employer will only reimburse travel if I accept their offer, tired of covering for a slacking coworker, and more

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

1. Employer will only reimburse interview travel expenses if I accept their offer

I recently applied for a summer job at a nonprofit. It seems interesting, but the more I learn about it, the more challenging it sounds and the less sure I am that I’m qualified for it/would succeed in the role. They invited me to a in-person, three-day seminar this weekend, where all applicants will present a self-prepared lesson so their teaching skills can evaluated. Afterwards, it will be decided who will actually get a spot in the summer job program. Still, all applicants must stay for three whole days and watch/listen/give feedback to everyone else’s presentation.

As the nonprofit is, understandably, tight on money, we were asked to cover the travel expenses up-front and we’ll be reimbursed later. However, only applicants who *do not turn down the job when offered* will be reimbursed. If they don’t chose you, you’re good, but if you realize during the training that the job isn’t for you, you’ll have to cover the travel expenses yourself. Considering that the seminar requires quite extensive preparation (about two full days) and travel can be expensive (at least for college students’ budgets, and the job is constructed for college students), I’m kind of at a loss on what to do. What if I realize I won’t be good at/don’t want the summer job after all? I’ve then spent five days (two days preparing + three days seminar) *and* a rather large amount of money on travel for – basically nothing. I’ve bought my train ticket already (they asked us to buy ASAP to keep costs down). Can you give any suggestions on how to handle this?

Run in the other direction.

None of this is reasonable. It’s not reasonable to expect candidates to spend five days out of town (or even three, for that matter) applying for a summer job. It’s not reasonable to expect that for a longer-than-summer job, but the fact that it’s just for a few months makes it even more ridiculous. And as if it weren’t already sufficiently disrespectful of your time, a couple of those days are just to watch other applicants? No.

This is an organization that I can almost guarantee you abuses power dynamics with their employees too.

And the thing about only reimbursing travel expenses if you don’t turn down their offer?! No, that’s not how this works, and that’s not okay. They don’t need to pay travel expenses for candidates, but if they’re offering to, it’s not okay to make it contingent on “but you must work for us if we decide we want you or we’ll yank our reimbursement.” That is shitty, and that’s not how decent employers do this.

Train tickets are usually refundable. Go get a refund on the ticket you bought and stay away from this organization.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. I’m sick of having to do my slacker coworker’s projects

My coworker, Cersei, is notorious for goofing off instead of working. It’s become a running joke that if we pass her desk we’ll be more surprised to catch her working instead of coloring or other crafts (I once caught her painting on a canvas). Mostly, the office as a whole has let it go because we realize that it is up to management to correct, not us.

Unfortunately, we’ve started to find it harder to let go because we’ve started to have to do her work for her because she can’t do it on her own. The manager usually passes out whatever work she can’t get done to the rest of the team, which creates a problem because we now have to drop what we were already working on to make sure Cersei’s work gets out on time. Is it okay to tell my manager that I don’t want to do Cersei’s work anymore? I can’t think of a respectful way of saying “if Cersei spent her time wisely, I wouldn’t be needing to do her work in the first place.”

Often in a situation like this, you can say, “I can do X (your own work) or Y (Cersei’s work) but not both. Which would you like me to do?” But this isn’t always a perfect solution — sometimes you might genuinely have time for both but still be annoyed on principle that you’re picking up Cersei’s slack, or the answer might be “please stay late if you need to” (which would be really unfair in this context), or you might be worried about it taking you away from lower-priority stuff that you’d still like to spend time on. Or you might just care about the long-term morale impact of being asked to constantly cover for her.

If you have decent rapport with your manager, there might be room to say, “Is there another solution for Cersei’s work rather than redistributing it to me and others? It’s happening regularly, and while I of course don’t mind helping out when someone is really busy, it’s frustrating to be asked to cover her projects when I frequently see her doing crafts at her desk.” Bonus points if you get a group of coworkers together to say this to your manager as a group.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Giving notice when my manager is away

I’ll likely be receiving a job offer in the next couple of days and I’m ready to accept the offer if it meets my expectations. However, my manager is currently off work for the week dealing with a parent in very poor health. It’s very rare for my manager to take time off work because she’s unbelievably busy (and luckily loves her job!). She’ll undoubtedly be under a huge amount of stress having to catch up on her missed work from her time off as well as cope with her parent’s ongoing health battles.

How do I delicately give notice so that she won’t be too overwhelmed when she gets back? How should I give notice if she needs to take extended leave to take care of her parent?

What’s best here depends on what you know about your boss. Some managers would want you to call them while they’re away to deliver this news, so that they’re able to get some pieces in motion before you get back (like getting your job advertised, talking to you about what’s most essential for you to do before you leave, etc.). Other managers wouldn’t want their time off interrupted and would prefer to hear about it when they returned (in which case you’d give your notice to your boss’s boss or to HR, depending on your company). If you’re not sure which of these categories your boss falls in, I’d default to the second one and ask whoever you give you notice to for their advice on whether to contact your boss while she’s away or not.

As for how to minimize the impact on her during a stressful time … there’s not a lot you can do there. It’s bad timing, but resignations often are, and she’ll make do. All you can really do is be as proactive as you can in helping with a smooth transition during your notice period, and leave your projects in good shape with plenty of documentation. Resignations are rarely convenient, and sometimes they are especially inconvenient, but people get by.

4. Answering questions about why I’m at work early

I’ve recently started a relationship with someone whose working life is completely different to my own – I’m in a creative industry, he works in construction. He starts work at seven in the morning and I tend to find it easiest to just leave at the same time as him when we stay with each other, as whenever I’ve tried to go back to sleep afterwards, I end up oversleeping and being late.

However, on a normal day I’m usually not in the office until bang on our start time or even a fair bit later (on a time scale my director has described as “early for a publicist”). This director (my boss’s boss) is usually the only other person there when I get in early and always asks what I’m doing there at that time. It doesn’t feel very professional to explain about a new relationship – particularly as it always invites lots of follow-up questions because of our very different backgrounds. (My industry is known for being ridiculously middle class and I don’t think any of my colleagues have met a plumber outside of employing one. Hell, until my boyfriend, neither hadI!) My office is very friendly and we have lots of socials, but equally it’s my first permanent job and I don’t want to overstep the mark particularly with senior management. Can you advise?

This makes me think of the advice to parents not to go into all the details about procreation the first time their kid asks where babies come from; it’s enough to just say “they come from a woman’s tummy” because usually that’s all the kid is interested in knowing at that point. In your case, you’re worrying that you need to explain the whole situation when a much shorter, vaguer answer will be enough! They don’t need to know about your new relationship or the logistics of how it works when you spend the night with each other. You can just say, “Oh, I’ve been waking up early lately, so sometimes I come in earlier!”

5. Are online degree programs reputable?

I’m wondering how recruiters/employers feel about candidates who have earned their college degree via online courses. I’m an adult who’s been in the workforce for 20+ years, and I’d love to go back to school to finish the bachelor’s degree I started many moons ago, but due to a heavy workload and varying schedule, it would be very difficult to attend classes in-person, so I’ve been considering an online degree program.

Many reputable colleges and universities (University of Missouri, University of Arizona, etc.) are now offering online degree programs, but I’d hate to waste my time and money if the degree would ultimately be considered “worthless.” In the past I’ve heard recruiters be very dismissive of candidates with degrees from the University of Phoenix, and similar schools, but I’m thinking maybe a degree from a more reputable online program might be better received. Any advice or thoughts you have on this subject would be very much appreciated.

The thing to look at isn’t whether a degree program is online or not; it’s whether the school is nonprofit or for-profit. For-profit schools (like the University of Phoenix) have a terrible reputation, and rightly so. But many nonprofit schools run excellent, reputable online programs, and you would be fine with one of those.

{ 486 comments… read them below }

    1. Gaia*

      Which is weird because plumbers, etc can make a ton of money, are insanely skilled, and perform critical work without which things fall apart quickly.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I assume the OP was attempting to distinguish between white collar/office jobs and blue collar jobs (even if highly skilled) and picked inartful language, but I don’t want the language she chose to derail the discussion.

      2. Sue*

        I know my former boss had 3 degrees but her husband’s plumbing business actually supported the family in a very nice style. If I had to do it over again, I would probably choose a trade instead of a degree.

    2. LovecraftInDC*

      It’s also worth pointing out that plumbers and many construction jobs AREN’T lower class by any possible definition. It requires some level of training, either an extensive apprenticeship or a degree, and skilled labor pays pretty well, and commonly pays better than most office jobs.

      Plumber is a weird job to think there’s some sort of huge difference in pay or class. I’m curious why it matters so much to the LW. Either they or their coworkers have some definite bias.

      1. Alienor*

        That would be true if the LW were in the U.S., but in other countries there’s a different set of standards for what constitutes middle class vs. lower/working class. In the UK, for example, I don’t think a plumber would ever be considered middle class no matter how much money he or she earned. I’m not saying that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s definitely a cultural difference.

        1. Just Employed Here*

          And in the UK, middle class people tend to try to play up their working class background and wear it like a badge of honour. Being working class is considered much cooler than boring middle classness.

          I don’t think the OP is being prejudiced against working class people, I think she’s just realistic about the possible surprise and interest her new situation might elicit in her colleagues.

          1. JuliaGuglia*

            Agreed about OP just being realistic about her colleagues’ potential surprise.

            I’ll never forget the looks of shock on some of my family members’ faces when I introduced them to a boyfriend who was the GM of a very large and well known chain store that has a reputation for being the go-to store for the “lower class” population.

            He made more money than I did…his salary (I think he was at 130k/yr) is actually probably higher than any salary I will ever receive in my chosen profession, but people heard the name of this store and automatically thought he was making 12/hour and working 60 hour weeks.

            I heard from my grandmother and from my father things like “Dating a bit beneath you, aren’t you? Does he have plans to go to college (he had a bachelors, they just assumed he didn’t)? What happened to that nice guy you were dating who is working to become a plastic surgeon?”

        2. doreen*

          There are a lot of people in the US that believe “class” refers only to income , but often when it comes right down to it, they see a plumber who earns $75K a year as being of a different class than the lawyer who earns the same $75K a year.

        3. foolofgrace*

          That reminds me of the movie Gigi. Set in France, the aunt (I think it was the aunt) didn’t want to see Gigi lower herself to marrying a plumber.

          1. Bette*

            I think there are plenty of people right here in the US who wouldn’t want their child marrying a plumber. It’s seen as dirty work (though lucrative).

            1. Anonymosity*


              Sorry, I had to.

            2. Jadelyn*

              It’s not just seen as dirty work, it’s seen as indicating something about the person’s intelligence and overall worth.

              My partner is a machinist. When we first started dating, I had multiple people who asked if I was sure I could be happy dating someone who wasn’t as smart as me. They assumed, based on the fact that he works a blue-collar skilled trade and I went to a 4-year university, that I was smarter than him to a degree that would interfere with a relationship.

              Which is BS. He’s at least as smart as I am – honestly probably smarter. It’s just that he learns things better hands-on or in conversation with someone rather than by reading and writing papers, so regular school wasn’t a good environment for him, but he did great at his apprenticeship program.

              So anyway, it’s not just a perception of “dirty”, there’s a definite perception of “less intelligent” to go with it.

              1. Totally Minnie*

                My cousin is also a machinist. He was top of his class at trade school and finished his training in record time. He’s hella smart. But because he goes to a workshop and makes physical things and I go to an office and make metaphorical things, I’m considered middle class and he’s not. Which is nonsense.

            3. AnonEMoose*

              It’s such a weird attitude to me. But that could be partly because of how I grew up. My father worked as a farmer and a mechanic (mostly repairing farm machinery). He never went to college, and while he did ok in school, he wasn’t an honor student. But Dad is one of the smartest people I know. And he taught me a lot of things I use just about every day, even though I have an office job.

              Trade jobs are physically demanding and sometimes, yes, dirty and unpleasant. But how is it any more unpleasant than dealing with some of the rude and entitled people a lot of office workers deal with every day? It’s just unpleasant in a different way. (Come to think of it, tradespeople have to deal with some of the same jerks, so…there’s that).

              It’s not less intelligent…maybe intelligent in a different way, or with a different focus. But while I use a computer, not wrenches…when something is wrong, I still use the same process I learned watching Dad work on tractors. Start with the obvious. Think it through before you try something. If that doesn’t work, start trying the less obvious until you figure it out.

      2. Jamies*

        I don’t know that it means a lot to OP. It sounds like OP was just trying to demonstrate that people in their office lean more towards associating with people who are in jobs that are more white collar in nature as opposed to being a trade.

        1. HannahS*

          Yeah, I don’t think naming the fact that the OP’s partner has a very different job or educational background from her means that the she personally assigns value to it. I think she doesn’t want to be known at a new job as “Jane, who is at work early because she’s spent the night with her BOYFRIEND” and have that be a long conversation of “So what’s it like to DATE someone who’s DIFFERENT from you” first thing in the morning. I don’t blame her.

          1. Susan Calvin*

            Don’t I know it. Mr. Calvin is in a trade, while I’m very much not. Haven’t met anyone weird about it in a work context yet (although these days he’s running his own business, and I suppose that reads as sort of white collar even if it’s a trade?), but back at uni some people were completely unable to fathom how I’d even met someone like him. Some people’s social bubble is truly incredible. (And he still makes more than me.)

            1. the gold digger*

              And he still makes more than me.

              *GD wishes she could tell her 17-year-old self to become a plumber instead of an English major.*

              *GD notes that her carpenter friend from high school is already retired.*

              1. That would be a good band name*

                I have recently been noting that the starting pay for trades is more than I’ll likely ever make doing what I’m doing. Now if I could just get over my fear of spiders so I’d be willing to work in basements and crawlspaces and attics then I’d totally considering learning a trade.

        2. Parenthetically*

          That’s how I read it too. “He has a very different schedule because he works a different kind of job” isn’t a value judgment.

      3. Specialk9*

        I agree with the OP that many people are snobby about the trades, and also that the skilled and certified trades require far more intelligence, training, and complex 3D knowledge than I’ve ever needed in my office job. (And have so much more job security!)

        Shopclass As Soulcraft is a book that makes this point so eloquently. The writer is a PhD in a fancy think tank and then becomes a motorcycle mechanic. That book opened my eyes hard. (That and my roommates, plural, with Masters degrees working at coffee shops.)

    3. Katherine*

      Always good to pay attention to context. I’d bet cash money the LW is British, and “middle class” means something different in Britain than it does in the US.

      1. Rose*

        Exactly! In the UK “middle class” has a whole sociocultural meaning that’s very much distinct from the bare bones fact of how much money one makes.

        1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

          Not only in the UK, I would say generally in Europe and probably elsewhere too. I was actually surprised to read here that some people would see this as 100% about making money. I’ve read about the concepts of financial class and cultural class and I think it clarifies this a lot. Those two don’t always correlate as these days some “working class” jobs give a lot more money than some “middle class” jobs that require university education. Still the academically trained but lower paid person can very much identify with middle class and for example have very middle class hobbies.

        2. Mookie*

          In the UK “middle class” has a whole sociocultural meaning that’s very much distinct from the bare bones fact of how much money one makes.

          Well, we’ve got WASPs here, too, people for whom no amount of ill- or gauchely-gotten new money can ever fully cleanse the stench* acquired from growing up among the lower orders. :)

          *hence the elaborate and closely-guarded conventions and rituals meant to separate out the hopeless riff-raff

          1. Michaela Westen*

            “hence the elaborate and closely-guarded conventions and rituals meant to separate out the hopeless riff-raff”
            We have that in America too. The tricky thing is, the people who do this don’t admit they’re doing it, they pretend it’s something socially acceptable.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                Yes, and I didn’t start catching on until my 40’s because they always pretend they’re doing something else. They fool a lot of people.

      2. Traffic_Spiral*

        This seems like the likeliest outcome. In America, the line between “middle class” and “working class” really isn’t that clear – honestly, we don’t really use “working class” like that at all. In America people would look at you a little funny and go “so… you mean he’s employed? Well, that’s good, I guess.” We use blue/white collar, and “skilled trade” but it’s slightly different. A plumber and a “creative” are seen as about equal – provided the “creative” has a solid job and isn’t just a “starving artist” or “hippie.”

        That being said, the main issue here is not who she’s dating, but that her work don’t need to know her bedroom habits. Accordingly, “I’m here early because I got laid last night,” is really TMI. I suggest “It works better with my schedule to be early some days.” People understand that.

        1. JamieS*

          This may be regional because I’m American and I’ve always heard class as being defined by: income, education (college degree or no), and type of occupation (blue/pink collar vs white collar). That or that’s how it’s defined by most Americans and there’s just a higher percentage of people commenting on here who are upset at the implication a plumber is lower/working class than there would be in the general population skewing other people’s views of how Americans generally view class. I’m not sure which. Although I will caveat that it seems we sometimes overestimate our own class so to get an accurate understanding of how someone separates the classes it’s (IMO) better to ask them to define other people’s class than their own.

          Yeah I definitely don’t recommend OP telling her grandboss she got laid but, and this is partly office culture/relationship with grandboss dependent, I don’t think it’d necessarily be over the line to say something like “my boyfriend is an early riser and woke me up so I decided to come in a bit early.” It still basically gives the same info (OP spent the night with her boyfriend) but doesn’t have that inappropriate Stella Got Her Groove Back tone.

          1. soon 2be former fed*

            Nobody needs to know that she spent the night with her boyfriend, this is oversharing.

            1. JamieS*

              Saying someone else woke you up early isn’t oversharing. Need to know isn’t really the basis for what is and isn’t appropriate to talk about. Nobody needs to know their coworker started going to the gym in the morning, about their kid’s dance recital, that they like to knit in the free time, or that they think Game of Thrones is horrible either but people still share things like that at work.

          2. Anne*

            Well, in the good old US of A, nobody is below the middle. Nobody. Most places, to be middle class, you more or less have to sit at a desk with your advanced degree making a lot of money. Here, any one of those is plenty. Desk? You get a middle class! Basic college? You get a middle class! Make a solid living? You get a middle class!

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Let’s leave this here, as I think it’s nitpicking the letter-writer’s wording and certainly isn’t giving her the benefit of the doubt. Thank you.

    5. Annonymouse*

      OP #5

      Lots of 4 yr schools have online courses. Maybe look at a local 4 yr University /college is a non profit. That way no one has to know that you took classes online instead of online since yhe school would be local.

  1. Gaia*

    OP 5: the key here is to go with a school that is known for something other than “online school.” Your local state universities almost definitely have online programs and your degree would be indistinguishable from a brick and mortar day program there.

    1. Artemesia*

      Agree that avoiding for profits and going with a state school that also offers on line coursework and degrees will be fine for a bachelors degree. For a doctorate most academic institutions will screen people out with correspondence degrees.

      1. bookbot*

        I got my Masters online and no one would ever know because my degree looks like anyone else’s who graduated from the same state college. It just depends on the program.

          1. Tamz*

            For example: I’m currently doing a Masters by correspondence at the University of Cambridge. Doesn’t get much more prestigious than that! And in fact, the online aspect is a net benefit in this instance as it means our coursemates are very international and all working in interesting jobs.

              1. Duffman*

                Oh man. There are several degree mills/scams that use Cambridge in the name, too.

                Tamz, can you give us some more detail so we can rest easy?

              2. AsItIs*

                It does, however, offer part-time Master courses with components of online discussions, etc., but they still require in-person attendance: “You will be required to attend short residential sessions in Cambridge.” https://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk/courses/part-time-study

                Or perhaps Tamz is with Anglia Ruskin University, which is in Cambridge. It offers distance learning courses. It’s a university, it’s in Cambridge… * shrug * (there are people who try to pass off their Oxford Brookes University degrees as Oxford University ones!)

              3. AsItIs*

                There are part-time Masters at Cambridge but:

                “Unlike part-time degrees at many universities, the part-time courses at the University of Cambridge are not distance learning degrees where all study is undertaken remotely. You will be required to attend short residential sessions in Cambridge.”

        1. Confused*

          Same and mine is from a private college. Trust me, I learned a lot more working with my classmates who were professionals working in our field rather than a bunch of 22 year olds who were still figuring it out. I am not even sure why this is an issue unless the online degree is significant distance learning, then it would merit some explanation, but if it’s a reputable institution, it makes sense they wouldn’t attach themselves to any type of scam degree program.

          1. Jadelyn*

            This is such a great point. There’s a world of difference discussing things with other professionals who have actual experience to contextualize classwork within, vs discussing things in the theoretical with a bunch of other people who are equally theoretical about it and the only practical experience is, presumably, the instructor.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This is a great way to frame the issue. There are an increasing number of reputable online programs, and knowing that the sponsoring university has distinguished itself in its brick-and-mortar campus can help. And it’s worth seeing if there are hybrid programs. For example, there’s an increasing number of programs where some work is done online, but certain tasks (e.g., labs) are done on campus or at an extension campus. Those options can help fill gaps that online-only MOOCs often fail to address.

      In addition to AcademiaNut’s warning, below, I would also double-check to be sure you’re signing up for a program that is actually run by an accredited, non-profit university. There are all sorts of online scams that design fake programs that are meant to look like real programs, and there are some online programs that are associated with a university, but that university doesn’t actually run the program or monitor quality control. I’ve seen people scammed by both, and it was heart-breaking.

      1. WS*

        Yes, “associated with X University” is a huge red flag, and it really annoys me that otherwise legitimate universities put their names on such things. There are a lot of terrific online programs but there are also a lot of sharks circling prospective students.

      2. Second that*

        The best piece of advice in this can be summarized in that one word: ACCREDITED. Look at the body accrediting the school. That will tell you volumes about how it will be accepted. I work in an engineering related field, the word ABET makes all the difference.

        1. echidna*

          In Australia, it is illegal to run an unaccredited university, so you won’t find the term “accredited”.
          I found this out when my boss in the US asked if Melbourne University was “accredited” – and it took me a few moments to even know what she was asking.

          1. Gaia*

            It isn’t that they are not accredited, it is that they have a lesser form of accreditation.

      3. Person of Interest*

        Check whether the online degree program is the same coursework as the school’s in-person version of that program. I did an online Masters degree at a prestigious university and the coursework was exactly the same – some people even did a mix of some semesters on campus and some online. I found that helpful when describing the program to hiring managers who noticed that I was in school in Chicago while living in DC!

      4. mialoubug*

        I finished my bachelor’s online from a highly competitive private university in Boston — Northeastern University. It took awhile — I was working and raising a family the whole time — but i did it on my own time AND the cost was seriously a quarter of the cost of brick&mortar. Just make sure as others have pointed out that the school you are attending is indeed a part of the whole university. In my case, the university developed its own hybrid online college. You could do everything online or if you were local, you could attend in class. All the credits were the same.

        1. pleaset*

          You should tell people “I got my degree online.”

          Then let them ask “From where?”

          To which you should reply with just “a school in Boston” and leave out any other details.

          It’ll seem even MORE prestigious that way.

          1. Dove*

            “It’ll seem even MORE prestigious that way.”
            Not if you’re trying to get a job. And not in most of the social circles I can think of, either; saying you got your degree online wouldn’t be considered odd (well, not red-flag sort of odd – more ‘huh, I didn’t know you could do the whole thing online these days’ type of odd), but refusing to even give any details beyond “well, it’s in Boston” would make it sound like you’re trying to avoid admitting that you got taken in by an scam degree mill.

            1. Kundor*

              It’s definitely A Thing to say “in Boston” to mean “at Harvard.” Which is weird, because Harvard’s not even in Boston (it’s in Cambridge). I think it’s based in some sort of false modesty, that you shouldn’t just volunteer that you were at Harvard in case it’s too much for your poor conversation partners to take.

              But it’s annoying if you went to another school in Boston. Many times I have told someone that I did my graduate studies in Boston, and they’ve said “Oh, at Harvard?” No, at Northeastern, actually. There are more than 60 universities and colleges in Boston, for crying out loud!

      5. Jesca*

        Also to piggy back this with two additional comments:

        1. Google the college. Type in “University name reviews”. Sometimes these accredited universities and colleges have found themselves in trouble one way or another. This is a great way to find that out!

        2. Community colleges: If you are going for undergrad (US), find one who takes credits from community colleges. Lots of community colleges have online classes and late nights/weekends as well. A lot of them also have transfer programs to other colleges, particularly state schools with accredited online programs. This is a great way to cheaply get 101 courses and labs out of the way.

      6. Genny*

        Yep. I highly recommend 1) sitting in on an online class to see how it’s run (if there’s no synchronous class session where the students meet to discuss the material, find a different program) and 2) visiting the campus and talking to the people who run the online program face-to-face. Ask them what kind of support they provide to online students, how the courses are developed, and about their future plans for the program. If they can’t satisfactorily answer these questions, look for a different program.

        1. Genny*

          The only exception to point 1 is if you’re just obtaining this degree to check a box. If you actually need to learn something from the course, you’ll want to have both work you’re assigned to do on your own and “in-person” class discussions.

        2. Jadelyn*

          Hard disagree on the requirement of synchronous class sessions! That puts significant strain on people who work full-time while going to school and who may be in wildly different time zones from their instructor. If an east-coast-based instructor sets up a class session for 7pm, figuring that everyone will be home from work by then, well, I’m in California so that’s only 4pm my time and I’m at work for another hour. So then I’d either have to take an afternoon off work or miss out on the session entirely.

          I think a lot of valuable learning can take place in interpersonal discussion of the material, but I very, very, very strongly disagree that it absolutely has to be held in real-time in order to have value. The online program I did used message forums for asynchronous discussion and I much preferred that to real-time conversation to be honest – it gave me time to think more thoroughly about what I wanted to say, check sources so I didn’t end up saying something incorrect, etc.

          And I mean…you do know there are a lot of people who are trying to get their degree in order to improve their career prospects, who are not exactly flush with cash with lots of PTO to burn, right? The idea that the way to evaluate an online program is to physically go there in person is…a little unrealistic, IMO.

          1. Genny*

            I’m actually pursuing an online masters while working a full-time professional job that requires a fair amount of travel. I’ve worked on this degree in three continents, six countries, and 11+ states, and I still recommend doing a degree that has virtual classes. I’ve taken a couple online courses that didn’t have that component and have found that students (and sometimes the professors) are less engaged and that required posting/responses on the LMS don’t typically spark deep conversation. That may work for some people, but I wasn’t interested in paying $70k for that.

            I think most online programs realize their target market is the busy professional and schedule their virtual classes accordingly. Those, like mine, that are interested in pursuing students across the U.S. also take timezone differences into account. If they don’t, then that’s another useful piece of information that online students may not get the support they need to succeed in the program.

            I recommend visiting the campus in person because it’s really easy for a shady online program to have a snazzy website that says all the right things and a recruiter with a slick spiel about the school. It’s a lot harder to fake that when you’re on campus talking directly to the office of financial aid, the office of merit awards, the career advisor, the librarian who can show you the tools they have to support you, the professor who created the class, and the academic advisor who will be responsible for you. Better to spend some money to confirm that this is the right program/degree for you than to spend $50-100k on a program/degree that’s not right for you (or worse, that’s worthless).

            1. Sam.*

              From the instructor side, I think there are some subjects that can be learned perfectly well in a fully remote format and others where the absence of engaged discussion is detrimental. You can still do it that way, but most students won’t get as much out of the experience. It really just depends, imo (and it depends what the student’s trying to get out of it, as you note.)

          2. Doe-Eyed*

            Ditto this – I’m currently pursuing my masters from an online program from a state school that is very highly regarded. There are very, very few synchronous classes because it defeats the purpose of allowing people to do a masters online part time.

    3. Seal*

      Agreed. I did my first masters degree (library Science) through an online program and it was great. The only way people would know by looking at my CV is that I was working full time 2 states away while in grad school.

      1. Gaia*

        Yea I had a similar situation. I actually had someone ask about it once like “how did you work in state X but do coursework in state Y?” To be fair this was in the early days of state universities having online programs.

      2. Mookie*

        That’s the exact degree I think of (and LIS, preservation, and archival in general) when I think of a promising on-line program. Provided the student has the time and money for some constructive travel and site-visits and/or is geographically well-placed, it’s such a great match between medium and field.

    4. Higher Ed*

      I wonder if that really is necessary – avoiding an online school. I sure hope it isn’t! I am considering getting a degree too, and like the LW, cannot go to a school full-time. And the brick & mortar universities’ tuition is more than twice as much as accredited, non-profit WGU (Western Governors’ U). And only about a third of the courses in any degree are available online. And you can’t “test out” of courses you have already mastered, like at WGU, to accelerate your end date and save money. Lots of considerations!

      I sure see the difference between profit and non-profit, but not online vs. brick-and-mortar.

      1. Mr. X*

        Same! 10k for a Master’s that is finished in 16 months is a steal at WGU. The content has been challenging and their graders are people who have PhDs and Master’s degrees in the field they’re grading on in almost all cases (97 percent have a Master’s or higher). My own student mentor is a PhD in my field.


        Sorry for the plug but I go there and I love it! Definitely geared for the working professional and not kids out of high school in most cases. It’s pretty much completely self-study. They are regionally accredited and non-profit. In fact, Anthem just negotiated a deal to send their people there at a reduced rate if I remember right.

      2. Betty*

        I am attending WGU for my Masters. They are fully accredited and Non-profit. They also have great reviews from students.

      3. Gaia*

        So here’s the thing – people may think of WGU along the same lines as Phoenix whether it is fair or not. Online only schools have a reputation of not being academically challenging (which again is not always true but it’s widespread enough that the perception matters more than reality). I’d suggest shopping around to even non local state universities. Some have really great pricing.

        1. Betty*

          I think all schools will be heading in the direction of online learning. I find it very progressive and refreshing. If you are a working adult the typical B&M school is not going to work. I think as time goes on people will let go of there old fashioned thinking and realize there are other reputable options in life.

          1. CJ Record*

            I teach at a state community college. Fully half of our enrollment is in online classes. So this transition is happening at all levels.

          2. Gaia*

            Betty, I’m not suggesting online learning is problematic. I am suggesting that online-only schools (Devry, University of Phoenix, etc) are really problematic because they are not known for a quality education. This is vastly different than a brick & mortar school that also offers online degrees. WGU is a middle ground that is still viewed as problematic by many.

            1. Dove*

              I think part of the issue is that DeVry actually used to have a very solid reputation for providing a quality education via distance and online learning. And then they ran into the same scandals as a lot of other online/distance education schools, so there’s now a divide where people who hadn’t heard that DeVry isn’t trustworthy any more will still believe it’s a good place to go (and quite a few people have degrees from there back before it stopped being quality), but people who are more up to date will side-eye *any* degree from DeVry.

              The issue isn’t that online-only schools can’t provide a quality education. It’s that many of them *don’t*, and it requires a lot of research to figure out which ones are going to provide a degree worth listing on your resume.

        2. Jesca*

          I attended WGU for two semesters. It was an amazing program. BUT, they got hit hard by the federal government in an audit. For my own safety in that regard, I dropped them and moved on. Fair or not, once you get on that path, it can get pretty dicey. It has also scared the other online schools as well. In that vein, I say again that it is important to research a college, because those things won’t always pop up. I know lots of people who don’t care, and I don’t blame them. The curriculum (although a little lonely at times) is great and so is the support. Unfortunately, a four year audit may destroy all of that.

        3. Aerin*

          My husband considered going to WGU but the more digging he did, the more it seemed like a degree from them wouldn’t be taken seriously. He applied to ASU and Penn State and was accepted to both, ended up doing the latter. So his degree will come from Penn State and he’ll have the option to receive it at commencement with the brick and mortar students.

          Generally it’s good to choose a school that has a fully developed online program and not just online classes, so you know they’re set up to do things like advising and career placement for remote students. That’s a component it’s easy to miss if you’re only looking at the coursework.

      4. Michaela Westen*

        My impression from my college experience is, many colleges – even non-profits – are more interested in taking their students’ money than facilitating a reasonably priced education. Not allowing test-outs is another example of this.
        It’s not the only reason I decided not to finish my degree, but it’s a big one.

        1. Gaia*

          When you say they didn’t allow test-outs are you saying they didn’t accept CLEP exams for credit? I’ve never heard of this.

          1. namenamename*

            The college I went to does not take course credits from any other schools – except their own 2nd campus – and no credit is given for CLEP exams. Plenty of other colleges and universities are highly selective in the course credits they’ll allow, whether they’re from other schools or exams.

    5. Elemeno P.*

      Agreed. I am earning my Master’s degree through Local Big University, but my classes are entirely online. I love it; I can stop by campus if I need to run an errand or want to have a face-to-face meeting with my professors, but the flexibility is great and it’s the same degree I could get in person.

      I went once to pick up my ID (discounts!!) and they asked if I was a student or faculty, so…added bonus of an online degree.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I did this as well, though I ended up taking a few of the classes with the on-campus program because I could. I was working full-time at a fairly insane job and had a newborn and a toddler when started my master’s, and not having to be on campus for class or having to relocate my family was the difference between going and not going.

    6. MamaGanoush*

      Exactly. Nothing on the transcript will say “online”. You can call the director of the degree program you are considering to ask this question. Or call and ask the registrar.
      Also, if the degree you want is fully online, you can likely take many of the classes you need online at the school and at local community colleges (which you can then transfer over to the four-year school) — CC classes will likely be less expensive. Talk to the director of the degree program, chair/head of the department, or the “director of undergraduate studies” in the department about how many of their courses are online and/or at night. Some programs even offer weekend courses. You could also see if the school offers any of the courses in a compressed summer session and then use PTO to take a bunch of courses all at once. Or use PTO to get off work early or come in late to take a late or early class.
      Good luck! A couple of my sibs dropped out of college after their first year, then did just this several *decades* later. You can do it!

      1. Michaela Westen*

        Be sure you get whatever you’re told in writing, or that it exists in writing in the college’s policies. Keep printouts or screen shots with dates.
        I had a city college advisor lie and tell me I could finish a degree with two more classes. After I took them, they said I had to take another class, which wasn’t offered at the college I would be getting a degree from…
        It was also common for them to tell students they could transfer a class to a 4-year college, then after the student took the class the 4-year college wouldn’t accept it.
        Get everything in writing with the date you received or found it, and the name of the person who told you. I would not rely on phone conversations. Get it in writing.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Also get all the requirements for your degree in writing so they can’t pull the you-have-to-take-one-more-class bs.

      2. JustaTech*

        Well, my Master’s does say “Online” but that’s because it’s part of the name of the program: Online/On-campus Master of Public Health. (OOMPH, not the best name ever.) But it’s also from a very prestigious and rigorous public university so no one has said anything about it not being real. A few interviewers have asked about the coursework because that can vary from program to program.

        Honestly I probably got more direct interaction with my professors because all the classes were small, even if it was over the phone or by Skype.

      3. LetterWriter*

        Letter Writer here….. WOW thank you all so much, what a great community! I read all of the replies, and it means so much to me that you all took time out of your day to comment on my question. I’m feeling more inspired than ever to find a great online program, and finish my degree!

    7. Justme, The OG*

      I’m getting my Masters online. We have some great undergrad programs too. I happen to work for the same university.

    8. CityMouse*

      The only thing I would caution about online schools is, if you are in a field where networking is important, maybe find an online program with a strong emphasis on mentoring or internship connections in your local area. Otherwise you may be missing out on some crucial connections.

      1. nonny*

        Totally agreed. Depending on your field, much of the point of certain degrees– especially masters degrees– is the networking. It sounds like that isn’t necessarily the case for you, though.

    9. AJK*

      I went to a large state university in my area, and about halfway through my bachelor’s program I had to switch to full time, 9-5 work due to family stuff – I ended up finishing my degree by combining online classes and evening classes at the same school, and nothing on my transcript shows the difference.
      The community college I attended for further field-specific classes offered both a night-and-weekend schedule in addition to the traditional day schedule. That program didn’t offer online classes, but I was still able to keep the same full-time, 9-5 job.

    10. NicoleT*

      Yup… I’m doing a certificate through our local community college. ALL the classes are available online. Plus the cost per credit is considerably lower.

    11. Anonymosity*

      Yep. I was in the evening college program at my university and besides on-campus classes, I also took quite a few that were just online. Some classes would switch–seated one semester, online the next–so you took it however it was that particular semester. Others were only online. It made no difference to my degrees whatsoever.

    12. ITisnotEZ*

      I have an AAS from National American University in Information Technology, and I’m enrolled for the fall quarter to start my BS. I also tested out of 27 credits of Gen Ed electives via CLEP test and prep work from ModernStates,org.

      I went with 100% online even though I could have taken classes at the local campus. Just fit better with my work schedule.

      Yeah NAU is for-profit, but I don’t consider them in the same category as ITT or PIT.

  2. all aboard the anon train*

    #2: If you have a group of coworkers who do bring this up to management and nothing changes, what would you suggest?

    I’m asking because I’m dealing with a similar problem. We have a few coworkers who spend all day on facebook or away from their desk taking walks or shopping. Management knows it’s an issue, but they’re conflict avoidant and no matter how many people bring it up that they can’t keep doing their work and someone else’s, nothing has changed.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You can try the “I can do X or Y but not both” (if that’s true, and if the slackers’ work is being reassigned to you, as in the OP’s case), but beyond that, all you can do is accept that your management won’t manage, and make decisions for yourself accordingly.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        Yeah, I’ve tried that with very little success. Ah well, I guess it’s a sign to keep on searching. My hope is that everyone who is frustrated by doing extra work will leave for new jobs and they’ll be left with all the people passing their work off to others.

        1. Artemesia*

          How about a day in which ALL of those who do the work, simply spend the day surfing the net and then take the undone work to the manager because ‘I couldn’t get this done.’ I am thinking performance art here. If they are this conflict averse would they fire you all or deal?

          1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

            I strongly suspect the focus would be on blaming the ‘good’ people at that point, because they obviously *can* work.

            1. Strawmeatloaf*

              Might try all of them taking the day off then.

              I doubt you could really all do that though.

              1. froodle*

                About six months in on one role, the realisation dawned upon me that there was one person in the department that was absolutely useless, and the kind of useless that involves a lot of loud high-profile whining about how hard such work was, how complicated, how dare other people expect them to do such work. One day I checked the department rota and realised that of the six non-supervisory people in that department, four of them were off for three days in a row, leaving me and this unproductive whingebag.

                I called in sick for those three days. The fuck was I taking on that workload and putting up with that nails on a chalkboard moaning at the same time. If management won’t manage slacker coworkers, and they also won’t manage the holiday calendar appropriately, then they can reap the consequences.

            2. Specialk9*

              Can I just say, as a general point, that I’m SO DELIGHTED at the sheer and utter flipping CHUTZPAH of someone bringing in a flipping CANVAS and PAINTING AT WORK. I’m dying here, seriously, that is one brass vulvaed honey badger who not only works the system but *flaunts* it.

              (And of course, if it were my coworker I’d have a long and elaborate list of revenge fantasies. Worst co-worker ever, but man with such flair! Painting a canvas at work…)

              1. Snark*

                I’d find it very hard not to go guns of the navarone, mushroom-cloud layin’ MFer if I saw someone painting on a canvas at work. “Are you KIDDING me? I’m doing your work for you while you PAINT? On a goddamned CANVAS? Is work cramping your style, PICASSO?”

                1. President Porpoise*

                  As unprofessional as it would be, maybe Slacker Coworker just needs someone to blow up at her for doing this crap to realize that she’s impacting everyone else with her craft time.

                2. Snark*

                  I don’t think it’d be unprofessional at all to confront her about it, the more I think about it.

              2. OP2*

                Believe me, the day she brought out the canvas, I nearly lost it laughing so hard. It’s not even subtle. She cried at her desk last week because no one would help her with her workload while doing a jigsaw puzzle. She’s either absurdly oblivious or really knows how to use the boss.

                1. Snark*

                  It’s a credit to your generous nature that you laughed rather than erupting in profanities.

                2. CM*

                  OMG, the jigsaw puzzle meltdown is even better than the canvas painting!
                  Maybe if you push back as a group and nothing happens, you can try civil disobedience — have a day where everybody brings in their hobby and does it at their desk! I can just picture one person kneading dough, another person whittling small animals, and somebody else practicing Irish dancing while nothing gets done.

                3. Admin of Sys*

                  I’ve got to wonder if at this point she wants to get fired and is just continuing to up the stakes until someone calls her on it? I think the jigsaw puzzle is more egregious than the painting – I mean, at least with the art, I can attribute it to some unrealistic attachment to the idea of inspiration / muse / personal passion. But a jigsaw? That’s a leisure activity.

                4. Specialk9*

                  Oh god I’m crying here, this just gets better and better. (By which I mean worse and worse to live through, but the story you get, it’s priceless.) Crying at work, over a jigsaw puzzle, on her desk, about needing help with her work. (Wipes eyes)

                5. Jesca*

                  For the life of me, I cant even imagine what your bosses are thinking.

                  And for the life of me, I cannot understand people like this, either. I have some here where I work, and every now and then they get reprimanded. Then, instead of maybe being mad at themselves, they take out on people they *think* “got them in trouble” by “teeeeeellling”. It is absolutely out there banana crackers. They actually become hostile, petty, and vindictive after they get called out. And OMG if someone wants to move their seat to get away from them (they yell conversations over their cube walls during the times they aren’t having 45 minutes a piece in other people’s work spaces), it is like Shame on THEM! And if your phone goes off and you forgot it was not on silence? FIRE AND FURY. Not that their all day antics don’t bother people clear on the other side of the room!

                  Cognitive Dissonance is a hell of a drug …

                6. Strawmeatloaf*

                  This always makes me wonder how people can be fired so easily just because they do something their boss may not like (eating a chicken salad sandwhich for example, ‘talking back’ when you were just explaining something to them, etc. when it comes to bad bosses) and yet people like this who literally are not doing their work somehow stay hired, get paid for it, and are so brazen and yet the higher ups won’t do anything about it.

              3. Allison*

                Right? I goof off on the web too but I at least attempt to be discrete with my mental breaks. Then again, I also actually get my work done and no one has to pick up my slack, the only people who might sigh or tsk or tut when they see Facebook open are people who are just really busy and stressed that day and resent everyone who has time to watch a cat video.

              4. SlackersGottaSlack*

                For a while one of my coworkers was knitting and watching YouTube at her desk a good chunk of the day. Another of our coworkers had just been asked to take over some projects for her because she was “too busy.” Hell hath no fury.

            3. neverjaunty*

              Exactly. It’s easier to yell at the productive people than to try and manage the slackers.

            4. henrietta*

              Can confirm, as it happened to me when I refused to ‘volunteer’ to do a coworker’s work for 1) lack of time (official reason); 2) being fed up with them not doing their own work (subtext). I got a half hour of solid reprimand. They…did not.

    2. MommaCat*

      This is probably the “easy to say, hard to do” answer, but perhaps you and your coworkers should start letting balls drop instead of killing yourselves to keep them all up in the air. Make it more painful to management? Best of luck.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        Definitely harder to do. I think it’s also hard that most of us who have taken on extra work are high performers, and suddenly letting balls drop would cause some issues, and not issues that would resolve themselves in our favor.

        1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

          Yes, Lazy Bones co-worker is often Smart co-worker because they know the conscientious workers can’t stand to see the work go unfinished. I had a co-worker like that, he knew that someone would eventually get peeved enough to so his job. Having someone mad at him was a small price to pay in order to chat all day with his buddies down the hall. Going to the boss and asking what part of your own job gets shoved aside in order to do Lazy Bones’ work is the solution.

          1. London Calling*

            *Yes, Lazy Bones co-worker is often Smart co-worker because they know the conscientious workers can’t stand to see the work go unfinished. I had a co-worker like that, he knew that someone would eventually get peeved enough to so his job.*

            We have one of those. He has everyone trained to pick up his slack because he knows that the rest of us are conscientious and professional and will do his job rather than let a customer down. Management knows it as well *sigh*….

            1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

              The number of times I said to Manager, “Lazy Bones is in the back texting, can you get him to come out here and do his work?” Manager would prod Lazy Bones and the next day it was the same thing. One of my happiest days was leaving that job.

        2. Alternative Person*

          Yeah, I accumulated a lot of work by degrees at a previous job but when I started burning out and tried to cut my workload (through reducing my contract hours/days in a way a lot of the less hard working staff had) management responded by getting rid of me rather than actually working to make my workload manageable. They were cutting their nose off to spite their face, but I guess it beat having the actual hard conversations.

        3. Bagpuss*

          Can you try saying to your manager “I’m very busy with my own work, I don’t have any capacity to do X’s work too” rather than asking what to drop.

          Have you explicitly said to your manager that your coworker is on facebook . (Or whatever.) I think if other options have failed, actually saying “It’s really frustrating that we are being expected to take on extra work, repeatedly, because X is failing to do their job and is constantly on facebook (or whatever). Is there a reason why you are asking us to do extra work, instead of to X about them doing their own job”

          1. all aboard the anon train*

            My manager has seen my coworker on facebook. His concern about it is more that executive management will see it rather than the fact that it means some of the team is doing my coworker’s work, but still nothing has been done.

            1. Audrey Puffins*

              Don’t tell me you’re not tempted to drop an anonymous tip to executive management that if they were to discreetly pass by Cersei’s desk, they might see something concerning that they’d want to fix… ;)

              1. Aphrodite*

                I agree. Perhaps an anonymous letter via the USPS to one of the executive’s assistants? I know that usually anonymous letters are not effective but in this case might work . . .

          2. Turquoisecow*

            I had coworkers like that. My boss sat right next to them. One of them called a company she owed money to and had the hold music playing on speakerphone – all clearly audible to the rest of us and our boss. Another literally was video chatting on her work computer across the aisle from him.

            Boss complained to me about the slacking, in a commiserating sort of manner. I was kind of a half step above the slacking coworkers but I didn’t have any actual authority over them. I also knew they had attitude and would definitely push back against me if I said anything, as they (rightly) perceived I had no power. Almost every conversation I had with boss, we commiserated. He didn’t do anything but shoot them dirty looks, which they ignored.

            One was let go in a massive reorganization. The other, boss’s boss asked IT to look at her computer and analyze how much time she spent on non-company work. I forget the exact number, but it was outrageously in favor of non-work.

      2. ZGSCL*

        It is always so hard when you have a good work ethic and management doesn’t hold others accountable. I have never been able to intentionally let balls drop even when I went crazy trying to keep everything going.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I recall my daughter’s second grade teacher being described as a good match for her because there are rules, everyone has to follow the rules, and you get in trouble if you don’t. At least in the work world, you can leave when the boss’s solution is to have you do your work plus other people’s because then everything goes smoothly.

        2. Erin*

          I can do my part, but if others aren’t pulling their weight or management makes a ridiculous call and I can’t keep up with the work load because of it I’ll let the balls drop. When I worked in retail management on the west coast wanted everyone to hand rewrite on all items in the store because they wanted red ink for the whole tag instead of red and black. (200-300 shoes, which also means pulling the no good stickers off and putting them back on) I received this order at 7:30, we closed at 9:00 I didn’t do it, it would take about 2 extra hours and I was scheduled until 9:30 and I had to be back to open at 8:30. I was also only person on shift and I had to help customers, clean the store and close the registers down. Not gonna happen.

      3. techfool*

        Agree. Office work moves around until it lands on someone who is willing/competent/present. Don’t let that person always be you. Don’t be the first person to reply to group emails. Don’t check on whether someone is doing what you asked. Don’t chase. Don’t volunteer. Don’t do someone else’s tasks.
        For my own sanity I had to stop being a ‘matyr’ to quote my cellmate who would read comedy novels and do her boyfriend’s book keeping on company time.
        Here’s the thing, if I got hit by a bus on the way to eork would the place fall apart without me? No, it would be just fine.

      1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

        There are a lot of jobs for which “on the clock” isn’t really a thing. Some days I’m slow, not concentrating well, whatever, but I have to be in the office in case I get a call or something comes up. The work I don’t get done while I’m playing on the internet in the office will get done at home that evening or over the weekend. Or that’s just a slow week for me which will balance out with a 90 hour week the next month.

        1. Mookie*

          Also, playing around the internet is exactly some people’s brief, at least during some of the their working hours.

        2. Terminally Dull*

          I am a hotel night auditor. I usually have an hour or two of downtime. I websurf during my downtime; it’s relaxing and keeps me awake. My bosses know, and as long as I’m not neglecting guests or my work they couldn’t care less.

      2. Bagpuss*

        I think this is very dependent on the situation. If you are being paid by the hour, then yes, it is reasonable for employers to say no non-work related internet use.
        If you are not paid hourly, then it often makes better sense for managers to allow workers to manage their own time and work load.
        It’s only an issue where, as in the LWs case, someone is *not* managing their time and workload and is not doing their job.
        I think it is like people chatting round the water cooler. It may look inefficient, but if it not taken to excess, it can be positive.

        1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

          As someone who sits next to the water cooler, I think that’s entirely subjective. If you are gossiping while the water is flowing, then that’s fine – there is a finite length of time to chat. If you are just gossiping for 10 minutes, that’s excessive, because it’s actively disturbing MY work.

          I realise mine is an extreme unique case, but “taken to excess” can be measured in many different, subjective ways.

      3. Temperance*

        Most of us commenting here, presumably including you, work “regular” jobs and still participate.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          *may totally have read AAM while on a long phone meeting that was discussing something unrelated to my role on the project*

          The thing with messing about on the internet is that it’s immediately interruptible. I couldn’t get involved in another work thing while on that call because it takes a kind of focus that would mean I was checked out of the call and wouldn’t flick my attention back over when we brushed at the parts that did affect me. (And a senior person on these calls would sometimes say “I’ll have headphones on; yell my name if you need me” because her attention was going away.)

          1. Yorick*

            Yes, playing around on the internet is interruptible, unlike painting a canvas or doing a jigsaw puzzle!

        2. Tau*

          Not all of us comment during work hours?

          (Not wanting to get involved in this debate, just, it’s not the first time I’ve seen “well you’re commenting on AAM so obviously you’re goofing off at work” and it’s bewildering every single time. I never read AAM at work and still participate.)

      4. MLB*

        If it’s truly something that workers shouldn’t be doing, there’s a very simple fix for that – the IT department can block certain websites. Most people will have some down time and as long as you’re not neglecting your work, there’s nothing wrong with being online. My work comes in waves – there are times when I’m so busy I can’t see straight, and others times I’m counting down the minutes to when I can sign off. It all evens out.

      5. all aboard the anon train*

        Despite my situation, I actually disagree. It’s one thing to pull up Twitter or Facebook for ten minutes while you’re waiting for something to load to having a quick break, and another thing to spend all day on it.

        I think most people will cruise the internet for a bit during the work day. As long as someone’s work gets done, I don’t see the harm in it. The harm comes when you have someone like my coworker. Saying people shouldn’t go on the internet at all is like saying they shouldn’t chat while they’re waiting at the kitchen for the microwave or go for walks or smoke breaks.

      6. MamaGanoush*

        LOL, this blog will be in a lot of trouble if people aren’t allowed to be playing around on the internet at work…

      7. Snark*

        No, that’s not reasonable either. I post plenty on AAM while “on the clock” – to the extent such a concept applies to a salaried worker – and my productivity is super high.

    3. Tuxedo Cat*

      My suggestion is that you find a new job if an adequate period of time passed and nothing changed.

      A colleague and I (we were a small team) brought this up to management twice. Initially and about 5-6 months later. Nothing was done, even though the other two on the team were jeopardizing serious money. It was remarkable and disappointing that management was okay with burning out my colleague and me than firing an incompetent worker.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        It’s been four years. So, yeah, an adequate amount of time has passed without change.

    4. Sue Wilson*

      Make it something management has to put effort into every time. Which is to say: a) do not do those co-workers work until explicitly asked by management and b) every time management asks, detail the conflict that you need management to solve. That’s about all you can. Management is taking the path of least resistance, so be very resistant in any way you can think of that then requires management to do some labor in managing it.

      1. Sue Wilson*

        Also, ONLY do the co-workers tasks which are assigned. If management tells you to do part C, do not do parts A, B, and D until asked.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, unfortunately, for most people there isn’t a great time to resign. But managers are aware that employees may cycle through, and while it may be stressful for your manager, it’s within the responsibilities a person signs up for when they decide to become a manager. In addition to making the transition smooth, it can help to document processes and other information that your manager may need to know but may not have the opportunity to download from you in person.

    I’m terribly sorry that your manager is going through this difficult experience, though. It just sounds like an all-around tough time. :(

    1. Safetykats*

      I’m not used to a system where managers are absent without delegating authority – in part for reasons wike this. Find out who is acting for your manager in their absence, and give your resignation to them. If it’s not clear who is acting, provide your resignation to your managers manager. And or course, always provide a copy to HR. If you can reasonably wait until you r,anager is back and still give appropriate notice, it would be nice if you to do so. But if not, whoever is acting can start processing your resignation and finding your replacment.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I think if your company has an HR department, you can turn to them for guidance on whom to officially resign to.

        1. LW3*

          I’ve already started working on my transition documents so that they’ll be ready by the time I leave. I’ll be handing in my resignation to my manager’s manager and then having a conversation with my manager once she’s back in office later this week. I feel incredibly sorry for her and hate that I’m going to have to add this to her plate, but I’m coming to terms with the fact that these things happen.

          Thank you for your comments, everyone.

  4. all aboard the anon train*

    #5: Honestly, I think online programs from reputable schools like U or Arizona or Harvard or UC Berkeley are going to become even more popular in the future. They’re reputable, accredited nonprofit schools that allow people to continue their education while working or caring for family or being unable to afford school full-time.

    Most of the schools, in my experience, have classes and professors that are the same online as they are on campus. I think the people who would judge you for getting an online degree from schools like University of Whatever State are people who you don’t want to be around or work for anyway, and people who don’t understand that not everyone can attend college full-time when they’re 18.

    I say, go for it, OP#5, and good luck!

    1. Gaia*

      And in most cases your degree will look exactly the same as a “traditional” degree. My degree was completed online through my local state university. Unless I tell you, there’s nothing on my diploma or transcript that indicates I attended online. They do this to emphasize it is the same program and from the same instructors.

      1. de Pizan*

        I did an masters program mostly online, although twice a semester we would meet in person locally all weekend (renting space from another university). The only way to tell it was online was that this was a Midwest based school but my degree location is in the Pacific Northwest, so I occasionally had to explain to potential employers that the school had a satellite online program here. Since there are literally only five university options for this degree on the entire west coast (and this was the only one in my state), and only 10 options west of Colorado, it’s pretty much expected in my field that you’ll go through an online program. Pretty much no one cares as long as the school is accredited.

      2. Parenthetically*

        Yep, exactly — my mother’s Master’s and my dad’s terminal degree in his field were both completed mostly online, and it’s not like it says “online version” on the degree!

      3. aebhel*

        Yep. I got my MSLS online five years ago (I think library science was a bit ahead of the curve on this one, since the degree is only worth getting from an ALA-accredited school and there aren’t that many; in my case, there weren’t any within driving distance). It’s a proper Master’s degree; there’s no indication on my transcripts that it was an online program. The classes I took were the same as the ones I’d have taken in person.

        I think there are issues to consider with getting an online degree–it can be a really isolating experience, and (particularly for Masters’ programs) you miss out on a lot of the networking opportunities–but there are a lot of serious upsides as well, especially for nontraditional students.

        But yeah, as long as it’s a credible school, go for it!

    2. KR*

      I so agree with your last point about how not every one can go to school full time at 18. I attended a community college full time while working full time to get my AA. I’m looking at my Bachelor’s degree now and my only options are online. There are no universities that are close enough that I could drive there after work for night classes (closest is 2-3 hours away one way). I cannot take the time off to attend full time. College becoming accessible online is a great thing imo because it means working adults can advance their education on their time without sacrificing their earning potential.

      1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

        My university offers many on-line courses, enough to have a dedicated cable channel. Most classes were filmed and available for viewing. It was handy if you missed a class and needed to catch up. My mother in law used to watch them while knitting because the subjects were so varied.

    3. Language Student*

      It wouldn’t surprise me if you’re right – this is already the case in the UK, except we have The Open University whose whole premise is distant learning. It’s accredited, viewed generally the same as a brick Uni (of course some view it more or less favourably), its tutors often teach at reputable brick unis as well (since it’s a part time job), has students who have gone on to do postgraduate at other major universities and other unis often use their textbooks, too.

      Distance learning can make a huge difference for anyone that traditional brick unis don’t work as well for – I’ve met tons of single parents studying with the OU, and people with disabilities and/or mental health issues, people who have been working for years and now want to change fields. There are definitely pros and cons, but online/distance learning can be a really great tool as long as the uni is accredited.

    4. HiredMany*

      As someone who is in talent acquisition, I have always reviewed the type of university and the concentration. If it is a “reputable” college for online degree in Computer Information Systems from Boston University and it was listed as Master of Science, Computer Information Systems, Boston University June 2017, I would definitely consider this. Recently, I have hired Engineers and other professionals who have received online degrees. However, if someone listed their degree as “Interior Design from UC Berkeley”, I know for a fact that this does not exist and becomes a red flag. Also, there are degrees where it can be questionable, because like other posters have stated from non-accredited universities and colleges.

      On a good note, there are so many Ivy League schools transitioning programs for online degrees, e.g., Pepperdine, MIT, Purdue, etc. which reach out to those who cannot physically be present due to family and work commitments,

  5. AcademiaNut*

    For purely online degrees, I’d be a bit careful about degrees that normally involves lab-work. My undergraduate degree involved between 3 and 10 hours of lab work a week – skipping that would result in a significantly different degree, and most of the labs were not something that could be done at home. I’ve seen references to ‘on-line lab simulators’, but that’s really not the same.

    1. Gaia*

      Most reputable not for profit schools would not do an onlineonly lab-heavy program. One or two gen Ed courses? Sure. A degree in virology? Unlikely. You’re more likely to see those at shadier institutions. And I agree, steer clear unless they have a program to allow in person lab work. Perhaps through a consortium setup.

      1. Safetykats*

        Lab work is generally managed through proctoring at an appropriate location, or via travel. My distant learning MS from Georgi Tech included both options. The travel option is nice, as it gets you some exposure to the on campus program. Classes with labs could be taken in the summer, with all the lab work done over two weeks of travel, or three long weekends, whichever worked best for the student.

        1. Jubilance*

          Just saying hi – I also have an MS from Georgia Tech! Did mine on campus tho – I was a PhD student but left after I passed my candidacy.

    2. WillyNilly*

      While attending SUNY Empire (State University of New York’s online college) I had a few lab classes. I took those at a local college (a CUNY Community College) that had reciprocation with my online college.

    3. Catwoman*

      I agree that which university to choose depends on the subject area, and definitely stay away from programs that look “too good to be true”. It worth asking how long the degree has been around an what graduates have gone on to do.

      If you’re just looking for a degree to “tick the box”, but are relying more your employment history for career growth, then I’d look for a Bachelors in General Studies or Liberal Studies. These types of online degrees are created just for students who have changed majors so many times that they’re struggling to graduate at all or non-traditional students like yourself that want to finish what they started long ago. The requirements are more general so it’s easier to get through more quickly.

      If you’re looking for a career change, then do your research on which universities have strong brick and mortar programs and look to see if they have hybrid or online options. If you don’t see what you’re looking for there, then take notice of what types of courses students take, what experiential education options they may have and compare online programs from other reputable universities.

  6. Rob the builder*

    Someone’s worth isn’t determined by what they earn of course, but I would like to point out that both my husband and I work in a construction trade and we both earn far more than our friends and relatives with degrees and/or white collar office jobs. The boyfriend’s job isn’t something so spectacular he should be treated as different from OP and their coworkers. I don’t see why it’s such a big deal.

    1. Ginger ale for all*

      The book, The Millionaire Next Door, is an eye opening read for people who look down on blue collar professions.

    2. WS*

      Absolutely, but class divisions rarely make sense! My family is firmly lower-middle, but when my sister started dating an electrician – a lovely guy who was running his own successful business by 26 – there were a lot of sniffy comments about “trade” from various relatives. OP knows their workplace and it’s quite possible that this really a thing there, especially if they’re in the UK.

      1. Specialk9*

        I was talking with a lawyer – actually, a VP of the Legal Dept – and she mentioned her husband is a stonemason. It *was* surprising, but also made me like her more. Lots of white collar people are snobby about the trades, and the fact that she could value his work and be respectful enough for their marriage to work long-term tells me she’s someone I want to be friends with.

    3. Gerta*

      I’m betting the OP is British and from a similar background to myself. There is nothing in her letter to suggest she’s worried about dating a plumber, but it makes complete sense to me that she anticipates follow-up questions if she mentions it at work, if only because her co-workers would be curious as to how she met him and so forth. Not necessarily because they would have a problem with it, but purely because in some circles which are very exclusively middle-class (or maybe upper-middle-class) that is an unusual relationship. It looks to me as though she just wants to maintain her privacy at this point and not be dragged into discussion of her private life.

      To shine a different light on this, at the school I went to, it was assumed that all pupils would go on to a reputable university, and 99% did. One of my brother’s classmates chose instead to go into plumbing and that was unusual enough to really stand out, despite that it was the best decision for him and probably has gained him far better earning-power than some of those who took more academic routes. Manual skills just aren’t really seen as a career option there, however much training might be involved.

      1. Lw4*

        Thanks Gerta, yes this is exactly what it is. I don’t have any problems with it at all and I’m not taking any cr*p from anyone who’s judgmental, it’s just that it seems to incite a lot of questions.

          1. Jen RO*

            I think you’re being unreasonably snarky. I’m sure us Europeans could make a lot of negative comments about a lot of things in the US, but we try to keep it civil because countries are different and what’s normal over here may not be normal over there.

            1. Bette*

              Actually, when there’s a letter about maternity leave or vacation time, Alison will often post a preemptive “Europeans, no gloating about how much time you get and how terrible and draconian US labor laws are”. Presumably this is because Europeans have been annoyingly smug about their own entitlements and snarky about the US’s policies.

              1. Starbuck*

                I think it’s less smugness and more outrage/sympathy that things really are that bad over here. I’m sure it’s hard to believe when the norm is so different over there from what we have. That’s the sense I usually get from such comments, anyway (there’s always a few that slip though even with the warning).

                1. bonkerballs*

                  I’ve been reading this blog for a long time, and those comments *rarely* come off as sympathetic. If that’s what people are going for, it’s not coming across.

            2. Specialk9*

              Yeah no need to paint a bullseye on us Americans for gratuitous rudeness and judgment.

              …Another bullseye, that is, on top of the thousands we’ve fully earned (and a couple we haven’t).

              Besides, it’s not even like the US doesn’t have snobbish socioeconomic class lines. There’s a reason rich plumbers and poor coal miners vote so differently from middle class college educated.

            3. Kate 2*

              Gee, it’s not like there was a whole huge thread recently about Europeans complaining that they were being silenced because the Americans asked them to stop pointing out how bad we have it and how much better off they are. Nope, didn’t happen at all.

          2. Natalie*

            Oh please, let’s not pretend class divisions don’t matter a lot in the US, too. My spouse is in the trades and I’ve gotten the exact same reaction as the letter writer has.

            1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

              My academic boyfriend mentions with a touch of envy his classmates who became a plumber and an electrician and retired 10 years before he did. Back in high school kids were streamed and most of the non-academic kids went into trades or started their own businesses.

            2. NotAnotherManager!*

              Yup, class divisions are a thing in the US, and, as someone who “migrated” US social classes, it’s not all about money, either. I work in a particularly snobby profession, and my state school degrees are looked down upon, as is my working class background (despite having two college-educated parents who ran a small business, it was a blue-collar small business).

            3. Luna*

              Yeah, I’m not sure where all these American commentators who are claiming things are better here are coming from, because that is definitely not true in large parts of this country.

              1. Mike C.*

                The United States does not have royalty nor people with hereditary positions in government. While we’re very close behind the UK, we’re not nearly as bad in this particular area.

                1. Mad Baggins*

                  All US presidents except Martin Van Buren (not sure about current president) have a common ancestor, so maybe the hereditary positions are not explicitly codified in law, but for example the Kennedy family and legacy admissions in colleges suggest it we are very close behind the UK, as you say.

            4. Lora*

              Oh my goodness yes. We got ALL the class snobbery up in here, it’s just expressed differently.

              You know what made me “management material,” according to multiple bosses I’ve had? Crest Whitestrips, because my family couldn’t afford to buy kids cosmetic orthodontia. When I started whitening my teeth and got one particularly crooked one fixed, voila, next job was a promotion and I had a 40% increase in salary within two years. If you can figure out how to fix a rural accent, that helps too, although mine tends to pop out when I’m tired.

              1. Jennifer Thneed*

                Accent coaches are a thing. A lot of them are aimed at business people who are not native English speakers, but the skillset is there. Good luck to you, if you want it.

          3. Well then*

            How rude.

            But I’m sure you Americans are SO much better about these things. I mean, it’s not like you distinguish between blue and white collar jobs, or label people as WASPs, is it?

            1. Traffic_Spiral*

              Yup. Americans have their own class divisions – they’re just different ones.

              1. TootsNYC*

                or sometimes the same.

                Is the plumber coming home with grease on his hands? Is the stonemason coming home sweaty? Those all feed into a general sort of prejudice against the trades.

                They’re also seen as the fields in which “people who couldn’t hack college” will work.

                Don’t kid yourself. Denying this sort of thing is how it continues to live.

            2. Specialk9*

              Maybe dial this “you Americans” bitter sarcasm back please. All Americans didn’t attack you; a single person with an abrasive tendency was rude.

          4. Flinty*

            Whaaat, certain people totally look down on plumbers in the US as well! Think of all the jokes about plumbers’ butt cracks; they grows out of assumptions that plumbing is a low-skill job for slobs.
            -a plumber’s granddaughter

            1. Specialk9*

              I thought it was because they’re crouched down in often way too tight of spaces, while people are looking on? (Not to say the classism isn’t true, but I’m not thinking of another job that has that particular contortion, in front of people.)

              1. Environmental Compliance*

                Septic installers. I met some very smart, very awesome people when I was inspecting for county permits, but as soon as you say septic, people think it’s a dirty, gross job. And they had just as many low-blow jokes about them, some of which included butt cracks. (There were a few of them that did desperately need a belt as they clambered in and out of trenches, but at the same time… it’s 95 degrees out and they’re out in full sun moving around heavy hot black plastic boxes & chambers, so I can understand the loose athletic shorts.)

                1. Specialk9*

                  Oh interesting. They don’t deal with liquified poop on the install, right?

                  To be fair, humans have a biological aversion to poop. (I read an interesting book once about how most cultures smear – heh – their closest geographic rivals by nicknames or legends about eating poop or other gross things with poop. It’s apparently a near universal human trait, maligning with feces.)

                  I do think one gets the same “but you seem so smart why are you doing this?” thing for HVAC technicians (which also can pay wicked well), though, so it’s not just poop related stuff that gets this. Classism is real! But also poop is gross. :D

                2. Anonymosity*

                  We could not survive without septic installers and sewage technicians!!

                  Seriously. Imagine if they didn’t exist. >_<

          5. Parenthetically*

            Come on. You’re a doctor, you directly benefit from class consciousness in this country. You never hear a parent explaining why their kid’s in med school, but you sure do hear parents feeling like they need to justify why their kid decided to become a plumber. Are you telling me you’ve never heard the parent of a tradesperson saying, “Oh, well, you know… he just decided college wasn’t for him. And he makes good money, I swear.”?

            1. A*

              “You never hear a parent explaining why their kid’s in med school”
              — only to other doctors XD

            2. Amaryllis*

              She has never said she’s a doctor, so I don’t know why others keep insisting that she is. She makes incorrect claims about HIPAA and biological functions all the time.

              1. Parenthetically*

                I’m making a charitable assumption like we’re asked to do of the letter writers and other commenters, is all.

        1. Bagpuss*

          it really doesn’t, for most people.
          There are a few snobs (and reverse snobs!) but very few people actually care, although they may be interested in the other person’s background.
          One of the weird things about the class system in the UK is that is, and always has been, very fluid. It has always been common for people of different classes to mingle and for the boundaries of classes to move, and individuals to move between clasesss.
          I think it is one of those paradoxes like religion in public life. In England, we have no formal separation of Church and State, and have an established church , the head of state as titular head of that church, Bishops in the house of Lords etc, but very little religious involvement in government. In the US, you have a legal separation of church and state, and none of those formal links, but it is commonplace for politicians to invoke religion in their politics – there is far more religion in public life than there is here.
          I think class is similar, my own experience is that in terms of actual barriers and how much it matters, it is a far bigger thing in the US than it is here.
          LW, is your workplace very very homogeneous? Because in most offices, the only reason anyone would be interested that you were dating a plumber would be because a good plumber is hard to find, and worth their weight in gold once found. You’ll probably have people begging for his number if they find out!

          That said, you don’t need to go into any detail you are not comfortable with. A simple “I’ve ben getting up earlier, so I thought I might as well come in” is enough. Or even “My boyfriend has an earlier start, so I prefer to come in earlier too, so our timetables mesh better”

          (of course, you could also decide to get up with your boyfriend, but then use the time in the morning to do things such as your share of the housework or food prep, before going to work, rather than when you get home. If most of your colleagues come in later, it may be worth considering this from time to time anyway – to make sure that you remain in the loop with your team., and tat there is no perception that you are leaving ‘early’ and doing less work!)

          1. Specialk9*

            That’s an interesting observation. Have you heard that same assessment of benign religious politics from British Muslims or Jews or Sikhs? I hear people say things like that in the US and they generally mean that it’s their religion so it’s ok — but as you say, it’s a totally different system and set of operating rules so I’m curious.

            My thought is that Europe as a whole, but esp Britain, learned the hard way, over brutal millennia, that religion and politics shouldn’t mix. It’s ironic that the US came directly from that and is recreating it.

            1. Artemesia*

              The first Amendment and the emphasis of the founders on separating church and state came precisely because they were Europeans and knew what mixing religion and politics had done for centuries. We have unlearned that wisdom. The separation of church and state in the US was absolute genius; politics is about compromise and religious belief is by its very nature not compromisable so keeping them in separate spheres protects both.

          2. TootsNYC*

            I keep thinking, “Join a gym! This is a great opportunity to carve out time for that!”

          3. Mike C.*

            How is it that folks can move classes easily in the UK when you have such distinctions as a royal family, lords of this and that and so on?

            1. Lars the Real Girl*

              Because British “royalty” is a handful of people who are figureheads with no practical governing power. It’s not a Victorian class system. They have a mostly capitalist society.

              1. Mike C.*

                I don’t see where I disagreed with the idea that the UK wasn’t capitalistic. Being a capitalist nation doesn’t guarantee free movement between social classes either – there are massive differences based on the GINI index.

                1. LarsTheRealGirl*

                  You asked how there could possibly be movement when there was royalty. I explained that the royalty isn’t “real” in the sense of power or economy.

                  If you do agree that they’re capitalist then I don’t understand your confusion?

            2. Indie*

              Most old families are poverty stricken and many of the newer peers have working class backgrounds. Its true that there is an ‘establishment’ but it’s open to anyone who is of use. That’s how working class kids become Sir rod Aldridge or Lord Sugar. Accent, poverty and lack of connections will hold you back, but the lack of a title wont!

                1. Indie*

                  Wasn’t aware it was a contest! Simply clarifying that titles dont really hold water. I’m glad in the US you don’t need an accent/college money.

    4. Nic*

      I read the note about him being in construction completely differently. I interpreted it as the reason he gets up earlier than she usually would in the morning.

      It has been fascinating to me to read the class related comments because that never crossed my mind.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Mine either! She’s in a creative industry (i.e. people who are stereotypically late to get going in the morning) and he’s in a trade (i.e. people who are up with the chickens). I didn’t read any snobbery into it at all.

      2. Specialk9*

        Really? Seriously? Read this again.

        “it always invites lots of follow-up questions because of our very different backgrounds. (My industry is known for being ridiculously middle class and I don’t think any of my colleagues have met a plumber outside of employing one. Hell, until my boyfriend, neither had I!)”

  7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, I agree with Alison that the best approach is to keep it vague. I don’t mean this harshly, but I suspect no one really wants to know why you’re coming in early; they’re just making small talk. (Kind of like how many of us are anxious about how we’re perceived, but in truth, most people are focused on their own worries.)

    There are also so many noncommittal responses that don’t require outing your relationship. For example: The sun is coming up earlier; you’ve started a new kick where you wake up earlier; you like the relative quiet before everyone arrives, etc.

    And as a gentle nudge, I wouldn’t make assumptions about how your coworkers/bosses may perceive you or your boyfriend. Fwiw, it sounds like you’re referring to a workplace that’s more white collar, but not necessarily “middle class.” And I’d avoid categorizing your boyfriend’s social class/standing, because sometimes we telegraph our lens/labels to others, which can limit how others perceive your boyfriend or how he perceives himself.

    1. Drew*

      Agreed. “I’m trying an earlier schedule to see how I like it” is all the detail needed here. If your office placed a premium on being there early, I would say that you might want to vary your routine a bit and not set up expectations you might not be able to fulfill in the long term, but it doesn’t sound like this is the case here.

      1. Enya*

        I would just say “I know someone I can get a ride with if I leave earlier on the morning, so it’s worth it to me to get in earlier.”

        1. Millennial Lawyer*

          That’s already too much information – it’s very strange to lie when being vague is good enough here. “I’ve been waking up earlier/enjoy getting in earlier/etc.” Also it invites more questions, which we want to avoid here.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Except a “schedule” implies some kind of regularity, and I don’t think that’s what is happening here. I’d stick with “sometimes I wake up earlier, and I just come in early on those days.” No one needs to know *why* you wake up earlier.

    2. Lw4*

      Thanks PCBH I probably am worrying too much about the early mornings! Just in case it’s worth clarifying on the relationship- we are very open about discussing our different backgrounds. My industry has a big chip on its shoulder about how it’s got great liberal values but can’t follow through with diverse employment. I don’t think I’m worrying completely unduly about reactions at work but I can see that I’m panicking definitely more than I need to!

      1. Safetykats*

        The commenters are right that there’s no reason to discuss your relationship as the reason for your work schedule. Although at my job (which is white collar and starts well before 7:00 am) it’s really common for people to adjust their start/stop times to match their spouse’s.

        I’d like to suggest, as nicely as possible, that if you’re going to be with this person long term you need to figure out how to be proud and supportive of their career. If that’s not possible, it would be kinder to end the relationship and let him find someone who can.

        1. Myrin*

          Maybe we’re focussing on different things but I’m not actually seeing anything indicating that OP isn’t proud and/or supportive of her partner’s career (quite the contrary, actually!). I think talk of potentially ending the relationship over something that isn’t even mentioned by OP is jumping the gun a little.

          1. Specialk9*

            They said nobody they know has even met a plumber except to do work. Not ‘be friends with’ but even met. That’s a nod to a big old class barrier that OP is staring at.

            But agreed that OP can be proud and supportive, even if it’s a new situation for them. But it sounds like that will take some work dismantling some of the ingrained lies in the broader culture about who’s “smart” and worthy. Which don’t originate with OP! But OP will have to do the work internally to address it.

            Classism is like any -ism in which we have to admit that we, ourselves, are -ist because the culture is -ist and trains us that way. Then we can set up little mental systems to catch ourselves being -ist and try to do better.

            1. Luna*

              I don’t think the OP is being classist at all, she is just aware of the classism that many people, including her coworkers, do have.

              I’m pretty sure I’ve never met anyone who is a plumber either, other than the occasional interactions with the facilities dept. in my office. There IS a lot of separation by class, even in the US, not necessarily by choice but it does happen.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                I thought as I was reading it that I could only think of one plumber whom I’d met outside of hiring one. Then I remembered that he’d changed careers a few years before I met him (and took a huge pay cut) because he’d become tired of doing plumbing for a living. Anyway, only reason why I knew that man’s work history was that he was my then-boyfriend’s best friend. At least in the circles I go in, people rarely mention what they do for a living until they’ve gotten to know you well. It’s not something they start a conversation with a new person with. I might be surrounded by plumbers for all I know. That said, classism definitely exists where I am in the US.

            2. Myrin*

              I’m not quite sure why that’s a reply to me since I still don’t see anything indicating that OP isn’t proud and supportive of her partner’s career (which is basically the only thing I said) – which part of my comment are you addressing?

              1. Specialk9*

                Oh, I was agreeing with you – no need to break up over this, I don’t see the OP as disrespectful, but I DO see a giant class consciousness that OP will likely need to work through internally. Like most of us, about one topic it another. (Meaning, you’re not a bad person if you find a script in your head that you have to dismantle – we all have scripts, and working it through is what good people do.)

                1. Myrin*

                  Ah, gotcha!
                  I don’t know that I agree that I’m seeing anything that OP needs to work on internally – she sounds like she has that “class consciousness” you mention only insofar as she knows she’s surrounded by people who are curious about, maybe even astounded by her and her partner’s different backgrounds; that just seems realistic and aware to me, but we might be coming at this from different angles.

                  (FWIW, I’m solidly from a working class background and I don’t think I’ve ever met a plumber in any kind of social situation, either (and only one construction worker and one mason that I can think of). I meet an overabundance of carpenters, farmers, thatchers and electricians all the time, but plumbers seem weirdly elusive to me.
                  I see what you’re getting at with the “class barrier” you’re talking about in your first comment, but I honestly don’t think that’s hugely problematic in cases like this. I’m a child of both worlds – working class family, like I said, and both my part-time jobs are manual labour, which is very much the world I feel more at home at, but I’m also working on my doctorate (in medieval literature, of all things) at the moment. And most people I meet here (i. e. not in a university setting) have never met a medievalist before me, either, so that very certainly goes both ways.)

        2. Working class Brit*

          As someone who is a working class Brit, with family in Trade, I don’t see LW4s letter / responses as ‘her’ having any issue with her partners ‘class’, but that she’s getting reactions from those in her industry who are Hyacinth Bucket types.

          She reads as supportive and proud, just wanting help to negotiate working with liberal snobs. Britain can still be pretty classist and she knows her field is one of those that is.

          1. LW4*

            Thanks Myrin and WCB, and yes I have said recently to my boyfriend that I actively want to engage more with his working life because it’s something I know hardly anything about but it’s important to him, he enjoys it and is proud of it. Also feel it’s worth putting on the record that my colleagues are all lovely, and questions (although there are quite a few!) come more from a place of curiosity than of judgment!

            1. Cornflower Blue*

              High five for the Keeping Up Appearances reference!

              But honestly, I agree that she might get the side-eye if she unnecessarily ‘outs’ herself as dating a plumber. Definitely get some side eye if we’re talking solid middle class respectability where plumbers are people who work *for* you, not people we date.

              cavaet: I lived in Britain for a while and I have nothing against Brits..

          2. Someone On-Line*

            I live in Kentucky and no one here would blink an eye at a white collar woman being married to a working class man. But when I was at snobby, Ivy League eastern school – people would have been polite about it, because they are polite people – but they would have been confused? Surprised? Unduly curious?

            1. Sue Wilson*

              I suspect that that too is a matter of class within Kentucky (and how certain professions were framed). In lexington, for instance, owning a farm or stables? Fine. Being with someone who just worked the farm when your family had gone to Sayre School for ages? Confusion. I was middling in class status, and my mother was a VP of a bank.

              1. Someone On-Line*

                True, I was revealing my own class background there. I now know some people who come from a different background who would look askance at a plumber. But I went to Berea College, so obviously we are not from the upper crust!

            2. Temperance*

              I’m in the northeast, and from my experience growing up in a rural, blue collar area, it was fine for a woman in a relationship with a blue collar man to have a degree and work in a degreed profession so long as it was something like nursing or teaching. I faced a lot of pushback from my extended family when I pursued higher education and then a law degree, because they felt it made me unmarriageable and women shouldn’t go into those sorts of professions.

              1. Doreen*

                I think nursing is a special case – up until the 1980s or so , most nurses were educated in hospital-based diploma programs and did not have degrees. Which is why plenty of my blue-collar family was pushing me toward going to nursing school rather than college – in their minds, nursing school was more like a trade school than college.

          3. JLE*

            This is how I read the letter too. LW4, for what it’s worth, my only response to hearing that a friend/coworker was dating a plumber would be “You are so lucky.”

      2. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

        Maybe this will help allay some of your fears – this is definitely a question I could see myself saying “oh, what are you doing here early?” to a co-worker who was in earlier than usual. I’d be assuming there was some sort of work reason for the early arrival, and would mean the question as a way of making work-related small talk. I’d also mean it as a way to open the door for a co-worker to say “I’m swamped with x, y and z” and then I could offer to help (if I could) or just offer sympathy.

        I’m kinda thinking that’s all the director means by these questions and that he doesn’t actually want a detailed/personal life oriented response.

        I don’t know if face time is a thing your industry/office, but maybe thinking of this as a great opportunity to get some face time with that director might help you feel less nervous about the entire situation – sort of framing it mentally as a positive “oh cool, I get a chance to chat with the director and cool, he actually notices that I’m in early”?

        1. Artemesia*

          No need to explain at all and I agree it is an opportunity. Something like ‘Well I find I am waking up early some mornings and thought I’d get a head start on the work today’ or ‘I have a lot to get done on the Fergus project, so thought I’d get a head start today’ suffices if asked. Absolutely no mention of where you slept and with whom.

    3. TootsNYC*

      or, “Sometimes I find myself up a little earlier, and I figure I might as well come in.”

      1. LW4*

        The great US/UK cultural differences strike again :) I work in central London – if I was driving to work my colleagues really would think I’d lost the plost!

  8. Artemesia*

    For the summer job applicant; you know when you get there part of the activities will be all the candidates preparing a dinner for the staff and putting on a skit right?

    1. Martine*

      Did I miss something? I didn’t see OP mention this anywhere in the letter and I searched the comments and couldn’t find anything.

      1. JamieS*

        It was a tongue in cheek comment referencing other crazy interview letters. I’m pretty sure the dinner referenced the one about an OP who had to prepare a dinner party along with something like 20 other candidates. Not sure what the skit referenced though.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          They had to perform a skit, too! And they had to do it in 3 hours or something, including finding their own transportation to the swank house in which they had to prepare and serve the meal.

          1. JamieS*

            Oh I forgot about that part. TBH the main thing I remember is it turned out not to be as bad as I thought based on the title because I started out thinking they had to individually prepare a large dinner party as opposed to preparing one together. Yes I know I’m probably one of a select few (possibly the only person) who finished that letter and thought ‘oh that’s not as bad as expected.’

          2. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

            And finding the address of and directions to said swank house on their own, if I remember correctly.

            1. Just Tired*

              Late replying to this, but my best friend was one of those interviewees. She called me afterwards since I’ve been in the nonprofit world since ’96 and asked me if it was “normal.” I spent probably upwards of an hour explaining to her that it was not normal, and that the next time someone wants her to do that, she has to run, RUN in the opposite direction. They did have to track down the house. She lived in the area and had a bit of edge on that. After the dinner, they were invited to go out for drinks with the bigwigs, and were told that it wasn’t mandatory (keep in mind, it was really, really late by that time). My friend worked at a local wine bar, and the “successful” candidates came in for a celebration dinner. It was all people who had gone for drinks after the dinner party. This is why I both love the industry in which I work, and loathe it. Nonprofit does not equal “saint.”

      2. Mitch Buchanan*

        It’s a reference to an old letter where the LW had an all day “interview” that included the 20 applicants catering a party for staffers and performing a skit at the CEO’s house.

      3. Middle School Teacher*

        It’s a reference to a letter from a few years back. One of the more bonkers letters (and, amazingly, it was confirmed by someone who actually went through the process!)

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          And then didn’t someone from the organization sock puppet a bunch of comments for why it was a brilliant and very reasonable and totally legitimate hiring practice?

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Wow. I had never gotten down into the comment weeds on that post. How utterly bonkers.

        1. tangerineRose*

          And if the LW had taken time to dress up, the boss would have probably disciplined the LW for taking so long.

    2. Armchair Analyst*

      I am actually thinking that this particular situation sounds like a cult.
      A small trip away from home — wanna make a bet that there are late nights, early mornings, and bad food to wear down people’s decision-making capabilities in a brand-new high-stress environment?
      And all the “applicants” are there to compete against one another — and the “lucky” ones will be selected…. to dedicate the next few months to the organization?! Oh, those poor, poor rejected candidates that are not worthy of this selective, elite organization – too bad they lost their transport funds, oh, well!
      But if you DO get selected- I am pretty sure those are the ones who have already lost. Good luck!

  9. Engineer Woman*

    OP#1 – I agree with all of Alison’s advice. Run, run away and never look back. This mon-profit is insane and any company willing to reveal this much insanity already at the interview stage means there’s a lot more of it in their usual course of work.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        So glad to hear it! Someone willing to manipulate people into thinking something totally unreasonable is normal is a jerk, and you don’t want to work with jerks.

      2. CoveredInBees*

        I have worked at some dysfunctional non-profits and had friends who worked in some truly bonkers non-profits. This place sounds absolutely, unreservedly bananas. To be honest, it sounds like a front for something else, whether it is a cult or just a pyramid scheme, you should run.

    1. eplawyer*

      Non-profits are notorious for getting employees to buy in based on “believing in the mission” and “money is tight.” If money is so tight, then don’t have an interview process that would require 3 days of presentations and costs to the non-profit for reimbursing those who don’t accept the offer. Find some other less expensive way to evaluate the people you want. Don’t make the applicants pay for your interview process.

      1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

        Exactly! This sounds like the first step of a shakedown. How much of her own money is this person willing to spend to work for us.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Yup. Run. This isn’t normal.

      …. Granted it sounds like a set-up for an epic AAM letter in two months. But we can rely on the universe to provide us with those, without needing to prime the pump.

      1. Oranges*

        Oh man, now I want the OP to go through the circus so she can report back on the insanity that you know is lurking inside that business…

    3. Blackeagle*

      Yep. Saying “we’ll pay for your interview travel unless you turn us down” is hideously manipulative. It would be better for them not to cover travel at all.

      1. LilyP*

        It also makes me suspicious that there’s something about visiting in person that’s made good candidates in the past decide to turn down offers, and this is their “solution” to that.

        1. A Nickname for AAM*

          Yes, run!

          There are a LOT of nonprofits who exist to exploit idealistic college students. If it’s a nonprofit and it’s recruiting college kids by saying it’s career-building, it’s probably taking advantage of you in a way that, say, being a camp counselor for Boys and Girls Clubs or a desk attendant at the YMCA or even a cage-cleaner at the Humane Society wouldn’t.

  10. Jamies*

    OP #4: I wouldn’t worry about this too much. It sounds like the director is more or less just trying to make some casual conversation so a vague answer like Alison suggested or just saying something like “Oh just decided to get an early start today.” or “wanted to get a head start on ABC project” or something along those lines would suffice. No need to go into details about your personal life.

      1. London Calling*

        I agree, I don’t think there’s anything more to it than that. And FWIW, OP4, I’ve never found it a career disadvantage for senior management to know I’m regularly in early, if you see what I mean.

      2. Elemeno P.*

        Yes, probably this. I get to work incredibly early and my bosses usually come in at a slightly more normal time, so if I see them at their desks when they start I’m normally surprised and ask them what they’re doing in so early. I’m certainly not demanding that my director give me an explanation (though he usually does in brief); it’s more of a, “I work with you and notice your patterns. Your pattern is different today and I am acknowledging that.”

      3. LQ*

        Totally agree. Especially when no one else is in it seems pretty common to do this. I came in early to work on something today and someone said this. A warm “It’s nice and quiet” is what I usually go for. (This can be said in a way that sounds icy and cold like stop talking right now. The warm version of it with a smile has the same effect but without some of the negative that can go with it.) Even just “Good morning” works well here.

      4. Anon for now*

        It could also be a “This is a change in the pattern. Is it a permanent change?” type of thing if they are a planner.

        1. London Calling*

          I had a colleague who came in one day mega-early – his reply to everyone who asked why was ‘Well, I was lying in bed thinking about all the work I have to do so I reckoned I might as well get up early, go in and do it.’

    1. Kate*

      I agree, unless this manager regularly asks for details in your life this is most likely the equivalent of HI, how are you? I am an early morning person and usually there is no one on the floor for at least an hour, so when someone comes in early I feel like I have to acknowledge them. It’s not that I don’t care about them, but early in the morning is when I get the most work done so I’m just being nice asking, and I am really looking for a quick answer so I can get back to work before everyone comes in and I have to start going to meetings and answering questions.

  11. Online Grad*

    #5 – I have a degree from a well known, reputable university and I did the mostly online version of the program. Results have been mixed. Online degrees carry a stigma even if the school has a great reputation; some hiring managers will think it’s a cop-out and that you didn’t learn as much. And there’s something to that. You get a lot out of face to face interactions with professors and fellow students.

    I also found that some professors would kind of slack off on their online classes because it was harder for students to push back. In fact, we had no private speech – we communicated only through the LMS and email – so students were reluctant to complain to each other when a professor wasn’t doing their job.

    I wouldn’t do an online degree program again, but I think it can be good if you have a specific goal and the online program is the best fit. I’ve had some good jobs after earning my degree. It’s been a positive thing overall.

    1. JamieS*

      Out of curiosity how did the hiring managers know the degree was mostly online? Is it noted in the degree or did the pushback happen during the interview if you mentioned it?

      1. Jilly*

        Can’t speak to Online Grad’s experience, but for example at the University of Maryland, if you get an MBA on campus, your degree is from the School of Business. If you do it online, it is from University of Maryland University College which is the school of continuing studies. It’s fully part of the university, but it’s not the Robert E Smith School of Business. And the diploma says which school within the university your degree is from (Bschool, school of Arts & Sciences, engineering school, UMUC, etc).

        1. Specialk9*

          And UMUC is pretty far down on the list of good U. of MD universities. It’s not the highly rated Smith Business School! I don’t think it’s even UMBC or UMAB good.

        2. Nash*

          Yeah, UMUC is an entirely separate school from UMD, despite their offices being located close together and some UMUC classes using UMD classrooms. It’s part of the same university system, but very much not the same university. (Source: My mom teaches there.)

      2. DaniCalifornia*

        It really depends on the university. My degree will state Arizona State University, School of Engineering and that’s it. Unless the interviewer can see I’ve been working in Texas and going to school in Arizona and puts it together, there is nothing on my transcripts or degree that will state online.

    2. Second that*

      I see your point on the profs and student interaction. However for some programs, the options are severely limited. My profession is licensed by the state. The degree program is only available at 1 school in the whole state. I am a HUGE supporter of that schools efforts to bring that degree online. 3+ hrs 1 way for some students means good people are not getting degrees and licensure. If the program is something that can be taught remotely, and our profession can, then I am all for online, accredited degrees.

    3. Elemeno P.*

      I’ve had a couple of professors who have done that, but also some that are so incredibly responsive that I worry about their sleep (like the guy this semester who would grade my assignment at 11PM and then respond to an email at 6:15AM the next day…is he a robot?). It depends!

      I’m surprised that you weren’t able to complain to other students! My degree is very collaborative and I’m usually on Google Hangouts with group members for a significant portion of each semester, and the best part was bonding over smack talk.

    4. Naptime Enthusiast*

      I would say this is absolutely true for MBAs, most of the highly regarded schools have their reputation because of the connections you make in the classroom. The knowledge and education you get is important, but the networking is the key.

      I ended up doing an online masters program (not MBA) because I wanted the knowledge and the piece of paper that goes along with it, and it’s from a great brick-and-mortar school. It worked out great for me and I’m happy with what I learned, but I definitely didn’t connect with any of my professors or classmates in a meaningful way.

      1. Artemesia*

        Good point and of course if the degree is to tick a box and you are already employed it matters less. For example, some jobs require a degree to advance and just having the degree suffices. But if you are hoping to move into a field with the degree and it is an advanced degree it matters a lot more where it is from. MBAs for example are rarely a useful ticket for anything unless from a prestigious school but if you are working for a company that wants an MBA for promotion to higher levels then it doesn’t matter. There are a lot of law and MBA grads and few new jobs for them, so where and how is very important as well as the kinds of connections you can make as part of the process.

    5. Catwoman*

      These are good points. I think setting up a conversation with the head of the online program or one of the professors is key. This will tell you a lot about how seriously they take the program or if they just see it as something extra they have to do on the side.

      It may be that an online degree is the only option right now for LW, but it’s definitely worth considering if they learn better in person. I’ve taken a couple of online classes, and overall did not enjoy it. A lot of it involved posting in discussion boards and responding to others posts, which just felt tedious. (And I appreciate the irony that I’m typing this in a discussion board post, haha.) However, one of my friends took some classes that were ‘virtual classes’ so all of the students and the professor were logged on at the same time and could have actual discussion. I think the format of the online classes is important to ask about.

    6. Genny*

      I’m currently in an online grad program in a top ten school in my field. One of the things I love about it is that there’s a synchronous and asynchronous part. We’re expected to do the asynchronous part (the reading, homework, pre-recorded lectures) on our own, but we meet once a week for 1.5 hours during the synchronous part to discuss the reading with the professor. The synchronous part works just like any other WebEx/Adobe Connect video conference. It’s not exactly the same as being there in person, but we do get that face-to-face interaction that I think is really important to the learning process.

      LW, there are so many different types of online programs out there, definitely keep looking until you find one that fits your needs.

    7. Anonymeece*

      I also have to say it’s a mixed bag, but for slightly different reasons.

      Honestly, I found my undergrad (brick-and-mortar) way harder than my Master’s (online). Truthfully, I found the online program to not be that rigorous, though I can’t do a direct comparison since I didn’t take brick-and-mortar classes at all for that.

      However, when it comes to hiring, I actually haven’t seen a difference. YMMV, though, as my Master’s is almost exclusively done online these days.

      Truthfully, I would just suggest looking for a reputable brick-and-mortar school that is accredited that has an online program; it also wouldn’t hurt to look up reviews of the online program to find out if it’s rigorous. One is for the benefit of the hiring managers, and one is so you can feel secure that you’re getting an equal education.

  12. Andy*

    #1. If it wasn’t going to take up so much of your time and money I’d suggest going along with it, accepting, getting the reimbursement and then quitting just to screw with them.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Actually, I’d bet it’s even worse — they don’t have a time clause, but have an “unwritten rule” that they expect you to work for at least a year if you want to keep the reimbursement. They’d probably try to (illegally) deduct it from the poor college student’s pay, too.

    1. OP#1*

      Hm, idk. I see where you’re coming from, but I don’t think someone else’s unethical behavior justifies unethical behavior on my side. I’ll just withdraw my application and see what happens. Worst case, I’ll have to pay for the train ticket, but that’s better than spending a summer in a dysfunctional work environment

      1. Specialk9*

        I read that as elaborate revenge fantasy, rather than actual advice. Because you’re right, not good for your soul, work ethic, or time.

        1. OP#1*

          Oh – thanks for clearing that up! English is not my native language, therefore I sometimes have a hard time picking up on irony or jokes in writing because I can’t tell from the tone of how its said. As a revenge fantasy, I’m with you!

  13. Comms Girl*

    LW#1: run, run, run as fast as you can. Even institutions like the EU bodies only take 1 day at a time for the different selection phases. To demand 3 consecutive days (!) (plus those you spent preparing) from people who are barely (if at all) out of university, for a summer a job, and then consciously have them run the risk of significantly being out of pocket, it’s just horrifying. I’m sure you’ll find something way better and way more respectful of your time and skills soon!

    1. Principessa*

      I once had to travel to interview for a fundraising position at a private K-12 school, and they had a similar policy on reimbursement: they would reimburse me for half of my travel expenses up front, and reimburse me for the other half if a) they went with another candidate or b) they offered me the position and I accepted. There were a few differences in my situation, though: 1. It was a permanent position, 2. It was a one-day interview, and 3. They had a guest room on campus where I could stay, so my only significant expenses were a plane ticket, a couple of inexpensive meals, and some nominal public transit fares.

      That said, LW #1, I absolutely would not pursue the opportunity (and I am using that word loosely) you wrote in about any further. What they’re asking of you is so disproportionate to the role it’s ridiculous. I hope you are able to find a position somewhere that is a better fit! Good luck in your search!

  14. TeacherNerd*

    LW #5: I did my master’s completely online (Northern Arizona University) while living and teaching in Utah. I visited the campus exactly once – for graduation. No one would know unless I told them that it was an online degree. There are exactly two graduate programs in the state of Utah that would have been what I wanted; one program rejected me, and the other was a university with which I have extremely deep philosophical differences, but I found a slew of completely online degrees from really good, strong universities (Bowling Green, Pepperdine, etc.) who offered completely online programs. It’s now A Thing that people do, and they’re no longer seen as sketchy.

    I also teach online writing classes via the local community college. It’s as difficult as a traditional face-to-face class (I’ve taught the same class F2F, online, and in hybrid formats). I’m not even sure that there ARE correspondence courses anymore (they seem to have been before my time but I’ve never looked) – but the point is that unless you’re going to UoP or similar, you should be fine.

    1. banana&tanger*

      I’ve got two undergrad degrees the traditional way and I’m now getting a master’s online. It’s actually the only way this particular program is offered and it’s been fine. Some classes are stronger than others. One course had term-long assigned groups. My group all lived locally and we enjoyed the topic and each other so much we ended up meeting in person. Other classes have made me roll my eyes daily — but at least online no one could see.

      Just make sure your degree is from a school with a brick and mortar campus and isn’t from a “school for professional studies” or other designation separating it from the rest of the university — Harvard and others have these alternate money makers. The tuition should be the same (with perhaps an online course fee), and your diploma should be the same as a traditional student. Then you’re good to go. And congrats!

  15. Close Bracket*

    OP1: this sounds a lot like a group interview. Sometimes, like when a company needs to hire a lot of people at once, a group interview is quite normal and par for the course. Other times, group interviews are kind of insulting. As a general rule, professionals should not be subject to group interviews. Professionals should be given the consideration and respect of being considered independently. Your situation is getting some sideeye from me even before the wacky reimbursement scheme is taken into account.

    OP5: what a funny coincidence. I have a degree from the University of Arizona. It’s from a really well respected program at the University of Arizona. I ended up getting it in person, but I started as part of distance learning while outside the state of Arizona. At the time, nobody who I spoke to knew the difference between the University of Phoenix and the University of Arizona, and for a program as prestigious as mine, they really should have. Now, I don’t know if UA is one of the programs that you are considering or if you just used it as an example. If you are considering one of its programs, keep my story in mind as a cautionary tale. :-)

    1. Laurelma__01!*

      Ref OP: You’re right about it being insulting. Twice I’ve been scheduled interviews for office jobs and walk in and realize it’s a room full of people. This was after being laid off, was desperate. One was for insurance sales & I would have walked out if someone was standing there blocking the door. The other was for vacuum sales (early 1990’s). I was in my late 20’s and they must have thought I was stupid. They tried to tell me that I had to take the job or my unemployment benefits would be cancelled. Informed them that I wasn’t required to take a job outside my field and stomped off. I was furious.

  16. Woodswoman*

    For #1, the expectations of that nonprofit are ridiculous. No, just no.

    I’ve worked for nonprofits for many years, and I’m trying to fathom an organization where the staff even has time to sit through a three-day process of putting college students through that wringer. The mind boggles.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I hadn’t considered that aspect of the org’s bizarreness, but you’re right. This isn’t just a freaky use of their applicants’ time (where you can see they might sincerely not care) but of their employees’ time–who wants to spend a three day weekend watching possible interns give presentations?

      1. Ama*

        If this is an organization that gives out funding, I’m wondering if this interview process was somehow adapted from the way they assess grants. I know there are some organizations out there who fly the last tier of applicants in to present directly to the award committee and answer questions. This is not to excuse it at all, just the description of activities sounded to me like someone started with that kind of award process and for some bizarre reason decided it would work for their summer internships. And yeah I can’t imagine the org’s existing staff enjoys administering this process at ALL.

        But the entire policy around travel reimbursements is bonkers (the orgs I know of that fly in grant applicants pay for the applicants’ travel directly).

    2. OP#1*

      I was wondering about that as well, especially as they have two of these interview weekends back to back. An intern who helped organize these weekends ate breakfast with me one morning and she was telling me that she had taken a day of as to avoid working three weeks without break, especially as – her words – the coordinators have to prepare and organize until early am during the interview weekends. Honestly, upon further reflection, I’m fairly sure thats not even legal. In the country I live in, employee protection laws are more strict than in the US, particularly regarding breaks/time off. I cannot imagine it would be legal for the organization’s employees to work these weekends in addition to their regular 9-5s during the week.

    3. Oilpress*

      It sounds more like a recruitment, initiation, and onboarding meeting than an interview. My guess is that they accept just about everyone who shows up, which is how they justify the expense and the time involved.

  17. Lw4*

    Thanks Alison and everyone – yes I am British, yes I probably was trying to be more honest than I need to be! To swell any doubts I have absolutely no problems with my boyfriend’s job, we are very open about our different backgrounds, and are both making big efforts to engage with each other’s working lives. I guess just a lot of similar questions from my friends about him, his education, his lifestyle etc and a few comments from my parents have made me more on edge about this than I needed to be. I suppose ultimately no one’s going to be cross if I’m in early and getting more work done!

    1. Working class Brit*

      Hi LW4,

      You come across fine to me, sorry your industry has its Hyacinth Bucket types.
      From those you love, that can go both ways, but at least you know its coming from a place of love for you.

      Sometimes we just have to change how we frame things to ourselves, so we don’t over explain. In your case, its ‘I’m going in earlier, because going back to sleep tends to make me late.’ — Slight re-frame, but it just gets the ‘why’ you’re awake earlier out of your head, so hopefully not onto your lips. If its a project where you can deflect with being enthused* about it, so they think that’s why in ‘early’ then even better.

      *This is my go to, when my mouth wants to keep talking, (explaining), I change it to being enthused on the project (or whatever will make person talking to happy) and not getting into TMI about stuff they don’t need to know.

      Apologies if this made no sense, am at home with a hurt back. Best of luck.

      1. LW4*

        Thank you WCB, it made absolute sense and I’m glad you understand where I’m coming from! Hope your back gets better!

      2. TootsNYC*

        ‘I’m going in earlier, because going back to sleep tends to make me late.’

        That’s nice! “I woke up a little early today, and if I go back to sleep, then I oversleep, so I just came in.” It gives you lots of words to say, which can feel comforting. But it doesn’t reveal anything.

    2. Pollygrammer*

      I think everything you wrote is fine.

      If I had a new relationship that I knew was going to get a lot of scrutiny–even just questions coming from a loving place of genuine curiosity–I think I’d keep it on the DL as long as I could!

    3. Media Monkey*

      i didn’t read your letter as you having an issue or being ashamed of what he does for a living – more that you didn’t want your sex life to be part of the work rumour mill! i’m also in the UK BTW and do understand the distinction that might exist, but it hasn’t been my experience with most people at all.

    4. Sutemi*

      If I was asking a co-worker about coming in early, what I really would want to know is if your schedule has new constraints. Are you still available to stay late for a meeting if that was when everyone else could meet?

    5. CityMouse*

      If it helps, I am an attorney (US) and we come in very early all the time. Some start as early as 6:30 (I work at a nice place though and you can leave at 3 if you start this early). At least in the US this isn’t a class issue.

      If your boss doesn’t want you in that early, that is the workplaces prerogative, there are lots of legitimate reasons for it. I would recommend finding a place to have a tea or coffee and read or similar or maybe use the time to work out, if there is enough time.

  18. Detective Amy Santiago*

    LW #5 – more important than the for-profit vs non-profit distinction, you want to make sure you enroll in a properly accredited program.

    There are two kinds of accreditation – regional and national. Regional covers the entire school whereas National tends to be program specific. So, for example, if you were looking into a paralegal program, you would want to find one that is nationally accredited by the ABA being offered by a regionally accredited school. Regional accreditation standards are set by the government and are consistent throughout the US. Schools must be regionally accredited to be eligible for government funding (FAFSA, stafford loans, pell grants).

    Find out if your intended career path has national accrediting bodies. These tend to be more for specific degrees, like nursing or law, that require licensing. Your general liberal arts degrees aren’t going to fall under this category.

  19. Rez123*

    I’m going to university the “traditional way” and yet we have a lot of courses online. It is becoming more common for all schools and I don’t think it says “online” in any if the certificates.

    I’ve heared that the Open University in the UK (only online learning) is considered highly so as long as the school is not iffy I don’t think it matters how you get your degree.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Isn’t that delightfully surreal? Like she’s in her own version of a mash-up of The Office and Twin Peaks, and is just waiting for everyone else in the company to catch up with her?

    2. anon for this one*

      I work with someone who used to spend a great deal of time in her office making jewelry. I’m sure the only reason she didn’t expand into ceramics is that she couldn’t fit a kiln in there.

    3. tangerineRose*

      If you search for “jigsaw”, you’ll find a comment from the OP about the co-worker working on a jigsaw puzzle and being very upset because no one would help with the co-worker’s project (which clearly the co-worker wasn’t working on). Bizarre.

      I used to work with a slacking co-worker, and management frequently asked me to work on issues that occurred because co-worker dropped the ball, but at least he wasn’t THAT blatant about it. (It was still very frustrating.)

  20. Mookie*

    it’s enough to just say “they come from a woman’s tummy”

    I was skim-reading abovethread earlier in the evening, mistook “they come” for “I came,” and thought Alison was giving LW4 a script here. For one long moment, I was very: “fuck, Alison is not messing about with these nosey people.”

    1. CoveredInBees*

      I didn’t read it this way the first time but I am now! Thanks for the laugh.

  21. Zipzap*

    OP#2 – Do you think it would be worth having a conversation with Cersei and telling her that all of you resent picking up her slack when she spends half her time goofing off? If she knows you’re going to talk to management about it, that might be enough to get her back in line.

    1. Lance*

      I wish I could say I didn’t doubt this… but I doubt it. Seeing that the manager is actively distributing out Cersei’s unfinished work, it looks to very much be a case of ‘manager who doesn’t want to properly manage’… and I’d bet you anything Cersei knows it, given how much she seems to be freely getting away with.

      1. Workerbee*

        I also am on the “that’s not going to work” side. Cersei is actively choosing to work on anything other than work. A canvas didn’t magically appear on her desk. And unless conversations are held away from her and in private, she would hear/see her work being distributed to others. Not to mention, assuming she did once used to DO her work, notice the difference now.

        I’ve had a Cersei who was cosseted and coddled by a manager that “felt sorry” for her falling asleep at her desk when she wasn’t just playing around online, and who would hand out her overdue work to the rest of us while Cersei beamed in the background. /neverforget

        I hope OP #2’s manager is more savvy!

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          The fact she’s blatantly working on other things is remarkable. I have had coworkers who don’t do their share of work, but they usually care enough to hide that they aren’t.

          1. Artemesia*

            The very busy worker who is flitting here and there and carrying a clipboard and looking harried and moaning about how much work they have to do, but gets nothing done is very common in the workplace. I am still surprised that someone can be doing crafts or surfing all day at their desk and the manager is unwilling to manage. I hope every productive worker finds a better job and sticks this manager with nothing but slackers.

            Managing managers is a huge gap in the US workplace; managers are rarely held accountable for their management and when things go sideways, it is ALWAYS management failure.

            1. Tuxedo Cat*

              It’s really the optics of it- if your computer isn’t visible all the time to the manager, I could see a manager, especially a conflict averse one, erring on the side of not firing. But having a canvas out and painting? Heck, people find issues with other knitting, even though that could be just like a 5 minute break.

    2. Gotham Bus Company*

      Cersei is clearly a “favored child” who would complain that others are “harassing” her by daring to suggest that she do her own work.

    3. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

      Believe me Cersei won’t care. She’s getting paid to work on her hobbies on company time. It sounds like a sweet deal for her and worth a few dirty looks.

  22. Deus Cee*

    OP5, I got my masters degree through part-time distance-learning, while working full-time (it took a long time, but overall I think it’s been worth it). The degree itself looks exactly the same as the one the full-time students get; I think it’s worth making sure that you’re picking the right university for the degree, but as long as you do, there’s no stigma for it being online.

  23. Tears of Purple Rain*

    I am in a management role and arrive 2-3 hrs ahead of my rowdy team for a block of time to work uninterrupted. My team also benefits from this choice. I am genuinely surprised to see the rare other person in the building before 7 am. Not angry. It’s just very quiet at that time and off pattern. I usually say something to acknowledge the other, but it’s not meant to be judgy or disapproving. To the letter writer who was noticed, it might just be acknowledgement of what is happening.

  24. OP#1*

    Dear Allison and all commentors,

    Thanks for your input! The interview-weekend took place already (they notified me about one week prior to its start, and I sent the letter three days before it started). It was a group-interview situation, but therefore also quite some time waste – about 45 applicants were sorted into groups of eight and we sat through and had to give feedback on our groups’ presentations, which already took a whole day (9am-9pm with 1.5h break). The other two days were spent with ‘workshops’ about the organization (its goals, values, etc) and group work on given questions. Also, we were given more information which left me with a fishy feeling (during the summer job, we would teach little groups of students all over the country, but there is a budget of ~$250/month for housing, which is why we either have to live with organizers/members of the non-profit or figure out some suntendant-situation for as cheap as possible. Also, while one-time transportation from our home to the location of teaching and back will be covered, the ~$250/month housing budged must include transportation costs from our place of stay in the ‘teaching city’ to the location we teach at, which is impossible even in the most rural place in the country I live in.) Anyways, as I’m still in college, I didn’t have an exact idea of what is reasonable and what isn’t, so THANK YOU SO MUCH for giving me a reality check! I’ll try to reply to comments I see, although I may be delayed due to time difference :)

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Was it the Smile thing that Alison got a letter about a few years ago? Where they made the finalists prepare a dinner party? Cause this sounds just about as ridiculous as that.

      1. Imaginary Number*

        I’m guessing it’s a particularly notorious nonprofit that has “Teach” in the name.

      2. OP#1*

        No, nothing with ‘smiles’ or ‘teach’. It’s a fairly small organization which I assume is not (well) known

    2. Lance*

      45!? Exactly how many people are they looking to hire right now? Because no matter how I look at it, an org trying to keep costs down should not be bringing out that many people for a several-day stay… and all for just a summer job!

      1. OP#1*

        Originally, they were looking to employ around 60-70 people, but I think now it’s more like 40 because how many teachers they need changes from season to season depending on how many students apply. Mind you, though, that there are two of these interview seminar weekends, so from what I gathered, I would guess they invite about 80-90 people total.

    3. Armchair Analyst*

      Is this…. religious?! I just can’t see this being seen as “normal” in any non-religious situation…

      1. OP#1*

        Not as far as I know at least. Nothing was said about religion during the seminar/application process, I’m not a member of any religious, and my research on the organization didn’t indicate anything about religion.

    4. Specialk9*

      Oh my. So they gave you a housing stipend that’s too low for any place I’ve ever lived (and I’ve lived in rural cowtown America).

      Then they say it’s ALSO your transportation stipend, to travel all over the country.

      This is exploitation. I’m sorry, this place is full of bees.

      1. OP#1*

        Sorry, I was unclear there: They pay once to get to the city you teach in and back, but not for you to get around in that city (these expenses are included in the too-low housing budget). As an example, if you live in Chicago but you teach in Los Angeles, they pay for traveling to LA at the beginning of your job and back at the end. But say you teach in downtown LA but get an apartment 5miles away (for example because of a very limited budget), they don’t cover the expenses for traveling from that location to downtown LA where you work, unless you find a place that’s so cheap that the $250/month can cover both you rent/utilities and the costs of commute. So you can chose if you want to pay way extra for you housing or if you rather pay the commute costs. (I’m not from the US, but a country with equally or more expensive living costs, depending on which regions to compare, so the chosen cities are examples and not where the organization really operates afaik.)

        I’m aware that you have to pay your commute at all times when you work; the reason I took issue with that is that the budget is unreasonable for housing and even more so if it should theoretically also include commute costs. Especially because they pay is super low (way below minimum wage, because it’s technically considered ‘expense allowance’, but the teaching is explicitly considered work (summer job) and not volunteering, and everything’s mixed up.)
        I hope I made my previous comment clearer and not more confusing. English isn’t my native language so I struggle with exact expression sometimes – sorry!

        1. Specialk9*

          Ok, so I was imagining it a bit worse than that, but it’s still really not good. (And your English is great!)

          You shouldn’t have to pay commuting costs out of rent, especially such a stupid-low rent stipend. (And $250 to live in an actual city, especially an expensive city?! I assumed super rural.)

          Some jobs do cover transport and commuting costs, so it’s not a “never” situation. My old job used to give us a $200/month transportation stipend just for public transport, or paid our parking fees. Beyond daily commuting, we charged the project for non-routine commuting trips (from the office to a client site and back). That is fairly generous though, so I don’t think that’s standard, but it’s certainly not a hugely unusual thing.

          This is still coated with bees, and those ladybugs that bite.

            1. OP#1*

              Currently I’m waiting for their reply regarding whether or not they’d hire me. Also, I’m really interested in the contract (which we haven’t seen yet) should I be considered for the job.

    5. Woodswoman*

      Wow, this place is just outrageous. There’s a difference between an internship and exploitation, and what you’re describing definitely falls into the second category. Sorry you had to endure that ridiculousness, at your own expense no less.

    6. TootsNYC*

      and they didn’t give you all this financial information BEFORE you came for the interview?

      YE GODS!!

    7. Starbuck*

      Sounds like a junk deal. I’m guessing they’re hiring so many people because no want wants to return for another summer with such terrible pay ($250/month just for housing is outrageously low for pretty much any populated area of the US). This doesn’t sound like a job that’s work anyone’s time, unless the pay is so fantastic that it makes up for the tiny stipend or you happen to already live in the city you’re hired to teach in.

      1. OP#1*

        The pay isn’t good, really (it seemed reasonable, even good, at first, but they kept adding on duties which weren’t mentioned in the job description). I had also hoped that I could teach near where I live (or where friends or my parents live), but that didn’t work out. So – yeah, you might be right that there aren’t many returns and therefore a lot of new hires.

  25. Mathilde*

    I have a question which is tangent to the fifth letter, but which is not an answer.
    I am not in the US, and I don’t get the difference between “for profit”and “non profit” schools. In my understanding, a school which is “non profit” would be less expensive, but it doesn’t seem to be the case ! The tuition for universities like Harvard etc… are just… monstrous, but these schools seem to be considered “non profit”. How come ?

    1. KB*

      All colleges make profits. A better term would be “Not-for-profit” meaning their main goal/mission isn’t to make money. Whereas typically “for-profit” it is. That being said, the more prestigious the school, the more you will pay. IF nothing else you are paying for the name.

      1. deesse877*

        A better way to put it would be “all colleges have revenue from tuition.” The large majority are not-for-profit, meaning that revenue over operating expenses (a) isn’t sought, and (b) must be ploughed back into the institution where it exists. There are no shareholders, no one gets an immediate raise, nothing like that.

        It’s also only sometimes and contingently true thAt prestige = high costs to students. Partly, the most prestigious schools do have very progressive financial aid (even though the large majority of their students are wealthy and pay a lot), and partly there are a lot of second-tier places that try to create an illusion of prestige by charging too much.

        It’s complicated, and definitely a driver of increasing class immobility in the US, but ordinary cynicism about “profit” doesn’t model the situation well at all.

      2. Yorick*

        At a non-profit school, tuition actually doesn’t cover the whole cost of a student attending. Money comes from the state and/or somewhere else (e.g., a university affiliated with a religious organization will get funding from that organization).

        1. Artemesia*

          This is the lie they tell us. Places like Harvard have enormous endowments and they pretend that the costs of over paid professors and particularly overpaid administrators at numerous levels are somehow the cost of providing that education. The system is deeply rotten. Administrative costs over the last 50 years have skyrocketed and along with that goes cushy office space, fancy buildings and lots of costs carried on top of the education program.

          1. Lora*

            “Administrative costs over the last 50 years have skyrocketed and along with that goes cushy office space, fancy buildings and lots of costs carried on top of the education program.”

            Word. Education doesn’t suffer from being conducted in a Brutalist concrete box circa 1976 with a student lounge decorated in macramé owls and orange Naugahyde couches; it DOES suffer from being taught by armies of underpaid adjuncts and grad students instead of full time professors.

    2. Nye*

      The difference is that no one owns Harvard, and its goals are not to make money for shareholders, etc. One thing to note about brand-name schools with crazy sticker prices is that they often give a ton of aid to students who are accepted but can’t afford it. At Stanford, if your parents’ income is <$125K (I think), you attend tuition-free and your room and board may also be covered.

      There has definitely been a massive increase in tuition prices everywhere in the US (often associated with a swelling of the admin ranks), which is becoming a huge problem. But just wanted to point out, since I think a lot of folks don't know this, that some of the most expensive and prestigious schools can actually be surprisingly affordable for students who don't come from money. (I certainly didn't know this when I was considering undergrad schools!)

    3. Emi.*

      For-profit universities are companies that make money for their owners/shareholders. Non-profit universities don’t have owners; if they have money left over at the end of the year (and they often don’t!) they put it back into their endowment or whatever.

    4. MamaGanoush*

      Not-for-profit and non-profit have a legal definitions, and institutions which want to be not-for-profit or non-profit must comply with the laws regarding such institutions.

      For-profit institutions do not have to comply with these laws. They *can* be legit schools which work hard to give students a good educational experience. In practice, many such institutions have a skeevy reputation with respect to the education offered and, even more, with respect to the kind of debt students get into and the criminal or borderline-criminal way the schools use students to generate loans and debt.

      There is also accreditation (which another commenter mentioned). Any school may or may not be accredited. Accreditation is important — a diploma from a non-accredited school is often considered lesser, or worthless. However, even accreditation does not prevent schools (especially for-profit schools) from misbehaving.

      OP should do some research into the institution’s reputation, whether it is accredited, whether the courses and/or entire degree are from the main campus or school (see comment above about degrees from a university’s business school versus its lesser-reputation programs), and whether there’s any indication on the transcript that courses or degrees are noted “online” or not.

    5. Specialk9*

      Harvard gives tons of people free rides for undergrad, based on need. That’s true of a lot of universities. My partner worked at a well known university and would marvel at the rich foreign students in their Mazeratis (sp?) but then would shrug and say that they paid for everyone else.

    6. cleo*

      There is also a difference between public and private collages that can impact tuition. All public (state sponsored) colleges and universities are not-for-profit and generally have lower tuitions (especially for students who are residents of that state). Privately owned colleges and universities can be for-profit or not-for-profit. Harvard is a private, not-for-profit university.

    7. Michaela Westen*

      I went to four different colleges, all but one non-profit. My impression from my experience is whether they say for-profit or not, they manipulate and deceive for money and some aggressively advertise and sell also. It’s common for universities – even the richest ones – to hound their alumni for donations.
      In recent years we’ve seen mentioned in the media adjunct or part-time professors who can’t stay in their jobs because the pay is too low. This sort of thing just confirms my suspicions since I was college age – where does the tuition money go if it’s not to the teachers and programs? Why do universities that charge a fortune in tuition need donations? Maybe if they put less money into making rich environments and grounds, and paid their administrators a median salary, they could operate within their means?

  26. Bookworm*

    #5: I have never participated in an online degree program (although I’ve looked into a few). I know of someone who did get a degree mostly online with some in-class work. She’s mid-career, though, and not someone who is just out of high school or out of school for a few years. It seems to have worked for her as she’s in a comfortable job and all that so it also may depend on the circumstances and avoiding schools like the University of Phoenix.

  27. Flash Bristow*

    OP #4 – congrats on waking early, I’ve always found it very hard to get up on time and I’m jealous!

    In your shoes I’d do what I do if I’m early for an interview etc; find a cafe nearby, but not so close that it’s full of co-workers, get a coffee, sit by the window and watch the world go by. Deliberately take a few deep breaths and relax. Then when your phone alarm (or whatever) jolts you back to reality and reminds you it’s time to head to the office, you’re chilled and ready to face whatever the day has in store.

    But if that doesn’t work for you, then “oh, I find I get more done if I get a head start while it’s still quiet” could be the thing to say.

    Congrats on the relationship! I hope it is fun and making you happy. ☺

    1. Audrey Puffins*

      Yeah, it’s not a binary – sleep in and risk being late *or* get to the office earlier than anyone would expect you. There are other things you can do; journalling, reading, taking a walk, the sort of thing that might be nice to slot into a day but you don’t often have time for. Not only do you have a lovely new boyfriend, you also now have a bonus slot of time in the morning where you can fit in a few rounds of Duolingo or get a head-start on the chores that would otherwise wait until evening time! :)

    2. Bea*

      It took me years to be able to “enjoy the morning”. I’ve always been a “roll out of bed and get going” kind of person. I had the routine in school when my sleep issues weren’t as well taken care of.

      So it’s a great suggestion but it can be hard to implement unless you try. Especially hearing that going back to sleep results in over sleeping. I can see hanging out somewhere journaling could run the risk of being late as well.

      Now that I’ve gotten older I wake up earlier. I can enjoy a cup of coffee, read a blog and take a morning walk before heading to work. Five years ago I couldn’t even imagine it, my mind just sprung awake and I needed to be busy at work ASAP

  28. Carlie*

    A note on accreditation: there are shady “accrediting” bodies out there too. Dozens. You need the college/university accreditation to be from one of the six regional or ten nationals:


    And if you really want to be sure, each body publishes the most recent summary report of each school on their websites so you can see how the school did.

  29. Voc Teacher*

    OP#5: As I tell my students: If the college has to advertise during Judge Judy, it’s not a place you want to go.

    1. Gaia*

      Several local state schools have begun advertising their online programs to raise awareness that they are available. But, in general, I agree.

  30. MCL*

    OP5, it may be worth contacting the school where you started your degree and see if they will let you finish online. My spouse had an incomplete BA from years ago. Only some of the credits would have transferred to another university, but he found out he could transfer in credits to his former school and finish that way. So he had to finish 12 credits instead of over 20. He completed those remaining 12 credits online, some thru the original school and a few thru a partner school.

  31. Gotham Bus Company*


    Get. Out. Of. There. If management is handing out Cersei’s work for others to do on top of their own, then everyone else is being set up for failure. At evaluation time, Cersei will get full credit for her work (completed by everyone else) while the rest of you get reprimanded for not completing your own work (because you were busy doing Cersei’s work).

    If you’re not job-hunting already, start now. It would serve management right if everyone else quit and left nobody to cover for Cersei.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      This. If you’re not doing your own work, that’s going to be counted against you.

      While you are looking for another job, I do recommend asking your boss: “Is there a reason why you are asking me to do Ceresi’s work while she paints and does puzzles?”

      1. Gotham Bus Company*

        At the very least, “As long as the rest of us are splitting her work, can we split her paycheck as well?”

  32. Imaginary Number*

    For OP #1: I have one guess as to what this nonprofit might be. I won’t say the name, but I think run the other way is the right answer, regardless.

    1. OP#1*

      I’d be curious for everyone’s guesses, but I won’t say the name either (don’t want to anyone, including myself, to get in trouble, particularly as the non-profit world can be a small one and I’ll be depending on someone hiring me one day). However, if anyone wants to give me a warning about specific non-profits or employers more general (or has recommendations for a site with flagged employers), I’d be very grateful! Sorry if there’s a related post in the archives, I’m still combing through them as of now :)

  33. Q*

    LW#2 when I read your dilemma I burst out laughing because it reminded me of a ridiculous coworker I had to deal with once. He dressed pretty oddly with a bandanna and long earrings every day (picture the guy that dressed like a pirate in Bruce Springsteen’s band) and was notorious for not working. On the unlucky day I needed his help with something, I found him engrossed in a comic strip he was drawing at his desk. I was told he could help me once he finished his drawing, but it could be two hours. Our job had nothing to do with comic strips or drawing, it was a normal office.

  34. MLB*

    #3 – As Alison said there is no good time to resign, and it stinks that it may come when your manager is going through a difficult time in her personal life. But I like to think of it this way…if a company needed to cut costs, and letting people go was part of that cost cutting, they wouldn’t hesitate to show you the door. They wouldn’t care that your partner lost his/her job, or your child needed to have life saving surgery or that your dog just died. So you need to do what’s best for you and not feel guilty because it’s happening during a time that’s not ideal for everyone else.

    1. LW3*

      Ah, this is very true. It’s hard to dissociate emotions from business but sometimes it just has to be done. Thanks for the perspective.

  35. Trudy Scrumptious*

    OP #5-
    I went to work right after high school while I took night classes at a small but reputable private college in my home town. Fast forward more than 20 years later, and I’m currently enrolled in online classes with a college that is part of my state university system. I STRONGLY encourage anyone who is considering a return to school to DO IT. In my case, the college I am attending has a great reputation for its online programs and tailoring its classes to working students. Since it’s part of our state university system, most local employers don’t even think twice about seeing the school name on applications. Despite the private college closing sixteen years ago, my state department of education was able retrieve my transcripts for the coursework I did, and my current college accepted all of the credits for my previous coursework.

    By the way, my college also offers traditional classes on its campuses as well as hybrid classes that include both online and classroom participation, but a majority of the students complete a good deal of their courses online.

  36. MassholeMarketer*

    #5 – my coworker received their MBA from the University of Phoenix back in 2011 or something and is now attending Southern New Hampshire University online for another Master’s degree. I’m not sure if it’s because they were having bad job prospects or what but I’m also getting my Master’s at SNHU online and can tell you that they have great online programs! I’ve also been to a few interviews now and they are all impressed that I’m juggling a full time job and grad school at the same time.

    1. Courageous cat*

      SNHU is tricky, though, as someone who looked heavily into it. While they’re a regionally accredited nonprofit with a brick and mortar location, they still don’t have a great reputation due to their heavy advertising/commercials and the customer service-y approach. So it’s like, while an employer could have second thoughts, look into it and find out they’re a legit school, you still run a real risk of employers just assuming it’s the same thing as University of Phoenix and discarding your resume without ever digging further.

      So OP, while being regionally accredited and nonprofit is the main thing to look out for, do some research on general reputation.

  37. Cordoba*

    I got an online technical masters from a well-regarded university about 2 years ago.

    It being an online degree does not seem to have been an issue with any of the job applications or negotiations I’ve done since then.

    If the program is a good fit for you AND associated with a recognized accredited school I wouldn’t hesitate to pursue an online degree.

    1. Confused*

      Same. Seriously, if anyone is self conscious about it (I’m not and I tell people) your diploma will not say “online.” You literally will never have to tell anyone and it probably won’t even come up.

  38. uranus wars*

    I read #1 as they would reimburse if you said no, but not reimburse if you chose to pull your candidacy because you thought you thought it was a bad fit/lost interest.

    Either way, run for the hills before you invest days of your life into this.

    1. OP#1*

      They will reimburse only if they don’t offer you the job (as in you came to the interview weekend but didn’t perform well enough) or if they offer the job and you take it. In case they offer you the job but you pull your application, you won’t be reimbursed. I’ll see what happens – if Alison asks me for an update one day, I’ll let you know how it went!

      1. uranus wars*

        Thanks for clarifying! Holy cow; that is a crazy way to do business.

        And even if Alison doesn’t ask specifically I am sure we would ALL love an update.

      2. cataloger*

        I’m worried too that this cuts into your ability to negotiate salary; even if you do think you’re a good fit and want the job but they’re offering too low of a salary, you’re stuck choosing between accepting a low salary or losing that reimbursement check. Yuck.

        1. OP#1*

          Salary is fixed an cannot be negotiated (that was clear from the beginning). However, according to the duties that were mentioned in the job description, the pay sounded fair, while they kept adding on ‘minor’ things we should handle as well, which lowered the hourly salary to about $3,50 an hour if you want to do all tasks well. You’re right that one is stuck between choosing bad pay or choosing to lose the reimbursement, though.

  39. Bea*

    I flinched at the conversation about not covering her work any longer. I pray and truly hope management listens but my experience with “I can’t do everyone’s job and my own” was “Figure it out or you can leave.”. So my scars are deep.

    This morning is full of my fears and scars with that followed up by the idea of plumbers vs “creative” jobs. I once had a scumbag demean by bf for being “a warehouse guy” but now he’s working into a marketing spot so lol lol lol snobbery. I hope you can detach his profession from things very quickly.

    1. Specialk9*

      People who say things like that clearly have never spent any time in a warehouse. Maybe the pickers can be somebody off the street, but receiving and QA and management and stacks require certs and know-how and intelligence.

  40. Parenthetically*

    This comments section seems to be particularly Rorschach-esque today re: class distinctions. I didn’t think OP4 was being a snob at all, just wondering how to deal with people’s questions, but some folks are sure seeing something I’m not! Very interesting.

    1. Gotham Bus Company*

      There’s nothing wrong with being or dating a plumber. The world will always need plumbers, and a good plumber is worth his (or HER) weight in gold.

    2. gecko*

      Yeah, I wonder if there’s some underlying cultural differences–I think in the US, acknowledging someone’s class difference can be read as classism, because the US isn’t “supposed” to have social classes. Whereas folks from other cultures are seeing it as, OP is acknowledging a fact about the social dynamics of their relationship without being classist, and wants to forestall classist questions.

    3. MLB*

      I honestly think LW is way over thinking the situation. Of course I come from the school of “I don’t give a rat’s ass what others think” so maybe that’s why?

  41. Lisa Babs*

    Am I the only one that thinks the statement mentioned by OP#1 “they asked us to buy ASAP to keep costs down” is more about locking college students into not backing out of going and less about saving costs. Now I know there is something about train and plane tickets going up at the last minute and they don’t want to reimburse for day-of tickets. BUT encouraging people with limited budgets to buy (most likely non-refundable tickets) early seems fishy. Like they want them to lock in there decision about going to the interview before they can do their research.

    1. CBE*

      Yes, I had that thought. Also had the thought that it is one of those rackets where EVERYONE gets an offer. And then they take the first X number of people who accept and everyone else is SOL when they reply, no matter what they reply.
      The advice to run is sound advice, absolutely.

  42. Michaela Westen*

    #4: I know someone socially who is SO stuck-up, and in his work. He’s a tech recruiter. He said, “we get applicants from schools that say they’re accredited, but WE don’t think they’re accredited. We only interview people from these three schools.” I got in his face and told him I have a tech job with no degree and my boss loves my work. :D Now he won’t dance with me.
    So two things:
    1. Ignore people or companies like this. They’re hurting themselves as much as others.
    2. Are you hoping to get a specific job or field with your degree? If so, try to find out what your potential employers are looking for and whether they’d be ok with the schools you’re considering.
    Good luck! :)

  43. Confused*

    I have a Master’s for which I took mostly online classes from a highly-ranked university…your diploma will not say it was “online” so this is a non-issue. I don’t even really tell people.

    1. KMB213*

      I agree that there’s no need to tell people, though, sometimes, it’s obvious (ie if the school is in a different city or state and you’re also working at the time, meaning you couldn’t have possibly been taking classes in person).

      That being said, even if it’s obvious, I don’t think it makes much of a difference.

  44. ragazza*

    #5–I work for a company that partners with traditional, not-for-profit colleges and universities to put their programs online, many of which are nationally recognized institutions. Alison is right–it’s not the modality you need to check, it’s the school. Read up on their accreditation (you should look for regional accreditation) and reputation, but if it’s a not-for-profit school, the online program will be just as rigorous and challenging as the on-campus counterpart.

  45. wheeeee*


    *refrains from using very bad language*

    Sorry for shouting but… enough!

    1. Michaela Westen*

      Yes, I’ve noticed this for most of my work life, ever since I entered the work force in the 80’s.
      I had interviews where they expressed interest and wanted to pay way under market – “because we’re non-profit”
      I had to make a living! After a few of those I stopped applying at non-profits.
      I had a temp job at one where they weren’t a non-profit in the sense of helping less fortunate people. They were more of a civic organization. I remember when their annual raises happened and some long-term employees got a 1% raise “because we’re non-profit”. Almost 20 years later, I still remember how hurt and upset one of my colleagues was. But their managers seemed to be making enough, typical yuppies… :p

  46. J.B.*

    I’ve been taking online classes through our local community college and am starting a masters program at a local university. I will be taking all classes that they offer online but will need to go to campus for some courses. The most important thing about online coursework is being disciplined and sitting down to work on stuff throughout the week. Personally I don’t do so well with the video lectures, but learn mostly from the practical exercises. I would preview as much as you can about syllabi and professors who teach the online courses before making your decision. Not all are serious about delivering the online material. But you can definitely learn a lot, and emphasize the organizational skills to do both.

  47. ArtK*

    LW#5: Considering that I just finished my MS in Engineering Management from UCLA via their online program, I certainly hope it was worth it! Alison is right — it has more to do with whether the institution is for-profit or not-for-profit as well as the institutions overall reputation in the field.

    At least at UCLA, they don’t put “Online” anywhere on your diploma or the official records. I have an MS just like someone who was on campus day in and day out. I certainly won’t put the word on my LinkedIn profile or resume. There’s no reason for anyone outside of my family to know that I did this part time. Online programs are very important for people who are mid-career and can’t take a couple of years off.

  48. Quickbeam*

    #4…I am several hours early for work every day because of my husband work schedule. I am salaried and I consider these my “extra hours” I am willing to give to work. Staying late is a real hardship and that’s whet I tell people if they ask why I am at work so early.

    #5…we screen out any online education candidates. However my field is nursing and there were some extremely disreputable online programs selling BSNs. It’s a huge red flag in my field.

  49. cleo*

    #5 – the main things to pay attention to are:

    Is the college
    – not-for-profit?
    – accredited? (and by which body?)
    – a participant in SARA (State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements)? (except for CA schools)
    – generally reputable and respected – especially in the subjects that you’re interest in?

    I did a little consulting work a public university in the US that was setting up a web site for their (expanding) online programs. Based on what I learned from that, I’d say that degrees that are partially or completely offered online are becoming quite common and the method of delivery (face-to-face, hybrid or online) is not something you need to include when sharing your degree.

    The other thing I discovered surveying current online students is that online programs are not for everyone – they work best for students who are self-motivated and disciplined, have basic computer literacy and trouble shooting skills, and have good writing skills – but they can be lifesavers for people (like you) who know what they want to do but don’t have time to commute to a campus.

    This is not your question, but I’ll mention (fwiw) that it’s good to do your due diligence and look for the same things in an online degree program that you’d look for in a brick and mortar program – look at the departments that you’re interested in majoring in, talk with their professors, advisors and/or current students, if possible. Also ask about on-line specific things – is there someone you can go to if you need support dealing with the bureaucracy (i.e. problems with financial aid, dropping a class, etc)? Some schools have an official or unofficial concierge system to shepherd online students through those things if their online-only infrastructure isn’t completely set-up. What kind of academic support / tutoring do they have for online students? Are there any in-person requirements? Do they recommend you come in person for an orientation or registration?

  50. Ace Gayhart*

    #5: One concern about online programs is how easy the courses will transfer. True, the course modality (online, in-person, blended, etc.) generally does not appear on the degree and rarely appears on the transcript, some online courses will not transfer.
    For example, I work at a community college. In one of our articulation agreements with a 4-year institution, they will not accept current web-based courses. As someone who holds multiple online degrees and teaches online courses, this drives me crazy!

    So, if you are looking to transfer into a particular degree program after completing this degree, verify what courses will transfer. But, generally, as long as the institution is reputable, no one will know/care that you earned your degree online.

  51. MicroManagered*

    OP4 You already have a great response in your own words: “You know how, when you wake up early, sometimes it’s easier to just get up–because if you go back to sleep, you’ll oversleep?”

  52. Kate*

    OP#5 Are you just looking to finish the degree you started or are you looking to change careers and start over. If you are just looking to finish your degree and plan on staying in the same position or realm of positions then getting an online degree is really for yourself and doesn’t matter as much for what the mainstream majority is looking for. However if you are looking to change fields and are looking to use this degree to start then it matters greatly, and when you talk to the enrollment you are going to want to know what the degree says(what the paper you will be given states) as well as ask for a listing of where last years grads did their internships. The list of internships will let you know what other companies value the education they are providing, and you specifically want the internships because most online students already have jobs and are working to move around in them so the school did not contribute to that.

  53. Rose*

    Per the online degree – it’s also interesting to look at how your degree is presented after completion – I’m currently getting an MBA through an online course through one of the state colleges. When complete I have an MBA – there is no differentiation for having earned it online vs. in class.

    1. OP2*

      Not great. It’s hanging up in her cube now and she expects you to comment on it if you pass by.

      1. Gotham Bus Company*

        Tell her you don’t have time to critique it because you’re too busy doing HER work that SHE should be doing instead of painting.

  54. Trying not to be the worst boss ever*

    OP#1 Thank you for this, I needed to be reminded why we pay costs for interviews and why it makes me a jerk to not want to. My department works remotely and I’m replacing 2 people who left to start a consulting firm together and have been having serious thoughts of why we should reimburse potential employees who decide after the in person interview to decline the position. Our company is based out of a large metropolitan city, and when we interview the first few interviews are over skype, but company policy is that we bring in our staff and the candidates to our corporate office for face to face interviews and cover airfare, hotel stays, and meals however that money comes out of our department account which in June is always looking frail. We narrowed it down to 4 candidates we brought in that had excellent skype interviews. Then the in person interviews came and 1 decided not to even come to the second set of interviews because even though they will be working from home they didn’t like the idea of having to visit the corporate office quarterly which was brought up before the in person interview. The second said they were not sure if they were going to like the position before they came but knew after the interview it wasn’t a good fit, but they wanted to visit the area and didn’t know when they would get back here since the airfare, and hotel cost are so high. The 3rd didn’t like the size of the company and was worried about the management structure and his ability to move up. So 15K later out of our account to get my staff and the candidates to corporate, feed, and house them for 2-3 days depending on where they are out of and we will have to do it again since we still have 1 spot to fill. Right now I can definitely see the thought process to not cover expenses, or at least to cut the food and hotel budget when they decline the position. But definitely not for interns or anyone just starting their career.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      A person really really needs to see the actual workplace to get a sense of what the people are like, and I’ll bet that’s true for you just as for me.

      You wouldn’t begrudge people deciding against your position after a f2f interview if travel costs weren’t involved. I understand about the money, but you REALLY can’t get upset at people who decide against your company after meeting face to face. Yes, Skype is better than regular phone, but you still don’t learn much about a person that way.

      And honestly? People had good reasons to decline. Not a good fit is legit. Realizing that the reality of quarterly flights is actually too much is also legit. But honestly – no room to advance? Why didn’t this come up before the f2f? I wonder if other people are also talking to your candidates by phone, or only you? If money is tight in June, can’t you put off your hiring until August? I mean, I’m seeing a lot of complaints here but how much is related to stuff you could change up? (Do you really need to have them out for three days?)

      1. Trying not to be the worst boss ever*

        I agree, that seeing how the company functioned and how they operated was a huge factor in me accepting the position years ago. I can’t change the the company hiring policy, we don’t really have much turnover, and they attribute that to the extensive hiring process and the great pay. I am the first person to have two people to leave in the same department in a year let alone in a month most people retire out. My people that are leaving were really wonderful in timing their leave like they did so if I can replace them before mid-july they will be ready for our busy season in mid September. I’m not really mad about deciding we are not a good fit, when I’m not budgeting I really appreciate that its the wanting a trip to the city really just drives me nuts.

    2. OP#1*

      I definitely understand the financial point of view, and that employers who aren’t huge companies may struggle with the expenses of covering all of the applicants costs. However, I also think it’s better to “lose” the money when candidates realize the job isn’t for them rather than having them quit 3 weeks in and starting all over again. Also, if travel must be covered by the candidates, an employer may lose out on excellent applicants who aren’t able to afford the trip to meet face to face. So while I can 100% see why you’re frustrated, I’m happy that my situation gave you an insight into the candidate-situation and I hope you can somehow manage to modify the process so that both you/your company and the potential employee have the best possible capacity to make effective, informed decisions! :)

  55. N Twello*

    #1 – If you can’t get a refund on the ticket, then you should go but make sure they don’t want to hire you. Ha! Ha! Have fun, don’t take it seriously, maybe refuse to do the training, skip listening to the other applicants, ask pointed questions about the ethics of the organization. Heck, if there’s free booze you might as well get drunk and then sleep in. I guess if you’re too obvious about why you’re doing it they might try to screw you on expenses, but if they aren’t sure you’ll be okay.

    1. OP#1*

      Honestly, I thought about that as well! They just set themselves up for unmotivated/non-participating applicants who don’t want to lose out on the reimbursement or on people who accept to get the money back although they’re not really into the teaching itself. Also, I was really surprised that during the interview-seminar-weekend, other applicants criticized me (“Well, the money isn’t all you’re thinking about, right?!?!”) when I gave feedback to the organizers at the end of the process (they asked us to) which included criticism regarding the reimbursement policy. I mean, I do want to help people and have a fun job, but surely, my first motivation to take on a summer job is to make money with it and I expect my labor to be paid during a job, even its only during the summer. Anyways, I’ll be sure to provide an update when I get their response/the contract!

  56. OP#1*

    Honestly, I thought about that as well! They just set themselves up for unmotivated/non-participating applicants who don’t want to lose out on the reimbursement or on people who accept to get the money back although they’re not really into the teaching itself. Also, I was really surprised that during the interview-seminar-weekend, other applicants criticized me (“Well, the money isn’t all you’re thinking about, right?!?!”) when I gave feedback to the organizers at the end of the process (they asked us to) which included criticism regarding the reimbursement policy. I mean, I do want to help people and have a fun job, but surely, my first motivation to take on a summer job is to make money with it and I expect my labor to be paid during a job, even its only during the summer. Anyways, I’ll be sure to provide an update when I get their response/the contract!

    1. Michaela Westen*

      OP, it sounds like you’re like me. I’ve always been surprised by how many people seem unaware of obvious things like this. In this case they have a reason to be unaware of the money, so they can take advantage of young inexperienced people. But not understanding the set-up for unmotivated applicants – I’ve been seeing such things all my life.
      I don’t know if other people really don’t understand, or if they’re going along with their leaders, or there’s some unknown reason or person working against the stated goal.
      From my limited experience with non-profits I expect you’ll see a lot of “you’re supposed to be dedicated to the cause and let us pay you starvation wages and work you to death because of your dedication!” attitude. Even for-profit employers usually want people to be motivated by the work, and amazingly oblivious if they’re creating a bad environment that no one would want to work in!
      Since you have the capacity to see all this you can use it to select good jobs for yourself, and maybe one day be an excellent manager! :)

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