open thread – October 19-20, 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.

{ 1,477 comments… read them below }

  1. Religious Pictures at Work*

    At work I’m friends with Karen, who is more friendly with Marie than I am. I recently commented to Karen about some new pictures Marie put up at her desk. Karen said that Marie is Pagan and those are pictures of Gods and Goddess she says she believes in. There is nothing outrageous or distasteful in the pictures (no nudity, no violence, etc.). She has them hung up at her desk so they’re on the wall and kind of behind a cabinet, so I think she tried to put them up “discreetly” but you can still see them. I’m not even sure if some people would know these are pictures of “religious” figures, since they don’t seem to be universally recognizable (not like a picture of Jesus would be). Some of the pictures almost look like cartoon characters, so I don’t think everyone that saw them would know they had religious meaning to Marie.

    Is it appropriate for her to have these pictures up at work? I don’t really have a problem with them, but I can see the wrong person finding out and being offended.

    1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      I don’t know. Is it different from wearing a cross necklace to work? Different from having your niece’s first communion photo up at your desk?

      I can’t get my head around anyone having a problem with this or getting offended – but hey, that’s why I live where I do. My office has a dozen religions and nobody soils their drawers over it.

      1. Blue Anne*

        I live near Cleveland. Not exactly Bible belt but not a bastion of tolerance, either. Even here I don’t think anyone would have a problem unless the job was at a Christian organization.

    2. bored_at_desk*

      I think it’s totally appropriate! There’s nothing evangelical about them, and the vast vast majority of people won’t know what they are anyway. Besides, I think most people would be fine with someone displaying a simple cross, or something like that. Maybe if she entertains a lot of clients at her desk who will ask questions about them I’d say no, but otherwise it doesn’t seem like a big deal.

    3. bb-great*

      I mean, even if it was a picture of Jesus, I wouldn’t see a problem with it. It’s relatively discreet, in her own workspace, and she’s not proselytising to her coworkers or treating them differently based on their own religious beliefs.

      1. It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's SuperAnon*

        This is where I stand as well. If they are at her desk and she is not forcing conversations about them, then I don’t see a problem. If she was hanging them in public spaces or bringing people into religious discussions unprompted, then it would be inappropriate. I say “unprompted” because people may ask who/what they are out of curiosity, and she can answer that without launching into the history of her religion and why it is important to her and how others should join it because it’s the Best Religion Ever. My answer would be the same for any religion, this is not just about Paganism.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yeah. If she’s taping the pictures to your monitor, or arranging little effigies all around the walls of your cubicle to watch you while you work, that’s out of line. Decorating her cube with G-rated images shouldn’t bother anyone else.

    4. Muriel Heslop*

      Seems fine to me! I can’t think of anything religious that I find offensive. Is that a minority opinion? (I work in schools so my workplace radar is sometimes off.)

      1. A tester, not a developer*

        I wasn’t a big fan of the full ‘blood and spear wound’ crucifixion picture my cube mate had up, so we compromised so it was no longer staring at me.

      2. J*

        I would say most or at least a lot of folks would agree with you that this is fine. As far as whether or not *anything* religious can be offensive, I would argue that yes, something can be if it seems directed at other people. Specifically, my neighbor’s bumper sticker that asks “Do you follow Jesus Christ?” irritates me just a little bit every time I see it.

        So a sign in someone’s cubicle asking that question would feel inappropriate to me (unless they worked at a religious org), but a cross or a sign just saying that they love Jesus wouldn’t bother me.

    5. Cacti*

      As a Pagan woman, what specifically bothers you about these pictures? Would you be offended if another co-worker had bible verses or photos of Jesus? Really think about the double-standard here.

      1. Cacti*

        As a side note, I’ve have a small Pagan “altar” on my work desk for two years consisting of small baubles, crystals, and symbolism and not once have I been asked about it. It doesn’t interfere with my productivity or the way I handle my job.

        1. Quickbeam*

          I have an altar too. I also note the sabbats on a white board in my cube space. No one cares, even in my conservative office.

      2. Gaia*

        I can say that for me I would be bothered by both. Not bothered enough to do or say anything but it would strike me as inappropriate and in poor taste in a way that religious clothing or jewelry wouldn’t.

        1. Doodle*

          Sorry, just saw your reply that clarifies this below! I do think there’s something different about something in your office than on your person, though I ultimately come down on the “both of these things are okay” side.

          1. Gaia*

            I can see why some people would be okay with it (and that is why I wouldn’t say anything). I just think these things are best left out of the workplace because you can’t know what someone’s experience is with religion and I think it is best to leave such personal things to personal time.

        2. Justme, The OG*

          I am slightly amused that someone whose username is the same as the Mother Earth Goddess would be offended by a photo of a Pagan deity.

        3. designbot*

          I agree, I’d vastly prefer that religion just not enter the workspace at all. That said, I’d never speak up about it either, because it’s a subject that gets my hackles up and again, that I don’t want to discuss in the workplace.

      3. mark132*

        I don’t think that was the point. I think the question was are any religious pictures appropriate at work, pagan or otherwise. That was just for instance. It isn’t explicitly stated as such, but implied.

      4. Marion Ravenwood*

        If I’m reading it right, it’s Marie that’s Pagan, not the OP. The OP doesn’t mention their religious beliefs (if indeed they have any) as far as I can tell.

      5. Dexy*

        I would actually be offended by bible verses or photos of Jesus. I believe religion is a very personal belief system and it shouldn’t be brought into the work environment at all. Though to be honest, I would likely never say anything to the offender as I also believe that would simply call more attention to it and make the situation worse.

        1. No thank you*

          Same. The Christian religion has been used to harm people like me for a long time. Seeing pictures of Jesus or scriptures prominently displayed would be disturbing.

        2. MatKnifeNinja*

          With the mega church going folks at my work place, pagan pictures of gods/goddesses would start WWIII.

          I get crap for wearing my 22 bead Buddhist mala bracelet.

          We already had the big battle of Protestant faith based verses vs Catholic images in the cubicle farm. So instead of letting everyone “get offended”, now we can have none.

          The mega church people were so upset, that none was better than letting people have their small St. Whoever magnet stuck to the side of the desk.

      6. anon today and tomorrow*

        I’d be bothered by both, mostly because I don’t believe religion belongs in a workplace. Hanging things on a cube wall, regardless of what faith is involved, feels like lowkey demonstration. Pictures are there both for the person who put them up and for someone who enters the cube to see. It’s different than someone who has to wear clothing for their religion or chooses to wear a piece of jewelry about their religion, since those are for themselves rather than for consumption by anyone else.

      7. Lissa*

        I think it’s the opposite – the OP is thinking, it wouldn’t be OK to have pictures of Jesus up so does it become OK if they’re less obviously known as religious figures? But that could be *my* bias because I’m from a really secular place where one would definitely get side-eye for having obvious iconography at work.

      8. Artemesia*

        I actually think pictures of Jesus in the workplace are inappropriate and I suspect more people would have trouble with that than an unrecognized god figure. I lived in the South for my career and knew of places where there is subtle religious bullying, where ‘voluntary prayer breakfasts’ or other religious participation marked you out as an insider or outsider. I can easily imagine using pictures of Jesus and Biblical scenes to set that norm and make those who are not Christian uncomfortable. A picture of an unknown God or a Ganesha statue would not have that same kind of implied pressure. But all in all, it is probably a better idea to keep religious icons out of the workplace. I think we can distinquish between a cross necklace, or a communion or bar mitzvah picture of a relative from pictures of Gods and Goddesses.

        1. Elizabeth W.*

          I feel the same way. But if my coworkers were all about hanging crosses up in their spaces (I live in the Bible Belt so it can and has been a thing), then legally, they can’t give me any flack if I put up a picture of Ganesha or a little Buddha.

    6. GhostWriter*

      I don’t see anything wrong with religious items in cubicles or personal spaces. (As long as they are tasteful–as you said, no nudity or violence, etc.) I’m atheist and kind of think it’s akin to sports memorabilia–I’m not at all interested in it, but find no problem with other people being interested in it as long as they’re not trying to push it on others or harass people with it in any way.

    7. Antilles*

      Everything you’ve described sounds perfectly aboveboard with me.
      I’m not even sure if some people would know these are pictures of “religious” figures, since they don’t seem to be universally recognizable
      Honestly, I’d guess that the vast majority of people who see them wouldn’t link it with religion at all – most people would probably misidentify it as comic books/Marvel/etc. And even among the people who *do* recognize Athena/Apollo/Zeus/etc, their thoughts would probably tilt more towards “oh she must really like Greek Mythology” rather than identifying them as specifically religious drawings.

      1. Cacti*

        Exactly. But I must comment – even if they were seen as Religious, why is this weighed differently than a bible verse or photo of Jesus?

        1. Antilles*

          I don’t think it should be weighted differently based on the religion. If you wouldn’t have an issue with a cross, you shouldn’t have an issue with *any* similar religious symbols – no matter if it’s a photo of Zeus, a copy of the Koran, a small Buddha statue, etc.
          I was just mentioning that it seems likely that it wouldn’t even cross many people’s minds to think about it in a religious context – a cross immediately makes someone think of Christianity, but the Pagan Gods have been adopted enough into overarching American culture (via comic books, movies, etc) that it wouldn’t necessarily be someone’s first thought of “oh, she must be Pagan”.

          1. Cacti*

            Right! It shouldn’t be. but it often is. I work in public sector in the Bible belt so I feel a bit strongly on this topic, so I want to apologize if I seem biased. We have folks who put bible verses in their signatures, restaurant workers wishing “a blessed day, and God Bless!” when we pay, etc.

        2. Artemesia*

          It shouldn’t be weighted differently and. portrayals of Jesus or Bible verses don’t belong displayed either.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            Agreed. I’m not thrilled with any of it being displayed in the workplace, myself — not Jesus, not Mohammed, not the Buddha, not pagan gods and goddesses, not anything. And I say this as someone who has statues of Pele and Ganesh displayed prominently… in my HOME. Not my office.

    8. Bea*

      Unless she’s constructing an alter to sacrifice virgins on in her cube, I don’t see an issue. You had to ask to even know they’re pagan Gods. I know I would assume it’s just decoration and never even venture to ask “who dat tho?”

      1. Sacrifice Them All*

        This. Totally inappropriate to single out people due to their sexual histories.

        HR nightmare in the making.

    9. Gaia*

      Ooh that’s interesting. I do think it is inappropriate in the same way I’d think it was inappropriate to have a picture of Jesus hanging up in a cubicle. It seems like it is *more* than wearing a piece of religious clothing or jewelry but I can’t quite put my finger on why it feels that way.

      1. Sneaky Ninja for this one*

        I’m with you. Unless you work at a religious organization, I think it should be out of the office. In a largely Christian (or at least culturally Christian) country, can you imagine if the Satanists and Atheists started putting up decor of their faith or lack thereof? Wooboy, to be a fly on that wall.

        1. Doodle*

          I certainly don’t think anyone has an *obligation* to do that, but I do think it would be good if they did — learning that not everyone ascribes to the dominant culture or religion can be an important reminder.

          1. Elizabeth W.*

            Bingo.

            And religious freedom in the US is supposed to apply to everyone, not just Christians.

      2. it_guy*

        I would disagree with you. I am not a fan of decorating a cube with religious icons, but I don’t have a problem with it as long as it is not of an outrageous or distasteful manner. As long as it stays in the cube and doesn’t creep into conversations ending with “blessed be” or emails that start “As the gods foretold…”

        1. Gaia*

          My opinion probably comes from years of experience being in a minority in a majorly Christian area but I find obvious signs of religion to be very “in your face” and I just don’t find that appropriate. I wouldn’t say anything (and this is especially true of the religion were not the majority in the area) but I would question the judgement of the person.

          1. wittyrepartee*

            No, I get this. I’m from PA, and there was definitely a statusy thing in high school about carrying a bible with your notebooks. I noticed that at some point and found it unusual. Seems like, something that Jesus specifically said wasn’t a good thing….

        2. TheRedCoat*

          As the Gods Foretold, there will be a fridge cleaning this Friday. Remember to take home your leftovers from the icecream sundae bar!

          (I know it’s off topic, but I couldn’t resist. XD)

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I feel like the Flying Spaghetti Monster should be invoked in this thread, but I am unworthy.

        3. GhostWriter*

          I agree that there’s a difference between using religious items as cubical decoration and having it creep into conversation or e-mails. Decorations are just there–I’m not being involved in the religion at all and can ignore it. But when I was laid off from a previous job an HR person ended one of her e-mails to me with “I am praying for you.” I found that irritating. I don’t want people praying for me.

        4. The Dread Pirate Buttercup*

          She should be aware that these days if she’s into the Norse pantheon at all, that’s been co-opted by white supremacists to the point where they will feel comfortable coming up to her and oozing gratitude at her for “appreciating her Aryan heritage,” as I found out at the grocery store earlier this year (may I get a sympathetic “ew,” please? I could use one), and that POC’s may not feel comfortable around her.

    10. Sneaky Ninja for this one*

      We have an unenforced “no religious decor” rule at my office. You can still wear cross necklaces and such, but it’s not acceptable for cube decor. However, there are some people who have a Jesus picture or bible verse up, and they largely go ignored. Unless it’s an over the top shrine, or someone asks that it be taken down, we ignore it.

      I think in this case, you treat it the same as you would treat a person with a picture of Jesus up. It’s interesting, though, if you had a “no religious decor” rule, would this person be able to slide under the radar because people don’t know who the religious icons are, whereas the Jesus person would get in trouble?

      Whatever you chose, I think you have to treat all the religious icons the same, either they are allowed or they aren’t.

      1. Artemesia*

        I would think the pictures were from some comic book (graphic novel) or video game or super heroes or something like that.

      2. MatKnifeNinja*

        When the cube farm had the big religious decoration war, my 2″ x 2″ picture of the Dalai Lama had to go. It was shoved way back in my cube, and no one could really see it. Didn’t matter.

    11. Admin of Sys*

      Assuming there’s not a company wide ban on all religious iconography, I don’t see why it’d matter.

    12. earl grey aficionado*

      I think the fact that you found this out from Karen and not Marie herself is what makes these pictures *completely* appropriate. Marie is clearly not proselytizing; they are personal, meaningful decorations for her office space. I actually think Karen is the one in the wrong here, if anyone is. I can’t quite tell from your comment whether she was sharing this information to inform you or to gossip with you, but I did get a rather gossipy vibe, which would be inappropriate. (As other commenters have mentioned, would it be this remarkable to you if another coworker wore subtle cross jewelry or had similarly subtle Christian decorations in their cube?) Leave Marie be unless she does put up inappropriately sexual images or starts evangelizing at some point.

    13. Jennifer*

      In a reasonable world it should be okay, but do you live in a reasonable world at your work? That’s going to be the decider. If Karen doesn’t like it and complains, l think we all know what would happen.

    14. Where’s my coffee?*

      I’m an atheist. I don’t care at all if religious stuff is hanging up at work, as long as no one wants to tell me about it or convert me.

    15. King Friday XIII*

      If it’s not obvious they’re religious, I think that’s different from someone who’s posted one of those Standard Fantasy Jesus or easily identified pictures of Krishna or something – I have all kinds of stuff in my cube that’s important to me for personal reasons but I really don’t want someone assuming or interrogating what personal meaning I attach to the picture of General Leia or Mr Rogers, or whether my Thor action figure needs to be treated differently from my Star Wars action figures.

    16. Observer*

      Why are you asking? Evein if ewveryone had reacted with “OMG! SOOO not appropriate!” (which they haven’t), what would you do with this information? I don’t see any way that this is something that you need to concern yourself with.

      1. Forking great username*

        This. OP, I think fact that you’re having conversations with this about coworkers and posting online to get other people’s advice on it is odd. It’s really not your business/concern unless you’re her boss or something.

    17. Liet-Kinda*

      I think the goddesses and gods have given you a pearl of great price: a problem you don’t need to involve yourself with.

    18. Sad Astros Fan*

      Here in Houston, no one would care. Well, unless you’re working for Joel Osteen (ew) or something…

    19. Smarty Boots*

      It depends on what her job is, is she interacting with people outside of the office and so on. For instance, nearly everyone in my office interacts directly with college students. We are careful about what we put up because we do not want students to feel uncomfortable or unable to trust that we will be fair. So for instance I have some stuff that makes it clear that I’m seriously a feminist, but that doesn’t include the pic of me at the Women’s March with the, um, strongly worded sign. I have a small New Testament on my desk, but not where students can see it — I have students of many faiths, and no faith. I have buttons about voting, but nothing about my political affiliation.

      It sounds like in this case there’s nothing like that, just coworkers. I could see a certain kind of person being offended, but that doesn’t make the pictures inappropriate. Rather, the offended person is the one who’s inappropriate :)

    20. Anono-me*

      I think that I’m reading this post a little differently than most people are.

      If you are asking if pictures of someone’s positive or neutral faith symbols being discreetly displayed in their own workstation is normal work place appropriate, even when the faith is small; then the answer is yes it is completely appropriate. (Unless your workplace has a blanket ban on religious symbols.)

      If you are also asking if someone CAN make trouble for your coworker over this; the answer is yes they might be able to. They should not, but it depends on the people at your organization.

    21. Jaid_Diah*

      I had a co-worker I shared a desk with (dayshift/nightshift), who thought I was a witch and had cursed her. She put up a palm cross, a statue of the Virgin Mary, and a printed page of a prayer of protection against me. I was bemused over the whole thing, but a less mellow person probably would have freaked out.
      PS, she moved to a different seat eventually.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Now you’ve piqued my curiosity… dI’d she think your tamales were spell bundles or something?

        1. Jaid_Diah*

          Well, she wasn’t entirely wrong. She’d been stealing the cubicle hook for sweaters because my sweatshirt was hanging a little bit over on “her” side of the shared cubicle wall. After so many hooks disappearing, I took white-out tape and wrote on the back of a hook that I cursed the thief with boils.
          No, I don’t know if it actually worked. But she took it seriously enough to bring EO in it. I explained that it was a joke based on frustration over many other missing hooks and apologized to her. The palm cross etc came after our meeting. She also hung one of those blotter sized desk calendars on the wall to note my “infractions”, like leaving my desk fan on by accident.
          She and her manager tried to move me out of our shared seat by some shenanigans (talking to the department manager without even talking to me and my manager), which annoyed the DM. Eventually, she was moved, not me.
          Neither of us were our best selves, I’m sure.

    22. Drago Cucina*

      Don’t care. I have a small (2″x3″) icon of St. Jerome over my office light switch. I can see it from my desk. It’s not obvious to anyone else. It’s smaller than the Pentacle that a staff member has in her cube that I can clearly see from my doorway. Again, I don’t care. The only religious questions would involve scheduling. ‘Hey, will there be a solstice conflict for you?’ or ‘Are you planning on taking vacation during this time?’

        1. Drago Cucina*

          Yeah, it helps build morale to respect adults making their own choices. We joke that we’re our own cult.

    23. SechsKatzen*

      If they’re pictures on her desk and not distateful, then I can’t see a reason for anyone to be offended. If we’re talking about Pagan gods and goddesses the average person probably wouldn’t even recognize them as being religious in nature.

      Then again, I admit to being biased because I have two Orthodox icons in my office and do meet with clients in there. I assume that even though the specific type of art is slightly different, it’s at least nominally recognizable as being Christian in nature.

    24. Database Developer Dude*

      On the civilian side of the house, as long as no one’s trying to proselytize, I don’t see an issue with it. On the military side, they have an issue with it, so much so that someone got a bad conduct discharge for refusing to remove bible quotes from her workstation.

      The last gig I was on where I had my own desk, I had pictographs all over the walls of my cube with images for the Army, Army Reserve, my rank, the Square and Compass, the Triple Tau, the icon of the World Taekwondo Federation, a picture of me getting my 2nd Dan, and a picture of me reenlisting a friend at the National Archives in front of the Constitution.

      No one batted an eye, at all, and we had some hyperreligious folk in the office who may or may not have had an issue with Freemasonry. They never said anything to me.

  2. GigglyPuff*

    This sounds like a really stupid question, considering I think of myself as fairly technical. I’ve never had to do formal presenting until I started job interviewing last year (typical of my field), the first one, I had to use screenshots which turned out awful. I have another one coming up soon where I want to use screenshots again. I do have access to a higher resolution monitor this time. Would 1920×1080 resolution, be good enough for the presentation (I’m going to assume on a presentation drop-down screen)?

    1. ChemMoose*

      I recommend saving your screen shots at either jpegs or png files. Check what resolution you can get with your screenshots, and when you can avoid scaling the images larger than their actual size. The increase in size often results in blurry images.

      1. WannaAlp*

        Please do not save screenshots as JPEG images. The JPEG format is specifically good for photographs (stands for Joint Photographic Exerts Group, iirc), and will end up making more precise images, like most screenshots, look unnecessarily blurry at the edges. The JPEG format is a “lossy” format (it loses data when you save the image).

        PNG is perfectly good for screenshots and will store your image precisely without any data loss.

    2. Enginerd*

      Try using a third party software to capture your screen shots. It will allow you to grab just what you need instead of the entire monitor and save it in any format you want. If you have Windows 10 there’s a built in snipping tool but I recommend Greenshot (its free) or Snagit if your company will pay for it.

      1. GigglyPuff*

        Love Greenshot, that’s what I use at home. My company computer has SnagIt, and that’s what I used last time. Definitely used either jpg or png, and set it up as high quality through the software, but still turned out awful, so I figured it was the monitor resolution.

        1. Enginerd*

          Its a possibility but it could also be the monitor you’re trying to present on. You can try adjusting that presenting end. I’ve had issues at conferences with Powerpoint resolution and the easiest solution was to turn the Powerpoint slides into a PDF file and present that way.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I believe I learned that the built-in Windows snipping tool has a built-in max resolution, so third-party is definitely the way to go.

    3. SCORMHacker*

      I have to take screenshots all the time for presentations (I use Snagit, and sometimes just ALT+PrintScreen), and you should be in good shape at 1920×1080 and saving as PNG. Also when you save your file, check the options on the Save dialog box (the Options button is to the left of Save) and make sure it’s set to at least True Color (24-bit). I save mine at True Color + Transparency (32-bit) and have excellent resolution.

    4. Jaguar*

      For the best results, you should find out what the resolution of the display you’ll be using is and match to that, which will avoid having to depend on scaling from the software you’re using to present, which can look pretty bad if has to scale up or down. Failing that, 1920×1080 is a safe bet – resizing down is better than resizing up.

      If you don’t have image editing software and are using Windows, IrfanView is a free project that will give you good, basic image editing functionality (crop, resize, etc.) and its image resampling is comparable to Photoshop, meaning you won’t lose much definition if you’re resizing an image.

    5. ExceptionToTheRule*

      1920×1080 is standard HD video size, but pay attention to dpi as well – the higher the better for resolution.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        DPI is only really relevant if you’re printing something – you divide the length of the image (1920) by the size in inches you’re printing at, and you want that number to be at least 72 for, but 150-300 for high quality print. If you’re showing on a monitor or TV screen it’s the resolution that counts. Projectors usually have a native resolution and anything higher than that will make the file bigger but not look better.

        Aside from resolution there are two things I can think of to check – the format you’re saving in and how you resize the image. jpg compresses the file to save, which can lead to odd results in some cases. png supports lossless (ie uncompressed files) which are bigger but sometimes cleaner. And rescaling images to different sizes can be more complicated than you think.

    6. Yay*

      Someone mentioned the windows snipping tool, but I recently discovered that mac computers have one as well! It is called grab (and as someone who is fairly technical, I was surprised I didn’t know about it!)

      1. AcademiaNut*

        And grab has a full screen option but also the ability to select a particular window, or a region of the screen.

  3. Anon here again*

    I’ve been at my job for a year now and I still feel like every day is my first day. There are people who still don’t say “Hi” or “Good morning” to me, even though I say it to them. Some of them *only* talk to me when they need my help with something.

    I’m guessing that it’s not a good fit for me because the people that I’m surrounded by are a lot more outgoing than me and maybe I just don’t fit in with them. I tried bringing donuts, bagels, nothing works.

    Other times I get upset and think it’s just me because there is a girl who is also quiet in my section, but they still eat with her. (With me, they literally got up and left the table. I guess she doesn’t bother them as much?) Otherwise they go out and completely ignore that I’m sitting there. I guess I’m just the odd person out, but it still sucks. The woman that I work directly with will literally avoid eye contact and just pass right by me.

    There’s also a girl in another dept who just started last week and she already goes out to eat with a bunch of guys, so she even has people to eat with already.

    I know I’m whining and this isn’t helping, but I just don’t understand what you have to do to fit in with this place and be accepted. (Why am I not fitting in?) Has anyone ever been though this? What did you do?

        1. Not a Badmin anymore*

          I agree. Not saying the problem is you, however there are some things that have caused me to distance myself from coworkers when I just didn’t enjoy their company. I’ve never done anything as mean or cliquish but will come up with something to do (during my unpaid lunch) so I don’t have to spend it with them. Usually I take a walk or would use homework (when I was in grad school) as an excuse to get out of a lunch invite.

          Reasons I’ve “iced out” coworkers:
          -Frequently interrupt myself other people in conversation, making them a lot less enjoyable to be around
          – Lunch invites consisted all about pleasantries and small talk which is quite draining to me
          -People who pry for personal information, when I wanted more boundaries.
          -People who complain all the time (my lunch is not a therapy session!)

          Is there anything like that maybe has happened? The point being that sometimes you’re just not a match and there are other things beyond your control. I wish I could let certain things not bother me but we’re humans and I decided to spend my lunch by myself or doing something not involcing than with the people I was with all day that I just didn’t click with.

      1. Anon here again*

        Nope- it has never happened in my previous jobs. (I usually had people who sat with me.)

    1. Formerly Arlington*

      Are they just very cliquey? Do they have dramatically different personal interests than you? Maybe try to pay attention to what they watch on TV or music or movies/social media and if you like that stuff, too, join the dialogue? Also, are you connected on social? Sometimes you can escalate your relationships (in a good way) if you are liking/engaging with things they are posting from their non-work life…

      1. Elizabeth W.*

        I wouldn’t let people who are freezing me out at work anywhere near my personal social media. Not that I connect with coworkers there anyway, but especially not if they couldn’t even acknowledge me in the office.

    2. Carnaxide*

      I’m sorry you are going through this. I’m dealing with something similar in my company, where I have some people who only speak to me when they need something but that seems to be the general feel here for everyone, except for a select few who are friendly with each other. My boss often doesn’t say good morning unless she sees me (we have high cube walls here) which to me is odd as I work as her Exec. Asst.

      I don’t know what to suggest but I do feel for me that it’s a part of the ‘not fitting in’ and needing to find another job. Best of luck to you!

    3. bored_at_desk*

      Or is there anything about you that you know is different from most of the others? (For example, religion, age, political beliefs, have or don’t have kids, different sense of humor)? Or have you had any weird/awkward/rocky interactions with anybody?

      By the way, I’m sorry this is happening – it sounds very rough.

      1. Anon here again*

        I’m very quiet and they are all more outgoing/talkative than me. I’m also single and they are either married, engaged, have children/grand kids.

        1. Stegosaurus*

          This is probably a big part of it. I really noticed once I had a kid that people talked to me more, especially strangers in public. It’s like I got initiated into some secret club. People like to talk to people who have things in common.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          This may seem very calculating…but do your siblings or friends have any kids that you could post school pics of just to try and break the ice?

        3. The Dread Pirate Buttercup*

          Wow, that sucks! No advice, except that Maria Bamford’s “Vennette” routine can be a bit of balm.

    4. Been There*

      I’m sorry you’re experiencing this!
      It can be so hurtful to feel rejected.
      I’d find the most welcoming/least distant person and try to make a connection: compliment their sweater, comment on the weather, anything innocuous. Or be bolder and ask them to lunch. Some offices have a “cold” culture. Where I work, no one says good morning. It took some getting used to.

    5. It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's SuperAnon*

      This really sucks, especially because it seems very personal. If it weren’t for the other women being included I would hand waive this as the group not being inclusive of new employees. This might be hard to consider, but is it possible you did something to turn people off? The behavior you’re describing of getting up from the table when you sit down is especially concerning, the only time I’ve ever seen that happen is when someone was really insulting or behaved really inappropriately and it spread like wildfire to the rest of the group. If an instance like that happened and it’s the only data point people have, then they might have written you off as a result.

      Could you speak to your manager and see if there’s anything s/he can point out or advise you on? Otherwise, your reading of the office might be correct, in that it’s just not the right environment for you and maybe toxic. Seriously, ignoring people that say hi? That’s pretty petty without additional context.

      1. Le’Veon Bell is seizing the means of production*

        Yeah, I agree. Getting up and leaving the table when you sit down (unless they just *happened* to all finish their meals at the same moment) is a very deliberate and hostile move; it’s on another level than simple cold-shouldering. I don’t think this is (necessarily) about them being jerks or just being more outgoing than you or colder than you or normal office culture differences. They do. not. like. you. It sounds like it sucks. Maybe you can figure out why? Maybe it was one specific incident that you don’t even remember but could smooth over. Otherwise, I would stop viewing it as something you can fix and start considering changing jobs or deciding you’re OK with working somewhere where everyone hates you.

        One random idea: you could ask one of the newer people if they know what the deal is. They might have been told about you (if they truly hate you for a reason, that might be something they’d warn newbies about) but not be personally invested enough in the social order yet to take sides strongly.

        1. J*

          This is a good suggestion. This doesn’t even mean you did anything *objectively* bad, but if someone was upset by something and the office is very cliquey, they might have all written you off based on that one person’s opinion.

          I also wonder if you can ask your boss about this. I definitely wouldn’t ask her to explain how *everybody* is feeling, but I think it’s reasonable to talk to her about her own feelings. Something like: “I’ve gotten the sense that you prefer to limit your interactions with me — did I do something upsetting?”

          I’m so sorry you’re going through this; it sohnds really terrible.

    6. Master Bean Counter*

      When I got presented with a similar situation I just stopped trying. Once I stopped caring I actually got along better with everybody. Mostly because I wasn’t nearly as invested.

      1. Anon nonprofit worker*

        Yeah, I agree with this. Up until about two years ago I always had at least one good friend at work, but after my work friends left my current job I felt quite lonely and found myself taking it personally when others would do things and not invite me. It was bothering me enough that I had to just stop having any expectations for friendship with my coworkers and it actually has made me feel a lot better.
        My coworkers are all nice enough, we’re just probably not going to be that close and I still prefer having a cordial and professional workplace (which I do have) over a hostile one.

    7. Antilles*

      There’s no nice way to sugarcoat this: You work with a bunch of jerks. Let me cherry-pick some sentences here:
      There are people who still don’t say “Hi” or “Good morning” to me, even though I say it to them.
      I’m interpreting this as you say hello and they just ignore you…which is completely and totally out of step with the norms of our society.
      With me, they literally got up and left the table.
      Are your colleagues 15 years old? Because this sounds like something pulled straight from a high school movie.
      The woman that I work directly with will literally avoid eye contact and just pass right by me.
      Avoiding eye contact is ridiculous. Even if she didn’t like you, the typical norms of human behavior are to at least glance at you and acknowledge you exist.
      All of this is waaaaaaaay beyond the limits of normal ‘sometimes people just don’t click’ and into the territory of intentional shunning – like the kind you’d only see if you’d run over someone’s dog in the parking lot or something.

      1. anon today and tomorrow*

        I don’t particularly think getting up to leave the table when someone sits down is always immature. I used to do this at my former company when a homophobic colleague tried to sit with my group at lunch. I’d rather be seen as rude in that instance than endure his presence.

        1. Le’Veon Bell is seizing the means of production*

          Yeah, I think it’s a really bold statement that tells me that these coworkers specifically don’t like OP for (probably) very specific reasons. And depending on what those reasons are, it may be entirely appropriate, or at least feel entirely appropriate based on their understanding of OP/what OP might have done to them.

          1. Ender Wiggin*

            Exactly. All the other things could be just being cliquey or mean, or OP not fitting in. But getting up and walking away is a really really clear sign that they do not like you and want you to know that. It’s not the same as “not fitting in”.

            Does that mean it’s your fault? No. They could be a bunch of bullies and have decided to bully you for some reason. Or they could have a good reason why they dislike you so much. Or it could all be based on a simple misunderstanding and rbey think they know something about you that makes you worthy of hate but they are wrong.

            But whatever this is, it’s a lot more than “not fitting in”.

            I agree with the comment above saying you should ask your manager if she knows what the cause of this is.

        2. Bea*

          Yeah, I can see this being something people do if you have a huge issue between you and another person.

          But I’ve also seen homophobes or racists do this. So instead of you distancing yourself from the bigot, you’re surrounded by bigots who shun you.

          So I’m wondering if the commenter is “different” than the rest somehow. I was shunned in school for being fat so…

        3. Antilles*

          Right, but I’m assuming that the commenter is a generally decent person – maybe with a few unique views or differing political opinions (most people do), but nothing so blatantly offensive that it would explain the *entire office shunning her*.

    8. Gaia*

      You aren’t being whiney, this is a really tough situation to be in.

      Are you in a different type of work than the others? Could it be a matter of “out of sight (even if not literally)/out of mind?”

      Have you asked them to lunch? This can be scary, especially if you feel you aren’t being accepted but you might try with the office social butterfly or the friendliest of the group.

      Do you struggle to make social relationships in other contexts? This isn’t to make you feel bad, this is a real skill that has to be learned and practiced! A lot of people find it doesn’t come naturally (including me and I’m the kind of person that CRAVES social interaction!)

      Is there someone you trust outside of work that you could talk about this with honestly (and who you think would give you honest feedback)? There may be small approaches you could adjust. Or there may be nothing you need to change at all!

      All that said, it might just be the culture there. I wouldn’t like that culture. Some places are friendlier than others. Only you can decide if this is a “deal breaker” for you.

    9. Retired. Retired. Working*

      Did something happen before you arrived?
      Did your co-workers want someone else to get the job?
      Did you replace someone they felt shouldn’t need replacing?
      A year is a long time to hold a grudge, though.

      1. JanetM*

        “Did you replace someone they felt shouldn’t need replacing?”

        Or even someone who left on their own terms, retired, whatever. I think I remember a letter where a beloved coworker had died, and every attempted replacement was hounded out.

      2. valentine*

        Yes, this sounds like they decided not to like whoever was in your role.It could also be a culture difference, Anon here again, where you are waiting for them to take you into the fold while they expect you to court them. Do you speak to them about nonwork stuff? In a group, do you sit silently or join in? (Some people experience silence as hostility, when, for me, and perhaps you, it’s nearer to bliss.) Are you leading by example and treating the new person the way you want(ed) to be treated? If it’s not too late, befriend her and see what happens.

    10. Is pumpkin a vegetable?*

      Can you ask a close friend outside of work if there might be something you’re missing? Is their possibly a hygiene or appearance issue? (I hope you don’t find that to be an upsetting question…just trying to make sure you leave no stone unturned as they say.)

    11. Lissa*

      You’re not being whiny, I think this would be extremely hard! As for why – well we can’t know that but I think there are a few possibilities.

      You work with a bunch of people who are coincidentally all terrible and have decided to be awful to you for no reason at all while embracing other new people/quiet people.
      You’ve done something unknowingly to put them off or been accidentally involved in a situation that has made them not want to be around you.
      It’s an issue of miscommunication, somehow.

      This seems way more overt than just not inviting you places – they are going out of their way to avoid you? That does sound personal/targeted. If it were me, i would try really hard to figure out why, though I don’t know that that’s the best response. Maybe talk to one of the new people, or if anyone seems marginally more friendly…? In most cases I fall into the “not everyone has to be friends” camp but this just sounds so extreme to me, not just a clique.

    12. Bea*

      This sounds like high school. I shivered a bit and I’m sorry this is happening to you at work.

      Some places are full of cliques or snobs.

      I was the outlier in school so I’m extra sensitive to it. Often it’s more unintended than it feels as the outsider.

      I’ve learned being myself and being happy on the outside is necessary. I’m not pulling a “get over it” on you. It’s easier said than done. I’m saying be happy with yourself and be good to yourself. Others will be drawn towards it. Otherwise you can be giving off vibes that they pick up on as “leave me alone.”

    13. Lily Rowan*

      I had a job where I was a bad cultural fit, although not nearly as bad as what you’re describing! I just kept my head down and did my job and stopped worrying about it. A coworker from there went on to a new job as a manager elsewhere, and hired me to work for her there. I found out later that she had “warned” the new team that I was good worker, but super quiet and they shouldn’t think I was unfriendly. Of course I got there and fit in much better, and my real personality came out! She was kind of shocked (in a good way!).

    14. literal desk fan*

      Something similar happened to a friend of mine, except that she had started out getting along with people and then all of a sudden they turned cold. It turned out that a compulsively-lying coworker had told their other coworkers that my friend had exhibited weird stalkerish / clingy behavior towards her! The lies turned the other coworkers off from interacting with my friend.

      Is it possible something like this could be happening here? Especially if, as another coworker suggested, they maybe wanted someone else to get the job. Or could you maybe have said something, told someone something about yourself that they might have been turned off by and might have told others about in a negative way?

      It sounds like it isn’t hindering you from doing your job, at least. But I understand it can be tough if you can’t also feel friendly towards the people you work with. If you can’t get to the bottom of it, you might want to try to seek out connections to people in another department.

    15. Rhiiiiiiannnnnnnon*

      Honestly if this was happening to me, and I truly didn’t know what had set them against me, I would just ask about it. Approach one of the people, maybe your co-worker and say “Hey, maybe I’m being overly sensitive, but I’m getting the vibe people are avoiding me and don’t want to socialize with me. Did I do or say something to put people off?” SOMETHING happened here, and if people weren’t friendly from day one than it might not be about you.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        Totally agree with this approach. And I’d try to ask whichever co-worker seems to be the nicest (tough, I realize, considering the circumstances). And even if they don’t tell you the reason, I assure you, they’ll likely tell the rest of the group that you asked, and groups like the one you described tend to behave at least a little differently once they’ve realized that you’re willing to speak up for yourself and confront them/the issue.

      2. MatKnifeNinja*

        The problem with that tactic, is you have to accept whatever answer is given.

        My cousin has Aspergers, and people were actively avoiding him. It’s really hard to take someone telling you point blank, “You are an weirdo, and I/we don’t want to spend our lunch with you.” I think that was job #3.

        I don’t think many people can shake that off and just go back to work. And that leaves the questioner with no where to go in the conversation. Probably not many people want to delve into what makes them a weirdo to their coworkers.

    16. CRM*

      Sorry to hear that OP, the dynamic between you and your coworkers sounds strange and uncomfortable. Ultimately, you need to remember that your job doesn’t have to be the place where you make all of your friends, and for many people it isn’t (myself included). It certainly helps the day go by faster if you are friendly with your colleagues, but there is no need to force it if things aren’t meshing. As long as their catty behavior isn’t affecting your ability to do your job (i.e. refusing to help you, intentionally withholding information, ect.), just ignore them any focus on your relationships outside of work.

    17. Observer*

      This sounds really, really hard. And it’s quite possible that you just work with a bunch of jerks and that’s the whole story. On the other hand, as others have pointed out, it’s possible that something about you, something you said or did, or something people THINK you said or did is at the root of this. So, it’s really worthwhile to find out if that’s part of the story. And, I do mean PART of the story, because even if there is a legitimate reason for this behavior, it’s almost certainly not the best way to be handling whatever their issue.

      If you’re coworkers really are a bunch or jerks, bigoted or not, I hope you start job searching because this is REALLY hard, and you can’t really expect people to stop acting like (bigoted) jerks. It’s hard in any case, of course, but if it’s something you did you may have a chance to fix it.

    18. Minocho*

      I had it happen at this job. It wasn’t pinging on my radar that much, but my boss addressed it, and seemed very concerned. After he brought it up a couple of times in our 1 on 1s, I kept an eye out and realized that this one guy, very connected in the department, wouldn’t eat with me. As he was connected and friendly with most everyone, if he was eating with people, I wouldn’t be invited.

      I found other coworkers, also on the outs with this dude, to hang with. And when that guy wasn’t around, I could eat with his buddies no problem. Then this guy started acting out toward me – it eventually got so bad that other coworkers complained to management about how he was treating me, and he went nuts on me when my boss was around, and my boss ( a personal friend of this guy) stepped in to put a stop to it.

      After that, I was able to occasionally invite myself along to lunch, even when he was there. Now different people have different schedules, but the clique was broken up.

    19. Someone Else*

      Something that stuck out at me in your post was this:
      There are people who still don’t say “Hi” or “Good morning” to me, even though I say it to them. Some of them *only* talk to me when they need my help with something.

      I’m guessing that it’s not a good fit for me because the people that I’m surrounded by are a lot more outgoing than me and maybe I just don’t fit in with them.
      It sounds to me like you may have it backwards? If you’re saying hi and they’re not, it seems like maybe you’re being more outgoing than they are?
      I don’t think you’re wrong that this may be a bad fit.Only talking to someone when you need a work-thing from them at work is totally the norm at my company. It doesn’t have anything to do with not liking someone or being in any way personal. It’s just…all work.
      That said some of what you’re saying does sound more personal, but I think it’s also possible you might be too in the weeds on this to be objective. It’s not that I distrust your point, but I think it’s possible you may be reading too much into it, but it’s impossible to tell since we only have your perspective. I’m throwing that out there in case it might help: from their perspective this may all be NBD, whereas to you it’s weighing on you mightily.

    20. CleverName*

      I had this happen to me from day one at a recent job at a library. The folks who were supposed to train me just actively avoided me and I had to constantly ask for them to teach me my job. It seemed to be the culture there, mostly perpetuated by folks who had been there for decades. The way they treated patrons was similar. I talked to management, and the assistant director (who was fairly new) had gone through the same thing when she started. I couldn’t handle it (and the job was very boring and low paying), so I quit after two weeks. Management was very understanding. I am so sorry you are going through this and think you deserve a reward for putting up with it for so long. Could you talk to your manager about it?

    21. The Other One*

      This is NOT your fault. It is very unprofessional and mean of your colleagues to shun you like that.
      Since you don’t know why and it’s never happend before, I think it’s likely that you unknowingly crossed some unwritten office rule, inadvertently slighted one of the “mean girls/boy” or even that one of them just doesn’t like you and blames you for it, allthough you did nothing wrong. (With “mean girl/boy” i mean people who tend to be narrow minded and gossipy and think highly of themselves and poorly of everyone who ist different and are often opinion leaders.)
      Something similar happend to me once (I’m an introvert too). In my case I even knew why (I said something that was perceived out of line), but since nobody was talking to me I had no chance to explain / apologize. No help from higher up, because it wasn’t regarded as serious. Shunning is insidious that way. (I ended up leaving for a variety of reasons.)
      I believe the best you can try has already been mentioned: Ask your manager if they know or noticed something. Ask one of the friendlier / newer coworkers what’s going on. (Though they might predend not to have noticed anything. Don’t believe them, trust your instincts.) Ignore them back and tell yourself that they are just jerks. (They are.) You can try to observe what they do and you don’t or vice versa, but don’t obsess over it. If you haven’t already, you could also ask your friends if they can think of something that might rub other people (particularly extroverts) the wrong way. But don’t try to be someone you are not because of some jerks. Don’t try to ingratiate yourself with food or favors, you’ll only get taken advantage of.
      If you can’t ignore your rude coworkers and feel bad because of them, you might be better off finding another place of work. Good luck and internet-hugs if you want them.

  4. RR*

    Seeking guidance on addressing unconscious bias and tone policing:

    It is performance assessment season at my organization. I am a white woman in a senior position as a department director. I am new to the organization, but not new to this work. My predecessor, an older white male, retired and the department was in freefall for over a year before I came on board. We are a support unit, with a compliance function, so we are often in the position of having to tell folks they can’t do what they want to (or at least not in the manner they’d like). We also have really old, inefficient processes with not much in the way of helpful explanations or tools for staff. While I don’t want to throw my predecessor under the bus, it is becoming increasingly clear he had some gaps in his approach to management. I get the sense he was quite hands off, to say the least.

    My department had earned the reputation of being difficult to deal with. I am working with my team to foster a greater sense of teamwork and internal customer service. One of my direct reports, a white Hispanic woman, has as one of her direct reports, a Black woman who has been with the organization for many years. She has consistently earned solid performance reviews. My direct report and I would like to work with her to move her performance into the exceptional rating and towards a promotion. She is clearly smart and capable, and we have the sense that she could do more. I also know that she believes she should be holding a more senior position than she currently does.

    As part of the assessment process, managers solicit feedback from across the organization. We received numerous comments about this employee’s tone – many describing it as abrasive or condescending. When her manager raised this during the review, the employee noted that this is often gendered and racial. Both her manager and I feel this is a fair observation. I myself have been on the receiving end of similar observations in the past. I also think that white males at my organization get a pass on behavior that should be called out, but that doesn’t mean the behavior itself is okay. One challenge we are facing is that sometimes she expects people to know/remember processes that they really can’t. Her tone can convey frustration and come across as rather sharp. On the other hand, there are times she is just (as she herself notes) loud and direct. I like direct. I don’t want her to try to be someone she isn’t. Blunt is fine; snapping at folks who have unrealistic expectations is understandable, but not so fine. I want to see her continue to succeed and advance at our organization, and I want to do what I can to help make this so. For folks who have been on either (or both) sides of this issue, any recommendations/suggestions/other advice?

    1. LCL*

      I would start with a meeting with your direct report. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss how to move your longtime employee into the promotion she deserves. You say she could do more. Identify specifically what doing more would look like. Make sure that doing more isn’t doing more than what the white people do. Then tell her. The one specific I see is that, to state the obvious, people who don’t work in compliance don’t remember all the details. Remind her that she deals with it every day. Is there a page somewhere in cyberspace where longtime employee and others in your group can refer people outside the group to check?

      When you are talking with other managers and lobbying for her promotion, remind them that compliance work is adversial by nature. Of course there will be some minor animosity towards people who work in the compliance group, from a production perspective you are impeding it. Ask these managers to not let their irritation with the role of compliance pass over someone for a well deserved promotion.

    2. BRR*

      Ooh great question! I’m on the side of things right now where my tone has been called into question by others. The very few examples were times where I was more direct than is typical in my office and I think there are a lot of people out there who equate all directness with rudeness. My manager pointed out that while she doesn’t mind, it’s about adapting to the office culture a bit. Basically that I have to play the game a little bit to get ahead. A big difference is that I’m a white male, which historically hasn’t had issues of being tone policed. So I sucked it up and put more effort into using softer language at certain times. Can you specifically point out the instances of snapping if it’s with particular people or situations so it doesn’t feel biased?

    3. Mimi Me*

      “Her tone can convey frustration and come across as rather sharp. On the other hand, there are times she is just (as she herself notes) loud and direct.”

      My very first question, when I read these sentences, is who are these complaints from? Are they overwhelmingly male or very junior to her? I ask only because over the years I have noticed that if I speak in a calm, firm, direct tone people (mostly men and very young people – teens and possibly very early 20’s when it happens) accuse me of yelling at or scolding them harshly. It became such an issue with one male manager that I literally had to bring in witnesses to our conversations to prove that this was not the case. Even with my own husband – when he tells me a story about how a woman yelled at him I will ask “did she really raise her voice or did she just state her expectations firmly?” Most times it’s the second option.

    4. Sabine the Very Mean*

      You said it best here, “One challenge we are facing is that sometimes she expects people to know/remember processes that they really can’t. Her tone can convey frustration and come across as rather sharp. On the other hand, there are times she is just (as she herself notes) loud and direct. I like direct. I don’t want her to try to be someone she isn’t. Blunt is fine; snapping at folks who have unrealistic expectations is understandable, but not so fine.”

      Holy Moly is that just the most beautifully written explanation about how you expect this person to work. I work for a public agency where the union allows write ups for “attitude”. So, so gendered and racial. Everyone knows women, and especially WoC, would be called up for “attitude” the most. I think you can say this to her verbatim. It’s great. Maybe just change Loud to something-else-I-can’t-think-of.

      1. MuseumChick*

        I agree with Sabine. Tell her exactly what you have written here. You can also acknowledge the gendered and racial nature of tone policing and make it clear to her that you see her as someone really going places int he company.

      2. epi*

        I agree. There is an important distinction here that may need to be conveyed even if the complaints about this woman’s demeanor are often gendered and racial (they probably are).

        Also, deciding whether and how to to conform to gendered and racial expectations, in order to get along or get ahead at work, is a very personal decision. It is great that RR and her direct report see that that is part of the tension here, but ultimately their employee needs to decide whether and how she wants to change her demeanor. I would be honest with her that they want to help her develop and advance, and that they think there is a mix of fair and unfair feedback here. That is her trade-off to make.

        Sort of related to that, I wonder if this woman is aware that the department is trying to actively turn around a reputation for poor internal customer service. I once inherited a process like that and did successfully turn it around. It took more than my tone, and I would bet that this employee has other insights into what might be helpful. But I definitely was extra careful of my demeanor around that particular process, whether I found it fair or not (I am a white woman FWIW), just because I knew it needed special handling. Because I knew about that situation, I didn’t feel like it reflected on my normal operating procedure at all.

      3. ChachkisGalore*

        I totally agree – this is a great way to phrase it (almost exactly) to the employee directly! There’s one additional idea/though that I might include, but I’m struggling on the exact wording. I think it might go a long way with the employee to the let them know that you have their back when it comes to the racially motivated or gendered complaints. Basically making it clear that you are not holding those complaints against her or will defend her if they do come up (ie: the times when she’s just being direct or blunt). You are only asking her to work on the stuff that isn’t racially/gender motivated (ie: the times where she is actually snapping at folks or too obviously frustrated).

        Like I said, the wording is stumping me, but I know that would go a long way with me if it came to complaints that had a combo of bias and reality to them.

        1. Troutwaxer*

          You might also tell the employee that you are trying to turn the department’s reputation around and let her know that you’d like her help, and this is how you’d like her to help. Make it clear that those who help with the turn around will be rewarded (but don’t promise her a promotion, of course.)

    5. Gaia*

      This kind of feedback can be gendered and can be racial. It can also be legitimate. It sounds like, in this case, there is some legitimacy to the feedback. I think the way you described it here is really helpful. And it might be helpful to point out that you know this feedback is often given more the POC and women more than white people and men, but that this isn’t the case with you (and that you don’t just pass it along because you received it, but because you observed it as well) and you want to help her take the next step in her career. Give actual examples and ways she could say the same thing in a way that isn’t condescending or sharp.

      The key with this kind of feedback is to make it clear you want to help. Some people will never take this feedback well, but will still improve. Some will never take it well and will never improve. Some will take it fine and never change. Some will take it fine and change. You can’t control which category she falls in, you can only make it clear what has to happen to promote.

      1. Ella*

        I’d avoid saying “this isn’t the case with me” as frankly it probably is the case with OP, at least to the degree that no one is immune from subtle societal biases. I think the better approach would be to say you know there is often a gender and racial bias to these complaints, and that you are proactively working to take that into account and not allow it to hurt her career, but that there are at least a few instances where you have specific, actionable feedback for her.

        And I agree with Sabine the Very Mean that this line is fantastic and could probably be used verbatim “One challenge we are facing is that sometimes she expects people to know/remember processes that they really can’t. Her tone can convey frustration and come across as rather sharp. On the other hand, there are times she is just (as she herself notes) loud and direct. I like direct. I don’t want her to try to be someone she isn’t. Blunt is fine; snapping at folks who have unrealistic expectations is understandable, but not so fine.”

        I think making it clear that you believe her that some of the complaints levied against her are unfair and that you don’t expect her to meet unrealistic expectations will go a long way to helping coach her about the times where there is a legitimate issue.

        1. Gaia*

          I mean, it isn’t the case with the OP in this instance. She has legitimate concerns that match up to this feedback. So pointing that out can be helpful.

          1. Ella*

            OP still needs to be careful about making sure she’s accurately assessing which situations are a legitimate concern and which have bias at play, though. And some situations will likely be a mix of both, where the employee acts in a less than ideal way but the situation gets blown out of proportion due to bias. This stuff is never completely black and white, and I think it wouldn’t help OPs case to act like it is.

            1. JR*

              Or situations where it isn’t ok, but where a white person or man wouldn’t be judged or called out for the same (not ok) behavior. Not to say that OP shouldn’t express concern about those instances, but to be really clear on what exactly is going on. Agreed that the OP clearly has great intentions and is doing a good job of pushing back in the bias, and also that she should take care to continue to examine her own assessment for possible bias.

          2. Gingerblue*

            It’s not an either/or, though; she may be receiving both legitimate criticism and gendered/racially motivated criticism at the same time.

      2. SWOinRecovery*

        I agree with addressing the racial bias component in your feedback. Even if a manager tailors their feedback down to the legitimate areas, an employee might think that they’re only referring to legitimate issues so that she can’t complain about bias this time. By recognizing the issue then explaining what you’re doing to help (ie. defending against illegitimate complaints, bringing in unconscious bias trainers, etc) she’s likely to feel that she’s heard and supported, which is what you want.

    6. mrs_helm*

      In a service/support role, tone is important to the caller’s experience. I’ve been the woman in IT who was told her detailed direct explanations to end users were coming off as “condescending”. This is not a place where you can give leeway to cultural/gender/personal style. The customer’s experience, how they felt about the interaction, is key to this type of role. I had to learn to ACT, yes as in “be an actress” over the phone, in a more friendly/collegial way on these types of calls. It didn’t change who I am. It did change how successful I was in that role. Should I care that the initial complaint may have been rendered? Maybe. But I cared more about progressing in my career.
      I think you can talk to her about what you think may be holding her back, but she has to be the one to decide what to do with that. Does she want to make some changes so she can keep moving up? Does she want to pursue a path where this won’t matter as much (which might mean a career change?) Or she may choose to keep on as she is…and there is nothing you can do about that, nor should you. You can lead a horse to water…

    7. Nita*

      So maybe instead of bringing up her tone, which is kind of vague feedback, talk to her about more constructive ways to deal with people who cannot remember the processes she expects them to? It doesn’t help her to snap at them. It doesn’t help them to be snapped at. Depending on how crucial it is to remember these things, there might be different solutions.

      1. MuseumChick*

        I think this approach. It gives her something more concrete to work on and moves this away from tone policing.

        1. Minocho*

          I have had issues with this, and have taken courses on negotiation and emotional intelligence to help me come up with strategies to interrupt myself when I’m coming from a place that will set up an antagonistic environment unnecessarily.

          Giving me something concrete to do rather than something to avoid allows me to find a way to progress, instead of stew over things.

          One that is general, but very helpful for me from my emotional intelligence class: Assume Positive Intent. This allows me to keep my internal attitude more upbeat, and helps me make sure I’m not coming across as angry or frustrated so much.

      2. DreamingInPurple*

        Snappishness often comes from frustration when you’re not able to move forward with something, so if she has a defined way to handle it when someone doesn’t know a process that she feels they should, that will probide a path forwards and she’ll probably feel less motivated to be snappy in the first place.

      3. sheep jump death match*

        Agreed- maybe she could work on documentation for the processes that her coworkers can’t remember/that make her the most annoyed when people ask her about them over and over? I think it would be good to be able to say on her review, like, “Mary wrote a clear and concise guide to llama grooming for the sales department, which has reduced monthly grooming tickets by 25%. 80% of the remaining tickets are from Joe, who handles the most complicated llamas, and from Jim, who is a known crank.”

    8. Ali G*

      Ooh this is a tough one. First I want to say, that I admire you working through this for your employee. Also, nothing that you mention, to me at least, should stand in the way of a what sounds like a long overdue promotion.
      However, as a senior level employee, she should at least try to temper her frustration when she has to re-explain processes to people. I get that it is frustrating (been there, done that, have the T-shirt), but if she is going to hold a senior level position, it’s just good professional behavior to be able to do that. So that is something I think you can genuinely work with her on.
      The other stuff I think you just need to learn to address the comments as they come in. For example, if you witness a conversation between her and an employee where she was direct and the other employee claims she was “rude”, stand up for her if you disagree and explain why. Because, guess what? If she wasn’t loud and direct, she probably wouldn’t be up for a promotion at all, because as a WOC she’d be passed over by men who get away with everything (I know a big generalization, but we’ve all seen it right?). She’s probably learned that she has to be this way to get noticed and to get sh1t done. As long as she isn’t actively mean or obnoxious to people it’s just who she needs to be to advance her career.

    9. Eeyore*

      To me, it depends on if you want to be kind or be truthful. Being a black woman who is loud and direct will always seem like a recipe for trouble, even when white coworkers are doing the same thing. I am a black woman who has, through various means, been taught not to be loud or direct, because I’d be in the same position as your employee. As it turns out, being quieter and more conciliatory doesn’t help either.

      If she wants practical advice so that she can move up, I would tell her to consider how she speaks to different people. I definitely speak to white men differently than white women, and white people differently than I speak to people of color. You don’t have to say that, but you can tell her to consider how her words are being received by others, and perhaps tailor them to the audience. I have found that when you build a friendly rapport with others, you can get away with being more direct. I personally tend to be more direct with women of my own race, because we all tend to know the struggle, but that also depends on your company’s culture. My first job had black women warning me left and right about how to act, how to dress, what makeup to wear. I went into non-profit work and got less warnings, but more of me figuring it out myself. I play the game because this is work, and controlling my tone for others is also work. I’m sure others will have a different view, but I have found this works well enough for me.

    10. LKW*

      Starting with the employee and acknowledging that the bias is a great start. I’d also ask if the employee is open to recording her interactions? It would have to be done with all parties consenting (and you may want to run it by HR and legal) but it is a great way for the employee to get an unbiased view of her interactions. Sometimes people don’t realize how they’re coming across. And as some have noted, her interactions may be perfectly reasonable and the bias is truly on the others and are unwarranted. This gives you ammunition to reply that you’ve taken note of the feedback and have dismissed it.

      I’m just thinking about how others have used that method as training / coaching to improve presentation and meeting management skills.

      But there could be no expectation of doing that and no punishment for whatever is recorded or for not recording. It would strictly be a coaching activity.

    11. Ender Wiggin*

      A few things spring to mind:
      1 you solicited the feedback. Next round of reviews you might want to consider changing the feedback form or process to make sure you get clearer info like asking for specific examples of what was said or done wrong rather than “she seemed condescending”
      2 do you have the power to promote her without her getting excellent feedback? If so you can inform her that you acknowledge that some of the feedback eg about tone may be biased and you will ignore all that type of feedback in your decision (tone is really subjective anyway). Then actually do ignore all tone-based or other feedback that is likely to be biased in your decision.
      3 if you are required to get good reviews before you can promote someone, then you should advocate very strongly to have the review process be much less subjective than it is now.
      4 regarding the behaviour you have observed that is definitely unacceptable – make it clear to her that she needs to address that.
      5 regarding the possibly biased feedback eg the tone comments you can point out to her that you acknowledge that such feedback can be biased and let her know what you are doing regarding points 1-3 above to address that.
      6 you have a decision to make – are you going to request that she make an effort to change her tone or not. Let her know whether this is something you are asking her to do or not. Personally I don’t think you should ask her to change her tone at all.
      7 regardless of whether you are asking her to change her tone or not I think you could give her some info on ways that sone people manage to make their tone sound nicer. Smiling when answering the phone for example often completely changes a tone. Trying to create a rapport with frequent customers is well worth it in any customer facing role (internal or external). There are lots of customer service tricks that apply to roles like this. It’s up to her whether she wants to try them or not.

      There was a comment above “deciding whether and how to to conform to gendered and racial expectations, in order to get along or get ahead at work, is a very personal decision.” it’s really up to her to make the decision but you can give her tips on how to go about it if she chooses to.

    12. Observer*

      Focus on the stuff that’s clearly problematic. If that doesn’t improve, you have your answer – she’s not being dinged because she’s a black woman, but because she is genuinely difficult. And perhaps behavior that someone else could get away with is being seen more harshly because of these behaviors.

      If she does improve, there are some positive potential side effects to be had. A lot of people who find her annoying or abrasive now, might change their opinion. Certainly, if people are at all reasonable the number of complaints should go down, because she’s going to be stopping some problematic behavior.

      It also allows you to go back an take a more nuanced look at the remaining issues. Is she being blunt or TOO blunt? Is she behaving in ways that no one faults men / white people for or, or do people roll their eyes when other people do the same thing? That’s important, because a behavior may be objectively ok, but if it doesn’t square with the culture that’s a legitimate issue. But if a guy can say something and have people “Oh, he’s ok to deal with. I always know where I stand because he’s so direct” and when she says it you get “Well, she’s right but a bit too abrasive about it.” Well, you have your answer.

      I’m guessing that it’s going to be a bit more complicated than that, but once you get rid of the “noise” introduced by the genuine problems, you will get a chance to judge what is really going on. And you will be in a much stronger position to push back on the gendered and racial stereotyping if that’s what you find.

    13. Fish Microwaver*

      I’m really surprised that no one has suggested the OP listen to Alison’s recent podcast on tone. It has a lot of useful language for exploring the issue with the coworker and strategies to be more aware of tone and other nuances of communication. I recommend it.

    14. Close Bracket*

      “We received numerous comments about this employee’s tone – many describing it as abrasive or condescending. ”

      Did this only come bc you solicited it, or do people complain about her unsolicited? If the latter, with regard to the direct portion, half the solution has to be coaching people to be comfortable with directness. Frame it as the functional vs relationship building divide and leave race and gender out of it, even though they are an integral part, to avoid defensiveness. This is tactical advice bc while it would be better to coach people to acknowledge their own implicit bias and not be defensive about it, that’s a much bigger fish to fry than framing it as communication styles. Pair that will telling people that you are coaching her on being more patient with their lack of familiarity with standards and you might see this feedback turn around, smoothing the way for advancement.

  5. GhostWriter*

    I’m currently job hunting and just found out that one of my references is retiring soon. They wrote me a reference letter on official letterhead for me to use after they retire.

    My problem is that job applications that require references always require three, and with one reference retiring, I’ll only have two references that can be contacted. (I had a second reference from the retiring reference’s organization, but they passed away a few years ago, so I don’t have a “backup” reference.) Is it okay to enter my retiring reference’s old contact info on applications, and if it gets to a point where references might get checked, just explain they retired (and that my 2nd reference from that organization passed away) and provide the reference letter? I can’t think of any better way to handle it.

    1. ZSD*

      Are you sure the retiring person no longer wants phone calls about such things? Can you check with this retiring person to see if they’ll give you a personal phone and/or email to list on applications?

      1. GhostWriter*

        When I checked in with them about continuing to be a reference for me, they said “I will be retiring on x date. I will be glad to be your reference meanwhile. Would it help to send you a reference letter on letterhead that you could use?”

        I took the “meanwhile” to mean that they were only willing to be my reference until they retired, and that I should use the letter thereafter. Am I reading it wrong?

        1. SWOinRecovery*

          Yeah, I think that you’re totally reading that correctly. I would ask coworkers or professors if you can’t find any other supervisors. Don’t be afraid to call a main office to get contact info if you need to.

        2. Bea*

          No. You’re reading right. I’m judging the reference so hard. If my former boss tried this I would take it so personally. My oldest job was sold, my boss retired, she’s still my reference!

          1. GhostWriter*

            I think of being a reference as doing part of your job. Don’t most people just want to be done with their job duties when they retire?

            In my reference’s defense, I was just a part-time intern for 9 months. If I’d worked for them full-time for several years I’d take it more personally.

            1. Bea*

              No. Acting as a reference that’s more than just confirming the person worked for you is human decency. It’s an effort to help someone who helped you professionally at some point. It’s not just a standard job duty.

              Otherwise we’re all screwed staying anywhere for very long because people leave jobs and retire all the time.

              But if you’re young enough that you’re still depending on a person without much emotional tie in to your professional progress it makes more sense.

              My former report and friend uses me as a reference in her job hunts despite me leaving earlier because she can’t trust the terrible company she’s trying to escape. So I’m probably extra sensitive to references being very personal and what you just do for anyone you wish to see succeed.

              I have written references only for “in case they die or get stricken with Dementia (because my most beloved boss did get hit with that awful disease).”

    2. Mariss*

      Just to clarify, has your reference who is retiring indicated that they do not wish to be contacted? I would think it would still be perfectly acceptable to list them as a reference and provide personal contact information (cell phone/email), along with the information that they have retired from the position they held when you worked with them. If they said they do not wish to be contacted, then you would need to find another reference who is willing to be contacted. You might opt to use a coworker rather than a supervisor.

      1. GhostWriter*

        They didn’t directly say they don’t wish to be contacted, but they told me they were retiring and could serve as my reference “meanwhile.” I took that to mean they can serve as a reference until they retire, and then want to be left alone.

        I’m not sure how to ask for their personal information. It seems intrusive, and I wonder if they want to just be done with giving references (they were my supervisor for an internship at a nonprofit, so they’ve probably acts as references for interns over many years). But I’ve been unemployed for a long time so I’m kind of in a bind.

    3. Ree*

      I just ran into this issue!
      I have always worked for small companies, two of the three have been sold/dismantled and two of the three owners have retired(the third I would never give as a reference, if they called on a good day, no problem. A bad day? Scalding words of disdain would fall from his lips)
      I explained that my direct bosses have all retired and gave them a semi-manager, a co-worker and my program mentor from my college and then explained that I didn’t have a lot of reference options even before the retirements, as I’ve always worked for VERY small companies.
      The references I gave them came back great and the company seemed to understand why I was giving them the references I chose.

        1. GhostWriter*

          I’m glad it worked for you and resulted in a job offer. :)

          My retiring reference was from a small non-profit that I did an internship for, and another reference is from another internship at a small non-profit. I didn’t interact with many people beyond my supervisors much, and don’t have contact information for anyone else at those places.

          My third reference is my old supervisor from a large company. I have contact information for three of my coworkers from there, but I haven’t talked to them in a year and would honestly awkward contacting them out of the blue to act as a reference.

          1. zora*

            A year is not a long time in this context. I have had people reach out for references, and I personally have reached out to people for references that I haven’t spoken to for years. That’s the nature of references, you reach out when you are job searching.

            I understand feeling awkward, but take a breath and just send the emails to the two coworkers. The worst that will happen is they will just ignore your message. But they can’t say yes if you don’t ask!!

            Another option is to ask your retiring reference if there is anyone else at that non-profit that would possibly be a good reference, and for their email addresses.

            I know this is hard, I have anxiety about this kind of stuff myself. But you *have* to advocate for yourself sometimes! Think of this as a time to practice that, and it will probably not be as bad as you think. Good luck!

            1. GhostWriter*

              Feels better to know I’m not the only one with anxiety about this stuff. :) And, admittedly, I’m horrible about being an advocate for myself. :(

              What’s a good way to word a text to ask one of the coworkers I haven’t talked to in a year about acting as a reference? Half of the anxiety I feel is in figuring out what to say. I’m not sure how much to explain or how to ask in a way that doesn’t pressure them.

              Is this okay?: “Hi [former coworker]. I hope all is well with you! I’m currently job hunting and am short on job references (one of my former supervisors is retiring this month, and one passed away last year). Would you be willing to be a reference for me if I’m a finalist for job and need a third reference?”

              1. zora*

                YES! If I got this message, I would be so happy to say yes and help you get a good job, because I hope when I need it someone else will be there for me! Go out there and advocate for yourself. YOU CAN DO IT!!

      1. Emily*

        Yeah, I think having a direct manager reference is the gold standard, but in many cases it’s not the only acceptable reference.

        I’ve only worked for 3 places since graduating. The first place I supplied faculty advisors who supervised my research and whose classes I TA’d as references. The second job, I had a manager who had quit my first/then-current job who was able to be a reference for me, and then since I didn’t want to alert my employer to my search I used a coworker and my most recent faculty advisor.

        For my current/third job, my search was again something I was keeping private from my manager, and I had only had one manager the whole time I was there. So I offered up the manager from my first job who had recommended me the last time around, and two slightly senior coworkers from the first job, who I felt were better-qualified to talk about me as an employee than a professor was. It was no problem for the job hunt!

        Fortunately, I’ve seen managers in my department who have been glad to act as references when an employee in our department is looking for growth and new opportunities. Which is really good, since I’ve been here so long and learned and grown so much as a professional in that time that references from my last job can hardly speak to much more than my pleasant disposition. Not sure what I would do if I couldn’t offer up some folks here!

        1. GhostWriter*

          I always thought supervisors were the only acceptable references, so it’s good to hear from someone who got away with using (two!) coworkers. Trying to build up the courage to and get used to the idea of reaching out to a coworker now. :)

          1. Ama*

            I have had two different bosses fired for misconduct, so even if I could find them I wouldn’t really want to use them as a reference, and I have had very good success using coworkers in their place — I try to use coworkers who were slightly senior to me and/or who delegated a lot of work to me so they are as close to managers as possible (tbh some of them probably had a better sense of my work output than the actual boss did), but as long as you are upfront that they are coworkers, not supervisors, I find most places pretty understanding.

            1. GhostWriter*

              My coworkers were peers, so hopefully that’s okay.

              If I already have a supervisor to use as a reference from Company A, is it okay to use a coworker as a reference from Company A too? Or does each reference have to be from a separate organization? (I’m only in contact with coworkers from Company A so I don’t have other options!)

              1. Emily*

                I think as a general rule, you want your reference list to be whoever you can put on there that’s going to make the employer feel like they’ve gotten meaningful (and positive!) information about how you operate in the workplace.

                When I chose coworkers I tried to select those who regularly needed to receive deliverables from me, so that they could speak pretty well to things like my reliability and ability to hit deadlines, the quality of my finished work product, and whether I was pleasant to work with. (As opposed to people I work closely with but don’t pass deliverables to very often, and they are more likely to know what I talk about in meetings but not much about my actual work product.) That’s about 75% of what a manager would speak to, you’re just missing the extra insights a manager would be able to offer that a coworker is less likely to see, such as how good your first drafts are or how many drafts it takes you to get to a finished product, how well you handle negative feedback from a manager, how much initiative you take beyond what’s strictly assigned to you.

              2. Smarty Boots*

                Or a co-worker who has moved on to a higher title. So I’ve used people who were peers when we worked together, and now have a higher title at another employer.

    4. Earthwalker*

      I’ve been retired two years and still respond to reference calls for people I promised I’d be a reference. I’ll do it as long as hiring managers still call me because they think my contact is recent enough to be relevant. Why don’t you ask your reference if they’re still willing? It might be no problem at all.

  6. Indefinite Contract Attorney*

    Current job is starting to consider bringing me on full time, possibly before the end of the year.
    Had an interview for a potential position that would be amazing, but it might take a little while for decisions to be made (there’s a lot going on inside the company–hence why they need support.)
    If current job comes through before potential position makes a decision, it will definitely be weird if I say I need time to think about it. But honestly I WOULD prefer potential position. How badly would it burn bridges to take the current job offer, and then jump ship if the potential position makes me an offer as good (or possibly better)?

    1. The Tin Man*

      If you’ve already been there for a bit and you would be doing the same work but as FT instead of PT I say take the offer to make you full time. If the potential position makes an offer you can decide then if it is right for you.

      I don’t think you’d burn the bridge too bad if you have been there for a while as PT – if you leave a couple of months after they make you FT it wouldn’t leave them in a bind as much as if they did all the onboarding, training, etc for a brand new hire just for that person to jump ship.

    2. MikeN*

      You wouldn’t just be burning the bridge; you’d be blowing it up. You’d be blackballed at the company you leave; your reputation would be damaged with anyone at that company who knew about it (and those people could get jobs elsewhere, carrying that damage with them; as well, depending on how tightly-knit your profession/geographic area is, this could get back to your new company, and affect how you’re perceived there.

      It’s also a crummy thing to do to the people at the original hiring company, who invested time and energy in bringing you on board and training you. So you’d be buying yourself some bad karma.

      I think you have to either take and keep the job with the current company, or roll the dice with the other one.

      1. The Tin Man*

        Wow, I find it interesting you disagree so strongly with me. Maybe because I looked at it as though ICA had been at the current company for a while so this would just be an uptick in hours. If I were managing someone who I brought from part-time to full-time and they left after a couple months I’d be a little peeved but would not even remotely consider the bridge burnt. If ICA had just been there like a month or two and is still getting up to speed it’d be a bigger issue for me.

        Could be we’re just different people who react differently to the same thing though!

        1. pancakes*

          Fwiw, I’ve done contract attorney & staff attorney work for several years and agree entirely with the Tin Man here. It’s a transitory business and nearly everyone in it knows that. Bridges can be burned by leaving a project before it’s done or, of course, by doing sloppy work, but generally not by trying to get oneself the best job possible. The one time I thought maybe I’d burned a bridge, I was hired for a staff attorney job by a firm that had just taken on a new lateral partner—I worked on the case at one firm on a contract basis, the partner made his move and took the case with him, and the new firm hired some of us as staff attorneys directly. Not long after, I learned the agency I’d worked for on a contract basis was suing the new firm in an effort to collect fees on me/us. A couple years later the new firm laid us all off when the litigation we’d been hired for finished, and I wasn’t sure I should even consider approaching the agency again. I did, and it was fine—they got me more work right away.

          Another story that might be relevant to Indefinite’s dilemma: There was one firm I worked at on a contract basis for what turned out to be nearly 4 years. Towards the end of that period they started hiring some staff attorneys, first from another case no one in my group had worked on. We were, naturally, encouraged to hang in there and maybe be considered for staff attorney gigs too—the firm wasn’t sure how many more positions would be created, but there would be some. Some dwindled to two, then one, then none. It was dreadful. At one point the only remaining contract attorneys on my case were me & one guy, and we were told it was looking like there’d be one staff attorney position and one of us would get it. He & I were on friendly terms and pretty evenly matched in terms of qualifications, so that was awkward. Then the one potential position evaporated when a new partner neither of us had worked with made an offer to another contract attorney without checking with anyone on the hiring committee. It was hugely frustrating at the time but probably we both dodged a bullet.

        2. Random Internet Lawyer*

          Depending on the firm and kind of work, transitioning someone from a contract position to a permanent full-time position can represent a pretty big investment. I think firms generally are losing money on associates for the first few years, so when you bring someone on, there’s an expectation that they’ll stick around at least long enough for the firm to “break even,” so to speak. FWIW, I don’t think this matters as much in super big firms which project for some amount of new associate turnover (& can spend the $), but only Indefinite Contract Atty knows what their organization is like.

    3. Cruciatus*

      It’s unclear to me if both potential jobs are at the same employer or not. If they are separate employers you would totally be burning the bridge–I agree with Mike. If both are at the same employer it’s still pretty bad. You can ask to take a few days to think about it no matter what, but you have to pick one or the other. You don’t start the other and just jump back to the original position if it comes up.

    4. LadyByTheLake*

      I’m with Tin Man on this one. I saw Indefinite as working with Company A part time currently, perhaps switching to full time. To me, in that scenario it is fine to take a new job even after taking on more hours at Company A.

  7. Anna Bananarama*

    My coworker and I were talking a few weeks ago. She said that her daughter had itchy underarms and found that certain deodorants may cause this. It was helpful info because I was going through the same thing.

    Well, today she was talking to a young guy who works in another section and for whatever reason, she starts talking about deodorant. Then she brings up how both her daughter and myself have itchy underarms!!

    I thought I would die. I don’t know if she thought nothing of it, but it was embarrassing. I don’t know the guy that well, but I don’t want him knowing that! I sort of laughed it off and then went to another area, but I just didn’t expect coworker to talk about it. Who knows who else she told?

    I guess it’s a lesson learned to not tell her stuff. Has anyone had a coworker like this? How did you handle it?

      1. sit down*

        I realize you’re crabby because you’ve had several comments removed this week, but no need to take it on others.

      2. wow*

        you are extremely unpleasant! almost every time you comment is just downright rude and uncalled for!

    1. Drop Bear*

      Different people have different views on what is ‘taboo’ I think – I’ve had coworkers who will happily discuss periods/poop etc with anyone and others who are mortified if anyone knows they’ve been to the bathroom; most have sat somewhere between these two on a continuum of TMI. You’ve found out that your coworker’s position on the continuum is probably different from yours – so, as you said, don’t tell her stuff you don’t want repeated.
      I’m not usually a sharer at work anyway, but when it’s happened to me I’ve just shrugged, reminded myself that the recipient of the information has probably already forgotten it (it’s never particularly interesting information), and made a mental note that the ‘story teller’ isn’t a good confidante for the future.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Not very helpful, I’m afraid, but I tend to believe that people show us what they will do. If a person will start up a conversation about itchy underarms or other personal issue with me then they will probably start that conversation with others. I decided that it was ME who labeled the conversation as private or confidential but they did not. In other words I had to change what I was doing or thinking.

      I think if you wanted to go back in on this topic, you could say to her, “When you want to discuss itchy underarms with people, please do not include MY itchy underarms in the discussion.”

      A cool thing a friend of mine does is she refers to everyone as her friend, no names involved. She has to keep information confidential so the people she serves become “friends” and their stories get mixed in with her private life real friends so the listener is no clue who she is talking about.
      You could suggest that she do a similar thing. So this could look like, “Both my daughter and my friend [meaning you] have this problem with itchy underarms. I was discussing this with my friend the other day and [blah, blah, blah].” This strips away identifying information.

      1. Reba*

        I’d be even more clear or draw a bigger boundary: “Please don’t discuss my body or things I tell you about my body or personal stuff with others! I’m sure you didn’t think anything of it/meant it harmlessly but I would really appreciate if you just don’t bring me into discussions with others like this.” Because I could see someone thinking “Ah, LW has a weird thing about underarms” and then having no qualms about discussing your lingering shoe odor tips or issues with static cling on bras or IDK.

        You have learned that things you think of as “obviously this is in confidence or personal,” this other person doesn’t see it that way, and that’s good information for you in future interactions.

        I like NSNR’s friend’s (“friend” ha) technique, but I think for some people it would still feel kind of invasive, even if anonymized.

      2. Former Retail Manager*

        I really like your reframing of your own perception of things and the friend suggestion. Great idea to use “friend” in place of actual names.

    3. Audiophile*

      Oof, that’s tough.

      I know a few people who do this, and I’ve been guilty myself of doing this. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional on your coworker’s part, they just relayed the story of their child and because you had shared your similar experience, it got lumped in there.

    4. mrs_helm*

      A good rule of thumb is if they tell you other people’s private/borderline embarrassing stuff, they will repeat yours. But also, different people have different measurements of “embarrassing”. (See also: Cultural norms and burping.) So, it can be good to wait a while and get to know someone before sharing.
      In this case, it is possible she didn’t think there was anything embarrassing about it.

      1. Smarty Boots*

        Depends, although safest to assume so. I have colleagues where we get all TMI, but none of us are repeating any of it to anyone else. But we know we can trust each other.

    5. Addie Bundren*

      Yeah, I had a similar situation recently–I joked, in a social setting with coworkers, about an embarrassing thing I’d done long ago. Nothing immoral or unusual; we were all trading stories about things our younger, stupider selves did. Did NOT expect for one of those people, a week later, to make their own pointed joke about my action in the workplace. Too late to undo it, but yeah, I don’t consider that person someone I can have a normal social conversation with now. And honestly, I wouldn’t have changed my initial decision to tell the story in the first place! It was just bad luck that this person turns out to have rude judgment. This seems to be bad luck too.

    6. GhostWriter*

      I compulsively pick at my lips when stressed out. Once in a while at a previous job, one corner of my lips was red/irritated/raw looking from being picked. One coworker saw my lips and loudly asked me ask me how my “cold sore” was doing, and I explained that I pick at my lips when stressed out. She sympathized, and then every time the corner of my lips was irritated in the future she’d ask me loudly about my “cold sore” and I’d have to explain again. I was embarrassed to have someone speaking loudly about a cold sore I didn’t have, and to have to keep explaining that I pick my lips (I hate that I do it but have never been able to stop).

      I think it’s weird that a coworker would be telling other people about your itchy underarms–it’s not her info to share and sharing it is unnecessary. I’d find it embarrassing too.

      1. Paige*

        I do the same thing, but if someone ever comments, instead of explaining that I pick at my lips, I just say they’re chapped (that’s actually how I started picking at them). It’s a less involved explanation that’s totally normal.

        1. GhostWriter*

          That’s a good idea! There’s a lot of reasons someone might have chapped lips (being outdoors, being sick, running out of chapstick, having a bad reaction to a chapstick, etc.) so I’d feel less embarrassed about saying that.

      2. Bea*

        She’s a rude jackhole. Don’t engage with this crude woman, she doesn’t care and won’t learn.

        Even if it is a cold sore, do you share beverages or kiss your coworkers on the mouth?? It’s inappropriate on every level to draw attention to a sore.

        She reminds me of evil wretched humans who ask about my partner’s skin disorder. Just no.

        1. froodle*

          My brother gets quite bad eczema when he’s overheated, stressed out, or eats that fake “chocolate flavoured” stuff you get in cereals or on cheap cake bars. It shows up in the crook of his arm and as it spreads outwards it looks like little spotty burn scars. He had a very rude person loudly and publicly demand to know what on earth was up with his “gross” arms while he was in the office. He was quiet for a full fifteen seconds and then said they were track marks and sniffled. Inappropriate awful people deserve all the awkward thrown back at them.

    7. kittymommy*

      I pretty much live by the idea anything I tell one co-worker will be known by others within a few hours; on the other hand something like this wouldn’t even register with me as an issue. The co-worker probably din’t mean anything negative or insulting by it, they just have a different level of sharing than you, but you don’t feel it’s appropriate and that’s perfectly valid. I would just take it as a lesson learned and not talk with her about personal issues anymore.

    8. AnotherJill*

      I always take things like this as a signal not to share personal information that you might think is embarrassing to any degree. I wouldn’t go back and say anything, because the chances are high that all that would accomplish is future awkwardness. She would definitely be on the pleasantries-only list going forward.

    9. Paige*

      I figure that talking to coworkers is a bit like posting photos on the internet–once the info is out there, you’re never going to have control over who shares it again, whether it’s something innocuous or not.

  8. Moving from Nonprofit to Foundation?*

    I am in the midst of an interview process for a role that I’m excited about. But I’m not sure that I would take it if it were offered to me. Help me think this through?

    I’m a mid-career nonprofit program manager, considering making the move to working in philanthropy. The job that I’m interviewing for is The Job for my field, in my region (or rather, it’s one of several jobs on The Team at The Foundation) – so if I don’t want this job, maybe I don’t want to make the move at all?

    My current job has its ups and downs. I’m at a large, well-funded and well-respected nonprofit… but my division and team have been pretty dysfunctional. It’s bureaucratic and slow and, generally, not really high-performing. But: things are changing, right now. A fabulous VP started at the beginning of the year; we recently had a big reorg which moved me under a new manager that I’m really excited about working with and learning from. I have a lot of credibility and capital here; I get a lot of opportunities to lead things and try things that I may not get elsewhere… but I’ve also been on the brink of leaving several times, out of frustration with my manager and pay inequity and a host of other things.

    My job has other structural things going for it. The culture here is slow, which can be frustrating, but also means that my job is rarely stressful. I never work over 40 hours a week. I have a LOT of PTO and a lot of flexibility in how to use it (two of my colleagues take a full month off every summer, for example). I’ve been trying to get pregnant for 18 months and who knows whether that will ever happen, but my current organization would be a great place to have children – I could easily plan to take six months off after having a child (mostly unpaid, but that’s still a relatively rare opportunity); I have a super flexible schedule; etc.

    I’m also not totally sure that I want to leave the nonprofit side for the foundation side. I’m very interested in the new questions and challenges and opportunities that would create but… what if I don’t enjoy it? What if I miss managing programs? My field is small; there are only a few jobs in my region that I can imagine wanting, so it could be hard to shift back if I decided I didn’t want to stay on the foundation side.

    Any thoughts?

    1. BH90210 Fan*

      I’ve always wanted to work in a Foundation because it’s from ‘the other side’ and you can see how non-profits work from a different perspective. After 20 years of having done everything in non-profit, it would be a nice new challenge for me. I encourage you to stretch your wings and fly!

      You do manage ‘programs’ in foundations, depending on the type of foundation (community or private) but look at it this way – you’re helping individuals facilitate their dreams of philanthropy. You’re helping a business (big or small) realize their ability to invest in their community. Foundations are a fabulous continuation of non-profit service.

      Everyone wonders – will I like it. The question is – what will you do to like it?

      1. JR*

        Agreed that you learn a tremendous amount about nonprofits when you’re in a funding role. Of course, you won’t be immersed in a single (operating) nonprofit like you are now (though the foundation itself is of course a nonprofit), but there is a lot of value to the pattern recognition you get from getting a thorough and often intimate snapshot of so very many nonprofits. It’s really interesting to see how different organizations structure themselves and their work, and how that plays out.

    2. Llellayena*

      You list a lot of pros and cons about your current job but how does that compare with the possible new job? Can you ask questions during the interview process that will tell you how flexible the schedule is, how they handle longer absences for health/pregnancy/family/elder care, how busy the role is and how overtime is handled? I don’t think you can look at the new job as only “get out of the current job”, the new job will have it’s own ups and downs that need to be weighed. In addition, how often does an opening at The Foundation occur? If you pass on this opening to see how your current company improves, will another opportunity be available if you decide it’s not improving enough for you to want to stay? I know I’m asking a lot of questions, but it’s a decision that only you can make and the best I can say is you can never have too much information to help with that. Good luck.

      1. Waiting At The DMV*

        Keep in mind that Foundations, especially ones with living founders, tend to be highly political. Depending on your field, you may be making grants that are multi-year, and where results take years to see (if they are even attributable). So how does a grantmakers “success” get measured? It’s often all about perception… so, enter politics. Be clear about what you’re looking for and what kind of environment you thrive in.

      2. mrs_helm*

        I think a lot of this comes down to *personal priorities*. Especially when you are thinking about having children, out it’s important to know what your priorities are – lifestyle, career, family time, work/life balance. Don’t focus on “what is the best career move” until you decide what your priorities are, because that might/might not be your highest priority. Success = “I found the right balance for me”

      3. Moving from Nonprofit to Foundation?*

        The potential new job is terrific. I know the foundation well and am confident that it would be, in general, a great place to work. I’m just not sure if I should give up the good stuff that I have now.

    3. Ella*

      Coming from the nonprofit fundraising world, working at a foundation seems like The Dream to me. Finally being the one doling out money instead of the one begging for it! What a concept!

      Of course, that’s probably not super helpful to you right now :) I think this line is key for me: “I get a lot of opportunities to lead things and try things that I may not get elsewhere… but I’ve also been on the brink of leaving several times, out of frustration with my manager and pay inequity and a host of other things.”

      Does that mean in the past you’ve nearly left, but with the recent reorganization things are now much better? Or are you still dealing with a frustrating manager/pay inequity/etc. to this day? If the latter, that seems like a bit push to take the new job if it’s offered. Organizations can change their culture, and maybe in a year or two yours will be fully transformed, but it’s by no means a given. In fact, changing a dysfunctional culture and then sticking with it is probably one of the hardest things an organization can do.

      1. Moving from Nonprofit to Foundation?*

        In the past I’ve come close to leaving in frustration. Like, as recently as a couple of weeks ago. But I’m really excited about the changes that are happening, and I can feel a (potential) shift in my own working starting — away from being constantly focused on immediate tactics to having the opportunity to think through the bigger picture questions that need addressing. If that happens, I’d love to be a part of it. But I don’t trust it.

        1. Catwoman*

          It sounds like talking to your manager about what they think the next year or two is going to look like for you might help. Depending on how close you are, you can be candid about some of your past frustrations and see how the new manager reacts. You can also do this in the context of being excited about new opportunities after the re-org and the shifts you’ve already seen in your work if you don’t want them to know you’re interviewing elsewhere.

          For stuff like this, there is often not a “wrong” or “right” answer, which is so hard! It may also help you to think about where you might be in 5 years if you stay and if you go. Which one of those thought experiments is closer to your long-term goals and priorities?

          It may help you to also keep in mind that right now you don’t actually have a decision to make. You may not get an offer from the interview. You may get an offer and your current job may make a counter offer that really changes the playing field.

        2. Ella*

          I do think that’s a point in favor of branching out and exploring other opportunities. Your current job might reform itself and become amazing, but the new job might also be amazing. At that point you’d be leaving an unsure thing for an unsure thing, rather than a sure thing for an unsure thing.

        3. Smarty Boots*

          Is the pay inequity going to be addressed for sure at your current job? What’s the pay bump if you get the foundation job?

          Pay inequity, maybe even more than low pay (and especially when combined with low pay), is incredibly demoralizing. You don’t say what’s behind it, but the cause can make it feel even worse. If that’s not an issue at the foundation, it could make a real difference.

    4. Anon today*

      Take the chance to grow. You’re well aware of the headaches of your current organization, and it’s nearly driven you to leave. That’s a sign.

      If you think the environment will be comparable in terms of flexibility, and you think the position is exciting, as you’ve said, take the chance. It’s amazing what happens when you get out of an environment that’s messed with your head for too long.

    5. JR*

      I love working in philanthropy (though I’ve worked primarily in corporate philanthropy, so a little different). I like the focus on ideas, learning, and best practices, and I think the national philanthropic community has a terrific focus on innovation and impact (thoug of course that’s not true at every foundation). I do think you need to be okay with the fact that your beneficiaries are the nonprofit partners, not the individuals they serve. Of course, the individuals served are ultimately everyone’s top priority, but depending on the nature of the work, you can feel very far from them. So will you feel satisfied by the work of helping your nonprofit partners to grow and excel? Also, what’s the culture of this foundation around it’s grantees? There are, as I’m sure you know, weird power dynamics on philanthropy. Does this foundation see the nonprofits as partners that it is serving, or as contractors who should be grateful to receive their money? How does the foundation think about risk (e.g., I believe philanthropy is society’s risk capital and that part of the way foundations create impact is by taking thoughtful risks, and then analyzing and sharing the results with the field), and is that compatible with how you think about risk? What is the board like? The donors, if they (or their descendants) are living?

      Beyond that, I agree that you say a lot about your current job but not much about the foundation. I think you should give real thought to the core activities of the role, the culture and people you’d be working with, and the policies that most impact you (maternity leave, etc.) and go from there. But if you’re just worried about what you would do if it isn’t as good, you should go for it.

  9. Carnaxide*

    Really struggling to hang in at toxic job as I look for work elsewhere…

    There are you folks out there who did this and are SOOO much better off, right? Put the bad place behind you and are better for it now? Just want to be sure… it’s tough here and other I talk to, as much as we support each other, are as angry and frustrated as I am. I’m doing my best to make the best use of my time (at work, of the benefits, etc.) but I’m having a hard time keeping my cool when being treated so disrespectfully…

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Sapphire*

      I don’t know that I’ve put the toxic company behind me, but I have moved on into a new position where the work and culture are much better fits for me (it did come after a five-month stint of unemployment; I wish I’d started job searching sooner). I honestly still have some reactions to what I recognize as trauma from the old company, but it is possible to get to a better place.

      Hang in there!

    2. Amber Rose*

      Yes! It took a little over a year, but I DID escape and I am MUCH better off.

      On a personal level I still have some leftover trauma from it all, but while I was there I was constantly in and out of doctor’s offices and hospitals with how sick I was making myself, and now I’m only in doctor’s offices for check ups.

    3. Kowalski! Options!*

      I did, although I should add that it also involved a geographical cure (I left admin work and went into teaching English in Europe). The one thing that got me through my sucky jobs was knowing a) it wouldn’t last forever, and that something better would come along; and b) as someone else pointed out last week (I think it was), forty hours of suck helps subsidize 148 hours of doing whatever I wanted to do. Including finding greener pastures.

    4. Quill*

      I stuck it out at the lab from hell until they fired me. (I should have left six months or more before that.)

      Over a year later I’m holding down the fort on an entire subsection of my team with my supervisor gone for a more senior role. And I’m not afraid of my current boss!

    5. Schoodle HR*

      I’m a survivor of a toxic workplace. I ended up severely depressed on antidepressants that then increased suicidal thoughts to a very dark point. So when I say I survived a toxic workplace, I mean it. The constant harassment and setups and yelling…

      I kept getting to final interviews but never the job. I joked they could smell the crazy. Lo and behold, randomly did get a job after first interview, and out of all the jobs, this was the best fit for me.

      I AM SO HAPPY! I read stories like this at the time and they didn’t make me feel better because I was still stuck. But I went from complete despair to a job offer in hand I didn’t know about within 2 days. It really can happen any day!

      That said, don’t stay at a toxic place to the point it compromises your health. Looking back, I should have left, period.

      1. Windchime*

        I should have left way sooner than I did. I had similar emotional and mental problems; for a month, I had to have someone keep my medications at her house and she would dole them out to me because it was too dangerous for me to have them in my own home (for fear of self-harm). I took an FMLA leave, and when it was time to go back, I cried in the parking lot. I should have just refused to go back. I feel so fortunate to have found my current team; my boss is nurturing and supportive, yet she is firm and fair also. I went from the worst possible situation to one that’s nearly ideal.

        1. Ron McDon*

          I too stayed in a toxic job with a bullying boss way longer than I should have.

          It took me having a nervous breakdown and going on anti depressants to realise I needed to get out – now.

          I quit with no job lined up (and in the UK, so I had to work 4 weeks notice!) but the very day that I handed in my notice I stood a little taller, slept a little better, felt a little happier.

          I have carried the baggage from that toxic job with me to each subsequent job, it’s not something I’ve been able to leave in the past completely, but the pall it casts does fade over time.

          I put off leaving because I listened to people who said ‘the next job might be worse’, ‘better the devil you know’ etc. You know the reality of how bad it is, only you can make the decision about whether you should leave. Good luck.

    6. Minerva McGonagall*

      Been there, done that. I stayed at Old Job two years before I was able to get New Job. I’m still adjusting to the new work culture (people are nice to each other regardless of level? What???) and that did take a bit of time. Honestly, still not fully behind me, but I’m trying really hard to keep an open mind about the new people I meet and try not to be negative about Old Job here.

      When I was still at Old Job, I was constantly disrespected because of my gender and education level (I work in higher ed and have a master’s…still not good enough for most), and my extremely supportive Boss retired about three months before I eventually left. I was so depressed before he left and after…that three month period was probably the worst toxicity wise. My new boss was a nasty micromanager who felt that anyone below her was meant to serve her with a golden platter. My health suffered to the point that I had constant heartburn and indigestion, in addition to the depression and anxiety.

      I dealt with it by journaling and found that writing my feelings down helped me to let it go. I also made sure to fully use my lunch hour to get OUT of the office and away from the negativity. Whether that was going for a walk on campus or in town, or driving around, it helped break up the day and made it a bit easier. I tried to still meet up with the few people who escaped our office and those still around who felt the same way I did-to feel I wasn’t alone, to catch up, to see there was a possibility of escape… I also used my sick and vacation days (for mental health, for cheap nearby days out, for interviews…). I exercised to burn off the anger. I used as many of my benefits as I could to justify still being there.

      Finally, FINALLY, I landed new job after nearly a full year and a half of active searching. AAM really helped me in prepping for interviews and applying, as well as knowing there are others out there in the same boat! I hope you get out soon!

    7. Anonygrouse*

      Yes, I got out of a toxic job after 5 years and I am MUCH better off. As others said, there was some residual trauma I had to process/behaviors I had to unlearn, but things are miles better now. Also, it’s great that you have confidants at you current job (that certainly made my old job survivable), but I would make sure that those relationships aren’t making you *more* emotionally invested in your workplace. I would get so upset on behalf of my coworkers even when I was able to fly under the radar, and when I did leave I had to set good boundaries to keep from getting sucked back in (and not feel survivor’s guilt).

      Hang in there and take care of yourself! The right opportunity will come along and you’ll be out of there!

    8. Asenath*

      In retrospect, I held on at Awful Job much too long – largely because of sheer terror at the prospect of being unemployed, I think. As a result, I went through a rough transition at the end, when everything fell apart and I had to leave. But things got so much better! I eventually worked my way into a full-time job working at something completely different, which I actually like and think I am good at. Now, I never think about the misery of that old job unless in a conversation about bad jobs, and even then, the memories of the anxiety and misery are no longer painful. There was a time I thought that I would never get over that experience, but now I’m here to say it is possible to do so!

    9. LKW*

      Yes, it does get better after leaving. While you’re there, have you considered temporarily taking medication to help manage your stress levels? It’s not a go to solution to be sure, but it could help. Worthwhile looking into.

    10. Cheryl Blossom*

      Ugh, I hear you. Toxic jobs can absolutely mess up your way of thinking and your quality of life. I don’t have any advice, but I do have solidarity.

      At my old job, my bosses would tell me to do X, only to turn around and say “Why are you doing X??? You’re supposed to be doing Y!!!” Or complain that I didn’t know how to do things I’d never done before, or threaten to fire me over email one day only to forget they’d ever said it. And my coworkers routinely talked sh!t about me– which I learned when two (!) of them accidentally sent me messages over IM that were meant for other people.

      I couldn’t sleep at night without panic attacks, I routinely cried in the office, and my work started slipping because I was so afraid of messing things up and getting yelled at. I finally called up a temp agency that I’d worked with before during lunch one day, because I couldn’t take it anymore. I was fully intending to work out my 2 weeks’ notice, but the weekend went by and I cried everytime I thought about going back to work, so I did something I’m not super proud of: I emailed my bosses (BCCing a trusted coworker) and told them I would not be coming back to work and listed all the reasons (many besides the one above) that I was quitting. (My trusted coworker was also a supervisor for much of the time I was at that job, and if I need him to, he’d serve as a reference.)

      My temp agency landed me with a shiny new job, doing work that I’d never done before. I’m still afraid of messing things up and getting fired, but that’s slowly going away– my new coworkers keep telling me that I’m picking up new (industry specific) things extremely fast, and I’ve gotten praised for my organizational and communication skills.

      So, uh, don’t do what I did. But even if you do, it’ll be okay. There are better workplaces out there. Nowhere is perfect, but there’s a large gulf between “imperfect” and “toxic”.

    11. Oy with the poodles already*

      I am so much better off – you can do it! Toxic job dysfunction can be used at future regular-levels-of-dysfunction jobs! I can put up with almost anything that drives some co-workers nuts. Boss talks too loud? Well, at least she isn’t threatening your pay or calling you names. Co-worker annoying you? Well, at least you are allowed to talk to your coworkers (really!). Procedure is too long/not great? Well, at least it’s the same procedure every day and doesn’t change based on mood. Got into a somewhat heated discussion about changing something? Well, at least you were allowed to have it and didn’t get belittled, threatened, or called names and are working with passionate people who fight for what they want.

      Take all of the lessons with you and hope to get over the toxic job PTSD in a relatively short amount of time. I almost cried when my boss said she trusted me and I didn’t have to show her a report that we just discussed before sending it out. It took me about a year to get out of almost all of the issues I developed at old job.

    12. Anon nonprofit worker*

      I had a really horrible boss for almost two years, I kept most of it to myself because I was new at the company and he seemed so integral to the work that I felt the org would have chosen him over me if I spoke up about how he treated me (very controlling and condescending, demeaning, told me he regretted hiring me when he was angry once). And he eventually gave his notice, but it was a long notice period so I had to keep reporting to him during it.

      That time was definitely awkward, but since there was a light at the end of the tunnel I was able to get through it. Things have been so much better since he is no longer my boss, and it isn’t part of my life anymore. Now it’s more of a dinner party story.

      You’ll get through it!

    13. Bea*

      I’ve been there. I’ll be free a full year soon. I’m in that stage where I think “last year at this time I was so miserable…” and am in awe of my easy life. I am shaken in a good way every time my boss continues to confirm he’s a good boss and even better, he’s a good person!

      You will get out of that hellhole. Once you get an offer, you’ll detach and be free. It’s hard waiting but you’re not alone.

    14. Windchime*

      Yes, I am WAY better off. Moving was hard; I’d worked with some of these people for 16 years. But the management on my team was toxic and there was no intervention from upper management, so I made the painful decision to leave.

      I have a longer commute and make less money now, although I have a kick-ass retirement plan, awesome health insurance, more paid holidays and most importantly, manager who isn’t cruel or sociopathic. I’m much, much happier.

    15. Minocho*

      I had a toxic job – I was a new professional, desperate for work, and worked in this doomed job in this doomed position as a perma-temp. No benefits, no PTO, low pay, seven (yes, SEVEN!) different managers, one of whom was a terrible man that openly stated all these women in the office would be better off staying at home and raising children.

      It wore me down – and so slowly, I really didn’t notice how bad it was. And it was BAD. I was in a terrible place, had no self esteem left, and felt completely hopeless. In fact, you are much stronger than I was (GO you!!!!) because I was too beaten down to even consider trying to find something else.

      Then they informed me they were letting me go in two weeks. i was panicked and desperate, and immediately started looking for work. A week later they said they hadn’t realized how much I did, and would I be willing to stay another two weeks until they found my replacement? I agreed, just to keep the income coming until I found something.

      Well, I did find something after about 6 weeks. I gave them the rest of the work week as notice and left. it was shocking, as I slowly recovered, how much it had changed me. But I began to recover myself, and made a promise that the next time I realized the stress of a job was leading to changes in my personality, I would immediately begin job searching.

      I’ve gotten out of two bad positions, and was well into getting out of my third when I was let go, so I did learn a great lesson.

      Keep going – you’re already much better about doing what you need to do than I was! You will find something, it will be awesome, and you will remember how amazingly awesome you are again!!!

  10. Formerly Arlington*

    I just joined a very small agency (after several decades only working at large companies/brands) and one of my new direct reports is getting married next month. The owners of this company are non-married partners. They are wonderful, generous, frequently wine and dine the rest of us, are going all out for another co-worker whose wife is expecting…but because they don’t “believe in marriage,” they do not do anything for people who are engaged as a rule. I feel weird not having any sort of celebration for my employee, having always celebrated engagements and weddings at previous jobs! Plus, she is completely obsessed with her wedding and it feels almost thoughtless to not acknowledge it. Can you think of any way I could celebrate her wedding without pissing off my new bosses? I asked one of them about a small shower and she said, “We don’t do that here.” :-(

    1. Digital Janitor*

      You could probably have a team happy hour before the event. Don’t put pressure on it, or make it explicitly about the wedding, and you should be fine.

    2. Reba*

      Send her a card or gift from the office or you, personally, or a group of coworkers. You do not need to have an official company thing to supportively acknowledge her life event! You already are! It sounds like you are already a listening ear for a lot of wedding related chat? That’s pretty good IMO! It’s not like your company is ignoring her event or forbidding discussion of it.

      (FWIW I would NOT want my company to hold a shower or party for me for a personal life thing — I know that it’s very normal, but it’s not obligatory and it’s not the best way to show support for everyone.)

      1. Formerly Arlington*

        Thanks, that’s good to know! I think I’ll plan something with the two of us an another coworker who she is close with. :-)

    3. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Give her a gift card or a gift off of her registry, just make sure it’s from you and not your company. I’m sure she would really appreciate it!

    4. Lumen*

      This makes me want to work for your bosses, who would never dream of dragging me in to celebrating someone’s engagement/marriage when I really, really don’t care.

      However, you care! And that’s great. So give your coworker a card or take them to lunch or give them a small gift if you want. There’s no reason you can’t express your congratulations just because your bosses choose not to do so As A Workplace.

      1. Formerly Arlington*

        They drag us into baby showers, though. I guess it’s their company, they can choose which major life events are worthy of a company-wide celebration.

        1. neverjaunty*

          They can, but they’re kind of obnoxious about it. “The office doesn’t have official milestone celebrations” is one thing. But really, the bosses like babies but not weddings so everyone has to show up for the baby shower? What twerps.

    5. designbot*

      I promise you, a workplace can function just fine without wedding showers. Just wish her well, support her by covering what you can while she’s away, and that’s really the best gift you can give her.

    6. Ender Wiggin*

      I’ve never heard of anything other than a card for an employees wedding – that’s kind of strange to me to think of having a bridal shower at work. Lots of people give little gifts for babies but I would never think of giving someone a present or bringing them out for a drink for a wedding I wasn’t invited to.

      Since celebrating weddings isn’t a universal norm, and expecially since your bosses seem to be very definitely opposed to celebration of weddings in the workplace, I think you should just leave it.

      1. Elizabeth W.*

        People at Exjob would do that, but it wasn’t a company thing. It was usually done by someone’s workplace friends. They’d have it at work but spend their own money on it. (And share leftover sheet cake, yay.)

    7. Someone Else*

      I know this isn’t what you’re asking, but just wanted to give you another data point: I have never worked anywhere where “celebrating” this at work would be a thing, having nothing to do with whether the owners do or do not believe in marriage. I don’t know whether it’s my sample size that’s out of the norm, or yours, and acknowledge it could go either way (and imagine you’ll have a sense once the comments are through), but wanted to throw that out there. The employee may well be obsessed with her engagement and talking about it plenty, but I’d argue that doesn’t meant she expects something from coworkers. If she does expect it, that doesn’t necessarily make her in the right, especially if she’s worked there long enough to know that this hasn’t been done for anyone else either. If you want to acknowledge it yourself you could get her a card or something, but I don’t really see the need for you to try to circumvent your bosses on this, and I’m concerned it may go south if you try to.

    8. Nines*

      I recently had a somewhat similar situation (an assistant getting married and no sign of anything being done by the company). I kept going back and forth about rallying the troops to do something (they weren’t categorically against it, just not super aware of it), organizing something myself… I ended up just bringing in my own card with a gift card inside and giving it to her on her last day before the wedding and was very pleased with how it all went. I think it was probably the best of the options and she seemed to appreciate it a lot.

  11. Out of Work and Running Out of Options*

    I’m going a bit more anon for this. I’ve been out of work two months and while I have enough savings to get me through the next few months reality is hitting home and I’m starting to realize I may just need to take what I can get. Here’s my conundrum: I know the roles I want and that will pay what I need will be opening up in March or April (they consistently do, in addition to other sporadic hiring throughout the year). But I cannot wait until then to be working again. So, I’m thinking of taking another job in the meantime, one that pays more than unemployment would (because I cannot live off unemployment). But I would leave if I got one of the jobs that opens up in the spring. I’d have likely only been at this other, imagined, job for 4 – 5 months.

    In the past, I’d have said this isn’t a great thing to do. But my financial reality is I may need to do this. This wouldn’t be a high churn job like customer service or retail (as neither would pay more than my unemployment would pay in this area or offer full time work), it would be a job where most people stay 2+ years.

    How do you draw a line between what you feel is not in line with your professional ethics and what you need to do to ensure you have shelter and food?

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Can you instead take a job in a higher-churn field to tide you over? Temp work, retail, etc.? Or, are in you a field and position where you could take on independent contracting work?

      Obviously, push comes to shove, you need to feed yourself and pay the mortgage — so if you have to do it, you have to do it. But I’d work really, really hard to avoid taking a job with a plan to leave in four months. I know folks land in different spots on this, but I think it stinks.

      1. Out of Work and Running Out of Options*

        Unfortunately in my area those higher church jobs pay around $8 an hour. To meet my most basic expenses, I need closer to $21 and even that would mean selling my car and saving nothing.

        I want to avoid it at all costs. I’ve been the employer in the position of replacing someone so soon and it is frustrating.

    2. It's ethical to CYOA*

      I went a year, A YEAR working 2 part time jobs, one as a janitor and one in retail, working 50 hours a week for BS pay…yeah, unemployment would have paid more, but by the time I won my unemployment judgement (my previous employer…it could be a blog unto itself) I already was working too much in these 2 jobs to continue to qualify. Seriously ugh.

      Anyway, I have a masters degree and another professional certification, and yeah, I spent a year in jobs I hated doing menial work, nearly wiped out my 401k and ate not a whole lot more than humble pie. If you can take a job for a few months to put you in a better spot, do it. You’ll be infinitely happier. It may not seem like the most ethical thing, but I spent the better of the past year being exhausted, broke, and thoroughly depressed working like this and not being able to secure a ‘real’ job. I would avoid it again at all costs and I hope you do too. I’ve been at my ‘real’ job 3 months now, I’m happy, but I’m still struggling to climb out of the financial crater that was made during the past year.

      I really don’t mean to be a downer, but I’ve been there – I wish you nothing but luck!

      1. Out of Work and Running Out of Options*

        Thank you and I’m sorry you had to do that. I’m glad you found something better now and hope you recover financially soon.

        I spent most of my working life doing low pay work and only in the last five years or so made it out of the paycheck to paycheck working poor. It terrifies me to my core to return to that. I planned so well and this wasn’t supposed to happen.

        1. Birch*

          Just wanna say I feel you. But the important thing is to keep going. This won’t be a defining terrible thing in your life if you don’t let it. I had to move back in with my mother and temp because the funding ran out halfway through my PhD–I got paid $14 an hour temping and that was the most I’d ever made. My job was to go through a warehouse of boxes and doublecheck files from a master list. I wasn’t even allowed to use a computer. It was my personal hell but I made it through to the other side. You will too! Sh*t happens. You just might have to do things you didn’t want to do in the meantime, and that doesn’t mean you’re “returning” to anything. Just keep in mind that it’s a temporary situation!

          And re: needing more $ than high-churn situations, I agree with A Tester below–temping and contracting pays more than you think. At least consider it as a plan C in case you aren’t able to get a higher paying job for the gap anyway (also been there, done that. My life story should be called Overeducated, Underpaid: Why Won’t Anyone Hire Me?).

          1. Out of Work and Running Out of Options*

            Thank you. I know that logically but it helps to hear it.

            Sadly I live in a fairly small city and so temping and contracting aren’t much of an option. I’m registered with the agencies but the only non-labor jobs they have are around $8-9 an hour. I wish I could move to a bigger city, my options would be much better.

            1. Gumby*

              If it is just for temp work and not for the rest of your life, is there a larger city that is commutable distance away? No one loves driving for 1.5 hours each way, but as a stop-gap – would that be bearable for 6 months?

              Alternatively, is it possible to make enough doing gig work to make up the pay difference? I don’t get the sense that many people make a full-time living from Fiverr, TaskRabbit, Upwork, Freelancer, and their ilk but it might fill in the extra from low paying temp jobs.

              1. Natalie*

                Depending on the exact thresholds your state uses you might also be able to combo temp work and unemployment. Usually if you work your unemployment payment is only reduced by a percentage of what you made, so your aggregate income for that week will be higher than the unemployment payment alone. In my state your UI is a total award amount, so if work part time while collecting UI it stretches out the amount of time you can receive payments.

                1. Xarcady*

                  Do see if this is an option. The last time I was on unemployment, I took a part-time retail job. I could earn 30% of my unemployment award before they started reducing the unemployment payment. That basically meant I had just enough to live on without going into savings. There were a couple of weeks where I was able to pick up enough extra shifts that I didn’t get unemployment money at all–but I had much more money than I would have had.

                  At the very least, it stretches out the amount of time you can collect unemployment.

              2. Out of Work and Running Out of Options*

                Sadly the nearest bigger city is 3 hours away. I plan to move one day but it isn’t the right time for that now.

          2. Overeducated*

            Haha, my screename on here was Overeducated and Underemployed for a while. But then I got a better job. It’s a more common experience than a lot of people might think but it does end.

      2. Former Retail Manager*

        Totally agree with CYOA. Regardless of the industry you’re in, I cannot see any decent future employer holding it against you for taking a job to pay the bills. Although I don’t hire in my current position, I have various friends who do hire at their respective companies and we’ve discussed this exact issue among several of us. The consensus has been that is alone has not been a deal breaker for a great candidate. If someone is the right fit, a short stint in a “pay the bills” position is not going to be too big of a negative, assuming that all of your other positions have been for relatively long periods.

        And as everyone else said, best of luck. Good thoughts headed your way!

    3. Enginerd*

      What about temp work or contracting? I’m not sure your line of work but it sounds like you’re talking professional level here and many fields have companies that want short term professional staff, especially towards the end of the fiscal year when they’re trying to wrap up projects and finish spending by year end.

      1. Out of Work and Running Out of Options*

        Thanks, sadly my city is too small to have much of an industry here. Our temp roles are all entry level. I’ve seen what you mean when looking at other cities, though!

    4. A tester, not a developer*

      I’m a big fan of temping/contract work for those sorts of situations. There’s some pretty high end temp opportunities, especially in project work. They’re often paying a premium specifically because they want to be able to use you for a single project then ‘discard’ you with any bad feelings.
      Even if the position has very little to do with the role you’ll be looking for in the spring, it’s pretty easy to spin it as a positive: “I know that hires in March, and I wanted to make sure I was available, so I did contract work as a project manager in the meantime”.

      1. Out of Work and Running Out of Options*

        I would actually love project work! Unfortunately in my area to get contract project work you need 7-10 years experience as a titled project manager and I have very little sadly. We actually have a weirdly large number of project managers in this area so those jobs go quickly to very qualified candidates. The left over contract roles are low paying and entry level.

    5. Drop Bear*

      Ethics are a luxury to some extent – It isn’t ideal but in the end you need what is required to make sure you have enough food to eat and safe housing. If it means that you take a job for 4 -5 months when the expectation is you’ll stay longer, because nothing else suitable is available, then so be it. If it is beyond what you can bring yourself to do ethically (leave in Spring I mean) you can always wait and apply for the ‘better’ jobs the following spring after all (assuming that is financially viable etc).

      1. ChachkisGalore*

        I’d also try to remind yourself that if you took this two year job, but something changed within the company they probably wouldn’t hesitate to lay you off after 4-5 months.

        Plus, I really like Drop Bear’s idea about potentially staying for a year and 4-5 months if it is just too much for your conscience to handle. Personally though, I think its ok to be a bit flexible when it comes down to self-preservation.

        1. boo bot*

          I agree with this, and when you’re considering the ethical implications, I think it’s worth thinking about the impact to both parties. If you take the 2-year job and leave after 4-5 months, you will to some extent inconvenience the company and the people who have to deal with replacing you.

          If you take the $8/hour job(s), it sounds like you will seriously derail your own life and financial stability. The potential impact to you is way more serious, and I think it’s fair to prioritize self-preservation here.

    6. look out for yourself*

      I would look out for myself. You also have to consider the fact that although the roles you want may open up later in the year, it is not a guarantee. Apply to this other, imagined, job, even if others stay 2+ years and you aren’t planning on staying that long. They will figure out how to proceed if you end up moving on in 4-5 months and you can always leave the job off your resume if it makes sense.

      1. Out of Work and Running Out of Options*

        I think the hard thing for me is that while nothing is a guarantee my industry has a massive shortage of qualified workers and the likelihood that I wouldn’t get an offer in that time frame is really small. But I do get what you’re saying. Anything could happen.

    7. Boredatwork*

      I think waiting to take a job is being penny smart but pound foolish. What if you don’t receive offers in that March/April time frame? It could take you an extra cycle to get into a position you actually want instead of the first one offered due to desperation.

      Take the 2 yr job, if you leave in 4 months that’s unfortunate for the employer but you need to worry about you.

    8. Persephone Mulberry*

      Temp/contract work? It may not be directly in your field but in my area, skilled administrative work pays $16-20/hr, which at least closes the gap moreso than retail. Right now I’m doing data entry for $16/hr and supplementing with an on-demand grocery shopping/delivery gig.

    9. Lupin Lady*

      Ethically speaking you solve the issue by having open communication with employers, but this means taking what you can get job-wise – it won’t all be professional work.
      I’ve been in a similar situation and took seasonal work in landscaping/snow clearing (you may live too far south for that to be an option) which paid well on an hourly basis while I looked for professional work elsewhere. It worked for me, with great relationships and a story that most professionals think is entertaining when I divulge.

    10. Yet another Kat*

      I know that this has been mentioned a lot, but re: temp/contract work – have you looked into remote options? I am seeing a decent amount of high level admin and mid-level project management work being advertised as remote temp. Would anything like that be an option for you?

    11. Ender Wiggin*

      Assuming your ethical conundrum is about leaving in 5 months, not about the actual work you would have to do – go for it. You’re not seriously considering impoverishing yourself because you don’t want to leave a job after 5 months? That’s just nuts.

    12. Bea*

      You’re leaning way too hard on loyalty and ethics to a hypothetical company.

      You need to find a job that pays your bills. Then they can earn your loyalty and you can fuss around with the “awww imma leave you for a much better job, how unfortunate.”

      Most will assume you’ll leave them if you’re taking a job outside your history. So you’ll already be up against that issue. If someone hires you, they’re aware you’re not in it forever.

      It’s frustrating as an employer but so is a lot of things.

      Do not suffer for the sake of a multi million dollar company. It doesn’t speak poorly about you or your ethics.

    13. LurkieLoo*

      Can you get creative with your finances to reduce your overhead? Maybe you could find a roommate. If your car is not paid off, and you are paying a mortgage, I think you can call and get both to let you skip a payment (or maybe 2 in the next 6 months) and add it to the end of the loan. If your car is paid off, you could reduce your car insurance to the state minimum. Health care open renewal is coming up . . . can you find a cheaper plan? If you’re renting, are you able to move to something more affordable? Get a lower paying job and have less taxes taken out. You’ll have to pay it when taxes come due, of course, but you’ll (hopefully) have the good job by then. You can always make payment plans and/or file for an extension.

      I assume you’ve cut all unnecessary expenditures such as cable, subscriptions (Spotify, Netflix, etc.), eating in instead of out, and all the “easy” things to do.

      You could also get creative with meal prepping or at least buying things in bulk when they are on sale and freezing for later. Or even adding beans, rice, potatoes to meat (if you’re not vegetarian, of course) to decrease the amount of meat you feel you need to eat at each meal.

      As for the ethics of it . . . you have to do what you have to do and while it does suck as an employer to lose a person you’ve just finished training, that just happens sometimes. You never know, maybe you’ll like the new place well enough to stay longer term.

      I think my short term “gig work” of choice would probably be waiting tables or bartending. I’ve been a server before and it is not much fun, but if you can find a decent place, at least it pays (with tips) better than retail.

      1. TechWorker*

        I’m with the others who think you’re giving way too much to your hypothetical employer here. Yes if you leave after 5 months and they usually have people who stay 2 years that might be a bit annoying, but they’re not giving you the job out of the goodness of their hearts, and if their business went bust in the next 5 months they wouldn’t hesitate to put you out of a job. I don’t see this as ‘unethical’. Sub-optimal for the employer, yes, but so are many other things.

  12. What’s with Today, today?*

    Both our bathrooms are out of order. The plumber is coming but in the meantime it’s not fun. And we can’t leave and go home, because the radio station has to run. We keep going across the street to the police station. Took them some donuts as a thank you for letting us use their restrooms. It’s Friday, right?!

    1. Greg NY*

      You should have found another studio to host the show from. Isn’t it illegal for an employer to operate without working bathrooms?

      1. What's with Today, today?*

        It’s not possible to find another studio. We are a small market station in a rural area. This is an impossibility.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        That’s very rarely how these things work. Radio and TV stations are expected to operate in the most extraordinary circumstances, sometimes with employees either up and working around the clock or sleeping on the floor when they can. Not to mention that studios aren’t like normal offices; they require a ton of set-up. Running across the street to use a toilet sucks, but broadcasting is a, “you gotta do what you gotta do” business.

      3. Woulda Coulda Shoulda*

        You should really learn not to couch things in terms of “should”. It comes across pretty poorly ;)

      4. Seeking Second Childhood*

        At the risk of making myself sound totally elderly… one of my summer jobs as a kid was working in a Fotomat booth. That chain was a photo-processing service run out of dinky little one-room buildings stuck in the middle of parking lots. For each booth, the company had an agreement with some other nearby business to use its bathroom. It was hellish on a rainy day. And as the most junior cashier on the roster, I got assigned to an undesirable booth. They had good sales, they had shade — but the bathroom agreement was with a service station that, er, did not have high standards for cleanliness. I still shudder.

      5. Mediamaven*

        They aren’t purposefully withholding the bathrooms for goodness sakes. They called a plumber. They just haven’t gotten there yet.

    2. Rey*

      I think this is actually an OSHA issue, and if the plumber hasn’t already fixed it (legit fixed, not ordering parts and be back in two hours), your employer might need to start sending people home or come up with another plan. There may be individuals who aren’t comfortable speaking up to say that this arrangement isn’t working for them (to name a few: they aren’t comfortable with going across the street, they feel pressure to not go as often as they would prefer, they aren’t comfortable going into a police station, medications or health conditions that are negatively affected).

      1. What's with Today, today?*

        So, we are a small market radio station with less than 10 full time employees. The radio station has to run whether the toilets are working or not. We can’t just not do sponsored, paid programming because the toilet is out of order. The problem was discovered this morning, the plumber has been called. Plumbing issues happen, and we can’t shut the doors because of it. I’m just venting.

      2. Free Meerkats*

        This is covered in 29 CFR 1910.141(c). It only requires that toilet facilities be provided. It’s quite likely that the police station across the street would meet this requirement. Given it’s an unseen emergency situation, I don’t know any inspector (except maybe Hugo Habercore) who would ding them on this. However, if it looks like it will be a day or more, I’d order a portable toilet and put it out of sight behind the building – mainly for the shy people who don’t want anyone to know they use the toilet.

        1. MatKnifeNinja*

          I emailed my television tech friend, and he said OP, you’ve got it good. His station would have giving him a bucket to use with a plank as a seat.

          Hang in there. Radio/TV is a totally different beast from a regular office.

    3. LKW*

      Everyone can quote regulations until the sun goes down it won’t make a difference. They’ve found a solution and that’s better than an emergency port-o-john.

      Keep up with the baked goods. Consider a few pizzas for the overnight shift.

      1. What's with Today, today?*

        Luckily, we have a great relationship with our Police Department. We have always been good neighbors! I think they have enjoyed us coming in and visiting today, and I got a few good news leads. :) And the plumber is here!

    4. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Oh no! That happened to us once, there was construction outside of our building and we had no running water for about half a day! Thankfully it was fixed fairly quickly and the office building across the street let us use their restrooms.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      The gods of annoyance are out to get us as well — our phone system is on a network, and *every single call* sounds like it’s being funneled through a science-fiction special effect. International presentations with dozens of attendees had people dropping off to listen to the recording later because we just couldn’t hear anything.
      But yes — it’s FRIDAY!

  13. seeking a lawyer for the end of the world*

    Hi all. I’m seriously considering taking the step of consulting an employment lawyer. What sort of things should I look for or look out for when trying to find a lawyer? Are there red flags there too I should keep an eye out for? I’ve poked around and it looks like some do free consultations and some charge, is either one of those something that indicates things to me? I’ve never done anything involving a lawyer before so I don’t know what to look for, and while I know a couple lawyers, they’re not in this field. Any help would be greatly appreciated, especially since I’m looking down the barrel of legal fees and getting scared.

    1. Holly*

      I would ask the lawyers you know, especially if you trust them, and they practice representing clients. Anything regarding whats normal in terms of consultations etc. should be somewhat universal. I’m a government attorney who is aware that many of my adversaries are terrible. I would make sure you talk in person with anyone you want a consultation from, and see how you feel – do you trust this attorney to care about your case? Remember who you are? Does the attorney answer your questions meaningfully? And don’t be afraid to follow up with your attorney – bother them even. It’s important that they seem on top of deadlines and will take proper care with your case.

      1. DCGirl*

        I got the recommendation for my attorney from a government attorney who defends the government in employment issues. I asked for his most fearsome adversary.

        1. Holly*

          That’s not a bad idea at all. I definitely have a few people I’d recommend that others steer clear from.

    2. Indefinite Contract Attorney*

      (I am not your lawyer, this isn’t legal advice. Just as a CYA :) )
      Ask your lawyer friends for referrals to people who ARE in that field. We know a lot of people.
      Talk with multiple lawyers. Make sure you feel wholly and entirely comfortable with telling them every dirty blanket truth and exposing every skeleton in your closet–if you don’t feel that comfortable, it’s not the right lawyer.
      Be honest with the attorney. Don’t sugarcoat or lie. Ask if the initial conversation is confidential and tailor your conversation based on that.
      Specific to the US: Many attorneys work on contingency, especially with employment issues. That means, should you win a judgement, they get a certain percentage of your judgement as their fees and you don’t have to pay additional costs.
      Hope this helps, good luck!

      1. seeking a lawyer for the end of the world*

        Thank you, I’ll get in touch with them! I only know one lawyer who works in this state (the joys of being spread out) but I’ll ask her. And thanks for the note about the initial consult not being confidential, I didn’t even think of that.

        1. Natalie*

          No harm in asking lawyers who live in other states. It’s a long shot that they would know someone in your state, but it won’t do you any harm to ask!

      2. Logan*

        Agreed – I know of a semi-retired lawyer who is great, but at this stage in his career he only does the easy stuff (real-estate, wills, etc). Yet he is also the perfect guy to ask if you needed someone else, as you could tell him your problem and budget, and he’d give you the best person that you could afford.

      3. LKW*

        Do you know any paralegals or folks in law enforcement? While the law enforcement folks mostly know criminal lawyers, they might be able to hook you up with a good paralegal or criminal lawyer who knows other lawyers.

        I wouldn’t worry too much about those that charge standard fees versus % of compensation as a mark of a good lawyer. For those who can’t afford initial legal fees the % of compensation model is a way to get representation. And those lawyers typically don’t take cases they can’t win. So if you start there, you may get a sense of whether or not you have a strong case. But you don’t have to stay with them if you get a bad vibe talking to them.

      4. AnonThisTime*

        Ditto. This is what I did when I had to consult an employment lawyer.

        A lawyer friend from a totally different field referred me to a couple of people he know who were employment law. Followed up with those folks and narrowed down (for instance, one guy focused more on the employer side), had an initial conversation with one. He asked the pertinent questions to get the lay of the land and he told me options in terms of course of action, risks and reward for each. He explained that it would be on contingency if I went forward and how that would work (which is as Indefinite Contract Attorney described).

    3. Not a Badmin anymore*

      There’s a site called avvo which as I understand is a sort of yelp for lawyers, this may be helpful or getting a good recommendation from someone else would probably be best.

    4. CTT*

      Third-ing to ask the lawyers you know! They might work in a firm that has employment lawyers, their best friend from law school might work in that area, they might have a sister who does (*raises hand*). They can also tell you what to expect from a consultation and what to look out for.

    5. Calmeye*

      Try to find one who does more than simply telling you what the laws and facts are. In the past I’ve worked with lawyers who just told me the relevant law without any real explanation or interpretation of it, which I found confusing and frustrating. The current employment lawyer I deal with for work (I’m in HR) will explain to me how a law on X has been applied in court, and his best guess of our chances of winning based on previous experience/similar cases.

      Another thing I find helpful about a lawyer is their expertise in negotiation. When I was trying to settle a difficult case our lawyer gave me pointers on how to phrase certain arguments to diplomatically steer the other person towards agreeing with us. It wasn’t help with law specifically, but definitely useful.

    6. neverjaunty*

      In the US, a contingency fee (percentage of eventual recovery) is the norm for employee-side law because most working folks can’t afford hourly fees.

      Your state likely has a website where you can look up every lawyer licensed to practice there. It should be easy for you to make sure your lawyer is in good standing and doesn’t have a record of discipline.

    7. Gaia*

      Whatever you do, make sure you are comfortable with your lawyer. I’m not a person who does well with open conflict and I previously hadn’t had good experience with a lawyer who I felt wasn’t working in my best interest so I was nervous. But when I had to deal with an employment lawyer I knew I had found the right one when he was blunt about my case (that it wasn’t an easy win, but it was worth fighting because the company was in the wrong), offered to give me advise if I wanted to try to negotiate instead of suing, and let me just vent my frustrations sometimes (even if they weren’t terribly on point to this particular case). He was calm when I felt like I was swimming in chaos and he was credibly angry about how the company was behaving.

      And, when it was clear that I couldn’t drag this out any longer and needed a resolution he got me a solid settlement and was honest that I might get more if we went through with a judgement but it could be another 6 – 12 months and only I could decide if it was worth it or not. No pressure.

    8. SechsKatzen*

      Another vote for “ask the lawyers you know.” In terms of fees, it really will vary by practice area, specific sub-field of a practice area, and location. As far as free initial consultations go, I’d look into what that actually means. Some lawyers (like myself, though not in employment law) will do free telephone consultations and then charge for in-office. Others are free even for in-office consults. It really depends. In general with attorneys of similar experience level I wouldn’t say the free vs. charged initial consults have much of an impact on hourly rates–in my area at least it’s actually the ones who have substantially higher rates who are more likely to do free initial consultations.

      In my experience (though again, I don’t practice employment law), the employee-side is more likely to be contingency-based although it will ultimately depend on what your needs are. The biggest “red flag” giveaway to me is always if an attorney guarantees or promises a result. You just can’t do that–or, perhaps you can, but very rarely. There are just too many possibilities and variables especially at the beginning of a case for anything to be guaranteed. Also, to the extent you have the option of doing this, do pay attention to personality “fit.” Some lawyers are more litigious than others–a particular practice style or approach isn’t necessarily “wrong,” but it’s important that you feel your needs are being met and your goals are being accomplished. Above all, make sure that you believe the attorney you’re speaking to will listen to you, take your concerns seriously, and even be realistic with you if he/she thinks you’re trying for an unreasonable outcome. And, if you’re not sure, you can get a second opinion. Best of luck!

      CYA: This does not create an attorney-client relationship.

  14. Bee's Knees*

    This week in a Small Town Newsroom, and thoughts on Boss’s Day

    I had vacation this week (commence with the happy dance) so I missed most of the goings on, but there’s enough that goes on that even just being here last Saturday night and this morning, it’s a wild ride.

    Wakeen thinks that Princess Di was murdered. Or, assassinated, I guess? We were talking last Friday about the royal wedding, and he just comes slightly out of left field with that observation. Thankfully, Fergus was not here, so I didn’t get to hear his thoughts on the subject.

    I came in to work with damp hair today, which is relevant. I have fairly thick hair, and even though I washed it last night, it was still damp this morning. In the past, I happened to mention one day that my hair was still wet, and Fergus asked if he could touch it. I told him no, and that that was weird.

    I’m now going to work on my photoshop skills and see if I can fix this woman’s super skinny eyebrows. Tips appreciated.

    Boss’s Day was Tuesday. I wasn’t at work, and even if I was, I would not have celebrated with my current boss in any way. However, I love Boss’s Day. My first job was at my family’s hardware store, working for my dad. Tuesday was also his birthday, so I get to celebrate him double for his birthday, and as the best/first boss I had.

    1. Quill*

      I have hair that retains water like hell. And it’s curly.

      As a child I Anne-of-green-gables’d people for messing with it.

    2. Cheryl Blossom*

      [S]o I get to celebrate him double for his birthday, and as the best/first boss I had.

      As Boss’s Day was always meant to be celebrated.

    3. Kittymommy*

      Fergus is sooo weird. I’m both fascinated and appalled by him. Wakeem continues to be one of those people that I would routinly look at in disbelief, like did you really say that our Lord?? Did you mean to say that out loud??

      Small town news room is a weekly test!

    4. What's with Today, today?*

      Wakeen isn’t alone. Princess Di being assassinated has always been a pretty big conspiracy theory. Some people think the Royal Family had it done, others think it was Dodi Fayed’s people. I’m not a believer in conspiracy theories, so I don’t buy any of it.

      1. Ender Wiggin*

        It’s a massive conspiracy theory on this side of the Atlantic. I’ve pointed out to people that she voluntarily got into a car with a drunk driver and chose not to wear a seat belt. I really don’t see how any conspiracy theory holds up. The doctor who did the autopsy said that she would probably still be alive today if she had chosen to wear a seat belt. I don’t see how any conspiracy could have prevented her from putting on a seat belt. It’s a silly theory.

      2. Jemima Bond*

        I’ll try to post a link in a comment but this may be the clip Wakeen needs to see. It’s a sketch by British comedians Mitchell and Webb, and as well as being funny it rather cleverly points out why the conspiracy theories are nonsense. If the link is no go, go to YouTube and search “Mitchell and Webb Diana” and it should come top. Opens in a blueish-lit room with the caption “somewhere in Whitehall 1997”.
        Caution: if Wakeen doesn’t get sarcasm this may not work.

    5. Lizabeth*

      Skinny eyebrows:
      1. Fix the photo up to the point of the eyebrows and save it. Then do the work on the eyebrows on a copy.
      2. Do the eyebrow fixing on a separate layer. Zoom out and toggle Layer on and off to see how natural it looks.
      3. Start with the smallest brush size possible, plus vary the brush size for a more natural look.
      4. Vary the color and opacity of the fill in.

    6. fogharty*

      You can find Photoshop brushes online that mimic hair.
      Download a set of those then pick a color from existing eyebrows.
      Use a new layer set to Darken or Multiply and lightly brush in additional eyebrows. You can change the transparency of the eyebrow layer to make the blending more natural.
      Have fun!

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My biggest suggestion about the PhotoShop… did you check with the woman about fixing her eyebrows?
      Someone “helpfully” edited my father’s yearbook photo to cover up a chipped front tooth and he was annoyed about it for decades.

      1. Bee's Knees*

        It was an obit photo, which I don’t touch unless it’s to color balance/ crop out other people/ change things that don’t change how the person’s face actually was. I just wanted to see if I could do it for my own know-how. Same as how I photoshopped Farquad’s face onto Princess Fiona.

  15. SisterSpider*

    I’m looking for some insight from anyone who has experience with hiring in the federal government. I’ve been with my agency for 10 years and recently applied for a new position (lateral pay move, title bump to manager, but not a direct line supervisor). I interviewed 6 weeks ago and heard through gossip that they hired externally for the position. I received nothing from USAjobs saying I wasn’t selected, and I see the directors I would have been working for (and one I interviewed with) several times a week. Quite frankly, I’m feeling a little disrespected that no one spoke to me directly about not getting selected for the position, which I am more than qualified for. Is this normal? Should I assume there’s a glitch in the USAjobs notification process and just let it go?

    1. SisterSpider*

      I should add that this new hire has not been announced in any official capacity yet, and they usually wait until right before a person starts to announce these things, so it could still be months before anything is said.

    2. SWOinRecovery*

      There are some instances where federal employer’s are required to give you that information, but I don’t think they’d be required to notify you in a particularly quick instance. Categories that require notice include if you have a federal hiring preference (ie. veterans preference) or if your workplace is unionized and it’s in the collective bargaining agreement. You can also look to your handbook, they may have standardized notification processes for everyone. If you fit under one of these, the handbook, CBA, or OPM’s guidance for preference hiring would likely point to positions to contact about where you stand/why you weren’t notified. Otherwise, you could tactfully mention something to a trusted manager to get their impression.

      I’ve heard of job candidates FIOA-ing information on non-selection for a job. I don’t know anything about the process and whether it’s restricted, but it would be one way to express your displeasure :)

      1. SisterSpider*

        Thanks – I’m not even so much interested in the reasons they didn’t hire me, I just think it’s really inconsiderate to keep employees twisting in the wind waiting for a notification.

        1. No thank you*

          State agency here. We’ve taken 6 months to finalize a hire and notifications had to wait for the entire process to play out, including lots of time for HR to obstruct everything.

          1. SisterSpider*

            Thanks – I’m so sick of working for the feds I could vomit. I should have never left industry.

        2. SWOinRecovery*

          I agree! The petty version of me wants you to FOIA them as retribution (it’s likely to be a small pain for them), but that’s definitely not the tactful more…

    3. Atlantic Toast Conference*

      Is it possible the hiring process hasn’t been totally finalized? I was recently offered a federal job and due to various vagaries, there were about 8 weeks between when the offer was extended and when I officially accepted (insert eye rolls about government HR here). I’m sure the other candidates were wondering why they didn’t hear anything for so long! I’m pretty sure hiring managers are proscribed from informally circumventing USAJobs; and in my experience, you always do get notified by eventually.

      1. nonymous*

        It took three months for my coworker to get an official offer letter via HR. In addition to the normal slow process, there was a song-and-dance because HR wanted someone to set a formal start date before they issued an offer letter, and Coworker told them three weeks notice to previous employer (but wouldn’t give notice until he had an offer in hand). When I came on board my supervisor was congratulated on pushing it through so fast (about 9 months). Another coworker had his start date delayed because we were on furlough for two weeks – can you imagine being told to check the news to see if to report to first day of work?

      1. SisterSpider*

        Chrome autopopulated my email address when I posted this, and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it without deleting and reposting. I’m not worried about this getting back to management and federal employment is more or less a zero consequence zone anyway (except for very limited circumstances).

    4. Hooray College Football*

      My experience (hiring support staff for the Feds) via USA Jobs: The people in HR who do the original vetting of applications to determine the competitive range don’t always do a good job. Plus, if Veteran’s Preferences are in play, you may have been eliminated because you don’t have one. The hiring person gets a list of applicants that has already been vetted by some human resources office (mine was in Philadelphia for a job in DC, they didn’t understand my requirements well, but they also don’t call to ask questions). For my patent paralegal job, someone in law enforcement (a gate guard) made the cut because the word “legal” was in their resume. You can’t hire someone who is not on that list. If none of those candidates are acceptable, you have to start over, and write up why they aren’t acceptable.

      1. SisterSpider*

        I am definitely familiar with this. I had to call HR and tell them to put me on the interview list for the position to begin with, because they definitely didn’t understand the job nor my qualifications on my resume.

    5. Chaordic One*

      I was “selected” for a federal job and then completely ghosted. I knew the job’s starting date but never received any follow up until almost 6 months later when I received an email telling me that I was NOT selected as a finalist after all, but encouraging to reapply for other positions with the agency in the future. I too, feel disrespected that it took 6 months to tell me that I was not really selected.

      When I log into USAjobs it still shows that I applied for that job and it still lists me as being “selected” almost a year later. (I could hide the job if I wanted to so that it would no longer display.) I don’t think there’s anything wrong with USAjobs, however the people in the HR offices of the agencies that we applied to really are NOT doing a good job and they are making their respective agencies and our country look bad. It’s this kind of behavior that contributes to government agencies having a difficult time filling some of their vacancies.

    6. Former Retail Manager*

      This is very interesting. I am a federal employee who was recently promoted, but this entire round of promotions was odd and not in keeping with what has happened in the past.

      I applied, never got an update that I BQ’ed, thought all the interviews were done and I wasn’t getting one since I didn’t BQ, got contacted for an interview by the selecting official, conducted interview, got word about a week later that I was selected by the e-mail came from an HR type official, not the selecting official. The selecting official typically calls to make the offer, but no such luck. After I accepted the position, I kept waiting for a congratulatory call or e-mail, but nothing. My boss didn’t even know I got the promotion until I sent him the e-mail. And then today, about a week after the e-mail, I got the USAjobs update that I was selected.

      I would not lose hope entirely. This whole round has been wonky. I’m not sure if something is going on somewhere up the chain or someone has dropped a ball somewhere or what. Good luck!

      Oh….and none of my peers that applied for the promotion have been updated that they were not selected, despite all promotions now being filled. Again, not sure what the deal is.

    7. Basia, also a Fed*

      I work for the federal government and USA Jobs generally sends the notification that you didn’t get it slightly after the new person starts. I assume this is in case it doesn’t work out, so they can go back into the pool. They won’t announce who it is until that person passes their background check, again so they can pick someone else if they don’t pass. I’m not saying this is nice or fair, just the way they do it. I have encouraged my manager to call everyone who was interviewed and wasn’t selected, instead of letting them wait months for the USA Jobs notification, because it’s the right thing to do.

  16. I agree with everything you say*

    A manager “Gary” who was rude, ineffective and constantly late/absent has been let go. Hurrah! His replacement is someone I already know and I have positive expectations.

    (Gary once showed up late for a meeting with me and gave me a random promotional googly eyed sticky thing to apologise, wtf. I always called him googly Garry after that.)

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Huh. Isn’t that Alison’s advice–When your employees are annoyed with you, hand them stickers?

  17. Anon Today*

    What are your favorite conference giveaways? I use tons of lip balm and keep hand sanitizers in multiple locations throughout my house/office, but I think koozies and stress balls are useless. What’s your gotta-grab-some item on vendor tables at conferences?

    1. BH90210 Fan*

      Pens that double as a stylus. I grab those and keep them everywhere in my house, bags, etc.

      Something we’re giving away at an upcoming fundraising breakfast (donated by the sponsor) is a cell phone camera cover. Target has one called “Private Eyez” but you can Google camera cover for other options. I bet you can find one that can be personalized, too.

    2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      The best giveaway I’ve seen was free professional headshots. Not grab-and-go, but something of real value (and, of course, the nature of having your picture taken means that you have to hang out at the table for at least a few minutes — so the vendor has a chance to chat with you about their product or service).

      1. Dorothy Zbornak*

        I went to a conference in February that offered free headshots and I was so excited! But the photos were awful. We were in terrible lighting, standing against a stark white background, and the photographer was very short while I’m very tall (5’10), so she was shooting up at me instead of putting the camera up higher to fix the angle. The photos were so bad. I looked like that two-face woman in the bad lighting from that episode of Seinfeld.

    3. Amber Rose*

      I just got a screen cleaner. It’s just a tiny square plastic thing with a roller that scrubs fingerprints off your phone screen. It’s pretty neat.

      1. Elizabeth W.*

        I like those. I have one I bought from Etsy with a totoro on it, and it has a small plastic peg that goes in your headphone jack. (I don’t do that because I’m afraid I’ll lose it.) I got another one from a job fair. It has a sticky back so you can plaster it on the back of your phone. I think you can order those in bulk from a company called DigiClean.

    4. Birch*

      Best conference freebie is a decent tote bag. Not one of those flimsy plastic-fabric ones or the really thin cotton/poly ones with straps so narrow they get creased and cut into your shoulder. NICE tote bags with wide straps made out of canvas with the logo in an unobtrusive corner.

      Also, flash drives, actually good pens, lanyards, funny/cute keychains, mugs, and snacks.

      1. Dorothy Zbornak*

        I have too many tote bags already, but the sturdy ones are good for grocery shopping. My work put on a conference last week and the tote bags were just unreal. Really sturdy, thick canvas with thick rolled handles you can put over your shoulder. People in the office were jumping on the extra bags.

        1. Ashley*

          The cooler kind are the best. We constantly advertise for my partners office and another company.

          Post-it’s and tablets are also always nice.

      2. Admin of Sys*

        Please tell me the flash drives were still in original packaging? I mean, I think our security office would still say ‘nope’ on that, but it makes me a little bit more okay with the idea.

    5. Bekx*

      Our health insurance company had those small hot/cold pads that you microwave or freeze! They are AWESOME!

      1. Ghostwriter*

        I was excited to get one of these before. I don’t know if there’s different kinds, but the one I got had small gel balls in some sort of clear, round, vinyl-like pouch. I followed the instructions on the back, but my microwave must have been too strong because the bag ballooned as the gel balls heated, and it got stretched out. Wish I’d grabbed two so I could try heating it on a lower setting!

      1. JXB*

        I’ve notice this year those (branded with company logo) have become a really popular give-away! Very practical.

    6. BottleBlonde*

      I like the hand sanitizers too, and pens! I haven’t bought a pen in years and may never have to again. My favorite are the bags themselves though, I use them for all sorts of things.

      1. Chaordic One*

        Well, not the cheap ballpoint pens that dry out right away, but, yeah, I’ve gotten some nice pens over the years.

    7. AnotherAlison*

      It’s pretty lame, but I like nice notebooks. When I was a little kid, my grandma worked for a printing company, and I always had tons of random paper for crafts, etc., so I’m still a sucker for free paper. Also: nice coffee cups.

    8. Lucky*

      External cell phone battery. Charge it up and drop it in the bottom of your handbag or backpack (don’t forget the cords) for times when you’re travelling and can’t find an outlet to charge your phone/iPad/Kindle.

    9. Marion Ravenwood*

      Another vote for pens. When I used to go to political party conferences as a student, I always went straight for the pens, and it meant I didn’t have to buy any all year. That said, from a ‘manning the stall’ perspective, (wrapped) sweets always went down well.

      Part of me also has a soft spot for those little fluffy ball characters with googly eyes, stick-on feet – so you can attach them to a monitor etc – and usually a ribbon with the company logo on it. (They probably have a proper name, but I forget what it is.) I know they’re totally useless, but I think they’re cute!

    10. ArtK*

      A reasonable size USB thumb drive with your promotional materials on it. When I’m done with those, I can delete them and have the thumb drive. I can never find a thumb drive when I need one!

    11. Quill*

      Koozies are kind of wasteful, but I do like the stress balls because occasionally I’ll use them to do some discreet in-chair back adjustment.

      My favorite is fine tipped pens with retractable tips. Especially if they have a concealed light or something… I totally hoarded the pen flashlight the last time I had one.

    12. Digital Janitor*

      Good quality tote bags are ALWAYS nice. All the other items go in there, so everyone sees your logo for the whole conference. Travel mugs are also great — especially if the conference’s beverage service cups don’t have lids.

      Being a techie, I get tech-related gear most often. External batteries are nice, and I prefer the ones with solar cells. You can leave it on a windowsill or car seat and toss it in your bag when you need it.

      I love the multi-cables, usually at least 3-in-1 (micro USB/USB C/Lightning) USB cables for device charging. When you have a spare phone charger and battery, strangers will happily chat with you while they get enough juice to last until lunch.

    13. Reba*

      LOL I try to avoid everything in this genre. If the freebies are already pre-loaded in my obligatory conference tote, I sigh.

    14. I have too many promotional giveaways*

      +1 for cell phone charger but that can get expensive to make, if your company was looking to put their logo on an item to give to conference attendees. I love the tote bags but I know people who hate them because they have too many. What does your company do? Maybe an item related to the industry might be good to consider.

    15. it_guy*

      The best one I got a conference (IT related), was a cardboard box, that when unfolded would turn your camera into a VR headset!

      Totally cheap, maximum Geekiness!

    16. Emmie*

      Nice pens. Post its. Hand sanitizer. Would love head shots, but never been to a place that had it. I also once received a Credit-Card sized flash drive. It was the coolest thing EVER, and I kept important docs in my wallet. I’ll add a link below, but you can find it via a “USB drive card” Google search.

    17. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

      Good pens, webcam cover, mini first aid kit, mini chargers, pop socket/cell phone “chair”, unscented lotion.

    18. Armchair Analyst*

      As a parent of preschoolers, I love little squeezy toys that are literally toys for kids.
      NICE water bottles, like stainless.
      You know, I don’t love small notepads but big ones that are more book-like or nicer get used. Post-its if they’re useful, not like, the pack of 12.
      My environmental organization used to give away NICE reusable bags (the kind that roll up into their own bag) and those were popular AND I like them.

    19. LKW*

      At my last conference we gave away those little teeny laptop camera privacy thingies. You stick em on – the window slides out to block the camera, back to expose the camera.

    20. Mrs. Psmith*

      I went to recent conference that Disney was at and they were giving away portable bluetooth speakers. I really liked that one. Also, popsockets, screen cleaners and pens. I also love stickers and cleverly branded T-shirts (Lexis/Nexis gave away shirts that simply said “True Story.” on the front and their logo on the back).

    21. b*

      Good pens are useful. I had to buy pens last year for the first time in a decade. It was sad.
      The last few years at conferences my favorite give aways were from Caterpillar, who had a scale model of their equipment, and another vendor who gave out scale models of military equipment. I have two different tanks, a Blackhawk, and a Humvee. Both produced a new vehicle every year and we always checked out their booths first.

      1. Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins*

        I have a model of a BNSF train car that my dad got at a job fair many years ago. Those are really fun.

    22. Ama*

      I love anyone who has glasses cleaning cloths (it’s rare but they are out there), because I *always* need more.

      My nonprofit employer has some blank spiral notebooks that the attendees at our scientific programs just snatch up — and these are people who go to a lot of conferences and get offered a ton of freebies. They are pretty nice — they’re 5×7 and have just enough paper to last for a while but not so much they are heavy to carry. Many of my coworkers, including myself, use them at work as well.

    23. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      Man, I’m jealous of some of these! Usually all I get is crappy pens and coffee mugs.

      The best thing I ever got was a bottle opener key chain (still on my keys after 18 years) and a decent tape measure. I also once got a conference bag that was actually a backpack, which was pretty useful. In my field things like rulers and pencil sharpeners, extra hard lead pencils, and pencil cases would probably go down well.

    24. Mrs. Picklesby*

      I love chip clips and jar openers. I still have one of the flat jar opener from Hibernia Bank. Remember them? They were bought out years ago, but that thing has held up nicely AND I use it all the time.

    25. Gumby*

      I would love a koozie around now. I don’t go to any conferences related to this job so I’ve been reduced to binder clips as my only fidget toys currently at my desk. In the way back days I got a Tangle which was great while it lasted. I might be reduced to actually purchasing something one of these days.

      The ultimate gotta-grab-some is obviously chocolate but only if they sprang for something half-way decent.

      1. On Fire*

        At one conference I attended, a table was making custom luggage tags by laminating attendees’ business cards and then inserting the plastic loop. Unfortunately, I’ve changed jobs since the and had to stop using that tag because of irrelevant contact info.

    26. Not the Speigs*

      I just got a cell phone holder that attaches to your car’s ac vent and has a magnetic strip to attach to the back of your phone. Very useful, works great and now I’m on the hunt for another one!

    27. Seeking Second Childhood*

      A co-worker came home from a publishing convention with a promotional *coffee scoop*. Fantastic souvenir. It’s the age of easy desktop coffee machines, and I’d been messing around guessing with a plastic cafeteria spoon. Now I have a real measuring scoop.
      (Farrah Rochon if you read this, let me thank you!)

      I’m also a big fan of USB sticks and sticky pads.

    28. YetAnotherFed*

      I love swag! Bobble head dolls, pens, miniature flashlights that go on my keychain, notebooks, post it notes, highlighters, post it tags, stylus pens, glasses wipes, clip on blinking lights, pencils, water bottles, coffee mugs, hand sanitizer, insulated bags for the grocery, those athletic backpacks with the string straps (great for packing my bike clothes when commuting), bags sturdy enough to hold hard bound library books, magnet toys, nail files, soft squeeze toys/balls/figures, planners/calendars.

      I would also love but have never received: mini silly putty in tins; a mini UV flashlight (my ThinkGeek pens with that feature keep on breaking); a mini laser pointer that would fit on a keychain; a fidget toy or spinner; keyboard cleaner.

    29. Crylo Ren*

      Coming from someone who used to work in the tradeshow world and has attended their fair share…

      Best thing I ever got from another booth was a little all-in-one tool thing that came in the form of a pen. The top of the pen could be unscrewed and in it was stored all these interchangeable screwdriver heads. It was incredibly handy. I held onto that thing for awhile and was so sad when I lost it!

      Sturdy, embossed notebooks have also been a popular and appreciated giveaway, but can be on the expensive side.

    30. Brrr*

      Here in the great white north toque’s are a good one (warm knit beanie style hat). A recent event I went to was held mostly outdoors and they provided everyone with stretchy knit gloves that were compatible with phone touchscreens. ‘Cause it was snowing in early September…

      1. Cardamom*

        Oh, that reminds me. I didn’t get to go, but I heard about people really appreciating free umbrellas at a conference in a rainy location.

    31. Elizabeth W.*

      Love:
      –Those little tiny keychain flashlights.
      –Pens. People steal mine all the time.
      –Tote bags. In a pinch, I can use them for groceries.
      –T-shirts. I get an XL and sleep in it.
      –Lip balm would make me happy.
      –Little eyeglass or screen cloths.
      In short, anything I can actually use.

      Hate:
      –Mugs. I have WAY. TOO. MANY.
      –With you on stress balls.
      –Insulated travel coffee cups. They’re always the wrong volume or don’t fit in my cupholder.

    32. LurkieLoo*

      We went to a tech conference last year and one person was handing out mini bottles of booze with their info tied around the neck. Not sure it was all on the up and up, but it was our favorite. ;) We also collected a bunch of the toy things for my nephews. They thought they were cool.

      I think hand sanitizer is great.

      USB drives or hubs are useful. We put our show literature on a USB drive instead of paper or CDs. They aren’t very high capacity, but are also great for transferring small projects from one computer to another.

      Really nice reusable bags. Candy/snacks. Anything tech related. I also tend to grab all the pens and hope for a couple that actually write well.

    33. pony tailed wonder*

      If y’all ever get a chance to go to the American Library Associations yearly conferences, you should GO. I had one in my hometown so I drove there and I was able to fill my trunk and most of my back seat with free books. Hardbacks, paperbacks, tote bags, candy, fruit, pens, pencils, etc. And I got to get author autographs! I discovered so many new to me authors and I was able to give my co-workers copies of books and gave to patrons. It was glorious!

    34. Someone Else*

      Best giveaways:
      Reusable grocery bags
      Hand sanitizer
      Good pens
      lipstick-sized rechargable USB battery
      Those tiny backpacks that cinch with a drawstring, which is also the shoulder straps?
      battery operated fan (ok so I don’t love these all the time, but if the conference is in Florida, this is a very good giveaway)

      Worst:
      Mugs or anything likely to break in checked luggage
      Stuffed animal of logo/mascot

    35. Operational Chaos*

      PlayStations and a pile of titles to go with. I was working in the gaming industry at the time, though.

    36. char*

      I actually like getting stress balls. I’m constantly fidgeting with my hands, and I’m so rough on stress balls that I tend to tear them apart within weeks, so replacements are always welcome.

    37. AcademiaNut*

      Best ones I’ve gotten – good sturdy shopping bag that’s perfect for carrying over my shoulder at the market and on the bus home, portable luggage scale, silver pen shaped like one of those alien abduction aliens (from Los Alamos labs, no less), coffee mug with my name on it for use at the meeting,

    38. all the candycorn*

      My favorite conference items were:
      -a pen where they engraved your name on it at the booth for free
      -a stuffed dragon
      -a large reusable grocery bag (the size of the ones that TJ Maxx/Marshall’s sell) but *with a zip top.* These were gone by day 2 of the conference, they were so popular, and I saw dozens of people using them as carryons at the airport on the way home
      -an eyeglass microfiber, because I’d forgotten to bring one and my glasses were dirty.
      -insulated lunch totes (I wasn’t at this conference, but everyone at work had one!)

      I don’t like the chapsticks or hand sanitizers, because they’re always an off-brand that tastes/smells weird.

  18. EnfysNest*

    This is about my friends’ workplace, not mine, but since my friends aren’t listening to reason about it, I need somewhere to rant about the disfunction at their job.

    Two of my friends, who I’ll call Wanda and Natasha, work at a small local coffee shop, and another acquaintance of mine, Clint, is the third and final employee there. Their boss and the owner of the shop is Helena. All three are baristas, but Wanda also makes pastries and desserts to sell. Wanda and Natasha have been working there for about 8 or 9 months, and the shop only opened a few months before they started. There used to be two other employees, but they left several months ago and have not been replaced.

    The first problem I noticed was that all three employees are being paid as independent contractors. Helena sets their schedule, their work can only be done at the café (even Wanda’s baking is done at the café during her shifts with company-purchased tools, ingredients, etc.), their daily tasks are assigned by Helena, and everything about their work indicates that they should be employees, not contractors. I told Wanda and Natasha everything I’ve learned from this site about independent contractors and even printed out the SS-8 form for them to submit for official clarification from the IRS about their status. They gave the form to Helena, who said she’d “talk to her accountant about it”. It’s been at least 4 months since then and nary a peep about it from Helena. Both of my friends say that they are saving back 15% of their pay for tax purposes, but I have no idea if that will be enough for them or not.

    Wanda also says Helena promised to reevaluate their pay every 3 months and raise it accordingly, which has (unsurprisingly, to me) not happened. Wanda and Natasha have also told me that they only make about $200 in sales each day (sales, not profit), so I’m not sure how this place is even staying afloat. Apparently, Helena claims that when she’s working alone, she makes $500 a day easily, although Wanda and Natasha find that hard to believe given the low number of customers that come to the shop. But Helena uses this as the basis to constantly lecture Wanda, Natasha, and Clint about how they’re lazy and they’re going to “ruin her shop” and to complain about how she “has to do everything herself” (and also about how Yale wants her “to come be a supervisor for them” [???], but she turned them down because she cares so much about this café [insert massive eyeroll here]).

    So I was already seriously doubting Helena’s level of honesty and trying to convince my friends to at least be wary of her and ideally to find somewhere else to work asap. And then last night in conversation, another bomb dropped – Helena has been telling both Wanda and Natasha that the other one was a terrible employee and at risk of being fired. She would tell Wanda not to do certain tasks during the morning shift because “Natasha is lazy and always on her phone and you need to leave work for her to do”, but then during the later shift, Helena would tell Natasha “Wanda was supposed to do that this morning, but she never does her assigned tasks.” Wanda and Natasha are close friends, but they’ve both spent the last few months thinking that the other is a terrible coworker because of Helena’s lies. Similarly, once when Wanda and Clint were working at the same time, Helena was texting them both, telling Wanda to put the X items in the display and keep the Y items in the back for later, but simultaneously texting Clint to bring out the Y items right at that moment. The two were fighting over item Y until they finally compared their texts side by side and saw the contradictions.

    Helena is actively, serially lying to her employees, she’s paying them incorrectly, she’s not giving them the reviews and raises she told them they would get, she’s gossiping and trying to turn friends against each other, and she whines to them all continuously as if she is the one getting a raw deal. I want my friends to GET OUT OF THERE before she completely wrecks their finances, their relationships, and their view of how a good workplace should operate, but they keep making excuses for her! “Oh, but she’s so nice and sweet.” “I think she’s just in over her head and trying to save the café.” “She really means well.” “She promised she’ll make it right if the taxes come out higher than we expected.”

    I know I can’t fix this, and it’s not technically my problem (although I am really worried about my friends because of it), but they talk about it all the time and it’s just astounding to me how much stress and manipulation this woman can put them through and yet they keep excusing her behavior and trying to see it all through rose-colored glasses. It shouldn’t surprise me, given everything that I read on this site, but this is the first time I’ve known someone in person in that sort of situation and it’s so frustrating to me that she’s getting away with treating my friends like this and no one is holding her accountable.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      There are many places that function this way. I think I know Helena’s sister (joking).
      Your friends can’t fix this and just need to leave.
      I would ask them thinking questions such as “How much longer are you going to put up with this?” or “How’s that job search going?” or “How will you know when she has crossed a boundary with you?”

      Meanwhile, their vents to you allow them to discharge a bunch of negative so they can go back to the job. At some point you might want to say, “When you are ready to start your job search I will help if you want but I can’t listen to Helena stories any more.”

    2. Jack Be Nimble*

      I have a very dear friend reporting to an office manager who changes the pay periods on a whim and has never given them a pay stub. I’m helping them network and apply elsewhere but I feel this so intently.

    3. babblemouth*

      I’m concerned about your friends’s health insurance. Do they have a plan in case of an accident or something?

    4. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      $200 per day gross sales * 30 days = $6,000 / month
      $6,000 month – x expenses (rent, utilities, supplies) – monthly salary for 4 people (Wendy, Natasha, Clint, and Helena) = serious negative figure

      Yeah, the math totally doesn’t work. Sounds like Helena is a terrible boss, and she likely also can’t afford to pay her employees more or pay them appropriately because she’s in the red every month.

      If anything, self-interest about the imminent closing of the shop due to bankruptcy should compel your friends to seek other jobs.

      1. EnfysNest*

        Helena co-owns the building or something, so there’s no rent, but even with that, but even with that, yeah, I can’t imagine any way that this place can stay in business.

      2. On Fire*

        And if the shop is NOT in dire financial straits, it may be a money-laundering operation. A few things in the description sounded like red flags, based on what a contact who used to investigate laundering has told me.

        1. LilySparrow*

          You know, that would make sense. By keeping them as contractors, she may be operating entirely off the books.

    5. CaitlinM*

      15% is not enough at all if they are being paid as ICs. That will cover the social security/medicare tax but not their actual federal or state income tax. I do freelance work in addition to my FT job and put away 40% of the freelance pay (though this is my first year doing it so I may be pleasantly surprised…but by my calculations that’s what I’ll need to pay.)

      1. EnfysNest*

        We don’t have state income tax in our state, at least, but I am definitely worried that they are going to come up short come April.

        1. Bea*

          They should saving about 30% without state withholding.

          They’ll be hit with SELF EMPLOYMENT tax when they get a 1099. So full Medicare 6% Full SSI 12% 12% self employed tax and 10% federal.

    6. Ama*

      If you want to you could point out the contradiction between “nice and sweet” and “is openly lying to all of you and trying to make you think the other is the problem.”

      I’d advise your friends not just to hold back money for taxes but to make sure they have savings if they show up one day and the place is closed. It really sounds like they are heading for one of those situations where employees show up one day to find the place closed with no notice or seized by a government entity (I’d be very surprised if Helena was properly paying her sales taxes or rent given how poorly she’s managing the rest of the finances).

      1. Decima Dewey*

        Helena’s not nice, she’s not sweet, the cafe may not be worth saving, and if Yale wants her to work for them, they’re welcome to her.

        In short, run. Like the wind.

    7. WellRed*

      Helena is a bitch and a liar, she’s breaking the law (or whatever it is you break when you pay employees incorrectly), she’s probably not paying sales tax…
      Since they don’t see the problems with her being a bitch and a liar, I’d focus on the tax hit they are going to take, as well as any other hits they have coming down the pike.

    8. M. Albertine*

      If she’s paying them as independent contractors, your friends are not going to be able to get unemployment when that business goes under. You might consider warning them of that risk.

      1. EnfysNest*

        I didn’t know that – I will definitely bring that up with Natasha (Wanda has two other part time jobs).

    9. Ender Wiggin*

      I’ve no idea how taxes work in the US but is there any possibility that Helena could be just telling them she’s keeping their 15% for tax but actually using it to prop up her business? So when the place eventually goes bust they will not only owe the extra above the 15% they will owe the entire amount including that 15% they thought was being kept?

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Independent contractor means that you are a separate business, and you have your own business taxes, and the people you work for (who are NOT your employers) do not pay any kind of payroll taxes for you. Nothing comes out of the check at all.

      2. Ender Wiggin*

        Oh right. Why would Helena be in any way involved in their taxes then? If 15% turns out not to be enough then that’s their responsibility not hers from the sound of it. I don’t get why Helena is promising to make it right if that’s too little – they should Google what they actually owe and keep that aside.

    10. AcademiaNut*

      I think you just have to resign yourself to the fact that this is a lesson that your friends are going to learn the hard way. I’d probably go with one last blunt statement along the lines of “Listen, you know Helena is a manipulative liar who is knowingly breaking employment law and is running a failing business. You’re going to get completely screwed over and she’s not going to care and she’s certainly not going to give you 15% of your annual salary to make things right with the IRS. So what are you going to do about it?”

      And then after that, refuse to be their dumping ground for venting – change the subject, shrug and say “Well, that’s what working for Helena means” or, if you’re fed up enough, tell them right out that you’re tired of hearing them complain about something they aren’t interested in changing.

      And maybe go on a vacation around tax time, because that’s going to be really, really messy.

      1. neverjaunty*

        This. I have grown very, very cynical about people who would rather burn to death than admit they’re on fire. Tell your friends “look, we all know she’s screwing you over and you’re going to be in a world of hurt financially. So while I love you guys, I’m done talking about her. How about that [abrupt and permanent subject change]?”

      2. valentine*

        I agree with not absorbing the venting. Helena is abusive and using your friends to sabotage her alleged business. Your friends are doubling down because they feel stuck in the abuse cycle. Leave them to it and be there for them when it implodes. Plugging their numbers into an online tax estimate calculator could open their eyes here. I’m surprised they’re saving 15%. I don’t imagine they can save 40% or more and still eat, and the longer they stay, the deeper in the hole they’ll be.

  19. ThatGirl*

    Good things for the week – my new team lead recognizes how much I took on when our old one abruptly left, and thinks I did a great job, especially under the circumstances. She’s also taking on more responsibilities and not leaving me hanging.
    Bad thing – my husband found out a new hire for his department, with 7 years less experience, will be making slightly more than him, and his university doesn’t really do raises (claming budget woes, there was a salary cut a couple years ago, etc). He’s really upset by this but let me offer you some relationship advice, unless your spouse/SO/friend/etc. ASKS you for help, just sympathize – we got into an argument because he thought I wasn’t supporting him. Oy. (That part of it is more for the weekend thread though!)

  20. Greg NY*

    In comment sections, a lot of my fellow commenters have talked about “respecting hierarchy”. Is that really still a thing in modern organizations? I had thought that in organizations that aren’t dysfunctional in some way, people in charge are managers, not “bosses”, those that report to them are essential members of the team rather than “employees” or “help”, and the role of those in charge are to facilitate the operations of the team or organization, not to boss people around while enjoying a cushy job. I have always thought that you treat someone you report to like any other colleague: with respect and courtesy, but you challenge them when you have an idea or process improvement and actually act as though you are an important member of the team rather than just there to do their grunt work. With regard to more than a distinct minority of organizations, am I wrong? I have never come across that issue in any of the three organizations I have worked in.

    1. Overeducated*

      I think this varies a lot by organization. Where I work, we actually use the phrase “chain of command” to describe it, so…yeah, hierarchy is definitely still a thing. Yes, good managers (like mine) do treat us with respect and courtesy, and we are encouraged to bring ideas and process improvement to our managers and be taken seriously, since we know the content of our day to day work best. But the managers are the ones with responsibilities for hiring, performance evaluation, promotion, firing, and advocating for overall department directions and needs, so yeah, we are not equals, and I’m lucky to be part of a union to mediate issues when they come up. Managers also have the final decision-making authority within departments/programs because a) having that authority is actually, literally, a big part of their job description, b) they’re the ones who interface with leadership higher up, and c) they’re the ones who get in trouble if it goes wrong. In some cases they take on actual legal and financial risks attached to making those decisions, so good managers take those responsibilities very, very seriously. I think the important thing is that they show respect to employees as people and professionals, and that their decisions are justified and not arbitrary, not that it actually becomes a democracy.

      I feel like you might be talking about something else here – not how the work gets done and how decisions get made, but whether managers show personal respect to employees and value their contributions? Or the conversations that sometimes come up where people say “that would be rude coming from a peer/subordinate, but from a manager it’s ok because their time is more valuable”?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, respecting hierarchy goes into a whole bunch of things.

        A cohort got fired one time when she said she could do a better job than the boss was doing. While the statement was probably true, you just can’t say that out loud.

        But there is also the matter of not skipping steps on the ladder. If you have a problem with your boss you can’t really run to your grandboss/HR and complain. Most of the time you should try to work it out first.

        When the higher ups speak in a definitive manner, it’s really not a good idea to make waves. “Everyone will report for work at 8 am sharp no excuses.” The firmness of the statement indicates that the boss has made a final decision and no further discussion should take place. Whether we agree or disagree is irrelevant. If the new rule is too stringent and too much of a burden then it’s time to job hunt.

    2. Addie Bundren*

      I don’t at all feel that when I acknowledge that my higher-ups have more say / final say in certain areas that they are “boss[ing] people around while enjoying a cushy job.” I would say that assuming that is the case is going to cause more dysfunction than not.

    3. CheeryO*

      I feel like you can respect hierarchy while also having a good, productive relationship with your bosses. My boss listens to us and very obviously respects our opinions, but at the end of the day, if there is a disagreement, we’re going with his preference. Same goes for his relationship with his boss, and his with his boss. It’s just the way it is, and no one really has an issue with it 99% of the time. We’re state gov, so that might explain the more hierarchical structure.

    4. Admin of Sys*

      I’ve found ‘respecting the hierarchy’ generally means acknowledging that the folks in charge have the right to tell you to do things even if you, personally, don’t think they’re the best way of doing something. In a functional workspace, it should absolutely be appropriate to question or challenge a process or system, but if someone higher up says ‘I have heard your concerns and viewpoint, but we are going to continue to shave the llamas on Wednesday’ then you continue to shave the llamas on Wednesday, even if you think it’s more efficient to shave the llamas on Tuesday.

      1. LKW*

        And of course, document your concerns about changing the llama shaving schedule and the potential ripple effect but in a way that points out the risk and potential impact while acknowledging that the decision is higher up the hierarchy and you’ll abide by that decision.

        It can be a bit of a tightrope, but we all have to walk it.

    5. SWOinRecovery*

      I think that in today’s workplace, respect should be mutual and everyone should feel like an important part of the team. However, respecting hierarchy means that you act in a manner that takes into account the difference between your position in an organization and others. Specifically, especially in busy orgs, you’re unlikely to have as much information regarding work as the higher ups will, like potential yet uncertain reorganization, or confidential personnel actions. Respecting hierarchy means that when you pitch an idea or process improvement to your manager, you understand that their decision might take information like that into account and don’t push back hard if they reject your idea on those grounds.

      Similarly, there are instances when people higher up simply don’t have lots of time to give every individual. In these circumstances, I see “respecting hierarchy” as ensuring that I’m efficient in my interaction with a superior so that my peers can also have time to make their requests/get decisions. It also sometimes means refraining from asking why or being argumentative to an assignment. You don’t need to always be a “yes man”, but if your manager states that they don’t have power to change the assignment or time to explain the reasoning (and you clearly understand how to complete the task) then don’t waste people’s time by arguing for something else.

    6. Maya Elena*

      There is a culture of standardized employee respect and recognition in large corporations – which I like for the most part, but am not deceived about the existence and general desire to have “the distinction of rank preserved” – unless project efficiency or personal interest requires me to occasionally forget it.

      I think implicit in “thank you for all your hard work on this” and other such statements is “your role is done, it is out of your hands, your are a minion and not a leader.” And that’s fine …. But that’s how it is.
      Only if the manager leta you take on real responsibility, give high stakes presentations, meaningful authority- only then are the boundaries of rank really being blurred.

    7. Lora*

      It varies from department to department within an organization, in addition to varying from organization to organization.

      At LastJob, some departments were fairly egalitarian and others were extremely hierarchical. The hierarchy was not subtle or ambiguous in the hierarchical departments: the ones that ran on hierarchy liked yes-men, and if you ever raised a hint of a whisper of a challenge that perhaps maybe the manager in question was not in full possession of all the relevant information to be making that conclusion, GOD HELP YOU. Especially if you were a woman or not white or not straight. Other departments did not suffer from that problem.

      At CurrentJob there is hierarchy but it is more subtle. You WILL present information in the manner that your hierarchy wants it to be presented (right down to the font color and background pictures on the title slide), after it has been duly passed through and approved by all the hierarchy under them. You have to be extremely respectful of their time and meetings are pre-scheduled by secretaries several months in advance. That said, you can politely and professionally disagree and argue back; it just might not get you anywhere and in practice you will have to let their crummy idea fail on its own before they will accept that you were right all along. But they don’t actually punish you for saying, “I think the consequences of that decision would be bad, and here is why” or even “I did tell you so”. However, in instances of particularly bad news to deliver, you are supposed to stay in your lane even if you know you are right: for example, one group is going to run headfirst into a regulatory nightmare. I know this, other people know this, but it is Legal and QA’s job to deliver the bad news, and I am to stick to my part of it (“No, we cannot do the thing because water consumption / equipment requirements / chemistry”) and let the other people do their job.

    8. Ender Wiggin*

      I think you have a very different view of “respecting heirarchy” than I do. Respecting heirarchy does not mean working ina dysfunctional organisation where people boss their reports around while enjoying a cushy job.

      It seems you have a pretty jaundiced view of authority.

    9. Phoenix Programmer*

      I always took the term to mean go through the chain of command. Don’t just skip to the coo when your boss upsets you without talking to your boss first.

      Don’t go over your bosses head lightly. If you are going over their head it should be about egregious items harrasment, bullying, fraud, etc. Not that your boss quashed your process on the TPS report.

    10. Bea*

      I hear it was a “thing” at my current job prior to our CEO taking over.

      Our owner visited and he was fast to tell me to feel free to chat with him and that he’s friendly etc. Then mentioned that prior people were told to not talk to him…as if they were trying to keep underlings from cozying up to the big guy. I hear he’s fantastic at rewarding good employees so they didn’t want him involved and ruining their spot in his high ranking options.

      I laughed because whereas I have respect for the executives, I’ll talk to anyone and everyone without fear or reserve.

  21. Kramerica Industries*

    I’ve been offered a job in a new city that I am *probably* moving to. 3 weeks ago, my husband was in the process of negotiating for a job in a city 2 hours away from where we currently live. Since it looked like we’d be moving, I started looking for jobs for myself. I saw one that fit my qualifications really well and applied. Ideally, I’d apply after my husband had his official offer in writing, but since I’m in a bit of a niche market, I didn’t want to let this opportunity pass.

    Fast forward to now. The company has contacted me to say that they would like to proceed with me, but they would like to know when I can start. Problem is, I’m not sure. Although my husband is in the negotiation process, there’s still a chance that for whatever reason, they could decide not to extend an official offer. If he doesn’t get the job, we would not move since I’m happily employed in our current city. He has tried to push his prospective company for an offer, but HR says that the hiring manager has been away at conferences. Any suggestions on how to navigate this?

    1. Reba*

      Ask them if there is flexibility with their timeline, and explain that your household is coordinating multiple job processes, and say you hope to know very soon. I don’t know if you are comfortable talking about family/relationships with the potential new job people, but at this point they already know you’d be moving there–they ought to understand that there are complicated moving parts to be arranged. With reasonable people asking for time is not like a black mark on your candidacy. Good luck!

    2. nonymous*

      In addition to explaining your two body problem, try to guesstimate what time frame you would be okay with as the leading spouse. For example, it might be reasonable for you to start in new job/city – living in temporary accommodations – shortly after husband has the offer in hand, but he wouldn’t start his new position a few weeks later.

      The way I’ve seen this work successfully is that Leading spouse goes out and starts new job, living in temp accommodations. They use time after work to scope neighborhoods and research where to live. Trailing spouse comes out on a weekend for whirlwind house touring (optional). Trailing spouse goes home and gets started on packing. A couple weeks after job starts, Leading spouse uses a long weekend to go to Old City to help with final packing/coordinating movers. Monday both spouses are in New City, but Trailing spouse starts work a week later and takes lead on unpacking.

    3. LurkieLoo*

      Would you be able to work from home or telecommute at all in the short term? 2 hours away is not great, but probably ok a couple times a week while things get settled.

      I would probably give them a timeline of between 2 and 4 weeks longer than the notice you want to give. So if you’d give 2 weeks notice you could say you can start in 4 weeks (or 6). That buys you a week or two for your husband’s new employer to get their act together before you actually give notice.

      I’d probably explain the logistics and challenges to them. If you can get an idea of how soon they really need you there, that would be helpful.

  22. BH90210 Fan*

    Decorating your office… Ideas and suggestions

    I started a new job, part-time 4-days a week. I have an office and don’t office share.
    – My walls are completely bare and the paint is fugly – drab and boring.
    – I have a HUGE, magnetic white board on one wall. I don’t usually it except to ‘park’ ideas for later work.

    I haven’t decorated an office – ever. Most of my offices came pre-decorated with not so great artwork and I haven’t really paid attention. Really, I’ve never stayed anywhere long enough (thanks to our respective military lives) to decorate.

    Any ideas on how to visually reduce the size of the white board? Any cool magnetic decorating ideas? Pinterest is a bit overwhelming and I don’t know where to start. You can give me a link to research if that’s easier.

    Any ideas on how to cover up the drab paint job? Online stores for posters or artwork? I have personal artwork, but I don’t want to take it to my office.

    Thank you!

    1. Middle School Teacher*

      At teacher supply stores (or maybe craft stores?) you can get magnetic borders for your whiteboard. I use them to break up my whiteboard and make sections.

      If you’re not allowed to paint, can you use command hooks to hang up artwork? You might be able to find some inexpensive stuff at IKEA or even goodwill.

    2. PBH*

      Contact paper or that wallpaper that removes, which is essentially, contact paper. Maybe you can make a border for it using that. TJ Maxx or Ross for a framed pic for another wall that isn’t expensive. I like to have a succulent in my office for a little more life and a lamp for when I don’t want to deal with the harsh overhead lights.

    3. Dorothy Zbornak*

      If there are any posters or prints you like, you could pick up a few of them and use them to cover the whiteboard with clip magnets or something. I like Etsy for prints.

    4. Admin of Sys*

      (I would so section off part of the white board and doodle on it, but that might be considered unprofessional in a lot of places)
      The last time I had a big magnetic space, they had these great deconstructed Mondrian magnets – yellow and red squares, and black lines, so you could construct your on Mondrian painting. You can also buy magnetic sheets at staples and such that go through ink jet printers and print whatever type of decorative magnet you want.

    5. Rey*

      You could also look at the cute/patterned magnets that are usually at Target in office supplies. They usually have both small round and clothespin styles so that you could hang up posters or photos.

    6. Minerva McGonagall*

      For the whiteboard, washi tape could be a fun way to create boarders/sections.

      You could also use fun magnets to hang up papers/photos/postcards-anytime I travel I try to get a magnet to put on the fridge and a postcard to pin to my cork board at work. Cheap, easy, and a good conversation starter for a new employee – “Oh you’ve been to Dublin too? Did you go see the Book of Kells?”

      Command hooks are the best – I have a heavy duty one for my coat/tote bag and a little one for my calendar. Current calendar is Ireland, looking into what to pick for next year.

      I personally like using Society6 to get artwork – good variety and easy to support artists directly.

      1. BH90210 Fan*

        Thanks for the Society6 referral.

        I’m definitely going with Command hooks so I don’t have to nail anything in.

        You remind me I have hoards of postcards from our 3 yrs in Europe (I went to Dublin, no we didn’t see the Book of Kells) and will put some magnetic tape on them. Thanks for the spark!

        1. Seifer*

          Society6 now does 18×24 posters for $20! They are glossy printed instead of matte but still look good in a frame or just by themselves. But browsing Society6 when you’re not looking for a specific type of art is…. dangerous to your bank account.

    7. Anon From Here*

      No exaggeration, I have *three* calendars tacked up around my space. One was a promotional giveaway, one was a gift, and one I scrounged from the supply room.

    8. nonymous*

      I recommend a wall clock if you don’t already have one (I think IKEA has a very utilitarian one for $2). Very useful if someone has settled in for a long convo – just look at the clock and tell them you need to leave in 5 for the next meeting.

    9. EA*

      My boss is an executive, and he chose a few framed prints from Art.com for his office walls. They look really nice!

    10. Jennifer Thneed*

      Art supply stores have BIG rolls of paper in many colors and textures. My MIL used to use that to decorate her high-school classrooms, because she couldn’t paint walls, but she knew that changing up the colors made a big different to the students, and their learning was better, etc. So, these rolls are 4-5 feet wide and loooong. You could cover one or more of your walls with that.

    11. Cardamom*

      1. Whatever you do work “with” the feel of the office, not against it. For instance, if it is stark and hard lines, don’t try to make it “homey”, but instead go for a clean modern look. (However, if your walls are covered with burlap-like wall paper from the 1970s, as mine is, a warm boho look is just the thing.)
      2. To fill a lot of wall space, fabric tapestries are one option. (But, again, pick something that goes with the overall flow of things).
      3. As for the large white board, is it possible to put some furniture in front of it (like a file cabinet, or a bookcase), which might minimize its impact on the room? I also like the ideas of sectioning it off, use part as a magnetic bulletin board, etc.

  23. dorothy zbornak*

    Just found out a former co-worker used me as a referral to apply for a job at my current company. Didn’t ask or even tell me. It pisses me off because first of all, hi rudeness, and second of all, I would not vouch for him. He’s not good at his job but the hiring manager at my company knows him and collaborated with him in the past so seems to think he can do the job. In addition, I’m annoyed because I think he assumes he will get the same flexibility to work remotely that I have (I don’t think he mentioned me by name, just knowing how he operates he probably thought it was an automatic vs. earned privilege). So annoyances all around and if he gets the job I will be extremely frustrated. (At the same time, when asked about him, I tried to be as neutral as possible because what I really wanted to say I didn’t think would be very professional. Should I have said, “hey I know he helped you once with X & Y but he also failed our industry certification exam and doesn’t know the very basics, so good luck with that”?)

    1. BH90210 Fan*

      Is it weird that I read your post channeling the beautiful Golden Girl herself? :) Bea Arthur is my inner mentor AND she’s one of the few (if not the only) woman Veteran in Hollywood. Are you going to buy the new Golden Girls cereal?

      As far as your problem, no it’s not o.k. to disparage someone during a referral phone call. Neutral is best and you did that. Kudos

      1. Rebecca in Dallas*

        Off to Google “Golden Girls cereal.” And yes, Dorothy was the best! RIP Bea Arthur.

    2. CatCat*

      You had no obligation to play it neutral here, especially because YOUR reputation may be damaged at the company if he turns out the be a disaster. “I can only speak for the time when I worked with Fergus, and my experience was that he was poor at X, Y, and Z, which I know are important skills for this role.” It’s not unprofessional to give an honest reference!

      1. BH90210 Fan*

        References, in of themselves, lack any frame of reference. They’re utterly useless steps in the hiring process.

        The assumption is that someone uses another as a reference because they 1) like that person, 2) worked well with that person, 3) doesn’t know anyone else, 4) was a direct report for that person or 5) deluded to think that this person like them, but doesn’t. So who knows why anyone chooses a reference. From there, the hiring entity must understand why this person is disparaging their potential hire with no real context. And you look unprofessional when you decide to tear someone else down, much like doing that in a job interview when they ask why you left your last job.

        You did the right thing being neutral. IF your reputation is on the line, being it’s an internal hire, you won’t be looked upon as someone who likes to tear others apart. The responsibility of hiring is on the hiring entity, not the past employers/employees/coworkers. I’ve left organizations wanting to write a letter telling the higher ups how awful it was, but they would also consider my professionalism as well.

        1. CatCat*

          Oh my gosh, it is not “tearing someone down” to give honest feedback about their work when that person has put you down as a reference (without your consent or checking with you on whether you could provide a positive reference).

          Reporting on your experience working with them and what skills they were lacking is not unprofessional. You’re way off base here.

          1. zora*

            It’s especially important to be honest if you are the internal person who is being used as a referral! In this case, the hiring manager does know Dorothy, and that she is a strong employee. If she says, “honestly, I didn’t think Fergus did X, Y and Z well. And I wouldn’t recommend him as a strong addition to Company, if it was up to me” the hiring manager is probably going to listen, because she knows more about Dorothy than Fergus at this stage. Plus, this could affect Dorothy’s reputation if it’s widely understood that she ‘referred’ Fergus for the job.

            You don’t have to go on a rant about all the things you hate about someone to give a reference. You can be specific but honest about what you felt that person was not good at, and it is obviously still up to the hiring manager to decide what to do with that information!

          2. Not So NewReader*

            I agree there is no way I would give a neutral referral for someone who did shoddy work. A neutral referral is only going to bite me in the long run as I would sound wishy-washy and it would look like I did not know enough to recognize shoddy work.

            A simple, “I can’t recommend this person” can go a long way.

            OP, do not allow others to coattail your good name. This person did not ask you to be a reference, so what happens next is not your fault. They could have asked first.

      2. zora*

        THIS!!! Go back now and tell the hiring manager that you did not feel Fergus was a good coworker! You have no responsibility to be neutral or ‘objective’ on Fergus’ behalf!

      3. Ender Wiggin*

        This. You actually had a responsibility to give an accurate but professional reference.

        It’s not too late. Contact the hiring manager and say “I was caught off guard the other day when you called for the reference, because he hadn’t actually told me he was naming me as a reference. I gave a much nicer reference than I should have but I’ve since realise that I should have been more honest.” then tell her exactly what you said above.

        1. dorothy zbornak*

          just to clarify, referral in this sense is not the same reference. essentially he used my name as someone he knows at the company who would vouch for him (I guess – we get referral bonuses). I found out this at the last minute. When asked casually about him I didn’t say much b/c I thought he wouldn’t even get this far in the process to be honest. I spoke with the hiring manager earlier and was basically told it was too late. HR just emailed me today asking about him.

          1. Darren*

            Referrals are the same as references, basically a referral is the candidate saying “this person that you know and works for you can vouch for my ability to do this role” when they then come to you and ask for your opinion you are acting as a reference and you will likely be given more weight than an external reference due to you being a known quantity to the hiring manager so they have less concerns about your honesty over someone they probably literally don’t know.

            If you really think he can’t do the job you have to let HR know your honest opinion of his abilities as soon as possible before they proceed.

          2. Ender Wiggin*

            The key thing here is that you vouched for him. If they hire him and he’s awful then that will affect your reputation so I really think you need to contact them to set the record straight.

    3. A Suggestion*

      Is there a way to do it in a “crap sandwich” way so that it’s not entirely negative? Can you find one strength about Old Coworker to point out? “Although John was great at ____, he is also horrible at ____ and had issues with ____. For these reasons, I have to politely disagree and advise that we consider other candidates.”

    4. Binky*

      I don’t see why professional would equal playing down the applicant’s weaknesses. I’d be as emotionally neutral as possible, but you should absolutely tell your current company that the candidate not only lacks certification but has failed the exam (if that certification is necessary for the position), and then give a few concrete examples of things he doesn’t know.

      Given the hiring manager’s prior involvement with him, I’d couch it as “I know you’ve had positive experiences with [candidate] while doing X tasks, but his knowledge of [everything else he’s supposed to be doing] is not as strong. If you hire him, I’d expect you’ll need to put a lot of time into training him on [these specific] tasks.”

    5. LKW*

      I wouldn’t advise you to disparage someone but you’re allowed to put a really firm boundary around it as others have advised.

      You’re also allowed to say “Wow, he put me down as a reference? I don’t feel comfortable with that, he didn’t ask me directly and I don’t think I can really speak to his strengths.”

    6. Arjay*

      The terminology can be confusing, but some processes ask if you know anyone who already works at the company and consider that a “referral.” He may nor have been listing your name as a true reference.

      1. dorothy zbornak*

        so he listed me as a referral since I already work at the company and we had previously worked together and I thought he deserved a fair shot since everyone else seemed to think he was a strong candidate. then I got an email from HR asking me to vouch for him so I called the hiring manager and told her he never asked me to be a referral and I don’t feel comfortable vouching for him and I was essentially told it was too late. they are moving forward anyway.

        1. valentine*

          It may be that everyone thought he was strong because they lacked your knowledge, or they knew him to be as you say, but didn’t want to be out of step, as you didn’t. In future, I hope you’ll share what you know and give yourself and your colleagues the chance to avoid the frustration of a frightful fit.

  24. Labradoodle Daddy*

    I’m looking to find a job closer to where I live (right now I live in Greenwich and work in NYC). I work 7:30-4:00, and can’t get any more time off or else I will lose my job (whether I get the flu or whatever). In order to find a job closer to where I live, I will need to eventually interview there in person. Problem is, I lose my current job if I do this (and the train schedule makes it impossible NOT to take time off).

    What the hell do I do? I feel really trapped and hopeless.

        1. Anona*

          Then you have to weigh how likely it is that you’d get the new job that you’re interviewing for, and only move forward if you’re confident in your chances for the new job.
          I’d think about/develop a plan for what you’d do if you didn’t get that job and were released from your old job, since that’s a realistic possibility.

          1. Labradoodle Daddy*

            I’ve had that happen a couple times already, unfortunately. Getting to final rounds of interviews only to not get the job.

            1. Anona*

              Yeah, applying for jobs is tough! I’ve had it happen too. If you really can’t wait until you have additional time off, it’s kinda a matter of taking a chance, but having a backup plan for what to do if it doesn’t work. Except the worst, hope for the best.

              1. Labradoodle Daddy*

                I’m also kind of frustrated because right now my future is either 1. feel seriously depressed and trapped at my current job (I just got back from a week of FMLA leave and I can honestly say I’m back to the miserable place I was at before I left) or 2. be fired for going to another interview (that may not pan out). Is there any advice anyone can give me beyond “sucks, hope for the best!”?

                Not being cynical, just want to believe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel….

        2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          I know Alison would probably (vehemently) disagree, but if I was in your position I’d seriously consider leaving this job and putting all my efforts into job hunting full time. You won’t get any time off for 8 months?? Including no sick time?! That is so patently unreasonable, and frankly I’m afraid you’ll lose the job anyway – we’re heading into flu season and almost every person I work with has been out sick at least a half a day in the past two months. This doesn’t seem to be a very secure job for you right now AND it’s logistically impossible for you to search in your desired geographical area, so I’d suggest you seriously think about just cutting your losses.

          1. Cardamom*

            I agree with this. If all it takes is the flu to lose your job, then it might make sense to strategically decide when to start looking instead of leaving it up to happenstance. On the other hand, if you wait to get let go for getting the flu, would you at least be eligible for unemployment that way?

    1. Llellayena*

      Can you indicate that you are available in person after certain hours that let you get all the way home or that you can be more flexible by Skype (pop into a library to Skype at 4:15 or over lunch)? The “my job doesn’t know I’m looking and I can’t take the time off” might help with that too. Also, does your available time off reset with the new year? Some of the positions may not be interviewing until then so you might be ok. My understanding from this site is that if the company is good and they want you, they’ll accommodate your schedule. Good luck!

      1. Labradoodle Daddy*

        I wouldn’t be able to get to the Stamford/GRE area until at least 5:30 (I take the earliest train I can get out of GCT after I clock out). Because I’m applying for EA positions, very few companies have wanted to put that amount of effort in for a low level job.

        1. Lyka*

          Maybe you could consider applying to a new job in NYC for now? Since Current Job wouldn’t allow time off until 8 months from now, a CT job search is really not tenable. But you (presumably) don’t have an exact timeline for getting a job in CT, you’re just eager to work closer to home. A different NYC job may allow you the chance to have a change of scenery, get out of the toxicity of Current Job, and you’d be in about the same position if you started taking time off to interview in CT in 6 months to a year.

          NYC must be brimming with EA or EA-style positions, even at the contract/temp level, so you could simply consider a stopgap measure between your current heinous employer and your dream of work in CT.

          Good luck!!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I know some people have had good luck in asking for after hours interviews. Just explain that you are on company payroll and you do not feel right about taking paid leave to job hunt. You can offer to Skype before or after work or perhaps interview on a Saturday.

      A good company will be impressed with your ethics and may accommodate you.

    3. caryatis*

      If you’ve used up so much leave at your current job that you’ll be fired if you take more, what are the chances you’ll be able to keep another job? Might be time for a leave of absence to deal with whatever issues are causing you to be unable to make it to work.

        1. Thursday Next*

          I’m so sorry. This is terrible all around.

          Maybe the offer of Skype for prelim rounds, then as NSNR suggests, asking for an after hours final interview, since you’re “committed to fulfilling the responsibilities at current position, which requires you to be physically present”?

      1. Hamburke*

        Remote assistants are very popular and there are agencies. Any chance you’d be able to look into those?

    4. valentine*

      Can you work weekends instead of two (sometimes different) weekdays? If they needed you to be consistent, rotate them so if you can’t interview this Monday, you can next Monday.

  25. Jack Be Nimble*

    Vent time!

    I have spoken to so many job candidates lately, and it’s always the most unproductive conversation. I can’t connect them to the hiring manager, I can’t answer any questions that aren’t already answered in the job description, I can’t give them a sense of timeline or competitiveness of the other candidates. They’re calling to follow up and ask about seventeen “just one more question(s)!!” and there’s nothing I can tell them because I don’t have any information to share. We waste 15 minutes of each other’s time and then hang up.

    Candidates: please don’t call to follow up. You’ll get ahold (maybe) of the lowest-ranked person on the team and they won’t be able to tell you anything. Please.

    1. Four lights*

      Yikes. Maybe you can work with your boss to come up with a script.

      Like “I can only answer questions about X Y and Z. If your question doesn’ t relate to that you have to do A.”

      “As I said, I can’t answer a question like that and you’ll have to do A. If you don’t have any questions I can answer then it sounds like we should end this phone call.”

      1. Four lights*

        And you can just broken record them so it doesn’t feel like a conversation they can wheedle information from you. “Unfortunately, I can’t answer that.” ad naseum

    2. Trixie*

      I know this vent! I was in a similar position (recruiting) and would end up with candidate calls. If they had actually applied (using caller ID or name to check our records), I send a generic email with resume under review, hiring manager will be in touch if selected to move on, etc.

      We were very good about notifying candidates when appropriate but otherwise, we were instructed not to spend time returning calls. It too often lead to phone tag and false sense of encouragement that things were actually moving forward. I was pleasant about it but pretty much stuck to script from emails.

  26. Amber Rose*

    We’re ramping up for Christmas. Boxes of stuff arrive constantly, the party is booked, the dates are set. I ordered cards. My boss is the entertainment again this year. Prepare for horror stories. :C

    I have to do my audit in two weeks and I’m scared. It’s been two years, what if I forgot how. What if all 17 people I have to interview stare silently at me. What if we fail. This is a lot of anxiety. It sucks.

      1. Amber Rose*

        When I started they hired a company to do DJ’ing and party games. Now the DJ is a dude with an iphone and my boss picks the party games.

        They are horrifying.

        Last year, for example, we all stood in a circle and one game was “repeat the thing I just said without laughing” but it was all incredibly like, uncomfortable explicit awkward things. A game i’d be maybe OK with around close friends but definitely not around coworkers.

        1. Drop Bear*

          OMG – horrifying sounds like an understatement!!
          I don’t what your audit is, so this advice may be way off base, but can you look over the one you did 2 years ago? Might help you be less anxious if you remind yourself how you did it successfully before.

  27. Penelope*

    Is one year’s experience worth anything at all?

    I’m feeling really crushed at the moment because I just found out my current (fixed term) contract isn’t going to get renewed. I had a career change a while ago and this is my first job in this area (I’ve had 5 years experience in a different but sort of related area).

    It’s really frustrating because I was starting to get a feel for the job and this field. Going for the career change was a huge decision for me and I was thrilled when I got this job (took a massive pay cut since I’m entry level again), and now I feel like I’m back to square one.

    When my contract is up I’ll have 1.5years (relevant) experience on my resume, but it feels like anything under 3 years isn’t even worth mentioning. It’s so frustrating. Not to mention my contract is expiring at the end of the year and hiring slows down so much during the holiday season.

    1. Holly*

      > it feels like anything under 3 years isn’t even worth mentioning.

      That is absolutely not true. If it was 6 months, maybe, but 1.5 years is enough to learn something but still be entry level.

      1. Cardamom*

        Yes, this. I pretty much don’t even considering interviewing anyone with zero experience. But one year, that definitely gets your foot in the door.

    2. Four lights*

      Definitely worth mentioning. I’m not sure what you do, but presumably you know applicable computer programs, terminology, tasks, government departments/regulations…

      Think about what you didn’t know when you started vs. now. It’s definitely worth mentioning.

    3. Nita*

      Sure it is! I once had a four-month job and it’s totally on my resume as I picked up a ton of experience there. It was such a short term for very good reasons (the location was a much worse fit for me than I realized), but while I was there, I was responsible for a little bit of everything as it’s a small business, got a feel for working with clients and on real-life deadlines, and a lot of other things. A year is a lot more than four months, so unless they had you doing the same thing over and over, you must have learned plenty of things worth mentioning.

    4. Anonysand*

      Agreeing with the others here- over one year of experience is absolutely good enough to mention! I would frame it this way: if you were good enough to get hired into a career-change job without a ton of experience, you will definitely be able to get hired again in that field with that much more! And even if it’s another entry-level opportunity, you’ll be worlds ahead of the other applicants. For some context: I got hired at my new job, which was a complete and total career change, with about 6 months of experience doing the actual job work through a volunteer organization. Keep on going and don’t give up!

  28. Bekx*

    We have our floor’s Halloween party next week. I’m new to the company but apparently people get super into it. Our CMO wore a cheerleader outfit and a full on cinderella ballroom gown once.

    I’m going as hipster Ariel. Would this shirt be inappropriate to wear to work? https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B06Y4MLTKP/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    My other new coworker and I were wondering if it’s just a bit too…um, focused. But I feel like a purple t-shirt (my alternative) is just meh.

    1. CheeryO*

      Omg, are you me? I’m doing Ariel this year (not at work, though, we don’t dress up) and decided against the shell top because it feels a little awkward, but I’m also kind of a prude. I think you could get away with it, it just depends on your comfort level. I’ve also seen variations where people wrap purple fabric around a top more like a bandeau, which feels less “these are my boobs.”

      I did hipster Ariel in college and did teal skinny jeans, a purple flannel, and made my own shirt that said something about being under the sea before it was cool (in meme font, obv).

      1. Bekx*

        Yeah I’m kind of a prude too. My coworker agreed with me, my fiance completely disagrees and thinks no one is going to be looking at my boobs. Okay, honey. eyeroll.

        I love the meme shirt though, great idea!

    2. EnfysNest*

      I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing something like that to work. But, if I may offer an alternative: Hot Topic has a really cute Little Mermaid shirt from the “Her Universe” line right now for that same price that would be better for an office environment – it’s all purple with seashells on it. It’s an off-shoulder design, so you still might want a tank top or something under it, but I think you’d be better off with something that has less “focus”, as you put it. I’ll reply again with the link.

        1. Bekx*

          Ahhh that’s so cute! I actually already bought the shirt (it wasn’t until after that I thought about it) but dangit this is perfect. I’ll see if my local hot topic has it since it won’t arrive at home in time

          1. JLCBL*

            Sorry, I replied with a different link because this one didn’t work for me (not sure why). When it refreshed I saw you had seen it so I guess I am writing an extra comment to say you can disregard my extra comment…. :/

    3. Namast'ay in Bed*

      No way, I think it’s great!

      I know you’re going for the shells, but I am heavily considering getting the starfish one for myself, it’s so cute!

  29. Nervous Accountant*

    So, deadline this week. A lot of clients called in upset. I took a few calls, my mgr took a few calls. by the time the 5th or 6th call came around, I asked if the other two mgrs left could take it. One said no cz he was busy wiht something else, so the other one was left….. he’s the one I’ve talked about here before.. Anyway, so his thing is that he frequently refuses to do this stuff saying “well I’m busy doing this.” which leaves me and others to pick up the slack on doing those things PLUS whatever he does. I try to point this out before and we literally could go in circles all day long saying the exact same thing. Anyway, I had to practically beg him to take it and he did.

    I had two options–take the call, and be resentful that I get dumped on and stew that he never does this work OR approach him and ask nicely (borderline beg) if he can take this one as a favor, and…do my own work. I took the second option. It was harder, but better off in the long run.

    And just so that there’s no confusion–he is supposed to be doing these things. My mgr (who he technically reports to) has communicated this very clearly. He does it for a while but then starts pushing back against it. Everyone at this level is supposed to do A B C D E. He only does A, while the rest of us do all.

    The conversation went like this.

    “Can you please take this call? I’ve taken a few today and I’m backed up with _.”
    “I can’t take the call, I’m doing the exact same thing.”

    so…yeah. He took the call, I was free to do my work, and I got to go home at 9 instead of 10!

    1. Boredatwork*

      Every story you tell just continues to confirm that accountants make the worst managers. IDK why your boss doesn’t have a serious talk to (every story you’ve told, so, so many) and say – no more bad behavior – then TERMINATE the rotten apples.

      what would happen if you just forwarded the call? I would prob at this point just grimace, and then pull a full blown office space – yeeeeeeh I’m gonna need you to take that call. Thanks…

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        General office culture here is that no one here just randomly forwards a call, everyone notifies someone before forwarding. They could be otp w someone else, away from their desk etc.

        My manager himself is actually really great and has strengths in a lot of areas. I know this isn’t the best example lol. That one that I had to beg, it’s very very obvious he likes the acc work but hates the Mgmt stuff.. but that’s a decision out of mine and my mgrs hands.

        1. Boredatwork*

          Oh I didn’t mean just randomly forward the call – that’s unfair to the client. I meant tell “steven” that client X is calling at 1pm, forward the call if necessary, make him be the one to let it go to voicemail.

          Begging a co-irker to do work sounds so tedious.

      2. Nervous Accountant*

        Oh on the other point about termination — a lot of the toxic people I’ve talked about in the past end up leaving on their own. Generally people get a talking to, a write up, and let go. It takes a lot to get fired.

        1. Boredatwork*

          This is a fun topic of conversation between me and my significant other. He is a senior manager and has terminated more than one employee. They can’t handle dead weight when everyone works 60-70 hours a week, all year long.

          I’m in industry – we recently “coached” someone out, but no one ever gets fired. We have two people who are literal dead weight but since they’ve been here for decades, here they sha’ll stay until they retire.

    2. valentine*

      The begging sounds like taking calls is primarily your job. If not, what happens if you don’t answer? What if you only take a decent amount of calls and go home at a decent hour? How late does Steven stay?

  30. Overeducated*

    I’ve hit that mid-career point where some people stay until retirement, and some people continue to rise up to a high level…and I’m just not sure which direction I want to go! I could imagine a lateral transfer that could make me really happy in the long term (in a better/cheaper location, doing more field-based work that I like, etc). On the other hand, I could also imagine feeling really stuck if I don’t keep moving and trying to make a bigger difference, which would probably mean staying in my high COL city where I’ll always have a long commute due to salary caps, and working in the same headquarters office taking more managerial responsibility. There’s also the possibility of higher level jobs in different locations, but those are few, far between, and sort of like winning the lottery.

    If and when you hit this point, how did you figure out which way to aim? Or how did you manage to keep multiple doors open?

    1. Master Bean Counter*

      It sounds like you are comfortable where you’re at, but ready for a move and don’t know which direction to go. The beautiful part of this situation is that you can view each and every opportunity on it’s own. You don’t have to pick a direction, just explore each direction as options come up.
      Don’t rush.

        1. square toes*

          Yep, I’m pretty much in the same place. One trick can be to apply to different jobs, and see how it feels. The good part is that you’re not desperate, so you can explore different options without having to pick one first.

    2. Phoenix Programmer*

      I am in the same boat as you. What freaks me out is I hit here young, 30, so I worried about stagnating. I was panicking about 3 years into this role but I’ve realized that I have the luxury of browsing jobs and not applying while I am happy here. Meanwhile I am focusing on improving soft skills.

      If the right leaders come along in 5 years maybe I will apply to higher management then but I also am trying not to have too much lifestyle inflation making me dependent on making this much money.

  31. Alternative Person*

    I think I reached the tipping point at my main job this week. They’ve cracked down on time-card padding (which needed badly to happen) but cut out all the designations for above-admin-level, but not client facing work so I can’t claim an appropriate rate for such work.

    I suggested a mini-project to my manager this week, which he liked, but didn’t like the fact I would only do it if I was paid a decent rate for it, rather than minimum wage (which we get for admin hours). I said (basically) that it’s a skilled task that’s worth more than minimum but he (and upper management) are not budging on it. It’s probably going to get assigned to someone else, if it happens at all.

    He’s also parred my client-facing schedule to the minimum (it’s not a complete disaster as I have some loyal clients) and so far seems to be protecting the ‘super’ part timer who was hours padding in the first place.

    I was going to hold on my current schedule till my contract runs out, but now, I’m going to semi-aggressively pursue hours at the place I’m contracting at for one day a week once the scheduling cycle comes around again (if they’ll have me).

  32. KatieKate*

    There is a chance I am going to get a phone offer today (ahhhhh). If I do get the call, I’m going to do my best to move the conversation to email for negotiations because I haven’t seen any pay or benefit info yet, and because my current job has GREAT benefits it would really make a difference to me.

    My actual question: I’m still early in my career (4 years) and at my current position for just over two years. How long of notice should I give? I love my team, but this is a relatively slow time of year for me so there’s nothing immediate that’s going to get dropped if/when I leave. Two weeks seems too low, but… there’s not a lot going on.

    1. Anon Librarian*

      Two weeks is standard. If you can give more though (and you don’t think you’d be pushed out) than give more. It’s always gracious. But also consider if you want a break between jobs or if the other job has a firm start date.

    2. ZSD*

      I think two weeks is fine. It’s still considered standard, and particularly when your work is slow, this shouldn’t cause a big disruption for your employer.

    3. CaitlinM*

      People sometimes think that your notice time is supposed to give the company time to replace you. In the US, at least, that’s not the case. It’s to give you and the company time to wrap-up your work. Two weeks is adequate, especially for someone early in their career.

  33. Anon for this*

    I am responsible for overseeing the work of a contractor. This guy is employed by another company and works full-time at my company. He does a great job and we depend on him a lot.

    He recently had an unexpected family emergency and has been gone for over two months. His company is contractually obligated to provide a substitute when he’s absent, which is not too bad for covering a sick day or week of vacation, but it’s been really hard on them to cover for this long. Three other people have taken turns covering his shifts. They all live over an hour away because this isn’t their normal location, and two of them (one of whom is the account manager) are salaried employees and working unpaid extra hours to cover these shifts. They’ve worked really hard and done a great job at keeping up with the regular guy’s responsibilities. Their contract is coming up for renewal soon, so they are extra motivated to keep us happy (my company is a very large account).

    The regular guy is coming back next week, and I would like to thank the people who covered for him while he was gone, but I’m not sure if it’s proper. My company is paying them a lot of money, and that includes payment for a full-time worker, so they were really just complying with the contract. I’m not sure it’s appropriate for me to thank them for complying with the terms of the contract. But I also know that each of them made personal sacrifices to continue to provide excellent service to my company under difficult conditions, and I really am grateful. I won’t be seeing them much anymore since the new guy is coming back, so any thanks will probably have to be by e-mail. Is it ok to send them a note thanking them for doing a great job covering for the regular guy for the last couple of months?

    1. ACDC*

      I absolutely think it is okay, and I think it’s wonderful that you want to show your appreciation! As someone who is a contractor employed by another company, this would certainly not be uncommon for the type of work we do, and would honestly be really appreciated on the receiving end!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      This seems like a variation on the question of thanking a waiter/waitress for bringing over food. Yes, thank them. Yes, it’s their job, but they