. Some of my coworkers react pretty rudely – rolling their eyes, tell her she’s not being helpful – and she still does it!

    8. motherofdragons*

      Yes, but online! We use an online file-sharing platform for all of our work, and folders for our projects are visible to everyone on the team, even if you’re not assigned to that specific project (this is our team culture and it would be super weird to “close” files or folders to others so that’s not an option). I have a coworker who has set her notifications to get “pinged” every time ANY folder or file is modified or added, and even if she’s not working on that project, she will almost always comment on a file to make suggestions! So if I draft something and ping my manager for his review and comment, my coworker will go in and put in her own 2 cents. It’s so irritating but I don’t know if I want to expend the energy or capital to ask her to stop (she and my boss are really close, so I’m hesitant to go to my boss for help). I tried to take the tack of “Oh you actually don’t need to worry about this,” but she says she just wants to help. The most frustrating part is that she will often say she has SO much work to do, and I want to be like “Then stop butting into mine, that will save a lot of time!”

    9. Mind your business*

      Yes! One of my teammates at my last job was this way. Every conversation that she wasn’t a part of, she would try to work herself into the conversation and ask “what’s going on?”. Eventually, myself and other teammates would end our conversation as soon as she popped up from her desk. So annoying.

    10. Admin of Sys*

      Ugh, I’m trying so hard to break that habit in myself. In my last position, we had serious communication problems, so overhearing conversations was the best way to find something out a lot of times. Added to that, I’d been there longer than 80% of my colleagues so folks assumed I knew the answer to everything. It’s been really hard in my new position both not knowing what’s going on, and also trying not to jump in to every conversation to find out, in case I need to know about it.
      But I think (hope!) I’m getting better about listening and not interrupting.

  8. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Thank GOD it’s Friday. It has been a week.

    Hoo boy.

    Two coworkers in and out of the hospital. Both of whom I’m pretty close to. The one, who was in the ICU, seems to have mostly recovered and they sent him home. The other (who I’m really good friends with) has been in and out since last week. And that’s been hard. I’m the point person at work. Which I will happily do….but it gets tough being the one to tell the same bad news to people AND have to keep them calm and happy while freaking out internally.

    Probably explains the blistering migraine on Tuesday………

    On Monday (my birthday) I got ripped to shreds by a department for something that was not only not my responsibility but they also dropped the ball on. Tuesday the admin staff got raked over the coals be a particularly difficult llama wrangler. It was totally his fault (we all had the paper trails to prove it), but he went on a crusade to blame us all. So that was swell.

    And to top it off: I’ve heard NADA about where I interviewed.

    But. It’s Friday. And I’m going to a concert tonight wi

    1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      *But. It’s Friday. And I’m going to a concert tonight with my best friend. And I’m visiting my mom this weekend for Mother’s Day. Things aren’t all bad.

      (This is what happens when I drink too much coffee in the morning.)

    2. Ama*

      Ugh. I’m glad you have good weekend plans and I hope you can get away.

      It’s always fun to deal with those people who are never at fault for anything (even when they totally are).

      1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

        Oh, he’s awful. And he blamed it (at first) on me. Which was hilarious, because it happened when I was at a dentist appointment. So it was physically impossible for it to have been my fault.

        1. Ama*

          Oh I had a person who owed me a deliverable stall for over six months, repeatedly claiming that he didn’t have the right template (despite us sending it to him multiple times), and finally when his finance department got involved (because we hadn’t paid them because they hadn’t submitted the deliverable), he filled out the report, post dated it to four months earlier and cc’d my boss, trying to claim we’d just missed it.

          I didn’t get into it with him (it was literally the last thing we needed from him to close the project), but I followed up with my boss and made sure she knew the whole story. She knows both me and him well enough to believe me but I could have proved it — since he postdated his report two weeks before he replied to one of my reminders saying he knew he hadn’t turned it in and he was working on it.

      1. Alicia_of_Blades*

        Ugh, I’m sorry. I was out at a fun work event last night when I got a rejection email. Totally killed the vibe.

    3. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

      I’m going to a concert tonight too! After working 13 days out of 15 because we are short-staffed. It’s going to be sweet, a Frank Sinatra tribute band.

    4. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

      So, like…happy birthday, first of all – I hope your out-of-work celebrations were enjoyable. (And I hope you’re having fun at the concert!

      Second – hot damn. I’m really sorry, and I hope your coworkers get better soon!

  9. WellRed*

    I belong to a FB page for diabetes and someone yesterday asked the “is it legal” question. In this case, her boss asked “Will the stress of diabetes mean you have to stop working?” (she provided no context for the question, but I believe it was legal under the ADA). At any rate, many people commented “yes, no, sue the bastards,” etc. However one commenter said the answer to that question should always be, “absolutely not. Why do you ask?”
    I wanted to ask her if she was a regular AAM reader.

    1. DCGirl*

      The law doesn’t actually say you can ask inappropriate questions. It says that you can’t discriminate against someone based on a real or perceived disability. What adverse action has she suffered at this point?

      1. fposte*

        In general, it’s true that the “illegal interview questions” thing is more of a myth than a truth, but the one exception is disability–it’s a breach even to ask if somebody’s disabled.

        However, this isn’t an interview situation, and the boss already knows about the person’s disability. It’s a stupid question that wise employers would smack the boss for asking and she better not make a habit of that stuff, but as you say, there doesn’t seem to be any adverse action at the moment. So it also sounds like commenters have not only fallen for the illegal interview questions myth but extrapolated it to non-interview work situations.

        1. WellRed*

          Exactly, it’s different when it’s an employee you know has diabetes, vs asking an applicant. And yeah, I asked her what she thought made the question not legal. She certainly doesn’t seem to have been harmed.

        2. Info Architect*

          I’ve seen lots of online job applications recently that ask you if you have a disability. You can decline, but the fact that they even ask is appalling.

          1. AnotherHRPro*

            If a company is a federal contractor, they have to ask (by federal regulation). This information is voluntary and is kept separate from the actual application. It is used for annual analysis that the government requires.

            1. TonyTonyChopper*

              You beat me to it – sorry for the double answer, I forgot to refresh the page after I came back from lunch

          2. TonyTonyChopper*

            Just FYI – it is for data analysis purposes only. Disability is getting looped into other diversity measures, so they need to measure the applicant pool to make sure there’s not disparate impact. Just like the EEO form that asks race, gender, veteran status, etc questions, the hiring manager (for sure) and recruiter (best practice) are not supposed to be able to access that information in the applicant tracking system. It is only supposed to be accessed via system admins doing reporting (and even then it is best practice to only run that data after a job has been filled and the chosen candidate has started).

      2. Emily K*

        I think the FB commenter was saying the answer to the question of “Will diabetes make you stop working?” is “Absolutely not, why do you ask?” Not that the answer to the question of, “Is it legal?” is “Absolutely not, why do you ask?”

    2. Jady*

      “Stress of diabetes”? I know nothing about diabetes, but this question just seems strange.

      The only response that comes to my head is “Well enough stress on anyone about anything could mean a person needs leave from work. Why do you ask?”

      1. Naptime Enthusiast*

        A friend was asked this when applying to med school. “Will you be able to complete your clinical time due to your diabetes?” Still not a good question given the context.

      2. Video Gamer Lurker*

        As the child of a Type 1 Diabetic, I’d be willing to say that stress is a factor on any person, but the stress can exacerbate conditions to less manageable states, such as being unable to work because a person has to take care of themselves.

        Back to OP, it reads like one of those questions the boss likely thought sounded better in his/her head, and may have meant the question more in terms of accomodations.

        1. essEss*

          Exactly. I read that as a request for clarification about whether accommodations were needed or if there were going to be any issues that the boss needed to address/arrange coverage for before they occurred. The employee might have said “yes, there will be some days that I will have to arrive x hours late without much warning” (which is highly unlikely in this case for diabetes but I’m just throwing a general example of an impact of any medical condition) because the boss isn’t well-informed on the effects of diabetes.

      3. WellRed*

        As a Tpe 1, I can attest that diabetes in and of itself can be stressful apart from other life stressors but for the most part, people deal. I agree with others the question probably sounded better in the head then spoken aloud.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        Diabetes has a fairly well known connection with stress within the community of people who have it or have a loved one with diabetes.
        My husband did not do well with stress, his numbers went in the wrong direction when he was stressed. I will say that it was not that noticeable for a long time, then once it started happening it kept happening. If his stress levels went up so did his numbers. Just one person’s observations, so FWIW, I think it’s a calculative factor over time. Diabetes eats away at their systems, when our bodies aren’t working correctly it’s much easier for stress levels to accelerate. He never missed work because of his diabetes and he did receive recognition for his outstanding attendance record. I always thought he might have done a bit better in the long run if he had taken a day off once in a while.

  10. Red Herring*

    Any advice for when some of your colleagues’ work is terrible? I work in fundraising at a small nonprofit and the data entry team’s work is riddled with errors, some pretty egregious. I work in another area of our department but it’s making my job more difficult and is affecting others as well. I’ve pointed out one-off mistakes to them, had a bigger sit down meeting after bringing this up to our VP, and most recently brought these things to the attention of our newer manager, who I and the data entry team’s manager both report to, but nothing has improved.

    My manager is pretty frustrated as well but I don’t believe she is having the serious conversations that are needed. I know the usual advice is there’s a chance she’s dealing with it in ways that I can’t be a part of but given the nature of our conversations plus office politics, I think all that’s happening is some gentle coaching.

    I’m pretty frustrated at how this is making my job more difficult (which is how I frame things to my manager) and aggravated that my colleagues aren’t being held accountable. Any words of wisdom? (I am looking for a new job but there haven’t been a ton of openings and my retirement vesting is going to make it difficult to leave.)

    1. Oogie*

      I am working with someone and in a similar situation. The person I work with needs to retire, but won’t. Looking forward to the replies/advice on this.

      1. bye bye ms american pie*

        Same here, there are two dudes I work with who I just won’t give work when I can get away with it, because I then have to re-do it, or it takes them 4 weeks instead of 2 days. One of them is so notoriously bad that when I found out he was working on a project with someone, I was reflexibly like “oh no, I’m so sorry” because his work is just flat out wrong all the time. But I guess that’s what happens when the boss takes the attitude of “I’m going to wait for this dude to retire or find a new job” rather than try to fire him for cause (there’s a lot of cause and it’s been 6+ years).

      2. Ann O.*

        Me, too! And I suspect it’s for a similar reason.

        In my situation, we have a flat hierarchy on our team so there’s no one who I can meaningfully escalate to. It is infuriating. I now understand how people end up doing other people’s jobs.

        I’m at a place of acceptance that my co-worker is unlikely to change, so I’m mostly trying to figure out how to work around him to save the overall project without compromising my own work-life boundaries.

    2. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      Every single time there’s a data error, email it to appropriate mgmt? If they’re getting 50 emails a day about incorrect data entry, it might make it painful enough to actually fix the problem.

      1. Emily K*

        While this might be effective, in a lot of offices it would come across as passive-aggressive to send an email every time you find a typo, especially if it means that half of the emails in someone’s inbox are you reporting a typo. It comes across a lot more I’m Making a Point than “you should be aware of this.”

        If you did want to document the size of the problem you could do a daily email that lists all errors you found that day and it would come across less like you’re trying to spam management’s inbox out of frustration.

    3. peachie*

      Ooh, this is tough. Not knowing the specifics, I would try to have a second meeting with the newer manager. There are a couple of ways you might approach this. You could present specific tasks that you aren’t able to do efficiently or at all and what is preventing you from doing that, then ask, “How do you want me to handle this?”

      Also, are there any workflow or technical solutions you can think of to suggest? It’s not your job to fix the issues, but if you can present an idea that could help, maybe your manager can implement it. I know that, even in an admin position, I got us to make some changes like making a certain database field editable, making sure all X and Y forms were directed to Coworker Z, or setting up an email group so that all relevant people got the notifications they needed.

      If you decide to have a conversation like this, I think it’s important to stay relatively positive and frame it as a “process” conversation–that is, make it about the how the actual data/work/tasks aren’t working rather than how your coworkers are doing a bad job. (It is frustrating to have coworkers like that, but I think you’ll get further if you don’t make it about that.

    4. Samiratou*

      When there’s an error do you fix it or send it back to them to fix? If it’s the former, can you start doing the latter? Sending everything back for rework should get the point across fairly quickly.

    5. Jady*

      You may have done things like this already but I figure it’s worth mentioning in case not. It sounds like a really big problem if you’ve escalated it up so high.

      The only way to ever resolve issues like this (in my experience) is to make it as painful for the people above you as it is to you.

      These are the things I would consider:

      Frame the specific issues caused by the other team to the manager, instead of just ‘being frustrated’. When you find an error, what happens next? How much time does it take to have it fixed? Does this cause delays in other work being done? Create concrete data that is measurable. Keep track of it. Numbers can make it harder to ignore, especially if deadlines are at play.

      Consider making the issues blatantly public (if office politics make this doable). Maybe in a status report format? Congregate a long list of issues, request an ETA on resolution of said issues, and describe the problems caused by these errors. Do this at regular intervals, like once a week, and copy anyone and everyone relevant and their bosses. If this affects deadlines, copy the other teams whose deadlines are at risk, and specifically state that. “I need these fixes by [X] to meet [Project] deadline of [Y].”

      Ask about implementing a process to prevent these frequent errors (specifically note the frequency). Maybe the team is so slammed that they need a data QA person before the data is released. Maybe the team just needs more people.. Maybe they need better documented data from another source? Try to determine with confidence where the specific problem in the pipeline is being created.

      If you can identify one or two employees in specific that has the worst work, push on having those specific individuals off your work. This is especially useful if you can provide numbers with it. As in “When I receive [blah] from Mark, there is a 30% increase in errors.”

      If you are fixing their work for them, stop doing that immediately. It’s masking the problem and allowing it to be ignored. You can either let the bad data go through anyway and hold them responsible when something blows up, or you can continue pointing out the problems and just stopping the work process in its tracks until these issues are fixed by THEM. Yes, this will cause delays and headaches and complaints – that’s the point. When you’re pressured about it, repeatedly response “I’m waiting for the corrections from the data team. I don’t have the bandwidth to [whatever they are doing] in addition to my own job. Please talk to [their boss/lead] about getting the data to me with better accuracy and timely manners.”

      These are all ideas that I would personally consider. YMMV.

      1. Red Herring*

        Thank you (and everyone) for your responses. While I’ve tried to make it painful for those above, there are some great suggestions that I need to try. I’m also not fixing their work for them. If it was here and there that would be one thing, we all make mistakes. But this is lacking an overall skill.

    6. Bea*

      I had to deal with this situation as a manager before, my hands were tied by my boss refusing to take it seriously. We were then told we were “bullying” the person doing the data entry because we were taking every mistake back to be corrected. Then one person in general was told to never speak to that person because they were “intimidating”, when all they were saying was “Hey, so I need you to fix this error, thanks!”. But due to the size and gravely voice God gave him, he was a big old nasty man, etc telling the smaller meeker male who was making errors that you know…he was messing things up.

      So it could go so much deeper somewhere along the chain. It could be that they’re not paying the data entry person enough and they’re just not cut out for the job, that’s what my issue all boiled down to in the end. Upper management knew and wanted to patch the hole in the chain with the cheapest labor possible (literally minimum wage). Which means you’ll probably really never have a solid person in that position or at least when you do find one, they’re gone as soon as they have the experience under the belt to get paid properly elsewhere.

      I hope that you find a new job with a real solid crew soon, I have been so much happier after going from under-trained, limited abilities, lots of open holes, too much work for each individual to a crew of well paid and properly distributed duties. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this crap.

    7. Data Guru*

      I am the database manager for the development department of a non-profit. Your database admin or development director should be able to set up some audit queries that can be run on a regular basis (daily or weekly) that can catch some of these errors. I would recommend keeping a log as well of all the errors you encounter that you can present to your boss.
      I know how frustrating this can be. Data errors can cause a lot of problems with reporting as well as contact made with donors. It is so important to have have clean data. I try really hard to not make errors and always correct errors as soon as they are brought to my attention

  11. MMM*

    Is it ok to ask about a nonprofit’s financials in an interview? And if so, how to best go about it? I can tell from the org’s website that their funding comes from donors and grants, but would like to know more about how sustainable that is, without coming across as overly skeptical

    1. bluelyon*

      It’s very ok! It’s actually very important to ask and most places would side-eye you for not mentioning it at all.
      Don’t ask the super easy things that are apparent from googling the 990 but it sounds like you have more specific questions anyways.

    2. Anon Today*

      Yes! In fact, I think that it’s critical that you do ask about that sort of thing. Although before you ask I’d look through the organization’s 990 and their website to make sure that you don’t see a reference to a long-term contract with a funder, etc. I’ve asked in interviews about why an organization is running a negative balance each year, I’ve had a few employers bristle at that question, but more often than not I’ve gotten a good reaction. And both responses have told me a lot about a potential employer.

    3. sange*

      Totally okay to do – and encouraged, depending on your function in the nonprofit – , as long as you have done some research. Read the 990 (and make sure you understand the 990 and aren’t taking anything out of context), check the better business bureau, read their annual report, and consult their website. If you’re interviewing for a marketing position, totally fine to keep the questions general. But if this is a development, executive, or financial role, feel free to ask about percentage of board giving, reliance on special event income, sustainability, earned vs contributed income…the works are all fair game.

    4. Emily K*

      Also, make sure you understand how nonprofit funding works in general, and what characterizes sustainable vs unsustainable. Most nonprofits rely on donors and grants, so that in itself is not inherently unsustainable. You want to look at things like diversification of funding sources, long-term sources, average age of donor file, etc. to separate the sustainable from the precarious.

    5. Lau (UK)*

      Absolutely normal, particularly above entry level. Review whatever finance info is in the public domain in your country (so Charity Commission for me) for the last couple of years. Ask about anything that doesn’t make sense. Things I look for include:
      – number of funders (of whatever type)
      – big changes in income
      – a profile of declining income over a few years
      – some info about overhead level, and how happy they are with where it’s at

    6. MMM*

      Thanks everyone! I was able to fit it in to the conversation pretty easily because they mentioned one particular grant coming to an end soon–just wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be committing some unknown interview faux pas!

  12. Cancer Crush Anon*

    Still waiting for the background check to go through. It’s on the last step, verifying with my previous employer. They are dragging their heels.

    Hopefully I can put 2 weeks in today or Monday. I think I will be walked out due to the notice I will be giving. Read that how you will.

    1. Long time lurker*

      Sending good vibes your way. I really hope that you can get out as soon as possible.

    2. TonyTonyChopper*

      Depending on how much time has passed, you might be able to contact your future employer to ask if they will accept W2s in place of the verification (assuming you have them on hand for the time you’ve worked for your employer).

    3. Bea W*

      My mother worked at a place where giving notice got you immediately escorted out of the building. I hope you’re background check is completed soon!

  13. Awkward anon*

    I’m in an extremely toxic environment, desperately trying to get out.

    That being said, I need some advice on how to cope with the following situation.

    I work with one other woman “Pandora”- she has been with the company for 10 years and she is the one who is training me. Requests for items are sent to Pandora first (because she was the only one doing the job at the time), and so Pandora assigns me work.

    My position was newly created, so everyone is used to Pandora doing the job by herself.

    Even though it’s just the two of us, when someone talks to Pandora about something that I’m working on, she’ll tell them, “Awkward is doing it! Talk to them about it!” Now, yes, it’s true that I’m working on it, but there seems to be no team or camaraderie. Stuff is either hers or mine. She would throw me under the bus in a second.

    Pandora forgets to tell me when she is going to be out of the office. I don’t care where she is, I just need to know that she is going to be out so I can fill in for her and do her work. Some kind of notice would be nice, but either she forgets or doesn’t want to tell me.

    Caveat: Pandora is friends with the boss, so going to him would be pointless, and he is conflict avoidant. Plus, everyone loves Pandora and would take her side over mine.

    Is there anything to do besides get out?

    1. Irene Adler*

      Does Pandora understand what the ramifications are for your not knowing when she is out of the office?

      If you aren’t able to effectively fill in for her when she’s out of the office because you weren’t informed of her absence, does that result in a consequence such as a work slow down or missed deadine for you? Can you explain to her that not being informed causes this consequence to occur? Would she be receptive to this because she would like to avoid the consequence? Or would she not care because it would only affect you? MIght be worth a conversation if you think she would be receptive.

    2. Lady By The Lake*

      I’m sorry — I’m not seeing Pandora doing anything wrong here, although not telling you when she is out could be an issue. She SHOULD be telling others when you are handling something and let you deal with it — believe me, that’s a million times better than the person who is constantly interfering in stuff that you are working on or not letting go and letting your do your own work. Maybe it is a tone thing that isn’t coming across in the posting. As for leaving without telling you — she’s been on her own for ten years and so didn’t have to tell anyone and is probably accustomed to people just waiting until she gets back. Don’t take it personally, just breezily remind her that you are there to help and are glad to do it if she will let you know that she is out.

      1. Ama*

        Yeah, her not informing you when she’s going to be out is definitely an issue that you should bring up with her, but I dpn’t see the issue with referring people to you for items you are working on (now if she was referring people to you for things *she* is working on, that’s another issue).

      2. Awkward anon*

        It’s a tone thing, I guess? The director was asking her about a document that is her job to complete and the section that he wanted done was something that I informed people about. I don’t know if she was just upset and snapped, but I heard her screaming, “That’s Awkward’s job! That’s Awkward’s job!” at him one day… Now, she should be informed on the section as well and if I’m not here and she has to complete it, then what?

        1. Jady*

          It sounds like she’s possibly having her own set of issues (stress or something) and you’re feeling some of the waves caused by that.

          I know when I’m absurdly overworked, “Not my job” becomes a frequent go-to regardless if I could help or not.

          If that’s plausible it may be worth giving her some slack and trying to not take it personally.

        2. Lehigh*

          I might still be missing a piece, but from what you’ve said it sounds like Pandora may have been overloaded for a while before you came on board, and is still reactive from that stress. And if the boss and coworkers keep going to her instead of you for your projects and areas, then they aren’t respecting her time (or you!) Not at all your fault, and of course it’s not professional for her to be screaming, but if people are over-relying on her I can see why she is getting snappish.

          1. Lehigh*

            Oh, and yes, she does need to learn to let you know when she’s going to be out. Otherwise, what if you both take the same day off? As another poster suggested, perhaps a simple shared calendar would take care of this. (And unfortunately she may still need reminders, since it’s a change from her longstanding practice.)

          2. DDJ*

            I agree with this. It sounds like a super dysfunctional atmosphere overall (based on what Awkward anon has mentioned), and Pandora is probably cracking under the pressure.

            Especially if things got bad enough that they hired another person to help out with what was formerly one person’s workload. Usually for a company to get to that point, where they’ll shell out another salary, I’m thinking there were days when Pandora was coming in and crying, or the balls were being dropped, or there was a catastrophic (relatively speaking) incident.

            I was promoted 5 years ago, and I STILL have people that ask questions of me instead of my employee. “Jordan handles those requests.” “Please make sure you’re addressing these issues through the appropriate channel.” “Please let the rest of your staff know that it’s Jordan who handles these requests now.” Depending on the offender, “You know, I haven’t actually done that job since 2013, so you’ll have to talk to Jordan about it.”

            3 different people have been in that role since I left it, and somehow, numerous people still think that it’s still my job. I’m pretty collected, but I can see myself getting to the point where I start yelling “It’s Jordan’s job! It’s Jordan’s job!” I have a bajillion things to handle and everyone knows I know Jordan’s role as well, so they circumvent the process. And I get it, I mean, I’m amazing and wonderful and everyone adores me. Who wouldn’t want to talk to me? But still, I have my own job to do.

            And at first, I was just continuing to do my job and about 1/3 of the other job. And I realized that I was doing my employee a disservice by not “delegating” appropriately, and I was doing myself a disservice by taking on a bunch of things that didn’t really belong to me.

            Now! As far as letting you know when she’s out of the office, that can be addressed without things getting too murky, I think. Come at it from a helpful angle. “Hey Pandora, last time you were out of the office I didn’t know you were going to be out, and if I’d known, I would have done A and B, so you didn’t have to deal with them when you got back. Do you think that we should have a shared calendar, or are you ok with just letting me know when you’re going to be out of the office?”

            Because you’re not policing her, you really do want to help her out, and I think that’s the way you want to address this.

        3. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

          To answer the part of “what then”…

          I’m someone who does value a pretty clear division of work. I have my stuff, you have your stuff. I’ll tell you if any of my stuff is going to effect or change your stuff, or I’ll ask questions about your stuff if it will effect my stuff, but otherwise I refer people to my colleagues if someone asks me about something that is “not my stuff”. Just because I find it more organized and efficient that way.

          That said – my team and I all do cross training and we use an alldept email group as a CC to keep each other in the loop for important things (so I don’t really pay much attention to those emails beyond a cursory glance, but I have it available in my inbox if I need details). So yeah, if random person asks me about the due date for project x, and x is Jane’s responsibility, I just say “ask Jane, it’s her responsibility”, but if Jane is out, then I’ll do my best to help the asker out. I would never just ignore a request or let it go undone (b/c I do still consider myself a team player – and would be happy to help if Jane is swamped and she specifically asks me to help), its just that if Jane is available, it’s probably best if Jane handles it.

          I’m wondering if maybe this is just a matter of different ideas/preference in workflows or division of responsibility? Like I said, I prefer a pretty clear division of responsibility (and maybe Pandora feels similarly), but maybe you’re someone who doesn’t prefer that because it feels cold or isolating or something similar? Unfortunately Pandora has seniority and popularity on you, so her preference is going to win out.

    3. Laura*

      Have you asked her about the stuff that you need her to change, in order for you to do your work and cover hers?

      Also, if I were you I would be really mad if someone said they were working on my tasks/projects instead of sending people my way. Just a different perspective

    4. Brooklyn99wasCancelled*

      The work requests come in through Pandora — but when work is assigned to you, are you creating an open communication to the original requester? Or do you send work product/communication through Pandora, allowing her to ‘own’ the transaction?

      Have you met with any of the departments/requesters to get a sense of their end of things (their needs, their deadlines, their dept goals)?

      Learn the system the best you can, make sure you have a good grasp of the big picture and the smaller details. You want to establish yourself as a good resource, a knowledgeable worker. You are not in competition with Pandora – this is not a battle (even if Pandora thinks it is). What will make you stand out is if you make yourself a known, reliable and responsive worker. This means developing relationships and keeping your ears and eyes open.

    5. pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I don’t want to be unsympathetic, and I take you at your word that you are unhappy in an environment that doesn’t seem to be a good fit for you, but the two examples you gave would not be “toxic” or even a “situation” in my experience. It’s might be inconvenient to not know when coworkers are going to be out, but certainly as soon as you see she is not at her desk that day, you can adapt to cover whatever you’re supposed to cover. You could propose a shared calendar to the boss if it really impacts the work flow — it doesn’t have to be a conflict at all, “Hey boss, I realize that the department didn’t need a shared calendar when it was just you and Pandora, but I’m finding it difficult to cover XYZ task when I’m not aware that Pandora is out for (time period). Can we all set up a shared calendar to just mark off days we won’t be in the office?” With just 3 of you (or 2 if you don’t need to include the boss) you can even use an old fashioned paper calendar on the wall.

      As for her directing people to you on jobs that you now do — that seems completely normal. People need to know that you are the point person on those and you need to build up your visibility. It’s way better than her undermining you by always stepping in on your work. I would hate it if a coworker or even my manager sidelined me on my own projects to answer questions — they may give out bad information that then comes back to bite me.

      1. Awkward anon*

        The example isn’t toxic, but my work place is. My post is just wanting advice on how to deal with this situation in an already stressful environment.

        1. Natalie*

          I think this might be a situation where you’re at BEC mode with the job and environment in general, and it’s coloring how you view a fairly unremarkable interaction. In which case, just being aware of that might help you handle it in the meantime.

    6. Yep*

      Document everything and CC your boss if you have to, or vice versa, asking direct questions. Example: Pandora takes off without telling you. As soon as you realize it, send an email to your boss that says, “Pandora is off today, but I wasn’t aware. What should I do about X and X?” Or if Pandora gives you vague or unhelpful instructions, outline what she said in an email, CC the boss, and ask her to confirm/clarify with specific questions. I know it sounds like it will tick them both off, but the only way you can cover yourself is to have documented evidence that Pandora is the one creating problems, not you, especially since she and the boss are friends.

    7. OhBehave*

      Is Pandora upset that you were hired to take some of her workload? There is that possibility! She sounds prickly when someone questions her about work that’s yours. Almost defensively. If she ruled the roost for 10 years then she may be upset that you are there. I wonder if she had a choice in what duties were handed over to you.

      1. Awkward anon*

        I sensed this too- when I’m assigned something, she’ll say, “Well, they seem to think you’re some sort of expert” or something snotty like that. Of course when the boss rolls around she’s all smiles, but when it’s just the two of us, she seems to be seething with anger, yet tries to mask it. The boss assigned me to a project and she seemed jealous- she and another coworker in FRONT OF ME were talking about the fact that “Awkward is handling this project” and they were upset. Um, hello? I CAN HEAR YOU. Plus, it’s not my fault! I didn’t want to do the darn thing, but I can’t say that.

        1. OhBehave*

          I think that’s it then. That in itself is toxic. I would put it back on her though. Allison often advises a bewildered look to comments like this. “Why would you say that? or That’s what I was told to do.” I also wouldn’t put it past her to sabotage you. Kind of like some people omit an ingredient from a recipe when it’s shared. Passive/aggressive as hell.

    8. ..Kat..*

      If she is out and doesn’t tell you, can you just not cover for her? Let her deal with the mess when she gets back?

  14. Sadie Doyle*

    I applied for an internal position, had a conversation with the hiring manager and a phone screen with HR. Yesterday I got a vague meeting invite (topic: “Short Discussion”) from the hiring manager for Monday morning.

    I hope I got the job, because otherwise it’s going to be a terrible way to start the week.

      1. Sadie Doyle*

        Thank you!

        I got an encouraging sign — my current grandboss dropped by my cubicle, asked if everything was finalized, and when I gave him a confused look, he said “Nevermind, don’t listen to me!” and walked away very quickly.

        1. Totally Minnie*

          That’s super encouraging! I had a similar situation with the job I’m currently in. I had an internal interview, and the next day my grandboss saw me in the hall and said “Hey, great news!” I asked what news, and he backtracked. I got the offer the next day.

          I so, so hope that’s what’s about to happen in your story, Sadie!

          1. Beatrice*

            Yep, happened to me too, with the transfer I was offered a few weeks ago! My boss asked me in a quiet moment if they’d given me a good offer, and my response was, “Uh, what? I’m getting an offer? What have you heard?” He laughed and said nevermind, and told me to act surprised. The hiring manager contacted me to discuss the offer about four hours later. (It was a good offer, but I negotiated anyway and got more.)

  15. Anon in the city*

    I had a phone interview on Monday. The guy said he would call the next day to schedule a second phone interview. It’s now Friday. Is it safe to assume that they won’t call

    1. Evil HR Person*

      Nope. Assume nothing. Recruiting timelines are always WAY slower than they should be, and the person who interviewed you may have given you a very optimistic timeline that in no way was realistic. Do continue your search, though, just in case.

    2. You don't know me*

      That sucks. Hopefully they are just moving slowly and you’re still in it.

    3. Chloe*

      Do you have the ability to call the person who called you? Or follow up with an email? Life often gets in the way of our good intentions, even when it comes to our job expectations. If it is possible to follow up on your end, I would do so.

    4. AnotherLibrarian*

      As you always should, assume you didn’t get the job and move on mentally. Then if something happens, it is a good thing. But the other thing to know is that timelines in hiring are never as smooth or as short as folks want them to be.

  16. Llama Wrangler*

    If I wasn’t ever formally rejected for a role, is it inappropriate to email the hiring manager to ask to be considered for another open role?

    The longer version of this is that when I initially applied for the “Llama Wrangling” position, they also had a “Llama Farmer ” position open, and they asked (in both the screen and the first interview) if I’d want the Llama Farmer position. I told them that I’d prefer Llama Wrangling but I’d potentially be open to Llama Farmer if it was the right “farm.” (The hiring manager for the Llama Farmer roles was in the screen and the third interview, and was my initial point of contact.)

    I was advanced to the finalist stage, to the point that they checked at least some of my references, but now they’ve dropped off the map, and I haven’t heard from them in about a month. I reached out to the Llama Wrangling hiring manager a week ago to see if anything had changed with their timeline, and I did not get a response. (I know some of you will say “hiring moves slowly; just wait.” For context, my last interview was in early March, and the interview process moved quickly)

    Assuming I don’t hear from them by the end of next week or the week after (meaning 2-3 weeks since my follow up and 5 weeks since our last contact) is it appropriate for me to email both hiring managers and ask to be considered for the Llama Farmer role? Should I acknowledge I don’t know my status for the Llama Wrangling position? They hire a lot more Llama farmers than they do Llama wranglers, so I could potentially wait until June, but I also don’t want to wait too long because theye are probably aiming to wrap up their Farmer hiring by June.

    1. Specialk9*

      You might ping them, saying you’re thinking of applying to that other position, assuming the Wrangler position has likely been filled– but wanted to make sure since you really would love to be a Wrangler.

    2. TonyTonyChopper*

      My guess (YMMV) is that either they chose a final candidate who hasn’t started yet and you’re the “silver medalist” candidate that they’ll reach out to if their first choice doesn’t walk through the door on Day 1 OR they filled it but the recruiting/TA person in charge of managing the actual job in their system hasn’t closed it out yet and sent the rejections (and the HM probably just forwarded your email to the recruiter/TA person to deal with instead of responding since that’s “not their job”).

      I’d apply for the Farmer position, and if/when you get the first call from their recruiting team, tell them about the Wrangler job and that you haven’t heard back but would be interested in the Farmer role if that’s no longer available. That way the recruiter can (should) reach out to the other person in charge of the Wrangler role (if it is a different person) to see if they can move forward with you, or, if it is the same recruiter, will follow up with you directly once they see your name and remember that they haven’t dispositioned you yet.

    3. Llama Wrangler*

      In an interesting twist, both the position I applied for and the llama farmer position were just reposted. I think I’ll give it another week and then do as Specialk9 suggested, unless anyone wants to jump in and tell me that’s a bad idea! (They do have a general recruitment email, but it doesn’t seem like they have recruitment staff outside of the hiring managers I’ve already been in touch with, since all of my communication came immediately from them.)

      1. Bea W*

        This sounds so much like a company I interviewed with in early March. They called my references then everything stalled. I ended up moving on figuring if they really were that interested in me, they would have either offered or kept an open and transparent dialogue during any delay. There was a second position I was interested in, but given my experience with this part of the process, I no longer have much desire to work there. I ended up with a great offer from another company a few weeks later.

        Apply to the other position if you’re interested, but it’s probably wise to look elsewhere.

  17. AnonyMs.*

    There is a woman in our office who is driving me– and, I suspect, my colleagues — crazy. Because of some restructuring and rearranging, she has to move to another office, and it’s causing no end of drama. Part of this is likely because her cube, which she’s occupied for about 10 years, is a disastrous mess. But she’s basically refusing to do it, citing health issues yet refusing any help.

    This ordinarily wouldn’t be my problem, but this week she missed a deadline for something I needed her to do. She didn’t communicate with me about it while she was working on it, just said I wasn’t getting it that day because she’s been too busy. Now, it’s not my job to police her schedule, yet when I see her talking to our office manager for the 1000th time about how unfair it is that she has to move, I start to get irritated.

    Our culture is such that I don’t feel comfortable calling her out, which is another problem. Her manager doesn’t like to manage her. All I want is some communication, to know if I shouldn’t expect what I need BEFORE I need it, because  honestly a day or two doesn’t usually make a huge difference. But that should be my call. I’m senior to her but she often likes to remind me that she’s been here forever and I’m still new (been here for just under a year). I need to bring this up to my boss, but I need to avoid sounding like I’m simply complaining. I also need him to remind her that most of the time I am his proxy, and he’s done that before, but I want to ask him to reinforce it. Any thoughts?

    1. Laura*

      Concentrate on exactly what problems her behaviour is causing. The focus should be on how to solve those, instead of laying blame. (If he’s half-way decent, he’ll know she’s a problem anyway)

    2. CatCat*

      It sounds like you don’t actually have authority over Cersei? Correct me if that is wrong.

      I’d email her, so it’s in writing if her missing deadlines last minute becomes a pattern. “Cersei, if you aren’t going to be able to meet a deadline, I need to know sooner than the due date. Please give me 1-2 days notice so I can adjust accordingly. Thanks!”

      That may solve it. But if it does become a pattern, I would raise it with boss since it is impacting your work. “Boss, Cersei has been missing deadlines and only letting me know at the last minute. This is impacting my work in X, Y, Z fashion.” And let him deal with it.

    3. Specialk9*

      We had a coworker like that in a past job. I believe she is actually a hoarder, unfortunately. The strategy is to wait for her to retire or pass, and clean it then. It is sad, but would also be cruel to pull away her seen security blankie.

      1. AnonyMs.*

        She can’t stay where she is. The “rearranging” will include construction, hence the move to another office.

    4. OhBehave*

      Can you address this with your boss in a way to make it seem like he’s helping solve a problem (he is, but…)? Something along the lines of, “Boss, how would you suggest I approach Joanie about missing my deadlines? I’ve done xyz but….. I think she’s stressed over moving and I don’t want to add to her issues.”
      I’ve read Allison recommend soft-pedaling this to get what you want without sounding like a whiner.

    5. only acting normal*

      We have an office hoarder. She somehow eneded up with two filing cabinets when we’re only supposed to have one each. And hers are stuffed solid – facilities had to move one recently and the poor guy almost got a hernia shifting it.
      She’s retiring next year. I’m thinking bonfire.

  18. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Popping in briefly to say that I LOVE my new job!

    Sending good vibes to Wannabe Disney Princess and everyone else who is currently looking!

    1. Sapphire*

      That’s excellent!

      Thanks so much for the kind words. My supervisor at this temp job seems really pleased with my work so far, though I’m noticing some anxieties that are probably leftovers from being in such a toxic environment for so long, and feeling like because I don’t have wrist pain I’m not working hard enough. I’m trying to apply to three jobs a week, and I want to start networking again.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        You should ask your supervisor if there is any chance of your temp assignment becoming a permanent placement!

  19. Long time lurker*

    Small question, but what do you think of the term “cube buddy” (referring to the person who sits in the cube across from you, and therefore, often the person you end up talking to a lot)?

    I feel like this phrase is something I wouldn’t hear outside of my office and when I first heard it, it seemed…. off? I’ve gotten used to it by now, but I’m curious. Is this a normal phrase in the professional world or does it seem almost infantilizing?

    1. Bekx*

      I called my “cube buddy” my “Cubemate”. Other people in my office have said things similar. It doesn’t bother me.

      1. Windchime*

        Yeah, I use Cubemate or Cube-neighbor. Cube-buddy is a little too cutesy for me, but it wouldn’t bug me.

    2. Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins*

      I’m not mortally offended by it, but it is not a term I would use. I typically call the folks in the surrounding cubes my “Cube Neighbors” or just “neighbors”. Buddy just has a weird/gross connotation to me. No idea why, it just feels icky. But that’s a me problem.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      It wouldn’t bother me in and of itself, unless the person using it also did or said other things that seemed patronizing. It just seems like a casual term for work friend.

    4. whistle*

      Never heard the term before, but I kinda like it. I think it perfectly captures that you are “friends” via proximity and nothing else. It has no sexual or gender connotations (unlike “work wife/husband”) and implies a shared camaraderie.

      1. SoCalHR*

        I disagree a little – buddy is often a term used for a little boy, so it could have some gender/condescending connotations (I saw your post after i finished my one below). But most of the time its probably fine.

        1. bonkerballs*

          While I agree that the way you describe is certainly a way buddy is described, I think it’s far more utilized the a non-gendered way like Long Time is using it. In the preschool I used to work for it was used everything – everyone had a nap buddy or a field trip buddy or a playground buddy. At my current workplace, all of the staff members have a safety buddy (so in the event of some kind of emergency there’s for sure someone who is thinking of you and making sure you’ve gotten to safety or whatever).

    5. BuffaLove*

      I feel like it’s a little strange that you hear it that often. I might jokingly refer to my neighbor in the next cubical over as my “cube buddy,” but that’s probably come out of my mouth once or twice in two years. If someone is using it all the time instead of the person’s name, I could see how that would be irritating.

    6. SoCalHR*

      I’ve heard cubemate before, I would just make sure cube buddy doesn’t inadvertently condescend the ‘buddy’ as you allude to (for example if an older man is calling a younger man cube buddy, then it may be a bit condescending to the younger man, if two women of generally the same age use the term it probably isn’t a big deal)….just please don’t say work husband/wife (lol – I know that has been discussed on this board many a time before).

    7. lady moods*

      In my workplace we usually say “cubie,” that might be more comfortable than saying “buddy” which has that implication of Friendship. YMMV though!

      1. Specialk9*

        I like Cubie! It makes me imagine a bunch of animated cubes tottering around on their points.

    8. peachie*

      I… don’t think I have an opinion on that? I’ve said it and had it said to/about me and never gave it a second thought. (Also, re: another response, I’m generally very sensitive to gendered language, but I don’t see “buddy” as a gendered word.)

      I can see how the particular work-relationship dynamics could play into it? Like, I’ve only ever had cube buddies who I was friendly (if not friends) with and who were on roughly the same “level.”

    9. Work Wardrobe*

      I don’t see anything wrong with being called a buddy. It might feel too-too for the caller to call you a “friend” — so “cube buddy” fits for this casual relationship.

      Personally, I prefer “cellmate.”

      1. pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

        Up to now, I’ve always used officemate, but from henceforth I shall switch to cellmate.

        Cube buddy is a bit to cutesy for me so I’ve always used officemate. In this context, I don’t see a need to differentiate between a workspace with permanent walls (office) and one with movable ones (cube).

    10. miyeritari*

      I’ve never heard of it. I don’t *love* it, but I wouldn’t take it to mean anything significant if there weren’t other things that didn’t make me feel like it was intending to be patronizing.

    11. Delphine*

      I think, in this context, it’s the “partner” definition of buddy. As in, “study buddy” or “walking buddy”. So I wouldn’t consider it initializing. Just a way of explaining who a person is in fewer words (“the person I share a cubicle with” vs. “cube buddy”).

    12. Iris Eyes*

      I think the pronunciation issues are the true issue here. Difficult to separate the words with that double “b” so probably ends up smooshed together into its own compound term. Ceubuddy

      I would bet there would be some regional trends on the acceptability of the term. (Bud is more likely to be used derisively in my experience) Similarity to study buddy, as one with whom you are in a mutually beneficial relationship related specifically to a shared activity with no social expectations outside of that function seems analogous.

    13. Thegs*

      It reminds me of basic training, where stony faced drill sergeants had to unironically call each other “battle buddy”.

      “Buddy” was silly then and comes off just as silly now.

  20. can't take it*

    Advancement/Development people – how bad does it look to leave a job after only 1 year in this field specifically? I’ve always been under the impression that it had to be a 2 year minimum because so much of the job is relationship dependent and things only happen once a year.
    But – my job sucks. My coworker actively undermines me since I replaced her best friend and have found ways to grow the events and giving day results. I’m hardly infallible – most of this is because I’m not stuck in doing things the way they have always been done and I was given a mandate to switch things up – plenty is sheer luck.
    Beyond the undermining she yells at me, at our boss at everyone. The culture in general is petty and mean, with a heavy dose of if you’re in you’re in and if you’re not one of the in crowd then they’ll be awful.

    We are in a precarious financial position so I could probably spin it as why I want to leave… but if I leave at the 18 month mark instead of 3 years how bad will it look? The stress and misery has led me to gain weight, I’m miserable in my personal life and I hate everything about my job – but I like my field and don’t want to give it up.

    1. Schnoodle*

      It’s about a pattern, not a single one off. No smart hiring manager would think it bad of you to quit a position you say wasn’t a good fit. I’d practice nice ways to explain that where company doesn’t look bad of course, but that’s fine.

      Think of it this way, you stay there 3 years, you’re asnwer for why you left is “it wasn’t a good fit.” “And it took you 3 years to figure that out?” “um…no at year 1 I knew but stayed on to toruture myself another 2 years so I wouldn’t have to answer this question.”

      1. Specialk9*

        Yeah, it’s the pattern, not the one off. Leave! Especially early in your career, that helps you get a better salary.

    2. Overworked and Underpaid*

      New development professional here so I don’t have the specific guidance you’re looking for, but the average time a development professional stays in one position is actually 18 months. They usually leave due to burnout or a higher pay.

      I can’t say how it will look to employers but I can stay you wont be deviating from the norm

    3. BRR*

      It depends on the rest of your job history and also what you do. I’ve seen quite a few gift officers who seem to move around a lot which I don’t quite understand how they keep getting jobs but I know they’re more in demand.

    4. Brooklyn99wasCancelled*

      You don’t have a coworker problem, you have a manager problem. No harm in looking for a new job – not like you have a lifetime cap on job searching. If no success now, you can always try again at the 3yr mark.

    5. EEK! The Manager*

      This is purely anecdotal based on my own NP experience and recent job search… it seems like in the NP world, and development in particular, there is a lot of turnover. My guess as to why is because it can be a stressful position and folks need to find a position and org that is the right fit in order to be effective and also enjoy the work. You’ve made it over a year – I think that is fine!

      1. k.k*

        That’s been my experience as well. I don’t think 18 months will look unusual in the development world.

    6. AnotherHRPro*

      The truth is, it depends. And if you are miserable then you need to decide find your own balance when you look at the pros/cons. I will say that with only 12-18 months of experience you will basically be considered not having any experience. Generally folks are looking for candidates with a few years of experience. Less than 2-3 just isn’t much for the very reasons you mentioned.

    7. can't take it*

      This is all reassuring – I have a decent amount of experience in the work world and field in general (8 years) but my last job was on the funding side so I’m a little out of sync with current norms.
      My tradeoff was always that I wanted measurable growth which I can show over three years – but maybe looking now isn’t as bad as I had thought.

    8. rldk*

      Also in nonprofit Development – 18 months is how long I was in my last job, which was also due to a horrible manager. It seems to be a trend that many nonprofit development managers were promoted from Major Gift Officer without gaining any management skills, and are thus not great at being bosses. If you focus on the positives you see in a new job in terms of culture fit and responsibilities, I highly don’t an HM will care unless it becomes a pattern.

    9. Lau (UK)*

      As a development director, 18 month to 2 year stays wouldn’t phase me at all, especially below head of level.

      Dev work is stressful, there’s a high burn out rate and there are a lot of pretty toxic environments out there. It’s also worth thinking about what kind of development suits you, and totally normal to give roles that broaden that experience a try (for example, I don’t love major donor work, because I struggle with being nice to very wealthy people whose stance on some things clashes with my organisational values but who give for the cachet, learned this by doing, and have therefore found a director role where we don’t do that).

  21. anon project co-manager*

    I’ve got a coworker who is either swamped with work and doesn’t have energy to deal with a large project we’re working together on OR is passive-aggressively waiting the initiative out so she doesn’t have to work on it. Based on our previous interactions, and how not excited she is about this initiative, I think it’s 50/50 which it is.

    So, question: do I talk with her about it? Do I go to her manager? My manager? I’m not really sure how to ask someone why they’re not doing the work they were assigned.

    1. Seriously?*

      I would probably go to my manager and say that she seems to busy to work on in and ask if someone else can do it. That brings the problem to her attention without the negativity. If it gets reassigned, great! She is no longer your problem. If her manager gets pulled in and her workload evaluated, then it will be harder for her to avoid it. Of course, you should first go to her and talk to her about the project. Set up some internal deadlines and don’t go to your manager until she actually misses them or tells you she can’t do the project.

    2. Trout 'Waver*

      Unless there’s a good reason not to, I’d always give the coworker themselves the first chance at answering. Going straight to a manager before asking them directly is pretty aggressive. If that proves unsatisfactory, go to your manager and not hers. If her manager needs to get involved, it should come from your manager.

      1. Specialk9*

        This. Cheerfully assume good will, but I’m writing :) Then later you can go to your manager, but you have to talk directly to someone first.

    3. A Person*

      I would ask her first and go to your manager if her response isn’t satisfactory.

      I have to admit I was this person one time. It was a combination of both; resentment about an extra project being put on my already full plate and also about it being that particular project, which had been stopped and restarted multiple times and I didn’t think it would ever actually be completed. (It was actually put on hold again.)

  22. DCGirl*

    After being laid off on at the beginning of February, I am pleased to report that I’m finishing Week 2 of a new job that I really like. It was a tough and financially stressful three months, but things are definitely looking up.

    1. Specialk9*

      That’s delightful news! Go you!

      I don’t usually read the open threads, and today’s has lots of good news. Glad I tuned in.

  23. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend*

    I plucked up the courage to ask for a raise! …And then they told me I had already gotten a raise this year. (facepalm) BUT, my manager said she would try to get me a better raise, so that’s something!

    1. Denise*

      Great response from your manager. Yeah, I’ve definitely not realized I had received a raise in the past and later thought, oh no, I probably should have thanked my boss or something.

  24. Wendy Darling*

    A wardrobe question!

    I’ve worked at West coast tech companies my entire career so the dress code is incredibly lax. My current employer, though, goes on-site at client offices, and most of our clients are way more buttoned up, so I need a business trip wardrobe that’s appropriate for, say, visiting an East coast bank.

    I have the clothes and shoes sorted but I’m stuck on bags. I need a laptop bag. My work laptop is not light and I have back problems so I prefer to use a backpack, but I’m not sure that’s considered appropriate for women in a Serious Business Casual environment. Do I need a briefcase or tote instead?

    Anyone more familiar with East coast conservative dress codes care to weigh in? Links to appropriate bags much appreciated.

    1. skipjack*

      I work in NYC. Backpacks should be fine, especially if they’re nice. Try TUMI, Kenneth Cole, Elizabeth and James, Rebecca Minkoff, Timbuktu, and some of the dressier Thule bags.

      1. Effo K*

        I’m a west coast transplant currently working in the east coast. I have a nice, stylish backpack with a handle on the top. When I’m traveling/commuting, I wear it like a backpack. When I get to where I’m going (formal meeting, etc) I slip it off and carry it by the top handle. While I’m still carrying a backpack, it doesn’t look as much like a kid on their way to school (which is my own personal fear).

        1. Wendy Darling*

          This is also my fear! I went from west coast grad student to west coast tech worker and frankly those involve the exact same wardrobe. I also sometimes read younger than I am, although luckily still adult.

          The client I’m likely visiting first is really difficult and likes to fight us on things and question our expertise (even though they hired us because… we are experts at this… idk) so I don’t want to give them ANY excuse to doubt my competence. The last thing I need is for them to get all “Why would we listen to Wendy, she dresses like a 12 year old,” because I’m doing something with my clothes or accessories that is 100% appropriate where I work but not where they work.

      2. Nessun*

        I have a Thule backpack, it has some great pockets & spaces for laptops and tablets and such – and it sits really well on my back. It’s quite sleek, and I use it for business (daily, and when I travel). Definitely would recommend it!

      3. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

        Same here – in NYC and work in finance (but spent some time in some very formal law offices)! I use a faux-leather backpack (simple and black – got it off Amazon for less than $20) as my gym bag (but it has a laptop pouch inside it). I get positive comments on it all the time. I even wore it while interviewing, and it seemed to garner a positive reaction. I also see a lot of women with similar types of backpacks in suits/dressier business attire.

        I would just keep it very simple. Solid color, nothing too bright or eye catching. Just look for a backpack made out of similar materials (and with a similar aesthetic) as a briefcase/laptop bag/tote that you would feel is business appropriate. I’d also look for one that isn’t particularly deep (as in it doesn’t stick out too far from your back) and on the smallish side in general – just to avoid the look of a small schoolchild with a comically oversized backpack.

        This is very similar to the bag I have (thought not the exact one):

        I also kind of like the look of ones with a flap that comes over the top (moves it away from the classic schoolchild backpack) like this:

        There’s also some really nice looking wool backpacks out there. This one seems pretty sleek/sharp:

    2. Emi.*

      I don’t work in a conservative office, but I see lots of people on the metro (DC) in suits and backpacks. I think they’re mostly men, but not exclusively.

    3. Sam.*

      Not cheap, but you might look at Lo & Sons. I’ve had my work bag from there for ages, and my friend with neck/back issues was overjoyed with their backpack options. We both live in cities and get around entirely on public transportation or on foot, so we pretty much live out of them.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        I actually used to have the OMG from Lo & Sons but got rid of it because it hurt my back and also the corners got holes in them after two business trips! I wonder if the quality has improved, because I was livid at the time due to how much I spent on that bag.

    4. Lady Phoenix*

      Since you do have back problems, I would opt for a backpack that is solid colored. Black is the best bet, but Vera Bradley do sell laptop backpacks (Campus Backpack) in solid colors if you want a different color/quilted fabric (red and navy are nice color options).

      Avoid patterns and cheap looking backpacks. If it looks like a crappy $10 kid’s pack, it is gonna look so unprofessional.

      And backpacks are fine for women. If you are gonna be hauling for laptop around for business, you should buy a bag that makes your confortable and happy.

    5. Lady By The Lake*

      I have never seen a woman with a laptop backpack. If it is so big that having an ordinary laptop bag or nice tote isn’t an option, most bank business people and consultants use a roller bag.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        +1. Southeast region here. Plenty of businesswomen (and men) use a roller bag. None above entry level use a backpack.

      2. periwinkle*

        Pacific Northwest here. I see backpacks at the mid-management level and below at my employer (huge corporation); people tend to switch to roller bags as they go up the hierarchy. This is regardless of gender or age. If you’re dressed in business rather than business casual, you’re dragging a bag instead of wrinkling the wool.

        Our corporate laptops are heavy beasts, which may explain why I’ve never seen anyone here carry a messenger bag.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          Yeah I’m in the PNW and everyone carries backpacks. My mom jokes that at the airport she just goes to the gate where everyone has a backpack and that’s the one for my city.

          When I worked for Tech Giant even people at the director and VP level carried backpacks. I never saw our SVP carry anything though. Like literally the man never had anything in his hands unless it was a cup of coffee or his laptop. I have no idea how he transported his stuff — either he had a second set of gear at home and didn’t transport his stuff, or when you made SVP they gave you access to the laptop teleporters. And even at the C-level no one wears a tie unless they have a Very Important Meeting. One of the most senior guys in my org came to work every day in sandals, cargo shorts, and a white t-shirt. In winter he wore white athletic socks with the sandals.

          1. only acting normal*

            I’m guessing the SVP has an assistant of some kind? Our executives have a junior staff member (from the technical ranks) as an assistant; people do it for about a year then come back to technical work. Locally it’s known as being a “bag carrier”. While there’s a lot more to it than that (obviously) there’s a grain of truth to the name!

        2. The New Wanderer*

          Must be a PNW thing – we were issued laptop backpacks when we received laptops, although I did see a variety of roller bags that others chose to use. I still use my backpack when travelling but I really like some of the options posted on this thread!

    6. The Ginger Ginger*

      I have a rolling laptop/overnight bag. It’s got a compartment for tech, but also another compartment with enough room for a change of clothes, pjs, and toiletries. It has a handle to carry like a brief case, but it also has wheels so you can roll it along behind you. Carry on size for flights. It’s GREAT, and I highly recommend it.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        I actually do have a carryon bag with a laptop compartment! Unfortunately these trips are usually 2 1/2 working days plus a travel day so I don’t think all my nonsense will fit in it unless I leave the laptop out of it. :/ Also I’ll be having to schlep my laptop to the client site every day AND leave for the airport directly from the client site — my original plan was to use my existing (bright blue with red trim) backpack for the flight and then get a cheap but nice tote for client site time, but then I realized we’re often going straight from the client site to the airport. Ugh.

        My first trip is going to be to see a particularly difficult, prickly client so I’m obsessing.

        1. NicoleT*

          Can you use the carry-on plus another bag? Think a wide weekender bag (solid color or thick stripe).

    7. Shan*

      I have a convertible leather laptop bag that can be carried like a briefcase or tote, or zip into a rolling suitcase type of thing. I think it’s made by McKlein.

    8. Susan Sto Helit*

      I think a backpack is absolutely acceptable, though if you’re worried you could look for one like this: that can reasonably be taken off the back and carried in looking like a normal-ish bag once you get to the client (I haven’t tried this specific bag myself so can’t comment on its usability, only appearance).

      It might also be worth talking to your company about getting you a smaller laptop (or a tablet-with-keyboard) if you’re going to be transporting it a lot though. There’s no good reason that you should be having to haul a heavy laptop around with you all the time when there are so many lighter options available now.

    9. peachie*

      I think backpacks are fine if you’re mostly carrying a bag at the beginning/end of the day–it might not be the most professional look if you’re frequently carrying it around during the days for meetings, etc., but otherwise I don’t think it would be a problem.

      Otherwise, a laptop bag (or just a bag that fits your laptop) in a neutral leather is always a safe choice.

    10. KC*

      Maybe you can look for a leather lap top backpack. I did some googling and found a few. To me, leather always looks a bit more professional. Another option, depending on your business and work culture, is to look for a professional looking bag on wheels. I googled (again) “wheeled work bag”and found a few really nice looking bags. Now I kind of wish I had a business need for one of those. Hope that helps!

    11. East Coast Transplant from the Pacific NW*

      Depending on where you are on the East Coast, I think a backpack will be…unusual…Particularly if you have a contentious, fragile or new relationship, or are working on a project that requires that you are authoritative and serious. The safer bet will be a tote or briefcase in a conservative color and style. Or even a nice rollerbag, if you have more than just a laptop to carry. There are lots of good suggestions for brands above. But I would advise against bringing anything that looks casual, or outdoorsy, or gear-y, or travel-y. I know this is so boring! But you will feel a lot less self-conscious.

    12. Fiennes*

      I’d go with a messenger bag/backpack combo, one of the bags that can be worn either way. Something in a nice canvas with leather trim will look pulled together without being too fancy for business casual. You can find similar bags for around $50-$60 on Amazon.

    13. Jady*

      I’ve seen a couple women with something like a huge tote bag on wheels. They pulled it around like luggage in an airport, but it could also be carried.

      No idea what it’s called though unfortunately.

    14. Fuzzy Pickles*

      Well… Tumi has a few nice looking backpacks. But I guess I can’t say whether they’re professional in regard to East coast culture since I’m not a part of that. But, if it helps, a large number of people complimented the back pack I bought there.

    15. EmilyG*

      I live on the East Coast and was pretty staunchly opposed to backpacks until my back started really hurting. Then I noticed where I work, many if not most people of both genders carry backpacks, because so many of us walk to work. Will you be in a place where people commute on transit or walk? You’ll see more backpacks compared to a car-dependent place.

      Agree that leather helps it look more formal. I have one from Knomo (Beaux) that I like a lot. If the price seems too high, they seem to go on sale various places like ebags/Amazon regularly.

      1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        I walk in to work 30 mins each way and finally upgraded to a Knomo Reykjavik I got in the sales after Christmas. Its not leather but IS waterproof, which helps, and the carry loops on top are great when I dont want to look like a school kid. Lots of great, handy storage too, especially as I have to essentially carry my work gear with me everywhere (we are in the midst of office move to Extreme Hot Desking – we dont even get stationary anymore so I have to carry my own pens, notepad, calculator kitchen utensils, snacks, and hand cream along with surface pro every day).

        I have known a number of more senior women to carry Knomo laptop bags and smaller backpacks/totes – in black they look very stylish but are more office-worker friendly than some other bags may be.

    16. Mockingjay*

      I’m on the East Coast, and I use a backpack. Mine is emblazoned with the company logo.

      I prefer a backpack to a messenger bag because the bag pulls on my shoulder and back. I can be dressed to the nines and still shrug into the straps. So much better when running through the airport!

      These days laptops and backpacks/bags are so ubiquitous I don’t think which one you use matters much, unless you are on Capitol Hill.

    17. Starbucks Girl*

      East Coast business lady here! I know a lot of people who use backpacks, but they are small, understated, and made from nice materials. My orange hiking backpack with hip straps would definitely be out of place.

      It’s hard to go wrong with a good messenger bag or tote. This is the bag that I use:
      In addition to being professional this bag is also functional, with a durable fabric and enough space to fit my laptop+charger, notebook, purse, water bottle, and snacks. Also, if you still wanted to use a backpack for the travel but have this bag around just for client meetings, you could easily flatten it at the bottom of your suitcase (if you are traveling with both a carry-on and a checked bag).

      Good luck!

    18. blatantlybianca*

      West Coaster here. I use the Tumi Larkin Portola backpack which I don’t think is available anymore. Everlane has really great looking and reasonably priced backpacks.

    19. lsbc*

      If you’re OK with fabric as opposed to leather, I’m a huge fan of ebags – they have a number of laptop backpacks that can be used in backpack form for travel, then tuck the straps away and hook on the shoulder strap so it becomes a briefcase. The features/pockets/etc. are fantastic as well. They’re not dressy but are certainly professional enough for most environments.

      1. AeroEngineer*

        Yes, I have the ebag Professional Slim Laptop Backpack and I really like it for day to day professional work. It doesn’t have a lot of room for things which are not laptop or paper shaped, but you can fit a lot in it, and the profile is low and the color black. Plus, it isn’t so crazy expensive.

    20. Naptime Enthusiast*

      With your back problems I think if you go for a more square, less school backpack-type bag it should be fine. Especially if you’re petite, a regular style backpack can make you look younger and less experienced.

      Kopack is decent good brand for cheaper, their TSA-friendly bags are great for traveling.

    21. Ista*

      I am a woman working as a government contractor in the DC area and travel for work quite a bit. Because of the type of work I do, my laptop is huge (like just barely fits into a TSA bin). Is your laptop work issued? We’re you provided a backpack along with it? I use the backpack provided to me along with the laptop to lug it around both on work trips and on a daily basis. This seems to be the norm at my workplace for both men and women and at the airport especially I tend to see a lot of people with computer branded backpacks.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        My laptop is work-issued but I was not issued a bag to go with it. The laptop is not ridiculously huge but it’s about 4 years old, quite bulky for being a 14-inch laptop, and weighs 5+ pounds. It’s not a big deal for me to carry on its own but when I pile on everything else I need for travel it starts to be rough on my back if I have to carry it for long.

        I’m actually waiting on a new laptop because mine is also a total piece of junk unrelated to its size (it had REALLY low specs when it was made 4 years ago so now it’s barely usable and I have trouble doing things like running Excel and Visio at the same time) but I don’t know if it’ll be any lighter. I’m trying to convince them they should image a super lightweight laptop I have lying around but I doubt it’ll get approved. (I’m bracing for disapproval re: lending my employer my personal hardware, but I have to use this thing 8 hours a day — I’d rather use hardware I like.)

  25. FrustratedZaat*

    My work environment is driving me crazy! My supervisor is great at sending disparaging, annoying, and unproductive emails for the sole purpose of pointing out that you made a mistake, even if you didn’t make one. I’ve already spoken to her about not finding them effective and not getting the tone. They’re BAD, and it hasn’t stopped. One time, I submitted my time card but for some reason it didn’t go through, but I did it, and spoke to her about it. I get an email after I left work “reminding” me to “please submit my time card on time as she’s told me before.” It’s ludicrous. It’s not even her saying that i forgot or reminding me and it’s not a consistent problem with me. And she does this for everything. I want to quit, it’s how bad it is. The other day, she told me I couldn’t do something based on my personal tastes, WHEN I SPECIFICALLY told her it was purely based on company policy. READ your email. I dunno how to handle her, but she makes me want to leave so bad. I’m working on that part. How do I deal with her in the meantime?

    1. Tex*

      Voodoo doll with sharp pins.

      Sorry about your situation. I had a similar experience and it did not turn out well, the documentation was to cover the boss and make it seem as if I was the incompetent one. I would reply to the emails very briefly, neutral in tone, that you did respond to what she asked for in the email below which you are reattaching (copy the relevant part to your new email and change them to bold red). Basically, as annoying as it is, lay a paper trail to protect yourself.

    2. Schnoodle*

      Roll your eyes and move on. Do a good job and don’t let this get to you.

      Trust me when I say there’s much worse out there.

    3. CatCat*

      It definitely sounds like a “your boss sucks and isn’t going to change situation.” She also sounds like the kind of person with the attitude that no matter what you do, you are doing it wrong. There is just no point to arguing or pointing out reality with this type because you are wrong no matter what. The best strategy I have found for dealing with this kind of person is to engage as little as possible and don’t respond to things that don’t actually call for any sort of response.

      “You can’d do things based on personal tastes!” If in an email: ignore comment. If in person, *shrug* “Okay.” then walk away or change the topic if the conversation is not over.

    4. Jady*

      One tip I’ve learned dealing with frustrating people through email – keep your emails as short as possible. Never expect them to read more than one or two sentences.

      Anything longer than that, they will only skim it. When you start hitting paragraphs, it just won’t be read.

      It sounds strange but I’ve found it really useful.

      The only exception is if you’re sending a confirmation of a discussion, which you should also do. They don’t need to read it, they just need to have it so you have proof of your discussions.

  26. DoctorateStrange*

    I had my job interview yesterday and I hope I got it. I was thrown off a bit when a lot of the questions were scenario-based. My last interview only had two, this time around it was five or so. Is this a thing now? I’m not upset or anything, but I am curious if this is a new trend in interviewing.

    1. Inspector Spacetime*

      I think they’re fairly common, but it probably depends on the interviewer.

      1. DoctorateStrange*

        True. For context, I was interviewed in a place where I already work in (I want to be in a different position) and it was different from the last time I was interviewed by them. I will definitely remember that the next time I am interviewed for something. So, I’m taking it as a learning opportunity.

    2. Blue*

      I’m not sure it’s a new trend? I think every interview I’ve ever had has been scenario-heavy, but that might just be my field.

      1. DoctorateStrange*

        I was interviewed in a place where I already work in (I want to be in a different position) and it was different from the last time I was interviewed by them. My field deals with public services, so I will definitely take this as a learning opportunity and refine my answers.

    3. Irene Adler*

      Scenario-based? Do you mean behavioral questions (“tell me about a time when you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with” “Tell me about a time when you had a tight deadline”, Tell me about a time when you failed”, etc.)?

      If so, then yeah, these are a very common type of interview question.

      1. DoctorateStrange*

        It was that combined with “What would you do in this situation”-type questions.

    4. You don't know me*

      By the time I was done interviewing I was so tired of hearing “tell me about a time when…” If you are going to be interviewing more, you should be prepared for them.

      1. DoctorateStrange*

        Oh, absolutely. Luckily, I spent a week reviewing my work history, so when I was asked all these questions, I didn’t pause for more than three seconds.

    5. The New Wanderer*

      It’s possible your company changed their interview process since your first interview there. That happened to me – my interview with the company was a few hours with the hiring manager, and some of that time was spent with the whole team and a separate manager who I would also work with. I don’t remember any traditional interview components, like behavioral questions, it was more of a long conversation with various people coming in and out.

      A few years later I applied for an internal transfer and the interview was way more formal per the new process. A panel of six or so people (peers and managers) asking very structured questions off a standard form.

      I’ve since had some interviews over the past six months that are of the very structured format, using primarily behavioral questions rather than hypotheticals. I haven’t had to do a relevant task type component in over 10 years. It may be field as well as position dependent (I’m in tech on the research side) though. My husband’s types of interviews are mostly white boarding code problems with maybe some conversations about past experience, but he’s on the programming side.

    6. Totally Minnie*

      I think for a lot of positions, these questions are the best way to find out if a candidate will be good at the work. My industry is customer focused and there’s very little routine from day to day. The best way for me to know how a candidate will handle some of the situations I know they’d face as an employee is just to ask.

  27. McWhadden*

    I applied for a job in January using a gmail address I set-up ages ago to sound more professional than my normal one. But I pretty much never ever use it otherwise. Hadn’t heard back and figured nothing came of it. And then a week ago I got an email on that account asking to set-up an interview. I’m so glad I even bothered to check it! It had been months, I didn’t have any other job applications out, and I was expecting a call to set-up an interview. Do people not call to set-up interviews anymore?

    1. k.k*

      Varies by company, but I’ve mostly gotten emails to set up the initial interview. You can set it up so that emails from that account are forwarded to the one you use more regularly so that you don’t miss them. While signed into your professional gmail, go to your settings and click the “Forwarding and POP/IMAP” tab. Click “Add a forwarding address” and put in whatever one you use normally.

    2. Seriously?*

      I’ve only ever had e-mails. I think calls are more difficult, especially since not everyone can take personal calls when at work.

    3. bye bye ms american pie*

      I haven’t gotten calls without e-mails first in a while.

      Btw, you can set your professional gmail account to forward to your regular one, if you’d like. Gear icon -> Settings -> Forwarding. I’ve got a couple accounts that just serve to forward, including one that’s a common typo of my name.

    4. Shan*

      As an aside, you should consider forwarding your professional gmail account to your usual email address so you don’t possibly miss out on things.

    5. You don't know me*

      It varies. Most of the interviews I got were set up via them calling me but there were a couple who emailed asking me to call them to set up the time.

    6. Ashk434*

      Most employers don’t in my experience and thank goodness for that! I personally hate talking on the phone, but emailing first is just so much easier than potentially playing phone tag.

    7. Specialk9*

      You need to forward all your email. (You can find tutorials all over the Web.) An email is so much faster and reliable than a phone call, in my opinion, though of course everyone has preferences. But I’d email every time, not call.

    8. Naptime Enthusiast*

      I prefer emails when reaching out to candidates because there is a written record. If I don’t hear anything I follow up with another email and then a phone call, but emails are my first choice.

  28. Awkward white ally*

    I am white, my manager is African-American. She also happens to be a pretty bad manager, but my coworkers and I do our best and occasionally grumble about her to each other without bringing up race. About six months ago, another white person joined our team. He’s a southern good ol boy type and immediately he started saying coded/mildly racist stuff to me. I was quick to shut him down and decided it wasn’t worth reporting to HR since he’d be able to play dumb about it. He also started venting to me that he doesn’t like the way our manager delivers feedback (none of us do but it has nothing to do with race) but also thinks she nit picks him (she doesn’t, his work is awful and he’s terrible to work with). Two weeks ago they were meeting and we heard them yelling at each other. He came out of the meeting and walked out of the building, I’m assuming to cool off, and when he came back he walked up to me and said “She thinks she can treat me this way just because I’m white and she’s black.” I was completely taken aback and all I said was “I don’t think she’s like that.” I was already certain that he was racist, I am now 100% certain that his racism affects his professional relationship with our manager. So, I after sleeping on it I called HR. The (white) person I talked to said that other people had reported the yelling so they were aware. I told her what he said, both after the meeting and the earlier mildly racist stuff. She said it sounded like he was being unprofessional but not necessarily racist. I told her I disagree, but wasn’t sure what else to say. It’s been bugging me a lot.

    Yesterday he came to me and was visibly upset. He told me someone on our team had reported him to HR as a racist and our manager told HR that he’s made racially charged comments to her in the past. He’s said he’s upset because he has African American relatives so he can’t be racist. He also said “maybe I should be petty and report her to HR for being racist against me because I’m white.” All I said in reply was “reverse racism doesn’t exist” and walked away. Also, I highly doubt she said anything about being white. I’ve worked with her for years and racial stuff has never came up.

    So, I’m wondering: should I report every racist thing he says to HR, or should I drop it since HR doesn’t think he is racist enough?

    1. Ashie*

      If HR doesn’t know about all the racist stuff he does/says, how will they have enough information to know if he’s racist or not?

    2. KayEss*

      I’d start writing down things he says, the date and time, and if anyone else was present. Building up a document trail of the frequency and type of comments will allow you to present one big chunk of less-dismissable evidence, rather than calling HR weekly (daily?).

      1. mediumofballpoint*

        Seconded. As a POC, I would appreciate greatly having an ally like you in my office. Thanks for being thoughtful about this.

    3. Emi.*

      I would document it, but maybe not send every instance to HR at the time. (As a side note, though, “reverse racism” does count in a workplace discrimination sense, or would if she were actually doing it.)

      1. Seriously?*

        Documenting is a good idea. I probably wouldn’t report it again unless it goes up in intensity. They already know about the mildly racist comments so telling them more of the same will only annoy them. If he says something more overt though, it could be worth flagging it or if someone else reports him you can turn in what you have documented along with it.

        I would also say that “reverse racism” doesn’t exist but that is because racism is racism. Technically you can be racist against the majority, it just isn’t as damaging or systemic as racism against a minority.

        1. Totally Minnie*

          In this particular case, though, I don’t think the white employee is being discriminated against based on race so much as he’s experiencing the natural consequences of being a rude, racist jerk.

      2. The Ginger Ginger*

        Workplace discrimination laws prohibit discrimination based on race. Any race. Racism is the belief in the inferiority/superiority of a specific race or races; discrimination (racial discrimination) is the treatment of a race or races unfavorably – often BECAUSE OF racism. So this still isn’t reverse racism.

    4. CatCat*

      He doesn’t think it’s racist to say he thinks someone behaves a certain way because they’re black??

      And HR, OMG. My mind is boggling that HR thinks that is “not necessarily racist.”

      1. Sylvan*

        He didn’t use slurs, so it’s not “like that.”

        (I do not agree with this defense, btw!)

      2. Specialk9*

        But he has family that’s black so he can’t be racist. /s

        (Dumbass. I’m also white, I also have black family members, but of course I struggle with race bc our culture is fundamentally racist. Pretending otherwise is deliberately disingenuous.)

    5. Sylvan*

      White Southerner here, so I should be fairly close to his background.

      Report it to HR. Don’t engage with him face-to-face on the subject of race. If he brings it up, tell him to drop it/shut up/etc. If he won’t let it go, walk away from him if it’s possible.

      He’s not going to listen unless he has a compelling reason to. Compelling reasons to listen: 1. Realizing nobody likes his behavior. 2. HR.

    6. Linyarri*

      From what I’ve read here I would not bring this up to HR. It almost sounds like he is misinterpreting her actions as discrimination rather than just bad management. However not being there it is hard for me to tell. In the hopes that he is just taking this the wrong way, you might want to redirect his comments into a more probable explanation. i.e. mentioning that what he sees as discrimination may just be a crappy manager or relate experiences of other minorities with bad boss (if appropriate).

      For what it is worth I have dealt with something like this before in a much less toxic situation. My husband used to make comments about African Americans and welfare. I always responded with some variation of “I don’t think that’s a race thing, I think that is a poverty thing. After all there are plenty of white people in the same position who do the same thing”. He no longer makes comments like this and I’ve seem him use my argument against others making similar comments.

    7. Mobuy*

      I disagree on the documenting. You are not in a position of authority over him, and continually looking for evidence of his racism will just make you hypersensitive to anything he says. Definitely don’t allow him to say racist things and plan on reporting anything egregious. But do you really want to be in a position where you write down every could-be-racist thing your coworker says? That sounds miserable and also unproductive.

      1. Lara*

        Seems like a pretty productive way to get a racist off your team to me. And if he’s saying things often enough that OP would be made ‘miserable’ by documenting them, it’ll likely be a quick process.

  29. Lucie*

    We just got a new handbook update that in our new building we’re moving to that personal cell phones will be banned and we are to use our work phones for personal emergencies and anyone caught with a personal cell phone can be disciplined up until termination. It’s pretty out of norm for our industry and just really weird… (we’re a big industry and 95% salaried workers) but it’s kinda upsetting to just be given this and like. Here – please sign this now and saying you agree.

    1. SoCalHR*

      It may be that personal cell phones have become a really big problem. Or, that management thinks it may be a big problem and has updated the policy just to be safe. It also could be one of those things where they write the policy strictly but don’t enforce is so strictly until they have to. Just some thoughts from the ‘other side’ of the handbook :-)

    2. Sapphire*

      You can be prejudiced against white people, but racism depends on a societal structure based on white supremacy, so reverse racism isn’t a thing.

    3. You don't know me*

      I’ve only ever heard of that where people are working with highly sensitive information. At OldJob there was a department that was on super lock down. Everyone had a locker outside the official office and everything was put in your locker. It was also paperless. But if that is not your situation then yes, this is weird.

      At another previous job we were allowed to keep our phones with us but they were not allowed to be out on the desk and you were only allowed to use them on your official break time.

      1. Lucie*

        We’re an R&D center so the actual issue is the camera but it’s pretty industry standard that like… you need tape on them for one of our customers (The others don’t care) — but now our breakrooms and everything are in the secure area of the new building so it’s pretty annoying.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          This isn’t too rare in R&D. I presume personal storage devices (thumb drives, backup disks, anything that connects via USB and Bluetooth) are already banned, and all computer interfaces either disabled or strictly logged? And sometimes it’s not just an IP issue but also a compliance issue.

          So if this was a decision, I don’t think you can realistically expect they reverse it. However, if, as you seem to imply, the actual sensitive zone is only a part of the building, and especially if there are people who work all day in the non-sensitive part only, maybe there’s an opportunity for in some form banding together and submitting a request to tighten up the zone, and also to provide storage for individual devices outside it. If you have to rely on your work phone even for private emergency calls while you’re working inside the zone, but, for example, are able to check your personal device during breaks easily, there might be a compromise that reduces impact on the employees.

    4. Samiratou*

      Are there other tenants in the new building that have access to sensitive information, so it’s a condition of the lease that cell phones be banned? That’s about the only reason I can think of for a full cell phone ban, in a new building. Something about the building rules prohibit them, likely for risk of people accessing or taking pictures of some sensitive content or something like that.

      1. Lucie*

        It’s just our building and “secure areas” but everyone other then admin is in the “secure area” including the bathrooms and break “room” on an open office plan.

    5. Annie Moose*

      Wait, can you not even have personal cell phones in the building? What, you have to leave them in your car or something?? That seems pretty extreme!

      1. NacSacJack*

        Not really. I have a relative who worked for a civilian contractor for the military after she retired. They banned personal cell phones in the building and she did have to leave hers in her car. She complained her kids and husband would forget and text her personal cell phone instead of calling her office phone when they needed to communicate.

        It’s too easy to slip your phone out, take a snapshot of sensitive data, and tuck it back in your pocket quickly, even in an open plan office.

        1. Beatrice*

          Yep, I went to a couple of interviews like that for a DoD contractor, once upon a time. In the first interview, the receptionist took my phone and locked it away when I arrived. The second time, I knew what to expect and left my phone in my car.

    6. Friday*

      That’s so weird. Is there a bigwig at your company who grumbles about “OMG THEEZ MILLENNIALS PLAYING ON THEIR PHONES” when you’re actually returning work email, texting daycare, etc. etc.

  30. Red Psycho*

    Hello, I am hoping someone can give me some advice on how to determine a career path.

    I am a 22 year old woman. I have very minimal college education and no degree due to personal/financial reasons.

    I currently work in a manufacturing wharehouse, and I am extremely unhappy with my job. The work itself does not bother me, but it is an extremely toxic environment, and the schedule is not what I was told it would be.

    I have been job searching and looking towards going back to school. This is where my trouble comes in. I am unsure of what kind of jobs to look for and what sort of education I want. I am currently looking for work in the same field I am currently working in, as I feel it is the only field in which I have enough experience to get a full time job, and I have no issue continuing in this industry while I further educate myself.

    But I can’t figure out what to study. This is part of the reason I never finished college. I could never find something I’m passionate enough about to invest the time and money it would take to get a degree.

    I read Allison’s very early article about figuring out what you can’t not do and finding a job that requires those skills. (Here is a link for those confused as to what I’m talking about: ). However, I can’t seem to think of any skills or things that I can’t keep myself from doing.

    Tl/Dr I am trying to determine a career path, but I cannot figure out anything I am passionate enough about or excel at enough to persue as a long term career. Can anyone give me advice or tatics that I may not have thought about?

    I would also like to ask if anyone has any strategies for job hunting in a small town. What sort of jobs are out there that might not require a degree (besides the obvious customer service, wharehouse, etc. type jobs)?

    1. LibraryRaptor*

      I really liked the book Designing Your Life. It gave me some great exercises to do to figure out what I wanted to get out of work, what kinds of things I truly enjoyed doing, and brainstorming ways to move forward.

    2. Administrator excellante*

      What about looking at a job board focused on your town and seeing what jobs people are hiring for? You might see something that looks interesting and you can take it from there. I would focus on the types of jobs that there are multiple listings for. As Alison has said, not all jobs are going to fulfill a passion, some are just jobs, so maybe you should instead focus on finding a job you can do for a long time, that pays well and is always hiring (nursing for instance).

    3. Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins*

      Have you considered trade school versus traditional college? Trade schools cost a lot less and there are lots of opportunities in the trades. Of course, if you want a four-year traditional degree, go for it! I don’t have much advice as far as figuring out what you want to study, because my main priority was to get a degree as fast as possible and get into a an entry level position where the requirement is just to have any bachelor’s degree (I work for the US Government). For me, I have a tolerable job, where I make money to pursue things I enjoy outside of work.

      Sorry if this was ramble-y and unhelpful! I hope you get better advice from everyone else, but the important thing is that you are figuring things out and the AAM community is a good place to look!

    4. grace*

      Can you try temping in different offices? My first thought was going towards dental hygiene or something similar, but that requires an AA degree — if you work in an office first to get a feel for what they do and how you feel about it, maybe you could head towards something there.

      Or take some online quizzes to see what you might be good at – maybe something will strike a chord. After you do that, I’d recommend asking if you can do an informational interview with people in various careers that sound like a good fit to you, and asking what they might recommend.

    5. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      Well, I keep hearing that the trades are desperate for workers, and in general there are places that are desperate for workers. Would you be interested in electrical, plumbing, construction, etc? I’ve been told that you can get paid apprenticeships. Would you be willing to relocate to somewhere that has a labor shortage?

    6. OtterB*

      If you like the work in the warehouse though not the current environment, you might look at a degree in business perhaps specializing in logistics or something like that. A business degree would give you some flexibility for jobs with small businesses.

      If you expect to stay in the same small town, I agree with the suggestion to look at the types of jobs that are being posted, see what you think might appeal to you, and what the qualifications would be.

      Is there a community college? Sometimes they are well connected with what local employers want.

      If you’re reasonably comfortable with math, there are manufacturing technology jobs that employers can find hard to fill but that work on technical education or apprenticeship rather than a degree.

    7. Natalie*

      It might help to think of it as chosing something you’ll like more than what you’re doing now, rather than trying to pick the perfect career for the whole rest of your life. If you do nothing, you stay in warehouses or retail or whatever, if you pick something, you get to do something more interesting than that.

    8. Sunshine Brite*

      Correctional officer? It takes strong boundaries and sense of self. There’s a chance of traumatization similar to first responders or police but tends to be stable work with minimal education requirements.
      Home health, childcare/paraprofessional.

      As far as a career path, consider areas of interest and try to figure out from there. If there are limited resources in your town, are there other or bigger towns within a reasonable commute? Is there anything that peaks your interest more than others?

    9. You don't know me*

      I’ve only ever heard of that where people are working with highly sensitive information. At OldJob there was a department that was on super lock down. Everyone had a locker outside the official office and everything was put in your locker. It was also paperless. But if that is not your situation then yes, this is weird.

      At another previous job we were allowed to keep our phones with us but they were not allowed to be out on the desk and you were only allowed to use them on your official break time.

      1. You don't know me*

        That posted to the wrong person! Here is yours:
        When job searching be open to anything (with reason of course). When I was a teenager I applied to be a cashier at a supermarket. They called and said they weren’t hiring cashiers but did I want to work in the bakery. When I was going to school to be a teacher I got offered a job in a daycare working with 2 year olds. Not exactly what I was looking for but I took it. During my most recent job search I was looking for accounting positions. Again, I got called for an interview and was told it was for payroll, not accounting and would I be interested?

    10. HR Girl*

      This was my problem as well. Tried out two different majors before settling on HR. I took a lot of those free online quizzes to see what career your personality/skills would work best in and HR was in my top 5 every time. I researched the field and met with a career counselor at the local technical college. From there I sort of bounced the idea off of friends and family to see if they could see me in HR. I went back to the tech college and I applied for their Human Resource Management program. I earned my associate degree and took some temp HR jobs just to gain some experience and now a about a year from earning my degree I have a stable (non-temp) job as an HR Assistant! I’m 23 right now but when I was 22 I felt so behind because all of my friends were graduating with bachelor’s degrees when they were 22 and I hadn’t even completed my associate degree. It can be hard but I would start with those quizzes because I have no idea where I would be if I hadn’t taken them.

    11. Lily Rowan*

      On the question of what to study, for most general office-type jobs, the degree is more a credential than anything else, so all you need is to be able to check the box that says you have it. So in that case, I wouldn’t worry so much about what you’re studying.

      And I feel like most people I know didn’t know what long-term career they would be in until they started working. It might take a few tries to get there! But if you can get the entry-level job, then you see what the career might look like. Like, I bet the customer service, warehouse type places in your area have HR departments. The HR department probably has an entry-level position that might require a degree, but no specific experience. If you can get that job, you can see if HR is for you, and also get a look into the management of the actual work.

      I don’t know if any of this is helpful, but good luck to you!

    12. Red Psycho*

      Thank you to everyone’s advice! I have considered some trades. The nature of my job is that I often have to fix minor problems on the machine I operate and, to my great surprise, this is one of the aspects of my job that I enjoy the most. It seems I have discovered that I enjoy figuring out the solution to a problem and fixing it. I believe this is true both when working with my hands and my head.

      I have also always been a fairly creative person. I love creative writing, photography, etc.

      Some of the things I have been thinking over involve mechanical/electrical work, graphic design, and software engineering.

      I do admit, I don’t know much about these fields so if anyone has any insight, I’m happy to listen

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        If you like working with fancy equipment and solving problems, I would recommend looking into analytical chemistry. There are certificate and associates programs you can complete in a year to see if you like the field.

      2. Free Meerkats*

        Don’t go for a four year degree unless you need one in your chosen profession – not a popular opinion these days, but IMO, it’s true. You can easily run up 6 figures debt getting your degree in Western Asian Rattan-based Guanaco Pack Saddle Weaving, but you’ll never find a job doing that.

        You enjoy working on the machines and problem solving. How about CNC machinist? Or Tool & Die making? Entry level apprentice or trade school requirements are usually HS or GED and a reasonable math ability. You’ll work with both your hands and your head.

        1. Natalie*

          Although it’s also worth noting that some trade schools are also extremely expensive, while plenty of private colleges give away a lot of aid and could be cheaper. Definitley look at what your specific cost of attendance will be rather than assuming the state school will be cheap or whatever.

          All of that said, you might also look at building trades (electrical, plumbing etc) which can frequently be accessed through a paid apprenticeship program. Particularly if you’re unionized, they frequently have great benefits as well. Women are still less common in the trades, but not unknown, and there may be programs available to you as they are needing to diversify these days.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        There are real pitfalls to making a passion your work, especially in creative fields. Those tend to be more gig-based than steady jobs, and you get no benefits such as health insurance. Entry-level work is often absurdly low-paid. It smacks of inherent privilege for people to say “do what you love” in those instances, because unless you have a trust fund or a well-off spouse, most people can’t afford to take a year off to write a novel, for example.

        If you know what you’re good at and what you like, that’s half the battle. I’m kinda jealous of people who can do things like mechanical or electrical engineering. You can make good money doing that. If you enjoy the work and you can make a living at it, that’s fantastic.

      4. J.B.*

        Trade school or community college. If you like this sort of problem solving, I would recommend trying some entry level computer science courses. You can look into networking, helpdesk type stuff, data science, or supply chain – my local community college has pathways for all 3.

      5. Specialk9*

        There’s a book called Shop Class As Soul Craft that makes a good argument that the trades are a better long term bet than white collar work, and require more smarts. It turned my ideas about the world on their head.

    13. Eye of Sauron*

      The first advice I’m going to give is to forget about passion for your career/job. It’s overrated, start for interesting and pays the bills :) After you get to a better than where you are place you can focus on passion.

      So, as far as careers in your field, maybe look at manufacturing scheduling, technical setup, logistics, procurement/supply chain, order/account management, quality. These are the closest careers (I think) to where you probably are now. Some of them you can get your foot in the door without a degree or with an associates.

      Another thought outside your current area would be to look for something like an admin or office manager or insurance agency. Both could open the door up to different possibilities and once again pay the bills while you go to school and/or figure out where you want land.

      The last thing is, if you are generally happy with the warehouse/manufacturing work, try to find another job that doesn’t have the same issues/environment as you have now. Not sure if that’s possible in your area, but sometimes the people can make or break the job.

      1. Red Psycho*

        Thanks for the advice! “Interesting but pays the bills” is pretty much where I am now. I could stand to make a bit more money I suppose, but I am looking into other similar jobs in my area, as you suggested, and hoping to find one with slightly better pay.

        However, for the most part, I am making enough, but I feel stagnant, and I want something more. That is why I am looking at going back to school and trying to figure out what would be a good fit.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Taking the path of least resistance, why not check the job openings at your own company. Since you are familiar with the production side, you might be a handy person to have in another department. They may be willing to slide you over if it means they can keep you. Pick something that you know is within your skill set you know that you usually figure out A or B comes easy for you.

    14. Queen of Cans & Jars*

      Chiming in as a fellow small town-er: the main jobs here are warehouse work, medical-related, truck driving, working at the casino(s), or trades. I have a masters’ degree, but if I’d known I was going to end up living in a small town, I would have skipped that altogether. There really is very little to do out here that requires a bachelors’ or higher. I’d suggest focusing on trade school or community college. We have a Honda plant in our area, and as a result our community college system has really gotten behind manufacturing technology, and speaking as someone who hires for a manufacturing plant, I really really can’t wait until those folks graduate. I know you’re not too interested in working in a warehouse, but I think that if you can get some additional training (technology, logistics, etc.) you would be able to move into a higher level position, which is better pay & way better job security.

      I hate to be a downer, but if you’re committed to staying put, I’d start with what jobs are available and work back from there, as opposed to pursuing something your passionate about. I absolutely love where I live and wouldn’t trade it for anything, but I’ve had to recalibrate my expectations for what makes a good job and find my passion elsewhere.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. Figure out what you are naturally good at and put yourself somewhere you stand a good chance of doing well.

    15. LabTech*

      Having just gotten out of the educational life after 11 years (with a Bachelors degree, FINALLY), I can tell you that community colleges and trade schools are where it’s at right now. I got a 2 year associates of general science, went on to try to break into Biotech at a university (it was.. not a great fit) in several different programs and got caught up in the inter-state credit transfer hole, as well as in a bunch of educational debt. I finally ended up in a 2 year program for my field and started working right away.

      My field: I currently work in medical laboratory science, and I’d never even heard of it before. It’s a specialty field that you can get into in just 2 years at a community college (MLT), and you can continue on and finish your Bachelors if you choose (formerly known as MT, now MLS), if you have management aspirations or want to further your education. Depending on your state, you may or may not need licensure afterwards, but there is a national certification exam at the end. And depending on where you live, you start out making fairly decent money. The field is hurting for techs, and there are more retirees than there are graduates coming out of the college programs these days. You won’t ever get the glory or money of nursing, since you’re not public-facing, but you can do some amazing work behind the scenes. You can work in a hospital, a physician office lab, a blood bank (American Red Cross, for example), in forensics, and even in research, where I currently am. There is a wealth of possibilities.

      There’s a lot of other tech school/community college programs, too, but that’s been my experience in this particular industry, and I highly encourage anyone that might be even mildly interested to give it a look. These days, it seems to be a lot less about doing what you love, and a lot more about doing what you find tolerable and that pays the bills. I got very lucky in doing something I discovered that I love. Maybe you will, too.

    16. Red Psycho*

      Thanks once again for all the helpful advice! I love this community and how supportive it is! I am going to reread through these comments and give them much consideration. I believe I am going to continue to consider either a degree in some kind of computer based field or a trade as some sort of mechanic.

      I still have a little ways to go before I will be financially ready to further my education so for now I am going to continue my job search and think all these things over as I try to gain experience and skills where I can.

      Anymore advice, is still appreciated!

      1. ScoutFinch*

        Check with your local or state employment agency. Here, we have something called WIN – Workforce Investment N….something. Basically, you take 6 weeks of classes on all aspects of working. Working on a team, problem solving, conflict resolution..all kinds of stuff. Representatives from manufacturers that CANNOT GET ENOUGH qualified workers sit in on some classes. At the end of the six weeks, students are picked by the manufacturers and trained to whatever the factory needs. Industrial maintenance is an area that would fit your skills well. Someone has to maintain all this high tech machinery (which is most all computer driven these days).

        Good luck!

    17. Brooklyn99wasCancelled*

      If you are looking to building on your current job experience — it is possible to get a degree/certification in Procurement, in Materials Management, Warehouse Management, not to mention Manufacturing or Quality Assurance.

      It is fine to want to be passionate about your career. But there are very few jobs that fall into the passion category (does any one dream of being a Contracting Specialist II, or find their joy in life is Insurance?)

      If you can’t find a passion, then look for something that plays to your strengths – if you are paid well enough, you can use the money to fund a passionate hobby, or passionate travel. Go to your local college (you do not have to be a student) and see if you can speak with a counselor regarding areas of study. Go to the library and research up and coming jobs.

      Do you like working within systems (grouping things together, creating order, working within a set of standards/rules); do you want your work to have a human element (helping people with problems, providing education, improving peoples conditions); do you prefer to work in groups (collaborative work) or do you prefer to work alone (coding will allow for either). Do you want to work for a company or for yourself? Do you want to specialize in a field (plumber) or do you want a degree something that can be used in various fields (project management)?

    18. Specialk9*

      I don’t think people *should* study based on passion, but on practicality. What’s a career you like well enough, that has lots of jobs in lots of places, that pay well?

      Right now, you’re in a warehouse, and that’s tough work and ripe for abuse. I’d suggest you focus on office skills rather than college – typing, using Microsoft Word and a little Excel. Go for temp office jobs — learn about different careers, ask for extra work and then *check* that you did it right 3-4 times before you turn it in. (I’m a manager – giving someone a boring small task is one way I figure out if I can trust them with something bigger.)

      Pursue certifications. General ones like Microsoft, or a tool that your office uses that’s common.

      Cybersecurity is a hot field now, and they often need people to work in the ops centers. (This requires you to work for a bigger corp.) If your company has a cybersecurity team, tell your manager that you’re interested in getting cybersecurity training and see if work will pay for it. (I know some guys who took an intensive course and came out making nearly $100k, though in a big city.)

    19. I'm FIFTY!*

      I’m in a small town, and understand the challenges you’re facing. 2 suggestions:
      1. I would strongly encourage you to reach out to your local community college. They will have resources around identifying your skills and interests and matching them with careers – and can help you match these to their educational options – whether that’s career and technical training (accounting, business admin, welding, machinist, etc.) or a more traditional associates degree and transfer option.
      2. The college will also have a career center – or can connect with the local public agency for support in job hunting. Local agencies (Work Source is the name here in Oregon) know the local job market and the major employers.
      Good Luck!

    20. krysb*

      I was in the exact same spot when I was 22. With luck and a lot of hard work, I fell up into my job at an e-discovery organization. Then, using my interests in improving my department and creating and enacting plans and learning new skills, I moved up. Now, at 33, I am finally finishing my business degree and will be moving further into management and business development. It’s been a slow, hard process. At times I worked 90 hour weeks between three jobs. My 20s were the absolute WORST. I have no real tips for you, but I wish you the best of luck!

    21. Student*

      You aren’t passionate about manufacturing warehouse work, either. So, why do you need to be passionate about your career? Find your passion in your hobbies or other non-work pursuits if there are no careers you are passionate about. Lots of other people do this; most people aren’t passionate about their jobs. They want some mix of enough money to pay for their needs, more money to pay for their wants, an acceptable work schedule, an acceptable work location, and some preferred level of work stress. So, look for that instead when you pick your field of study.

      So, figure out:
      (1) What core skills you already have. Are you good at math? Writing? Computers? Persuading people? A good memory? Something else? Any core skill you are already good at can help narrow you down from “all of the things humans have invented a degree for” to “things I’m already kind of good at so I won’t be instantly frustrated by”.
      (2) Figure out your personal balance of job-restricting issues – work location, money needs, work stress you’ll put up with. Some of us are happy to risk our lives regularly to get paid big bucks. Some of us really want to live by Aunt Gertrude so we can visit regularly. Some of us really want a job that pays a living wage but leaves us with personal time and little work stress. And so on.
      (2a) Once you’ve got that worked out, look for inspiration on fields that meet your specifications. If you