is it rude to refuse to talk on the phone, how to tell my boss “I already did that,” and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Is it rude to refuse to talk on the phone?

I’m a first-year grad student getting my MFA in Studio Arts. I am in charge of creating labels for an annual event that every MFA first-year has responsibilities for. Since we are putting up the show in a week, I sent a group message three days ago asking people to give me the information for the labels by today so I could work on it after my job (this was approved by my supervisor). Most of them have been prompt, but one person messaged me today, the deadline, asking if she could talk to me in person or on the phone about her labels. This was in the morning, before I woke up at 9:30 to go to work at 11 a.m. The conversation is below:

Her: So, for my label…I would like it to be done a little differently. Will you be around campus today? I’d like to explain plus I have a question. Thnx.
Her: Or you can call me (phone number)
Me: Hey, I’d actually be more comfortable if you messaged me. I have to work so I won’t be able to call or see you in person, sorry about that.
Her: Okay then……
(She then typed the information she wanted put onto the card and how it was to be formatted. It is different than typical gallery labels, but the instructions were: no spaces in between certain letters, no capitalization. formatting things that I would have needed to see on paper.)
Her: yes, got it??
Me: Received! Thank you for your patience. I’ll send you a picture of the label format to double check sometime today.

How do I change the way I message people to avoid offending them? I think saying that I would be more comfortable sounded like I was uncomfortable with meeting her and didn’t WANT to, instead of that I couldn’t because I was working. I admit that I honestly didn’t want to meet up or talk with her before my job because she has been patronizing to me in the past and I am not in the mindset to navigate that, so my annoyance and grumpiness came through in that message upon rereading. She may have also perceived “work” as in me working on my art in the studio, not me working a job.

She is also in her 30s and I am 23. I worry that I just don’t have the experience to deal with these types of things. I think I get overly defensive because I’m comparatively young to my colleagues, or I am too selfish because I could’ve talked to her in person or over the phone before I worked, I just didn’t want to. I’m overall incredibly worried that I am unprofessional, entitled, and inexperienced and I’m offending everyone around me with these types of things.

Yeah, the “I’d be more comfortable” wording isn’t ideal, because it sounds like this is about your comfort level rather than your schedule or the needs of the project. I think you meant “I’d be more comfortable getting this in writing so I’m sure I’m getting the details exactly the way you want them,” but it might have come across to her as “I’d be more comfortable if we didn’t have to speak by phone.” But this is easily fixed for future messages! Instead of framing it as being about comfort, just explain what it’s really about. For example:

* “I’m at work all day today so won’t be able to answer a call. Could you email me instead?” (In your case where you’re worried she’ll think that means you’re working on art in your studio, you could change that to “I’m at my job all day.”)

* “Sorry, I’m swamped today and can’t jump on a call. Could you email it and then we’ll go from there?”

* “Could you email the details to me? I want to make sure that I get the label exactly how you want it, so it’s safer to have it in writing.”

These responses are fine because they’re about what’s logistically possible (your schedule) and what’s best for the project (having things in writing), not your comfort level. You do need to be okay with phone calls for work in general because sometimes they’re more efficient, and sometimes the person you’re talking to is senior to you and that’s the way they prefer to communicate. But for stuff like this, it’s fine to set the boundaries you want.

2. How to tell my boss “I already did that”

Thanks to your excellent advice, I recently started a new job that I love, and while it’s still early days, my excellent performance reviews reflect my bosses’ confidence in me.

Here’s my problem: I manage my company’s social media. Several times a week, my bosses will approach me hours or even days after I’ve shared a news item on social media with the suggestion that I share that news item on social media. I usually just respond with “Thanks!” and move on, but I’m concerned about three things: A) my bosses think they are giving me important direction/input that I find valuable and am acting on when I am doing no such thing, B) my bosses think I would not be doing my job the way I do it, or as well as I do it, without this input and, less importantly perhaps, C) my bosses, who are otherwise active on social media, aren’t following this aspect of our company’s work at all. To me, this is a performance issue — I’m actually better at my job than they think I am, and I’d like to be recognized for it. I’m also sensitive about this because many people (this isn’t unique to my company) don’t realize how hard it is to be good at what I do; there’s a sense that just anyone can “do Facebook.”

Is there a way to say “Thanks, but I actually posted this last Monday!” that doesn’t come across as “Don’t tell me how to do my job, person who is absolutely supposed to tell me how to do my job,” or “Wow, you’re way behind on the news!” or, worse, “Stop bothering me!” I want everyone I work with to feel empowered to send me suggestions for social media sharing, because of course I may miss things, but it feels different with my bosses than it does with my coworkers or my reports, because these are more like directives than suggestions.

Yeah, when you respond with “thanks,” you’re giving them the impression that you might not have posted it if they hadn’t said anything. Instead, it’s better to respond with something like, “Yes! I posted it this morning!” or “Yeah, I loved that — I posted it earlier this week so we’re all set” or so forth. As long as you say it cheerfully and don’t sound annoyed, that’s not going to come across as “don’t tell me how to do my job” or any of the other things you’re worried about; it’s just a conversation about business logistics, and you’re saying it’s already done.

I would actually be concerned if I discovered that my employee wasn’t being straightforward about this kind of thing; it would make me think they felt they had to carefully manage my feelings, and I’d worry about what else they weren’t being straightforward about due to misplaced delicacy. Give your bosses the respect of just being matter-of-fact about this!

3. My company wants me to impart years of knowledge to someone in my last week on the job

My current role is multi-faceted. We’re a company of fewer 50 employees, I do all of the marketing, all of the graphic design for our e-learning modules, and 80% of the customer service for online learning (seriously). I have a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, and taught myself the sister software for instructional design after college.

With less than a week left before I leave for a new job, I’ve been tasked to teach our video production intern (turned full-time employee) everything I know about the software. This is an advanced software program that took me years to learn, and even now, I’m nowhere near master level. The intern is fresh out of college and knows video production very well, but has very little graphic design experience (not to mention, he’s arrogant, having once told me he doesn’t need to attend professional development conferences or skills trainings because “he already knows all of that”). First, I just don’t think I can get him up to par before I leave. Second, isn’t this asking a lot for a departing employee? Please correct me if I’m mistaken, but I’m used to passing off tasks and projects upon departure, but not being required to teach a newbie everything about a tool that I use…? Can I ask your thoughts? Furthermore, my superiors are holding this “carrot” of being able to take Thursday and Friday this week as PTO, giving me a couple of days off before I start my new job on Monday, provided I teach him this software.

It’s totally reasonable to say, “I have a degree in graphic design and spent years getting proficient with this software, which is fairly advanced. Even now I’m nowhere near master level or even really equipped to teach it to others. There’s no way I can teach him the software in a week, but I can show him some basics and point him to some tutorials that might be helpful.”

I wouldn’t get too swayed by the promise of getting Thursday and Friday off, if it comes at the price of an unreasonable expectation. I’d rather you be straightforward with them about the limitations of what’s possible, so that they have that context and don’t blame you a few weeks from now when — surprise! — he doesn’t know an advanced program that takes years to master.

4. Leaving soon after getting a bonus

I expect to receive a bonus around the holidays for work performed throughout the year. This will be the first bonus I receive from this employer, as I started late in the last year. I am currently in the middle of interviewing for a new position primarily due to being unhappy with my workplace’s culture and treatment of workers in general. If I am still employed when bonuses are given and quit within a month or two of receiving the bonus, is there any necessity to pay it back, or feel uneasy about accepting?

Nope. You earned the bonus, and it’s yours. People do sometimes leave soon after bonuses are handed out, and that’s just how the timing works out. There’s nothing rude about it, and you absolutely do not need to pay it back.

5. Do people care what days I take off?

I’m a late-20s woman who works on a team of 10 in a company of ~100. I’ve been with my company for about four years and I’m pretty well respected in the company. I still struggle with getting the hang of white-collar culture, and your blog has been a huge help.

That brings me to my question. Does anyone care what days their colleagues use their PTO? I ask because I just took Halloween off for no reason at all, and wondered if it seemed childish. I requested it three weeks in advance, and it was quickly approved. I just wanted a day off, and Halloween at work is a total productivity-free zone. I’ve never done it before, but I have a lot of PTO left — my company provides really generous PTO, to the point where a large portion of employees take part of or the entire month of December off because of “use it or lose it.” I don’t want to do that — for my mental health and the pace of the projects I manage, I choose to scatter my PTO throughout the year. Some of those days include my birthday and the week of 4/20. I volunteer for an art studio and that week is typically when we have our biggest festival of the year. Sure, I partake, but that’s not why I take the week off!

You’re fine! Most people won’t even connect you being out with Halloween, unless you announce that’s why you’re taking the day off. And it’s no big deal to take off your birthday and other random days, as long as you have the time off to use. Obviously, don’t make a whole big thing about how important your birthday is, or that’s awful that other people work on Arbor Day, or so forth. But otherwise, you’re fine.

{ 321 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Engineer Girl

    #3 – My biggest concern is his arrogance. He may try to blame you for any failures because (according to him) you didn’t teach him properly.
    So make sure your leadership knows what you can and can’t do. Also be specific with them on what you did teach.

    Reply
    1. Rebecca

      Totally agree. I’d go as far as putting together a written checklist or summary of basic steps that you show him, along with links to tutorials for each, and make sure your manager has a copy as well.

      Reply
      1. Sara without an H

        If you want to be especially evil, you could leave written documentation of what you covered with him, then add “Igor assures me he’s totally got this now.”

        Reply
      2. peachie

        Yes, this is a great idea! I’ve done that even for totally normal transitions (i.e., ones where my workplace didn’t have unrealistic expectations). Even if you’re not doing it for CYA purposes, it makes you look really good to your former employer–plus, it makes people’s lives easier, especially the person who’s taking over your role.

        Reply
      3. AnnaBananna

        + 1

        As a previous manager, and previously departed (I didn’t mean to be this morbid, oops), honestly the best you can do is a checklist with resources – and they’re lucky they’re getting that. Keep in mind that it’s actually their bad interviewing/hiring practices that are making you feel uncomfortable about this – this is not your circus, not your monkeys, even if they’re trying to brush it on you.

        And frankly it’s sad and telling that they think your role could learn that software in a week. I fear you may have undervalued your skillset with them while you were there. Hope this isn’t the case for your next role! :)

        Reply
    2. Psyche

      Yep. Controlling expectations is always important. Maybe say that you can show him the basics but that he will require additional training and recommend a good course or program.

      Reply
      1. JulieCanCan

        Yes! I’d keep a list of what was covered in his training (per comment suggestions above) and perhaps a bullet point list of the most crucial and common things done on the program and where he can find the answers/help online (since there’s no logical way to transfer your knowledge of the program into his brain in one week.)

        I’d also give the guy you’re training (and his management) the names of a few courses or certification options that would help him learn the necessary in-depth details he’ll need. For example: “I found the most useful schooling for said program to be X Online Course, and in addition I took Y Certification, which focused on the a and b areas of the application. There are many courses available but these two I can personally vouch for and strongly recommended.” <—– This suggestion will also underscore the fact that your abilities and skills are far beyond what can be taught in a 5-day period, and it will ideally help clue in to management when your replacement is floundering in this area of his position.

        Reply
    3. Emily K

      #3, you might check out the Lynda site. They offer online trainings in almost everything you can imagine, including software, and you can take unlimited courses for $49/month. At my employer whenever we hire a new employee who needs skills training (as opposed to “how we do it here” training) we purchase them a Lynda membership for a few months and then they can use their work hours to complete the online courses just as they would to train with a staff member. At $49/month it’s way more cost-effective than taking valuable staff time to impart generalized software knowledge that doesn’t need to be coming from the specific company.

      Reply
      1. Dewey Decimal

        I love Lynda.com! Just wanted to add: You may be able to access it for free with a public library card. Check with your local library and see if they have a subscription. Mine does, and I can access it from home.

        Reply
  2. Stan Lee (not the famous one)

    In response to 2. How to tell my boss “I already did that”:

    I used to work in the summons unit at court. (I still work at court, but in a different department.) I was responsible for returning summons payments to people whose cases were dismissed. I also had to return payments to people who either were ineligible to pay their fines by mail or submitted the wrong payment (wrong amount, wrong format, wrong payee, no payment at all, etc.). I called these “warrant letters” because if people failed to comply with the instructions on the letter that accompanied the returned payment, they could be subject to having a warrant issued for their arrest.

    Unfortunately, the nature of the work being what it was, I had a significant backlog of work. One day my boss asked me to go through it, separate the warrant letters from the “summons has been dismissed” letters, and work on those first. I told him I wasn’t going to do that. I then explained that I had already been fast-tracking the warrant letters and working on those first, so whatever backlog there was did not include any warrant letters.

    The boss was glad to know the issue had already been taken care of. And it felt so good to be able to say “no” to my boss and have a legitimate reason for doing so.

    Reply
    1. Close Bracket

      Why did you say you weren’t going to do that? Since it was already done, it’s not a thing you could even say yes to bc the task didn’t exist. Seems like “that’s my SOP” would have done the trick, and saying “no” was unnecessary recalcitrance.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        It doesn’t sound like Stan said “no”? Their story suggests they explained their process and backlog, but it doesn’t state that they were unnecessarily recalcitrant.

        But I’m also not sure how this vein of discussion helps OP?

        Reply
        1. Stan Lee (not the famous one)

          The boss wanted me to start doing something. I didn’t need to “start” doing it because I had already been doing it. That’s why I said no. If I had not already been doing it, I would not have said no.

          It’s up to the OP to decide if my anecdote is helpful to him or her.

          Reply
          1. Blossom

            I thought the same as Close Bracket… “I’m already doing it” is the normal answer – leading with “No” sounds like you’re about to refuse to do the task. I’m imagining your boss hearing “No” and his eyes bugging out of his head cartoon style before you continue your sentence! And I think Princess Consuela Bananahammock is questioning the usefulness of us analysing the sentence structure you used, rather than questioning the relevance of your story. (though I do think Close Bracket’s point is relevant to the OP, because I don’t think every boss would be thrilled to have the situation explained in that way).

            Reply
            1. cry everytim

              I agree, this isn’t a “no.” The opposite of “yes” is not “already on it.”

              That said, I think this story is helpful for OP because, as you said, how you say it matters, i.e. if you act like you haven’t done it yet, or like you’re not going to do it, or awkwardly build up to it with apologies about hurting your boss’s feelings or something. Just say, “Oh, I already did that.”

              Otherwise you get that meme story that goes
              Girl: do u liek me
              Boy: no
              Girl: *cries*
              Boy: …i LOVE you

              Reply
            2. Slartibartfast

              Some people need a full stop before they listen. So depending on the boss and his phrasing, “No because xyz” might be a perfectly polite response. Especially with someone who’s a black and white thinker. If you need a softer response, maybe something like “Great minds think alike! I just posted that this morning” or “We’re on the same page, that’s how I’ve been doing it”.
              I work in medicine, where there’s no guarantees, just very high probabilities and my husband is working as a court officer right now. I’m trained to never give guarantees on anything and he’s trained to put everything in black and white terms with no gray areas that can be misinterpreted. It definitely complicates our personal communications with each other.

              Reply
      2. Risha

        Raising my eyebrows here at the idea that saying the word “no” to a superior when you have a reason to can be considered recalcitrant. Sometimes one asks for something unnecessary or impossible or they completely misunderstood the email about an issue, and as long as you can provide a polite, reasonable explanation it’s perfectly appropriate to say the word to them. And depending on the boss and your job and your degree of expertise and how much they trust you, “unwise” can also be a valid reason to use the word.

        If your boss holds something like that against you, it doesn’t mean you were inappropriate, it means you have a crappy, possibly power-mad boss.

        Reply
        1. Emily K

          I suspect that different people are reading it with different tones in their heads. I can imagine a very polite/cheerful tone and a huffy/quarrelsome tone for the exact same words that would dramatically change how appropriate I think it would be to say to a boss.

          Reply
    2. hbc

      I’m with Close Bracket, in that the way you told the story makes it sound like you said. “No, I won’t do that. I don’t need to because my process takes care of that already.” The flat refusal up front sounds like game-playing. Whereas “Oh, my process is to expedite those up front, so that’s not necessary.”

      It’s not only for appearances and butt-kissing to avoid a flat no. What if someone above him was claiming that stuff was being held up? He might actually need you to go through the pile so he can say “There are no warrants in the backlog as of 1pm.”

      Reply
    3. AdminX2

      I’ve done that myself a time or two. “Nope, not going to start that because it’s already done and ready!” It’s a nice feeling.

      Reply
  3. Juli G.

    #5 Lots of people take their birthdays off at my place of work and while it was more weighted toward parents who volunteered at their kids school, plenty took Halloween off. At your stodgier places, 4/20 would raise eyebrows but the fact that it’s a week long event probably helps downplay that.

    I take off the Monday after the Super Bowl every year and no one bats an eye. Enjoy and use your days!

    Reply
    1. AsItIs

      Don’t mention it’s your birthday, or Halloween, or to donate an organ. It’s really no one else’s business how you spend your PTO, and they likely don’t care.

      Reply
        1. BF50

          I think the only time you need to be careful about your days is when it is a day that most people want off, but the company still needs at least a skeleton crew in the office.

          For example one year I had two coworkers go in on January first and request off the Friday and Tuesday around Memorial Day and Labor Day, the 3rd & 5th of July, the day before Thanksgiving, and the week of Christmas. We were a team of three, so that meant I had to work all those days. Yes, they did it on purpose because I’d just gotten back from maternity leave which stretched from 10/5 through 12/28 and I had therefore gotten Thanksgiving and Christmas off that year. As if I had somehow planned that.

          Reply
        2. Kat in VA

          Because of inappropriate boundary-crossing-training* from Ghosts Of Jobs Past™, I still have to remind myself that I don’t *have* to tell my boss or my coworkers why I’m taking PTO. I just take it. I usually tell them anyway because I’m an open book, but I’m not required to – and that is a major difference.

          *I’ve had the distinct displeasure of having not one but two jobs where I was required to state why I was taking PTO…so my manager/boss could then determine if it was “sufficient” reason and either approve or deny based on their assessment.

          Reply
      1. Nancie

        I would totally mention if I was taking time off for an organ donation, especially if it was for a stranger. Someone I know donated bone marrow to a stranger, and their company had them put the time to a different category so it didn’t count against their PTO.

        Reply
        1. Teapot librarian

          Yes, when I donated an organ, I had planned to take sick leave until my boss said “you know, we have a separate category of leave for organ donation.” And I like spreading the word that organ donation is a thing one can do.

          Reply
        2. Justme, The OG

          Same, we have a different code for organ and marrow donation that’s not readily available as a code to input on our leave sheets.

          Reply
        3. Amber T

          Yes – days off needed for organ donation doesn’t count as “sick leave” and doesn’t count towards time off needed for short term disability.

          Reply
        4. Admin of Sys

          This is also sometimes the case for charity work – if you’re going to habitat to build a house, for example, your job may have a ‘community service leave’ category that can be used.

          Reply
    2. Marion Ravenwood

      Dumb Brit question: what’s the reasoning behind 4/20 being an odd time to take off in some places? I’m guessing it’s something tax-related?

      But yeah, if you can take the time off then it’s no-one’s business what you take it for, and you don’t have to say why. I take a long weekend in March and a week in October for two big country music festivals here in the UK, plus a day in December that I ‘missed’ when I went backpacking (due to crossing the international date line and landing in New Zealand two days after I left Chile). No-one has ever questioned it. Enjoy your PTO OP#5!

      Reply
      1. Audrey Puffins

        I don’t know the origins of 420 being a cannabis-related number, but if someone’s booking 4/20 off work *because* it’s 4/20, they’re pretty much announcing they’re taking a day off work to get high.

        Reply
          1. RabbitRabbit

            I had to go to Denver for a work conference that included 4/20; Colorado is one of the US states that legalized recreational marijuana use/purchase. I snickered and it turned out not as many people in my office knew the pot reference, so I had to explain.

            Unfortunately 4/20 is also celebrated by some white nationalists/neo-Nazis as it was Hitler’s birthday, but that’s usually easier to separate in context from the pot fans.

            Reply
            1. Amber T

              Oh jeez, I knew the pot reference, but I didn’t realize 4/20 was also celebrated in that way. True that it should be easy to distinguish, but… ugh.

              Reply
              1. BF50

                It’s also the anniversary of the Columbine Massacre, which is why they picked that day.

                So 4/20 can be a bit fraught for Colorado. You are guaranteed to see articles about kids smoking up at CU and probably anniversary articles about Columbine.

                Reply
        1. Asenath

          She said that she volunteers at an arts studio, and that’s the week they have a big festival. Lots of people take time off for reasons like that.

          Reply
          1. Tableau Wizard

            But she also mentions that she “partakes” which means that the festival is also likely tied to marijuana consumption. At least that was my very naive, never even seen it in person, take on the letter.

            Reply
          2. Yorick

            If I were OP, I’d start mentioning that art studio festival when I book the time off. Otherwise people will think she’s taking the week off to get high, and many would judge.

            Reply
            1. CAA

              Taking a week of PTO that happens to include 4/20 is in no way remarkable at most work places. OP will only make it remarkable if she mentions getting high as the reason for the time off. It’s totally cool to mention the art festival, but definitely not necessary.

              I’ve approved many vacations for that week and taken a lot of PTO then as well and I’ve never thought about whether any of them were driven by the desire to get high. I have a spouse who worked on tax software so that was the first week of the year he could realistically take time off, so that’s what we did. And if Easter falls around then, parents frequently want that time off because a lot of schools will be on spring break. I also had one employee who traditionally took a week off in April to see 4 or 5 baseball games in different cities. And even if none of those apply, Spring is just a nice season to travel in a lot of places.

              Reply
              1. Alcott

                I agree. Unless OP is actively tying the time off to getting high or something, I’m just going to note “Jamie is off the third week of April” and move on. I know someone who takes the first week of June off every year to volunteer for an annual event at her church. Same thing, not weird or going to raise eyebrows unless there’s more to the story.

                Reply
              2. BF50

                There is a decent chance I would notice if someone took just 4/20 off and no other day, but definitely not if they took an entire week.

                Reply
              3. Aerin

                My wedding anniversary is April 23, and most years I take that week off. (My husband has to book his in one-week chunks.) I’ve never had anyone comment on the timing. Spring is a very nice season to travel, and it’s usually easier for me to get that time than anything in the summer or around the holidays. When I wouldn’t want to travel anyway, because crowds.

                Reply
            2. Observer

              If someone ever questioned me about taking off around 4/20, I’d be questioning THEM. Because for most people who are not into pot, “4/20? MUST be POT!” is not the normal though process. In fact, a lot of people don’t even know what that is.

              This year 4/20 is the first day of Passover. I can just see people pushing back on being questioned about taking that day (or week) off.

              Reply
            3. Amber T

              If someone said they were taking 4/20 off, I’d wonder vaguely if it was pot related (depending on the person, too). If someone said they were taking the week of 4/20 off, I would definitely not assume it was a week long celebration of week, unless it’s a very select group of pot heads I’m remembering from high school (but, then again, they’re gonna be high every day of every week anyway, so it wouldn’t be any different anyway).

              Reply
            4. Elsajeni

              I think that is WILDLY unlikely, unless you specifically phrase it as “I’m taking the week of 4/20 off” when the 20th is not the Monday — in other words, unless you’re going out of your way to call attention to the fact that your leave includes April 20th and/or going out of your way to say “four twenty” at every opportunity instead of, like, “April 20th” or “next Thursday”.

              Reply
        2. lurker

          Yup. My college town had a “hash bash” every year around that date. (Theoretically an arts festival and chance to lobby for marijuana legalization, since it wasn’t legal there at the time I lived there.)

          Reply
        3. Anon for this

          Here is the origin story: in the early 70’s, there was a high school in the Bay Area where some students would get together after school to get stoned. “After school” was approximately 4:20pm, hence the actual number. (A lot of people think it’s a legal code or something but they are wrong.) So it was a Bay Area term among high school students and it spread slowly. After a decade or two the term had spread to Oakland, where hip-hop culture spread it nationally and now internationally. There’s backstory of how those students developed the term, but there you are. Stoner high school students in the early 1970’s, and a time of day. The April 20 connection is much more recent.

          (When I was in college in the late 1980’s, “420” was not yet known to us, even though we had Bay Area friends in our crowd. Instead, we had 11:11, which we referred to as “International Bong Hit Minute”.)

          Reply
          1. AdminX2

            Huh, the story I always heard was it was “the last time in the day you could partake and be sober the next day.”

            Reply
            1. Emily K

              Some versions also have it as being the local police department code in some jurisdiction for “public marijuana consumption.”

              It’s an urban legend whose true origin is likely lost to time.

              Reply
      2. Sled dog mama

        One theory on 420 becoming associated with cannabis (I have seen others but this is my preferred). 420 was often used by police departments as the numeric code for a call involving cannabis (much the same way 10-4 is used for I understand). Don’t know the truth of this and I’ve seen arguments both ways.

        Reply
        1. SherSher

          I looked it up and, yes, a lot of people say it’s about police code, but more sources point to a group of high schoolers back in the ’70s. Check the link in my name if you’re interested. I think I’d prefer some good folklore, because I don’t find the real story all that compelling! LOL

          Reply
        2. Delta Delta

          There is an excellent episode of the podcast “Criminal” about the origin of the phrase. I won’t spoil it, but it’s not what people think.

          Reply
        3. TardyTardis

          My daughter and her friend were roommates at a dorm with the room number 420–they felt obliged to post a sign saying, NO WE DON’T HAVE ANY. It saved a lot of time.

          Reply
      3. Gaia

        Not intended to mock but living in a state with legalized marijuana I laughed at the innocence of this. Taxes!!!!

        4/20 is a “holiday” for stoners. I don’t know the origins but it’s pretty well known in many circles and in my state (where it is legal) there are even commercials and sales around it.

        Reply
        1. londonedit

          I’ve vaguely heard of ‘4/20’ as being a cannabis-related thing through US websites/blogs, but it’s definitely not a thing in the UK. Never has been. I’m sure the vast majority of people here wouldn’t have a clue what it meant, and anyway, we do our dates differently so ‘420’ wouldn’t correspond to a date – the 20th of April is 20/04.

          Reply
          1. Clementine

            Don’t say “taking the week of 4/20 off”. Put in a request for April 15-19, 2019 (or whatever the actual dates are).

            Reply
            1. Aerin

              Also, there’s a big difference between saying “four-twenty” and saying “April 20th.” The former is going to register with a lot more people as pot-related than the latter.

              Reply
      4. Rachel B.

        Albert Hofmann was the first person to synthesize and try LSD. April 20 was the occasion of his famous (or possibly notorious) bicycle ride, where he took a dose roughly ten times what would become the “norm” and then rode home. One can only imagine what that was like, though he did attempt to document it. How that transmuted into a holiday for potheads, I am not entirely certain, but that was the starting point. LSD has been employed in the treatment of major depression with some success, though perhaps not legally in the USA. Incidentally, Hofmann died at the age of 102 of a heart attack after a long and successful career as a chemistry pioneer, so clearly it didn’t harm him.

        Reply
    3. Boo Hoo

      I always take my birthday off. Mainly because my gift to myself is not doing work. I also refuse to cook or clean that day. I don’t require anything special, just not being subjected to the daily crud. Frankly no boss has ever cared. Many many people take birthdays off. It’s your PTO, use it as you wish.
      Also i always end up in tears on my birthday, I just have always hated them, so not really work appropriate.

      Reply
    4. LCL

      When I was younger I used to take a day or so around Halloween for all of the parties. I expect the younger employees to take time off around Halloween either for partying or to take their kids out. In the US, Halloween is becoming a big party occasion for adults.

      Reply
    5. GreenDoor

      I take random days off, including “in law recovery days” which I take the day after my mother-in-law goes back home after a long visit. I also take off when my favorite hobby store has a big storewide sale. Random is fine. I think what would bother people is if you took off on super busy days, days when everyone was expected to work late, days when a last minute push to meet a deadline was…or .any kind of day where you’d really be leaving co-workers in a bind without you being there. Other than that, enjoy your random days.

      Reply
  4. in a fog

    OP #1: I also dislike talking on the phone, and part of the reason why is that my listening comprehension just isn’t that good. (Or, if you want to get really technical about it, I have an auditory processing disorder.) My current job involves collecting and processing information from all over my organization, and the people who submit that information have their own preferences for getting it to me — phone calls, just telling me in the hallway, etc. Over my time there, though, I’ve managed to get most everyone to send it in via email as a rule. If you tell people that you’re a visual learner and that you need them to communicate with you in writing to ensure that things get done the right way, that’s not just something most people understand, but they might come away with a greater appreciation for your attention to detail.

    Reply
    1. Bunny Girl

      I don’t like to be on the phone at work for the sole reason that I prefer things in writing as proof of the conversation. A majority of the people in my department like to throw blame around when things don’t exactly go their way and I like to be able to bring up the email and say “But on this day you told me to do this.” It has nothing to do with my comfort level on the phone.

      Reply
      1. Lia

        I am the same way. I need the paper trail from time to time just to point out that no, I was instructed to do x, not y.

        Also, I have a partial hearing loss in my left ear (and am right handed, so it makes it hard to take notes while on the phone) and talking on the phone can be difficult unless I use speaker phone, which is not appropriate for all conversations nor in my office suite. I’m pretty good at covering up the loss but phone calls can be very tough. Short calls are ok but longer ones, I will meet in person or conduct via email.

        Reply
        1. Jennifer Thneed

          You need a headset, like, yesterday. If your actual job involves talking on the phone, then you need a headset for exactly this reason, and so you don’t try to type while holding the phone with your shoulder.

          (Not trying to change your methodologies! Paper trails are good. But still, get that headset. They aren’t very expensive compared to needing physical therapy for muscle injury.)

          Reply
      2. MusicWithRocksInIt

        Some things are just clearer in writing than they would be over the phone. I just sent out an email with a list and someone wrote back to me – some of these don’t belong on the list, let’s have a call to discuss! Or… you could just email me which parts don’t belong on the list? Which I feel would be much easier than an hour long phone call going “Wait, you wanted M-26E/G2 on the list but not M-24/G2?” There is nothing to discuss – tell me which parts you want on the list! Phone calls are better for back and fourth negotiations or discussions to decide things. Not facts, facts belong in emails.

        Reply
        1. Someone Else

          Yeah, the context the OP was talking about is absolutely an email situation, even if the OP weren’t at another job or just didn’t like in-person actions with the colleague in question. “Let me spell out my non-standard requirements for you” is totally a written thing. Discussing it would be next to pointless. Maybe, MAYBE, if OP got the list and found it unclear a call would be a productive way to clarify ambiguity, but that’d only be after getting it in writing in the first place. Plus for how to format labels…the written requirements really should be something that’s impossible to misinterpret, font this, size that, spacing this, no caps. If the person who needed special labels managed to send it in writing in a way that did need discussion, that’s probably a them problem anyway. I digress, but point is: specs go in writing; they are not a “quick call”. OP phrased her response a little awkwardly but the other person was making an odd request to begin with, and the core of the answer “email is better than phone” is 100% the right call.

          Reply
    2. Washi

      I guess it depends on the context, but if someone asked me to send them an email because they are a visual learner, I would find that a little odd? Probably because I don’t care what kind of learner someone is, I just care more about the second part of your sentence, getting things done right. If someone said “actually, could you send me an email? I like having the details in writing so I can be sure I’m giving you what you need” I would happily send an email without batting an eye.

      Reply
      1. Yorick

        Yeah, being told “I’m a visual learner” when I’m not trying to teach them something would be pretty weird.

        Reply
        1. Boo Hoo

          Especially with something as simple as how to list credentials. Uh, I’m not teaching you anything, just telling you how it should be displayed.

          I also thought that maybe she wanted it clarified because people often get it wrong. I worked for a non profit that credentialed nurses and there is a specific order it has to be in which many people don’t get. A simple call saying “hey FYI the CCRN has to come after RN is pretty simple.

          Guess I just outed my past employer haha. It was many moons ago not worried about it.

          Reply
    3. Emily K

      I similarly have a really low retention rate for verbal information. I will often offer to meet people halfway though, and say, “I’d be happy to hop on the phone to talk this through if you have any questions,” and then still end the call either telling them to please get everything we discussed over to me in writing to get the process started (if they’re a peer/junior), or if it’s a very senior colleague I’ll take notes on the call and tell the person that I’ll be emailing a record of my notes to confirm everything we talked about.

      For frequent types of projects I actually have created standardized “forms” (basically just lists of information I need for that type of project) that I paste into an email body and ask if they can fill it out so I have all the details in one place instead of spread across a lot of back and forth emails. And again t here, if it’s a very senior colleague I’ll probably fill it out first based on my understanding and highlight the ones I’m not clear on and need their input.

      Reply
    4. Kat in VA

      I don’t like talking on the phone because I have a speech impediment/vocal disorder (spasmodic dysphonia) that’s neurological and comes and goes in severity. Fortunately, folks are understanding of this at my my work – after I gently counter the inevitable “Are you sick?” or “get better soon!” commentary once or twice from people who don’t know me.

      Reply
  5. Ravensthorne

    OP#4 A bonus is for work you’ve done, not for what you are going to do. You’ve earned it, enjoy it, and good luck with the new position.

    Reply
    1. Phoenix Programmer

      Well most places use them for retention. So if you left before the payout day even if it’s performance based they usually won’t pay.

      Reply
        1. AdAgencyChick

          Or even two weeks later!

          Bonuses in advertising aren’t what they used to be, but plenty of people used to wait until right after bonus day to quit. The bosses might have been annoyed, but they wouldn’t hold it against the employee long-term, with one exception that I can remember.

          A writer I used to work with, as soon as her bonus check cashed, sent her boss an email saying she was resigning with three days’ notice. Her boss groused about it for quite some time afterward and I don’t blame him. She had clearly accepted an offer with a start date of X and then the bonus didn’t come quite as soon as she anticipated, so she ended up leaving her boss with almost no transition time. Not cool. If the timing was that tight, she should have tried to negotiate a signing bonus with her new company to cover the lost income and then given appropriate notice.

          Reply
          1. Mystery Bookworm

            And even then, the annoyance is really more about the lack of notice than it is about people leaving after receiving a bonus.

            Reply
          2. Fergus

            The boss ould have fired her dy before the bonus and they wouldn’t have received it. Anyone can leave when they want, just as well as being fired at any time.

            Reply
            1. Mystery Bookworm

              It says that she gave notice after the bonus check cashed, so unless they knew she was planning to leave, I’m not sure what could have been done differently?

              Reply
    2. Chaordic One

      Back at Bad Old Job bonuses were based on a combination of work that was done in the previous fiscal year, but were not paid until about two months later. People who quit before the bonuses were paid out were ineligible to receive bonuses, even though they worked through the fiscal year and it was non unheard of for people to be fired on the day before bonuses were paid so as to deny them the bonuses.

      If you get a bonus, it is yours and you should be able to quit any time after you receive it without any guilt. Just do it.

      Reply
      1. Julia

        That’s awful!
        I guess the one good thing about my old job was that the bonus was paid out pro-rated even if you left before you were to receive it. Now I think of it, I think they just called it a bonus and it was more a 13th salary like you get in a lot of European places (apparently) – I quit at the end of January and got like 1/12 of my 13th salary paid out.

        Reply
        1. Japan anon

          Yeah, Japan annual salaries are usually calculated on a 12+month basis. So for example a 16-month basis, you get 12 months of monthly salary, then a 2 month bonus in June, 2 month-worth bonus in December. Your yearly salary is spread out over more months, then lumped together. So you should definitely get your bonus regardless of when you quit, might be prorated but it’s considered part of your salary.

          Reply
          1. Julia

            Yeah, Japan is quite another odd case. This was a Japanese workplace in Europe, operating according to European labor law (thank God for that).

            Reply
        2. Rebecca in Dallas

          Same! I got laid off from my job in April (luckily started a new job quickly). The following January, I got a random check from Old Job with a letter that it was my prorated bonus from the previous year. LOL! I felt like I did nothing to earn that money, but you best believe I cashed the check.

          Reply
      2. AdAgencyChick

        My favorite boss of all time was once made to stay late after a client meeting…so he could be fired the day before his bonus payout from a year or two prior would have vested.

        Pro tip: companies, if you do this, you will be talked about for YEARS.

        Reply
        1. Artemesia

          I know two people working in entirely different start ups who were fired the day before their year of free labor would have resulted in their stock vesting. So they were recruited to work for minimum wage and provided critical professional work to make the startup successful and then cheated of the promised payment in vested stock. One of them created the on-line presence for a company that was primarily an on-line company; he was told ‘you got it set up so we can go get someone else to run it now and so we don’t need you.’ Just in time to avoid paying out his stock.

          Reply
      3. Big Bank

        This. Bonuses at my work are announced way before payment. So it’s important that the OP get paid the money before quitting in a lot of companies. Also I’d suggest reading through any claw-back notations, as although its probably unlikely they have a quitting clause mine does have “on going performance” clauses. Whether that can be stretched to include leaving the company, or argued if the person provides inadequate offboarding I cant say. IMNAL

        Reply
      4. Namast'ay in Bed

        Our bonuses work the same way (based on the previous year and takes 2-3 months to process) – my boss even mentioned the other day that March and April are the biggest quitting months around here because everyone waits to get their bonus check before leaving. As long as you give proper notice, the company accepts that this is just the natural order of things.

        Reply
    3. Rebecca

      My employer doesn’t give raises, but usually gives a bonus of a certain percentage in December. I don’t blame people for sticking around long enough to get and cash the bonus check, then give notice.

      Reply
      1. krysb

        Prior to our acquisition, our Christmas bonuses were based on years in, so long-timers who were planning to leave always left in January.

        Reply
        1. Rebecca

          I wish ours were based that way, but we all get the same percentage of base pay, usually 6%. It’s paid on a separate check, with a higher tax withholding rate.

          Reply
    4. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

      I think it would be prudent to discreetly check the policy on bonuses but I’d imagine the op will be fine.

      Reply
        1. Antilles

          That’s what I’ve seen/heard too.
          The notable exception is hiring/relocation bonuses OR bonuses relating to education or training. Those sorts of bonuses usually come with a written repayment plan where you agree upfront that if you choose to leave before X months, you will repay a certain percentage of the bonus.
          The difference is that these sorts of bonuses are more of an incentive for *future* benefits to the company…whereas regularly scheduled annual bonuses are more repayment for excellent *past* performance.

          Reply
    5. Steve

      The last place I worked, there was always a wave of resignations in early January. It wasn’t bonuses, just that the
      entire week between Christmas and New Year’s was paid as holidays.

      Reply
      1. Mr Shark

        In one of my previous jobs, I did the same thing. Bonuses came around the middle of August, so I planned to provide my notice right after I received the bonus. I guess I gave away my intentions, because when my boss was talking to me about the bonus I was getting (after consulting me on other people’s bonuses — a different topic altogether), I flinched when she said, “what would we do without you.”

        I gave more than two weeks notice, helped hire my replacement (who then was fired) and came back to the company to hire a new replacement during the busy season.

        Reply
  6. MassMatt

    #3 I’m curious how much notice you gave, did your employer drag their feet about getting your replacement permananet?

    In any case it seems both they and your replacement have very unrealistic expectations. I would make efforts to get your employer to understand what can and cannot be done in a week, or else risk getting scapegoated by the arrogant replacement.

    It’s hilarious that someone fresh out of school in his first job thinks he knows everything, especially in a technology field. He will either quickly realize the value of continue learning or he will fall behind. Or on his face!

    Reply
    1. AsItIs

      I’d be inclined to print out all the documentation on the software (hundreds of pages I’m hoping), stick it in a file, and ask the employer where to start because “it’s going to years and I’m leaving in five days”.

      Reply
      1. Nico M

        Goad the newbie into declaring publicly on Wednesday “ I know everything”, take Thursday and Friday as PTO, and if you are ever begged for help later, offer consultancy at at least 4x your wage .

        Reply
  7. Phoenix Programmer

    #5 Do people notice blank?
    Some weird ones will care but most people won’t even notice.

    Most people just don’t notice things that others worry about.

    Reply
      1. Artemesia

        My favorite cliche. “When I was young I worried what people thought of me; when I got older I didn’t care what people thought of me; now that I am old, I realize people were never thinking of me at all.”

        Reply
        1. kittymommy

          I used to work in my old company’s clinic and we had a group of employees that were always concerned that my office of 2 were monitoring and reporting everything they said or did (think you’re going to tell that I had too much to drink over the weekend, etc). My response was always that my level of interest (and my office’s level of interest) in their lives was significantly less that they assumed.

          Reply
          1. NTD

            Yep. I have an employee that I’m constantly having to remind her co-workers are not sitting around plotting on how to set her up. In the nicest ways possible telling her she is not important enough to those around her for them to spend any time trying to “get her.”

            Reply
    1. CM

      This is the answer in a nutshell!

      I do not notice when my coworkers take particular days off. If someone mentions they’ll be out I might ask, “Oh, are you going to do anything fun on your day off?” but it’s purely to make conversation, not to judge them for their PTO use. (And “no, not really” or “just relaxing” is fine to answer if you don’t want to share.)

      It would be really odd if a coworker cared that much about your days off and I would worry that they had other boundary issues.

      Reply
      1. Rebecca in Dallas

        Yeah, taking random days off is not uncommon in my office. I always figure they have appointments or some other obligation unless they say otherwise.

        Reply
  8. Mary

    #2, another way to soften it (and peehaps direct your bosses to your social media channels) might be to mention the interactions you got on any particular post. “Yeah, I posted that on Monday, and it was really popular! We got half a dozen likes and a couple of retweets, which is pretty great.”

    Reply
    1. Teacake

      I think you need to go one step further and start properly reporting on what you’re doing. How about setting up some sort of regular update about which posts had the most impact and other stuff about your audience? Don’t wait for them to ask you to do stuff – show them it’s all in hand.

      Reply
      1. Teacake

        Oh, and set up a content plan with a schedule for your posts (if you do unplanned ones you can add those retrospectively) and show it to them.

        Reply
        1. OP2

          This is good advice! And it amuses me to be able to reply to this with: “I’m already doing that.” :D

          We have a very robust work tracking/reporting process at my company — I prepare a rundown of everything we’ve posted, where we posted it, and how our audience engaged with our content on a biweekly basis. (Doing this more often would not be a good use of my time given my other responsibilities). So it’s kind of a weird situation — my bosses see what I’m doing regularly and in aggregate, but in the day-to-day, it seems like they sort of lose the thread.

          I think responding with some contextualization about how the content was received is a great addition to Alison’s advice, so thanks everyone!

          Reply
      2. Artemesia

        This. This is a sign that the boss doesn’t know what you are doing and thus cannot appreciate what you are doing. One part of managing up is to make sure your good work is visible to those in charge of you. Sometimes that means regular short reports/emails etc summing up accomplishments – every week, or month depending on the nature of the work. Sometimes it makes sense to think about an informal strategy e.g. in the elevator enthusiastically share the great response to a post in the on-line newsletter in just informal chat. Decades ago when I was teaching, I would talk about great student successes with my principal or Dean; the message is ‘I am a great teacher, here is what I am achieving’ but the delivery is ‘I am so proud of my students and the great things they are achieving.’ In any workplace this kind of informal keeping the management aware of what you are doing is helpful. You shape the substance to what makes sense in your context.

        Reply
      3. DaffyDuck

        Yes, you need to let your boss know the positive impact you are having. Many of us growing up are taught to be humble and not to brag, but it often transfers to the workplace never saying positive things about yourself and your work.
        Your bosses are not mind readers, they are busy handling problems and don’t have time to micro-manage folks who are doing fine (if boss is good at their job). It is the approach, not telling them what went well! Not communicating your positives is how blowhards get promoted and excellent workers get stuck in the same position.

        Reply
    2. Reluctant Manager

      Try replying with some data about how the posts did and a little context. This got more views than usual, plus x likes. The one I shared last week performed better on this metric. And push it back the other way—when you have a positive outlier that they may not have seen yet, email it along with some data.

      Reply
      1. Blue

        I’ve had this issue with a few bosses who are fairly scatterbrained. When something pops into their heads, I don’t think it occurs to them that I’ve already had it on my radar for ages? I don’t know, but I do find it insulting, so I’ve started choosing to interpret it as a request for a status update and just provide data/outcomes/context. That makes me far less resentful and assures the boss that things are under control.

        Reply
    3. Bee

      Depending on your relationship with your bosses (I could totally do this with mine), you could even say something like, “You know, that’s such a good idea that I already did it!”

      Reply
    4. Social

      Was just going to comment the same thing. I’m a VP of social for a big brand. OP, you should definitely confirm that it’s already been shared AND share some performance insights.

      Reply
    5. Legal Beagle

      Yes, this is important. You can also include a link to the post, and encourage them to like/share/etc from their own social media accounts. (Since LW said the bosses are active on social media, I’m assuming this would be business-appropriate. Obviously disregard if not.)

      Reply
  9. Teacake

    #1 Some people prefer to talk not write, just as others prefer the opposite. One thing you could have done is invite her to leave a voicemail – although you would also perhaps have emphasised that you needed the label text in writing.

    Reply
    1. Julia

      Yeah, in this situation, I’m not sure how much sense talking about a design vs. just sending a draft makes overall.

      Reply
    2. MusicWithRocksInIt

      Yea – I know some people prefer to talk on the phone, but when it comes to a design email just makes much more sense. I would never want someone to talk me through a design they made and be expected to comment on if it would work without seeing it – especially if they could more easily email it to me. Now if she had emailed it and there were certain things that needed to be modified and discussed – that is the time to have a phone call – when you are both looking at it.

      Reply
  10. Reluctant Manager

    #1: Good to know how to phrase this in a way that’s comfortable & feels confident, but you’re totally reasonable to expect someone to give you written info, um, in writing (and on your reasonable deadline). Your classmate sounds a little precious.

    Reply
    1. Falling Diphthong

      From the headline I’d expected one of those ‘Fergus prefers 15 emails spread over several hours to a 5 minute phone call’ problems, but wanting your card to read “tHeowL croweDAt NooN” is absolutely a problem for email.

      Reply
    2. DaniCalifornia

      It’s very easy to have instructions in an email come across the wrong way. Some people are better at explaining something different in person. There have been countless times that I’ve been emailing back and forth with a client and after the 5th email I pick up the phone and just call them. I usually say the same thing and for some reason they finally understand. Too many people are scared of the phone.

      Reply
      1. Birch

        That doesn’t imply that talking in person/on the phone is better though, just that some people aren’t great at email. Other people aren’t great at talking on the phone and are better in writing. That doesn’t make them immature or scared of the phone–you could also say people who are bad at email are terrible writers or scared of the keyboard, which is equally untrue. OP actually needed to SEE something, so the debate about whether phone or email is better is really outside of the point.

        Reply
    3. Mr Shark

      I am all for the idea that e-mailing the instructions for something like that would be much more clear than having a phone discussion. Asking them to e-mail the information initially and then you can follow-up with them if you have any questions would be the correct approach.

      I find that a lot of times the e-mail is more thought out and well organized, so it gets the point across much better than a likely more rambling description over the phone. As others have said, it also nails down the instructions and provides direct “evidence” of that instruction, so if there’s an error, it’s clear where the error occurred.

      Reply
  11. J

    OP#1: It’s awesome that you’re so conscientious, thinking about past interactions and how you could have handled them better. And I agree that Alison’s suggested wording *is* better. ….BUT. I think you may be being too hard on yourself!

    This part of your message jumped out at me:

    “I’m overall incredibly worried that I am unprofessional, entitled, and inexperienced and I’m offending everyone around me with these types of things.”

    What you wrote wasn’t ideal, but it certainly wasn’t grossly offensive, either. So basically, this random internet stranger (who’s historically been pretty hard on herself about that sort of thing, too) just wants to chime in to wish you well in your program and tell you not to beat yourself up too much. (And getting the details in writing made sense for several reasons, so asking to do it that way wasn’t at all selfish.)

    Reply
      1. Someone Else

        I think it was the
        Her: Okay then……
        that OP interpreted as the other person being peeved. But I also think OP was coming from a place of, even if this one person weren’t peeved, how to avoid irking others in a similar future scenario.

        Reply
    1. Mary

      >>“I’m overall incredibly worried that I am unprofessional, entitled, and inexperienced and I’m offending everyone around me with these types of things.”

      It sounds to me like the OP has really taken to heart all the nonsense that gets written in the media about “Millenials” (by which they mean people in their early twenties, not people like me pushing forty!) OP, please ignore this stuff! There has literally always been a core of grumpy older people who enjoy moaning about younger people, but there are also tons of us who know that people who are new to the workplace are inexperienced and need guidance on some professional norms, but that’s not at all the same as being entitled or offensive. We were all you once. You are doing fine!

      Reply
      1. Micromanagered

        Oh boy. I’m about to call myself “pushing 40” for the first time. (Is 38 “pushing 40”? It is. It is. Ok….)

        We need to stop making every work problem about age. Honestly. I work with people in their 60s who are right on top of technology, paperless, etc. And I work with people in their 20s and 30s with somewhat outmoded work habits.

        Reply
    2. Sara without an H

      Yes, OP#1, please give yourself a break. Take Alison’s point — make it all about the job, rather than your personal preference — and go on your merry way.

      You actually sound like a very conscientious young person I’d be glad to employ. Now take a deep breath and enjoy your job.

      Reply
    3. MLB

      I got the impression that OP just didn’t like talking on the phone and that’s NOT okay. I get it, if it’s something like the example given, I’d want it in writing. But she said co-worker had some questions, and in my experience, unless it’s a quick and easy to answer question, a conversation is needed for clarification (and not a written conversation).

      So yes I agree that OP is being too hard on herself, but she also needs to realize that sometimes work will come up at inconvenient times in your personal life and you can’t tell somebody no just because it’s it doesn’t work with your current schedule.

      Reply
      1. Mary

        >>I got the impression that OP just didn’t like talking on the phone and that’s NOT okay.

        I read it as exactly the opposite – the OP had good solid reasons for being unable to have a telephone conversation (she was in the studio or at her part-time job), but expressed them as her preference (“uncomfortable”) rather than what was possible because she was uncomfortable giving a hard no. She doesn’t at any point say she doesn’t like talking on the phone, just that she didn’t want to meet up with this colleague because she’s not very nice to her!

        I think the take-home message here is not “sometimes you are going to have to talk on the phone” (OP doesn’t say that that’s a problem for her!) but “it’s OK to simply say that you can’t talk on the phone if it’s logistically difficult and you are under no obligation to re-arrange your plans simply because of the preference of the other person, especially if they’re not very nice to you.”

        Being assertive means stating your needs, listening to the other person’s, and then finding a solution that works for both of you. I think the OP’s instinct here is to assume the other person knows best and that her needs are consequently wrong, but she’ll come across as more professional in this kind of interaction if she’s bolder about stating her own and listening to the other person’s.

        Reply
        1. J

          Yes! It does sound like the OP thinks she should prioritize the classmate’s needs (or, more accurately, the classmate’s *preferences*) over her own needs to be a good worker, but as you say, it’s perfectly fine and professional for her to politely set reasonable boundaries. And it doesn’t sound like the classmate at was at all harmed by the email vs. phone call approach.

          Reply
      2. fposte

        This isn’t a co-worker, though; it’s a fellow grad student being overly demanding of what’s essentially some volunteer time. I’m with you in that you can’t just duck using the phone at work because you don’t like it, but I think this was a very different dynamic than a co-worker and it was okay for the OP to protect her work time by requesting different communication.

        Reply
      3. LGC

        With all due respect, I entirely disagree with how you read this. Or rather, you’re missing something really important – LW1 doesn’t want to talk on the phone with her jerk classmate. (It doesn’t seem like she’s against talking on the phone in general – it’s just that she’s been mistreated by this classmate before and didn’t want to take that on.)

        You’re right, sometimes things will come up at inconvenient times, depending on your field (and I feel like in fine arts, this might be more common). But reading the entire letter, it looks like she’s more concerned that she let her dislike for her classmate show, which…honestly, I’m with J in that she’s SERIOUSLY overthinking this. Again, her classmate sounds like a jerk.

        Reply
    4. CM

      I was also confused about this… it didn’t sound like there was anything amiss in this interaction, and I wouldn’t guess anyone was offended by reading it.

      It could have gone more smoothly if OP#1 had been more clear about what she needed, like “I’ll be available between 11 and 2 and can call you then,” or “Can you email me what you’d like, so I can make sure the label looks exactly the way you want?” Also, it seems reasonable that the other person would want to have a quick conversation because they want something non-standard. So OP#1 should have either accommodated that, or given a reason that it wasn’t possible.

      But overall, seemed like everything got done the way it should and no enemies made.

      Reply
    5. epi

      I agree, this was a minor weirdness that no reasonable person would hold against the OP. (I say that as someone whose therapist had to help them learn to just send the email already! I get their anxiety.)

      Coordinating all the labels for a show actually sounds like a huge job to me. It’s great to be thinking about customer service, but ultimately the OP needs to get it done and it’s inconsiderate to be making special requests on top of that. I am a grad student and coordinate a couple of processes at work where I need to pull together information from many people… Questions and special requests are for emergencies and the day before the deadline at the absolute latest, not the day of.

      Also I’ve never met anyone– faculty, staff,or student– affiliated with my program who assumes they can meet with you the same day. We aren’t even all on campus all the time and we all have multiple responsibilities. My own advisor/boss texts first to ask if I can meet or take a call, and sometimes I say no. It’s absolutely ok to say no to a peer. Part of finishing grad school *is* saying no.

      Reply
  12. Indigo a la mode

    OP 2: I work in a similar position and my response to that situation is usually: “Great minds! It’s up on our TW/FB/LI/whatever if you want to share it out.”

    Reply
    1. Indigo a la mode

      That’s in addition to weekly metrics updates where we go over how social posts are actually performing against KPIs, of course. Making a dashboard using super easy stuff like Google Analytics and bit.lys against your content calendar will very much impress your bosses and help you curate your time so you’re spending it on what gets results.

      Apologies if you’re already doing all this; I’m responding to your desire for them to see what all you’re doing and how it makes a business impact. I totally feel you on people thinking anyone can “do” social.

      Reply
    2. Random Commenter

      In my experience, my boss is DELIGHTED when he asks me to do something and it’s already been taken care of. If you’re natural about it they won’t be offended, OP!

      Reply
      1. rogue axolotl

        Yeah, I think unless you look visibly annoyed when they ask, any reasonable boss will just think it’s great that you’ve already taken care of it and they don’t have to think about it anymore. When I first started out in white-collar jobs, I had a tendency to be overly deferential (okay, I still do) and this sounds a little like that to me.

        Reply
    3. Shark Whisperer

      Yeah, I like the “Great minds!” at the beginning. There have been a couple times where my boss has asked me to do a thing that I have already done, and I usually respond with “I’m one step ahead of you! Here it is” or “I figured you want that, so its ready to go.”

      I know personally my boss just has a million things going on that don’t involve me, so she can’t keep up with everything that I’m doing. She definitely likes “I’ve already done it” more than “Thanks” or “I’ll do that straight away”

      Reply
      1. Tableau Wizard

        Well and the more often you can anticipate your bosses requests, the less of a mental burden it is for the boss to make sure you’ve done XYZ task because they gain more confidence that you probably already have – now if it’s critical, of course the boss should still mention it, but if it’s “it would be nice if we posted this” then she doesn’t have to stress if she forgets to mention it. Does that make sense to anyone but me?

        Reply
        1. DaffyDuck

          Yes, it lets your boss know you are a self-starter/competent/are doing your job well and they don’t have to worry. I would much rather have someone working for me that doesn’t need to be told every little thing each time.

          Reply
    4. Slow Gin Lizz

      I also like “I had a feeling you’d want that so I did it already.” or “I suspected….” etc. Or even “Isn’t it great? I saw it yesterday so I posted it.”

      Reply
  13. Zaphod Beeblebrox

    OP5 – I take time off every year to volunteer at a local beer festival, and (apart from asking about free samples!!) no-one bats an eyelid.

    Reply
    1. Rebecca in Dallas

      My work actually has a specific PTO bank for volunteer hours! I volunteer for an girls’ running organization and usually take a day off each year to help them stuff bags for their year-end race. I can specify that I am using the day to volunteer and it doesn’t go against the rest of my PTO. Plus my company can say “Our employees volunteered XXX hours this year!” You might check to see if your company has something similar.

      Reply
  14. Blossom

    #2 – I’d also be worried that your bosses might check your social media channels after you’ve seemingly accepted their suggestion, and notice that you don’t post it after all (assuming they don’t scroll back and look at older posts). And since social media unfortunately has that reputation of being something that anyone can leap in and do, I’d worry that frustration might lead them to obtain log-ins and start posting stuff themselves. So yes, do as Alison says.

    Reply
  15. Violetta

    #1 She waited until the very last minute and then tried to impose another process on you than your stated preference. Don’t give it a second thought.

    Reply
  16. cncx

    re OP1 i often ask people to mail because part of my annual review is through ticketing and email. I need to justify my time with either a ticket or email. I still get people who call me, people who email me then call the follow up five minutes later asking if i got the email and can we talk about it. My least favorite are the people who call me, i ask them to send an email, they don’t send the email, then they complain.

    Unfortunately the big big boss is one of those people who never email, only call, and i’ve done stuff like send a follow up email to big boss to cover myself. AAM is right, depending on the person’s seniority you may just need to roll with it sometimes. But it is aggravating.

    especially for stuff like this i would have said something like “I need a written trace somewhere so i can follow up”, or like AAM said, “i’m swamped today and i will need an email to keep track”

    Reply
    1. Namast'ay in Bed

      On top of needing to track things for your own sanity, if someone else needs to step in on a task for you if you’re out and nothing is written down, they’re/you’re SOL.

      Reply
  17. Been There, Done That

    #3–Your bosses are being ridiculous. Once I left a job after a proper 2-wk notice, and at 4:30 of my last day I was asked to write down EVERYTHING I did. I’d already shown a coworker the main points and I said I’d do what I could, but it was too late to give them all they asked for. Boss went into major denial whenever someone resigned and acted like it wasn’t happening until she absolutely had to face it. What, somebody leave this fantastic place?! Uh, yeah, Jane, haven’t you noticed the revolving door and the constant use it gets?

    Reply
      1. Been There, Done That

        Now that I think about it, I could’ve used my shorthand and written a lot more in the allotted time. What, y’all can’t read shorthand? Here’s my rate card–call me if you want to hire me to transcribe it! We’ll work out a time that doesn’t conflict with my nice new job Bwahahahaaaaaaa

        Reply
    1. Completely anon for this

      Yep! I am a full-charge bookkeeper of 25+ years. Gave my notice and I was told, “Show ____ everything you do in the next 5 days. He’s really smart and what you do can’t be that hard.”

      On day 3, ____ turned to me with fear in his eyes and said, “I don’t think I can do this job.”

      BAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHA!

      Not. My. Problem.

      Reply
    2. Valancy Snaith

      Are you me??? I worked a one-year contract that wasn’t renewed and my boss said it would be fine, my work could get farmed out to everyone else in the office. So I worked like the devil trying to get everyone up to speed on the specific parts they’d be doing. One hour before I left on my last day, the office assistant came in and asked me to “just write down everything you do for me.” I said no thanks, I was good, everyone had been briefed, and hey, apparently my job was so easy anyone could do it! (Spoiler: It was not. I got out of that place at the right time.)

      Reply
  18. Doctor Schmoctor

    #2 I think the problem here is that your bosses don’t know what you’re doing, which is a bad position to be in. You have to make sure they know what’s happening. Maybe suggest that you have a weekly meeting to discuss it.

    You can absolutely say you already did something. It doesn’t have to sound like “Don’t tell me how to do my job!” It’s all in the tone.

    Reply
    1. LurkieLoo

      This right here is what keeps people from thinking “anyone can FB.” Because, actually, anyone CAN use social media. It is, in fact designed to be picked up and used by novices. There are children on social media.

      We had a social media person who would only post on Instagram and felt that he was an expert on social media. I would have even been ok with that if there were some detailed reports showing engagement, reach, click through to the website, etc. All we got was a weekly report that said we now have XXk followers and here are 3 posts that did well. Most of those were reposted content.

      Social media is so nuanced. If digital marketers want people to stop thinking anyone can do social media, they really need to step up and do the detailed reporting. I personally don’t have time to follow our social media accounts to see if the specific things I’d like to see are posted. I would be very likely to send over an interesting thing I saw somewhere else and pass along as maybe this would be good on social media. I wouldn’t check to see if it had already been posted, though.

      Reply
      1. Indigo a la mode

        Any digital marketer worth their salt does focus on metrics reporting and forecasting. People who think anyone can “do” social (or write copy, or throw together a WordPress site) are people who aren’t willing to invest in marketing strategy. I super wish that people would stop being so skeptical of marketing–they don’t ask psychologists for their ROI before trusting them to provide advice better than a friend or bartender.

        Reply
        1. Jane Smith

          Managing social media is part of my job, and I think it would be a great idea for #2 to follow up, “Yes, I loved that, and posted it earlier this week” with “… and it got great engagement! Good discussion in the comments and high share rate. If you’re interested I can pull together some data about how our latest posts are performing — it’s really interesting to see what works and what doesn’t!” Or something like that.

          Reply
          1. PJs of Steven Tyler

            Yes! Absolutely do this. Sometimes a little bit of high-level jargon helps people really trust that you know what you are doing – I use this selectively with my colleagues to make sure they know I really did have a reason for doing this or that thing.

            Reply
  19. Just me

    OP5, I’m in the senior management team of my fairly conservative org and each year I take a fortnight off to go to an alternative lifestyle festival. It’s like Burning Man but tamer. Hardly anyone at work bats an eyelid and it hasn’t done my career any harm. In some orgs I’d keep quiet about it but I certainly wouldn’t feel a need to stop going, no matter how conservative the org.

    Reply
  20. marmalade

    #1, I think you’re totally fine here. Besides, for the reasons you stated, textual conversation made the most sense.

    However … it seems like a lot of people are reluctant to talk on the phone nowadays. In the absence of some valid practical reason (e.g., a hearing impairement), I find it a little immature.
    Sure, it’s often useful to have things in writing, but email conversations can be sooooo time consuming – what could be covered in a 5 minute conversation can equate to a hell of a lot of time writing emails (plus the time spent waiting to hear back from them, etc).
    A lot of times, I think it’s so much more practical to have a phone (or face to face) conversation. And if necessary, follow it up with an email. “Hey, just confirming that I’ll move forward with A over B. C is in my calendar and I’ll hsve D to you by next Friday”.

    Reply
    1. Asenath

      It depends on your work. In my job, email is crucial for me to keep track of requests – and have a record of what was asked for or agreed to down the line if problems arise. Mostly, people do use email – sometimes, I might ask at the end of a phone conversation “Would you just send me an email confirming that?”. I don’t mind using the phone; rarely, it makes sense for a bit of information I’m not going to need in the future, although it’s not a particularly fast way to find something out, because I end up playing telephone tag. I rarely use my phone, but if my email is down, I’ve got nothing to do unless it’s one of those weeks when I’m working on a job that involves information held in another piece of software and spreadsheets.

      Reply
      1. cncx

        same. doing all my work on the phone is not possible. I understand that there are people who like talking on the phone because it is faster FOR THEM but then i have to either follow up in an email with notes they could have sent themselves, so it may be fast for them but it isn’t for me in my job and how i have to do it, and i wish these people who are all “email is a waste of time” would meet those of us who need it halfway.

        Reply
    2. (Different) Rebecca, PhD

      There are two reasons I would call instead of email at my job: some things are *incredibly* time sensitive, and those that are, are also usually so ‘need to know’ enough that I don’t want a written record of them. Other than those two factors, there’s not a single damn thing that can’t go in an email.

      Reply
      1. Falling Diphthong

        Depends on the job and problem. (And my job is over email except for meetings, which are via Skype or equivalent.) Something with the format “Should this be A or B? Okay, if it’s A then we need C, D, or E. Okay, A and D plus F, G, or H?” that’s usually much simpler over the phone.

        With companies, I always give props to those that make it reasonably easy to reach a human and ask my question, which, no, was not for my account balance or any other simple information that I could garner by looking at the website. (Barring those websites created by people thinking “We don’t want to give the address or hours away upfront–we want people to explore and poke around and discover the websites myriad exciting features before we reveal that stuff.)

        Reply
        1. peachie

          This drives me nuts! I know some people probably call for things like that, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who only calls a company because I CANT do/find the thing on their website.

          I think that’s a good way to think of it in the workplace–sure, there are some people who will always call even if it would make more sense to email, but most people call because (a) there’s not a clear way to find the information they need/do what they need to do; (b) the thing they need to ask/explain is complex enough that calling eliminates a days-long email back-and-forth; (c) the thing is time-sensitive; or (c) because they already emailed and never got a response.

          In my first long-term office-y job, I was initially resistant to calls–I always answered the phone, of course, but if I was initiating, I almost exclusively used email. My boss would always say things about how sometimes it’s just easier to get on the phone (in general, not about me), and I really didn’t get it for a while. But, surprise surprise, she was right–sometimes it’s SO much easier to talk to a human for a few minutes.

          A last thing about phones + offices (which I never thought I’d have such strong feelings on, haha): It’s amazing how much talking to people on the phone or even meeting them in person can do to build positive professional relationships. I’m in a role now where we’re understaffed and backlogged with projects, and I know how frustrating it is to be on the other end of that. But you know who is the least frustrated with me? The clients I actually talk/meet with. You can’t underestimate the benefit of acknowledging that we’re all actual humans.

          Reply
        2. Observer

          Or what about the companies that don’t keep data updated.

          My husband is almost obsessive about monitoring our bank and CC accounts. (With good reason – it once helped us catch a set of fraudulent transactions before it had a chance to spiral.) He calls the bank almost every workday. Why? Because the web site is not up to date and the phone system is a nightmare to use for this purpose.

          Reply
      2. Trout 'Waver

        Oftentimes I don’t know the right question to ask. Or I need to explain a solution to someone with expertise in a different area to make sure I didn’t miss something in their area. Or I need to negotiate shared use of a scarce resource. Or I need to talk to people who don’t have computers at work.

        Reply
      3. Observer

        This is just not true. Sometimes a conversation just makes more sense. People have given some good examples of the advantages of a conversation.

        One type of situation in which email is most definitely not the best medium is when a real discussion needs to happen. In those cases, talking to each other tends to be faster, more efficient and more effective.

        And, I say this as someone who is a strong user of email.

        Reply
    3. Czhorat

      “immature” might be overstating it; I prefer text to phone calls because the phone creates an urgency in requests which may not be important; the ringing phone must be answered immediately, and it consumes ones attention. A text message allows the recipient more control over when and how they answer and how much attention they take. I’d almost turn it around and say insisting on voice rather than text is presumptuous in the absence of a valid reason.

      THat said, some requests have an element of discussion required which does make voice the better option. It also, to some, feels more personal.

      Reply
      1. Washi

        I totally agree with this. I think unnecessarily insisting on any one form of communication is the problem – there are times when the phone makes the most sense or when email makes the most sense or when stopping by in person makes the most sense, and being too rigid in your preferences can come across as inflexible and uncooperative.

        The thing is, that goes both ways. If the OP’s coworker is a peer and had insisted on a phone call when there was no reason an email wouldn’t work just as well, I would be judging them more than the OP.

        Reply
      2. First Time Caller

        I also agree that phone can feel presumptuous — I’ve had many people tell me (incidentally, not scolding me) that calls interrupt their packed schedule in a way that’s really inconvenient for them. So unless it’s extremely time-sensitive, or I know the person prefers the phone, or I’ve tried emailing them several times with no success, email is the courteous way to go in my industry.

        Reply
    4. Trout 'Waver

      I totally agree. Some people are so phone-averse and it comes off as immature. Or they’re doing it for CYA reasons which is off-putting and adversarial.

      It’s incredibly frustrating when you’re halfway through a task and need an answer from a colleague, but they won’t pick up the phone when you call. So you IM them and they don’t respond. And then you e-mail them and you get an answer the next day. Great, now I’ve lost a day on a critical task because a coworker can’t answer the damn phone.

      If your goal at work is to never talk on the phone, then you should probably instantly respond to IMs and e-mails.

      Reply
      1. Statler von Waldorf

        I disagree. I don’t care if people find CYA emails off-putting. My experience is that people who scold people for insisting on written communications have a reason they don’t want a permanent record of what they’ve said. I’m not going to be the one without a chair when the music stops.

        Reply
      2. Ceiswyn

        The fact that an employee may not answer their phone because they’re not at their desk, or are talking to someone in person, or are head-down on a project even more urgent than your request and can’t afford to lose their train of thought, is why you shouldn’t insist on only communicating by phone.

        Have you never considered that expecting your co-workers to drop all their own tasks immediately to respond to your requests is maybe a bit presumptuous?

        Reply
        1. a1

          Yes, but you still respond. You listen to your voicemail after you get back to your desk and then call back. Or if not call, email back -then you also have a your written confirmation. You don’t wait to be contacted for a third time and then wait 24 hours after that to respond . Heck, I’ve often responded to a VM with a quick email saying “Got your VM, will have an answer later/tomorrow/after talking to X/whatever” – it lets them I know 1) I got their message and 2) will get them an answer at X time. Or if I see the phone ringing and can see who it is send off a quick text or email that says “I’m busy right now, will call back after these meetings”. Basically I don’t pretend no one tried to contact me while I was busy or away and wait for them to contact me via email while I’m sitting in front of my computer to see it.

          Reply
          1. ceiswyn

            Yes, but if Trout ‘Waver’s co-workers aren’t responding to IMs, and are needlessly delaying email responses for 24 hours, then that’s not them being phone-averse. So it’s really odd that Trout ‘Waver ascribes their behaviour to that.

            Reply
        2. Trout 'Waver

          Have you never considered that expecting your co-workers to drop all their own tasks immediately to respond to your requests is maybe a bit presumptuous?
          I have considered it. But it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I work on my relationships with the people who have critical information or resources necessary for my team to do their jobs. I try to build trust ahead of time so that when I call, they know it must be critical. I don’t waste their time needlessly. I pick up the phone or respond immediately when they need things from me or my team. I circle back afterwards and thank them and give them an assessment of the impact their contribution had. I give them credit for their contributions to my boss and their boss when I present projects.

          Also, you’re misstating what I said. I’m not insisting on only communicating by phone. I am saying that there are some times when you really need to communicate by phone.

          Also,

          Reply
          1. ceiswyn

            There are, but the problem you’re describing has nothing to do with being phone-averse. Failing to respond to emails and IMs within your required timescale isn’t being phone-averse, it’s just not regarding your requests as high priority. Which is a completely different issue.

            Reply
    5. Smarty Boots

      I can assure you that I am not immature because I don’t like to talk on the phone. I didn’t like talking on the phone as a child. I was never a teen who yakked on the phone for hours. My family understands that I really truly love them because I will have long phone conversations with them because they like them. I think answering machines, voice mail, email, caller id on the tv, and texting (OMG! the greatest invention in my lifetime) are fabulous.
      I just don’t like it. I cannot tell you why. That does not make me, or anyone else who doesn’t like talking on the phone, immature.

      OK, rant over.

      Reply
      1. Yorick

        It’s not immature to not enjoy talking on the phone. But I do think it’s immature to refuse or avoid it to the point that it’s obvious.

        Reply
      2. DaniCalifornia

        I am the exact same way. I think it’s something about not being able to see the person’s facial expressions and read their body language. I’m not the best at reading tone just when I have to listen to it and I can get lost listening to people.

        But I got a job as a receptionist at a medical office and spent 8 hours on the phone. It sure cured that dislike. I still don’t spend hours on the phone on my own will but at work it’s what needs to be done. So no it’s not immature to dislike talking on the phone. My 48 year old coworker hates it (and lets us know every day that she hates it), but it’s a necessity in the workforce. If someone or OP ends up letting that dislike get in the way of work sometimes that’s not good.

        Reply
    6. rogue axolotl

      I think it really depends on the context. For part of my job, I receive complex requests and have to research information before I can get back to them, plus I need an accurate written record of the details of the request. So many people want to get on the phone to explain their project to me in depth, but really I just need a few brief details (which they probably don’t remember off the top of their head) and then I need some time to research, so talking on the phone just wastes everyone’s time.

      Reply
  21. Ren

    #2 — The word “news” in your letter is making me want to touch on the possibility (possibility only) that there are certain items that merit being posted more than once? It’s unclear from the letter the nature of the items you are promoting — I have worked in journalism and we could promote the same news link multiple times in a few hours depending on all sorts of variables, for example. I’m just suggesting the outside possibility that these people coming to you might be gently hinting that certain types of whatever your organization considers news should be being promoted more/”better”/more visibly by the social media — sometimes one link really is just the bare minimum.

    Reply
    1. Bored Now

      This endless reposting of the same links over and over is why I stopped following all news outlets and journalistic sources on social media.

      Reply
    2. MassMatt

      I agree with Bored Now, posting the same thing over and over again is really annoying, this is not informing me of news it is spam and gets treated accordingly.

      Reply
      1. Jennifer Thneed

        My biggest peeve has to be when I’m looking at an article and the sidebar on that page lists the very article I’m looking at. Annoying!

        Reply
    3. Meredith Brooks

      This was my thought as well. It’s possible that they’re asking you to repost, which if that’s the case than no one in this situation is communicating clearly. Better to clarify what you’ve done than assume what they want.

      Reply
  22. SherSher

    #2 – I love that Alison mentioned managing other people’s feelings. A lot of us (me!) do that and we really need to stop. It’s okay to take other people’s feelings into consideration and to not be a jerk… but it’s not on us (at work or elsewhere) to constantly be managing how they feel or will respond. It has taken me soooo long to figure that out that I thought I’d highlight it here. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. VictorianCowgirl

      Along these lines I have recently discovered that this is where I give a lot of my power away and it’s an ongoing improvement I’m trying to make.

      Reply
  23. LGC

    1) I have no advice, just sympathy – my client can be quite similar! They prefer phone calls for communication – I prefer email because (besides me not being that comfortable on the phone) it’s just easier to have a documented trail for the work I do. (Since often, we need to have specific identifiers available, it’s good if we have that written down.)

    5) I mean…right now I’m sitting at home in my pajamas taking the week off because I ran a marathon. (You guys are not going to escape this until at least the next weekend thread.) Bonus: Aside from being a team supervisor, I’m also my division’s accounts receivable clerk. We bill a lot of our customers monthly, and we can’t process anything until the previous month has ended (to get an accurate count).

    …it was my boss who suggested I take this entire week off (originally, I was planning on coming back today). And now I know why I normally don’t take the first full week of the month off.

    I mean, I’m sure that there are people that do care what days you take off just for the sake of it, but I agree it’s mostly not an issue (unless it bumps into a deadline or something). I figure that if there was that much of an issue, they would tell you, and if they’re content to gripe about it…obviously, it wasn’t that serious of an issue (to the parties who have decision power over it). But then, that’s my organization.

    Reply
    1. OP #5

      I think that sounds similar to the situation at my org. I spend lots of these days off at home in my pajamas, so I appreciate your comment!

      Reply
      1. LGC

        No problem! It’s been my (limited – been with one organization for about 10 years, so I know their culture) experience that as long as we can plan coverage it’s fine, and no one really cares what you do on your days or weeks off.

        And definitely enjoy the days off! Bingewatch stuff on Netflix, or get out and go to shops in your neighborhood mid-day!

        Reply
    2. peachie

      Congrats on the marathon! Not that you can’t just take a week off for the hell of it, but wow, that is a very good reason. :)

      Reply
      1. LGC

        Thanks! (I usually go into more detail on the weekend threads. It’s…been a wild ride.)

        But like – in general, that’s often what I do, just take a week off for the hell of it! In my case, I’ll try to sync so that I’m not off the same time as my coworker, but otherwise the most ambitious thing I’ll do is clean my apartment or hatch all my eggs on Pokemon Go. (Okay, I might do a couple of day trips.)

        I did note that I personally try to avoid certain times of the month (specifically, first full week of the month), just because of my position. It’s not strict – this month, I just said that I did what I could before going on break, and we’d either need to close out slightly later than usual or someone else would need to do the rest – but it’s easier if I’m just there and take a break at a different time.

        Reply
  24. purple otter

    OP#1 – I disagree with all the commenters here, but I kind of agree with Alison’s advice. In the working world, you’re going to have to interact with many different people, and most of them will be older than you (since you’re in your 20s). Many of these may have preferences that are different from yours, and saying that you’re “uncomfortable” with a phone call to a coworker/peer, or even worse, a client, makes you look unprofessional and entitled. I’m in my early 30s, and we’ve had to train all of our entry-level new college graduate staff to make phone calls to clients first for discussions on projects and follow up by email. Sometimes, there are things that can be explained very simply over the phone or in person, including friendly tone of voice, that somehow becomes convoluted and in a condescending tone over email.

    HOWEVER, if you just say something like “I’ll be in the studio/meetings all day, could you please send over a draft of what you’re thinking of changing?” I wouldn’t think twice of it and be happy to send you an email.

    Reply
    1. Czhorat

      This is very sound advice. I’ll add that in some corporate cultures phone calls are preferable to email or IM.

      There’s also sometimes a difference depending on what is being communicated, and how much back and forth discussion is involved. Sometimes email can be awkward if lots of feedback is needed; I’ve had bosses tell me that after the second email one should pick up the phone.

      Side question: is there an IM platform your company uses (S4B/Teams/Slack/Jabber/etc?) If so, you can tell them “I’ll be at my desk; just message me on {message program}. This creates the back-and-forth real time dialog they want while keeping you off the phone.

      g

      Reply
    2. peachie

      Yeah, I don’t want to nitpick language, but the word “uncomfortable” seems to be the issue more than anything else. And, to be clear, I’m not saying that OP actually IS immature–I understand the reasons why they preferred email in this scenario–just that it’s probably better to phrase these things in the positive rather than the negative (e.g., “It’s easier if I have the details in writing” vs. “I don’t want to do it this way”).

      Reply
    3. Cedarthea

      I find that phone calls are key in my line of work (I’m a camp director and I deal with all areas of the camp). I am comfortable on the phone but I find that it is so much easier to convey tone through a phone and that is key when working with clients.

      I agree, Alison’s advice is great, but emails can be a bit like shouting in a void, there is no real collaboration and when working with young staff they rarely check emails so if I need to know something at least if I phone them, I can document that we spoke so I can show they received the message.

      Reply
    4. Avasarala

      This. As the service-provider, it’s your job to cater to the client’s preferences, that’s what customer service is about (within reason). So if they prefer to call you to have a 5 minute chat when they have a moment, you do it. If they need you to fax them something or hand it to them on paper, you do it. I have plenty of personal preferences as to what method of communication I use and how often I use it, but it’s pretty unprofessional to insist on those at work. Ideally you would become comfortable using any medium to its achieve the best results.

      Reply
    5. Anon Anon Anon

      I agree with this. Be clear about what works for you and why while also doing what you can to accommodate other people.

      Reply
  25. Life is good

    #2: Alison’s last paragraph of advice is the best here. I left a job with a toxic culture where no one addressed issues directly. I craved direct communication and all the pussyfooting around problems was just confusing. OP2, take her advice and tell them just the way she suggests. It clearly lets them know you are “all over it” without being offensive.

    Reply
  26. Delta Delta

    #2 – I can see a slightly different spin on this. OP can point out that she’s very in sync with the company’s culture by the fact she’s often out ahead of the manager’s suggestions. Then ask how they’d like that communicated (I suppose they could just look at the company’s socials and see what she’s doing). Barring that, something like, “I saw that article on llama nose care and thought it was perfect. I posted it on Tuesday and it’s getting good feedback.”

    Reply
    1. CM

      Yes, and send a link. Or even just “Already posted!” with a link. That way it’s less like “Don’t tell me how to do my job” and more “Here’s where you can go to see it.”

      Reply
    2. Erin W

      Yeah, every time my boss has ever been like, “Can you do X?” and I’ve said, “Did it on Monday!” she’s said, “Oh good, I should have known you’d be on top of it,” or something similar. It’s actually a good thing from both sides. They should be happy you have anticipated a need, and you should be happy that your instinct to just do the thing was validated. Nobody needs to get disgruntled over this!

      Reply
  27. The Other Dawn

    RE: #5

    OP, unless you’re taking the same highly desirable day every single year and it means no one else can take it, or you’re always taking your days off before/after a holiday or at the busiest time of year, making it tough for others, then most don’t care or even notice what days you’re taking.

    Reply
  28. Working with professionals

    OP #1, throughout your career you’ll run into people who will be patronizing or dismissive of you and yet you will still have to work with them. I’ve had this happen too and early in my career I allowed resentment to build up and cause me not to want to communicate with them, just like you are describing. As I grew into my corporate job and had to work with these folks on many projects, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t want to be defensive and uncomfortable every time I had to communicate with them so I changed my response to their behavior. I began working to find humor in it and refused to take on their assumptions. By being professional and competent on all the projects, eventually most of them came to respect me and dropped the attitude. There will always be a few people who have personal issues that cause them to treat you poorly no matter what evidence there is to the contrary. Hang in there, it will get better and what you feel is normal at any age. I didn’t start my corporate career until much later in life and I went through the same kind of emotions.

    Reply
    1. Falling Diphthong

      This is really sound advice.

      Wanting an email because you will be busy and away from the phone, or because the question is how the text should look (seriously, this specific problem cries out for written communication) makes sense. Avoiding a phone call because “Ugh, Harriet” is something to grow yourself out of tout suite.

      Reply
    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

      I had the same experience, and used the same approach.

      Eventually, I noticed that my arch-nemeses would either lose their jobs (gee, I wonder why), or retire, or change jobs. Either way, they all eventually went away. Some of them, I was able to establish a rapport with by doing the same thing you did, ie responding to them in a calm and professional way as if they are also being professional and not acting like utterly unhinged 5-year-olds on a sugar high. Sometimes a person just had a bad moment and is otherwise professional. An end user comes to mind who had issues with the new software I rolled out, and chose to address them via an angry email to all my management that contained this gem of a phrase: “(your software) is right up there with the Florida election”. (It was November of 2000, yes I’m dating myself.) He and I somehow went on to have a great working relationship. But that was my first interaction with the man.

      Reply
  29. Roscoe

    #5 . I’ll be honest, sometimes people DO care about when you take days off, despite whether you have it. For PTO, I’ve definitely worked places where when I took every Friday off for a month (due to a use it or lose it policy) I had a lot of snide comments. Also, sick days. There is this weird thing where if you take a Monday or Friday off as a sick day, people do think there is a higher probability you are lying about being sick, just want extra vacation time, or partied too hard and are hungover. Its really stupid, because logically 40% of call ins (assuming a M-F schedule) would be Monday or Friday, but people make judgments anyway

    Reply
    1. Minerva McGonagall

      Very true. I once took a PTO day off on a Friday, which Boss approved two weeks in advance (was planning a surprise party so I needed to clean the house/do the shopping without my fiance being around). Told Boss that exact plan, he was totally fine with it. That day ended up being horribly snowy and icy but my work didn’t close right away. Grandboss was mad because she thought I just skipped because I didn’t want to deal with the awful roads, but Boss had my back and made it clear it was a pre-approved day. She was still mad but that’s just who she was as a person. Some people will just be grumpy about you using your time despite the fact that you’re perfectly entitled to it.

      Reply
    2. LGC

      True – but I don’t think that should discourage LW5 from requesting time off. You’re right that some people will comment, but what matters is whether those comments are valid. And often times, they’re not.

      (Like, I’ve groused a bit about employees and co-workers that call out on days that aren’t convenient for me. This just means I’m a jerk with no work-life balance.)

      Reply
    3. Observer

      Sure, there are always people who are in everyone’s business. But, you really can’t live your life around the butinsky’s. Reasonable people don’t care, as long as you’re not causing them any problems.

      Reply
  30. Kisses

    #5.. Just a note, that Halloween can be requested of for religious purposes. Although some see it as childish, Paganism is a recognized religion and Samhain is considered a holiday.

    Reply
    1. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)

      There’s no such thing as an officially “recognized religion” in the United States,’ also, some people who don’t blink at “We get a lot of time off, and it’s hard to get much done here on Halloween” might react badly to I want October 31 off for religious reasons.” There are, alas, significant numbers of businesses where people have trouble taking time off for the Jewish High Holidays or major Muslim holidays.

      Also, asking for Halloween off for “religious reasons” when it’s not, in fact, the OP’s religion may lead to complications, ranging from “they’re going to expect her to take Beltane/May Day” to what happens if she actually practices some other religion, and asks for time off for its holidays? Yes, some people practice, or observe the holidays of, more than one religion, but that can still raise eyebrows.

      Reply
    2. Essess

      If someone requested Halloween off, I wouldn’t consider it childish. I’d assume they had kids that needed to be prepared (finalizing costumes or arranging party plans/transportation) or helping friends/family get their own kids ready, or had other outside groups that they volunteer for that needed their assistance to prepare/decorate/bake/etc… for their Halloween activities that evening. Adults have to do a lot of preparation for children to enjoy Halloween so it’s not “childish” to participate in the holiday.

      Reply
    3. HannaSpanna

      I only recently found out that here in the UK, employers don’t legally have to give you time off for religious holidays (but have to give it due consideration, and ensure they are not discrimating by saying no.)
      I was pretty surprised.

      Reply
      1. AsItIs

        Why should it be a legal requirement? It’s not a matter of life and death. People are making a choice and it’s not up to an employer to cater to that choice.

        Reply
  31. Murphy

    #5 I don’t think anyone’s paying that much attention to other people’s time off to notice that you’re taking a day like 4/20 off. Even the whole week, I’d just assume that it’s spring and you’re taking a nice vacation to enjoy the weather.

    As a side note, 4/20 is super celebration time in my house because it’s my daughter’s birthday.

    Reply
    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

      And here I thought I was being edgy when I had my son on Friday the 13th (kidding about the edgy part!)

      I take time off for a lot of out-of-town events throughout the year with a national org I’m a member of. Some of them might fall on the week of 4/20, in fact I think this year, one did. No one ever questioned it. In my case, there is no connection between the event and 420. Basically, people just take time off whenever they need to, and no one really looks at the dates unless it’s the entire team wanting the same day off.

      Reply
    2. Moonlight Elantra

      I take every Halloween off because it’s my little guy’s birthday! And I’m a Friday the 13th baby too!

      Reply
    3. beckysuz

      Haha! My son was born on 4/20. It just so happened that it was also Easter Sunday that year. My very religious mother thought that was nice. My brothers snickered and called my son “ganja baby”, which my poor mother did not understand.

      Reply
    4. teclatrans

      Just…maybe don’t make any mention of “4/20” in relation to your time off? I am fully aware that it has become a Thing, marijuana is legal and celebrated where I live, but, as someone who doesn’t partake, I just don’t think of April 20th as 4/20. I have to hear someone say the words before I make the connection. It may be the same with at least some of your colleagues.

      If you do work in a place where everybody is super-aware of pot culture and assumed that everybody around them is too, then you could always mention taking the week off for an art festival. But I don’t think it’s necessary. (And really, if you naturally engage in casual conversation after you get back and people hear about art stuff, I doubt they will think “nah, it’s a cover, she spent the week stoned.”

      Reply
  32. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

    OP1: “no spaces in between certain letters, no capitalization. formatting things that I would have needed to see on paper”

    I would absolutely want a paper trail for these changes. Otherwise, I’d worry that it might turn into a he said – she said game of “I TOLD you when we were on the phone to make it all caps and you removed all capitalization instead!” and you being unable to prove anything that was really said on the phone.

    Besides, you really and truly could not take calls when you were working. Next time, I’d just leave the “I’m more comfortable” part out, and tell her both of these things: that you cannot take calls at work, and that you need the change request in writing.

    Reply
  33. LQ

    #3 – I’d recommend including in your final hand off whatever some documentation recommending that who ever does the work takes some classes (and maybe even joins a professional association) and focus your time on what you did that was unique to you. All of the out of the box stuff you can just say, eh he can learn it the way you did. The “If you change this, you’ll break that” stuff is the stuff to document and warn about. But the, this was created in v5.5 and if you open it in v9 you’ll have to go through and do a lot of updating so be forewarned. I would guess your bosses have no clue what goes into it, or they are fully expecting a giant slide backward in production of content before it goes forward again. Even if he says he doesn’t need training or classes, I’d put something in the hand-off documentation.

    Reply
    1. CM

      For OP#3, I’d suggest writing a brief (like one page) document detailing the type of training he will need. So you could spend a day saying “Here’s how you log in, here’s where we keep our project files,” and anything else specific to your setup. Then hand over this list that says “Take classes A, B, and C, do tutorials D, E, and F” rather than attempting to do any of the more advanced training yourself. I think you could plausibly say that’s the equivalent of passing on the information you have in a way that the new person can use.

      Reply
    2. chickaletta

      This is a great suggestion. Might also be useful to write down skills he will need like typography, color theory, etc. as if you were writing the job description rather than teaching those things.

      Alas, when the people you work for don’t understand what skills it takes to do a job, there’s not much you can do. I’ve seen people try to hire cheaply or rush into hiring, and the person they hire looks good in one or two areas but they lack in the other ten. They’ll learn the hard way when everything falls apart.

      Reply
  34. Sciencer

    OP #3: I can kind of imagine where you’re coming from because I’ve worked with a number of programs that require at least a few days to understand the basics, and months/years of exploring, experimenting, self-tutoring (via Google usually, as the instruction manuals are useless past the basics), etc. to even come close to mastering. If I had to transfer my knowledge about any one of these to someone else in a couple of days, I would struggle with where to begin, and it would be an obviously impossible task to actually complete.

    That said, on a few occasions when I’ve had to teach the basics to people, I’ve typed out extensive notes to go along with it. This has taken anywhere from a few hours to an entire work day, but it created a lasting document that can be passed around and serve as a reference for others. There’s no need to rewrite the basics manual or a reference list that is already available from the software developer (though tacking those pages on digitally could be helpful), but you can start to compile the “tips and tricks” you’ve discovered over years of working with this complicated software. Presumably there are functions of the software that you use regularly, and those that you basically never use. It could be extremely helpful for your replacement to have a quick-reference guide to “the five things you will do basically every day/week.”

    I see two upsides to the written approach: you have clear documentation that you tried to fulfill your managers’ training expectations, and you don’t have to spend as much time with the arrogant intern, who probably won’t listen very carefully and won’t be able to absorb all that info in one or two sittings anyway. See if you can get permission to spend one day on documentation/creating a user guide, and one day going over those processes with the intern, and one day supervising him as he goes through them himself (or something like that). Then you get Th-F off, and if the company allows it, you can even keep your user guide in case it’s useful for future jobs.

    Reply
  35. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster

    I literally never tell anyone why I’m taking my PTO.

    There’s a field in the PTO request form I have to fill out that says “purpose” and I always just put “PTO” in that field.

    It’s none of anybody’s business why I take time off!

    Reply
      1. LQ

        We have a “purpose” field because we use the same form for all requests so you have to have a purpose for OT, and if you are using FMLA you have to put in FMLA. I just never fill out the purpose field, but ours isn’t required, if it was and it was a similar thing I’d absolutely just put in PTO.

        Reply
      2. Asenath

        I don’t know, but we have a “detail” space, which I never fill out. The drop-down menu above it has all the available options – vacation/annual leave, sick leave (without note), sick leave (with note), etc, etc.

        Reply
      3. Tammy

        Our system has a spot for “purpose” too, and I usually leave it blank. The only time I fill something in is if there’s additional detail that would help my boss understand the urgency behind a request, like “speaking at a conference” or “traveling for family reunion” or something. But I’ve worked for CurrentCompany for 6 years and I’ve never had a PTO request refused, so…

        Reply
      4. Someone Else

        We have this field too, although it’s not “purpose” it’s “description”. Some people will specify “vacation” vs “doctor approintment” vs “illness”. Some people choose to get very specific, like instead of vacation they put “my best friend’s wedding” or “vacation to Disney World” or whatever, but we’re not expected to be that specific. It’s baked into the software we use so even if our company doesn’t specifically care, we can’t disable it. Plenty of people just put vacation, sick, personal as the description and leave it at that.

        Reply
      5. HannaSpanna

        Just spent a few minutes wracking my brain to think of a reason why it employer may really need to know (instead of employee sharing if they want to) and, nope, nothing at all.
        (Even if it was to try to on rare occasions prioritise leave requests, don’t think this is the way to do it.)

        Reply
      6. Perse's Mom

        I think ours says Detail or Description – I use it mainly if I’m taking a partial day off so I can specify what my hours in the office will be that day.

        Reply
  36. DCGirl

    I used to work in alumni relations and would get lots of questions about whether we’d profiled this or that alumnus and his/her fascinating career, etc. We had an intern index ten years of alumni magazines and then posted it on a shared drive, updating as we went along. That way people could check before asking. So, my suggestion is that you may need a social media calendar some where that people could check.

    Reply
  37. Sara without an H

    OP#2, I think you need to start thinking about ways to give your bosses reports on what’s been posted. If the volume of updates on your social media platforms has reached a such a level that management can’t keep up, you need to find some way of tracking what’s happening and what kind of response it’s getting.

    This is ALL the way outside my area of expertise, but I think most social media platforms now feature some kind of analytics, so maybe you could start issuing a weekly report: Here’s what we posted on A platform as of X date, and here’s the response so far. That way your bosses know what’s going on, and more importantly, you are documenting your work.

    Reply
  38. LadyPhoenox

    #3: also a graphic designer.

    I know a good way in and out of most of the Adobe Suite, but that is cause I took classes in community college AND classes in university. That is about 6 or so years of classes, fully around, and subscriptions to Lynda.com…. and I still have things I need to look up/haven’t tried.

    You need to get that through your bosses heads that this is not something learned in a day. You could show him some intros to some of the various software, but a lot of this is gonna require either a LOT of videos and trial and error on his own time… or a class to recieve guidance on a lot of this ran by someone trained to teach.

    And then there is the fact that you can’t fix stupid/arrogance. If he is gonna be an @sshole about the whole learning, then there is only so much you can teach him or rely on him to learn.

    Reply
  39. BeenThereDoneThat

    OP3, oohhh, I was in your position with my last job. I’d been there for over ten years and, during my time, had created and been responsible for a relatively new project that I was 100% in charge of. I gave my supervisors 3 weeks notice instead of 2 – but they squandered the first two weeks. I had to be the one to ask them about training my replacement and then it was an all out scramble.

    Here’s the thing – you do what you can but don’t break yourself, even if they’re holding out PTO days as the carrot. Impart as much as you can and manage expectations of what you can’t impart. And DON’T worry about it after the fact, concentrate on the new job!

    OP4, you’re in the reverse of the ‘new’ employee – my first year at this job, everyone got a raise except if you’d been onboarded X or less months prior. Which I fell into. I wasn’t upset, I hadn’t earned that raise! But you’ve earned that bonus for the time you’ve put in, so whatever happens done the road shouldn’t impact that.

    Reply
    1. LurkieLoo

      Especially if the carrot is allowing you to take 2 days your PTO, which they will then not have to pay out . . . I mean, it’s great if you just want a couple extra days off, but it is less money in your pocket (unless they don’t have to pay out for some reason) so less of a carrot than they think. At least I didn’t read it as they’d give you more PTO, just let you use your existing PTO.

      Reply
  40. yorkjj

    #1 – we all need to get out of our comfort zone when we work with others, especially inter-generational. I have had to embrace talking on the phone more in my current job. Getting details for assignments in writing so miscommunications do not happen should be communicated diplomatically.
    #3 – its called knowledge transfer and it sounds like it was an after thought in this particular instance. 1 week is not nearly enough.

    Reply
  41. Smarty Boots

    OP #1: I don’t see anything in the conversation you typed up that shows the other person was angry or condescending or offended. It looks like a perfectly ordinary workplace exchange of info. Maybe this person is patronizing in person — or maybe you are misreading their tone. My feeling: best to assume good intentions unless you have good evidence to the contrary.

    To answer your question, however: AAM’s suggested scripts are good. And I’m sympathetic, I don’t like talking on the phone either, and do everything I can to avoid it. But sometimes you will have to. Practice answering and calling and you will get used to it, enough to be able to do it reasonably well at work. Speaking from my own experience…

    Reply
  42. bopper

    Re: Software

    They are not saying that you have to teach him everything you know….just what you can in a week or so.

    “Will be happy to teach Zeke what I can in the remaining days…keep in mind I have a degree in graphic design and have been using this software for years. I can teach him the basic mechanics of the program, but what to use when will be up to him.”

    Reply
  43. Former Govt Contractor

    Re: #4 leaving after a bonus – my boss gave me a personal gift of $2,000 on my 20th anniversary with the firm, and I left 5 months later. I always felt bad about that. A few years later I actually mailed him a check to reimburse him, but he didn’t cash it. I did earn it, that’s for sure, but I didn’t want him to think I hung around just to get the money.

    Reply
  44. Leah

    For #2, could the writer start sending a weekly summary of the social media posts and send it to her managers? It sounds like her senior managers aren’t in the loop on what is going online and that may be helpful for them to have more exposure to the type of content that is already being posted.

    Reply
  45. workingforaliving

    OP #! sometimes I think people overestimate the accuracy of email. Just because it is written down doesn’t mean it captures the full understanding between the parties.

    There are times that I really need to talk to someone because I don’t quite understand something or I have a question and maybe a follow up question. I don’t have any problem following up with an email to verify our understanding in writing, but email can be a very inefficient way to ask questions and get them answered. What takes 10-15 email exchanges to clarify often can be sorted out in a 2-3 minute phone call. That’s why I want to call sometimes. I try to be considerate, but I don’t think email can always replace a phone call or a meeting.

    Reply
  46. Not So Super-visor

    #1: I wish that we could put a disclaimer on this that Alison’s advice is useful to this specific OP in this specific situation. It is not a blanket invitation to never speak to customers/clients or coworkers over the phone. It may just be my own frustration showing through here, but I’ve been dealing with a lot of younger (new to the workforce) coworkers who don’t like to talk on the phone or in person. Having conversations with people is part of a normal workplace. You can’t demand that everyone always send you an email in every situation no matter if that’s your preference or not. In some situations, it’s going to be more efficient to have a 10-15 minute conversation than for someone to spend 30 minutes writing up an email and then have to still go back and forth with you for clarification/questions. You may need to work on your conversation skills if that’s something that you struggle with or learn to take notes when you’re on a phone call and ask follow-up questions. You just can’t avoid speaking with coworkers or clients in all situations!
    In this situation (student working in what seems like an academic setting doing design work), this advice works, but it won’t work in every siutation where someone doesn’t like speaking on the phone.

    Reply
    1. LQ

      I’ve been having this with a coworker who is ticking the clock til retirement. He has started to work from home more which means he writes these incredibly lengthy incredibly technical diatribes which I have to read with google open checking on every bit of it to get a simple answer to a simple question. I’m fine with no phone calls, but that’s a conversation I need to have in person then (which I’m fine with) because otherwise I spend an hour reading and trying to scry the answer from. He will try to have the same lengthy hyper technical diatribe in person, but in person I can cut him off or look entirely baffled or hold up my hand and make him stop and go back and either explain it if I need to understand, or just answer the question if I just need an answer.

      Reply
    2. Jennifer Thneed

      > I wish that we could put a disclaimer on this that Alison’s advice is useful to this specific OP in this specific situation

      But that’s always the case with advice columns. They are specific to the actual letter writer (while also containing useful information for others). People will always come up with ways their case is different, so therefore the advice was wrong, but no! Their case is different, therefore the advice doesn’t apply to them. (I really like how Hax handles this when people try to call her out. She quotes exactly what she said, and it usually already included a disclaimer about their type of situation.)

      Reply
  47. LilySparrow

    Q2, just telling your boss you are ahead of the curve on your work is fine, of course. But I’ve had good results by framing it as enthusiastic agreement + results.

    So, in your case it might be:

    Boss: Did you see that article on new trends in llama combs? We should share that.

    You: Oh, yeah, that was a really good piece. I shared it yesterday, and we’ve had over X likes and Y reshares – it got a lot of reach.

    So you’re 1) affirming Boss is correct, 2) showing that you are anticipating what needs to be done, and 3) demonstrating the positive effect.

    Any good boss is happy to know their people understand the desired outcome, not just the individual tasks.

    Reply
  48. EmKay

    OP2 – As an administrative assistant, it is one of the greatest joys of my job to say to my bosses “Already done!” when they tell me to do something. I do it happily with a big smile, and I try not to be smug about it. Bosses are then happy and impressed about my proactivity. Everybody wins!

    Reply
    1. Engineer Girl

      Probably because he’s still acting like an intern? That would certainly make it harder to do the mental shift.

      Reply
    2. Someone Else

      I thought the gist was until know he’s been an intern, but because of OP’s departure, he is being promoted to full-time employee, possibly effective immediately? Possibly effective when she leaves? But it sounded like the major deciding factor in his promotion was her vacancy. I’m assuming she included that detail either to provide context for his inexperience or because there’s a little more chaos involved when it’s multiple transitions happening at once (as opposed to training a peer who might have had some but not as much exposure to what she does, etc).

      Reply
  49. HailRobonia

    What should I say when my boss replies to my email and asks a question that is expressly addressed in the email I sent her? Example: I send a status report and say something like “the progress on our new XYZ Teapot is on schedule and I expect to finish it by this Friday” and then she responds “when will it be finished?”

    Reply
    1. EmKay

      “As mentioned in my original/previous email, I expect to finish by this Friday.”

      I would put a smiley face afterward to indicate I’m not being snarky or condescending, but that may not be appropriate in your workplace.

      Reply
    2. Jennifer Thneed

      Short sentences. “The progress on XYZ is on schedule. I expect to finish on Friday.”

      Maybe even put the 2nd sentence on a new line.

      I know it seems like not-such-good writing, but people read emails differently than they read other things, and you just have to accommodate the differences. (Also, some people are truly not as literate as you, and people who are not as comfortable with reading do things like not finish sentences or paragraphs. Also, some people are very distractable and they stop reading too soon.)

      And if you ever have to send a string of questions to someone, some similar things: Make it clear at the beginning that there are 3 questions; or break them out really explicitly, like with bullet points; or make them separate emails. A lot of people just read until they find a question and then stop.

      Reply
  50. Forevanon

    #3 – I have found myself in this same boat a number of times, particularly with design tools (graphics, audio, video, motion capture, etc) and your employer is absolutely being unreasonable. People who don’t do this kind of work have absolutely no idea how much time and effort it takes to become good at these, and you still have to have some kind of natural aptitude for it that can’t really be taught (an ear for what sounds right, an eye for what works visually, etc). I learned how to use all of these on my own time, and solely with resources available online, because I have a personal interest in it, so it is totally frustrating when I get this request. My response goes something like: “I can show Newbie how to navigate the software, its basic functionality, what we use it for, and our naming and formatting conventions, but unfortunately I can’t teach him *how* to use it. For reference, it took me X time to become proficient. However, the internet has everything he will need to learn. Here are some resources Newb can use to learn more and ask questions after I’ve left. (links to Lynda or similar, the product site and forums, any other sites you find helpful for tutorials etc).”

    At my last job I had to document the administration and use of a very niche authoring tool before I left because I was the only one who knew how to admin the software and troubleshoot publishing issues given our company’s specific quirks of technology. It took me an entire month, and that was for users who already had a basic knowledge of the software – so I feel you!

    Reply
  51. Camellia

    #3 This happened to me, but it was a layoff. My company had been bought and I and my colleague, the only two who supported a certain product crucial to the business operations, were both told about our layoffs on the same day. We each thought the other would be kept because no one else could do the job and the new company didn’t have the product so no one there could do it either, but no, they told us both. They gave 30 days notice, which was nice and generous, and within two weeks I had another job, which I would start the Monday following my last day on Friday at OldJob. Friday morning I asked if I could leave early because I had a couple of things I needed to do before starting my new job (I hadn’t told anyone I had a job lined up, at a 40% pay increase, to boot!) and they panicked. Turns out they were planning to wait until that Friday, just before leaving, to ask me to stay on for another six months and train someone. They insisted on having someone drive in from TWO HOURS away so that I could ‘teach him everything’. So I waited, he arrived, I showed him what I could, even stayed late, and told him he could call me that weekend if needed, since Important Stuff was being done with that tool over the weekend. Stupid all around but I was afraid not to try to accommodate them because future references.

    I think they did that because I was older and had been with the company for so long that maybe I was scared and would jump at their offer of another six months of employment. Felt good to show them otherwise!

    Reply
    1. Rusty Shackelford

      Ha! That’s awesome. I’m sure they pictured your sad little face as you left the warm embrace of their company, and the joy when they handed you a lifeline! Did your colleague find another job quickly too? If not, why didn’t they ask them to hang around for six months when you were unexpectedly unavailable?

      Reply
    2. Observer

      If this was typical of the way they handled the acquisition and staff in general, I have to wonder how well the whole thing went.

      Did you follow the fate of your former company? It would be interesting to see how much trouble they had with the integration of the companies.

      Reply
    1. iglwif

      That was my first thought as well, tbh. Especially in a situation like this that CLEARLY calls for a paper trail.

      Every time have been cornered into deciding on wording or layout over the phone instead of by email / in a shared file / over some form of instant messaging, someone has gotten something wrong.

      Sometimes a phone call is the right way to communicate, but very, very often, IME, it is not.

      Reply
  52. Sheila Greene

    #3 Something similar happened to me. I was a long-term professional temp at a company, working as a senior technical writer on multiple projects with minimal supervision. A new manager came in and decided that his admin could handle my tasks. When they told me my contract was ending, they asked me to get the admin up to speed. I replied that I would show her the projects and the files, but that I could not teach her to be a senior level technical writer in 3o days. My career required years to grow and develop, and I couldn’t teach someone with no training the nuances of fonts, format, tone, writing logical steps, advanced grammar, style guides, etc, etc., etc. in 30 days.

    Reply
    1. Been There, Done That

      Not the first time I’ve heard of an employer who wanted to have the admin also take over as writer and/or editor–for no extra money or improved title or status either, of course! I mean, it’s all just typing and running the spell check, correct? :)

      Reply
  53. KitKat100000

    I’m from Nebraska, where Arbor Day was established! Arbor Day is a state holiday and all state offices are closed! So, if you’re in Nebraska, feel free to proudly use your PTO for Arbor Day! April 26, 2019!

    Reply
  54. Pamplemeow

    OP #2 – I’m in the same boat. I always seem to be a couple steps ahead of my manager and whenever he has an idea/gives me a task I already have it done 9/10 times. However, he’ll often still take credit when dealing with others in the company and will say it was his idea (sigh).

    To deal, I’ve started being proactive about letting him know what I’ve done/am doing before he decides to ask me via weekly reports. That way your boss isn’t constantly asking you, knows you’re on top of it, and you get credit for your work :)

    Reply
  55. Kitty

    I have to tell my directors that I’ve already done something on a regular basis :) I find that cheerfulness and a matter of fact tone is the key. They always seem delighted to know that work is already done.

    Reply
  56. Observer

    #1 – Refusing to talk on the phone can be reasonable or it can be rude.

    Wanting the details of a label in writing makes sense in most cases. But if the person needs something that they don’t know how to replicate in email eg colors and fonts they don’t know how to make or don’t have access to, that changes a bit.

    “I don’t like so I don’t want to talk to her” or “I don’t like the phone. (Deal with it.)” are not good reasons for refusing to talk on the phone.

    So, if you have a good reason (eg logistics of the task or your schedule) for an email just say so. Not “I’m not comfortable” or “I don’t want to.” but “I need the details in writing so I can makes sure to get it done correctly” or “My schedule today means I won’t be able to make a call” etc. On the other hand, you don’t need to over explain. Generally, for instance, you don’t need to explain the details of why you are not going to be able to take a call today.

    Reply
  57. Observer

    #2, why do you think that telling your boss that you’ve already taken care of something is going to come off sounding so rude, abrasive and / or adversarial?

    It’s soooo normal to do that, that I’m wondering what your thinking is.

    Reply
    1. OP2

      Typically I wouldn’t think of saying something like this as adversarial, but it’s the fact that it happens so frequently on the same issue that gives me pause re: it coming across as an attitude, or “correcting” them over and over and over again. Of course, the fact that I usually don’t say “Yep, already posted, here are our engagement numbers for this one!” is probably why this is happening over and over again, so I think the solution is pretty easy and clear.

      Reply
      1. Jennifer Thneed

        Please create a standard weekly report that shows what has been posted, and at least part of what you plan for the upcoming week. Start sending it out. After awhile, word will get around that this report exists and people may actually start using it. Are your suggestions coming from the same people over and over? You might need to do some training for awhile. Something like “Yup, good suggestion, I included that item in the report I gave you on Monday.”

        Also, letting them know you already posted something is USEFUL. You’re telling them that you’re reliable and giving them useful information. Eventually they’ll maybe understand to check first before suggesting. But stop allowing people to have an impression that this is ever new information to you. Instead, cheerfully inform them that the thing got posted last Tuesday, and thanks for checking! (Let them make the connection that they’re making themselves look uninformed on their own.)

        Reply
  58. AdvertisingAce

    To #2 the social media manager… Definitely cheerfully tell your boss it’s done! This will help build trust that you know what you’re doing. It might even give them a sense of relief that no balls were dropped. Any time that happens for digital marketing is a good thing, speaking from experience, as a lot of managers find social media to be somewhat mysterious.
    If you just say “thanks” they’re going to think you didn’t do it yet and you need reminders like that.

    Reply
  59. Katherine

    #5 My favorite book is “The Hobbit” and when the third movie was in theaters I couldn’t afford to go see it, so I took a day of PTO on the date the movie was released on DVD, got up bright & early, went to the store, bought the DVD, and went straight home and watched the movie! My supervisor and co-workers all thought I was a little weird for taking the day off for that reason, but hey, it’s PTO! I can use it for whatever!

    Also, earlier this year I took a week off from work to go to a shorebird festival in Homer, AK (I live in AK, so it was only about 75 miles from my house). I’m doing it again next year, too.

    Reply
  60. Crystal

    #5 Not that you or anyone asked but I found out this Spring that for 13 years my coworker thought I was taking off for Easter when I was going to Coachella. Me: “yeah, no I don’t celebrate Easter that’s funny.”

    Reply
  61. Carrie Oakie

    #3 – ooooh man. I have been there! I even wrote Alison about it! I have toxic job 6 weeks notice. Spent a month working side by side, training my replacement. Who then turned around and put in their notice 2 months after I left. They tried to get me back (“we’ll pay you! $25/hr off payroll”) to keep the projects running and train the new-new person. I felt bad and guilted into it But was loving my new job & even though they said if I wanted to help it’s my choice (new job works with old job) I had to step back & recognize that 1) there was no way I could train another new person fast enough and 2) I had put in over 6 years with them perfecting the job AND left a binder filled with instructions & how to guides.

    This is not your problem. You can teach this guy who already knows everything (because OF COURSE HE DOES ) what he needs to do the job, and that’s it. No reasonable company would withhold PTO for not training someone on a skill that took years for you to gain. Heck, I’d be like it’s okay, deny the PTO. I’ll just make the day before my last day, then get that PTO check. (Assuming your state does that.)

    Ugh the nerve of some companies!

    Reply
  62. Anon Anon Anon

    #1 – This is pretty common in all kinds of settings these days. There are good reasons to have some kinds of conversations in person or by phone, and good reasons to say other things in writing. And people have general preferences, some stronger than others.

    If I had received the message, I would be concerned that this person wanted to talk in person or by phone because of the subject matter. It’s just a label, but there could be some other concern that they wanted to bring up. That would be my first thought.

    I’m also better with texts and emails. I tell people that I’ll reply faster if they text but that I can take calls, especially if they text first to let me know. I say that I don’t always have time to answer the phone or check my voicemail so texting works best. But I think it’s important to make room for those more sensitive kinds of conversations. Things people don’t want to put in print, at least initially, or that would take too long to explain.

    Reply
  63. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

    #5 – they MIGHT care –

    a) if you’re in a business like retail and opt to take vacation during the busy business season ….

    b) You opt to take every Friday in the summer … locking people out of the chance to take a week off.

    I am now getting grief from a co-worker because I put in a vacation/pto request as soon as I know I’ll be taking that time. His reply = “but I can’t think that far ahead!!!” Well, tough noogies – to get the lower prices on flights, hotels, and for planning purposes, I CAN AND I DO.

    Reply
  64. Cameron

    #2 Social media manager – i have the same problem as my managers don’t use social media. They now want me to write a spreadsheet each week posting all the social media messages- I’m not keen it’s what they want.

    Reply
  65. Deb :)

    #2 Fr, go ahead & tell them when you’ve already done something. I do this all the time. I just say, “Oh, I already did that” in a neutral tone. Any decent boss will see it as you “taking initiative”.

    Reply

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