open thread – December 21-22, 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.

{ 1,282 comments… read them below }

  1. SouthernBelle*

    So, three weeks ago, I was notified that my contract with my employer’s client was going to end 4 months earlier than expected. Timing-wise (holidays) it sucked but it wasn’t completely unexpected, so I was prepared to put my resume out there pretty much immediately. Last week, I received an offer to do exactly what I was doing in my current contract, with people that I’ve worked with in the past. However, about a week after I put my resume out there, I was contacted by a recruiter regarding a different position that offered more growth and was with an organization that I had been looking to get into for quite some time. I went through the interview process and received an offer for that position yesterday. It’s clearly my first choice as it will offer opportunities that I would not have at the 1st company and gives me the chance to have a mentor who is truly interested in my professional growth. My question is, how do I approach rescinding my initial acceptance of the first offer? The hiring manager for that position (C-suite member of the organization) will more than likely take it personally that I’m backing out and I can pretty much guarantee that I would never be offered another position working with them again after I back out, but this opportunity is one that I would be a fool to pass up.

    1. irene adler*

      My take: be completely honest about the opportunity you were offered (mentor, professional growth, etc.). Then they will understand why you’d want to take advantage of it.

      Anyone who would begrudge you this offer really lacks professionalism if they take it personally. Only you have your best interests at heart.

      IN fact, if say, six months from now, you make casual mention of having passed on a fabulous offer, folks would be sad that you missed out. Wouldn’t you be if you’d heard a co-worker had passed on an opportunity similar to yours?

      1. SouthernBelle*

        I agree with the honesty 100% – I definitely plan to be transparent when I make contact. And yes, I would feel bad for anyone who had missed an opportunity like the one I’ve described because they didn’t want to ruffle feathers.

    2. Stacy*

      Depending on the formality with which you accepted the offer (did you receive written confirmation, find a start date, etc?) I think there is a way to professionally rescind: an in-person or phone conversation. Don’t leave it to email, and communicate that your decision is more about the new opportunity being un-pass-up-able than the old one being a bad fit. It might be awkward, but you’re not obligated to perform the job you accepted, and most reasonable people will be disappointed but understanding. Good luck!

      1. SouthernBelle*

        That’s part of what’s tripping me up. I never sent my formal, written acceptance BUT I did start their paperwork process (but have not completed it, which will technically keep me from being “hired” in their system). There are two entities at play – the hiring manager and their organization and the people I would actually be working for until the contract converts to permanent. I’m not as concerned about the latter; they are a staffing organization and should more than understand where I’m coming from. I’m mostly concerned with burning bridges with the hiring manager.

    3. Clay on my apron*

      However you approach it you’ll be burning bridges. But to minimise the damage, let Company A know as soon as possible so that they can resume interviewing, acknowledge the impact on them, and apologise. Then move on.

      Be sure that this new offer at Company B is really as fantastic as it seems though, because you’re not just trading off the job at Company A, but as you say, all future opportunities with that organisation, and probably any organisation that the hiring manager moves to in the future.

      Good luck.

      1. SouthernBelle*

        Good points… for various reasons, Company B is the better option and is worth the risks associated with all the bridge burning that may occur. This hiring manager is known for being brilliant but impulsive, which doesn’t speak much for stability, and, deep down, that scares me just enough to give me pause.

        1. Clay on my apron*

          Sounds like a good thing that Company B made you an offer then :) good luck and enjoy your new role!

    4. Tysons in NE*

      I am in a situation similar with contracting.
      I would go with your first choice. Explain that you have received an offer much closer/better suited to your long term goals. The wording that employers often use in their rejections should work.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Apologize, flatter, apologize, explain, thank them.

      “I am deeply regretful about telling you my news. I have always thought so highly of your company and I was totally honored that your company made me an offer. I am very sorry to have to withdraw my application, I have received an offer that was beyond anything I expected and is a huge opportunity for me. Thank you so much for your time in considering my application, I wish you the absolute best in your search.”

      You get the overall idea, don’t lie, don’t say anything you do not sincerely mean. I think it is okay to say you are VERY sorry or deeply regretful or whatever, because you ARE. You would not have taken the time to post here if this did not bother you in the least. It bothers you and it’s okay to say that because you are going forward with your preferred choice anyway.

      1. SouthernBelle*

        You’re right – it does bother me to some extent. But I do like your approach and I think it would go a long way toward mitigating the feelings that might crop up after it’s all said and done.

  2. What’s with Today, today*

    So my co-worker who I’ve visited with y’all about before, first job out of college, 22-year-old male, typically very conscientious and a hard worker…has gotten a big head. He is THE most junior full time person in our office of 7 full timers, and has no authority over anyone except a few high school kids that work part time at night. He’s been here under 2 years and everyone else has been here more than 10 years.

    His official title is Teapot Director, but every four years we have a big inspection during the fall and the Teapot Director handles it. It’s not hard but it’s time consuming, mostly compiling a lot of already existing paperwork prior to the inspection. We all help when we can but it’s solely his responsibility. During the inspection, my boss gives the Teapot Director the added title of Chief Teapot Engineer (because that title is what’s on the inspection forms) and some extra compensation. The inspection lasts three days. The title is meaningless to us and what we actually do, but is required for the inspection.

    The inspection was during September, and ever since he’s been making jokes about being the boss b/c he’s Chief Operations Engineer. Heading out to lunch? He makes a joke about asking him for permission. Attending a meeting? He makes a joke about him being the boss and needing to be apprised. Taking a day off (with the actual boss’ permission)? He’ll comment, “Now, you didn’t ask me if that was okay.” It was cute at first it’s really, really not now. At first I thought he was only doing it to me, but no, he’s doing it to everyone in the office except the actual boss, who isn’t here often.

    Yesterday, he made the joke and I told him to stop. I told him the joke had run its course, wasn’t funny and needed to stop. I was direct. This morning, our office manager came in and relayed this story: Yesterday afternoon, she was telling him she still needed him to do XYZ so she could finish her work, which was due, and he said in a joking tone, “Now, Janice, you need to watch how you talk to the boss.” She immediately said firmly “YOU ARE NOT MY BOSS.” I’m surprised she didn’t knock him out(joke). I didn’t hear this first can’t, but it’s just got to stop. Next time he does it I’m going to tell him one more time and I’m going to the boss. I know I could totally just go to the boss now, but I want him to know it’s coming if the behavior doesn’t change. I’m not his official boss, but I have seniority and a higher title and I’m done.

    I’m trying so hard to teach him professional norms…

    1. EddieSherbert*

      Yeah, that’s annoying. Considering it’s literally a joke and he seems like he’s saying it as a joke… it’s weird that he didn’t stop the second someone told him the joke was getting old. I mean, I also think it’s weird that the joke has lasted 3 months, but some people are clueless like that.

      I’d personally try a “why are you still doing that joke? That was like three months ago and you still say it every week (or day or hour or whatever)” before going to the *(actual) boss – but I am also genuinely curious why.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Oh, dear lord. My dad is a joke-repeater. He says it’s his “signature material”. I say one man’s signature material is everyone else’s “beating a dead horse”.

        1. BenAdminGeek*

          Oh man, I love this term. I’m using it with all my terrible jokes to my children going forward.

        2. CoveredInBees*

          Ugh, yes! My father in law does this and the jokes weren’t funny the first time. One is kinda rude. When someone doesn’t laugh, he’ll look at them expectantly and act like they didn’t get it and badger them to find it funny.

          1. Flash Bristow*

            Ask them, in all seriousness, to explain it – what is funny about it? Jokes get so much less funny and less satisfying that way.

            Drill down: “no, still don’t get it… So could you explain about x?” etc.

            Maybe he’ll find it less fun himself?

        3. TeacherLady*

          Yes! I had an ex who did this. He had a rotation of about 5 jokes that at first ranged between funny and not my taste, but after many years became deeply unfunny. But he laughed heartily every time he told one, as if it were the first time.
          I don’t think anyone ever said something, but if they had, I’m not sure one or two comments would have changed the jokes, which seemed to have worn deep grooves in his brain :p

    2. Anony*

      I would jokingly tell him he’s not my boss nicely and ignore his comments about being the boss. He should get the message.

      1. What’s with Today, today*

        Sorry, maybe I wasn’t clear, we’ve been doing that since it started. It’s a daily, sometimes multiple times a day thing. It’s becoming harder to laugh off and ignore. Yesterday was the first time someone was direct and told him stop, and it didn’t seem to sink in.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Time to pull out an Alison question. “We have asked you to stop with those jokes. The jokes have not stopped. Why?” Then fall silent and wait.

          1. The Doctor*

            He doesn’t see it as a joke. He interprets his “Chief” title as meaning that you report to him. He needs the actual boss to set him straight.

          2. Not another Liz*

            The person who asks the question has the power. Putting him on the spot for an explanation/justification of his behavior is a direct way to get him to acknowledge what he is doing and how despite his ‘jokes’ he is not in a role that answers to no-one.

          3. Coffee and Steak*

            Yes — even saying “why do you keep saying that?” then after his explanation follow with – “jokes are supposed to be funny, and that is not funny, it is annoying.”

        2. Kris*

          I’m so sorry. I have a coworker who has been trotting out the same old, lame joke about me off and on for several years. It is so annoying. I used to laugh with her but now I stare at her blankly, ignore her, or simply leave her presence when she does it. Fortunately it only happens once every month or so, so I’m able to get by with this approach and haven’t felt the need to escalate it to our boss or flatly tell her to stop (actions that, for various office dynamics reasons, I doubt would be successful). But I can’t imagine how annoying it would be to endure this on a daily basis. Hopefully your coworker will get the message.

        3. kittymommy*

          This is really annoying and I probably would not have had as much patience as you have had. I’m wondering if his boss has heard this “joke” and what, if anything, they have thought about it? I mean, at this point, I don’t think it’s a joke, it’s some passive-aggressive crap and someone in authority over him needs to smack this down.

          1. What’s with Today, today*

            Our boss is remote 90% of the time, at best. He’ll literally be gone from the second week of January through June.

            1. kittymommy*

              Dang, that sucks. He just sounds like an ass and doesn’t seem to be receptive to what has been said thus far, but if your boss isn’t around to hear it themselves, he may not really grasp that it is not funny (and kinda disrespectful IMO), but hopefully I’m wrong – you know him, do you think he’ll get why this is not funny (and kind of disrespectful, IMO)? I don’t know, maybe I’m just really cynical, but it just screams as a passive-aggressive power play to me.

            2. Autumnheart*

              What if all of you come up to him in a group (maybe right after he makes the joke again) and sit him down in a chair and tell him that he is not the boss, and The Jokes Are Going To Stop Now. It’s easy to blow off one individual, but it’s a lot more difficult to blow off 7 individuals as they stand around you in a group.

        4. Qwerty*

          I think it makes sense to loop in the boss now instead of giving him more chances. He’s been told kindly for a couple months that he isn’t the boss, but has continued to do it. Yesterday he was told directly by two different people that he isn’t the boss and to cut it out and that message clearly didn’t stick (otherwise the second person wouldn’t have had to tell him the *same* day. He clearly isn’t getting the message and its affecting the team dynamic.

          1. Sloan Kittering*

            My goodness. I would lose all humor with this. “Cecil, I’m going to ask our mutual boss to clarify the roles of authority around here, because I believe my seniority on this project merits more respect than this. I’ve asked you to knock it off and so has everybody else. It’s not funny and it’s actually quite disrespectful at this point.” But, I am a bit of a no fun shrew at the office :OP

    3. neverjaunty*

      Don’t give him “one more time”. He’s already been told twice, by two different people. One more chance will do nothing but avoid the issue.

    4. BadWolf*

      Have you gone the “Dude? Seriously? Lame.” and walk away route?

      I mean being told the joke has run its course should work. I’d be embarrassed and stop.

    5. Karen from Finance*

      Something that I do that may or may not work for you:

      If I’m doing the first review on the computer, I’ll highlight EVERYTHING on the page. Then, as I’ve reviewed each line or piece of text individually, I’ll un-highlight it. If I’ve made any changes, I’ll highlight it a different color. That way I make sure I don’t do the thing where you’re sure you had gone through that, but you’ve actually skipped a paragraph.

      I use this technique for reviewing all types of documents in general if I need to be careful.

    6. The Doctor*

      I totally don’t believe in making threats when action works better. Instead of saying that you’ll tell the boss, just go ahead and tell the boss. Mr. “Chief Engineer” doesn’t need advance warning because the inappropriateness of his behavior IS the warning.

    7. Smarty Boots*

      Maybe tell him directly: We’ve asked you to stop the joke because it is not funny and also because it makes you look unprofessional.

    8. Jane of All Trades*

      How annoying. Next time he does it I’d probably say “like I told you, the joke has gotten old. Are you unclear about your role in this organization? Do we need to sit down to clarify with [actual boss]? If not, time to let it go.”
      To be honest it sounds like this is more than a joke to him. It almost seems like he thinks he can weasel his way into a position of authority by continuously asserting himself as the boss. Super weird!

    9. Quinoa*

      This sounds like a guy who feels deeply insecure about his place and purpose in the workplace. I feel bad for him, but it’s got to be annoying.

  3. Shark Whisperer*

    TL;DR: How do you get better at copyediting?

    I just had my performance review. It went great (yay!). Overall my manager is very pleased with my work, but we still talked about areas where I could show some improvement. One area is copy editing. Reviewing documents before publication is a small part of the work my team does. My manger said she wasn’t too concerned about this because there are other people on my team that are excellent copyeditors.

    That being said, I would like to improve this skill. My question is how? Just practice? Are there copyediting courses? Anyone have any tips or tricks?

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      There are some easy tricks that can really help. Try reading the sentences from last to first so that you can keep your mind from filling in what you “think” you wrote. When you think a document is done, take a break, then change the font and color of the text, print it out, and sit down with it again. Try reading it out loud (also works from last to first). We also share the task of being a second set of eyes for each other in my office.

        1. ANon.*

          Yes, definitely print it out and read aloud. Making yourself verbalize every word really helps with missing words, typos, grammar, etc. Having it on physical paper (rather than reading from a screen) weirdly helps.

        2. Parenthetically*

          Yes, marking things up! I’m sure there are plenty of folks who can properly copyedit on a screen, but I am not one of those people. Pen (I’m even particular about what kind!) and paper are a MUST for me.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Seconding taking a break. Anything to interrupt your brain’s auto-complete function.

        Overnight is best for me (e.g. if something is due Tuesday I try to have a draft of all parts in place Monday, so I can proof Tuesday morning); that may or may not be an option with what you’re doing.

    2. Stacy*

      It’s great that you want to get better at this! I do quite a bit of copyediting in my work and find that reading things out loud (or silently, but sentence by sentence the way you would a speech or script) helps me catch mistakes I wouldn’t from merely scanning. Printing out the draft and taking a real pen to it (rather than reviewing a digital version) is also really helpful, when possible.

      1. Jb from Norway (formerly an OP5)*

        Stacy – People forget/don’t think about printing it out and it’s one of the best ways to catch errors. Good recommendations!

    3. Researchalator Lady*

      Is it copyediting, or proofreading? The latter is easier – print the document in an unusual font, read it aloud, highlight as you go, et cetera. There are tons of copyediting courses online, from university certifications costing thousands to single workshops. Copyediting dot com has a summary of the different types of opportunities, there’s a “For Dummies” book, and style guides will be helpful to familiarize yourself with.

      I like Grammargirl for rules like who/whom, and em dashes versus en dashes. I practiced by editing the same document and then switching between teammates to see what we did differently (or edits that we missed). Also read good writing – I recently saw a discussion post noting that only The New Yorker uses diareses (like umlauts but different) consistently – now I’m motivated to read it more often. Good luck!

    4. Make Editing Great Again*

      Study the style guide that is pertinent to your field (AP, Chicago, APA, etc.). Ask for specific examples from your manager of where you need improvement (Is it clarity? grammar rules? typos? consistency? Copyediting is a relatively large umbrella term for many things a copy editor would catch or do).

      Ask the other people on your team that are excellent copy editors how you can improve your own copyediting skills.

      Yes, there are classes and professional organizations. I’d recommend https://www.copyediting.com/.

      —From a Senior Copy Editor

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Seconded. Also aceseditors.org.
        And depending on your location, there are programs through colleges & universities.

    5. Green great dragon*

      I do three separate reads – one focusing on the sense and flow, one on style (did I just use ‘however’ 6 times in two paras, did I try to move a sentence around and end up with it in twice?), one for grammar (do I close as many brackets as I opened, is each sentence grammatically correct?). I can’t do a good job if I try to do all of them at once.

      1. Make Editing Great Again*

        Not sure if my comment got eaten by the Internet… but this was my question too (what kinds of things are you missing when editing?). Ask your manager if they can give you specifics on what may have been missed or incorrect. Clarity? Consistency? Grammar? Typos?

        Ask your coworkers that are excellent copy editors for advice on how you can improve.

        Create checklists to look out for common mistakes in your field, so that you don’t have to waste precious brain power thinking of them and applying them.

        Study the style manual applicable to your field (Chicago Manual of Style, Associated Press, American Psychiatric Association [APA]…).

    6. Bunny*

      There are multiple strategies you can use, and honestly it just takes practice to get into a good flow where you are catching things more often. Here are some that I’ve used:
      – Print off in a different font/colour/whatever
      – Highlight as you go
      – Read aloud (this is always a good one)
      – Break the document into sections, take a break after each section and then redo it 2-3 times before moving on
      – Read the sentence back to front and then front to back
      – Use a ruler and put it under the sentence you are editing/proofing so you don’t get distracted by other sentences (like when you were first learning how to read)
      – Break it down into styles (check once for grammar/spelling, check again for tone/voice, check again for blah blah blah)

      I like employing at least 2 of these strategies at the same time (like I’ll read aloud while using the ruler technique, or highlight which using the sections technique).

      1. Ghostwriter*

        I’m a fan of an “oops list” of things you’ve missed before or have a hard time remember the rule for.

    7. Lucky*

      I do a lot of writing in my work as an attorney, and find that I can improve my work greatly by trying to reduce the amount of passive voice. My trick for this is (oops) to take my close-to-final draft, print it, and circle every instance of the verb “to be” — all the ‘am’s, ‘are’s, ‘was’s, etc., and then edit about half the sentences to active voice. After a while, I’ve found that I incorporate active voice into my first drafts much more often, but still find that I can convert about half of my passive voice to active in my final draft.

      1. Autumnheart*

        My English 101 college professor told us that 3 instances of “to be” per page was a good rule of thumb for the proportion of active to passive voice.

    8. MoopySwarpet*

      I do think practice is a lot of this. Obviously, knowing and applying the rules is important and some people are just naturally better at catching mistakes, but knowing it’s a weakness and making a conscious effort will make it eventually easier.

      When I edit, I read first for errors and secondarily for content flow. I also try to avoid being the only person to read/edit my own work.

      I also think when you’ve edited content for the same writers a few times, you learn where their weaknesses are and can focus on looking for the they’re/their/there kinds of mistakes or comma misuse or random capitalization or whatever quirk that writer just can’t seem to break. The person I edit for types form instead of from, for example. I am very good at doing an initial scan for that without even reading anything.

      I wonder if games such as word searches (or maybe even hidden object games) would be helpful in training your brain and eyes to look at content differently?

    9. CoveredInBees*

      Practice. Reading it aloud helps me a lot, if you can find a space to do so. Making notes of the mistakes you see since people tend to make the same ones over and over.

    10. TeacherLady*

      Yes to taking a break and printing it out if possible. I’ve found it remarkably helpful to just change the font if I’ve been staring at something for a long time. It’s amazing the typos that magically appear when Times new Roman becomes Calibri…

  4. BRR*

    I recently had a phone interview that I think went pretty well and there is a decent chance that I will move forward*. The twist is that this prospective employer is in the same office building as my current employer and I don’t want people to know that I’m job hunting. If anybody saw me, it would be obvious that I am interviewing and I don’t think there is a way I could slip in and out without at least a chance of being seen. I know I can bring this up to the hiring manager or HR but I don’t think I’d be able to have the interview at another location because of the large number of people I know I’d have to interview with. What other options am I missing?

    *I know I’m putting the cart before the horse a bit but I want to be prepared.

      1. Jb from Norway (formerly an OP5)*

        I really like – or early in the morning.

        Alternatively, is there a back or side entrance that isn’t used as frequently or on another side of the building where your current office is located?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Ask if you can meet outside the building. You might be able to borrow space at the library if that is close by.

      I bet the odds are that they have had this question before and they have figured out how to handle it successfully.

      Good luck!!!

    2. ErgoBun*

      Explain your concern to the person who contacts you for the interview. They have likely encountered the same situation and will have a way to handle it. This isn’t something you have to figure out alone!

    3. Anonymous Engineer*

      I actually had this happen recently (for the job I have now). I wore a suit which was entirely out of the norm for our office, and obviously had a several-hour absence that day.

      This may be horrible but I told everyone I was going to a funeral.

  5. Tysons in NE*

    The office where I am temping is closed next week so simply going to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and have a safe holiday season, especially if you are travelling.

    1. Approval is optional*

      ‘Oh, I have to: if I stop moving they might track me down.’ Unless it’s my current boss, in which case I say, ‘then get me an assistant’, after which we both laugh/cry about budget constraints!

    2. Havarti*

      “Don’t worry, I wont!” in a cheerful tone. But it depends on context. I only get that comment once in a while.

    3. anon24*

      “I’m not getting paid enough to work hard”.

      Don’t do this. Unless you truly don’t care. (I have done it when I didn’t care)

    4. MoopySwarpet*

      Usually just “I’ll try not to.” I can’t remember the last time someone said this to me, though. I think it happened more in high school or college when I would have to leave something fun to go work a random shift.

    5. ErgoBun*

      Look them right in the eye, smile faintly, and say, “Oh, I never do.” Then keep staring with a faint smile until they get uncomfortable and walk away.

      I have a stellar reputation of being “no fun to tease” with the kinds of people who think these lines are funny. Ah, success.

    6. OhNo*

      “Don’t worry, I wasn’t planning to” is my default, but the only folks who say that to me around here are the ones who will take my response as the joke it’s intended.

      If it was someone, I didn’t know so well, it’d probably be a confused “… Okay?”

  6. Sara W*

    Throwing this out here…how do you determine if a candidate is tech-savvy? We’re always looking for employees who can work from home but they need to be able to adapt to our platforms (remote desktop, our client portal, the softwares etc). We’ve had a few people in the past who weren’t able to adapt to the technology or never logged in.

      1. Sophie before she was cool*

        I work on a team with a lot of remote workers (I’m one), and we do administer a short skills test. We give them two short exercises (one in Excel, another in a more specialized software that isn’t hard but that most candidates haven’t used before) to complete on their own time. We’re looking partly for successful completion of the exercises, of course, but resourcefulness in using the new tools is at least as important in our assessment.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Talk to them about technology, and see how comfortable they are with it—usually from conversation, if you’re fairly tech-savvy yourself, you can tell if the other person isn’t, isn’t and throws out a lot of fancy terms without understanding them, or is. Or ask them to show you how to do something on a computer. You can tell a lot about a person’s comfort with the computer by seeing her or him use it.

    2. Rincat*

      We ask people very specific scenario questions, and ask them to walk us through the steps. For example, “describe your approach to setting up row-level security in PLATFORM and detail the steps you took to achieve it.” It becomes very apparent if they don’t know the tool or don’t have much experience at that point. This is for data warehouse development.

      For other types of jobs (like a support desk) where they aren’t quite as technical but they do need to be tech savvy, I’ll ask a similar type of question relating to solving a client’s problem using technology.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Knowing the tool isn’t the same as being tech-savvy. The tool I spearheaded and now have relative mastery over (at least compared to the other people at my workplace) I’d never heard of before I started working on.

        Sara W wants people to be able to adapt to the platform, not necessarily know it beforehand. Sara W, correct me if I’m reading that wrong.

        1. Sara W*

          Yes exactly. A lot of these are our own company’s systems, so we wouldn’t expect them to know it beforehand.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        That’s age discrimination. I know plenty of young people who don’t know their way around computers and plenty of old people who do.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        The guy who used to repair my computer was 82 years old. He had forgotten more than I will ever know.
        Can’t judge a book by its cover.

        The man passed away, unfortunately. He’d probably still be repairing my computer if he were here.

      3. MoopySwarpet*

        I know this was probably just a joke, but I actually know several 20-40 year olds who are just not good at tech stuff. I also know quite a few 60+ who are very tech savvy.

        Just having and using the latest and greatest tech gadgets is not the same as being tech savvy. My 4yo nephew completely knows his way around a smart phone, but I wouldn’t expect him to be able to log in to remote software.

      4. Sara W*

        That’s really dickish. And yeah we actually did discuss this in our meeting where this came up and everyone firmly said age is not a factor at all.

      5. twig*

        Dude.

        My mom was the oldest person in her architecture firm. (as in: When she learned how to draft, and in the first 10-15 years of her career, she was still drafting by hand.)
        In the last 20 years of her career, she was the AutoDesk/Revit Guru at her firm.

        Age means nothing in this context.

      6. Garroulous Jane*

        huh. I prefer my hires to have experience & be able to self-direct to find solutions to problems.

    3. Polymer Phil*

      I think putting candidates on the spot with interview quizzes can weed out competent people who don’t think well under pressure. I think it’s generally better to probe skill level by seeing if someone can keep up with a technical conversation (as Anonymous Educator suggests), rather than giving them challenges that they might fail due to nervousness rather than a genuine lack of skill.
      That said, I do have a few simple questions up my sleeve that will trip up a person with a high school level understanding of chemistry.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Yeah, I’m fairly tech savvy but would actually be quite put off by an interview that tried to test my basic computer skills. Just talk to me. You’ll know right away if I know what I’m talking about or BS’ing.

    4. LaDeeDa*

      I ask how they handle using software/programs/platforms they are unfamiliar with. I want to hear them say they are a fast learner and that they are comfortable going out and finding instructional pages/videos online. If their first answer is they will ask someone to show them how to use it, it puts my antenna up.
      There is very little excuse for not being able to go watch or read tutorials and be self-taught in most things. I need a self-starter who can figure out the majority of it on their own.

      1. Blue_eyes*

        This. Ask them what they do when they start using a new program and aren’t sure how to do something. You’re looking for an answer that shows some amount of resourcefulness, problem-solving ability, and common sense.

        For instance, my answer to this question would be that I’ve gotten very good at googling solutions. I’ve taught myself to do a lot of things on the computer in various programs using internet tutorials because there’s no one else here who can teach me.

    5. OhNo*

      Can you have a troubleshooting-style test with them? Like, have them walk through their process of working out the kinks of a specific software? It could be with something like Word or an internet connection, if your specific software isn’t something they would be able to use. I’ve always found that I get a good measure of how tech-savvy a person is based on how they try to fix a problem, but I don’t know if that would apply in your environment.

    6. KMB*

      Skills test as part of the interview process, and probing questions about their skills and experience in learning new technologies.

      And then be sure to ask their references about the same topics when you contact them.

  7. Ciela*

    My co-worker is too busy to do her job

    I have a co-worker, “Bubble”, who from the time she clocks in in the morning, until the time so leaves for the day is about 12 hours.
    In that time, she will have a 2-4 hour lunch with her husband, who does not work here.
    Spend another 2-3 hours on the phone with her husband. I can tell because he calls in on the business line.
    Then will spend 3-4 hours doing something with her cell phone. Unless a customer asked for her to take a photo of something and send it over, we do not use personal cell phones for work purposes. I think maybe she does not realize that since her desk is so close to the front door, she is almost always on the security monitors?
    Then another 2-3 hours messing about on-line. Doing quizzes, shopping, facebook, etc. More often than not she will have very non-work websites open when she leaves her desk.

    In any given day she will do 45-90 minutes worth of actual work.
    Whenever we have all staff meetings, it is usually mentioned that the rest of us need to step up and help Bubble, because she has too much going on in her personal life.
    As a secretary / receptionist, apparently she has had too much going on to the filing for the past 4 1/2 YEARS! Every December some of the production guys will do it for her. Then check with bosses to see if they should keep on top of it in the upcoming year. They are always told, “no, that’s Bubble’s job”. And then next December, we have 10,000+ work orders to file.
    Too much in her personal life? Out of 13 employees, two, including my husband, are terminally ill. And another is in chronic pain, with flare-ups that make it impossible for him to stand, or sit, or sometimes speak coherently.
    So if her personal stuff precludes her from filing, answering the phone, preparing mailings, or responding to e-mails, really, the entirety of her job, why is she still here?!?
    My job is the definition of nepotism. She is the ONLY permanent outside hire we’ve ever had. Most employees have seen, or been seen by, another employee while in their underwear or less. No joke.

    I know that a lot this should be “not my circus, not my monkeys” but when she falls behind, and we have no work orders, we do not know that there is work to be done. As one of the few non-bosses with my own computer, printer, and e-mail account, it does make sense to me to try and keep her inbox clear for her, but then I have less time for my own work. I think the kicker here is that we have all been told, several times, that the bosses do not want to hear anything negative about Bubble. So then I end up asking questions like “do you think we should confirm which credit card number to charge for each order, rather than just picking one?” Like for a huge university, with thousands of employees, she would just pick a credit card that had previously been used by an employee there, and charge it.

    I know I’m not crazy, that she needs to be put on a PIP, or let go, but bosses do not fire anyone. Ever.

    Thanks for reading my rant! Merry Christmas! :)

    1. Time to get that arranged marriage my parents want*

      I think if Alison was responding to this question, she would say it might be time for you to get a new job.

      1. Ciela*

        I have been kinda looking, but my pay now is about twice what other jobs in the area for my position would pay, plus 80% of my health insurance premiums are paid on top of that. The rest of my work life is fine to great. It’s just Bubble that is the fly in the ointment.

        1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          Honestly, I wouldn’t let Bubble (ABFAB?) ruin an otherwise lucrative and enjoyable job.

          I’m told I excel in compartmentalization, but I’d write off Bubble and her antics and just get on with my own thing. I didn’t get the sense that you were being asked to cover or help, but that your own job is somewhat being affected by her. If you can’t completely write her off and the bosses don’t want to intervene, then the only other option is to be direct with her.

          “Yo Bubble, the work queue is empty, have you checked to see if we have any new orders lately?” Then physically stand behind her while she does it.

          I’d also stop asking her leading questions… like the credit card one that you mentioned. Let her fail. If the bosses notice that you’re twiddling your thumbs, then you can throw out the “Oh, I didn’t have any orders to process, so I decided to organize my paperclip collection/detail the copier, I’m sure Bubble will let us know when we get some more”.

          It’s obvious that for some reason the bosses have called her off limits for criticism, so don’t criticize, be factual and non emotional about it.

          1. Ciela*

            yes, AbFab. But worse, so much worse.
            I really have gotten a lot better since I started reading AAM about not letting her bother me too much. It used to be at about a 9, and now, maybe a 3.
            Back in January everyone with their own e-mail was also given access to Bubble’s. So we are ALL in her inbox. And I have been told that I need to start writing up more orders. And over 80% go to Bubble, so… Before I was all up in her business, I would directly ask her about the lack of new orders. And tell her to forward me whatever needed handling. If she gave me any, it would be one. Yep, just one. That’s a whole 2-3 minutes of work. And that would get her caught up?
            “Bubble charged a random person’s card” gets a response of “I don’t want to hear any complaints”
            “Should we be more careful about charging cards?” at least gets a “yes, we are working on a process to improve this.”

        2. Friday afternoon fever*

          It sounds like Bubble is not the biggest problem — the biggest problem is the management that doesn’t want to deal with Bubble, doesn’t think Bubble is an issue, wants you to accommodate Bubble. Your benefits sound amazing, but is Bubble really the only issue?

          1. Friday afternoon fever*

            if Bubble is the only issue, it sounds like she’s not going to change and nobody is going to make her. So I think another thing Alison might say here is, now you decide, do you want the job with these conditions?

    2. WellRed*

      So who is Bubble sleeping wit or blackmailing?

      “As one of the few non-bosses with my own computer, printer, and e-mail account, it does make sense to me to try and keep her inbox clear for her.”

      No it doesn’t make sense, stop doing it.

      As far the random credit card charging? Sounds like a fraud investigation waiting to happen. Not into Bubble mind you. To your effed up company.

      1. Ciela*

        She just answered a want ad in the paper. Everyone else here got the job because they knew someone.

        I know that Bubble should handle her own work. I do. But since we only have 3-5 days from when the customers submit the orders to when they need to go out the door, and Bubble will take 3-4 days to write up the work orders when left to her own devices, it means that all the rest of us have no time to do our jobs.

        I think the random credit card charging is do to laziness, or just not thinking before she acts. Considering how quickly she forgets things that are not written down, I doubt this is some kind of intentional criminal act. Of all the things she does, this one does worry me the most, because it is certainly possible, if not likely, that people will start reporting the charges as fraudulent.

        It really only is Bubble that is messed up. That month that she “forgot” how long her international trip was, was bliss. Work hadn’t run that smooth in over 10 years.

        1. valentine*

          Think of Bubble as a tax on your benefits. Disengage. Stop rushing. Let the orders be late. I love the saying “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” If specifically called to task, make the person specify and tell them the trade-off on your own tasks/deadlines. Don’t overwork. Let your employers suffer the consequences, even if it means customers do as well. Don’t care more or take more responsibility than they do. You might suggest that paying Bubble not to show up and hiring an excellent admin will save a ton of money and otherwise improve the business.

    3. Jb from Norway (formerly an OP5)*

      What is her relationship with others that would cause them to not want to fire or put her on a performance improvement plan?

      Instead of being negative about Bubbles, can you position it as, “Hey Senior Boss, I have to delay x in order to help Bubbles with y. Just confirming that’s okay.” This way the start to see the real impact of protecting someone who isn’t working.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This first part. Sounds like someone in management has gotten stuck in the “Poor Bubbles, we really overload her with that 12 hours a day of work” and is just failing to register that it isn’t getting done. That’s crappy management that is unresponsive to employee morale. Either it’s enough reason for you to look for another job with different management, or the pay etc are so conducive to your morale (sounds like the case?) that you view Bubble as the monitor lizard your boss inexplicably keeps in the reception area.

      2. Ciela*

        On days when I really can’t do my job and hers, I do tell the Boss. I usually get a vague “we’ll get it all done” and then either Boss will come in at 4 am to handle Bubble’s inbox, or I get to it when I get to it.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      Whenever we have all staff meetings, it is usually mentioned that the rest of us need to step up and help Bubble, because she has too much going on in her personal life.

      Who says this? Her boss?
      Absolutely everyone needs to STOP HELPING BUBBLES right now. No ifs ands or buts. Once shit stops getting done for Bubbles, it will become apparent that Bubbles sucks and isn’t working.

      1. Ciela*

        the Bosses / Owners tell us to help Bubbles. With 13 total people in the company, we all have the same Bosses.
        She’s sucked since 2005, yes it’s been going on this long. We had Awesome New Girl for about a year, but them she quit in a huff because she could stand Bubble. Then we had Insubordinate New Girl. That did not last. She took all of Bubble’s bad qualities, and amplified, and added in talking back to everyone, about everything.

        1. Friday afternoon fever*

          It’s been 13 years? Bubble is not going anywhere. I like valentine’s framing: Bubble is part of your compensation package. I also really like Not So New Reader’s advice. You either have to stay and accept Bubble and cope with working with her, or leave.

          Most people don’t stay at the same job forever. If you moved on, what would you want to that to look like? You don’t have to leave immediately (or ever I guess) but you could start thinking it through

    5. Not So NewReader*

      “…but bosses do not fire anyone. Ever.”

      Every job has its trade offs. Here I would tell myself that in order for me to get double my pay and a good deal on insurance I am stuck watching Bubble. At another place I could have less money and be forced to cross a moat with alligators in it to get to my desk.”

      From what you say here, your place sounds… uh, corrupt. Any time I have seen something like this there is corruption coming from the top down.

      I assume you want to stay put and not get a new job. Okay, in that case I would look at my financial goals and make sure that on the personal side my personal life is going great. Or I would use the better pay to get education/credentials so I could have a better paying job somewhere else. And I would also do things to protect myself. You know what the regs are for your arena. Document everything you do so if there is an investigation your work is dated and processed in a timely manner upon receipt. Your place sound like an auditor would have a field day. Make sure that you are fine.

      This stopped being a Bubble problem a while ago. This is a management problem. In order to stay there, acceptance of this fact is key.

      If you want to fight a brave fight, start a movement to stop helping Bubble. This is where you, yourself, stop helping her and you encourage others to do the same. Decide how long you will fight this fight. This is the type of thing that can wear down your health as the years go by. It’s pretty sickening to look at such stupidity (TPTB) and laziness for years and years.

      1. Ciela*

        I think our Bosses just never learned how to manage. I think they believe they should be able to say, “here are teapots, and this is how we paint them” and trust us all to handle our own stuff.
        And since everyone else is friends & family, that works okay. I know that’s not a great way to manage, but everyone else takes ownership of whatever they are supposed to be doing.

        We actually did just have our 10 year audit, and very little of what they found was Bubble shenanigans. And most that was not double checking what the software spit out.

        1. Melissa*

          Well, that makes sense, because her work is getting done, or cleaned up by everyone else. Imagine what an audit would look like if nobody did Bubble’s job for her?

  8. Murphy*

    I’m one of a handful of people in my office who didn’t take off today (the last day the university is open until after New Years). My boss has emailed me a bunch of times making changes to the “Final” version of a document he sent me days ago, so I need to keep updating it on the website with every new version. He’s also insisting on sending out a big email announcement today even though, as I previously mentioned, nobody is around and I bet nobody is going to read it. Just 5 more hours…

    1. Catleesi*

      Also work at a university – and what a weird time to send out an announcement! You are definitely right in thinking no one is going to read it. It’s so quiet here I would not be surprised to see a tumbleweed roll down the sidewalk and I am thinking that’s likely at a lot of institutions.

      1. Plus One*

        Seconded. There’s nothing going on at our uni, either. Best to assume it won’t be read until after break.

        1. WellRed*

          At which point it will be so buried it won’t be read anyway. Maybe its an announcement he doesn’t actually want anyone to read?

          1. Murphy*

            He most definitely wants people to read it! The timeline on this project is all kinds of messed up, but I’m like…maybe we should announce a million dollar project when people are actually around to see it?

          2. RabbitRabbit*

            This was my thought. I’ve seen plenty of announcements sent out on late Friday intentionally as fait accompli.

      2. ANon.*

        Jealous! In my university’s department, this last week (today included) is when a bunch of little fires come up that we have to scramble to put out. Not sure why they consistently seem to come up in the last week before break, but they always do…

    2. Buffy*

      A ghost town in my university department as well! But we are interviewing the last candidate for my boss today over lunch…terrible timing, only half the staff will be there.

    3. jstarr*

      Also at a Uni. Just got a request to contact a bunch of professor folk for a project and I’m like, dude no one is looking at their email right now.

      1. Loose Seal*

        My husband is a professor at a university. He checks his email and responds to what needs doing at least three times a day when he’s off between semesters. So your work might not totally be in vain!

        1. jstarr*

          It’s more a gripe about my coworker deciding to leave me with a pile he knows I can’t get through in *checks watch* two hours.

    4. pony tailed wonder*

      I read a book that one of the local reporters wrote a few years back. If you have to announce something awful, do it on a Friday afternoon and it will most likely be ignored by the media and don’t put the news in the title. I bet a lot of people use the same principle in their life. Do you have to cut back on say perhaps people’s hours? Put it in an announcement sent out when no one is at work and title it Weekly Update.

    5. Overeducated*

      I had to start doing publicity for something in January yesterday. I was like “ok…this is the worst possible timing…too bad though.”

  9. Time to get that arranged marriage my parents want*

    I graduated in May…and still no job. I’ve been working part-time at a nonprofit since October (and the only reason I got that job was because I’ve been interning there for so long – there was no interview for me to butcher). I’m just a little frustrated. I recently redid my resume and cover letter thanks to advice from this blog, but….7 months of underemployment feels like a lot. I’m feeling really demotivated.

    1. Hmm*

      Have you been getting interviews? Applying to many different jobs? Or, are you only applying to a select few? Is there any chance the nonprofit will move you to FT?

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        This is good advice, if you can try to narrow down the point at which your applications are failing that is good to know – you could waste a lot of time revising your resume but if you’re getting screening calls your resume probably isn’t the only issue. I tried to do them in batches, out of ten thoughtful applications (so my skills were relevant and the job made “sense” for my career path – this was easier later in my career) I would expect at least one nibble. Out of phone screens I would expect one invite to interview. Out of five interviews I’d expect a job offer. But, my applications are pretty focused – if you’re applying broadly to a wide range of things that aren’t really relevant to your experience those numbers might double or triple to get the same response.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          Thinking more about this, every job search I’ve done has started out fairly broad but gradually narrowed as I figured out what I really wanted to do. Towards the end, it gets easier and easier because the jobs I was applying to were more similar so my cover letters could be transferred. If this isn’t happening in your job search and you’re still applying to lots of completely different types of things, it could be a sign to do some strategic thinking about what you’re the best qualified for and can really make a case around?

      2. Time to get that arranged marriage my parents want*

        1. I’ve maybe had 15 phone interviews since I started applying (in February), 2 second interviews, and no offers. So, y’know, not great.

        2. I’m being pretty picky about where I apply to, especially lately. I’ve applied to 9 jobs in December.

        3. I wish, but it’s a super small nonprofit! I’m the only other person employed there besides the director. There’s not enough work to do.

        1. Jb from Norway (formerly an OP5)*

          What is your field? Can you freelance or sign-up with a staffing firm for part-time assignments?

          1. Time to get that arranged marriage my parents want*

            I suppose my field is nonprofit administration now, since that’s what most of my experience is related to. I’ve basically only been applying to universities and nonprofits, so I understand there’s a lot of competition.

            1. Jb from Norway (formerly an OP5)*

              I’m in marketing and there are a lot of freelance opportunities in the field. I’m not as familiar with nonprofit administration…Could you find another nonprofit and network with someone there to see if you could get a second, part-time gig?

            2. learnedthehardway*

              You need to be applying to a lot more types of positions, in different industries. Apply for customer service jobs, if that’s what it takes to get into an industry that has a future – a LOT of people start in these types of roles, but progress within the company as they do good work.

              Do an inventory of your skills – what do you do a lot of, what are you good at, and then read job descriptions and apply to anything for which you have 50% or more of the requirements, in roles that require 0 – 2 years of experience (or that much plus your amount of experience in your part time job at the non profit).

        2. Ariana Grande's Ponytail*

          Is there a chance that you are coming across as low energy or not interested enough in these interviews? We had a candidate before who was perfectly qualified but came across as vaguely uninterested, possibly just because they didn’t sell themselves very well and didn’t seem necessarily….enthusiastic. This was a problem I witnessed with a relative who had a 2.5 year job search post-college, and while I don’t think it’s fair if that is your personality, I think it can be difficult to overcome the general expectation that everybody comes in ~*super hyped up*~ for every job.

          I also recommend applying to a minimum number of jobs per week, which it sounds like you probably are doing. It helped me manage my emotions (i.e. not applying 24/7) and expectations (I need to apply to 3 jobs, I can try to find jobs that I would love but since it’s a first job it’s okay to apply to a job that would just be a job with enough growth opportunity in the 2-5 years I spend there).

          All in all, it sounds like you are putting in the appropriate effort and sometimes it really is just a numbers game. I’m sure you are qualified, and it’s really good that you are working at all right now. We’re all cheering for you!

          1. Time to get that arranged marriage my parents want*

            First of all, your username made me laugh out loud.

            Second, I think there’s definitely a chance of that. I’m VERY reserved when I meet new people, and it’s hard for me to fake excitement or happiness. Gotta figure out how to work on that!

            1. MoopySwarpet*

              If you think it’s the actual interviews where you are not representing well, maybe trying ToastMasters for speech practice. Or get a friend or family member to give you mock questions to practice just answering off the top of your head. Maybe local networking events or even meetup groups.

              Something else that is not very fun, but might help with the talking to strangers – in-store demos for companies.

        3. The Rain in Spain*

          There’s a lot of great advice for you here already. Trying to add new things:

          How are you finding these postings? Does your alma mater have job postings you can use? Have you considered related positions that maybe aren’t your total dream job? Also networking events/additonal volunteering may help you get an in. It took me 8 months to find the exact position I was looking for (several years out of grad school but newly barred) and I am SO happy here. For me, it was accidental networking that got my resume pushed to the top of the pile.

          Americorps may be another good option for you to consider- I did VISTA for a summer during grad school and that helped me meet a ton of non-profit leaders in the area (and then I moved… helpful!). The pay is pretty minimal but it can really help you forge good connections depending on the role you find.

    2. JokeyJules*

      Keep at it!!!
      It’s hard out there, especially for new grads. Not sure what your beliefs are, but all timing is perfect, even when it seems like it isn’t.
      I had a job promised to me in my last semester of college only to be told the day after graduation that they realized they only needed one person and it wouldn’t be me. I was a nanny/overnight shift coverage for a local NPO/Babysitter for 4 months until I worked on a barely livable wage at a hotel and then worked in an extremely toxic work environment for a year.
      Last week I just finished negotiating my promotion that I created working at a company I love.
      It’ll all happen when it is supposed to happen, just keep working at it! You got this!

    3. CastIrony*

      I’m so sorry! I’m in a similar boat myself. Perhaps you can ask your closest co-workers to keep an eye out for jobs you can apply to.

      Other than that, I don’t know how to help.

    4. Stacy*

      Hang in there! I am in a similar position post graduate school and find that I have days where things feel completely out of my control and at a standstill–and that these are the days when it’s best to distract myself with volunteer work, a walk, or a house-related project.

      It can be a huge demotivator when your goal for the day is “get a job.” Where to start? But if you break things down into weekly and monthly goals, like establishing at least 1 new networking contact this month or attending a professional development workshop this quarter, you can rack up more achievements and be in a better position confidence-wise when you do get that interview.

    5. TeacherLady*

      As someone who graduated into the recession, I feel you! Hang in there – it can feel hopeless but it’s not!

  10. Organizational Change Theory?*

    How much impact can one person have on a small office? I would like to believe I can impact the culture on my team of six, to make us more professional and create better boundaries around personal and professional life. However, I’m only in the middle in terms of seniority, and at least one of the most senior people is one of the worst problems. Realistically, I doubt there’s a lot I can do just by trying to lead by example and putting my oar in when I can, under those circumstances. Unless she leaves, I feel like it’s doomed. Anyone want to disagree?

    1. mr. brightside*

      You can change a lot in an office that small, provided that everyone wants to change. If they don’t want to change, you’re probably doomed. Change needs buy-in at all levels.

      1. Organizational Change Theory?*

        That is a really excellent point. The one senior person almost certainly doesn’t want to change.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      It’s a lot easier for one person to have an impact on a small office if the impact is negative. But if you want to change a complacent office culture into a caring one or a lazy office culture into a hard-working one, and you’re not the boss (which you aren’t), that’s going to be tough. Not impossible, but tough.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        It’s a lot easier for one person to have an impact … if the impact is negative.

        This. This is a very true social rule.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I think it comes under the heading is this a battle I want to take on? And if I win the battle what is it exactly that I have won? Do I want what I have won?

      Yes, we all can impact the culture of a place. It sounds like everyone blends their personal and professional lives? Here’s a key point: Do they want something different? They may like where they are at. If they do not see value in changing then they are not going to change.

      People tend to copy their leadership. Monkey see, monkey do. I am not sure the extent of the problem. If others are miserable, then you might have a better chance of gaining some traction with them onboard. You can target the worst of the worst behaviors. Just pick the top three. Let’s say you decide that the top three are:
      1) you refuse to discuss your sex life any more
      2) you will discourage going to your boss’ house for drunken all nighters
      3)you will not let the boss arm-chair psychology with you

      So these are the three things you are targeting and you let the rest go for the moment. See where that puts you.

      The problem with working at Dysfunction, Inc is that we spend more time doing repair work than doing real work. My rule of thumb is I can fix a few problems IF the people at the center of the problem want help. I can not fix an entire place. It’s too draining, emotionally, physically and mentally. In the end, it plays out badly as instead of being thanked we end up being outcasts. It’s not worth it.

  11. Catleesi*

    It’s my first year at this job – and because I read this blog so much and the general attitude about holiday gifts I didn’t even consider checking in about what the culture was here. I work mainly with my boss, and 1 coworker and they both got me and each other a gift. If it was just my boss I wouldn’t feel bad, but my coworker did too, and for both of them – they must have taken note of something I mentioned I really liked and taken the time to get that item. So now I feel really guilty for not reciprocating with even a nice card.

    So – not a terrible problem to have my any means…but yay for holiday guilt!

    1. Anony*

      Eh. I work with about 8 people. 2-3 of them gave out gifts (sweets, cards, etc) but I don’t reciprocate. No harm, no foul.

    2. Jb from Norway (formerly an OP5)*

      You could bring in a treat to share with them, if you wanted to acknowledge the holiday without getting into the whole gifting thing. And also, write a nice thank you for their thoughtfulness.

    3. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      You get a pass the first year. Thank them and say “Oh wow, I feel terrible that I didn’t get you anything, my last job didn’t exchange gifts”

      Next year you are on the hook though :)

        1. Catleesi*

          I am thinking I will bring back some treats from home (a different state) and give them after the holiday. And in the future – either have something on hand or ask about traditions ahead of time!

    4. Overeducated*

      I had the same experience. So I did some night baking before my last day at work and brought in a tray of cookies. People didn’t eat much but it was the best I could do on short notice…

    5. Autumnheart*

      Don’t underestimate the Amazon E-gift card (or gift card to local coffee shop, etc) as a nice token gesture. It’s kind of intangible, but almost everyone can put them to use.

      1. AngelicGamer, the Visually Impaired Peep*

        Also, I, for one, LOVE gift cards. It is the best thing you could give me because, most of the time, I will put off getting something I want but don’t need with slowly saving up for it. Or, as with Starbucks, plan out when I want to go and shifting around other money. So, that Amazon gift card or Starbucks gift card gives me something I want and I hold a very good thought about the person who gave it to me as I’m spending. f

    6. Hamburke*

      I had the same experience at my last job… Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, work-versery gifts…gift-giving was a way to connect for this remote team! At my current job, for Christmas my boss gave me – dun duh done – a cash bonus and gotomypc (so I can work from home when I want to)! for my work-versery, a review and a raise. For my birthday, a card! This is another reason

  12. Dragoning*

    Question I’m curious about: Are you allowed to ask “What happened to the the other guy?” in a job interview? Not in so many words, of course, maybe something more like, “Why is this position open?” but it seems like it would offer so much information–did they get promoted (does the company offer promotions and growth?), were they disappointed in the last hire for some reason, did the other person simply leave for other opportunities (and are they happy for them), did they just create the position, etc, etc.

    But it seems like it might be a bit of a faux pas to ask. If you can ask, how do you ask?

    1. mr. brightside*

      “Why is this position open?” works for me, although often they’ll already answer it by saying “this is a newly-created position” or the like. But “why is this vacant” is a good question to ask both in job interviews and looking for apartments!

    2. Ask away!*

      Absolutely yes. I have either asked them “how did this job opening come about?” or the interviewer revealed that information without my needing to ask. I have never had anyone had any issues with it.

      “The person in the current position is leaving to go to grad school.”
      “We are looking for a new Junior Teapot Designer because we recently promoted Katherine to Teapot Designer.”
      “We created the role of Junior Teapot Designer due to XYZ factors.”

    3. No longer the boss's pet*

      I think “Why is this position open?” is a totally valid question. You can get done good insight from it. If they say the previous person retired, or got promoted those are probably good signs. They probably wouldn’t tell you if you’d be the 5th person hired for the job in the last quarter but I think it’s worth asking.

    4. Sophie before she was cool*

      I think you can ask in general terms where people tend to go when they leave the position you’re interviewing for (Are they promoted? Do they develop skills in X that are useful in Y positions elsewhere?) as long as it’s clear you’re interested in the position on its own merits and not as a stepping stone to something else. I would avoid asking about the specific person who most recently held the position.

    5. Time to get that arranged marriage my parents want*

      How about, “where did the last person in this position move on to?”

    6. Anonymous Educator*

      You can ask why the previous person left. It’s a good question to ask. They may still make up stuff about why, but you definitely can ask it, and it’s not weird.

    7. Shark Whisperer*

      There’s an AAM post about the best questions to ask in an interview and Alison suggests “How long did the previous person in the role hold the position? What has turnover in the role generally been like?” I think that could get you the information you are looking for.

    8. Polymer Phil*

      I strongly recommend asking this question. An interviewer once admitted to me that he had fired three people in a row when I asked what became of the last person in the position. I decided I didn’t want the job on the spot, and treated the rest of the interview as a practice session.

    9. Former Govt Contractor*

      It’s certainly ok to ask and a good way to go about it is, “Has there been much turnover in this position?”

      1. Never*

        Yeah, I was told it was because they were growing as a company. Then after I started it was revealed that I was actually replacing someone.

    10. Sled dog mama*

      Totally reasonable to ask and ask multiple people if you can. In my current position I asked 3 times, twice I got the “real” answer of his performance declined he was lying about performing tests he did not perform. Once, the first time I asked I got “I’m not going to discuss that” in a weirdly hostile way.

    11. Public Sector Manager*

      Asking “why the position is open” really doesn’t get at the heart of your concerns and if they are a good employer, they will never violate the confidentiality of the person who had the job before you.

      I think your parenthetical is a great question: “Does the company offer promotions and growth?” and then ask them for examples. Ask about office culture. Ask whether the company encourage employees to get outside experience and then return to the company.

      Also, Alison recommends two questions that I just love (and in applying for other management level jobs, I always use the last one):

      “How long did the previous person in the role hold the position? What has turnover in the role generally been like?”

      “Thinking back to people you’ve seen do this work previously, what differentiated the ones who were good from the ones who were really great at it?”

      Best of luck to you!

    12. Veronica Sawyer*

      I have always phrased this question as, “Is this a new position”? In my experience, this is not a question that the interview expects and you can glean a lot from how they spontaneously reply.

  13. Blah*

    The women that I work with are very catty, but they’re also very covert about it. (ie: They’ll give one another looks as someone walks by, talk about someone without saying their name, whisper to one another, etc.)

    I’ve been stressed because it’s been a crazy week and I’m also sick and on meds. Apparently I’ve been making weird faces or something, because I heard one of them mention something about an “alien” when I walked by and then they started laughing. I had already passed them, so it was too late to acknowledge it.

    I feel like since it’s not like they’re saying it directly to my face, I can’t call them out on it. Yet, it’s obvious to me what’s going on. I’m also thinking that even if I call them out, they wouldn’t admit anything and gaslight me.

    What do I do? It’s not affecting my work, so do I just ignore it?

    1. Corky's Wife Bonnie*

      Yes, just ignore it. With people that are catty like they are, if you react then that gives them more to be catty about. If you just ignore them, they will move on to something else eventually.

    2. JokeyJules*

      Gross. That’s very high school behavior.
      I would say to just ignore them, but you don’t deserve to be stuck in a hostile work environment with children. If you hear them whispering something as they walk by, turn around and say “what did you say, Sharon and Karen?” and insist you clearly heard them say something if they try to deny it. Keep it light and unassuming. If that doesn’t scare them off, document, document, document and speak with a manager.

    3. Bee's Knees*

      If you hear them say it, I am of the opinion that’s what the phrase “I beg your pardon?” was meant for. Couple with a stone cold stare. Or, if you’re mean like me, you smile really big and say “I’m sorry, did you say something?” with a smile.

    4. Rey*

      Yep, just ignore them. Any sane adult who sees this kind of behavior knows it is more about them being immature and childish, and doesn’t reflect on you at all.

    5. Havarti*

      That sucks and I’m sorry you’re on the receiving end of their bad behavior. Unfortunately, since they haven’t said it directly to your face, they can deny they were talking about you. Maybe pretend they’re the aliens and ignore it.

    6. Temperance*

      You actually can call them out. What I do with this mean girl nonsense is ask what they’re talking about, in a really pointed way that lets them know that I see their BS.

    7. Scaramouche Scaramouche*

      I feel you. I recently overheard some junior staff on my team saying some very petty things about me and some others here…. I want to just call them out and say, “this isn’t middle school – grow up!” Instead I am choosing to be more guarded and business-only with them, not worry about trying to socialize or have a good rapport with them. Plenty of adults I can hang out with here and plenty of friends outside of work. I hope you have some non catty people at work to spend your time with instead of these women!

    8. Not So NewReader*

      One really good way to combat this type of stuff is to know your job like you know how to breathe. Be that ultimate professional. People like these two women find competence intimidating. Know that you know your stuff. See, people who know that they know, don’t get to rattled too easily. They have a calmness about them. The calmness comes in very handy because the professional always seems one step ahead of the gossips. And this is because they are, the professional acting person isn’t losing time thinking about the shoes that Sue is wearing today or the spot where Kevin parked his car crooked and other nonsense. This means that since you act professionally, you can act like you just assume everyone else does also. That air of expectation can carry you through a lot of things.

  14. New Girl*

    This question might not have a definitive answer but can someone help me understand at what point you would consider a job mid level vs entry level?

    1. Friday Anon*

      I think it can depend on the company. At my current organization the divide is between exempt and non-exempt. At a previous company, the number of licenses one had and the years of experience made a difference.

    2. Hillary*

      For me it’s very much not definitive, but one indicator is the amount of training you need to get started. The jobs I’ve had that I’d consider entry level all had training plans (sometimes with the boss figuring it out with me, but some form of training). There was a lot of “you’re going to do x, this is how we do it.” But just because a job could fall into this category it’s not only people new to the workforce doing it.

      My mid-level jobs have started with something along the lines of “we have this problem/situation, figure it out.” I’m expected to have enough skills & knowledge to identify and solve the issues, and I’m expected to do it independently. When I find a new problem/situation I’m expected to come up with a solution and sell it to my leaders (or just fix it if it’s at my authority level).

    3. Overeducated*

      For me it’s when I realized I was suddenly advising other people…if there’s someone more entry level than you, you must be mid-level!

    4. The New Wanderer*

      At my company, entry level is the job you can get right out of college or the job you get following your internship. Mid-level is if you have roughly 5 years’ experience or a MS/MA + 1-2 yrs of experience, or a PhD. (Senior level is around 10 years’ experience or slightly less experience but with advanced degrees.)

      So, entry level wouldn’t require any specific field knowledge but mid level would have the expectation of at least some field knowledge, whether it’s obtained on the job or through specialized training/education.

    5. Friday afternoon fever*

      Amount of training, level of responsibility. Amount of experience required. If you can walk in the door without little to no experience in the job/field, are a mildly intelligent human, and can, with the correct onboarding, do a competent job, then it’s entry level. If they’re truly expecting you to come in the door with at least a few years of already working in the job/field, it’s mid-level.

  15. EddieSherbert*

    I think there’s about 5 people in my office of 50 today… but one of them brought in their new(ish; they’ve had him a couple months now) puppy, so that’s cool :)

    Happy day-before-the-holiday-break, everyone!

      1. Jb from Norway (formerly an OP5)*

        Or, give the coworker a belly rub and then we can see Allison’s first question of the new year.

        “I rubbed my coworkers belly as a joke, instead of their puppy’s, and now it’s weird. I’m afraid they’re going to tell my boss or HR. What do I do?”

            1. Rub a dub dub*

              In order to smooth over my akwardness i thought it was best to rub everyone’s bellys. You know, so know one was singled out.

              I am getting the impression that wasn’t the right move. No one wants to rub my belly back, no matter how nicely i offer.

              How do I fix this?

  16. Bored IT Guy*

    Last day of work before vacation, all the major projects are checked off. I’ve got some stuff for a project that’s not due until February, so not a rush. Working on it, and my only thought is “Why, why, why, does Outlook not display HTML correctly?”

    1. KayEss*

      If you really want to cry, take HTML that looks fine in Outlook and see how it does in their Office365 web client.

      My favorite hard-earned pro tip for that disaster: it renders white text as black, no matter what method you use to make the text white. You have to use #FEFEFE or another technically-not-white color to simulate white text.

  17. No longer the boss's pet*

    What do you do when you realize your job is redundant. I’ve been at the company for a little over 5 years. The person who hired me was the director of the department. She was sort of a micromanager and really overdid a lot of things. She did not trust other departments to do some of their basic duties and gave me some responsibilities that in hindsight I had no business doing. She was a bit of a tyrant but really took me under her wing. She has now retired and I recently came back from maternity leave. The new director has already talked about making all sorts of changes to our processes and most of those changes don’t involve me. She is rethinking the way we do things and is pushing other departments to take on more of their responsibilities I had. I am kind of hurt by it because I don’t feel so awesome anymore. (my previous director bragged about me and any little thing I did). But I have to admit those changes do make sense. It’s really kind of a shock to me to have a no nonsense director after five years of someone who was the complete opposite. I’m afraid it’s only a matter of time before they realize that my job doesn’t even make sense and I get shown the door. My first thought was that I need to be job hunting so that hopefully I have a job when that time happens and the commute has become a big drag. My direct supervisor has assured me that there is work for me to do and once things are figured out, I will have plenty of responsibilities. I’m not sure I believe her since the director hired a new person before she retired because she thought we would be extremely busy while I was out. This new person seems to be a great employee but doesn’t have enough work either and has taken over most of my remaining responsibilities. I’m contemplating a complete career change anyway and would like to start taking classes soon. Should I just stick this out and see where it goes? Should I be job hunting anyway? I’ve thought about having a conversation with the new director but she doesn’t seem to be interested in talking to me.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      I’d start a job search. If nothing else you have a search started and being employed you can be more choosy with any offers.

    2. Time to get that arranged marriage my parents want*

      If there’s a time to do a career change, it sounds like this is it. When are you planning on starting classes? It doesn’t sound like they’re planning to let you go very soon, so maybe you can ride it out at your current job until you go back to school.

    3. scooby snack*

      If you’re thinking of a career change but have your boss’s support (and a job!) for now, it might be a good opportunity to add in some of the skills you want to work on, whether you continue them where you are or take them into a new field. So many skills are transferable that I’d bet there’s something you can take on or learn that could come in handy down the line. Or maybe your boss would be open to you taking online courses or expressing a specific niche you can fill at your company, if she acknowledges that your work load is light these days?

    4. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      I’d say keep an eye out but don’t panic.

      I’ve done stuff like this when coming into a position. I’d see a lot of things that didn’t make sense for the team to be doing and rehome the work. Meanwhile, I had a list of things that I did want to introduce to the team that couldn’t happen until the other stuff was offloaded.

      If you’re interested in changes, then it might make sense now with the regime change. But this doesn’t sound like an urgent need for a new job from your description. Otherwise, I’d suggest to start looking for things to do in your current position. Have you wanted try something new… start worming your way into it. Talk to your supervisor and let them know you are ready for some of the new things they mentioned.

    5. MissDisplaced*

      Yeah, that is a difficult space to be in. It sounds like you were hired to take on certain aspects other departments really should have been doing. Now that it’s been shifted back to these departments, you’re on the outs.
      I think you really need a sit down with the new director to redefine your role.

      But given the number of changes you may want to begin looking for a new position. It kind of sucks, but sometimes things work out this way, and it’s through no fault of yours. It’s just the way the previous director had arranged things.

    6. designbot*

      I think getting the whole rundown on the changes is your opportunity to invent a new role for yourself within the new system. Absolutely take classes and figure out next steps if that’s what you think your ultimate goal is, but I’d still try to design a role for yourself there as well.

    7. Mrs_helm*

      Be ready to change jobs…but also…be ready to be more awesome. Because hanging onto old tasks could be holding you back. If you are the only person who can do X, how can you ever move up? It is entirely possible that reassigning those tasks where they belong means you get to specialize/increase skills/manage. You can’t move up while holding onto the bottom rung.

    1. Jb from Norway (formerly an OP5)*

      I’m only thinking of paper business cards – do you mean your personal ones or those you receive from others?

    2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Truthfully, I shove them in my purse or laptop bag until I forget about them. I may pull them out and leave them lying on my desk until I clean it and then either shove it in a desk drawer or pitch them.

      I don’t really suggest any of these organization methods if you actually want to retain the card or the information.

    3. MoopySwarpet*

      In a rubber band in my desk drawer that I sort through when I need something new.

      I have had varying success with business card scanner apps that will take the info on the card and you can export it to a csv file. If the cards really need to be kept/searchable, we’ll create an excel file. This is more after conventions to sort and assign leads.

      For my own cards, I keep a small handful with me, but most of them just live in my desk drawer.

    4. Mockingjay*

      If you have Outlook, it has a Contact card feature. You have to fill in the fields manually though. If you have a lot of cards, maybe start with frequently used, then add the rest here and there.

      1. Ella Vader*

        We have this card-scanner gadget that can scan a stack of cards and make a first guess of how to put all the information in an outlook contact file. It’s not perfect, but it’s kind of fun.

    5. Catherine*

      I try to type them up as GMail contacts within a few days after meeting the person, and add any details I remember about how we met, who introduced us, or what we discussed.

    6. Polymer Phil*

      The old fashioned way still works great for this purpose- a three ring binder with plastic business card sleeves. I like to organize it alphabetically by company because I find that I’m most often hunting for a contact within a specific company rather than hunting for a name. The binder stays with me when I change jobs and clean out my office, while an electronic database of scanned cards would be easy to lose in the event of a sudden layoff.

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I have an area in my desk organizer to put them in. Then when I get a new account manager for a vendor, I chuck the old one and toss the new one in the stack.

      I’ll use a rolladex again before scanning or electrically filing them. Unless I were in a mobile position and needed access more freely. I’m a desk bound person as of now.

  18. Anon Accountant*

    We are supposed to have a luncheon here today. My boss retired a week ago and the lady ordering food didn’t order nearly enough. Many of us didn’t get anything or just got a piece of cake. Apparently Jane does this often. I’m not taking any chances today and am going out to get something to eat and eating in the car.

      1. Anon Accountant*

        Exactly. Which is why I suggested getting a head count. Jane didn’t think it was needed. It was a prime example of head counts are needed. And because she’s done this before I suggested having someone else do it for her. Nope didn’t happen.

        1. scooby snack*

          Can you be more blunt next time? “Last time, quite a few people didn’t get enough food, so we should make sure we’re planning for the size of the group” or something?

          1. Cat Fan*

            I am willing to bet her Jane always gets her share. Dies she even realize others didn’t? Someone must tell her about it. If I ordered food for a group and found out people went without, I would be mortified.

            1. Anon Accountant*

              Oh she’s been told several times by people. Yet she’s allowed to continue ordering food. Every time we’ve gotten food at prior jobs or other places we’ve had RSVP or headcounts.

              She does get her food. 1 of the first people there.

              1. Darren*

                Would it be possible to arrange for that not to be the case? Given you’ve got concerns about the food ordering could you arrange a meeting with her that starts just before the luncheon to discuss your concerns with her. By the time you finish the meeting she will be in the same boat as everyone else which will no doubt help drive home your points during the meeting.

    1. Havarti*

      Catering is hard sometimes. You want to order enough but not so much that you have a lot of leftovers. Especially since my workplace is cracking down on wasting food (and money). Though it seems most people don’t eat a whole lot at these events so I tend to go lower on the food but it depends on knowing your group. Hilariously, the very people who lectured me on not wasting food expressed concerns about there not being enough for people after I submitted my proposed menu.

    2. Master Bean Counter*

      Is it bad I would probably go get a subway and stash it in my purse, when there isn’t enough food I’d say, don’t worry about me and pull out the sandwich while staring at Jane?

    3. Garland not Andrews*

      That is totally why I like working for the federal government. We are not allowed to use company (taxpayer) money to provide any kind of food for social events, so we usually do a potluck.
      Went to a retirement celebration yesterday and there was a ton of food left over.

      I’m with you though, there is no excuse for not getting at least a ballpark headcount and ordering enough for everyone.

  19. Dress code question*

    Is my workplace being overly picky by banning pixie and ankle pants, or is this normal?

    (For context I just started a job in the legal department of a financial firm (I’m not a lawyer though). My firm is located in the banking/financial district of the biggest city in the country. Everyone who works here (admins included) has to wear a suit. When I was in university we were told a suit is a must and at my summer internships it was the same. I graduated this year and I just started working here. When I was an intern I had a couple of dress pants and blazers that I got from a this store and this was enough. But I’ve lost weight this last school year and those don’t fit and I needed an actual wardrobe for a full time job.

    I bought a couple of suits that both had ankle pants and some pixie pants with a separate blazer of the same color until I start getting paid and can afford more. But I was sent home because ankle pants are not allowed under the dress code. I’m fortunate my parents and other family are going to help me with suits as my Christmas gift. I’m not back until Jan 3 and don’t intend to repeat my mistake of ankle pants again. I am mortified about being sent home. I would never argue about an established dress code)

    Just wondering if this is the norm in a serious, suits only workplace or if it’s specific to my firm? I come from a trade/blue collar family and no one else works in an office. Thank you to anyone who is kind enough to help/educate me and to Alison for this site and all her work :)

    1. Mediamaven*

      Sounds like a stodgy work environment. Ankle pants are really the style right now. But, it’s finance so likely why.

      1. valentine*

        Pixie/ankle pants are a perfect length for me. I can’t wear heels anymore and I hem with safety pins. If they pay me enough for alterations, fine, but I much prefer instant perfection.

    2. mr. brightside*

      I had to google pixie pants and if the image on JCrew is correct, they might be disallowed because they look exactly like leggings, ie very tight around the bottom of the leg and tapered, and end pretty high and look like they might not be intended to be worn with socks.

      I think they’d be banned in all of the workplaces I worked in. Even the one with the loosest dress code I worked in once had a word with an intern who came in wearing shorts.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        I suppose I could see the “pixie pants might look like leggings” argument, though I wouldn’t have thought of it myself.

        I think both those restrictions are extremely odd – a rule against showing ankles? Are there rules for wrists and collarbones? Haha. – BUT I have only worked in much more casual work environments, so my opinion might be skewed.

        1. mr. brightside*

          It’s kinda a thing about “where do the socks go”. If they go under the leggings, it’s a weird bump. If they go over the leg, it looks a little weird. Unless you’re wearing those invisible kinds of socks… IDK.

          1. Annie Moose*

            I’m not sure how socks are relevant to this situation. With ankle/pixie pants, you either wear tall thin socks (so there is no bump), or you wear the no-show kind.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        Like a legging but more structured, they’re made from a stretchy holds-you-in fabric and look good on everyone. Just, no, J Crew. No; nothing looks good on everyone.

        If the dress code is suits, something that is almost a legging would be way to casual. And I think ankle pants are possibly too casual too.

        It sucks that it costs so much to outfit yourself for your first job, but you described a conservative firm in a conservative industry, and both of your options sounds too casual. They sound stodgy, but it doesn’t sound like your are being singled out.

    3. Elizabeth Proctor*

      I think if they require suits, it’s understandable to ban pixie or ankle pants. They just don’t look as formal.

      I’m surprised you were sent home for it though, since it’s the first time.

    4. Friday Anon*

      If your office is formal enough to require that everyone wears a suit, I can definitely understand why pixie/ankle pants wouldn’t be allowed. Plus, the world of finance can be so stuffy when it comes to things like this. I would definitely err on the side of formal suit with the wider leg pant or skirt.

    5. Murphy*

      Yeah, that sounds bizarre. I would think in any but the most conservative/formal environments that they’d be fine.

    6. NotInUS*

      It’s not something that would be a problem anywhere I worked in the past, but I know that some places are really weird about dress code (regardless of how formal they are generally). I’ve found over the years that sometimes dress codes don’t make sense and it’s better to just go with it and not let it be a hill to die on. Sucks though if you invest in new clothes and then they aren’t ok for work. Sorry this happened to you.

    7. Anononon*

      It’s pretty conservative, but I can understand how those pants wouldn’t fit within the company’s image. I’ve worn suits in that style to court before, and I’ve seen others do it as well, but I tend to do it for less formal proceedings (case management conferences, mediations).

      I also work in a pretty unusual law firm that has an extremely casual dress code (and all of our clients are banks/financial institutions). T-shirts, jeans, sneakers are OK for staff, and lawyers regularly wear jeans and casual tops.

    8. Twenty Points for the Copier*

      That is extreme and unusual but understandable given the overall dress code. Suits required is VERY rare these days (and I have worked in finance for the past 10+ years… though in the US so maybe some countries are more formal). But given that they are requiring suits, sticking to more traditional pants lengths is not that surprising. Ankle length is definitely more casual and more trendy as opposed to conservative business attire.

    9. LaDeeDa*

      It is almost impossible to find any pants that aren’t ankle pants!
      I see women in offices all over the city, and even lawyers in court, wearing ankle pants with heels. Not sure why your office would ban them…?

      1. Mockingjay*

        Second this. I need new slacks for work and I can’t find any that aren’t cropped, even in winter styles.

    10. kittymommy*

      Ooh, the pixie pants would probably be a no go where I work as well, just too short. I have worn ankle pants on some casual days, but not anything where we have board meetings. Honestly, it being both in legal and finance, yeah, both of those styles are probably going to come across as too casual. Those fields just tend to be much more formal and traditional than most others. Your likely going to need to stick to trouser or straight cut slacks.

    11. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Yeah, for the environment you describe I wouldn’t expect open arms for pixie/ankle pants. But I will add, your workplace seems a bit out of the average workplace range for formality. So, while you would have probably been ok with your choices in most workplaces, you should err on the side of formal/conservative in yours.

    12. Rey*

      Oof, this might be obvious to others who have worked in these environments, but I would definitely make the same mistake (and I have the same background of being the only person in my family who works in an office). Are there any other females in your department that are about the same age? You can try to follow their lead so its formal enough for your office and close to your age range. I’m sending Jedi hugs to you!

    13. MissDisplaced*

      I’m not sure about the term pixie pants, which I somehow feel are more casual like capris maybe?

      But I fail to see how an ankle pant suit like this: https://i.pinimg.com/564x/eb/ea/cd/ebeacd0487ab7a504084b7e0e6b885cd.jpg
      http://i.pinimg.com/736x/be/f6/e3/bef6e3375cfd944dca4089fbbb631304.jpg
      https://i.pinimg.com/736x/51/b9/48/51b948ecdbe7ae119a3aaf754684aaa3.jpg
      would not be deemed work appropriate. Ankle pants are simply pants cut a bit shorter to hit just at or slightly above the ankle. Capri & pixie pants hit more at the mid-calf, so I sort of see why that might not fly.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        I concur with MissDisplaced. I can see the Pixie pants being a no-go, but ankle pants? I don’t understand that one. I have worn ankle pants (black or navy) with a blazer of the same color and a collared shirt underneath as part of a suit and looked very professional. I’m short and paying to have every single pair of pants I own tailored is both a hassle and expensive. Ankle pants have been a great solution for me.

        I know you say you don’t want to push back on this, but I’d push back on ankle pants. Would they say the same thing about someone that chooses to have their pants hemmed really short or just wears them that way because they like to? (These people do exist. I promise. :) ) I have a hard time believing they would.

    14. learnedthehardway*

      I had to look both ankle pants and pixie pants up, and yep, they would not be suitable in a formal environment. Sorry to tell you that. You might get away with them on casual Fridays, if your employer has that.

      You should look at building a basic wardrobe with interchangeable pieces – google “capsule wardrobe formal” for ideas.

      When I started my career – also in a very formal setting – I had only one suit that was really formal. My grandmother bought me as a graduation present (it was gorgeous – blueberry blue. Dark enough for interviews, but the perfect colour for me – I look like death warmed over in black or navy). My first pay check – I went shopping at the same store and got another suit (I think it was in a deep burgundy). I got the blazers and both skirt and pants with both suits. That was enough for a week, with about 5 tops that coordinated with both suits. I had 2 pairs of shoes that worked with both suits as well. I varied accessories to keep the look changed up as well (silk scarves were key to this).

      I didn’t want to spend a ton on clothes, so after that, I went to consignment shops and also scoped out the thrift store in a really good area of town. I got some absolutely beautiful designer suits this way, at less than 1/4 of retail prices.

      After that, I built my wardrobe bit at a time, always finding pieces that would work with what I already had. I always got suits that were well tailored and good quality, but pretty timeless in style – I could wear the same ones now (if they fit me).

      Hope that helps.

    15. Phoenix Programmer*

      Suits – you only need 2-3 pairs of pants and blazers
      Mix and match with blouses. Good will is your friend. Try tailoring your too big clothes.

    16. only acting normal*

      In a really conservative office with an evidently strict dress code be wary of not-suit colour-matched jacket and trousers. Different fabrics can end up looking much more mismatched than you think, as texture affects how colour is perceived, and different dyes have different ‘base-notes’ (no two navies are ever the same colour, and even a black may be slightly blue or grey or brown).
      And the pixie pants are a definite “no” sorry. (Personally I think they’re a bit harsh on the ankle pants as part of a genuine suit, but this gives away just how conservative they are.)

  20. Camellia*

    Question about performance evaluations – if you are marked as ‘exceeds expectations’ for four years, does that then become your ‘meets expectations’ and you have to start exceeding that? Or are you still judged as ‘exceeds’ because you are still exceeding your coworkers?

    The first manager I had at this job always marked me as ‘exceeds’ because she said I exceed what most of my peers can do. My current manager seems to be in the second camp, that it is now my norm and I have to do even more/better in order to qualify as ‘exceeds’.

    What do you all think?

    1. Murphy*

      I always thought that meant that you exceeded the expectations for the position, even though someone familiar with your work might expect more of you, personally because you’re good at your job.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        I agree with Murphy. “Exceeds” doesn’t mean directly “Better than her peers.” What if your peers did nothing but surf the web, but you actually did one report instead of the ten you were supposed to. Would that get you “exceeds”?

        “Exceeds” should be the expectations for the position. Workers shouldn’t be graded on a curve.

        1. Camellia*

          Our performance evals are not very specific but are high-level, I guess you’d say. Examples are Communication, Interpersonal Skills, Teamwork, Professional Skills and Abilities, and so forth

        2. KMB213*

          I was about to make a similar comment.

          Conversely, if performance evaluations are based only against the performance of coworkers, a good worker on an exceptional team could be marked as “fails to meet expectations” when she is actually meeting, or even exceeding, the expectations for the role.

    2. mr. brightside*

      Your current manager is wrong. The expectations are what’s laid out in your performance plan. If you exceed what’s in there, you exceed expectations. You don’t need to keep finding ways to chip at being 99.9999% perfect just to find one more decimal place to go.

      1. Autumnheart*

        I totally agree. If last year’s “Exceeds expectations” is this year’s “Meets expectations”, then pretty soon they’re getting tons of extra work from you for nothing. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. Otherwise, that means that the rock star with the amazing performance just gets “Meh, you did what we expected you would”, and the low performer, whom any other company would fire, gets all the best raises and rewards because they managed to make an effort once or twice.

        The rubrics for each level of performance should be spelled out before the beginning of the review period, and then the employee should document their accomplishments and compare it to the rubric. You don’t grade performance reviews on an employee’s historic performance, you grade them on the requirements of the position.

    3. Karen from Finance*

      Ha! In a company I worked for, they changed the criteria halfway through my experience there.

      So at first “exceeds expectations” meant expectations for the role. Then they realized this situation, and the fact that for example people who were overdue promotions were ALWAYS going to be exceeding expectations and people who were struggling were always going to fall below even if they showed significant improvement. So with a change of fiscal year they changed the policy, and they started evaluating you based on the expectations set for you specifically, yes based on your role but also generally you – your strenghts, weaknesses and so forth.

      It’s an interesting idea.

      1. scooby snack*

        That seems so backwards! Why wouldn’t you want a track record of how well those who have earned but not been granted promotions are doing, or how much further those who are struggling have to go? If you grant the promotions and support the struggling employees until they’re at the right level, the reviews would show exactly that instead of moving the goal posts. This seems incredibly unfair to the employees.

        1. Karen from Finance*

          They do have that track record. But they do this for performance evaluations because otherwise:

          – If you are a high performer but your promotion is stuck in bureaucratic hell, you won’t get a bonus anyway so you have no incentive to improve, really. You become content doing just YOUR bare minimum, which is higher than what others do, but not as good as you’re actually capable of.
          – If you’re an under performer you become demotivated because whatever you do it will never be enough. This way you have a set of achievable goals and you’re measured against yourself.

          Promotions are still rewarded to those who’ve earned them in terms of filling their role and their duties, but for performance evaluations (bonuses), you’re measured against yourself which kinda sounds fair enough.

          Personally I was always one of those kids in high school that always got very good grades doing very little and it’s made me a very lazy adult, so I get where this is coming from.

          1. Autumnheart*

            “– If you are a high performer but your promotion is stuck in bureaucratic hell, you won’t get a bonus anyway so you have no incentive to improve, really. You become content doing just YOUR bare minimum, which is higher than what others do, but not as good as you’re actually capable of.
            – If you’re an under performer you become demotivated because whatever you do it will never be enough. This way you have a set of achievable goals and you’re measured against yourself.”

            I’m saying this about the policy and I know you have nothing to do with setting it, but this is BS. If a company can’t promote or reward people for performing above expectations, and in return, they get the bare minimum of effort from the employee, that’s perfectly fair. You get what you pay for. And if a person struggles in a position and can never perform according to expectations…fire them. Hire someone who can do the job competently.

            Changing the review system so that high performers are fooled into giving away their labor, and so that low performers aren’t ever fired, is really dysfunctional.

            1. Quiltrrrr*

              You are spot-on with this. As a high performer, I’m paid to do a certain set of things. I’m not management, and I don’t get a bonus, nor an office.

              I’m not going to care more than my boss, who probably makes TWICE what I do, gets the bonus and the office…and slacks off on a lot. If all my effort going above and beyond this year doesn’t result in a nice raise…well, then at least I know my company didn’t see what I did as beneficial. You do get what you pay for, indeed.

            2. General Ginger*

              Yeah, agreed, this is an awful system. High performers are supposed to do more and more for no additional compensation, under-performers are coddled instead of let go.

          2. General Ginger*

            Why on earth should I improve/do more than my bare minimum as a high performer, when I won’t get a bonus anyway, or a promotion, or any other acknowledgment? Especially when the underperformer doesn’t even need to improve enough to meet the goals of the position? This is awful.

            1. Autumnheart*

              Exactly. It sounds like the perfect workplace for anyone who doesn’t actually want to do any work. You’ll have bulletproof job security, at least until the company goes under.

          3. Lalaroo*

            Yeah, but I think the way your company does it takes away motivation from high performers even more. It makes sense for the first and second years, maybe, but eventually you’ll have people who are doing incredible work being rated “meets expectations” and people who are doing barely-acceptable work being rated “exceeds expectations” because they used to do terrible work. How is that motivating for the high performers? And now they’re stuck on a treadmill where they have to keep giving 110% just to get “meets expectations” – talk about no incentive to improve!

          4. Karen from Finance*

            This is interesting. I realize now that my instinct in my previous post had been to rush to the defense of the policy, and, well, the company. Reading your comments I can see how you all are right that it’s backwards and a sign of the company wanting to take advantage of those at the top, demanding more every single time for a pat in the back instead of actual real growth opportunities. And these are some of the reasons I left in the first place.

            It’s fascinating to me that some of that mentality still managed to stick through. Huh.

            Thank y’all, you left me with something to think about.

    4. Veronica Sawyer*

      Interesting, I see the dilemma here of always setting the bar higher and higher for yourself. I personally would interpret “exceeds expectations” year after year as maintaining the same level of good work, not exceeding what you exceeded last year, because that is not realistic without burning yourself out.

      As an aside, I rated myself “exceeds expectations” (4/5) on my first review at my current job, because I felt like “meets expectations” (3/5) was kind of like doing the bare minimum. I feel like I am doing well in my job, although on par with my coworkers, however compared to similar positions I’ve had in other companies everyone is doing very well. Meanwhile my manager kicked it down to “meets expectations”. All the while, she assured me she was very happy with my work, no negative feedback, etc. To me I read that as leaving the opportunity next year to rate me as showing improvement. Fair enough, I guess. She is a good manager overall so I trust her judgment.

    5. The New Wanderer*

      This is why this kind of evaluation is flawed, because of the potential for misinterpretation. I’m not saying there are better processes, just that this one isn’t great. Rank-stacking is where you are rated compared to your peers, so that is a legit interpretation if increasingly unpopular. There’s also the perspective that each employee sets their own goals and are rated on those goals, but that leaves the problem of some people’s goals being more achievable/exceed-able than others’. The generic categories you describe are challenging because it’s possible for people to get pigeon-holed or for small changes in one person to be more valued than big changes in another.

      Practically speaking, I think it matters what the results of getting “meets” vs “exceeds” are for you. I wouldn’t expect a reset to “meets” without some kind of recognition or reward for having exceeded expectations for so long, or at the least a formal new bar for meets vs. exceeds, not just “do better.” What does that mean? Where is the threshold between meets and exceeds? Here, getting “exceeds” for four years would be justification for asking for promotion, as long as the things you were exceeding were standardized/representative of your current level. Then of course the expectation is that you “meet” the next level’s expectations.

    6. Nacho*

      In a good workplace, expectations are standardized, not based on what you did earlier. If they give you a bonus for doing X, you should get that bonus every time you do X.

      It sounds like you might not have a good work place.

    7. Great Expectations*

      That is exactly why I left my last job. I was a high performer throughout my long career. Since I was expected to continue to be a high performer, I met the boss’s expectations for ME. Even though I was outperforming my coworkers, the boss’s expectations for the coworkers was low. Therefore, the low performers were rated as “exceeds expectations”. They got raises and I didn’t. I left 3 years ago and the injustice still makes me furious.

  21. Karen from Finance*

    Just had a meeting with one of the directors where he explained that the reason he’s been including me in more of the meetings with leadership is that he’s prepping me for a larger role, and he wants me to be well-informed once I do step in that role. I’m still a one-woman department but I have a new boss and we seem pretty aligned. I’m slowly being given more and more independence and one of Alison’s pieces of advice is working – I’m always transparent if there are any issues or mistakes and I think this is why they trust me.

    Very excited to start what will be a very challenging and ambitious 2019.

    1. Tabby Baltimore*

      I’m really pleased to see this, and I hope in the coming year other women–who are also receiving mentoring from men above them in positions of authority in their companies or in government–let us know here at AAM about whether this is happening with them, too. I haven’t read the book “Athena Rising” yet, but the authors gave a talk about it at my federal agency last month (I couldn’t go unfortunately), and it seemed to be well-received by both men and women employees.

  22. Seriously Anonymous*

    Our (huge, open bar) office Christmas party was last Friday night and my male coworker…didn’t grope me exactly but definitely touched me in a way that I did not like. It ended my night on a bad note. This is someone I think of as a friend and he was really aggressive and gross. It’s not HR-worthy (I don’t remember the exact details, we were both pretty drunk) but I feel like I lost a friend because I can never look at him the same way. :(

    1. Murphy*

      I’m sorry that happened. :( You know the situation best, but imagine what advice you’d give a friend if this happened to them, when considering whether this is HR-worthy or not. “Aggressive and gross” behavior doesn’t sound like something that should be ignored.

    2. mr. brightside*

      I’d say tell HR anyway, it might be part of a pattern of behavior.

      And I’m really sorry about this, btw. I had to get someone completely out of my life in college because I realized abruptly that I would never feel safe around him if I was impaired in any way. And I thought of him as a friend right up until that point.

      1. Seriously Anonymous*

        That’s the thing that’s really weighing on me. I can’t imagine this is the first time he’s gotten drunk and handsy with someone at a party. I wish I could remember more details. It all happened so fast that I basically remember going over to say hi, and then suddenly walking away feeling bad.

        1. Friday afternoon fever*

          Agree with Buttercup. Trust your gut, but know your HR. It’s not your duty to try to prevent his crappy behavior at your own expense.

          You also don’t have to decide now. You can wait and see how he behaves later—if he says or does something else inappropriate and it’s like “wow, go to HR immediately”—or see if you just feel more strongly one way or the other about talking to HR or not as time goes on.

          I will say that “touched me in a bad way that I did not like” is a completely valid thing to bring to HR, assuming your HR rep is a decent human. It doesn’t have to be full-on groping to be inappropriate in a work setting.

          Do what feels right to you, and take care

      2. SarahKay*

        Seconding the recommendation to tell HR anyway. You don’t necessarily have to make a big deal of it to HR if you don’t want (I mean, you don’t have to demand that action is taken, etc, if you’re not comfortable with that) but at least if you’ve given them the heads-up that this guy is behaving like that it gives HR the opportunity to look for wider patterns.

      3. The Dread Pirate Buttercup*

        Well, know your HR. I asked my manager for advice on handling a co-worker’s crush/ stalky behavior, the manager reported it to HR, and it really felt like painted a target on my back. In theory, I was a grown-up who should have handled my own interpersonal problems, in practice he was a physically-imposing ex-cop who would show up at my apartment unannounced at 1:30 in the morning and was so emotionally fragile and easily offended that he was the reason I was not out as a lesbian at work. Feeling HR’s censure and lack of support just really took the wind out of my sails.

        I don’t work there any more, and I didn’t realize how much this was a sign of toxicity in the workplace. It’s like having a 40-kilo weight off my back.

    3. Havarti*

      Man, this is why I do not like to mix alcohol and coworkers. I think it’s worth mentioning to HR because he may have not exactly groped but definitely touched other people there. You can mourn the loss of the friendship but you also gained some valuable insight.

    4. Jb from Norway (formerly an OP5)*

      It’s okay to mention it later – there’s nothing wrong with going back to him and saying, “Hey! I’ve appreciated our friendship but you crossed a line at the party by being a little handsy. I’m sure it’s just because we were all drinking and having fun, but I want you to know it made me very uncomfortable.”

      I only add the line giving him an excuse because it sounds like this is someone you knew pretty well and had a good relationship with, so perhaps he was just a drunken idiot and doesn’t even realize it. NOT that it makes it okay but I’ve had male friends who crossed a line after drinking and sometimes they just need the feedback. Most are super embarrassed afterwards.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I think this is good advice. Say something to him about how your interaction made you feel uncomfortable and see how he reacts.

    5. Jane of all trades*

      Only you know what’s best for you, and whether you have a good hr department. But. A very similar thing happened to me a while back. I was really worried about reporting it because I thought I’d be questioned about it in a way where I had to justify myself, and that there were some details I could not remember (the situation was very clear cut in that I was just standing there with coworkers and somebody came over and started crossing boundaries in a very clear way. But then I panicked, and therefore couldn’t remember some of the details of the end of that debacle). Hr was amazing. They took the situation seriously, talked me through what had happened to get the facts, and said they were sorry and that this was clearly not ok. They then investigated by interviewing the other people who were there, and the boundary crossing person, who was then given a warning and some training. I walked away feeling like the issue had been satisfactorily addresses. I’m writing this down to give you a sense of what this process can look like. Before I decided to come forward I consulted our employee handbook, one of the witnesses, and the aam community because I had a lot of fear about how this would be received and because I gaslighted myself a little into wondering whether it really was that big a deal.
      Take some time to think about whether this will weigh on you going forward if unaddressed, the potential of negative repercussions on your job if you do report, and whatever else you think is important. Good luck!

  23. Rosie The Rager*

    Bizarre Interview: Suggestions on how to proceed

    Background: I am a mid-career professional who has actively searched for jobs in communications, marketing, PR and fundraising for eight months. I have been a finalist several times, withdrawn from consideration for a host of reasons, and received numerous rejections and ghosting behaviors during the search. However, an interview Tuesday with a boutique PR firm may take the cake as the strangest I’ve yet encountered.

    Interview Invitation: The firm’s owner, Missy, called me three days after I applied through a job website. Because I was on another call, she left a voicemail message that went as follows: “Hello, Rosie. This is Missy with PR firm. Give me a call.” No other details were provided, including her reason for calling, a reasonable timeline for responding or what I needed to prepare for the discussion. Despite my misgivings, I promptly returned the call and scheduled an in-person interview for the following day.

    Interview Prep: Because Missy wrote a very general PR job description, I could not do an in-depth comparison between my resume and the skills she wanted. Instead, I focused on researching the firm’s website, social media, and news coverage. Missy and her firm are well-regarded with the 51-year-old woman receiving profiles in several business publications, offered teaching contracts with local colleges, and contributor status with the likes of Huffington Post and Fox News.

    Interview Intro: On Wednesday afternoon, I drove to a sleepy village about 15 minutes away from the metropolitan area where I reside. I found the PR firm’s offices to be in an updated Victorian home with a three-space driveway, and an aggressively territorial laptop guarding the entrance. I stood at the entrance gently knocking (no doorbell) as the dog continued to bark at me for nearly 5 minutes straight before a short woman donning a long red and black flannel shirt, burgundy jeggings, brown Uggs, and a dark brown slide swept pixie cut answered the door. She order the animal quiet and ushered me into the offices. Through the kitchen and past some small offices we walked to a large conference room that was originally a family dining area but now housed a motorcycle and framed copies of comic books, including vintage editions of “Wonder Woman.”

    Interview Questions: Missy declined to use standard interview questions and interacted with me as though we were having a general conversation. She read in detail several of my writing samples, including a media guide, two newsletters, three fundraising appeals, and an event invitation, among others. She repeatedly asked me about media kits and making pitches, both of which I have done on a more informal level. When I asked her about hours, pay, size of the team, goals for 2019, or anything else, she noted everything was in flux. We concluded the interview with a DISC personality assessment, which she briefly glanced at before saying, “Okay, I should write down directions for you then.”

    Interview Follow-up: Several hours after returning home, I wrote Missy a thank-you note and included the reference list she requested. A full day passed before she responded and asked for social media posts from previous jobs, so I have gone through the Facebook posts I created in previous roles and selected several that I will included under various headings.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Sorry, but this sounds bananacrackers. I do believe I would run from this “opportunity” unless you actually want to work in a bananacrackers environment.

    2. MoopySwarpet*

      “aggressively territorial laptop” – I know you meant lap dog, but an aggressively territorial laptop could totally be a whole comic strip.

      The whole thing is weird, but if you won’t be actually working there and have some autonomy from the crazy, it might be worth it . . . if the price is right.

      1. periwinkle*

        I immediately thought of the aggressive sentient luggage from Discworld. I wouldn’t mind working for someone with sentient luggage, as long as it liked me enough to fold my underwear.

        This person, on the other hand… I don’t know. It could be interesting working for a boutique firm like this, if OP thought their public work was good. Or yeah, it could be bananacrackers.

        1. Rosie The Rager*

          Bananacrackers is about right.

          She checked two of my references today, the Friday before Christmas and demanded a compilation of social media postings to be submitted by end of business. Goodness, she’s being very demanding for someone with whom I’m not yet employed.

          One of my references referred to her as “aggressive” and thought she was deliberately trying to find fault with my writing. What gives?

          Has anyone had a similar experience?

    3. dragonsnap*

      I work in communications and this doesn’t seem too nuts to me. It might not be for everyone, you could certainly find a more traditional agency, but this kind of attitude is not uncommon with a big personality who owns their own small firm. PR can attract sort of charismatic, strong personalities.

      1. Rosie The Rager*

        Dragonsnap, I’m hoping that’s what it is– a big personality.

        She’s very well regarded in the community, so she must be somewhat professional (fingers crossed).

        Thanks for your comment!

        1. learnedthehardway*

          There is a reason some people are self-employed – because they’re really not able to work well with others. Being well regarded as a service provider does not mean she’s professional as a manager.

          I’m going to predict that she’s demanding, nitpicky, and difficult to deal with as a manager. Some of this is my own biases, based on my first experience in a “real” job with a self-employed entrepreneur. But there’s enough in what you’re writing for me to suggest that you be careful.

          1. Friday afternoon fever*

            Bananacrackers. Do due diligence. Do you know anyone who’s actually worked with her who you trust to give an honest opinion?

            Ask why the position is open. Ask about her management style. For god’s sake, ask for more details about compensation and benefits. That was a biiiig flag for me

            1. Rosie The Rager*

              Friday afternoon fever, yes, I have tried and failed to track down any direct reports and am relying on external information for confirmation that the entire position and interview isn’t some type of scam.

              I have been interviewing for nearly nine months, so I feel completely comfortable asking the standard who, what, where, when, why and how questions about the role, responsibilities, and compensation. To date, I have have tried and failed to have any questions about salary, timeline, hourly wage, etc. answered.

              Once Christmas passes, I suppose she will contact me about whether she wants to extend an offer and share with me some details. I’m not sure how desperate I am at this point. Is it worth being annoyed by unprofessional behavior just to have something more current on my resume?

              1. Friday afternoon fever*

                For me, for a while, it was! If you know what you’re going into and you think you can handle it, sometimes it makes sense to take a less than ideal job.

                However. I did know exactly what I’d be paid and what my benefits and hours were. So.

      2. Theguvnah*

        I agree none of this seems particularly unusual. I am Struck but your thorough descriptions of her clothing and decor. Meither of those things seems weird to me.

      3. JS#2*

        I used to work at a small boutique marketing firm. I kept wondering if the above was an interview with my old boss. There are so many commonalities! Replace “aggressive lap dog” with “overly rambunctious pointer” and “updated Victorian” with “updated Craftsman” and “Uggs” with “flip flops” and we’ve got a match! Wow!

        1. Rosie The Rager*

          JS#2, wow that is similar!

          Please tell me how your time with this particularly eccentric boss worked out. Did she exhibit good leadership skills, effective feedback and acknowledgement of jobs well-done, fair compensation and flexibility with schedule?

          How long were you employed with her? Also, did her pointer bite you?

          Thanks for sharing your experience.

          1. JS#2*

            Sure!

            I was there for almost 3 years. It was my first job in the industry and I was so grateful for a job, so I read some of the red flags as “quirk” instead of “potentially dysfunctional.” I had the “conversational” interview, too, and I was offered a job on the spot. Later, I realized that was the way Jane did hiring–impulsively and based on a lot of gut-checks. She often hired people she just liked, and was willing to “find a place” for those people.

            Leadership skills:
            Jane was a boss who was hot or cold. She had an image of herself of a Madison Avenue kind of cut-throat advertising go-getter, but she was a big ol’ softie at heart. She would make bad decisions re: business strategy, clients, hiring or promotions, but avoid dealing with the repercussions. She valued loyalty above all. She threw great employee parties. If she did not like you, she did NOT like you, but she wouldn’t fire you. She would just make you miserable until you quit.

            Effective feedback:
            Jane’s feedback I think was mostly based on gut-checks. She was decisive about what she did and did not like, but she didn’t always understand contemporary tastes and trends. Performance reviews, when she did them, were a joke. The last year I was there, she couldn’t afford raises, so she just didn’t do performance reviews.

            Acknowledgement of jobs well done:
            When we did well, and the clients were happy, she was happy, and she showed it. There was sometimes a gap between what she thought was a “reward” and what would make the employee happy. Example: We had a high-performing employee move out of town and start to commute (1+ hr) into work. Jane was worried the employee would quit, so she gave the employee a company car to drive to work and go to client meetings. But the company car was a manual, and the employee only knew how to drive automatic. The car sat in the parking lot for almost three months before Jane made the intern teach the employee how to drive manual. High-performing employee left anyway.

            Fair compensation:
            She paid you exactly the least amount of money she thought she could get away with. When I gave my notice, she offered to pay me “a lot more money.” Which was kind of insulting, TBH.

            Flexibility with schedule:
            She conflated butts in seats with productivity. There was a lot of argument about work from home. She allowed it for a while, but I think some people misused it and she got a bee in her bonnet. The higher up you were on the chain of command, the higher her expectations about work hours and taking very little time off. Again, if she liked you, she was a lot more flexible.

            The dog:
            The dog was actually a puppy and he eventually grew up. He didn’t bite. :) But he would poop all over the house and someone would have to clean it up (95% of the time, it wasn’t Jane). He wasn’t a bad dog. But we were a dog-centric place, so there was ALWAYS dogs in the house. At one point we had like 6 dogs in the office. It was too much.

            1. Rosie The Rager*

              JS#2, thank you for the thoughtful and thorough response.

              I really appreciate how detailed the post is and that you gave a true summary of Jane’s leadership skills. Based on what you’ve written, her attitude toward rewards and doggy clean-up, in particular, remind me of nonprofit leaders with whom I’ve worked (it ended badly with my position being eliminated).

              Again, I am grateful for your commiseration and snark-free comments.

              Have a safe and happy holiday!

    4. Lilysparrow*

      If you got a vibe that you wouldn’t enjoy working with Missy, it’s probably accurate. But nothing you described sounds particularly unusual for a solo or very small entrepreneur in a creative field. Your research would indicate she’s good at her work. I’m not sure why her outfit or haircut seems so unusual to you, or relevant to the interview.

      I’m particularly struck by your reaction to her initial call. Why would she need to state a reason for calling or give you a specific timeline? You applied to work for her. You knew who she was, and you seem to have figured out her reason for calling and when to respond pretty well for yourself.

      It’s interesting that her reaction to your DISC assessment was “I should write down directions for you.” In conjunction with your desire for step by step instructions on returning her call, it sounds pretty insightful.

      If you’re used to a tightly controlled or highly prescriptive environment, a boutique firm might not be a good fit for you.

      1. Rosie The Rager*

        Lilysparrow, I actually applied to a confidential ad on a job aggregator website. Therefore, I didn’t have a name for either the hiring manager or the company, so I expected a full identification from Missy when she called. Beyond not having prior information, it’s just a basic tenet of professional communication to state your full name, company, reason for calling, and possibly a timeline for an expected response.

        Additionally, I found her sartorial choices off-putting in its casualness. I dressed for an interview, including make-up, hair, jewelry, perfume, and heels, which required time, energy and expense. As an interviewee, I am observing and critiquing a hiring manager, just as he/she/they are evaluating me. Interviewing is a two-way street from language in written and verbal exchanges, to the cleanliness and organization of the office, to the manner in which leadership acquits himself/herself/themselves.

        If I’m being assessed and asked to submit numerous writing samples, a list of references, and giving hours of my time to an interview, then I do expect a professional and respectful dialogue. I don’t know if that’s what I’m getting from Missy.

        1. WellRed*

          Write this one off. You have very little information about things like salary, and having to wait five minutes while the dog barked at you and she was pulling on clothes when she did answer the door, well. She sounds like a flake.

        2. Alianora*

          I would say that because of her apparent disorganization and your feelings around this you should probably not pursue this further. The vague phone message would be off-putting to me too.

          But I agree with Lilysparrow — interviewing at her house (which to me explains the clothing) or having a conversational interview style isn’t necessarily a bad thing, although it’s unusual. And her haircut, her home decor choices, and replying to you after one day don’t seem strange at all, or relevant to assessing her as an employer.

          1. Rosie The Rager*

            Aianora, the office was not her home. The office and its unusual decor were for professional presentation, not a standard living environment.

            Additionally, I stand by my critique of her unprofessional attire and interview style.

            We’ll see how it plays out. I don’t even know what the plan is for moving toward a firm offer. Even after speaking to all of my references and reviewing about eight writing samples and 12 social media samples, I cannot be sure she will offer me the position.

  24. Anon anony*

    I’m a librarian and am interviewing at a law firm. The director is on site, but the manager is remote and located at an out of state firm. Would this be an issue? Also, I’ve never worked at a law firm. Any tips?

    1. Forkeater*

      I don’t know specifically, but my favorite boss of all time was partially remote, maybe onsite 50% of the time. I loved not feeling like he was breathing down my neck.

    2. Ellery*

      I’m a technical services librarian who had no legal library experience at all before coming to work at a law firm, and the only difficulty I’ve had is how quickly my brain forgets these kinds of titles.

      If you have any familiarity with things like Westlaw, Heinonline, LexisNexis or other legal databases, it’d probably be a good idea to mention that. (Or if you’re not familiar, look them up beforehand?)

  25. Roza*

    Just need to vent about a frustrating situation that’s played out over the past year… I work at a startup with fairly inexperienced management. I’m a teapot designer by trade — this means I have some knowledge and experience with mass teapot assembly, but obviously not as much as a specialist in teapot production. I was put in charge of a mass teapot project. Realizing that I wasn’t really qualified, I immediately began lobbying for Circe, an actual teapot production specialist, to lead a lot of the project. Circe was apparently disgruntled that she had not been included more from the get-go, and my thanks for getting her more involved has been her passive-aggressivley undermining me to my new semi-reports (this was my first team lead position), excluding me from meetings, and generally making my life miserable. I’ve generally struggled with imposter syndrome throughout my career, so having someone go out of their way to tear me down has really done a number on my confidence. I’m changing teams to get away from her (due to some other company reshuffling my actual manager wasn’t involved with my team’s work, so I had no one advocating for me at higher levels. Moving teams means I’ll be on the same team as my manager). I still don’t regret the decision — we ultimately have a better product because I ceded decision-making authority to her — but I wish it hadn’t come at such a big personal/psychological cost to me. Other senior folks on the team I currently work on say they’ve been impressed with my maturity in making decisions that we’re good for the team and hard for me, and that Circe is being a jerk…but she’s faced no actual consequences, and I’m tired of her “learning to be a better leader” happening at my expense. Hoping for better outcomes on the new team..

    1. PM*

      Sometimes it’s just best to avoid jerks. But in similar situations I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of letting the other person know how much I value their skills and expertise and want to work with them.

      Good luck with your new team!

      1. Roza*

        Thanks! That’s good advice — I tried it some, and her response was generally that, yes, her insights WERE valuable, and that’s why people like me should not be involved in teapot production. :/

    2. ten-four*

      Ugh that sounds so crushingly unpleasant. It is really draining to consistently have to be the “bigger person,” and it stinks that your management hasn’t addressed Circe’s behavior in any obvious or impactful way. On the plus side, you made a set of very savvy business choices. You put the most experienced person in place, which improved the product, and you behaved professionally while Circe acted like an ass. Those choices have been noted by senior leadership, and that’s good.

      You already did the exact thing I would have recommended, which is to get out of the situation entirely. From here there’s a solid chance that your career trajectory will improve because of your choices here, and Circe’s will founder. If that proves NOT to be the case, you know it’s time to leave.

      I’ve got peer who is relentlessly unpleasant and adversarial, and it’s just so goddamn exhausting. I pulled out of joint projects with her, and asked for and got a role change. My leadership thinks I’m doing a stellar job; my peer is on pretty thin ice. I wish it would get resolved one way or another so I could figure out how to work with her if that’s the way forward or not have to work with her anymore, but I understand why its taking a while to resolve. All of which is to say: I hear you, it’s hard! It sounds like you’re doing a really good job.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I think that taking the high road will pay off for you in the long run. I hope time changes this story for you.

  26. Clay on my apron*

    However you approach it you’ll be burning bridges. But to minimise the damage, let Company A know as soon as possible so that they can resume interviewing, acknowledge the impact on them, and apologise. Then move on.

    Be sure that this new offer at Company B is really as fantastic as it seems though, because you’re not just trading off the job at Company A, but as you say, all future opportunities with that organisation, and probably any organisation that the hiring manager moves to in the future.

    Good luck.

  27. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

    Wednesday, my direct supervisor told me that she was buying lunch for me and her other direct reports as a holiday party. Okay, sounds good! Then she tells me it’s a secret and if anyone asks, to say it’s a meeting. Okaaaay, little weird, but whatevs- free food.

    Thursday, as planned, we all go to her office. There’s food, but we’re all crammed into her office, the door is closed and she mentions that her boss doesn’t know that we’re having this party and she doesn’t want him to find out. Errr, okay? She tells us that we’re doing a great job (yay!) no matter what anyone else might say (wait, what?) and to eat and enjoy. It’s awkward.

    At one point, there’s a knock on the door and my boss sidles up to the door and sticks her head out. It’s the person who handles payroll and she is clearly confused why she can’t come in the office, but nevertheless she tells boss that she has processed the paperwork  for the raises and just needs my boss to sign off on them. So now we’re all wondering who is getting a raise. My boss is clearly regretting trying to hold stealth meeting/party and more or less kicks us all out after that.

    I appreciated the thought, but it was some of the most awkward time I’ve ever spent at work. And I consider being in awkward situations to be my super power.

    1. Annie Moose*

      This is so weird. Does your office have a policy against team lunches or something??

      Oh well, at least you got free food and a funny story out of it.

      1. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

        I think there’s some work politics stuff going on that I am (mercifully) not aware of. I’m fortunate to be mostly left out of the palace intrigues.

    2. Decima Dewey*

      Next up: the team in the secret party in her office learns that the raises aren’t for any of them.

    3. Windchime*

      This feels like something that could end up in one of Alison’s “top 10” compilation posts. So awkward!

  28. Labradoodle Daddy*

    I posted last week about discovering my coworker’s frivolous wrongful termination lawsuit. Update– that coworker either quit or was fired two days ago. Does that change anything re: should I warn my manager? Link to original comment in username.

    1. valentine*

      If you mean warn your manager about her, no. (Also, in future, don’t investigate problem colleagues.) Is this the person you wanted fired but your manager was waiting to hear about contract renewal, which you were sure your employer wouldn’t get?

    2. Friday afternoon fever*

      She’s gone; why would you warn your manager and at this point what are you warning them about?

  29. Doug Judy*

    Thanks for those who commented on my husband starting a new job/career this week. I dialed back the Leslie Knope level of enthusiasm and just let him be. Monday he didn’t want to discuss it at all but last night he seemed much more upbeat that while the pay isn’t awesome right now, he see hows his work ethic will let him move up very quickly. He’s also stressed because I am job hunting as my current position could end soon, and the uncertainty with that was weighing on him. I had two promising interviews this week, so hopefully soon everything will be settled and the anxiety of the job searching and the holidays will be over.

  30. Anongovemployee*

    So… I will have to keep working if there is a shutdown but there is no guarantee I will get paid next week. I have enough reserves to pay my bills, but with Christmas, some of my coworkers do not. We usually get retro pay but the checks will still be late, and there is actually no guarantee we will get paid for our extension time.

    I love my job (it is very nonpolitical, so insulated from a lot of the problems other agencies have faced), but this is just very frustrating. Can you imagine tolerating this from a private employer?

    1. mr. brightside*

      If it’s like last time, in a week you’ll get e-mails about how to take out TSP loans, which might be helpful for your coworkers?

      1. Anongovemployee*

        Yeah, although I have to say it is just insulting. The idea that we have to take out loans when we have dine everything we are supposed to do is especially aggravating.

          1. Anongovemployee*

            I mean, I generally love working for my sub agency. I believe in public service and I take a lot of pride in helping people navigate the system and the work I do. I could go private and make significantly more money, but I feel like that aspect would be lost. Hopefully this is a blip in a much longer career, but if this continues, I don’t know. They definitely cannot continue to treat feds like a punching bag and expect us to stick around. My sub agency has avoided the brain drain that many others have suffered so far.

            1. Former Retail Manager*

              I can’t tell how long you’ve been a Fed, but I have been one for almost 9 years now. The longest shutdown I’ve endured was the one that occurred in 2012 that lasted 17 days and then the one last year that lasted for one day, if I remember correctly. Unfortunately, the Federal budget and congressional game playing has been a debacle for almost a decade now. While none of us know what the future holds, I personally don’t think there will be much improvement anytime soon. All that being said, I have no plans to leave. My fellow co-workers who have been around for 25+ years have taken it all in stride and simply say that it all ebbs and flows…..and we’ve always received backpay for the furlough time, although I realize that is never guaranteed.

              I feel your pain on this whole issue and am just as frustrated and, truly, the timing couldn’t be worse with the holidays. Hope you have a nice holiday despite all this.

        1. mr. brightside*

          Oh it is absolutely 100% insulting. The first time I saw the e-mail, I might have swore at the screen ;)

    2. MissDisplaced*

      No, I can’t imagine tolerating that from private industry (even though I once did work for a month without being paid [it was paid back]). It makes me very angry as a taxpayer that a petulant so-called “leader” can punish the hardworking people that keep our government running in order to get his way.

    3. automaticdoor*

      It is total bullshit. I have a couple of friends who work for Interior and they’re getting screwed too. I don’t know if they have to work next week, but either way it’s still awful to not have a guaranteed paycheck, especially at the holidays.

    4. Helveticker*

      I feel your pain. I am a contractor and my job is vulnerable to a shutdown as well. I posted something further down the comments about burning through my meager accumulation of paid time off in case of an extended shutdown. Sigh….

      1. Anonymous For This One*

        My husband was informed that he will have to take Monday as LWOP which is a holiday (but wasn’t a Fed scheduled one).

        His particular department is funded (USPTO), but no saying if the contractors will work or take LWOP if they don’t have enough to cover (and he doesn’t).

    5. RabbitRabbit*

      It’s so much BS. I shared an article about Jose Andres giving out free sandwiches for lunch to government employees for the duration of the shutdown, so maybe enough people will manage to shame (hah) the administration into knocking off this nonsense.

    6. Annie Moose*

      Ughhhhh I’m so sorry. I hate how all the political maneuvering affects so many ordinary people who just want to do their jobs. I hope the impact on you and your coworkers is as minimal as possible.

      What a miserable thing to have right before Christmas, too…

    7. Maggie May*

      I had a previous employer (public school, was a TA) avoid paying me for months. I had to threaten the state department of labor, so no, I don’t think it’s really tolerated. Honestly, and I am not a lawyer, I don’t think it’s legal per se but usually it’s a smaller company rather than a huge conglomerate where the boss can be like hey it’ll be late due to whatever.

      generally up to the employee to figure out if “whatever” is a good enough reason.

      1. blackcat*

        It is legal for the federal government to not pay its employees.
        It may be legal for state/local governments to not pay their employees, too, depending on state/local laws.
        The government conveniently excepts itself from most labor laws. Plenty of stuff that would be unacceptable/illegal in the private sector can fly in government. Now there are plenty of other benefits to government jobs, but the not having certain laws apply to you is not good. See: my fed employee friend who had to return to work 6 weeks after the birth of each child. It’s what her agency requires, and she is not eligible for FMLA.

    8. Garland not Andrews*

      I totally feel the pain. I’m in a non-critical role, so I just get shown the door.
      It’s not like my bill stop because Congress and the POTUS cannot play nice. If I did my job as badly as they are doing theirs, I’d get fired. And rightly so!

  31. Nervous Accountant*

    Not a whole lot to share this week but —

    We’re having our holiday gift exchange today, and our holiday party is tonight.

    My coworker was out on vacation, so we covered his desk in Rice Krispie’s treats.

    I found someone who likes the same musician I do, so I found another fan yay!

    Some of hte Secret santa exchange gifts are hilarious and cute.

    We had the last manager meeting of the year on Monday and it was almost 4 hours long. A lot of stuff coming up, and I can honestly say I feel so excited about the new changes coming!

    We got all of Christmas eve off (instead of half day as in previous years). My coworker Kevin is on vacation all next week, so 3 days of peace!

    Excited!

    I love this time of year. Happy Holidays to those who celebrate! Hope your office celebration is as fun or simple or nonexistent as you’d like! <3

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      Fellow accountant here and I follow your posts. Glad to see so many positive updates from you. Enjoy your time off!!

  32. Dr. Doll*

    Anybody use Trello?

    I have someone who needs not micro-managing but NANO-managing (they will do exactly what you tell them to do at the moment you tell them to do it and never think of the task again; if you want follow up you have to tell them to follow up) and wondered if a system like Trello or other would help.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I use it to manage my own work flow and find it helpful. There are tools that allow you to “watch” a card so it might help in this type of situation.

      Though I have to ask – if the person needs this level of supervision/instruction, are they really a good fit for this position?

      1. Tara S.*

        +1. I really like Trello, especially for keeping track of steps in particular tasks. Either I can create a checklist that goes in each task and check off as I go, or I can make a comment every time I do something (“Sent ABC document to Sansa 12/21/18, waiting on approval.”).

        However, I use this for myself and am not sure if forcing it on someone will solve your problem, especially if they don’t buy in/use it.

    2. PB*

      It might. In Trello, you can set reminders, or tag a person. I personally like Trello. I will say, however, I’ve been unsuccessful in implementing it with my team. Others found it clunky and difficult to use, and as a result, they just… don’t. People tend to either love it or hate it. It might be worth a try, but be willing to go back to the drawing board if it doesn’t work out.

    3. Kristinemk*

      We use Asana here, as we have a lot of repeating tasks. You can group things into projects and copy them, or set up the tasks to be recurring. It works pretty well for us.

      1. Friday afternoon fever*

        Asana will email send you a million emails if you miss a task deadline. Sounds like a good recommendation

    4. Buffy*

      I use Trello! I was first introduced to it on a small team of 3 people and it helped our boss check in where our projects were without nagging us.

      Now, I’m essentially running my own shop and use it to keep myself on track.

    5. Jb from Norway (formerly an OP5)*

      If you have Office 365, you can also use Microsoft Planner without any additional costs. It will also add tasks to the Outlook calendar on the day they are due.

    6. LDP*

      I’ve used Trello in the past and really liked it! When I used it, there were three of us total on the team, and it was nice to be able to see my coworkers’ boards so I could know how busy their day/week would be. We had to collaborate on a lot of projects, so it was really helpful to know that maybe they had a lot due on Monday, but would have a little more breathing room later in the week to tackle things we were working on together.

    7. Autumnheart*

      This reminds me of an old Twilight Zone episode, where someone wished that people would do whatever he told them. He started out ordering his mother to make him pancakes for breakfast, but instead she had a 404 error and he had to tell her to get out the ingredients, then to turn on the oven, get a frying pan…

      If you have to program an employee like they’re a piece of software in order to get them to do anything, maybe that person is more trouble than they’re worth.

    8. Award winning llama wrangler*

      I use Trello quite a bit for our team since we’re 24/7 and it’s a quick and easy way to track where everyone is on specific projects. Last summer I added a list with longer-term projects with no due dates so if someone finishes up a project when I’m not around, they can pick something else to work on.

  33. Work Situation*

    People in another community I belong to suggested I might get a good answer to my problem here, so here goes:

    I am on the tenure track at my university, but not tenured yet. I work with a woman who is tenured, and who is extremely aggressive about begging for donations for her dog. She adopts a lot of dogs with chronic illnesses and who are old, and I would think that was laudable if she could pay for them- but she can’t. She’s begged for donations for everything from food to vet bills to creating memorial tombstones for dead dogs. Partially because our department head is extremely non-confrontational, and partially because she’s using an e-mail list of personal e-mail addresses for our colleagues she put together instead of work e-mail, our department head is not willing to do anything to stop her. He did step in when she screamed at the department admin for not granting her “bereavement leave” for dog funerals, but that was the only time.

    Her begging has stepped up because apparently even her income and her spouse’s income is not enough to pay for all the dog-related stuff, and she’s now maxed out her credit cards. I told her I didn’t want to donate and she ignored me for a while, but the recent begging includes me, and when I told her again that I don’t want to donate, she called me selfish because “What about the PUPPIES?” Other people have been unwilling to confront her because they either don’t have to deal with her on a daily basis like the people in our department do or are afraid of her yelling at them as she has in the past. However, it’s definitely tarnished her reputation: people are avoiding her, joking about her, gossiping behind her back. My question is about how in the world to handle this. This woman will be reviewing my tenure dossier since she’s a tenured member of the department, and the majority of the people she hassles for money are, like me, on the track but not there yet. Speaking directly to her and asking her to stop e-mailing me just gets me called selfish.

    1. Time to get that arranged marriage my parents want*

      Oh my God, this sounds so annoying. I don’t know anything about how universities are structured…is there anyone above her that you can talk to?

      1. Work Situation*

        There is, but the person immediately above my department head is the tenured colleague’s BFF and has donated thousands of dollars to her dogs. I wonder if I would be justified in skipping that person and going to the next step? The procedure at my university is supposed to be: handle interactions with your colleagues yourself, go to the department head if that doesn’t work, go to the college head next, go to the dean, go to the provost. The college head is the one who’s her BFF.

        1. Murphy*

          That’s tough…is there a tenure and promotion committee/faculty affairs divisions I could talk to? It’s unprofessional behavior on her part in any capacity, but if it could affect your tenure, that’s a big deal.

          1. Work Situation*

            There’s a committee in another location that’s staffed by people from the central campus of our university (we are a branch of a much larger school and tend to serve on committees that handle our local affairs). I should probably look up the procedure to appeal to them, since while they don’t have any reason to know how annoying this is on their own, they’re also not going to automatically be on her side just because she has friends here. Thank you.

            1. valentine*

              Go to the dean with the whole tale, including the conflicts of interest. And block her from your personal email or burn it.

    2. WellRed*

      She sounds like some variation of an animal hoarder. I take it in a University environment there’s no way to escalate this?

      1. Work Situation*

        There is; the problem is that her immediate superior is my non-confrontational department head who’s said he can’t do anything because she’s not sending e-mails on the work e-mail system and the department head’s superior is her friend and highly supportive of doggie donations. I can go beyond that, but I don’t know if I would be justified in doing that, and I don’t know if speaking to the tenured woman’s friend would also result in being told I should donate.

        1. Psyche*

          Can you talk to the department head again and point out that she is asking for money from people she will review for tenure and gets angry when she is told no. Explicitly point out how this is a conflict of interest and that tenure track faculty may feel coerced into giving her money for her PRIVATELY OWNED pets. She isn’t asking for a donation to a charity.

          1. Work Situation*

            I’ve talked to him several times. He refuses to intervene. He keeps saying we should handle conflicts between ourselves. If I do talk to someone else in power about it, I’m going to have to escalate it.

            1. Autumnheart*

              It sounds as though it’s time to escalate. Not only because of this woman inappropriately badgering her colleagues for money for her personal use, as well as having it potentially impact your work, but to also inform them that your department head refuses to intervene.

          2. My First Comment*

            This a million times. This is a conflict of interest and harassment (even if it’s not legally harassment it’s annoying AF). You have the right to spend your money however you see fit. That shouldn’t impact your (and others) chances at tenure. Plus she’s ongoing begging for money from coworkers which by itself is not okay.

    3. MeganTea*

      Well, since it sounds like she *already* thinks you’re selfish … how comfortable would you be with looping your department head in EVERY single time she asks for a donation? For example, every time she asks for a donation, follow up via email (regardless of whether she asked in person or email), “Hi Sally, As I mentioned last time, I will not be providing donations for your dogs’ care. I respectfully ask that you stop requesting donations from me.” And CC the department head.
      This will at least create an electronic record of the frequency of her asking you.
      However, I do not work in academia, so others that do may have more experience with departmental politics and may be better able to guide you.

      1. Work Situation*

        I can do this. The main problem is that she’s e-mailing me through another service (think G-mail) and not on our work e-mail system, which is why our department head has said he can’t do anything, so I don’t know how he would feel about receiving e-mail replies that come through the outside e-mail.

        But the idea about replying to her in e-mail even if she’s talked to me in person is a good one. Thank you.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Can you just block her email address or set up a filter to send her emails directly to the trash?

          1. Work Situation*

            Yes. I hadn’t because I was worried about further retaliation, but at this point, probably it doesn’t make a difference, and if she’s going to retaliate, she’s going to do it based on the fact that I haven’t donated, not whether or not I’m blocking her e-mails.

        2. LizB*

          If your email is on Gmail, it’s very straightforward to filter all emails from her into a separate folder and have them skip your inbox. (Or, all emails from her that also contain the word “dog” or “donation” or whatever makes sense to filter effectively.) That would at least get that annoyance off your plate, plus you’d have all the emails in one spot, which would give you great data on how often she’s asking for donations if you do eventually escalate it.

        3. Loose Seal*

          Well, if he says that bothers him, tell him that getting emails from co-workers to your personal email bothers you. And then continue to cc replies.

        4. Reba*

          That is a bullshit excuse on your dept. chair’s part. SHEESH.

          At this level it really should not matter if she is harassing you through gmail, post it notes or interpretive dance! It’s harassment of junior colleagues whose work she will review. She probably does it over personal emails because she knows that it’s not appropriate for work.

          I agree with others that one silver lining of the mass email thing (and other ways she’s acting out) is that all your other colleagues also know what she’s like. Her opinions on you or anything else are surely being taken with large heaps of salt, right?

    4. irene adler*

      Are you expecting her to be less than completely professional when she does the tenure dossier review?

      That being the case, save the solicitations for funds you have received from her. Then if your review seems biased because it looks like it is based on your lack of donations, bring this as high up the ladder that you need to for some action to take place. Let department head know you are going higher if they don’t take action.

      1. Work Situation*

        Yes, frankly, I am. She doesn’t behave professionally in day-to-day life; she has sworn at colleagues, called one a c*** for refusing to donate, and tried to spread rumors of “collusion” and “conspiracy” when we hired a new administrator because she believed she had a shot at the position and was upset she didn’t get granted an interview. (She had no shot, she’s completely unqualified for what they wanted this person to do). An e-mail record is a good idea.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Holy shite. Document all this and then escalate escalate escalate. You have reason to fear retributive action from someone who has power over your professional life. Move it up the chain!

        2. I only give money to fat cats*

          Whoa.

          Looks like theres a better chance for you to have a postive out come if you escalate. Given how little trust you should have on her ability to be impartial Prior to her calling you cruel, the likelihood her nastiness was ill hurt your professional future is incredibly high.

          I would advocate for getting higher ups involved. Its pretty coresive to hound people for money and abuse them when they refuse, and its an abuse of power given your reliance on her to move tenure forward.

    5. NotInUS*

      Do you know if she is for sure on your tenure review committee? In my institution, not every tenured faculty reviews the tenure packages – it’s usually a committee both at the department level and then the faculty, etc. as it moves up.

      I agree with the others that your chair isn’t really doing his job – he should shut this down; however, politics of this stuff is always less straightforward in universities and if she is using personal email addresses it’s more grey. I would keep a paper trail and I would strongly consider ignoring all the emails and not responding. If you are confronted in person, document the interaction and ensure it’s date stamped. Send an email to the Chair (copy yourself) rather than to her if you think responding to her is escalating things. I’m concerned that your email responses to her are making things worse. Consider asking others also on tenured track who are dealing with it to keep records as well.

      Other thing to keep in mind, everyone knows she’s off about this stuff so if you keep good records and keep your chair looped in there shouldn’t be much opportunity for her to sabotage your tenure review. And honestly, any impact she would have on an otherwise strong tenure package is going to result in a lawsuit by you to the university so no one is going to want that to happen. My point is, yes, she can make things difficult but she shouldn’t be able to ultimately affect your tenure prospects if you are in a somewhat normal university.

      1. Work Situation*

        Thank you. This is reassuring. I think part of the problem is that I’ve only discussed this with people who either refuse to do anything or people in the same situation I am, so we tend to sort of stew together and come up with nightmare scenarios in an echo chamber. I do know that she will review my dossier, though, because tenured faculty in my department always review the dossiers of everyone going through the process in that same department.

        Not responding to/blocking e-mails is also something I’m going to try. I thought that would get her more upset, but at this point she’s acting irrationally anyway and it’s probably not going to change anything much.

    6. CatCat*

      Caveat: I am not familiar with the university world. Is she subject to any ethical or conflict of interest rules at the institution (or if a public institution, something applicable to all public employees) that would cover this? Is there a specific office or agency that would handle complaints about that?

      1. Work Situation*

        We’re public, but I’m not aware of any such conflict of interest rules. The administration would be enormously interested if she was trying to get students to do this, and like I said, our department head did step in when she badgered the admin, but no one seems concerned about it being fellow faculty.

    7. Rey*

      I am a university staff member, so I don’t interact directly with the hierarchy around faculty and tenure track issues. But, my university has a Faculty Relations office that reports directly to the Academic Vice President. If I understand correctly, you should be able to talk directly with the Faculty Relations office because of the connection to your tenure review. Your report to them should include hard data, i.e., how many donation requests has she made and in what forms (email, verbal, flyer, etc.), specific instances of her negative responses to non-donations, etc. I would focus very specifically on your concern about coercion around your tenure review (so consider leaving out the bit about your department chair and personal email addresses and maxing out her credit cards).

      1. Tara S.*

        ^ If you don’t want to go directly to Faculty Relation, your campus most likely has an Ombuds/Ombudsman position. You can contact this person/office about the problem, and they will keep everything you tell them confidential. Mostly Ombuds are supposed to be neutral third parties that can address things like this, especially when there is a seniority imbalance. Some don’t have teeth and ultimately won’t be helpful, but it doesn’t hurt to reach out and see what your options are. Just google “[your university} ombuds” and go from there. Best of luck, this sounds awful.

    8. Auntie Social*

      It’s not appropriate at all to give money to someone who will be reviewing you/ hiring you etc. It looks like you’re paying for the job, or greasing palms to get the job. It just looks sooo unethical. So that’s what I would tell her—you can’t donate because you want every aspect of your review and/or hiring to pass the smell test. Not just for your sake but for the university.
      I’d say it nicely, and I’d probably give her a small amount once I was hired because I’m a fool for dogs. I wouldn’t contribute to headstones, however, because money should be spent on live animals.

    9. Firefly*

      This is harrassment. You need to talk to HR. Show them copies of the emails. It doesn’t matter if they are sent to your personal account.

    10. Dr. Doll*

      This is not helpful at all, but can I just say that this is absolutely fascinating and one of the weirdest examples of weird academic behavior that I’ve ever seen. If it wasn’t so serious, I’d suggest popcorn for the show.

      …others have given excellent advice including university ombuds, faculty relations official, etc. I would add, possibly, gathering the group of untenured folk to go to the dean together could be helpful.

    11. Texan at Heart*

      This sounds so stressful. I’m sorry.

      I’m not in academia but have been in various public education settings that also involve tenure. In situations like this, non-tenured folks would give a small amount now and again. Tenured staff would escalate it and leave non-tenured out of it, because they wouldn’t have the same career risks. If that’s a possibility, I’d highly recommend it.

      If not, I honestly wouldn’t fight this battle without tenure. The personal risks are too great. I’d call it a cost of the job and ignore the emails or donate a small amount now and again.

      I get how passive that sounds and absolutely respect the perspective of escalating it. I’d just be aware of the potential cost of escalation, as it could be significant.

    1. Gumby*

      Do you have a reputation as a reliable and honest person? Because I didn’t even go looking for my “side gig” of pet/house sitting. And yet last year I estimate I spent about 2 months, collectively, watching a variety of pets. You do it for one person, they pass your name on, etc. At one point I had 3 set of house keys that were not to my own domicile. Now I’m down to 1 (one family moved away, one lost their pet to old age) (the 4th family I sometimes dog sit for uses a keypad entry so no key for that).

  34. spek*

    I need a reality check. Sometimes I can be a cynical jerk, so I am wondering if it’s just me. I am two months into a new job with a huge multinational Fortune 100 company with offices everywhere. I work in a building with 300 or so engineers/ILS Staff with no HR or Directors on-site. This week, one of the very junior managers here sent an email to the entire building announcing that it’s the time of year we show appreciation for the custodial staff. We are all requested to come by her desk and leave a donation for the cleaning crew. The funds collected will be given to the cleaning crew at the holiday lunch.
    Am I wrong at being annoyed by this? In a multi-billion dollar company we are getting a shake down to supplement another employee’s income? I don’t know if I’m overreacting. Some employees I have asked find it irritating, others can’t wait to go by and drop $$ in the jar.
    Additionally, I’m contract-hourly, so not even do I not get a bonus, I’m unpaid next week when the office is closed.
    Am I off base for letting this get to me?

    1. mr. brightside*

      It is annoying, especially asking you to pay another employee’s salary (and if you’re a contractor, it’s even worse). But it also, sadly, might be normal. But you’re not off base by being annoyed by it.

    2. Friday Anon*

      We do a collection at our office for the maintenance and security staff too. I always look forward to it. The people in these roles do so much for my office every single day. Plus, while I also work for a well-funded organization, the people in these roles are contractors so they’re not technically on our payroll. It’s an easy way to express my appreciation for everything they do.

      1. Tara S.*

        +1 You don’t have to participate, but it’s a nice way to show people *who literally clean up your crap* some appreciation.

    3. Elizabeth Proctor*

      I doubt the cleaning crew are employees of the company. They probably work for a service. Personally, I’d be happy to contribute because I think custodians are often underpaid and, more importantly, treated poorly. As far as your being annoyed, for me it depends on the wording of the email.

      Also, why announce that today? I don’t carry cash so I wouldn’t be able to contribute…

    4. CheeryO*

      Nope, you’re not a cynical jerk. We collect for our cleaning staff and our administrative assistant every year around the holidays, and it irks me to no end. We’re state government, but the cleaning staff is paid by our landlord, who is a multi-millionaire developer, and our admin is paid very well – more than most of our junior technical staff. I give $5 to each and call it a day, but I know I’m not the only one privately rolling my eyes over it.

      1. CheeryO*

        Or maybe I’m just a cynical jerk too, judging by the other comments! I do think it’s nice to help the cleaning staff in particular, but the implication that it’s expected of the entire office bugs. Oh well.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        As a former admin, I would be so humiliated if they took up a collection for me. Collections are for charity cases, not an assistant.

    5. Doug Judy*

      Like others said they are likely employed by a cleaning service not your company, and probably make very little money doing a virtually thankless job. Don’t donate if you don’t want to but I don’t think being annoyed by it is appropriate either.

      1. Temperance*

        I think it’s okay for OP to be annoyed, since she’s also an hourly contractor and not making $$ from the actual org. It’s tone deaf to ask a temp to contribute like that.

        1. Doug Judy*

          It was a mass email to the entire building, I am sure they didn’t have time to weed out the temps vs regular staff. Now if they had specifically asked OP to contribute, yeah that’s annoying, but a mass email? Donate or delete, no need to give it headspace.

          1. Temperance*

            At least in my office, there are different distribution lists for the full-time people employed by my org and contractors. We don’t ever request contributions from contractors/temps, and I just assumed that this would be universal practice.

        2. fposte*

          But she didn’t get personally asked; she just got included in the email to everybody. I doubt that the person sending it even has information about different people’s pay levels and status.

          1. ..Kat..*

            Still, treating contractors like employees, intentionally or not, can land the company in hot water.

    6. CTT*

      I think of it as less a shakedown and more coming together to thank someone who does a very thankless task. You certainly don’t have to give if you don’t want to, but it’s not horrible that your colleagues want to contribute.

    7. Catleesi*

      I don’t necessarily thing it’s wrong to be annoyed – but the annoyance should be at the company and hopefully not the employees. Of all the people I could be asked to contribute to I would be the least annoyed at doing it for custodial staff though, because they usually are less well compensated but perform a really essential service.

      1. spek*

        All – thank you for your input. I am taking your comments to heart and will try to be less irritated. I would, however, like to add that while the cleaning staff is all Hispanic, so am I, and from greeting them and speaking with them often in Spanish, I know that while the job is not the most glamorous, they are by no means underpaid or exploited.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          Try to frame it as a “tip” or gratuity for the year.
          Look, my garbage truck guys put a tip envelope on the trash cans every year at this time. I find it a little annoying as I pay a high tax and get billed for sewer/trash quarterly, so it’s not like they’re hurting.

          But if they do good work and you feel like tipping, tip.

    8. Parenthetically*

      Two parts to this, IMO:

      1. It is horrible and trashy for a multibillion-dollar company to underpay its support/custodial staff, and/or to expect other employees to subsidize their income, just like it is horrible and trashy to pay servers $3/hr and expect customers to subsidize their income. Yes — that feeling is justified. But…
      2. Getting pissed about it doesn’t fix the inequity or the tone-deafness of the ask. If you can afford to throw in a few bucks as a gesture of solidarity with other underpaid workers, I say do it. If you can’t, don’t. But if you have any kind of pull, you could channel some of that rage into solution-oriented energy — dropping by that junior manager’s office and saying, “Hey, is the company not paying the custodians enough, or is there a reason the company isn’t handling their holiday bonuses? I was just wondering. I’m happy to contribute what I can afford to show appreciation for their vital work, but it just struck me as a little off to ask employees to pay for holiday bonuses for other employees.”

    9. Maggie May*

      No, I don’t think so. We have a “team” that organizes events, and I was asked to join. It’s basically a way to do unpaid HR work (I’m a programmer), like planning parties and events for morale purposes. We’re already barely getting cost of living raises; I don’t think taking on extra unpaid responsibility is wise.

      This is also why donation drives by like PetCo annoy me. I’m not going to pay $5 so PetCo can pat themselves on the back – PetCo can donate.

    10. Wishing You Well*

      Was the cash raising done in prior years? This plan to raise money doesn’t feel right. Also, how would anyone know how much was collected and whether the custodians got any of the cash?
      You’re not obligated to contribute under these circumstances. There are better ways to show appreciation and the higher-ups oughta know this fund raising is happening.

    11. ..Kat..*

      spek, I have a big problem with asking employees (and contractors) of a company to pay in to give bonuses to other employees (or contractors). I agree that this junior manager that sent the email probably has nice intentions. But she is requesting (telling) you what to spend your money on. Just ignore her (or tell her “sorry, not in my budget”). Do you have any idea whether her manager thinks this is appropriate?

  35. Snoozing Loser*

    Just a quick update on my situation for those following my saga of getting suspended (unpaid), then fired, for dozing off for a few minutes at work (in my private office, with the door shut, during a break period) after a 100+ hour work week including an all-nighter. Early this week, a received a call from the head of HR (above the people who suspended me) and a senior VP (boss of the VP who fired me), advising that they were investigating a few incidences of concerning behavior by the VP since his return from bereavement leave, and that they hoped I would come in for a meeting to talk about what happened. I really did not want to as I had already been fired and perp-walked out, but figured I ought to cooperate in the investigation if I had any hope of eventually getting a positive or even neutral reference. Unfortunately, the meeting was awful – I was yelled at about how I could be so unprofessional as to fall asleep, why on earth I didn’t manage my energy better, and essentially how, although they admitted all my prior reviews were top-notch and my boss and coworkers in my group only had great things to say about me, I must have done other nefarious things during my time there because only a truly terrible, dishonest person would do something so egregious as to fall asleep at work. During the in-person meeting, nothing was actually said about the VP’s behavior other than how it was a good thing that, despite “everything he was dealing with,” he still had the “presence of mind” to fire me on the spot.

    Apparently the same person would told HR I was snoozing has now accused me of (potential) fraud in connection with my expense reports. This is completely ridiculous as I didn’t travel in this position and only had maybe a few hundred dollars a year in expenses that I submitted (the occasional business lunch with colleagues that was authorized by my boss and/or grandboss). However, I was told at this meeting either I can refund the company for the entirety of expenses incurred during my tenure (about $1,500) or they may have to “refer the matter to law enforcement.” And now in addition to my employment verification stating that I was fired for cause for falling asleep, they said if any potential employers contact the company, they will also have to say there were “suspicions of financial malfeasance.” I guess my next step is to borrow money from my family so I can hire an attorney? This whole situation is such a nightmare.

    1. mr. brightside*

      Oh my god, I’m so sorry this is happening to you. It sounds like you’re getting railroaded and scapegoated as being the reason for every problem.

      I think you’re going to want to get an attorney involved, yeah.

    2. MechanicalPencil*

      Wait, you got bait and switched into being chewed out more? You had, in good faith, gone to a meeting about the VP and then been blindsided? I’m aghast.

      1. Snoozing Loser*

        That’s right. I thought it would be gracious of me to cooperate in what I was told was an investigation of the VP’s erratic behavior. Admittedly, I also thought I might have an opportunity to plead my case a little. Perhaps not to be reinstated with the firing rescinded, but at least to have the negative info removed from my personnel file and perhaps to be able to receive pay for my accrued PTO. I supposed I just thought that…the higher-ups would see reason? Or at least see a little of my side of things and be somewhat sympathetic? Definitely all future communications will need to go through an attorney, though. Especially if threats of legal/police action are on the table.

      1. WellRed*

        And cease all contact if you haven’t done so already. Who the hell is sleeping with who at that company that they are treating you like this and getting away with it?

        1. valentine*

          Yes, no more contact with anyone (especially law enforcement and ex-colleagues, but even acquaintances/friends/family) but your lawyer about this. They have threatened to slander you. Let them contact law enforcement. (If it will ease your, look up whether $1,500 is a misdemeanor.) I think they realize how off-piste they are and are doubling down to, what, scare you out of unemployment? Don’t do anything related to the job until you’ve consulted a lawyer.

    3. irene adler*

      I am shocked. And a little disturbed re: the threat of financial malfeasance. You submitted receipts -right?
      And those you dined with can be asked to confirm meal took place- right?
      Something is not right here. Why go out of their way to threaten you? You are out of there. They called you in for a meeting that turned into a chewing out session. So why go the extra step of threatening you?

      Suggestion: find the on-line site for your local Bar Association. Many have attorney referral services that you can access through their website. They usually offer a free 30 minute consultation with an attorney regarding your situation.
      Prior to your consultation, write down all that happened to you. Dates, places, witnesses, who said what, etc.. Get it all organized so that the consultation time won’t be spent on trying to recall details or what not.

      1. Snoozing Loser*

        That’s right – there had never been any question about my receipts/expenses. All expenses were very carefully documented with original receipts and lists of who else joined me for the meal, and all charges were within our guidelines for business meals in terms of per-person cost. As I recall, there were also a few times when my boss let me know I could submit a receipt for dinner when I was working late, but those were always for fast-casual type meals in the range of $15 at the most – maybe $100 total over the course of several years – and there would have been plenty of other evidence that I was working late at the time (key card swipes, emails being sent from me, etc.). I just continue to be completely bewildered by the whole situation.

    4. E*

      I think most attorneys would do an initial consultation for free, so it would only cost you a bit of time to see if this option is worth further pursuit. Hoping an attorney will offer to write a letter on your behalf asking the company to either provide evidence of the accusations or cease unfounded accusations before they get sued.

    5. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      Wowzer. Yes.
      I assume you had a formal expense approval process and that you went through that process for expense reimbursement. So… claims of fraud and demands for cash will now have to go through your lawyer. I would get a lawyer and tell your former employer that all current and future matters regarding your employment should be referred directly to said lawyer, in writing. I would rather spend $1500 on a lawyer at this point. I’m sorry to say that I believe you made a mistake in agreeing to any meeting with your former employer under these circumstances, regardless of the purported subject.

    6. BadWolf*

      This sounds nuts. And like someone is covering other fraud and using you as a scapegoat.

      I don’t have any advice other than I’ve totally dozed at work and I can’t imagine law enforcement is interested in $1500 of probably legit business expenses.

      1. LCL*

        I agree. It sure sounds like there is some financial malfeasance going on. To echo everyone else, you should consult a lawyer. And, don’t go back to work there. I’m sorry the taleteller has chosen you to be the decoy for whatever it is they are up to.

      2. Autumnheart*

        I agree with this conclusion. This definitely sounds like scapegoating for someone else’s wrongdoing.

    7. CatCat*

      This is awful. I would cease all contact with them and despite the cost, with their threats, I would hire an attorney. A nastygram and calls from an attorney should get them to cut the crap and shut down any future nonsense on their part on what they say about you to potential employers and what they say to the unemployment office about you (I would definitely apply for benefits!)

    8. Binky*

      Definitely get an attorney.

      I am so sorry this has happened to you. I was one of the posters who recommended talking to your boss and grandboss to get HR’s actions reversed, and I had no idea this could turn out so badly.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Yeah, they are weirdly escalating this situation, that would have/should have been at best a mild rebuke or warning write up. My guess is they know they have a wrongful dismissal case on their hands and are trying to intimidate or scare the OP so they don’t file for unemployment.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          That was my first guess.

          My second guess is that they are scared crapless that OP knows something and will report them for it. It could be this wrongful termination but it may be something larger.

          OP be sure to mention that you were not on the payroll as they were “disciplining” you for the things you did NOT do.

    9. PlatypusOo*

      You might want to check with your local city or county about legal aid. I recently got help from our county legal aid with an EEOC type of case and it was a huge huge help. Basically they have a bunch of attorneys that do a limited amount of pro bono work and they put me in touch with one. Best of luck to you.

    10. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Google your state’s bar association and find their list of lawyers that offer a free or low cost consultation. Right now you are going to be looking for 2 things, protection from further action/threats regarding the expense reimbursements and a neutral reference.

      I’d say at this point you’re not likely to get the neutral reference, but I’d be really concerned about that threat over the expenses. I have no idea what the specifics are on the legal front for them telling references about ‘suspicions’ but it doesn’t sound like that would be something that they would be able to defend very readily if you pressed the issue.

      This place sounds like a nut house. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. But I agree with the person that said you are being used as a scapegoat. Generally speaking businesses and organizations don’t generally involve police over employee embezzlement/fraud because of the bad press that it can bring, which really makes me wonder about the threat to involve police. You are likely the easier target between you and your former VP and if they get you to pay this money, they are assured that you won’t be very likely to tell your side of the story.

    11. Chi chan*

      I just have no words. So sorry you are dealing with all this. Document everything and talk to a lawyer.

    12. Master Bean Counter*

      My read on the situation (and why you need a lawyer)
      1. They brought you in to basically berate you and set you up to admit to something you didn’t do.
      2. If they were truly concerned that you did fraudulent activities they would have had law enforcement there to meet you or a company attorney. They were fishing.
      3. Demanding pay back for legitimate expenses that were properly approved is extortion.
      4. With all of the fishy stuff they have going on would they really want a lawsuit that could expose what ever it is that whomever is hiding there? Find an attorney and ask for advise. I’m guessing it would be really easy to find one that works on contingency for his case.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        That is a VERY good point that this is extortion – An attorney should be able to use that to leverage a neutral / positive reference letter from the company.

    13. MissDisplaced*

      I just came back to add this: I think this place may be trying to threaten and intimidate you into not filing an unemployment claim. Don’t let them. File for unemployment. Yes, sleeping at work can be “cause” for dismissal, but not if you were on a legitimate break. And certainly not if you’ve been working 100+ hours, (let me guess UNPAID overtime hours?). The last thing they’d want is the state UC or EEOC office to start investigating their practices.

      I used to work for a real shyster of an employer and I saw him try to so similar to an employee who quit. She filed a claim, which in turn led to an investigation by the unemployment office and his owing lots of back taxes he wasn’t paying. HaHa.
      If there is any way to get an employment attorney do so. But if you can’t afford that, at least file your claim, and it might prompt the state to investigate. Make sure you document everything, including this lame excuse of a meeting which was nothing but another attempt to berate, scare and threaten you.

    14. ISuckatUserNames*

      I would definitely talk to an attorney, but I wouldn’t be surprised if their threat to call in law enforcement is a bluff. Or that “admitting” malfeasance by paying back the expenses might actually put you in a worse situation, as they might try to pin even more stuff on you.

      Wildly speculating, here, but if there’s any actual malfeasance going on, my bet would be on the person who accused you. This is why I don’t think they’ll bring in the cops. If they do, and you refuse to play ball/lawyer up, and the cops find the actual malfeasance, it could go badly for them.

      1. LCL*

        Yes-I have seen the threat to call the police used as a bully tactic. If I thought someone stole $1500 from me, I would call the police first. I think Miss Displaced is on to something re unemployment and tax practices.

    15. emmelemm*

      Thanks for the update, and I am so, so sorry to hear this. If there’s any way you can get an attorney involved, I absolutely would.

    16. Sherm*

      Was the senior VP at the meeting where you were chewed out? I wonder whether s/he genuinely wanted to talk about his/her report, the bereaved-VP, but HR had other plans. Regardless, this is something for your lawyer to work on now. Please update. Also, you are not a loser!

      1. Snoozing Loser*

        Yes – the senior VP was at the meeting. They both launched into me as soon as we sat down about how unprofessional, irresponsible, etc. I was, saying that falling asleep at the office was an extremely egregious example of stealing company resources (again, I am exempt/salaried so that doesn’t make sense, especially with all the hours I had already put in that week) and that the incident had led them to investigate other ways in which I might be defrauding the company. Apparently, they asked around and did admit that everyone who worked directly with me stated I was honest, trustworthy and a high performer, but the same person who had informed on me for snoozing (not someone I work with directly and not someone who had anything to do with the project that led to the extremely long hours, and also no one’s manager, just a staffer at a similar level to me) said she had “heard things” about me falsifying expense reports. (And don’t worry, I don’t actually think I am a loser, just a play on “you snooze, you lose” and the fact that I seem to be losing big here in terms of circumstances!) But, yeah, time to lawyer up. At this point I would really just be happy if they all left me alone from here and didn’t do anything to sabotage future job prospects.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          They are nuts! Falling asleep once because you’re sick, have headache or are exhausted is NOT defrauding the company of funds or stealing. It’s called being tired!!!
          I’m not one to immediately say get a lawyer, but they’ve escalated this in a damaging and threatening manner that I really believe you need to now.

          1. Snoozing Loser*

            Well…especially when the exhaustion is actually caused by inhumane working hours, right? Rather than by my own personal choices? At the time I fell asleep, I had pulled an all-nighter without any rest periods offered, and had been at the office working for 30+ straight hours (after only getting a few hours of sleep on each of the previous several nights, again due to mandatory work requirements from the crunch-time project, not from any poor planning on my part). I know there are a handful of professions that may require shifts of that length (like doctors, elite military units, etc.) but usually they have extensive training to build their endurance. I can *maybe* see this incident causing my employer to decide that this particular position wasn’t the right fit for me, if the position was regularly going to require all-nighters including working all the way through the next day going forward, but I just cannot imagine any reasonable person thinking of my dozing off as an ethical issue, under the circumstances.

    17. Former Retail Manager*

      Good God man!!! (or lady) I totally feel for you. These people are batsh!t crazy! If there is any way you can swing it, I’d seriously consider seeking an employment lawyers opinion, if for nothing else but to beat them into giving you a neutral reference. Pay them nothing. And if they have already come up with a figure they’re demanding you repay, I’d want to see how they arrived at that figure. I’d request a detailed listing of every expense they claim was fraudulent. Also, law enforcement will absolutely laugh at them and likely tell them it’s a civil matter. Even when I had someone on security camera stealing actual cold, hard cash, the police did nothing about the matter. They cited resources and suggested the business write it off. It was just under $1,000. They’re making empty threats to try and bully you. Why is beyond me. I am so sorry this is happening to you, especially right before the holidays. Please do update us in the future out the outcome.

    18. Easily Amused*

      I’m so sorry this is happening to you! Talk about being gas lit! I don’t Have any advice that hasn’t already been given, just wanted to lend support. I hope you get this situation resolved quickly with the help of a lawyer and can move on with your life.

  36. Youth*

    Just realized that my coworker is internet famous.

    A blog from my area went viral a few years ago and still has a healthy following. The author of the blog moved to a remote country and brought a friend/roommate along. Although the roommate no longer lives with the author, they remain a beloved blog “character.”

    I started reading the blog when the author was living in the other country, but I haven’t kept up with it lately. I just revisited it yesterday for the first time in a while–and realized that a coworker who joined my company eighteen months ago is the roommate!

    1. Youth*

      Anyone else ever find out someone they worked with was famous in some way? Or go into a job knowing they’d be working with someone who was?

      1. Video killed the radio star*

        I interned for someone who was on a reality TV show that I watched prior to the internship. This person has gone on to be very successful in his or her career and has gotten more/other fame since my internship YEARS ago.

      2. Lore*

        I had a freelancer who worked for my department for years before I learned that this is his side gig to keep busy when not on tour in the backing band for a rock star.

      3. Gumby*

        Many years ago in junior high I was a student assistant for one of my math teachers. There was another student who was also an assistant at the same class period. She looked vaguely familiar and I didn’t know why. After a few months she left the school.

        About a week after she left someone clued me in that she was a child actor on a sitcom. A sitcom that I watched on occasion. A sitcom that was on air a year before this happened. And she was not an incidental character – she was one of the main ones. Sigh. Unfortunately, this level of obliviousness is kind of the norm for me.

  37. Toxic waste*

    My boss gave his notice and wanted me to let a contractor know since I would be at the meeting and he wouldn’t. So I followed orders and told the contractor. Well now my boss is gone and new boss said that what I did was wrong and how they knew it was me who told. They said that Grandboss should have been the one to tell the contractor.

    I was just following orders. Is what I did so wrong?

    1. MeganTea*

      What? No, I don’t think you’ve done anything wrong. What boss asked you to do seems perfectly reasonable, given the circumstances. Does your company have a history of tightly controlling info? This seems like a weird overreaction. A more reasonable reaction would have been to ask you not to do it again if you ever run into the situation in the future, in an FYI way, not a you-are-in-trouble way.

    2. irene adler*

      THEY screwed up by not letting your boss know that they had plans to contact the contractor regarding his leaving.
      And they also neglected to let you in on those plans.

      Those plans could very well have included keeping the contractor in the dark about the boss’ leaving.

      Somebody – not you- needs better communication skills.

    3. Tara S.*

      You did nothing wrong. New boss is (hopefully) just venting frustration at you. Crappy thing to do, but I don’t see that you could have done anything to avoid it.

    4. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      You didn’t do anything wrong as you were following your then still bosses direction.

      That being said, for future, it’s generally up to the boss of the person who is leaving to determine the communication plan. Hopefully both would be on the same page, but that’s not always the case. Typical reasons for waiting for the departing’s boss to make the announcement is that they might want to wait until they have the interim contact lined up, maybe they are taking the opportunity to reorganize some things, they want to do it in person to reassure the notification receiver. All of these are perfectly normal reasons that don’t involve anything nefarious or weird.

      So if it ever comes up again (or for anyone else that may find themselves in this situation), I would check with grandboss first and find out how they want it handled.

  38. Grits McGee*

    Does anyone know of any resources about motivating and building engagement with employees as a coworker or middle manager, when upper management is… not toxic, but maybe not cognizant of the effect of poor morale on productivity.

      1. Texan at Heart*

        I don’t have the answer, but I just resigned from this exact issue. A mass exodus of staff did not convince them… despite evidence to the contrary, mid-management was blamed for the exodus.

        I’m sorry for what you’re going through- I know it’s hard! Good luck!!

  39. Ladyb*

    Dear Colleague
    I should not have to explain to you why a plastic penis with a santa hat is not an appropriate Christmas tree decoration.
    Regards
    Your boss

        1. Ladyb*

          Apparently ‘they found it in a cupboard’ when they moved into the office.
          Even if that were the case, I bet the Santa hat is their own doing.

          Not a firing offence, but has definitely damaged their professional standing.

    1. Anonnynonnymous for this*

      Should that not be “Dear Ex-employee”?

      I’m old and cranky–if one is of an age to hold a job, one is of an age to know that such objects do not belong in the workplace unless perchance one works in a sex industry manufacturing establishment and a santa-hatted version of the item is part of the holiday collection and being displayed for potential customers.

      You whippersnappers get away from my coffee pot.

  40. ReadyToGo*

    I have a job offer that doesn’t start until my security clearance is processed (I mentioned in last week’s open thread). A former coworker was helping with my job search and I let him know I got a new gig.

    He’s now interested in applying for a job at the same company but in a different department. Is it too forward of me to ask the hiring manager to recommend someone he could talk to more about the position? I haven’t started at the company yet and feel like I’m too new to make this request.

    1. Holly*

      Yeah, I wouldn’t. I’d just give him whatever relevant advice you could give and wish him luck. There wouldn’t be anyone to “talk to” presumably anyway and he should just apply.

  41. Lalaith*

    My boss decided that we’re going to have both our annual reviews and our holiday lunch today. It didn’t even occur to me that this could be potentially awkward until my husband questioned it, haha. I’m very grateful to say that all of my coworkers seem to be competent, reasonable people, so I’m assuming none of us are going to be stunned by bad news. But this is my first review with this company, so I’m still crossing my fingers a bit!

  42. MechanicalPencil*

    I work as a teapot designer, and we use a specific design process for manufacturing. This would be all fine and dandy, except the project manager, site coordinator, and head engineer can’t all seem to be on the same page about how many teapot designs I need to produce for the new year. Site Coordinator is my boss, and she wanted 3 teapots. However, the PM just told me yesterday that since we have 5 engineers working, I should produce 5 teapot designs. This is right before my last day in the office before I’m out a week. 3 designs I can handle, no problem. I can maybe even squeak out a fourth. But 5? Site coordinator needs to ensure materials, etc., so she needs to approve all of this as well. I can’t just throw one together and hope for the best.

    I’m trying to decide whether I go to the SC and explain that I’m getting conflicting information or just let it be. This entire teapot redesign process has been a nightmare — head engineer is picking partially designed teapots out of the stack before the SC has had time to order all of the materials and is making plans for production, etc. Any advice?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      “That has to be cleared through my boss” is such a magical phrase, I’d keep it handy if I were in your shoes. The PM is not your boss, she doesn’t sign your reviews, right?

      I assume the SC is also the head engineer’s boss too? It sounds like the head engineer is panicking because of the PM? Maybe you can talk to the head engineer in a calming manner and say, “hey before we hit the panic button here, let’s clear this with the SC.” Gently remind him that the PM is not the boss over you two. Or perhaps encourage the head engineer to ask the PM himself if the PM cleared that with the boss.

  43. I Love Thrawn*

    Been waiting for today!

    I work for a So. Baptist church. They laid off the bookkeeper in June and outsourced that work, so I’m the sole office person. I’ve been on OT since July; worked myself to nubbins trying to cover everything; was unable to take any time off after an episode of extreme pain drove me to the ER. I haven’t taken a day off except the Thanksgiving holidays, I’ve worked the others just trying to keep up, at least a half day.

    So now comes Christmas. Companies across the land managed to do something for their people. And me? Crickets. Not a word, not an acknowledgment. No gift card, no staff lunch, absolutely nothing. It’s hit me very hard, frankly. There have been tears – not because I didn’t get a $25 card to a restaurant I don’t really like, and a lunch I didn’t really want to go to, but because no one cared about me at all. I didn’t expect much but I kept waiting through this month because surely, there was going to be something.

    But wait… they did have a restaurant dinner for the deacons and their wives and the pastors. To thank them for their service to the church of doing nothing or next to nothing. They meet maybe twice a year. But, men, so…. I finally got fed up enough to bring it up yesterday with the new senior pastor (since October). He shrugged it off essentially, as not his problem. “Since he would have been a recipient he didn’t think it was his place to advocate for anything.” But if they had the deacon dinner, then someone clearly 1. valued THEM and 2. recognized the importance of recognizing THEM.

    I’m pretty much wrecked over this. It’s not fair, and it’s not right. How can I be worth so little to them??!!

    And the cherry of suck on this particular cake is, I realized yesterday that I will be losing 26 hours of vacation time that I was unable to take because of THEIR DECISION. I’ve asked to be paid for this, but since it goes against the handbook policy I am sure it won’t happen. Because, again, I don’t matter.

    1. mr. brightside*

      That’s really horrible, especially from a church. I hope next year they start to value you or you can find a place that will.

    2. MechanicalPencil*

      Honestly, everything you just described is why I got out of working for churches. And I became extremely disillusioned by them as well. I believe you’re in a “your job sucks and isn’t going to change” situation. I think all you can do is put your foot down and advocate for yourself while you look for something else. If you can’t cover everything, don’t. I’m sure the bookkeeper did more than just the books — did some front desk coverage at times or something? Those little ancillary things that you know about and she knows about, but TPTB don’t realize. Tell them you’re taking the time off and actually follow through — decompress and get away.

      1. I Love Thrawn*

        It can be a very depressing environment. And yes, she did do other things besides finance. TPTB only ever had a vague idea of what running an office truly entails. The pastors do pastor things, everything else lands on me by default. And if I fail, I get THOSE looks, like… how can you be so stupid? Why isn’t this done ? WHY are you costing us money in OT??

        1. MechanicalPencil*

          Yeah…you need to take a break. Get them to pay you for the PTO you couldn’t take (or let you roll it over for next year). And put some boundaries in place. One person cannot do all things. It’s a church. Find some volunteers. That’s its own sort of headache, but if they can help with some of the little things…let them.

        2. Gumby*

          This is a thing – not just in churches – but if people don’t see the work being done with their own eyes they underestimate the amount of time/effort it took. It won’t help with this particular instance, but can you document what you do to make your work more visible? Sort of “This week it took 5 hours to create, print, and staple together the bulletins; 2 hours on phone calls from congregants; 15 hours on the side project that Pastor A requested…”

          I assume there is no real reporting structure so you don’t have a manager per se (our church secretary technically reports to the board of elders and I suspect she never sees them in person; we’re small, she’s part-time, the BoE all have outside jobs and meet in the evenings). So there is no one to whom you can say “yes, I can take on task X given either 3 hours of OT, permission to drop tasks F and G, or a time turner.” Maybe when you write it all out TPTB will realize how overworked you are. Maybe they will be all “but why are you sorting the napkins by color? We don’t care if you don’t do that.” (Not that I am suggesting you do that – just an example of a task that would be drop-able.) Maybe it won’t make a difference. But at least it is visible.

          Other than that, I say prioritize, drop what balls end up lowest on the list, take vacation anyway. When the office explodes in your absence people will be very happy to have you back.

          Also, to the pastor who was all “but they were recognizing me I had no control over the guest list” – here’s a clue: *you* can show appreciation too. It’s not like the restaurant dinner for the deacons was the one and only allowed venue and time for showing appreciation.

            1. Ann*

              Your pastors suck and they aren’t going to change. Sorry. In my experience it’s often the pastor’s who ensure that the office staff are given recognition, not the board so to be its odd that the pastor doesn’t see this as his job.

            2. ..Kat..*

              As a self-manager, I think you should approve your time off. I hope you are getting paid for this OT.

              THIS IS NOT WHAT JESUS WOULD DO!

      1. Time to get that arranged marriage my parents want*

        Agreed! And at a church around Christmas time, I’m shaking my head. You’ve got to leave, OP! The schedule, the workload, and the environment sound terrible.

    3. WellRed*

      Stop working so much. Let balls drop. Insist on being paid for that 26 hours or getting it rolled over to next year. And take it. Call in sick once in awhile. Schedule a vacation.
      I mean, what is the worst that is going to happen at the office if you take a day off? Serious question? What?

      1. valentine*

        Stop working OT. Don’t aggravate your pain. Maybe see a doctor about exhaustion. Job search. Since you didn’t want the stuff, it sounds like your hurt is about the general attitude and it’s just come to a head because it’s Christmas. They’re mistreating you, but they need you to kick around, so you do have some power.

        1. I Love Thrawn*

          Exactly it, yes. I just wanted someone to take five minutes and treat me like a real person, not like a monkey with a keyboard.

    4. Ann*

      My Dad was a minister (retired) and churches suck. I have faith and I believe and bla, bla, bla but churches, in my experience still suck. Sometimes its the ministers they treat like crap (and their families) sometimes it’s staff or both and the level of toxicity in churches is often through the roof and because it’s God and religion it takes people my more surprise and it hurts more (in my experience anyway – because that’s not what is SUPPOSED to happen). It sounds like some of this is likely gendered which sucks even more.

      I think you should let balls drop. Take some sick time. Take vacation – they will have to figure it out. People don’t notice everything that has to be done until it stops being done. Also, that deacon lunch – should have included you and any other staff person…

      I also second looking for another job. Sorry!

    5. Parenthetically*

      ARGH, pastor’s kid and former church secretary here and just… all the solidarity. Church working environments can be so, so dysfunctional.

    6. RabbitRabbit*

      Working for churches/religious organizations combines the worst “but it’s for a good cause!!1” aspects with the fervor of religion. They expect you to suck it up because It’s For God and you should be happy to serve and just be better at doing everything they dump on you.

    7. blackcat*

      Have you been paid for that over time? In your job, there’s no way you’re exempt, and so far as I know there is not a church exception for OT laws.
      If you can all afford it, I would quit without notice, file with your department of labor, and peace out.
      This job is wrecking your health. I doubt you can job-search well while still employed there. If it is AT ALL possible financially to get out now, do it.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep, yep, yep.
        What has happened here is they have volunteered your services without your consent. You had no say in the increased workload and no assistance with the workload.

        I returned to church after a long absence. But I read stuff like this and I could quit going again in a heart beat.

        Since these are church people, I will make this suggestion: Take a look at Crown Finance. Their course points out over 2000 verses in the bible talking about money and talking about how to treat employees. You will find a verse to match up with everything you are saying here that is wrong. I’d rub their noses in it, honestly. But maybe it is more to the point to just quit.

        Think of it this way, suppose tomorrow everything was made better, would you be able to stay after being treated so poorly for so long? Would you be able to trust them again?
        Definitely contact the DOL and say everything you have said here.

        I am spitting nails on your behalf. Church people should know better. Let us know how you are doing and what you decide. I do know that what others have said is correct, there are a lot of problems inside churches that the public never sees.

        1. Ann*

          I love this idea of pointing to scripture for backup. Maybe I’m too passive aggressive at this point, but this is the kind of political game that often works in a church.

          I would also ensure both the lead minister and the board / deacons are made aware of any emails / follow up about dropped balls and why. If you make it their problem not yours then maybe they’ll do something about it.

          Good Luck!

    8. bunniferous*

      As a Christian myself I am shocked and appalled. But I suspect you have been going above and beyond for these folks. Honey, start taking your vacation. Take a sick day here and there. You are not a robot!!!! (And go find a different job. )

    9. Anono-me*

      Ask TPTB if they want to pay you for the 26 hours of leave or if you should take it this week. One or the other, you should not have part of your compensation taken away (essentially stolen) because TPTB are being ridiculous.

      Also as someone who has been able to turn to my church in hard times, I realize and appreciate how much behind the scenes work the admin staff does. So thank you.

  44. Zev*

    A couple of months ago I moved away from a state renowned for its beaches and good weather, to a state known for its Nor’easters. I am am absolutely thrilled to be back home — there were a lot of things I didn’t like about OldState (no trees, overpopulated, pricey, performative chill, no synagogues, etc) that personally, for me, significantly outweigh the fact I needed to re-purchase winter weather gear.

    The part about it is, I am at a new job (which has thus far been outstanding), and whenever I’m introduced to a new person they ask where I am coming from and then they….. gush about how great OldState is and why would I ever want to leave it for The Land of Ice And Snow??

    I don’t want to be a Negative Nancy and trash talk OldState, which I’m sure has valuable qualities for people who are not me. So when the topic comes up I try to focus on my love of winter sports and how great it is to live down the block from a beloved relative rather than 2,000 miles from the nearest family member. However, this doesn’t really seem to satisfy folks, and in fact I was just introduced to the new VP of our department who kind of bobbed her head and was like, “Okay, I guess if you like nordic skiing this is a better area.”

    Am I taking the right approach on this? Anyone have suggestions for scripts I can use that don’t make me sound like I am a Sourpuss who hates OldState and must therefore also hate Fun? (But which also do not imply that I want to return there because – No).

    (For the record — I grew up not too far from here in a place where the weather is actually much worse, so not only am I fully prepared for Winters What Do Not End, I’m also kind of like, “Don’t complain to me about weather till it’s ten below.”)

    1. Sophie before she was cool*

      I’ve been in a similar situation and “Oh yeah, the weather was great but I’m so happy to be closer to my family again. How about that report you’ve been working on?” has worked great (even though being closer to my family isn’t the reason I moved back). If you add a subject change and people still don’t take your response at face value, they’re being weird.

      1. Zev*

        Ooh, good point, thanks! I have been deflecting but not fully redirecting. So in today’s conversation, immediately asking New VP where she’s from / where she last worked / etc may have led to a successful topic derailment.

    2. mr. brightside*

      I think it’s just awkward small talk that they’re doubling down on. “I like winter” and a shrug should be more than enough, and once you add in “plus I’m closer to relatives”, that should shut them up. But I suspect they’re probably forgetting about it in five minutes, and maybe just projecting because they might have had to brush ice off their car this morning and imagining how nice it must be for it to be warm weather right now.

      1. Zev*

        Yes, I think their personal “Ugh, but snow” is running up against my, “I HAVE FINALLY ESCAPED I AM SO RELIEVED” and giving me I Feel Invalidated problems.

    3. CheeryO*

      People are weird. We have a guy who grew up in California and moved to our (cold and very snowy) city decades ago, and people still give him shit for it. I think if you keep it breezy, most people will get it and won’t continue to pry. Something like, “Oh, I actually grew up in X, so I’m used to bad weather! I moved back to be near family, so that’s been really nice.”

    4. PSLFHandcuffs*

      I had the same experience when I moved from Florida back to the Northeast. I would just laugh it off and say I like seasons and being closer to family. Or hey I got tired of the endless sun and heat along with lack of jobs (I moved there for the job). Always said these with a bit of a laugh and people got over it after a few weeks.

    5. Doc Control Librarian*

      I dealt with the same thing when I moved back home to Chicago after spending six years in Los Angeles! I love Chicago and it’s such a better city and my family is here, but that really isn’t enough to satisfy most people at work (or in general).
      I try not to sound negative about LA either, but I was so happy to leave. People can usually get on board with super expensive housing and intense traffic as reasons as to why it’s not all that great – but some people get really stuck on it and feel a need to make lots of comments about how insane it is to move from LA to Chicago. At this point (it’s been over a year), I just say something like, “I missed the pizza!” and I find I hardly notice the comments anymore.
      But I can commiserate with you about how annoying it is. And I try to just focus on how I interact with people and hope I am never that person making dumb comments about someone’s life choices.

      1. Zev*

        You will probably appreciate this anecdote, then! When I was preparing to move, many OldState natives complained about my leaving, citing the good weather as a particular reason to stay put despite my many (many, many) good reasons to leave. It got to the point where, when they would ask me why I was moving away, I would immediately answer, “Oh, I hate the weather here.”

        If I ever needed a visual definition of the words “gobsmacked” and “speechless,” this was it. And, amusingly, after having the climate shot down right out of the gate, none of them could think of another reason to stay.

        (“But people in NewState are mean!”

        “No, people in NewState have appropriate boundaries.” But that’s a whole OTHER comment….)

        1. Midwest Writer*

          I lived in Hawaii for eight years. It was amazing and I would do it again in a heartbeat … if I ever became independently wealthy. That said, the first year I was there, a friend decided immediately his teaching job was a bad fit and flew to Maryland over spring break for a job interview. Everyone asked him why in the world he’d ever leave Hawaii. He looked them straight in the eye and deadpanned, “Have you been there?”
          When we left Hawaii for the upper Midwest a few years ago, we got a lot of weather comments. I didn’t want to trash Hawaii, but living there is complicated and there’s a lot more going on politically and culturally than visitors can ever see, but living there you’re smack in the middle of it. We left for a lot of reasons, but those don’t tend to make for good small talk. Stick with the reasons you’re giving and eventually it should settle down. Good luck!

    6. Master Bean Counter*

      I’d go with something about how you grew up around there and it feels a lot like coming home.

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I grew up in the Northeast, moved to California for a few years, and had the same kinds of things said to me that you are hearing. My answer was “I grew up here… I’m really glad to be home.”
      And they didn’t take no for an answer, I talked about missing the seasons, the 7.1 earthquake that cost me my job, and the wildfire that cost my friend her house. That stopped all conversations.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      I think you are trying too hard. I left the state I grew up in. I mostly get eye rolls when I say my Old State’s name. I feel bad that the state has such a low rating in people’s opinions. But I don’t feel that bad. Ha!

      The state wasn’t me. I did not fit the culture. Whatever that means. (I have a particular meaning for it.) I think if I were in your shoes, I’d just say, “Personal preference. I like it here and I am happy here.” People can’t really argue with that successfully. We don’t get to choose when others feel happy/comfy.

      I think that you could consider teaching yourself to shrug and say, “I am home now.” Then turn the conversation, will they move to your Old State? Is there some place else they would like to live now or in retirement?

      In the end, I learned not to mention my Old State. It seemed to bring on more conversation that I just did not want to have. As the decades rolled by it mattered less and less where I was from. Home is where we call it home.

    9. Easily Amused*

      We moved to the Northeast last year from LA and the Southwest. The first thing people say is “WHY?!”. My 1st response: “to be closer to family”. When they push: “ well, I grew up here and my husband is from Canada so we knew what we were getting ourselves into.” Usually that does it and people let it go. If not, I just say that LA is expensive and while the Southwest is beautiful in its own way, I was tired of beige and really missed water and trees. The weather is actually why it took us so long to come back but I wish we had done it years ago! I’m so happy to be home again!

  45. Wolvfbfn*

    I need some advice on how to deal with people when I am frustrated. I was just put on a PIP, and the biggest thing that they want to change is my attitude. I need to show I can work with colleagues in a collegial manner without showing frustration or negative facial expressions. (Some small background: I was working on a large project that required input from lots of people. Over the course of months, I was unable to get the necessary information from the team, and the advice from my boss was to do it myself and ask others for their approval. That didn’t fix the problem, as people were still unresponsive. I know that frustration showed, and I need to find a new way to deal with this.)
    Any advice is welcome, especially as a way to make “change attitude” a real goal I can accomplish to successfully complete my PIP.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is so hard. I don’t know if I have any good advice, but it’s something I’ve also struggled with so I at least wanted to let you know that you are not alone.

      1. Wolvfbfn*

        Thank you. That actually is helpful that other people struggle with this too. I’ve been feeling very singled out.

        1. Justin*

          I had to learn this as well a couple jobs ago. I got put on a PIP for “judgment” issues (incl this).

          …I got a new job and focused on ways to build rapport with coworkers (cue a few months of fumbling, bumbling small talk). It took some time. It might be hard to come back from with these, but it’s not a total loss longterm.

          1. Wolvfbfn*

            I do have a rapport with my coworkers and honestly thought everything was fine. This came out of nowhere, and my boss even admits that. I would really like to work this out, at least for the next year and half, as I just started a grad program that would finish then. :)

            Thank you

            1. ..Kat..*

              It sounds to me as if you have responsibility without the authority. Your coworkers would not give you the information you needed, and complained about your facial expression? Really!?! Instead of wasting time complaining, why didn’t they just give you the f***ing information? Your boss thinks the PIP came out of nowhere? Why isn’t your boss pushing back then?

              I am angry for you. And if you say you are a woman, my head might explode.

    2. Imaginary Number*

      I totally understand not getting the input you need from people on a major project, but it’s always important to keep in mind that those failures may not always be something they can control. If your boss put you on a PIP because of how you reacted, it’s even more likely that’s the case.

      I’m currently on a major project that has a lot of contributors and tensions started running high. I had one coworker who had been on the project since the beginning and owned a part of it he was already an expert in. He would get very upset with coworkers for failing to give him the input he needed to finish his part, which in a perfect world would be reasonable. But the coworkers he was getting upset with were often people thrown in at the last minute because of turnover, or much less experienced team-members who had been thrown into a stretch position (also due to turnover and manpower issues), or they were delayed due to other factors outside their control like major scope changes.

      If you take the time to understand what the holdup is, whether that’s a resource they’re lacking, time they need to catch up due to a scope change, or a skillset they’re lacking, that will help make it clear that your frustration is with whatever is causing the issue, not necessarily with the coworker personally.

      1. Wolvfbfn*

        Thank you very much. I appreciate your comment about your coworker. I think one of the frustrations stemmed from a lack of buy in from my team and a miscommunication into the importance/urgency of parts of the project. These are things I own, but also do not solely accept the blame for. We as a team fought hard to get this project, and when it came time to execute it, it was like pulling teeth to get even the simplest of tasks completed (ie – it took more than month for a colleague to send an introductory email from our logistics team to the contact at another organization). I appreciate what you are saying about mitigating circumstances and I think that is something I could work on.

        1. learnedthehardway*

          Perhaps what you need to do is to Gant chart the whole project – make it REALLY obvious who is responsible for what, and where (who) the bottlenecks are. Then, instead of you being visibly frustrated, the people who aren’t pulling their weight on the project can watch everyone on the project team take note that they have not done their bit. You’ll also have documentation to take to your manager to show where the project is, why it’s stalled, and who is holding things up.

          1. learnedthehardway*

            ETA – also, pull that Gant chart out at every project meeting. Mark off what has been done, what everyone’s next assignment is, what hasn’t been done, and ask whoever is dropping the ball what the hold up is, point out that the project can’t move forward without their piece. Get them to commit to a time/date when they will get that piece done. Follow up on that with an email to the whole team, detailing who is responsible for what and the deliverable date.

            Then, if you have to, rope in your manager if someone is simply not delivering. You’ll have the documentation, and you’ll have clear evidence that project managing and applying a little peer pressure are not working.

    3. Emily S.*

      Look into how to better manage stress. It sounds like that might be an issue for you.

      There is a very good class on Lynda-dot-com on the topic. Managing Stress, with teacher Todd Dewett. Lynda can often be accessed for free via your public library.

      1. Wolvfbfn*

        Thank you so much! I will definitely look into this and this might make a good addition to my goals.

    4. anon for this*

      I hate how gendered this sounds, but try to smile more. I’ve had the same feedback in the past, and what’s worked for me is consistently reminding myself to avoid RBF. When I get out of my car I do this slight lift with my eyebrows that opens up my face and makes me look more approachable. If I see anyone, check if the smile is in place. Make eye contact, smile, and say hi. Look up from the computer to see someone? Same thing. Close every conversation with something happy or “how can I help?” Other than that, I try to be self aware and avoid people if I’m cranky. Within my immediate team we’re close enough that we can just tell people we’re in bad moods and trying to not share that day. If I know it’s going to be a bad day I may work from home to catch up.

      None of this addresses the real and justified frustration with your project. There are PM tools that can help if you find yourself in that situation again. It was a revelation to me that project management is basically sales.

      1. Wolvfbfn*

        I think rephrasing things and asking how I can help might have helped and that is definitely something I can work on. I did (do) hide in my office on the days I felt most cranky, so I do already use that tactic.

        I also really like thinking of project management as sales. I can work with that in the future.

    5. Emily S.*

      Another tip, which might sound ridiculous but it works.

      When something frustrates you, just pause. Take a deep breath, and count to ten. (It helps to close your eyes, if possible.)

      This can really help sometimes.

      1. Autumnheart*

        I might suggest not doing the eye-closing if others are present. It may come across as about the same as an eye-roll.

        Maybe preface it with something like, “Let me put my thoughts in order for a minute. [count to 10] Okay, what if we do this?”

    6. Kramerica Industries*

      I struggled with this. A lot of it was practice and changing my way of thinking over time.

      Personally, I found that I wanted to outwardly express my frustration at coworkers because I thought that it was best to be up-front and real. The thing about that is that there are multiple ways to be up-front with someone. What is rolling my eyes at someone accomplishing? What is writing a strongly worded email going to get me? A bit of “F you” satisfaction at the time, but in the long run, it’s not good.

      Look, I could say that I should have a good attitude for the whole “treat others like you wanted to be treated” thing, but my brain wasn’t responding to that. So, what’s in it for me?

      If people see that I’m being patient and nice, they’re more likely to see me as a great worker. Sure, I could do all the work myself, but at the end of the day, people won’t recognize that accomplishment if I was nasty to people. I would just be know as “Kramer from accounting that you want to avoid”. You know what else they’re going to avoid? Giving me good recommendations and promotions. Realize that people don’t want to help people who are awful. Maybe this could also be a factor in why no one is getting back to you?

      Start off small. At the end of an email, try “Happy to chat about this further” to soften your tone. Try to look interested and pleasant in person because these are qualities of great workers. You want this to be the impression that people have of you. As you slowly add these little things to your routine, it will get easier to push back and ask for things you need while still being respectful.

      1. Tara S.*

        Also people can be legitimately frustrating, so sometimes it makes me feel better to write the “F You” email and then just not send it. Keep it in my drafts, imagine the sweet validation that would come with sending it, but then don’t because it’s not actually going to help. (Also, when writing vent emails, never put the email address in the TO line. Too easy to send it out by mistake.)

      2. Wolvfbfn*

        I really like thinking about the “what’s in it for me?” and acknowledging that people don’t want to work with the jerk. I didn’t think about it coming off like that and having that in my head could be really helpful.

        Thank you so much!

    7. Call sign Chaos*

      Often companies provide provide an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services which allows you to access professional counseling for behavior modification to help you re-frame and manage conflict, stress, and perhaps anger. I’ve participated in brief and solution focused behavior therapy to tackle specific issues re: the same things your leadership has identified. It’s o.k. – sometimes our coping and social skills aren’t as savvy as we think they are or want them to be. I greatly appreciate your desire for “a real goal I can accomplish to successfully.”

      There short term therapies are just that – talk therapy for a few sessions that build or strengthen your current skills, help you cognitively manage these annoyances and how to be your best for you and your co-workers. They don’t go backward to go forward; they move you forward from where you are.

      Good luck! Happy Holidays.

      1. Wolvfbfn*

        I’m not sure that my company would provide something like that, however, I do already see a therapist and maybe I can ask her to focus on this aspect a bit more. She is very good at calling me on my bs, so I don’t think she would have a problem getting me to make changes here.

    8. Forkeater*

      I hope you’re looking for a new job. I was never put on a PIP, but I got a lot of negative feedback about my facial expressions at my previous job (that I had not gotten at other jobs). I got a better job at a more prestigious employer and guess what, no one cares about my RBF because we’re all busy trying to accomplish good work and not micromanage each other’s personalities.

      1. Wolvfbfn*

        I’m not actively looking right now because I just started grad school and they were very flexible in working with me about it. I was planning on using my new degree to leverage a new job, but may have to consider moving that timeline up…

    9. matcha123*

      I have a friend that is always calling me up to vent about how frustrated she is with people at work and how she gets angry with them. Since I don’t work with you, I don’t know how you approach things, but it doesn’t feel good to have someone glaring at you or calling you names.
      So, if I were you, what I would do is to turn my emotions to “off” before I engage with people, stay mindful of my tone, and remember to thank them for other things they have remembered or helped me with. People are more open to criticism if they feel like you are seeing the good things they are doing.

      1. Wolvfbfn*

        I never call peoples names in the office. Now what I say at home, is another matter.

        Turning emotions off can be hard, but that is something I can work on. As well as being a little more effusive in my thanks. I feel like I show appreciation, but it wouldn’t hurt to give a little more as that may help offset some hurt feelings.

    10. fposte*

      Different things help different people. For me, here are the main things that helped:

      Realizing that my showing my frustration wasn’t a useful signal for urgency but a counterproductive approach. That sounds simple, but it was so deeply ingrained for me that it was (and still is) hard knowledge to incorporate–it seemed really important that the listener be able to see how frustrated I was. Think about a conversation–maybe one of the many that you still go over in your brain or imagine having–and then do a practice of your “lines.” Then compare your tone of voice to something like Alison’s voice when she’s doing sample answers to difficult bosses or employees in her podcast. Try your script again but matching her tone.

      Soft startups. Controlling the start of the interaction is big because it hugely affects the response of the other person. That’s also the part you’re likeliest to have planned, so make it work for you and make it as pleasant as possible.

      Mid-course corrections. If your tone starts to get sharp mid-sentence, you can notice that and calm back down for the conclusion. The note you start and end on matter more than the middle (but of course that doesn’t mean the middle can be a free-for all).

      But for me really it was number 1; understanding that my frustration with the situation may feel like it is strengthening my message and is important to convey, and it’s just not.

      1. Wolvfbfn*

        Your comment is really great and there is a lot of useful information in here that I can use. I really like the idea of matching Alison’s tone from the podcast. There is a lot of really great information in your post and I will be rereading it over the next few weeks! Especially the idea of showing frustration will not convey urgency or strengthen my message.

    11. Parenthetically*

      I think a strategy for WHEN things don’t go the right way can be really helpful. I had to do this a lot as a teacher — I found myself getting really, epically frustrated with my students when I failed to anticipate things going wrong, and thinking through procedures was really helpful for me getting my emotions under control, because I had fallbacks and next steps already lined out. Just some random thoughts:

      — my frustration can’t be a consequence for people’s screwups, and in fact it isn’t — mostly it’s just an irritation to them. It’s a signal to them that I’ve lost control, not a signal that they need to change. I need to ask, “How do I get the result I want to the best of my abilities?” rather than just venting my annoyance.
      — when problems arise, what steps do I take? Do I loop my boss in earlier? Do I communicate more? Do I have a check-in protocol? Do I give more specific instructions? Do I pad my deadlines?
      — as much as possible, I have to get buy-in from the people I’m expecting materials from, which means taking a minute to give a brief summary or explanation of WHY I need X by Y date. In addition, any intermediate deadlines for big projects are collaboratively decided on, because people are more likely in general to meet deadlines they’ve set for themselves in a group, and I’m less likely to get pushback when I can say, “Hey, don’t forget, we agreed that the TPS reports need to come in by Wednesday so we can be on track for the TPS-X survey starting next week.”
      — when I’ve done all I can, the rest is “not my circus, not my monkeys.” I’ve sent many an email in my life saying, “Hi Jane, Bobby didn’t hand in Massive Project today, so I wanted to give you a heads up that a late grade on an assignment of that size is going to have a pretty big impact on his quarterly report card.” I imagine a parallel in your world would be, “Hey Boss, I’ve finished the reports for Fergus’s department and have sent him 6 reminders for approval (see email chain below for dates). The project is due tomorrow but I still don’t have his approval. How would you like me to move forward?”

      Basically, dealing with frustration for me is a lot about creating systems. I don’t have to be emotional about stuff when Event A always triggers Pre-planned Response B (and Event A didn’t catch me off guard in the first place).

      Hope some of that makes some kind of sense! Good luck!

      1. Wolvfbfn*

        Your comment has a lot of really good ideas. Especially about setting deadlines early and getting everyone’s buy in on them. That will help will accountability and if I know that there is some accountability that is above me that would definitely help in my ability to handle the stress and keep a better hold my outward frustrations.

        Thank you!

        1. Parenthetically*

          Years ago I heard someone say that frustration happens around unmet expectations, so my goal has been to manage my expectations and anticipate problems by creating systems to avoid that frustration in the first place. Annoying + expected leads to fewer *feelings* of frustration than annoying + caught off guard.

    12. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      I had a really long reply that went poof before I could post it. (talk about frustrating!) So I’ll try to summarize and get the main points across.

      Frustration is a normal emotion, but it can really take over a person if not careful (as I said below I struggle with this). Here’s a couple of tools that I use to keep mine in check.

      – Ask questions. If Fergus is late with his assignment or input ask why. There’s very likely a good reason that you can help with. If there isn’t then you have something concrete to work with to escalate if needed.
      – Help people. If they are roadblocked by something, help them, reach out on their behalf to see if you can help get the path cleared. Yes, it may be more work on your part, but it’s better than beating up Fergus who can’t help the situation.
      -Change your focus from being frustrated by people to being frustrated with situations. (still try to use sparingly) I think most people are going to be more forgiving if they understand that it’s not personal.
      -Stop blaming. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter and usually gets in the way of getting things fixed or moving on.

      This next part isn’t to beat you up…
      You’re not really disputing the frustration or saying that it’s an overreaction on your boss’ part, so I’m going to assume at some level you agree with the assessment. If it got to the level of a PIP, then it must have been pretty bad. Usually direct coaching is the first step. Take a step back from this and really evaluate what your triggers are. We all have them and we need to be aware of them. Once you know them you’ll be armed to do something about them and your reaction. Nobody should suggest that you plant a smile on your face and turn into a stepford worker, but you do still need to work with these people, so you’re going to have to find a way to get through this.

      Good luck, I really mean it. This stuff can be tough.

      1. Wolvfbfn*

        Thank you for your comment and I sympathize with the post that went poof.

        I specifically would like to respond to your comment about not disputing or saying it’s overreaction. I chose not to do that because it doesn’t really matter if I agree with it or not, it is a fact that I have to deal with. I do not dispute that my frustration may have become apparent to my non-responsive colleagues, and even more important, my intention doesn’t matter. All that matters is how people feel.

        I do very much appreciate your comment about figuring out my triggers and how to deal with them. That is something I can work on and use to form a plan.

    13. Gumby*

      If “change attitude” is really on your list as a goal – that is a terrible goal. Not that you attitude might not need to change, but that is not measurable as stated. Can you ask for clarity around that? How will they measure the change, how will they know it happened?

      Having this type of vague, subjective “goal” does not fill me with confidence that the workplace is treating this as a legit PIP. Is your workplace one of those “we say PIP but what we really mean is no matter what you do we’re going to let you go” places? Maybe I am being too pessimistic, and I don’t want to needlessly freak you out. But it is something to consider. You’d have a better idea of how the company usually does things.

      1. Wolvfbfn*

        I asked my boss about it and she agreed that it qualitative, but I don’t believe this is a covert effort to push me out. I’m not dismissing you, I do have some concerns, but I’m going to work in good faith, while also keeping my eyes open.

    14. TheMageling*

      I’ve been there before. Other commenters have great advice so the only thing I’ll add is that the book Crucial Conversations helped me think a bit differently about my interactions with others at work. After I read it and started practicing (and yes it takes practice!), I stopped getting that kind of feedback in performance reviews.

    15. Not So NewReader*

      Ugh. I am sorry, your job sounds frustrating period. You go to your boss and she tells you to DIY, then ask for approval and surprise! people still don’t answer you.

      Now. WTH kind of boss tells an employee to do it themselves when others don’t answer. Additionally, this solution does nothing to get others to answer. They will continue not to answer because no one has told them there is a problem. I seriously question if this boss has your back.

      I would work this one from both ends as you are, look for a new job and work on retaining composure.
      For retaining composure I developed a little list of questions I would ask myself.

      “If I were Sally, what would I need to hear in order to be motivated to have X done by Friday?” Sometimes, as others suggest, this means helping Sally for short bit in order to help her over the hurdles she is facing.

      “What’s it like to be Sue? I see the piles and piles of work surrounding her at her desk. Gee, I really need X done by Thursday so I can give it to Sally.” Sometimes all people need is an expression of regret and recognition that their situation sucks. “Sue, I see you’re buried here so now I reeeally hate asking, but I have to. Can you get X done by Thursday so I can get it to Sally on Friday and then X will be done and out of the way?” Sometimes if people know something is near completion that can motivate them to move along, also.

      Sometimes I just go with, “The boss is harping on this, can you help me get it done?” And sometimes I lie, the boss has not said one word. I will use this one with people who are well-known for being difficult.

      I don’t see it mentioned here, but if you are passing them your work and they must add something then hand it back, it’s a nice touch to make sure your work is super organized and very clear. If you have a concern about a specific thing, let them know and tell them if they have a problem you are available immediately to assist. The key here is making it super easy to help you. And the thing about immediately available is a subtle way of saying, “Hey this is important. Don’t bury it under that pile way over there.”

      Facial expressions. Our thoughts do come out on our faces. Relax your mind, don’t make assumptions. Make sure you are hearing what they are saying, not what you think they are saying.
      Seriously consider that your boss may have put you in a little pressure cooker, he may have it set up so that no one could really succeed doing what you are doing and in the way he says to do it.
      Put some serious consideration into the possibility that people don’t like your boss and are using you to get “at” him. Here you can use the idea, “I am not Bob, I only work for Bob.” I worked one place where people constantly told me I had the worst bosses in the company. They have to see that you are Not Bob. It’s tricky, if you work for a bad boss it’s easy to turn into a “mini-Bob”. It’s helpful here to refuse to merge issues, such as your missing lunch has nothing to do with Sally being late with her report. This is a mental discipline, as the day gets worse and worse it’s easy to just put all the problems in one heap. Working for Bad Bob does this, issues get all knotted together. Keep the issues separate.

      Use quiet time during your commute or at home to think through how you handled things today. Pick one or two things you liked and will keep doing. Then pick one or two things that you did not like and develop a new idea on how to handle it going forward. Do these autopsies as often as possible, preferably most days of the week.

    16. Former Retail Manager*

      This is probably much less helpful than the other commenters, but honestly, I’d start job searching ASAP. I have known a few people over the years who have been deemed to have “attitude problems” and it never ended well for them. Once people have made up their mind that you have an attitude problem, you’re really going to have to go above and beyond in a major way to get them to notice any changes. In the background, you mention the project gone awry, but was that the only instance of your frustration being obvious? If so, there may be hope. If not, again, you may want to consider moving on.

      As for advice on changing your behavior, make an effort to be aware of your facial expressions, tone, an vocal inflection. Focus on the facts ONLY (do your best to keep emotion and emotional responses out of it) and be clear in your communication to begin with. You say that you were unable to get the info from the team. Did you tell them when you needed it, what specifically you needed, and confirm that they’d be able to meet that deadline? If not, did you follow up and document the reason for their failure? If they were ignoring you, did you escalate it to your manager/their manager (depending on your org norms) and clearly outline the delays that failure to provide the information were causing to the overall project? I don’t mean to sound snippy at all……I think it reads a little that way. Just some suggestions in case you didn’t do all of those things.

      And truly, best of luck. I know PIP’s are stressful and here at the holidays, it’s probably not helpful to have this issue at the forefront of your thoughts.

    17. Alianora*

      I’ve been told that I’m very patient and good at dealing with stress. The thing that helps me the most in a frustrating situation is to always assume the best of people. It sounds really difficult, but it’s kind of a “fake it till you make it” solution.

      Steps because I like lists:
      – Someone is being frustrating and stopping me from doing my job.
      – Think to myself, “What is the most charitable explanation for this?”
      – Pretend that I believe that the charitable explanation is the correct one, and talk to them accordingly.
      – Sometimes (more often than you’d expect) it turns out to be true.
      – Sometimes it’s not true, but treating them kindly makes them more cooperative, and they help me.
      – Sometimes they really are jerks and it doesn’t do anything.
      – In which case I say, “Well, thanks anyway,” then go back to my manager and explain that I asked them to help me, but they’re holding me up. Depending on your relationship with your manager this is where you can vent a little more and let your frustration show.

      I also go out of my way to find things I genuinely admire about my annoying coworkers and compliment them, and if they’re the type of person who likes small talk I make an effort to engage. It makes a more pleasant working environment in general, but it also means that I’ll be given more leeway when I do let my frustration show.

      I wish all this came naturally to me, but unfortunately I’m actually an awkward, unsociable goblin and can come across very abrupt if I act naturally. So my interpersonal relationships at work have to be carefully thought out.

    18. Girl friday*

      This might be bad news, because changing your attitude is not a quantifiable thing. I would start looking for other jobs, and go back in and have a conversation with your manager about what quantifiable things you need to change. Get those on the PIP as well. Otherwise, it will be way too easy for them to say that you didn’t meet your PIP goals.

  46. a good mouse*

    How do you deal with working a job you hate while seeing someone else in the position you wanted (and would have been offered except for your current Nightmare Project needing a work horse to finish it out)?

    1. a good mouse*

      To give a little more context, I’ve been leading an “extracurricular” type project over the past year, above and beyond my own job, which I really don’t like. They’re adding a permanent position to lead the project, and I’m the natural pick, and the boss wants me. But my current job is going into a critical crunch phase and they intentionally short staffed it, so I’m looking at 6/10 weeks at a minimum for probably upwards of 5 months.

      So how do I keep doing this job that I have wanted to leave for a year, that is going to be high stress and burn me out, and also watch someone else in this position that I want and should have been mine?

      1. Temperance*

        So have you been told specifically that you can’t have the job for the other project, or just assuming it? Can you tell them that if you don’t get this position, you’re going to start looking?

        1. a good mouse*

          Told specifically that I’m too critical on this current project. But the project is going for another five months at the minimum before I could maybe be less critical, and at least nine months until its all done, so it’s pretty hard to shelve any work opportunities for that long.

          I think it might cost my prospective-boss too much political capital to pull me from the project. If it hadn’t been a possibility, I was resigned to working on this project and at least having my extracurricular project to come in and out of as the schedule allowed, but instead I’ll have to both give up leadership and watch someone else take it over and move it in a new direction.

      2. Binky*

        If the boss wants you, can you have her fight to get you staffed on it? Or convince her to keep it open until you can transition out of your current crunch? Can you at least talk to her about how this will all shake out?

        1. a good mouse*

          She’s said they’re re-evaluating the roles in April, because they’re currently TAs that should become full time roles, but that basically assumes she has to not like the TA enough to let them go and hire me instead.

      1. a good mouse*

        I love my company and the overall work, but because of a series of department and project shifts, I’ve ended up in a department I hate and am treated like a work horse in. I haven’t actively searched because I had this other work going on with prospective-boss. I think if there was no permanent job on my passion project, I’d soldier through and actively look for a new department afterwards, but its too much to watch someone else take the role I want and my project in a new direction.

        I’d been pretty open with prospective-boss that I wanted to leave my department and it isn’t a good fit, and she’s wanted to hire me, but she didn’t have headcount.

        1. valentine*

          Stop working like a workhorse and either transfer or leave the company. Five months may be a fantasy and the situation is horrendous for your health. You could end up with no spoons to job-search.

          When you see the person who has the job you wanted, treat them well and think of them as a comrade. Remember that the decision wasn’t theirs and keep the blame where it belongs.

          1. Sloan Kittering*

            Yes unfortunately when I was too locked in within a certain role that I didn’t want or like (but was the only one at the org who had a lot of experience with it, so people kept coming to me with that specific type of task and were clearly very relieved that someone could deal with it for them) I ended up having to quit. I’m still hoping I may be able to circle back to the department I liked more in a year or so, now that me being the previous anchor is Off the Table.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            I go the opposite way on this one. Work horses have a lot of clout. I would tell the boss that you will work the project through for an exchange of when it is done you can go to Other Position. You are bailing their butts out here. You are doing them a favor and they know it, why else would they keep you demoralized.
            Tell her, “Alright, I will bail you even if it takes five months. Then I want to be bailed out. I am asking for that in return, you know I am taking on a big task here. I would like recognition for that. And the recognition I would like is Other Position over there.”

            Don’t let her beat you into believing you have no power here. You do and they know it.

            1. a good mouse*

              I would love that, but the person who would hire me just got headcount for the first time in years, and she only has three positions. She can’t hold the position for me until this project is done, she needs to hire people now. So unless she hires someone she wants to later let go, this is my window to work with her, and she’s probably the only person who would hire me for a leadership role in the direction I want to go, because she understands the value I have beyond some of the skills I currently lack. If I want to go that direction with someone else, it would be a big step back in my career instead of a lateral move.

  47. gingerbread*

    I am so overworked and overwhelmed in my job that I don’t know what to do. At the beginning of the year, my colleague and I were called to the carpet because we were using way more time on projects than our customers were being billed for – the fundamental problem was that we weren’t getting enough time to do the project in the best way, so we were opting to deliver high-quality work rather than rushing to get everything done in a specific number of hours. About a month after that, my colleague was laid off, leaving me to be the only person who does what I do – there was no one to be my backup. Since then, I’ve easily worked more weekends than I’ve actually taken off, and I’ve had maybe 15 days the entire year where I haven’t at least checked my work email. I keep being told I’m going to get more hours for projects and that someone will be trained to at least be my backup while I’m out, but none of that has happened yet.

    Now I’m staring at a project queue of over 100 projects, all of which I am both project manager on and the person who will be doing all of the work. I’m supposed to forecast my work and keep every project updated, when most of the time I don’t even have what I need to start the project until the day I actually start it. Forecasting is ridiculous because I have no idea when I’m going to start things, so I am constantly having to go in and update my project dates and forecast when things come in, and it’s a complete waste of time (and doesn’t count towards billable time, which I’m supposed to deliver a minimum of 30 hours a week of).

    Looking at my project list, I feel paralyzed. I can’t bring myself to start anything, even the projects I have information on, because I’m so overwhelmed. I’m dropping things left and right and in general producing pretty poor work, so I’m then spending extra time correcting my mistakes (and not having anyone to look over, test, or help makes it that much more time-consuming). My manager knows all of these issues and is trying to come up with solutions to help, but when I tell her that I can’t manage 100 projects she just says “Everyone has that many” (which is not true, and in my mind indicates a much more fundamental problem).

    Any tips or tricks on how I can dig myself out of this? I’m already giving up my holiday vacation to try to just get caught up.

    1. mr. brightside*

      Your job sucks and as long as they’ll get blood from a stone, they’re going to keep doing it.

      Have you laid it out for your manager everything that’s going on? If so, get her to prioritize it for you. Something has to get dropped. You need your time off. And if you’re giving up paid vacation time, you’re paying them.

      1. gingerbread*

        Yeah, she knows exactly what’s going on, and she is pretty much in the same boat. Even her manager has a pretty good idea this is going on, and yet nothing ever changes. She compared it to an abusive relationship, and she’s not wrong – “I promise it will be different this time”, so we stick around and keep getting abused thinking that something is going to change.

        At least I get to roll over the vacation days to next year.

    2. LCL*

      Look at what you wrote, rewritten really simply.
      You and coworker got lectured because you weren’t getting enough work done. After the lecture, management laid off one of you. Now one person (you) is trying to do the work that two people couldn’t get done in the time allotted.

      The only thing you can do is to take a deep breath, prioritize, and stop working extra hours. If they will fire you because you can’t do it all, better to not work yourself to death on your way to firing.

      1. gingerbread*

        Yep, you’re not wrong.

        I have been somewhat looking and have had a couple of interviews. The problem with that becomes that if I leave I want to do a career change, so finding something where they can pay what I need is proving quite difficult. I also really like my company overall, despite this. I’ve been here 6 years and this is the first time I’ve had any sort of issue.

        I doubt I would be fired, due to the whole “single point of failure” thing. In fact, I’m in line for a promotion.

        I absolutely have to find a way to prioritize, set timelines, say no, and push back on unreasonable expectations.

        1. fposte*

          It sounds like your unit may be in some financial tight straits. They were already overpromising and struggling to deliver, and then they laid somebody off, and the response is that this is the way it is and you need to make it work. Can you ask your manager what’s going on here and whether there’s a reorg possibility? That seems like a pretty big change in your work situation and I’d be wondering what’s behind it.

          1. valentine*

            stop working extra hours. If they will fire you because you can’t do it all, better to not work yourself to death on your way to firing.
            And stop updating your project statuses.

            Take your vacation. It will be more productive than whatever you can accomplish during it, especially when you’re despondent.

          2. gingerbread*

            Well, yeah. We are a publicly traded company, so we are definitely in financial straits ;)
            My teammate getting laid off was part of a huge re-org. My department of 12 was cut in half, as were many other teams in the company. Then we’ve had other people leave since then, and getting replacements takes months. We’ve had a req to get someone to help me since October, but as everywhere Q4 hiring freeze. I’ll be shocked if there’s not another sort of re-org soon and part of my hopes to be laid off because our severance is always really good…

            1. fposte*

              So I’d say this is the new normal, then; never mind what the previous five years have been like. Figure out what you’d need to do to make this tenable–as people note, do less–and decide whether you want to hold on for a layoff or step up the serach.

    3. zora*

      Yes, this sounds terrible, I know, but you’re going to have to let some things drop, before they will figure out this is unsustainable.

      I would say pick one thing at a time, think in baby steps, and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. And work sustainable hours, and when it’s 6pm (or whatever) you need to just stop and go home.

      And I agree you need to sit down with your boss and talk specifics. Have the list with actually how much time each thing will take and do the math in front of her that there are more hours than exist in a day. The “100 projects” thing isn’t getting through to her, but if she hears specifics and doesn’t get it and help prioritize or move things off your plate, then I think you need to look for a new job.

      If they are holding you to unsustainable expectations, then staying for too long will just hurt you professionally in the long run. But if you actually put the consequences back on to your boss’s lap (or someone else’s), then they might actually get that something major needs to change.

      Good luck!

    4. Gumby*

      Okay, 100 project is insane. I think one of your main problems is seeing the 100 projects, correctly identifying that it isn’t possible, and then being paralyzed by the insanity.

      I’d suggest gathering the projects in one list, prioritizing it (or have 2 columns – one for priority by importance, the other for priority by urgency), and then forecasting *maybe* the top 10. Though that depends on the size of the projects. Anything below that falls into “any forecast I give you would be too inaccurate to be useful.” Or change your forecast to “active and 20% done” to “start expected within the next month” and “no telling” (okay, fine, call the last one “waiting” or “in the queue” or something else more professional-sounding) (ooh, if things are waiting on a particular trigger event – info becoming available, etc. – you could maybe list that here too). Any new projects must slot into the existing list. Re-prioritize on a schedule that makes sense but does not drive you crazy. Weekly? Monthly? Every time you finish 5 projects?

      That way you at least free up the mental energy to tackle just the projects that you are focusing on. You finish one and you don’t have to cast about and go into overwhelmed mode again – you just go to the next item on the list.

      This also has the benefit of making your workload visible. If anyone wants to add something – make them go through the slotting it into the priority list exercise with you. That way they will see what other things are competing for your attention and it might manage expectations.

  48. Bee's Knees*

    Issue with my new job- I am the HR coordinator at a manufacturing plant. There’s supposed to be a manager and a coordinator, and they both left before I started. Corporate has been helpful in sending people to train me, but there’s no one here full time. They haven’t found a manager yet, so I’m getting included on stuff that I normally wouldn’t be from a corporate standpoint. (ie emails to HR departments about raises and stuff) but at a site level, there’s no one for me to ask about daily stuff.
    There’s a meeting three times a week with managers. One of them keeps asking if we have that meeting today. I have not been invited. I don’t want to just show up. My boss would normally be the manager, but since we don’t have one, I’m ‘reporting’ to the plant manager. He’s nice, but not around (me) much. Thoughts?

    Tldr: do I just suck it up and ask my boss if I’m supposed to be included in this meeting?

    1. Four lights*

      Yup, just ask. “I’m still getting a feel for my responsibilities, and I wasn’t sure if I ought to attend the manager meetings, either regularly or just while we’re waiting to hire the HR manager.”

    2. BadWolf*

      “Oh hey, am I supposed to be in on that manager meeting? I wasn’t sure and I didn’t want to awkward show up!”

    3. learnedthehardway*

      If you’re the only HR person on site, you possibly should be in the management meetings. Talk to whoever is your next level up in HR now – it might be a regional manager or director. Suggest to that person that until a plant HR manager is hired, that you would be happy to take notes, and to bring back any questions or issues that arise, for their decision/input.
      You can do something important here – both for the company and for your career. Even if you can’t immediately weigh in or contribute, at least the HR implications of what is going on would be relayed to someone who has HR expertise. Meanwhile, you’ll learn a lot about the business and operations, you’ll be seen as taking initiative, you’ll develop good relationships with the plant management, etc. etc. etc.

  49. Sara W*

    Just curious.

    In a customer facing role in an office, it IS normal to always have a supervisor/manager around, yes?

    I’m a supervisor, and my company recently took all the interns out for a holiday luncheon (since they will not be invited to the holiday party). All the managers were invited to go, but none of the supervisors. It stung a little bit but I understand the reasoning (if that’s normal procecure).

    1. Antilles*

      It’s pretty common in customer-facing roles, yeah. The theory is that if a customer walks in, you need someone with authority available if the customer has a Problem From Heck or wants to speak with a supervisor/manager. Even normally-reasonable customers tend to get *really* upset if they ask for a supervisor or manager and hear “actually, the entire senior staff is on lunch for the next hour”.
      Also, in the way I’m reading it, this was a thank-you luncheon intended for the interns – the rest of the staff isn’t part of it because the rest of you are getting your thank-you via the holiday party. Which makes it a little more understandable that the company management didn’t want to (effectively) pay for the supervisors’ holiday party twice.
      I understand feeling a little left-out, but I don’t think your office was particularly out of line here. If they’d invited ALL of the other supervisors except you, then it would be offensive, but I’m reading your post as “all the supervisors including me were left out”, which is fairly defensible.

      1. Sara W*

        That’s what I thought. I’m not going to lie, I did text my boss saying I feel like Cindarella (we’re friends and have a joking relationship like that) LOL and he brought me back my favorite dessert. Someone told me I needed to be more outraged but I honestly was/am not.

  50. Hates Confrontation*

    TL;DR Boss got title change that would have been my promotion.

    When I was first hired four months ago, it was with the knowledge that there would be room for growth. I was hired as the highest person in my position and would be aided in making it to the next level. Recently, in an e-mail, I noticed my boss had a title change…which would have been my title. She hasn’t brought it up to me and I am not sure how to approach it. Or if at all since I’ve only been here four months and I still have time to prove myself. Most of the work is still delegated to me and I still make final approvals, however, it kind of is rubbing me the wrong way. HOW would I even approach this? Do I? Am I just looking too deep into it?

    1. fposte*

      When you say “would be aided,” who said it and what did they say?

      If you’re hired at the top level of teapot specialists and HR said “We love to see growth, so we’ll definitely be talking to you about movement to teapot associate” I wouldn’t expect that after four months, and I wouldn’t see your boss being teapot associate as saying anything about you, and I wouldn’t consider it “your” title. If, however, your boss said “I’d expect to promote you to teapot associate within six months” and after four months suddenly your boss is teapot associate, that’s a little weirder. (I also don’t get what sounds like your boss taking on a lower title.) But in either case I’d let go of the idea that it’s “your” title, because it’s not. Depending on the situation, you might be able to say to your boss “Hey, HR said that in the future they could see me growing into this title–I see that you’re handling it now, and I’d love to know if you think that’s possible and what I’d need to do.”

      1. Hates Confrontation*

        Both my boss and head of HR said that this position (teapot manager) would be working towards being Teapot Director because my boss no longer wanted to be involved in my line of work, she just wanted to oversee the department (no timeline was given). Totally agree with you, it isn’t mine and I shouldn’t have said that. I just felt defensive for a second that it was a bait and switch. Reading it over, I realize four months isn’t enough time for me to be wary.

  51. Teapot librarian*

    New boss this week! I haven’t had much time to sit with her one-on-one yet but she did speak with each of my employees one on one. Actually, she didn’t have time to speak with one of my employees because she only budgeted two and a half hours (!!!!!) for the conversations and at least one of my other employees talked her ear off. (Mind you, I only have 5 reports. So that should have averaged to a half hour per person.)

    I’m cautiously optimistic about this transition. I’m hoping that new boss will have some ideas for how I can better manage my Hoarder.

  52. Competing w Friends*

    Any tips on how to keep things professional during and after you and some coworkers go for the same promotion? Three coworkers and I are going for the same opening. We’re all “work friends,” and two of us currently work closely on a number of projects. Things are pretty close to normal now, but there have been a few moments of awkwardness already. Two people think they have the job in the bag, another coworker and I are just sitting back and kind of watching them maneuver and one-up each other. One has made comments about jobs he’ll assign me when he gets the job… I think everything will go back to normal once it’s all over, without any real hard feelings, but I’m already sick of the posturing. Any tips?

    1. Firefly*

      Don’t be the one participating in conversations about the job or what you’d do. If anyone brings it up, say I’d rather we not talk about the position while the search is ongoing. Remain professional. I just went through this and an outsider ended up being hired. I think it was because the boss felt it was better than choosing sides internally. Ugh. I was the one thinking I had the job. Now I need to train someone for the job I should’ve gotten.

    2. Master Bean Counter*

      Keep your head down and enjoy the show?
      Also whomever gets the job has to buy the rest of you coffee/lunch/whatever.

    3. Former Retail Manager*

      Firefly’s tip is great, but really there is no way to know how it will all work out until someone is selected. I’ve seen people who work well together and the ones who didn’t get selected are genuinely happy for the one who did, and I’ve seen it all go down in flames. Depends on the personalities involved. From a worst case scenario, I’d look at it as a learning opportunity if you don’t get selected and see if you can find out why the other candidate was selected, so you can work on whatever you need to so you can be the clear frontrunner the next time a position opens. And no matter how much it hurts to “lose,” (if you lose, I really hope you don’t) do your very best to not let it show at work. Express your congratulations and excitement to work together with your new supervisor. For all you know, they may be a very valuable ally/mentor going forward who can help you further your career.

  53. Stacy*

    Looking for advice from nonprofit people, especially on the program side, please!

    I have 3-5 years experience in nonprofit communications and a graduate degree in the humanities, and I am looking to jump into a program role–something where I actually work with the people the organization is serving, its volunteers, or community partners. I’m having difficulty breaking in, though, because I only have one summer of program experience, though I think a lot of my communications skills and work is highly transferable.

    Has anyone found certificate programs in nonprofit management and leadership to be useful? Is there anything else I can do to prove that I can succeed in a position like this, short of already having it on my resume?

    I’m volunteering and networking a ton, but looking for additional strategies in the new year. Thanks for any advice you can offer!

    1. Friday Anon*

      When I made the jump from the administrative side to the program side, it was all about connections. I had worked at my organization for a few years and had gotten to know people in every area. When I was ready to make my move, I let people know. I would try to leverage the networking you have done as much as possible. I’m not sure what your industry is, but in mine getting various certificates would not have made a difference.

      1. Scaramouche Scaramouche*

        Nonprofit program person here and I agree. Networks, but also make the case in your cover letter when you apply for a job that you HAVE transferrable skills already, and talk about your volunteer work too. When I’m hiring, I look at resumes that aren’t a 100% fit for the position but I think, “ok, they could make a case for how their experience and knowledge are transferable” and then I look at a cover letter that is basically their resume in narrative form and squanders the opportunity to make a case for why they can do this job. And it’s not why they WANT to do this job – it’s why they CAN. I would also recommend you seek out informational interviews with people doing the kind of work you want to do and find out what they have that you don’t have, and come up with a plan to get those skills. Certificates won’t do the trick though – you need experience.

        1. Stacy*

          Thank you both! Writing cover letters that describe how I can do a job, vs. why I want to, has been tricky but I think you’re right–it’s going to take a hiring manager seeing my experience, hearing me out on how I can transfer it, and giving me a shot. It’s nice to hear that more grad school probably isn’t the answer!

    2. Washi*

      Are you trying to move to doing direct service, or to specifically running programs? In my experience, certificates without experience tend not to be useful either way, and often you have to have some experience providing direct service before you can run programs. You might need to be prepared to take a lower level direct service job, and then work on moving up.

      If it helps, I moved into direct service in a field that normally requires a grad degree by working for a few years as a volunteer coordinator, where at least you’re working with people even if it’s not really program, while volunteering at my dream organization. Then I took a volunteer coordinating job with that dream organization, and was quickly poached by my desired department when a spot opened up, because they knew me from my volunteer work. I’m planning to apply to grad school and will continue to work here part time and am hoping to then have the combination of degree + experience that I will need to move up to the next level.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        I am programmatic at a nonprofit, and I’d say usually we are hired for specific field experience related to the type of work the org does – so like, you’re a scientist at an environmental nonprofit or you’re an MS at a humanities nonprofit. Or you had an internship that was related to that side of things, I mean, I’m not saying go get a master’s degree. Something like a degree in “nonprofit admin” wouldn’t be worth a lot IMO, especially if you’re starting on the lower side – it sets you up to be like an office manager or helps you get to be a departmental director. YMMV! But you’d have more like volunteering at the specific types of events the org does.

  54. Curator*

    Best and Worst

    Best: I was on the radio recommending books to give for the holidays. It was so much fun and the hour just flashed by! And the interviewer asked me about the “big project” whoo hoo.

    Worst: Not really. Big project is never ending and I will be working on over the weekend and well into the holidays. Will get the whole family to help lay out the exhibit.

    Second best: I have a research leave the first two weeks in January. Would appreciate suggestions for good food, entertainment, spa visits around Gainesville Florida. Within city limits or less than 40 minutes away.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      Best: Got asked to help on another project, bringing my total list up to 4, possibly 5 really interesting projects for next year. It’s best because I feel like I’m finally getting back into the swing of things and I’m being invited to work on these projects explicitly because of my experience and skills.

      Worst: I’m trying to finish the capstone for the Data Science certificate program, and I’m completely, totally lost about how to actually do the project. This is going to take a huge effort on my part to get focused and learn – it’s possible to do it, but my preferred conditions are 4 hour minimum blocks of time dedicated to just this, and with FT work, family, and holidays, it’s going to be hard to limp along.

  55. It's bananas*

    New boss is a nightmare. She started our convo with stating my weaknesses and how she won’t put up with gossip or drama. Yet she is best friends with my coworker. I’ve heard them talking about me and new boss complaining about my work.

    Red flag to get out and find a new job, right?

    1. Tara S.*

      Definitely a red flag, and you can def keep looking for a new job, but be sure to weigh the other parts of this job. I’ve worked with several people who claim to be above gossip while being the biggest gossips themselves, which was super annoying. But there were other things that made the job worth staying at: boss values mentorship and internal promotions, has my back when things come up, has a ton of experience I can learn from, etc. If those kinds of things are present or there are other reasons you want to stay, just remember that anything you say to them will get told to someone else, no matter what they say, and carry on.

    2. Tabby Baltimore*

      Right! Please act on this impulse immediately, and start looking at job listings today, because you realize you’re already being scapegoated. With any luck, you’ll be out of there no later than the middle of next month. Please let us know how things go.

    3. Sloan Kittering*

      Yes, if I heard my boss criticize my work to others I would assume I needed to get the heck out of there immediately. The fact that she hasn’t addressed concerns with you directly means she’s terrible. It sucks because they’re not going to be a good reference either – perhaps your prior supervisor was still recent enough that you can use them.

    4. Former Retail Manager*

      Grab your Nike’s and run as fast as you can. I’ve had these bosses. Drama llamas…..1,000%

  56. Rosie The Rager*

    Bizarre Interview: Suggestions on how to proceed

    Background: I am a mid-career professional who has actively searched for jobs in communications, marketing, PR and fundraising for eight months. I have been a finalist several times, withdrawn from consideration for a host of reasons, and received numerous rejections and ghosting behaviors during the search. However, an interview Tuesday with a boutique PR firm may take the cake as the strangest I’ve yet encountered.

    Interview Invitation: The firm’s owner, Missy, called me three days after I applied through a job website. Because I was on another call, she left a voicemail message that went as follows: “Hello, Rosie. This is Missy with PR firm. Give me a call.” No other details were provided, including her reason for calling, a reasonable timeline for responding or what I needed to prepare for the discussion. Despite my misgivings, I promptly returned the call and scheduled an in-person interview for the following day.
    Interview Prep: Because Missy wrote a very general PR job description, I could not do an in-depth comparison between my resume and the skills she wanted. Instead, I focused on researching the firm’s website, social media, and news coverage. Missy and her firm are well-regarded with the 51-year-old woman receiving profiles in several business publications, offered teaching contracts with local colleges, and contributor status with the likes of Huffington Post and Fox News.

    Interview Intro: On Wednesday afternoon, I drove to a sleepy village about 15 minutes away from the metropolitan area where I reside. I found the PR firm’s offices to be in an updated Victorian home with a three-space driveway, and an aggressively territorial laptop guarding the entrance. I stood at the entrance gently knocking (no doorbell) as the dog continued to bark at me for nearly 5 minutes straight before a short woman donning a long red and black flannel shirt, burgundy jeggings, brown Uggs, and a dark brown slide swept pixie cut answered the door. She order the animal named Sky quiet and ushered me into the offices. Through the kitchen and past some small offices we walked to a large conference room that was originally a family dining area but now housed a motorcycle and framed copies of comic books, including vintage editions of “Wonder Woman.”

    Interview Questions: Missy declined to use standard interview questions and interacted with me as though we were having a general conversation. She read in detail several of my writing samples, including a media guide, two newsletters, three fundraising appeals, and an event invitation, among others. She repeatedly asked me about media kits and making pitches, both of which I have done on a more informal level. When I asked her about hours, pay, size of the team, goals for 2019, or anything else, she noted everything was in flux. We concluded the interview with a DISC personality assessment, which she briefly glanced at before saying, “Okay, I should write down directions for you then.”

    Interview Follow-up: Several hours after returning home, I wrote Missy a thank-you note and included the reference list she requested. A full day passed before she responded and asked for social media posts from previous jobs, so I have gone through the Facebook posts I created in previous roles and selected several that I will included under various headings.

    1. Tabby Baltimore*

      I know nothing about PR, so you can take what I say with a grain of salt. But I would be coming away with a bad feeling about this. Can’t quite put my finger on it, but my radar would be telling me that her somewhat cavalier (coming across as “informal”?) interview approach indicates something has happened: maybe a key employee has, or several employees have, just resigned, perhaps suddenly, and she’s had no time to regroup to deal with the gaping hole in her staffing? Has she lost a major client, or group of clients? If you are still interested in this position, I would just move cautiously through Missy’s process, and ask a LOT of questions along the way.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        I think different places are good fits for different people. No offense but based on your descriptions, you sound like someone who is very systematic in your approach. This nonprofit sounds very free-flowing and casual. There are pluses and minuses to every type of job but it doesn’t sound like you would be comfortable with such a casual workplace? Ideally, you’d at least be excited at the potential for increased flexibility or what sounds like a fairly flat hierarchy, and be prepared for the typical boundary-pushing / overly intimate workplace that occurs with small, casual orgs.

    2. Strange Interviews*

      What concerns me most is that Missy was very vague in her response to everything you asked, including things like PAY and HOURS. I feel like Missy isn’t as “put together” as she may appear in the industry. I would be very cautious to move forward with working for Missy.

      1. Psyche*

        Yeah, it sounds like the interview was very lopsided, with Missy not really answering questions. I would be wary.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          There are some people who would see opportunity here! You could frame your own job to your strengths and request the pay you’re looking for. If they can’t do it, they can’t do it, but you’re probably getting an accurate picture of how they do business – you’d need to be self-motivated and willing to bend and flex.

  57. grace*

    I’m sure something similar has been posted before, but …. In my 360 review this year, one thing that was brought up is that I lack confidence internally and externally.

    I’ve already asked my new manager for clarification, but tbh, I don’t think it was he that thought I did – he certainly didn’t agree with that assessment, though my old manager did. I guess overall: what have you done in the past to help yourself project more confidence? Without, hopefully, coming across as arrogant :-)

    1. Havarti*

      What does internally and externally mean? With co-workers and clients?
      It helps if your boss has your back, if you’re comfortable with the tasks you do and the knowledge you have, and also if you’re made aware of how much authority you have – what decisions can you make without boss’s input. Also body language and words. If you kind of hunch up, make sure to stand up straight, speak politely but firmly, and make eye contact. If you apologize a lot, dial that back, especially if you present as female. Also remaining calm when things are crazy also helps, even if you’re screaming internally.

      1. grace*

        Thanks, this is helpful! Especially the apologizing – I’m young, female, and Southern; I think sometimes it’s in my DNA, ha.

        And yes, I did mean colleagues and clients – I feel, and my new manager agrees, that I’m really quite confident internally, but I’m a lower ranking assistant, so my clients often don’t know who I am or that I did a good proportion of the work on their projects.

    2. CheeryO*

      Ah, this is something I struggle with too and have been working hard on recently! I’m assuming you know your stuff and just need to work on how you present yourself. I think simple things help a ton, although obviously it’s all stuff that’s easier said than done. Sit up straight with your shoulders back, speak up in meetings when you have something to contribute, walk tall, make good eye contact, make sure you’re enunciating and projecting your voice well, eliminate any up-talking or hedging language (“I think,” “maybe,” “I’m not sure,” etc.), unless it’s a situation where you truly don’t know the answer to a question.

      I’m assuming that you’re female based on your username, so be aware that there are people out there who will see your confidence as arrogance. I just got called “abrasive” for the first time in my life the other day, and someone who overheard the conversation agreed that I wasn’t abrasive at all; I was just calmly explaining something to someone that they didn’t want to hear, while being female. It’s just the world we live in, and hopefully it will not be something you experience often.

      1. matcha123*

        Can I just say that I hate how so many people feel that “I think,” “maybe,” “I’m not sure,” etc. are signs that the speaker has no confidence or they don’t know what they are talking about.
        When I use those, it is because nothing is 100% in this world and I don’t trust people who speak with no wiggle room or without acknowledging that there are other possibilities that they don’t know about or haven’t considered.

        1. CheeryO*

          I was thinking more about situations where do you know the answer but you soften it with wiggle words out of a lack of confidence (or just a verbal tic). I work in a technical field, so I definitely have situations where I can’t say something with 100% certainty, but I try to stick with “I believe,” “I’m fairly certain,” etc. Maybe there isn’t a huge difference there, but it feels more polished.

      2. grace*

        Thanks! I do usually know my stuff, but it’s difficult to convey that – especially as I second-guess it all in the midst of the phone call :) I’ll start keeping an eye out for both “I think” and my fillers, which tend to be “Hmm,” or “If I recall..” haha. Also for over apologizing! I’ve been working really hard the last few months to cut that back, but as I said above, I’m a Southern girl: someone bumps into me, and I apologize … pointedly. Whoops.

        I am female and don’t want to be considered abrasive, but the prevailing idea of me is that I’m ‘nice,’ which is great, except I’d like to be ‘nice AND competent,’ so some of it is shifting things over to that. I’m not usually with clients – both internally and externally – in person, which further complicates things: while I look young (I know it’s a cliche! But I still regularly get asked if I can buy Mucinex, ugh), I sound even younger over the phone, so I think some of it may be my affect? I don’t know how to change that, though…

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          My boss was able to articulate that a lot of it came down to eye contact, a firm tone, and a good handshake. That plus deleting the words “I’m sorry” from my vocabulary got me most of the way there.

  58. Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins*

    I’ve been waiting all week for this because I need some advice/opinions!
    Paralegals/Legal professionals of AAM,
    I am a federal (US Gov) employee with a BA in communication and I’m interested in perhaps shifting into the legal field, although staying within the federal government. I have been looking at jobs, and I am actually really interested in becoming a paralegal. The local community college has an ABA accredited paralegal AAS program, and it looks like I would be able to take most of the classes at night while maintain my current job.
    Does anyone have experience with this type of program? If so, there is an internship requirement, but I work full time during regular business hour and cannot change my schedule. Is it possible to do a paralegal internship nights and weekends? I won’t quit my job to take an unpaid internship.
    I’d love more insight on things about the job you wish you’d known. I’ve been with the government for a while, and will probably stay until retirement, but I really don’t see staying in my current agency long-term. It’s a “hot topic” agency with volatile and ever-changing priorities, and while I know it’s volatile everywhere right now, I worry that the devil I know is actually worse than the devil I don’t.
    I know I need to talk to the school, I’m sure they have answers, but I just want to get some neutral advice before I commit to going back to school (and paying for it!).

    1. Binky*

      I was a paralegal straight out of college for the US government. I didn’t have any paralegal certification. I’d take a look at the job requirements for the positions you’re looking at before spending time and money on a potentially unnecessary credential.

    2. lawyer-wrangler (paralegal)*

      Paralegal here! I actually do not have a certification- only learned the job through experience- so I can’t speak to that program, though it does sound useful in order to learn basic law stuff, court systems and types of filings, etc.

      I actually have a master’s degree in a completely unrelated field but after graduation could only get a job in a law firm as an executive assistant…Being there for a few years got me more exposure into what paralegals do and I was able to take on a bit more responsibility with “my lawyers,” which I eventually parlayed into an actual paralegal job at an international institution. Have been here for 3+ years now and I love it. But then again, I’m the type of person who enjoys proofreading and cite-checking!

      Anyway I’ve helped hire other paralegals since I’ve been at this job and one of the things I can’t stress enough is MS Word skills. Everyone and their mother says they are “proficient in the MS Office suite,” but give them a test and they don’t know how to use styles, create a table of contents, create a numbered list, etc. So if you aren’t strong in those areas I would recommend doing some online tutorials to help build up those skill sets.

      I also think it takes someone with a real take charge personality to be successful in this position, but also someone who has a degree of tact. At the end of the day, my job is to do everything I can to help counsel be successful; this is easier if you can anticipate their needs and have drafts ready before they even ask for them, and not be afraid to approach people who might be a “big deal” if you need info to get the job done, BUT at the same time you have to be careful not to overstep your role.

      Not sure if this is helpful at all. Happy to share more. :-)

    3. some thoughts*

      I can’t answer your questions directly, but this might help.

      I’ve been a paralegal for a private firm without taking a separate course. The firm provided a few weeks of training. We also had temp paralegals, and there was evening/weekend work. You might see if a legal temp agency could get you evening/weekend work, although I don’t know if that would satisfy the internship requirements. Also, I’d ask the community college for suggestions about how to make it work — you can’t be the first person in this position, and they might have approaches or resources you aren’t aware of. Good luck!

    4. ..Kat..*

      I know nothing about paralegaling. But, I recommend looking at this program’s gradation rates, employment rates in this field post graduation, how much debt you will be acquiring to complete this program, do they have a (successful) job placement center. Good luck.

  59. yams*

    Gaaaaaaaaah! Fingers crossed so I don’t get fired today.
    Long story short, we lost a sale because a salesman wanted me to process an order in a way that collided against company policy which I stonewalled, as per company procedure and internal controls force me to. The sales team is livid, the sales manager has not even spoken to me because of how pissed he is.
    I’m happy the new purchasing manager and the internal control team were on my corner yesterday, thankfully everything is carefully documented since what the sales guy was asking for is a fireable offense.
    Even so I was so scared I ended up crying yesterday.

    1. mr. brightside*

      Good luck! I hope TPTB have your back since you were following policy that, presumably, they made and signed off on.

    2. Tara S.*

      Best of luck! You did the right thing and didn’t let people steamroll you into a fireable offense. You’re a badass! And you’re going to get through this.

    3. Sloan Kittering*

      I’ve been in similar straights and it’s scary :( With things like this, the best thing you can do is keep escalating it and looping in the higher ups. They may legitimately decide they’d rather have this sale than follow the previously stated policy, but that’s not a decision you can make. CYA, CYA CYA and explain that this decision is coming from higher up – your superiors should be covering you!

  60. Jesmlet*

    How do you ask your boss to do his own job again?
    I’ve been here almost 3 years and have 2 different sets of responsibilities, plus I also take on part of what people in my boss’ role typically do themselves. It organically happened, it’s not like he sat me down and asked me to take on XYZ, but it’s getting to be too much with all the other stuff I do. I don’t want to sound like I’m accusing him of not doing his job, so how do I phrase it in a way that he won’t feel attacked?

    1. Tara S.*

      You don’t have to have a specific conversation about him taking duties back, but instead can have a general conversation about your workload, and how certain things you’ve picked up over time are turning out to be a drain/taking up way more of your time than you expected, and you wanted to ask him if there was any way some things could be moved off your plate. He might take those duties back, he might give them to someone else, but either way you won’t have to do them anymore (hopefully).

    2. Master Bean Counter*

      I’d say “While I’ve enjoyed learning and doing XYZ I need to focus more on ABC. Can you take XYZ back?”

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        I’d say, it’s not up to you to decide where the task goes – a new employee, a temp, a coworker, or your boss taking it back – or even the task is discontinued or scaled down – but it is up to you to raise the workload issue and ask if something is your priority if it means X or Y doesn’t get done.

  61. MsChanandlerBong*

    I have been tasked with creating a new training manual for my company. This manual will replace our current (terrible) training, which is video-based. Is MS Word the best way to do this, or is there a (free) program available that will create a better finished product?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Is it ultimately just text and pictures? I’d say the best way is whatever way you’re most comfortable with. And what’s the final product? A PDF of some kind? Or an actual printed manual? I mean, it could be Word, Google Docs, InDesign LaTeX…

      1. Tara S.*

        So I love InDesign for long documents, but it’s not free and has a learning curve. It is possible to do that in Word (even though is does that fun thing where you move an image one pixel and suddenly all the formatting is crazy and 3 pages have been added).

        If you are going to use Word, get familiar with Styles. They work just like in InDesign, where you can define a Style (e.g. create a Style called “Heading 1” that will make selected text 16pt Arial bold with 6 points of space underneath) and then apply that Style to parts of a text. It’s nice because you don’t have to manually adjust the heading/text every time (click to increase size, click to bold, click…) AND if you update the Style, everything with that Style applied will update to your new setting (e.g. if you need the headings to be Cambria instead of Arial, you can just update the Style, instead of having to click and adjust every heading). Apologies if you already know about StyleS, hopefully this will be useful to someone.

      2. MsChanandlerBong*

        It will be mostly text, but I am adding some screenshots to show new freelancers where to find certain site features. The final product will be a PDF file so that we can email it to new freelancers and also put it on the site so it can be downloaded at any time.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          If your company has it, I think it’s nice to use InDesign when you’re doing a big document that needs to end up as a PDF – everybody probably has horror stories of word formatting issues when you have multiple pages with things like tables and graphics. Word is best when it’s very text heavy without too many graphics IMO.

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’m baffled to see people recommending InDesign for long documents. I work in it regularly, and I try to avoid using it for anything over four pages. FrameMaker for me, hands down. The automatically updating cross references and numbering systems are much more robust. That said, none of the Adobe products are free. If there’s any chance of a budget, and if there’s any chance they may want you to put this out as an online help file down the line, look into MadCap Flare before you spend the money. And all will have a steep learning curve, so it may prove easiest to keep the format very very simple so that Word can handle it.

    2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      Is it going to be printed, or will it be available for display? If both, you might consider LaTeX. The results look really professional, and they’re easy to export to other formats, such as pdf, html or markdown (for wikis).

    3. Undine*

      Ask them if they have a preferred format and/or template for the document. If not, I would probably go with Word, not because it is best for the job (it isn’t), but because as the lowest common denominator, it will be easier for other people to maintain. If you do it in something like latex, your work is much more likely to be theown out when the next person doesn’t want to learn a new package.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Yeah – LaTex is amazing, and I love it for documentation because you don’t end up with uneditable documents due to version changes. I can pull up a LaTeX document I wrote 20 years ago, edit it and make a new PDF, when I’ve had problems with word processing documents after 5 years.

        However, if you don’t work in a LaTeX friendly environment, it will be wasted, because there is definitely a learning curve and it’s a different way of thinking about documents than Word.

  62. Miss Wels*

    Does anyone know if having an associate’s degree in business administration is helpful and what kinds of jobs and salary ranges you can expect? I already have extensive customer service experience, some experience with policy and environmental work, and I have been freelancing with creative work for eight years.

    1. KR*

      I have an associate in business administration. I’ve found it has helped prove to employers that I’m a step above entry level because I know basic accounting, business terms, and office norms. I work in admin for a major utility company you’ve probably heard of if you’re in the US in renewables. It really added to my existing tech experience and made me more well rounded and now I am pursuing a Bachelor’s in Business Finance.

      1. Miss Wels*

        Since I am currently an admin, I am trying to get the degree to get out of being an admin. Has it ever helped you to get non-admin jobs?

    2. Former Retail Manager*

      Not sure what part of the country you’re in, or if that even matters, but I’m throwing it in, in case it does. I’m in Texas, large metropolitan area. I have 2 friends with this exact degree and they have both described it as “useless.” If you want out of admin type roles, I think you’re going to have a tough time using this degree to do it.

      Possible avenues where it might be either helpful, or likely neutral, entry level government jobs (all levels of govt, state, local, & federal), sales, entry level accounting (payroll clerk, bookkeeping, etc.). What you might consider is using the degree to take an admin type job that you don’t want at a large enough organization where there are real opportunities for advancement.

  63. LowlyCopywriter*

    Anyone have tips on advocating for a promotion (or not) when you’re new? I changed jobs about four months ago. There were lots of reasons; one was that it seemed like the new job would be a slight step up the corporate totem pole, but the careers at the companies aren’t apples to apples so that was never a guarantee.

    There have been changes in my department as well as a company-wide push to establish uniformity around titles. All good/neutral stuff, but now that my title has changed to be in line the industry standard, it’s become clear this was definitely a lateral move for me. (For context: I’m about 5 years into my career.)

    That’s been the only disappointing thing about the job so far, and I think there are good long-term opportunities for growth. My now-manager is new to the company too, but we’ve had a good rapport so far.

    Do I need to give it some time before having a conversation about revising my title (or, discussing what I need to do for us to have that conversation)? If not, tips for being assertive/to-the-point without sounding 1) egotistical or 2) upset? Also just focused on title, more so than salary.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      I am so with you! I took a job that I thought would have potential, but it’s clear to me now that it’s extremely lateral. I enjoy the work and I did get a slight pay bump so I suppose I can’t complain, but I really thought there’d be more opportunity for growth. I’m going to serve my year out and then start looking for something else. If you are genuinely doing higher level work (I can’t tell from your post if you are or not) and everything is in flux right now, it’s possible you could put your oar in at just the right moment and get yourself a better sounding title, but otherwise I’d think four months in was a little early.

  64. Jenny*

    How do you become excited about a new job when you are not thrilled about the hours? Mainly, too many and at times that interfere with your non-work life.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      That can be difficult. Do you have to be excited about the job? Or can you just do a good job while you’re there but not be excited?

      1. Jenny*

        I start the job in January so it is probably just the first few days I have to seem excited about it. The job itself will be probably be fine and I just have to not let my frustration with the hours show. I just know it will be half a year with nothing but work and sleep for me. Fortunately it is only half a year.

        1. Sybil Carpenter*

          May I ask why you took the job if the hours are so awful? Is it something you’re so passionate about doing that the lack of work-life balance is tolerable for a short period?

          1. Sloan Kittering*

            I’m puzzled too. Maybe she didn’t know how the hours would be. I have to say for me that’s one of the major factors in job satisfaction – there are some orgs that the culture is “live to work 24/7” and if you don’t share that value, you’re always going to struggle to do well there – I have to avoid such places like the plague, because that’s just not me. In my case the only option was to just get through it and get a new job as soon as possible :(

          2. Jenny*

            I’ve been without a job for a year so I need the money and to get updated on what’s happened in my field. Also it would make it easier to find another job. They changed the hours from the job description when I got to the interview and I had had no other offers.

            1. Sloan Kittering*

              Aw boo, that sucks :( Well in that case it’s a marathon and you just need to do your level best to get through it. I’ve had some success with making a calendar and highlighting “quitting day” or counting down to a big luxurious vacation. Try to leave work at the office when you can – people have suggested everything from changing clothes when you leave, to having a cool-down commute ritual, to make sure that you defend the parts of your life outside of work. Try to get exercise and eat and sleep extra well. Remind yourself that this is a short term step to your long-term goals and you can get through anything for a few months. You could also try job searching ASAP – maybe having a job will be just enough of a boost that you’ll get picked this time around, as anybody employed is more desirable apparently. Or it will give you some hope. We’ll be rooting for you!!

              1. Jenny*

                Thanks!! That is some good advice, especially the sleeping part. I am a night owl… I really need to be conscious of self-care.
                It could actually be fun to plan some sort of “celebration” at the end: “Yay! I survived!” Just a day out with friends would be nice.
                I am definitely continuing my job search though I will take a break the first month to get settled at the new place.
                Thanks for the boost!

            2. Sybil Carpenter*

              Makes sense. I think the advice from Sloan Kittering is excellent and I would also recommend trying not to psyche yourself out about how horrible the hours are before you actually start. Sometimes I stress out about things so much before hand that they seem worse than they actually are. I realize you might not be doing this at all so feel free to ignore this, but I often get pre-preemptively depressed or upset about work things which eventually makes things worse. A better strategy might be to try to enjoy yourself now as much as possible before your new job starts.

              1. Jenny*

                Thank you for that advice!! I think I suffer from that, too. All of my friends are happy for me and I am just… not thrilled. I also worry that I may have bothered the boss already by asking for changes in the schedule. Sigh. I try not to think about it now. The next week will be filled with friends and family. Just the thing to distract me and fill me up. All shall be well – and not as bad as I worry. Thanks.

  65. Imaginary Number*

    I totally understand not getting the input you need from people on a major project, but it’s always important to keep in mind that those failures may not always be something they can control. If your boss put you on a PIP because of how you reacted, it’s even more likely that’s the case.

    I’m currently on a major project that has a lot of contributors and tensions started running high. I had one coworker who had been on the project since the beginning and owned a part of it he was already an expert in. He would get very upset with coworkers for failing to give him the input he needed to finish his part, which in a perfect world would be reasonable. But the coworkers he was getting upset with were often people thrown in at the last minute because of turnover, or much less experienced team-members who had been thrown into a stretch position (also due to turnover and manpower issues), or they were delayed due to other factors outside their control like major scope changes.

    If you take the time to understand what the holdup is, whether that’s a resource they’re lacking, time they need to catch up due to a scope change, or a skillset they’re lacking, that will help make it clear that your frustration is with whatever is causing the issue, not necessarily with the coworker personally.

  66. Loose Seal*

    RE: pseudonyms, stage names, etc.

    If you have used a pen name in the past or use one now to author your work, how did you decide to do so rather than using your real name? If you considered using a pen name and ultimately decided to use your real name, why did you make that decision? Either way, have you come to regret your decision and wish you had started being known another way?

    1. Detail-oriented Smut*

      I’ve used a pen name in the past. Professionally I’m a CPA, but I am also a published author. As some of my written work is, uh, professionally questionable, the pen name helps keep the two jobs separate. Unless I become ultra-famous, no one will ever connect the two.

    2. Jane B. Martin*

      I think there is an episode about this on the podcast “So You Want To Be A Writer” but I am not entirely sure. I’ve only just heard about it and skimmed the episode titles.

  67. Eating all the cookies today*

    Not a question, just a comment looking for commiseration … managers, isn’t it bittersweet when really excellent employees find great positions elsewhere? I have a really strong staff member who will be difficult to replace and she’s about to be offered a position at another institution. I gave her a glowing reference, but part of me was so sad while I was doing it. I think this is one of the hardest parts of the job.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I haven’t been in the situation, but I did have a manager who was in tears when I said I was leaving, and then immediately told me if someone got them on the phone as a reference for me, I’d definitely get the job.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      Yes, it’s definitely difficult. That’s happened to me twice in the last couple of years. Both people were rock stars and I encouraged them to start job searching because I knew they wouldn’t have much more opportunity to grow at our company. I didn’t want them to go and knew it would suck to have to replace them and train all over again, but I wanted them to be happy and advance their careers.

    3. LizB*

      I just had one of my best staff tell me she’s applying for another position internally. I congratulated her, and I honestly think she’ll be a great fit if she gets the position, so I’ll give her a great reference if/when it comes time for that… but noooooo I wanted her to stay on my team. :( :( :(

    4. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Been there! What’s worse is when you actively have to shove them into new/different jobs for their own good (with their permission and interest of course). I always keep a few things in mind…

      Maybe one day I’ll end up working for them. I’ve seen it happen before where roles were reversed and the former manager turned employee had not been supportive… awkward!

      Many managers have done the same for me over the years. It’s my turn now and if I’ve done my part soon the former employee will be in the same position.

      Their success is also my success. I’m absolutely giddy (after the immediate pain!) to see them succeed and thrive. I like to think that I was a small part of that success.

  68. Sophie before she was cool*

    I’m training two new employees, and one of them is taking so much of my energy. It’s truly exhausting. In the past week, I have had to tell this person the following:
    – When I ask you to do multiple things over the course of the day, I expect you to get all of them done. You should not just abandon one thing you’ve been working on with no communication because now you have two things to be working on. (Note: There’s no concern on my end or theirs about workload.)
    – “Review this information, focusing on X Y and Z” does not mean “start at the beginning with W and spend all of your energy on W, to the point where you haven’t even looked at X Y and Z by the time I follow up with you”.
    – “Okay, I’ll update the documentation” is not the correct response to “Thanks for bringing that to my attention! We’re not going to update that documentation; instead the department will create a new resource entirely. I’ll follow up with Other Person directly so she can incorporate this information into the new resource.”

    I’ve had to change my communication style to something I’m really not comfortable with in order for them to get anything done and I’m still (after 3 months!) not at a place where I trust this person to do anything of consequence on their own.

    1. Scaramouche Scaramouche*

      I sympathize. Have you tried repeat backs? Give instructions, then ask them to repeat it back to you and identify where the dots aren’t connecting. Ask them, also, how they best receive and retain information. Some people prefer face to face, others email.

      1. Sophie before she was cool*

        This is a good idea and I should do it more. They tend to repeat back on their own but in very general terms, and I think I can press for more detail when that happens.

    2. Trixie*

      Agreed on repeat backs. Given it’s been three months and little progress, this new hire may not be a good fit for this position.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Hmmm… sounds kind of ADD-ish. I would have them make lists of what you’ve assigned, and add to the list as new requests come in. Tell them which things are the priorities that need to be done today. Over time, hopefully they’ll adopt this approach and start prioritizing most stuff for themselves.

  69. The Other Dawn*

    This is just a vent.

    We were acquired a few months ago. Having to deal with the acquiring bank is such a royal PITA and has clarified in my mind that I really do not want to go to a bigger bank. I want to stay with a small bank. Not only because I’d be able to do more and have more variety–plus the nice, small bank feel–but because people at a smaller bank tend to actually know what the other hand is doing.

    I asked the other bank OVER A MONTH AGO if there’s anything we can be doing in our downtime, which has been significant, to keep busy and get ahead of the timeline. I was told that Jane was copied on the email and would get back to me with details. Then…crickets. I didn’t pursue it since the items I specifically asked about weren’t slated to be done until next month anyway. I then had another team member leave, so the workflow has now picked up significantly and we’re really busy. I get an email while I’m out of town last Friday asking for a status update on the specific item I was supposed to be contacted about. I told them point-blank that I sent an email on X date, the reply came on Y date that Jane would contact me, she never contacted me and we’ve done nothing because we couldn’t without her direction. I was then told that they had just started discussing it Friday and they need this item completed by year end. When it’s a holiday week and I have one team member on vacation, which leaves only three of us to cover everything plus do this item. And it’s not something small that can be pushed off to another department. I told them we’d try out best. Sorry, but lack of communication and organization on their end does not make it my emergency.

    This is only one example of what we (the company as a whole) have been dealing with. Other departments have it pretty bad, so my example pales in comparison.

    1. Hope is hopeful*

      If they emailed you that Jane would contact you, is there a reason why you didn’t get back in touch to follow up that Jane never did contact you? Like, I would’ve given it 2 weeks or a month and then got back in touch either will Jane or whoever had sent you the original “Jane will get in touch”.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Forgot about it, really. Mainly because this was something that wasn’t slated to be done until January so it wasn’t concerning that they didn’t get back to me. Then things got busy and I forgot.

          1. ..Kat..*

            But, the ball was in Jane’s court. The Other Dawn is not Jane’s boss or Mommy. Why is The Other Dawn responsible for Jane’s lack of work?

    2. New Job So Much Better*

      Left after my bank started merging with a same-size bank. They were terrible. Even after promising not to close branches or lay people off, they did. I was glad I got out before all that happened. Good luck to you!

  70. Arts Assistant*

    My friend/ex roommate is driving me f*cking bananas with her job search. She’s never stayed longer than a year anywhere and is an extremely talented design freelancer (but doesn’t have the experience/desire to do it full time) so she gets lots of interviews but is put off by the tiniest thing and takes everything extremely personally (like a recruiter calling her late is a sure sign that the company hates her).

    She’s up for a new position and it seems like a lateral move in terms of culture and I know it’ll be fine for 3 months and then it’ll be back to the “this job doesn’t respect me they need to pay me more and make me the art director and give me total autonomy” schtick. Because we’re both women she expects me to always side with her. I’m sick of comforting her and she refuses to listen to any perspective/advice I offer.

    My New Years resolution is to stop indulging these conversations and I’d appreciate any advice from folks who have been stuck in similar situations with relatives/friends!

    1. mr. brightside*

      Since she’s not your current roommate, you have a certain amount of control because it doesn’t follow you home. I have a couple of friends who would use me as their venting person about parts of their life and since I’m A Fixer, I kept wanting to Help Fix It, and would get really frustrated when it would be 5 years later and they were still venting to me about things they were never gonna fix.

      You’re gonna have to tell her, “I can’t be the one you talk to about this, I love hanging out with you to do X, Y, and Z, but I can’t be the one to help you with this specific thing, our personalities just don’t mesh in the right way”. Good friends are happy to get good boundaries set. If she’s not okay with boundaries, that’s a sign about other issues.

    2. thankful for AAM.*

      I like some of AAM wording, a bland, thats an odd thing to be upset over rather than advice.

    3. Gumby*

      A relative was the type to walk off of a job with little to no notice for the craziest things from my perspective. His manager didn’t respect him; the job asked him to work an extra hour; someone looked at him funny. Because he worked in the trades he would walk off one job and have another within days. I became extremely non-committal when he talked about work.

      What finally changed his approach was: he had a kid. He was still living with either his or his wife’s parents at the time but all of a sudden a steady paycheck became more important than whatever slight he had suffered. Eventually, he did end up starting his own company so he could be the boss which I think made him happier as well.

    4. learnedthehardway*

      Maybe pointing out that before you get that respect, you have to pay your dues, would be a good answer. Clearly, it’s one your friend needs to hear.

  71. I'm A Little Teapot*

    We just had our team Secret Santa exchange. Lots of fun, etc. I inadvertently started the laughter by asking “where’s [the boss]? Is he coming?” – not having realized he was sitting next to me. Oh well, sometimes my habit of talking without thinking comes in handy….

    On the bright side, we basically have a half day today!

  72. OverIt*

    How can I reframe my attitude about work and let go of my bitterness?

    I’ve been in my first post-college job for almost 2 years, and most of it is great (I do research for trauma/neuroscience at a hospital). I like my coworkers, boss, and the doctors I work for, but I’m a contractor and I don’t feel that I’m being treated fairly. I knew going in that I wouldn’t get paid time off or any benefits (which seemed fine when I was starting but now it’s hard not to be bitter when my coworkers get to take vacations and I only get unpaid time) but it’s hard to understand how that will affect you before you’re experiencing it. I don’t take much time off, which my boss has commented on in the past, but she understands that my situation sucks. My boss, her boss, and the doctors I work for truly appreciate me and have been lobbying the higher ups at the hospital for me to get hired since I started, but it looks like that isn’t going to happen.

    I did ask for and receive a raise over the summer which is great, and the PTO situation sucks but isn’t going to change, but I am at my breaking point with payroll. My paycheck is funded through grant money so I get paid from a different department than my coworkers, and they have consistently dropped the ball at getting me paid on time. Apparently there is only one CFO who can sign off on my checks, so when he is out I don’t get paid on time and that seems to be ok with them. My boss and grandboss are pissed on my behalf and keep pushing them to get it together, but the department is undergoing massive leadership transition and I was told to expect my checks to be late until February, when the new CFO is settled in.

    I feel like I don’t have any leverage to push back on this since I’m just contracting, since it would be really easy for them to just cut me loose if I make a fuss. I am getting married and moving to a different state in April, but I’ll be working remotely for them until I find something in-person. I need to preserve my relationships here for good references and hopefully to network myself into a position after I move. I just feel so stuck and disrespected, and it’s very hard for me to motivate myself to continue to do good work for an institution that doesn’t care about me.

    Any advice for adjusting my mindset?

    1. mr. brightside*

      This isn’t really a mindset problem, it’s a job-not-paying-you-on-time problem, which speaks to other problems that are going on.

      If you’re contracting, are you contracting through something or are you doing it yourself? If it’s your own contract, do you have the ability to negotiate any of this, such as including penalties for late payments?

      1. OverIt*

        Yeah payroll and contracting itself is really the problem here, but it’s all out of my hands so I’m just trying to focus on what I can actually control.

        From what I have read from various letters here, I’m guessing that I’m being improperly classified as a contractor because they don’t want to pay me benefits or anything like that. I haven’t discerned a big difference between my job and that of my coworkers, except my payroll is different, I pay my own taxes, and I don’t get any benefits.

        I realize that that is also a huge issue, and some of my friends have told me to pursue legal action, but in my inexperienced position it makes more sense to stick it out until I can leave with a good reference. The compensation is just a bummer.

        1. learnedthehardway*

          I’m hoping that you are at least getting paid more than your employee colleagues? Contracting rates per hour are usually better than full time rates, if looked at on an hourly basis.

          If not, I would look at the cost of insurance / benefits you aren’t getting and add in a % for vacation pay you don’t get, and ask for another raise.

    2. ..Kat..*

      Look up payment requirements for your state for contractors. Usually, employers are required to pay you by a certain amount of time after you put in the hours of work. Not paying you in this time frame is supposed to subject them to fines and penalties. Google it. Also, make sure that they are treating you as a contractor and not an employee. If they are treating you as an employee, they can owe you a lot of back pay.

  73. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    I GOT MY TRANSFER!! YEAHH!!
    The bad news is that was done without a chance to say goodbye to my coworkers, and now some of them are pissed and act like a betrayed kid everytime I sent a message the group chat. Even worse, I still have no replacement, so there’s a high chance I’ll have to go back if they don’t find someone.
    The good news is that this office is super quiet and I can focus easily.

    1. ..Kat..*

      Can you email a group goodbye? Saying how wonderful they were to work for and how you will miss them?

      I hope you can push back on going back. That is ridiculous. They should be finding your replacement, not pulling you back.

      Good luck.

  74. friday anon*

    This post has potentially identifying information, so I’m extra anon today. Sorry this turned long.

    Tl;dr: My manager says I’m too assertive but doesn’t flag situations for me even though we agreed on it. How do I deal with this?

    I have a situation at work where I’m trying to figure out of it’s a gender issues or a manager issue or a me issue. I am a woman and my manager is also a woman, and I’ve been in my company for about a year now on an 18 month project with the option of my position turning permanent depending on the outcome of the project (this isn’t a performance measure, I’m just one cog in a large wheel). I have a manager title, but I manage processes rather than people.

    About two months after I started my position, my manager asked me for a touch base feedback discussion. Overall it was positive, but what flummoxed me was when she said that colleagues had come to her and said I was “too assertive” and “you present yourself as if you know what you’re talking about” and “as women in this company we must be less harsh, there’s no reason for us to be” (the word in our native language is less negatively connotated than ‘harsh’). I blinked, a bit confused, and said I appreciated the feedback and would have an eye on it and could she please flag it for me in the moment it was happening so I knew what she was talking about. Because I had no idea, but if it was severe enough that someone went to my manager with it, well, it’s a problem.

    Our company is traditional, but not what I would call conservative, and neither is my department. My manager and her manager might come in in suits once in a while, but that’s not the rule and while we’re all very professional (something that has been stressed is one of my very big strengths), there’s the occasional non-work chat and a very active grapevine.

    No situation was ever flagged for me. I dealt with it by basically shutting down most non-work talk I was participating in – which wasn’t a lot anyway, just moving plans and my colleague’s kids’ childhood diseases. Then at my 6 month review, my manager said oh my personality had already changed (she used those exact words) she had seen it and I should keep working on it. Again, I asked her to please flag situations for me, as I really wanted something to reflect on. She agreed.

    Again, no situations were flagged to me at all.

    My 12 month review rolls around and she again said, we had already talked about this and I really needed to work on it. I said could she please give me examples, but nothing came to her mind in the moment.

    The reason I think it might be gender based: I’m sharing my office with another employee-hired-on-project, so we share the same status and title, but he is a man and he has less experience than me in the field, let’s call him Dominic. We are friendly with each other and share chocolate when one of us has something in their desk. Now while Dominic is nice, he’s also VERY abrasive on the phone, to the point where he’s speaking with director level managers in ways that make me wince and which I would not let myself be talked to by anyone (tone and word choice and volume, he basically screams into his phone and he is not hearing impaired) (in person he’s pretty shy). I haven’t spoken with him about whether he has received feedback about being too harsh, but since it has only gotten worse instead of better, I don’t believe so.

    I have asked, in a roundabout way, other peers who have been with the company longer whether I needed to be less ‘loud’ in my presentation of myself (there’s a word for it in my language, sorry), and have earned somewhat perplexed questions what made me think that. I do engage in a lot of “female wordsmithing” in a field that isn’t at all male dominated, even though the industry is, so I’m rather sure that’s not it.

    So, maybe I’m missing something about myself – this has not been flagged in previous jobs btw – but how do I figure out what’s the deal here? I can’t be worried about asserting myself at work, if I don’t make myself clear in saying yes or no it can easily cost millions.

    1. Jadelyn*

      Please bear in mind that we’re obviously coming from different cultures here, but this sounds like a gender/your boss problem rather than a You Problem.

      Is there anyone above her you could ask for feedback on your people skills? Not sure if that would be okay or frowned on as going around the hierarchy.

      1. ANOTHER friday anon*

        Hello and thank you!
        Going to her boss isn’t really an option, not because it would be frowned upon (it WOULD be odd and Not Done, but it’s possible at least if you catch my meaning…), but we don’t really have a lot of contact with him. He basically only observes us during big department meetings on the phone (almost 100 people) so he really wouldn’t be able to say. That’s why I asked my coworkers.

        I’m considering the idea of not…extending my contract is the option is offered (it’s not automatic), not just because of this, there’s some other things that annoy me with the company in general (but I think that might be due to company size, I think I’d do better with a smaller place).

        Anyway, THANK YOU for answering and giving me perspective on this and happy holiday season!

    2. fposte*

      Huh. Yeah, this just sounds like gendered BS and a manager who’s playing out her own problems on you. And you’ve asked for the specific thing that would be useful and it hasn’t happened. As you note, you really don’t want to bend yourself out of shape about this too much, either–you could actually hurt your job if you go in a direction you shouldn’t just because of her anxiety.

      If she won’t give you examples, can you find another way to go over specifics with her? If you’re recorded, go over a recording or two and go over with with her for some feedback, or run through a script with her? It’s possible that if she can just get an occasion to scratch this itch it won’t be as much of a thing. But honestly, this is weird enough that it might not be solved until she’s solved her relationship with her own demons.

      1. ANOTHER friday anon*

        Hi, thanks!
        We really only do recordings when we do training sessions for others and that’s not really that interactive.

        I’m not even sure in which situation (in my first two months no less, because I’ve been wrecking my brain) people might have complained. I mean, it’s possible no one went to her and she just says that to soften the impact, which also would be weird.

        But the suggestion is a good one, thank you, especially regarding the script. I’ve thought about maybe if I asked for a feedback session and brought up a situation and asked her about what her take on it is would work, mostly because I’m starting to be a little paranoid about this.

        However, thank you for giving me a bit of perspective on this, this was very important for me to have. And happy holidays, if you celebrate.

    3. BRR*

      I think it’s BS. But sometimes we have to do play the game even if it’s dumb. Is there another women you can ask? I might say that I’m having trouble working on it without examples.

      1. ANOTHER friday anon*

        Well I did ask peers (two women) both longer in the company than me, who both didn’t quite know what I was talking about, but they don’t have disciplinary and salary decisions over me and they also don’t give my reference.

    4. ..Kat..*

      I hope you can say that you need specific, detailed examples in order to “improve.” Telling you that you are not doing things correctly, but not giving you any concrete examples is ridiculous. This also sounds like gender focused BS.

  75. Mimmy*

    Random Rants!

    Maybe I’m just getting old and grouchy, but I’m starting to grow tired of the traditional workplace. At least where I work. Every little thing seems to irk me now and it’s making me rather sour. I do still enjoy my students–lately it’s been kinda nice – a low student load means I’ve mostly had just one student at a time, which allows me to really get to connect with them. But oh the office politics!!!!!

    It’s really making me want to find a job that allows me to work from home at least part-time. I’d love to get to a point where I could possibly even do freelance projects, but demonstrated experience is probably required, which I don’t have.

    I’m pursuing a certification for which I’ll be ready to sit for the exam soon (once I attend a conference at the end of January). There’s a part of me that thinks it’d be better to wait for a much closer conference next November to finish my credits. However, my desire to leave my current job is making me want to get this certification now rather than late 2019 / early 2020.

  76. valentine*

    Is there an easy way to make an Excel twice-monthly-pay timesheet? I keep having to recalculate to separate PTO and for cross-pay-period OT.

    1. mr. brightside*

      What are you using it for and how do you have set up? Is this personal or for the department? (my personal use ones are a lot sloppier than for work, but they do the job)

      1. valentine*

        To compare to pay stubs. Time in/out/total/OT//week’s total. Personal.

        Ideally, I would plug in the in/out and the formulas would sort the rest.

        1. Gumby*

          Google “Excel template time card” – several decent options will come up. I’m seeing some from vertex42, calculatehours and smartsheet. With and without clocking out for breaks.

  77. Amber Rose*

    Guys, we raised $32,000 for charity! In three hours! THAT’S AMAZING!

    The charity invited us down there for a group photo as thanks, and it’s just really sweet of them to thank us personally (most charities just send a form letter, which is totally fine) and we raised SO much money for a good cause. But only because everyone super stepped up and provided some awesome things for the silent auction.

    Also we had our Christmas party and nothing too crazy happened. No games this year! There was a photo booth instead with funky props, which everyone had fun with. One drunk coworker got a hold of the mic and started singing badly to the music, but that’s just funny.

    Just a little holiday cheer/good news update today. :D

  78. Mimmy*

    One other question: Social work degree without licensure

    I got an MSW over 10 years ago and got my license soon afterwards. Although I didn’t really “practice” social work between then and now, I kept my license current should I land a job where the license is at least preferred. However, with my changing interests, I decided that it was no longer financially worthwhile to maintain the license, so I put it in “inactive” status a few months ago. However, I immediately regretted the decision, but having the license re-instated is a pain in the butt.

    So my question: Is it worth keeping the MSW on my resume? Are there people who have the MSW but are not licensed and have successfully pivoted to a different career path?

    1. H.C.*

      Depends on the role you’re applying for but inclined to listing it anyway, since it showed you completed post-grad education. I know quite a few colleagues who list their MSWs despite not being in social work roles (mostly management/leadership for nonprofit or public sectors).

    2. ..Kat..*

      Not a social worker, but I recommend keeping the MSW on your resume. To me, a Masters degree is a big deal. You did a lot of work to earn a masters degree.

  79. Aurora Leigh*

    The good: Christmas work party today at 12:30 and we get to go home after!

    The bad: My shift is always 8-5, others in the office work 7-4. The plant has various shifts, but mostly 6-3 or 7-4. For Christmas party day everyone works 7-12 so it’s fair.

    I know it’s petty and just a reflection of my dissatisfaction with this place . . . but I’m feeling pretty bitter about that lost of hour of sleep this morning.

    The phones are quiet there was literally nothing to do until 8 anyway, and I am NOT a morning person.

    Also my manager tried to help me out by asking if I could work 7:30-12:30 (the party is just down the hall) and HR said no.

      1. Aurora Leigh*

        Sadly no. Everyone works 7-12 Christmas party day is a entrenched part of the culture. I will probably take it off next year if I can save a vacation day to cover it.

  80. Two All Beef Patties*

    Do I and how much do I share/sell my ‘secret sauce’ (knowledge, skills, and abilities’ as part of a contract?

    My contract is ending. One of the projects was using an online survey platform to conduct quarterly surveys of community partners. The contract includes a training guide on how to use the online survey for their own use, supposing they don’t hire me to do so. While the technical aspect is in the online survey platforms own training guide, I can screenshot that. However I can’t ‘sell’ my preparation and analysis skills; it’s what I bring to the table that differentiates me from other people who do this work (my secret sauce). The non-profit thinks they’re entitled because I used it to analyze their data.

    1. mr. brightside*

      I think it’s not unreasonable to train someone to use something you created, that’s just part of the handoff. It IS unreasonable to train someone to actually be you and be able to create it, unless you were hired specifically to train people on how to be you.

      1. Two All Beef Patties*

        No. I wasn’t hired to train anyone on how to do the surveys.

        I was hired to create the survey methodology, survey questions, and analyze it. The online survey platform has it’s own extensive FAQ/how to use their product training guide. I’ll screenshot the tools I used (as there are many and not all are needed to do this project) and create a short primer (they know how to the online platform but want me to craft a guide specifically for this project).

        I can’t teach them about designating y-axis/x-axis, dependent and variable data, regression models and statistics, which graphs to use for which data, etc to analyze their data. They will be able to read the data provided by the online platform, but not the underlying details and in-depth analysis I bring to the table.

        1. mr. brightside*

          I’ve found that sometimes people who don’t understand what I do, have no understand of the time it takes to both do the job and learn to do the job. They might think “oh she does it quickly, she can totally teach Julie Down The Hall how to do it so we only have to pay Julie and not the contractor”, and not realize that it took 4 years to become an expert, and that the only reason it takes you X time instead of Y time is BECAUSE you’re an expert.

          It’s like that joke about the guy who asked for an itemized bill when “all” someone did was hit something with a hammer, and got back: hitting with hammer = $1. Knowing where to hit with a hammer = $100

          But they just see that you hit it with a hammer.

        2. AnonJ*

          Working in the survey research world myself, I think your methodological documentation should be thorough enough to describe to anyone trained in survey research how to repeat your process, from survey design, sampling protocols, weighting and analysis protocols. That is different than training someone who knows nothing about survey research and statistical techniques to replicate it. It is more about transparency, which is a core tenant of survey research ethics. And likely your contract specified your efforts are classified as work for hire, in which case your employer owns not just the work you produce but the tools and methods they specifically paid you to design on their behalf. I think you need to leave behind documentation that another skilled researcher could use to replicate your work. AAPOR has good ethical guidelines on survey research, you may want to start here https://www.aapor.org/Standards-Ethics/Best-Practices.aspx#best12

  81. Printer killer*

    File this under odd. I’ve had an ongoing issue with the printer at work- If I try to print from the internet, one page turns into thousands of gibberish. I print from the internet to complete work related tasks at time. I worked with IT, we got it ‘resolved’. Spoiler alert- it wasn’t fixed for long. IT tried again, did the same thing, had the same result. IT called the vendor and then the vendor had to fix it. IT re-imaged my computer and then we were at square one. IT replaced my computer and we no longer had the issue. The director of IT for our campus reassured me that this wasn’t my fault- the tech who was assigned to our group ended up leaving.

    Then, the printer issue ended up in my performance review as if it possibly could be my fault but the note that IT hasn’t blamed me. I’m tempted to refuse to sign the review until it’s take out- this is result of the busybody secretary telling my boss what to remember when it comes review time.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Do you have something in writing from the director of IT assuring you that the issue wasn’t your fault? If so, I’d ask to either have the comment reviewed or have that document added to your review.

        1. ..Kat..*

          Write this information in your performance review (or a summary of it) and then sign it. Keep copies of the email and your review (at home). Your boss apparently does not understand the situation. And your boss sucks.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      Why in the world would “printer failed to print” be in your performance review?? That would only make sense if you are the printer. I would absolutely have that taken out, after first asking why it’s there in the first place and what does that say about your performance? Or have it amended to say you worked successfully with IT and the vendor to resolve the issue of the recalcitrant printer.

      1. WellRed*

        This was my reaction. A printer issue is not a performance issue and why is your boss relying on the secretary for review points?

  82. Annoyed anon*

    Where I work, people who are social are complemented and given praise. Their work may be horrible, but it’s okay because they’re friendly or social. Is this right? Whatever happened to being praised for your work, not personality?

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Well, it’s always kind of like that. The more social people are simply seen and heard more. People see Jane and think “That Jane sure if friendly,” even if Jane sucks at doing TPS reports. Ideally, this falls on management to make sure there is recognition for actual work achievements “Dick closed 5 TPS accounts this month!” in additional to the social skills people may have.

    2. JustaTech*

      Nope, that’s not right at all, and in the long run is not how you get good work done. Even in a job where a big part of the work is being friendly and social (customer-