open thread – July 13-14, 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.

{ 1,749 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonnnnnnn*

    I have created an awkward situation for myself. I am currently about eight weeks pregnant, and my intention was to wait until my second trimester to tell anyone at work. Earlier this week, I was supposed to give an all-day presentation with my coworker, Seamus. I had been feeling incredibly sick all day, and I was very worried that I would throw up while presenting. When we took a break for lunch, I was trying to explain to my coworker that I wasn’t feeling well, and I accidentally blurted out that I’m pregnant. Ugh. I ended up having to tell my boss, Caleb, too, so that we could get coverage for me to leave. Both coworker and boss were so excited to hear the news, but I feel so silly for telling them so much sooner than I planned. Oh well!

    There is only one other person on our team, who is currently on a work trip. I am trying to figure out if I should just tell her when she gets back or wait until the second trimester like I originally planned. I asked Seamus and Caleb not to tell anyone, so I don’t think I have to worry about them accidentally saying something. Pregnancy announcements are the weirdest thing. I’m starting to realize how stressful it is to tell people in the “right” way and at the “right” time.

    1. Happy Friday!*

      I can relate strongly to this at the moment. Announcing your pregnancy is so personal, and I would encourage you to tell your other teammate whenever you are ready. No one should pressure you into it. It is harder since your team is small, but it is still 100 percent your decision to make when it comes to timing.

    2. Temperance*

      I think you need to tell your teammate when she gets back, and swear her to secrecy. That way, there’s no weirdness about you keeping it from her and not them.

      1. AMPG*

        I agree with this – at this point it’s likely to create awkwardness if she finds out the rest of the team knew but not her. The exception is if she’s a known gossip, in which case not telling her is a natural consequence of he not being trustworthy.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, barring her being awful (which you don’t mention) it’s probably going to be easiest if you tell her and ask her not to let it go beyond her and the other two. Explain that you hadn’t planned to say anything until you made it through the highest risk of miscarriage period, but the nausea and exhaustion started affecting you so much that you felt they needed to know. Being such a small group should help.

    3. A.*

      I don’t think you have to tell your other teammate. No one is entitled that information. If she gets upset she wasn’t privy to your personal medical information at the same time as everyone else, that says more about her.

      I’ve heard through the office grapevine certain coworkers were expecting and I never felt slighted I wasn’t told personally. I also refrain from mentioning their pregnancy until they tell me themselves. Share when you are ready to share.

    4. Susan K*

      Congratulations! Announcing your pregnancy can definitely be awkward, but if it’s any comfort, I think this is the type of thing the announcer thinks about more than the listeners. Most likely, when your other coworker finds out, she will just be happy for you and not put much thought into the timing. I think most people recognize that it is pretty common to wait until the second trimester to announce.

    5. Pregnanon*

      Here to commiserate. I am about 6 weeks now and am so afraid I’m going to just blurt it out during one of my more miserable moments. I would LOVE to get to mid-2nd trimester before people find out at work, but I don’t know how realistic it is. I haven’t had to vomit at work yet, but there are times when the nausea gets intense. I have other worries that I was coming here to post about this very subject, but I’ll post that separately so as to not hijack your post. :) As for outside of work, so far only my partner knows and we told one long-time friend who I know has the ability to keep a secret. I want to tell everyone in my family, but in the event something goes wrong, I don’t want the sympathetic looks/comments from everyone, so the announcement’s gonna have to wait.

      1. Kathleen_A*

        Here’s the thing: It’s entirely your decision, of course, but I can tell you from personal experience that going through a miscarriage and *not* telling people is also difficult. Sympathy can be upsetting, and sometimes really upsetting, but can also be difficult – and I do mean *really* difficult – when there you are, grieving, and nobody has the faintest idea that you have any reason to grieve. There’s pluses and minuses either way. So you do what’s best for *you*.

        1. Grandma Mazur*

          As someone who had two miscarriages before a successful pregnancy, in retrospect I’m very glad I told my line manager as soon as I knew I was pregnant each time, because it meant she was very understanding when it came to needing time off (the first was an unscheduled trip to the ER at 3am on a Monday and the second was a booked appointment a few days after the scan showed we’d miscarried), for both miscarriages and midwives appointments. I do happen to work in an incredibly family-friendly workplace though (a number of colleagues also shared that they had miscarried, which made me realise just how common it is) so YMMV.

          1. Kathleen_A*

            Yes, me too. That’s exactly the thing. I had to bail on some pretty important commitments – and anyway, I was a mental wreck, particularly during my first miscarriage – but everybody (except my immediate supervisor, who was just really weird about the whole thing) was so nice and supportive, but in an unobtrusive way, and that made it much easier. Trying to hide the symptoms, both physical and mental, would have been very stressful for me.

            But I can see why some people would actually prefer to use work as an opportunity to forget about it for a while. So the right approach is the one that works best for you.

      2. Preganon2*

        Gah!! I am 6 weeks along, too! Terrified. I’m wondering whether to break the news sooner, especially since my coworker is going on maternity leave in November and coming back in March, when I’m due…

        I know my coworker told our boss at 11 weeks but didn’t inform HR until about 18 weeks.

      3. TardyTardis*

        There’s a brilliant toon at Breaking Cat News where the cats commiserate with a very pregnant Woman and keep trying to tell her that it’s easier to hack up hairballs on the carpet, rather than in a cold and hard toilet. I mean, they mean only the best…

    6. Aunt Vixen*


      I had to tell a couple of people sooner than I otherwise would have done, as well, for exactly the same reason; I was sicker in week 7ish than I’d been before then and had to arrange to leave early from a thing – it was disappointing but didn’t ruin anything for me. I hope your colleagues appreciate the importance of keeping this news yours to share.

      And I hope you feel better and then move on to feeling great!

    7. Nita*

      Congrats! I think it would be less weird to tell your other teammate and ask her to keep it quiet also, than to tell them and not her. Besides, its’ very personal info to share, but you do have to share it sooner or later. This kind of thing happens… I once had to tell my boss at six weeks because some of my duties were not too safe for a baby, and a coworker had to tell at eight or so because of really bad first trimester symptoms.

    8. Quinalla*

      It is stressful, isn’t it? With my first pregnancy, I told my both about a week after we found out as I knew he would be cool about it in all ways (including if I had a miscarriage) and keep it confidential and I was falling asleep at my desk sometimes during the 1st trimester and I wanted him to know why. I didn’t tell everyone
      else until about 19-20 weeks as I was not really showing until then. Only our receptionist suspected as I was leaving for a lot of doctor appointments, the rest of my team was congratulatory but didn’t worry about it too much. I didn’t keep it in that long for any reason except it felt awkward to tell everyone. We were a small company, 7 or 8 at that time, but we rarely were all in a room together. I finally just sent an email and then talked to people as well when I saw them next.

      With my 2nd pregnancy, it was twins and I started showing almost right away. That time, I just told everyone pretty much right after my first doctor appointment. At that point I realized for me there was no way I’d be able to hide upset of a potential miscarriage from my coworkers, so I figured I’d tell them and if there was a miscarriage then at least I wouldn’t have the super awkward task of explaining why I was upset. Everything went fine, but it is definitely something to think about.

      I was lucky to never have morning sickness, but I always had extreme fatigue for at least a few weeks of the 1st trimester and was glad I had a good boss I could disclose to without worry. I do think if you have a boss who is cool, it is worthwhile to let them know right away for a lot of reasons.

    9. Juli G.*

      Ugh, I feel you. I was so sick and tired I told people at 10 weeks because it was so hard to hide and my coworker said “Thank God! We’ve been so worried you had cancer!”

      1. Nita*

        Yeah, my parents had to know early this time, because I had some crazy symptoms and they were starting to think it was a brain tumor.

    10. Working Mom*

      To be honest, this situation is quite common in my experience. A lot of moms I know have been ‘outed’ at work by their symptoms. With my first, I planned to wait until second trimester but end up out of commission for nearly two weeks with intense morning sickness and ended up telling my boss (there was a cold going around the office at the time and most people were working through it so I think he was beginning to wonder why I wasn’t as well, if that makes sense). I told everybody else at around 16 weeks or so. There wasn’t any awkwardness about why I’d told some people and not others – they understood that I’d told ‘those who needed to know’ because I was unwell and it affected my job performance but it wasn’t anybody else’s business until I said it was! Hopefully it will turn out the same for you (and, as somebody else has said, if they don’t, that really says more about them than you)

      And congratulations!

    11. Mockingjay*

      I was 6 weeks pregnant with my first. My coworker found out when I almost passed out standing in the doorway to his office, while asking him a question. Fortunately, as the father of three young ones, he recognized what was happening and got me into a chair with some cold water until I recovered. He kept it quiet until my second trimester when I announced.

      There was no concealing number two, as I tossed my cookies every day for 3 months just before lunch, like clockwork.

      I have to say, at that job, people were incredibly supportive of my condition while still respecting my privacy. Hopefully your coworkers will be the same!

    12. govvie*

      You poor thing! Almost the same thing happened to me at 4 weeks because of course 5 minutes after finding out I was pregnant, I was called up for deployment. My boss flipped out because he couldn’t afford to lose me (so not a thing) and I tried to calm him down by telling him it was not going to be an issue, that I would NOT be deploying for medical reasons which sent him into spasms of “oh my god, are you dying?!” Just to make it stop I told him I was pregnant. Then he decided my grandboss needed to know (why, I have no clue!), and at that point I pushed back and told him that I felt appropriate telling him due to the deployment situation; however, this is PRIVATE MEDICAL INFORMATION, and only I am able to share that information and only I will do so as I feel appropriate, necessary, and comfortable.

      And of course while we want to make everything go smoothly and are aware that it can and will impact your office, try to remember that this is YOUR pregnancy not your office’s. You get to make the rules, no one else. Like another commentor mentioned, if your teammate gets bent out of shape about how/when/if you tell them YOUR news, a well placed “I am sorry, I did not realize my uterus fell under your purview?” may be necessary. You can always blame it on the hormones :)

      Best of luck and ginger hard candies were a (discrete) god-send for those nauseous first few months!!

    13. Forking great username*

      I would consider whether it would be less stressful to just kind of let your expectations go and not really care who knows. At first I felt stressed about this just because of there convention of waiting until second trimester, but I ended up with hypermedia gravidarum (aka super severe morning sickness where you end up on IV fluids way too often), and so I just my boss/department what was going on and said it wasn’t a secret. Word spread and the congratulations were nice to here when I was feeling so awful.

      I know for some people having privacy around the first trimester is important. I guess I’m just saying to think about whether you actually care about that or if it just feels like what you’re “supposed” to do.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        The convention is so that people don’t have to un-announce if there’s a problem, which is more common in the first trimester. If the office network is good enough to get the news out without an official announcement, it can also get alternative news out without Anonnnn having to tell more than one person.

        1. Forking great username*

          Yeah, I get the reason behind it – I worked in a smaller department and likely would have ended up telling my coworkers if I was going through a miscarriage anyways, since we worked in a close enough capacity that they surely would have been able to tell something was up. Granted, I realize many people care more about the privacy aspect of it.

    14. Jules the 3rd*

      Just tell her… and don’t get too wound up in keeping it a secret until the second trimester.

      The thing about parenting is: no plan lasts. Life gets so much easier when you internalize that.

      Crossing my fingers for you, hoping everything goes well!

      Sincerely, someone who is still trying to internalize this.

    15. Sled dog mama*

      Seriously I think this the most stressful part (not hardest but most stressful). With my second I decided to just tell people as it came up which resulted in the most hilariously awkward conversation with a coworker I have ever had. Since I did not officially tell the whole office word sort of got around but shortly after I started showing (mind you i never really lost everything from the first so it was mostly fat) coworker comes into my office and says “this is a really awkward thing to ask but I’m hearing different things from different people and just wanted to clarify, are you or are you not.” I felt so bad for putting this sweet guy through something he clearly felt very awkward about.

    16. anycat*

      congrats! my team was supportive of my journey (ivf mama here) and i really started getting sick at work around the 6 week mark. a lot of women suspected but i didn’t say anything to anyone outside of my team until i started to show and our nuchal screening came back clear.
      my team also kept it quiet until i was ready to share with the wider office (about 80 people). it might help that i’m in HR and we’re pretty good at keeping things quiet when need be. at the same time – i couldn’t have gotten through this without them; they’ve all been a huge source of support during this time.

    17. autumnwood*

      18 years ago when I was pg with my daughter, I too had intended to wait until enough time had passed to make any announcement at work. However, I worked for a hospice organization (in the office, I ran the volunteer program) and was was surrounded by medical people and very experienced grandmas. There were definitely some folks who figured it out – I had a lot of morning nausea and clearly was not feeling my best – but they never asked. One nurse did silently slide a can of ginger ale my way during morning report…and just smiled. A counselor (with bunches of kids and grandkids) wordlessly brought me a glass of ice water. I was so grateful! I *highly* recommend sipping ice water.

      However, I had complications the very morning I was going to my OB for my first appointment (so I was about 16 weeks, I guess?) and was put on bedrest for about a week. That blew that, I had to tell my boss. Everybody was very kind, happy for me, and wished me well. Kid will be 18 in November so everything worked out fine.

      I guess my point is, this is the beginning of accepting that when it comes to parenthood, some things are just beyond total control. OK, most things are beyond total control but it can be reassuring to think otherwise. And there is no one right way or time. You will plan one way and the kid will plan another. Starting at birth. :) Ya gotta just learn to roll with it.

      Congratulations and I hope you’re feeling better soon!

    18. Your Weird Uncle*

      Congratulations! I’ve been in the same shoes as your coworker who is on the work trip. I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but I was definitely the last one to find out – for quite a while – on our team (of about 6 people). It didn’t bother me in the slightest! I totally understood why some people would want to wait and how different circumstances might have necessitated telling some people on my team earlier than others. I vote that you just do what you were going to do in the first place. You’re going through enough stress!

    19. Tangerina*

      You make me so happy I never have to deal with this.

      Since you want to wait to tell person 3, go ahead and wait. Just know that there’s some risk that #1 and #2 may let it slip, so you may not be able to unring that bell.

    20. CBE*

      Well, I would just tell her. I am not a fan of the “convention” of waiting to tell, in case you miscarry. That stupid “convention” means that miscarriage is treated as shameful and something not worthy of community support, and it means many, many women feel isolated as they go through it.
      So whatever, tell it whenever you feel like it. Don’t feel like you have to tell, don’t feel like you have to keep it a secret.
      But truthfully, if 2 people at work know, it’s going to come out sooner rather than later. And another thing I am not fond of is expecting coworkers to keep secrets in the office. It doesn’t usually work, and when it comes out, there’s DRAMA.

    21. Celeste*

      Pregnancy sometimes forces your hand! It definitely made me feel like I was “under new management”.

      Don’t worry about the order of the telling; it is what it is. The only real rule to follow is if someone asks you not to mention their pregnancy, then zip it.

    22. Robin Sparkles*

      I remember this… I have a year old now but the stress of telling my 12 member team was tough. I told them at random intervals but how I handled it is tell boss first (out of courtesy as well as if I was not performing at my usual self he understood), and then told some coworkers I worked most closely with and let them know to tell the others on the team but not anyone else. That also gives people an ability to share but not go off and tell everyone else. For you-definitely tell the one person left since it would be difficult if the others knew and the rest didn’t.

    23. WalkedInYourShoes*

      Congrats! In today’s professional environment, it’s totally normal to say that “I’m pregnant”. However, it is a personal decision because of what other posters stated, e.g., miscarriage, privacy, etc. I feel that women who are pregnant now have more rights and flexibility that was not the case for me 19 years ago when I had my 2nd child. I believe that you will have full support of the team, the company, and laws to protect your rights. Also, it allows for better planning for coverage for your responsibilities when you are out on maternity leave.

      Back in 2002, I landed an amazing role at a TeaPot startup company where my former colleague asked me to join. However, I knew I was pregnant, but didn’t want to divulge it. I only told my manager, who was the CTO and Co-founder, at 16 weeks because I knew that I would start showing. It didn’t slow me down, and everyone was super happy for me.

      Sadly, when we hired a new BigBoss to head up the TeaPot startup, he was so old school and sadly I lost my job. He was not a family-focused nor understood why I took “a few months off”. (Duh!?! – maternity leave/FMLA). Did I sue? No, due to several personal and professional reasons. Looking back, I wish that I did.

      I just hear how many people are taking paternity and maternity leave. The last and most recent TeaPot startup had 1 person who was pregnant but didn’t tell anyone until she like others was experiencing severe morning sickness. Then, the other woman was 5 mos. pregnant and only told her manager and I.

      We are all behind you on your decision!!! You will have the best time being a mom. I know that I wouldn’t have changed it in the world.

  2. Happy Friday!*

    Curious how other managers assign work. My manager emails the team (3 people) to ask if anyone has time or is interested in working on XYZ project. Logistically speaking, this works out fine. But, it leads me to feel this enormous amount of pressure to jump on every project in the name of “stepping up” and “taking initiative.” I am a compulsive email checker, much more so than my two teammates, so there is also a sense of guilt that I should take a project just so my manager isn’t kept waiting. Sometimes I just wish he would send an email saying “Worker X please complete this project.” On the other hand, the broad emails have given me an opportunity to work on things I may not have otherwise done, which stops me from raising the issue with him.

    1. Rainy*

      I too occasionally suffer from helium hand, and I switched to a new role in my office, on a different team, just a year ago, and made my own life harder by volunteering for stuff reflexively for about 8 months. My new team is a LOT bigger than my old team, though, and where on my old team people mostly wouldn’t volunteer for anything, on my new team everyone volunteers to take on extra stuff as they have time, so I have managed to inject some lead into that helium hand.

      I do think there’s a tendency for extra stuff to end up skewed to the person who actually checks their email.

      1. Happy Friday!*

        i love the image and description of “helium hand.” It’s so accurate in this situation.

    2. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

      I assign work to my direct reports. Because otherwise I find that the workload can become very uneven. However, I do think that the method you use depends on the type of work. The work I assign tends to be complex large projects that are completed over the course of months. For simpler one and done tasks, I do tend to ask for volunteers from our admin staff (who don’t report to me, but who do that type of work). But, their boss sometimes replies with who will complete that project, so I’m not sure how that is handled.

      1. Working Mom*

        Ditto on depending on what type of work. If it’s work we know about in advance or it’s something that falls very clearly in somebody’s skillset, I’ll allocate directly. If it’s work that just crops up and doesn’t clearly suit anybody, I’ll ask for volunteers.

    3. Naptime Enthusiast*

      We have 3 people on our team and there’s a hierarchy, so it’s a little different (Team lead > me > younger team member). Team lead gets the requests from our manager, and he doles them out according to what our experiences are. Basically, if there’s something that aligns with work I’m already doing, I’ll get those tasks because I can get them all done at once, but if it’s a new task that younger team member hasn’t done, he’ll get it so that he can learn that process. We also have assigned “areas” for our drop-in tasks, so if something comes from a certain group it’s automatically assigned to the corresponding team member. I like this because it prevents tasks from either being dropped or being snatched up in favor of less exciting ones, but if my team lead wasn’t good to work with it would be a nightmare.

      1. Blue*

        This is more or less how my previous team worked. For the most part, it was clear based on our assigned responsibilities/current projects who should be doing what, but we did receive odd request that didn’t have a clear owner. My coworker constantly monitored his email, like the OP here, and would pretty much always volunteer for these things within about 5 minutes.

        I had very mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, I objectively had a lot more work than him, so he should’ve been the one volunteering. But the fact that it was always so immediate – like he was dropping everything to do what the boss asked even though that wasn’t expected – stressed me out and made me feel like a slacker. OP, if you sat on some of those emails for a couple of hours and gave your coworkers the chance to step up, do you think they’d do that?

        1. Happy Friday!*

          One of them probably would step up and take the assignment. But the idea of just not responding for a few hours really stresses me out.

    4. Jessi*

      Can you change it in your head to ‘letting co-workers have a chance to choose their favourite stuff too’? After all if you always jump in before they have a chance too they won’t get to choose the stuff they are interested in.

      1. Meredith Brooks*

        As a compulsive hand raiser this worked for me as well. I also was too much of a team player, volunteering for all the assignments that no one wanted (So much so that my boss had to tell my coworkers they needed to step it up and not rely on me to take on so much stuff — I DIDN’T ASK, IT WAS THAT OBVIOUS.) The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth.

        I realized that a) sometimes other people have to do things that suck and that’s not my fault b) sometimes other people deserve a treat and c) I needed to train my mind to better work around my anxieties rather than giving in to them.

        The whole point being… if you consistently volunteer, there’s no reason to think that your boss/coworkers will think you’re not a team player if you sit a few out. Do yourself a favor and treat yourself like you treat them.

        1. Happy Friday!*

          I think your last line is really important. Because it definitely comes down to not wanting to seem like a slacker or not a team player.

    5. Business Manager*

      I oversee a group of admin/data staff. I will usually assign based on skills and interests that I know of or if it seems like a growth opportunity for the staff person. It’s also based on work and stress load already, but I’m grateful that most of my staff are pretty cognizant of their level of work and how much they can take on and will also let me know.

    6. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Maybe instead of “Got IT!” try responding with something like “I’ll talk to Jane and Fergus and we will let you know who is taking this”

      This gives you the chance to acknowledge the request and it will give you, Jane, and Fergus a chance to compare workloads, interest, ability, etc.

      This allows you to still be the one to ‘step up’ but also gives your coworkers a chance to jump in.

    7. Anna Canuck*

      I feel like the point of the Build a Bear promo was to get on the news, which succeeded fantastically. My time is worth a lot more per hour than I could save standing in line to inflict another stuffed animal on my home, but people are RABID for a “good deal”.

    8. Artemesia*

      Since there are 3 people on the team if I were you I would volunteer no more often than 50% of the time and jump quickly on project you WANT to do and then drop back for a couple. Obviously not all projects are equal in time demand so factor that in, but the goal should be to be doing about a third of the project time — Take a big project then pass on the next two or a small project and pass at least on the next one unless you love it.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This is wise.
        I do volunteer work and find a similar situation. Some of the tasks do not make sense to have other people do. For example, if I happen to be close by I will chime in and say, “I got it!” Everyone else would have a 15 minute drive to do a 3 minute task.
        But, there are times where my day is already full. Then there are some tasks that I am not good at and it does not make sense for me to be doing it.
        Look at each request as it comes along and say to yourself, “Does it make sense for me to do this?” It may boil down to you have done the last three requests and someone else should have a turn. OTH, there could be days where Bob is leaving early and Jane is out sick so again it would make sense that you do the task.

      2. Happy Friday!*

        I like the idea of thinking about it in terms of percentages and think that could be helpful.

      3. TardyTardis*

        Absolutely right. One time my final at college was a group participation project analyzing the current economic difficulties of 1974 (and yes, I am that old). I bravely sailed forth with a couple of canned replies to questions I believed were obviously going to be asked, and then Graciously Shut Up to allow others to participate as well (especially since the prof then started asking stuff I didn’t actually know, but I tried to look like I did).

    9. designbot*

      Every time a new project comes in, the PM loads a project plan into our accounting system, and at the time assigns roles based on availability and skillsets, usually hopefully in advance of when they actually need those people. Then every thursday or friday, the leadership of each team in my office gets together and works out a staffing plan for the following week to balance workloads and make sure everything gets covered—the results of that meeting are sent out to each team Monday morning. If you’re starting a project that’s new to you, the PM will usually come talk to you about it or on a bigger project just invite you to a kickoff meeting so that everyone can get started up at once.
      At yearly reviews and quarterly checkins people have the opportunity to express if they’d prefer to get onto different types of projects, and those preferences are taken into account when making assignments, but we’re rarely able to accommodate individual requests for specific projects on a week to week basis because we’re trying to balance so many schedules and interests.

    10. Dr. Doll*

      I have a thing where the women on my team are WAY more likely to volunteer than the men, and in fact my perception is that the men will try to duck. I don’t allow this to stick, but it does irritate me to hear “I have so much on my plate” from the guys when *I know* who has what, and well, he doesn’t have more than she does.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I had a boss who noticed a similar thing and she started assigning things directly to various people.

        In my own group, I saw that Jane or Bob volunteered for most things. I changed my request to, “Someone who is NOT Jane or Bob, please do X.” I would explain that Jane and Bob did the last 6 requests and I would like to see others volunteering. This actually worked pretty well.

    11. MrsMurphy*

      Speaking from the manageree position: I work in a team with three other assistants, and for tasks that anyone can do we started using a shared mailbox. Managers can dump their work assignments there and we flag the tasks we want/can take care of. It‘s saved a lot of back and forth emailing – and with the email flags, depending on urgency people can sort of mark it for later.

      Downside: It‘s up to us to make sure we have no slackers on the team, but that‘s one thing management defined as our goal, so we sort of jokingly police each other („Bob, finished your report? There‘s a new task that has your name written on it!“).

    12. Jaydee*

      I think it depends on the size of team and type of work, as well as the personalities of the various team members. Making projects available to all team members can be a great way to gain experience in a new area. But it can also be daunting if it leads to an imbalance (Jane and Fergus usually respond faster than Circe and Wakeen, so they either take on a disproportionate amount of work or get all the choice assignments) or if everyone is swamped and the emails seem like kind of a public form of peer pressure and the people who crack first get stuck with even heavier workloads. It also depends – do ALL work assignments come through these group emails, or are some employees getting work from other channels? That’s can leas to people thinking that Fergus is a huge slacker because he rarely responds to the emails. But if he does a lot of teapot design work and most of that is assigned by a different manager or comes directly to him from customers, it might make sense that he’s not jumping on emails about rice sculpture projects.

      I do think if this method is used, the manager needs to be really vigilant about monitoring each person’s workload and occasionally assigning projects or suggesting certain people take on certain projects in order to maintain balanced workloads and fair distribution of assignments. Like, if Wakeen is the llama grooming expert, and Jane is the rice sculpture expert, it makes sense for Wakeen to do the majority of llama-related projects and Jane to do the majority of rice-related projects. If there’s reason for cross-training, the manager can suggest that maybe Fergus or Circe should handle a few llama grooming or rice sculpture projects to get some experience. And if the manager wants Circe to get some experience with more complex projects but Jane hogs them all up, it makes sense for the manager to say “thanks for volunteering to take all 10 new rice sculpture projects Jane, but I think it would be good for Circe to get experience with some basmati and jasmine rice sculptures, so let’s transfer a couple of those over to her.”

    13. Bethany*

      We have a meeting at the start of every week where we say if we have too much work or not enough, and what’s coming up in the next few weeks.

      This allows people to identify when they need support, and our managers can delegate based on this information.

      I think it works really well!

  3. What's with today, today?*

    Could some marketing and PR folks weigh in on the IHOB promotion and the Build-A-Bear day from hell?

    I’m dying to know if IHOB ended up being a brilliant move, and what in the world happened with BAB yesterday?

    1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

      Everyone I know knew the IHOB theme was a stunt from the moment it started. From what I could tell, it annoyed IHOP’s loyal pancake customers and didn’t win them any burger fanatics … but on the other hand, it might have gotten people who had forgotten there even was such a thing as IHOP (raising my hand here) to start thinking about IHOP pancakes. So in short, it really seemed dumb to me… but maybe it did work? I’m curious too.

      Build-a-Bear… those bears are only worth about $1 or $2 anyway, so I guess I can understand anyone with young (and bear-craving) children going into a frenzy to get the bears for the price they’re actually worth. I got an ex-girlfriend a bear once and it fell apart pretty quickly. How does a stuffed animal fall apart?

      1. JeanB in NC*

        I went to IHOP last week with a friend and she did decide to try a burger based on the advertising. She said it was nothing to write home about.

      2. Rainy*

        My darling fiancé made me a custom bear by remaking an old BAB he got on ebay for my birthday a couple of years ago and it was AMAZING and has not fallen apart at all. Although because of the TYPE of bear it is it’s not something you cuddle overmuch, so maybe that helps.

        Honestly, for longevity of stuffed toys, 80s manufacturing can’t be beat. I have a Pound Purry from my childhood that has survived hundreds of washings, dozens of moves including two international ones, AND being teethed on by a puppy. Her eyes are pretty scratched up and she’s lost some shaping but her stuffing just keeps bouncing back. :)

        1. Future Homesteader*

          I have a Pound Purry from 1988 and he’s also been teethed on and discolored, but otherwise he’s in great shape!

        2. Artemesia*

          Pound puppies and purries are the greatest stuffed animals ever made. We have 8 or 9 of them of all sizes from when my now middle aged children were young and the grandkids love them. They can be washed, they make great neck pillows when traveling and kid pillows. They are cute and cuddly — altogether great and high quality product and they sure have lasted. I remember making a pound purry birthday cake for my daughter when she was about 7.

        3. MissMaple*

          That’s awesome! I’m pregnant and I was looking through some old pictures of when I was a baby with my mom. I saw my pound puppy in nearly all of them! He looks the same today as in 1986 :) I’m hoping to pass him along to my little guy.

        4. JeanB in NC*

          I have a stuffed tiger I received for my 14th birthday, which I loved and cuddled with and used as a pillow for years. He is still around 40 years later! (I don’t use him as a pillow anymore though.)

        5. FuzzFrogs*

          You’re not kidding. My childhood stuffed animal was a Puffalump, and while I did have to retire my original when I was about 10 (I had literally worn the fabric through in some places, plus an incident with the washing machine), but the second one has lasted a few decades. They’re incredibly soft, too, without being furry or fleecy, which seems to be a lost art in children’s stuffed animals.

      3. Tangerina*

        I really dig build-a-bear and was pretty into it in high school. This just goes to show that people want the product, they just don’t want to pay those outrageous prices. This is that whole tricky thought exercise of should we keep prices lower to get more business or raise prices so that the product is more exclusive and we profit on the higher margin?

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I saw a meme on Facebook this morning that said “I’d rather pay my weight than deal with that nonsense” in regards to the Build-A-Bear thing.

      1. Pam*

        That’s my attitude for a lot of those special deals- I will not stand in line for much of anything, let alone free doughnuts.

    3. Bacon Pancakes*

      I have no marketing or PR experience, but yeah WTH happened there! I think my favorite part of the article I read was that in order to get the “pay your age” scale, you had to sign up for the BAB club where one of the benefits is that you pay your age for a bear during your birthday month. SMH
      On top of all these parents that want to be “reimbursed for their trouble”. Yeah, I am pretty sure they aren’t going to pay for the wasted day of daycare, gas, and your day off work.

      1. Iris Eyes*

        Yes, I saw some posts on the average earnings/savings per hour. I really hope hourly workers with no PTO didn’t take off work for the event thinking to save money based on the numbers I saw.

      2. The New Wanderer*

        That’s kind of hilarious. “We took a day off work, kept our child home from daycare, and stood in line for hours to save $10! You owe us day’s pay + daycare + gas!”

        At least when so many people make that kind of bad decision in response to this kind of stunt, I can better understand how someone somewhere thought this stunt was a good idea.

      3. KMB213*

        During your birthday month, you can get one specific bear for your age – yesterday’s promotion was that you could get any stuffed animal free. I guess it was kind of a success in that more people now know about the free bear during your birthday month promotion – the clothes are accessories add up really quickly at Build a Bear, so, even if you’re getting the bear free, you’re probably still dropping at least $20 on the stuff to go with it.

        I mean, yeah, obviously still not worth standing in line for, but I could see people waiting maybe a half hour or something to get any bear for their child’s age.

    4. Spooky*

      I feel bad for Build-a-Bear. It was a great promotion–the only problem was that it was TOO good, and they weren’t prepared for the crowds.

      1. Jesca*

        Yes, exactly. In business management, I learned that it can in fact cause some serious issues if the demand of your specific product outweighs your actual supply. This actually kills online service companies faster than anything else. B-A-B will obviously recover, but none the less, the bad press will probably cause them sales issues for a while.

        Simply put, you cannot run a bigger-than-black-Friday promotion without considering crowd control and control of the product distribution. They ticked off the malls and shopping centers they are located in as well. And please keep in mind that the majority of people don’t just go buy these bears for their kids. The entire process pretty much guarantees the children have to be there as “building” is part of the bear experience. Have you ever told a kid that maybe you will go to the park later? Have you ever stood in line for anything with children? This notice was sent out via email with the assumption it would not *be* the way it turned out to be. It was really poor planning.

        1. Antilles*

          And please keep in mind that the majority of people don’t just go buy these bears for their kids. The entire process pretty much guarantees the children have to be there as “building” is part of the bear experience.
          This is the part about it that seemed strange to me – the whole point of Build-a-Bear isn’t to just show up with a stuffed animal, it’s the kid getting the chance to look at the bears and pick one and build it and name it and blah blah blah. So there’s definitely going to be tons of kids there (not a demographic generally known for patience) and if things start to get backed up, there’s no magic elixir to fix it and make the line go faster, so it just snowballs.

          1. Jesca*

            Exactly. And anyone who has ever asked a kid to pick out a toy knows choosing is not something that happens quickly at all. Like you can be a build a bear a LOOOOOOONG time just choosing lol.

          2. Jaydee*

            And BAB is ridiculous and overwhelming on a regular busy day (kids running around and screaming, high on the prospect of a stuffed bear with $80 of clothes and accessories). Since the deal was only on the bear itself and none of the excessively overpriced accessories, you’d still drop a zillion dollars but also endure a zillion times more chaos. No thanks!

      2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        But the crowds were entirely predictable. They should have offered online appointment scheduling, or handed out tickets to the first X number of people in line, or done a virtual lottery, or something like that.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          THIS. Totally predictable, to the point where it irritates me that they were apparently so caught off guard by the crowds.

        2. OhBehave*

          I saw this with a ‘black Friday’ viewpoint. If people are willing to camp out the day before in order to get a great deal on xyz, they are certainly going to flood to BAB for a promo deal! What on earth were they thinking? To say that this was promoted via email only was nonsense. This was all over social media.
          What some entreprenuerial person should have done was to rent a kiosk in malls and sell accessories for these animals! They could have made a killing. I used to buy my daughter off label for her American Girl dolls.

      3. Bears For Everyone!!*

        I’ll give you my experience as someone who did get a bear. I went with my daughter-in-law and 2 yr old grandson (mainly as support for my DIL). She had gone there the day before to check it out and see which one they wanted to buy. While she was there, she found out that they were going to open at 9 instead of 10. They weren’t advertising the fact, but would tell anyone who asked. I am guessing they thought the lines might not get long so early if people thought they didn’t open until 10.
        We got there around 8am and the line was kind of long, but not anything we didn’t expect. We had brought breakfast/snacks and a tablet with games/shows on it for my grandson. The security did a good job of keeping the lines going, but I know this was a hard day for them! It actually all fell apart once we got in the store.
        If you have ever been in one, you know the stores are not that big. We grabbed our animal right away, but then had to figure out where the line for stuffing was. It was crossing with the line to pay (although at some point the lines did get moved apart). I think people were cutting in the stuffing line, because that line did not move at all for the longest time. And after finally getting the bear stuffed (and they still made me do the wish thing! That’s fine for the kids, but grandma didn’t care and grandson was watching a movie and didn’t care either!), we moved to the paying line.
        They only had 2 cash registers so this took a while too. Although finally, after getting in line 4 hours previously we were free with our bear!
        If they do this same promotion again, they will need to rework how things went in the stores. If they would plan out the lines better and get more cash registers (or even something like Chick-Fila has with a portable cash register thing that you can carry around) it would have helped so much. And the faster you get people out of the store, the faster you can get more people in, and the faster all the lines move.

        1. LDP*

          As someone who works in marketing for a mall that has a Build-A-Bear, you’re completely spot on with how this should have gone!
          So, as part of my job I very regularly get emails from the corporate headquarters of the different stores about events or sales. They didn’t mention anything about this promotion until Monday morning. Even the manager here at the store didn’t find out about it until then. And she was panicking about making sure they had enough stanchions for lines both inside and outside of the store, and about crowd control. I also know they didn’t announce until Tuesday that they would be opening their stores an hour early, and that wasn’t until later in the day.
          From a marketing stand point, I think this was a decent idea that was horribly executed because they weren’t properly prepared. From all the emails I got leading up to the event, it seemed like they hadn’t really thought through the, “What if this goes viral?” type of thing that you have to take into account these days.
          I’m not sure how it was handled at other malls, but I do know that our security team worked their butts off to keep the peace and keep the crowds (relatively) happy. But people are mad, and I totally get why. I’ve been answering phone calls and Facebook messages all yesterday and even some today from people complaining. I’m curious to see how their sales do from here on out.

          I will say though, a lot of our other retailers were thrilled with the additional traffic it brought in. So at least that was a bonus for our location!

          1. OhBehave*

            It’s so hard to believe no one thought of the viral factor! This promo was all over social media this week. I feel for those store managers who were ill-prepared for this mayhem. What if they were running low on supplies already? People thirsting for a deal can be unreasonable instead of thankful for the opportunity to score a deal. I’ve been a retail buyer and store manager and know the people I speak of :)

    5. Weak Trees*

      I’m absolutely convinced that the IHOb thing was never intended to be a promotion and they’re just trying to gracefully back away from the abject failure…In which case, I suppose their Marketing folks should be celebrated as heroes for the story they eventually came up with.

      1. CTT*

        I don’t know, they would have had to put so much money into actually changing the name of the individual restaurants (with departments of state, with local business licenses, etc.) that they would have had to have put a lot of thought into it, and presumably would have done market testing to see if it would have worked. Or maybe this WAS the market-testing for a name change.

        1. What's with today, today?*

          I know the manager at our local IHOP and he said they never intended to change anything but the paper signage inside. I felt sure it was gonna be Breakfast or Brunch. Burgers threw me a bit.

        2. Weak Trees*

          Yeah, I should have been clearer. I think it was along the lines of “This is a great plan, let’s put out some feelers to see how it will go over with the publ-ABORT! ABORT!”

    6. Laura H.*

      I’m not a marketing person but as a retail worker- That’s not a great way to do a promo.

      It’s a good promo but the execution was oh so spectacularly BAD.

    7. Bea*

      They’re talking about build a bear. They had 5000 ppl and riots. I can’t even wrap my head around it.

      1. A username for this site*

        I think it seems absurd, but then again, there are huge lines and fights on Black Friday for stuff that’s really not that great. What’s going on is that it’s a chance for people who normally can’t afford those things to have a slice of “something nice” to provide to their kid for once. People in that mindset get desperate, because it’s their only choice to provide “something nice” to their child, instead of the off-brand toy from Walmart or Dollar Tree.

        A lot of people mock and criticize Black Friday and the like as excessive materialism, I think it’s just sad to watch the bottom of the economy fight over crumbs dangled from the top of it. It’s disgusting and shameful for companies to exploit people like that.

        1. Artemesia*

          I’m with you. It is easy to dismiss ‘materialism’ when you have all the stuff you want.

        2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          Yes. This is why I hate what black Friday has become. Especially when much of the time the discounts aren’t even that great, yet somehow the marketing convinces people to spend more than they can afford. It’s very exploitative.

    8. Deryn*

      Not a response to your question, but I had to jump in and mention how much I love the Empire Records quote in your name!

    9. Jane*

      I don’t know if I’d call the IHOB thing brilliant but it got IHOP a lot of press even if everyone knew it was a stunt and when was the last time IHOP was mentioned in the news? It was a silly stunt that I think everyone knew was a silly stunt but it seems to have worked out pretty well for them. It’s the kind of thing you can only do once though. If they do this all the time it will blow up in their face.

      Build-a-Bear was a hot mess and I honestly don’t know what they were thinking. The bears are overpriced (yes, I know you are paying for “the experience” but after clothes you’re looking at a $40 bear. So of course people would jump on this. And they should have had a system in place to deal with this. Sign up online for a voucher – and only make 1,000 vouchers or something. Everyone else gets a really good coupon. With that one I have a gut feeling that there had to be a few people in their headquarters who were like “Guys, this isn’t a great idea and I think this is going to be bad if we don’t account for crowds and massive interest” only for them to not be listened to. They didn’t investigate or plan for the worst case scenario. I mean, just do a basic SWOT analysis of these sorts of endeavors and you’d see the threats to the organization that could result.

      1. Cousin Itt*

        With Build-A-Bear, I think perhaps they put the promotion on schoolday thinking that that would exclude most children over 5 and thus reduce demand, not realising the amount of parents willing to yank their kids out of school for a cheap teddy.

        Apparently in the UK they did give away £12 off vouchers to people who got fed up of waiting in the queues

        1. Jesca*

          In the US, we don’t have school during most of June, July, and most of August. That is why the stores to close were in the US and Canada. They actually have a lot of kids and parents with not a lot to do other than go to build a bear lol.

        2. What's with today, today?*

          It’s summer break across the south. I don’t know about other regions and Canada, but in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma at least, (I live in the 4-state region) school is most definitely out. :)

        3. Belle of the Midwest*

          It’s mid-July and I think even the balanced calendar school systems are still on summer break. They might have thought maybe people would be on vacation/traveling, etc.

          1. Jaydee*

            Oh, that’s not going to stop kids from wanting a bear. One of our BABs was purchased while on vacation.

          1. OhBehave*

            Typically schools dismiss the end of May to mid-June and resume mid-August to early September in the US. There are a few year-round schools in the country but not a ton (at least in Illinois).

        4. Cousin Itt*

          Woops, sorry guys I had no idea there were such long summer holiday in the US – in Blighty we don’t break up until late July and go back early September and several articles on the promotion here talked about parents taking their kids out of school to go buy a bear

    10. Falling Diphthong*

      I had missed both of these. IHOB is strange but as Librarian says, does make one think about eating pancakes at ihop. (IHOP has had burgers as long as I’ve been going there. I strictly order crepes with lingonberries, but it has always had all your basic American Restaurant foods on the menu.)

      1. Kat in VA*

        Another lingonberry lover! *high fives*


        That sounds weird.

        High five anyway!

      2. Gingerblue*

        I’ve never been to an IHOP, but if they have crepes with lingonberries I may have to find one!

    11. Persimmons*

      Businesses doing badly at their self-promotion is a trend this week.

      Online tech circles have been snarking about how Nordstrom’s site is chronically difficult during the annual sale (happening now) and that they spend all their money on marketing/instagram “influencers” and not enough on IT infrastructure.

      1. Jesca*

        I think this is unfortunately true for so many retailers, and with Nordstroms it is just going to be ten times more noticeable. It is why Amazon is killing it!

        1. What's with today, today?*

          I’m gonna have to google their issues. I have a sweet friend with a daughter interning at Nordstrom this summer.

      2. Sue Donym*

        I actually interviewed there not too long ago to work on web and app stuff. The people I interviewed with were unaware that Nordstrom has a customer feedback option where users can post issues they’ve had with the site/app. Someone representing Nordstrom is responding to those user complaints within the site, but I don’t know who because I assumed it was in the purview of the people I talked to!

      3. Jubilance*

        That happened last year too! Really frustrating but I get it – Nordstrom has been struggling and they aren’t making the investment in their IT infrastructure…but thats also the thing that could help them turn things around. Vicious cycle…

      4. Antilles*

        That’s because the sad truth is that nobody cares about infrastructure (both real world and IT infrastructure) until it fails catastrophically. Required maintenance? Upgrades? Meh, it looks just fine to me, let’s spend the money elsewhere.

    12. tink*

      I was actually hoping the IHOB thing was going to be them sorta soft rebranding and focusing on a better, more narrow menu with a brunch-y focus. In that aspect, the silly rebrand to “burgers” (especially since I live in an area saturated with actually good and affordable burger joints) was a huge disappointment and made me want to go there less.

      I’m guessing the BAB was a fiasco on the “out of supplies, out of bears, out of everything, people lost their minds” level? Feel bad for their retail workers, who surely don’t get paid enough to deal with that crap.

      1. Jesca*

        I agree. I live in an area where people like to eat out. Like, A LOT. Our area has more restaurants than anywhere else I have ever lived or even been to. And in a ten mile small city and suburban spread, they even have many duplicated chain sit-down restaurants. One on the one side and one on the other. We have one IHOP. IHOP actually doesn’t do too well here, because even the chain options have a hard time competing with locally owned restaurants (which outnumber the chains interestingly enough). Their “re-branding” was dumb whether it was a publicity stunt or not IMO.

      2. What's with today, today?*

        We are in a really small town with few choices, one is IHOP, and we still try to only eat at the local, mom and pop places. I can’t imagine ever ordering an IHOP burger. I think it’s been 3-4 years since we’ve even been for breakfast!

      3. Antilles*

        Agreed. Rather than emphasizing burgers, I think they would have been better going the other way and just accepting that they’re a breakfast/brunch/pancake place.
        Also, I legitimately can’t imagine a scenario where I’d specifically go there for a burger. If I’m going for a quick and cheap meal, they can’t compete with a fast food place on price or convenience. If I’m going to an actual sit-down restaurant, there are like 20 different burger-only places around.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          Well, unless I’m misremembering, IHOP did do a promotion a few years back talking about making improvements to their pancakes. Which is good because honestly, the pancakes weren’t all that great. It takes more than globs of butter, lakes of syrup and heaps of whipped cream to make a pancake good. I haven’t been in there since they upgraded their pancakes, though, so I don’t know how effective the initiative was.

    13. It'sNan*

      I saw today that Chuck E Cheese is doing the pay your age thing today, at least around here. So they must’ve thought it was worth while. I,for one, can’t understand that the Bear people didn’t see that mess coming a mile away.

  4. The Other Chelsea*

    Anyone have any advice or resources on how to best negotiate salary when getting a promotion? Nothing is official yet, but the position is being created for me and it would be a big jump in workload/responsibility. In one of our meetings, my manager informally floated a salary that would be a slight bump from where I am now, but 7-13K less than the median salary for someone in that type of role. My past attempts at negotiating pay raises with this company have been very frustrating because my manager has to get raises approved by overworked grandboss who always demurs, despite my outstanding record with the company.

    1. Anon-J*

      I recently got a promotion and I knew that my salary increase was unlikely to be market rate for the role – I am familiar with our budgets and a bigger jump for me would have meant less available for people below me (who need the salary bump more than I do). I addressed head on with my boss that I acknowledged both of those things and explained that there are other things of value that I would appreciate including more time off, more schedule flexibility, and more work from home opportunities. I ended up getting an additional week of paid time off along with the other things I mentioned.

      My advice in negotiations is to approach it as a package. Not just pay, but time off, benefits, professional development opportunities, and other things that are of value to you. You may not get them all but by presenting a package you’re more likely to get more out of it.

    2. Annie*

      I think promotion is a great time to negotiate. Don’t let the foot-dragger get you down – the company wants more work and responsibility from you – a small bump is not enough.

      Discuss with your boss soon – so the paperwork reflects your negotiated salary instead of the small bump, although you can still negotiate even afterwards.

    3. designbot*

      First, I wouldn’t get hung up on not being at the median for the role when you’re newly promoted into it. Be aware of how long people stay in that role/at that level, and target being at the median at the midpoint of that, not on day 1. So if people tend to stay in this role for 10 years, being 7k below the median may be just fine, but if people only stay at this level for 2 years, then that’s a problem.
      Second, I think I would level with your boss and be like hey, I feel like you and I are in alignment on my value here, but that you tend to have trouble getting those numbers past upper management. What do you see as getting in the way of that and is there anything I can do to help? This may mean that you provide him documentation of your successes, or it may bring up something very different, like that you need to get on projects that’ll get you more facetime with these people.

        1. designbot*

          I always feel like you and I agree on stuff, and keep attributing it to being in adjacent industries :)

        2. Sadie*

          But I feel like the research into the wage gap bears out that this is part of why men make more. Women(logically and understandably) tend to think, oh, I am just starting I shouldn’t expect the median salary. Men are more likey to say “oh, X carries a salary of 80-100k with 90k as median. So I should get at least 90.” Particularly where, as here, they are creating the position for this specific person. And maybe you don’t get 90 (and maybe the man doesn’t either, but maybe he gets 85 instead of 80, and that happens repeatedly over his career.)

        3. Sadieboo*

          But I feel like the research into the wage gap bears out that this is part of why men make more. Women(logically and understandably) tend to think, oh, I am just starting I shouldn’t expect the median salary. Men are more likey to say “oh, X carries a salary of 80-100k with 90k as median. So I should get at least 90.” Particularly where, as here, they are creating the position for this specific person. And maybe you don’t get 90 (and maybe the man doesn’t either, but maybe he gets 85 instead of 80, and that happens repeatedly over his career.)

      1. The Other Chelsea*

        I really appreciate your insights and ideas. I think the really tricky thing here is that I’ve been taking on a lot side projects that were falling through the cracks in addition to the assigned tasks that make up my current role. I could only do so much, working around regular work duties though. In my new role, I’ll be moving departments and taking those projects (and a few more) on full time, which means that I’m going to hit the ground running.

        The role falls somewhere between entry level and mid level, but I’ve been researching using entry level salaries since I think even that will be a fight to get. I could see having this title (with room for additional responsibilities and raises) for 5-10 years if things go well, but in the overall industry, someone would probably be entry level for 2-3 years and mid level for 2-20. Given that I’m already up to speed on the tasks of my new role, I think it’s fair (maybe more than?) to shoot for the median salary of entry level.

        I do like your idea of leveling with my boss to see if we can tackle this from a different angle. We have a very good working relationship so maybe I can glean some insight there. I don’t think they realize that they’re not competing with my previous salary, they’re competing with positions at other companies. I don’t want to leave but I also don’t want to work here knowing they undervalue me by that much.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          ” I don’t want to leave but I also don’t want to work here knowing they undervalue me by that much.”

          I would say exactly this. It’s easy for someone to think, “She had been comfortable before the promotion with X money, and now we’re giving her more than that. Why isn’t she happy?” If you frame it as, “The value across the industry for people in my new role is X. If you pay me less than that, you’re telling me that you value me as a less-than-average employee. If you pay me below even the bottom of that range, you’re telling me that you value me as a *terrible* employee. I hope that is not what you want to be saying through the salary you offer,” they may get the message better. (Of course they also might try to reassure you that you are valued with words alone, not money… to which the answer is “I really appreciate the kind words, but it still bothers me that the company’s actions aren’t in line with its words. It matters to me to be *shown* that I’m worth at least as much as the average new employee in X role; not just told.”)

        2. Left the Rat Race*

          Of course they realize that they are competing with positions at other companies. They are just hoping or assuming that you don’t realize that. NEVER lowball yourself. If you should be making $90,000 at your new position instead of 60-70K now, then that is what you negotiate. Research the other ways you can get the total remuneration up to that, be it in more vacation time, better benefits, personal development, like tuition reimbursement or other training.
          Do not accept a promotion that is in title only. At this point, you should also be looking at other companies so that if you don’t get the money you deserve you have already started making eventual exit plans. That way you can take this internal job at the lower pay but know you are actively looking for more. And it goes without saying that you say nothing to your coworkers or boss about this.

    4. BRR*

      I would determine your target salary and pull as much information as possible that supports that salary (easier said than done). When a discussion happens about the promotion, if salary is not discussed I would ask “what will the compensation be for this new role?” Don’t wait for them to talk about it. If they low ball you or ask you for a number, I would say something like “I did some research on what this type of role pays and I’m hoping for $X.” I would aim a little higher than your target incase they don’t meet it (and if they do, that’s awesome!).

      I personally wrote out a script and practiced it a lot. That way I was always ready to respond. I think sometimes it can be more difficult to go back and discuss it rather than reply in the moment. Based on what you’ve said, I wouldn’t start the new roll until the pay is finalized so you don’t end up with a higher up role and don’t get the raise until several months later.

  5. ConflictedScientist*

    Any other corporate scientists out there? This was brought to my mind by the question yesterday about a passion for work versus pay. For a variety of reasons, after getting my PhD I decided to transition from academia and work at a company (one that’s not curing cancer or any other lofty goal), but stability and pay did factor strongly into it. As everyone else I went to school with struggles to get academic positions and apply for grant after grant, I don’t regret my decision. But whenever I talk to someone in academia, they always imply that I “sold out”. Once another scientist knows that I work at a company, they just shut down and the conversation often ends. The city I live in has a large research university, so even many other people who aren’t scientists rank academic scientist as the only worthy career in the field. Partially from their judgement and partially from my own psyche, I do feel like a sell out. My company treats the scientists well, but the projects I work on are never going to save the world or save someone’s life. Has anyone else figured out how to accept being a scientist at a company and making the mind shift from “saving the world” to “getting a paycheck for developing products that a company can sell”?

    1. BlueWolf*

      I’m not a scientist myself, but I ran into a similar situation. I had previously interned in non-profits/public service types of roles. However, the nature of the job market meant that I ended up working in the private sector after college. I was applying for a new job about a year and a half ago at a mid-sized law firm and when I asked a former supervisor about being a reference she was fine with it but asked if I was going to eventually go back into public service or non-profits. I definitely felt a bit like a sell-out, but the fact is the DC metro area is expensive and I like having a decent salary and benefits.

      1. ConflictedScientist*

        I’d say that it’s good to know that it’s not just the sciences where that happens, but ugh, that’s actually awful that there are so many fields out there with similar mentalities.

    2. Pam*

      A lot of the scientists in academia aren’t saving the world, either. It’s the ‘My dog’s better than your dog’ syndrome.

    3. Susan K*

      I think the scientists in academia are being silly and short-sighted. What is the point of doing research if there’s no one to take the results of that research into the world? If they do find a cure for cancer, they’re going to need corporate scientists to develop mass production techniques so it can be sold to the people who need it. And just because your projects aren’t going to save the world or save someone’s life doesn’t mean they’re not worthwhile. Whatever it is that you’re working on, if it’s a product that people are willing to buy, it’s probably something that can improve their lives or bring them a little bit more happiness. Think of all the products you use in an average day. Most of them are not essential for sustaining your life, but aren’t you glad that someone “sold out” enough to create them?

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Lots of academic research isn’t saving the world, either. And many universities have an office of technology transfer specifically to try and find some regular product applications of their researchers’ work. My bil started a consulting company with one of his professors just before finishing his PhD, so I think the purity of the ivory tower thing you’ve encountered is unusual.

      For the local judginess issues, it might help to view it as a variation on “If people quit, what does that mean about my grinding out 3 post docs?” And the related mystification of hearing that someone has left your group, like Star Wars fans or government service or community agriculture coops, when it’s still the dominant thing shaping your days.

      1. Rainy*

        Yes. At least some of the pushback ConflictedScientist is getting–especially if their standard of living is reasonable and they have free time–is probably a manifestation of that exact thing: “if someone else makes a different decision than me it invalidates all the pain and trauma I’m incurring in pursuit of goalposts that just keep shifting endlessly into the distance”.

        Also…”sell-out” implies that the person who sold out had something the market wanted.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          The bewildered speech about grad school delivered by my husband’s thesis advisor, when another grad student in the lab had noted that they actually had more disposable income in undergrad:

          That’s why I loved grad school. You don’t have any money or annoying family distractions, so you can just focus all your time in the lab.

      2. ConflictedScientist*

        I think you and Rainy really are right. I remember trying to have to get into that mentality in grad school, that you had to justify your suffering as worth it. It probably helps to see it more from that perspective, that it’s more about them and their mindset than it is about me and my choices. And I have seen more and more academics starting offshoot companies and filing patents too.

    5. Rainy*

      I work with PhD students making the decision you made, and often they are grappling with that earlier and earlier in the process (which is really good and healthy for them imo), and one of the things we talk about is that you are a whole person and not just the job you do, and the fact that money and free time are essential for you to be that whole person. I often urge them to think about the ways they apply those same passions and goals in their personal lives, and about how much more time and energy they have to make a positive mark in the world when they have work/life balance and are being paid a living wage.

    6. SelloutScientist*

      Ugh, I know this well (I went further to the dark side by moving from a scientific role to marketing!)

      There are two things that have helped me feel better about it (in the context of talking to academics….I feel just fine on a day to day basis, thx!). One is that I do a small amount of self-deprication in order to help shape the narrative and point out that academia has issues too. “Yep, I’m a sellout, but the research pace of industry suits me better.” or “Sure, I’m a corporate drone but give me the bureaucracy of a company trying to get results over the bureaucracy of an institution that cares about traditional above all any day of the week” or “Of course I have to work on something the company finds valuable….by the way, hows it going with that NIH grant?”

      The other thing I do is talk up industry with any grad students or postdocs that I chat with. I tell them about cool stuff going on in industry, how strongly I believe that scientists should be getting paid what they’re worth, how cool it is that chem/biotech startups are in pretty much every major research city, how we need good scientists in industry whether or not they think it’s the most exciting work. Hopefully this helps people who want to leave academia feel a little better about it, and helps those staying in academia see a little more of the value.

    7. Madame X*

      Hello fellow scientist! I too left academia after nearly a decade in academic research. I had main reasons for leaving:
      1. After nearly a decade in academic research, I wanted a career change.
      2. I needed to earn a higher salary to improve my standard of living
      3. The academic job market is getting worse every year.

      Only about 16% of PhD graduates, move on to a tenure track position. Even if you WANTED to stay in academia the odds are not in your favor. It makes me wonder how old are the people you are talking to, because scientist in my range are aware of how dire academic research funding is and how difficult it is to find a tenure-track position. I haven’t received any push back for my career change when I talk to scientists who have stayed in academia.
      For some background, I completed a 2-year postdoc and recently started a position with large biotech firm. In my new role, my tasks mainly involve project management, client management, and study design. I don’t do any bench work, which I don’t miss it all. I had wonderful mentors throughout grad school and for my postdoc, and my research was decent, I was successful in earning some grants, and I got to learn some pretty cool concepts which I later published.However, i was ready to move in a different direction for my career. I knew about halfway through grad school that the academic life of a tenured professor was not for me.

      1. ConflictedScientist*

        The odds were actually a big part of my decision to leave! I looked at the scientists I saw who were successful and saw that they essentially had to live and breath grants and research for a decade or more to get to a place of stability. I love science and enjoyed doing academic research, but an outside life was important to me too and I knew that with those kind of odds, I was never going to be able to out compete those who had no life but research and end up with a tenure track position and continuous funding. I get to do a variety of tasks in my current role too and am really enjoying some of the project management and personnel management that I wouldn’t get to do otherwise.

    8. Logan*

      I have not encountered this problem, although maybe it’s because I’m in a community with a lot of high-tech and other companies. Even then, I have worked and been friends with scientists from many ‘walks of life’, and even the academics recognise that there are way too many PhDs for the few academic options, so private / government employment is inevitable.
      All that to say – is your own view that you are ‘selling out’ affecting how you think others view you?

      1. ConflictedScientist*

        That’s a fair point. I do think that my view is probably coloring how I view the interactions going. While there is definitely something there, I am probably a little pre-sensitized and inclined to take it to mean more than it really does sometimes. And either way, the best I can do is probably to work on my own mindset about it, since there’s nothing I can do about others!

        1. Liz*

          Please don’t listen to those who call you a sellout. As others have noted here, that comment is rooted in their need to justify their own work/money/years put in. My husband was a high academic achiever. He did a BSc in life sciences at a large school with a good med school and graduate school, where many of the life science undegrads were gunning for med/graduate school. He then got a job in the pharma industry on the manufacturing side. Eventually he got an MBA and has played highly valued roles at several companies making life-saving therapies lots of people need. One of the reasons he’s highly valued is because he has a unique skill set of understanding the science, but also the manufacturing realities and financial context. Research alone doesn’t save lives… someone has to get those therapies produced and on the market. One of his projects was a medication for lupus–a terrible disease that hadn’t had an updated therapy since the 50s. That product made a huge difference in the lives of many patients. But what kills me is that to this day, his friends from school who did PhDs make comments that he “wasted his potential” by not going the academic route. Sad that they can’t see beyond their own life choices.

    9. Madame X*

      Hello fellow scientist! I too left academia after nearly a decade in academic research. I had main reasons for leaving:
      1. After nearly a decade in academic research, I wanted a career change.
      2. I needed to earn a higher salary to improve my standard of living
      3. The academic job market is getting worse every year.

      Only about 16% of PhD graduates, move on to a tenure track position. Even if you WANTED to stay in academia the odds are not in your favor. It makes me wonder how old are the people you are talking to, because scientist in my range are aware of how dire academic research funding is and how difficult it is to find a tenure-track position. I haven’t received any push back for my career change when I talk to scientists who have stayed in academia.

      For some background, I completed a 2-year postdoc and recently started a position with large biotech firm. I don’t do any bench work, which I don’t miss it all. I had wonderful mentors throughout grad school and for my postdoc, and my research was decent, I was successful in earning some grants, and I got to learn some pretty cool concepts which I later published.However, i was ready to move in a different direction for my career. I knew about halfway through grad school that the academic life of a tenured professor was not for me.

      1. beaglesnpyjamas*

        I just love research. I literally left the private sector to just do research. Is that a thing for PhDs? The National Labs are a great choice.

        1. beaglesnpyjamas*

          Academia and industry are not the only options. Each National Lab in the US houses thousands of scientists.

    10. ChemMoose*

      YOU DID NOT SELL OUT!!! Industry is amazing (from mpov)! What I love about industry – wonderful health care, supportive team mates there to help rather than knock you down, the amazing resources ($ and people), and meeting people from all types of backgrounds. Oh yeah, and my mental health issues have been taken care of because I’m not in a position from hell anymore. Also, there are far more positions for scientists in industry than there are in academia.

      Finally for the “saving the world” comment – at least I know my research is more likely to hit the market in a few years rather than a few decades being in industry.

    11. tink*

      I don’t understand this mentality that “academic” science is the only real or good science. If it weren’t for corporate scientists like yourself, I feel like a lot of the lofty academic stuff would never get distilled down far enough to reach consumers. Obviously I don’t know what branch of science you work in, but to me the people doing what I think of as “every day” science (things we may not think about as science on a consumer level, but that still needs all of that method and testing) is important on par with the big stuff that’s going to save lives and change the world.

    12. Anna Canuck*

      They don’t have to be dicks about it, but they HAVE to believe that they’re better because otherwise, why would they live like that? It’s a case of self-preservation. They’ve chosen to make their lives complicated and difficult, so if they don’t believe it’s for a really good reason, then they will have to admit that it’s not worth it.

      Academia is a harsh world that dictates your WHOLE life. My sister married a guy with a PhD in plant genetics that worked in industry for a bit and then got on the academic track. They’ve relocated countries 3 times. That is just how it had to be, and that is no small thing when it comes to relationships, your kid’s lives, etc. Her career has had to be whatever she can patch together where they’ve landed for his work.

    13. epi*

      I’m a PhD student in cancer epidemiology but keeping private industry jobs on my radar. There are many people who work in my field but for pharma companies, or in consulting. Honestly my only reaction is I don’t think they are recognized enough for their work because it is so often proprietary! Sometimes I am jealous of the stability and structure of their work compared to mine (I work on two totally separate projects, one of which is related to my dissertation but oh wait this year it’s actually on a pilot grant related to the big project and actually this semester we are working on a data request for someone else…)

      People who treat you like this, frankly, suck. This is a terrible political and funding environment for many types of academic science and there just aren’t enough positions for everyone who would probably be brilliant at it. And of course, the more competitive it gets, the more the job is really about getting funding and depending on grad students like me to do the fun parts. :)

      I think anyone who thinks they aren’t going to win this dumb race for a very specific type of scientist job, or who suspects they won’t like academia or even just could be happy doing similar work elsewhere, should get the hell out. People’s life outcomes just seem to be so much better when they plan for that possibility and do it on their own terms. I picked my field (the epi part, I got into cancer later) specifically so I would have that option if needed. People in academia who look down on you are like lottery winners telling you you could be like them if you’d just work harder.

    14. Tuxedo Cat*

      I’m not in your situation but I work adjacent to it, study scientists, and am kind of in academia.

      A lot of academics have a snobbery about jobs not based at a university or college- I know people who look down at those at national labs (WTF, right?). Some of them are also ignorant. Most of the academics are not going to be saving the world- they may make a small dent in a small problem.

      The reality is there are not enough jobs based at universities and colleges in the US for every scientist to be a research scientist or a professor (let alone a tenured/tenure track one). People in academia are slowly coming to that realization. If it helps, think of yourself as a trailblazer. I’m not going to pretend this makes it easier, but with more people presenting non-academic paths, I think the next generation might feel more confident and supported in picking a non-academic path. If anything, maybe they’ll know that they exist.

      I went through a bit of this myself, in my own field recently and I have to remind myself that my colleague’s path is no more valid than mine and her story isn’t mine.

      1. beaglesnpyjamas*

        Who looks down at people at National Labs? For a purely research scientist, this is the best!

    15. MicrobioChic*

      Hello fellow scientist!

      I am currently in grad school, and I am definitely going into industry. The more I see of academia, the less I want it for my life.

      Part of it is that I took a few years to work at a lab tech before going back, so I already have a life in the area I’m in. I have a house, pets and a long term relationship and the thought of uprooting for multiple postdocs and subsuming my life into the struggle for a faculty position is abhorrent to me.

      You might not be curing cancer or saving the world singlehandedly, but I’m sure your company is doing something beneficial or fullfilling a need. Think about that as well as the benefits you get from working in industry.

    16. Persimmons*

      I’ve often joked with a friend in the arts that musicians and novelists are only appreciated until they’re successful. Sad to see that disdain for “selling out” (aka making a reasonable living) is also a thing in your field.

    17. Jesca*

      I am not a scientist, but I do have something to say about the term “sell out”. The term “sell out” is generally used by pretty immature and pretentious people. Think about it. It is usually used in the context of bands: “Oh I don’t listen to albumns from Black on by Metallica because thats when they sold out”. Sold out what? What actually has happened is that bands reach a certain level of maturity with their music. It sounds very clear, the lyrics are well written, and it all came together cohesively without a lot of drama. The band had matured; they did not “sell out”. They found they could clean up their sound, make it more professional, and make a lot of money using their talents. They are still delivering the same product (metal music) but are just more successful at it.

      So just look at it within the context that you have moved passed a past idealistic mentality where working for peanuts in really dysfunctional environments was worth it to “save the world”. In reality, many more corporate companies solve major problems than not. If they don’t, then they are ALWAYS the one to buy the new science or technology and bring it to the masses (saving the world, so to speak). You gained new information, you honed your internal thought processes, and decided that making money and saving the world do not have to be two different choices. Metallica sold more Black Album than most of artists sold anything. The reason it was so popular wasn’t because it was mainstream (not many thrash/progressive/garage metal bands running around – even then!!!!), but because the songs were actually really professional and the band decided it was OK to use their skills to make a crap ton more money.

      *All this is said from a recovering pretentious metal head.

    18. mayfly*

      I’m also a corporate scientist, but I work in environmental consulting, and many of our clients are industry or legal counsel. So yeah, I’m seen as having “sold out” as well and I’m sorry you’re being mistreated.
      A couple of reasons I like my job. It’s frankly more rigorous and interesting than academia. I’ve worked on a broad range of projects all over the world,and with a number of of very bright colleagues. Given the nature of the work, everything I do is carefully checked and vetted both internally and externally. In my experience, there is zero systematic QA in academic science, and as a result quite a bit of shoddy or erroneous work is being produced. I’ve personally reviewed work done by number of academic scientists and overall it’s terrible. There was one project where an entire group of statisticians spent weeks trying to recreate an academic’s analyses, and could not do it.
      Also, the bar for meaningful work isn’t saving the world or saving someone’s life. Do you make lives easier? Save someone money? Streamline getting needed products to market? Those are all incredibly important things. I don’t save lives, but if I do my job to the best of my ability, it usually results in a reasonable settlement and faster environmental remediation. I’m not sure what types of products you develop/sell, but I’m sure consumers value them for how they benefit their quality of life.

      1. Alice*

        There are researchers who do good (or reproducible) science and ones who don’t. That applies across all funding mechanisms and research questions.

        1. Alice*

          And when I said “good (or reproducible)” I meant that reproducibility is a synonym for good, not an alternative!

        2. Observer*

          True. But in academia, there is less of a built in mechanism to find the problems at an early stage.

          1. Alice*

            I have to push back against the idea that industry scientists produce work that is more reproducible. Just like researchers in academia, industry scientists indulge in p hacking, unreported changes in the protocol, not registering trials and analysis plans unless they are made to, not reporting results to registries, not publishing articles, not sharing data, not sharing code, etc etc. If science in industry had a robust mechanism to find problems at an early stage how could Theranos get so far?
            We’re all subject to laziness and bias. Individual firms and individual labs may have built in mechanisms to identify problems, but I don’t think it’s possible to generalize accurately.

            1. mayfly*

              Theranos is a straight up scam, which is different than sloppiness in research.
              When my analyses are used in decision-making, they’re all turned over to government scientists or their representatives for review. And it’s a very thorough and critical review too. The level of scrutiny my work gets in the private sector is so far beyond anything I experienced in academia. There, no one checked data entry, data interpretation, statistical analyses, methodology, assumptions, etc. Industry, while no where near perfect, just has more of a QA culture than academia.

              1. Anon. Scientist*

                I fully agree, Mayfly. As someone who was I academia and in consulting, the amount of QA and oversight was completely different. In some of my more contentious industry projects, we can have 3 different agencies, multiple activist groups, and 10 consultant firms going over data (with various agendas). And you have oversight of the actual data collection. academia didn’t come close.

                1. Alice*

                  I accept that there is more weight on compliance/oversight/QA in industry, and that there are slapdash and slipshod academic researchers out there – sometimes because they were not trained to value reproducibility and sometimes because they expect new postdocs to handle data management without having been taught the necessary skills. But I don’t think we can call science reproducible if it’s not open. I’m glad that Anon Scientist’s firm shares its data, but access by outside researchers (not only regulators), preregistration of trials, outcome reporting, are all improving only slowly.

              2. TL -*

                I don’t know about all fields, but in my field (cancer), people know whose work is good, whose work is reproducible (because we reproduce it and talk to others who are also reproducing it), and whose work isn’t. It’s not publicized but people talk and it’s a small community. And they won’t necessarily or explicity warn someone outside of the community they don’t know.

                It is, however, pretty easy for someone to go on producing sloppy or so-so data and not have any repercussions (after tenure) besides a lack of collaborators and smaller grants.

            2. Observer*

              Theranos was a straight up scam, with a HUGE amount of effort and resources put into sidestepping any and all check on their work. I don’t think you can judge industry by it – Nor would I judge academia by one such episode.

              I’m not claiming that scientific work in private industry is perfect. Far from it! Nor that all academic work is poor or sloppy. But, the reality is that the mechanisms in place are different and more suited to ensuring solid work.

      2. Observer*

        In my experience, there is zero systematic QA in academic science, and as a result quite a bit of shoddy or erroneous work is being produced.

        The term “replication crisis” comes to mind. So does retractionwatch dot com. While it’s quite possible that the term “crisis” is overdone, it does speak to a very real problem. And it’s worth noting that some of the incorrect stuff coming out of academia is not only not useful, but actively harmful.

    19. J.B.*

      My dad is a professor and I always wanted to stop with a MS because from what I saw academia bl*ws and because in my field the industry PhD slots are few and far between. Wanting to feed yourself and come home at the end of the day is a fine thing. Go for it.

    20. Dr. Doll*

      This attitude in academia is possibly the most toxic thing about it. That ONLY the “Life of the Mind” is worth living. It’s a relic of the bad old days when only rich white men had access to education.

      Talk excitedly about the number of assistants you have and how you never have to do committee work or teach dull undergraduates (<–sarcasm) or deal with the grant paperwork.

      And, ask them directly to explain why they think you sold out. Kind of like asking someone to explain a sexist "joke," they will have to choke it down and realize that they have a stupid prejudice.

      (I didn't go into corporate, but I went to the teaching/admin route in academia, and man, my PhD advisor almost cried when she found out. Her problem, not mine.)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This was my thought, too. Just say, “Sold out? Why do you think I sold out?” Then stop talking, let the awkwardness flow as the person tries to explain their comment. Granted, this is not for the faint of heart, but as you stand there silently you will probably find yourself in a very different situation.
        Maybe the person starts on a rant. “Oh look at the time, gotta run! See you later!”
        Maybe the person settles down and shows a thinking person’s response.
        Or maybe the person just falls quiet. Then you’d wind down the conversation and leave.
        Which ever way this plays out means you either leave or you find yourself in a thoughtful conversation.

        There used to be that group who believed profiteering from someone ill health was not ethical. Maybe this person is a holdover from that era. You may just find that it’s some sort of idealism that has no real world application. I heard of a group that was starting a new kind of bank. They were not going to charge people interest on loans. The first thing I thought was, “how are you going to keep the heat and lights on?” I did not say that out loud. Idealism with no real world application, perhaps. Maybe they will figure out something that is not obvious to me. I have no clue. If you get caught in a conversation that is well beyond your scope like I did with the bank conversation then tell them they have good ideas and wish them well. Then close the conversation.

    21. Tired*

      Another corporate scientist here. I’m currently working at one of those places not curing cancer–but that doesn’t mean I can’t love my work. I love the actual work of my job just the same as any other scientist. I think job satisfaction as a scientist is not much different from job satisfaction in any other field–some has to do with how fulfilling the work is, but a lot has to do with salary, and a good boss, and sane coworkers, and benefits, and work/life balance, and commute time, and all of those other things. To me, those other things far outweigh any “prestige points” I’d get from working as an academic. I don’t give a darn about prestige–I just want to enjoy the day-to-day in my job (I do) and have a good life (I do).

      And just because you aren’t curing cancer doesn’t mean you aren’t making a difference in the world. I’m really straining to think of a corporate science job that doesn’t end up making a difference in someone’s life, even if just a small one. Can’t come up with any examples.

      1. mayfly*

        It’s kind of sad that the work/life balance is better in corporate America than it is in academia, but you’re right that it’s so much better here. I’m a female scientist with three small kids. I don’t think that’s possible in academia.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yeah, spouse entered grad school expecting to become a professor, and exited excited this his new industry job believed that if you had a problem at 5 on Friday, it would be where you left it at 9 on Monday.

          He works longer hours now, but they’re flexible and he is well compensated and likes the people he works with and our kids are no longer tiny. His description is that he likes working on problems, but he doesn’t care who’s coming up with the problems–it doesn’t have to be him.

        2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          Work/life balance was one of the reasons why I realized I wasn’t a good fit for academia. My PhD supervisor was effectively a single parent (her husband worked in another city and was only home on weekends) and very ambitious. Any time I emailed her — no matter the time of night or day — she always responded right away. She basically never slept and was constantly working. I’m just not that energetic.

    22. AJ*

      Hello fellow scientists. I’m a M.S. scientist in a tiny diagnostics company. Many of us could have stayed in academia but found the same headwinds as everyone else. Also, I think our development group has a high level of job satisfaction even if our products never make it to market (most don’t). We don’t get paid quite as much as our drug development colleagues but we have great benefits, a great group of colleagues and great work-life balance. Nothing to be guilty about selling out about!

    23. Quill*

      I’m a lab tech – truth be told, I double majored in a new field for my univesity (environmental science) and archaeology (because envi sci courses pretty much only ran in the fall, so I did classics in the springs… this was a bad idea,) and due to more circumstances than I care to talk about, I burnt out during undergrad thesis and came out of school with no internships, little work experience, and no help in entering the job market.

      Now I’m 26 and I am constantly being asked when I’m going back for a masters or PhD (not helped by the fact that my 3 years younger brother just got accepted at Berkely,) but honestly the idea of doing class or assignments again gives me nearly literal hives.

      I’m currently in medical devices, so at least what I’m doing is a small part of helping people stay healthier, but the whole idea I had going into college that everyone my age was going to be an instrumental part of saving the world? These days I’m old enough to realize that the people we know from history as high achievers didn’t rely on a lab tech’s paycheck, and didn’t have to wash their own laundry. It’s no accident that most of the world changing academics were well off men. If you have very little of the work of living to do you can spend 12 hours a day doing academics.

      There’s also plenty you can do that isn’t directly in your field – I’m still part of a local stream clean up club, and am waging a very slow war on my parents’ HOA’s lawn care standards. Will it ultimately save the world from global warming? Nope, because no matter how much scientists research and develop technology, the problem at this point is in government and public implementation, which I can’t do anything about in the sciences because I’m not Lex Luthor and I can’t beam long term planning into politicians. But it makes things better locally, and I’m taking my politics VERY seriously these days.

    24. ConflictedScientist*

      Wow, I want to thank everyone for their insightful replies. I’m going to bookmark this page and reread these responses any time that I start to feel less of myself because I didn’t stay with the academic route. Several of you hit it on the head with the point about how the environment in academia can be pretty toxic; that was actually a big part of why I left. And I thought that I had gotten over most of the acute trauma from some awful labs and PIs, but apparently the mentality that their way is the best (or only) way is further embedded in my mind than I realized. But reading these responses has given me several new perspectives on ways to look at it. You all are seriously awesome!

      1. RainyDay*

        I’ve worked with academics – but not as an academic myself – for 10+ years. Some of them are fabulous people, but my god, some of them are cranky old codgers. Bring your eyes up from your navel and come back to reality.

    25. Cedrus Libani*

      I’m sitting at my desk at Giant Science Corporation, waiting for the caffeine to kick in. I’m about 1.5 years out of my PhD. And there is zero doubt in my mind that I made the correct decision.

      I’ll admit, I miss having a “prestigious” answer for people who ask what I work on. In my academic life, I worked on cancer, AIDS, and world hunger. Those are all great things to mention at a dinner party. Now, I work on a legacy technology that few people outside the field have even heard of. I’m making it better, faster, and cheaper, which everyone likes, but it ain’t exactly Nobel Prize material.

      However, in practice, I’m doing exactly the same work that I did in academia. Heck, I’m doing better work. Industry can afford to hire people to take care of the basic daily-grind stuff, such that I don’t have to. And I can do the right experiment, instead of the experiment I can do with what’s available to me. I’m also legitimately better at industry-type work. I’m a tactics person, not a strategy person. I’m good at matching problems to solutions, and at fixing the weird corner cases that show up when you’re reducing things to practice. Industry values that skill set, academia doesn’t.

      I make good money, and can live where I want to, which is a distinct plus. But I’m also using my training to solve challenging problems, and I make stuff that people want to buy. I’m proud of the work I do, and I’m willing to be aggressively cheerful about it.

      And personally, I think the freedom of academia is highly overrated. In industry, you have to convince the people who control the funding that your project can make money. In academia, you have to convince them that your project is transformative…and if I never hear that word again, it will be too soon. Profit is a simple, and ultimately non-BS-able, metric; “transformative” is a woolly sack of emotion and groupthink. I’m a simple-minded quantitative type, so you can guess which one I prefer.

    26. only acting normal*

      Astrophysics Masters here. Now an analyst (specifically Operational Research if anyone is familiar with the field). I work with a mix of industry, government, and academia. They all have their pluses and minuses, but none is inherently morally or intellectually superior to any of the others.
      I’ve been to conferences where academics (rather bravely) presented their epic fails at attempting to do what is bread and butter for non-academics: I winced at their bewildered naivety.
      You are not a sell out, those people are being dickish (either because they need a dose of reality, or because they’ve had one and are trying to build themselves back up!)

    27. Overeducated*

      I’m not corporate, but I’m a non-academic scientist, and I get that too, a little bit. Less “you’re a sell-out” than “how can you conform to having other people tell you what to do?” among my crowd, but I know what you mean.

      The thing is, everybody’s a “sell out” because we live under capitalism and all of us who have to work for a living have to get paid. Everybody has to sell their work to somebody, whether it’s the NSF, NIH, Congress, private foundations, donors, or consumers. And some kinds of work that are incredibly rewarding and valuable to society just aren’t funding priorities for people with money. Sure, some kinds of work make contributions others don’t, some are pretty value neutral, and I’d argue that some are actively bad for people and the environment and our overall health as a society. But I think it’s quite disingenuous to act like people in some sectors are pure while others are money-grubbing, because our society is structured so that we all have to be money-grubbing if we don’t have trust funds or rich spouses, and contributing to society is not a black and white thing.

    28. ket*

      Haven’t figure it out. Am annoyed at my academic friends who talk about friends who have “left academia” the way they talk about someone who died; am annoyed at a guy who was almost my thesis advisor because he lists one of his former students as “left mathematics” when the former student now spends his time in a purely-research position working on government grants in mathematics. All my friends who are in industry say it’s so great, amazing, love it. I haven’t made the jump and so am making half the salary I’d make otherwise. My kid’s getting old enough for preschool so maybe I’ll cash in the flexibility and take the money and the opportunity to make a difference with my research!

      By “making a difference” I don’t necessarily mean saving the world/ending cancer, but I do mean getting toilet paper from here to there, making sure you can find a pair of jeans that fit via online shopping, etc.

    29. Mike C.*

      Just remind them of the massive and continuing cuts to public research programs. Since you’re a scientist, you can actually shove this data in their face, point out that they should have already been aware of it and then proceed to ask them how else you’re supposed to pay the bills.

    30. Lora*

      Your academic colleagues can kiss my fat butt.

      I have worked on (note, worked on because we are a team and each have our own specialties and this field is waaaaayyyy too complex for any one person to do by themselves) five drugs that went commercial. Okay, one was pulled because the company decided to go small molecule instead of biologic, but it was AT commercial dammit, they broke ground on the new building!

      Not one of those could ever have gotten out of a mouse in academia. Not one. The NIH can’t afford to fund that level of applied science. Some of them don’t have a huge patient population – orphan drugs, so there’s not a lot of money for them, but they were leveraged to make a platform process for other drugs that made a lot of money.

      If you want to fix mice, academia is GREAT at curing mice. If you want to cure a human, and get all awkward when they come for a special luncheon for orphan disease patients in the clinical trial you supported and they’re trying to thank you for saving their child’s life with tears in their eyes and you can’t decide whether to cry or die of embarrassment, you gotta work in industry.

      Granted, I work in Big Pharma, which has many evil aspects too.

      Part of it is sheer naivete. They literally do not know how hard it is to take a bright idea that worked okay in five mice, and see if it’s real or not. About 80% of academic science isn’t reproducible. It’s not real. It’s enough to get the Least Publishable Unit out the door, that’s all, and if nobody can read the postdoc’s notebook, the reagents are all expired/contaminated….oh well. Part of OldJob was testing out crap that came through the acquisitions group to see if it was worth setting up collaborations or working with these people. Spoiler: it’s not. Most of it’s really crap. My stuff, on the other hand, is checked and investigated and reproduced and scaled-up every damn day. If I produce crap, I get fired for sucking and struggle to find work elsewhere. Look at dudes like Lee Rubin, Tereza Imanishi-Kari, Brian Wansink, Anil Potti, Luk Van Parijs, Woo-suk Hwang, etc etc. You can’t tell me that academic science is pure anything, when these people are still gainfully employed in the field. Like all human endeavors it’s 80% crap.

      Academic science is a tiny fraction of what it takes to discover something new and have that thing be real. I’m talking 5%. Maybe 7% if they did some validation. Anyone who says otherwise is suffering from the Andy Grove Fallacy.

      1. TL -*

        Woah. Pharmacy is completely dependent on basic science research. Academia is supposed to be a place where you can wade through a lot of crap and do a lot of stuff that doesn’t work out and spend decades exploring a protein or a gene or a pathway. It’s not a place where a lot of practical applications are developed, but it is the place where the basis for most translational and clinic research is discovered.

        And for what it’s worth, I worked in (an exceptionally good) lab where we did meaningful translational research as well as basic science research. We didn’t have the desire or the resources to do drug trials but we did share what we found and let others (including pharma) do what they will with it. When my boss wanted to go into clinical trials, he left for pharma – not because he could do his job better in pharma, but because he wanted to do a different job entirely and that he couldn’t do in academia.

        Academia has its problems, as does pharma, but they have two very different roles to fill in the scientific world.

    31. Phoenix Programmer*

      The thing is – you can probably have a bigger impact on saving the world now!

      Keep abreast of the latest theoretical accomplishments and be an agent for change in your organization. Make the products you develope cheaper, greener, less toxic etc. And you’ll be saving the world much more then when you were belting out pubs for other non-applied researcher to cite. At least that is how I feel about my move from science to working in a hospital.

    32. sometimeswhy*

      I’ve done bench science in corporate, startup/corporate, startup/research, government/regulatory, and academic environments and truth be told, the only one you couldn’t pay me enough to go back to is academia. I’m happier doing applied science. I’m not tempered for research; it just frustrates me no end.

      Also, I SUCK at grant writing.

      Also, those folks are jerks.

      Do your thing. Live your life. Have some disposable income. Use that or your time or your voice to give back to the world or your community in ways that feed your soul or whatever or to support someone you love who feeds their soul doing those things.

    33. Working Hypothesis*

      Are you developing products that are actually bad for anything — the end user, the environment, etc? Or just not actively beneficial? I suspect it makes a difference to a lot of people.

    34. Bethany*

      I am an environmental scientist working at a large engineering company. I check the products our engineers create to minimise environmental impacts.

      A lot of the people I went to university with look down on me for ‘selling out’ and not working in research, but none of them are actually working in successful research right now. The ones who got their pHDs are stuck in assistant or laboratory positions, and some work at museums/only volunteer for research without being paid for it. Now those same people are approaching me looking for jobs.

      I like to think I am making just as much of a difference as they are, and I am getting paid much more than I would in academia. I miss the uni lifesyle, but I like the corporate life and I know I create good value for my clients and help in my own way. I also like the benefits and the pay much better!

      There’s pros and cons to either side, and in my experience people tend to see more of both sides when they’re not straight out of graduate school.

    35. SavannahMiranda*

      Moral superiority is the last refuge of the underpaid.

      That sounds unkind but I get the impulse, and I’ve lived it myself. When one has very little else to ‘show for’ their hard work, their years of education, and their commitment, having A Moral Purpose assuages a lot of frustration, financial insecurity, and ennui.

      And I get wanting to hew to the ideals one went to school with. The problem is that those ideals don’t write the same paychecks for others that they may write for me. If I managed to get one of the very few, very competitive (very underpaid) positions in academia serving my ideals, that’s great. For me. It should never be my place to judge others for not getting the same role I competed for, or that my friends and colleagues competed for, or opting not to compete but to have retirement savings, financial options, and a bigger pot to work with.

      And if I do judge others for this, that says I’m unable to think through the issues listed above, which ultimately says far more about me than I does about the persons I’m judging.

      I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. We all want and to a certain extent need the esteem and regard of our peers. But this one is on them, their failure of imagination, and not on you.

    36. Left the Rat Race*

      I briefly flirted with the Hollywood entertainment industry when I was in college. I grew up in Los Angeles and by luck met a few real superstars in the late sixties, early seventies. What I learned from them and their world is that it is show BUSINESS, not show ART (thank you Mario Peebles). So back to medical school and post-grad training in Boston.
      What I learned there was that scientific academia was more cutthroat than Hollywood, and that is saying something. Not my cuppa tea, and I never regretted going into medical practice instead of research.
      Same with my artist friends, who are so cliche with the starving artist persona and not selling out by doing commercial work. They obviously never studied art history, because the majority of the European artists from antiquity on were COMMISSIONED to do those famous works of art.
      All that to say, don’t worry about “selling out”. If you make enough money by “selling out” you’ll be the one funding those research projects your fellow scientists are writing grants for.

  6. Senorita Conchita*

    My coworker that I work with has been rude to me since I started working at my company 10 months ago. She’s pleasant and helpful if I approach her to ask her a question about work, but she’s nasty otherwise. She laughs at me if I make a mistake, talks about me to other coworkers, gives me attitude if I take time off, and frequently gives me the mean girl “up and down” look & sneer.

    I’m not sure what to do. It’s a very small company with close-knit staff who have worked together for 20 years. I’ve only been there a short amount of time. Is this serious enough to start documenting? I’ve been bullied at work before so I might be overly sensitive. I’ve thought about approaching the boss, but he’s non-confrontational and is friends with my coworker outside of work.

    1. fposte*

      I’m not sure what you’d be documenting for, though. Assuming you’re in the US, this isn’t illegal behavior unless there’s a motivation you haven’t stated, and this isn’t the kind of thing HR is likely to get involved in.

      I would work the situation from a different angle. For one, I’d focus on bonding with other co-workers. The closer you are with the rest of them, the less reward for her in performing for them. If she gives you attitude when you take time off, shrug and say “It’s fine with Manager, so if you have concerns he’s the one to talk to.” And maybe when she’s in friendly and helpful mode you can even ask what’s up. “Jane, you’re always really kind and generous like this when I ask for help, which I really appreciate, but then there are moments like yesterday when you straight up laughed at me in front of everybody for the pivot table error. I don’t get the difference there. What’s up with that?”

      1. Jesca*

        I second this for bonding with other coworkers. Don’t let her isolate you with her nasty gossip and meanness. The biggest mistakes I ever made was assuming everyone felt the same way about me that my bully did. And honestly, at the root of all bullying, that is the goal.

        1. Logan*

          I was in a shitty workplace for 5 months. As my end-date approached, everyone around me came out of the woodwork with variations of “How have you survived working with them?!” I wish that they had said something sooner, because I felt isolated all that time, when there were options.

    2. CoffeeLover*

      If you’re interested in developing a better relationship with her, you could ask her out for coffee or lunch. If you don’t feel comfortable just asking for no apparent reason, you could use the guise of learning more about some area of expertise she has or about her career or whatever makes sense. Alternatively, you could just say you’d like to get to know her better after having worked together for a while. Subtle flattery (aka being interested in her) can take you pretty far.

      I don’t think this is something you should go to your boss over since this is really your relationship to manage. It’s up to you to develop a better relationship with her or, since this doesn’t actually affect your work, to ignore her rudeness. For what it’s worth, it doesn’t really sound like bullying to me… just more like general mean-spiritedness, but I’ve also never been bullied so I’m not the best to say.

      1. Rainy*

        This is classic Mean-Girl style middle school bullying, and placating her will only make it worse because the coworker will take it as a signal of submission. It sounds to me like this coworker is attempting to position herself as superior to Señorita Conchita and that’s why she’s nice when Señorita Conchita approaches in the “appropriate” attitude (submissive, inferior, needing knowledge) and mean when she’s doing her thing and being awesome at work.

        I’d focus on building relationships with the coworkers who aren’t jerks (while being EXTREMELY careful not to admit anyone with known connections to Mean Girl to your confidence or inner circle) and continuing to act as though you have a normal if distant relationship with the Mean Girl. If you seem unaware of her tactics, she will escalate to the point that she looks ridiculous and everyone will see it, because if it is Mean-Girl bullying, she won’t be able to help herself.

        1. Left the Rat Race*

          Definitely document her behavior in real time, with date, time, location and situation, and keep it in a password protected Word type document that you copy to a thumb drive and transfer to your home computer. Don’t send it to yourself via office e-mail.
          I had to do this over a long period with a few “mean boys”, and it was very useful to have when a higher up made any kind of comments to me about potential HR problems.

      2. Specialk9*

        Definitely don’t try to placate or kiss up to her. This behavior is bizarre and unprofessional, and you don’t want to encourage it. Be a serene landscape photo and float along without noticing her antics. But do connect with others (without gossiping about the mean girl).

    3. alice*

      My boyfriend has one of these at his office. He came to the conclusion that Rude Coworker acted that way because he enjoyed being in control (hence being rude but also being helpful when being asked a question). His team routinely calls him out on his behaviour (“Wow that’s a rude comment”, “the way you’re staring at me makes me uncomfortable”, etc.) He hasn’t changed a bit, but I think it’s made everyone feel better about not putting up with his BS.

    4. MicroManagered*

      Can you try to act genuinely baffled but calm and name the behavior?

      “Whoa! Why would you laugh at me for making a mistake?”

      “What was that look for?” (when she says “What look?”) “Oh for a second it looked like you were looking me up and down and doing this.” *imitate face*

      If you actually HEAR her talking about you “You know I can hear what you’re saying, right, Bertha?”

      1. Specialk9*

        Yeah, calmly naming behavior can be powerful. But only if you can do that ‘disengaged commenting on an unusual behavior at the zoo’ thing, rather than enraged or about to cry. If nothing else it lets co-workers know it’s happening, and that you’ll call them out too if they jump on the bullying bandwagon.

        1. Left the Rat Race*

          In a meeting with one of the mean boys (we were all in our fifties at the time) he said something really inflammatory (and incorrect) about me, and then said, “It’s not personal.” I smiled and calmly said, “of course it is.”
          He was totally taken off guard and started defensively insisting it wasn’t, but by that time everyone was laughing at him.

        2. VicCatLady*

          “Yeah, calmly naming behavior can be powerful. But only if you can do that ‘disengaged commenting on an unusual behavior at the zoo’ thing, rather than enraged or about to cry.”

          And the sooner you do it the better, if you’re like me, because the longer it goes on the harder it will become not to cry — out of sheer rage and sense of unfairness, but nevertheless crying makes us look weak.

    5. WalkedInYourShoes*

      I had a co-worker like that 3 years ago. This person spent more time criticizing and bad-mouthing (99.9%) everyone in the company including myself besides doing her job (.1%).

      I was new like yourself, kept to myself and assessed the office dynamics. I realized that this co-worker had my manager’s support so no matter what anyone said about this co-worker. This person was there 1.5 years longer than I when I started. I documented missed deadlines, reports, and milestones in case I was held responsible for this person’s lack of responsibilities to do “the job”. Anyways, this person finally quit after 9 months after I started. When the person finally left the company, my manager looked over this person’s laptop and found disparaging remarks about everyone including the manager.

      So, here’s what helped me in my situation: 1) I pretended to listen to this person; 2) when this person complained, I would literally excuse myself due to a “call” or “missing a meeting; 3) when the person was in the office that we shared, I made sure that I booked a conference room for my calls; 4) walked alot.

      Another thing that came in my advantage was that this person made up excuses and was out literally every other day due to a “pulled armpit muscle”, “someone crashed into this person’s vehicle at night”, “left laptop at home and it doesn’t work”, “the person’s son needs to get a job and is helping him out”, etc. It became outrageous. So, everyone knew what was happening.

    6. OhBehave*

      It sounds like she’s feeling threatened by you. Entering such a close-knit workplace is hard enough. She’s protecting her turf and doesn’t want this newbie to upstage her.
      As others have suggested, call her out on her treatment of you. Others will be silently applauding you!
      If she sneers at you and looks you up and down, ask her if your fly is open. She’s going to claim she didn’t look at you in any particular way.
      You overhear her talking about you, let her know you can hear her and that if she has concerns about your performance to please talk to you directly. She KNOWS you can hear her. That’s why she’s doing it near you!

      Do not stoop to her level. Be as nice to hear as possible. Be even nicer to your coworkers. Do what you can to develop a relationship with them. At some point they will realize she’s full of it and you are a nice person who works hard. They probably already know this but are just letting her bullying behavior slide, which is not cool. Your boss sounds like an inept person who will be no help to you in this case. I’m sure she’s talking bad about you to him too but he’s heard it about everyone so has tuned her out.

      The fact that she’s still doing this 10 months later, is ridiculous! She’s acting the fool with her insecurity. Do what you can to not let it affect you. If you can feel pity for her every time she does something to you, that may help deflect.

  7. Toxic waste*

    Anytime I take PTO or any time off, work place thinks I’m interviewing. I don’t know why they think this, but how do I handle this? Do I ignore it and hope it goes away? Should I give more info on why I’m taking off?

    1. Audiophile*

      I would just matter-of-factly state that you’re not currently looking/or interviewing for a new position, you’re very happy in your current role with this company. (If this is true.)

      I’ve had this happen too, but when I’ve been happy in my role I’ve had no problem stating as much.

    2. SoSo*

      Sometimes my boss does this. You’re not entitled to telling them anything but some people are either nosy or worried they might lose a good employee. Usually I just laugh and tell her what I’m actually doing. Saying “Nope, just helping a family member move” or, “Going to the dentist actually; I’ve got a few cavities” is a lot less thrilling than the “mystery” of if you’re interviewing or not. Now, on the flip side, I definitely wouldn’t tell them if I was interviewing.

      1. A username for this site*

        Dentist is a wonderful excuse, because usually you have to go for a cleaning/checkup then if you have cavities, it’s normal to go for a few follow up appointments spread out over a few months. So you can drag one dental visit out into 3 additional excuses, at least.

    3. AMD*

      Are they asking you if you are interviewing? Making jokes? Are you hearing t through the grapevine? How to respond depends on how seriously and directly people are expressing this.

    4. Jelly Bean*

      Who specifically thinks you’re interviewing and what are they saying to give this impression?

      1. Bacon Pancakes*

        Agreed. I would be more concerned if it was my boss and less concerned if it was Patricia in Accounting.

    5. neverjaunty*

      Honestly, for me this would be a sign that I should START interviewing. It doesn’t speak well of a company (for so many reasons) if it assumes that nobody would want to take time off for any reason other than to work elsewhere.

      1. Massmatt*

        Was going to say this. The company/boss/whoever is making these comments is being weird and paranoid.

    6. Mediamaven*

      Trust me, every boss thinks this every time someone is out. We’re all sensitive because likely we’ve had it happen many times before. I would just deal with it and if asked, say you aren’t.

      1. designbot*

        thankfully, #notallbosses think this. Because lordy, I’ve got enough to worry about without inventing stories for myself!

    7. Naptime Enthusiast*

      I usually put announce that I’ll be out in an Outlook meeting notice and put a location as “Vacation”, “Work From Home”, or “Abroad”. If it’s anything private, I just put “OOO”. Then again my group isn’t very nosy so I rarely get questions.

    8. PB*

      I’ve been encountering some of this, too. We’ve had a lot of turnover lately, so I’ve gotten a lot of, “You’re not leaving, are you?!” I’ve just been laughing it off and assuring them that no, I’m not leaving/interviewing. No need to give more information, unless you want to. Your personal time is yours, and I’m not sure it would be that effective, anyway.

      1. Sophia Brooks*

        I agree. In is my experience that people who are weirdly obsessed with other people doing a thing are actually doing the thing. Like liars think people are lying, cheaters think people are cheating, etc.

        1. MillersSpring*

          I don’t know where I heard this adage years ago: The husband who looks under the bed has hidden under a bed himself.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Totally agree about projection.

          OP, just turn the question back on them:

          “Nope, I am not interviewing. Is that the only thing people do with their time off here?”

          “No interview going on. But tell me, should we all be interviewing, is something going on that we should be aware of?”

          “It’s not an interview. But you are making me think that maybe it should be, is that what you do with you PTO?”

          Or you can go with my personal fav which is to just let them exhaust themselves with worry about whether I am interviewing or not. This frees me up to, you know, go about life.

    9. LGC*

      You handle it by using your PTO to actually interview.

      But seriously, that sounds kind of neurotic on their part – do they have any reason to think you might leave? This might be a situation where you can deploy some demonstrative ignorance – “no, of course not, why do you think I was off at a job interview?”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Or, “Wow, that’s pretty random. Wait until I tell my dentist that one. He will laugh.”

  8. Bones*

    Advice needed: How do I ask someone who is cold-emailing me whether or not they have an actual job, or are just looking for me to come in, fill out a form, and be put into a database? I don’t want my time wasted, and can’t afford to take off extraneous hours from work. How do I stand up for myself in job searches?

    1. Fabulous*

      Ask to see a copy of the job description. If they can provide one, chances are there is an actual job. If they can’t/won’t provide one, or if they send you the most generic description (try googling the text to see if it’s a template description) chances are there is not a real job.

    2. StartupScrapper*

      Hi Bones,

      I’m assuming you’re being emailed by an agency recruiter. Can you ask them for the job description? They may mask the company name, but a JD will help you understand if it’s a real role or not.

      Speaking as a sometimes recruiter. They’re contacting you. You have most of the power in this situation.

      Good luck!

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      If I’d be even open to taking a new job, I reply back with “do you have a specific opportunity in mind? If so, please tell me more about it.”

      75% of the time this gets me some sort of “Nothing right now, I just like to develop relationships with people so I can recommend them when something comes up” (read: I just want to fill my database), and I don’t respond any further.

      25% of the time, they mention a job title and a VERY vague description of the job and ask to set up a call, which is fine. I know they want to be vague so I don’t just figure out what company it is and apply on my own.

  9. Susan K*

    What’s the deal with women befriending their coworkers’ wives? Is this a common thing everywhere? I have seen it many times at two different companies, and I’m a little baffled. I think it’s mainly on Facebook, not hanging out in person, and I think it’s usually the coworker who initiates it, not the wife (I’m assuming this because I’ve never received a friend request from a coworker’s wife). It’s only women — I’ve never seen a man befriend a coworker’s husband. I guess I’m just curious: why do people do this? What causes a woman to seek out her coworkers’ wives on Facebook and become friends? And if you are the wife, do you find it weird or awkward?

    1. What's with today, today?*

      I can only speak to my own experience, but my husband “Hates social media,” and is “so glad he doesn’t have a facebook,” and yet he loves to sit at night and read through people’s post on mine. He’s an attorney, and a lot of his male and female colleagues have friended me because they know Husband “hates Facebook,” but really creeps it. Also, I assume they like the bazillions of pictures of our kid! (LOL, I’m sure the pics aren’t the reason).

      1. MissMaple*

        Haha, I thought I was the only one. I have facebook and never use it. My husband doesn’t have it and uses it (mine) all the time :)

      2. Tangerina*

        Your username makes me laugh.

        Who knows where thoughts come from. They just appear.

      3. Jaydee*

        This. I know multiple coworkers (both men and women) who are Facebook friends with the wives/girlfriends of coworkers. But it’s because the husband doesn’t have a Facebook profile, so that’s the way to be Facebook friends with him.

        FWIW, I do know male coworkers who are actual friends with husbands/boyfriends of female coworkers. But they’re lawyers too, so maybe that explains it?

        I’m only facebook friends with spouses/partners of coworkers if I’m at least somewhat friendly with them in person (so basically the spouses/partners of the coworkers I’m friends with outside the office too).

    2. Happy Friday!*

      I have become very close friends with the wife of one colleague, but we’re in-person friends, not just social media friends. Our paths crossed at a few work events where spouses were invited and we got to know each other that way. This colleague has also become friends with my husband and the four of us often go out for dinner on the weekends. This is different than just being Facebook friends, but wanted to offer the example.

    3. Murphy*

      I’ve been friendly/facebook friends with some of my husband’s female co-workers, but it’s because we hung out together as couples. (We have hung out with male co-workers of his as well.)

    4. ExcelJedi*

      This is weird. Unless the coworkers go to dinner/non-work socializing with their spouses, I guess? But I haven’t met someone IRL except at an office holiday party, I would not accept those friend requests.

    5. The Other Chelsea*

      I have male coworkers who have befriended coworkers’ husbands/boyfriends. It’s not what I would do because I like keeping work/life more separated, but I think these coworkers tend to be very social and just want to build connections.

    6. Small but Fierce*

      I can’t speak for everyone, but as the wife in this situation, I’m often invited to work happy hours and weekend gatherings. I have a positive relationship with a lot of my husband’s coworkers, whom he considers friends. I don’t mind at all when those coworkers connect with me on social media. If it were a coworker I hadn’t met and a platform such as Facebook, that’d give me pause, but otherwise it’s fine with me.

    7. Seriously?*

      I have actually been friended by coworkers wives. I think that it is just people who friend anyone they meet.

    8. A. Ham*

      The only thing I find odd about this is the “only on social media” thing. I am friends (not “hang out every weekend” friends, but “occasional happy hour or party” friends) with many of my co-workers significant others, and my husband is friends with them too. It could be just part of the job, as we have quite a few work event during the year where SOs often attend as well, so it’s easy to build up friendships. Actually- it’s funny, I work with three women about my same age, and they are very nice and I get along with them just fine, but when our husbands met each other a few years ago at our annual gala, it was like bro-mance at first sight. I think my husband was sadder than I was when one of the women left for a different job, because it meant he wouldn’t see her husband as much anymore.

      1. Susan K*

        I’m not 100% sure they never hang out socially, but I think it is pretty rare, and if it does happen, it’s generally part of a group (e.g., company holiday party). I do know of at least a few of these friendships where the two women have never met in person.

        1. What's with today, today?*

          I went to a wedding recently where my husband was a groomsman and I knew no one. There was another wife in the exact same situation, and we bonded immediately. We were weekend wedding BFFs while our husbands were occupied. We live across the country from each other and I will never see her again, but we still friended each other on Facebook. I think it’s just a super easy thing people do with folks they meet.

        2. Sadie*

          I am FB friends with several of my coworkers wives ( like at least 6 of them) who I have never met in person.

          The wives all sent *me* the friend request (in all cases I was already fb friends with my coworkers, their husbands). I have really no idea why they wanted to be fb friends, but I have no problem with it and feel like it would seem weird if I declined the request. I’m married with kids and am FB friends with my boss lol, so there’s ithing on there I wouldn’t want seen.

          All this to say I wouldn’t assume the “friendships” were initiated by the coworker rather than the wives.

    9. Environmental Compliance*

      I get randomly friended by my husband’s coworker’s wives. In fact, one male coworker of his specifically will only make plans through his wife, who then talks to me. We were not otherwise friends, and really had barely met. It is incredibly odd to me. He sees Hubs at work daily….be a grown up and make plans then! Or text!

    10. Reba*

      This has happened to me (as the spouse) and I’m happy about it because I am actively trying to make friends with these people. We are all pretty new to the area so maybe that’s part of it. It probably also just reflects different ways or norms of using the site.

    11. TheWonderGinger*

      I had an interview with the branch manager of a company, a week later (during the holiday weekend) I got a friend request from him on Facebook.

      Yeah, that one is sitting in limbo.

    12. Chaordic One*

      I find that often times a husband will go home and talk about a female coworker with his wife. It is usually just benign comments having to do with small talk that the coworker has made, or sometimes the coworker venting. The wife then thinks she has to fix whatever minor problem the coworker has, or at least offer her sympathy and advice, although this is generally unneeded and unwanted. Also, sometimes you’ll find an insecure wife who feels that her relationship with her husband is a bit threatened by the woman who spends so much time with her husband. Making a friend of the coworker makes her a bit less threatening.

    13. Alli525*

      For a somewhat uncharitable take: based on the letters we’ve seen from people who refuse to travel, eat, or otherwise be alone with the opposite sex, I’m sure there are SOME women out there who friend their husband’s female coworkers as a pre-emptive, paranoid defense against cheating. “If they know me and our kids, they’re less likely to seduce my husband!”

      Now granted, most people do not behave this way. But I have heard that exact sentence from the fundamentalists I grew up around (not w/r/t social media, since that didn’t exist when I was growing up, but in general).

      1. Susan K*

        I have to admit that has crossed my mind, but the odd thing is that I’m pretty sure the friendships are being initiated by the coworker, not the wife. Maybe the coworkers do it as a defense against being accused of cheating — “If I make friends with the wife, nobody will think there’s anything going on between me and her husband.”

        1. Luna*

          I think part of it is related to weird retro ideas about people of the opposite sex not being able to be friends. The coworkers feel like they can’t really be friends with the male coworker (or at least not friends only with him if he has a significant other) so instead they make friends with the wife/girlfriend too.

        2. Traffic_Spiral*

          I think that might be it. Sort of a “look, I’m not angling to be your hubby’s sidepiece, we’re just work-friends.” Or even “Bob, I’m friends with your wife now so back off with the creeping.”

      2. Specialk9*

        I buy this take, having also grown up in that world. I have one non-religious friend who also has that as an explicit rule in her marriage, that they both agreed to – no real friends of the opposite gender.

        I also think it might have to do with gendered household labor expectations. Women often are de facto handlers of social relationships and scheduling.

        So basically, 2 reasons for major side eye.

      3. Kelsi*

        For an even less charitable take, it might be “I’ll friend them on FB so I can keep an eye on their activities/FB interactions with my husband” rather than “if we’re friends they’ll be less likely to seduce my husband.”

    14. Becky*

      I’ve never actually seen this happen? Maybe because I just am not on Facebook. I know exactly 2 of my coworkers spouses. My coworker Julie’s husband works in another department on the other side of the building so I see and talk to him a few times a week (he stops by Julie’s desk when they go for lunch and when they leave at the end of the day). And coworker David’s wife I know through David and our unofficial game nights at work (once a month we do a potluck game night, anyone is invited. David will sometimes bring his wife).

      The rest of my coworkers–I generally know who is married? Spouses will occasionally show up to go to lunch or to show off a new baby with spouse.

      Also know a former coworker’s spouse but that’s because I was coworker’s friend and bridesmaid years before either of us worked at the company.

    15. Nervous Accountant*

      Uh oh. I did that bc I’m friends w my coworker and I met his wife a few times before friending her on a FB. A lot of us at work are on each other’s social media so that’s why I Didn’t think it’d be so weird.

      1. Susan K*

        Well, just because I think it’s weird doesn’t mean everyone does. :) Apparently, a lot of people think it’s perfectly normal!

    16. Salad*

      Some of my best friends were my previous coworker’s wives…but I worked for the military and was usually the only woman among a bunch of men. I was friends with the guys/coworkers too, but we hung out outside of work and I became close friends with the wives.

    17. Tangerina*

      I can understand it a bit in cultures where you would facebook friend coworkers (which I just can’t bring myself to do). Since we spend so much time at work, it’s naturally the easiest place to meet new people to become social with. Women are seen as the kin-keepers, so if there’s going to be a two-couples-hanging-out thing, the women may feel pressured to organize it.

      I wouldn’t mind hanging with some of my dude coworkers, but I would not feel comfortable hanging with the married ones without their wife around. I could see befriending the wife to show her that I acknowledge their marriage and have no bad intentions, I just want to hang with solid people.

    18. Specialk9*

      I think this is incredibly weird behavior. I have a policy of not adding current co-workers to Facebook, but it generally doesn’t even come up. If the co-worker want to link up with me professionally, that’s what LinkedIn is about.

      If a coworker’s SPOUSE friended me out of the blue, I’d assume that either that co-worker had cheated, or that spouse was cheating. Because it’s too weird otherwise. (And I’d be pissed that I was getting pulled into marital nonsense.)

      The one exception is if you actually do hang out regularly. Then that’s someone who actually knows you who’s connecting with you, which isn’t weird at all.

    19. ket*

      My husband has befriended several of my coworkers/colleagues. I work in a very male-dominated field. He does not use social media — he uses beer.

      I am not comfortable, overall, making friends with my coworkers’/colleagues’ wives. Because of my field, it is sometimes cool, and sometimes it isolates me in the “ladies’ corner” talking about decorating instead of the conversations about grants, research, department politics that are happening on the “guy’s side.” I need to know those things!

    20. Extra Vitamins*

      I’m a woman in a male-dominated field. I have made friends with some coworkers wives because (1) those are the women I meet, and (2) there’s a wierd dynamic where doing that reassures everyone that I’m not hitting on my male coworkers ( yes this is stupid).

    21. Engineer Girl*

      Guilty guilty guilty.

      A lot my my work was time intensive, involved overtime and travel. A supportive spouse was a sort of ad-hoc member of the “team” simply because they were supportive. We would also occasionally meet for team celebrations, holiday parties, etc.

      The reality was that a non supportive family meant trouble for the team. The person would have to leave early, couldn’t trade shifts for launches and deployments, had problems on extended travel (over a month) etc.

      Good relationships are valued.

    22. Delta Delta*

      I worked with a gentleman who was married to a really lovely woman. We met at a company function and I liked her and she liked me and now we’re friends. It never struck me as odd.

    23. Hrovitnir*

      Well, I friended my partner’s co-worker’s wife – actually his employee so I was unsure about doing it, but basically after the last xmas do I was like “damn, you’re so cool”, plus we overlap a bit so I thought fuck it. She’s an awesome Maori woman working and doing her Masters at the same university I was at, whilst being the primary caregiver for their 5 kids, and focusing on better representation of Maori women in academia. We’ve also seen each other once a year for over 10 years so there’s that.

      We haven’t interacted much, because Facebook is kind of horribly designed for genuine interaction these days IMO, and it’s probably not totally professional for her to see second-hand personal stuff from her partner’s boss, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (My partner’s fine with it.)

    24. Hannah Banana*

      I’m “the wife” that has connected with several of my husband’s coworkers, all of which I’ve met in person several times. I don’t find it weird overall because my husband and I have the same job title in different, but overlapping, fields. Making connections with his coworkers helps me professionally and there are a lot of them that I really like on a personal level. My husband’s big boss’s wife and I are actually really great friends after we discovered many common interests.

      On the flip side it is a little weird being friends with big boss’s lady because I’m worried about personal and professional lives being separate and I wouldn’t want to jeopardize my husband’s career.

    25. Lonely chick.*

      As a young single woman in male dominated industry in a conservative rural area, all of my closest friends are from work and all of them are men. If we hang out outside of work it is “safer” to invite couples I guess, especially at the start. No one gets the wrong idea or intention, it protects my reputation at work (and it’s bull that it has to be like that) and my coworker’s wives are amazing peeps to boot. It’s also nice to have girl friends for the first time in my life, I tend to have male dominated hobbies as well so I find it hard to meet other women.

    26. Staja*

      As someone who keeps separation between FB and work, I find this practice odd, myself. At my last job, my former manager would go on and on about how funny the wives of at least 2 employees were, but had negative interactions with the employees themselves in the office. It just left a funny taste in my mouth.

  10. Nervous Accountant*

    I’m doing an evaluation on an employee and I am not sure if I should refuse it. This is teh guy I wrote about 2 weeks ago who told a client that I ran out the door on Friday and didn’t finalize their return as he had promised them; he got upset that *I* got upset and tried to deny ever saying that.

    Since then things have been quiet–I don’t talk to him at all. He’s on a diff team now so I am not responsible for his work or calendar so I have no reason to engage with him. He sent me a lot of texts and g-chats, all work related whcih I ignored and stopped eventually.

    (I’m doing his eval b/c I worked closely with him, and his current mgr started just a few weeks ago so everyone decided it made more sense that my mgr [therefore my team since I assist him] will be reviewing him…this is what made sense for all of us).

    I am not sure if I am having difficulty being objective. I guess I don’t know what it truly means? I liked him and even defended him against my boss and constantly talked about his strengths…until that experience. It left a really bad taste for me.

    I don’t know how this factors in professionally, but on a personal level, I’m a very forgiving person in that i rarely drop people or go cold.

    I guess these are my questions/concerns:

    Am I taking this too much to heart? I’m not getting promoted right now but eventually if I do, I know I”ll need to have difficult conversations and remain objective as a manager which I am learning more about by reading and observing.

    -If I DO go ahead with his eval, I”m mostly concerned with the face to face meeting. My mgr will help me out with some things if I need it but for the most part, I will be doing it 1 on 1. I am NERVOUS AF about this and I can see this guy pouncing on this. I know he will try to take as much time as possible and go over time and I will wear down and get friendly again.

    -His attitude surrounding this really bugged me. I mentioned this in the last post….I would NEVER have pulled any of thsi with my manager or boss nor would I even expect a courtesy msg from them. I just feel this is something serious enough to warrant a write up and I want him to know that. What’s a good way to bring this up?

    -His habit of constantly interrupting, not respecting boundaries etc. These are personality issues and honestly, I have the hardest time talking to someone about that just b/c I’m stuck in the mindset of “well you don’t have the best personality (or performance or skills or whatever) so who are you to judge?”

    -I guess tips on remaining calm and cool. I get nervous and flustered really easily :(

    1. Temperance*

      On a personal level, I think “forgiveness” is a trash concept. You know the issues that he has, and you can give him an objective review on the things that he sucks at.

      You don’t have to be nice to him. You don’t have to convince yourself that you need to forgive him or that his issues are unimportant because you also have issues. No.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Agree. Very tired of “forgiveness” being used to bludgeon people into tolerating missing stairs.

        1. tangerineRose*

          I think people get forgiving and forgetting lumped together. I may forgive someone for my own peace of mind, but I’m not likely to trust that person anymore if the person has proven untrustworthy and depending on what was done, I may avoid the person as much as possible.

      2. Logan*

        I’m reading a therapist’s book on foregiveness, and they define it as “the victimizer accepting new boundaries in the relationship, and the victimizer overtly taking responsibility for the past violations and commiting to change”. Taken in that context, there is more to foregiveness (in the therapy context) than forgetting. And NA’s colleague doesn’t seem to have any reason to be foregiven.

        NA: The fact that you had to defend him previously suggests that others also have a negative opinion. So the problem isn’t that you shouldn’t be critical, as it sounds like it is deserved, but rather that he will not take it well. Allison’s podcast on tone earlier this week was really interesting to me, and might be useful to you. I agree with many, specifically fposte, about sticking to actions and facts. I have been critical of some people, and I was surprised at how well received this was by managers, but they specifically mentioned that it was because I worked to separate the person from the criticism. I took my lead on this from the racist / racism or sexist / sexism wording many years ago – no one reacts well to being called a racist / sexist, but they can be much more careful about their future wording if you say “Those words you used can be viewed as racism / sexism”. As with colleagues and managers – we shouldn’t say that they are bad people, but rather that their actions need to be improved (or are unacceptable, as the case may be).

        1. Specialk9*

          I’m not sure I can get behind that definition of forgiveness, since it sounds like requiring another person to change, and none of us have that power.

          I find forgiveness really problematic though, as someone who has seen it used as a spiked club and as a free pass to behave badly (especially observed in fundamentalist Christian contexts), so I wrestle with this often.

          I don’t really know what my definition would be, but there is something about resetting my brain so my anger at someone else isn’t harming me, and ALSO being allowed to set boundaries to reduce future harm from that person. So forgiveness as self protection and self care rather than a form of victimization. But I’m still working on it.

          1. Left the Rat Race*

            Forgiveness is highly over rated. You cannot forgive someone if they haven’t asked for it, have not apologized for the behavior and are not trying to atone. What you can do is UNDERSTAND the person and his (in this case) limitations. You thought he was trustworthy and relatively honest, and he wasn’t.
            No need to forgive, but going forward you must remember who he is (definitely no forgetting) and take it from there.
            In the review you can begin with his good qualities and performances, but then say you were very disappointed when “X” incident occurred.

      3. Nervous Accountant*

        Thank you.

        I can’t change how I am with friends/etc or the past but I can be better going forward, esp at work. This is out of my comfort zone but I know this will be necessary if/when I get promoted.

        1. Specialk9*

          I think you are going into a work task but your mind is stuck in social mode.

          At work, you’re being asked to give a professional assessment in order to enable managers to make good decisions about personnel.

          Socially, things are more complicated. (Though I’d argue that you might want to brush up on Captain Awkward geek social fallacies to check.)

          At work, you can give a balanced and truthful account. ‘I’ve found him to be responsive, thorough, and good at interpreting current feedback, with can be contradictory. On one occasion a client informed me that he blamed me for an error I knew to be his own, but he denied it to me. This was an isolated incident but it gave me pause.’

          You might also talk verbally with your manager, if they are someone you know to actually deal with issues rather than avoid them, and explain the situation – ‘I’m concerned about putting this in his official report, but lying to a client and throwing a colleague under the bus are problematic enough that I’m also concerned about not mentioning. How do you think I should handle this?’

    2. ExcelJedi*

      This sounds like natural consequences to me. He has poor soft skills at work, and has made some major blunders (like throwing you under the bus to a client), and his evaluation should reflect that. Focus on him and the fact that this is about his actions, his skills, etc. You’re just pointing them out. (If you’re worried about being objective, point out how his actions/words have affected the business, not you.)

      If he pounces on anything you say or makes it about you, turn it around by saying something like “This is what I’m talking about. You need to be open to feedback and growth to be successful in this role.”

      1. designbot*

        Agreed. And this is a good chance to point out to him, that whatever it was that made him think he could get away with treating you like that at that time, circumstances can always change, and the person you treat poorly on any given day could suddenly be in a position of much more influence, and he shouldn’t feel comfortable treating anybody that way.

    3. AMPG*

      If you don’t actually have any authority over this guy, I would refuse the evaluation. There are just too many ways this could go sideways, and you could end up with a bad working relationship with no way to address it. In addition, the whole thing where he badmouthed you to a client and then lied about it is something that should be addressed, but by his manager, not by you. You should give your manager the info he or she needs to address all the things you’ve brought up here, but these are issues that should be handled by someone who has the authority to handle them.

    4. fposte*

      It sounds like you’re having a hard time separating your emotions from your professional task here. It’s not about whether you like him or not; stick to the facts, not what the facts make him or how you would have done things in the same situation. It’s okay if you’re friendly, as long as you are clear on the message. So think about what exactly that message is. If he were a book, how would you review him? (If he interrupts you, that’s a messageable moment too.)

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        +1 mainly because before this, you liked him and defended him, but now he interrupts and talks over people? Stick to the facts, and make sure you’re putting the recent facts in perspective.

        Go back 3 – 6 months and find three things he did well. Make sure those three things are mentioned.

        For soft skills – you no longer have standing to address them in the moment, which makes it *really* hard to address it in an evaluation. Is it possible for you to do a joint evaluation with his new manager?

        1. Nervous Accountant*

          Ohhhh this is what I was having a hard time understanding but I get it now, thank you for putting it that way. TBH i didn’t like the interruptions and neediness before but I let them slide bc I saw his strengths outweighed that.

          I would still say he excels in certain areas—that opinion hasn’t changed. I thought that was being objective.

          This is all super helpful, thanks!!

          1. Specialk9*

            Also, interrupting is a very cultural thing (and not cultural as in ethnic, though it can be, but regional and in specific groups).

            Some groups think interrupting is akin to clubbing baby seals. Others think it shows engagement and a good back-and-forth. There have been many many threads here on AAM on the topic.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            We don’t have to say positive things in order to be objective.
            If you have a negative thing to say you can do things to help yourself remain objective.
            1) Other people’s inputs/reactions do have to weigh in at some point. If you are getting a lot of feedback about his interrupts this is something bigger than just you. People around him need him to stop interrupting.
            2) One helping tool I have used is to look at Other Random Employee and say, “Would I let this or that slide with this other person? How about everyone else, if all my people here did this would I say something?” If you have one set of answers for this guy and another set for other people, then that should set off little alarm bells in your head that you MIGHT be over-compensating for this person’s fumbles.
            3) Having to defend people is a visual cue. What are the common threads running through the times you had to defend him? I worked with a person that I thought the world of, she was probably one of the hardest working people I have ever met. When she got tired or stressed she got cranky and some times bossy to the point that I got complaints. I would have to pull her to one side and tell her to dial it back. This would work into an update on life, which I was okay with. Her updates were brief and usually there was something upsetting going on. We’d make a plan for her to have time to deal with Upsetting Thing. She would dial back the stuff she said and we’d all carry on with the work at hand.
            The point here is some times we have to give correction to the ones we like or even admire. It helps to focus on what is good for the group, “the group needs me to do this”.

            Just my opinion, but this guy does not sound that great to me. But I am not there, so this opinion is worth less than two cents. He sounds like a bully and a know-it-all and he is working his way into being manipulative on top of all this. My best suggestion is to try to view him from the eyes of his peers.

      2. Nervous Accountant*

        True, I see what you’re saying. I’ve always been on the more emotional side although I try to be logical and rational about a lot of things. To me this is such an “easy” concept but I’m shocked at myself at how challenging it is to execute sometimes.

        I accept what the facts are–he’s good at XYZ but A was so egregious to me and could have had a bad impact on the company as well.

        Sorry if I am stating very obvious things. Not trying to be obtuse.

    5. What's with today, today?*

      I remember your post, and I was one of the commenters that would have been extremely frustrated if my manager had left for the day without letting me know they weren’t taking care of it before they left. My boss does this and it is truly frustrating and a problem infuriating and…just makes no sense to us. He does it a lot, so maybe that is a difference with your situation. I understand your report threw you under the buss a little hard, but I absolutely will tell our clients, “hey, I have to get boss’ approval on that, and he has gone for the day.” That’s the truth, not a reason to write me up.

      I truly do not think you should evaluate this person, and if I was this employee I would have a really hard time accepting an evaluation from you.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I went back to read the original post, because I remembered having a completely opposite reaction, and I think you’re missing some important points.

        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.

        So, NA said she could look at it quickly if it was simple. It was NOT simple. She told him when she had to leave, so if he’s any good at his job, he would have known this wasn’t a 20-minute task. And finally, he told the client she “made a run for it,” as if she’d left him in the lurch by running out early. All of these were inappropriate, and I don’t think he has a reason to be frustrated.

        1. What's with today, today?*

          After reading again, you are correct. I very well could be projecting a bit b/c of my boss. Best of luck NA!

        2. designbot*

          I do think in Nervous’s position I still would’ve confirmed with him on the way out that, hey, this was what I feared in that it’s a long return that’s riddled with errors, so I’m going to have to finish it up monday morning.
          That said, he did have warning that this might turn out to be the case, and shouldn’t have thrown a colleague under the bus that way regardless. However you feel, you don’t air that dirty laundry to clients.

          1. Specialk9*

            Exactly. Even if OP *had* left him in the lurch, which it sounds like they did not do, when talking with clients you have to present a smooth and glossy surface. No dirty laundry! You don’t ever ever ever complain to a client about your co-workers or company.

            Instead he should have said something like “unfortunately the person who handles that has left for the day, but we’ll make sure to …”

            As a manager, I’d want to know that a worker was inclined to air dirty laundry with clients. At a minimum it would result in some training. It would make me not put them into the running for bigger more sensitive jobs, at this time. I’d want to have a bit more visibility into how he talks to clients in the future.

    6. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Just keep reminding yourself, the calmer you seem, the more unreasonable he’ll seem. Do not let yourself get rattled by silences; in fact, the more you wait for him to shut up and let you speak, the more he’ll probably blather on and look like a fool. There’s nothing wrong with taking a second (or a bunch of them) to compose your thoughts.

      Also, when talking or writing about him, make sure you describe his behavior and its effect as objectively as possible. It is much more believable when someone says “Fergus stated I did X, but I did Y” than to say “Fergus lied about where I was”.

    7. Nita*

      I think there’s nothing wrong with mentioning this in the evaluation – it wasn’t a personal insult (or “just” a personal insult), it was unprofessional behavior on his part. Both the poor planning when he gave you all that info at the last minute, and the way he made the company look bad to the client when it was really his oversight.

      If you think you can be objective overall, go ahead and do the eval, and don’t feel that you must leave this incident out. If you think you can’t, or that it’ll look bad, maybe just give your boss a rough draft and ask them to finalize it and make sure that you haven’t been unfair to the guy because of this recent problem.

    8. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Evals should be mostly about measurable and demonstrable KPIs. Start there… this will help put you in the objective mindset and it’s what the bulk of the eval should be on. What was his measurable success against his goals?

      If there is a place in the eval that would be appropriate to mention things like teamwork, credibility, customer service, etc. then this is going to be where you mention things that are more on the soft side.

      This gets a little sticky because there should be no surprises in an evaluation (good or bad). If you were his manager I would say you should only include things that you have already discussed. I remember your original post but not the finer details, so I will put it this way. Don’t include that incident unless his manager (either old or new) was involved at the time.

      As far as being friendly or unfriendly honestly you need to stop thinking about it in this way. Think of yourself during this eval as an acting manager. A manager is neither friendly or unfriendly, nice or mean, good or bad during an evaluation. They are factual, they use evidence and results, and they don’t base decisions on emotions.

      You will probably have to practice a little on the compartmentalization for this exercise, but it will help. If you are worried about the actual sit down meeting, I would request the new manager be present. This is usually what happens when evals are held during or immediately after a transition, new and old manager are present.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        The 3 of us did get involved. My mgr & I talked to him. His current mgr was looped in every email etc, but since he had just started days before, he agreed to let my mgr & I take the lead on it. But he was fully aware of everything.

    9. The Winter Rose*

      It sounds like you are not able to be objective and professional in carrying out the review, so I think you should decline. He deserves to get actionable feedback from someone who is able to separate their emotions from the facts.

      1. Specialk9*

        Disagree. Feelings do not negate facts.

        The behavior was problematic, and indicates that he doesn’t understand some important things about communicating with clients, planning, and integrity. OP needs to separate the feelings from facts, true, and write unemotionally, but this is a perspective that should be shared.

    10. OhNo*

      If you’re getting caught up on the fact that you’ve been friendly with him and/or defended him in the past, it’s okay to acknowledge that. It’s also okay to note that this specific incident opened your eyes a bit, and you view things differently now. It’s okay to say, “Others have mentioned Employee’s issues with soft skills in the past, which I assumed were minor and not worth addressing. After working with him on the X return, though, I have seen firsthand how those issues can cause problems for the company.” You can explain the consequences of that specific incident if it’s called for, but I think you’d be able to slide right into any specific points you think he needs to work on.

      It might also help to keep the focus on the impact to the business, rather than on the impact it had on you. That’s often an effective way to keep the tone professional, in my experience.

    1. Chaordic One*

      “Gumption” and “Grit” go together like… something.

      I always thing that gumption sounds like something that you could chew.

  11. Lauren*

    I work with another woman, “Vera”. It’s just the two if us in our department. Vera can be funny, but runs hot and cold. One second we’re laughing, the next she’s giving me the cold shoulder. There’s another woman, “Roxie” that comes in from another branch a couple times during the week. Vera and Roxie worked together at the other branch, but then Vera was moved.

    I like Roxie- we talk and even went to a few concerts together. I don’t have an issue with her- I think she’s awesome.

    I think that Vera is trying to pit us against each other. She’s always saying how much she misses Roxie and how Roxie is “easy to talk to.” Or how Roxie finished this project or that one, even though I finished the same projects months earlier.

    I came back from vacation and all Vera did was talk about how she misses Roxie and how Roxie didn’t take vacation, but I did. Vera didn’t even ask how my vacation was.

    I usually just nod or shake my head, but it’s getting to be a little much. I don’t know if Vera hates me or what, but it’s annoying and I’m not sure how to handle this.

    What should I do?

      1. fposte*

        I actually love that. I’d take all bite out of my voice and just use it to agree that Roxy is awesome. I also think it’s okay and possibly effective to respond to “Roxy would have had this done months ago” with a sympathetic “You really miss Roxy, don’t you? It’s hard when you lose that time with a good friend.”

        1. Beancounter in Texas*

          When people’s feelings are validated, they often stop talking about them so much. This could work.

    1. Secretary*

      I mean, do you actually like Vera?
      This is attention seeking and weird, I would just ignore her and continue to have a good relationship with Roxie. Be warm and friendly to Vera but don’t trust her to have your back.

    2. CoffeeLover*

      Maybe you could say something like “Is everything okay? You seem pretty unhappy about working here recently… you’ve been talking about Roxie quite a lot and I’m wondering if you miss working with your old team.”

      Hopefully, it will make her realize how she’s coming off without having to confront her about anything.

    3. LadyByTheLake*

      This is about Vera, not Roxie. Continue your warm relationship with Roxie. Keep professional and cordial with Vera.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. Vera is being Vera. This is who she is. It might take years to find out that Roxy has been walking on eggshells to keep Vera pacified but I think this is where this story is going.

        Sorry to be vague but I do have a little story. A Person who I admire greatly (My Admirable Person) and I were talking about a third person who, like Vera, ran hot and cold. My Admirable Person said, “Let’s do things to make her feel included.” This third person was not a high maintenance type of friend, little things here and there were MORE than enough to help her relax. We said hi in the morning. We asked about family. We talked about our animals. We discovered we share personal interests X and Y which lead to more conversations and added interest to the day. And we never went back to the hot-cold routine we saw in the beginning. Happily the story landed well with the three of us considering each other as friends.

        I think that part of the reason why this worked is that our person had the ability and the actual desire to be warm and kind, additionally she had numerous interests. So this technique would not work in every setting nor for everyone.

    4. lys*

      Stay out of each of their lives. Vera could cause major problems. (From experience) People like Vera also do not take responsibility for their actions.

      1. Specialk9*

        Yeah, Vera is waving red flags in your face. She sounds untrustworthy, so believe your gut and be careful with her.

  12. Llama Wrangler*

    Outlook/Exchange help needed! After 8 years of working in places with gmail-based mail services, I’m now in an office that uses exchange mail. To make matters worse, I don’t have a consistent desktop, so I basically only use the web app. I considered myself a highly-fluent gmail user, and am struggling to make the change. What are your favorite tips and tricks? Do you have any resources that helped you become a power user?

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I love the color-coded category options in Outlook.

      Also, I make extensive use of Rules to keep my inbox manageable.

        1. Beancounter in Texas*

          I use the rules to sort emails I don’t need to read upon receipt, but will peruse later, such as the employee perk emails I sometimes want to utilize, but for the most part, I’ll just reference them later. I set the rule to move emails from that particular email address to a folder.

          I also get emails for a department list that I don’t need to read hardly ever, but when I need to reference something, it’s there. I set that rule to include a keyword in the subject, mark it read and file it away.

        2. LGC*

          Jumping in, but I try to keep my main inbox as clear as possible. Usually, I shunt routine emails like file requests to their own specialized folders.

          Since requests only come from our customers, and they usually use the same email title, I can set all emails titled [file request] to go to my requests folder. (It’s a word combination we almost never use otherwise in email titles.)

        3. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I get a lot of automated email notifications about actions that people have taken in a computer system, so I have a rule set to bypass my inbox and directly file them in a folder. They aren’t information I need on a daily basis, but if there is an issue, I can pop into that folder and search on the person’s name.

          At my previous job, we received faxes via email and I had those routed to a specific folder which made it much easier when someone would call and say “I faxed that on Monday!” I could go into the folder, scroll to Monday, and find their fax.

          At another previous job, I had multiple areas of responsibility, so I color coded all of my emails so I could do my work in chunks. For example, every email that involved Database A was coded yellow, so I would log into Database A and go through my yellow category. It was more efficient than doing Thing in Database A and then reviewing Contract 23 and then checking Database C and then going back to Database A.

        4. TardyTardis*

          I use rules all over the place! My political stuff goes in one folder, the newsletters into one folder, Quora stuff into another folder–makes my life much easier. At work, I had categories for different plants so I could separate invoices from them out and get them processed much more quickly (time zone differences between many of the plants made it interesting to contact them on the phone). That sort of thing.

    2. AliceBD*

      No real advice. Outlook is terrible and the web app more so. I want to reassure you that it is the product, not you.

      1. Llama Wrangler*

        Agreed. Not to mention that the add-ons I got used to using in gmail (boomerang and calendly) to increase my productivity don’t even work properly with the webapp.

      2. I am who I am*

        Eh, I love Outlook and hate Gmail, it’s personal preference.

        What I like about Outlook is it only does what you ask it to as far as rules and sorting and so forth, so I have complete control. Gmail wants to be “helpful” and tell me what’s important, and it’s so often very, very wrong. Even when I specifically tell it something isn’t spam, it will revert to sorting it as spam every few weeks. Drives me back to yahoo.

        1. Chaordic One*

          You are so very right. I like that Outlook lets me format my emails a small bit more. I especially miss not having a “tab” feature. Gmail just seems so basic.

        2. Fabulous*

          Same. I hate that about Gmail and refuse to use it because I seemingly don’t have control over my inbox. I’ve been using Hotmail for years, which transitioned to a few years back. It’s pretty terrible, but really only because it doesn’t have full Outlook functionality and it’s trying to adopt a lot of Gmail’s crappy functions.

    3. Susan K*

      The best thing I have ever learned to do in Outlook — which I learned from an Open Thread here — is Quick Steps. If you find yourself sending the same e-mails over and over, Quick Steps is a huge time-saver. For example, if you have to e-mail the TPS report to Fergus, Lucinda, and Wakeen every day, you can make a Quick Steps button where, with one click, it creates an e-mail to Fergus, Lucinda, and Wakeen, with a subject of “TPS Report” and body that says, “Please see attached for today’s TPS report.” and your signature. All you have to do is attach the TPS report and hit send.

      1. Nessun*

        Quick Steps are my favourite thing ever! I have so many standard email templates saved there now…and the same in Word. Two clicks and all that boilerplate type nonsense is ready to go!

      2. Fabulous*

        I never knew this was a thing!!! Gonna have to try it out now. I have SO many weekly and daily emails I send out that this would be life-changing.

      3. Washi*

        Relatedly, if you miss the “canned response” option on Gmail, you can save email templates in Outlook’s quick parts tool.

    4. Borgette*

      I try to keep my inbox limited to open projects, everything else goes into folders.
      – Resolved (anything completed goes here)
      – Reference (anything that I might need to see again later goes here)
      – Reference Subfolders (code, data, impostor syndrome vaccinations, other)
      – Administrative (Anything HR related, annual goals, weekly company updates, etc.)

      I use the color categories to tag major ongoing projects, colors might get re-used because the categories are more limited than actual tagging.
      All emails related to teapot analysis are green
      All rice sculpture emails are blue
      Urgent emails are red until completed then untagged

      1. Llama Wrangler*

        Thanks. This is the big thing I’m struggling with — figuring out what I should use folders for and what I should use categories for. What’s your rationale for categorizing items by type of project, rather than making a folder for each project? (I’m used to using labels in gmail to sort by project, which seems to be analogous to folders. But then I couldn’t figure out what I would use categories for.)

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          You could also use colors for priority levels, if you want to go that way.

        2. Borgette*

          I tried a folder for each project, and that worked okay for very defined projects with clear end points, but isn’t great if you deal with a lot of short projects (too many folders) or projects that morph into new projects. (folders are too rigid)

          So, for my work folders are the BIG categories and colors are like gmail labels for projects.

        3. zora*

          For deciding what folder system to use, try asking around some of your coworkers.

          I had a previous job where we did lots of event planning and a coworker told me she just did folders by month, put everything in the folder for the month that an event happened, and then hid those folders into an “Archive” folder when the month was over. Then she new what folder to search if she needed anything.

          Currently I work in a company that does client-focused work, so I just have overall folders by year/client, and everything involving a client goes into that folder when i’m done. At the end of the year, I collapse the folders into an archive and start a new one for the client.

        4. AMT27*

          I tend to have folders based on work “type” (I’m in accounting, so one is ‘banking’ for daily emails to/from the bank, I have folders for each quarter of the year so pertinent info for that quarter gets kept together, plus ones like ‘policies’ and ‘HR related’ for employee info). Then I set my color codes up so I can tell what actions I’ve already taken for items – for me, green is “printed” so i know that i’ve already printed/saved an attachment for further processing and can therefore ignore the email but it stays saved in its folder, blue means ‘need to book’ if it has info I need to record on our ledger, orange is ‘follow up’ to remind me i need to take further action – it really depends on what type of work you do, what your workflow is like and what your actionable items ar.e

        5. DaniCalifornia*

          I only use categories for stuff that goes on my calendar in Outlook. I found it got too cluttered in my general email box. But stuff that needed to be reminders about, you can attach the email to a calendar or task. And then I use categories by color so when I’m in the calendar or task part of Outlook I can quickly see ‘oh blue..i’ve got 10 open bookkeeping projects.’ or ‘green..gotta remind Bob that this invoice is due’

          1. Llama Wrangler*

            Hmmm, that seems really useful. I’ll have to figure out how to attach emails to tasks/set reminders for them.

      2. Alli525*

        Yes, this. I have a strict Inbox-Zero policy (I currently have 5 emails “pending”) and file every single email as soon as I’ve taken any necessary action. My folders are more topic-based than yours (Emergency Management, Events, Intern Tasks, Website Writing) but I try not to subdivide them TOO much.

        1. Borgette*

          Agreed, if I have more than 5 folders sorting gets overwhelming, and I wind up ignoring some of them.

    5. KR*

      So I came from an organization where I didn’t get a ton of email traffic and we used the whole Google suite for our small org. I liked it a lot. Now I use an exchange and outlook but get a lot more emails every day. I email with people daily and get cc’d on a lot of things I have to be aware of or looped in on. Outlook is so helpful to me. I use rules, color coded emails, flag emails for follow up on ect. Got to say I hate the web mail version but if you’re in an email heavy organization you might prefer outlook/outlook online.

      1. Llama Wrangler*

        Can you give me examples of how you use rules and color coded emails? Also how do you use flags?

        1. Fabulous*

          Not the original commenter, but here’s how I use those things:

          Rules: I have maybe 100 rules in place for all incoming emails. They include things like “If it comes from Nancy P. file it in the New York Office folder,” or “Emails with ‘Effective Immediately’ in the subject go to the Announcements folder,” or “Emails from Jerry S. with “Report” in the subject go to the Reports folder,” and so on. Only pertinent emails sent to me from my teammates or boss go to my inbox. It helps to reduce clutter and organize my Outlook so I’m not continually sorting through thousands of emails. My inbox thus effectively becomes my To-Do list, and when something is complete I manually move it to a Completed folder. Sometimes my inbox has 30 emails in it, sometimes it has 3, depending on how many pending tasks I have.

          Colors (aka Categories): I use the categories to flag things I need to follow up on at a later date, or information that I want to highlight in my inbox amongst the other emails. It’s not necessarily a to-do, but more of a good-to-know, or I’m still waiting on a reply about such-and-such.

          Flags: I use these for my immediate to-do’s. Any action item that must be completed within 24 hours or so. You can technically set the due date to whenever (like a month or more out) but to me that gets too confusing. Once something has been flagged, overnight it turns red to makes it stand out more. I like my urgent tasks highlighted like that. And then you just click the flag again to mark it complete.

          So that’s that!

          1. zora*

            Another way I use flags:

            I am collecting requests for a room in our hotel block for an event. I make a folder called “Room Block” and every time I get a request, I flag it and put it in that folder. When I have a bunch collected, I go through the folder and as I add each request to my spreadsheet I click the flag “Done”. That way at any time, I know which ones in that folder have been added, and which haven’t.

          2. Fabulous*

            Also, the Flags connect to Outlook’s To-Do List (the icon looks like a clip board) so you can keep track of everything together there too if you want.

    6. Business Manager*

      I would second the rules and color coding. There is a way to do template emails too that is helpful, but I’m not sure if it’s in the web version or not. The desktop version has a tasks section that you can set reminders to and it’s helpful in reminding me to do certain things at certain times.

    7. Persimmons*

      I use Outlook for Mac. It requires frequent sacrifices. I have an altar where I place freshly baked bread loaves and fragrant herbs.

    8. Kat*

      My job has a large project management component and I use Outlook to keep track of the various projects I’m working on (I’m angling for my company to purchase some type of project management software, but that will have to wait for FY19). I use color-coded categories to differentiate between project locations and I use tasks to keep track of the status of each project. Admittedly it’s not the most efficient system, but it’s accurate–I also invited several key stakeholders (my boss, the facilities manager, etc.) to share my Outlook tasks so they are always able to access the most up-to-date task list. I also frequently receive assignments via email, so I created a Quick Step that creates a new task with the email as an attachment.

    9. zora*

      My biggest tip: I use “signatures” for text I have to send frequently.
      – In a past job I had to send things for approval dozens of times a day, so I set up a signature that was “Please see below for approval.”
      – In a current job we use conference call lines a lot, so I have all the conference call info saved as a “signature” that I can insert into any email or meeting notice.

      I use folders extensively and try to keep my Inbox small, but I use big buckets for my folders instead of really specific ones. And then I just search if I need something.

      If you right click on the “Mail” or “Calendar” icons on the bottom left side, you can “Open in a new window”, so I keep a mail window and a calendar window open at all times.

      I used to try to use the “Flags” to set deadlines and then use the task list, but it was a third place I had to go to find things, so it frustrated me. Instead now I turn emails into “Appointments” and put htem on my calendar (marked as “Free”) as reminders to do things.

      I have a folder titled “zTemplates” so it’s at the bottom of my folder list, where I move emails that I use infrequently. Like directions to our office, or the text for a monthly reminder email I send. Things that are not frequent enough for Quick Steps, but I don’t have to go searching for them every time I want to copy and paste.

      1. Bowl of Oranges*

        Someone mentioned this a few replies up – there is a feature called Quick Steps that does exactly what you use the signatures to do. Signatures can totally, but with Quick Steps you’ll have more formatting options.

        1. zora*

          I use signatures for text I have to include in a lot of different emails or meeting notices. It’s easier for me to have it right there in the toolbar of the message I have open no matter what kind of message it is.

        2. Bowl of Oranges*

          Sorry, I meant Quick Parts. Quick Steps are another thing (that’s also useful) – Quick Parts are the written text.

          1. zora*

            Oh, I’ve never noticed Quick Parts, I’ll look into that!

            I’ve been using signatures for many, many years, so I never thought to look for a different way to do it.

    10. Bowl of Oranges*

      One of my favorites is Inserting your calendar. On the web app, when you’re in the email compose screen, there is an icon towards the bottom that looks like a calendar. You can use that to insert your calendar availability. On desktop, it’s in the insert tab.

      On the desktop, you can also take and insert screenshots in Outlook (and other Office programs). Insert tab > screenshot. You can choose to insert an open window or take a screen sclipping.

      1. GeorgiaBlythe*

        I have been using Outlook for years – it’s not unusual for me to get 100+ emails in a day, and I did not know about inserting your calendar in an email!!

    11. LurkieLoo*

      Maybe you could find a different app (web based or phone/tablet) that you do like for emailing. There are so many different kinds of mail apps, I don’t even know where to point you for features that are valuable to you.

  13. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

    Do you work with anyone who reminds you of a TV or other fictional character?

    One of my superiors is a dead ringer for Les Nessman, the uptight newscaster from WKRP in Cincinnati (classic early ’80s sitcom) who is extremely behind the times and resistant to change. He’s about the same age, from the same part of the country, same hair, and even wears glasses that are almost identical to Les Nessman’s. I’m happy I realized this – he always stressed me out before, but now every time he talks, I imagine Les Nessman whining “But…my hog reports!!” and it’s hard not to start to chuckle.

    Unfortunately for fans of WKRP in Cincinnati, there’s no Dr. Johnny Fever here.

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      I work with Dr. Johnny Fever. He’s the head of the science department and a creepy old hippy. He’s an institution here. Some of the other teachers who have been here as long as he has actually call him “Dr. Fever” because he resembled him even more back in the day.

      I wish we had a Venus Flytrap. He was cool.

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

        That episode’s obviously a classic and one of my favorites. But my *absolute* favorite comes from later that same season – Ferryman’s Funeral Homes, with the extremely creepy funeral director Mr. Ferryman and the really bad-taste jingle WKRP created for it.

        1. TardyTardis*

          I also like the one with Herb and the stereo salesman, when they’re stuck inside the stereo store by a horrible thunderstorm. Two crack salesmen, both alike in dignity…

    2. Tess McGill*

      There’s a woman in my office who is a dead ringer for the actress Mare Winningham. What’s even stranger is that co-worker’s name matches the character’s name Ms. Winningham played in St. Elmo’s Fire … and to make it even funnier, the office is located 6 blocks from Georgetown.

      1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        Does she wear really frumpy sweaters and chase after bad saxaphone singers too?

    3. starsaphire*

      I used to belong to a really big volunteer group, and I knew a guy who looked a *lot* like Kenneth Branagh.

      So much so that, at one point, his group did a Harry Potter theme for Halloween. Of course he dressed up as Lockhart. The resemblance was almost scary. :)

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

        Of all the WKRP characters, I think this is the one I’d want to work with the least!

    4. Temperance*

      There is a woman who dresses kind of like a female Steve the Pirate in my office, minus the pirate headdress. She wears those horrible cold shoulder shirts with a leather vest.

    5. Wendy City*

      I just switched to a new job, but old work had a coworker who I called Frank Burns when I inevitably complained about him to family and friends. He didn’t really look like the MASH character (although work-Frank Burns didn’t have a chin, either), but acted *just* like him. Negative, mealy-mouthed, unable to take what he dishes out, a total suck-up to people in power, and a truly horrible manager to work under (thank god I wasn’t his direct report).

      Frank Burns eats worms!

    6. Ann*

      The guy who sits next to me is very similar to Ron Swanson. Similar political views, hobbies, and is fairly private, but he will also help you fix your car or roof or whatever during his day off.

    7. zora*

      This was at a previous job, I had two coworkers, their job titles didn’t work together, but they were friends so spent time in each other’s offices, who were dead ringers for Dr. Bunson Honeydew and Beaker.

      1: Short, round, balding. 2: taller, skinny, with short curly hair. They used to actually do imitations of the characters, too, it was awesome.

      And as with the Kenneth Branaugh example above, we seriously discussed a Muppet theme for Halloween one year. My team was going to be the Electric Mayhem. But we never had time to pull it off ;)

      1. Lcsa99*

        Haha that’s hilarious. I would love to work with Bunsen and Beeker.

        My old commute, my husband and I used to run into a pair of grumpy old guys we called Waldorf and Statler.

        1. Annon on a barstool*

          Friday night’s I sit next to Waldorf and Statler at my local watering hole. The both mumble and laugh a lot. I am always highly amused by conversations with them.

    8. LimeRoos*

      I used to work with a lady who did her makeup like Mimi from the Drew Carey show. I sat at her desk for two months while she was out, thought I had a light-ish gray phone… then someone cleaned it and it was dark gray, her makeup had rubbed off on it so much it completely changed color :-/ Totally squicked out.

    9. Lcsa99*

      This is a great idea!

      I was hoping to come up with something not wkrp related, but the only thing I could think of is that I used to work for a large, Russian version of Arthur Carlson. He was mostly sweet and harmless but he was certain he knew more about the business than he really did and insisted he be involved in all projects rather than letting the experts he hired do their jobs. Unfortunately he never hired an Andy Travis so he ran the business into the ground.

    10. Deryn*

      No, but imagining frustrating coworkers as sitcom characters is one of my favorite chill-out techniques! I have one particular person on my team who is especially exasperating in a variety of ways (some are out of my scope of authority and some things, though annoying, really have no bearing on our work, though there are a few serious issues I’ve been working on addressing with him) and I have a feeling he’d be a fan favorite on something like The Office or Parks and Rec for his sheer ridiculousness. Imagining our interactions playing out on-screen really takes the edge off my annoyance!

      1. zora*

        ooo that is a great idea! Most of my coworkers currently are pretty great, but I could totally use this when I’m getting frustrated!

    11. Waiting for the Sun (Formerly Sugarplum*

      I do not, but am glad someone else remembers WKRP as fondly as I do!

    12. Chaordic One*

      I have a friend and former coworker who is a ringer for the comedian Brett Butler. She had the same kind of low, slightly nasal voice; the same deadpan sense of humor and she even had a drug problem. (Addicted to opioids.) The “MyTV” network has been running reruns of Brett’s old sitcom, “Grace Under Fire,” which made me think of it. While Brett Butler came from the south, though, my friend came from Barstow.

      I also used to have a coworker who was like a red-headed version of “Georgette,” Ted Baxter’s girlfriend and later wife on the “Mary Tyler Moore Show.” This coworker had a soft little feminine voice and just seemed very naive and innocent, just like Georgette. Sadly, this person was diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s in her 60s and she has since passed away.

    13. Alli525*

      One of my coworkers is a dead ringer for Tig Notaro, down to the short hair (although my coworker’s is curly) and raspy deadpan voice. It’s kind of fantastic.

    14. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

      At OldJob, one of my supervisors reminded me of Michael Scott (from The Office). He kind of looked like him and definitely acted like him.

    15. Mrs_Helm*

      I recently described a coworker to my husband as “Cap’n Barbossa from Pirates of the Caribbean”. He’s less dramatic, and no costume, but otherwise…

    16. m*

      my grandboss reminds me of michael keaton and i can’t not see it once i realized that’s who it was.

    17. Corky's Wife Bonnie*

      Oh gosh, I used to work with a guy that was EXACTLY like the annoying waiter that worked with Jennifer Aniston’s character in Office Space (I think she referred to him as “pretty boy Brian?), he even looked like him! Only, I worked with him in an office, which made it 50 times worse. He didn’t last long, that personality just didn’t mesh with the others.

    18. DaniCalifornia*

      One day one of my coworker’s SO’s offered up that our owner/boss looks like James Spader. I cannot unsee it. Not the Robert California version either, the Black List one. But he acts more like Robert California in some ways lol.

    19. only acting normal*

      I work with a guy who looks like a cross between Chris Evans (Captain America not TFI Friday) and Gareth Southgate (the England Football manager). It’s really uncanny!

    20. HRH Princess PP Monkeybutt*

      I work with two older engineers that I have christened Statler & Waldorf (the old guys who sat in the balcony on the Muppets). Listening to the two of them is almost like watching the show again.

    21. Gumby*

      I used to work at the same company as someone who was a dead ringer for the guy who played Sark in Alias. He worked out of a different office, in a different city, but once we were in an all day conference and I found myself feeling eerily uncomfortable and mildly threatened while just sitting there listening to a speaker. Turns out the Sark look-alike was sitting just behind and to the right of me and I was probably catching him out of the corner of my eye or something. Once I realized the resemblance, I felt fine.

    22. LCL*

      I cross paths with someone at work who I can only think of as Gaston. I would never say this to him, or spread it around for others to use. I have used it when venting at home to explain why he is so aggravating.

    23. Cedrus Libani*

      There’s a manager in another department with an uncanny resemblance to Gru, from Despicable Me.

      I’m a dead ringer for Dwight Schrute…and I’m a lady. I think I’m less annoying, though?

    24. Windchime*

      I used to have a boss who looked like Ned Flanders. Dark hair, full mustache, wire-rimmed glasses. I never noticed it until someone else mentioned the resemblance; then I couldn’t get it out of my head.

    25. SavannahMiranda*

      I work at a law firm where our office culture has vestiges of midcentury era personality. One of my Partners is a dead ringer for Roger Sterling in Mad Men. Tall, charming, silver haired aplomb. Very good at what he does. Great networker and rainmaker. Totally minus the skeeve, thankfully! Our Roger Sterling really is a good guy. But I can’t work with him without thinking about the show. Not to mention a lot of the office politics really do apply (minus the more soap opera-y aspects).

  14. Eternal Job Hunter*

    Does anyone have a job that doesn’t require being a people person, a specific degree and specific experience?
    I’m super organized and detail-oriented, and good at research, writing and “multi-tasking,” but am having trouble finding jobs that don’t involve people much and that I’m qualified for based on my education and experience. I end up skimming thousands of job postings each week since there doesn’t seem to be any specific positions I’d be a good fit for that I should narrow my search by, and I don’t want to miss something I’d possibly be good at that I wouldn’t have thought of before. Doing this has been very time-consuming, demoralizing and unfruitful.

    (Technically I see some jobs I’d be a good fit for that are part time or minimum wage, but can’t afford them. Even if I wanted to do them, there’s no chance I’d get hired as I’m way “over-qualified” because of my education and years of experience.)

    1. peachie*

      Are you interested in IT-type stuff? There’s a decent amount of stuff you can learn on your own (programming languages, etc.) and, while it’s definitely more challenging to find a job when you don’t “technically” (heh) have any experience, it’s doable. I taught myself SQL a few years ago and managed to get hired in a data/reporting role even though that wasn’t part of the job responsibilities of my previous job. And I have a humanities degree, so it’s not like my educational background was on my side.

      Our team is hiring now, and they really, really want someone who knows SQL and they do not care how they learned it. This is just my personal anecdotal experience, of course, but it’s been a fun and exciting career switch that I never would have expected (or thought I’d be interested in!).

      1. Eternal Job Hunter*

        I remember playing with HTML and some other sort of coding (I forget which) to design my own websites in middle school and thought it was really fun, so it’s something I’d be open to learning. Only problem is I’ve been unemployed for a while and need a job as soon as possible, so I don’t have time to invest in learning right now. ):

        I’ve actually seen a bunch of job posting where the position title sounded interesting only to find out they wanted someone with SQL experience.

        1. peachie*

          Ugh, I’m sorry. :( You know, it’s a long shot, but maybe you could apply to some of those jobs anyway? Obviously, there are lots of positions where this wouldn’t work, but one of my coworkers started in the same role I’m now in and she didn’t even know what SQL was–but she was really professional and interested in the job, so they decided to take her on and teach her. SQL is relatively easy to learn, so it might be a long shot, but it’s possible!

          1. Eternal Job Hunter*

            Maybe I’ll try. :)

            I saw a job today that sounded interesting until I got to the SQL part. Don’t remember the job title though!

        2. peachie*

          Also–that’s interesting about the HTML thing–I had exactly the same experience! My parents bought me a domain name for my 11th or 12th birthday (clearly I was a cool and normal kid) and I went wild with the HTML design. I’d kind of forgotten about that until I started trying to get a data/programming job in earnest; I think I really internalized the “left brain”/”right brain” nonsense and assumed that, because I liked/was good at arts/humanities stuff, I couldn’t possibly also like/be good at science-y/technology stuff.

      2. Bowl of Oranges*

        If you decide to go the IT route, be very careful and intentional with the kind of roll you get into. If you are in an IT support role (like helpdesk and technician type roles), most of your job will be dealing with people, just as much as dealing with computers.

    2. ThatGirl*

      My last job was in digital marketing, as an editor with a lot of research and multitasking involved, and while I certainly had to get along with my coworkers (and having writing and editing experience helped), I wasn’t public-facing and it did not require any particular degree or exact experience.

      My current job doesn’t require any exact degree or experience either, though it is more public-facing.

    3. Secretary*

      I mean, the most profitable jobs you need to interact with people at least a little bit in some capacity. I have great people skills, but it’s not because I’m a people person, it’s because I’ve worked really hard on them and practiced a lot. I’ve found the best way to bypass a specific degree or experience is people skills and leadership.
      That doesn’t mean you have to work in customer service or something though, just you need to be able to communicate well with people in ANY job. Working on communication skills can also help with interviews to be able to effectively explain why you’re not overqualified in a convincing way.
      Book Recommendation:
      How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
      Should be a must read for everyone. I read it once a year at least.

      1. Eternal Job Hunter*

        I know you have to interact with people a little bit in all jobs, and I actually enjoy working with people who are on my team (maybe not ALL teammates but at least the ones who are competent and kind). But I want to avoid anything where you’re the “point of contact” or where you’re going to be interacting with seven different departments, or other jobs where there’s a high level of working with people. I think I’d do good at a job that was solely e-mail because then you can organize and prioritize your communication, but having phone calls and in-person visits frequently interrupting me is pretty horrible since I’m not good at being put on the spot and find people exhausting.

        Will look up “How To Win Friends…” at the library. The chapter titles sound interesting!

    4. AMPG*

      Grant writing. I’m currently a one-person development department at a non-profit, so I do have to interface with donors, but since we’re largely grant funded and we don’t have much of an individual giving program, my time is largely spent writing, and most of my interactions are with the CEO or upper level management.

    5. Trig*

      You sound like me after I graduated. I had the good research, writing and organization skills afforded by doing an advanced degree, but my job experience was retail, and I had NO IDEA what to even search for in a professional job.

      What solved it for me was doing a one-year certificate in technical writing that ended with an internship. That internship turned into a job, and here I am six years later with a career, and specific things to look for if I need a new job.

      Is there a technical program/college near you that offers specific job-related certifications? Maybe have a poke around that and see if anything appeals, which might help narrow your search. If money’s tight, they might offer scholarships, and the program would hopefully allow you to work part time while doing it.

      1. Eternal Job Hunter*

        Definitely do not want to do anything that involves more education or internships. I have two degrees and have done several unpaid internships. I’ve already poured so much time and money into getting a career that didn’t pan out that I’d be afraid of pouring more time and money into another career that won’t pan out again. ):

    6. Dr Wizard, PhD*

      Government and public/civil service work. They love detail-oriented people with degrees who are good at research.

    7. epi*

      Honestly to me your description sounds like an administrator. Not all admin jobs require exceptional people skills– it really depends on the position. Some may have you interacting with the public or with a lot of internal customers, others you may be dealing with a smaller group of people involved in one process or department. I think it takes a closer reading of job ads, probing in interviews, and probably some experience to sort those out.

      I used to work with a group of admins who seemed to me like you described yourself: smart, organized, competent with multiple transferable skills that made them very flexible. They kept our department running and were really only dealing with people in the department and a handful of individuals who were the contact for something else.

    8. TiffIf*

      I’m a software quality tester. While my company prefers a CS degree of some sort, realistically speaking we’ve almost never had that. We’ve had majors in biology, math, english, photography, linguistics, music and more, including no degree at all. There’s a LOT of open tech positions in my area and most people with tech credentials are not going to go for the lower-paying QA job if they can get a higher paying dev position. See if there are any QA Analyst positions in your area and what qualifications those require. Some will list more technical skills but if you can ad hoc learn those and prove your skill without a degree then you probably wouldn’t be in too bad a position.

      1. Nancie*

        I just came here to suggest this. I’m actually a programmer, but where I work the software testers frequently come in with no formal IT background. (Sometimes programmers do too, but they’re usually at least self-taught in programming.)

    9. NW Mossy*

      When you say you’re not a people person, how does that show up for you? I’d guess that some types of people interactions are easier for you than others, so it’d be worth spending some time thinking about where you feel the most at ease with others. On the flip side, think about which ones are especially hard, too. You might feel like you’re not a people person because you don’t have instant rapport with strangers, but that’s not the only kind of people interaction there is at work.

      I don’t consider myself a people person, but over time, I’ve realized that meetings are actually the easiest type of people interaction for me because I can see people’s faces and they happen with internal people with whom I have a preexisting relationship. By pivoting towards those kinds of interactions, I ended up doing something I never would have anticipated 5 years ago – moving into management. Not saying management would be a fit for you (too little info to know!), but I suspect that you might get a lot out of finding roles that play to the specific types of interpersonal strengths you have rather than fretting about avoiding ones you might not have.

    10. Hagatha Fistme*

      Assuming you have a college degree, you may be a good fit for document review. Many lawfirms have an in-house doc review team if their big enough, or hire it out to companies that only do document review. When a case is gearing up to go to trial, there’s often hundreds or thousands of documents that need to be reviewed and produced and most of that now is all electronic (as opposed to the paper docs of yore). Some will only hire law school grads but others use paralegals as well (we’re cheaper!). I’ve been one for going on 2 years now and still like it a lot. It’s quiet work and you tend to be alone with your computer for most of the day and there is a variety of cases you’ll work on.
      I have a degree in English Lit and after my youngest went to school, I decided to attend the local community college and do their paralegal training course. I like that you have to be something of a detective and figure out if a document is actually responsive to the lawsuit at hand. Probably not the best job for a super social/extroverted person but it’s right up my alley. I’m also lucky in that I love my boss and most of my coworkers are cool.

    11. Det. Charles Boyle*

      Technical writer? You can look at job postings at (the Society for Technical Communication) and read about what the job entails. But you do need to interact with people somewhat for all jobs, it’s unavoidable. But tech writers (in some jobs, anyway) spend lots of time alone, editing/writing documents, with only a few meetings. I sometimes go days without talking to anyone except via email.

      1. SCORMHacker*

        I second technical writing, it is a great job for an introvert! You do have to interact with people, obviously, but not all the time. It’s an independent job, and requires a lot of concentration. I have gone days without talking to people when in the middle of a big project. I started in tech writing and moved into e-learning development (another good option for you, as well!) There are some great courses on on technical documentation and e-learning (both learning theory and tools). Most job postings will ask for technical writing or instructional design degrees, but I have neither and have never worked with anyone who did, most companies just want to see your work and understand your design process.

        1. Flora Poste*

          Hey there, just for curiosity’s sake, are there any particular Lynda courses that you’d recommend? I’ve been wanting to try my hand at tech writing but haven’t been sure where to start, and my library has Lynda access :)

          1. SCORMHacker*

            Hey Flora!
            There’s a few Lynda courses I like:
            Technical Writing: Reports with Judy Steiner Williams
            Technical Writing: Quick Start Guides with Leslie O’Flahavan
            Ninja Writing: The Four Levels of Writing Mastery with Shani Raja

            I’d also recommend looking at Information Mapping (, it is a documentation software but has some good stand alone training for technical writing and information mapping as a tech writing technique (which is not necessarily tied to the Info Mapping tool). Hope that helps some!!

    12. Snazzy Hat*

      You may need to attend job fairs or speak with recruiters for this, but you sound as though you’re perfect for back-office roles (I’m not a fan of the description). I sometimes go weeks without receiving a phone call, and the calls I get are either from people whom I emailed earlier that day, or from my boss whose office is a few aisles away. I never speak with customers. Ever. They have no business talking to me because my department has completely different protocols and security measures than other employees who do speak with customers. I don’t even mean I work in a high-security environment; this would be akin to the person who buys a chocolate teapot in a chocolate shop calling up the person who makes the box that the chocolate teapot was packaged in.

      Overall, my advice is to go to job fairs and be honest about yourself. Don’t warn recruiters that you’re not a people-person; assure them you work best as an individual. Check out the communication style quadrant (you’re likely an “analyzer”, as I am) for inspiration with the good qualities of your personality.

      Oh, and one more thing! Scout out companies you respect — bonus if they’re at a job fair. The cover letter I wrote for my current job mentioned that I’ve been a very satisfied customer of the company for many years, and that I appreciate the corporate sponsorships they do.

  15. peachie*

    I’m feeling bogged down by frustrating things this week and could use some less-serious story time, so: Anyone have any interesting work wardrobe mishaps/solutions?

    I bike to work, so when it’s hot out, I wear gym-type clothes and bring work clothes to change into. A few days ago, I was in the bathroom getting changed and reached for my work shirt, but–it wasn’t my work shirt. It was a very old, well-loved band tee. I’d been doing laundry the night before, and I guess I took a shirt from the wrong pile. My office is fairly casual, but not, like, band tee casual. And I had a full-team meeting in an hour. And I was wearing GINGHAM PANTS. Do you know what matches gingham pants? BASICALLY NOTHING. So, I ran to Walgreens, hoping they’d have one of those packaged tees that I could sorta make work, but all they had was an entire section of beach cover-ups. The best I could pull together was a lacy tunic situation over a coral tank top. The tunic was so long and weird that I had to do some creative wrapping and tuck it into my pants. Which was… fine. Not my brightest sartorial day, but, fine.

    1. peachie*

      My favorite, though, was at my last job. I got an all-staff email with a subject line like “[external] task force will be meeting in the large conference room today,” which usually just meant “FYI some people who are not usually here will be here,” so I did not open the email. WELL. I got to work and thought, hm, that’s weird, lotta blazers today. Our office was solidly business casual and it was a casual Friday, so I knew something was off when I counted exactly one pair of jeans. They were mine. So I opened the aforementioned email which had included a directive to dress BUSINESS FORMAL. I was wearing high-waisted jeans and a flannel. I looked like a goddamn farmer.

      Thankfully, my past procrastination saved the day. I’d bought a dress that fit but was itchy, so I was planning on taking it back, but I’m not great with follow-through so it had been sitting under my desk for over a month. It wasn’t business formal, but honestly, basically nothing could have been worse than what I had on. I had an itchy day but I did not get fired, so I chalk it up as a win!

      1. grace*

        Hahahaha omg, as soon as I read “I looked like a goddamn farmer,” I was cackling. Glad you managed to make it work out :P

      2. DaniCalifornia*

        LOL both of your stories make me want to buy a duplicate of a nice outfit and blazer and shoes and keep it in my trunk. I keep meaning to do this even though our office is fairly casual. Just in case of food spillage.

      3. only acting normal*

        Whoever wrote that email *really* buried the lead. 8-/
        Our IT team are terrible for this. Vague title about updates = all your emails will get blocked if you don’t change X.

        1. SavannahMiranda*

          Yes! Ours too! We get “Please read: Updates.” Okay. Three paragraphs explaining required system upgrades in a tone that is trying to head off people bitching and dragging their feet (spoiler: people will always bitch and drag their feet).

          The LAST paragraph says please reply to confirm your availability for a date to upgrade.

          Wondering why no one is telling them when their computer is available, and chalking it up to the aforementioned footdragging – IT, probably.

          Instead of, y’know, putting “Response Required: Tell Me Your Availability” in the RE line and starting the email with “Reply with a date for your availability for our new upgrades. Read on to learn more!” Or something even less clunky.

          Bury the lede, and you get buried in people’s inboxes.

    2. Free Meerkats*

      Every angst-filled clothing thread here makes me more and more glad I wear the same thing every day. Long-sleeve faded denim shirt with embroidered logo over a pocket tee with embroidered logo, blue rental pants, and safety boots. All except for shoes supplied by my employer.

      1. peachie*

        I used to have a job like this, and even though the uniform was aggressively ugly, it was nice to not have to think about clothing choices!

    3. BlueWolf*

      No solution here, but I once accidentally wore sneakers to work instead of my work shoes. I was in some sort of morning fog autopilot mode and just slipped on my sneakers. My usual wardrobe is dress pants with a blouse so it probably looked a bit silly. Luckily they were at least mostly black, but the bright pink Nike swoosh wasn’t exactly inconspicuous. No one commented on it and some people do wear sneakers to the office, I think due to health reasons, so at least I wouldn’t be the only one.

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

        My biggest wardrobe-related nightmare is always that I’m going to wear two different shoes to work. The shoes I have now are sufficiently different that I’d feel the difference right away. But for awhile I had two pairs of (really comfortable) shoes that were absolutely identical but for the color.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          I’ve done this – one brown boot and one black boot. Different styles but approximately the same heel height. I didn’t notice at all, it took one of my (male) coworkers to point it out to me.

        2. Persimmons*

          Yup, I’ve done that several times. I like what I like, and when I find it I purchase multiples!

          TBH hardly anyone notices. People are not terribly observant as a whole. It’s comforting.

          1. Red Reader*

            Yep – I have seven pairs of Converse low tops and I deliberately mismatch them regularly. I also only wear earrings in my left ear – unusual for a woman – and have done since I was 12. (I am now 37.) The frequency with which people who have known me for 2, 3, 5, 10, 20 years or more go “oh, you lost an earring!” is truly amazing.

        3. Anonymouse for this*

          Lol – I did that to go running. Turned up to the track and realized I had two different sneakers on – both green but one was Nike and the other was Saucony.

        4. Elisabeth*

          I had two pairs of black pumps, but one had a 3.5inch heel and one had a 3 inch heel and I somehow got to work wearing one of each. I was weirdly stumbling all day.

        1. Deryn*

          I have a pair of old, beat up clogs (the kind that my high school friends used to call “potato shoes”) that I leave by my back door to wear when I take my dog out. I always take her out last thing before work and then slip into my nice shoes before leaving the house. I have come VERY CLOSE to going to work in my yard shoes before!

        2. JokersandRogues*

          Oh, I did. Purple fuzzy ones. My spouse brought my shoes to me. I texted my boss that I was in the parking lot waiting for reasonable shoes as I refused to come in. He laughed a great deal.

        3. Chaordic One*

          This story reminds me a letter that someone wrote to “Dear Abby” many years ago. While standing beside her husband at a church service a woman noticed that she seemed to be a bit shorter than usual. She looked down and realized that she was not wearing her usual shoes, but instead was still wearing her bedroom slippers. In the mad rush to get her children, her husband, and herself dressed and off to church on time she’d forgotten to put on her shoes.

          When she went to communion and then on the way out of church, she limped.

          1. Deryn*

            That reminds me of a somewhat similar mishap at church my sister had when we were little. For context, I’m the oldest of three girls – at the time we were probably something like 10, 8, and 4 years old. My mom used to buy a lot of matching outfits for me and my middle sister, which were then saved for the youngest to wear when she was big enough. One Sunday on our way into church, my mom notices my youngest sister is walking kind of oddly. Then she realizes that my sister is wearing the shoes from one of our hand-me-down matching sets, but each shoe is a different size, with one of them being laughably too big for her. It’s funny now, but my mom was mortified at the time!

        4. Middle School Teacher*

          I went to Walmart in my slippers once. I was mortified when I noticed, but my mom pointed out that at my Walmart, there were likely people wearing way worse.

          1. Middle School Teacher*

            Oh! And my sister ended up at our grandmother’s FUNERAL in her slippers. My parents were picking up but they were really delayed by construction, so they were really running late, and my sister just ran out of her house in her slippers. Before my sister did the offertory, my mom had to lend my sister her dress shoes!

    4. AutoCAD Teacher Lady*

      I teach high school. One day, I was doing a very energetic lesson at the board when my whole class fell weirdly silent. The front row was staring at the floor…when I followed their gaze I saw a pair of my lacy panties in the floor. They must’ve been in the leg of my pants in the wash.
      I just picked them up, shoved them in my pocket and said, “I promise they’re clean!” And then went about my business of teaching. Fortunately this was before Snapchat was a thing or I’d be internet famous for all the wrong reasons!

      1. Libervermis*

        A+ aplomb right there, you’re amazing! I think my entire body would have been red.

      2. Windchime*

        This happened to my dad once years ago (before dryer sheets were a thing). He got to work and a coworker noticed something peeking out from the sleeve of Dad’s flannel shirt. It was a pair of mom’s underwear, stuck there by way of static cling.

      3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        These stories make me want to go out and buy all new, pretty underwear instead of the various utilitarian pairs I have.

    5. Llama Wrangler*

      I had a similar situation when one of my shoes broke on the subway ride. I had to hobble to the closest drug store and cross my fingers they had something appropriate.

      1. peachie*

        Ooh, that’s tough–I don’t think I’ve ever seen shoes other than flip flops in a drugstore! Did you manage to find any?

      2. SavannahMiranda*

        I tripped and fell in the subway once, destroying my shoe and busting up my toe until it was bleeding. I was a pretty sight! (But I got out of the way and didn’t hold up the flow of people by god.) A police officer whom I asked for directions to a decent bathroom for washing up took me under her wing instead. She lead me into the precinct, placed me in a room, and brought me their first aid kit. It was amazing and completely unexpected. I doctored my toe, hobbled to Payless near the exit, and bought new flats. Had them for about three years and they were forever after the busted-my-toe-open-in-the-subway-and-a-nice-cop-helped-me-doctor-myself shoes.

    6. Justin*

      I used to run to work. One winter day, I forgot to pack… my pants.

      So I sat there in my running tights and Did. Not. Leave. My. Desk. I was lucky I sat in a corner.

      1. Hope*

        Once when I was doing a teaching internship that involved an hour commute into a different, earlier time zone, I went in with two completely different shoes (different style AND colors), and didn’t realize it until the end of the day.

      2. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

        I’m forgetful, so that’s one of the big things stopping me from ever running to work (that and the fact that we don’t have any shower facilities here, and I sweat a lot when I run). I do the opposite, and run home from work from time to time. At least once, I’ve forgotten a proper running shirt or proper running pants, and have just run in what I had on. (Fortunately, this happened in winter and when I wasn’t planning to do a long run.) I give you kudos for running to work though!!

        1. ContentWrangler*

          I keep a big supply of (clean!) work out clothes in my desk so that I can work out over lunch or after work. It helps me limit the amount of things I could forget that would prevent me working out. Still, sometimes after wearing my gym shoes home from an after work session, I’ll forget to bring them back. Once did a spin class in flat ankle booties.

      3. Hrovitnir*

        I am so scared of that. I’m lucky in that I could probably get away with it (though it’d be a bit odd), and most of the time change into scrubs anyway, but there is an outside chance of having to wear sweaty tights all day and I am not keen.

    7. Trig*

      I live in a cold cold place, and I walk to work in the winter (or skate, when I’m lucky!)

      I also get very hot and sweaty very quickly as soon as I start moving. I’ll dress for the weather/being active, then change/shower in the locker room in the basement of the building, so I don’t even have to see anyone before I’m looking more presentable. To save my bras some washing, since I’m wearing a bunch of layers anyway, I typically don’t wear a bra for the commute and just put on my nice bra when I get dressed in office clothes. I’m not flat-chested, but also not overly endowed, so it works out.

      Of course, one day I forgot to bring my nice bra. And wasn’t wearing a sports bra.

      And that’s how I learned that a merino wool buff will work as a bandeau bra under a blouse or sweater in a pinch! (Combined with a nice scarf, a casual office, and limited in-person interactions, and I was basically decently dressed! Ha.)

    8. JanetM*

      Not precisely a mishap, but I was at work one day and my Vice Chancellor said, “We’re going to [former Associate Director]’s funeral this afternoon.” Oops. Ran out at lunch and bought a mostly black dress and shoes. The admin assistant who worked next to me, but for a different VC, was disgusted with my profligate ways; she would *never* buy something that she hadn’t researched, comparison shopped, and waited until it was on sale.

      1. Hrovitnir*

        … congratulations? [@ assistant]

        People are weird. I’m impressed with your resourcefulness. :D

    9. grace*

      One day, on my way to the train for work, I stepped in WET CEMENT up to my mid-calf. I was crossing the street mid-block and there wasn’t a cone or caution tape, and blam! I needed to clean it off immediately before it hardened on my skin/shoes/pants. Thankfully, it was at a time when I was in grad school, and our building was a few blocks from the train. The bathroom was empty at 7:30 AM. Mortifying to text my boss that I was running late and why, but even more mortifying – he didn’t even tell the other people in our open concept office. I passed a Payless Shoes on my walk to the office from the train, but they didn’t open for another half hour. At least I didn’t really like the shoes or the pants I was wearing that day!

    10. TheWonderGinger*

      I split the back of jeans on Monday, went to put my phone in my pocket and was like “why am I touching my butt cheek?” who knows how long I had been walking around like that.

    11. Anne (with an “e”)*

      I once came to work wearing shoes that did not match. Both were navy ballerina flats, but, they did not match at all. I went home during lunch to fix the situation.

    12. EddieSherbert*

      No solutions, but STORY.
      Back in the day at ToxicJob, I managed our technical writing interns at a very stuffy educational textbooks company (why did they even apply?!).

      One girl did NOT get business dress codes. Or even like…. normal people dress codes for when you’re not out clubbing?

      She wore yellow fishnets and tall white go-go boots on her first day with a mini skirt and off-the-shoulder sweater. I talked to her right away and sent her a copy of the dress code for work… and she didn’t really care / thought I was just full of myself or something? I was only a couple years of of school myself, and had A LOT of issues with her in general not wanting to follow my directions / verifying the assignments I gave her with our manager.

      Our manager (retirement-age-man) refused to talk to her about her outfits and wouldn’t “let” me or my coworkers go to HR.

      HR finally intervened when someone in another department issued a formal complaint because THEY SAW HER BUTTCHEEK TATTOO when she bent over to get a drink from the water fountain! …and HR’s solution was to tell her… not to wear fishnets.

      So she stopped wearing fishnets under the mini skirts.

      Problem… solved…??

      1. A tester, not a developer*

        I think your intern may have been my temp…

        We had a group of temps in to handle a mass mailing. The work involved having to match up documents, some of which were on tables, while others were in boxes on the floor. (The temps had been told this was going to be a physical type job, and to dress accordingly).
        Temp girl arrives in a short, tight skirt. So of course, she’s putting on a show every time she has to look for documents in a box. Since I’m the most senior female employee present for this train wreck, it’s determined that I have to be the one to tell her about the inappropriateness of her outfit. So I explain that this is the job she’ll be doing all week – I get that not everyone wants to wear pants to work, but she’ll need to wear something that comes past her knees.

        The next day she shows up in an even shorter skirt – and thigh high boots. I guess I should have been clearer about the whole ‘knee length’ thing. :)

    13. anon24*

      When I was a teenager I worked at the same place as my brother. I’m pretty well endowed – DD/E cup and it’s really obvious if I’m not wearing a bra. One day I was reaching for something and my bra unhooked. I couldn’t get it clasped myself and a quick look revealed a bunch of male co-workers hanging by the bathroom. No way was I walked down a long hallway towards them (pervert boss was there). Only person around was my brother. He was not happy when I demanded that he rehook me. I was like geez it’s just clothing fix it!

      Then a few years later he ended up coming to me at work because his old pants had split up the back. I sent him to the bathroom, found some duct tape, and had him tape them together from the inside. It was hardly even visible unless you stared.

    14. Ali G*

      One Friday morning, I got up and put on my usual Friday uniform of jeans and some sort of top with flats. I got to work and my co-worker comes in also wearing jeans. NBD, we were a pretty casual satellite office where I was the most senior person (director) but none of the other employees reported to me. All our bosses were in other locations.
      All of a sudden I hear cursing coming from my co-workers office and she comes running over to my office and says “The Chinese Delegation is coming today at 11!!” Que curses and panic – jeans are NOT OK for foreign delegations.
      I pulled up Google maps and found that the Gap up the street opens at 10 am. We were literally there at 9:55, practically banging on the door. There was exactly one pair of pants that fit me in the store, but they were way too long (I’m short). So when we got back to the office I folded them up and used scotch tape to “hem” them.
      Disaster averted.

    15. Alli525*

      Once, when I was temping at an ad agency, one of our big client teams came in for a meeting… halfway through, one of them ran out to my desk and showed me that the hem had fallen out of her skirt and did I have ANYTHING that would fix it? I’m pretty sure we didn’t use staples, but scotch tape (and a lot of it) was definitely involved, and after that day I started carrying a mini sewing kit in my purse.

      1. Emily S.*

        Having a small sewing kit in my desk, with an ample supply of safety pins, has helped save the day for me and several coworkers over the years!

        1. Annie Moose*

          Safety pins are the most valuable thing I have in my purse… not nearly as bad as most of the other stories in this thread, but the zipper of a pair of pants EXPLODED once at the very beginning of a work day once. The way the pants were, it was very obvious the zipper was ripped out, and my shirt wasn’t long enough to cover it. Safety pins to the rescue!! Held things together until I got home and could fix things for real.

    16. Environmental Compliance*

      My last day in a very large city working for the state gov’t, I wore a purple dress with an a-line skirt, and at this job usually with dresses I threw on nylons because the office was kept chilly. On my way out, since I had a 45 min drive on a good day, I stopped by the restroom.

      Realized in the parking garage, which was 4-5 blocks away, that I had managed to tuck the back of my knee-length skirt into the waistband of my nylons.

    17. designbot*

      Didn’t require any solution, but earlier this week my boss emails me to ask me to accompany her to a client meeting later in the day. This is only important because, I did not see her that day until we met to leave for the meeting… and we looked like we’d purposely matched. She’s wearing a simple black dress, I’ve got a black tee and black culottes, but we manage to have the same sillouette. We’re both wearing black wedge sandals, and our glasses look alike. Everyone who saw us walking out together asked if it was twin day.
      There was a time when this would have made me extremely self-conscious and have me worrying that she’d think I was trying to copy her. I’m extremely grateful to have grown out of that and be able to just laugh about it.

    18. Sophia Brooks*

      I always wear skirts, in the winter always with tights. I have a long coat. I once forgot to put on my skirt and rode all the way to work on a bus just wearing my shirt, tights and coat!

      I didn’t even notice until I took my coat off. I work in a theatre costume shop, though, so I was able to find a skirt even though as a plus sized person it was a challenge

    19. LKW*

      Twice in my career a client has pointed out that I am wearing my top inside out. One was a cardigan the other a collared sweater. The collared sweater happened many years ago. I woke up late and it was go-live day, which then meant walking from PCU to PCU with a disk. At someone’s PC I realized the issue and then just took my top off and put it back on (it was early, no one saw). Later someone mentioned that I had corrected the issue.

      That same day I had put on a new pair of pantyhose that during the day stretched and stretched and stretched. I had to tuck them into the waist of my skirt in order to hold them up. Eventually, after work I went to the grocery store and while returning to my car, they must have slipped from their precarious waist-cinched position because they literally fell in a nylon puddle around my ankles. I gingerly stepped out of my shoes, out of the puddle, back into my shoes, shoved the mess into one of the bags, looked up and there was an older woman.

    20. Do you really want to skirt me?*

      I forgot to put on my skirt one day when getting ready to go to work. I had my outfit for the day laid out, put on my shirt, raincoat and tights, then got distracted. I was almost at the metro by the time I realized I wasn’t fully clothed! Thankfully, I skirted disaster by realizing before I got to work and there were not many people outside at the time. I turned around and amended the situation, and luckily my coworkers all got a huge kick out of why I was late!

      1. JanetM*

        I almost did that one time; fortunately, my husband caught me on my way out the door and suggested I might want to re-think my outfit for the day.

    21. Middle School Teacher*

      We get a day about once a month where we can wear jeans, and I have recurring nightmares that I show up in jeans on the wrong day (it actually happened to my coworker once). Even now, I’ll text like three other teachers that morning: “it’s today, right? We get to wear jeans today?” Just to make sure.

    22. AdAgencyChick*

      At my first NYC job, I didn’t realize that the Halloween costume contest meant wearing your costume at the party, not all day.

      I mean…I’m not a big Halloween person so my “costume” was just regular clothes meant to be some celebrity. But those regular clothes were casual casual, and my office was business casual. I looked pretty out of place all day. :/

    23. Sylvan*

      I was once betrayed!! by a button in the middle of my shirt. You couldn’t actually see anything, but it was obviously unintentional and just ridiculous. I noticed it when I left work that evening. I have no idea how long it was like that. :-(

    24. NW Mossy*

      I’ve got a good one too! Years ago, I lived in Chicago and got to work via commuter rail and a mile-long walk to the office. In winter, I’d typically wear snowboarding pants and snow boots on the way to keep from, you know, freezing to death or breaking an ankle. I’d change when I got the office, and all was well. Until the day I forgot to pack dress pants. And wearing snow boots all day indoors is unbearably hot and uncomfortable.

      So that was the day that I worked in a pair of gray snowboarding pants and accessorized them with a pair of black, pointy-toe heels I kept under my desk.

      A colleague overheard me tell the story a few weeks later and piped up to say, “So THAT’S what was going on! I wondered what was up with you that day!”

    25. Canadian Jessie*

      I went out for lunch, weather was fine. Leaving the restaurant – it was raining buckets. Drenching downpour, not just a sprinkle. Of course, I don’t have a raincoat, or an umbrella, and I really need to get back to the office – so I made a run for it. By the time I got to my car, only about 1/2 block away, I was soaked right through – right down to my undies.
      I assessed my options. Went to my boss – who laughed at me (fair enough). I gave him 3 options – either I was working from home (frowned upon in that group), taking the afternoon off, or working in my gym clothes. And that’s how I ended up wearing leggings and a ratty tshirt to a team meeting.

      1. Binky*

        I once got soaked to the skin on my way to work – despite my raincoat and umbrella. I stopped at an Anne Taylor and a Victoria Secret on the way to the office. The skirt and shirts I bought that day are among my favorites (the bra not so much).

        A colleague actually passed me in a cab during the downpour (I wasn’t mad – I had just started so I’m not sure he was certain it was me).

      2. Delta Delta*

        Similar story. I worked in a gift shop when I was in high school. One day we had a field trip for science class. It was rainy, and somehow I fell into a bog. My pants were soaking wet and covered with black mud. I had work right after school and didn’t have time to change, so I wore my very short gym shorts. Got chewed out by the boss’s wife (who was not the boss) so I put on my muddy, stinky pants and she told me to change back. Showed her.

    26. WellRed*

      Minor: Had new plain long sleeved t-shirt I was wearing at office. At some point, I went to the bathroom and realized the size sticker was still on it. I had “small” stuck to my boob. Which is accurate.

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        I went out for dinner a few weeks ago with my husband after coming back from a trip. I had just gotten off the train, which was freezing, and emerged into a very warm and muggy city with a backpack full of clothes. So I whipped off my long-sleeved t-shirt in the middle of the public square (I was wearing a tank top underneath) and changed to a t-shirt I had just bought a few days previously before walking up to the restaurant. The next day, as I was putting the shirt in the laundry, I realized I had a giant sticker that said “£8” on my left boob. I guess the white-on-black sticker didn’t really stand out on the black and white polka dot top…

    27. An Elephant Never Baguettes*

      Definitely that day my favourite jeans finally succumbed to the gradual bike wear and tear and I ended up with a massive rip in the crotch area. Thankfully my commute is only 10 minutes one way so I went home quickly and changed – there was no saving myself otherwise. I love that I live in a city where I can bike everywhere but it’s rough on pants and especially jeans.

    28. Delta Delta*

      I’m a criminal defense lawyer. One day many years ago I was in court and had to visit a client in holding before our hearing. I was wearing pants. I dropped my pen and crouch down to pick it up. When I hit the deepest part of the crouch I heard a huge rip. Now, for those who have not had the pleasure of being in a holding cell, they are often sort of cavernous and have nothing in them. They echo. My client was standing quietly, so the pants rip was loud and echoed. I couldn’t see the rip so I had to turn around and ask him if I was having a wardrobe malfunction. He said no. We finished our talk and when I left I checked out my pants in the ladies room. Turns out the lining inside the pants ripped, but the outside was fine. Then, in the courtroom I leaned over and whispered to my client that it was the lining. He said he was relieved on my behalf.

    29. Hrovitnir*

      Mine is very boring, but I like to buy clothes second hand off the internet – if it’s extremely cheap I don’t mind the gamble. Buuut one day before the gym I grabbed the wrong pair of grey work pants, and it turned out to be the bizarrely oversized ones (same size nominally). Normally I’d be working in a lab where I wear scrubs, but this week I was in the lower containment one so I had to wear pants >2″ too big in the waist but tight on my thighs. I didn’t even have a belt, so I tied my lanyard around them and covered it up, but it was an uncomfortable day. I had to periodically get my access card off my waist then scuttle away to reattach my “belt” in private. *sigh*

    30. SpellingBee*

      Not me, but a former boss. He frequently gave conference presentations away from his home city and had scheduled one to take place at the end of a very casual vacation, but had packed a suit, etc. for the conference. He arrived at the venue late the night before his presentation, which was scheduled as the first one of the day. In the morning he got up and got dressed, and found to his horror that not only had he brought one each from 2 different pairs of dress shoes, but that they were both the left shoe. There was no time (and no place) to shop for a new pair, he didn’t think it was appropriate to wear sneakers with his suit so he went with the two left shoes. He said no one seemed to notice, but that it was the most painful presentation he had ever given!

    31. Green Goose*

      B/G – I’m a tall American and I lived and worked in Seoul, South Korea for three years and I worked in an office that expected business attire but finding clothes that fit me was a challenge. Pants were out of the question, and while the dresses and skirts fit me they were very short.

      I bought one dress that I loved – it was a button-up on the front, black and floral dress, but since it was so cold in the winter I would always wear a slip underneath it. One day we had an offsite event at the end of the spring/early summer and it was really warm so I decided to forego the slip. As we were exited our van and about to enter the event my coworker said that the back of my dress was sheer. She said, “I can see the pattern and color of your underwear.”

      I hadn’t realized that the dress material was becoming sheer with all the washes (and Korean washing machines are really rough on clothes) because I always wore the slip. Since it was the summer no one had a spare cardigan or anything for me to tie around my waist so I had to walk around with my underwear showing, it was awful.

    32. Cedrus Libani*

      A few months after graduating college, I found myself dangling upside down in the innards of a robot that had recently caught on fire. I was loudly engaged in some unprintable speculations regarding the sexual habits, parentage, etc. of this robot and its designers. Shut up, Cedrus, the VCs are here! Crap.

      So, I flung myself out of the smoldering robot, wiped my greasy hands, and tried to look professional as the great-grandboss introduced us. Then I suddenly became aware that I hadn’t tied my hair back, and it had been whipping around while I was upside down, and I looked like I’d been chewing on a power cable. Double crap.

      I got a pixie cut that weekend, and I’ve kept my hair short ever since.

    33. Lucille2*

      When my youngest was an infant, and I returned to work from maternity leave, I was regularly using the office Mother’s Room to pump. One day, after a visit to the Mother’s Room, I put my top back on inside-out. So I spent the first half of the day with my top on the right way, and the second half with my top inside out.

      I was also walked in on twice in that Mother’s Room. Once by the janitor who failed to knock before using a key to enter, and second by another mother when we both realized the lock on the door wasn’t working. I don’t miss those days or that job.

    34. Snazzy Hat*

      I wish I could better recall this story, but when my father worked as a forensic scientist, he or a colleague of his would periodically need to testify in court as an expert witness. Apparently one county in Virginia was notorious for giving the expert witnesses very short notice. Now my father was fine with that; short notice was annoying, but he dressed in a suit every day. One of his colleagues, though, once had to show up for court in something akin to torn-up muddy jeans with a flannel shirt. Dude started keeping a suit at the office.

  16. T3k*

    So I have an interview lined up early next week (though I’m slightly turned off that they want me to fill out a very similar job application form that I thought I already filled out when I first applied). Also working on getting an interview set up with another position that’s more inline with that I want to do. The catch is this position is a very expensive city, so I’m trying to figure out how much I’d need to make before I could even seriously consider that position, which is probably unrealistic in normal cities.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Good luck! There good cost calculators on the web, where you can put in your current salary and city, and see what you’d need to make to have the same standard of living in various cities. I linked to Nerd Wallet’s in my name, but if you google city cost of living calculators, there’s others.

    2. A newer Annie*

      Good luck on your interview!
      I would start by looking up cost of living for the big city, and your current city if you can find it. Use that as a baseline, then perhaps research what rent would be in an area that works for you. Car insurance might also go up, and you can probably check that with your agent.

    3. WalkedInYourShoes*

      Here’s a URL ( ) that I found when researching if it was worth for me to move to another city, e.g., Vancouver, B.C. I am not sure how accurate it is. But, in California, by law (as of Jan. 1, 2018), if a candidate asks an employer what the base salary range is for the “said” role, they are required to give it to you. Also, it is against the law for the employer to ask for your salary history.
      The article also states that several other states are following this law starting next year. Hope this helps.

  17. Snark*

    So, GODDAMN FINALLY, I am starting my new job on August 6th. Mind you, this is a position which I applied for in mid-March, was selected for in early April, and got a tentative offer in late June. I may have some Feelings at this point about the federal bureaucracy. I have gotten to enjoy a summer break with my son and wife, though, so that’s really great – we’ve done a crapload of camping, hiking, kayaking, and general bumming around the mountains.

    Gripes griped, however, my new boss seems like a peach and so does my grandboss, I have my own office, I’ll be working on cool stuff, and I get 3 paid hours for working out as part of my work week. The commute is longer but seems tolerable, and I should be able to enjoy some job security for the first time in a while.

      1. Snark*

        I will! We’ll be capping it off with a quick trip to Israel for a wedding, but I get to spend the next week hanging.

      1. Snark*

        I think it will be! I’ll be doing a small Air Force installation’s natural and cultural resources management, hazardous waste oversight, and NEPA compliance, so it’s right in my wheelhouse – and I’ve been a contractor for the AF for six years, so I already know most of the ropes.

        1. Overeducated*

          Nice, congrats on the upcoming start date! Being a resource manager somewhere cool and/or convenient to my family is actually my medium term career goal so i think that sounds awesome. Plus the 3 hours of working out is a nice perk i haven’t heard of. Enjoy the rest of your break!

        2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          Oooh, I think I might know which installation this is. There is some very interesting archaeology out there, assuming you haven’t changed cities! Cool stuff.

    1. fposte*

      Woo-hoo! Congrats on the start date being in the same calendar year, and I hope it’s great.

    2. Libervermis*

      Congrats! And glad you’ve gotten to enjoy some outdoor family time while the bureaucracy races snails.

    3. Kathenus*

      Good luck, hope that all goes well. When I was hired by the fed govt the position closed in September, I got contacted for an interview in March, and I started in June. So I get the federal bureaucracy! Luckily I was happily in another job and didn’t need the income or I never could have remained in the running.

    4. As Close As Breakfast*

      Congratulations! The summer break sounds nice, but tbh, some job security sounds better!

  18. StartupScrapper*

    I’ve recently hired a new direct report in my current role. I’ve also been approached by another company about a potential role. I’m very excited about the potential new company and I think the role could be a near-perfect fit for me.

    Would love your advice and feedback: How bad is it to leave a job soon after hiring a direct report? Thanks in advance!

    1. Happy Friday!*

      It happens! People adjust and it all works out. I’ve seen it happen many times in my current job. I think if you do whatever you can to make your new report feel comfortable in their role and the company before you leave, it will be fine.

    2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      It’s a bummer for the direct report, since she presumably based her decision to take the job at least partially on thinking she could work well with you, but it’s super normal. In any case, if you’re applying for something now it’ll be at least a month before you’d be expected to started (and likely substantially longer), so you’ll have plenty of time to onboard your new person and make the transition.

    3. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Don’t worry about it. You’ll never find ‘the perfect time’ to leave a job. We hired someone into my group one August (my peer) right as our boss was being pulled over to a different department. I was told that I was going to be taking over my bosses role, which would mean a promotion for the team I was running and this new peer was going to be reporting to me. The problem was nothing was going to be finalized or official until the start of the new year and nobody could say anything to anybody.

      It was awkward, poor Patty Peer was really confused why I was heavily involved in her team’s goal setting, why I was going to what she thought was our grandboss’s offsite meeting with our boss, and why I was basically not stepping back from my role of interim manager of her group.

      I finally told our boss (the one leaving) that we had to say something, even if it was off the record to Patty Peer. They probably were thinking that I was an overbearing buttinsky that wouldn’t get out of their business and our boss was a ghost since she was already sucked into the other department.

      Glad to say it all worked out and Patty Peer understood the predicament after we told her.

  19. Tara S.*

    Does anyone have any experience/advice with negotiating for GS jobs? I know there are “steps” within each GS level. Job postings usually list what GS level is possible for the role, and I would think if you were qualified for, say, an 11 instead of a 9, they would give it to you. However, if I’m offered a GS-9 position, is there typically room to negotiate what step I am? Any GS-related advice appreciated.

    1. Snark*

      Just went through this myself. In general, you will receive a tentative offer first, and they will determine the appropriate level within the GS scale based on your education, years of experience, level of responsibility, and so on. GS-11 corresponds to a higher level of responsibility and education and more years of experience doing it than a GS-9.

      I’d recommend looking up the GSA position description for the job series you’re applying for. That description will break down criteria for GS ratings into a certain number of points. Unless you score, say, 2000 points, you will not be eligible for a GS-11 job. Typically, you will not be able to negotiate yourself into a GS-11 if you get an offer for a GS-9 unless there’s experience or education not on your resume that you can point to.

      All that said, however, you can ask to start at a higher step rating. For example, if you are relocating for the job, or if your previous job paid higher, or if your career progression and development would merit a raise, you can ask to start at GS-9 Step 2 or 3 rather than at the bottom of the scale. That is typically where you have flexibility to negotiate, and most hiring managers will consider granting that unless you’re marginally qualified for the bottom of the scale. You can also ask about stuff like tuition reimbursement, leave, and non-monetary parts of the compensation package.

        1. Emi.*

          You can negotiate leave in GS jobs??? I thought it was legally required to be based entirely on how long you’d been with the government. Any tips for that specifically?

          1. Snark*

            Sorry, I didn’t give that enough context – in cases when you were (as I am) a former fed or is a veteran, and possess skills essential to the position and acquired in previous federal service, you can get credit for that previous service to accrue leave at a higher rate.

          2. Salad*

            I have successfully negotiated leave in a GS position but ONLY because I was a contractor in the position previously, so I could count my contractor time for leave purposes. But this is very strict, there is a law or some sort of guideline spelling out what’s allowed. I’ll try to find it but I forget what it’s called. If you are coming in form a non-gov role I don’t think you’ll be able to negotiate.

            (Steps you might be able to, especially if you are currently making more than the step you are offered)

          3. Formerly Finally a Fed*

            I negotiated step and annual leave. It was determined entirely by what my salary (to correspond to the nearest step) and annual leave was at the job I was leaving. I received only three years creditable service to bump up to the next step of annual leave accrual, despite having 10 years previous experience, but the leave accrual ended up being similar to what I already had.

    2. Basis, also a Fed*

      As Snark says above, if you made the certification as one grade, you can’t negotiate a higher grade. You can ask for a higher step, though. The agency for which I work always automatically offers Step 1. I asked for Step 5 and got it.

      Some agencies might be stricter than others about how much service they will credit when calculating your leave. It sounds like Snark’s agency isn’t as generous as mine. My agency gives credit to pretty much every mid-career hire, as long as their experience is related. I was credited 10 years when I started, which meant I started with 4 weeks of vacation and went to a little over 5 weeks after 5 years.

  20. Anonymous fatty*

    I just started a desk job after 10+ years of working a physical labor job. I’ve been morbidly obese my entire adult life, and I’ve never been in great shape, but my old job had me walking 5 miles per day and climbing a lot of stairs, so I have been at a stable weight for a long time and I’m in pretty good health.

    I’m terrified of what’s going to happen now that I’m sitting at a desk all day long. I’ve seen a lot of coworkers make this move — from physical labor to a desk job — and almost all of them have had noticeable weight gain. The only ones who haven’t are the ones who are hard-core fitness buffs who work out at the gym for hours per day. I know myself, and I am not going to be able to push myself to exercise enough to make up for the loss of physical labor. I have developed foot and knee pain and it has been a struggle to keep doing the physical labor of my old job, but I did it because I had to, and now I don’t have to anymore. But I can’t afford to gain any more weight because I am already extremely overweight as it is.

    Has anybody gone through this kind of job change and managed not to gain weight? If so, how did you do it?

    1. There is a Life Outside the Library*

      Can you ask for a telescoping desk solution where you can adjust it to sometimes sit and sometimes stand? I know that a standing desk alone won’t help you lose weight per se, but they do help with the Sitting Down and Never Getting Back Up syndrome (that’s what I’m calling my current lethargy). If you are able, spending part of lunch taking a walk helps too.

    2. Corky's Wife Bonnie*

      Do you get pretty decent break time? Take that time and just go for a walk, even if it’s around the building on the inside. Do they have accommodations for an adjustable standing desk? Not sure if your knee and foot pain would be aggravated by standing but it’s done wonders for my back pain. Lastly, try your best to keep away from office treats. Good luck!

      1. Anonymous fatty*

        I get half an hour for lunch and that’s about it. Another problem is that I sweat a lot when I exercise, and that was ok in the physical labor job because everyone was sweating in that job, but the office job requires me to be a little more presentable. I don’t think they would give me a standing desk because my company is pretty cheap with furniture. One of my coworkers rigged up a makeshift standing desk with crates, but she ended up taking it down.

        I’m actually pretty good with staying away from office treats, mainly because some of my coworkers have questionable hygiene. I’m not so good at staying away from treats at home, though.

        1. Dr. Doll*

          I have a Varidesk which just sits on top of my desk (varidesk[dot]com) and I can raise and lower at will. Cost about $400.

        2. Left the Rat Race*

          All the exercise suggestions are nice, but you need to bring your lunch EVERYDAY, never eat the treats, and at party potlucks stick with the fresh fruit and vegetable options, bringing them yourself if nobody else is.
          Don’t even learn where the vending machines are, and keep your lunch and break snacks in your desk with those little freezer packs to keep it cold, so you never have to go in the break room to see the junk everyone else is eating. On your break time and lunch time, take a walk with your Fitbit first, maybe ten minutes, and then come back to eat.

          Not only will you save money, but you won’t gain weight. You don’t say your height and weight, but people over six feet tall usually don’t need more than 2000 calories a day. You can meet with a dietician to find out what your caloric intake should be.

    3. you don't know me*

      I recommend getting a Fitbit type device and using it. You might not have as much freedom when you first start a new job but I have mine set to buzz and remind me to get up and take at least 250 steps an hour. It will also help you realize exactly how much you are walking and how to get in extra steps. There is a bathroom about 3o steps from my desk and there is another one about 130 steps. I use the further one. The vending machines are up one flight of stairs. If I decide I want something from the machine, then I have to use the stairs to go get it, not the elevator. I can park 50 steps away from the door or I can park 500 steps from the door. These small things will add up over the day. Alone, it probably won’t help you to lose weight but it will help stop you (me) from gaining more.

      I did start a new job about 4 months ago and was hesitant as to how my strolling might be interpreted but most people didn’t notice and those who did were cool about it.

      1. Secretary*

        YAS love using my Fitbit. Also competing with your friends for steps can be really fun.

      2. Tmarie*

        I also have a fitbit. I have the short way to the bathroom (100 steps), the long way (260 steps) and the really long way (520 steps). I also get 30 steps every single time I print a report. It adds up.

    4. JennyFair*

      I can’t really speak to the job change, because I’ve had a lot of sedentary jobs, and haven’t let my job dictate my overall level of activity. But I would highly recommend reading ‘Health at Every Size’ and ‘The Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise and Other Incendiary Acts,’ for help in both the activity level/health and self-love categories. Being terrified of your own body is not a healthy place to be. I hope you’re able to work towards a happier one.

      1. TDEE*

        Agreed. Weight says very little about you as a person, and you shouldn’t be terrified of your body- just aware. But I don’t buy into the HAES concepts that being fat is healthy or okay.

        My suggestion? Look up a TDEE (daily calorie expenditure) calculator for both activity levels of the physical and new sedentary job. Stick to it, or 500 below if you need to lose. It might not be fast, but it’s not impossible to lose.

      2. Anonymous fatty*

        I try to subscribe to the HAES philosophy, which is hard when the world is full of anti-fat messages, but what limited body acceptance I have sort of hinges on that fact that, although I am the fattest person in my department, I could keep up with (and often run circles around) any of my coworkers at a physical labor job. People can call me fat but no one would EVER say I’m fat and lazy. It was really hard and often painful, but I pushed myself and I did it because I had to in order to succeed at the job. I’m afraid that, now that I no longer have the job driving me to keep moving, I won’t have the motivation to do it anymore. I have a pretty strong disincentive because it causes pain, but I’m afraid that if I stop walking 5 miles every day as I had been, I will lose the ability to walk that much.

        1. Luna*

          What is your commute to the new job going to be like? If you live in a city is there any way to incorporate walking as part of the commute instead of driving/taking a bus the whole way? When the weather allows I usually try to walk home instead of taking the train to make sure I get at least some exercise in. If not I would recommend walking during your lunch breaks and trying to exercise more on the weekends if you can’t find the time during the week.

        2. Natalie*

          This might be a long shot, but could you walk to work? Or even part of the way – you could drive to somewhere 2.5 miles away and then walk from that location. It might take a while, but that’s true of any exercise.

        3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          I can identify completely. I’m fat, but I’m also an archaeologist and most days I am digging holes, shoveling dirt, and dumping wheelbarrows all day. But the instant I get sent to the office or go through a period of being unemployed, I revert to no exercise and eating all the snacks.

          I don’t really have an answer for you, but I’m trying to come up with ways to deal with a similar challenge. I really would like to start incorporating some regular exercise at home into my daily life, so that I can at least maintain my current weight and fitness.

          Can you see a doctor about the foot and knee pain? Maybe there is something that can help alleviate that (orthotics, physical therapy, etc) enough to make it less of a challenge for you to do more walking.

    5. Iden Versio*

      It is so hard to transition from physical labor to a desk job — I totally know how that goes. I’ve always struggled with my weight, so it’s something that’s always on my mind. I transitioned from a physical, fast food job to a sedentary desk job where I was tied to my desk, but also had to run lots of errands to other departments. When I had to leave the office, I would forward my office phone to my cell (with my boss’s blessing), and would take the longer route to get some exercise in. I would also take a quick mini walk every hour. Having a fitbit really helped me — you can set it to alert you to move every hour, which was a nice reminder to get up and move. Some people in my office used their 30-minute lunch break for a walk outside (I didn’t join them, mostly because I get sweaty easily and it’s hot here all the time).

      Another thing that I had to watch was my snacking. I’m a boredom snacker, and there was temptation *everywhere*. Donuts! Cookies! Brownies! I wouldn’t deny myself a cookie or a brownie every so often, but I would limit how much and the frequency of those less nutritional snacks and substitute with unsweet tea, la croix, or coffee with half and half. I also snacked on nuts, dried fruit, and yogurt.

      I maintained my weight at that job and even managed to lose a few pounds. You’ve got this, Anon!

    6. Secretary*

      I hate to say this but if you’re not going to exercise, there’s going to be natural consequences to that. You’ll have to find a new way to get exercise in that works for YOU.
      When I moved to a desk job, within a few months people started asking if I was pregnant because of my weight gain, it was brutal.

      So now I go to the gym. My rule for the gym is that I don’t have to do a really good workout, I just have to go. I could do 3 sit-ups and go home and I would count it as a win. I actually ended up getting really into fitness just because I developed a habit of going. I also bring my favorite book of the month or magazine to the gym on cardio days so I actually look forward to it.

      If that doesn’t work for you, maybe set up something every day or every couple of days you can do that gets your body moving.
      -Go on a walk
      -Take your kid to the park and actually play with them
      -Go on a bike ride
      -Is your work close enough to walk (like 30 min walk)?
      -Go window shopping (I consider this exercise)
      -Learn a watersport
      -Join a kickball league
      -Learn how to swim

      I know it sucks, but try to make it fun!

      1. alice*

        This, so much. I don’t go to a gym, but I do about ten minutes of exercise every morning. Sometimes going for a mile run, sometimes doing some pilates, etc. I shake it up. It’s something that makes me happy.

      2. Cousin Itt*

        Shopping is definitely exercise!

        I’d second swimming as it’ll be easier on OP’s joints.

        Also the app ‘Loose Weight In 30 Days’ is pretty good – definitely don’t expect miracles from it in terms of weight loss, but I’ve found it an easy way to get in some exercise each day. You don’t need any equipment and can do it at home, each day is about 20mins of simple exercises and there’s a rest day every fourth day.

        1. Anonymous fatty*

          Oh, I would love to swim but for the fact that I can’t bring myself to go out in public in a swimsuit. I loved to swim as a kid. If only I had my own private pool!

          Thanks for the app recommendation; I will check it out. I have done some “easy” level exercise videos with simple exercises I can do at home without special equipment, so maybe that will be doable.

          1. A username for this site*

            I’m a swimmer and I spent years working for various aquatics organizations. I *promise* if you join your local pool (community rec center, YMCA, YJCC, etc.) no one cares what you look like in a swimsuit! A lot of people join to start doing swim or water fitness specifically because they are heavy for various reasons and need something that takes weight off their joints, so you get all ages and body types in the pool (and strutting around completely nude in the locker room, there’s no shame.)

            If you’re female, you do need to pick a swimsuit that’s specifically designed for exercise, because a lot of the women’s suits sold in mainstream stores are too flimsy to withstand any real motion and will fall off. A lot of our water fitness ladies loved H2o Wear’s suit with the ruching, the more casual Speedo ones sold in mainstream stores, or water fitness/competition suits from a place like Swim Outlet online. I often saw a lot of ladies pairing their suit with leggings or a sports bra under it, and a swim shirt over it, if they wanted to be more covered. For men, you’d want trunks that have a drawstring waist and if you’d prefer to cover up, a swim shirt/rashguard.

            I promise, there are plenty of pools where all body types are welcome and everyone is there for their health!

          2. NW Mossy*

            I’ll add as a former swimmer (bum shoulder, sad) that when people swim for exercise, they spend the vast majority of their workout staring at the bottom of the pool or the ceiling – you really can’t see much of what others are doing, and that goes double when those who wear glasses or contacts don’t use prescription goggles. It’s one of the reasons I love swimming, because it lets you be “away” from other people while you’re doing it and is a great way for introverts to exercise but also recharge mentally.

            Definitely don’t let the opinions of others keep you from doing something healthy that you love. One of my absolute favorite things about working out with other people is seeing new people appear and become familiar faces. I’ve met so many wonderful people this way, and seeing people make a commitment to themselves and hold to it is (for me, anyway) much more inspirational than any Buff Betty on the cover of a fitness magazine will ever be.

            1. Secretary*

              Yes these tips from the swimmers! I was so nervous about going into a public pool, but at my gym it turned out not to be a big deal at all. I also tend to cover up more and wear modest, dark colored suits.

      3. Robin Sparkles*

        One thing that keeps me running is podcasts. I am listening to different kinds and that has been a great incentive to run. And like you – I count the fact that I dressed, got up, and went outside as a win even if I end up walking or do less than 2 miles.

    7. Baby Fishmouth*

      I started a desk job two years ago and I’m only trying now to lose the weight I gained the first 1.5 years.

      I realized I was eating like I still had a physical job, and I actually don’t need that much food – so a diet change might be your best bet. A diet that is high in veggies and meat, and low in carbs and sugar, can go a long way. And do your best to resist the office treats – I still struggle with this, but there can be so many office treats around that it can be detrimental to your health. I actually made myself sick one Christmas by eating too many chocolates because there were boxes and boxes of them all over the office.

      Also, you don’t have to spend every night at the gym, but you will need to do SOME exercise. Go for walks each night, or find a type of exercise you don’t mind – I love certain exercise classes, so I found some in my neighbourhood (that I have to sign up for – I will lose money if I don’t show up!). There are also a lot of types of exercises that most people don’t think of – for those with joint pain, a lot of water sports can be really good, but there’s also all types of martial arts, fitness classes, hula hooping classes, etc. that are genuinely fun, and which have alterations for those with joint pain or injuries. I recently discovered pole dancing/fitness and love it so much more than I thought I would – and there are people of all sizes at my studio.

      I know it’s said over and over again, but diet and exercise are the only good ways not to gain any weight. The key is to find a way to eat and exercise so you actually enjoy it (or at least, don’t mind it). And talk to your doctor, if you’re able – he or she might be able to give you suggestions more tailored to you.

      1. WellRed*

        I agree. Counter the reduced movement by switching up the diet (I mean diet in the general sense of eating).

        1. Luna*

          Second this, I want to add that the exercise is not just about weight. When working a desk job getting out and moving around (whether doing an outdoor activity, going to the gym, taking a class, or just walking up and down the stairs of your office building) is really important for mental health too. Sitting and staring at a screen all day is NOT fun, no matter how much you like the actual work, and will take some time to adjust too since it sounds like you’re used to being active most of the day. Humans need to move around! The days when I don’t manage to get out and about at all are pretty miserable, both physically and mentally.

        2. The Other Dawn*

          Yes, definitely. If OP was eating 4,000 calories (just a random number) and burning off the same amount of calories doing physical labor, that’s why they were maintaining. But being at a desk now, OP isn’t going to be burning 4,000 calories a day and if they still eat that many calories, they’re going to gain. Exercise is important, but adjusting calorie intake is more important, I feel, in battling the weight gain.

    8. peanutbutty*

      I went from teaching (not physical labour by any stretch, but lots of time on my feet) to desk job and did noticed a weight increase. Have *just about* managed to get back down, here’s things that helped:

      (1) I walk to work and back (25-30 minutes each day). I use a step tracker: with the walk-commute I usually reach 10k steps; when I was lazy and took the bus I usually reached less than 1k steps. I got fatter. So number 1 tip is work out a way to include at least 30 min walk into your commute. Park in a different car park? Get off the bus at the wrong stop? But find a way to make this a part of your commute on 99% days.

      (2) Don’t keep treats at your desk. Just don’t. You won’t save them up for a rainy day; you’ll gobble them all up when no one is looking or even if they are. And then you’ll have a sugar headache all afternoon.

      (3) Walking meetings. Have a meeting where you need to discuss but not refer to or take extensive notes? Schedule a walking meeting instead. People thought I was weird at first but now they love it. We are lucky to have a big park next to our office so I can do a circuit of that for a 30min meeting; but even talking while you walk 15 min to a coffee place / different office venue and then back again would help.

      (4) Find out who the office “feeder” is and avoid them. Ask them outright not to offer you cakes etc. If you have a lot of doughnut-y meetings, start bringing a bunch of grapes instead (in my experience most people are glad of the grapes option) and then make sure you eat the grapes not the doughnuts! If the grapes are popular you could ask (after a while) if people would mind switching the catering to fruit not doughnuts.

      (5) If walking meetings or a walk-commute are really not an option then try to find a walk buddy and enlist them to go out for a lunchtime walk with you **in all weathers**. Make it a red line, like you can’t go out for lunch until you’ve had your walk.

      (6) Even with the added walking, realistically you probably need to reduce calories as well in order to not gain at what will still be drastically lower activity level. So basic calorie lowering hacks (diet soda not full sugar, bring your own packed lunch, grapes not doughnuts etc).

      Good luck.

    9. Jessi*

      Can I suggest that you look at the other side of the weight equation and focus on diet? If you are no longer going to be doing tons of exercise it would make sense to look at what you are eating , maybe reduce your calories or look to replace a couple of meals/snacks with healthier options

    10. Kaybee*

      I’ve had to lose – and am still working on losing – a lot of weight for medical reasons, and I have a desk job. I know you’re concerned about maintaining, but with a decrease in physical activity, I think there might be some similarities in our situations. I see that you mention above that you only have a half hour lunch and you get really sweaty, so you’re not thrilled with the idea of walking at lunch. I’d still recommend it if possible. I also get really, really sweaty, so I do my best to work around it. I have extra deodorant at my desk, I wear dark clothes that are less likely to show sweat, I wear layers and remove some when I take my walk, which helps keep me cooler and allows me to put on sweat-free things when I’m back in the building, and I have a small desk fan that dries me off after a walk, which helps enormously.

      That said, you can keep active in a bunch of small ways. If you have a choice of restrooms at your new job, use the ones farthest away from you. You’d be surprised how fast an extra 200 steps from a bathroom trip adds up during the day. Basically, any way you can incorporate extra walking as part of your regular activities, do it. It really does add up.

      Once you’ve been at your job for awhile, you might consider having your resting metabolic rate calculated. Many hospitals offer this service – at my local Kaiser it’s about $35 – and your breathe into a snorkel-like thing for about 10 minutes, and the machine spits out a range of calories that your body uses just to exist basically. It’s not perfect; I’d recommend using that as a starting point and not treating it like a commandment, but it gives you a place to start for trial and error to figure out how many calories you can consume with the decrease in physical activity.

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        I was going to suggest some of the smaller things too and not just at work in your personal life too when able.

        *Park far away from your office door
        *Use stairs instead of elevator if an option
        *Instead of email, phone, and IM get up and walk to the person you need to talk to
        *Instead of a long 1/2 hour walk on lunch, take a 5- 10 min sprint walks throughout the day (combine with the one above if possible)
        *If possible move while sitting at your desk, do some leg lifts while you are working. Stand up and pace if you are on a long call with a headset or walk in place with high knees.
        *Invest in some inconspicuous ankle or wrist weights to your walking (The kind with velcro that you can strap on).
        *at home maybe invest in some equipment, exercise bike, treadmill, or rowing machine (really could be anything) that you can do while you are watching tv or reading.
        *I would try a fitbit or other type device

        You mentioned the swimming thing but don’t want to wear a swim suit, they do make swim pants and tops with more coverage.

    11. epi*

      It’s awesome that you are thinking about this now. I think there is some really good advice in the thread.

      I want to also put a plug in for seeing a nutritionist. Based on your body composition and the fact that it sounds like you do have some mobility issues that might be related to weight, you should be able to get a referral and get that covered.

      Nutritionists are amazing. A big part of their role is helping you identify your health goals and the barriers *for you*, then making a plan and finding measurable ways to do what you need to do. My husband has also been overweight or obese his whole adult life, and has been seeing a nutritionist for several months. They have found strategies that are really doable for him specifically, added them one or two at a time so they’re not overwhelming, and really helped him make a big change in a way that did not feel like a huge deal. I’m not sure if this is a factor for you, but the fact that she was giving him written information and simple, actionable suggestions also made it easier for me to be supportive. He just told me this morning he is at his lowest weight in 5 years. Overall, it’s just really worth doing even though you probably know what a “good” diet looks like. You don’t necessarily need to a set a goal of losing weight, transitioning to probably getting less exercise is a totally valid goal.

      You don’t need to start spending all your time at the gym, but I would suggest trying to do two things: work some physical activity into your day where it’s hard to avoid, like into your errands or commute; experiment with ways to get some physical activity that feel fun to you even if they are very low impact. Not getting as much physical activity as you need can impact your concentration and mood, but it can be hard to recognize that’s what’s happening, especially if your exercise before was just part of your day and not a hobby or “you time”. Don’t be afraid to keep trying different things, or just constantly mix it up. I think my most physically active, fit friend switches gyms at the drop of a hat and is constantly starting a new class or trying a new place. You can use Groupon to do this for cheap and try new things. Some people just like variety!

    12. MissDisplaced*

      Yes, get a standing desk if at all possible and then stand to do your computer work/meetings, etc.
      Go for a walk at lunch.
      Use a headset/cell phone and walk around (indoors or out) while you’re on the phone meetings, especially if you’re mostly in listening mode. (my boss does this)
      And just try to keep walking more in general.

    13. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

      How do you commute to work? if you take public transportation, you can get off a few stops from your office and walk and do the same going home–get your bus or train a few stops from your office. That’s what I do and it really helps.

    14. DaniCalifornia*

      If you can walk around at lunch, even a slow paced 15 min walk is helpful. I see you only have 30 mins for lunch but even twice a week is better than nothing.

      Do you have a fitbit or smartwach. I have used a fitbit and apple watch. Both can be set up to remind you once an hour to stand up and move around. It helps because I am also MO and am trying to lose weight! Fitbit reminds you at 10 to the hour to try and get in 250 steps. Apple watch reminds you at the same time to get up and stand for at least 1 minute. It’s just a slight quick vibrate on your wrist, no sounds if you don’t want it. If I haven’t gotten up it’s surprisingly helpful as a reminder and I stretch or stand and work. I have bad back pain and sitting too long makes it worse.

    15. Kathenus*

      I’ve not been in the same exact situation but now in management (more desk and meetings) from a career that was more physical labor so some similarities. I’m also of an age where the weight seems harder to get off and the weight plateaus are higher and higher for me. I got an under desk elliptical which isn’t going to make me fit to run a marathon or anything, but I fidget my legs a lot anyway so now I can put that into a bit of exercise when I’m at my computer for long stretches.

    16. nonegiven*

      My parents started using an exercise bike when they needed more exercise and weren’t really safe with anything else. You can watch TV or read while you do it and the large leg muscles really burn a lot of energy.

    17. Lucille2*

      There are tons of small things that come with desk job office culture that really add up. Aside from making any major lifestyle changes, here’s a list of small habits that can make a difference:

      – Avoid free snack and/or soda offerings in the office, free lunches (they’re never healthy), or the candy bowl at a nearby coworkers desk. People will try to push this stuff on you, but after you turn them down enough times, they’ll leave you alone.

      – Bring lunch from home. You’ll save serious $ and calories. I’m convinced anything you order in a restaurant can be made at home with far fewer calories. If you want to engage in social lunch outings with coworkers, just be sure to limit these.

      – Park farther away and take the stairs. I was on the 4th floor of Last Job. People noticed I took the stairs…not many of us did. But a few were inspired and joined me.

      – Walk over to someone’s desk for a chat instead of sending an email – when practical and when documentation is not required. This is also good for building relationships at work.

      – Take a lunch hour walk. It’s a great way to de-stress too.

  21. Aleta*

    Sooooo, turns out being trained to be a huge hard*ss about anything you have to Turn In since you were old enough to understand the concept (“It doesn’t matter if I can recognize your handwriting, if you’re name’s not on it you don’t get credit”), and then moving into Working where they do NOT want you to be a hard*ss is not particularly fun!

    (if you’re curious, I’m Latinx, a Rules Follower, and my schooling goes homeschooled by white mom but mostly self-directed –> high school in Hong Kong —> reasonably prestigious univeristy in the Northeast)

    1. HR for today*

      Yup. I had to learn (the hard way) that, at work, my boss would prefer to have something that’s imperfect but on time rather than perfect but late.

    2. SavannahMiranda*

      Yes it can be rdemotivating for people who have internalized those really high standards.

      I worked at a law firm that had protocols and practices for absolutely everything down to the size (10pt) and shape (italics) of the font (TNR) of the footers in the exhibit pages of the hundred page documents. I thought this was maddening, but everything we produced came out polished, clean, consistent, and impressive.

      I now work where some attorneys do it one way, others another way, I have to remember which attorney wants things which way, which ones will change things back if I change them, which ones won’t change it back but will make me do so and fuss at me, and which attorneys I’ve convinced my clean and clear ways are better and will let me amend their templates going forward.

      It’s more maddening than simply having a hard*ss protocol. And surprise, surprise, our documents do not represent the firm consistently.

      Oh, for hard*ass rules followers. How I love actually love thee.

  22. Iden Versio*

    Lawyers, how do you balance work and life? If having a work-life balance is more important to you than a large salary, what sort of firm did you look for? Any general legal firm job-hunting tips?

    For context: I am a second-year law student near a mid-sized midwestern city. There are plenty of job opportunities in my area (ranging from big law to solo practice) and I would like to stay here post-graduation. On-campus interviews begin in August for summer 2019 so I am starting to think about my post-graduate wishlist, such as a good salary, interesting work, supportive company culture, and work-life balance to name a few. Obviously, law is a field that will demand a lot of time. I am fine with working more than 40 hours a week. However… I do not want to spend 12 hours a day and all of my weekends in the office. I want to be able to enjoy my salary and spend time with friends and, most importantly, my dog. I also want to be able to travel a bit.

    I do have some debt that I would like to pay off sooner rather than later, so a non-profit is probably not financially feasible. Big law, frankly, terrifies me. As I alluded to above, I do not want to be worked to death. Any tips for finding a decent work-life balance in the legal field? Or is that an oxymoron and there’s no hope of achieving a decent balance at all?

    1. J*

      Consider a plan where you work for a firm with not-so-terrible billable hours and a salary that will allow you to pay off your debt. Stay there for 3-5 years, gain experience and then look for a translatable in-house position at a corporation. I did this and now work 8:30-5 with a salary not unlike BigLaw. No weekends, rarely anything at night, and a range of steady, interesting work for a single client.

        1. LadyByTheLake*

          In-house generally doesn’t hire straight out of law school. Do the time at a firm in the field you eventually want to enter. Firms are really set up to train new lawyers — in-house isn’t. Honestly, if you find the right firm, life can be quite good. I like in-house better, not because of the hours so much as the nature of the work.

          1. Iden Versio*

            Good to know! I am not dead-set either way, but I figured I would probably go the traditional firm route first. Choosing one…? That’s the scary part.

            1. zora*

              From my lawyer friends: it’s all about networking. Lawyers love to do it. Get involved in bar groups, etc, whatever lawyer groups appeal to you, and ask around a lot. If you have the geographical area picked out it will be easier. So, ask a lot of questions about the different firms, and keep a “Yes” “No” “Maybe” list. You will find this info by asking around, not from the interview.

    2. Just Me*

      While not an attorney, I did graduate law school and work in a law adjacent field. I decided not to practice because of those same concerns. Finding a balance is going to depend on your priorities, but there are definitely levels. If work/life balance is a priority for you, consider things like JD preferred positions and organizations that aren’t driven by profit. PSLF is currently still a thing. That’s still no guarantee.

    3. LadyByTheLake*

      Second what J said. Moreover, there are not that many firms in “mid-sized” midwestern cities (I am in Minneapolis) that work one to death, with one notable exception. Aim towards a mid-sized firm and you should be fine. Starting out in “Big” law (or at least medium) gives you great training and great contacts. I started out my career at that one mega-firm I alluded to above, the one that works people to death, and our saying was “BigFirm is a great place to leave.” I subsequently went to a medium (175 attorney at the time) firm and it was totally different.

      1. LadyByTheLake*

        I note that after my stint with firms, I then went in house, which was generally manageable (7:30-6) and now I am on my own doing essentially consulting/secondment with large companies.

      2. CTT*

        Yeah, city size is key. I’m going into a BigLaw firm, but in a smaller market. Having worked there prior to law school as well, I know I’ll be working hard, but not There Till 9 PM Plus Every Weekend hard. I know it’s different for the people at different branches in bigger markets.

      3. Another Lawyer*

        I agree that mid-sized firms can have a nice balance. The pay can be the same as or close to Big Law, but with a much better quality of life. If you see a firm with a lot of former Big Law associates who burned out but still wanted to practice in a firm setting, that can be a good sign. In that type of environment you’ll end up with smart people who also understand work/life balance.

        With that said, obviously each firm is different and you should do your research.

    4. CatCat*

      I work for the government. Work-life balance is awesome (especially after I stopped doing litigation). Pay is less than the private sector. Benefits are fantastic. Work is interesting. On the debt side, I am counting on PSLF.

      1. Joielle*

        Same here! Great work-life balance, and the great benefits help make up for the lower salary. I’m either going to qualify for PSLF if it still exists in 6 years, or pay on my loans for the rest of my life. I’ve made peace with that.

    5. Temperance*

      Large firms often have lower billable requirements than mid-sized or small firms, believe it or not. I wouldn’t ever want to work for a solo, but that’s just me. You’ll work a lot at a large firm, but it’s a myth that small firms are better for that. It’s also a myth that nonprofits are much better than firms, truthfully. You’re often doing more frustrating work for more difficult clients for very little pay.

      I’m the pro bono person at a large firm. I like it. I’m paid more than a nonprofit attorney is, and I don’t have to deal with the frustrating of that work, either.

      1. Iden Versio*

        Huh, interesting! I would not have thought of that. You always hear those rumors in law school that big firms work you to death, small firms are better, etc. But I definitely don’t want to do solo work.

    6. Guacamole Bob*

      Not a lawyer but married to one (and know lots of others), and I’d give some thought to what kind of law you want to do. It’s really difficult to promise totally consistent hours in a litigation job – less stuff goes to trial these days then used to, but the timelines are generally externally imposed and can be unforgiving. You may find a spot where you work a reasonable number of hours overall, but it’s much more likely to ebb and flow and come with some seriously busy times. Plus, I get the sense that are fewer in-house litigation jobs than other types of jobs, so you’re more likely to be at a firm for the long haul.

      (The exception to this that I’ve seen among my friends is being in a litigation job with the federal government.)

    7. Fiennes*

      A friend of mine went big law, got a super cheap apartment, and just worked her ass off for four years. At the end of it, she had amazing resume experience and absolutely zero debt. Then she took the in-house work she’d wanted all along and is very happy with her work/life balance.

      Yeah, those 4 years sucked, But she bought herself total freedom. It’s worth considering.

      1. Iden Versio*

        I’m leaning towards that route — I’m single with no children, so I can totally do the roommates/cheap apartment life. Paying off my debt fast is an incredibly attractive factor in favor of biglaw.

    8. Delta Delta*

      I did a lot of years in soul-sucking law jobs. Unfortunately, there are going to be long days and there are going to be weekends. That’s just how the practice goes. As you look for jobs, ask about balance and caseload and what typical days look like. You don’t want to look like you’re going to be a slacker, but you’re also going to show you’ve got things in your life other than work. If a firm suggests you don’t get a balance, don’t work there. Also, one suggestion – maybe a prosecutor job? Depending on where you are, you could end up with a manageable work week (obviously there are some long days sometimes – that’s how it goes). But there would also be government benefits and possibly loan repayment assistance.

  23. It's a German thing*

    My husband had a phone interview scheduled for earlier this week. When the hiring manager still hadn’t called 10 minutes after the scheduled time, my husband sent him an email asking if he was still able to talk (the hiring manager had never given out his phone number). He got an unexpected response–link in username.

    My husband wrote back to the hiring manager saying apologies for the miscommunication, thank you for his time, but he was no longer interested in interviewing. The hiring manager responded that it was “just a joke” and that’s why he put the smiley face, and then tried to connect with my husband on LinkedIn. My husband declined the connection.

    1. Jelly Bean*

      WTF? That’s super inappropriate and unprofessional. And I hate people who think saying “it was just a joke” make being a jerk okay.

      The message doesn’t even make sense to me.

      1. It's a German thing*

        Our guess is that the hiring manager thought my husband was going to call him (despite not giving out his phone number) and then when he got the email thought my husband was trying to get out of doing the interview. This guy would have been my husband’s boss, so bullet definitely dodged.

        1. Pollygrammer*

          So weird. The response is unhinged, and every phone interview I’ve ever had was that the interviewer called the interviewee. And why would he be at home?

          Was he maybe trying to jokingly put words in your husband’s mouth?

          1. JanetM*

            Countering data point — when my union does phone interviews, we have the committee and the candidate call into a free conference call service.

            1. zora*

              But in that case, the interviewer makes sure the candidate has the correct info to call. In this case, her husband had no phone info, so obviously he couldn’t be the one to start a call.

        2. Ciara Amberlie*

          I was so confused about what the hiring manager was even angry about, but that sort of makes sense.

          There is so much wrong here though. First, that the hiring manager made that mistake in the first place is a yellow flag (it’s minor, but annoying). But then he sent that message which is so unprofessional that I can’t even believe it happened! And then to top it off, he used the “it’s just a joke, bro” defence. Big nope!

          I’d be tempted to glassdoor this. Petty me would want to include the screenshot of the message, but that’s probably not the best idea.

    2. Not Maeby But Surely*

      That’s a weird comment from a hiring manager, even if “as a joke”. Bullet dodged, for sure.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I don’t even understand that response. Your husband obviously wasn’t canceling, he was trying to determine if the interview was still happening. WTAF. He is definitely right to decline further engagement.

    4. fposte*

      Wow. Thanks to the guy for being *unequivocally* unacceptable, at least.

      Was the interview at an odd time? I’m curious about that “rushing home” thing–I would have presumed the interviewer would be at his office.

      1. It's a German thing*

        The interview was at noon. My husband mentioned that this company is flexible with remote work, so maybe the hiring manager was working remotely that day and had gone to get lunch before the interview?

        1. Namast'ay in Bed*

          It doesn’t matter though, they had scheduled an appointment, you’re expected to keep it no matter your working situation. Even if they had a legitimate excuse, the correct response would have been “I’m so sorry to have missed our call, I can talk now if it works for you/we can reschedule/literally anything other than what that person responded with.”

        2. fposte*

          Yeah, that’s really not your husband’s problem in the first place, then; this wasn’t a special courtesy or anything.

          (Not that that’s the biggest issue here, but I was curious.)

    5. Environmental Compliance*

      What the actual f*ck.

      I’d definitely be forwarding on to HR, and probably also putting it on Glassdoor. What an incredibly inappropriate response!

    6. LilySparrow*

      Wow. That’s definitely going to screen for a certain type of personality.

      Kudos to your husband for not being that type!

  24. Queenie*

    I’m conflicted about some cacti.

    At my previous job, there was a thing where everyone on the team had at least one cactus on their desk. I looove plants and wanted to fit in, so I bought a few. They’re thriving on my desk at home now, but they remind me of that job, which turned out to be an absolutely miserable experience I want to forget about. They’re living things, so I haven’t been able to bring myself to throw them out and I can’t put them in my box of items to be donated (which includes a bunch of other stuff I bought for that job). I’ve asked a few friends and family if they wanted them to no avail. I have social anxiety so do not want the stress of reaching out to, and then bringing them to, a random organization.

    Has anyone else had trouble getting rid of something from an old job that had bad memories associated with it? Any suggestions on how to convince myself it’s okay to trash these cacti? I’m making an effort to “move on” from that job and “heal” and I don’t think I can with these cacti sitting in front of me every day.

    1. Jess R.*

      Do you have a compost bin, or is there one locally? You could compost the cacti to minimize the “it’s a living thing” guilt. In the end, it’s okay to let these things go, even if it means tossing out a couple of plants. If you’re looking for permission, by the power vested in me as a future chaplain and faithful AAM reader, I hereby grant you permission to throw them away and give yourself the space to heal.

      (Alternately, if you’re in northern California, I will take your cacti off your hands, I LOVE cacti.)

      1. Queenie*

        I don’t have a compost bin, but I do have a small area of my back yard where I bury any of my plants that die. :)

        Thanks for confirming it’s okay to let them go (and for granting me permission with the power vested in you to make it official!). When I was asking around if people wanted the cacti, and they asked why I would get rid of them (they all know I love plants), they tried to convince me it was silly to get rid of them, which was not helpful.

    2. memyselfandi*

      It is so hard to get rid of a plant. It is a living thing! Maybe plant them in the ground outside and let the frost take them, if that’s a possibility.

    3. Emily S.*

      Maybe you could give them away through the Craigslist free stuff listings.
      I’ve gotten rid of lots of unwanted stuff that way.

      1. AMPG*

        This! Or Freecycle, or Facebook Marketplace (listed as free). Then people can contact you instead of the other way around.

      2. Iris Eyes*

        +1 I’ve seen house plants for sale and free on Craigslist, Nextdoor, and Facebook Marketplace. I’m sure there is someone in your area who would love to have them. Also if you need a gift for someone with a new house or job or they would probably make lovely hostess gifts.

        1. Iris Eyes*

          Or if you have a local farmer’s market you could see if there is a live plant seller and see if they would be willing to take them off your hands.

    4. Ciara Amberlie*

      This is heavily dependent on where you live, but could you put them outside your house with a sign that says “free cacti”? Where I live they’d be gone in half an hour!

      1. Queenie*

        This is a good idea! I’ve done this before with furniture and large toys, and it always disappeared within a few hours. I could put the cacti on an overturned recycle bin at the curb and tape a sign to the recycle bin.

    5. Pollygrammer*

      You could plant them in the ground somewhere, and tell yourself that even if they won’t live long, they’ll at least die free?

      I actually have a plant that was given to me the first day of a really toxic job. I like to think that it’s the only good thing to come out of the place. It’s gotten way bigger and healthier now that it’s in a sunny window rather than a sad cube under fluorescent lights. I like to think that we both escaped an awful place and now both of us are thriving.

      1. Chie*

        I love your reframing there, and maybe that would work for the cacti too: thinking of them as fellow bad job escapees who are looking forward to a bright and sunny future, rather than reminders of the past… They thrive on warmth and sunshine after all!

      2. Delta Delta*

        I also have a plant from a toxic job. It was fine at that job. When the plant and I left, the plant grew like gangbusters and even sprouted some flowers.

      3. Queenie*

        Oh my gosh. A fellow escapee is such a wonderful way to think about your plant! I’m going to try spending a few moments thinking about the cacti like this every day for a week or two and see if it makes me feel better about keeping them.

        If it doesn’t work I can use Ciara Amberlie curbside suggestion as my plan B.

    6. AliceBD*

      If you use social media have you put out a call to your entire network? A friend of a friend (who I had met once at a party) did a post about planters a few months ago and said if no one responded in the next (time period of 24-48 hours) she would throw them away. I went and got them. Saved me probably a hundred dollars, I use all of them, and I’m so grateful she posted. I see friends do similar for plants all the time (never friends who live in my city, unfortunately).

    7. Madame X*

      Hello fellow scientist! I too left academia after nearly a decade in academic research. I had main reasons for leaving:
      1. After nearly a decade in academic research, I wanted a career change.
      2. I needed to earn a higher salary to improve my standard of living
      3. The academic job market is getting worse every year.

      Only about 16% of PhD graduates, move on to a tenure track position. Even if you WANTED to stay in academia the odds are not in your favor. It makes me wonder how old are the people you are talking to, because scientist in my range are aware of how dire academic research funding is and how difficult it is to find a tenure-track position. I haven’t received any push back for my career change when I talk to scientists who have stayed in academia.
      For some background, I completed a 2-year postdoc and recently started a position with large biotech firm. In my new role, my tasks mainly involve project management, client management, and study design. I don’t do any bench work, which I don’t miss it all. I had wonderful mentors throughout grad school and for my postdoc, and my research was decent, I was successful in earning some grants, and I got to learn some pretty cool concepts which I later published.However, i was ready to move in a different direction for my career. I knew about halfway through grad school that the academic life of a tenured professor was not for me.

    8. Spooky*

      Admittedly, I don’t know much about cacti, but could you just…plant them somewhere? I guess it depends on your climate, but if you’re in a warm zone, you could try that. Alternatively, I’d donate them to a hospital –I’ve heard they like plants to liven up things.

    9. Dino*

      Is there any way you could propagate the cacti from a cutting and trash the originals? That way you can have new cacti friends who are a fresh start that came out of the badness, but not the originals from that time period. Plus propagating isn’t a sure thing and it might not work out for all of them, meaning maybe you can bond with the survivors as fellow “we went through the fire together and made it out” buds. (I may or may not attach way too much significance to plants.)

      I also support trashing or composting them if you don’t want to even deal with that! Don’t feel guilty if the best option is to totally move on. That’s a fine thing to do!

      1. Queenie*

        That’s a cool idea. I have a few plants that create “babies” and always just planted them so I could have more plants and most have done well. I haven’t grown anything from a cutting before but I’ll look into it!

    10. Tuxedo Cat*

      Would it be too much to make a Craigslist ad and offer them for free? You could sit them outside and say something like “Free to a good home- out now!” People pick up all sorts of random stuff off of Craigslist.

    11. Alli525*

      In my (very large) city, there are several swap meets that are specifically designated for plants. Maybe your local plant nursery would know if your city has any… and at any rate the nursery might know of some other connection or way for you to give away your cacti.

      1. Queenie*

        I have never heard of swap meets for plants. It sounds fun. I could probably grow some baby plants to swap. I’ll have to look that up!

    12. Chaordic One*

      At the previous apartment complex where I lived it was common for people to leave things like “free plants” and “free cleaning supplies” on a table in the laundry room. If no one came to pick them up, then they went in the trash after a couple of days.

      Also, at a former workplace, it was common for the receptionist to take plants and find new homes for them, either in the office or for people to take home.

    13. whistle*

      Can you ask a friend to take them and make it clear to the friend that they are able to just throw them away? I have a friend who hates to thin her garden because it means pulling living plants, even though logically she understands that this necessary to keep the other plants living. She asks me to thin for her. I get a kick out of pulling things out of the ground by the roots (very satisfying when appropriate), so it’s win/win for both of us!

      Similarly, I’ve been know to pull out rows of knitting for friends when they just can’t bear to do it themselves :)

      I also like the suggestions above to just plant them somewhere. They’ll live or they won’t, but at least you’re not the one throwing them away.

      1. Queenie*

        That’s a sweet idea! Doing the painful thing that needs to be done–you’re a good friend. :)

    14. msroboto*

      Give them to me. I’ll kill them. They will not be killed purposefully. I will “care” for them. No plant has ever survived my “care”. I expect they will not last more than a few months.

      1. Queenie*

        LOL! You remind me of a lot of my friends. :)

        I have a ton of plants, but I’ve killed A LOT of them over the years. Takes a lot of deaths to find which plants can survive your individual environment and care.

    15. Rahera*

      Hey, just a thought. A), throw them out if it’s more cathartic for you, and b) is there a school anywhere you could offer them to? Children love cacti and they’d be great low-care plants for a teacher. They’d be very popular with the kids on a windowsill somewhere.

  25. Ms. Gullible*

    Seriously, who has their parents or spouses call in for them? This morning I had two staff do call in this way. One person was young while the other is closing in on 40. Why do people think this is acceptable? It does not make me believe the bizarre scenario anymore when you have someone else call in for you. On your phone. While you are sitting right next to them. *shakes head*

    1. AliceBD*

      Are they in the hospital and unable to be coherent (can think of several reasons) or do they have laryngitis? I can’t think of any other reason why I would have someone call in for me.

      1. designbot*

        Yep, the one time my husband has called in for me, I was in the emergency room. And even then I just made him do it because I already should’ve been at work hours ago and there was no cell reception in the ER so he had to step outside to make the call, otherwise I probably still would’ve called myself.

    2. Muriel Heslop*

      I had my roommate call in for me once when I had horrible laryngitis, but with texting so prevalent it makes no sense these days.

    3. Corky's Wife Bonnie*

      My husband had to do it for me once, but I’m pretty sure my boss would have had a hard time hearing me with my head hanging over a toilet bowl. This and what AliceBD said are the only reasons I could think of.

    4. ThatGirl*

      I’ve called in for my husband once, when he had a bad stomach bug and was so busy throwing up he couldn’t talk. But that seems like an exception, and I’d never ever let a parent call in for me. Plus that was before texting was really common.

    5. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      Ditto the “spouse has head in toilet bowl/has taken strong enough migraine medication that they’re unconscious/actually in hospital” reasons here. And it’s against policy to text your boss at our company (that’s even if we have boss’s mobile number – not all bosses have a company mobile, and they certainly aren’t going to give personal numbers out!). If it’s not a phone call, it’s assumed you are taking unpaid, unofficial leave.
      Not sure I would ever have accepted parental interference, but spousal is surely more acceptable?

      1. Rosemary7391*

        Why not parents or anyone else they live with/have handy? Isn’t the important point that they can’t call rather than who does instead?

        I’m now wondering how I’d deal with such a situation myself, given that I live alone. I guess my boss would have to cope until I was able to communicate somehow. Fortunately I’m pretty healthy normally!

    6. starsaphire*

      I always email in, so I haven’t “called” in sick in years.

      But yeah. Laryngitis, unconscious in hospital, or mid-emergency medical procedure are the only ones I can think of.

    7. Thursday Next*

      Yeah, there could be a bunch of reasons why someone would be unable to speak. I once had a surprise biopsy at a routine dental appointment, and the local anesthesia left my tongue completely numb…not very useful for teaching a seminar course immediately afterward!

      Hopefully anyone in an unable-to-speak situation would call in themselves as soon as they were able.

    8. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      I don’t get it… I was attacked by a dog earlier this year and still managed to text my boss and my team on the way to the hospital.

      Maybe a spouse text or call in the case of a birth, I see that as sort of normal if the wife goes into active labor/hospital and has her hands full at the morning call time, in addition to the other normal reasons (lack of voice, unconscious, etc).

      1. Corky's Wife Bonnie*

        In my case, the stomach virus I contracted was so violent, that I literally had to stay perfectly still with my head in the toilet bowl. If I looked away or moved for even a second, It was an instant and violent eruption. I couldn’t even focus my eyes to even be able to text. I thought later, 4.5 HOURS of the unpleasantness, that thank God my husband was home because my boss would have been very worried not hearing from me.

      2. designbot*

        In the one case where I’ve done this, I was in the ER, puking, on very intense drugs, and there was no cell reception in the ER. Obviously *I* wasn’t going to step outside to make the call, so I made my husband do so.

      3. Mallory*

        Heh, about 3 weeks ago I went into labor unexpectedly early (a week early, but my other 2 has been almost a full 2 weeks late- so this was 3 weeks earlier than i’d expected!). I texted my business partner at 6am- “heading to the hosptial, possibly to have a baby.” At 10am “have been admitted, definately having a baby today. Clear my calendar/please cover my afternoon client calls.” At noon, “baby is imminent and husband passed out and am waiting for him to get back from the ER.” And finally, at 1:30, I texted a photo of me and husband holding baby saying “he made it back with 30 minutes to spare.”

    9. A username for this site*

      I’ve had this happen a good number of times because I work with younger people:
      -Wife called in because husband was in the ER with a severe concussion
      -Girlfriend called in because boyfriend had norovirus and couldn’t call in himself
      -Mom texted me from daughter’s phone because she was in the ER with a severe allergic reaction

      I’m sure there’s more. I’ve never minded, because all I care about is that a) I have enough notice to plan for their absence and b) they were responsible enough to make sure we were notified that they could not come to work even though they were seriously ill.

      It seems like an odd thing to nitpick over, unless there’s other things going on.

    10. CBE*

      I did it for my daughter once, but I used her phone and it was because I was in the ER with her and she was getting EKG leads put on (to see what was wrong with her heart that made her collapse in the elevator of her building on the way to work) when she realized she had no show/no call into work. She panicked and I just said “I’ll grab your phone and take care of it. Just keep breathing slow like the nurse said.” She was 26-ish I think at the time.

    11. Lia*

      I did for my ex when he was hospitalized and not allowed to make calls. Other than that, or the car accident type scenario, I’d not do it and I would side-eye anyone who did.

    12. DaniCalifornia*

      The only time my spouse has ever called my supervisor and our owner (and I’m 33) was while I was in the hospital dying. Literally having organ failure. I could technically talk but the pain was so excruciating the only words coming out were curse words through tears so they were understanding.

      Other than that (or throwing up so bad you can’t leave) I’d say I’d be shaking my head too!

    13. The Expendable Redshirt*

      Today, the spouse of a director called in sick on her behalf. The directer was in the hospital with a spinal cord injury and couldn’t move.

      So yeah. Unless an employee is unable to speak or use their hands, calling in for your spouse is unprofessional. (Our director is expected to recover well.)

    14. Paquita*

      I had to call in for my husband before. He was in the hospital/ER. He worked retail and most of the people knew he had health issues. He actually had a heart attack AT WORK so they had to call ME.

    15. SavannahMiranda*

      When I was Very Pregnant and Very Sick, my partner offered to call in to work for me several times.

      I kept telling him no. No, it is my relationship with my employer. It is my job. And it would be weirdly co-dependent and enabling and…I don’t know what…for him to call in for me. (Thank you, Allison!)

      Like, how does it make it more legitimate for you to be doing it for me? Unless I’m in a coma or truly incapacitated, it actually makes it less legit for them to hear from you and not from me.

      We’re not triangulating my job, honey. My job and me are in a two-point relationship here, not a three-point relationship. You are not a co-equal to me in my employer’s eyes.

      He never seemed to get it and kept offering.

  26. Anon today*

    OK everyone, what would you do:

    You’re say, a level 1 something-or-other, in an industry where you need a BA and experience to do this job, and the market is beyond tight.

    Your boss leaves, so you get a new boss – let’s say the boss job is a level 3, and your new boss was a level 2 for almost a decade.

    Company new boss came from is a direct competitor in a tight-knit industry. New boss’ old level 2 job was just posted this week, and you’re qualified.

    Apply for the level 2 job?

    FWIW new boss and current company are all nice, good place to work, I’m just itching to be a level 2 and there’s no path for me here for at least a year. I’ve done level 1 work for over 5 years.

    1. Anon today*

      Thanks all! You are saying what my husband said too.

      Related concern: Other Company has quite a few recent expats over in Current Company, and they do sometimes get together and commiserate on how terrible the work-life balance is at Other Company. I’m a mom of two small kids, one of whom I pump for, so long hours and facetime nonsense are just Not For Me these days. I wonder if I’d be wasting my time trying for this new role when I may be a bad fit because of that, and also if it ever got back to my current company that I’m going for it, that could be bad for me. Husband thinks I can magically figure out if this is the case in the interview but I’m not so sure.

      1. Thosetaxreturnswontfilethemselves*

        This is hard – I have personally chosen to pick a less stressful job/career path because of children. I am currently a level 2, I would love to be a level 3 but I would have to switch companies/give up my work-life-balance at least in the short term while I “learn” a new company.

        Is the pay bump enough to justify the extra stress? Are you the primary bread winner or is hubby? Will hubby pick up the slack if your career has to be #1 for a while?

      2. J.B.*

        Hmm…in that case I’d apply and interview. In the case of a job offer, tell them what you will be willing to do and find out what they say. Sometimes you can get away with very clear boundaries and they be respected. Probably also run specifics past those working in your company. Ask them if you can believe if the potential boss said (s)he really wouldn’t judge you.

        It’s also ok to stay where you are right now. I found that by the time my younger child turned 3 I could spend more time focusing on school.

      3. RightsaidFed*

        Are you trying to convince yourself to not apply?

        You haven’t even applied, yet you are coming up with all these reasons why it might not work out – but these reasons are all theoretical!

        Stop borrowing trouble.

        Apply, see if you get an interview, go on interview, see if it is a good fit AND THEN make your decision.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Oh yeah, definitely. 5 years? totally.

      And if you don’t get it, ask what the path is for you to get it next time.

  27. Let Me Tell You About My Cats*

    Is there any use in being honest in an exit interview where your supervisor already knows and acknowledges the problems that you would talk about? Like, they know there’s a super toxic employee that is driving everyone away, but they don’t want to go through the trouble of firing them. Is there a use in creating an official record?

    1. AMPG*

      Is the exit interview with your supervisor, or someone else – HR or grandboss? If it’s someone else, it might be worth it to be honest, since conflict-avoidant supervisors are often good at hiding problems from those above them in the chain.

      1. Let Me Tell You About My Cats*

        It’s an online form. I think it goes straight to HR & they share feedback with the supervisor.

        1. SavannahMiranda*

          I was baldly honest once in the online post-post-exit interview about having been driven out. Like yours it was a survey with the opportunity to type in short answers.

          My phrasings were unfailingly professional, and I strove the be absolutely clear about who was involved, who wasn’t, and those who knew nothing and were blameless. I also didn’t name call or overtly say “Jack Doe did XYZ.” But I pulled no punches. (If you can imagine all of that care with phrasing while pulling no punches.)

          I also offered positive comments. Including about the person who drove me out. I didn’t want to risk my exit survey coming off as embittered and imbalanced. And there were actually great aspects of the job. I learned a tremendous amount and I wouldn’t have gotten where I did in my career without it. So I was honest about that too.

          Basically, I tried to imagine the person who drove me out having access to my survey answers and reading all of them. Along with their boss. What fair, balanced, but bald things would I want put in front of them in black and white. And so that’s the way I wrote it. I wrote it as if my accuser would read it, even though I know they would never see it. I think that kept it honest.

          Three months after I left, the person who drove me out was called into a meeting, his badge was taken, and he was escorted out of the building and trespassed. They collected his things in a box and delivered them to his home. Including his jacket that he had over his desk chair. They were that severe about it.

          I don’t know if my survey answers had anything to do with that. Probably not. The issues were much larger than me and my little job. But if my answers played a part, I’m glad. And I’m glad I worked so hard to be completely fair in the way I wrote them.

          Regardless, it was incredibly satisfying to be boldly honest. Finally. To someone. Even if it was just an impersonal online interface. Which is probably why employers do these online Q&As to be honest. They probably get answers they don’t get face to face.

    2. junipergreen*

      Oops, my comment didn’t nest, and is down below. Reposting here:

      I don’t think it would hurt to mention the issues so long as you did so in a way that was calm and constructive (so as not to burn any reference-giving bridges!). Theoretically your exit interview will be recorded by the organization and potentially reviewed by higher-ups, so you’d be helping build the case some day for whichever honorable soul finally endeavors to fire the problematic employee. (At the very least adding your voice to the record lends more credence to a financial case that it’s more expensive to lose good employees than to keep the toxic ones.)

      Btw, love the username.

    3. Lia*

      Yes. You don’t know how many others may have already complained, and if they’ve decided “one more complaint and Toxic CoWorker is GONE”.

      At a former job, I went on record stating that two people were responsible for my departure, and ultimately, due to my complaint and those of others, those people did depart.

    4. Windchime*

      Probably not, in my experience. I was bullied out of a job by a toxic manager, and she had bullied out 3 others before me (and tried with a couple others). We all complained about her to the Director; he didn’t care. He thought she was awesome and he supported her. HR didn’t care until a different Director got involved and it looked like there could be a possible lawsuit; then all the sudden, they cared and the bully supervisor was fired.

      So my (limited) experience has been that, if your supervisor already knows and won’t do anything about it, it’s useless to complain.

    5. OhBehave*

      This is a ridiculous way to deal with toxic employee. They don’t want to go to the trouble to fire them but love having to hire replacements for those TE has driven away? Of course! That’s no trouble at all! The gutlessness of some managers is astounding. I would absolutely be honest in the exit interview. At least you have added to the list. Also leave a Glassdoor review too, saying a toxic employee is driving people away in xyz dept.

  28. AliceBD*

    I was put on a PIP this week. It came totally out of the blue for me. I think my boss (who is a very nice person but who I have never thought was a good manager) did not adequately share the feedback about me from the next level up — I had heard some of the feedback before but entirely in passing, and much of it months ago. I fully agree with some of the feedback but don’t feel like any of it was appropriately shared to the level of seriousness it needed to be prior to the PIP. I am now also being offered external support on things I never had before (use the agency’s graphic designers if you need to! I’ll give you their contact info! When I have never claimed to have any graphic design experience, brought up a million times that I didn’t know what I was doing and it would be nice to have some support, AND had all graphics I created previously (none of which I was happy with because I know I am not a graphic designer) approved by my boss). I have gotten clarification on how everything will be evaluated and timelines for when things need to start being done by; I have two months before the final decision.

    I am obviously going to work hard on these things (now that I know they are issues! When again I did not have any idea for most of the things presented). Because my boss is not good at actually communicating negative feedback to me I feel like I will not have an accurate idea of it I will be able to be successful with it; right now I feel like it is 50-50 whether or not I will successfully get off it.

    I’m going to reread the archives posts about PIPs and being fired again on Sunday. (Have a funeral to go to for a family friend tomorrow as my parents are out of the country.) My goal is to have my resume ready to go by Monday and start applying to other jobs next week.

    I started at this job in August 2017 so the PIP will end after 13 months here. It is an entirely new industry for me, but my previous industry was rather specialized and there are no companies in that industry around here. (I liked my previous job OK but I had outgrown it, and I wanted to move to this city to be near family rather than hours away.) Also within my first two months at this job my department was changed, my boss was changed due to the department change, and my workload was doubled (with no compensation); I’m not sure I would have been hired if everything was set up this way when I started. My company is also merging with another one right around when the PIP ends.

    A few questions for y’all:
    1. Ways to hold this space where I want this job to succeed (overall nice people, great work-life balance, well-known employer in the area, adequately paid, very good benefits) but also need to be preparing for leaving?
    2. My last job search took 10 months, but I was trying to move 300 miles away. I said I was relocating for family reasons and would pay all my moving expenses in my cover letters. Do you think being closer will help shorten my job search? I am confident in my material and my interview skills as I had a ton of phone interviews and multiple in person interviews at different companies; I was one of the finalists multiple times before I took this job.
    3. I sort-of have an answer for job searching while I am still employed (even though the timeline is bad) but any hints for reason for leaving to give to jobs if I am fired? How to frame it? Links to AAM posts are fine. Nothing on the PIP has to do with attitude, hours I work, insubordination, etc — it’s things like giving them calendars of my content plans ahead of time because upper management wants to see it (completely and totally fair), earlier scheduling of big campaigns (it would help if people gave me the info on the campaigns sooner — I’ve been asking but I don’t get it; now I have learned I have to nag people), prepping the people doing Facebook Lives better (I disagree with this; I can’t do anything on a Live video if the senior person doing the video gets excited and leans forward and starts talking fast and they ignore that I stressed beforehand not to do that and my signals during it to slow down and sit up; there also has not been a video since they complained about the background being too plain and got me a banner to put in the background).
    4. I’m thinking of reaching out to a former coworker who I feel may have been on a PIP and resigned before he was fired earlier this year; he’s a super nice guy who I am pretty sure would be willing to talk and let me know how the process went. Good idea or not?

    Sorry if you ask questions and I can’t answer them — I wrote this ahead of time to paste into the comments during a bathroom break and I can’t be on my phone much. I am also aware that I seem rather defensive; I think I would be more understanding if I had known that these things were issues.

    1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      re:3 (reasons for leaving), could you frame it in the context of the changes to your job after two months? Given that you’ve been there (or will have have been there 13 months ish) you might have to stretch it slightly (others will no doubt berate me for the lack of honesty), but combined with the soon to be merger, could it be along the lines of “my job description changed, and is likely to change again aand is no longer what I feel confident continuing

    2. Namast'ay in Bed*

      Sorry to hear about all that!

      I think it will be easier to find jobs now that you’re local. If the rest of your work history hasn’t included tons of short stints, or if one year isn’t a short time in your industry, I think you’d be perfectly reasonable to apply to other jobs with the explanation that shortly after you started, your job changed drastically and you were moved to a different department, and while you’ve given it a year it just isn’t for you so you’re looking to move back into the work you were originally hired to do, which isn’t available at your current company.

      Good luck with everything!

    3. Jessi*

      Yes I would start applying!

      I think I would frame it as ‘The job description changed after I had started taking me away from X which I really enjoy (whatever it is that is in new job’s description) and the company is merging so the job may change again.

    4. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Are there regular feedback meetings during the PIP duration? There should be, if not insist on them at least weekly. Ask for your performance during this time to be documented in the PIP and reviewed in the meetings.

      This will tell you straight away if this is a ‘we want you to improve and be successful’ PIP or a ‘this is a documentation step but we’ve made up our minds’ PIP. You will also be able to easily gauge where you stand during the next few months.

    5. Cat Herder*

      I don’t have any advice — just words of encouragement! I hope it gets better for you.

  29. gbca*

    Any suggestions as to how to stay on top of tasks when you have a million little (and big) things to manage? I’m not looking for a tool, specifically – I’ve heard of them all from fancy apps to pen and paper. But fundamentally, they all require you to be diligent about entering/writing down items. And that’s where I’m really struggling. I am not naturally super organized, and I get to-dos different ways – email, meeting follow-ups, casual hallway conversations. I just have such a hard time sticking to a system, and am really worried that I’m going to drop something important one of these days.

    1. SoSo*

      My job is very similar, but thankfully I’m a fairly organized/type-A person. Honestly, aside from the tips you’ve already gotten, the only thing I can think of would be to get yourself into the habit of tallying whatever the task is AS SOON as you get it. It’s got to become a habit. That makes it a lot harder to forget. I’ve got several different to do lists, honestly- every email with something that needs followed up on gets flagged to go into my outlook task manager. Getting an assignment in a meeting? I write it down in my notes. Someone stops by my desk, and I grab a post it note to stick on my screen. It’s three different systems but all the same concept. As long as I write it down or take note of it ASAP, the system works pretty well.

      1. AMPG*

        This. I have a to-do list app and EVERYTHING that requires follow-up goes in that app, even if it’s written down somewhere else. I’ve also gotten in the habit of reviewing my meeting notes immediately after each meeting to be sure I haven’t missed any action items.

      2. Iris Eyes*

        Agreed, record it immediately as soon as you think of/ know about it.

        Remember a short pencil is better than a long memory.

      3. samiratou*

        I have a very similar problem, and I’m starting to get better about this and this is super important for me:

        “get yourself into the habit of tallying whatever the task is AS SOON as you get it.”

        I’m finding that Todoist allows me to do this the best–I can add tasks from my phone or computer and clean them up later.

        And then I find it helps to keep track of where I’m at on tasks by throwing comments in. The paid version is required for that, but it’s been WEP for me. I can jot notes, link to tickets, send emails to specific tasks, etc. I’m not sure if other tools do this, but I’ve found I need an easy, central place to manage tasks because I can’t keep track of some things in a task list in Outlook, some things in tickets, some things jotted down on paper, etc.

    2. Libervermis*

      Would it be helpful to create a narrative of what you have to do? So rather than a bunch of individual to-do items you know you’re working towards Event, which will require Things 1-5, which themselves require Things 6-10, etc. Definitely not a foolproof system, but I find that it’s much easier for me to remember a chain or network of things than a bunch of discrete things.

      And I echo the suggestion to build up the habit of noting everything down in whatever form works best for you. It may never come naturally but hopefully with practice it will come habitually.

    3. foolofgrace*

      I second the Post-It suggestion but my advice is to scribble even just a couple of words onto a Post-It and stick it either on your computer (could get very fluttery there) or stick it in a notebook. Even just one of those plain black-and-white blank notebooks. You’d have all your tasks in one place and it would be harder to forget any. Again, you don’t have to write down the whole task, just a couple of words (like they recommend using this method to remember dreams).

    4. melting*

      I carry a pen and notebook with me EVERYWHERE at work; it’s small enough that’s it’s not difficult to hold in the same hand as my laptop, or even slip into the pockets of a cardigan. I keep the pen in the book itself, holding my place, so that it is just that much easier to open and write in on the fly.

      I’m not shy of whipping it out and writing as people are giving me tasks, either. Even the walk back to my desk is long enough for details to fall out of my brain.

    5. JessicaTate*

      You’ve hit the nail on the head that the essential thing is being diligent about writing it down. It takes discipline. BUT my suggestion would be to go with whatever has the fewest steps in your work-life. I’ve found that a paper “to do” list that sits on my desk is perfect, because all it requires when something comes up is scrawling it down (ideally near a related section of tasks). If I had to open outlook or project management software or whatever, it would be another step, and I wouldn’t capture half of what I should. The piece of paper floats around my desk area, but it’s always within arm’s reach and often eye view to nudge my memory – and give me the peace of mind that I don’t have to remember everything right now. It’s there, waiting for me.

      Longer version: I actually keep the “master” To Do list in a Word doc, organized by Project Name, with tasks listed using giant squares as bullets (the satisfaction of checking things off with gusto). Each Monday, I delete the done tasks, add new / scrawled tasks, and print the hard copy for ongoing scrawling throughout the week. The Word doc helps me quickly have a “fresh” list every week, so that I’m not searching through pages of completed tasks. The print-out gives me the scrawling capability I need. (Yes, outlook and project management software could do this automatically, but because they are “another step”, they don’t work for me as well as 10 minutes on Monday morning.)

        1. JessicaTate*

          Good point. I have done something similar to that, but your approach is possibly a more efficient way than I’d done! For the OP, I was thinking that might be too advanced. I keep thinking OP needs to just focus on finding that first easiest step of whatever will get them to write it down. :-)

    6. Sophia Brooks*

      Maybe I can help? I am not diligent about any one system because I get bored easily. I manage a lot of big and small tasks with lost of interruptions. What helps me is to keep changing systems. So I can be diligent for a while because it is new and then I look for something else.

      I also sometimes use physical things as a reminder. Like, instead of the list I might have a pile that is a printed off email with a task, a note about something that needs to be done, a folder of a student I need to reach out to and I just keep going through the pile.

      Every month or so I just go through the whole mess and make sure I am not missing anything.

    7. HR for today*

      I have ADHD and this kind of thing is a big problem for me. I did learn, over the course of several years, to be more organized and to write down my to-dos before I forget them. Also, having an assistant helps. Also, I got promoted over the years and am now in a job where I don’t have to keep track of so many things. I encourage you to think of other jobs where you don’t have to keep track of so many details.

      If you are in a service-type job like HR, accounting, or IT, and you have a hallway conversation about something that needs to be done, ask the person to email it to you (or submit a ticket, if there’s a ticket system). Just keep repeating it, over and over again, and (most of) your colleagues will eventually get it. (Also helpful if your other colleagues in the same department do the same — e.g. if all IT folks insist that requests come through the ticket system.)

      1. Alice*

        I understand the point of ticketing systems but every time I have to fill in the long form with ultra-specific options that are somehow not comprehensive, it feels like IT is saying, “hello internal client, you’re in OUR world now, bwahaha!” Boo, poorly designed ticketing systems with poor UX.

    8. Cat Herder*

      in addition to the very good suggestions everyone else has made: pay attention to the steps, resources, and collaboration needed for the various tasks and, whatever system/s you use to keep track, put those in it too. Set deadlines for every task. None of this comes naturally to me, and in fact I really chafe at doing this sort of thing and always have. And yet I am known for my reliability with it – I just have to work at it conscientiously and *consciously* every day. You can do it!
      Also, if you DO mess up, fess up right away and explain what you are doing to rectify the error. BTDT. As long as you are not messing up a lot, everyone will appreciate your honesty.

    9. Gumby*

      If you have a hard time sticking to a system, it could be because you haven’t found the right system for you yet. Just because you aren’t naturally super-organized doesn’t mean it’s a skill you can’t hone in a way that fits your needs. I’m a fan of a slightly-modified-for-my-needs GTD type of system. So maybe try a couple of different options. Give them legitimate attempts where you put in real effort for more than a day or week. Sometimes the things you think you can’t do (be diligent about writing things down for example) can become second nature with practice.

      The other thing that you might find helpful is the “if it will take less than 3 (or 5 or whatever) minutes, do it right away” approach.

    10. SavannahMiranda*

      Your system of entering items sounds like it may be too cumbersome. If it’s too cumbersome *for you*, then it’s too cumbersome.

      I had a job once that was so absolutely hectic that the best I could do was a small spiral notebook of scratch paper on which I wrote ONE WORD items throughout the day. While typing an email, answering the phone, and someone standing over me with a question while another person stood in the doorway literally all at the same time, I would also have to note down all the to-do items that came out of this assault of constant input.

      After 20 minutes my spiral pad would look something like this (in addition to all the other to-dos it already contained going back pages and pages):
      “Book 2”

      I knew these things meant I needed to talk to Brad in Legislative Scheduling about when my senator’s bill would come up in committee, I needed to remind my other senator to read the book summary I had prepared of the book her constituent had written before her meeting with him at 2:00, I needed to get an appointment for the first senator with Senator K before committee vote on his other bill on Tuesday, I needed to call the American Legion Hall in the district to find out their availability for a constituent Town Hall Meeting the following month, I needed to schedule muffler repair on my senator’s car, I needed to talk to Jerry the Intern Supervisor about our college intern, and I needed to change my senator’s outgoing voice mail.

      If I had the time to calmly write all of those things down in full sentences, with action steps, and priority flags. With markers next to them denoting whether they were delegated, moved forward, complete, or dropped. Or any of the other methods and organizational tricks available. I would have gotten eff all absolutely nothing done. And I would have dropped all the balls.

      All that is required is that you have a capture system. And your capture system only has to work *for you.* No one else has to understand it. You’re not passing any tests or quizzes. You’re not turning it in for homework. You just have to capture the input that’s coming at you somehow, someway, no matter how scritchy-scratchy, or how impossible-looking. The small spiral notebook worked for me because it was tiny, I could grab it and run down the hall, business cards fit inside it, I could throw it in my purse without feeling like “Ugh, do I have to bring it” and it was unobtrusive (I could take notes without it looking like I was Taking Notes). It was like a reporter’s notebook basically. That’s essentially what it was, a reporters notebook. Unobtrusive, lightweight, and cryptic.

      Somehow I got more done in a daily basis in that job than I’ve gotten done in any job since, no matter the complex project management protocols, or goal setting and objectives software, or bullet journaling techniques I’ve encountered since them.

      Get a capture system. Make it as simple and fail proof as possible. Write things it it only you have to interpret. Use it. If what you’ve been doing is too cumbersome for you, then it’s too cumbersome.

  30. Michelle*

    Does anyone have any experience with the Paycom system? Our company has decided to use it and it’s not working very well. 99% of the staff have issues with it. From installing the app,getting the program to work, password issues and complicating to use.

    If you do have experience or have used it, does it get any easier? Payroll issues that used to take 3 minutes to correct now require 3 log-ins (employee/supervisor approval/payroll supervisor approval) and 30 minutes to correct. From what I have experienced so far, it’s much more complicated for the staff (especially the part-time staff) and overall a pain.

  31. KHB*

    As promised yesterday, I’m here to talk more about my career as a science writer and answer any questions folks might have.

    As I said, my particular job is writing for the flagship magazine of a nonprofit society. My day-to-day work involves seeking out the most important and interesting research in my field, and then writing about it at a level that the broader community can understand (and ideally, would be interested in reading for fun).

    I have a PhD in my scientific field but no formal training in journalism or writing. Most of my colleagues come from similar backgrounds. But different writing jobs require different things.

    It’s a wonderfully interesting job, in that I get to delve into a different area of cutting-edge science with each publication cycle. But doing it well is also hard, and as a result, there’s a lot of science writing out there that’s pretty terrible, and many employers are willing to pay well for writing that is not terrible. If you have a good mind for scientific concepts and can put a sentence together, I encourage you to look into writing as a career. You’d be making the world a better place.

    I’m happy to take questions.

    1. Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins*

      Yay! I’m glad you popped in today; I was really interested in your experience when you mentioned your job yesterday.
      Did you have trouble moving from PhD-style science writing into a more journalistic style of writing? Do you ever have trouble ‘translating’ the more complex concepts or topics into plain-language? I imagine that the more you write, the easier it gets.

      Thank you for Sharing!

      1. KHB*

        Yes, actually, to both your questions, and a lot of us continue to struggle with both of those things. I think that a lot of scientists are subtly trained to obfuscate as much as possible: Nobody will challenge you on the details of your paper if they can’t understand what you’re talking about or stay awake long enough to read the whole thing. In magazine writing, sometimes the jargon and complex sentence structures and ten-dollar words are still necessary to convey an idea accurately. But very often, they’re not.

    2. fposte*

      Cool! I was thinking of this with the OP thinking about moving into grantwriting, too–that making complicated concepts legible is a really valuable skill.

      Do the writers work remotely or is there an office component? Is there ever travel involved or is your experience of the research mostly virtual/narrative? Is there a challenge involved in getting scientists to speak quotably about the work, so that you end up resorting to paraphrase at times, or are they pretty good interview sources?

      1. KHB*

        Most of us are based in an office, which I really like a lot: It’s so nice to be able to walk across the hall and knock on someone’s door if you need to bounce an idea off them really quickly.

        Travel is mostly going to research conferences. There are occasional lab visits in the mix, but they’re not tied to specific stories. There’s just not enough time between deciding to write a story and needing to get it written for us to hop on a plane and head somewhere. That does make it a challenge, sometimes, to get nice-looking images to publish: Since we can’t go to the lab and take our own photos, we have to rely on what the scientists send us. Sometimes that works well, and sometimes it doesn’t.

        In my opinion, quotes are overrated. I’m lucky, though, in that the publication I write for is already perceived as a trustworthy brand, so there’s no need to pepper every story with a ton of quotes by Dr. Genius Einstein to convince readers that what we’re writing about is actually important. Sometimes people speak quotably, and we quote them. But sometimes they don’t, and that’s fine too.

        1. LRC*

          I’m gonna disagree with KHB a little on the quotes. They’re often my favourite part of science stories, and my outlet has quotes in every article. It can be hard to get scientists to speak quotably, especially about topics that are really complex and/or mathematical, but I’ve found the key is to just be really friendly and chatty so that they sink into the conversation and stop thinking about the fact that it’s actually an interview. Worse comes to worse I’ll occasionally specifically ask for a fun quotable sentence.

          1. KHB*

            Yeah, there are definitely differences of opinion on this. Quotes are great when you have good ones that work well with your story. But it’s definitely possible to write a good story without any quotes at all, and trying to force quotes into a story where they don’t belong can actually be a negative, because it interrupts the flow of your own writing.

            Once upon a time (way before my time) we had a writer who would load up each story with tons of quotes. She did it, or so they say, because she didn’t actually know what she was talking about, so she leaned heavily on the scientists to explain everything in their own words and just hoped that the resultant hodgepodge would at least make some sense to readers. I see a lot of writing out there that I suspect takes the same approach.

            1. LRC*

              Ooh yes true – scientists explaining themselves in quotes rarely works. I like a good analogy in a quote, or a reaction. Something to give the story a bit of personality while also proving to the audience that people were interviewed and journalism was done about the impact of the research, rather than just “I read a paper and am explaining it to you”.

            2. TL -*

              I’m doing a masters in science communication right now and one of our guest lecturers (who does a radio show/podcast) was talking rather judgmentally about how RadioLab likes to summarize and ‘speak for the scientists’ and she likes to ‘let her scientists speak for themselves’.

              Her show does relatively well – it’s only in NZ and focuses mostly on environmental stuff – but I do video editing with cancer biologists/bioengineers and suffice it to say we have very different ideas on who should be doing the majority of the talking.

    3. Hope*

      That sounds like an interesting job that I’d actually be good at, but I have no idea how to find science writing jobs. Do the magazines themselves usually post ads on their sites, or is there a specific place where science writers go looking for positions? Or some other avenue I’m not thinking of?

      1. H.C.*

        It depends on the magazines – some may rely more on freelancers, others would have more permanent staff writers (you can get an idea by comparing bylines to the staff listed on their masthead or site).

        Other places that use science writers heavily: universities & research institutions, science-focused nonprofits & thinktanks, government agencies, public institutions (zoos, aquariums, planetariums). Note that their job postings may not be “science writer” per se, since they may merge those duties with other marketing/communication functions.

        You can also check out the National Association of Science Writers’ site at for more job resources.

      2. KHB*

        I found my position by combing through the websites of all the organizations I could think of that I might want to work for and looking at their job listings. There may be better ways to do it, but that’s what I did. I can tell you that every position we’ve hired for in the 10+ years I’ve been here has been advertised externally.

      3. LRC*

        Also, there are science writers’ groups online, including ones for various specific fields and just for women, where people post jobs. I’ve gotten every science writing gig I’ve had, whether freelance or FT, via networking on social media with other women science writers.

    4. Ali G*

      How did you make the transition? I’ve done a lot of technical writing (in my field), and also a lot of translating that techie info in words for broader audiences. I would love to do that full time!

      1. KHB*

        I saw the job advertised, I applied for it, and I got it. (I’m not sure if this is what you’re asking?) There was an element of right-place-right-time involved, in that we don’t hire new writers all that often, and there just happened to be an opening at the time I was looking to move on from my research position. But I didn’t actually do a lot of conscious plotting about making the transition: My employer was looking for someone with a background and skill set just like I had. Having a track record of published writing is helpful, but I didn’t even really have that (except for academic papers). Our hiring process involves a writing test, so we can evaluate applicants based on the specific skills that we need.

    5. LRC*

      Hey, KHB! I’m gonna pop into your thread as well if people have questions, since I’m also a science writer and my work is a bit different.

      My job is writing news for a science magazine. My day-to-day work is similar to KHB’s – I read a lot of scientific journal articles and preprints to look for the most interesting research, I contact the researchers and other folks in the field and ask them lots of questions, and I write about it using standard English instead of scientific jargon (the audience is basically college-educated folks who have a previous interest in science). I have a BA in my scientific field and also no formal training in journalism or writing (although I started college as an English major, so I did take a lot of writing classes).

      Like KHB said, doing science writing well is super-difficult, and there’s a lot of mediocre stuff out there. If you’re really good at it and willing to hustle hard, even once you have a full-time job, you can make decent money and have a blast doing it. I love my job, my coworkers are ridiculously smart and wonderful, and there is a great community.

      1. H.C.*

        Ha, I’ve already jumped in – but an occasional science writer here too (my main role is actually PR/marketing, but a lot of the science writing work falls to me since I’m one of few on my team who can understand & break down research papers and carry a conversation with scientists). My work is developing content for an academic-research nonprofit, though (and runs the gamut from blogposts to grant proposals to web copy to impact reports) & I work more with bio/medical sciences.

    6. MissMaple*

      Awesome, thank you both to KHB and LRC for dropping in! Have you found any good resources or classes for working on your skills for writing in this specific way? Did you do any freelance writing in the science space before making the jump?

      1. KHB*

        Hmm. I wish I had a better answer for this. I’d say the vast majority of my skills development has come from seeking feedback on my writing (from colleagues, friends, and family, starting with my academic writing and continuing with my magazine writing) and paying attention to all of it. The doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with everyone’s helpful suggestions (ha!), but it does mean not taking the attitude of “that comment is stupid – they obviously didn’t understand what I wrote.” Well, why didn’t they understand it? Is it possible that other readers might misunderstand in the same way? Is there a way to say the same thing that’s less prone to misinterpretation?

        Being a writer takes a delicate balance of confidence and humility. You need to be confident that you have something to say (even if your employer’s already hired you on the basis that you have something to say, to actually get the words onto the paper, you need the courage of your conviction that they deserve to be there). And yet, you need to fully internalize that once your writing leaves your desk, its value is wholly determined by what other people make of it.

        I never did any freelancing, and I don’t think I would have had the stamina for it. I’m very fortunate to have found my way into a salaried job that allows me the luxury of occasional navel-gazing like this.

      2. LRC*

        I haven’t used any formal resources, but there are master’s and certificate programs all around the country and online that I’ve heard mostly good things about. But like KHB said, seeking feedback is the most important thing, so I’ll put in another plug for interacting with the community of science writers online.

        And start a blog. Very few people will pay you to write about science if they have zero evidence that you understand writing or science, plus just writing every day (or week, or whatever) will probably improve your skills. I did freelance for a while, on top of my regular day job and then full-time, and that’s how I found my current reporting job – an editor I adored at a publication I hugely respected invited me to apply for an opening that I might not have even seen otherwise.

        Finally, get subscriptions to science publications you like. You won’t be able to write about science if you haven’t read how other people do it, and there’s a huge range of different styles out there.

  32. Introvert conference attendee*

    I have a work conference coming up next week that will be for four days. I do not travel often, so I am actually excited about being able to explore a new city a bit and stay in a hotel room on my own (thanksfully, we are allowed to get single rooms!), though nervous about meeting so many new people in the industry because I’m really shy. Some of the days are really busy with programs and meetings all day. What are your favorite snacks to bring with you? Any other travel tips to reduce anxiety for work conferences?

    1. Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins*

      I would plan a trip to a grocery store. I like having real food in the room, and it saves you money on snackies. I typically will cut up fruit and veg and stash ziplocks of thpose in my work bag. Nuts and trail mix are good too.

    2. Pam*

      My rule is to build in that alone time for recharging, and defend it like a tiger. Whether it’s 20 minutes at a hidden spot in the hotel lobby, or room-service dinner, do what you need to do to recharge. (I can do people all day if I can have quiet time at night.)

    3. Namast'ay in Bed*

      I definitely agree on hitting the grocery store and stocking up your hotel room with real food. Especially if it can save you from having to venture out for a meal, adding to your glorious alone time.

      I also find it helps to mentally put on your “worker hat” during the day, all while knowing that you can take it off once you’re done. Somehow thinking “right now this isn’t the me who wants nothing more than to be alone in my room reading or watching reruns of Fixer Upper, this is the business me who has connections to make and things to do, I can be that me later” helps me focus on what I need to do and get through it. Me me hates being surrounded by all these people and making the same small talk over and over, but business me knows this is what we have to do and can through it.

      1. Libervermis*

        I also find “professional me” to be a really useful role when I have to do things like talk to a bunch of people. Personally this role shift works especially well if I’m dressed a little different from normal – I only wear blazers professionally, for example, and I’ve been known to wear pantyhose even under pants because the different feeling helps me get into character. Obviously that will vary person-to-person and you want to be comfortable.

        I also recommend bringing along something that makes wind-down time feel especially luxurious to you. I sheet mask every night at conferences. A friend buys really nice cheese. Another takes a bath and reads formulaic thriller novels.

    4. H.C.*

      I try to eat a heartier breakfast (but not so much that I’d get food coma) so I can make do with snacks over lunchtime (cereal bars, fruit, jerky).

      As for reducing anxiety & getting “me time” (introvert here too!) – planning is key, namely figuring out what conference events are must attends and what are “like to attend, but OK to skip or attend part-time” and scheduling your me time around that. Conference venues tend to have a lot of spaces for people to decompress / take a break, so you can easily use that time to catch up on emails, read the news or take a breather.

      Also, unless you have must-attend post-conference reception/mixer/etc., enjoy your evenings to explore the city or relax in the hotel room.

    5. Naptime Enthusiast*

      Non-crumbly snacks, I’m a fan of Nature Valley Sweet & Salty or Clif bars.

      I get very flustered meeting lots of people at once, one thing that helps me is proactively extending my hand for a handshake and a mini elevator speech ready to go. “Hi I’m Naptime Enthusiast, I’m here with Widgets & Gizmos.” Not only does this get a conversation started, but it prevents me from my normal “ums” and “uhs” and makes me feel more polished. Also, dress up, but dress COMFORTABLY. The last few conferences I’ve been to required lots of walking, and had I not worn comfortable shoes I would’ve been hobbling around.

    6. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Comfortable shoes! I don’t bother with snacks, because you will be fed very regularly at the conference, I’m usually so stuffed by the end that I can’t even think about food.

      Bring a bag and a portfolio type thing for handouts and stuff, but try not to lug around a lot of things like laptops and such if you don’t have to. They get heavy by the end of the day.

      Pack and dress in layers. You’ll either be broiling or freezing and that can change between rooms.

    7. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      Individually wrapped granola/protein/fruit-and-nut bars are great. For a 3-day conference, I can buy/bring one box at the beginning (usually 6 bars), ensure I have 2 in my bag each morning, and still have leftovers for the trip home.

      Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. High air conditioning, talking a lot, walking a lot – you’ll want the extra fluids even if you don’t realize it.

      Plan some mid-day down time. Can you skip any program sessions? (Things where you’ll just be in the audience, rather than an active participant.) I don’t do this at one-day conferences unless I’m presenting, but for multi-day conferences I’ll try to find at least one time slot where I can skip any formal programming and do whatever I feel like at the time. Sometimes this might be talking to someone I’ve met earlier in the conference, sometimes it’s finding a place to sit and people watch, sometimes it’s finding a place where I can have a little time alone.

    1. ExcelJedi*

      We had something like this at my last job! In order to keep all our tickets well organized, if someone couldn’t log into their computer (or for any other reason couldn’t use their own device), they’d head to the physical help-desk location and log their ticket using an iPad docked there for that purpose. It helped a lot from an administrative perspective, from what I observed.

    2. CatCat*


      At ex-job took the IT helpdesk phone number off the phone list when they rolled out a new online system for submitting tickets. That was changed quickly when it was apparent how useless that was when you could not turn on your computer or log in.

    3. Andy*

      At my last private firm we were all in a bit of system down time and logged off and shutdown and everything. An admin was tasked with letting everyone know they were ok to turn their computers on and log back in.
      So she did just that: by logging in and emailing us.
      An hour later, there were several of us just standing around and chatting, and I wondered out loud why this update was taking so long when the others didn’t.
      She looked up and said (I’m not even kidding you) ‘ooO, we’re ok to get back in the system. Didn’t you get my email?’
      That was the day I lost the knee-jerk respect I used to have for the MBA.

    4. Detective Right-All-The-Time*

      My favorite is when our helpdesk used to email you to confirm that they’ve reset your network login. If I could log on to my computer, that might be helpful! They eventually figured out that they also have to email whoever submitted the ticket for you, but it took them MUCH longer than it should have.

    5. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      A couple of months ago I got an IM from someone at our IT helpdesk about a ticket that one of my interns submitted… Here’s the exchange that took place at the end of April..
      IT GUY , 1:35 PM:
      Hello Random Do you have a moment?

      Random 1:36 PM:
      Hi, I do have a min

      IT GUY 1:36 PM:
      We tried to follow up with INTERN a few times regarding not being able to receive email. Do you know if this has been resolved?
      We have sent her emails as there is no listed contact number.

      Random 1:38 PM:
      Well it probably isn’t urgent as this is her last week.

      IT GUY 1:38 PM:
      Ah! Well, then I presume it wouldn’t be. Would you be OK with us closing the ticket?
      It was opened on Feb 8th.

      Random 1:40 PM:
      Yes, go ahead and close the ticket.

      IT GUY 1:40 PM:
      Great, thanks Random Have a great rest of your day.

      It took every ounce of willpower to not respond with ‘Huh… so you say the emails you sent her in regard to her problem getting email wasn’t successful?!’