open thread – May 25-26, 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.

{ 1,356 comments… read them below }

  1. stej*

    I recently secured a job offer, and I’m esctatic! This is going to be my third job, and this resignation was SO different from the first one, which was a total dumpster fire. (Almost literally… there was literally a dumpster fire at my last job.)

    My question is this — I met someone who will soon be my colleague, and she is like a boundless well of energy. She seems really fun, is doing like 50 million things all the time, and has a very exuberant, strong personality.

    I’ve met people like this before, and while I am in awe of their energy, I often can feel smothered really quickly. I consider myself a social introvert (ISFJ, if you’re into it) and in the presence of strong extroverts can find myself getting quieter and quieter because my brain is racing to try and process everything that’s happening. Often, I can see them getting nervous that I’m not saying anything, and I worry that I come across poorly. I’m also just worried I won’t be able to keep pace!

    Does anyone have advice for introverts working with strong extroverts? How can I collaborate effectively with them while avoiding feeling smothered myself?

    1. WellRed*

      Hmm, I am similar in the social introvert thing. I feel like those super extroverts don’t even notice half the time if someone else is quiet, but I get what you mean.

      1. Justin*

        Well, my wife is like you, and to the comment above, we do notice! Personally I often get nervous I am boring/annoying them when they go silent, so can make it worse by trying to find some other topic that will make them engaged. But, what helps is if you can plan our chat time? Like arrange to get coffee (or whatever) every so often, accept that it will be a blur but with a limited timeframe much easier to handle.

    2. HigherEd Person*

      It’s good that you recognize the differences b/w the two of you. Go for coffee or grab lunch, and get to know her on an individual basis. You do NOT NEED to keep up with her. You are you, and she is her – and each are great in their own way. You process information differently, you recharge your batteries differently. And that’s cool! Just communicate it clearly. “So, I process internally, and I’d like some time to think about this. Can I get back to you later today?”
      Just listen, let E’s talk, and nod along, making appropriate “I’m listening” noises. I work with SO MANY E’s and that’s what I do. They want to be heard, but their brains are racing, and many E’s process verbally. That’s cool!
      You’ll get tanlged up if you keep trying to compare yourself to an extrovert, and that’s not helpful. You are who you are, and that’s your strength.

    3. SpaceNovice*

      There’s advice online that can probably delve into more detail on how to do this, but the gist is basically: let them know your needs. State your preferences in a way that says there’s nothing wrong with them OR you, but that you need a little more space and quiet. I’ve surprised myself in recent years by realizing I’m actually some form of extrovert, and I’ve had people ask me to tone it down in the past, and I haven’t minded it at all. We don’t like tiring people out, so it’s good to know what we can do to help. She might even have been told this before and know exactly what to do.

      Your soon-to-be coworker sounds really great and congratulations on the new job, btw!

    4. Nanc*

      The Introvert Advantage by Marti Laney has a great chapter on introverts at work. Your local library may have a copy–either traditional dead tree or in e-book format. The great thing about the book is you can read the intro and then just skip around to the chapters that interest you.

    5. Nita*

      This is not easy advice for an introvert, but being up-front about your personality difference may help. Maybe bring it up over lunch, or coffee. They’re sure as anything not going to notice unless you point it out, but once you do, it may be a little easier to later say “hey, back off a little, I can’t get a word in here!” or “can we chat later? sorry, I’m in the middle of something and don’t want to lose my focus!”

    6. Susan Sto Helit*

      Start by making up your mind to like her. It makes SO much difference to go into it with a positive mindset. Determine to yourself that you are going to like her and enjoy the energy that she brings to the workplace, rather than finding it annoying/tiring.

      You might find that she’s actually quieter when actually working, and was just enthusiastic to meet her new colleague. But every business needs a mix of people anyway – it’s entirely likely you’ll find that your skills complement each other really well (example: I had a working partnership on a committee with an introvert. She had the organisational skills that I dislike; I had the networking skills that she struggled with, so I was the one who handled that part of things and would then make the introductions and bring her into the conversation. It worked out really well for both of us).

      Have headphones for when you need quiet time, because we all do sometimes. It’s fine to feel exhausted by extended social interaction. But I hope it will be better than you think. And good luck with your new job!

      1. Washi*

        I agree with this. I met one of my best friends at work and had a similar first impression – she’s very bouncy, has a ton of enthusiasm and energy, and at first I found her absolutely exhausting. But because I knew we were going to work really closely together, I went in wanting to find things to like about her. I noticed how people responded to her energy, how that helped her build relationships, and also how she used her extrovert skills to draw quieter people like me out. And because she was so open with me, I quickly felt comfortable being open with her about our very different communication styles, like “fyi I am also super excited about this project, I just don’t show it quite the way you do!”

      2. stej*

        I like this. And I do like her! She is bouncy and fun in all the ways I’m not usually, and I can tell she’ll be a really fun colleague once I start working there. Thanks for the advice.

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

        (example: I had a working partnership on a committee with an introvert. She had the organisational skills that I dislike; I had the networking skills that she struggled with, so I was the one who handled that part of things and would then make the introductions and bring her into the conversation. It worked out really well for both of us).

        I had the exact same scenario with a volunteer group. I am right there in the middle of introvert/extrovert so the whole being the voice of our group was easier for me than the woman I worked with who is a full on, 100% introvert. The first year we worked together (we met once a week) she barely spoke up but dang, she got all that paperwork filed before it was even a thought in my head. By the time our second year of working together rolled around she was in her comfortable spot and willing to do some of the social stuff allowing me to be more quiet (my preferred place).

    7. Emilitron*

      I sometimes think of having a social timer (like the Pomodoro system if you’re familiar) – throw myself into being as interactive and extraverted as I can for a fixed period of time, then say “okay, I have to take a quiet break, I’m going to go ___”. As others said, make up your mind to like her, and to enjoy the interactions as much as possible. For me, there are definite tasks that are good to accomplish during “extravert time” and tasks that are obvious placeholders for alone-time, and though I relish the quiet when I get time to think alone, I also feel good about just accomplishing a lot in a whirlwind. To make sure your goodwill attempt to use/enjoy the energy doesn’t turn into you gritting your teeth indefinitely and them not noticing how much you’re working at it, you’ll need to speak up and actually say something. Tricky trying to make it clear that this is not your native social language, without setting up a situation where you’re acting all apologetic, or where she’ll feel like she needs to apologize, but that’s where appreciating her style in short segments comes in.

    8. periwinkle*

      Agreeing with the others who recommended letting her know what your needs are. If both sides are ready to be accommodating, it can be a successful and even fun partnership!

      When I first joined my current employer, I was teamed with the extrovert to beat all extroverts. Chatty, enthusiastic, intelligent, charismatic, literally bouncing around – how the hell am I (INTJ) going to deal with this? We talked it out very early and figured out a rhythm. In the end we were a well-balanced team, and we’re still friends even though we’ve moved on to other projects.

    9. Windchime*

      The same thing happens to me when I am faced with an extreme introvert and I can literally feel myself shutting down due to being overwhelmed with non-stop sensory input. Fortunately, this doesn’t usually happen in work situations and I can leave or check out for awhile. When I am at work, I usually put on my headphones and listen to white noise so I can have a little mental space.

      Congrats on the new job!

    10. LDP*

      I’ve probably been labelled the bouncy, energetic, extroverted coworker on more than one occasion. As others have mentioned, definitely try to hone in on your active listening type skills. Just nodding your head and making small comments to show that you’re listening and interested can go a long way. The good news is that in a work context I think most people will understand if you need to back out of a conversation by needing to get back to work. I was matched up with an extreme introvert as a roommate once. We’re still really good friends, but holy cannoli were there some growing pains of us getting used to how the other one operated.

    11. MissDissplaced*

      I think sometimes you just have to open up about it a little bit. When you have a few quiet moments together you casually mention that you really admire her energy, but you’re a bit more introverted yourself. I think most people will tend to get that.

    12. Argh!*

      Two of them would be a disaster as would a pair of you. Embrace the differences! Having someone who is unlike me in my unit always makes me feel that there’s [that thing] I can trust them to run with and that will relieve me of the burden.

    13. foolofgrace*

      I don’t think it has to be a big prolonged “thing” like coffee or lunch. I would just say to her, “You know, I really envy your enthusiasm! [give her a compliment right up front to smooth the way.] But I’m a more quiet person, so if I don’t get as pumped up as you do, that doesn’t mean I’m not enthusiastic, it just means I process things differently, so please don’t be put off by my quietness.” Takes two minutes. Job done.

  2. Emma*

    Extremely over my current job. I got reprimanded by my boss for having my phone out at 9:07am yesterday, literally less than 10 minutes after walking into the office (because #optics apparently.) Also, when the other assistant & I mentioned in a team meeting that we both wanted to potentially stay long-term, but it didn’t seem like there was a growth track for us & that we felt like in order to move forward with our careers we would have no other option but to leave, her response was “sometimes you have to move laterally.” (Some context: there’s been a morale/culture problem on my team & in my office for a while, so we were discussing how to improve things. The comment wasn’t just out of the blue.) Needless to say, I’m trying to get out of here by the end of the summer.

    1. WellRed*

      Well, maybe you’ll “move laterally” right on out from the company. With a boss like yours, I am not surprised there’s a morale problem.

      1. Emma*

        That’s the plan! And if she complains about having to find my replacement, I have nothing to say other than that she did this to herself.

    2. Alternative Person*

      I understand this. There’s no upward path for people at work and there are a few staff so entrenched in the (relatively decent) gravy train that trying to changing anything runs you straight into a wall of bile and misery. I’m plotting my escape. Hope you get out soon!

    3. mako*

      I’m sorry. Sounds like your boss isn’t really willing to actually tackle the morale problem, especially if their answer to you talking about retention is to suggest you move out, without anything else. Huh.

      1. Emma*

        She really isn’t- it’s like screaming into the void. And that comment just made me want to hand her a resignation letter right then & there.

    4. Lemon Zinger*

      We must work at the same place! Unfortunately the nature of my work means that if I left my current employer, I’d have to move states, and that’s not currently possible due to my partner’s job (which takes priority since he’s much better paid).

      I proposed making a lateral move myself and management wasn’t terribly enthusiastic until I pointed out how my special skill set will make me much better at the job than the person who previously held the role. I have a different boss now, and although she’s not perfect, she is certainly a step up from my previous manager!

      Good luck to you with your job-searching!

      1. Leela*

        I’d hate to think of you sticking in a bad job because your partner makes more money! I assume you would have thought of this so pardon if it’s obvious but is his job not the kind that could be found in a state you’d move into for your work?

        I think that him making more money is definitely something to consider, but I don’t think you should have to suffer through a terrible work experience indefinitely because of it.

  3. Wondering...*

    Six years post-college and five years working as administrative support, I am trying to think about where I go from here. There are a lot of things that interest me but it’s all things I don’t have much transferable experience for. I’m debating leaving my full time job to devote more time to either taking to complete classes/certification and/or part-time or volunteer more in what interests me.

    I feel burned out from the last few years of work and feel like getting a little distance and trying something new would be good for me, help point me more in the direction I want to go. But I worry how that period will translate on my resume. Would it make me look flakey or like a job-hopper if I’m testing a few different markets?

    1. JanetM*

      Would it be possible for you to temp for a while? I don’t know what you’re looking for or if those fields offer temp positions, but if you could, you could get experience with different companies without looking like a job-hopper (in my opinion, but I’m not a hiring manager or HR professional and could be wrong).

      1. Jadelyn*

        I’m an HR professional who got into this field via a temp job, so…I don’t think having a period of temp work on your resume is a problem. You note it down all under one company, the staffing agency, with a sublist of some of your assignments so that it’s clear what the relationship is between the two things.

        My only caution about temping would be that there’s no stability – you can go weeks or even months without an assignment – and it can be hard to break into as a frequently-used temp (vs being technically on their list, but rarely getting assignments). The pay is also lower than you’d expect for comparable non-temp positions, at least in my experience.

        But, if you’ve got some savings built up and are willing to deal with those things, it’s not a bad thing to do for awhile. It definitely does help you see more of the work world, so to speak – I worked at a medical device company, a malpractice insurer, a general contractor owned by a Native tribe, a regular for-profit general contractor, and a credit union. I did accounting for the second general contractor, office management for the first general contractor, operations administration for the malpractice insurer (and I knew another temp who stayed there longer than I did and who got into the actual underwriting as an assistant), and then HR for the credit union, which I fell in love with and decided to go back to school for. The credit union “bought me out” from the staffing agency, I got my degree in HR Management, and I’ve been working here for over 4 years.

        So it can be a good way to get exposure to more of the work world and see the possibilities, but a lot of that will depend on getting assignments at companies that are actually good to their temps and let them learn stuff (some companies are *jerks* to their temps and treat you like disposable peons) – and of course on being able to financially make it through potential dry spells.

        1. Detective Right-All-The-Time*

          Hello fellow HR-at-a-credit-union-thanks-to-a-temp-job-that-turned-permanent! I will always advocate for temping when trying to break into HR. It worked wonders for me, and helped me find the exact type of company I wanted to work for and learn this industry from.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Oh absolutely! A lot of my cohorts in the degree program have been lamenting how hard it is to find an HR job even with the degree, because they lack HR experience – and I mean, I get why employers value the experience over the degree for this, I’ve learned more on the job than my degree program ever taught me, but it makes it hard to break in unless you can get a foot in the door. And temping can be a way to get that foot in when nothing else seems to be working.

          2. periwinkle*

            Hello fellow former temps! I took a clerical assignment which turned into an administrative assignment which turned into an HR permanent job. Now I’m a SHRM-SCP working at a Fortune 50 Corp. Temping can lead to great things.

        2. AliceW*

          A long time ago, I left my first post-college job as an full time admin after one year to temp full time. In my city, temp jobs were easy to come by. I always had a job lined up and I made just as much money temping as a full time admin but without benefits. I got to try out a few industries and transitioned into an entry level finance position without any finance experience quite easily. I am all for temping if you live in fairly large city.

    2. Danimals*

      You’d be surprised how transferable administrative support skills are! If you are organized, detail-oriented, and can present your administrative experience well, that can easily translate to a lot of different roles – however, you’ll likely need to start at the bottom and work your way up. I’m in HR for a non-profit and we look for strong admin experience in all of our entry level roles.

      1. Tara S.*

        +1, admin skills transfer to new fields fairly well. If you can get a job in an industry you might be interested in, that could be illuminating. I never really considered doing admin stuff long term, but doing it in a field I like has made the role very enjoyable.

      2. krysb*

        Yes. I started my career as an admin, but it benefited me because it was in legal. It allowed me to move into litigation support/legal/tech, because my current job liked my legal experience.

      3. Only here for the teapots*

        I’ve used basic admin/logistics expertise to find interesting jobs in industries from stocks & bonds to nuts & bolts and everything in between – commercial greenhouses, capital management, fabric importer, legal publisher, academia, advertising, etc. Companies really need steady proactive troubleshooting employees, and most learning curves are industry/company-specific beyond the basic skillset, so no one expects you to know everything right out the gate.

      4. Wondering...*

        I’d hoped so too but when I searched with three years of office admin experience under my belt, I was mostly told I didn’t have that specific experience, even for entry-level positions.

        Development job at a non profit? Not experienced. University position? Not experienced. Marketing assistant? Not experienced. Entry level copywriter? Not experienced. Museum position? Not experienced.

        That’s what makes me wonder if I need to part with my full-time office job to do part-time or classes that are more focused.

        1. kmb*

          You could also try (if you haven’t already) getting some coaching about how to talk about your skills as transferable in your resume / cover letter and in interviews, and also how to talk about how you will approach strengthening the skills they don’t see you as having, and how your experience has prepared you to do that.

    3. Swoosh*

      I’m an LR/HR professional and I have zero administrative skills!

      I would look into areas of HR that you’re interested in and get a temping job that’s similar. I do human rights consulting in a unionized environment. :)

    4. Leela*

      I taught abroad, and came back during the worst of the recession. My teaching abroad experience was the only work I had outside of college, and I couldn’t even get a job at Denny’s because I didn’t have “two years waiting experience”.

      I had a string of unfulfilling admin jobs that lasted for years but eventually I was able to go back to school (definitely not something that’s available to everyone, I was incredibly lucky to get married to someone that could support us while I studied) and change careers.

      Having worked in HR, I’m not sure how easy it would be to job hop to test things out because hiring managers are generally looking for someone who matches a skillset, but I agree with the suggestions that you try and temp, and network, network, network! I think you’ll have an easier time targeting something specific than casting a very wide net, but that could definitely vary by field, location, etc.

      Admin stuff is a lot more transferable that people sometimes think it is, it requires strong communication, writing, sometimes strong Excel skills, documenting, etc. I’d start looking up job reqs for things you think you might be interested in (if you haven’t already) and applying for things where you’re about a 60% match, and looking at where you might be falling short of careers you want to try and seeing what you can do to boost them. I think that in many fields learning some coding for a non-coding job sets you apart although that seems to be changing a bit. Good luck, I know this is a bit of a rough and uncertain spot to be in but people re-invent themselves successfully many times and I’m confident you can too!

  4. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

    The absolute worst thing came out of my mouth this morning.

    I was interviewing someone via videoconference, and I had an IT colleague helping me get set up because the tech in that room has been temperamental lately. So we get the call going, the IT person left, and I turned and said to the candidate “the tech in this room has been tricky…” then I tried to say “so I had to ask for help” and “I had to call in the big guns” at the same time and it came out “I had to call in the help.”


    1. Jadelyn*

      It could be worse. You could be the guy who accidentally kicked a soccer ball right into someone’s face hella hard, and while freaking out and trying to apologize got stuck between “I’m so f***ing sorry” and “Are you okay?” and shouted “Are you f***ing sorry?”

      It may be an apocryphal tale – I originally saw it in a screenshot of a very very old chat thread that I think originally came from IRC? – but I choose to believe it cause it’s hilarious.

      1. Urdnot Bakara*

        I saw that on Tumblr and it’s the first thing I thought of when I saw Kalros’s post lol

      2. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

        HAHA, DUDE, YES. You’re right, I may have accidentally insulted IT but at least I didn’t kick anyone in the face and then literally add insult to injury. Funnily enough I was just telling my work buddy about that story earlier this week because she was checking people in to an event, saying “you’re all set” and “have a wonderful evening,” and at one point she very cheerfully said “you’re WONDERFUL!” to someone.

    2. Urdnot Bakara*

      Oh NO. Stuff like this happens to me all the time but it never stops being really embarrassing. Sorry this happened to you!!!

      PS love your username.

    3. Environmental Compliance*

      I once was hosting a 50+ student drop-in exam review session (freshmen level at big uni) and managed to accidentally say an innuendo in the middle of a sentence. I can’t remember quite what I said, but something along the lines of something about chemical reactions & chemical bonds and the molecules were doing something, and it came out all wrong.

      It was also like 9PM and I had been running around nonstop since 7AM, so the students that actually had me were sympathetic. I just cracked myself up laughing and continued on.

      On the plus side, the next review session had at least 70+ students and I had to get an actual lecture room, so maybe hearing about it made more people show up to the voluntary exam reviews.

      1. Christmas Carol*

        When I was in college we doing the chapter on light, mirrors, and lenses. As a 19-year-old co-ed I remember sitting in the front row and asking my prof, So what combination gets you to erect and enlarged?

    4. Alucius*

      When I was thirteen, I said to a group of my friends, “let’s take a…” and then I said “break” and “rest” at the same time.

      It went over about how you’d imagine.

    5. I still cringe*

      I sometimes have a hard time with remembering and placing people, especially those I’ve only met once before in a different context (regardless of race). I accidentally thought an intern I met with a fellow professional I work with was a completely different younger graduate from a different program. I apologized and said they looked alike. I’m white. We live in the Southern US. All others involved are black. I’m still mortified. I believe my personal and professional relationship with the professional involved is one in which she knows me and my heart and work and so knows it was not remotely what it sounded like beyond the absolute surface statement.

    6. Middle School Teacher*

      If it makes you feel better, earlier this week I was talking too fast and things came out garbled. I meant to say, “next week we should start Shakespeare.” What came out was “next week we should shart Shakespeare.”

      In front of 24 12-year olds.

      At least two noticed. I saw some smirks. But they were cool and didn’t point it out.

    7. Commander Shepard*

      Lol I do that, sympathies! But mostly I just want to appreciate your name, good work taking down the reaper

  5. KatieKate*

    Got permission to work from home today and enjoy the wonderful weather the Midwest is getting, but not a lot of work is getting done. Whoops! *sunglasses emoji*

    1. The Ginger Ginger*

      I definitely SHOULD have opted to work from home today, as I have no meetings and we’re probably going to get the go ahead to leave early. But it didn’t occur to me until I was commuting in…so here I am! T_T

    2. Annie Moose*

      I briefly got to enjoy the beautiful weather as I was running home to change my entire outfit… managed to knock my mug off the breakroom counter and got hot chocolate EVERYWHERE. (and broke my NaNoWriMo mug! I’m so sad–they don’t sell that style anymore)

      It was really, really hard to go back in to the office. As I was driving home, I was berating myself for not just bringing my laptop and working from my balcony for the afternoon!

  6. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I have officially reached the point in training where I am tired of being *in* training and wish there was a way to simply download the necessary information into my brain so I could just do things.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Literally the person training me keeps telling me to “slow down”. I cannot GO any slower. I have done barely any actual work today because she keeps telling me not to do things yet.

      1. Positive Reframer*

        That sounds really frustrating. Part of being new (and also not so new) is not knowing what you don’t know and what you could mess up without even knowing that you were.

        Just like when you were in school though, learning is your actual work right now. It is your job to learn and retain what you know and that is what they are paying you to do.

        Are there any things you can do that would help you feel like you were accomplishing something but that are related to training? Is there a glossary you could create? Process flow charts? Something that would help you feel like you had a thing that you created at the end of the day?

        Also it sounds like you may have some down time, maybe while your trainer is doing other things. Could you ask to shadow someone for a couple hours in a related position? Are there physical tasks that could be done so your mind can have some space for processing information?

      2. Jules the Third*

        Maybe time to write down how you understand doing things and compare them to the official docs? Kinda busywork, but it’s actually how I do a deep revision on my process docs – train someone, then compare our training notes to the current process.

      3. Gotham Bus Company*

        Maybe your trainer wants you to not do anything because she sees you as a potential threat.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          My mom actually said something similar when I was talking to her earlier. That maybe my speed is intimidating to her.

          I can’t help it though. It’s just how my brain works. I’m very good at pattern recognition and my brain goes a mile a minute. Honestly, from some of the things I’ve read here, I suspect I may have undiagnosed ADHD and it’s something I’m going to talk to my doctor about next time I go. When I was in elementary school, I had to go to speech therapy because I talked too fast. My brain worked faster than my mouth.

  7. [insert witty username here]*

    Question re: explaining you were fired. My husband is currently employed but was fired from his previous job, which is the job that actually has relevant experience to what he wants to do moving forward. In discussing his work history, should he just up front say he was fired (and the related explanation) or not bring it up unless they specifically ask why he is no longer at that job?

    Related: what’s a good script for explaining why he went from an office job to a restaurant management job? Basically, at that point he just needed to work but now wants to get back into an office job. Is there a better way to say “I took the restaurant job cuz I needed the money?”

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I’d say it depends on the reason for the firing and if he can reasonably spin it as an experience that he’s learned from and will not repeat.

      I’ve had good luck being honest that I was fired because I let things fall through the cracks when my workload tripled and management wouldn’t give me help despite asking multiple times. I always include specific numbers and time frames when I speak about it and people’s eyes usually get rather wide.

      1. [insert witty username here]*

        Thanks for the feedback and congrats on your recent TOIGHT nups ;) (So glad NBC picked up the show!!!! Fox was crazy to cancel!!!)

        He was fired because he butted heads one day with one of the owners (3 owners; 7 person company…. and 4 of them were related). Owner was in the wrong with what he was asking and had been treating everyone horribly since he was brought onboard (of the 2 other owners, one was remote and the other was barely in the office but also butted heads when he was there – but again, related). Husband finally stood up for himself (admittedly, too flippantly) and owner fired him to show him who was boss. So he can spin it that husband was actually standing up for what was right for the clients and their own processes (not actually a spin – just a truthful explanation) and had a personality clash with the owner over it. He will explain that while he didn’t handle things as calmly as he should have, he has learned that it’s still important to stand up for what’s right, but how to not let himself be provoked while doing so.

        1. [insert boring and mundane username here]*

          I’m no expert, but that explanation sounds pretty solid to me!

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Agree, that sounds solid.

            He wants to avoid anything like tap-dancing–“Why did I leave? Well–Omigod is that a squirrel in your hair?” And having a thing he’d do differently now is a good spin–suggests flexibility and growth. (Not universal–I don’t think it applies to Amy’s situation, but does to his.)

        2. Beancounter in Texas*

          Keep it concise, so as to not raise too many eyebrows, nor questions.

          “I had a philosophical difference with the boss on the client’s best interest, but unfortunately, I had a heated exchanged with the owner. I’ve since learned techniques for keeping a lid on my emotions at work and not become provoked.”

          1. Jules the Third*

            I’d leave out ‘heated exchange’ and everything after. “Philosophical difference with the boss about the client’s best interest’ is all you need.

    2. HR Recruiter*

      Its best to be honest but not overshare. I’d also suggest a strong cover letter explaining why he wants to get back into the office world.
      There are two types of answers I usually get when interviewing candidates. You can guess which one I hire.
      1=”I got fired. I needed money so I took this job at this restaurant but I don’t like working those hours.”
      2=”I took on a new project and failed to meet deadlines and ultimately let go. I was given the opportunity to work at X restaurant which is not my ideal career choice but allowed me to really develop my time management skills. I’m excited to get back into X field.”

      1. HR Recruiter*

        I just saw your post about the reason. I would not put that. I would say something like, “It was a very small company and I did not agree with the direction and decisions of the company. I took job at X while I looked for a company that would be a better fit for me. I applied to your company because of Y.”

        I’m assuming he is not using anyone at former company as a reference since all of the owners are related and likely won’t give a reference. So no one would be verifying why he left in detail.

        1. Jules the Third*

          +1 yeah, don’t get into ‘argued with the boss’, however good the reason was.

        2. Washi*

          I think is good, and I also think that as an interviewer I would probably ask for an example, so your husband should be prepared to explain an instance of how/why he disagreed.

        3. [insert witty username here]*

          First – thank you for the feedback. Very valuable!

          Second – he actually is still using the other owners as references! He actually got the job because he was social with the first owner. They are still on very good terms and he has asked him specifically if he’d be a positive reference and he said he’d be very happy to be a good reference. Weird situation, but after reading this site so much it seems most work situations are… So we don’t want husband to “lie by omission.” But thank you for the feedback – super helpful wording!

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      “I took this restaurant job to experience a new set of challenges and learn from them.” Restaurant management is management! There’s lots of good skills in there to learn and apply to other areas.

      Did your husband have to track supplies, put in orders, hire and fire, create schedules, train new people, figure out payroll, interact with corporate (if it was a chain restaurant), interact with city officials, handle inspections, plan and implement menu changes, deal with volatile co-workers or customers, deal with widely varying “seasons” (if you’re in a tourist or college town) — any of those things? I don’t even have restaurant experience, so I’ll bet I’m missing some stuff. The really big thing about restaurant business is how varying it can be, and “flexibility” is a good trait to bring to any employer.

      1. [insert witty username here]*

        Thanks so much! Yes – everything you put there is pretty similar to what he made sure to include in his resume.

      2. Close Bracket*

        When I hear “challenge,” “learn,” or “grow,” I translate them to, “I just need a freaking job.” Of course, I consider “I just need a freaking job” to be a perfectly cromulent reason for working someplace, and I would move on to figuring out how good they are going to be at the job and whether they will actually do it reliably.

    4. Lawyer Anon*

      This would not be something I put in a cover letter or volunteer – but I can’t imagine it not coming up, especially since there are usually work history related questions like have you ever resigned or been fired from a previous job., so I’d have an explanation in my back pocket.

    5. [insert witty username here]*

      Just wanted to thank EVERYONE who replied! We appreciate the outside perspectives and ideas for wording/scripts. SUPER helpful!

  8. Susan K*

    I have a coworker, Jim, who is a chronic underperformer. He gets poor performance reviews, but where I work, people are rarely fired for general poor performance — it takes either some serious mistakes or misconduct to get fired.

    We used to have at least two people working every shift, but our manager changed the schedule policy several months ago so that now there is only one person on night and weekend shifts, and only a handful of people work these solo shifts. Jim is one of them (and so am I), and he has actually done surprisingly well with this change. Now that he is working so many solo shifts where there’s no one else to pick up the slack, he has to work harder than he used to in order to meet the bare minimum. He’s still by no means a top performer, but he has surpassed a few other mediocre performers. I even have some data that shows a marked increase in his productivity since we started the new schedule.

    I was surprised when he told me that he got another poor rating at his latest quarterly performance review, and I suspect our manager doesn’t fully understand the impact of the schedule policy change. From the perspective of the people who aren’t working the solo shifts, it looks like we’re slacking on those shifts because less work is getting done on those shifts than when we had two people. In reality, though, we’re working harder on those solo shifts because we’re doing about 25% less work but with 50% less staffing.

    Although it’s not really my business, I think it’s unfair that Jim isn’t getting credit for working harder. I’m afraid that he will backslide since he’s getting bad reviews either way. On the other hand, he probably should have been fired a long time ago, so maybe he should consider himself lucky to have a job. He’s still not performing at a high level, even with the big improvement. I’m also concerned that our manager might not realize how hard I’m working on the solo shifts, either. No one will accuse me of slacking, because I’m still doing about as much alone as most used to do with two people, but not as much extra work as I used to when there was a second person. Should I mention this to my manager? Should I advise Jim to point out that he’s actually working a lot harder than he used to? Should I show him the data that proves it? Or should I just stay out of it?

    1. Bagpuss*

      I think it is reasonable for you to talk about the extra work *you* are doing, not least because if the manager isn’t realising that you’re doing a job which was previously being done by 2 people, it may look to them as though your productivity has gone down, even though you are still doing more than others.

      Are there others, apart from you and Jim, doing solo shifts? If s, could you work out a way to speak to the manager as a group (maybe if Jim isn’t the only one whose extra work isn’t reflected in his review, you could approach it that way, about how it doesn’t appear that the KPIs have been updated to reflect the significant change to the workload)

      If that is not an option, I would speak to the manager about your own performance and work load and let them draw any conclusions about Jim (and others)

      If you are friendly with Jim, you could let him know that you raised the issue and ask him if he did so during his review. However, unless you are also a manager, or Jim’s performance has a direct impact on you and your ability to do your job effectively, I think it would be overstepping to be bringing up Jim’s performance with a manager.

      1. Susan K*

        Yes, there are four of us doing the solo shifts. Two of us get excellent reviews and one gets average reviews, and I think for all of us, our reviews have stayed about the same since the schedule change. I’m on the fence about mentioning my own productivity because I have always been, and continue to be, #1 in productivity in the department by a significant margin. Even if my manager perceives my productivity to be a little lower now (which she hasn’t said but may or may not think), she still recognizes that I remain at the top.

        1. Jules the Third*

          I’d definitely want to have an interim conversation with my boss about it.

        2. Bostonian*

          You could frame it as being concerned that it might appear as though your own personal productivity has dropped (in comparison to your own past performance, not in comparison to others) due to the shift change.

    2. LCL*

      If you and the other shift workers have an increased workload on the off shifts compared to the other workers, you all MUST get this across to management. All of you. One of the crappy things that happens with shift work is the people who don’t work shifts never see you, so they assume you aren’t really working. Don’t be silent about this. Shift work is a big gain for management, they are getting much more dollar value from the facilities without having to expand. Management needs to know this, and Jim needs to know this. You don’t have to advocate for Jim to management, just start quantifiying some numbers and share with him and the other shiftworkers.

      When you are a shiftworker, your management has to be a little louder and pushier to advocate for their people. Arm your manager with what they need to do their job well. A good manager will see the implications if you go over the production numbers with them.

      People who agree to regularly work night and weekend shifts are special and rare and should be paid more. Management should appreciate what they’ve got. Give them the facts and explain how valuable an asset they have in their shiftworkers. If you don’t tell them, they won’t know, and they will continue to walk all over you. And yeah, giving someone a bad review when they have improved is walking all over the employee.

    3. sheep jump death match*

      I think in addition to the other suggestions above, you should come up with a couple (legitimate) compliments for Jim and email them to him, cc his manager. Like, don’t say he’s been doing all the work if he hasn’t, but something like “I’ve noticed that you’re really churning out teapot handles on your weekend shits. It really makes a difference to come in on Monday and have so many ready to go.” That shows your manager that Jim’s performance has changed in a way that’s good for the company and morale on his team.

    4. designbot*

      I think this depends on the culture at your job. At mine it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for someone to mention to a manager “BTW I’ve been so pleased to see how Jim’s stepped up since putting him on solo shifts.” I wouldn’t go into the amount of detail you have here unless they follow up with a question, but putting in a good word for him doesn’t seem out of order to me.
      That said, if ultimately you’d still rather he be fired than not, then don’t say a thing and let it sort itself out.

      1. Evergreen*

        Yeah, this is common in the teams I’ve worked on; usually as an aside in a conversation about something else. I’d advocate for this approach if it’s feasible for the OP

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I would not recommend advocating for Jim with your manager. Limit your conversation to your workload and what you are accomplishing vs what you used to accomplish with two people. Keep the approach general and use a big picture perspective.

      I am hesitant to recommend you tell Jim he is working harder than before. Jim maybe on a shift by himself because the manager wants him to make up his mind to swim, not sink. So you may not have the full picture of what the manager is aiming for here. You can look for opportunities to give random compliments, “I see you worked on X last night. It looks really good.” Or, “The data shows you have increased your Ys by almost double, that is great! Good for you.”

      It sounds like Jim is in a position where if he backslides he will be out the door. You may have to let that one unfold whatever way it unfolds. This goes back to trying to help people who are not asking for help. Now, if he point blank asks you for general help or specific help, I think it’s fine to help where he is asking.

      I am saying this as someone who tried to help a few slackers. Typically, they don’t want help. If they say they want help, they will work at their problems for a bit then suddenly stop. Meanwhile my work and my work effort started sagging because of putting time into this person. If people are going to change they seem to have changes within a few weeks, then they can morph into a good or even great worker and you can see that this is where they are going. Pay attention to your doubts, if you catch yourself doubting Jim’s ability to become a better worker, you are probably right.

    6. Argh!*

      It’s the halo / horns bias — a version of confirmation bias. A lot of supervisors give the same rating from year to year regardless of changes in performance.

  9. FaintlyMacabre*

    I posted this a few weeks ago, but late. I’m looking for fun stories of workplace karma. Mild comeuppances. Here’s mine:

    Several years ago, I had a temp job in a ridiculously dysfunctional workplace. It was a large factory and I along with two other coworkers did office work there. In my head, I dubbed them Micromanager Mindy and Do-nothing Delores. (For this story, know that while she drove me insane as a coworker, as a human being I actually liked Micromanager Mindy.)

    Do-nothing Delores did not like me or Mindy, largely because we actually knew how to do our jobs, did our jobs, and didn’t cover for her when she frequently slacked off of her job. She was a giant suck up, and would bring in treats for everyone in the factory, but always mysteriously ran out before she got to me and Mindy. I could go on, but you get the idea.

    One day, Jim, the grand boss comes in. He’s holding three strips of ten raffle tickets in his hand. The office was having a raffle for charity and there were some really nice prizes- electronics and cash and gas station gift cards. Jim addresses the three of us, saying that while he wanted to support the raffle, as the grand boss it would be inappropriate for him to win anything and therefore had bought the tickets for us.

    Even as Mindy and I are getting out our thanks, Delores has already snatched a strip of tickets from Jim’s hand and walked away without saying anything. (In my memory, she goes off into a corner and hunches over them, crooning, “Preciousss, my preciousss,” but that is probably not what happened?) Jim, Mindy and I exchange a three way eye roll and then Mindy and I make an elaborate dance out of choosing the two strips of raffle tickets left. “Please, Mindy, choose which tickets you’d like.” “No, no, I insist you choose.” “I couldn’t possibly take away your choice. You simply must have your pick.” This continued until Jim more or less threw the tickets at us and walked away, no doubt regretting all the life choices he had made that had led him to that point.

    All week, Delores natters on about the prizes she wants and complains that Jim *only* bought her ten tickets. Mindy and I get in some high intensity eye rolling excercises. Finally, the raffle occurs and the prizes are distributed. Mindy and I both win gas certificates. Mindy also wins one of the higher end electronics. Delores gets diddly-squat. And every time she complained, we reminded her that she had the first pick of tickets. It was beautiful! Never have I enjoyed putting gas in my car so much as when I was using that certificate…

        1. Tuna Casserole*

          Thank you for the story, FaintlyMacabre. Made me laugh on a dreary Friday. You write very well.

    1. Justin*

      My coworker is laaaazy. He does not want to put in the work to advance (fair enough) and complains if asked to do anything at all outside of his very specific duties. And then a promotion opened up, and a person who simply applied for it received it, and he whined that he hadn’t been considered.

      (It was me who got the promotion. And he whined – to me – when my promtion was announced.)

    2. Danimals*

      Not sure if this counts but a few years back I worked for a start-up non-profit. They first (I know now illegally) classified me as a consultant, then converted me to full-time with a probationary period. I worked my ass off for them: I’m talking working three weeks in a row, eight hours a day, without a single day off, to help them get this program off the ground. At the end of my probationary period, due to the nature of the program and other staffing, they told me they I would not be receiving the job that they had me doing during my consultancy (which I didn’t know I was being evaluated on, and never received any feedback on) and that if I wanted to stay on with them I would need to staff a nights and weekends program for the 8 months – meaning I would basically work 2pm – 9/10pm Monday through Thursday and both weekend days. When I told them this was unacceptable, they fired me on the spot – didn’t even allow me to see the first day of the program where the students I had recruited and selected started the life-changing program. So, all-in-all, a bad experience.

      Cut to now – only the founders remain of the staff who worked with me (several positions have flipped more than once, actually) and the company has the worst glassdoor reviews of any place I’ve ever seen, except for a few that are obvious management plants. It was hard to feel good about their bad reputation, since the work they do with participants can be lifechanging, but now even the students have taken to glassdoor to complain. Karma is coming for them…

      1. designbot*

        isn’t it funny how easy it is to spot the management planted reviews when you actually know the company?

    3. Nita*

      My husband left an old job over a lot of things, but the last drop was getting a new boss who was nitpicking his work and seemed a bit mentally unstable – nice and chatty one day, screaming fits the next. He was pretty sure she’s zeroed in on him as an outlet for her bad temper for some random reason, but also wondering if there’s something wrong with him and he just can’t get along with people (for context, this was between another boss that undermined everything he did, and the new job that’s a slightly less bad dumpster fire).

      Well, he’s stayed in touch with a few coworkers, and he’s hearing from them that the entire department is having trouble with her now. She’s managed to put everyone through the same scapegoat routine, drove a couple of people out, and the absolutely most easy-going person in the department is now teaming up with another lady to lodge a complaint with the union. Can’t say I’m happy about any of this, except one small thing – my husband finally has some validation that he’s not crazy or antisocial, and the boss was totally the problem.

    4. Anon on this.*

      I’ve posted about this before. I’m front facing media. I was falsely accused of a crime and arrested, and our (former)corrupt police chief held a press conference about it. It made front page and TV news for three days as our competitors ate me alive. My boss withstood public cries for me to be fired and I returned to work (on air) three days after I was released. A thorough investigation exonerated me, the City forced the police chief to publically apologize at a press conference and then resign. His wife left him, and he’s now a substitute teacher in another town. My life has never been better. It was 5 years ago, but it was life changing.

          1. Anon on this.*

            Quadruple hooray for the PD’s detectives giving me his reserved parking sign. It now hangs in my home office with all my media awards. :)

      1. Thursday Next*

        Your boss was awesome!

        Also, there is nothing petty about this story—this was a big deal, with big consequences at stake! Glad you weren’t the one suffering in the end.

      2. Emily S.*

        Wow, that’s amazing. Good story.
        And thanks for giving us the short version — my attention span isn’t long, this afternoon before the holiday weekend!

    5. DCGirl*

      When I worked in Big 4 accounting, I was transferred under the Boss from Hell, and I finally left when I couldn’t take it any more. About two years, my phone lit up from former coworkers to let me know he had just been fired and marched out the door after dropping the ball on a pretty significant, very visible project. The last I heard, he could not get a corporate job after interviewing all over town (word of his abrasive personality was rife in the industry), and he and his wife had cashed in their savings and purchased a transmission repair franchise. If you check the reviews on Yelp, they say that the owner of that location is a jackass.

    6. Jules the Third*

      I’ve told the story before: At a small non-profit, I did some book-keeping and records maintenance to make sure everything was available for the auditors, along with all the tech support / computer stuff. After a year, we hired a full-time accountant. I couldn’t find records, heard her lie to a constituent (implying the CEO was sexist, which he wasn’t), a couple more things.

      I brought these up to the office manager. Crickets.
      I brought these up to the VP. Crickets.
      I lined up a new job and outlined them again in my resignation letter. I got walked out that day instead of working out the 2 week notice.

      About a year later, Accountant gets arrested for embezzling. Told ya so.

    7. deeshy*

      Ooooo, ooooo…I got one! Pick me!!

      When I was in my late teens (years ago) and I was working at a local gas station during the 3:00 PM – 11:00 PM (close) shift. Another woman approximately four years older managed the day shift, “Nellie” and was my sort of supervisor. Nellie handled the daily balances which she had to reconcile the shift cashouts. She was super kind to me and at the time I literally thought everybody who was nice to me was my friend (I bet experienced people are already sensing trouble – lol)

      Every. Single. Morning. Nellie would phone me after my evening cashout and ask me odd questions about why my sheet didn’t reconcile. After arguing with her that it balanced for me, she would come up with odd examples of why it didn’t. At the time, it made sense and I just presumed I made a mistake…again and again and again. Keeping in mind she trained me on the cashouts and reconciliation and my ego was taking a serious hit over the simple mistakes I appeared to be making. (My god, am I really that dumb??)

      Through the course of working at this station, I noticed that Nellie had a scratch ticket addiction. As in we would get the fresh rolls of lotto tickets, and she had figured out a system to find the winners using the security scan on the lotto machines to do so (oh the irony). She showed me her system and I foolishly didn’t really think anything of it. Nellie was able to spin this to my super naïve brain and make it completely acceptable. I shrugged it off and carried on with my job for a few more weeks. In this time, Nellie had purchased a new vehicle for herself and went on shopping sprees…all on minimum wage. My inexperienced brain just thought she was great with money. (as I’m typing this out, I’m shaking my head at my own idiocy)

      At that point, I started taking photos of my reconciliation sheets, the receipts, cash counts, etc. but these were the days of no digital cameras, so I actually had to physically get these photos developed – this is an important detail. Shortly after, I was accepted into a college course and put my notice in to the owner instead of Nellie. He accepted my resignation reluctantly and told me he would have loved to keep me. I mentioned to him that Nellie didn’t think highly of my cashout skills and I was always making mistakes, so this move was best for me. I obviously need more education. He made a thoughtful face, but said nothing more about it.

      Nellie was overly shocked about me leaving and irritated I didn’t discuss it with her first. I didn’t care – I was leaving. Picking up my last paycheque (before direct deposit too), there was a crisp $20 bill in the envelope. I pulled it out of the envelope and Nellie snatched it from me, babbling something about she “loaned” me the $20 so it looks like I’m fixing one last reconciliation on my cashout (mind you, I hadn’t worked there in more than a week). Whatever…I left and resumed my life.

      Fast forward about three months later, I bump into a former coworker, Timmy, from the same gas station. I asked how things were going and he asked me, “Have you heard about Nellie??”
      I’m sure others have pieced together by now – Nellie was robbing the place blind and setting me up to take the fall. I seriously wrinkled that plan for her by quitting suddenly and giving her no time to cover her tracks. My innocuous comment to our boss about me not able to reconcile the cashouts clued him in to where to look. Timmy said Nellie was still trying to advise the boss that she was covering for me, I was the thief, I took the money…”It was all her!!!”. I told Timmy I have photos of my cashouts before Nellie got a hold of them, and I’d be happy to pass them along if the boss needed them. I found out much later they didn’t need the photos, cause as soon as I advised I had them, Nellie confessed.

      Unfortunately, the owner never really recovered the money stolen and he had to close his business. Nellie faced charges, had to pay restitution and has a criminal record.

      It is still satisfying for me after all these years and my naiveté took a sharp decline after that. So…thanks Nellie, for that at least.

      1. designbot*

        Whoa. That was such a close call. I figured out early in your story that Nellie was stealing, but I thought she thought you knew and thought of you as an accomplice. I still wouldn’t have guessed that she’d try to pin everything on some kid.

    8. Annon for this*

      A number of years ago, I worked with a lady who came off as shady. She would post stuff on ebay and have a friend bid people up, etc. There was always something she and her extended family was scheming about. It was a constant thing. They were all like leaches. I kept my distance, it was exhausting staying away from her.

      She was let go. It was a relief.

      A few years pass and it seems like she is doing well. I run into her at local stores, etc. Her family started a business, which seemed fairly lucrative. I heard her family business is being investigated by the AG. I don’t wish that on anyone, but I am not surprised.

    9. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve mentioned BullyBoss at an old job before, who was really mean to one of the sales reps, and tried to undermine me at various times. Nobody liked him. Once, he went with some of the manufacturing folks to supervise repairs at a client site; according to them, he was utterly useless and they had to take control of the situation. He also seemed to be somewhat psychic, as he would anticipate phone calls that were for him and leave his desk right as they came in.

      I was laid off from that job following a restructure. After about a month or two, OldCoworker messaged me and told me that BullyBoss got fired. Not laid off; fired. We had a good cackle about that and both of us wished we’d been a fly on the wall for that meeting. Since I’m job hunting, I’ve lived in fear of having to work with him again, though I think he started a business of his own. I ran into him at the vet’s office shortly before my cat passed away. Yecch.

    10. Evil HR Person*

      When I first started working in an HR position, it was called Personnel (in other words, many years ago). I’d had very little HR experience, but my boss liked that about me – she wanted to teach me her way without me having any preconceived notions/ways of working in HR (BTW, she’s still my good friend and I consider her my mentor). At the time, I was working in an office with 3 other employees, plus Boss. The 3 others were Tulip, the recruiter, Jacinda, the generalist, and Daisy, the safety person. For some reason, Tulip and Daisy just didn’t want to work with me. They would complain to Boss up and down that I wasn’t doing my job fast enough – I used to do the reference checks so that Tulip could finish her recruiting. Meanwhile, all 3 (Tulip, Jacinda, and Daisy) would spend hours just gossiping, leaving me with all the work. It was a very stressful time for me.

      This went on for a few months, during which I got pregnant. One morning, I had to go to the hospital because my baby wanted to come early. I spent several weeks in the hospital trying to keep that baby cooking, while Jacinda decided she was going to quit. She didn’t even give a full 2 weeks’ notice. That left only Tulip and Daisy with my work and Jacinda’s.

      I went back to work after having my baby 12 weeks early, and sort of became everyone’s sweetheart. Everyone felt bad, including Tulip and Jacinda, because my baby was in the NICU, and I hadn’t had a baby shower, blah-blah-blah. I took it all with a grain of salt. Apparently, not having Jacinda there to fuel the gossip mill had a nice effect on the group. Whatever – I couldn’t forget that the two had wanted me fired, Tulip being the most vocal.

      Cut to about a year later and we had all settled into our roles, more or less. I was done for the day and heading out to the market when I get this desperate phone call from Tulip letting me know that Boss had fired her, trying to talk bad about Boss and so on. I don’t really remember what I said, but told her I was sorry and wished her luck. Come to find out she was doing something highly illegal and using our office to do it in – and got caught. Boss fired her on the spot as soon as she found out, and thereafter would tell everyone who called the office for a verification of employment what Tulip had done.

      Sweet, sweet karma…

    11. Decima Dewey*

      I used to have a manager who, as soon as she came in, rearranged the desk schedule so that the longest shifts occurred during the busiest times. She also required her staff to submit a formal memo whenever we requested PTO. This was before the library was wired for the internet, and doing so required finding an available typewriter and pounding the memo out.

      Came time for her to request PTO. She tried just telling her boss what time she needed off. And was told “No, you have to submit a formal memo, just like you require from your staff.”

    12. Argh!*

      When we had a reorganization and my boss had to cut the staff severely, she kept Mr. Perfect, who had his eye on a different department where someone was retiring, and put him in charge of his and my department, his plus another. He was NOT a hard worker, but he talked a good talk. I had the qualifications for the job he got, but I got laid off. He quit. The person who was put in his place was an internal candidate because they were too lazy (my interpretation) to do a search. They fired her because she was really not supervisory material.

      Boss got breast cancer and died.

      Not a funny story but it’s definitely a karma story.

      1. designbot*

        oof, I was just rereading mine and feeling a little bad, but then I read yours. At least nobody in mine died!

    13. designbot*

      Mine’s a bit less petty but super satisfying. I was working at OldJob and the manager who hired me got forced out and eventually replaced with someone who just did not appreciate what I brought to the table. She wasn’t a mean person, she didn’t actively seem to try to sabotage me, she just did not see my value. I was frutrated but we got along okay until she brought in a friend of hers at the level I’d been trying to get promoted to, paid her in the neighborhood of 50% more than me (we could see each other’s billing rates, which roughly aligned to salary though with a little bit of wiggle room). NewGirl worked tops 6 hours a day, treated everyone like her approval was something we should all strive for, and produced nothing of value herself. She tanked the budget of every project she touched, which put even more stress on those of us who were actually producing work because now we had to do more with less to get projects delivered. Every move she made felt like a slap in the face.
      Anyway, as it became clear that the NewBoss + NewGirl situation was becoming increasingly ridiculous, there happened to be a whole bunch of job openings in my field. I found one where I was not just promoted to NewGirl’s level, but actually to NewBoss’s level. On my way out, I very tactfully indicated that since the change in leadership my path to growth in the company had stalled which is why I’d been forced to look elsewhere. HR probed more into this, and NewBoss’s boss actually followed up because he wanted to know what was up with the budget on a big project I was on. He asked about team roles, who produced which concepts, he reviewed the project billings at my suggestion, and I’m confident that what he found there told a pretty clear story.
      A week after I started at my current job, my phone blew up with the news that NewBoss was fired and NewGirl was shunted to a different department, which was a well-known way the firm had of saying, “we’re giving you time to figure something out, but this isn’t going to work in the longterm.” I’m still pretty satisfied with how that turned out.

    14. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      This is so petty, but…

      Just out of college about 20 years ago I was working in a warehouse as a stock clerk doing paperwork processing — not actually out in the warehouse because that was a union job. This was a huge facility with multiple buildings and the kind of stock was very specialized. A large category of stock, say Death Star parts, was being phased out at this location and had to be moved to another location — the union wasn’t entirely happy with that but I got along well with all of the members in my building and never had any grievances. The tracking of Death Star stock and paperwork was the bulk of my job for the better part of a year and I, a very lowly clerk, had constant direct contact with a VP in charge of this project, Darth Dennis, because I created and updated a big excel spreadsheet for him of what Death Star parts were listed in stock, which parts have actually been confirmed to EXIST in stock (“lost” parts were a big problem), what paperwork we have on the parts, and what’s been shipped…

      So then, every year they did a big 3-day inventory and it was all-hands. I was out on the warehouse floor for this since I got along well with the union and and sort of could spot the “missing” parts for Dennis. A group of office assistants from another area of the facility were set up in my area for data entry of the completed inventory sheets. Since they weren’t in the warehouse doing manual labor, they sort of had the attitude that they were supervisory to all of us lowly warehouse people, but they really really weren’t. Meanwhile, Darth Dennis was anxious about wrapping up this move so he kept calling and wanting updates. Each time I had to be paged into the office the office assistants kept making small snide and giggly remarks, “oh, another phone call?” “back again? You must really want to get out of the warehouse,” and finally, “maybe you need to get your own phone” to which I looked puzzled and said, “You know that IS my phone, right? You’re borrowing my computer in my office. Unfortunately, I need you to move for a bit so I can send VP Darth Dennis an update to his spreadsheet.” The suck-a-lemon look on all their faces when I bumped her (figuratively) from my computer was a bit priceless.

    15. Windchime*

      I’m sure I’ve told this story before, but at exjob I had a friend named Betsy. She was eventually promoted to management and she was the manager from Hell. Literally. She had been run out of several departments before coming to ours, as it turns out.

      She bullied several people out of the department and fired a couple more. Eventually it became my turn and she bullied me out in a very mean way. Fast forward 6 months and there is an internal departmental investigation being conducted by HR and a friend tipped me off, so I wrote a letter to HR outlining all the terrible things she did to me. She was fired shortly thereafter, and now she can’t find a job so she sews little tote bags and sells them at craft shows. And is having to rent out her spare room.

      Karma. She is a good and faithful friend.

    16. motherofdragons*

      I don’t have any good stories to add, but this: “In my memory, she goes off into a corner and hunches over them, crooning, ‘Preciousss, my preciousss,’ but that is probably not what happened?”

      That is DEFINITELY what happened.

    17. Gatomon*

      Back in the dark days of 2011, I was in that awful post-college, pre-“launch” phase and struggling to get by at the local big box center. I got hired as a holiday temp and busted my tail all holiday season and managed to get kept on after Christmas. Never called out sick, accepted every extra shift they offered, always was working.

      One of the long-time department heads ended up getting a new job in early January, and decided to give a month’s notice so she could train her replacement. I was basically appointed to the position, and accepted. I needed the additional, steadier hours and pay bump.

      So the training began, all was well for a few weeks. But there were a few tasks I hadn’t been trained on, namely doing returns. All other department heads could authorize returns for the customer service desk, but I couldn’t and no one was mentioning doing it. (This should’ve been the first flag.) Then the schedule comes out for my trainer’s final few weeks. She wasn’t scheduled beyond February 1. She was pissed because she was counting on another week and a half at the store. I was listed as covering her sections for all her hours at that point.

      So I start doing her job and she departs. Another department head who’d been promoted a few months earlier mentions how nice the pay bump is. I find out he’s making almost $2/hour more than I was (minimum wage). I, being young and naive, had never discussed pay…. and when I brought it up, they told me there wasn’t money in the budget for “new” department heads.

      Now technically there were still an equal number of department heads as there were before February 1, but that was the start of the new fiscal year. (Second big red flag.) I got PO’d and sent out a flurry of apps.

      Time passes, I’m referred to as the department head and accountable to the district manager for my departments, but have no powers or pay increase. I gave up on job hunting and figured I’d have to move home by summer because I was buying TP on my credit card at this point and I was going to lose my cheap sublet when the owner got out of jail in July.

      Got a call out of the blue for an application I’d sent out in February, got hired and quit in the beginning of April right as two other seasoned employees walked out. They begged me to keep coming in on nights and weekends, but I refused because I’d found full-time work and didn’t see a reason to kill myself after getting screwed over.

      The entire time I’d worked at this place, it was mentioned that the property wasn’t owned by the big box, and that the company might not renew the lease. Well not 3 months after I quit, the store was closed and the property owners razed the whole complex to the ground for redevelopment.

    18. schadenfreude for this post*

      I think I have posted this one before…

      I was the Assistant Director in a dept for 5 years, and had a great boss. He gets a new job, out of state, and when he leaves, I’m promoted to Interim Director with the understanding that I would have to apply and interview for the position like everyone else. I. WORKED. MY. ASS. OFF for the entire 6 months – dropping everything and running back to work when the VP asked me to – no matter the time of day/night, hiring a mother’s helper to pick up my daughter on days my H worked late, so that I could work late (VP and AVP wanted to see that I could do the work while being a mom), got in early every day, ran myself ragged across the company, etc etc etc.

      Applied, interviewed, and became a finalist for the Director job. Knew I wasn’t a sure thing, so I made certain to prove myself during my time as interim and kicked ass during the interview. I also applied for a similar job at a local company, b/c everyone told me I needed a Plan B. Waited 1 week. Waited 2. Waited 3. Marched myself into my AVPs office (who was a terrible leader, BTW) and asked for an update. She finally told me that they had offered it to someone else who had more experience. I was CRUSHED.

      Turned out, they had NO intention of ever hiring me, and they wanted an outside person from the start. They just let me go through the entire process to be nice. New person starts while I’m a finalist for my Plan B job. New person is a NIGHTMARE. No one but the VP and AVP wanted her. She didn’t have more experience then me, actually – she had less. She never supervised a full staff before, never managed high-level work that was required of this position. She’s set to be my new boss, and tells me she is “so thrilled to be working together, aren’t we going to be besties and get along so well and OMG this will be SO FUN!” I am offered Plan B job, accept it, and give New Person my 2 weeks notice. She’s crushed and says to me “but who will train me on everything?” Not me!

      I go on to my new job, and within 6 months, old department falls apart. Everyone leaves, clients are complaining left and right, previously cultivated relationships fall apart. New Person is let go at the 1 year mark, and the company has to post and search all over again. Friend asks me if I’m going to re-apply and I just laugh.

  10. Today I'm Susan*

    Can you recommend the proper way to dress to present at a conference for educational professionals? I work remotely for a tech company and while I don’t work in my pajamas, I’m not a style maven. I really want to hit the whole presentation out of the park, and style is just not my forte. I’m assuming a dress is probably the most appropriate way to go, but I’m not even sure where I should start shopping. Any suggestions will be much appreciated!

    1. peachie*

      In my experience, the nice end of business casual is totally normal for both attendees and presenters at that kind of conference (somewhere between that and full-business attire–not sure how to describe it, but like, blazers, but in fun colors). That also depends on the type of presentation, though–is it a small breakout session or a keynote for thousands of people?

      1. Today I'm Susan*

        Definitely on the smaller end of things. I’m anticipating 30-50 people. I just spoke with my co-presenter and he’s planning to wear a suit.

    2. CheapEats*

      You don’t have to wear a dress. I worked in education for years and presented at plenty of conferences. I prefer tailored slacks, nice blouse, and jacket or sweater. A statement necklace helps too. You want to be comfortable while you’re presenting and if you don’t often wear dresses, that might not be the way to be the most at ease.

      1. Tara S.*

        A dress or ^this style would work well. You can add a blazer if you like, but it’s not required. For “cheaper” professional looks, I like: Banana Republic, Kohls, Loft. Target can be hit or miss these days, but sometimes good. Express and H&M sometimes have gems. Uniqlo has sharp looks at reasonable prices, but their styles have never suited my body. Steer clear of Modcloth – I love them but so often their stuff ends up being too short.

        1. KTM*

          H&M has surprised me on a number of occasions when it comes to professional attire. If you’re looking for just one outfit and don’t want to spend a lot, I’d suggest there. Statement necklaces are a great suggestion too. Wear dress pants and a solid top you already own (or a dress/skirt) and then a statement necklace + basic blazer – works like a charm. Avoid anything that you fidgit with or fuss over adjusting regularly.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I have a go-to black sheath dress that I wear for every presentation and client meeting I can. I bought it years ago at Ann Taylor and it’s flattering and comfortable. I pair it with a cardigan (any color) and season-appropriate footwear, and I don’t have to think too much about it because it’s black and comfortable. At my last conference, I wore it with a gray cardigan, black footless tights, and gray flats, and I wore a colorful scarf.

      A dress is easy because you only have to think about one part, rather than two as with separates. Pick a color that you like and flatters you, and a cut that flatters you. Go for something in which you don’t have to adjust yourself every five minutes. Buy something that goes with shoes you already own, so you don’t have to worry about breaking them in. Most of all, keep it simple and you will be fine.

      1. Birch*

        THIS. This is my everyday uniform as an academic and someone who goes to conferences a lot. It’s the one thing that’s always appropriate no matter the situation and looks just dressy enough and just casual enough to fit in anywhere.

        I will say the cut and fit of the dress is really important. I have several in this category but I’ve found that my favorite is a thick cotton, a simple sheath with no seams or darts at the waist, hits just above the knee. Short sleeves and a boat neck. It is SO COMFY and I bought it at H&M. Another tip: natural fabrics don’t hold BO like synthetics (stay away from polyester!) for when you get the nervous sweats or the AC is broken. To snazz it up, you can wear it with a blazer and to snazz it up even more, roll up the sleeves! Generally well made, simple clothes make a bigger impact, style-wise, and you can add a piece that you love as your statement, whether it’s the shoes or a scarf.

    4. fposte*

      I think nice trousers or a dress would be fine, but my main suggestion is to incorporate layers–conferences are freeze or fry occasions.

      1. Jules the Third*

        Yes to layers! Especially since jackets give such a nice polish to an outfit.

    5. Susan Sto Helit*

      Either a dress or trousers should be absolutely fine. It’s about what you’re presenting, not what you’re wearing.

      If you do buy something new though, make sure you thoroughly check what it’s like to sit down in – both in terms of comfort and, if it’s a dress, if the skirt is likely to ride up awkwardly. On stage at a conference is not the time to be finding that out.

    6. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      Wear flats :) Not much sitting at conferences.

      Dresses are easy, and a solid-color dress will always look put together. Make sure you can move around any way you want, and still feel completely comfortable. If you feel like you constantly have to pull the dress down or avoid strong winds or sit down reeeeally carefully or dress-tape a plunging neckline to your bra, you won’t feel confident.

      Sheath dresses look professional, but they are not for everyone. I’m all hips and can’t wear them. Good bets for other figure types are fit and flare (my go-to) or shift dresses.

      If you are presenting, wearing colors can be good. Blue is a good and safe bet there. It’s less flashy and fashion-risky than red, more eye-pleasing than black, and you should be able to find a shade that flatters.

      Add a scarf or some nice earrings or a statement necklace, if you want to run wild with it, but it’s not really necessary.

    7. Totally Minnie*

      If you’re actually interested in wearing a dress (not that you have to, but if you’d like to), Ross is my go-to store. They’ve usually got a lot of choices that would be work appropriate and budget friendly.

      1. PhyllisB*

        I ordered two dresses from Coldwater Creek this fall that I just love. One is a black knit cowl neck and the other is a purple sort-of-empire waist. It’s not exactly fitted like an empire, just has the waist line there. And they have POCKETS!!!!!!!!!!!! I love anything with pockets because I don’t like fooling with a purse if I can help it. They have lots of dress-up/dress-down options, and they’re fully lined so you don’t have to wear a slip and don’t have to worry about see-through effect under bright lights. If you’re interested, look on their website in the clearance section.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      Comfortable enough not to worry about what you’re wearing. For different people this could mean:
      • New clothing more formal than what’s currently in their closet, because they don’t want to feel like the lost college intern who wandered into the wrong room.
      • Trousers and blouse, dress, or other formal-end-of-business-casual things in their wardrobe
      • New version of (b) for burst of style confidence, but sticking to variations on pieces they own and know work.

    9. epi*

      I have a uniform for this stuff because I am able to dress so casually most days. I got it all at Express but it’s the type of thing you could get lots of places depending on your size and budget.

      “Work pants” i.e. those drapey no-iron trousers similar to the Editor Pant. Drapey lady button down similar to the Portofino shirt. Done.

      Once you find an example that works for you, buy a few mix and matchable colors of each. If you think your dress code might sometimes require it, try to get the matching jacket with one of the pairs of pants. And don’t wear shoes you even suspect could ever come uncomfortable to a conference– you will probably walk much more than you think. I usually go with pointy flats. If you wear leather, this is a pair of shoes to pay for good leather.

    10. Emily K*

      YMMV, but I like to wear bold scarlet or azure dresses (or blouses, if doing a pant suit) when I’m a presenter. Similar to how those are “power colors” for men’s ties or dress shirts, it makes me feel like I’m better able to command the room and exude authority when I’m wearing a bold/power color.

    11. The Cleaner*

      I don’t think you need to wear a dress instead of pants — either would be fine, whichever you are more comfortable in. I’m an educational professional, and I tend to see presenters wearing one of the following: (I’m focusing on women’s attire)
      1. a suit (most formal)
      2. a dress, usually paired with a blazer, cardigan, or scarf or wrap
      3. a skirt and blouse or cardigan or classic sweater set (least formal)

      I have seen people present wearing the more casual versions of these (khaki pants, for example) but I know my boss experts a very slightly more formal/more polished style from presenters (as opposed to conference attendees) so I use that as my base.

      In my experience, even though I like to wear something like black pants and a gray sweater at my actual job, I choose to wear something more identifiable when I present because I find that it’s easier for people to seek me out if I’m “oh, the person who was wearing the purple dress” at other events at the conference instead of trying to find me in a crowd of people wearing black. Obviously if you have a black outfit you like, you could get this same effect by adding a brightly colored scarf or similar.

      The tech vendors who present on our campus, or at conferences I’ve attended, tend to dress a little more business-y than the educators, usually a suit or a blazer. If you are not comfortable in jackets or blazers, and are more of a sweater type, I would make it a more structured sweater to make sure the overall look is neat (as opposed to the floppy, lumpy cardigan that I am wearing now).

    12. Argh!*

      Watch some videos of people doing a similar presentation & take notes on the clothes.

    13. Kuododi*

      I can’t speak for your industry but in the mental health services, when I have attended CE training, the presenters typically wore nice business casual. (ie slacks, top and a cardigan or blazer, comfy dress that can be layered.). I have also facilitated small trainings and I have usually opted for the comfy dress with some nice accessories. I am quite prone to hot flashes and room temp for the training is a wild card so I usually bring a light sweater I can throw on over my dress and pull off if things get stuffy. Good luck!!

    14. Half-Caf Latte*

      You’ve gotten lots of good advice- I’ll echo the suggestions for something you feel comfortable in (especially shoes), and layers, and looking online- check social media, does last years’ conference have a hashtag?

      I will add- try to find out what your microphone situation will be. If you only have a lectern mic, it doesn’t matter much for dressing. If they’re planning to use lavalieres, you’ll want to think about 2 things. First, neckline: a big statement necklace or voluminous scarf might interfere with placement or send background noise into the mic. You also usually need an edge of clothing for a secure clip (hence why they’re also called lapel mics). Second, you need somewhere to store the transmitter/power box. The ones I’ve used generally clip to my waistband, and I’m not sure what they’d do for a dress, but I’m sure it’s been done! I’m not an AV expert, though.

  11. BirthdayWeek*

    Has anyone worked in an office where there has been a pattern of promises not being followed through?

    Our office hasn’t received our Holiday 2017 gift – a membership to a museum – and at this point it’s not looking likely. Other things have been promised to the employees; an improved lounge, early leave on Fridays, I personally haven’t received a signing bonus I was scheduled to get in March.

    None of these things impact the actual work that needs to be done, but it’s getting tiresome being told we’re getting something that never follows through. Any advice to cope with this annoyance?

    1. Susan K*

      OMG yes… At my old job, we had a running joke about a “book of broken promises.” We didn’t actually make a book, but one time we were talking about all the promises management had made and never fulfilled, and someone said that there were so many that we could fill a book. From then on, any time management made a promise we didn’t think they’d keep, we’d say, “That’ll be another page in the book of broken promises!”

    2. Manders*

      Oof, yes, this was a pattern at my old job, and part of the reason I started job hunting. I think you should get everything in writing and keep following up about that signing bonus, but accept that smaller things like the membership to the museum and the nicer lounge won’t be happening.

      I also think you should start thinking about how long your tenure at this place should be and whether/when you’re prepared to jump ship. A company that’s withholding stuff like signing bonuses is probably not going to be trustworthy with raises, promotions, and the other stuff that really matters.

      1. BirthdayWeek*

        Thanks for your advice. I do think it’s sort of telling what kind of company this is and how the CEO handles money (which has been traditionally not great.) Getting things in writing is paramount I’ve learned!

    3. anna green*

      ugh yes! My last job it was the same deal. We all joked about it too, until everyone found better jobs. The last straw for me was when they promised me a promotion (in writing) and never followed through. On to bigger and better things! (If you like your job otherwise, I would say just pretend they never say anything and assume it won’t happen. Or you could kindly, directly ask a manager you have a good relationship what the status is on certain things, but I dont hold out too much hope it’ll change anything.)

      1. BirthdayWeek*

        This is my biggest grievance with this job, so zooming out it’s not a total deal breaker. I am still relatively new to the work force, and given my current company’s size I will inevitably look for a different job so I can climb a ladder. Given it’s also my first job, I wasn’t sure how much in the norm this was, and sounds like it’s pretty common. Sorry to hear about your promotion – but glad you found ‘bigger and better’ things!

        1. Manders*

          I’ve only been in the workforce for ~7 years, but in my experience, it’s not so common that you should just accept this as the way of the world. It’s hard to change the culture of a specific company that’s fallen into this–but it’s a very valid reason to leave and find a place where you can trust management.

          1. BirthdayWeek*

            I agree, I think this says something about management and the culture. Thanks for your perspective, this whole thread is driving me to start a job search and your last sentence really summed up why that’s a good idea.

        2. anna green*

          I actually totally missed the signing bonus part on my first read through, that is a much bigger deal than the others! I would definitely follow up on that until it gets completed! And agree, if the company is doing this all the time, it would probably take a significant event to get any changes., so its probably a good idea to start looking or have a plan to start looking and not expect a long term career there.

          1. BirthdayWeek*

            Yes! I have been sending emails, but per the advice of this thread I’m going to schedule a meeting with my boss to get a clear date on when the bonus will come through. The other items are simply perks I’ll have to let go.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      The bonus thing is HUGE. (I mean, the membership is a big deal too, but more annoying than anything else, I think.) Do you have an email or anything in writing outlining when you’re supposed to receive it? Have you spoken to anyone about it?

      This company sound… not so great.

      1. BirthdayWeek*

        I am really irked about the bonus, and it’s a driving force to keep following up. The CEO has to approve all expenses and he’s rarely in office, though I don’t know if his approval needs to be done in person. That would be a good thing to ask during my next round of reminder emails.

        The museum is mostly annoying because we don’t get end of the year bonuses, we get one ‘big’ gift and this year, the membership was that gift. I work in a large city and the museum is world-renowned plus comes with city-wide perks. In fact my boyfriend offered to get me the membership for my birthday (he’s probably sick of me complaining about it, ha!)

        1. WellRed*

          I can’t think of any reason the CEO has to physically be in the office to approve a bonus. DOn’t send your boss another reminder email, ask her for a meeting to ask her when this is going to get done. A singing bonus is a big deal for them to not follow through on.

          1. BirthdayWeek*

            Thank you for your advice! I will do that. Glad to know my annoyance is more than justified.

  12. FaintlyMacabre*

    I received a rejection email yesterday from the job I really wanted. I am not terribly surprised, as about half the interview was about how you needed experience (which I don’t have) to do well in the job. (I asked the question about what distinguishes a good employee and a great employee in the position and the answer was experience.)

    What was surprising was that I received a message from one of the people I interviewed with. In it, she wrote she wasn’t sure what the hiring decision had been, but that there would be another position opening up as she intends to leave soon. I’m kinda confused. Does this mean maybe I was in the top two? Or am I reading to much into it? Can I ask her what she knows about the hiring decision?
    I will apply again, I guess, but my cover letter was pretty darn great. The idea of trying to write another good one for the same position so soon kinda makes my soul shrivel.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Ask her for more information! What is the position and why does she think you would be a good fit?

      1. FaintlyMacabre*

        It’s a team of three people, so it would be the same position that I’d previously applied for.

        1. [insert witty username here]*

          I would just tweak your current cover letter. At the beginning say that you applied for the previous open position and you’re still very interested, for the same reasons! You could even say that you’re including much of your previous cover letter in case someone different is reading them. Then if the same person reads it, they won’t think you’re being lazy.

    2. Clairels*

      Why would they bother to interview you in the first place if “experience” is the only thing that matters and You don’t have any?

  13. CheapEats*

    Survey time! Think about the best company or project you’ve ever worked on. What made it stand out for you?

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      I was doing actual good in the world, even though the company was not in that business overall.

      Specifically, it was a project to develop a recycling and donation program for old laptops, in a large company that generated a lot of old laptops. I learned so much, sent a lot of cleaned-up computers to poor schools, and kept a crap-ton of toxic computer innards out of landfill. Man, if I could do that again I’d jump on that job in a heartbeat.

    2. Jadelyn*

      The best project I’ve worked on was the Timesheet Conversion Disaster of 2016. It opened with the VP of our department coming to me and saying “Jadelyn, I need you to save the day again!” He was prone to hyperbole though, so I figured this was another relatively minor thing that he just needed quick turnaround on. Spoiler: it was not minor. It did, however, require very quick turnaround.

      We were mid-implementation on a new HRIS, including a timesheets module. We were still using the timesheets module from our old vendor while we worked on setting up the new one. Then, in mid-March, the old vendor told us they were shutting down our access on March 31. Meaning we had 2 weeks to get the new system up and running, or find an alternative to tide us over.

      I dropped *everything* else off my plate – with my manager’s blessing – and dedicated those two weeks to configuring the new timesheet system, building an Excel-based workaround to tide us over for a few days between the end of March and our go-live date on April 2nd, and developing and presenting trainings to 250 staff on how to use both of those.

      On the Excel end, I build timesheets that would let people punch in and out, round people’s punches correctly, require and log a manager’s approval of the finished timesheet, send itself to me, calculate hours and OT for us (which is more irritating than it sounds because I work in California, so we get daily OT), and spit out a summary of hours by pay code in a format that our payroll system could read. I’d never done that much VBA scripting before, so it was a hell of a crash course!

      On the system end, I worked with our SME assigned by the new vendor to get all our pay codes in and configured, set up access groups, conditional rules, all kinds of fun stuff, plus testing it for a few days with my own clocking in/out and recruiting a handful of other hourly staff to do the same.

      This was also my first experience building and presenting staff trainings, so that was pretty nerve-wracking. There were a total of 4 trainings: time entry in the new system for hourly staff, same for exempt staff, editing and approving timesheets in the new system for supervisors, and then all of the above for the Excel sheets. But in the end, it all went off pretty much without a hitch! I was the hero of the hour, I was obscenely proud of the technical skills I’d had to mostly teach myself during those couple weeks, and while it was horribly stressful it was also very exciting and the success at the end made it ALL worth it.

      (I offered to share my trainings and the Excel timesheet and its associate scripts with my counterpart at our parent company. They declined, and instead hired in a temp to manually process paper timesheets for their 300 employees for 2 months while they continued their system configuration and implementation on the timesheet module at the regular pace. It was really validating, being able to look at that and say “see what kind of headache I just prevented us having to deal with?”)

    3. Happy Lurker*

      Best company I ever worked for was a non-profit subsidiary of a university. It had amazing benefits, awesome PTO and my favorite boss of all time. She made all the difference in an otherwise fairly regular job. Oh, the good old days.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      From late 1998 to 2001, I worked in a small materials testing lab. It was part-time and paid minimum wage ($7.00 an hour at the time). I was the receptionist/office clerk. We tested oil and paint for the railroads, did metallurgy testing for various clients including one in India that employed a friend of the owner, and soil and water testing for local municipalities and environmental remediation companies.

      There were maybe 10 of us total. We would often close the office and walk to a nearby bar for lunch. We played jokes on each other (benign ones like putting a giant rubber squeaky rat on top of people’s lunches in the fridge and a six-foot Frankenstein’s monster cutout behind doors). Someone gave one of the chemists a little stuffed duck. We named him Bertram and put him on the org chart and I made him a little felt coat, tiny wire glasses, and a little desk out of a shoebox. They taught me how to do water pH tests in case samples came in after they’d left, which sometimes happened, because you needed to test the samples right away. That’s where I learned about stir bars, which are so fricking cool. I also did Igor work–washing glassware, checking the cooler temperatures, and preparing sample bottles.

      I reorganized 32 cabinets of environmental files in the basement. I was allowed to work on this project for as long as it took, downstairs with my boom box (this was before I had an iPod). After the boss’s wife sadly passed away unexpectedly, he closed down the environmental portion of the business, which essentially eliminated my job. He kept it going for a while with the railroad and metallurgy testing, but eventually he closed the business and retired. I was in between jobs later and went back in to help shut them down. I scored an entire box of multicolored file folders (I will never need to buy another folder as long as I live), several plants from the office that I still have (the best one, a giant ponytail palm, died during the ice storm in 2007, dammit), my little oak desk and the printer table that went with it, and a cool stainless-steel top lab table (it’s in my garage).

      I LOVED that job. I loved it. If that place were still open and the job paid more, had benefits, and were full-time, I’d have worked there a lot longer. It was fine while I was going to school, but eventually I would have had to earn more money.

      I’m sad about the ponytail palm. It belonged to the boss’s wife, who was awesome. The thing was over three feet tall and was too heavy for me to move; sitting in a 20-degree house for two weeks did it in. :( The rest of my plants came from OldExjob. After they decided not to pay the vendor who took care of the plants, they were just going to let them die so I took a bunch of them home.

      Oh, I still have Bertram and the rat!!

    5. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Any of my projects involving wastewater treatment because we would not be able to have a heathly populace without them.

      Otherwise, actually, I hate all of them. (Yes, I’m in one of *those* moods.)

    6. Beancounter in Texas*

      The best company for which I ever worked stood out because of my boss (the owner). I got my own office with a pretty partner’s desk (that I didn’t have to share) and my boss’ attitude was “Work when you want. If you don’t feel like working one day and want to go play golf, make sure everyone is paid on time and go play golf! Just answer the phone when I call.” I did take him up on the mental health days at least twice and I rarely stressed over my hour long commute in the morning. Also, the dress code was casual, but not ratty.

    7. Piano Girl*

      I worked for a Japanese air flight school. We had sushi every week for only a $3 charge. It was great!

  14. Alternative Person*

    I ran right into an issue at my workplace again today. I couldn’t say anything to my co-workers because I didn’t to risk starting a very public disagreement and when I raised it with my manager he decided to play the ‘Well they’re doing this, but you did this thing’ card (I slipped up and said ‘What the hell are you doing’ to a young client’). I replied, I understand I’ll watch my language more, but this issue is different. He hemmed and hawwed and did the placating thing. I had to do something else but I was glad to get out of that convesation. I am so ready to be done with this place.

  15. AnonForThis*

    Do you have work friends? How do you make work friends? I can believe I’m even asking this…

    I’m at a higher-level position, and have been in this role for almost 2 years. My division is HUGE, but the director level (my level) is smaller. Most directors have been here for 10+ years, worked their way up, and know each other very well. Most of us are older, married or with long-time partners, most have kids. I don’t really have a work friend, and I’m struggling to find one. Maybe I’m thinking about this from a younger professionals perspective, and work friends aren’t really a thing once you reach higher levels anymore?

    1. Tableau Wizard*

      I think it depends on your definition of work friends. I’ve had a spectrum of work friends – from people I could go vent to or bounce ideas off of in an informal way to people that I genuinely care for and see outside of work on a somewhat regular basis. I think having the latter is less important that having the former. Do you have anyone at work who you might consider a confidant?

      If not, consider finding someone whose advice you’d like on a small matter and start from there.

      1. AnonForThis*

        I have people I vent to, definitely. One is a director, so at a peer level, which is helpful. I don’t have anyone that I’d see outside of work, though. I got spoiled at my last job, where I had someone my age, similar interests, and we did social things occasionally – even if it was just go grab lunch outside on campus during a break.

    2. Morning Glory*

      I don’t try to make work-friends, but my organization has a few great programs in place for people who are interested in that kind of thing. language-learning or other lunch-hour clubs that skirt the line between hobby and professional development (graphic design, taking better photos, etc.
      These can be a nice, safe way for people from different teams and levels to socialize while still seeming semi-relevant to work. These are often organized organically rather than via HR – maybe you could try to start one up?

    3. Chupalupe*

      What I’ve found helpful is setting up “getting to know your department” chats if that makes sense? I invite someone for a brainstorm session for 45 minutes (assuming you have a couple of other directors where their work intersects with yours). I explicitly state that this is meant to be very informal and chat about goals and potential synergies. I’ve found that they’re pretty helpful (if you’re talking to the right kind of people who would appreciate that, but that’s probably who you want for your work friends!), but also because they’re so informal, it’s easy to get to know people better. Follow up in 4-6 weeks checking in on whatever you’ve accomplished or however they were helpful, and invite them out to coffee.

    4. Susan Sto Helit*

      I don’t have work friends, but I do have industry friends – people who are at about my same level but work for different companies. We met through networking, but now hang out independently. It’s really great sometimes to be able to talk through your problems with someone who gets it, but is also an outsider.

      (caveat: I guess when you get too senior talking about any work problems with someone also in the industry becomes a big no-no, but luckily (unluckily?) I’m not there yet).

    5. There's Always Money in the Banana Stand*

      I was in a higher level position at my old job, and I didn’t really have work friends there. My boss and one of my higher level coworkers from another department were pretty chummy, but everyone else was much older than me and we didn’t really have common interests, so I never made any work friends. I actually had more in common with some of the people who I managed than my higher level coworkers. But, I didn’t want to become friends with the people I managed, so yeah…maybe work friends are more difficult to find as you work your way up the ladder.

    6. epi*

      I do, and it’s almost exclusively people I get thrown together with repeatedly. My actual work is too independent, and I’m too reserved on top of it, for anything else. The size of the department doesn’t matter to me– it’s the size of the group of people I have weekly meetings with so we can slowly build up a relationship. That is the real pool of potential friends.

      I don’t know what types of people you gravitate to, but also consider whether the people you like best might be kind of reserved themselves. I almost never ask people to come with me if I go get coffee (maybe I should though), but I nearly always say yes if invited. If you otherwise get the vibe that someone enjoys your company, extend some low stakes invitations like that yourself.

    7. Safetykats*

      One of the things I am loving about having stepped down a level in my current job is having work friends again. Being too friendly with the folks who work for you is really problematic – so the pool of potential friends definitely shrinks as you move up. If you can’t find someone at your level that you click with, does your company have a mentoring program? Maybe getting involved with mentoring some younger folks would be a good thing. Those relationships can be a little friendlier than traditional management – staffer relationships, since you’re meant to be closer to people you’re mentoring (or being mentored by).

  16. MuseumChick*

    Well, I got chewed out pretty badly at work the other day for reason that I had less than 10% control over. I think this place has broken me. I’m thinking about leaving a field I spend 6 years of my life dedicated to.

    1. starsaphire*

      No advice, but plenty of hugs!

      Hoping you can find a better opportunity in your field before you are forced to give it up!

    2. nep*

      Why do you have to leave the field? Could you get away from this workplace that has burdened you and stay in the field?
      Sorry you’re having to face some rough times.

    3. MuseumChick*

      Thanks guys. Jobs in my field can be very hard to come by. It’s not uncommon to hear of people apply to 100 jobs before landing something. I have a lead on a job outside the field that, given my current work environment, I am really considering.

      1. Emily S.*

        I’m really sorry. It’s not right to blame you like that for the issue. Just think about what would be best for you long-term (5-10 years or so). Perhaps you could earn more elsewhere, and find fulfilling work.

        Good luck.

      2. Overeducated*

        Consider it, there is life outside the museum field and it can be good. There are things I and my friends who left miss, but the advancement potential, pay, and lack of certain kinds of dysfunction can be worth it (though my current sector has different flavors of dysfunction entirely, haha). You don’t have to leave but you wont regret exploring options.

    4. irene adler*

      I am so sorry you were treated like this. It’s not right. As I’m sure you well know, there’s more productive ways to handle work place errors- assuming you had made one.
      The behavior is very much a reflection of their character-certainly not yours.

      The hell with them.
      Best revenge is to do well – at another company. Ideally their rival. Use AAM as much as you can to do this.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I am so sorry.

      Is there a way you can stand up for yourself? Can you insist on changes that would prevent the problem from occurring again?
      Maybe this happens too often and you are exhausted from trying to stand up for you or protect yourself.

      I see it takes a lot to get a job in this field. I am wondering if your place or boss has a rep such that if you tried people would be eager to hire you. I have seen people hire just to rescue people from known bad bosses. But I have also seen people hire because employees at a particular place are considered to be above average. I know myself, when I am feeling like I just got kicked in the teeth, I don’t see stuff like this. I hope I can encourage you to look around and see if you can find these subtle under currents going on.

      1. MuseumChick*

        Unfortuntly, I don’t think there is. I’ve tried in the past and it never gets me anywhere good. Basically, I was hired to be an expert but they are uninterested in listening to what I have to say or in even letting me do my job. Instead they throw me into random projects because we are very understaffed so things fall through the cracks.

        Oh, and my boss straight up made up a conversation we had. He claims I said something that I would never, ever say. It had to do with right to a photo someone wanted to reproduce. He claims “months ago” I told him we had the rights to it. This never happened, I’ve been asked about this particular photo multiple times and have always said we do not have the rights to it.

  17. AnonAnon*

    I think I’ve written about this here recently, so apologies for double dipping… I’m still struggling and need more advice!

    I’m struggling with some burnout, and a big part of the reason is my growing sense that I can’t count on (a lot) of my coworkers. This is pervasive across my division and ranges from my coworker who only checks email once a week so always takes at least that long to respond; an admin who routinely leaves people off meeting invitations or forgets to book a room when she schedules a meeting; another colleague who claims he didn’t get a report draft I sent him two weeks ago and therefore hasn’t moved it forward to its next iteration; and my boss, who still hasn’t given me a 500-word piece of writing I need for a mailing that we were supposed to send in April.

    It leaves me feeling like I have to do everything myself, or at the very least that in order for my projects to succeed I have to track and follow up with everything. And that’s both exhausting and frustrating. Why am I the one who has to hold it all down? I don’t think this is supposed to be my job; I’m nobody’s boss and I’m nobody’s assistant.

    But maybe that’s just what I need to do – reframe how I think about my work to include very detailed follow-up, nagging, checking in, etc. But does anyone have any other suggestions?

    1. El Camino*

      Oh man, no words of wisdom, just commiseration. I’ll be following this thread – I just commented below with a similar frustration, so I can empathize with you. Sounds like you wear a lot of hats as well. It’s definitely a struggle when you try to be on top of things only to see others drop the ball, especially when it directly impacts your work. Solidarity!

      1. AnonAnon*

        Good luck!

        I do wear a lot of hats — that’s definitely part of the problem. I manage Program A and Division-wide Initiative B, and have a role on Program C (which is managed by my boss, mentioned above). In a couple of months I’m transitioning off Initiative B, which will help significantly in terms of the number of little things I’m juggling. But the main struggle is on my own program (because that’s where I’m responsible for ensuring everything is done well, even as my coworkers constantly drop the ball).

    2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      I’m not sure, but I totally get the stress. It’s not necessarily from having to sometimes do other people’s jobs for them. It’s from the constant state of alert, because you can’t just relax and assume things will get done. It makes everything into a loose end.

      1. fretnone*

        Oh, so much commiseration. That sense that no one’s got your back but if it falls it falls on you is so pervasive.

        In my case I’ve tried raising the issue to be told many times, yes, we understand, that is Not Okay, then nothing changes and you just keep doing the same old thing to carry on – it’s exhausting. And knowing it’s not going to change – bleh.

        I’m just trying to practice good self-care because of the personal toll it’s taken, and trying so hard to reframe that this is just the way it is, and the best I can make of it is to do my damned best – the good thing is that all the forced-upon responsibility and constant vigilance to keep things running is a skill and an experience which in the end is a net positive I can take from this to help get into my next role. (where please please please it will not be the norm!!)

    3. Alternative Person*

      Could you include ‘I did my part, other people dropped the ball’ in your reframe?

      My boss seems to have delegated responsibility of some things to me without giving me actual control over how things actually happen and one of my strategies for coping has been saying to myself, ‘I have completed my part, set all the parameters, done my goddamn job’ anything that happens/doesn’t happen now is in the court of other people (people I am willing to throw shadily under the bus (I can’t afford open conflict due to needing to keep my boss onside for other reasons)).

      I’d also say, if it won’t affect your performance reviews/job/safety of yourself & others, you could make a rule that something gets a limited number of follow-ups before you let the chips fall where they may. Sometimes you have do draw a line under how much you can put into your job before you burn out. Sometimes that means doing your part/due diligence and then saying, ‘My part of the circus is fine, look in on the other monkeys’.

      1. AnonAnon*

        Yes, this is helpful.

        I mentioned in a comment above that I currently play three roles: I manage Program A and Initiative B, and I play a role on Program C. What you’re describing is the approach I’ve shifted to taking with Program C. So, for example — my boss never sent me the writing piece needed for the communication? I guess the communication won’t go out.

        But for the other two? I’m accountable for them. So if the admin forgets to send the invitation to all of the program participants who are supposed to be at a session, my program fails.

    4. Master Bean Counter*

      It’s exhausting to have to chase everything. But some places are just like that. Some times becoming known as “the person who will not relent until you get what you want” is enough to scare people into doing their stuff for you. Sometimes you get into a place where there always seems to be something more important. If your in the latter, you’ll need a new job if you care about results.
      But just know, you’re not alone.

      1. AnonAnon*

        Thank you. I’m appreciating this thread so much, both for the solidarity and for the clarity it’s bringing me.

        For example: reading your comment, I realized that it’s not just that things don’t get done — it’s also that I can’t trust them to be done right. For example — I can follow-up endlessly with the admin to make sure she sends the invitation, but unless I literally sit with her while she does it I can’t make sure that she includes all the right people.

        1. BRR*

          This sounds very similar to my situation. Depending on the context I do one or more of the following:
          1) Just do it myself. It sucks that I have to because people can’t do the basic functions of their jobs but sometimes things need to get done.
          2) Communicate by whatever means necessary. If you don’t want me to call you or stop by your desk, check your email more than once week.
          3) Provide feedback and corrections. I’m pretty sure one of my coworkers is sick of me pointing out errors but if you continue to make the same big mistakes you’re lucky you’re not on a PIP.
          4) Follow Alison’s advice on how to tell a manager someone isn’t doing their job.

    5. Susan K*

      I feel for you. I often have the same problem with not being able to count on my coworkers to do what they’re supposed to. I’ve gotten myself stuck in a vicious cycle where I know that someone is going to let me down, so I just do it myself rather than wait for the person to let me down (because it’s often more convenient to do it proactively than rush to compensate for what didn’t get done or fix something that was done incorrectly). But that makes people assume that I am just going to do it myself, so then they are even more likely to let me down.

    6. BlueWolf*

      I identify with a lot of this for sure, particularly people not doing their part of the work, which holds up my work. I just have to keep telling myself that there’s only so much I can do and if people don’t do their work that’s on them. It is definitely frustrating to have to remind people to do their jobs. Sometimes it’s tempting to just let people drop the ball, but then I feel like that will ultimately come back to bite me somehow :/

      1. AnonAnon*

        Is it normal that most folks just… don’t do what they’re supposed to do (either by literally not doing it, or by doing it wrong)?

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I tend to think so.

          I hired a lawyer for a personal matter and we got to chatting about that matter. Finally he blurts out, “I don’t do law. What I do is call up other people and explain to them how to do their jobs!” I busted out laughing because that was the exact solution for the problem I was asking him about. He called up my problem person’s legal department and their legal called my problem person. Problem solved.

          I had been working at one job for a while. It seems that after we have been at a job for a while we start seeing all. the. problems. I started framing non-responses as a challenge to be met on two levels: grace and effectiveness.

          In some cases, I used humor. Don’t do this if you don’t have a good sense of humor. Don’t do this if the OTHER PERSON does not have a good sense of humor. Humor works on rare occasions.

          Sometimes offering to help them with getting what you need works. That scares them into doing it themselves OR they actually do need some help. Don’t do this with slackers.

          Sometimes you can ask the boss for help. Especially if it’s in another department. Usually I never had to ask for assistance again with that particular slacker. BUT it could be the Other Department has a culture of ignoring Your Department. In cases like this getting the two bosses to thrash it out is a good idea.

          Sometimes you can say, “If I do not hear from you by Thursday, I will figure that Doing A is okay and I will just go ahead and do it.” This can cause The Dead to pick up their feet and run to get what you need.

          Still other times, you can set expectations. “I am going to need this by Thursday so I will come by Wednesday to [remind you, see if you need help, see how things are going]. This is part of my Nice Nuisance Strategy. Be polite, be thoughtful but set a time frame and do what it is you say you will do at each point in the time frame. Be sure to add in things like, “I know X is a real bother, I am sorry I have to ask for X.” “I know you are busy but WE have a deadline here….”

          I used “WE” a lot. It’s inclusive, obviously. But it seems to help with their mindset, “WE need this.” Never underestimate people’s desire to be a part of a group and part of a group effort. When you take an “us” and a “they” and add them together to make a “we”, you can soften some hard messages. “We really need the X report by Thursday.”

          Ask people how best to remind them. Especially the people who have the info that is the most critical or the people who are slowest to respond. You might be surprised by the answers you get. Be sure to do what they tell you. IF they fail to respond this give you an additional talking point: “Bob, I sent you an email because I thought you said that was the best way to give you reminders. Did I miss something?”

          Honestly, this stuff is more work than the work itself. Line up some tools, as these examples here, and chose what you think will work best for each person and situation. Taylor your solutions each time.

        2. designbot*

          To different degrees… yes. I work with one person who just never does what he says he’ll do. What I’ve learned is happening is that ‘yes’ is his default answer to everything, but then when it actually comes time to do the things he assesses and prioritizes like anyone else—the ‘yes’ isn’t real at all! Once I learned to stop taking that ‘yes’ literally, I was able to work around him a lot better.
          Other people I work with are better about it, but this still happens to some degree. They often intend to do the thing, but then when it comes down to it something else gets in the way. But for a normal person that’s like 10–20% of the things. For the colleague I mention above that’s like 70% of the things. I’d recommend trying to spot the patterns in this and see if you can find where things are going wrong, see if you can reframe your approach.

        3. NoTurnover*

          Yeah, I think that’s normal. People who do what they say they’re going to do on time and correctly are like gold. When you run into them, cherish them, promote them, hire them, buy them coffees.

          Now, there’s normal followup and ridiculous followup, but it makes sense to just expect that everything will require some followup. I try not to let my annoyance kick in until I’ve followed up 2-3 times via different communication methods.

          Ideally the admin would require less follow up since you are delegating things to her, and yeah, you shouldn’t have to sit over her shoulder to make sure she does it right. If you have any authority, may you can work on her with those things.

  18. CurrentlyAnonDeveloper*

    Going anonymous for this, I would love to pick everyone’s brains for three questions—and thank you in advance if you answer!

    First off, I’ve been put on a PIP. Some of it is fair: I needed to work on my coding speed, and I think I’ve already resolved that. The second part is much closer to impossible, as he thinks that I should be performing at a senior developer level after only 2 years at the company and minimal mentorship (and only recently have I been able to study on my own at home due to health issues). I’m doing all of this for the first time: gathering requirements, creating a design document, holding meetings with the internal customer, writing code of a higher complexity from scratch, and more with minimal support and having never even EXPERIENCED this process happen before. (Also, I’m being held to a schedule when I’ve never been trained on how to do them and have no clue how accurate it is.) He’s going to be looking over my code and giving me feedback, which I do welcome—except he hasn’t kept up with how the language we use has been progressing. I really like my boss as a person, though. All of this has at least let me realize that I WILL be able to get to that level, just not yet. What do I do? Am I wrong in thinking this is all unreasonable?

    Secondly—I’ve decided to not hedge my bets and am actively looking for a new position. I’m also looking partially because this is too far away from home, so I can only study up minimally on my own due to being too tired at night. Ideally, I would get a position on a team to have more access to senior developers and seeing the development life cycle occur. I want a place I can grow. How do I address the reason I’m leaving?

    Thirdly—my family doesn’t know about the PIP but know I’m actively looking, and think I need to start hitting all the job posts immediately. However, I don’t think this is a good idea because interviewers are now asking questions to newer developers like me about material I haven’t seen in a while or haven’t learned yet, and I need to prepare. I also need to prepare for behavioral questions and practice interviewing. This is something I plan on being done with in a couple of weeks at most, but I’m worried that I might fail interviews that I would have blown away with a bit more preparation if a company moves too quickly. My cover letters/resumes tend to get a fast response time, and I’ve already failed out of at least one interview if not two because of lack of time for prep work. Do I just start applying or wait?

    1. Canarian*

      On the third point, I would say start applying. You might blow some of the first interviews, but you might also do fine and get the job. There’s not really a harm in applying sooner and doing whatever prep work you can while you’re waiting to hear if you got an interview.

      Also, one of the best ways I’ve found to get better at interviewing is practice. Assuming your fears are realized and you do just bomb a bunch of interviews right away, at least you got valuable experience and practice out of them, and your later interviews will be better for it.

      1. CurrentlyAnonDeveloper*

        Well, I guess can start applying this weekend and work hard on reviewing. I’m also going to build up my Github profile because I don’t really have one yet and that’s becoming an expectation. The amount of stuff I need to review is pretty intense, but I think I can do it.

        Failing interviews won’t take me out of the running permanently years down the road, will they? I’ll be more experienced then.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          Not at all. I interviewed at a “big N” tech company (okay it was Facebook) and I was NOT ready and felt like I bombed hard. They called me up unprompted a little over a year later and asked if I was interested in interviewing again because they thought I was probably ready with a year more experience. Unfortunately I had spent the previous year definitely not coding so I ended up declining because I knew it wasn’t going to go better and I had just been offered my current job.

          But basically unless you do something truly appalling (like, do not insult the interviewer’s mom) you will still be in the running in the future. Companies understand that people get better.

          1. Wendy Darling*

            HAVING SAID THAT some companies that hire developers into a huge pool and then dole them out to teams rather than hiring directly onto specific teams will not let you apply again until it’s been 6-12 months. So be aware of that.

            1. CurrentlyAnonDeveloper*

              That’s good to know. Thank you! I’m glad to here that it won’t put me out of the running permanently, even if it might mean temporarily for some companies. … now just to get a job for this go around.

              1. CurrentlyAnonDeveloper*

                Actually, this helped out more than I thought initially. This was my biggest fear! I just needed to read another person saying what I thought was likely the truth. Thank you so much!

    2. The Ginger Ginger*

      Well, as far as why you’re leaving your current job, when asked just say exactly what you typed. “I want to join a team that is intentional about mentoring newer developers. I want to have more access to senior developers and a chance to see the development life cycle occur. I want a place I can grow.” You can add that you didn’t get much of that in your current position and while you tried, there’s only so far you can go on your own without guidance from your manager or a mentor, and you feel that staying with your current company may cause you to fall behind in the long term. But that may be a little too much info.

      1. CurrentlyAnonDeveloper*

        I was thinking something along those lines, actually! Maybe a bit shorter. I’m definitely falling behind my peers that are receiving that sort of mentorship, and I need to catch up.

    3. Lawyer Anon*

      OP – I don’t know your family so you know best as to what information to make them privy too or not. However, if you have a functional relationship with your family – you might get a huge relief from telling your family about this. Allow yourself to get some love and be supported. There’s nothing to be afraid of- family should be there for you even if you have hiccups at your job. (Again, I know not every family lives up to this standard so if there’s serious reasons why you would not share this information, go with your gut.)

      1. CurrentlyAnonDeveloper*

        My family is incredibly supportive. I’ve just never failed in this magnitude before, and I’m worried they might see me as a failure. Which… I know they might be disappointed but they’ll help me succeed. Part of my problem is that I don’t know how to ask for support, I guess. But that’s way beyond the scope of AAM.

        I really should tell them. It WOULD be a huge relief if I didn’t have to hide the truth from them. … oops, now I’m in tears almost at my desk. Time to see what techniques work on stopping that.

        1. Natalie*

          I don’t think you’ve really failed though? It sounds like your boss has bizarro expectations, which isn’t actually under your control, and the fact that you can’t meet them isn’t a reflection on you.

          1. CurrentlyAnonDeveloper*

            Yeah, I’m having to come to terms with that. I’ve managed to rise the occasion of bizarro expectations before, but now I’m faced with tasks that actually can only be properly solved by an experienced developer (or a intermediate developer ACTIVELY BEING COACHED by a senior lead). You’re right; I need to treat myself more kindly, especially since I know these requirements are insane because the sizes of the projects are just too big for someone of my experience level.

        2. ArtK*

          Here’s something that I can hope you can manage to do: Change your thinking about this. You have not failed. Any failing here is on the part of your boss and the company, not you. I’ll explain in excruciating detail…

          First, my bona fides: I’ve been doing software development since we called this business “data processing” and you had to know whether the cards went into the machine 9-edge or 12-edge first. Well over 30 years.

          They’re asking you to do what’s really the jobs of several people, each with specialized skills and experience. Project management (managing the schedule), requirements gathering and management, high level design, low level design and coding. I do all of that on a regular basis, but couldn’t possibly have done it just 2 years into my career. I’ve taken formal training in those and there are lots of subtleties and tricks-of-the-trade for each of them; that’s not something you pick up in 2 years. The fact that you’re getting no training, no support and have limited reference information is a total failure on the company’s part. Your boss’ expectations are completely out of line.

          As far as the coding speed, given how skewed the boss’ expectations are about everything else, I’d take that one with a grain of salt. Or the entire Salzkammergut. It’s wonderful that you’ve made strides to improve that, but I really doubt you were that bad to begin with. Side note: Coding speed means nothing if you’re producing stuff that fails test and requires tons of rework. I’d much rather have a coder who is a tad on the slow side but does quality work, than one who speeds through a task and causes tons of issues downstream. The cost of fixing something goes up by an order of magnitude each step further down the process.

          TL;DR: You’re not failing. Find an employer who will treat you right.

          1. CurrentlyAnonDeveloper*

            Thank you so much for this comment. I sort of knew all of this myself, but it really helps to hear it from someone with more experience. Your words are a huge sanity check.

            Also, you’re exactly correct: I’m basically being asked to do the job of a business analyst/systems engineer, project manager, software architect, senior software engineer, and quality assurance engineer/tester for this project. I know there’s a lot of training and knowledge that I don’t have. He’s also rushing me through every single step and expecting me to completely code what should really take me three months or so in only a month. (Also holding me to my schedules when I’ve never been taught HOW to schedule is a huge middle finger if you ask me.)

            Yeah, my coding speed could be a bit faster than what it was without sacrificing quality, so that part is fair. The problem is that the speed he WANTS me to code at is definitely going to cause those exact problems you’re mentioning; I don’t have the experience/knowledge to design code for mid-sized programs. I’m a bit of a slow coder, but my code tends to be more correct. Except I messed up ONCE with a delivery (we have no testers) because I did something stupid with Git and accidentally erased a bit of code but it still compiled. The senior devs have had stuff fail before in testing with a client, but I don’t see either of them put on a PIP with it.

            Thank you so much–I believe I will find someplace better! I’ll look for someone who has reasonable expectations for my level of experience and will look to invest in teaching me more. I know there are definitely employers around like that. I just have to apply to it.

            1. CurrentlyAnonDeveloper*

              … also I just realized part of the reason why this is happening. The customer got angry over the bug (they have a test environment and that’s what test environments are for, for crying out loud) and started demanding to know what our testing procedures were, how it was tested, what we’re doing to prevent it in the future, etc. Fun fact: we have no test procedures. None. Nothing. Nada. We don’t even have testers, and it was something a tester definitely would have caught. He didn’t even test my code himself and let a juniorish person deliver code straight to the customer. So I’m the fall girl because they don’t have good engineering practices and didn’t have the experience to expect the customer would do something like they did with their environment. Swell.

              Also, there’s a guy being transitioned out of his job that would make a perfect tester and be a proper thorn in all of the developers’ sides, happily finding all the different ways to break our code. Except they’re just paying him to sit there. He wants to do the work. He even went to my boss to say he did after we talked about it since it’s something we’re lacking. But, nah.

    4. Annie Moose*

      With regards to #1, some of that sounds reasonable and some definitely sounds like a stretch to do on your own without any guidance. I don’t think two years in is too short to start having meetings with internal clients, writing design docs, etc. for smaller projects, but it definitely would be difficult to do from scratch without having resources to look over or someone to help you prepare, or if you’re being expected to do these things for large projects right away. (at OldJob, we were expected to participate in these things pretty early on, but we generally worked with other developers for our first few projects at least to get us going)

      I don’t know your situation specifically, of course, but it sounds like the problem might not be so much the expectations in and of themselves, but that you aren’t getting the support you need to help you reach those expectations. Are there resources you can look at to give you guidance, even if it’s not an actual person to mentor you? e.g. previous design documents or requirements documents, to get a picture of what usually is in them and how they’re formatted? Even if you don’t work closely with them much, are there other developers you can ask questions to?

      For what it’s worth, as somebody who got laid off last year in part because I was the worst performer in my department–this doesn’t mean you’re a bad developer or whatever. It’s just not the right environment for you. I ended up finding another company where I have done SO MUCH BETTER–in my case, I really struggled with getting work done and hitting deadlines when I was working on my own. At my new company, we work more closely with each other and are more visible about our work and deadlines, which has helped me immensely. I always was so guilty at my old job for being “bad” at it–but it turned out it was really just a mismatch with the kind of environment I need. So maybe all you need is to find a company that has a better environment for you: one where you work more closely with senior developers, perhaps?

      1. CurrentlyAnonDeveloper*

        I’m definitely not being given enough resources to brainpower. I’ve been able to use old documents which have been a great help. I’ve been able to ask other developers and colleagues help for more individual tasks or questions. But they’ve got their own deadlines for other projects and can’t offer too much support. I’ve also… never seen the design process at all. Just been given stuff to code, almost always on my own. And this project is now completely on my own from start to finish with my boss finally offering some guidance. It would be just fine if I was more experienced, but half the time I don’t even know what to ask about in order to get something done. And I’m definitely not experienced at software architecture at all!

        It’s basically the same for me as it was for you—an environment mismatch. I’m also heading for the same result: being laid off. Your workplace sounds like the ideal workplace for me because I really NEED other people to exists around me, especially senior developers. Any tips on what to look for in job postings to find positions like that? Interview questions? I’m really tired of flying solo before I’m ready.

        1. Annie Moose*

          Unfortunately I sort of stumbled into this job by accident so I don’t have too much advice!

          I will say that my old job was doing internal development for a large company, and my new one is a much smaller company that’s developing for external customers, so rather than having individual developers working on independent small projects, it’s almost entirely teams of developers on larger projects for outside customers. (state government, in our case) Not to say that working internally can’t yield a more supportive environment too, under the right circumstances, but I’ve never worked for a company like that so I’m not sure what to look for!

          1. CurrentlyAnonDeveloper*

            That helps a lot, actually! Thank you. I’ll look for a company that does bigger projects with multiple developers, just not TOO MANY developers. And one that emphasizes training the new generation and personal growth.

            I really do want to program, but I need people! Feedback. Rapid improvement by being surrounded by others.

            1. LCL*

              You don’t sound like a failure to me. It sounds like your company made what is becoming a classic mistake for some jobs-wanting people at a skill level that really requires X years of experience, but instead hiring new people with much less than X experience, and thinking they can push them into being more skilled. I never said this was logical, but I’ve seen it before.

              1. CurrentlyAnonDeveloper*

                :( Yup. They’re basically asking someone with 4 years of experience to do the job of someone with 15-20 years of experience. And the jobs of a full project team. They don’t realize they really need to be hiring a systems engineer/business analyst, use one of our project managers, teach one of our guys that would be a good tester HOW TO BE A TESTER instead of just letting him sit there while his job is transitioned away, etc… It’s sad that I can see that and they can’t.

                1. Safetykats*

                  I think it’s good that you’re looking for a better place to work. A company that has failures due to lack of infrastructure like testing and then blames that on individual contributors is not a place anyone wants to be. A PIP isn’t always a bad thing, if it’s really structured to help someone improve their performance – but it sounds like this is just their way of trying to hold you accountable for things they aren’t giving you the support you need to succeed at. That’s quite awful, actually. I wish you the best of luck in finding something better.

                2. CurrentlyAnonDeveloper*

                  Yeah, the more I look at it, the more awful it is. They’re not bad people, per day, but are bad AT people. The senior developers have had failures similar and no treatment like that because they’re not seen as low performers. Whereas I am a “lower performer” because I don’t magically have all their skills. But the fact I’ve been able do things like reverse-engineer complex programs and get them up and running again goes entirely unnoticed for how it’s way beyond what I should be capable of doing at my level.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      One of the biggest downsides of the American Healthcare system :(

      How far along are you?

    2. Stella70*

      Probably the very best reason to feel trapped!
      But — sorry you are feeling that way. I once felt the same, but for a very different reason – couldn’t afford a divorce! In no time at all, you will have a wonderful little life to nurture. Meanwhile, I was still stuck with a 200-lb albatross who never gave up dating [others] after we married….. :(

    3. Kj*

      Hi, fellow pregnant person. Pregnancy feels very entrapping in general to me, so I get it. And with jobs it is even worse because any benefits you might get are tied to your job. Ugh. I also feel trapped in a space with co-workers who freely comment on my body 6x/day. Yay.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        FWIW, I think there’s no shame in using whatever maternity leave you get to job search.

      2. RedCoat*

        Yep, feeling all this. Hoping when I give birth my coworkers will start calling me by my name again. Getting really tired of everyone calling my “Mommy” and asking when I’m due. The same day I was due yesterday, thanks. Thankfully, only one or two people have made weird comments/done the bump grope.

          1. RedCoat*

            Hah, yeah, a few times. They don’t listen. “Better get used to it!” Is the most common response.

        1. On Fire*

          I have NEVER understood the bump grope. It has literally never occurred to me to grope another person’s body (that I’m not romantically involved with at that particular moment, anyway), so I’ve always been skeeved by the idea. And I don’t have kids, but I always thought that if I did get pregnant, I would probably deck every person who tried to feel me. Boundaries, people!

    4. Anon-gineer*

      I totally feel you. I’d be job hunting if not for FMLA. Now I’m just trying not to get too freaked out about funding sources through my November due date.

      1. Nita*

        Hi fellow November mom (and engineer)! Good luck, I hope those funding sources come through!

    5. Nita*

      That’s hard! Hopefully the time till your leave will pass quickly, and then you can get your ducks in a row, update your resume, and start applying while on leave.

    6. TheyCanAlwaysSurpriseYou*

      I hear you, and am sorry for your frustration.

      I feel trapped in my job because I am not sure if we are going to try for a second baby. My job is stagnant and my boss has been promising me a promotion for a year, but nothing has come of it. But I am 41, so I feel like I am too old to find a new job, wait 12 months for FMLA coverage, and then start trying to get pregnant.

    7. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Been there. That’s a horrible feeling.

      My experience was that depending on how things go after the birth, you may feel trapped still. I did/do. Had a very rough physical recovery, and had a lot of other things going on, desperately needed to keep my health insurance due to ongoing physical issues stemming from injuries during delivery, so changing my job was so far down the list of priorities that I still haven’t and my kid is now talking about university. The period when we had a sort of functioning set of regulations around health care and pre-existing conditions was too short for me to get a better position.


    8. Fangy Yelly*

      I feel you on this. I am trapped at my job because I need the FMLA to take care of a stressful family medical situation. I am grateful that my boss IS understanding of “life happens, family first”, but during regular worklife they micromanage, and I was about to start job searching when the medical situation came up…

      We got this!

  19. El Camino*

    Hi there! I’m looking for good scripts to nudge someone to send you docs you need when you know they’re already swamped.

    I work on our grant applications and usually work with the finance person to get budgets and financial info, especially when those budgets have changed during the year (yay funding cuts!) and I don’t have access to that info. But any time I send emails to our finance person to request that info or work with me on it, and I make sure to write clear-cut requests of what exactly I ‘m looking for and by when, they go unanswered. This person also has a lot of other responsibilities, and I always hear them stressing out about all the other fires they’re putting out, so I feel guilty nagging about this info. But also…I need this stuff to do *my* job. Any advice on how to do that? They’re right down the hall from me, so I don’t know if an in-person drop in of “hey I don’t know if you got around to my email from last week but….” or do I just forward the email again? I also overthink everything about my tone in email and in person too so it’s not like I’m brusque – more to the opposite, maybe.

    It’s stressful, I have a lot of other stuff on my plate too but I always try to be courteous of other people’s time and it’s frustrating when I do what I can to give myself a buffer of time but someone else either doesn’t realize or doesn’t care about the sense of urgency – and now I’ll be stressing about it over the holiday weekend too.. Maybe that’s on me for not communicating it well enough – like maybe I’m more passive than I realize when I try to be direct. Appreciate any advice!

    1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      I would probably try forwarding the email back to them with a message of “I know you are swamped, but have you been able to look at this? I’m going to need it by (date/time) to make the deadline.” I always throw in a “Thanks so much!” which reads warmer to me than just a thanks or thank you. If that doesn’t work, then I probably would do a drop-in.

    2. Bagpuss*

      I’d go down and speak to them – start in with saying you know they are busy, but you do [urgently] need the documents and haven’t heard back. I’d print off the e-mail and take that with you, then you can provide it to them when they start saying they don’t remember it or are not sure what you need, and give them a hard deadline.
      Something like, “I do understand you’re very busy, but it has been x days/weeks since I first requested these, and I can’t wait beyond xxxx for them. Can you make sure that you send them to me on or before xxxx”

      Its harder to ignore a person than an e-mail but I would also follow up with an e-mail saying something like “following on from our conversation today, I’ve attached my original e-mails fro reference and look forward to getting the documents by Wednesday as we agreed” (or whatever’s appropriate) as you then have a paper trail if they still don’t respond and you have to start looping in your manager

    3. CurrentlyAnonDeveloper*

      Ask them how you can help them give you the info you need. Let them know you know they’re very busy and will be happy to work with them in order to work it into their schedule. Ask for preferences and if they need more info and just be open to getting it done as a team. Treat them with respect and as a subject matter expert.

      Also, some people suck at email. You’ll have to obviously stop by in person, but first ask if it’s a good time and ask for a better time if it isn’t. This is a surprisingly effective approach!

    4. Redundant Department of Redundancy*

      Do you know if they reply to other people’s emails? ie is there a chance that they just aren’t great with their emails?
      I do a lot of chasing up and hounding people for things (I affectionately refer to it as herding cats). Some people respond well to emails, whereas others are so busy they don’t get to their emails. For those folks I do the ‘drop by’ approach – it’s a lot harder to ignore someone stood in front of you. However, I do try to keep it light and breezy – I’ll make a joke or comment on some goings on. I’m sure it’s transparent that I’m there to ask for something, but I like to frame it to them as ‘To save you from another email I wanted to check if you’d completed those reports I needed?’. Then I’ll usual clarify to them the level of urgency. I also find that empathising with them about their workload can help them relax a bit.

    5. Master Bean Counter*

      Drop by in person and reiterate that you need the information to secure funding. No funding=even more budget cuts and more work for the finance person.
      Also ask if they have an email list where they distribute updated reports or have a place on a shared drive where they store the latest info. Basically ask them to automate the process so you don’t have to bug them. Chances are they have this information somewhere and are just too swamped to answer every email.

    6. not really a lurker anymore*

      Can you ask for access to the files on whatever drive they’re stored on? Then you can just send them updates stating “Accessed X, Q and I files for blank grant/budget/whatever on 5/25/18”

    7. Tara S.*

      Depending on how much of a pattern this is, I would reach out to others to see if they are also experiencing it. If yes, I might bring it up with a supervisor and ask for the best way to handle the situation.

      (We had a Grants Officer who was like this, pleasant but overworked and non-responsive. We talked to our supervisor as a group, and I think he was going to reach out to the Grants Officer’s department, but then she got reassigned before he could.)

    8. epi*

      IME the nudge that maximizes being both effective and nice is finding a way to mention that you can’t meet a deliverable without them. You can put whatever fluff is appropriate to your situation around it, but “I need this information so that I can return the report to Bob” has often gotten me an immediate response and an apology. (Not that the apology was really needed, just saying normal people care about this.) If that doesn’t work, yeah, you can go find them in person.

      If it’s an ongoing problem I’ll also offer any workarounds I’m willing to actually do to make it easier on them. If it helps them to send something in one format vs. another, or on Tuesday vs. Wednesday, that kind of thing.

    9. SarahKay*

      A little flattery might help here. I know that if I know someone has a good opinion of me then I want to keep it, so I’m more likely to go that extra mile for them, which of course reinforces their good opinion of me and so on – the virtuous circle.
      I’d recommend coming up with some sort of compliment about their work, and then dropping in to their office in person, and working the compliment into the chase-up conversation. Could be something as simple as “I’m so sorry to chase you on this, as I know how busy you are – I’m always so impressed by how much you manage to get done.”

    10. Lily Puddle*

      Eesh, I can relate. I’ve been having to nag my boss to get back to me on things where it’s holding up a project waiting on his input, but I see how busy he is every day, and I hate to add one more thing to his already-full plate. No advice, just commiseration.

    11. El Camino*

      Thanks so much, everyone! Lots of great advice here!

      Fortunately the ‘in-person conversation and forwarding the email afterwards for context’ combo proved to be helpful. I’m saving a lot of these other tips for future reference too, since I tend to be more passive than I probably should on some of these things (e.g. not just with this particular person). Plus, lots of moving parts at this organization currently with a major funder so the stakes just feel doubly high right now…so a big thanks again to everyone who’s been there, done that! :)

      1. Argh!*

        I find that offering to buy people donuts or cookies gets the point across in a more humorous way than “ACK! I need that stuff yesterday!” Fortunately, they don’t take me up on it, but I’m prepared to put my money where my mouth is if a food bribe will work!

      2. Safetykats*

        I’m really glad these ideas worked for you – they are all good first steps. At some point, if this remains a pattern, you should loop in your manager and the manager if the person who is too busy to effectively help you. Your manager, so that they know what/who is holding you up. Their manager, in case they don’t already understand that this person is overloaded (or has poor time management skills) and that is affecting others. Maybe your manager is willing to talk to their manager, which would be good. As a person who is often busy myself “fighting fires” I know that every day I make decisions about who I’m going to help and who I’m going to defer until later – but I do try hard to make sure everyone at least knows when I can get to their request. Sometimes I lose one along the way, so a reminder is always welcome. But honestly, sometimes I need my management to understand that work needs to be reprioritized or reassigned, so I don’t mind at all when someone goes over my head. Sometimes I get told to drop everything and help them right now, sometimes they get told their request just isn’t as important as my other current tasks, and sometimes they get told there is someone else who can help them. Either way, we all get better clarity on how to get the work done.

    12. AnonJ*

      I think my approach would be to drop by their office and say, “Hey, I’m working on the X grant application. Can you take a look at your calendar and let me know a good time for us to meet for (15/30) minutes this week to go over the financial info we’ll need for the submission and the timeline for it so we can get this together?” Then send a calendar invite for the time they say and attend the meeting with very specific items you’ll need and a timeline for them that actually gives you a cushion.

      1. SpaceNovice*

        This is also a good approach. I’ve used it before successfully! You’re respecting their time while still getting the information you need.

  20. hermit crab*

    In a couple of weeks, I am going on an INTERVIEW in ANOTHER CITY and the (nonprofit!) organization is PAYING for my flights AND hotel! My current, for-profit employer definitely doesn’t do that for hires at my level. (The job I’m interviewing for would be in my home city, but the hiring manager and most of the team work out of a different office.)

    I have not actually been on an in-person interview since 2008, when I was 22 years old; so far I’ve had a phone screen and a first-round skype interview with this organization. I have been low-key looking for a change for about a year (and am currently talking to a couple of potential Americorps placements as well, as I’ve mentioned before) but this is the first time it’s gotten to a serious stage. I am cycling between excitement and “oof, I guess I have to find time to buy a suit now.”

    Good vibes to everyone who is searching!

      1. hermit crab*

        I did! And I discovered that there is also a audio/visual version, which is fun.

  21. Canarian*

    The CEO of my company announced his retirement at the weekly all-staff this morning. He’s been in the position for almost 20 years, and with the company his whole career. He’s nice and generally inoffensive, but also a bit of an awkward, anti-social guy who I think must have been promoted for his technical expertise and not because he has the leadership or management qualities you usually want from a CEO. He created one of those defining moments that really encapsulates someone’s whole demeanor with the follow-up statement he said after giving his retirement date:

    “I’ll save the obligatory stuff about how I appreciate all of you for the retirement party.”

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Well. At least he knows he has an obligation to say thanks and other nice things. Maybe he will hand out nice checks to go with the thanks.

  22. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

    If you can’t find someone’s work email, is it acceptable to send an interview thank you through linkedin? The job was originally posted on linkedin (and nowhere else that I saw, even the company’s website).

    1. College Career Counselor*

      It’s a little unusual (less so if the person’s LinkedIn goes to their work email), but not terrible. Is there someone else at the organization that you are already in contact with? If you send that person an email, you can ask them to forward it to the other person (this doesn’t work as well if you’re customizing thank you letters to several different people).

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Yes. I had to ask my internal recruiter for email addresses for thank yous, and she said either LinkedIn or send to her and she could forward them on (they did not release emails for reasons). I used LinkedIn.

    2. Jane of all Trades*

      Honestly I think it would be much better to call the company’s reception and ask for the email address!

  23. Murphy*

    My organization is doing 360 reviews, so I’ve been sent a link to submit a review of my manager. How anonymous is this really? My manager has two direct reports, and I’m the only non-exempt one.

    1. Tableau Wizard*

      Honestly, it may be anonymous but I still wouldn’t say anything that I wouldn’t be okay saying to my manager’s face. I might be UNCOMFORTABLE saying some of those things, but I’d be OKAY if she knew it was coming from me. That’s my approach at least.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        +1 definitely don’t count on anonymity to say something you would otherwise never dare. Whatever you do say, phrase it in a way where there’s an element of being positive and helpful, not mean.

    2. DCGirl*

      Theoretically, they’re supposed to survey at least 10 people in 360 reviews. At least, according to HR at my last job, they are, because it was the excuse for not being able to implement it there.

    3. Jennifer*

      From what I have read on this website (go look around here for more on this) 360’s are as anonymous as the people offering them want them to be. Which is to say that they can see the answers and who said them if they want to. If I were you, I would assume the manager will see it.

      The one time I got sent a 360 review for the most difficult person in the office, I gave them absolute rave reviews for a reason.

    4. Gotham Bus Company*

      Assume that it’s NOT AT ALL anonymous. Assume that saying the wrong thing will incur a Most Severe Punishment.

  24. On Wee*

    Hitting a wall of procrastination and ennui. After spending the past few months filling in for several coworkers, the sudden drop in workload — which originally gave me license to relax, has now turned into doing the bare minimum. Some of this is a form of rebellion over the way I’ve been treated (good ole gal who will always pitch in when needed and thereby get taken advantage of — my fault), but the other bit is that I am over my career and transitioning out is taking longer than I hoped (though not unexpected).

    I don’t know how to kick myself out of first gear and at least be somewhat productive! Help!

    1. TheMonkey*

      I’m having a similar problem. We had about 18 months of hair-on-fire emergency, all hands on deck crisis mode here. As of early winter, things are mostly resolved.

      Without the constant stream of emergencies and snap decisions and creative collaborative problem solving on a deadline, I’m feeling a bit lost. At first it was nice to take a breath. Now I’m afraid I’ll breathe so deeply I’ll fall asleep at the wheel.

      I’m attempting to deal with it by creating deadlines and schedules for myself around projects that have distant end points, so I’ll be hitting reasonable milestones on a regular basis. I just developed that this week, so I’m not sure yet how it’ll go. I’m also on-the-side looking for other opportunities. Unlike you, I don’t necessarily *want* to leave, but I’m wondering if a new set of challenges will re-light my fire.

      No real solutions, but at least some solidarity? If you’re in the US, I hope you take some time over the long weekend to recharge and come back a little bit renewed next week (that’s what I’m hoping for myself anyway).

    2. RedCoat*

      I feel that- the only advice I have is to enjoy the breathing time, but definitely make yourself a list of “reasonable amount of work to do”, and then make sure you’re hitting it. Are there any long term projects you can take on- perhaps even something to prevent it from hitting emergency all the time levels again?

    3. designbot*

      Do you have vacation time saved up? It sounds like the perfect time to take a break. Your mind and stamina are worn down and need a reset so that you can come back refreshed.

      1. designbot*

        Also I should have said—if you don’t have vacation saved, ask anyway! If you’ve been filling in for several people at once, that’s likely come with some late nights. See if there’s any way to finangle some comp time out of that.

  25. Wendy City*

    I have a third-round interview next week for a new job and I could not be more excited.

    First round was with the person who would be my manager, second round was with his boss, and now this round is with an executive-level officer.

    This is my first time interviewing with someone so senior-level; I interact with people at her level every day in my current role, but interviewing with c-suite folks is new for me. I expect they’ll want to know where I fit in the broader strategic picture, but is there anything else in particular I should be cognizant of that they would be looking for?

    1. SpaceNovice*

      To see if you fit with the general company philosophy. See if there are blog posts and stuff on their website for hints into management style?

    2. Ali G*

      Do some research on him/her. You should have a basic understanding of their background – and if they are a founder of the company, the history. They will mostly want to meet you to see if you are able to fit in with the office culture. Unless they are a horrible micro manager they just want to meet the top candidate (yay you!!!) for the job before an offer is extended.

  26. Dalia524*

    Long time reader, rare poster. I work in an academic research lab, and my PI and our long time collaborator have agreed to start a biotech company with me. I’m really excited and pretty nervous – I’m going to be the “doer” and basically run the company, develop the projects, and get funding/customers with their experience guiding me. I’ve been reading a lot about the ins and outs of running a business, but if anyone has any extra tips, I’d be most appreciative.

    1. Tara S.*

      Be sure to see if there are any resources on campus! Universities like being able to say they helped foster small businesses, and often have different resources to help you get started.

      1. catsaway*

        Definitely this. Trying to get ‘alternative’ (read private) sources of funding is a big thing at many research universities these days, as is supporting (or trying to at least) start-ups. If you need space, you may even be able to rent lab space from your university.

    2. TreeSilver*

      Also look into NIH resources for SBIR and STTR grant applications. Having a good business plan is very key there (and it might also help your NewCo for funding purposes) and you might benefit from some of the guidance they offer!

    3. FD*

      Get a written operating agreement with your partner! I cannot stress enough how important this is. I’ve seen things go spectacularly pear-shaped with partnerships several times now and every time a big factor was that the people involved didn’t have a good agreement.

      This agreement should cover (1) who has the controlling interest (and don’t split it 50/50, someone needs to be able to break ties), (2) how the parties can end the partnership if necessary. Think of it as a prenup.

      1. WS*

        Yes, absolutely! I’m in a partnership and fortunately (for me) my partner, who is older, had been badly burned by a partnership with a non-existent agreement once before, so he had no trouble signing one now. Get a lawyer on board – even if it’s a very basic contract, you want to make sure it’s legal and enforceable in your jurisdiction. This goes double if you are friends with your prospective business partner and triple if they are a family member.

    4. ..Kat..*

      Work out a personal budget for your family. How much money do you have saved up? How long can you go without digging into retirement savings (by the way, never dig into retirement savings).

  27. Sticky situation*

    I trawled through the archives this week and was unable to find a similar situation…

    I run a small, seemingly happy AAM-style team. One of my employees has been having interpersonal problems with someone on a different team–they feel they’ve been blown off, frozen out, etc. The other team is… not AAM-style. They have meager boundaries between work and not-work; socialize together; ignore a lot of what I could consider the niceties of the workplace. I don’t trust the other employee’s boss, who frquently socializes with the other employee, to have a calm response to this particular case or a reasonable set of norms generally. (I’m making this team sound awful–they have other good qualities–but this issue seems to coincide with their weakest point.)

    Can I attempt to get together one on one with the other employee to ask “what’s going on?” or is that a bad idea? The other employee has approached me in the past for help with an issue requiring interpersonal skills so I was hoping I could capitalize on their respect for me and defuse things at a low level. It seems like the main reason not to do it is that it may be “wrong procedure,” but I don’t think these folks care about procedure. The downsides are that I don’t have the standing to tell them what to do (“you can’t treat A like that”) and I still don’t have a good way to escalate if I can’t patch things up myself.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Hmm. Is the other manager likely to get hot under the collar about you ‘going behind her back’ if you speak directly to her report?
      It might be a good idea to mention to to her – perhaps just to say you plan to have a chat to her report to straighten out a few communication issues , but of the employee has come to you in the past the alternative would be to try for a very informal chat – is there a way you could ‘bump into’ them so you aren’t scheduling a formal meeting? That might be less likely to cause any waves!

      1. Sticky situation*

        I don’t know whether the other manager would mind me having the conversation, but if they did mind, it wouldn’t be because of hierarchy or etiquette or any rules like that.

        If I could bump into the other employee that would be great. Unfortunately I did bump into them perfectly the other day but my employee hadn’t decided whether they wanted me to do anything yet, so I didn’t. I wonder if I could orchestrate that somehow, or just make it casual for coffee or something (which is common here).

        1. WellRed*

          Employees who have an issue that is bad enough they bring it up to you but then don’t want you to do anything…really should figure out what they want you to do with that information.

          1. Windchime*

            Well, I know when I told my manager something like this awhile back, I hoped that she would help me figure out what to do or tell the other person’s manager discreetly. Instead she told the other manager, “Windchime has had problems with Employee”, and then other manager went to Employee and said, “Windchime has problems with you.”

            So yeah. This is what we don’t want to happen. Employee was upset and hurt and now I don’t feel like I can say anything slightly negative because I don’t want to cause more drama.

    2. alana*

      I’d stay out of it yourself and coach your employee through the best way to handle it. Other employee’s boss doesn’t sound like the kind of person who’d appreciate you going to one of his/her reports to address an issue without running it by them, particularly since the issue isn’t with you personally.

    3. BRR*

      Has your direct report tried to address it directly? I don’t think you can really coach another manager’s direct report though.

      1. D. Llama*

        Super introverted, hates team building activities and icebreakers, can you do that for me?

        Just a guess :D

      2. Sticky situation*

        I was just trying to be evocative without making my question 2000 words long. Basically, we work during work hours and mostly not during off hours, we have good communication and transparency, pretty clear goals, talk honestly about what worked and didn’t, I’m usually able to explain why I made decisions, and so forth.

  28. Stella70*

    Anyone in the mood to hear about a business trip from hell?
    Several years ago, I was required to attend a 5-day training session with two fellow co-workers. The trip required we carpool and stay in a hotel room.
    I was young and broke. Five days away meant boarding my two beloved dogs (collectively known as Keys to My Sanity) and the only way I could cover the boarding fee was to save and use the food per diem we received.
    Before we left, I let my co-workers (hereafter known as Nutjob #1 and Nutjob #2) know that unfortunately, I would not be joining them for meals as I had to eat in our hotel room (I brought a big jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread for breakfasts and dinners, lunch was provided by the training facility).
    The Nutjobs were offended. Rather, OFFENDED. They felt it was a personal slight that I was limiting my time with them outside the sessions. I repeatedly explained my dire finances, but to no avail.
    When we arrived at the hotel, we learned Boss booked us one room with 2 beds (we are all female, but still….I don’t sleep with anyone not listed as next-of-kin….or at least hasn’t bought me dinner and a movie!) The hotel didn’t have cots to loan, so I volunteered to sleep on the floor or in the desk chair. They were again offended that I immediately declined to share a bed with one of them.
    We unpacked our things and while I was putting my toiletries away in the bathroom, I put a small can of air freshener on the lid of the toilet. To the Nutjobs, this act was the equivalent of shooting their grandmothers. They stopped being offended and moved onto outright pissed. They accused me of implying they might be capable of creating bad smells in the bathroom and asked if I thought my “sh*t didn’t stink”. I replied that as the person who brought the air freshener, I was quite certain I might need it, too. It was no use.
    Nutjob #1 decided for the duration of the trip, she would no longer close the bathroom door. EVER. I saw more of her naked glory that week than I have seen of 99.9% of the people in my life.
    Nutjob #2 decided she would not flush the toilet. EVER.
    (Of course, neither one used the spray, either.)
    I pretended not to notice and silently choked down my PB sandwiches.
    To add to the fun, both Nutjobs snored. LOUDLY. They sounded like constipated jackhammers. I’m an insomniac (3 hours of sleep a night, tops) and even when I do sleep, I sleep so lightly a butterfly farting outside my window can rouse me.
    There was just no getting away from their snoring. During the second night, in desperation, I curled up in the bathtub and packed pillows around my head (neither Nutjob had gotten out of bed the night before, so I thought it was a safe bet). The next day, they saw what I had done, so that night and for the rest of the trip, they SET THEIR ALARMS to get up in the middle of the night to demand I leave the bathroom, so they may use the toilet. (After which, they would tell me “false alarm!” and go back to bed.)
    By the fifth day, my diet was turning me into Mr. Peanut and the sleep deprivation made me fantasize about their demise. (Nutjob #1 had nostrils the size and shape of lima beans and I imagined I could snuff her out in her sleep with two well-placed legumes. Nutjob #2 mentioned a new boyfriend she was giddy about and I dearly wanted to record her jackhammer sessions to give him a heads-up).
    When we returned home, the Nutjobs bragged to our co-workers about how they tormented me all week. They even went to HR and tried to get my food per diem reversed, as they felt it was “unethical” of me to use it to pay my dogs’ boarding fees.
    What is beyond weird about all of this, is that we got along very well before the trip and after. (No, I don’t have a huge capacity for forgiveness. At work, my motto is “never let them see you sweat”.) It just seemed like traveling brought out their inner Regan MacNeils.
    And I still bring air freshener with me on my travels. I’m a rebel that way!

    1. Namast'ay in Bed*


      I can’t believe they had the audacity to brag about tormenting you all week. Did they ever see repercussions, or did you at least get out of sharing a room with them ever again?

    2. Susan Sto Helit*

      Your company sucked not getting you your own rooms (or at least beds!) but I’d have been weirded out by someone who would rather sleep on the floor than (horrors!) share a bed with another woman, and then freaked out about the air freshener as well – I’m allergic to aerosols so that would have come across as Beyond Inconsiderate behaviour.

      Of course, your co-workers retaliated with Beyond Inconsiderate behaviour as well, in some really odd ways. But this comes across overall as some very incompatible personalities that shouldn’t have had to share a room, and your company shouldn’t have expected you to.

      1. Sunshine Brite*

        I do not share beds with others anymore and I don’t find that strange at all as an adult. It’s not about the “horrors!”; it’s about personal space and autonomy. It’s been quite some time since I would and I certainly wouldn’t start with coworkers.

      2. Jadelyn*

        I think it’s less about sharing a bed with *another woman* and more about sharing a bed with *anyone* who isn’t a sexual/romantic partner you’ve chosen to share a bed with. Sharing a bed is a very personal thing, so I don’t get why you’d be weirded out that someone didn’t want to share a bed with a coworker, regardless of genders.

        1. Susan Sto Helit*

          I understand not really wanting to share a bed completely. But if the only options were share a bed or sleep in a chair/on the floor…I’d have shared the bed. It’s not my ideal situation, but it’s still the least bad of the bad options.

            1. Washi*

              I would also have been team floor. I don’t mind sharing beds with friends, but with a coworker I would be up the whole night worrying about if I was turning over too much, if I had more than 50% of the covers, if I accidentally kicked or snuggled them in my sleep…I would actually sleep better on the floor!

          1. Jadelyn*

            And that’s your personal calculation of which is worse, which you’re totally entitled to – I’m just trying to say, maybe try not to assume the worst of someone who sees it the other way. The tone of your original response was very judgmental – “(horrors!)” – which I think is uncalled-for, just because someone else had a different result when they ran their calculation of which is worse.

        2. Stella70*

          Exactly, Jadelyn. It had nothing to do with genders. I barely knew these women before the trip. Sharing a bed with someone I am not intimate with – male or female – on a WORK trip is beyond the pale to me.

      3. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

        Were they both single beds? If so, not wanting to share one is more than reasonable. As to the aerosol, not wanting your co-roomer to use one because of an allergy is again perfectly reasonable, not wanting to use one just to be an arsehole (pun intended) is not.

        1. Susan Sto Helit*

          I’m assuming two double beds, because hotel bookings are based on numbers of occupants. Two double beds=4 people (‘family’ room, ugh), two single beds=2 people. I doubt a hotel would let three people check in to a two-person room.

      4. Canarian*

        Cosign this. The coworkers were awful, but it sounds rooted in a personality clash where no one was really at their best. I’m not allergic to aerosols, but I loathe the smell of air freshener – it doesn’t really do much to improve or mask the poop smell, it just adds to it, and honestly feels like the smell sticks around longer when it’s used.

        Also, maybe I’m just latching onto this part of the story because it bookended the original post, but OP, does your office have policies for use of per diem? We’re expected to use our per diem only for food and drink (non-alcoholic), and reimburse whatever doesn’t get used on a typical day. So if my per diem is $50, but I get free breakfast at the hotel, free lunch at the conference, and spend $10 on dinner, I’m expected to return $40 to the company, and not spend it on pet care or however else I see fit.

        If one of my coworkers told me before we left for a business trip that they’d already misappropriated their entire per diem for the whole trip and would be eating peanut butter in the room instead, I’d have started out on a bad foot with them too.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          That’s not how per diem usually works. They give you the money, expecting you to use it for food and other expenses, but anything not used is not returned. If you can eat more cheaply, you get to keep the extra cash.

          The other way is expenses, where you keep track of your receipts and are reimbursed (or paid ahead and return that not used, as your company does).

          1. Canarian*

            I guess I ‘m familiar with some situations where the remainder isn’t reimbursed (I didn’t realize there was a per diem/expenses dichotomy in the way you describe, though!). But I would think even in those situations the company would still have some kind of policy in place about responsible use of the per diem. It just doesn’t seem like it would be the company’s intention to provide a per diem and then have the employee subsist off peanut butter for a week (which OP even admits affected their personality, and presumably performance) and use the money for pet care.

            1. tangerineRose*

              Per diem frequently works as ThursdaysGeek said. “misappropriated” is not correct for that situation.

              What would you expect Stella70 to do? Eat out every night and let her dogs try to fend for themselves somehow? Maybe she should have brought the dogs with her. I guess she could have tried maxing out her credit cards or something.

              I don’t understand how anyone is taking the co-workers’ side. Stella70 is probably allowed to use per diem this way, I wouldn’t want to share a bed either (I probably would because I don’t think I can sleep on the floor anymore), and an air freshener doesn’t seem like that big a deal (if a co-worker couldn’t handle the fragrance, then said co-worker could use her words like an adult and say so).

              The co-workers deliberately tormented her and bragged about it. I can understand why they might have been surprised by Stella70’s feelings about the floor, not eating out, and the air freshener, but they had absolutely no reason to be jerks about it.

              I know I’m a few days late, but I just felt like I had to write something anyway.

          2. JennyFair*

            I’ve seen it both ways. When I worked for a federal agency, per diem was an allotted amount and you spent it as you wished. Most of the employees (on weeks-long assignments) would rent rooms with kitchenettes, cook and eat as cheaply as possible, and bank the remainder. At my current company, some offices, like mine, allot a per diem that includes hotel, meals, and incidentals. You choose what you want to spend it on–if you want a fancier hotel, whatever, you’re reimbursed the same flat rate. But at other offices within my company, your per diem is loaded to a card, and you have to use that card for your hotel and meals, and can’t cash out the extra. Personally, I’m all for treating people like adults who can make decisions about where they sleep and what they eat. Plus, if you get a flat rate, you don’t have the opportunity to take someone to dinner while you’re in their town, and try to expense two pizzas, two salads, and two pitchers of beer, and hope I don’t notice. (I noticed)

        2. Stella70*

          The policy on per diem for any staff member was cash upfront, to be spent however you wish. It was actually categorized as “travel expenses” on the check stub, but it was common knowledge that most or everyone used it for food. (Though there was a co-worker or two who admitted using their per diem at the hotel bar, to delight in the fact that the company was paying for their drinks.)

        3. Lindsay J*

          We’re not expected to reimburse anything on our per diems, and have never worked anywhere where that was an expectation.

          My boss outright told me he expects most of his employees come out on top when using per diem.

          I’ve heard of places where you are advanced an amount and have to account for expenses with receipts and return anything not accounted for, though. So it doesn’t surprise me that some places would do variations on that.

        4. OlympiasEpiriot*

          There may be multiple ways of using the term then.

          Whenever I get a per diem, it is a flat allowance for me to use for expenses and I’m given it in advance. It may be in addition to pre-paid fees like a hotel or a car rental. I don’t have to submit expenses.

          I have also travelled for work with a “travel budget” for which I submit expenses up to a certain amount.

          I have never been asked to return unused per diem funds.

        5. Gatomon*

          When I’ve received per diem for meals, no one really cared if you actually spent that money on food. You didn’t need a receipt if you didn’t use the company card. It was generally understood you wouldn’t get enough per diem to eat well anyway. I think the rates were $5 for breakfast, $6 for lunch and a whopping $12 for dinner at my last employer. Not exactly profitable, but yeah it would cover pet boarding fees.

      5. WellRed*

        No need to freak out over air freshener. Tell them you’re allergic. It is not being Beyond Inconsiderate if someone can’t read your mind.

      6. Stella70*

        I never asked them to use the air freshener. It was placed with the rest of my toiletries. They saw it and instantly started complaining. Down thread, someone suggested opening a window. Lovely, but what non-luxury hotels have windows that open?!

      7. nep*

        Horrors is right. I would sleep on a chair or cot before joining another co-worker in bed, utterly regardless of gender.

    3. Birch*

      Wow… I admit, I would be a little put off by the air freshener because that seems overkill to me, especially when rooming with people you don’t normally room with.

      But there is no excuse for how they treated you! FWIW I would have offered to trade you buying your dinners for you introducing me to your dogs! :D

      1. Jadelyn*

        Honestly I thought the air freshener was a considerate touch – look, bodies have Smells sometimes, and it’s polite to try to minimize that in a shared space when you’re stuck in close quarters with someone.

        I’d have twitched slightly if it was the standard aerosol spray type cause those give me headaches, but I would appreciate the intent nonetheless.

        1. Susan Sto Helit*

          I don’t know…bodies have smells sometimes, but you deal with your own smells with regular washing, or opening a window. Air freshener kind of implies you don’t trust your co-workers to do the same.

          1. Birch*

            Yeah, for me it’s the fact that acting on the potential smells makes a statement about them, if that makes sense. Rather than ignoring their presence and trusting everyone to deal with them in their own private way. It makes the private smell a public thing by bringing attention to it. Combined with aerosols being bad for air quality, and the scent itself possibly being something that nauseates the roomies. IMHO I’d rather deal with bathroom smells in a bathroom than be assaulted with Fresh Lavender or whatever that’s going to make me gag.

          2. Jadelyn*

            When is the last time you had a window in the bathroom of your hotel room that you could open? I can’t think of a time when I would’ve had that option at any hotel I’ve stayed at. And bathroom air fans can only do so much.

            To be honest, I feel like getting *insulted* – not just not liking it because those scents are sometimes awful and overpowering or you have an allergy, but being offended about the very presence of it – about the air freshener means *they’re* the ones thinking their own s*** doesn’t stink. I really don’t understand it.

      2. Stella70*

        Birch: You would have LOVED my dogs. They are waiting for me in heaven now, but they were heaven on earth to me.

    4. Jules the Third*

      So, if they don’t mind sleeping with someone else, but you do, why didn’t they share a bed and let you have the other one to yourself?

      Sleeping with snorers does suck; that should be an acceptable reason to ask for a separate room, even for a cash-strapped company. They want you to be productive, right?

      1. Camellia*

        Oh, this is good! Too bad you can’t relive this and make the suggestion, just to see what they would say.

    5. Camellia*

      I grew up rather poor and had to share a bed with my mother until I moved out on my own. As I got older and at her suggestion, we had our own pillow and blankets and slept on opposite ends of the bed. Yeah, there was a small risk of ‘foot in the face’ but that was trumped by ‘no accidental snuggling’. And it sort of felt like you were in your own twin bed.

      Just a thought for coping when the unimaginable happens…

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I once lived in a one room apartment with two other people and a bunk bed. That’s exactly how they slept–I got the bottom bunk to myself. They were sisters and had been sleeping that way for a while. I replaced their mum as a roommate, who found another place (we were all adults).

        It was pretty horrible in terms of privacy (and there were bugs) so I don’t really want to ever do that again in life.

    6. Bagpuss*

      I would have spoken to you about the air freshener but it would have been on the basis that I have asthma and allergies, but it would be to ask if you could just give the room as spray when we were leaving, or last thing at night, so it would dissipate before I needed to be anywhere near. – in other words, I’d have made it clear that it was a me-issue, not a them-issue.

      But they do sound very childish, and I think when they started boasting about it I would have been making a formal complaint.

    7. Cowgirl in hidding*

      Wow – if they didn’t mind sleeping with someone, they should have slept in the same bed and you get the other one. These two ladies sound like they are work bullies, they set their alarm so they could wake you up, seriously. After the first night I would have slept in the lobby or swimming pool where it would be quieter than to sleep in the room with them. So sorry you had to put up with this. A note for the future, if it really was that bad, you could have called your boss and asked for another room, siting the bed problem, it might be possible they would let you get another room.

  29. peachie*

    I’ve been in a new job (in data/IT, which is a new industry for me) for about two months, and I’m starting to get nervous about the administrative responsibilities. My previous job was mostly admin, and while I got pretty good at that, it’s not my favorite thing. I know any office job requires some of this, but I’m starting to feel overwhelmed and frustrated with the amount and type of admin stuff I have to do.

    I’m really bad at anything where I have to proactively follow up with multiple people on a rolling basis. I can do it if it’s for a specific project, but as it is, I’m responsible for contacting all our internal customers as they come in. There are 1-5 per day. If they don’t get back to me, I’m supposed to follow up with them until they do. It’s a small team and we don’t have a dedicated administrator, so I’m also getting a ton of other admin-type work, too. Plus, there’s a steep learning curve, so I’m not yet able to do the actual work as quickly as the rest of the team.

    Because this is a new field, I’m also trying to get up to speed technically. Plus, we’re working with a complex data model that takes a while to learn. I have a few big, complex project that wo uld take someone who does know what they’re doing at least 10-15 hours, and I’ve found I need at least two uninterrupted hours to make progress. It feels impossible to do that and to stay on top of the constant emails and small requests that pop up through the day. I’ve been working longer hours than the rest of the team because it feels like I can’t do any of the IT work (which is what I want to do!) until they leave. My ADHD doesn’t help; switching between tasks sucks up a ton of time.

    I know that I could talk to my boss, but the thing is, these things do need to be done, and the team is understaffed and behind. We’re hiring a new person to replace one of my coworkers who’s leaving, and I hope that helps, but we won’t get approval to hire a full-time administrative person.

    I’m also worried that, if we do hire a man to replace my (woman) coworker, I will be locked in to doing this stuff even once I’ve gotten the training I need. As it is, my office-mate and I handle all administrative tasks, despite having the exact same job title as the men on the team. It probably doesn’t help, unfortunately, that I present as very feminine and cheerful. Honestly, the best thing I’ve got going for me is that I’m the only person on our team who knows a technology that we want to start using.

    1. stej*

      I think it’s fair to bring this up to your manager, but as Alison often says, you’ll need to formulate what you’ll say based on what you know of your manager and their reasonableness.

      Perhaps you could say, “Abby and I have been taking on the administrative/organizational work to support all of our internal customers. While I fully understand that these are tasks that need to be done, I’m concerned about the ratio of technical to non-technical work on my plate, and how that affects the nature of my contributions moving forward. Would it be possible to divide the admin work across our team such that our internal customers are satisfied and each team member contributes to the whole?”

      1. peachie*

        Thanks–I think I will do this at a point. I have a big training coming up soon, and I’m hoping that after that, the work balance will change. If it doesn’t, I will try having a conversation like that.

        1. stej*

          Good luck! I’d add that your fear of a new male coworker not having to take on administrative work is valid, and to keep that as a discussion point should it occur. Either way, if a female new hire gets the admin work or a male new hire doesn’t get the admin work, there is a question of how the work became distributed across gender lines when it’s important to the whole team.

    2. Tara S.*

      I’m torn between “don’t get good at things you don’t want to do” and my own feelings of “must be good at all things.” I’ve never bombed on purpose, so I can’t recommend that. As for following up with internal people, could you create a sort of personal ticket system? So if someone comes in, you create a ticket for them/their issue. Once the issue is resolved, you can discard the ticket. If you reach out, just note that on the ticket. This way you have a tracking system that shows you all the people you need to get back to, and keeps a record of how many times/the last time you reached out. I like Trello for this, but you could just use anything that works for you. Best of luck!

      1. Hamburke*

        Ive used trello for this too but now have boomarang which will remind me to send a follow up if I don’t hear back.

  30. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    I complain a lot about work, so I thought I’d throw out a story about some of the kindness here. (By and large it is good people….just lousy management and questionable policies.)

    It’s been a super rough week for me lately. I don’t know why, but this Memorial Day is really making me miss my dad. It’s been almost two and a half years…you wouldn’t think it would still get to me as strongly. Plus, my friend with cancer is getting worse. Work has been stressful because all the llama grooming reports needs to be in and I’m the only one who can process them.

    So, yesterday, when I hit a pot hole and my low tire light came on ten minutes later it was the last straw. I was crying in my car (not something that happens). I got out and inspected my tires. Everything looked fine, it was driving fine but I was still a mess. I can’t afford four new tires at the moment. And it was something I totally would have called my dad for. The fact that I couldn’t just made it even worse. I’m fairly car savvy…except with tires. Need me to check my oil? Fine. Tell if the brakes are spongy? You got it. But judge if a tire is low by looking at it? Nope.

    We have an air compressor at work, so I asked the warehouse manager if we could top up my tires. I figured that way, at least, I could see how bad it was and if I needed to call a tow truck before taking it on the road. So I pulled my car into the dock and we walked down to help me. Not only did he measure the pressure in all of them, but he inspected all four and told me what he was looking for and what I should look for. Checked them over a couple times and everything was fine. He went into total dad mode and I can’t put into words how appreciated that was. It was exactly what my dad would have done. It wasn’t demeaning or condescending. It was very, very kind and extremely appreciated.

    What other acts of kindness has anyone experienced at work?

    1. Thursday Next*

      Aww, that was really kind of your warehouse manager, and it sounds like his kindness came at the perfect time.

    2. CBE*

      I injured my leg, and my boss came to me and told me she’d arranged 6 weeks of parking right outside the door to the building, saving me a couple hundred yards walk every day. She also brought in a stool from her home for me to elevate my leg at my desk if I needed it. (Which I did!) She also didn’t blink at 5 weeks of 3 times a day PT and another 2 months of 2X a day. I didn’t even have to ask for any accommodations!

    3. Laura H*

      Aww that’s so sweet.

      Honestly, the fact that my managers are willing to field my questions that are of the nature of I know the answers but don’t use em enough in my day to day tasks that I need verification on when I encounter the situations I need the answers- is major.

      And yes while that is on a good manager checklist, I don’t always remember what a valuable thing that is.

    4. Cowgirl in hidding*

      Stories like this make my heart sing. I still have my dad but he lives >200 miles from me. I have had some extremely great bosses that were like father figures to me, I was born the year the graduated from college, so I fit the age group. They always listened, gave me advice when I asked, helped me buy good cars, supported me when I took maternity leave to have my babies and to this day still take my calls when I call them, even on their birthdays (which I know they hate). Cannot beat those great bosses.

    5. CTT*

      Aw, that was sweet!

      When I was a paralegal, we had these monthly CLE-type things. They were more litigation-focused, so they weren’t useful to me (transactional), but it was a free lunch and a chance to chat with the other paralegals I didn’t see much. On one of those days, we had a huge closing that required me to miss the session. The associate who was running the deal found out I was missing it, and went out and bought me and the other paralegal assisting our favorite lunches from a nearby restaurant. It was really nice to know that he cared enough to take time out of his day to go do that (even if it was total selfish motivation of “this is 20 minutes where no one can find me!”).

    6. Emily S.*

      WDP, I’m really sorry about your rough week, and your friend’s cancer. Frankly, my week hasn’t been great, so I’m excited it’s only 3 more hours before weekend fun can begin.

      BTW, have you heard anything about the jobs? (Just curious, I know it often takes forever.)

      This isn’t a workplace thing, but I’ll share a heartwarming personal thing. This past Tuesday, my brother and sister-in-law were FINALLY able to officially adopt their foster son, after having him as a foster for 804 days (he was 11 weeks old when they got him). They had a huge party on Tuesday night, and my sister-in-law’s relatives came from as far as Denver and Alaska to join in – it was over 100 people. I made a batch of festive chocolate cupcakes and some other treats, and got lots of compliments (I’m pretty into baking). So that was really fun and happy.

      1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

        Good news is good news!

        No, so far no news. But I’m not terribly surprised nor disheartened (yet). Although I am pretty good at recognizing when those feelings are creeping up and then taking a step, or five, back.

    7. random commenter*

      Once, I had some repair work done in my garage which left my car covered in drywall dust. I was too lazy to wash my car over the weekend, figuring the dust would blow off when I drove to work on Monday. Apparently drywall dust adheres very well so I couldn’t see that well through the windshield as I was driving. I turned on the wipers to brush it off but that didn’t work either. So I sprayed windshield washer fluid to clean it off but it completely gunked up the whole windshield!

      I had to pull over to the side of the road to scrape/clear enough of an area on the driver’s side to regain some type of visibility and get to work. I made it to work safely. I can’t recall what my plan to resolve the issue was but when I came out of work, someone had completely cleaned my windshield! I never found out who or how (we park in a ginormous lot nowhere near running water that is a bit of a walk to the office).

      1. Gatomon*

        I walked past our totally awesome facilities dude putting the headlight back in to someone’s car a few weeks ago! (It was kind of hanging out by a wire.)

        Also, drywall dust is terrible. My dad toasted a PC with it back in the day, none of us thought to take it out of the room or cover it during the remodel.

    8. Beancounter in Texas*

      My husband’s best friend was in hospice care, so my husband was with him and I expected a call at any moment. On the morning of my birthday, my husband called, so I rushed to the break room, and he let me know his friend had passed. Even while expecting the news, I broke down in tears and a VP walked by. She asked me if I was okay, and at first I nodded, but then I shook my head and she asked what she could do. I asked her to get my supervisor, who came and just hugged me without saying anything. It was very nice to have a shoulder to lean on at that moment.

    9. AnonJ*

      My company has 3 days paid leave for bereavement. My co-worker had a very old dog, had worked there a long time, and occasionally brought the dog into the office so everyone knew and loved her. As the dog’s health declined, everyone was very concerned and time off for vet appointments was a non-issue. When the dog finally had to be put down, devastating to my co-worker, our boss said “I know it’s not specifically covered in our bereavement leave policy, but I think it’s within the spirit of it. Please take up to 3 days off with pay if it will make dealing with your loss easier for you.”

  31. Justin*

    Yesterday something happened for the first time in my entire career.

    A colleague and I ate lunch and we talked about challenges in the office, and friction with other colleagues. Not gossip about personalities but literally reasons why working with people’s different styles can be difficult.

    I started my career overseas and didn’t speak the language, then I worked various part-time jobs where no one really spoke, then I finally got a more stable job, but my team was all of one person (me) and eventually a woman who worked for me.

    And, as an educator, I’ve always been a little jealous of more traditional teachers who can share war stories with peers.

    This, talking about work challenges with a peer from my own workplace, is something I’ve truly never had, and I know that’s weird, but it was validating. I had only ever experienced nasty gossip or stony silence.

    That is all.

    1. anonagain*

      Thanks for sharing this. I’m glad you had that experience.

      As an aside, I read one of your comments a few weeks ago and followed the link to your blog. I am happy I did. I have really enjoyed what I have read of it so far.

  32. Overworked*

    I feel like my workload is getting more and more unreasonable every week. My department is understaffed by 5 people, but we are expected to get the same amount of work done. Our management refuses to pay overtime except as a last resort, and I am often put in situations where I’m supposed to do the same amount of work by myself that 2, 3, or even 4 people used to do.

    This past month has been hell because, even though we are already understaffed, my manager has loaned out two people to another department for a project three days per week, and on top of that, a few people have taken vacations and sick days. I have repeatedly asked my manager to schedule overtime to make up for some of the lost hours. Sometimes she flat-out refuses, and other times, she says she will and then doesn’t.

    Her justification is, “The work is getting done, so we don’t need overtime.” This really bugs me because I feel like we are getting punished for busting our butts to get all the work done. There have been multiple times this year that I worked a 12-hour shift without taking a break, not to eat or drink or even go to the bathroom (food and beverages aren’t allowed in our work area because we work with toxic chemicals, so I can’t even sip a cup of coffee or nibble a granola bar while I work). I do what I have to do to get the work done because it’s important and there can be serious consequences to not getting it done, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to work like this all the time.

    Plus, the work isn’t getting done. Most of our work has strict deadlines, and we are meeting those, and that’s what the manager sees, but there are other things with looser deadlines and long-term projects that are slipping through the cracks. We haven’t missed any deadlines for these things yet, but they’re piling up and will eventually become problems. We have a bunch of things due by the end of the month that we should have been working on for the past three weeks, and now, with less than a week left, the manager is asking why they’re not done yet (but she still won’t schedule overtime to get it done).

    I don’t know what to do anymore because I am getting really burned out from having to work at a sprinting pace all the time, but I care about my work and I don’t want to let things drop because of the potential consequences.

    1. Nita*

      So is the manager aware of things that are falling through the cracks? Does anyone in the department have the ability to talk to upper management about the need for more people? In the end, as long as they know what’s going on, making sure the workload matches the staffing is their responsibility. Especially if they’re not letting people work overtime to make deadlines. In the end, you kind of have to let go of feeling you must do it all, and let management figure it out…

      1. Overworked*

        Yes and no. Our management, in general, is not great at looking ahead. As long as the deadline is still in the future, they don’t see a problem, until we miss a deadline and it becomes a crisis, and of course it’s our fault, not management’s. They are well aware of the need for more people and have been trying to hire more, but guess what? Nobody wants to work here! In the last round of hiring, they made three offers and all three candidates turned it down.

    2. Totally Minnie*

      How honest have you been with your boss about your stress levels? Does she know how many days you go without food or bathroom breaks? Does she know how this is affecting you, both mentally and physically? If you haven’t said those specific things yet, I think you should.

      Sometimes, if I’m just acting a little frazzled, my boss will give me a pep talk and send me back into the fray. But if I say outright “I’m under a lot of stress and it’s making me feel sick and forgetful, and I’m making rookie mistakes because my mind is doing too many things at once,” she’ll understand that that’s different from feeling frazzled. Maybe your boss just needs that extra wake up call.

    3. CBE*

      Honestly, it’s time to miss a deadline. Sometimes that’s the only think that speaks to managers like that. And no 12 hour days without food or bathroom breaks. If you need to work 12 hour days, TAKE THOSE BREAKS.
      It’s not reasonable. So don’t do it.
      You can care about the work AND be reasonable about workload. Your boss is exploiting your care for the work.

      1. LCL*

        Yup. Start working at a more reasonable pace, take your breaks, don’t work for free. It sounds like at the end of the month the manager will be faced with the missed deadlines. If you could take a vacation or sick day on the day you expect it to all hit the fan, it will help get the point across.

      2. Jules the Third*

        +1 Managers are more likely to fix problems when they see the results of the problems.

      3. Overworked*

        When we do miss a deadline, it’s our fault, not management’s, and their response to it is that they just need to crack the whip harder.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          You can only do what you can do, no matter how hard they crack the whip. As I’m a Little TeaPot says below, don’t care more than the manager does.

          Do what you can and do it well. Take care of yourself. Send periodic emails to your manager about things that are not getting done, and then let them fail. They may blame you, but if you have clearly communicated to them that they are not getting done, and not just last minute communication, the problem is theirs. Really. Don’t let them make you feel guilty for them not doing their own job.

    4. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      Step back, do what’s reasonable, and let things fail. Set priorities with your manager, but of course you’re unable to keep working at this pace. Never care more than the manager.

    5. WS*

      Not taking breaks while working with dangerous substances is a recipe for disaster. I work in pharmaceuticals and there are strict limits, i.e. compulsory 30 minute break after 5 hours worked even if you don’t want it. Sadly, these strict limits came after a situation similar to use, where a worker was seriously injured (and unable to work again) and another two less seriously injured but still needing to go to hospital. Don’t let your manager push you into that position – do what you’re doing well, and the rest falls by the wayside.

  33. ytk*

    How should I tell my manager that I’m unmotivated / disengaged?
    I’m not really sure why, just that I’ve been feeling in a funk lately in my life and it’s definitely shown in my work. Also not sure if it’s because of how I’m feeling, but think I’m questioning whether the role i’m in is really a good fit for me as I seem to be getting frustrated and feeling undervalued in the work that I am doing.

    1. Washi*

      What are you hoping to get out of telling your manager this? (Genuine question; I think how you approach this will depend on what you’re looking for.)

      1. Susan Sto Helit*

        I did discuss something similar with my manager a while back – he’d brought up that it was evident that I brought a lot more energy to tasks I enjoyed than those I didn’t, and I explained that it wasn’t a matter of enjoyment, so much (some of those tasks I was actually bringing a lot of energy to were incredibly stressful), but that some tasks were much less mentally stimulating than others, and I found it harder to focus on them than the ones that were actively challenging.

        I made sure to emphasise that I was aware that ALL tasks were important ones and this was my problem to fix, not his, but it did lead us to discuss the fact that I actually work better when the work is more challenging, and that (for me) increasing my workload so that I had fewer down periods was going to be key to getting the best out of me in the workplace.

        1. ytk*

          Thank you for sharing, your words resonate with me about needing mental stimulation in my work, in addition to wanting less down time.

      2. ytk*

        Good question. I really don’t want to be perceived as lazy, and in past have demonstrated my capability to perform well, and think this recent situation is an anomaly. Think I want validation for my expectations in the role, because if the core requirements are killing my spirit than I may want to plan a path out of here.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Serious question. What would have to happen for you to feel more valued?

  34. Mona Lisa*

    I have a question regarding pregnancy, office accommodations, and when to ask your boss for them and would love to get some advice from other people on this situation.

    I work on a university campus, and my office is moving to an older building sometime in June. The estimated work completion date is 6/15, and we plan to be there by the end of the month. The office is a third-floor walk-up with restrooms on the first floor. Also, right now, the plan is for me to go from having my own office to sharing with my direct supervisor.

    I just found out I was pregnant a week ago and had my first visit to my midwife yesterday to confirm. The first ultrasound is scheduled for 6/14. My concerns deal with what the pumping situation will be for me after I have the baby early next year. If I was staying put, I’d have no problem. However, since I’m going to be sharing an office, I will need a private space.

    Ideally, I’d probably wait to have a conversation about my pregnancy until the second trimester, but with the construction going on in the office and the un-finalized office arrangement, I’m wondering if I should broach this sooner? I’m not nuts about the lack of elevators and worry about that might be a problem later. Also, the closest university-provided lactation room would probably be a 15-20 minute round trip from my new office building, which would mean I’d probably miss out on at least 2 hours of work every day. I’m thinking, if I discuss this now, there might be time to get a work order in for a lock on one of the new meeting rooms in this fiscal year, or that my boss might be open to re-configuring the office arrangement. I am the only woman on my team of five so I’m sure this isn’t something anyone would have considered before now.

    I’d love some advice from others about when to have this conversation. I don’t love the idea of telling my boss about the pregnancy before my family, but I want to make sure I get the proper accommodations while there’s still time and budget to make them happen.

    Thanks in advance for any advice or help you can give!

    1. RedCoat*

      I’d mention it to your boss- we just had a bunch of pregnancies (I’m at the tail end of the last ‘boom’, as it were), and my company used it as a good time to evaluate our accommodations- nursing rooms and parking included. It ended up being a really good communication, and the company adjusted a lot of stances all around. I’d go with something like “I wasn’t intending on announcing it this early, and I am keeping it very private until (insert time), but I wanted to mention it now since we are in an office redesign.”

      1. Mona Lisa*

        I think that’s good language about asking for them to keep it private. I have a direct manager and then his boss/our office’s director who oversees some of my work and is in charge of the office renovations. I might ask for a meeting with them both next week to discuss our options.

      2. Natalie*

        I think it would be wise to specify that you’re not announcing it to everyone, just boss because of this specific construction issue. You probably don’t want boss to share it around.

    2. Observer*

      In terms of the lactation room, I don’t think you need to bring up that you’re pregnant. But, unless you are the only youngish female on staff in that building, and the chances of hiring anyone new for the next 10 years is slim you should point out to your boss that they really need to make sure there is a lactation room in that building. It’s true that employers can often get away with not having lactation rooms by claiming “undue hardship”. But when they are already doing major renovations, it’s going to be MUCH harder to make that claim.

      Also, you might want to point out that a third floor walk up with no bathroom is probably not a great idea. Someone needs to look at those plans again and think about what real human beings need to be reasonably efficient.

      1. Mona Lisa*

        That’s a good point about other people potentially needing the space. Since the university provides official lactation rooms around campus, I don’t think they necessarily have to put one in our building as long as they agree to let me have the time to go elsewhere. I’m concerned more for myself about the amount of time it will take out of my day to make it work.

        Unfortunately it’s not a major renovation they’re doing right now. It’s smaller things like refinishing the walls, changing the carpets, etc. I’m not sure there’s any way I can convince my department to spend a lot of money to add a new bathroom, but I am thinking about alternative suggestions for places I could work if the stairs become an issue, which is something they would need to consider anyway since the building is 100% not handicap accessible.

      2. Thlayli*

        This is the issue. It’s not that YOU will need a pumping room, it’s that a pumping room may be needed.

        Although if you are the only woman of childbearing age in the new building it will be pretty obvious so in that case you may need to fess up.

      1. Mona Lisa*

        Yeah, I honestly have no idea what would happen if they hired someone in a wheelchair. My guess is they would have to be headquartered in another building, hopefully somewhere near the office. It’s a university campus with quirky, old buildings so I’m not sure what kind of rules apply.

  35. AnonAnon*

    I posted above about some stuff at work that is sending me down a path to burnout… now I need to tackle the burnout itself. It’s related to frustrations at work, not overwork or too many hours at work.

    I’m taking some days off here and there (still haven’t finalized plans for a “long” vacation yet this year; that’s on me and my husband, not work — I get plenty of PTO). I started doing Crossfit a couple of months ago and have tightened up my eating and sleeping to go along with it, so I think I’m in good shape in terms of basic self care. I have an old chronic shoulder injury, so I get regular massages (although they’re not relaxing or enjoyable — it’s more like a medical treatment than a spa day).

    Any suggestions?

    1. SoSo*

      It sounds like you’ve made some really good changes, but what about hobbies aside from the crossfit? Are there any new things you’d like to explore that you might be interested in? Anything you’ve been wanting to catch up on like a book or a TV show? A bucket list of items you’ve always wanted to try out (learning a new skill like sewing or checking out an indoor rock climbing gym in your area, etc etc)? Getting some positive mental stimulation from a hobby can definitely help “reset” your brain during your off hours from work and make you feel more refreshed when it’s time to go back in.

      1. Quinoa*

        I second SoSo’s suggestion. Having something you can focus on outside of work means that it’s something else you can think about and get excited about. That can sometimes be even more energizing and recharging than unstructured time off. (Though unstructured time off is also Really Important.)

    2. Washi*

      You don’t mention anything social here- is your friend life all that you’d like it to be? Even as an introvert, I find just going on a walk with a friend to be very refreshing, and this might be a time to make sure that you’re investing in the friendships that bring you joy.

  36. Ordancer*

    Hi! I’ve read this site for years without ever actually posting, but I am in desperate need of some advice…hopefully this doesn’t come off too much as a screed.

    I started in public accounting almost two year ago on a team at the same time and level as someone else (Fergus). Since then, I have received excellent reviews and been told by my seniors and managers that they consider me to be very high-performing. I want to take on more responsibility and substantive/complex projects, but they are almost all going to Fergus, who I have spoken to and thus know we have gotten very similar reviews. This year, we are splitting our large audit team into two segments – Fergus is being made the senior on one segment, while I am staying in a more associate position on the other segment. The segment that Fergus is in charge of contains most of the areas I have worked on (and was in charge of last year) and now I will have no further involvement on them and will only work on a few cycles in the other segment.

    I told my manager (who is also my coach, the person assigned to help me figure out career progression, etc) at the beginning of the year that I would like to work on more areas of the audit and take on more responsibility, and he told me the splitting of the teams would be a great opportunity. This was before I found out that Fergus would be in charge of the one segment. Now basically all the client relationships and knowledge areas I’ve worked to develop over the past two years are being ripped from me and given to Fergus so he can be the senior and I can be in a lower position elsewhere.

    I’m beyond frustrated. I’ve expressed my desire to take on more responsibility and work on more substantive projects, have volunteered for (and assigned myself when given the chance) such projects, have gotten great reviews – and yet I feel like I’m not getting the responsibility and projects that my coworker who gets the same ratings as me is. What else can I do? Talk to my manager/coach again? How do I approach that conversation?

    1. Lil Fidget*

      I hope others will weigh in from the accounting field, but just wanted to say that I do hope you’re job searching. Being passed over in favor of a colleague is the most common indication that you should look elsewhere so you can be valued the way you deserve.

      1. Emily S.*

        I agree with this. It could be time to look elsewhere, where you may find something with more responsibility, advancement opportunities, and higher pay.

    2. Master Bean Counter*

      First thing, in public accounting it’s not that unusual to rotate clients every so often. Use this opportunity as a lesson in letting go.
      Second thing, next time you talk to your boss tell him you appreciate being told you’re high performing and specifically ask him about why this hasn’t translated to more complex work and opportunities like other people have had that started around the same time as you. You will gain some insight here.
      Third thing, the reality is you’ll probably have to move out to move up. two years in public accounting at your first firm is a good run. Brush the dust off your resume and open yourself up to other possibilities.

    3. Boredatwork*

      What you described is very common in public accounting – I’m going to assume you work for a larger regional/national/Big4.

      You definitely need to practice letting go. They probably moved you to a different section because you said you wanted to try/learn new things. Until the audit gets started, you won’t know if what you’re assigned is better or worse than Fergus.

      Also, have you asked your manager if you’re on track for promotion? I know you feel like Fergus is getting to be acting senior sooner than you but it could just be that the engagement you’re assigned is more complex.

      My last point – it’s been 2 years, if you’re on track to be promoted to senior, and overall can handle the hours/work load, give it some time. The longer you survive in public the better your jumping off points.

      1. Ordancer*

        I was definitely very excited when my manager first told me about the split and was excited to work on some different areas. But now that we have started the audit, I am in a preparer role on only three areas (two of which I already worked on last year, and none are all that complex) while the other associate is getting the opportunity to review work from newer associates, manage the project plan, and is constantly asking me questions about the processes and client contacts in the process, it gets very wearing. I do appreciate the perspective! Part of my struggle is definitely wanting to stay on longer like you’ve said, but it’s increasingly difficult as I keep getting passed over and not getting what I ask for like this.

    4. Jane of all trades*

      Hi Ordancer!
      I think it could be due to one of two things, and I would encourage you to find out which one –
      1) is it possible that out of two very high performing people Fergus exhibits more traits that are needed to lead a team? And maybe you are more of an expert in the subject matter? Or that Fergus is just a little bit ahead of you, even though you are both very strong performers? I think if you come to conclude that this is the case, then I would try not to worry about it so much. Just keep pushing, seeking out new projects and responsibilities, and have a clear line of communication with those of your superiors who are in decision making positions about the advancement you are seeking.
      2) it is also possible that your firm (or at least the team you are on) does a poor job identifying the right people for promotion, and instead go with promoting the person they have more of a personal relationship with. To put it more bluntly – are you a woman / minority in a ‘boys club’? This happened to me at the beginning of my career in public accounting, and it was very difficult. It took me years to figure it out, and it felt similar to what you are describing – I would get excellent feedback, and have tons of work to do, but the projects I wanted would go to men, some of whom were clearly less qualified than me. These people would be invited to meetings, special events, and so on, and none of that ever happened for me, regardless of how much I asked. Through the help of some other people in my firm I ended up switching teams and working for different partners who thankfully do not operate the same way. That has been such a fantastic and freeing experience, and I have been able to grow and take on responsibilities, volunteer for projects and generally just feel like I’m in the driver’s seat when it comes to my own career.
      Long story short – if you’re otherwise happy at your firm, I’d suggest investing some time to make sure that there weren’t other, valid reasons for promoting Fergus over you. Maybe if you have a mentor you trust ask them, and try to be very receptive to candid feedback if they are willing to provide it. If you come to the conclusion that Fergus was promoted over you because your bosses do not recognize your value, then I would try to see if there are other teams in your firm, or even other firms, that are a better fit. Best of luck!

  37. Blue Anne*

    New boss would like me to pick my title – Finance Manager, or Controller? I think Controller would be better, right?

    New job is nice s far but I’m feeling like a victim of my own success. The idea in switching out of public accounting was to find something more laid back, maybe even part time, so I could put more focus on my side business. I applied to this role because it was advertised as a bookkeeping/admin type role with some marketing. Kind of an all-rounder Office Person at a small manufacturing company. Then I interviewed and they said well, we’d love to have you join us, and with you we see a lot of potential for growth. Now I’ve been here for about a month, I’m going to be listed as Controller, I’m training to take over when the Finance Director retires in a year, I’m going on trainings and overnight business trips and they just bought me an ipad for some reason? It’s nice, but they’re definitely expecting me to be here for at least 5-7 years.

    There’s some “ha ha, take this patriarchy” appeal to being a 20-something female pink haired Philosophy-major Controller at a manufacturing company in the Midwest, but geez. Should’ve applied to coffee shops and bars.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Just want to say that I’m happy to see you here and that you’ve found a job with nice people who are investing in you, and I hope that even if the workload increases, you find this one to be much less stressful than your last gig. And yes, Controller. I would love to have “Control” in my official title, but sadly, I have no accounting experience. :)

      1. Blue Anne*

        Thanks! It’s definitely a very nice switch. Right now I’m sitting playing with my spreadsheets, windows open on a beautiful day, having a beer my boss handed me. And I actually get to leave at 5!

        My family have noted the improvement in my mental health and asked what made the difference, so we could be sure I stuck with it. I told them I think I should be fine as long as I never go back to public accounting. :)

        1. Blue Anne*

          That’s what I was thinking. I couldn’t really figure out the ladder between Finance Manager, Controller, Finance Director but I think Controller sounds good. At least until I take over from the FD. :)

    2. Gertrude*

      Controller. I hear Finance Manager and assume they’re lower in the hierarchy than a Controller.

    3. Tableau Wizard*

      Yay Blue Anne!! Glad to hear things are working out so well for you. No real advice, but yay!

    4. Where's the Le-Toose?*

      I’m partial to comptroller. But given the choices, definitely go with controller.

    5. OlympiasEpiriot*

      You could go old school and use Comptroller. Do you oversee internal audits? Then you could definitely make a case for that word.

  38. Decorating ideas*

    I just moved in to a different office and it sounds like a cave. There was an extra chair but my supervisor didn’t like it and told me I should get rid of it. I really can’t have visitors in my office anyway because I work with personal health information so I don’t really need an extra chair but now its so loud. Any ideas on how I can incorporate some fabric or something sound dampening?
    Also, an ideas on where to get inexpensive art prints? The executive assistant has commented on the bare walls and said I should bring my own in before the designer sees and puts up something for me.

    1. Manders*

      Maybe some hanging tapestries could do double duty as decoration and sound dampeners? The huge ones that cover a whole wall probably won’t look great in an office, but smaller ones could work. A big cork board might also help for filling wall space and cutting echoes a bit.

    2. epi*

      I have gotten art prints I really like from Fab, often they’re available framed if you want that. If you don’t want to pay for real framing for an inexpensive print, I have put nice things together for cheap using Michael’s frames and a neutral fabric layered beyind the print to look like a mat. It won’t preserve your art as long term as real matting, but unless your office is really humid or the art is really beloved it should be OK. You can also use it to buy you time. :)

      You might want to put a couple of rugs down. This tip probably won’t blow your mind, but I have gotten very cute and inexpensive ones from both Target and Ikea. Target has a way bigger selection online that goes on great sales– I had a large rug shipped from them and it worked out great.

      1. BadWolf*

        Michael’s also has prints of assorted size — you could maybe get something big and cheerful and the frame to go with it (check for sales and coupons– usually different frames on sale every week).

    3. Canarian*

      Foam egg-crate material (also called acoustic foam) does great for absorbing sound. Probably not something you can hang on the walls, but attaching it in discreet places, like the underside of tables and desks, could help with sound dampening.

    4. Fiennes*

      Is the floor tile or otherwise hard surface? If so, getting an inexpensive rug on Overstock will help absorb a LOT of sound.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      My boss and I selected a rug and heavy curtains to take the echo sound out of our room. It helps a lot. She picked curtain poles that were much wider than the window. Then she hung two curtains on each side of each window. This gave the illusion of a larger window and allowed us to run the cloth across the walls a little bit.

  39. Forking Great Username*

    Disappointing start to my job search. I completed student teaching and my degree last month, and the district I student taught in liked me – asked me back for a long term sub job for the rest of the school year, mentioned that a couple of English teachers are retiring at the end of the year, told me to apply, etc. While I know you can’t be certain until you have the job, things were looking good.

    Now it turns out someone is transferring from another school for one of the spots, and the other isn’t being filled – administration is just going to increase class sizes. While I know that’s probably a sign this isn’t the right school for me anyways, I’ve really enjoyed the students here and am bummed to not be able to teach any of them next year in a more official role. And I wish I hadn’t accepted the long term sub job, because that means I won’t get a chance to get to know people in other districts as I begin applying for other jobs/schools.

    1. Hidden Trout*

      Fellow teacher here. I’ve had a miserable job search this time around, but wanted to say this: the long-term sub job gave you valuable experience in sticking with a group of kids over a period of time. That’s going to give you lots to talk about during your future interviews. Best of luck!

      1. Julianne (also a teacher)*

        This! Per diem subbing isn’t super useful for networking, in my opinion – I don’t know anyone who has gotten a job, or even an especially good recommendation, exclusively from subbing a few days here or there. Also, even the best per diem subs don’t usually get to demonstrate the kind of skills that make administrators stop and take notice. Having a long term sub job on your resume is much more valuable and says more about your ability to actually do the job!

    2. Middle School Teacher*

      Plus you never know. Someone might get pregnant, or move away. There is all sorts of movement in schools over the summer and by being a long-term sub, you’ll be fresh in their minds.

  40. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

    Just a random slice of life in the office story today…

    I have an employee who is coming up on a milestone anniversary (4o years), this employee is a very quiet person who doesn’t like the spotlight at all. Ironically we have another employee in a different group who is also getting ready to celebrate the same milestone anniversary. So that team is going all out on the celebration, decorations, dinner, gifts, cake, crowns, t-shirts, etc. (This employee will love all of this fanfare)

    I quietly spoke with my employee this week and let her know that her team was going to want to do something to honor the day. The poor thing panicked, I had to quickly explain that why I was talking to them was to get an idea of what they would be comfortable with. I mentioned the other celebration plans and said that her team knew her well enough to know that kind of celebration would not be appreciated and they wanted to know what the employee would be ok with.

    We settled on a gift (think commemorative teapot for someone who works at a teapot company) and a card quietly left on the desk, with no other mention of anniversary.

    1. CBE*

      Wish more managers took the preferences of the employee in mind for these occasions! Nicely done.

    2. Jennifer*

      That’s very Leslie Knope of you!

      (Think Ron’s birthday vs. Ann’s, if you watched the show and don’t recall.)

  41. epi*

    Just getting something out and wondering if anyone else has been through similar–

    Someone I was friendly to in my office last year started pushing past boundaries in a way that seemed like it was escalating towards stalking. My boss and the HR person I brought it to were really helpful, HR talked to the guy, and because he backed off he still works here. (We have no need to interact for work, we are grad students who work on totally separate projects.)

    In the past week or so I’ve felt really bothered by what happened. I wish I had asked that he move his desk somewhere else or not even work in this building anymore. I’ve run into him elsewhere on campus– places we both had every right to be– and I can’t really tell if I am right to be freaked out. Right now I feel like I am just playing a waiting game to see if there are more coincidences like this to help me decide whether to report it.

    Meanwhile the policy in my office is for us to post our names and hours publicly on our desks and our admin will not let it go! My boss told her last semester I won’t be doing that. This semester she wants to know if I can post my hours without my name. Ummmmm since anyone who’s ever walked through the floor once would know who sits here, that’s not private at all, and no?

    1. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      Since there are valid, innocent reasons for him to be in those locations, I’d just note it and sit on it for now. Maybe switch up your routine a bit? If he is following you he’d shortly start showing up in the new places. If it escalates at all or continues past the point of random encounters, definitely talk to your manager.

    2. BadWolf*

      I feel you. I had a coworker and was dancing in stalker territory. Fortunately after some manager talks, he backed off. He was not moved out of our department. I did start changing some of my routine when I realized he’d be walking the same way. It sucked. He was actually let go a relatively short time later (I suspect he was not moved because he was probably on some sort of PIP).

      Sometimes I regret not asking for him to be moved. But this way, I did look like the bigger person, I guess. I don’t know.

      1. epi*

        Thanks for your reply! I’m sorry that happened to you.

        It is so hard to ask for all you need (or guess what you will need) at the time you are first reporting it. This was someone I’d been friendly to, accepted some boundary violations because there was a cultural difference I was trying to be sensitive to, and then pretty quickly realized that as I was backing away, he was getting more insistent about monitoring me and following me. At the time I was talking to HR about what I wanted to happen, I don’t think I really *got* yet how troubling the behavior was, because it was stuff I’d been accepting up until a few days earlier.

        The HR person offered repeatedly to move *me*, which I really did not want. I have a good reputation here and sit near people senior to me I am very friendly with, and the desk on offer would have been nowhere near anyone. I wish I had asked for *him* to have to move there, but at the time it felt like that would be vindictive. I wasn’t mad yet, I just wanted it to stop.

        I consciously didn’t change my routine for a while, because why the hell should I? But lately I’ve found that I want to. I hope I’m wrong, but if I’m right then I need to know.

        1. essEss*

          As an fyi – in California it is illegal for the person who makes a harassment complaint to be the one who has to make accommodations to a less desirable position/location. I had to take harassment reporting training specific to California because they have more rules about how to handle it.

        2. Different username for this one*

          I’m so sorry that this is happening to you, but I’m grateful that you are posting about it. I am currently trying to figure out how I am feeling about a situation of somebody behaving inappropriately toward me too.
          I so recognize myself in your saying “accepted some boundary violations” – I think that is something I am prone to do too, especially when the violation is so subtle that it can be chalked up things like cultural differences or misinterpretations. In my case, a person who is very sporadically in my office (think every 6 – 8 weeks for a day or two) started touching me in very subtle ways – think a hug as a greeting, or touching your leg during a movement. This is not at all part of our office culture, but was always very subtle, that it took me a while to identify there was a pattern. I didn’t bring it up to anybody because it is a weird thing to bring up, and because it was so subtle I felt like people would just think that I was being too dramatic. So I let it go, and just wasn’t in the office (through a mix of chance and my scheduling) the next few days the person was in the office. Then the behavior stopped, and we kept interacting like we would with other coworkers. Fast forward a year later, very recently, when we were both at a multi day firm event. This person got drunk during the after dinner social, and began to be super creepy toward me, ending with the person kissing me on the cheek several times (actual kisses – not the European greeting type kiss).
          I haven’t processed yet what I want to do about this, if any. Right now I am feeling very frustrated because throughout my entire career I have never given anybody any indication that I am there for any purpose other than doing my job, and I felt reduced to my body, and that that took away from who I am and who I want to be.
          So I am proud of you for speaking up, and for sticking to your guns! Don’t change your routine, and don’t allow this person to control the space you occupy. They are the ones in the wrong. Also, don’t be hard on yourself for not requesting that they be moved elsewhere. I think when something like this happens we don’t know yet what to expect or how we would feel about the situation once routine sets back in, so you couldn’t have known early on that this is what you needed. Hopefully the person will just be gone / fired / whatever, soon.

  42. Almost Violet Miller*

    Anyone up fot a thread about business travel best practices/gadgets?
    What comes to my mind:
    – I always buy milk and food that keeps in the fridge before the trip so I have dinner/breakfast after I get home
    – I have a laptop bag with a small compartment for a water bottle that I can tuck into the bag when not in use (perfect hand luggage)
    – I bring healthy snacks so I don’t buy chocolate to keep me going during a busy day

    I’m curious how you make frequent travel more fun (less of a inconvenience).

    1. Lil Fidget*

      I always schedule a little time to tidy the house before I leave, because I realized when I walk into my home after a trip and it’s a wreck, I have a terrible reaction. It will make me feel angry and bitter for at least twelve hours, and it’s pretty predictable! This is hard because I have housemates so they will leave messes – but I make sure my room is clean at least.

      1. KatieKate*

        Similarly–I always change the sheets before I leave so I can come back to fresh sheets. It really does a wonder on my sanity

      2. KR*

        This! I’ve been known to stay up all night before a travel day to clean my house because there is nothing nicer for me than coming back to a clean house and not having any chores to do when I get back.

    2. Fiennes*

      I make sure I have a certain number of creature comforts—a lotion bar for my hands, a pair of warm socks for a chilly hotel room at night, reading and listening material, etc. In other words, on work trips, if I’m not working, I’m pampering myself. Keeps you going.

      I count working out or at least walking as “pampering,” too. Exercise clothes are IMO worth the suitcase room. Travel can push you out of healthy habits and into unhealthy ones; I find making the time to hit the hotel gym helps keep me on track.

      The White Noise app! My phone turns into a great white noise machine at night, which has transformed my hotel experience. Makes it much easier to get a good night’s sleep.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        I always try to plan gym time for work trips as well. And if I can swing a day off after I get back, I like to schedule a massage. Sitting in those conference hall chairs and airplane seats can do a number on a person’s body.

      2. epi*

        Workout clothes are the best on work trips. I don’t usually go to the gym because I have no idea what the facilities will be like and just don’t block off time for it in my head. But I walk a ton and try to see the city.

        Workout clothes are also crazy comfortable to fly in, and awesome to sit around in if you want to chill in your hotel room but it’s not pajama time yet. And then if it turns out the gym is nice, you have them.

        I always buy myself fancy face wipes for travel, and the physical copy of a couple of silly magazines.

    3. JessicaTate*

      Another vote for the White Noise App! It is my essential. Also, a decent sleep mask, because hotel curtains never seem to close 100%.

      I got a S’well water bottle and am really committed to not buying water bottles. (So. Much. Plastic.) I like the S’well one because it’s a little thinner than a Camelback or Hydroflask and the cap is really leak resistant – which mean I can shove it in my work bag without fearing my wallet/tablet/laptop will get damp. P.S. I love the airports that have installed water fountains with bottle-fillers. They all need to catch up on that!

      I also second the importance of making time for fitness, even when colleagues look at you like you’re crazy to prioritize such a thing. It’s “me time.”

      1. JessicaTate*

        Oh, and packing cubes. I resisted for years thinking it was nonsense, until I tried them. They. Are. Amazing.

    4. periwinkle*

      1. I leave a daily tip for housekeeping. Before the trip, I’ll go to my bank to convert larger bills into dollar bills, and then use paper clips to portion out the daily tips.
      2. If I’m not familiar with the hotel surroundings, I’ll use Google Maps to look for drugstores, delis, and other conveniences. If there are good options nearby, I’ll pack just a few snacks. If not, I’ll pack more substantial food like cheese and sausage (plus utensils and a few paper plates).
      3. Apps, apps, apps! I rely on SeatGuru when booking flights, GateGuru while traversing airports, TripAdvisor if there’s a hotel choice, and Yelp for restaurant options. I check in ahead of time in airline apps and hotel apps – Hilton even allows you to pick your room and use your phone as the room key (in many properties).
      4. Collapsible water bottles are awesome.
      5. Canvas or vinyl pencil cases are also awesome. I use them to organize small but useful things like USB cables/plugs, tea bags, and the aforementioned tip money.

      1. periwinkle*

        Oh yeah, and creature comforts… I always pack The Body Shop’s satsuma body wash. That powerful tangerine-y aroma is refreshing after a long day. And cocoa butter body lotion! I go to sleep smelling like a Terry’s chocolate orange.

    5. Thlayli*

      Best tip is to use google maps a LOT before you go. Figure out best location for hotels and transport to and from hotel and business location. Look for nice restaurants in walking distance. Look for transport routes that go past interesting sights or near places to go shopping, so you can fit in some personal stuff on your down hours. If you’re traveling near a weekend or can reasonably take a day off before or after, see if you can stay another day – you will have to pay expenses for the extra day but there’s no travel cost.

    6. Ali G*

      I have a pillow cover/blanket kit that is a lifesaver. It’s cashmere (I know sounds excessive but it’s sooo nice). The blanket folds into the pillow case – but when you take the blanket out the pouch is a perfect cover for the gross airline pillow. It’s a nice way to stay warm and also take a nap/sleep on a red eye.
      And I’ll put another plug in for the white noise app (I actually have a machine I travel with, but I’m really picky).
      Last, my S’well water bottle is great and a lot of airports have bottle fillers. Also the water stays cool for a long time, even in a hot car.

  43. Mouse*

    Hi everyone! Any advice on having two bosses with different philosophies? I’m the assistant to both the CEO and CFO of a mid-sized company. I also do a LOT of other things–we just went through some downsizing and I took on a lot of slack, so in addition to my own job, I absorbed about 75% of a second role and pick up some other slack here and there. My two bosses have conflicting philosophies fairly often (though we’re pretty informal and all get along very well), but the one I’m struggling with now is overtime. I am nonexempt. One boss would love it if I worked 60 hours a week, and I’m in his budget, so he’s happy to approve it. He loves that I’m taking on more work and is willing to give me the resources I need to complete it. The other boss believes that if you need overtime, you’re not working hard enough during the week. He’s my official, on-paper manager, so I feel like I should prioritize his thoughts, but as I said, the other boss is the one who actually approves the overtime, so I can usually “get away” with working extra without stingy-boss knowing. I’m not sure how to navigate this!

    1. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      Yeah, I don’t know. I’ve got a similar issue re different philosophies, but in my case it’s causing morale and motivation problems on the team. Communication is probably key.

      1. Melimania*

        Would it be possible to have a meeting with both of them to review job duties, priorities, and overtime policy? Laying out what you are doing, what you have been asked to do, what that realistically means for hours (and what might not be able to get done, especially with overtime constraints). In the past when I’ve been in a similar situation, its been helpful to get the everyone in the same room to iron out things like overtime approval and how you should handle competing priorities. Additionally, what the long term plan is for the position, extra duties, etc. Also, are you getting an increase in pay, title, etc to go along with the increasing duties? And will your job description be updated to reflect the changes if this is permanent? If this is temporary then for how long and what has to happen to move the duties back off your plate? Talking them both through what is on your plate together can go a long way to helping them understand what’s going on in your position (and forces them to confront the overtime issue head-on). While I’m sure they are aware you have more duties, they probably both don’t have a detailed understanding of what has been added and what that means for your work. Each will be more attuned the items in his own realm. Also getting them to be really explicit about how you should handle their conflicting philosophy’s will be helpful for your continued success. As I’m A Little TeaPot said communication is key.

    2. Tara S.*

      Maybe bring up with official boss that other boss has been encouraging you to take overtime, and how they would like you to handle that? Ideally they would either become more comfortable with you putting in overtime, or they could give you info/language to use with overtime-liking boss. Like, ” Oh, Fergus told me he doesn’t want me putting in overtime, so I’m trying to keep it to a minimum!”

  44. Ama*

    So with the warm weather here in the northeast U.S. the sidewalk canvassers have been out in force again (I saw at least three distinct groups yesterday in a two block radius around my office). They never really go away here in NYC but they get much worse this time of year. I have heard that some of these groups employ college kids under really appalling conditions (basically promising them free rent in NYC then sleep them six to a room in sleeping bags, and then using the “free rent” to pay them less than minimum wage). I’m curious about a couple of things:

    1) If you’ve ever worked as a sidewalk canvasser, what was your experience actually like?

    2) If you work for an organization that employs sidewalk canvassers, what are you getting out of it? Some of these canvassers are representing extremely well-known nonprofits and, tbh I always think a little less of the nonprofits that do this because it seems like it would have a very low return on investment and also create a negative impression of your organization with those of us who have to run the gauntlet of canvassers every day. I’m genuinely curious.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      I worked for a well known org that used them – believe me, they have done the analysis on the returns before they chose to do it. The numbers hold up. In some cases, what tipped them over was the opportunity to connect with younger and more urban audience versus their usual lists of wealthy white people of the suburbs.

      1. epi*

        I really doubt that this is working out that way. As a young urban resident, everyone I know was an expert at dodging these people within a year of moving here. We think poorly of them and of the organizations that employ them. I never give them money because it’s a horrible practice and I don’t want to encourage it. I have heard the same things about it as Ama.

        I only saw people who were clearly tourists actually stop for them, and the occasional new resident who hadn’t mastered not making eye contact yet. Just because they’re getting donations within the city limits does not mean that residents are the ones stopping.

        1. Temperance*

          Same. I dislike being hassled, so I don’t donate to orgs who put people out on the street like that.

          1. Tau*

            Honestly, I think this is where the aggressive/coercive tactics pay off. Assuming sidewalk canvasser = charity mugger (UK terminology), I find they’re very, very good at making the social contract work for them until you feel there’s no way to get out of the situation other than donate. I ran afoul of this once, and the whole process left a very bad taste in my mouth even though it was a charity I’d considered donating to before. There are some specific social vulnerabilities I have because of Asperger’s (such as: it’s extremely hard for me to intentionally break social norms, I’m predisposed to think that my perception of a social interaction is less trustworthy than the other person’s, and I’m sort of programmed to go along with the flow even if I don’t fully understand what’s happening) which I suspect are going to be common among people with various other developmental disabilities or mental health issues. My interactions with charity muggers always feels like they’re deliberately targeting those vulnerabilities, which is gross as all hell… but, I’m sure, profitable.

            1. WS*

              This has been reported many times, including charity muggers taking intellectually disabled or elderly people into the bank to get them to sign up direct debit donations, or to withdraw money and hand it over straight away. Banks are having to train their staff to watch out for this. My partner is also on the spectrum and has had to train herself to say a loud, “No thank you!” and keep walking whenever someone with a badge or a clipboard approaches.

    2. EmilyG*

      I am not a fan and it really frustrates me when I see orgs I support using them. I once encountered a young man whose eagerness to talk to me led him to follow me down a whole block; it was more like street harassment than fundraising. I complained to the organization he was fundraising for.

      1. Ama*

        Yeah, I didn’t mention this in the original post, but yesterday I happened to be in line behind a group of canvassers getting lunch (I don’t know who they were representing because they are from this new group that wears full business dress instead of the T-shirts of the organization) and they were encouraging each other to use some pretty aggressive tactics to keep people from walking away from their spiel.

        I just wonder how many of the people who approve using these canvassers have experienced what they are actually like to encounter on the street.

      2. deesse877*

        I’ve had similar experiences. Honestly, even done ‘right,’ it’s basically the same thing as street harassment: imposing on someone’s politeness as a power move.

      3. epi*

        I have had issues like this as well. I used to live in a pretty popular area for tourists to visit, so there would be canvassers basically on my block where I lived when I was nearly home from work. I had one guy, who could clearly see I had headphones in and who I had declined to make eye contact with, stand in front of me while I waited for the light and yell right in my face.

        People downtown in my city use openly manipulative tactics to try to get you to stop, like walking right into your path and holding out their hand for a handshake so you have to snub them to go about your day. Basically street harassment.

      4. Louise*

        Oof yeah, once a canvasser came up to me while I was in a park, reading, and with headphones on. He locked me into a ten minute cnversation and wouldn’t leave until I finally just said “look dude, I work in the non profit industry, and I don’t give money until I’ve checked out their financials. Please leave me alone.”

    3. Emily K*

      I work for an org that does not use them. Our leadership is not comfortable trusting relatively untrained and entirely unsupervised contract workers to represent us in public.

    4. CatCat*

      I don’t have responses to your questions, but it’s interesting to see the reactions. When I was on the east coast, they were common and then when I moved to the west coast, I saw them a lot less often (though with increasing frequency).

      Canvasser strikes me as a tough job. I typically just smile and say, “No, not today, thank you!” and move on.

      But I actually have also given money a couple times because seeing someone out there will remind me, “Oh yeah, CatCat, you had wanted to contribute to X cause, you should really get on that.”

      I’ve never been harassed by a canvasser though and interactions have been cordial.

      1. Bibliovore*

        The two block walk to my subway was a gauntlet of fundraisers. My response to all was “I hate the earth, I don’t care about children, homeless pets or people. Let me pass.” I am under no obligation to be truthful to strangers who accost me on the street.

  45. Rat Racer*

    I have this really weird Work FOMO – it’s strange to me because I do not have any fear of missing out on anything when it comes to my social life. But oh my god, if the VP has a meeting and doesn’t invite me, I feel like I’ve been personally affronted. This week, the VP had a meeting at her house (which is really weird for a company of our size – we’re like a Fortune 50) and invited all her direct reports and some of my peers. The meeting was across the country, and frankly, I’ve been travelling non-stop for the past 6 weeks, and should have been grateful to be left off the invite list. Instead I feel like I just got slapped.

    In reality, what’s happening is that my job has changed – I was once the Chief of Staff, but now I’m in this weird hybrid role that doesn’t have a title, but it is definitely not a COS position. It’s not a demotion – just the result of re-orging the department and shifting responsibilities around. But I have this prideful part of my brain that freaks out about not being in the inner circle anymore, and it just will NOT shut up!

    Just venting and calling out this part of myself that I’m not proud of, in hopes that naming it will diminish it…

    1. Murphy*

      Thanks for saying this, I have this sometimes too! (For a little while, I was actually left out of meetings I should have been at, and had asked to be a part of.) I have to walk myself back from that knee-jerk internal reaction of “Why wasn’t included in XYZ?!?”

      You’re probably still just adjusting to the change.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      This happens to me A LOT. It’s carryover from my last gig, where I knew the writing was on the wall when they stopped inviting me to meetings. At one of my past jobs, I could say, “Hey, why wasn’t I invited to that meeting?” and would often get, “Oops, we forgot, I’m so sorry!” or, “You have enough on your plate, I figured I would handle this one.” And all was fine. But at my last job? Warfare. So I get that feeling now, even though my presence isn’t necessary for most of the meetings I feel left out of.

      I hear you on the change thing. My job hasn’t changed but we’re in a slow period, and anytime that happens, the brain goes into overdrive. It sucks. No advice, just lots of sympathy!

      1. Arielle*

        Yeah, I once lost my sh*t at my boss’s boss (the CTO) because for the third or fourth time my boss had neglected to invite me to a DEPARTMENT-WIDE meeting and I got the “Hey, where are you?” Slack message 10 minutes in. My boss literally had two direct reports and could not remember that one of them (me) existed. I’m convinced he was sleeping with the other one but that’s a story for another time.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Sometimes when this happens it is because we are linking random things together.
      You have a new position that seems pretty ill-defined. Hey, that cannot be comfortable, no way.
      Next everyone gets an invite to a VP’s house and you so don’t. Okay you were not comfortable before this, it’s not reasonable to expect this non-inclusion to make you feel comfortable, when you were not comfy from the get-go.

      Trace the problem back to the original discomfort. Here’s a couple random thoughts:

      Look around and see what you can do to get your job defined and get yourself a job title.

      At the same time, ask if you should have been invited to that meeting. Because you lack a job title the VP may have forgotten, or may have made a bad guess as to whether to invite you or not. Worst case scenario, you find out that you were deliberately left off the list. Ask why or ask what was covered at the meeting. If topics were covered that you need to know about, then say so. Yes, go into the thick of the fire and find out why this happened.

      Last thought. You have this set up so you cannot win. If you had gone, it would have been too much travel. But you did not go so you automatically framed it in your mind as not being included. Can I just say that usually, when my thinking does not let me have a win, it is because I am fn tired. What if you ask about this and the answer comes back, “We saw the dark circles under your eyes and decided to let you go home.” Decide to think about this later, get some rest and then go back to it.

  46. PhD while working?*

    Has anyone pursued a PhD program while working? I just graduated with my master’s degree (yesterday!) while working full-time, and while it was tough, I was able to do it.

    I really want to go for my PhD. It would be in English, which has nothing to do with my current career but I really love my research and love being in school. But most of the programs I look at have stipends of $15K – $30K and are in HCOL areas. I have no one but myself to rely on, and I know that stipend would not be enough to cover everything in New York, Boston, or California.

    A lot of programs also say they don’t want anyone to work while in the program. I have a flexible enough job now that I could easily WFH or schedule around classes or teaching, but I’m uncertain if this is doable?

    The other issue I have is that my career is in project management, and I don’t plan to go into academia even if I do go for my PhD. I’d rather take my PhD and go off to work elsewhere. I have very little interest in teaching as a full-time career, and I know that’s looked down on in a lot of humanities programs. I want to pursue my PhD for my own personal benefit, but I worry about not having a full-time job with benefits and a stable salary to live on (and being out of the workforce for 5-7 years – I’m already 31, so that’s be a crucial chunk of time).

    1. Manders*

      I’m very doubtful that you could balance a full-time job with a PhD program. I guess it’s technically possible, but PhD research kind of expands to fill all the available time you have, and there’s a very good chance your professors will see you as less dedicated if they know you’ve got a non-academic job. It sucks, but politics can be a huge part of whether you graduate, and if you start off on the wrong foot with the department you might not recover.

      Why do you want to get this PhD if you don’t want to teach and you don’t plan to go into academia? I don’t mean to be discouraging, but you’re signing up for a really huge commitment to getting a degree you don’t seem to need and I’m not sure why.

      1. PhD while working?*

        As far as the job, I have a full-time job now where I can WFH whenever I want and it’s only busy during the three summer months and pretty dead for the other 9 months (dead as in, I spend most of the work day reading or taking walks or doing errands – and this is typical for the entire office – I did all my master’s research and wrote my thesis during work hours because there was legitimately nothing to do).

        I want to get the PhD because I want to go as far as I can with my research and my studies. And I truly think it’s a bit ridiculous that the only path after a PhD is academia. I’ve seen enough jobs that would prefer a PhD in humanities to know that there are other career options (my corporate company hires a lot of humanities PhD candidates, for instance). It’s not so much a degree that I need so much as a degree that I want. I went for my master’s because I wanted to pursue it, not because it would help my career.

        1. JessicaTate*

          This is a really interesting situation. To clarify: Do you feel like having the PhD would improve your chances (or salary) with the positions you envision (i.e., with corporations or non-profits, not academia)? I agree that academia is not the ONLY path for all doctorate degrees; but I always question whether it’s financially worth it. Could you get your dream job with just a Masters? Could you independently do the study and research without formally paying an institution money to give you those three letters? This is coming from my biased viewpoint, but I think a PhD costs a lot of money for skills and experience it’s possible to get other ways. It’s worth it if those three letters open a door that would be closed otherwise. But if it doesn’t open those doors… why?

          To your original question, like another poster, I am aware of doctoral programs that are designed for full-time professionals. But I’m not sure if I’m aware of them in a traditionally academic field like English. I more know of them for education, non-profit leadership, physical therapy, and other more profession-focused fields. But it’s worth researching – although may not be your dream school/program.

    2. Murphy*

      Congrats on the Master’s!

      I couldn’t do it, personally. I know several people who have, but they took a lot longer than they would have if they hadn’t worked. If that doesn’t bother you though, then it might be worth it.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      My partner is most of the way through his PhD, so while my experience isn’t personal, it’s adjacent. His is in a STEM field, but I imagine things are similar at first. For the first two years, when he was doing mostly coursework, he would absolutely not have been able to hold down a full-time job. He was also TA-ing, and then he was an independent instructor, so that took up a lot of additional time. His funding is contingent on teaching, which he still does, but his assignments this year were pretty loose and easy.

      Now that coursework is finished, he has less structured time, but he is still expected to use that time for research and writing. He could probably have a part-time job now but not a full-time one. He’s very lucky to have me (SEZ I), because I make a pretty decent living and together we can afford a nice home and a nice lifestyle; without me, he would probably be in a shared student apartment and he wouldn’t be able to indulge some of his hobbies, but plenty of his cohort do just fine on the stipend, with some cut corners. We live in a medium COL area. A few people in his cohort have part-time jobs and internships, and while they’re managing, their dissertations get less attention than they should sometimes.

      However… I’m with Manders in wondering why now for the PhD? If it’s just for your own personal benefit, I would look into part-time coursework, or I would wait until you have a nice chunk of savings. I mean, personally, a PhD in the field in which I got my MA is the dream for when I retire, because I know I wouldn’t use it to build a career. But that’s a whole lot of time and money to spend– on a full-time basis– when you won’t reap the usual benefits. I think learning for its own sake is one of life’s great pleasures, but a PhD is a serious and often tough commitment.

      1. Manders*

        I’m also the partner of someone who was working on his PhD! We were in a very high COL area with a very poorly funded university (Seattle) and most students were being partially supported by their partners or family members because their stipend just wasn’t enough to cover expenses.

        Even though we were a two-person household that could live comfortably in a small one-bedroom apartment, some of the long-term consequences of having such a low income in an expensive area were rough on him. He developed some pretty severe gum problems after not having dental insurance for a long time, and the combination of prolonged stress + limited time to exercise + cheap food did some rough things to his blood pressure and cholesterol levels he’s still trying to recover from years later. A big chunk of his cohort developed mental health problems, and one had a heart attack. And after all that, his advisor developed memory problems and the guy who was brought in to replace him didn’t like what my partner was studying, so he had to leave with a master’s. So I really don’t recommend going back to school for a PhD unless it’s something you absolutely must have.

    4. Justin*

      About to start a doctorate (EdD) specifically designed for fulltime workers, so if anything I would say to look for one that is geared for such students. The previous cohorts say it’s plenty of work but that it’s very doable.

      I don’t know how many in English are geared towards workers, but ours is obviously geared towards teachers who are, mostly, not about to quit their jobs.

    5. epi*

      I think you should really take some time to consider this path. If you have a love of learning and research in English, there are other ways to pursue it than pursuing a PhD that you don’t plan to use. I am a PhD student in public health and IMO it is more appropriate to think of the PhD as the professional degree for academics– not something you might pursue just for personal enrichment like an MA. Among other things, time and mentorship within a PhD program will focus on preparing you for college teaching and research. They won’t but a good use of your time if you don’t plan to make a career of it, or a good use of your mentor’s time. This is why it’s looked down on– you are basically not there for the real purpose of the program. You wouldn’t be likely to be admitted to a good program, or to get funding, if you were honest that your purpose is not to ever use the degree.

      As an English PhD student, it’s highly likely that your stipend– for at least some of your program and possibly all of it– would be paid to you for being a teaching assistant, not for just being in the program. That is one of the major reasons you shouldn’t be working some other job. You will have a job. Being a TA in English can be particularly time consuming, as grad student jobs go. And if you don’t do it, you will be paying tuition.

      If you’re interested in pursuing higher research and education in English, I would recommend seeing if you have access to a tuition benefit through your employer that would allow you to take classes, enjoy the library access, and do more informal writing and research on your own. It’s even possible you could meet someone who would want to collaborate with you or keep in touch so you are part of that community. But it’s unlikely that a PhD program would be the right way to do it.

    6. Oxford Coma*

      My field straddles disciplines, and I found humanities graduate degrees to be completely unrealistic about offering working adult programs. At least locally, I found what I would almost classify as an elitist pride from program heads about requiring candidates to attend full-time classes and serve as a TA/adjunct despite having no interest in teaching. I leaned towards the STEM side for my grad degree 95% because of this attitude and the feasibility.

    7. Anon on this.*

      My Dad got his Bachelors, Masters, and PhD. all while working a full-time job and raising a family(well, I was an adult at PhD. I’m an only child. I was 10 when he got his Bachelors, 16 when he got his Masters, and 26 when he got his PhD.

    8. LibbyG*

      A PhD is traditionally sort of akin to a union internship program for academics. Yes, you take classes initially, but it’s more that you’re there full time as junior scholars, working on your research, teaching, going to talks on campus, and just having the time to be part of that scholarly community. You’re learning to be an academic by working with and being around academics. That’s why PhD programs expect that kind of immersion. It’s really different than a BA or MA program in that sense.

      You could always apply and see what happens. Maybe you can reduce your current paid work to half or three-quarter time or something? I can see the desire to do a PhD just for the sake of learning, but you’d be really out of step if you don’t see it as the first phase of an academic career. Maybe that’s OK.

    9. Gloucesterina*

      Hi PhD while working?,
      Congrats on your masters! You’re probably already very aware of this pattern from your masters program, but at many PhD-granting institutions, at least in the U.S., research is king, and teaching-centric roles are considered a distant second-best. (I’m not saying this bias is a good thing for anyone involved, teachers or students, of course!) But since you’re someone who primarily enjoys research and writing, you’d fit in well into the institutional culture of many of these spaces. And since desirable academic jobs in many fields are not exactly growing on trees, so your experience and interest in non-academic jobs will be a psychic/existential asset to you, since you won’t have to freak out in the same way about what happens after you finish.

      At least at my program, working a full-time job is functionally impossible in the first several years and completing several semesters of teaching on top of coursework is non-optional unless you want to be on the hook for tuition; people may work part-time as I do and (in rare cases fulltime) while in the ABD (all but dissertation) stage. If you are interested in this possibility, ask the school about how easy it is to secure a tuition waiver so that you are not paying the school thousands of dollars to write your dissertation!

    10. Thursday Next*

      I found my coursework semesters to be pretty intense and consuming—there was always more I could have been doing, too. As a Ph.D. student, my ultimate responsibility wasn’t the coursework, it was developing a strong research project, and convincing faculty that they should work with me on my orals and dissertation committees (based on the strength of my seminar papers and presentations, for the most part).

      Stipends are typically offered in exchange for service as a research assistant or teaching assistant, so you’d have to factor that time in as well.

      I often had some freelance work on the side, but nothing permanent or approaching full-time.

      Hope this helps as you consider your options!

    11. Fiennes*

      I agree with the majority—this is doable, sometimes, but difficult, and maybe isn’t worth it at this point in your career. If it’s purely a matter of your own learning — you can take individual classes as you go, and further your knowledge on your own. But if you go into a PhD program unrelated to your field of work, I see two main problems:

      1) your workplace isn’t going to understand the needs of your PhD program or be in any way set up to accommodate that. People who work in fields connected to their degree often have coworkers who’ve done the same thing, and/or industry policies and norms for dealing with it. You won’t have this.

      2) there is virtually no way that you’ll be able to give your utmost to your job OR your PhD. Most grad students with jobs not in their fields aren’t looking at those jobs as the foundation of future careers—they’re putting themselves thru school, the end. But if this IS the field you intend to work on, is it worth it to undercut your first few years as a professional?

      I’m not saying it can’t be done. Only you know how much meaning it has to you. But I think it’s important to weigh the real financial/professional/logistical costs of a PhD against that desire.

    12. Tiffany*

      Earned my PhD in educational policy in 2017 at an R1 institution. Worked full-time while I did and raised my daughter as a single parent. Coursework was intense, yet similar to master’s work. The most challenging aspects were the candidacy exam, dissertation proposal defense and writing the dissertation, as you would expect. I slept very little, gained a lot of weight, and felt stressed during the dissertation writing phase.

      Not all grad students are funded and often the stipends are low. Are funded students are strongly discouraged from holding a full time job. Some programs don’t permit part time students. Research programs, contact current faculty, staff, and students in those programs to get a feel for the culture in the department.

      It’s a mental game, you will be pushed and stretched in ways you can’t imagine. You’ll need a solid support system and clear understanding of why you’re pursuing the degree.
      My career is on higher ed administration and there was little guidance offered for those of us seeking alt-academic careers.

    13. anon for this*

      Here’s how I did it – this may or may not be an option for you. I started off full time at work and part time at school (one class plus research each semester). I saved money and PTO like crazy and worked an extra job over summer sessions. Then I switched to part time at work and part time at school.

      For my last year, I worked 2 days a month and covered the rest of the part time schedule with PTO/savings and went to school full time. Officially I was not supposed to work at all while on stipend; I did it anyway and graduated with no debt.

      But my company offered benefits to part time workers and a lot of places don’t do that. I also didn’t get a stipend or qualify for benefits from the school for any time except the final year – I had to pay my own tuition. And I wasn’t eligible for any teaching positions – but that may not be a problem for you.

      There was another person in my graduate program who worked while in school. They did it by paying for classes themselves/taking out loans and not sleeping more than 2 hours a night – I wouldn’t recommend that.

      I would check and see if you can find a graduate school that allows you to enroll part time, or even take classes without enrolling in the program and then transferring the credits toward your degree later. Classes are more affordable if you only take one or two at a time.

      Good luck! I have no regrets about doing my PhD this way.

      1. Reba*

        Yes, I think you would want to carefully and tactfully investigate the program’s policies *and attitudes* about students completing the work at a slower pace and about students not seeking academic career paths. In more prestigious schools/departments, you might be fine on paper but struggle to find support among faculty who may or may not still be living in the bubble that research is the only thing that matters, and that academia is the only career path that matters.

        In my own program, (MA followed by PhD, almost done!) you technically have 5 years to complete the MA before timing out. A person entered the program a couple years after me just for that reason–they had a chronic illness and were excited that they could take more time. But they had a hard time finding a faculty member who would agree to supervise the work and after enough chats with the incredibly hard-nosed director of grad studies at the time, she left the program.

        FWIW, I understand your desire to do the degree, and your attitude is about where I’m at now — I’m applying for ac jobs just to see, but completely ok with and also applying to non-ac jobs. I consider it an incredible privilege to have done what I’ve done but I honestly wouldn’t encourage others to do it.

        Under no circumstances should you do it without decent funding. Said funding may by contract prohibit you from doing other work at the same time, which is stupid but happens, and plenty of folks ignore it. Another aspect to consider is that grad student benefits (health insurance etc) may not be available unless you are enrolled as a full-time student, so the one-class-at-a-time model wouldn’t provide those things. Grad student jobs that would make funding possible, e.g. TA positions, might similarly require full-time enrollment. So just look carefully!

        I currently work with a few people who have done or are doing the PhD while working (as curators), so it certainly can be done, but I think it would be hard for you to get the experience you desire–taking your studies as far as you can–while only giving it some of your attention. I think part time or even full time while writing the dissertation is much more possible than during coursework, but you also risk dissertation limbo in which the years pass on and you still haven’t finished…

        Also, slightly facetiously but only slightly, consider that a lot of people get really, really tired of the thing they’re studying by the time they’re done. You might stay in a happier relationship with literature without the additional degree :)

        Good luck.

    14. OtterB*

      Congrats on your master’s.

      I know more about PhD programs in computer science than in English, but there are substantial culture differences across institutions about this kind of thing. Since you aren’t planning to jump into the cutthroat world of academic job-seeking, you don’t have to worry about program prestige for purposes of looking good to academic employers and can choose something that works for you. To me it seems like this would be based on some combination of the research strengths of the department, the adviser you would be working with, and the program rules and norms around PT students.

    15. PurpleViolet*

      I seem to be the dissenting voice here, but I think you can get a PhD while working. I worked full time during the last two years of my PhD program in a HCOL area because I needed the money and it worked out fine (and I really enjoyed having a full time salary as a graduate student). I did want to go into academia and now work as a professor. Here are my thoughts on this:
      –It’s a lot easier to work later in your program (when you are working on independent projects/your dissertation) than early-on when you have to be in classes at particular times. But, you can also check class schedules online. My graduate program had mostly late afternoon/evening classes, that were easy to combine with having a job.
      –Others posting are right that most of your work is on your own time and related to the research you do. I think knowing that you want to go into academia is a big advantage. You can lean-in or lean-out of research as much as you want without feeling the pressure to publish for the job market.
      –You need a job that is accommodating in at least two ways. (1) Not overly demanding in terms of work-load, because you will need to (partially) work on grad school stuff at work and (2) flexible on time, for when you need to go to campus for meetings during the day. I think, OP, it sounds like your current job satisfies both of these conditions.
      –I found having a full time job with a full-time salary and set hours (during which I could also do some grad school work) to be far preferable to and less time consuming than TA-ing. Grading/preparing for class, at least the first few times you teach, takes *a lot* of time, whereas having a full-time job that you already know how to do helps you better control and mange your time.
      **–At least for me, while I didn’t lie, I certainly did not advertise to my advisor that I was working full time. As far as she was concerned, I just worked from home a lot and got everything done that I needed to. Unfortunately, if your advisor/other faculty know that you are not interested in academia that may change their perception of you and the experience you have. (The counter-point means that their perception may become more accurate and put less pressure on you). I do think this is changing as more and more students pursue non-academic jobs.
      –I developed excellent work habits (like getting up at 5am and writing my dissertation for three hours before I needed to be at work at 9am). These habits have served me well to this day. BUT, realize that between working and graduate school that’s really all you’re going to do. So while you may not need to sacrifice your full time job, you will certainly sacrifice leisure/social time.
      –I loved graduate school and would have stayed in graduate school forever! I think it’s fantastic that you have the opportunity to keep learning, while continuing to work.
      –All that said, you can just pay for graduate classes and enjoy taking those instead of committing to the demands of a PhD (although it sounds like you do want to continue with your research).

      I actually feel pretty strongly that more people should work while completing their PhDs. As others have said, it’s pretty unrealistic to have adults devote 5 years of their lives to graduate school, while earning very little. I think this is part of what limits diversity within PhD programs and makes them inaccessible to anyone not either wealthy/married to a second income earner or young, healthy, single and able to live on a shoe-string budget.
      I think working during a PhD program would also alleviate a lot of anxiety around finding a tenure track job that many PhDs have and early-on introduce students to a broader variety of job options and help them consider how to market their skills in non-academic settings.

      1. WS*

        Yeah, I was at a lower income university in an expensive area and no grad classes were run before 6pm because it was tacitly understood that if they ran them in the daytime, everyone would be at work!

    16. Laura H*

      My mother did balance a full time job as she completed her PhD. I believe it took her 5 years to do. It is doable, but that was observed as a bystander who was away pursuing a bachelors of her own during the first year or two.

    17. Yellow Flowers*

      I’m currently completing a humanities Ph.D. program part-time while working at a university. Even here, with the support of my employer, it is TOUGH. I agree with what everyone else has said about balancing the time for studying and working. Unless you are in a program that truly supports part-time students, there are other obstacles. My program has a lot of part-time students, but no part-time support. The full-time students are in a cohort, and they get significant support. Not financial support, other than assistantships, but less tangible ones. They have the flexibility to take any class they want, while we have to find the ones that fit our work schedules. And the FT students are nice, but we are usually left out of study groups and extra things because we’re just not there.
      And I have been jealous of some of the FT students. I wish I could devote that much time to my research, but it isn’t practical.

    18. Dame Eleanor Hull*

      PurpleViolet makes some good points.
      I teach at a large midwestern university, and we have certainly had students complete a Ph.D. in English while working full time. They generally took only one or two courses per term, and it took them a long time to complete the full program, but it can be done. Your motivation is key. Definitely look into schools that are not top-tier, where they cater to working adults by offering night classes, for instance. The Ivies and Ivy wannabes will expect you to be there for the full immersive experience, as some commenters have pointed out, but there are schools that will give you a good, rigorous experience without being constantly on campus.

  47. Nancy*

    Ways to stay cool at work in hot weather? I’m a high school with no AC. I have closed the blinds and I have one fan I brought in from home. I’m wearing a sleeveless summer dress and sandals.
    Side note – So happy it’s friday!!! It’s been a long month and the end of the school year is around the corner (June 22 is our last day with the students). I will have a part-time job this summer, but it will be so nice to have a break.

    1. stej*

      There are these special towels that you put cool water on, wring them out so it’s not dripping, and lay around your neck. I learned about them when working in a manufacturing plant with a super hot machine, and they seemed to work!

      1. Middle School Teacher*

        I’m in the same boat as Nancy, and you just reminded me I had one of those towels in my car!! Thanks, my classroom has no windows and has hit over 30C with two fans going full time. Every day this week has been gross.