open thread – June 29-30, 2018

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

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

{ 1,595 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous Educator*

    I feel a lot of the messaging around work we get, especially in the U.S., is about hustle—advocate for yourself, almost always try to negotiate, ask for raises, make a case for your own promotion.

    I have done that sometimes, but more often than not I’ve just been rewarded unsolicited for good work done. I’m wondering if that’s really so rare… or we just don’t hear about it as much, because people like to complain about problems more than they like to brag about non-problems.

    Has this happened to anyone else before? You just randomly get an unsolicited raise or promotion, for example?

    For people who are managers themselves, do you seek to reward your direct reports for good work done? Or do you wait for them to make a case for themselves of how they deserve some type of reward?

    1. Lyra (UK)*

      This was in the not in the US, but I got promoted and sent to the another country on a full expat package (all expenses paid, regular flights home, car, etc.) without asking for it, so I guess it does happen.

      I had no concept of hustle at the time, and I don’t have examples that are quite as extravagant since, but it was an amazing opportunity that was given to me out of the blue, because my bosses liked my work.

    2. Anon for this*

      I started a new job last summer. 5 months in, I received unexpected stock options and a month after that, I received an unexpected promotion to director and a $20k raise. It’s worth noting that I when I got the job offer, I debated negotiating because they didn’t have a matching 401k and the vacation was slightly less. However, the offer came in over $10k higher than what I had decided I would accept and I decided that was close enough. Knowing what I now know about my boss, I doubt I would have received the stock options had I negotiated (not that he would have been mad I was negotiating, but that he would have felt the extra vacation time would have been equal to the stock options. I think eventually they will be worth way waaaaay more than a couple extra days off!)

    3. ThatGirl*

      I’ve been well-rewarded for good work at annual reviews, but I’ve never just gotten random raises out of nowhere.

      I did get a sign-on bonus at my current job without asking for it, though I suspect it was because I told them I had another offer pending and they decided they really wanted me.

      1. designbot*

        I’d broadly say the same, but I tend to have to lay out a case really well at annual reviews that I’ve done X, Y, and Z, and that case often includes that I’m working at a level above my title, and I don’t get the raise that year, I get it the following year. So I’d agree that I’ve been well-rewarded for good work, but that it lags a year or even two behind the good work.

      2. College Career Counselor*

        My first year out of undergrad, I got a 20% raise and the second year an almost 20% raise, both completely out of the blue. In retrospect, I suspect this was in large part because I started at the absolute BOTTOM of the scale, and my boss probably advocated for me with HR, although he never said a word about it to me. At the time, I naively thought that was “normal” practice. Subsequent raises were much more in the 2-4% range throughout the remainder of that position. And, I was there long enough to begin bumping up against the top range of my salary band. That organization also did maybe 1 performance review in 10 years, something I also thought was “normal” and had to re-calibrate when I moved to my next position, which included supervising staff.

      3. hermit crab*

        Same here, generally speaking. Instead of the signing bonus, though, once I got nearly a 30% salary increase because the company raised the floor on my pay band! That was a good year.

    4. LQ*

      It’s been a little hit and miss. My first big promotion was totally unsolicited and a reward for good work done. Some after that were sort of, it’s about time as mutually agreed upon. Most of the promotions and raises that I have gotten at my new job (where indirect is king and personal ambition is looked upon with disdain) is mostly unsolicited. Sometimes things like hinting I’m bored or could really use more work, or I’d really like to try to do that work over there, or a friend telling a friend telling a boss that they know that I might start looking if I have to languish for much longer (if I’d said it directly I’d have been told good riddance, but that way I got a promotion and a move to a better location).

      I do think you’re right about no one talks about the and then it was perfectly ordinary and great stories so they are underrepresented.

    5. Cheesesticks and Pretzels*

      I have gotten promoted and raises before unsolicited. That was a really long time ago before it became an employers market.

    6. Persimmons*

      The only thing I’ve gotten without asking was COL raises, and even those were relatively infrequent in previous jobs. Now, we do get one every year, though it doesn’t always meet the current index.

    7. Emily S.*

      In my experience, there’s only been one time in my career when I got a raise without asking.

      Currently I work for a small family-owned company, and I’m glad I negotiated the salary I did when I came on, because I’ve had no raises in more than four years. (I’ve asked multiple times, and been told no, because business wasn’t great — not because I didn’t deserve it.)

      1. What's with today, today?*

        That’s us. 7 years and counting. They always say the economy is down and they can’t give raises, but we are also exceeding our monthly sales goals each month. Go figure.

        1. Emily S.*

          I feel you. I’m hanging on because in the next year or so, I’m looking to buy a home for the first time.
          My understanding is that for mortgage purposes, it’ll be better to have stayed with one job several years.

          After that, I will probably start a job hunt.

          1. SpaceNovice*

            At least where I am in the US, I had no trouble getting a mortgage after being laid off for two months due to a merger and starting a new job. It might be different depending on how expensive the mortgage is, though.

          2. Lindsay J*

            I’m not sure for mortgages, but for apartment leases I have found they care more about continuous employment than they do that it was at the same company.

            So for them if you worked 2 years at job 1, interviewed places, got a job that you started immediately (or with a couple weeks in between), and worked there for a year, they would view that as the same as being employed for 3 years at one job.

            It might be best to check with a mortgage broker, though.

        2. Emily S.*

          p.s. The other thing that sometimes bugs me is that the sales team and managers get large commissions and bonuses. The rest of us get a much smaller bonus at Christmas, which of course is better than no bonus, but it can be frustrating to consider.

    8. Not Today Satan*

      I’ve experienced the opposite. I’ve only ever gotten raises/promotions when I’ve asked for them, and at some places I’ve found that this leads people to think of me as “difficult” or “not a team player” (never mind that I’ve always advocated for people under me too). Yes, I’m a woman.

      1. A Nickname for AAM*

        I’m a woman too, and I’ve had the same experience. I have learned to just stop doing excellent work or extending myself, it saves me a lot of trouble in the end since the result will be the same no matter what I do.

    9. Tara S.*

      I’ve had bosses who just do not understand the value in doing things to keep your staff happy, and then are baffled when they have higher turnover (other than the people who are vested and just working to reach pension). My current boss has to be hassled into goodbye/welcome lunches, does not see the value in team boding activities like a yearly outing/lunch. My last grandboss blocked my promotion and then was all ruffled when I applied to outside jobs. I’ve had good managers who recognize the value in acknowledging good work (even if just verbally/via email, when that’s all the power they have), and they were great. But I’ve also had bosses who saw me as a cog in the machine and not only did not give unsolicited praise or rewards, but actively disliked some of these kinds of things.

    10. Samiratou*

      I have gotten raises unsolicited before, but I’ve been at the same company 15 years so I can’t speak to how that plays out in negotiating for a job start vs. raises/promotions/perks later.

    11. Windward*

      One place I worked upgraded me every two years. Also got a cash bonus once (non profit, this was a surprise). And a couple awards. All unsolicited.

    12. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

      Yes. it happened a few times at OldJob. I got a raise after only 4 months on the job. Then my manager created a new position for me in the department. Then I got another promotion (all unsolicited). At CurrentJob, I just got made permanent. The manager wanted me in the permanent spot and demanded that it be done. Again, totally unsolicited on my part.

    13. Bagpuss*

      I’m one of 4 owners of a business, and yes, we do give unsolicited raises. We let employees know that we review salaries in May (once we have our year end figures in April) just after doing the annual reviews / appraisals, and encourage people during the appraisal to talk about what they feel they have done well and to raise any salary requests, so we do both. (and when someone asks for a raise and we don’t give one, we will take the opportunity to talk specifically about what they could do differently / better.

      Part of our annual review involves looking at the salary list to check if there is anyone who is falling behind (against industry norms and in comparison with new hires for similar roles) as well as looking at merit rises.
      On a personal level, I’ve had a couple of times – in one case I was planning to ask for a raise but was offered one before I made the request (and it was higher than I had been planning to ask for!)

      I was invited to become a partner in the business, I didn’t apply.

        1. Bagpuss*

          We try. We have some awesome staff who have been with us for a long time I think my assistant is coming up on 2 years (with a brief gap when her children were small)

    14. Mbarr*

      I’ve gotten a couple of unexpected things in Canada:
      – At my first job, when I transferred from one city to another, my boss unexpectedly gave me a raise (with the higher taxes in the other province though, I didn’t see the difference, but still, yay!)
      – At another job, my boss pulled me into a meeting with my director and told me they were promoting me to a new title, which gave me a higher salary and more room to move up in salary too… But I was underpaid compared to my other colleagues, so technically they were just trying to help me catch up… But it was still a pleasant surprise.

    15. fromscratch*

      In 10 years I’ve never gotten a raise or promotion without doggedly pursuing it. I’ve only been promoted once and it took 6 months of planning and weekly meetings with my boss to document “progress” on the list of thing she identified upper management would need to see to justify the promotion and then another 6 months for it to actually go through.

    16. Jady*

      At a previous company I received very small raises annually a small amount above COL.

      At my current company you get COL annually. Most people I work with have expressed (to my own surprise) that this is *amazing* and the company is so “generous”.

      I had to fight for 3 years to get a significant raise after I’d taken on a huge amount of extra responsibilities. There is no promotional path available here, so I won’t be here after a couple more years at most.

      So yeah it’s been rare in my experience.

    17. Beatrice*

      In my 14 years of professional work experience, I’ve gotten one significant raise (not just ~3% COL) that I didn’t solicit, and two that I did. The one that I didn’t solicit happened a few years after the recession…pay in my industry started to climb and jobs started opening up again, and my company lost several good employees in my field to better paying jobs, so they reviewed and reset the pay scale for everyone in my field.

      I’ve gotten zero promotions I didn’t advocate for. I’ve found that I have to very clearly express interest in moving up and taking on additional responsibility and learning new things. If I’m not vocal about that and assume opportunities will come to me, I’ve found that people assume I’m not interested and I stagnate where I am. I’m pretty sure at least some of those assumptions are because I’m a working mom, and they’re annoying, but whether I’m right or not, I’ve accepted that I need to actively seek out growth opportunities and be vocal about my aspirations.

    18. Althea*

      I just had it happen. I had been unhappy about salary, because a number of people on our team are earning way out of proportion to what they do. A senior member of the team is supposed to have some management tasks but is bad at them – yet he’s earning 30% more than anyone else. A person who should be co-equal to me in rank was in a lower position yet doing all the work to be in a higher one. A new guy in a lower position who has been coming to me for guidance on most things, and came into the job with less experience than me, started at about my same rate. I’m in finance, so I know everyone’s salaries. I’d been contemplating approaching for an equity adjustment, and how to go about it because we get federal grant money and there are restrictions around this kind of thing.

      Then my boss in a 1-1 just said he’d noticed all the imbalances on the team and had already put through paperwork to give me a 5% bump. And my coworker was promoted to her rightful position with a big pay bump.

      He’s not a perfect boss, but that made me feel much better about everything.

    19. BlueberryHill*

      My company has multiple award programs. From simple acknowledgement via an app automated “hey good job, you!” to certificate/money rewards- with a set amount for ‘local’ accomplishment levels ($100, $250, $500) , or a undetermined, management choice amount for ‘global’ accomplishments. There are also team awards. Managers always acknowledge the award regardless of type, and anyone can nominate anyone to get one. At least once a year, reminders are made to remember to use the award systems to recognize our coworkers who went above and beyond.

    20. Anonym*

      Three unsolicited promotions, though from the same boss. They were appropriate, as I had taken on more work before each of them happened.

    21. Higher Ed Database Dork*

      I got one last year. I started a new job in a different department, and during my 6 month review, my boss said I was doing a great job, but more importantly I was doing the work of a higher level role. It was a new team, and I was the second person hired, so we had a handful of open positions. He promoted me and I got a $10k raise along with it, which made the salary above market rate for my skills and experience.

      I didn’t do any negotiation for this new role, and sometimes I feel like maybe I should have, but then I think, what would I have negotiated? Before I accepted the position, I did some salary research, and like I said, the new salary was more than fair – in fact, most positions at my skills/experience level would not have given me more money at all!

      So I agree with you – we have a lot of talk about the hustle, and while it’s good to advocate for yourself, sometimes it leaves people like me feeling guilty that I’m being a “bad” person for not ALWAYS negotiating or something like that. I’m also a young woman in IT, so I have an added layer of feeling like I’m not “representing” enough for women in IT. But honestly, I think I got an awesome promotion, I have a wonderful boss and teammates, I enjoy my work, I have an actual career path here, and my company provides the type of benefits I value, so I’m just trying to enjoy that.

      1. Higher Ed Database Dork*

        *Wanted to add that I do think my situation is rare and that is one reason I am sticking with this job. Truly good managers are hard to find, and I don’t want to give up him or my team.

    22. Turquoisecow*

      I got a promotion/raise after 2-3 years at my old company. I didn’t ask for it, it was kind of a reorganization of the department. A coworker and I were originally called “specialists” and then after a reorg we were called “clerks” – but the actual job didn’t change. My coworker was asked to take a pay decrease (which she refused and chose to leave instead) but I wasn’t*. As part of the reorg, a few people were moved in from other departments as “clerks,” and a month or so later a new person or two was hired as a “clerk.” I think they (mostly my boss, who was a fan of mine) realized it was silly to have these new people with no experience have the same title as me, who’d been doing the job for a while. So I was promoted to “coordinator” and given a slight raise. I had sliiightly more responsibility, but not much. This was the last raise I got, as the company was in the midst of a pay freeze and on the decline. I didn’t tell any of my coworkers about it because I felt so bad that none of them got raises, even though it wasn’t a significant bump.

      (* I think she was slightly overpaid for what she was doing compared to me, as in I was a bit more experienced and skilled at the job itself but she negotiated for more/got a larger salary because she was older and had more overall experience – but this is speculation as I don’t know her actual salary.)

    23. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      This happened to my husband a few months ago. He got an unsolicited 15% raise.

      He thinks it was the result of two things:

      1) He had explicitly told his boss at the beginning of last year that he didn’t want to be in the role by the end of the year (because he deserved to be promoted). They hadn’t been able to find a promoted role for him, so his boss knew he had to put some effort in to retain him.

      2) Right before he got the raise, his team had hired another person at his level. My husband suspects that the new hire successfully negotiated a salary close to or above my husband’s existing salary, and they wanted to ensure that because he was more senior in the role they kept his salary above the new hire’s.

    24. Goya de la Mancha*

      A couple years ago, we were having major issues with an employee and the majority of her work was falling on my plate. I found out the day before payday that my boss had been advocating for me with HR to get me moved up a pay classification. Personally I would have preferred said employee being let go, but I guess you take what you can get ;)

        1. Goya de la Mancha*

          I got the classification bump and the employee ended up leaving on her own about a year later. After she left, they “re-organized” the two positions and I basically got shafted because of that, but my boss let me pick my own job description and the rest went to the new hire. She a dysfunctional supervisor, but I think I’ll keep her for awhile :-p

    25. Kat Em*

      Never happened to me at a job. Shoot, I had to fight just to get them to follow labor laws sometimes. I’ve had freelance clients plop high-paying work in my lap because I’d done such a good job with smaller things, though.

    26. Hush42*

      My first promotion was unsolicited. During my annual review my boss asked me what I wanted to do long term and then offered me the new position. My second promotion was somewhere in between. I eventually asked my boss for the promotion but only after months of him dropping not so subtle hints that he wanted me to take it.

    27. En vivo*

      I’m in the US, and just last year I received an unsolicited promotion. It was a very pleasant surprise! It didn’t come from my direct manager, however; it came from upper management.

    28. Sled dog mama*

      At my previous company we got COL in January every year, typically each manager got 3% of their total salary budget to distribute as they saw fit across their reports.
      At current company we get COL in July and I’m told it’s typically 2.5% but it’s an across the board raise (I didn’t get it last year since I had only been here 5 months). Earlier this year I received a 9% raise without asking, That raise puts me smack on average for my field/experience.

    29. Formerly Arlington*

      Nope. I’ve fought really hard for the promotions I’ve gotten–wrote proposals, achieved very lofty goals that solved business problems, attended training. And even then, the promotions from a salary perspective were not amazing. I have always gotten great performance reviews and that’s led to merit raises every year, but to get from, say, a Manager to Senior Manager, I did everything short of eat fire.

      That being said, I’m nice, eager to please and loyal. I have a friend who is much more blunt and she’s gotten 4 promotions in the 10 years I’ve known her. She always says she’s “undervalued” but is now in leadership. I wish I could be a bit more like her, but I think it would come across as phony as that’s just not my demeanor.

      1. Bibliovore*

        Nope. Fought for every dime, every title change. Love, love, love present position. Trying to remember a “nice job” from my supervisor that wasn’t solicited. Understand that this is the norm for academia.

    30. Mazzy*

      Unsoliticed raise this year of seven thousand dollars, and I was paid well already, but more importantly, I love you’re taking a step back from what might already be considered taking a step back and asking about the general direction of “the conversation.”

      Also you made me think, there is a line where, if you take too much of that “advocate for yourself” advice, it can become counterproductive. If it taints a majority of your interactions, you’re going to come across as narcissistic and unrealistic.

      I’ve gotten big raises whenever I’ve thrown myself into a job with blind faith and not thought about advancement. Yes, I know, not all workplaces. But enough that it’s become my MO.

      Caveat if you’re in a competitive environment or seriously over performing or bringing in revenue in a non sales job and are underpaid

    31. micromanaged rat*

      In my workplace and larger field, there are lots of people who do really good work. Some do it quietly and are fine with that. The ones who get a lot of recognition do hustle to bring attention to themselves. To get rewarded in my current workplace, you have to hustle to push back against the prevailing attitude of “you’re lucky you have such a good job, why are you asking for more stuff?”

    32. Frankie*

      Not in most of my jobs…I was definitely really underpaid for a few, and had to seek out other jobs with better salaries to make good gains. I’ve had to advocate for myself, for sure. That’s just been how it’s happened with me. Places would want to retain me because I was a workhorse, but never quite shook out to a good title or salary.
      I’m a woman and I look much younger than I am, so I think that’s a partial factor.

    33. toastedcheese*

      I am in the public sector and just got an unexpected cost-of-living raise based on a pay study, but the pay study focused on minimum starting salaries and I feel like my mid-career coworkers are getting screwed over as a result. (I’ve only been here for 2 1/2 years.)

      In my opinion, the only alternative to “hustle” is strong regulation and / or unionization. Unfortunately, I’m in one of three states where public sector unions are illegal.

    34. Chaordic One*

      Quite some time ago I had a state government job where I received several promotions within a 2-year period. It was the best job I ever had and I worked with a bunch of real pros. They were very smart and easy to work with. They seemed to know how much time a given task would take and they allowed for that. On the one hand, I recognize that there was a bit of a limited labor pool in the small town where that happened, but there were certainly other people who could have done the work.

      I had naively assumed that I lucked into a stable job that I might be able to retire from, but the head of the department was elected to the position and ended up having to resign in a scandal involving misappropriation of funds. (Money meant for one thing was spent on something else.) He probably could have withstood the scandal and held on until the end of his term, but he resigned instead. His replacement reorganized the department and a large number of people who had been hired when I was were all let go. It was nice while it lasted. It took me years to get back to where I made as much money as I did when I worked there.

    35. Safetykats*

      I’ve always gotten good raises and promotions essentially unsolicited – but I think I have (and always have had) a pretty good hustle about assignments in general – because I like interesting work, and I’ve never been afraid to say “Hey, I would be good at that. How about I do it?” (Or help with it, or whatever.) I don’t do that to get noticed – just to ensure that I have something challenging going on most of the time – but I think that kind of hustle does get you noticed, and makes you a logical candidate for the promotions and raises and awards.

    36. Tau*

      I actually haven’t had to ask for a raise yet…

      First job, we had a set progression and salary structure, with title bumps + small raises roughly every six months. The general thrust was that you might be held back if there were problems with your work, but you wouldn’t get accelerated for excellent work. I know this is against Alison’s recommendations, but honestly I found it something of a relief – I work in a male-dominated area and am not great at negotiating, and it was good to know that no one was earning more than me solely by virtue of gender or being more confident on interview day.

      Second and current job, I got a 10% raise after five months at this job – all our contracts had to be redone because of a change in company structure, and my new contract just had a higher salary. IIRC my boss mentioned he’d been extremely impressed with my work. I wasn’t expecting it because I wasn’t even out of probation and was already earning a good wage, or so I thought.

    37. Extra Vitamins*

      I got an award I didn’t know existed until I got it, for performance on something I gave low priority. It was uncomfortable, actually.

    38. JustaTech*

      At my current job I’ve gotten 1 unsolicited raise (new boss who noticed and cared about how much lower my pay was) and 1 unsolicited promotion.
      I’ve also gotten 1 solicited promotion/raise, when I went to my (different) boss and said “I am the only person left who has the skills to do our core job. ” (The next day I actually asked for the raise and promotion because I chickened out at first.)

    39. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I’ve gotten annual raises every year at my company. I think they’re supposed to be tied to our annual reviews, but I often hear about the raise before my review has begun. Range tends to be 1-3%. This strikes me as a pretty common scenario, except perhaps for the timing.

      There are also some oddities that have happened around raises:

      1. We used to also get an annual bonus, variable amount, unrelated to individual performance. Our corporate parent wanted these bonuses to go only to people in sales, and our office had been an outlier for a long time. The year corporate finally took away the annual bonus from our office, management went to bat and got everyone a raise for the amount their bonus would have been. Since raises are calculated from base salary, I’m OK with having that money as salary every year.

      2. I started this job as a W-2 contractor. (That is, I was employed by an outside company to do work at my current company.) When I converted to a full time employee, I was able to negotiate my salary up a little bit by showing what I was making via the contracting company. My boss agreed to match, but I was still below market rate for the area.
      A few month later, there was apparently a global salary review initiated at our corporate headquarters. As a result, I was told that everyone in my department would be getting raises to bring us in line with local market rates. But we wouldn’t get the whole raise immediately – we got 1/3 immediately, 1/3 after 6 months, and 1/3 after a year. Unless something happened that they couldn’t. (Nothing happened, and the whole raise eventually came through.)

      3. After a couple of departures on my team, I got a promotion. My boss told me outright that management realized they hadn’t been taking enough steps to retain talent. Along with that realization came the one that I was doing work the next level up. The promotion comes with a raise, and like incident number 2 above, corporate is doing it steps – in this case, 1/2 now, and 1/2 near the end of the year. (Given they came through that time, I expect the same thing to happen this time.) (My boss doesn’t understand why corporate likes doing things in steps, either.)
      I feel rather mixed about this. On the one hand, I deserve this promotion. I’ve been wanting to ask for one for a while now, but didn’t outright ask for it, and that’s 95% on me. (The other 5% is the unusual amount of travel my boss has needed to do in the past year.) I’ve asked for other things, like higher level work, and it feels good that management recognizes that this means I’m both ready for and interested in a move to the next level. On the other hand, the timing of the promotion (right after two departures, at least one of which was because the colleague wasn’t getting promotions and similar recognition) makes it feel a little like the main purpose of the promotion is to keep me from handing in my notice next. (Wasn’t planning on it even before – I’ve got some other goals that work better if I’m not distracted by finding and starting a new job right now.) And I still feel like I should have asked directly at least what it would take to get a promotion well before any of this happened.

    40. CurrentlyLooking*

      At last job went from $x an hour to $2.5x an hour (in 10 years) without ever asking for a raise. Some years I only got a small raise and some years I got big raises.

  2. Namast'ay in Bed*

    Did anyone listen to the Savage Lovecast this week? They had a work related question that I don’t feel they answered very well, and I would have loved to hear Allison’s take on it.

    I’ll post the link in a comment, but the gist is that a woman’s boss did something so egregious that she took him to court and he was found guilty and put on the sex offender list. The issue is that the legal battle took over a year and she’s now trying to get back into the workforce but isn’t quite sure how to address her year off, since “I sued my last employer and had to take a year off to do so” probably would scare potential employers off, even if she was absolutely right in doing so.

    Dan had a guest from a workplace related column chime in, but I don’t think he did a very good job answering. It felt very vague and not realistic, just a lot of “oh they probably won’t care so much, if you can control the dialogue you’ll be fine, don’t be weird about it or bring it up too much, I don’t even notice gaps in resumes so they may not even ask”, etc, but he didn’t actually give a real, practical way to have that dialogue, and it just didn’t sound like he was giving advice based on how job interviews actually work, just general discussion points. It was so frustrating to listen to and I just wish she had written to Allison instead.

    What do you guys think? I can’t imagine that any hiring manager wouldn’t notice a year off, and “why did you leave your last job/why are you looking for a new one” is almost always the first question they ask. I think I would suggest something like “My boss grossly violated my privacy to the point that I unfortunately had to take him to court. The resulting trial took over a year but it has since been resolved and I am excited to get back into the workforce. What particularly excites me about this position is…” Maybe mention that he was found guilty to drive home that this wasn’t frivilous and she won’t sue at the drop of a hat?

    Sorry this is so long, the mediocre advice just got me fired up and I wanted to hear what the AAM community thought.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Yeah, I was thinking about that question, too. They seemed to think “Oh, well, if you just say you left for some vague reason, then that’s cool, and you won’t have to go into details,” and I was thinking that’d just make them even more curious/suspicious.

    2. AmazinglyGuileless*

      Wow, that’s a really tough situation. I wouldn’t give much detail at all. Maybe something just like “I unfortunately had to take care of a legal issue, but that is now resolved, and I am eager to re-enter the workforce.” The least amount of detail is probably best.

      1. Augusta Sugarbean*

        That kind of vague phrasing was my first thought but that could backfire, too. That could easily be interpreted as “I was arrested and the trial took a year”.

        I wonder if “family situation” could be close enough to the truth. A year-long court battle is certainly going to affect my immediate family.

    3. gecko*

      I think the gist of it was reasonable, just got the feeling that the workplace column guy wasn’t used to giving advice in a podcasty setting. I also agree with him to stay vague–I certainly wouldn’t use your script, actually, because it just gives so many details.

      At most, when the question “why did you leave your last job” comes up, I’d say: “Unfortunately, I was the victim of a crime at my last job, and left to take some time to recover. In that time off, I really rekindled my passion for [spreadsheets] and was able to take online courses to keep up my skills (if you did). I’m excited to get back to both the challenge and routine of working!”

      1. Rey*

        I think this is a good script. Especially if they call references or there are any news stories linking her, it could be bad to gloss over it and then have the employer find out from someone else. And I think “victim of a crime” is a better way to frame it, cause some people might make unfair assumptions if they know it was related to sexual harassment.

      2. WalkedInYourShoes*

        I like this answer, too! Or if the candidate can say, “I had to take time off to address personal matters.” When I am interviewing someone, I really don’t want to hear the details of the “personal matter”. It’s just TMI. I really want to hear what value can bring to the company. So, essentially, if the candidates makes it a “big deal” or go into detail, then I assume that the person is not focused on the professional side and still focused on the “personal matter”. That’s just my 2 cents.

      3. Namast'ay in Bed*

        Oh I like that a lot better. My only thought was that since it wasn’t time off to recover, and it sounded like she wasn’t really able to do anything for that entire year, that might come back to them at some point? But I definitely like the first part better than what I came up with.

        I hope the asker is an AAM reader and can get some advice from the backlogs!

        1. gecko*

          You’re right. If I was feeling some rapport I might put in some light humor/casual wording: “That kind of thing takes over your life with recovery and legal stuff for a little while…so I was out of work having my life taken over.”

      4. Jady*

        I like this as well, but I would remove the “at my last job” part just to simplify things and prevent more questions.

    4. the gold digger*

      Wouldn’t they find the story if they googled her name (which my boss did before he hired me)?

      I think the advice to be somewhat honest is best. I like this one a lot:

      Unfortunately, I was the victim of a crime at my last job, and left to take some time to recover. In that time off, I really rekindled my passion for [spreadsheets] and was able to take online courses to keep up my skills (if you did). I’m excited to get back to both the challenge and routine of working!”

    5. LilySparrow*

      Haven’t heard it, but if he was placed on the sex offender registry, she didn’t “sue” him. That’s a criminal offense.

      She can be quite straightforward without even mentioning that the crime happened at work.

      “Unfortunately, I was the victim of a crime. I spent the last year dealing with the trial and recovering. I’m happy that the case is resolved and I’m eager to put it behind me and move on with my life.”

    6. Mike C.*

      If the person you were fighting faced criminal charges, I don’t see why it would such a bad thing to mention if directly asked about it. Issues of false conviction aside, it’s pretty reasonable to say “yeah, I had some legal issues with a former boss that resulted in them being listed on a sex offender list so I’m just eager to get back to a normal workplace”.

    7. Melody Pond*

      Yes!!! I almost wanted to call and leave Dan a message begging him to call Alison instead, for future work-related questions!

  3. Tired*

    On my way to an interview. I am wondering what to say to the inevitable “where are you in your job search” question. The truth is that I have had several other interviews, and over the past two days two companies have requested my references. But I don’t say that, right?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Actually, I would say the opposite (fully open to hearing contrary opinions on this). If that’s actually the truth, it makes you seem you’re in demand, and they’d better move fast. I guess the downside could be if neither of those pans out and the company you’re interviewing with can’t speed up their own search, they may just write you off as probably going to go to one of those offers.

      1. Speechless*

        I came in to say this! As a hiring manager, I appreciate knowing what someone’s timeline is so I can react appropriately. I’ve been frustrated in the past when someone didn’t tell me right up front that they were close to offers elsewhere, because it meant that by the time we could make them an offer they were already off the market.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          My spouse was told honestly by an applicant (post interview) that he was really interested but had another offer on the table and needed a job very soon. Spouse was able to hussle around and give an offer the next day. This wasn’t setting up a bidding war, just a heads-up that the applicant’d likely say yes to a good offer that materialized (and he did) but couldn’t wait a week or three for it to materialize.

        2. mark132*

          Does this create the risk of not being considered for the position? How often have you stopped considering the person as a candidate due to this knowledge? (I’m not saying this is wrong on your part if you do, in fact it may make sense)

          1. Revolver Rani*

            I would never stop considering someone just because they were interviewing elsewhere. I don’t understand why you would. Strong candidates often have multiple options – that’s a reality. When I have a good candidate with an outstanding offer I do my level best to speed up the process – I don’t say “oh well” and write them off. After all, offers can be declined for any number of reasons, and sometimes candidates are really interested in my company, so there’s no reason for me to assume that an offer from somewhere else means the candidate is a lost cause. If I can’t get the process done fast enough, and the candidate withdraws and takes another offer, that’s too bad for me. But again, I can’t think of a single reason that having another offer would make me stop considering a candidate who was otherwise a good match.

          2. Violet*

            I have seen one case in which this has happened, but it wasn’t what you think. We had a potential candidate who had some promise

            1. Violet*

              Oops, I hit reply too soon! We had a candidate who had some promise, but they were a bit junior for the role we were looking to fill. We otherwise would’ve been willing to consider them, but they did have an offer already in hand. Since we were earlier along in the process and would’ve had a difficult time speeding it up enough so they could consider the offer, we decided not to invite them for an interview.

    2. Anonymous Poster*

      Why wouldn’t you? They know you’re looking, and they want to know if they need to really jump on your resume if they like you, or if they can take their time.

      It’s not a big deal to share that you’re searching and in later stages with other companies.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I think you vaguely tell the truth, that you are in the later stages with a few other companies. I have a candidate right now who has another open offer and another one pending, and we can only give him till COB today to accept (which was a generous extension). If you want to have some flexibility if you get into that situation, you should not lie and say you aren’t talking to anyone else now.

    4. Lyra (UK)*

      I’d be straight up about this – it’s far from a negative. If you were one of my top candidates, it would give me the information I need to try and ensure I don’t lose you to another company by speeding up the process where I can.

    5. gecko*

      It depends. At this point, you could say, “I’m pretty deep into it, so I might need a bit of an accelerated timeline, if you’re interested–I’m excited about this position/company and want to keep talking!”

    6. WalkedInYourShoes*

      I have been there several months ago and told the future employer that I was in the later stages of the interview process. So, they bowed out. Unfortunately, the other two employers did not pan out. So, lesson learned, I state now that I am interviewing with a few companies in all stages. Until a company gives me an offer and the background check passes; then, I sign it, I am still in the interviewing stages. Or if you want to state that you are interviewing with well-known companies. On the other hand, if you mention that you are interviewing with BigCompany that is known to take 6-9 months for the interview process, they may drag the interview process out as well. No hurry for them.

    7. AdAgencyChick*

      I think whether it causes them to write you off or speed up the process depends entirely on how strong their applicant pool is. If you are one of many strong candidates, they may focus their attention on others once they hear you are nearing the end of the process with another company. But I’ve definitely been in a situation where I’ve told a company that I was nearing the offer stage elsewhere, and they decided to forego my meeting with someone they otherwise wanted me to meet with before making an offer. My niche of advertising is small enough that I’m guessing they didn’t have any other qualified candidates!

  4. Llama Wrangler*

    How does your field define appropriate business length for skirts/dresses?

    I am changing fields from a more laid back one to a much more rigid one, and trying to figure out clothing norms. The thing I’m having a hard time with is trying to figure out what appropriate length skirts/dresses are. (I know one firm in particular used to require all dresses hit the knee). I’m short, but I’ve still had a very hard time finding professional looking (and affordable!) dresses and skirts that go to my knee — most seem to hit 1-3 inches above. And my calibration feels extra off because I live in a major city where all kinds of things fly as “professional” depending on your field. So, if you work in a office or field that tends towards more professional, what have you seen as the norm?

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      I’m at an office now that is totally fine with me rocking a t-shirt and jeans (today’s shirt – a lobster holding drumsticks with the caption Rock Lobster), but a previous office that required business wear had it written out that all skirts must cover at least 3/4 of the thigh.

      I’m pretty short, and I’ve found some good options on ThredUp for pretty cheap. Usually they give measurements too, which is great as a short person with a long torso. I usually do the sit-down test as well- if I sit down normally, 1) does the side/back slit often included in a dressy skirt ride up to inappropriate levels and 2) could you feasibly see up it.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          MIL bought it for me from Rhode Island because she thought the drumsticks were knitting needles. /confused shrug

          1. PB*

            That’s kind of adorable, though originally I was picturing “drumsticks” as chicken drumsticks, which would be much more confusing.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              I couldn’t bring myself to break her heart and tell her it was supposed to be a play on Rock Lobster, though as she gave it to me she did question why the shirt would say Rock Lobster when the lobster has knitting needles…

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              Yeah, I didn’t have a good response, and just rolled with it. She does stuff like that a lot.

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              It’s an elaborate set up for “Knitters rock!”

              Or “Knitters rock with crustaceans!” which somewhere, somehow, is a hilarious in-joke everyone gets.

              1. Environmental Compliance*

                I’d pay to have someone make a cartoon out of a bunch of dancing knitting lobsters and would proudly display it on my wall.

    2. Lyra (UK)*

      Having just changed from a very casual to a smart casual office, I’d say err on the side of caution your first week, keep an eye out for the going norms, and purchase additional items if you need to that first weekend. This was my strategy (in an attempt to avoid wasting money on clothing that’s too formal or not formal enough), and it seems to be working pretty well.

        1. Llama Wrangler*

          Yes, that’s my plan! I am going to restock my blouses and pants first, and then work on dresses and skirts once I get a sense of the norms. The challenge is that this firm relaxes the standards a little during the summer, so I may get used to summer norms and then have to reboot again in the fall.

          1. Autumnheart*

            You could also consider buying skirts and dresses that hit below the knee, and then get them hemmed to hit at or just above the knee. It might add $10 or so to the cost of the garment, but that might be worthwhile.

            My workplace at Major Company has a business casual environment (jeans and nice shirt are acceptable every day) and I saw someone the other day wearing a dress that barely covered her butt. That is definitely Too Short. I’m skirting, nyuk nyuk, the rules today by wearing a tank top with wide straps (it’s going to be 98 today with a heat index of 110), which a lot of women do, and typically one will have a denim jacket or lightweight cardigan to make it work-appropriate. It also helps thread the needle between being comfortable in office AC and not sweating to death once you get outside.

          2. Gloucesterina*

            Hi Llama Wrangler – Congrats on your new role! Does this firm have a written dress code that they refer employees to?

            1. Llama Wrangler*

              They do, but it is vague as to what appropriate length is (just says things should be appropriate length).

    3. AnonGD*

      If you feel safest with everything hitting the knee– I’d get cheap/secondhand skirts a little bit too large so you have the length and then spend a little bit to have them tailored in. In doing that, you can ensure the tightness of the skirt matches what’s common for your workplace as well.

      In my experience, I’ve always been fine with the fingertip rule, which is about ~2 inches above my knee, but I’ve also not worked in a hyper-conservative industry.

      1. Llama Wrangler*

        The getting large secondhand skirts thing is a great idea! Hadn’t thought of getting them taken in rather than tailoring for length. Thanks!

      2. Washi*

        Omg people recommending the fingertip rule for work makes so much more sense to me now. My fingertips barely fall below my butt, and I always just figured other people just have much more casual workplaces than I do.

        Anyway, I agree that 1-2 inches is a good rule.

        1. LilySparrow*

          Yeah, I have long arms & legs but a very short torso and fingertip length for me is like 4″ above the knee. I was never comfortable in skirts that short, even back when I had the gams for it.

          1. Sally-O*

            Yea, my fingertips are about 10 inches above my knee. (Normal arms, long torso.) It would be scandalous at work if I wore something that short!

        2. Autumnheart*

          Are you very long-waisted? I ask because I am very short-waisted and my fingertips fall to mid-thigh. (Which would still be too short for work anyway at my job.)

          1. LilySparrow*

            Well, high-waisted and long in the rise. But all sleeves are bracelet-length on me because of my monkey arms. I’d have to buy all my shirts and suit jackets at least 2 sizes too big to get sleeves the “proper” length, so I just roll them or wear them pushed up.

            The point being that rules like “fingertip length” are ridiculous because people’s proportions are so different. That’s the dress code for skirts and shorts at my daughters’ school. One daughter looks just fine and appropriate. The other is only allowed (by me) to wear Bermudas to school because her legs are so long and skinny that normal shorts look totally inappropriate. Like, she flashes underwear every time she sits down, even if she “passes” dress code.

    4. Catalin*

      It may help to look for ‘midi’ length skirts/dresses. I get mine from Amazon. As for length by office, I’d say a general rule is that when sitting down, less than three inches above the knee is showing.
      Personally, I find the length of a midi or full-length skirt quite liberating, as it allows me to move around without being self-conscious about what I’m showing whom.

      1. Tara S.*

        Hooray for midi skirts! I know we’ve harped on this before, but some of the “work wear” that stores try and sell and crazy. How is something that short even kind of appropriate??

      2. Llama Wrangler*

        I think part of my problem is that I feel much more comfortable with the look of skirts/dresses that are above the knee length — because of my body type, I find pencil skirts and sheath + shift dresses much more flattering than options with a more full skirt (if I’m going to have to go into professional “uniform mode” that is), but I’ve had a hard time finding that cut in a longer length. I think I’ll try the above suggestion to get things in a larger size so they’re the right length, and then get them taken in.

        1. Tara S.*

          I love pencil skirts, but finding ones long enough, with a non-jersey fabric thick enough, it SO HARD these days. If anyone has brand recs, would also love to hear them.

        2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          Try ‘tea length’ instead of ‘midi’. Google brings up some promising results under ‘tea length pencil skirt’.

          1. Llama Wrangler*

            Yes! Thanks! Also realized that I might have some luck trying to figure out where the Orthodox Jewish women shop, since I see a lot of them in below-the-knee pencil skirts.

    5. LQ*

      I’m much more comfortable with skirts that go to my knee or just below but I’m very very tall so I aim for midi length skirts which end up being just about right for me. Part of it might be to aim for a different style and length, like buying a “tall” skirt that is designed to be a few inches above the knee might fall just right for you. And then when I find them I buy like 4 of them and stash them away.

    6. Emily S.*

      Top of knee, but 1-2″ over the knee would be fine.
      I’m in a midsize city in the Midwest, if that’s helpful. Pretty conservative in general.

    7. SoCalHR*

      our handbook says skirts should hit “mid thigh when seated” – I’ve never really tested this measurement out though.

    8. Kowalski! Options!*

      Yeeeeeaaaars ago, I had a temp job at Lloyds of London, and the rule of thumb there was: if you kneel on the floor and the hem hits the ground, you’re good. Any shorter, and you’d be sent home. I’m a bit on the short side, so that’s true of a lot of skirts, but it’s been a useful rule of thumb.

    9. WalkedInYourShoes*

      Depending on the region and the industry. However, if you interviewed at the company already, what did they wear? Or you can look online on the company’s site to see what type of attire the leadership team is wearing. One may not see the full attire, but it may show if the executive team is a wearing the same colors, conservative clothing? button-down shirts? Or you can go on YouTube and search for the company. That’s what I normally do when I transition into a new industry or role. I check everyone out. I don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb. I also ask the person who is scheduling the meeting or the interview, do women wear a suit, dresses, skirts, close toe shoes. But to be safe, I have my go to blue suit nice jacket and pants, closed toes shoes. But I have not worn hosiery in 18 years. hahah!

    10. Camicazi*

      Have you ever looked at I work in a pretty relaxed office, but I prefer skirts to hit my knee and have trouble finding that (I’m tall), but on their site you can pick custom lengths for ANY dress / skirt etc. You kind of have to hunt because they have a ton of styles at once, but the customizability is really really nice!

      1. Jaid_Diah*

        I’ve been wanting 100% cotton button down shirts and this… these options are really nice! Bookmarked!

    11. BlueberryHill*

      Measure yourself. Then if you buy stuff online you will have a better idea as to where it will ‘hit’ above your knee. Don’t invest in anything until you see how your office dresses. Boden, Lands End, eShakti are all good places to look for more conservative lengths.

    12. Jane of all Trades*

      Second other people’s recommendations to err on the side of formality but – Calvin Klein has a seemingly endless supply of office appropriate dresses. For me they are long enough and not too tight. Plus, if you want to be more formal you can wear dark pantyhose!

        1. Jane of all Trades*

          Great idea! Also Lord & Taylor’s website, and some of the discount stores like Century 21 and TJ Max usually have discounted CK dresses.

    13. A tester, not a developer*

      It was written in our dress code handbook that skirts were not to be more than 2 inches (5cm) above the centre of the knee. We also were not allowed to wear tops that exposed the ‘hinge’ of the shoulder. And yes, managers would sometimes come by and have you raise your arm to make sure the pivot point was in fact covered.

    14. LilySparrow*

      I used to work in quite conservative law firms, and 1″ above the knee wouldn’t be unusual or even noticed, probably. Three inches would look out of place in that environment.

    15. Tara R.*

      I’m in a casual industry, but I’ve found that my short dresses look a lot less short if I wear very opaque tights with them.

    16. LateToTheBBQ*

      I definitely agree with those who’ve recommended scoping out what your colleagues are wearing – especially women slightly senior to you.
      That said, I think 1 inch above the knee should generally come across as professional.
      One caveat – I happen to be pretty tall, so skirts/dresses even a smidge above the knee still give the impression of showing a LOT. I stick pretty much to right at the knee (standing), so if anyone is like “holy legs batman!” I have good old “knee-length” to back me up.
      Bottom line, do I *feel* confident and professional in what I’m wearing? That’s going to sell it far more convincingly than walking around with a ruler to prove that I am, in fact, appropriately dressed.

    17. Mary Smith*

      What I tell interns (I work in higher ed):

      Put your fingers down by your sides, skirts no shorter than fingertips (and, if you have a pear shape, longer than that usually)

      Put your hand in the “pledge of allegiance” position on your chest, now turn your hand parallel to the floor. Your work shirts should cover most of this and nothing should show below your pinky finger.

    18. Hamburke*

      I refer back to my Catholic School days for this – if you kneel and the skirt is more than 2 inches from the ground, it’s too short. (fyi – much easier to do in a kilt than a pencil but works the same)

      My office is really casual but I don’t wear skirts to work – the AC vent blows under my desk…

  5. Blue Anne*

    I started a new management job a little over two months ago, on the condition that I could have pink hair. Boss was enthusiastic when I asked, so I accepted their offer. I’m very happy here and I can be myself. Board members have been slowly meeting me as they dropped by, and I’ve been getting great feedback from them about the new financial reporting I’m doing, etc. Awesome! Did I just find my dream job?

    Well… a couple weeks ago, I was sent out to one of our clients for a couple days. Trip was fine, stuff got done, no problem. Guys at the client factory were perfectly polite. I did notice that they had safety posters up, half with a cartoon man and half with a cartoon woman, and the cartoon woman had pink hair. I pointed it out to one of the guys, you know, “ha ha, you guys already have me up on your posters, I’m flattered!”

    Then, this week, someone used the suggestion box on our website to complain about my hair. They suggested that we not send anyone out representing the company with pink hair, including the comment “it is unprofessional to have someone visit the customer with pink hair especially in this mostly male dominated industry.”

    Which, you know what. Eat it. And, the colleague who went with me on this trip (who is great) has pretty extreme tattoos, including a rotting hand squeezing his neck. That was fine. Pink hair, no.

    Sigh. My boss had a great reaction (“screw em, be yourself, I encourage this”) but now I’m paranoid. Boss thinks it was from the guys at the factory I visited, but part of the message makes me think it’s someone internal. So now I’m like… was it one of these coworkers who I’ve been getting along really well with? A board member who has been giving me nothing but good feedback? Which one of these people who is being super nice is actually a passive-aggressive sexist buttface?

    Argh argh argh argh

    1. saffytaffy*


      1. Blue Anne*


        Next time I’m out at a factory I guess I’ll make sure it’s blue? If I have sterotypical male colors that should be fine right?


      2. Myrin*


        What even is that supposed to mean? If Anne in all her female-ness can exist in this male-dominated industry, so can her hair!

        1. Blue Anne*

          Right! Like… what is the desired solution here? Hair of a color that is not so obviously female? Blue or green? Or back to brown? And then getting rid of any other indications that I’m a female wandering around these factories I guess? Brown hair, boxy clothes, no makeup, try to speak in a deep voice? Crew cut? Or just leave the industry I guess?

          I mean, all of that is nutso slippery slope stuff, but it just makes me so mad.

          1. NaoNao*

            It means (and I DO NOT endorse this p.o.v) that since you’re dying your hair “unnatural colors” you “must” be “asking” for extra male attention. I detest that idea but I’ve seen it all over the underbelly of the internet. There’s this idea that it’s similar to, say, a tongue piercing, a “pin up girl” tattoo, or anything else that could read as suggestive in terms of clothing or body decoration.

      3. Yorick*

        I assume that means that it’s an internal person, and they think the male-dominated industry will judge the company for sending out a woman with pink hair.

        1. Cousin Itt*

          Too subtle, start conducting all your visits astride a noble unicorn you’ve summoned from the dark forest with your womanliness.

        2. saffytaffy*

          rainbow streaks with one of those great undercuts and, like, a vulva shaved into the undercut.

          1. Blue Anne*

            Ha! Love it.

            I did wear my “a woman’s place is in the house – and senate” shirt to work yesterday as a small protest.

            1. Camellia*

              Good for you! My grown, Assistant Director daughter, mentioned that she wanted to get a tattoo on her wrist that says, “I am the dragon.” My first thought was the meme that says, “Never meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup.”

        3. NotInUS*

          I have purple hair (not all but about 20-30%). I was a little concerned about the reaction at work when I did it but it was much the same as your boss. I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it and I dress very conservatively. Rock your pink hair or full on rainbow streaks – it’s hair! It’s meant to be fun!

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      That sucks. Unfortunately, clients can be conservative, finicky, passive-aggressive, sexist, etc. I’m glad they still hired you if you do good work. If the people at the factory don’t want you, the company can send someone else. Or, if they can stand to lose the business, just stand by you and keep sending you (if you want to still go).

    3. Murphy*

      I’m glad your boss has your back.

      Honestly, I’d try not worry about it. You’ll go crazy if you suspect everybody. Just keep being awesome. *funky hair color high five*

    4. irene adler*

      I’m betting you are correct- this is an internal complaint.
      It’s someone with little spine and a lotta spite.

      Keep rockin’ the pink! And kudos to your boss for supportin’ ya!

    5. Technical_Kitty*

      They are not your problem. If it is someone higher up and they couldn’t be bothered to tell you to your face or bring it up with your boss, instead putting in an anonymous note (the height of cowardice if you have nothing on the line by saying something), then they know they aren’t in the right. If it’s a coworker or someone you do not answer to, then ef them. Their opinions about appropriate hair colour are not your problem. Just like when someone chooses to wear a pound of makeup every day or dress to a specific aesthetic (they love pink or black or brown or western wear or whatever), it’s no one else’s business.

      1. Hope*

        This is partly what I was going to say. If the person doesn’t have the guts to say something to your face about your hair, F them and keep rocking your awesome hair.

    6. Lyra (UK)*

      Ugh. Male-dominated industry. Hold my beer while I dry heave.

      More to your question – if they’re too cowardly to put their name to their feedback, I say you waste none of your precious brainpower on figuring out who they are.

      But my sympathies on the anxiety/paranoia this would have created for you. Ugh again.

      1. Blue Anne*

        Yeah. This is smart. I’m going to let myself stew today and then try to forget about it. I know it doesn’t really matter, given that my boss supports me and all the feedback I’ve gotten to my face has been good.

        It’s hard to get rid of that paranoia though. Ugh.

      2. Totally Minnie*

        Lyra is spot on. People who think they’re right sign their name to their statements.

    7. Stephanie*

      Ugh, that sucks. I have a coworker with red hair (like a nonnatural shade) and she goes to supplier factories all the time with no push back (to my knowledge).

    8. AvonLady Barksdale*

      That person is an asshole and your boss is cool. Just repeat that. Also, I think in your situation, it is ok to trust that the people with whom you’re getting along are actually cool people, because why on earth would they drop in a random suggestion on the website without saying something to your boss?*

      *Yes, I know people do these things, but I encourage you keep on as you’ve been keeping on.

    9. CBE*

      Doncha know that in a male dominated industry all the women are supposed to dress like the eye candy they are supposed to be?
      How dare you do what you want instead of pleasing all those men. After all, they dominate!

    10. gecko*

      Ugh. Sounds internal absolutely and likely another woman, who’s being a real jerk and couching it in vaguely faux-feminist language.

    11. SoCalHR*

      Because without the pink hair they wouldn’t realize you were, gasp, a woman?!?! Glad your boss supports you on this!

    12. WalkedInYourShoes*

      I am glad that you have a supportive manager and that it’s been great for you! Like everyone here, ignore that anonymous complaint. That’s so old-fashioned. I love pink hair and the complainer needs to focus on the work. You have proven that you can do the job and whatever color your hair is will not affect your work. :)

    13. Delphine*

      Are there any women you work with who know you were visiting a customer that day? This sounds like a woman (or like someone trying to sound like a woman) who is concerned that the impression you have on the customers/men working there will come back to her somehow (directly or indirectly). She’s still wrong, but I wonder if it’s not actually the customers.

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        I was surprised there weren’t more comments like yours. I agree, I’d bet cash money this was a comment from a woman. I think all of the comments critical of men in this thread is misplaced.

        Or it could have been a woman at the client site, generally speaking though, a client would not complain or comment via a company website feedback form, they would make comments to one of their contacts.

        1. Blue Anne*

          Yeah, there are a few. I’m really trying not to suspect them though because I work with them constantly all day when I’m at the office.

          At the client site, I didn’t have contact with any women at all, which is another (much smaller) reason I’m kind of thinking it wasn’t from the client.

      2. A tester, not a developer*

        “I had to dress like a man when I started in this job, or else no one would take me seriously. It’s not fair that SHE gets to be awesome and not get hassled for it” – The Woman who complained, I bet

      3. LilySparrow*

        This was my thought as well. Something about the wording suggested an older woman. I suppose it’s the “tsk, tsk” tone.

        Like, you may not have interacted with any women as client contacts, but what about reception or someone’s assistant?

        Busybodys are gonna be busy. It could be someone who only saw you in passing and has been clutching her pearls ever since.

    14. Shrek says o*

      If complainer is unhappy, they can always leave and work someplace else. It is not YOUR hair they have a problem with; it is the company policy.
      Don’t view this as ONE IMPORTANT COMMENT. Instead, view this as complainers gonna complain, this week your hair, next week it will the the A/C temperature, or someone will wear open toed shoes, or the type of coffee.

      1. Frankie*

        Yeah, there are just some sticklers around–to give you more peace of mind, I’d just file it away in “stickler” territory (regardless of the actual motivation) and be glad that person’s not your boss.

        Super annoying comment to get, though. Of course the man’s tats didn’t warrant such alarm.

    15. Anxiety Anon*

      Wait – pink hair on a woman is more bothersome than a visible tattoo of a rotting zombie hand on a man? What the actual …

      1. Thursday Next*

        This is what I was thinking as well…I gotta say, I would be creeped out by that tattoo, and maybe I’m an old fogey, but I would definitely find it unprofessional for many jobs.

        1. Blue Anne*

          Yeah. I mean, I like this colleague and I have no problem with his tattoos. And I’m glad that others here don’t either. But the hypocrisy bugs me. When I go into the grocery store, parents say “look, she’s like a fairy!” to their kids. When he goes into the grocery store, parents get their kids away from him. But I’m the problem?

          (The story behind his tattoos is that an illness runs in his family and he’s watching it destroy his father at a young age. It’s a reminder to him to make his health a priority because disease is waiting to take him away from his loved ones. Very cool. But potentially scary-looking.)

    16. Anono-me*

      Please increase pinkness of your hair as much as you possibly can.

      Your boss is response to you was great. But, since there is the possibility that this message is from an internal person; I actually think that your boss dropped the ball. (I know your boss thinks the comment came from the factory people, but there’s no way to know and it might be someone internal.) I think a brief meeting to say “This is our dress code, period. This used to be a boys club, it’s not anymore. Get over it.” would have also been good.

      Also, if I worked with you, I would totally add some pink streaks to my hair if I heard about this. ( Please keep in mind that most of the outfits at Talbots are too flashy for me.)

    17. Brownie*

      I’m leaving soon for a hair appt where my hair will become a brilliant shade of cotton candy pink. Be yourself, don’t worry about the people who’re complaining. My bet is it’s a stifled jealous person or someone with very outdated ideas about how women should act/dress. Either way it’s their problem, not yours. Strut your pink hair proudly!

    18. Not So NewReader*

      Don’t let this take up too much space in your brain or chew up a lot of your time. There are a lot of people out there who get stuck on an irrelevant detail and LIVE THERE. Think of this as practice for how you will handle this type of narrow thinking in the future.

      One really good thing to focus on is that the complaint has NO substance. Not only does it not involve the quality of your work, it’s not even tangentially involved with your work. The complaint would have some merit if they said they saw you driving recklessly and irresponsibly several times while on the clock. All this complaint does is speak for other people and we all know what happens when we speak for other people. Usually what is said is no where near the message other people are actually stating. It just doesn’t go well, at all. So the response here is, “Thank you for giving voice to our clients as we know they are defenseless and unable to voice concerns themselves.” (/snark )

      Your boss has your back. You can be walking three feet off the ground because you win this one. The best defense here is to approach everyone with the expectation that they will act like a competent adult professional. If you are losing time trying to figure out who wrote the complaint, that time could have been spent finding new ways to project your expectations of professional behavior.

      I can honestly say if it had not been the pink hair it would have been something else. Because it always is. I have heard stuff about my weight, my gray hair, my footwear, my lunch, my car, my ring…. I can go on. Master the art of the blank look, you know, that looks that says, “WTF are you talking about, you are not making sense. This is important, WHY?”.

    19. Scubacat*

      Pink was considered to be a masculine colour in the early 20th century. Take that oh sexist buttface!

      Seriously though, WHAT nonsense OP. Wear your hair in all its fantastic pink awesomeness.

    20. ..Kat..*

      This is one person’s opinion – and someone with no power (a manager would tell you or tell your boss to tell you that your hair was the wrong color, not put a complaint in the suggestion box). ONE person! Ignore it. Be yourself. Your boss has your back.

    21. passive-aggressive sexist buttface*

      I suggest, for your own sake, you open your mind to the possibility that having pink hair, or hair that is any non-natural color, or tattoos, is not a wise choice. I fully understand that my point of view is unusual. But I’ve never understood why anyone would want to dye their hair, pierce their organs, tattoo their skins, or wear provocative outfits to work.

      When I’m at work, I configure my appearance to blend in, so that everybody’s focus is on the job and not my dramatic style statements or other distractions. When somebody shows up with a personal style presentation that announces a bold blast of individuality, I always think to myself: Here comes an attention hog … I guess I must reconcile myself to managing this narcissist’s personal agenda instead of paying attention to the job we’re supposed to be doing.

      1. NeverNicky*


        I have my nose pierced. My hair is not its natural colour and hasn’t been for years. And whilst I don’t dress provocatively, I wear 50s retro style every day with red lippie.

        As I work from home, alone, that’s hardly being an “attention hog” – that’s me being me, finally comfortable with my style after nearly 50 years on this planet.

        And if I am displaying “a bold blast of individuality” – fab. I’m paid to be creative, to write engaging content, to put out attention grabbing press releases. But I’m also paid to write evidence based, serious science. And guess what? I can do both. My appearance has nothing to do with my work abilities.

  6. self employed*

    Where do you go for contract / short-term freelance writing jobs? I know about FlexJobs. I am specifically looking for content marketing type of work, just more project-based or short-term stints. Thanks!

    1. KatieK*

      I’ve used Upwork specifically for Content Marketing gigs. There are a ton of cut rate people competing for bottom of the barrel stuff, but if you can get designated with their “top freelancer” status (completing a certain number of projects with a certain rating) you can do well.

      I’ve also worked through agencies—in my area Creative Circle—that have a mix of full-time-short-term, part-time-long-term, and contract-to-hire.

    2. Content Marketing Manager*

      Writer’s access is good. I managed content strategy at an agency and our freelancers all came from there. I can’t speak to what your takehome would be, but you will find work if you’re decent.

  7. Lumos*

    So I have a second job again ;-; But it’s actually with an accounting firm! I finally have something in my field and I’m super excited. But also terrified to actually be working in my field. this is well-timed because my main job just got a new boss who the office grape vine has told us is horrible and so far I haven’t seen much to counter act that.

  8. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Not looking for advice just venting.

    The guy who sits behind me pops his gum. (Not as often as the LW’s coworker this morning.) It makes me want to shove a fork in my eye, but I grit my teeth and deal with it because it’s temporary.

    He’s now started belching. Full on, outloud belching. And then he laughs. Or jokes and “blames” someone else. If anyone says anything he just chuckles and says it’s natural and we all do it. It doesn’t make me want to shove a fork in my eye, but it’s obnoxious and gross.

    1. T3k*

      Ugh, that sucks, I’m sorry :( (and I’d be so tempted to tell him off, claiming we all do it. I can actually count on one hand how many times I’ve burped).

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        It’s such a strange and silly thing to say. There are tons of natural things we all do, but none of us really wants to be exposed to those.

      1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

        I mean, I understand sometimes things sneak up on you. I get THAT.

        And the first time it happened, that’s what I thought. Even the first few, I thought maybe it was a new diet/medication/something-else-that’s-absolutely-none-of-my-business. But it’s been going on for a while now, so my sympathy has vanished.

    2. Namast'ay in Bed*

      This immediately made the Cell Block Tango from Chicago pop into my head, maybe blast that on repeat :-)

    3. Lyra (UK)*

      Ugh. Can you respond with, “Be that as it may, none of us do it in public as it’s kind of off putting. Could you please stop?”

      I’d begrudgingly accept the gum popping, but the belching crosses a huge line.

    4. Annie on a Mouse*

      I will never understand why people think “It’s natural!” is a defense to behavior that is generally considered best saved for private moments. Lots of things are natural, but that doesn’t mean others want to share the experience with you. And many conventions of society are actually unnatural (sharing toys or saying please and thank you), but we teach them to children because it makes life more pleasant for those around them.

      So yeah. Belching is natural—but doing your best to muffle it is polite.

      1. Namast'ay in Bed*

        Want to know what else is natural? Bears. Poison ivy. Tornadoes. I don’t want any of those in my office!

    5. Myrin*

      Of course burping is natural and everyone does it, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least try to minimise its impact when out and about in society. Everyone craps and it’s a necessary and healthy biological function, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to leave a big stinking heap in the middle of the office floor!

    6. AlcoholAnonymouseToday*

      “Could you please not pop your gum?”
      “No, we don’t all do it, but regardless can you do it quietly instead of being intentionally rude?”
      “We all poop, but not in the middle of the office.”

      1. Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way!*

        “We all poop, but not in the middle of the office.”

        +100 to this. I would use this phrase to counter his response. It shows that we all have some discipline and some idea as to what is considered respectful and polite.

    7. Bagpuss*

      “Many things are natural, but are unplesant and rude in a shared space.
      Please keep your mouth shut and the noise down, and go to the bathroom if you know you are going to belch”

      (part of me would be very tempted to point out that peeing and periods are both natural as well, but not one would think it was OK to let either flow naturally in the workplace…)

    8. fromscratch*

      My annoying coworker belches fairly frequently and always makes a comment about it afterward, like “OMG” or “that was crazy!” – bad enough to be burping loudly, but I don’t also need your commentary on it!

      1. motherofdragons*

        Reminds me of the scene in Elf where Buddy has this incredibly long burp at the dinner table and then looks around excitedly and says, “Did you hear that?!?!”

    9. SophieChotek*

      Eww. I get sometimes we all unintentionally/just can’t help it…but he seems to know he’s being annoying and doesn’t care. Eww. Rude.

    10. CowardHomment*

      You could reply, “Really? Because I’ve never heard CEO belch or MANAGER. I’ve only heard you do that, and it is becoming your most well-known characteristic.”

      1. Not So NewReader*


        “Fergus, I always know where you are in the building, I can hear that gum popping and burping and it’s like you have your own built in GPS locator. I never have to wonder where you are.”


        I had a cohort whose perfume you could follow through the halls and use it as a locating device.

    11. A Nonna Miss*

      not ok! I had an old coworker that would burp constantly. I told him it bothered me so he started doing it on purpose after that.

    12. motherofdragons*

      This would drive me NUTS. I really don’t think I would be able to keep myself from making disgusted faces and saying “THAT IS GROSS, STOP THAT” in a decidedly not-nice tone.

  9. Kraken Wants OUT!*

    Freelance writers, especially tech writers: do you have any advice for transitioning from a regular 9-5 to writing at home? I’m fed up with somebody at my job and thinking of taking this scary leap. I’ll check back in later to provide more details & probably with more specific questions. Thanks!

    1. Det. Charles Boyle*

      Would you be doing tech writing from home or a different type of writing/editing? I would keep your full-time job during the transition until you’re sure you can make enough to support yourself as a freelancer. It will take a few years to build up your client list, unless you already have a few clients waiting in the wings. A book I found helpful was My So-Called Freelance Life by Michelle Goodman. You’ll have to learn to figure out taxes, as well, but it’s not too difficult.

      1. Kraken Wants OUT!*

        Thanks for the book advice. I have some clients but I’m actually wanting to get in an agency pool for a couple of agencies. I polish technical manuscripts written my non-native English speakers if that makes a difference advice-wise.

        1. StellaBella*

          This sounds like a great job! I asked below about something similar – freelancers who scientific papers – good to see another related question or two here in the thread.

          1. Kraken Wants OUT!*

            Yup, that’s exactly what I was talking about. I’ll go check out your question.

    2. Girl friday*

      It will probably be a very easy transition for you, if you have submitted writing to publications that you are interested in writing for as a freelancer. Check for conflicts of interest first, compete clauses etc…if those apply here.

      1. Girl friday*

        Editing is easy to break into as a freelancer! If you want the freelancer life/schedule now, then maybe start there. Good luck!

    3. The Kraken Wants Out!*

      Ok, more specific questions now that I have time:
      What surprised you most when you switched from 9-5 to freelance?
      Especially what pitfalls should I try to anticipate?

      I know it will be slow to start and that I will have to work hard to get to my comfortable income level, but otherwise I feel pretty naive.

      How much financial cushion should I try to accumulate before quitting in terms of X months of salary? I can make a spreadsheet but I’m not sure what to include on it besides normal bills. I won’t lose health coverage because I’m on my spouse’s plan.

      What do I say if I ever go back to a 9-5 and they ask why I left my previous 9-5? I cannot say that one of my coworkers had a breakdown (I don’t know if it’s psychological or medical at this point, and I am trying to be compassionate, but I don’t think I can work with them anymore) and became intolerable and that I was tired of the commute.

      I’m a bit sad and scared to leave my job, as I feel like I could still do more good work there. However, the job is definitely in better condition than when I found it and I have always found my side tech writing very engaging and fulfilling. I’ve been wanting tech writing to be a bigger part of my career for awhile now.

      1. Hamburke*

        ” I had wanted to focus on technical writing/editing for awhile and saw an opportunity to pursue the field with freelance pool.”

    4. Part-time freelancer*

      Get everything in writing! Terms, payment dates, etc.

      I find that taxes take about 1/3 of my income (as opposed to about 1/6 when I had an employer), so you’ll need a lot more freelance income to make the same income that you were previously.

      Glad for you that you still have insurance!

  10. Anon around the world*

    So, how would you handle looking at what looks like a nice job, but on reading news and reviews, you learn the company went through multiple layoffs withing just the last year alone? I’m currently unemployed, have had interviews but no offers yet, and set to have an in-person interview for this one place. It’d also require me to move there (several hours away) if I got it, so I’m trying to figure out how to assess if there’s a good possibility more rounds of layoffs could happen.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      I was on board with giving it a try but keeping your toe in the water of job applications until you mentioned you’d have to move several hours away. I’ve heard enough horror stories that this would be a red flag to me. If you’re interested in the job, definitely do you due diligence in person and mention your concerns – how they answer could help you decide.

      Good luck!

      1. Tara S.*

        ^ I would say take the job until you can find something else, but not if you have to move to do it. Just as a stop-gap to get paid until you can find something better. (Unless you are in a situation where you can afford to wait it out a bit longer.)

        1. Anon around the world*

          Thanks for both your input on that :) Yeah, I could last out until end of the year if I needed (much rather not naturally). Sadly, this isn’t the first time I’ve had to deal with layoffs (though thankfully I still lived at home during those so didn’t move for them).

    2. ToodieCat*

      I think that layoffs are like skipping class: once you’ve done it once, it’s so so sooooo much easier to do it again.

    3. Antilles*

      I wouldn’t cancel the in-person interview because of it…but I’d certainly make sure to ask about the layoffs and understand the reason and how it was done. Layoffs are never great, but there are cases where they’re worse than others – if it’s focused in a couple underperforming divisions, that’s a completely separate scenario than if it was a company-wide restructuring. Also, if you can find out how people were selected to be laid off – was it on seniority or merit or specific job description or…?
      Basically, your intent at the interview is to understand just how likely it is that (a) another round of layoffs would happen and (b) whether you’d be first on the firing line.
      This is also complicated because it’s a new city. Ask yourself this question: IF you went there and layoffs hit, would you look for a job in the new city? If the answer is “honestly, I’d probably just move back here and resume my job search here”…then that’s almost certainly your answer.

      1. Anon around the world*

        Thanks, I’ll definitely use this wording to try and ask them about it. I didn’t catch it before the quick phone interview, so I only know through what I’ve read (which did sound like it was a restructuring; they were bought out several years ago and been going downhill since then).

        And yeah, I’d probably just move back home if I did get laid off :/ While the new city itself is a somewhat bustling hub, it’s rural area surrounding it and thus not as many jobs to apply for (currently, I live right between 3 major cities so a bit spoiled by all the businesses and restaurants here).

    4. gecko*

      No…I vote completely no. If it were closer, that’d be reasonable, but it sounds like they’re in a crunch; even if you don’t get laid off I’d be worried about things like, “we can’t match your 401k for now!” or “We have terrible health insurance!” “But it’s ok because it helps avoid layoffs!”

      1. Anon around the world*

        Well, to be fair, all except my last job had no benefits xD (one tried to do a 401k with a 1:1 match, but when you’re only raking in $12 with an aging car and other expenses, can’t exactly take advantage of that).

        1. gecko*

          That does change the calculus a bit :) If it’s a step up in benefits & job security–even at its likely low-benefits and low-job-security level–then it might be worth it.

      2. SophieChotek*

        I’d be concerned about the move too. Moving is expensive and so draining (I find) both for packing/unpacking. (Unless you’re hiring movers to do all of it.)

        And while I can totally be a worrier – if you took job and got laid off, would you want to move back to where you are now? Would you be okay with staying in new place and looking for a new job there? Are there decent opportunities there in a worst-case scenaio situation?

        Finding out about layoffs, as Antilles explained, can get you good information. But mentally thinking through other scenarios might also help. (Or could make you talk yourself out of a good opportunity. Could go both ways.)

    5. WalkedInYourShoes*

      Multiple layoffs is a big red flag. Questions that came into my mind are: 1) how financially stable are they? 2) are they ready to sell off and be acquired by a private equity firm 3) In what type of technology or space are they focused that makes the company go through multiple? There are companies such as BigCompanyBeenAroundForever that the method of “change management” is to go through layoffs once or twice a year. Personally, I would decline moving forward with the company, because guaranteed, the company will lay off again.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Financially stable and company size are big factors in how “safe” you would be during future layoffs. My first layoff was from a very large and previously super-successful company that started to tank right as I joined and ended up laying off a significant number of people within two years (the 2000 tech bubble bust) before they were acquired just as they might have failed entirely.

        My second layoff was from a very large, continues-to-be-successful company that has definite boom-and-bust periods but with relatively long eras of stability (decade or longer between mass layoffs). And new people were relatively well-preserved during layoffs, which (unofficially) targeted higher paid, more senior employees.

        With a somewhat smaller company with a decent financial history, lots of layoffs and turnover would concern me but I’d probably still consider it. With a start-up? Probably not.

    6. Anono-me*

      To me a big part of the question is “What does moving involve for you?”.
      If the company will cover 100% of the move, you like the new town, and there’s no requirement to repay moving costs if you’re separated from the company for any reason. I’d say go for it.
      If you don’t have a lot of personal property, and moving would be loading up your car and finding a new roommate situation in a furnish apartment. I say go for it.
      If you have your own place and your own furniture and you would have to pay to move all of that. I don’t know that I would move for a job that I wasn’t sure would be there in a year.
      Good luck with whatever you decide.

  11. InspireMeAnon*

    So I believe this is a work-related question at the core, but if not feel free to remove. Are there any blogs/youtube channels/instagram accounts that you follow for productivity inspiration/motivation? I’m in a bit of a slump at work and need an emotional boost.

    I’m particularly interested in fellow young women in careers outside of youtube-as-work. It feels like there’s a bit of of a void in that space. I look to these accounts less for actual tips and more for motivation, if that makes sense. I know what I need to do, it’s just helpful to have role models posting how/what they got done. Maybe it’s a bit voyeuristic, but I find seeing other people’s to-do lists helpful for pushing me along!

    A lot of what I’ve found thus far are study blogs, or accounts that delve way too much into how women do their makeup in the mornings/take baths in the evenings (I say that with love, I wish I had that kind of time, ha!), or men that just want to show you how to use productivity software. I’m not really into the bullet journal thing but I’m open those accounts if they’re less focused on the crafty side of it!

    1. BugSwallowersAnonymous*

      I like the channels Leena Norms and ItsRadishTime on YouTube– they’re both 20-something, small-to-medium youtubers who work full time in publishing and activism respectively. They both come across as fun and down-to-earth, but also they inspire me to work harder at my creative work and my full time work. I’d especially recommend Leena’s series on how she got into publishing and Taylor’s (ItsRadishTime) series on personal mythologies.

    2. Emily S.*

      Thrive, which is run by Arianna Huffington. They have a great website, and it’s all about inspiration, productivity, and especially about self-care. Very useful stuff!
      www dot huffingtonpost dot com / topic / thrive

      Also – LeanIn. They have a great website with tons of good resources, but they also have excellent social media channels (Facebook etc.). I especially like their monthly email newsletters.
      It’s LeanIn dot org

      (By the way, I highly recommend the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, if you haven’t yet read it. It is geared to women — not sure if that’s relevant to you?)

    3. sunshyne84*

      Myleik on instagram runs her own business and posts quotes and advice from time to time. She also has a podcast with work advice. She’s returning to maternity leave, but she did often post books she’s reading. I know you’re not into journals, but she does have those as well. I don’t have any, but they seem highly rated. I’m sure it’s not the typical girly stuff you’re trying to stay away from. But check out the podcast.

    4. Celeste*

      I like The Jordan Harbinger Show podcast. I have learned a lot about networking, mental attitude, and achieving goals.

    5. Zzzz*

      Bria Simone Brown on YouTube! She’s pretty new and doesn’t post that often, but when she does it’s great.

    6. NoodleMara*

      It’s not by a woman, but Kevin Sonney runs a podcast called Productivity Alchemy. He interviews a lot of creative people about how they stay organized and productive and it’s enjoyable. I don’t think it’s quite what you’re looking for but it might be something interesting.

    7. busty alexa*

      Late to the party – but Laura Vanderkam has a great blog and podcast (called the best of both worlds) about productivity… it’s geared a bit towards working mothers but is still pretty universal

  12. Kramerica Industries*

    I’m wondering if anyone can give me some guidance on when it’s appropriate at work to bring up morale issues. I’m always a little puzzled by workplaces that claim to care about employee morale, but it’s not clearcut to me of when you can start mentioning emotions (since these should typically be left out of conversations). Or, does anyone have any tips on keeping strong?

    1. AnonGD*

      In my workplace, the way you’d bring it up is by suggesting something that would raise morale– especially if you think something small-ish like a catered lunch could help do the trick. Mentioning that morale seems low is pretty much just seen as pointless complaining, for better or worse, in my company.

      1. Antilles*

        Agreed. If you aren’t at a senior enough level where “company morale” and “overall company well-being” are part of your role, then bringing up morale issues should only be done if you have a feasible solution.
        And not a major change, but something concrete and reasonable like “well, since everybody worked crazy hours last month to get out the Alpha Project, maybe it would be good to give the staff the afternoon off” or “how about a team lunch on Friday to reassure our team that our department is not part of the upcoming layoffs” or etc.

      2. En vivo*

        That’s how it works in my office, so I wouldn’t even mention the words low morale. I would DO something on a regular to change the atmosphere.

    2. Lyra (UK)*

      The most successful approach for me has been to talk about morale in the context of the issues that are affecting it. Morale is a vague concept that is hard to affect by management without further information, so the most productive way to address it is to help provide information on what would help (i.e. less overtime, more recognition, salary, career progression etc.)

    3. Planning to succeed*

      What’s your role in your team, and who would you be bringing the issues up to?

      In general, I’d say that you’re more likely to be successful if you have a specific action in mind that you want taken to address the morale issue, but there’s so many possible situations it’s hard to say if that would work for this one.

    4. Bagpuss*

      I think it depends a bit on what is causing the issue and what solutions there might be.
      Being able to suggest things that might help is a good thing – who you speak to will depend on your workplace – in my (fairly small) office, it would fine to speak to me or one of my partners, or to our new HR person.

      However, “lots of us are really stressed” is hard to address. “we’re / I’m finding x very stressful” is easier, and “we’re / I’m finding x very stressful, would it be possible to [do specific thing]” is better yet.

      Obviously it depends a bit on what is causing the poor morale – if it is down to dysfunctional management then there may not really be an effective way to bring it up.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, as a manager, “People feel bad” is one of my least favorite things to hear. Not because I don’t want to know!! But because I can’t do much about feelings. You are overworked? I can try to adjust workloads. You are anxious about organizational change? I can try to talk that out and share what I know. But just feelings, and especially other people’s feelings, are really hard for me to address.

    5. Girl friday*

      What are you seeing? I have lots of tips, but they depend on your situation. Anything small, even a candy dish can help- w/o knowing your answer.

    6. Safetykats*

      If you do start making suggestions about morale events, please be prepared to have that interpreted a volunteering to help organize an event. Because if you’re really just telling upper management (or the exec admins) that they should throw you a party, that probably won’t go over well.

      I say this a someone who organizes a lot of morale events – and who absolutely knew when my coworker and I walked into the Chief Engineer’s office to report that the staff were wondering why field engineering had so many more morale events that his response was going to be “What would you like to to about that?” But honestly, the main reason a lot of organizations don’t do many events is because they are a lot of work to organize and nobody volunteers.

    7. Kramerica Industries*

      Thanks all for the feedback. I ended up having a conversation with my manager to ask about ways to get more support (processes, timelines, resources, etc.) to feel less stressed about working with other departments who seem to spring projects with short notice on our team.

      He ended up saying that the nature of the job is that things happen very last minute and there’s not much we can do about it. I actually feel better just hearing this instead of building up hope in my mind that things are going to change. I was curious about whether my coworkers could benefit from hearing something like this too because I know people are feeling stretched, so I wanted to suggest more transparency about what is in our team’s power to change.

  13. Angry not Nervous Accountant*

    On Friday, this accountant who used to be on my team (I am/was his supervisor) asked me to review a return as a favor. he was moved to a new team that week. I told him I had to leave in a bit but I can take a look at it if it was a simple return. He sends it to me 20 min before I leave, which….wouldn’t have been an issue, but this was a big return (not difficult….just a lot of information and time consuming). Plus, within the first 5 minutes of looking at it i found SO many mistakes, so I put it aside for Monday (we don’t really pass off work to others if we are just leaving for the day).

    I leave, and 5m later I see an email from him telling the client “manager made a run for it” and told the client I ran out the door w/o finalizing it.

    I was pretty speechless and very angry about this.

    I emailed him back Monday explaining why I didn’t finalize the return and that I was appalled he’d say this to a client.

    He responded back saying he was hurt I would think he’d throw me under the bus and damage our relationship over a client….that he respected me a lot but I treated him like this.

    My mgr and I pulled him aside to talk to him. Told him clearly why this was unprofessional. I was more blunt, that “yeah it’s great u get along with your clients but you do not throw your team/supervisors/managers under the bus with clients, even if you’re joking with them.” He denied saying those things in the email, tried to spin it as something else, directed his comments/feedback to my mgr, not to me, and the kicker…didn’t apologize. My mgr had the same opinion, that he was being manipulative and didn’t seem to get it.

    He’s tried texting me a few times which I didn’t respond to. I’ve no desire to resume the friendship and since he’s not on my team I have no reason to talk to him about work. Even though it’s a really relaxed culture, there’s just a line you don’t cross…which this guy CONSTANTLY does.

    1. Nervous Accountant*

      And you know what else? I am too damn old and too damn tired to give a crap about managing feelings of people who act like assholes and get mad when I call them out on it.

      I’m done w caring that I’m “not soft enough” or that I “can’t take a joke.” I’ve worked here long enough to prove htat I am just as good as everyone else, that I have a great sense of humor, that I am a flawed human just like everyone else here. At first I wondered why I get no respect…what am I doing wrong? I don’t act differently from any of the managers/team leaders. This tore me up for hours. But I realized that I’m now at the point that nope, I’ve done my best and there is no reason I have to take disrespect from anyone. i’m no longer the new, seasonal employee whos desperate for a FT job that I’ll let some arrogant employee call me a bitch and then pretend she never did (true story from 3 years ago).

      It kinda feels awesome to realize I don’t have to take (most) crap.

      After I wrote this a few days ago, I just realized why this was so significant. This dude reminds me of the coworker I had written about in Dec 2016/Jan 2017, where the relationship was great but then he started acting like a psychotic jackass. I’m low key proud that 18 months later, things are different.

      1. SoCalHR*

        I am too damn old and too damn tired to give a crap about managing feelings of people who act like assholes and get mad when I call them out on it
        ^^^ THIS… I am sooooo done with this too (but in my situation I’m not getting support from management)

    2. neverjaunty*

      Wow, eff this guy. He imposed on you, threw you under the bus, and then tried to make you feel bad for noticing?

    3. Blue Anne*

      That is so, so, so unprofessional on so many different fronts. I would be putting this guy on notice if I was his manager.

    4. Technical_Kitty*

      Wow, that is terrible. Some people just don’t get who’s “team” they are on. Your company is one team, the clients another. If’d he’d rather be on the clients team, maybe someone should help him with that…

    5. Myrin*

      People who deny things they’ve actually written down and sent to someone else will never cease to amaze me.

      1. As Close As Breakfast*

        Me too! I have a (new) coworker right now that is turning out to be this exact type. I’ve taken to writing everything down in email rather than speaking in person, or following up with an email on a conversation, because he’s also the “so-and-so did/didn’t tell me thing A” when it’s absolutely not true. It’s fun.

        The next time he pulls one of these, I’m seriously considering just stopping mid-conversation and walking straight to my computer to print out the email and then handing it to him asking him to please read the highlighted section out loud like I’m some sort of trial lawyer!

    6. Det. Charles Boyle*

      Maybe he thought you had left for the day without knowing you planned to work on it on Monday? It would have been good to send a quick email to him saying, “Hey, there were a lot of mistakes in this and I don’t have time now to resolve all the issues. I’ll pick it back up on Monday.”
      However, he definitely shouldn’t have emailed the client saying you dropped the ball. He’s burning bridge by throwing his former manager under the bus, for sure.

      1. Nervous Accountant*


        Nah i shouldn’t have to email him that I’m not finishing it. I wouldn’t expect my managers/supervisors to notify me. As a courtesy yes, but I extended many courtesies to him. He’d constantly ask me to review a return as a high priority when it wasn’t so I would. Or bug me like I mean “name name name name quick Q quick q!”

          1. AshK413*

            So do I. If I gave my mgr something to review before sending it out to a client, I would expect a note if she didn’t plan on reviewing it that day. that’s not a courtesy but more like common sense to me.

            1. Beatrice*

              We should be able to take Nervous Accountant at her word that she doesn’t need to tell him that it’ll wait until Monday. I approve client credits and refunds for my employees, and I’ll credit service charges and delivery fees within minutes all day long on stuff that’s cropped up in the last couple of weeks without a thought, but if a client asks for a 50% refund on a five-figure invoice they paid six months ago because [insert dubious interpretation of contract here], our client rep knows without saying that she’s not going to get an answer from me for a couple of days. Her job is representing our business to clients, and part of that is setting expectations for them and painting the company as a whole (including her teammates and managers) in the best light possible – which includes helping the client understand that they’re not going to get an immediate response on that kind of request, there’s a good chance it’ll be denied, and we’re reviewing it with appropriate diligence. If she led them to expect an immediate response or a positive one, or threw me under the bus for not giving an immediate answer, her employment here would be pretty short-lived.

            2. ..Kat..*

              He gave it to her 20 minutes before the end of the day and it was too long to finish in 20 minutes. On Friday!

              And he lied to the client.

            3. Nervous Accountant*

              I actually did review it, but it was too much and too error-filled to finish in 15-20 minutes nor would I stay late to accommodate him. When I was preparing, I would ask someone to review my work but I would never expect them to drop everything and do it ASAP nor expect any notification from them that it won’t be done. Maybe it’s a matter of how things are done at other companies rather than courtesy vs common sense.

        1. Holt and Catch Fire*

          Hang on, you mean you actually left for the weekend without telling him you wouldn’t get to the review until Monday? Wow. That’s pretty bad, in my book. Yes, the guy is clearly a huge jerk and his actions were extremely unprofessional, but I think you were pretty unprofessional as well by doing this. Taking 20 seconds to dash off an email saying “this is going to take a while to review so it’ll have to wait until Monday” could have averted the whole issue.

          It sounds as though your personal feelings about this guy may be affecting your judgement.

          1. Nervous Accountant*

            Not at all. In fact I liked him a lot before this, which is why I even agreed to the request. He saw me walk out and I said I’d take care of it Monday. I’ve tried setting boundaries before but they weren’t firm. Also, no one here DOES THAT during regular work hours, I’m not sure why that is so hard to believe.

            Reports don’t even do this to their managers, much less the other way around. I’m not sure how this is unprofessional.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      To quote from earlier in the week: “Dance like no one’s watching; email like it’s being read aloud in court.” Or by your boss and grandboss, while you insist it doesn’t say the things it said.

    8. Hiring Mgr*

      I would say if it were just this one incident and you normally have a good relationship, then not that big of a deal in the big scheme of things, but if he’s constantly doing similar things as you mention than that’s different..

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        The email was new but he has a pattern of crossing boundaries and just never taking no for an answer. Once he sent that email I had to shut it down ASAP.

    9. Boredatwork*

      wow, just wow

      You never never email the client and joke like this, dude is totally in the wrong. I just can’t even, I’m so mad on your behalf. What did he have to gain?!

      I’m glad your manger had you back.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        If he hadn’t I would have walked out.. or thrown a major fit. He was angry about it for different but very valid reasons. So all around that worked out.

        He tried texting me a few times after but I ignored him.

    10. ginger ale for all*

      Why was it that only your manager was involved and not his manager as well? JMO, I would ask your manager to loop in his manager on this. If I was his manager, I would want to know about this.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        His new team leader did know about it but he was literally promoted a day before, so my mgr decided to step in on this one, but he was 100% included on everything.

    11. Celeste*

      I wonder if he just thinks his work is so great there won’t be any mistakes? But I bet he dragged his heels on it, did a half ass job, and wanted to blame somebody else for why it wasn’t completed on time.

      Either way, it doesn’t sound like he’s going to have much of a career.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        His work was great in the beginning, not flawless but good enough (it’s our job to teach them). And he does great w clients we give him that. But this return was just like…wtf. His whole defense was “I joke around w the clients” so thankfully they weren’t angry but it had potential to go very badly. Which again we don’t mind that-do what u want to do To make a good connections w them. But not at the expense of throwing your colleagues/company under the bus.

    12. WalkedInYourShoes*

      This happened to me when I was working as a consultant for a privately owned company. I had a few extra “conditions” to make through the consulting project, because I was promised to be converted to a FT role. That’s why I took the job as a consulting. I had a colleague who happened to be someone to whom I reported. Little did I know that this person was throwing me under the bus for projects that he forgot, overlooked in the email or didn’t have time to do. I worked as a team player and thought that my manager felt this way. I was really naive. The manager would put in requests knowing the fact that he dropped the ball. I took over the requests not knowing this was happening. Eventually, it caught up to him and he blamed me for the ball being dropped. I just couldn’t believe it. Within one week of catching on what was happening and my manager kept blowing off our 1:1’s, we finally met. He said that I was making too many mistakes and that mistakes happen; and managers were complaining (he was making this up, because my high-level partners with who I have to collaborate are very honest and would not hide their frustrations. First time in my career, I was walked out in shock and disbelief. I cried in the car on the way home and called my better half. Afterwards, I wrote down what I remembered and what happened when I caught on what my manager was doing. On the following work day, everyone was shocked, because I was a high-performing professional and they were not happy with his decisions. His lack of professionalism and dropping the ball on several key projects led him eventually in losing his job. Karma was quick. I would never go back to the company even though I miss my former colleagues. I was initially angry on how it went down. But, now it’s a learning lesson on the type of questions I need to ask in my interview process and my focus is no longer consulting or contracting, but interviewing for a FT role. Also, I know now to call someone out for “throwing me under the bus” and being unprofessional.

      Everyone on AAM has been super helpful in my current interviewing stages. I hope to give advice to help others.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        I’m sorry that happened to you. I had incidents in the past where it felt like I was thrown under the bus but bc I was new to everything I isn’t have the confidence to stand up for myself. Posting here has taught me a lot as well. It’s such a great space.

  14. What's with today, today?*

    I love my place of employment. I love it. Probably will be here until I die. But after reading AAM for a year, I have realized we are completely dysfunctional. Anyone else work in a place they love, but is crazy, by AAM standards?

    1. Anonymous Poster*

      Every workplace is crazy and dysfunctional in its own way. But if you can handle it, what’s the point of worrying about it?

      I work as a government contractor. It’s crazy in its own way.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, you just have to find the place that is crazy and dysfunctional in a way that matches your own quirks, patience, and nails-on-chalkboardisms. Then you gaze into each other’s eyes and say “You complete me.”

        (It’s like the important addendum to “Your workplace is full of bees”–“… but you work in an apiary, so not sure why you’re surprised about this?”)

    2. Nervous Accountant*

      Yes. *Raise hand*
      To be fair though my mgr is a huge reason I’m still here. He leaves, I’m out

      1. WalkedInYourShoes*

        True! I was at a BigCompany years ago, when my manager left and toxic high-level manager took over, it took me 10 business days that the new high-level manager made the environment toxic and more dysfunctional. So, I quit and found another job.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      No, but if you’re really happy there, stay. It may be “crazy,” but it’s your kind of “crazy.”

    4. Violaine*

      I felt that way about my last job, and I ultimately ended up leaving it because of the things I learned from AAM. I was right to do so, and while it made me a little cautious to integrate with my new coworkers (last job enmeshed personal/professional boundaries in huge ways, which I didn’t mind, loved, and thought I was fine with until I reached a point that I just could not do it anymore), it made me appreciate how a functional workplace is supposed to be run.

    5. Amber Rose*

      Oh yeah. I can point out any number of extremely not-good things about my workplace. But since I’m pretty laid-back and have the sense of humor of a 12 year old boy, it’s all good to me.

      I’m always worried we’re going to hire someone who has a real problem with how we do things, since technically they’d be right. But the dysfunctional shit is what makes it fun to work here for the rest of us.

      1. What's with today, today?*

        We did two hires ago. And he lasted exactly one year before quitting. He didn’t like the small town we live in either, he was from a very large city, but the culture fit was bad and was painful at times.

      2. Super dee duper anon*

        You know… I think I was that person who had an issue with a dysfunctional group (but the group loved each other and embraced their dysfunction) once. Though I think the flavor of dysfunction was pretty different. Less making it “fun” and more just a very specific (and homogenous) work style that (in my opinion) wasn’t very conducive to the needs of our field.

        If I may offer some unsolicited advice (and if you’re not already doing this) – just be super upfront about the dysfunction and/or very honest about the group dynamic to potential new-hires. Had that group been with me, I would never have accepted the role. Which would have been better for everyone. It would have saved me a ton of frustration, stress and a huge hit to my confidence. It would have saved them a miserable 9 months and the need to redo all the training and time they had invested in me.

        1. Amber Rose*

          I don’t do interviews, but I do orientation, so day 1 i’m the one saying that yeah, we have a “no harassment” rule, but realistically conversations head for X-ratings at the drop of a hat and they curse like truckers, so…

          One of my coworkers who has a temper went on a rant about slapping difficult customers with assorted types of sex toys. My boss checked in to see if it bothered me (I was quietly struggling not to die laughing) and I know they would try to accommodate someone who was uncomfortable, but I don’t see it sticking. They aren’t mean about it, but they probably won’t change.

    6. Dino*

      I worked at a place that would make AAM commenters freak out, but it honestly worked for the team and for the industry I was in. I changed careers since they would never pay me enough to not be paycheck to paycheck, but it was definitely a job that I would have stayed in for years and year otherwise. So long as you recognize that things aren’t normal and wouldn’t fly in other places, I think you’re fine.

    7. Schnoodle*

      Yep! I have a crazy dysfunctional family here but I love it.

      I come from a much worse dysfunctional hell place so I think it helped me put their crazy in perspective.

    8. Goya de la Mancha*

      Oh oh oh! This is my office! I don’t know if I’ll be here til I retire, but at least until my boss retires! I know it’s probably not helping me in the long run, but it’s few and far in between the days that I dread going to work.

    9. Thlayli*

      Not sure if crazy by AAM standards, but definitely crazy by the standards of some of the commenters here. I think this might be cultural but people constantly ask each other questions about personal life and talk about their personal lives here and it’s just considered being friendly, not creepy or intrusive like it would apparently be considered in some American workplaces.

      For example I know about my coworkers’ attempts to conceive, problems with their exes and child support/access, plans for weddings and buying houses, medical details etc. Not everyone shares the same amount (I share less than most seem to here) but only one person would be considered as an over-sharer (that guy would literally tell you his entire life story if you listened to him without letting you get a word in edgewise). But apart from him no one seems to think it’s a lot. I know many AAM commenters would be freaking out though.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I went from a healthy level of sharing (basic concern for each other as human beings) to a silent place. No one stopped and talked to each other, “hey how is your day going?” or anything. It felt like there was nothing there for me. Do my job then go home, next day repeat, do my job then go home. It’s really hard, at least for me, to build and keep a commitment to such an employer. It all felt superficial and robotic.

    10. Kate*

      I mean… your Username suggests to me that you’re just a Lucas trying to get along and damn the man (Save the Empire!)

    11. Annie Moose*

      My workplace isn’t nearly as bad as most that come through here… but it is definitely dysfunctional in some deep ways that are not likely to change soon. (the biggest thing here is the lack of professionalism–they spin it as a “flat organization” but what it really means is “so much boundary crossing, so much, between managers and employees”. It also can get a bit white dudebro-y.)

      But I’m also pretty okay with it. If I could find another workplace that was as laidback but with less immaturity (and more women), I’d consider switching… but despite its issues, it’s so much better than the uptight never-have-any-money corporate environment I was working in before.

    12. bunniferous*

      I absolutely LOVE my workplace. We do joke “You don’t have to be crazy to work here….we’ll train you!” But in all seriousness that really is just a joke. Everyone is lovely from the bosses on down. That is SO SO rare!

    13. saffytaffy*

      I sometimes think I’m the only person at my job who loves it! Everyone else complains about logjams, incompetence, the cafeteria’s lousy, it’s too cold, upper management are maniacs, we’re not paid enough… And I’m just sitting here, really comfortable, hoping I get to stay here until I’m 65. I love it, and the only thing I can think is that I’m doing a very simple job for which the bar of success is really low, but at the same time I’m surrounded by smart dedicated people. Maybe my lack of ambition has saved me?

      1. Orangeturkey*

        Perspective is everything. I’ve noticed at my job, those who annoy all of us by being terrible workers or just plain unable to think, seem to have a much better experience than those who are motivated and good at getting things accomplished.
        If you think you are lucky because you are comfortable and well-paid to do the minimum, you likely have others picking up your slack.

    14. Tau*

      My old job! Everyone got to live with coworkers when on a client site (which, for most of us, was every workday every week). That place was super incestuous in a lot of ways, a lot of friendships and hooking up between coworkers. I think it was because it was super travel-heavy, which gives everyone something to bond over at the same time as it can be very difficult to start or keep up relationships with people not in the same situation. There was also a bunch of dysfunction at my client site, and I spent something like half a year with only a vague idea of who I was actually reporting to there. (My team lead who assigned us work was off sick for ages, then quit, his stand-in also quit, and I was never quite sure what sort of managerial duties either of them had over me anyway.) But I enjoyed myself, it was exciting, it was really interesting work and I learned loads.

      1. Tau*

        I note that I love my new job as well, it’s just not nearly as outrageously dysfunctional. Including on the technical side of things – I now have enough war stories to make any developer raised on scrum and Agile and best practices cry.

    15. Quinoa*

      Theater. I love working in theater. It’s insane, and the boundaries in theater are unlike boundaries anywhere else in the work world. But it’s my happy place.

    16. Bea*

      Every job I’ve had is dysfunctional and crazy by some of the AAM standards. I’m okay with it because I don’t march to the same beat either. I have never had a coworker that is a bad person or bad at their job but they have some wild personalities.

  15. anon for this*

    The head of another department approached me to let me know about a position that they’ve posted. He introduced the topic by joking about “poaching” me. I hadn’t been planning on applying for the position, because my understanding was that they were looking for someone with a specific background, but thinking more about it, I can see why my experience would be a good fit. My question is, should I address his remarks to me in my cover letter? Not the poaching thing, obviously, but should I mention that he approached me about the position? He will be on the search committee, so he’ll see the letter.

    1. MassholeMarketer*

      I’d think it isn’t necessary to add that to the cover letter. Just keep it aimed more at the successes you’ve had in your position and how you think your skills would transfer into the role and you’ll be good. Plus, with that head already approaching you, it sounds like you have a really good chance at the job :)

    2. Emmie*

      I wouldn’t do it. If he’s on the search committee, he will tell them. It feels stronger to focus on your skills, be one of the top candidates, and then have the recommendation of a committee member.

    3. Tara S.*

      I definitely wouldn’t frame it like that, “poaching”, but I don’t see the harm in mentioning that you were excited about the job after you had a chance to discuss it with Dept Head, as it seems to really play to [insert your strengths here].

    4. AdAgencyChick*

      I wouldn’t mention the poaching remark specifically, but in your shoes I’d for sure say something like, “when Bigwig approached me about this position, I was thrilled because X, Y, and Z…”

    5. The Ginger Ginger*

      I would just focus in your letter about why you’d be a good fit. It sounds like it wasn’t immediately apparent to you, so it may not be immediately apparent to others on the search committee. I don’t think you need to say anything about being approached or what was said.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I wouldn’t mention it. He probably discussed it with a couple others before he approached you. I’d assume most of them know why you are applying.

  16. Not So Super-visor*

    I have an employee who isn’t terribly tech saavy (I’ve had to show her features on her personal cell phone as well as some standard features in Outlook) and has frequent “IT problems.” The entire company uses an older operating program to do all of our work that frequently has glitches or slow-downs; it’s frustrating, but it happens to everyone. Most people just give it a few seconds and it straightens out. Although this employee has worked here for 10+ years, she seems unable or unwilling to accept that this is a known issue. She complains that this only happens to her computer and no one else has this issue. She frequently calls IT or enters IT tickets or just restarts her computer. We have a phone based role, so I’ll got to check why she’s not on the phone, and she’ll mention that she’s restarting for the 2nd time today because of the “same thing my computer always does.” I’ve checked her computer, IT has checked her computer, but it’s not doing anything that anyone else’s computer isn’t doing. At this point, IT won’t take her seriously. They’ve asked that I double check all of her “problems” before she contacts them. The IT manager admitted that unless more than 1 person is having a similar issue, they don’t take her requests seriously. I’ve told her frequently that these are just normal issues and that if she waits it out, it’ll resolve itself and calling IT or restarting will not fix the problem. She will burst into tears and exclaim that we just don’t want to help her. I get it — our system SUCKS and everyone knows it, but I’m kind of at my wits end trying to get her to accept it.

    1. AnonGD*

      This may not make a lick of difference, but maybe giving her some documentation on common issues might help to keep her from panicking? “If X freezes, try Y first before shutting your computer down and calling IT” kind of thing? Even if it’s literally “Wait exactly 1 minute”, ha. This has the bonus effect of being usable by everyone, just in case you get another panicky employee. And you can use that documentation as a means of discipline.

      1. Only Kinda Joking*

        How about a list of bogus tasks that take the same amount of time as waiting? “Check your ‘spam’ folder to see if IT has sent any upgrade memos in the last three days. Log out of email and log back in.”

    2. AlcoholAnonymouseToday*

      I think the bigger problem is SHE’s an issue, the company has known that for 10 years and she’s still there. How much time does she waste? How much of your time? Is she always bursting into manipulative tears? Time to manage her out.

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      Treat it like a performance issue, because it is one. Tell her that excessive requests for help diminish IT’s productivity — and, more importantly, YOUR productivity, because you’re being asked to check on her requests.* Then you can say “I need you to handle issues with this system the way your colleagues do.m, which is by doing X, Y, and Z. Can you do that?”

      *I would tell IT “no, that won’t be possible.”

    4. Not So NewReader*

      The core problem is that she refuses to believe that anyone else is see what she is facing.
      Ask her why she doesn’t believe that and then listen.

      Probably it’s because no one else is talking about it. You can ask her if she has checked in with any of her cohorts to see how they are handling the problems. When she says no (because she will say no) ask her why not.

      Explain to her that no one else is talking about their issues because this is what it is and it will not change. If you can, explain that upgrades would cost x and the company cannot afford that, or whatever the rational is. Then launch into “you can expect to reboot x times per day; you can expect downloads to take extra time; etc. All this is part of the job, it’s part of the job to learn to live with this. What we need you to do is accept this as part of the job and stop putting in tickets for complaints that you have already made. It’s been explained to you that these things will not be fixed and you must factor that in as part of the job.”

      If she starts crying over this again, then you might gently ask her to consider if this job is for her. No one else is crying over these problems, because it’s just part of the job.

      If you chose you could point out that any company has limited resources. It’s up to the employee to either just work with the shortcoming or sometimes employees will find ways to patch or improve the situation with low or no cost ideas. I can think of many times at various places where we limped along on limited resources. One place our department needed a wet/dry vac. There was one such vac in the whole building. Every time we needed it was at LEAST 20 minutes of hunting for it. Another place had ONE hammer. All of us needed a hammer several times a week. Try finding the hammer, it could take close to an hour. You see the idea here, if it’s not computer updates then it’s something else.

      I will say though, ethically speaking, I believe the employer has an obligation to get their employees the tools they need to do the job. So, yeah, I can see where the company might be falling down on this one. And it is frustrating to work with tools that are not up to par. I know of one employer where the hammer’s head would fall off the handle when you used the hammer. Stuff like this causes employees to lose respect for their employer.

    5. a different perspective*

      I understand this this is not the perspective you are taking, but here’s what I thought when I read your letter: The complainer is the only rational person in your company.

      You say that the entire company uses an older operating program to do all of your work that frequently has glitches or slow-downs; it’s frustrating, it happens to everyone, and you all just accept it.

      What I would try is this: Everybody start adopting the approach that your complainer is applying. The company will fix the actual problem, instead of training everyone to accept lousy IT services. Just a thought ….

    6. trilusion*

      I’m with ‘a different perspective’ and ‘Not So NewReader’.

      I get that the whole situation needs to be addressed and your employee crying about this is not the norm compared to your other employees, but: Are the others, including you, super resignated regarding this software? Or in general? Are there other aspects in your company where you feel frustrated? Your sentence “The IT manager admitted that unless more than 1 person is having a similar issue, they don’t take her requests seriously” seems like it — everyone has the same complaints as your employee, but everyone else has gotten so frustrated so they don’t report it any more. “Software SUCKS” has become the new norm, and you have all accepted that you are actually being paid to wait, reboot, redo stuff and to be frustrated and therefore get less done than you would expect with ideal software.

      I get very aggravated and impatient when software is too slow or inefficient in some way. I believe companies not providing their employees with the best software/hardware they can afford is a case of false economy, maybe eben a sign of no respect. I do think your employee isn’t handling this the ideal way (for 10 years!), but I do feel for her.

      Personally I would try and place this issue once more with the higher-ups. Ask the entire team about their daily problems. Calculate how much time they spend with rebooting, waiting, redoing stuff because of this. Then I would forward this number to my manager in and ask them to assess: How much does new software cost (including everything, like trainings for all teams)? How much do the current software problems cost weekly when you apply the employees’ salaries? How many weeks until return on investment? Plus happier, less frustrated employees in the long run?

  17. BAL or BLA(h)? Depends on the day!*

    So here is this week’s update from the land of “The CEO is in Africa and the President’s wife (who is not an employee) is taking over the office.”

    When we last visited, I had had my duties restored and received a significant raise (significant for me anyways….$2 per hour raise in Floriduh is nothing to sneeze at!). I was back handling HR and was the office manager. Everything was great!

    And then…..*dun dun* The CEO left for Africa last Saturday (6/23). I came in Monday to an email from the president informing the entire company (all 8 of us) that my duties (except for accounting, inventory and shipping) had been reassigned. Again. (It wasn’t put like that, more like “Just a reminder that [President’s wife] handles [list of what were formerly my duties].”

    I threw up my hands, took anything in my office that didn’t pertain to accounting, inventory or shipping and gave it to the receptionist.

    Things really really came to a head Wednesday afternoon/Thursday though. On Wednesday afternoon, we were all treated to an email from the wife. She was informing us that she would be committing timecard fraud. Essentially, the time clock is now set to automatically clock us in at 830, so if we come in early (her example was for 800am), that’s ½ an hour of time we will not be paid for. I sent her an email confirming, “So are you basically saying that if I clock in at 823 and start working, you are not going to pay me for the 7 minutes between 823 and 830?” She confirmed that that was correct. I wrote her back and told her that was illegal and considered timecard fraud. Her defense was that the company pays us for our lunch break and 2 15-minutes breaks per day. I told her she was comparing apples (benefits the company gives us—and believe you me, those are the only benefits we get) to oranges (committing an illegal act—timecard fraud). Every time she wrote me, she would copy her husband. When I replied, I would remove him from the distribution. She would always add him back on. Apparently, the wife is incapable of fighting her own battles and likes to use her marriage to the president as a cudgel to force others into submissiveness. She has me confused with someone else. I’ll lose my job before I let that beyotch bully me.
    So he called me into his office. He told me he didn’t want to hear another word about timecard fraud and he was sick of hearing about it. I reminded him that I was not the one sending him the emails, his wife was the one who was dragging him into the middle of this and that I don’t need anyone to back me up, I’m perfectly comfortable in my stance that timecard fraud is illegal. I then informed him that there were other things going on that were illegal, such as: the probation policy says that if either party terminates the employment relationship for any reason, the employee gives up the right to file for unemployment; that policy also states that if all company property is not returned when an employee separates the company will (not can but will) withhold their final paycheck until that property is returned; I also pointed out that if we were audited, our employee files are appalling and do not contain any of the I-9 paperwork, and in some cases we don’t have the W-4 in this office (the wife has that stuff sent to her 7 hours away, in Panama City Beach and that is where she keeps it); I also told him the Department of Labor frowns on unpaid employees (he told me she is paid, I said—very cheerfully—“Oh awesome! So she gets a check or direct deposit from ADP?”, he said no but she is paid; after pressing him, he said that he pays her out of his paycheck; I told him that wasn’t good enough for the DOL; he lost his shit and said he didn’t want to hear any more out of me about timecard fraud or what this company is doing that is illegal). There were a few other small things that are being done that are illegal. Apparently, I’m too good at the compliance part of my job because I was then told to forget compliance (we are a publicly traded company, and I have extensive experience with the compliance requirements and issues of publicly traded companies).

    So I forgot compliance. It is no longer my 3-ring traveling entertainment venue and the simian entertainers are not mine either.

    Every time I pointed out something illegal, he demanded I prove it. I spent a few minutes looking up the laws and sent him an email with all the links. He has refused to read the linked webpages. At this point, I am not paid to provide legal advice (I’m not even an attorney, but I did do my first year of law school) and will sit back and let the DOL give him that advice. A complaint was filed with them on Wednesday, after the timecard fraud email was received. The DOL granted me whistleblower protections.

    I am mad at myself because I kind of lost my cool. I plan on going in to the president’s office and apologizing for the manner in which the message was delivered. I am going to make it clear that I am not sorry for delivering the message, it needed to be delivered, but I am sorry for the way I delivered it.

    I have an email from the CEO telling me, specifically, that I am not do anything to assist the wife and I am to concentrate solely on accounting, shipping and inventory only. Also, I met with the CEO last week and he told me that whatever happens in regard to the wife, he has my back. We’ll see if that’s true. I was told that by the president also, but apparently what he meant was he had my back as long as it didn’t have to with his wife because he gave her his set of testicles when he married her. I hear she carries them around in a beautiful handbag.

    This company is going to go down in a big, flaming mass of goo. God willing, I will be far enough away so none of the goo lands on me (and I have worked hard to distance myself from any person/department that is, shall we say, non-compliant).

    Needless to say, I am back in the market for a job.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Okay, seriously though, WHY does the President even still have a job if he encourages his wife in doing this crap? The CEO needs to fire him immediately.

      Also, in your position, I would have probably immediately forwarded that email to the CEO in Africa, copied the President, and said something like “this is counter to what we discussed last week. please advise.”

      1. BAL or BLA(h)? Depends on the day!*

        I agree with you 100%. The CEO and the President have been friends for over 30 years so I think that has something to do with it. However, I feel that that friendship–and the CEO’s unwillingness to enforce HIS rules in HIS company–is going to be the downfall of this promising startup.

        I did reach out the CEO and he said to just focus on accounting, inventory and shipping and let HR go. I have disentagled myself completely from that department so that if the s*it hits the fan, it’s only going to hit the wife.

        1. JessicaTate*

          This is amazingly craptastic. I have my doubts about CEO at this point. “Let HR go” as a directive gets my hackles up. I guess he might just be saying “Not your circus, not your monkey”… but, it IS his circus, it IS his monkey, at this point the monkey’s been doing crazy stuff for a long time, and he’s not doing a darn thing about it. It starts to ring of “While I am nicer to you about it than President, I also don’t particularly care that we are breaking laws left, right, and center. That’s just how we roll. So you, BAL, should just let it go.”

          1. BAL or BLA(h)? Depends on the day!*

            You summed up my unconscious feelings to a T. They’re concerned, but not concerned enough to actually do anything.

            Maybe once the Department of Labor shows up they’ll get a bit more concerned.


    2. Foreign Octopus*

      Jesus Christ.

      This is some serious, next-level shit. Congratulations on sticking to your guns and not doing what youknew to be wrong. I honestly don’t think you should apologise to the President – he knew exactly what was going on and turned a blind eye to it. He had his chance to put things right and he didn’t. Let the chips fall where they may for him now.

      As for you – good luck. I hope you find a job where your work is valued and you’re not surrounding by idiots.

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, I agree.
        BAL, you were seriously badass there and I commend you for staying unwavering in such a bizarre situation, that’s really awesome!

        1. BAL or BLA(h)? Depends on the day!*

          Thanks Myrin! I was so badass, I’m pretty sure they’re trying to figure out how to fire me. They never conceived of someone like me. (I’m about 5’3″, weigh 100 lbs. soaking wet, but can kick some serious ass and when my name and integrity is attached I’m NOT going to get involved with anything illegal!)

          This situation is so bizarre, every day I look for Rod Serling to start narrating my life.

          1. Jane of all Trades*

            What a bizarre situation. Hope all resolves itself for you, in the meantime I would make sure to have copies of all relevant documentation and emails in a non-work location, just in case you need it. And hope you find a job quickly working for people who aren’t as compromised.
            Good for you for standing up to them!

      2. AlcoholAnonymouseToday*

        I don’t think any chips are going to fall for the president, that’s the problem. The CEO has so far let this all happen and continues to let it happen.

        1. BAL or BLA(h)? Depends on the day!*

          Yeah, I’m really with you. They think that nothing can happen and they don’t really WANT to make the changes.

      3. BAL or BLA(h)? Depends on the day!*

        Thanks, me too!

        Funny thing is, I had applied for a receptionist job with this company. I didn’t want responsibility because it always came with weird strings attached. Then this company offered me the position I am in. I accepted it because the pres told me “I’ve got your back on everything.” Now that I know that isn’t true, I just want a job with no responsibility, where I can just show up, do my job, get paid and go home. This particular position has completely fried my brain, reignited my PTSD from ToxicJob (where my co-worker tried daily to kill me with Lysol), and has caused me to refill my Valium scrip that I haven’t had filled in almost a year.

          1. BAL or BLA(h)? Depends on the day*

            LOL, that’s an extreme way of putting it but yeah, essentially she did.

            I have asthma, COPD, and emphysema (genetic, it’s called A1AD). LastJob, which was also ToxicJob had a large population of folks who used hand sanitizer if the switched duties (think going from shuffling papers to typing) and would spray Lysol and other air fresheners on the regular. There was a company policy against this.

            I requested, and was granted a medical accommodation that folks in my department not use those items. I also had company policy backing me up. (Air fresheners generally, and Lysol specifically, wreaks havoc on folks with bronchial issues and Lysol has some weird effect on the lungs of emphysematics.)

            My co-worker (we were on the same team) who sat right next to me would.not.stop. I’d go to HR, they wouldn’t do anything. It was 4.5 months before I really pushed it. I had gone to the bathroom and she had drenched my London Fog raincoat with Lysol. It was dripping with Lysol. That was almost two years ago and I still can’t wear it. HR’s response? The rep held up my file and informed me that my file was the thickest of any employee in the company. I opined that if he would enforce the conditions set forth in my medical accommodation I wouldn’t be in HR every week, complaining about my co-worker who was violating that accommodation (not to mention company policy).

            I spent the next two months wondering, each day, if this was the day I was going to be taken out of work on a gurney or in a body bag.

            Then I had a heart attack from the stress and spent Christmas of that year in the hospital, recovering.

      1. BAL or BLA(h)? Depends on the day!*

        I cannot thank you enough for that link, Coldfeet! I was wondering how I would get in touch with them. I really appreciate you saving me the hassle of having to track it down!

    3. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      Please, report the company, with documentation, to the state labor board (or whoever it is).

      1. BAL or BLA(h)? Depends on the day!*

        Yeah it’s been done. Department of Labor, Department of Economic Opportunity, and the IRS (just for sh’giggles….we work for Company A but our checks come from Company B and Company B is not an employee leasing company).

    4. Q without U*

      Is the CEO aware of the illegalities and labor violations? He sounds like a reasonable human being, so I’m having a hard time imagining him being okay with his company knowingly breaking the law in a dozen (documented) ways.

      1. BAL or BLA(h)? Depends on the day!*

        He is and I’ve handled it the way he told me to (give them the legal docs to backup my claims). Unfortunately, he does NOT know that his partner has refused to even read that documentation. He think the pres is just going to listen to me. Nope, not as long as his wife is involved. She’ll find a million excuses why something is ok. I’m just tired of the battle. I’ve been reasonable but I’ve reached the end of my rapidly fraying rope.

    5. neverjaunty*

      Please please talk to an attorney ASAP. You are high risk of being in the blast radius when this all goes off.

      1. BAL or BLA(h)? Depends on the day!*

        I’m kind of worried about that myself, which is why I have endeavored to distance myself. I’ll reach out and get a consult with an attorney in the next few days or so.

        1. Extra Vitamins*

          Also make sure you keep a copy of all the email chains. Maybe burn to to a CD for safekeeping?

          1. BAL or BLA(h)? Depends on the day!*

            I forwarded all of them to my home email address (and confirmed they are there). I also backed them up to my personal cloud drive. I have a printed copy in the glove compartment of my car (ya know, just in case I run into a DOL investigator at the market or something!).

            1. Michaela Westen*

              Late, I know – I looked this up after yesterday’s thread.
              Paper copies are the thing. Any other media can disappear, but not paper! I always save paper copies even if it’s just that I’m feeling a little paranoid about nothing. :)

    6. CatCat*

      Holy crap. After your last update, I was optimistic. But not now. Damn. Unless the president is fired, it’s just going to keep going on like this. I must say, you are handling this shit show in an awesome manner, and I look forward to an update where you have escaped the flames of this dumpster fire.

      1. BAL or BLA(h)? Depends on the day!*

        I know, right? I was cautiously optimistic and was really waiting to see what happened when the CEO left. Here’s the pattern, as I can tell: CEO is in town, all duties are restored to me. CEO leaves town, email is sent out about the reassignment of my duties. CEO comes back, duties are restored. CEO leaves, email is sent out. Rinse, repeat.

        Honestly, I am kind of looking forward to next week. That is when the wife will be in the office, calling meetings and generally disrupting our workflow. The CEO said I can just close my door and ignore her.

        THAT will be easier said than done.

    7. Reba*

      There is so much happening but

      “It is no longer my 3-ring traveling entertainment venue and the simian entertainers are not mine either.”

      LOL forever.

      1. BAL or BLA(h)? Depends on the day!*

        :) I put that right up there with “craniorectal extraction.” Two distinctly different ways of saying the exact same thing. Only the way I say it, folks walk around for days wondering exactly WTH I’m talking about.

    8. SpaceNovice*

      This sounds like a future war story in the making. Uhm, good luck. I hope you find a new place soon!

      1. BAL or BLA(h)? Depends on the day!*

        Oh I hope there is no war! I just want to come to work, do my job, get paid and go home and play with my kittens before they go to their new homes!

    9. SophieChotek*

      Wow! what a sage. I don’t understand why Pres. wife is so involved!

      Hope things resolve — and that you can get a new job soon!

      1. BAL or BLA(h)? Depends on the day!*

        No one really seems to understand why she is so involved. She only comes into the office when the CEO is gone (mostly because he hates her with a passion and doesn’t want to see her face….I’m in the same boat, but I’m not the CEO) and then does crap like moving furniture and calling meetings to announce to everyone how she reassigned my duties.

    10. The Ginger Ginger*

      This is the first I’m reading about this whole thing. Now I’m about to lose my afternoon going back through the archives to catch up because it sounds WILD. Good luck to you!

      1. BAL or BLA(h)? Depends on the day*

        There’s not much, only the last couple of weeks or so. And it’s essentially all the same. Issues with the president’s wife (who is not an employee and not paid paid but calls herself the Sr. VP of Admin/HR), duties being given to me and then taken away, just complete and utter confusion. I was hired with the *specific* purpose of bringing some organization to this start up and their books (which I’ve pretty much given up on….they never give me receipts, take cash out of the ATM regularly with no receipts/documentation, etc.) but the wife doesn’t like that. This is just the latest chapter. Next Friday’s update will be juicy since The Wife will be in the office next week.

    11. Girl friday*

      If you are throwing down in this manner with your boss and he still wants you to work for him, I congratulate you. It must have been a more civil conversation than you portray. I wish you luck with the job search! It does not sound like a good fit.

      1. BAL or BLA(h)? Depends on the day*

        Well, it’s actually portrayed more civilly than it was. This was only the first part. As I was leaving, he said that he gave me a $2 an hour raise and he felt I wasn’t thankful enough. That was it. That was when I really lost my shit completely. I whirled around, pointed my finger at him and told him “don’t you dare pull that shit on me! I have been in here every single day and have busted my ass for this company. I haven’t taken a single sick day and have only late twice (once was to pay a ticket and once was to renew my license). I came in here and brought my A game to the table every day. I have negotiated lower shipping rates across the board and taken charge of fulfilling our corporate orders (we supply chains like CVS, Rite Aid, etc.) and nailed every responsibility you’ve given me. I’ve lost 4 pounds in the last two weeks from the stress around here! I earned that raise and I’m sorry I wasn’t thankful enough for you so don’t you dare pull that shit on me!” I kinda ruined it by letting myself cry, but he’s a softy and caved immediately. His wife really really has him cowed.

        But, it was definitely not as civil as I initially represented it.

        I was specifically told, and actually have an email with this in it, that I was hired to be the bitch of the company so that we could get things done. Those two (CEO and president) know they are pushovers and wanted someone to hold others accountable. So I would do that, these other folks would reach out to them behind my back and they would be told to ignore me.

        So I guess one might say I’m just living up to being the bitch of the company. Seems I have some competition, though. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    12. Good, Cheap, or Soon. Pick Two.*

      … Sweet Tap Dancing Monkey Savior on a Stick… he didn’t want to hear anymore about what this company is doing that is illegal? I don’t think Humpty and Dumpty are the only thing she has in her purse. I think she may have turned him into the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz and stolen his damn mind.

      Someone needs to take your CEO out for a drink and tear a strip out of him for letting this continue. He should just flat out fire Mr. Liability here and tell him to take his wife with him. “Keep your head down” is not the appropriate response in this situation.

      1. BAL or BLA(h)? Depends on the day*

        Yeah, isn’t that priceless? “I don’t want to hear any more about timecard fraud, final paychecks and unpaid employees. I don’t want to hear it! Verbatim.

        On the initial email with The Wife wherein I informed her what she was doing was timecard fraud, I included the CEO. But not the president. Because I knew he would have that response and I did not want this to get swept under the rug.

        I don’t plan on keeping my head down. I plan on going scorched earth……once I’m far enough away to make sure the fire can’t get to me.

  18. Windward*

    Checking references before interviewing candidates. Is this a thing, now? I’m hearing about it more & more. Why would someone do that? How would you know what to ask about without meeting the cadidate first? Any benefits to doing this?

    1. Washi*

      Never heard of that! I’ve heard of doing it maybe concurrently with final interviews, but before even starting the interview process? It just seems like a huge waste of everyone’s time, since so often you don’t get that much good info from a reference, and you’ll be checking them for so many more people than you will hire. I can think of only cons, no pros for doing this.

      1. kbeers0su*

        Agreed. You should be using a reference check as an opportunity to ask specific questions about someone you’re seriously interested in. It’s a way to fill in gaps/confirm things that the candidate said during the interview with their former manager/follow up on anything you pick up with your spidey sense during the interview.

        It’s also a huge waste of time for the references- imagine if every time someone you were a reference for applied for a job you had to do a check, not knowing if the company was taking their candidacy seriously or not? Like maybe they were one of 100 applicants for that role and they don’t even meet the preferred qualifications and there isn’t a chance they’ll even get an interview- why would you want to waste your time doing a check then?

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I’m confused by this as well. Are they actually checking references (extremely bizarre)? Or just asking for a list of references, which they may check later if you get to that stage (slightly annoying)?

      1. Windward*

        They’re checking references to decide whom to interview. It makes no sense to me, which is why I’m asking here.
        I’ve seen this from both sides, all of a sudden: I’ve gotten calls as a reference to see if they want to interview former employee, & been told they’ll check references & let me know if they want to interview me afterward.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Yes, that’s truly bizarre, and, frankly, a waste of the references’ time. I used to work for a recruiting company, and we would ask for candidate references up front, which would make available for hiring managers, but no one would actually check the references until just before the offer stage.

        2. Bex*

          Personally, I wouldn’t be comfortable turning over my references until I was far enough along in the interview process that I was pretty sure that I wanted the job. My references are great, and all are crazy busy. No way would I want them to waste their time on a company that wasn’t even sure they wanted to interview me.

        3. SophieChotek*

          Yes I have heard it’s a thing too — but I agree, I think it’s a waste of the reference’s time. Plus if the appropriate people cannot evaluate resumes/do good interviews to decide who to advance…I have no HR/hiring experience, but it seems like this process is messed up

    3. ThatGirl*

      The only place I’ve seen it is at a staffing agency, where they pre-vet people so that when they recommend potential employees, they can say they’ve been vetted. Anywhere else it just seems unnecessary.

    4. Violaine*

      I work in health care, and yes, this has happened to me numerous times. It’s been done online via a site called SkillSurvey (or any other site like it) and it’s just radio buttons or ticky boxes, and a couple of form questions (What does the candidate do well? What area could they improve in?). I don’t care for it, and I think it wastes my references’ time and effort to do these things over and over again I’m glad they have the patience of saints.

    5. I See Real People*

      My current company checks references. There is still a pretty high turnover rate despite this. Employees here are typically underpaid for the area, so that may be a factor. It’s baffling to me why they ask for/check references, because who would offer a bad reference to someone they knew would be calling on them?

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        I don’t think it means you offer someone as a reference who would say something bad about you, but the quality of the reference check depends a lot on who’s doing the checking and what kinds of questions they’re asking. It’s best to stick to specific fact- and anecdote-based questions and really press the reference for details, but some people who “check references” just ask vague questions and are satisfied with glowing adjectives about the candidate.

        Also, as Alison has brought up in the past, it’s perfectly legitimate for the hiring workplace to contact former managers of yours that you don’t list as references.

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        Also, there’s positive, and then there POSITIVE! Anyone who’s working in admissions reading letters of recommendations can easily tell you the difference between a “This is my top student I can’t recommend enough” letter and a “I kind of sort of had to write this, because I took pity on this kid” letter.

    6. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yeah, it just happened to someone I know, for an IT job. They called his references before they contacted him at all. I thought it was pretty inappropriate.

    7. Anxiety Anon*

      I’m in education, and it’s really common to apply for open teaching positions through a big clearinghouse site. You input all of your information – resume, work history, credentials, etc on the site, then personalize bits like a cover letter for each job that you apply to. One option the employers can put in is references, and the applicant has the option to include a current supervisor or not, and for that supervisor to not be contacted until a potential contract offer. For the last job I accepted: I applied online, my references got an email a day later with a form to rank a bunch of attributes, and a few short answer prompts (“Describe a time this teacher overcame a challenge to improve instruction for their students.”) THEN, I received a call to do a screening interview, and three candidates out of the resulting pool were invited in for a sample teaching lesson and an in-person interview with the principals. They asked if it was okay to call my current principal at the end of that meeting, and I asked for one day to talk to him in person as he did not know I was job searching.
      So, that’s my really long story about references.

      1. Forking Great Username*

        I’m at the beginning of this process filled out! References have filled out the forms evaluating me and now I’m crossing my fingers for a phone call.

    8. Chaordic One*

      When I worked in HR my employer would do this and I’ve run into this quite a bit when looking for jobs. I don’t think it is all that unusual. In my experience employers would only do it with finalists and do it before interviewing them in order to verify the information on the resume and/or application. Most employers take this kind of information with a grain of salt, but too many discrepancies might result in someone not getting an interview.

      I think that employers do it because, sadly, there are many applicants who’ll mislead potential employers about their past experience and who think they’ll be able to dazzle the interviewer into hiring them for a job that they’re not well qualified for. It happens more often than it should and if an employer know this ahead of time, it can save time.

    9. Margali*

      We do it here, after a phone interview with the applicant. We have an extensive onsite interview process that includes testing, and we have found it works better not to waste everyone’s time having someone come in when they can’t provide good references afterwards.

    10. Kat in VA*

      /rant on

      This is especially timely. I went to apply for a job online today. The company ATS wanted me to upload a resume. Done, .pdf format, OK!

      Then they wanted the resume text copy/pasted in text format into a box. Uh, OK. Done. Then they wanted me to fill out several boxes for the companies I worked for (despite that information being in the two previously mentioned places). That was company name, address, phone number, contact email, dates to/from, manager name, SALARY, and duties fulfilled (all of which were on my resume and the text I copy/pasted).

      I filled out one box so I could advance to the next point in the ATS, and noted to refer to the resume for the rest because at this point I was rapidly losing my taste for this rigamarole.

      Next step? They REQUIRED (as in, I could not progress until I’d supplied) the name, title, company, address, phone number, and email of three professional references. At that point I left the job application unfilled, exited, and flipped off my screen.

      I’m not handing over the references of a Senior VP, a VP, and a Director before you’ve even graced my cell with a telephone call from a recruiter.

      I’ve been asked to supply my SSN to ATS, my W2 information for the last ten years (!), and damn near everything but my bra size. If that comes up, I won’t be surprised.

      I want a job, yes, I certainly do. But I’m done giving up every possible bit of information to companies when I don’t even know if they’re going to bother to call me for an initial screening.

      /rant off

  19. KatieKate*

    Just learned this week that 2 more people from my team are moving on, which essentially leaves….. me. And I am also looking to move on, but I was taking my sweet time with it because my current team is one of the things I love about my current job. And now most of them are leaving. So this is going to speed up my search…

    1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

      I’m sorry; that’s the pits. A very small silver lining here is that, when asked in interviews why you’re leaving your current job, you can mention that over the course of X months, your entire team left. I’ve found it a useful way to communicate that my job had become gnarly, and it wasn’t me, without badmouthing my employer. Good luck!

      1. KatieKate*

        The thing is, it doesn’t say much about the team. We’ve all been here for at least two years–some for longer–and the others were just able to move on quicker. I was up for sticking around for a while because the others seemed like they were too, but it turns out they were just better at hiding their searches. It’s a great nonprofit job–just low pay and not a lot of room for moving up.

    2. Almost Violet Miller*

      Oh, I’m sorry, that’s a really hard spot to be in. I hope your job search will go well amd you’ll soon find something you’ll love equally if not more.
      I’m worried this will eventually happen to my team. To be honest, it’s not a team but members of different teams and one-person-departments in the same location, sharing the same office and cooperating on projects. One of us is leaving in a month, I know that two others are looking, the fourth person is being managed out, so that essentially leaves me and my intern. Your comment just made me think about how I’d react if everyone left… well, I’d be really sad and would probably start looking.

  20. MassholeMarketer*

    I’ve been a finalist for four different positions over the past few months but never end up getting the actually position and it’s making me so frustrated. I’m always told my resume and cover letter are awesome and my interview skills must be good because I pass the prior round interviews, but there’s always someone who is apparently a better fit for the job.
    Any tips on what I could do better? Only one interviewer has provided feedback when I requested it and it wasn’t too helpful. I’m employed now but I’ve been in the position I’m in now (first job out of college) for three years and I’m ready to move on.

    1. beanie beans*

      I’m really sorry – it’s so discouraging to keep getting that far and not getting the offer. I don’t have any good advice other than just keep trying – you must be doing a lot of things right to be a finalist for so many positions. When it comes down to that far in the process, it truly may not be anything you’re doing right or wrong – there are just other people who have more, or the right balance of experience they are looking for, especially if you’re just three years out of college.

      If it makes you feel better, I’m 18 years out of college and it took me a year and a half to land the offer I’d been hoping for. Too many applications, phone screens, interviews, final rounds. But they were all leading to this position that I’ll start in a few weeks.

      No one wants to hear to be patient, but it’s the only advice I’ve got!

      1. Marthooh*

        I came here to say the same thing. Can you think of the process as research and networking in your field, as well as a job search? That might help a bit with the frustration.

        1. MassholeMarketer*

          I’ve been doing this thing lately where I’ll look up the people who get chosen for the positions I didn’t get to see what they had over me, and that’s been helping. One person had a few more years of experience while another was a recent grad. It helps to figure out what they were really looking for.
          I’ve even gone as far as finding the open jobs they left and applying for them… no luck yet but I’m hopeful!
          I also recently contacted a few recruiters in my field and let them know they can contact me if anything permanent or temp-to-perm comes up.

      2. beanie beans*

        And no one likes to hear “it’s good practice” but it’s the truth! By the time I got to the interview process of the job I got, I barely had to review my notes to prepare and was so much more relaxed and confident and I’m sure that helped a lot with getting the job!

      3. MassholeMarketer*

        This REALLY made me feel better. I received my most recent rejection this past week and it wasn’t even for a job I wanted that bad but it still kind of killed me. I know something is out there – it’s just going to take some time.

        1. beanie beans*

          Ha, I turned down a second interview for a place that had Nascar-level red flags, and then ended up months later getting a standard-rejection email from them saying I hadn’t been selected. It made me laugh and cry at the same time since I was like “No, I broke up with YOU!”

          Good luck to you, and in the mean time, get as much training and new resume-building experience that you can from your current job!

        2. Kat in VA*

          I’m in the final round for two different jobs. I’m hoping for either of them (leaning toward the one with the shorter commute). I can’t keep the Mind Monkeys from whispering, “You’re not going to get either of them…”

          I’ve been job hunting since May and have gotten a whoooole lot of rejections – some just straight up autorejection emails, some of them coming after what I thought were quite stellar face-to-face interviews.

          It’s rough to not take it personally. Onward and upward!

    2. voluptuousfire*

      Been in your boat! I call it the “too much of not enough” syndrome. Someone else seemed to have that magical “X” factor I didn’t at the time. I can 100% understand your frustration. It’s annoying as hell getting to final rounds and not getting the job.

      Ultimately it’s timing, I’ve found–being on the right desk of the right person at the right time. As beanie beans said, be patient!

  21. Probably Not Interested*

    I had applied for a job at a company, and their HR coordinator e-mailed me to schedule a phone call with their HR manager to speak about my “experiences and interest in future opportunities.” It sounds like they want to get more information from me so they can consider me for other job openings in future, not the job I applied for. When replying with my availability, I asked if that’s the case.

    If the call is just meant to get more information about me to consider me for other job openings, is there a polite way to decline so that I won’t get blacklisted in case I want to apply to other jobs?

    I’m really only interested in arranging calls about jobs I’ve applied for. I don’t apply to any jobs that are posted by recruiters specifically because they always called to tell me the job has been filled, but got more information about me so they could consider me for future opportunities. I NEVER heard back from any of them, so it was a waste of time. This is an HR person, not a recruiter, but I can’t see the result being any different.

    (I realize one phone call technically isn’t a big time investment, so the politest thing might be to just go with it, but I have horrible phone anxiety, so having to be anxious for a few days leading up to the phone call and then feeling horrible about how badly the phone call went in the days after is a big time commitment for me in a way.)

    1. Tara S.*

      Maybe you could ask for that call to be partially transferred to email? Like, after you get on the call, if they make it clear they are only interested in you for other opportunities than the one you applied for, say that you would be willing to review the job postings if they sent you the links via email?

  22. SCshisho*

    (I’m a long-time lurker, shorter-time commenter, but this is the name associated with my blog because it’s just easier that way)
    I have a proposal (drum-roll please):

    Once a month professional development book club.

    Details: We pick one of the Friday open threads (I’m leaning towards First Friday just because it’s easier to remember) and everyone who wants can read the same professional development/work-adjacent/interesting industry-related book and then discuss it. If we post the title of the next book at the beginning of the “current” First Friday, then that should be plenty of time for people to at least read some of it by a month later.

    I have a blog (that reviews/recaps children’s books for storytime) and I’m happy to host a blog page with some book recommendations (I’ve got so many, I love reading professional and managerial and people-wrangling advice) and I have turned on the comments for that post so that people can leave suggestions for titles of their own; I’ll add them to the list. Once we have that list going, I have a Doodle poll where we can rank choices and then read the popular ones.
    Since the First Friday is next week, we could choose Alison’s newest book for our first “read” if that isn’t too weird, or a board-popular favorite like “Gift of Fear” since lots of us have read it already.
    Sound interesting to anyone?

    1. SCshisho*

      I’ve added some titles to the page (linked in my user name) and got them into alphabetical order by title. Please keep recommending titles or subjects if you’re interested and don’t see something that looks interesting.

        1. Emily S.*

          Oops! I just saw the Power of Habit is already on your list.

          I currently have a library copy, but I’ve been procrastinating on reading it. But I’ve heard some great interviews with Charles Duhigg that were just fascinating.

          1. SCshisho*

            I’ve got another of Duhigg’s books on the list too that I haven’t gotten to yet: Smarter Better Faster.

            I’ve added the Dan Ariely book – he’s another really interesting writer.

            Thanks for the suggestions!
            (the link to the poll for our August read is in my name if you want to vote – sorry I created it before I saw your suggestion. I’ll put it on the September list.)

    2. Anxiety Anon*

      Great idea! I just bought Contagious: Why Things Catch On as part of my job involves influencing coworkers without any actual managerial or supervisory power.

    3. SCshisho*

      Any preferences for our first book on July 6th?
      I lean towards Gift of Fear myself, BUT if a lot of us haven’t had a chance to read it yet, that’s a lot for one week. Do we want to just talk about the newest Ask a Manager book for our first attempt?

      We also probably ought to pick one for August also, since that’s practically a month away. (where does the time go?) I’ll link a poll in my username this time around and choose two from my list, and the two that were suggested here already. This will be for the August book, on August 3rd. Please Vote!

    4. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Love to!

      I’d prefer to stick with work/professional stuff and avoid The Gift of Fear (which I’ve read).

      I’m interested in Radical Candor and the Happy Healthy Nonprofit (which is relevant to non-nonprofits as well).

    5. LilySparrow*

      Sounds great, but I won’t have anything read by next week.

      I got a lot out of “Work Clean” by Dan Charmas.

      1. SCshisho*

        No worries, I don’t picture this as something where people participate every time. If you think you’ll have time over July, you are welcome to vote in the poll in my user name for the August discussion.

        I’ll add Work Clean to the list, thanks!

    6. Extra Vitamins*

      “Writing Your Dissertaion in 15 Minutes a Day”. It is meant for graduate students, but I’ve found the parts about how to actually get wiring done, and mentoring red flags to be useful in every job I’ve had.

      1. Extra Vitamins*

        Ugh. “Dissertation” and writing, not wiring. I can recommend a wiring book too, if that become a topic.

      2. PhyllisB*

        I don’t see a link to look at your list, so if this is already on here, forgive me. What about The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton? I have that but haven’t read it yet. Also I know a lot of people like Lean In by Sheryl Sanburg (is that right?) I read it right after it first came out and I liked some of it, but not all of it. Did have enough in it to make for a good discussion.

    7. Viola E.*

      Not sure if I’ll be able to participate, but may I offer a couple of recommendations? They’re not strictly “professional development” books, but if you’re into psychology, Thinking Fast & Slow by Daniel Kahneman and Influence by Robert Cialdini are both great. I had to read them for a social psych class in college and they are 1000x better than any textbook. (Influence may be more appropriate for your general theme.)

      1. SCshisho*

        Oh I really enjoyed Thinking Fast and Slow, but I haven’t even heard of the other one. My own book list is getting longer!

        I’ll add them both.

      1. SCshisho*

        I’ll add that on the list too, thanks!

        I’m offline for the rest of the day (its 4:40 Eastern US time now)
        I’ll check back in tomorrow and update the list again, and see if there are any opinions regarding next week’s discussion. If I don’t see anything, then let’s just talk about Alison’s book just to see how it works out this first time.
        Please vote in the poll (linked in my name) even if you aren’t sure you’ll be able to make it in August – I really see this as a super informal drop-in sort of thing.
        Yay reading fun books!

        1. PhyllisB*

          May I make a suggestion? Perhaps make it one (or two)books a month because a lot of people aren’t fast readers or have other things going on and just don’t have the time to read. I am a fast reader and can usually read 1-2 books a week, but there are times when I can only read a few minutes a day and will take me 2-4 weeks to finish a book. Not long ago I had a library book I had to renew 3 times (6 weeks total) before I got it finished. Wasn’t that hard a book to read; just didn’t have the time to read.

      2. Sami*

        Seconding “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”.

        I also LOVE “The Speed of Trust” by Stephen M. R. Covey (Stephen Covey’s son). It was superb!

    8. Good, Cheap, or Soon. Pick Two.*

      I would definitely be interested. If we manage to keep this going, I do have a suggestion for a book coming out later this year. I saw one of the authors lecture and I’m very interested to explore what they have to say in more detail. “Winning the Talent War through Neurodiversity: Getting the Greatest Value from a Traditionally Overlooked Resource” by William Rothwell and Jonathan Zion.

    9. PhyllisB*

      Sounds good!! And I am all in favor of Alison’s book being the first one. I won it from Goodreads and haven’t had time to get to it yet. Was trying to clear out my list of library requests. Of course they all came in at the same time.

    10. SCshisho*

      Ok, looks like the July book will be Ask a Manager, and I’ll report the results of the poll for the August book choice in my first post on this Friday. It’s absolutely going to be one book per month – if people want to ‘read ahead’ or use the blog landing page list as a reading list please feel free! I think we should only discuss one a month so we have a low bar for participation.

  23. Samantha Jean*

    My coworker has an offensive bumper sticker, is this something I can complain to my manager about? I tried directly asking him to remove it or cover it with something but he got annoyed and claimed it’s his car and doesn’t believe it’s offensive. (It says Trump for 2020 with a picture of Trump’s hair) I would be against any political stickers in general but am I off base for wanting to take this further? I don’t know if my boss would agree with me since it doesn’t explicitly state any opinions but I think if it’s in the company parking lot, clients could see it and associate our company with these views.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, you’re off-base. People are allowed to have political bumper stickers on their cars, even for politicians you profoundly disagree with. You, in turn, are allowed to form your own opinions about that person, but you can’t escalate something like this. (I do recognize that this is complicated by the nature of that political politician. I’d give you a different answer if it were, say, a David Duke bumper sticker, but as long as one is for the sitting president, it’s going to be a hard sell, assuming you don’t work for a group with a mission explictly counter to his stances.)

      Please keep any replies to this one non-political. Thank you.

      1. Dino*

        I saw a car with multiple Trump bumper stickers that had the Confederate flag as the background image. It wasn’t at work or anything but if it were, would escalating it be fair? That flag has a very specific connotation but I’d worry that since it’s also supporting a sitting president that a workplace wouldn’t feel like they could do anything about it.

    2. Foreign Octopus*

      Unfortunately I agree with Alison. Just Trump 2020 isn’t offensive – it’s like Obama 2008 or whatever. It would be offensive if it used one of Trump’s many catchphrases i.e. grab her by the p***y. Then you’d have grounds for asking him to remove it. I actually think you’ve already gone too far by asking him to remove it or cover it up. The best you can do is just not look at it.

    3. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      I think the key is really, is this person behaving appropriately in the office? If not, that’s your issue. Not everyone has to agree (think how boring the world would be!), but we do need to treat others with respect. As long as that’s happening, just don’t discuss politics ever :)

    4. Sylvan*

      Yeah, you’re overstepping.

      I have a gay pride flag sticker on my car, which some people don’t like. I still get to keep it.

      Like Alison said, it might be different if the sticker were more offensive: outright racist, insulting, etc.

    5. DaniCalifornia*

      I can understand why it might bother you, but I don’t think it’s worth spending the capital with your manager on this issue. Or even with your coworker. It’s the coworker’s car, so a personal item. I don’t even think it was a great idea to ask him to remove it in the first place. I would drop it and hope your coworker does as well, if this person was otherwise keeping to himself about his politics at work asking him to remove the sticker was off base.

    6. LCL*

      I get why the sticker is offensive to you. But the sticker as described is really innocuous. The smart employer won’t ask employees to display only those stickers that conform to a particular political view.

    7. Merida Ann*

      There was a previous question here from someone who was being asked to remove or cover an offensive sticker from their car at work, but in their case, it was *directly* insulting/offensive. (#2 at the link here:

      But this is just a standard political sticker. There’s nothing directly offensive in the actual content of the sticker – you’re perceiving an *indirect* meaning based on how you feel about Trump, but all that’s actually visible is a name, date, and a patch of hair. You won’t get any traction at all in trying to have a political sticker removed from a coworker’s vehicle, and I think you would risk damaging your own credibility by asking.

    8. whistle*

      I absolutely cannot fathom how the word “offensive” is in any way applicable to the bumper sticker as described.

      1. Windchime*

        That’s my opinion, too. Whether or not I agree with the politics specifically, there is absolutely nothing offensive (to me) about the sticker as you describe it.

      2. Thlayli*

        Some people think that “it offends me because I disagree with it” equals “it’s offensive”.

        Samantha, that word does not mean what you think it means.

    9. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Oh dear… to be blunt if an employee asked me to tell another employee to remove a political bumper sticker… well I’m not sure what I’d do… but it would start with an incredulous look and probably a couple of minutes of silence while I composed myself enough to not laugh.

      Then I would explain that employees have every right to adorn their cars as they see fit as long as it doesn’t break the law or violate any company policies. I would go on to give my usual speech about professionalism to you with a heavy emphasis on not bringing outside issues into the workplace, and a warning that your continuing to pursue this with the employee may result in unwanted consequences.

    10. Nacho*

      I’m sorry, but that’s not offensive, and bringing it up to your boss would just make you look thin-skinned.

    11. En vivo*

      Don’t complain to your manager; you’ll be the one getting side-eyed. What you’ve described is pretty innocuous.

    12. Chaordic One*

      I used to work in a rural area where a lot of people drove pickup trucks to work. “Truck Nuts” hanging from a trailer hitch are definitely offensive. (If you don’t know what these are you should google it.)

      Also, while not in the same league as bumper stickers, I find the various “Calvin and Hobbes” stickers kind of borderline inappropriate.

      1. Kids know too much*

        Oh my, I had no idea what these were until my kids (preschool) in the car seats started commenting on “That’s a girl car.” And that one is “Really a boy car.”
        “How do you know that?”
        “Because he has boy stuff.”
        When the truck passed us I got a good look at the boy stuff – truck nuts. After almost driving off the road, I only had one reply, “Um, yeah, guess you are right.”

    13. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      Hmm. I don’t like him at all, but I can’t see how this is in any way offensive. I’d also be very leery of asking someone to alter their personal property which is not actually inside the office just because I don’t like the message. Maybe if the sticker is objectively offensive due to language or vulgarity, or has a message that runs counter to your organization’s mission, and the car is used to meet clients/customers or drive to work sites.

    14. LilySparrow*

      You’re totally entitled to let the sticker color your private opinion of your coworker. But it doesn’t have anything to do with you or with work, and it’s nowhere near the realm of insulting, vulgar, or offensive speech or imagery. So bringing it up with your manager or allowing it to affect your ability to work together is a no-go.

      1. Easily Amused*

        This could also be construed as the OP thinks the sticker is offensive because it is making fun of a sitting president (because of the detail about it featuring his hair). Either way, not your business.

  24. Help I need a ROWE*

    I’m tired of being scolded for getting my work done “too” efficiently. Any advice on how to find a ROWE, or at least a company that measures productivity by output, not number of hours worked?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      While I don’t actually get scolded for being too efficient, most places I’ve worked, regardless of your results, want you to put in the same amount of face time. If, for example, I’m 9-5:30 admin assistant, and you’re a 9-5:30 admin assistant, and you collate, stuff, address, and seal all the envelopes twice as fast as I do, return phone messages twice as fast as I do, and generate reports twice as fast as I do, you probably don’t get to leave right after lunch. I think a lot of people are inefficient because they aren’t rewarded for being efficient. They figure “Hey, I’m stuck here anyway. Why get my work done more quickly?”

      1. Help I need a ROWE*

        1) Part of an admin assistant’s job is to be present in case other employees need something from them. This doesn’t apply to my job. 2) I’d be fine with being required to stay in the office until 5 or whatever so long as I can do non-work things when I run out of work to do. I’m being scolding for running out of work to do, not for leaving the office.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          1) I was just using that as an example. Sure, if you need to be present to be available for someone else, I can see why you have to be around.

          2) Yeah, but part of that pesky “face time” is the “face” of appearing to be doing actual work (even if inefficiently).

        2. Jennifer*

          Unfortunately this is why you either have to work slow or look busy in some way that makes them think you are working on work projects. Or make up work projects if that is something you can do.

          Been there, done that. Still kinda doing it right now actually. But if you don’t always look busy, you are at risk of getting canned for being too efficient/'”we don’t need someone if they can get 8 hours done in 4 hours” sort of (ridiculous) thinking. Sad but true.

      2. Friday*

        “I think a lot of people are inefficient because they aren’t rewarded for being efficient. ” This is definitely true to a point. I’m a very efficient worker as well and how I mitigate it is A. I work in places where 40 hours is the norm and nobody’s ever told me ~*~*~optics~*~*~ are bad when I leave at 5pm, and B. I actively push myself to use the extra time I have to revisiting my work and challenging myself to make it better, make damn sure it’s all correct, find ways to expand on it in a useful fashion, etc.

        And also I’m here, but you know, this is a professional development website. :)

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          When I’ve been stuck at jobs where I get all my mandatory work done, I usually make up work for myself that’d be helpful (but not necessary) and then teach myself skills that are either tangentially or directly related to my job.

      3. Jady*

        *They figure “Hey, I’m stuck here anyway. Why get my work done more quickly?”*

        I must admit I am extremely guilty of this. I’m an extremely fast and efficient worker… when I decide to be. I have statistics and numbers to back that up. Never missed a deadline.

        I’m still here 8 hours a day minimum. I don’t get any kinds of incentives. It’s a battle to get significant raises for everyone here. Promotional paths are non-existent.

        So on a regular basis I’ll stretch 3 hours of work across 8 hours. Lots of blog reading (AAM!), experimenting with new software programs, chatting/email, news/book reading on my computer, etc…

        There’s just no point in busting my bum for anything. I’ve done it at previous jobs and just… got bitter, maybe? Watching Bob beside me taking 3 hours to do something I could do in 15 minutes, taking on other peoples workload, reporting people that were terrible at their work and seeing nothing happen about it, adding more and more responsibility on myself, etc – for what?

        (To be clear, I don’t hold up others. If someone needs something from me, I do it immediately. And I have a good reputation for “getting sh-t done” and quality work. Despite all of this. Which is incredibly confusing to me.)

        I’ve heard about mystical unicorn companies that let you manage your own time freely and focus on results and trust you to be an adult – but I sure as heck can’t find one.

        1. Help I need a ROWE*

          I found one in my field, but it’s in Kentucky. Not sure that’s worth it lol

    2. whistle*

      Can you hide how efficient you are (while looking for a job that actually rewards efficiency)? For example, exaggerate how long tasks will take you and fill out your time with personal business?

        1. Headachey*

          Well, you did use it assuming everyone reading would know what it means, so I appreciate the clarification.

          1. Help I need a ROWE*

            Everyone using this site has the same access to search engines.

            If someone doesn’t already know what a ROWE is, then they obviously aren’t familiar enough to give me advice on finding one, anyway.

            1. Anonym*

              Whoa, chill! Someone added context that will make the discussion valuable for more people. It’s a good thing.

            2. OhBehave*

              Chill indeed!
              This escalated unnecessarily! Just because someone may not be familiar with ROWE does not mean they wouldn’t be able to give you advice.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            And some of us did not feel like looking it up… things slow down after dinner and the desire to hit google is one of them.

  25. Susan*

    think I messed up royally.

    someone called out a few days ago, so some work was redistributed to others. One of the people it was redistributed to later brought it up casually.. “oh that’s happening a lot lately huh?” The way he said it really rubbed me the wrong way b/c he has a tendency to push back. Technically I’m higher than him but he’s bffs with someone who’s higher than me.

    She’s called out or had to leave early 2-3x in the past month. People get sick, things happen, not a problem.

    I meant to say — “not everyone can be as healthy as you.” (dude looks like Prince Eric from Little Mermaid, eats healthy, posts workout videos etc). Well…. I didn’t say the “as you” part b/c as soon as I said it I realized it’d sound too mean. So I stopped. And then I realized I threw the first person under the bus.

    Yeah I feel stupid. I always come up with great comments AFTER things happen. She doesn’t know it happened nor would she care but I feel bad for saying that.

    1. Tara S.*

      Unfortunately I don’t think there’s anything you could do at this point to make this better. If I were in your shoes, I would spend some time sitting with my shame feelings and then just tell myself to do better in the future and move on. I did something kinda similar to this a few months back and felt like I was just the worse person/employee ever. I told someone outside of work and they told that while, yeah, I should probably not do that again, that beating myself up over it for more than a day wasn’t going to help anything, so just move on.

    2. Schnoodle*

      I don’t think your comment was that bad. I’ve done much, much worse. And survived it. Multiple times.

    3. The Ginger Ginger*

      I think you’re way overthinking it – if you ended up saying “not everyone can be healthy”. I mean if you think really hard about it, maybe it sounds like you’re saying something chronic is going on with this other person, but really, it’s such a throw away comment in a throw away conversation that I don’t even think this guy thought anything of it. And if it comes up again or anyone asks about it, just say – “I meant that as nobody is healthy all the time”. Because really, that’s what you were going for. But this is (and should be) a non-issue, unless there’s a real dysfunctional gossip-y type culture in your office – that I don’t think this is even going to come up.

    4. Marthooh*

      I think your comment may have sounded a little awkward, but no worse than that. And even “… as healthy as you” doesn’t sound mean. Don’t worry about it.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, I have heard people say a lot worse things, really. And it is true, some of us are healthier than others of us.
        It’s BECAUSE of my health issues that I watch what I am doing. So I don’t have too many sick days. This puts me in the odd spot of not having many sick days but knowing I could have a lot of sick days if I am not careful.
        When I first started doing my self-care better, I watched other people take sick time. I started thinking “Do I just take care of myself so I can watch people get a bunch of time off that I don’t take?” That is when I started realizing that not all sick days mean being physically ill. I decided to call in once every 18-24 months and just take a low key day at home for no real reason. See, when I started watching others use sick time I realized that meant I needed some down time just to relax my brain from overthinking stuff. I needed to recharge ME. So a day at home in pjs reading a book was a good solution.

  26. Lex*

    Happy Friday! Would love to hear everybody’s experiences regarding apologies for harassment in the workplace. I launched a complaint a few weeks back relating to a coworker who kissed me, and had acted inappropriately in the past. As the process concludes (don’t know the outcome yet) there is a chance this person will want to apologize for their behavior. I’m inclined to say that I’d rather not have them contact me.
    For context, we usually work in different parts of the country and very rarely on the same accounts so I don’t anticipate seeing them or working with them in the foreseeable future.
    Has anybody ever been in this situation? Would you have preferred to have them apologize? Not have them apologize? This incident has caused me significant stress, and I just want to be done with this – would it be a mistake to say I just don’t want to hear from them?

    1. MechanicalPencil*

      I would say that they could send an email/letter that way the action is done but you can read or not read it at your own pace. It also saves you from having to speak to or hear the other person’s voice, which I found more triggering.

    2. Foreign Octopus*

      I have to say that an apology as part of a complaint process doesn’t strike me as an apology at all. I feel like if the person was truly sorry, they would have apologised under their own steam before the complaint process even started, but that’s just my opinion. I wouldn’t be inclined to speak to them and allow them the opportunity.

      I’m sorry that this happened to you,

      1. Lex*

        Thank you! That’s exactly right. I think that any potential apology would just be for a box to check and then to put the burden on me to now be ok with the situation – as in “I apologized, what more does she want.”
        If that person would have wanted to apologize they could have reached out of their own volition. Plus I suspect it would be the kind of “sorry if you felt offended” “sorry if you misinterpreted my friendliness” apology, which I think would just make me feel worse.

    3. The Ginger Ginger*

      If it’s better for your mental health and emotional well-being to just say, “I don’t want to be contacted further in any way by this person.” then that is absolutely what you should do. Make this decision in a way that takes care of you with no consideration for this creeper and his feelings or your employer and their desire for closure. If it will cause you more stress to receive (or be forced to receive) an apology, then DON’T, please just don’t. Don’t feel pressured into further contact from someone who has traumatized you. And if the company tries to make a big deal over it (WHICH THEY SHOULD NOT), you could explicitly say, “you are pressuring me into further contact with my harasser, and I need you to stop.” That should be enough to clue in any reasonable person that they are being inappropriately pushy about you accepting this apology.

    4. halmsh*

      I think you can tell your manager/HR/whoever the relevant person is that you do not want this person to contact you outside of work related necessities. That is totally normal. After I was harassed at work, my manager would check in if I had overlapping meetings with harasser and provide accommodations so I wouldn’t have to go unless there was an absolute necessity (usually there wasn’t). The harassment in my case was intimidation/bullying, not sexual harassment, but I think the same practices should apply.

    5. Jersey's mom*

      I think it doesn’t matter a bit how I feel, or what I would do. You need to do what will make YOU feel better and less anxious. It sounds like it would be rare for you to cross paths with that person. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say that you do not want this person to contact you or otherwise send you an apology directly or indirectly via a third party. And in the future, you would prefer that the company avoid requiring projects or tasks assigned to either one of you that would result in having to work together whenever reasonably possible.

      If you read that paragraph and it’s what makes you feel less anxiety, then do it. Or use a version of it, again, to the level that makes your anxiety decrease. This is a perfectly valid response to what happened. Good luck!

    6. greenius*

      I would think it’s 100% okay to opt out of receiving an apology. Even well-meaning apologies can put the emotional work on the wronged party rather than the offender. In a situation like this, it makes perfect sense instead to avoid any contact, if that is what makes you feel more comfortable.

    7. Evil HR Person*

      I can’t, for the life of me, imagine that your employer would MAKE your coworker apologize to you – unless you were both in kindergarten and 5 years old. In instances such as these, *sometimes* HR – or whoever is conducting the investigation – will ask you what it is that you want the outcome to be, and you get to decide that you’d settle for: 1) an apology; 2) never to come in contact with that coworker; 3) termination of the coworker; or a combination of these. Whether they ask you or not, you are within your rights to ask to not be contacted ever by this person, not even for an apology. And your employer, if they’re smart, would respect that. They would also present you with the caveat that they may not terminate the person, even if that’s what you want.

      (Although, being the evil HR person that I am – and if the investigation determines that your coworker did, in fact, do these things to you – I would get rid of him/her post haste. I don’t want to have that kind of person in my company, potentially harassing other people as well as you. But that’s just me.)

      1. Lex*

        I’m glad you’re saying that. I have had a really hard time finding information online as to how such a process is supposed to work, and was really surprised by the idea that this person would apologize tbh. I kinda thought that for the most part the powers that be determine what they think the correct resolution is – such as some sort of mandatory training or something? – and that I would be out of that process for the most part.
        Btw – do you write the evil HR lady blog?

    8. Tuxedo Cat*

      I think it’s fine for you to say you don’t want any contact from this person.

      The thing with an apology in this context is that you might be expected to tell this person that you forgive them or somehow placate their feelings. You might not feel that way (and I don’t blame if you don’t- I wouldn’t). The best way for this person to apologize to you is to for them to do better towards you (and everyone else) in the future.

    9. Good, Cheap, or Soon. Pick Two.*

      If your HR makes noise about this, you can point out that many therapeutic programs point out that people who have been negatively impacted by someone’s actions have the right to decide contact. That is absolute because they have had their boundaries violated and need to feel safe. To that end, HR can help you feel your workplace is not hostile by proving your boundaries will be accepted. Part of those boundaries include never letting the man who committed assault (kissing you against your will does fall under this definition) contact you without your express permission. So, you simply say “At this time, my needs include no contact with X.”

    10. Not So NewReader*

      I think you have the right to say NO contact EVER including apologies.
      It’s not your job to help this person feel better about themselves.
      And it’s not your job to assist HR in their program for reconciling misbehavior. It’s up to them to handle it. Not you.

      Adding one more: It’s not your job to explain why this is your request/expectation. HR doesn’t need to understand why, they just need to say they will respect it.

    11. Lex*

      Thank you everybody so much for weighing in and your thoughtful responses. I had a really hard time processing the idea that this person might reach out to me about this. The more I thought about it the more I felt that allowing for that possibility allows that person back into my personal space. Rather than wanting an apology I want the ability to exclude them from that. So I ended up telling HR that I do not want for the person to contact me.
      Hopefully this chapter will now conclude quickly. Thanks again!

      1. Lex*

        Edited to add: it was really helpful to read that it’s ok to not want that contact. As a (recovering) people pleaser it can be hard to give yourself permission to do what feels right to you, even if other people at my company may view it as being difficult or high maintenance.

  27. straws*

    What’s the most considerate way to address prejudiced comments with someone when it’s about their own group? We hired a woman a few months ago, and recently a manager came to me concerned because this employee was speaking very negatively about her home country and its people. For reference, we’re a very small company (18 people) with no official HR. However, any HR issues or tasks generally fall to me, so I want to advise on this appropriately.

    1. Not Today Satan*

      What does she say? I think the answer would be different if it’s about any sort of social injustice (“women in country X are just expected to have babies”) vs something like “everyone in Country X is an idiot”,

    2. Emily S.*

      Alison has addressed this in the past.
      Address the offensive comment directly, she says, in a matter-of-fact way, such as: “Wow, that’s very offensive.”

      1. straws*

        If others do have a concern about it, that’s certainly what I’d advise, and I could have been more clear about that. In this case, the manager wants to have a direct conversation, so something more along the lines of telling her that others may find her statements offensive, etc. The manager is concerned about the perception of a white manager telling a minority employee to not be racism against her own group.

        1. Delphine*

          If it was a one-time conversation, does anyone need to have that conversation? She’s not being racist against her own people, or necessarily prejudiced–she’s expressing an opinion that she’s within her rights to have, and if it doesn’t come up again I’d consider leaving it alone.

    3. LCL*

      “In this office, we don’t speak badly of any ethnic group or nationality. Even the one we belong to. We can’t allow this kind of talk because if one person starts it, others may join in.”

    4. Mazzy*

      I’d go the route of “this is a useless distraction and people are going to be thinking about X county and not your work when dealing with you.” That way you address the impact and stop it without having to change how they think, because you’re probably not going to be able to do that.

    5. OhNo*

      This might be a case for the “you’re entitled to your opinion, but it must be expressed professionally” speech. That way you don’t have to navigate the dangerous waters of telling her not to talk about her own country/people, but still nip in the bud expressing overly harsh or derogatory opinions of groups of people.

      The line I, personally, draw is: would I saw this about a group of my coworkers where they could hear me? No? Then it’s probably not safe to say about people or groups outside of work, either.

    6. LilySparrow*

      Well, since it’s about her home country I would wonder why she holds that opinion. Obviously she doesn’t live there anymore. Nobody leaves their own country to seek a job elsewhere unless they have reasons to. These comments may be her way of processing a bad situation.

      If she’s fixated on the topic or injects it inappropriately into conversations, that’s something to bring up. But I’d be very loath to tell someone they are “racist” because they mentioned once or twice that there was a lot of trauma/toxic culture/misogyny/violence/poverty/lack of education/political brainwashing or whatever back home.

      Perhaps that’s a place to start. “I’ve noticed you mention this a lot. Tell me about it, why is it on your mind?” If she needs to get something off her chest, giving her space to do that privately could go a long way toward establishing a good relationship with her manager instead of being weirdly reprimanded for voicing “incorrect” opinions about *her own life*.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Good luck with that. I had a family member who was an X. He had non-stop snide remarks about Xs. I mean it was at least 1 remark every five minutes. It was awful to listen to all the time. Awful. Some how every single subject lead back to how stupid Xs are. Every subject.Family member never ran out of ways to make Xs look more horrible than the last time they spoke of Xs.

    8. Jane of all Trades*

      Honestly, I would bring it up exactly the same way you’d bring it up if this was not specifically her home country. It doesn’t really matter why she has these opinions, they have no place in the work place. So if she makes such comments often enough to where you would say something if she were making them about people from an unrelated country, I would suggest telling her that comments that make negative generalizations about people based on their national origin are offensive and therefore not appropriate in the workplace.

  28. Okay or snooping?*

    You’re a manager and you need to find something that you think might be in an employee’s file cabinet. Employee is out of the office. Is it legitimate to go into the employee’s office and look through their files, or is that unreasonable snooping?

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      If it’s work-related, I fully expect any of my coworkers or my supervisors to have the ability to look through my files if they need them.

      1. Okay or snooping?*

        So does that mean that you also wouldn’t put in your files anything you wouldn’t want your boss to find?

        1. Not Karen*

          I’ve stored sanitary napkins in my work filing cabinets for emergencies before. Don’t really want my boss to find that, even though it’s not inappropriate or anything.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            I file those under “things you’re probably going to find that are normal to a large chunk of people to have handy, and if you see them, well you’d see them in the grocery store too, so NBD.”

            1. Anonymosity*

              Same. Since a ton of cubes have those short two-drawer file cabinets, I put my personal stuff in the bottom and all my work stuff in the top. Most people will go for the top and if they happen to see a pad, they not gonna die.

        2. Environmental Compliance*

          Uh, yeah? Anything that I wouldn’t want them to find I would assume is personal (like a medical test result or something), and I don’t keep that at work?

          Any of my work is accessible. I don’t save anything to the desktop apart from in-progress files, and everything else is on the shared drive. Any files are labeled & organized appropriately.

          Is there somewhere you’re going with this question in particular?

          1. Okay or snooping?*

            Well, yes, sort of. And I suspect that knowing the full question, you’ll switch to snooping. I’m trying to absolve myself of the guilt I’m feeling. I was looking for something in my employee’s (not as well organized as yours) files, and came across a folder labeled with my name and “miscellaneous.” I was curious (here’s where you’ll decide it was snooping) and it turned out it was her documentation that she is accumulating so that she can appeal if I terminate her. I probably shouldn’t have read it, and that’s on me, but I also wanted to make sure that the initial looking in the files wasn’t off-base.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              Well, there’s your answer. I think you started off legitimate, and then it crossed into snooping. However, if I were the employee, that’s not something I’d just leave in my files at work, tbh, especially with the person’s name on it.

              1. nonegiven*

                Who is not going to open a folder with their own name on it? She could have labeled it private, instead.

            2. DaniCalifornia*

              Ooof! So looking for a work file while they’re out = not snooping. Reading the file that you know you aren’t looking for, is snooping but also she’s not smart for labeling it that way or leaving it where anyone can easily find it.

              I don’t have further advice but I can 100% understand the temptation of reading that folder. I know Alison would have better advice.

              1. Okay or snooping?*

                I don’t think so, but my reading the file certainly would add to her arsenal if she knew I’d done it.

                1. LilySparrow*

                  Um, yes. Yes it would.

                  Perhaps you should rethink whether or not her perspective is valid.

            3. BenAdminGeek*

              Somewhat related, after I terminated an employee, we found a similar folder where he had highlighted various lines from emails I had sent, as if trying to prove how terrible I was for saying things like “Tim, this was due a week ago, when will it be completed?” It made for some hilarious anecdotes.

              He also saved what he felt were compliments on his awesome work from our clients. Most of them were replies to emails saying things like “Thanks, Tim!” It explained a lot about why he was surprised we fired him.

            4. OK*

              You should not feel guilty. You SHOULD look in your own office and confirm that there’s nothing in it that you wouldn’t want your boss to find.

      2. Environmental Compliance*

        FWIW – I keep my files hyperorganized, so I would expect anyone who needs a file to find it within a couple minutes. I also expect that my stuff isn’t thrown about, and things are put back appropriately. Please do not do what a previous boss did, ignore all labels, throw everything willy nilly back on my desk (not even into the actual file cabinet) without their paperclips, and put things back into the completely wrong folders.

        They were color coded!! With labels!! And it wasn’t anything she actually needed or time-sensitive, she just was curious! And why would you ever remove the paperclips and then scramble all the files around???! Gaaaaah! It took me nearly the entire morning to fix all of it when I came back.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I wouldn’t call it snooping, unless you’re looking for personal (not work-related) things. That said, before rummaging through people’s stuff at work, it’s generally a good idea to try to reach them first (email, text message, whatever your office uses to communicate when people are out) so they can tell you where exactly to look.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, if the person is available to answer quick questions (so not, say, hospitalized) they may be able to text back “That would be filed under Petunia Gumption. Or possibly Soylent Green” and you don’t have to look at every vaguely plant-related keyword you can think of.

    3. LQ*

      Not snooping looking for work things in work files. If you accidentally open the file drawer where they store snacks or personal things, close it, erase it from your mind and try the next drawer. I always assume my coworkers might do this at my office and I’ve done it for my coworkers plenty of times.

    4. Tara S.*

      This doesn’t feel great. Even if you had a right to (work environment/office), was it something you absolutely needed that day? Could you have emailed the person for the info, or maybe even have asked where in their files it was? You already established in the replies that you crossed the line into snooping once you looked through the folder with you name on it, but in the future I would avoid doing going into people’s files at all. Not necessarily because you can’t, but because it’s more respectful.

    5. Schnoodle*

      It’s sweet of you to be this considerate. But, go ahead. If you need it for work, just go get it done.

      Now, if you wandered around and started looking through obviously personal stuff, that’s s a different story.

      That said, when they are in, you can let them know “Sorry I had to get in your file cabinet while you were out, I needed X for Y. Hopefully won’t happen again.” Or something like that.

      But work space is just that – work space. There shouldn’t be too high presumption of privacy.

    6. Delphine*

      Unless it was time-sensitive and you’d had no luck trying to contact me, I would find it very odd for someone to be rummaging around in my file cabinet.

    7. Nita*

      My gut response is – it would be reasonable if the employee has told you whatever you’re looking for is in a specific cabinet, or you’ve emailed them and they told you you’re free to look. Otherwise, it feels weird to be the one digging through someone else’s stuff, and even weirder if someone sees you doing it and you don’t explain.

    8. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Reasonable and expected.

      I used to have to do this with one of my employees, for some reason she squirrelled away things like her rolodex with all of the important contact information of people/companies we did business with. I mentioned the first few times when she got back… hey I needed to call the nut supplier yesterday while you were off… you may want to relocate the numbers where the rest of the team has access when you are gone. She never moved them so I didn’t hesitate to go looking for them.

      Big qualifier… if you are looking for something that you have a general idea where it’s located and it’s work related and it’s either time critical or a major inconvenience if it were to wait…. you are good.

      Anything outside of that starts getting iffy.

    9. Girl friday*

      If common courtesy says to ask first, and one doesn’t feel inclined to, I would not act on that feeling.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      Didn’t Alison do a whole thing on expectation of privacy? As in, we should not have ANY expectation of privacy?

      I think you are fine here. I decided early on to keep things in my desk/work area in such a manner that boss, prez or anyone could go through “my stuff” at any time. Sure, there was a hair brush, female products and similar items but the explanation for the item was obvious.

      This is not just about bosses. What about inspectors who suddenly appear? Let’s see, fire inspectors, insurance inspectors, various auditors, OSHA and so on. As far as I can see, anyone can walk in at any time and say, “Whatcha doing here?”, and that employee has to be accountable for what is in their work space.

      This is her mistake for not keeping that file at home. It’s probably part of a series of expectations she has for her work place that are not reasonable expectations.

  29. Hectic offices/office culture mysteries*

    Something I’m intrigued by is how office cultures come to be, and especially how some companies get to the point of unhealthy cultures. I’m contracting at a place that’s new to me, and something that strikes me is that people run/speed walk ALL DAY. They actually have Skype on their computers, but all communication seems to be verbal. It drives me crazy! It might seem minor but it makes the place SO much more hectic and stressful than it needs to be. I’m wondering why some senior manager hasn’t been like, “stop running around! sue skype ffs!” But I guess some people thrive under stress. =\

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      It usually comes from the top, either through bad hires, bad behavior modeling, or a combination of the two.

    2. LQ*

      Verbal culture might come from a high fear of if it’s on paper it’s public (I know that plays a role around here). And we have a couple who run/speed walk and they want to be seen as super busy (the few times I’ve done it I had a super urgent, the thing is down thing happening). But I’d bet anything that the bosses and senior managers are the biggest perpetrators or the supporters of it.

    3. WellRed*

      Well, maybe they’ve taken all the fitness advice to get up and walk over to your coworker’s office instead of sitting all day to an extreme ; )

    4. EmilyAnn*

      I went from a workplace where we did a lot of in-person talking and very little messaging. I used the IM system to chat about non-work things more than work matters. I actually prefer the old job in a way. There is so much greetings, making sure things sound right written down, checking for spelling and grammar. It’s what we have to do because we have so many remote and teleworking employees but there is something to be said for getting an in-person answer.

    5. Smiling*

      Guess I never thought of running around as stressful. We’re all on the same floor and not too far from each other. Our network is internal only (no internet access for IP reasons) so we haven’t really embraced any type of IM tools. Plus, people don’t always check their internal email on a regular basis. We pick up the phone or go visit the person if needed.

      1. Hectic offices/office culture mysteries*

        I don’t think the act of walking is stressful, but at least for me, working in a cube and having people CONSTANTLY speed-walking past my desk from all angles is stressful.

    6. Persimmons*

      When I’ve worked places in which in-person conversations were expected, rather than in writing, it was often due to issues of discovery/paper trail. (Not in a shady way, in a “protecting IP” way.)

      1. Hectic offices/office culture mysteries*

        This is just a nonprofit that no one cares enough about to sue, and most/all of the conversations are too benign to worry about discovery in a hypothetical lawsuit.

        1. Another Person*

          At my old toxic job everyone especially management ran around like this. It was an local government agency where they didn’t want to put anything in writing due to public records laws.

          So I started just calling people. On the phone. And my boss came over and called me out and said I needed to get up and go talk to people. I said why, I’m not putting anything in writing.

          He said to give people a sense of urgency. I said, but not everything is urgent.

          I don’t work there anymore.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Am chuckling. One of the busiest (and toxic) places I worked for had a culture of no running, ever. If you were running that meant you had lost control over your work flow. (No one had control over their work flow. They were all buried.) So newbies who ran got laughed at. You never admit that you have lost control.
      It was so strange.
      Any way some places do discourage running because it is a safety issue. The runner could collide with someone or could slip and fall.

  30. Planning to succeed*

    My wider team is setting a vision and team goals for the year ahead (we’re an internal company service team that has tended to react more to servicing requests from stakeholders as a way of deciding what work we do, but now we’re trying to set more of our own agenda/projects in addition to our support work.)

    My question is, how can I (manager) best support my sub-team to understand and act in line with them? We’ve not really had a bigger picture plan before and my particular team is very process focused, but I want them to be more creative and flexible and deal with more complexity without needing a standard process in the year ahead, so understanding our overall goals is important. Has anyone worked in or managed a team with a clear vision and long term plan? What did you do to adopt and work with it during the year, not just when it was rolled out?

    1. ExcelJedi*

      This is something I do a lot of. One of your most important tools will be the plan (or goals) itself. Refer to it in meetings. Hang it on the wall, where people can see it. Have team-builders and brainstorming sessions around it. (I’ve done team builders teaching SMART goals; scheduled meetings to talk about a strategic goal set for 3 years out and brainstorm short term action steps; engaged people in figuring out their own metrics of success for each goal; and had meetings where we go over annual reports and strategic indicators as a team.) Make it a part of how things are done here.

      In short: your team isn’t going to remember it or change their thinking unless you make a very concerted effort to remind them often. It’ll take at least a year, probably more, before it become natural for them. Be patient.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      This stuff is interesting.
      My theory is that teams are process focused because that is their job to focus on the process. It’s managements’ job to have an overview or road map of what the group is doing.

      So it sounds like you want them to do projects in addition to their support work. The first thing they need is the time to do the additional work. The next thing they need is easy access to the tools/materials to do the additional work.

      Support work by it’s nature tends to be reactive, not pro-active. They really have no idea what requests for help will come in on any given day and how intense those problems will be. They have no control over that and it is super important that management understand this critical part. If you don’t show you understand this part you will lose their attention.

      If it were me, I would start at the VERY first square. I’d find out what is chewing up their time with the support work. See if there are enough employees, enough tools. materials, and training for them to be confident in their work. Some managers hate this because it feels like taking three steps backwards in order to move one step forward. But if you don’t have a strong foundation to build on then your new house will be shaky. At this point involve them in the process of picking tools, material, training. They KNOW what they need, let them tell you.

      This takes a bit to do and if you have done it well you will see changes in them. As a group they will act lighter and they will handle things in a smoother and more efficient manner.

      This is where your time comes from for doing the projects. If you let them participate in streamlining the work they have they will probably pick up speed. Then start with smaller projects. Make note how long it takes them to do each project. This will help you estimate how long future projects will take. Once you get the time frames start teaching them how to forecast time frames. It can be done, I have done it. In the end, they were more accurate than I was in forecasting. I used their numbers instead of my own. I did this in just under a year.

      We had no control over planning out our year. Our work got dumped in our laps. We did have deadlines and we met all of the deadlines and sometimes asked for more work because there was nothing to do.

  31. AcademicAdmin*

    The recent post about using first names vs. titles (and the correct titles) made me think about something that’s still a dilemma for me sometimes.

    I work in academia, and it can be normal for staff to be somewhat formal with faculty, especially ones the don’t know well. And attitudes can differ–some faculty members are themselves a lot more formal, whereas others are very casual and laid-back.

    It can be hard for me to determine when it’s appropriate to start addressing someone by their first name if they haven’t told me to. Sometimes I go by things like how they sign their e-mails or identify themselves on the phone, but I’m still hesitant in that case. And I’m wary of being inconsistent and either coming across like I’m less respectful of some people or like I’m less friendly toward some people, but even within my department, there are people who explicitly prefer to go by their first names and people who seem more formal.


    1. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      If they signed emails with their first name, you’re probably safe. Also, take cues from other people around you. If everyone uses title for a particular person, go with title until told otherwise.

      1. GibbsRule#18*

        And then you get the faculty members who sign their emails “Bob Smith” which is of no help whatsoever. Am I supposed to call then Bob Smith every time I talk to/about them? I just usually respond to emails with Dear “Dr. or Professor”

        I worked in a department where we called faculty by their first names, except in front of or to a student. Which led to some interesting names when a student came in and I was talking to a faculty member. “BobuhhhDr. Smith can help you with that”

    2. Lia*

      I also work in academia (on the administrative side). I always use “Dr. SoAndSo” if they have a PhD, and “Professor” if not on the first contact. I let them tell me “Oh, call me Dave”, and nearly all will after the initial contact. I do this regardless of how they sign their emails.

      Much easier, IMHO, to be too formal than too informal. I also address deans as “Dean XYZ” rather than “Dr.” on first contact.

      1. Tara S.*

        ^ same. First email (or referring to them in communication to outside people) is always Dr. X. If they sign off their email with “Cindy,” then I switch to using Cindy in email/in person. I see this as the default and only stick with “Dr. X” if I get cues from other people that it’s important. I do also try to use “Dr. X” in documentation (even internal), but email/phone communication is typically first names.

        1. physicsStaff*

          (academic staff here) Another quirk that might be good to be aware of is that I’ve had Dr’s who teach, but are not professors, object to being called Professor. Just a reminder to be sure what someone’s title is before defaulting to professor. Maybe it’s different at other american universities, but at this one we pull in adjuncts from the research staff.

          1. Rosemary7391*

            Yeah – Professor is used very differently in the UK ! I cannot comprehend calling someone without a doctorate professor… just no. Does not compute. Might be something to do with the fact that one of my PhD supervisors is not a professor, and the other got promoted a couple of years into my PhD.

            However, in general this might be something both field and institution dependent. Which makes it a real pain! I’d go by your colleagues as the best guide tbh. Or, just ask? I wish people could be more straightforward about this, although I do wish for a lot sometimes…

      2. A Professor*

        Yes, I think this is right. Default to more formal, at first. But if they sign emails to you with their first name only or otherwise indicate they prefer you to use their first name, please do so. I wish our staff here would just call me by my first name, but they default to Dr. even when I request that they use my first name. Default to the most formal, but once you know them, please accommodate their preferences (which might be much less formal).

    3. Assistant to the Dean*

      I also work in academia, higher ed administration. I call all the faculty by their first names, when I started, I noticed all of the other administrative staff address them in that way.
      I do refer to them as Dr./Professor so and so if I am speaking to a student or someone from outside our university.

    4. Tiffany*

      I work in higher ed on the administrative side, I work with faculty who have doctorates and some in the arts with terminal MFA degrees. I call them by their preferred name based upon how they sign their emails and how they address me. I also have a PhD so if they prefer to be called Dr. X, I make them call me Dr. T. I constantly advocate for staff to be treated as equals because often that is not the case.

    5. Overeducated*

      This is petty, but I made this decision today when I emailed a professor “Dear Dr. So and So” and he emailed me back “Dear Ms. Overeducated.” My PhD is in my email signature, which is standard practice in my organization. After that I switched to his first name.

      More broadly, I think after you’ve interacted with someone in a non-military workplace a few times, it’s odd to keep using titles and fosters a more unpleasantly hierarchical environment.

    6. Alianora*

      I work for a prestigious university, but for a set of summer programs geared towards high school students. The instructors we employ vary from grad students to tenured professors. My department in general is pretty casual, definitely first names-only basis within our staff even for the directors who have PhDs.

      When I started, I noticed that my coworkers just refer to all instructors by first name, so I followed their example. It feels friendlier in any case, and this way I don’t really have to remember which instructors have their doctorate out of the ~100 who I interact with regularly.

      If I were in your position, I’d go by however they refer to themselves or follow your coworkers’ cues. As long as your general tone towards everyone is respectful but warm, and you start out formally before switching to first names, I don’t see how anyone could fault you.

  32. Stephanie*

    Hi everyone!

    I’m curious to get everyone’s thoughts about an MBA. To clarify, this would be part-time. My job is heavily pushing it for the new employees (as in…they told us about it on our first day) and we can start it whenever we would like (i.e., there is no waiting period). It would be paid for, upfront, 100% with a two-year clawback after completion. I work as an engineer at a F50 company. Reason I believe they are pushing it is because we’re engineers working in procurement–I deal with the engineering aspects of the items we procure.

    I am undecided. I already have a technical masters, although I’m picking up that it’s not viewed equivalently to an MBA here. I sit in on calls with my paired buyers and do find myself googling a lot of terms they use, so it could be advantageous in that regard and if I did want to leave my function. There’s one Top 10 and a Top 50 program locally that the company would pay for.

    That being said, I do worry about making myself overqualified in some regards, if that makes any sense. That is, I’d have the degrees and maybe not the experience to back them up. If I did do the program here, it’d mean I’d be at this company for five years, factoring the time to complete the program plus the clawback (I was aiming for minimum 3-5 years anyway).

    So thoughts on this? Truly undecided, so open to everyone’s takes.

      1. Penny pen pen*

        I manage two MBA programmes (one full and one part-time), and my students have all sorts of reasons for applying. If you can get in to a top tier school on a full ride from your employer then I would say go for it. Aside from the increase in salary potential down the line, the big thing you’ll get is networking with others which I think is the really invaluable part. In terms of having degrees but not experience I wouldn’t worry about that too much as you’ll still be working at the same time and building your knowledge as you go. Usually I would say that the big downside is balancing the academics with work, but if your company is keen then it should in theory at least mean they can give you some extra flexibility at times that you might need it.

      2. Jules the Third*

        YES, DO IT. MBAs are the equivalent of about 10 years of industry experience.

        You have enough experience for it to be really useful, and to give you a better view of the bigger issues surrounding your company. You may not use every aspect of it in every job, but you’ll always have that bigger picture influencing how you see things.

        I do recommend the Intro to Project Management course as early as you can take it. I took it 1st semester and used tactics from it for the rest of the degree program.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Hey Stephanie! I realize I’ve been on this site and at my job a lonnggg time, because I remember when you were thinking about getting the MS. Overdue congrats on the degree & job!

      I think it is a little unusual, but I don’t think it’s unusual to the point that it would make you overqualified or look odd with having an MS, too. My company rotates engineers through procurement and sometimes other business functions, and you’re going to get OTJ training, or go through company-developed training. We offer education reimbursement, but it’s not encouraged for everyone to get an MBA or EMan degree. If they promote someone up to the SVP level, then they might specifically encourage it, but I haven’t seen it for the general staff.

      I think it would be a good thing and an asset on your resume, if you can stomach more school.

    2. DaniCalifornia*

      I think one aspect to weigh is how heavily will the company push on it? Especially if they brought it up first day on the job. My husband got a BS in EE and was hired right after college. When hired no one said anything about a masters. But within one year there he realized he was the anomaly. Everyone had a masters degree. Coworkers that were hired after him had one, bosses, etc. Eventually most of his coworkers and managers were asking him when he’d be going back to school. So 3 years ago (4 years into working at his job) he started it. And he has mostly hated it. The time suck of a masters in EE while working full time was seriously felt. He’s smart, we don’t have kids, I am also in school so I can empathize and it’s not an issue in our marriage. But it’s paid for by his company and he was grandfathered into no refunding the company if he leaves, only if he fails a class. He’s never been not able to do his job without a masters. But he was well aware that at his company he probably wouldn’t advance further without it.

      For what it’s worth I don’t think you’d look too overqualified. If anyone even asked you could say it was helpful because the field/job/path you were on at the time required that knowledge.

    3. Emily S.*

      If you want to make more money in your career, long-term, it would be smart to get an MBA — especially if it’ll be paid for by your firm. It will be a LOT of work (my ex got one while we were married, and did it online while working full-time. It was tough, but he did it, and would up with a very well-paid position), but part-time, it’s manageable.

      So IMHO, it would be worthwhile if you want to increase your future earnings.

      Here’s an article from the Princeton Review about the ROI of an MBA degree. There have been several studies on this.

      Also, here is an MBA ROI calculator:

    4. !$!$*

      I would do the MBA with those terms. My bias is that I’m an LCSW (social work) and my large nonprofit doesn’t tend to promote anyone to management without an MBA. Regarding being overqualified, I dunno if this is AAM approved or not, but couldn’t you just leave it off your resume for any job application especially since you’re working at the same time and won’t have any gaps

    5. Tara S.*

      Hmm. The clawback means it’s not actually free (at which point I would say, if you want to, go for it). But since you’ll have to pay for it? Consider what other people have written here, I’d be more wishy-washy about it.

      1. Natalie*

        I’m pretty sure Stephanie means she would have to repay it if she left within 2 years of completing it, not that she would be repaying it 2 years later no matter what.

        1. Stephanie*

          Yeah, that’s right. If I leave the company before two years after completion, I have to pay them back.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I got a little hesitant at the claw-back, but at only two years, it doesn’t seem too terrible. A five-year would get a lot more resistance from me.

        1. Stephanie*

          Yeah, I had a job that had a four-year clawback for some degrees, and not that many people did it as a result.

    6. Persimmons*

      If I had the option to get an MBA that was company-paid and encouraged, and staying past the pay-back date was within the time frame I intended to stay employed there, AND it was a respected program that would be considered valuable elsewhere, then my answer would be “heck yes!” Do the Top 10 program and don’t look back.

      Engineers with MBAs in my field have a HUGE leg up when it comes to promotions into management.

      TBH I rarely see being overqualified as an issue. A resume should be tailored to the job you’re applying for–if a degree isn’t applicable, leave it off.

    7. Bex*

      I’m biased, since I finished my MBA a couple years ago. I think the top 10 program would be worth it, but not the top 50. For me, it has greatly expanded my network, opened tons of interesting doors, and was a direct factor in my new job where I almost doubled my salary (I was hugely underpaid before, but it was still a massive jump.)

      I worked full time while doing my MBA. It was a brutal schedule, and utterly exhausting, but I honestly loved it.

    8. Nerdgal*

      Engineer with MBA here! I have found the MBA degree useful, both in my professional and personal lives. Why not sign up for the first couple classes and see how it goes?

    9. periwinkle*

      I also work for a F50 company with many engineers and a “get more degrees, we’ll pay for it!” culture. Same company, perhaps.

      There is a lot of value to being a skilled technical expert who also has strong business acumen. You’ll know how to justify technical or process changes from both the technical perspective and the financial perspective, and can delve into the details without losing sight of the big picture. Heck yeah, get that MBA.

  33. I'm A Little TeaPot*

    Today is my last day! Yay!!!

    And I’m SOOOO glad. There was an impromptu team meeting yesterday afternoon that was the boss telling everyone that:
    1. She knows how hard everyone’s worked this year
    2. But we’re really behind
    3. The quality of the work isn’t good enough
    4. She knows all sorts of reasons why (understaffed, poor training, bad managers, the process is screwed up, etc)
    5. She wants Solutions, not excuses. Give her ideas. Think about it, doesn’t have to be right now.
    6. But we’re not changing the process at all

    Well, I think I found part of the problem here. The boss.

    1. Violaine*

      It’s my last day, too, though I don’t want to leave (military-related family move)! I came to this job from a job that sounds JUST LIKE the one you are describing, with an extra side of blurred personal/professional boundaries. It made me a little hesitant and cautious to warm up to my current (soon to be former :( ) co-workers, but in the end I foun