open thread – September 7-8, 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.

{ 1,726 comments… read them below }

  1. What’s with today, today?

    As I’ve said before, I work in an family owned cluster of small market radio stations. Our station has 7 full time employees including the boss, and our breakdown is 4 men, 3 women. Our youngest employee is 23. Our oldest two employees are 78 & 83. I’m a 37 and a woman. The 83 year-old man is killing me lately. We’ve worked together 10 years, so I’m not sure why I’m being bothered by it so much more. First, he interrupts on a constant basis. Monday, during a staff meeting, our boss asked me a question about a problem, and we were discussing a solution. It was very obvious I was in mid-conversation with our boss, and co-worker, who was directly across from me raised his voice over our discussion and said “Uh, Today, how did X event go on Sunday?” I gave him a death loom and went back to talking with boss, who looked confused. First, what the hell? Two, X event had nothing to do with me, I wasn’t there and couldn’t have answered the question. This is one example of something very common.

    Also, same co-worker has always made gendered comments and said things that generally aren’t appropriate(never sexual in nature, but sexist). As we prepared for meeting I referenced above, he walked in and said “Today, why didn’t you make us some dainties for the meeting?” Well I had no earthly idea what “dainties” were, so I asked him what they were. His response, “Your a woman! You should know what dainties are! They are Finger sandwiches!” I told him to ask John, the man seated next to him, to bring the dainties from now on.

    I’m not asking for advice really. Just venting. My boss has talked to him about the sexist comments before, and Co-worker’s response is always, “Boss, I’m old!!!”

    Anyway, file this under Issues that are bothering me!

    1. Kowalski! Options!

      I’m not THAT old (by much) but if someone asked me about my dainties, I’d assume that he was talking about my undergarments, and I’d be on the phone to HR in a heartbeat.

      1. HannahS

        It’s a regional thing, at least in Canada. In Ontario, where I grew up, dainties = underwear, but on the prairies where my extended family live, dainties = assortment of small desserts. This has lead to some amusing misunderstandings between the Prairie Folk and the Easterners.

        1. mkt

          Hmm, I’m in Alberta, so part of prairie region, and have never heard of dainties being anything other than underwear.

          Now bunnyhugs instead of jumpers/sweaters… that I’ve heard of but also don’t use here in AB.

        2. Rachel

          It never crossed my mind that dainties would be anything other than small desserts, or that this would be a strange word to others. My mother was from a rural area in Saskatchewan, so maybe that is where I got it!

        3. Ellie Y

          Born and raised in SK – currently living in Alberta. Most people understand that “dainties” means desserts. I’ve only had a couple of raised eyebrows when I use the term. Mind you, I would never use it at the office!

        4. Specialk9

          That’s a hysterical difference in meaning. It’s like the US – UK “pants” (trousers vs underwear) and fanny (old-fashioned granny alternative to butt, vs c#$t).

      2. What's with today, today?

        That was my first thought too, underwear. But with 7 full-time employees in a family owned business, we have no HR. As I said, my boss has talked to him about this and he kind of stomps his foot and says “But I’m old!”

        1. Jadelyn

          Then your boss is failing at his job, since there’s a simple response to “but I’m old!”: “I understand that, but your age doesn’t exempt you from the need to behave professionally toward your coworkers. From now on, I need you to behave appropriately, without making any further sexist comments. If you can’t do that, there will be disciplinary actions, up to and potentially including separation of employment.”

          I mean, sure, he’s old, but that’s an excuse, not a valid reason. Non-discrimination laws don’t contain age exemptions so that older folks can go ahead and discriminate simply because they got in the bad habit of it over the course of their lives.

        2. Say what?

          Ugh, I’d be tempted to respond with “So you’re sexist and you’re ‘too old to change?’ I’m hearing that you’re ok with us treating you differently because you’re older then. We won’t invite you to participate in new training because you’re no longer young enough to understand new technology. Your ability to earn raises and promotions will be stalled, but you’re ‘old!'”

          Petty as all get out, but damn he needs to see how this would feel on the other foot.

          1. What's with today, today?

            Well, it’s funny you say that. He won’t sell anything that has to do with new technology (streaming, podcasts, etc.) What’s his reasoning you ask? “I’m too old to understand that. These young salespeople can focus on those things!”

            I really am just venting, I promise.

              1. Lora

                What the…? It amazes me to no end what people say out loud to their bosses.

                This week a dude who was supposed to give me some accounting codes for a formal capital request first refused to reply to me (a mere woman) and then when he replied to my male colleague, told him “go ask my boss” when it is literally his job to know that and tell it to us.

                I would not be super eager to tell my boss, “I am incompetent” for any reason, but definitely not “I am incompetent and cannot do a significant part of my job because of [explicit reason to discriminate against me]”. Who the heck are these people, even?

              2. Say what?

                Yeah, what designbot said… The man is an idiot! He’s literally ageist-ing himself!

                Vent away, WWT,T? You deserve it.

        3. Aphrodite

          That response is even more offensive than the original one. The reason is that it is one of several ones–“I’m too old to change” or “I’m new here” as well as the infamous “That’s just the way I am” (especially to complaints about their continual late arrivals to anything) to excuse bad behavior.

          It’s not that someone can’t change. Look at how much many of us have changed some things to be sensitive to others. It’s that people who use those general excuses don’t give a damn about anyone and have no intention of moving out of rude territory.

          Your boss should let him know that any comments that even lean in that direction will be met with unemployment (since he was already warned and responded to said warning with a cavalier dismissal of an excuse).

        4. Old Fart Math Teacher

          I think I’d probably respond to “I’m old” with something along the lines of “if I can’t treat you differently because you’re old, then you can’t use it as your excuse to act differently.”

        5. Genevieve Shockley

          “The only time you can not change behavior is when you are dead. You are not dead, and age is not an excuse.”

          I am in my 60’s and believe the above would be appropriate to say to the gentleman.

      3. Videogame Lurker

        Ditto on the underwear translation. And ‘finger sandwiches’? Is he from Europe? Who eats ‘tiny sandwiches’ at a meeting? At best, *quiet* snacks.

        Unless that is what those disgusting wrap thinga from costco are?

        1. Ann Onimous

          I’m from Europe, and the last time I remember eating finger sandwiches in any sort of “gathering”, were during birthday parties in the 90s…

    2. Snark

      “Bob, this is the kind of comment I’ve asked you to stop, because they’re sexist. I don’t care if you’re old. If you wouldn’t say it to John or Fergus, don’t say it to me.”

    3. pleaset

      “Boss, I’m old!!!”

      When you say something like that as defense for not being able to change, then yeah, you’re old.

      In contrast, if you’re 83 and still (at least trying) to learn/grown/change, you’re not that old.

      1. Snark

        And even if you’re old, if you are still employed and are not well into dementia, it is not too late to learn to hold your damn tongue.

      2. Jadelyn

        If you’re too old to behave professionally toward ALL your coworkers, you’re too old to be in the workforce, and you should be retired.

      3. LSP

        Ugh! I hate that people think they can just excuse their unprofessional bad behavior with stating something about their own demographic. It doesn’t matter if he is old. He still has to follow the same rules as everyone else in the workplace. The LAW says so.

        I used to have to deal with some obnoxiously sexist (and sexual) comments from a coworker, and when I complained, was told that it was just “his culture”. Ok, sure, he’s Muslim and his family is from Pakistan, BUT a) same as above: the rules apply to EVERYONE! b) there are plenty of Muslims who are able to comport themselves professionally and to think otherwise is SUPER bigoted, and c) this guy grew up in CALIFORNIA! Give me a big, fat break.

      4. fposte

        You’re old either way, and that’s fine; it’s okay to be old. It’s not okay to be unable to be current with your job’s needs because of the number of your trips around the sun.

      5. Anonymeece

        Ooh, yes. I had an employee – also in his 80s, white male – who made very disrespectful comments and even *crooked his fingers and snapped* to “summon” a female coworker. I shut down the “But I’m old” comments by saying something along the lines of, “This is about respecting your coworkers. Would you do that to George? Then don’t do it to Susie.”

        Was it sexist? Definitely! But pointing out the sexism didn’t change the behavior (big boss was also afraid to fire because of his age), but pointing out “respecting coworkers” did. Might be worth a try if your big boss isn’t helpful.

      6. Catherine

        The age thing is just an excuse I think. I sit next to a much older chap at work, he doesn’t always hear things so well, I helped him set up his new laptop and with various technology issues. In return, he is the most wise, kind and helpful person I’ve worked with in many years. His advice and support has been invaluable. He is also extremely conscious of how people are treated and I’ve never heard any kind of sexist, ageist or misogynistic comment from him. I think What’s With’s colleague is that kind of person because he is that kind of person, not because of his age.

    4. Icontroltherobots

      Your response was perfect! I hate the “I’m old, so I can’t” attitude. Yes you can, I pay you, don’t be sexist.

      1. Decima Dewey

        I stopped a coworker from playing the “I’m sooo old and decrepit” card by pointing out that I was actually the oldest person in the branch (by a couple of years).

      2. Emmaborina

        Time to make up a bingo card. Five old/sexist comments and you shout out bingo. It won’t change anything but maybe highlight how ridiculous the attitude is.

    5. MAB

      “Bill, we are in the middle of a conversation that has nothing to do with X. Let us finish please.”

      “Bill, its 2018 and what you just said is rather sexist”

      “Bill dainties means panties. That is not an appropriate thing to ask a coworker to bring”

      “Bill are you ok? Lately you have been speaking over me while I am talking. Are you having issues hearing?”

      “Bill just because you are older doesn’t make your comments ok. Stop”

      “Bill would you say that to your granddaughter?”

      “Bill you are talking like a dirty old man and it isn’t flattering for you”

      1. Say what?

        I’m thinking that he would find it appropriate to say/assign these things to his daughter/granddaughter.

        1. ValaMalDoran

          Probably.

          We were visiting my grandparents once, and my brother was in the kitchen doing dishes. My grandfather told me my brother was in the kitchen, doing my job.

    6. Lissa

      I think you telling him to ask John to make the dainties was great! Since it sounds like you know there’s not much you can do and are just venting I vote for you continuing to respond similarly any time he says something sexist. Make it annoying for him to say those things to you. Not saying to be rude but I have had success with never seeming outright annoyed but just replying in a way that’s really unsatisfying.

    7. Indie

      WOW. Since the boss is on-side, I think you’re in an excellent position to just call it out in whatever your preferred mode is; Patronising – “We don’t talk like that to women nowadays, you should read up on that”, Blunt – “Oh are you doing that thing where you pretend you’re too old to know what sexism is. I know your game”, or just weary “Co worker, everyone is just tired of your sexism, so if you aren’t willing or able to address women properly, you should just be quiet” and just follow up with “I’ve asked you not to do that” and “We’ve talked about this”.
      It’s more than a shame your boss isn’t firing him though.

      1. What's with today, today?

        Boss has flat out said he can’t let co-worker go because of co-workers age. Co-worker drives our boss batty. Boss is gone at least three of five days a week though, so he doesn’t see it as often as if happens. Honestly, though, my co-worker is in sales and brings in a lot of money, so I’m not sure they’d let him go if they felt like they could.

        1. Jadelyn

          Boss is wildly, wildly wrong. Age is not a shield against termination, if you’re behaving in such a manner that would get any other employee fired. Yes, document everything to hell and back (which you should be doing for any employee you let go anyway), but if you’ve got the ability when the EEO lawyer comes a-knocking to point at the records and say “he did XYZ, he was coached, he was put on a PIP, he was given a final warning, and wilfully refused to even try to improve the behavior he was on the PIP for, so we let him go, which is what we would do for any employee who behaved like that and refused to even try to improve,” then you’re fine.

          1. NW Mossy

            Just so. Protections against age discrimination do not exist to be a poor-performance hall pass for anyone over a certain age, and it’s sad how many organizations tolerate poor performance because they misunderstand these laws.

    8. MissDisplaced

      Dainties! Well, I think you responded appropriately to that one!
      Next time he responds with “Boss, I’m old!!!” Ask him if he can still learn new tricks. Like shutting his pie hole.

      I had one guy I work with recently put, in an email no less, that we should order padded carpet for a trade show because we have “preggers” there. We have no pregnant females on our team, so I have zero clue who or what he was referring to. I let it pass as I’ve not heard other comments of this type from him, but I was kind of appalled. If you want padded carpet, just ask to order padded carpet.

    9. Marlowe

      “I’m old!!!” as an excuse for sexism will never make sense to me. What, respect towards women didn’t exist back in their day?

      1. What's with today, today?

        Before he retired and went into sales, he was a publisher of a newspaper and then managed a car dealership, and his home life was very much a world where women stayed in the home. He refuses to ride in a car with a female co-worker because “people will talk,” and, when I was coaching our most junior employee (the 23-year-old, male), co-worker told me to “just be a mother to him.” I shut down that shit real quick.

          1. What's with today, today?

            I shut the mother thing down. Told him I had one child and would be doing out co-worker a disservice if I mothered him. I had an in the moment outburst.

        1. NW Mossy

          “People will talk”? He’s 83! The “talk” is vastly more likely to be “oh, how nice that he has a young person in his life to drive him around” than “OMG scandal what a player!”

          1. Erin

            People would think it’s his granddaughter taking him to his his optometrist appoint for his cataracts.

        2. Indie

          Like if you were that self conscious about appearances, why would you not keep that little policy and rationale to yourself! Like anybody would press him for reasons as to why they are going to be deprived of his company! He could simply say he likes to drive himself and likes his own space and people would be happy to let him be, especially the women.

          Doing it this way is trumpeting himself as the big bad wolf, when in all likelihood people could openly say “No one thinks you’re Casanova” and get a round of nods from everyone in attendance.

      2. Not So NewReader

        “Showing respect for others is a basic component of any job and is expected from everyone. If you cannot consistently show basic respect for others then you cannot work here. Age has no bearing on any of this.”

        The boss needs to grow a spine.

      3. Cookie Monster

        ah, yes exactly. respect for women mostly didn’t exist back in their day. I mean, some men had it, but it certainly wasn’t the norm. Look at the old laws that you could deny women a loan or bank account if it wasn’t also signed by a man even if the woman was financially self supporting; or the “rape doesn’t exist within marriage” laws; or the laws that allowed men to beat their wives. All of these things changes relatively recently.

      4. stitchinthyme

        I just read a quote from someone to the effect that using “I’m old” as an excuse for sexism or bigotry is basically saying, “I lived through most of the major social justice movements of the 20th century and didn’t learn a thing from any of them.”

        1. Workerbee

          “For you, the Renaissance is just something that happened to other people.” – paraphrasing from BlackAdder

          If he’s too old to change, that means he’s too old to learn, and what he’s doing still being employed is down to that spineless boss at this point.

      5. The Hobbit

        This. We had a case of a famous actor in my country who was accused of sexual harassment and gave ‘his generation’ as an excuse. This man is about my father’s age, maybe a bit younger, so I brought it up to my father and asked him if this was okay ‘back in his day’. His answer was ‘my mother would have made sure I couldn’t sit for a long time – even as a grown man’. So I often use the ‘yeah, so and so is the same age and doesn’t act like this’ response now, most of the time.

        Also: it’s funny that the same old people say stuff like ‘back in my day people knew how to behave’ when they think younger people are being disrespectful to them.

    10. Temperance

      So what I would do is respond to him and ask him why HE didn’t bring any “dainties” for the meeting. And yeah, dainties means panties, so I would have probably pointed out to him that most women understand that.

    11. SJ

      Obviously, this is sexist and not ok but at this point…is it really going to change? Sounds like he’s not willing, not going to, not being forced to…change. I’m SO glad you speak up but at this point, it’s sort of a roll your eyes and sigh deeply and ignore him situation. At this age, he’ll either retire or die soon enough.

      1. What's with today, today?

        That’s exactly what I do. I have no delusions about changing him, and again, we’ve worked together 10 years. I think it grates on me more now than it used to bother me. Just venting today. :)

    12. I'mNotYourSweetie

      I have a 75 year old female employee who insists on calling everyone – stranger or coworker – honey, sweetie, kiddo or darling. She volunteered to make some phone calls to clients, I emailed her privately and asked her not to use these terms of endearment while making phone calls about what is supposed to be a professional event. She took offense that I had emailed her privately and not included everyone. She asked why I singled her out and I explained that she’s the only one who does that, and I didn’t want to embarrass her by including everyone. She’s decided she’s not the right person to make the phone calls.
      She also insists on hugging complete strangers she’s just met at professional conferences. I cannot get her to stop, and it makes my company seem really unprofessional, because these people are completely caught off guard.
      It’s extremely frustrating and embarrassing – I can just picture the 20 something man on the end of the line with a masters degree or more wondering why this woman is calling him kiddo.

      1. Say what?

        Ugh, hugging as an office “norm.” I would avoid this person at all costs because I love my personal space.

        I had a coworker (74) tell me I was a “good girl” for shoveling the walk during a snow storm. I emailed her and told her I found it demeaning and asked her not to do it again. To her credit, she hasn’t. Turns out you can respect others’ wishes even if you are older than them.

    13. designbot

      I’d be like, here’s the thing Fergus: we can’t discriminate against you because of your age. But you can’t discriminate against US because of your age, either. It’s not an excuse to behave badly.

    14. Jenna Maroney

      All I hear when people use age as an excuse is “I lived through these societal changes but still managed to learn nothing.”

    15. RickTq

      I’d talk to his family about getting a dementia evaluation, sad to say. If these inappropriate comments and behaviors are increasing it may be time for him to step back.

      1. What’s with today, today?

        The comments and interrupting aren’t increasing. My tolerance is decreasing. Trust me when I say his mind is as sharp as a tack.

        1. RickTq

          That’s what we thought with my father, and he was a high-level consultant to the electric power industry at 90. In business environments he was OK but per his neurologist his impulse control/executive functions were at the level of a 12 year old.

    16. AFPM

      Just out of curiosity, what if your job and what is his job? Is he on-air talent or a salesperson? If so, that might explain why no one’s given him a talking to. I worked in admin positions in radio for a long time and had to put up with obnoxious behavior – mostly from salespeople – because they bring in the money and, because of that, were allowed to do pretty much whatever they wanted. On-air talent can also be untouchable if they get good ratings. I’m not excusing the behavior at all, just that those are the dynamics I’ve encountered. And hopefully that person will retire soon. Good luck!

      1. What’s with today, today?

        He’s sales and I’m on air talent. I’m the News Director and morning personality. Our jobs work in tandem, I have no check without him selling, and he has nothing to sell without me.

        1. twig

          My thought on the “dainties” request — if he asks you about dainties for a meeting again:

          “BOB! Why the HECK are you asking about my UNDERWEAR?!?!?”

          Inserting profanity if it’s acceptable at your job. — I know that’s not what he ACTUALLY meant — but maybe if you embarass him, he’ll think twice next time? — I mean, he probably won’t — but you might get a chuckle over it?

  2. Folklorist

    It’s your Hey-I-Remembered-This-Early-Enough-to-Post ANTI-PROCRASTINATION POST!!! Get off here, go do something you’ve been putting off, then come back and brag about it! (Then you can carry on reading the thread. I wouldn’t deprive you of your AAM!)

    I’m going to answer emails from applicants who are waiting to hear from me and organize this whole “hiring a freelancer” thing.

    1. Icontroltherobots

      Things I’ve done this morning to procrastinate:

      1) started a “define” tattling comment for op #1 by accident.
      2) Booked a trip to do to something fun!
      3) Put on my very best happy face when condescended to by a co-worker.
      4) Discussed in detail very non-work things with work best-friend

      NEXT up – long lunch and then doing the HARD THINKING THING.

    2. Squirrel

      I sent the email to two people who I’m inviting to collaborate on a project for the next 4 months! I meant to do it last Thursday, but ran out of time.

      1. Bibliovore

        okay- I have business travel to book
        press release to write
        Budget to prepare.
        reference to follow up on.

        So- I will check my schedule and start looking at flights Right Now.

    3. MsChanandlerBong

      I’m going to do the three weeks’ worth of work I was supposed to be doing for the last three weeks. I’ll be back at 6:30 EST with an update, lol.

    4. Daughter of Ada and Grace

      I asked for help with an expense report (I love our admin) and finally made a much delayed optometrist appointment.

    5. Tea Fish

      Called three people I was dreading calling because I needed to shift their appointments and/or tell them that a check was delayed. All the calls went swimmingly!

    6. Misquoted

      Put something in the mail that has been on my to-do list for a long time. And I used the cauliflower in the fridge before it went bad. Go, me! And all of you!

  3. k.k

    Should I follow up with this potential interviewer, and if so how? Last Friday I got an email from somewhere I applied inviting me to an interview and asking my availability. I replied that same day with several open days the following week (this week). I haven’t heard back. Normally I wouldn’t follow up so soon, but now the dates I listed have past. If I write back, what should I say?

    1. alice

      Last Friday is ages ago! I’d say something like “Hey, just wanted to check in. Do any of those times work for you? I am flexible on Tuesdays (or whenever you can be flexible)”

    2. Audiophile

      I’ve had this happen. You can follow up at this point and say “I’m just following up on this previous. Here are some additional dates I’m available. I look forward to meeting with you.”

    3. CAA

      Forward the previous email you sent and at the top, say something like “I wanted to follow up on your request for an interview since the dates I had provided earlier have passed. I’m still very interested in the position, and am available next week on these days/times: list of dates”.

      If they don’t respond to this one, let it go and move on.

    4. Bea

      Holy crap…it may have been filtered to their spam folder and they don’t remember to check. Our system filters out a lot of the popular domains because of their phishing histories, siiiiiiigh.

      I would have followed up about 3 days ago. :|

    5. The New Wanderer

      Absolutely follow up. That happened to me a while back, and it turned out the interviewer had missed or forgotten my original reply, so we were able to schedule another interview pretty quickly.

      I wouldn’t follow up more than the one time, though.

  4. I woke up like this

    Hi! I am starting a new position that I’m super excited about, and I finally have an office of my own!. The only rub: my office is super small and does not have a window. My door opens to a dark hallway, so I have problems with both the lack of natural light and lack of circulating air. What tips do you all have to making such an office more pleasant? I have a ton of freedom in the decorating of my office, and after a conversation with my chair, I’m thinking this may be my office for a long time (office space is limited real estate in academia!).

    1. Jenn

      Congratulations! Very exciting! It sounds like a lamp is a must, maybe a lamp with a bulb that mimics daylight. A few other ideas that may or may not work: an aromatherapy diffuser? Its is big enough for a reading nook with a comfy chair and nice light? A special coffee/tea shelf? A bookcase?

      1. Curious Cat

        Yep definitely get a natural light lamp! Those things work wonders. Also decorate with some nice low-key plants that don’t need much sunlight or maintenance. Artwork on the walls, pictures of friends/family/pets, take any advantage to add a bit of bright color so the space doesn’t feel quite so cramped!

        1. JaneB

          Daylight bulb will help the plants too! Definitely support that. I have an academic office with a window… on the ground floor, mostly covered by a very large bush, shaded by a tree, and then there’s another building. The light has a certain dim and greenish underwater quality whatever the time of year, and my daylight lamp definitely helps both my mood and my eyesight!

        2. Ender

          Some plants like Japanese peace lilies are particularly good at cleaning indoor air. Maybe see if you can find one that is good at that and also can live on just lamplight (or get indoor grow-lamps from a headshop).

          1. As Close As Breakfast

            I have a domino peace lily that lived, thrived really, for over 2 years in an office with no windows. I also have a golden pothos that did really well in the same office. My office now has a huge window and both of them (along with a bunch of plant friends) are still doing great. I thought they would need to be put outside sometimes when I got them for the windowless cave I used to work in, but seriously, I’m pretty sure neither saw light other than the overhead fluorescent lights for that whole 2 years.

            1. I woke up like this

              Awesome! I’d love a plant to cheer up the space. I’ll be on the look out for peace lilies, thanks!

        3. Blue

          I have never heard of daylight lamps, so thank you for that suggestion! (My office has windows, but tragically, they are so tinted, they provide next to no sunlight.)

      2. Manders

        Yes, I strongly recommend this! One caveat: the very bright “light therapy” lamps aren’t supposed to be used all day, just for a short period of time in the morning. Having something that bright close to your face for a full 8 hours can cause eyestrain and headaches. Make sure you’ve got some other normal lamps to use for the rest of the day.

    2. Zip Silver

      Definitely get a small fan, possibly one with an air filter or a small dehumidifier, depending on what the circulation problems are like.

      1. EJane

        Amazon sells an $80 HEPA fan (the brand is LeVoit) that’s about the size of a trash can. It’s a miracle worker! It eliminates smells extremely well (i’ve used it to filter out both resin fumes [it doesn’t filter VOCs but it did take care of the smell] and pet messes) has various speed settings, and generally will make your life easier if you’re in a small and/or musty space.

    3. Annie Moose

      A sun lamp (or just a good lamp in general) could help brighten things up. Also plants, although of course that’s harder without natural light!

        1. Dino

          I was just going to suggest a snake plant! they’re really good for air quality on top of being basically invincible.

          1. Bee's Knees

            Exactly. Mine literally fell out of the moving truck (while parked) and then survived in a 110 degree greenhouse with no water for like a month. Before that, it lived in my dark apartment, and thrived.

          1. TardyTardis

            That’s the plant I need, having killed an innocent jade plant (and will steal for a Hogwarts fanfiction, just *guess* where it’s going to go…).

    4. Nita

      I’ve got pictures on the walls, and some pretty glassware. Tried to grow plants, but my air circulation problem is that the HVAC outlet is right above my desk… I found out the hard way that even the toughest plants die when there’s a steady stream of cold, dry air coming right at them.

      1. Dave

        It is pretty easy to move the HVAC diffuser over a tile if there is room in a grid ceiling. Might be worth asking your maintenance guy. (This is assuming there isn’t a piece of equipment right above your office hidden in the ceiling or your building had a thousand renovations with limited demo.)

        1. Nita

          I doubt that anyone will do a hardware upgrade to save my plants, but thanks for the idea! I’m going on leave in a few months, and will pitch the idea then for the comfort of whoever uses my office while I’m gone.

    5. Observer

      The right lamp can make a significant difference in terms of the lighting.

      Don’t bring in too much stuff, or it will make the room feel more crowded.

    6. Jadelyn

      Daylight lamp, maybe a couple of them. Decorative mirrors or art that incorporates mirrors. Plants will help brighten it and also freshen the air a bit – do a google for “bathroom plants” to find ones that do well with zero natural light.

      1. Bibliovore

        My old job had an office very similar.

        A natural light lamp.
        a small fan.
        bookshelves.
        I had built in shelving for my books
        flat cubbies like in mailroom for student papers and prep for classes.

    7. Kittymommy

      No advice, but I was confused longer than I should be with the”conversation with my chair”. In my head I’m thinking like your office chair… why are they having a conversation with her office chair… Does the chair have a name??

      …ohh the chair of her organization.
      I need a nap.

      1. I woke up like this

        Bahahahaha! I do talk to myself in my office, so one might think I’m talking to my chair!

      2. Akcipitrokulo

        It took this comment for me to realise…. seemed perfectly reasonable to me. Alone in new office, and start like “Well, Chair, looks like it’s just you and me…”

    8. SJ

      *facepalm* “after a conversation with my chair…” I seriously thought you were discussing things with your office furniture for a minute!!!!!

    9. epi

      You might be surprised by what plants you can have in a windowless office. I am writing from one and have a hobbit jade, a croton, and an asparagus fern. My desk has a fluorescent under-cabinet light so I just keep them directly under that. Conveniently, that also keeps them in my peripheral vision all day. It was actually an employee at a plant shop, who had previously had an office job, who encouraged me to give it a try.

      There are some *really* cute desk sets you can get to help make it look like a human sits here in a hurry. I recommend Fab or browsing the “interesting finds” section on Amazon. Once you have a couple of small things that make your desk look occupied, you can wait for more meaningful stuff like cards or small gifts to accumulate.

      1. I woke up like this

        Thank you! I’ll see if there’s a horticulture department or club on campus that sells plants. Brilliant idea!

    10. RainyDay

      Are string lights/fairie lights an option for you? I have them strung in a dark part of my apartment and they make a world of difference. I don’t think they’re unprofessional, but it of course depends on your specific environment – I’ve worked in offices where cube/office decor was completely acceptable, and lights were not out of the ordinary.

      1. I woke up like this

        Totally an option! I’m a professor in the humanities, so we are expected to be a bit quirky. Thank you!

    11. Working with Professionals

      It can also help to put up a window sized picture of the outdoors. I used to change them out seasonally and another coworker actually added window trim and curtains to enhance the illusion. Congratulations!

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

        Maybe even one like they have at IKEA stores that are just a big LED light box on the wall with a picture of an outdoor scene to make fake windows in their little show apartments?

      2. I woke up like this

        I found on etsy a mirror with window panes, so it looks a bit like a window AND reflects light. It’s in my cart now!

      3. TardyTardis

        Dresslily has huge wall tapestries with varying designs, some of them classic bookcases, some of them doorways to the beach, and so on.

    12. Xarcady

      See if they will repaint the office for you in a light, cheerful color. Or let you paint it yourself. Especially if the walls are that lovely institutional green.

    13. Aphrodite

      Even though I have two windows, I still prefer lighting. But I do not use the fluorescent ceiling lighting in the office but always bring in two or three attractive lamps, either table, floor or a combination, usually found on CL. I make sure they are ones I’d put in my home, pretty colored ones or faux mercury ones or glass ones or whatever I find that I like. I still use incandescent bulbs because I prefer that light. That alone will make a big difference.

      Also, artwork. I don’t mean standard artwork you see anywhere but things you love. It can be a combination of framed pictures or ones you have done on canvas.

      I find a few decor items–bring them from home if you have extras or watch for something you love. But don’t buy anything just to have it. Regardless of how long it takes let what you love enter your life.

      Also, the holidays are coming up. I have a small green tabletop tree with mini green lights and ornaments that I keep here. (I’ll leave it when I retire.) I also decorate for autumn and use pumpkins, wheat and other things I like.

      Most of all, I keep my desk clean. I hate piles. Everything I need is filed neatly in drawers so I can get it instantly. Of course I have my current project on my desk or table but nothing else. A mini-refrigerator holds drinks and lunch/snacks.

      I’ve been in here since November 1, and most of the built-in bookshelves are still empty. I haven’t filled them just to have them filled but slowly, very slowly, the office is becoming mine. And I love it!

    14. FRIYAY!

      At a previous job, two of my coworkers worked in a literal closet – it was originally meant for printers but they turned it into an office!

      What I’ve seen done successfully is a lot of paper lanterns – the big ball lights so you can hang them at different heights, with a bulb or without, and not take up floor space. Gives it color and ambiance lol. Add as many plants as you feel able to, a small tabletop fan, and hopefully it won’t be too bad. Congrats on the new job!

    15. Artemesia

      I had this kind of office once and I got a poster of one of my Magret’s window paintings. If I hadn’t had that I would have found another outdoor scene to have my own window. That and of course good lighting. And as others noted mirrors can be helpful too and there are mirror strips and mirror tiles to perhaps fill an awkward corner or do something creative as you don’t need a mirror to look at yourself but the effect of enlarging the office.

    16. Courageous cat

      I’d do the opposite of what some people are saying. Instead of trying to make it feel like there’s outdoor light, embrace it and go really cozy with it. Lower, warmer lights, maybe some string lights, soft fabrics, lots of plants (cast iron plants are a great choice with no light), etc.

  5. chi type

    My department recently got a new Head and she has decided that 4 of us should take turns supervising 4 low-level PT employees. O_o
    Obviously there is a lot of potential here for miscommunication, duplication of work, etc. I’m thinking we will need to do things like track schedule changes and make sure certain tasks are completed on deadline. Does anyone have suggestions for free or low-cost apps/software to help us all stay on the same page? Maybe something with checklists, etc? We do have access to OneNote – I think that’s sometimes used for workflow-management type stuff?? Also something called Microsoft Teams??
    I’m not even sure what we need I just see the potential for much frustration on the horizon…Any suggestions are welcome!

    1. Red Staplers are awesome

      I run a 24/7 team with people in multiple locations. I use a separate Google calendar to make sure we always have coverage, each person is responsible for making sure their entry on the calendar is up to date and I check it over pretty frequently to make sure we don’t have any gaps in coverage.

      I use Trello to manage tasks. Especially with the 24/7 coverage, I’m not always around to ask people how a specific task is progressing. They can leave notes for each other in Trello and can check off when specific things are finished. For re-occurring tasks, I use IFTTT to automatically set up cards each day.

      1. Crylo Ren

        Seconding Trello. Our team which has a similar setup (a couple of employees who have multiple managers) uses it for task work. You can set up checklists and assign specific people to specific tasks.

      2. There is a Life Outside the Library

        Trello is awesome…just make sure you get on the same page with everyone about HOW you are using it. There are some dummies out there who will refuse to get familiar with its (extremely easy) interface, and pretend they don’t see tasks assigned to them.

      3. emmelemm

        Today I learned that IFTTT exists and I am fascinated. (I am actually a programmer, so I understand If This Then That as a concept. But as an app that manages your life – !!?!)

    2. BRR

      My suggestion would be to push back if you can. I’ve had two managers before and that was sometimes difficult, I can’t imagine four.

    3. professional_failure

      Depending on how complex your assignments are, you could use google sheets. We use it and like it because it’s dead simple, you can sort, and a lot of the project functionality on more complicated programs was overkill for our one-and-done tasks

    4. epi

      I like Google Keep. I’ve used it to share checklists and notes with both my boss and my husband and it works pretty well.

      It has a cute bulletin board look that allows you to color code and rearrange lists and notes. I put other stuff in there like a couple of funny pictures or a quote I like, and it encourages me to keep looking at it and using it. It also lets you easily duplicate lists. So if you share something like a proofreading checklist with an intern, they can have their own copy that they check off whenever they read through a document without interfering with everyone else.

      I also use Google Drive but rarely combine these products; in my experience it isn’t necessary to use other Google products to get a lot out of Keep. Of course, you’ll want to be sure it’s OK to put the type of information you’re sharing in Google if that not what your company’s office suite is hosted on.

    5. chi type

      Thanks guys! I will take a look at these suggestions (while secretly hoping she forgets the whole crazy scheme).

    6. Lavender Menace

      Why wouldn’t she just have each one of you supervise one PT employee?

      Microsoft Teams is an application that’s kind of like Slack, in that it’s primary purpose is communication on work teams. I’ve found it works best for small-to-medium-sized work groups, so your group size of 8 is probably perfect. Basically, you create a “team” that is for your work group, and you can create ‘channels’ on different topic areas (medium-sized work groups often use them for sub-groups; small work groups might use them for different topics of discussion, like “Teapot Design” and “Teapot Assembly” or something). In those channels you can have asynchronous chats/discussions kind of like on this comment board. All the chats live there, so you can go back and refer to them later; you get notifications when they happen, but you don’t have to respond right away either. It’s kind of like in between instant messenger and email.

      There are also plug-ins you can use to centralize all of your stuff. So they have a OneNote plug-in that means you can link to a OneNote document right from Teams. There’s also an Asana one, and several others. There’s a pretty simple one called Planner that allows you to assign tasks.

      1. chi type

        Thanks for the description of Teams. I’ll probably check that one out first since we do have Office 365.
        As for “Why wouldn’t she just have each one of you supervise one PT employee?” There are reasons. Boring and idiotic reasons.

        1. Bowl of Oranges

          If you have Office 365, you probably have access to Microsoft Planner. It’s a lightweight project management app, which may work for you. You can have multiple plans, with buckets and categories within each. You can also assign to-dos to other people with due dates.

          It also plugs into Teams!

  6. ThatGirl

    When I started, my team had five people on it, plus a team lead. We’re currently at three. We don’t necessarily need 5 – we’ve sold off a business unit – but I think four is ideal to get through our busiest times of year. However the new manager has said we’re stuck with three for now.

    This would be fine – it is what it is – except that there’s still a job ad up for the allegedly non-existent fourth person. Which makes me wonder if HR never got the memo or if our manager was confused.

    1. ContentWrangler

      Is it up on your company website or on a job hosting site? Some of those sites like Indeed, the jobs can hang around for awhile because companys book a set amount of time for the ad.

      I’m sure your manager would know if there was going to be a hire. Probably just HR slow to update things.

      1. ThatGirl

        It’s on our company job site. And while you would think our manager would know… she is a little spacey and forgetful sometimes.

        1. Jadelyn

          The other question then is, who has access to update the website? I’m in HR but we don’t have direct access to update the careers page on our website – we have to email the marketing department and tell them what changes we need them to make, then wait for them to do it.

          1. ThatGirl

            That, I do not know for sure. I assumed HR was the only one with direct access to it (it’s through SuccessFactors which also handles our reviews etc.)

            1. Jadelyn

              Oh, then if it’s hooked up directly to your HRIS, then yeah – your boss will need to tell HR to close the req out of the system. We are unfortunately not mind-readers and don’t intuitively know that a manager has decided not to hire for a previously open position unless someone tells us! :)

  7. Side hustle

    I picked up a second job for some extra cash and it made me curious about other side hustles. If you have a side hustle, what do you do?

    1. Baby Fishmouth

      I work a very part time job as event staff for road races – I only work one or two shifts once a month or so, so it’s not much money, but I get a great discount at the associated store.

        1. Baby Fishmouth

          I found out about it through a friend of a friend, but they did post it on the regular store careers website! Maybe contact any running/outdoor stores to see if they have anything similar?

    2. ThatGirl

      This is not meant as a criticism of you, but I really hate the term “side hustle,” it’s a second job, just like you said. People have had second jobs for centuries.

      Anyway, I don’t have one, but one of my coworkers works for Shipt on evenings and weekends.

        1. ThatGirl

          Sorry, it truly is just a phrase that bugs me, but I am not the word police and don’t mean to derail on that :)

          1. Elle

            I agree with ThatGirl. It’s not an attack on the poster, but on the cultural idea that having a side gig is glamorous or something other than what it is: employers not being willing to pay people enough to live. However, I’m a big fan of people’s “side hustles” when it’s not about scraping by, but about furthering a hobby or starting up their passion project.

            1. ThatGirl

              Yes, this is more what I was getting at – that we’re in this “gig economy” where everyone has to “hustle” all the time. I hate the permeating “work yourself to death” idea and I think “side hustle” and needing second jobs in general goes along with that.

              I do not mean to criticize the OP at all.

            2. ArtsNerd

              Heh, I just opened this thread to make a post about being tired of my 2 job + freelance + personal project (i.e. 4 jobs) lifestyle. I enjoy each of them individually but it’s just too much when together. But I can’t make ends meet without the 3 revenue generating ones and I can’t stay well and sane without the artistic outlet (which is gaining traction = will be somewhat revenue generating soon but also taking up more time.)

              1. ArtsNerd

                And to answer OP’s original question: my main job is arts marketing (in-house), side ‘hustles’ are freelance graphic design, music retail, and music making.

            3. What's with today, today?

              I disagree. I have a great job and a decent salary, and my husband is a successful family and criminal attorney and makes more than enough to comfortably support our family of three. I don’t need to have extra income, however, I do some freelance writing on the side and use that money earned to buy luxury purses.

              1. What's with today, today?

                I guess, to clarify, I consider mine a true side hustle in that I do it at my convenience, only take the available work I want, and can say no to any projects I don’t want. The amount of work I put in a month is completely up to me.

      1. Queen of Cans and Jars

        We have a small coffee roasting business, so we sell coffee through our website & at farmers markets.

      2. Bea

        Side hustles generally refer to freelance and contract work. So you’re not wrong but it really isn’t a big deal. The second job is disposable most times so it’s not looked at the same way as you’re standard full time job.

        Moonlighting is the word that should be used but again this is the internet, man.

      3. Temperance

        FWIW, though, a side hustle can be a second job, but not necessarily so. I have a friend who sells stuff at craft shows and flea markets and she calls that a side hustle, for example. My husband used to be in a band that performed and he made some side cash gigging, but it definitely wasn’t a job.

        1. Er...

          Yeah, maybe it’s just me but I think there’s different connotations for those phrases. I think of a side hustle as something like freelancing and being a entrepreneur/solopreneur whereas a second job suggests schedule and pay set by a boss.

          1. Manders

            Yes, I tend to associate “side hustle” with owning your own business, setting your own hours, and not having a boss who can discipline or fire you.

            It’s tricky to define because a lot of companies that probably should be hiring actual W2 employees started using the same term to justify only hiring contractors/paying only commission/requiring people to use their own personal cars or computers/not paying minimum wage/churning through a lot of young or desperate people/etc. When those companies say “side hustle,” they usually mean “We know this isn’t a living wage, so we want customers to believe people are happily doing it for a little extra cash instead of being exploited.”

    3. Aurora Leigh

      I do copy cataloging at my public library. It’s about 10-12 hours a week and I can set my own hours as long as stuff gets done in a fairly timely manner.

      I love it!

      1. Boba Feta

        If you don’t mind elaborating, how did you set that up? Was it a cold call on your part or did you have a prior working relationship with your local branch? My first ever job was in a library (decades and many states ago), and this sounds like exactly the kind of thing I would love to set up now as a (third!) PT gig to help out until I can find something FT and permanent.

        1. Boba Feta

          Gah! Sorry, I didn’t mean to include the link in the name again, and didn’t realize it had autosaved. Sorry, please disregard that bit!

        1. Aurora Leigh

          Dorothy and Boba — I worked at my branch as a page though high school and college. About 2 years after I quit, I happened to be in the library and my old boss mentioned the cataloger was retiring in a month or two and would I like her job?

          I jumped on it! I’d love to do library work full time, but not enough to go into debt for the degree or move.

          I’m not sure how the previous cataloger got the job, but she also didn’t have an MLS.

          1. Boba Feta

            Thanks, Aurora. I, too, paged (way back in the mists of time), but, as I said, that was many states ago. I may try to pop into my new-local-branch and make some inquiries, just in case. Thank you for the idea!

        1. chi type

          Most books nowadays are cataloged by the Library of Congress or similar and then individual libraries just copy that work and add any specialized info from their library.
          Cataloging from scratch is mostly only done in archives or special libraries.

          1. Aurora Leigh

            Right — I just copy records, or very occasionally make a brief record for a puppet or something — I didn’t want to pretend to be more skilled than I am! :)

          2. Jack Russell Terrier

            My friend works in English Cataloguing for the Bodleian Library. They’re a copyright library so she actually creates the catalogue entry as they get newly published books.

          3. Zennish

            FWIW, more original cataloging gets done at a Public Library than one might think. Self published or small press works often don’t have records available, and many publics have genealogy or local history collections that are cataloged in-house, along with other odds and ends.

    4. Zip Silver

      I work super part time at one of Orlando’s theme parks. It’s not so much for the cash, but more for the free tickets, which is a pretty common thing around here.

      1. Tableau Wizard

        This is literally the only thing that could make me consider retiring to Florida. (in decades and decades and decades…)

        Though maybe I could do the same in Anaheim California?

      2. Lilo

        I didn’t make much money in my theme park jobs but getting to take my friends and family for free was great. I had a lot of coworkers who were grandparents and retired and used the benefits to take their grandkids.

      1. Red Reader

        If you’re willing to share on the weekend post, I’m always looking for good accessory type patterns for fingering and lace weight yarns.

        1. Environmental Compliance

          I just had a few cowl & shawl patterns come out! I’d be happy to share. I’m always looking for test knitters too.

    5. Academic Editor

      My editing job is actually a freelance position – a second job on top of my more structured office work. I freelance through an online agency, so I have limited, controlled contact with my clients, set pricing, and the ability to accept or turn down potential texts as I have the time or need. The staff is also super helpful, and we freelance editors are protected from negative reviews by an extensive internal review process that evaluates our performance rather than whatever the customer says. Plus, we have an international editing community (the company offers services in multiple languages) and a very active Slack network for help and guidance!

      It’s a great side gig, and perfect for my needs.

      1. Boba Feta

        This reply is actually both for you and Dr. Vanessa Poseidon (below): would you be willing to share how to came to be involved with your particular agency (Dr. Vanessa Poseidon: If you have one)? Was it through existing job connections or did you apply to work with them without previous contact? This kind of work sounds perfect for my credentials, experience, and temperament.

        1. Dr. Vanessa Poseidon

          I work for an online agency that sounds very similar to Academic Editor ‘s. I cold applied, took their editing test, and got the job. My company only hires PhDs, but I’d imagine there are others with less stringent requirements. I’ve also heard good things about FlexJobs for finding gigs like this (specifically that postings are thoroughly vetted), so you might check for opportunities there (you need to pay for access, but it’s pretty affordable).

          1. Boba Feta

            Thank you! I think I would be a great fit for this kind of work, and will start researching online agencies of the kind you mention. If you would feel comfortable sharing a name, I would appreciate the tip, but I also completely understand if not.

            I had briefly looked into FlexJobs, but balked at the notion of paying for access, given my time and budget restraints right now. But I appreciate the reminder of its existence, and may give it some more consideration.

            1. Dr. Vanessa Poseidon

              That’s understandable! I’m debating with myself right now about whether I want to pay for Flex Jobs, since I’m looking for a new full-time position. I probably should, but haven’t talked myself into it yet cause I’m cheap.

          2. Academic Editor

            My program doesn’t require a PhD, so it should be more accessible. But I also cold applied and took an editing test, then went through a short probationary period where I got feedback on every assignment before being turned loose.

            Some placed that hire freelancers (I haven’t worked at all of them, fair warning) are Cactus Communications, TCK Publishing, and Scribbr. You can also find freelance job postings on the ACES (American Copy Editors Society) job board.

            1. Boba Feta

              Academic Editor, thank you so so much or this info. While I am not relishing the thought of adding more piecemeal work to my already overloaded proverbial plate, this is by far a much more palatable avenue than some of the other wacky ideas that entered my head as ways to earn a bit more until I can find a stable FT gig.

              1. Academic Editor

                I totally understand. I can say that through Scribbr, because it works with students, there are definitely busy seasons. But even outside of them, they’re usually good for a job every few days (a job being about 10 hours of work). It more so depends on how you structure your preferences on topic, availability, type of editing, etc.

                But best of luck in your FT job search! I hope that works out and let’s you declutter that plate a little!

              2. Close Bracket

                I currently work for Cactus. I have a PhD in Physics, and I get allocated all sorts of stuff, from different fields of engineering, materials science, machine learning, and other stuff. It pays peanuts. Some of the work is so poorly written that I can’t even tell what they are trying to say. You can preview the work before accepting it, so I try to screen the writing before accepting anything. Sometimes I have to do some research to understand particular terms they use, and sometimes I need to do more research than others. Some jobs come with a formatting aspect, and there is no extra pay for that. I know TeX, which is a desired skill, but I won’t take TeX jobs bc there is no extra pay, and I don’t need the hassle. You can tell if it is a TeX job bc it will be there in the preview files. You can’t tell if it needs to be formatted in Word for a particular journal.

                Trying to decipher the English word salad and learning about an unfamiliar field take a lot of time. The per word base rate is 1.6 cents, but the hourly rate can be really abysmal.

                1. Academic Editor

                  Thanks for the share, Close Bracket. I had heard of Cactus but never worked there, so now I know what to avoid in the future.

      2. Lawnonymous

        Would you be willing to share the name of the online agency? I am interested in this type of work and the the way this agency and position are set up sound awesome.

      3. Close Bracket

        Do you have any particular certificates or whatnot? I work for Cactus, and I’m interested in expanding to other editing. I don’t have any actual editing qualifications, though, just (heh, just) the PhD that Cactus wanted.

        1. Academic Editor

          Scribbr just requires passing an editing test and being a native speaker pretty much (I think it also asks for a resume and a small editing sample that they provide, but I’m not sure I remember that correctly). Editing experience is a definite plus, but no certifications required!

    6. MissGirl

      I work as a ski instructor on holidays and spring break. I get lots of passes and discounts and the pay is pretty decent after several years of cultivating clientele.

    7. Dr. Vanessa Poseidon

      I edit dissertations and other academic publications. I take on projects as I want them and mainly use the extra cash for vacations and fun stuff!

      1. Boba Feta

        Dr. Vanessa Poseidon, just in case you hadn’t seen my question to Academic Editor, above:
        Do you have an agency through which you work? Would you be willing to share how to came to be involved either with your agency or how you set up your client base? This kind of work sounds perfect for my credentials, experience, and temperament, but I’m unclear how to separate the legitimate agencies that would be worth contacting/ pursuing from the semi-exploitative/predatory “5r” style operations one finds online. Thank you!

      2. TootsNYC

        I have a friend who is a college professor who mentioned this to me as an opportunity, especially for her non-American, non-native-English-speaking students.

        But I always wonder, how much editing is ethical to do when someone’s academic rating is on the line?

        I have a tendency to really fix everything (though I don’t worry that I erase people’s voice at all), so someone who really didn’t get the English right would leave me feeling I had to essentially rewrite.

        1. Dr. Vanessa Poseidon

          This is a good point, but the level of edit for each project is really well defined and factored into how much I get paid. So not only am I not allowed to rewrite material for academic clients, but there’s no incentive to do so, since I won’t get paid for it!

          Fixing all objective errors is well within the bounds of responsible editing. For the bigger stuff, most of my clients opt for a service where I provide feedback on writing issues, so that also allows me to flag things like unclear terminology or poor structure and to make suggestions, but still leaves it to the client to fix these things.

    8. It's In The Cards

      Commenting anonymously because I’m a little worried about the blowback. But this is a hobby of mine now, but I used to do it for some extra pocket money.

      I used to read Tarot cards. It was more advice giving then reading the future (I think that’s dangerous and gives people false hope). I didn’t then, and don’t know, answer anything about debt, death, disease, or divorce. I know it’s a fine line but it’s an important one to me. Ask me how to get your ex to break up with his girlfriend? NEXT. Want to know what steps to take to improve your love life? Sure, let’s have a chat.

        1. The New Wanderer

          Totally. I did this in college but just for fun (I was still reading the descriptions off the leaflet!), and it really was fun. Still have my cards somewhere…

      1. Curious Cat

        Omg! I’ve actually been looking into getting my own set. How’d you start out with it? Did you do a lot of online tutorials to learn about how to do it, or is it a lot of intuition based? I’m so fascinated, I love this subject.

        1. It's In The Cards

          I actually grew up with a lot of similar stuff. My mom was into getting her own Tarot readings(I’ve actually got a few cool stories from her). We had palmistry and astrology books around the house. So, for me, it was natural to slide into it.

          There’s a ton of information on the internet. I’m old school, though, I prefer books. And I really prefer getting into the history of it (which, HOLY HISTORY NERD, is fascinating). I don’t rely on the meanings from the books so much. It’s a fabulous jumping off point, don’t get me wrong. It’s a little intuition. It’s also looking at the symbols/story on the card and seeing how that relates to the question asked.

          I also dabble in other cartomancy – Lenormand, Kipper, etc. I love learning and there is so much history and mythology surrounding all of it.

          1. Curious Cat

            I’ll have to see if my local library has any books I can check out and read up on. Thanks for humoring my questions! This is great.

            1. It's In The Cards

              Oh, I had to restrain myself. I find this infinitely fascinating.

              If you want to REALLY get into it, I recommend Benebell Wen’s “Holistic Tarot”. It’s pretty much a one-stop shop for any information you could need. (If your library has it, even better!) She even has free study guides on her website that correspond to the book. As well as a collection of video lectures on YouTube.

            1. It's In The Cards

              Unfortunately (?), it’s lumped in with all the other stuff in the books. I haven’t stumbled across a pure history of Tarot book. I’ve cobbled my knowledge together from the myriad books I own as well as good ol’ Google.

              My favorite book is mentioned above: Holistic Tarot by Benebell Wen. I’d start there. She sites all the sources she used. I’m also quite fond of all three books that Lo Scarabeo published (Tarot Fundamentals, Tarot Compendium, and Tarot Experience); they’re like a mini-encyclopedia set.

            2. A drive-by replyer

              “A Wicked Pack of Cards” by Decker, Depaulis, and Dummett looks at the history and origins of the Tarot.

      2. Manders

        Hey, that’s cool! I have a friend who’s trying to do this for some extra cash, but she’s pretty shy about marketing herself. Your boundaries seem reasonable and I’ve been pretty impressed by how a good Tarot reader can help me think through complicated issues.

        1. It's In The Cards

          That’s exactly what I use it for. It literally lays out another way to look at the problem and the steps to resolve it. I’m always a fan of something that helps people look at stuff from a different angle.

      3. Sorcha

        I used to do readings too. Haven’t done it in years, but I had a similar approach – I don’t tell fortunes, I can’t predict the future, but I can use the cards as a way to explore issues. I mostly did it for friends and family initially, but others asked if they could pay me and for a while I would do the odd reading for friends of friends, colleagues of my mum, etc.

    9. TonyTonyChopper

      My husband and I have a side hustle dogsitting. We live in a big urban area where people travel a lot due to low cost of living, so we make really good money doing tasks we already have to do with our own dog.

    10. Bea

      I pick up some transcription and emergency accounting gigs here and there. Yeah, sometimes bookkeepers just leave.

    11. Natalie

      I do bookkeeping and basic HR consulting for a couple of small business owners. Pretty much everything but taxes.

    12. MissDisplaced

      I’ve always done graphic design work as a side hustle. I recently made $200 for a logo that basically took me 15 minutes to create. And that’s not even me seeking extra work, just friends and friends of friends kind of stuff.

      I’m good at retouching and/or resizing photos too. I used to make $20/hour for that kind of work, pretty much as much as I wanted of it, from an online retailer. Sometimes also product photography. It used to be my weekend hustle for some time, though I don’t need it anymore.

      1. the.kat

        If you don’t mind my asking, what was the online photo retouching/resizing company? I’d love to get into that but don’t know where to start.

        1. MissDisplaced

          It was a couple of places over the years, any of which might need the help. Local car dealers: shooting the cars, retouching photos and posting to their website. Manufacturers: I’ve done this for like a fixtures/housewares and hardware type items. (think faucets, shower heads, o-rings, car parts, car accessories, etc.)

          With the manufacturers it was word of mouth referrals. I used to work in that industry and other designers or former coworkers recommended me for side work. What happens is stores like Home Depot, Amazon, Walmart, etc., require these manufacturers to send in photos of all their products, usually on a plain white background, named by SKU and in different sizes (thumbnails, previews, large). Companies may also need this for their own websites. It might be several hundred SKU’s! It’s boring production work a lot of manufacturers don’t have staff to do and/or their in-house graphic designer doesn’t want to do it! LOL!

          Car dealers/car lots: I found some from Craigslist and then word of mouth. Again, they may not have staff to do this, or may not be computer-savvy. Though this is changing.

          You could try posting an ad offering your services on your local Craigslist to see if you get interest in this area. Ask fellow working graphic designers or web developers/designers if they need extra production help. One of my best gigs was with a designer friend who liked shooting the pics while I did the cleanup (clipping paths) sizing and organizing, and we split the money on larger jobs. I suppose you could also make up cards and visit some of the local car dealerships. Nowadays, the ability to create short video clips might also be a plus for car dealers.

          It’s not exciting work compared to design, but it really helped give me extra income when I needed it. I don’t imagine it’s gone away completely. I know I was outsourcing this as recently as 2 years ago.

    13. Work Wardrobe

      I have a vintage home goods shop on Etsy.

      I started it more for the fun/hobby aspect, but it’s turned out to be about as lucrative as a part-of-a-part-time job.

    14. Free Meerkats

      Currently, I’m not. But in the past I have:

      Washed, waxed, and serviced (monitored tires, made sure proper documents were in them, fuel and oil, etc) airplanes.
      Been a BMW (Boat Maintenance Worker.)
      Been a sailing instructor and charter skipper.
      Worked on a square rigged vessel as mate for sunset cruises, day tours, weddings, and the like.
      Worked as a warehouseman for a sheltered workshop.
      Delivered cars for a local dealership.

      1. Free Meerkats

        Oh yeah, I left off:

        Developed and sold racing harnesses online for a particular model car. I did about $25,000 gross one year on that one. Two years later, I grossed <$2000 as I'd filled the need for everyone who wanted them.

      2. Jadelyn

        Okay, I’m desperately curious – how did you get into the airplane maintenance stuff? My dad’s a corporate pilot so I know that side of the business relatively well, but not so much on the FBO/maintenance/support side. And since my dad and I don’t speak anymore, I’ve been missing the time I used to spend hanging out around the airport with him, and it would be nice to have a way to do some of that again.

        1. Free Meerkats

          I was working on my Commercial License and Instrument and Multi-Engine Ratings at the time at a small FBO at a very small airport (current identifier 4WA9). The owner worked part time there as a sideline to his Boeing job, his wife ran the office, we had a cadre of part time instructors and a full time A&P mechanic. IIRC, the mostly lease-back fleet was an Aeronca Champ, a C-140, a couple of C-150s, a C-172, a Piper Cherokee, a C-177RG, a Mooney M20G, and a Beech Duchess. I got time in all of them, loved the Mooney most of all.

          I was tired of dirty airplanes and it was something that needed to be done, so I talked with the owner about working in trade for my part of the bill after the GI Bill paid their share.

          1. Jadelyn

            Oh that’s neat! Sounds like it might not be a reproducible set of circumstances for me, although I know we’ve got a couple of those super-small local airports nearby, maybe I’ll get in touch with their office staff. Thanks!

    15. ContentWrangler

      I have a side job as an “event manager”. It’s an event space in a local public park so technically I’m a city employee. There has to be a city employee on site during any events hosted there. I do some basic opening and cleaning duties, but most of the job is watching Netflix in the office. It’s nice extra cash, I just do a couple shifts a month in the evening or the weekend.

    16. grey

      Rat Race Rebellion just helped me land a side hustle – a temporary one that’ll last about 6 weeks and I’m in the midst of the evaluation for a permanent one.

    17. Jadelyn

      I make and sell jewelry and paintings, and I’m working on a short story collection to put up for sale. I have one coworker who’s in one of those essential oil MLMs, another one who’s a realtor, and someone else does after hours/weekend tax prep during tax season.

    18. Kelly AF

      I’m really good with SAS, Excel, and R, and use them in my current job extensively. Does anyone have any advice for making some extra money doing it freelance on the side? Is there a market for freelance data analysis? How would I find clients?

      1. Jadelyn

        I imagine there would be a market for it – especially if you extend your offering to training a company’s existing EEs. I’d push hard for my boss to hire someone who could tutor me on SAS and R – Excel and your more routine analysis work, I’ve got handled, but more complex statistical analysis is beyond me and I’m really not even sure where to start chipping away at my ignorance on the subject.

        As far as where to find clients, I might suggest Upwork and Fiverr, but only because those are the two I’ve heard of. I can’t vouch for the quality or ease of use.

        1. Kelly AF

          Thanks! I taught test prep classes on the side for awhile, so training is right in my wheelhouse.

          I recommend Data Camp for training on new technology, although I think they only have open source stuff. SAS is a big company and training is a lot more formal and controlled.

      2. medium of ballpoint

        Throw up some fliers at colleges and universities! There are usually a ton of people happy to farm out their data analyses to someone.

      3. nonprofiteer

        Assuming you are using those programs for stats: nonprofits are increasingly using predictive analytics to make their fundraising efforts more efficient, but most cannot hire someone full time for it. Instead they pay quite a lot to consultants! The book “Fundraising Analytics” by Josh Birkholz would be a good place to start.

    19. IL JimP

      I actually started doing DoorDash since I used it as a customer and found it worked pretty good. So far I’m really only doing it to make a little extra a week but I’ve been averaging close to $20 per hour. You’re obviously an independent contractor with this app so you’ll need to put aside taxes and other stuff but seems pretty good so far plus it’s fun to see new restaurants in the area and meet some new people.

      1. Teapot Tester

        My husband is a teacher and some of his colleagues did this over the summer, it’s fairly new to this area. They claim to not make enough money to offset gas costs. I can see how it would be lucrative in a more populated area though.

      2. Awkward Interviewee

        Hopefully this isn’t too off-topic: As an occasional Door Dash customer, I have been wondering how the drivers are compensated. Are you paid a wage from Door Dash, or are you only paid through customers’ tips?

    20. Crylo Ren

      I do freelance email marketing. I only have one client right now but that’s for the best as I’m also going to night classes, so I only really have time for a few off-and-on projects.

    21. A Teacher

      High School Teacher full time. 3 “side hustles” I guess
      1) Head Coach of a team
      2) Adjunct at at college one night a week
      3) Work PRN as an athletic trainer for a local orthopedic group

    22. whatshername

      I make, decorate, and sell sugar cookies. Mostly around Christmas, but I have one client (a previous coworker) who will call me up occasionally to make cookies for her grandkids.

    23. Alternative Person

      I’m signed up with a couple of agencies that basically do the same work as my main job. It’s mostly cover work and one-off sessions but I landed a very nice medium-term government gig this year through one of them.

    24. Teapot Tester

      I’m a secret shopper.

      My husband donates his plasma, he makes pretty good money when he can get there twice a week.

      1. Curious

        I’ve seen secret shopper gigs but the pay is like $20/gig in a downtown area that I would have to spend $5+ just to get to! How do you make a profit off secret shopping?

        1. Teapot Tester

          $20 is actually pretty good! I have a few rules:

          I only take restaurant jobs that include shop fees – reimbursing my lunch and not paying me to do the report is not worth my time.

          I won’t do anything that’s not in a reasonable driving distance, or requires paying to park. Some companies will reimburse tolls/parking but not all. If it’s near my home or office, or a place I go regularly (like my kids’ schools), I will do it. Or if I can create what they call a route, which is several shops done all in one shot. So if I had to pay $5 to go to a downtown area I’d try to do multiple shops at the same time. This does require signing up with a lot of companies though.

          I do shops that don’t take a lot of time. A comic book shop where I have to ask for an unreleased issue early, then make some observations, or a post office shop where I have to mail something, or dining shops at places I eat anyway. I like gas station shops – check the cleanliness and employee interactions, buy a coffee or a bottle of water, done.

          I won’t do shops that are time consuming or require a lot of interaction with a sales person, other than buying something. I find those are too easy to give yourself away since you have to ask about specific things. I had a friend that worked in a retail store and she always knew who the secret shoppers were because they bought something small and asked a lot of questions.

          But you won’t make a lot per shop. In 2015, when I was unemployed for 3/4 of the year, I made around $1,500 in shop fees, plus $800 in reimbursements. Now I only do a few a month so it’s even less of a profit.

            1. Teapot Tester

              Yeah those are hard because they’re after 4pm. And once you’ve done one, I think you can’t do it for another year at the same location!

    25. Cheesesteak in Paradise

      I do my current job at a different location, sometimes, on the weekend, for money. Not sure it counts as a “side hustle” so much as just extra work, different boss.

    26. Marie

      I have two, that average about 10-15 hours a week together. I do remote work for a big online search company, evaluating search engine results and responses from their virtual assistant (pays really well but work is not consistent, can go an entire month without anything to do). I also do freelance marketing and communications work for a family member’s business.

    27. every day I'm hustlin'

      So I have what I consider my “main gig” which is the work I do for my Career Path, but since that’s independent contractor work I also have a “main side gig” which right now is temping (perfect for two weeks on, two weeks off!), and a “side side gig” which is freelance proofreading (for manga specifically). It usually works out fine, until one week is busy in all 3 gigs. Then I want to die a little bit!

    28. Lilo

      I babysit occasionally (I was a nanny in college and am certified and like kids).

      I will warn anyone reading off MLMs. My sis in law has lost a bit of money in at least two (one makeup one and one essential oils one). I looked up the income statements and a teeny minority make off those things at all. You would be way better off with a part time job.

    29. Manders

      I help small businesses and nonprofits with local SEO, but I only do it for my friends and take my payment in trade/favors. I’d be miserable trying to make that a paying side hustle. It’s work I can do, but I find local SEO pretty boring and I don’t think I’d enjoy the process of trying to explain to paying clients why SEO improvements don’t always have immediate results.

      My husband has a podcast and makes a decent amount of money, enough to totally cover his share of the grocery and entertainment budget with some cash left over for savings, from donors and affiliate marketing. I’m about to start another podcast with him.

      It’s a little difficult to quantify how much money he’s made off his side hustle, because he’s turned down higher-paying jobs that wouldn’t leave him enough free time to continue working on the podcast. But he also got his current job partially because his podcast is about his field and it made him stand out from the other candidates.

    30. Ms. Meow

      I tutor. My main subjects are chemistry, physics, 6-12th grade math, and SAT/ACT test prep. I picked it up when there was the possibility of being laid off and I wanted to pay down debts / pad my savings. That has passed, but I keep doing it because I enjoy teaching.

    31. Hush42

      I don’t have one right now. My full time job plus 6 graduate credit is all my schedule currently allows for. Once I finish my master’s I really want to look into becoming an Adjunct Professor for online undergrad courses. I don’t necessarily need the money but I love school and I know I’ll miss it when I finally graduate (although right now I cannot wait to be done. I don’t want to be a full time professor or anything but the idea of teaching one undergrad class a semester online sounds fun to me.

    32. There's Always Money in the Banana Stand

      I’m a preacher! I preach at two places regularly, and then I leave an open Sunday for pulpit supply requests from other places.

    33. Jackers

      Not now, but in the past I taught fitness classes at the local YMCA a couple times a week. Not great pay, but got a discount on childcare and helped keep me active.

    34. OperaArt

      I occasionally get professional acting jobs, 1-3 days in length. I do it more for the experience than for any noticeable change in my income. And it’s wildly different than my day job. I’ve been everything from a blue blue in the background on Loving, to the detective trying to catch the bad guy on one of those crime re-enactment TV shows.

      My working situation is the opposite of this past week’s news stories about Geoffrey Owens, who’s a working actor who had a side job at Trader Joe’s. Of course he had a side job! All the working actors I know have side jobs.

    35. overcaffeinatedandqueer

      Care for cats (and lately, a human) out of my home. Run fitness Instagram.

      Doesn’t pay money, but lets me get free cat food and supplies for the trouble, which my pets and fosters can use alike. Human is an exchange student and covers his own costs as board. Also building up through Instagram to represent some activewear/supplements/what have you from pages I enjoy.

    36. Xarcady

      I have a part-time job at a store that is large enough to let me work evenings and weekends only. My job has both a base hourly wage and a 2-4% commission on most of what I sell. The commission helps a lot.

      I also proofread/edit thesis and dissertations. The state university is one town over and has a lot of international grad students. I answered an ad from someone looking for help with English grammar and ever since, I’ve had a fair number of jobs by word of mouth. Recently, I found out that advisers in one department are recommending me to their students, which is nice. It would be great to do more of this so I could drop the retail job.

    37. Tegan

      I play in a couple local-ish professional orchestras and just recently opened my own business making/selling baby/toddler clothes! Both of those are so far off from my main job working in IT for a federal agency, but all are things I really enjoy. I also umpired little league and high school baseball for many years, I might do that again at some point too.

    38. Juniper

      I operate small drinking water systems on the side. I did it full time for a decade, but I had enough of trying to live off of contracting and took a regular full-time job. I kept two of my systems, and some other small consulting work when it pops up. I’m actively scaling it back though.

    39. AliceBD

      I do social media / email / website work (own websites and niche specific websites) for freelancers and small businesses mostly in a particular niche market. So Facebook posts, updating their websites, sending emails via MailChimp, updating the websites that they have info on for their niche. I do like one email a month for my dad’s business (literally do not know why they want to bother paying me for it when their own employees could easily learn to do it but whatever)(it comes from my dad’s boss so I enjoy the little extra money) and I am probably going to start helping an acquaintance’s parent’s small business which is in a totally different niche, once the parent comes back from a trip. I do a retainer basis so I get steady money and it is really only 10-15 hours a month although I am trying to grow it a little.

    40. A Non E. Mouse

      So it’s not a job or even a hustle, but I earn gift cards through a couple of websites (answering surveys, allowing videos to play in the background while I clean the house, etc.).

      I usually trade in the points for either Amazon or Paypal gift cards.

      I get around $50 to $75 a month with what I consider non-useable-otherwise-time, and I then don’t have to feel guilty if I want to waste money on another adult swear words coloring book from Amazon. Minimal (to me) effort, I don’t have to get out of my pajamas or find a sitter.

      1. Teapot Tester

        I do this too, though not as often as I used to. I’ve bought Southwest Airlines gift cards to help pay for flights and Amazon gift cards at Christmas time.

    41. Green Cheese Moon

      I’m a full time academic instructor. Once in a while I get a job to update the instructor’s materials that go along with published textbooks. Long ago the textbook companies would frequently pay us $50-$200 to “review” a textbook, though those opportunities dried up about 10 years ago (and by the end, I had realized that they really didn’t care about the review, it was just a ploy to get us looking at textbooks and hopefully adopting them for our students to buy). I’ve considered doing typing/word processing services (like resumes or whatnot) but haven’t done so.
      My big hobby is international folk dance and contra dance. Once in a while I get a paid gig to teach a workshop, but that usually is only enough to cover mileage, and/or free admission to an event I wanted to go to anyway.

    42. singforbeer

      I’m a lay clerk: paid choral musician for an Anglican church. My degree was in music, so it’s an enjoyable way to keep skills up and earn pretty decent money for 4-5 hours per week. We also get paid to go on nice trips. The only downside is you’re very busy on Christmas Eve and an exhausted grumpus the day after.

      1. Nana

        “Event Staff” at outdoor venue – required Guard Card, $15 WalMart pants, good shoes and clip-on flashlight. Checked purses for contraband (liquor/food/nothing scary) and took tickets (at the gate) for concerts I didn’t care about (heavy metal). Walked around in the amphitheater (checking for folks taking pix or behaving badly) during concerts I wanted to hear. Summer weekends, near home. Good fun!

    43. Peppermint (change my name again)

      i got a food service stadium job (it sucks) as first job with 30 ish hours after college, then after a year i got a retail job that i try to do both. then i was working my retail job so much (hitting or close to 40 hours a week) that I quit the food service job (it was shit anyways)

      and then i got an hourly lab job but im still working my retail job on sunday… the managers kept me lol so

    44. Mallory

      Not sure if this is allowed…but I’m looking for a super part time/one time database architect. If anyone is interested comment here!

      1. leukothea

        I am a BI pm, which isn’t actually architecture, so I don’t know if my skills are sturdy enough. But I’m interested enough to leave this comment!

    45. Nobody Special

      Loved reading these, the variety is fascinating! I’ve been retired a little while and now that I’ve finished the downsizing and moving part, I want to find more to do… and getting paid would be nice. (Reading A AM has helped me get some perspective looking back on my worklife… that’s why I’m here, partly, but also probably a timefiller).

  8. Emma

    Piercing apprenticeship interview didn’t work out. The location was too far away & the pay wasn’t livable. Still slogging through my job search & trying to survive my current job until I get something new. Also finding myself increasingly frustrated that everything that piques my interest (mostly creative endeavors, working with animals, or even working retail somewhere interesting) pays less than a living wage. Ugh. My new strategy is to find something “office-y” that pays decently, isn’t too stressful & allows me to save so I can do something I’ll really enjoy later. Would also love any tips on getting through the day-to-day at my current job until I get another one. Resisting the impulse to quit even though I have nothing lined up is HARD.

    1. Jadelyn

      Re the day-to-day, it depends on why it’s hard. If the work itself is boring or stressful, that I don’t have much to suggest for – but if it’s office toxicity or terrible coworkers, I always suggest the Jane Goodall approach – you are living among the primates and studying their ways. When someone does something toxic or batsh*t crazy, that mentality can help you to take a step back and observe it like you’re a documentary filmmaker or researcher rather than being overly affected by it. Bonus points for mentally narrating it in David Attenborough’s voice.

    2. EJane

      I agree with Jadelyn. I’m also a creative–sewing, embroidering, etc–and my passions are with animals (I have a service dog and want to set up a training institution eventually), but I work office work.
      Finding a smaller company that’s looking for an admin will help with the monotony some. I wanted to tear my hair out when I worked for LSEG, but I moved to healthcare and like it a lot more–and am about to start as the office manager for a dance studio. Finding the right place for office-y work is critical.

      all of the great stories and movies about creative people have time montages that don’t show how much slogging through the day-to-day sucks your soul out. You’re in the montage of your story–and you can do it, I promise!

    3. SansaStark

      When I was working a job that was making me miserable, I decided if I got to the point where I had 6 months of expenses saved up, I could quit. I calculated my daily take-home pay and at the end of each day congratulate myself for earning another $x. It helped to remind myself that I’m just here for the paycheck and every day put me closer to my goal.

      I also worked at an office-y job that was just so I could figure out what I wanted to do while still earning a paycheck. Best decision ever. I hope it all works out for you!

  9. Teapot librarian

    What did you need to search AAM for this week? For me, it was “how to give feedback to an employee who doesn’t know how to accept it?” which led to “how to deal with an employee who complains about everything?” Two separate employees, two separate issues. Fun times!

    1. Kowalski! Options!

      “Online hiring systems”, several times. Our internal hiring system is time-consuming and with two separate positions, there were issues with the screening questions. One job had the same question listed three different times. For another job, one screening question had no verbs of any sort. Do people not read these things before they go live?

        1. Kowalski! Options!

          As much as I would love to go for that first job, I’m wondering if it would be too passively-aggressively-snippy to copy and paste the same answer for each of the three questions. Or if I should just slice and dice the answers so that they have the same wordings, but present the information in a different order.

          1. Chaordic One

            It would be passive-agressive, but appropriately so, and certainly not too passive-aggressive or snippy to copy and past the same answer for each of the three questions. I frequently liberally copy and paste from my resume when filling out online applications.

    2. Robyn

      Where to do a phone interview when you don’t have an office or a car. I’m traveling in DC for work and have a phone interview today. In addition to time zones, I’m looking for a quiet semi private place to take this call. Similar question from 2015 and the consensus was hotel lobbies, and quiet parks so here’s hoping!

      1. bookends

        If you can find a library with small individual study/meeting rooms that you can use without one of their library cards, that may be a good option. Best of luck!

      2. Quinalla

        Good luck! If it isn’t during lunch/dinner, a restaurant might actually not be a bad place either if they aren’t playing loud music. Get there early, order a drink and at least a snack/app and let the waitress/waiter know that you are going to be on a business call and not to interrupt until you are done. And tip well :) Or maybe a quick service place if you can find a quiet corner, the Panera by us people are always doing in person interviews there and not Panera interviews.

      3. Mad Baggins

        I took one in the bathroom of a Starbucks. There was a little background music but it was mild and private. If your interview is long it might be rude to take up the bathroom for 30+min though. Also scrap this if your Starbucks bathroom has multiple stalls.

    3. Anonygrouse

      How to handle a friend/coworker from my Toxic Old Job who still comes to me to vent. When we met up this week, I tried to redirect things to his job search and non-work topics rather than the latest drama — I was pretty successful!

    4. grey

      I just found this site about a month ago. I love pressing the “Surprise Me” macro to read the archives. Have learned a ton.

    5. mkt

      Coworker who multitasks during meetings.

      I wanted to read comments on those who write, doodle, knit and be able to have scripting on why appearances also matter, despite fact that some people really can multi task efficiently.

    6. designbot

      Good interview questions. I’m on my office’s hiring committee and we’re trying to formalize some parts of the interview and onboarding process, and excited that I have all this wealth of knowledge from AAM to draw upon!

        1. designbot

          It’s been weird to hear how other interviews go. I’m in a portfolio-based industry, so I pretty much thought interviews always went like:
          * Hi, tell us a little bit about yourself. Questions questions, why are you leaving your last/what are you looking for/where do you want your career to be going? Oh you used to be at Firm X, how did you like working with Cersei?
          * Porfolio review. What was your role on that project? Detailed questions about projects. Which of these represents the type of work you enjoy the most or would most like to keep pursuing?
          * A bit about us, the role we’re looking to fill, how we see someone with the skillset we’ve just evaluated functioning on our team.
          But apparently a significant number of interviews skip the first and/or the last step of that. Or, put step 3 first. My mind is blown.

    7. epi

      I searched for something in the last week or two about whether and how to bring up when I’m being affected by someone not doing their job, but I don’t know them at all and I’m having trouble finding out who they even report to.

      I didn’t find anything that quite fit my situation so I sent in a question. If it doesn’t appear in a few weeks I’ll share here.

    8. wingmaster

      “How to help a grieving co-worker.” My boss is unfortunately OOO because her father passed away last week. It was terrible, and everything happened so fast (we found out he had cancer maybe the beginning of August). I’ve been with the company for about 5 months now, so I am not that close to her on a personal level. I do my best to pick up more work, while she’s out, and she really appreciates it. My department signed a card and pitched in for a basket. I’ll text her from time to time. I think I am doing fine to support my boss during this tough time, but I wanted to know what other AAM readers did too!

    9. Book Badger

      “How to write a cover letter” (which I revisit every time I write my cover letter, as a refresher) and the entire “interviewing” category. Job searching is going strong!

    10. tra la la

      I need to search this over the weekend, but: how to push back when someone who doesn’t have authority over you oversteps AND you know that the person who does have that authority will likely let the overstepping slide. Curious to see what turns up.

  10. Moving for a new job?

    I’m currently interviewing for a job with a company that has several offices, one of which is in my current city. For several reasons, both personal and professional, I think I would prefer to work at the company headquarters, though they are open to any location (as they all have pluses and minuses). Perhaps I’m overthinking this, but I’m trying to figure out the best way to discuss this. Essentially, I could start more quickly if I don’t have to move, so I was thinking that maybe I could start in my current city’s office and then move. Anyone with experience on this? I think my main fears are:
    1. They’d change their mind and not let me move later. Is this something I should have written into an offer letter?
    2. I’d actually find moving later more stressful than just getting it done in a few weeks before starting the new job. For reference, the move would be several states away.

    1. CAA

      I’d tell them in your next interview that you’ve been thinking for a while about relocating and have made the decision to go ahead and move to city X, so because of that you would like to work out of the HQ office should they offer you the position. Because of the move, you wouldn’t be able to start until date x, where previously you’d given them date y.

  11. MassholeMarketer

    I’m starting a new job soon (YAY!) and am currently in my resignation period at my job. You don’t realize how many different ways people can react to you leaving until you actually live it…

    • The person who’s angry but happy you’re doing better in life but still angry because now they have to pick up your work.
    • The person who starts ignoring you because they like to shut off their emotions and aren’t good at saying goodbye.
    • The person who is happy for you and then continuously asks questions about your job search and how you did it because they’ve been looking elsewhere.
    • The person who’s genuinely happy for you and says that losing you is a huge loss to the company (should’ve figured something out before I started looking, huh?)

    What kinds of characters have you run into when you put in your notice?

    1. Dinosaur Kale

      The coworker who stopped talking to me entirely because I “betrayed” the org by leaving. That was a rough two weeks.

      1. Kelly AF

        That happened to me in January when I left a job. She was one of two people I worked closely with and we shared a small cubical area. SUPER awkward week.

      2. Elizabeth

        The clueless (male) boss who, immediately upon hearing me resign, asked if it was because of sexism. I was the only woman on a team with 9 men who were actually great coworkers, but if certainly says something about the overall culture of the company that this was his first question! The company had lost number of young women recently and doubtless my grandboss has been mentioning sexism as a possible reason – my boss was far too oblivious to think that on his own.

        The senior leader who helped throw me a surprise going away party and cried when she hugged me goodbye.

        The coworkers who shrugged and acted like they never cared about me in the first place.

    2. Environmental Compliance

      The boss who cried for the two weeks before I left, and spent the two weeks lamenting that she was “losing a daughter” alternating with completely ignoring my existence.

    3. Ali G

      A CEO who delegated my transition to the COO and then sent us a huge rant of an email how we didn’t do anything “she” wanted and how awful it was that I was leaving them so unprepared – 2 days before my last day (I gave 3 weeks notice)
      The boss who pushed me out and then acted as if the “loss” of me so awful (pretty much she didn’t want all the other people who were actually upset at my leaving to know she had caused it)

      1. Lissa

        LOL! I guess in some ways that’s better than the person who hates you and then you leave and suddenly they act like they will miss you!

    4. LDP

      I had the coworker who was the office bully call me a “lucky b****” when I told everyone I was leaving. I just let that one roll off my back because it was the least of her immaturity issues (she didn’t like me because we have the same, very common first name – and told me this on my first day working there).

      1. Close Bracket

        I kind of wish you have replied, “yep,” with a giant, shit-eating grin, while staring right at her.

    5. Epsilon Delta

      The boss who started every conversation with “there’s still time to change your mind!” Including at my last day going away party after work lol.

    6. Cambridge Comma

      The colleague who mansplained to me what my new job was but never actually asked so has no idea what I’m doing next ashis assumption was incorrect.

    7. Tomato Frog

      Timely, I just gave my notice today! I’ve actually been really touched by the reactions. They’ve all been on the spectrum of “happy for me but sorry to see me go” — with some people hitting the “sorry” part harder and some hitting the “happy” harder. Two people have congratulated me on “getting out”.

      Actually the one person whose reaction I’m worried about isn’t here today. She’s a friend as well as a coworker, and she knew I was probably leaving. Every time I’ve mentioned that I would likely be leaving, she would look like I just gave her a quick, light kick to the shin. :/

    8. irene adler

      I saw a CEO of a small company actually go to the finance clerk’s office and call her a “chicken” because she was taking a new job.
      Course, this is the same guy who pushed a piano off a balcony and into a pool below it. He was angry.
      I’m glad he was able to restrain himself with the finance clerk.

    9. theletter

      I had a boss who was supposed to send out the “wish Letter well, she’s leaving us”, but then he didn’t, he just started telling people at random, and I started doing the same. Cut to a week later, a new developer walks up to one of my coworkers and was like “what’s going on with Letter? Is she getting fired?” AWKWARD.

    10. Elisabeth

      1) Bad-mouthing my next employer and telling me how much I’ll regret it! (They were sort of right one time but I also think them saying it affected my transition)
      2) HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO US??????
      3) Cold, withdrawn, curt and disinterested in remaining pleasant to one another
      4) Tell me your secrets to GETTING OUT OF HERE.
      5) How could you not tell me you were looking before you left??? I thought we were closer than that! (The PARTNER at my last job).

    11. Anon nonprofit worker

      Great question!

      The manager who was hostile and difficult throughout my entire tenure who was then oddly and uncomfortably friendly during the last week, even initiating an awkward goodbye hug and insisting I come back to visit.

      The coworkers who kept making repeated cryptic jokes about the owner trying to kill me after I gave my notice.

      The previously cool manager who started punishing me by making me do gross jobs that no one else wanted to do because I “was leaving”.

      The students who wrote me the sweetest letters that I actually cried when I thought about the fact that I wouldn’t see them again.

    12. Dragoning

      I had a supervisor who wasn’t even my manager get angry at me because she couldn’t do her job without me.

      1. Dragoning

        Oh man, or the manager who didn’t believe I had a new job because he made me cry at work the day before I got the offer from NewJob and gave my notice.

    13. Leela

      The grandboss who I told multiples times about my boss: lying, manipulative, ineffective, childish. I provided examples and screenshots that proved those examples. I was constantly blown off, told that my boss was just learning, that we had to find a way to work together, she bet *I* wouldn’t be perfect or be happy if anyone expeted that of me either, etc. When I finally left after 11 months of being thrown under the bus, publicly lied about and falsely accused of dropping the ball, and in general mistreated the entire time, grandboss goes “well if you’d just TOLD me something was wrong, I would have fixed it!”

      I pointed out that I had brought it up, including screenshots that I’d sent about it. Crickets.

    14. S-Mart

      The grandboss who trapped me in my own office and yelled (literally) at me for an hour how I was ‘stupid’ for leaving. A lot of why I was leaving was his toxic management, so this shouldn’t have been a shock.

      (layoff not a resignation) The boss who repeatedly (and badly) dodged the ‘you’re being laid off’ conversation until he could get HR to do it instead, and locked himself in his office and wouldn’t talk with me.

      Mostly a mix of mildly happy for me / mildly disappointed I won’t be around.

      The boss who overbooked my short meeting where I was going to resign with a short meeting to tell me my contract was being terminated.

      Several people who apparently forgot I was leaving for the entirety of my 2 or 3 week notice period until afternoon of the last day, when they suddenly want a full brain dump of everything I know about doing my job (especially entertaining the time when I was literally the only person in the company who did about 1/3 of my job).

    15. Let's Talk About Splett

      My first professional job the boss who hired me left and the new boss & I never hit it off (I made mistakes, too, looking back) so she was obviously not sad when I put in my notice.

      It was a government job, so she already had a list of people who had taken the test for my position to interview, and managed to schedule a couple of interviews during my notice period, and after the interview she walked the candidates around to show them our office, introducing them to people and chatting with my coworkers for a minute or two. When boss got to me she introduced me and explained that I was the [my position] & metaphorically dragged both candidates away as soon as she could to introduce them to someone else – I guess she was afraid I’d scare them away?

    16. Close Bracket

      The person who’s genuinely happy for you and says that losing you is a huge loss to the company (should’ve figured something out before I started looking, huh?)

      Oh, that person. :( Someone said that to me at a job I left, and it was actually really painful to hear. My lead hated my new ideas (probably bc I was the one having them instead of him), so there was a real emotional component to finding out that the thing I was constantly disparaged for was a thing that somebody else found valuable, and this whole time, I didn’t know. Knowing would have made hearing the disparaging much easier to take, and maybe I wouldn’t have left.

      I’ve got another person for you:

      The boss who decides you don’t exist anymore and stops speaking to you. That was pretty hurtful, too.

    17. Catherine

      1. A lovely boss who I worked with for many years but who tended toward emotional blackmail ‘it’s not too late, why don’t you just stay’ -at 5pm on my last day when I went to say goodbye.
      2. One boss completely ignored me for the entire notice period. I was doing professional exams and won a prize – and Old Boss was very closely involved in the institute. At the prize giving ceremony, about a month after I left, she pointedly ignored me and then pretended she didn’t know who I was. She was generally very eccentric though – eg people ‘choose’ to be ill and if you are off sick it’s because you are lazy. How we laughed when she caught a very nasty cold.

    18. Lavender Menace

      I had an interesting experience when I was a postdoctoral fellow (apprentice academic position) and I decided to quit and move onto an industry research position some time ago. I had the same range of characters as above, with another addition: the fellowship director, who was flustered/angry/upset and took about an hour of my time (billed as a standard ‘exit interview’) to lecture me about how difficult I was making it for him and the program because I was leaving for industry. He even subtly hinted that my leaving would make it more difficult for them to recruit and retain people in my specific underrepresented minority group. (No, no, there are several other reasons why it’s difficult for that particular institution to recruit and retain people in my group.)

    19. The New Wanderer

      I was laid off rather than gave notice, but I still worked for ~2 months after the layoff was announced. In that time, several people I didn’t work closely with made points of coming to chat with me and say how much they thought it was a mistake to lay me off, how valuable/smart I was, etc. That really meant a lot.

      Several other people I considered to be almost mentors and had previously talked about my promising future at the company (which they could have helped make happen) didn’t say a word to me that entire time and didn’t attend my going away gathering. That stung a little, gotta admit.

      And it was pretty equally split across people I considered work-friends – some talked to me a lot, others didn’t even respond to the going-away email I sent. Oh well.

    20. Usagi Tsukino

      The boss who made me read his 100+ taxi receipts and put the individual amounts into Excel. This was a consulting job where I was an analyst.

  12. Cakezilla

    Best tips for dealing with toxic coworkers? Or supporting a loved one who is dealing with toxic coworkers?

    My partner has a coworker who is not working, getting upset at everybody else in the building, and sending tons of texts to my partner after work about how partner “ignored” them. It’s been super emotionally draining for partner and I want to be supportive as they figure out how to navigate this situation.

    1. alice

      This sounds like borderline harassment which is an HR issue. But just in case he or she hasn’t gone through the steps:

      1. Asking the coworker to stop, verbally.

      2. Asking the coworker to stop in writing.

      3. Speaking to the manager.

      4. HR

        1. Ender

          Sending multiple texts after being repeatedly told to stop is harassment in the legal sense, so I don’t see how it’s not in the HR sense. It’s technicaly stalking, so long as partner has been clear that the texts are unwanted.

    2. The Ginger Ginger

      Is it a job requirement that partner be accessible to this person on the phone after hours? Can partner just block their number? That would at least keep toxic coworker from pushing their toxicity on partner at home.

      If not, can partner either send one text during the deluge of non-work texts, or talk to toxic coworker once at work to say, “Please only text me for X & Y related issues. I’m not available for non-work texts when I’m not at work.”

      Can partner go to their manager and say – “I’m having X & Y issues with Toxic coworker (not in a complaining way, just in a look for solutions way). Here’s how it’s impacting my work (outline the ways). I’ve tried A, B, C, but the issues aren’t resolved. How do you want me to proceed?”

    3. WellRed

      “I won’t be ignored!”

      Seriously, though. Block here texts and report it to manager and if needed, to HR. Coworker sounds more than toxic.

    4. Quill

      Let partner vent. In reality, not all jobs can be left without a complete career or location change, and it might take a while to build up to that sort of thing.

      Also, be ready to help enforce work / life boundaries if this coworker starts trying to impinge on the rest of partner’s life.

    5. Bea

      Why does this person have your partners number?! Demand they stop and set up boundaries. Drag management into it if necessary. Unless they’re required to be available 24/7 even a salaried employee shouldn’t be dealing with this.

    6. LKW

      Is it a work phone? Are there conditions on the phone (partner is on call, or the phone needs to be on for emergencies)?

      I would let my company issued blackberry die on Fridays so that it didn’t make a peep over the weekend. People who needed to reach me in an emergency had my personal cell.

      My dad was an attorney and he wouldn’t answer his cell phone after hours unless he first had the “my evening fee is 2x my daily rate and my weekend fee is 3x my daily rate” discussion with the client.

      I think your partner needs to take a little evil glee in ignoring text messages complaining about being ignored. But ultimately if this person starts to cross lines into “I will not be ignored!” territory, then your partner should go to HR because threats are not cool.

    7. Triple Anon

      I would start by asking them to text an email address instead, preferrably the work one. Then block their number on the phone if possible. If necessary, Partner could say it has to do with their phone plan, or their phone (storage is full!), or wanting to keep all work communications in one place.

      Once you have everything going to email, start copying other people on responses when there is a reasonable justification for it. Some people will stop being so weird when they realize someone else might see it. Or a copied co-worker might let you know they’ve been experiencing the same thing, and then you can talk about what to do next.

      And, yes, when the coworker crosses a line, they need to be asked directly to stop. In writing. If they don’t respect that, the next step is to copy your manager and their manager.

      HR can really vary depending on the company, the situation, and the people involved. Use your best judgement about whether to say anything to them or leave them out of it.

  13. Jenna Maroney

    I’m pretty sure my company is lying to an interviewee about the scope of the job they’re going to be doing. This interviewee is seriously overqualified for a receptionist job, and it’s seemingly a tradition with this job that everyone is lied to in some way during the interview process. What can/should I do?

    1. Anonymous Educator

      This is a tough situation for you, because if they don’t lie to this one receptionist, they’ll likely lie to another one, since you said it’s tradition. You could, in theory, try to change the culture, but the truth is that the best thing you can do is leave for a better place. They lied to you. They lied to a bunch of other people. They’re lying to this new receptionist. If this person doesn’t take the job, they’ll lie to the next candidate. And if you warn off every new candidate about the lying, you’ll likely be fired, so you might as well try to leave. Unless you’re the CEO or a board member, you’re not likely to completely overturn that kind of company culture.

      1. Jenna Maroney

        We’re a team of receptionists at a hedge fund, employed by a (useless) contractor company. Blergh!!!!

    2. CAA

      If you’re not part of the hiring process, the only thing you can really do is talk to the people who are conducting the interviews. You can raise a concern that this person is over qualified for the job as it’s always been defined in the past, and point out that this has led to people leaving quickly. You should also verify that they haven’t redefined the job and added more responsibility to the role though.

      If you are part of the hiring process, then you should be honest with the candidate about what tasks are and are not part of the role she’s interviewing for. She should be doing her due diligence and raising concerns if she hears different things from different interviewers.

      1. Queen of Cans and Jars

        I never understand the “logic” of this. It doesn’t matter what you say to them, after you hire them, it’s going to become very obvious that the job is not what they’d expect, and then you have a very resentful new hire who’s likely going to leave, and then you’re in the same boat as you were before.

      2. designbot

        Agreed, and I’d really lean into the message that it’s better for the company to find someone who will truly be happy in the role instead of fibbing to get someone overqualified.

    3. Bea

      I’m confused by “overqualified” factor here. Do you know that the job seeker isn’t looking for a few steps back??

      I’m “overqualified” for my job but I was burnt on working 60hrs. I dropped from management and went back to just accounting. A lot of “wow you’re able to do so much more than this.” was met with “work life balance is my current focus.”

      You don’t expect to stay in a receptionist position too long term so if she needs a couple years to breathe or get a partner out of school or taking care of an elder etc…

      So I’m not sure if they’re lying or someone wants to step back?

      1. Jenna Maroney

        It’s an hourly receptionist job, and she has an MBA from an Ivy. Also, every other receptionist was lied to to some degree during interviews.

    4. MissDisplaced

      I don’t understand what’s going on exactly.
      Is the job being advertised as a receptionist? (And they’re promising more during interview.)
      Or is it being advertised as something more (such as marketing specialist) but is really only receptionist role?

      I ask because if you’re an applicant responding to a “receptionist” ad, generally you would know that requires answering the phones and so maybe that’s what the person wants. If the job ad is worded differently, you can speak up about posting the job advert correctly.

      1. Jenna Maroney

        Depends on which recruiting firm she’s gone through. Some lie about the title, some lie about the duties, some “forget” to mention that you’re working for shady contractor company instead of the hedge fund itself.

        1. Bea

          But doesn’t salary give it away? If I’m told it’s even Administrative Assistant and it’s actually answering a phone bank…I’m going to know that something is off with the wage somewhere.

          It is 2018 so jobs aren’t as sparse but every one of my friends have high quality top tier degrees and many work in retail or low level jobs.

          I make more than my MBA friends because of my background. If she’s fresh out of school, you don’t have a lot of options, degrees from top ranked schools get you so far on their own. Her parents must not have connections despite the education.

          It’s super tricky and I know your company sucks. And I’m less shocked now that you say they’re contracting. So it’s not even the hedge fund you work for, it’s a 3rd party agency they pay. So worse is that she thinks she’s in a mega important company but she’s not…

            1. Bea

              I appreciate how thoughtful you are about not wanting anyone to be caught in the trap you see the company as. But I think you’re spinning this wildly and trying to protect a grown woman from herself.

              I hired an “overqualified” on paper person, in her 50s, for an admin job years ago. And she couldn’t v handle it. She had lots of cool schooling and was sure she was above and beyond. A receptionist job was more suited for her tbh.

              You’re spinning and I don’t blame you. You need to just loosen up a bit and know you can’t save anyone in most positions.

              I took a crappy job once. But I quit it immediately following the hell fire. I know you’re trapped and can’t quit but we’re not all in the same boat.

              1. Jenna Maroney

                You’re right…. blergh. This is so frustrating. They’re also not telling the new hires that the contract is up for renewal in a month and if it’s not renewed (none of us think it will be considering how friggin’ incompetent they are), we’ll all be placed at different locations, most likely with a lower salary. This company SUUUUCKS.

          1. Jenna Maroney

            (the rest of the team is early to mid twenties, so we’re not really sure what our new manager’s goal is)

  14. Disguise

    I’m looking for feedback on if it’s worth asking for a resource/benefit when I know the answer will likely be no. When I was hired a few years ago, I had my own cube. About a year ago, my office did a reshuffling and is now very short on space. A solution at the time was for me and a coworker to share a cube and alternate work from home days (we’re the only people in the office who have to share a cube). While it’s not been awful, I would prefer for a variety of reasons to have my own space.

    We will be doing a very very modest shuffling of workspace soon so I was thinking of asking if it would be possible for me to get my own cube. The thing is, I very strongly think the answer will be no. Partially because I’m still going to be working from home three days a week (one day a week less than most of my colleagues but there is a perception that I’m essentially a remote employee) and partially because someone would have to be moved from a cube to these tiny, awful desks.

    Is it worth the ask or would it reflect poorly on me since it’s pretty clear this won’t be possible? On one hand, I think if they don’t know I want it, they won’t try and make it work. On the other hand, I’m worried about being seen as out of touch.

    1. Shark Whisperer

      I think it’s worth asking. I don’t think you’ll come across as out of touch. You could even preface the question with, “I know this is a big ask, but since we are doing some reshuffling, would it be possible to get my own cube again?” I don’t even think you need to explain why you want your own cube, just through it out there.

      I am big proponent of just asking for what you want.

      1. Disguise

        Thanks for your (and everyone else’s) reply! You don’t think it would help to provide reasons why I want it (from a business sense)? I also love saying “again.” Reminding them that this is not the norm. The norm is me having my own workspace.

        1. IL JimP

          Since you’re working from home 3 out of 5 days saying this isn’t the norm is probably a step too far. My company does the same thing for people who are only in the office 1 or 2 days a week, there’s a real possibility you will be sharing a cube or maybe not even assigned one and would use a hoteling cube the days you are in the office

        2. Shark Whisperer

          I think you can have reasons ready to go if they ask why, but I think if you just ask simply and wait (kind of like Alison suggests for salary negotiations), then the person you are asking will be more focused on whether or not it is possible rather than whether or not they think your reasons are valid.

    2. BethRA

      I think if you acknowledge the difficulties they’re dealing with, and frame it as a “request if it’s at all possible” you’d be ok. If nothing else, there might be something they can do to make the sharing situation more palatable.

    3. CAA

      You can definitely ask, and I don’t think it would be perceived as overstepping; but if you’re only in the office 2 days per week and the cubes are reserved for people who are there 4 or more days per week, the answer will probably be no. Your best option for getting a cube is if there are other people who are only in the office 1 or 2 days per week who have them.

    4. Contractor

      I wouldn’t ask. You’re only in the office three days out of five in an office that is already tight on space. You’re right that it’s not ideal to have to share a desk, but I agree that asking this question could cause others to view you as out of touch. Also (and to me this is the bigger issue) is that for you to get your own desk you’d have to displace someone else and move them into a situation that you yourself dislike. I would ask your management if there are any plans to address the space issues in the office. If it’s that cramped, I’d suspect you’re not the only one feeling it’s effects. There may not be any plans, but it couldn’t hurt to ask.

    5. epi

      I would ask.

      Your company obviously knows it is short on space and already moves things around occasionally, probably in part to deal with that. It’s likely that above you, people are or will be talking about how much more expansion your office can handle and when it will be time to move or have more than one site or whatever they need to do. Even if your request can’t be honored now, it is relevant to that larger discussion. I might even frame it that way, depending on your relationship with your boss.

  15. Red Reader

    My employer just officially removed the salary history questions from our online application system and directed interviewers not to ask about it. Our annual engagement survey also, for gender, offered “non-binary” *and* “other” as options rather than just male or female. I am pleased all around.

    1. Anonymous Educator

      That’s great! Is it because the laws changed where you live? Or because your employer just decided it’s finally time to do it?

      1. Red Reader

        No law change, they just opted to make the switch! (I’m hoping they start posting the salary ranges on job postings next.)

        1. Anonymous Educator

          Excellent! I love it when places do the right thing because they should instead of because they have to.

    2. Decima Dewey

      My library system added a standardized format for email signatures. There’s a section to add our pronouns. A friend put in “Why are you asking?” in that section for his email signature.

      I have a mandatory job class meeting next Wednesday. We had to fill out an online survey beforehand about what we know about Implicit Bias, so I know what part of the meeting will be about.

      Last week I worked at a different branch. The shorter commute was nice and it was good for some stuff to be officially Not My Problem, but waiting outside in triple digit heat index weather while waiting for someone with a key to the branch and the alarm code was not fun.

  16. Office Sponge Best Practices?

    Just stared work at an otherwise great place, except the kitchen sponge is a mildewy nightmare. I washed a plate and my hand still smelled like the sponge an hour later. I never use sponges at home (Handi Wipes forever!) so I have no idea how to make it less gross, especially in an office setting where it’s used a ton. I know it’s unlikely I can totally solve it myself, but any tips on how to be the hygienic sponge change I want to see in the world?

    1. Teapot librarian

      Buy new sponges. I think I’ve heard that office sponges should get replaced once a week. There’s no way that’s ever happening in the real world, but who knows the last time your office’s sponge was replaced!

    2. Sophie before she was cool

      Is there a dishwasher or a microwave in the kitchen? Either one might help a bit. But it really sounds like it’s time for a new sponge. It might not be your place as the new person to bring one in, but they cost like 50 cents each and I’d expect someone to bring in a replacement pack.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale

        Yes. As a temporary measure, microwave it for a minute or two. However, do NOT do this if the sponge has any metal or scrubby things on it. Then go buy a new one.

        1. Specialk9

          It has to be wet or it’ll catch on fire. Even then, the studies show that doesn’t actually work, it just makes the colonies stronger. (But it helps the smell disappear).

          The solution is those green scrubbies that don’t hold water, or the special silicone Peachy Clean Scrubber, or those plastic net cloths.

    3. Red Reader

      Ask whoever is in charge of ordering supplies if they can throw a packet of sponges on the next order. (Or bring your own handiwipes, heh.)

    4. Corky's Wife Bonnie

      I bought one of those dish brushes for my own use that you can put soap in the handle and I bring it back to my desk and hide it. Work sponges are always gross.

      1. Xarcady

        My company stocks each kitchen with one of those brushes. The people who clean the kitchens change out the sponge head every week.

      2. Kimberlee, Ranavain

        Dish brushes are the key! Plus, you can just pop them in the dishwasher every couple of days. They still need to be replaced sometimes, but the sparser bristles just don’t leave as many nooks for germs to hide out in.

    5. LuckySophia

      I use kitchen sponges from the Dollar Store: six in a pack for $1. Very cost-effective to toss when they get “ugly”.
      You can easily solve this problem on your own by buying a couple packs of Dollar Store sponges, and toss/replace as needed. (No, you shouldn’t HAVE to be responsible for this….but it might be just a heck of a lot easier to deal with it on your own, rather than trying to make “kitchen sponges” a matter of office policy/group consensus.)

    6. Tara S.

      Lots of good replies. I would also add:
      1. if you have a dishwasher, put the sponge in the dish washer. It’ll still eventually degrade, but it’ll help it be cleaner longer.
      2. Throw the sponge away. My office sink often has multiple sponges, and I finally just threw the worst one away because no one else would. This may be “former admin” me taking charge, but it’d been months and I’m not in charge of the interns who ought to notice this stuff.
      3. Talk to the admin/whoever is in charge of the kitchen. Ask them about ordering new sponges, or a dish brush, and possibly putting up a sign asking people to wring out the sponges before they put them back. (This is a big pet peeve of mine, when people leave a sponge FULL of water just laying around. Faster mildew buildup .)

    7. AMPG

      Microwave it! Get it fully wet (but not dripping), put it on a plate if possible, then microwave for two minutes. The plate is there to take it out when you’re done – DO NOT TOUCH the sponge immediately after microwaving, because you’ve just boiled all the water in it. Rinse, and the smell should be gone.

    8. Quill

      Throw the sponge out.

      If necessary, come up with an accident that makes it no longer useable. Repeat whenever a sponge looks elderly / suspicious / developing sentience.

      Sponges are meant to be replaced or deep cleaned weekly. Arranging an accident for one every other month is the only way to ensure that it remains relatively safe to use, because nobody ever replaces the things…

      Personally? I would never use a sponge I didn’t unwrap myself. Dish rags are more sanitary.

    9. Hillary

      My office uses bottle brushes (the baby kind that have a suction cup on the bottom). They’re easy to rinse so they get a little less gross and they go in the dishwasher every time it’s run. The suction cups mean they have an opportunity to dry.

    10. Bea

      I’m sorry if this sounds shtty but did you look under the sink? Are there new sponges there?

      We buy in bulk. The overflow is below the sink. Most new folks don’t know and older folk don’t bother remembering, let alone mentioning.

      If no. Then ask the person who orders them. They may have a different storage area but there is one, so unless a coworker brings one in randomly, there should be a supply somewhere!

    11. MissDisplaced

      Find a Dollar Tree or something similar and buy a stiff bristle dish brush.
      I also hate sponges, and at home I’ve replaced with the brush which gets a whole lot less nasty.

    12. RabbitRabbit

      I bought a silicone scrub pad from Amazon and hid our mildewy sponge wand under the sink. It hasn’t re-emerged, and silicone pads (with little tiny ‘teeth’/’bristles’) have few ways to get gross.

    13. Bea

      I’m super bristling at everyone saying to personally buy things. Do not invest even a dollar in this communal kitchen WTF!!!

      1. Miso

        Well, sometimes you don’t have a choice.
        If we didn’t buy sponges for work, we wouldn’t have them. Or coffee. Or milk.
        Hell, I even had to bring my own microwave, that sucked…
        But what can you do?

      2. RabbitRabbit

        Pfft. Forget that.

        I could either go to Amazon and drop $10 on 3 basically-last-forever silicone scrubbies (two of which are still new and tucked away in the drawer in case something happens to the first one) that I got in 3 days, or I can put in a request with the departmental secretary who then has to try to source something like that through an approved supplier and god knows if they can even find the thing at all and meanwhile we would all still be suffering with some limp nasty sponge.

        1. Bea

          Approved supplier? Lol that’s some government level bullsht. We buy everything through Amazon like normal folks.

          I’ll just take my dishes home sooner than ever supply a company with resources. But I’m only ever working for for-profit small businesses where we purchase supplies and code them to office expenses.

          1. RabbitRabbit

            Not-for-profit medical/educational institution. We *could* buy outside of approved suppliers but then compensation/invoicing gets a little weird and I’d rather not deal with the accounting system hassle (which is an upgrade from the last system but sucks in different ways, and at least everyone who’s been around for a while knew how the old system sucked and how to deal with that).

            We’ve had several months now of a nice, not-stinky dish scrubber. Totally worth it, even if you don’t use the thing because you don’t have to see/smell some limp and nasty sponge.

            1. Bibliovore

              “I’m super bristling at everyone saying to personally buy things. Do not invest even a dollar in this communal kitchen WTF!!!”

              oh please. Feeling a little heat here. Would like a little well-done. Glad you could do that.
              I buy our supplies. I buy our snacks. I buy our coffee. Tissues and sponges.
              I have a 401 k. A roof over my head. Enough for the groceries, the internet, books, and pet stuff.
              When I was a classroom teacher, I spent over 1,500 a year for classroom supplies.
              I know I was not alone.
              I can’t pay the employees more. The University does not buy these things.
              I got here and bought a microwave and a coffee maker. Mr. Bibliovore gave us a Keurig a few years ago. I pick up milk on Mondays.
              I am grateful that I can go to COSTCO once a month and our work-quality-of-life is good.
              I have a cohort of volunteers, interns and students who work above and beyond the call of duty. I spend my life at work. Why not buy supplies on my own dime if I can?

            2. Observer

              It still shouldn’t be that big of a deal. We generally use a small number of suppliers, mostly for practical reasons. But, the kinds of supplies being mentioned here are hardly esoteric, hard to find, or expensive. Nor is it necessary to worry about the quality. So, it’s pretty stupid that you can’t have the admin who orders supplies just do it.

      3. Ender

        Sheesh it’s a dollar. Get over it.

        OP if you can’t afford to drop a dollar on a new sponge, then put in a request for a new sponge. On the other hand, if you can afford a dollar, buy a new sponge!

      4. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

        *shrug*

        I have invested a few £ here and there on things like this. For me I’d rather have the convenience of having whatever it is we need right away (trash bags, clean sponges, milk) than wait for someone from the office to buy it and bring it to site. If I really wanted to I could claim the money back but I’ve only ever spent *maybe* £5 per year on such things.

        I will happily bring in treats now and then when the mood strikes me, so buying some other shared thing that we all benefit from seems to be pretty much the same thing IMHO.

    14. Temperance

      There are no best practices when it comes to a shared sponge. Just don’t use it. I bring my dishes home and run through the dishwasher.

      1. Windchime

        Yes, this. I wash as well as I can with hot soapy water and a paper towel, then bring my dish home and wash it. No way am I washing mine with a sponge that other people have been using on their dirty dishes.

        1. Jo

          I do this too. When I was working at a non-profit as a temp position, one of the employees there told me to use paper towels and hot, soapy water to clean my dishes since I brought in my own lunch. My new office also has a shared kitchen, so I’ll use a damp paper towel and running water to rinse containers out, and then do a deep clean at home because, like you said, “No way am I washing mine with a sponge that other people have been using on their dirty dishes” and because people in the office bring in food that’s usually trapped in the sponge.

    15. Kittymommy

      One caveat to the throw it away response, make sure your office is the one paying for it and not staff. My organization does not and cannot pay for items like this, so these things are bought by random staff, myself included. If I saw something I bought had been thrown out and not replaced, is be pissed.

    16. Kathleen_A

      I just no longer use The Sponge. I used to from time to time, but a couple of months ago, The Sponge was such an extravaganza of mold and mildew that I had to wash my hands in hot soapy water *three* times before I could get rid of the smell. (After one thorough hand-washing didn’t get rid of the smell, I took that thing and buried it deep in the trash so no one would see it and think, “Ooh, somebody accidentally threw away a perfectly good sponge.”)

      Then two months later, there was an entirely new spongy extravaganza of mold and mildew, and I buried that in the trash, too.

      So I’ve given up on The Sponge. But the idea of buying a package of cheap ones and replacing it on the sly is pretty good, I’d say, so long as you don’t mind subsidizing the office’s sponge usage.

    17. Catwoman

      Microwaving is a good suggestion. Also if you have a kettle, but the sponge in the sink and pour boiling water over it as you’re making tea or coffee.

    18. Cat Herder

      Bring your own handiwipes or sponges and don’t share them. Seriously, do not share them. Get a cup or mug to put it in and keep it in your office.

      Or use paper towels.

      Don’t touch the shared sponge. Eeeewwwwwwww.

    19. Student

      Throw this sponge away and replace it.

      Future sponges that just need a little help: boiling something for 10 minutes (roiling boil that whole time) kills nearly all microbes – should fix anything you’d get on a sponge.

  17. Lyman Zerga

    Our director was unexpectedly out of the office during a time that he was supposed to complete a very, very important project. He delegated this task to me and my colleague Janet.

    I knew Janet’s schedule was out-of-control busy, and mine was less so, so I offered to take the lead. (Plus, I’d like to do more work on these types of projects in the future, and it’s something my boss and I have discussed.) I told her I would do 70% of the work, and she just needed to provide 30%. I finished my 70% right away, but I kept waiting…and waiting…and waiting on her 30%. In the end, I probably did 95% of the work, and she contributed 5%, at the last minute when the deadline for this project had almost passed.

    I don’t harbor any ill-will toward her, and it’s not affecting our ability to work together on other things. But I know my boss is going to ask how this project went, and it is very much NOT the culture of our organization to place blame on others/talk about others in a negative light. But since I’d like to do more work on these projects, it’s important that I give him an accurate picture of how much the success of this project was a result of my efforts. How can I do this without reflecting negatively on my coworker?

    1. Anna Held

      Tell the truth — she had so much other work she made a much smaller contribution. You had offered to take the lead and do this work for the experience, and she graciously agreed. Everyone won. You’re looking forward to doing more such projects in the future.

    2. Schnoodle HRM

      Janet was really busy and wasn’t able to contribute as much as she planned, but still helped with X and Y. This left me learning tons about A, B and C and happy to report everything was completed on time.

    3. Monty and Millie's Mom

      Could you frame it in a way that says that you took the lead b/c of Janet’s other commitments, but you appreciated her assistance with the specific part she did?

    4. pleaset

      It’s not blamey to say “The output was good I think . In terms of process, Janet was so swamped she wasn’t able to contribute much, until a little bit of good stuff at the every end.”

    5. Nanc

      Just be matter of fact. Explain the initial breakout of 70/30 and then say Janet’s schedule didn’t allow her to focus that much time so you took on more and she was able to provide A, B and C to make sure it was finished.

      If you’ve had a good working relationship with her she may honestly have believed she could contribute more. Who knows why she didn’t say anything when she got behind but unless it’s a pattern, I’d let it go.

    6. Kelly AF

      I would actually just focus on what you did and not even mention Janet, if possible. “I did a, b, c, x, and y. This is what I did, here’s how they turned out, here’s what I learned, I’d do z differently next time.” Presumably your boss will be able to put the rest together, while still having the conversation be about what you did, not Janet.

    7. Mockingjay

      Rather than focus on what Janet did or didn’t do, describe what you did, what the problems were and how you mitigated those for a successful outcome.

      I also might analyze realistic staffing and scheduling needs for similar projects and present the results, if you think this is a problem which may occur again. You want to showcase your planning and problem solving skills. Make it about you, not her.

    8. Not So NewReader

      “Janet, was doing A, B and C, already. So I pulled the bulk of the project back onto myself. I am super interested in doing these types of projects so I think that interest helped me to move right along.”

    9. Ender

      It’s not really reflecting negatively on her to say she was too busy and didn’t do it because other things were a priority. So just be clear that you did 95% of the work and she was too busy so only did 5%.

  18. Jenna Maroney

    No question, just annoyed: I’m having my job threatened over taking time off from work to deal with a miscarriage, but the pregnant women in corporate get comfortable maternity leave. Infuriating.

    1. TonyTonyChopper

      This is why my coworker did not tell anyone at work (besides me since we are going through fertility struggles together) when she had her miscarriage earlier this year. She just told everyone she had to have surgery and would be out for X days for recovery. Luckily no one required her to provide a doctor’s note or anything, although I’d hope that her OB would have provided something if she had to.

      1. TonyTonyChopper

        Left unsaid, but shouldn’t have been – I am really sorry you’re having to deal with this BS. It is NOT OK.

      2. Jenna Maroney

        Yep, I’m actually the second employee in under a year to be driven out due to appts for their miscarriage. After the first girl was fired, she whistleblew and like 7 higher ups were all fired. You’d think they would have learned to not repeat the same mistake in a single year, especially with the contract up in a month????

        1. Specialk9

          So… Lesson learned to whistleblow? There is an online reporting form for labor law violation. (US at least)

    2. Tara S.

      I’m so sorry. It doesn’t sound like your workplace is the kind of place that would really respect the law/not try and push back against you using the law, but I believe (and a quick google seems to back me up) that miscarriage is a medical condition covered under FMLA. So you’re well within your rights to take the leave. Small comfort in the face of your situation, I realize. I hope you are able to find healing and time for yourself, the grief alone always takes longer to deal with than some people think.

      1. Jenna Maroney

        It happened a year ago, I’ve been experiencing physical complications ever since. Lots of bleeding :/

        1. fposte

          That seems likely to be covered under FMLA–it’s a chronic problem. Ask your doctor if she’ll sign the paperwork and submit it.

    3. Bend & Snap

      I’m so sorry. I didn’t get any time off after mine and it was awful just having to go to work like nothing was wrong.

      I agree that FMLA sounds like the right way to protect both your health and your job right now.

    4. Faith

      That sucks. My company doesn’t do anything shady for medical appointments, but if it’s not you but your partner that had a miscarriage – you are SOL. My coworker had to blow through 2 weeks of his paid time off and another week unpaid when his babies were stillborn and 20 weeks and his wife nearly died. No bereavement leave, nothing else of the sort. Thankfully, our boss was super understanding and flat out told the coworker that he can take as much time as his family needs and “the work will get done – family comes first”. Still sucks though that you are essentially at your supervisor’s mercy and don’t have any protections.

    5. Manatees are cool

      I’m so sorry, that’s simply awful what you are having to deal with. I hope that in the future that you get a boss who is capable of feeling empathy.

  19. Snark

    Does anybody have good strategies for dealing with being pulled in 6 different ways? I’m the environmental planning guy, the natural resources manager, the cultural resources manager, and the purchase cardholder, plus escorting contractors, plus helping out with the fuel storage tank compliance program, and I am completely flattened by the end of the day. Just switching, mentally, from approving work orders to writing a consultation letter to filling out a form to calling the tank contractor to standing in a field watching guys drill holes….it’s A LOT.

    1. Red Reader

      Is any of it stuff you can schedule? “Work order review and mindless form filling, Tuesdays between 9-11” or some such?

      1. Environmental Compliance

        +100. I schedule time for all the environmental compliance & sampling I do. Makes it easier for a brain switchover from mucking in a pond taking stormwater samples to writing pest control SOPs to being a killjoy on installing new equipment (I’m going to get a stamp that says NO, hold up, you need a permit for this action).

          1. Snark

            Yeah, that’s a fair point. Or just schedule out the week. For so long, I’ve been just wandering into work and plugging along on two or three long-term, big, but self-directed projects.

          2. motherofdragons

            I do this most days, but especially those when I’m going to need to dedicate time to a bundle of different projects. I close my e-mail and put my phone away for those 10 minutes to really focus on plotting out my day. And then, I actually block those times on my calendar so that I can see my “schedule” for the day but also so that coworkers know what I’m up to (and hopefully won’t bug me with anything not urgent).

        1. Wannabe Disney Princess

          That’s my job. I don’t have a set schedule day to day. It’s physically impossible.

          My stuff all has different cut off times throughout the day (vendors, union, subs, etc.). I know that the morning is always going to be mindnumbingly bonkers. But, I also know, that the stuff I get for subs can be done later in the afternoon. So when I get something for one at 9 in the morning screaming hot…I know it can wait. Whereas the next day order that I get at 9 cannot because the vendor’s cut off is at 10:30.

          I’ve programmed Outlook* so that anything with the words “Next Day” (or overnight or whatever) come through red and bolded. Subs are in an italic olive font. Etc. That way I can tell, at a glance, what needs to be done and roughly plot out how much time I need for each.

          I also drink an absurd amount of coffee.

          *It’s called Conditional Formatting and it’s under View Settings. (I think.)

        2. AMPG

          This is what I do. I do all the grant-writing for my employer, plus I supervise the IT Director, plus I oversee one of our direct-service programs, plus some long-term planning stuff on an “as-needed” basis. So I hear you. I find I’m most focused when I take five minutes before leaving to block out what I’m working on when the next day.

    2. MechanicalPencil

      Can you speak with your boss/direct supervisor and list out your duty areas (on paper for the visual?) and ask which you should prioritize because this is what your typical day looks like (and describe the above) and sometimes it’s hard to juggle everything all at the same time. As I recall, this is a new position for you, so I’m not sure if it’s a “well Snark can handle this too!” type thing or what’s going on.

      1. Snark

        It’s not really an issue, so much, that I can’t get it all done or that I don’t know which to prioritize. We’re 33% staffed, so there’s a lot of “RED ALERT WE NEED TO DO THING” and it’s all hands on deck, but it’s mostly all manageable within the day. It’s just that wrenching myself into six different headspaces is proving itself exhausting.

        1. MechanicalPencil

          Ah, one of those — I was thinking this was just a situation of piling on the new guy. Any hope of increasing that staffing number so that you only wear like 3 hats instead? Maybe trade off who does the escorting of the contractors around? That seems the most…trade-able duty.

          1. Snark

            New hazmat guy gets here in early October. We’re gonna be all falling on our knees, treating him like Messiah returned.

    3. Almost Violet Miller

      I’m in a similar situation. My former manager suggested I write down my tasks (or at least the different hats I’m wearing) and quantify how much time I’m spending on each. This could help in hiring someone new on my team.
      If that’s not an option (and I doubt it is for me), can you schedule certain tasks for one afternoon each week? For me it’ll be Friday afternoon creating accesses for our internal systems if I have to rationalize – this is usually not urgent and ppl will need to get into the habit of sending me thibgs the week before if they need then done for the next week.

    4. LCL

      Ha ha ha ha ha. That’s me laughing uproariously at some other sucker (besides me) being stuck with underground fuel storage tank compliance, and miscellaneous escorting contractor duty when the division that set up the visit can’t be bothered.
      I’m not going to search your old posts, but I remember you as being some kind of chemist. Think of ways to explain whatever your core job duties are supposed to be to the other work groups that think ‘Snark is on site, we will just get him to do it.’ Delegate whatever you can. When someone asks you to do some task outside your normal scope, tell them you will do it at specific date/time. When people outside the group and division realize they can’t get you to jump instantly they often back off. My experience has been the environmental compliance people are the worst at trying to get others to do their work for them, your experience may differ.

      1. Snark

        The problem is, we’ve got three people, including my boss, to cover an office that should have 6 to be fully manned – so when contractors are onsite, welp, someone needs to do it, because this installation has security so bonkers we can’t let them get more than 10 feet from us.

        Also, I cannot wait for the new hazmat guy to get here, because he gets tanks. Enjoy that shit, sucka.

    5. The Ginger Ginger

      Would a Kanban “board” help? Especially if tasks are shared across your team. Issues/tasks are listed in priority order (and added into the list by priority as needed). As one task is completed, just grab the next task off the top and knock it out. Task goes from back log to in progress to complete on the board as the status changes. Everybody can see what’s in the queue, what’s in progress and who’s doing what. It can be a really great way to get stuff done. Obviously, doesn’t work for all settings/situations, but maybe it could help you?

      Also, helps you keep track of everything so you’re not holding onto a to do list in your head.

      1. Specialk9

        I just learned about this today and was thinking it might be a solution. Basically everything is a card and you finish one and pluck the next task off. (I believe.)

    6. Bea

      I’ve always been pulled in every direction, my job now effectively eliminated that aspect of my life and as I heal from my last nightmare I’m missing the pulling TBH.

      My only advice is to breathe and let people know that you’ll need a minute before you address their issues whenever necessary. Being able to be assertive and reset the pace is key to survival. I drown last time because they refused to allow me to say “this takes priority, I’ll be with you after lunch” or what have you.

      Have you always been in this spot of being the center of the wheel? If not, it’s exhausting but becomes easier. If so and they’re being overly demanding or you’re overly demanding of yourself, it’s all about the refocus. And tbh if you can’t, it’s not a failure by any means. That position is hard AF to be in and takes a very specific mindset and internal motivation. I thrive on being busy and never slow down until I’m dropping into bed.

      1. rear mech

        Bea is absoutely right about taking a moment and starting your reply with, “let me get to a stopping point on this…” While I do this my hands are busily arranging things and setting tools in their proper place, but for some sort of writing or research task you could be writing a sticky note to prompt yourself when you turn back to the original task. I have to do this even before having a proper conversation with the interrupter about what they need, but maybe it’s not necessary if you’re not a flighty adhd sort of person.

      2. TootsNYC

        years ago, the magazine I worked at did a work-stress study and found that people who can’t control the pace of their work have the highest stress.

        I realized that was me!

        Everyone brought me things and expected me to do them right away. But few of them were THAT urgent.

        I got fierce about using my in-box as a to-do list. If someone brought me some issue, I made them write it on a piece of paper (or I did–sometimes just their name, which freaked them out) and put it in my in-box.
        Every time I finished a task, I went to the In-box and reprioritized from top to bottom.

        That way I wasn’t pulled lots of different directions–I WENT in different directions, at the time and pacing that *I* chose. Sure, some stuff is important, but I could group certain things, or shift gears to get a chance to clear my head, etc.

        It was very analog, but by gum it worked!

        1. Mad Baggins

          That is absolutely my experience. The stress for me comes from feeling out of control, feeling like I can’t predict or control how and when I work. I love to optimize, so if I have to sit somewhere and supervise something or wait for a task to be completed, I’d like to use that time to multitask so I can get both done faster. Of course there are some things we can’t control about the pace and type of work coming in, but doing anything to regain some semblance of control and choice would definitely help.

    7. rear mech

      ugh, this is my life and I don’t really have real advice. I got better at it over time as I gained more experience and more tasks could be done on autopilot. Simply doing more repetitions of my tasks, as well as consciously following the same order of operations for similar tasks, also meant it was easier to pick up where I left off after the inevitable interruptions. Try to not fall into feeling disrespected. However, perhaps this was the case for me because my “real job” was constantly being interrupted by rando members of the general public who needed “customer service” and will not be a problem for you. hopefully!

    8. Not So NewReader

      I can’t picture this being done all from a desk, so I think you have drive time? My husband used to use his drive time to sort out the next thing coming up. This could include, questions he needed to ask, things he needed to check on and materials for the task. He would organize this stuff in his mind while he drove. (Being alone in the car no one could interrupt his train of thought.)

      From my own experience, I cannot recommend highly enough, having a set bedtime and going to bed at that time every night. Oddly, chicken or salmon for dinner at night seemed to make my mind clearer/more agile the next day. It’s a soft boost in how the brain works, I noticed the difference the most when I did NOT have chicken or salmon, I was way more draggy.

      A drink with electrolytes in it can also help the brain and body function better.

      You also have a new job right? So you have a doubly whammy, new job plus lots of hats. We do work into handling more and more at a job, so things like a set bed time and what is for dinner can be temporary measures to pull us through to the point where the job becomes more automatic.

      Another thing I like to do to lessen the brain drain for the next day is make a list of what I plan to do. Some things have to be done, but some things can slide until afternoon or until the next day. I would mark the things that had to be done so stuff did not get by me. Making that list helped me to sleep better, because the list was a form of a brain dump. Having it all on written out helped to prevent me reviewing my work day at 2 am.

      1. Snark

        It’s a pretty constrained area, but there are times when I can use drive time. And really appreciate your other suggestions – diet is huge, so is listing and planning.

    9. NW Mossy

      This is a good moment to put as many non-work things on auto-pilot that you can. Things like planning out a week’s worth of dinners/outfits/whatever and then just moving through a set rotation for a few months can really help to decrease your mental load. Yes, Taco Tuesday gets old, but it’s also a relief to think “it’s Taco Tuesday and I know exactly how to make that happen without thinking very hard.”

      Similarly, if you can delay other major changes in your life during this stretch, do so. Your capacity to absorb change is pretty much maxed out, so things like getting a pet or starting some new fitness regime will just add to your burden no matter how rewarding they are. Give yourself space to check out of those things to the extent you can, knowing that you can pick them back up in 3-6 months when you’re in a better spot.

      1. Snark

        Funny you mention this, because I’m also trying to lose weight and change my fitness regime right now, and it’s been damn near impossible. I already plan meals, but I need to cut down on errands, tasks, and stuff like that.

      2. TootsNYC

        also–what can you automate at work? How can you streamline there?
        Where can you take the tedium out?
        Or where can you take the decision-making out? In copyediting, we make style guides so we don’t have to re-decide whether to use “have proved” or “have proven” each time.

        Can you partially fill out all the forms (company name, etc.) and then photocopy them all off, and fill in the blank spots when it’s time? (That’s how I got a handle on health-insurance forms!)

  20. Meredith Brooks

    I’m going to have to tell my staffer that her area looks like a hoarders den and she needs to clean up. I am not looking forward to this. Would appreciate hearing from others who may have had to do the same or experienced the other side.

    Thanks!

    1. Teapot librarian

      Don’t use the word “hoarder” in a moment of pique. I did that. It did not turn out well. (It was not premeditated!)

      1. Teapot librarian

        But seriously, be prepared to share the reasons why it’s a problem that her area looks like a hoarder’s den. It reflects poorly on the department, or it’s a fire hazard, or it is impacting other people in the department because the stuff is in the way, or…

        1. Meredith Brooks

          I have a relatively valid reason, we’ve got some pests and with the amount of stuff she’s got back there, there’s no way to spray her cube effectively.

          She’s a sensitive sort. So, I don’t anticipate this going well no matter what I say. (she’ll be embarrassed and cry. or she’ll be offended and cry. or she’ll be indifferent and do the bare minimum)

          1. Tara S.

            That’s great, it means you can be really matter-of-fact with her. “Hey, we’ve been having a pest problem and we need to make sure all the offices are arranged so that the pest people can spray. Be sure to [do X to her office] before {date pest people come]!” That way it feels less like you’re singling her out, just making sure the office is uniformly ready.

            1. Kathleen_A

              I like this phrasing a lot. Do give her a fair amount of notice, though. Cleaning a big mess takes time, and you don’t want her to have to chose between fulfilling an important deadline and cleaning her office.

          2. TootsNYC

            just make it all about the task:

            And maybe not make HER the subject of the sentence:

            “The facilities people need you to clear that stuff out so they can spray, and they also need for it not to come back.”

            And if she gets embarrassed and cries, let her. She has a right to her emotions, and the best possible way to help her in that moment is to leave all the responsibility for her emotions on HER court.

            Assume that she’ll get over her crying soon enough–don’t act like the tears, etc., are a problem for YOU (bcs it bothers you–act like it doesn’t), or a problem for HER that you need to solve.

    2. Baby Fishmouth

      By ‘hoarders den’ what exactly do you mean? Is it really disgusting (i.e. molding food) or crazy (piles and piles of knickknacks)? Or is it just that she has a lot of papers on her desk? How you approach this really depends on what kind of messy it is.

      1. Meredith Brooks

        I can’t confirm molding food, but I did once find a cake knife with some crumbs encrusted on it in a file cabinet. (She has some old departmental binders that I needed to look at). Generally, it’s on the crazy side… a LOT of personal paraphenalia. Clothes, bags, shoes, books. She’s run out of space in her own cube and has started encroaching on the empty cube behind her.

        There’s also a pest problem in the office and I honestly believe that unless she cleans up her area, we’ll just keep having issues, because they can’t spray her area effectively.

        1. Red Reader

          There’s your go – “We’re having folks in to spray for pests this weekend, all personal items must be taken home and all office property put away for security and safety reasons.”

        2. Icontroltherobots

          Say this – exactly this.

          “Jane, building management says they can’t spray your area effectively, can you please remove everything from the floor? It needs to be taken home permanently starting today, let me know if you need boxes”

          Say this to everyone, make it an office thing, spring cleaning!

        3. Indie

          I used to work in a newspaper office where it was common for reporters to work inside towering piles of ancient newspapers and old press releases. Food, too with some of them. Clean desk policies were just ignored because the culture was ingrained. When we we were due to have weekend redecorating work done the editors said that anything still out on desks was going to be binbagged Friday night. It was definitely the only thing that worked. Hoarders would rather hide stuff or resite it than lose it. You have a great excuse as the pest chemicals would ruin things anyway.

          1. Teapot librarian

            When I had this discussion with my hoarder about one particular piece of his hoard, he offered to move it so that it wasn’t in his office. No, dude, no. You don’t need it, I don’t need it, the office doesn’t need it, it’s going in the recycling.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale

      Be prepared for her to question you and/or get defensive because “this doesn’t affect anyone else.” I know someone who keeps her work area absolutely filthy and uses that excuse. Unfortunately (well, fortunately, I suppose), she doesn’t leave unpackaged food around, so there are no bugs, but it’s still gross to look at all of her junk. So focus on the space encroachment you mentioned and ESPECIALLY on the bugs. That stuff absolutely needs to stop. For all of the other stuff, ask her if you can help her put together an organization system. Maybe some nice storage bins or something will help you and her; if she tosses her stuff in a bin or a box, it’s all in one place.

      1. Lorna D

        Also be prepared for this person to say that this is truly the method that works best for them (it is for me too. I can pull anything out of a pile I’ve created, I know exactly where it is. If I put it in a desk it’s like it’s been wiped off the face of the earth and deleted from my memory. This forces me to spend a huge part of my time adding reminders to Outlook or heavily maintaining a Trello, both of which detract a lot from me actually being able to do my job, and it’s incredibly frustrating that I have to do my job worse because of looks)

    4. HoorayCollegeFootball

      We are fortunate in that our annual fire inspection gets a lot of hoarders cleaning up. They don’t like to see floors with nothing more than small paths through the stacks of papers. We also had our new top boss come through our spaces and he made remarks to our immediate boss, who instructed people to clean up their offices. Our hoarders mostly just have stacks and stacks of paper – and they just don’t want to throw anything away. Even though they’d never be able to find it if they really need it, and come to me half the time because I probably have it electronically.

    5. About to get an offer

      I wasn’t a hoarder but I did have a messy desk, my boss mentioned it casually and i wasn’t bothered at all.

    6. Bea

      Don’t make it sound even remotely like a suggestion. Make it a clear direction.

      The scripts offered are good. Stick with short and to the point. “We have pests. All cubes must be cleaned, nothing can be stored on the floor. I will throw it away if I see it happening.”

    7. Marley

      One of my relatives suffers from hoarding syndrome, and something to keep in the back of your mind is that your staffer in no way sees the mess the way you do. It’s a completely different way of thinking about things, and you will guaranteed upset her by asserting yours.

      That said, you don’t have to be her counselor about this topic. Be clear, matter of fact, and tell her exactly what she needs to do and why. If she cries, oh well–just stay calm and matter of fact. “I see this upsets you, but unfortunately it still needs to be done. Here’s a big recycling bin. Talk to ___ if you need anything else.”

      1. TootsNYC

        It’s a completely different way of thinking about things, and you will guaranteed upset her by asserting yours.

        Meredith Brooks doesn’t have to assert ANY “way of thinking about things.”
        She can focus solely on the tasks that have to be done, not WHY, and not the “values” behind them.

        She doesn’t need to try to “fix” her employee, nor does she need to get her employee to AGREE with her; she just needs to make it clear what actions need to be taken.

    8. theletter

      I’ve been asked to clean up – I was stressed and had let a stack of notebooks pile up in a small space. I tossed the notebooks and didn’t speak back to the office manager about it.

      What’s the worst that can happen? that she says no? finds another job? Takes a Friday afternoon to just take out the trash and let herself breath a little?

    9. Chaordic One

      I recall being offended when someone said this about my work area. The big deal was that I was swamped with work and in an attempt to prioritize I let filing fall to last place. I had the various piles of papers stuck in several of those alphabetical sorters and then placed on top of the file cabinets. It wasn’t great, but it was the best I could do while I was putting out fires elsewhere. Every once in a while they’d send an intern to help with it and that was nice.

  21. Itty Bitty Betty

    Does anyone have suggestions on how to deal with wrist pain from constantly being on a computer?

    I have a gel wrist wrest in front of my keyboard, a mouse pad with a gel wrist rest, and a vertical mouse, which seem to help a little, but my wrists are still sore all the time.

    1. Annie Moose

      Do you do any wrist exercises? Look up carpal tunnel exercises and do some throughout the day–they really help me.

      1. Techworker

        Is it possible to get advice from a doctor/physio? My friend ended up not being able to type at all for a few months when wrist pain got worse.. exercises might help? They also have some kind of forearm support to wear which apparently helps

      2. Nobody Special

        Great suggestions, and your employer may pay for a worksite assessment and some adaptive equipment because that could prevent a workers comp claim down the road. or you may choose to report this as a mild injury now and if covered pursue evaluation and pt… better that now than surgery later. )

    2. irene adler

      Assure the chair you sit in is at the proper height.
      I found too low caused wrist pain for me.
      Need the chair height such that your elbows are bent at 90 degrees so that the lower arm, wrist, hands are horizontal.

      1. Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins

        I purchased an armrest that attaches to the table for just such a problem. It’s helped me out a lot.

    3. Wannabe Disney Princess

      I have wrist pain that flares up every now and again (once or twice a year), so I don’t know how much this will help. I found that regular wrist braces don’t really help all that much. I use a sleeping brace. I picked it up at Target. When I have a flare up, I’ll sleep with it for a few nights and then it goes away.

    4. Ali G

      An ergonomist (is that a word? Spell check doesn’t think so) once told me that you shouldn’t actually “rest” your wrists on anything – that actually causes pain. I was told you should sit up high enough that you elbows are at right angles and your hands hover over the key board with your wrists flat and in-line with your elbows. To do this I need a foot stool because I am short and office desks and chairs are made for normal height people.
      Also if you can – take breaks!
      Have you seen a doctor about the pain? You might need a wrist support if it’s bad enough.

    5. Curious Cat

      My mother’s got rheumatoid arthritis in her wrists/hands and wears wrist braces a lot of the time to help provide support. I think you can pick some up relatively cheap from CVS/Walgreens

    6. Evie

      What worked for me was going the opposite of most systems. I got an ergo consult who said you need an unbroken top line down from your shoulder through your elbow to your fingers. So your keyboard needs to be higher in front than in back. Gel rests heat up your wrists which makes inflammation worse so you need a hard plastic or ideally a wood rest. None of this helps if your torso is in the wrong place relative to your desk. If your body proportions are out of norm- long torso or long legs, you might need lots of adjustable pieces to get it all right. If you can learn to swap your mouse hand, that can help tremendously. The right long term solution might not feel right at first. It took me a week to get adjusted to my first set of adjustments but then it was much much better.

      1. TL -

        Yup, I switched my mouse to my left hand and it helps a lot. (though I get tons of comments and lots of ‘helpful’ people will move it back to the right side.)
        I also keep my keyboard tilted, try to sit up straight, and have a brace that supports wrist and thumb that really helps (but my issues are in my thumb and elbow, so they’re a little different.)

    7. Quill

      Pretty much every preventative / management strategy for carpal tunnel should be looked into here – stretches, a brace, looking into it with your doctor.

      If you find that the problem comes from constantly making tiny mouse movements, decrease your mouse sensitivity so you have to move more of your arm to click on things

    8. Not So NewReader

      I use a track ball at home and I have a cordless mouse at work. Between the two of them my wrist pain is gone.
      I tried a gel rest with a regular mouse and that did almost nothing. And it was annoying.
      The track ball mouse took a moment to get used to, it was so worth the effort.

      If you are so inclined you can also check with a chiropractor to see if there is any underlying issue other than over-use.

      1. Bea

        Can we internet high five for trackball mouses? I’ve had one since forever, I’ve been laughed at for it and I’m like “well I prefer you laughing to me hurting, so who’s the a$$ now?”

          1. TootsNYC

            my tennis elbow thanks me every day.

            I also found that changing it up is good. (I switched to my left hand and a track pad for a while; that helped a lot. I can’t use a mouse or trackball w/ my left hand, but I got comfortable w/ the track pad)

    9. Rezia

      Depending on how bad your wrists are hurting, you might have some repetitive strain injury going on. I messed up my wrists working on my thesis, and what helped me was going to a physical therapist for a couple of months, and then getting my desk set up adjusted to improve ergonomics.
      I was told that my wrists need to be in a straight line, no bends up or down, so make sure that they’re in a relaxed and straight position as you type/use a mouse. I personally have found that a split keyboard helps me maintain that position.
      Whenever I travel for work and do a lot of typing on a laptop, the wrist pain comes back, so I can see how much my work set up is helping me.

      Also, I sleep with my wrists curled up and my physical therapist gave me a brace to sleep with, which also has helped a lot.

    10. scratchedagain

      I work eight hours a day on the computer and then proceed to spend another 4 to 6 hours gaming on pc as well, so wrist pain is an old ‘friend’.

      Have you tried a gaming mouse? They’re designed to be used by people who spend all their time on the computer so they’re pretty comfortable, and some even have weights you can adjust for further comfort. The one I use (a Logitech G502) has made a huge difference, to the point where I don’t have wrist pain at all any more.

    11. I'm A Little Teapot

      I find if my chair height is off just a bit, it can really mess up my wrists. Change the height, and 2 days later the pain is gone. Ergonomics are real (I just don’t fit into what they think I should!)

      1. irene adler

        My experience too! Had to ditch a chair that was just a couple of inches too low (and not adjustable).

    12. Trinity Beeper

      If you choose to see a PT, you may want to ask about topical steroids. I developed really bad wrist pain midway through college, to the point where my wrist would start twitching involuntarily when I put strain on it. My PT used a process called iontophoresis, which uses an electrical current to get medicine into the body. While I still get wrist pain several years later, it’s nowhere near as bad or frequent as it used to be.

      I also found that applying Biofreeze (kind of like Icy Hot, but it never gets hot) gives immediate relief. It smells pretty strong, though.

      1. TootsNYC

        I find that the smell of Biofreeze or the green Ben-Gay actually has a bit of a placebo effect! (ditto the pink of Pepto)

    13. Anna

      Every time you are not typing, but sitting at the pc thinking or reading what you have written, turn your hands around and rest them on the back of the hand. It can help to not keep them in “attack mode” all the time

    14. EmilyG

      I used to have this problem and it’s really hard to guess over the internet but I have one thing no one else has mentioned… a split keyboard. That way you’re not cocking your wrists at a funny angle to reach the keys on the keyboard. For years I’ve used a split keyboard with an inverse tilt, the Microsoft Natural Touch. I also have a keyboard tray that tilts it even further away from me, and a vertical mouse.

      Here’s a picture of the wrist position that causes pain for me: https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fcdn.shopify.com%2Fs%2Ffiles%2F1%2F0729%2F3389%2Ffiles%2Fulnar-deviation-455x341_large.jpg%3F16707325413583004600&imgrefurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nomorepainergonomics.com.au%2Fblogs%2Fno-more-pain-ergonomics%2F17979044-how-to-pick-the-right-ergonomic-keyboard&docid=In7_GwwHEsTCpM&tbnid=dHDSGIDnCCsvpM%3A&vet=10ahUKEwjW3rHkzandAhXlzVkKHVhhB0MQMwg4KAIwAg..i&w=455&h=341&bih=861&biw=1464&q=split%20keyboard%20wrist%20position&ved=0ahUKEwjW3rHkzandAhXlzVkKHVhhB0MQMwg4KAIwAg&iact=mrc&uact=8

      1. LilySparrow

        That was the angle that was chewing up my wrists, too. And when I did stretches and such for carpal tunnel, it made the pain worse because the nerve I was pinching was on the opposite side from the carpal nerve.

        The cheap drugstore braces helped me in the short term because I couldn’t twist my wrists to the side. A few other suggestions I’ve collected from different RSI, joint, and soft-tissue pain through the years:

        1) There’s an acute phase, where the pain is really bothering you and you’re highly motivated to do something about it, and then there’s the chronic phase, where you slack off the changes and go back to old habits. This is the danger zone. You have to keep up the “project” of fixing your habits for at least a couple of months, even if the pain stops in a week or 2.

        2) Don’t be stingy with the NSAIDs while you’re in the acute phase. Take the maximum recommended dose for 2-4 weeks. You need to keep the inflammation down while the injury is healing. Pushing through the pain only builds strength in muscles. Not in joints or nerves.

        3) When you find the right stretches, stretch in the morning & evening, and in breaks through the day. Ice before bed.

    15. RedBlueGreenYellow

      I think this is one of those things where a physical therapist visit (and probably an ergonomic assessment) are really worthwhile. For me, it took a combination of wrist, arm, and shoulder exercises; a split keyboard; new mice (I actually have both a left-handed joystick mouse and a right-handed vertical mouse, and I switch back and forth to minimize wrist stress); and a new chair (no more armrests for me). I know that’s a lot, but if you’re in a lot of pain, especially if you’re losing grip strength in your hands, it can be worth it. It was certainly worth it to me.

    16. Ann O.

      An odd one: first make sure it’s wrist pain and not referred pain from a neck nerve pinch. That is also really common (because most of us don’t have our monitors set up well), but people often don’t recognize where the pain is originating.

      1. Fish Microwaver

        Yep, I have this, complicated by a wrist injury as well. I can’t offer any remedies beyond regular analgesia and rest.

    17. Dr. Anonymous

      If you are in the US it may also aid sense to file a Wrokmans Comp claim, bacuse you my need physical therapy and your own insurance may not pay for treatment for a work-related injury. This is a crazy place.

  22. Susan

    My boss is an awful micromanager.. I’m reading up more on this, and we can’t really quit right now b/c we have other reasons keeping us here, but I just want to share the latest episode of “my boss is awful”

    So my mgr & I are responsible for engaging our team. Normal right? We have weekly meetings to go over new things and reiterate key points. We send out emails all the time. We try to keep them brief but still some people seem to ignore those emails. (if anyone has ideas on how to engage a team and make sure they actually know what’s going on and aren’t always in the dark, I’m welcome to hear that!)

    So yall may cringe at this but he decided to send an email with bolded, underlined, large fonts and colored…in our defense, we needed to do SOMETHING to grab ppls attention since the old way wasn’t working. We’d send out a 3 line email and ppl would still be like “what? I never read that!”

    And it worked! People actually responded and were engaged.

    But then boss emailed us addressing him only saying “here’s some constructive criticism on your emails” and copy pastes a huge document with basic email principles. Basically, something that you’d give to someone who’s new to the working world…not a professional with 10+ years of experience, who manages a team of 50 people.

    My jaw dropped when I read this. Boss is a Director of Operations….there is absolutely no reason she should be wasting her time admonishing a professional on the fact that he decided to use a damn color in his email. For her to say “this is unprofessional” is extremely ironic b/c….don’t you have anything better ot do? She once actually emailed someone asking why they were away from their desks for so long and not clocked out for break. We’re salaried, not hourly. Had she said anything remotely like this to anyone else who works here, they’d quit in a heartbeat.

    Anyway I just wanted to share this here. Welcome to any feedback (just please no “why don’t you quit?” Or “why do you know she emailed this to people.”). Thanks!

    1. Teapot librarian

      There could be other things going on with boss and manager. I’ve felt the need to give this type of feedback to one of my employees who is a professional with 30+ years of experience. (PowerPoint slide shows should not use a different color combination on every slide, for example. You’re representing our office giving a training for 50 people? I will tell you that your slideshow is crap. But I won’t use the word “crap.”)

      1. Susan

        No I don’t think so, we work closely and he’d confide in me if there was something that would change my opinion about this. But there’s nothing else, trust me. Well we needed to engage people and this worked—trust me I don’t like the color thing but it worked.

        Me personally, I hate that we have to make sure people read their emails. I personally feel like you’re a professional—there’s absolutely no excuse for you to NOT read your work emails, esp when they come from a supervisor/leader. By all means ask for clarification or something but don’t outright ignore it (not pointing to specific examples just generally how I feel). This isn’t school. Asking about ppls bathroom breaks, picking apart every word they say, I feel like that’s micromanaging, but my boss wants us to do that. So.

    2. Meredith Brooks

      I’ve found people are very opinionated about the appearances of professional communications. (Comic Sans anyone?)

      I understand the logic behind colors and underlines and bolds to grab people’s attention. But, I also understand the COO’s opinion that having to resort to superficial attention grabbers to get staff to read emails is a bit pandering. If they’re not reading emails, it is not your responsibility to make them more attractive. Email is email. They should be able to read, comprehend and retain a 3 line email without needing to resort to juvenile tactics. (That’s not a dig on you both, more so that you’ve had to employ tactics that would engage a child in order to engage professional adults).

      Unfortunately, it seems rather than focusing on ensuring staff read their actual emails your COO is focusing on the tactics you employed to engage them, which won’t really resolve the issue. So, it might behoove you both to sit down with the COO and explain why this tactic was implemented, the various other methods that have been employed in the past, and ask them for their advice as to how to remedy the situation. (Normally, I would say this wouldn’t warrant a sit down — but given the manual the COO wrote to admonish you, I think it would be wise to explain the situation and the difficulties, so they don’t think this wasn’t a thoughtful attempt.

      1. Susan

        Oh I am too. I like email to be a certain way, I was a writing major so I understand importance of email (don’t take my posts here as proof of that lol). But I also wouldn’t pick on a strong performer with years of experience on his choice of color esp since it was a one off. We have mAangers who make constant typos and nothing about them.

        And you hit the nail on the head—We shouldn’t have to micromanage adults but that’s our leadership telling us to do this.

        Unfortunately Knowing her, she’d take any explanation, calm and professional, as “you’re wasting my time and being unprofessional”.

    3. Kathenus

      Addressing just the engagement part. We have an intranet in our organization and at times important information is posted there. I didn’t want to set up where me or the managers had to forward every notification and message off of this to the team. So when I started I set the expectation for our team that everyone is expected to check the intranet at least once each workday. The same thing for checking emails, they are expected to check them at least once each workday. They are responsible for knowing the information from both of these sources within these basic time guidelines.

      If they don’t do it, I’ll remind them because I know people get busy and can fall out of the habit. After that it’s a performance issue and can be documented and handled just like any other job function. The good thing is that it treats them like adults and professionals, tells them how to stay up to date on information and sets clear expectations, and takes away the ‘but I didn’t know that’ excuse. They also know that if anything is time sensitive, I’ll get it to them more directly as needed. I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, but it works pretty well overall.

    4. Kathleen_A

      What we do in my office is indicate in the subject line if action is required, e.g. “Response needed by 9/7:” followed by the subject of the email. This isn’t a new technique, but it’s pretty new around here. Anyway, it does seem to work quite well, and nobody has to decide whether red and green are good colors to use or should it be vermilion and blue?

    5. NW Mossy

      For the engagement/paying attention to important news piece, stop relying on emails and team meetings as the sole methods you use. Both have a place in your communication strategy, but as you’ve discovered, it doesn’t work well for communicating important information that you need people to absorb and remember.

      Here’s what I’ve found works for me to get my team to retain information:

      * Multiple modes of communication – I’ll often touch the same topics in 1-on-1s and daily huddles as I do in team meetings and emails. When I do it, I’ll make the connection explicit by saying something like “We talked about this in a previous meeting, and here’s more info on it” or “I’ll follow this up with a email summarizing after.” Repeated exposure in slightly different ways really helps people retain the info.

      * Having “themes” and tying new information to those themes. My themes are taken straight from the strategic priorities for the business, and every time something’s changing or new or important, I’ll point out where it connects to a theme – that “hook” often helps people find the right place to file the info in their minds.

      * Look for ways to put important things in their eyeline at the time that it’s most relevant. An email about a project that won’t deliver its impact to my team for 6 months is not useful; the same email 6 days before it delivers is. Likewise, if there are certain facts about a customer that someone should know before they do any work, I put it into the default info that’s visible on every ticket, every time.

      Basically the idea is to make things people really need to know so ubiquitous that they can’t help but learn them. I resisted doing this for a long time because I was in this “well they should just read their emails!” camp, but I’ve learned over time that investing the time up front to communicate more than feels strictly necessary is more than paid back by the time savings of things operating more smoothly because people are better informed.

  23. Amber Rose

    I gotta say, I’m not looking forward to next week’s open house. There will be a ton of people wandering around, I’m not allowed to park in the parking lot or eat any of the fancy food, and I’ll probably still have to get work done somehow, only without my music because guests.

    Also I had to send my picture for the presentation my boss is doing, and it was an awkward selfie I took with my phone at my desk that made me look dead eyed and like I have 16 chins. :|

    Gotta find my company shirt in whatever drawer I jammed it into…

    1. Chaordic One

      It sounds like you won’t be able to get any work done. Maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll find some of the people wandering around interesting to visit with so the day won’t be a total waste.

  24. Quill

    Just got great feedback about my contract renewal – is it a good idea to list a contractor company’s contractor-handler as a future reference, or should I concentrate on the people who see me every day? (My actual boss may be retiring soon… so for a reference 2 years in the future I’m not certain future employers could get ahold of him.)

    1. Work Wardrobe

      I’d use people who knew the kind of work I do, not the contractor handler.

      Don’t worry about the retiring reference. If you know he’s retiring, at that time, ask for his personal email to use when people ask for references.

  25. Ali G

    I GOT A JOB OFFER THIS MORNING!!!!!!!!

    Almost a year to the day I left Toxic Old Job, I got a job offer with almost the same salary, better commute, better overall job and definitely a better Boss and Co-workers!!

    I actually have another interview with a different org this afternoon, but I am still going to go – if nothing else for my own piece of mind. They still have to call references, which New Boss was sure it wouldn’t be a big deal (and technically I’m not worried) – but you never know.

    Party starts at 3 pm Eastern – who’s with me?

    PS – thanks to anyone that ever answered my interview/job search questions – and especially to Alison for such an amazing and practical site. Seriously, I’ve learned more in the last 2 years of reading here than I did in 15 years of working professionally.

    1. Almost Violet Miller

      Wonderful news! Congrats!
      Will be thinking of you when I put on a facial mask and open a bottle of wine after my business trip tonight.
      I think it’s great you’re still going to that other interview.

    2. Anonygrouse

      Congratulations!! I’ve been in my post-Toxic Old Job position for a year and half, and the glow has not diminished a bit. Enjoy your celebration and your new workplace!

  26. We have HR finally - now what?

    The company I work for just hired an HR manager. She is very enthusiastic and has a lot of ideas for improving our company culture (which is basically ‘you should be loyal to the company, stay in late and ask for nothing in return) and the morale (so low the turnover is extreme with someone leaving every week, and we are 70ppl).
    She wants to talk to everyone to see how we are doing and I don’t know how to handle this talk. I don’t have any experience with talking to HR and no clue what to expect.
    My worries more specifically are:
    -I’d call the environment very close to toxic. There is a manager who doesn’t respect people and her behavior has influenced a lot our workload (we can’t ask her or her team questions so I often have to help out instead etc.) and also the output. This manager is backed by her boss. While I want to mention that there are internal tensions I’m afraid to be more specific because there is too much diplomacy and said manager and her boss have bullied people out of the company. The manager’s manager is very high up in the hierarchy.
    -What are topics that you can bring up to the HR manager? Eg. my boss sucks as managing ppl (very problematic as he is the GM) but I want to clarify with him first that I need his guidance for certain tasks (I need to know the company’s priorities to be able to prioritize my tasks eg. and he is notoriously bad at anything that is not selling something)) – is it appropriate to say that communication in general is bad and we need more transparency? The thing is, I’m afraid we need a strategy (and not only those 17 slides my boss presented to his bosses in the HQ of the group) – obviously not something I should share with her.
    -How would you frame the following: I am sitting very close to the entrance of the office. The receptionist is often away from her desk because of her other duties. This means I (and my colleagues around me) have to open the door or deal with DHL/postmen/lunch deliveries/private deliveries of others. We need a system for managing this without us and also a door on our office (was removed over a year ago).
    -I should probably focus on things like the lack of regulation of overtime, business travel etc.
    I’m sure these sound like basic and rather stupid questions but I am so clueless and want to take advantage of having HR now, but in a manner that is beneficial to me and the company as well. I really enjoy most aspects of my job but still am looking at leaving in a year because it’s not a great place to work at.

    1. Shiara

      I’d tread fairly lightly. Suddenly having an HR Manager isn’t magically going to make things like toxic atmosphere better, and she’s not actually going to be the difficult manager or difficult manager’s manager’s boss. If they’ve been protected from the effects of their behaviour so far, adding a new person to the company with a shiny new title isn’t likely to change that.

      Basically, your last two points are really the only things that are going to be in her direct domain, and the only ones I’d feel comfortable raising in a similar situation. At least until I saw how things played out a little more.

        1. Wishing You Well

          I agree, too.
          Some feel HR is there to protect the company, not the employees.
          HRs don’t have the power to fix a toxic company. Wait and observe for awhile. Don’t ruin your chances for a reference if you need one.

    2. Snark

      I think you should be honest with her, and very frank that “staying late and asking for nothing in return” is not what ails the company culture, and that morale sucks. But you need to give her specific, concrete reasons that is so, and keep it constructive and actionable.

      In particular: yes, it’s totally appropriate to say that communication is bad (though I think a few concrete, actionable examples need to go with that) and that more transparency is needed (with specific, actionable examples). Tell her about the issue with handling deliveries, but again: suggest a way forward, such as a specific reachback person for the admin, or a new requirement that people are responsible for greeting their own lunch deliveries.

    3. Not So NewReader

      Hi New HR Manager, thanks for taking time to chat with me.
      I believe our company could benefit from focusing on the following things:

      1) Basic respect to each other. We can do better than what we are doing.
      2) We need more information/instruction than what we have been getting for the projects/work we are doing.
      3) We need a system for visitors coming into the building. As it stands now all of us are doing reception work and this leads to confusion and many mix ups.

      1. halmsh

        You should highlight anything that is breaking employment law first and foremost! Use Alison’s suggestion of using a light tone for that, and saying something “We do X around overtime, but my understanding is that the law says Y. Can you help clarify that?” or something to that effect. HR of course cares about culture and morale, but that’s hard to institute. What’s tantamount is HR ensuring that the company isn’t breaking the law.

        If you have trustworthy colleagues and time to do so, get together and chat beforehand about the things you most want addressed, so you can reassure each other, find concrete examples, and present a united front.

    4. ..Kat..

      Just remember, nothing you say is confidential – even if they tell you it is. Lots of stories on this blog by people getting burned when they thought HR would keep their conversation confidential.

  27. MyLocalSpiritHalloweenStoreIsAlreadyOpen!

    Okay, I know it’s early, but I’m already so excited for Halloween coming up next month! So – what are your Halloween work stories? People coming to meetings in ridiculous costumes or over-the-top decorations at desks or ghost stories from your office or anything else!

    (I love decorating and dressing up for Halloween at home, but if I do anything at work, I keep it very minimal, like wearing a cowgirl shirt and boots or something simple like that. I love hearing stories about people who weren’t quite as restrained, though!)

    1. KatieKate

      I like to “stealth” dress up for Halloween, which usually leads to me dressing up as Bruce Banner (purple button down shirt, glasses instead of contacts) or Clark Kent (glasses, blazer, Daily Planet ID hanging out of my bag). I’m a woman with short hair so it’s fun to do some stealth cross dressing too! :) I need to come up with an idea for this year though…

    2. Youth

      My workplace has a huge Halloween party every year. No joke–it’s bigger and longer than the Christmas/winter holiday party. We dress up, have a catered lunch, play games, and win really nice prizes (if you’re fortunate enough to have the best costume or win a game).

      I’m kind of meh about the games, but the food is always excellent, and I love dressing up because I’m secretly 12.

    3. KR

      Instead of my company logo in my email signature, on Halloween I use a little black cat graphic. That’s all I do except try to dress gothish.

    4. DivineMissL

      Halloween is my favorite day of the year. We are a government office, and there is a day care center two doors down from us. About 10 years ago, I got permission to invite the children (about 25 kids, ages infant – 4) over for a Halloween party/trick or treats here in the building. The kids go office-to-office in their adorable Halloween costumes, getting bags full of treats. Since we can’t spend taxpayer dollars on something like this, the employees each buy treats with their own money, decorate their office doors, and dress up in costumes; the kids then have a Halloween-themed snack before heading back to school. All the elected officials participate as well; we usually make the local paper; and this is one of the few employee events that gets 100% participation!

        1. DivineMissL

          It is a great event every year; for some of the little ones, it’s the first time they have ever been trick or treating, and they look so amazed that people are just handing them treats! But it kind of freaks me out that some of these babies who came in 10 years ago are now in high school!

    5. Dorothy Zbornak

      I have a black cat sweater with the outline of a cat face in white on it – I wore that last year and it was perfect for my office.

    6. Still early

      Last year in my government office there was a decorating contest. My team and I somehow got permission to decorate the conference room. I was in charge of buying the decorations and we went all out. There were bloody handprint tablecloths on the table, spider webs around all the screens, spiders all over the walls and ceiling, fake eyes in some corners, ghosts hanging around, the door decorated as a mummy, spooky lights. Everyone, especially the commissioner LOVED it. I’m still shocked they let us do that, but we did it again for the holidays and are working on plans for this year

    7. Nana

      Gave blood on Halloween one year…all the Red Cross staff were dressed as vampires or other blood-related ghouls.

    8. Chaordic One

      One year the head of H.R. came dressed as an executioner. He wore this sleeveless vest thing and had very muscular arms.

  28. Ragazzoverde

    Does anyone have tips for getting less easily distracted during the day? I find myself regularly reading articles on my phone or computer when I should be working, I then let loads of work pile up and feel overwhelmed. Then I tell myself I’ll finish it at home but I never do, my work is directly client facing so I feel quite anxious that I’m not really performing well and have previously been put on a PPA (which I did pass, but I suspect it may have been due to the fact that my employer likes me and was suffering a mass exodus at the time). I feel like I want to do better (I was always an overachiever at school and university, albeit not one that needed to work very hard) but I find it so easy to get stuck in this procrastination and panic cycle where I never feel on top of anything.

    Any advice would be much appreciated!

    1. alice

      Have you tried the pomodoro (sp?) technique? That worked for me. You work for 25 minutes, take a break, and repeat.

      1. Ragazzoverde

        I have tried it and it does seem to work for a couple of hours in the morning, but once I get back from lunch it’s like I just lose it completely. I guess I just need to be more strict on it but I find it hard to stick to

        1. TootsNYC

          maybe use it for morning, and use something else for the afternoon.

          If something is hard to stick to, it’s smart to keep looking for something else.

    2. Natalie

      Maybe try playing around with settings and/or apps to make your phone and computer less enticing for non-work tasks? Exactly which thing will work for you depends on the nature of your work, but some suggestions

      – browser extensions that block access to specific sites, or all sites that aren’t whitelisted, or kick you off the browser after a certain amount of time
      – turn your phone screen to grayscale
      – phone apps that lock you out or disable certain apps

    3. raktajino

      I use the Chrome add-on Stay Focusd. It gives you like 60 min (adjustable) a day to be on distracting sites, and then it blocks you until your designated stop time. I find that it helps a lot with preventing rabbit holes.

      If your phone can also become a distraction, I recommend something like Forest, which blocks your phone for a set period. Unlike Focusd, you can bypass and, say, take a phone call.

    4. Kelly AF

      I found a couple of good tools for focus — one is a Chrome extension called StayFocusd, and the other is an app called Forest. With StayFocusd, you can customize it a lot. For example, you can use it all the time, to restrict time on certain sites that are real time sucks (you set the sites). I used it in what it calls “Nuclear Mode” where I would block all sites except ones I had whitelisted for school work for an hour at a time. Forest blocks access to other apps on your phone while it’s engaged, building up points that can then be traded to actually plant trees, which my hippie soul loves.

      Key with both these tools is being realistic — you’re not going to work for four hours without a break, which is why Pomodoro is great. Build in break time.

      There’s also a subscription music site called “FocusAtWill” that may be scientific bunk, but I’ll throw it out there anyway, just in case.

      HOWEVER, I really stopped using these much…. when I got diagnosed with ADHD and started medication. Procrastination might seem like the problem itself, but it’s probably a symptom of a deeper problem. I’m certainly not going to try to guess over the internet, but consider that the issue may be mental health, or it may just be that your job is a poor fit for you. I’d really try to explore that, if I were you.

      Good luck!

      1. raktajino

        Also, ADHD fistbump. I no longer use medication, just the strategies I’ve built up over the last 20 years since my diagnosis. Best part is, a lot of those strategies are about scaffolding your environment and approaches to work, so you don’t have to have ADHD to benefit. (I don’t have specific strategies right now because my Stayfocused time is about to expire, but anyone who’s interested should look on Additude magazine for articles aimed at adults in office or home settings.)

    5. Hello, I'd like to report my boss

      I use the app RescueTime (link in name) which runs in the background on your desktop or Android phone (no iOS version yet) and watches what you do, then gives you nice statistics (eg you spent 10% of of your day on ‘AskAManager.org’, 15% on Outlook, etc). it’s FREE and can be installed without administrator access.

      I also use an iOS app called ‘Forest’. You set a time limit. If you close the app (eg, open the web browser) before the timer runs out, it ‘kills’ your little tree and you get a sad cartoon picture of a dead tree – if you complete the time limit, you get a nice picture of a tree for your forest.

      This might not work for every one, but I find it limited a LOT of my procrastination and reading junk online when I should have been working.

    6. rocklobsterbot

      I like the youtube channel RelaxingWhiteNoise. it helps tune out other stuff going on and encourages a better flow state for me.

    7. The Ginger Ginger

      So I am also struggling with this, and I’m going to ask you the question that I am just now starting to ask myself.

      Is work the only place this is happening? Or are you seeing the same type of trouble following through on tasks in other areas of your life – it’s just less obvious because you’re not up against work deadlines?

      I thought it was a work/laziness issue, and I assumed a new role would sort of refresh me and get me back on task. NOT THE CASE. The novelty quickly wore off, and I am almost worse than I was. But when I started looking at my personal life, this lack of focus, etc. is actually ALL OVER the place. I’m just now in the process talking to doctors about this and what it might mean. For me? Well, I’ve had ADD testing that came back negative (I have a lot of feelings about this that I won’t get into here but…..), but it did uncover some diagnosable depression and anxiety issues that I “knew” about but was largely ignoring. Those things can cause brain fog. I’m also in remission for a metabolic disorder that can have long term cognitive impact (that isn’t really well understood in the medical community). Some of this may be treatable for me – and I’m pursuing that. Some, maybe not. But it DOES allow me to be much kinder to myself, and hopefully will give me ways to request accommodations at work if that should become necessary. The process of excavating all this is long, annoying, and arduous (especially when I am having trouble following through on tasks) AND STILL ONGOING, but I couldn’t even start working on it until I really told myself “I AM NOT LAZY, THIS IS A PROBLEM” and believed it.

      I’m also actively seeking practical techniques to improve my performance and create better habits at work, not just letting the status quo stand.

      Now, I’m not saying we can’t get into habits of laziness. And maybe all you need is a change. Not everything has to be medical at the root, of course. But stop beating yourself up for a minute. Turn off all those shame spiral self attacks, and take a clear-eyed look at all aspects of your life, (alone or with a therapist, either way is a good place to start). If you’re at all concerned about what you’re seeing, maybe it’s time to talk to your doctor.

      1. Ragazzoverde

        Thanks all of you for your advice! This is definitely food for thought, I would freely admit that the job is not something I’m ideally suited to, although it’s my best option for the time being and I think I could be reasonably good at it if I just dedicated the necessary time and attention to the work. I also do lack follow through in many aspects of my life. In a way I think being so good at school and uni with little real effort has kind of done me a disservice because I don’t know how to work at a high level sustainably.

        I’ll definitely take a lot of these tips on board and try the forest app! It’s great to know that there are other people struggling with the same issues I am (well I mean it’s not great that we’re all struggling but great that we can understand each other haha)

        1. The Ginger Ginger

          Yes! I also was a high achiever in school (with seemingly minimal effort in retrospect) and for me that definitely contributes to my feelings of frustration and shame because I REMEMBER being a high achiever and I’m just no longer meeting that threshold. It’s so hard for sure *fist bump of solidarity* A lot of the time, with people who have known me a long time, I feel like I’m still partially riding on the coattails of that success. Like people think I’m smart, because I used to be smart, or something.

          Good luck all of us, I guess :/

        2. TootsNYC

          I’m going to suggest a video that I love. Maybe you can use this technique just before you begin a task:

          It’s called “Bet you’ll clean your desk after watching this video”
          and it’s by PJ Eby, Mindhacking Instructor

        3. TL -

          Uni and high school tend to also be very structured, which can mask a lot of underlying attention issues for the reasonably intelligent. There’s a lot of people who were doing just fine or even really well until hitting college or the work force and that safety net gets taken away.

          If it’s a persistent issue in your life, counseling might be good – they’ll know strategies that will be likely to work and can save you some of the hassle of “find, try, repeat”.

    8. mrs_helm

      When this is happening with me, it is almost always because the work is no longer engaging. I can try to change it up a bit: do some elearning, write some code that makes some of the work do itself, cross-train with coworker, brainstorm/ask for new projects, etc. I find it also helpful to keep a list of small, back-burner work projects, because if I do them while I’m in a slump, at least what I am doing benefits my work.

    9. epi

      There are a lot of different strategies out there, and I think what will work for you really depends on why you are unfocused. It could be lots of things– anxiety/perfectionism, feeling burned out at work, difficulty focusing in general such as with ADHD, etc.

      My trouble focusing is almost all about anxiety, so I find I really need to force myself to *start* tasks. It helps me to use a timer– if you Google “timer” one will come up right in your browser. I also schedule specific tasks in my calendar when I’m really having trouble. If you do it regularly, you will get pretty good at knowing how long a task should take and you may find it motivating to know that when you read something else instead, you are signing yourself up to engage with that task for even longer.

      I saw you say you have trouble getting back into doing this stuff in the afternoon, after a break. I highly recommend just making some calendar reminders for general work time that will pop up sometime after lunch. It’s OK to need a prompt to do this stuff! One thing I found when I started using timers and reminders was, there were only so many things I *wanted* to read rather than just aimlessly doing anything but the task I was avoiding. With time it started to get easier to get back to work without prompting, or to realize when I wasn’t even enjoying my time wasting activities so I might as well put them aside.

      1. The Ginger Ginger

        Oh yes! Related to this afternoon slump! Are you in a role where you can hyper-schedule yourself? Like from 8-10 I do Y, from 1-2 everyday I do X task only. After lunch, it would preferably be something that is easy to start and complete quick tasks in so you get that burst of satisfaction/reward for getting something done (so maybe lots of small steps that you know well and can move through quickly), but doesn’t take up a ton of that brain effort that may be hard to gather after lunch.

        Maybe it’s just dealing with all your email after lunch. So 1 email burst first thing, then anything that comes in after that gets addressed right after lunch?

        Calendar reminders and scheduling works for me, at least…a lot of the time. Some days better than others. But it may be worth a go.

    10. ElspethGC

      I’m another one of those ex-overachievers who suddenly hit a wall and wasn’t sure how to actually concentrate and work hard after a childhood/teenagerdom of not really needing to try.

      I’ve discovered that pomodoro and the like don’t really work for me, because it relies on willpower (which I lack!) and necessitates going back to work after a short break. I just can’t do that. A short break becomes a very long break with surprising speed. I’ve never had a good sense of time management/how much time has passed, which exacerbates the issue. I’ve found that I work better in much longer chunks and that I don’t really need the five minute break every half hour – or rather, that if I do take that break, it becomes a three hour break every half hour.

      On my phone, I have the app Forest – whitelist the necessary apps, set your timer, and it blocks all non-whitelisted apps. You always have the option to click out of the block, but it kills the little tree that it planted when you started the timer. It sounds twee, but I always get a cozy feeling of beaten procrastination when I have a tiny forest of trees to show for my concentration, and a withered tree of failure in the middle is surprisingly annoying.

      Equally, I use Chrome extensions that blacklist my big time-wasters for a set length of time. I don’t know if you’d want those on company computers, though.

    11. LilySparrow

      GTD and rewards.
      I am also a schooltime overachiever who struggled in the working world and was adult-diagnosed with ADHD.

      What I like about the Getting Things Done approach (I don’t follow it religiously, but this part helps) is that you uncover the thing that’s blocking you by itemizing the sub-tasks within each task. So my task might be “book vendor for Event.” But I’m avoiding doing anything about it. So when I break it down, I realize that there are several discrete steps that need extra attention – like contacting Colleague for vendor recommendations, which requires that I find Colleague’s contact info that isn’t in my address book, and so forth. So instead of writing “book vendor” on my to-do list, I write “find Colleague’s number.” It seems much easier and less overwhelming, and I get a little dopamine hit from crossing it off.

      I also respond well to small, concrete, immediate rewards (instead of abstract, far-off rewards.) When I’m really struggling to stay on task, I’ll track my time in increments (usually 30 minutes). When I get 3 gold stars, I get a cup of the fancy tea. When I get 6, I can listen to my Pandora station until lunchtime. And then it resets after lunch.

    12. Sami

      Since you mention that one of your rough times is after lunch, think about when and what you’re eating. Too much heavy foods or too many carbs can leave me tired and not feeling my best.

  29. Goya de la Mancha

    Ordering a new boardroom set up for our office.

    From what I’ve found it looks like it will have to be from an online store. I’ve never ordered such large scale furniture online before does anyone have places they would recommend/warn against? Easy enough process/returns if needed?

    1. Not So NewReader

      We bought furniture online a while ago. It came knocked down and required assembly. Since the pieces were wood and they were LARGE, it was nothing my boss and I were going to assemble on our own. We had to bring in several stronger people to work together on it.

      Now this was very large, heavy furniture. It cost just over 5k. I was shocked by the poor quality. It looks great from a distance, but it’s particle board and it has not held up with time that great.

      Even if you are buying lighter things like chairs you still have to assemble them. Cordless drills are a life saver as much of it involves a screwdriver. Again, you may want to consider who will be assembling them, if you have 8 chairs and each chair takes 20 minutes to assemble it might be worthwhile to find someone who would put it together for you.

      The large furniture we ordered came on pallets, they took it off the truck with a forklift. (The driver had his own forklift.) Since it would be a while to assemble this stuff, it could not stay outside in the weather. We had to have a spot to put the pallets of furniture that was a covered area. The forklift was used to move the pallets. If you do not have a garage type area where a vehicle can just drive in, then you will probably need a crew available the day the furniture comes to hand carry the boxes into a sheltered area.

      For my volunteer work I do, we bought a large table and some chairs. This was a totally different experience. Delivery was much easier because of the size and weight of the furniture. I think it was a crew of four people to put them all together. This set of furniture was not made of wood, but made of rather light weight material and a very modern design. Since the assembly was easier and the materials were substantially lighter I was able to participate in putting things together. It is time consuming.

      The one thing that I really liked about the set for the volunteer organization is that the table comes apart into small tables that can be used by one or two individuals. This is very handy if the room is a multipurpose room. You can put the tables together for a board meeting OR take them a part and have smaller tables that people can work on things alone or in pairs. (Now that I have seen this, I wonder how we coped without it.)

      I strongly recommend reading customer reviews before deciding where to order from.

      1. Goya de la Mancha

        THANK YOU for such a detailed response – you brought some points I hadn’t even considered yet! Assembly itself won’t be a much of an issue, but storage until assembly is complete will be! We’re looking to spend some money on this so one of my biggest fears is like you said, it looks great from far away but it’s just cheap up close/over time.

    2. A Non E. Mouse

      Depending on the size metro area you are in, call around – even places that have to order it sometimes have “Office Supply” warehouses with office furniture – even the fancy stuff! – you can touch and feel before buying.

      We even have a couple of places locally (medium-ish metro area) that sell really good quality used furniture.

      Also if you know of a place that has furniture you like, call them and ask where they got it.

  30. formerfrontdesk

    Hey guys, I’m the former hotel employee who was seeking advice on reporting policies at my former workplace that had potentially discriminatory outcomes. I wanted to thank you all so much for the advice I was given.

    https://www.askamanager.org/2018/08/open-thread-august-17-18-2018.html#comment-2114627

    I eventually called the American Hotel and Lodging Association, and they suggested the consumer complaint specialists at my state’s Dept. of Justice.

    My state’s Department of Justice consumer complaints people told me that the consumers themselves would have to make a complaint for the DoJ to get involved. When I explained the specific circumstances (the policy was essentially invisible from the consumer’s perspective), she suggested my state’s Human Relations Commission. 

    Then, the Human Relations Commission suggested the EEOC. When I spoke with the EEOC, they suggested… the Human Relations Commission. I even tried the Better Business Bureau, and was told that the company didn’t handle discrimination claims, even when it was against customers.

    I admit, I’m at a loss. I’m really surprised that there’s no place where I can report my experiences with my former employer in an actionable way. I still haven’t ruled out the ACLU or the press, but I’ve never talked to a journalist before, and I’m afraid I’ll mess it up. If I find a job outside the hospitality industry, (still unemployed, here) I might even give my name to corporate so they can address my complaint.

    1. Bee's Knees

      That stinks. I work in a newspaper office, and I’d say it depends on the size of the newspaper you’re calling the response you’ll get. You could call and ask to speak to the business reporter, and see what they say. They’ll let you know if they think they can get anywhere with it.

      1. formerfrontdesk

        Most of the newspapers in my area are pretty small, so I’m not sure they have a business reporter. I’ll look into it though! I’m also looking into contacting specialized newspapers for my area’s African American and local tribal populations.

        1. Bee's Knees

          They may not have a business reporter, but that’s going to get you closer to the person that you need to talk to. Also, it lets them know you actually might have a story, and aren’t just calling because someone done you wrong. For the specialized papers, you might want to go straight to the editor.

      1. formerfrontdesk

        That’s kind of you to say. I think it’s my duty to bring up policies I feel are discriminatory to the appropriate authorities.

    2. Bea

      Thank you for trying so hard. I know the end result is frustrating and FUBAR (for real, I can’t believe these policies are allowed with all our laws and watch dog groups to protect against discrimination) but you invested in trying to find anywhere to listen and that’s not what most do.

      Please continue to care and try when you notice injustice. But in this case, you’ll want to step away and distance yourself. Short of lobbying for protection to be formed, you’re exhausted your efforts!

    3. Binky

      I think the ACLU actually might be the best place to go. The policy you described sounds a lot like discrimination on the basis of race in places of public accommodation, which is a civil rights violation. A civil rights organization like the ACLU, or maybe the NAACP, would be your best bet.

  31. grossed out anon

    Several people in the office have been coughing non-stop all week. Today it is especially bad. Can I go home “not sick yet”?

    1. Annie Moose

      Ahhh, we have a bunch of people complaining about sore throats today. I suspect it’s because school’s starting back up so all the parents are getting sick off their children. Fingers crossed it doesn’t pass to me…

      1. AvonLady Barksdale

        I stayed home yesterday because I woke up stuffy and woozy. Felt much better this morning, but still kind of not great. So I’m holing up in my office. The entire office is getting this mess, and I agree that it’s all probably because the kids just went back to school. Blech.

    2. Gandalf the Nude

      My friend has been getting a lot of dirty looks from one neighboring coworker, who is apparently very offended that Friend would come to work sick and has been spraying the air around the cubes with bathroom disinfectant several times a day. Friend doesn’t have access to vacation or sick days yet, though, so dab cough and hand sanitizer it is.

    3. LDP

      If you can, go get some cough drops with zinc in them! I work in a shopping center, so there’s pretty much always someone sick in the office, and besides constantly washing my hands and trying not to touch anything in the mall, this has been the biggest game changer!

    4. Also grossed out

      I just came here to post the same thing! Except people in this office cough ALL THE TIME! One woman has had eight colds since April and I feel like I’m going to snap. I have never caught this many colds and coughs in my life.

    5. Traffic_Spiral

      this is one thing I miss about Japan – it’s acceptable to wear facemasks in public for health reasons.

  32. Bee's Knees

    This week in a Small Town Newsroom

    If I’m going to type this up in my email, I need to make sure and remember to take my signiature out of it. That’d be fun.

    So earlier this week, I was out of things to do. Boss wasn’t here, so I decided to work on my photoshop skills. (Which I would have done if he was here or not, but I couldn’t ask about anything that needed done.) I was editing a photo of my brother and his fiance, putting a border on it, and cleaning it up a little. Fergus comes by, and asks if they’re siblings or a couple. Which was a little understandable, because they have similar coloring. They were not standing like siblings stand, but ok. I told him, and then he immediately makes it weird, and starts asking if my brother has some sort of weird sister thing. I was not having it, and told him not to make it weird, and to go away. I thought that was the end of it. It was not. The next day, he starts telling me that the deciding factor for men to choose a wife is what the man’s sister looks like, which is the not the stupidist thing I’ve ever heard, but close.

    There was a man that got arrested for being naked in public for the second time in the span of a month. The first time, they found him in the back room of a convinece store, bathing in bleach out of a mop bucket. Naked. (Or, as we say in the south, nekkid.) The second time, he was by the side of the road, and flagged down a passing motorist, who called the police. That time, he did have a bag covering… parts that need to be covered. Stay away from the drugs, people.

    Another man got arrested after he and his lady friend were caught with drugs in the car. He was pulled over for speeding, because he did not want his parents to see him out with a woman who was not his wife. It didn’t really go his way.

    I got a call about an obit from a lady out of state. It’s our company policy that we only take obits from funeral homes. I told her that, and she said that her son passed away a few months ago, and she wanted to get something longer in the paper. I gave her the line about policy, which people don’t generally expect and a lot don’t like, and she starts going on that don’t parents get a choice? I said yes, that the funeral home puts in whatever they’re told to by the family. Then she goes on (and on) about how her ex-husband didn’t give her a chance to do it, and it was short and awful, and can’t we do anything? (This was less in the tone of greiving mother, more wronged ex) I told her again that she could send it to a funeral home here, or we could take it from one where she is. She said she’d check with her funeral home, then hung up.

    My counterpart, Jane, had a really hard time yesterday. She was asked if she preferred Magnum, P.I., or whoever Tom Selleck plays in Blue Bloods, and she honestly got a little flushed. It didn’t help that she’d been to the dentist and had her mouth numbed, and so it was drooping. I thought she was having a stroke.

    1. Annie Moose

      Fergus is so weird. I don’t know how you manage to not accidentally drop something heavy on his foot/accidentally ram your chair into him/accidentally trip and spill hot coffee down his shirt. The temptation has got to be strong!

        1. Bee's Knees

          It did. I didn’t get a chance to go, because HOW DARE I schedule it when someone was working. Cause it was all my doing. Of course, that same person took several hours off that afternoon to watch football, but ok.

            1. Bee's Knees

              They had one with buck teeth. It was one of the cutest animals I’ve seen in a while. I was stalking their facebook.

      1. Bee's Knees

        Believe me, it is. He wouldn’t notice about the spill though. His desk is literally crusty. Desks shouldn’t be crusty. If IT comes, they drape it in paper, or just take the whole computer, but leave the nasty mouse, etc. He eats there, and the sound makes my skin crawl. We sit 20 ft apart.

    2. Rusty Shackelford

      Remember what Lewis Grizzard said… Naked is when you don’t have clothes on. Nekkid is when you don’t have clothes on and you’re up to something.

    3. Bagpuss

      I’m stuck on the wife comment. I mean, on a practical level, my brother has 3 sisters, and we all look totally different (and his lovely fiancee doesn’t look remotely like any of us, except in so far as we are all Caucasian women! )

      1. Bee's Knees

        That’s about as much as I have in common with my future sister-in-law. Fergus just wanted to be a weirdo.

  33. Valor

    I would like some advice/ opinions on whether I was too harsh or over the line on a subject. I supervise college students, and one of my responsibilities is helping them in their professional development for their life after graduation. One of my reports wants to do a very physical job after he graduates, but he also has a medical condition that may leave him paralyzed in the next year. In our goal-setting meeting, after we discussed his steps towards his goal, I asked him what his back-up plan is, if he does become paralyzed, and he was very shocked that I asked. He told me his plan is to not become paralyzed, but that’s not really something he can control. Was I wrong to ask? I feel like it would be irresponsible of me not to help him plan for the worst case scenario.

    1. Slartibartfast

      It’s something he should consider, speaking as someone with fibromyalgia and neuropathy in my hands. My medical condition is not the only reason I’m switching fields for something significantly less physical than I have been doing, but it’s about 40% of it. However, it took me years to admit to myself that I can’t just power through and ignore my symptoms because I love the work. (Still do, it’s in my soul but my body can’t take it) So no, you aren’t out of line to bring it up-once. Whether or not he’s ready to consider the question is on him, and the more you bring it up the more he’ll likely shut down if he’s not ready to hear it.

      1. Sloan Kittering

        I think asking people about their backup plans is great. You were right to do that. The issue was in making it about his disease. That to me is probably over the line. But I *always* ask students to think through their Plan Bs, second best choices etc. I think young people are too much taught to follow their dream to the bitter end even when it’s clearly not working out and making them happy – for whatever reason.

        1. Valor

          This is a very good point. A lot of my students are accountancy majors, and I usually don’t think about asking them about back-ups because they can almost always get a job right away. A lot of them have job offers as juniors! I just tend to ask them what steps they are taking to ensure they can pass their licensing exams. Back-up plans are something I should just add into my routine with all my seniors.

    2. Jessie the First (or second)

      Yes, you were wrong.

      He knows about his medical condition. You would not have been alerting him to anything new.

      I mean, obviously, he knows much more than you do about his own health, so it is strange of you to assume he hasn’t thought about it. That and, you know, you may be wrong about his specific risk anyway. You know his condition because he told you or it was in the news or who knows why – you haven’t been with him in medical appointments.

      I know you were trying to help, but when dealing with someone with a chronic health issue, don’t make assumptions about their prognosis and start giving advice based on those assumptions.

      1. Lissa

        Well sure but plenty of students don’t think about things others may see as obvious, and require professional development help from someone like OP. It’s not strange, IMO, to assume a university student has not thought about something relevant, and that doesn’t change just because it involves a medical condition. I don’t think it’s strange to assume someone hasn’t thought about *any*thing that might seem extremely obvious from the outside, from my experience!

      2. Traffic_Spiral

        But she wasn’t giving advice, just asking about whether he had made plans. I think in regular situations it wouldn’t be appropriate, but here where it’s a student (AKA inexperienced in some matters) and your literal job is to advise them on this, it’s worth bringing up once. Not harping on it, but definitely worth bringing up as a relevant factor that could influence the type of advice they need.

    3. Jessie the First (or second)

      Slartibartfast – I’m curious about your response. I think a friend/parent/family member/trusted inner circle person could CERTAINLY say something. I’m just not at ALL convinced that person should be a college career services person (or whatever your title is, Valor – I’m not sure!). Someone who does not have the actual details of a person’s dx and prognosis.

      1. Slartibartfast

        The fact that he is a student is the reason why I think it’s ok. There’s a big difference between learning and actually doing, and it can be valuable to call attention to something that’s more personal in nature than would be acceptable in the workplace But again, just once. The ball is in the student’s course from here on out re: whether or not they want to talk about it.

    4. Dino

      Not over the line and his reaction speaks more to his mindset than your approach. I’ve seen a situation where someone wasn’t able to do a job because of a disability (like, actually couldn’t do it, not “it’ll be hard” or “it’ll require accommodations”) and no one had that talk with them before they applied to the training program and was rejected. It’s a kindness to flag these issues, but you can’t control the other person’s response.

    5. LCL

      Asking was the right thing to do, as it sounds like it is part of your professional responsibilities. As long as you dropped it when he wanted it dropped, you did what was right.

    6. Nita

      I’m sure there is a reason he’s choosing this job. He’s probably very much aware he may spend the rest of his life sitting, and may want to do as much really physical stuff as possible, while possible. You really shouldn’t be telling him to live his life as if he’s already paralyzed. He’ll figure it out if the worst happens, although, hopefully, it won’t – it sounds like there is some uncertainty there.

      1. Valor

        In my own defense, we did discuss his action steps to getting his dream job before I brought up his backup plans. He has a solid plan for getting there if nothing changes about this well-being.

    7. Persimmons

      IMO there’s nothing wrong with asking a student what their backup plan is, whether the need for it involves possible disability or not. Having all your eggs in one basket is almost always the wrong way to go. Your question was not inappropriate just because the reason for the backup plan is personally devastating, rather than just bad luck or economic factors.

    8. Shay the Fae

      Disabled person here, I think asking him that was really important. I’m about to graduate college this spring and I have 3 different plans depending on my health and how getting a service dog is going.

    9. WellRed

      Hmm, in that case, shouldn’t everyone have a backup plan? No need to single out the person with the medical condition.

      1. CTT

        Yeah, that’s my thought as well. OP, if this is something you ask everyone, then maybe it would have been better to frame it that everyone should have a backup plan and that he needs one in case he can’t find a job in that field for any reason.

    10. Owlberta

      I agree with Slartibartfast and LCL: You were right to bring it up — once. If your job is to help them plan for professional development, then asking mentees to consider both a plan and a back-up plan is reasonable — medical concerns or not. If he chooses not to engage in back-up planning, that’s his choice, and you’ve done your duty in asking the question.

      This is certainly an over-generalization with many exceptions, but I have found that millennials can be quite unrealistic in their career/goal planning. It’s better to ask questions now than get completely rejected AFTER putting in a ton of work and money.

      1. Valor

        I don’t think that’s being fair to my report, his goal is very attainable and practical if his health maintains at his current level, and he has a realistic and well-thought-out plan to achieve it.

      2. Lissa

        I think if you replace millennials with university students you’re quite right, there are a lot of people early in their professional development who have unrealistic ideas/expectations for all kinds of reasons – I sure did! And yes some people are extremely realistic but others have just been fed “follow your dreams” and not much else, which is in no way their fault but is why people in OP’s role exist IMO…

        1. Sloan Kittering

          I do think it’s best to try and cultivate a flexible mindset early. When people feel like they’re letting themselves down if they don’t achieve their dream of being a professor, for example … even when they’ve realized they hate academia or it’s not going to reward them the way they need – the system has failed them, IMO. They’ve become too rigid in their definition of success and its only hurting them.

          1. Lissa

            Yes, I know a number of people whose dream was always to do one specific thing, often a thing that has a fairly high rate of not being successful in the way they want (for instance, it’s realistic to be a writer but not so much to expect to completely support yourself with writing novels) and are absolutely devastated because they were basically told that “wanting it” means of course they will succeed, and they want it SO much.

      3. Double A

        I know a lot of people use “millenials” to mean “20-somethings,” but the oldest of us millenials are pushing 40. A lot of generational generalizations are actually generalizations about a certain age cohort. Probably when Boomers were in their 20s, they had similar issues.

        There are definitely unique experiences that come with being part of a generational cohort (for millenials it mostly relates to when we experiences certain types of technology), but learning professional norms is something that every generation deals with when they’re of a specific age, so it’s not really a generational thing.

        Just a pet peeve of mine.

    11. Not So NewReader

      My only qualification here is I am a former student, so this is FWIW.
      I think you did the exact right thing. I thank you for asking that question, because most people do not.

      I hope I can encourage you to continue to think this way and use this approach. Perhaps you would find it a bit easier to preface the question with something like this:

      “I feel I have an ethical responsibility to people who mention a potential problem that may occur in the future. We don’t have to discuss it if you don’t want to. However, my advice to you is to develop Plan B now for if Potential Problem becomes reality.”

      You can add things to this:
      I might say, “Life has taught me that if I see a problem on the horizon, I have an opportunity to prepare/do damage control if that problem should actually unfold.” [Drawing back on yourself like this can sometimes make the message less startling.]

      OR:”I am available if you later decide you would like to talk about this with me.” [This holds the door open for them to recover from their shock and start the conversation up again later.]

      Here is something to keep in mind, they gave you this information. You did not go fishing for it or beat it out of them. They volunteered it. This means the topic is on the table for discussion, to me. They felt comfortable enough to mention it even in passing, so that would make me go back in on it. And yes, some people will just shut that right down. Others will shut it down but reopen the conversation later. And still others will stay in the conversation when you open the topic. There is no way to predict which type of person you have sitting in front of you, so I’d encourage you to keep asking and help those who allow you to help them.

    12. Anonomoose

      I think it’s part of disability acceptance to realize that what you plan and your body are too different things. In my line of work as a voc rehab counselor, I’d raise it. And let it go.

      Heck, I’ve raised it with my 14 year old niece who wants to go the Air Force Academy and is on track with the grades, volunteer work and athletics (And found out I was the only family member who raised it). It’s only when we don’t have back up plans we run into trouble

    13. Mimmy

      I think it’s awesome that you’re helping these students work through their professional development plans. However, I think you have to be really careful when you bring disability into the conversation. No, it should not be ignored completely, but you also don’t want it to come across like you’re discouraging the student’s Plan A just because he may become paralyzed in the near future. You don’t say what kind of “physical” work your student hopes to pursue and what level of paralysis he may experience, but depending on those factors, there may be some modifications that can be made. I will concede that it may not be doable, so encouraging him to think about a Plan B is still very important, even if he is able to do Plan A for some period of time.

  34. Nervous Accountant

    The guy sitting next to me has left th drawer open all morning now. It’s driving me crazy that it’s open. Not my drawer so can’t touch it. Wonder how long he’ll leave it this way. I’m just more amused that it’s drivimg me so nuts.

    1. Icontroltherobots

      Can you close the drawer? “Oh Steve, you left this open, shuts drawer, there ya go, big smile.”

    2. Nanc

      Wasn’t there a Home Improvement episode where the husband made the wife a super closet and one of the tech bits was a voice alarm “The drawer is ajar! The drawer is ajar!”?

      That doesn’t really help your situation but if you can find an audio of it it might amuse you!

      1. David

        Yeah! Season 2 episode 13, around 20 minutes in. There’s a clip on YouTube.

        Now I’m watching the episode instead of working…

    3. Anna Held

      Are you a witch? According to Terry Pratchett, the best way to drive a witch crazy is to leave her alone in a room with a picture that’s askew. Witches like things to be in their place. So you may be a witch.

      If you know any good hexes, we’ve got lots of potential recipients on this here site.

    4. Queen of Cans and Jars

      Those kinds of things drive me nuts, too! Usually it’s my husband, who for some reason is not able to close his dresser drawers, but at least I can fix that. I have a hard time restraining myself from “fixing” things on people’s desks, but I blame that on the fact that I used to be a teacher.

    5. WellRed

      I have a drawer open right now at work! At home, it drives me crazy when people leave the toaster oven door open.

    6. Damn it, Hardison!

      Could you “accidentally” bump in to, and then say you shut it because it was a hazard. Not that I’ve done it or anything, just a hypothetical.

    7. Dorothy Zbornak

      My mom used to hate that when I was still living at home – I would leave dresser drawers just a little bit open (for no real reason, I’d just shove and walk away) and it would drive her crazy!

    8. Bea

      “Drawer’s open, dude. Dude, your drawer is open tho.”

      I’d close it myself but you know your office and say you can’t, so I would go with the “DUDE. DRAWER.”

      If it’s sticking out into his traffic zone, it’s a safety issue. Yes, I’ve been forced to be the “safety” officer in every job I’ve had.

      1. Nervous Accountant

        Well can’t was my own reason. But I went ahead and did it. I didn’t realize it’s drive me nuts until it actually happened today lol

        1. Bea

          Lol fair enough. I’m glad you did!

          I know some places so have rules because of strict chain of custody and imagined it being a private drawer with to secret details. Like if it’s next to a cash box or privileged filings but then he really better not be leaving it hanging open!

  35. TotesMaGoats

    Just wanted to share that my class has been going well and I’ve used some of the best questions from here to spur discussion. Had some interesting opinions on this and good conversation. Hopefully making them think.

  36. Slartibartfast

    Nervously awaiting a call “sometime today” with the official offer I was unofficially promised earlier this week…Gah, I feel like I want to puke! New job, new industry and I I have been out of work since January for school/training to make this happen. I have three more interviews if this does fall through, but still…
    Not a question, but good vibes would be appreciated :)

    1. Slartibartfast

      Update: I have my offer!!!!

      Best interview questions from AAM that helped me get this: “what does a typical day here look like” and “how do you measure success in this role”. The latter got me an “oh that’s a good question!” from my interviewer :)

  37. Persimmons

    Does your company (or should your company, in your opinion) weigh external and internal experience differently when considering new hire salary?

    Oversimplified example: Say I have 10 years of experience in teapots, 5 years at my current company and 5 years at a previous company. A new hire is coming in with 10 years of previous experience in teapots. Should that new hire make what I make now, since 10 years in teapots = 10 years in teapots?

    1. Icontroltherobots

      This is way more about internal policies than anything else. External hires typically come on at whatever the market rate is within your band. So if you’re higher in your band than is really market for your skill set – you make more. If you really should have gotten a (big) pay bump at some point – you’re being underpaid.

        1. Icontroltherobots

          My company expects unquestioning loyalty but will not give real raises to mark-to-market. External hires IMHO get paid more.

    2. Birch

      IMO, yes, if the level and training required for the job is the same. If you both are certified Teapot Specialists, then isn’t it the same as if you were to now leave to another company? You wouldn’t take a pay cut, would you? Now if newbie doesn’t have your certification or comes from a company that makes second-rate teapots compared to your company (if you can measure that objectively somehow), then maybe not. But in any case, you can only measure your experience at your current company if you’re talking about internal vs. external. So you don’t get 10 years of credit if newbie doesn’t–you only get the 5 years at your company. I’d be interested to hear what this is like in other industries.

    3. mrs_helm

      Just throwing this in the mix: 10 yrs of experience at one company isn’t really the same as 10 over a few different companies. One company may do more of X, less of Y, and not really do Z or outsource it or whatever. So it is possible that the different mix of experience adds value to that candidate. Also, size of companies can matter just I’m a how-things-are-done sense.

      That said, I don’t think this should be hiring/salary policy. These are more case-by-case, judgement call things.

    4. Bea

      No. You shouldn’t be making your salary based on only years experience. It’s a mix of experience externally and internally.

      So say you make 50k after 10yrs. A person coming in with 10 years shouldn’t start at 50k, that defeats the purpose of retention based salaries.

      Like raises, you get a COLA annually-ish. You should also get extra based on performance.

      So you’ve been there 5 years. John is hitting 1 year. He’s still learning but is catching on. You both get a 2% COLA, he gets another 1% for being pretty good but with a curve. You’re getting 5% for meeting and exceeding your higher goals.

      If you’re making top band salary at 10 years, they better not bring in newbies at the top, where is everyone gonna go?

      Base is 40k. His 10 experience is worth extra so coming in at 45 makes sense. Still 5k below yours. Kind of thing.

      I come in at the top of every range now but the top is never the amount the person before me ended at.

    5. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

      I suppose it depends on how much variation there is in actual job duties between companies. In my field I’d expect all of us to be making the same, because there isn’t much difference between the work you do at company A versus company B, except maybe some of the paper work is formatted differently.

  38. Environmental Compliance

    Got to kick out a crappy contractor today after getting approval to replace them. Mwahahahahahaha!

    1. lost academic

      What a relief! I hate competing against incumbents with some of my clients who are clearly screwing up left and right but they can’t be replaced easily…. lost a contract opp today for that reason.

      1. Environmental Compliance

        I was getting a little worried. This contractor was not going to help us stay in compliance with some FDA regulations (the opposite, actually) and I kept getting kickback of but……do we neeeeeed to switch?

        Yes, yes we do, unless you’d rather pay the FDA to fine us.

  39. hot sauce christmas cake

    I’m looking at entering a PhD program next fall and am working on applications, but have hit a slight roadblock. I don’t know how it is for other fields, but in my field PhD programs are very very small: the largest I’ve found admits only five students at a time, with most others admitting two or three. Obviously it’s highly competitive (even at what I’d consider “second tier” universities), which means I intend to apply to several different schools to increase my chances of being admitted.

    The problem is, all of these schools require three letters of recommendation from previous professors. I’ve always been a good student, but there are really only three professors I’ve had who could write more than “turned her assignments in on time, never caused trouble” – and, considering the competitive nature of the application process, I’d like to use those three for all my applications. But while I wouldn’t mind asking for a single letter of recommendation from them, asking for four or five seems very rude.

    Does anyone have any advice for how to go about this? Would it be presumptuous to write and ask for a letter of recommendation and suggest they save what they write so they can submit it to other schools?

    1. Sophie before she was cool

      This is totally normal and professors are used to it! Generally they’ll write one letter and tweak one or two sentences that speak to how you’d be a good fit for the particular strengths of each program you’re applying to.

      There’s no need to feel like an imposition — if they agree to write “a letter of recommendation”, they understand that they’re agreeing to write for each school you apply to.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale

        What Sophie said. This is so normal! I didn’t even realize how normal it was until my partner started his job search process (he’s almost at the end of his PhD). One of his professors plans to write customized recommendation letters for every application, and… that’s at least 40 letters. I think that’s insane, but that’s what the prof himself suggested and offered.

        When I applied for my master’s, I think I got letters from two professors. They wrote seven letters each for me. I didn’t read them, so I’m not sure if they used one letter for all apps or if they customized the content. Ask for their help, and if they agree, ask them what kind of info they need from you. They’ll take it from there. Good luck!

    2. Portia

      Your professors are very used to this, and that is exactly what they will do – they will each write one letter that does not refer to a specific school/program so that it can be used for multiple applications. There’s even a useful service called Interfolio that they may be familiar with where they can upload letters. You won’t have access to the letter itself, so they remain confidential, but you can upload the letters to your applications without having to bother the professors for a new copy each time. Good luck with your applications!

      1. hot sauce christmas cake

        I’m so glad I wrote in…this is really reassuring! Thanks for the advice and the luck!

    3. DJ

      I applied to four graduate programs and had the same people do my letters. Four or five shouldn’t be an issue.

    4. Murphy

      This is totally normal. They will definitely be able to use the letter for multiple schools instead of writing a new one every time. Multiple schools wone take up that much more of their time.

    5. LJ

      I think it is very common to have professors submit the same letter to multiple schools. When I was applying for graduate school, I essentially put together a packet (this was only 7 years ago, but many letters still needed to be mailed) with the different schools, deadlines, and pre-stamped, addressed envelopes.

      Most are likely online, but putting together a single email with deadlines and links would be helpful. Let them know upfront you are applying to grad school and would they be willing to write letters in support of your 4-5 applications (or however many). I’ve done this for my students as well, and it’s very common.

    6. Anna Held

      My old school had a service for this. The prof would leave the letter with them, and they’d send them out. Worth asking about.

    7. Boba Feta

      Came here to chime what the others have already said: if you have maintained contact with your profs and they are aware that you were headed toward grad school, it’s very likely they were already preparing for the ask. If you have not maintained consistent contact or this was a relatively new decision on your part (as in: this request would be news to them), just write each of them a friendly email with an update on your most recent adventures/ activities, inform them of your intentions and name a few programs to which you’d be applying, and offer to send them your latest CV. I usually offered to send the CV in a follow up to the initial ask, rather than in the first one, so they are prepared to receive the attachment (less likely to get caught in a spam filter or something).

      Good luck!

    8. Owlberta

      I used to do this for interns. Not a problem at all. I would basically write one letter and then change the header and the first sentence to match the institution. I would rather write 8 recs for 1 person than 3 recs for 2 people. :) I also always sent a copy of my letter to the intern.

      I’m sure you would write a nice thank-you note after, but you may want to add some small gift as well (candle, cookies, $5 coffee card) to acknowledge they are doing so many. Especially since academic institutions are more likely to also require surveys on top of letters.

    9. AcademiaNut

      Totally normal!

      What I’d do is give your professors a list of the programs you’re applying for, with a brief description of the programs and, if relevant, what subject area or professor you’re applying for. That way they can do a generic reference letter if they want, or they can modify it slightly to focus on the particular program you’re applying to. My husband was writing letters for a student who was applying for varied programs and would slightly modify the letter depending on the program.

    10. SleepyHollowGirl

      Professors are very used to sending the same letter (or slightly modified letter) to multiple places.

      I applied to 20+ places after getting my PhD. None of my letter writers balked.

  40. Free Meerkats

    Other activities in meetings.

    We currently have someone who knits during meetings, and in the not too distant past and have had other knitters, a lace maker, and an embroiderer.

    I’m embarking on a huge chain mail project for my next costume and will be knitting mail for the next (mumble mumble) months. It’s quiet (I’m going to use anodized aluminum, so very little clinking) and once I’m in the groove, requires no more attention than knitting yarn.

    Thoughts from the commentariat?

    1. Red Reader

      Super distracting, even with “minimal” clinking. (I knit with wood or bamboo, no clinking.) But it sounds like it’s more acceptable in your office than in most, which is both really weird and really cool to me. (If you’re talking conference calls and not in person meetings, have at.)

    2. The Other Dawn

      It would drive me nuts to see people doing things like that in meetings. But I’m also someone who can’t concentrate when there’s background noise near my desk, like voice or music, or people doing things other than “meeting” things when they’re in a meeting; I get distracted very easily.

    3. Lumen

      I once brought some knitting to a class I was in. Half the sessions were all the students but one or two sitting around observing and giving feedback, not doing much, so I didn’t think it was a problem. I did my best to be quiet about it, and I was actually able to better pay attention.

      When my teacher took me aside to tell me not to do that anymore, she said it wasn’t about noise, or even my attention, it was about perception. To the other people in class, including people I was giving feedback to, it certainly looked like I a) wasn’t paying attention and b) didn’t respect them very much. This was not only going to harm my relationships with them, but it meant that when my turn was up, I might not get very good feedback – because my classmates didn’t think I care. It was a helpful early lesson in why ‘optics’ matter.

      I don’t think it’s appropriate to do craftwork in a meeting full stop, but I’d say that goes double for something a little more ‘unusual’, like chainmail. Plus, as other commentors have mentioned, even minimal clinking is going to be distracting.

      1. Nita

        I used to knit in lecture in college. It did help me pay attention, and I didn’t think anyone really noticed. Only, at the end the professor said something about how he’s surprised I aced the class, because he was always seeing me knit. So, apparently it’s not as unnoticeable as I thought, and to someone who has no idea how little thought knitting requires, it must look like I’m not paying attention.

        1. Lissa

          Yeah I think doing it a big lecture hall isn’t so bad, but is still noticeable, but I understand why Lumen’s prof took them aside too because it seems like it’d be worse in a case where it involves giving feedback to other students like that.

          I know a lot of people here always talk about how it helps them focus better when this comes up, even though the perception is the exact opposite. Would be nice to try to change that perception but it’s a balancing act for sure. Doesn’t help that the one person I know in real life who said stuff like this helped her focus better was…not correct about that, so I imagine there are others out there who are ruining it for people!

      2. Slartibartfast

        I remember a classmate in college knitting as an accommodation for ADHD. She said the repetitive motion helped her focus She was a good student, and it became just part of the background after about 2 days. Not sure I would even notice someone knitting now, seen it pretty often in continuing-ed lectures over the years. Chainmail is an unusual hobby though, and I could ser it being distracting because of the “odd” factor.

    4. Nita

      I can’t really imagine any of that going on in meetings, but if you’ve had people do it in the past and it was received well, I don’t really see the chain mail thing as being different. At least in the initial stages… I don’t know how knitting mail works, but if at the end of the project you’re bringing in a giant sheet of chain mail and it’s starting to take up the chairs next to you, that might be a problem.

    5. Detective Amy Santiago

      I’m gonna say no largely because I have a friend who does chain mail stuff and I know how easily it can get knocked over and make a HUGE mess. I feel like that is not as much of a risk with yarn.

    6. Temperance

      I think that any clinking would be distracting, to be totally honest. I think knitting is distracting/disrespectful, too, but if it’s okay in your office, this might be okay?

    7. Crylo Ren

      Personally – knitting, lacework, or anything other than fidgeting with something unobtrusive under the table would be very distracting to me, especially if there was noise (even if that noise was quiet). I’d for sure lose my focus if I saw the movement of the knitting needles or other stuff in my peripheral vision, and I’d bet there would be others in the meeting that would feel the same even if they were good at hiding it.
      YMMV though, it sounds like your workplace is a lot more accepting than any I’ve worked in.

    8. Work Wardrobe

      I don’t think it’s appropriate, respectful or optically a good idea to bring a hobby to a work meeting.

    9. LCL

      It wouldn’t fly here, because the company spent much money on institutional culture change and one of the big changes was forbidding any activity not directly related to the subject during meetings. I’m not willing to debate whether that is a good or a bad thing, it’s a policy that we are expected to follow.

      At a place where meetings allowed you to engage in other pastimes, it still may be forbidden. Making chainmail isn’t as unobtrusive as knitting. There is the novelty factor, and the fascination of watching someone work with tools. So start making it at your lunch breaks and before work, so the novelty wears off. Then try it at meetings. If I was there, I might ask you for two pair of pliers and join in, I have done chainmail before.

    10. Book Badger

      If knitting/embroidery/other handicrafts are allowed at your workplace, then chain mail might be, too. Though I’d maybe ask beforehand to make sure it doesn’t bother anyone, especially since knitting is more common than chain mail is (and there’s been all sorts of studies on how knitting improves focus or whatever, while I doubt there have been similar for chain mail).

    11. Wishing You Well

      Unless your company is in the craft industry, don’t. The optics are not good, especially if you’re female. You’re demonstrating to everyone present that you can’t be bothered to pay full attention to your job while on the clock. Will the next company you work for be pleased to hear your reference say you split your time and attention with hobbies while at work?
      Hey, I’m a hobby fiend, too. But only at home.

    12. NoTurnover

      I used to attend big library conferences where maybe one or two people out of a room of 1-200 would be knitting. Librarians, of course, tend female and older with a pretty casual sense of what’s professional.

      People still talked shi*t about the “knitters.” Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who just think working on crafts during anything work-related is unprofessional and means you’re not taking things seriously.

  41. KatieKate

    How do I become better at networking? I’m not someone who socializes a lot outside of work (big parties overwhelm me and I only have a few close friends) so at networking events I usually find myself awkwardly standing in a corner or following around someone I already know. How have other socially awkward folks dealt with growing their professional network?

    1. Dino

      I’m also socially awkward and hate networking. What works for me is to wear an outfit that makes me feel like a badass professional, pep-talks to myself about being my most friendly and open self, and mental reminders that no one notices my awkwardness unless I point it out. Good luck out there!

      1. Kelly AF

        Yes to this. Find something (an outfit, a piece of jewelry, a makeup look, a color, a special pair of underwear, a song, whatever) that makes you feel confident and amazing, and use that!

    2. irene adler

      Suggestion- get a job.
      By that I mean get a task to do during the networking event. Ideally a task where folks will seek you out and/ or want to chat with you. Any task will do: handing out programs, supervising the buffet line, refilling snack trays, assisting with food prep, etc.

      I volunteered to be the secretary for my local chapter of a professional organization. At executive meetings, I take notes. Hence, I have to interact with others ‘working’ at the exec meeting. We have a lot of discussions about other members – what they are up to, new jobs, etc. So when I said I didn’t know a certain person, I was promptly introduced at next chapter meeting.

      My ‘job’ is also to welcome attending members at our monthly chapter meetings. So I talk to most everyone. Find out about them- job or industry, interest in the organization, networking needs, etc. Course, they are also interested in talking with me – I tell them where the food is, give them any handouts for the meeting, etc.

      Now that I know some folks, I can introduce people to each other. Ideally, if I know someone is looking to hire for a certain industry or position, I keep this in mind as I chat with other members. Maybe introduce someone who would fit the bill.

      Other ‘jobs’ with our organization are program director. He’s always on the lookout for someone to be keynote speaker at our monthly meeting. So he’s constantly chatting with folks.
      Our treasurer has to collect funds and keep the sign-in sheet so members get credit for attending. She chats with each attendee. She also makes sure everyone has a ticket for the prize drawing we hold at the end of the evening. So she too is someone members want to chat with.

      If we were a larger organization, we’d have more tasks for folks to do. Just remember: each task = a reason to chat with someone.

      (NOTE: all this started slowly over time. I’m pretty much a wallflower. But now that I know a bunch of members, it’s easier to converse with folks.)

      1. Dorothy Zbornak

        This is really good advice! I hate going to work events where I’m just… there to attend. If I have Something To Do, like staffing someone or anything else, I feel much more comfortable about interacting with others.

    3. Alex

      I feel your pain. I recently read the book Networking for Nerds by Alaina Levine. It’s geared towards STEM people who stereotypically have social challenges, shall we say. I found some of the advice to be helpful as an introvert. Not all networking has to be mingling at a big event. There are lots of other ways to connect with people in your field or a field you are trying to break into.

    4. OtterB

      I very much like the advice to get yourself a job related to the event.

      A tactic that works for me is to pick someone else who is awkwardly standing around, introduce myself briefly (“Hi, I’m OtterB, I work for Llama Groomers Inc. in the Wool Research Department.”) and see where it goes from there. Sometimes I find I’m talking to someone I have nothing much in common with, but that’s okay – at least I’m talking to someone.

      1. EddieSherbert

        I’m also one who approaches the other people that appear to be standing by themselves. That’s never worked against me – though occasionally it’s very awkward! But usually it’s totally fine after the initial “hellos”.

    5. A Non E. Mouse

      I am totally the same way.

      Here’s what I do:

      1) Force myself to go to networking events. I’m 95% close to bailing every time, but I don’t. To make sure I feel enough pressure to go, I arrange babysitting – basically I’d have to “cancel plans” to…well, cancel plans! Which is enough to get me over the hump.

      2) Wear something I feel good in. Sometimes this means I buy myself a new outfit. That’s OK.

      3) “Fake it til I make it”. I basically *act* like someone who is outgoing and friendly, and introduce myself to people. This is easier if you just come out and admit “I’m new to this thing and am super awkward, my name is A Non, what’s yours?” and just literally go from there.

      4) Take care of myself before and after. I’m a ball of anxiety about an event two weeks from now, as it’s a in a direction I’m very interested in pivoting my career, so I’m being kind to myself about being nervous, and I’ve made sure I have nothing else super-taxing scheduled the day before OR the day after.

      5) Sometimes, especially if it’s an event that’s free and offers light refreshments, I take a friend. Then we both get to meet new people, but have a built-in safe zone to fall back on while there.

    6. Quinoa

      I have two thoughts about this as I used to have to do a significant amount of networking for my job, though they really boil down to the same thing: make it about the other person.

      1. Look for someone who is feeling awkward and alone and introduce yourself to them. Make it your job to make them feel comfortable. Ask them about themselves, why they’re there, what they do, anything that’s appropriate to the occasion. And then excuse yourself and go find someone else. Eventually what happens is that you are able to start introducing people to each other at an event, which makes it much less awkward for you.

      2. As I hinted at in the previous paragraph, my focus at networking events became to introduce people to each other. When someone was telling me what they did, and it rang a bell in my head about something someone else had told me earlier, I took them with me to meet the other person.

      If you make it about serving the other person, you won’t feel nearly as awkward as if you make it about what you need. Plus, people will be more likely to remember you, as you were warm and welcoming and didn’t seem to want anything from them.

      Then of course, follow up afterward with emails reminding people of who you are and make sure to schedule a one-on-one with anyone with whom you want to maintain a professional connection.

      1. Quinoa

        I should add that even though I began networking feeling very shy and awkward, by the time I no longer had that job, I knew almost everyone in my industry in a not very small city.

    7. Catherine

      I’ve always been similar, hated ‘networking’ and felt it was so phoney. However, I realised that I have actually built a network nonetheless, by being friendly and helpful and having good professional friendships that built over time. Eg, a colleague who joined my company a few months after me, I helped him with some of the new start stuff that’s painful – getting access to systems etc. We talk fairly regularly, he mentioned a job he’d heard about at his old company, that he felt I would be a good fit for – so he put me in touch. When I was at the interview, I was being walked out and bumped into someone in the hallway that I worked with previously – I was on a project with him for a few weeks about 4 years ago. He pinged me on LinkedIn later that day to say it was nice to see me and that he’d put in a good word for me. I got the job.

      Whenever I’ve forced myself to attend an ‘Official Networking Event’, I’ve got nothing out of it, it has felt forced and insincere. To my mind, people knowing you and seeing what you do is the best way. I asked to participate in the New Hire training program at a previous job, I got to meet all of the new people and they all knew who I was – that worked really well.

    8. Scubacat

      I force myself to go to annual general meetings and Christmas parties. In return for my professional adulting, I reward myself with icecream afterwards.

      It helps to think of questions to ask people around me. They don’t necessarily have to be work related.
      Questions such as….
      1) Do you have any vacations planned this season?
      2) What do you think of maple bacon doughnuts? Glorious dessert or travesty against humanity?
      3) What’s been the best part about your week?

      If you pretend to be a normal human interested in other humans, the professional networking happens by accident.

    9. Triple Anon

      Honestly, I would avoid events that are for networking unless it’s a really relaxed and friendly group, and instead seek out professional growth type stuff (conferences, interesting speaker events, etc). I’ve done a lot of both. The latter tend to attract people who are more successful, easier to talk to, and in a better position to help you find a job. Because the event has a topic, there is stuff to talk about.

      It can be hard to find stuff like that that’s free. Conferences can be really expensive. So maybe seek out your professional community online, do some digging and see if you can find anything. Also, sometimes you can get into a conference or other event for free if you volunteer. That’s worth asking about, and it’s a great way to meet people.

  42. overcaffeinatedandqueer

    Annoying smelly cow worker who likes to push food on everyone and eat a ton of shared snacks for the office is being transferred to another office in Omaha!

    She really needs the job, but at the same time I am glad she’s moving. And, sorry, Nebraskans. Hide your snacks!

    Also, generally: if anyone has ideas on how to communicate well with non-native English speakers, fire away. My family is hosting a teenager from Spain.

    1. Sophie before she was cool

      For non-native speakers, resist the urge to talk down to them because they speak slower or might have trouble understanding. Behave normally!

      Be prepared to explain idioms, even idioms that seem pretty literal to you as a native English speaker. Why do we say “on the bus” and not “in the bus”? Who knows! But they might ask you questions like that that have never occurred to you. Give feedback on second-language mistakes tactfully. Let stuff go if it doesn’t prevent the person from being understood (e.g., they say “informations” for multiple pieces of information), unless they specifically ask for feedback. But do mention stuff that could be taken the wrong way or cause significant misunderstandings (e.g., they don’t realize that “turn on” can have a sexual connatation).

      1. overcaffeinatedandqueer

        He misused the words “bother/molest” and it was hard to keep a straight face and explain. Got there eventually though. Apparently “molestar” = “bother”.

        1. Natalie

          It’s actually the same in English – “bother” is the original sense of the word, as both the English and Spanish uses come from the same Latin root. The “sexual assault” usage doesn’t come in until the 20th century, so you’ll see the “bother/annoy” usage in older English texts as well.

          1. Natalie

            To clarify, the above is just trivia. Given the typical connotations in American English I think it was wise to explain that.

      2. Annie Moose

        In addition to idioms, watch out for slang and dialectal stuff that might not be something an ESL speaker would have learned. Of course ESL speakers will generally learn slang as well, but it’s an area where they’re more likely to have unexpected gaps. And if it’s dialectal, a word or phrase that’s pretty much only used in one part of the US, then it’s even more likely that they haven’t encountered it before.

        1. Annie Moose

          OH and swear words! In a second language, it’s really hard to get the right context and strength for swear words and understand when to employ them. (for one example, a French friend of mine had no clue how to properly use “bitch” in English and I had to explain to him that you just can’t use it as a general-purpose term for women!)

          1. Emi.

            Oh man, I remember explaining to a German professor how it’s bad to be shit, but it’s good to be THE shit.

      3. Persimmons

        Sooo agreed on idioms, especially if you use technical or specialized language. “Having a loose screw” and “having a screw loose” are not the same thing. Don’t call your machinery crazy.

      4. TCO

        My Danish student loooooved “play it by ear” and thought it was the greatest idiom. (And it actually has a logical origin!)

        1. Kuododi

          For most Spanish dialects ” I changed my mind”, carries the connotation of a brain transplant! If one wishes to communicate that concept a phrase such as “I changed my plans” would be more appropriate. ;)

      5. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

        I occasionally edit academic texts for people who speak English as a second language and there are lots of potential pitfalls like this. A translation might be technically correct but the connotations make it sound wrong, sometimes very wrong.

        I had one that used the term “miscegenation” throughout, which was technically the right word but I got the author to use “mixed race” instead.

    2. TCO

      I’ve hosted two exchange students in the past two years, though both had good-to-excellent English skills. Google Translate or another similar app is your friend. We’d use translator apps to get across certain words if we were struggling and it helped a lot on both sides. (Like the time I had to teach my student the word “poop,” haha.) Speak slowly and clearly (though not more loudly, which is an easy misstep to make) and try to reduce use of idioms and jargon. If you’re watching TV together, closed captioning, whether in English or in their native language, can help a lot. Other than that, use hand gestures, photos, props, and a good sense of humor. It will go just fine!

      1. TCO

        Oh, and as someone mentioned above, be thoughtful about when you offer corrections. They may or may not care about getting things perfect–one of my students loved to learn new vocabulary words but just didn’t really care that much about perfecting her written grammar and declined our offers to proofread her schoolwork, for instance.

        1. TCO

          Our cabin’s compost toilet requires different actions depending on what, uh, activity you’re using it for. (If you pee, you just do what you’d do with any toilet but after pooping you sprinkle some peat into the toilet chamber.) She didn’t know the word, so I typed it into her phone’s dictionary app so she could see the equivalent in her native language. When she brought a friend (a classmate from her home country) to our cabin the next time, I told her she had to give the directions.

    3. Slartibartfast

      I gotta ask : was cow worker an intentional pun? :) Also, for your non native speaker: American English is full of of slang that’s not taught in school. There is a comedian (I think his name is Islo?) who has a bit about how “ass” is the hardest word to learn that illustrates this beautifully.

    4. Book Badger

      Half my family is from Austria, so sometimes our relatives (close or distant) will stay with us while traveling in America. Little-realized potential issue: sometimes the differences can be cultural. For example, all of my cousins are very straightforward and don’t fake liking something just to be polite – something my American mom and my Americanized dad find incredibly rude. Or something that might be funny to them is dreadfully offensive here. Since your family is hosting a teenager, there’s a certain amount of pushback you can do, in the same way you might correct grammar – casually and without judgement.

    5. TootsNYC

      We hosted a student from Germany whose English was pretty good, but the thing he loved most of all was that when he wondered what a word meant, or there was trouble translating, my mother would have him look up the English word in an English-language dictionary, just as she would have had us to.

    6. Phoenix Programmer

      I hope you did not mean cow worker and this is not the same coworker on a scooter you made gross comments about their bathroom use before. You are better than this! Obese discrimination is not OK.

    7. irene adler

      I can’t get past the “annoying smelly” part. Brings back memories of a temp we had years ago. She wore cologne that smelled like burnt hair. And she put everyone’s teeth on edge for various reasons.

    8. TL -

      Oy, I’m in NZ living with some young folks and something you might run in to is if they listen to/consume a lot of American media, a lot of the words/phrases are very decontextualized. So they might not really get, say, the difference between Kanye West using a racial slur in his music and them using a racial slur in anger (especially if the racial slur isn’t directed at someone who is black.)
      I’ve met a couple people here who think slurs are more along the lines of really bad curse words – nasty but they don’t get the hate-filled aspect. (I’ve met a couple of Americans who deny the hate-filled aspect but never anyone who doesn’t understand at some level that they are words that can really hurt.)
      That being said, it usually just takes a conversation or two about how much particular words are not okay/what they might be missing, and people won’t use it around me anymore.

  43. DataGirl

    Has anyone ever used their work provided employee counseling program? Are those things actually confidential and are they any good?

    1. Goya de la Mancha

      I used mine once, I felt comfortable speaking in there confidentiality wise but I’m not sure it did much good (but that could just be the “fit” of myself and the counselor) – which is why I didn’t go back. Ours is run through a third party though, so I think that adds a little to the feels more confidential part. I’m not sure if they usually are or not.

    2. OH GOD BEES

      Yes! I have a friend who worked for a large 3rd party EAP (employee assistance program) provider and her insight into how that service provider worked REALLY helped me take the leap towards giving it a try.

      1) You can call your company’s provider and ask them questions about how it works and what information is shared with your company, without providing your name. My friend’s company (the service provider) apparently is generally (but not always) required by the employer to report some usage statistics – usually, just how many people used the service each year and how often they used it. I think larger companies can get some breakdown of what specific services were provided, but the service provider was not willing to offer any data that would allow a company to identify an employee and their usage – it was considered medical information, in many circumstances. Companies with few employees or low uptake might get very limited data because of what could be inferred in the small sample size.

      2) While some service providers have dedicated counsellors on staff, most are staffed by independent contractors who usually have their own private therapy practices. In many locations, these therapists will be part of regulated bodies or have specific credentials, and what you discuss in there is covered by professional standards and rules re: patient/client confidentiality. Check the rules for your state/location, and expect a good therapist to discuss this with you before beginning your first session!

      3) If you have a preference (eg. gender, certification, or approach), it’s okay to ask! The service provider might be limited in their available counsellors, but for counselling to be effective, fit is a big part of it. Many service providers are also happy to help you change counsellors if the first doesn’t meet your needs.

      4) While most services are limited to a specific number of sessions, this is sometimes a limit imposed by issue vs. being an overall limit. This means that if you need more support on different issues, you can sometimes reconnect and access more support.

      From personal experience, I’ve found this service wonderfully helpful. I’ve attended both in-person sessions and had therapy through live chat. I have had a couple “meh” experiences, but in each case, I was able to talk to the service provider and get switched to another counsellor. Sometimes, it’s just not a fit, and that’s okay! (Although I would say that if it’s your first time accessing these services, it may be worth sticking it out a little bit – sometimes, therapy is just uncomfortable to start.)

      While you generally shouldn’t expect these services to take the place of a comprehensive, long-term and in-depth therapeutic treatment, it can be a great way to learn techniques and develop tools to help navigate even the bigger, messier parts of your life and mental health. I found that I got the most out of my sessions when I was able to treat them more as opportunities to learn and develop skills, versus a more free-flowing and unstructured model of therapy, but everyone is different!

    3. fposte

      I’ve used mine several times. Years ago it was meh, but it became really good; it has its own counselors on staff, they’ve been good, and you can get in fairly fast.

    4. Aurélia

      Yes, I’m not sure how I would have made it through my no-good-very-bad-year (2017) without my counselor’s help. I lucked out and the EAP office through the government agency I work for was even in my building annex.
      It was confidential, my counselor covered that in our intro session. It took me a bit to warm up to my counselor (I didn’t get to pick, I wager the office had a sort of rotation for new patients/employees) but she was a great resource for work-related benefits I didn’t know about and working through an abundance of grief, discrimination at work, and a crappy relationship.
      What’s your hesitation?

    5. Bend & Snap

      I use ours now for ongoing mental health care. It’s totally confidential and very helpful. I picked my doctor and my EAP basically acts like insurance.

    6. Ender

      I have had lots of counselling. I used my husband’s EAP once and it was the worst counsellor I ever had. I would never use EAP again.

    7. Chaordic One

      My sister’s employer had a generous EAP that extended to anyone in her household. My unemployed brother was living with her temporarily and had become quite discouraged and depressed with his job search. He moved in with her from out-of-state to look for work in what he hoped would be a better job market. The EAP referred him to a counselor, a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) and paid for six sessions. They clicked and the counseling helped him quite a bit. He seemed to have gotten his mojo back.

  44. DJ

    Considering going to an employee sponsored job fair (as opposed to a University sponsored one) early next week. The company looks like a good one and they are hiring multiple positions in my field and in my geographical area.

    How useful have others found these kinds of career job? If so, would you suggest bringing a cover letter? Applying beforehand doesn’t seem possible, because there are no job descriptions/openings on their site listed.

    1. Tara S.

      A job fair usually means you will have a chance to talk to someone. Bring a resume relatively tailored to the type of work the company does, but no need for a cover letter. You get to be your first impression instead. Good luck!

    2. Chaordic One

      They’ll probably want you to fill out an application. If you choose to fill it out after the event, when you send it in to them you could include a cover letter then and say something like “It was nice to meet with you,” and maybe “I hope you’ll consider me for any open positions in teapot design.”

  45. Legal Rugby

    I’m getting a new boss! I’m getting a new boss! I’m the only attorney in my office, and currently serving as the Interim Director (normally an assoc. director), and they finally hired an attorney to be my Executive Director. Any suggestions on how to handle the power transfer? She’s got a great backgorund in the law, but has never worked in my industry before, and doesn’t know the politics of our particular employer.

    1. TootsNYC

      It’s my policy to avoid briefing someone on the internal company politics. Maybe rough-framework things as they arise, to explain something, but only when it arises naturally and VERY brief (“This department struggles with deadlines sometimes”).

      I think people should find these things out themselves, and I believe that personalities can influence how these things play out, etc. And I don’t trust that my own perceptions will be accurate for others.

  46. Sally Sparrow

    Boss and CW insist I need to help CW and other-cw with llama selecting without clear guidance on from the powers (Boss and CW) about what that entails and what those expectations are. CW made prior comments that it would be busy/grunt work, despite Boss saying that’s not what she envisions. Vacations and other stuff get in the way of truly implementing some of this even if we wanted to. Should I bring this up again to my knee-jerk reaction boss?

    1. Not So NewReader

      If your boss has a habit of thinking out loud and then Nothing happens, I would say no, just let it go.
      Otherwise, I would wait for it to be mentioned again and have several specific questions prepared to ask in that moment.

  47. Lindsay Gee

    What’s the norm for job searching when you’re on contract? Background: I’ve been on 6 month contract stretches that keep getting renewed. I really like where I work and what I’m doing but the commute is definitely impacting day to day life and it would be nice to not be on contract, get benefits, sick days, vacation time etc. My question is what’s common courtesy here? If I’m in for a 6 month contract and I get a job offer 4 months in and split…am I burning a bridge by leaving them in the lurch? For MORE context, I’m in research. So I could be running a research project or be in the middle of analysis that would be difficult, but not impossible to get someone else to jump in on. Additionally, we are a smaller research department with limited funds, so we don’t even really have the manpower for anyone to just jump in on another project.
    Advice?

    1. Anon From Here

      Just because the contract keeps getting renewed doesn’t mean it’s not a temporary gig. Your employer is expecting you to maybe not be available at the end of the term. Keep job searching all the time, if that’s what you want to do.

      As for process: I’m in a 6-month gig right now, myself, and I’m looking to not come back when it’s up. I have a tickler in my calendar to have a chat with my supervisor 4 weeks before my expected end date. This will give them a good amount of time to decide whether they want to extend me a permanent offer (which I’m not 100% opposed to, but it will take some compensation on their part), or to figure out how to move my work to another desk.

    2. Boba Feta

      Replying/ following because I’m in a similar situation. I’m glad that all my bosses are supportive, with an attitude of “We will hate to lose you, but we understand the reality that the contract folks often leave for permanent gigs.”

      I haven’t come to this point yet, but my plan is to try and negotiate a start time at any new position very carefully to fall between the contract periods, and hope for the best.

    3. Ender

      Are you in an “at will” state? Does your contract allow them to let you go any time they like for any reason? If so you don’t owe them anything.

  48. HRGoneAwry

    I’m starting a personal pet project. Basically, I want to gather the experiences of a specific group of workers and create an online anthology. I’m at a loss at how to do this because I don’t know how to approach people to see if they are willing to talk about their experiences and let me use them. Has anyone done this?

    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      I haven’t done this as a personal project, but I’ve done qualitative research professionally and reached out to my networks for help. I posted on LinkedIn and Facebook and made the posts shareable, giving specifics of the project and asking for connections to people. If the group of workers you’re reaching is of a particular demo as well (as in, elderly people, or members of a certain church) you can reach out to certain organizations and ask if they can spread the word or post a flyer. Just be transparent about what you’re using their interviews for. Start with that. Can you offer any compensation, even a $10 Starbucks card? That might go a long way towards getting responses, but often, people love to talk about themselves, especially if it will be published in some way.

    2. Rey

      Each connection that you make, ask if they know anyone else who would be interested in participating. I would also reach out to any industry-specific media outlets (email newsletters, podcasts, etc.) asking for some time to talk about your project and invite people to participate. When you’re recruiting people, make sure that you’re up front about what you will do with their information and how long of a time commitment you are looking for (i.e., one, two-hour interview, weekly hour-long interviews, etc.) And be aware of social norms in this industry and consider how you can meet them in a neutral way/setting. For example, depending on the topic matter, would they prefer meeting in a public setting (coffee shop, public mall) or a private setting (their home)? And are there gender/race/ethnicity norms that you should be aware of?

  49. K8

    I have 2 interviews next week, both for mid-level engineering jobs. Both are scheduled for 2 hours! And that’s it. 2 hours and they will make a decision. One gave me a phone screen first, the other one didn’t even do that. I have a fairly in demand skill set so I guess they aren’t too worried about me being able to do that job but I’m worried about joining a company with only talking to them for 2 hours. Any tips on what to ask or look out for?

    1. DiscoTechie

      That’s been consistent with my experience for that category of job interviews. A few have called back for another 2 hour session. (Background: Civil Engineer with 12 years of experience.) Good luck!

    2. CAA

      Two hours is not necessarily a problem, but it is a red flag if you only meet one person in that time. I wouldn’t take a job without having talked to at least three people there, and I wouldn’t hire anyone without getting input from four or five other people. If they interview you in pairs or groups, it doesn’t necessarily need to take many hours to figure out whether you can do what you say on your resume or not. One thing about short interviews is that sometimes questions come up as you mull things over after you’ve left. If anyone makes you an offer and you feel like you have new questions, it’s fine to ask for a call with the hiring manager so you can discuss the work a little more before giving an answer.

  50. Just Me

    Well, I got the news this week that I will not be offered a job with the company that’s buying us. I’m actually not upset, since I didn’t want to work for that company (I know a lot of people who did and there’s a reason they left) and didn’t want the commute. Also, I was afraid of ending up in a job I hate. I have about five months before my job ends, they offered a “stay bonus,” which is pretty large, plus a small severance (I haven’t yet hit the four year mark). I’m happy all my team members got an offer. I pretty much figured they would since their positions are easily matched at the new company. I’m a manager so I’m not surprised I didn’t get an offer–they already have five of my position and don’t need another one.

    This is for the best and I’m fine with it. But…I SO dread having to do a job search. I’ve determined the kind of work environment I need to be happy–some chaos and new challenges, diversity in my responsibilities, and the flexibility to get to appointments and such when I need to. I’m just so worried I won’t find something I like. I’m also worried about finding a comparable salary. My current company pays very competitively and lots of others in the same industry…don’t. Plus the types of positions I’d want aren’t listed very often, so I’m going to work with my HR department to see if they know of anything that’s open at other companies. We actually have a great HR department, so I’m pretty sure I’ll get a good amount of help there. They’ve already told me to reach out to them when I’m ready to start looking.

    1. Just Me

      And I forgot to add my question.

      Anyone have tips for this kind of situation? Keeping up my motivation, job search tips like timing and such, anything you can think of–I’d love to hear it.

      1. Sloan Kittering

        If you can afford it, it’s really nice to get a clean break and NOT jump straight in. It seems scandalous to take a vacation when you know you’re going to be short on money, but I honestly just could not move forward until I took a month (!!!) to get myself situated. That time off was such a luxury I was actually grateful for leaving the position and was able to interview with much more enthusiasm – before I’m sure I’d seemed like a nervous wreck. I only say that because you said there was a pretty good parachute, it might be the right investment.

        1. Just Me

          I totally hear that and it would be wonderful. I’m so afraid of getting stuck in a job I hate–it happened once and it was the worst 10 months of my life. With severance, I could technically take two months off, but it all depends how the job search goes. I’m not even sure when to start since I wouldn’t start until I’m done here–don’t want to lose the “stay” bonus! The stay bonus is about 26% of my annual salary, which is nice. Although we do have some plans for that, which would be to pay off a few bills that have a large monthly payment…just in case!

    2. TootsNYC

      the kind of work environment I need to be happy–some chaos and new challenges,

      Me too, on the “some chaos”

  51. Quiltrrrr

    In March, I left a job I had for 12 years because I had been miserable at it for the past 3 years. I moved to a job with a former boss that I really liked working for, and we both had high expectations for the position and the worth of it.

    I’m updating my resume. My boss has had a chronic illness for the past year, and I have really struggled with the culture around me…I’m the only one who does what I do, and without a manager around for most of it, I’m really struggling. Not with the work…I have the experience to perform whatever needs to be done, but with not having the authority to do anything in his absences, with the interpersonal relationships around me…it’s not been a good fit.

    I feel like I’ve failed in some way; 6 months just seems like a really short time to be so discouraged, but I had the feeling that this was a bad fit since the 3rd week, and time has not proven that wrong.

    1. Anna Held

      Just repeat to yourself “sunken cost fallacy”. It’s not a mistake, or a personal flaw, or an abandonment. You did what was best at the time, and it didn’t work out, so you’re making a course correction. There’s no virtue in being unnecessarily miserable. You have solid, work-related issues to explain why you’re leaving if you’re feeling disloyal. Leave your work in good shape and give a decent notice, and you’ve ended any obligation there.

    2. MissDisplaced

      Well, sometimes the culture of the place really isn’t a good fit. It’s nothing about your work ethic.
      If your boss has a chronic illness, it sounds like it complicates matters even further and the department is somewhat rudderless perhaps?

      I don’t know if sticking it out 1 year is possible? Otherwise, yes begin your job search. It sounds like you have reason to get a pass on this one.

      1. Sloan Kittering

        Even if you begin a job search around six months – perhaps first for only a knock-it-out-of-the-park job description, then slowly getting more serious – it’s likely that you won’t end up actually quitting until around a year, in my experience. Interviews and hiring seem to drag on a long time, if you’re just now updating your resume it might not be so quick. I dunno, this made me feel better when it happened to me.

    3. Bea

      No!!!

      I was in my long term job for over 10 yrs. It took me a couple tries to find a place where I fit and was happy again. I even had a couple jobs I quit without notice because they were that crappy.

      This isn’t your fault. It’s the company that allows someone with your experience and track record spin wheels waiting for “authorisation” when the authority is not available due to health issues. You didn’t fail anywhere and you need to move on for your overall happiness. You deserve better. They can eat a butt, I fart in their general direction in your defense. Please feel better soon, it’s a cruddy place to be and I don’t wish that feeling on anyone.

    4. Not So NewReader

      Is there a way you can get the clearance to make these authorizations? Can the boss deputize someone? Can the boss okay you for making these decisions?

      Does the boss realize that you are not happy, even if he thinks you are minorly unhappy?

      If you had the authority would that improve the relationships some what?

      1. Quiltrrrr

        Sort of…I’m also really bored. I can’t move forward without more information, and it just isn’t forthcoming. So…I sit here.

        I finally made a list of all the things I’m waiting on. It was substantial, and some of these are things that we’re going to have to discuss. I could make decisions, and I absolutely have the experience to, but I’m not about to get my hand slapped, since these have far-reaching consequences.

  52. CU

    I recently started a job where I take inbound phone calls. Not constantly, but 5-6 per day. Just enough to interrupt my non-phone work. I have ADHD, so I can both hyper-focus (so I am startled when a call interrupts my concentration) and easily distracted (it is hard to switch my focus back after a call).

    Does anyone have any good tips for how to switch back and forth as seamlessly as possible?

    1. HRGoneAwry

      I put my phone on silent when I need to concentrate. I also include in my VM that if the call is urgent to please direct your query to email.

      If turning off your ringer is not possible, have you tried getting up for a minute to do a lap or something and then sitting back down to re-focus? I find that helps me as well.

      1. Tara S.

        ^ I don’t have ADHD so I can’t say if it’ll be totally effective, but having a little ritual for disengaging/reengaging with work could be helpful. Like, if a call comes in, stand up for it, or turn away from your computer. Some kind of physical queue for your brain.

    2. Notapirate

      I don’t take calls but have a variety of coworker interuptions. I found keeping a stack of post it notes handy and taking 10-20 seconds to jot the last thing i was working on before talking to them down worked amazingly for me. It was just enough to let my brain slide back into task A.

      1. LilySparrow

        ADHD-er also, with very weak working memory. I’m like the guy in Memento – once I’m distracted, the past just ceases to exist. Postits are a lifesaver.

        I write things like START HERE on a postit and draw an arrow to the part of the page (or screen) where I left off. I can do that and still pick up by the 3rd ring.

    3. Not So NewReader

      This is going to sound too simple to help, but my advice is practice how you will answer the phone. “hi, NSNR, Teapots, Inc. How can I help you?” [outside calls] “hi, NSNR, spout department.” (inside calls)
      The idea here is that your open statement should be as natural as breathing, almost an automatic response. When you have it down pat, it can help to subconsciously remember, “oh yea, there’s a phone beside me”, in turn you feel less startled.

      Keep a tablet or scrap paper near the phone so you can pick up paper and pen as the phone rings. Write down what is said/requested and follow up as best you can. Sometimes my only follow up is a post it note on my monitor to remind me to call someone in 3 hours.

      Turn the ringer down on your phone, a quieter ring might be less startling.

      This is weird so bear with me. If you have a trusted friend at work, ask them to call you three times in a row, five minutes apart. It might not break that startled reaction but I bet it will kick it down a notch or two.

    4. Ender

      Can you answer and say “hold for a moment” and take notes of what you were doing then talk to the person, then read your notes to help you get back into it?

  53. Glacier

    I was recently promoted, and will be working more closely with our firm’s top boss. Their executive assistant can be difficult to work with, and very much acts as the gatekeeper. This includes *protecting* top boss from things that might be too… strenuous(?); for example, nothing too early or late in the day, no call-ins from home during WFH days, etc.

    The issue is that there are times when I believe the EA is keeping top boss from meetings they’d actually want to attend if they knew about them.

    How have others navigated similar issues? My MO so far has been to be very pleasant and matter-of-fact, while borrowing heavily from top boss’ authority. Any other ideas?

    1. Dorothy Zbornak

      Hmm. So the EA is just making the decision that the boss shouldn’t attend those meetings, without checking with boss? That’s tough. There’s no way to approach the boss directly about meetings and then loop the EA in when the boss has either said yes or no to whatever it is?

      I’m an assistant for a VP – there are certain people who, if they request a meeting, I will automatically put on the VP’s calendar without checking with the VP, just because I know who they are and that the VP would definitely want to give them time. (Of course, I later let the VP know that the meeting is on there.) But for other requests, you bet I’m forwarding them to the VP and asking what she wants to do.

    2. Bea

      How do you know the top boss “might” be interested? Do you think you know her better than her EA??? That’s presumptuous. An EA is usually a dragon projecting the boss with very clear guidelines. I’ve had to brush off so many requests over the years and never asked because I knew. That’s the delicate balance of being someone’s assistant.

      I’ve also had people I know didn’t know my boss as well as they think act like I’m in the way. Behind the scenes my boss was like “never early meetings ever!!! Unless it’s these very specific things or the government.”

  54. Rusty Shackelford

    Kinda bummed… looked like we were going to bring on a new hire with some skills I’m really interested in, and it also looked like I could have the opportunity to work with that person and pick up some of those skills. Things changed. Which things do; it’s not like anybody owed me this opportunity, but I’m still disappointed.

  55. Boba Feta

    I just have to laugh. Having lurked around here daily for just over a year now, I thought I had developed a pretty good understanding of proper professional norms surrounding the application process, etc. But then sometimes life throws you the most ironic of curveballs.

    After my (first ever!) post last week (link in name), and upon the sincere encouragement of my very supportive Grandboss, I left a message for the hiring manager asking the favor of feedback on my materials (I know, I know: the Thing that one Shalt Not Do), in case she could isolate anything I could clarify about my potential over-education and under-experience for the jobs into which I’m trying to transition. Well, we had an absolutely delightful conversation in which I learned something very interesting:

    She never saw my application. It never made it past HR. When she couldn’t find my name in her list of applicants, she did some digging to find that HR had pre-screened the (less than 60) applicants to send just over 30. We suspect they saw my degree and most recent (tangential) experience and put me aside as a bad fit. This is apparently a new practice at our organization, and Grandboss was surprised to hear of it when I gave him a quick followup the next day. He actually seemed a bit vexed about the whole thing, and thought HR had overplayed their role in screening out someone based on a mismatch with the “Preferred” qualifications, rather than letting the Hiring Manager be the arbiter of fit at that level.

    In any case, that job is filled, and I’m just left shaking my head. This new screening policy basically guarantees that, should I apply for anything else at my org, I will certainly be sending a brief follow up note directly to the hiring manage to ensure I’m on their radar and didn’t get caught in HR’s unknowable “spam” filter again. It’s like they want their applicants to become pests.

    So now my question is: Is there any alternative than becoming The One Who Emails to ensure that future applications get past the first barrier when the facts of my history don’t accurately convey my ability to do the job, and apparently HR isn’t looking at Cover Letters when their applications system is just a series of fact-response work history boxes?

    1. BRR

      Since it’s an internal application, would your grandboss be able to send the hiring manager a short email giving a recommendation?

      1. Boba Feta

        For any future openings at this same institution, I will certainly ask if he’d be willing to do this, yes. That might be a good alternative to sending a follow-up myself, depending on the situation. Thank you!

        I’m just struggling with what to do with external jobs or those outside my field entirely. I seem to have a work and education history that’s near-perfectly designed to bounce right off of an HR application portal for any position outside the relatively narrow scope of my own field, and I’m not at all sure how to deal with it.

        1. BRR

          The situation stinks and my advice is unpleasant but I wouldn’t contact hiring managers. What I can’t tell is by mismatch to preferred qualifications, do you mean they misinterpreted your qualifications when you did meet the preferred qualifications or do you mean that you didn’t meet them so you got filtered out? Because the former is bad, the later is HR possibly doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

          Your situation is also a little different because you were an internal candidate and HR really messed up by not conveying this new procedure to hiring managers.

          1. Boba Feta

            BRR: to clarify, I believe, but cannot confirm, that although I did have all the “minimum” and “preferred” requirements, HR filtered me out as a “bad fit” because they saw all kinds of other, additional, “extra” education and experience on my resume. I think this was the part that sat ill with my Grandboss: he thought they should have sent it along and let the hiring manager decide whether I would be a bad fit with my “too many” qualifications, rather than exactly what they thought they wanted.

            But I hear your point about not making a habit of cold-contacting hiring managers, especially in outside fields, even though that’s the bit that is making me so apprehensive about this job search. If everywhere else is also screening out those with “too much” on their resumes, I need to figure out how to present myself differently for a career change to make it past the gatekeepers.

            1. Observer

              Unfortunately, reaching out to the hiring managers in outside organizations is likely to be a bad move.

              If the HR department is any good, and not over-screening, you are going to wind up looking bad – the hiring managers won’t have the context of your history. Even if the HR department IS over-screening, because the hiring manager doesn’t have any information about you an unexpected follow up email from you is not going to make them think that their HR messed up, but more likely that you are a pest.

              So, you are going to need to find a different solution.

    2. NW Mossy

      I have seen this happen SO MANY TIMES at my org, and it’s infuriating! I’ve had people applying out to other areas from my team (with my blessing – they’re awesome and deserve to grow) and get radio silence, and it’s invariably because the recruiters failed to pass along their application. I even saw it in a situation where a direct of mine was applying a newly created role that was basically custom-built for her!

      Now, I make it a point to tell all of my directs (not just those actively interested in something) about this pitfall and offer them options to make sure that their application gets attention. Sometimes that will be my direct or me going straight to the hiring manager; other times it might be asking someone currently on that team to make an introduction. However we do it, I don’t want anyone who works for me to apply for something internal and not at least get the courtesy of having a hiring manager look at the application.

      I also make sure to tell all my manager peers that are hiring about this too, especially if they’ve not hired here before or it’s been a while. I found when I was hiring that it really helped to specifically tell my recruiter to send me all internal applicants with no screening, since I wanted to make sure everyone was acknowledged even if I didn’t move forward with them.

      1. Boba Feta

        NW Mossy, somehow my earlier reply got eaten. In sum: Thank you for all your conscientious efforts to help your reports navigate this particularly insidious type of minefield. One ought not need “tactics” to ensure that well-qualified folk get their applications noticed by the right people, yet here we are.

        I only ever received two (2!) communications across this entire application process: 1) automated email acknowledging the application had been submitted, and then 2) standard format rejection notification that the role had been filled by “thank you for your interest.” Le Sigh. Although now I know better for any future opportunities at my org., this whole ordeal has made me suspicious about Every. Other. Place.

  56. Staja

    I am just finishing up week 2 at what I hope to be a better opportunity for me. The new job comes with a 35% increase in pay, a better title, my own office…and all the self-doubt that making such a huge leap entails.

    So far, I’ve just been entering information into databases and manipulating practice spreadsheets, but I’m terrified of emailing the wrong thing to our Asian country manager or something…

  57. Lance

    How do you deal with workplace confidence issues, especially as a temp intern?

    I’ll be honest, a bunch of my time at my current job is spent doing… well, nothing. Just waiting for the next spreadsheet they have to give me so I can match parts of it with a horribly laggy web file (suffice it to say, I don’t like my job… but it’s still a job that I want to try and make something of, so that’s rather besides the point). My issue, ultimately, is that I want more. Something I can actually gain some sort of skills off of, something to put on my resume for later. I know, I should just go and ask… but for anyone who’s dealt with similar, how’ve you gotten yourself to do it?

    Really, any sort of tips would be much appreciated.

    1. MechanicalPencil

      Identify the friendliest, most approachable face. Rehearse your speech. Go forth and conquer. You have a goal in mind. Get after it.

    2. Rezia

      Presuming you have a supervisor, could you ask for additional work? Of course, you have to make sure that the work you’re already given is done well, but then you can explain you still have some extra time and would love to take on another task. If you’ve noticed that there are tasks that are left undone that you could take on, you could suggest them to your supervisor.
      Depending on your work place is set up, with your supervisor’s blessing, you might be able to ask other team members if they need help and let them know you’re available. At my previous workplace, some of our best interns were proactive about offering help to the team (our manager knew the interns were doing this, and okayed it).

      If it helps you psych yourself up, I’d say this – in my experience, interns that are proactive (without being pestering or presumptuous, of course!) are the best interns, and I’ve always thought well of interns who are eager to contribute. It shows your boss that you’re enthusiastic about working there and eager to learn. Ultimately, they might not have more work for you to do, and you’d just have to accept that graciously if that’s the case. But it really doesn’t hurt to ask.

  58. in the file room

    I’ve just started a new job in a branch of the federal government – an office environment, normal hours, benefits, etc. Before this, I was working in the film and television industry on sets, which meant outdoor work, insane hours, very few benefits, and so on. But what I’ve noticed most is the difference in professional norms. It’s pretty wild to go from hanging out with teamsters on a street corner while they chain-smoke to chatting with my boss and coworkers in our climate-controlled records room! I’ve worked in an office environment before, so it’s not exactly a shock so much as a comical (and sometimes sobering) contrast.

    Anyone have any good stories about moving between workplaces or industries where the concept of professionalism varies dramatically?

    1. Anonygrouse

      I worked in a clinic targeting late adolescents to 20-somethings. We got a new non-clinical staffer who said in the middle of a meeting “everyone here sure talks about chlamydia a lot.” (Chlamydia was our go-to example for pretty much any hypothetical policy, QI study, etc.) That same person wound up in a meeting with a provider who said the EMR template for taking sexual history was “too vanilla” and starting naming new checkboxes she wanted added.

      1. Quackeen

        My husband used to work at a public health agency that specifically dealt with STIs. His desk was located near the hotline staffers, so while he himself was non-clinical, the backdrop to his work was listening to conversations about sexual practices and safe sex.

    2. Not Really a Waitress

      I went from being a member of the management team at a manufacturing site to an instructor at a university.

      Manufacturing site : only female, lots of smoke breaks, cursing, small protest when new site mgr told managers they needed to wear collared shirts, more cursing, yelling

      Academia: no cursing. Not only female but still the minority, voices barely above a whisper, dress down to collared shirts only on fridays, much more political.

    3. Lora

      Swimming with sharks megacorp where every last thing you did was carefully calibrated to avoid the next round of layoffs: dress as professionally as you can in a lab, present a complete “story” of data every other week like clockwork (referencing all colleagues involved in a nice PowerPoint slide deck), data reviewed by a team of your peers and roundly critiqued for replicability and accuracy. If your data failed this testing, you were next on the layoff list. All drinking confined to a bar and occurring after 5pm, regularly have breakfast/lunch talks about what your lab has accomplished, very structured opportunities for self-promotion which was quite nice for introverts. Weirdly, the sexism and racism were somewhat controlled – while there weren’t many women in senior management, there were perhaps 1/4 – 1/3 women at the junior and middle levels. Many employees of color, not just Asian, and many LGBT employees.

      Smallish startup that prided itself on its flexible thinking and leftish politics: dress like you’re trying to get out of some heinous white collar crime before the Supreme Court, use only their corporate-approved art and phrase every communication no matter how trivial as if you’re trying to gently, discreetly tell the CEO that his fly is down using only euphemisms / charades / interpretive dance, rarely if ever communicate with other departments outside of whatever impromptu veiled implications you can impart to them as you pass in the break room, but start drinking by 3pm every single afternoon at your desk. Or the boss’ desk. Or the director’s desk, because they all kept top shelf whisky in their desks. Data almost never shared, certainly never reviewed or critiqued, and zero accountability for generating crap that no other department could work with. Few employees of color or women, even at the middle management level, and rampant discrimination on many levels.

      I’ll never work for another startup.

    4. Brownie

      I was at a tech startup for several years where, despite us never having any face time with clients, I was told to maintain a business professional appearance at all times for the clients. No t-shirts, jeans were only acceptable if they looked straight out of the factory (no rips or fading), and very explicitly no facial piercings or unnaturally colored hair. All language must be scrutinized and cleaned up in case a client might hear, too. Perfectly clean work spaces at all times, no clutter allowed, no personalization allowed beyond a choice of company supplied pens or pencils. The professionalism there was all about appearances.

      Now I work for a federal government agency. The dress standards are so much looser, there’s a coworker who wears jeans and a graphic t-shirt, several with facial piercings, lots of visible tattoos, and me with my cotton candy pink hair. Hearing an occasional swear word over the cube walls isn’t unusual either. It’s so relaxing compared to the startup and the level of professionalism is much higher because it’s about the job instead of the appearance of the job.

  59. ANONchalant

    What do you do when it’s performance review time but you genuinely don’t care? I’m so nonchalant that previous managers have found it almost annoying. Typically I do pretty well for reviews and get some of the highest scores but sometimes I feel managers are looking for more investment than I have. Don’t get my wrong I like my job and the mission of the company.
    For instance a performance review a year ago (different company) my manager was excited to read off how amazing I was from her end. I was just like “okay thanks”. I have no problem receiving positive or negative feedback but I’ve genuinely been a nonchalant person my whole life. The type of person that opens Christmas presents with a straight face. I’m dreading the talk and I think I’ll just fake some investment with over the top: WOW THANKS! and for areas where I need to improve: THANKS FOR THE FEEDBACK! I’LL WORK ON THAT IMMEDIATELY BY DOING X AND Y TO IMPROVE! How do others do in the performance review discussion?

    1. Mouse Princess

      Wow I just had the same experience! I was getting a rave review and found it really hard to even focus on what they were saying. I took it as confirmation that I am not supposed to be at this job if I don’t even care that I am doing it well. Plus, it doesn’t factor into my pay (we get general salary increases as a base percentage) so I don’t care.

    2. Nanc

      You might get some tips from Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well. I’ve found it useful both for receiving and giving feedback. Your local library may have a dead tree or e-book copy.

      I’m pretty sure someone on AAM recommended the book in an open thread at some point and that’s how I heard of it.

    3. Anna Held

      When I’m zoning out on something I’ll ask a question. It makes my brain engage a bit and makes me seem more interested than I am. Bring in a few stock questions like “How can I improve in X?” or “I sometimes worry about Y, should I be?” so you seem more engaged.

      I wish I could be more nonchalant.

    4. CAA

      It sounds like you are treating the performance review as if it were a presentation or show your manager is putting on and you are reacting neutrally to whatever you hear. But a performance review should be a two-way conversation, so if your manager seems annoyed, it could be because you are behaving like an observer instead of a participant in this conversation.

      It’s not about feigning enthusiasm for the feedback you’re getting. It’s about communicating your agreement or disagreement with what you are hearing and explaining why you feel that way, and talking about plans and goals for your job going forward. Listen to what your manager says and then respond in a way that moves the conversation forward.

      1. ANONchalant

        Ah, yea I react when speaking to a manager: yes I agree with what you’ve said about x (but then don’t elaborate).

        I agree that it does seem like they are looking for more but when you genuinely don’t care it’s hard to even present more. I have a hard time even filling out my self review and coming up with goals. When it was goal time my entire department let out a universal sigh. Including the director.

    5. Sloan Kittering

      I too hate the conversation because I feel like my needy manager wants a lot of emotional work from me – lots of gratefulness for the pat on the head she’s handing out, and lots of reinforcing that She Is the Boss Whose Opinions Really Matter and I the fawning minion. But that’s because I have a terrible attitude about work right now.

      1. ANONchalant

        Ha! I’ve definitely felt that way about a previous position where Manager became literally let down and annoyed that I wasn’t excited about her rave reviews. I appreciated the feedback but not emotionally or a visible reaction to it. I remember sitting in the review and thinking that eh she could have given me all 1’s and I wouldn’t have cared honestly.

        1. Sloan Kittering

          Well and at my previous job, you basically all got the same COLA unless you really screwed up, and it was just called a “merit raise” – 2.5% Maybe some truly high performers got more. So the whole song and dance didn’t have much practical point, because I was going to get the same raise whether she thought I was fine or great.

    6. Not So NewReader

      Okay, so at one end there is “okay, thanks” and at the other end there is jumping up and down and shaking the boss’ hand.

      You can do something in the middle. “Thanks for the nice eval. I enjoy working here.”

      What the boss is interested in is seeing that you are connected to the job. A flat “Okay thanks” can read like a disconnect. I am not saying change your voice inflection, nor am I saying lie to the boss. However, do try to use more words. “I am glad to see you are happy with my work. That is important to me.” Or, “Thanks for the nice eval, I try to make sure you and the company get done what needs to be done.”

      If a person uses one or two word answers too many times that can read as the person is totally disconnected from their work/their employer. It’s really a good idea to make sure the boss sees you expressing some form of interest/involvement in the job. I have seen where this is important to do. If layoffs/promotions/whatever come around, you don’t want the boss thinking of you as Disconnected David or Apathetic Ann.

    1. MissGirl

      The woman who was fire for “taking initiative” and wanted to sue. What she really did was undercut her perfectly good manager and go off in her.

      Alison’s response that she would’ve fired her too was perfect. Ah, gumption.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago

      I like happy endings, so I sometimes go back to letters with positive updates like the spicy food thief and the guy who was managing someone that was harmed by his family.

      1. Lissa

        Spicy food thief was one of the first letters and the first “big drama” letter I read after I started reading here so I have a soft spot for it!!

    3. Quackeen

      Yup. I have terrible insomnia, so I’m always falling down rabbit holes after the new post goes up at midnight (eastern time). I doubt there are any letters on here that I haven’t read, and some I just revisit because they’re fascinating.

      I’ve also started a mental list of letters I really NEED updates to. This one about the employee who set up a false fraud investigation because she was being abused and needed an excuse to talk to the police is at the top of that list: https://www.askamanager.org/2017/05/my-employee-set-up-a-false-fraud-investigation-because-she-was-being-abused-and-wanted-the-police.html. Also the one that was linked to last week, with the employee who had ever-worsening OCD, to the point where coworkers had to be symmetrical in their attire and line up by gender at the bus stop outside. I live for updates!

      1. Temperance

        I am going to add the bird attack letter to that, only because I selfishly want an update where we find out that the company decided to do the right thing and pay off the medical bills.

      2. WellRed

        I wonder what the OCD employee does in the mornings catching the bus to work? Line up strangers this way?

        1. Chocolate Teapot

          There was a sad letter about a small company whose employees had taken a collection for a colleague’s premature baby, but the person who was going to pay the money died in a car crash before it could be given. I often wondered what happened.

      3. fposte