open thread – August 24-25, 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.

{ 1,625 comments… read them below }

  1. AnonyAnony*

    Help! I’m a final candidate for two different positions, with two different employers. They have both indicated I’ll most likely receive an offer soon (though I know it’s still possible I won’t receive an offer), but they are still completing internal steps before they can officially offer. One of the positions will most likely pay more, but I like the work environment better at the other.

    If I receive an offer from the place that pays more first, how best should I handle nudging the other place? We haven’t really talked salary and benefits yet, as I was waiting for the offer stage to do that. Is there a tactful way to contact them to ask about those details so that I can compare both places before accepting or declining the first offer? I do need a certain level of income and will have to turn down the second place if their salary is too low, even though I’d prefer to work at their company.

    1. Ali G*

      If you get the higher paying offer before hearing anything from the other place, reach out to them and ask them if they have any updates on their process. You can even mention you have received another offer, but are still very interested in their opportunity too. At that point they know they will either have to step on the gas, or if they are meh on you, then you will know and can take the other offer. I’m not sure there is a way to broach salary at the second place if they haven’t extended an offer, unfortunately.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Just from personal experience – I had competing offers and one company I definitely preferred. They’d indicated an offer was likely, so once I got the call from place A, I let place B know that I needed some news soon, because I was excited about working there but had to give place A an answer. It worked pretty well; I was able to put off A for a few days (wanted a few questions answered in writing anyway) and place B couldn’t increase my salary much but gave me a signing bonus and better benefits.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think this is easier when Company A > Company B > What you have now, and so if you have an offer from B and believe an offer is coming from A, then you can perhaps just be blunt–you would go for A if they can get the formal offer together before the weekend, but you need to eat and can’t wait three weeks while they ponder waiting for Veep Doug to get back and give his input.

    3. AmeriCorps Alum*

      Oh yikes. I feel like you could have asked the company with the better work environment during the interview process about their salary range, since you have reason to believe it might be too low for you to even consider. I’m afraid that contacting them now is going to be seen as bothersome. Ideally, they will both contact you on the same day and you can tell them something like, “I’m really excited about your work environment and want to say yes, but I have to tell you I also have another job offer that pays more. Is there anything you can do?” Then you can see if they can meet your needs at all, or not. If you don’t hear from them around the same time, I don’t think you can assume you’re going to get an offer from the other place too (depends on why you believe you’re going to get an offer, I guess). Whoever offers first, you have to decide, if this is my only offer, will I want it, or will I keep looking and interviewing elsewhere?

    4. stitchinthyme*

      I just got a similar request for advice from a friend the other day. He’s been unemployed for a few months, and so is kind of desperate to find a job. He got an offer from Company A and is supposed to start this coming Monday; he had asked them at the time if he could push his start date back and start in a couple weeks and they said yes, but he dropped the ball on following up — they told him to change the date on the offer letter before signing and sending it back, but for some reason (he didn’t say why), he didn’t do that so his start date is supposed to be Monday.

      Meanwhile, he is also talking to a second company (Company B) that he likes better, but they couldn’t interview him for another week or two, so he wanted my advice on what to do. I told him that his options were basically:

      1. Turn down Company A and hope the other one pans out.
      2. Contact Company A and say something like, “I had asked previously if I could push my start date back to [date], and I’m wondering if I could still do that. I just moved recently and need some extra time to unpack and settle in, although of course if that’s not possible I’ll report in on Monday as planned.” (It’s true; he did just move recently.) If they say no, report in on Monday and give up on Company B.
      3. Start at Company A on Monday and stop talking to Company B.
      4. Start at Company A and continue talking to Company B.

      Of those options, #1 is a gamble; #2 is probably the safest bet, and #4 is a jerk move that will burn bridges at Company A. #2 would as well if Company B gives him an offer and he backs out of Company A after they agreed to push back his start date, but at least he wouldn’t have started yet at that point.

      Anyway, he wrote back after I sent him my answer to tell me that he’s interviewing at Company B today. I cautioned him that he may still have a tough decision to make, because although I have had times where I’ve had an interview and gotten an offer the same day, that isn’t always the case — some companies move glacially slow when it comes to hiring. If I were him, I’d have asked Company A to push back my start date just to give me some padding — one business day is cutting it awfully close, in my opinion!

      I’ll see him tonight, so I guess I’ll find out what happened and what he’s going to do in a few hours.

      1. Faith*

        I would argue that all options other than 3 will burn bridges at Company A. He already signed the offer and sent it back. He is now acting in bad faith by talking to someone else. Whether or not it might work out for the best for him is still uncertain, but there is no way to bow out of accepting this offer gracefully.

        1. stitchinthyme*

          Option 2 would probably not do any harm IF he doesn’t get the offer from Company B. I don’t think that asking for extra time before the start date would do any harm since he *does* have a legitimate reason for it (recent move). But yeah, if he doesn’t end up at Company A, the bridge would likely be burned. But I think the worst option would be to start there and then leave.

          I do doubt it would harm his career in any real way, because the tech industry in my area is big, and it’s unlikely that there’s enough of a network that he could get blacklisted. But even so, ethically it would be a crappy thing to do, and I did tell him that.

      2. Hazelthyme*

        I’m going to agree that anything other than #3 is unethical and unprofessional. Asking for a few days to consider an offer before you accept (and trying to get an update from your preferred employer in the meantime)? Fine. Asking to delay your start date by a week? Usually fine, though some employers may push back if they really need you on board before a certain event or have orientations that only start once a month. But continuing to interview once you’ve accepted an offer? Not cool.

        Yes, it’s even worse to leave after you’ve started than to accept an offer and then back out before your start date, but both are pretty bad IMO. A decent employer will cut their other finalists loose once you accept their offer, and may have to restart the whole search again. They may also have rearranged schedules, requested equipment or system access, etc. in anticipation of your start date. In short, there’s a significant cost to the employer if you do this, and most won’t look kindly on this behavior.

        You say the industry is big enough that you don’t think your friend will face any long-term repercussions from reneging on Company A’s offer, but I wouldn’t be so sure. At a minimum, this burns a bridge at Company A, and it will likely be a long time before they’ll consider another application from him. Beyond that, people move around, and it’s more common than you’d think that when he applies for the next job at Company C in a few years, someone on the search committee who used to work at Company A will remember him as the guy who bailed a week before his start date, and he can kiss that interview goodbye.

        1. stitchinthyme*

          Good points all. I have no idea what he’ll end up doing, but I should have an update tonight when I see him.

    5. Minocho*

      I had this happen during my last job search.

      There were two good jobs that were looking very promising. One had a good commute, was in a steady sector of the economy, looked to be a great technical environment, liked management, and would move my career down a data management path.

      The other was a long commute, in a boom and bust sector of the economy, looked to be a great technical environment, liked management, and would move my career down a software development path.

      Got the short commute offer, for waaaaay more than I ever expected…but the third interview there made the job suddenly very scary – it looked like rather than data management, it would be client management. Look, I’ve got pretty crummy emotional intelligence. There’s a _reason_ I’m in software development.

      So I asked the offering company for 72 hours (you could probably ask for a bit more, but much more than a week seems a lot), then went to the other company and let them know I had just received an offer, and I had 72 hours to make a decision.

      I got the second offer. It was less than the first, BUT I thought it was a job I had a chance to excel at. Took the opportunity.

      You can’t know if you’ll get the preferred offer. You’ll have to analyze how much preferred it is – do you risk alienating the other company for the preferred job? – so it’ll be about how disparate the offers are, how disparate the jobs are, and how much risk you can take in the moment.

      Good luck!

  2. afiendishthingy*

    I got a job offer!

    But like, red-flaggy quickly. Literally less than 24 hours between finding the job posting, sending in my resume, talking on the phone with the executive director for 12 minutes, meeting in person with an HR person for like 20 minutes, and getting a contingent offer.

    It’s an education job and the school year starts next week, so that explains part of the haste. I also get the sense the executive director’s gut makes a lot of hiring decisions.

    There was a lot I really liked though! Small caseload, very decent pay & benefits. What I saw of the school, I really liked. The HR person seemed to really love the organization and its mission.

    I did what I wasn’t supposed to do and told them I’m waiting to hear back from another company, which is true but not tactful. They were totally understanding, said we want people who are going to stay, so obviously you should take time to look over the offer and know what you’re getting into.

    Question 1: I want to let the other company I’m waiting to hear from know that I have another offer and limited time to consider it. But what do I say if I’m not sure I’d turn down company A’s offer if company B also offers me a job? I was originally thinking that company B would be my first choice, but other than company A’s lightning round interviewing, I really did like them. I’d feel like an ass being like “I need an answer really soon” and then getting an offer and being like “Nah thanks for rushing for me but no thanks.”

    Question 2: Am I crazy for even considering an offer from an organization that handles hiring this way? Also, how many questions can I ask them while I consider the offer? I thought of about 50 on the drive home, which mostly boil down to “Tell me EXACTLY what the day-to-day of this job actually is?” Can I ask to talk to other people in the same or similar role?

    Additional context: I am unemployed and need a paycheck yesterday.

    Thanks & sorry for the length.

    1. Paige*

      If the school year starts next week, it’s not crazy that they’d be monitoring the incoming applications that closely. It can be a good thing to know they can cut through bureaucratic red tape pretty quickly when they need to. They’re rushing for them, not you. If that’s your only qualm, I wouldn’t worry too much about it, short of possibly inquiring as to why the position opened up so soon before the school year (like, has it been open and they’ve just not found the right person yet, or did someone announce they were leaving a couple of weeks ago and leave them short-handed, etc.).

    2. I'll think of a clever name later...maybe.*

      I once interviewed for a position at a big insurance firm. Interview was about 25 minutes long. I was less than 1/2 mile away from the interview, on the phone with my mom, when I got a call that I’d gotten the job. I thought “Hmmmm, that was fast. Should I be worried?” Best job I ever had. I still think about it. :) I only left to stay home with my daughter when she was born.

        1. coffeeeeee*

          i once had an interview that was about 20 min long. On my way back to work from the interview I got an offer for the job. I took it and stayed with them for 9 years! Best job of my life!

      1. EmKay*

        This has happened to me twice!

        Interview so short that I was doubting whether it went well or not, then getting a call while I’m on my way home from the interview to tell me I got the job. I stayed at the first place for years, and am at the second one now :)

    3. Muriel Heslop*

      School starts next week – not unusual to fast-track a desirable hire. Our science department made two hires the week before school started and one went from interview, through HR to the classroom in less than a week. We were in a hurry, there weren’t other interviews, and HR wasn’t backed up with processing hundreds of other candidates. I encourage you not to let this process alone sway you. Good luck!

      1. afiendishthingy*

        Thank you! I’ve been unsuccessfully job hunting for a few months and a lot about this job really sounds good, so I’m glad to hear it’s not unusual for hiring to be done so quickly at the end of the summer!

      2. Julianne (also a teacher)*

        Just wanted to chime in with my agreement here. School hiring moves at lightning speed this close to the beginning of classes, because it’s so crucial to be fully staffed from Day 1. Don’t let the timeline worry you.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          If I were a third-party to this hiring (e.g. I worked at this school, and my life would be miles easier if the position were filled with a competent person before the start of the term), and the interviewer was all “We found someone qualified, they seem like a very good fit, but we don’t want to appear over-eager so we’re going to slow roll each step….” then I would be tearing my hair out. You have a good fit for the gaping hole! Just hire them already! Now! I’ll call if you won’t!

          Like people who are so determined to slow-play their romantic interest in someone that that person assumes they aren’t interested at all, and healthily moves on to someone willing to plan dates with them. (On TV shows I usually respond to ongoing UST with “Clearly neither of you is all that interested in the other, or you would just go get a hamburger together like normal people. So let’s move on to more interesting plots.” And the show is all “But their elbows almost brush next week!!!!!!”)

          1. Gumby*

            But they *can’t* go get a hamburger because then SD-6 will know that they know each other!!! People will die!

            (Sorry, does that date me a teeny bit?)

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I was thinking of Nikita (as soon as the USTers wind up on the same side of a shooting war, they start trying to make a relationship work despite each having a 747 of baggage) vs Castle (yeah, we’re both single, we’re into each other… but what if we tried and it didn’t work? best stick to the lingering gaze and the occasional “You know, this week there was a sudden murder!” (this is treated as a surprise) “And… it makes you think. Like, things can happen, and if you never tried…. but no, what if we got a hamburger and it was awkward? best not risk it…”)

    4. Me (I think)*

      My partner has been in secondary education for 30+ years. It’s very common for a principal or director to rely on their gut instincts when hiring. (It’s also very common for that to not work out so well….)

      I’m not an HR professional by any means, but in your position I think I would contact Company B exactly once, and say that I’ve received another offer but am still interested in Co. B, and do they have any update on the timeline? That gives them all the information and subtext that they need, and it doesn’t commit me to accepting any offer from Co. B because I’m not the one rushing them.

      Good luck.

    5. Is pumpkin a vegetable?*

      On the other side of things, our company’s owner and I (HR), interviewed an applicant, and we both knew in a 20 minute interview that he would knock it out of the park, and he has. We actually called him on his way home and offered him the job. I might add, we’ve never done it this way before, he was just that good. He’s been here for about a year, and is everything we thought he would be, and more! If everything else seems good, I wouldn’t let the speed of it turn you off.

      1. BenAdminGeek*

        Exactly. I’ve had similar reactions to stellar candidates. Afiendishthingy, I wouldn’t worry too much about timing, especially with school starting.

    6. MissGirl*

      Don’t feel bad about rushing Company B and possibly turning them down. You really can’t say for sure you’ll take something until you have an offer in hand.

    7. AeroEngineer*

      My current job was like that. Had a phone call two hours later giving me an offer. Any red flags or issues which appeared were 100% unrelated.

      I can imagine if they want you to start next week, they would like to have had the hiring done last week, so I would definitely say it is not a red flag in itself.

    8. Sally*

      I recently went through a job search, and I start my new job Monday! I had so many questions between interviews and after I got the offer, so I recommend asking ALL of your questions. Presumably you want to be in this job for at least a school year, so it makes sense to find out exactly what the job requires.

      1. Sally*

        And thank you to Alison SO MUCH for her interviewing materials. I studied them, and I prepared, and I had great interviews, even though my memory is not great, because I had done the preparation. I can’t recommend it enough.

    9. stitchinthyme*

      My husband had a super-quick job offer once, and it was a total nightmare. He interviewed on a Thursday, and not only did he get an offer that very day, but they wanted him to start the next day — yes, on a Friday. Because he really needed a job, he accepted…and of course when he went in, he found that the nice guy who’d interviewed him, and who he was looking forward to working with, was leaving and that Friday was his last day — my husband was his replacement and had to learn everything about the job in a single day.

      That was just the tip of the iceberg; the place was a sh*t-hole, his officemate was dealing in stolen car parts, and much, much more. I think he lasted a few months there before finding a position at the company where I was working.

      However, it does sound like your case may be a little different, since the start of the school year necessitates a quick turnaround in hiring. But still, I’d ask as many questions as I could think of, and try to talk to colleagues and not just management if at all possible.

    10. Quinalla*

      Agreed that the speedy hiring process, especially when they need to fill a spot so immediately, is not a bad thing by itself. My last place, we gave offers quickly as if you have good candidates, you often know if the first 10 minutes of a interview that you want them. You still do your due diligence, but even calling references it often doesn’t take that long to make an offer if your hiring folks are committed to moving quickly.

      Don’t feel bad asking more questions if you need some more information, but I’d try to do it all at once and it sounds like a phone call might be needed.

      And yes, don’t feel bad about letting company B know your situation, even if you think you might turn it down anyway. You letting them know is guaranteeing that you will accept an offer if they give you one and if they treat it that way, its on them, not you.

    11. Cascadia*

      I work in a school and this is super normal! Not red-flaggy at all. We had a person announce they were leaving two weeks ago and now it’s a mad-rush to find someone before school starts in a week and a half. I don’t think this, in an of itself, is a red flag at all.

    12. Forking great username*

      As someone who just found a teaching job for the year about a week ago, I don’t think this is a red flag at all. The school year is starting very soon, and it is to their benefit to find someone ASAP so that person can begin setting up their classroom, lesson planning, etc. Since accepting my job, I’ve gotten three more phone calls asking me in for interviews elsewhere! I hate that it’s apparently so common to do the last minute rush, but that is the case. Honestly, I would rather work for some of the schools I’ve heard from since accepting the first offer, but at this point I’ve put in a week of professional development and worked super hard to get my classroom set up, so I don’t want to start over. So I hear you on wishing it worked differently, but many schools don’t figure out exactly what positions need to be filled until the end of summer, and it’s really a detriment to the students to start the year without a teacher in the room. That means rushing is their only option.

      1. Forking great username*

        Meant to add – if you’re unemployed and need a paycheck now (same here), I would take the job. Stick it out for a year, then you can have a lower pressure (not unemployed) chance to consider different options when openings for next year come around.

        1. Afiendishthingy*

          Pretty sure I’m going to call and accept on Monday. Even if the other agency does make me an offer, it will likely be for a slightly lower base salary at an org notorious for almost never giving raises, whereas the position I was offered is paid on a public school teacher salary schedule (so guaranteed yearly raises) even though it’s through a nonprofit collaborative and I’m a behavior specialist, not a teacher. Also the job-in-hand is like 8 minutes closer to my house.

          1. Logan*

            The more that I hear about it, the more that I think you know your decision but want some moral support in confirming that it’s the right choice.

    13. roisin54*

      I had a similar situation, also at an educational institution, although the time between finding the posting & applying and going to the interview was a couple of weeks. After the interview was finished I went off and did some touristy things for a couple hours and by the time I got home, I had a voicemail from the Director offering me the job. I was too much of a newbie in the working world to think it was weird although my mom did express some concerns. It turned out to be a great job and I only left because it was a small institution and there was zero room for advancement.

      The only real downside was that I was somewhat spoiled by this experience and thus completely unprepared for my next go-round on the job-hunting circuit, which was a more standard months long search with countless interviews. It was a very rude awakening.

    14. dawbs*

      Education is an anomaly in thi whole time thing.

      (and it’s infuriating. i had an education job once that refused to hire, even temporarily, people looking for teaching jobs. Bbecause they always left without notice once they got an offer -bbecause the job was always contingent on immediate start.
      I explained this in detail to a candidate i reallythought was awesome. He promised to give proper notice. i talked the boss into hiring him.
      he left without notice when he got a teaching job. Contingent on immediate strt )

    15. Courageous cat*

      I think you’re putting way too much stock in the quick hiring process. Some places do it like that, and it’s clear they really liked you if they didn’t have to spend much time debating. You like them – so go with them, and turn down company B.

    16. Marika*

      It happens in education. I once got a call 7 days before term started. 8:30 pm. “Can you be here at 9 am tomorrow to interview?”. I was also unemployed, so sure. 20 minute interview and she offered me a contract for 3 courses. I asked fo a few minutes, called my husband, accepted the position and was in a staff meeting at 9:45 am. I was there 3 years, full time after the first year, and only left because my husband got a job in another country.

      In this case, a full time had walked into my boss’s office at 10:30 on Tuesday morning and said “I’m having emergency surgery on my eyes tomorrow morning”. My boss covered two of her classes with people she had, and asked HR for a stack of resumes. She ranked then and started calling people. If she got voicemail, she didn’t leave a message. I was the first person to pick up – I was eighth in her list (I asked later). She had five working days to get someone up to speed on three classes. Sometimes that’s just how it goes.

    17. CA Educator*

      Having just quit, with a few weeks before school started, due to a crappy work environment (But we’re like FAMILLYYYYYY!!) ….
      I would ask why the person quit. I would talk to the aides, not the teachers. Talk to the librarian. The environment I was in seemed fine and nice on the surface, but it took time for the ugly dysfunction to show its self. The other teachers are the problem, but pretend to be “like family” and that was a phrase that was used A LOT.

      Not every school is like that, but to get the info…ask the staff. Don’t talk to the teachers or admin about issues you need to be aware of, they always downplay it.
      If someone JUST quit, I would be wary. Most don’t quit without another job lined up unless things are Not Good .

  3. Future Scribe*

    Does anyone have any experience doing freelance transcriptions? It seems like a job that could pay very well and be very flexible so I’m considering it as a side gig. Is the pay worth it? How do you find clients?

    1. I See Real People*

      Not in the medical transcription field. I had a very successful and moderately lucrative business at home for 11 years before the gov’t began to require all records be billed/recorded via electronic medical records. I was mainly transcribing from microcassette and doing some online. When it went to 100% online/EMR, the only jobs that were available had to do with editing dictation after voice recognition, and they weren’t paying enough to have my attention.

      I have some attorney friends who say some dictation/transcription is still being done in the legal field, but mostly by assistants in the larger firms and offices.

      I would be curious if there are any other freelance opportunities as well in other areas of business.

      1. Baby Fishmouth*

        I currently work at a university and the faculty members do use transcription for research interviews and things like that.

        1. GradStudent*

          I am also at a university where our faculty will have things transcribed. Unfortunately for the transcribers, we now mostly use online services (e.g., Rev) where the transcribers are gig-type workers. I imagine that if you’ve gathered some professional experience as a transcriber, have a pedal and all that jazz, you might be able to reach a decent hourly rate with it, but otherwise it is very low-paid especially starting out.

    2. Silverblum*

      I didn’t do it freelance, but you could check out the closed captioning world. They often need folks to transcribe movies/television shows.

    3. KarenK*

      I currently freelance with, but it’s not what I would call lucrative. It does keep me out of trouble, though, and earns me a bit of money.

      Unfortunately, the transcription business is not what it used to be. I had one medical transcription client that paid me about $10,000 a year, but, with the advent of electronic medical records, they did not need me any more. The doctors type their own stuff. I still have a couple of other clients, but they don’t provide me with a lot of work, unless one of them happens to be writing a book.

      There are several on-line transcription companies. Some pay better than others. The ones that pay better usually require a lot of expertise, and they all have varying levels of autonomy in how you manage your workload. Rev is not the highest paying of the bunch, but not the worst, and you have total freedom to work or not work, and pick your jobs. If you start looking, avoid The pay and the quality of the audio is horrible.

      I got my two private clients by word of mouth. I happened to mention to one person that I did transcription on the side, she told a friend of hers, who became one of my clients, who then told her friend, who became the other. I’ve been working for both for about 15 years. I do other things for them, though, not just transcription.

      I know I’m not being very encouraging. To be honest, the whole field is looking pretty grim. Voice to text software is getting better all the time, and by that, I mean software that converts an audio file to text. Dragon is a whole other ballgame.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        I briefly worked for an online transcription company doing mostly transcriptions of corporate teleconferences, and it was… the pay wasn’t good. They paid by the minute of audio transcribed, had very strict turnaround times for the transcriptions, did not provide any equipment, and paid peanuts. Sometimes I made less than minimum wage. If I did super-fast-turnaround transcriptions the money was adequate but there was massive competition for those transcriptions since they paid better, so I was never able to make anything even approaching a living wage. As a bonus I got tendinitis, in part because they didn’t pay me enough to afford a transcription pedal in 2006 (those suckers were like $200!). Then I couldn’t afford to treat the tendinitis because I was an independent contractor with no benefits so I just had to not work and wear ace bandages on my wrists.

        It was a side hustle for me so it wasn’t the worst thing in the world. I was just doing it to have something to do until I started grad school and to be able to put something on my resume. But I would definitely not call it lucrative.

    4. Superman's Wife*

      I used to do transcriptions a few years ago. Most of my work stemmed from production companies looking to do subtitles and closed captions. I taught myself transcription and subtitling software and purchased everything out of pocket (you may be able to claim it as a deduction as a business expense depending on your income). I used software that didn’t require a pedal and allowed me to use keystrokes to pause the audio. But you had to have it in digital format; that was one of my requirements. I assume these days most audio is digital. You will need access to an FTP site, dropbox or something similiar where clients can upload their audio/video files as these tend to be too large to email.

      The pay was good, but only because I hustled and also did translations on the side, which pay more per minute of audio. The work can be stressful, especially with rush jobs that have tight turnaround times. However, those usually pay the most.

      You can approach production companies and translation companies (they do English>English transcriptions as well as other languages). Be prepared to have samples of your work. You can advertise on (although it’s for translators, I used to get English>English transcription from them too) and on online directories targeting post-production houses.

      Other avenues include law firms and financial firms. But here the learning curve is a little steep since you will need to be familiar with financial terms.

      The beauty of it is that you can do it from anywhere you have internet and can plug in your laptop. But in order to make the most money you have to really build a client base and that takes time. I would start with a few projects a week and take it from there. I wouldn’t drop my daytime job until you have build a solid client base and are making enough to support yourself.

      Best of luck!

    5. LilySparrow*

      I did home transcription work through a large agency. They had a lot of government contracts, so there was always plenty of work and I didn’t have to worry about finding clients.

      Pros: very convenient, no commute, no pitching or marketing, as much work as I wanted, very pleasant & professional supervisors/editors, I could choose how much work to take each week.

      Cons: the normal setup was overnight turnarounds for shorter files, and 2-3 days for longer ones. I pulled a lot of all-nighters, which are a bad fit for my lifestyle.

      I also discovered that while I’m a fast typist, transcription is a skillset of its own. They paid a very reasonable rate compared to market averages I saw at the time. But they pay by the minutes of recording time. I was too slow to make the pay work out in my favor.

    6. frockbot*

      Similar to KarenK’s experience, I transcribe through a website called TranscribeMe, where you’re given four minute chunks of various conversations to work on. They pay based on the length of the files, not how long it takes you. I started doing it to give myself a little extra spending money; my goal was to earn $25 a week to put into savings, and I’d say I had to spend about 10 hours a week transcribing to earn that much. I’ve cut back significantly lately thanks to a raise at my full-time job; my goal now is $5 a week, which is around the minimum they expect from you (three jobs per week, each job being worth about ~$1.50). I spend an hour to an hour and a half every week on it now.

      So if you’re looking for a bit of extra cash to throw around, it can be good! It’s nice to get to decide how much time you want to devote to it, and some conversations are really interesting. As a company, I like TranscribeMe and the way they do things, too. But we’re talking A BIT of extra cash, not anything to write home about. And there are fallow periods where there’s very little work to go around; when those hit, transcribing can be a pretty unreliable source of income.

    7. Lissa*

      Depending on how fast you type, you could also look into live captioning. There are a few different systems you can use/learn, some are verbatim and some aren’t. Live captioning is typically done for hard of hearing people, and can be used for university classes, meetings, just about anything really. I do this as my full time job on site for a school and supplement in slow times with remote agencies, but there are also people who do it as a side gig only.

  4. Arnie*

    I have a question about a big salary difference between a regular employee and a substitute!

    I work in a European country where salaries are public knowledge; I also have access to a budgeting program as part of my job where I check how much money is being spent on my team’s salaries.

    I was away on parental leave for about 7 months, and Jane was hired on as my substitute. When I came back I was shocked to see that her monthly salary is 40% higher than mine.

    Neither I nor Jane have formal training or education in this job, and our work experience is fairly divergent. The job is student recruiting for a small but diverse department within a medium-large public university. Jane has done a great job, and we get along very well.

    Before I saw her salary I was very pleased with my own! I’ve been steadily promoted during my 5 years within this organization and received two hefty (for this sector) raises two years in a row.

    Now my annual salary review is coming up and I want to bring up this discrepancy. Because I have new duties, I’ll be discussing salary with a different boss who probably had nothing to do with negotiating Jane’s salary. I want to be well-prepared because I find this particular manager intimidating. He is quite brusque and once told me that approving my time sheets to rectify months of incorrect paychecks was “quite low on his priority list”. (Yes, it’s probably a dysfunctional organization)

    I’m too socially-conditioned to call myself a rock star, but during my 5 years at this organization, I’ve been promoted to more important and interesting duties, and I receive a lot of positive feedback from my managers and colleagues. I’m not sure how to productively phrase my feeling that if “the substitute” is worth 40% more, then “the regular” should get that, too?

    Thanks for ideas about how to approach this!

    1. WellRed*

      Is she getting benefits? Also, while that’s a big discrepancy, are you sure she’s actually getting paid that? Is she hired through an agency? Finally, I don’t think it’s unusual to pay someone short term a higher salary but maybe it’s different in EU.

      1. Arnie*

        I can’t think of any benefits (in this country and this sector) that she might be getting; healthcare and retirement are government-funded; vacation days are set based on age and sick leave is “unlimited”. Other benefits like gym membership are for all employees.

        I’m sure about how much she’s getting paid because I can see in the accounting program how much money is being deducted from our budget for her salary versus mine.

        Thanks for your insight! I didn’t know that it could be common to pay a short-term worker more than the regular employee!

        1. SarahKay*

          Two thoughts – one is that WellRed is quite right, and short-term heads in fields where there is demand often are paid more, since they have to earn enough to cover gaps when they’re earning nothing.
          The other is – are the numbers you are seeing what she is actually being paid, or simply what the school is paying out for her? I budget for/pay temp staff and what I budget (and pay for them) is something like 25% more than they actually get, because the agency takes a cut.

        2. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          Was she brought in through a temp agency, or was your company paying her directly? Because it might be that the agency gets a fairly significant cut of her pay. When I worked as a temp I ran across an invoice for my services (I was helping in accounting, so I wasn’t snooping), and the agency was charging the company ~$40-45/hr, and my hourly wage was $15/hr. Maybe that could account for the difference?

          1. Wendy Darling*

            I started with a company as a temp and then was converted to permanent and ended up in charge of bringing on some new temps for a specific project. The agency’s cut varied depending on how well the temp negotiated but it was 40-60% of what the company was paying.

      2. Persephone Mulberry*

        My first thought also was an agency; if she was placed by an agency, then the agency is actually her employer and your company would be budgeting for her wages plus the agency’s fees.

        What about taxes? In the US, if she were directly hired as an independent contractor , her wage would be higher because the company isn’t doing any withholding for income tax, social security, etc. That could easily account for a 40% difference.

        1. Arnie*

          Thanks everyone for your replies! I’m almost positive there’s no agency involved; I was a part of the group that hired her, directly by the university.

          She does have a temporary employment contract as opposed to my permanent contract, but the tax withholding is the same for us.

          1. Operational Chaos*

            Temporary versus permanent. That’s how temp work operates. You came back to your job and now she’s out of one until another oppertunity arises. People who take these short term roles on need to be paid more otherwise no one would be willing to take them on.

            Also, I know you said you don’t think she’s placed by an agency, but I would be surprised if she wasn’t. Temp agencies are extremely common for people who use these roles.

    2. Bea*

      Since its a temporary placement and she’s filling a spot until your return, I can see needing to up the salary to get a person to accept the setup. However 40% is a lot!

    3. Lemon Bars*

      If she is a substitute that is only employed by your company while you were out on leave and then is no longer employed by your company than she would get paid more mostly because her contract would be for a short amount of time and its harder to find people for that. Also most benefits would not be paid to her (leave, retirement, etc) so she would be contributing that based out of her salary.

      1. Arnie*

        The more I think about it, the more it makes sense that temporary contracts get better paid than the permanent ones, because the employer can look at it as a short-term expense! Thanks for all the helpful comments! I’m still going to mention it at my review, but now I feel a lot less emotional about it. ;-)

  5. Anon anony*

    I’m in Records Management and have a “behavioral interview” at a law firm. Any advice? Is there a way to practice behavioral questions? Also, what should I wear/how should I do my hair?

    1. Doug Judy*

      Hair, less is more. Clean and neat is enough. Wear a black suit, neutral top (white, grey) with minimal pattern. Law firms still are fairly conservative.

    2. Lolli*

      Go through your memory of your work experience and note times when you managed a big project, dealt with a difficult customer/boss/coworker, had conflicting deadlines, had an urgent deadline dropped on you at the last minute, had a failure and dealt with it. These are the types of memories to jot down and come up with positive outcomes. If you have gone through some of your more difficult work experiences and successes, then you will have them fresh in your mind for the interview.
      Wear conservative clothes and hair.

    3. brightstar*

      For the behavioral questions, I would think about some of the typical difficulties in RIM such as:
      1. Delays in response to requests for records retention schedule updates, disposition requests, etc.
      2. Responding to a request for records in a certain time-frame.
      3. The challenge of explaining records management concepts to staff.

      Those are just options off the type of my head. And remember, if you haven’t faced the exact scenario, to say you have something that resembled that problem, etc.

      As for dress, law firms still tilt to the conservative side on dressing. It’s been a few years since I worked in law, but that last firm still had you wear pantyhose with skirts or dresses and had only recently allowed open-toed shoes.

    4. nisie*

      Also- I don’t know if this is just my experience or more broad. Whenever I’ve had a behavioral interview, I’ve had a panel who is asking questions.

    5. Jenn*

      I was asked a lot of behavioral questions when I was applying for my most recent job! What I was taught that helped me the most during the interview was the “STAR” method of answering:
      Situation: Provide an exposition for the story you are about to tell. What was the context?
      Task: What did you need to do? What was the problem you had to solve?
      Action: How did you solve this? What low and/or high points did you encounter?
      Resolution: What happened as a result of your action? What is the big picture end of the story?

      It can feel sort of hokey but I would always practice out loud alone in my apartment before each interview using examples that were relevant to the company or office I was interviewing with. Having the little mnemonic device written down at the top of my interview notes helped me calm any nerves and not get lost in the moment.

    6. LilySparrow*

      My last law firm job was in 2014, in a fairly conservative part of the country.

      For support staff, dress slacks with jacket & tie would be expected for men. A skirt or slacks suit, or dress with blazer, for women. Daily wear would be down a notch: shirt & tie or skirt & cardigan, or a conservative dress.

      Hair similar: clean, neat, not flashy. For short hair, anything that isn’t too obviously dependent on product. For longer hair, a low ponytail for guys (no man bun!) would probably be accepted for back-office support. For a woman with long hair, you want to stay between the extremes of bedhead/beach waves on one hand, or pageant queen on the other. Loose or put up is fine as long as it’s styled and they can see your whole face.

      1. LilySparrow*

        Oh, and bare legs and open-toe shoes were fine, as long as they weren’t mules or flip-flops. Stick with knee-length or lower skirts for the interview.

  6. AnonChemist*

    I have a question about a for-now hypothetical situation. Although I’m not currently pregnant, I am in the process of trying. I know that generally one doesn’t disclose a pregnancy at all before the end of the first trimester and even after that, disclosing at work doesn’t always happen earlier than necessary. But I’m wondering what to do when aspects of one’s work might be hazardous even in the first trimester. I work in a small academic chemistry lab (staff, not student) where our work relies on DMF and DCM for the first half of every project. The literature on both of these isn’t 100% clear-cut, but there’s evidence that exposure isn’t good even at very early stages.

    While there isn’t really a paperwork-only position for me to assume during any pregnancy, I believe it would be feasible to propose to my boss that I shift to working only on the second-half stages of the projects we get. (we always have second-half stages of various projects ongoing, so it wouldn’t be a matter of my being left without work) He’s generally a good boss, so I’m not concerned about long-term negative consequences of being on limited duty. I’ve worked here for almost three years and have received excellent performance reviews in that time. That includes a span when I was out on short-term disability following surgery. I aim to stay here for the foreseeable future.

    But I am wondering if I should have this conversation with him even before getting pregnant. On the one hand it seems like asking him to adjust the lab’s workflow on the fly is inconsiderate and disruptive, as would happen if I waited to bring it up until I was actually pregnant. And yet I also don’t want to inadvertently open a can of legal liability worms if I’m overlooking something or look like I’m manufacturing drama/issues. How would a good manager likely prefer this to be handled?

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I wouldn’t talk to your boss until you are actually pregnant. And have spoken with your doctor and what precautions you need to take.

    2. Sue No-Name*

      If you don’t want to talk about the pregnancy could you state that you would like to use additional PPE (mask, long gloves) because of a generalized health concern? Minimizing exposure could be helpful (rather than just not being anywhere near dimethylformamide and dichloromethane, which I assume are the chemicals you’re referencing). Also do you always use a fume hood?

    3. I'll think of a clever name later...maybe.*

      Are there any female co-workers who’ve worked there while pregnant who you can talk to? It might be worth asking how they handled their pregnancy and working with potentially damaging chemicals.

    4. anna green*

      Can you talk to your doctor before you get pregnant? When I had my first I was in a similar situation, and I had a pre-pregnancy visit with my doctor, so I could go over my job responsibilities, etc. so I had a good understanding of what to avoid. That may make you feel more comfortable and prepared. I think you could go either way on talking to your manager depending on your relationship, but there’s not a whole lot he can do for you if you are not actually pregnant yet, and it can potentially take a while to get pregnant, so I’m not sure if I would.

      1. anna green*

        Oh and to add to that, it won’t be weird if you disclose your pregnancy right away at work to avoid hazards. That’s normal. You can try to keep it confidential with just your boss, but depending, that may not be possible. But definitely don’t feel like you shouldn’t say anything at work until after the 1st trimester. Baby’s health comes first!

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Yeah, I had to disclose mine way before I intended because an evil Keurig machine near me was going all day and pumping out noxious coffee fumes which for some reason made me violently ill first trimester (and I love coffee normally). I needed the machine moved.

          1. Wendy Darling*

            I am not and have never been pregnant and I love coffee but most Keurig machines I’ve met smelled like the neglected 40 year old percolator at the back of a dingy break room.

            Possibly they are supposed to be cleaned regularly but were cleaned never.

      2. Nancy*

        Definitely talk to your doctor beforehand. Often there are things you need to do/avoid before you are trying to become pregnant because often you are pregnant before you realize it. Especially when it comes to chemical exposure.

    5. Calacademic*

      I got pregnant in grad school. The OBGYN was unhelpful… so it felt like it was on me and my professor to be safe. So we talked, shifted my work to the safer alternatives and it worked out fine. His only beef was that I didn’t tell him sooner. In my new position, I supervise a young woman in a lab setting. I have told her that if she wants to start trying to get pregnant, or find herself pregnant, she should come tell me immediately so we can shift her duties. Other staff have also backed me up in this. When you work with chemicals, the normal first-trimester rules don’t apply.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I would not expect and OB/GYN to be able to keep track of all the risks associated with work in a chemistry lab off the top of her head, so getting a fast answer through a physician might not be realistic; she’ll probably have to present this question in stages to let the doctor double-check herself. I mean, yes, ask, of course, but be prepared to do research since the LW has a much better idea of what she’s likely to encounter on the job than her doctor can. MSDS sheets have to be available at her job, and are online, and she needs to find other women in comparable positions who have had children.

    6. Emi.*

      I would wait until you’re actually pregnant. If you got pregnant unexpectedly, he would deal, right? Don’t stress about this. :) And good luck!

      1. Emi.*

        Wait, unless you’re saying that you’d want to avoid exposure in the week or two before you know you’re pregnant, so you want to move to just second-stage work now. In that case I would talk to him and ask him to keep it confidential.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I think that’s tough because it can literally take years of trying, and OP doesn’t know where she is on the scale until she starts. So unless something is so hazardous that they just rule out all people of reproductive age, I’d wait until you have a positive drug store test.

          1. AcademiaNut*

            Yeah, I’d second that. If the job is so hazardous that you shouldn’t do it during those first couple of weeks when you don’t know you’re pregnant, you need to either be on very reliable birth control, or in a different job. You can’t ask to forgo a significant part of your job for potentially years at a time because you might get pregnant.

            But as soon as you’ve got a positive pregnancy test, you can talk to your supervisor. But I wouldn’t depend on your OBGYN to be knowledgeable about chemistry lab exposures (compared to common environmental exposures, or medications), so I’d do the research yourself beforehand, and come armed with the documents.

            And if your supervisor is a reasonable person, asking in advance how you’d handle the job duties during a pregnancy would also be appropriate. There are duties in my field that can’t be done while pregnant (mostly involving altitude work), and employers are familiar with the issue and have ways of dealing with it.

    7. Me Again*

      As others have stated, you might want to talk to your physician first. My mother had a hard time staying pregnant because of chemicals she was around and had to be moved not only while pregnant, but while trying. I would’t tell your boss though unless you do need to be moved prior to pregnancy. Once pregnant, I always told my supervisor right away as a precaution. If something happened and I passed out or…I wanted someone to know for an emergency situation. However, I didn’t always disclose it right away to my colleagues. GL!

    8. Trout 'Waver*

      I’ve been the manager in this situation.

      Talk to your doctor first. Bring the SDSs for the chemicals you’ll be working with. Go through the potential hazards with the doctor and decide what you can and can’t do. There are some chemicals are that hazardous to women trying to become pregnant, so it’s fine to do this before you’re pregnant.

      After talking to your doctor, talk to your manager and tell them the situation and what accommodations you need. It might be as simple as enhanced PPE or always working in a fume hood. No good manager wants to expose a pregnant woman to chemicals that could harm her fetus. Take the stance that you’re both reasonable people working together to find an acceptable solution for your situation.

      Best wishes!

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        I want to add that you might have to ask around to find a doctor that’s knowledgeable about these things.

    9. The Person from the Resume*

      I don’t know the technical details, but it sounds like in this case as early as necessary might even be when you are trying to get pregnant. As a supervisor and a planner, I’d prefer a heads up that something might be coming.

      A lot of time not disclosing until you absolutely have to is because of both keeping personal info private (not telling many people until you pass into the period of less likely miscarriage) and to avoid negative impact to job/discrimination. I think in your case the safety concerns make it reasonable to disclose to your boss as soon as you know. Hopefully you don’t have to tell everyone, but I suppose they could guess if it’s obvious that you’re only working on second-half stages.

    10. Nita*

      I guess a couple of things to consider are, just how disruptive will it be if you need to be switched on short notice? And is a short-term exposure to these chemicals a big risk early on (before you know for sure that you’re pregnant)?

      I waited to talk to my boss until I was actually pregnant, but it wasn’t a huge disruption for me to stay away from field work with potential for running into something toxic. Any exposures I was risking were at low levels and short-term, and the chemicals involved are generally dangerous only at high doses and/or over the long term, so it worked out OK. And of course, there is the possibility of increasing your PPE. That does mean you’ll need to have some kind of explanation for people who see you, let’s say, wearing a respirator when everyone else is not, and may start pregnancy rumors well before you’re pregnant. You might be able to explain it away with vague “health concerns” though.

    11. sleepwakehopeandthen*

      I know at my university you can talk to the Office of Chemical Safety/etc (I’m not quite sure what they are called, but the people who do safety inspections) if you are thinking about getting pregnant and they will meet with you to go through what the lab does and see if you need to change anything. I’m not sure how useful they are admittedly, but I know that they say that this is something that they will do 100% confidentially without telling your PI, so your university might have similar resources.

    12. TricksieHobbit*

      I think it depends how hazardous the materials are. You could possibly be pregnant for several weeks before “knowing”?

    13. Nesprin*

      OMG tell your supervisor/industrial hygeinist/health and safety person yesterday. Am a research scientist and I couldn’t get to the end of your post without replying- no way in hell would I work around DMF or a number of other solvents. Trying to conceive is a legitimate reason to alter your work with teratogens or increase PPE or alter acceptable exposure limits, and your university would be thrilled to avoid a lawsuit later.

      1. Nesprin*

        I wanted to add- very early in pregnancy is a highly sensitive time for chemical exposures, so waiting till you’re pregnant as others are suggesting is a terrible idea.

      2. StillAChemist*

        Second this and others who have said to talk to chemical hygiene/EHS, as well as your boss. EHS may already have guidelines in place for this kind of thing; I know it’s often not discussed either way which can make us feel like there’s no plan. I would document all of the steps any of you take, for your peace of mind and also to develop a plan for future people trying to concieve if one doesn’t already exist (even just for your lab).

      3. LabTech*

        no way in hell would I work around DMF or a number of other solvents.

        I was thinking the same thing about DCM. It’s a very common solvent, so it’s easy to see it as no big deal when you’re working with it all day, but it’s also very bad for you.

      4. Anna Canuck*

        I also wouldn’t rely on a doctor’s advice. They don’t know any more about this than you do. They can google it, and they will if you ask them to, but you’re much better to read the risks yourself and make informed choices.

        Tell your boss what’s up. Your stress level will go way down. But also true is that something like half of all pregnancies are unplanned, so if you just show up pregnant one day it’s not really out of the norm.

      5. Logan*

        Agreed, and at the least it would be worth a chat with the supervisor to do as much work as possible that isn’t around chemicals.

    14. Ender*

      Check out the laws where you live. Where I live I would be legally entitled to a confidential H&S risk assessment as soon as I told The H&S department I was pregnant – they would risk assess my exposure to any dangerous material or work and inform my boss that I was no longer allowed to do certain tasks due to a temporary medical condition. My boss would not be allowed find out what the condition was without my permission and my job would be legally protected.

    15. Cedrus Libani*

      Depending on your workflow, is there a chance you can convince a colleague to swap duties with you?

      I was formerly in a lab that worked with something known to cause severe birth defects in early pregnancy. There was a room set aside for the stuff, everyone knew what it was for, and using it outside that room was Not Done. When baby-making entered someone’s plans, they would quietly arrange to swap duties with a colleague, so they didn’t have to go in there. Sharp-eyed observers would notice that when Lucinda’s teapots need to be painted Three-Headed Baby Blue, it’s Wakeen who does it, and also Lucinda has been cleaning the chocolate grinder even though that’s Wakeen’s job. But there was plausible deniability until Lucinda was ready to tell.

      Also second the recommendation of going to EHS. They can be helpful, and they might catch things you missed.

    16. Drama Llama*

      I would get medical advice about working in the lab while trying to get pregnant, since you wouldn’t know until you’re at least 4+ weeks along.

      Unless there’s a medical reason otherwise, I wouldn’t talk to the boss until confirming pregnancy. Everything else aside, you’re simply alerting boss of a potential issue that hasn’t happened, thus he can’t plan for it or do anything about it.

    17. Another Chemist*

      Hello fellow chemist,
      Being female and working in a lab with dichloromethane and dimethylformamide, I know that at my workplace, any woman trying to conceive can consult their managers to reevaluate their duties and expect the conversation to remain confidential. So we talk before conception here. That would be the safest option. Of course, you better have a reasonable manager who will not publicize the news, and if you don’t I understand you’d be reluctant.

      However, I cannot insist enough on this : the DMF, notably, is CMR, and it is on the SDS it is under NO circumstances to be used by pregnant workers. Fume hoods, coats, gloves, they don’t matter. The reward has no significance compared to the risk.

      If you don’t want to speak to your boss and you have access to occupational health care, I suggest you contact this person for recommandations.

    18. AnonChemist*

      Not sure if this is a good place to post so all the kind people who replied will see a week later, but worth a shot. Thanks to everyone who replied–a lot of very useful perspectives, and a lot of replies that made me feel better about being concerned in the first place.

      In the past week I contacted my university’s ORS (I’m in the US) along with my doctors. The doctors’ input boiled down to ‘yay wearing PPE, good luck!’ ORS was more helpful in confirming the university procedures if I ended up needing to go through formalities and backing up my assessment and that of several posters here that DMF is worth worrying about. There aren’t any other female workers in my lab, and most of the people in my center aren’t chemists, so there wasn’t anyone with specific prior experience around to ask in person.

      I ended up weighing what I knew of my boss and the circumstances in our lab, and I had a meeting with him this morning to alert him to the potential situation and get feedback on a reasonable plan in the event of pregnancy. He was fine and understood my concerns, and we agreed that a) upon knowledge of conception I’ll turn over all DMF/DCM-containing procedures to my two colleagues and b) in the meantime I’ll order some better rated non-permeable gloves to supplement the nitrile ones we commonly use. The second point is why I opted to talk to him sooner rather than later, as I’d need his approval to order different lab supplies.

      In an ideal world where I could predict the future I’d stop using DMF immediately, but given that at my age it could take a while to conceive under normal conditions, potentially going 2-3 years without doing half my job functions just isn’t feasible for me. I know others might make a different choice, and I may reevaluate down the line, but this is the best option for me overall for now.

      In the meantime I’ll continue to do my work in a fume hood with full PPE and be cautious. Here’s hoping for the best, and thanks again to everyone who weighed in!

  7. Marcia marcia marcia*

    How do I work on my “poker face” towards someone who pretty clearly dislikes me?

    This person is perfectly nice to those in the office they like. They’re chatty, bubbly and friendly with these people, but never say anything to me unless it’s work-related.

    I must have rubbed them the wrong way early on; I have good rapport with other people in the office, including the boss. I shouldn’t care so much, but it hurts.

    1. I See Real People*

      That person is probably jealous or threatened by you for a reason or reasons that you will never understand; nevertheless, they will treat you unkindly and unfairly. There is one like that at my current office and there was one at the last office as well. I’m sorry. It does hurt. I turn on my best professional nonchalance attitude and move on about my day. That person is in way more misery being twisted up than you are in your good place of mind (and heart).

      1. Zona the Great*

        I don’t know about that and I’m not sure I would speculate here. Sometimes we dislike people. At work, I feel it’s best to try our very best not to take things personally. I have been on the receiving end of this dynamic and I have been the person who just talks less frequently to those I don’t particularly like. But there is a caveat: I don’t believe it is anyone’s business if I don’t like them nor do I think it is their problem. I treat people respectfully but I’m not going to worry about lunching with my friends and not with others. I also don’t think it is my business what someone else thinks of me and so I try not to care if someone in the office brings coffee to some and not me. There is a balance.

      2. uranus wars*

        I am like Zona and definitely think jealousy is a big assumption. I don’t expect to friends with everyone just because we work together. As long as the work gets done and there is a level of respect (not badmouthing, gossip, refusal to work together, etc.) then I think it’s something to re frame and stop letting eat you up.

        I have been on the giving and receiving end of this, where outside of work things just aren’t discussed (even though I wouldn’t describe myself as overly chatty and bubbly with anyone) and can’t remember a time in my career when some dynamic of this sort hasn’t been in play between someone in the office.

      3. attornaut*

        Maybe? I don’t know. There is a person at my office that I really dislike. I am not jealous–they are just not a pleasant person to be around. Now, I do make an effort to be polite and professional, but I do not delve into their personal life or go out to lunch with them or talk to them outside of work. It’s a little different situation because this person is actively rude to everyone in the office without a higher title than them, but there are reasons to dislike someone other than jealous or being twisted up in misery. Sometimes you just don’t get along with everyone.

        1. anon4now*

          But you cited “actively rude” and a disregard for hierarchy as reasons, not just not getting along.

          There’s no such thing as a happy well-adjusted person who just dislikes someone for no reason.

          1. polite but not bubbly doesn't equal mean*

            What? I find this honestly funny because people (yes, even happy well-adjusted people) absolutely do dislike others for no reason! Or rather, with their only reason being “I find them annoying”, which honestly isn’t a real reason past a personality mismatch, and that’s just fine.

            1. anon4now*

              I’m referring to actively disliking someone for no reason, not generic personal preferences everyone has for certain types of people/personalities (of course not everyone likes everything).
              If your dislike for no reason becomes obvious to the person, I’d re-examine my definition of a happy well-adjusted person.

              1. Zona the Great*

                I agree with Polite But Not….sometimes we dislike people for no reason. Perhaps a past life thing.

              2. Lavender Menace*

                There’s nothing unhappy or not-well-adjusted about choosing not to talk to someone in the office unless it’s necessary. Being polite and respectful is necessary for working with others – being chatty, bubbly, and friendly is not.

      4. Ender*

        This is a big assumption. Lots of people just don’t like each other without feeling threatened or jealous. The thing to remember is you don’t have to like each other or be friendly with each other – you just have to be professional and polite. It’s not necessary for her to like you.

        1. Minocho*

          There are all sort of people that like or dislike other people for all sorts of reasons.

          I have a coworker I don’t like much because the first time I spoke to her she was quite judgemental in a mothering, superior way. Since then, she makes demands and gives orders as if she has the right to control my decisions. I think she does this to show she “cares”, but I find it annoying and condescending. We don’t work together much, though we sit in adjoining cubicles, so I try to be polite but avoid engaging.

          I have a coworker who didn’t like me. I still don’t know why. It went beyond “I won’t go to lunch with my coworkers if Minocho is there” eventually into “Yelling at Minocho in front of the whole office”. Management stepped in at that point, and I just tried to avoid him. I can tell myself stories about what his problem with me might be, but it’s important I don’t let myself act on them, or lose track of the fact that they’re just things I tell myself, rather than fact.

          The best thing you can do is be professional and polite, while avoiding being run over. Good luck!

    2. dorothy zbornak*

      I don’t have advice but definitely have sympathy as I was in a similar situation at ToxicJob where one of my coworkers could not stand me – if I made a mistake it was like the end of the world but if anyone else did, it was no big deal. And nothing I tried worked. For poker faces in general, I think mine got a lot better when I was active in Toastmasters and I think just trying to focus on the task at hand when you’re having work-related discussions.

    3. Orphan Brown*

      I would try to mirror them. I have this with one person and I don’t shown enthusiasm for them either. I don’t know what’s up their butt but I don’t care anymore.

    4. MegPie*

      I would address it head on, in a polite way, of course. You may find that they have an issue that would be easy for you to clear up (or apologize for, if you inadvertently did something that merits an apology).

      Also, if you do this and they say there’s nothing wrong (which is obviously untrue), then you can adjust accordingly. I deal with people like this by taking them at their word that everything is fine. Just be as professional and friendly as you can.

      I’m sorry. It does sound hurtful.

      1. uranus wars*

        But maybe there really isn’t anything wrong? I am not saying it doesn’t hurt but all personalities aren’t going to agree on all non-work related things all the time, right?

        I am saying this taking Marcia’s statement as the co-worker isn’t doing anything alarming or being inappropriate, just keeping it to work and not much else.

      2. Lissa*

        This is rough because if it IS a misunderstanding or something you actively did/said, it could help if the person is willing to say “well, you said X when we first met and that was hurtful” and you could say “oh wow, no I meant Y, I’m so sorry” or something. Possible. But if it’s just a “rub the wrong way” situation, addressing it will probably make things weirder. It might be worth the risk but in my experience “why don’t you like me” pretty much never makes things better.

        But, if it’s annoying enough you might find that it’s worth it to you to say something just in case, then take “no, nothing’s wrong” as “ok, they just don’t like me, fine, moving on” for your own peace of mind, knowing it’s unlikely to really improve things.

    5. AmeriCorps Alum*

      It does hurt you, and that’s what you need to work on to develop your poker face. Maybe you can talk to a friend about why this coworker’s brush-off bothers you–were you ever rejected or abandoned or made to feel unloved as a child, by classmates or a parent? Could you be projecting those feelings onto this situation? I think you will be best off if you can let go of the “need” for this coworker to like you or be nice to you (assuming it’s not interfering with your work – but you didn’t mention it is).

    6. anonymoushiker*

      When I run into this, I usually try to do 2 things a) remain as cheerful and friendly as possible when you do interact and b) remember that people are weird and it really isn’t a reflection on you as a person.

      1. Zona the Great*

        Totally! These dynamics are evident in all species and I think it is always best not to take things personally.

      2. uranus wars*

        This is really what I was trying to say above! We are all different, someone elses’s thoughts about you don’t mean you are doing anything wrong!

    7. Arjay*

      For a possibly different interpretation: I’m VERY shy around people I don’t know well. But if you see me with people I am comfortable with, I’m chatty, friendly, and dare I say, even bubbly. So the experience of passing me in the hall or riding in the elevator with me might make me seem aloof or cold when I just have no idea how to break the ice.

      1. Dasein9*

        Same. Also, I’m chatty with people who indicate to me that they have a moment to chat. If I haven’t read someone’s body language as indicating they welcome a visit, then I leave them alone, on the assumption that they’re concentrating.

      2. University Employee*

        Ditto! It’s so hard for me to get acquainted with new people, especially in a professional environment where it feels like making friends isn’t a priority anyways (although I know how important it is to have a good rapport with your coworkers). In most cases, the people I end up becoming friends with are the ones who initially went out of their way to have friendly conversations with me.

      3. As Close As Breakfast*

        Also same! Nearly every person I’ve ever become friends with has told me they didn’t like me at first, thought I was snobby or basically the biggest b**ch ever. But it’s just social awkwardness.

        On the other hand, there is a person I currently work with that could have literally written this comment about me. I’m absolutely professional and pleasant whenever I work with them. But I don’t interact with them other than when required for work, other than the occasional ‘good morning’. I don’t like this person (for work and other reasons) and that’s okay. People aren’t always going to like each other. As long as this coworker is being professional towards you OP (not being rude, gossiping, trying to get other people not to talk to you either, etc.) there’s not much to be done. As far as a ‘poker face’, I’d try just reminding myself that this person doesn’t have to like me just like I don’t have to like them.

      4. Alex*

        Same here. I have a hard time chatting people up unless I feel comfortable with them. It doesn’t mean I don’t like them. And it doesn’t even always have to do with how long I’ve known them or whatever. Some people I find easy to chat with, and other people I find myself engaging in awkward silence, and the reason is just “chemistry.”

        I think I would try to just not take it personally, or make an effort to be friendly with them and see what comes of that.

    8. Youth*

      I’m dealing with this, but from the other end.

      I have a coworker who is undoubtedly a nice guy, but his communication style is completely different from mine. He flatters and oozes sweet nothings when he wants something. I’ve got no patience for it. I’m direct, and I want him to be direct with me, so I don’t like it when we’re assigned to work together. Also he’s a chatter, and I’m not. I’m polite but try to be distant.

      He’s picked up on some of my annoyance (I know this for a fact because another coworker mentioned that he thinks I don’t like him), but instead of either asking me about it or trying to interact with me differently, he’s just chosen to turn on the charm to a million watts. Anytime he sees me for even a second, he jubilantly declares how good it is to see me and then acts all sad puppy dog when I don’t respond in kind. In my opinion, trying to force someone you’re certain doesn’t like you to tell you that they’re happy to see you is pretty manipulative, and he’s not helping his case.

      Don’t try to force people to like you. Just let it happen (or not happen).

      1. Anonymosity*

        He flatters and oozes sweet nothings when he wants something.

        Ugh, I have a relative who does this and it’s annoying AF. It’s so fake.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      To keep my poker face I concentrate on what is being said in the moment. This helps because as I listen closer I might find opportunities to pick up on a shared concern or a shared interest. Finding things in common is a good, solid way to loosen tension on a relationship.
      Random acts of kindness are a good idea but chose wisely. Don’t chose things that happen every day, because then it becomes something too huge and unwieldy. For example, a company gave us X on loan at work. (Vague, sorry.) I drove right by this company on the way home. I knew other people were feeling pretty maxed out. So I volunteered to take X back when they were done with it. This was a random loan and probably will not happen again, so I was not setting myself up for a daily/weekly task. These maxed out people were surprised and pleased because they did not expect the offer on my part.

      Example 2: One person said they were really worried about Y. I offered suggestion Z and the person thought it was a great idea. Here, all I did was look at the situation with the person. I did not do any work except to be a second set of eyes. The idea worked well and it helped to ease tension in our conversations. We went on to talk about more stuff. In this example, if the person is only talking about work, use the work discussions to show that you are a thinking person.

      There’s probably lots of reasons why people shut out the new hire. If you can pretend not to notice and weave her into conversations if she joins a conversation you are already in. (“Oh hi, Jane, we were just saying we really like the new teapots/ hate the snow storms/looking forward to vacation/whatever”.) You can say good morning and pretend not to notice she does not answer. The problem with techniques like this is you have to keep doing it even when it appears you are not gaining ground. And do you really want to put in all this effort? When I have been working in small groups where I saw the person daily, I have usually decided to put in the effort. If our shifts were random and we worked together once in a while, I might not chose to work so hard at pretending not to notice. It really depends on the setting and others around the setting.

    10. Thegs*

      As someone who is often on the other side of this, I often end up not talking to people because I don’t know what to talk with them about and I am already pretty awkward. So to spare us both the painful experience of trying to make small talk and pretend we’re having fun, I just don’t try. Perhaps they just don’t want to bore you with gripes about Blizzard’s handling of Resto Shaman balancing, or the finer details of how to choose the right orchid medium ;)

    11. Specialk9*

      There are lots of good answers here. One more thing is that therapy really helped me with exploring my tendency to feel distressed if ANYONE didn’t like me. It gives so much power to every yahoo, to harm you. And that’s a choice that you can take back. There was something liberating about that, especially as a woman. Sometimes reframing it as “enh that’s odd, wonder what their problem is, but it’s not MY problem” is a good solution instead. (For me it also took reducing anxiety with meds and CBD oil, and eliminating an abusive relationship from my life.)

    12. polite but not bubbly doesn't equal mean*

      I would just remember all the times you haven’t liked someone, even if you thought it was for a good reason. Not everyone likes everyone else, and it honestly makes it more weird if you try to press the issue. Just treat them like a normal person you don’t know well (polite without being over the top cheery) and stay focused on work. And ask yourself, why exactly do you want this person to like you personally, assuming they’re polite enough with work stuff? Just because? Did you actually want to pursue a friendship with them?

      I’ve observed this from the outside with two coworkers who I got along with fine taking an instant dislike to each other. Coworker A was willing to just not talk to Coworker B unless necessary, and stay busy when they were on shift together. She wouldn’t go around talking about it to others, though I was closer to her so I got the gist. Coworker B took it SO personally that someone would dislike him (Even though he didn’t like her either!) because he considered himself extremely nice, and would try to force cheery interactions on her, then pout visibly when she distanced herself more, then complain about how mean she was to everyone else, and repeat. Then he got paranoid that everyone else disliked him, and started the cycle with the rest of us. It didn’t end well!

    13. Logan*

      I’m an introvert. I engage well with people whom I have known for a long time, and have reason to be closer to (worked with on a project). If I don’t know someone well then I’m not going to have much to talk about other than work-related topics, and I’m not likely to be the one to make the effort.

      You are describing my behaviours, but assuming that the motivation is dislike, rather than a more neutral ‘not as friendly’. Maybe this person is different, as we aren’t there to make the judgement, but please know that it might have nothing to do with you.

    14. Courageous cat*

      Not sure if you’re new to your job, buuut… I had the same problem at the job I recently left, and it turned out to be that she wasn’t particularly nice to *any* newcomers until they’d been there for awhile, due to high turnover. Which I totally get. By the time I had left (after 8 months), she was just as warm and friendly to me as she was to everyone else. But it took months to get there.

  8. Murphy*

    My husband and I disagreed on this the other day and I’m curious to get AAM commenter’s take on it.

    He bought a gift for someone and said he was going to take it into the office for the receptionist to wrap. She likes wrapping presents, and has offered to do it for people, particularly around the holidays. I said that, to me, that reeked of a Mad Men-era, having the girl at the office do some menial tasks for him. He said it was OK since she offered and “I think she uses it to fill the day” because I guess she’s not super busy. I don’t think that anyone who lets her do this is a horrible person or anything, but it made me feel a bit icky. Am I off base here?

    1. ballpitwitch*

      I love to wrap and always throw this offer out as well! It sounds like your husband would have taken it in for anyone who offered to wrap whether they were the receptionist or not?

      I think it’s fine.

      1. Specialk9*

        It’s fine for you to offer, but I don’t think it’s ok for anyone to accept. (But especially not a man to a woman. And ESPECIALLY not a more senior -level man.)

        So… Maybe it’s actually not ok to offer, since that’s kinda like inviting them to trip up on gender and power dynamics.

    2. Stephanie*

      Yeah…I’d feel icky doing that. Maybe if it were like a gift for someone AT work, but even then, I agree it’s kind of Mad Men-esque.

    3. Baby Fishmouth*

      Nope, I’d feel the same way as you! I don’t think it’s *terrible* if she’s offering, but it’s still really weird to me.

    4. CTT*

      It feels icky to me too; if she’s offering and loves to do it, it shouldn’t be weird, but there’s something about bringing a gift to the office specifically to have her wrap it that’s off to me. I think it’s because it’s not work-related? If it were gifts for a client and she was designated wrapper for that, I think it would be okay, but that it goes into personal gifts totally outside the office is odd.

      1. Specialk9*

        Yes, good distinction. If it’s Gloria’s job to buy and package client gifts, totally cool to ask her to package a client gift. But a gift to one’s romantic partner? Bleep no! Bringing in a gift that has nothing to do with work because Gloria just loves wrapping things? (Cringe) Oh honey no. No no no no no no no.

    5. Corky's Wife Bonnie*

      If she offered, I think it’s okay. I am the flower-arranger, gift basket arranger, and bow maker for the office, which I think is kind of similar. I used to work in a flower shop so I have some of these skills. I truly enjoy doing it, so I never mind when someone needs it done, and boy I get a lot of accolades. It sounds like the same situation for his co-worker. If he just dropped it on her desk and said, “do this” without asking, that’s a whole other story.

        1. Corky's Wife Bonnie*

          Sometimes, one department asked me to arrange the flowers for their boss, another was for a gift basket that we all contributed to that we were donating for a raffle. However, there was a few times that they sheepishly asked me to do it personally for them. One of my poor co-workers was in tears because she tried and tried and just couldn’t get the flowers to look right for her sick friend. I took it, and made a few minor adjustments and she couldn’t believe the change. I have an area behind my desk that nobody else goes into (a mail room) and that’s where I do these things. If it’s not work related for these people, I do it on my lunch break. I truly don’t mind, I really like doing it. It keeps my creative side alive. If I don’t have time or am too busy though, I also let them know and they all understand. Sometimes that happens.

          1. University Employee*

            To me, this is different. What you do seems more like an experienced trade/skill rather than a simple task that most people can do (or learn how to do) without too much effort. I have very little creative ability and could never prepare a solid gift basket or flower arrangement, but even I can wrap a present- or just buy a gift bag and some tissue paper if its small enough. That’s why it feels weird. It seems more like he is delegating a task that he doesn’t want to do and taking advantage someone who was nice enough to offer to do it for him. I know that might not be the case, but that’s just how it feels.

            1. Lavender Menace*

              I’m not understanding how it is “taking advantage” of someone to accept a skill they have offered you? If I don’t want to do something for someone…I don’t offer.

    6. afiendishthingy*

      no, I’m with you. It’s innocent enough and I get that she likes to do it, but it will likely negatively affect how she’s perceived as a professional.

      Also I don’t think it’s super professional-looking in general for the receptionist to be wrapping presents at the front desk, but maybe that depends on how many outside people are coming into the office.

    7. Crylo Ren*

      Feels a little icky to me. Is the gift for a coworker? If it is, I think I’d be a little more okay with it than if it was a gift for someone unconnected to the office. I’d still probably ask the receptionist a day ahead of time if it was okay, and only then bring the gift in for her to wrap.

    8. Rey*

      It would make me feel icky too. The administrators in my office are fabulous about not asking me as the office secretary to do their personal errands, which I would lump “wrapping a personal present” in with. If the office is planning a Christmas party or giving a present to a long-time client, I think it falls into work duties. Otherwise, I don’t think it’s okay.

      When I hear things like this, I sometimes wonder how the story would be different if the gender was reversed. I.e., if the office receptionist was a male, would it still be okay to ask this, or would it make them uncomfortable? I don’t think the optics are great in this case.

      1. Specialk9*

        Yeah. I wholeheartedly agree that the gender dynamic is impossible to ignore.

        I’d add that if I knew a male co-worker did that to a female admin, I would put a small note in my mental file (Joe Smith: good at Excel, is at least a little sexist keep an eye on that).

    9. I See Real People*

      If I have a hobby that I enjoy and it’s useful to someone else that I know and they ask because they’re deficient in such a hobby, I’m going to help them if I have time. If they had a hobby in an area in which I am deficient, I would sure ask them…I don’t care what gender they are!

    10. Ann O'Nemity*

      I think one thing that bugs me about this is that the gift is non-work related. Like it wouldn’t be as weird if the gift were for another employee (office shower, anniversary gift, secret Santa, etc).

    11. DaniCalifornia*

      So it’s innocent that she offered and while I feel the icky thing as well I don’t think it’s taking advantage of her. And I agree no one who lets her do it is a horrible person.

      I think it feels icky because he is innocently yet inadvertently contributing to her becoming the default person who does menial things for superiors, men, or others at the office. She may truly love doing it and wouldn’t care if everyone asked. But she’s doing herself a disservice career wise. Because then she’ll be seen as the person who can do menial tasks not the awesome receptionist who knows all the clients well and always make sure her superiors have their reports etc.

    12. Wandering Thoughts...*

      Is it a work gift? If it’s a work gift, that makes sense but if it’s just a gift for a friend or family member, then definitely not!

      It’s funny because I have the opposite problem. I hate gift-wrapping and am horrible at it but my boss, who gives a lot of gifts to clients, constantly asks me to wrap it, and then half the time hates my wrapping job and does it himself. In that case, don’t ask me in the first place when I am obviously horrible at it! Gift-wrapping was not a requirement for this job! (And it’s not a sexist thing since I am his assistant and generally get the gifts together anyway, it’s just funny how often he undoes my wrapping and does it himself, even when he specifically asked me to wrap it.)

      1. Murphy*

        The funny thing is, my husband is good at wrapping gifts! Much better than I am. So he’s fully capable of doing it himself.

        Oh and it wasn’t a work gift. If it was, that would be fine.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          In this case, he is good at wrapping and it’s not a work gift, my vote is no. But I have a thing about pawning my work off on to someone else, that’s my bias. I don’t believe that her volunteering makes the situation better some how.

          And it kind of baffles me. Isn’t it more effort to bring the item, wrap, tape and ribbon to work, then remember to get it and carry it back out to the car? And then you have to be even more careful with it so as not to wreck the wrap. To me it would be much simpler to wrap it at home and set it in the corner where it won’t get banged up until it’s time to deliver the present.

    13. Tuxedo Cat*

      Was the gift for someone in the office? I think that makes it slightly more palatable if the recipient is an employee or a customer.

      If it’s for someone who has nothing to do with the office, I think it’s icky.

    14. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      If she volunteered, I don’t really see the problem.

      If this was ALL she was good at and only mediocre at her job, maybe I could see where this would be a disservice. But I don’t see why she can’t be considered awesome at her job and awesome at her hobby.

      And I might be biased here as for years my family had a personal paper store so we had to be able to wrap presents beautifully. People ask my mom and me ALL THE TIME to wrap presents. It hasn’t hurt either of us professionally. If anything, my mom is known as the department head who also wraps amazing gifts. I’m not a supervisor or anything, haven’t been here long enough, but I’ve been given more responsibility. And the conversation never starts with “Here’s WDP ask her if you need anything gift wrapped.” It’s “Here’s WDP, if you have any questions about Llama Baton Twirling she’s your go to!”

    15. Observer*

      You’re not off base for yourself, but for your husband you are. What I mean is, I understand why you would not take her up on the offer. But your husband is not wrong to do so, and what he is doing is not icky. And while it’s true that she may not be doing herself any professional favors, unless your husband has the kind of relationship where he could do some informal mentoring and knows what her goals are, etc. it’s not his place to decide for her how to deal with that. (As a mentor, it might be wise to give her a heads up.)

      1. Specialk9*

        Enh it’s pretty icky. I would think less of her husband if I found out they were pulling some 1950s crap like that.

        1. Lavender Menace*

          It’s not inherently 1950s for a woman to wrap gifts for a man. It is if he someone expected that, but she offered to do it.

          This is not directed at you, but it’s starting to grate on me (in my male-dominated profession) that people feel I am “supposed” to exhibit stereotypically masculine behaviors to get ahead and that I have to hide or downplay the things I like that are more stereotypically feminine.

    16. Hush42*

      I think it depends on the person. I have one co-worker who LOVES to wrap gifts. It is legitimately one of her favorite things to do. During the holidays shes asks coworkers (only the ones she’s close with) if she can wrap their gifts. Our boss usually takes her up on it because he hates wrapping gifts and is not very good at it. In this case I think it’s fine but in your husbands case I guess it would depend on if the receptionists offer was “I LOVE wrapping gifts and would be happy to wrap any gifts you need wrapped” or “I don’t mind wrapping gifts, if you really need it done I could do it”.

      1. Murphy*

        He brings in food to the office sometimes, though it’s to share with everyone and not for her in particular.

    17. Sunflower*

      She likes it, she’s good at it, and she offered to do it. What’s the problem? If I were her I’d feel insulted if someone refused to let me do a hobby of mine because it “might” look icky. Who the heck cares?

    18. Carnaxide*

      I find that a bit icky but I’m sensitive to these types of things, being a support person and having people assume I can do crafts and things for events… not my thing!

    19. ChachkisGalore*

      How is the company’s attitude/culture as whole, regarding women (or support staff/admin/reception roles)?

      If the company is otherwise doing well on this front then I’d say no harm, no foul. She offered and likes to do it, he appreciates her effort. All is well.

      However, if the company already has some issues with these attitudes, then yeah I would agree that it’s doing her a disservice and sort of reinforcing that notion – no matter how innocent the offer/taking up of that offer is.

      I say this as someone who left an admin role (and said explicitly in my exit interview that I was leaving because) I did not sign up be a Mad Men-esque secretary. It was just an entire overarching attitude that admins could not possibly understand anything related to the actual business, and that the only thing an admin could understand is how to transfer a phone call or what slots are empty on a calendar. In that place I think it would be great for more men to be aware of the issue and to try to actively change the culture (or pointedly stay away from things that reinforced it). That attitude isn’t present in my current company so I don’t really feel as worried about small/innocent things reinforcing it.

      1. Specialk9*

        I don’t actually believe there there are people-filled workplaces that are insulated from the larger culture. And our larger culture has a huge problem with sexism (among other isms). It’s hard to imagine a place in which implicit bias like this wouldn’t be a problem.

        1. ChachkisGalore*

          Uhhh… I had worked at one place that treated me like an idiot simply because my title was “administrative assistant” and another one that treated me like a valued member of the team because my title was receptionist.

          So yes, people filled institutions, can absolutely fall in different places on the spectrum of “how do we treat women/people in traditionally women filled roles”.

          Some institutions as a whole are aware of these biases/historical dynamics and actively foster a culture that does not condone it. Others do not and let it run rampant or actively promote it.

          1. Specialk9*

            That wasn’t my point. I realize that workplaces can be different, and one place as a whole treat people better/worse in various ways.

            I’m saying that being on a good end of a particular spectrum isn’t enough to get away with doing something that has a troubling history of being connected to a big old -Ism.

            So for example, a workplace might have half the managers being women, to the top, but it still isn’t advisable to do things that reek of sexism — like a man bringing in a non-work gift and wrapping paper in to work, in order to have a female admin wrap it for him.

            Or in a workplace in which there are a good number of managers of color, someone still shouldn’t ask to touch a black woman’s hair.

            Because even if that workplace is better than most in that area, everyone working there has gotten toxic messaging from the broader culture, and many people still have hidden cuts and bruises (metaphorically).

    20. LGC*

      So I read everything, and…

      …my initial take was that while I could see your position really clearly, if it’s a one off thing and she offered, it’s fine.

      After reading the other replies, I have to add in that she cannot feel compelled to offer. And as such, it’s probably not a good idea for your husband to accept – there’s no way that he can guarantee that she doesn’t feel like she has to do this as part of her job, even if it isn’t.

      That said, tell me if I’m reading way too much into your post, but I get the idea that you think that his accepting that offer means he thinks less of her. I really disagree with that framing – I don’t know your husband, obviously, but from what you’ve said it doesn’t seem like he sees her as a handservant. There are some problematic things I saw, like his dismissal of her workload (although she could actually be not busy!). But maybe I’m overly optimistic, but I’d like to think he respects her as a professional in general, and just overstepped a boundary in this case.

      1. Murphy*

        I don’t think that he thinks less of her specifically, because he’s not like that. But I don’t think he even thought of the fact that this kind of thing could cause people to think less of her in general, because he seemed really surprised when I pointed it out.

        1. LGC*

          …you know, on one hand, I really want to push back on that – because to me, that feels a bit like you’re concerned about things way out of his control. You’re saying (essentially) that there’s a possibility that someone in the office could think it’s appropriate for her to do other menial tasks because she offered to do your husband a personal favor, and has offered to do personal favors for other employees at his workplace. And my opinion of that is that if anyone thinks that, it reflects far more on their misogynistic and antiquated viewpoints than it does on the receptionist or your husband taking her up on her offer.

          On the other hand, you just reminded me of a dynamic at my job: if my team lead is out and I forget to make coffee (the coffee maker is hers and by her desk, and our desks are on opposite sides of the office, and also I am horribly scatterbrained), I start getting questioned about it – like my primary job is making coffee. (I’m a supervisor. I’m not opposed to making coffee, it’s just that a lot of the time I have five other things that are more important at the moment.) So, yeah, in practice people do sometimes take “menial” tasks for granted.

          (I could probably write another comment about the gender dynamics at play here, but I will say that I’m getting better at making coffee before she comes in – three days of the week I try to get in earlier than she does (the other two I start later), so I’ve been trying to start the coffee when I get in.)

        1. LGC*

          I don’t think that was Murphy’s issue, though – she (?) was saying that she thought the admin wrapping her husband’s gift for him would reflect poorly on the admin, if I’m reading her replies correctly.

          For what it’s worth, I kind of agree with you – without the context we have here, I’d see her husband as being very inappropriate. (With the context, I think it’s borderline inappropriate, just because of the power dynamics. If he wasn’t in a superior relationship, I’d be fine with it full stop.)

    21. Nacho*

      Yeah, that feels really weird, not just from a sexist PoV, but from a who the hell asks their receptionist to do that kind of thing PoV?

    22. Operational Chaos*

      I think a lot of us would get a cringe vibe off that. I agree that if she’s offering, that muddies the ethics a bit. However, if he does some tit for tat, say buying her a lunch or a coffee as a thank you for the effort, I think that would balance things more.

    23. Emoly19*

      My question is would he ask that same favor/help from the receptionist if it was a man?
      I think its a little icky especially if its gifts for non-work related items.
      Maybe she could still wrap the gift but he could bring her coffee/breakfast or something as a thank you for taking time out of the day to work on it.

  9. Anonymous404*

    Hi! I am fairly new to the work world and have started going to networking events. How often do I need to keep in touch with people I meet at these events for potential job opportunities? I am trying to move on from where I am, and found out that the industry I am in is super small and niche and the best way to get a new position is through connections.

    Thank you!

    1. Kathleen_A*

      The thing about networking is that it’s generally at its most useful if you don’t use it *just* for job searching. You have to find ways to connect with people that don’t involve only “I want a new job – can you help me?”

      Since you’re already in or nearly in job-hunting mode, that makes it pretty tricky. And of course what makes it trickier is that your supervisors are probably involved in your same “super small and niche” network. I personally can’t think of a good and subtle way for you to start asking about jobs that won’t get back to your superiors.

      What exactly are you hoping for from these connections?

      1. Anonymous404*

        So I think I messed up based on this response. I went to this event and kind of said oh I’m here to build relationships and then when people asked who I work for, I said I’m currently working for a small company that has no room for growth and am looking for new opportunities. I realize now that that sounded probably bad, but I was genuine in trying to get to know people. I don’t want people to feel used at all, and I would like a mentor or two. I did send out a thanks for talking with me email to everyone I met, and said that I am interested in keeping in touch and learning more about the industry and their journey into it. The company I work for is in education, but my position is more hospitality-like, so my bosses actually have no idea about this organization that I became a part of and I doubt anyone knows of them considering I work for a small 4 person company. Is it too late to salvage some of these relationships? I have met a couple of people who I have been texting and learning from, would it be too late to reach out about coffee? I genuinely love people and am looking to make friends anyway. Also, thank you for your response!

        1. Lavender Menace*

          That’s not bad. Networking events that are branded as such are pretty blatantly for people who are looking for professional connections, often in connection with looking for new opportunities. I don’t think it’s a faux pas to be honest with the fact that you are looking for something new. I often go to networking events (especially those held for students or early career professionals) looking to help people who are looking for an inroad into my career field.

    2. uranus wars*

      yes, what Kathleen A said! I remember presenting once and off the cuff I answered someone during Q&A that they should be “looking at networking as a way to meet new people and develop relationships. The business/job/opportunity/support will come as a result. Only attending events/networking when you are searching for something (a sale, a job) almost never garners the results you are looking for.”

      I actually wrote it down as a reminder to myself when I start feeling reclusive.

      1. Anonymous404*

        Thank you for this! I wish I had asked my question before I went, but I think I may have already turned some people off. I hope it’s not too late to salvage the relationships, I do genuinely want to get to know these people and build relationships. I will be writing this down for future reference :)

    3. AnotherLibrarian*

      There’s NO hard and fast rule for this.

      The best way to do this sort of thing is to try to develop relationships with people. Genuine, honest to goodness, relationships. So, pick the three people you liked the most from the event you went to an invite them to lunch/coffee.

      Do not mention you are looking for a job. Do try to get to know them. Once you have a relationship, people may be willing to help you, but you don’t want people to feel used. And you also, I hope, don’t want to just use people.

      1. Anonymous404*

        Thank you for your response. Like I mentioned above, you are so right that I do not want to use people! I hope I didn’t mess up too badly, I did unfortunately mention that I was job searching when I went, but now I know better. I just hope I didn’t mess up my reputation completely.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          As others have mentioned, that doesn’t sound too bad. An event labeled as a “networking event” is frequently used for job hunting, so I don’t think what you did was outside the pale or anything. At events with other purposes (e.g., workshops and conferences and so on), you do need to be more subtle. But here, a little job searching isn’t out of line. Just keep in light when you follow up and it should be OK.

  10. ChachkisGalore*

    Any advice on taking over work from a remaining (like they didn’t leave the co., you’re just taking over some of their responsibilities) coworker without stepping on their toes in the process?

    I’m taking over some responsibilities from a co-worker (basically a promotion for me – yeah! – I’m taking on some of Sr. Co-worker’s stuff and she’s taking on other work). The thing I’m running into is that I want to change the process or how I do some of this work. It’s one part purely preference type stuff, which I’d have no problem quietly changing and just doing my thing. However some of it is beyond preference. This co-worker’s been doing this for 10yrs, and her reasoning for a lot of her processes is “well that’s how it’s always been done”.

    I don’t discount her experience, but as an ex. I brought up a process that I thought was unnecessary and asked her about it. She said that’s how it’s always been done. I cited the specific legal regulation that I thought supported the idea that this process is unnecessary (we’re legal adjacent so a lot of this is fairly black&white). She just repeated that this is how it’s always been done. So I went to our boss and said “hey, I’d like to change this, here’s my reasoning, are you ok with that?”. He researched it and was ok with it.

    I’m not sure how to institute (or just recommend instituting) changes without looking and feeling like I’m going behind her back/over her head. Any recommendations for this type of situation? Anything I suggest is carefully researched – I’m not just trying to change stuff willy-nilly and while she had 10yrs of experience, it’s all at once place, whereas I have five years of experience but in a couple of different environments to I’ve been exposed to different processses.

    1. Murphy*

      Are you in a position where you have to ask for her opinion? I understand why you’d like to get her opinions on some things and how she might be a good resource, but if you don’t have to go through her, I wouldn’t. No reasonable person would mind you changing some processes once you take them over.

      I was in a similar position, but that person was my boss for a while when I took over some of her former duties. Then she switched to another department and I took over some more of her duties. As far as I know, she never minded the things that I changed, and I know she agreed with some of them.

      1. ChachkisGalore*

        I guess that’s the tricky part. We’re an informal, small dept. She’s definitely senior to me (ie – I’m an associate, she’s a Sr. Associate), but we both report to the same person (the head of the dept.).

        I’ll be responsible for this stuff going forward, but she sits right next to me and generally needs to be kept in the loop of any changes made because a.) employees from outside the dept still go to her about this stuff (I’ve already asked her to just send them to me directly, but I think she thinks she’s being helpful – this I know I can handle with a more direct convo) and b.) she’ll still probably take care of some of the stuff when I’m out of the office.

        It just feels a bit weird to sort of dictate new workflows to the person who’s been responsible for it for so long. Again small preference stuff would be no big deal, and I’d just expect her to be a reasonable adult about it but some it really is closer to “you’ve been doing this wrong for who knows how long, so now we’re doing it this way”. Not that I would ever, ever say that! It is sort of the subtext to it.

        1. Murphy*

          Ah, yeah. That makes sense.

          Can you frame it as “I’ve found it’s easier for me to do X instead of Y?” I don’t know if that would make sense contextually with what you’re doing. Obviously it wouldn’t make sense if it was due to a law change like you mention below.

    2. OperaArt*

      Do you have to get her permission to make changes? Will she immediately know if you make changes? Be as diplomatic as necessary, and do what you think is best. This is your work now, not hers.

      1. ChachkisGalore*

        Any advice on the diplomatic part? I don’t need to get her permission to change stuff (just have to get boss’s approval – on anything big, not the small preference stuff), but I do need to inform her of changes.

        Another example: a law changed at some point while she was in charge of this stuff and our policy wasn’t updated to reflect that. I brought it up to boss, he agreed, so I rewrote the policy and have adjusted the workflow. So now I do have to inform her of the workflow change. To external depts I’d explain “hey, there was change to the law so now we need to do x”, but it feels a little catty to say that to her when it’s specifically our job to ensure that our policies reflect current laws.

        Maybe I should just stick with “hey, we’re doing x now” and if she asks why then mention the law change as nuetrally as possible? I’m just afraid it’s going to turn into a “well why change it, that’s how it’s always been done” and then me being stuck pointing out that it’s been done incorrectly up until now.

        1. Ashley*

          If you been doing this more months a think a list of items might be helpful and do a review update kind of meeting with her and your boss. When suggesting it make the meeting about updating policies and just explain for ‘recent’ changes in the law and increased efficiency. I feel your pain on ‘this is how it has always been done’. Rarely is that a good reason to not being open to change.

        2. Anon Pixie*

          I think the last part of your comment is the best you’re going to be able to do — and if she pushes back, then you’ll just need to be “doing y is no longer legal” and if she does y, then you need to loop in boss.

        3. Susan*

          I don’t see anything catty in saying to the co-worker the same line you would say to external departments.

          I wouldn’t overthink it. You are taking on the work, and you are going to do it in the way that works best. That’s it. Her reaction is hers to manage, and if it becomes too big a deal, it’s up to you to raise it as an issue to her boss.

    3. Blue*

      Since the work is totally yours now and your boss is supportive, I think you’re fine as long as you don’t run around bad-mouthing your coworker. If you’re worried about breaking the news, maybe use your boss as a shield? When I started my last job, I found myself in a similar situation, and when we announced the new process, I said something like, “[Boss and I] decided to use this moment of transition as an opportunity to reevaluate the process, and Boss has given me a green light to implement some changes.”

      I later handed off some of my processing tasks, and I was so happy to ditch it, I couldn’t have cared less about how they handled it moving forward, ha.

      1. ChachkisGalore*

        Oh I really like this! I’m definitely going to drop boss’s name when I do have to bring up any changes to her directly.

        She’s been looking to get rid of this work – so I’m hoping she’ll just go your route and be glad to be rid of it! I’m just really excited to have the opportunity to institute/suggest some of this stuff (and pretty passionate about what is usually considered a very dry subject), so I want to make sure I don’t lose sight of maintaining a positive relationship with this co-worker.

    4. Kathenus*

      A couple of thoughts on this from your question, and from the comments thus far and your responses. Some of this comes from having been someone coming in to new places and being in a similar position – sometimes the person is still there sometimes not, but the potential minefield can be kind of similar in both situations; I’ve also recently seen a new person come in to my organization and run into some significant pushback from some changes they are looking to make and we’ve had a few discussions about the situation.

      So, thought one is to pick your battles and make changes in a more incremental way versus as a wholesale thing. You may identify ten things you’d like to change, and all may be valid changes, but if you try to do all ten at once it may be perceived in a more negative way than if you did two now, a few more in six months, the rest next year or something like this. Phase them in over time.

      Thought two, you mentioned some are due to changes in the law, so these might be a priority; they’re also easier to explain without it being just wanting to change the way she did it. As was mentioned below, the explanation of ‘this change was implemented due to a modification in the law’ is hard for her to push back on or hopefully feel threatened/disrespected/etc. by.

      Lastly, to tie the above together, you can prioritize by things that are easier/less threatening, have an external motivator (like a law change), or that you feel more strongly about or that would have the greatest impact. But being able to step back and realize that to achieve your goals you want to both make more efficient processes and get as much support and buy-in as possible, taking it at a more step-by-step pace could help in the long run. Good luck!

  11. Jolly Jaffa Cake*

    How concerned should I be about my lack of a bachelor’s degree keeping me from finding a new job? I have an associate’s degree and that’s it. I’ve worked as an administrative assistant since I was 17, so I’ve racked up 19 years of experience. I’d like to think that counts for something but I worry that now employers consider having a bachelor’s degree to be a minimum requirement for even considering an applicant.

    For the past year I’ve been working in a new position at the same company where I’ve worked for 13 years. I’m technically in a management role although I only manage my assistant. It’s a small company so there’s only one other office staff member who my boss manages. I handle the administrative tasks of the company from day-to-day functionality to keeping the company’s certifications, memberships, and contracts current. However, if I were to start job hunting I’d be fine with taking a basic administrative job since I know I got lucky with the internal promotion here. I doubt any other company would accept an external candidate without a degree for such an advanced role. Even with lowering my expectations, I worry that I’m now competing with an entire younger generation of people who all have college degrees so my application will be rejected sight unseen.

    Going back to school is an option but it’s really not one I relish. To be honest, I think I got burned out in high school with all of the AP classes and pressure for perfection from my mom. By the time I graduated I was ready to be done with school. I managed two years at community college but my plan to transfer to a four-year school fell by the wayside. I started working as an administrative assistant the summer after I graduated from high school and I found I have an aptitude for it and truly enjoy the work. I know many years have passed since I was that kid burned out on school but I still cringe and get stressed out when I think about going back to school simply so I can look better on paper. I could afford it now but it would still be a financial sacrifice at a time when I’m approaching 40 and want to start enjoying life by traveling and going out to nice restaurants, all things I’ve held off on doing because I’ve been busy saving for a house, going through a divorce, and then getting back on my feet financially. I’ve only worked for two companies so I’m inexperienced when it comes to job searching and I feel I lucked out nabbing my current job at a time when they were struggling to find someone qualified. In that case my experience won out over the lack of a degree but times have changed since 2005 and the market is no doubt full of candidates with degrees. Do I have to bite the bullet and get a degree before I even consider job searching? Or does experience still count for something?

    1. Baby Fishmouth*

      I think experience definitely counts for something, but the truth of the matter is that there are a LOT of employers out there who will put ‘4 year bachelor’s’ as a requirement as a default. And while the hiring manager might look at your resume and see that your experience could trump a degree, the chances are your resume might not even make it into their hands without the degree. Applicant Management Systems, or a choosy HR person, might filter it out before it gets to the Hiring Manager.
      I don’t think you need a degree at all, but just be aware that you may have a harder time getting your resume seen than you would if you had one.

      1. Specialk9*

        Yeah, it’s unfortunate but a lot of jobs put in education requirements without thinking them through well.

    2. Mombi's Severed Head*

      If I were hiring for an administrative position, I would be much more impressed with 19 years of experience than a bachelors degree. But I think you’re discounting yourself by thinking you need to settle for a basic administrative position. You have 19 years of experience! You’ve been in a management role for a year! And you’ve got longevity at two jobs, which speaks loads about the skills and value you bring to the table.

      1. Jolly Jaffa Cake*

        Thank you! I’m hoping this is the prevalent attitude. Also thanks for the ego boost. I hope I can do better than basic admin work so your words are encouraging

      2. Luna123*

        Yes, this is what I was going to say! You have LOADS of both longevity AND experience, and that is going to look fantastic to potential bosses!

      3. JessicaTate*

        Ditto. I’d hire you in a heartbeat. All that experience is so much more valuable. And when you said you “truly enjoy the work,” you totally had me. I think you’d be so much more valuable to an employer than someone with a BA that’s, essentially, just using it as a foot-in-the-door job. You’re skilled, like the work, and likely to stick around. That’s not an easy candidate to find.

        Those electronic screener questions could be a hang up, but only if places have said that a BA is a requirement, rather than “or equivalent experience.” Hopefully places you’d like to work will think more carefully than that.

        1. Jolly Jaffa Cake*

          Thank you! I think you hit on a good point that I should be sure to mention IF I get in for an interview: I am not looking to move up or move on. I am happy with administrative work and will happily continue in the same job until I’m old and grey(er). I don’t have enough of an ego to say, “Well, if they don’t want me then I don’t want them!” but I agree that I’d probably be happier working somewhere where they take experience into consideration.

    3. Brookalynne*

      My husband never completed his bachelor’s degree and has been fine without it. My friend also didn’t complete hers, but managed to rack up several years in a Director-level position. She applied for a new Director-level job, went through the interview processes, was offered the job, and then when she went in to fill out paperwork, they realized she hadn’t finished the degree and rescinded the offer. She never lied about having completed it, and they never asked her about her education during the interviews. So, in some cases it matters and in some cases it doesn’t.

      1. Jolly Jaffa Cake*

        Wow, that stinks for your friend! I hope she wasn’t too disheartened by the experience. Good to hear about it being a non-issue for your husband.

    4. Baby Fishmouth*

      Honestly, I don’t know if the lack of degree will stop you from getting a job once your resume is seen by the hiring manager (that experience sounds extensive!). But it may make it harder for your resume to get seen. Applicant Management Systems or a choosy HR person could filter your resume out early in the process. I don’t imagine you’ll have too much trouble getting a job, but be aware that could happen. And if you’re planning on moving up the ranks, it *could* hinder you at some point, although what point that is just depends on the company.

      1. Jolly Jaffa Cake*

        Yes, my application being rejected without consideration is a concern of mine. I bet you’re right about some companies/systems rejecting me at that early stage. Oh well, hopefully there’s something out there. I don’t have any ambition to move up from an administrative-type role, though, so further opportunities aren’t something I’m worried about.

      2. BRR*

        I was going to say something similar. A lot of ATS require you to choose from a limited number of options and it could automatically disqualify you, which is dumb because most of the time who cares about college degrees when you have 19 years experience.

      3. Llama Wrangler*

        This won’t work in all cases or with all companies, but if you have a personal connection where you’re trying to get hired, you can ask if you can send in the materials directly to the hiring manager. They may be able to flag your application in the system, or even review the application without it going through the system.

    5. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

      If you plan on continuing to move up in your present company, I would say that not having a bachelor’s degree might not hurt your chances (after all, you’ve worked there for 13 years, they know your work, etc.). However, if you ever want to go to another company, the fact that you don’t have a bachelor’s degree MIGHT hurt your chances. In most of the ads for admin assistants, project coordinators and the like, they ask for a bachelor’s degree. I had a co-worker who was a VP. He was very knowledgeable in our field and was an all around great worker. An outside recruiter reached out to him about a VP position in another company. My colleague said that when the recruiter found out he did not have a Bachelor’s Degree, he stopped the conversation in it’s tracks and told him, that he couldn’t even consider him for the position being offered because he had no Bachelor’s Degree.

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

      I agree with Mombi.

      If you’re applying for basic level positions, you may not be getting interviewed because they assume you are over qualified. I think 19 experience counts more than a degree — unless it’s in a field like academia, law or medicine; then degrees count a lot. If you don’t want to get a degree just for the sake of having one, is there a certification course you could take in your specific industry that wouldn’t feel so burdensome and useless?

    7. Arjay*

      Wow, I feel like I could have written this, right down to the perfectionist mom…

      I had 17 years with one company with fairly regular advancementm and now have 10 years in at my current company, so I’m doing all right.

      But the lack of a BA absolutely holds me back from a lot of applications or thinking about moving companies, just because I can’t tick that box. Even here when I was up for a level promotion, they had to alter the internal job description to something like “AA required, BA preferred” so I’d be qualified to continue to do the job I was doing.

      1. Jolly Jaffa Cake*

        That sounds like a frustrating and slightly ridiculous situation! And it just goes to show you that a degree is absolutely not needed to accomplish so many jobs, but companies do seem to be meaning more and more towards requiring one. I wonder if situations like that make them question their requirements. Probably not.

        Mind if I ask why you haven’t been tempted to go to school to get that degree? If this is too nosy of a question I understand!

        1. Arjay*

          Not at all. I did go back to get my AA during that first long stint, and planned to get the BA. But then I got married, had other faimly stuff going on, and I have a lot of responsibility (i.e., lots of hours) in this job. So basically, life has gotten in the way of school as a priority.

    8. Anon for anonymity's sake*

      This isn’t exactly what you asked, but as a professional with 17 years experience and no degree (HS Diploma only) I wanted to chime in. I would recommend looking into title insurance/real estate/banking fields. I’m in title insurance, and in most regions employers won’t require more than a H.S. Diploma because there is no degree relevant to the field (except maybe law – and that is definitely not expected). It is the perfect industry to work your way up in, because as you gain on the job experience, that experience supersedes the need for a degree if/as you move into management. It’s a field that is constantly needing new employees because a lot of the existing ones are nearing retirement, and there’s never been a huge recruiting effort industry-wide. (Though we need one.)

      1. whatshername*

        I want to second this. I never ended up getting a bachelors or an associates degree (although I have five years of college under my belt) and after leaving school I lucked into a position at a law firm that handled foreclosures. I eventually ended up running their title department and my career has taken off since then (I do title work for a prominent industry company).

        There are so, so many career opportunities in the title/property insurance and real estate fields, and none of them require a degree, unless you want to go into property law. Having a paralegal degree/certification isn’t unheard of, and if you want to eventually be a realtor there’s certification for that. But neither of those is required, or even widespread.

        I will say it’s a fast-paced, high-pressure industry, and I’ve worked with some absolutely insane people – but I really enjoy it.

      2. Jolly Jaffa Cake*

        Interesting! That’s not a field I’d even considered but it sounds like it would be interesting work that would keep me happily engaged. That’s certainly something I’ll look into now. Thanks!

      3. Christy*

        I work in title insurance and making sure I have at least a bachelor’s degree was part of the background check

    9. OhGee*

      Speaking exclusively to the earning a bachelor’s part: In my experience (it seems like we’re pretty close to the same age), college was easier than high school. I also took lots of AP classes — and then I went to a communications college where I was astonished to learn that the workload and expectations were far less than what I’d grown accustomed to as a busy, high achieving high school student. I wonder if, now that you’re an adult (and hopefully removed from your mom’s pressures as a result), you might enjoy school a lot more? Have you considered taking one class, just to see how it feels now? You may feel a lot more excited this time around, and if that’s the case, you might as well find an affordable way to earn a bachelor’s that fits in with your life — it certainly won’t hurt your future employment opportunities.

      1. Jolly Jaffa Cake*

        Very good point! I hadn’t thought to try dipping my toe back in to see how I feel so I appreciate your suggestion. Although one of my biggest problems with community college was being bored by how easy the classes were. It was a bit of a shock after my academically advanced high school experience. I preferred to use my time out of work reading up on topics that interested me, learning more about life and the world that way. Going to school just to get a degree to continue doing the work I was already doing adeptly seemed like a waste of time and money. I may have to get off of my high horse and consider going back to school if this proves to be an obstacle, though. Thanks for the idea!

        1. OhGee*

          Sure! And that’s fair – I was definitely a very average college student in part because I wasn’t that challenged (I was also enjoying being ‘independent’ for the first time, too). I hope you can find the right curricular challenge. Good luck!

        2. Gumby*

          “Going to school just to get a degree to continue doing the work I was already doing adeptly seemed like a waste of time and money.”

          One of the best parts about college (as opposed to high school) is that you can study primarily the topics that interest you. One of my classmates basically majored in science fiction. (I mean, not entirely because it was something about visions of the future and the development of technology and societal changes and blah. It was cool though.) So maybe there is something that you find fascinating now. It doesn’t even need to be particularly related to your work. At this point you’d be getting the degree to show you can and to prevent the knee-jerk “no degree? not qualified” thing so you might as well study something that you enjoy.

    10. Ender*

      Have you looked at job advertisements yet? Look at what is actually being requested for the types of roles you want before you assume a degree will be needed. Frankly I don’t see why a degree would be a requirement for an administrative assistant anyway it’s not like being a doctor or an engineer where you need to be qualified to do the work.

      1. Jolly Jaffa Cake*

        It seems to be a mix of, “Bachelor’s degree preferred,” “Bachelor’s degree or associate’s degree required,” and a few, “Bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience.” Which still leaves me wondering if they’ll disqualify my application out of hand if 10 other candidates come along who do have bachelor’s degrees. I was hoping to get a better idea from AAM readers who might have a little more inside experience about what hiring managers are really looking at.

        1. Anon for this*

          I hire for these kinds of positions, and we usually have the “or equivalent experience” verbiage – and I can tell you, if you write a hell of a cover letter talking about your experience, I won’t blink an eye at your degree status. I read cover letters before I even look at resumes – I find that most of what I need to know is actually there.

        2. Ender*

          It seems to me you meet all those requirements. you have an associates degree, preferred doesn’t mean required, and you have equivalent experience. Anon is right, your cover letter will be key here. Spend a bit of time in the archives learning to write a great cover letter and you’ll save yourself 2 years of studying.

    11. Kat in VA*

      I’m in the same boat – started working as an admin assistant/receptionist at 17 and worked my way up to C-suite (CEOs, CFO, CTO, All The C Peoples™) executive assistant over my career. My parents split up in my senior year, and in all the kerfuffle, I got a bit lost in the shuffle. My grades weren’t good enough for a scholarship and I didn’t really want to go back to school for another four years for a degree in I Didn’t Even Know What. So I worked instead.

      However, I’m older than you – 47 – and I have a gap of 20 years raising a family of four kids – but where I worked as a remote EA and did transcriptionist work. I don’t have a degree either. Now that they’re older, I’d like to go back to work full-time. You can only clean so much house for so long.

      I don’t know how many job offers I’ve applied to where it says “Bachelor’s degree REQUIRED” (caps included, sometimes in bold in case you missed their point). I apply anyway because hey – I have a loooot of experience taking care of C-suites. I can say with assurance I do not get contacted by those employers.

      So, nearly 50, no degree, gap in employment, AND I have a speech impairment where I can sound anywhere from somewhat hoarse to literally strangling on my words and work has been hard to come by. I get a lot of phone screens that go no further, or (if I’m able to explain the impairment), F2F interviews that don’t go much further. Usually it’s a case of “Always the bridesmaid, never the bride” when it comes to F2F…if they don’t ghost me, which is the subject of an ENTIRE other rant.

      I won’t say how often I see interviewers’ faces literally fall when they see me. Yes, I’m 47, and yes, I’m pretty sure I look about 47. I’m polished and professional (suit and heels in modern cut) but I can’t hide that yes, I’m definitely not 25 any more.

      However, my last contract job which happened to be my first foray back into full time work, my VP loved me so much he tried to move heaven and earth to find a position for me ANYWHERE in the company, but no dice because of headcount/budget. And he raves enthusiastically about me to whomever calls – but I have to get far enough for the reference-calling stage for him to do that.


      I just keep plugging along!

      1. The Dread Pirate Buttercup*

        Sounds like whoever hires you will be fortunate, indeed! Best of luck! (Although if you’re going back to work because you’re bored, why not get that degree first? It sounds like it should be your turn to be CFO!)

    12. Hamburke*

      Don’t discount yourself! Experience counts for a lot as an admin!

      I have a master’s degree (mostly unrelated – secondary education) and found it hard to find an admin job when I wanted something flexible after being home with kids. I had admin jobs in high school and college that I got easily so it was weird to struggle. I did eventually find something and it wouldn’t matter if I had a degree or not – I’m literally the only person in the office with a degree.

      Hubby is in IT. Similarly, he does not have a degree but has 20+ years of professional experience. I know it kept him out of a few jobs where the recuiters (but not necessarily hiring manager) place a high value on a degree but not on the certifications and experience and reputation. Most jobs he’s gotten by word of mouth.

  12. Anon Today*

    I confirmed that I’m six weeks pregnant with my first child and am wondering at what point other women told their employers? I plan to wait until I’m basically showing.

    Also, my husband and I decided to stay on our respective employers’ health insurance plans individually. Currently, I’m on a high deductible health insurance plan, which has worked out well for me as I only going to the doctors for my regular check-ups. My organization contributes quite a sum annually into our HSA accounts, and I have accrued enough to completely take care of my deductible as a single person. I’d like to stay on the high deductible plan, but I know it’s hard to know how often kids will need medical care. The organization contributes double the amount into HSA for families. The new family contribution amount, plus what I already have in the account equals the deductible for families, and I’ll be able to contribute extra to set me up for the following year.

    What are some considerations my husband and I need to consider when deciding on a health care plan? How did you make this decision? I’m pretty sure we’re going to put the child on my insurance.

    1. Friday Anon*

      I am currently 12 weeks pregnant and I am waiting until the absolute last minute to tell anyone at work. I am up for a promotion in December and I don’t want to risk it. Mainly because the accompanying raise would almost off-set impending childcare costs.

      1. georgina*

        Are you trying to wait until you’re eight months pregnant to tell anyone? That seems . . . challenging.

    2. Murphy*

      Congrats! I waited until early second trimester to tell my boss. It didn’t get out to the office as a whole until a bit later. It’s good for your boss to hear it from you, rather than someone else.

      My husband is on a HD plan with his employer, and I’m on a more expensive plan at my employer. It’s free for me, but it’s more expensive to add a child. We put her on my plan because we figured that we didn’t know what she might need. She’s been healthy for the most part, but under this plan all of her regular checkups/vaccines (of which there are a lot in the first year!) are completely covered, and even when she’s sick a regular doctor’s visit is pretty cheap.

    3. Emi.*

      I announced not too long after 12 weeks and got a lot of “I knew it!”, so that was awkward. I suspect that people will guess before you’re properly showing.

      Apart from making sure you have coverage where you want to deliver and take your baby to the pediatrician, I would try to suss out how much you’ll spend on prenatal care and L&D. It may be worth going for a plan with a lower deductible. (On my plan, for instance, ultrasounds are not covered like checkups, which I had thought they would be, boo.)


      1. Murphy*

        Yeah, some people may figure it out. The office gossip (who isn’t even someone I talked to at all) was apparently going around asking people if they thought I’d gained weight and if I might be pregnant. I didn’t even gain that much weight, so she must have been watching me awfully closely…

        1. Emi.*

          One of my coworkers said she had multiple times been on the point of just coming into my office and congratulating me, but she thought it might be weird to do that. (Oh, ya think?)

    4. Muriel Heslop*

      Congratulations! I planned to wait until I entered my second trimester with both – about week 13. Unfortunately, I had to run to catch a plane at Newark with my boss and other colleagues during week 8 of my second pregnancy and almost died (figuratively.) She was worried something was really wrong with me so I told her. It was fine.

      I stayed on my HSA during my pregnancy and we added our kids to my husband’s plan since his had better coverage for a cheaper price. We also did the childcare deduction so be sure to explore that option as well.

    5. Doug Judy*

      I told basically at 6/8 weeks. For one, we had been trying for years for our second child, and I was just so excited. I am terrible at hiding things like that. Second I had worked in that department for 7 years, and had a good relationship with my boss/coworker. Lastly, I had several appointments early on and needed time off.

      Ultimately there is no right or wrong, do what you feel comfortable with.

    6. That Would be a Good Band Name*

      I always had to tell early because of how severe my morning sickness was. Ideally, I’d have liked to have waited until 12 weeks or so, possibly later.

      As far as insurance, I’ve never had as good of coverage offered as what my husband’s company offers, so that part was a non-issue. It’s been awhile since I’ve had babies (youngest is 13), but they go several times during the first year (assuming you are in the US) for regular checkups, then I want to say 18 months, and then annually starting at 2 years. Of course, that’s just well-child checkups. You may want to check on each insurance plan and see how vaccinations are covered. We had quite the sticker shock at how much those cost us out of pocket.

    7. Mockingjay*

      TL;DR: For either policy, find out 1) date coverage is implemented for the child (day of birth, 1st of the following month, etc.), 2) if you have selected a pediatrician or family doctor, which insurance policy they accept and how they do billing, 3) what each policy covers for birth procedures, baby well care (checkups and shots), and sick visits, and 4) call or visit doctor’s offices, your hospital or birth center and confirm covered and non-covered costs for the baby and you.

      We also kept separate policies when expecting our first child, who would be added to my policy. After she was born, we contacted my HR with her birth info so she could be added, starting the day of her birth.

      The whammy came when I found out that HR delayed adding her to coverage. Apparently they would save up all the additions/subtractions to employee policies and submit them on the first of the following month. (It was a quiet cost-reduction measure employees knew nothing about.) Imagine our shock when none of my daughter’s hospital bills were covered. My husband called his insurance and they kindly worked with us to add her to his policy and backdate the coverage to her DOB. Lesson learned: ask many, many questions prebirth.

      And congratulations!

    8. NewMom*

      On the “wait until showing advice” I’d just like to offer the warning that this varies wildly. Everyone told me that first time moms often don’t show until 20ish weeks. That was very not true for me, probably due to the fact that I’m petite but also have always had weak abs. I had to dress to hide it starting at like 10 weeks. By 16, even in loose clothes, it was pretty obvious. I couldn’t pull off the “pregnant or fat” look due to severe morning sickness and weight loss. Becoming skeletal everywhere but the belly is a give away.

    9. Working While Pregnant*

      Told my manager around 14 weeks and my immediate team around 16 weeks. I did this partly because I felt like I was “supposed to” but also because our team is super small and we were having some serious long-term planning conversations and I felt like ought to let them know I wouldn’t be around for the time period we were discussing.

      I told the rest of the company around 19 weeks because I was starting to feel self-conscious about my body (even though in retrospect I wasn’t showing at all). I do wish I had held off on this a bit longer as all work conversations now revolve around the pregnancy/baby. This will depend on your colleagues, but be prepared!

    10. A day in the zoo*

      Insurance broker here. High deductible plans consider two people a family, so if you add your child to your coverage, you will have to meet the family deductible before the plan begins to pay. So, it often makes sense to cover as many family members as possible to meet the deductible. Each individual is capped at an annual max of $6,750 (for 2018 — it is indexed each each) so depending on your deductible and out of pocket maximums, an individual family member may receive some coverage before the combined family out of pocket is met.

      I have three kids and have had a HD plan for 15 plus years. We don’t have any super serious health issues, but we had two with serious allergies — testing, drug therapy and one with serious asthma so lots of scripts and physician visits. We max out our contributions annually for the health savings account and it has worked really well for us, but each family is different. I still make an annual spreadsheet of paycheck contributions, expected medical needs, and employer provided HSA contributions to figure it out.

      1. Anon Today*

        Yea, I’m thinking we will add the child to my plan. At the beginning of January 2019 I’ll have enough saved in my HSA to cover the family deductible + out of pocket maximum, I think it will be a good move. Baby isn’t due till spring 2019.

        1. AdhdAnon*

          Since you’re giving birth next calendar year, factor in the cost of two years of paying the deductible on yourself. It’s likely that some of your more expensive visits/multiple blood tests will fall in 2018, (10 wk NT, 20 week anatomy, any genetic testing and counseling), but your actual giving birth bills will fall in 2019. In the US women generally receive two sets of charges – one for the woman giving birth and one for the baby. (You may know that – totally didn’t occur to me till my first.). The costs apparently vary wildly throughout the country.

          1. Anon Today*

            Nope didn’t know that! I did know that I’d have to pay the deductible for two years though and I’ll have that money available as well. I’m going to call my healthcare provider and try to get a ballpark estimate of how much each test/procedure will cost, so I can start budgeting for it.

            This community is so knowledgeable.

            All of the considerations are really overwhelming and I’m already scared about becoming a mom!

            1. AdhdAnon*

              Totally is! In my experience (really, seriously just what I’ve found. I could be totally wrong.) If you’re planning on returning to work and having your child in daycare, you’re going to do more ped visits in the first year than someone who stays home or has a nanny, relative, other child care situation. My advice there – make sure your pediatrician (or the practice) has late afternoon/ evening and Saturday hours. Urgent care can be time consuming, expensive and they’re not always set up to do pediatrics. (My son has asthma – we went in a lot until he was old enough for daily steroidal medication.)

          2. A day in the zoo*

            It is not the norm to have the baby get its own bills on a healthy delivery. The only time it happens is fi the baby required NICU care or you are a dependent on a parent’s plan (so your care is covered, but a grandchild’s care would not be.

            Hospitals will try to collect from you, but you should protest that bill with your carrier — get your HR/benefits department involved.

    11. attornaut*

      With my first, I waited until basically 20 weeks/when I was showing. With my second (different employer, different management), it was 10 weeks. With my first, I didn’t feel supported, no one in the office had a child and the manager had never dealt with someone going on maternity leave before. It was generally a disaster, and I knew it would be (hence the waiting).

      The biggest reason in why I disclosed so much earlier the second time was because I knew I had a manager who would not hold it against me in any way, who had experienced several pregnancies herself and had done both the working up until labor thing and the partial bed rest thing and would respect me to let her know whether I needed to take a step back earlier or at all. I also do more long term team-oriented work (and have a bigger leadership roll) now so it was more important for planning purposes for management to know.

    12. anonymoushiker*

      I haven’t had a kid, but one of the employees who works for me just disclosed that she was expecting and I believe she was almost exactly 3 months in. She absolutely doesn’t want to tell anyone else until it’s impossible to hide anymore and we’ve talked about planning for coverage about a month before her due date. This was totally fine for me, but I also would have been fine/happy/not upset or angry if she didn’t tell me until around the time that she is obviously (for her) pregnant.

    13. Faith*

      I am currently 12.5 weeks pregnant, and I have been telling people on an “as needed” basis. I’ve told my boss almost right away because I knew she would be supportive, and I’ve been dealing with some medical issues that required me to make frequent medical appointments. I told a couple of friends at the office since there was a very real risk of me fainting at the office, and I wanted someone to sits next to me to know what’s going on. I told my team a little later so that they wouldn’t freak out about me being gone for a few hours a day and worry that I was interviewing. But all of those people would also be on my “need to know” list in case something went wrong with the pregnancy since my absence from the office would have affected them directly.

    14. Ender*

      I waited till I had to tell too – don’t see why it’s anyones business before that unless there are safety concerns.

    15. DBA*

      I waited until 20 weeks due to out of office schedules. I couldn’t believe that nobody guessed by that point!

    16. NewMom*

      On insurance one thing to consider: the baby’s hospital stay will be covered on *your* insurance. That’s an ACA regulation. It may be up to 30 days, but we didn’t have anything other than baby well visits for those 30 days, which have to be covered at 100% anyways so we never got an EOB/a bill for it.

      Also, YMMV based on costs, but for us it made sense to put the baby on my husband’s insurance. And then the incremental cost between baby+husband and baby+me+husband was lower than what I expected to pay for my share of the birth (20% in network coinsurance sucks). This was for a February baby, so there was only 1 month of husband + spouse. Basically, having TWO plans worked out so that my out of pocket costs for the birth were very low, and we met the family deductible on my husbands’ plan immediately. It was weird, but being doubly insured for the year of the birth worked out to save us money overall. It took some doing to figure this out, including forcing the hospital to give me price ranges on stuff (which they really don’t want to do).

      Also, I had a completely unmedicated hospital birth. Was still 25K. So my share would have been $5k if I had just stayed on my own insurance. Healthcare in the US is nuts. For so many reasons, not the least of which I had to go to a more expensive hospital to get the option of a truly natural birth (eg not being tied to a bed).

    17. Drama Llama*

      I told my boss because I had hyperemesis gravidarum during my pregnancy and had to take a lot of time off (eventually ended up going part time). I didn’t want them to think I was dying.

      Do what you think makes sense for your situation.

  13. That Would be a Good Band Name*

    Just a job search vent today: why do employers claim to have “very generous PTO” and then only offer 10 days? I don’t really expect an answer, but 10 days of PTO (that’s vacation/sick total) is not generous!

    If anyone would like to think positive thoughts/good juju/whatever that I’ll get the other job that I interviewed for earlier this week that has 20 vacation, 12 sick, and 3 personal days, I’d appreciate it. I’m supposed to hear back today either way it goes.

    1. DaniCalifornia*

      I hope you hear back good news!!! That job sounds like their PTO is awesome!

      And yes 2 weeks for total sick/vacay is not generous. We get 3 weeks total but sometimes it’s not enough because we can’t take any vacation during tax season/certain deadlines. So 5-6 months out of the year we aren’t allowed time off and we are working serious overtime.

    2. Cringing 24/7*

      Also, mood. 10 whole days?! Bare. Minimum. It is literally the least they could do to even remotely be considered competitive. It’s like if someone said they have “years” of experience at something, but the number of years is 2. Like, yeah, but also mostly no.

    3. Someone Else*

      This is what is commonly referred to as “sales puffery”; ie it’s language that is in no way true, the person making the statement has made no effort to confirm that it is or isn’t true and doesn’t care if it is, because they’re allowed to say it, and only saying it, because it’s subjective anyway and makes them sound good.

      In other words, no one’s going to advertise that they have a stringy policy. So they toss in the “generous” because for some reason they feel like they need an adjective next to the word, instead of just saying they offer PTO by itself with no modifier. See also: companies who claim “competitive salaries” when they don’t pay market rate. It’s competitive to someone and the PTO is generous compared to someone but the someones in both cases are “companies that do worse”.

      1. Llama Wrangler*

        Interestingly, I discovered recently that our head of HR thinks that we have WONDERFUL benefits, even though we only give 10 days of vacation and have very meager other benefits (e.g. 401K, FSA, etc). I’m new enough that it didn’t make sense to push back yet, but she’s been at the agency for long enough that I wonder whether she just doesn’t know what we’re being compared to.

      2. Kat in VA*

        I’ve noticed almost always that companies who state they offer “competitive salary” are usually offering anything but competitive compensation. As in, 10-20% below market not competitive.

    4. Kat in VA*

      Ten whole days? That’s, like, standard.

      I’m crossing fingers for a company that offers 20 days along with 10 paid holidays and 2 floaters.

      THAT is a decent vacation package!

    5. Hamburke*

      Do they have paid holidays too? I’m only asking bc it if not, 20 pto days = 10 vacation days + 10 holidays and could be a sneaky way to sound generous but not be generous (although the 12 sick + 3 personal does average out to be a week more than most people).

  14. Lady Dedlock*

    Out of curiosity, what sort of cost-of-living increase did everyone get this year, if any? The college where I work just announced we’re getting 2%, which was a bit of a letdown, since we’ve gotten 3% for the past few years.

    1. Bunny Slippers*

      Also in higher ed. 1.5% was the increase this year, as it has been the past few years. No one was happy about it.

    2. Emily S.*

      I’ve had no raise in over four years, but I’m at a very small company that’s not doing great. Also, I started with a pretty good salary.

    3. ThatGirl*

      I got a 2.5% merit increase, they don’t usually frame it as COLA. My husband works at a university and not only did he not get a raise they never got their “temporary” pay cut back.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        I *hate* the 2-3 percent annual raise that’s called “merit”! My current company does that, but they give it to everybody and it’s annual, so it’s really just a COLA that they want me to be extra appreciative of. It’s not actually recognition of my excellent performance at all – which is worth a lot more than 2%, but now the discussion is closed :(

        1. ThatGirl*

          To be fair – my company did not have the best financial year last year and my manager, when she told me about the raise, said not everyone had even gotten one. So it was not much of raise, but it truly was in appreciation of my performance.

      2. Arjay*

        I got 2%, framed as merit, but it’s really COLA too. My boss said, “Hey, at least it’s some extra money, right?”

    4. dorothy zbornak*

      I got 3%, which my boss told me was the highest he could get me for being a solid contributor. I’ve been at this job for just over a year so not sure if this is considered merit based or COL but either way – 3%. I’ve gotten as little as 1% before.

    5. Alternative Person*

      None, I got a line about business costs from my manager. The only increases I’ve seen in the past couple of years is a minimum wage increase, but given that it only affects admin time (not client facing time), it’s basically negligible in the grand scheme of things.

      I’m not hopeful about a COL or merit raise because my company values loyalty over ability in most areas.

    6. Tris Prior*

      2.3%, and that was with an “exceeds expectation” rating. Those who got “meets” apparently got less than 2% and were Not Happy.

    7. Prof*

      At my universe, the faculty in my department received 1%. This is the first COL raise in four years here.

    8. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Lol. We get “market adjustments” (based on what other local organizations are paying for similar roles) rather than cost of living adjustments. The average in my org this year was around 1%. I got .74% (please note the decimal point).

    9. SJ*

      Huge multi-national company…only managed 1.5% this year. Apparently, I’m near the top of my salary range.

    10. Blue*

      The last university I worked at didn’t do COLAs, but if you were really lucky, you might get a merit raise of 1-3%. (*eyeroll*) One of the reasons I started looking is that I spent a year busting my rear, doing a good job on work far above my pay grade. My boss had to work hard to get me the biggest possible raise, and it barely covered my annual rent increase. I was like, “THIS is what I get for completely burning myself out with no end in sight? No, thanks.” (When they were hiring for a replacement, they had to give the position a dean-level title.)

    11. KMB213*


      The only pay bump I’ve ever received at my job came when I got a promotion. Other than that, no raises or COLAs. I work for a very small company and, until recently, we were struggling financially, but it’s still frustrating.

    12. Cringing 24/7*

      My wife received 2.5% (she had been expecting 2% max, so we were very excited about it) and I received 4.6% (however, mine was due to a promotion, so I don’t know what it would have been otherwise).

    13. BlueWolf*

      I’m at a mid-size law firm. I got a “market adjustment” and a merit increase totaling about 6.6%. That’s not bad at all, it just feels small compared to my increase last year because I got a promotion last year which came with a much bigger boost.

    14. EB*

      My department within the university I work in did away with COL increases and is merit-only. That having been said, the range was 1-5% and I can’t complain because I got 4%! Anecdotally it’s pretty unusual to actually get 0%– most seem to at least get 1%

    15. BusyBusyKitty*

      I wonder what the average CEO wage increase was? Especially for large companies that “can’t afford” to give more than a 2% “merit” raise.

    16. not my circus, not my monkeys. mostly.*

      We don’t get COL. They don’t call it anything, except “don’t expect raises this year.” This year I got 1.75%, and am expected to be very grateful for it.

    17. Shannon*

      Didn’t get any. Apparently this company doesn’t get any. I’m fighting hard for a merit based raise but that doesn’t look promising. I will not be here long.

    18. Bostonian*

      My company provides really crappy yearly raises (1-3%), but really good bonuses (10%). I know that salary increases are more important in the long run, but it helps soften the blow.

    19. Why Do Managers Do These Things??*

      Zero. Nothing. And nothing for years now except more work. I’m not looking because I don’t plan on staying in this state for much longer, and the health insurance is awesome (no deductibles, tiny copays, and no coinsurance).

    20. bookwyrm*

      We get a 3% COLA every year. However, I was also told I should get a raise and promotion at my annual review back in December, and that has yet to manifest….

    21. Meow Yorker*

      Interesting to see so many people getting a COL raise. Our small company doesn’t do raises unless there’s a promotion involved, so it’s 0% for me. I’d LOVE to get even 1% every year! That’d add up, compound interest and all.

    22. anon for this*

      ours are framed as merit raises and coincide with performance reviews – the typical range is ~1-3% but i was able to get 4% (this time).

    23. Piano Girl*

      My last raise was 1%, as the company was supposedly struggling. Of course, this was right after the office spent a chunk of money redoing some of the offices, the foyer, and putting down $50K in carpet. I was laid off not long after that. Still a little irritated about that one.

    24. Someone Else*

      Zero. We’re in a freeze at the moment. If things turn around in later Qs we might get retroactive raises? But I’m actually not sure if my company even does COL raises specifically. I’ve had a merit raise every other year, and those were much larger than any COL I had anywhere else.

  15. The Second to Last Airbender*

    I’m looking for tips on how to become apathetic towards your job? I’m unhappy but not miserable at my job primarily due to being under appreciated but also some frustrations with inefficiencies. I’ve compared the whole thing to going through the stages of grief and I’m now trying to reach acceptance. I’m going to be stuck here for awhile though and all in all the job isn’t terrible.

    I feel like it sounds bad but I just want to care less, like just watch the fire burn instead of trying to keep putting it out. Has anybody been through this and if so how did you go about it?

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Yep. I got real passionate about my hobbies outside of work. I cultivated an “I work for money in order to do what I love outside of work” attitude. Every hour you are on the job, you are making money. However, there’s a downside to this attitude, I’m probably not as good an employee as I used to be and I think I’ve picked up some bad habits (like commenting on this blog instead of working, even when I have things I could be doing). It’s probably better to focus on trying to get a job you don’t feel that way about.

        1. Triplestep*

          Another ditto. I go above and beyond for my interal clients and any project teams I lead, but do the bare minimum for my boss who has proven she isn’t interested in setting me up for success. I discovered my mood changed for the better once I found some coping skills and started applying for other jobs. I think my elevated mood has likely made her think I am happy here.

          I have prioritized diet and exercise, and – because as of May I only have one child I am helping with Higher Ed costs – I have started to spend more time and money on my appearance. (I believe this will help with the job search, but it also makes me feel good. I realize that expensive skincare is not in everyone’s budget, but if you can swing it, I recommend the pampering.)

          If you have a flexible schedule, get to work early and leave early. I get to work an hour before my boss and use that hour for myself: I bring my own laptop and apply for jobs, pay bills, etc. I still work at least 8 hours (from 7:45ish to 4:30ish) so no guilt there, but this allows me to beat traffic, get good parking, score points for being here early, and have some “me time” I don’t get enough of at home. To facilitate this, I make sure I am 100% ready for work the next day before I go to bed at night. This minimizes morning blues around having to go to work.

          This all took time to cultivate; I typically have a strong customer service mindset, but once I gave myself permission to put myself first, it got easier. Good luck!

    2. Wandering Thoughts...*

      Are you Past Me from three years ago?

      My last job was like this: I was completely miserable and tried very hard to become apathetic and remove myself from the issues of the office. Honestly, I was unsuccessful with achieving that until I actually had a new job to go to and had turned in my notice. I’m a very empathetic person so it was impossible for me to seperate my feels from my job.

      The best thing I was able to do was lock away all the thoughts once I was out of the office. Evenings and weekends were my time, and I didn’t let job stuff touch me then, other than job searching. Even then I had several days where I pulled over to the side of the highway and cried because I was so miserable and frustrated.

      Sorry I can’t be of more help but you can make it through! Good luck!

    3. Icontroltherobots*

      it gets easier once you reach the acceptance stage. +1 to finding hobbies. Also, avoid volunteering for things and being the “go-to” helper of your co-workers. You can also slowly decrease the expectations they have of you by slow working.

      good luck!

    4. AnonGD*

      This might sound stupid on its face– but don’t underestimate an evening ritual or mantra in your car or at home to mentally transition out of work.

      That having been said, I’ve been in my current role for 5 years and tried for a long time to do what you’re saying. Things got worse in the company instead of better, and it’s just impossible to separate work stress from my personal life anymore. I’d definitely check-in with yourself regularly and make sure you don’t drift into the place I did where I realized how much it was actually getting to me too late.

      The mere act of submitting applications for job instantly boosted my spirits. I have an in-person interview next week and I can’t even express how much sudden zest for life I have now that I am starting to see the end of the tunnel! (And I am NOT typically a ‘zest for life’ person, ha!)

    5. epi*

      I’ve been in a similar position. The job was worse but something I needed to keep doing for a while, and I needed to let go of being so invested in it, for my sanity.

      It sounds weird but I actually got more invested in my personal professional development. One of the things that bugged me about the situation was the feeling that I was in this field *through* that job and I could only be as good a researcher as that role let me be. I decided that for a while I would explore my field solely through the lens of what interested or served me. If you need help caring less about your job, I am guessing there is something about your industry or role that you are quite passionate about or find interesting, so this may work for you.

      I started a blog where I just wrote about issues that interested me in my field, even (or especially) if they had little to do with my job. I pursued my own line of journal research on issues I might want to work on in the future. If there was a skill I wanted, I figured out how to get it on my own– in one case foregoing a tuition reimbursement benefit so I couldn’t be obligated to stay any longer than I wanted to. You might also explore what (no obligation) training opportunities are available to you at work and how far afield you can go from stuff suited to your current role. It is way easier to let go of your job a little if you have something competing for your time and attention, and way easier to defend it to yourself and others if it’s kind of related to work. Since this stuff will all be indirectly making you better at your job, you can also take comfort that it is probably making up for some of your new apathy. :)

    6. attornaut*

      Is there anything you can focus on that is positive? Maybe a training opportunity, or some personal/work development you could do in your spare time there? Or maybe you have a goal at home that you are excited about.

    7. theletter*

      I had a job awhile back that had some terrible inefficiencies. There was a monthly task for my team that was boring, tedious, and we weren’t providing value by doing it. I brought it up to my manager, and he agreed with me! and told me to figure out how many hours we were spending on this task! and then the task went away! and then I got a raise!

      So I essentially told my boss I didn’t want to do that work anymore, he took it away, and then rewarded me for asking him to get rid of it.

      I bring this up because you mentioned inefficiencies – if there’s solutions for it, you should bring them up and see if they can be resolved. It might improve your job.

    8. Phoenix Programmer*

      This happened instantly for me when my mom died … so that’s not how I would recommend going about it.

      One thing that helped me deal with my new priority structure – cause isn’t caring less bad??? – was to reframe it as caring appropriately. Alison has a post on the danger of being overly invested in work. Link to follow.

    9. Persimmons*

      Part of it was getting older and having fewer f*cks to give in general. That’s less a learned behavior and more a matter of waiting it out.

      Part of it was paying attention the life cycle of problems when they did occur. What was the “emergency” and how did it play out? Did my immediate attention really matter in the end? Was my reaction in keeping with the level of care and attention the other parties paid to the issue? Who truly caused the issue, and what steps did they take to prevent a repeat in the future? Doing a post-mortem taught me that most problems were caused by other peoples’ lack of planning that they tried to dump on me, my diligence often accomplished nothing because other dropped balls pushed the timeline out, and all I was doing was stressing out and spinning my wheels. Boom! Fewer f*cks given.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Love this. I used to sum it up by saying, “I cannot control all matters.” But yes, understanding why things are happening is helpful. and understanding what will happen next because of events is also helpful. Keep your square foot of Planet Work all in order. I understand, you are seeing amazing stuff, you wonder how people have remained employed, etc. Keep telling yourself “But my one square foot is good here.”

      2. not Lynn Davis*

        The mantra that helped get me through was “In three days this won’t matter.”
        Whether the latest round of not-appreciated, or whatever.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      So you are stuck here for a bit longer. This is kind of a crazy idea but one thing I have done is get my personal life in order so I can move on to the next job when it is time. It gives me something proactive to do and fills my brain space.
      This can be anything, take those courses you wanted to take. Get your home set up so that everything is easier to do. Work on your budget. See, the advantage of really knowing our jobs is that we CAN shut our brains off when we leave. Longevity gives us opportunities to learn all the different sides of a task or project, and sometimes we can do it in our sleep. Take advantage of that. When you get home turn your brain back on and maximize this time in your life. What do you need to do to get set for the next five years or so? If you are thinking, “Well, I am stuck here for FOUR of those years!” I’d say, “Good, you can get a lot of stuff done on the personal side of your life. Four years is plenty of time to really think it through and be super strategic.”

  16. Stephanie*

    So my job requires a decent amount of travel via driving. My boss and I did an 8-hour R/T earlier this week. The ride was fine, a tad awkward at times because I think we were trying to figure out what to talk about. We did ok (I heard way too much about his hunting hobby, but I played along and just asked questions), but there were a decent amount of awkward silences.

    So this sounds kind of silly, but what radio do people default to when on work road trips like this?

    1. hermit crab*

      I’m not normally a podcast person, but last year I went on a similar trip with my then-direct report and we listened to some podcasts she recommended that were tangentially related to our field. It worked out really well! There’s no pressure to awkwardly chitchat while you are listening, and afterwards you can talk about what you heard.

    2. Emily S.*

      SiriusXM satellite radio is awesome for road trips, since you don’t have to worry about losing a signal. They have tons of channels for different genres of music.

      I also recommend podcasts. NPR has some great ones.

    3. Audiophile*


      Haven’t been on too many work trips, and when I have usually it’s with like minded people so NPR or another news station was fine. I’d say a classic rock station, maybe, would probably be the safest. I usually just hit “scan” and see what comes up.

      How’s grad school?

      1. Stephanie*

        I graduated! Finished and started work in June at an automaker in the Midwest (you can probably guess where I work in oh, I don’t know, three tries). I was posting sporadically while in school tbh.

        Classic rock might be the safest. Or if I can find a good auto industry podcast, that would also work.

        1. Audiophile*

          Awesome! Congrats! I looked for your sporadic post in the open threads, but must have missed when you graduated.

          Are you based in MI? I feel like that’s a pretty safe assumption.

          I think an auto podcast or classic rock are you best bets.

    4. Aphrodite*

      I never listen to the radio but am the biggest fan of audiobooks! Though my reading is almost exclusively nonfiction, I have found I listen to fiction about 25 percent of the time while in the car. I am fortunate in that my favorite thrift store is somewhat high end and gets a good amount of audiobooks (on CD) that they sell for between $2-$4. I have started two that I didn’t like and returned to them but all the rest have been delightful.

    5. Notthemomma*

      Hubby drove OTR for 20+ years. His son made a great observation a while back. No matter where in the country you are, 92.5 seems to have something good.

      Or, any of the ‘how stuff works’ series.

    6. ronda*

      why not be upfront about it.
      “I find it awkward to make conversation for so long in the car….. what are your preferences?”
      music, podcasts, audiobooks. On audiobooks… you might have problems matching up the timeframe and have more awkwardness about coordinating to finish the book (if it is that kind of book).

      Also if you don’t want to listen to the same things — personal headphones or silently reading or napping ?

      Just have a conversation about it and it will probably work out fine.

  17. No cuddling or soda-spitting*

    A bit of a spin-off from one of this week’s earlier posts. What are some team building exercises/events/etc. that people have found they actually really like, enjoy and are effective?

    1. Peaceful easy feeling*

      I can’t suggest an escape room enough. My husband did this with his team, twice, and they loved it. I did this with a non-profit team and we had a lot of fun. We did one with our 11yr old niece and sister-in-law (her mom) and we had a great time. It’s great for everyone.

      They challenge traditional problem solving, allow everyone to showcase their skills and talents (some are great at word games, other math, others visual clues) and plus you get to see how you can tackle problems as a group. I would say 4-5 max due to the size of some rooms and everyone being able to participate.

      1. Stephanie*

        Yeah, we did one with my new hire cohort and it was well received. It’s short (you can be done within the hour), doesn’t require anything overly physical, and people can showcase different skills.

      2. Matilda Jefferies*

        My only caveat would be to check with the escape room provider beforehand, and find out if the game has any physical requirements. I did one that required everyone to climb through a window as the last step to get out – thankfully we didn’t actually make it that far, because I wouldn’t have been able to do it.

        It wouldn’t have been any more than embarrassing for me, and I was with friends in any case. But I would have hated to be the person in a work situation who was surprised by something like this, after it was too late to avoid.

        (I don’t want to start a #NotAllEscapeRooms moment here! Just a reminder that there’s literally no activity that everyone will love, and for whatever you have in mind, make sure you plan ahead for things like this that may not be immediately obvious.)

        1. Peaceful easy feeling*

          Great point! Yes, physical limitations should be considered, as well as anyone who doesn’t like to move about in small spaces because some rooms can be small and worsened with too many people. It could feel claustrophobic. Often the escape rooms will have a warning on the room theme (strobe lights, noise, etc).

      3. LJay*

        I would have to say that this may depend on the team working well together to begin with.

        I’ve actively avoided doing these because I know they would exacerbate my worst tendencies, namely that I’m a control freak and that I think I’m always right. I know I wouldn’t do well dealing with people floundering over obvious (to me at least) dead ends and bad choices, and would either A. Think less of them for not listening to me and not figuring it out on their own or B. Snap at them and take control whether they wanted to cede control or not.

        I can usually keep myself together in work situations, but I know I have these tendencies to begin with and putting myself in a situation where these buttons are being pushed just for the sake of “fun” is something I don’t want to risk with my friends and relatives, never mind coworkers.

      4. Young coworker*

        I would choose carefully for theme – my team did an 80s theme and being born in the 90s and uninterested in that era, I was completely useless and just waiting for it to end

    2. Corky's Wife Bonnie*

      We actually had a really good time years ago making a mini-golf course through our office. We chose from a hat for our teams, and people really got creative. There was a Willy Wonka/Candy themed hole, one person hand made a guitar station (unreal!!) and made it a music theme, another did a skiing theme down our stairs, etc. Then we all went and played the courses. It was very fun. I stink at mini-golf but I had a great time trying out the team’s creative stations.

    3. Jady*

      Lunches and bowling are the only ones I’ve ever actually enjoyed. Lunches are just nice because they break up the workday.

    4. grace*

      We volunteered with a local non-profit for an afternoon. It was a lot of fun – we got lunch before going there, volunteered, and then hung out with drinks at a local brewery. The volunteering itself was fun, but so was spending time with the office – there’s only 5 of us, and we get along well, so it’s always a good time.

    5. Doug Judy*

      The ones I have enjoyed have had these in common:
      1. It was during work hours
      2. It didn’t cost me anything
      3. It wasn’t mandatory or being voluntold

      Usually my favorite ones tend to be a volunteer activity followed by some kind of lunch or even just ice cream or something.

    6. Me (I think)*

      The best I ever did was a Habitat for Humanity build. We could choose one of three days that week to volunteer. We had maybe 20 people come out the day I went, many of whom I didn’t know that well (office of about 150, but lots of them travel.) It was fun, challenging, and I had great conversations and learned a lot about my colleagues.

    7. KatieHR*

      I was actually waiting for the open threat today so I could post the same question. My team has also done an Escape Room and it has been so much fun! We are thinking about doing another team building as we got 2 new people on the team and were going to do another Escape Room but are thinking of other options.

    8. Sandy*

      We had a neat one a couple years ago: a cooking class! Paid time, allergies were accommodated beforehand, and anyone who didn’t wish to participate in the cooking did a chocolate tasting on the side. Everyone ate what they cooked, and rest of the day off. It was as fabulous as a work event could be.

      1. Very tired*

        Yes, I second a cooking class. We were all learning together. However, i anti-recommend cooking competitions as team bldg. It’s the opposite of what team building is supposed to accomplish.

    9. Nita*

      Trivia night at a place with nice food, company picnic, scavenger hunt around the neighborhood… Also the yearly safety training. It’s not really a team-building exercise, but the training is eight hours and fairly loosely structured, so it’s the one time the entire department is in one place with some spare time to chat and catch up.

    10. PDXJael*

      We did a trivia game about the physical workplace that was well received (from where’s the fire extinguisher in the lunchroom to whose office has the framed Cubs jersey, etc.). It was fun because people know different areas and learn new things (there was a creepy old cafeteria in the basement, etc.).

    11. Ali G*

      We had a staff retreat at a local resort and they arrange scavenger hunts for team building exercises. I was skeptical but ended up really enjoying it. You were handed a set of clues, and you could choose where to go first. At each station you either performed a task or answered questions of some sort. You earned points for each station depending on how well your team did and at the end the team with the most points won.
      Things we did:
      Historical trivia (it was a historical site where the resort was)
      Working together to move a ball across a room without touching the floor with just a handful of different length tubes that were cut lengthwise in half, archery, getting a talk on raptors (and meeting some!) and then answering a few questions about them, 5 min of yoga stretching (optional), working together to paint a still life, and more. Nothing was overly strenuous, and it was all very interesting!

      1. Arjay*

        I swear, my first thought was velocipraptors. I’n guessing you didn’t really get to meet them. :)

    12. Adaline B.*

      Ooh perfect, I’m interested in this too. Our team just grew by a lot and my boss asked me what team building fun stuff we should do and I was like “uhhhhhhhh” haha

    13. Beancounter in Texas*

      We’ve done entertainment places, bowling alleys, etc, but my favorite was an indoor gym type of place that had three ropes courses. We were grouped by a random number draw, so you didn’t cluster with your own department automatically, and when doing the ropes course, you had to have a buddy. So I ended up buddying with someone I didn’t know very well, but we bonded over the ropes course.

    14. AK*

      We just had a mini “field day” where each department wore a different color. We went to a park for a provided lunch, then had a few games (think egg and spoon, three-legged races), none of which were mandatory. After that, everyone got ice cream (also provided) and sat around chatting for a while before heading home early for the day. The department that won got lunch provided the next day, so there was a little bit of healthy competition but nothing huge at stake. It was a pretty big hit for the leadership that organized it!

    15. LJay*

      One of my former workplaces had what they called the funolympics. Each department had a team and competed against other teams. Signups were completely voluntary. And you could choose to compete in up to 3 events per person.

      There were a bunch of different things you could do – from things like musical chairs, to building the biggest tower out of popsicle sticks, to drinking weird concoctions, to a photo scavenger hunt, to a relay race, to a company trivia game, to a tug-of-war.

      Events were set at different times of day so you could participate before work, during your lunch break, or after work. It was all on work property. And at the end of the week they had a little banquet where you could eat and they gave out the “award” for the top 3 departments, and then a bunch of other participation type awards like best team spirit, etc until all the departments got something.

    16. Shelly574*

      One of my coworkers takes on the task (bless him) of organizing lunch outings when the campus cafeteria is closed. The places are regular (we have five to seven spots) and he sends out an email letting us know the daily choice. It’s totally voluntary, self-funded and a great way to get to know people across departments. It’s not “officially” team building, but it has been very useful for doing that.

  18. RockyRoad*

    Three of the jobs I’ve done phone screenings for in the past few months turned out to be for temporary jobs. I wouldn’t have applied if I’d known. I applied directly to the companies (no recruiters were involved) and the job listings didn’t mention anything about being temporary. I don’t see anything in common between the jobs except that they were entry-level, but all entry-level jobs aren’t temp jobs.

    Is there something I’m missing that should indicate which jobs are temporary?

    1. Chaordic One*

      I don’t think so. I think you’ve just had a string of bad luck. You don’t say how many jobs you’ve applied for, but even if it has been 3 out of 3, misleading job descriptions in advertisements are very common.

      I do think that some employers will say that a position is temporary because, if things don’t work out with the new employee, they have an easy way to get rid of her or him. (It’s kind of a shitty thing to do.)

      1. RockyRoad*

        I was trying to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I guess a purposefully misleading job ad makes the most sense.

        It seems so stupid to do a bait and switch. How many people who applied thinking it’s a full time/permanent job are still going to be interested when they find out it’s a temp job that “has the possibility of going full time” someday?

    2. Hamburke*

      I once got an “tech writing” job offer at a store – job duties to actually include stocking and floor straightening… The job description included “strong verbal and written skills. Familiarity with MS Office products.” And more along the lines of adminstrative. But for real, it was a backroom retail associate. I’ve been wary of job descriptions ever since.

  19. Changing Careers*

    Any stories of successfully working with an external recruiter and how to tell what ones are good? I am trying to make a career transition, and it’s not going great. I have transferable skills and my resume lists relevant accomplishments, but people read my job title and immediately reject me. I thinking a good external recruiter might be the way to go but I am not sure.

    Also, on the resume front, I am trying to go from finance to HR. My undergrad is in Business Admin, and a MS in Organizational Leadership. I have hiring, training and development and benefits experience from prior positions, even if the day to day was accounting/finance based. I try to highlight my accomplishments on my resume that aren’t finance focused, but I feel those aren’t even being read, because they look at my title and that’s it. Is there a way to format my resume to get people to focus on my accomplishments rather than get stuck on my title?

    1. Four lights*

      I used a recruiter for my last job search (paralegal) and she was great. I reached out to a few recruiters, and had a meeting in person. That might give you an indication of if they’re good or not.

    2. Icontroltherobots*

      Using an external recruiter will help. Basically treat them as an annoying go-between. The better ones will be upfront about the company, salary range, job description, ect. The crap ones will demand your range and tell you it’s too high or you’re not qualified for what you want ect..

      They should be advocating to the companies that you’re a strong candidate. So basically contact as many recruiters as you can, and only agree to apply for jobs where you get a job description that fits your new career goals.

      1. Changing Careers*

        Thanks. I have one set up for next week to go over my career goals and talk about what I want out of my next job. They think I do have some transferable skills and I made it very clear that I’m not interested in any accounting or finance based roles.

        You’re totally right, they are any annoying go between, but I feel in my situation, it might be necessary.

      2. DivineMissL*

        How does one find recruiters? I’d like to see what they can do for me in my job search, but I don’t know where to look for them. Do I just Google “recruiters”?

        1. The New Wanderer*

          I just got in touch with one in my LinkedIn network – I’m having the same problem breaking into a lateral field with many transferable skills and a resume that gets no second looks so I’ll see if this makes any difference. We connected a while ago but are now in active communication, and I’ve also been in touch with other external recruiters via LinkedIn so that’s a good resource.

          One thing is to look at what contracting firms are in your area for your field, or who sends contractors to the companies you want to work for, and then check LinkedIn for recruiters for those companies. For as often as they cold-email people, I’m sure they’d be receptive to you sending the first message asking if they know of any openings for X title.

  20. Sara*

    If you have a phone interview with a company and you find out you’re wayyy off on salary, should you still send them a thank you email? I mean technically they did take time out of their day to talk to you, but on the other hand, you’re out of the running for the job so the normal etiquette doesn’t apply.

    1. Peaceful easy feeling*

      Yes. I’d send a thank you for their time. You’re sure you’re out of the running? You never know where that one thanks will lead to; they may have something in their pocket they’re not ready to execute on and you could be the ideal candidate. If you like the company, let them know you’d like to keep in touch for future opportunities.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Sure, it only takes a minute and if they have something open up that is more in line with your salary requirements, it will leave them with a positive impression.

    3. BRR*

      I send a thank you but it’s more of a generic thank you note than an AAM thank you note. I figure it doesn’t hurt.

    4. Jadelyn*

      I would say yes – it never hurts to leave them thinking well of your professionalism. Doesn’t have to be long or involved, just “I wanted to thank you for taking the time to talk to me earlier. Even though we discovered we weren’t well-aligned on salary requirements, it was a pleasure to talk with you and get to know more about the company, and I look forward to talking with you again if something else should open up in the future.”

      Skip that last bit if you know all their salaries are too low for you or something, but I’d still send the rest. You never know who that person knows – if I’d screened someone good who we unfortunately couldn’t match salary for, and a contact at another company had an opening they’d be great for and were probably better set to meet the candidate’s salary requirements, I might pass that person’s resume along to them. Or perhaps if it’s a small industry you’ll encounter this person as a hiring manager at another company someday.

      Always default to leaving things on a good note – worst comes to worst, it’s two seconds and a few clicks out of your day, but at best it could set you up for good things in the future.

    5. MissGirl*

      Normal etiquette always applies. I sent one after they’d rejected me before I had a chance to send the note. I didn’t do the usual follow up stuff just a thank you and asked if there was anything I could work on.

      You can send yours with the announcement you’re pulling out.

    6. DivineMissL*

      I would say yes; even though this job may not pan out (and it still might), leaving them with a good impression of you may make them remember you if another opportunity comes up. And it only takes a couple of minutes of your time. Why not?

  21. Toxic waste*

    How do you deal with mercurial people in a toxic, dysfunctional workplace? I feel like I’m going crazy because one second they act like your friend, the next second they hate you. Sheesh…

    1. dorothy zbornak*

      I’d recommend dealing with it by looking for another job if you can. I made a comment to someone else in this thread about my ToxicJob and specific issues w/a specific coworker but overall I had the same problem – one minute I was the worst person to ever be in my industry and sucked at life, the next I was a rockstar. My anxiety was so bad I had to go on anti depressants and sleeping pills. So yeah – get another job.

      1. Windchime*

        This is exactly what happened to me, too. I went from being the Best Rock Star Evah to Can’t Do Anything Right when my toxic boss got her position. She eventually got fired, but I left long before that because there is no way to win when management approves of and supports the toxic behavior.

        Best of luck.

    2. Alternative Person*

      -Remember it’s them not you.
      -Be consistent in your demeanor/actions/positions (as much as you safely can) and keep out of their toxic circle
      -CYA in e-mail or similar

      I work with a couple of nice-as-pie gravy train riders who don’t care for anyone trying to change up their ‘sweet’ deal-and will throw anyone who tries under the very same train. I leave them be as much as possible and do my thing. It burned my relationships with a few people who are settling down to ride with them, but eh, I keep on keeping on.

    3. Jadelyn*

      Keep your distance and try not to get emotionally involved in either direction – don’t get excited because they’re acting like your friend, and it won’t hurt as much when they suddenly turn on you. Just raise an eyebrow at their histrionics and keep moving.

      1. Specialk9*

        Yeah. My recommendation is to reframe relationships so you have more agency / control, and find a new job if at all possible.

        Other people only decide their half of the friend equation, you fully own the other half. Only if you both agree that you’d like to be friends do you do the trial friend period – are they a good friend, do they make me a priority, are they someone I respect and enjoy being with? And only after that do they become a real friend. (And even then you may drift or wrench apart.)

        That trial friendship is where that mercurial person washed out. They failed, by their actions, and now you’re not friends. You’re not. They have no vote in this.

        That said, this kind of person doesn’t usually change, and confronting them usually just leads to more nonsense.

    4. AnonGD*

      If they also go back on their word, I find making sure I have documentation of everything via email too, on top of what everyone else has already said.

    5. Lissa*

      Emotional neutrality. I had a coworker like this and it was so hard, because sometimes we’d chat and I’d feel like we really had a rapport, then she’d go off about some tiny thing like the fact that I didn’t hate the owner’s wife as much as she did, and storm around complaining about “high school drama” when she was the person perpetuating it. I got to the point where I would be friendly with her when she was friendly, then go blank/totally neutral when she got into a snit. I never ever tried to get into a discussion with her about any of it, and would just nod and smile a lot.

      That was an extremely dysfunctional workplace, and I probably didn’t help because this coworker and I would absolutely spend ages ranting together about other coworkers who were just far worse in every way. So eventually I just went to being as neutral but still friendly as possible.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I’d tell myself that no one has to be friends with anyone. Relationships aren’t a water faucet, we don’t turn them on and off. Therefore, while they can be friendly acting they are not friends. True friends are not on and off like this. Tell yourself they are doing what they think they need to do in order to survive the job. Then remind yourself so should you.
      What this worked into for me was to be transparent. If I could not say X or Y to everyone then I did not say it at all. I made sure my work was laid out in an abundantly clear manner, so a child of age 2 could follow along. I keep myself consistent and even-keeled (as best I could with the sky falling down and everything).

      It’s super hard to work like this because it triples the work effort. It can feel like you are constantly explaining yourself. Make sure you get good rest each night. Especially mid-week because that is when the place can really start to wear us down. Job hunt like crazy.

  22. MAB*

    I am interviewing for a job Monday in a 3rd party auditing field that is not financial. My question is on attire. Should I wear a suit or an appropriate dress with a blazer? I’m from the PNW and will be interviewing in the windy city. I’ve never been there for work events and am not sure which is more appropriate.

    1. Rey*

      Either one is fine, it’s really up to you and what you are comfortable with. (Assuming of course that the dress is work-appropriate in style, length, fit)

    2. Blue*

      I think it depends on your field! I moved from the PNW to Chicago a few years ago, and I’ve generally found Chicago to be a bit dressier (I work in higher ed, and jeans/flip flops were fine everyday wear in OR; I’ve worked at two universities here, and while both were on the casual end of business casual, jeans weren’t ok.) I wore roughly the same interview outfit in both places (nice structured dress + blazer) but I generally add heels here. But if you’re really on the fence and your field is more formal, I’d go with the suit.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Agreed re Chicago’s dress code culture in general – my org is headquartered in California but has branches in Chicago as well, and back when our dress code was business casually they were still in suits and ties; when we went to casual (jeans everyday, woot!) they grudgingly stepped it down to business casual. Very, very grudgingly. They Do Not Approve of us west coast heathens in our jeans.

    3. CMart*

      I’d wear the suit, unless the dress + blazer is a combo that essentially looks like a suit (ie: all black/dark gray/navy, whatever).

      As a lifelong Chicagoan, Business Things still tend to be pretty formal. Even the offices where the actual dress code is “meh, whatever” people still tend to err on the side of business casual, and I’ve honestly never heard of anyone going to an interview that wasn’t food service or retail not in a suit or near-suit.

    4. epi*

      If you’ll be talking to them again, it’s OK to ask directly. I am in Chicago and my husband is job searching in a role that kind of sits at the intersection of three industries with wildly different dress standards. He just asks and it has never been weird. If you have an excuse to contact them one more time, like for directions or something, ask then.

      If it’s too late to ask, err on the side of dressing up. It’s never a bad thing to be a bit more dressed up than needed.

    5. theletter*

      Chicagoan here. I’ve found that the tech companies follow closer to california rules. Other industries, especially financial and legal, skew conservative. At this point I usually ask the internal recruiter what the dress code is and plan to go one step up.

  23. Peaceful easy feeling*

    How to extend your contract?

    I’ve been working with a non-profit, from home, on several great projects. There could be more projects from the work I’ve done. My relationship with them is positive and my only contact is one staff member. I originally went through a lengthy interview process during which I was adamant that I could only be part-time, mostly due to the distance I’d have to commute (2 hours round trip) and was very open about my need and how it would work with theirs. In the end, they suggested a contract and here we are today.

    If I know there are future projects, how can I inquire about their potential? Submit a mock proposal? Ask my contact? Prompt a discussion and when? My contract ends Dec 31.

    1. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

      Did you get the job through an agency or directly through the company? I via an agency, I would talk to your rep and ask if there has been any talk of extended your contract. If you got the job directly through the company, I would speak to the manager and, again, ask if there is any chance that the contract will be extended given that there is still work to be done. In either case, I would do that now. If by chance they say they are looking for someone permanent, is that an option for you at this point in time? if it is, tell them you are definitely interested.

  24. Bee's Knees*

    This week in a Small Town Newsroom

    I was off on Monday, and completely missed this, but heard about this from several sources. Fergus wants a raise. We all do, but no one has had one in YEARS. About once a quarter, Fergus loses it either to the Boss, or the Great Grand Boss. GGB just keeps walking down the hallway. Boss, however, fires back. They got into it on Monday, when Fergus says he wants a raise, and starts talking about how much overtime he has, and how he works harder than any of us. He made several points which weren’t wrong, but his delivery wasn’t great. Then he insulted our Boss’s appearance, which Boss did not take kindly, and Fergus said some things about how Boss manages, and then stormed out. He stayed outside for a few minutes, then came back in and said he’d been a high performer for quite some time, and if he didn’t get a raise, he would have to look to other avenues. We all know they’re not going to fire him, and he isn’t going anywhere.

    I was looking through our supply book and came across the office furniture. I found office chairs that have the heated massage thing, for the low low price of $675 dollars. Each. I mentioned it to Jane and Farquad. Farquad is a little hard of hearing, and thinks that I said $75 dollars. He says that’s great, and I should order them. Get one for everyone. We’ll need ten. He thinks about $1000 is not a bad price for that. I agreed that it wouldn’t be, but seven grand is a little different from one. His eyes about bugged out of his head.

    Fergus is, to be frank, incredibly racist. He just described someone else as the most racist person in the county. I could have made many comments. I refrained.

    A drunk lady tried to put soda in her gas tank when she ran out of gas. It did not work.

    In happy news, I get to do the birth announcements this week. Those are always fun because 1., it gives me a break from the occasional depression of doing the obituaries, and 2., it’s fun to see what people are naming their kids. Sometimes I make fun. Quietly, and mostly to myself. Anyway, I got a call from a new mom the other day, asking about her baby’s announcement. I heard something in the background, and thought it was a dog. It kept going, and kept going, and then I realized it was not a dog. She was pumping, and either didn’t care, or didn’t realize that I would be able to hear it over the phone.

    1. What's with today, today?*

      I work in a small market radio station as a News Directo and I enjoy your posts, because I can totally relate. My top story this morning was about a guy who fled on foot from a traffic stop and then swam across a small recreational lake to evade police. When he got out on the other side of the lake he was spotted by a property owner who promptly held him at gunpoint until officers arrived to take over. Also, we I haven’t had a raise in 6 years. But I LOVE this place.

    2. Evil HR Person*

      I scrolled down specifically to catch this week’s episode! Love these! I used to work at a newspaper nearly 5 years ago but not long enough to learn nitty gritty day-to-day stuff like this. Please keep them coming! P.S.> Would you consider a blog?

    3. Ender*

      Why would anyone care if you could hear a pump? Is pumping on the phone considered rude where you live or something?

      1. Bee's Knees*

        No, it wasn’t rude, and I didn’t care at all. I just thought it was funny because for the first two minutes of the call, I was astounded that what sounded like a small dog could keep up such a continuous bark.

    4. Kathleen_A*

      I got out of the biz a long time ago now, but it’s fun to hear how much has not changed in a Small-Town Newsroom. :-)

      Not to top your drunk lady (because it definitely does not), but I covered a story in which a guy – not a drunk guy either – caught his CAR and the entire GAS STATION ISLAND on fire by using his CIGARETTE LIGHTER to hold the GAS PUMP on. The lighter slipped and sent out a spark that ignited the fumes from the gasoline – pretty aggressively, too – and the car and island were engulfed in a ball of flame. Nobody was hurt, by some miracle, but the car was a blackened shell by the time I got there, and the island, in addition to being of course blackened, was warped and twisted by the heat of the fire. The plastic, I remember, had melted and was actually still dripping onto the concrete.

      I got there right after the fire was out, and the owner of the car was sitting on the curb a few yards away, looking mournful. Ah, news.

  25. The Doctor*

    Two of the most dreaded words in most office environments: SPECIAL PROJECT. On its face, a “special project” sounds like an opportunity to shine and show the Boss that you’re worthy of a promotion. Sounds great, right?

    No, it isn’t. The reality is that “special project” is code for “Stop your regular work and do this task NOW. Then, after it’s done, we WON’T thank you or recognize you at all for taking on the task, but we WILL penalize you for not completing your regular work (which we told you not to do).”

    1. Not the Spiegs*

      So true! I also get what I’ve been calling the “stop and drop” tasks then get asked why my regular stuff that I said I was working on when I got the “stop and drop” task is taking so long for me to complete.

    2. LCL*

      Here, special project is sometimes code for ‘is having a difficult time right now and isn’t up to their regular job, but doesn’t have enough leave to be out of office.’

      1. London Calling*

        In the Very Big American Bank I used to work for, ‘working on a special project’ was shorthand for ‘we’ve given him/her something where he/she can’t do any damage and cost us Megabucks while we have a think.’

    3. Dear Liza dear liza*

      Ha! In academia, “ special project” is code for: you did something really bad but not outright illegal and since you have tenure it’s impossible to fire you, so we’re giving you this title and squirreling you away in the hopes that you find another job and become someone else’s problem.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        Back when my father was a newspaperman, a troublesome employee was given the title “Director of Special Projects.” They hoped he’d realize his first “special project” ought to be finding himself another job.

    4. KX*

      Here, “special project” could be take over this work for a while, but then we might make it a secondment, and then you might not be able to return to your original job.

    5. Rebecca*

      OMG, this! Ex manager would do this to me all the time! Do this special project that will take hours and hours, oh, you can’t work overtime and you have to get your regular job done at the same time. Me: uh, what can I let slide? Manager: “waves arms in air” nothing, just make it work! So glad she is EX MANAGER.

    6. Rat in the Sugar*

      Ha! That’s similar to my workplace, except our boss actually will thank and recognize us for doing it. Thanks for something especially burdensome often comes in the form of money, so I’m usually not too put out.

      Now if only she and the project managers I work with could understand that tasks don’t get completed simultaneously…I always feel like the conversation is something like:

      “Thanks so much for dropping all your tasks to get this unexpected thing done so quickly, that really helped us out! By the way, what’s the status on the other 14 tasks you had to do this week??”

      “The status is Not Done, because when the hell would I have done them?!”

    7. Wishing You Well*

      Long ago, at my place of work, “being put on special projects” meant “go find another job before we fire you”. However, almost no one was ever fired. People “on special projects” stayed for months, if not years. As one coworker put it, “This is the only place where you can live under your desk and stick your hand out every 2 weeks for a paycheck!”
      Those days are long gone now.

    8. only acting normal*

      Where I work it’s “great opportunity”: codeword for “run far, run fast, run now”.

  26. The Person from the Resume*

    Have you backed off from reading AAM comments and/or open thread? If so, why?

    I find the shear number overwhelming. When the comments rapidly increased a few years back, I stopped looking for the gems in masses. For me (as a reader) the larger numbers are a loss, but for Alison’s bottom line increased readership is a plus. Is there a sweet spot? If so, what is it?

    1. Badmin*

      I get frustrated when someone hijacks the thread (early on a Friday) with a topic that’s borderline work related or hypothetical questions that don’t help someone with a problem they’re dealing with but more for small talk. I like the real nuances of the situations people are in and enjoy reading those, thinking about, or contributing to those discussions. An example was the best/worst part of peoples weeks I think was going on.

      I actually like this question because it allows us to discuss the blog and I’d be interested in what other people have to say.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’ve been thinking about narrowing the focus on the open threads and asking that posts be limited to asking for advice/offering advice (so no hypothetical questions, no “what’s annoying in your office this week,” no “my coworker is loudly crunching on an apple,” etc.). I think it would make them more usable. Input welcome!

        1. That Would be a Good Band Name*

          I read and interact (admittedly, not a ton on interact) because of the sense of community that is here. Also, because the comments remain civil for the most part. Part of that community feeling is that commenters can get to know each other in a sense – so the hypotheticals, the “can you believe what Fergus just did”, the “here’s this weird thing in my office” all go into the getting to know each other. Lately it seems like there has been a push to stop those more community-feel type comments and I find the site less useful without them. It’s better to have an idea where someone is coming from when they offer their advice.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yeah, I definitely get that! Where I come down on it is that the site can’t be all things to all people, and different people enjoy/look for different things from it. While I do think there’s value to a sense of community, it’s not the primary mission of the site. (And I do think you can have that sense of community without lengthy off-topic comment threads, just from people being kind and helpful. And even funny, as long as it’s relevant and not on a tangent three times removed from the letters in the post.)

            1. Doug Judy*

              I feel the weekend threads serve the purpose of community, where the Friday thread, IMO feels like it should be more geared to work related advice/help.

              1. Camellia*

                But some of us (many of us?) can’t drop in on the weekend and frankly, I scan Friday’s thread looking for the ‘not strictly advice-related’ comments as a change of pace to the work-related posts we’ve already had on Monday through Thursday.

                Perhaps you would consider TWO open threads on Friday – one work-related and one not. It certainly seems like you have enough readers to support two posts like this, in one day. And as I think about it, you might also do two threads for Saturday. Perhaps not everyone with a work-related question can make it to the Friday post and would welcome a Saturday work post.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  There’s definitely enough readership to populate them. My concern is about filling up the archives and people’s RSS feeds, etc. with lots of non-work related posts (or open threads in general) since it changes the character/mission of the site. I see the open threads as a bonus, but not the main thing I offer here.

                  I do hear you that some people would like them! I’m balancing that against these other factors though (and the fact that the site will never be able to be all things to everyone and it’s baked in that some people will want more X and some people will want less X and so I go with what I think is best for the health of the site as a whole).

                2. AK*

                  Maybe even have work-related and non-work open threads on alternating Fridays, so 1st and 3rd are down to business, 2nd and 4th are anything goes?

                3. Not So NewReader*

                  Am chuckling. I remember when there was one open thread for work per month. And that grew. Then came the open threads for everything else because there had to a place to go with all the side discussions. (Very condensed history.)

                  This is what wild success looks like.

                  My two cents: Why not open a work thread and a life thread on Friday and let both go all weekend? The life thread seems to taper off quicker than the work thread, so this may not be as daunting as it sounds. Okay, that was actually worth 1.5 cents…

                4. Salad*

                  Replying to not so new reader, I was going to suggest the same thing. Why not just open both on Friday? I don’t read the Saturday thread but I could just as easily skip over it on Friday

                5. tra la la*

                  I wouldn’t mind a work open thread on Saturdays in addition to the non-work post. By the time I get to the Friday post it’s already well over 1000 comments and I have no sense that anything I ask would be responded to. A Saturday work post might be smaller and more likely to be read just by people who want to, well, read a work post on Saturdays?

            2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

              How would you feel about a Captain Awkward-style separate forum? I believe it’s run by fans of the blog and has little-to-no-involvement from the writers. (I’m not a CA person, only read a couple of posts a year from them, and have never visited the forum, so I may be totally wrong about how it works.)

              Perhaps some of the “community” stuff could funnel there and you could focus your time/the blog’s content more fully on workplace advice.

              (My bias: I would love to see less of the off-topic or nominally work-related chit-chat, so that’s the angle I’m taking in responding here.)

              1. Lily Evans*

                The CA forum is awful, though. They went so far overboard with rules for posting, and it’s just all oneupmanship for who is the most politically correct. Apparently it’s possible to try so hard to be inclusive that it turns into being unwelcoming. And I’m saying that as someone who’s incredibly liberal.

                1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                  Yep, that’s why I don’t really read CA. (Also a way-far-left liberal here.)

                2. Turtle Candle*

                  A lot of it is virtue signalling, yeah. A lot of online communities seem to get killed by virtue signalling overwhelming other kinds of content.

                3. LJay*

                  I don’t go there, but I’ve definitely had that experience in other online forums – where I was terrified to comment for fear of saying something that would offend someone accidentally.

                4. Lissa*

                  Yeah, I stopped reading after a woman wrote in in distress about her very bad situation involving a controlling religion, and the first comment was a mod chastising her about language use. I get there are environments where people want to never be exposed to the word “stupid”, but a place that prioritizes that above helping someone in an abusive situation is not the place for me.

                5. LilySparrow*

                  Yes, I like reading the blog and ovvasionally comment, but never joined the forum because I’m sure that somehow my grammar or sentence structure is going to violate the posting rules somehow.

            3. Shortbread*

              You can suggest folks start up a discord or a ProForum? I know that’s what the Toast did when Daniel moved over to Dear Prudence and they shuttered their site. Also Captain Akward has a similar setup with her “Friends of Capn Awkward” site.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                That gets suggested from time to time, but I know I don’t want forums; they tend to cannibalize traffic from where you want it and become monsters of their own.

          2. Jadelyn*

            This, so much. Soooo much. I’m really not a fan of the fairly draconian-feeling push for “nothing off topic, ever, at all” that’s been happening of late – conversations move organically sometimes, that’s just a thing people do when they’re talking to each other, but now it feels like absolutely no interpersonal interaction is allowed; you may address the OP and only the OP, or *very* narrowly reply to only directly agree or disagree with another commenter’s response to the OP. (I know that’s not the actual rule, but I’m talking about the way it comes off feeling.)

            I love the sense of community at AAM, it’s why I comment here (when I comment literally pretty much nowhere else). I make liberal use of the “collapse replies” function if I run across a tangent thread that I’m not interested in, it’s a great feature as it allows you to minimize only certain parts of the conversation and focus on others. I really feel like “use the collapse replies function if you don’t want to read an off-topic subthread” is a more reasonable expectation than “stop acting like a community in which people talk with each other”, which, again, is how the crackdown on off-topic threads has felt to me this week.

            Honestly, extending that crackdown even to the Friday open thread, which was like the one place I figured wouldn’t be affected, would have me just not even bother to look at the open thread anymore.

            1. Bagpuss*

              Yes, I get that going off topic can be irritating, but I feel I can manage it by collapsing comment threads which are off topic in a way I am not personally interested in.
              Also, I feel that it’s quite common for things to be off topic in that they don’t relate directly to the immediate question, but still be interesting or useful.
              If it’s off topic in the sense of diverging to funny stories about cats in response to a letter asking about allergies at work, then I see the point of cutting it off, but if it’s off topic in the sense of , for instance, discussions of workplace bullying even though the initial question was about workplace sexism, or other tangentially related issues, then it seems to me that to a great extent its a feature, not a bug. Police it too heavily and you dissuade people from commenting for fear of being rold off, or simply because there is no point as after the first few comments there is nothing new to saw, both of which make the comments less interesting to read.

              For long comment threads like the friday and weekend ones, I start by collapsing all, then skim through and expand ones which I think look interesting.

              1. JaneB*

                Me too- it’s a bit like when people complain about a TV show but keep watching – there’s an off button!

            2. There All Is Aching*

              Thanks for this, Jadelyn! Been feeling singled out for friendly banter that used to pass here, not realizing that suddenly the rules had changed. After a couple admonishments, I have a better handle on parameters going forward, though as Les G pointed out in last week’s open thread re: comments, it’s not necessarily being applied to everyone, which is less welcoming. The friendly banter (which counterbalances the repetitive, back-and-forth rants and overreactions that are permitted) is why I felt safe to start commenting to begin with.

        2. BRR*

          I would like this. I feel like it’s a full-time job to dig through the open thread for the comments I enjoy and want to read or comment on. Collapsable comments have helped somewhat. There are a few sub-topics I see every week that I don’t feel are adding anything or need commenting and unfortunately it can make it hard to find people who need some advice, often times with a time-sensitive issue.

        3. Matilda Jefferies*

          I’m just one data point here, but it seems to me that the open threads are pretty usable just as they are – lots of people are using them, right? They’re definitely huge and unwieldy for some people, but they’re also obviously valuable for others.

          My guess is that most people will either generally comment on open threads, or generally *not* comment on open threads, regardless of the format or content of the thread. Obviously you know your readership and your metrics better than I do, but I wonder what the margin is – how many people are out there who are not currently commenting on the open threads, but would start if only X or Y were different? If you do spend time changing X or Y, would that bring in more value relative to the work involved and/or the value that people are already getting?

        4. Tomato Frog*

          I like this idea. I don’t mind those sorts of comments, but when you actually need help and advice, it can feel like you’re at the Pool of Bethesda. Gotta get in early or no dice!

        5. Annie Moose*

          I dunno, I quite like the social stuff. Especially because comments are collapsible, I don’t find it that difficult to collapse and skim by comment threads I don’t care about.

          But–I’m not trying to use these threads for advice to begin with, so perhaps “usable” isn’t a metric I value anyway.

        6. SarahKay*

          Would it make a huge amount of extra work for you to do two open threads on Fridays? One for proper work advice and one for the more social items?
          I’ve found the advice aspect very useful in the past (especially since I’m in the UK but have a US manager so the US commenters can often give good perspective) but I also really enjoy reading the more social work items on other weeks.
          Basically, may I have my cake and eat it too?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Well, we’ve already got the non-work thread on Saturday and I don’t really want two of them or it starts changing the whole character/point of the site (it’s already off-mission to have even one but there was popular demand for it).

            1. SarahKay*

              That’s fair enough. To me it feels like the Saturday non-work thread is different content-wise the ‘social work’ questions and comments on the Friday open thread but I can definitely see your point about how the site would now have two ‘Social’ threads. Even more so if it’s not really where you want the site to be in the first place :)

              1. As Close As Breakfast*

                The ‘social work’ comments are some of my favorite personally. I tried reading the Saturday thread but could never get into it, not that interested in what peoples favorite cookbook or yarn is or whatever. The “what’s annoying in your office this week” is what I find the most entertaining and are what keep me coming back every Friday. I like the ‘actual advice’ ones too, but find that they are often repetitive.

            2. Camellia*

              I already posted above, asking for two threads on Friday and also two threads on Saturday, for those who can’t make it to the Friday open ‘work’ thread for whatever reason.

              Maybe you could consider the non-work-related threads to be, I don’t know, maybe like team building exercises? Like, we all get to know each other a little better? Maybe have some gentle conversation and share differing viewpoints and gain insight to those other viewpoints? And helping us remember that ‘all work and no play makes Camellia a dull co-irker’? Whaddaya think?

        7. Mazzy*

          No! I blow off steam reading the ones where people complain about their jobs and coworkers. I’m not alone!

          What we can cut are the hypothetical “would you take a pay cut for your dream job” questions, when it’s just hypothetical.

          Or when someone posts a question without prep and too prematurely. For example, “ when do you know it’s time to go back to school?” Meanwhile they haven’t researched any schools and are just asking to ask.

          1. Mazzy*

            Or maybe temporarily ask that some recurring topics stop getting discussed? There are always loads of comments about how someone might have PTSD or that something is gendered. By now anyone who’s been to this site knows that someone is going to say that the person in the letter misbehaved because of past trauma. And we know that being asked to order food and sew can be gendered. Do we always need fifty comments expanding on these pretty basic and know topics?

            1. Jadelyn*

              Yes, but not everyone who’s reading a given post and/or thread is someone who’s already familiar with the site. I agree that the armchair diagnosing has gotten a bit much of late, but in particular I strongly object to the idea of “stop calling out sexist stuff as sexist, we already know” since 1: there are new people reading the site every day who maybe DON’T know, and 2: as long as people take a cavalier attitude toward the problem, there will continue to be a problem, and minimizing the issue by basically rolling one’s eyes and saying “ugh, we know already” is definitely part of that kind of issue.

              1. Mazzy*

                I don’t see cavalier/non-cavalier attitude as the thing. There definitely are times when these type of discussions can be overkill. I doubt there are so many newcomers everyday that we need to keep having the same exact discussions everyday, just in case they missed them. It’s hard to come up with an equivalent discussion without bringing in politics, but it would be the same as someone telling you their political stance every single day. At a certain point, you’re going to get stern with them and say that you already know what they think and you don’t need to discuss it every single morning.

            2. Turtle Candle*

              Regarding the PTSD stuff, it seems to be a variation of “not everyone can eat sandwiches!” It seems like it’s gotten common to reply to “why does my coworker hit me over the head with a broom every day?” with “well, maybe she has anxiety and that’s how she handles her triggers.”

              I do not say this to minimize triggers. In fact, quite the opposite. I think that it minimizes triggers to blame every bizarro-world behavior on them, especially when there’s no actual indication of it in the letter besides the bizarro-world behavior. Some people just do strange things.

              1. Mazzy*

                Exactly. Bringing up these things is actually what minimizes them, because it turns them into everyday pedestrian ideas and not the rarer, big deals that they are.

        8. hermit crab*

          I’m not sure if these would count, but I do really enjoy reading responses to general “what’s the typical _____?” questions, like “How much parental leave do people typically take in your organization?” or “What do people in your field typically wear when they present at conferences?” or “How does your organization handle raises and bonuses?”

          Those posters aren’t asking for specific advice, but I think the threads are interesting and let people share a wide range of perspectives.

          1. Sue No-Name*

            Agreed! Though those are also well-addressed when Alison does “ask the commenters” posts on interesting topics or advice requests.

          2. Llama Wrangler*

            Yeah, I think those are my favorite too! (Also I benefited a lot from the one I started on clothing norms.)

          3. As Close As Breakfast*

            Yes! These are also some of my favorites!

            And if it’s the 3rd time I’ve seen someone ask where they can get a good business wardrobe at a good price or when they should announce their pregnancy to their coworker this month, that’s what the collapse comments feature is for! That feature has made a world of difference when navigating the open thread.

          4. The Other Dawn*

            These are the types of posts that really helped me realize that the company I was with for almost 20 years wasn’t quite as functional and great as I thought, and neither were my managers. Only by reading these types of posts did I realize that there were some effed up things that went on and I thought they were perfectly fine because I didn’t know any better.

          5. Reba*

            There have been times when a whole post is dedicated to these kinds of threads (one I recall was just sharing tips/hacks) and those are fun. Corralling the survey-type commenting to those standalone posts might be a good compromise.

        9. Dear Liza dear liza*

          You get to decide the mission of this site, of course, but it’s the random stories I enjoy. There’s a certain amount of sameness to the advice requests: How do I become X (for a while, it seemed like project manager was asked about each week); should I go to grad school for Y; and What jobs would work for Z (wfh, non-drivers, the highly allergic, etc.).

          No matter what- thanks for all you do, AAM!

        10. JessicaTate*

          I’m fairly new to the site, but I prefer the part of the open thread that is actual questions and advice. To the OP’s question, that’s how I’ve been navigating the Friday thread: I’m scanning through for people with actual questions and those that are of interest to me – to learn from or to share advice.

          I actually appreciate people who start a post with “This is just to vent” or “I need advice” because it helps with scanning for whichever type of post you’re interested in. Could there be a way to self-categorize comments when you post – advice, venting/sharing, or hypothetical? I’ve seen some recipe sites do this, so that you can filter for comments that are from people who actually made it, questions about ingredients, or people who just want to comment to the author how yummy something looks in theory.

        11. The Dark Fantastic*

          I like the open threads as-is. They’re my favourite aspect of the site and I find them incredibly valuable. I think limiting them like that would make them boring and would reduce the sense of community and purpose found here.

        12. MotherRunner*

          I read daily and comment occasionally. My vote would be to keep the comments on the daily posts on topic, as you’ve been trying to do, but to keep the open threads (both work and non-work) the way they are. I find them to be a good mix of serious questions and lighter reading, and if something doesn’t interest me, i scroll past. I understand the importance of keeping the comments on the daily questions relevant, but I don’t see an issue with the open threads.
          My other thought is that if the thread is getting “hijacked” with a comment that’s not an actual question or a hypothetical or whatever, it’s obviosuly interesting and engaging to many readers.

      2. Lil Fidget*

        I think there are some commenters that like the social aspect and enjoy a more theoretical discussion and others who like a really direct ask-and-answer experience. To me there’s a distinction between the open thread which I never read and the work related thread which I do sort of skim through when I have time on Fridays.

      3. Observer*

        I read the Friday stuff – but no all of it. So, if I see a subject that I don’t think I’m going to find interesting, I just collapse it and go to the next thing. Some of the conversations on the open posts have been very useful or just interesting. And I agree that it helps to create a sense of community.

        The only time this becomes a problem, imo, is when it happens on other posts, but I see that Alison is trying to rein that in. Aside from that, whether I read the comments depends on how interesting I found the letters, and how I’m seeing the comments develop. Sometimes I have not patience or things are getting ugly in a way I don’t want to deal with. And sometimes, I’ll read some of the comments but not all. But as often as not, I’ll read the comments and really benefit.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Alison said last week that according to research only about 5% of people who read her page actually engage in the comments.

      I currently have a very light workload so I am always looking for things to keep me busy at work.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I didn’t give a number, but it’s less than 5%. (I don’t have a hard number, but it’s a very small portion of readership, maybe even less than 1%.)

        1. OperaArt*

          1-5% is absolutely average on almost any Internet community. The exact number depends on which studies you read. But those numbers have been consistent since I started reading Usenet newsgroups in the mid-1980s.

      2. Lil Fidget*

        I feel like a few years ago I started reading comments (on slate first, if I recall) and now am obsessed with comments. I read them on most media I consume now, and I never ever used to. To me the comments are equally as fascinating as the actual piece – they show how the article is landing, common counterpoints, etc. There are few blogs that I actually comment on myself, but I am a huge comment lurker. However, this is probably a subset of readers.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I tend to avoid the comments on most sites because they are so often awful. AAM is an exception because the commentariat here is largely knowledgeable and kind and it’s well moderated.

            1. Lil Fidget*

              Even terrible comments, if they’re not just obscenely stupid, are fascinating to me. I want to hear what Mens Rights people are saying on a feminist blog and what staunch conservatives are saying on an article about welfare reform … as long as there is some modicum of civility/respect, of course – like I wouldn’t read, I dunno, yahoo comments or something. Just the way they form their argument or what elements they’re particularly fixated on. I learn a lot that way because otherwise I’m in kind of a bubble/echo chamber. On Slate a lot of the comments are brutal and misguided, but I still think they’re very interesting. I find the comments on AAM are often super interesting and make me think differently, or at least reveal a kind of opinion I wasn’t aware was as common as it is.

              1. Mazzy*

                I very much agree. I learned a lot about tax laws and a few other topics from very conservative folks online. Yes I confirmed what they said, but I never would have thought of what they said without reading it.

        2. I Love Thrawn*

          I’m a long time comment lurker too. I rarely say anything because I come here to learn, and have little to contribute. Classic case of “if you have nothing to say, don’t say it.”

          1. Lil Fidget*

            That is what I SHOULD do, since it’s too easy to get sucked into sharing your own thoughts and opinions. I do have “blackout days” for myself where I don’t let myself comment. I have always struggled with hushing up though :P

            1. Jadelyn*

              Yeah, I’m there too – I installed a site blocker on my work computer to keep me from wasting too much time on here every day, lol.

          2. Robin Sparkles*

            Same -I mean I am no longer a lurker as I post once a month or so -but I get value from reading some comments and most often it’s been said. I am also the person that LOVES comments on most forums/blogs/sites and often read articles that have comments sections. Sounds like I may be that minority!

    3. Amber Rose*

      Nah. I either remember a few names to search for and see if they’ve posted anything interesting, or I just read the first and last 20 or so posts.

      I don’t really get feeling intimidated by large numbers of comments. Nobody’s quizzing you to see if you read them all, you know? Just skim through however many you feel like.

    4. Merida Ann*

      For the open thread at least: At lunch, when the thread has only been open for an hour or less, I’ll collapse all the threads and at least skim through all the first comments and then open the threads that sound interesting to me. Later in the day, when there’s too much to keep up with, I’ll just do a CTL+F search for certain key words that I find most interesting to read about (usually “-ism” or “-ist” to find discrimination issues or “accommodation”, but also anything that has come up recently at work that I’m interested to see if others are discussing) and also “Ask a Manager” to find places where Alison has commented directly.

      I try to follow the comments on posts that I think are most interesting, but there’s really no way to read everything on all the posts, especially when I’m at work and trying to read on breaks – there’s just too much content to get through it all.

      1. RockyRoad*

        I didn’t see the “collapse all threads” option at the top of the comment section until you mentioned it. I’ve been scrolling and collapsing each thread I wasn’t interested in reading until I got tired of it. Collapsing all from the start is so much better.

    5. the.kat*

      I still skim them if they look interesting, but I’ve stopped commenting (except for now) because no one ever seems to respond to my comments and people just shout over each other and repeat things over and over again.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        It IS a bummer that some posts will get dozens or hundreds of responses and others get none.

        It mostly seems like early posts get a lot of comments (obviously), and those that many folks have a lot of experience with (so, personal things as opposed to organizational things; “What questions should I be prepared to answer in an interview for an administrative assistant job?” vs. “I’m rethinking how to hire administrative assistants. Here’s our current practice, what do you think?”

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Whoops, didn’t finish that thought. The second para should have read like this:

          It mostly seems like early posts get a lot of comments (obviously), as do those that many folks have a lot of experience with (so, personal things as opposed to organizational things; “What questions should I be prepared to answer in an interview for an administrative assistant job?” vs. “I’m rethinking how to hire administrative assistants. Here’s our current practice, what do you think?”). But that’s just human nature! We respond to what resonates with us, and what resonates with us tends to be the things that we have experiences with.

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

            I think a part of that is that the Alison covers a lot of the basics already and some of the open questions have already been answered exhaustively or the question is just too broad, “How do I get a job?” is actually probably going to get no replies while, “I’m a print graphic designer and I haven’t updated my portfolio since 35mm slides were common; what’s the trend these days for presenting portfolios?” is probably going to get a much better response rate.

            1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

              I actually think that some of “the basics” questions get a lot of responses — because a lot of us have experience with the question or possible answers.

    6. ballpitwitch*

      Yep. Way too many within 30 minutes of a post going up. Unless I have a lot of free time, I can’t engage meaningfully.

      Apparently all the regular commenters just sit here and refresh this page all day.

    7. Audiophile*

      I’ve backed off the open thread but not because of the increase in comments, more because my job has kept me so busy and I’ve been relatively content with it. I will say, that I’ll often think of questions mid-week and by the time the open thread is up, I’ve forgotten them.

      I do notice that the open threads seem to be much quieter around federal holidays and definitely easier to parse through on those days.

      1. acmx*

        I’ve thought before that it’d be nice to have the open thread on say Wed because by Friday, I’d forget a question. (I realize it would change the site quite a bit)

    8. Muriel Heslop*

      I start at the bottom of the thread, usually. The questions are just as interesting and much less overwhelmed by comments.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        I feel bad for the comments that come in in the end, those typically have very few replies.

        Personally I find that if I don’t post within the first hour, I won’t get much advice or feedback so I don’t post. Didn’t realize this is a bad thing to do?

    9. gecko*

      I’ve backed off a bit. Less because of the number of comments and more because I’m now pretty aware of the people who hate-read the comments. You’re always going to get that kind of thing, but it’s really off-putting to–for instance–read a fine if characteristic comment by a regular commenter and have replies below from people who are clearly hate-reading/hate-commenting. I am also quite uninterested in becoming visible enough to annoy a jerk on the internet, and so I comment a bit more sparingly than I used.

    10. Bob*

      I skim more but I still like having the thread as it is. Some of the hypothetical questions raised might be valuable to someone or lead to interesting discussion. Same thing with some of the general discussions around workplace norms and cultures. If anything I would say one approach might be more open threads but perhaps gear them to more specific topics. So one midweek perhaps only for ‘specific work questions’, one on Friday for anything generally work related and the weekend threads for no work.

    11. Ask a Manager* Post author

      While we’re talking comments: I wanted to mention that I’m processing all the feedback from the comments discussion on last week’s open thread and have my tech person looking into whether she can build a few of the features that I think would be most helpful. #1 on my list is requiring registration in order to comment, but it’s something she’d need to be able to build on to the existing system (the off-the-shelf stuff won’t work for a variety of reasons, and I’m not willing to use Disqus or Facebook comments, which would be the easiest solutions). I’ve also asked her to look into whether she can build a function that would send a person’s comments to moderation on a specific post after they’ve left X number of comments on that post; a way to flag comments that doesn’t automatically remove them after a certain number of flags (the problem with all the existing flagging systems); and a way to turn off replies to a subthread.

      I’m also considering have the site-wide default be that comments are collapsed, and you’d have to proactively click if you wanted them expanded. The big downside of that would be that if you leave a reply to a top-level comment, when the page refreshes after you submit it, you’re not going to be taken to the reply you just left (since it will be collapsed). You’d instead be taken to the top of the comment section. That may be too much of a downside, but I’m mulling.

      Beyond that, I’m considering formally polling readers on some other potential changes to the way the comment system works. So, updates and more discussion coming soon.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I think registration would be very helpful, though I wonder how that would work when a regular wants to ask a question that they don’t want associated with their regular name. Though it would be very cool if registering provided an option to message another commenter directly.

        Flagging and freezing subthreads would also be very useful functions.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          Haha registration is something I would personally avoid although I understand the wider benefits. I am super paranoid about somebody being able to look back through all my comments and knowing a lot more about myself than I realized I was revealing. Especially if a friend or colleague was looking, I don’t doubt they could figure out who I was pretty quickly. That’s why I try to switch user names a lot. It’s not because I want to flout the rules or attack people :P

          1. Persimmons*

            Same. I try to post in good faith, but I’m ultra-cautious about my e-footprint in general.

          2. nep*

            Yes–no-registration is a main attraction for me here. I probably wouldn’t comment if I had to register. Which would be fine. I really like not having to register.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I would be totally done if I had to register through FB. I am so glad you said no FB registrations, Alison.

              Well, I’d miss ya, nep, if you did not register and comment but I do understand. I think probably some other interesting posters would also not register. Bare minimum if my name is on a registration some where out there in cyberspace, I’d have to rope in my comments for sure.

              And I get a little concerned. We have had people here who were having serious problems. I think we have been that friendly voice in the wilderness for more than a few people. I wonder what will happen to people like this.

              1. Jean (just Jean)*

                NSNR, This is a really good point. AAM’s commentariat seems to be the occasional beacon of hope. I suspect that this community has some collective credibility for folks seeking help, thanks to the generally thoughtful tone (meaning both “is well-informed about the topic of discussion” and “values the well-being of other people”). AAM has a track record of responding to cries of help with compassion. It’s definitely not the slugfest one sees in other comment sections, where insults pingpong between opposing sides and the level of discourse rarely ascends from the gutter.

                Sorry that the above paragraph became a run-on sentence. After a long week my brain is tired.

          3. Mad Baggins*

            Same, I would stop commenting if registration was required. I am concerned about logging into anything not-strictly-work-related on my work computer, and many of us comment on our breaks/etc.

        2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          I used to be on a forum that had an option to post anonymously for certain topics. Perhaps something like that could be incorporated if registration comes into effect?

      2. BRR*

        For the flagging systems, would an easy work around be to set the number of flags required for removal super high (i.e. unachievable)?

        Thank you for being so responsive to the comment situation, not using disqus or facebook, and keeping it an open and transparent process!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That was my thought too! But it turns out that they wouldn’t actually email me when people flagged a comment! They don’t alert the site owner at all, until the number of flags is high enough that the comment has already been removed. It’s so bizarre. I would think that would be the flagging function most people would want. There’s one system I found that doesn’t work like this, but it’s not a standalone; to use it, you have to get a whole bunch of other features that I don’t want. It’s very frustrating! That’s why I’m finally wondering if I just need to have it all built specially.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            hmm. I wonder if there is someone here who would take that on…perhaps gratis or at a very reduced rate? In order for that type of offer, it would have to be someone who sees the high value of what is happening here.

      3. Batty Twerp*

        I like the site-wide collapsed thread idea. For me, at least, the only reason to see my post after I hit submit is so I can cringe at my terrible wording and/or grammar/spelling mistakes, because apparently my bluetooth keyboard hates me if I type moret han three consencutive lines!

      4. LCL*

        One feature that Reddit has that is sometimes very useful is the ability to block certain users from your view. Their posts still show up on the general page, but if they are on your blocked list you don’t see them.

        1. Mad Baggins*

          I’ve used this on other forums before and found it very helpful. Some people have a style or pet topic that I’m not a fan of, but they shouldn’t be banned from the community. In place of their post it just said [hidden post, click to view] and if someone was responding to that I could choose whether or not to view that hidden post.

      5. On Fire*

        Alison, another thing that might help keep threads organized on the five-short-answer posts: what if you did an initial comment for each question, and all comments for that question are to be posted as replies to your comment? Much like last week when you asked that all the answers about health initiatives be posted under your reply, it could be something as simple as “If you have advice for LW #2, please post it as a reply here.” (Repeat for each letter.) Might be easier for the OPs to find answers to their specific situation, instead of sorting through all the comments. Just a thought.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It would require me to be online at midnight every night to set it up, unfortunately. (There’s no way to pre-program comments in to publish once the post publishes.)

      6. Nita*

        Registration is kind of good and bad. I see the value in it, but really like not having it here. Is it going to be good at “remembering” that one is logged in? I used to comment on a forum with a horrible mobile interface, and the registration was the worst part – the login was slow, had to be done over if you just looked away from the page for ten minutes to check the weather, kept logging out right in the middle of typing a comment, and is basically the best deterrent to commenting that they could have created. They’re definitely a worst-case scenario, but… yeah. Registration can be a problem if it’s not done well.

      7. Merida Ann*

        I worry that the default to collapse would lead to a lot more pile-ons / repeat comments because people won’t immediately see that there are already lots of posts responding with the same point. Unless there’s a way that you have to expand that thread before replying to ensure that you see what others have responded before posting your own reply, maybe?

        1. Windchime*

          It seems like the people who are the worst about piling on are already not reading the comments. They’ll say things like, “I haven’t read the comments but [repeat of something that Alison and 50 other commenters have already said].” I think that if people would just read a few comments first, they would see that it’s already been said and doesn’t really need to be said again.

      8. There All Is Aching*

        Very cool about the polling. Would be helpful to be more specific about what constitutes derailing on the site. After a couple recent blips, I get it re: language, jokes, etc.; it’s less clear on other threads because what isn’t being allowed now seems different than what was allowed before the comment PIP, and seemingly not applied in a blanket way to all comment threads. I suppose best policy is not to answer other commenters’ follow-up questions to comments?

      9. Serious Sam*

        Alison, the problem is that your wonderful site has completely outgrown the comments system. Some nice to haves:
        1. Ability to give a single-line title to your post.
        2. Ability to collapse just down to titles.
        3. Ability to up/down vote.
        4. Ability to sort by up/down vote to see the most popular/most insightful posts.

        I do not know how much spam and abuse you have to filter out, but I really would prefer not to have yet another user ID & password to remember.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It absolutely has outgrown the comment system! I’ve done a lot of research into other comment systems because I would love something different. Unfortunately the options out there are really not good if you have a lot of commenting traffic and don’t want to use Disqus or Facebook comments (which I don’t*). My tech person keeps a whole separate site that’s a mirror of this one, where we can install other set-ups to test them out, and we’ve tested out a bunch. Unfortunately this current one is still the best of all the options. It’s incredibly frustrating and I am continually surprised that I can’t find one that functions the way I’d want.

          * I don’t want Disqus for loads of reasons which you can find if you google “don’t use Disqus” and I don’t want Facebook comments because people generally want to be anonymous here.

          1. hermit crab*

            To be fair, there are still a lot of good things about the site’s comment system! Even disregarding the content, I like the clean format, the blue highlighting for new posts, the blue shading for Alison’s posts, and the fact that it doesn’t use a system like Disqus or Kinja — and I love love love the collapse all feature (and I assume other people like these things too). Don’t lose sight of that!

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Thanks! Kudos go to my tech person for building the blue line highlighting and the collapse-all feature. Those were not part of the system and she had to find a way to build them into the existing comment set-up without destroying anything else, which is harder than it sounds.

              1. Anonymosity*

                I really like collapse all; I’d rather see them and collapse the ones I don’t want to read than having to click every single thing to open it. Because sometimes, I like to scroll a little bit to see if the comments look interesting on a post, but I don’t want more clicks.

          2. epi*

            I have been an active commenter on a couple of sites that used Disqus, and a reader of many more, so I did Google it out of curiosity.

            I can’t speak to the back end issues some bloggers said they experienced, but I will say I never noticed *any* of them on blogs I used that switched. Random affiliate links in blog text and sponsored comments simply didn’t happen. I would be really curious how common those issues even are because I have never seen them on any site I read. Some of the top Google results also include blog posts that are years old and their information about Disqus is out of date. For example, Disqus does not require social sign on. I have a stand-alone Disqus account and it works great and is easy to log in to. While there were users who didn’t like the switch, people who were regular constructive commenters all valued the community enough to adapt. As for reducing comment volume, that isn’t universal and isn’t part of the problem here that sometimes there are way too many comments? I would bet money that many of the comments that disappeared were people who would have said “I agree” under the old system, but switched to just upvoting under Disqus. That’s a good thing.

            On the other hand, I really like Disqus for a reason that might be useful on your site: blocking. Commenters that most people find rude or derailing end up getting blocked by so many people, they aren’t able to derail threads in the future. I am almost never harassed in those communities anymore because I can block people for myself without contacting a moderator. I find communities that have features like blocking, ignoring/collapsing conversations, etc. more welcoming than those that don’t. It doesn’t have to be Disqus but in my experience it does cut down on derailing and negativity, as well as safety issues like actual harassment.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              My issues are the ads (which are still very much a thing they will add if you monetize your site), the large number of tech issues, the fact that Disqus then has control over your comments (if Disqus goes down, which happens, the whole comment section disappears for that period), privacy (people don’t always want the same login across multiple sites), and the fact that a not insignificant number of workplaces block Disqus completely. I’d love it if I could use it — it would solve a ton of problems. But all these factors make it a no for me.

        2. Canadian Jessie*

          One other point of view in support of the Up-vote system (Or a facebook-“like”-type system)
          It could reduce the amount of posts that just say “I agree!” or the rehashing of the same advice in their own words, as by voting, or liking, they’ll be able to give strength to the opinion stated, without adding to the jumble of comments.

        3. Annie Moose*

          I am a hard no to voting on comments, unless it’s a purely upvote system. We have a bad enough problem with pile-on and popular-but-not-necessarily-correct comments getting a lot of attention without turning the comments section into Reddit. It is not an accident that many well-moderated subreddits hide voting arrows.

          1. Annie Moose*

            One thing that I do think would be helpful is a report button (to be used for abusive posts or cases where someone is posting the same thing a milliontimes). However, that too can be abused.

          2. Mad Baggins*

            I agree. I like the option to “like” a post without having to comment, but only if it doesn’t accumulate into points. I would be able to show my support for Annie Moose’s comment without commenting myself. But I think even a pure upvote system would just result in 4892 upvotes for Alison’s replies and no actual benefit to the comment section.

        4. Not So NewReader*

          I really like titling the post, especially the main post for a thread. But titles may have a hidden advantage, titles may help to control derailments, as a writer would have to consider how on topic their post will be.

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

          I really like the idea of #4 with a bit of a tweak. The ability to sort the order according to preference. Maybe the ability to have new comments at the top instead of having to scroll down, or most/least commented on.

      10. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        One other consideration with defaulting to collapsed comments (which I do): it means that linking to a subcomment doesn’t work. (So, when you occasionally link to a useful old comment that wasn’t a first-level comment, the link doesn’t work for folks who have comments collapsed as default; it just takes us to the main blog post.) I still vastly prefer collapsed comments as my own default, so it’s not big deal — but just FYI.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Ugh, that’s such a good point. Maybe I just need to make the collapse/expand options up top more prominent so that more people realize they’re there.

      11. JLCBL*

        I very rarely comment so I’m not sure how much weight my opinion will carry, but I do read many of the comments regularly and I know I am not alone in that. I have the default set to collapse all comment threads so I can pick and choose what I really want to read. I find this perfect because I get lost in the voluminous expanded threads unless I’ve just opened them. If there is a large number of sub-comments I am very likely to expand because it indicates the level of engagement is high. A requirement to register to leave comments would turn me off completely, since I think the anonymity is crucial and it would become even more insider-clique-y, with fewer viewpoints expressed.

      12. Anonymosity*

        Alison, I just want to say thank you for soliciting feedback from your readers. It’s your site and you could just say, “I’m gonna do what I think is best; suck it!” But you really engage with us, and I deeply appreciate that.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s great for me! It helps me make better decisions for the site, and also to give people context for behind-the-scenes stuff.

          I do feel bad in threads like these when it seems like I end up shooting down suggestion after suggestion. Part of that is because I’ve already done a lot of exploring of ideas that do seem like they’d be good until you dig into the details of implementing them, and part of it is that people want a bunch of conflicting things (for every person who loves the idea of X, there’s another person who hates it) and so ultimately I’m left with having to make judgment calls about what’s best for the site big-picture rather than just taking a vote. I explain all that to say, please keep the input coming — even though I can’t implement all of it, it’s still really useful to hear the discussion.

          1. AcademiaNut*

            I really appreciate your willingness to keep the comments in order! There are very few forums/comment sections that I frequent, because it’s so easy for them to turn into toxic hellholes of some sort.

            Personally, I like the fact that you crack down on off-comment chit-chat. I can understand why a lot of regulars like it, but once you go down that road, the comment section tends to change from discussions about the column to a social place for the regulars to hang out and chat about random stuff, which is fun for them, but decidedly unwelcoming for new people and not at all useful for regarding topic in the column.

            1. Windchime*

              Exactly! This is how Corporette has become. They don’t even pretend to discuss the topic of the post; the comments are almost immediately hijacked with some other random topic.

      13. Marthooh*

        I use the “default collapse” option to keep the threads manageable, and when I make a comment, I search the page for my name (or for the name on the top-level comment). That little bit of extra trouble makes me think before I hit the “Submit” button. I don’t think that’s a downside.

    12. Murphy*

      I don’t try to read them all. I read new top posts when they come in, and I comment if I’m interested. Then later I just search for my username. I’m sure I miss some good conversations that way, but it would be too much otherwise.

      1. Observer*

        That’s mostly what I do, too. Also, sometimes I’ll search for the name of the latter writer, if they have commented and I see their name.

    13. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius*

      With the open threads in particular I tend to look for comments that have a larger amount of replies actually, to find the questions or stories that have gained the most attention. Plus longer reply threads tend to have more varying degrees of opinions in them. I keep all the comments collapsed and just expand the ones that have more than 10-ish comments.

      That being said I usually don’t have a lot of advice to give since I’m young in my career, so I am more interested in reading advice from the more experienced commenters.

    14. CheeryO*

      My only issue with the open thread is that it seems borderline useless for anyone who can’t get in with their question within the first hour or two. I’ll refresh later in the afternoon when my day is winding down (understanding that the world doesn’t revolve around EST!) and there are always SO many questions at the bottom with no or very few responses, while a question about clothes or hair or tattoos up top will have a hundred comments that mostly say the same thing. I’m perfectly happy to collapse comments on those threads and ignore them, but I feel bad for people who are looking for advice and don’t know that they need to post at 11:02AM.

      I do appreciate Alison’s recent effort to keep things more on-topic. The personal anecdotes that spiral off in all directions are a major pet peeve, although I’ll admit that I’m not really here for the social aspect.

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

      I might be out of the norm, but I tend to actually skip the posts that don’t have many comments because I feel like I’d be talking into the void. I don’t like off-topic comments but if there is lively on-topic activity, I’m drawn in more to read and participate.

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

        Also, while the volume of comments by the end of the day might keep some away — I think it might also be just timing. Since Alison is on the US East Coast I seem to default to that time zone when calculating active times on this site. I’m in California so I’m usually just getting up by the time there are already 100+ comments on a post and it doesn’t bother me; and then at the end of the day, I’m no longer sitting at a computer so not likely to participate after 5:00 pm pacific time anyway and I assume that’s the way for most people — there are times of the day they are active online. I look forward to the Friday work-related discussions but completely avoid the weekend open discussions.

        Alison do you have any idea of where the majority of your readers are located? Am I off base in thinking that the site is going to be more active between 8 am-5 pm eastern time?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The most active time is about 8 am – 7 pm Eastern. But there’s generally a pretty steady stream of comments at other times too, just not at the same pace.

      2. Sloan Kittering*

        I actually agree, the lively comments section is part of what I come for. If there’s not a lot of comments and nobody’s talking, I might just assume Alison nailed it / the question wasn’t super complex and there was only one answer – which are the less interesting questions for me. I love the ones where people have very different perspectives on the same question.

        1. There All Is Aching*

          Me too! I also love Alison’s response to them; nice to feel part of an AAM dialogue, even if you’re not contributing to that particular thread!

        2. Jadelyn*

          Agreed – I glance at the number of comments when I decide whether to go look at them, and higher numbers are actually more intriguing to me, since it suggests that people are really engaging with the topic.

    16. Chaordic One*

      Things sort of depend on how busy I am. When I’m not busy, I spend more time reading AAM.

      Not to be rude about things, but I suspect that many readers will find AAM a valuable resource, but then they’ll get that great job, get busy with it and kind of move away from AAM.

      Also, if you’ve been reading AAM for any length of time you’ll notice that certain subjects come up over and over again. If you’ve already read about them a few times, you kind of tune out when they come up. OTOH, there are always new situations that come up. Also, the “search” feature on this site works very well and you can usually find information about a specific situation fairly easily.

    17. Turtle Candle*

      I have backed off, yeah, and part of it is that I can see a mile off when someone (and often I can even pinpoint which someone, based on the comments!) is going to have a Very Strong Opinion and leave ninety-seven comments, two-thirds of which are yelling down any disagreement, however mild. Often with ‘you just want people to starve in the gutter’ rhetoric. It has a chilling effect, for sure.

      I have stopped opening any comments that mention internships, for instance, because of that. (Not just internships; that’s the example that leaps to mind.) And the thing is, I usually agree with them re: a lot of internships being problematic. But I don’t want to see the So-and-So Show, and I feel a lot of “dude, get off my side” about it, and it’s… exhausting.

      (This isn’t just one person, though there are repeat offenders. It’s just… it’s really tiring. And, yeah, puts me off the comments entirely.)

      1. Turtle Candle*

        (And in a larger sense, I think that sniping/scolding/chastising has an even greater chilling effect, but that’s another topic.)

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, I agree. And I’m thinking through possible solutions to that (including limiting the # of comments someone can make on a post or more strongly enforcing the “don’t belabor your point” commenting rule).

        1. Phoenix Programmer*

          I don’t like the idea of having a hard cap on commenting personally. If 50 people think x but 2 thinks y it’s normal that the 2 will have more comments. A lot of people reply to comments they disagree with and I don’t see responding/answering as overly belaboring the point. Plus if you are personally not interested in departing the view of the 2 collapse that comment.

          1. Phoenix Programmer*

            *reply to comments they disagree with questions. I don’t see answering as belaboring a point.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            The issue is when someone posts essentially the same comment 15 times in an argumentative fashion. Someone last week described it as feeling like the person is attempting to bludgeon anyone who disagrees into silence, and that’s what I want to discourage.

            That said, any change I make is going to have both an upside and a downside. I’m just trying to figure out where the ups outweigh the downs.

            1. Observer*

              That’s where stronger enforcement of the rule makes sense. The real problem is the amount of time that could take.

          3. LJay*

            But then that gives a disproportionate sense of what the feelings of the readership actually are.

            If the 50 people who think X each post 1 comment, and the 2 people who post Y each post 25 comments, then the OP or other readers come away with the sense that X and Y both have equal support, when they really really don’t.

            It seems to happen quite a bit. I’ve seen several times where someone on an update p0st says “The last time this was posted everyone said Y.” Then Allison or someone else goes back and goes “Really only a couple of people said Y, most people said X.” But when the people saying Y comment just as much as the people who are saying X, they don’t seem like the minority.

            And you really really don’t have to post to every comment that disagrees with you. I know I have the instinct and desire to, too, and I’ve been trying to tamp down on it this past week. It’s enough to say your piece once and be done with it, and accept the fact that some people may not see it.

        2. nep*

          I’m certainly guilty of belaboring a point. It’s good to read through this and have a reminder to just sit and chill. Not every thought has to be a post. (!)

    18. Matilda Jefferies*

      I don’t mind the volume, but I’m finding the intensity a bit much lately. The comments in general seem to be really crabby, compared to what I remember when I first started reading. There seems to be a lot of “I would QUIT IMMEDIATELY!” or “That is COMPLETELY OUTRAGEOUS!!!!” going on lately, as if even the moderate sorts of situations require a nuclear-level response.

      Take today’s short answer thread, for example. I would find the offer of a cruise to be a bit odd, and possibly boundary pushing, but it doesn’t necessarily rise to the level of awfulness that some commenters have suggested. Or telling someone about your dream – again, it’s not something that’s normally done in the workplace, but it wouldn’t cause me to question the boss’ judgement on a larger scale. It just seems very extreme – there seem to be a lot of people taking everything to eleven, and not a lot of people saying things like “eh, that’s kind of weird, but whatever.”

      1. Robin Sparkles*

        I am right there with you- a lot of comments make it seem as if most AAM readers are extreme introverts, anti-social, have anxiety disorders, and are all rockstar employees that can do the work of 5 people. It’s obviously not true but that’s what it has felt like lately. I started reading this blog in 2015 and it has gotten more intense since then.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          Yes! I’m an introvert who doesn’t necessarily love socializing with her coworkers, and who doesn’t particularly care for office baked goods, and yet even I find the “if you have cupcakes for birthdays you are THE CANCER THAT IS KILLING SOCIETY, also plus you probably want celiacs to die, and even if all your coworkers seem to like the cupcakes they’re probably lying to you, which I know as a stranger who has never met them but you couldn’t possibly know as someone who interacts with them daily” stuff a bit much. It’s all just… very… intense.

          1. Shortbread*

            Also you need to be really careful about what kind of coffee drink you bring to a meeting. You don’t want to be viewed as immature or unhealthy/weird. I have literally never thought about my meeting drink and was positively floored that so many people seemed to care.

            1. Windchime*

              Yeah that one was really funny to me. I work in downtown Seattle; there is a Starbucks on nearly every block (I know of a building who has two Starbucks in the same lobby). Walking into a meeting with a Starbucks is so very, very common here. Nobody would think anything about it.

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

          +1 Sometimes the “I’m the exception!” tends to take over and it doesn’t really add to the discussion. If someone comes here looking for advice, I assume they want to know what the average expectation should be (adjusted for region and industry), not all of the special circumstances.

          1. Turtle Candle*

            Yes, exactly. An excellent example of this is food posts. Whenever someone writes in to say “can I ask my coworker to not eat peanut butter next to me because I’m violently allergic/microwave tunafish because it smells really bad?” the comments get taken up with everyone feeling obliged to say what foods they loathe coworkers eating. According to AAM comments taken as a whole, it is wrong to eat: tuna, popcorn, yogurt, curry, noodles, yogurt, apples, peaches, crackers, peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower butter, carrot sticks, any kind of salad, lunch meat sandwiches, anything with mustard, eggs in any form, granola bars, cereal, oatmeal, bagels, anything with butter, pickles or pickled anything, cheese, leftovers of any kind, soup, and water.

            I mean, obviously that’s because it’s an aggregate. But everyone feeling obliged to show up and say “I’m the exception in this way!” gives an aggregate sense that everything is impossible to eat… when in fact in any given workplace you’re likely to only encounter a couple things that you shouldn’t eat.

      2. LJay*

        Yeah. Like I saw a bunch of people diagnosing the boss as being a malicious boundary violator, because the OP objected to going on the cruise on the basis on not having enough vacation time or money to bring her boyfriend, and the boss said, “Hey, I can fix those things for you so you can go.”

        If she had clearly communicated, “Hey, this just isn’t my thing,” or “I hate boats” and he tried to convince her otherwise that would be jerky and boundary violating. But offering to remove logistical hurdles that he has he ability to remove to allow her to do something that he clearly sees as a nice thing? I can’t see that as jerky.

        I see the same thing on Reddit a lot. People over there are obsessed with referring people to r/raisedbynarcissists. And really, narcissists are a very low percentage of the population. Just being a jerk doesn’t make someone a narcissist. And in some cases, the person isn’t being a jerk, they’re just doing something reasonable or setting a reasonable boundary that the poster doesn’t like.

        I think it may bother me more than it should because I’ve generally found in my life that I’m better off assuming good intent (unless it’s absolutely demonstrated otherwise) than I am jumping to the conclusion that someone is purposefully being terrible to me.

        And I feel like it kind of cheapens the term abuser to refer to people as an abuser so cavalierly. Like, I’ve been in abusive relationships before. My parents are not great parents. I didn’t come to the conclusion that they were abusive because I said, “I’d love to do A, but unfortunately B came up,” and then they said, “Oh, well if B is a problem, I can do C for you to fix that.”

        Like, I think the cruise thing is weird. It’s super weird. I wouldn’t want to go. But I wouldn’t take it as a sign that the boss was testing my boundaries and going to take advantage of me in the future because he offered it or offered to help his lowest paid employee to afford it.

        1. Lissa*

          Too much internet has really made me think that 90% of the population has multiple abusive relations/exes, food allergies, phobias, etc. Also everyone is an introvert while also liking to point out how rare they are for being an introvert. I also think terms like abuser, gaslighting, narcissist, bullying etc. start out great to explain that someone’s not just a garden variety jerk, or having an asshole moment, but the problem is then those terms DO start being used to describe someone who’s having a jerk moment (like we all do!) and it kind of…devolves into a weird competition of who can scream loudly about how many evil bees/nopetopus a situation is. This is by far not just an AAM issue, like you said, it’s a lot of internet spaces – anything goes wrong with your job? Quit! Your sister asked when you and your husband are having kids? Boundary violation! Your friend got drunk and was an ass once? Cut them off, toxic! etc.

    19. Villanelle*

      Yes. I’ve been reading since the blog was relatively new – probably about 2009/10.
      Recently, the comments have gotten out of control and this unfortunately has been partly down to the light moderation (which I get – Alison has paid work to do that keeps a roof over her head and cats to pet and life stuff) and I welcome Alison’s comments about trying to improve things given the popularity of the blog.

      Things of note:
      – regular commenters chastising others/the LW’s
      – regular commenters posting very similar advice to Alison on
      – the off topic comments and whining
      – the fact that some posters completely answer a totally made up question to the one posed in a post, especially if they are fairly regular and it then spirals

      I have noticed an improvement this week due to Alison being around more and I appreciate it.

      1. WellRed*

        The comments where people fill in their own backstory of trauma on why a particular situation might be bad when there’s no evidence that’s an issue and wouldn’t change the advice anyway. Yes, it’s a bad idea to give your coworker an “office mom” mug. It’s inappropriate always, doesn’t matter if the coworker’s mom might be estranged/abusive/dead or same coworker might be infertile/strugglingtogetpregnant or have children that are addicted/estranged/dead.
        Not Relevant.

      2. WellRed*

        Agreed, Villanelle. I’ve actually rethought a comment or two of my own and didn’t submit.

        1. Villanelle*

          me as well – because what’s the point of me saying it when it’s already been said – what am I adding to the discussion? It doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying the post or discussion by not commenting (which is a small number anyway)

      3. Rey*

        I am relatively new in the last two months, and this is the only site that I try to comment on. Usually, on the Friday open threads, I collapse comments and then skim for things I’m interested in and posts that don’t have any replies. I love the current comment section (blue line for new posts and blue highlighting for Allison’s posts). I hate the idea of r