can I talk to my husband’s boss about his unhappiness, speaker phone etiquette, and more

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

1. Can I talk to my husband’s boss about his unhappiness?

My husband and I have known his boss for over 11 years and they always got along very well. We’ve been out with her socially, to bars, football games, etc. They were low level employees together, were transferred to another location a few weeks apart, and got promoted together, but then four years ago they were both up for another promotion and she got it over him. She has more seniority so we knew she was probably the shoo-in for it. Since then, their relationship has gone downhill and has now become uncomfortable. He is unhappy and has tried to find a new job within the agency with no luck. Leaving the agency would mean forgoing his pension, so he doesn’t want to do that. Currently he comes home every night on eggshells over what she may say or request of him tomorrow.

Because I’ve also known her for so long, I was thinking of reaching out to her an inviting her over for dinner and explaining that I don’t want to get involved in their work but that I know that he is unhappy about the change in their relationship. Is this overstepping?

Yes. Hugely overstepping. Don’t do it. Your husband’s relationship with his boss is one that he needs to manage on his own. You absolutely 100% cannot speak to her about it.

2. Can I ask my interviewer if I’d be interacting a lot with someone I hate?

I have a job opportunity I’m really excited about. It’s in a field I’ve been distinguishing myself in with my current company for three years and would be a promotion. Through LinkedIn, I’ve found connections that work there now. I reached out to the person I worked with most recently and specifically asked if I’d be working with another, Fergus, because I had worked with him in the past.

Here’s the thing. I HATED working with Fergus. He would talk over me all the time. He was misogynistic. He is a generation older than me and that played a role. He introduced himself to my husband at the company party as “Jane’s work husband” (ew, no). I always had to remind him to do basic administrative work (hence, the work husband comment). He’s a main part of the reason I left the previous job. But he also thinks highly of me. He’s worked at two other places and asked me to interview with them as he thinks I’d be a great fit!

I know others from my previous company who went on to work with Fergus elsewhere and they really struggled in particular with him too. I honestly don’t know if I’d want to work for a company if I had daily interactions with him. I do realize sometimes people can change, so I’m willing to hear him out. But I like the job now and don’t want to be miserable in two months because of a coworker I should’ve been wary of from the start. Is there a way to tactically ask during the interview process how much interaction I’d have with a specific person?

The best way to do it is what you’ve already done: reach out to a connection you know there and discreetly ask them.

If you didn’t have any connections there who you could discreetly ask, then you’d have to approach it a little differently. You could certainly ask something in the interview like, “I actually used to work with Fergus Jones. How often does the person in this position work with him?” … but you risk that sounding like you want to work closely with him.

The other option is to wait until you have the offer and then be more blunt about it: “I feel awkward asking this, but I sometimes found it challenging to work with Fergus in the past, and I’m uncertain about working closely with him again. Can you tell me how often and how closely I’d be working with him in this role?” I don’t love that language, but there’s not really another great way to do it.

Ultimately, though, I’d be pretty wary of taking this job, given that Fergus was a primary reason you left the previous job with him. (And the fact that he asked you interview suggests that he may indeed have a fair amount of interaction with the role.) I’d default to assuming that he’s going to be a problem for you again unless you get really clear and specific indications to the contrary.

3. Etiquette for using speaker phone

I used to hate for people to call me using a speaker phone. Now that I’m older and my hearing isn’t as good as it used to be, I’m starting to use the speaker phone more and more because it helps me hear what is being said. Is there a good etiquette for using the speaker phone like this? Should I mention it helps me hear better at the beginning of the call? I have an office so this doesn’t impact my coworkers and I have tried using headphones, but I have trouble hearing even with those.

Yep, at the start of the call, just say, “I hope you don’t mind me putting you on speaker phone. It’s difficult for me to hear clearly otherwise, but no one else is in my office.”

Also, some speaker phones have greatly improved in quality in recent years. It might be worth testing yours with someone on the other end of the line who can tell you if it results in degraded sound quality for them or not. It may not, and if that’s the case, you don’t even need to do the start-of-call disclaimer.

4. Applying for a job that I’m not sure I’d take

I have a great job doing work that I enjoy with great colleagues at a reasonable salary with excellent flexibility and good work-life balance. I really valued that flexibility in the last year as an elderly parent suffered several medical emergencies.

Now a job in my home city has opened up in my relatively small industry. I’m not at all sure that I would leave my current job for the new job if it were offered to me. Do I apply? Am I open in the cover letter about my needing to be persuaded? How do hiring managers look at a cover letter that says, “While I have a great job now and would need to be persuaded to leave, I am interested in your organization because I’d like to return to city X”? And if they offered me the job and I decided not to take it, would I be burning a bridge?

For context, “relatively small industry” means that in my big-city hometown, there are three organizations in my specific field with about 10 roles each that I am a fit for, and perhaps another hundred adjacent roles in which my specific experience would be in demand (but which I wouldn’t like as much). Not a lot of turnover in either group.

This would be sort of like messaging someone on a dating site and saying, “I might be interested in dating you, but I’d need you to persuade me.” It’s understood that you’ll need some time and interaction to see if you’re sufficiently interested, but saying it explicitly is going to be off-putting.

The same thing is true here. Employers know that a job application is not a commitment to take the job if it’s offered to you, just as them offering you an interview isn’t a commitment to hire you. Both sides are presumed to be uncertain until much later in the process. So you don’t need to announce that you’re not sure you’d take the job, and you won’t be burning a bridge if you decide not to.

5. Should my resume include an explanation of my current job (aside from listing accomplishments)?

You always say that it is important to show achievements rather than a job description in a resume. This absolutely makes sense to me, but my most recent role is somewhat uncommon. It is bank account management for a large multinational corporation. The jobs I am applying for are somewhat related, but not the same role. In cases like that, wouldn’t it make sense to include some line items that simply explain what the role is so the hiring manager understands?

To put the question differently, should every line item in a resume be an achievement, or would it make sense to have some line items that simply describe the role in some cases?

It’s fine to have a (very brief) blurb describing the role overall, before you move into your accomplishments. That said, it’s not always necessary, even when you’re applying for very different jobs and think hiring managers may not be familiar with the role you want to describe. Sometimes your accomplishments speak for themselves on their own. The question is really: Will understanding this information help a hiring manager see that I’d excel at the job I’m applying for?

{ 361 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    I’m realizing that I’ve never considered disclosing that I’m on speakerphone if I take a call in my office with the door closed. OP#3, my impression about speaker phone etiquette is that you only have to disclose it if:

    1. There are additional people in the room or on the line with you;
    2. You’re in a non-private space where others may overhear a bit; or
    3. There’s a risk of distracting background noise.

    But I’m fascinated by the idea that you should always disclose, even when you’re on the only person on the line, there’s no background noise, and you have adequate privacy.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, I don’t think you actually have to. It sounded like the OP wants to, because she knows that she finds it annoying (as do a lot of people) and so she wanted to explain why she was doing it.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Ohhh, I misunderstood. I agree that speakerphone can be super distracting—and sometimes the sound quality, or the sound of keyboard clacking, can be like nails on a chalkboard.

        1. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

          We use speakerphone a lot at our office and start calls the way RUKiddingMe described upthread. People use speakerphone to have mulriple people on one end of the call or for the exact same reason you do. Nobody says why they are using it, just tells you that they are.
          It’s not a huge deal but I’m actually not keen on you saying the reason you chose speakerphone since it’s due to hearing issues.

          1. valentine*

            OP3: If it’s okay to record in your office, leave your mobile recording outside while you’re on speakerphone, to check whether your calls can be heard. If you’ve only asked colleagues, especially if you told them the reason, they may not want to admit they can hear you or that it bothers them.

            1. Darling Wendy*

              I know FOR ME, I don’t really like being on the other end of the speakerphone call because it’s difficult for me to hear the person who is using the speakerphone when they speak, even with headphones. When using a speakerphone, the user isn’t talking directly into the mic on the phone as they would be when using the receiver or possibly a headset with mic, and while they might think they are speaking loud enough or articulating clearly, there is sound degradation.

              1. Batman*

                @Darling Wendy – That’s the reason I hate speakerphone too. I never have to use it in a business context, but my parents will do it sometimes if I call while they’re eating a meal (we’re in different time zones and I sometimes miscalculate when they’ll be eating) and I hate it because I can’t understand them very well.

            2. Amber T*

              Even if you can be heard though, I wouldn’t say it’s a deal breaker. I’m in an area with private offices, and when a coworker across the hall takes a call on speaker, I can still usually hear it (both them and the call), even with their and my doors shut. I just turn on my music or ignore it. Maybe it’s office culture specific, but sort of being able to hear calls is just part of working.

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

                Yeah, I definitely think this is a thing where people can balance being respectful of other people in the office without that meaning that silence must be maintained at all times. People talk at work, it’s usually bad for the workplace if they don’t, and that will result in a bit of noise.

              2. Jadelyn*

                It also depends on the content of the call. I answer a lot of calls on speaker because people are asking questions I need to be able to look up answers to – and as long as the questions aren’t confidential information, I leave it on speaker. But if the question turns out to be something touching on confidential info or a delicate situation, I’ll pick up the handset to keep anyone from overhearing. (I’ve gotten very good at hearing where someone is going with their question and diving for the handset before they get to the juicy bits!)

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I think I’m confused about the last part:

            I’m actually not keen on you saying the reason you chose speakerphone since it’s due to hearing issues.

            Could you clarify what you’re not keen on my saying?

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                OMG I need to sleep more. I clearly do not understand anything on this subthread! (You’re totally right, and I’m so grateful you helped me understand what I wasn’t understanding.)

            1. Jojo*

              You might be job searching in the future. Them knowing your medical condition may effect hiring. Also, HIPPA type rules. Also, they just plain don’t need to know that kind of info.

            2. boo bot*

              My guess is the person means, you shouldn’t have to disclose a medical issue in order to explain why you’re using the speakerphone.

              I agree that you shouldn’t have to, but if you feel comfortable doing so I can’t think of any reason not to.

          3. Kes*

            Yeah, I wouldn’t actually bring up the reason you’re on speakerphone unless they have a particular concern about it; they don’t really need to know about your hearing issues.

        2. JS82*

          Speakerphone drives me nuts. I can rarely hear clearly, just even with the back round noise of the AC running. I also find that people using it don’t realize that people in the office next door can hear it. I had to enforce no speaker phone at my old company as I could barely hear my own phone calls over the loud speakerphone next door. Don’t even get me started on people walking around in public using it. why would one want the whole World to hear their conversation.

          1. Jennifer Juniper*

            I hate it when I hit the speakerphone button on my phone by mistake. The other end gets way too loud and distorted. I have slight hearing loss, but can still hear normally on the phone.

        3. Kathleen_A*

          I almost always tell – and actually I don’t think I have ever forgotten to mention it, so I’m saying “almost” as a hedge, just in case.

          I tell people even when it’s just me on the phone in a closed office so that people don’t wonder about any not-normal-for-conventional-calls sounds, such as me using my keyboard to look something up that is pertinent to the call. I guess I don’t have to…but I always do.

    2. Yvette*

      You can often tell if the person you are speaking with has put you on speaker*, so some people consider it polite to let the people they are speaking with that even though they are on speaker, the conversation is still private.

      (*Probably a hold over from when the sound quality between being on speaker and not being on speaker was very different)

      1. Designing Woman*

        I often put clients on speaker phone during a phone meeting–I don’t share an office, but I do always give them a heads up and let them know I’ll be typing notes in case they here typing noises. And I also ask them to let me know if they have any trouble hearing. I haven’t had any complaints about sound quality but I do feel better politely letting them know so they feel easily able to mention it if they do have any trouble hearing.

        1. Yvette*

          Letting them know isn’t so much about sound quality (I only mentioned that part because it is how people knew they had been put on speaker) but more of a reassurance that even though they are on speaker they were still only being heard by the person they were speaking to.

        2. Octopus*

          I really appreciate that you do that! I have a hard time hearing when the other person is on speakerphone and it can be awkward asking if the other person is on speakerphone and if so can they get off.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        I’ll usually say something like “hi Monica, you’re on with me, Rachel, and Phoebe” or “hi Rachel, we’re on speaker but it’s just the two of us.” So far so good.

    3. Amylou*

      I’ve never considered that either, as I always take my calls in a conference room. I need to have speakerphone on to look stuff up – I do put mine on mute often (it is a landline phone though), as you can hear sirens from the busy through road sometimes.

    4. tiffbunny*

      I have and always will stop mid-sentence in both personal and professional settings if someone has put me on speaker without a head’s up. (As a US-based millennial who grew up with landlines.) If your hearing is good and you’re semi-alert, you can always tell when on speaker even on the best modern devices – from the latest and greatest mobile phone to a €20,000+ dedicated voice/video conferencing system.

      Particularly in a professional setting in the English-speaking EU: I’m in multiple international conference calls / remote meetings per week. If you’re on speaker, the first thing you do at the top of every meeting is name everyone with you in the room / nearby enough to overhear what’s being said, including if you’re alone. If you don’t, often people will jokingly call it out by asking who else is around, but they’ll also be a lot less forthcoming until they’ve regained trust in your professionalism and the privacy of your call.

      This is an easy manner(habit?) to learn with no real downside, so I’d recommend erring on the side of always telling people!

      1. kittymommy*

        This is probably where I’m at too. I think by disclosing that one is on speakerphone, even when no one else is there, it comes across as transparent and the one on the other end doesn’t feel like something shady might be happening.

        I am fascinated being able to hear better on speaker. I generally find it much more difficult. I honestly never thought it would be easier for others.

      2. Snow Drift*

        I agree with this. I’m definitely biased, though–I have a friend who lies all the time about being on speaker, because his wife is a controlling dumpster fire who monitors his conversations. You can HEAR the way the room echo changes, Dave, I’m not braindead.

      3. Antilles*

        +1 on the last part
        It’s literally like 5-10 seconds of effort to just quickly say “Hey, I’m going to put you on speaker since it’ll make it easier for me to check these numbers as we talk”. Why not just take that time to prevent even the small chance of the other person wondering about why you put the call on speaker?

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I can always tell when someone’s on speaker phone, but it’s so common for people to use it for private, individual calls in my field that I only mention it for one on one calls if I’m talking to a client.

        I really appreciate hearing all the alternate conventions, etiquette norms, and experiences.

        1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

          I think the issue is that YOU might know that there’s no one else around listening, but the person on the other end has no way of knowing.

          It sounds silly, but I guess it feels almost like a power differential? By telling them, they now have the same info (that they are on speaker) and know that you want them to have the same info. Does that make ANY sense at all? I have a feeling I’m not describing what I mean very well, so I can try to record it.

    5. MistOrMister*

      I also wouldn’t think to disclose that I was on speaker if I was alone with a closed door. As long as the person can hear ok I’m not sure it would be necessary to point it out. Although if they asked if they were on speaker it would make sense to reassure them that the conversation was private.

      In my personal life, I had a friend who would have me on speaker and it would be fine but then half an hour into the conversation I would realize their spouse had been in the room the entire time. It’s incredibly disconcerting! There are just certain things a person won’t say if they know a 3rd party is listening and I think it’s really thoughtless to not give someone a heads up if a conversation isn’t private. I’ve yet to run into anyone who has caused any sort of issue with speakerphone in my professional life. But most people I work with seem to eschew it unless it’s being used for conference calls…in which case we all know we’re on it so there’s no issues.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yeah, it’s creepy if there’s someone else unknown listening to the call, but otherwise, speaker vs. no-speaker is pretty irrelevant. If there’s a sound problem, then sure, it’s fine for the person to say “I’m sorry, are you on speaker? I can’t hear you.” Otherwise, I have no idea why you would care if the other party’s on speakerphone or not.

      2. foolofgrace*

        I think it’s really thoughtless to not give someone a heads up if a conversation isn’t private

        I totally agree — it’s polite to disclose others in the room who can hear the convo, or to reassure the person on the other end that it’s a private call without making them guess.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Totally agreed that it’s not ok to disclose if there’s any third party who can hear. For me, it feels like a violation of trust, even when it’s just thoughtlessness or carelessness.

    6. Holly*

      Maybe this is lawyer culture at my office, but almost all calls I take are on speaker and no one ever announces it unless there are others in the office.

      1. Amber T*

        Yeah, I’m in finance and it’s similar. Since so many of our calls are collaborative, it’s super common for a couple of people to pop into someone’s office so they can take a call together.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Same – as long as you mention when someone walks in so they know who all they’re talking to, it’s fine.

      2. CM*

        +1, never occurred to me that anyone would care whether they were on speaker if nobody else could hear.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Same. I’m wondering if my expectations are lawyer-specific and if the norms vary by geography and field (which I wouldn’t expect in the U.S., but it sounds like it’s more variable than I realized!).

    7. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      Got to admit my feeling on this changed drastically once I learned the LW had a private office – because if you are in an even semi-open office plan then NO. Only other thing I want to throw in is try not to use it if you are on a conference call with five or more people on individual phones – because once two or three or more people put their phone on speakerphone the call quality can degrade quickly. I mean, if you are on a conference call anyway you should have your phone muted unless you are speaking, but that is a crusade for a different day.

      1. EnfysNest*

        My department has private offices, but even still, the fact that my next-door coworker takes *all* of his calls on speakerphone is really annoying most of the time. I can still hear most of the conversation through the wall, especially because he talks really loudly anyway and his speaker is at top volume. It doesn’t matter that we have a wall between us – I hear way too much from his calls.

        Even worse is when the guy across the hall from him wants to chime in when the door is open and, instead of getting up and coming into the first guy’s office, will just shout from his own office across the hall to be heard through the speaker. *shudders* I make sure to always have earbuds on hand, to try to drown some of it out, but it’s obnoxious.

    8. Canadian Natasha*

      Speaking for people in my line of work, it would be handy to know that the OP is using speaker phone for her own hearing needs. I’m not sure where all the superior quality speaker phones are but they are definitely NOT used by people calling our office. I’d say a good 80% of the time I have to ask people to take their phone off speaker so I can understand what they are saying. So if I knew she couldn’t easily use the phone to her ear I would try other strategies to understand her conversation.

      1. Snow Drift*

        I also would like to know what awesome phone model the LW has…IME speaker phone always sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher.

        1. Not All*

          As I’ve also never ever encountered a speakerphone that made it EASIER to hear/understand, I can’t help but wonder if OP doesn’t have more hearing loss in one ear than the other & that’s the side the phone is reflexively held to?

          1. Washi*

            I was guessing that just turning up the volume on her phone normally isn’t enough and that she puts it on speakerphone but then holds it up to her ear like a regular phone call. (That plus not being able to hear even with headphones sounds like a pretty serious level of hearing loss, and tbh my first thought was investing in hearing aids, but that is beyond the scope of the letter.)

          2. Jessie the First (or second)*

            My husband has hearing loss and speakerphone is easier for him.

            When he does not use speakerphone, of *course* he holds the phone up to his good ear (well, relatively good ear). That’s Hearing 101.

            But even so, speakerphone is far easier for him. I couldn’t say why – I can’t stand speakerphone personally, though I have to use it because of the constant conference calls I have at work – but something about the different audio quality on speaker really does help him. (And he isn’t holding it to his ear as if it were on normal mode – he has it on speaker on the flat of his palm. Who knows!)

            1. AdminX2*

              I can only guess that it’s because the dual inputs help his brain sync the sound better and less cognitive strain. Headsets might be the best option!

        2. Alice*

          Maybe, when someone is using a good speakerphone and doesn’t mention it, you don’t know about it. You only know about the bad ones, so it seems like they are all bad.

          1. a1*

            I wonder if this is the case, too. Today’s office phones, whether desk phones or in conference rooms, have pretty good speakerphones. The only time it’s an issue is if people are talking over each other or banging on the table for some reason (tapping a pen, fidgeting with a mug, etc).

          2. Canadian Natasha*

            It’s always possible although I have encountered the rare decent-sound-quality speakerphone and could still definitely tell the difference between it and a phone that’s being held to the person’s ear/mouth. If it makes a difference, these are generally calls from private phones and cell phones that I receive, not office phones.

      2. Artemesia*

        I don’t understand why people who take a lot of calls don’t get headsets. The hearing pads are more comfortable than ear buds and they are considerate for the people who are within hearing distance trying to do their own work. If I were managing people in a cube farm there would be a hard rule of no speaker phone. Period. Full stop. And people would be authorized to get headsets if they did a lot of calling and needed hands free.

        1. jd*

          This. I always use a headset now because I’m constantly on the phone and need my hands free for note-taking and looking things up, so a headset is essential. Being able to hear in stereo also feels more natural and comfortable.

    9. Arctic*

      Even if there is no background noise AND you have adequate privacy you should let the person on the line know those things. I’d always disclose. You can usually tell when you are being put on speaker and you aren’t always sure why. If no one else is there I’d say “Just a head’s up I have you on speaker. Door is closed and no one else is here.” Or something.
      But I’m an attorney who is often having calls about things that are confidential. So I don’t want others listening in without knowing about it.

    10. kab0b*

      I’ve found that i’ve started having a hard time hearing on some conference calls, I’ve started to bring my headphones in that have a microphone. I can hear perfectly, and other also comment how clear i come through.

    11. AdminX2*

      I have hearing issues. If a speaker phone is good quality, it’s generally not an issue. But a cellphone, anywhere that’s not a super quiet room, might as well just be full static on speaker for me. I just say outright “I’m not able to hear you now, would an email be better or we can schedule a time when you don’t have to be out?”

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, I think it’s going to read strangely to include anything in your cover letter about needing to be persuaded (or any variation on that theme). Speaking personally, I would find it weirdly off-putting—like why did you apply to the job if you want me to recruit you into it?

    The hiring process always goes both ways and allows both hirer/hiree to learn more about one another. But if someone started with the expectation that if I like them on the surface, that means I want to date them and now have to convince them to date me, then it seems like an awful lot of work and investment for me for someone who’s not that into me, anyway.

    It’s totally ok to apply and decide you don’t want to proceed or take an offer if you receive it. But I wouldn’t start your opening communications by suggesting that you aren’t that into them and probably don’t want to work for them.

    1. MK*

      Even if by some chance the hiring manager isn’t put off by this, the OP risks putting herself out of the running, unless she is extraordinarily qualified or the role is very hard to fill: if they have several great candidates that seem excited about the job, why waste time on someone who is lukewarm about it? Also, it sounds as if the OP is primarily interested in relocating, not a new job.

      1. Mookie*

        Exactly. There’re better ways of communicating that you’re willing to relocate in order to work for them. Beyond that, employers don’t care about where a stranger prefers to live or their reason for doing so.

    2. Kiwi*

      Yeah, if I read a cover letter like that I’d be reluctant to hire the applicant. I’d wonder if I’d have to woo them into actually doing the job if I gave it to them.

    3. Mookie*

      “Persuasion” of a kind, between the hiring team and the applicant, is already part of the hiring process, where learning about one another and the role itself either persuades you to make an offer or not, accept an offer or not, so I’d find that word odd, too. It sort of goes without saying. Persuasion and a hard/soft sell aren’t synonymous in the hiring process, in my opinion, and conflating them indicates a slightly adversarial mindset.

      As you say, asking explicitly to ‘be persuaded’ suggests the employer has no agency or say in the matter, like you’re a potential client or patron upon whose sole whim the decision will be made. It’s kind of an ugly first impression, even if unintentional.

    4. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I don’t think there’s any harm in applying for a job that you aren’t sure you’d take. You might learn in an interview that it’s more exciting than the ad seems, or vice versa. But by saying in the cover letter that you aren’t that interested seems like a pretty surefire way to ensure you don’t get an interview at all.

    5. Czhorat*

      An interview is a two-way street in that, unless you are unemployed and desperate, you are as much evaluating the employer as they are evaluating you as an employee.

      They have as much right to assume that you’ll take the job as you have to assume they’ll give it to you.

    6. General Ginger*

      Yeah, I think if I saw that in someone’s materials, I’d probably move on to the next qualified person who doesn’t need persuading.

    7. CM*

      But I do think OP#4 needs to say something in her cover letter/phone screen about willingness to relocate, and I’d suggest saying that she is considering relocating. That conveys that she’s not 100% sure without saying “you have to persuade me.” If the company is not willing to put any effort into persuasion, they won’t move forward with someone who isn’t certain about relocating.

    8. Kes*

      I agree, it’s fine to apply to a job you’re not sure of but outright saying they need to persuade you would be offputting and make you sound kind of full of yourself

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, I have two reactions. The first is pure curiosity—if your husband is stressed out about his current boss, wouldn’t inviting her into your home exacerbate that stress?

    My second reaction is that I’m trying to understand the end goal. Is it to get her to change her interactions with him? To get him to change how he feels about work? To simply let her know he’s unhappy? None of those things sound like things that a third party (even a very close one, like a spouse) can address. They’re all between your husband and his boss. Although it sounds like seeing him suffer through this hurts you, I think I would feel really undermined if my partner went to my boss to tell him I was unhappy. I think the only thing you can do is be an emotional support and safe person for your husband to talk to. If he decides he wants to tackle the issue and asks for help, be willing to help him go through his approach and possibly role play with him. Or help him reframe so that at least he doesn’t feel like he’s on eggshells.

    But as Alison notes, you 100% cannot proceed with any part or any variation of your suggestion. It’s a massive boundary transgression, and it puts you squarely in the middle of something that is not yours to be in the middle of.

    1. Myrin*

      Additionally to all of that, I don’t know what’s the supposed advantage of the wife’s talking to the husband’s boss versus the husband’s talking to his own boss. If boss is sympathetic to husband’s struggle with their changed dynamic, she’d presumably be receptive to his bringing it up himself; and if she isn’t, I don’t think there’s anything a spouse could do to change that.

      1. JamieS*

        Considering the dynamic changed 4 years ago I have doubts about how sympathetic the boss will be. She’d probably want to know if a report is unhappy but putting it on still struggling with a change that happened years ago seems like a stretch.

        1. MK*

          I assume that the OP’s husband was ok with his friend’s promotion at the time, but is now struggling because of his lack of advancement within the agency. Which I am not sure the manager can do anything about, but he should talk to her about it himself.

          1. EPLawyer*

            I have to wonder if he is on eggshells because he is not buddies anymore with his former coworker. It was one thing when they were coworkers and hung out. Now as his boss, she needs to put some distance between them. I think he may be struggling with the changed dynamic rather than anything specific she has done. So she doesn’t need to change if that is the case.

            He needs to figure out why he is on eggshells with her. Then figure out what to do about it.

          2. Liet-Kinda*

            I disagree; there is basically no way that “You know how you got promoted four years ago? I’m still nursing a sense of entitlement and resentment over that,” turns out to be a warm and productive conversation that helps the working relationship back onto an even keel.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              Yeah, this.

              LW, if your husband is unhappy at work, he needs to address that *with himself*, not his boss/former buddy. Unless she’s doing something abusive, which isn’t the picture this letter presents, this is far more about him not being able to adjust than about anything she is doing, or could do to remedy it.

        2. RUKiddingMe*

          As the employer, I would take issue with him still struggling after all of this time *and* with his wife intruding into my (not so much his…but *my*) professional relationship with my employee.

          Quite frankly I might (likely) think it’s time to part ways.

          1. Susie Q*

            But we have no idea how she is as a manager. Maybe she is a horrible manager and that’s why he is struggling.

            1. Colette*

              Horrible managers are unlikely to say “you know, you’re right, this is my fault”.

              And ultimately, if she is horrible, he can leave. Yes, it may affect his pension, so there is a cost, but … choices have costs. Sometimes pensions can be transferred; sometimes it’s worth taking a financial hit to get out of an unbearable situation; sometimes the unbearable situation becomes more manageable when you decide to stay in it because of the benefits you get out of it.

            2. Lora*

              Maybe she is! Maybe she is the worst manager ever and demanded his first born child, a kidney and insisted that he sign his agency contracts in blood. But how would an employee’s spouse change any of that? If she’s a lousy manager, and her own boss and/or HR haven’t seen fit to change anything in four years, how likely is it that a heartfelt plea to be a better person from an employee’s spouse would totally convince Boss to go to management training and read a few Bob Sutton books?

        3. Liet-Kinda*

          I also get the feeling this is Husband nursing some hard feels about getting passed over for promotion, and that would fall 100% into the category of His Problems.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            This so much.

            I think the problem here is that he isn’t happy with the job in general, and that’s more than likely not his boss’ fault/problem. Either he needs to move to a company with more opportunities for advancement or he needs to find out what he’s not doing that he should be to open more doors for himself. I really suspect he’s attributing his dissatisfaction to his boss, probably because it’s less painful than attributing it to himself. Nothing the LW described was abusive or even abnormal–Allison has gone over and over about how managers can’t be buddy-buddy with their reports.

            1. Kes*

              Agreed – he should talk to the boss about opportunities for advancement and/or look around for other jobs where he can advance.

              However, this is on him to do – for OP to reach out to the boss would be a huge overstep

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Same. Also the fact he’s probably hit his ceiling and barring retirement of this manager, he’s not going to have more upward movement. He saw himself on the fast track and hit the end in his mind.

            This is something therapy would be good for.

        4. Myrin*

          That’s very true! I think worded that in an unclear way – by “changed dynamic”, I didn’t mean the promotion, but rather the fact that the relationship seems to have gone through another change for the worse recently: it “has now become uncomfortable”. Although re-thinking that, it seems that OP would’ve pointed to something more specific if that were the case, so now I’m taking my own assumption with a grain of salt.

    2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      Definitely a huge boundary problem. I had problems in a previous role and used to vent to my husband about it, but I had to have a serious talk with him after a while because he wanted to call up my supervisor and tell her off. We nearly broke up over it because he had trouble understanding that me telling him about it was not the same as asking him to fix it.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Interesting. I’ve heard something similar re talking to your mom about problems with your spouse: “Honey, you will forgive him for this. I won’t.”

      2. Frozen Ginger*

        This is actually a very interesting topic in psychology, especially in the realm of relationships and gender. It’s a common thing that a partner will discuss something that’s stressing or upsetting them, where they’re looking just for emotional support, but their partner will assume their looking for a solution.
        I also had this problem with a former partner, but I told him, “If I want help finding a solution, I’ll ask for that. But usually I just want emotional support.” and thankfully he caught on. (Hard habit to break but he got better over time.)

        1. media monkey*

          yes, this is a common gender difference and i know one i have found in the past with male colleagues 9and with my husband) to do with how the genders communicate. women want to vent and tend to empathise with each other and that’s what they are looking for from men. Men want to give solutions, and so it can be really frustrating to mention an issue to a male colleague that you just wanted to vent about and have them tell you what to do about it! and, i am sure, vice versa to have a female colleague disregard the advice a man thought he was being asked for!

          1. Myrin*

            I’m super surprised whenever I read that because literally everyone I know – myself included – immediately starts giving solutions when faced with someone’s venting (although my mum is inarguably The Very Worst when it comes to this; no amount of times of my telling her “yes, I’ve already thought about that, yeah, about that, too, and yeah, that too, I just want to vent!!” will ever make her just make vague commiserating noises). The only relationship I know of where that isn’t the case is the one between myself and my sister, where we explicitly ask the other “Is this just ranting or do you want any ideas for how to deal with that situation?”. I’m now wondering if that is a cultural thing? (I mean, it never stroke me as one, but maybe I’m totally off-base here.)

            1. iglwif*

              I haven’t found it to be a gender thing, either — at least 80% of people of any gender that I’ve ever vented to about anything have wanted to jump in with solutions.

              Within my nuclear family, we try to remember to ask the other person explicitly what they’re looking for, like you do with your sister. We still sometimes forget, but when we do remember, it’s super helpful!

            2. Old Biddy*

              I really don’t thing it’s gendered, either. Most people find it helpful to vent and many people listening want to suggest solutions. Saying women want to commiserate and men want to suggest solutions lets men off the hook for emotional labor. A better take home message is that it’s ok to inquire if this is a venting or a solution situation.
              I’m not much of a venter and I’m a good listener. I’ve had several ex-boyfriends who had no problem venting to me a lot and didn’t want solutions but pulled out the ‘women want to commiserate and men want to provide solutions” trope when it suited them.

          2. General Ginger*

            I wish people would stop saying it’s a gender thing, because there are plenty of women who jump in with unasked for solutions, and plenty of men who will listen and say “dude, that sucks”. I think it’s maybe a cultural thing if it is any kind of thing other than just a people thing.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I think it’s a gendered socialization thing, not a gender thing, but I agree that I now see both genders engage in the problem solving approach pretty equally.

        2. Airy*

          The first time I ever read this dynamic outlined was in a Baby-Sitters Club book in which, iirc, Claudia says that of her two oldest friends she would prefer to confide in Mary Anne about a personal problem because if you go to Kristy with a problem, her first response is to try to solve it. If you talk to Mary Anne, her first response is to try to make you feel better. To this day I still think of it in terms of “Is this person going to be more of a Kristy or a Mary Anne about my problem?”
          I can’t remember if there’s ever been an AAM letter that used BSC pseudonyms for all the characters, but if not I hope there will be.

    3. Traffic_Spiral*

      Seriously, the answer to “Can I reach out to my spouse’s boss to address a situation in his work” is always, always, no.

      1. Aveline*


        I’d also add to this it isn’t just “address a situation at work.” It’s also “help me manage my husband’s emotions.”

        She may not intend to ask that, but she’s implicitly asking for it.

        If I were a manager of a man and a wife asked me of this, she and I would have a very serious discussion about women doing men’s emotional heavy lifting for them.

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          It has not escaped my notice that every time we get a question like this it’s

          1. 90% Wife trying to mother husband (includes applying for his jobs, etc.)

          2. 9% Wife asking boss to make husband stop cheating

          3. 1% that creepy guy who quit his wife’s job for her.

            1. Traffic_Spiral*



              “My husband told me that he and a contractor had an affair while on a company trip. This contractor’s contract is due to expire in a few months. Can I ask my husband’s boss to not renew the contractors contract for personal reasons (to save my marriage) without it bouncing back on my husband?”

              Although looking back through the archives, it seems more like 5% the affairs and 5% creepy boyfriends/husbands getting angry and interference with their “property.”

              1. The New Wanderer*

                Yep, there was a letter from the guy who wanted to tell his girlfriend’s boss that it was Not Okay for they to be drinking in a hotel bar on business travel because his girlfriend didn’t call him immediately or some-such.

      2. Lucy*

        Agreed. The only time it is ever appropriate for a spouse to talk to work is when the employee is incapacitated – calling in to say he has been in a road accident or something. Otherwise no no NO.

      3. Autumnheart*

        Unless you’re the wife of the guy whose boss keeps calling you to apologize for calling you. :)

    4. Magenta*

      The question I had about the first letter was regarding the pension issue. Why would he forgo the pension if he left? Surely he would be entitled to any accrued benefits, it might be frozen but he wouldn’t lose the whole thing? Or am I missing something?

      1. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

        I think some pensions only become vested (i.e. definitely yours even if you leave) after a very long time.
        This letter is why they should be vested after a much shorter period of time. I really feel for the husband; nothing makes a bad situation worse like feeling that you’re stuck in it.

        1. LQ*

          Yeah, a very long time, but that’s like 5 years and it’s been four for this last chunk and I’d be surprised if it wasn’t way more than a year before that. Plus the “agency” language makes me think this is a government job, which, most likely yeah 5 years.

          Some people here will talk about loosing their pension, which isn’t really what they mean, they just mean they won’t keep accruing. (the golden handcuffs)

          1. Aveline*

            And if it is a government agency, he can transfer to another location or another agency without losing his accrued years.

            I don’t think LW’s husband needs to explore what his options are in that realm. It may mean making a transfer he doesn’t want. But what he wants (his boss’s job) isn’t going to happen if he stays were he is.

            Assuming, of course, that this is in the USA. If not, ymmv.

            1. Phoenix Programmer*

              The letter mentioned failing to transfer in the agency though, I don’t think it’s a helpful suggestion. Try this thing you have been failing at for 4 years!

              1. Frozen Ginger*

                It doesn’t say that he’s been trying for four years, just that he’s tried. Also I don’t think Aveline is saying that as advice but rather “Look man, here are your options.”

                That said, this is still in the realm of Not LW’s Job. If LW’s husband wants advice, he’ll ask LW or he can write into Alison himself.

          2. Phoenix Programmer*

            I mean – US military is famously 20 years before vestment. That’s quite a bit longer than 5!

          3. Rusty Shackelford*

            It does sound like a government job, but there are different levels of being vested. There’s “I’ll get some kind of minimum payout” vested and there’s “I’m hanging in long enough to get a really good return” vested. He might be going for #2.

          4. Elaine*

            It’s been about 10 years since I worked in pension administration, but at least at that time, the 5 year vesting rule only applied to single employer pension plans. If the pension plan covered more than one employer, where you could move between employers and still be covered by the same plan, they could require 10 years to vest. If you leave without vesting and don’t return to coverage within some specified time, you lose it all. It’s easy to say it doesn’t matter now, but believe me, you’ll likely feel very differently when it is time to retire. That’s one good thing about self-funded plans – if you made the contributions, the money is yours.

            If this man is not vested, I don’t blame him at all for feeling stuck until then.

        2. Judy (since 2010)*

          From the US Department Of Labor site in the ERISA FAQ: In a defined benefit plan, an employer can require that employees have 5 years of service in order to become 100 percent vested in the employer funded benefits (called cliff vesting). Employers also can choose a graduated vesting schedule, which requires an employee to work 7 years in order to be 100 percent vested, but provides at least 20 percent vesting after 3 years, 40 percent after 4 years, 60 percent after 5 years, and 80 percent after 6 years of service. Plans may provide a different schedule as long as it is more generous than these vesting schedules.

          ERISA has been the law in the US since 1975.

          1. Mpls*

            US Government employees are notorious for being exempted from aspects of US wage and employment laws, though, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some extra quirks in gov’t retirement plans.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              The federal employee pension plan is one of the only reasons my spouse stays with the government. The other is the flexibility and telecommuting policy. (It’s certainly not the pay or the increasingly frequent shutdowns!) OPM has a website explaining FERS eligibility and computation, and it’s more generous than any private retirement option I’ve ever been offered. Employees have the option contributing to a TSP (thrift savings plan, a 401K-esque account) as well.

        3. MissGirl*

          I have to stay five years to receive my pension. At ten years, my pension increases. So I can totally understand wanting to stay somewhere to not lose that.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I suspect it’s about the pension payout, not the vesting. For example, if I retire in 15 years, I’m paid 50% of my salary at retirement, whereas if I retire in 25 years, I’m paid 66%, and in 35 years I’m paid 80%.

        The pension should have vested by now, so you’re right that he likely won’t “lose” it; he’ll lose service credit for the purposes of his future payout.

    5. Aveline*

      I read this as a double-problem: (1) Overstepping (as AAM concisely states in her advice) and (2) Asking your husband’s boss to help you manage his emotions. Neither you nor she should be managing his emotions.

      OP – I have some specific questions based on your letter. These are NOT things to raise with the boss. These are things for you and your husband to discuss. Or for him to discuss with a therapist. Now, they many or many not be the root of his hurt, but something is going on with him now.

      (1) Is his hurt that they are no longer work friends? That she got promoted and he didn’t? That he has no path to advancement? (Hint: None of those are her problem to solve).

      (2) Could he be nursing a hurt and keeping it active because he somehow feels he deserved the promotion and she didn’t? You state “She has more seniority so we knew she was probably the shoo-in for it.” That makes me wonder if you both believe she only got the position b/c of seniority.

      That’s either true, in which case it’s a company where seniority is the over-riding determinant. So he needs to make peace with that and work in the system. Or exit it. Some government jobs are really seniority only. If you are in a division where you can’t advance b/c of too many people ahead of you, your only options are to accept that you will never advance, that you will have to transfer to advance, or that someone has to die or get sick enough to leave a job for your o advance.

      Alternatively, if it’s not a company where seniority is a trump card, then he needs to accept that she might have simply been a better candidate. Is he capable of accepting that as a possibility? If not, why not?

      (3) “Since then, their relationship has gone downhill and has now become uncomfortable. “ How, specifically, has the relationship changed? Is it that she’s acting like a boss with authority over him and he’s chafing at that? Is she doing specific things that are rude or imperious and need to be addressed? In other words, is he upset with the change in their relationship, with having her as a boss, or with specific actions she is taking? Is it a problem with her actions or with his emotional frame?

      Viewing others through a lens of hurt often leads us to interpret their actions in a way that is not only unkind to them but also not objective reality. Is he doing this or is she behaving in a way that is inappropriate for a boss to behavior?

      (4) “He is unhappy and has tried to find a new job within the agency with no luck. Leaving the agency would mean forgosing his pension, so he doesn’t want to do that.”

      Sometimes your only options are transfer to another division or geographic area (which seems possible based on your letter) or exiting and sacrificing something.

      It may well be that the pension is too valuable to give up. If so, he needs to find a way to reframe his career and it’s value to him as a person and to deal with his feelings toward his boss.

      (5) Currently he comes home every night on eggshells over what she may say or request of him tomorrow.

      Does that mean he’s taking his hurt out on you and your kids/pets/etc? That’s not ok.

      “Say or request of him” Is what she’s saying or requesting normal boss stuff? Or is it somehow unreasonable?

      (6) How old is he? Could it be part of this is a mid-life crisis and he feels stuck and somehow someone must be to blame for that?

      (7) Does he have anything outside of work where he can feel like he’s accomplished something? If not, it’s time for him to develop a hobby or start volunteering. Often we buy into the narrative that work is the be-all and end-all of our worth. This is toxic.

      If he doesn’t have that outside of work, it might help a lot to find somewhere where he feels valued.

      The most satisfied men I have ever known are the ones who were not all consumed by work. They were the ones who volunteered to coach t-ball, help the kids in 4-H, support the local history sites, volunteer for the museum/church/etc.

      How much of a life does he have outside work and your relationship? If not much, all the stress and emotion he feels on those subjects and any other subjects will get dumped on work and you.

      (8) Did he have other work friends? Friends outside work? Is it possible that he’s placing too high a value on the previous relationship and what it meant to him?

      I know what it’s like to loose that one special friend from work to transfer or promotion. It’s easier to deal with when we are in phases of our life where we have a lot of friends and other outlets. It’s devastating when we don’t.

      (9) Why do you think this is your problem to solve for him? Why isn’t he in the driver’s seat and you are merely there to give support and advice?

      1. SWOinRecovery*

        Wow, Aveline. This is really insightful and would be helpful to so many people in similar situations. Thank you for sharing!

        Aside from general agreement, I can also attest to #7. I’ve had 2 jobs in incredibly exciting career fields, but I was all consumed by work. I realized that I would be much happier if I had a ‘boring’ job that allowed time for personal hobbies and fulfillment outside of work, instead of working 60-80 hr weeks in a profession that was related to one of my hobbies. If you tie all of your personal fulfillment to work, things completely outside of your control can tank your self-worth, and that’s not a healthy plan!

    6. Minocho*

      I think Princess Consuela Banana Hammock’s sentence about understanding the end goal is key. What does the OP want to accomplish? Interfering in her husband’s relationship with his boss is going to cause a lot of problems, and is unlikely to solve anything. But if the OP thinks about her end goal, maybe she can help her husband, still.

      Some people are connected to and clearly understand their emotions. Some people do not ( I would be one of these people ). Helping him understand the core issues and helping him find potential solutions could be a useful way to lower stress in household. Trying to work around the issue without him will never solve the core problem, whatever it may be.

    7. Thrown into the fire new manager*

      I fall on the side that there is a chance husband is being resentful. She may be a terrible manager and I have seen a lot of those. But human nature is weird too. It’s highly likely husband is resentful his former friend asks him to do things. She may also have needed to step back a little bit and be less chummy for everyone around them in the team…you can’t play favorites or seem to be playing favorites anymore. The fact that the wife wants to intervene, makes me think he isn’t handling something correctly on his end.

    8. Artemesia*

      A wife who does this (or a husband) thoroughly undermines the spouse in his or her profession. No one has any respect for a man whose wife has to run interference for him at work and it is a thoroughly emasculating move (what is the word for that when done to a woman by a domineering husband?) I once had a wife do that and I cannot over stress what a horrifying impression it makes. The immediate impression is that the employee is incompetent and so thoroughly incompetent that he cannot manage his own relationship with his employer. To even consider doing this should be a giant red flag that something is broken in the relationship and I would urge the LW to reflect on that. You can be his greatest cheerleader at home and if he is open to it, discuss with him how to deal with the now difficult boss, but never ever set foot in the work place or contact the boss in any way. It is the most destructive thing you can do for his job. And in some fields that are small and connected by gossip mills, you can trash his reputation well beyond this particular workplace. I know that in my field, this sort of thing would spread like wildfire. I have a number of anecdotes of poor behavior by pretty well known people in my profession and it certainly affects their ability to be competitive for a new job.

    9. Jennifer Juniper*

      OP1, I have read several other letters with your literal question. Don’t speak to your husband’s boss about him! That will undermine his career at best and get him formally disciplined at worst. Also, that’s not your problem to fix.

      Things you can do instead: Listen to him, empathize with him, suggest counseling if he doesn’t currently go.

    10. President Porpoise*

      I once had the misfortune of getting an email from my coworker’s brother (Mario, with the coworker being Luigi) – who I also worked with, but who was in a different department – asking me to intercede on Luigi’s behalf with our boss, because Luigi felt like he wasn’t getting enough recognition for his efforts. Quite aside from the fact that Luigi really didn’t have any accomplishments to raise, other than the baseline filing and data entry he was hired to do, it put me in a really awkward and uncomfortable position. I had to go back to Mario and tell him that while I was sympathetic, I really couldn’t get involved like that and Luigi really needed to learn to advocate for himself in order to be successful. It was rough, and Luigi did end up quitting in what I sure he felt like was a blaze of glory. We found an excellent replacement immediately.

  4. Kc89*

    It’s up to you of course but I would mention the speaker phone and why you are using it, I loathe when people call me on speaker phone but if someone mentioned it was because they could hear better my annoyance would vanish instantly

    I can’t be the only person like that

    1. Magda*

      You are not the only one!
      When I hear I’m put on speaker phone I immediately assume lack of privacy and / or that the other person is doing something else while talking to me (like driving) or that there’s another unnamed person listening in on the call.

      1. Tisiphone*

        Definitely lack of privacy! I have a coworker near me who makes and takes every single call on speakerphone. Including some personal calls. It’s distracting, and sometimes I’ve wondered if the person on the other end knows that other people can hear every word.

    2. Holly*

      This must be an office culture thing because in my office nearly all calls are taken by speaker and I assume when I call others that I’m on speaker (in a private office). I never knew there would be a noticeable difference in sound quality.

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

        Yeah, I usually can’t tell, and if I can, it’s not to the degree that I can’t hear them. Lots of people in the last couple jobs I’ve had have taken calls on speaker by default. If you are really having trouble hearing the person on the other end, you just say so and let them figure out how best to proceed. If not, what is the problem?

      2. iglwif*

        Yeah, I usually can’t tell either.

        I personally prefer to use earbuds / a headset (I work at home now and my work calls are like 80% Skype, 20% mobile), but I don’t much care what others on the call are doing unless there’s really bad background noise.

        Depends on the nature of the discussion, maybe? My work very, very rarely involves sensitive personal information, but if I were talking to, say, my therapist, I’d want to know there was nobody on her end listening in, so a “yes we’re on speaker, no there’s nobody else here” disclaimer would be good.

      3. H.C.*

        The speakerphone is also more sensitive to ambient noise – esp if the caller don’t mute when they’re not talking. The paper flipping & typing sounds drive me up the walls.

    3. Flower*

      The phone in the lab I work in will literally only do speaker phone. We can’t call out on not-speaker phone and if we try to switch it in the middle of a call that came in, it hangs up. Luckily there are calls only a few times a week and nothing called through that phone needs to be confidential. We don’t bother telling people they’re on speaker though.

  5. Scmill*

    OP#3 You said you had tried headsets before. Were they binaural headsets? Before I retired, I used a Plantronics headset that was binaural, and it helped me a lot. It looked like something to use to land planes, but it was very comfortable with great sound. I was in a lot of conference calls and sometimes wore it all day.

    Here’s a link to a newer version of what I had.

  6. Magenta Sky*

    The trick with speaker phones is to buy a good one with noise cancelling features built in. They’ve come a long, long way.

    Whether or not to mention it is a matter of manners and expectations, rather than a technical issue. If someone is expecting the conversation to be private, they should certainly be given the heads-up, even if you’re alone in the building.

    1. pleaset*

      Yeah, they’ve improved a lot.

      I think there are three reasons to disclose:

      1 – to explain poorer quality sound or alert the other party so they can mention if the sound quality is low
      2 – to explain background noises, for the same reason as above
      3 – to let them know if anyone else is listening.

      Nowadays if it’s a call with multiple people from one org I assume they are on speaker unless I know they are in different locations. I think most people assume this.

    2. Environmental Compliance*

      I agree.

      Maybe it’s the culture here, but generally it’s almost expected that we’re all on speaker. We all often need to look something up, type notes, etc, and that’s difficult to do with a phone in hand. But, we don’t take calls often enough to necessitate a headset. (Personally, I’m glad for that, because headsets give me headaches.) I don’t think I’ve been on very many calls that it’s been incredibly obvious that someone’s on speaker, with the exception of one of coworkers that I knew was working from home, and her cat meowed at the voice on the phone. The random Cat Hello did make my morning, tbh.

      Generally, we all assume we’re on speaker, and if there is something that needs to be said more privately (not common), we request that we *not* be on speaker.

  7. Just another Intern*

    OP1, I don’t get what this meeting between you and your husband’s boss could bring you. What’s the purpose? Even after letting her know your husband is unhappy, what you expect her to do?
    If their working relationship is strained because of she got the promotion and she is the boss, it’s not her work to manage your husband’s feelings.
    If she is objectively a bad boss (screaming at him, mobbing) , this meeting will exacerbate the situation.
    I get you don’t want to see your husband suffer, but this is a work situation between growns up, and it should be solved in the workplace.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      What I’m getting is that the husband has Feelings and OP is trying to manage them for him (ugh!!!!) and now wants (female) Boss to manage them.

      Not to say OP is doing it because of some conscious gender expectations, it’s just how we get socialized and therefore it affects stuff like this.

      Also I think OP might think of Boss as a friend given Boss’s and Husband’s past being peers. She needs to be disabused of that notion.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yeah, this seems like one of those “I am the full-time manager for my husband’s feelings and social life, his family’s birthdays, and also I buy his underwear for him because he can’t figure that out either.”

        1. Doodle*

          Wow, that’s really mean. Where do you get that from this letter? She (or perhaps he, the letter doesn’t say) is concerned about her spouse, s/he has a long relationship with his boss — for a long time considered the now-boss a friend — so s/he asked. The answer is, no, not appropriate. I don’t see why folks are jumping on the OP. Who’s going to want to ask questions on this site if this is the kind of response they get?

          1. Aveline*

            She’s not the only one who got that from the letter. I did as well. As did several other posters here.

            It’s far from mean to point out how this might be perceived even if it’s not reality.

            If a man’s spouse came to me to with the concerns as expressed in this letter, it would be a huge red flag that he can’t manage his own emotions.

            That’s neither mean nor reaching.

            It doesn’t mean it’s the only possibility here, but it is something OP needs to hear.

            1. Fact & Fiction*

              I actually agree with Doodle that the wording was extremely unkind to the OP. There are ways to tactfully express that you risk coming off in a certain way without saying something that is pretty unflattering to someone who was wise enough to write in to ask for advice.

            2. Artemesia*

              Yes. The very thought of doing this suggests a marriage problem as well as a work problem. This is an infantalizing move.

            3. Myrin*

              Sure, but there’s really no need to word it in quite such a way that OP might come away from this wishing she’d never written in.

              I get where the impression comes from – although it’s not one I got at all during my reading of the letter – but I’m surprised by how passionately some commenters are arguing about it.
              Many people seem to disregard that OP has had a long time of friendly acquaintanceship with this woman. They also seem to disregard that it isn’t strange to be invested in your spouse’s emotional well-being.
              Looking at these two factors, I can actually totally see how someone might get the misguided idea of “Dang, husband has been really miserable because of boss. I’ve always gotten along with her really well – I wonder if I should say something to her about it?” without there being anything more to it.

          2. Traffic_Spiral*

            If you think that’s mean, you need to get out more. Tons of wives do all that for their husbands and more. Seriously, a wife who buys her husband’s clothes and his mom’s birthday present, as well as makes the social plans is like… pretty common.

            “Where do you get that from this letter?”

            …from the letter? Going to a third party, sitting them down and being like “I want to talk to you about your relationship with Bob, and how he’s starting to feel about you” is *very* weird for an adult to do. Unless you’re a parent teaching your child social skills or maybe a preacher trying to resolve a feud between two of your oldest parishioners, that’s just not a thing people do. Pretty much the glaringly obvious answer is that she’s one of those “handles all things social and domestic” wives, and it’s skewed her view a bit as to appropriate boundaries.

            1. pleaset*

              “his underwear for him because he can’t figure that out either”

              it’s fine there’s division of labor in a marriage, but the “because he can’t figure it out either” is over- the-top and insulting.

        2. pleaset*

          ““I am the full-time manager for my husband’s feelings and social life, his family’s birthdays, and also I buy his underwear for him because he can’t figure that out either.””


          But your statement reflects a LOT on you.

        3. Alfonzo Mango*

          & this seems like a comment that break’s the commenting rules. Don’t speculate, and please extend men some grace.

        4. Working Mom Having It All*

          I also read it this way, especially because it’s just sort of casually dropped in there that the problem is that the husband is upset that his more qualified colleague got promoted above him. Maybe I’m way off base about this (perhaps the husband is the kind of person who would hate anyone getting promoted to supervise him, regardless of gender), but it sounds like maybe the husband has big feelings about this because the person who got the promotion is female? As if, as the man in this setting, he sees himself as having higher status than any woman present, regardless of who is actually more senior?

          Not only are these feelings OP’s husband’s to manage in his own workplace like an adult, but also they are probably feelings best kept private and worked on by becoming a more enlightened person.

          1. Former Employee*

            Except that the OP said the exact opposite of that, as follows:

            “She has more seniority so we knew she was probably the shoo-in for it. Since then, their relationship has gone downhill and has now become uncomfortable. ”

            Since the OP made it quite clear that they both anticipated that the co-worker would get the promotion due to her seniority, your comment appears to be based on something that is not in the OP’s letter.

      2. Susie Q*

        Let’s cut some slack for OP. OP sees her husband miserable everyday, listens to his complains about his manager. It is really hard to watch anyone you love struggle like that especially with work (something you’re forced to do a lot). I don’t see this situation as OP managing her husband’s feelings but a wife trying to find a solution to help her husband, that’s what people do for the people they love. It’s not a good solution (nor is it one that she should implement) but I’d don’t see it as OP managing her husband or expecting her husband’s manager to do it for him.

        Maybe just maybe she’s a really bad manager.

        1. Colette*

          Or maybe he’s a really bad employee. Or maybe they are both flawed humans who have good intentions, but who aren’t working well together.

          And none of those are the OP’s to manage.

          1. Susie Q*

            I didn’t say anything about her managing anything.

            She’s desperate for her husband to be happy again. She is trying to come up with a solution. It’s a bad solution. But she just wants her husband to be happy. Dealing with an unhappy spouse for years negatively impacts the other spouse. We’ve all tried to think of things to make the lives of the people we love better.

            Stop degrading the OP and implying she’s a bad person for caring about her husband. She had a bad solution so tell her no don’t do that. But don’t be rude to a person who is just trying to help a loved one.

              1. WellRed*

                You’re not. I thought your comments were perfectly reasonable and something the OP needs to consider.

              2. Myrin*

                I think Susie was hitting “Reply” to you but actually replied to the “spirit”, so to speak, of the comments up-thread.

        2. Elizabeth Proctor*

          I agree with you, Susie. In many ways it’s harder to see your spouse chronically unhappy than it is to be so yourself.

          1. Susie Q*

            Agreed. People in this specific thread are acting like OP is a meddlesome wife who has to manage everything her husband does. IMHO she’s just trying to help her loved one just like any of us would do granted it’s a really bad idea but people are trying to imply something about OP that isn’t evident in her OP.

            1. Name Required*

              Contacting your husband’s boss to talk about why he is unhappy at work wouldn’t be considered meddlesome to you?

              If your husband is chronically unhappy about work and unwilling to make positive changes toward it, that’s understandably going to impact a marriage. But that’s a martial issue to be solved by the people in the marriage. Bringing a boss into a martial issue is striking people as strange, very much not something “any of us would do.”

                1. Name Required*

                  And I get how that distinction is why some folks to fall on the side of “this is wife is not acting meddlesome or being an emotional manager.”

                  I also get how some folks think it reflects poorly on OP that she would even consider the idea, and that considering this as a possible action only makes sense in a relationship where OP is taking on an unhealthy amount of emotional management for her husband. It’s not an baseless conclusion, and while some folks are being unkind in their comments to OP, it’s not inherently unkind to draw that conclusion about the dynamics of their marriage.

                2. Delphine*

                  @Name Required, you can’t draw any conclusions about a person’s marriage from one short letter. Why not avoid speculating about things that are irrelevant instead of making unkind assumptions about the LW?

                3. Name Required*

                  @Delphine “Why not avoid speculating about things that are irrelevant instead of making unkind assumptions about the LW?” This type of dynamic is so common in heterosexual marriages that people are not speculating when they see the potential for this dynamic in OP’s letter; they’re making an educated guess.

                  I disagree with you that is unkind and irrelevant to ask OP to consider whether this type of common dynamic is driving her desire to contact her husband’s boss. It might speak to the root of what she’s trying to achieve, especially since she has no actionable advice from Alison’s response except “don’t”.

            2. Mimi Me*

              Agreed. I didn’t get the impression that the OP was an emotional manager. Perhaps it’s because I have felt helpless as my spouse has struggled at a job where I knew the manager and have been tempted to reach out with “what can we do to make this work?” conversation. I’ve never done it, but I will not lie and say the thought hasn’t crossed my mind. Ultimately I found that changing my own response to his work complaints has helped him. He will complain about something but instead of me jumping on board and saying something like “you’re right! your boss is an ass” I’ll say “wow, that sounds frustrating. How are you going to handle that if it happened again?” This has allowed him to kind of problem solve on his own. I’ve also been able to point out patterns in the same neutral way and it prompted him to finally leave the soul-sucking field he was in and into something different.

            3. Totally Minnie*

              In this situation, going behind her husband’s back to talk to his manager about his feelings IS a way of managing her husband’s life.

              I realize how hard it is to watch someone you love struggle and be unhappy. But the healthy way to address it would be for OP to have some conversations with her husband about it, not to talk to his boss about him without his knowledge and permission. Think about how the husband would feel if he found out his wife had done this. Would that be likely to increase his happiness at work or at home? I’m going to guess not.

        3. Frozen Ginger*

          I must admit I assumed this was an “emotional manager” case, but you bring up a good point Susie and I think it’s important to keep in mind.

    2. Dr. Pepper*

      Agreed. I fully understand how much it sucks to see your spouse miserable about their job and/or boss, but this is something you cannot fix. A heart to heart with the boss is not going to end well. If your husband is being (ahem) a bit butthurt over the fact that she got promoted over him, what’s the boss supposed to do about that? Manage him less? She’s likely going to feel highly uncomfortable and the whole thing will be awkward. If she’s actually a bad boss, this is just going to be fuel for the fire. I know it looks like a simple fix from the outside, and yes, if people would just be adults and talk about problems many problems would be easy to fix. But you can’t make them, and trying to force the situation nearly always has an opposite effect.

      The best you can do is talk to your husband about exactly why he feels the way he does. Is she objectively a bad boss or perhaps making rookie manager mistakes? Is his pride a little hurt that a former friend is now his manager? Because that does suck. Is he uncomfortable with the new power dynamic? If he’s willing, you’re in a position to help him figure out his issues. But don’t talk to his boss about this. Ever. Please. Doing so infantilizes your husband.

  8. Hope is hopeful*

    4 – if turning down a job = a burnt bridge then there would be a more burnt bridges than not in the world. Don’t tell them you need persuading, either apply for the job (& if interviewing you have more info to make a decision) or don’t

  9. MommyMD*

    Oh sweet fancy Moses. Do not approach husband’s boss. That’s so out of bounds. He needs to talk frankly to his boss and ask her if she’s happy with his performance and if there is anything she’d like to change.

    1. Artemesia*

      And his wife the OP if he is open to it can encourage him to stop whining and deal. It is pretty discouraging to live with someone who is miserable and doesn’t take steps to change that, but her job in the relationship is to deal with him not his boss. We have no idea if he is a great employee with a terrible boss who is perhaps threatened by him or a terrible employee with along suffering boss. He may not know that either. He needs to take steps to work with the boss to improve his performance in her eyes or discover that the situation is hopeless and think about his next steps to work somewhere else. Her job is to support him as he struggles to deal and to encourage him to deal with it; his job is to deal with his boss.

      1. Delphine*

        I mean, the letter doesn’t even begin to explain what the problem is. This is the only sentence that comes close to adding to the fact that LW’s husband in unhappy: “Currently he comes home every night on eggshells over what she may say or request of him tomorrow.” And that still doesn’t explain what the boss might be asking of him. Advising LW to tell him to “stop whining and deal” or to imply that he needs to improve his performance is…useless, because it’s baseless.

        1. voyager1*

          The sentence that jumped out at me was about seniority, and the references to pension. I wondered if this was a govt job where seniority matters. My spouse works in government and when she got promoted seniority factored a lot. One guy who was very junior to her (and apparently applied as well)really became a jerk about it to and she didn’t even supervise him.

  10. Erika22*

    OP#3, the only thing I’d mention is that even with your own office, I’d check that the speaker phone isn’t audible through the walls and possibly disrupting anyone near your office. We have some conference rooms on our floor and regular meetings are fine since everyone is speaking at a normal volume, but when someone joins remotely and uses the conference phone, we end up hearing the person on the phone very easily through the walls (while still not really hearing the people there in person). If you end up realizing your calls are fairly loud through the walls, there are lots of good headphones that could amplify your hearing and keep the space quiet!

    1. Triplestep*

      I was coming in here to say both of these things: acoustics may mean thst coworkers ARE disturbed by the calls through the walls (if even one of your office walls is glass there is reverburation) and why not check out a head set? I can see how some might not be so great for the hearing impaired, but it’s probably worth looking into.

      If you continue to use speaker phone, please make sure your door is closed before you connect with your you caller or conference call. That sound of the dial, ringing, and the automated conference call voice blasting through the door before someone walks over to close it … Ugh, the worst!

      1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

        She says she’s tried headphones. And while hearing other people’s calls on speakerphone may be annoying, if a coworker is doing it because she’s hard of hearing I think she gets as much slack as she needs.

        1. Triplestep*

          She asked about etiquette so I assumed she wanted to be polite. Nothing about being hearing impaired prevents a person from closing the door BEFORE dialing the phone. It’s just considerate.

  11. Lena Clare*

    Eek LW1, as Alison and others have said – don’t do it. I’m not piling on, it can be helpful to see that this isn’t a quirk that one or two people have about keeping things private, but that lots of people think its a bad idea to interfere.

    Also, the relationship between coworkers *does* change when one becomes a manager. It’d be weird if it stayed the same. Perhaps this isn’t something he can get over, after trying, and – disappointed though he is – would be happier looking for a promotion elsewhere?

    1. Lena Clare*

      Oh I’m sorry, I read quickly the first time and missed that he doesn’t want to leave because of the pension, so looking elsewhere isn’t as option.

      1. Magenta*

        But wouldn’t he still be entitled to whatever benefits he has built up? Otherwise no one would ever change jobs if their pension entitlement reset every time?

        1. Bishbah*

          Not if he hasn’t vested. I spent five years in a job, but because I was one year short of vesting when I left, I didn’t see a dime of retirement benefits for the entire period.

          1. GRA*

            Although you usually get the portion of the money YOU put into your account? You might not get the match/employer contribution, but I’ve never heard of anyone losing their contributions to retirement accounts?

              1. Phoenix Programmer*


                Man the adds on this site have gotten so intrusive! They block up to 90% of my comment box at times.

              2. Someone On-Line*

                In Kentucky, the employee and the employer contribute to the pension. (And in Kentucky, the legislators then draw from this fund and bet on the horses or something, because we’re always short on funds). You are vested after five years, but if you leave money is not added to the fund and it accrues something like 2% interest until you are 65. So it becomes a really lousy retirement vehicle at that point.

                1. Aveline*

                  And if you are part of that system, it’s virtually impossible to do something like an IRA or a 401(k).

                  I have a friend who is in the KY teacher’s pension system. It’s the worst of both worlds. Only the old timer’s with 30 years before the new rules do well. The younger ones can’t even adequately save personally.

            1. MissGirl*

              You’re thinking 401K not pension. At my job, if I were to leave today, I would get a portion of the company’s 401K contribution and all of my contribution but zero of my pension. I have to stay five years to receive any of the pensions (employees don’t contribute to the pension). At ten years, my pensions increases. So I can totally understand wanting to stay somewhere to not lose that.

              1. Judy (since 2010)*

                One of the early (1990s) defined benefit pensions I had also had an employee contribution. There was a Part A and Part B pension. You were always vested in your own contributions. I rolled my contributions into an IRA when I left that company. I’ve not seen employee contributions to pensions in jobs since then and haven’t seen a traditional pension since the mid-2000s.

              2. fposte*

                As noted upthread, though, he’s well beyond the duration when he’d forfeit his pension. So maybe the OP phrased it confusingly, but he wouldn’t leave without a pension at this point.

        2. Lena Clare*

          Possibly. I meant that looking elsewhere wasn’t an option for him as he didn’t want to do it.
          Here it’s calculated on the last full time payment that you had over a certain amount of years, so if he moves elsewhere he might not get the same pay. I suppose it depends on how close he is to retirement also.

    2. Kramerica Industries*

      This. You don’t have enough information on how either of them are at work. You’re only hearing one side of the story here. I don’t want to be accusatory because it’s completely plausible that she’s not a good boss, but is it possible that your husband’s attitude didn’t also change when she became his manager? I know of a few instances where a peer became a manager. Lower-Level Peer began resenting that Manager Peer was “ordering him around”, but in reality, Manager Peer was just delegating as a normal boss does.

      OP, I think it’s best that you help your husband through ways that he could change in order to be happier at work by getting down to the root problem. Maybe it’s an attitude change. Or a new organization system so he doesn’t feel like he’s drowning.

  12. Meißner Porcelain Teapot*

    OP 1 – As Alison said, don’t do it. Your husband’s relationships are not yours to manage, especially his work relationships. Even if you have known this woman socially for 11 years, she’s still his boss. More importantly though: is your husband unhappy because she’s a bad boss or just because she got that promotion over him and he’s now her report? If it’s the former, that is something he needs to take up with her and her boss. If it is the latter… then I’m sorry for being so blunt and maybe I’m being off base here, but your husband really should rethink his attitude because it comes across as pretty… well… sexist.

    OP 2 – I’d be wary of taking any job where this man is working or recommends you. If he called you his “work wife”, God only knows what he told them about you in his recommendation… But definitely do ask before you take the job!

    OP 3 – Just inform the caller that you’ll put them on speaker. Unless you are talking about launch codes for nuclear missiles, chances are they won’t mind.

    OP 4 – Don’t do it. Even if you manage to phrase it really nicely and even if they take it well–if the market is as niche as you say, there’ll be a dozen people with way more enthusiasm applying for that same job. You’ll most likely be wasting your time.

    OP 5 – No need. If you think they’ll have trouble understanding your accomplishments, contrast them with a middling performance as in “Achieved X amount of Bla (compared to a company average of Y)”. If they really want or need to know more, they’ll reach out to you.

    1. Susie Q*

      I’m a woman whose peer just became my manager. I don’t really like either (for a lot of reasons). It changes dynamics and can situations uncomfortable. You have absolute NO proof that OP’s husband doesn’t like his manager because she’s a woman.

      1. NBD*

        I don’t get it. Why are folks jumping to the conclusion that the guy hates his boss because she’s a woman or that he wants his wife to manage his emotions? A lot of these letters turn into speculation that of course the man is a terrible person. All we know here is that he is having trouble with his boss, he vents to his wife, she sees he is unhappy, and she wants to help. What she wants to do is a bad idea, but sometimes when you are so close to the situation and you see how hurt your loved one is, you can’t see a bad idea when it is right in front of you. She probably knows its a bad idea and that’s why she asked for advice. Folks need to ease up.

        1. Susie Q*

          I agree. People on these threads tend to forget that OPs are humans who make mistakes and have feelings. Most people are just trying to do their best.

        2. bonkerballs*

          Because that what happens just about anytime a woman writes in with a question that involves a male significant other. The commenters end up deciding the man is either abusive or a completely incompetent baby, the woman is doing Herculean amounts of emotional labor, the relationship is toxic, and the woman needs to GET OUT. I don’t understand why anyone write into AAM with questions about their significant others anymore. I mean, Alison always give helpful and thoughtful advice, but I certainly wouldn’t want to sit through this lot of commenters tearing through the person I loved.

      2. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, I’m also a woman and when my female coworker and friend became my boss, it was TERRIBLE. She was not a good manager.

        1. boop the first*

          These assumptions are naturally what happens when you present something as a problem but forget to mention what the problem is. If she is a bad boss say so! The only problem OP mentioned is that husband is worried that his boss will ask him to do parts of his job.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            Even more reason not to get involved with your partner’s job — the OP doesn’t actually know if the boss is a bad manager or her husband is a bad worker or both or neither.

      3. Delphine*


        Aside from Alison’s succinct advice, nothing more can really be said about LW1 because we have no information about the circumstances. Everyone is just speculating wildly about everything from the LW’s marriage to the LW’s husband’s sexism…

    2. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      Why on earth would feeling bitter about a former peer becoming a direct supervisor have anything to do with sexism?

      1. Artemesia*

        uh because it happens all the time. You have never noticed how many men resent having women tell them what to do?

  13. Former Hotel Worker*

    #5 is a mystery to me. I’ve been reduced to tears trying to write a CV with “achievements”. I can’t think of any that seem suitable, especially not transferable skills. Most of my jobs were about getting through the day. In 5 years I’ve never had an appraisal, no metrics, never got any feedback on my work save for a stern taking to when I was slipping into depression. I try to describe the things i did that i think might be relevant, like office type work that was supposed to be done by the managers, to try and demonstrate that i can do more than just customer service, but i don’t know how to frame it as an “achievement”. I just want to get out of Retail Hell so I can have a regular schedule, reliable work, and a living wage. The consensus seems to be that you definitely need to work doing something before an entry level job will give you a look in, but I’m still baffled as to how to put together the sort of CV that would allow me to make that shift. I simply don’t have the sort of information required. I’m just… getting work done and dealing with the person in front of me. How does that translate to achievements?

    1. Tallulah in the Sky*

      Alison responded to such a letter a while ago :

      I hope this helps. And I agree, this is hard. But even if your manager didn’t give you helpful feedback, you can still yourself assess the job you did. You can also ask someone for help on this if you really struggle. If you’re depressed or really just negative about your job, it can be really hard to come up with achievements (aka things you’re proud of).

    2. FD*

      Have you gotten some great comment cards from customers?

      Are you a high scorer on the secret shopper program your store runs (if it runs one)?

      Have you been given any side projects, even minor ones, you can talk about? For instance, helping with inventory, doing the endcaps, reorganizing supply closets?

      All of those are achievements! I can’t locate the post just now, but at some point Alison suggested framing it by asking yourself, “What did I do in this job that someone else might not have done?”

      Here are some real examples:

      “Helped increase hotel sales by being one of the most consistent reservationists, especially by tailoring benefits to the guests’ needs and employing high-quality resistance comebacks”
      “Solved problems to keep everything running smoothly, including arranging a seating system when the restaurant was full and resolving issues with customer orders”
      “Listened to concerns and overcame objections to obtain a donation”

      1. Former Hotel Worker*

        Lots of our online reviews would talk about how great the staff were. Never mentioned me by name, but logically I would be included I guess?

        I think I dealt with one secret shopper but I honestly don’t remember any feedback from that, if indeed I had any. I think it was a general comment at a staff meeting that we had one and it went ok.

        Side projects are my reason for living! I’ve written training materials, advertising brochures, guest information, financial reports! I love it! The trouble is, I never really see what it achieved. For example, I made all the materials to advertise a new local store, but never saw the data on revenue uptick. I don’t know what any of these things achieved aside from the fact that it felt like an immense honour to be asked to do them. When I write about them, it still feels like I’m just describing what I did, if that makes sense? There was never any information with regards to actual outcomes – it was just a task I was asked to do, and I did it. Being given additional work felt like an achievement in itself!

        Likewise with the reservation stuff at the hotel. There was no data on reservation generation (most of it came through websites anyway, and the staff had little role to play in generating room sales) and no individual feedback. One incident springs to mind where I helped a passer by find the hotel she was meant to be staying in, and she came back the following day and said she wanted to stay with us instead because her hotel was terrible and I had been so helpful. She was a long term contract booking for around three years, so the contract was worth a lot of money. Would a one off incident like that be worth citing?

        I do have reason to believe I was the most accurate in terms of data entry. Whenever I found a mistake on the system, I would look to see who made it, and found I made comparatively far fewer. But I’m not sure how reliable that would be as a claim as I think I was probably less likely to notice my own mistakes, if that makes sense? So I’m not sure about that one.

        I have always been something of a problem solver in most of my jobs. I’d rather manage a crisis than do my actual job a lot of the time! I could definitely put something down about handling crises and keeping people safe during serious incidents, definitely.

        1. Mary*

          >>For example, I made all the materials to advertise a new local store, but never saw the data on revenue uptick

          It’s great that you’re thinking in terms of provable metrics, but you can still include things where you don’t have them. A few options:

          Focus on the creation/skills gained as the achievement: “Created XYZ from scratch, teaching myself to use MS Publisher using online videos and guides”
          Focus on being asked as the achievement: “Asked to create XYZ outside of my usual job description, and managed the project around my core responibilities”

          Additionally, you can use the fact that you are lacking feedback to demonstrate that you’re ready for a more senior responsible role. I wouldn’t necessarily put this in your cover letter, but as an interview example it works: “In my current role, I was asked to produce XYZ. I really enjoyed doing this kind of work and it felt like an honour to be asked, but where I’m placed at the moment I wasn’t able to see what the impact of this project was in terms of revenue uptick or increased customer satisfaction. I’m really looking for a role where I’m involved in that kind of discussion, where I can see the impact of my work and continuously improve it.”

        2. Czhorat*

          Even if you can’t prove that your side projects achieved something, you still did them. Writing a training manual is a big plus; it shows communication skills, time management, and deep enough understanding of the process to teach others. That’s a major thing to include as an accomplishment on a resume. Ditto for creating advertising/marketing materials. This kind of thing sets you apart from other candidates with similar work experience.

          The anecdote about “winning” a customer doesn’t, IMHO, fit on a resume but can definitely be brought up in an interview when you are asked about your customer service skills.

        3. Artemesia*

          Too bad there aren’t metrics for some of this, but being singled out from peers to do special projects is something that reflects perception of superior work. Showcase that in the resume. Presumably the 50 other sales people didn’t get asked to design the training, so they recognized your excellence and put you in charge of training development — that is an achievement.

        4. Close Bracket*

          Making all the materials to advertise a new local store *is* an achievement. What’s more, it’s an achievement you can hold up and show people. As an engineer, my work is a lot like yours- I do a million routine tasks and try to handle stuff that comes up. Like you, I have the occasional one-off project. Like you, I am unaware and unable to talk about the impact to the bottom line of all of my work. I list both the actual task, for routine tasks, and the one off projects as accomplishments. Over the years as I have done more one off type projects, I have condensed the routine tasks so that they make up a smaller percentage of the line items on my resume. All my stuff is proprietary, so I have absolutely nothing to show to potential employers, so at least you have that! You could even put some of that stuff together into a portfolio.

    3. hbc*

      -2 years with no customer complaints
      -Go-to person for multiple supervisors for complicated orders
      -Known for turning irate customers with returns into repeat customers
      -Never late
      -Became familiar with merchandise to the point of being able to catch other employee’s pricing mistakes and saving company money

      You don’t have to have an official piece of paper to have an accomplishment. Just, would someone objective who’s seen you working agree with what you’re saying?

      1. Mookie*

        This is a really good explanation of how to identify and phrase, substantively, these kinds of successes.

        1. Former Hotel Worker*

          Yes, I think the “known for” phrasing is really useful in terms of framing additional tasks and “above and beyond” type situations. I have a tendency to just describe those tasks as more general experience, kind of my way of saying “hey, I did this too!”. I don’t know about LW5, but in my case a lot of those additional tasks would be more relevant in terms of transferable skills than the day to day duties of my previous work, so being able to frame it in a positive way is a real help. Thanks folks! :)

      2. Former Hotel Worker*

        Some of these would definitely work. I was always the go-to person in a crisis, which I guess I’m sort of proud of. I think I forget about that because it was always framed as me being a disorganised mess on a day to day basis (I had a work nickname that reflected this) and so being better suited to handling disasters. I think I need to reframe that in my head so it’s more positive. I was also the go to person for creative projects and little odd jobs like that.

        We didn’t really get customer complaints about the staff at at all at my main job (apart from when I started to get depressed, or when a customer complained I was too fat to be working in the bar). The general consensus was that the staff were the one saving grace of the place, but they never singled anybody out except for the manager. I guess I could mention the resoundingly positive comments, even though I was never mentioned personally? Seems a bit cheeky, but I figure I was probably included in some of those comments. Hopefully it wouldn’t be twisting the truth too much!

        Regrettably my performance tends to wane the more miserable I get. My lateness at my last job was terrible and I used to hide in the break room when I had anxiety attacks, which wasn’t good. I left before they could fire me. I’m trying to work on those issues but I can’t afford a therapist on current wages.

    4. Elizabeth Proctor*

      FHW, thanks for asking this question and commenters, thanks for answering. I often struggle with this too so it’s nice to know that not everything has to be quantifiable.

      Maybe in this week’s open thread (is it Friday yet?) we can do a resume-accomplishment-sharing thread for other ideas.

    5. Snow Drift*

      Browse LinkedIn profiles using keywords from your profession. You will quickly get a feel for the “good” ones and can develop a mental outline for what sort of things to include.

    6. OP#5*

      Hi Former Hotel Worker. It sounds like you were in a customer service role, unless I’m mistaken. I worked in customer service for over 10 years at call centers. Although I loved working with customers, I wanted to move up to something bigger and better where I had a more important role, and (being honest) where I could make more money.

      I feel like I had two options. The first being to do really well at the job with one company, stay there for several years, and try to move up to either the next tier of support or a management role. The other was to get a bachelors degree and move into a different field. I decided to go with the bachelors degree, which involved going to school part time and working full time for around ten years. After graduating, a fellow classmate referred me to my current contract role in the global treasury of a big multinational corporation.

      It’s been a fascinating role, but it is ending after a year and a half, and the challenge is not over. My role is rare, as I said in the post, and I am finding it difficult to find my next one.

      I guess two things you can take from this are

      1. Network – Often a referral is the easiest way to get a new job.
      2. Educate yourself – Whether that be through college classes or teaching yourself employable skills at home.

      And when it comes to your resume. I would encourage you to not give up. Get creative with the way you describe things as achievements, and probably buy Alison’s How to Get a Job book if you haven’t already.

  14. Tallulah in the Sky*

    OP #1 : I won’t pile on, I think everybody has already explained why it would be bad to talk to your husband’s boss. I am curious though about the reason why your husband is unhappy ? Is he bitter that his friend got the promotion instead of him ? Is he bummed that he kinda lost a friend when she became his boss ? Is he happy for her, but just can’t adapt to being her direct report ? Is he frustrated that in 4 years he still hasn’t be promoted and is still her direct report ? Or is she a bad boss ?

    If it’s any of those, except the last one, I’d advise you to talk to your husband, since the boss won’t be able to help with those. 4 years is a long time to either be bitter about something, or haven’t adapted yet. I’d encourage your husband to reflect on himself (or do therapy, or journaling, or whatever fits him) and do a bit of self-growth, for his sake. Whatever the reason of his happiness, if the boss is good to him, it’s him who needs a change in perspective, even more so if he doesn’t plan on leaving the company.

    1. EBStarr*

      I was wondering that too. Since the fact that she got a promotion over him is gone into in so much detail and the OP’s language was intriguingly neutral as to who is causing the problem (“their relationship has gone downhill”), it sort of did sound like he was just bitter, and possibly (?) even having an issue because she’s a woman who got the job he wanted.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Hmm. I wonder if he has gotten locked into “because of boss” as an answer to all frustrations. In which case, something to untangle them would help.

      (Just watched S2 of Mrs Maisel, and I liked Joel’s storyline: The Thing he said he always wanted, but couldn’t do–once the barriers were gone, he realized all the reasons Thing wouldn’t happen. For a long time he’d told himself “I want Thing, but because of X I can’t have it” and now that framing was gone. It’s a story we don’t see as often as Try Try Again and eventually you will be a star.)

      1. fposte*

        I think this is a really good point. It also may be how things get explained to his wife, even if he realizes sometimes that the reality is more complicated.

    3. Autumnheart*

      There’s also the option that the husband is a bad employee, which would not have necessarily impacted his relationship with his boss when she was his peer, but now it does. It would also explain why he can’t advance or transfer laterally within the agency.

  15. RUKiddingMe*

    OP2: There are other jobs where that misogynistic, boundary violating (work wife? Ewwww!) guy, who is not going to (it is sooooo unlikely) change doesn’t work.

    1. Tiara Wearing Princess*

      Not to mention, their roles may not interact now, but what if one of them gets promoted or moved into another role?

      1. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

        Their roles may never intercat, but they would still be in the same building I guess. There would still be openings for his BS. And his recommendations are actually reminding me of the “creepy interview invitation” from before christmas.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I think that’s a risk in both directions–they could say little interaction, and a month in a reorg puts them together. Or vice versa.

    2. 653-CXK*

      OP#2: Fergus is an asshole and is never going to change.

      Despite his glowing references of your work, he’s a boundary-crowding, egotistical schmendrick. If he’s far away from where you work (as in very limited interaction), all the better, but I agree with Allison – be very, very wary of taking the job, especially if you left your previous job because of him.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yeah, I’d be leery of working there, even if OP’s contact says she won’t be working with Fergus now. Things change, companies get reorganized, people move into new roles and onto new projects. I would not take any chances, I’m afraid. BG: I once said no to a small-ish company that contacted me, after I checked them out on LinkedIn and found out that Horrible Ex-Coworker From Hell was working there. I explained why (without naming names), they were very understanding.

    4. Artemesia*

      If he is the one recruiting her OF COURSE he is going to be working with her at some point. If he is so awful that she left a job because of him OF COURSE she doesn’t go to work at a place where he is reaching out to recruit her. OF COURSE.

    5. Dr. Pepper*

      I got the Creepy Slimy Guy shivers just reading that one. There is no way hell I would be considering taking a job where I KNOW this guy works. Ugh. I know it’s tempting because the job itself would likely be great, but he’s going to be there. You hate him, for good reason. He will totally ruin this for you all over again.

    6. ThursdaysGeek*

      On the other hand, he’s not the only jerk she’s going to encounter in her life, and she’s not the same person she was when she last worked with him either. OP, if you want the job, and you know you’re now the type of person who will shut him down, then it could be worth going for.

  16. SalesGeek*

    A technical hint for #3…I have hearing issues (minor hearing loss in the range of the human voice and tinnitus) which made conference calls a bit of a trial. But I’m a gadget freak and found that a good set of over-the-ear noise cancelling headphones really improved my ability to participate in conference calls. The only issue is that a good pair aren’t cheap and this is something where quality counts. The high-end Sony and Bose are the absolute best (I lean Sony but my son’s Bose are also very good).

    These would cancel out a great deal of the background noise that interfered with my hearing and had the bonus of making my voice clearer to others on conference calls. I verified this by calling a few helpful coworkers and just getting their take on how clear (or not) my voice sounded.

    A decent set of earbuds (e.g Klipsch) also helped if you gasp at the price of the over-the-ear headphones. I got the noise-canceling headphones for business travel (and Netflix!) and found them to be much better.

    NOTE: I worked largely at home and conference rooms, cubicles etc. didn’t really factor into this so YMMV.

    1. Huh? Sorry? Say Again?*

      I second this! I have auditory processing issues, not physical hearing issues, but I use my the free iphone headphones that come when you buy them when taking calls in my office with super thin walls where I can hear my neighbor like he’s sitting at my desk with me and though not perfect, it really does help a lot. I don’t know if it actually helps with background noise for the other user but I would think so since the microphone is right next to my mouth.
      I know a pet peeve I have is some people I work with always use speaker phone when calling which is fine except they seem to put the phone so far away from where they are sitting or standing I can barely hear them (e.g. calls from the car and throws the phone on their dashboard so I can mainly hear engine noise, or getting up from their desk and walking across their room to stretch their legs and not raising their voice to compensate). I’d urge anyone using speaker phone to be conscious of that!

      1. JustaTech*

        I had a professor in grad school who had a terrible habit of moving their head while they recorded the lecture, so their sound would go in and out all the time. At some point we were having a conference call and someone commented on the sound problems and the professor was so huffy about not having a budget for microphones that no one could get them to listen to the real issue, which was moving around.

        So unless your mic is pretty much stuck to your face, don’t move your head around while you’re on the phone.

  17. Rebecca*

    #1 – I’m listening to Alison’s book, “Ask A Manager”, and this situation just came up, specifically, someone who was a peer had been promoted and was now a manager. You can remain friendly with your former peer, but the same level of friendship you enjoyed before, like going shopping, sporting events, going to lunch, or one on one things can be perceived as favoritism by other employees. It might be that the OP’s husband is not happy losing the friendship, but for his new manager, this is the way it needs to be. The new manager needs to manage, and that sometimes means giving feedback, good or bad, so the relationship dynamic changes.

    OP’s husband needs to decide whether he still wants to work at the same company or if he would like to move on. He could find out if his pension would be vested after a certain time frame, and wait to leave until after that.

  18. Four lights*

    OP 1. Of course you are on your husband’s side, as you should be, but it may be that objectively the issues he’s having are on his end and not her problem.

  19. Julia*

    A quibble re. #2: Alison, you say “the fact that [Fergus] asked you interview suggests that he may indeed have a fair amount of interaction with the role.” But I believe LW doesn’t actually say that Fergus asked her to interview. Technically she says Fergus asked her to interview at two jobs he held previously. I think if he had asked about this job specifically, LW would’ve mentioned that – or would simply not even have considered taking the job at all.

    1. Liane*

      I think your read is correct, but I still say LW2 should be cautious about this job. Fergus is very unpleasant to work for and has a history of inviting LW to interview with other jobs, which means he keeps trying to get LW into working at the same place again. I suspect as soon as he figures out LW is being considered at his company, he is going to try to insert himself into things.

  20. Doctor Schmoctor*

    Number 1 rule for using a speaker phone:
    Only use a speaker phone if you have your own office and you can close the door.

    Few things are as distracting in a office environment as having to listen to other people’s conversations. My ex boss used to discuss very sensitive stuff on his phone. Very loudly, and with the doors open. We all heard how one of our colleagues was struggling to cope after being diagnosed with cancer, because boss dude didn’t close his damn door.
    Boss was an ass.

    1. Czhorat*

      Yes, this. Never use a speaker in an open plan office.

      So far as the people in the other end are concerned, it’s fine if it’s a good quality professional speakerphone and you’re sitting close enough for it to clearly pick up your voice. A conference-type speakerphone (like the Polycom Trio) sounds very good, while a bad one will give you a hollow echo-y feel.

      Have you considered a headset instead of the speaker? That puts the sound at your ear and the microphone close to your mouth, making it the technically best solution from a device placement perspective.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I am listening to vague loud noises from someone’s speaker phone as I type this, and I approve this message.

      In fact, even if you’re in an office, sound travels ridiculously well through the ceiling (have seven people sharing the office next to mine, and can attest. It’s like a sound chamber here at times). I’d be super careful with the speaker phone anywhere outside of a conference room, or a large executive office.

      Czhorat is also making a good point about the quality of the sound from a speaker phone on the receiving end. Cannot tell how many calls I’ve been on where there’d be several people sitting in someone’s office around a speaker phone, and everyone else on the call would hear nothing but garbled mumbling coming from them.

      We are fortunate that we were all given headsets soon after we started at CurrentJob. We have to be on the phone a lot for work and the headsets are helping immensely.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        I was going to say — I have an office, but that doesn’t mean I can’t hear conversations all around me, door closed or no! But speaker phone is explicitly rude if there’s no door to close, and overhearing is just the cost of doing business everywhere else.

      2. Czhorat*

        It’s hard to keep track of which ones to trust. Polycom (now owned by Plantronics) is perhaps the best manufacturer of conference phones. They used to be the OEM partner for Cisco, but that relationship ended because they compete with Cisco in other areas. Cisco phones are, the last time I checked, made by Revolabs (now a subsidiary of Yamaha) and not quite as good in terms of audio. I’ve not checked on Cisco phones in a few years, so my information on those might be outdated.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Ours are Cisco phones.The quality is not great. They are a few years old, though.

    3. Gatomon*

      I actually used to just go close the boss’ door (as quietly as possible) when the inappropriate speakerphone conversations began. Not sure how I’m still alive… he never said a word about it to me in all the years I worked there!

  21. HBucket*

    OP 1: Just in case you’re thinking, oh, no it will be ok. Allison just doesn’t realize what a great relationship I have with hubby’s boss…..

    DON’T DO IT!!!

    1. WellRed*

      Yes. I am not clear on what the friendship is like now, but if they are still friends outside of work, it’s past time to dial that way back to about zero.

  22. Sara without an H*

    Hello, OP#2: If your LinkedIn contacts can’t clear up the situation for you — for example, by saying that Fergus is the head of the branch office in Ultima Thule and only comes in to HQ once a year — you could go ahead and apply, and try to suss out what you can during the interview.

    But do not — repeat, NOT — take the job without a clear sense of what your working interactions would be with Fergus. Since you say you like your current job, there’s no reason to move to one where you’d be working with someone who’s a constant source of irritation. There will be other opportunities.

  23. hbc*

    OP1: “…on eggshells over what she may say or request of him tomorrow.”

    So, is she objectively awful as a boss, throwing him impossible tasks and calling him names? Is it just incompatibility, where he likes to have a plan for the day and she likes to shake things up as certain tasks become higher priority? Or does he not like *her* giving him normal boss-type requests for some reason?

    None of this changes whether you approach her, but it does change how you can coach your husband. Like, if it’s the third option, he might need less support and a figurative slap upside the head to get over it. Or the first, you can sympathize with him having a bad boss who you all thought was a good person, but help him embrace that there *will* be an impossible request tomorrow but that he’s decided it’s worth it for the pension. (Or support him that you don’t want the pension if it comes along with him being miserable for years.)

    The only thing that knowing her changes is that you might be able to offer a little insight *to him* as to how her current boss actions are consistent with things you’ve seen from her as a friend. Otherwise, you pretty much have to forget that you were buds before.

    1. anonagain*

      Hm. I think family and friends often don’t have enough context to tease out what’s really going on or provide any kind of meaningful coaching. I do think they can listen and provide emotional support, which is incredibly important. The OP doesn’t need to try to fix this in order to help.

  24. MLB*

    #3 – are you 100% sure you’re not disturbing your co-workers by using speaker phone all the time? Because even though you are in an office, the sound can travel and be distracting to those nearby. I’ve worked with several people who would use their speaker phones in their offices and it amplified the sound.

  25. Lily Rowan*

    #5 is interesting to me — I’ve always included one line that describes my role and also the place I was doing it, but I wonder if I actually do need it. Something like, “Managed a team of rice engravers at local leader in rice sculpting.” I’ll re-think this the next time I look at my resume.

    1. OP#5*

      I would say that about half of my resume line items describe the job, and the other half are achievements. With some of the things I am managing, I feel like doing the job is an achievement in and of itself. With that being said, I really trust Alison’s advice, and will try to move further toward describing things in terms of achievements going forward. I just started reading this site after 3 months of job searching, and I am so glad I found it! There is so much bad/conflicting advice out there, but Alison really knows what she’s talking about and describes things clearly and simply.

    2. hayling*

      The first line of every section in my resume always includes a line that summarizes the role and the company. It was considered a best practice by the resume development consultant that I used.

  26. LQ*

    #1 I work with people this could absolutely be about. Working together, moving locations together, promotion, friends with spouses outside of work. Do not do it! Please! You cannot talk to your spouse’s boss about your spouse’s work. Do not do it.
    I get it, you want your husband to be happy, to not be stressed every single day, to not struggle. It hurts to watch someone you love deal with that. You can be supportive and you can offer a shoulder. You cannot talk to your boss’s husband.
    (If it is government and your husband is in a union, he could talk to his union rep.)

  27. Hannah*

    Sometimes not taking a job DOES burn a bridge (I think I recently burned a bridge by turning down a job). But that tells you a bit about who they are anyway and gives you even more information about whether or not you want to work for them.

    I recently applied for a job that I actually really thought I wanted, but then it turned out that after interviewing I was less interested than I thought, and even less interested after seeing the offer! I turned it down via email (by replying to the emailed offer) and they didn’t respond for an entire week. When they did respond it was with “We are very disappointed.” Geez. Now I know I made the right choice!

    1. Lady Jay*

      This is fairly rare, though, especially if you have good reason (e.g. “I’m not interested in this position, though I may be in the future”; “it’s too far away from family at this time, though circumstances may change”). However, if you were to turn down a job offer from the same company multiple times in a row (Allison’s had letters about this), THAT would burn a bridge.

      Also, “we are very disappointed” is a terrible response! I’ve also had bad responses to my turning down job offers, and yes, no better way to feel like I’ve made the right choice. :)

      1. Sophie before she was cool*

        Oh, it now occurs to me that there are two ways to read “disappointed”. I assumed the message was along the lines of “We are very disappointed to hear that you won’t be accepting our offer. Best of luck!”, which seems fine and perfectly professional to me. “We are very disappointed in you” would be ridiculously terrible!

        1. Artemesia*

          Yeah I would hope they are disappointed to not have the joy of working with wonderful me and that is how I would read it. They are disappointed IN you? Nope.

    2. Fuddy Dudd*

      The most frustrating part about this is that that is exactly what a job interview is for! It’s not just for them to determine if they want you, but also for you to suss out if it’s a good fit on your end. There’s NOTHING wrong with leaving the interview and realizing that, with more information, you decided it wasn’t a good fit for reasons x, y, or z.
      Their response leads me to believe you dodged some form of a bullet.

  28. wmm*

    I really wish hearing aids were not so emotionally charged. If your work is at all suffering due to even mild hearing loss, why not at least check in with a doctor? There are even cases where just a bit of impacted ear wax can make a huge difference, but only a doctor can tell for sure and remove it safely. Perhaps it is because I wear glasses and know I’m destined for hearing aids, but I plan to do that as soon as I need the extra boost, not wait until I can’t function without, like so many family members.

      1. Not All*

        They’ve come down a LOT. A close friend’s were almost $10k when she first got them 10 or 15 years ago but the new pair was just over $1k & she says are actually better. Also, there are a few insurance policies that cover a good chunk of it.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          That good news (as I approach another birthday) but $1K+ can still be cost-prohibitive for a lot of people, and most insurers *don’t* cover them, so it’s still something that many have to put off as long as they can.

          1. Artemesia*

            I could not believe how expensive they were. My husband recently go them and they were around 5 K for him. They are very good, run by his Iphone and have features like directionality — all worth it, but prohibitive for many. Even the cheaper Costco types are very expensive for someone with limited resources.

            1. Liet-Kinda*

              Costco actually sells really competitive hearing aids at a reasonable price, if you’re willing to go for the most expensive ones they sell.

              1. fposte*

                I get so jealous when people talk about Costco, because there are none in my area. I cannot have Costco sandwiches.

                1. Liet-Kinda*

                  Costco is the bomb diggity. Excellent quality meat and seafood, good source of staples, cheap booze, great for parties. Hope they open one soon near you.

        2. Liet-Kinda*

          A$1k pair of hearing aids is pretty primitive, honestly. I’m sure they’re an improvement over 15 years ago, but that’s the Kia Rio of hearing aids. I’ve been wearing them for 20 years, and my most recent pair was at an incredible Costco discount and still cost $2600 – from an audiologist, with digital sound processing and bluetooth and enough refinement to hold their own in a noisy bar, they’d have been around $5k. It’s not unheard of for them to cost $7-8k, at the top end.

          1. DJ*

            Yes, this. The type of hearing loss makes a difference too. My hearing loss is concentrated in lower tones (kinda like I need a bass boost). For a hearing aid that can properly handle boosting lower toned sounds, you’re looking at $5k minimum.

    1. Rebecca*

      Hearing aids still don’t work quite as well for ears as glasses do for eyes, and they are more expensive, so the cost/ benefit threshold for getting them tends to be higher when hearing loss is mild.

      1. DJ*

        This is something most people don’t consider: if you don’t have pretty serious hearing loss, hearing aids can actually be more of a hindrance to the hearing you do have than the benefit is worth. Since you usually lose more hearing in certain ranges and keep hearing normally in others, using a hearing aid that sits in your ear canal means it can basically act like an ear plug for sounds not fed through the microphone (and honestly even the best hearing aids aren’t going to be as good as your natural hearing). Compare that to glasses: in the vast majority of cases glasses don’t inhibit the vision you do have, they only boost the vision you don’t have (e.g., distance). I have both glasses and a hearing aid and from my experience, hearing aids are not useful for everyone who has hearing loss the same way glasses and contacts are mostly useful for people with vision problems (and that’s not 100% either).

        1. Audiologist*

          Audiologist here! I wanted to add that open-fit hearing aids can avoid the “ear plug” problem for many people, since the body of the hearing aid sits behind the ear and there’s a tube/wire entering the ear canal with possibly only a small dome on the end. With this style of hearing aid, sound can still naturally enter the ear canal–you hear whatever sounds you would normally hear, and the hearing aid amplifies the range where you have hearing loss. This is not an option for every hearing loss (we do have to occlude the ear canal sometimes), but it is great for milder losses!

    2. BelleMorte*

      It’s because of the long standing bias that not being able to hear must mean that you are intellectually disabled as well. Glasses seem to be more acceptable as they are more common and because being blind doesn’t instinctively mean that you are perceived as less intelligent, unfortunately being deaf does due to the complicated communication adjustments required. (and yes, hearing aids are extremely expensive, usually at least a grand or more to start).

  29. Rusty Shackelford*

    #1, I know you might be thinking your situation is different because *you* have a relationship with DH’s boss, but really, that changes nothing. Because you’re still wanting to talk to her about *his* work situation.

    1. Name Required*

      This is an excellent distinction for those of us (like me) who can’t fathom why wife thinks this is appropriate. Thanks for the insight, Rusty.

  30. Rusty Shackelford*

    #2, it sounds like you’re still in contact with Fergus in some capacity, and he thinks highly of you. What if you asked *him* about the position? “I’m applying for a llama herder job at Sucracorp; do you know anything about it? Do you work with the llama herders?” He doesn’t have to know that the answer to that question determines whether or not you’d accept a job there!

  31. boop the first*

    1. You really make it sound like the only problem that your husband has is the idea that a woman was promoted over him (since you didn’t really mention that there was any problem at all), which couldn’t possibly be true, because he’s okay with having his wife manage his work relationships for him as a mother would her child. But if that IS the problem, there is no way he is going to be okay with this. And there isn’t going to be a lot of jobs out there where he is guaranteed to be free from request-laden women.

    (unless he’s in a very high position to begin with in which case, by all means…)

    1. valentine*

      The issue lies in the unspecified requests and OP1 did not say her husband knows about her plan.

    2. Jennifer*

      Not fair. It’s weird when someone you were friends with is now your boss. Conflicts happen. I don’t think this is about gender.

      1. Artemesia*

        We don’t know if it is or not. But it is interesting that HE is not aware of his wife’s plan. It would be a terrible idea in any case even if he were enthusiastically begging her to do it, but behind his back is truly horrifying.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There’s nothing here to indicate it’s about gender; please don’t state speculation on facts not in the letter as if it’s fact (especially when it’s so negative about an OP’s spouse).

  32. Darling Wendy*

    OP#4. I’m curious why you need to be persuaded and would invite you to check in and see what that really means for you. It sounds like the idea of a job in your town closer to home has some appeal to you but you fear that this job won’t match up in some way(s) to your current job?? Do you know what you would need in order to make this move? What’s holding you back from being confident on the things you would need to make this leap? As Alison said, certainly interviewing and not accepting the job won’t burn any bridges. It would definitely give you insight about the role and the company. I’m taking a leap by saying I’m hearing undertones of fear/worry and that being persuaded means the onus is off of you to say what it is that you’d want. I know, FOR ME, I would have some fear around negotiating for what I wanted, worried that I wouldn’t get it. I’m confident that the negotiation piece won’t burn bridges if I chose not to take the job after all. Good luck to you!! You can be afraid and do it anyway.

    1. LW4*

      You’re 100% right about fear that the new job wouldn’t match up to the current job, and that interviewing would let me gather info to make a more informed decision than I can make now. About your leap? You might be right about that too…. Mentally I’m worrying “what if the grass on the other side of the fence isn’t as green as it looks from here?” Thanks for your insightful comment.

  33. AnonyMouse*

    Another strategy for #2 if you had to ask in the interview is to keep the question general and ask “which individuals in the company will I work with most often?” (individuals could also be switched out for “roles” or “departments” when appropriate). That makes it seem more like you’re trying to learn about the inner workings of the office instead of figuring out if you’ll be able to avoid a toxic person/department.

    I’m hoping the OP didn’t say anything negative about Fergus though when she reached out to her contact. As she mentioned, people can be perceived differently in different environments. For example, I work in a really toxic environment right now (am DESPERATELY trying to leave) and it has changed the way that I function in my office. My coworkers here would probably describe me much differently than my former coworkers, friends, and family would. It’s possible that this new office loves Fergus, so hopefully she asked this question very neutrally.

    1. OP2*

      I have reached out to him and gotten his take on the company. If I continue to move forward, I’ll pry more. I love the suggestion of “which individuals”.

      And no, I didn’t specifically call out or bad mouth Fergus in anyway. The fact that he’s referring me is still, I think, a good thing if I ever NEED a new job. I’m just connected on LinkedIn, so that’s the extent of our connections.

  34. Trek*

    OP 2 I would investigate more and still interview prior to turning down the job over Fergus just to make sure I want the job or want to turn it down. Even if they state you will rarely work with Fergus things change in organizations and a year from now he may be more involved with your work or department.

    Finally if you choose to take the job you do not have to put up with Fergus behavior. He may have thought everything was fine but if he starts stating he’s your work husband you should respond directly. ‘Actually I don’t appreciate that categorization and do not want it repeated.’ You can soften it by saying ‘You know when you say that people assume you can’t handle things on your own and I never want to give anyone that impression.’ but I would only soften it once.

    As far as him pawning off admin tasks just look at him and pause for a minute ‘Fergus those tasks are part of every job and everyone has to do them. You need to handle them yourself.’ If he keeps on just ignore him and never do the tasks. He’ll finally take the hint and either find someone else or do them himself.

    1. OP2*

      I like this approach a lot. I’ve definitely grown in my confidence and have less tolerance for people taking advantage/not doing their job. this could work if the opportunity seems right.

  35. learnedthehardway*

    LW4 – Save the explanation that you’re happily employed for a conversation with the recruiter / hiring manager. Put your best foot forward in your cover letter. When you do speak with someone, tell them that you’re happily employed and not actually looking for new opportunities, but that you came across their posting and their role was so compelling for you that you had to explore it. Make sure you can outline your reasons for why the role is compelling, including (but not only) because of the logistics (eg. in your home town, shorter commute, etc.) You’d love to get further information to find out if this is a role where you can add value, but you’d also be happy to network if it isn’t the right role for you.

    That will give the recruiter / hiring manager all the information they need to know that their role COULD interest you, but that you need for it to be compelling to seriously consider, without you actually having to say so.

  36. Jennifer*

    Lw2 DON’T TAKE THE JOB!!!! You never know what might happen. Fergus may end up switching roles and you’ll end up interacting with him more. You’ll be back where you started. It’s really not fair that men like him affect our career choices so much but that’s how it is.

  37. learnedthehardway*

    LW1 – Honestly, my blood ran cold just reading your letter. Absolutely DO NOT contact your husband’s manager about his unhappiness at work. No good can come of this. Instead what will happen is pretty well universally bad:
    1. You’ll be undercutting your husband and saying that you don’t think he’s competent to manage his own work situation or reporting relationships.
    2. You’ll potentially be outing that he is not happy with his manager, which she may take very badly.
    3. Consider that this relationship is a two way street – perhaps your husband is the problem, not his manager. Maybe she’s having to assert her management authority over a former colleague and finding that your husband isn’t very open to that. (This happens all the time – sometimes, people think that because they were previously colleagues, that their current manager will put up with more / doesn’t have the right to give them directions / should cut them some slack.) I’m not saying this IS the case, but it COULD be. In which case, telling his manager that your husband has a problem with her isn’t going to help any.
    4. It could be the opposite situation as well – ie. a manager who feels they must assert authority because they feel insecure managing a former colleague, who isn’t resisting their management. This happens too. Telling the manager in this case will just make things worse, because she’d interpret unhappiness not as legitimate, but as evidence that her employee resents her authority/promotion.

    You cannot make this better by stepping in with his manager – you can only make it worse. I would stick to empathizing with your husband, while trying to suggest ways that he could address the problem. Brainstorming might be helpful. Asking questions to ensure that you really understand the situation might be helpful as well. If necessary, encourage your husband to job hunt.

  38. LawBee*

    #3 omg always always ALWAYS tell people you’ve got them on speaker. It’s not about the quality of the call, it’s about giving the other person a heads-up that your phone conversation can (and likely will) be overheard. If they object, then idk tell them your handset is broken and this is what you’ve got, if you don’t want to get into the actual reasons why. But the surprise “what, I’ve been on speaker this whole time?!” is terrible.

    1. Name Required*

      You know, this comments section is the first time I’m running across this fear of being overheard in a professional context. If you work with highly confidential materials, sure … but for the average professional? I always assume that I will be overheard on a professional call and that my work calls are not confidential unless specifically discussed.

      Do people really object to someone else using speakerphone because they are afraid their conversation is going to be overheard? I’ve never considered that a possibility before.

      I’ve also taken conference calls on speaker where I did not disclose that a trainee was joining me to be a silent listener (I have also disclosed, depending on the nature of the call and the person I’m speaking with), and been able to overhear conference calls through walls.

      I do disclose when I’m on speaker phone because the audio quality can be awful, but it’s usually just a, “Name Required here from Company X. Let me know if you have any trouble hearing me; I’m on speaker phone today and will mute myself when not speaking.” I also announce when I’m going to be typing during a meeting, since I have a very loud keyboard and tend to make a lot of noise while typing (lead fingers, I guess.)

      I learned something new today.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Usually it wouldn’t make a difference to me, because I’m not working with confidential information. But if I’m on the phone with someone who I have a pretty good relationship with, good enough that I might slip in a joke or a complaint? Yeah, I’d definitely be appalled to find out I was on speaker and didn’t realize it.

        1. Name Required*

          Fair enough. I guess I’ve always followed a policy of only letting those remarks slip out in person, over a personal line like a cell phone, or make a point to specifically ask (“Hey Jennifer, are we on speaker right now? I want to ask about a sensitive subject.”), and assumed that others did likewise to CYA … which mirrors what I’ve seen most commonly from other professionals. Good to understand another common perspective.

  39. Dr. Pepper*

    #2: Don’t. If he’s the reason you quit before, he’s going to be the reason you quit again. HE WILL NOT CHANGE. I don’t usually go the all caps route, but this is important. He will not change. Ever. Never expect such a thing. Even if your roles don’t interact *now* they may in the future. Also, since he appears to like you (work husband?? ugh!!), he’s likely to seek you out in a “friendly colleague” type way, so even if you don’t necessarily have to work together on projects, he’s likely going to be a presence in your day to day life at this job. Would you be cool with that? I wouldn’t.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      I was coming here to say exactly this! Even if this role doesn’t work with him a lot, he likes you and has flat out told you to come work with him before. He’s going to seek you out and want to be “work friends”. So keep that in mind!

  40. Jennifer*

    LW1 Definitely don’t intervene on your husband’s behalf. But if you were once friends I don’t see anything wrong with inviting her to a drink to catch up. Maybe she’s just stressed out and needs to vent.

    1. Liet-Kinda*

      Hard disagree. She was not a friend with an organic, direct relationship to OP; they were friends, or friendly, because her husband was friends with her at work. The only way “let’s have a drink and catch up” works is if they were friends independent of her husband’s work relationship with her.

      1. Drew*

        Also, the situation under which they became friends was different. The power dynamics have shifted. OP needs to recognize this is not her problem to fix.

      2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        You beat me to this response. From the letter the relationship between wife and boss was a result of the working relationship between the husband and boss.

        Even if the relationship between wife and boss grew independently outside of the shared job connection, it’s still a bad idea. The fact is that 4 years ago the dynamics changed in a fundamental way with the husband now reporting to boss. I’m of the opinion that any friendships changed along with the reporting structure.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          If they haven’t been hanging out regularly or at all since Boss was promoted, the husband was probably the basis of their friendship.

          In my opinion, it doesn’t matter *how* they became friends – if OP isn’t already used to being around Boss while knowing Husband is unhappy with Boss, then there’s a pretty good chance she’s going to end up saying something she shouldn’t if she invites Boss out.

  41. Jaybeetee*

    LW1, I know this is already a pile-on, but I wanted to expand a bit on something that’s only been touched on in the letter and comments so far:

    It sounds like at some point in the past, and perhaps still now, you considered this woman something of a personal friend, and your own relationship to her was social, while your husband’s relationship with her was both social and professional. So I’m guessing that while you’re aware that *normally* interceding in your SO’s working relationships is Something You Don’t Do, you might be thinking that in this case it’s a bit different, as you had/have a personal relationship with her as well.

    So to expand on that, no, it’s not different in this case. What you’re describing sounds mostly like a work problem, which means “work rules” apply, you don’t intercede, anymore than if his boss was a stranger to you.

    Beyond that, interceding on behalf of any other adult in any other kind of relationship gets… icky. It’s something that’s been normalized for a lot of hetero couples, where women become the Social Coordinators in a lot of ways, and both men and women are often okay with that dynamic within their own relationships (my mother literally messages my SIL and my younger brother’s GF for family get-togethers, because my two brothers – aka her actual sons – are terrible at returning messages or planning things, and she gets actual responses from the women), but it tends to be… problematic in certain ways, in any situation. Grown-ups need to manage their own relationships and not have other grown-ups running interference to smooth over rough patches.

    Also, this is not in the letter, but just because a friend and I were discussing her own propensity to “manage” the feelings of people around her, and why. There’s the “socialization/we just do it this way/normal for us” reasons for this kind of thing, but there are also possible “I learned from a young age to be really attuned to what other people were feeling, and to manage those feelings and potential conflicts, because if I didn’t do that I was in actual physical danger” reasons. You don’t indicate this at all in the letter (of course), but just because that’s a fresh topic for me, might be worth examining *just in case* you have some past incidents holding over in that way. If you don’t, you don’t, but doesn’t hurt to check in on yourself.

    1. fposte*

      I think this is really thoughtfully considered; I think you may be right about why this would feel like an exception. OP, if it puts it into clearer relief, I’d say even if she were your sister, intervening would be inappropriate, because the work relationship between your husband and his boss isn’t a triangle that includes you but a straight line between the two of them. It’s plausible that you could have a relationship with his boss, but that’s always separate geometry from his relationship with her.

    2. Jennifer*

      Good points. I don’t know if it’s fair to frame her as this overbearing wife, especially considering that she knew the boss beforehand.

  42. DaniCalifornia*

    I am wondering about LW5 and when you’re in an admin role. I am a professional admin who is job searching but in admin job ads you can have Exec Asst as the title and the company wants to pay you $9/hr or $70K/year. There are also so many titles one can have: EA, Office Admin, Office Coordinator, Sr Admin Asst, Office Manager, etc.

    Everyone who has reviewed my resume after I gave it a make over a la Ask a Manager style says it’s great (coworkers, former coworkers, recruiters for staffing firms, old boss) but I seem to be getting no hits further than perfunctory phone calls/a few interviews. I’ve got a skills section where it lists the normal office software and skills acquired working in an office but I’m seriously considering adding the “most basic” skills and a bullet point to my current job title with a quick list of generic office stuff I do like LW5. Very often the person calling me will ask if I know these basic office things or are okay with filing, typing, email, answering the phones. It always makes me wonder how well my resume was read considering the first bullet point says I take care of 1000+ clients. How else would I care for them if not by phone, in person, and email? I help with recruiting at my office so I know first glance at resumes is key to grab attention, and sometimes second glances still don’t read the entire thing. But I’ve checked with my network and they’ve all said it’s very obvious from my resume that I must use basic office tools etc.

    I’ve friends with resumes that read more like job descriptions get jobs much faster than I have been even getting responses.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      I’m a tech writer. I’ve got a skills section that lists video-editing software and also “Office Suite 8000” or whatever they’re up to now. So yeah, I can use Word and Outlook like a pro! There really are a lot of places where they scan for keywords and don’t put interpretation into it. (And I’m not talking computer scanning, just a person glancing quickly over the page.) Since you already have a skills section, just add the basic stuff to it.

      But do remember that most people who look at resumes see a lot of them OR they’re not used to reading them. Do Not expect them to interpret things. And also do not get insulted if they ask you a question that is obviously answered by something on your resume. They may well be working from a checklist of questions and skipping one would be frowned upon. And you know what? Some people really would be insulted if you asked them to file stuff — because that’s what file clerks are there for. Just answer the questions in a friendly voice and don’t dwell on the eternal “WHY”.

      And finally, they have to ask you SOMETHING. The whole point of the phone call is to find out that you’re really alive, and and probably didn’t buy your resume. You have to have some kind of conversation in order to do that. The simplest one is weather, of course, but probably job skills is a better topic when you’re job-hunting.

  43. Eugenie*

    #5 – I typically have the first bullet under each job give a brief explanation of the role, since none of my titles would mean anything to people outside of my organization (I work in museums and each one organizes their operational stuff differently). Typically it’s a list of the departments I oversee, number of direct and indirect staff (to give a sense of scale – managing one department of 4 is very different from managing three departments with 80 staff total), and overarching goals (drive revenue, improve guest satisfaction, etc). Then I use the other bullet points to give accomplishments that clearly support that description.

    1. OP#5*

      Hi Eugenie,

      That makes sense to me. I don’t know if you will see this reply, but I am curious about something. How long is the first line with the general description of the role?

      I have been trying to keep each line item at one to two lines, but maybe that is not necessary.

      1. Eugenie*

        It takes up two lines, with all my accomplishment bullets taking 2-3 [editing is HARD]. Overall my resume is two full pages to cover 10 years full time work experience and a bit of volunteer service in my field. YMMV – last time I applied for a job was 2012.

  44. Marlene*

    #3 If you need hearing aids, they’re Bluetooth compatible and you can stream calls to your hearing aids wirelessly, and nobody else can hear the other end.

  45. Jennifer*

    When it comes to the speakerphone, I appreciate being told that someone is using it. I choose my words carefully and pretend the entire office can hear what I’m saying. I have heard many conversations through office doors.

    1. MommyMD*

      Exactly. I always mention something even if I’m alone. There’s a missing level of security as it can be inadvertently overheard.

  46. Jennifer*

    LW4 reminds me of a guy friend who told me he went on a brief coffee date with a woman he met online. It was nothing special and he didn’t feel a spark. He had no plans to see her again. When it was over, she said, “Tell me why I should go out with you again.” Lol! Alison is right. It goes without saying on an interview, or first date, that both sides will require some persuasion. There’s no need to state it out loud.

    1. LW4*

      funny story — years ago at an interview for a fellowship — which they had flown me in for, so clearly they thought I was worth talking to — the panel started my interview by asking “So, why should we give you thirty thousand dollars?” Now I could hit that one out of the park, but then I was pretty tongue-tied. Add that to the list of things that work better as subtext rather than text.

  47. Audiologist*

    LW#3 – If you are in the US, you can get a free captioned landline phone through Caption Call. You do need a professional to sign off on it, but then it’s pretty straightforward to obtain it. (I’d strongly recommend getting an actual hearing test so you have a baseline and so the audiologist can look for any medical red flags in your results.) Link is below. Best of luck!

  48. Oaktree*

    A question about “achievements”- I realize that this is obviously a laudable thing, to innovate and achieve accomplishments at work, but to be honest I often feel like (although I get great reviews from my supervisor) I’m basically just doing a good job at doing my job. I’ve taken on new tasks when asked and have approached others for more work or to offer to help out (and have been taken up on my offers many times). But I can’t look back over the last, say, two years and point to any major “achievement” that seems like it would be worth putting on my resume. I don’t want to be in my current job forever- but is what I’m doing not enough? I do professional development (conferences and workshops) in my own time, semi-regularly, but this makes me feel like maybe I’m not doing enough at work.

  49. Elizabeth West*

    Errrghh #2. This terrified me when I was looking in 2012. Bullyboss at OldExjob had gotten fired after I left (boy would I have loved to have been a fly on the wall for THAT, bahahaha), and I had no idea where he went. I didn’t want to end up working with him again. Now I know where he is, and I can avoid applying there. I don’t think he’ll leave anytime soon.

    #4–I try not to apply for jobs I don’t think I’d want, in case I do get an offer, but a lot of times, I’ll apply for something I’m not sure about so I can use the interview to find out more. OP, that’s what interviews are for–you’re checking them out too.

    If you have a reason other than the job to move back, like being closer to your parent, then it might be worthwhile to take it (if it isn’t full of bees) and then you’ll already be there if one of the other ones opens up.

    Alison is right; you won’t burn a bridge if you turned it down. You can always say that after considering it, it’s not the right thing for you currently.

  50. Betsy S*

    My current job is work-from-home and it came with a good Sennheiser Officerunner headset. Expensive but it changed my life. A good headset can make a world of difference, and you might be able to expense it.

    A friend bought a lower-end Sennheiser and said it is working great for him. Might be worth a try!

  51. LW4*

    Thanks for the useful feedback, above and below the fold.
    I’ll avoid using the “persuade” language at any point, and save the nuance (“I wasn’t looking because I’m happy at current org, but your posting caught my eye”) for a conversation with the hiring manager — if we get that far in the process, even. Going through the process might require me to make a decision — which I’m a little afraid of — but it will also give me more info to make that decision an informed one. Maybe I’ll be back in the open threads as the process continues. Thanks everyone.

  52. Mellow*

    OP4: “Am I open in the cover letter about my needing to be persuaded?”

    I find the question really odd. Why would a potential employer owe such a thing to an applicant? Either apply or don’t. Either accept the position if it’s offered, or don’t. It’s just that straightforward.


  53. Fluff*

    OP 1 – don’t. Let him vent and vent with him, then call a friend who is not his boss.

    OP 3 – I recommend always telling people you are on speaker and if private or not every time. Cultivate a habit because…

    Scenario – Doctor calls patient. Doctor does the whole verification thing (date of birth, etc.) and patient complies, never saying they are on speaker phone OR driving (because office policy is not talking to pts driving), the pt even saying it is a ‘good time to talk.’ Doc tells them they need to come in for treatment for a sexually transmitted infection. Guess who else is in the car?

    You can imagine The Armageddon. No car accidents, just um…righteous anger. Really happened. The who is should have said what matters less than how this all could have been prevented.

    Summary -I recommend cultivating the habit of always announcing speaker and privacy / lack thereof. You don’t want to accidentally be ok with a situation due to habit and then regret it.

  54. Former Employee*

    I took OP #1 at face value. She and her husband anticipated that his coworker would be promoted because she had seniority, so there is no reason to think that he is upset that happened. The fact that the one who has seniority is the one who gets the promotion plus the fact that OP referenced the “agency” where they work sounds as if they work for the government. That strengthens the case that the husband would not have been upset about not getting the promotion since people who have worked for the government for years know the rules.

    In addition, the former coworker/now boss had been a friend to both of them in the past. If she were a difficult person that would have become clear to them over a period of time.

    That is why I suspect that the boss is one of those people who just isn’t a very good manager, but got promoted to the job because the system is set up that way. Maybe she is a better manager of people who were never her equal, but doesn’t know how to deal with managing someone who is more of a peer than a subordinate. Perhaps she believes that OP’s husband would have been a better manager and is overcompensating for her feelings of inadequacy. Who knows.

    Regardless, the OP should not talk to the boss.

  55. jeezus*

    speaker phone sucks – get a headset. The clarity is fantastic on both ends and you can get up and walk around if you want.

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