open thread – December 7-8, 2018

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

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

{ 1,567 comments… read them below }

  1. Detective Amy Santiago*

    tl;dr – should I say something about how the excessive Christmas decorating in my office could be offensive to people who don’t celebrate?

    Context: I started working for my large employer in May. One of the values they tout and hammer home during onboarding is diversity & inclusion. They sponsor the local Pride parade and have a comprehensive policy in place for employees who are transitioning.

    I work in a large cube farm and there is a decorating contest that apparently people take Very Seriously. I’m talking multiple full size fake Christmas trees, cubes covered in wrapping paper, lights and tinsel galore. I was raised Catholic and still celebrate Christmas and find it a little overwhelming.

    My question is – should I bring up to management the fact that this is not exactly in the spirit of diversity and inclusion? I don’t want to be a performative ally and act offended on behalf of minority religion colleagues if they don’t mind, but I also don’t want to tacitly approve of what’s happening. To be clear, I don’t have an issue with small, unobtrusive decorations in people’s cubes and am not suggesting that all decorating cease. I just feel like if I was Jewish or Muslim, I would feel uncomfortable in this space. (And I should note here that we’re in Pittsburgh so I feel like we should be especially sensitive to it this year.)

    However, I’m new and this is my first holiday season here so I’m not sure if this has been addressed in the past or not. From what I’ve heard, the excessive decorating is not a thing that is new this year.

    Now, there is a suggestion box where people can leave anonymous suggestions, so I could say something without revealing my identity. One of the senior managers routinely sends out emails addressing the suggestions. I just don’t know if I should risk being That Guy.

    1. esra*

      I would go the anonymous suggestion route and see how that goes.

      The over-the-top Christmas decorating drives me nuts, too. And it’s so much garbage at the end of it.

      1. Mike C.*

        Anonymous suggestion? Why should anyone take an unsigned note from someone who wasn’t professional enough to speak to them as an adult seriously?

        1. AMPG*

          If you go back and re-read, you’ll note that management uses and responds to the anonymous suggestion box, so it’s a valid option here.

      2. Grumpy-pants the Sanctimonious*

        I do celebrate Christmas and the over the top decorating would annoy me. The waste, the distraction, the headache-inducing scents. I wouldn’t say anything, particularly as a new person, but I’d certainly fume inwardly. And then polish up my mental “It’s not even Christmas yet, it’s Advent” rant. Which, obviously, would never leave my mouth. Particularly at work.

        As if the decorations showing up in stores around Halloween isn’t bad enough, some years I just want to scream that the 12 days of Christmas *start* on Dec 25 and while I might grudgingly accept a few descriptivist accommodations in language (not to ever include the increasingly wide-spread misuse of “begging the question”) I refuse to accept just randomly moving the 12 days of Christmas for the benefit of some retailer.

        1. Deep Purple Dream*

          Oh this. Fortunately for my sanity my grand boss insists that if we decorate for Christmas it stays up for the Christmas season. We have an Orthodox Christian on staff and he won’t celebrate Christmas until January 7th.

    2. Teapot Lending Program Manager*

      I could be biased, but Christmas has become more than a religious holiday, and much of what have become Christmas traditions (including music and decorations) are not at all religious in nature.

      Further, a lot of people do like this holiday, and what is considered excessive is somewhat subjective, so just as a matter of getting along, I’m not sure I would make this my issue as a newcomer.

      1. Zona the Great*

        I agree, OP. Best not to be offended by very much of what others do in the workplace. It’ll make life easier.

      2. Ms.Vader*

        I think that if you are personally not offended by it, you shouldn’t speak for others that you don’t actually know to be offended by it. The people you work with are adults and can presumably speak up if they are concerned. We have a very diverse office here and everyone decorated accordingly – some people have traditional Christmas decorations and Jewish people decorate for Hanukkah and so on. Nobody has complained here. Though I am in Canada so not sure if that’s a difference here in culture.

        1. Coder von Frankenstein*

          I agree. I’m an atheist, and I’m not always thrilled about being surrounded by a frenzy of religious symbolism for two months; but I would not want anyone to start an argument over it on my behalf. If you’re gonna pick fights in my name, I have a long list of fights I’d rather see picked. :)

          If someone who has a problem with the Christmas stuff complains, you can certainly back them up, but don’t take it on yourself to champion their cause unless they indicate that they want it championed.

          1. Coder von Frankenstein*

            (That said, if there are any non-Christians in the office you feel close enough with to have such a conversation, you could privately inquire how they feel about the Christmas frenzy, and offer your support in addressing it if that’s where they want to go.)

          2. pony tailed wonder*

            I’m agnostic and if they let people decorate for their own holidays, then I am fine with it. If it brings them joy then let people have their joy.

            I do get miffy when they play holiday music that you cannot escape from when you need to concentrate.

      3. anon today and tomorrow*

        It’s easy to say Christmas traditions aren’t at all religious in nature when you’re not part of a group that feels suffocated by Christmas because you don’t celebrate it. They may not hold religious significance to you, but they’re still involved in a holiday where Christ is in the title and were borne of religious significance.

        I don’t care how many times people will tell me that poinsettias, stockings, or stars on trees aren’t religious. They still feel that way to me as someone who doesn’t celebrate the holiday.

        1. Annonynon*

          This. I’m Jewish and I find it suffocating that I have to see all things Christmas the day after Halloween. It just screams let’s point out how I’m different for two months.

          Cube decorating per se wouldn’t bother me. It would bother me if I could see a full on tree walking around my area.

          On the company sponsored front, it bothers me that the stairwells at my office appear to be playing Christmas carols all month. I wish they’d mix in some multicultural music/generic winter music.

          1. anon today and tomorrow*

            Yes. I don’t care if people want to decorate their cubes, but it’s especially obvious you don’t celebrate if your cube is the only one with no decoration. Especially if you have to deal with the onslaught for two months.

            Honestly, I get more annoyed with people who try to claim the way Christmas is celebrated today has no religious connections than people who are just super into decorating. Stop trying to insist a holiday with Christ in the title no longer has religious connections.

            1. Phoenix Programmer*

              I mean – Santa use to be Odin. Holidays change.

              I am going to keep my secular Christmas. You can decide it’s not for you. Christmas is religious to some secular to some and a Kurisumasu Keki to others.

              Diversity and inclusion means not trying to stop any of them imo.

              1. Working Hypothesis*

                I don’t think anybody is trying to say that secular people can’t celebrate a holiday with religious origins if they want to. What we *are* saying is that the constant claim that it’s okay to shove a holiday with religious origins on people who don’t feel comfortable with it because “it’s not really religious anymore” is disingenuous and unfair. You’re free to decide *for yourself* that you’re going to celebrate it as a secular holiday. You’re not free to insist that *other* people accept having it inflicted on them “because it’s just a secular holiday” if that is not how those people perceive it.

        2. TiffanyAching*

          I’m experiencing this for the first time this year. I was raised in a non-religious household, but my parents come from Christian families so I grew up with Christmas and Easter being celebrated, but without the Jesus bits. I’m now in the process of converting to Judaism, and it’s really opened my eyes to how many things are, for lack of a better way to put it, part of “Christian culture,” even if they aren’t overtly religious.

          I really liked Christmas growing up, and we’ll still celebrate it because my husband isn’t Jewish, but I definitely am feeling weird about all the trees and Santas and things now that it’s not “my” holiday.

        3. Operational Chaos*

          This. The continual assertion that “Christmas is, like, basically, secular anyways” is so tone deaf and dismissive. It’s not secular, especially not in the United States, and when people say that kind of stuff it reads like they’re just trying to hush people with legitimate complaints.

          1. Teapot Lending Program Manager*

            Not really. Christmas is a staple holiday from a culture that, yes, has a history of being predominately Christian. Things are never going to simply be neutral because no culture is neutral, so if that’s the expectation then I think people will perpetually feel upset about it because you won’t be able to convince people to give up their traditions.

            No one has to participate, but the comments about many of the traditions now being secular simply mean that there’s nothing about them that someone who is not a Christian could not participate in if they were so inclined.

              1. Teapot Lending Program Manager*

                Sorry Alison, but my comment didn’t erase anyone. There are many faiths and life philosophies that will result in someone choosing not to partake in a lot of different activities, including Christmas or other celebrations, whether religious or secular in nature. There are many activities that I choose not to engage in, whether for religious or personal reasons.
                Doing so or not doing so is an individual choice. And I would consider myself rather self-centered to believe that I was going to make an office full of people bend to my pov. *That* in my view, is more the issue here.

                As I said, *if* they are so inclined, there are plenty of Christmastime traditions which do not require affirmation in any religious principles because they are simply general holiday songs. Jingle Bells would be an example. Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” is another example. Both have become Christmas staples but have nothing whatsoever to do with anything religious. When office traditions begin requiring people to make religious affirmations or even to participate in what is going on, then there will be more of a basis for the implied accusation of religious discrimination.

                1. YB*

                  Yes, I mean, *if* people are so inclined, they can participate in Christmas. That’s true of anything. If I’m so inclined, I can participate in Passover or Ramadan. But I’m not Jewish or Muslim, so I’m not so inclined. Christmas is not exclusionary because it’s hard to do; it’s exclusionary because a lot of people aren’t inclined to do it, and are therefore excluded.

                  (I love Christmas a lot.)

                2. Someone Else*

                  There was a really good thread here recently, in response to a different letter…maybe can Allison can help find it? But it was a really productive, I thought, discussion of the “not my holiday” issue, which I do feel like you’re trying to erase here. Maybe someone can provide a link? I think if you read some of that discussion it might give you some good perspective here.
                  Or possibly if we wait an hour or two that same discussion will have repeated itself here.

                3. Sapphire*

                  Many commenters above you who aren’t Christian said they feel erased by all the Christmas stuff around. You can’t say you didn’t erase anyone when the affected people are literally telling you the opposite.

                4. Working Hypothesis*

                  A casual aside because everyone else has taken up the main issue so I don’t feel a new to belabor it: Jingle Bells actually isn’t a Christmas song at all. It’s a Valentine’s Day song, to the extent it belongs to any particular holiday. Winter used to be courting season because most people did farm work and winter was the slow season for the labor that needed doing, so it was prime time for taking one’s girlfriend out for some fun. Christmas would be significantly too early for that in most areas. January and February were more the tight time, which is why it was convenient to park a lovers’ festival right in the middle of February to begin with.

                  Absorbing it into the motley collection of songs erroneously labeled “Christmas carols” (a term properly only used for songs about the birth of Jesus, not about the holiday of Christmas, let alone the general season of winter) is just one more example of the way the Christmas fanatics have gobbled up every unrelated tradition that would normally exist between the end of October and the start of March. For heaven’s sake, there can and should be winter things which are not Christmas things!!

              2. Anon for today*

                If I live in India, I’m not going to be offended if they decorate the office for Diwali. India is a large country with many religions, but Hinduism is the most popular and therefore a huge part of the culture. it would be normal to see reminders of that specific holiday around that time of year. Christianity is a huge part of American culture and while I believe very strongly in the importance of separation of church and state and individual expression of religion, we can’t just erase a big part of Americans culture because other people don’t belong to that religion

                1. Phoenix Programmer*

                  This is where I land. And in my experience christian people living in non Christian majority countries are fine participating in cultural events with pagan/Jewish/Muslim/Shinto etc. backgrounds. I’m reminded of the Jew in Japan who wrote in. He wrote in about Christmas – not White day, the doll festival, Cherry blossom festival, Matsuri, New Year’s – many many other religious based holidays in Japan offices celebrated annually but it’s the secular Kurisumasu keiki that you want the office to stop? Diversity and inclusion means including Christians too. I’m an atheist but American withchristian ancestors so celebrate a secular Christmas. That’s ok.

            1. motherofdragons*

              In response to the part of your comment that says “there’s nothing about them that someone who is not a Christian could not participate in if they were so inclined” – perhaps that’s true, but that’s not what OP’s predicament is about. OP isn’t asking about people who aren’t Christian who *want* to participant, but don’t feel like they can…OP is talking about people who aren’t Christian who DON’T want to participate, but are surrounded by images of Christmas all the same. I agree with you that as the new person in the office, I probably wouldn’t choose this issue to start rocking the boat with (especially since no one to date has raised complaints about it because of their beliefs). But, your comments don’t appear to take into account the fact that people may not WANT to participate in these traditions, and moreover may be bothered by seeing so much of it on a daily basis.

            2. Triplestep*

              Christmas is still a religious holiday. The symbols, traditions and trappings — even if they themselves seem secular — are the symbols, traditions and trappings of a religious holiday. Just ask anyone who comes from a non-Christian background.

              If it makes you feel better to call Christmas a secular holiday so you can celebrate it in a secular way, go ahead. But you should not expect that to be internalized by people whose non-Christian families never celebrated it.

            3. Ann O.*

              Other than that they are associated with a holiday that celebrates the birth of Christ. Which is a pretty defining thing. While there are people who celebrate Christmas in a secular way from a non-religious perspective, there are no secular traditions.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            It isn’t really secular, but a lot of people who aren’t otherwise religious do participate in the secular elements of it (presents, etc.), which is where that’s coming from, I think.

        4. Zennish*

          I find having a healthy sense of the absurd helps me be less annoyed with it. For example, our neighbor regularly decorates with a large, light up, inflatable nativity flanked by several Santa Clauses and snowmen, a light up mickey mouse and snoopy, and a large inflatable dragon wearing a Santa hat. I can’t count the time I’ve spent speculating on his religious beliefs, or occasionally making up entire new religions just based on the display.

          1. char*

            A business near where I grew up always gave me a laugh with their Christmas decorations, which inevitably featured Rudolph watching over the infant Christ.

      4. Asenath*

        A lot – I’m tempted to say “almost all” – of current Christmas practices are not religious. It’s just bling and colour and parties that are pretty divorced from their origins. Now, that doesn’t mean some people aren’t offended by all the fuss over Christmas, but it doesn’t sound like Detective Amy is one of them; rather, that she’s concerned that others might be offended, which is fair enough. I’d let things go until/unless someone who is offended speaks up rather than make assumptions that people are offended even if no one said so. I’m rather anti-anonymity, myself, so I wouldn’t go the anonymous message route even if the workplace accepts and encourages that option.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          You’re correct that I am not personally offended. My concern was that someone who is might not feel comfortable speaking up against the majority though. But like Girl from the North Country said below, I also don’t want to assume offense on anyone’s behalf.

        2. ThatGirl*

          While most modern Christmas practices aren’t overtly religious, it’s still a Christian holiday, and I can see someone who’s Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, any other US-minority religion or just plain non-religious getting annoyed with it. I say that as someone who used to argue that “oh, Christmas is secular!” – it has been heavily commercialized and secularized, but that doesn’t make it non-Christian.

      5. pcake*

        While it’s true that some people may feel left out, a lot of us feel that Christmas is more cultural for us than religious.

        My parents were atheists, but we celebrated Christmas every year with a beautiful tree we all helped decorate, lights around the house, and lots of presents. Then we’d have a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings with both sets of grandparents and my uncle. Our holiday was about love, warmth and family with no hint of religion ever – after all, my parents didn’t believe in religion.

        Btw, OP – if you’re one of the newest people in your department, might it not be easy for the powers that be or HR or your manager to figure out whose anonymous note was left about inclusiveness?

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          There are hundreds of employees on my floor, so I don’t think it would single me out.

        2. Cedrus Libani*

          That’s true for me, too. My parents and much of my family are atheists, but we’re culturally Christian. So I have fond memories of lights, and presents, and family dinners – the reasons for the season, heh. I’m personally OK with treating the baby Jesus thing as a cultural artifact, part of the heritage of the holiday, rather than something I actually have to believe in to participate. I don’t believe in ghosts either, yet I still enjoy Halloween.

          But my partner was raised atheist in a culturally Chinese Buddhist family. So for him, Christmas was always a reminder that he’s Not Like The Others. His family didn’t celebrate it, so he doesn’t have the positive associations. I’ve had to get more sensitive about Christmas not actually being everyone’s holiday.

      6. Triplestep*

        Jew, here.

        Christmas is still very much a religious holiday. My anecdotal evidence is that people who argue the most that “it’s become a secular holiday” are those who celebrate it as such, and may feel a little squicky doing so. In other words, they are saying this to make themselves feel OK about celebrating a cherished childhood holiday even though they no longer subscribe to the religious aspects of it. That’s fine – personally, I don’t really care how or why they celebrate it. But it’s still a religious holiday, and it’s symbols are symbols of a religious holiday no matter what the symbols’ origins are.

        ALL THAT SAID, as a non-celebrant, I find it really distasteful when people who DO celebrate want to police other people’s office decorations, celebrations, etc, on my behalf. Please don’t do this, people. As long as it is “sans Jesus” I really do not care, and I am far from alone among non-celebrants of Christmas. People often assume offense on my behalf when I am not offended at all, and that gets old. It is a given I will feel “other” this time of year, and trying to police the way other colleagues mark Christmas at work is not going to change that. I don’t want to be the reason people don’t decorate, change their Christmas greetings, etc.

        What does bother me is seeing Chanukah Menorahs at work or in other public places. Chanukah is a minor holiday so attempts to blow it up to something Christmas-like is misguided to begin with. But unlike a Christmas tree, a Chanukah Menorah is a religious symbol, so it should not be used as a decoration any more than a crucifix should.

        1. Harvey P. Carr*

          “Chanukah is a minor holiday so attempts to blow it up to something Christmas-like is misguided to begin with.”

          As a non-practicing Jew, I think that’s because both involve presents and they occur around the same time of year. When I was a kid I thought Chanukah was the Jewish version of Christmas.

          1. curly sue*

            The presents are part of that ‘blowing up,’ as well. Hanukkah gift-giving was originally token coins or candies meant to teach children to give to charity, and not toys and such. That was added, gift giving shifted from Purim to Hanukkah, when Christmas became too much of a cultural juggernaut to ignore (late 19th century).

        2. Lissa*

          Yessss to your first paragraph! It’s totally because many people who aren’t Christian still want to celebrate Christmas and feel weird about being told they are doing something religious by doing it. I get that. I’m not Christian and I still want a winter holiday sometimes. But it’s still religious in origin. Though complicated because there are countries like Japan that do not have majority christianity and still celebrate it…

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            Winter holidays centered around lights — regardless of the holiday or the culture — come from the primitive human mind’s fear that the sun won’t really come back again. So we make our own light and sing bravely in the darkness until we see the days beginning to get longer again.

            There’s nothing wrong with doing this with whatever pretty forms of light and song and feast and community that suits you. There’s a lot wrong with inflicting the forms that suit one on others whom they *don’t* suit. That’s all any of us have been trying to say here.

        3. Phoenix Programmer*

          Nah. I don’t feel squicky about decorating a frasier fer with pretty lights and tinsel. It’s part of my identy growing up in America. It’s connected to my families Christian heritage but has been well divorced from them in our family for generations.

          I also know a lot of Christian history – Jesus was born in the summer. Christmas is actually the coopting of Pagan and particularly Viking pagan religions to win them over.

          God’s aren’t real. People don’t have souls. But the tree is pretty and I like to keep at least one tradition.

          Honestly i feel most squicky about Thanksgiving with the very recent genocide and all. But love a good meal.

          1. Triplestep*


            Nah. I don’t feel squicky about decorating a frasier fer with pretty lights and tinsel. It’s part of my identy growing up in America. It’s connected to my families Christian heritage but has been well divorced from them in our family for generations.

            That’s great. If that’s the case, I wasn’t talking about you. I was talking about how often the “It’s a secular holiday anyway” argument gets bandied about by people who don’t want to acknowledge its religious roots because they are not religious and feel weird about celebrating a religious holiday.

        4. Working Hypothesis*

          What bothers me is seeing Chanukah being recognized and treated as relevant (whether with menorahs or just being wished Happy Chanukah by colleagues who know I’m Jewish) by people who don’t treat Pesach or the High Holy Days as relevant. Because Chanukah *is* a minor holiday, and while I do know they’re just trying to be kind and inclusive, it’s really not inclusive to say what amounts to “your holidays are only important when they parallel OUR important holidays. The rest of the time, we don’t even notice their existence.”

          I mean, my former workplace put up a menorah in their window and made sure that the present they gave me in late December (regardless of when Chanukah actually fell that year!), while also trying to demand that I take Saturday shifts. I’m sorry, but it is not respect for my faith to give lip service to a minor holiday without even Torah origins, and refuse to let me keep Shabbat!!

          1. Triplestep*

            I have been saying this – nearly verbatim! – for years. The only thing I add is to mention the irony that Chanukah celebrates the first war in recorded history that was fought on the grounds of religious freedom. How ironic that its been wrapped up into Christmas in some misguided attempt to show how “same” we all are. We are NOT the same – and that’s OK! If you want to be “inclusive” find out when my important holidays actually are and acknowledge them then.

            Anyone still reading this … go to your 2019 calendar and mark September 29 as Rosh Hashannah. Make yourself a note to say “Happy New Year” to the Jews you know any time during the week that follows. This will be really appreciated, I guarantee it.

            1. planetmort*

              Exactly. I enjoy Chanukah, but it’s not a the big deal that other holidays are. Also, it’s really holiday all about not being inclusive – I once heard a Christian neighbor talk about Chanukah being about how we’re all one, and the same, and I was like “whoever taught you the Chanukah story got it wrong, boo”.

              Speaking as a Jew, Christmas isn’t secular. I am not bothered by its ubiquity (anymore), but it’s hardly a secular holiday. That said, unless my workplace is insisting I go caroling or something, I’m not going to get het up about Christmas decorations, even excessive ones. On the scale of workplace issues it doesn’t rate.

      7. Not Today*

        Yeah, when I was a Buddhist, I celebrated “Christmas”. There was no Christ in my celebration but lots of fun and pretty winter decorations.

      8. Screenwriter*

        It may seem like it’s not “religious” in nature, but it is religious in nature. It is celebrating a Christian holiday. It’s Christmas, the birth of your “Christ,” with devotional songs (“Oh Holy Night,” “Away in a Manger,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”), devotional nativity scenes representing the mythology of your God, devotional services in your places of worship, etc etc. For Christians to insist that “Christ”mas is somehow not just their religious holiday but a universal holiday that everyone must participate in and enjoy, is endlessly tone deaf to those of other religions.

    3. Meredith Brooks*

      I would pull out an enormous menorah with dreidls and gelt decorations everywhere. My cube would be a vision of blue and white. Holiday decorations come in all shapes. Bring out Ganesh or Krampus or Baby New Year whatever means holiday spirit to you.

      1. Overeducated*

        Last year I had Jewish coworker who did that, with a light up Hanukkah sweater to match, and it was amazing. I don’t think he won the contest but he made an awesome statement. (I also enjoyed the non-religious “Winter in Narnia” cubicle, whose occupant dressed as the White Queen for the party.)

        1. ThatGirl*

          While Narnia may not /seem/ religious, CS Lewis was a prominent Christian writer and the Narnia books are full of Christian symbolism.

          1. Overeducated*

            The cubicle wasn’t decorated as “Death and Resurrection of Aslan” (which is also a common literary trope you’ll find in, say, Harry Potter), it was snowflakes, silver glitter, and a white dress and wig. You’d have to be bringing a lot with you to interpret specifically Christian symbolism there, I’ve read the books and most of Lewis’s theological writing and I can’t easily think of a way to read it that way.

            1. anon today and tomorrow*

              Death and resurrection is a common literary trope but in Narnia it’s specifically meant to be a Christian allegory compared to many other works. The whole series is a pretty obvious Christian allegory.

              Regardless, I do agree that snowflakes and glitter can’t really be seen as Christian in any possible way, so that’s a stretch.

          2. Forkeater*

            Yeah, I would interpret Narnia as full blown Christian, the symbology was extremely blatant and purposeful.

            1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

              So, dressing up as the White Witch, i.e. the devil, while ruling Narnia as murderous dictator oppressing God’s people? Narnia under her rule was always winter and never Christmas.

              I can see how a Christian might, if very very uptight, be offended by the symbolism, or possibly a very very uptight Luciferian would object, but anybody else should probably re-read the book.

        2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          This is great. I celebrate Christmas, I like decorating, I would be ecstatic if everyone around decorated in however they celebrate; if it’s Hanukkah, Solstice, Kwanzaa, New Years, or Tuesday.

          As I said, I celebrate Christmas. I’m not celebrating at anyone. I’d be tickled if someone wished me a Happy Hanukkah or shared their Winter Solstice traditional wishes. The way I see it, the more the merrier.

          This goes for all other times of the year. I had fun when I went out for lunch with some coworkers to celebrate Diwali. My office used to have a big lunch to celebrate the Lunar New Year, everyone loved it. It would have been great to have the opportunity to have other celebrations, but we were a really small office and didn’t have a whole lot of diversity when in came to ethnicity and religion- It would have been a little weird of us to try to celebrate a holiday none of us had first hand knowledge in IYKWIM.

          I get it, in predominately Christian areas, I’m sure Christmas is overwhelming and inescapable (trust me, by the end of it, I’m ready to move on). Just as I’m sure in areas with other primary religions the culture centers around their holidays.

          So I guess all that being said, I’m in the camp that says bring it on, celebrate how you want, where you want, and when you want. I think that’s the better alternative to banning all celebrations. Man what a boring world this would be.

          1. Winifred*

            But does it have a place at anyone’s office where people may be offended or feel erased (to use Alison’s term)? Decorate all you want at home!

            1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

              I think you missed my point. I want to celebrate everyone’s holidays. I want people to do their thing in the office and celebrate whatever they celebrate.

              Like I said, I’d rather celebrate more than less.

        3. General Ginger*

          Unfortunately, Winter in Narnia is hardly non-religious. Christian apologetics was CS Lewis’s bread and butter; Mere Christianity is a perennial classic thereof, and the Narnia books have a considerable amount of Christian imagery and symbolism.

          1. Autumnheart*

            The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe also has a lot of anti-fascist symbolism, I was surprised to note when I last re-read the books. I’d never caught on to that aspect before, but holy COW did it jump out at me after the last couple years of political circus.

          2. Overeducated*

            Yes, but those books are entirely different genres! Do you think Lord of the Rings is inappropriate for the workplace because Tolkien talked about religion with Lewis? Mere Christianity is explicitly a book of Christian apologetics, and yes, THAT would be a highly inappropriate cubicle decoration. The Narnia books are children’s fantasy novels that have some Christian symbolism. I can probably name most of the same tropes in Harry Potter and Star Wars (though it’s definitely possible I missed some as a non-religious kid reading Narnia, which means if they WERE conversion tools, they weren’t very effective). Christianity has had a pretty big influence on western popular culture. I think some of this may be coming from what you know about the author, not what you know about the books, or my specific reference to a snowy cubicle decoration and a white costume, which we would have guessed as “Winter Wonderland” if my coworker hadn’t mentioned her theme.

            1. spock*

              You say your opinion is based off of your childhood memories of the books, so with all due respect, I think you’re not remembering them very well. The Narnia books are incredibly Christian. Just based off of the texts themselves, not anything CS Lewish said outside of it. This goes far beyond symbolism, at one point it’s heavily implied that Aslan is another side of Jesus – not a symbol, not a stand in, but literally Jesus. There’s discussions of Adam’s first wife Lilith. There’s some heavy-handed anti-Muslim sentiments. Humans from our world are referred to as “Sons of Adam” and “Daughters of Eve”. I also didn’t pick up on all of it as a kid but it’s definitely there. Without getting into “is the White Witch’s sleigh appropriate office decor”, it’s disingenuous to compare the Narnia books to Harry Potter or Star Wars.

              1. Overeducated*

                OK. I guess i missed some stuff as a child and i admit that, but i don’t appreciate being called disingenuous. It is a general childhood cultural reference for a lot of people who don’t know or remember those details, and it was also a movie.

                I’d also like to point out that the literal context of my comment WAS snowy, vaguely Narnia inspired decor in the office.

                1. spock*

                  I did not mean to call you disingenuous, my intention was to say the comparison wasn’t good. My wording was bad and I apologize for that.

            2. anon today and tomorrow*

              As someone not coming from a Christian background, as a child it was pretty obvious that Narnia was meant as a Christian allegory the same way His Dark Materials was meant to be the anti-Narnia and anti-Church. I was pretty uncomfortable having to read them in elementary/middle school because it was so obviously Christian, with some fantasy elements slapped on over it.

              The same can’t be said about things like Harry Potter or Star Wars. Sure, they may share tropes that show up in Christian works, but they’re not written exclusively as a religious allegory and their main characters are meant to be stand-ins for Christian religious icons.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        No lie, I did consider getting a menorah, but I am not Jewish in any way, shape, or form and don’t want to come across as appropriating.

        1. DaniCalifornia*

          I read a really good Fowl Language Comic (of all things) that showed a father explaining to his son why he was setting a menorah in their front window even though they weren’t Jewish. He told him he was doing it as a sign of support for their Jewish friends. Many people in the comments asked if this was showing appreciation or appropriation and if they could also do. I didn’t read all 10,000+ comments but some of the most replied ones were Jewish people saying as long as someone did it respectfully they wouldn’t mind. They also gave some instructions on how it should be placed and lighted.

          I know those few commenters do no speak for all Jewish people, and in an office this might come across differently because it would be in response to a cube decorating contest and many people might assume you are Jewish. Just throwing my 2 cents in there.

          1. Triplestep*

            The father would have been better off getting his family invited to a Passover Seder, or taking his son to a Shabbat Service, or doing any of the many things Jews do that are more important that lighting a Chanukah menorah. Chanukah is a minor holiday that has been blown out of proportion in the US due to its proximity to Christmas. I prefer when someone wishes me a Happy New Year during the High Holidays than when someone wishes me a Happy Chanukah in lieu of saying Merry Christmas. It shows they’ve taken the time to understand our differences. Not every religion has an important winter holiday – not sure what is “supportive” about pretending we do.

          2. AvonLady Barksdale*

            I am very uncomfortable– and a little offended– with non-Jews taking on Jewish “traditions” in the name of support. Chanukah is not a major holiday, for starters, and the rituals involved are religious. If you want to show me support, go to a service or attend dinner in someone’s home or just, you know, be kind to me. If a co-worker who is not Jewish put up an actual Chanukiah in her cube, I would be kind of creeped out, to be honest. If she put up a “Happy Chanukah” message in her cube, I wouldn’t find that nearly as weird.

          3. Ananas*

            A few years ago in my city, a house with a menorah in the window had the window broken. Shortly after, all the non-Jewish houses on that street were also displaying menorahs in solidarity.

            But that is a special case and the situation was well-understood, with local media coverage. I hear that some years later, some of non-Jewish homes still have menorahs in the windows.

            1. DaniCalifornia*

              The comic I saw was in response to the shooting in Pittsburgh. I know each individual will feel differently about it whether or not it’s appropriate.

              1. Triplestep*

                What the heck does a menorah have to do with the shooting in Pittsburgh?

                There were so many more appropriate ways to teach a kid to support people who are different than he is. Geez Louise! Way to mix things up, comic artist!

              2. Triplestep*

                What the heck does a menorah have to do with the shooting in Pittsburgh?

                There were so many more appropriate ways to teach a kid to support people who are different than he is. Geez Louise! Way to mix things up, comic artist!

        2. sunshyne84*

          Yea I wanted to do an all inclusive door design, but I think I will just go for a neutral winter holiday theme.

        3. Meredith Brooks*

          I hear all this. I’m not entirely sure why someone who wasn’t Jewish would want a menorah (unless it was super pretty — which some most definitely are.) In the end, I wouldn’t feel support when non-Jews put menorahs in their windows, I would just feel confused. I wouldn’t say I’d be offended by it, but I also wouldn’t necessarily know what to do with that information. That said, someone doing an all-out holiday themed display would make sense to include decorations from other religions. But, if we’re talking about just throwing some Jewish (or other religion) iconography into your (mostly) Christmas display as a gesture of support, I’d recommend doing something else.

        4. Ann O.*

          I can only speak for myself, but I would be annoyed by a non-Jewish co-worker putting up a menorah. It’s religious.

          However, I would feel very embraced by a non-Jewish co-worker putting up hella Hannukah decorations, Kwanzaa decorations, Diwali, Solstice, and any other winter holiday they could think of in a setting like this. I’d probably try to make you my best work friend.

        5. Jasnah*

          I would ask any non-Jews who are motivated to acknowledge Hanukkah, despite the absence of any known Jews around, to question their personal motives for doing so. Is the goal to learn about and acknowledge other major holidays around the world? In which case, Hanukkah is not a major holiday, so choosing just to acknowledge Hanukkah is like saying “Happy Jewish Christmas.” There are other major holidays like Chinese/Lunar New Year and Ramadan and Obon that you could learn about, though that would require more effort to learn about. Or is the goal to show everyone around you, who is so wrapped up in the joy of celebrating Xmas, how much more virtuous and worldly you are? In which case, that’s a pretty selfish reason to co-opt someone’s religious holiday just to put down someone else’s.

      3. froodle*

        I’m really hoping for some Krampus goodies in the office decoration mix this year. Seen a co-worker sporting a hairbow with him and another with a little pin badge (totally bought the hair bow myself after asking her where she got it) so I hope we get a couple of Krampus ornaments or something.

    4. JB*

      If no one has actually indicated this is a problem, you should just leave it alone. You will very definitely look like ‘That Guy’ no matter how well-intentioned. There will be lots of eye-rolling and resentment.

    5. persimmon*

      Eh, I think it’s fine, and am Jewish. I’ve been around ultra-Christmas decorators and although I will privately be laughing at them a bit, there’s something kind of fun to watch about people really going all out. To me, the line is whether anyone is being dragooned into participating when not into it (or even just awkwardly encouraged after refusing).

    6. Katicus*

      Just because you feel like you would be offended as a Jew or Muslim, doesnt mean others are. Don’t assume they are OR that they need you to speak up on their behalf.
      Stay out if it. It seems like this is mostly a ”You” problem and you dont like it.

    7. Girl from the North Country*

      As someone from one of the minority faiths you mentioned, *and speaking only for myself*, I would say let it go. I personally have never been offended by anything Christmasy unless it starts treading into “religious” territory (e.g. prayers, talking about Jesus-as-God as if it’s just a fact that everyone believes that, etc), and I interpret what you describe more as the cultural side of Christmas than the religious side. Plus my religion doesn’t even have any major holiday celebrations at this time of the year right now, so it’s not like I’m feeling excluded. Are there others from minority faiths that you could discreetly ask about this? Don’t assume they’re upset when they might not be. It’s actually more annoying when people get offended on my behalf without asking me first! LOL. But your heart is in the right place, and it’s nice to have allies nowadays.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        It’s actually more annoying when people get offended on my behalf without asking me first

        And that is precisely why I asked here! So I really appreciate your response.

        You are correct that it’s a lot of Santa and trees and presents and lights. I haven’t seen any specifically religious imagery.

    8. Trout 'Waver*

      I’m not seeing a problem here. If people want to decorate their personal spaces in a way that expresses their culture, who cares? If the office culture is such that minorities don’t feel comfortable expressing themselves in the same way, that’s the real problem that needs to be addressed. But just hanging up non-religious Christmas decorations? Who cares?

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      I don’t want to be a performative ally and act offended on behalf of minority religion colleagues if they don’t mind.

      This is why I would lean toward keeping quiet for now, especially because it’s your first holiday season here. Maybe more information would tilt you one way of the other for next year. If it comes up naturally in conversation with a manager, or with a non-Christian, maybe float it–I don’t think you can never say anything–but I’d worry about how frustrating it is to be in Group X and have “Group X complained so we can’t have the nice thing!” and hey, wait, no one actually in Group X was complaining! How come we’re getting blamed?

      If I were living overseas (which I have done) and everyone was decorating for holiday-I-don’t-celebrate, I would think “Hmm, pretty” and go on with my day. I think that’s how some–not all–non-Christians react to Christmas dribbling over all the flat surfaces here. If someone is insisting you have to have a Menorah on your desk and wear a Hanukkah ball sweater that plays “Dreidl dreidl”, that’s different from if your neighbors–at home or in cubeland–are doing those things.

    10. Punk Ass Book Jockey*

      Just popping in to say hi, fellow Pittsburgher.

      I agree with all the above comments–it seems like the decorations are very secular in nature, and no one is prohibited from participating with, say, a Hannukah display. Or no display at all.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Yo! At one point, I was going to attempt to organize an AAM meetup because I think there are a few of us in the area, but then life blew up.

    11. PB*

      The #1 rule of non-performative allyship is to center the person. In this case, you want to support people who don’t celebrate Christmas. From your post, it sounds like you haven’t heard that this is a problem from anyone who doesn’t celebrate. Before taking any action, I’d try asking around and see how people actually feel, rather than relating it to how you think you’d feel if you were in that situation. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. If these are people you’re friendly with, a casual, “Hey, these decorations are pretty overwhelming!” is a good start, and let the conversation flow from there. If you do learn that people are offended, then take that information and proceed accordingly. It also is reasonable to wait it out this year. You are still pretty new, and you’ll have a better sense of the lay of the land in a year.

    12. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      If you’re comfortable speaking with your manager about it, I’d go that route. It will carry a lot more weight than an anonymous note or complaint (but that’s a good option if you’re not able to talk with your manager safely).

      It’s often helpful for people of a dominant culture to call out oppressive practices; it takes the load off folks who are being harmed by it, and (unfortunately) sometimes a dominant culture voice can carry more weight. (“This doesn’t affect me, but I still think it’s wrong” can cut off a potential defensive response about “those people” asking for special treatment.)

    13. Overeducated*

      I think the line is different for everyone. From my perspective, personal decorations are fine and appreciate when people decorate in non-religious ways or ways that express non-Christian religious views; my workplace has a contest as well and I just don’t participate. However, I have an issue when a secular organization, especially a government entity, funds Christmas decorations. (No they’re not “holiday trees,” give me a break.) If work-sponsored Christmas decorations were happening at my workplace I’d probably consider leaving an anonymous suggestion and expecting nothing would happen.

      Maybe you could consider anonymously suggesting ways to make the contest more inclusive, e.g. by adding prize categories for “best winter decoration,” “best secular decoration,” “best pop culture/historically-themed decoration,” or prizes for different holidays so that people could win by going for Winter Wonderland, Star Wars, or Kwanzaa instead of Christmas? Just ideas.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Oh, I like that suggestion! I don’t know what kind of categories there are, so I think that maybe I should wait and see how things play out this year and then potentially bring it up next year.

        1. Overeducated*

          That could work…hope it is ok! My workplace just announced a *Christmas tree* decorating competition, clearly not even trying to fake multiculturalism, so I am officially irritated now too. Wish we had an anonymous suggestion box!

    14. kittymommy*

      Personally, I would go the suggestion bx route, making sure as to speak to how you think it is over the top and too much. I wouldn’t stray too far into how minority group(s)/person may feel, as that is not your voice in this instance. Pointing out how the optics (I know the phrase can be annoying, but sometime it works) could come across to visitors, customers/clients, outside agencies, and/or other staff could be helpful as well, but I wouldn’t make that the only or strongest argument.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        We don’t have visitors or customers/clients, etc. We do strictly behind the scenes work.

        1. GrinchyKitty*

          I was thinking along similar lines to kittymommy – you could anonymously suggest that the decorations have gotten a little over the top to the extent that they’re distracting you from your work so maybe time to scale back. Small displays can still be clever or artistic – a three-foot tree rather than six-foot, for example.

    15. cb*

      i’m of the opinion that christmas decorations like trees and wreaths and wrapping paper and whatnot are more secular seasonal decorations. i’m not christian and am not offended by twinkly lights and shiny decorations (unless they are tacky, and then i am offended because i’m a design snob.)

      i can’t speak for jewish people and muslims. but as an atheist i don’t consider traditional christmas decorations to be religious or inappropriate. if the office was filled with nativity scenes and jesus-centric decorations, i’d have a very different opinion. (which would be: fine for your house, you do you, but if it’s in my workplace, i’m going to say something about it.)

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

      If it’s opt-in, I would say that it’s only a problem if people are actually feeling badly about it. So, lots of others have thoughts here on how you might figure out if there’s someone that could use your allyship on your floor.

      But, like, there are lots of holidays across lots of cultures happening right now. You could personally do something that reflects several different holidays, as a way to show solidarity. But something like lights, which are a big part of the traditions of lots of holidays, could be a good option too.

      With stuff like this, I like to really examine what the problem is. In this case, I think it would be, is the “norm” for this activity so much Christmas that it might be having a chilling effect on people putting up non-Christmas decor? If so, that could be a problem worth raising, but the solution isn’t necessarily to put the kibosh on decor, but it could be making sure to highlight non-Christmas decorations in casual conversations (“Wow, so-and-so’s decorations are amazing, did you see?”) to build greater psychological safety and solidarity; or, perhaps being more vocal in diversity & inclusion conversations (“How do we have hundreds of employees on this floor and all our decorations are from Christian traditions?”).

    17. Alcestis*

      I think it’s important to stress that non religious people from Christian/culturally Christian families are likely going to have different feelings about this than many people from Jewish or Muslim backgrounds. Wreaths, trees, and Santa Claus may be “non-religious” enough not to offend an atheist from a Christian background, but they still can be somewhat alienating to a Jewish or Muslim person who doesn’t celebrate the holiday, whose family has never celebrated the holiday, and who is reminded more strongly than ever that they’re a small minority within a larger dominant culture.

      1. cb*

        not sure if this is in response to me, but the wording is similar enough that i figured i’d respond. (i said wreaths and trees didn’t seem religious to me but rather, seasonal, and i wasn’t offended by them as an atheist, as i might be offended by nativity scenes all over my workplace.)

        for the record, i’m an atheist from a very much NON-christian background. again, you may not have been responding to my comment but i figured it was worth noting.

        1. Alcestis*

          My comment was inspired by a bunch of comments in the thread. I didn’t direct it at anyone specifically because I don’t know individual commenters’ background, as you point out.

    18. EmployeeHotlineBling*

      I would say focus on the positives this season brings. As someone who isn’t celebratory, I always used December to throw myself into the office food drives, convincing participants of the tree decorating contest they could wrap canned goods in (easily removable) company branded paper and stack in a somewhat tree-like shape (they won, FYI), or asking for canned goods or donations to local food banks for “Secret Santa”.

    19. Thursday Next*

      It’s great that you’re throwing this question out for input! I’d say not to make a preemptive suggestion on other people’s behalf. If you know someone who finds the decorations uncomfortable but feels unable to speak up, that would be a different matter.

      FWIW I’m a Hindu married to a Jew. I will accept any and all well-intentioned good wishes, regardless of their (lack of) religious origin. (“Merry Christmas” is cool. “Have you accepted Christ as your savior, because if you haven’t, you’re going to hell”—actual thing people have said to me—is not.)

      1. CanadaTag*

        Atheist here – though I celebrate Christmas as a family holiday in part because my parents’ parents were Christian, and so it’s that….

        +10 to your last paragraph!

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I’m a Christian who snaps back at those “going to hell if you haven’t!” people with joy in my eyes.

        “Jesus doesn’t judge and only God chooses who goes to hell. Have a blessed day, sister/brother.”

        Note, I never say “have a blessed day” to anyone but these wackadoodle hater faces.

        1. anon today and tomorrow*

          There’s an employee at my local UPS store who always says “have a blessed day” and while I know he probably doesn’t mean anything by it, it makes me really, really uncomfortable. He’s from the South and we’re in the North, so I realize it’s probably a cultural difference, but it just leaves me feeling weird for awhile after. I tend to avoid picking up or dropping off packages if I see him there.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            I would react the same way as you are. If I know someone is so outwardly faith spewing, I question their boundaries. Kind of like how we distance from someone we know will share their childbirth stories or their health issues. I’m comfortable with religions of all kinds, fascinated by them. But they’re personal AF

            I had to teach my beloved partner “bless your heart” isn’t actually a loving saying. He’s from a deeply religious family who would never snark. He drifted away (or he never would have met my OTT self of course) and I taught him a lot about the faithful who are nothing he’s ever seen before

          2. Joielle*

            There’s a woman who takes the same train as me most days who says it and I absolutely hate it. We’re not in the South, we’re in a big multicultural statistically-not-very-religious Northern city, and it just sounds so pointed. Like yeah, you’re the holiest one on this train, congrats.

    20. Arctic*

      I’d leave it alone this year. Next year around September or October you can leave a suggestion along the lines of “going into the Holiday season I think the office should be mindful of other cultures and how exclusionary the focus on Christmas can be.” So, the office will have an option to say “This year we’re not doing the decoration competition” if they so choose.
      Nothing you say in December is going to have any impact. They aren’t going to take down the decorations. They aren’t going to cancel any parties or rethink themes. All it would do is make people self-conscious about it (which isn’t a bad thing, sometimes, but counter-productive in this case.)

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Next year, maybe you can ask for a ‘Happy Holidays’ theme that includes Kwanzaa, New Years, and the Solstice.

        I don’t include Chanukah because it’s explicitly religious and pop culture hasn’t managed to separate out a secular aspect. Solstice and Christmas have weird double lives, with both religious and secular aspects. Many of the secular Christmas aspects (snow, lights, icicles, etc) can also be generic ‘winter’ decorations – we did snowflakes last year.

        1. Bluebell*

          Commenting as a Jew who decorates her home for Hanukkah (it was a goofy family tradition) I think I’d be miffed if the business happy holiday display excluded Chanukah. Yes it’s religious but in America people have taken on the custom of decorating and now it is kind of a thing for at least a percentage of American Jews. Sparkly blue and white stuff, giant dreidels, maybe a hanukkiyah. It’s fun but not strictly religious observance.

    21. matcha123*

      This question touches on a topic that I’ve found increasingly uncomfortable here, and that is people who are not Muslim or another minority (in North America) religion deciding to speak for members of those communities and in turn othering them.

      I think that if you do not like the decorations, you should write or speak to the reasons why.

      I think that many posters here are either some strain of Christian or Jewish and they are kind of assuming that the way they approach Christmas is a sentiment shared by others. I worry that the people doing this are going to make things even more uncomfortable for a person who may not really care all that much.

      I am writing this from the point of view of someone who has been othered by well-meaning white people, not for religious, but racial reasons, and it was very uncomfortable for me. In those instances I had to go and explain more things about myself than I wanted to, and the people who thought that they were championing a shy minority then had to kind of step back and realize that their initial thoughts had nothing to do with me.

      As to whether or not Muslims in your workplace feel uncomfortable, please realize that Islam has literally millions of followers. All of whom range from very conservative to very liberal. If you are going to speak for them, please make sure that you at least know some Muslims at your office who feel the same way.
      I grew up with a bunch of Muslim friends from Pakistan, Persia and other middle eastern countries. If I thought that some thing in my office might be offensive to them, I would bring it up with my office manager in a way that doesn’t make it seem like “the Muslims” are angry, and more about being inclusive of people.

      I hope that doesn’t sound like an attack. I am just kind of frustrated at posters assuming that Muslims, as a whole, would be incredibly offensive at something like a wine basket or Santa…

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I understand what you’re saying and that is part of the reason I asked the question here. I wanted to hear from people in those particular groups. And I definitely wasn’t thinking about saying “Jewish and Muslim people are offended”, I was thinking more along the lines of “the overwhelming Christmas decorations could make people who don’t celebrate uncomfortable”.

        Like I mentioned, we’re in Pittsburgh, where the mass synagogue shooting was a couple of months ago, so I think I am a bit more cognizant and aware of wanting to ensure I am being a good ally to my Jewish neighbors.

    22. Forkeater*

      I’m wondering about this as well. My office doesn’t decorate but this year we moved into a larger space with other offices (it was a move for everyone – new building) – and boy they sure do. I’m also at an organization that values diversity and whose clients are broadly international. I mean one of the offices in question is specifically in place to manage international engagements. I can’t believe the extent of the decorations here, it’s really quite a lot. We have a committee to deal with issues with our newly shared space that I’m thinking of mentioning it to but yeah I don’t want to be that person either.

      And for those who say Christmas is not a religious holiday, well, I’m a practicing Christian and I find that somewhat insensitive to my personal beliefs. (And yes I wish others happy holidays to try to be sensitive to their beliefs.)

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Are all the offices under your organization?

        And, yes, your last point is also a good one. While a lot of people do celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday, there plenty for whom the religious aspects are important and significant.

    23. Youth*

      FWIW, one of the co-owners of my company is a Jewish man who seems to be fairly devout, and the office is still decked out with all the trimmings of a traditional Christmas. And no, he doesn’t mention Hanukkah or other, more important Jewish holidays to staff (except for last year, when I wore a Hanukkah sweater to the holiday party [in honor of my dad’s Jewish heritage] and he complimented it).

      If I were you, I would wait until I’d been there longer and could gauge how people felt about the decorations. I don’t know if you want to make this A Thing your very first holiday there. But I understand if you feel strongly about speaking up!

    24. Former Retail Manager*

      My $0.02…..don’t be “That Guy” at least not with how new you are and without knowing if anyone in any of these minority populations is indeed offended. Maybe they really don’t care to decorate and think “Let the Christmas nuts have their Christmas contest!” or maybe they do care, but either way, I say, not your issue. Also, if your workplace wants more diversity, then maybe encourage the minority populations to decorate as well rather than encouraging others to “tone it down.” There is room for EVERONE to be over the top. (But I can totally see your point that they might not feel comfortable doing so, but if the company is really striving for diversity/inclusion, it’s their job to let these folks know that they want them to be comfortable and encourage them to participate if they want to.)

    25. Observer*

      I think something like “I’m not trying to speak for anyone, but I think that if I were Jewish, Muslim or any other religion that doesn’t celebrate, I’d find all of this a bit uncomfortable” is excellent phrasing. You don’t have to be part of group X, to understand that they might be made uncomfortable by something, or to call it out. In fact, we NEED people of the dominant group to call it out, as long as it’s being done in a manner that’s respectful to the group. And, I certainly think this is respectful.

      1. Hola!*

        Yes, this! I work at community organizations and I honestly just point blank ask what holidays are important in the community and which ones require some sensitivity.

        It varies! Some people are into the “holidays are for all!” And some very strict with people staying in their own lanes religion wise. Some are homogeneous and some are diverse.

        Sometimes just by asking you can make people reassess the situation. “Oh we’re Christian! Except half of us aren’t and hmm…”

    26. Dual Faith Household*

      I was raised by a Jewish father and a Catholic mother. We did both religions. As an adult, I’m more agnostic than anything. I don’t care what holiday people want to wish me. I’ll take all kind words and good wishes. Heck, say it in a language I don’t speak and I’ll take that, too!

      (sorry, posted this to the wrong thread initially)

    27. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I decorated with an Elf theme

      SANTA IS COMING. I KNOW HIM.

      If they’re breaking out a manager, then I’d start twitching even as a Christian.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I hit send and then caught it. Like an arrow to my chest.

          I’m a cotton headed ninny muggins!!

          Cookie decorating time!

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Clearly the answer here is to do a Frozen theme and blast the soundtrack all day long, Y/Y?

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          If Disney Princess doesn’t do this…

          She better change her name NOW, no discussions.

          But for real being an adult. This is something at best should be mentioned in passing. Put that out there and see the general feeling.

          I’m usually careful to say “tis the season to celebrate whatever you celebrate ”

          IT’S FESTIVUS FOR THE REST OF US.

          I’ve got a lot of problems with you people.

    28. Not So NewReader*

      A rule of thumb that I have used often is, “If I have to ask the answer is probably no, don’t do it.” This is useful at work and at home.

      You have been there since May, so seven months you have been there. You know how you like to handle stuff at work. Do you usually want to take on a big change like this early on? If the answer is no, that is telling you something. Personally, I would not do anything major like this my first year. I would be true to myself though, in other words, if I had no interest in going all out with my cube then I would not do it. (I am a church going person, if I put up one or two things that would be a lot for me. This is who I am, though.)

      My thought is that they have been doing this for who knows how long. They have stronger ties to each other than I do with any of them. Because I am the newbie, I would leave it up to them to sort themselves out.

      While many of the comments here have a lot of merit, I think the fact that you have not even been there a full year weighs heaviest on deciding how I would proceed if it were me. I’d say nothing and just observe.

    29. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      You know, the great plus of living in the southern hemisphere (where the Holiday Season coincides with summer) is that we can ditch the Christmas trees, fake snow and all winter-y decoration, put a parasol, a chair and inflatable ball in the reception area and call it a day. Or claim that they don’t match our weather and don’t decorate at all.

    30. Seacalliope*

      I would say don’t speak on behalf of other people who may or may not be offended. I’m Jewish and I’m thoroughly exhausted by Christmas’s omnipresence in public spheres. But I don’t think there is benefit for speaking for others. Saying that you don’t think it is appropriate or inclusive is entirely true and it is fair to voice your opinion.

    31. State Worker Anon*

      Related to this thread, does any of this change if the workplace in question is part of the state government? We’ve got a Christmas tree up in our lobby, and while I don’t think we’re especially public-facing, it’s still state property and as such meant to represent all citizens of our state, it seems to me.

      I’ve gone a couple of rounds of inquiry on this before, and IIRC the basic answer I got seemed to boil down to “don’t make a fuss, it’s secular!” But it doesn’t feel secular to me, and judging by the comments to this thread, while there are plenty of people who do think this is perfectly fine, there are also plenty of people who… well, don’t. And every year I cringe a little bit when I see these decorations in our public space.

      I’m not religious, myself, so I’m not sure I have any claim to want equal representation for my holidays–I mean, my family is one of those that celebrates as secular Christmas because it’s family tradition, so I’m pretty well-represented, actually. But it seems to me it’s the principle of the thing: don’t we as a state agency have a heightened responsibility (morally, if nothing else) to make sure we’re not contributing to an attitude of unwelcome, however subtle?

      I’ve thought of approaching my boss to ask who’s in charge of doing the decoration–it might just be the admin took it upon herself to do it–but I haven’t figured out if it’s a battle I really ought to fight, and would welcome the commentariats’ thoughts.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It depends on your region. Government agencies in deep blue areas tend to have done away with that. The more conservative places keep the traditions going due to your general population/voters getting SO MAD about “the war on Christmas” crud.

      2. Ann O.*

        I’m pretty anti-Christmas, but a Christmas tree in a state workplace doesn’t bother me simply because the reality is that the majority of the US is Christian to some degree or another. So a small amount of Christmas decorations is fine with me–even better if there’s at least a token acknowledgment of other winter holidays.

        What bothers me is when it’s overwhelming.

    32. Holly*

      I want to preface by saying I am mildly distraught by all the comments saying “Christmas is secular.” Saying Christmas is “default” and “secular” is a great way to alienate minority groups and essentially saying they are not fully assimilated by not participating. It’s one thing to say “hey, you have a different religion and you don’t celebrate Christmas, that’s fine because it’s part of my religion and not yours” compared to “why aren’t you celebrating a secular American/Western holiday that everyone else is?”

      I personally think you can go either way – I wouldn’t end the decorations if people are really excited about it, it’s just some workplace fun, but maybe suggest anonymously that something is done to be more inclusive – try to strike a positive note and maybe make a recommendation for something that highlights other holidays as well if you feel like it might be alienating to someone who wouldn’t want to speak up.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        The fact is that marginalised people often aren’t comfortable speaking up, they’re often scared of creating waves for good reason, backlash is filthy. Which is why I would just send out a casual vibe to everyone that I’ll be their voice if the nudge me. The key is that they have to at least be comfortable with me.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          yes, this. And I don’t want to ask any of the other people I know aren’t Christian, because of the ‘othering’ / ‘white savior’ vibe that may give.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Omg and the “assumption” of someone’s faith that can happen is extra awkward. It seems so White Knight nonsense, that’s for sure.

            I just make sure everyone knows “I’m cool with changes and never set in my ways…” if you keep dialog open, less people feel like they can’t voice their dislike for the “tradition” crud.

    33. Jules the 3rd*

      Except for the suggestion box, this is my office, and bleah. It’s a question that has come up multiple times, with Christian / agnostics usually going with ‘it’s a Secular Holiday!’ and non-Christians splitting about half between ‘I feel so ignored / token / other’d’ and ‘it’s a Secular Holiday!’.

      I actually persuaded the people in charge of ours to limit it to one tree, and ‘holiday’ greetings and decorations. I’d probably put up something Kwanzaa-themed if I wanted to push it.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        So I didn’t even get into the fact that we are having like 3 or 4 ‘holiday’ luncheons over the next few weeks.

    34. Midlife Tattoos*

      My (extremely large) company has gone the route of celebrating other religious holidays throughout the year so that everyone feels included at one point or another. For example, we celebrated Diwali, and had a potluck and folks wore traditional dress. It was so much fun! I think if more attention is paid to other religious holidays, instead of trying to tamp down the craziness that is Christmas, you give every non-Christian the same opportunity to express and celebrate.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        My only caution that this route needs to be done when you can have the input of those who are part of the cultures you’re celebrating! Nothing is worse than someone hijacking a person’s holiday and bastardizing it because they just did a quick Google search.

        I’m certain your company is very tasteful and educated but some people…you know what I mean, I’m sure :)

    35. Half-Caf Latte*

      Was having a similar dilemma earlier. An admin (in a department totally separate from mine), send out a division-wide email that said :

      It’s that wonderful time of year again, “The Holiday Season”. While this time is exciting for some families, others do not have that same experience.. The [department name] is once again having a “Holiday” drive….
      With clip art trees, candy canes, and Santa. Quotes are hers, not mine. The follow up email said ‘can you believe Christmas is almost here.’

      I celebrate Christmas, but I was very much like, dude, putting holiday in quotes like that totally reads like you’re really meaning to say Christmas, but someone MADE you be politically correct and this is your reluctant compliance. I was definitely put off, and not just by the use of clip art in 2018.

      However, this employee has more tenure than I, although my position is a leadership one. I don’t have any connection to her manager, and I’m not sure I want to be the new person who makes this A THING.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I’ll drink your clip art hating tears for dinner!!!!!!

        But otherwise ew to this shenanigans. Leave my clip art alone tho.

    36. Anon Anon Anon*

      I think there’s a different way to frame this than complaining on other people’s behalf. You could just object to the idea of it – you’re a Catholic (or raised Catholic) who believes in religious inclusion at work, and as such, you have concerns about what’s happening here. That’s completely reasonable and valid. You could speak openly about that viewpoint and put your name on it. Then other people could speak for themselves or bring up other points if they want to.

    37. Nacho*

      As a Jew, I’ve always thought inclusion should involve celebrating every religion’s high holidays, rather than cutting back on celebrating the one that seems to be celebrated by default. I’d feel a lot happier if my company gave shout outs to Rosh Hashanah and Eid Al-Fitr than I would if they suddenly cut back on the Christmas festivities.

    38. SechsKatzen*

      I can see a suggestion box working for next year but if people have already put them up, I don’t think it will actually change what has already happened. If there are non-Christian or non-Christmas celebrating co-workers who you are comfortable enough having an actual discussion about it, that’s probably the best way to get a sense of how at least some people may feel. If it’s something that has occurred for awhile, it may ultimately not be something easily changed.

      Full disclosure, I have my own business with employees, I’m in Pittsburgh as well but still have up my Christmas decorations throughout my office and will leave them up until after January 7th (Orthodox Christmas). Because Orthodox Christmas falls on a Monday this year, it means they’ll stay up at least until that weekend. Nobody has asked me to stop putting up decorations and if that did happen, I’d probably adjust with the timing of them but not stop altogether.

  2. Teapot Lending Program Manager*

    Ethics Issue:
    Our organization competes for funding from a federal agency.
    We have a consultant who implies he has a connection to a key decision-maker for the relevant program. This decision-maker has also spoken to my supervisor in public, going out of the way (twice, without prompting) to say that if we continue to use this consultant, the organization will be successful in getting funding from the federal agency.

    Best case scenario, the federal official was making small talk (though it happened more than once) and used poor judgment. Worst case, there’s something very shady happening behind the scenes. Either way, the federal official’s endorsement is unethical and actually illegal (there are very strict rules about such things).

    I’ve already alerted the director of the federal bureau to this issue, who thanked me for the notice and indicated that it is being addressed internally. Separately, I’m not sure if I should address this with my supervisor, who hires this consultant. She is the one who is making this decision and is #2 in the org. My supervisor has said more than once that she continues to use this consultant in large part because she believes he has an “in” with the federal official. (We’ve discussed it multiple times because the consultant does a lot of work that I otherwise would do, and as a result I have little substantive work.)

    My work gripes aside, do I need to address the ethics of this situation with my supervisor directly or just let things play out with the federal bureau? A coworker already mentioned to my supervisor that the official’s comments seemed corrupt, but she didn’t respond to the comment and reiterated that she believed this consultant receives information not generally available to the public that will be beneficial to the organization.

    I can provide more details, but I’m trying not to write a book here. Just curious if I owe my supervisor a more direct discussion or even notice that I notified the federal bureau of the official’s actions (which would probably result in my dismissal, despite state whistleblower protections). I do not have a good rapport with my supervisor, in large part because of this and other management issues, on top of feeling misled into the position, which I have written about before. I have a good rapport with the president, but he may know already and be backing this as well.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I probably wouldn’t say anything to your supervisor directly since it sounds like she may be complicit if there is unethical behavior occurring.

      1. Observer*

        I agree that not saying anything to the direct supervisor makes sense. I think there is little doubt that the supervisor is absolutely complicit.

        1. Psyche*

          Yep. She knows it is unethical. She doesn’t care. Speaking up will only put a target on your back.

    2. JB*

      “…or even notice that I notified the federal bureau of the official’s actions (which would probably result in my dismissal, despite state whistleblower protections)”

      YEP. You did your part, now it’s time to sit back and watch. You don’t ‘owe’ them anything, and anything you do to draw attention to yourself just increases the risk.

      1. Observer*

        I disagree. If you are an employee, you owe a duty of care to your employer. They owe nothing to the supervisor, who has been put on notice that this is a problem. But they DO owe it to the organization as a whole to flag this with someone higher up or an existing ethics line, if such exists.

    3. LKW*

      Your supervisor should be completely aware that the behavior is not only unethical but illegal and there are serious repercussions. If I thought the person was uninformed, I might say something but given your tense relationship I would say nothing.

      You did the right thing in bringing it to the higher ups. At this point, if your president does nothing, then I would consider whistle blowing. Until then, assume that an investigation is underway and the wheels are slowly turning.

      1. President Porpoise*

        Um, but maybe make sure you have any emails/documents showing that you did blow the whistle in a place that can’t be accessed by your org. This sounds shady as crap, and I actually would maybe consider talking to a lawyer about it – and certainly not talking to your supervisor.

    4. lazuli*

      I wouldn’t say anything, given that you addressed if officially, that you know she’s already been told by a coworker that that statements are a problem, and that you’re worried about retaliation.

    5. fposte*

      I don’t see an upside to raising the issue with your supervisor.

      (Is this IMLS? Then the consultant is full of crap and the supervisor has bought it. That’s not how their funding works.)

      1. Teapot Lending Program Manager*

        It’s not IMLS, however, I also initially believed that my supervisor was putting way too much faith in this connection. It was ironic in a way. The consultant may have asked this federal official to put in a good word, not because he actually has any ability to change the outcome, but because this organization pays this consultant more than the president of the org to essentially deliver something he has little control over. But the second time it happened, I couldn’t dismiss the possibility of something more going on.

        1. Steve*

          I provide advice on which projects my organisation should fund. Based on my experience in reading proposals, it is clear that some better understand the process and are therefore much more likely to be funded (as one example, someone is a former employee so they understand our requirements). Companies are known to hire former employees (often retired) to provide guidance on applications.

          The difference is that we do it all openly. We provide feedback to those who request it, and those who listen are more likely to be successful in future. Former employees have a time period before they can apply, and they can’t be too close to someone who is doing the reviews.

          Your situation sounds quite different, and I agree that telling someone high up and no one else is best. And, as mentioned somewhere else, if needed you should keep copies of all relevant emails somewhere other than work.

    6. Coder von Frankenstein*

      I am neither lawyer nor ethicist, but the way I see it, you have done what you were ethically obligated to do. You have flagged the issue with the appropriate authority, and it is being investigated. The whistle is officially blown.

      Normally I would say to give your supervisor a heads-up, just as a courtesy. But if you think there’s a good chance she will retaliate, she has forfeited any right to such courtesies. Bad managers reap the consequences of their behavior, and this is one of the ways it happens. (And if you think she is herself involved in criminal activity, then don’t say a word, except maybe to a lawyer. I’m not saying I think you’re in danger of prosecution, but a lawyer might offer guidance on how to minimize the impact on you if the shit comes down on your employer.)

      And here’s hoping you find a new job ASAP.

    7. Observer*

      I don’t think you owe your supervisor anything at this point. You DO, in my opinion, owe your organization a heads up, though. In fact, your FIRST step should have been to figure out who in your organization to bring it to.

      Is there an ethics hotline? A higher up who knows who you are and your work? If yes, those are the best places to address this. If not, send an email (and bcc your personal email so you have a paper trail for yourself) stating that the consultant is saying these things, that the decision maker has made these problematic statements and that your supervisor has stated that she uses the consultant because the consultant appears to have this connection.

      Telling them that you’ve already alerted the Federal Agency is a tricky question. It could go very badly for you, to be honest. And although I would normally have no sympathy for the organization, I think that they would have a legitimate beef with your failure to even try to use internal processes to fix the problem. The only exception here is if you’ve seen a history of the organization not handling ethics issues appropriately.

      1. Coder von Frankenstein*

        “In fact, your FIRST step should have been to figure out who in your organization to bring it to… I think that they would have a legitimate beef with your failure to even try to use internal processes to fix the problem.”

        If someone in the federal bureau has a corrupt arrangement with a contractor, how could that possibly be fixed by the internal processes of a third party that works with that contractor?

        1. Teapot Lending Program Manager*

          Yeah, I viewed this as two issues. As a member of this industry, I felt that the agency needed to nip this in the bud. As an employee of this company, I haven’t yet determined what to do, especially since it’s a smaller organization and I already work with senior leadership.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      Let the Feds take it from here. Do not talk to your supervisor or anyone. Treat this as if you are seeing the tip of an iceberg. It could be nothing or it could be something much larger. Go with caution until you know for certain things have changed. I would not even talk about this where there was a chance I could be overheard.

    9. Public Sector Manager*

      I think you’ve done the ethical thing by reporting this to the federal bureau and you don’t owe any sort of explanation to the supervisor or your company’s president.

      The supervisor has ignored discussions about this issue in the past, and since the supervisor isn’t doing a good job (e.g. misleading you on the position and your other concerns on management issues), nothing good with come from notifying the supervisor. The supervisor could have notified the federal bureau too, but didn’t.

      As for notifying the president of your company, I think you’re not obligated to do that. Since your supervisor is #2 in the organization, it’s highly likely the president knows of your supervisor’s conduct. If the president doesn’t know, then the question is whether the president is generally a good leader. But this president has allowed a misrepresentation about your position and other management issues to occur. If the supervisor is generally that bad, then the president isn’t doing their job because the supervisor is still there.

      It sounds stressful to work in that environment. Best of luck to you!

    10. Free Meerkats*

      If your organization has a method in place to report this anonymously, report it that way. Otherwise, sit back quietly and say nothing to your organization. And go through your computer, chats, and emails and make sure any work devices are scrubbed as clean as possible.

  3. Dwindling Health Care*

    Any advice on pushing back on a sudden change to health care benefits?

    The year started with the executives promising not to reduce our health benefits and stated protecting our health benefits as the reason for buying out a couple members of the board. All year we’ve heard how this was our best year ever in profits. Then last week, we found our health benefits were being drastically reduced. The C-level executives don’t understand why we are upset.

    Old Plan: Fantastic. All premiums fully covered, no deductible, and small copays.

    New Plan: Employees contribute to premiums, high copays, high deductibles.

    I get that the old plan is highly unusual, but it also has been clear that this was part of our compensation so our salaries are lower due to this. The company does not give COL raises and even merit-based raises are lower than the annual COL increase. This is effectively a giant pay cut. We’d understand the need to contribute towards the premiums if (1) the coverage wasn’t also being cut and (2) this had been brought up earlier in the year so we could budget accordingly. Essentially we’re paying a lot more money for a significantly less benefits. We’ve gone from top tier coverage to minimal coverage.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I work in health care. Unfortunately, your employer is at the mercy of the insurers and may not have much of a choice. It’s too late to change anything for 2019. They are locked into a contract already.

      1. Natalie*

        It’s absolutely the employer’s choice whether the employees have to contribute to premiums, and they could offer a Health Reimbursement Arrangement to cover some of the extre costs of copays and so forth.

        1. Yorick*

          Sure, but is the amount they’re paying toward premiums similar to before? Maybe the insurance company increased the premiums and now the employer is having the employees cover some of it.

          1. Natalie*

            No idea, but that’s beside my point. Even if they cannot change the benefit plan at this point, they still have a choice in how they mitigate the increased costs, given that they “promis[ed] not to reduce our health benefits and stated protecting our health benefits as the reason for buying out a couple members of the board” and are having their best year ever. The insurer does not make compensation decisions for the company.

            If, for some reason, their company premiums rose so astronomically that they had to reevaluate, then at a minimum they should explain that.

            1. blackcat*

              Yep. My old employer offered a relatively high deductible plan, but self-insured for the amount of the deductible. You brought your EOB to someone in HR and funds magically appeared in your bank account to cover the amount, generally before the bill even arrived.
              My employer did the math and discovered that they’d save money even if they had to pay the entire deductible for 80% of the employees.
              There are a variety of solutions for this type of situation.

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

              Yes, this. People can understand that health plan costs increase and that companies will only take on so much of that themselves. The problem is when your C-suite promises over and over again that it won’t do something, and then they just do it without any reason better than “our costs increased,” which is the #1 thing they should have predicted would happen well before they made any such promises. If their only reason is “health care prices went up” then they are far too dumb to be executives tbh

            3. nonymous*

              usually what I see in the premium price sheet is how much my employer pays and how much my portion is, for both the current year and the new enrollment period. I would give a side eye to employers that increase my side at a greater percentage than my own, but it’s also possible that other compensation increases – e.g. cash bonuses or stock incentives could make up for it.

              Having said that, a employer-subsidized HSA would go a long way to making those high deductible plans an affordable option for many. My experience at several orgs now is that for basically healthy people it’s actually cheaper because the HSA pays for 100% of incidental care including otc supplies for first aid or sports medicine self-care but you still get the benefit of insurance pricing for urgent care visits and scripts.

              The big issue is how those cheaper plans cover complex medical treatment. A family member had a recent experience where the review process essentially negated an avenue of treatment and a friend just shared how her father was denied a specific treatment plan due to terminal diagnosis even though his medical team said it would have palliative benefits.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Arrrrrgh HRA nightmares. Nobody here likes it, the extra hoop plus they are hard to convey to many :(

        3. New Job So Much Better*

          Exactly. My old employer switched to a much cheaper plan my last year there, but gave each of us a type of savings account with thousands of dollars to cover our costs under the new plan. It made our costs less painful and somehow the company still saved money.

      2. Dwindling Health Care*

        Our company is self-insured, so the insurance company is only used to handle the administration of the plan. Our old excellent health care package was used as the reason for skimping on other benefits like 401k matching and competitive sick/vacation days.

    2. Teapot Lending Program Manager*

      It seems like you have a very clear view of what the issues with this are and can articulate them well. Perhaps start with your supervisor or send a note to HR saying what you’ve said here. These types of decisions aren’t easily undone, but if you get enough people giving feedback, they may reconsider.

    3. irene adler*

      Wait- C-level execs don’t understand why you are upset at the reduced compensation via the health plan change?
      Or they don’t want to understand the reason why?
      Don’t know that you can push back on such a change except by markedly increasing the turnover rate.

      FYI: we got our health coverage ‘adjusted’ for 2018. Spouses and dependents will no longer be covered. And management carries on like it’s no big deal.

      1. JB*

        “And management carries on like it’s no big deal.”

        Dollars out of your pocket. If they can’t get it through their skulls that employees care about their compensation, it’s time to look for an employer who does.

        FWIW, they’re being dishonest. They know why you are mad, they just don’t want to acknowledge the problem.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I have not heard of not covering dependents yet! You mean, like kicking employees’ children off medical insurance? What are the kids supposed to do, go out and find a job with benefits? How can this be no big deal to anyone, this is outrageous.

        1. Natalie*

          I believe the ACA requires company plans to let you add dependents, but doesn’t require them to pay any portion of the premium.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Many states offer plans for kids not covered by their parents insurance.

          It’s normal to only pay employees premiums. The employee can opt to pay a huge monster amount. I’m taking hundreds of bucks a month.

    4. Four lights*

      I think it’s worth bringing up, possibly with a group. They may not be able to change the coverage. You could say something like, “This is a huge change to our health plan. We understand why it may have been necessary, but this essentially is a X% pay cut. Is there any possibility of adjusting our salaries to reflect that?”

      1. Natalie*

        I think it might go over better to ask them to cover more of the ensuing health expenses* rather than increase salaries, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, health care contributions are generally tax free for both employee and employer, so an equivalent dollar amount of health care contributions will be cheaper for the employer than a salary increase. It also might seem more “fair” to the employer because it won’t result in more take home pay for the employee that doesn’t have many health care expenses. And it may feel less permanent, if for example they negotiate for a better plan next year, it’s probably easier to walk back covering 100% of premiums than it is to reduce people’s salaries. (Of course that last one is a double-edged sword, they could change nothing about the health plan but reduce their contribution in future years, when people have forgotten about the awesome health plan you used to have.)

        * In addition to covering 100% of the premiums, the employer can also fund FSAs/HSAs to cover the increased cost of copays and deductibles.

      2. The sky is falling*

        Same thing happened in my job a few years back. Employees share of retirement and a large part of employees share of health care was paid by employer and the actual cash salary was lower than industry average as a result. But it felt like a pretty fair compensation package. Even though the company was doing great, I guess the shareholders wanted more money because they switched the costs back to the employees but did not raise salaries – in fact froze them over the next few years, basically reducing everyone’s pay by about 15% – 20%. Unsurprisingly those who could flee this company did quickly.

      3. Four lights*

        And if this is a high deductible plan, try to find out how much (or if) they will contribute to each employee’s HSA.

    5. Schnoodle HR*

      So…hopefully they picked the best plan they could with whatever budget they’re working on. From their side, they could have very well been looking at 50% increases. You had a very unusually great plan. You say now you have premium and higher copays/deductible. What are those? Because I’m betting that though it is an increase from what you had before, you probably still have an awesome plan but in comparison it looks bad. For instance, I had one employer where the best rates we really could get ended up being a PPO (so not a HDHP if you know what I”m talking about otherwise ignore) with a $4,000 individual copay. The premium for individual coverage? Close to $40 a WEEK. I forget the copays but I think they were $35.

      I know people who complain of a $500 deductible and a $20 copay. Keep it in perspective of insurance as a whole not just the ones you know of.

      I know you are upset about it, but honestly complaining about it to HR or the C-Suite will make you look bad. They know it’s a tough pill to swallow, but I’m betting they are paying even more on their end than before themselves.

      Of course, you mentioned a change of board so maybe it did go the evil direction and they’re being cheap. I’m assuming the good in people which could be way off.

      1. Coder von Frankenstein*

        When you’re talking about C-level execs, I do not assume good in people. I do not assume evil, either, but C-level folks often have a lot of incentives to screw over their employees, and they are often insulated from feeling the consequences. By the time the chickens come home to roost, they’re on to a new job at some other company.

        DHC could get together a group of people affected by the change and bring their concerns to the brass. But I would operate on the assumption that doing so will not improve matters and this is the new normal at this company, and it’s time to start job-hunting.

    6. blackcat*

      I think this is a vote with your feet situation, unfortunately. Not because they changed the coverage, but because they are totally clueless and not offering other solutions. I suspect this will bleed over into other issues–once an org goes the penny-wise, pound foolish route, they don’t often turn around.

    7. Hiring Mgr*

      I’m sure the C-levels understand exactly why you’re upset…They’re probably just acting that way to suppress their guilt and hope you’ll stop nagging them about it (obviously this is speculation but isn’t that often what happens in these instances?)

      1. NW Mossy*

        They can absolutely anticipate this type of a reaction, and they know that their employees can do math and will notice the change in their take-home pay.

        What they did was decide to move forward in spite of the likely backlash, because while the backlash sucks, it doesn’t suck as bad as the alternative in their eyes.

    8. Snack Management*

      Echoing what some other said – you may not be able to change the plan as it’s set for the next year (particularly this time of year) but you can speak up about how it feels as an employee and get more information. In my experience (maybe it’s too rosy), likely what happened is the folks at the top who were making promises intended to keep those but the premium renewal came back with too high of an increase to keep the current plan. I’ve been dealing with this for a few years now (as an executive who is in charge of the health care decisions at my company) – the decisions were not done in a vacuum without serious consideration to employees but the first year we made the change, I didn’t communicate the hows and whys as effectively as was needed (I made the mistake of saying “cost savings” when the reality was “we don’t have the money to keep this plan”).
      What I would recommend is for you to ask for transparency on the process to start – why did they make promises and then the plan changed? Did the renewal come back astronomical? Is your usage rate high in the plan? From what you presented, it seems shady that they say great profits this year, cut your coverage AND require the contributions. They should have an explanation.

      1. nonymous*

        I’d add that it seems in many large orgs that the goals of meeting shareholder expectations for balance sheet and ethically compensating the staff seem to operate in highly siloed environments. So the healthcare team can’t just say insurance premiums are 2x anticipated, it’s okay to reflect that on the profit-loss statement.

        Having said that, if the org chooses to pass basic costs to staff there should be some way to partake of profits. Stock options are one possibility.

    9. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      My current employer had a plan like that. It was put into place when the company was first started ten or so years ago, ie, before my time. There was a small deductible and small copays, but no premium. Several mergers and leadership changes later, we are all sitting around waiting for the axe to drop. We can all tell that the new leadership would love for the fantastic plan to go away, but are fully aware of what would happen if they were to suddenly pull it. We’re losing a lot of people as it is, and the ones that stay, are staying in a large part for this benefit. So far they’ve been chipping away at it – adding a “buy-in option” with a low premium and increasing the deductibles and copays on the “free” option; slowly increasing the deductibles and premiums on the “buy-in” option; and last I heard, the free option is not free anymore. I have no doubt that one day they’ll get tired of trying to remove it in small increments and do away with it altogether like your company did. When that happens, I’ll read it as “okay, it’s been fun, time to leave”. I really do not see any other option for your company’s employees, either. I don’t believe you can push back and get results. I’m not buying it though, that the execs do not understand why you are upset. They may act like they don’t, because somehow it seems like a good idea to them to pretend that nothing happened.

    10. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      The change in benefits is a sick truth about healthcare right now and costs involved.

      However it’s scummy AF to boast of record profits and change to splitting up the premiums. That’s bad news and leaving is the only thing that will protect your interests.

      I started reading and started worrying you were a coworker. We had drama because of much smaller tweaks to our plan. 2016 had 25% increases. We were able to stabilize this year by changing a couple things.

      But when we save money and boast of profits, we have profit sharing. So it’s less of a disaster than a scummy company without COLAs even. Ick.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      Show them the numbers for old plan vs new plan.
      Write it all out so they can see how last year you were earning 42k* per year and now this year you will be taking home 35k per year. Explain to them that they can plan on losing people over this.

      (*I made up random numbers as an example.)
      It sounds to me like they were not paying attention to increased health insurance costs and they just became aware of how much the company was paying. They waited too long to begin to address the situation. I think one of the ways you can actually get them to listen to you is if you acknowledge that paying for health insurance is difficult for them also.
      I am not optimistic here, but you can try.

    12. Sybil Carpenter*

      May I please piggy-back on this topic? I have a similar issue with a sudden change in my company’s group benefits. We recently received a company wide email saying that our premiums would be going up (a max of $30) because the deductions will now be calculated based on our salaries. I’ve never heard of this manner of calculating insurance deductions.

      I’ve been trying to figure out why our premiums are already so high — I pay just over $200 per month for my (admittedly excellent) health plan and extended benefits — when my employer says they pay 50%. Is it normal for health benefits to cost a total of over $400/month including employer and employee contributions? (Canadian for reference)

      The benefits are great but I just want to understand why it is so expensive (and why no one at my company can seem to explain this to me without shrugging and directing me to someone else).

      1. blackcat*

        5 years ago, my very excellent health insurance cost a total of 9k/year, 1.5k of which was covered by employees.

        This will vary significantly based on location (different states have really different rates), but yes, 400 per month is totally reasonable. It is, in fact, quite cheap. $1000/month is not atypical

      2. Snack Management*

        I’m not in Canada but for US plans, $400+/mo for individual coverage for an excellent health plan sounds like a good deal overall. If that includes extended benefits, then even more of a great deal. But healthcare in the US is in a …. pickle so probably not comparable. What are the extended benefits? Some benefits such as disability coverage are based on salary – perhaps that’s what is increased? Again, not in Canada so maybe this is totally unhelpful.

        1. Sybil Carpenter*

          The extended benefits include things like massage, acupuncture, physio, etc. And life insurance and disability are included in the coverage, too. It’s definitely great coverage I’m just wondering why I’m paying more than double what I paid at my previous employer for nearly identical coverage and whenever I ask about it, I get shooed away. I suspect that my employer is not making any contributions, despite claiming they pay for 50% coverage, but the lack of transparency and poor communication of policies is a whole other problem :P

          1. RussianInTexas*

            I believe in the US the employer must actually provide the breakdown of how much they pay, for the taxes filings (thanks, Obama).

            1. Perse's Mom*

              Yep, because it’s a deduction for them as well. I know they have to issue a 1095-C if your insurance is through your employer, which includes the cost of self-only minimum essential coverage.

        2. Anon For Always*

          I agree. Health insurance premiums for me were $990 a month (I paid $250 of that a month of that). It’s been insane. We’ve seen our premiums double in the last couple of years.

      3. RussianInTexas*

        $400/month total in medical premium is not only not too expensive, but is on the cheaper side, unfortunately.
        At my old company, the total was almost $600/single coverage (I paid only 1/6 of it in premium), and it was a large employer that could get a good rate. The coverage was good though.
        At my current employer, I don’t know how much they pay, I pay $120 per month. But the company does not subsidize the family/children plan, meaning that even though they offer coverage, the full brunt of the premium falls on the employee. The “family” coverage is $540/per period – per 2 weeks. About $1080 per month.

        1. Sybil Carpenter*

          Hmm, interesting. Thank you for your responses! I am just shocked because my previous company offered almost identical group coverage and my monthly deductions were around $80 for both me and my spouse. My coworkers agree that $200/month seems outrageously expensive in comparison to other Canadian companies but I suppose it’s all relative.

          1. RussianInTexas*

            I don’t think we can compare US and Canadian prices and premiums since we have such vastly different systems.
            So it’s possible $200 is outrageous for Canada, I can’t really tell.
            For the US it’s not particularly expensive. Not cheap, but not unheard of.

      4. Lurky McLurkerson*

        You really can’t compare to American costs, because this is JUST for the extended, dental, prescriptions, etc. and the basics are covered through the province. So ignore the Americans in the thread :)

        That said, I looked mine up. Mine covers me and spouse, very good coverage though a few things could improve (mental health professionals, for example). I pay 0, my employer pays around 280, then for life and AD&D we each pay about 20 (I’m young so it’s cheap), disability is separate and I don’t pay but I don’t have the numbers. We are self insured for the medical/dental though, the insurance company just does the administration for it. My spouse’s employer pays the MSP (BC health care premium, currently 75 for a family), so mine does not. So 400 total seems a bit high but not obscene.

        I think you should be able to see the breakdown of how much you pay and how much they pay. I don’t know if there are laws about that, but it should be transparent.

    13. MissDisplaced*

      “Essentially we’re paying a lot more money for a significantly less benefits.”

      Welcome to the horrible state of healthcare in the United States.
      And even if companies wanted to offer something better, oftentimes they can’t due to size. Also, a lot of this varies by state you live in and what the healthcare lobbyists managed to control in your state and w/your state representatives. Worse, all of use employees are just supposed to shut up and take it and be glad we even have jobs.

    14. Aimee*

      My best advice is to ask for a salary increase to cover your expanded cost of coverage. Yes, you had a VERY rare plan if you had no payroll deductions or deductibles – it’s hugely expensive for employers to have this level of plans (I’m coming from many years of HR background), but making such a dramatic increase without talking to employees about it first (they could have solicited employee feedback to know what is/isn’t important to help them when negotiating a new benefits plan for the coming year) is seriously tacky…but sadly, also not surprising. Since the world of work and benefits is a subjective one, what do you mean by “High deductible”? The average I have seen is $1500-2500 per person (ours just went up to $3500), where certain things like annual physicals, etc., aren’t included in the deductible and then of course it depends if you are in/out of network… this is where making sure you are signed up for a flexible spending account (FSA), if they have one, can help at least a wee bit.

      PS – My husband and I relocated to a smaller town where NONE of the four job offers he received provided any contribution towards spouse or dependent coverage, meaning we (I’m a sole proprietor and there are now ZERO comparable ACA plans available here after congress did their best to trash the ACA…two years ago there were double-digit number of options) have to pay $650/mo out of his benefits to make sure I get coverage. The more people I talk to, the more it sounds like employers are doing this to cut costs. Oy.

  4. Emma*

    Adjusting to my new job & schedule (we have a compressed workweek) has been harder than I expected! I find myself getting really worried that I’m going to make a mistake or “get in trouble” (which is kind of a silly thing for a grownup to worry about, and probably a holdover from my previous job where I couldn’t ever do anything right). I also moved right when I started my new job so it’s all just been…a lot.

    1. BeanCat*

      Solidarity! I started a new job this year and have those same fears because nothing I ever did in the job before this was good enough. Something I’ve started doing is imagining Worst/Best/Most Likely scenarios to try and calm myself down. Making a plan for the worst, hoping for the best, but being well aware it’ll probably be somewhere in the middle has helped me.

      Example: I accidentally send the wrong form to someone.
      Worst Case: I am fired. BeanCat cannot make mistakes and must immediately be let go.
      Best Case: Somehow the document was actually what they needed or it was useful to them somehow.
      Most Likely: They’ll just tell me I sent the wrong form and to please send me the correct one.

      Hang in there! We’ve actually recently moved and will have to move again soon, so you’re not doing this sort of thing alone! :)

    2. Girl from the North Country*

      You’re not alone! I felt the exact same way when I started my new job. My previous job was torture and my boss was a micromanaging dictator, so it was really hard to adjust to “normal” people again and realize that I’m not going to get torn to shreds for making a minor mistake. But if your struggle is more with the work itself than the anxiety of adjusting to a new place, just make sure you’re asking lots of questions and seeking help when you need it. The real mistake you would be making is not speaking up when you aren’t learning the work!

    3. LALAs*

      Take a deep breath. You’ve got a lot going on. I assume you haven’t been “talked to” about any issues at work yet since you didn’t mention it. Take the time to sit down and list all of your responsibilities. Daily/Weekly/Monthly/Quarterly whatever makes sense for your position. Keep it handy. Refer back to it to make sure nothing is falling through the cracks.

      And, I am sorry to be the one to tell you this, but you will make a mistake. Probably more than one. Of course, you will be diligent and try to catch those mistakes before they become a problem but they will happen. When they do, own it – don’t try to hide it, do what you can to fix it or bring it to the people who can fix it and talk to your boss about how you are ensuring that it won’t happen again. Allow yourself to be human and congrats on the new gig.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      YOU ARE FINE. Well, I’m sure you are fine, let’s put it that way. :) There’s a lot of adjustment. I went from a job like your old one to a much less toxic new one and it took almost a year to recalibrate.

      Here’s the thing: you’ll make mistakes. Everyone does. And most of the time, it’s ok, everyone does it, and very few things are un-fixable. You are new. If they expect everything to be perfect right now, then that’s a problem. Just remember to take a deep breath and check your work and take your time. You are fine.

    5. Ama*

      Five years ago I came to my current employer from a job where I was overworked, subject to unreasonable demands, and told I had done things wrong when I had evidence in an email that I’d done exactly what I’d been told I should do. I’m *still* suffering residual anxiety from that job, even though current employer has been nothing but supportive, has always been understanding of my mistakes, and has never made me feel like I couldn’t trust my judgment (in fact I often get comments from my boss that I have a very good sense for how to handle tricky situations). It doesn’t happen as often as it once did, but I find it kicks in most often when I’m facing a situation that went poorly at old job (for example, when I needed to have a conversation with my boss about hiring extra staff) even though I have not once been disappointed with how my boss and current employer handle things.

      Go easy on yourself, bad jobs really do a number on you and you are going to need time to recover.

    6. Tiffany Aching*

      I’m a little over a year into my first job and I still feel like this all the time. Have a fist bump of solidarity!

      I just try to keep very good notes of what needs to be done and what I’m doing. Then if something goes wrong, I have notes and they help tremendously when telling someone or trying to fix it on my own. I’m naturally very anxious though, so I’m not sure it’ll ever go away for me.

    7. CatMintCat*

      I get it. I’m just finishing my first year in Nice Job after years in Bad Job. I still have moments where I just know i’I’m a waste of space and the hammer is going to drop, but they are getting further and further apart. Throw in a move on top of all that and no wonder you’re stressed!

      1. Zildafitz*

        One and a half months into NewJob where I have halfway reasonable bosses from OldJob where everything I worked on was worthless and had to be entirely re-done. I still get really anxious day to day so solidarity! Don’t let the bastards get you down and all that

  5. Department of One*

    A big reason I left my last job was because two coworkers at different times went on maternity leave, I inherited their work while they were gone, they came back, and then decided that they were leaving for good to stay home with their babies. My boss, seeing that I had maintained the workload while they were gone, decided not to rehire their positions and that I could do the work of three instead (no increase in pay or title). Even though I tried to insist that I was able to maintain it on a temporary basis and couldn’t do that permanently, my boss left the positions empty so that I was working alone.

    Now in my new job, a coworker that I work closely with and am very friendly with, has been gone on maternity leave, soon to return in a couple weeks. Like before, I received that majority of her tasks to cover while she was gone. I had a private and honest conversation with her about what had happened in my previous job, and simply asked that she try to give me a heads up if she decided she wouldn’t come back permanently after her leave. She said she doubted that would happen because her family needs both her income and her husband’s so she should be coming back but she agreed she would warn me if it changed.

    With her due to return soon, I am getting nervous about her leaving. I can’t maintain both of our workloads on my own; I’ve barely been keeping my head above water. If she decides not to come back, I need someone else to take her place. However, especially with talk about tightening up the budgets, I could see our boss leaving her position empty for me to do all the work. What can I do to encourage the boss to fill her roll? Short of threatening to leave if no replacement is hired, I don’t know how to stress my point. But I would definitely not stay in my position alone permanently; I won’t put myself through the stress again.

    (Obviously, anything could happen that could cause her to leave; I’m not trying to single her out because of the maternity leave. Just having it happen to me twice in the last few years, it was my first thought when she told me her pregnancy.)

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I totally understand why you’re on edge about this, but you’re worrying about something that may not even be an issue so I’d suggest trying not to obsess over it until you know there is actually issue (and believe me, I know this is easier said than done).

      That being said, if she does decide not to return or leaves shortly after returning, I would say that you need to have a frank conversation with your direct supervisor about why you left your last position and how two workloads is untenable in the long term. If they push you to ‘at least give it a try’, the best way to convince them that they need to replace coworker is to let some balls drop. If you kill yourself to get everything done, they’ll think you can handle it. I know that will also be a tough thing to do.

    2. Teapot Lending Program Manager*

      You could be less efficient. Really. I’m not saying waste time, but you have a job with set responsibilities. Those responsibilities don’t include those of your coworker. If you don’t have the time to complete all of it without extended periods of pressure and stress, then don’t. Get done what you can get done in a day and when asked about what was not done, explain that the workload really requires two people.

      I used to temp in different offices, and businesses hire people to cover for maternity leave all the time. You are not their only option.

      1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

        I second this. Start leaving some of her tasks undone or only partially done, with the reason that she’ll be returning soon and will take it up when she returns. If her job is to file the TPS reports, go ahead and let them pile up a bit, because she’ll get to them when she returns. Only cover what is most urgent.

    3. Clorinda*

      Do the typical things Alison suggests when someone is doing someone else’s work. Make it clear to Boss that you can’t do A through G, and ask what are the priorities: if you do A, B, and C (your own job), you can maybe do D and half of E (part of co-worker’s job), but F and G are likely not to get done.
      You can emphasize that you’ve been putting in extra hours, or whatever you’ve been doing, for the maternity leave period, but that the double work load is not sustainable long-term.
      Also, don’t panic! Maybe it won’t even happen. After all, your co-worker told you she needs the job.

    4. Not Maeby But Surely*

      It’s a good idea not to get hung up on the what-ifs, particularly if coworker has indicated she will be returning out of necessity after her maternity leave. If it helps you put it behind you for now, come up with an outline of what you’d say to your current boss if she does quit, then leave it on the back burner until you need it. Based on the context you provided, your employer hasn’t indicated they have the same faulty thinking as your old boss, so you have much less reason to dwell on this than if you were still in our old job.

    5. Overeducated*

      Just a word of comfort – in my experience most women do come back from maternity leave, you had a run of bad luck but that’s not the norm and I hope it is over.

    6. Kathenus*

      As others are already touching on, from the very beginning, work with your manager on a realistic workload. Be clear up front that you can’t fully do two jobs, and work with her on prioritization. Don’t wait until you’re feeling burnt out or overloaded, be very proactive on this.

      As you saw, trying to just do it all can lead to the powers that be thinking that you can do this long-term. So don’t do poor work, or let things fall through the cracks to make a point because this might reflect badly on you; right from the beginning have the conversation and come to agreement on workload and priorities. I used to have a boss who always kept adding to our plates. I got very, very good at saying ‘of course I can do X. Would you like me to put of doing A or B in the meantime while I focus on X?’ I was really consistent with this and he, after a little time, actually noted it on one of my performance appraisals as a strength.

      Good luck

    7. Could be Anyone*

      If you’re barely keeping your head above water, mention to your boss now that you could use some assistance with the extra workload. You might not get it, but at least make them aware that it’s a struggle and not something you can maintain.

    8. Marthooh*

      Do your own work first and do it well. Leave coverage for your coworker for the nooks and crannies of time left over after that. Document all the tasks you do as coverage and update your manager regularly on what you have and haven’t done. That will remind them that you are doing extra, but still not getting everything finished. (It will also be valuable information for your coworker when she gets back.)

    9. nonymous*

      Can you take this opportunity to delegate task or reduce coverage? So for example if you and coworker both run weekly reports, maybe the (temporary) solution is that the reports get run every other week. One week you do your normal reports and the next week you do hers. Or if there are parts of your job which require a lower skill set maybe you can borrow someone from an adjacent team for 5 -10 hrs/week to cover those tasks (it can be good cross-training if the other team is actively trying to grow their knowledge base).

      Also, your coworker should be writing up procedures for simple/routine stuff so that your role is keeping track of what SOP they can follow (and pointing them to that resource) instead of doing it for them. For example if she normally spends time to fix common errors, maybe your department can adopt the (temporary) policy that those type of errors will now be returned for sender to fix.

    10. MissDisplaced*

      You know, it’s funny but when I was interviewing about a year and a half ago, I interviewed at a company where 3 of the people were pregnant and I was told I’d be “lucky” to rotate through and learn their job areas while they were on maternity leave. Ha! I think NOT. I ran like the wind! Bullet dodged, based on your story.

      Why won’t these companies at least hire a temp like they do in Europe? I mean seriously. You can’t expect others to do the work of 2 or 3 people just because one takes maternity leave. It’s beyond cheap and worse, ends up punishing the ones who don’t have children.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Part of the issue is the length of maternity leave.

        If someone’s gone for a full year, then for a lot of jobs you’ve got time to hire a temp, get them up to speed and reap the benefits. And asking someone to do double duty for a year (or leaving tasks undone for that long) will drive your existing employees away. If someone’s gone for a month, it can be less disruptive and more effective to spread out the duties over existing staff, and put off less critical tasks – hiring a temp, unless the duties are very generic, might not help all that much.

        Plus, if you’re talking about specialized work (ie, the kind you can’t hire from a temp company), you draw someone in with the promise of a one year contract who might well turn down a six week one.

        On a random side note – I wonder if there’s a correlation between length of maternity leave and last minute decisions not to come back to work. Leaving a six week old who in full time day care and trying to pump enough milk to feed them every three hours is a very different proposition that doing the same with a weaned one year old.

  6. Girl from the North Country*

    Anyone have any good tips for fending off the office creep? He always seems to be around, and is constantly watching what I’m doing and making annoying comments about how “anti-social” I am (yeah I am, only with him!). It’s gotten to the point where I feel uncomfortable going to the break room for lunch because I’m worried he’ll be there and I’ll get sucked into an awkward conversation or have him staring at me. HELP!

    1. blink14*

      Does anyone else have a problem with and/or is there a co-worker you can confide in to get a read on if his behavior is directed just towards you or everyone more generally? If it seems that he’s specifically targeting you, might be worth having a conversation with your supervisor. I would continue to ignore his attempts at conversation and keep interactions as short as possible.

      Can you bring headphones to use in the break room? That’s automatically a good way to stop a conversation before it starts.

      1. WhoKnows*

        I second talking to the supervisor. And document weird occurrences. It may just be a quick convo between your supervisor and that person’s supervisor, who can then monitor the behavior themselves and raise it with them if they see something inappropriate.

    2. ExcelJedi*

      Do you have to work with him closely?

      In either case, I’d have some scripts ready like “I don’t really feel the need to socialize during work,” or “I have to get back to this, unless you need me for something?” for when he’s creeping. You could evn be a little more blunt and say “I don’t think that’s any of your business,” if he crosses a boundary with his comments.

      1. LALAs*

        When you catch him watching you, call him out on it. “Fegus, you keep looking at me. Is there something you need?” If he is hovering around, call him out on it. “I need to focus on my work Fergus and you standing around is distracting.” When he calls you anti-social, own it. “You’re right Fergus. I am not being social. I am here to work and you are making it difficult and you are making me uncomfortable.”

        Name it. Publicly. If that doesn’t stop it (or if you are scared of his reaction) go to your supervisor. “Jane, I am having an issue with Fergus.” Be clear and honest. He is doing X and it makes me feel Y.

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

          Good male allies will be embarrassed that they made you uncomfortable and will change their behavior. Creeps will double down and try to make you out as “the bad guy”. His response to you calling him out will tell the rest of the office everything that they need to know about his interactions with you.

          1. purpleparrots*

            I’d posit that he’s already trying to make OP the bad guy with his “antisocial” comments! OP, don’t feel bad about being skeeved out — you get to decide who you socialize with at work and at home!

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          This this this.

          Especially “I am here to work and you are making it difficult.”

          As Captain Awkward says in the letter linked in my name, ‘This dude has been coasting on the social contract, the expectation that women are “nice” and accommodating, plausible deniability and your desire to let him save face (at the expense of your own comfort)’

          Return Awkward To Sender!

        3. OhGee*

          +1

          Someone who is going out of their way to treat you this way will likely only respond to being called out. And if it doesn’t stop, you have witnesses that can back up the fact that you tried to address it if you end up having to go to your manager.

      2. Dasein9*

        As persimmon pointed out, Captain Awkward has good advice about being around creepy people. I also recall some advice from her entailing a reassurance that it is Office Creep who is making things uncomfortable, not you, and you have no obligation to cover for him just to make other people comfortable.

        That said, this can be scary to do. We are socialized to smooth over social awkwardness, not turn the volume up on it. I recommend choosing a few of the phrases others have offered here and practicing them in the car and at home until you can say them without stumbling. If you do stumble, do it again the next time anyway.

    3. JB*

      The only real way to deal with this is establish strict personal boundaries for what behavior is and is not acceptable. And every single time he steps over those boundaries, you have to LOUDLY correct him. And I mean loud enough to get other people’s attention. Things like, “How is this relevant to my work?” or “Didn’t I already tell you ‘No?'” or just “Please stay away from me!” And again. you do not say this at a normal volume. You say it so loud and so emphatically that other people peek over their cubicles to see what is going on.

      Maybe the others will see that he is harassing you, and maybe he will get the message. If neither happens, you need to give your two week’s notice and make sure the management knows why you are doing it.

      1. valentine*

        This could easily backfire, especially if Girl from the North Country is lower on the social hierarchy than Creep is, and he can say it proves she’s unprofessional as well as anti-social. If she doesn’t want to risk her job or charges of verbal assault or harassment, and particularly if she wants any authority or law to work in her favor, she needs to be seen to be the reasonable one.

    4. Less Bread More Taxes*

      What about honesty? “You’re creeping me out with comments like that.” “That was a really inappropriate thing to say.” “It’s not anti-social to not spend time with someone who frankly creeps me out.” Maybe shocking him with one of those is what he needs.

    5. LKW*

      The reasons creeps get away with it, is because everyone wants to be polite. So you can potentially call out creepy behavior or putting up very clear boundaries. Always best if you can say these things in front of other people:

      Are you staring at me. It looks like you’re staring at me and that makes me uncomfortable.
      Why are you commenting on my looks/actions? That’s very creepy.
      I don’t know why you would think that is an appropriate topic for work.
      That is not an appropriate topic of discussion.
      You’re making me uncomfortable.
      You’re standing very close, please give me some personal space.
      I would prefer to ready my book, listen to my podcast, etc. Thank you for understanding.

      Find the phrases that best work for the situations you have. Practice them. Out loud. Rehearse them at home. It sounds so silly but I promise it will help your mouth make the right shapes when you need it to.

    6. Anonymous Educator*

      I don’t know if that legally constitutes a hostile work environment, but if you have to constantly watch what you’re doing and get uncomfortable getting into the break room because he’s staring at you, that sounds very harassment-y to me. Can you talk to your manager about it or HR?

    7. persimmon*

      Captain Awkward has suggested that, if someone tries to manipulate you by calling you something (like “anti-social”), you can just agree. “Yep, I can be a little anti-social at work.” “Yep, I’m feeling anti-social today and don’t want to chat with you.” Perfect escape!

    8. A person*

      I’ve dealt with this too -I know it’s probably uncomfortable and feels rude not to, but you do not have to engage with him at his command. You don’t have to respond to his comments or make eye contact. Remember he’s the one being rude, not you. If there are others in the break room you can try talking with them instead, or have something to read or listen to to distract yourself from the stares. Not giving the desired response may extinguish the behavior.

      While I’d like to say someone who is always hovering around obviously has too much free time and their manager will notice and it’ll work itself out, that isn’t always the case. Don’t be afraid to report if he escalates.

    9. gmg22*

      First piece of advice is to talk to your manager about this. (And yes, this assumes that your manager is trustworthy, discreet, and well-trained in HR situations — if you unfortunately can’t count on that, look for someone else in a management role who can be counted on, or at least a trusted colleague.) Even if you’re not ready to actually have any actions taken to rein him in — and you can specify that — this is something your manager should be aware of, and it’ll make you feel better to know that they are aware.

      Re specific anti-creep strategies, do you have any “lunch buddies” you can strategize with a bit so you aren’t alone (and therefore vulnerable to creeping) during lunch?

    10. bdg*

      I’ve got nothing for you but empathy.

      I had a super nice older guy start leaving a lot of comments on my blog (which is public) and then eventually start texting me. Ignoring those comments and texts didn’t work, so I went to HR. They couldn’t do much, but had a chat with him on boundaries or something and checked in frequently to make sure he hadn’t kept it up.

      I still run in to him walking out to my car sometimes. It’s a long walk, there’s only one path, and there’s an expectation that you do not use your cellphone while walking. It’s hard.

      Is it possible for you to go to the breakroom with someone else? Do you eat in the breakroom? If not, you could maybe just keep your food in your cube. That’s a lot to compromise on for one dude though, so I hope there’s an easier solution!

      1. valentine*

        bdg, the stalker isn’t nice. HR could’ve told him to stay away from you and, mostly, not to try to catch you where you can’t use your phone. Why do you need to be phone-free whilst walking?

    11. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Get really blunt in your language but keep your tone, calm, emotionally neutral, and professional, “Stop staring at me; it’s impolite.” “Stop making comments on my social habits; it’s rude and unprofessional.” “My social habits are none of your business. You need to leave me alone.” And keep track of what he’s doing, when, and exactly how you responded. Then, if the behavior continues you can tell your boss that you’ve told him to stop and he’s continued.

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

      I would bring it up to your manager, to another manager/leader you trust, and/or HR. You have a right to feel safe and productive at work. If you can raise it directly with the creep, that’s of course preferable (and you should feel confident knowing you’re well within your rights to do so, and to do so in no uncertain terms – “You’ve made me uncomfortable on multiple occasions by staring at me and making comments to me. I don’t want to talk to you for any reason other than if it’s required for our work. Leave me alone.” But if you don’t have it in you to do that, raise it to someone with power. If something like this were happening in my office, I would want to know, because I would absolutely prioritize the comfort of staff over the right of some asshole to be an asshole.

    13. WinethetimeKat*

      You can do what I (finally ) did. When he spoke I ignored him. When he got too close I would loudly say hey you are too close. When he cornered me in the hallway I said again loudly get away from me. After about three or four times of that he backed off. He wanted someone who would not push back and I do

    14. Autumnheart*

      Look him straight in the face with the most killer case of RBF you can conjure. If he tries to say you’re anti-social or whatever, just say, “What do you mean? I’m a very friendly person” in the kind of polite voice that Samuel L. Jackson would use when discussing the merits of Big Kahuna Burger. Practice some really aggressive body language. You’d be amazed at how much people will pick up on the subtext even when your words are perfectly polite, especially creeps who depend on using subtext themselves to push people’s boundaries.

    15. Not So NewReader*

      People hate counting. Count out loud, as in these examples:
      Creeper, this is the fourth time this morning you have been standing there staring at me. Do you have work to do or no?
      OR
      Creeper, this is the 3rd time [today,this week] you have called me anti-social. Do you stand at men’s desks and tell them they are anti-social also?
      OR
      Creeper, no one else calls me anti-social. You seem to be the only one complaining. But then again, no one else stands in front of my desk 12 times per [hour/morning/day/whatever].
      OR
      Creeper, I am not anti-social. I am working. I suggest you do the same.

      Staring at you:
      Creeper it’s rude to stare at people and you must stop now.
      (Notice you do not ask and you do not say please.)
      Creeper, you are staring again. Perhaps we need to talk this out in the boss’ office. You don’t seem to be able to stop on your own.
      Creeper, still not working, eh?
      [You can point out to him that you have started keeping track of how many times a day he comes to your desk. Tell him you will be giving the totals to the boss at the end of the week.]

      Break room:
      [Bring a book to read, your phone to look at or some papers to go over. Sit with your back to him if possible.]
      If it’s not possible then say:
      “Creeper, you are staring again. I have already told you that you need to stop. I mean that.”
      [People do not like to be reminded they have been told something before. This is the same idea as the counting idea, people do not like to hear how many times they have done Bad Thing.]
      Creeper, if what you are doing is so benign then why I don’t see you staring at the men also?”

      Figure out your own word choice and practice in front of the mirror at home. Or use your drive time to say these things out loud and get used to hearing yourself say them. The over all idea is to remind him how many times he has done X behavior, remind him that you have told him to stop. When he tells you that you don’t tell other people these things, remind him how his behavior is different, such as other people do not hang out at your desk. (BTW, that’s a great expression to use. Answer his stupid statements with, “You are hanging out at my desk again.”)
      Don’t whisper but don’t yell, use your regular voice. If you happen to be overheard then oh well, sucks to be Creeper.

      Give him a week to change his behavior. If there is little to no change, go to the boss. Don’t let this drag on and on. Tell the boss what steps you have taken so far and you would like her to step in. I’d bet my last chocolate donut he does not do this to men.

    16. BeenThere*

      Besides telling him to stop, write it down, every single time. Date, time, what he said, what he did. Maybe write it down while he’s there so he can see you making notes every time he does this to you. Maybe take a photo of him with your phone, and make notes in your phone. If you have a trusted ally at work, tell that person. It would be best of that ally were a man, but tell somebody.

      I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. He counting on you to be polite and not to make a stink. But he’s the one whose causing this problem.

    17. None the Wiser*

      You should bring this to your manager immediately.

      One of my reports spoke to me about a temp who was creeping people out. They were gone by the end of the day.

      Obviously, the dynamic is different with a full-time vs. a temporary employee, but your manager can’t do anything if they don’t know.

  7. Julie*

    Today’s my last day at my current job. I’ve been bored in this job for quite a while and wasn’t exactly sad about leaving…until this week. Doing all the wrap-up/handover stuff made me a weird sort of nostalgic (like, no way I’d want to go back and do all that again and yet somehow I feel sad it’s over…?).

    Has anyone else had this sort of ‘separation anxiety’ from jobs they’ve just felt neutral about (obviously feeling sad about leaving a job you loved would be normal)?

    (Pretty sure the feeling will pass once the day is over, but right now it’s kind I’m feeling all sorts of melancholy.)

    1. Yvette*

      Is it possible that it is more about fear of the unknown and change (OK fear may be too strong a word but you get the drift)? Also, I am sure that there were parts of the job that you did enjoy, maybe a coworker or two? And I am also sure that the feeling will pass. Good luck in your new job!!

    2. Girl from the North Country*

      Yes! A few months ago I transferred jobs WITHIN THE SAME COMPANY, still in the same office around the same people, yet my last day on that job felt so sad for some reason! It reminded me of that feeling in school when it was the last day before summer break and the school year was over lol. I didn’t even like my boss or the work that much, but I still had to keep reminding myself that I’m not actually “leaving.” So you’re not alone!

    3. Trouble*

      I sobbed like a baby leaving my last job. I hated the work and didn’t have close friends in anyone there. It was 6 years of my life 50 hours a week though. Soon as I started my new job I was over it.

    4. Tara S.*

      This almost always happens to me! I start doubting whether getting a new job was actually a good move (spoiler: it is), couldn’t I have done more at my current job? I think it’s just normal anxiety of leaving a comfortable space to go to a new, unfamiliar one. There’s always a tough transition, but it’s most likely for the best. Congrats on your new job and best of luck!

    5. Mae West*

      Yes, I’ve had those feelings even for jobs I couldn’t wait to leave! I start thinking about the not so bad aspects of the job I’m leaving, which makes me feel ridiculous, as well as nostalgic.
      I also go through a time of thinking about my old schedule and tasks even while at my new job! (e.g., it’s 10 o’clock, X is happening at old job.) UGH.

    6. hate being late*

      Yes! On the day I left a job I absolutely hated, I was filled with emotion and actually cried in front of people. I think it’s normal :)

    7. SignalLost*

      Hell, I had it with a job I hated actively and viscerally. I think it’s more nostalgia/fear of the unknown than anything else.

    8. Yellow*

      I was at a toxic job for 9 years. I was ready to quit and work at Target until I found something new, that’s how bad it was. But on my last day I cried when saying goodbye to everyone and essentially sobbed when I got in the elevator the last time. I’ve never regretted leaving, even for a second, but still. Emotions are bound to happen!

    9. StressedButOkay*

      Absolutely! I had originally looooved my last job but ended up resenting it pretty badly by the end of my time there. I was more than ready to go and looking forward to new challenges at New Job. And yet, I still cried the day I left and I worried about “my” work my first few weeks in New Job.

      It’s perfectly normal. We get weirdly comfortable in situations that make us happy and this is a big change.

    10. AngryOwl*

      Completely. I was in a super toxic company a few years ago and still was sad to leave, because I would miss the people.

      I’m in my notice period for my current job, and I’m very happy about my decision to leave. But I’m still getting sad.

    11. Coder von Frankenstein*

      Yes. My first real job was at a start-up company–at least it was a start-up when I was hired; I started out hauling boxes of books and ended up a website developer. I was there for almost nine years, and quit because an insane toxic boss got hired to run the IT department.

      I had no doubts, and still have no regrets, about my decision to leave; but my last day was very sad indeed. I’d been through a lot, made some great friends, and learned a ton at that place. I spent a while after hours just wandering around the warehouse, going through memories. There were a few tears when I got in my car and drove out for the last time.

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

      Yeah, it’s the end of an era in your life! It’s normal to feel feelings as you know things are changing. :)

      Personally, I focus on all the things at the current job that I hated doing that I’ll never have to do again. Whatever annual task that I’ll never have to return to, whichever person I hated getting that data from every months, whatever it is. That always brings me a lot of joy!

    13. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Sometimes we can get sad for the possibilities that did not pan out. I’ll bet you took that job thinking you would have great opportunities and wonderful coworkers. You spent a lot of time & effort trying to make it work… . I see nothing weird about, well, grieving for what might have been.

    14. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I have it every time I leave. Except for Toxic Waste Job.

      It’s like breaking up. Even if you didn’t love the person, that finalizing moment causes the feels.

    15. Parenthetically*

      Absolutely! I’m totally confident in the decision I made to leave my previous job and was definitely getting burned out on it. I was ready to leave — I didn’t hate it, but I definitely didn’t enjoy it much anymore. But those “lasts” were still hard! Regardless of how you felt about the job, it’s a season of your life that’s coming to a close, and it makes sense for it to be an emotional moment.

      My advice is just to let yourself feel that melancholy feeling with no judgment. Change and endings often prompt reflection on the passage of time, if nothing else, and it’s good to give ourselves permission to be reflective when the opportunity arises.

    16. Not So NewReader*

      You know, even with the bad jobs, I could work up a case of nostalgia/tears on my last week.
      Some of it is “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know”. Some of it is a sense of the end of a chapter of my life. I know that sometimes I caught myself thinking that I did not focus enough on what was right with the job. Then I’d realize, no, that’s not true because there was not that much right with the job.
      As others have mentioned, it’s a temporary feeling. You get started at the new place and you will refocus.
      For me, a lot of that stopped after I left one job that really was the job of my life. I was pretty upset with a 9 week long migraine. Once I got into Next Thing the headache dissipated. And after that leaving jobs was not as hard.

      Tell yourself positive, reassuring things.
      I wish you all the best at the new place.

  8. Trainer*

    Hi Everyone, I am thinking about starting my own business as a Training, Development and Marketing professional. I have over 6 years of experience designing, developing, and delivering training and communications for businesses, including visuals, infographics, PowerPoint presentations video tutorials, interactive courses, virtual training sessions, and wiki pages. I also provide marketing services such as communications, flyers, mailers, banners and ads, and more.

    My problem is that I don’t know how much to charge. All the work I’ve done has been for major corporations. I already have some interest from a few people asking for a few schedule but I don’t have one. Any suggestions on how I can research this type of info? Websites offering the same type of work don’t seem to have fees posted. You contact them for a quote.

    Any help would be appreciated. TIA

    1. Elizabeth Proctor*

      I don’t have that much advice specifically, but make sure to save back a good chunk of income for self-employment taxes.

    2. Yvette*

      Is there a professional association that you could join where you could ask those kinds of questions? Maybe you could reach out to a company where they would not consider you competition and ask them?

    3. k8isgreat*

      Did your job ever send you something like a “total compensation” booklet ? Mine does. It totals the full cost of your compensation, including all the benefits the employer provides and actually gives my “true” hourly rate. Mine does it yearly and it’s very interesting an a good guide to striking out on your own. Another rule of thumb is to take your currently hourly rate (if you plan to charge hourly) and double it when charging for your own business. That way you can cover things like health insurance/401k/time off things like that.

      The other option is to move backwards. Start by putting together a yearly or quarterly budget, decide out how much you want to make in that time and be sure to factor in things like office supplies, computer, utilities, healthcare, retirement savings, time off and whatever else comes to mind. Total that all up and then figure out how many clients you can handle at a time, how much time you plan to devote to them and if that amount meets your needs.

      I hope to move into full-time freelance work sometime in the next two years, so this is something I’ve been thinking about too. If you need a freelancer with corporate writing experience, let met know and I can send you a portfolio. Good luck!

    4. foolofgrace*

      Have you considered reaching out to SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives, free advice) or the SBA (Small Business Association)? The SBA used to even grant loans to some new businesses but I don’t know if they still do.

    5. Two Dog Night*

      This is definitely not the final answer, but for a starting point, take your annual full-time salary, divide it by $1000, and think about that as per-hour charge. So if you’re making $80K a year full-time, your hourly charge might be around $80.

      Of course, if you’re paying for an office and equipment and other employees, that’s a whole other thing. But if you’re starting off on your own, it might be in the ballpark.

    6. Not In NYC Any More*

      A good basic resource is “How Much Should I Charge? by Lynn Wasnak. You can download the PDF for free from the Writers Market site. You can find it by googling the title and Wasnak. The author surveyed a ton of trade groups and came up with high, low and median rates for all kinds of services ranging from blog posts to ghostwriting books, from corporate presentations to press releases, and everything in between. It’s about 10 years old, but unfortunately freelance rates haven’t risen since then (nor have most corporate salaries), so it’s still pretty good for a baseline that you can then tweak to fit your own situation.

    7. A Consultant*

      I would advise looking for reference books on marketing/consulting start-ups, which may tackle this question with more specificity and insight for your industry. I’m a different field of consulting, and had one such book that was super helpful in getting started. But here’s the basic math it advises, which may translate.

      Step 1: List the annual “salary” you would want to have (maybe your gross from your current job?). Then list/estimate the other “payroll” expenses that your employer currently pays (i.e., not being deducted from your take-home already) — employer share of FICA (i.e., self-employment tax), health insurance premium, retirement. Then list annual additional business expenses you would have (i.e., equipment, software, supplies, business insurance, etc. – this will vary greatly). Total it up: Total amount you need to earn in a year.

      Step 2: Figure out how many “billable” hours you have in a year. From the standard work-hours in a year (2080), be sure to subtract off-time (vacation, sick, holidays), ALSO deduct an estimate of how much time you’ll need to spend on non-billable stuff (i.e., business tasks, marketing, etc.). Divide the total from above with your available work hours: That’s your ideal hourly rate.

      Step 3: Adjust the rate based on anything you know about the field, what the market will bear, etc. For a task-based fee schedule, estimate how long you think it takes you to do X or Y and multiply it by the rate. For more custom work, you may assess each project as it comes to come up with a total fee for that project.

      Good luck! Sounds like you have a good foundation to get started.

  9. Pancakes*

    Any tips or advice on filling out a annual review paperwork? It’s that time for me and while I’ve had reviews before in previous jobs they were always surface level “you’re doing a great job, just keep it up” conversations. This is my first annual review at a new company and I want to really take advantage of it.

    1. [insert witty username here]*

      Make sure to highlight things that might normally go under the radar but that really make a substantial difference to your team/boss/company. Highlight any areas where you’ve done process improvement. Also cover any new skills or duties you’ve learned/taken on. Even if it ends up being a surface level conversation, get these things in writing!

    2. LKW*

      Put some thought to what you’ve contributed, either in work effort or knowledge. Think about what bridges you’ve built on or across your team. If you introduced or built new processes or tools clarify what you did and the impact it had.

    3. It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's SuperAnon*

      Metrics are your friend in this case, and if you don’t have hard metrics, then point to as many specific tasks as you can. If your company has a mission statement or roadmap, tie that into your written self-assessment.. “I closed X% of customer requests on time”, “I supported Y task which is critical to product success”, “I supported our Diversity & Inclusion initiative by planning/coordinating Z event.”

    4. just trying to help*

      One thing I’ve found is handy to refresh my memory is to go back through my email, both received and sent, to document what has taken place over the past year. This can help organize your thoughts chronologically as well as emphasize projects and accomplishments which took more time and attention.

      1. Elle*

        Thats a good idea. I also try to keep a running word file with bullet points of projects I complete and what I learned doing them. I’m always shocked looking back at how much more advanced I’ve gotten since the last year, and it also helps come resume update time.

      2. Snow Drift*

        I set Outlook reminders to do this before my e-mail vanishes (we have a short retention policy; anything older than 3 months gets automatically deleted). It’s a good way to set aside a block of time to self-assess.

    5. HBucket*

      Because a lot hangs on this where I work, I keep a log of projects or things i do that are above and beyond… or, if within the scope of my job, that i got high praise for.
      When I submit my input, I break it down into the four topics our agency focuses on (for appraisals). Off the top of my head, I think they are Communication, Customer Service, Technical, and…. something else. Then I list the impact.
      For instance, under Technical: Created online reporting tool for field use which greatly decreased the amount of time spent reporting, collecting and analyzing this data. (I’m a little more specific, but wanted to give you a general idea.) If you have the actual metrics, that is super helpful… Created online reporting tool for field use which decreased labour by 47% and increased productivity by 120% (for example).

  10. wingmaster*

    Having my company holiday party tonight, and it’s open bar!!!…let’s see if I got some crazy stories after tonight. I’ll also make sure these crazy stories don’t come from me.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’ll be the ‘and spouse’ tonight. Unfortunately I have a lot of trouble with names & faces and there was no summer picnic to refresh my memory, so I’m quite nervous.
      I’ll be sticking to the shrimp cocktails!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Omg they had lobster mac&cheese as a side. I’m stuffed to the gills and stone cold sober.

        And my daughter had a wonderful time at her dance …and her father came around and seems to be getting over his anger that I disagreed with him strongly enough to veto him.

        All is right with the eorld.

  11. Susan*

    Would welcome input from remote workers & managers.

    I’m directly managing a remote employee. I had a short meeting with her earlier this week and we’ve set up weekly check-in meetings.

    Remote managers, any tips on how to make this a great experience for both of us? For background–we only hire people who have a lot of experience and were vetted for being competent in their work, so I’m not too concerned about teaching her about taxes/payroll etc but just guiding through our systems. We set up weekly check-in meeting.s I feel like the biggest challenge would be to make sure they’re engaged and don’t up and quit. Any other challenges I should know about and advice on how to manage them?

    1. Elizabeth Proctor*

      Make sure she knows how to communicate with you throughout the day if necessary. Should she call, email, text, slack, etc.? Urgent vs non-urgent?

    2. LKW*

      Periodically ask, “Is there anything i can do to improve or help you improve?” And then listen. It’s at a minimum offering half a bridge.

    3. President Porpoise*

      I’m a remote employee, and part of what seems to help is I give my boss a weekly update of accomplishments, problems, opportunities, and upcoming issues/events. This helps her keep track of what I’m actually up to, and can usually be succinctly summarized in an email.

    4. LadyByTheLake*

      Be really aware that if the rest of the team is in one location with you, you need to consciously train/remind yourself not to be biased in favor of the people you see every day and to make extra efforts to make her feel included. Also make sure that she has someone else on the team who she trusts and can ask questions of. I was a remote employee for a boss who completely favored the people he saw every day and it was a disaster, especially when one of those people started bullying me.

    5. Two Dog Night*

      Are there other employees in your group? Make sure she makes connections with them as well. I’ve been working remotely for 10 years, and I’d hate it if I didn’t have anyone to chat with once in a while.

    6. AngryOwl*

      I’ve been a remote employee and remote manager. The weekly checkins are a good idea. I’d also work to make her feel integrated with the rest of the team/company. This may mean video calls, social chatter on any company conversation networks (like Slack), etc.

      Another thing that you don’t seem at risk for, but just in case — make sure you don’t fall into the trap of thinking hours online/butt in seat = quality. It’s easy for remote workers to over-work in an effort to prove they’re not slacking, and for managers to unintentionally contribute.

      Sounds like you have a good approach though, good luck!

    7. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Vary how you communicate. One thing I noticed is for a short time, the only time I called some of my team members was when there was a problem. I quickly started calling for short questions/innocuous reasons. I didn’t want them to be afraid if I called. Plus it gave me a chance to have the water cooler chats with them that you can’t do all the time if you’re launching into a problem.

      Speaking of water cooler chat, make an effort. I have worked remote from my peers and direct reports for about 5 years now. I make an effort to share some of the non-work sides of myself. Like the day I IM’d two of my peers to tell them how I ducked out of a conference call to quickly refill my water and managed to lock myself out of my office. Or I will share a funny picture of my dog via email.

      Don’t be afraid of the mail or shipping things. I’ll use a current example… it’s the Holiday season.. A lot of managers will get their staff small gifts. This should still be done for remote employees. Send them a small gift.

      Face to face meetings… if possible try to get the person in to the office at least once early on. Foundational training is easier and it’s great to give people a chance to meet live before they work together remote.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        My mostly remote team would have video meetings and sometimes would have quick tours of their house, show their pet, or other funny things for the first 5 minutes. Someone once came on dressed like Luke Skywalker.

    8. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

      I manage a lot of remote employees (and work remotely myself). I strongly recommend using video conferencing over telephone. It really, really helps — especially on days you need to have more difficult conversations.

      My other big recommendation is to use slack or some other instant messaging tool, so that you can communicate in real time about little/quick things, and then make a point of using it. Agree ahead of time what hours they will be available and stay within that window.

    9. Seeking Second Childhood*

      When someone is working across a server, technical response time can be slower than you expect. Check as soon as you can that your remote worker isn’t being asked to do something that is difficult or impossible because of technical issues. Test & time the systems–make sure they know “this should take 5 minutes” means THEIR PART is 5 minutes, and that they should report if the software doesn’t allow that. Be prepared to reorganize workflow to adjust.

      Two examples from CurrentJob. We revise documents in a working folder on the network server and move them to an archive folder when released. This allows us to back each other up seamlessly. When I was sent home to finish my day at home after to a power-outage, I learned it doesn’t work so well over encrypted VPN. Saving a document tdkes 5-10 times longer over VPN than it does on-site. Copying the files was also onerously slow. If I get another TC opportunity I’ll move files in bulk onsite, and only back up changed files over VPN at the end of a work period. (Scooter Software BeyondCompare if anyone is wondering.)

      Second example shows that it’s important to tell your remote employees to tell you if software access changes. We used to track our projects in an ancient Access database created by someone who didn’t really know databases. Slow but manageable. Then our division shuffled, and we were given people working in 3 other states. They have full hard-wired internet access to our server with the same mappings. It worked a little slowly. Then corporate encrypted our VPN, and didn’t tell us that it was also being rolled out to interstate networks. The first site converted, the person doggedly pushed through any data entry while she worked on other tasks. She missed a few, but not much. The second site, the position had just been shuffled into our department, and the person just she kept using her old spreadsheet. She switched jobs and we’re still dealing with the fallout. (!) The third site had the guy who bothered to ask how long it takes us to refresh data so now we’re researching a replacement.

      Othet than that, I’d recommend regular group conference calls–switching out times if need be to make time zones easier for some sites one week, others the next.
      Brownie points to the manager who gets marketing freebies and thinks to ask for extras to send to the remotes!

    10. nonymous*

      What I’ve seen work well is:

      (a) Use the same systems to commute with the entire team. Don’t tell local people stuff in-person as a group and then call/email/video chat the remote person separately. Either do a group chat/email/conference call or arrange the meeting in a spot that you can have video conferencing.

      (b) Have a easy process for a technical replacement of whatever you handle in-person with local staff. So if you interact with local staff by going to their desk and talking to them (or calling them to your desk) set up a video chat option that is just as quick. If you tend to pull a few people into a break out room throughout the day make sure that break out room has teleconferencing options.

      (c) Create opportunities for casual convos to happen. A lot of knowledge transfer happens by osmosis. Are there ways that can happen so that the remote employees can get that experience? One thing that works well is splitting up training over the entire team. Your senior teapot designer doesn’t need to show the new person how their prototype request needs to be formatted – that is something the lead technician can do, and the senior can train on the decision-making process that goes into the content. Another is to expect more convos to happen in the digital realm. A lot of people do not like the idea of topical (work related) chat logs being visible to the entire team and that is something management needs to keep an eye on. Don’t let cliques form, even if it’s just because people have differing ideas of “need-to-know”. Be willing to nudge people (new and old staff) with suggestions such as “I would like to see you participate more on Slack about X topics. Here is an example of the interaction I am looking for.” Make sure there is space for people to work heads-down. For example it might be okay to set status to busy for <2hr blocks and respond to IM/chat mentions afterwards at least once a day. Or if that's not reasonable maybe busy status means that staff responds within 10 min instead of immediately. And remind people to use "in a meeting" for phone calls as well.

      (d) Give local staff the opportunity to work remotely if possible. This time of year with germs floating around it is really nice for the entire team if a not-quite-sick person can be quarantined. If all staff are benefiting from the new infrastructure/workflows, it's much less of a burden.

    11. NW Mossy*

      As a manager of remotees (4 of 12), massive second on videoconferencing for weekly meetings – it does a tremendous amount for the development of your relationship with your employee and gaining trust in each other when you can see each others’ faces.

      I also recently introduced daily huddles for the team, which has helped a lot with my remotees feeling like they understand their teammates better and get a better sense of workloads and issues team-wide. It lowers the barrier for remotees to ask for help when they need it, rather than spinning their wheels trying to find answers on their own.

    12. periwinkle*

      My team is basically all remote, at least from each other. Three of us are stationed in one building, three are in separate buildings in other parts of our region, two are in the same building two time zones away, our manager works from home in a third time zone, and we’re about to bring on a couple more team members who are… somewhere? Most of us work from home 2-4 days a week since why the hell not. Virtual meetings are the norm for the whole organization since we’re scattered across campuses/regions/states/countries.

      The four ways we keep our team communicating:
      1. Regular 1:1s with our manager
      2. Webcams! We all have a webcam and use them during our various team/project meetings. If some of us are together in a conference room we’ll bring a webcam along. The visual contact is really important at keeping us feeling like a team rather than disembodied voices.
      3. We have multiple channels on something similar to Slack. One is an all-team channel, the others are ones we can open for group chats – this is great for private side discussions during things like vendor demos. The all-team is a mix of business and silliness.
      4. Occasionally face-to-face meetings. This year we all attended a particular conference and used that as some team bonding time as well as a working session and the usual conference stuff. We’re deciding on a conference for next year. We also have in-person all-team meetings a couple times a year.

      We are a highly engaged team, in large part because of these measures.

  12. Simon Says*

    Does anyone else not get jittery in their job until a coworker leaves?

    I’m pretty darn happy in my current job and, after a very long search period to find this job, I’m not in a hurry to start looking again. But I do start wondering if I should be looking anytime a coworker announces they’re leaving. They tell me about their new job and I start thinking ‘Wow, sounds a lot better than here! Maybe I should start looking again…’

    I’m pretty sure this is ‘grass is greener’ syndrome but I don’t know how to counteract it. And I don’t plan to stay in this forever, I know I’ll leave eventually, but I’m not beating down the door to leave just yet. So how do I know if I actually want to leave yet vs hearing the plans of others and feeling envious? How do I settle my jittery mind?

    1. Tara S.*

      Visualize the skills from this job that you would want to put on a future resume. Are you building those skills right now? Would you need to go somewhere else to do so? If you are building a skillset/getting experience, then you are ok where you are right now. Just keep in touch with your colleagues who are leaving so you can use them to network when you are ready to leave!

    2. BeanCat*

      Oh, “grass is greener”. How many shiny new jobs I have coveted despite being happy with my own.

      I think I would take a mental note of how frequently people leave/how frequently you feel antsy to move on. If you’re feeling it quite a bit, it might be worth examining. But it might also help to write down the things you really love versus the things you don’t. If those positives are enough to keep you happy for a while, I wouldn’t feel a rush just because someone else is leaving.

      But oh, is this a feeling I know well! Solidarity from another overall jittery person.

    3. Autumnheart*

      Keep in mind that you don’t have to think of it as “I stay here and do the same thing” vs. “I take a new job somewhere else”. Maybe you could investigate ways to do cool new things in your current role? Or look for growth at your current company? When a coworker leaves for a new opportunity, that isn’t a bad time to look at what you’re doing and see if you feel inspired to try some stuff.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Ease your mind by collecting up facts.
      Take a look at what is available out there. See anything that has your name all over it? No? Then stay put and check again in a while. You are happy/comfy in your job this means you have the luxury of being selective. If you can find something remarkably better it might be worthwhile to look at. If no, then stand pat.

  13. What’s with Today, today*

    As y’all know I work in small market radio news. I’ve stumbled upon some serious corruption at city hall in our small rural town and an going to release a pretty explosive story next week. My adrenaline is through the roof!

      1. What's with Today, today?*

        I’ll consider posting the print version, though I’m worried because that would absolutely identify me to anyone in my area that might be a reader/or a regular poster.

    1. General Ginger*

      That’s exciting! Well, not the corruption itself, but that you get to illuminate it. I hope it all goes well!

    2. SaraV*

      Ooooo. As someone who has just left a PT job in rural town radio, and whose husband is still FT there, I’m excited for you.

      Maybe, next week, you can tell us how you found out about the corruption.

      Yay journalism!

  14. Anon to use real #'s*

    Possible promotion, salary negotiation

    (Relevant side note: I just finished my MPA yesterday! I’M DONE WITH GRAD SCHOOL!)

    I work at a research institute at a public university. My coworker is leaving (for a great opportunity and everyone is happy for her). She was hired at the same time as me and did the same type of job, just for a different program. Our boss, the head dept admin who works just under the director, has approached me about taking over the vacancy. Coworker and I were/are Teapot Coordinators, but my boss has said that he would upgrade the open position to a Teapot Manager (the role was purposefully lower at first in order to create growth opportunities). While my overall job duties would increase, my boss predicts it will be a slightly less stressful environment than the program I support now (where nearly everyone is on soft money and there is constant scrambling for funding).

    I’ve been at this dept for a little over 1.25 years, and I’ve been at the university for 3.25 years. When I took my current position, I was offered $43,000, I asked for $50,000, I got $48,000. My boss has said that he imagines if I took the promotion, I would go up to $53-55,000. I want $60,000, though I haven’t said that yet. My boss says that he is concerned about optics/compression among the admin staff salaries. While the most senior manager who has been here 30 years makes $70,000*, another manager makes $60,000 (boss has opinion she is overpaid, but she was a grant-funded direct hire, so he didn’t really get a say). One manager who has been here 3 years only makes $52,000, and the new Teapot Funding Specialist makes $52,000 as well. However, if I pull salary data from across the campus** for position with the same classification (does not always correspond to working title), the average salary is $60,000. Take out one department that has had a ton of low-paid new hires, and the average goes up to $62,000. Take out the lowest and highest salaries, it goes up to $63,000.

    What do you guys think is my move here? I’m thinking: “Thank you for considering me for the position, I am excited about the growth opportunities it offers. I know you had given me a salary range you expected for the position, and I know you have concerns about optics and compression, but when I look at the data for people in Teapot Technical Administration roles across campus , the average salary is actually $60,000—higher if you take out Dept ABC roles or skim off the highest and lowest salaries. Having just finished my graduate degree, I’ve thought about the role and I am wondering if you can do $61,000?” In reality I’ll accept down to $57,000. Thoughts?

    *All of our salaries are public, this is not confidential information.

    **Again, this is data anyone outside the university can access, I’m not using my position to get more info.

    ***Also, this is a public university but I am not in the classified system, by boss does have the latitude to do this.

    1. Murphy*

      I work at a public university and I just negotiated a raise. The kind of information that you have about others with a similar classification was exactly what they wanted. (I presented it to my boss and he worked with HR to make it happen.) Don’t just look at the broad classification, but look at people with similar job duties in other research instituted at your university, or even at other universities in your state system. I think your language there is good.

    2. Nines*

      Side note: If you don’t mind/see this, I would love some insight on your feelings about getting your MPA! My partner has been going back and forth on applying for an EMPA, I know he would do well in the program, just worried he won’t get the use out he wants.

      1. Anon to use real #'s*

        I felt a lot of ways about my degree going through it. It helped that I was working full-time and getting some tuition assistance (I work for the University where I got my degree, they don’t cover everything, in the end probably around a third). Working full-time was stressful with school on top, but I didn’t have to worry so much about the money calculation of “is taking this time unpaid to get my degree going to work out so I make enough money to justify it?” because I still had income.

        As far as an MPA in general, I think it will help me, and I’m happy I did it. Having a Masters is helpful, especially when you want to get to higher levels of leadership. (I had classmates who were mayors, police chiefs, people aspiring to be city managers. For those roles/to move up, having the MPA helps cement you as qualified.) To me, an MPA is like an MBA, but with a focus on government and non-profits instead of private business. I knew I wanted to work in the public sphere, so an MPA made way more sense than an MBA. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a job opening that requires an MPA, but my experience is limited.

        I’m not sure what you mean by EMPA? Do you mean just doing the degree online or and MPA with a focus on emergency management? I took a mix of online and in-person classes. It’s definitely possible to have good online courses, but it’s a lot harder imo, and I had some real duds. The best part of some of my in-person classes was just getting to hear my fellow students talk. My program didn’t have a lot of “straight from undergrad” people, mostly people who had been in their careers for a while, and it was educational just to hear their perspectives. If your partner does a totally online degree, and there is an opportunity for an intensive class (I had a couple that were only two weeks long), I would say take it. As far as Emergency Management, I took a class in that and had to interview several EMs for a project. They all either had an advanced degree (not necessarily an MPA) or had decades of experience in something like police work.

  15. Nervous Accountant*

    What’s a nice way to tell someone to sit the F down and get back to work? I’m not going to defend my position of why I need to tell someone to stop socializing and working, just advice on how to do it but not harshly.

    This one employee walks around all.the.time. My mgr has explicitly said “you have the authority over htem to tell them to cut this out.” So…good right? He has my back and all.

    But…but thanks to an awful experience with someone a while back, and just me being me, I’m too chickenshit to say anything. It doesn’t help that I was “reprimanded” by another coworker by telling someone to get back to work (but that’s another story for another day). This employee in question talks to everyone, but specifically this one group she goes to them all day long and I am getting so damn annoyed.

    Don’t get me wrong–she’s a very nice person, she and I have common interests and I love to talk to her about them. If we were peers, I would probably be there along with her. Her manager said he’d talk to her but he hasn’t and probably won’t and tbh he’s a bad example himself b/c he takes a bajillion breaks a day.

    I love socializing just as much as everyone, but there’s a limit. Our culture allows socializing as well so being too harsh will be out of place and uncalled for here.

    1. Teapot Lending Program Manager*

      Are you actually this person’s manager? Their team lead?
      You may not want to justify yourself, but that question matters here. Just because your manager said you can keep them in line doesn’t mean it’s best for you to be the one to do it. Whether this person sees you has having any authority over them matters in how you address it and whether what you say will be effective.
      Is this person disrupting you or others so you can’t do your work?
      Are they not getting things done for you or your team?
      I think you should focus on the problem this is causing rather than your own annoyance.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        +100 to “I think you should focus on the problem this is causing rather than your own annoyance.”

        It probably is incredibly annoying…but whether or not you have legitimate authority over the person, and whether or not it actually is disrupting your work (other than being a thorn in your side), is going to greatly affect whether there’s any effective way you can go about changing the situation in the way that you are wanting to.

    2. ExcelJedi*

      If it’s about listening to them, my go-to is to make it about me: “Sorry, but I’m really trying to concentrate here, and my headphones aren’t working. Could you please keep it down?”

      If they’re not getting work done and it’s affecting you, I’d concentrate on that. Either talk with their manager again, or be direct about your needs (not so much their behaviors). For example: “Hey, will you have this document to me by 2:30? I need to finish writing my report by 5 today, and that information is integral.”

    3. gmg22*

      1) I gather your manager and hers are not the same person? Do those two people have the same grandboss? Maybe that person is the one who needs to step in, because the hierarchy sounds muddled here — one manager telling you you can say something, the other vaguely promising to say something but not doing so — and that could potentially leave you hung out to dry. (This is not cool, and your managers need to sort it out.)

      2) Relevant to your question about the tone of your approach: While you’re trying to get someone in management to, you know, do something (sigh), can this attempt be framed for starters as “hey guys, can you keep it down, I’m having trouble concentrating”? I feel like that is a lot harder to argue with than “Please stop socializing, you need to be working” coming from anyone who isn’t explicitly the employee’s manager. The risk is that it will be counterproductive and the response will be “Who does NA think they are to tell me what to do?”

    4. LKW*

      I usually just walk over with a question and say “I’m going to interrupt because I have a work question.” then I ask my question and then it forces people to get back to work.

      It’s not subtle. Sometimes I start with “I’m sorry, I’m..” but not always. I don’t have to do it often.

    5. Llellayena*

      Interrupt the non-work conversation to ask her about a specific work-related thing, maybe ask her to find something for you that she would have at her desk/on her computer. When she goes back to her desk you can quietly ask her to keep a closer eye on how much time she spends socializing because it’s disruptive to the people around her who are trying to concentrate. If you are a team lead/manager over her, you can be a bit stronger “I need you to socialize less so you and the other employees can concentrate on work more.” (Alison has much better language for these than I do, but you get the idea) Getting her back to her desk to have the conversation solves the in-the-moment defense from the people she was speaking with. It’s a lot less effective for her to tell a story of how “rude” you were to reprimand her for socializing that no one else witnessed than have the others able to chime in with their perspectives too.

    6. SleepyInSeattle*

      So if I’m reading this right you have some authority over her but you aren’t her manager? That is always slightly trickier. Ideally, her boss would be the one to have this conversation with her. But if you are responsible for her work ins some way and the impact of her taking too many breaks affects you in some way and you can speak from that position that’s the best way to go. Whenever I have to have a conversation like this I first ask myself what is it I really want out of the conversation for myself, for the other person, for the relationship, and for the organization. Then ask myself what I can say to make it clear what I really want.

      Especially if she’s not breaking a rule, what’s the core of the problem? What’s the impact? Is she distracting her coworkers? earning a reputation as someone who is slacking off? Not completing things on time? Does her work go undone in a way that affects others when she’s off socializing? Are there impacts that she doesn’t see that you can make more visible to her? Whatever you say, say it in private and not in the heat of the moment if you are annoyed.

      I’d grab her in a moment when you can have some privacy and say something to the effect of “I’ve noticed you spend a lot of time during the day socializing with Joey and Chandler. I don’t want you to feel like you can’t spend time talking with them during the day at all. Everyone here takes occasional breaks and socializes a bit. That’s totally fine. But I’m not sure you realize that you are spending noticeably more time being social during the workday than other people here. Ross has been answering the phone more while you’re away from your desk. And it’s distracting to me and your other coworkers. To give you some guidance on what is normal, two 10 minute breaks a day in addition to your lunch break is standard. The rest of the day you should be focused on your work.”

      1. SleepyInSeattle*

        I should add that my script above is only really appropriate if you have some authority over her work. If you are just an annoyed coworker you can only really discuss how it impacts you and how it may be impacting her reputation.

      2. Parenthetically*

        “what’s the core of the problem? What’s the impact? Is she distracting her coworkers? earning a reputation as someone who is slacking off? Not completing things on time? Does her work go undone in a way that affects others when she’s off socializing? Are there impacts that she doesn’t see that you can make more visible to her?”

        YES, all this! This is a great comment from start to finish.

    7. Boredatwork*

      hello fellow tax accountant – I see you have found the rare extrovert – I’ve heard they exist among our people.

      I think your best bet is to address the root of the problem, sounds like she needs to be assigned more work, more complex work or “managed” a bit more closely to ensure her work is getting done. If she’s under performing, she could be using “social time” as a form of avoidance/procrastination.

      If you’re going to interrupt her social time, I think it will go over better if it is directly work related. I would have a task in hand when you see her, “Oh Beth, are you busy? (clearly no) can you help me with XYZ client?”

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        Heh majority of us here are some sort of extroverted social animals lol

        Thanks everyone elSe, I’ll read through and respond shortly. <3

    8. Former Retail Manager*

      Unless you are the one writing this person’s eval, I would not head into this territory. Also, is she able to get all of her work done while still socializing so frequently? If so, great. The only way you may be able to frame it would be to gently remind her that while she may be super efficient, everyone she’s talking to, may not be, and the chatting may be impacting their productivity. When and how you would say this escape me, because I really think you should leave this to her official manager and the person that writes her eval unless it starts impacting your work directly.

    9. Nervous Accountant*

      I really wish my company hadn’t blocked this website on the computer. So much easier to type from desktop than on the phone. But thank u everyone for the input I really appreciate it!

    10. anon becasue.*

      Have you ever read back over your open thread posts? I’m trying to say this kindly, but it won’t sound that way. You seem to be easily annoyed. It seems every week someone has done something that upsets or annoys you. But I fear that you might be the common denominator. Could it be that you have a low annoyance threshold and maybe these are things you might want to just ignore?

      1. gmg22*

        What I was thinking is along these lines, but slightly different: not that NA should somehow learn “to just ignore” workplace distractions and annoyances (that’s not an easy thing to do, especially in a cube farm environment, and we should recognize that), but that NA might not be the right match temperament-wise for their workplace. It sounds very social and like management is OK with that. Some people don’t do well in that environment and really need a quiet office where they can keep their noses to the grindstone.

        1. Nervous Accountant*

          Actually I like socializing and I enjoy the friendly environment here. So trust me when I say even with these in place, there’s a limit. And like I said I wasn’t going to argue WHY I need to tell someone to work but how to convey it nicely. And yes I have authority to tell people to do their work.

          You come to work to work, and socialize here and there. Not to socialize and work in between. Can’t beliebe I have to even say that.

          1. valentine*

            Nervous Accountant, you don’t have to be nice about it. You can be clear and firm. When she’s at her desk, tell her you’ve noticed a pattern where she visits a lot and you need her to cut that down to x visits/time or only on her breaks for the next y amount of time, some metric she can meet. She disagrees, disputes, debates? You: “Nevertheless…”

            I’m proud of you for rising to these occasions. There must be someone silently cheering you on in the room, who’s just as annoyed by the one guy’s phone and this person’s tours.

      2. Ole8*

        I was thinking that too. Are you sure that this is something you should be doing, given your tendencies? Perhaps a second opinion on the situation would be helpful.

        1. Nervous Accountant*

          I’ve gotten several opinions from different people and they agree with me. And I am pretty sure they’re not the way I’m somehow being portrayed here.

      3. Boredatwork*

        Public accounting firms are notoriously dysfunctional. Esp the smaller regional/local ones. Nervous has basically been tasked with herding a bunch cats, with little, to no real, authority.

        Competent/strong mangers are extremely rare. Mainly because the type of person who is good at tax accounting, probably isn’t the same person who’s good at people management.

        Add in a bunch of children (kids fresh out of college) who are working their first job, throw in some blatant sexism (been there too) and you have the makings of the majority of nervous’ posts.

        1. gmg22*

          Very useful context. I definitely got a sense of “different managers are going to tell you different things and it’s not going to be clear who has authority over what” from NA’s post.

      4. Nervous Accountant*

        Actually I like socializing and I enjoy the friendly environment here. So trust me when I say even with these in place, there’s a limit. And like I said I wasn’t going to argue WHY I need to tell someone to work but how to convey it nicely. And yes I have authority to tell people to do their work.

        You come to work to work, and socialize here and there. Not to socialize and work in between. Can’t beliebe I have to even say that.

        1. ...*

          Well that was pretty snarky considering how nicely gmg phrased the question. Because it’s not just your posts about work. It’s pretty much every aspect of your life – at least, the stuff you post about on here. The responses you get on here are generally pretty delicate because you’re clearly (perpetually) dealing with a lot at home, and constantly making choices that add more problems to your plate. But it gets frustrating to read when it’s the same problem in a new situation over and over – most advice you receive isn’t no used, and when it is you don’t carry it over to use for other similar problems, you just comment for advice again.

    11. Parenthetically*

      Yep, just agreeing that in order for this to be effective, it cannot be about your annoyance or any of your other emotions, and it has to be about the impact on her work/productivity/reputation/optics. There’s a productive way to handle this that’s likely to lead to success, and that’s to focus on the work aspect of it; and there’s an emotionally satisfying way to handle this that’s likely to lead to strife and increased annoyance, and that’s to focus on how it’s pissing you off.

    12. Not So NewReader*

      I think you are saying your biggest hurdle here is that you are concerned about being scolded by a coworker. If this is the case you have a slam dunk in that your boss supports you. And that is the card to play here.

      You: Jane, would you please return to your desk?
      Jane: Blah, blah, blah
      You: Jane, I am asking you nicely to return to your desk as these folks here really need to focus on their work.

      Busybody Cohort: NA, what did you do that for? It’s none of your business. blah, blah, blah.
      You: I discussed this with Boss and he agreed that Jane needs to spend more time at her desk. If you have any questions about this matter, you can talk it over with Boss.

      I am not clear on your exact setting but if the people she is talking with are YOUR people do feel free to interrupt and say, “Jane, I really need them to focus on our project right now.” This works because while you are not Jane’s boss, Jane is interfering with people and work under your watch. Because they are under your watch that gives you solid basis to say something.

  16. WellRed*

    Any editorial/writer types out there with suggestions for how to frame work as accomplishments on a resume? I am stumped beyond, “wrote widely read breaking news and other articles” (or some such). I mean, I manage some social media and stuff and update the website, etc. but don’t track any sort of metrics. I don’t sell ads. Help.

    1. Snow Drift*

      Number of page views on your articles. Also mention any major publications that picked up your articles.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      “Wrote local news stories for a paper with a circulation of X.”
      “Wrote informational background pieces on ecological issues, both general and in-depth, for website with X users.”

      Look at a job description of a role you would like (or maybe envision one) and then use those same keywords in describing your skills. “Wrote breaking news” could be anything from “reported on the elementary school chicken festival” to “carried out investigative reporting into the North Carolina mail-in ballot fraud.”

      1. Zildafitz*

        Ha, as someone who’s almost literally worked on both, I think the chicken festival was more widely-read

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Only one of these stories has an accompanying photo of my child dressed as an adorable little chicken.

    3. Tara S.*

      If you run a Facebook or Twitter, you can pull historical metrics about how followers count has increased (use % change or # of followers, whichever sounds better relatively). Those particular platform should also be able to tell you the “reach” of your content, so you can talk about “creating content that generated X impressions over X years.”

      Are you sure there’s no metrics of the news stories? Is there someone in your org you could ask about it? You can talk about how “I just want to get a better handle on how my work has been performing.” *Someone* is usually tracking that kind of stuff. Otherwise, you could talk about number of articles you published?

      1. Anon de plume*

        Well , there are metrics, but they don’t sound all that impressive on paper for the most part. Huge stories (a handful a year) may get 2 to 4K views, but most only get several hundred. We are a monthly print edition, with a weekly digital newswire. It’s an industry niche publication

        1. Metrics Fan*

          Can you show how your widely-read stories compared to the average story? I’m thinking like “wrote human interest story that generated 50% more views than average story in 2018.” That way people aren’t focused on the raw numbers–they’re focused on how your accomplishment looks in context.

    4. Mockingjay*

      Remember to highlight research and editing skills and work. How you do something is important. Proofreading, vetting sources, etc. Define the types of articles: short, full-length, with column inches or pages – whatever is appropriate.

      Did you learn any web-related skills for the website or social media accounts? Those are also really good to note.

  17. Sensitive Girl Diaries*

    We have a new person starting in my department next week. Today my boss told me they’ll be sitting in one of the cubicles behind me, which is where my old boss sat. I asked whether the new person could sit in the cubicle next to me, but she told me that the cubicle/computer belonged to a different position. I told her that having them sit behind me felt heirarchical, especially since that’s where my old boss sat. She reminded me that one of our junior colleagues once sat behind her cubicle. This did not make me feel better.

    1. Ms.Vader*

      I feel this just might be a “you” issue in that I’ve worked in a ton of offices and never felt that somebody sitting behind me is somehow higher than me. Hierarchy is based on position and responsibilities. This is especially true as your management told you that’s not the case. You’ll end up making it a way bigger deal than it is if you continue to worry about this kind of stuff.

    2. Katicus*

      You need to get over where your old boss sat. It’s a desk, now an office. Things change and this is really not a big deal or worth pushing back on. It makes you look out of touch.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I recall a letter where someone who had been assaulted by a man was sensitive to having a man sit behind her, but not a woman, and the company dealt with it by moving her desk so no one sat behind her. PTSD accommodation.

      What you’re describing isn’t that. Sitting behind you doesn’t mean that person is your boss or your subordinate or any other hierarchical position.

      Your boss pointed out that she has had the exact same geography and it didn’t mean anything about the hierarchy–that should have made you feel, if not better, at least that you might be off base as to whether this is a thing.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          “I am uncomfortable with group X behind me due to this past trauma–it’s not logical and I realize that” is a very different awkward conversation with your boss than “People from Group X make me uncomfortable and I don’t want any behind me.”

          And even people who qualify for the first one are loath to have that talk unless they are really struggling.

          You’re uncomfortable with things that really are normal and don’t bother other people. It made sense to check that perception here before returning to it with your boss–but as I’m typing no replies are saying “You’re totally normal and your boss is the one who’s out of line.”

        2. Ms.Vader*

          It sounds like you’re uncomfortable with a lot of things that are normal parts of Office culture. I’d be very offended if someone didn’t want me to sit behind them solely based on my sex. If it’s stemming from some kind of trauma you’d want to work that through with a counsellor to give you coping mechanisms. But as the issue of him being a man seems to be a side note, I doubt it’s that serious. I would not accommodate this. I’d actually worry about your critical thinking skills and judgement.

        3. J*

          “The new employee is a man, which I am also uncomfortable with.”

          ~Seriously???
          This site has gotten way out of control with the feminist double standards.

    4. Sensitive Girl Diaries*

      Maybe so. But the truth is that my old boss was moved into a different position and still uses that desk when she comes to our offices. If I had known it was available I would have moved to that cube.

      1. fposte*

        But the first isn’t your problem, and the second isn’t your option. If there’s another cube you’d like to move to, you can raise it now, but I wouldn’t base it on a perceived hierarchy in the geometry, and I’d accept a “No.”

        The bottom line is that this isn’t a big enough thing for your dislike of it to change anything, and the specific concern you name isn’t one that is going to get a lot of play. I’d suck it up and save the energy for a battle that’s winnable and worth it.

        1. Oxford Comma*

          I agree. I think by pursuing it you’re wasting political capital on something that is going to look unreasonable.

    5. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Are you worried that the way the office is laid out makes it look like you are a receptionist to the person who sits behind you? That might be the perception with a desk directly outside of an office, but that’s not usually the case in cubicle set ups. Cubes are the great equalizer — everyone is equally miserable.

      1. Sensitive Girl Diaries*

        No, I sit in a bank of cubicles that are divided into sections. Though I am sometimes the first person people see as they walk down the hallway, I don’t look like a receptionist or general assistant. Though, sometimes I get asked directions by visitors to our floor, which can be annoying.

    6. AngryOwl*

      I think this might be a personal thing, as I don’t think most people equate desk location with hierarchy.

    7. Winter Red*

      I think you need to reframe your thinking about this. This sounds like a very normal office thing, and making a big deal out of it will not reflect well on you professionally. Try to keep reminding yourself that it’s just a desk, it doesn’t convey any information on hierarchy to others, and that it’s not a big deal. You’ll probably find you adjust to her sitting there quickly once it happens – your brain is just used to things being one way and doesn’t have anything else to compare it to yet.

    8. Meredith Brooks*

      Honestly? Reading this thread and your replies, it sounds like you have expectations that aren’t reasonable. You didn’t tell your boss until after the fact that you were interested in moving your cubicle. You’re dismissing a very similar seating situation for reasons I don’t understand. (Maybe because your new coworker is a man or because you’re worried people will think he’s senior to you because he sits in a cubicle near you) I suppose my question is, knowing the seating arrangements won’t be changed, what reasons would have made you feel better? And if the answer is nothing than you are indeed being unreasonable.

      1. Sensitive Girl Diaries*

        I would have liked my boss to maybe talk to me about the cube before assigning it to the new person. Even if the decision remained the same, I’d hope my feedback would be considered. But, since we didn’t talk about it, I never got the opportunity to share my thoughts on it.

        1. Annie Moose*

          Why would your boss discuss it with you, though? It’s just an empty cubicle like any other cubicle, right? That’s what it sounds like from your description, after all. It’s pretty normal for managers to just go “Right–the new person will sit at the empty desk here” without needing to consult with other people. You did raise a reasonable objection (“it’d be more convenient if we sat next to each other”) and your boss gave you a reasonable answer (“that’s technically a different department’s desk”).

        2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

          It’s not very reasonable to expect to be consulted on seating assignments unless you have some sort of supervisory position. You sound like you’re trying to create a hierarchy where one does not exist. Are you insecure about having a new coworker and you wanted to establish that you are “higher” than her?

        3. TGIF*

          That does not seem like a reasonable request. Most of my department is in cubicles and you go where space is free. The only time I saw a special request granted was one coworker asked to move to a cubicle closer to a window for her seasonal depression and it only happened because that desk was free at just the right time, I don’t know if they would have let her switch just because she asked.

        4. N.J.*

          Not to sound harsh, but why would or should your boss care about what you think about who would be assigned to that cubicle? Do you have a compelling reason that you could give as to why your feedback matters? Were you hoping the boss would ask you first so you could have the cubicle? We don’t generally get to pick our work neighbors or where we sit, so it’s just something you’ve got to get over. If you want that cubicle, ask, maybe the boss will say yes, but remind yourself that it would just be the boss being nice, not a right or something you are entitled to.

        5. Jules the 3rd*

          Expecting management discussion about seating assignments is not in line with most office norms. As you can see from the responses here, it’s wildly out of the norm. Your boss doesn’t mean anything by it, and if you push it, it will bring your professionalism into question.

          Deep breath, and let it go, forever. Do not mention it to the new hire, do not ask to trade spaces, let it go.

        6. valentine*

          You have at least until the person starts to ask to sit there yourself. Maybe say it’s because there’s less distraction via the foot traffic. If you’d be speaking to the same person about it and they remind you of the hierarchy discussion, tell them you see what they meant.

          Is there no cubicle wall between you and the one in question or are the walls low enough for the person there to pretty much look over your shoulder? If so, think of ways to alter the space (plants, whiteboards) to minimize his impact.

          A lot of these replies seem very harsh. I hope you’re okay.

    9. Autumnheart*

      It sounds as though the boss is doing a perfectly reasonable thing, and it is appropriate for your boss to not factor your objections into her decision. You don’t have any standing to decide where anyone sits, and if the cubes are in fact not arranged according to hierarchy, then it doesn’t make sense at all to change the seating arrangement based sole on one person’s perception of how random people might visually perceive the team’s hierarchy. The actual hierarchy already dictates who is and isn’t the boss.

    10. CM*

      You know what? We’re not in your office and we don’t know what the vibe is there. I’m not going to tell you this is a weird thing to be stressed about.

      The bad feeling you have about letting the new person sit behind you may be a sign to think about how you’re feeling about the office hierarchy in general, and if you’re happy with how you’re being treated. The seating arrangements might sound like a weird hill to die on, but they could be that this symbolizes a bigger issue you’re having.

  18. Nervous Accountant*

    And a bunch of Random stuff—

    1. We made a giant switch in our CRM and it’s utter chaos. Madness I tell you. Madness.

    2. “Sorry I’m super swamped right now.” Takes 4 breaks a day.

    3. “I swear no one pays attention to me.” Puts my emails in a filter and ignores them.
    4. Our HR is… well let me backtrack, so if yall remmeber Kevin, the asshole, she said that his references said “he doesn’t play well w others” and apparently never shared this with the other managers. Had she shared that he wouldn’t have been hired. FML.

    5. Did I mention it’s been madness all week, new portal, lots of chaos. My mgr is out sick so it’s a miracle I found time to drink my coffee .

    1. LCL*

      Re #4-I’m laughing loudly at the situation. Not at you. How do you think he managed to get hired? Was he an exceptionally charming interview?

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        Hmmmm he does have years of experience and has some strengths. Possibly that. I’m super annoyed with her lately but biting my tongue.

    2. Tara S.*

      Our CRM upgrade was such a shitshow, they’re still cleaning it up two years later. Best of luck that yours gets up and running sooner!

    3. Emma S*

      Totally agree with #2. I’m trying to help our travel coordinator with a big trip for my bosses because she is swamped. Yet I’m never able to find her when I need to ask a question because she is either on a very long lunch break or chatting on the phone. You’re not swamped, you’re distracted!

    4. HBucket*

      If the reference (presumably one chosen by the new hire) said that then what AREN’T they saying and how in the AF does any HR person think that they should hire them anyway??? I don’t care how great they are at their job if they get a reference like that!

  19. Partly Cloudy*

    I know that handwritten thank-you/follow-up notes after interviews are normally Not A Thing anymore since everyone uses e-mail. I had an interview recently and the recruiter (external; works for a staffing company but is friends with the hiring manager at the client company) is kind of insisting that I write a handwritten note in addition to the e-mail. He brought it up twice, once before the interview and once after. I’m really hesitant to do it because of today’s norms and also based on some other interview prep information he gave me that I found to be… off. (He told me to wear a dark colored suit – I don’t own a suit so I wore my standard interview outfit – and when I got there I saw that MANY people were wearing jeans, including the hiring manager). Thoughts?

    1. Punk Ass Book Jockey*

      It sounds like he’s out of touch with contemporary workplace norms. I’ve found Allison’s advice about resumes, cover letters, interviewing, and thank yous to be extremely helpful, so I recommend checking out the AAM archives for advice that makes sense in 2018. Good luck with your job search!

    2. [insert witty username here]*

      Ask your recruiter why they’re insisting on a handwritten note. Ask if they know that the hiring manager specifically likes it, because otherwise it seems pretty dated. You can even bring up that the advice about the suit seemed to be vastly different from what everyone else was wearing. See what they say.

      1. Yorick*

        Yeah, since he’s friends with the hiring manager, he might be insisting because he knows the manager likes it

        1. Partly Cloudy*

          This is what I was wondering. I guess I’ll pick up a blank note somewhere and put it in the mail.

          To clarify, I did send an email already.

          1. Yes Minister*

            Oh, if you already emailed I wouldn’t send the handwritten note too, that’s going to look weirder than just one or the other.

              1. Partly Cloudy*

                Thank you! I won’t. :) This is the answer I was hoping for and if it comes up again with the recruiter (which I really hope it won’t, it would be weirdly aggressive if he brought it up a third time) I’ll push back gently.

          2. Natalie*

            For what it’s worth, I think you can just… politely say no. I’ve pushed back professionally with external recruiters before (no, Jan, if I’m leaving a job after six months I can’t just say I’m “looking for new opportunities”) and I’ve never been fired as a candidate before. The recruiting firm makes literal 10s of thousands of dollars from your candidacy.

    3. LKW*

      Email will get there faster but a physical note will never be a wrong move. Ask him if there’s a reason, since it will be several days before it gets to the hiring manager’s desk.

      Being overdressed at an interview (professionally) will never be counted against you. The opposite will.

        1. Partly Cloudy*

          I didn’t mean *I* would’ve worn jeans, just that I got a picture of a much more formal environment than it actually is. And like I said, I don’t own a suit so I wore my standard dress pants and blouse and felt totally comfortable.

          1. LKW*

            I’m sure it was fine. The recruiter has likely had feedback that people came dressed down and he wanted to avoid it happening again.

    4. OlympiasEpiriot*

      I have no clue if anyone still does this, but a loooooong time ago I remember having to specifically submit a piece of handwriting that was going to be looked at by a handwriting analyst.

      (Of course, these days, who writes anything? Everyone under 30 has a dreadful hand except for people who make a point of practicing it.)

      1. Dragoning*

        I know plenty of people under 30 with good handwriting–not quite sure why you’re making that assumption.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Then you must know plenty of “people who make a point of practicing it'”, as I wrote.

          I require people to be able to do handwork for certain tasks (there is no other efficient way to do these tasks). The proportion of people in my firm under 30 who have dreadful writing and printing is by far the larger part.

  20. I Want to Tell You*

    Interviewing Question:

    I’ve decided that it’s time for me to embark on an aggressive job search in January—December is my busy season—and I have an interview question relating to being asked about what you don’t like about your manager. I know conventional wisdom is to not badmouth your manager, but is it okay to give an answer with regard to management style? I’m thinking of saying something along the lines of my boss being non confrontational to a fault in that he doesn’t effectively deal with problem employees or advocate for us with upper management. The hope is that I can screen out potential bosses who are like this, but would answering the question this way invite too many red flag-questions? Any advice is appreciated!

    1. Karen from Finance*

      I think this wording might be a red flag, because if you don’t like that your boss is non-confronational to a fault, someone who doesn’t know you might read that as you being confrontational.

      I think if you start it off with a compliment (“they’re great at this and this, BUT…”) it might soften it. You can talk about management style in a way that suggests an attempt to sound more neutral: “I’m more of a problem-solver, while his style is more complaisant, so we didn’t always agree”. I’m looking for a better adjective than complaisant, but something along those lines.

    2. Shark Whisperer*

      I would focus on yourself and what kind of management styles work or don’t work with your work style. Something like “I work best when I get consistent feedback on my work and my current boss isn’t able to provide that.” or in your case, “I feel more confident and able to take risks when I have a manager who actively advocates for our team with upper management, but I never saw any evidence of that with my current boss.”

      The person asking this question doesn’t actually want to know what’s wrong with your current boss, they want to know what kind of manager you jive with with and what kind you don’t.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      That’s a weird thing to ask—what you don’t like about your manager? It makes sense to ask what management styles you prefer or thrive best under.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      One problem is that you don’t know if they have some connection to your boss–is he “Fergus, the guy dating my little sister” or “Fergus, that jerk” or “Fergus, whom I see at industry things once a year or so.” Your answer needs to convey that you are not saying Fergus is a bad person, just that you may not have meshing work styles. e.g. “He’s extremely laid back, and I find more set direction helpful.”

      Of course the ability to read the interviewer will really help here, and that’s a skill not everyone has.

    5. Less Bread More Taxes*

      What about saying something unrelated when they ask you why you’re leaving, but turn this into a question instead? Ask them what their management style is, because you work best with problem-solvers that are good communicators and willing to nip problems in the bud rather than drag them out. Something more eloquent perhaps, but you get the idea.

    6. Gaia*

      I’d say you’re looking for a culture that is focused on the development and growth of the staff. Including a culture of management that is quick to provide and address feedback on processes and people.

    7. LKW*

      I would turn it around and outline what behaviors you saw from your best/most admired managers. What tells you that you’re working with a good manager or a great manager?

    8. Emilitron*

      I’d go with stating how you had to change to accommodate him. The read-between-the-lines is that he’s doing it wrong, but what you’re saying is how you can adapt to the needs of the situation despite what you’d prefer. “There’s nothing I dislike about him directly and my experience in his group has been good, but one thing I had to adapt about my working style in his group was [to be more willing to advocate for myself]. In other circumstances I’ve found [that a very pro-active manager can help with corporate dynamics up and down the hierarchy] but this was a circumstance where we [did a lot of our own team dynamics resolution, and learned to handle things ourselves]. I’d like to think that this has helped me be able to read and respond to a lot of different management styles.”

    9. AnotherJill*

      Even though the question is inherently negative, you should still put your answer in a positive light. For example, “I work best with managers who are advocates for their employees” or “I always thrive with managers who are effective at identifying and resolving personnel issues”.

    10. Clementine*

      Are you sure you’ll be asked this question?
      I avoid any bad-mouthing if I possibly can. You can convey interest in the current role without saying there’s anything wrong with your current company (I’ve done this successfully several times).

  21. Snow Drift*

    Need some newbie LinkedIn help.

    I got a BS at a large, well-known university that’s excellent for networking in almost all of the U.S. I got an MS from a small, private university that is not at all well-known in my current area. LinkedIn seems to prioritize whatever school shows up most recently, including it in your profile snapshot and suggesting connections based on it. Is there any way to force it to prioritize the older school, other than removing the dates of graduation and physically dragging the bachelor’s degree above the master’s degree?

    1. hermit crab*

      You can definitely switch what appears in the snapshot! Click the little pencil to the right of your profile picture, and you can edit the information in your “intro” section. There should be a drop-down menu with your various educational credentials, and you can choose which one appears.

      I don’t know if that changes anything about the suggestions it gives you, but at least it will change what other people see.

      1. Snow Drift*

        Thanks! When I switch that way, it still flips the order in the education section down below. It may not for others, though…I’ll have to ask a friend to show me how it looks from her account.

        1. hermit crab*

          Oh, interesting! I didn’t realize it would do that. If nothing else works, maybe you can actually write your preferred school into your snapshot text? A lot of people use the auto-generated text, but I think you can enter your own. For example, I’ve seen some profiles with a tagline like “teapot professional looking for consulting opportunities.”

    2. Janey-Jane*

      If you look at your profile, in the summary area towards the top, there’s a pen in the upper right corner. Click that, and you can edit which school shows. That may help.

  22. Karen from Finance*

    Hi Everyone!

    I’m looking for advice on how to compartimentalize emotions at work. I sometimes deal with sensitive information that could affect my coworkers and friends and know it will get easier in time, but is there some sort of strategy to not be affected in the meantime?

    Thanks,

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Do you have a safe person you can talk to when you feel overwhelmed?

      I had some sensitive situations come up when I was working in higher ed and had a few occasions where I just had to walk away from my desk and talk to my supervisor to work through my feelings.

      1. Karen from Finance*

        Not really, as I’m a one-woman department which means I report to the Board, and anyone outside them may be affected by the data we discuss (plans for the company, budget cuts, etc).

        For lower level stuff I vent with my coworker/friend and she’ll always ask if I look upset, but even if I were willing to share sensitive data (which I’m not), I wouldn’t trust her with it anyway.

        So for now I’m unloading it all on my partner which honestly I doubt is healthy in the long term.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Does your company have an EAP? This might be a good thing to discuss with a therapist.

          1. Parenthetically*

            Yes! If this is sensitive work stuff that’s happening regularly, therapy is a great place to put together a toolbox of strategies to use long-term.

    2. BeanCat*

      Ooooh. Emotions – I love the good ones and the happy rush, but the bad ones I feel so acutely in turn.

      Would it help you to write these things down? I wad dealing with an upsetting personal thing at work this week and taking a few minutes to jot it down let me see it, take a breath, and come back to it later.

      If the information is sensitive enough it can’t be written, I try picturing each emotion as a little sheep in a field. They flock to me and I pick each one up to acknowledge it before placing it gently over the other side of the fence. When I’m ready I’ll go check in on the sheep. But trying to physically “put” it somewhere helps.

      Good luck and please take care of yourself!

      1. Yorick*

        This is a good idea. Even if the information shouldn’t be written down, you can journal about your feelings in general.

    3. lazuli*

      I’m a therapist, so I’ll suggest therapy! But also I find that just getting involved in other, distracting work-related tasks/projects can help. Other ideas:

      * Telling yourself, “Yes, this is sad/upsetting information, but I can’t change it or talk about it now, so I’m going to set it aside and focus on X.”
      * Reminding yourself of the ethics of your job. I once had to hold info from a work friend that really affected her, but because of my position, I wasn’t allowed to share it with her. Reminding myself constantly that I was upholding a higher ethical standard helped a bit.
      * Giving yourself a certain time of day to feel the emotions/ruminate on it, and if the emotions or thoughts come up at different times, telling yourself, “I can only worry about these things from 6pm to 6:15pm,” and pushing it back till then. Also, make sure you do set a cut-off time for the ruminating!
      * There’s a thought-stopping technique of just imagining a Stop sign or hearing/seeing the word “STOP” every time you notice the thoughts coming up. You’d still want to give yourself time to process later, but it can be helpful in the moment (e.g., you’re in a meeting or having a conversation with someone).

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I don’t think it’s possible to be totally unaffected by some types of info. For example if you find out that people are getting laid off.
      In this example here, I found out a slew of people were getting laid off. By chance the boss asked if I would take X project. It was a risk because the deadline was tight. I could get a serious reprimand if we failed. But it would mean that the people to be laid off could work two more weeks. I took the project and the risk so people would have a little more time to find jobs.
      This is a case of where I knew confidential information and I was in a position to lessen the blow a tiny bit.

      There are other times where there is not much you can do except force yourself to look at the WHOLE picture not a little part of the story. I had to fire someone, this always sucks. I made a list of several strong talking points to get myself through it.
      My first talking point was to make me reality based. “This is part of my job. From time to time I may have to fire people.”
      My next point was to broaden my perspective. “I can’t make the rest of the crew carry this person’s workload. I have to think about the entire crew not just this one person. And I can’t just think about how *I* feel here. It’s not all about me, only part of the story is about me.”

      Rather than compartmentalizing, I tend to be a fan of backing up and backing up to see a bigger and bigger picture. Sometimes when we look at things too closely it’s too hard/painful. We need to look at the whole picture and the different aspects going on, in order to balance our thoughts.
      And this is something I was able to use in my personal life, too. Bad Thing would happen with home/family/whatever and I would make myself back up and back up until I understood the big picture explanation why Bad Thing happened OR I understood how to minimize the impact of Bad Thing.

      If none of this resonates with you or you cannot see yourself being able to apply it because things are Very Bad, you may need to consider moving on. I had a job where people were sick and/or dying. I could only do that job for so long and then I had to move on for my own well-being. I went to the point where I could not cope with the huge amount of confidential Bad News I was receiving.

    5. Karen from Finance*

      Thank you all for this advice. I don’t think I am able to fit therapy into my schedule at this time, although I fully support it in general and I’ve done years of it in the past for my depression/anxiety. Will definitely make it fit one way or the other it it escalates up to a certain point, though – one of the tools my past therapy did give me is an ability to self-monitor my mental state and realize when it’s crossed a certain threshold. So yes, I’ll absolutely be keeping it in mind.

      For the other advice, lazuli, BeanCat, Not So NewReader: thank you. These are specially helpful and I will be coming back to this post for reference.

  23. Murphy*

    How big of a deal is it to put one quick top coat of nail polish on at work? I’m in an open area where nobody sits near me (the cube next to me and the one behind it are empty, as are the two behind me) and I’d be doing it first thing in the morning when the offices less nearby are also empty.

    Non work related: For mental health reasons I’m struggling with biting the crap out of my nails and keeping them painted and not chipped is super helpful to me. Putting on an extra layer or two of top coat (one at at a time) helps them chip a lot less. And doing it in the evening at home during the week is really hard for me because toddler.

    1. blink14*

      I wouldn’t do it, the smell can linger for a long time. Would you be able to do it outside or in your car, if you drive?

      Flip side, have you thought about doing gel or powder dip polishes?

        1. blink14*

          True gel polish is supposed to last longer, but you’d need to do it at a salon and have it removed at a salon, as removing it at home can damage your nails. At home gel, like Essie Gel Couture, will probably get you a week, maybe a little more, with absolutely no chips (the top coat is great too).

          Powder dip isn’t as big of a thing, at least where I live, but from what I’ve heard, it lasts even better than gel. Again, you’d have to go to a salon for that.

      1. Murphy*

        Oh, and I could do it in my car, but I’d have to wait for it to dry completely before I could clock in and start working.

        1. jack*

          If you can from a time and $ standpoint, go to gel. It’s 100x better than regular polish. I’ve never found a good at home one that works, so I’d suggest going to a salon.

          1. a heather*

            Essie gel couture is pretty good. Not quite as good as a salon, but you can also take it off with regular nail polish remover.

            1. blink14*

              Agree with this – even using the Essie Gel Couture top coat on regular nail polish, I get a good week with no chips.

          1. Murphy*

            No. I have plenty things I can do at my desk that involve minimal typing. After a minute or two, even typing is OK. If I did it in my car, I’d have to wait a while until I could carry my stuff up to my office, take off my coat, etc.

        2. Eve*

          I do it frequently in my car on the way to work. I sit in my driveway after my seatbelt. My hands are basically on the steering wheel the whole time so it is a great time to let them dry on the way to work.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I was going to bring up the smell. It will smell like you’re giving yourself manicures (and pedicures?) even if no one sees you doing it–like you must have whisked the bottle into your drawer when you heard footsteps.

        I wouldn’t put on nail polish and then type, so it will suggest that you were wasting more time than the minute or two of polish application.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Pretty big, I’m afraid. The fumes carry, and they linger. I’ve had the same issue with nail polish helping to stop me from picking at my nails, so I understand this is important and isn’t really a grooming thing, but I’d still draw the line at doing it at work. Have you tried a quick-dry top coat at home (Seche Vita is great) or a gel manicure?

      1. Murphy*

        At home I can’t do it until after my daughter goes to bed, and I find that when I do that, even if it seems dry by the time I go to bed, in the morning it’s not smooth anymore. I get the impression of my sheets or blankets pressed into it. It’s happened a bunch of times.

        1. blink14*

          This has happened to me too – I use the Essie Gel Couture top coat with every polish I use, including non-gel. It dries pretty quickly, but I leave about 2 hours before finishing my nails and going to bed.

          There are also drops/oils that help your nails dry more quickly.

        2. Makeup Addict*

          Have you tried Seche Vite? It’s amazing, my polish is properly dry very quickly and I don’t get any marks like those you describe. I highly recommend it!

    3. hate being late*

      I agree with other commenters re: the smell lingering. And the other thing I’d be thinking if I was your boss/coworkers is that this person doesn’t have enough to do if they are painting their nails. That doesn’t meant that’s the case, but it might look that way.

      1. JanetM*

        I remember, long ago, the receptionist where I worked took just a second to clip a hangnail while her computer booted up. The senior attorney felt that if she had time to “do her nails” she didn’t have enough work to do. *sigh* The paralegal / office manager talked him down from that ledge, and later warned all of us to go to the bathroom if we needed to do anything like that.

    4. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Noooooooooo, don’t do it.

      That’s a very strong smell that lingers for hours. It will make a LOT of people uncomfortable or unhappy.

      Sounds like your best option will be to do it before work, either before your commute or in your car. (And yes, that means you’ll have to wait to clock in… but does that mean if you do it once you’re clocked in you’re not able to work while it dries? That… doesn’t seem ethical.)

    5. Tragic The Gathering*

      Strongly advise against this unfortunately — seems like one of those personal grooming habits best left at home, lest you become a “why does that person in my office do xyz at work?” story. The smell lingers and can be strong.

      Could you do it in your car (with the windows open) before you walk into the office?

    6. Less Bread More Taxes*

      Oh man, I always do this! Reading these comments is making me feel terrible about all the times I’ve done it (I use it to stop nail biting also, so it’s vital I fix those chips).

      What if we switched to doing it in the bathroom?

      1. blink14*

        I think the bathroom, smell wise, could be even worse. More enclosed space would make the smell linger even longer.

      2. OlympiasEpiriot*

        I don’t think there’d be a problem with doing it in the bathroom as long as you don’t hog a stall or a sink while doing it (might not be enough space).

        Luckily, I have access to a lab where I could theoretically stop in and do that and the smell would not be noticed there.

      3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        No, that’s worse — the smell will be concentrated in a small space.

        If you need to do this during work hours, you need to do it outside or in your car.

        Signed,

        A fellow nail-biter but this just isn’t cool

    7. JustaCPA*

      FWIW, I used to bite my nails also. I found nail stickers (I use some made by a MLM called Jamberry but you can find easily enough at drugstore) and for the first time in my life (50+ years) I have pretty nails. First time took me almost 45 minutes to apply (but Im kind of meticulous about it). It takes me about 15-20 minutes now and they last 2+ weeks. Also, no smell – just need heat. I use special heater I bought for it when home but you can use hairdryer, car vents or hand dryer in bathroom as well.

      I agree with other replies that you should NOT use polish in the office. Just way too smelly.

    8. Yorick*

      Yesterday I was having breakfast at a coffee shop and the woman behind me was putting on nail polish, so my egg sandwich tasted like nail polish.

      I vote for not doing it at work.

    9. Alfonzo Mango*

      IMO it’s not a big deal. It’s just one quick top coat. The worst they will do is tell you not to do it again.

    10. Ron McDon*

      Here in the UK I use two really good Rimmel nail polishes, don’t know if they’re available in the US though.

      Rimmel 60 second nail polish: really does dry in 60 seconds, so you could apply in your car before going in to the office.

      Rimmel super gel nail polish: has a thicker, gel-polish like consistency. You put on two coats of the colour, then add the super gel top coat – I do lots of manual stuff day to day, including typing, and it lasts a good fortnight without chipping.

      1. jolene*

        Ask the people around you. I wouldn’t mind at all. In fact it would be nice to know I could do the same.

    1. Shark Whisperer*

      I’ve never gotten any questions like this but I actually think #14 ” You have to get from point A to point B. You don’t know if you can get there. What would you do?” isn’t that bad of a question

      1. Karen from Finance*

        I read about this one and the point is seeing how you respond to a question that has a whole lot of possible valid answers, because there’s not really A reason. Yours was one of the valid answers to the question itself, others were:

        – A round manhole cover cannot fall through its circular opening, whereas a square manhole cover could fall in if it were inserted diagonally in the hole.
        – Circular covers don’t need to be rotated or precisely aligned when placing them on the opening.
        – A round manhole cover is easily moved and rolled.
        – Human beings have a roughly circular cross-section.
        – It’s easier to dig a circular hole.
        – Round castings are much easier to manufacture using a lathe.
        – They aren’t, necessarily: non-round manhole covers exist.

        As with a lot of these open questions, I assume the point is to see how you respond and your attitude and approach in general.

    2. Gumby*

      We asked brainteasers in interviews but they did have correct answers. Not getting it right wasn’t a deal-breaker, but we were looking for candidates to be able to explain their reasoning.

      I was once told I basically got a job based on my answer to a similar question. Apparently me “I think the answer is [A] but let me just verify that” followed by me writing down an decision tree was enough to convince the interviewer that I was organized / methodical / thorough enough to handle a quality assurance job.

      1. HBucket*

        Yes, I think I’d have hired you based on that also!! Nobody does that in an interview, and I think it’s awesome that, while you showed confidence, you also showed that you are (as you noted) organized, methodical, and thorough!

    3. CM*

      “3. You need to check that your friend Bob has your correct phone number, but you cannot ask him directly. You must write the question on a card and give it to Eve who will take the card to Bob and return the answer to you. What must you write on the card, besides the question, to ensure that Bob can encode the message so that Eve cannot read your phone number?”

      The answer is “gouge Eve’s eyes out before you write it down,” right? That’s what I should blurt out during the interview? Just checking.

  24. Anon de plume*

    We had to let someone go this week. She was the editor of a publication we decided to fold. It was sudden but not totally unexpected due to lack of traction/ad sales. Her email box has been left open for a bit. Her reply message states: “I am no longer employed at Company and Publication is no longer being maintained. If you have any job openings or need to contact me, email@email.com.”
    We were surprised, to say the least, about the job openings comment.

    1. MAPS*

      Almost the exact same story was shared below by the poster “WellRed”. Weird that you both had the exact same thing happen to you?

  25. GoMe!*

    I’m applying to graduate schools and it’s quite the field change, and I emailed a professor this week and he said I was qualified and we talked about working in his lab! I’m ecstatic, and desperately hope I get in! :D Wooo women in science!

    1. Deryn*

      How exciting! I just finished submitting my PhD applications for this cycle on the 1st, so I know exactly that ecstatic feeling! Here’s hoping you get good news!

  26. lyonite*

    Okay, HELP. I have an interview today, so of course my allergies decided to kick in and my eyes look like I’ve been on a 72-hour crying jag. Concealer only helps to the point of making it clear that I’m aware of the problem. So, do I say something? (“How are you?” “Doing great, but boy, I wish my allergies would calm down.”) Or just act cheerful and well-rested and hope they figure it out? (And somehow resist rubbing my eyes for the next six hours, so I don’t smear my makeup everywhere.)

    1. Four lights*

      I would say act cheerful. For under the eye I would try color corrector, I find it works a little better than concealer.

    2. Thrown into the fire new manager*

      I would mention something. I can remember years ago interviewing a contractor for some house help and he showed up with really red eyes. I can remember being worried that he had been smoking pot. Of course, it was probably fatigue but I think mentioning why your eyes are red couldn’t hurt.

    3. Meteor*

      Perhaps you can try to address it light-heartedly at the beginning of the conversation, if you’re sure it’s noticeable. Something like, “I apologize if it looks like I tear up today – it seems that this weather is making my allergies kick up!” If it’s really not that noticeable, no need to even mention it. Good luck!!

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      Are they just red, or are they watery? Mine get watery, so when I don’t want someone to think I’ve been sobbing in the bathroom, I dab at them with my ever-present tissue and say “allergies, ugh!” or “sorry, allergy eyes” and they usually commiserate.

    5. Bunny Girl*

      Make-up artist here and a heavy seasonal allergies sufferer. Have you tried allergy eye drops? They are a life saver for me. Also, if your eyes are red, try dabbing a bit of green tinted concealer around them before your concealer. It will help offset the redness. If you can, try not to put any other eye make-up on besides the concealer. You can play up your other features – brows, a little blush, a neutral lipstick, and still looked polished!
      As for mentioning something, I think you can! Just be good natured and cheerful about it. Just a quick -“Sorry about the watery eyes! My allergies didn’t get the memo that I had a meeting today!”

      G00d luck!

      1. BuildMeUp*

        I second the eye drops – and I would recommend trying Zaditor (orange box). It’s more expensive than standard allergy eye drops, but it used to be prescription-only and I’ve found it works a lot better than regular allergy drops!

    6. Uncivil Engineer*

      Say something. I had an interview at the tail end of the flu when I still had red eyes and a slight cough. I wore no makeup. I had no choice but to tell them up front because I didn’t want to touch anything in the room (germs!) including their hands. I nodded and waved from several feet away instead of shaking hands. It felt odd at the time but it turned out not to be a big deal.

    7. Not Today Satan*

      If it’s very noticeable, I’d say “excuse the eyes, bad allergies.” Otherwise I wouldn’t acknowledge it.

    8. LKW*

      Yes, say something. Just do a “Whoo! What a day! I woke up to allergy madness!” or whatever works. It happens to all of us. Point being you’re rolling with it – which for me is a tick in your favor.

    9. just trying to help*

      I think your response above nails it. Can you take Claritin or Benadryl to help without it making you drowsy?

    10. Maggie May*

      I went to the hair salon yesterday and I think I got some product in my eye – so I look like I have pink eye right now. I’m just trying not to mention it….haha

  27. Kramerica Industries*

    I’m on a project management team and we just learned that we need to attend an in-office “boot camp” for a 4 days next month to learn all about marketing and image. Activities are meant to help us promote user acceptance and hype when launching our projects. Topics may include advertising, branding, image, social media, and promotion.

    My problem is that I tend to feel anxious/sick whenever we talk about marketing. I’ve been in my current role for 2 years. Before joining project management, I was with marketing and it was awful. My boss would berate us for not hitting targets and the company itself used some pretty unethical practices to push products (e.g. advertising on the dark internet). I’ve come to the realization that that job really did a number on me. I get really anxious and nauseous whenever someone brings up marketing tactics in my new role, even though there’s inherently nothing wrong with it. Usually it’s only a part of a meeting (maximum an hour long), so I can deal with it.

    But how am I supposed to deal with 4 full days of marketing activities and training when I get this anxious reaction? I don’t want to spent 4 days feeling sick. I really wish I dealt with this by seeing a therapist sooner, but unfortunately, it’s not something I can fix in a month. Is there anything I can say to my current manager to try to get out of this mandatory boot camp?

    1. AnonAcademic*

      In the case of normal work things that had become anxiety triggers for me, I found that avoiding them just made it worse. What worked better was to incrementally get used to them again in a more neutral or positive context. For example opening my email in the morning became a trigger because my boss would send late night nasty emails. I scheduled time to check my email every AM, and then gave myself a reward right after (like going to the fancy coffee place). It retrained my lizard brain to not think EMAIL=BAD all the time. I think a month is long enough to try this approach – maybe start small, watch a marketing video on youtube, ask a friend who works in marketing how their job is going, etc.

      I do recommend a therapist, as it’s never too late to see one. Also if you go the route of asking not to go your boss will likely want to know why, and possibly want documentation if you describe it as a need for a medical exemption, so that’s something to consider. You might search for AAM threads about plane-phobic people who are asked to travel for work, and how they handle it.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Is this marketing with the same company? If they’re willing to advertise on the darknet, they’re not going to care about your anxiety, so don’t mention it to your boss. Some possibilities:
      Try to get out of it:
      1) Get *super* busy – offer to cover for others / etc.
      2) Remind your boss you were in marketing just two years ago and ask if you can choose to step out of some sessions, to deal with all that busy
      3) Ask if you can review the boot camp materials independently instead of during the camp. Because Busy! Offer to write up a ‘here’s ways this intersects with my project’ to demonstrate you’ve done the review.

      Try to cope if you do have to go:
      1) Ask for a copy of the agenda / notes as soon as possible
      2) Read up on Mindfulness therapy this month, and do some practicing. Notice the anxious feeling, name it, and talk to yourself about it.
      3) Practice Progressive Relaxation (one site with instructions in my name link) – every night over the next month as part of going to bed, but especially before before the camp days; during meetings (only up to your waist / chest in meetings, whatever you can do discreetly); and in bathroom / lunch breaks.
      4) Take advantage of every possible break to get up and walk. Up a flight or two of stairs if possible. Get the big muscles working.
      5) If there’s a session that you think will be particularly rough (bcs, say, ex-boss will be running it), set up a customer call for just that time period. Unless the boss agrees to let you miss things because ‘Busy, and Recent Experience’, you can only do this once in the four days, so use it wisely. This is where the agenda is your special friend.
      6) Do SERIOUS self-care before, during and after – haircut before, massage or spa day after, arrange for somebody else to make dinner / clean / drive the kids / whatever minor daily stresses you usually do.
      7) Focus on the positive: marketing is supposed to be finding customer needs and then letting customers know you can meet the needs. Think about your projects / customers and their needs, and how this marketing work found those customers, for example.

      Good luck…

    3. Lalaroo*

      I’m not sure if there’s anything you can say to get out of attending, but I have a suggestion for how to cope. If you’re able to get an appointment with a psychiatrist or your GP, you could request a prescription for something like Xanax. I have an anxiety disorder, and Xanax was SO helpful when it first manifested. It’s not the kind of thing you need to take for a while before it starts working, and it kicks in really quickly, so it might be useful for those four days.

      Also, breathing exercises really help. I learned that your body is physiologically incapable to feeling anxiety (fast pulse, light-headedness, etc) while you’re breathing deeply, calmly, and consistently. You can breathe in for a count of 5, then out for a count of 5, and if you do it through your nose people around you won’t even notice. Sometimes when I’m really anxious a count of 5 is too long, so I’ve even started at a count of 2 – as long as it’s deep and rhythmic it works.

  28. Here and there and everywhere*

    I have a question about drug tests. I’m in the process of transferring from temp to permanent and I’ll probably get drug tested because of government contracts and stuff. I have prescription Concerta that was filled in in October. The doctor told me I don’t need to take it every day, so I haven’t. I still have a few pills left, and I take it when I’m working, but not every day. So my question is, if I test positive for amphetamines or Concerta, is my prescription valid? There’s no expiration date on the bottle but I only had 30 pills filled in and the instructions say take 1 pill per day.

    I also have a prescription for bupropion that I’m going to start after I finish my Concerta. I just can’t afford to keep taking Concerta, even with insurance it’s too expensive for me. Also, I can’t go to the doctor to renew my prescription because I can’t afford it right now. Unfortunately, bupropion can also give a false negative for amphetamines and it’s not advisable to stop it cold turkey, so I’m still afraid to start taking it, I also want to get my money’s worth and finish my Concerta first (which I love BTW, it’s great at work). Any advice on expired prescriptions and drug tests?

    1. Gaia*

      You have a valid prescription for it, you’ll be fine. Im not even sure it will show up on the drug test, however. I took a similar medication and it didn’t register (and I took it daily).

      1. Here and there and everywhere*

        What drug were you taking?

        The pharmacy specifically told me that both Concerta and bupropion can show up as amphetamines. I know there’s a way to distinguish between Concerta and amphetamines (like Adderall, thank God I’m not taking that) but Concerta is also a controlled medication in itself and could be abused.

        1. Former Retail Manager*

          The pharmacy is correct, but as others said, keep taking your meds if you need them. When you go for the drug test, I’d mention it to the tester so they can make a note, which will be passed along with your results to the employer. And of course, mention that you have a valid prescription. I doubt it will be an issue. Medication of this sort is widely prescribed and employers know that. Good luck on the new gig!

          1. Here and there and everywhere*

            I’m just worried that my prescription is old. And I’d rather not let my new job know I’m taking psychiatric drugs :/

            1. Natalie*

              For what it’s worth, the information about your lawfully prescribed drug is something EEOC would consider confidential. (It’s not an explicit law but is in their various compliance guides.) That doesn’t mean it won’t be shared with your new company, but the new company should keep that information within HR and not share details with your manager or any other person that doesn’t need to know beyond passed or failed.

            2. Gaia*

              It isn’t old. It is a valid Rx of mom expired medication. No one will even question this, I promise.

            3. Pharmgirl*

              Do you have a bottle with the prescription label from the pharmacy? The prescription label will should have the date dispensed as well as an expiration date (usually 1 year out from date of dispense). I would bring the prescription bottle and explain that you only take when needed. It’s common for many people to only take medications like these on work or school days, resulting in a small supply build-up.

              1. Pharmgirl*

                Forgot to add, just make sure it’s not past the expiration date. There legally has to be an expiration date, either on the manufacturer’s bottle or prescription label, even if it’s tiny!

        2. Gaia*

          Just because they can doesn’t mean they will. The drug tests can be calibrated to screen out the levels that are found in prescribed medication. And even if they did, you’ll have disclosed your prescription which will align with what showed up on the test. No harm, no foul.

    2. Kaitlyn Westlet*

      Don’t stop taking your meds! :-) You should be totally fine. In my experience they are only testing for street drugs. When you go to the lab/clinic for testing you will list any medication you are taking. So they will be aware there is a possibly of something showing up and can do a more specific test if needed. A prescription isn’t expired until 6-12 months after it is written, so if you can easily get official proof from your pharmacy or doctor’s office if needed. I’m on bupropion as well as some other meds and am always nervous about drug testing, but it is always fine. Congrats on going to perm!

      1. foolofgrace*

        I used to take Ritalin and it never showed up on a drug test. Take your meds. If something pops on the drug screen you can always produce a doctor’s note.

    3. fposte*

      Can you give the doctor’s office a quick call to confirm that it counts as current? Even the pharmacist might have an answer, for that matter.

    4. LKW*

      Bring the bottles. Make sure they write down the prescriptions or that you clearly communicate them. It should be fine.

    5. JanetM*

      When I worked for a company that drug tested some but not all applicants (depending on where they were going to be assigned), we told them to fill out the form completely, with “everything you put in your mouth, including vitamins and OTC meds. If you’re taking prescription meds, list those as well.”

      They screened only for street drugs, and the form was in case of false positives; the lab could check whether they needed to do a more precise screen.

      Granted, that was 30mumble years ago, and things have probably changed since then.

      1. Here and there and everywhere*

        Unfortunately, ADHD drugs can also be street drugs and some are straight up amphetamines. There are people getting high on Ritalin or Concerta, so I’m worried that a 3 month old prescription might make it look like I’m one of those people :(

        1. Elizabeth Proctor*

          I think the fact that you still have pills left of a 3 month old prescription signifies that you’re probably not using them recreationally and in a dangerous manner, otherwise they’d be gone

        2. Autumnheart*

          It won’t. Having taken prescribed meds for ADHD myself, I’m personally aware that they’re prescribed month-to-month, but I’m not sure that knowledge is common to the general public, and even if it were, I don’t think people would consider 3 months to be “old”. Your prescription is valid and you’re taking them under a doctor’s oversight. You’re fine. Hang on to the prescription bottle, and maybe speak to the prescribing physician for a note verifying your legitimate need for it just to CYA.

        3. Bry*

          Get a letter from your Dr. stating that you were instructed thst it was OK not to take them as directed. I work at a doctors office and if we saw a rx for 30 days of ADHD meds and it was after 30 days and the patient tested positive we would consider the patient non compliant. SO I would have documentation with you that your doctor agrees with how you have been taking the meds.

          1. Here and there and everywhere*

            Very useful, thank you!

            Isn’t it common not to take ADHD meds every day though? I’ve heard of so many people not taking them during their days off. Doesn’t this also help with tolerance? My dosage is definitely not as effective now as it was in the beginning.

            Do you treat non controlled medications such as bupropion the same way?

            1. Pharmgirl*

              Yes, it’s quite common for many people to only take these meds for work or school days. A letter from your doctor explaining this will help. I don’t think 3 months is that old – depending on your state law, controlled prescriptions can be valid for up to 6 months.

            2. ArtsNerd*

              Bupropion needs to be taken consistently! Weaning off/withdrawal wasn’t nearly as bad for me as Zoloft but it’s still nothing to mess around with.

              Also as a layperson, I had no idea that 3 months after a prescription was “old” for ADHD meds. I was thinking that 3 months is nothing — I was stockpiling my daily asthma inhalers for a bit since I only needed them seasonally, and am still working through the backlog due to cost/coverage weirdness. They’re a few years old at this point.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      What I’ve always done when I have to show up for a drug test (sigh) is to take my prescription bottles with me so the testers can log what they are and see that they’re valid prescriptions. With the expired one, you can just tell them that the scrip ran out and you haven’t had a chance to renew it yet.

      I know it seems really intrusive, but they’re not supposed to tell and it heads off any questionable results.

    7. OBMS*

      I have to say that as a physician, I would consider a prescription written and filled 2 months ago to be an active, current prescription. Patients do not necessarily take pills every day (even if I tell them to). I would tell the person at the drug test that you have an active prescriptions for the Concerta and the bupropion. (stated as a person that has no real knowledge of how drug tests are given and interpreted in the real world).

    8. Dr. Anonymous*

      Your doctor may be willing to write you a letter without an office visit if you need one, just saying you are under their care. You’re not likely the only patient rationing your medications for cost reasons, sadly.

      1. Here and there and everywhere*

        Actually, I just don’t take Concerta during weekends and holidays and with Thanksgiving weekend, I have quite a few pills left.

        But I’ll be stopping the medication completely because of the cost :( The price is ridiculous. At least with other medications I could just go to Mexico (I live close to the border) and get them for a fraction of the price but I wouldn’t take that risk with a controlled medication, going to prison for drug smuggling is the last thing I want.

  29. sorbus*

    I’ve had a raging UTI for the past 2 weeks. It’s awful. Can’t sleep without pain meds, can’t stop going to the bathroom every 15 to 30 minutes. I’m on my second course of antibiotics because the first didn’t do anything.

    My question is: how much work is it reasonable to miss over this?

    1. Another worker bee*

      I too have suffered from frequent, severe UTIs, so no work advice, just sympathy. At 2 weeks you should honestly go to the ER and get some IV antibiotics – that’s where you’ll get the good stuff, and they work fast.

    2. ExcelJedi*

      As much as you need to, or as much as you have the sick days to cover? It sounds like an out-of-the-ordinary infection, so a cookie cutter answer won’t work. It’s not reasonable to try to work through excruciating pain, even if that pain comes from a source which is usually (relatively) quick and easy to work through.

      I would tell my boss I had something like “an unusually persistent medical condition which makes it difficult to work, but which you hope to have under control ASAP” – not a UTI specifically.

    3. Key lime pie*

      Uggghhhh. Been there. Do you have the kind of job where you could work from home due to a temporary medical issue? When it was me, I did a combination of that, plus being the weird co-worker using the restroom every 30 minutes :/

      1. sorbus*

        I can work from home, and it won’t make much of a difference since both my teammates are in a different office. So if this is still going on next week I’ll try working from home.

        That said, our office culture really discourages working from home while sick and prefers that people take time off. And although I’ve run through my sick days my manager is pretty understanding and has let me use vacation time (we have non-accruing aka “unlimited” vacation) for sick days rather than take unpaid leave.

    4. Nanc*

      When a condition involves stuff coming out of your body at frequent intervals I say you can miss as much work as is necessary until it’s back to normal purging!
      Is it possible for you to work from home? If not, can you get a doctor’s note saying you need to be off until they say you’re recovered?
      Get well soon!

    5. Can't Think of a Name*

      As much as you need to! I think because they’re so common, we forget – a UTI is still an INFECTION, and does have the possibility of creating other major issues, especially when it sounds like you have an unusually severe one. Don’t feel bad about missing work, especially as it sounds like you wouldn’t be able to be very productive if you had to go in. If you can swing working from home, that would be ideal, but if you can’t or are in too much pain, don’t sweat it. It’s more important to take care of yourself and health. I hope you get well soon!

    6. Anon attorney*

      I don’t have any advice to add, but I feel you. A UTI is misery. Hope your bladder gets the antibiotic memo soon.

    7. sorbus*

      Update: just got back home from urgent care.

      All cultures negative. It’s not a UTI. It’s probably never been a UTI.

      The soonest I can get in to see a urologist is January 9th. :(

      1. OperaArt*

        Same thing happened to me. My frequent “UTI” ended up being interstitial cystitis, now under control. But that full discussion is for the weekend thread.
        Stay home if you need to. Work from home if they’ll let you.

      2. ten-four*

        Wait WHAT? Surely there is some way to get you to a doctor who can diagnose you before FOUR WEEKS from now? With pain levels so high you can’t sleep? That’s bonkers! If you go to the emergency room can they get you to a person? Can you call literally every urologist in town? I’m so sorry this is happening to you.

    8. Paquita*

      I had a UTI last year. I thought it was the flu. Didn’t have ‘normal’ UTI symptoms. I ended up being out a week. Missed the big eclipse party at work :( My first and hopefully last one!

  30. Rusty Shackelford*

    How early is too early to make a work-related call if you suspect you’re calling someone’s personal cell phone, not a business line? I have customers who don’t have phones at their worksites, or just find it easier for other reasons to leave their cell phones as contact info. Am I correct in assuming that 7 am is too early to be returning these calls? And that 8 am is reasonable?

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      If I remember correctly, the permissible hours for telemarketing/collections are 8am to 9pm, so I’d say you’re safe in that window.

    2. Anon From Here*

      For clients, I try to wait until 9:00 a.m. unless it’s extraordinary and unexpected news. For colleagues, I’ll actually try for 8:00 a.m., especially if I know they’ll be in court that day, so I can try to catch them before they go in.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        These are all people who have requested I call them. If I’m calling someone for my own purposes, I wait until later in the day.

        (Also… wow! What a jerk! Different time zone?)

    3. LKW*

      Depends on the industry. Construction – early is fine. 7am wouldn’t be unreasonable. Or ask them the next time you’re in touch.

        1. LKW*

          If it’s not an emergency – I’d say 8:30 – 9 earliest. If only because people are getting their kids up, out the door, to school/day care/ driving to work, etc.

    4. Nita*

      7 am is OK in some lines of work (construction for example). For typical office jobs though, it’s likely that if you call at 8:30 you’re not waking the person up, though they might be driving and unable to pick up. Or they might even be in the office starting at 8. If you can, ask them ahead of time when they start, so you’re not guessing.

    5. mr. brightside*

      Depends on their work hours. If you know they start at 6am, calling them at 7am is fine. Otherwise, I’d wait until 9am, just in case they start at 8am and have a bunch of stuff they need to do before handling calls.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        If I knew they started at 6 am, I’d have no problem calling them at 7 am. ;-) The problem is that I don’t know when their work day starts.

        1. valentine*

          Call whenever works for you. Assume they’re availing themselves of methods to avoid disruption.

    6. Hillary*

      I’ll call whatever number they’ve given me during normal business hours for the region. I’m in the upper midwest, I’ll call people from around here from 8:00-5:00. I wait until 9:00 local if I don’t know the “normal” hours for their area.

    7. MissDisplaced*

      I would try and contain these between 9-5 unless you know they have work hours that start at 8am.

  31. Folklorist*

    It’s your Early-December-Holy-Crap-I-Have-So-Much-to-Do-Before-the-Holidays ANTI-PROCRASTINATION POST!!!!
    Go and do something that you’ve been putting off (that super-painful email? That dull-as-dust spreadsheet?) and come back here and brag about it! Wipe something–anything!–off that list and take a burden off your mind.

    1. ElspethGC*

      My housemates and I are hosting Christmas dinner for a couple of friends before we go home from uni for the holidays. A *lot* of housecleaning that was being procrastinated got done this morning, including a full deep clean of the bathrooms and properly cleaning the laminate floors.

      I’m now sat in my room painting my nails and being bitter because one housemate has decided that she’s doing *all* the cooking to prove that she can (there was an Incident last year) and not letting anyone else do anything besides prep work, even though I’m the one who cooks the most and actually enjoys it. Also, volunteering to clean the bathroom this morning led to me being the one to do *all* the cleaning, and apparently I’m the person that sees all the things that need doing that nobody else bothers to do, like actually emptying the almost-overflowing bin *before* we dump the giant bag of turkey giblets on top of it and probably spill them everywhere. And being on my hands and knees cleaning the floors while the others were basically just folding napkins. And then sitting down to grab something to eat for lunch because I hadn’t had breakfast got a reaction of “Oh, have you finished with the vacuuming upstairs, then?” I know it’s probably not as bad as my hormones are making it out to be, but I’m just feeling very frustrated right now.

      1. Jessi*

        Why didn’t you say something?

        I cleaned both of the bathrooms and took out the trash and did x,y and x. I think it’s some one else’s job to vacuum

  32. Meteor*

    Such a great week. My husband and I recently moved for his job, and I’ve been wrapping up my old job remotely. This week, I finally got a wonderful job offer for a role I’m really excited about, to start in January!!! I think the director of the team is really brilliant and I’m excited to learn from her. Alison’s advice really helped in the job search and interview process – I am so thankful and relieved to have it all set for next year.

  33. Christmas Snickerdoodle*

    What do you share in a one-on-one meeting with a boss who is new to your organization?

    I’m 2 months into my new job and our new non-profit President is coming online next week. I knew going into this job they were hiring as the previous President was retiring. We’ve met the new President and had lunch with her.
    I have a meeting with her on Monday so she can get to know me. ** How deep does this conversation go? **

    I know she’s read my LinkedIn, and hopefully my resume. I don’t think I have to belabor my previous roles/organizations. Should I tell her that because this is a new position, we’re still working out the kinks and we’re not entirely sure all of its responsibilities? Should I tell her that I was hired part-time and that if the job were to grow, they’d have to hire someone else or I’d have to work from home (the commute is long and I’m dog mom to daycare dachshunds). I’d prefer my current p/t office job and p/t work from home consultant projects. All of these were conveyed in my interview and from which I was hired.

    I know this job could easily be cut in favor to save funds to hire a fundraiser, a position that’s been vacant for 6-mos now. She doesn’t strike me as someone who would consider that route, but it’s a possibility.

    1. Lauren*

      I think you’re getting way ahead of yourself. Just have lunch with her, and be honest if these things come up on the assumption that you both want what’s best for both you and the organization.

    2. just trying to help*

      Take a step back from your apprehensions and just be open minded and authentic with her. Let her tell you about herself, what her approach might be, what her goals will be.

  34. My face is gross*

    Big old cold sores at work! Is it professional to wear a bandage? How do you cover them without makeup?
    I tried the polysporin patches, but just found people noticed it even more.

    1. Meteor*

      Cold sores are the worst! If you can put something like Aquaphor or Vaseline on, you can usually apply light concealer on top. That helps obscure redness and the Aquaphor’s oily texture prevents it from looking so rough and dried out.

    2. Linzava*

      I know this may sound weird, but cold sores don’t bother me. If someone has one, I don’t judge or feel grossed out. A lot of people get them including my fiance. We’ve been together 10 years and I’ve never gotten one, so I’m realistic about them. If it really bothers you, concealer is your best bet. I know you said no makeup, and I’m not sure of your gender, but there’s no shame in concealer either way. It’s magical if you learn how to apply it properly. You might need a green, a yellow and a skin tone concealer to layer it properly and there are videos on YouTube that can teach you. My fiance doesn’t bother covering them at all and doesn’t let them make him self conscious, which is what I recommend.

      1. My face is gross*

        I’m grateful at least one person feels that way, haha! Not caring is the most appealing option, but I suspect not everyone is so calm about oozing face sores.

        1. ArtsNerd*

          Another “don’t care” person here. Cold sores happen! I know not everyone is reasonable, but at least you can take comfort in the fact that plenty of folks aren’t fixated on it.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        (Side track… he should just keep in mind that the virus that causes it can be nasty to immunosuppressed people, elderly, and infants. No kissing babies when he feels one acting up. Google has very convincing photos if he says I’m overreacting.)

    3. Lalaroo*

      I get cold sores when I bite my lips too much, or when I’m really stressed, and you’re right – it’s really tough to cover them! It’s too late for this incident now, but I’ve found that Abreva actually works just like it claims. Now when I get that weird tingly feeling that lets me know a cold sore is coming, I start applying Abreva immediately according to the directions. It’s been over a decade since I’ve had a cold sore get to the point where it would be noticeable from anywhere further than two inches from my face.

  35. Is This Common?*

    Has anyone (who doesn’t work in the military, law enforcement, fire/rescue, or other jobs where following orders is necessary) ever had a job where they would follow their boss on anything because they were such a good leader? Do you think this is important or just a bonus? I would really like to hear why.

    It’s been suggested recently that, in order to move up in our organization, I need to be a leader like this. However, in 20 years, I have never felt this about any of my bosses, regardless of how high they are in the organization. But, I’m not really a joiner to begin with so that could be affecting my outlook and I’m curious as to how common this is.

    1. Asenath*

      I don’t think it’s common (outside, as you say, the fire fighters, armed forces etc where having someone automatically follow orders can make a life-and-death difference). Maybe your organization is structured that way, but it does seem odd. I’ve had bosses I respected enough that I would generally accept what they suggested because they generally had good ideas. And the ones I obeyed because it was a legal request and I didn’t want to quit or get fired, but in my opinion my own solution would have been far superior. But I’ve never had a boss I would follow unquestioning on anything.

    2. Less Bread More Taxes*

      Ooh I think a boss that expects you to blindly follow orders is a pretty bad one. I only ever had one like that. Not being able to offer alternative methods was infuriating and also led to mistakes in the work (when anything is perceived as oppositional, that’s what happens). All the great managers I’ve had have encouraged me to think for myself and problem solve. To me, that’s what a boss is for. Otherwise, you’re just working as an assistant to someone else.

      1. Friday afternoon fever*

        Yes to this. I work for some absolutely wonderful managers who are widely recognized at our company as being exceptional bosses, and one of the things I really value is that I’m able to question and suggest. Obviously if they tell me to do something it’s expected I’ll do it, but we bring different perspectives to the same work and I may think of something they never would have because of it. If I said “actually, I see a potential issue with ____” or “what if we did ____?” or even “I don’t understand and I want to — before I start can you explain why ___?” I know they would genuinely consider what I said, and that makes me feel really valued and even more fiercely happy to work for them.

        In your circumstance it really highly depends on who has suggested you need to become this type of boss. Is this expectation coming from the person/people who hold the power to promote you? That would carry more weight, but I would also ask what being ‘that kind of boss’ concretely means to them and how you can actionably improve.
        Or is it coming from someone well-meaning but without decision making power? I would file that as potentially part of your company culture but not treat it as a direction.

    3. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Nope. And not important.

      And, FYI, even in jobs where following orders is necessary, there are limits to following orders, even in a legal sense. There have been Court Martials over this.

    4. bdg*

      I haven’t.

      But we’re encouraged to have a questioning attitude in all things, so blindly following a leader is discouraged. I am a joiner, generally, and I still wouldn’t want to have a boss like that. That’s how you end up in jail for fraud or something lol.