open thread – November 30-December 1, 2018

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please don’t repost it here, as it may be in the to-be-answered queue.

{ 1,503 comments… read them below }

  1. Poly Anonasaurus*

    OK So this is new and scary. My partner and I opened our relationship up to poly this year, and now I have a spouse and another partner.

    Also, I’m queer and have a long history with closets. I hate them, and am not willing to be in one – or force my new partner into one around me.

    I’m not planning to “come out” at work, because it’s not necessary to talk about my relationships there, especially since we don’t have any partner-friendly events. However, we have a very small, active community, and I could see coworkers being at some of the same events I’m at with one or both partners. (Conventions, concerts, theater, etc.)

    Do I have to address this? I don’t want anyone to think I’m cheating, but I also don’t want to discuss my private life with them.

    Also, anyone else in this boat have a story to share? I have a good, small community, but it feels kinda lonely out here.

    1. Zip Silver*

      It doesn’t sound like you need to bring it up if you don’t want to. Nobody’s going to think you’re cheating just by being in public with somebody unless you’re big into PDA.

    2. voluptuousfire*

      One blog that I’ve heard mentioned time and time again the poly community is More Than Two dot com.

      It’s the Ask a Manager of the poly community.

      Outside of that, I haven’t a story but offer support and a wish of good luck!

    3. PlatypusOo*

      I just recently quit a job partly because my supervisor started a poly lifestyle and she talked about it non stop. If I were you I wouldn’t act as if your poly life is a secret but I also I wouldn’t go out of my way to bring this up at work. It’s a fine line between revealing too much and unhealthily keeping things to yourself-a line most people can’t seem to manage. In my experience after observing people’s reactions to my former bosses revelations most people do not react well to this unusual kind of relationship. And I work in the entertainment industry! In a “normal” office environment this might be way too much.

      1. Poly Anonasaurus*

        Oh my goodness, I couldn’t imagine having to hear about my supervisor’s romantic life all the time, poly or not!

        Thanks for the read on your coworker’s reactions….that’s kind of what I’m expecting from mine, in some form or another. You confirmed my initial instinct. I don’t want to hide….but I’m also the only openly queer person in the office, and I don’t want to make myself even more of an outsider.

      2. anon for this one*

        Would you have quit if a boss had entered into a hetero relationship and talked about it non-stop as well?

        Honestly, no one wants to hear about their coworker’s sex lives, but the LGBTQA+ community is constantly told that revealing anything about their “unusual kinds of relationships” is revealing too much, so I push back on the idea that someone can’t talk about their queer relationship at work because people might not react well.

        Straight people don’t have to worry about bringing up their relationships at work and queer people shouldn’t either, even if that relationship is something not super common.

        If OP doesn’t want to talk about it because it’s her private life, they don’t have to, and if they want to keep it private because they’re concerned about being the only queer person in the office, that’s completely legit. But I don’t think it’s fair to say that their relationship is unusual and imply that normal people don’t want to hear about it because they’ll think it’s weird. That’s just forcing people back into the closet.

        1. Drea*

          Polyamory isn’t queer, though, so I don’t think this is a fair comparison. It can be, but the majority of the poly people I’ve ever met are not.

          1. Lily Evans*

            Thank you! I’m so tired of people automatically categorizing any relationship that falls even slightly outside the realm of what’s considered standard as LGBT+. Polyamory is its own thing. BDSM is its own thing. Yes, they can intersect, but it doesn’t always.

            1. Wintermute*

              I’m with you. It’s a nasty thing because it ties into the whole “LGBT isn’t a core aspect of your life and identity, it’s just another fetish” thing that often means that even well-intentioned and open-minded people can act in homophobic ways.

              It’s not a sex thing, it’s a core-of-who-you-are thing. It’s not just how you structure your relationships and who has power in them the way polyamory and BDSM are, it’s a fundamental difference in how you view the world around you and interact with it.

              1. Working Hypothesis*

                In fairness, polyamory isn’t just a sex thing either; and many poly people say that’s a core element of who they are and how they see the world. It’s not just how they structure their relationships either.

                Most people I know who are both poly and queer regard both factors as innate orientations which are comparable elements of their identity. I am one of the exceptions (I’m both polyamorous and queer, and consider *neither* a core element of my identity), but I recognize myself as unusual in this.

                1. Wintermute*

                  You are correct, I meant more especially comparing LGBT+ and Polyamory with BDSM, but even then polyamory is specifically about relationships, and LGBT+ goes way beyond that, though I think you hinted at a further complication which is separating LGBT orientations and LGBT “co-culture/sub-culture”, because these days there are a lot of people with LGBT orientations that are not interested nor involved in the culture, and that culture is far from as monolithic as it once was.

                2. Working Hypothesis*

                  Wintermute, I think you’re right about there being more people who are queer by orientation but not part of a “queer community” as their primary social circle anymore; and I think that, on the whole, that is both a good and a bad thing. Speaking strictly for myself, I really miss having a central lesbian community. There are a ton of queer folks where I live, but not much of a central hangout place, or a connected community into which anyone queer is welcome, and I am sorry not to have that anymore.

                  But there’s a good reason so many queer folks *aren’t* centering their social life within the queer community anymore, and that is that they no longer have to. It used to be that if you were openly queer, you *needed* to be part of that subculture, because the mainstream straight communities wouldn’t have you. If you wanted any social life at all, and you didn’t want to be closeted, you went to the one place where you could hold hands with your girlfriend in public without anybody looking down their nose at you, or talk about your plans to buy a house together or get a puppy without people edging away and changing the subject rapidly.

                  By now, thankfully, being queer is mainstream enough that it’s finally possible for people to comfortably chat about their weekend plans with their partner at the office or the local hobby club, regardless of what gender Partner is. That’s great, but it means there’s much less incentive to live strictly within the confines of the queer community, because that’s no longer the only place it is safe to be out.

                  At this point, I think most people regard sexual orientation as an inherent and important part of someone’s identity (just as they regard monogamy/polyamory as being), but not as an encircling environment within which one must live full time. But as one of the old-timers who remember the queer subculture as a central thing in most LGBTQ people’s lives, I do sympathize with the idea that it is one! I’d just more likely say that both polyamory and LGBTQ *are* orientations, and *have* communities/subcultures. Whether any given person with the orientation is also part of the community is their own choice (and to some extent, that of the community, of course), and varies widely by individual.

        2. Steve*

          Life isn’t fair.

          I have friends who are poly and I offhand mention their situation in work and social circles as a way to normalise it (“What did you do this weekend?” “I went to a show with a good friend and their husbands”) – and I get all sorts of confused looks. Generally they are confused, not negative, but poly is still unconventional even within communities which tend to be very LGBTQA+ supportive.

        3. Les G*

          Your point is well-taken, but you’re responding to something other than what platypus wrote. Maybe her boss was straight. Non-normative is not precisely synonymous with LGBTQ in every possible instance, and more to the point, it does nobody any favors to pretend poly and queer are precisely synonymous.

        4. Close Bracket*

          > Would you have quit if a boss had entered into a hetero relationship and talked about it non-stop as well?

          For all we know, the boss’s poly relationship *was* hetero. There are plenty of hetero people in hetero poly relationships. PlatypusOo didn’t mention anyone’s gender.

        5. Alianora*

          Please stop equating polyamory and the LGBT community. They aren’t the same thing, and as Close Bracket said, the boss could easily have been straight.

    4. Trout 'Waver*

      >Do I have to address this?

      Absolutely not. Your reasonable coworkers don’t want to know and will feel weird about you telling them. And it’ll just be gossip fodder for the unreasonable ones.

    5. MCL*

      I would also recommend checking out Han and Matt Know It All, which is a podcast that is kind of about responding to advice columns but also has original advice generated by them. They are a poly couple who sometimes discuss navigating being out at work. I believe they also have discussion forums and such on their website, but I haven’t checked that out so much and am not sure how useful that would be.

        1. not really a lurker anymore*

          The forums at Friends of Capt. Awkward might be another source. The boards are heavily monitored there. They’re also fairly quiet so while you will probably get quality answers, there will not be a lot of them.

          1. anon for this*

            Fair warning, though: those boards are REALLY extreme on language policing. I got kicked for “flagrant homophobia” by using a perfectly innocent non-English word that someone else interpreted as being offensive. One. Single. Word.

            (I was reminded of the old story about the guy who almost got fired for using the word “pedagogical” in reference to training, because his supervisor thought it meant something nasty.)

            1. anon also*

              Yep, I spent some time on those boards too but eventually decided to delete my account. I did get some good advice there, but I also had several cases of people obviously projecting their own very messed up personal histories onto my fairly banal roommate/partner/poly disputes, or getting so focused on a minute detail that I never did get any advice about the actual thing I needed help with.

              Just in general, I wouldn’t recommend using any one forum as a benchmark for what’s normal, because they all have their own cultures and their own blind spots. And be very cautious of anyone who tries to convince you that it’s your duty as a queer or poly person to be out to everyone regardless of the personal or professional consequences.

          2. wickedtongue*

            Just a note before you post at Captain Awkward! Apparently the Polynesian community doesn’t love the use of “poly” to mean polyamorous instead of Polynesian, and Captain Awkward (and Friends thereof) respect that and ask that polyamorous people use the full word, not the abbreviation.

    6. SignalLost*

      Heck no you don’t. I would say, if you see someone you know outside of work and you and your partner are holding hands or something, you might want to grab the moment and go say “Jane! I’m so glad to see you! I’ve been telling Partner about my work and I’d love to introduce you. Jane, this is Partner, Partner, this is Jane. Spouse will be mad when they hear they weren’t here to meet you/say hi/whatever.”

      Reading over it, that seems REALLY over the top, but waiting till Monday to cue Jane in that you and spouse aren’t divorced seems like placing too much on it. There’s undoubtedly someone with a better script for it, but naming it in the moment works for me – it helps that my partner’s spouse also has a partner so when we’re all out together it just looks like two couples. When we wind up as a trio, I tend to just say “This is my partner’s wife, Susie. Susie, this is Bob; we do Hobby together.”

      1. Poly Anonasaurus*

        Thank you! I’ll think about this one and see if I can’t put it in my own words. My partner does have a spouse as well, which works really well for us, but she’s rarely around because of work.

        1. SignalLost*

          The line I strive for is “my life is boring and banal on the relationship front, let me tell you about Ye Saga of my car/my sisters/whatever.” Good luck!

    7. Anonymous For This Topic*

      Like you, I’m queer and I was in polyamorous relationships for 20 years. I absolutely didn’t need to bring this up at work and it caused no problems.

      That said, I worked in a nonprofit that openly promoted being conclusive, and when I became good friends with some of my co-workers, I shared about my poly life with those few individuals just because we would socialize outside of work. They are still my friends even though I don’t work there anymore, and none of them ever brought any of this up with our managers.

      I think whether or not to be open about your life is really dependent on your workplace. You have no obligation to share about this if it doesn’t feel safe.

      1. Poly Anonasaurus*

        Thanks for sharking your story!

        I work in a mixed environment – I think there are a few people I could talk to, but not everyone. But we’re also in a far more conservative and religious area than the large coastal city I’m used to. I’ve been burned before by thinking people around here are my definition of inclusive and then discovering a streak of racism or homophobia below the surface. Thinking on that, I think I’ll take things very slow, even if I do eventually end up disclosing to someone privately.

    8. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You don’t ever have to address your personal life. However there are consequences both directions. As you pointed out, some may think you’re cheating. Then you’re colored differently in minds who are inclined to be upset by that notion.

      I had a coworker tell me they were poly and I’ll be truthful and tell you I wasn’t interested in knowing, it did create a pit in my stomach and I avoided them socially afterwards to avoid more discomfort. I still worked well with them but I was not nearly as endeared to them.

      Bias does exist and whereas I’m not proud of it, I can’t help but be uncomfortable. I’m extremely private and prude, I loath intimate details outside of my own relationship. I feel the same way if you told me you were a sex worker or danced to pay your tuition.

      1. Forking Great Username*

        I mean…you can help it. You just chose to avoid the person instead of working past your mental discomfort.

        1. Pippa*

          This can be a more complex thing than simple bias, though. Sure, polyamory is an unfamiliar concept for a lot of people, something just becoming publicly recognized and accepted, so some people seem to put it into an older “cheating on spouse” model as a pattern familiar to them. One hopes this is a kind of social lag that will correct with time and familiarity, and I agree that people need to work on their understanding of new-to-them concepts.

          But “learn to accept it” isn’t the answer for all situations, though. I’ve got no prob with all-consenting-equals polyamory, but I also occasionally encounter people whose relationships *could* be described as polyamory but are really a very old traditionally patriarchal pattern of polygyny. I don’t think those are the same thing, and having a negative view of the latter doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. Not trying to derail here by introducing a different scenario – just addressing the implication that everyone has a duty to accept all relationship patterns. If Steve tells me about how his sister-wives are devoted to serving him as God intended, I’m gonna think “gross” and not “I need to work past my mental discomfort.”

          And I get that this is a fine line in practice – people love to condemn what they personally dislike. The standard I try to use is “is the viewpoint based on a principle of equality and inclusion, or enforcement of discrimination and inequality?” That, plus you generally have to be civil to people.

        2. Cathy Gale*

          In cases like Pippa describes, e.g. it’s actually polygyny, the women are forbidden to have multiple partners but the men can, I would avoid interactions with that person, just like I would if I suspected they were engaging in other things I find offensive or wrong. I’m sure many readers have had the experience of wanting to avoid [blank] voters after the elections.

      2. SignalLost*

        I feel like classifying a statement like “I have a spouse and a partner” as equivalent to graphically detailed descriptions of sexual acts is insulting and very much under your control. Unless, of course, you also don’t want to know that your married coworkers are married, or that they have biological children (sex is what makes a whole lot of babies), or any other surface-level fact that could suggest your coworkers are not Ken dolls. Equating poly with sexual acts is not accurate, unkind, and biased verging on bigoted. You don’t have to be poly (or gay or lesbian or trans or queer or or or) to respect that coworkers have different lives, and stating that you felt so much harm over someone sharing a very surface detail is an interesting thing to state.

        1. Lily B*

          I don’t really care what my coworkers do in their personal lives, but saying something like “I have a husband and a boyfriend” is soooo not on the same level as “I have kids.”

          1. Amtelope*

            It really is exactly on the same level as “I have a husband” or “I have a boyfriend.” It’s a basic biographical fact about who someone is dating. It’s not a graphic description of someone’s sex life.

          2. SignalLost*

            Yes, actually, it is. It is of exactly the same importance: it is a biographical fact about someone.

      3. Joielle*

        This is… not great. I hope you aren’t sharing this story as an example of a co-worker’s legitimate discomfort, because it’s not legitimate at all. We all have biases, true… but instead of recognizing and working on them you just go “ew! something weird!” and avoid the person. Being a sex worker or stripper are also things we should all work to eliminate biases around.

        My opinion is that of course, if anyone talks about their spouse/partner/whatever excessively, that’s gonna be annoying no matter what the relationship looks like. But a mention of “my spouse” and “my partner” now and then – at a similar frequency and level of detail as anyone would share about a significant other – is perfectly normal. No need to hide it if it would naturally occur in conversation!

        1. Lily B*

          Different people are allowed have different values. Being a professional means you work effectively and respectfully with all different kinds of people, but it doesn’t mean you have to be their best friend or approve of all their decisions.

          I mean, if the VP of my division told me he was moonlighting as a Thunder Down Under dancer…I’d probably be pretty uncomfortable. Sometimes politely avoiding people is the best solution for everyone!

      4. General Ginger*

        Am I understanding this correctly, knowing that a person other than you is in a relationship, or relationships, is on the same level to you as knowing they’re a sex worker? Wow.

          1. nonprofitnancy*

            Sex work is work. Period.

            As long as your coworker is not oversharing details, simply stating that they do/have done sex work should not be treated as stigmatizing or dirty. Just because you would not make a certain choice does not mean that choice is wrong or bad.

            1. Starbuck*

              It shouldn’t be stigmatized, but also, it really shouldn’t be normalized as just like any other job. I don’t know of any other occupations where women are abused in such high numbers, and that’s a big deal. If someone told me they were a sex worker, I wouldn’t be judgmental of them but would be extremely concerned about their working conditions and welfare.

                1. Working Hypothesis*

                  Anecdotal evidence noted, but doesn’t override statistics.

                  Let me be clear: I don’t have any objection to sex work or the people who do it, and I am not trying to support any claims about it being different in some qualitative way from any other job. I don’t think it *is* qualitatively different from any other job. But I also don’t think that “I personally did X and was never abused” is statistically significant evidence of anything.

                  Sex work is work, period.
                  The plural of anecdote is not data.

          2. General Ginger*

            To me, it’s just work. However, given the rest of the comment, I’m guessing this commenter finds it objectionable.

    9. Miss Wels*

      I’d definitely recommend keeping it to yourself. We had a staff member here who actually sent out an email to everyone she worked closely with letting us know she was polyamorous and queer and not to be confused if she talked about other partners besides her husband, and no one cared about her identity but felt super uncomfortable that she was discussing her sex life in the workplace. Meanwhile, we have other staff members who I know are poly because I have socialized with them outside of work, but they keep it to themselves and act professional and no one thinks any differently of them, though we do live in a super liberal area.

      1. Poly Anonasaurus*

        OMG. I couldn’t even imaging doing that when my spouse and I got engaged! But then again, I’m not about the spotlight AT ALL.

        Even outside of work, I’m less interested in talking about my sex life (ick!) than being able to talk about a partner I see 2+ days a week, go on trips with, and have an emotional, romantic relationship with….but I don’t need that at work, either.

        1. Lily B*

          Could you describe just describe that person as a “friend”? As in, “Oh, I love Montreal! My good friend Clarissa and I went there on a skiing trip last spring!” Or “I went out to dinner with my husband and our friend Fergus on Saturday.”

          That way, people can read between the lines if they want to, or not.

          1. Amtelope*

            Would you recommend that someone who has a single boyfriend or partner describe them as a “friend” if they’re not married? If not, then it’s not okay to ask someone with a boyfriend and a husband to describe her boyfriend as “her friend.”

              1. Amtelope*

                That’s fine as a personal choice, but I think most people are working in environments where it’s very common for unmarried monogamous people to use terms other than “friend” to refer to their romantic partners, and poly people should feel free to use those terms as well.

            1. Alice*

              If the person with one partner were asking my advice on how to avoid discussing relationship status at the office, yes.
              Of course, I’m responding to your hypothetical, not to the specific situation that the OP describes.

            2. ket*

              For better or for worse, the Smithsonian magazine described Tessa Thompson as Janelle Monae’s friend in their profile of Monae, probably to keep word count down. Many straight people would describe someone they’re in a sexual or romantic relationship with as a “friend” if they didn’t want to get into details. If you’re talking about a weekend activity with someone who will react to “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” or “fiance/e” with discomfort or unnecessary interest, you would often say friend.

              “Ooooohhh…. I didn’t know that you and Lesley were…. together! So. Um. How is that? How serious are you? Do you think you’ll stay together? How does that work with, you know, … What does your family think?” Yeah. If *that person* is lying in wait to ask a lot of questions, just say friend!

              1. Amtelope*

                Tessa Thompson has said she and Janelle Monae are not a couple, so “friend” is probably the simplest thing to say there — I’m not suggesting that people need to go into long explanations when the reality is “it’s super complicated.” But when a queer woman has a girlfriend or partner, for a magazine to describe her as a”friend” would be a classic example of homophobia.

                As a lesbian, I’ve used “friend” in cases where I felt unsafe being out of the closet. But the choice to say “friend” isn’t comfortable or neutral. It’s a compromise with the reality of prejudice and the potential danger of accurately describing our relationships. It’s something I might do to avoid being fired or physically threatened. It’s not something I would choose to do at this point in my life merely in an attempt to avoid “a lot of questions.” Other queer people 100% get to make their own choices about when to use “friend,” but unless you’re queer yourself, please don’t recommend this as a strategy — we know it’s an option, but choosing to use it is not easy or simple.

          2. Poly Anonasaurus*

            Technically, sure. Particularly for casual relationships of less than a year.

            But this is problematic for me as a queer person, especially once relationships grow. As a teenager, I had a teacher who was in a relationship with another woman for decades. This teacher was involved in after school programs, so I knew her for years, and she only mentioned this other woman on occasion – always as a roommate or friend. That friend would come with her on overnight field trips to help chaperone, and sometimes come to other events, but she wasn’t welcome as a partner or spouse. For years.

            Of course we all read between the lines. I know poly & queer aren’t the same, but I’d feel like I was slipping backwards 20 years to call a partner a friend, though.

      2. Marthooh*

        But was this woman talking about her sex life? It seems she just wanted to keep her relationship status clear.

          1. General Ginger*

            What would they say? Straight and monogamous is treated as default. They would have no need to send out such an e-mail.

            1. SignalLost*

              I actually think sending the email was a poor choice only from the standpoint that if you feel comfortable telling your coworkers that, you can do it in the moment just as easily; it’s not about defaults. But I can’t imagine using email as a forum for anything about my relationships short of a name change on marriage.

    10. Psyche*

      If you feel no need to “come out” but don’t mind them knowing, you could always just introduce your boyfriend to them if you happen to meet them while out.

    11. merp*

      Just chiming in to say that it’s wonderful to hear about polyamory (and its practicalities) being mentioned by folks in this online space like you. I’m… new to it and I think kind of bad at it, lol. And it still feels like a Big Weird Thing, but hearing others talk about it makes it less big and weird in my head.

      1. Poly Anonasaurus*

        <3 <3 <3
        SAME. Exactly. I'm really happy with how many people are or have known poly people, even in relation to work….it makes me feel less alone.

        1. Jill of All Trades*

          You certainly are not alone. I think there’s a decent amount of poly readers of AAM.

          I choose not to bring it up to anyone I work with until I have vetted whether or not I feel they can handle the information in a way that won’t be damaging to me or my career. I just don’t talk about our girlfriend at work and restrict information I share to light conversation about my nesting partner.

          It does help for work and random questions that our girlfriend lives a few states away (though it sucks for pretty much every other reason).

        2. merp*

          And it reminds me that yes, there are plenty of solutions to things that feel hard to figure out! Lots of poly folks have figured them out and live happy lives so when I feel sort of confused about my own feelings or something, it’s a good thing to remember.

    12. Clawfoot*

      I am poly, and have told a few people at work, but they are relatively close work friends. The biggest reaction I get is a fascinated “I HAVE QUESTIONS” kind of thing, which I absolutely don’t mind. Mostly around scheduling. (The answer is always “Google Calendar.”)

      Somewhat related, and a kind of funny story, before I was poly I was married to and worked in the same office as a man who used his first name professionally and his middle name with family & friends, so the two names became totally interchangeable for me. I messed up a few times and told obvious-partner-anecdotes about “Steve” (when everyone knew my husband as “Kevin”). I was pulled aside by one co-worker who conspiratorially asked “Does Kevin know about Steve?” As tempting as it was to play with it, I did reassure them that Kevin and Steve were one and the same person. :)

      My advice is to just tell who you want to tell and continue living your life. If someone notices something they weren’t told about and asks you about it, just be matter-of-fact. So long as you’re not claiming multiple partners on your company benefits, you’re not doing any illegal or anything that’s anyone else’s business.

      1. Daphne*

        In my department was married to a Kevin/Steve. I shared an office with her mother-in-law but didn’t work with her directly. Her mother-in-law always called him Kevin. She came into our office was talking about finally getting a date night with Steve. I was so confused, but I wasn’t going to confront her. I thought it was strange that she would talk about Steve in front of Kevin’s mother. At the end of the visit, the mother-in-law clarified that Steve and Kevin were the same person. (I wouldn’t have cared if she was poly. If she was, I am sure her mother-in-law would have said something about it.)

        1. Your name here*

          We are good friends with a guy whose given name is Frank. For some reason his mother (and his wife) always called him Jimmy and when we met him he was Jim to us. The rest of the world knows him as Frank. We were once at a meeting and I called out “Jim” to get his attention. Another attendee quietly pulled me aside to advise his name is Frank. We had a good laugh when I explained the situation. Lately we’ve dubbed him Jank.

          1. Decima Dewey*

            There was a guy in my high school class whose first and middle names were Joshua Clay. He went by both, and some teachers thought Josh and Clay were identical twins.

      2. Srah*

        Slightly off topic, but Re: using Google Calendar for scheduling: is this just default calendar things, like “Friday – Michael and Sally dinner 6pm”, or do you do something else, maybe involving home chores or making sure events/days/whatever are evenly (or equitably) split? I have never used Google Calendar and our life org needs help!

    13. Manders*

      I’ve got a lot of poly friends and I live in a liberal city where most people have at least heard of polyamory. My advice: wait until you’ve been in a relationship with your partners for a while, maybe a couple years, to decide whether to disclose to your colleagues.

      For a lot of people, that initial stage of opening up a relationship can be a bumpy ride, and the first new partner they have may not be one who sticks around for months or years. The folks I know who really botched the poly at work conversation were the ones who told their coworkers about every single person they were casually dating. The ones who managed to gracefully disclose at work were the ones who waited for a while before talking about their long-term partners.

      If a coworker does see you out with your partners before then in some situation where it’s clear that you’re all dating instead of just going out with friends, just explain calmly and don’t treat it like it’s a huge deal. I really doubt your coworkers will immediately jump to assuming you’re cheating.

    14. CTT*

      Echoing what people here are saying about not having to come out as poly, although I have one caveat/story: a coworker told me she was poly after I mentioned that I was getting into online dating. Since I knew her very well and had spent some time with her then-husband, she wanted to let me know what their situation was in case I came across him on a dating site. I think if you run into a situation where you’re already close with someone at work and are concerned that they’ll be worried if they get the wrong impression, then proactively address it; otherwise, it’s your private life and you can keep it private if you want.

    15. Alli525*

      Could you switch over to calling both of your partners “my partner,” rather than “my spouse and my partner”? That way no one will think twice – they’ll just assume that you hang out a LOT with your one partner. I hope that doesn’t feel like going anywhere near a closet – if you say “my spouse” once in a while no one will think anything of the fact that you normally say “partner.”

      And echoing what others have said about PDA when you’re at events… it’s easy enough to explain holding hands/hugging, but kissing your partner (assuming your spouse is known to your coworkers) might be too far unless you’re in a more secluded area… it’s just about how much you’re willing to risk.

      (disclaimer: I’m not poly, but several of my friends are)

    16. Public Health Nerd*

      Poly here, and I think the thing to know is that almost nobody cares about this as much as you are worried about. Just act like it’s non- news. Coworkers care more about who you are than who you do it with. They want to know that you took an underwater basket weaving class, not who went with you. Most seccondary partners don’t want to go to company social events. If they do want to be your plus one, you can always say that Spouse wasn’t able to make it, this is Other Person who agreed to be your date for the evening.

      Someday, if you all end up living together, you may need to come out more formally to the people who actually do want to know about your family. But that’s a long way away.

      Everything else is the possibility of seeinng your coworkers at random social events in your community. As long as you’re not actively making out with your other partner, most coworkers will just assume that you’re out with a friend. You have no responsibility to tell people what’s happening at random public places.

      If you’re nervous about it in general, one of the things that can be helpful is to talk about your other friends in daily conversation. Having a general narrative that you have man and woman friends sets the stage that Brand New Guy/Girl isn’t noteworthy beccause you have other male/female friends.

      I did share my status with a close friend at work, but I knew she was mature enough not to make it a Thing.

      1. Rainy*

        Seconding this. I spent my early dating years until my late 30s as a polyamorous person, and in general nobody cared. I wasn’t closeted but most of the time in my workplaces at that point it didn’t really come up much, and when it did I was pretty matter-of-fact about it, which makes it hard for people to try and push a weird shamey agenda.

        And to be honest, because of where I was living at the time, All Alternative Communities Were The Same Community, so anybody who was into *any* of the nonstandard life choices locally knew plenty of polyamorous people, and since my social circles were all nonstandard life choice circles, when I *was* dealing with someone who knew nothing about any of them, it generally turned out that they were the ones who felt really weird and out of place because I was so matter-of-fact about it.

    17. ThatLibTech*

      Funny enough, I was thinking of something similar today because I’m in the same boat! However I’m on the other end (as a solo poly person) and haven’t really brought up significant others yet.

    18. TeacherNerd*

      About 15 years ago, a college classmate mentioned during a random conversation on our drive home (I was giving her a ride), “You know that [live-in boyfriend] and I are poly, right?” I was so surprised, all I could think of saying was something along the lines of, “I did not know that!” Really, absolutely, I didn’t care, but it came out of left field – or at least, since I hadn’t known anyone until that point that was poly, I didn’t recognize the “signs,” or whatever – that I was kinda surprised into silence. My classmate took my silence to mean that I strongly disapproved; she told me later that my reaction caused her to not tell anyone for a long time afterwards. All I could do was apologize; I no longer remember if I mentioned that it was a conversational left turn I wasn’t expecting, and that was the basis of my reaction. I felt badly for my silence – truly, I’m not one who, aside from this reaction, has ever done the “stunned silence” thing before – but at the time it also occurred to me that if she wasn’t quite prepared for a range of reactions, perhaps she should keep it to herself. I don’t care what you do in the bedroom (aside from the usual consenting adults, etc.), but I’m also not going around wondering what other folks are doing.

      1. Poly Anonasaurus*

        Thank you for this, but it’s not about the bedroom…’s more about who I go out with, or take trips with, or make big life decisions with. That kind of reduction was used for a long time on same-sex couples whose relationships were seen as all about sex, and the same kind of remarks are one of the big reasons why it’s so hard to talk about it. It’s not only invalidating a poly relationship, but it brings me back to being queer 10 or 15 years ago, when homophobia was so much more normalized.

        You’re right about being prepared for all kinds of reactions, though. I’m definitely not ready for that one yet.

        1. General Ginger*

          Thank you for saying this. I, for one, am exceptionally tired of the “I don’t care what other people do in the bedroom” form of tolerance/acceptance/allyship.

        2. TeacherNerd*

          I’m sorry; I certainly hadn’t meant to imply this. I spoke poorly, and I apologize. I’d meant more of a, “I don’t care what you do outside of work,” which is clearly not what I wrote.

        3. SignalLost*

          Yep. My partner and I are looking st buying a house in the next few years and we will probably be more constrained on our choices because his wife and her partner don’t drive. We are also probably going to have to form an LLC to buy the house so it doesn’t become an asset if he and his wife divorce since he and I are the two who have salaries. In my state, we would have a legally recognized relationship even without marrying except that his marriage presumptively makes it so he cannot enter a significant relationship with me.

          Plus, we want to take vacations and pursue our hobbies exclusive of the other couple, and that takes scheduling and a degree of horse trading. It really isn’t about what we do in the bedroom; it’s the least complicated part of our lives.

        4. ket*

          Makes sense that it’s not about the bedroom, but I too have been in awkward conversations where someone I don’t know particularly well announces something: that they’re asexual or poly, for two different examples. In the examples I’m thinking of, I’m older-and-related-to-the-family-enough that me being involved in any of their romantic relationships would be totally ludicrous; I’m not close enough to them to know what kind of struggle they might have had or what they want as a reaction; and I’m maybe kind-of Aspie myself. So my initial reaction is, “Why do I care?” and then these days I remind myself that they told me for a reason & are probably sort of scared so I should make approving noises to indicate that they’re supported.

          Prior to figuring that out, though, I responded with something along the lines of, “That’s cool. Do you know when dinner’s starting? Do I have time to run to CVS?” This is not interpreted as supportive, I found.

          Besides being internally prepared for many reactions, perhaps you can have a line ready for the person who wants to give you the support/response you need but has no idea what the ideal response would be. You can guide them in the direction that would be best for you.

      2. Manders*

        This is a great point! If an awkward reaction is going to tank your confidence, maybe it’s not time to talk about this at work yet. Don’t let your feelings about your relationship ride on your colleagues’ potential reactions.

    19. auntie polly*

      I hear what you’re saying about your reactions to anything that feels like closeting. It’s important to listen to what your partners say about how those things feel to them, too – it might not be exactly the same. For example, if your boss passes your restaurant table unexpectedly, and you say “Oh, hi, Mx Boss. You met Pat at the Christmas party last year (pause for first partner to shake hands with boss), and this is Alex, Alex this is my supervisor Mx Boss (pause for second partner to shake hands with boss)” (adjust formality as needed.) – does that feel too closet-y to you? How about to either of your partners?

      Also, keep in mind that how you feel and how your partners feel might not be completely consistent day-to-day and depending on who it is you’re running into. Someone who feels insecure about a r’ship in other ways might be more inclined to be hurt by how you do/don’t talk about them to your co-workers – even in the example above, maybe you used to introduce Pat as partner or spouse, and today you didn’t – not a big deal in theory, but this weekend Pat’s feeling left out by all the NRE and hasn’t really communicated that … be gentle with each other when your gut-reactions don’t match.

      My own experience is that most people don’t have suspicious minds and just want to map what they’re seeing to something reassuring. “No, Pat wasn’t with me at the concert last night. Pat had a migraine. That was Alex, who introduced us all to that kind of music. Wasn’t it good?”

      My advice and examples are all coloured by being of a generation/culture/family where the default was closets first, out where safe. I envy people who grew up rainbows-in-your-face, love me initials and all, but I think it’s too late for me especially in workplaces.

    20. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)*

      In terms of not being perceived as cheating, spending time in public with both your partners, or with one of them and their other partner, will help you look like you’re not hiding anything (as, indeed, you’re not) If I’m having dinner with my husband and girlfriend, people may think any number of things–but it won’t be “I should tell the Gollux’s husband that she was holding hands with someone else” or “I wonder if her girlfriend knows she’s seeing this guy.”

      Some years ago, my long-distance partner’s wife was out of town on business, and on different occasions he took me and two other visiting riends to one of their favorite restaurants. When she got back and the two of them had dinner there, the staff looked at her oddly, somewhere between pity and “does she know?” but without actually saying anything. So, the next time I was in town, the two of them made a point of going to that restaurant with me, to make it clear that no, my partner wasn’t sneaking around behind her back.

    21. Barb*

      Bring it up briefly and matter-of-factly when relevant. I worked with someone with a live-in husband and live-in partner. I knew about (the concept of) poly, but was never told flat out that she was poly. Co-worker talked about her partner and husband by those titles or names matter-of-factly (not obsessively, just the way one chats about family), but it took me a long time to realize those were two different people. She was actually my superior, so there was a point that I was confused but embarrassed to ask anyone what the deal was, because she was so matter-of-fact and months had gone by at this point. Finally figured it out, and felt relieved that I wouldn’t say the wrong thing anymore. I think she may have actually explained point-blank when she started, but that was long before me.

      I think matter of fact is the way to go. Co-workers you don’t work with closely may get confused, but it’ll be clear that Name is a key person in your life, which is what matters. If you need to causally throw in, “—I’m poly, Spouse is cool with/knows about Partner—“, into the middle of your story, do it! I don’t want too many details about anyone, but this is totally reasonable (and preferable to thinking you’re a shameless cheater!). Poly is just useful basic info, and you have the right to treat it that way. People will follow your lead, at least in the conversation with you.

      I do think “friend” is easier for casual relationships, until it gets more serious. Same for non-poly people, unless you want everyone really up your business (I wouldn’t). If people see you in public, you can give more detail if you feel like it.

    22. valentine*

      There’s a lot of support on Tumblr for welcoming polyamorous people under the queer umbrella. Eschewing the straight-nuclear family, having to hide that, and the state proscribing your relationships makes polyamory queer. If anything, the husband/sister-wives scheme and the fact they can never be synonymous with a wife/brother-husbands structure colonizes polyamory. I hope those of you who said you don’t care/conflate polyamory with untoward sexual details will consider how hurtful/bigoted that is and decolonize your worldview.

      Poly Anonasaurus, do you want to, as a matter of course, mention to your colleagues the fact of your relationships to partner and their spouse? I like SignalLost’s script, but would specify, “Jane, this is my partner, Partner”. More than that, what do you want said when your colleagues see your partner or y’all’s spouses when you’re not there? If Jane says, “Hey, you’re Poly Anonasaurus’s…” can your partner or the spouses say partner/spouse-in-law/spouse? As bigots can punish you either way, as in the letter from the guy who didn’t correct his boss hearing fiancé and assumed fiancée, so you may as well please yourself. What’s going to serve you here? How will you be happiest? Can you live the way you want at this workplace or do you need a different environment in order to speak freely and breathe more easily?

    23. MicrobioChic*

      I’ve been in a poly relationship for the past three years. I’m not out at work, but I’ve told a couple of folks I talk with a lot and that I didn’t think would care.

      One thing that someone I know does is instead of saying “with my girlfriend Name” or “with my friend Name” she just says “yeah I looked at the Christmas lights with Name.” It doesn’t make her feel closeted, and she doesn’t have to go into long explanations either.

  2. Namast'ay in Bed*

    What’s your opinion on taking a lunch break even if lunch was provided in a meeting?

    I’m someone who tends to eat lunch at their desk and then take my lunch break to run errands or go for a walk, so if I have a midday meeting or training that they bring lunch for, even though I’ve eaten I’m of the mind that I still get my break. My office is pretty great about “as long as the work gets done, manage your time as you see fit” so this is more of a hypothetical, but I’m curious if others feel the same way.

    Oh and this is a standard, non-hourly, non-billing office job, so no hours to account for.

    1. Dragoning*

      I’m hourly, so I’m legally required to take a lunch break of some sort with my 8-hour shifts…but I know my salaried coworkers don’t function this way (and previous managers have insisted that a provided lunch is the same as a break…which it is not).

      I would ask your boss.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Paid lunch breaks can be provided for hourly employees in lieu of the traditional 30 minutes unpaid, uninterrupted meal time. So there is wiggle room there. (Usual disclaimer that this may be regional but we’re a very employee leaning region and that’s how it works).

          1. Shananana*

            ah, so if you are hourly and were working during the meeting you need to be paid for those hours. Or, you need to take your 30 min unpaid break later. No working meeting lunches that aren’t paid. Assuming you are in the US, that’s the labor law.

        1. Gaia*

          In many states, however, employees have to be free to spend the time as they want or it isn’t really a lunch break. In mine, for instance, even if it is paid if you make the employee stay there it doesn’t count as a “rest period” that is legally required for hourly workers. So when I did “team lunches” I was always clear that this was our team event and, after that, they had 30 minutes to do as they pleased. We’ve had companies get a stern talking to about this by our state labor department recently.

    2. Kay*

      In my last position, I was explicitly told by my boss that lunch meetings (or any formal/informal work event that happened during my lunch hour) did not count as my lunch and I should still take my hour of personal time. She was a big believer in separating our work and personal commitments. In my current role, my boss has not be so explicit and so I handle it situationally (based on the meeting, my workload, other people’s schedules). Definitely prefer when I had explicit guidance!

    3. YarnOwl*

      I don’t count lunch meetings as my lunch break. Although I’m hourly so the law about me taking a break is in play.

      But yes, I still take a half-hour break if I get lunch in a meeting. I usually just use it to read in the lunch room or something like that.

    4. CheeryO*

      My opinion is that if it’s a mandatory meeting, you should still get an actual lunch break. I might take a shorter break when I have a lunch meeting, but I still feel like I’m entitled to get out of the office for a bit as long as I’m not needed at my desk.

    5. Kes*

      Personally I’m in a similar environment and I won’t necessarily take another break, but if I do need to run an errand or just get out of the office for a walk I’ll still do so, although I may or may not take as much time as otherwise.

    6. GhostWriter*

      I think if a meal is provided at training or a meeting, it shouldn’t count as your lunch break for the day. You’re probably working or talking in between eating, and you have to be there instead of relaxing or doing your own thing, so it hardly counts as a break from work.

      At my previous job, if we were served food of any kind (including cake at obligatory employee appreciation type events), that counted as our lunch break. My manager sucked in many ways though and other teams had a lot more leeway and relaxed rules, so I have a feeling that might not be normal.

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ve done both over the years. It depends on if I want an unpaid break or not. I don’t regularly feel the need, especially if I’m in meetings and my work is piling up.

      I would look into the company policy, it’s a very “office culture” kind of thing.

      Hourly workers can run into an issue if they have the (terrible) practice of jusr auto deducting lunch time. If you’re on a punch out for lunch, I assume some may want to have a note in the system for a skipped unpaid lunch or here we have meal time waivers to fill out stating you choose to waive your unpaid break because you have been allotted proper time and ability to eat within your paid work time!

      I worked 10 years only clocking out to leave to get lunch. Then I ate at my desk, I was on the clock, I would answer the odd phone or question from staff who needed me. All my research and classes from the labor department told me that’s totally fine.

      Some places are hard nosed about mandatory breaks to CYA

    8. Akcipitrokulo*

      Meeting with lunch? It’s not your lunch break. Take your break.

      Going out to lunch with colleagues? Probably your break… but… when it’s a department (optional) lunch, then I usually take 10 min or so when we get back to spod on aam before getting back into it, and no-one minds as long as work gets finished.

    9. DAMitsDevon*

      At my office, we (full time staff at least) have one hour, unpaid lunch breaks everyday, and the online system we use to keep track of the hours we work, automatically deducts that hour from the work day (if I did work through my lunch break, I could ask my supervisor to adjust my time sheet to make sure I get paid though). If your lunch breaks are unpaid, I’d say it’s more than justified if you want to spend that hour or however long you get running errands, even if you already ate lunch during a meeting. A lot of my coworkers regularly run errands during their lunch break and then come back and eat their lunch while they work.

      Even though lunch break implies that you’re spending the time eating, the emphasis should really be on the break part. Sometimes it is nice to eat your lunch while relaxing and not working, but if you’d rather use your break time to do something else, it shouldn’t be a problem if you’re getting all your work done/not taking breaks that are too long.

    10. CRM*

      If the meeting is a social event (such as a holiday party) or related to something that is not strictly work-related but work-adjacent (such as a volunteer committee), then it probably counts as your lunch break. Otherwise, I’d say you are fine to take your break separately.

    11. Goya de la Mancha*

      Hourly here, and we get a half-hour “duty free” lunch. So if it’s a work meeting, that’s not duty free and we still get our time. Sometimes our boss will buy lunch just for kicks and we’ll sit together to eat. On those days I don’t take another lunch because it was more a morale boosting thing and it usually goes well over a half hour ;)

    12. What's with Today, today?*

      My boss calls these “eating meetings,” and, if he is paying for the food, that is the lunch break.

    13. LurkieLoo*

      If I had errands to run, I probably still would. I (personally) feel like a lunch meeting is enough of a break from the regular grind if it’s more like chit chat and less like functional work going on. I could totally go either way, but wouldn’t think less of a person who took a lunch in addition to lunch. Unless it became a problem in the sense that you’re now away from your desk 2+ hours frequently and it hampers productivity.

    14. Gaia*

      Lunch meetings, to me, are not a break. If I normally take a lunch (I am salaried and often don’t) then I will still take a “lunch” although I might shorten it a bit.

  3. Dean Learner*

    How can I feel less disconnected from my coworkers? I started a new job about 6 months ago, and overall I really like it. While I find it easy to talk to my coworkers before/after meetings and in social situations, day-to-day I feel very disconnected. On a no-meeting day, I can go the full day without really talking to anyone. My job doesn’t interact with my coworkers on a daily basis and doesn’t overlap duty-wise with the majority of my coworkers’ jobs. What’s more, my office (in a cubicle area of about 12 cubes) is all the way in the back and my desk faces the wall. Everyone else in the cubicle area talks about work-related things, or says hi when they walk by a co-worker’s cube, which then evolves into friendly chit-chat and conversations. No one ever walks by my cube because I’m all the way in the back, and I get to work earlier than everyone else so I’m already in the office by the time others arrive. I’ve talked to my supervisor about moving my office closer to the front of the cubicle area, but that won’t happen for another several months.

    I’m worried I’m coming across as unfriendly or unapproachable. I go to every post-work happy hour (that I’m invited to), event, and every monthly luncheon. At those functions, I feel comfortable and conversation is easy and natural. But then the next day I’ll get to work and it’s back to the usual.

    I feel isolated and left out. I also feel self-conscious, because two people have been hired after me and already seem more comfortable and likeable than I fear I’m coming across. How can I feel connected? It feels weird to go up to someone’s cube, interrupting their work, especially if I don’t have anything specific to say to them (other than “hi, how are you?”). That seems awkward and abrupt to me.

    I want to talk to people, and I want people to want to talk to me! I’m trying not to frame this as “why won’t anyone talk to meeee,” but that’s how it feels.

    Any suggestions? Is this all in my head?

    1. ANon.*

      Can you make a point to get up once or twice to walk around to get water/coffee, use the bathroom, etc? Then along the way you could say hi to coworkers. When you pass by someone in their cube and they don’t look like they’re in the middle of something, if “hi, how are you” feels too abrupt, you could try something small like “Hey, I love your [scarf/necklace/tie], by the way.” This may or may not lead to more conversation. But either way it gets you interacting with them a bit more.

      1. Marthooh*

        I was going to say, take the occasional walking-around break. And “It can get pretty lonely back there” is a much less pathetic way of saying “Please somebody talk to meeeeeeee!”

    2. Master Bean Counter*

      Put chocolate in a dish on your desk. Your coworkers will start visiting. I have a holiday candy dish on my desk now. Coworkers that never even have a reason to be in my office stop in to say hi and grab some chocolate.

      1. Minerva McGonagall*

        Oh yes absolutely candy! I get those seasonal dollar pails from Target to fill with a popular candy that I don’t particularly like so I don’t eat all of it in a day. People started stopping by a lot more frequently once they realized that there’s candy!

      2. CastIrony*

        That’s a great idea, but I’d go with something like Smarties or Twizzlers because they seem inoffensive when it comes to most allergies.

        1. CastIrony*

          On a related note, I want a job like that because not talking to people much sounds nice for me right now (I’m the worker who does well, but has never, ever been socially close with their co-workers due to being socially inept.)

          1. Dean Learner*

            Twizzlers wouldn’t work, because I’d eat them all before my coworkers even realized I had them ;)

            I am also socially inept, so I think the hardest part about this is that I’ve been trying to put myself out there by forcing myself ( like sitting in my car hyping myself up to go into the bar for happy hour) to attend these post-work shindigs, and I’m feeling like I’m not getting any long-term return from it. It’s hard for me to see that the anxiety I’m putting myself through is worth it.

            Thank you for responding!!

            1. Jadelyn*

              Are there ever potlucks at your work? That’s one of the places I can get a quick fill-up of social interaction and relationship-reinforcing when I feel the need to. Just pop by the break room, ostensibly to get some food, and there are always a bunch of people in there also getting food, so you’ve got built-in conversation starters as well (exchanging recipes or what have you).

            2. Boredatwork*

              +1 to the candy – fellow anxiety sufferer here – If you put out candy you will make so many friends. The more socially capable people will then talk to you, and give you future talking points.

              You can also consider bringing in food (donuts, ect.) send out an email to your group and the have the flies know to come to you. Again you’re just looking for a talking point to follow up on. Kid sick? ask if they’re better, weekend plans? Was that activity fun, ect ect.

              Your co-workers will actually feel like you’re being warm and friendly if you ask them about something they mentioned, the more child related the better.

          2. Jadelyn*

            I hear you – I’m the Gremlin in the Corner at my office and I genuinely like that. My desk is tucked in the back corner of the big two-person office I share with a coworker. The big window in our wall that looks into the hallway starts just *after* my desk when you’re walking by, so if you don’t stop and turn to face the wall you won’t even see that I’m here. And I’m quiet and fairly introverted, and don’t have a ton of direct interaction outside of my team. When I go to the break room for water or coffee, if someone is in there, fully half the time there will be some comment of “Oh I didn’t even know you were here today!”

            Mostly it’s just funny to me, but I’ll admit it gets a little lonely once in awhile to see people passing by on their way in or out for the day and saying “good morning/night” to everyone and not me. But I figure it’s a small price to pay for some peace and quiet.

            1. Dean Learner*

              It’s funny, I would normally characterize myself the same way – quiet, introverted, and more often than not I would rather hang out with myself than anyone else. I suppose I’m more aware of how I’m being treated differently than everyone else in my cubicle area because I’m still fairly new, plus I have horrible self-esteem and a desperate need for others’ approval (thanks, Mom!).

              It’s reassuring to hear that I’m not the only one in this situation!

              1. Jadelyn*

                The extra context really tells me that this is more a brain-weasels problem than a problem of actually being excluded. (And I say that as someone who has more brain-weasels than I can count.) Your mind is making a connection between “nobody comes by my desk and talks to me” with “therefore nobody likes me” when it’s far more likely to just be a symptom of office layout, and your emotions are taking the beating over that. If you can call that connection into question whenever your mind starts doing that, it might help the feeling of isolation a little.

                1. TechWorker*

                  From your description of how happy hours and social events always go well I’d say it’s very unlikely your colleagues don’t like you! They probably don’t even realise you’d like to chat more.

        2. Akcipitrokulo*

          Smarties aren’t vegetarian though (and also made by nestle ;) ) but agreed, go for something that’s less likely to provoke allergies.

          1. Tricksie*

            I think they meant the US Smarties, which are sugary things like SweetTarts, not the candy-coated chocolates. :)

          1. Alianora*

            Yeah, when I worked as a receptionist part of my job was keeping the candy bowl on my desk filled. I would sometimes ask people what their favorite was and make a point to get that for next time.

      3. Admin of Sys*

        Yes, this! It especially helps if, when folks ask if it’s okay for them to grab a piece, you say something along the lines of ‘definitely! I put [the candy] out so folks come to see me once in a while’ because then folks will actually stay and chat a bit.

      4. Susan K*

        Good idea… You could also take a page out of Dexter’s book and bring in donuts occasionally. That will give you an excuse to go around offering people a donut (or just saying, “Hey, I brought donuts! They’re in the kitchen if you want one.”).

      5. Clawfoot*

        I was just about to suggest this myself! I was in the same kind of position (got in earlier than everyone, desk at the very back, nobody walks by, etc.), so I made sure to establish my desk as the Office Snack Desk. I have granola bars, chocolate, dried fruit, and other snacks (that keep for a while) in my desk and I encourage people to drop by when they need a pick-me-up.

        The nice thing is that co-workers who often stop by for snacks also help replenish the supply. I will often be visited by frequent grazers who bring me a box of granola bars or a bag of mini chocolate bars to add to the stash.

        Another bonus is that I get to hear about everyone’s snack preferences and favourites (and food allergies), which is handy when I want to bake something or bring something bigger for the office, for a birthday or celebration or whatever.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Would an email to those in your immediate office be out of step with your office culture? I ask because some places would find that an odd way to announce something, but my office sends branch-wide emails to announce when there’s food setup somewhere – our tradition is that whenever possible, birthday potlucks/snacks/whatever are set up in the office or a nearby cube of the person whose birthday it is, so that people have a chance to stop in and say hi and happy birthday while getting their nom on.

          1. Dean Learner*

            That would work really well! I have so much unused space in my office that I could easily have snacks out with room for people to hang around. I’ve thought about bringing in my weekend baking experiments; one of these days I will work up the nerve to bring them into the office. I think, “I’ve been practicing baking and made too many cookies/toffee/whatever, please help me get rid of them!” would work!

            1. LurkieLoo*

              This might be a great way to draw attention to the candy . . . candy jar next to cookies. Easy enough to announce the cookies, people will come back for the candy.

            2. Jadelyn*

              That would be fantastic! I know I’d definitely come out of my isolation cave to get some cookies if someone had them by their desk and sent out an email saying “come get some!” :)

              (Although, tiny word of warning – be careful not to do it every week or on a set schedule, or people will start to expect it, and then they may get upset if you ever stop or pressure you to do more or whatever. We’ve had plenty of letters about people who got sick of being the unofficial office bakery here and seen how wrong things can go when people depend on you for their carb fix!)

        2. Clawfoot*

          Take them around and offer them to people at their desks. Mention that you always have them at your desk if they ever need an afternoon chocolate fix. :)

    3. Minerva McGonagall*

      I started my new job about 3 months ago and I’ve been trying to be more connected too! My office is in the very back of a library and is half hidden by the hallway, so I understand feeling hidden!

      Some things I’ve tried doing have been getting up and out of my office more (getting more water, taking a longer way back to my office, etc.). It’s been a bit more organic then to run into someone or walk past their office and saying hi. I joined some committees to get more involved and have tried to stay for more after work events. It does take some time, especially if you’re coming from a working environment where you had to hold back and be reserved because of toxicity.

      Continue to be cheerful and maybe make a point to see when others aren’t busy to pop by for a quick chat. I try to make sure I talk to at least one other person a day (outside my direct supervisor). Maybe you could swing by a few people’s cubes before lunch and see if anyone wants to grab something or eat together.

      1. Dean Learner*

        Thank you so much for the suggestions! It’s good to know I’m not the only person struggling with this. I love the idea of having conversation organically happen as I’m walking to a destination (water, bathroom, stretching my legs, etc.). It seems so simple but so effective, and I can’t believe it hadn’t occurred to me before you suggested it! In fact, I just went for a walk about and a coworker and I had a nice talk about our plans for the weekend. Thanks again!

    4. WellRed*

      I can’t believe I am going to suggest this, but can you put up Christmas lights on your cube walls (if you celebrate it) or something that draws friendly attention/chit chat?

      1. Dean Learner*

        No, this is a great idea! I haven’t decorated my office at all yet (like, no pictures or anything). Making my office seem warm and inviting might make me seem warm and inviting by extension! Plus, I am rarely one to turn down an excuse to decorate with fairy lights :)

    5. Kathenus*

      From your description it doesn’t sound like you should worry about being thought of as unfriendly or unapproachable. If at social occasions and before/after meetings you have comfortable and friendly interactions it sounds like it’s more an issue of the physical isolation reducing the chance for the informal chats during the day.

      You’re already trying to take medium/long-term action by working to get your desk moved. You mention being uncomfortable with initiating conversations, even greetings, when walking by others; but you also note that it seems to be the culture that people do greet others walking by their cubes which can then result in the more informal conversations. So you might need to step outside your comfort zone and work on initiating these as you walk from your back cube through the office to the printer, restroom, coffee maker, whatever.

      Watch how others do it to see how to make it feel more comfortable and natural and model your approach on how others are already successfully initiating these interactions. Think of a low-stakes, more social question you could ask some of your coworkers as an icebreaker. “Hi Sue, that’s a great sweater, where did you get it?” “Hi John, what was that restaurant where you got your lunch that you brought in last week, it looked delicious?” Or a work-related question that can be used to start the conversation and then have a more social/friendly pivot – a movie you saw, something funny your pet did, whatever.

      Since you already have comfortable and natural conversations in social work situations, you’re at a great starting place and can probably pretty easily start feeling more comfortable with the informal interactions after you get a couple under your belt.

      I do feel you, though, I’m not good at chit chat with people I don’t feel as comfortable with, and I’ve also seen newer people come into my office and seamlessly join in on conversations where I still feel out of place. So maybe I need to re-read this and try to do it more myself too :)

    6. Kes*

      Do you have an office kitchen/coffeemaker/watercooler that you could visit a couple of times a day, chatting for a bit to people who are there and walking past the cubicles on the way? If not, maybe you could say hi as you walk past the cubicles on the way to the bathroom or just walking around to stretch your legs

    7. Not So NewReader*

      For the moment, can you rotate your desk 90 degrees or turn it all the way around so you face your doorway/entrance area?

      Can you work it into conversation– “well if you are walking around just for a leg stretch or a minute mental break, swing by and visit me allll the way in the back.”

      Or give them reason to contact you, this could be work related or this could just be casual conversation type of thing. “Can you let me know if you find that Old Reference Chart from Long Ago? I would be interested in seeing it.” OR “Swing by my desk on Monday, I want to hear how your dog made out with her new pups over the weekend.” These are kind of little hooks that you can come back to. If the person does not come by on Monday, maybe Monday afternoon, you can go by her desk and say “How’s Momma Dog?” The idea is to look for things you can pick up on later.

      I think they do like you, they just don’t think of going to see you. FWIW, with any new job, I tend to think that the onus falls on me to show more interest than they do. This helps with that disconnected feeling because I end up asking myself what steps I will take today to be more connected. Six months is not that long. I think we need to put in at least a year before we really settle in. Don’t forget the holidays are not helping you here as it is adding to their distraction and their busyness.

    8. Lucille2*

      This was me a few years back when I started my job. I worked in office, but I mainly worked with clients and my boss and peers were either in other offices or worked remotely. I was literally a team of 1 in my office. It was super lonely for a long time, especially since I’m an introvert. Add to that, I worked for LastJob for over a decade, so it was a shock to go from knowing everyone to speaking to no one all day unless it was over the phone.

      Here’s what helped me since I’m not the type to get to know people easily. I joined some network and social groups that had a presence in my local office. There was a women’s networking group, though small, that helped me get to know some women in my office. I also joined an office running club that met on occasion to workout and also signed up for local races together. My office also gets involved in a lot of local charities, so volunteering my time helped me meet other people who support the same causes. I’m hoping your office has similar clubs and activities you can join. Happy hours should help, even if that takes some time. You may find someone casually discussing a work topic you have expertise in and organically build a connection. Then you become the guy who’s an expert in X and get introduced to others who need to pick your brain. Good luck to you!

      1. Dean Learner*

        Thank you so much! These are all great ideas. I also have trouble getting to know people easily, so I appreciate the suggestions. I’m going to poke around for some clubs/activities/groups to join! Thanks again :)

    9. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I think you’ve got some great suggestions.

      I want to point out that your location is most likely the real issue. They like you but you’re tucked away.

      I had a staffer like that once. I made a point to poke by nose in because as a supervisor, despite her not needing me daily, maybe weekly if that, I wouldn’t leave her hanging. But other staff were wrapped up in their own areas and could easily forget her in daily chatter. She was very well liked for certain.

      I would take a break around times others regularly do and catch up. Also feel free to tell others you like being social, since you’re often in the background and out of sight. They may take the hint to stroll on back sometimes to say good morning.

      I’m sorry you’re lonely and hope your desk moving will fix that stress!

    10. Kelly AF*

      Others have suggested similar things, but — draw people to your desk! Put out a candy dish, decorate… I too am an extrovert sitting in the back of my department, so I feel your pain. What worked for me was putting up a hangman game on my whiteboard — people would regularly come back to play it.

      1. Jadelyn*

        This is a great idea – I have one coworker who puts up riddles on her door once a week, and people do drop by just to see what this week’s riddle is. Another coworker has a chalkboard that he writes sayings and jokes on every day, and people detour by his cube to see the quote of the day.

    11. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Something I do for a different reason that might be of interest to you — My desk is in an interior cubicle warren, and the nearest casual conference room has a window. It’s rarely used at lunchtime, so if I’ve taken an early lunch break, I can walk down there with my laptop and get a half hour of daylight. When people start showing up for a scheduled meeting I pick up and head out, saying say “Now back to my cave!” Or submarine or salt mine, whatever strikes me as most humorous at the time.
      The only drawback can also be a plus — I sometimes get asked to attend the incoming meeting. ;)

    12. nonymous*

      Sometimes a coworker and I will have a “walking meeting” where we talk about a specific work project we stroll around the building (or even outside if it’s nice). I’ve had luck with flat out inviting people by IM to join me on a walk to “take advantage of the last sunny day in a while” or “work off those yummy cinnamon rolls the cafeteria serves” followed with the work topic you’d like to discuss. And then on your way back to your desk chat up the people that you pass – better if the chatting can be due to information you learned on the walk.

    13. Dean Learner*

      I know I’m two days late and it’s unlikely anyone will read this, but thank you all so much for your comments and suggestions. They were all extremely helpful and I so appreciate you taking time out of your day to respond to my question <3

  4. Toxic waste*

    When I went for an interview, they asked why I wanted to leave my current position. Can I say that I feel uncomfortable or unsafe? There is a lot of yelling and one of the higher up’s threatened my manager’s life. It’s a mess… It wasn’t directed at me, but I don’t want to work in a place that condones this type of behavior.

    1. dramalama*

      Even when it’s that extreme, I always feel really icky talking bad about my current workplace. I think you could probably sugarcoat it into “not a good culture fit” and only provide the grisly details if they’re really pressing you for them.

      1. Kes*

        Not sure I would say that, I feel like that risks making it sound like OP is the problem/can’t fit in.

        OP, I would probably say some of what you mentioned, but just briefly in a very calm, matter of fact way – maybe just say that there is a lot of yelling and you are looking for a more professional environment.

        1. Lora*

          How about something like, “the job wasn’t what I was expecting / what was advertised”?

          I mean, it wasn’t. You were expecting people to be civil and professional, and they didn’t meet that expectation.

    2. Anona*

      I personally wouldn’t be that honest. I think to many interviewers it would probably be an overshare. I’d say something more like I’m ready to make a change, or am ready for a new opportunity, or something like it’s no longer a good fit. Something less dramatic.

    3. AnotherLibrarian*

      I would always avoid bad mouthing your current employer in an interview. People don’t have anyway of knowing if your boss was nuts or your were nuts. You know? So, I would instead go for a non-answer like “My current office isn’t a good fit for me at this time and I’m looking for a place that is more….. whatever.”

    4. irene adler*

      Employers worry that if you are candid about your current employer then you’ll be just as candid about them (should they hire you). So they will judge you on how diplomatic you are regarding your current employer.

      I would think any company with a toxic work environment would give employees concern that the business was not stable. Hence, your reason for leaving would be concerns over not having a job in the near future because the future of the business seems uncertain.

      You can also play up how interested you are in the job you are interviewing for :” saw the ad and had to apply. Job description very intriguing. Thought it could be the perfect fit for me. “

    5. Susan K*

      Something to remember about job interviews is that you are not under oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I’m not saying you should lie (you shouldn’t), but you are allowed to sugar-coat certain things. When they ask why you are leaving your current job, they are not your therapist and they don’t want or need to hear about your traumatic experiences at work.

      Remember that every question they ask is ultimately part of the question, “Are you a good fit for this role?” If you say because you feel unsafe, it’s going to make it look like you don’t really care about the new job you’re taking — you’re just trying to get away from your old job. This does not make you look like a strong candidate. The best answer for this type of question is to phrase it as why you are a better fit for the job for which you’re applying than for your current job.

      1. Goya de la Mancha*

        I love giving vague answers in interviews, but I’ve also had some interviewers prompt because they wanted details :( That’s when I stumble.

        1. Jadelyn*

          If they push for details, I’d say it’s okay to be honest, as long as you’re calm and detached in the way you say it. I phone-screened a candidate once who, when I asked why she was leaving her job, told me – with a note of genuine sorrow in her voice – that there had been a lot of changes in management recently, and the whole culture of the place had shifted in a way she wasn’t comfortable with, so she was seeking an environment that was more [whatever – I don’t remember what]. I really respected that answer and didn’t consider it “badmouthing” the employer, and it was due in large part to her delivery of it. Tone makes all the difference between “The new manager is a jerk who constantly pressures us to upsell irrelevant stuff to clients who don’t need those services” and “New management has changed the culture at the office in a way I’m not okay with.”

          1. LJay*


            Also, I ask the question because I want to know for your candidacy to make sense for me. This is especially true if the new role would be a lateral move or a step down for you rather than a step up. I want to know that the reason you’re leaving isn’t that you’re terrible at your job and on a PIP and about to be fired, or that you’re embezzling a want to get out before you’re caught or something.

            I don’t want or need details, but knowing that you’re looking to leave an abusive or unethical work environment for a more healthy and positive one will help fill in the gaps for me as to why you are looking to say, take a pay cut to work for me or something.

            I also wouldn’t hold it against someone if they said something that was negative, but true, and did so and an unemotional and undramatic way. If someone told me that their boss raises their voice a lot and it makes the work environment uncomfortable, or that they were being asked to sign customers up for magazine subscriptions without their consent and they felt unethical doing that, I wouldn’t hold it against them. But it has to be succinct – more than a sentence or two starts to make me wonder, and it has to be factual – “my boss is an asshole and hates me and it probably sabotaging me behind my back” is opinions and impressions and would reflect more poorly (does boss really hate you and really a jerk, or is he just asking you to do your job and holding you to a standard and you don’t like that?)

    6. CastIrony*

      I am so sorry about this! I think you should say something like, “I’m looking for an opportunity to learn and grow in my career.”

      It’s a lie, I know, but it’s also vague.

      1. Pineapple Incident*

        I agree with this, but you can feel free to add specifics about other opportunities you’re seeking that you know/feel you’ll get at NewJob as opposed to OldJob. Answering this question should be about pull factors bringing you toward opportunities at new companies (specifically the company you’re interviewing with), and not the factors that are pushing you away from your old role/company.

    7. Anon Anon*

      Try to answer the question you want them to ask (rather than the question they asked). So, instead of answering directly about why you’re looking to leave your current role, talk about why you’re interested in their role in particular.


      Interviewer: “Why are you looking to leave your current role?”

      You: “I’d like to focus my work more directly on XYZ. That’s why I’m excited about this role — the opportunity to dig deeper into XYZ aligns well with my experience doing X and the development I’ve been doing to grow into Y and Z.”

      I recently went through a hiring process in which I was both super excited about the work I’d be doing in the potential new role, and incredibly fed up with my current workplace for a number of reasons. They didn’t ask this question directly, but because the hiring organization (a foundation) had an important relationship with my current organization (a nonprofit that they funded, including the program I managed) I answered it anyway:

      Interviewer: “So, why did you apply for this job?”

      Me: “First, let me be clear that I’m not actively looking to leave Current Organization. You know the work I do there, and it’s good and important work. But I just couldn’t pass up this opportunity in particular…” I talked about three levels of what was exciting about the opportunity: the field and the role this particular organization played in it (philanthropy; this foundation is a “disruptor” of traditional philanthropic models); the issue area of the team that was hiring (leadership development, which is my field); and the role itself (and how it played to my strengths and interests).

    8. Competent Commenter*

      As someone who interviews job candidates sometimes, I recommend you come up with something more specific than “not a good culture fit.” There’s probably something not great about this place in addition to the yelling. “I love that my current job gets me working on X but I’m ready to start on next level Y work and there isn’t room for that,” or “I really liked working in field A and it’s whetted my appetite for allied but more meaningful field B,” or even “It’s been great but there’s no room for advancement” or “the commute is too long.” Just something true that isn’t the part about the yelling. I also recommend you practice saying this out loud. I’m a notorious car talker when I drive alone and this is when I practice things like this. It’s how I prepared to interview for in-house jobs after years of self-employment. I wasn’t happy I had to make that change so I had to psyche myself up to be cheerful about it.

      I’ll add that I don’t ask why people are leaving their current jobs. I don’t really care. They’re leaving their jobs because the job sucks, or pays poorly, or is boring, or their coworkers are awful, or the commute is bad…that’s irrelevant. We all have the right to leave jobs and I feel like asking why you’re doing so almost suggests it’s not normal to move on. It’s perfectly normal. If you’re leaving because you’re on the verge of being fired for terrible behavior, I’ll hear that from your references.

    9. ZuZu*

      I left a company after ten months (which meant I was job searching after 6) because my boss was a terrible person/manager/etc. I told people that the office wasn’t the right cultural fit and explained that it was a really small office (6 people) and that it made for a challenging work environment. This was true, though obviously not the full story. Neither of the companies I interviewed with (and got offers from) had issues with this. You can’t badmouth your employer, but I think there are ways you can get the point across that you work in a terrible environment without explicitly saying it.

    10. Lucille2*

      You can respond with something around lack of upward mobility or long term success, which is probably true if your workplace is that dysfunctional like, “There is a lack of opportunities for long term advancement,” or “I’m really interested in growing my career into X longterm, but that is not a realistic prospect in my current company.”

      Of course, you can always put the emphasis on why you’re pursuing a position with the new company rather than focus on the decision being that you’re looking to get out of your current situation. They ask why you’re looking to leave, but what if you’ve had your eye on this company for awhile and you finally got your chance to throw your hat into the ring?

      1. Jadelyn*

        This is a good option – I’ve used this before when I was irritable at being strung along as a temp and underpaid to boot, and was looking for other options. “My current employer is dragging their feet about making me a real employee and doesn’t pay me for shit, even though I’ve brought them salary data that shows I’m making literally half what my role should be paid,” doesn’t fly super well, but “It’s a very small team that’s very stable in terms of roles and duties, so there’s no real room to grow,” is legit.

    11. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I say that it’s a bad fit. That I’m a quiet person and loud offices make me anxious. It’s a softer version of “yelling is my ejection point”

      I’ve started straight telling people I don’t like being screamed at. Every one who I say it to is alarmed and taken back that “that’s a thing”. I’ve gotten jobs every time I’ve mentioned it and each time the new job is forever aware I’ll leave if you ever scream at me or others…I’ve never dealt with screaming again.

      Don’t go into the dramatics. But soften it to “I’m looking for a better office culture and team dynamic.”

    12. Environmental Compliance*

      My last job involved lots of yelling, and lots of my boss putting me in stupidly unsafe situations because she only had an Escalate reaction rather than Deescalate. It’s one of the primary reasons why I left.

      When I interviewed, I said I was looking for growth in my career and thought it would be best to experience a new work environment with more upward mobility & opportunity for digging deeper into (areas X, Y, Z). They didn’t need to know that part of experiencing a new work environment was also looking for somewhere that didn’t find it appropriate to yell and scream at everyone.

    13. Ashie*

      Everyone else seems to be suggesting soft-shoeing around it but I really think if you say “Honestly, there’s a lot of yelling and I’m looking for somewhere a little more calm” I imagine you’ll get a chuckle, they’ll immediately understand why you want out of there, and they are very unlikely to make them think you’ll say bad things about them if that doesn’t apply to them. And if it does, that’s some pertinent information. And as a bonus, you don’t come across s mealy-mouthed and as if you’re hiding the real reason. Plus – it’s the truth!

      1. Joielle*

        Agreed! I think trying to vaguely tiptoe around it is worse. If I heard “bad culture fit,” I’d want to know more – what is the culture there? What made it a bad fit? – because otherwise I don’t know whether it’s a bad culture, or you’re a bad worker. So you end up telling the story anyways. Just get it out up front.

      2. ArtsNerd*


        Not “badmouthing” your employers means not gossiping about them or saying opinions like “my boss is an asshole.” Staying factual and not scandalized, and using Ashie’s script, will be very effecting in getting you into a not-yelling office.

      3. LJay*


        I’m asking because I want to know the answer to the question.

        If you just tell me you’re looking for better opportunities, I know you’re not answering the question but I don’t know why.

        If you tell me you’re looking for advancement, but you’ve been in your current position for less than a year I am going to wonder if you have unreasonable expectations about the work world.

        Short, honest, and unemotional are best for me. If I know someone is looking to leave an environment where people yell at them every day it makes sense to me why they are looking for a job, and looking at my job that might not pay as much or have as nice benefits as their current place. If I don’t know that, I worry that maybe they are on the verge of being fired for cause and trying to bail before that happens into any other place that will take them.

    14. LKW*

      I think most of the advice here is very good but if you think that you would be unsafe if they found you were looking to leave then you may need to be very upfront. I think it fine to day “I enjoy my work but I’ve found the particular culture is not a good fit. There are several people that are very volatile and I’m looking for a company that will push me to be my best but also does so with professionalism and respect.”

      Basically something that says “I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty – but I don’t think i should have to take a self-defense class to work here.”

    15. ChachkisGalore*

      I think there could be ways to phrase this to make it a bit less “overshare”-y or outright critical while still getting the point across. Instead of “I feel unsafe” something more along the lines of “I’m looking for somewhere that’s a better fit culture-wise. My current place can be quite intense and reactive, whereas I find that I thrive in environments that are more [insert the type of place you’d like to be]”.

      I think the key is finding terminology that can be a valid choice/option within the workplace, but you just happen to be opposite of that valid thing. Then the statements can remain neutral.

      Beyond that though, honestly if your place is really terrible there’s a good chance it has a reputation and you won’t be questioned all that closely because the interviewers already “get it”. I’ve mentioned this before, but I was looking to leave a role only a little over a year from starting. I was worried about how to explain this and had a very carefully crafted explanation. Gave it to one recruiter and they responded with “oh, don’t worry, I know that you work for a very not nice person” – which was exactly why I was actually leaving. Some places didn’t even ask me directly why I was leaving (just why do you want this job). Those that did never probed my answer, so I’m pretty sure most were aware of the reputation my boss had.

    16. theletter*

      so this is one of those questions that’s very difficult to answer in an interview. I usually just say “This is really about the opportunity” and then turn the question back to how you like the company’s mission and are excited by the challenges in the job description, etc.

      You could also say “I’m looking for something with a little bit more structure and growth opportunities” if they press further.

      Mainly, just keep doubling down on how you want to ‘grow’ until they move onto the next question.

    17. Zona the Great*

      I’m almost positive Alison has given guidance on this. I could swear that she has said it’s okay to say something like, “I’m in a highly abuse work situation and find it difficult to work in an environment where yelling and threatening is normal and acceptable”.

    18. Gaia*

      When I was interviewing, I was in a tough situation as Last Job ended in a way that, when explained and in context of some other major accomplishments made them look…..not great. In reality, they were in a tough situation and had to make hard decisions and my job was an unfortunate consequence (and, to their credit, they all were great in my job search, sent me leads, gave me amazing references and were very candid to perspective employers that this was their loss). But I still had to walk a fine line. It can be hard because anything that comes off as bad mouthing your employer might make you look like the problem or more dramatic than the interviewer wants to take on.

      I would suggest being vague but indicative that there is a problem. Something like “I’m looking for something in a more traditionally professional environment” or “While I initially thought this would be a great culture fit, as the company has changed I find that I’m looking more for X and Y and that is what I’m really excited about with Teapots United as this seems like a much stronger fit for me”

    19. Close Bracket*

      > one of the higher up’s threatened my manager’s life.

      “Bad fit” could mean anything from “one of the higher up’s threatened my manager’s life” to “they expect me to be there at 8, and I refuse to leave the house earlier than 10.” However, “one of the higher up’s threatened my manager’s life,” is objectively bat guano nuts, and I would be honest about it. No reasonable person would judge you for wanting to leave a place like that. I would lead up to it gently, like, “I love the work I’m doing, but I’ve seen some really bad workplace behavior, such as when one of the higher up’s threatened my manager’s life.” You might want to work on the wording, but that’s the basic idea of what I’m suggesting.

  5. Shark*

    Has anyone accepted a written job offer and then opted to decline prior to the position’s start date?

    I recently signed an offer letter/background check consent form a few days ago after wrapping up a near month-long interviewing process. It was my only offer and being unemployed, it really felt like a dream opportunity come true — great pay and benefits, great manager and team members, and perfect location as its so close to me. However, if its too good to be true, it probably is…and I’m having a lot of second thoughts about this opportunity.

    My main concerns involves the traveling and *possible* relocation for this company. The location I applied at is in southern NJ. I was told in my first interview that training would take place at one of the company’s Maryland locations. That came as a surprise, considering they have locations in nearby PA and also in northern NJ, but nonetheless I was prepared to take the 2+ hour drive down there for a week of training. After the second interview, I was informed that training will instead take place at our location — no travel required which I was super excited about…this is perfect! And then, just recently after signing the offer, I was later told plans had changed and training will now take place in one of the New York locations. Ugh, I’m so disappointed with this. I just don’t like constantly being told one thing and then the opposite happens. At the rate its going, I wouldn’t be surprised if I get an email tomorrow saying I need to go to Connecticut for training!

    Another reason why I’m second guessing this job is because during my interviews, I noticed they had people helping out at our location. People were here from Maryland and North Carolina because we are short staffed. Not only are people getting moved around from location to location when necessary, but I prefer to stay local because two years ago, my mom had a stroke. She is doing better now but I want to stay in the general area in case she needs help or if I have to take her to a doctor’s appointment. Nothing was mentioned about relocation during the interview, but I’m a bit hesitant the more I think about it now. I think there is a good chance that I may end up somewhere else — a state away, or several states away — during my time here whether it be a month from now, 6 months from now, etc. I don’t want to relocate. Or, if they’re short in NY or wherever during my training, I don’t want to be stuck up in another place longer than I have to be. I just feel like things are going to be worse than I thought. And I don’t know if I can really believe anyone since things keep getting changed.

    I feel really bad about declining this offer because everyone was so nice and professional. But I’m really worried that sooner or later, I’ll be working in a different state, or several states, away. Obviously, they’re not going to be happy with my decision to back out. But since I’m not scheduled to start until Dec 11th, I’d rather let them know now instead of work there and find out they need me somewhere else. It at least gives them another week or so to find other candidates. I know I’ll be burning a bridge, but it may be worth it in the long run. I’d rather be safe than sorry.

    Has anyone done anything similar?

    1. ISuckAtUserNames*

      I don’t know, but I kind of feel like you might be borrowing trouble. Turning down an otherwise good job offer because the office might, maybe, at some point in the future, be relocated seems a bit drastic.

      I would maybe start by reaching out to the hiring manager and note that the confusion over training and the movement of staff has you wondering if you will be in the NJ location or if relocation is likely or expected. If the manager confirms you will be working in the NJ location only, then I’d say go forward with the job, and if the subject of relocation comes up in the future, you can explain that you need to work in the location you’re at and if they would insist on relocation then you can look for something else then.

      1. londonedit*

        I agree…if you have already raised it with them and you haven’t received a satisfactory answer, then fair enough, but if you’re worrying about what might happen without raising those concerns with the hiring manager, I think that might be jumping the gun a bit. There’s no harm in doing what ISuckAtUserNames says.

        If it’s an all-round great-sounding job apart from the potential worry about relocation, you could still go for it – you never know what might happen with jobs anyway! You could start any new job and then find the company’s being sold or the boss is retiring or they’re moving the office in a year’s time.

        1. Psyche*

          Yeah, I don’t think that the training location moving around necessarily indicates that the job itself will move. Definitely reach out to verify and make it clear that you would not be able to work at another location due to your family circumstances, but don’t back out of a job you want over something that you are guessing. For all you know the people on loan volunteered.

      2. designbot*

        Agreed. I think these are great things to notice, and are definitely amber-colored flags. But it very well may be that it’s normal for training only to move around this much, and the employees borrowed from other locations are exactly why they’re hiring you, so they don’t have to do that anymore. I’d give them an opportunity to explain, and also take that opportunity to mention that it’s really important to you to be in this specific location for family reasons and see how they react to that before making the decision to walk away.

    2. Kathenus*

      Also when talking with the hiring manager being clear that your mom is dealing with health issues and that you need to remain in this area right now, and that you wanted to make sure to clarify that the position was local. I think proactively bringing it up can both assuage your fears and communicate openly/clearly with the organization on your needs so that you can make sure it’s the right fit before starting.

    3. Award winning llama wrangler*

      I haven’t done that, but I’ve been in a similar situation. Last year I was in a job I hated and had someone reach out to me out of the blue for an interview. It seemed like an awesome job, and they were very very excited about having me come on board (which was a wonderful change from the old job). However, the job was in a different state, halfway across the country. In the first interview, I was told I would have to move. I wasn’t thrilled about it, but it was doable. In the second interview, I was told they’d discussed and thought that if I came out for six months, they could get me completely onboarded and then I could work from home. When I accepted the offer, they had reduced the time to a month, but didn’t have specifics. When I called the week beforehand to say I really needed to nail down dates so I could buy plane tickets, they gave me a week time frame. I was pretty concerned that things seemed to be up in the air (and even more so when I got there and realized that even though we had discussed it, no one had booked a hotel for me).

      However, with all the craziness when I started, it’s been a fantastic job and I am very grateful every day that I forced myself to do it even through all of the concerns I had at the time. If you’re not currently working (if I read that right), why not go ahead and try it? You may find out that the people involved in training are less organized than the people you’ll be working with regularly. If you’re concerned about potential relocation, ask them. I know it’s scary (I really really really hate doing things like this), but that way you’ll have all the information to make your decision and won’t be wondering later what might have happened.

    4. WellRed*

      I can see why you are concerned but I am not sure you have enough information here. Also, if they are short staffed at your location, why would they move you? Also, just because people are helping out now, doesn’t mean they’ve been relocated, just that they are helping out. It’s too bad you didn’t clarify during the interview about how often they move people around.
      I do wonder about the training getting shifted around that. That’s annoying and seems disorganized.

      1. Mrs. D*

        I feel like there may be legitimate reasons why things are happening this way. Perhaps the training changed location because they were having trouble getting the trainer they wanted, and when they nailed down who would train you that changed the location where you would need to go. Maybe the trainer had some last-minute schedule changes that affected the location. There could be some perfectly reasonable reasons that you just don’t know.

        As for people from other locations coming to help at the location you’re hired for–well, they are hiring you for that location. You said they seem short-staffed there. Couldn’t they be hiring you for that location with the intent to put you there because of this staff shortage, not because they have a habit of moving people around? I think you might be reading too much into this. There’s not a whole lot they can do other than hiring people to fill the shortage gap if they need more staff.

        If I was in your position, because the hiring process had been conducted professionally and they intend to compensate you well for the position (plus all of the other good things about this job you mention), I would give the company the benefit of the doubt.

    5. Susan K*

      It doesn’t seem necessary to go straight to backing out of the job over this! Can you contact the hiring manager and say something like, “After I accepted the job, I realized that there is a lot of relocation at this company, and I want to verify that the job I am taking is for that specific location. I plan on staying in this area indefinitely and I’m not open to relocation, and I want to make sure that’s not going to be a problem in this position.” If it is an issue because you’re going to be expected to relocate on demand, at that point, you can say, “I’m north, but that’s not going to work for me. I didn’t realize this when I accepted the offer, and I’m going to have to decline now that I know.”

    6. Observer*

      Reach out and verify that the job itself is actually local, and explain that you need to do that because your mother is ill and you need to remain local to her. You’re asking because of the confusion with the training.

      If they say the job is local, take it. If they change their minds, you can always quit then. But you’ll be in a much stronger position to do that.

    7. Lalaith*

      Before you decide to back out entirely, can you discuss your concerns about relocating/moving around with them? Tell them about your mom and that you don’t want to be too far from her, and they may be willing to work to keep you local even if other locations do need help. I wouldn’t read too much into the training thing. It’s annoying, to be sure, but since you presumably didn’t bring up any issues with traveling to Maryland, they probably didn’t think you’d have a problem with going to New York either. And they probably are just thinking about it as being a one-week training, not a potentially longer assignment that you’d really have to plan for. But in any case, bring up your concerns to them before you just back out! Then you can act on what they tell you, and if they change things later then at least you’ve had that conversation where you told them your dealbreakers, and they shouldn’t be surprised if you have to leave at that point.

    8. OperaArt*

      Guven the information you have, turning down the job seems drastic to me.
      1. You haven’t communicated with them about your need to stay local.
      2. Training, and where it happens, is a separate thing from the job itself.
      3.They’re short-handed at your current location, and are probably unlikely to transfer anyone out in the near future.
      4. You think you would like the job.
      5. You can always take this job, and IF they ask you to relocate minths or years later, start looking for another one then. Potential new employers would most likely understand your job search then because of the relocation issue.

    9. Bigintodogs*

      Agree on what others have said and ask about relocation. You can also say, as others have suggested, that you would prefer to be local (if it comes up) because of family health issues.

      Also I’m in South Jersey too! =D

    10. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Your nerves are going to hurt you if you spook this easily.

      You have valid concerns but not enough to dip toes in

      Unless it’s a contact job, you’re not bound to them! If in 6 months it turns into “move to Maryland” you can say “I can’t relocate.” worse case you then quit or are laid off. You’ll have 6 months of pay and experience and a darn good reason to have a short term job on your resume.

      Taking this job doesn’t mean you’re locked into their grips for life, they don’t own you! And what’s the alternative? Stay unemployed and become more desperate as time passes? I’m assuming you’re living on limited means. Since you’re not currently employed.

      If you were quitting a decent job for this, this script would flip.

    11. Gaia*

      Moving training locations doesn’t sound like a huge red flag (maybe yellow) to me. I might inquire as to what is behind the changes. Maybe they are trying to make it convenient for the most people. Maybe there are other factors outside of their control. Without more info, it is hard to mark this as red.

      And the people helping out? Definitely not even yellow without more information. Maybe they like going to other offices for the change of scenery. Maybe they were hired on with the info that they would be doing that. Maybe it is a fluke thing only happening until they hire up at your local office. Hard to say, but not really a strange thing in larger companies to have people from other sites.

      I wouldn’t turn down an offer (especially when unemployed) for either of these things. If you are asked to relocate down the line, you can make that decision then. If you cannot travel for training, talk them now and see what options are available to you.

      1. T. Boone Pickens*

        Put me in the “Non red flag camp without more info camp” as well. I totally understand where you’re coming from here OP at the same time….didn’t you ask these questions during the interview process? Asking about training and work location when you need to stay local seems like a no brainer to me.

        To answer your initial question, while I personally haven’t done it as a recruiter I’ve had a few candidates back out of jobs before the start date after signing an offer letter. The reasons are always different (counter offer, cold feet–especially with a relo, unexpected life event) and while I’m really good at my job and always make sure I cover any potential obstacles, people are still fickle and change their mind.

    12. MissDisplaced*

      I wouldn’t really be worried about training being moved around because they’re probably trying to find a central location for a larger group of new hires. Not really a red flag.
      But I would go back and confirm YOUR position’s location and that expected travel.

  6. HollywooCeleb*

    Hey y’all, I’m on track to have my first real direct report starting in January and was hoping that the AAM crowd could recommend me some good reads for a first time manager. I have already gotten Alison’s book from the library, but would be thrilled to read one or two more with a focus on management. More context below, if you care for it!

    Wakeen, the person I’ll be managing has been on my team for about a year, but reporting to my colleague. The work I do is far more directly related to what Wakeen does and I should be much more able to actually oversee and understand his work.

    Wakeen is good at what he does, and as we transition him into my management, we’ll also be slightly shifting his role to play more directly to his strengths, which is great! But he has demonstrated some inability to understand how hierarchy affects what you’re ‘allowed’ to do. This is Wakeen’s first job, and he definitely suffers from some of the misplaced gumption–from sending out an all-staff marked high priority when it’s a simple link that featured a few of our company’s products, to spending far too much time figuring out the why of a request when he could be simply completing it.

    I have found myself irritated by this quality in the past and would love any suggestions about how to kindly make it clear that this kind of behavior can affect your reputation and how I can focus more on making him a more effective worker rather than on my annoyance. Thanks to anyone who takes the time to respond!

    1. Ali G*

      I don’t have any book suggestions, but if your employer will allow you some fund for professional development, I recommend the Dale Carnegie online management training series. They have a lot of great stuff. They are interactive webinars where you can act out these type of scenarios with other participants, facilitated by a professional.

      1. T. Boone Pickens*

        +1 on Dale Carnegie. Excellent stuff.

        Two books that I’ve gotten a lot of value out of were “Emotional Intelligence” by Bradberry and “What to do When Conflict Happens” by Harvey and Ventura

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I’d use each instance to teach an overview or general idea.
      In the email example, you could say that “We very rarely use high priority, all staff emails. While I understand your enthusiasm, we have to be more selective about who we sent what information because we don’t want to bog people down with info they don’t need. After a while they will just ignore our emails because it’s too much.” Then tell him what you would like going forward. “Please limit your emails to our section [or check with me first or whatever].”
      Then with the time spent on the request, I would ask him why he wanted to figure out the reason for the request. I think that might give you some info you both can talk over. You might land on “In cases of X or Y, requests just go ahead and complete it. Our real concerns are with A or B request and then, YES, we need to find out why because of Reasons 1, 2 and 3.”

      You’d find this with any new employee that they need rules of thumb, guidelines, so they are in sync with everyone else. He probably did not get guidelines from his current boss because his work is more like yours , not like hers. Where I work, I sign all As, Bs and Cs. I leave all Ds, Es and Fs for my boss to sign. It’s a rule of thumb and we follow it. The papers she signs requires more expertise than I have. In a different example, we frequently have people who ask for X. If their request has Z involved then I must ask my boss. If their request only involves W, then I can go ahead and full their request.

      Am chuckling, this may work into a non-issue because he may be so glad to work with someone who actually understands what he is doing that he just goes right along with what you tell him. Teach him rules of thumb so he can make correct decisions without constantly checking with you.

    3. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Congrats… and get ready for a wild ride of managing people :) Great questions, I’ll answer a few directly and then also give some broader thoughts to ponder.

      One thing to do is frame in your mind the time before the switch and the time after. I’ve seen new managers come down on former peers for sins of the past (as I like to call them). I’m not suggesting you forget everything you know about Wakeen, but don’t start the boss/employee relationship by tallying up all of those things that have annoyed you.

      So that means you have to mentally start with a clean slate. For instance, if 6 months from now Wakeen sends out an all-staff email, you need to mentally consider it a first offense. You coach like you would a brand new employee who did the same thing. Imagine a new employee sending out an all staff email. You’d likely approach them and say something like “Hey, I get what you were aiming at her, but we generally don’t use announcements like that. Typically they are used for A, B, an C. Your type of announcement is typically posted on our intranet. From here on out please run any email you want to send to the entire staff past me before you do it”

      You would say generally the same thing to Wakeen but tweak it a little.

      “Hey, I get what you were aiming at her, but I prefer we don’t use announcements like that. Typically they are used for A, B, an C. Your type of announcement is typically posted on our intranet. From here on out please run any email you want to send to the entire staff past me before you do it. I know you’ve sent similar ones in the past but from now on, we’re going to limit the all-staff emails to A, B, and C to be consistent with the other groups”

      When you first start out, I’m going to caution you to be mindful of the authority balance. It’s a tough one to get the hang of and everyone struggles with it in the beginning. Your last paragraph indicates to me that you are likely to fall on the too much authority side of the seesaw. I think you should worry less about teaching lessons during the first year-ish and more about learning lessons :) Being the guy that sends out too many all-staff email or questioning why is not going to kill anyone’s career. It’s stuff that can be worked on as you go and shouldn’t be your main focus when starting out with Wakeen.

      Hopefully some of this made sense. Feel free to ask more questions or let me know if some that didn’t make sense.

      1. HollywooCeleb*

        I’m definitely worried about falling too hard on the authority side of the seesaw! Thanks for the framework here, I think it will be really helpful to me.

    4. Xarcady*

      I’m sorry I can’t remember the name of the book I got this from, but when I became a new manager and was reading everything I could get my hands on, this one piece of advice really stood out.

      Nothing on an annual performance review should ever be a surprise to the employee receiving the review.

      What this means is that a manager should not wait for the annual performance review to bring up any problems. I’ve had this happen to me, and it was not a pleasant surprise. Seriously, you’ve been upset about this for months and never thought to mention it to me so that I could fix things? Were you deliberately doing that so I’d have a bad review?

      So managers should address issues as they happen, and keep tabs on things to see if they improve. I had short weekly meetings with all of my direct reports where I could bring up how well they were doing on things that needed improvement. Make a note if they do improve–that’s great stuff to put on a review, but awfully easy to forget.

      Also, those weekly meetings were a good place to touch base on their workloads and any problems they might be having in getting their work done. I always had the direct report start the meeting with anything they wanted to talk about–I learned a lot from listening to them on what kind of support they needed from other departments and issues they had with various vendors.

      Also, any time you want an employee to improve something, you need to give them a clear idea of how that improvement will be measured. That can get tricky–“get along better with your co-workers” isn’t something you can log in a spreadsheet, but it is important for that employee to work on. You can always go to your manager for help with this sort of stuff.

      Mostly, I tried to be the kind of manager I would want to have.

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        “Mostly, I tried to be the kind of manager I would want to have.”

        This is great advice. I’ll add what I used to do (sometimes still do) and what I’ve advised other new leaders.

        If you are not sure what to do or say in a situation (could be anything, from coaching an employee to standing up for them). Think back to a good or respected boss you’ve known and channel them and say or do what they would do. It totally helps in those situations that are new to you and you haven’t quite figured out how to navigate yet.

    5. Lucille2*

      It sounds like he’s making some rookie mistakes. I would address them in the moment, directly and concisely. It’s ok to want to understand why you’re doing a task, but he needs to understand that not all tasks warrant the level of background info he’s requesting. He also needs to learn that not all battles are worth fighting. If he doesn’t improve with time, then it’s a pattern that needs to be discussed and how it will hold him back professionally. But I doubt you need to come out of the gate with that feedback.

      Regular, ongoing feedback is very valuable. Nip bad behaviors in the bud before they become major issues. Also, don’t forget to tell him what he’s doing well. Too often, managers focus on correcting behaviors and miss the opportunities to reinforce good ones.

    6. LKW*

      If I were in your shoes, I would reframe this as a communication process with two sub-considerations:

      1. What is the communication chain. Usually on projects I establish the org chart – sponsors, leads, key teams, etc. I then outline how communication flows, team member to manager, manager to lead, lead to sponsor. Sponsor to lead, lead to manager, manager to team member. There should be no leapfrogging because then you’re putting one group at a disadvantage and the whole point is to work together. Clearly define who specifically sits at each of these levels. Assume nothing is clearly understood.

      2. What information is appropriate at each level in the hierarchy? The folks at the top should be informed and making decisions regarding scope, cost, resources, time, risks to the business, etc. They don’t want to answer the question “Do you like blue or green teapots?” They want to answer “Market research has shown that blue teapots outsell green teapots 3 to 1 so we recommend manufacturing 300 blue and 100 green teapots. Can you confirm this is acceptable?”

      Anytime he goes outside of this – call him out. Sit him down. Point to the materials, ask him why he went outside of your defined guidance. He likely doesn’t understand what is important to the folks at the top and what they actually know because he doesn’t yet have the perspective you do.

    7. 30 Years in the Biz*

      The book “Radical Candor: be a kick-ass boss without losing your humanity” by Kim Scott was recommended to me. It has great reviews on Amazon and is endorsed by the NY Times and WSJ. I’ve requested it from my local library, but may just buy it if it turns out to be a good reference.

    8. Close Bracket*

      > spending far too much time figuring out the why of a request when he could be simply completing it.

      Smart, capable employees don’t like being expected to comply mindlessly. Maybe give him some context upfront so he knows the why.

    9. Jane Gloriana Villanueva*

      Radical Candor also has a podcast; they’re on extended hiatus but it’s been helpful. I haven’t finished the book yet, but Thanks for the Feedback is also good.

      I strive to be the kind of manager I would want, but it’s also hard because being a good manager means you treat people differently. Equitably, but with an eye to what works for them. I must admit I am struggling right now, as my sole report is turning out not to be the greatest fit. It bothers me so much, because I have tried so many different ways to approach his problems (including asking him and implementing how he wants to receive feedback, and having him very unsuccessfully tell me how he he plans to fix his issues), but I cannot make him *want* to improve and I think we are at that critical point now.

      I wish you great success in your new role!!

    10. LurkieLoo*

      Whatever things he does that you feel are not acceptable . . . get on them early. With my first direct report, I took a “wait and see” approach and was way too lenient. Then when I did need to rein in expectations, attitude, etc., it was MUCH harder because status quo was already established. Then it was really hard to change because if it was fine before, why isn’t it now? In most cases, I couldn’t give a good reason so I just let things keep sliding.

      For example, I established a weekly check in because he felt he wasn’t getting training or support and that I was always “too busy” and he felt he couldn’t interrupt. At the same time assuring him that if it was urgent, to please interrupt. We all have lots of things to do here and there is never going to be a better or worse time. If it’s a super bad time, I’ll say so and schedule a better time. Anyway, we did one or two and then he just started blowing me off every single week. Then even when I changed it to as little as once a month. No big deal to me . . . I have plenty of other things to do with that 20-60 minutes. BUT . . . I would have been much better off enforcing the meetings instead of just letting it go. Like, Wakeem, you can’t just NOT talk to me. You especially can’t not talk to me and then say I’m too busy to help you.

      I think the more structured you can be from the start, the easier it will be. Not that you can’t be flexible, but YOU are the boss, not Wakeem. That was probably my biggest downfall . . . I didn’t want my employee to get mad and leave so I let him dictate way more than I should have. There were many other variables that led to the co-toxicity of the situation, but if I had been more clear sooner than later, I think it would have been better. And really, an employee getting mad and leaving is probably not a bad thing if that’s the kind of employee they are.

      I do think, however, that the why of things is often important for employees to understand. If they don’t know that being sloppy with X leads to Y down the road, they aren’t as likely to take X seriously. Especially if it seems silly or mundane (like noting the exact final teapot glaze). So if it’s possible to give a little more time there, that might be good. Unless it’s more of the whiny kind of why do I have to do this. Then just shh and do it, Wakeem. ;)

  7. JokeyJules*

    I always eat my lunch while catching up on emails or updating spreadsheets and then take my break at another time to do something else. Just because you were eating doesn’t mean it’s a break!

  8. Susan K*

    I’m a little behind on podcasts, and I just listened to the one about how to conduct one-on-one meetings. Well, none of my managers have ever done anything like that! I’ve had a couple of managers who said they were going to start doing one-on-ones monthly, but they only lasted a couple of months, and they were more like mini performance reviews than what Alison described. So, I’m just curious how common this practice is — do most managers do this, or only a select few?

    Up until earlier this year, I had only worked in shift work jobs, so that could have been part of the reason. In that type of job, we didn’t typically have long-term projects because if there was anything going past the end of the shift, the next person just took over where the last person left off. Are weekly/biweekly one-on-ones useful for that type of job? I changed jobs earlier this year where I actually do have long-term projects, but my new manager doesn’t do one-on-ones, either.

    1. Goomba*

      I have monthly one on ones that is very well-received by my manager. She did not typically do these with previous employees but I got her to do some with me and this has developed into a very useful routine for both of us. I did make an effort to “manage up” by taking the initiative to structure the meetings. I typically print out an agenda that lists my tasks and projects as: Done, Ongoing, On Hold, Upcoming. A final section at the bottom is Questions I have for her which always includes an item My performance/How am I doing so far on the job for her feedback. This way I have a continuous record of verbal feedback on my performance which I take notes on and file away. I hope this helps!

    2. BlueWolf*

      Yeah, my manager keeps saying we’re going to start doing 1-on-1s and it still hasn’t happened, so my guess is that many managers probably know it’s something they should do, but don’t know exactly how to go about it.

      1. Blank*

        I was promised weekly check-ins three months ago, which haven’t materialised. Would’ve been nice to have the support through delivering some complex outputs for the first time after a major promotion! I ended up so busy I didn’t notice I was struggling until well past the point where it would’ve been useful. (At least my actual manager knows the project director is terrible, and has been a help as I vent my rage even though they can’t offer practical assistance.)

    3. Sandy*

      I recently left a long term job where we went through the see-saw of we have to do one-on-ones /we never do one-on-ones once or twice a year. It was particularly frustrating because it would swing between it being my manager’s responsibility to do it and then once in a while a stern(ish) statement that it was my responsibility to come to her for them. Also annoying because we did, in fact, communicate all the time about important tasks and where we were on projects. It just wasn’t official.

      1. Susan K*

        Haha, that happens in my department with a lot of things. One of the managers will come up with an idea for something we should start doing, and management will be really gung-ho about this new thing for a few weeks and then it just fizzles out, only to be resurrected a year later but fizzle out again after a few weeks. For that reason, I can’t see my manager ever doing weekly or biweekly one-one-one’s and actually sticking with it for more than a few months.

        1. Sandy*

          That sounds extremely familiar! A few weeks of enthusiasm followed by a dribble off into nothing. I definitely see the usefulness of one-on-ones, but in my situation, we communicated regularly already and things did not typically get out of hand or forgotten. My manager was very accessible to me and that makes a big difference. In a different setting, with a different manager, I can see myself insisting on it.

    4. Brownie*

      The best manager I’ve ever had did one-on-ones, usually bi-weekly. The content varied from “here’s some issues” to “what are you working on” to “look at this cool new coding”, but they always started with “do you have anything you’d like to talk about?” It was a designated time when I had access to my manager for any questions, concerns, or discussion and they had access to me to find out everything from project status to morale level. Quite a few times I used the one-on-one time to ask how I should handle issues with coworkers which had come up. It worked spectacularly for me to feel like I was part of a team and that the manager actually cared about me and how I was doing.

    5. Friday Anon*

      1:1 meetings are a huge part of my office’s culture. They’re usually held on a weekly basis. I find them to be very useful. It’s a good chance to walk through my projects, ask questions, get feedback, and catch up.

    6. Kes*

      Not everywhere does them, but I think it’s a good practice especially if your work changes on a day to day basis, so that the manager can keep tabs on how the employee is doing and the employee can get any needed information/updates from the manager.

      Even where it is done, frequency and priority may vary – IME, 1-on-1s can easily get pushed if someone is away or something more important comes up (as long as at least some of them do happen, you’re good). I have one scheduled every 3 weeks currently with my manager (I scheduled it myself, since he is busy and hadn’t gotten around to it) and it does get pushed sometimes, but it’s just a good opportunity for us to check in with each other and get any information we need/see how things are.

    7. Ama*

      I do weekly one on ones with my direct report — she’s pretty new to the working world so I find weekly helps us both identify any areas where she might need me to provide extra guidance, and gets us both on the same page about our priorities for the week. We work in a department that frequently juggles multiple long term projects and recurring tasks so the check ins help us both stay on top of everything. They are also a nice way for me to bring up any larger issues I want to address (she’s a great employee, but inexperienced with office norms, so occasionally we just need to have a little chat about something before it becomes an actual problem); having the one on one means I don’t have to pull her into a special separate meeting that would make the issue seem more of a Big Deal than it actually is.

      With my own manager I have a standing monthly, although we check in with each other frequently outside of that time so we use our monthly meeting largely for project planning (i.e. “here’s the timeline I’m looking at for next year’s Teapot Convention”) and an overall status report.

    8. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I have weekly 1:1

      We use it to catch up, discuss on going things and chat about new tasks or projects. Never is performance brought up…That’s addressed whenever it’s necessary, not put off…

      I’ve never had them prior. Mine are not super necessary because most times I’m a very forward person who tackles issues immediately or discusses as things unfold.

      However, I’ve never had a supervisor who has a boss of their own until now. Also I’m high ranking enough that I’ll just walk my butt into the CEOs office to ask things others are mumbling about but don’t want to “bother” the “big guy” with. I’ll bother the heck outta anyone and everyone when it’s a reasonable enough question bouncing around the collective.

    9. GyreFalcon*

      I had regular one on ones with my manager when I started, for the first 6 months once a week, and then less frequently. After that though, they became pretty unnecessary – if my manager needs an update, he asks me, and if I need some time with him I schedule it, but otherwise I hardly see him.

    10. LKW*

      I have my reports set up 1:1s with me. They control the meeting. I may ask to move it but I never decline outright (unless it’s a holiday week). If your manager declines, just resend an invite for a different day. If they decline several weeks in a row- call them out. Put it in writing. I’ve been trying this, you keep cancelling. This is important for these specific reasons, 1, 2, 3.

      Also when I have internal team meetings, I tell them to go through their priorities for the week and what, if anything, they need from me whether it’s a task or escalating something. I also ask if they need help from the team on any of their priorities.

    11. Audiophile*

      At my current job, I’ve consistently had 1:1, until I started working under my current manager about a year ago.

      It started off well enough, but I quickly noticed the 1:1 were more venting/therapy sessions for him, so I stopped actively insisting we have them. Unless I need something time sensitive from him, I don’t stick to our 1:1.

    12. Close Bracket*

      I’ve never in my life had a 1-on-1. I’ve rarely had direct contact with my mangers outside yearly reviews or quick questions on how to handle something.

    13. designbot*

      I’ve never had formal 1-on-1’s at any company I’ve worked for that weren’t part of the review process.
      It is normal however in my field for a manager to pop in on an employee and be like “I just wanted to check in with you about what’s on your plate,” or an employee to grab their manager to be like, “hey I had some questions” and it sounds like that’s the function this is filling to me.

    14. TL -*

      When I worked in a lab I always had lots of informal one on ones with my managers (near daily with some of them), just because it was often necessary for the nature of the work and labs are open plan so you are always in pretty close physical proximity.

      Now, I meet with my manager once a week, by my request, because I do tend to just get work done and not contact people unless there is a specific plan, and for my remote work (different job), I email when I’m out of work/need review or she emails when she has feedback and/or more work. It works well. I don’t know that we ever have a formal type thing but because I’ve always talked pretty frequently, if the manager is good, I generally know what’s working well/what needs improvement.

    15. Dr. Doll*

      I’m very senior and have biweekly 1/1’s with my even more senior manager. Sometimes these are rescheduled or we miss one, but it’s consistent. He’s in a different location, so scheduling is important.

      I have monthly 1/1’s with my direct reports, but we also have a weekly staff meeting which the group finds very productive, and also all of us feel free to stop in or email or call any time. The monthly’s are just dedicated time to check in.

  9. Dragoning*

    I have a question about networking., informational interviews, and trying to figure out a career path.

    I’m a recent-ish grad (it’s been 4 years, but I’m still very entry level, so), and I have. No. Idea. Where to go with my career. I certainly don’t want to retire in an entry-level position, but I also know that I don’t want to be promoted into the most obvious path in this department. I like my job a lot, actually–but I have no idea what to do in the future.

    I’ve found some people who work for the larger company I’m part of through LinkedIn and the company intranet that have jobs I’m interested in–or may interested in, if I had more information about them. But I’ve never met these people and I’m not sure how to send an email to a stranger going “hey I found you on the internet what is your job do exactly?” without getting…sent straight to spam.

    Further, I see a lot of conversation on this site about “professional organizations” but…what are theses, exactly? How do you find them, how do you join them, do they cost money? I don’t know if I can afford to pay for something like that, but I need it most right now, don’t I?

    Any insight would be great.


    1. LayoffLimbo*

      You should be able to still get student rates on many professional orgs. And some of the local ones will let you come to meetings a couple of times for free before you are expected to join up, or will have open events. That’d make it more affordable, and allow you to check if it’s worth it to you!

    2. Minerva McGonagall*

      You may be able to start by joining a local/state affiliate of a national organization. Those rates tend to be cheaper. Also ask perhaps if your company would cover dues, since it’s directly related to your work? Professional organizations often hold conferences that could be helpful for you to figure out if you want to advance in it or move away from it (and you don’t always have to be a member to go, but you could get a cheaper rate if you do), and would help build your network to find out what people are doing in that particular field.

      1. Dragoning*

        I am in permalance contractor purgatory. I suspect neither the company that signs my paycheck nor the company I show up to every day would pay for any of this.

        1. Minerva McGonagall*

          Something else you could try is reaching out to your old English professors and seeing what alumni contacts they have. It is easier to reach out when you already have some form of a connection-you could easily reach out on LinkedIn or via email with “Hello! Professor Dumbledore recommended I connect with you; I am interested in your field and would love the opportunity to hear about it from you. Would you be available for a meeting or a phone call?”

    3. Justin*

      As the other comment said, you can probably get discounts. It would be, depending on the size, under 100 a year. Not that that’s cheap buuuut theoretically if you go to the events and network, you’d be making more than that and then some so it would pay off.

    4. Goomba*

      Depending on the field, some membership organizations give very discounted rates for students or new grads. Some even provide free membership! An example of one that has discounts for students is: and another with free membership is These are useful for volunteering, networking, and attending meetups and conferences to get to know more experienced and seasoned veterans in your field. They usually have an inside track on jobs, companies, and skills to develop and “insider” perspective on what books to read, blogs and Twitter accounts to follow, newsletters to subscribe to, and types of projects to try and get under your belt (and which to avoid). I’ve had a good run with membership organizations

      1. Dragoning*

        I’m not sure what field I would even be looking in…I have an English degree and work as a proofreader, but I work in the pharmaceutical industry….I feel like most of the pharma-oriented orgs would be way out of my depth.

        Whereas my English-major orgs would be in like publishing or writing–which I’m invested in, but this is more about Day Job things…

        1. chi chan*

          Medical transcription or technical writing or scientific editing. Look around for people doing similar work.

          1. Dragoning*

            Yeah, that’s some of the stuff I’ve found on LinkedIn–but I don’t actually know what a “medical writer” does!

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              It can vary — at the most basic level, someone has to write all those inserts that go into prescription packaging. Someone writes the safe dosage instructions for prescribers. Someone writes up the instructions for determining whether a patient is a good candidate for a new artificial hip, and the surgical procedures for it. Sometimes it’s regulatory filing paperwork. Sometimes it’s grant applications. Once in a while it might be writing PR *about* the medical company’s products for general press releases.
              With your documentation background and pharmaceuticals experience, it’s worth doing some research. One easy place to start — whoever wrote the material you’re proofreading!

              Good luck.

              1. Dragoning*

                That gets a little back to “emailing people at my company I’ve never interacted with and don’t know me,” though. Not sure how to phrase that email.

            2. epi*

              I used to do a little bit of freelance medical writing and editing. There are several organizations out there that might interest you.

              Look into the American Medical Writers Association, which also represents editors. Also, if you Google that organization, you should get an information card from Google that shows what other orgs people searched for. Several are relevant.

              Lots of people move between roles in science and medicine. They might decide to move towards (or away from) big differentiators such as direct patient care or research. So you can really find people who might have a similar background to yours almost anywhere. One thing I do is Google the alphabet soup in people’s email signatures (IME almost everyone with letters will put them). Very often, those aren’t all degrees– they’re certifications, often from a professional association.

              1. Dragoning*

                I’m too entry level to really have met any of those people…no one who sends me emails have titles in their sigs.

        2. Ama*

          If you are at all interested in nonprofit, medical research focused nonprofits often need people who can communicate scientific concepts to lay audiences. This could include anything from a traditional Communications Department role, to working with the science and grants programs (which is what I do, I have two English degrees). We even have a new hire in our Development office who has some industry experience, which is great because she can work with prospective donors who want more info about how medical research and drug development work. You’d be a very intriguing candidate for a lot of those jobs with your background.

        3. Autumnheart*

          You may also consider the kind of work you’d like to evolve into, and look for professional organizations for that role. If you’re a proofreader now, but you’d like to move into editing or technical writing or even project management (or other field not expressly related to proofreading), maybe look for those organizations.

          If you dig the pharmaceutical industry, look for those organizations. One thing you’ll find over the years is that you’ll absorb a lot of industry knowledge just by virtue of being exposed to it through your job. That can be valuable if you’re trying to change roles, because your industry knowledge can act as a bridge even if your skills aren’t a 100% transfer.

    5. Anona*

      Some companies will pay for a membership to a professional organization or for a conference as a part of professional development. That’s how I’ve had all of my involvement with them. You can try asking others in your organization to see if there are professional organizations people in your field typically get involved with. Or you can google your field + professional organization to see what pops up. There may be free online resources, like listservs, possibly.

    6. Pam*

      As an example of a professional organization, I work at a university as an advisor, and I belong to the National Academic Advising Association. (There are others as well)

      Try googling your field plus professional organization, or check out some of those LinkedIn profiles to see if an organization is mentioned.

    7. irene adler*

      Might google “x industry professional organizations” or search for trade journals in the industry you are interested in. These journals -many are on-line- will have articles or even links to relevant professional organizations.

      Most organizations have web sites and can connect you with the chapter in your area. Then email the chair of the local chapter and ask if you can show up at their next regular meeting (usually monthly; some are quarterly). Explain your situation. Ask for introductions to someone at the regular meeting who might be helpful to your situation. Talking either a mentor, or someone who is just a little ahead of you career-wise who can impart good advice. Folks at these groups love imparting advice.

      1. Dragoning*

        This is a good idea! There are a LOT of company headquarters in my industry where I live, so while they may not all be in my field, there should be some kind of pool of people to meet up.

    8. Anono-Mice*

      I also would like to say that you could easily ask this forum what roles you are looking at for some clarity! There is a very very diverse crowd on here so while the jobs would not be identical you could get more of an idea of what those positions typically look like

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        The “how much money do you make” thread from a few years back is a goldmine of information, because a lot of people explained what they do at their job in addition to detailing their seniority and salary and whatnot. More than once I have pulled up that thread and used ctrl-F to hunt for different keywords to learn more about what people *actually do* in various roles.

    9. Gumby*

      What you are looking for is a true informational interview. You can do them even if you aren’t actively looking for a job! In fact, people might be more open to meeting with you because they know it’s not a sneaky approach at getting a job interview.

      I think it’s perfectly fine to say you are a relatively recent grad who has been working for [company] for a few years and is considering career options. You see that their title is X and you’d love a chance to take them to coffee (even better if they are in the same office and coffee is free) and chat about that type of position for 15 minutes or so. If you have any connections in common you could ask for an introduction, but the shared background of working for the same company will probably be enough.

  10. Anonymous fatty*

    Lately, my coworkers have been talking about diet/weight/workouts all the freaking time. There are two new employees in my department who are really into fitness, and every day, they go on and on about their workouts and what they have eaten. This also prompts other coworkers who are into fitness/dieting, but don’t normally talk about it all the time, to join in.

    Now my manager has decided that he wants to get in shape, and one of my coworkers (who is a big fitness buff) has offered to help him, so now they talk about it all the time, and due to the location of my desk, these conversations often occur right outside my cubicle. Just last week, I got to hear a conversation in which the coworker asked our manager how much he weighs and what his goal weight is, and the manager told him.

    Another coworker recently returned from a two-month medical leave, and our manager remarked three times that he looked like he lost weight, and finally cornered him and demanded to know if he had lost weight, and the coworker said that he had actually gained 13 pounds (followed by a long discussion including his exact weight at each doctor visit during his medical leave).

    And every single day, I get to hear a list of what certain people ate in the last 24 hours. “I had 520 calories yesterday. All I ate was 2 protein drinks and a plain grilled chicken breast.” (No exaggeration — some people are on diets in which they only eat 500 calories some days. And they work out every day.) And then people try to one-up each other: “Well, I only had 1 protein drink and half of an egg white.” Or admiration for those who starve themselves: “Wow, I wish I had your willpower. I’m such a pig, yesterday I had a piece of whole-grain toast, a hard-boiled egg, a salad without dressing, a fish fillet, three Brussels sprouts, and half a strawberry for dessert.”

    Any time someone brings in food (like a box of donuts or leftover Halloween candy), these people spend the whole day loudly complaining about the food-bringers ruining their diets. They almost always eat the food that is brought in and then complain that they will have to fast the next day to make up for it, or how many miles they will have to run or how long they will have to work out on the elliptical to burn off the extra calories. I’m sorry, but nobody is forcing them to eat these things (people are not pushy about it at all — they simply leave the food in the break room for anyone to eat or not eat).

    It’s like this all day, every day, and it makes me so uncomfortable (and I often think they’re being rude, like straight up asking how much someone weighs!), but I don’t know how to get away from it. I am the fattest person in my department, so it makes me feel like they are implicitly judging me. I don’t feel comfortable asking them to stop, because I suspect that will call even more attention to my own weight. I don’t want to jump in and change the subject because then I would have to say something related to the conversation just to segue to a different subject (otherwise, it would be obvious that I’m just trying to change the subject), and I don’t want to be a part of these conversations at all. I just want to disappear when they start talking about this stuff, and it’s all the time.

    1. Oxford Comma*

      I’ve been on the other end of this. Thanks for saying this because I don’t think I’ve ever thought how it might be perceived from people who aren’t interested.

      I don’t have any suggestions for you, but I will try to be more circumspect about these discussions in future.

    2. DaniCalifornia*

      I don’t have any great suggestions but I feel you. I am the fat one in our office and people bring up their workouts and food and diets and plexus and UGH! I wish they’d just stop. I feel your pain and commiserate with you. :(

    3. ExcelJedi*

      No advice, but I feel your pain. My sister’s just like this, and she’s always asking after my workout routine, if I used the workout DVDs she got me, why I haven’t added her on fitness apps…..And I have the same fears about asking her to stop or changing the subject. I brush it off and just feel terrible about myself afterwards far too much.

      It’s exhausting when people force their own body issues on you, and you can’t getaway from it.

    4. some dude*

      i’m sorry. This is awful. And to my ears, this all sounds like very unhealthy and disordered eating. Eating 500 calories a day is called having an eating disorder. obsessing about every calorie is not good. I am all for people having strict workout schedules or strict diets they stick to – whatever floats your boat, as long as it isn’t harming you. but don’t freaking talk about it all the time.

      I don’t have great advice on how to make it stop, but I can say that they are the ones with the problem, not you.

      1. Tara S.*

        I know, I saw only 500 calories and !!! But that’s not the point, other people’s bodies are not our business. It’s reasonable to not have to constantly hear body talk in the office, no matter what the content.

    5. Tara S.*

      I’m sorry, this sucks. Not a ton of great options. There’s headphones to block out some conversations while you’re at your desk?

      1. Anonymous fatty*

        I usually just ignore, or at least pretend to ignore them. If I’m at my desk, I just keep working and pretend not to hear them, so I feel like putting on headphones every time they start talking about weight and diets would be too obvious, almost like asking them to stop. Plus, this also happens a lot when I’m not at my desk, like when we’re all in the conference room waiting for a meeting to start, or in the breakroom at lunch time, etc., and especially at those times, I basically feel trapped — can’t even really pretend not to hear them.

        1. Kelly AF*

          I am incredibly blunt and sarcastic (and fat) and I would be really, really hard-pressed to not put on a big show of banging my head on the table and exclaiming “for the love of god, develop another hobby! This one is so, so boring!” And then pointedly subject-changing from then on out. (“I ate 500 calories yesterday!” “OH HEY DID YOU SEE THE NEW EPISODE OF THE GOOD PLACE LAST NIGHT?”)

          Also, I wouldn’t assume people will read into (or even notice) you putting headphones on every time the diet talk starts. People are paying way less attention to you than you think they are (this is a collective “you” — we all make this mistake). I cannot stand the sound of someone eating, so every time the coworkers near me eat at their desks, I pop earbuds in so I can’t hear it. If they’ve ever paid enough attention to make the connection, they’ve never mentioned it. And if they did, I would frame it as a weird quirk I have, nothing personal.

          1. Tara S.*

            ^^^ all this. Also, for conference rooms quagmires, responding to “I only ate 500 calories” with a horrified “Oh…” then pause and subject change might be enough to clue some people in that not everyone is excited to hear about this topic. When my coworkers started to discuss diets with me, I just stuck to non-answers and tried to move the conversation on. It’s not perfect, it won’t solve everything, but maybe some things. <3

        2. The New Wanderer*

          I think if they notice at all, they can just as easily assume you are bothered by them having a conversation right outside your cube, not because of the content of that conversation. And that’s totally fair, the conversation itself is distracting you.

          Our open cube office tends to have signs up telling people to take their conversations elsewhere for everyone’s sake. If that’s in your office culture, maybe put a sign up saying you’re in a ‘quiet work zone’ or similar to dissuade chatty people – they’ll ignore the sign of course, but if you then ask them to move along, they’ll associate it with you trying to work, not you avoiding diet talk (which, UGH).

    6. Amber Rose*

      So many fistbumps of solidarity. Our office is the same way, more so now that we have our own gym in-office. It’s hard to listen to, as I am also the fat person and I struggle with it a lot.

      Is music an option? I tend to turn up the volume on my iPod whenever that stuff starts up so I can at least focus on something I want to listen to.

    7. Zip Silver*

      Just remember, conversations between other people about fitness aren’t about you. They likely aren’t thinking about you at all. If you’re feeling like it’s directed at you, don’t worry, because it’s not.

      1. Nonni*


        People aren’t talking about their fitness at you. People are just talking about their fitness. I would try and think of it as if they were discussing a TV show you didn’t watch and weren’t interested in, or a hobby you had no insight into and couldn’t understand why it was interesting. Mentally translate “calories eaten” into “dollars spent on model trains” or something, and laugh at their ridiculous obsession.

        1. Anonymous fatty*

          The difference is that weight and diet are very sensitive and personal issues for a lot of people (including me) in a way that model trains and TV shows are not. I have never been seriously judged for not being into a specific hobby the way I am constantly judged for being fat. If people were talking this much about model trains or TV shows, I would feel much more comfortable changing the subject or asking them to tone it down, because nobody’s going to think that I don’t want to hear about model trains because I am a disgusting, stupid, lazy, horrible person.

          1. Aleta*

            Strongly agreed. Dieting/fitness/food is moralized in a way model trains profoundly aren’t. It’s not even remotely in the same category. There is absolutely no way they are talking about this in a morally neutral way when at least one person is doing a very very extreme diet, and the other people are not immediately pushing back on that diet. There’s just no way.

      1. Clawfoot*

        This would be me. And if people complain to me about it or remark on it, I would answer cheerfully, “I always bring in treats the day after I’m subjected to a conversation about weight loss. If you want me to stop bringing in treats, stop talking about dieting and workouts around my desk.”

      2. kittymommy*

        I would be tempted to eat said doughnuts or cupcakes or candy at my desk, in front of them, every time they brought it up. I would also not be subtle about it.

        1. Quandong*

          As a fat person who no longer eats any food in front of colleagues due to food policing comments (trust me when I say the environment is dysfunctional and fatphobic) –

          this approach would backfire Spectacularly and result in the fat person drawing unwanted judgement on themselves and their food choices.]

          It may work for people who aren’t perceived as fat by their workmates. But not for fat people.

    8. Diana Prince (not Wonder Woman)*

      (this is not my normal user name but I need to continue with the anonymity)

      I have totally stopped following a friend on social media because her feed became all about “fitspo” and some disordered eating. I feel your pain, and I am sorry you can’t get away from it at work.

    9. HowAnnoying*

      Could you wear headphones at your desk to help drown out some of the noise? I think being able to ignore some of it might help a little even if you can’t avoid the lunch room talk..

    10. Natalie*

      For whatever it’s worth, they sound tedious as all hell even before the feeling judged part.

      Can you wear headphones while you work? Even if it was just white noise or nature sounds it might drown them out a bit.

      1. Nonni*


        People aren’t talking about their fitness at you. People are just talking about their fitness. I would try and think of it as if they were discussing a TV show you didn’t watch and weren’t interested in, or a hobby you had no insight into and couldn’t understand why it was interesting. Mentally translate “calories eaten” into “dollars spent on model trains” or something, and laugh at their ridiculous obsession.

    11. sub rosa for this*

      I’m a big person too, and I used to get this sort of crap at work, when I was doing admin work years ago. It was AWFUL. (I’ll be honest; the only way I got away from it was to get out of admin jobs.)

      My g0-to response when someone would ask me if I had lost weight was always a wide-eyed look of horror accompanied by, “Oh my God, I hope not!”

      It generally stops them in their tracks, because it is not an expected response. If it seems like they might keep engaging, I’d generally add on a “Wow, that would be terrible,” as I was walking away.

      Anyway, wish I could help, but please know that you have my support and my sympathy.

    12. EnfysNest*

      I was dealing with this sort of thing in my friend group recently. Several of my friends are dieting or being very restrictive about the types of food that they will eat, and they’re getting the results that they want, and I’m happy for them in that respect, but it’s not a good topic for me and it makes me feel really uncomfortable and guilty any time the food conversations start. At one get-together, I finally had to just say “Guys, I’m really glad this is working for you, but it’s a hard subject for me and I’d really appreciate it if we could minimize the diet conversations when I’m around and talk about absolutely anything else.” And they were very understanding and they really have minimized the diet conversations (although this is not the only factor in that, as we’ve had other things going on in the group).

      But that’s in a friend group, not an office environment, so I don’t know if you would feel comfortable being that straightforward or if they would be kind enough to actually abide by such a request or not.

      I definitely share your frustration with the topic being so continuous, though!

    13. Chuck*

      ugh, I feel your pain on this. :/ it seems like every staff meeting at my company turns into Weight Watchers. (Not an exaggeration, my org has a chapter and most of the other admins are in it.)

      One thing that has helped me is to just interrupt with work stuff. It helps cut down on the chitchat and get everyone back to work. But it doesn’t always work, so I will also be watching this thread.

    14. Kes*

      Ugh, that does sound over the top and obnoxious. Not sure you can really tell them not to talk about health/fitness/diet, though – as others have suggested, I’d use headphones in your cubicle to block out the conversation and just avoid those discussions otherwise

    15. Everdene*

      Oh man! I would hate this too. My weight is fairly stable(I think) and I regularly swim but I avoid going on about this stuff because it is dull! In a previous women-heavy office January was hell as all anyone wanted to talk about was diets. That kind of chat and assigning moral values to food makes me want to defiantly eat everything, which can be problematic as I’ll eat to make a point rather than hunger/desire.

      I wish I had advice for you but I just ended up moving jobs (this wasn’t the reason!). Sorry you are dealing with this.

    16. CheeryO*

      Ugh, that kind of talk is so tedious. I wonder if it’ll naturally peter out over time? 500 calories per day is not exactly sustainable. We had some obsessive juice fasters in our office for a while, and that lasted all of about three months.

      Honestly, I’d pop in earbuds whenever those conversations start, or just leave your desk. You can take a prop with you (notebook and pen, or an empty water bottle) if you feel like you’re being conspicuous, but I’d bet that no one would notice – they sound a wee bit self-absorbed.

      1. Aleta*

        I definitely agree that 500 calories is utterly shocking levels of unsustainable, but if someone has actually gotten to the point where they’re trying to eat 500 calories a day, when they crash and burn/are hospitalized, they’re just going to move on to something else unless they get eating disorder treatments. SERIOUSLY, 500 CALORIES? While also working out!!! Everybody’s bodies are different, but good GOD I’m the size of a short, gangly twelve year old and I need at least 2,500 on work out days.

      2. Anonymous fatty*

        The 500 calories guy is definitely in it for the long run. He’s been a fitness buff for as long as I’ve known him (years), but he didn’t talk about it as much before the new fitness buff employees started. I’m not sure why he feels the need to keep himself on such a strict diet, but it seems like almost every day, he eats something off his diet and complains about how he’ll have to make up for it tomorrow. I think he alternates 500 calorie days with 1500 calorie days during the week, and I’m not sure what he eats on the weekends because he’s not at work to talk about it.

        I do suspect that our manager is going to lose interest eventually. He has a new baby coming soon and I doubt he’ll have time to work out with Mr. 500 calories every day after that. And maybe that means he’ll have something else to talk about.

        1. Totally Minnie*

          If new baby talk is more palatable to you than diet talk, I’d totally encourage that switch. If you’re manager is talking fitness near you, try a non-sequitor subject change. “Oh, George, I’ve been meaning to ask you how Wilhelmina is doing. When’s her due date again? Have you guys picked a theme for the nursery yet?” Act like it’s totally normal, even if it feels awkward the first few times. Maybe that’s just the thing your office mates need to break their conversational rut.

        2. Gumby*

          I’d be – at least mentally – calling Mr. 500 calories Michel (from Gilmore Girls) except even when he was literally telling people to drop dead he was kind of charming somehow.

          Just realize that Mr. 500 calories is *not* healthy. He absolutely has a disordered relationship with food even if it is one that is socially acceptable. It might help to reframe it that way in your mind.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I was thinking this as I read a long.
        When my husband was first diagnosed they put him on an 1800 calorie diet. I did it with him so I could see what it was like. It. was. misery. I cannot imagine 500 calories. A family member was put on a 600 calorie diet. Lunch consisted of an apple. This scared my husband into adhering to his 1800 calorie plan because he did not want to hear about a 600 calorie plan.

        I don’t see how a person can eat 500 calories a day and hold down a job.

        It does not seem that they are saying things to you directly. However, they if they did, I would just say, “You getting enough protein, you sound tired.” Or you could inquire the same about vitamins and minerals. Just turn it back on them and what they are doing. I know I get busy thinking about how to defend myself and I forget to step back and look at a broader picture. If they sound cranky then mention fatigue and express concern that they may be tired. Likewise, you could say, “I am not sure that 500 calories a day is healthy for a person working full time.” (I’m not a doc but I have dealt with enough weight loss situations that I am convinced it’s impossible to hold down a job with that few calories for any length of time.)

        From what you say here they are punishing themselves the next day if they fail on any given day. In other words, their self-talk is terrible. They are beating themselves into compliance. This could be a yellow flag indicating failure ahead.

        Just a point of curiosity: If they are actually following the diet you should be seeing changes in their hair and their skin. At 500 calories a day you should be seeing some weight loss (water weight?). And these changes should come up pretty fast. If you are not noticing changes then they probably are not doing their diets very well, if at all. I am mentioning this so you can quietly AND smugly know what is actually going on.

        1. Aleta*

          Big +1. I have a bunch of intersecting health issues that make getting enough calories difficult. I cannot imagine functioning as a person on 500 calories. I HAVE done (and sometimes still do if it’s particularly bad) 1500 calories, and it SUCKS. THAT was barely doable with a part time job.

          But even if they’re not actually following it (because they’re bodies are likely going “excuse me what are you doing absolutely not EAT SOMETHING RIGHT NOW”), they still think it’s a good thing to try, and that’s going to reflect in how they talk about these sorts of things and how they treat people who AREN’T trying their ridiculous hospital-maybe-die-fast-track diet.

        2. Anonymous fatty*

          I went through a time when I was a teenager that I tried to starve myself to lose weight. I tried restricting myself to 500 calories per day for a while, and I could not sustain it, even as a teenage girl. I was exhausted all the time, my grades went down, and my athletic abilities suffered (I played sports at the time, and my coaches pressured me to lose weight to get better at sports, but starving myself had the opposite effect), so I am also surprised that this is at all feasible for an adult man who works out every day. I can’t say I’ve noticed any physical changes, but I don’t pay much attention to my coworkers’ bodies. The guy shaves his head, so I wouldn’t be able to see any differences in his hair.

          Whether or not it’s healthy is really none of my business, because his diet is between himself and his doctor, but he (and the other dieters) kind of makes it everyone’s business by talking about it all the time. The talk is all focused on how little they eat, in a bragging way, with other people stating admiration for those who eat incredibly low amounts of calories. I have a coworker who is a breastfeeding mother and often participates in these conversations (admiring him for his restrictive diet), and I’ve noticed that she feels the need to defend eating what most people consider normal meals because she has to eat because she’s breastfeeding. Nobody has criticized her food choices or her weight, and she actively chooses to participate in these conversations (sometimes she even starts the conversations), but it seems like it’s making her feel self-conscious about her diet, too.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Great point. It’s not the topic that is bothering you, it’s the constant chatting about anything at all.

      2. Work Wardrobe*

        Yeah, that would be me… or maybe “Time for a new topic, doncha think?” Then when they look at me in astonishment: “It’s ALL you talk about, and to be honest, it’s distracting as hell. Trying to work here!”

        Of course, after 50, I lost most of my filters…

    17. Brownie*

      Honestly, your best bet may be to treat it as a generic no-boundaries issue with scripts like “Hey guys, can you move your conversation somewhere else please? I really need to concentrate on this work.” The topic may be weight, but the behavior itself is of the no-boundaries variety that shows up a lot in AAM letters and posts. And the kind of boundary violating behavior the manager is showing is a giant red flag saying “get out, get out now”, especially since he seems to be not only condoning the crossing of professional boundaries, but actively partaking in bulldozing through them. Worst case scenario: He turns into a weight fanatic and decides to make you the office pet project. Start planning now how to handle that, be it a resignation notice, copies of the Minnesota Starvation Study taped to the stall walls in the bathrooms, or becoming the “No weight talk in my hearing” commander of the cube farm.

      Solidarity fistbump. Been there, done that, wanted to sink through the floor myself. Never could get the weight talk to stop, but was able sometimes to redirect any comments directly aimed at myself with “The topic of weight is between my doctor and myself” sometimes followed with “You’re not my doctor, please drop it.” Now I’m in an office where talking about weight like that is considered unprofessional and it’s so nice not to hear any of that anymore.

      1. Anonymous fatty*

        I actually have a variety of sarcastic/snappy comebacks at the ready if anyone dares to talk to me about my weight, such as:

        – What? I’m fat? Why didn’t anyone tell me?!
        – Wait, are you saying that I should eat LESS and exercise MORE to lose weight? Crap, all this time I thought it was eat MORE and exercise LESS!
        – Being fat is unhealthy? OMG, I had no idea! This is literally the first time I have ever heard about obesity-related health issues.
        – Wow, it must be embarrassing for you to have someone as fat as me running circles around you on the job (this was for a job involving a lot of physical labor, which was difficult for me but I worked my ass off to be the top performer anyway).

        But I feel much less comfortable asking people not to talk about their own weight/diet/workouts. Normally, people don’t try to include me in these conversations, and I feel like it’s an unspoken deal that we will just ignore each other. I won’t comment on their weight-obsessed conversations and they won’t comment on my weight. I’m afraid that if I say something, that will throw this “deal” out the window. I can imagine them rolling their eyes and saying, “Oh, wait, we can’t talk about this in front of Jane because she can’t even stand to hear someone say the word ‘diet'” every time I enter the room.

        And although people don’t usually talk about my weight to my face, I know they say things behind my back. I’ve heard people making fun of my weight when they didn’t know I could hear, and I can only assume they say similar things when I actually can’t hear, and I’m afraid that if I say anything about these conversations, it will just make them talk about me more.

        But seriously, I could hardly believe my ears when coworker asked our manager how much he weighs, and I was even more shocked when the manager answered, right in the middle of the office for everyone to hear.

        1. Nervous Accountant*

          I guess I am the only one in this thread who doesn’t see what’s so awful about this, they’re talking about something they have in common and may die down eventually.

          To me it’s just something to talk about—my mgr wears a back brace for his posture, I have diabetes and take shots, my boss had a kidney transplant, some staff are/were personal trainers etc. We all have something going on. I guess it also helps that it’s a big office, with diverse people and no one is rude or mean about size/health. But it doesn’t sound like anyone In The original post is being nasty to anyone either.

          1. Aleta*

            Because this isn’t just normal work out shop talk. This is EXTREME dieting. 500 calories a day is ABSURD. Even alternating it with 1500 days isn’t that much better – 1500 is also extremely low! For reference, I’m TINY, get mistaken for an elementary school student if I’m not wearing fitted clothes, and my baseline is around 2000 a day. And it doesn’t sound like they’re adding more calories when they exercise, which is even more completely ridiculous.

            One does not go to those sorts of extremes voluntarily without some extremely messed up ideas about food and weight. Not only is that going to bleed over in how they treat others, but it’s going to manifest in how they’re talking about their own very extreme diets. That’s going to be deeply upsetting to listen to.

            1. Nervous Accountant*

              It used to sound strange to me too. And 500 sounds extreme.

              I don’t know if this is a good example, but I am in several active Diabetes/weight loss groups and Intermittent fasting (IF) and Keto are the big things in these groups. Some of the IF people discuss their experience of doing extended fasts for days at a time. For the most part these were medically obese and did so under supervision of a Dr..and they have results and have hte research to back it up.
              If you’d asked me 6 months ago that extended fasting was a thing. I would have been WTF and angry too.

              I haven’t done any of that yet, but I’m coming around and being more comfortable with that idea. So I guess things that used to seem extreme, don’t seem as bad to me anymore. Idk.

              Anyhow, I know that was veering off topic. I feel like any topic that’s constantly on gets annoying, whether it was something on TV, the news (oh god the news) or health.

          2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

            I’m kind of with you on this.

            I get it, food/dieting/etc. can be a loaded subject for a lot of people. That being said, it’s a shared interest between 2 coworkers. It sounds like they are being a bore with the topic, but it also sounds like the OP is also really sensitive about these issues.

            Mr. 500 calorie guy is likely not hitting that very often (although I have heard that fasting is a thing), so concern over that is probably a red herring. Boss is a new convert, he could be just as boring about golf, model trains, or yoga… Just think of all the new baby stuff the OP will be subjected to soon.

            Last but not least, it could always be worse. It doesn’t sound like either of them are into crossfit… now that’s a cult! (This last bit is a little tongue in cheek based on the crossfit stereotypes and hate).

            I say all of this as someone who once told a very vocal dieting coworker that she was on the diet not me and knock off the comments about my lunch. Those comments were very much directed at me and not general chat between others.

          3. Kelly AF*

            Weight, diet, and exercise are not neutral topics. We can claim all we want to that they should be, but they’re not. Being overweight is stigmatized in the US, and eating as little as possible is treated as a moral issue. Consequently, talk of weight/weight loss/dieting at work is very, very fraught for a lot of people.

            And you’re right that it may not be intentionally nasty, but that doesn’t make it easy to deal with.

            1. Washi*

              I think it’s so tricky because it’s extremely fraught for some people, including me, and yet it’s still not seen that way by the vast majority of people. If I asked people to cut down on all the dieting talk around me, I think there would be genuine bafflement over why it’s hard for me to hear lots of comments about calories, good/bad foods, etc.

              I was kind of on the other end when I worked in hospice – I got really used to talking about death and dying, and was learning a lot, and needed to be mindful that that was not a topic everyone wants to discuss.

            2. Nervous Accountant*

              I get where you’re coming from on this and I don’t disagree. I’ve dealt with weight/self esteem/health issues all my life and have been trying to work around them. But at hte same time, I’ve just stopped giving AF. Yeah, I have my issues but I’m not hte only one, and I know people who are “healthY” and skinny don’t have perfect lives (this is my own issues here talking). OTOH if I was in an office of only 5 people and they were ALL fitness buffs and looked like it, yeah I’d feel super uncomfortable and maybe even hate all the diet talk.

              But like someone said above, they’re talking about their own shared interests, not in a way to make OP feel ashamed. Like, I struggle with conceiving and having a baby but if random coworkers were talking about being pregnant, I just can’t imagine telling them to stop, if just put headphones on if it really bugged me.

          4. EnfysNest*

            Content warning here for specific feelings around eating disorders.

            For me personally, I struggle a lot just hearing about the topic, especially continuously. In high school, I came close to having an eating disorder and then felt a lot of shame because I *hadn’t* gone through with it. And I’ve had a few more occasions throughout my life where I came close to that again. I have a fairly active life, but I’m still slightly “overweight”. And while, sure, I’d like to lose a few pounds, it’s better for me to be a little overweight than to hurt myself by stopping eating altogether, which I know from my personal history is a significant risk for me. Any time diets become the primary topic for a while, especially extreme diets, I feel that same guilt from high school about the fact that I couldn’t and can’t just quit eating altogether and I feel ashamed of my weight and I feel guilty and sick about every bite of food that I take. I feel like a failure because if *they* can manage a 500 calorie diet (in this case), then why can’t I? I start thinking that I should just “try harder” and then I come right back to the edge of those eating disorders and I’m miserable and at risk until I can manage to stop letting it consume my thoughts.

            Weight and food have so much more emotion and cultural “morality” attached to them that they can very easily become a sensitive subject for people. A back brace or kidney transplant aren’t the same because they don’t have those moralities and judgments (from others or from oneself) attached. No one is listening to your boss talk about their kidney transplant and thinking “Oh, gosh, I’m a terrible person for not also getting a kidney transplant and everyone thinks I’m ugly and lazy because my current kidney isn’t as attractive as Boss’ kidney.”

        2. Brownie*

          That they’re making fun of you is another huge red flag. At this point if you want to keep the Deal the only option might be to disengage from them as much as possible through headphones and leaving the area when conversations about weight pop up. But it’s going to wear you down and take a toll, possibly to burnout or breakdown, to have to handle that every day knowing that they think nothing of doing that.

          There are some ways you could fight back without technically breaking the Deal, but depending on the workplace culture there might be backlash or side-effects. In my experience when it’s a weight/food competition giving folks something else to compete about will lessen the weight/food talk. Posting health bulletins in common areas where the subject is high blood pressure, cholesterol, mental health, or other non-weight things could give you a conversational out from weight, like “I only ate chicken and broccoli for two days!” “Oh wow, that must be lowering your cholesterol, I didn’t know you had a problem with that” as well as giving folks something not-weight to compete about. Heck, go as far as decorating your cube with weightlifting, swimming, or other sports which don’t glamorize weight loss and get the “I need the calories to deadlift three of you every day” comments ready. Imply in subtle ways that their focus on weight is beneath you as you are far more educated about what health means than they are. The casual “Oh dear, you only ate how much? I can’t believe your doctor would ever authorize that knowing that so few calories can starve your organs and cause permanent damage” responses showing care and concern for their well-being, but coming from a direction they never expected. Respond as if it’s a competition where you’re erasing the goal line altogether. If there’s no competition then they’ll stop talking about it and move on to something else.

          You might have to learn to deal with the extreme openness your manager is showing. On one hand it’s nice he doesn’t feel he has to hide his weight. On the other hand it feels almost invasive, a too-personal piece of information. Specifics in regards to body stuff in a professional setting make me uncomfortable regardless of what it’s about, so I’ve had to learn to suppress the initial wince of TMI and either grab for the headphones, do a subject change, or say “oh crud, what time is it? I need to get something done right now” to get away, especially when my manager starts talking about what yesterday’s burrito did to his gut. Again.

          1. Nervous Accountant*

            Oh no, they make fun of her? I am so sorry, I genuinely missed that in The initial post, I totally retract my statement. Yeah shaming/making fun is not cool at all!

            1. Anonymous fatty*

              Only behind my back. They don’t say anything about my weight to my face, but based on what I’ve heard them say behind my back (and what I’ve heard them say about other people behind their backs), I know what they’re thinking.

    18. Independent George*

      I feel your pain. I think your coworkers’ behaviors sound super unhealthy FWIW. I’m really into distance running myself, but I find nothing more annoying than people who have to overshare their fitness/wellness journey with the world. I get it, it’s like you’ve found Jesus and you want to shout it from the rooftops, but it’s not having the positive effect on others you think it should. It’s the main reason I’ve chosen not to share that part of my personal life at work. When I used to talk marathon running with a couple of fellow runner coworkers, I grew tired of the snarky comments from others and stopped. I’ve never been one to talk diet though; personally, I love food and couldn’t deal with your coworkers.

      Is it an option to wear noise canceling headphones or request to move desks? It kind of sounds like since the boss is in on it, it’s encouraging the behavior and they are congregating around you. Maybe physically removing yourself would help. Overall, I’m sorry this is your experience. Hopefully their diet/fitness obsession dies out as these things often do.

    19. anonymoushiker*

      Not the same situation but I had my manager/grand manager comment asking if I’d lost weight recently and my deer-in-the-headlights response was “I have an eating disorder I’m recovering from so I don’t know and don’t care” or something to that effect. It confused them for a moment but I exited (probably not as gracefully as I could have) the room. If I were in that situation, I might broach with the manager that I was finding it distracting to have all of the diet talk going on when I was trying to focus on work.

    20. Tricksie*

      My daughter has been dealing with anorexia the last 1.75 years (she’s doing VERY WELL NOW, thank all the Lords of Kobol) and it has been a horrific, all-consuming, stressful thing for my entire family. I’ve become very hard line about not tolerating talk about dieting, fat, “bad foods,” etc etc. At this point I know way too much about eating disorders to be comfortable with that kind of talk–it actually makes me extremely anxious. Like eating disorders are SERIOUS. Anorexia is the most fatal of all mental illnesses. I know people whose children have DIED because of their eating disorders.

      I say, Someone close to me is struggling with an eating disorder. Can you please not talk about this around me?

      From time to time and depending on the situation and the people, I might say more. I might mention our whole society has disordered thinking around bodies and weight, that food doesn’t have moral goodness/badness, how obsession with calories and dieting leads to eating disorders with people who have certain neurobiological characteristics, etc. Or I talk about how all studies have shown that 95%+ of dieting doesn’t work in the long run. Or I’ll say, I choose not to spend 80% of my time struggling to weigh 10% less, thanks.

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, once you’ve seen how unhealthy and toxic the diet talk can be, the way people body-shame themselves and others, make foods good or bad, demonize all things fat, you can’t really un-see it. I hate hearing more than like a sentence or two about people’s weight-loss diets, and I mainly keep my feelings to myself, but sometimes I just have to change the subject because I find the whole thing so deeply disturbing. (I realize this is an unpopular stance, unfortunately, but OP, I totally feel you!)

    21. CandyFloss*

      You can’t stop them from talking about this. I recommend putting in ear buds and listening to music, even if it seems obvious. You can just say “it helps me concentrate if people are chatting” or something like that. if they aren’t worried about how their boring conversation affects you, don’t worry about how you chose to deal with it. Offices are shared spaces and some level of accommodation is necessary for everyone to manage. If I didn’t have my ear buds to rely on when something was getting to me, I’d go nuts!

    22. Library Land*

      I see people responding to when they are outside of your cube, but you also mention waiting for meetings etc., can you adjust your time so that you show up only moments before the meeting starts? Decrease your interaction with them to as little time as possible?

    23. Quandong*

      You may like to read this post from Captain Awkward, and the comments, if you haven’t seen it before:

      I’m so sorry you are surrounded by people in your workplace who are either oblivious of the effect their talk has on others, or who are actively being unkind and fatphobic. It doesn’t matter what they intend. It has an effect on your wellbeing and creates stress for you.

    24. MissDisplaced*

      Ugh! People who “get into” fitness seem to evangelize it in the same way the newly “born again” religious do. And it doesn’t help that many workplaces are encouraging this behavior with all their wellness plans and health incentives. In my mind neither belong in the office.
      I don’t have any ideas to avoid other yhan headsets or a general “Hey guys, you’re getting a little loud can you please keep it down or talk in the break room thanks” if it’s distracting your work.

  11. Bee's Knees*

    This week in a Small Town Newsroom was my last.

    I got a new job, and tomorrow is my last day. I’m really excited about my new job, and it’s going to supply an even bigger cast of characters.

    I was running an experiment that Farquad ruined yesterday. I started telling people two weeks ago that I was leaving, after I’d turned in my notice to Boss. We’d talked about it in the newsroom very openly, but I hadn’t told Wakeen. I suspected that he hadn’t listened, and wanted to see how long it would take him to notice I was gone. Farquad said something about it this morning, and Wakeen was SHOCKED. He couldn’t believe I was leaving, and had no idea when. I thought Violet’s eyes were going to roll back in her head.

    Wakeen keeps falling asleep at his desk. His head drops down to his chest, and then he starts snoring. Like, really loud, and it’s happened at least three times this week. Watching Farquad find out was funny.

    My last week has been Fergus free. He went out of town for Thanksgiving, and then is taking some time off, which just means he comes in at night when everyone is gone, but doesn’t do any work.

    I thought I’d be really sad to leave, but if I hadn’t already turned in my notice, this week would have driven me to it. Our printer ran out of ink. I had ordered more two weeks ago, and figured it was in Boss’s office, like they usually do. Nope. I called our IT dept., it’s not there. They didn’t read the PO that I sent, and had to get it overnighted. It would have been fine, had they not continually insisted that the fault was on my end when it was NOT.

      1. Bee's Knees*

        Thanks! I probably won’t post the next couple of weeks, just cause I’ll be settling in, but I’ll be blogging about it, and I’m sure there will be all sorts of different crazy.

        1. Auntie Social*

          Yes, but this was a special kind of crazy. Good luck in the new job, though—I’m sure your mental health will be soooo much better!

          1. Bee's Knees*

            Thanks! And I seem to attract the crazy, so I’m not too worried! But I will have an office to myself to bask in the quiet, which I’m really looking forward to.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I will miss them too — keep it up, even if the crazies aren’t as crazy. I’m sure you can find something — and it’s a great writing style to read!

    1. Emily S.*

      Congratulations, and good luck with your new job! That is so exciting about having your own office.

      I’ll look forward to hearing from you in a few weeks. In the meantime, I’ve bookmarked your blog. Have a lovely weekend!

    2. Woodswoman*

      Congratulations on your new job! I’m glad to hear you’ll still be blogging and I’m eager to read how everything unfolds. And here’s a fist bump from a fellow blogger whose site has been dormant for a while but is amping up again in coming days.

  12. NotMeIV*

    Any ideas on a supervisor who has no idea how to do your job (say, computer programming) – “I don’t need to know how to program, I know how to supervise.” So, if there is a technical question, supervisor can’t help and often seems angry that I’m even asking a question. Is this reasonable? Thanks.

    1. LayoffLimbo*

      They should be able and happy to direct you to someone who can help you if they can’t answer it themselves. They’re being ridiculous.

      1. LKW*

        This. “I need to talk to someone who can provide me this information. Is there someone in the organization that you think might have this information? Is this something I can outsource and what information do you need to in order to hire these skills?”

    2. Dragoning*

      Well, I mean…if you know he doesn’t have the answer, why are you asking him? I don’t know if it’s reasonable that he’s getting angry at you for asking, but it doesn’t seem productive.

    3. fposte*

      It’s not inherently wrong for a manager not to have the technical knowledge their reports need to have. Do you know what your supervisor would like you to do when you have a technical question?

        1. NotMeIV*

          And I’ve never had a supervisor before who wasn’t knowledgable about what s/he was supervising. Really, I was just wondering.

          1. fposte*

            In general, the higher you go, the more impossible it would be for a manager to have the expertise of all the people under them.

          2. goto 1*

            I’ve never had a supervisor who knew anything about what I do. Having one I could ask technical questions to sounds amazing. As it is, I have to explain why Thing X takes so long to do, to explain what I spent the last 3 weeks doing.

          3. Windchime*

            I’ve been programming for 18 years, and my current supervisor is the only manager I’ve ever had who *did* know anything about programming. Usually, though, there was a lead or at least a programmer more senior to me that could help me out. I did (and do) a lot of Googling. It is nice, though, to have a manager who understands what I’m talking about when I’m explaining a problem.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Your supervisor’s reality is not mine.
          You’re going to have to become a sleuth and find someone in the company who *can* answer questions.
          Or “discuss best possible solutions” if that’s not the way to go. If nothing else, you may have to spend a lot of time on internet forums for your discipline!

    4. Bees in my Socks*

      Ugh. I had a manager like this. “I don’t even know what you’re doing or how to do it”. Okay, genius, then get out of my way and stop objecting to proposed changes? (System was and continues to be a mess). Generally this whole place is toxic so that’s just a fun addition.

      He should know enough about what you’re doing to understand how/why you do it and he should be able to point you to resources for assistance.

    5. CheeryO*

      I think this is probably fairly common. My boss is great with big picture stuff but doesn’t always have an answer to the nitty-gritty technical stuff, and I don’t expect him to since that’s not his job. Do you have any more experienced coworkers who you can go to with questions?

    6. AnotherLibrarian*

      90% of what I do, my boss doesn’t know how to do. Could she learn how to use the specialized software? Probably, but she’d the last person I would ask a technical question of. I think if your boss can’t answer your question than it is your responsibility to find someone who can. Google, forums, or other coworkers are going to be your best contact points on this sort of thing.

      1. Kelly AF*

        Yeah, my boss is a smart, awesome woman, and she’s fairly savvy about analytics, but she asks me questions and I figure out how to get the answers from the data. If there’s some ambiguity to be resolved, I’ll ask her — but like, in terms of “here are the avenues we could take, and here are the consequences of making assumption X or using simplification Y.” If I have a technical question about how to program something in SAS or R, she would have no clue. I ask one of the other analysts or I google the question.

    7. Trout 'Waver*

      It is incredibly common for managers and supervisors to have less technical knowledge than the people they manage or supervise. That being said, they should either know how to get the information or provide appropriate resources that you can get the information you need.

      If you ask your supervisor, “How do I do $X” when you both know that he doesn’t have an answer, it feels a little like you’re play gotcha with him. It might go over better if you ask your supervisor, “I’m stumped when it at $X and google isn’t any help. Do we have a $X expert I can bounce some questions off of?” or “I need information on $Y. What resources do we have to get me that information?”

      1. NotMeIV*

        Our previous supervisor was one of the best programmers God ever created, so it feels really strange to be supervised by someone who doesn’t know what we do (doesn’t even know which languages we use) and commits us to projects that we are unable to do.

        1. Competent Commenter*

          Ah, that last part seems key. My supervisor doesn’t know how to do my job, but she doesn’t commit us to projects we’re unable to do.

          I’d look elsewhere for technical advice, as people are saying. But if your boss is setting you all up for failure because of lack of knowledge, then I’d try to frame my conversations as, “I want to be sure we can deliver on what you promise because we want to look great as a team. How can we best work together to make sure we do that? Or if there are projects we are required to take on and you don’t have control of that, can we commit to coming up with plans to bring in additional technical assistance?” Ideally your supervisor would be running projects by you beforehand.

          Alison proposes great language for these kinds of situations so your supervisor knows you’re there to have her back and make her and all of you look good, not to undermine.

        2. Autumnheart*

          I personally don’t need my manager to be able to do my job, but I agree that it’s really helpful and effective when I have a manager who *has done* my job fairly recently in their career. I’m a designer and I’ve had managers who did have a design background, and ones who didn’t. Right now I have a manager who does have a design background, and in fact his boss also has a design background, which is GREAT. Trying to plan projects around the design process is always a little squishy and hard to define, and it’s really nice to have people in authority who can make decisions for our team. They have a much better understanding of what our needs are, and can speak with authority to other stakeholders. We don’t have to convince them first and then have them play telephone to other stakeholders.

    8. Admin of Sys*

      I actually think this is a much better situation than the opposite, where highly technical people who don’t know how to supervise get shoved into management positions with no skill or training on how to manage. And honestly, the better you are at your job, the more likely it will be that your manager does not have your technical skills.
      In a lot of technical jobs, a supervisors position should be to make sure you are doing what you say you are doing, that jobs are happening on schedule, that higher ups are pleased, and that all the other project manager ‘stuff’ is managed.
      I get that you’re missing the ‘tech lead’ position where you ask someone more skilled than you for their input, but as your career advances, there are going to be a jobs where you are, in fact, the most knowledgeable person at what you do – which is why they hired you.
      That said, your manager should be capable of helping you choose between conflicting priorities. For example, if you are tasked to speed up the ui for llama grooming orders, and you find a way to do that but it involves either a major architecture change or a security issue, you should be able to go to her and say ‘I’ve got a solution for the problem, but it will result in either x or y – are either of those acceptable, or should I keep looking for other options?’

    9. Sleepytime Tea*

      It is completely true that a supervisor/manager/whatever doesn’t need to know how to actually do your job in order to be a good leader. And there are people in leadership positions who know exactly how to do your job and will be terrible supervisors.

      What YOUR supervisor doesn’t know how to do is, ironically, supervise, since if they aren’t actually assisting you here. If you need resources, in this case, someone who can assist you with a technical question, it is their job to help you find that resource if you are unable to find it on your own. As someone who has a technical job, Google is your best friend. Always. First and foremost. There is an entire world of people out there doing the same technical things and someone has already had the problem you are running into, and they have probably put it on the internet and it has been solved. Next are your coworkers. People who do your job as well, or similar jobs, who have different experience than you do. When that fails, you go to your supervisor, who in your case you know is not going to be able to answer your technical question, and explain what steps you went through to find an answer, and ask if they know of anyone else you could reach out to. Another team, a SME, another manager, Bob who used to be in your department but was promoted, whatever.

      So yes, it is reasonable for a supervisor not to be able to answer job specific questions, because they don’t do your job, they do their job. The caveat of all that being that they then actually have to do their job, which in large part includes supporting you.

    10. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Do you have other resources or coworkers?!

      I see your frustration but I’m always in positions I’m often found without a soul to help me out. Including my boss because I’m the accountant, not him. So we can find answers elsewhere, even if it’s outsourced to a contacted CPA or lawyer. Or it’s a “try until it works or just leave it” situation.

      It’s ridiculous she can’t even find an outsourced way of helping you out.

    11. Zennish*

      If they don’t know how to find resources to answer job-related questions, they don’t in fact know how to supervise. Part of being a supervisor is making sure your reports have access to the information needed to do their jobs.

    12. periwinkle*

      My manager can’t do what I do, or what anyone else on the team can do. And that’s fine. She knows how to be a people manager and how to corral resources, pitch ideas, filter incoming requests, deflect unreasonable and irrelevant requests. She is the champion for the team.

      We also have a team lead. He knows how to do everything and is always ready to share what he knows or help us figure out who else knows the answer. I’ve never been on a technical-type team that did not have a lead!

      It sounds like your team needs a senior person to act as the technical lead. Perhaps suggest that to your supervisor? It would divert those technical questions away from them (and toward someone who knows how to find the answers), and everyone will probably be a lot happier.

  13. 404 Error*

    Can my vacation requests be denied because my boss thinks I’m not doing a good job? I requested my dad’s birthday (over a month away) off and my boss sent me an email saying I can’t take it off because he thinks I need to work harder. Not an official PIP, BTW.

    1. Graciosa*

      You don’t have to be on a PIP to have vacation denied. It’s pretty normal to assess vacation requests based on workload and whether or not the person can be spared in light of business needs.

      I do think there are limits to that – for example, a chronically understaffed company is acting in bad faith to use that as an excuse to never allow anyone to use the vacation benefits they were promised – but that doesn’t seem to be a factor in your situation.

      I think your best move here would be to make sure you’re tied out with your boss about expectations for your role and figuring out if or how you can meet them – not to get vacation, but to ensure you’re doing what is needed in your job.

      Good luck.

      1. 404 Error*

        I’m reflecting on that. I see things I could definitely do better at. I’ve also been raising warnings about this project for months now, and he’s been ignoring them until this week. The general tone of our conversations makes me think he’s taking his frustrations out on me because he can’t on the external vendors and other departments who’ve been stonewalling us. I’ve had misgivings about this job since I started about six months ago. I’m figuring out how much of that is attributable to me and how much is attributable to my boss here.

        This probably isn’t something which I can debate with my boss, but there’s a paper trail of me explaining that a bunch of people we need have been completely incommunicado for months and it’s been blocking our progress. I’m reflecting on how much of this is attributable to passiveness from me and how much is this being a problem I wasn’t given tools to solve.

    2. Murphy*

      If it’s that he thinks you’re not getting enough work done (work quantity), then I think denying your request is within your boss’s power to do. But if it’s because he thinks your work isn’t good enough (quality) I think that’s a bit murkier. Denying a vacation request shouldn’t be a punitive thing.

      1. AnotherLibrarian*

        Yes, they can, but I agree with PB it is not good move. I might be concerned if this happened and really think about your work and how you are doing. This isn’t a great sign.

      2. LKW*

        Yup. If he has a problem with your work product, making you stay in the office may or may not resolve it.

        I think it’s time to look for a new job. The guy sounds like he wants to parent you, not manage you.

    3. Cat Fan*

      Do you have any idea what he’s talking about? If not, you should ask him. You can say you’ve given his comment some thought and would like to understand what you could be doing better. Is it that you’re not meeting certain quotas, or you are not being thorough enough, or something else? If you’re interested in doing a better job he may grant your vacation day.

    4. Ali G*

      Also this is why you shouldn’t tell your boss what you need time off for. Just say “I need to take X day off” and don’t go into detail.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      A single day off was rejected?????? Unless it’s like Black Friday and you work at Target, this is outrageous. I don’t care if you’re struggling or not, denying a day off breeds resentment and turnover. What a terrible idea.

      Yes. It can be denied for whatever reason. How do they handle sick leave? This guy stinks, call in sick next time. Not this day though, the rejection will get you into a deeper mess. But next time you want a day off.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Not sure if this would be appropriate in your setting. Perhaps you can ask what specifically he would like you to do because you were surprised that your day off request was denied due to performance. Tell him that you would prefer to know upfront so you can fix it. You might also say that nothing in your orientation/handbook/whatever indicated that vacation days were tied to performance. You were led to believe that x days of PTO was part of your package upon hire.

  14. DaniCalifornia*

    Every time I think I set the bar lower at my toxic job someone crawls underneath it. I think if I buried it my supervisor would learn to tunnel. We had a meeting awhile back to discuss getting ready for busy season. It actually went well, and supervisor said they’d bring up my ideas to our boss. Well I guess supervisor decided to meet with boss this week and for some reason invited in the new admin (also their new best friend) and not me. New admin has been here a year (I’ve been here almost a decade) and became close with supervisor – hang out weekly and vacation together close. So supervisor and new admin presented MY ideas to boss and then new admin came down and whispered to me that boss was going to allow us to do the ideas. So…happy that some change is coming but extremely frustrated to be left out. New admin has not been doing great. I believe my boss even realizes this because I’m getting work new admin should be doing from boss. New admin is making constant mistakes and just not getting our process. Supervisor refuses to do anything about it so I’ve let it go and let things fall where they may. I know they recognize new admin is making mistakes because supervisor asked her child (who also works here) to switch jobs with new admin because new admin complains about answering phones and our clients ALL THE TIME. I shouldn’t be surprised, supervisor did the same thing when their child started working here and refused to even do work. Supervisor told me they regretted hiring child but would not fire them. Boss directed me back to supervisor when I finally got frustrated enough to go beyond supervisor. I am constantly asking for more work and responsibility and supervisor is always deflecting. I haven’t learned anything new in four years. I’m even beginning to wonder if the way supervisor treats me is retaliation for speaking my concerns about their child’s work and going to boss. It certainly feels like punishment. Yet I’m being asked to fix mistakes being made my new admin from supervisor yet anytime we need to implement changes my thoughts get squashed and new admin’s get approved.

    Just another reason I have been job searching. Have been getting more responses this past week from jobs so I’m trying to stay hopeful. It’s been a year, on and off due to busy season/deadline, that I’ve been searching. I even broke down asked one of our professionals if they’d give me a reference and they weren’t surprised I was looking, they knew how I was being treated. They said they’d be happy to be a reference and encouraged me to find a new job and said they wouldn’t stay if they were in my position.

    1. Anona*

      It definitely sounds like it’s time to ramp up the job search, unless there’s some reason not to. You don’t sound very happy. I hope you find a position that works better for you.

      1. DaniCalifornia*

        Yeah it’s been a constant search, the only problem is we don’t get time off between Jan-Ap, and then again Sept-Nov because of deadlines. Interviewing becomes really hard during those months. One appt here and there is ok.

    2. Kathenus*

      I literally have not even finished reading your post yet, but had to reply right now to say how much I LOVE the first two sentences. Brilliant! Now on to read the rest of it :)

      Every time I think I set the bar lower at my toxic job someone crawls underneath it. I think if I buried it my supervisor would learn to tunnel.

    3. Kathenus*

      This won’t help many of your problems and frustrations, but if it were me I’d consider emailing boss and saying something like “Hi boss, I just found out that you’ve approved moving forward with my ideas xx and yy. Thanks for the support!” Make sure boss knows they were your ideas and establish/maintain a good direct line of communication to them.

    4. froodle*

      became close with supervisor – hang out weekly and vacation together close.
      Ooooh glob i haven’t even read the rest of this comment and I screamed nooooooooooo at this bit!!

      1. DaniCalifornia*

        Yeah. So the 3 people in our office that I work directly with/sit with/talk to all day/report to are all one little happy family. Everyone else is in a professional role


    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Toxic job indeed!
      I’m very glad to hear you’re looking and that you have a current-job reference who understands why you’re looking.
      Are you working too hard to take off during your busy season — or insanely long hours? Because some employers will make after-hours times available for interviews when they see a good candidate. And not being willing to let down your current job during the busy season? That makes you more reliable in my book.

      1. DaniCalifornia*

        It’s tax season during those times. So often I am working 6-7 days a week and long hours. It’s more so the lack of available options when given choices by interviewers. If they only have 10am or 2pm it cuts out a larger chunk of the day as opposed to 8am or 5pm. And often they have asked for next day interviews and when I’ve offered even 2 days out they say “Oh we’ll be done interviewing by then” I don’t want to miss my chances.

        Thanks for the kind words :)

  15. Lost*

    As of tomorrow, I will have been unemployed for a year.

    I used to make doctor appointments for the first or last time slot of the day, and I declined invites from family and friends that involved traveling, because I wanted to minimize taking time off at the start of a new job. Now I schedule whatever whenever because a job isn’t in my future.

    I used to force myself to go to bed early and get up early so it’s be easier to adjust to a new work schedule. Now I go to bed and wake up later and later because it’s too much effort to struggle against my night owl tendencies for a nonexistent job.

    I used to get my hair cut and eyebrows shaped often to look presentable incase I started a new job. Now I wait a couple extra weeks and let myself get sloppy because there is no job to look presentable for.

    I used to be super careful about filling out job applications and checked over everything before submitting. Now I rush through them as fast as possible and make mistakes (despite my cover letter mentioning attention to details and accuracy, which used to be important to me) because applications are busy work I have to do that don’t really matter.

    I want to return to work but feel absolutely hopeless and useless. No one’s going to hire someone that’s been unemployed for so long.

    How have you guys dealt with long-term unemployment? Has anyone gotten a job after being unemployed for a year?

    1. Dragoning*

      You might be falling into situational depression. I know I have for long spurts of unemployment.

      But then…I’m only 25. I usually just plaster over those periods in job interviews by saying things like “it took a while to find a job in my field, so I was doing X”

        1. AnotherLibrarian*

          It’s sometimes called “adjustment disorder” and the idea is that symptoms only last a limited time and are not persistent outside of the situation you’re in.

    2. DaniCalifornia*

      I was unemployed for a year and a half. It was miserable and I’m so sorry you’re going through it. The optimistic days grew few and far between. I can absolutely sympathize with you. I couldn’t even get hired as a temp for awhile. I don’t know why. When I finally did start getting some temp jobs the staffer was so happy with my work they asked me to temp for them. I finally got hired full time after 18 months and it was for a job that I temped at for 2 months. Is temping available to you or your profession? Can you volunteer anywhere? This might help in having a more routine schedule and have something to put on your resume. As well as have something to look nice for. I eventually stopped trying to apply all day long. I took one hour a day and applied and then left it alone.

      I have hope you’ll find a new job and sooner than later!!

      1. Lost*

        I had a horrible experience with a recruiter/temp job before so I’m avoiding them (I was stuck in a toxic temp job for 2 years because they made it so hard to job hunt without getting fired). I’m really tired and just want to be able stop job hunting. I can’t imagine having the energy to do a short term job while using all my free time to job hunt.

        I have weird feelings about volunteering. I did a lot of volunteering and unpaid internships in and after college to get experience, and still wasn’t able to get a job in my “field,” and now regret investing so much time doing it. I guess I’m resentful that it seems as though I should only do work for free and that my time and energy aren’t worth paying for? Getting volunteer gigs that could use my skills was really hard before, and it doesn’t seem worth having to take on a second “job hunt.”

        Sorry if that seems really negative. I appreciate the advice, but those two things are hard for me right now.

        1. Ali G*

          I’m really sorry you are dealing with this. It took me about 9 months to find my last job and there were a lot of bad days. I just want to put a plug in for volunteering. It doesn’t have to be in your field! I am in the environmental field and I volunteered for the non-profit that taught low-income adults how to use computers. It was really great to have something to do/get out of the house 2 days a week for a few hours. I didn’t expect it to be, but it was supremely rewarding and helped me regain some confidence too.
          Good luck to you and take care of yourself!

        2. DaniCalifornia*

          Hey I completely understand those feelings. I wouldn’t expect with your experience to sound super positive either. I guess I wasn’t even thinking of volunteering in an area that was related to your work. (Although that is better advice than mine lol. I was just thinking of volunteering in an area that could make you happy.) It makes sense that you’d be hesitant to go that route since it didn’t help before.

          Still wishing you luck and an amazing opportunity in your near future!

        3. Hamburke*

          I’ve had good and bad experiences with temp agencies. My most recent was good and led to my current job but I dropped a temp agency years ago after they sent me to retail placements instead of admin office work so I know it can go either way.

          I know it seems counter productive to get a short term job but it might boost your confidence. At a minimum, it would give you a mental break from job searching which is exhausting and demoralizing.

          Perhaps a part time position or freelance depending on your field – and sometimes pt positions are hard to fill so asking for that puts you at the top of the list. I’m part-time (bookkeeping) and the temp agency was thrilled bc those are hard to fill. But part-time will still give you time to work on your real job search.

    3. Justin*

      My good friend from college got a job this summer after, I want to say, 3 years being unemployed (and growing very, very visibly depressed; we all tried to help, he refused treatment, etc etc).

      BUT, for him he tried applying to something completely different from his old path and they gave him a shot. So maybe something where your skills are transferable rather than direct, just to have a different angle.

      Good luck. Try to take care of yourself however you can, seek treatment if needed. Not diagnosing, just know it’s hard.

      1. Lost*

        I’ve read a few articles about how you should apply to jobs you aren’t totally qualified for but could hypothetically learn to do, so I have actually been applying to jobs unrelated to my experience/education but that my skills seem transferable for. I’ve done some phone screenings and interviews for them, but no luck so far. I assume the jobs go to people with direct experience.

    4. Graciosa*

      To answer your question, I have been unemployed for a number of months, but I always thought I would find the right spot eventually and it was just a matter of waiting for it to happen (it did). I don’t think there is anything magical about the one year mark that makes you unemployable ever again, and I have hired people who have had long stretches of unemployment so yes, it happens.

      What I’m more concerned about is that you appear to be depressed (word not used as a diagnosis I’m not qualified to make). You’ve identified changes in your behavior that will make it harder for you to get a job – lack of concern for your appearance, or the quality of your application materials – and there is a real danger that you are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. You are so convinced that you will not get a job that you are not going to be an appealing candidate – not due to your stretch of unemployment, but rather your changed behavior and defeatist attitude.

      I am not saying this to beat up on you, but because it is really important that you see the issue (I think you do from your letter) and get help. We all have things we can’t do alone, and “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” is always a realistic expectation.

      My recommendation is to take a break from job searching at all and take care of yourself. YOU need to be your priority. If you have access to regular medical care, your family practitioner might be a good place to start. Libraries can also be surprisingly good resources to help you find assistance. I’d really like to see you get back in a good mental space before resuming your job search if it’s at all possible for you to do so.

      I know this is difficult to deal with, and I’m very sorry you’re going through it. Please be kind to yourself.

    5. Mae West*

      I know it’s easier said than done but please don’t despair.

      Without details it’s hard to advise, but if you’re looking for a career, try for just any job–even part-time. Also, volunteering will get you out there and helping others will give you a confidence boost.

    6. ThatGirl*

      My husband was unemployed for two years, in the midst of the recession. He has now been at his current job for 7.

      It’s hard, but it’s not impossible. Have you done volunteer work? Have you tried freelancing? Maybe a part-time retail job just to get you out of the house?

      Don’t stop putting in effort. But do focus your efforts more narrowly – on jobs you’re really actually interested in, on fields you care about. Work harder on fewer things instead of being sloppy and broad.

    7. WellRed*

      Sorry you are dealing with this! I second the ideas about volunteering or temping or even maybe a part time retail gig or something. It does help to get out of the house regularly and feel like a member of society.

    8. CheeryO*

      I’m sorry, it’s so hard to be in that situation. My boyfriend was unemployed for about a year and a half and ended up landing a decent job after. Unfortunately, it just came down to being persistent, applying to everything he could, and tweaking his resume. He eventually lucked into a few interviews, and he started being very candid about the long-term unemployment. He had quit his previous job for a graduate program that didn’t work out, and he was limiting his search area to our current city since that’s where our roots are, and openings were far and few between. He ended up getting a couple offers at once from companies who sort of saw his desire to stay put as a positive, since they’re into loyalty, are like a family, etc.

      You can and will get past this, and it does not need to define you. It’ll just be a blip in time five or ten years from now. But you should do whatever you can to try to stay in good spirits, since that’ll make it easier to put out good applications and perform well in interviews. I know that’s way easier said than done, though.

    9. Anona*

      When I was unemployed I found it helpful to volunteer. It got me out of the house and also was something I could put on my resume. One volunteer gig helped me develop skills that eventually led to a new job. Temping would probably be similar. The holidays are here- maybe there are some seasonal positions you could do, even at a place like Target or Walmart, if that won’t mess with any unemployment benefits you have?

      I also pursued cheap hobbies so I felt like I was accomplishing something. Like learning to make bread and cheese, and planting seeds indoors and transplanting them.

      And it’s definitely exhausting to constantly feel like you need to be ready for a new job. I’d take a short break, as others have suggested. When you do start, hopefully you’ll be able to apply with attention to detail again. Maybe you’ll also be able to do your personal grooming- not to constantly prepare for a job, but because it would make you
      feel nicer. Hang in there!

    10. Kathenus*

      Echoing a lot of the support from other commenters. I think on many of the things you mentioned, give yourself permission to be relaxed about things – hair, schedule, appointments, etc. The one thing I would be more strict with myself about are your applications. I know how frustrating it is to not get a job, I’ve been there although not for as long as you’re dealing with, and I understand letting things slide. But this is the one area that can hurt your long-term goal, so I’d focus on being as meticulous as you can on job-hunting related tasks, but 100% totally relax your self-imposed standards on other areas in your life. At some point, hopefully soon, you won’t have all that freedom, so enjoy the one thing about not having to go to work that you can, with the more relaxed schedule. And good luck.

    11. Kes*

      So you don’t need to live your whole life in preparation for a possible job, but it is important to take care of yourself and find something to focus on/a way to motivate yourself and not fall into a negative cycle. I get that it feels like your applications are useless, but not putting any effort into them will only be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      I agree with the others about looking into potential depression and finding temp work or a volunteer position to keep you busy and focused and motivated and to give you something you’re doing now that can help you get to where you want to be (in a job)

    12. Goya de la Mancha*

      Volunteering. My unemployment wasn’t as long as yours, but it was several months and volunteering helped keep me in a routine and kept some of my skills sharpened.

      1. Goya de la Mancha*

        Forgot to add the “networking” aspect. A lot of people I ended up volunteering with were prominent figures in the community. They might not have been able to offer me a job, but I have some fantastic references for any future work that might come up.

    13. The New Wanderer*

      I went 18 months between jobs. I didn’t look into volunteering myself (except very occasionally at my kid’s school) because that has not worked out well for me in the past. I also went through periods of anxiety alternating with giving up, and wore glorified pajamas all day every day.

      What helped me was finally getting around to taking online classes to develop some new, related skills. I stopped job hunting for a month while I focused on the first two classes, just to have a total change of pace. I went online bc it’s far cheaper and self-paced. I felt more focused because I had something to care about and metrics to show success and I was exercising my brain in new and useful ways.

      I’m not really a success story in that I didn’t get my current job through traditional interviewing, I was directly reinstated by the company that laid me off 18 months ago (though to be fair, they wrote the job description specifically to get me rehired). But I did want to comment that it’s common to feel horrible as the job search drags on, and I hope there is good news in your near future.

    14. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

      I was unemployed for 2 years. The first few months didn’t bother me because I was getting severance pay and I JUST KNEW I would get another job fairly quick. Well the months turned into years and interviews were few and far between. All I can advise is to stay as positive as you can (you WILL get another job). I know you said you had a bad experience with temping, but don’t count out volunteering and temp work. (I got a temp job and was made permanent). How did you leave things at your oldjob? If you left on good terms, see if anything is available there and apply (a friend of mine did that and she got [re] hired). Also, have friends keep their eyes out for open positions where they work.

    15. Anono-Mice*

      As a person who spent about that much time unemployed before I know what you’re going through.

      One of the big things I did that changed how I felt about myself and my situation was to get up and get ready every single weekday morning. I did sleep in but not 10 AM or later sleep in, I’d set an alarm and get my butt out of bed by 8 am (I tend to work jobs that start around 6 am so that’s sleeping in for me). Then you make your bed and get ready for the day. I also highly recommend adding some structure to your days (job hunt for X time before noon, and X time between noon and 5 PM, you make lunch at X time) just enough to give you structure. On Fridays, I ended my week at noon to start the weekend early, I’d also schedule ‘vacation’ weeks that I was just gonna be lazy and happy and not think about job hunting guilt free.

      Do you feel a little silly at first? Absolutely. But the moment I started taking care of myself that way, I started being nicer to myself and no longer felt so poopy about where my life was at. The bed making thing is also good for the mind. If nothing else comes from your day, at least the last thing you get to see before bed is a tangible thing you accomplished as well it feels nice to get up and accomplish something before you’ve even fully woken up.

      I was laid off during an industry slump so it was a good long while before things started picking up again (2 years!), and it was so so tough being unemployed that long and not take it personally.

      1. Anono-Mice*

        Forgot to mention by ‘get ready’ I don’t mean like make up and hair styling if you don’t feel like it, but things like eat breakfast, wash your face, brush your teeth and hair and change out of your jammies (even if it’s into sweats)

    16. Snow Drift*

      It is absolutely feasible. After I was laid off, it took me 6 years to find a job in my field. Yes, six. The interim included everything you describe here.

      Get something part-time, anything. Doesn’t matter if it’s in your field. I waitressed. You just need to get out so you don’t become (in the delightful words of another commenter this morning) fully feral.

    17. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You’ve painted a picture of a spiraling depression. My mom has the same issue, not tied to work but when loved ones have been terribly ill. Medication helped her tremendously.

      That’s besides the point. What stands out to me and troubles me from the personal side is that it’s seeping into your applications and I’m certain it’s leeching into your phone screens and interviews. That’s a dangerous web to be tangled in.

      I’ve had to force myself out of bed and out of my comfort zone frequently in these situations. It’s hard as heck and I’m sorry I can’t share much more than you have to fight. You have to fake caring if necessary. You can’t let the demons of resentment settle in for the long term. I’m concerned that a bad experience in temping means you won’t try it again. There are tons of different agencies to try out.

      How are you paying your expenses? Unemployment usually runs out fast and you can end relationships this way if you’re depending on a spouse for support.

      Everyone’s rock bottom is different and I pray you have a turn around before you bottom out.

      I’m being direct and probably harsh to many right now. I do it out of true concern and care for everyone who struggles with the darkness of depression and despair. I’ve been there and often it’s hard for people to not just skirt issues and give out passes due to mental illness, permanent or situational being so fragile and taboo to talk hard about.

      You’re doing well at seeking advice here. That’s huge. Please reach out to sources that can assist you further. You deserve good things. You deserve happiness. You deserve a job. You deserve to be free of these emotional chains you’re in. I wish I could unlock them for you.

    18. CandyFloss*

      I in my 50s and I got a job after being unemployed for 15 months. It happens. I know how emotionally exhausting and depressing long-term unemployment can be but there is hope. If you aren’t seeing a therapist, I’d suggest it. What you are describing sounds like depression and you may need some help in coping with it. My number #1 advice after seeing a therapist is to get up early. During another stretch of unemployment, I let myself get into later and later bedtimes, until I was getting up at 11AM or later. It made me feel very isolated and out of step with the world. Good luck!

    19. Meredith Brooks*

      Throwing my 2 cents in should they be helpful. I have been without a steady income before and have had some issues with depression. I spent a year as a “consultant” working out of my studio apartment with a small handful clients in 2010. (I made less than $25K that year — I live in NYC, that’s not sustainable at all.) I hadn’t intended on having my own business, but I landed in a bad fit job and was unemployed a year later, so I struck out on my own to make sense of my career. I had one long-term assignment from an old colleague that was incredibly helpful in smoothing over some quiet cashflow periods. And in the end, it actually worked out quite well for me. I shifted my focus and got into a different industry. (Same job though).

      What I found to be helpful for me was the opportunity to take a step back and use that time not to perseverate over what I had lost or what I couldn’t find, but what I wanted. It wasn’t always easy and sometimes I failed miserably and made myself incredibly overwhelmed. But I find depression or anxiety or ennui likes to rear it’s ugly head when we put punish ourselves for not succeeding in something. The stress of unemployment is stressful enough. There’s no need to punish yourself for giving in to your night owl tendencies or not grooming your eyebrows. As long as you’re capable of pulling yourself together for morning meetings and polishing your look for interviews, allow yourself to focus on what you need (on a personal level), not what you want.

    20. Frea*

      Unemployed for 2 years during the recession. I wound up throwing myself into writing in order to fight off the feeling of uselessness. We’re talking one million words of fanfic here. But in that time, I also found online tutorials and taught myself Photoshop and a few other programs that have helped me out professionally since. Out of desperation (and wanting to defer payments on my student loans), I actually enrolled in a professional development program at a local community college, which helped get me out of the house.

      Coming out the other side after I finally landed PreviousJob made me realize just how dark some of those times got. We put so much of our worth on what we DO and it messes with our heads. Seconding all the other commenters here saying you’ll get through this. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.

    21. PuppiesHelp*

      I had a period of time about 4 years ago when I was unemployed for 6 months. I found pet sitting really helped.

      By pet sitting, I was able to make a little extra money, but it also got me out of the house. Even though most of the visits were pretty quick (usually 15-30 minutes to feed the cat, walk the dog, or grab the mail) it made me get dressed, do a small bit of exercise, and have a nice change of scenery. I got to travel around the city and see new places, plus having a few animals around to pet and play with really brightened my day. And because I wasn’t tied down to a full-time job, I could commit to multiple visits during the day or unexpected overnights.

      I also met new clients before I began caring for their pets, which gave me some conversation and socialization, which is very important when you’re at home all day job hunting.

      Even better, I could set my own schedule so when I did get interviews, I would work around them.

      Best of luck on your search!

    22. Close Bracket*

      I’ve been unemployed for 4 years. I’m not saying I’m having great luck, but I do get the occasional phone interview. I’ll report if anyone hires me. :)

      I also keep a night owl schedule and don’t bother with hair cuts. I was like that while I was employed, too, though. I am still careful with job applications, but sometimes I don’t bother with a cover letter.

      Do you have other ways to occupy yourself? I’m learning more programming languages. Are there skills you could learn or beef up?

    23. Lalaith*

      I was unemployed for 14 months before I finally got a job 2 months ago. I know how hard this is. I know how useless you feel. But you aren’t. You have value, you have skills, and you will find a place that wants to use those skills. In the meantime it SUCKS and I’m not going to try to tell you any different. But you have to get out in front of employers and put a good face on all of it to be able to change anything.

      One thing I got asked more and more as time went on was what I’d been doing this whole time… which, thanks, rub salt in my wounds… but this is where a part-time job or volunteering or temping is good. Whatever you decide, just have an answer for that question ready to go. The main thing I was doing (besides job-hunting) was taking online classes. My local library let me access for free, from home, so I was taking a bunch of programming courses (I’m a web developer). You can also get a month of LinkedIn Premium, with access to their courses (which I think are linked with Lynda), for free.

      I hope things turn around for you soon. I truly do. It is still possible to get hired. You have worth, you have value, and if you’re not seeing that in yourself, please find someone to talk to who will remind you of it. You will be ok again.

    24. Gumby*

      I was unemployed for 2+ years before getting my current job so yes, it is possible.

      At one point it wasn’t that I didn’t tweeze my eyebrows (to be honest I mostly don’t tweeze them now), it’s that brushing my teeth seemed like too much effort to bother with. So I get it.

      You *can* still get a job. It’s easier if you can make up a good story about what you did in the meantime. If there’s some sort of project, even if it is self-assigned, that you accomplished. Personally, I got further education to facilitate a career change. Technically it was 6 months worth of classwork over the 2+ years but, eh, it made it look like I wasn’t sitting on the couch moldering the whole time. I have talked to people who took on part-time volunteer work, spent the time caring for aging/ailing family members, or took a career pause to raise their kids (while volunteering a lot for the schools, etc.). I’m not saying lie – those are all true things – but when interviewing it’s good to be able to explain a gap in a positive light.

      I was also greatly helped by participating in a free 6-week job search boot camp. Just having other people in a similar situation was immensely useful in many ways, especially for my mental health.

      There are resources to help specifically with long-term unemployment too. Maybe google that for your area.

      And network. Absolutely network. Because while the job search boot camp set me up for success and I had several interviews (after a year of almost nothing in response to applications), the job I eventually got was because a friend told me about the opening.

    25. Autumnheart*

      It sucks and is really hard. I haven’t been unemployed for a full year, but I spent 3 years being repeatedly laid off (dot-com crash) and was unemployed for up to 9 months at a time, for a period of about 3 years. It was really hard and stressful.

      If you can, I would highly recommend trying to stick to a schedule where you get up reasonably early in the morning, even if it seems sort of pointless, because it lets you feel more on the same schedule as people who are currently in the workforce, whereas being on opposite timetables can make you feel more isolated/not part of the world. And two, also consider that increasing the hours where you’re up and about at night can contribute to depression, like SAD can do.

      There was no real magic solution. I basically did the following:

      1. Got a whiteboard and put about 7-8 small tasks on it that I could accomplish that day, so I could cross them off and see/feel that I was being productive
      2. Did something I genuinely enjoyed each day, so that I could look back and say, “I got to read a good book and take a bike ride in the sunshine, it wasn’t all bad”.
      3. Did my best to stick to a routine. Get up, shower, get dressed, leave and do Something (e.g. read the paper at a local coffee shop, take a bike ride or a walk, work out, etc), come home and do my 7-8 tasks, and of course perform my job search and resume-sending for the day.

      I did find a job eventually. The bad days came to an end. I still remember them, though, and try to plan my life understanding that things are good right now, but could change, and I need to be prepared to weather bad times again.

    26. CanadaTag*

      I’ve been out on disability for a while, so not exactly the same thing, but I may have a few insights that can help (and some echo what other commenters have mentioned).

      Your mental and emotional health is just as important as your physical, and I think that may be partly falling by the wayside here. If I were you, I would “give” myself a one to two week “vacation”, where you concentrate on helping yourself feel better, if that’s at all possible.

      I would also set up a routine, whether that routine involves volunteering, treating the job applications as doing a job, getting out of the house on something every one to two days… just a routine that you can follow that will help add structure to your life. (It will also mean that when you do get your next job, there won’t be as difficult a transition back into the structure of a working day.) If you are ending up with something like situational depression, or anything like that, a routine will help. (I know from clinical depression experience….)

      And choose one or two aspects of your life to concentrate on getting done “properly”. Based on your comment, I would focus my attention on getting the job applications and cover letters well done, with your usual attention to detail, and not worry overly much about the other things until you get called in to an interview.

      Your hours, your grooming, your choices of when to go out with family or friends – they’re not going to have a huge effect on your job search at the moment, and it sounds like you’re spending a fair bit of energy worrying about how you’re handling them now. My advice to you on those would be to not worry about them. As I mentioned, they’re not going to have a huge effect on your job search (get a call for an interview? If you’re asleep or out, a voicemail can be left, and you can worry about it when you wake up or get back), so give yourself permission to relax on those. I think doing that will also help you feel a bit better and a bit more energetic, because worrying about things can be very draining, and if you say to yourself, “I don’t need to get up early at the moment, I can enjoy the sleep in,” or “It doesn’t matter if I’m not perfectly groomed, no one’s going to care about that right now,” it can help you relax and not waste that energy on beating yourself up about those aspects.

      Anyway, just my two cents on the matter.

    27. fromscratch*

      I am so sorry. I was unemployed for 6 months this year and it’s brutal. The other 6 months I was only working part time. I got smart advice: go on LinkedIn and put an item on your work experience as “freelance consultant” for this year with generic business tasks. Put in bids on Fivr and upwork for small projects so that it’s not a lie.

      Connect with any and everyone on LinkedIn and share a post at least once a week – it makes you more visible. Turn on the open to recruitment settings if you haven’t already.

      And find free things you enjoy – go for walks, use your public library, etc. Just to get out of your house!

  16. Who’s On First*

    I have been covering many duties for a coworker who is out on maternity leave. One of the tasks is something that works very closely with our Accounting department. Basically my coworker fully completed this task and gave it to Accounting. Since I don’t have my coworker’s full training and authority in the computer system on this task, I was asked to gather all the information Accounting needed every week for this request, and Accounting would complete the task themselves.

    Accounting has put up a fight every week since my coworker has been gone, pushing back as much as possible for me to do the work myself. I’ve been standing firm because the task is not something I’m qualified to do on my own, and it is not what was agreed upon when my coworker went on maternity leave. But the worst this week is that Accounting is trying to change the process of this request entirely with new forms. They say its to streamline the process but I think it’s once again a tactic for me to do more of their work.

    The people in Accounting say they plan to present this new process to the higher ups next week for their approval and implementation, only three weeks before my coworker returns. I don’t think they should be changing the system without her say-so but they claim she’s wanted to make this change for month (which may be true but they didn’t actually advocate for this change until she left).

    Should I keep standing against the changes they’re making, and if so, how? My supervisor is not likely to back me up (she doesn’t care how the task is done as long as it gets done) so I feel on my own for getting Accounting to back down. I’ve basically kept repeating ‘I don’t have the knowledge or authority to approve of this change and it should wait until Coworker returns’ until I’m blue in the face but it’s a new fight every week.

    1. Master Bean Counter*

      Sounds like the plans to cover your coworker’s maternity leave were not adequate. On the good side this fight has an end. Coworker will be back in three weeks. I’d keep my answers simple at this point. “I can’t do that. Take it up with Supervisor if you need somebody that can.”

    2. LKW*

      I would bring it to your co-workers supervisor and give her a heads up that shits about to hit the fan. Is the accounting group the owner of the system? Primary user? How are they representing agreement from your group to higher ups? Your supervisor needs to be able to say “No, we were not contacted regarding these proposed changes and I do not know the impact to my resources with these change.”

    3. BRR*

      I’d probably push back to hold off on any changes until your coworker is back. Even if she truly wanted the change, they should still wait for her for implementation.

    4. Friday afternoon fever*

      A couple things are unclear to me, but on my first read this sounds like it could be more of a ‘not my circus, not my monkeys’ scenario. It also sounds like your accounting department is frustrating and unhelpful to work with, but those truths can exist together.

      You don’t have authority to OK this process; would your coworker if she were here? Would she have the authority to veto it? You don’t think they should change the process without your coworker’s approval, but do other people disagree? Generally best practice is to structure authority and coverage so that you can keep on business as usual if one person is on leave; is it realistic to expect Accounting to wait until your coworker returns from leave to implement changes?

      How much are they changing the process? If they do change it and your coworker comes back from leave and hates it, could she reverse it?

      Also, who is the directive to change the process coming from — Accounting or higher? If it’s someone above your level, it might not look great to push back very hard. Alison writes about how everyone has a finite (and different) amount of political capital. Is this where you want to spend yours?

      I think that changing an accounting process in a way that requires new paperwork and approval from higher-ups probably has a longer-term motivation than getting you to do more work for the next 3 weeks. They may be looking at that as a bonus, but I would be surprised if that was their main reason.

      I think you’re likely to have the best results if you object to this based on how it will affect your ability to do your job. How much is your workload changing? Is the problem that you’re doing more work or that you’re being asked to do impossible/unauthorized tasks (or both)? The former, try to quantify how much work this will add for you. If it would mean you couldn’t finish all your own work, say that too. Maybe your supervisor wants you to prioritize this accounting task over x thing you usually do. (It is only for the next 3 weeks.) The latter? Great! They can make all the changes they want — you are literally unable to complete what they’re asking of you. It’s Their Problem to fix that.

      1. Friday afternoon fever*

        Finally, I have worked with many, many unhelpful and infuriatingly difficult people. (Many! Who is hiring them? Where are they all coming from?)

        The most productive approach, for me, has been not “how can I be victorious in my battles against them” but “how can I get past this obstacle with the least amount of effort?” But YMMV.

  17. Master Bean Counter*

    I’ve hit the point of knowing my current job has an expiration date. Things are getting to a point that I cant ignore the hypocrisy anymore. Last time it took me two years to find another job. So wish me luck in finding something sooner.
    To make me feel better i’m going to get on my soap box just a little:
    I run the budget, if you make changes to your salary that are disproportionate to the rest of the company and don’t tell me for what ever reason, I’m still going to find out. And when I find out I’m not going to be happy because, not only does it throw my carefully crafted budget off, I am also going to be upset you not telling me the truth in the first place. This will lead me to be very skeptical of everything else you say as well.
    Okay, I feel a bit better now.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      WHAT! A salary bump that bypasses the person handling the budget is making my head spin. I would start auditing every expense, that’s shady nonsense.

      Is finance a limited job in your area?! Two years?! Were you looking during the recession by chance? Small area? I’m praying it takes you far less time for a new job. I found a new job within 2 weeks of deciding I needed to leave the clusterfk I was in last year. But I’m in a large area with low unemployment, lots of commerce and a seasoned accountant, so I’m aware my odds are better given mt geographical location.

      1. Master Bean Counter*

        Small market….a good chunk of employers closely linked to where I am now. Not sure I really want to risk looking with-in the same group of employers.

  18. LayoffLimbo*

    I’ve been waiting for my layoff for four months. I am not on a transition plan; they told me thinking it’d be a couple weeks, and I’m still here. I know it’s coming, I just don’t know when, and they won’t tell me. I’ve already handed off all of my projects, so I pretty much make an appearance at work so they don’t outright fire me. The severance package is too good to give up, or I’d just cut my losses and leave!!! Before I knew about this, I was tossing around the idea of starting my own business and the payout would help float me for a few months until I get ramped up. I pretty much cycle between massively pissed off that I don’t know anything and giddy that I will get to do my own thing soon (I think?). Any tips on how to keep my sanity between now and…. whenever?

    1. Dasein9*

      Can you go ahead and start your job search now? It sounds like they’re happy to pay you to do very little until axe falls, so there seems to be no reason not to use the time to your advantage.

    2. LayoffLimbo*

      I can KIND OF do some of the business stuff. I build custom electronics. It’d be crossing a line to use the equipment at my current job. (And I wouldn’t want to appear that I was raiding the parts bins for personal projects.) I already have a couple of clients lined up (if the layoff doesn’t take too much longer…) And I don’t want to incorporate until I’m sure that doing so won’t disqualify me for my severance. I do have four months of really thorough research on the current state of the industry! I’ve also done some long lunches and coffee meetings, so I now have paperwork ready to file, an accountant, bookkeeper, insurance, and lawyer identified, and some networking under my belt.

      I shouldn’t complain TOO much about still getting paid a good salary… As one friend said, “oh no, you’re still employed. What a good problem to have.” I just feel like I’ve had four months of that jittery, adrenaline-fueled, super excited yet scared feeling I used to get waiting at the starting line for races.

      1. Natalie*

        I’m not sure if you’re hourly or salaried, but are there any appointments you could get taken care off during work hours? Take a long lunch, or just leave for a couple of hours if no one is going to be looking for you. (YMMV, I’ve always worked at places that are extra flexible about butts-in-seats.) You might be busy once you are actually laid off and not want to carve out time to get your annual eye or dental appointment in.

        1. LayoffLimbo*

          Salaried. And yeah, it’s pretty flexible. Appointments are all scheduled out already and I can’t move them up because insurance, but I have been coming in late, taking long lunches, using meeting rooms as my personal office, and leaving early most days. I’ve burned through all of my PTO and have been taking quite an obnoxious number of “sick” days. (That my supervisor totally understands and says nothing about.) I will also have 60 days paid leave after my last day before I get severance that I’ll use for a lot of life’s administrative tasks and really ramping up for business.

          I mostly just want to stop thinking about the *WHEN?!?!?!?!*. Posted today because quite a few other departments got their notifications yesterday. And I’m still here! Got kind of cranky about it, tbh. And I kind of want to know why I was so special to be told months ago and no one else is aware of whether or not they’re being laid off. (I get why my position was a particularly easy one to cut, I am an organizational anomaly of epic proportions, I just wish I knew why I was TOLD.) So I’m also kind of emotional on behalf of my coworkers and their understandably high stress level.

    3. Kes*

      Agreed with the others – your business will likely take a bit to get up and running, so start working or planning on whatever parts you can now. Since work isn’t demanding, you have the time/energy to put into this to create a longer runway to get your business off the ground, so why not take advantage

    4. JaneB*

      What can you do NOW to get your new venture closer to launch? Can you focus on that?

      If you have no work and aren’t being given any, can you run past your boss the option of doing some online courses relevant to your general area of work or something like that that would give your days some structure?

  19. Moths*

    Update to a posting from a few weeks ago: I wrote in about Regina George, the terrible coworker who was enabled in treating everyone horribly. Now that she’d finally gotten on the bad side of the department head’s friend, said head was looking for dirt on her under the guise of finding things to coach on, though the intent seemed to be more to build a case for firing. I was wondering whether to bring forward the issues I’d had with her or to let it go so as to not be the one to push her in front of the bus. Thanks to everyone’s feedback, I did go talk to the department head and tried to stick to a couple of points where Regina’s behavior had interfered with my ability to do my job. It seemed to go well, but ended up being a moot point, because a few days later, Regina put in her two weeks notice! She had gotten a job somewhere else. Her last two weeks just accentuated her bad behavior, but at least now no one cared. Today was supposed to be her last day, but when I went to give her a card yesterday wishing her well at the new position, she was already gone. She’d said goodbye to the few people she deemed worthy and then left early without letting anyone else know. While there weren’t any tears shed over her leaving, there was a sense of regret that what could have been a good thing (she brought a lot of knowledge and experience) was squandered because of her behavior choices.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You’re such a good person. I hope to be like you one day. You’re truly good, I’m not being snarky or anything. This lady didn’t deserve any kindness from you and you were still being the bigger person. I wouldn’t have bothered to try saying “best wishes” let alone a card.

      As soon as she quit, I would have iced her out without another thought. Knowledge aside, she added more stress and bad atmosphere than that would ever be worth bothering with.

  20. Grace*

    I have an in person job interview next week, but unfortunately the only time available is at 10 am, so I’d have to take the whole morning off of work to go. I’m incredibly anxious about asking for the time off because I just had 3 days off this week and because it’s to interview somewhere else. Any advice on how to ask for this time off is appreciated

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Well, how do you think your boss would react to the truth? If they would be horrible about it, than I think there’s no crime in lying. Justin’s solution of “feeling sick” the afternoon before and then asking to come in late the next day can work. Or you can say you “totally forgot about a doctors appointment” and apologize profusely.

    2. Master Bean Counter*

      “I have an appointment at 10 am, I’ll be in after.” With an added, “It’s personal.” Should be enough.
      If it isn’t use the old dental appointment excuse.

    3. WellRed*

      Tell them you have an appointment and will be in right after. Or, another favorite of mine, is along the lines of a plumbing issue and you have to wait for the plumber. People take plumbing problems very seriously.

      1. Auntie Social*

        Getting a plumber out just before the weekend is a big deal. People would understand that. Your water is shut off or you have no hot water or whatever.

    4. Anona*

      I’d just ask for the time off. I wouldn’t specify a reason. If they ask, just say something personal came up.

    5. LadyByTheLake*

      When I had a series of interviews I covered by claiming a dental issue. Since a cracked tooth, root canal, temporary crown, temporary crown came off, permanent crown, permanent crown adjustment are all entirely plausible, that excuse covered a multitude of absences.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        One of my coworkers has had multiple dental appointments in the last couple of weeks. He’s about to retire so I’m 99% sure they’re actual dental appointments, but that’s totally a thing.

        Also, taking just the morning probably won’t raise any concerns. It’s just another appointment you’re getting out of the way before year’s end.

    6. Autumnheart*

      A lot of people have health insurance with use-or-lose elements that expire by the end of the year. Might you feasibly be able to use this explanation, e.g. “I’m using up my FSA money with yearly check-ups”?

      1. the cat's meow*

        “Oh no, I just had a flat tire or minor plumbing emergency at home or other temporary home situation” can be good cover… substitute other car trouble if you work in a small place with a small parking lot where people might see your car.

    7. Friday afternoon fever*

      You had to schedule a follow-up appointment; the only time they had was 10am.

      If your boss is reasonable they’ll understand. If your boss is not reasonable and will be a jerk about it, well, good (eventual) riddance. If there will be actual professional consequences, that’s more difficult to navigate but if you’re just worried about looking bad or feel guilty, it’s ok to absolve yourself.

  21. Amber Rose*

    Our department is in a Christmas battle with another department. Every inch of this office (and theirs) is covered in Christmas stuff. There’s a pile of “presents” beside my desk that my boss is trying to get to the ceiling. There are garlands on my files. Everything is soaked in glitter. The trash talk is getting ugly. Basically, it’s the usual for this time of year. I know people are always like, “avoid the religion specific stuff” but this company takes Christmas so seriously that there’s no way around it. If you work here, you have to learn to deal.

    More work specifically, can anyone from the US explain to me what a Medical Case Management Company is and how one would go about finding one? Following the arrest of the office manager of our US office, I’m trying to help them address the 25 outstanding items from their audit but the US OSHA and the Canadian OH&S are just different enough that I’m at a loss.

    1. Auntie Social*

      They’re often RNs, BSNs, MDs who are patient advocates, often dealing in complicated cases like auto accidents that require multiple specialities. They are beyond wonderful. Google Medical Case Management Company and your state or city.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Why the heck would they need to have one? As far as I know, the US office employs a whole five people, and only two of them are ever even remotely at risk of harm.

        I can see why large companies would want them, but this seems like a huge expense for a small company.

          1. Amber Rose*

            Another company we do business for I think? They did an audit of the publicly available information on an online H&S document management account that we have to share with them. The audit is basically “here’s a list of things you must have to continue to do business with us.”

            Some of it is valid. Some of it is very strange and nonsensical to me. Some of it is so firmly entrenched in US and Texas specific law that I don’t even know where to start trying to figure out wtf to do about it. And of course, there’s a ton of paperwork that needs to be signed, which I can’t possibly do for them from my desk here in Canada.

            1. CDM*

              Ah, that’s a different kettle of fish. I deal with the insurance part of these types of contracts and agreements, and it’s not uncommon for a giant corporation to tell a small company that they must meet all these ridiculous requirements. But that’s not an absolute, that’s the starting point of negotiations. Companies can and do waive requirements and modify contracts, especially if you can point out concrete reasons why a requirement should not apply to your company.

              We had giant big box store chain tell a gauze manufacturer that they needed a $20M product liability policy because gauze pads were classified as the same category of risk as OTC medications. The risk isn’t nearly the same, we got the gauze reclassified into a lower risk category of products and provided evidence of a much lower product liability insurance limit.

              So for that one, you could tell them that there are 5 US employees, and any medical case management necessary would be handled by your workers compensation carrier, XYZ Insurance Co. That should be sufficient to satisfy the requirement, or you could ask for the medical case management requirement to be waived as you only have 5 US employees.

        1. CDM*

          And if employees are injured at the workplace, the workers compensation carrier would handle medical case management if necessary. I can’t see why OSHA would require an employer to maintain a separate medical case management service?

          1. Natalie*

            Texas employers generally aren’t required to carry workers comp insurance – they can essentially chose to self insure” without having to do anything. I wonder if this is a service that has cropped up to handle that.

            1. CDM*

              Yeah, the bit about Texas cross-posted while I was typing. This could be an either-or requirement, either provide evidence of workers comp coverage or of medical case management for employees. Hard to know without seeing the requirement.

      1. Amber Rose*

        “Glitter and tensions are running high. How long will the smiles last? Find out next time on: Merry Christmas Motherf***er.”

        1. Friday afternoon fever*

          After “the arrest of our office manager”? I for sure would tune in or read the expose. This is fascinating.

  22. Even Steven*

    Hi Alison and AAM folks! Just want to say a big, warm thank you to everyone here for their sage advice and great encouragement. Thanks to you all, I quit my toxic job in July to tackle some work-caused and not-work-caused health issues, and once tackled, I started to look for work. Voila! Just got a terrific job, and I start today! Wheeeeeee! And it’s all because you all made me brave enough to plan to quit, to focus on health, to then have a neutral script for my health break and my former toxic job, and ultimately, to believe in my worth and myself. lison, your always sensible advice and your terrific forum here changed my life in no small way. Thank you from the bottom my (healthy, employed) heart!

    1. Armchair Analyst*

      Thank you also for spelling “Viola!” correctly and not “Viola!” which always makes me laugh and feel badly for the internet commenter.

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

    This morning’s letter about mental health days and the one earlier this week about the coworker falling asleep at their desk got me thinking about my own situation. I’m dealing with chronic fatigue of unknown origins along with an invisible illness. My boss is aware and has given me permission to work from home / flex my time / do whatever I need to stay productive but also take care of myself. He’s great and I couldn’t be in a better situation there, but my problem is with my team lead.

    He is in the office 50% of the time and works from home the other 50%, and the last few times we were in meetings together, I definitely nodded off thanks to my fatigue combined with a new medication. I’m mortified but don’t know whether I should tell him what’s going on. He hasn’t said anything to me about it but he’s not the confrontational type so I didn’t expect him to. We both report to the same manager and our work relationship is that of peers, but he assigns me tasks within the team. We’ve worked together for the past 3 years and this is a new thing for me, but I’m worried that he’s seeing only the worst lately because he’s not in the office all of the times that I am on my game. On the other hand, I don’t want to overshare my personal problems with team members that don’t really need to know.

    WWYD: tell my team lead what’s going on, or continue as I have and just work through it with my manager? FWIW, the script in my head is more or less “I know I haven’t been at 100% lately, I’m dealing with some health issues to get back on track. Nothing to worry about, but I know I haven’t been as on top of things as I have been before and wanted to give you context”.

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

        I’ve already talked to my manager and used basically that script, but I’m wondering if I need to tell my team lead who’s more of a peer.

        1. Anona*

          I would, if you’re comfortable. It’s a nice generic response, but let’s them know that you’re aware of it and are addressing it, since I’m sure they’re noticing. You could even tell them that your manager is aware, if you want

        2. Armchair Analyst*

          I would. And you can add, I have spoken to Manager about it, so just so you know I’m above-board and am totally productive, just maybe not in a meeting during a tough day at the office.

          1. JaneB*

            Yes, this, definitely – your peer is probably worried, I know I would be, and this would be reassuring

    1. LQ*

      As a team lead/someone assigning tasks I’d want to know because I might be able to shift work around for a little while. And not have to start hemming and hawing on when do I need to start going to the boss about it. And as someone who assigns work that script is awesome. I’d probably ask about shifting tasks or work to make it better for a while and I hope you get back to well quickly.
      And I’d want you to tell me if/when it needs to shift back too. Like a “hey, I can take more of this, you don’t have to schedule meetings at this time, things have changed” whatever, if it’s not obvious, or even if it is I think that if things changed because of you when the thing that made it changed changes again you can bring it up and go, hey does this time still work for people, hey I can take on more of that, whatever.

      (And even if you just make it clear that the nodding off in meetings is a health thing and you feel bad that can help. I’ve had people tell me that, it still feels bad, but not nearly so much and not personal.)

    2. CastIrony*

      It would be good to tell your team lead what’s going on with the script you came up with. Let them know your higher-up already knows, too.

  24. Where's My Raise? :(*

    Hey everyone – A question about annual bonuses. I started a new job in March of this year, and as part of my negotiations, I worked one salary for the first six months and then “if I met performance expectations” I would get a salary bump. I met expectations and received said salary bump at the end of August.

    Now, everyone at my work is super excited about a letter they received with their paychecks that says they’re getting annual bonuses. I did not receive a letter and when I asked my boss about it, he replied that I don’t qualify for a raise because of the one I received in August.

    Is this normal? Or no, since it was part of a negotiated rate at the start of employment?

      1. Someone Else*

        I realize this may not help you not in your current position, but I’ve known people who in similar situations actually negotiated certain target-based bonuses for within their first however many months. Then they were still eligible for the normal raise cycle, but also had the extra cash from the bonus sooner. Basically it came out of salary negotiation that they wanted to start at X but company said no, only X-Y. So they agreed to start at X-Y, but if they achieved certain very high goals the company said “yeah if you actually pull that off, you’re worth the extra Y.” So then they got their Y as a bonus 3 months in, but 8 months later when annual raises happened, they still got it.
        Not every company would agree to that, and not every company’s raise policy would necessarily work out the way I describe, but it might be a tactic worth considering in the future, or at least asking about.

    1. Murphy*

      It’s crappy of them not to have explained to you a) how annual raises typically work and b) that your negotiation disqualified you for an annual raise.

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

        It’s unfortunate but yes, this is pretty normal especially in a new job. This happened in my first job and I was pretty disappointed, but ended up with a bigger raise the next year that compensated for it. Maybe that’s something you can talk to your manager about to make sure you’re being paid fairly compared to your peers in the future.

    2. Tara S.*

      I don’t know about bonuses (I work in public education), but I know here a raise during a certain part of the year will disqualify you from receiving a merit increase. For example, our research staff are on a cycle where their merit raises would go into effect starting in October. If they already received a raise in May or later, they would be disqualified from receiving a merit increase. If they received a raise in April or earlier, they are eligible for the merit increase. I think it’s about having had enough time to “earn” the merit increase on top of the raise. Still, if your company works like that, they should have explained that to you.

      1. Where's My Raise? :(*

        Thanks for the answer. I agree they should have given me a heads up. I think they didn’t mention it because they were hoping I wouldn’t hear about the raises. But we all talk to each other, duh!

        1. valentine*

          If they’re on the level, there’s no need to hide this. They could’ve mentioned it at any time. Are these all merit raises? If they’re different amounts, you should come out the same or ahead. If x+y=z and, according to the regular raise structure, you earned z, you should argue that, having earned/received the negotiated x, you should now receive y, to bring you to where you’d be had there been no negotiation.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is a normal procedure. Some places do allow for a small nominal raise for new employees in this case, we do that just as a standard COLA to keep people from slipping below the bar.

    4. Autumnheart*

      Pretty normal. My situation involved an actual bonus as opposed to a raise, but at the time, I was moved into a higher pay grade in August that qualified for the annual bonus, which are awarded at the end of the fiscal year, in April. I received a bonus in April, but it was pro-rated only for the 7 months that I was paid at the higher pay grade. Boo, but oh well. The following year, I got the full bonus.

  25. I’m going anon today*

    The lady that does my job at our sister location (very front facing, public role) was arrested Monday for possession of marijuana (very much illegal in our state) and evading arrest. Our boss is normally pretty forgiving about these types of things, but apparently our boss caught her with pot at work once before and she’s been warned about coming in to work under the influence, abc she’s uh, not the best employee anyway, so those things factored together ended in her getting fired. My heart goes out to her and I’m pretty pro-legalization, but that doesn’t change that it’s very illegal here.

    Then yesterday I got to use one of Alison’s scripts. The head of an industry competitor and I both serve on a prestigious local board. He’s the current chairman and the board has named me chair-elect, much to his dismay. We don’t like each other, but we play nice. Mostly. He’s male, mid-60s, I’m female, mid-40s. At his business, he’s two steps up the job ladder than where I am at work, but I’m much more well known in the community because I’m kind of the “face” of my business. I asked him a question yesterday and he gave me a bullshit non-answer that included a subtle dig about him being at a higher professional level than me. I quickly said with the most bewildered expression “What an odd thing to say! You’re in the community so much I thought surely…”. You get the idea. It was satisfying.

      1. I’m going anon today*

        When I went home and told husband, he said, “that’s a really good line.” I told him I got it here and he said he’s going to steal it too.

          1. I*

            He’s such a pompous ass that he doesn’t embarrass easily(if ever), but everyone else snickered or had a small smile.

    1. froodle*

      Ooooh i love a good “what an odd thing to say” burn. Saw someone in my office use it a couple of months ago on a weight shaming asshat and thank my about it still makes me smile. Masterful.

  26. Betts*

    Hi everyone! I’m curious if anyone has experience with older coworkers who may be showing some signs of confusion/forgetfulness/irritability as they age? I have a coworker who is about 75 and recently has been neglecting some tasks, says she never received information that I have in person given to her, and her mind generally seems to be elsewhere. I’m not sure if she’s having any kind of trouble or if she’s starting to get lazy/complacent with her job.

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      Yes. We have a campus admin about whom several of us are very concerned. She is easily confused, gets frustrated and lashes out at colleagues and sometimes students, and can’t remember how to do basic job tasks that she has been performing for over 30 years. The administration is aware, but we are afraid they are waiting for something bad to happen to justify getting involved. She has a lengthy drive each day and we are so concerned that she is going to get lost or hurt – or hurt someone else. We too welcome any advice!

    2. Tara S.*

      I have a coworker/manager I work with in her 70’s. I found her a bit frustrating a first for things like this (not grabbing the most recent file to pull numbers from, not remembering an email I sent) but I’ve shifted my perspective over time. She has a ton of institutional knowledge and is not hugely resistant when I bring up how we could change processes, so she’s been a good mentor and ally at work. For the other more “absent-minded” stuff, I’m just more matter of fact about things and have chosen not to get too wrapped up in it. It used to bother me a lot, but now I keep a light, matter-of-fact, not-blaming tone for dealing with the slip ups. “Oh, actually it’s this file, I think the number is actually $X.” “Oh, I sent that email last week. Would you like me to send it again?” In my case, these slip-ups don’t lead to any major errors, just a slight delay maybe, so I’ve learned to roll with it.

    3. bunniferous*

      Are most of the problems connected with short term memory? Then it absolutely could be a medical issue. My mother is a little older and starting to show similar behavior.

    4. WellRed*

      I had a coworker like this (she recently retired). It was less obvious and she’s only 65 but I wondered if I’d eventually have to say something. I was especially worried because her husband has his own chronic health problems along with a serious, related lack of executive reasoning. It’s hard.

    5. Wishing You Well*

      The symptoms you describe could be anything. If it’s health-related or personal, it’s not your business.
      However, you can focus on the ways your co-worker is affecting your job. Consider giving her information in WRITING. Annoying, yes, but you’d have proof you gave her needed info. If you have to talk to her boss, keep it job-focused and explain what isn’t getting done and what you need to get your work done.
      Best of Luck.

    6. LayoffLimbo*

      Maybe she recently got bad news and it’s distracting her from her day to day? I wouldn’t jump straight to “she’s getting old and going senile” if it’s really just recent.

    7. Snow Drift*

      A colleague of mine had this issue, it was absolutely the beginning of dementia (verified), and he was gently coerced into retirement. His work had significant safety risks, and it was not feasible to re-make the job to accommodate his decline. It was unfortunate.

    8. EvilQueenRegina*

      This is sort of timely because I was thinking about posting here about a coworker who has recently started asking me lots of questions about tasks which she has been doing for a few years, same as me, and these particular tasks haven’t changed. The idea of a medical issue has crossed my mind but I don’t feel I should bring it up with her. She recently gave me and another coworker two weeks of silent treatment over not showing up for a dinner that she had never actually confirmed an arrangement with us in the first place and I now wonder if that was a memory thing too.

  27. OlympiasEpiriot*

    GAAAAAHHHH!!! Proposed budget approvals!!!!

    There is one person who I sometimes have to work with who is fanatical about reducing whatever kind of budget I present by some amount. Then, when we have trouble producing the work product without going over budget, he reprimands us for not being efficient enough.

    No, mister-I’m-terrified-someone’s-going-to-think-we’re-too-expensive, I gave you a budget based on the hours we NEED to complete the job. My estimate was correct. You insisted it wasn’t. You were wrong.

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      And even that budget was L-E-A-N!

      Instead, I had to bury the time into office tasks on my timesheet. Now my utilisation ratio gets affected.

      1. Tara S.*

        It’s annoying that this person is sort of forcing you into this situation, but, yeah, if you know they’re going to cut, build in some fat. Not the way it should be, but sometimes frustrating people force you into it.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          The absolutely most annoying thing about this is that I have worked with him and enjoyed working with him when he was the llama stable supervisor and I was a lowly llama driver. He is master of all technical llama knowledge, from breeding and illnesses to their interactions with jaguars and even foreign marsupials. I love working with him in all other ways except that now he is one of the Draft Animal And Team Rental Agency owners and is not cut out for the ownership fiduciary duties side.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            I absolutely love your wildly extended llama metaphor! I don’t think I’ve ever seen llamation done better here. :)

      2. OlympiasEpiriot*

        Sorry, what I should have included in my other answer to you was, at the moment, my strategy is to work with people between me and him on the letterhead who agree that my estimates are right and have them back me up and it gets into an odd intra-office negotiation. But, with smaller jobs, I don’t have that protection. Also, in the incredibly unlikely event that I get promoted into that letterhead level, I certainly won’t have the buffer; although, I might have other ways of negotiating at that point.

        I sometimes also have the benefit of having a client who specifically tells me to be conservative with the estimates — usually because we are part of a joint venture on a large, multi-agency infrastructure project and there will be a lot of approvals and coordination time that needs to be built in. Unless it is a lump sum, we only bill for time actually worked. Its not like we are scamming anyone here.

        1. Master Bean Counter*

          Is there a penalty for going over budget? Weigh that carefully against going over enough so that people see it’s a problem.

          1. OlympiasEpiriot*

            For agency jobs, the penalty is that I can’t bill more than the original contract without going through a change-order process. For something that is less than $1,000, it is not worth it because it frequently involves at least one other consultant. So, we eat it. For private jobs, it means we look sloppy to our clients AND there’s change orders. Or if a very small job, we just tack on the extra $500 bucks or whatever.

            It also leaves NO buffer if they come back with a question or a need for another clarifying conference call. I really prefer to leave one or two hours of billing value on the table (so to speak) when a job is finished rather than be half an hour over.

            I don’t get an official penalty. Just a perception on the review front. Which is almost entirely run in perception-not-quantitative-measurement way anyhow, and after all these years I shouldn’t care, but, I’m in One Of Those Moods Today.

            1. Master Bean Counter*

              Well if you’re in one of those moods…..
              Start tracking the original estimate, the amount you were asked to cut, and the amount that the job really cost. Prove to the chop shop guy that you really do know what you’re doing. Make sure to point all of the “free” work you are giving the client.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              It’s fun to think about a line item built into each estimate:
              Time Spent Arguing With Bob: 5 hours @$100/hr.

              I hope you can stop burying your time. That is really a form of falsely representing costs.

              He sounds like his an okay person overall. Can you talk this over with him objectively?

    2. LKW*

      Point it out. Point out the history. I gave you this, you cut it by this, we overspent by this. Had you gone with my original budget it would have been within a tolerable amount.

      Sometimes I like to point out that projects are bound by the rules of time and space.

      1. Binky*

        If I was any good at embroidery I’d have a little wall hanging saying “I cannot warp the space-time continuum, no, not even for you.”

  28. CastIrony*

    Hello. I asked a question about an internal position and the chance that I wouldn’t get the job two Friday threads ago.

    On the Monday after I asked my question, my supervisor and boss asked me to go into my boss’s office and privately told me together that despite having interviewed well, they chose to go with someone with more experience (while I was having the worst migraine in years, no less) and a stronger certificate, even though that was not in the requirements. I asked for feedback and even asked for more training because I have been working for them for over five years.

    However, because another similar position could likely take years to open up again, I am continuing to look for full-time work elsewhere as I change fields altogether.

    1. irene adler*

      I’m sorry they didn’t select you.
      But I’m pleased to see that you are advocating for yourself by looking elsewhere. Hope you find a company that truly values your skills- and you too!

      1. CastIrony*

        Thanks, irene alder, and I hope I find a job that values my work, especially since they chose my boss’s sister (My boss wasn’t part of the interviewing committee, at least.) It felt like such a slap to the face, but I’m getting over that now because I can’t change the fact, and it was fair.

  29. TotesMaGoats*

    Wednesday was a great day. My boss came and told me that he had nominated me for a special “rising stars” program at a local quasi chamber of commerce type organization in our city. It’s for people under 40 who will move into executive positions. This is huge because the group in my city that runs this is a major player and the connections will be amazing. I’m so excited because it’s something I’ve always hoped to be able to do. Fingers crossed that I make the cut.

  30. Dasein9*

    How much say do I have over the direction of my development as an employee? When the boss asks me to perform a task, I do as I’m asked to the best of my ability, because that’s what work is. But my supervisor, Fergus, has decided that I will be developed in a certain broad direction and it’s one I’m not interested in.

    Fergus wants me to be more of a lead for my team, checking in with colleagues and helping to manage workflow (with no raise or promotion). I am uninterested in managing people, enjoy making teapots, and want to be more involved with making exotic teapots. I might like to eventually use my extensive background in teakettle design and use to design teapots here, and the design team is seriously understaffed.

    At my evaluation early this week, I earned top marks in all objective criteria and was asked to a) become a team lead and b) do a better job managing my stress when projects get absurd. The stress issue isn’t over anything egregious, but was presented to me as an area that could use some attention. Managing other people stresses me out.

    Oh, and I’m classified as a kind of temp employee, without full benefits, and have been for 15 months with always a promise of promotion to full-time at some vague future time and increasing amounts of responsibility, including high-profile projects and training other members of staff.

    Do I actually have to become a people manager if I want to stay a bit longer?

    1. fposte*

      The answer to that question is “It’s up to the company.” But it sounds like it might be useful to just outright ask. “Hey, you guys seem to need me in management; while that’s interesting, I’d love to move more into design. Is that a possibility? Or is the management direction the one that would really matter for me to be taken on permanently?”

    2. Kes*

      Agreed with fposte. The company may want you to move in that direction. However, it may also be that your boss wants to develop you and help you move up and thinks this is a good fit. Have you talked to Fergus about what you want and are interested in (and about how you could become full time)?

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I think it’s important to remember that you’re allowed to ask about what you want, not just what they want.

    3. valentine*

      If you’re incorrectly classified, they’re stealing from you. Now, they want even more, a faux-promotion that sounds more like team lead than manager. Do you want to stay there? Tell them the moves you’d like to make and include info about it being a permanent position.

  31. NerdyKris*

    I sent this in a few weeks ago, but I think it’s safe to post here with a bit of a change in focus:

    I’m in New Hampshire, right on the border of Massachusetts. A good chunk of the employees at my job live in Mass. The offices are in New Hampshire. Recreational weed was just legalized in Massachusetts as of the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I know that the company drug tests and fired people for medicinal marijuana in the past. My original question was how to approach asking if that policy has changed given the new laws in a neighboring state. But now I’m worried that a lot employees are going to assume it’s okay, because people assume you can’t be fired for legal activities outside of work. Should I approach management about putting out a clarifying notice since they’re risking a lot of good employees failing drug tests?

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Yes, but I also think they need to double check with their legal counsel to make sure they are on solid ground about this. IANAL, but, I would think there might be some issues that would benefit from revisiting even if it doesn’t change anything.

    2. DiscoTechie*

      In Michigan here, the recreational marijuana ballot proposal passed and is set to go into effect shortly. A few days after the election we got a email from our company president reiterating our company drug policy which has a clause “any other substance which effects an employee’s ability to perform their job safely and competently.” Basically it iterated that the marijuana is still a banned substance in regards to our policy, our is more clear cut in that it states under the influence during work, possession of banned substances on company premises or in company vehicles, and criminal activity (on any time) is prohibited. The email was very chill and in a “just to clarify, weed is still a banned substance” .

      TL:DR A simple email reiterating your company’s policies regarding banned substances and the protocols around them and stating that marijuana is still banned substance at your work place should be helpful and provide a clear documentation of that policy being discussed/reinforced.

      1. LJay*


        We got a similar letter reminding us that even thought marijuana may be legal in some of the states where we live or work, it is still a banned substance under the DOT regulations (relevant to many of our positions) and still against our company drug policy, and that it was not okay for us to use it on or off the clock.

    3. AnotherLibrarian*

      This is a really great question and I wish I had a good answer. I mean, I do think you should remind folks that marijuana is still illegal on a federal level. So, it’s not really legal at all. I don’t know the best way to approach this, but maybe ask your supervisor if anyone has considered this? I’d also think it would depend on the work you are in. There are fields were even recreational use could be considered an issue.

    4. Doug Judy*

      So when I was in grad school one of my cohorts actually did a whole presentation on this. While it’s going vary by each company, the stance is usually that employees can still be fired because it’s still illegal at the federal level
      it’s s not legal in the state the business is located. It wouldn’t hurt to ask, but make sure it’s clear you aren’t planning a trip across the boarder.

      1. Tara S.*

        ^ Even in Colorado you can still get fired for smoking weed off hours. Workplaces are allowed to ban the use of it since it’s still federally illegal. (Ex: all CO state employees can be fired for using cannabis. I’ve never heard of them enforcing this, but they could.)

        1. Admin of Sys*

          What Tara said. Federal law still counts cannabis as a controlled substance, and as such, it’s usually covered under any/all drug policies at a company.
          But even if it wasn’t, afaik an at-will company is entirely permitted to fire you for something that’s legal in the off hours, assuming it’s not something related to protected class.

          1. Natalie*

            Oddly, this came up a while back with some letter, and as it turns out a number of states specifically protect certain off-hours legal behaviors, mainly tobacco use, but also in some states alcohol, political activities, etc. I think some of the laws were written about that broadly – i.e. protect any legal behavior.

            1. Natalie*

              (However, I should have noted that my recollection is that a number of the laws were amended to specifically *not* protect off-duty marijuana use, so it’s not necessarily relevant to the OP’s specific issue. Just interesting more generally.)

              1. fposte*

                I wonder if any of the states with tobacco use protections have gone legal on weed yet. Not that they have to overlap, but it’s kind of an interesting cognitive dissonance.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  I was just thinking, but-but-but there are companies that will fire you for having a cigarette…

                2. Working Hypothesis*

                  Why cognitive dissonance? You can’t be fired for smoking cigarettes when you’re NOT on the premises of the business anywhere that I know of — only for smoking when you and your cigarette are physically located at the office. Nobody is disputing that companies can and do fire people for having legal weed on them while they and their weed are located at the office… of course they can. What the questions involve is whether they can/should be able to fire people for using weed on their own time and their own property, without the company’s space involved at all.

        2. Operational Chaos*

          Can also confirm Colorado on this. It’s something to be especially wary of if your company is based outside of the state where recreational is legalized even if you live in a state that it. They’re often seemingly more inclined to test you, especially if they’re looking for an excuse to bounce you. There’s been a handful of lawsuits regarding off duty activities for it, but until it’s federally legalized, it’s a play at your own (probably minimal) risk as for as employment goes.

    5. Sleepytime Tea*

      I have lived in 2 states where marijuana became legal recreationally and while a handful of people questioned whether or not that meant that they could be fired for popping on a drug test, the vast majority of people understood that the company policy still forbid it because 1) it’s still illegal federally 2) it’s still a safety issue, it could impair your ability to do your job and 3) just because something is legal doesn’t mean your employer can’t prohibit it (think alcohol). The company I worked for did send out a reminder that company policy was not changing, even if the law was.

      But seriously, people can ABSOLUTELY be fired for doing legal things outside of work. In fact I have had to sign a code of ethics for multiple low level jobs that basically said if I did something that embarrassed the company, even on my own time, I could be fired. I mean I also worked in an at-will state, but yeah, you can be fired for what you do outside of work.

      1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        Yeah, you can be fired for just about anything. There’s a bunch of notorious people who were fired for writing racist tweets, being photographed giving the president motorcade the middle finger, being racist towards other people at their neighborhood pool (just a couple of examples that come to mind)… If it’s not a protected class issue, your company can fire you for being a bonehead in your private time despite the fact that free speech is in the Bill of Rights.

        People always seem to forget that protected speech does not mean consequence free speech, and that your government imprisoning you isn’t the same thing as losing your TV job…

        So, in this situation, it’s pretty obvious. Marijuana is still illegal federally and in New Hampshire. Your company can (different question as to whether they *should*) fire employees for using it. They could probably even do that if it was legal federally and in your state since recreational drug use is not a protected class.

    6. darlingpants*

      Did it just get decriminalized in NH as well? I don’t know when that kicks in but I think it’s worth approaching your company and asking them to clarify what the policy is in light of the legalization all over New England.

    7. ZuZu*

      I live in MA and our pre-employment drug test does still include marijuana testing, and if you fail, you can’t be hired (exceptions are made for medicinal patients). Recreational marijuana has been legal for a couple of years here, but the first dispensary opened last week. So, no legal changes recently except that now you can purchase weed at a dispensary. I would assume that if your company has not proactively notified employees of a policy change then there hasn’t been one.

    8. I want a nap.*

      Also in NH. My employer put out a memo as others described reiterating that: we only drug test employees legally required to be tested, and as those legal requirements result from federal transportation laws, there is no change in policy.

    9. Ama*

      I absolutely think pointing out to management that they should put out a clarification about the impact (or lack thereof) of the new laws on your company’s drug test policy is worth doing. If I recall, when Colorado and Washington first legalized a bunch of companies with offices in multiple states (including the NFL) sent around similar notices.

      In my personal opinion, when it comes to work policies, you are always better off assuming people need occasional reminders.

    10. epi*

      If that’s your company policy, yeah, they should clarify it now. Firing people for using medical marijuana is harsh bordering on ridiculous unless there is a regulatory or safety reason that use *outside of work* could affect the company or the work. That’s rare, frankly. People with a legitimate reason they should never be using marijuana, even therapeutically, even outside of work, generally know who they are. Others may not be able to predict that this will be your company’s stance.

      This could also depend on your industry. My husband works in an industry where recreational pot use is common and pre-employment drug testing is rare. If they get a client who wants it, it’s common for people to opt out of that project without penalty. I am a health researcher, so whether I will be drug tested (pre-employment, anyone could be tested for cause obviously) depends on: whether I work in government; whether my organi