open thread – February 8-9, 2019

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

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

{ 1,937 comments… read them below }

  1. KHB

    Can (or should) I ask to be appreciated more at work? If so, what does that look like?

    I just found out that while 25% of our staff will be getting merit bonuses, I’m not one of them. This has come as quite a blow to my esteem. The whole reason we have money for bonuses at all (we’re a nonprofit, so we usually don’t) is that we were under budget for salaries for 2018 due to having a lot of positions vacant for much of the year. Disproportionately many of those vacancies were on my team, so a disproportionate amount of the work to cover for them fell on me, and I’m disappointed that the powers that be don’t think I deserve anything for that.

    It’s not really about the money per se. I still get a decent salary raise (as does everyone else), so it’s not like we’re being shockingly mistreated. It’s more about how I put in all this extra effort, and nobody seems to notice or care.

    I feel like this happens a lot. I push myself to keep my department running reliably and produce work that’s qualitatively excellent, even when my colleagues are less reliable and less excellent, and that gets taken for granted. Can I ask for more recognition? Or is this a case of “don’t love your job too much, because it’ll never love you back”? Or do I need to start considering that I’m on the wrong end of the Dunning-Kruger curve, and I’m not actually as good as I think I am (although nobody’s seen fit to point that out to me either)?

    1. The Rain in Spain

      Do you have annual reviews or regular meetings with your boss to highlight the contributions you’ve made? Is it possible they don’t know how much you’ve been taking on because you’ve been handling it so well?

      1. KHB

        The 25% getting bonuses was the result of the annual review process. I had my one-on-one with my boss where I laid out all my accomplishments for the year, but then, once everything percolated through HR, no bonus for me.

        1. Coffee Bean

          Did your boss indicate in any concerns he may have about your work during the 1-on-1?

          Also, only 25% of the staff are getting bonuses – are they in a similar work function? Are they all managers? Could that be the reason they are getting the extra bonuses and not the other 3/4 of the company?

        2. Frozen Ginger

          Question: Who were the 25% who did get those bonuses? Is there a trend there, like they were all senior employees or managers? Because they might be saying they’re “merit bonuses”, but its probably its dependent on way more than merit.
          Also, you mention you had your review and you laid out all your accomplishments, but how did your boss respond? Did she agree with you and seem appreciative? Or did she just nod her head? Depending on your relationship with your boss, it might be productive to just flat out tell her: “I thought I had a really good year, and you seemed to agree, so I was a bit stung that I wasn’t one of those who got a merit bonus. Is there something I’m not doing?”

          1. KHB

            I’d love to know who the 25% were, but all I know is that I’m not one of them. We’re in the midst of a slightly disturbing trend of senior management claiming more perks for themselves and more work for everyone else, so it’s very possible that they hoarded the lion’s share of the bonuses, but that information isn’t made public.

            My boss seems to agree that I’m doing a good job, but he’s rather conflict-avoidant and reluctant to say anything bad to anybody. When I pointed out that I was disappointed not to get a bonus, he mumbled something about “you know how hard it is to get these things through HR.” So either he tried to get me a bonus but HR blocked him for some reason, or he didn’t even try and is now trying pass the buck to HR. I don’t know which is worse.

            1. Frozen Ginger

              Sounds to me like the issue, wherever it is, does not lie with you. Either your manager or HR or some other higher authority does not appreciate your work.
              Are you friendly with any other high performers on your level? Might be worth asking them what they think of the situation (because honestly only 25% of people getting merit bonuses sounds sketchy).

              1. KHB

                The whole process seems sketchy, to be honest. HR isn’t trained in the technical aspects of what we do, so they don’t know enough to judge the quality of my work. So why should they have veto power over my boss’s evaluation of me. Is this how it usually works in other places?

                As I said, usually nobody gets bonuses. Occasionally in the past, when there’s been a year-end surplus, it’s been divided equally among everyone. (Which itself has ticked me off, when a big part of the reason for that year-end surplus has been management’s refusal to fill a vacancy on my team.) This is the first time in my experience that only some people have gotten bonuses.

                1. Jules the 3rd

                  With each thing you post, it looks more and more like this was not a performance based decision…

                  Does it help at all to frame it that way? Thinking that the execs were keeping money to themselves that had previously been shared would make me unhappy in a different way; that’s something you might want to take to a board.

                2. Carrotstick21

                  Hi – HR here. A thing that can be very common at poorly-run companies is that managers and other leadership pass the buck of blame onto HR to avoid owning their own decisions, making HR a repository of Bad Stuff That Happened and then no one goes to HR for anything because why on earth would you? Is HR well integrated into your leadership? Do they have a seat on the board or management team? Are they highly visible within your organization and understand the industry you are in? If no, you may be at one of the more poorly run businesses.

                  I would suggest going to HR and asking there. Inform them that you were informed by your manager that HR determined that you were not bonus eligible, that you are disappointed because of X,Y,and Z accomplishment, and that you’d like to better understand HR’s decision. That will at least let you know if it was their decision (My guess: bet it wasn’t) and will give them a heads up that they need to better guide their managers through the comp review process.

              2. Anonymous Penguin

                It’s also possible that your boss does appreciate your work and he was just too busy with other stuff/forgot/didn’t feel like bothering to do the paperwork and lay out the case for you to get the bonus. We recently asked managers to submit nominations for employee of the year and several of them didn’t submit anyone. It wasn’t that they didn’t think they have excellent employees (I’ve heard them praising their employees before), but because the deadline was short, people were taking lots of time off, there was a lot of year-end stuff to do, and it just got passed over.

            2. wittyrepartee

              Maybe tell him it’s less about the money and more about you being concerned about whether he has doubts about your work ethic?

              Like, it’s also about the money, at least a little- but knowing whether it’s you or management will help take the sting out of it.

            3. MissDisplaced

              This often happens at my large company. One group may be experiencing layoffs, but another group may be getting bonuses if they hit or surpassed their sales targets. This is also especially true with sales, and they may receive while all others in a company don’t. But I find that difficult to accept at a nonprofit, where it should in theory be all or none. Are you positive the 25% weren’t under some type of previous pay cut?

              1. KHB

                I’m not sure of anything, but it was presented as a purely merit-based decision. So either that’s what it was, or they were lying to us.

          2. designbot

            Another thing that happens sometimes is bonuses are used to balance out situations where people aren’t being paid enough in their base salary. The optics of that can often seem a bit upside-down, as those people aren’t likely to be the highest performers, but there’s a legit reason behind it.

            1. Fortitude Jones

              But then they shouldn’t call those bonuses “merit based” because they’re not – they’re about giving underpaid employees a one-time boost to make up for the disparity.

        3. CatCat

          I would go back to your boss so you can find out what you need to accomplish to earn a merit bonus in the future.

    2. Queen of Cans and Jars

      Did they give you an explanation of why you didn’t get a bonus? I think this would be a good time to ask for a meeting to discuss where they think you need to improve.

      1. Queen of Cans and Jars

        Not that you don’t deserve a bonus, but their answer will help you sort out whether it’s a case where they genuinely don’t know what you’re contributing, or they do know & really don’t care.

      2. kittymommy

        yeah, this would be something to ask. The merit raises where I’m at are based on a point scale. Yearly reviews are scaled and depending on your overall average, a merit raise is given or not given (between 0 – 5%).

      3. KHB

        We talked during my one-on-one about things I can be working on, but it’s all of the form “take on even more responsibilities,” rather than “fix anything that’s wrong with the work I’m doing now.” I’ve taken action on some of them already, and for that reason my boss suggested that he might be able to get me something in the review process next year. But I’m worried that that “might” will turn into yet another “sorry, KHB, not this time – why don’t you shovel some more duties onto your plate and try again next year?” It feels like what the Red Queen said about life through the looking-glass: It takes all the running you can do just to stay in place.

        1. wittyrepartee

          Ahem, if this isn’t the case already- it might also mean that you need to work on the optics of how much work you’re doing. Like, regular reports even if everything’s going swimmingly?

        2. Not So NewReader

          And now the picture is becoming a bit clearer as to why so many have left the organization.

          If they think you don’t do anything then they shouldn’t miss you when you’re gone.

        3. Queen of Cans and Jars

          If I were you, I’d start job searching. It’s starting to sound like the problem is that you work for jerks. :(

          1. KHB

            I fear that with all my whining I may have overstated the issue. On balance, I do love my job. The work is interesting, challenging, and fulfilling, the pay and benefits are not at all bad, and there’s a lot of respect for work–life balance. My direct manager is overall a sensible and level-headed guy – albeit with the unfortunate tendency to turn into a brick wall whenever I go to him and say “Hey, Thing X is a problem for me.” It’s HR and upper management that have been taken over by jerks as of late; so far, their jerkitude doesn’t usually have much of an effect on my day-to-day work – but it’s really, really demoralizing when it does.

            1. Hapless Bureaucrat

              That’s unfortunate, and a frustrating situation, because you can’t really control your senior management and HR but they can control you.
              While working with your own manager on more direct feedback and working on building and delivering your own case can help… it’s not likely to do much in these circumstances.
              My guess is there is not much you can do to make HR and senior management be more fair, unless you have friends on the Board. So… it’s up to you. If on the whole you’re willing to stay because you love the job otherwise, can you find a way to reset your expectations of senior management so you just expect incompetence and are pleasantly surprised when they stumble on something right?
              If this is going to continue to hurt you and they’re going to continue to be bad… then maybe that 10% starts to outweigh the 90%. Especially if this is a trend, because eventually their decisions are likely to eat into that 90% that’s good. Being chronically short-staffed, losing good people….
              For what it’s worth I’ve been there twice. Stayed way too long the first time. Got out early the second. For me that was definitely the right choice.

            2. Gatomon

              Is your manager stopping the crud from rolling downhill? If so, it may be time to quietly take stock of your alternatives.

              I used to work in a job that was, on balance, fine, but the level above my manager was filled with slimeballs, and above them was incompetence. They knew about the slimeballs and had spent 20 years not caring. We all knew our direct manager was stopping a lot of crazy from affecting us, but we were not prepared for the true depth of crazy crud that hit us when she finally moved on (for her health and sanity). Had I known what was coming I would’ve run screaming for the hills rather than stay – it was the worst 2.5 years of my life. I ended up having to find another job because I couldn’t bear to come in anymore, even with weekly therapy and anti-depressants.

    3. Minocho

      Another possibility I dealt with at a previous company was that I was assigned a lot of maintenance type tasks, and more visible projects were handed over to other employees “because they had the time”. I was also told that my team spirit and attempts to keep morale up were noted an appreciated. But none of that notice and appreciation really mattered, as raises and promotions all slipped by me. Junior men were promoted over senior women with previous management experience, so in my case I think multiple issues were at play, but in my new job I make sure I’m not handling so much of the daily grind that I give other employees time to work on more visible things, and I make sure I”m not pigeonholed into a “den mother” reputation either. I’m doing much better here.

      1. KHB

        I think gender dynamics are definitely a part of it. For a long time I was the only woman on my team, and I had it beaten into me that my job was to be “accommodating” – to make sure never to ask for anything nice for myself until I was sure that everyone else already had more. So when my (male) colleague announced at the last minute that he was taking an extended vacation and couldn’t do a project we were counting on him to do, I stepped in and did it myself (on top of my own project), because I couldn’t bear to see it left undone. My own vacations, of course, are carefully scheduled for times when no one could possibly need me for anything. Which is not very often.

        1. Sandy

          You know what? I can understand your reluctance to do this, considering your being left off the bonus list, but I would stop carefully arranging your vacation time so as not to be a nuisance. It is certainly true that vacations cannot be at peak times, but if everyone else is taking it whenever, you should do the same. Stop buying into their mindset that you can’t take up space. And if they are unreasonable about it…well, if it’s not time to go NOW, it certainly would be then.

        2. MJ

          Martyr-hood isn’t working for you. You’re seen as the one who can be relied on to get things done when others can’t be bothered, and you’ll be regarded as the one to dump stuff on, nothing more.

    4. Lucy

      Honestly? When this happened to me I started doing as much work as they seemed to think I was worth. Leaving on the dot, only ever doing exactly what the workflow expected (rather than what the client wanted), etc. And I began to plan my exit, with some low key job hunting.

      The next year, I was awarded a significant pay rise “to recognise my dedication” or similar nonsense. I laughed, and was gone before the next review.

      1. KHB

        Ha. Yeah, I’ve considered that. Nobody ever gets fired here unless they find a way to really eff up, so I could easily skate along doing the bare minimum and probably get exactly the same reviews as I’m getting now. But I take too much pride in my work to actually go through with that.

        1. wittyrepartee

          Open up time in your schedule so that you can take on more visible projects if you can. Be a little bit more of a squeaky wheel. There are companies and countries where your boss would be expected to keep track of your work, but clearly this is not one of them.

        2. Cascadia

          Yea – I wonder if they aren’t filling those other jobs in your department because you’re doing such stellar work, and taking on extra work load. I hope that you are documenting how many hours you are working, what extra jobs you are taking on that aren’t in your job description, etc and laying that all out to your manager. It could be that the higher-ups making this decision aren’t really feeling any pain from these positions being unfilled because you’re doing a ton of extra work. And if you’re not getting any commendation/recognition for the extra work – and it could possibly be hurting you because they might now be thinking they don’t need to fill these positions – then why do it?

          1. KHB

            They did fill the vacant positions – they just took their sweet time about it, and the new folks are still getting up to speed, which means a long period of more work for the rest of us.

        3. Minocho

          If they’re not actually giving you the recognition you are owed for that dedication, though, see if you can find somewhere else to focus your emotional energy and excellence. :)

    5. Bluebell

      Agreed that this sounds really annoying. If there is anyway between this year and next you can find out about some of the people who got bonuses, you have a chance to think about your next steps. Maybe sometime mid year you can ask your boss again if they have any examples of people on your level who received bonuses. Where I work it is very frustrating because we are all told as managers to only give a few of the exceeds ratings on performance. And yet last year the overall statistics showed that 30% of staff received that rating. I’ve pushed for a more transparent comparison between departments, but it has gotten nowhere.

    6. CupcakeCounter

      That sucks.
      I’m anticipating a similar situation. I just worked my butt off on a project that was an epic nightmare but bosses seem to think it was NBD and why wasn’t this other crap done on time?

    7. Banana Pancakes

      I’ve ended up a complete failure to launch despite my best efforts and I don’t know what to do next.

      I’ll be 30 this year and I’m still making poverty level wages. Last year I made $14,000. It’s the most money I’ve ever made. I have two degrees, am reasonably intelligent, and have been a top performer at every place I’ve worked, but I keep ending up on sinking ships. Case in point: my current job. It was fantastic at first, but then they abruptly switched us from hourly to commission only. I made it work and, for a while, was actually making more money than I had while being paid hourly. Then the work dried up and despite promises that it would come back, it hasn’t so far.

      I have $50K in student loan debt. I can’t pay it. I owe the IRS $2K in back taxes for last year. I can’t pay it. I’m disabled (enough to affect my QoL, not enough to receive assistance) and have no health insurance, no savings, and no family except for my SO, who was laid off in November.

      I’m looking for a new job, but I’m not getting responses. I’ve read all of Alison’s advice on cover letters and resumes, but I must be doing something wrong there. Interviews are another kettle of fish entirely. I suspect that I make a poor first impression due to my flat affect. Even when everything else is a good fit, I have a feeling that interviewers struggle to like me and can’t imagine having to work with me, or they think that I’m being disingenuous when I express enthusiasm for the work.

      I’ve done some acting workshops to try and improve my inflection, but even when it sounds cartoonishly exaggerated to my ears, if I listen to it played back, I sound like a bored robot. My first time through college, I was screened for autism spectrum disorders but was not diagnosed, as I don’t have any issues understanding other people’s inflection, sarcasm, or body language. I have no idea why I talk this way.

      I’ve been through a lot of really hard things and survived. Homelessness, abuse, addiction, mental illness. I had a stroke at 20 that, thankfully, did relatively minor damage. I’ve been sober almost seven years.

      With everything that’s happened, you’d think this would be the easy part, but it’s just not and I don’t know what to do.

        1. N.J.

          What field are you in? Are you in a field that historically pays low despite having a degree? What geographic area are you in? Are you in a rural area with few job opportunities or a market saturated with other applicants? How is your rate of getting interviews based on how many jobs you are applying to? Are there alumni networks or professional groups you can tap into for networking ? What is the specific problem with your speaking voice? Do you round monotone? Bored? Rude? Sleepy? No emotion? Have you asked someone objective how you sound (acting class coach, family, etc)? Can you practice your interviewing with anyone? There’s just so many questions because there’s a lot to unpack here. As well, is anything from your past, such as the addiction you mentioned, the homelessness etc. contributing to a work history with a lot of gaps? Have you identified ways to get around that in your cover letter or interviewing?

          These are all the questions I would try and answer to identify strategies or areas to tackle.

          1. Banana Pancakes

            Architecture, located in a small city (~250,000) in the northwestern US. Interview rate is about 5%. Flat affect means I sound monotone. Like I said, I’ve taken workshops and while it’s helped somewhat, it’s really difficult to fix what I can’t hear unless it’s played back to me.

            I don’t have any gaps in my resume. I’ve never been fired or had any workplace issues related to either my past homelessness or alcoholism, neither of which I ever share with employers or coworkers.

            I realize this probably comes across as defensive and I apologize if that’s the case. I wanted to answer your questions but I really have no more insight than what I’ve already said.

            1. N.J.

              No problem at all. Those were just the things that came to mind. Is architecture an over saturated field like law?

        2. Book Lover

          Maybe you already have, but perhaps repost at the bottom for more responses? I am sorry, I don’t have any insight, but I am sorry you are struggling.

      1. Iris

        I’m sorry you’re going through this. Maybe you’re being too hard on yourself as far as the inflection. I can understand failure to launch, I have somewhat the same issue for different reasons. I’ve worked in different industries and experienced low pay/lower than I thought and what would be considered stealing by employers. I’ve made a low paying job work for a while until there were serious ethical issues that made me quit. Do what you can to just feel a little more confident about your situation and try to think of that on interviews. What helps me personally is the fact I have low debt, I’m good at making my money stretch, i have a Bachelor’s degree but refuse to take on more degrees and I’m willing to work min wage jobs even though I’m trying to find something better. Maybe work with someone more closely like a therapist about your inflection but maybe it’s a small issue or not the deciding issue. Personally I think the economy is much worse than they’re saying and it’s across many different sectors and that’s why it’s hard to find a job for many. Think about your accomplishments and work ethic in interviews and anything positive you can, I think that’s what matters most and even if some employers may not like your affect, for others it may not be an issue.

      2. JayOrNay

        hey there, I hope you’ll still see this comment a couple days later. What you’re saying about sounding monotone reminds me of this video from buzzfeed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLDRQYeYQJg
        In the video, one of the reporters wants to fix his “boring voice” and hires a speech therapist for it. While working with the speech therapist, they turn up that this person has had to hide a part of their identity (that they’re gay) for a long time in their life. the reporter said he felt that shut-down-ness contributed to his language pattern. I’m posting this here to remind you to have compassion for yourself – you are not a failure because you don’t come across as instantly bouncy and chatty.
        I’m very impressed with the accomplishments you have gathered despite what happened in your life. No gaps in job history despite being homeless? Being able to get and stay sober? Big props to you. You seem to have a real good head on your shoulders.
        It seems the talk issue is impacting your self-esteem, and I would guess that comes across in interviews. Is there a way you can practice “exaggerated speaking” (to you) in a less-pressure setting? Maybe pick up something like the theatre group again? Or talk (to yourself or others) about something you’re super passionate about, and see how you convey that? Can you set small goals for yourself to work on, like “i want to be able to talk about my cool hobby excitedly for 5 minutes” vs. “I don’t want to sound boring anymore”.
        And please don’t get it in your head that hiring managers “don’t like you” and want to reject you. Maybe you’re not a natural conversationalist. But you’re a capable applicant. You’ve got grit and perseverance and skills. You are allowed to feel confident in yourself.

    8. Bonus Blues

      This happened to me once, too, and ultimately it was a major reason I left the company. I had a great year, with several accomplishments including that I applied for and won a $250k training grant for the company. This was relevant to my position, but something I decided to try on my own – with no training or support. And I did it! That year, I got a $100 bonus. No one ever got huge bonuses, but I found out that some under-performing peers of mine got several hundred dollars more than I did. The company had restructured its bonus program that year and only gave “real” bonuses to certain positions that were hard to fill, for retention purposes. It was a ridiculous system. I did cite it in my exit interview, and my boss actually accepted the blame and apologized. Uggghhhh

    9. Kathenus

      From reading the post, comments, and your responses, one thing that I haven’t seen discussed yet is to ask for a meeting with HR, or with your boss and HR. The goal is to discuss the criteria for merit raises, so that you know what you need to be eligible for one. So framing it more as you wanting to understand the process and how you can position yourself to achieve a merit raise, versus why didn’t I get one now (although hopefully they’ll get the subtext without you saying it). That way if your boss not advocating is the roadblock, you’re getting HR’s input too and kind of giving notice that you have a goal of reaching the needed benchmarks for a raise. You’re being proactive for the future, and getting the topic out front and being discussed instead of having to continue to deal with the not knowing and feeling powerless. It may or may not get you the raise, but if done professionally it might help and it is very unlikely to hurt anything. Good luck!

    10. Bday Girl

      I think you need to make a case for yourself. Write out everything you do that they know about and the things they don’t. Say how much you love it there and want to continue to work there, but that you were disheartened by not receiving a bonus because is seems they don’t value your work as much as your peers’ work. Be sincere without being accusatory. Advocate for yourself. Try to enlist the help of a sympathetic supervisor.

    11. FloralsForever

      Recognition is important to me, so I have asked for it. Like, its almost as important as money for me, and I will consider leaving if I don’t feel my accomplishments are recognized, even if its just my boss recognizing them. It can feel a little egotistical (especially if you are a woman or a femme), but I think it is okay to point out what you’ve done: that you covered for open positions throughout the year, have a reliable department, etc. I simply take it as a case of that they just don’t know and you’re informing them. I don’t know what that will look like for you – sitting down with higher-ups, guarding your work a little more closely, etc. But I never really assume that ppl above me will congratulate of their own accord. It took a little unlearning that its okay to ask for what you want (a dysfunctional environment will do that), but I am much happier now.

    12. Claire

      I feel for you. Last July I found out I wouldn’t get a merit bonus, and when I asked my manager what I could do better, he said, “Well, nothing really. You’re doing a great job.” Sometimes it’s simply politics. Or your manager doesn’t understand the kind of work you do. This might be a case where you have to decide if you want to stay or you decide it’s not worth the extra stress.

    13. Argh!

      The same thing happened to me. I have had no luck changing things and have given up. I went from having the smallest raise to having no raise at all for two years due to questioning the wisdom of my overlords.

      Polish up the resume and focus on accomplishing things that will help you get your next job.

    14. Phoenix Programmer

      Having read through your comments I recommend reading Alison’s letter on “is it possible to be too invested in work” and start working hard on setting up work boundaries.

      Conversely to what you might think, being overinvested in work actually diminishes how you are perceived as well as your overall performance. While you are overinvested you feel like you are the only person at the company who cares, but in reality you are probably coming across really negatively to not only co-workers but also bosses. This tends to show up at performance review time when your performance is lower than you expect you should get and all those other “lazy” people who are investing the correct amount of energy into work are somehow doing better than you.

      I say this as someone who also struggled with being overinvested in work. I had a family member pass and everything changed for me. Since then I’ve managed to keep work more balanced and to my surprise not only has my perceived performance improved, but I’m happier overall at work as well. It really does seem illogical but less can be more when you’re on the wrong side of the spectrum for job investment.

      Good luck and I wish you a happy future!

      1. TL -

        Our department admin/manager is overinvested and convinced she keeps the place running – but she’s just okay as an admin so it really does come off the wrong way. Things fall through the cracks that shouldn’t, she doesn’t invest in building organization systems, and she is not easy to talk to to resolve issues. She’s generally okay overall and genuinely cares… but when I hear her complaining all the time, all I can think is “I have worked with admins many times better with much less complaining.”

        I don’t think that’s what is happening here, but it is worth thinking about if you’re coming off overinvested.

  2. Anonymous Train Wreck

    4th round of layoffs in the last 12 months is currently in progress, and I’m watching it happen in real time, because you can see the user names being removed from the group chat app as IT pulls them after they’re laid off.These are pretty critical resources too; not people I would consider extraneous or bad at their jobs. This is the writing on the wall for me, and I’ll be dusting off my resume this weekend. Any advice for someone job hunting just 11 months into a career change? I came into this role internally, at the junior level, and I’ve spent most of this year learning this new role and managing projects that are pretty much in mainenance mode/already launched.I’m just now getting into working on projects from conception to launch, so my resume is still weaker than I’d like.

    1. AdAgencyChick

      Oh no! First of all, good luck.

      Is there anyone from your current job who has recently moved to another company and you have a good relationship with? If so, I’d start with those people — ask whether there are other openings at their companies, or whether they know of anyone in their network who is. When you’re in a situation with a short tenure at your current job, it’s always good to have someone else put in a good word for why it makes total sense that you’d be looking around so soon.

    2. Can be rainy

      Sorry you have to live through uncertain times. On one hand, this can be so unnerving. On the other hand, changing job will give you the opportunity to gain credibility as your future colleagues will not have seen you “interning” at junior lever for the last 11 months. It is also an opportunity to catch up on the missed salary raise (I presume a company doing layoffs has been stingy on the bonuses & raises).
      Good idea to dust the resume. Maybe consider a full makeover highlighting the soft skills carried over from before the career change? Your full work experience matters, not only the last 11 months. This website is full of effective advice on the subject of skill-based resume as opposed to chronological resume. Consider being evasive concerning the exact time of your career change (as it was within the same company), and describe the relevant accomplishments in logical succession (conception to launch to maintenance) rather than chronological. This would streamline the resume without being lying. You aim for short, concise and to the point (no more than 1-2 pages anyway). Best luck in your job search!

  3. Mrs. Meringue

    how I do leave a less-than-optimal performance review for a supervisor? I’ve been promoted and will have new managers soon, and have been asked to provide feedback on my current supervisor. Here’s the thing – he’s a terrible manager. I am the only person he manages. He only comes to the office three or four times/month, but when he is here he nitpicks everything. He talks down to me and explains things to me like I am an idiot, despite knowing and having seen me complete the task before flawlessly. He nitpicks every small decision I make while working with the boss, and will complain extensively to me about the bosses decisions in a very confrontational way. I’ve outright told them, “i dont know why you are saying this to me since i obviously don’t make that call” but they continue. We have never had a informative or constructive conversation that didn’t include belittling my work, my intelligence, or someone else’s intelligence. One instance in particular, we had ordered lunch for the group, and someones order arrived prepared incorrectly. I am on the phone speaking with the restaurant about the mistake they had made and my supervisor is literally over my shoulder in my ear telling me what to say to the staff at the restaurant.
    I’ve been asked by my manager to provide honest feedback on this person. Despite him being a dept manager, he doesn’t actually do any managing of that dept. it’s really just me that he “supervises”. I can’t tell if he is just a Negative Nelson or what, but I want to be honest. I don’t want to leave my replacement with this mess, but I don’t know if providing honest feedback will help with that. Has anyone else ever left a negative review of a colleagues performance, let alone their supervisor?
    It’s probably important to mention that they will have extremely minimal working interaction with me in any sense after my promotion begins, but we all work out of the same small office, so it would still be awkward.
    Folks, what do I do here?

    1. Anonymous Educator

      Maybe I’m too cynical, but I feel that if they’ve allowed this manager to be as horrible as he’s been, they’re not suddenly interested in feedback that’s going to change things. That said, he will no longer be your supervisor, right? Could there be any repercussions for you if you leave negative (though specific) feedback?

        1. Dagny

          They do need a paper trail if they want to terminate him. Realistically, it will be hard to get that information from anyone else.

          I would go with a very dispassionate but tough approach:
          “Fred struggles with professional norms.” Then list three recent examples, with dates.
          “Fred tends to micromanage employees.” (They promoted you. They know you are capable.) Provide examples.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale

        I’m thinking the same thing. I think you have to weigh how much you want to get this off your chest vs. how effective it will be. I’ve been pondering this a lot myself, and ultimately I decided that I can make my displeasure and discomfort known as much as I want, but nothing will change.

        However, you will have a replacement, so maybe suggest that it would be helpful if he would let your replacement work independently or something. I’m not quite sure how I would approach it, to be honest, but definitely think about the results of the discussion.

      2. ISuckAtUserNames

        Also, if OP is Mrs. M is the only one supervised by him, and he’s not in the office now they really might not know how bad he is. They may have heard things about him being a jerk to other people, or heard from people some of how he treats Mrs. M and are looking for her to give them more information.

        I say, since he’s only in the office a few times a month and you will be out of his line of sight, work-wise, might as well be honest. Give concrete examples & documentation as much as you can, but I don’t think there’s much risk to you and if you don’t say anything the company may not really be able to get rid of him until after he’s already treated others the same and someone speaks up.

    2. Sloan Kittering

      This is so difficult because no matter what your company says it will obviously not be anonymous. I would try to give very veiled criticism that did not read as hostile – something you would be willing to own up to if he confronted. “Boss sometimes struggles to articulate clear goals” or something neutral and fact based. You are likely to keep running into this guy in your career even if he’s not going to be your boss after this. It’s like leaving a terrible exit interview – rarely pays off *for you.*

    3. Frozen Ginger

      In what context are they asking for this feedback? Is it conversational, or does it sound like they already have concerns?

      1. Mrs. Meringue

        I asked my manager why Supervisor was on my list of people to provide feedback for and they told me that since i work with them in a way nobody else does, they’d like my perspective, just like the rest of my colleagues on the list.

        1. Frozen Ginger

          With your promotion, will you be on an equal level to your former supervisor? Because if the answer is yes, I’d go with being (professionally) honest. “Supervisor has a big problem with being condescending.” In fact I would use this direct line: “We have never had a informative or constructive conversation that didn’t include belittling my work, my intelligence, or someone else’s intelligence.”

          1. Camellia

            I wouldn’t include the terms ‘informative’ and ‘constructive’ because they are positive terms and selective hearing could just light on those and ignore everything else. I would just say “We’ve never had a conversation about work that didn’t include…”

        2. Lora

          Since it won’t be anonymous, and they aren’t super clear on how they intend to use this information, I would lean towards the “(significant pause) he remembers to tie his shoes every day…” method.

          Or, when I asked one of the junior engineers what on earth [a particularly useless site manager] actually DID all day, seeing as how I was being tasked with doing his job, he replied, “…I am unclear on Phil’s role in the organization.”

          Unless they are offering a very specific guarantee that the feedback will be kept confidential and you won’t have to deal with him EVER again, what incentive do you have to risk making your own life harder?

    4. Shark Whisperer

      I understand the folks who think giving this sort of feedback might be a bad idea, but I think it’s worth giving. If you do decide to give feedback, try to give it as factual and emotionless as possible. Like “the fact that he only comes into the office three or four times a month makes it difficult to get one-on-one time with him to get feedback on my work.”

      1. Beancounter

        What rubyrose and Shark Whisperer said. Give specific concrete examples and be as factual, rational, unemotional about it as possible. Give some good points on him, if you can think of any too, to show you’re balanced and rational.

        But the fact that he belittles your intelligence, your work and other people’s intelligence is abusive behavior. I’m glad you won’t be under him in the near future.

      2. designbot

        Yep, state the truth but in as detached a manner as possible. “Very involved in minute details when present, despite things running smoothly when this input is not available.” “Interprets differences in style as a signal of low intelligence in employees.” etc.

    5. Karen from Finance

      Be honest but focus on the facts as much as you can, and use softening language. But I think it’s your responsibility to be honest. And then if the company manages it poorly it will be on them, not on you.

    6. Checkert

      I have always been of the mind of being honest (and give examples when possible) despite the possible consequences. It really shouldn’t be your responsibility to lie to keep the peace in the workplace and if it is made to be your responsibility, that should be a red flag to you. In my experience organizations asking for feedback is lip service and likely won’t have drastic results (even though it absolutely shouldn’t be), but I see that as all the more reason to be honest because it likely won’t come to anything. HOWEVER, if they are taking feedback then maybe yours will be the one on the pile that elicits change.

    7. LadeeDa

      They shouldn’t be asking you for feedback of a manager unless it is a 360 type anonymous review. With only one direct report if his manager uses it as performance feedback it will be obvious where examples of his managerial skills came from. They should not be asking you for this. I wouldn’t give feedback on your for your former manager, and I would let them know why. “Since I am his only direct report I don’t feel comfortable giving feedback on his managerial skills, because if any of it is taken negatively, it will be obvious it came from me. “

    8. Cascadia

      I have been in this exact situation. What I did is to think really carefully about the 2 or 3 most egregious things, and then come up with concrete examples of each of those items. Then, think carefully about how you want to word them. As others have said, keep it professional, unemotional, and try to pick examples that highlight things that were bad for your productivity/bad for the company. I would not use your lunch ordering example, because that doesn’t speak directly to how your work was affected, but I would use the examples that show him nitpicking your work product, etc. Also, I would try and use some “I statements” as well, as those can come off a little better. “I found {Supervisor} to be very challenging to work with for these reasons…” Make sure to use examples of things that happened to you, not things you’ve heard from other people.

    9. ..Kat..

      If old boss’ boss (old grandboss) were actually going to manage your old boss, I think they would have done so before this. As such, I doubt any actual managing by old grandboss will happen because of your feedback. At most, I would give verbal feedback. Written feedback (especially this bad) has a way of biting the feedback-giver in the rear end.

  4. Standing desk hell

    I’m in an open office that provides standing desks. Because we are set up opposite each other on a long table, standing up means that you are looming over the other person and kind of looking down on them making eye contact if you’re not careful. I don’t really care for a standing desk myself and don’t use it. However, our newest employee who sits right across from me has begun using his for many hours every day. I acknowledge that it’s his right, and the company provided this equipment so I don’t have the standing to ask him not to use it.

    The issues: 1) I am actively ducking to avoid eye contact with this guy. We work closely together so he does often lean to the side, catch my eye, and start talking to me. However he also bobs around all day when he’s standing – reaching for things next to him, and doing a little “standing dance.” I am actively working to tune him out and his movements. I have told him if he wants something from me he’s going to actively have to engage with me because I’m trying to tune him out (otherwise, I feel like I’m always tuned into his movements thinking he’s about to say something – I realized I was pausing to glance up every time he leans to the side). I also moved my screen to try to block my view of him. Middling success. 2) it makes his already booming voice project even louder when he’s standing. 3) I just feel kind of … loomed over. It feels like he’s got the highest chair in the room and I’m on a stool. I don’t like it, but I realize it’s my issue more than his.

    Any suggestions please?? I used to like this coworker and I find that I actively resent him now.

    1. The Rain in Spain

      Can you adjust your computer placement so you’re not directly opposite him? Or are there perhaps dividers available?

      1. Moosic

        I second these ideas. Even if your office doesn’t have dividers, you could make your own out of poster board, cardboard, or buy a trifold. Then you can decorate your side! Would another employee be willing to switch with you, or could he be switched to pair up with someone who also stands a lot?

    2. JJJJShabado

      It’s (should be) on him to avoid eye contact. I have a standing desk in a row of cubicles. Thankfully I’m on the end so I don’t have much to see other than walls, but I avoid eye contact from people walking or in the area otherwise (I’m 6’5″ so my head is over my cube walls).

      1. Alice

        It’s on him to avoid eye contact? OP said that, when standing guy actually intends to talk to OP, he leans to the side and catches her eye. The rest of the time, (it sounds to me at least), he’s not making eye contact, he’s looking at his screen in a way that OP is in the background. I don’t see how he can avoid that other than not using the standing desk.
        A divider is a great idea, and I think it’s OP’s role to get one (as the person who doesn’t like the situation). If OP were to say “it’s on you to stop looking at me, so you need to figure out how to set up a divider,” I’d be taken aback.
        Hope it works out happily OP!

    3. Reba

      You don’t have “standing” :)

      Possible to add some kind of partition, since I’m guessing you can’t wholly rearrange the desks or the way you are facing.

      You have my sympathy on the whole movement in one’s line of sight being hugely distracting! Sometimes I feel like I still need the little cardboard desk shelters we used for test taking at my elementary school.

    4. Ama

      This is how my office is set up with regard to standing desks, but I don’t think that’s been an issue for us — I don’t have direct experience as I lucked into one of the few cubicles here with high walls, but I do have a few coworkers in the shorter wall area that prefer to use the standing desk so I’m trying to think why we’ve avoided this problem, as far as I know.

      One thing I think works is that our desks are pretty wide which cuts down on how much your coworkers catch your peripheral vision (I did spend some time in the shorter walled cubicles and people really did have to come right up to your desk to get your attention). My coworker that uses the standing desk most often also has double monitors set up so that one kind of blocks her view into the adjacent cubicle — even if she’s looking that direction she would have to step to the side to get that coworker’s attention. Also she is at the front of a row, facing the main walk way through the office — I think she actually gets the worst of it in that position because everyone stops to chat with her as they walk by since she’s up at their level.

      So perhaps he could move his monitors? You could phrase it as “giving you both a little less distraction from seeing each other moving around.”

      1. OP

        Ooh, I’d love to suggest that he get double monitors, since that sounds like I’m just really nice haha versus stewing over here in my own resentful juices

      2. Jules the 3rd

        We just got standing desk options for our cubes, which all have 4′ walls and are right next to each other. Trifold shields are abounding.

        1. TechWorker

          Yup we have the same setup – though with a short divider (only maybe 12 inches, so easily short enough to see over but we decided it was so if one person is sitting and the opposite one is standing you’re not staring at the standing persons crotch….) anyway we all have double monitors and they’re a pretty good desk level screen, I have to walk a few feet in either direction if I want to chat to the person opposite me.

    5. Hillary

      Honestly, I’d talk to him. Tell him that his movement catches your attention and suggest a screen (Ikea has an inexpensive one that can be attached to standing desks, it would probably be more effective on his side).

      For the booming voice, I worked with a guy who didn’t realize how much more he projected when he was standing. I brought it up with a joke about choir and voice lessons to defuse the tension. It’s a diaphragm thing that non-singers don’t always realize. The guy tried to be more mindful of his volume and also not talk towards me when standing. Then I did the same thing when I got a standing desk and got the same treatment back. ;-)

    6. Salamander

      This is what a big, beautiful, three-foot tall plant (real or artificial) is for. Block him out with a beautiful, lush, thick piece of nature. Maybe get two. Nobody can get mad at you for something as ordinary as a ficus, right?

    7. only acting normal

      When they introduced standing desks in my office, after a few months they added taller screens to them that move with the desk, so as the desk rises so does the screen.

      If you need an extra argument for a screen: They should have screens just for safety reasons – so stuff/fingers can’t get trapped between the two as they are raised and lowered, and so things can’t fall off the high desk onto the lower one.

    8. Anon Anon Anon

      I would get a screen – a divider to put between the two desks. You could probably get your employer to pay for it, but if it were me, I would just buy a cheap one or make one. And when I brought it in, I’d make it 100% about me and leave other people and the standing desk thing out of it. I’d say it’s to help me focus. Then I’d decorate the screen with the usual stuff people put in their offices, and other people would probably take interest and start doing the same thing. Voila. Office weirdness problem solved.

  5. Mint

    Is there any truth to the saying that people who were popular/successful in high school have pretty much peaked there and tend to struggle later?

    1. Anonymous Educator

      Sometimes there is. But I think a lot of it is confirmation bias. If you happen to believe that’s true and then see one instance of it, that anecdote will reinforce the “truth” for you. I will say, though, burnout could be real—either on the emotional or the academic side (or both). If you killed yourself to be top of your class or the most popular, you may run out of steam later.

      1. Sloan Kittering

        TBH I think beautiful and confident people have an ongoing leg up. Not always, but it rarely hurts. There’s all sorts of data about the benefit of the doubt that is routinely extended to attractive people. On the other hand, some of high school popularity tends to be about individuals who do forbidden / adult things ahead of schedule – drinking, sex, etc. That type of risk taking doesn’t end up being great long term, and the things that were outre for a sixteen year old eventually become commonplace among 30 year olds.

        1. Karen from Finance

          I think it can go both ways.

          A lot of popularity in high school comes from things that don’t necessarily make you popular as an adult. Looks may fade or they may stay in different cases, but a lot of this is people being “cool”. Meanwhile, (some) unpopular people spend years practicing how to navigate social norms, how to make friends, how to come off better and so on. So in the rules of the adult world which are a bit different, some of the unpopular kids from high school have been practicing for years while some of the popular kids from high school don’t understand why everyone doesn’t instantly like them for their designer bag or whatever.

          But also yes, some of the popular kids in high school adjust well to adulthood and have this leg up, while some of the unpopular kids ever gain ant new social skills (and sometimes may grow resentful for that).

          Personally I wasn’t popular at school. I’m about as successful as the girls who were popular in school. But they are all almost exclusively friends with each other while I find it easier to make new friends.

          *Shrug*

    2. Foreign Octopus

      I’d say nah. I think people just say that because it may be harder for those popular/successful people in the real world because the system where they’ve been popular/successful is no longer the one they have to flourish in and they have to learn how to succeed in the new one so maybe it takes longer to get going.

    3. Shark Whisperer

      I don’t think so. Most of the “popular” kids in my high school were the super rich kids. They’re pretty much all doing great, at least from an outside perspective. Some of the kids who partied the most in high school went on to have substance abuse issues, so went to rehab and are thriving, some are still struggling, but I don’t think that really has anything to do with peaking or with popularity.

      1. Sloan Kittering

        Yeah, wealth can be a factor. It can mean you have stylish expensive designer clothes and good hair / skin in high school, which can make you more popular in HS (also you can invite people on expensive trips with you / have a great house for parties, which definitely doesn’t hurt) – and then as you go on, it can mean you can afford to go to a prestigious college, which can have career benefits down the line. As long as you can avoid the heavy drugs / drinking aspects, coming from a rich family sets you up pretty well for life. But who is surprised about that really?

    4. plant lady

      I agree with the previous two commenters. Anyway, what defines “popular” or “successful” is so different from high school to high school. If you went to a high school where the “popular kids” drank or did drugs heavily, that could lead to a high number of them having issues later on – but that’s not the case at every high school. If your “popular” kids were extreme bullies, that could lead them to disadvantages later on, as professors or bosses don’t appreciate that kind of behavior. But lots of high schools have popular/successful groups of students who are simply very outgoing and confident – plus often physically attractive, slightly wealthier than the average student, and often athletically gifted – while still being overall friendly, well-adjusted, reasonably intelligent folks (very few of them were bullies), and most of them are doing really well for themselves now. (And I’ll that unfortunately and obviously, physically attractive people and wealthy people tend to get advantages every step along the line, whether or not it’s necessarily deserved.)

      1. Sloan Kittering

        Yeah a lot of our popular kids were like, athletic student council president types. They’re uh doing fine now too.

        1. LaurenB

          The stereotypical popular kid from my high school became a physiotherapist. (Not based on any scientific evidence!) Athletic ability, outgoing personality and high academic achievement pretty much describes the popular kids in my school.

    5. Roscoe

      I think its something people like to tell themselves to feel better. Kind of like “well you were awesome in high school, but I’ll be signing your checks in 20 years”. When in reality there isn’t really any actual correlation in my experience. Some pretty smart kids I knew are doing nothing, and some of the less talented popular kids are doing great things.

      I think people, especially people who feel they weren’t given their due in high school, want to believe in some sort of karmic justice. In reality, I think how you were in high school has very little to do with how you do as an adult.

      1. Sloan Kittering

        Yeah agree. It’s not never true, it’s not always true. What is true is that everybody’s life changes a lot after high school and the things that were important then don’t define what happens next.

      2. Indie

        I agree with you but sometimes it is true. I’ve worked in schools where kids feel (sometimes with justification) that they are looking down the barrel at a rough life and they pretty much decide ‘this is our time’. They eschew everything but fun and popularity and sometimes aggressively go after the hard working kids or those who are luckier in their families.

        Of course there are schools where this isnt the dynamic and the popular kids are nice and work hard. Or they have the kind of background where there are plenty of second chances.

      3. Lissa

        Yeah, I was going to say something similar. No, I don’t think it’s true but I think media reinforces it and people like to believe it. It’s the same reason, though, why there’s a stereotype about how somebody can’t be (for instance) athletic and ALSO smart, or conventionally attractive and ALSO nice.

        In real life people don’t all start with equal amounts of XP like in a video game. I don’t really think there’s much correlation. And yet another wrinkle in this is that people very often perceive themselves to have been less popular in high school than others considered them to be.

        One thing I have noticed though is a big correlation where kids labeled gifted in elementary school really struggle in their 20s. This could just be anecdotal on my part, but I see it again and again. I think there might be something to the idea that telling little kids over and over how smart they are doesn’t set them up for success.

        1. Sloan Kittering

          Yeah I think that’s actually an inverse that we don’t discuss very often. Sure, sometimes jocks burn out after their high school glory days are over, but also … people who are ID’d early as geniuses burn out at probably similar rates. I think the trick is to try to be well rounded, develop social skills and confidence, and don’t get too hung up on any external signifiers if they’re not meaningful to you.

        2. Dagny

          Kids who are labelled as “gifted” burn out for a specific reason: they believe that their smarts make them special, and almost everyone hits a point at which brainpower is not enough. Brains, looks, athleticism, etc. – the kids who do the best are the ones who combine natural talent with an incredible work ethic.

        3. Kit-Kat

          Oh I definitely think that’s a thing. (I often see this on college or grad school forums, and know people who’ve experienced this.) Especially if they’re a kid who’s kind of coasted through school, and never had to study. Eventually, they’ll be challenged in some way and may not know how to cope or problem solve.

        4. nonegiven

          The really smart kids that skate through school, sometimes they don’t get diagnosed with ADHD until they flunk out of college.

        5. NACSACJACK

          I am one of those brainiac kids. I struggled in college and I struggle in real life when tasks dont come easy to me.

    6. OtterB

      I think it depends on why they were popular/successful in high school. Some people are cliquish and exclusionary and at the top of the heap by manipulating others. Some genuinely are showing the beginning of good leadership skills by supporting/encouraging others and coordinating successful efforts. I think the second kind tend to last. The first kind may struggle when they hit an environment that expects them to actually contribute, not just define themselves as cool.

      Or at least I’d like to believe it works that way.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House

        I agree with this, this matches my observation. Someone who was popular in high school because they were kind, friendly, and inclusive to others, or had a unique skill, is likely to be successful in life. Someone who was popular in high school because they were cliquish, mean bullies whose social value was wrapped up in their parents’ permissiveness might find themselves at a disadvantage in life.

        But in general, a lot of people don’t end up as “special” as they’d think they did in high school. My class year graduated into the recession, and going back and looking at how everyone turned out has a minimal correlation as to who they were in high school. The kids who had parental financial support during the bleakest part of the recession came out ahead.

    7. Joielle

      I think it depends on how well they handle the transition to college and the workplace. Especially at a smaller high school, a popular kid might have been a big fish in a small pond, and it can be hard to suddenly be not special, not popular, just one in a crowd. If a person can handle that transition with humility and with some perspective on their experience, I think they can do just fine.

      1. Windchime

        I went to a very small high school in a small town. The popular kids were people whose parents had money so they had the nice clothes, the cars, and the ability (money) to participate in all the extra-cirricular activites. Most of those people have stayed in that small town and are still big fish in a small pond but I wonder how they would do if they were transplanted to a bigger pond with more competition.

    8. Someone Else

      It can be, but it’s depends on a lot on how one defines “popular/successful in high school”. I’ve found if the scenario you mention is true, it tends to be true for those who personally put a lot of weight on the fact that they were “popular/successful” in high school. If that makes sense?
      Like plenty of people had sufficient friends and did well at any number of things, and those people are not more or less likely to have peaked in high school.
      But people who, in high school, were All About how popular and/or successful they were at being a popular/successful high schooler, those are more likely to fit the stereotype. Like, if someone too closely resembles the villain in a teen-movie, watch out. But I suspect it’s because those people were so focused on something that was always going to be a very small portion of their lives, they get sort of stuck there. Whereas if someone were more like “I aim to do well at whatever I’m doing” and what they were doing at the time was high school, and later it’s college/work/something else…then those people just…do it.

    9. Nacho

      people who were popular/successful in high school are usually charismatic and have good people skills, which is a benefit no matter where you work. People who are unpopular/shunned in highschool are often (though not always) assholes with poor social skills.

      1. plant lady

        Aw, come on now – are you just trolling or playing devil’s advocate or something here? We can’t make blanket statements about ANY of these stereotype groups. As Roscoe said above, “I think how you were in high school has very little to do with how you do as an adult.” Some people who were unpopular or shunned in high school had poor social skills, sure. Some may have been assholes. But many others were super shy, or were different in some way that teens couldn’t deal with and were mean about, or had really difficult challenges at home that left no time to focus on the high school social scene, or didn’t have money for new clothes or phones or whatever, or any number of other reasons that still left them a good person.

      2. plant lady

        Come on. Popular people can be nice or assholes or anywhere in between. Same with unpopular kids. Sure, some of them might be jerks, but often kids who are shunned or unpopular in HS are just super shy, or different in some way that teens don’t know how to handle, or dealing with crazy challenges at home that leave them no time to worry about high school social dynamics, or don’t have money for hot running water or much food or new clothes, or a billion other things that have nothing to do with whether or not they’re a good person.

        1. Anon Anon Anon

          Yes! That’s how it was at my school. There were nice and mean people in each of the groups. The popular kids generally came from more stable homes, seemed more “normal,” and looked fashionable – often because of their financial situation, but some were just good at looking stylish without having much money. But it was such a superficial thing, looking back on it. It was all about what you looked like. A lot of the less popular kids were – as you said – different in ways that kids don’t know how to handle. Some didn’t have much money. Some came out as queer or trans later. Some had physical quirks or personality traits that made the other kids uncomfortable. And some were just nerdy – took school seriously and didn’t care about being cool.

          But,thinking about it, “popular” was kind of a misnomer. Those kids weren’t actually well-liked. They were considered “popular,” but they were actively resented for it and looked down upon. People thought they were just air heads who only cared about fashion. I always kind of saw the good in people but was an outcast who didn’t fit into any of the groups. And I’m still basically like that later in life.

      3. plant lady

        Whoops – my first comment didn’t show up and I thought I’d navigated away without saving it, so I re-posted! Sorry about that.

      4. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

        I wouldn’t necessarily say shunned people are assholes, but yes the social skills or self esteem fairy isn’t likely going to one day hit them upside the head. And popular kids — even if they were bullies — will likely continue to be popular because they know how to influence people either positively or negatively. The nerdy kid will probably continue to struggle with social interaction into adulthood. The difference though is that adult success is measured differently than high school success. An adult can be super successful — financially, politically, intellectually — and still lack social skills. And the super charismatic person with lots of friends can still struggle with getting or keeping a job.

      5. gmg22

        Yeah, um, interesting framing here. In my small, rural high school, you could be popular via one of three routes: 1)being an athlete, 2)being a party animal, or 3)having wealthy or prominent parents. (Ideally you would have at least two of these, TBH.) Any of these traits seemed to also increase the likelihood that these kids would as often as not be, well, not very nice to their less popular peers. “Unpopular/shunned” kids may have had poor social skills, but the assholes were definitely concentrated among the in-crowd. (Note that for this age group I define “asshole” as “bully,” not “lacking in social skills” — I see teens in the latter situation as requiring compassion, not scorn looking back from 20 years later.)

      6. The Man, Becky Lynch

        You sound like you used to be a popular kid. How nice.

        No. We were shunned for being awkward and not interested in playing sports. How dare we be shy, quiet and ugly ducklings…suuuure we were the a$sholes.

        That’s disgusting to say.

      7. Thursday Next

        @Nacho This is very reductive and, I suspect, will be hurtful to many people.

        As many comments here have pointed out, different high school communities valued different definitions of popularity, for one, and people who are unpopular might have been outliers for a variety of reasons unrelated to poor social skills. Maybe someone was the only immigrant/minority/LGBT kid in their high school.

    10. Temperance

      With the people I grew up with, it’s honestly kind of mixed. I’m from a rural-ish area, and there are a ton of stereotypical losers who never left town and still talk about HS football in their 40s. The mean girl in my grade is now one of the local kindergarten teachers – I am forever grateful that my niece is not in her class, because she is a truly terrible human being – and her BFF has some swanky corporate finance job in Philadelphia.

      1. Traffic_Spiral

        Yeah, I think especially in rural places where the only options are “get mediocre job and have babies” then yes, the popular kids sorta peak in high school… but so do most the other kids. Life’s tough for all of them there, and the kid who spent his time huffing paint isn’t doing any better.

        1. Temperance

          Honestly, a good portion of us left for better opportunities. The other smart kids who are still there have good, stable jobs (doctors etc.). The kids who didn’t do well in school are sort of screwed, though.

    11. Boredatwork

      I will say, from my high-school, which was a private, college oriented prep school, the most popular kids did indeed not do (as) well as adults.

      I think Sloan Kittering really hit the nail on the head, facebook has clearly documented that the behavior that made them “cool” lead to some seriously undesirable adult traits.

    12. Muriel Heslop

      Some of them do. And it depends on the high school. It tends to be the ones that overvalue high school’s importance and their own contributions to it. Those whose maturity peaks in high school tend to be those that peaked in high school. (I used to teach high school and I loved when kids came back so I could see how they were doing.)

      I

    13. Observer

      Totally not. You’ve gotten some pretty good explanations for this. But the bottom line is that being Miss Popularity or voted “Most likely to succeed” or anything or the sort doesn’t tell you much about that student’s prospects down the line.

    14. Not So NewReader

      There may be some credence to that.
      I do think that when I was in high school, I never thought about what people would be like 10-20-30 years out. So I was surprised to see that the popular kids did not always remain popular. Those dots never connected in my head during high school. I just figured some kids had the world by the tail and some kids didn’t, I was lucky enough to be somewhere in between the two extremes.
      I must not be the only one who did not think of the future in high school, that would explain the popularity of the expression “peaked in high school”. Others have gotten blind-sided by that one also.

      Sadly a few folks died shortly after high school and that was a real shocker/eye-opener. It changed my perspective for sure.

    15. theletter

      If you’re speaking just in terms of looks, I think there are some stories of people who just looked their best in the bloom of youth, while others hit their strides in their mid-thirties.

      Behind that, popularity and success is always going to be in the eye of the beholder. On a long enough timeline, everyone is going to have to struggle with something. Money, charm, and athletic skills do not comprehensively protect anyone from disease, death, break-ups and loss.

      the most popular kid in my 8th grade class, a boy who bullied me mercilessly, committed suicide at 24 after struggling with bipolar depression. He is not the only student in that relatively small, privileged graduating class who died young. When I think about those kids that bullied me, I remember that I’m alive, and they’re not. I mourn for them, as weird as it sounds, because of the pain they went through as young adults, the forces that took them, mean that they’ll never be able to look back and say “I’m a better now.” Their redemption arc has ended. Any time I spent being mad or scared of them has only informed my future now. In these relationships, only my future matters. I have to leave them where they laid down, in distant memories now sanded down to softened blobs by the winds of time. I don’t have any other choice in the matter.

    16. JudyInDisguise

      Depends on how you define success. If you were a successful at being a bully in high school, you’re probably making someone miserable at work right now! *Ooh, sorry – flashback.* I’m alright. Carry on.

    17. Lissa

      I think this is a movie/tv trope that has entered the public consciousness to some degree. But, the “all popular kids are asshole bullies and the picked-on kids are all smart cool loser types” dynamic isn’t as common as 80s movies and so on would portray. Of course it is sometimes but in my experience the mean kids weren’t the popular kids – they were often struggling themselves.

      I talked above about why this is appealing to a lot of people – the karmic justice thing. I also think that for people who put a ton of weight on something often end up really stumbling later on. I’ve seen this dynamic play out in several ways. The “smart kid” who was told all through their childhood they’d be a gifted genius who ends up not living up to that. The high school football player reminiscing about the big game. The guy who finally found “his people” in college nerdy activities who can’t get past being King Geek at 20.

      1. Ann O'Nemity

        I agree about it being a movie trope. Just like the unpopular “geek” who later becomes a billionaire tech mogul.

    18. Parenthetically

      In my experience, it depends. Popular, successful, kind people remain so. Popular, successful people who were mainly so because they were rich or well-connected (or, as Sloan Kittering aptly notes, precocious in adult risk-taking) either outgrow their cliquishness and party mindset or don’t. I’m perpetually surprised at how little the cliques of my high school years matter to the people I graduated with. I’m not friends with many of them on social media but I’ll occasionally see pictures of groups of folks and it makes me laugh to see jocks, band nerds, D&D outcasts, preppy girls, potheads, wannabe gangbangers, and fringers all in the same shot having a drink or whatever.

      The ones who struggle in my observation are the ones whose parents made Winning The Big Game/Being The Most Popular seem like the ultimate life goal. Most of my classmates — or at least what I’d call a representative sample — are at least moderately successful and happy.

      1. catwoman2965

        I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. My HS years weren’t horrible, but also not wonderful. I wasn’t popular in HS, I had friends, but was also painfully shy and think i also suffer from a bit of social anxiety. I only kept in touch with a couple people from HS, and I was ok with that.

        I avoided any and all reunions until my 25th (about 10 years ago). I was anxious about going due to my issues but decided WTH and made plans to go with a friend. one of the few I still kept in touch with. I ALMOST backed out a week or so before but as my friend “outed” me on the reunion FB page that we were both going I sucked it up.

        And I’m glad I did. I would say for the most part, no one cared who you were in HS, who you hung out with, what activities you were involved in, with the exception of some of the “mean girls” who pretty much kept to themselves at the reunion and didn’t socialize too much with anyone outside their “clique”

        But everyone else? Friendly, welcoming etc. once you figured out who was who since many looked nothing like they did back in HS! All in all it was fun, and reconnected with a ton of people, and have become good friends with many who I didn’t know well in HS or hang out with.

    19. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Are they popular because they play sports at a cruddy level basic high school? As in they’re not going to ever play college ball or leave your dirt town?

      Then yeah they peak often.

      Are they from a rich family or with a college future? Them they’ll probably be fine.

      I’ve seen both.

      The good news is most grow into decent humans who will apologize to you at your 10 year reunion. The others didn’t even show up but we already know where they landed and they weren’t missed.

    20. gmg22

      I agree with others that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Thinking about the in-crowd kids from my high school days (some of them were my extended-family members, while I was in the second-tier music-geek crowd, which made things extra interesting): Some of them have done fine both personally and career-wise; some of them have struggled in one of these areas but not the other; some of them have definitely not lived up to the potential they could have had, because they were too busy being “cool” at a crucial time; and a few of them didn’t make it to our current age (40s) thanks to substance abuse problems.

    21. Cascadia

      Really interesting discussion here and I definitely agree with most of what is being said. It’s just too hard to say and it all depends on how you define “success” and what made kids popular at your school. As a somewhat tangent, it is interesting to note that most of the students who got the best grades in their class, the valedictorians, usually don’t make it to the top of the career path. They are definitely still successful by all means! But what they’ve shown is that the students who are really great at getting A’s in a lot of classes are very hard working, but usually lack the creativity/passion/spark that leads someone to be a world-changing super-impactful person. Super interesting stuff! http://money.com/money/4779223/valedictorian-success-research-barking-up-wrong/

      1. Sloan Kittering

        Certainly makes sense to me. I was good at school because the rules were clear, but the real world has a lot more moving pieces. You don’t get as much credit for emotional intelligence in coursework.

    22. plant lady

      It’s kind of interesting to think about the different dynamics between more urban and more rural schools too. I went to a ~1000 person public high school in the inner ring of a major city, and there wasn’t a stigma associated with “not moving away”, since we already lived in a pretty interesting, metropolitan area with tons of colleges and universities nearby. (Lots of people, myself included, did go to college or get jobs out of state, while plenty of other stayed in the area.) It seems like some people from rural areas associate later success with moving away from the hometown.

      1. gmg22

        It’s a double-edged sword, I think. People who move away get the combo of being associated with success, but also sometimes looked at slightly askance when they visit home (I think this is an example of what the Brits call “tall poppy syndrome”).

        As someone who moved away and then came back quite a few years later, I’d be interested in hearing how that particular sequence of events is experienced in different places. My home state is small and rural but people here grow up with a very strong sense of place and appreciation of the lifestyle, and I think that is a powerful force pulling some of us back. (But not all of us, because the job market here is likewise small and can be a challenge to navigate …)

      2. Temperance

        That’s definitely true, but it’s mostly because there aren’t a ton of opportunities, and, at least in my case, the people tend to be really small-minded. I’m glad to know a diverse group of people now, and I have access to arts, entertainment, and cultural opportunities beyond the local minor league baseball team.

        1. Windchime

          This is how I feel, too. My hometown was a great place to grow up but now I live where there are lots more opportunities and I work with people from all over the world. I think I would really miss that if I moved back to the rural part of my state; it’s not diverse in the least and many people have a thought process similar to the 1950’s.

    23. CRM

      There were definitely some popular kids at my school who ended up with objectively awesome lives, which their natural confidence, good looks, and charm no-doubt helped them achieve. But there were also some popular kids whose early years of promiscuity and drug use lead them down a bad path into a very difficult life. The majority of them landed somewhere in-between.

      Mint: If you’re currently a high school student, I’d strongly urge you to stop focusing on the popular kids and start focusing on yourself. Figure out what makes you happy, work hard, and be a good person. You’ll become successful in your own right, and 20 years from now you wont be worrying about where everyone else ended up. Good luck!

    24. PinkyTuscadero

      I think it depends on where the popularity initially came from. Kindness and talent can breed popularity and future success. Those who gained the popularity through means not attached to kindness may have peaked and could struggle later, especially if they never had to work for anything that was given to them in high school and continue to feel entitled.

    25. Armchair Analyst

      Not about this in all, but one of my favorite people in the world (ok, my brother) was the kind of kid that grown-ups liked and kids didn’t. Guess what. Eventually, we’re all grown-ups, and he’s very well-liked and good at what he does and stuff he likes. He’s got a great family. Super successful, rich, popular, cool? Not at all. But doing well? Yeah, he’s great.

    26. Lilysparrow

      Not necessarily.

      But I think it is true the other way around: when people who were successful/popular in high school encounter their first major life struggles later on, they are tempted to feel like they peaked early or it was “the best years of their lives,” so they can become overly nostalgic for that time.

      If they successfully push through that illusion to a more realistic view, they gain wisdom and maturity.

    27. Anon Anon Anon

      I think it depends a lot on why someone was popular/unpopular and how it affected them. And I’ve been on all sides of that, as a kid and as an adult. I’ve had my ups and downs. :-)

      Some kids develop substance abuse problems because of the party lifestyle that can come with being popular, and that can lead to other problems (academic, legal, psychological, health issues, etc). Some kids are popular because their parents are partiers or really hands-off and tolerant of everything, which is fun when you’re young but often doesn’t create a good support system for academic success and success later in life. However, a lot of kids are popular essentially because their parents are better off than the other parents. Or just well connected. Their parents are popular in the adult community. So the kids are confident, look fashionable, and have all the cool stuff. Those people continue to have advantages because of their parents’ money and connections.

      Conversely, a lot of the less popular kids – looking back on things – just came from different backgrounds and maybe stood out because of other differences. There were the kids who took school really seriously and wore old, ill-fitting thrift store clothes and their parents drove older cars. They were bullied because of their economic status combined with prioritizing school over having a social life. Those people went on to be successful, for the most part. Some kids were unpopular because of a disability or just unusual social behavior – stuff that is also stigmatized in the adult world. Or they came from a dysfunctional kind of home, or something like that. That stuff can continue to hold people back.

      But when I think about this, I also note that you don’t really know how successful anyone else is, aside from really obvious stuff. I mean that you don’t know what their priorities are and how satisfied they are with where they ended up. Are they happy with their career path? With their marriage or lack thereof? Who knows. And this stuff changes throughout life. The person who has a good job now might not in ten years and vice versa. Life has ups and downs. I think the main takeaway is that comparisons to other people are a distraction. It’s something to overcome; redirect your energy into things you can control and building the best life that you can for yourself.

    28. Kuododi

      I’m not really sure but inclined to agree….in general. I’ve been thinking about my Dad and how he struggled to get to his current situation in life. He grew up in horrible poverty in the extreme rural SE USA. (ie- his family couldn’t afford indoor plumbing and running H2O until he was a senior in high school). He was the first person on his side of the family to not only finish high school but go to college. He was painfully, painfully shy as a child and a young adult. He chose to not only work hard to put himself through college but pushed himself to step out from his isolation as a introverted, shy person. All he really wanted to do was sit in his cubicle and work on engineering and design problems. Long story short, he worked very hard, saved $$ and made wise decisions about the family future. He was able to retire after a long and well respected career knowing he and Mom would be well prepared for retirement. He also gives much back to his local church and community at large. (I’m not the least bit proud of Dad….! ). ;) He and Mom have been involved, committed parents from the beginning. I am thankful for his having modeled a life of commitment, compassion, learning and hard work.

      I have probably gotten a bit off track but I hope my response has been a help. Best regards

    29. Deranged Cubicle Owl

      I do admit that I sometimes fantasize about the few persons who made my (school-)life a hell, in my early teens, and that they have low-paying jobs or bad relationships or the likes. But there was one person that indeed didn’t have (or still hasn’t got?) a nice life, and I felt sorry for that person.

      However, I think that the case is the exception to the rule. Most successful teens were indeed from nice, upper-middle-class families, most of them are doing really nice. Even the one popular person from my class without a high school diploma.

      At the university there was a guy that failed a first year class 5 times (after which the university said they couldn’t let him retake it again for a 6th, normally if you were to fail a class twice, you were strongly advised to find another education career, but he came from a wealthy family). Since his father had a nice firm, he works there now. Don’t get me wrong, that classmate is a great guy, and he does a good job, but he wouldn’t be in a high management (and a very well paying) function without his connection (and he certainly wouldn’t have gotten so many chances to repeat that class – which was a necessity for getting a diploma. – Non USA, btw. Don’t know how education, failing a class, and how many chances you get to retake it, works in the US.)

  6. Sunny

    Coworker uses baby talk on calls with her boyfriend.

    Is there anything more irritating and cringe-inducing?

    1. Foreign Octopus

      Baby talk is right up there for me, like nails on a chalkboard.

      How people find that sexy is beyond me.

      1. Deranged Cubicle Owl

        Yeah, don’t get it either. If my partner (if I had one, that is) were to talk to me like that, I would be without a partner asap.

    2. WellRed

      We had a restaurant review in the local paper this week that called out the bartender for speaking in baby talk to customers. She actually said, “Bud Wight.”

        1. WellRed

          She talked like that for 15 solid minutes so I think it’s safe to assume it was baby talk. I would love to have been a fly on the wall at the staff meeting after that review came out (there were, not surprisingly, other service issues with other staff).

        2. That Girl From Quinn's House

          I have two friends with an L to W speech impediment. If you watch Big Bang Theory it’s the one Barry Kripke has, and I’ve never found that joke to be particularly funny.

        3. shep

          Same here. I knew a girl who was very well-spoken and intelligent and was unable to pronounce her “r”s, and I could definitely see it being interpreted as baby talk from someone who just has some brief interaction with her.

        4. Lissa

          I imagine not – there’s a big difference between someone who pronounces Ls and Ws but otherwise speaks normally and someone for whom that’s a part of an overall baby-talk, uh, experience.

      1. Rebecca

        Eww. I have a student – who is a child – who uses baby talk in my class and I absolutely think it’s my responsibility to teach her to cut that crap out.

    3. Muriel Heslop

      A coworker who baby talks with her mom would be worse?

      Seriously, that would make me crazy. I don’t even baby talk with my actual baby. Any chance she doesn’t realize she is doing it?

        1. SavannahMiranda

          My sister in law is a driven and highly successful surgeon who retrained after her first surgical specialty for a new specialty, simply because she liked the new one better. In other words, an absolutely no nonsense person. She takes nothing from no one.

          I’ve caught her baby talking her husband. She changes to a higher pitched tone, and shifts her sentences to end in the style of questions that aren’t questions at all (upspeak). Occasionally she includes a wheedling tone. She basically sounds like a 40-year old little girl. Imagine a verbal batting of eyelashes.

          It is utterly disturbing, especially from such an accomplished and driven individual. Nails on chalkboard. I guess everybody has foibles and peccadilloes, but I always feel it’s way too much information about the personal dynamics of their marriage.

          I don’t think she knows she does it. That’s the only conclusion I could come to. She certainly has me too intimated to say anything to her about it.

    4. Bunny Girl

      I have never reacted positively to baby talk of any kind. I had a now ex boyfriend who tried it exactly once and I told him I dried up like the Sahara and he never tried it again.

    5. LKW

      Perhaps as a counter point use a Pirate Accent with all your personal calls at work
      “Aye matey! I’ll see you when the bells chime 7. Arrrrrr!”

    6. Seifer

      One of our managers’ wife calls constantly, and each time he cheerfully answers the phone with a pet name. Glad your marriage is great. I really don’t want to know about it.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale

        Tell you what, I’d rather hear, “Hey Pookie!” than baby talk any day. Unless it’s constant “You’re a shmoopy!”

    7. Lumen

      Had a coworker whose wife would call him every day at the office and they’d talk for extended periods. He was loud, and often talked in cutesy voices, called her ‘baby’, etc. At least once, he had her on speakerphone and she called him ‘big daddy’. If he was away from his desk or on the phone with a client, she would call the front desk (mind you, these weren’t emergencies). When asked if he could advise her not to do that, he made a joke about beating her.

      So… yeah. I can think of how that could be *more* cringe-inducing.

      1. catwoman2965

        Not work related but a close friend has a long-distance BF who repeatedly posts on FB “my baby, can’t wait to spend Valentine’s Day with my baby (insert friends name)” over and over and over, other sickeningly sappy endearments, plus he uses enough emojis to choke a horse. I’m always thinking how old are you? Fifteen? Nope, both mid-forties. Ewwwww. Thankfully she is not like that, but if i were dating someone who did that, i’d be telling him to knock it off ASAP.

    8. Lena Clare

      The woman who wanted everyone to call her boyfriend Master might be more irritating and embarrassing but this is a close second, yuk. I would hate to hear this.
      Have you talked to her about it?

    9. Zombeyonce

      Next time she hangs up the phone ask her,”Oh, so how’s Bobby Wobby doing these daysie waysies?”

    10. Lissa

      Ughhh please no. I’m a monster because I don’t even like that internet “doggo speak” stuff that is typed out baby talk from the perspective of animals.

      1. Crystalline

        If it makes you feel any better, I despise those captions, too. Every time a cute video pops up followed by “SILLY HOOMAN, I AM BESTIEST BORKIEST BORK BORK!” I die a little inside. I know it’s supposed to be cute. *Supposed to be.* Ugh.

        1. mananana

          +1. And I’m the person who has pet names for both DH and my dogs. However, seeing “kitten” spelled as “kitteh” fills me with inner rage.

        2. Lissa

          It does make me feel better! When it’s just a word or two I don’t really notice but lately it seems like it’s on anything involving animals, entire posts written completely in that format. It’s so painful to read!

          1. Crystalline

            I’m so glad it’s not just me and/or you, LOL. Me too! And the captions are always over the pet somehow, so it’s difficult to watch the video and ignore them.

            @mananana It feels extra undignified for cats. Sigh. Pet peeves. (Haha.)

      2. Seeking Second Childhood

        I have to warn you… 7th graders are starting to talk that way intentionally. And I’ve now caught my hudband saying “Plehz” for “please”. My raised by a Latin teacher, oxford-comma crusader husband has been infected by our 7th grader.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood

          I fear another”Great Vowel Shift”..but then, my mother thought that about Valley Girl speak.

    11. Cube Diva

      Had a coworker who would make a sound like a dolphin before she hung up with her husband. Every day. It was their little way of saying “I love you.” And it was so squawky and loud… the worst.

      1. Cute Li'l UFO

        This is great because I’m now envisioning the exact dolphin chatter sound used in Spongebob.

    12. FloralsForever

      When your boss accidentally ends his calls to you with “darling” (we work on opposite coasts so most of our communication is on the phone)

      I think he calls his wife/daughter darling, and talks to his wife a lot on the phone during the day. It feels very much like a “dad” type mistake, and I can tell he’s embarrassed, so I just laugh at him. One of these days I’m going to reply:”Oh okay… cutesy-poo” or some other ridiculous nonsense

    13. Southern Yankee

      Oh, I can beat that. I was a new grand-boss sitting with a thirty-something employee as she showed me what she did. She answers the phone without so much as an “excuse me” and proceeds to talk baby talk to an unknown caller. I didn’t leave to give her privacy because I was hacked off at her rudeness. After a good five minutes of baby talk, she ends with “Bye Daddy”.

      I was so squicked I felt the hurl crawling up my throat!

  7. Nervous Accountant

    Just trying to find the right balance in this mindset.

    I’ve always been taught to have empathy/put myself in someone’s shoes/be considerate/the golden rule/remember where I came from/dont’ be a hypocrite etc.

    Which is all good and fine but there’s a point when it’s not working right?

    I feel like it is (or was) hindering me at work., esp in any capacity to supervise/manage employees.

    Maybe I am confusing these concepts.

    I’m slowly coming in to it. But oh lord its been tough. Whenever I was faced with an issue, my first thought was/is, “Did I ever do that? If so, what would have worked? What was the right thing to do?”

    But with the last few batch of people, it’s been like…Jesus, I was never THAT bad. Kevin, New Guy, office farter, slacker coworker, etc. The things they’ve said/done, I’d NEVER have done. (though to be fair, with the latter 2 they had more to offer; “slacker” has actually done super well and improved a lot and I am glad to have her on my team). But then I did other things. Y a kno, I keep falling in to that trap of thinking? “how can I tell someone to not do X when I did X myself when I was new?”

    1. Sloan Kittering

      Yes, the inverse of this rule is “healthy boundaries help everybody.” Being clear and direct is also a kindness. Also I find that the things I care most about may not be important to the other person, they may have a different value set than me and wonder why I’m beating around the bush so much.

    2. Mockingjay

      Flip your POV. Having done those things yourself, you learned from your mistakes and know better now. Use that knowledge to help your team.

      Everyone, no matter their level of seniority, needs an occasional reminder or course correction at work. It’s part and parcel of working with diverse human beings. And as someone pointed out in a recent thread (I think one of yesterday’s?), this is literally what a manager is paid to do.

      1. Nervous Accountant

        I try to do that but with the work processes. With behavioral stuff, I’m more reluctant. In the beginning it was more b/c my promotion was never “announced” so it was like “why is [this person] telling me waht to do??”

        Basically this was the incident that made me reflect. I had a report who was running late for work and had a meeting coming up. so I moved his meeting to someone else. Instead of saying thank you, he just rolled his eyes and sounded upset almost. Everyone on every level of staff notifies someone if we anticipate being more than 10 minutes late, even my boss will let us know. This report did not, so I had someone else take care of his meeting. I had no issue with the being late but the reaction. I didn’t say anything, moved on. in my head I was like…”if and when that was me, I’d be thankful for the extra few minutes to get settled in.”.. so I started reflecting on it, that I’ve done enough of “if it were me” for a long time and it’s time to flip my POV.

        I asked someone else if I made a bad move doing that, and they said no, that’s perfectly fine and acceptable and that’s how we do it. it’s a courtesy to give someone those extra few minutes.

        Now, the lateness and lack of follow up isn’t an issue for me b/c he is almost always here on time and is otherwise good about notifying us, so I give him a pass on that.
        To me it was the nasty attitude about it.

        I know I’m all over the place, but I have a lot of thoughts swimming around in my head. Could be lack of sleep llol

        1. Sloan Kittering

          I think there’s a situation sometimes where something would be mortifying FOR YOU – like being corrected by your boss for being late – but someone else shrugs it off / says meh / needs to be reminded to do better and then cheerfully does. You don’t know what kind of person you’re dealing with so your best bet is to be kind but direct and firm and let them feel however they feel – at least you were clear about what you need.

    3. Queen of Cans and Jars

      A good way to frame it is to consider it a kindness to correct someone who’s not doing what they should be doing. Imagine if someone had some to you when you were new and kindly told you the way you should do something. It might be embarrassing for a minute, but wouldn’t you be grateful? I know I would! The key is to do it in private and be respectful about it. If that person reacts poorly, it’s a them-problem, not a you-problem.

    4. LadyByTheLake

      The answer to “how can I tell someone not to do X when I did X myself when I was new” is that X is wrong and you no longer do X because at some point someone told you not to do X, so you don’t do it anymore. You aren’t doing anyone any favors letting them make mistakes just because it is a mistake you used to make. How will they know to change if you don’t tell them.

      1. Auntie Social

        And you can say “Don’t feel bad, just don’t do it again” or “I know you did X but we do Y and Z here”. Short, sweet. No confessing your own sins.

    5. Coffee Bean

      You can be kind by putting yourself in their shoes and understanding you have made those mistakes before, so you can forgive them. But they were mistakes, and you learned to stop doing X, so helping guide them out of doing that bad habit (slacking, farting, whatever it may be) is a kindness.

    6. Canonical23

      I feel you. I’m 24 and I manage a staff of people who have been working as long as I’ve been alive. And when they’re doing things they shouldn’t be doing, it feels weird to assert authority, because 2 years ago, I was a general staff person with no managerial duties who also did things like slack off or occasionally engage in workplace gossip.

      I think that can be a strength because you can be empathetic to the issue while still explaining why it isn’t appropriate for the work environment. Think of that empathy/remembering where you came from/lack of hypocrisy as one of the main things that keeps you from being one of those bad bosses that doesn’t “get it” or exerts authority in an inappropriate manner (think yelling, passive aggression, etc.) Use your empathy to help frame difficult conversations – “I understand why X can happen – many of us do X occasionally. But it’s important that we value Y in the workplace, so I need you to stop doing X and start doing Y.”

      1. Nervous Accountant

        YASSS that’s exactly me. I have some people on my team who are older, more experienced and I feel weird asserting my authority. Good thing is that my manager does have my back, but a lot of things I need to learn and do on my own. Take off hte training wheels haha.

        I will say, Kevin has been a HUGE learning experience. I think that was what I needed to push me over to the other side.

    7. ArtK

      Do you do ‘X’ now? Probably not. How did you learn not to do ‘X’? Probably because someone told you. Pay that forward.

    8. Ama

      One thing I had to learn when I started managing my direct report was that I *wasn’t* responsible for my report’s emotions around the job — for me it was affecting my ability to delegate because the bulk of the work we hired her to do were tasks I actively disliked and I would worry every time I transferred something to her that she’d hate it . So I was doing a version of what you were doing in a different area — “how can I ask Jane to do this when I hate doing it myself?” It took some work (and I’m extremely lucky in that my employer provides some management training because it helped me identify the problem more quickly) but I finally realized that my job as a manager is to make sure my report gets the tools they need to do the job the way I/my employer need it done. If Jane hates doing the job that way, she has two choices — 1) bring her concerns to me and we can discuss whether there are any alterations we can make that would help (sometimes I have to say no, this is the way we have to do it, but I try to explain why when that happens) or 2) decide to move to a job she likes better. But those two decisions are Jane’s to manage, not mine.

      It doesn’t matter if you also made that mistake before — what you need now is for your reports *not* to do that thing, and you should make sure they get the information they need so they can either stop doing it and improve their performance or decide they can’t deal with your parameters and move on.

    9. Snowglobe

      I think “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes” can be somewhat limiting. Each person is an individual. They make mistakes that you didn’t; you made mistakes that they never would. Some mistakes might’ve similar, but the type of feedback that helped you might not help them. People learn differently. So as a manager you just need to figure out how each of your reports responds to different types of feedback/instruction and go with what works for *them.*

    10. Not So NewReader

      It’s good to think about boundaries.
      Then consider these factors:
      There are common mistakes that most people make. The thing about common mistakes is that the repairs are common knowledge also. This is because everyone has made the mistake and learned how to fix it.

      Then there are frequent mistakes. This is different than common mistakes because frequent mistakes can mean the same error over and over after being told not to make that error again.

      Then there are rare mistakes. Hey, you know what, we all step in crap once in a while and sometimes something blows up in an epic way and we had no means of knowing it would backfire so badly.

      With the common mistakes and rare mistakes I looked for a couple things:
      The top thing I looked for was did the person TELL me/someone and ask for help. If yes, then PHEW! I can probably trust this person to watch what they are doing. This is of higher value to me and I make sure people know that. “Just come tell me.”
      The next thing I look for is some expression of regret. I don’t need to hear “I am sorry” but it does help to hear some indication of concern. “I want to know what to do so I never make that mistake again.” OR “I want to know what to do so if this does happen again, I can fix it on my own without bothering others.”
      With the rare mistakes, it’s good to have a bit deeper discussion of what happened, why and prevention.
      I have never “shot” anyone who came and told me ASAP. I thanked them for trusting me enough to talk to me.

      Frequent and repeated mistakes are my biggest concern. The dots are not connecting for the person. They are not taking corrective action or putting in preventative measure to ensure they do the work properly. These are people who do not care. Bosses cannot make people care about their jobs/work. It’s very difficult to fix these types of situations.

      So, the rule of three. I see a problem three times, I must address it in an appropriate manner. This gives me space so I don’t look like a micromanaging idiot who has no idea what is actually going on. That is not my goal to come across that way. But if I see something a third time, I will speak to the person. If nothing else but to ask about it, “Hey what’s up with doing X every day at 4 pm? I have seen you do this for three days in a row. What’s going on?” Then I listen.

      My baselines are safety and civility. A close second is quality of work. I will use stronger statements when I think someone is jeopardizing their own safety or the safety of others. I will also use stronger statements when I hear a person say unprofessional/unacceptable things.
      Saying unprofessional/unacceptable things. Sometimes the wording is ambiguous . “Oh I did not mean anything by it!” Then I jump in with, “Then speak clearly. There is no need for ambiguity/double ententes/ anything that leaves room for doubt. If I see this again, we will be talking about this again. Say what you mean, mean what you say. Don’t leave people guessing.”

      Last. I made up my mind that I would apologize when I was wrong. This was a freeing decision. It freed me from my own overthinking. I would try my hardest not to make a mistake or a bad call but if I did make a mistake/bad call, then I would apologize for it.

      1. MassMatt

        This is a good template. I especially agree that the conversation has to get more serious when mistakes/problems are repeated. If someone continues to do (or failed to do) x after The guideline/requirement has been made clear, then the employee isn’t listening, is incapable of change or learning, or doesn’t care. Then it has to go to a PIP or termination. Not everyone is a good fit for every job.

    11. Kathenus

      One suggestion is to disengage ’empathy’ from ‘approval’. You can try to see things from someone else’s perspective to try to better understand them, why they do what they do, etc. – whether you did those things or not. But being empathetic doesn’t mean that you have to agree with or approve what they are doing. And as was mentioned already, if you did do something, but learned to change because you were told or realized that X wasn’t the best option, using your experience can help with determining how to communicate with that person. And showing your own imperfections can sometimes be helpful in connecting with someone – admitting you used to do X but then did Y to change can help them see you as a fallible (and honest) person versus just a boss dictating that they change. Empathy can help you see the person behind the behavior, and I think can help with a mindset where you respect the person even if you are trying to change the behavior. Good luck.

    12. Koala dreams

      I don’t really feel that the golden rule is that great. It assumes that people appreciate the same things, and that’s not true. People are different, even if they are wearing the same shoes. Some people instead refer to the “platinum” rule, about treating others the way they want to be treated. That makes more sense in social interactions. In a work context, there are of course more important things than getting along socially, such as getting the work done, make sure employees get paid, following local laws and regulations.

      To get this back to work, I think there is nothing wrong with starting out with your own experiences and act accordingly, but in a work context you often get to know people after a while. You know who needs to be told things directly to the point of rudeness, who picks up automatically by watching others, who is great at detail work and who hates using the phone, and then you can take that in account.

    13. Lilysparrow

      When you’re managing, you need a clear and consistent picture of the results that are needed and the policies or requirements that must be met.

      Empathy and seeing things from the other person’s POV don’t change the targets.

      Empathy guides you in having reasonable expectations and finding ways to help people succeed at those targets.

      Understanding others’ POV helps you communicate the targets to them in a way they understand and find motivating or helpful.

      Letting people slack off their work, or be rude or unprofessional, is not the result of too much empathy. It’s the result of unclear or inconsistent targets.

  8. Murphy

    Just wanted to say thanks to everyone who answered my question last week about professional references when a team of one with a weird job history. I took the advice and asked a colleague in another department who I interact with fairly frequently, though mostly by email. She said she’d be willing to give a reference and also said “But I don’t want you to leave that office!” which I think is a good sign that she’d give a good reference. It was a nerve-wracking phone call to make, but I got through it! I submitted an application yesterday for an internal position, so *fingers crossed* Thanks!

  9. heckofabecca

    I’m applying to my first internship! It’s at a museum in Poland—very exciting!

    I have gone through Alison’s excellent advice for regular cover letters, but I’d appreciate any input about how internship cover letters should differ. Thanks so much!

    1. Muriel Heslop

      Wow! Good luck!

      When I had interns I liked them to be specific about how working with our company could help them achieve their academic and/or professional career goals. People who just wanted a summer job/resume builder were least appealing.

      1. heckofabecca

        Ah thank you! That’s a relief; it’s such a unique opportunity that I can’t help but want to talk about why I want to be there!

    2. Yvette

      How very exciting for you, what an experience!! Never been an intern but maybe with intern cover letters find examples of /highlight times where you did stuff even outside of your normal scope to be a team player and get the job done. I have never been/worked with interns but I just feel like they are expected to be a little more flexible in terms of one day you catalog aquisitions and the next day you lead a tour group and another day you might be stuffing and stamping “Museum Member” correspondance or proofing the newletter.

      1. heckofabecca

        I love to know what’s going on all over the place, so jumping around should be fun… XD Thanks!

    3. coffee addict

      Since you probably don’t have a lot of experience outside of class, definitely focus on what you’ve done in school and what you’ve learned and how it can apply to the internship. When I was applying to internships, I mentioned a couple papers/projects I had completed and how that research would relate to the position and make me a strong intern. I also discussed a club I was in and how being part of that group gave me certain skills that would be valuable to the internship.
      I would also lay out realistically what you want out of the internship. For example, if you’re interested in having a career in a specific field, say that and express how the internship would help you achieve that goal.

      1. heckofabecca

        Thank you!!

        I actually do have experience that lines up almost exactly with the department I’m applying to through work with a nonprofit, and I’m mentioning that for sure! I also brought up the fact that courses in the museum’s area don’t really exist at my school, so I’m pursuing an independent honors thesis in a related field (Jewish history) and how working at the museum would be an opportunity to learn more for me.

        Now I just need a better closing phrase than “working at X would be a dream come true”….. XD

    4. Amylou

      It will depend on the job post, but if they mentioned any specific tasks/projects, make sure to mention any experience (e.g. in student clubs is perfect for this) or your eagerness to learn something for your future career in X. At an old job, we mentioned specific tasks/things they’d learn, and it was surprising only two or three out of nearly a hundred applicants zoned in on those. It definitely made their letters stand out, and showed they were interested in this *particular* internship, not sending out the same letter thinning ^just any internship will do^…

      1. heckofabecca

        Thanks! I’m mentioning how the tasks they listed line up with work I’m already doing in an unrelated volunteer position—it’s almost funny how close a match it is to my nonprofit stuff!

  10. wingmaster

    I had some good news this week. I got a promotion and a 15% raise! Now I’m off to Peru this weekend for a work trip.

  11. FaintlyMacabre

    A question and some venting:

    Question:

    I recently did some training for a field that I am trying to transition into. The training consisted of a webinar over a couple of days, with homework before and in the middle of the webinar, and an online test after the conclusion of the webinar. We were given a week to complete the test.

    I finished the test a few days before it was due, and though the score was given on completion, there was no way to go through the test and see what questions I had missed. I emailed the contact person, Octavia, to see if there was a way to see the questions I had missed. She said there was, but only after the test closed on Friday.

    I sent an email on Monday to ask about seeing the test. Octavia replied that she was copying Lavinia on the email, as Lavinia is the person who could go over the results with me. I have not heard anything from Lavinia- do I need to email her? When is too soon?

    Venting:
    This is so frustrating!!!! I guess they use the same test for every training and don’t want cheating, but I want to know what I got wrong so I don’t make those mistakes in the future! And I passed easily, but what if someone bombs it? Too bad, so sad, good luck in the future? The training offered a lot of feedback and review; I’m really surprised that going over the test results is like pulling teeth.

    1. Coffee Bean

      If Octavia emailed Lavinia on Monday, forwarding your request, you can go ahead and reach out to Lavinia requesting it again. She may not have scrolled down to see your request, or may just need a quick reminder. One week is long enough, even just a few days is fine here (IMO).

    2. Less Bread More Taxes

      I’d give it a week at least. The closest reference I have to this is SAT tests which take months to view.

    3. ISuckAtUserNames

      Jeez. It’s a training, not the SATs, FFS. Seems like immediate feedback would be better from an ACTUAL TRAINING standpoint to ensure you processed the information correctly.

      But what do I know? At any rate, I share your frustration. Did they give a timeline on when results would be in? Depending on how many people had to take the training and how many people they have distributing the results, Lavinia could be overwhelmed. If it were me I’d probably ask my boss if they knew when the results were supposed to be shared, as sometimes managers get those details but us schlubs don’t, but if they don’t know I’d hold off until mid next week, maybe, if I didn’t hear anything. If there’s nothing urgent riding on the results, I’d not push too hard on getting them right away, if it were me.

      1. FaintlyMacabre

        They said I’d get a certificate in a month after the end of the training. They never addressed test results- since it was online, I assumed at the end of the test I’d be able to see the test questions I missed, but all I got was my score. There were only about 8 people in the training, but I’m sure the training people have other things to do! I guess I’ll just wait ’til Monday and reach out to Lavinia.

    4. Karen from Finance

      If Lavinia was sent your request on Monday, I think you’re fine to follow up today or on Monday. A week is long enough.

      1. Cat wrangler

        If today (Friday) is the closing date for the test, then maybe they can’t access the material until the next working day. Drop Lavinia a line on Tues or Weds.

    5. SavannahMiranda

      I guarantee you that you are one of the good students who was driven, took the material seriously, and was successful at it, and that right now they are probably fielding a ton of woe-is-me petitions and complaints about the length of the exam, the content, and who knows what else.

      You come along, bright and successful, simply wanting to know how to be better. But you fall to the bottom of the list because they’re putting out fires from people petitioning for re-takes, contesting their scores, and calling certain questions ambiguously worded in order to try to get them removed and better their scores.

      Even though this is a professional training where the participants are presumably adults, and not a community college 101 class with students carrying over high school behavior, groups of people you least expect it from can still be surprisingly appalling about these things.

      Circle back for sure. But take into consideration you’re probably one of the more successful participants.

  12. Katelyn

    When you send in a job application and get an email saying “do you have time for a call?” what does this mean? Phone interview? phone screen? I’ve definitely received these type of seemingly-casual emails a couple times, and I just had one that was 1 hr long.

    1. Queen of Cans and Jars

      I’d always be prepared for it to be some kind of interview. I’m not sure what other reason they’d have for calling. If you want to get an idea of how long they’ll want to chat, there’s no harm in asking when you reply.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale

      I hate that, because it can be such a mixed bag. Sometimes it’s a phone screen, sometimes it’s an actual phone interview– and when it’s been the latter, I’ve been caught so unprepared. A company once said, “We have a couple of questions for you, do you have time for a 10-minute call?” and it turned out to be an actual interview and was just very weird.

      Anyway. I think if this happens to you in the future, you can ask how much time they need. An hour? That’s an appointment, not a quick call.

    3. ArtK

      I get these all the time from recruiters. It’s for an initial conversation about whether or not you would fit. I treat it like an interview.

    4. Ali G

      I would say something like “I have about 30 min at 2 pm today, otherwise we can schedule a longer block for Monday (or whenever you want).
      I would expect a longer conversation and wouldn’t be too restrictive on your availability, but it’s OK to rein them in a little too.

      1. T. Boone Pickens

        Yup, came here to echo Ali G. When I reach out to candidates for an initial phone call I do include in my email that the call will take about 15 minutes and it’s an initial introductory call. If you get asked if you have a time for a call it’s perfectly fine to ask how long you should budget for and if you have a hard out/scheduling conflict to mention that.

    5. MissDisplaced

      I usually take a first contact as being more of a phone screen rather than full interview.
      So, be prepared to answer basic questions about your resume, why you’re interested and maybe even salary ranges (yes, I know some people hate that, but it’s what screeners do-you don’t want to waste time if neither party is even in the same ballpark). I would also respond with a couple of set times in say 15 minute blocks in the next 2-3 days.

      And be wary if people expect you to “jump” and drop everything for them immediately. To me, it’s a red flag in most cases.

  13. AliceBD

    I was laid off on Monday; my last day is next Friday (one week from today). We just went through a merger and I suspected for months they would get rid of my job, and they did. I’m not upset about it. Most lay-off advice (besides on AAM) seems to be about emotional stuff which is good for others — I have very upset coworkers — but not relevant to me. (At least not right this minute.) What advice do you have? Freelancing or gig work ideas while I search for a full-time job? I do marketing and am a pretty strong writer. I’m already talking with an internal recruiter for a large local company and the position is promising but I have no guarantees I’ll get it.

    Related, when a previous manager has changed jobs and no longer works where you both worked, do you give their old title and company or new title and company when listing them as a reference?

    1. (Mr.) Cajun2core

      Get working on unemployment insurance right-away.
      Apply for jobs like crazy. You don’t have to take the first one offered to you but if it is a good job highly consider it even though it may not be an ideal job.

    2. ThatGirl

      Get on unemployment right away. Take a few days to update your resume and think about what you’d like to do next. I actually disagree with “apply for jobs like crazy” – it’s a job-seeker’s market right now, it’s OK to be a little picky (unless you’re in a very weird or specific field). I tried to only apply for jobs that a) I was genuinely interested in and b) felt like I was qualified for.

    3. Honeygrim

      I’m sorry about your layoff. I don’t have a lot of advice about your job search, but I would suggest listing your previous manager using both sets of information, just to remove confusion. Something like “Joe Smith, Operations Manager, ABC Inc. (former manager at XYZ Inc.).”

      Good luck!

    4. legalchef

      I use their new information, and then put underneath something like “(former manager while at Company)”

    5. AliceBD

      I get a month of severance and a PTO payout so I’m not eligible for unemployment until well after I leave!

      1. Jerry Vandesic

        Depending on where you live, you might be eligible for unemployment immediately if you have to sign away your rights to sue in order to receive severance. That is true in Massachusetts and some other states.

        You should file now, and let the unemployment commission figure out when you start collecting.

        1. Mass Anon

          Ditto on this, I was laid off years ago and the severance package included wording to the effect I would not sue the former employer, etc. This meant that I could collect unemployment at the same time. Someone who was laid off a wave or two ahead of me just assumed he would be ineligible and lost out on several weeks of unemployment. Laws vary from state to state, save your agreement and check your state’s unemployment website for definitions, rules, etc. non-compete agreements may make you eligible also.

      2. lapgiraffe

        Also MA, and correct, I got a lump sum and was able to start collecting sooner than the amount of weeks the severance covered, which was nice because the “first week” of unemployment you don’t actually get any money (I didn’t understand that then or now, thankfully my only time on unemployment but of course things change and I was so so so grateful for it even with generous severance and savings)

    6. Quackeen

      I always just list “Alice BD, former Director of Operations at Company.”

      Sorry about the layoff. I went through it 9 months ago and, unlike you, really struggled with the emotional side of things. It seems like your skills and experience lend themselves very well to freelancing while you search for the right fit. Best of luck for finding that right fit soon!

    7. Ama

      For the references, I usually give the title they had when we worked together and then put in parentheses where they are now, like so:

      Jane Ferguson
      Vice President, Teapots Unlimited
      (currently President, Dazzling Teapot Co.)
      [contact info]

    8. TootsNYC

      For references:

      On my reference sheet (which I often cut-and-paste into an email), I list them like this:

      Name Here
      supervisor at XYZ company.

      or
      Name Here
      currently vice president at MMM company
      supervisor at ZYX company 1992-1994 (if I know the dates)

      In my field, everybody expects your references to have moved around.

      It’s way more important what their contact with YOU is, so make that clear. If they have a great new job that makes them sound really important, then include it. But as long as its’ clear, it really doesn’t matter what the format is.

    9. lapgiraffe

      If your finances allow it, take a trip, doesn’t have to be big, even just visiting family or an old friend you haven’t seen in a while. There’s only so much job applying one can do in a day or week, and psychologically for me to have some physical and mental space to breathe.

      Let your friends treat you, to drinks or pedicures or dinner or a movie, people feel very helpless in a situation like this and want to show their love and help in whatever way. It was kinda hard to accept such generosity at first but when I realized it gave them joy to be helpful like that it became more than just a free meal, it really bolstered my emotional and mental health to be out and about “like normal” and to feel cared for. And then it was the first thing I wanted to do years later when a friend was laid off, buying her dinner and spreading the love.

  14. seekingadvice123

    i’ve been over-worked and burned out the past few months and i have a meeting with my boss this afternoon to talk about taking some of it off my plate. i am scared i’ll cry during the meeting. the increased workload has torpedoed my mental health (i have a psych and a therapist) and i was almost hospitalized in january. i also feel terribly guilty because it keeps playing out at work that Team X needs 20 urgent things done, so i have to automatically say no to Teams A, B, and C when they ask for little, non-urgent stuff, and ABC are getting pissed because they do need this stuff done by someone, it’s just that i can’t. how do i not cry in this meeting? would it be appropriate to mention the adverse health affects this schedule has had on me? no details, just that – “it’s been adversely affecting my health.” i would be so thankful for any advice on how to approach this. (and what to do if i start crying lol.) my boss is kind and reasonable, so that’s good.

    1. StressedButOkay

      If you have time, I would mentally go over all the various things in your mind – rehearse, basically, especially the parts that you might think will trigger you to cry.

      1. Muriel Heslop

        I agree with this. Most of my students (middle school) have mental health issues and one exercise we do for stressful conversations is:
        Step One: write out what you want to say on a piece of paper/dry erase board.
        Step Two: read it aloud until you are comfortable.
        Step Three: say it to someone you trust who can give you feedback/support about what you want to say.
        Step Four: have the difficult talk, but envision your “script” the whole time so you stay on topic and can ideally be less emotional.

        With my students, the more we do this kind of exercise, the better they get at having hard conversations.
        It’s so scary to have these kinds of talks, and it’s okay to be emotional, but I totally understand not wanting to cry! Good luck!

      2. Sloan Kittering

        Maybe you can try to reduce the fear and anxiety you have around crying. Let’s say you do cry – maybe that’s okay, maybe you have some strategies to handle that. You could take a pause and say something to address it directly, “I apologize, I’m a little emotional about this topic, but i do want to continue the conversation. Please give me a minute” (or “please continue anyway,” whatever you prefer). I think for me, thinking *don’t cry don’y cry* makes it about a thousand times worse and would ratchet up my stress.

      3. Coffee Bean

        I agree with rehearsing.

        While you rehearse I suggest you also try and drive home the reasons why things couldn’t get done and solutions to the problems. No one can work around the clock, and everything gets prioritized. If Teams ABC are mad because you aren’t getting to that stuff then explaining that to your boss and having him either help you reprioritize, or helping by pushing back on Teams ABC will both help.

      4. Not So NewReader

        I have found it helpful to think of Elton John singing at Diana’s funeral. In an interview he said he sang Candle in the Wind over and over until he could get through it without crying. Repetition is powerful. Sometimes we have to get used to hearing our own voices saying something.

    2. BugSwallowersAnonymous

      I think it’s totally reasonable to say it’s been adversely affecting your health- I feel like I would want to know that as a manager! And I always like having a glass of water with me when I think I might start crying. I also think you shouldn’t beat yourself up too much if you do cry, though. You’re human, and it’s okay to show how you’re really feeling. Especially since your boss is kind and reasonable. I hope it goes well!

    3. revueller

      The NYTimes posted a trick about pushing your tongue to the roof of your mouth to stop crying immediately. Haven’t tried it, but if you (unfortunately) get a chance to test it out before the meeting, it might help.

      And if you can’t do something physically because your health is on the line, say that. I wouldn’t mention that you were nearly hospitalized (which I am so sorry about, that sucks and is definitely a good reason to say something), but saying “I cannot take on additional responsibilities at the time without it taking a toll on other areas of my life.” is not a bad way to start.

      Coming up with solutions in advance may also win you extra points with your boss. Think of ways to perhaps delegate certain tasks (either your current urgent workload or those non-urgent requests coming in). It’ll show that you understand the problem from ABC’s perspective, but you also cannot budge in certain areas.

      Good luck, friend!

    4. Minocho

      I have the most embarrassing tendency to cry while getting good reviews. It’s this bizarre stress response. I found one thing that helped me was having a tress ball / fidget toy that I could hide in my hand.

      1. Quackeen

        I have a similar reaction! Was once in a parent-teacher conference where the teacher was praising my child and both the teacher and I ended up crying! It was bizarre. I also once teared up over getting positive eBay feedback.

        I assure you that I’m not as unhinged as I sound!

    5. TootsNYC

      look up.

      No, literally, raise your eyeballs inside your sockets to look at the ceiling.

      And also, mentally focus on what the JOB needs. In so many ways, this has NOTHING to do with you. Pouring too much liquid into a too-small container makes a mess, but it has nothing to do with the container!

      Focus on the logistics of how to solve it, and not on the upsetness of anybody else. Keep your focus forward.

      Also: get a little mad.
      That’s what someone told me once when I was complaining about a really unprofessional colleague, when I was at the point that I thought his actions were damaging to the group. I was mad, and upset, and i started to cry, and she said:
      “Don’t cry. Get mad, but don’t cry.”

      I realized that I often cry when I’m trying to restrain some other emotional reaction.
      Once I let the anger, or the frustration, show, I didn’t cry. I tried to control the volume, but not the reaction.

      1. Zombeyonce

        But be aware this won’t work for everyone. I’m an angry crier, so getting upset at something when I’m not to blame actually makes me more likely to cry.

        I recommend thinking about crying triggers and talk those out in front of a mirror before this meeting to get a handle on saying them as calmly as you can. And accept that you might cry anyway, but that’s a normal response to so much stress. Just say “sorry, this situation is frustrating” and move the conversation on.

        1. twig

          yep. frustration, anger, any strong emotion — I cry.

          When I go into these kinds of meetings with my boss, I start out by telling her: My physiological reaction to stress is tears — it’s like a stress relief valve. Feel free to ignore and keep going on with the conversation.

    6. Blue

      Is your boss already aware of how urgent the need is to redistribute work? If not, I would mention the adverse health effects (broadly, as you said) just so it’s clear that this is a problem you need a solution for asap.

      I found myself in a similar situation in my last job, and when I first raised the issue with my boss, he was accepting and open to hearing it but wasn’t motivated to find an immediate solution. At that point, I was keeping all the critical balls in the air and since I’m generally good at making things work, he assumed I’d find a way to make it through the busy season and then we could look for a solution when it was quieter. It took me having a really bad day to go into his office and give him a blunt accounting of just how dire the situation was. And yes, I almost cried, and yes, I was very self-conscious about that. I spent a lot of that conversation focusing on my breathing to try to stay calm. But I think the fact that I was clearly emotional brought home to him how much this was impacting me, and, to his credit, he started making changes that same day.

      Good luck! I’m rooting for you.

    7. epi

      I already see some good advice about avoiding crying in the thread, so I’ll add something a little different.

      It can be really hard to not cry if you think you start to feel the need, and let it upset you further. That “oh no– I can not cry” thought can really trip you up and make it worse by freaking you out.

      It may help you to know you could handle it if you did cry, just so it’s not this horrible possibility looming over you. Bring notes with bullet points of what you want to say, so you know that even if you cry, you will still be able to stay on topic. Put a couple of tissues in your pocket so you know if anything starts, you can clean up easily without getting derailed or further embarrassed. Realize that most bosses have had an employee cry before. Many people– probably most people– have at some point cried at work. Yet you don’t see a lot of people suddenly being treated like they are fragile or overly emotional after a meeting with their boss! That is because most people will be kind, try to let you save face, and not read too much into a single instance of crying.

      I think mentioning the effect on your health is really up to you. For me personally, I tend to emphasize that the stress or the situation itself is unmanageable rather than disclosing anything specific about my health. Especially if this is the first talk about a particular problem. Sometimes I have been really surprised by what turned out to be optional, or negotiable, or not my highest priority, once my boss knew that the situation– not me– was a problem. Or they had advice I never thought of before, so there turned out to be no need to disclose anything personal. I have disclosed at work before. It was at the point that either: and ongoing situation had not been fixed, and I felt people needed to know how unacceptable it was; I expected the effects of my poor health to affect me more globally, and I wanted them to be prepared.

      I hope your meeting this afternoon goes well, and things start looking up for you!

    8. Existentialista

      Best advice I heard about crying at work was from a very senior woman in the Financial industry in the city where I was living. She said she would tell her boss, “I’m probably going to cry, but please don’t worry about it, and just listen to what I have to say.” She said it had worked well for her.

    9. Dr. Anonymous

      I would start with the list of what you’re doing, what’s impossible to do, the effect on the other teams, and leave your mental health as your hole card of your boss isn’t getting the picture. Your mental health is very important, but it sounds like it’s become an issue because your job is currently impossible. So you can choose to focus on that if you want.

    10. Redhead

      I’ve been where you are and it’s difficult. Others have talked about the crying issue, I just wanted to say it’s not the end of the world if you cry. Many, many people have cried in this situation.

      You might want to look into FMLA leave (or other similar law if you’re outside of the US) and whether it will cover you. I don’t think I would bring it up with your boss just yet, but it would be good to understand what your rights are.

      You talk about being overburdened. Shouldn’t your boss be deciding priorities and letting the other groups know there’s an issue? You might ask for clarification on that, and how he would like you to handle it when you’re in that situation.

  15. HireMoreWomenInTech

    I am a female engineer at an company in the automation industry, and I’ve been working on trying to increase our number of female applicants to engineering jobs. So far, we’ve given company tours to groups of women from local colleges and aimed for a better gender balance when sending employees to recruit at colleges.

    Does anyone have suggestions on what else we can do? I’m relatively new to the company, and not involved in the hiring process itself so I’m focusing on ideas to increase percentages of female applicants.

    Thanks!

    1. Anonymous Educator

      What else “we” can do or what else you can do? I think you’re already doing a lot!

      But the real issue is making sure the dudes at your company aren’t creating a toxic work environment or even just a status quo environment as far as gender in tech goes. Also, how are your job postings? I think female candidates are less likely to apply to positions they don’t feel they meet every single requirement of, and male candidates are more likely to think “Eh, I’m not qualified, but I can do that.”

    2. Foreign Octopus

      I think you’re doing a good job so far. Maybe something smaller like flyers in women’s bathrooms or something?

      Although, to really solve the problem of the gender imbalance, it’s more important to get them when they’re young: I’m talking primary/elementary age and continuing that through secondary/high school. Maybe there’s a way you can talk to children as well: I know that’s a long time solution but it might be an idea.

      1. xarcady

        I agree–part of the issue is that not all that many women are in STEM majors in college.

        My high-school age niece went to an explosives camp last summer, mostly because her parents insist she do something educational each summer and because she liked the idea of making her own fireworks. Well, the camp took the kids down into a mine. And she loved it. And now she’s been accepted into two university mining programs. Prior to this, she wanted to be a math teacher.

        So maybe if your company could do a tour or a workshop or something geared to high school students, that might spark some interest and help get more women in the degree programs that you want to recruit from.

        1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

          I was going to suggest trying to build a “career ladder” type program to get high school and even junior high kids into a system that helps guide them into STEM careers — what classes to take at each level; where are the good college programs and are there any linkage agreements between undergrad and graduate programs; what options are available for scholarships, especially for women; what they need to do in college to find mentors or internships; and what your company (and other companies) look for on resumes of new graduates. That may be beyond your capabilities to create a full program yourself, so you could try to find one that exists and get involved.

          1. Sloan Kittering

            I’m no expert but I thought I remembered articles stating that even women entering STEM fields ended up dropping out or not finding work or no finding equal pay in their work.

            1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

              Sorry for the very long post, but looping this back to HireMoreWomenInTech’s question, even if employers make an effort to recruit women, they need to address the social, emotional and cultural aspects of their lives that may cause them to drop out or fail to thrive. It’s not enough to just recruit, that’s why I suggested a career ladder — a formal process that allows women to begin and advance their careers. The earlier the ladder begins usually the more successful it’ll be, but you can always start somewhere and build up, or down.

              As a woman whose had a 20+ year career in a field that was, when I started college, still very male dominated at the college and professional level, and is now fairly equal, maybe even at a tipping point (according to the AIGA, women today outnumber men in the professional organization’s membership, and in design schools, woohoo!) I have a bit of insight and I feel like my experience over time can be applied to women in fields that are still in the early stages of accepting them.

              And to address a bit of Jule’s comment below about how focus on education does a disservice to women currently in the workforce — it doesn’t; having more girls and women joining at the bottom of the “ladder” will improve the lives of women in the middle or top. Just having more “visibility” and therefore power as a group helps everyone. Once employers see that their future workforce is going to include more and more women, they’ll start taking current women in their workforce more seriously. While we always seem to focus on how women at the top can pull up those at the bottom, it’s also true that the women at the bottom will bump up those in the middle. I’ve seen it in my profession.

              Part of the reason that women drop out is that they don’t find or have the same social and cultural support as their male peers — similar to students who are the first in their family to go to college. It can be really discouraging to be the “only one” in any group.

              Even when there are excellent academic and financial resources available, there is a pretty big discrepancy between the graduation rates of students whose parents went to college and those who are the first in their family to go to college. What studies have shown in that situation is that schools need to do more to address those students’ non-academic and non-financial needs — self doubt, guilt that they get something others don’t, internal or external guilt that loved ones are making a sacrifice, external pressure to not “think she’s better” or different than the people left behind, and maybe even toxic competitiveness between the few others of their “kind”. Recruiting isn’t enough and it won’t be successful unless schools and employers address those needs.

              1. Jule

                Derailing conversations about the workforce with comments about education does a disservice. It’s important to read what you think you’re responding to.

                1. Mass Anon

                  I disagree, I thought Pay No Attention’s post was excellent. She is making the point that recruitment alone is only part of the issue, there also needs to be support for women in the field throughout the career path, and schools need to better prepare women for the workplace in these fields. Sounds to me as though she’s put a lot of thought into the subject!

      2. Jule

        Oh boy, it’s actually massively important not to write off current-day women in these conversations. It is definitely important to do outreach to young girls, but conversations about equality in the workplace are frequently derailed by discussions about education in a way that does a disservice to women currently in the workforce or on the verge of entering it.

        1. Sloan Kittering

          Yeah it’s not like education isn’t always important and valuable but I think too often it’s used as an excuse not to do anything now (definitely in my sector, environmental policy). It’s basically, “let’s hope the next generation can fix this for us!”

        2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)

          This. There’re lots of orgs that only care about getting more women in STEM careers and don’t care about those who are already in the workplace, where companies talk endlessly about how inclusive they are but in reality nothing changes (two examples: interviewers asking about marital/sentimental/family status and hard science positions that say “men only”). For example, not so long ago a recruiter tried to guess my mother’s age because my middle name sounded too old fashioned for her (?). It’s not a surprise that lots of women in my University drop out, graduate but never get a job in their field and end working in something totally unrelated.

    3. Sloan Kittering

      I’ve heard interesting things about blind application review. People project all kinds of things onto applicants whose names sound feminine versus masculine (or minority …). You can create templates for review that don’t feature gender identities. This assumes you do get a fair number of qualified female applicants though, otherwise it won’t help.

      1. BelleMorte

        This is actually a great way to increase diversity as well, when you remove the names, you remove the underlying bias (known or not) that people might have towards typically “white” sounding names v.s. ethnic sounding names.

        1. Sloan Kittering

          People are 100% unaware they do it, swear up and down they don’t do it, don’t WANT to do it – but the only way to ensure it doesn’t happen is to make it impossible. Women do it to other women too even if they truly believe that it shouldn’t be happening. We’re all swimming in a toxic soup.

          1. Miss Displaced

            Unfortunately, this is true, even of well meaning and intentioned people you would never consider racist or biased.

      2. Massmatt

        This is making me think of articles I have read about how some orchestras lamented the fact that they had so few women performers and shifted to blind auditions (literally, the applicant is referred to by number and auditions behind a screen). The number of women (and I believe, minorities) hired improved dramatically. We are all brought up with biases, they are really difficult to overcome.

    4. BuffySpecialist

      I work at a large university in an engineering department and we have lots of companies who sponsor talks, dinners, and networking sessions with our female students. (Usually though the Women in Engineering chapter.) Maybe a formal sponsorship of a local chapter would help?

      There are also companies that create scholarships for underrepresented groups with included internships, in the hopes that those students eventually come there after graduation.

    5. plant lady

      I think those are good ideas! Other ideas:
      – Search for local professional or social groups for women in STEM fields (I know my area, an urban area in the US, has a few), then ask those groups to share with their listservs
      – Post job openings on social media along with group staff photos that make it clear that other women already work there
      – Make sure you have good policies on parental leave, good healthcare, etc, for women thinking of having children in the next few years or who already have kids (of course, these policies are great for men too) and then share the benefits in vacancy postings – subtly make it clear that women won’t be penalized for being pregnant or having children

    6. CRM

      I might ask if any female employees are interested in volunteering their time to talk with the students you are recruiting. She could provide a good perspective and answer questions about what it’s like to work in the industry and at your company as a women.

    7. Less Bread More Taxes

      I think the best thing when talking to female applicants is to be upfront about the gender imbalance. I never thought I had an issue being a woman in tech until I met the wider team of 53 people at my last job. I was the only woman, there was one Asian guy, and everyone else was a white male. I was shocked no one else noticed enough to bring it up as an issue and I would have appreciated that.

    8. Anona

      Make sure you have good maternity leave, and flexibility for people who need to do things like pick a sick kid up from daycare. And let people know about the good benefits, if you have them!

      My friend’s firm, for example, offers 0 paid maternity leave, and I imagine that disadvantages his firm vs another that has both paid maternity and paternity leave.

    9. Maya Elena

      You personally probably can’t do much more. As for your company:

      Offer benefits women like! Offer the maternity leave, vacations, flexible hours, childcare, nice facilities with windows, have roles that are more people-facing and not just siloed coding. See if there’s research out there on what women like about a workplace and do more of that; it might also attract more older and married men and fewer 22y.o. tech bros.
      At the same, don’t make it “about” hiring women as the end-all be-all, and don’t bludgeon the male engineers with toxic masculinity rhetoric, or set some arbitrary target – “50/50 by 2020!” – that you browbeat HR into meeting.

      1. Fact & Fiction

        I think even more important than offering these benefits is making sure that your company doesn’t penalize people for using them. Often women are unfairly penalized (whether outrightly or more subtly through not being awarded challenging or lengthy projects) for using such benefits.

      2. Kay

        But also make sure your female hires have an equal shot at “siloed coding” type positions; don’t track them into human-facing roles or put higher social expectations on them than others by default.

    10. K

      Reach out to Society of Women Engineers chapters at universities near you! Having relationships with them can be invaluable and provide a really good recruiting pool.

    11. aNameGoesHere

      Truly honest job postings are a good one! Have a required qualifications section where you really really are not flexible as well as a “preferred qualifications” sections which you are willing to be flexible on. If there are a lot of preferred qualifications, outright stating the number of those you think you are actually likely to get is also helpful. (“Ideal candidates will meet about 3 or 4 of the preferred qualifications.” for example.)

      And then sticking to the job posting required qualifications honestly, because otherwise you’ll have the issue of men getting a chance with less experience more often because men are more likely to apply to jobs they don’t meet as many requirements for.

    12. n

      Not sure if you’re a social media person, but joining a few job groups on Facebook might be a good idea. When a job opens up in your company, you can post about and maybe include a note about how it’d be great to see more women apply.

      TechLadies and FairyGodBoss also run good job boards for women. If you feel comfortable, you could send those websites to HR as a suggestion.

    13. A tester, not a developer

      I agree with Foreign Octopus that getting them while they’re young is beneficial.

      Our local university offers ‘STEM for Girls’ camps over the summer and throughout the school year. Sponsoring those camps (and/or allowing the camps to our your operations) not only gets younger girls thinking about their options; the camp counselors are often female undergrad students from a variety of STEM programs. Getting your name out in front of them now will pay off when they are looking for jobs.

    14. Armchair Analyst

      If you have a job shadow or intern program, make sure women applicants and candidates and participants are highly represented in those.

      At business graduate school, we had a women-in-business club. You could establish relationships with such women-in-engineering clubs at local colleges, or women-in-STEM or whatever the equivalent is.

      If there are golf or similar networking opportunities, think of what may be considered female-equivalent or gender-neutral, like, I’ve seen spa days for women clients, or, perhaps better, a day of service where everyone can participate and network together cleaning up a local park or something like that.

      1. Sloan Kittering

        Your last sentence is best! I don’t want the girlie alternative or the dude version of the thing – just come up with gender neutral options that work for everyone.

    15. a good mouse

      You can reach out to SWE (Society of Women Engineers) and other groups to reach out beyond just your local colleges. My school had SWE and also Women@SCS (School of Computer Science). When speakers came in through that program, anyone was welcome, but you always got a larger percentage of women. That’s also a great opportunity to talk about your experience as a woman in an engineering role in the real world, which college kids usually appreciate a lot.

      SWE also has local groups called WE Local.

    16. HireMoreWomenInTech

      Thank you for all of the suggestions! We already partner with our local SWE chapters and make sure they are mostly interacting with our female engineers. We definitely could be better in terms of job postings/benefits/hiring process but unfortunately those things are beyond my power.

    17. Epsilon Delta

      As a woman in tech, some of the things I looked for in my last job search were: good healthcare benefits, paid maternity leave, salary, work from home, flexible work hours, no 2 AM deploys (I realize it’s necessary for someone to do it but I didn’t want it to be me anymore), no regular 6 AM calls to coworkers across the globe (ditto, I put in my time with this one), challenging and intersting projects, and the ability to take a leadership role or shape the work I’m doing.

  16. Queen of Cans and Jars

    So it’s always wrong to lie on an application, right? I mean, obviously I know it’s wrong, but I just applied for a position where I had a yes/no question on “I have 5 years of HR experience, with at least 3 in a generalist role.” I have 4 years of experience as an HR manager, so I answered no and lo & behold got an auto-rejection within about 10 minutes. Why don’t they have a “no, but…” option?! Ugh, it’s just so frustrating!

    1. Anonymous Educator

      You may not have this luxury, but I’d consider that a bullet dodged. If their applicant tracking system is that rigid to screen out honest but probably qualified candidates in favor of “Looks good on paper” or “I just flat-out lied” candidates, they deserve what they get.

      1. Queen of Cans and Jars

        Thanks, that helps! And you’re probably right. It’s just really hard here because I’m in a fairly rural area, so local jobs are few and far between.

      2. Baby Fishmouth

        Sometimes though you do just have to lie to get through the ATS – obviously not outright lie, but understand the ‘spirit’ of the question rather than taking it literally! Reason number #547 I hate applicant tracking systems….

    2. WellRed

      IN this case, I would have said “yes” and, while technically incorrect, I don’t feel it’s really lying.

    3. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials

      I just found out that my HR botched my most recent posting by mistakenly inserting a rule-out question that required applicants to have a degree in computer science – for an administrative support position. “No” was disqualifying.

      So I pitched a fit and asked HR for the applicants who had been ruled out (figuring that’s where all my good applicants were), and there were only 3. So 40+ people just clicked “Yes” on some form of computer science degree without having one.

      1. SavannahMiranda

        I swear the applicant tracking systems today are what the ridiculous personality tests used to be 15~ years ago, and viewed by applicants with as much legitimacy.

        Like the personality tests, anyone with any ability to infer and deduce has to craft their way through them in order to try to get to the interview stage and get a fair chance. These practices don’t rule out bad candidates, they only rule out people who are honest in a literal way.

        Of course ATSs aren’t going away like the idiotic personality tests. No one is going back to sorting resumes by hand again. But dear god, some decent AI with some ability to handle nuance is desperately needed.

    4. Mashed potato

      Indeed let employer asked these questions and I’m sure I get kicked out from my resume being seen

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch

        It depends on how the listing is set up…they will let you auto reject. I made the error of setting up auto reject if someone isn’t in our city. It rejected people who live in cities that easily commute here. It was in hopes to avoid the out of state applicants but failed me miserably. Thankfully I still looked in the auto reject pile because Indeed is a big stinker and I was pawing through everything at the end.

        1. Queen of Cans and Jars

          The only time I auto-reject is if it’s an absolute non-negotiable where a yes/no answer is appropriate, like for a job where we require a very specific skill. Otherwise, I feel like it’s more likely to kick out good candidates than filter the ones we don’t want. I’ve applied for a position where the ATS asked if I was in X location. That time, I did answer ‘yes’ even though it wasn’t the truth because I couldn’t imagine the company only wanted candidates who literally lived in that city.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch

            Yes! I learned my lesson and do not auto-reject anyone. I’d rather just self-filter at that rate. We’re not interested in the investing the time in people having to arrange to get here for an interview, we have two rounds of interviews. Phone and in person, then we make a decision. None of the jobs are a skill level that requires a wide net, so that’s why we don’t use extra time. If it were a niche role, of course we’d be more open to keeping the position open longer and giving people more time to meet with us.

    5. Combinatorialist

      I mean, it is frustrating for sure, but if they really want 5 years of HR experience, they are going to figure that out whether or not you lie on the form. Now on the one hand, they don’t really care, they are just sort of incompetent on setting up their form, and a real human would have decided they were interested. Certainly a possibility.

      On the other hand, they do care, a lot, it comes out in the interview that you only have 4, and now you are known to them as “someone who lied on our form” which hurts your chances for all jobs with them, not just this one. There is no way to know from the outside which one of these is the case. I would err on the side of integrity.

    6. Cat wrangler

      I had a similar situation when I was making a graduate training scheme application for a large retail company in the UK. I was asked if I had a high school (age 16) exam in maths falling in the range A* to C which are considered ‘passes’. I did not have this for various reasons so was thrown out of the application. I emailed the HR department and explained that I had other qualifications in accounting and had worked in an accounting role for over 10 years. Someone replied, sympathising with my predicament but explained it was in the stated qualifications and no alternative / work experience in lieu would be accepted (or could be). I was infuriated but nothing I could do. No good starting a career with a company having lied on your application form with something so basic as they’d probably sack you as soon as it came out as it raises questions about your integrity. I did subsequently achieve that qualification so now I could tick ‘yes’ but I remain a non-employee of said company!

      I can see why organisations use screening questions but they can be a blunt tool.

  17. Tigger

    It was super snowy last night and I was rear ended and have some bad whiplash. My boyfriend had to convince me not to go to work today cause I am so banged up and pointed out that I’m salary now so I won’t lose money. It clicked this morning that I have been working so many crappy hourly jobs that were in “sick days are for the weak” cultures that it totally warped my thinking.
    Has anyone else experience this type of moment?

    1. Dame Judi Brunch

      All of the time. It was always drilled into my head starting with school to save your sick time for when you’re truly sick. Oh you want to use it now? Not sick enough!
      I always worry people will think I’m faking.

      1. Kuododi

        As much as I love and respect my parents for so many reasons, they did drill into me from nursery school that staying home sick is for when I am puking up a lung or spiking massive fever. It wasn’t until seminary when I went through my clinical residencies that I began to get a different perspective. I realized if I didn’t take time when needed I would never be able to function effectively. I also had to learn that I also deserve to be treated well and care for myself. If I preached that message of self care to my clients and at the same time ran myself into the ground….what would that say about myself in the long run. Best wishes..

    2. Bunny Girl

      Yes. It was so jarring to go from retail/food service jobs that made me come in while I was really, really sick to actually being treated like a human being and an adult. Like wait I can just take time off and not worry about picking up four extra shifts to pay my rent and you aren’t going to make me get a doctor’s note or call and harass me?

    3. Nessun

      The very first time I traveled for vacation after becoming salaried (always retail/fast food before that), I was out of the country. On the drive from the airport to my hotel, my mind couldn’t stop cycling through “it’s a work day, I’m not working, I’m on vacation, I’m still getting paid?!” It was a very odd sensation, and it kept making me laugh.

      1. delta cat

        First vacation after my transition from old management team to new management team, my conversation with my supervisor before I left included this exchange:

        Me: And of course, I’ll check my email at least once a day while I’m away.
        Her: Why would you do that?

        It was a real adjustment. It’s also one of the reasons, years later, why I’m still very fond of that particular supervisor.

    4. IEL

      Yep. Last year I pushed myself even though I was feeling poorly, because I didn’t want people to think I was taking advantage of my company’s sick leave policy. Eventually I was so feverish I had to go see my doctor. I was like “sorry to bother you but I need a note to take a day off, I promise I’m not faking”. He took one look at me and told me I was on sick leave until further notice and asked why the hell I hadn’t gone earlier. Ended up taking 3 weeks of (paid, thank you so much) sick leave while I recovered. The idea that “sick days are for the weak” is really toxic. Get better soon!

    5. Jadelyn

      Yep. I was in retail for awhile, which, y’know…you just don’t even get sick time or anything, and if you call in you can very easily get fired for it. Then when I made the move to office jobs, it was as a temp for several years, and I didn’t get sick or vacation through there, either.

      When I got converted from temp to regular employee at my current job, I literally almost cried when I realized it meant I would have sick days and vacation days. It’s taken a good couple of years before I could get comfortable with using my sick time when I need it.

      Is your manager pretty good at reasonable use of sick time for themselves? Or senior coworkers? That’s something that has helped me calibrate, seeing how/when/why my managers use their sick time off and modeling my own choices based on that.

      1. Tigger

        There are 5 of us in the office and I am the youngest by 25 years. They all take random days off (mostly because we have 3+ weeks of vacation depending on how long they have been here) . I just feel bad because I can’t turn my brain off. I feel “lazy” and I ended going into to grab documents so I can at least try to work. I wish I had a laptop

    6. Akcipitrokulo

      Yes. I still have it even when I’ve been in a healthy workplace for 5 years… the toxic legacy still rears its head sometimes.

    7. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

      Yes, and it doesn’t just warp your sense of sick days or vacation days but also not clock watching that your aren’t taking a 37.35 minute lunch instead of a 30 minute lunch, or arriving 7 minutes past 8 am because you got stopped at the world’s longest train crossing then behind a caravan of school buses and hit every red light in the state. It took about 2-3 years into my salary job before I relaxed enough to stop counting my time “on the clock” because there is no clock.

    8. Red

      At my last job, it was my first ever job with PTO. My boss had to force me to take some of it, because I wasn’t using it – I was still in that fast food mentality of “if you want money, show up”. She had to tell me, “Red, pick a week. You will take that week off. You have PTO, and you need to use it”. It still didn’t “click” in my head that PTO was a real thing until I got my check for that week, and it had no less money than if I had worked.

    9. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Meh. I was happy with salary until they got to work me 60hrs. Even when I was sick or on vacation. For the same rate. Now I get paid for every minute I spend here and it’s fantastic. So being exempt is a huge double edge sword and depends on your company culture.

    10. wafflesfriendswork

      I think I’ve told this story before, but I had an accident once and went to my temp job a couple of days later with some pretty gnarly stitches in my upper lip–after seeing the damage they sent me home for the rest of the week, but I was working hourly and my insurance hadn’t kicked in (so I had living expenses on top of some pricey upcoming hospital bills). Was fully prepared to tough it out even though I knew I needed to rest and heal.

    11. TootsNYC

      I relished the day I could say to the guy I’d recently converted from hourly to salary: “You don’t have to make up the hours you’re missing because you’re sick–you get sick days now!”

    12. TimeClockSlave

      I’m confused, are salary employees not required to use PTO when out of the office? I’ve only ever been hourly.

      1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain

        There is some variation but first, no hourly job I’ve ever had gave paid sick time off: no work = no pay, therefore if I couldn’t afford to take time unpaid, I’d have to make it up by working additional hours. And all time was closely monitored so that I was paid only for what I worked — so take a longer lunch, not paid, in late, not paid… On salary, if I show up at all, and then go home sick, leave for an appointment, arrive late, take a longer lunch, I get paid for the full day; I never track any hours, and I don’t have to use any sick or vacation time for partial days. If I’m just out for the whole day, I use PTO.

      2. Windchime

        I know that people say that salary and exempt employees get paid for the whole week if you work any part of it, but what they don’t say is that you have to use vacation or sick time if you miss days. At least, that’s always been true in the salary jobs I’ve had. I’ve never been able to just not show up for a day or two, not use vacation/sick, and still get paid for the whole week.

        But I’ve never had a boss make me use vacation or sick time if I’m a little bit late getting to the office or if I leave early for a doc appointment or something.

    13. Luisa

      Oh yes. I was actually talking to a colleague about this today! My first 2 years teaching, I took zero sick days and only used 1 personal day each year. Now, 8 years in, I take all my personal days (all 4 of them in a 180-day school year, LOL) and while I don’t go crazy taking sick days, I’m much more likely to think critically about whether my health will really allow me to do my best that day.

      1. Indie

        Oh my goodness do American educators get term-time personal days? I love that! It would revolutionise stress management.

  18. (Mr.) Cajun2core

    Not so much of a problem but I had an interview earlier this week. The first question out of the interviewer’s mouth was “How old are you?”. I answered it (51) because I really want this job and I didn’t want to tick him off. Also, the man is ex-military (Colonel) and he may not be used to having his authority questioned. He also has not yet learned what he can ask and what he can’t in the real world (I have a friend who works for him).

    They are supposed to make a decision today.

    1. fposte

      As you may know, it’s not illegal to ask; it’s just that they’re not supposed to use the information in hiring, which means asking is pretty pointless. I think you did the right thing; good luck!

      1. (Mr.) Cajun2core

        Yes, I know it is not illegal to ask but that it can’t be used in the hiring process. Thanks on both items!

    2. I'm A Little Teapot

      You are politer than me. I may have replied with “old enough to know not to ask that question in an interview”

      1. Not Me

        This! When I first started in my career I was generally the youngest person in the room and almost always the only female. I quickly learned to respond to “how old are you?” with “old enough to know not to answer that”. Which generally got a laugh and I think helped to earn some respect.

    3. Jadelyn

      Good luck! If you run across something like that again, I might suggest a mildly curious “Why do you ask?” before you answer. Often that’s enough to nudge someone into realizing they really shouldn’t be asking that.

      1. (Mr.) Cajun2core

        That is a thought. However, in this case, I so want the job that I don’t want to cause any waves.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Ah I’ve had that kind of boss. I had to be the one hushing him over a lot of the bad questions spilling out of his mouth.

    5. TootsNYC

      It’s not illegal to ask.

      it’s just risky

      It IS illegal to factor it into the decision–and of course, not asking is the best way to keep from being accused. That said, just by looking at you, he has to know roughly how old you are. You’d think, anyway.

  19. grace

    Do any of you have an MPP? What have you done with it, if so? Has it helped you? Have you felt stuck in policy or have you applied it elsewhere?

    I’m considering grad school in the next 3 years or so, and that’s the only one that’s caught my eye – ideally, with a focus in healthcare, but we’ll see. That said, I don’t want to make policy, really – I’m leaning more towards opinion polling as a more or less career path – so I’m wondering if it’s easy to leverage that degree elsewhere or if you really are expected to be in policy.

    1. OtterB

      Not an MPP, and not doing policy work, but my job includes a lot of surveys and some program evaluation. You might look at “Applied Sociology” as a field, which would give you some flexibility. For example, the description of the MA at University of Maryland Baltimore Campus says “The degree program in Applied Sociology emphasizes the “practical side” of sociology and the acquisition of analytic skills to prepare students for employment in many professional settings, including public and private organizations involved in social research, social policy, and program development.”
      (apologize if this turns out to be a duplicate comment)

    2. Middle Manager

      I don’t, but I’m actually looking at an MPA program right now. I debated MPP and MHP as well. I work in health care policy for the government. I’d be curious to hear more from others in this area.

    3. G

      I’ve got an MPP and survey experience and I’d say that it could be right for you but I’d be pretty careful about where and the specifics of what you’re looking for in terms of skills and network.

      1. No policy, no problem. Most people I know haven’t gone into policy
      2. Health—be careful about where you go and joint coursework
      3. Opinion polling—depending on exactly what you want to do this could be great or useless. Think about if you’re interested in the quant aspects or something qualititative because those suggest really different ed paths.

      Generally I think MPPs are good if you don’t know exactly what you want to do and do a good job of exposing you to lots of different types of thinking and analysis. It’s really helped frame my thought process on a lot of subjects. They aren’t, and this might be a controversy opinion, much good for hard skills.

    4. TheOtherLiz

      I have an MPP and even though I had a full scholarship so it was free tuition, it was expensive – it took two years during which I could only do part time work in my field, and everyone else got a Master’s too so it didn’t separate me from the pack. I learned more in one 6 month long internship on Capitol Hill than the policy side of the MPP program. The quant stuff was useful – stats, econ, econometrics – but that’s it. You could get a master’s in statistics if you’re interested in polling, or sociology, or just go work for a polling firm or on some campaigns. I feel it was a waste of my time to get that MPP, and I’m 8 years removed from the experience.

      1. Tacocat

        Same. Have an MPP and loved the coursework but 10 years later never really got a job in the field and am still paying off that degree.

        OP, do a lot of research about the program, where the graduates work, where they intern, what professional development they have etc. I went to a tiny program at a huge state school in a small area with not a whole lot of career contacts. If I could do it over I’d aim higher and go to DC or somewhere with a lot more opportunity.

    5. Iza

      I have an MPP and work in policy research and while we don’t do opinion polling, we do run surveys for multi mode studies. Some MPPs are more quantitatively focused and others less so, so if you’re interested in opinion polling I would make sure that the program offers coursework in surveys and opinion polling and the like. It also depends on whether you want to be the person writing the surveys or the programmer analyzing the data as those are different skillsets. In some cases it more important to have the quant skills needed for polling than the background in health care.

  20. Dame Judi Brunch

    Any advice? I’m struggling with my open plan office, which includes my know-it-all coworker. She is an expert on all subjects no matter what. She’s also better than everyone. She butts into every conversation and half-listens.
    For the times I’m trying to think, headphones plus loud music have done nothing to cancel out the noise.
    Thank you!

    1. Sloan Kittering

      In some cases you can legitimately ask someone to butt out. Especially if they’re not really correct in their assessment. “Sorry Lizzie, that’s not actually what we’re talking about, I think we’ve got this.” Or I’m passive aggressive so I’ll say, “oh sorry, we should take this conversation away from you since it’s probably distracting you.” A few corrections usually tones it down.

      1. Dame Judi Brunch

        Thanks! I will try that.
        It seems no one has ever challenged her on work items, but once I did call her out on victim blaming. (We were having a non-work discussion about a natural disaster). She was cold to me for a day or so. Not sure if she was mad about being called out, or ashamed of herself.
        Pushing back should be interesting, I’ll have to be as calm as possible.

        1. Sloan Kittering

          Yep, just calm, pleasant and upbeat. It’s okay if she’s sore for a few days – you already don’t like his person, so your goal is just to get her to stop doing things that are disruptive.

          1. TootsNYC

            also, her feelings are not your responsibility. She can get over her mad all by herself; you don’t have to help her.

            You’re not supposed to make it worse, but you don’t have any responsibility to make sure she’s happy. That’s on her.

            (It’s actually sort of disrespectful to try to manage other people’s emotions.)

      2. Jules the 3rd

        As the person regularly hearing conversations as I’m working, I would love this response, because, yes, yes it is distracting to hear conversations about whose team is going to win the SportsBall game, from people three + cubes away from each other, or standing in the aisle next to my cube.

        It’s often very hard *not* to hear other people’s conversations in cube farms.

        1. Jules the 3rd

          No excuse for her giving wrong info / victim blaming, but ‘we’ll take this elsewhere, we seem to be distracting’ in a casual tone shouldn’t raise her hackles at all.

        2. Traffic_Spiral

          Yeah, if this is going on a lot, maybe LW should consider just how often it is she’s holding conversations right in front of this person – maybe less time talking and more time working – also more time discussing work issues in a meeting room, if they need discussing.

          1. Dame Judi Brunch

            That’s a fair point but I don’t think it’s the issue. Generally, Know-It-All is initiating all the non-work conversations, not only with me, but with everyone in our area. I do my best not to engage, but sometimes you do want to participate for fun and the group spirit. I don’t want to be the stick in the mud, plus I like most of my coworkers.
            She will interrupt anyone at anytime, non-work or work-related. It’s not always practical to take our conversation elsewhere, for example, I was training a new employee and we were working on their computer. She just walks up, looks over our shoulders, and started talking about what she thought we were doing. We don’t have laptops either. But I will take the advice and move out of the common area as much as I can.
            And, I forgot. She always reads memos and emails out loud. Long, drawn out messages- and she’s reading them out loud. It’s maddening! We just had to do a bunch of annual training courses, and she sat there and read it all. Loudly. These are self-paced, so it’s not like we were all working on them at the same time.
            All that said, she does have some valuable knowledge, and she is a good resource on things, and I will ask her questions because I would be dumb not to use a resource available to me. But it’s her way of going about things combined with the open office that I find exhausting.
            You all are great, thank you for the food for thought!

            1. Traffic_Spiral

              “She always reads memos and emails out loud.”

              Oh, I would definitely be having words with her about that.

  21. Rosie The Rager

    No snark, legitimate question

    How do you work with a boss who may have an undisclosed learning disorder that’s negatively affecting your job?

    I keeping finding myself in situations where my boss’ reading/comprehension issues are causing delays in the writing/editing timelines and causing the team to come dangerously close to missing deadlines. For example, Missy’s preference to only listen instead of reading press releases means that she declines to take a copy of my draft for her records and to confirm name spellings are correct. Instead, I must read the releases aloud and repeatedly answer questions addressed in the release. The reading and limited feedback have left me feeling very confused. Is this style common?

    More alarming is that this week I spent nearly three hours line editing a 14-page proposal in which she misspelled the prospective client’s name at least six times and wrote incomplete sentences that lacked a subject, verb and/or punctuation. She refused to let me edit the document electronically using the track changes, and I had so many grammatical corrections that after doing them on paper I had to list them in email for her. Basically, I both hand wrote and typed up edits for her, which took away time from my other duties.

    The other issue may be attributed more to her busy schedule. As I wind up my day and ask if she needs anything else, a laundry list of low-priority issues suddenly become absolute musts in the moment. This has caused me to leave upward of 30 minutes later than I intended. It also means that I’ve driven under the speed limit in the dark through heavy rain, snow and fog and crossed my fingers and toes to avoid hitting a deer on the way home.
    Can anyone share with me some ideas on how to work with Missy and also address concerns and assert my right to leave at a reasonable time?

    Thanks for your time.

    1. DMouse

      No advice on the first part but lots of sympathy! I worked with a grand-boss that wasted a lot of my time giving me assignments from his higher-up with wrong instructions, due to his own comprehension issues combined with his phobia about asking for clarification because he thought it made him look stupid. On the second part, I would either stop asking if she has anything else for you to do (unless you’ve been told to ask that) – just say you’re heading out, see her tomorrow! Or if you have to ask, I would ask an hour earlier since you know she’ll suddenly some up with something. Good luck with this situation!

      1. valentine

        If she hasn’t told you to ask her for last-minute stuff, you’re volunteering your preferred commute time. If she has, consider the last hour of your day hers and have a backup for when she’s not in or doesn’t have anything. (If she always has something, maybe she feels like can’t say no.) So your day is: stuff/last-minute BS/leave on time or stuff/no BS/bits/leave on time. If it’s not a butt-in-seat job, maybe you can leave even earlier for wintry weather and, if you’re non-exempt, make up the time elsewhere.

        Reading to her is useless because your brain may just fill in what’s supposed to be there. I am picturing you standing, but even sitting and, should you happen to catch an error, handwriting corrections, seems like a ’50s/’60s nightmare. If she refuses all the fine help suggested in this thread, ask if she’ll let you choose someone to proofread your stuff.

    2. WellRed

      I have never in my life heard of having to stand there and read a draft or whatever to the boss. What a colossal waste of time. Are you sure she can actually read, or maybe she has dyslexia or something?

    3. BetsCounts

      For the error tracking- would it be possible to bring this up with her? Something along the lines of ‘I know you prefer to listen to the release, but I’ve found that sometimes typos and misspellings aren’t noticed that way- can you try reading a copy as well?’

      In my former position, I did a **ton** of copyediting, and what worked for me was marking up a copy in red pencil and scanning it and sending it to the recipient. That way they had an electronic record of the changes and I wasn’t typing out
      page 3 line 15 client name misspelled
      page 3 line 20 column does not sum correctly
      etc.

      Re track changes- would you be able to talk about how it would save time for you to incorporate the comments instead of her doing it?

      I agree with DMouse’s suggestion to ask about other tasks little earlier in the day- if you usually ask around 330 move it up an hour and say you’ll be done with your other tasks soon. Then when she comes back with a half dozen time consuming things, you can ask if what is more important than what you are currently working on and what can wait until the morning.

      Good luck!

    4. Reba

      Have you had a frank conversation with her where you lay out these issues? For example, a chat about the editing problems: “I’d like to see if we can work out a better process for doing these edits. When we did X release, we nearly missed the deadline because it took you so long to [respond, go through it, whatever]. On the Client proposal Y, I basically did the same work three times, which is inefficient in general and cost me important time on Z. I would like to propose we try [New Process]”

      As for what that process should be, are there ways you can get information from her efficiently, like a checklist? Would she be willing to give you more authority over these documents so that she doesn’t have to closely read everything? Like, instead of reporting her errors to her, you could just fix them and send it back for her to sign off on.

      Finally, can you take this concern to someone else — do you have a good rapport with boss’s boss so you could speak with them–this would be a step to take if things are really dire. Is there someone discreet who has been at the organization longer than you that you could ask for tips or additional perspective?

      As for the end of day stuff… don’t ask for more work at the end of the day? Sorry that sounds flip. I mean, if you regularly do end of day check-ins, try framing it as “I’m leaving at 5:30. What should I get on first thing tomorrow” — or even have this kind of meeting at the start of the day or start of the week, rather than the end.

      1. valentine

        it took you so long
        Diplomacy and passive voice are needed here. Missy getting defensive won’t get Rosie The Rager what she needs.

        Rosie The Rager, look out for how this is impacting your performance evaluations and your reputation. Do people, like Missy’s manager, know you’re not the cause of the errors and delays?

    5. Yorick

      I would probably stop asking her for tasks at the end of the day, unless she requires that before you leave.

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Woah…I was ready to jump in because I’ve worked with a few dyslexic bosses and ESL as well in my time. So their unable to edit to be frank but that’s why they had me do their correspondence work. It sounds like her issues are actually making it impossible for her to do her job which is outrageous to say the least.

    7. Miss Displaced

      Regarding the last part, with some busy bosses that does happen. They’re traveling or on calls all day, and then at 4:30 EVERYTHING suddenly becomes urgent. There are ways to manage upward, such as checking at say 10am, 12pm and 3pm so tasks don’t pile up at the end of the day.

      For the first part: No, this is not normal! Basically, you’re saying your boss doesn’t know how to use Word and review or track changes. Worse, they refuse to READ? Seriously? And while I do recommend reading a press release or a letter out loud, it is as a last final step, because sometimes you just catch things that sound weird that way.

      If your boss is that bad, I might suggest they recored the content and have you transcribe it? It seems like that might work better than all this back and forth where she won’t look at a Word draft. As for the spellings of names, I’m not sure what to say about that. That aspect can be tricky even for seasoned PR people (is it Ricky or Ritchie? AtEssoteric or at Eso Terek, Limited? you get the drift), and you have to know how to confirm it, either by the Internet or by in-house means, such as contacts or a database, etc. I run in to that all the time too, especially with tech companies. I had that just this week with a three letter company, listed only as TSP. When I Googled it, there were at least 10 possibilities! I finally had to ask someone which TSP it was.

      1. Not Me

        Can you suggest to her using some kind of software to read the copy to her? As opposed to you reading it to her? I’ve used google translate before on documents I’ve spent so much time on I know I’m just reading what I think it says and might miss a typo. It can be very helpful for editing.

        Otherwise, it sounds like she’s incapable of doing her job. Can you talk to her manager about it? This isn’t really something a direct report can handle, it’s about managing her and that’s not really something you’re capable of in your role.

        1. valentine

          A screenreader is a great idea! But I am thinking she just does not want assistive devices. There’s font and graded blue/red for dyslexia, screen magnifiers if it’s her eyesight, so much help to be had, yet she’s sabotaging the copyediting.

        2. Indie

          Audio features are what I use to help struggling readers. So not only will it help in the moment, it will improve boss’s literacy….it would only take a year or two to reach basic comprehension and sentencing levels even if she has all the undiagnosed acronyms.

          But I am honestly amazed she is in her position at all. The level of literacy the OP describes means she would not be able to pass even primary school exams. If she graduated high school with assistance (readers or scribes in exams) then she would be diagnosed and aware of the tools and aids she needs to be independent.

          I would look into going to HR and saying ‘This is awkward, but my role is turning into an accommodation for …..something and I don’t think it is a reasonable one”. They would know how she was hired and if she lied about qualifications or had someone else write the materials.

        3. CurrentlyBill

          Word can read out loud by default. You don’t have to position it as an accessibility thing either.

          I use use the function when I want to proof read something important, and I don’t have time to let it bake. If I read i read what is supposed to be there. If Word reads out loud, I hear what’s actually there.

    8. Not So NewReader

      “Boss, I am concerned about the amount of time I spend editing. I worry that there are other things slipping through the cracks. I do however have a couple of ideas that I have heard of people using [insert ideas here].”

      And I will be one of those people giving you ideas.

      My boss’ vision is dimming. Unlike your setting, my boss tells me exactly what is going on. This is great! I have been able to find stuff to help her do her job. [She gets so excited when I show her something.] The latest thing is the read out loud function for MS Word and for pdfs. I had to fish around to find it on each.
      You can set the speed for the reader- the reader can talk faster or slower which ever the listener prefers. There are some glitches such as the abbreviation for Doctor would be read out loud as “drrr”, such as “Drrr Smith” instead of “Doctor Smith”.

      Using the read out loud function as an example, maybe you can say to your boss something like, “You know, Boss, when I am reading this you are losing my time elsewhere. I could be doing things that are of even more value to you. I just found this read out loud function, I would like to show it to you. The computer can read it to you. Best part, it’s available when you want it, you don’t have to wait for me.”
      See, as you introduce this idea to her, you sprinkle in reasons why it is to her advantage to take a look at this.

      The mistakes you talk about here are sounding VERY familiar to me. My boss does a lot of this stuff. The difference in our settings is that my boss knows and talks about it. The reason for the missed words and incomplete sentences is that she can only see part of the screen at all times. She is unable to see the whole screen. So basically she is memorizing what she wrote as she is going along. Back tracking is a nightmare as she can lose her place easily.
      And yes, she wants to see her mistakes. Well, in our work if I make a correction it could make a substantial difference in the process and it is very possible that I would not understand the implication of my mistaken word choice.

      Depending on what is going on with her eyes at the moment my boss sometimes enjoys a very large font- size 24 or a very small font say like 8 or 10. I prefer 12. However, my very cool boss knows what font size she needs this week and tells me “size 24, okay?” It’s not a problem to get her what she needs.

      Instead of talking about a health issue you can refer to things as “you might like this” or “might find this useful”. If you have little helper things you use, you can share what you do to help yourself along. I have been trying to show my boss more and more keyboard short cuts. (She can’t just google them, because it takes too long to read the screen and she can’t be sure if she has read the whole screen sometimes.)

      But this could be a vision problem with a huge side dish of fear/concern. Yeah, I’d be afraid, also, that makes sense. It might be with one or two attempts to help your boss like this she will finally tell you what will work for her. I have a good boss. At one point the doc pulled her DL because of cataracts. So technically speaking she was considered blind. She came into work and told me exactly what was going on. We bounced around several ideas and she picked about three. I implemented those ideas immediately. Bad situation. but we both ended up pretty happy with the new setup. Within a few months she had her cataracts removed and things got better for a bit for her.

  22. Rach

    I think this is work related enough to be in this thread!

    I’ve just agreed to go to a conference that my boyfriend is doing a poster presentation at. It’s an academic conference (he’s a PhD student) and it’s in Hawaii! The conference is 4 days and then we’re having 2 and a half week’s holiday too.

    I’m super excited for the holiday part of the trip but wondered if anyone here had any experience with being the ‘tag-along partner’ on these kind of trips and had any tips they could share with me?

    1. Dr. Doll

      Amuse and take care of yourself and let him go to his entire conference without making him feel bad that he can’t play with you.

      Hawaii’s a super nice place to do that. :-)

      1. AvonLady Barksdale

        Exactly this. I’ve gone on a few conference trips with my partner (also a PhD student), including one where he swore up and down he would have time to join me for dinner and it turned out he didn’t so I was totally on my own (with the dog for some of them). Be flexible. Enjoy your own company. Don’t expect him to come with you but consider it a bonus if he can. Plan your day however you like– beach, museums, shopping, lounging, whatever. Personally, I enjoy eating alone (probably more than most people), so when I’ve been solo for meals I’ve made it an event.

        Pack something you would be ok wearing just in case he calls you up and invites you to join him and his colleagues for a drink (or a meal). This doesn’t have to be business formal; a pair of slacks or dark jeans and a top should be fine, or a dress. Have fun!

    2. Minerva McGonagall

      I’m tagging along on my husband’s conference trip in a few months (although not to as an exciting location as Hawaii!). I’ve been doing research into some good solo stuff to do in the area – spas, museums, lunch spots, etc. Depending on his schedule if you meet up in the evenings, he’ll likely be tired from being “on” all day, so we’ll do something low-key at night or grab dinner at the hotel restaurant or get room service.

      1. TootsNYC

        also, try to focus on things that matter more to you than to him. Or that are easy to do twice without feeling like you’ve lost the newness.

    3. LadyByTheLake

      Pretend like he’s still on the mainland for the days he’s at the conference. He’ll be super-busy and needs to concentrate on that. Find things to do for those days that amuse you but he wouldn’t find as interesting.

    4. Even Steven

      Also don’t assume if he has any team conference dinners that you can attend them – check or have him check with the organizer. You don’t want that awkward moment where his colleagues wonder why you’re there and the organizer is annoyed that they now have to buy dinner for you too. Always have a nice fallback dinner plan (room service!) just in case.

      And I second the idea to look into local area attractions to enjoy during the day. It’s a great opportunity to go see something new and make the most of the trip. Have a great time! Hawaii is wonderful.

    5. The Cosmic Avenger

      I’d suggest making up a list of things you want to see and do, and let your BF check off the ones he really wants to do also, so you can plan which to do while he’s at the conference, and which to do in the off-hours with him. Maybe this is just me and my partner, but we do a lot of our travel planning around restaurants! If I were going to HI, I’d be looking for the best poke and puka dogs and musubi and wahoo….you get the idea. I would try to plan my daytime activities (assuming he’s mostly attending the conference during the day) so I could be back at the conference center to spend time with him in the evening. It’s OK to want to do things separately sometimes, but after not seeing you all day he’ll probably really be looking forward to spending time with you. Although he might need 10-30 minutes to change clothes or just sit/lay down for a few minutes, especially if he has to stand at a board at a poster session all day!

      Enjoy your trip!

    6. ursula

      I’ve done this multiple times! And Hawaii rules. I more or less agree w Dr Doll, but I would say just talk to your partner first to establish very clear expectations about what his time will be like, where (if anywhere) he would actually *like* you to join them, etc. There’s often lots of informal, social-but-still-important activity that goes on in the evening/breakfast/surrounding the official conference – I would sometimes join my partner if he was going for drinks with old colleagues who I was also friendly with, but that was rare and I’m glad we agreed in advance on how we wanted all of that to work. Mostly I think you should consider the conference your solo vacation time and plan accordingly. Other than that, I think the same rules apply as any other time you are making an appearance in your partner’s professional circles, which I’m sure you know very well: don’t drink too much, be a little bit on your best behaviour, etc etc. I hope you have a great time!! I LOVE getting a free hotel room out of my partner’s business travel.

    7. BuffySpecialist

      You could plan some activities to do solo, particularly ones where your partner maybe isn’t super interested in. (Like if you enjoy hiking and he’s kind of meh, take one on your own! Hawaii is incredible for that.)

    8. Hi there

      I agree with everyone else on planning that you basically won’t see your BF during the conference. Whenever I tag along at dear one’s math conference I end up frustrated when we plan to meet for dinner. Either we meet much later or several mathematicians decide to join us. We once had about a dozen mathematicians follow us to a restaurant like a bunch of ducklings. In retrospect that was pretty funny.

    9. Camellia

      We spent our honeymoon in Hawaii and they have ‘tourist experience’ down to an art, which makes it so easy! We asked at the hotel desk how to arrange to get to X place for the horse rides. She picked up a phone and in about two minutes had us the date, time, AND the shuttle to get us to and from. Everything is like that. One time we misjudged how long the morning aquarium/swim with dolphins experience would take and we had booked another excursion (of some kind, can’t remember what) in the afternoon. When we went to Guest Services at the aquarium they picked up the phone and had a shuttle there in about 15 minutes, just for us!

      Thanks for giving me the chance to remember this; our 15 year anniversary is this month! :)

    10. Cheesesteak in Paradise

      I assume you will be on Honolulu at the conference center there. I went to a meeting there a year and a half ago.

      I second do your own thing.

      Couple location specific tips:
      * conference center is close to Waikiki beach
      * conference center is close to a huge mall (blanking on the name) with an attached Foodland supermarket and an Asian food court – Foodland has an excellent poke bar and the Asian food court is good too for lunch
      * good nearby WWII museum
      * Pearl Harbor is NOT nearby but worth taking a taxi too – you need tix in advance
      * you also need tix in advance to Doris Dukes Shangri La house

      1. Lady Kelvin

        The mall is the Ala Moana Center, but the International Marketplace (in Waikiki) also has good restaurant options. You only need tickets for the Arizona Memorial if you want to go on the boat ride. You can’t actually visit the USS Arizona, they take you on a ride around the harbor instead because the Memorial itself is closed due to repairs. You’d have to pay for the tickets if you get them ahead of time, but if you go on a weekday morning you will most likely be able to get free tickets. The museum, etc. that’s there is worth a look and is all free.

        But I’m going to chime in with the rest of the group. Assume you won’t see your boyfriend except when he comes back to the hotel to sleep, and enjoy 4 days of quiet in Hawaii.

    11. Gloucesterina

      Fun–revel in your freedom! My husband and son tagged along a lot with me to academic conferences (back when my son was under the age of 2 and didn’t need a separate airfare). They generally did some research as to kid-friendly local attractions and kept themselves busy as I scrambled to finish up the paper and freaked out about presenting, lol. So there was not so much a “tag along” situation, as separate activities with intermittent meeting points, generally meeting for meals or short walks.

    12. CupcakeCounter

      Lots of conferences have a section on their website for the +1’s. Its usually some organized day trips and interesting sites to check out within walking distances of the main location. Bring a few nice outfits in case you are invited for cocktails or dinner and don’t get uber drunk.

    13. Mephyle

      My husband travels several times a year to academic workshops and conferences in his field. I just research what’s interesting to do and to eat in the area, and how to get there, and go do my own thing.
      ‘Even Steven’ mentioned checking to see if you are allowed to join him for any of the conference social events.
      I have the opposite problem. I have to ask him explicitly when and where the social events (dinners, excursions) are – the events where the ‘others’ have the opportunity or are even expected to attend. Otherwise he forgets to tell me until a few hours before.

    14. Rach

      Thanks for all the advice everyone! I’d already assumed i’d be on my own a lot but it’s definitely good to have it confirmed that it will be for the majority of the time! We’re staying with 2 other friends in an airbnb so I’ll have my own space to chill out rather than being stuck in a hotel room all the time, and i’m going to plan some activities for myself, along with taking plenty of books to read on the beach.

      Thanks for all the recommendations too, i’ll check them out!

  23. Caputo

    Can anyone else relate? I gave up toxic and stressful high paying job to take a pay cut and a lower level job. Current job pays the bills (OK but not spectacular wages and benefits). But a very sane, healthy workplace. Good management, great rapport with team and boss. Excellent work life balance. I am very happy where I am now.

    I worry though, if being in a position for long a step down in title and responsibilities from my previous jobs would be harmful for my career in the long run. I’d like to get back to my previous level at some point and earn more money. Is this a realistic fear?

    1. Anonymous Educator

      Could depend on your industry, but I’ve done that several times, and I haven’t regretted a single one. The best way to get a pay bump later is to switch jobs. Hopefully you live in a place where it’s illegal for potential employers to ask candidates abotu salary history. Even if you don’t, you can still opt not to disclose (because they really shouldn’t be basing your new salary on your current salary).

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch

      It’s a risk but not an outrageous one.

      I’ve taken a step back and went into an EA role from an exhausting decade in business operations. I was easily able to slide back into higher titles when I moved. I explained my stepping back as a detoxing from the stress from the previous role given specifics of my job that weren’t viewable as “talking poorly” about my employer.

      You just need to be able to articulate your decisions. Don’t be too vague or else they’ll assume you stepping back wasn’t your choice but you were wrongly placed too high and got chopped back.

    3. only acting normal

      My husband and I have each taken paycuts to improve our work situation (each left toxic situations, he took a career change, I didn’t). Best decisions ever, didn’t miss the money compared to the vast improvement in life generally. Long term our careers haven’t suffered from those moves either.

    4. Sprechen Sie Talk?

      Im about to potentially move into a new career and I was worried about a potential pay cut and taking a step back in title too and the long term impact. Glad to see it doesn’t sound all bad and, frankly, to have work I actually enjoy doing would probably make up a lot of the gap.

    5. Basia, also a fed

      In my experience, it hasn’t. I went from being an assistant VP making 6 figures with a dozen direct reports to being just another non-supervisory technical person. I took a 22% pay cut and it was SUCH a relief. But my bosses keep asking me to apply for supervisory jobs and wanting me to go to leadership trainings to stage myself for when opportunities arise. I just laugh maniacally…

    6. Indie

      Only with the kind of employers who are soooooo interested in the ‘what’s your current salary’ question. You don’t want to work for those guys anyway.

      There’s another kind of employer who doesn’t want burned out employees and who would be impressed by your self care. This group will also want to know what other effects it has had on your skills, hard and soft so I would consider if you have good examples of that.

        1. Forkeater

          When I’m falling asleep I like to start by reviewing all the little failures I made during the day, then look for evidence that these failures are actually a pattern throughout my life and any successes have been the outliers.

          With some mild seasonal affective disorder, I sometimes take breaks during the day to go through this process too.

    1. PB

      Oooh this is tricky. It’s sometimes inspiring to see “Failure Resumes” from very successful people, as a reminder that we all struggle sometimes, and no one will ever be successful 100% of the time. On the other hand, we had a candidate apply once. His application materials included a URL to his personal website, which included a resume of failure. It did not come across well. He included, for instance, a section for jobs for which he’d had a final interview but been rejected. As a hiring committee, we looked at this and imagined getting added to that section. No thanks. And, honestly, if you’re in the middle of a job search that isn’t going well, maybe keeping a list of your failures isn’t the best thing for your psyche.

      1. CatCat

        Nooooooooooooooo! I would never give such a thing to a prospective employer, just keep it for personal use (though it could come in handy for interview prep for “Tell me about a time…” type questions like “Tell me about a time you mistake at work….”)

      2. SavannahMiranda

        “He included, for instance, a section for jobs for which he’d had a final interview but been rejected.”

        Well that’s just a humble brag right there. But I guess the whole thing is.

        I think that’s what is so cloying about failure resumes. They’re bro-speak humble brags dressed up in a suit and tie.

    2. 653-CXK

      I keep a spreadsheet of all of the jobs I applied for, and categorize any I didn’t get as “Declined,” “Withdrawn,” and “Not Considered.” I also keep a list of jobs I didn’t hear from (“Ghosted”) in case they do call back or decide not to consider me.

      First, it helps me keep track. Second, anything that goes into the “Out” pile I make comments on so I can improve (e.g. “Archie the hiring manager was late and told me they wouldn’t be making decisions until April.” “Per Gloria at the hiring agency, I was not selected.”)

    3. Frozen Ginger

      I think it depends on what kind of person you are.

      In general, great idea. But you have to be able to keep the mindset of “this is so I can acknowledge how much I’ve grown and so I can continue to grow”. For me, I already get that sense from my list of accomplishments. Writing down a list of my failures would be disheartening. Instead of seeing how much I’ve grown and persevered, I’d see “Look at how often you fork up! You’re probably going to continue to fork up. Forever. You suck.”

    4. Yorick

      I don’t have one, but when my grad students are nervous about submitting papers for publication, I open up my cv and tell them how many times each article was rejected before it was accepted.

  24. Bunny Girl

    We have a lot of committees in our department and one of them is a social committee. I kind of feel bad for the guy running it because we’re just not a very social department. We have two events throughout the year that the committee was set up to help plan, but the new committee head wants to make it more of a monthly thing. We have a huge divide between our staff and our faculty and none of the staff members will go to anything that’s off of work hours. Not only does everyone on staff have other things going on besides just work (school, kids, other commitments), but whenever we go to anything “social” we’re expected to do all the cleaning up and working of the event. Which is totally fine if I’m on the clock and getting paid for it, but I’m not going to do it off the clock. There’s been some scuttle about the staff not going to any of the off hours social events but honestly none of us even remotely want to. It’s interesting.

    1. Jules the 3rd

      Do you think the new committee head would also find it interesting? as in, ‘Hey NCH, staff participation will be higher if events are during their normal working hours’

      1. Bunny Girl

        They want to have alcohol at some of the events and we can’t have alcohol in our office. Honestly annual events are pretty balanced between off working hours and during business hours. He’s just wanting to add a lot of extra ones. I’m not really jazzed about him wanting a ton of extra events because then we (the staff) have to do more work and set up and clean up. As I said, our social events are never social for the staff. It’s just more work.

        1. ..Kat..

          Has anyone told him that the staff are not up to do free labor of setting up and cleaning up? He and other faculty may just be oblivious to this.

          Also, I would say that if I am doing work (setting up and cleaning up), I expect to be paid for my time. If you are non-exempt, it is illegal not to pay you for your labor. And, if the faculty don’t see this as labor, faculty can set up and clean up.

    2. Joielle

      Ugh, yes. Not the same situation exactly, but a new hire in my department has sort of appointed herself as the social committee and we, too, are not a super social bunch. I’d go out for a post-work happy hour once in a while, but she’s started organizing monthly potlucks, and it’s just too much. I don’t want her to be discouraged or offended when people don’t participate, but I’m also not making a themed potluck dish every month so idk.

    3. Armchair Analyst

      Maybe try quarterly events first.
      I feel like monthly events slide into every 6 weeks pretty quickly, anyway.

      1. Bunny Girl

        Honestly even if they were quarterly, I wouldn’t go to them if they were after work hours. For one, I’m a student and I work full time and have a time consuming hobby and after I get off work I’m beat. I’m also just not social by nature. Like at all.

    4. TootsNYC

      we’re expected to do all the cleaning up and working of the event.

      Has this ever been explicitly said out loud? I always wonder if this sort of understandable resentment ever gets specifically stated.

      1. TootsNYC

        and, even if it IS working hours, I would resent the idea that somehow “mom” chores, “maid” chores, or “custodial” chores are mine.

        We sometimes have lunches, or drinks after work for the holidays, and our department head ALWAYS does clean-up, as do I (section leader). There is NO WAY I would ever allow the lower-paid folks to do that work. Ever.

        1. TootsNYC

          OK, sometimes they help, and I’m not going to make it awkward, but I’m proactive about getting the cleanup off their plate.

      2. Bunny Girl

        Yes. When I interviewed they said some of my job would be to help set up our socials, just like the rest of the staff. Which is fine, but I assumed that it meant the ones I was actually getting paid for, and our other staff did too. One of our staff went to one off hour thing one time and she was told to help set up and clean up even though she wasn’t on the clock.

    5. Not So NewReader

      Eh, tell him what you said here or not.
      I can understand feeling bad for the guy but in the end he will probably have to figure it out for himself. I had a situation where a very nice person was trying to build the social side of our department at Dysfunction Are Us, Inc. It was too bad as this person was very nice and did not deserve the backlash. Not much anyone could do about that. And the project got abandoned after a few months.

    6. Kay

      Suggest that future events be catered and offsite (namely, in a staffed venue). If they don’t want to pay someone else to clean up, and they don’t want to pay y’all to clean up, then it seems they cannot afford to host an event after all.

      Not quite the same but I worked in a hotel restaurant for many years. Monthly “appreciation” events were held over the lunch hour, and catered by us. So after adding “appreciation” prep onto our normal workload, assuming we could get away for 5 lunch-rush minutes to partake, we got to see management don aprons and accept all the credit. But at least we were on the clock!

      After many years of dissatisfaction, they finally brought in a food truck. Just like that, we started to feel a little more appreciated. ;)

  25. Tris Prior

    I know there have been a ton of questions about this but I can’t seem to find any of them in search for some reason – can someone point me to how you list a job on your resume when your job title and responsibilities stay the same, but the company’s been bought several times and thus has changed names repeatedly?

      1. No Tribble At All

        Yup. Mine is:
        Global Llamas, Inc. (formerly Llamas R Us, LlamaStartUp)
        Senior Llama Groomer 2014 – present

        Also, if there were a /bunch /of intermediary companies that each were only in charge for a few months, you might start at the earliest and skip to the most recent. Or factor in name recognition. I keep LlamaStartUp because it was newsworthy and has different connotations than Global Llamas.

    1. Lena Clare

      I put down the name that the organisation had when they employed me and then in brackets afterwards I just put what it’s now known as.

      E.g.
      1999-2005
      Dead sea scrolls scribe at Tranlators R Us (now Translations A Go-Go).
      You wouldn’t have to put its various incarnations in between either, that will be fine I think.

      I also wonder if you can just put the name it’s known as now? They can Google.

  26. CBH

    I started working in a new office. Everyone has private work areas, but due to the nature of the business, everyone is in and out of each other’s offices. Your allowed to play music softly, but the company prefers one not using headphones. I love listening to audio books, but wonder if that is ok. I like detective series, I’m not listening to anything that might be offensive, but I imagine someone walking into my area while a fictional detective describes his theories of deduction is quite different than walking into an office where a song everyone knows is playing. I find listening to music distracts me – I like music a lot but find it frustrating when I can’t find what songs I want to listen to. The audio books just become background noise to me.

    1. StressedButOkay

      Oohh, that’s a tough one. I think the problem might be that since it’s background noise to you, you might not catch something that’s a bit…I don’t want to say NSFW but maybe off for an office? Like, discussion of a murder, curse words, an unexpected adult scene?

      If you find music frustrating because it’s random/you can’t find songs you want to listen to, have you tried Spotify? You can save songs to your Library and create different playlists – things that you’ve cultivated specifically.

    2. Even Steven

      But the audio books might not come across as background noise to your colleagues. It could come across as annoying as someone putting a call on speakerphone. Talking voices can really distract. If I were you I wouldn’t do this.

    3. Diatryma

      I worry that focusing on a book would take away from your work. If what you want it background noise with words, you could find a podcast (maybe one of the droning put-you-to-sleep ones) or coffeeshop white noise site.

      1. BetsCounts

        This is an excellent suggestion. I really like Noisli for the white noise. Then for podcasts, maybe the Shipping Forecast, or In Our Time? If you get pushback from supervisors about ‘listening to podcasts instead of working’ you can explain you are using it as a white noise generator. I used to listen to In Our Time when I was getting eyelash extensions and it put me RIGHT OUT.

      2. TW

        “Sleep With Me” would be good for this – he is SUPER conscientious about anything that might startle or offend. Like, he’s friends with the gals from My Favorite Murder, but he won’t say “murder” on his show, so it’s always “MFM podcast.”

        Also: https://www.ambient-mixer.com lets you blend recorded sounds into an ambient noise setup – up to eight tracks. You can save your own, and listen to ones other people have saved. I mostly use nature sounds in mine, but there’s all kinds of stuff, including a wide variety of cafe noises. This might be a good way to have voices in the background without having to worry about content. There are a TON of Harry Potter ones, like “Gryffindor Common Room” and whatnot. It’s fun.

      3. TootsNYC

        I know it becomes background music to you, but as an observer, I would not believe this.

        I mean, if you were filing, or cleaning, or something somewhat mindless. But if you were doing anything that took creativity, thinking, or attention to detail, I think you might make a bad impression.

    4. Coffee Bean

      Hmm… okay long debate short, I think audio books are fine.

      See on one hand, you may be zoning it out, but (especially in crime/detective novels) there are themes that are not normal in a workplace. Murder and violence tends to be driven by acts that just aren’t talked about in the workplace, and someone overhearing that may be a bit taken-aback for just a minute.

      But, even if they were taken-aback I don’t think it would be for long, nor would it be a big deal. Also, people listen to podcasts at work all the time, which range in a wide variety of appropriateness. I think the audio books fall into the same category as podcasts, which (I believe) is a completely acceptable thing to listen to throughout the workday. Some people drown out stories better than music.

      The best teller here though may just be thinking about your office culture. Would your colleges feel comfortable enough to say something if they were uncomfortable? Would you feel shame/worry every time someone came into your office, forcing you to quickly turn it off so they may not overhear?

    5. curious

      Thank you all for your feedback. I listen to audio books at a very low volume, so low that when you are passing by my office most people don’t realize I have something on. (of course I posted my question for the few people who have supersonic hearing and canhear the audio book). We all have a friendly relationship with each other and our boss where if someone is playing something too loud/ not appropriate there are no hard feelings being told to turn it off. I always turn the book off when the phone rings or when someone is in my actual office. I did ask my boss if audio books were ok, and did mention I like detective series. We even talked about our favorite authors. Same with my coworkers. I guess I’m just concerned that I covered all bases incase someone outside of my work group over hears something out of context. On a side note, while I am concerned that something like a descriptive crime scene might be overheard, I belong to an online book club where we compare books and the club even has a page titled “can I listen to this at work”. I also try to save the beach read/ “hallmark movie” type reads for work. As for potentially being distracted I’ve been listening to audio books most of my life and it has become second nature to me to follow the story and work.

        1. valentine

          I think it’s fine. I was going to say pause it when people enter, but you’re already doing that. People with supersonic hearing can deal.

    6. Fellow Traveler

      Would your company be ok if you listen with just one earbud in? I work in an open office where we need to talk to each other a lot, so when I listen to podcasts or audiobooks, I just listen on one side.

  27. Ihmmy

    The earlier post about “young lady” got me thinking about this a bit more concretely. I’ve never much liked my coworker and myself being referred as “girls” or “ladies” and I’m realizing some of it comes from gender fluid / non binary sides to myself. I’m not at a point where I necessarily want/need people to be using they/them pronouns for me, but how do I tell coworkers to stop with referring to the two of us as ‘girls’ (both over 30) or ‘ladies’ when I know they have good intentions? I don’t want to make it a Big Deal but I also want to it happen less.

      1. valentine

        Pick a word you won’t mind (or just your names, if you think your coworker would insist she wants to be called lady or vote it’s not sexist) and say, “X (or Ihmmy and Stevie) is fine.”

    1. BugSwallowersAnonymous

      I struggle with this, too, for some reason “ladies” especially annoys me. I’m not sure how to raise it at work in a way that feels casual and low-key, though.

      1. Frozen Ginger

        For me the annoyance comes from the formality of “ladies”, and how it feels like a remnant of misguided “chivalry”. I’m not a delicate “lady”. I don’t mind variations of “ladies and gents”, but when it’s just “ladies” it grates on my nerves.
        I prefer to use “guys” in a gender-neutral manner, but I’m trying to find something else because I know others don’t like it.

        1. BugSwallowersAnonymous

          I think that’s what bugs me about it too. I don’t personally mind “guys” as a gender neutral term but I also try to steer clear of it because I know others do. Sometimes I say “Hi all,” or “you all”? But that can feel awkward, especially if I’m only addressing two people.

    2. Canonical23

      You can always make a joke, “oh, I’d never refer to myself as a lady/girl/etc.” and follow it up with “I don’t want to make a big deal about it, but could you use [whatever term you prefer – dudes/guys/homies/person-of-interest] instead?”

      Nice people will probably shrug and try their best to use what you prefer. Mean people won’t, but they’re mean and that makes them look bad.

      1. Frozen Ginger

        I think joking is a good bet (if you it’s okay to joke in the context). ” ‘Girl’? Excuse you, I am a grown adult.” said in a mock-offended way. My favorite response to being called a lady is “Pfft. I ain’t no lady.”

      2. Alice

        What I like about this is it doesn’t just say what you want them to stop doing; it also says what you want them to do instead. More likely to get success, too, I think. “I shouldn’t say ladies, I should say X” is easier than “I shouldn’t say ladies, what should I say?”

    3. Baby Fishmouth

      I absolutely HATE when people refer to me and my coworkers as ‘girls’ or ‘ladies’ – and I’m cisgender. It just somehow feels so patronizing. I have several coworkers who will walk past and say “Hello Ladies!” and it makes me cringe internally. I know they aren’t doing it out of malice, so I don’t say anything, but I wish I had a standing to do so. I much prefer the gender-neutral “hey guys” or just “hello!”.

      1. CastIrony

        I’m like this, too! I, along with my best friend, are about to ask to be addressed by Mx. because I want to be known for what I can do, not my marriage status! Shame we don’t know how to go about it!

        1. Alice

          I’ve been known to say “hello ladies” and “hello gentlemen,” but if you told me you didn’t like it I’d make a point of not saying that to or about you. Ideally you’d tell me another word that you prefer.
          Your standing to ask coworkers to use a different word doesn’t depend on their motivation. Think of it this way — if someone calls “Amanda” instead of “Alice” I’m going to correct them; it doesn’t matter _why_ they were calling me “Amanda.”

        2. Jasnah

          You could certainly ask to be addressed by Ms., which was created to have one feminine title not tied to marriage status (unlike Mrs. and Miss) and has been around for a very long time. Mx. is gender-neutral in addition to marriage-neutral.

    4. Joielle

      A couple years ago there was a new staff member who would email me and a few female colleagues with “Hi ladies” or similar, and after a couple of these emails (and confirming with the others that they also hated it), I just emailed him back and asked him not to refer to us as “ladies” in a professional environment. I’m sure he thinks I’m ridiculous but he apologized and stopped doing it. There’s never a reason to address coworkers by (assumed) gender and this IS a hill I’m willing to die on.

    5. Blue Eagle

      I liked one of the answers from yesterday that suggested that you determine what you would like to be called. Then, rather than telling people what you don’t want, tell them what you would prefer to be called. Good luck!

    6. jack

      I said this to a report the other day. He said goodbye to me and another co-worker and said girls. I followed him out and just politely said, “Hey, I really don’t like being called ‘girl'” and he hasn’t done it since. No drama or Big Deal but he’s a good guy so I wasn’t expecting anything.

    7. Queen of Cans and Jars

      The only time “Hey ladies,” is acceptable is if it’s coming from the Beastie Boys.

    8. Jules the 3rd

      My framework is
      Public: Start with a joking correction and a smile: “Girls?” (looking around) “Nope, we’re all grownups here.” or “Girls? I do not think that word means what you think it means since we’re all adults…” (Inconceivable!)
      Repeat 2 – 3 times, with variations, still smiling.
      Maybe public, maybe not: Lose smile, but still pleasant. “Girls? No, just co-workers. Try ‘team’ or ‘everyone’ for the group.” (I consciously tried to remove gender references a couple of years ago; it’s a harder habit to break than I realized when I started, and non-gendered suggestions were / are still appreciated).
      Not public: Earnest discussion: “Please stop calling grown women ‘girls’, that’s unprofessional, and is likely to have some impact if customers / bosses overhear it. The world is changing fast, and you’ll be in a better position if you stay aware of those changes. One tactic that will put you way ahead is if you take gender out of the conversation entirely – use ‘team’, or ‘everyone’; ‘how can I help you [stop]’ instead of ‘How can I help you ladies’.
      Sometimes, framing it as an advantage to them really helps.

      After joking, pleasant comment, earnest conversation, I’m not aware of ways to deal that don’t turn into Big Deal.

      1. Considered Secularist

        “people”, “team”, “colleagues”, “folks” — all non-gendered. And thanks, I have removed a lot of gendered references in my vocabulary but this is an excellent reminder that I have more work to do.

    9. BottleBlonde

      I am cisgender but this absolutely drives me nuts. My org is almost 100% female and people are always referring to each other as “ladies,” “girls,” and (my least favorite) “girlies.” Also, “you’re just the girl for the job” is a common phrase when assigning people projects. I would feel weird saying something because I’m the youngest on the team and the only one who seems at all bothered by it, but I wish I could make it stop!

      1. LadyGrey

        If you’re the youngest in the office, you might be able to use that to stop it- maybe try asking them to stop because you feel like it’s pointing out you’re the youngest there?

    10. Elaine

      The problem with “ladies” at work is that ladies is a social term. That makes it unsuitable for a professional environment. “Girls” when applied to adults is just gross, in my opinion.

    11. n

      I think it’s okay to be direct about it (but, I’m a pretty direct person, in general).

      I think just asking, “Could you not refer to me as a girl? I’m an adult,” can work. Decent people will respect the request.

      Jerks will try to push back, so you may have to constantly correct them if they continue to do it. In my experience, calling them out in public (like during a meeting where the boss is present) can embarrass them enough to make them stop, if only out of fear of looking bad.

    12. a good mouse

      This is one of my pet peeves.

      For men, boy is someone 14 and under, guy is anyone up to a little beyond your age, and man is anyone like +10.

      For women, there’s no middle word. I also use guys as gender neutral, but it isn’t natural, and women feels too formal sometimes. I make myself say it though, I think we just need to hear it more.

  28. JanetM

    Thoughts on what I think will be a harmless joke at work?

    Background: Several weeks ago, one of my coworkers bounced into my cube, announced, “HI! I’m the worst thing that’s going to happen to you all day!” and bounced out. To be clear, I was more amused than anything else (I’d say 85% amused, 10% confused, and 5% mildly startled); I wasn’t, and am not, upset or distressed in any way. However, I do think it only fair that I return the oddity.

    What I’m thinking of: Getting a bag of those flat-sided glass discs that you put in aquariums or vases, and leaving one or two on his desk at more or less random intervals when he’s not there. Nothing harmful, nothing destructive, nothing that’s really going to get in his way (I’m not interested in, for example, wrapping his entire office in foil or filling his desk drawers with packing peanuts). Just something to puzzle him.

    1. Canonical23

      If you have a good relationship with him, I think it would be funny! (provided that if he demonstrates frustration or concern at any point in the magically appearing discs, you tell him what’s happening, rather than leaving him in the dark.)

    2. Shark Whisperer

      If you are certain that he would be amused, I would go for it. I worked in an office once where we had a culture of very innocuous pranks (and if you vocalized that you didn’t like pranks, you 100% did not have pranks pulled on you). I started slowly adding weird little mermaid toys one by one to my coworker’s desk. She had a lot of knick knacks so she didn’t notice immediately. It was great! She was confused but delighted. She ended up keeping all the mermaids.

    3. Drax

      This is an excellent prank. But if it starts making him a little squirrelly, then stop.

      I would say the finale should be a little fish bowl with some beads in it and a small plastic fish.

      1. Drax

        rethinking this, it should only have like 2 or 3 beads in it, so there’s a place for all the beads you’ve been leaving over the course of a few weeks.

    4. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

      Like squished marbles?

      I have to admit I don’t get it.

      I think if you’re going for odd… how about getting a bunch of random rubber ducks… Start with one… then the next day another…and another until he has a duck army. If not ducks, maybe some other random small toy that you can buy in bulk.

      1. No Tribble At All

        My only concern is the disks could break, leaving shattered glass everywhere? Is the goal to slowly move his stuff, and that’s why you want (clear) glass?

        1. JanetM

          No, no intent to move his stuff at all — he’s in a different cube, and his space is his space.

          But I’ll think about something other than glass.

      2. Drax

        those things do not break if they’re what I’m thinking of (google aquarium beads)

        and this seems like the type of prank you aren’t supposed to get, which is the prank. It’s meant to confuse.

        But I am into the ducks. I’d be tempted to just hide them everywhere, one more a day. Sometimes 2 to keep them on their toes.

      3. Joielle

        I don’t get it either. I feel like the coworker was just saying something odd, which isn’t really a “prank,” per se? So doing a prank in return is confusing… but this sounds harmless at least!

      4. ElspethGC

        If anyone here hasn’t seen the rubber duck video from James Veich, please do yourselves all a huge favour and go watch it. That is how you do duck pranks successfully.

      5. Environmental Compliance

        I may have once put nearly 50 mini rubber ducks all over my roommate’s stuff over the space of about 3 months in college. The confusion was great. The fact that she immediately assumed that someone was breaking into our room and leaving them rather than blaming the person that lived in there with her (me)….very entertaining.

        I had those randomly taped to a ceiling tile, under sinks, in shoes, etc. I think the whole bag of them cost me like $5 too. Kept us mildly sane through writing multiple theses, as then we just started trading ducks back and forth.

    5. Nervous Accountant

      Last year I would get those kinder eggs with the toys in them and leave the toy on my coworkers desk. He couldn’t figure out who left them until someone finally told him it was me. Slowly a little army of small plastic toys was on his desk.
      We had a good laugh about it.
      This guy also had his entire desk covered in gift wrapping paper and drawer filled with those tab thinggys from soda cans while he was away on vacation. For xmas, someone once bought him a gag gift of slippers.

      This s really highly dependeont on your relationship with the person. and the people involved too. While I can totally joke around w/ my manager I wouldn’t play a joke on him in the office just cz it might make him look bad. but that’s me.

    6. ..Kat..

      Have you considered what you will do if he escalates? Sometimes these things can get way out of hand.

    1. ChemMoose

      This sounds like my typical Friday! Thankfully the meeting gods are on hiatus here and 3 hours were cancelled today! Only 3 hours for me!

      1. yams

        Darn, how do you live like this?!
        My first three hour morphed into a four hour meeting and bumped into the second one. I will survive on vending machine snacks!

  29. Nervous Accountant

    In other news….

    Kevin had another tantrum last night, lol. He is so ridiculous that now instead of getting mad I just go straight to laughing about it.

    He also did something else, which wasn’t that big of a deal, given everything else, but I had thoughts. Lol

    Intern comes by and says “are you busy?”
    “Yes”
    Still stands there and goes ahead and asks the question lol.
    Same intern, second day. just stands there for god knows how long until I finally notice him and I get startled.

    Finally, my very straightlaced boss broke and made a joke in our group chat that could be considered a dirty joke but we’re scratching our heads trying to figure this out.

    More happened with Kevin, but on that later….

      1. Nervous Accountant

        Kevin is someone who reports to me on my team. He started in August and was meh but we gave him a shot b/c HR siad he had good references (which since then turned out to be inaccurate). Since then he’s been really rude and disrespectful to me, my manager, other peers, departments, clients etc. We finally started the process of letting him go.

        https://www.askamanager.org/2019/02/open-thread-february-1-2-2019.html#comment-2328411
        https://www.askamanager.org/2019/01/open-thread-january-4-5-2019.html#comment-2289668
        https://www.askamanager.org/2018/11/open-thread-november-2-3-2018.html#comment-2213056
        https://www.askamanager.org/2018/10/open-thread-october-26-27-2018.html#comment-2202314

        1. CheeseNurse

          Thanks! Kevin sounds frustrating.
          (I haven’t been here for months, and I often can’t read all of the posts in the Friday threads, let alone remember everything that was said :) )

        2. soupmonger

          You know, if I reported to someone at work and I found out that my supervisor had been snarking about me every week for ages on an online site, I’d feel pretty wretched about it. Do you really think you’re being fair by carrying on the way you do? Because I think it’s pretty unprofessional.

          1. Kevin

            This! While I understand your frustration, spilling all these details on someone you manage seems unkind and inappropriate, especially on a website dedicated to empathetic and ethical management.

          2. SavannahMiranda

            Meh. People shouldn’t be wretched. “If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” Anne Lamott.

            You assume that Kevin is someone like you with compunction, conscience, and self-awareness, who would feel mortified at recognizing themselves. Many people are not wired that way. And it would be a compliment to Kevin to assume he has the capacity to recognize himself in Accountant’s threads.

            More importantly, Accountant is not trolling up pointless quibbles, they are dealing with substantive (if hilarious or galling) managing issues. Accountant is not talking about wearing Hawaiian shirts on Friday or being a general goober. But disrespect, disregard, carelessness, and rudeness to clients. The issues Accountant is dealing with are meaningful for the content of this website.

            Finally, Accountant is anonymizing their workplace, the work performed, and people’s names. In addition, they take potshots at themselves and are honest about their own growth throughout their posts. This is not a self-aggrandizing set of stories by installment.

            1. soupmonger

              You’re justifying someone creating an ongoing series of ‘stories’ which describe someone they manage. If it was a one-off rant, fine. This isn’t. This is storytelling on a weekly basis and it’s a demeaning way to treat someone you have authority over.

      2. Nervous Accountant

        My post is in moderation b/c I posted links, but he is a person who reports to me on my team. He has been very rude and disrespectful to clients, coworkers, myself, even my boss.

        Ok so here’s the latest.

        He had a tantrum last night, and my boss gave him one final warning. One more outburst (to clients or us) and he’s gone. I wasn’t in this meeting but apparently instead of a 5 minute quick convo, it was 30 minutes. Teh guy apparently refuses to quit b/c he LIKES IT HERE FOR SOME REASON? And kept bringing up how me and ohters are setting him up for failure.

        SMH

        1. Even Steven

          “One final warning’ sounds promising! I hope that your boss really means it, and that you are soon freed from living in The Chronicles of Kevin. Kevin’s gotta go! Keep us posted. I have been cheering for you for months!

  30. Punk Ass Book Jockey

    I have an interview on Monday for a municipal department head position. This particular municipality has been in the news frequently because its school district is in a horrible financial situation–so bad that the state opened a grand jury investigation because it’s been so mismanaged. On top of that, the municipality had to raise taxes this year to cover a $1.4 million deficit.

    So, my concern with the position I’m interviewing for is whether the department’s funding will remain stable. Is it too soon to ask if the department’s budget will or could be affected by these financial woes? This is a first-round, pretty casual interview. The municipal manager didn’t even call it an interview when we scheduled. He just asked me to come over and “talk” about the position.

    Right now the department’s budget is a healthy number compared to others in the county and region. That’s one of the reasons why I applied for the job, and a significant budget reduction would make me reconsider accepting the position, if offered.

    1. fposte

      I think that’s a reasonable time, actually. I wouldn’t go with “Will the budget be affected” but “What impact do you anticipate?” That opens up discussions about things like retention and hiring generally and not just through the budgetary lens, and you can do a budget question as a followup if they say “No, no impact at all!” (If you’re au fait with how the municipality handles its budgets, you might be able to ask about the nature of the department’s protections and explore it on their own. If they get to keep their budget only as long as Fergus is on the city council, what happens when Fergus gets indicted?)

    2. Kittymommy

      See if their budget calendar is absurdness yet. Our FY begins in October so we are already working on budgets now. Depending on where to are at you may be able to find this online in meeting minutes (we approve our budget calendars in December or January). Also find out how the municipality budget and the school district budget interact: dues the municipality fund them, is it pulled out of property taxes, or are they cunningly seperate?
      Where in at the schools are fund seperate than us. The other county agencies come through or budget, but schools are completely seperate funds/taxes.
      Also see what their five year plans are if you can. Again, while I’m working on our budget for the upcoming year now, we still project out for five years.

        1. Punk Ass Book Jockey

          Thank you, this was very helpful! And, I’m in Pennsylvania where local government absurdness is the norm, so I didn’t even realize that was a typo :)

      1. Not So NewReader

        Great point. Here the school budget and the town budget are two different animals unrelated to each other. And that is because of the funding stream. There is a school tax and a separate town tax.

        The town and school may have some mutual concerns such as snow removal, water, sewer, etc. And they do have to work together on some of these specific things.

    3. ..Kat..

      If you accept an offer, keep in mind that with crap finances, you may never get a raise. I.e., don’t accept a low salary to deal with a high level of dysfunction and then expect it to improve later.

  31. PX

    Conducting my leisurely job search ala the LW who didnt have much to do at their job, and I had my first interview today! Was a bit of a pain to get to location-wise, and had to be creative about flexing my time to not have to take a day off for this.

    Think it went okay but have some serious qualms about the salary range stated, and whether long term it would be a good move now that I’ve gotten a better sense for the role. Also dont think I have quite the technical skills they want.

    The hiring manager seems decent though. However, the other team member who was also in the interview referred to the (quite large) company as ‘like a family’ several times and in my head I was just like… Oh darling, that is not the compliment you think it is! Which did emphasize some other aspects of the culture that I’m just not sure about.

    Lots to ponder on if I do get an offer anyway!

    1. Garland not Andrews

      People don’t seem to realize that “like a family” has two sides. We love like a family . . . but . . . we also fight like a family!

      1. PX

        Oh yeah. The company tries to brand itself as being quite young and fun. And this particular person was on the younger side so probably enjoys that aspect of informality that appears to be present. Me? I’m a bit like – I don’t know if I want to be that friendly with my coworkers! I like to maintain separation! I don’t want you to be my family!

        1. Decima Dewey

          Or the families in Compton-Burnett novels, where uncles cuckold nephews, sons cuckold fathers, sweet ladies are convinced their entire family despises them, inconvenient infants are left in rooms with faulty gas jets, and wills leaving the estate to someone else get hidden or thrown into the fire…

        2. LittleMissCrankyPants

          The Lannisters? The Donners? The Sopranos? Ya gotta be careful what kinda family yer joinin!

  32. Funny Cide

    For those who gave me input on a potential relocation and subsequent commute, which I posted about a month ago, I thought I’d provide an update. We’re not moving! Partner doesn’t mind his hour & change commute, at least for now. However, he hates the new job and is already looking for something else. So we’ll see what the future holds… anyway, thanks for all the advice!

  33. ThatGirl

    Last week or the week before I posted about having an overdue talk with my boss about how I’d slipped into a different role than I’d been hired for, was unhappy about that, etc. and it went well. Feeling like things are on the right track to get back to what I want to be doing and was hired to be doing.

    On Tuesday I had a surprise performance review – I knew they were coming but it was scheduled very last minute. I had an awesome review, glowing, manager realized they can’t live without me, and I got a raise above what the HR guidelines called for. Yay!

    One thing I’m now struggling with a little – she wants me to sort of sideways-manage my two teammates and one of them is not quite up to par. I have to figure out ways to praise and develop a good relationship with her so that my not-as-positive feedback lands well.

    1. Not So NewReader

      Yeah, she needs to tell Teammate to check in with you. I would say something like, “Boss, I really have no ground for telling Sue what to do. I really need you to tell Sue that her work needs beefing up and she will need to be checking in with me.”

      If your boss refuses to do this for you, then say, “In fairness to Sue, she may reject my offers of help because she does not realize I am following your instructions and you have decided that she needs to improve. If she does not improve, in spite of my efforts, I am not sure we are being fair with her.”

  34. TotesMaGoats

    My sister posted a screen shot of an email signature file this morning. The email was closed with:

    Most resentfully,

    It was a group email.

    Oh the autocorrect shame and misery. At least my sister and everyone got a good laugh out of it. And then you are like, there are emails I want to end that way. The poor person apologized to the large group of people. Happy Friday.

    1. the_scientist

      HAHAHAHA I love this. I have also definitely wanted to sign off on some emails like this in my time…

      1. fposte

        Yeah, I think that was at best a mental slip, and possibly a Freudian one. Fortunately, autocorrect doesn’t complain about being blamed.

    2. Art3mis

      I worked at a company that used Lotus Notes and I could not spell inconvenient for the life of me. Still can’t, just got it wrong typing it here. Anyway, Notes would never suggest the correct spelling, instead offering up incontinent. Luckily, I always caught it, but I got several emails from other people saying “Sorry for the incontinence.” And I always thought, “Yeah, you better be!”

      1. LGC

        Anyway, Notes would never suggest the correct spelling, instead offering up incontinent.

        …you know, I have so many questions about this, and all of them are directed at Lotus.

    3. Lena Clare

      This is absolutely HILARIOUS!

      Here’s my autocorrect fail-
      My full name (not Lena, and unusual enough I can’t tell you what it is coz I’m searchable with my first name alone)
      autocorrected to “whatever” at the bottom of an email to my boss AFTER she’d had a conversation about me softening some of my language in written form.
      I was absolutely mortified, I had to go into her office and explain what had happened. She weirdly wasn’t bothered and it made me wonder if she ever believed me.
      I blush to this day.

      1. TotesMaGoats

        I had a colleague (which is a stretch of that word for this particular person) whose names autocorrected to Hell. I kid you not. I think it was more that my phone knew the soul of this person that it being a mistake.

  35. Sabrina

    I love my job and feel very lucky that is my biggest complaint… but one of my coworkers is so gross. She is a grown adult woman and is a pretty sophisticated person (ie has manners and hygiene) but we had bagels yesterday and I had to excuse myself because she sat next to me and was eating with her mouth open, talking with her mouth full, and sucking cream cheese off her fingers! I can hear her in her cube smacking away on baby carrots and dip and yup, licking her fingers! How does someone with otherwise good sense and decorum completely miss this part of polite society?

    1. Foreign Octopus

      Oh god. That’s a huge pet peeve of mind. I lose my appetite when I’m around people who eat like that. I had a housemate who did it once (huge smacking sounds that turned my stomach) but thankfully her boyfriend told her she needed to stop.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Table manners are a whole different beast. I’m rather uptight with mine but I’ve ran into people who have gross habits like described. They’ve rarely been raised in a barn, they’re just stunted AF when it comes to unnecessary noises and putting hands in their mouths.

    3. Joielle

      GROSS. My dad is the absolute WORST offender with those kinds of noises and it’s honestly one of the reasons I can’t visit my parents for more than a day or two. Somehow you can hear the man eating an orange from two rooms down. It’s truly disgusting.

      1. Sammie

        I had an ex who ate toast using, it seemed like, every single muscle in his jaw. With his mouth closed, he worked on that bit of toasted bread as if he had bit off more than a mere mortal could possibly be expected to chew and the result was these hideous and loud ‘smacking’ noises. I often checked to see if his mouth was still closed because it really sounded as if it wasn’t. In the end, I had to say something (that was hopefully nicer than ‘I think this might be what makes me end this relationship…’). Sometimes I felt bad reminding him so I would just leave the room – as discreetly as I could, but actually, this is what helped him get the message the best!

    4. Clever Name

      OMG I have a coworker who also eats really grossly. Talks with her mouth full, chews mouth open. Really gross.

    5. Sprechen Sie Talk?

      I had an old boss who LOVED to use the power play of smacking his lips while eating his (daily) soup and roll – and this was in a very open office – just to annoy people around him. If he REALLY didn’t like the person he was meeting with, he would bring a fruit cup to the meeting and then proceeding to eat the bits of fruit with his hands and then blatantly LICK his hands/fingers for a good two minutes, all while the other person (usually someone senior) would try and make a point. Which he would then shoot down because while he may have appeared insane, he was actually extremely intelligent. Other alternative to Fruit Cup was to just fart in the meeting while the other person was talking.

      I know he can eat normally, I saw him at a dinner hosted by a mutual friend at Christmas and he ate like a civilized human being, I’ve had lunch with him plenty of times with cutlery, gone to his house for dinner parties, gone out to the bar and other restaurants too. Once I figured out what he was doing it never really bothered me much, mostly because I enjoyed seeing if a fruit cup was ever going to appear at certain meetings.

      The guy was/is nuts but if he liked you he would move everything to help you out/protect you. We actually got on really well and in some weird way he was one of the best bosses Ive had. That and I have stories for YEARS on this guy.

  36. revueller

    So I made the rookiest of mistakes this week.

    Our company sent out an anonymous survey through a third party “to assess the best workplaces in CITY” and encouraged us to fill it out. I answered… way too honestly. With written comments. And identified the department I work with (which consists of ten people).

    I don’t want to go into what I said, but it was (a) truthful and (b) things I would never, ever, ever want my boss to know I said. But other managers have confirmed that our company is paying a fee to see the results of the feedback survey and that the URL used to fill it out includes a unique identifying code. Soooo it’s pretty likely they’ll figure out authorship. What’s worse: management is the main source of the problems I identified in feedback, and they have historically responded poorly to any sort of negative feedback. (Think public snarking over negative Glassdoor reviews that most employees privately agree with). I don’t think they’ve fired anyone for telling the company off, but several people have definitely resigned after vehemently disagreeing with the company’s direction.

    If (when) they figure out I’m the author of Mean Feedback Response, what should I do?

    If I own it and apologize for it (“It was an off-day for me and I took out my frustrations in the least constructive way possible. My tone was rude, and I apologize.”), I may lose my job for not being a team player. I need this job. I genuinely do want this job. There are just easily fixable things that I get frustrated about.

    I could also lie and say I didn’t write it. My concerns aren’t that unique in my team, thankfully. But I don’t know if this would come out worse if they figure out the unique URL ID came from my account.

    Do I just start looking for a new job now? Any advice would be appreciated.

    1. StressedButOkay

      A lot of companies pay to see the results of an anonymous survey and, generally speaking, what that third party company does is compile the data and strip it of anything like the unique ID code. I’d honestly be shocked if a company that does this as a service, that was touted as anonymous, would supply the ID code along with a way to identify who that code was assigned to.

      I mean, I’ve seen weirder things and could be wrong!

        1. Quackeen

          Yes, I managed the employee surveys for 6 years in a previous job, and we worked with 2 different 3rd party vendors over those 6 years. Neither of them would ever have even considered giving out the identifying code that was associated with any responses.

          I know it’s very common for people to claim that the surveys are not anonymous at all, but I just don’t have that experience when working with reputable companies.

          Now, if they read any written narrative you gave and try to figure it out (which I have seen bad managers do), that’s a different story and a situation in which denying that those are your comments are your best strategy. In fact, I would both deny it and add, “I thought the surveys were anonymous, though. Why do you ask?” Make the asker feel a little bit of shame in trying to go around the process.

    2. Coffee Bean

      If it does come back to bite you – which it may not, if the survey is supposed to be anonymous they should respect that. But if it does, do not lie. I would stick with your script, it is good. Apologize you didn’t air your concerns in a constructive way, and that you will work towards being more professional and bringing concerns and solutions to your boss in the future.

      1. revueller

        thank you, i appreciate that. i definitely have taken this from a mishmash of alison’s replies to people, but fingers crossed that i won’t have to use it!

        1. Coffee Bean

          haha I do the same. Everything I say at work is just a mash-up of different things Alison recommends.

          Best of luck! Fingers crossed you don’t have to use any script.

      2. ..Kat..

        Instead of admitting it was me (and TBH, if other people complained as well, they could be asking you about someone else’s comments), I would ask what they are going to do to address the concerns that they received from an anonymous survey. Sort of a “I can see someone writing that. What is management going to do to improve on this. Wait, how do you know the results of an anonymous survey?” I don’t see anything good coming from admitting what you wrote. If this is their response to an anonymous survey (as opposed to “what can we do to fix problems?”), I do not expect them to deal well with further honesty.

        Also, can you call the survey company and ask them how they release the results of an anonymous survey to an employer? Can you complain anonymously on the survey company’s web site? Or a yelp review of the company?

        I am really irked that this was presented as anonymous when it actually is not. But, not surprised based on my experience.

        Does not hurt to update your resume and apply for new jobs. If nothing else, if you are worried about being let go, you will have a head start on looking for a new job. You might even find something better.

    3. HM

      I conduct these surveys for clients as a third party and we remove identifying information so that respondents can’t be identified. If you included really identifying info they may be able to figure it out, but usually the third party does its best to maintain the anonymity of the respondents. I wouldn’t worry too much about it, also you are likely not the only person who provided similar responses. Typically if there are these type of internal issues, many people will indicate that.

      1. revueller

        the people most dissatisfied with the company said they did not leave written responses because they were afraid of being identified, so i can only hope that more people did what i did.

        but it’s good to know that the companies in charge of the survey care about my anonymity, even if my managers do not!

    4. Kittymommy

      We do these surveys about once a year or so and the only time I’ve seen identifying stuff left on is when people respond “this is Jerry, call me if you want more info. 123-4567”.

        1. valentine

          If you have to mention things you wrote in the survey, use different wording. Maybe you have stock phrases or constructions. Try to avoid them for a while.

    5. JudyInDisguise

      These third party survey companies get paid to do what they do, so don’t worry. Your anonymity is safe or they’d be out of the “anonymous” survey biz! Besides, it doesn’t sound like you’re the only employee having a negative experience and the overall rating/result is going to be calculated from all of the responses. Your company is only going to receive those results – not who-said-what.

    6. Data Person

      I agree with others that, if they stated it is anonymous, it should be stripped of your identifying data before it goes to the company. However, to deal with the off-chance that this survey company is not fully ethical about data (and/or they didn’t actually promise anonymity, it was just assumed), I would think about contacting the survey company to inquire. Find the invite email, was their some kind of contact email?

      You could say that you’ve become aware that the results of survey X will be reported back to the sponsoring companies, and you wanted to re-confirm that the data shared back will be anonymous (i.e., no names or identifying information attached). If they can’t assure you of that, you could try asking if you could have your response removed or have the opportunity to re-take the survey (it’s usually possible in advanced systems) because they did not inform you that your response would be seen by your employer prior to you consenting to take the survey. Use that informed consent language. This study isn’t likely under an IRB to protect subjects’ rights, but let’s assume the company’s staff has had research ethics training, so this language should raise flags to be responsive to you because it’s not great to be associated with unethical research practices.

      1. revueller

        Thank you for suggesting these options! I didn’t even think of reaching out to the company and ask for a retraction. I’m tempted to take my chances. But I’ll definitely consider it if it sounds like I’d literally be the ONLY one dumb enough to fill out the written responses.

    7. anon24

      Right before my husband started very toxic job the employees were asked to fill out an anonymous third party survey for a best places to work competition. They were assured that the company wouldn’t see any of their answers. Not only did the company get the answers, there was no anonymity about them. In his first few weeks working there he got to see all the employees individually pulled into the office and yelled at for the specific comments they made. No one was fired though and I think it all blew over in a few weeks after management found something new to complain about.

      1. revueller

        Yikes! I’m glad no one was fired, but that’s terrifying! My office hasn’t gotten to quite that level of toxicity yet, as far as I know. Hope your husband has found a better place to work since!

    8. I'm A Little Teapot

      Well, if there’s that many issues anyway, you might want to be looking for a new job in general. Not just because of this!

      1. Deb Morgan

        This. I did the same thing two jobs ago (really harshly complained to my boss, when I absolutely should have moderated my tone and language), and it made me realize that I needed to get gone.

      2. revueller

        So this is the classic AAM response, but I probably am overstating how bad it is in my office. I’m really happy with my job compared to where I’ve been. I have good benefits, stable hours, flexible vacation, and normal acting coworkers. I do what I love for a living and I’m no longer customer-facing, which has been an extremely important and stressful part of my prior jobs. *cue happy tap dance*

        The problems are mostly with the inflexibility of management. The company as a whole has officially grown beyond its startup label in terms of its age, size, and internal bureaucracy, and it’s definitely starting to show. My team is less than a year old so that startup agility would be really helpful to us while we figure out the best way to do our jobs. But the company no longer really has that culture. Reasonable changes we as a team request are side-stepped or ignored. We’re told we have to meet certain KPIs before we’re really taken seriously. We get paid substantially less than our coworkers who are nominally our equals, and we spend our company-wide meeting apologizing for not meeting what is a clearly ridiculous standard for our success, given that we have never perfectly met it. The workplace is not 100% toxic, but it’s disheartening to our team to run into these barriers regularly.

        That’s the reasonable version of what I wrote in my review. XD I want to stay, but my regular workday could be a lot easier if we had more reactive managers and more recognition for our work. I still have hope that things might get better. I”m just hoping that my feedback was taken as that (feedback) rather than another internal attack from a dissatisfied employee.

    9. Arjay

      I think our surveys are described as confidential, but not anonymous. The way it was explained to us is that comments that required investigation may have the respondent identified. So if you said you were being sexually harassed or if you made a violent threat, your identifying information would be shared. For general “normal” feedback, it would not.

      1. Not Me

        While I agree with others that the survey company removes identifying information (like URL ID) they *do not* remove the information you wrote in the free form text box that can be used to identify you.

        I’ve worked with employee surveys for 10+ years and it is incredibly easy to figure out who wrote what by the info they give, writing style, etc. Be prepared to respond if someone in your organization does realize it’s you and wants to talk about what you wrote. Your script is good, don’t pretend it wasn’t you though.

        1. revueller

          Eep. *gulp*

          Thank you for your honesty. Hoping it doesn’t come to that. I’ve only worked here a few months, and I’d rather wait out a full year before finding a new position.

    10. Not So NewReader

      Maybe you can google the survey company and find out their rep online?

      It’s a tight spot right now, I get it. In the past, I have said, “I am sorry for the WAY I handled [or said] what I did but I am not able to change my opinion that I wrote/told. I could have delivered the same message in a different manner however.”

      People are amazing. Sometimes when we show a willingness to stand by what we said with some limited regrets they tend to back down. Especially in a face-to-face conversation. I have had a few heart pounding conversations. The ending was never as bad as I thought it would be. Part of it is the capital we build as employees. There are other factors, too.

      1. revueller

        Yeah, I’m realizing now that I’d rather have that conversation in a more professional way and setting. I stand by the general gist of what I said, but the tone may (a) make my managers likely to take it seriously and (b) make my job harder going forward, even if I don’t get directly called out and/or penalized.

        Thank you for your advice though! I really appreciate it.

        1. Not So NewReader

          My wise friend used to say, when we speak up we should expect fallout. What I liked about this is I could weigh out the value of the Thing before I said it. I probably would have spoken up in your setting. There are times when something is big enough or recurs often enough that it’s worth the battle. Just be on your toes, do your work, be polite etc. The storm will pass. Next week someone will step in a bigger pile and your story will be old news.

  37. verbal clumsiness

    Hello. I could use some advice. I can’t stop kicking myself because I’m old enough to know better, I’ve been burned by this before, and still it has happened again. A work friendship is over. It’s nothing either one of us did, it was definitely more a grow apart thing. The closeness started to fade when I began trying to work out at lunch. For two years everything was still friendly and warm when we did connect.
    Then it seems like all of sudden a wave of animosity crashed down on me. It feels out of the blue, and I honestly believe that it’s not from a Thing That Happened. But for me, I am not very quick on my feet, and I don’t always feel confident in my ability stand up for myself. All of my interactions with her make me feel awkward and weird at the moment, and later, as I have thought about it for a while, I realize she was actually really mean, and then I feel like a fool for just taking it.
    I don’t want to have it out, or get into a huge conversation or whatever… I just want to be professional and cordial going forward. But if any of you kind people have some words or phrases I could use in those times when it’s weird, but my brain hasn’t fully comprehended why it was weird, it would be very appreciated. Just some nuggets I can store in my brain and use when I have to interact with her.
    Sorry this got so long, thanks for letting me vent here. It helps.

    1. revueller

      I’ve found myself using Alison’s phraseology for dealing with online bullies of all things.

      “What a weird thing to say,” is one that I’ve adopted for things that are less obvious (but still rude) slights that she might do. “It’s weird that you think that’s appropriate to say,” is another.

      It’s easy to come up with comebacks before and after the moment they’re needed. I’d default to being coolly polite myself. That way, you don’t have to invest time in being friendly to her and no one can fault you for causing a scene at work.

      Hope this helps and best of luck!

      1. ..Kat..

        Also,

        “Wow”
        “What do you mean by that?”
        “That sounds very hostile.”

        All followed by silence.

        You don’t have to have something witty to say. You just want to call it out as bad behaviour/words.

    2. fposte

      It sounds like you’re feeling this as a pretty heavy weight–I’m sorry.

      Can you think about what you’re trying to achieve here?You’re never a fool for not rising to the bait of somebody being mean; you in fact did an excellent job of ignoring it. I would advise you to largely continue to do so. A puzzled “…okay. Anyway” can be a bridge to getting back to work discussions if somebody’s gone off on a deliberately personal direction. “Huh. You don’t sound very happy” can also be a possibility if you’re feeling really together and it’s true. If you can walk away, that’s an option; if you can’t, you can say, “I’d really like to focus on work.”

      1. Not So NewReader

        So much this.
        It’s her embarrassment to wear, not yours. Please don’t look around for reasons to be embarrassed. You have done nothing wrong here.

        “I am sorry to hear that.”
        “Oh, that’s too bad.”
        “Hope things go better soon.”

        “Oh, gosh, look at the time, I gotta run.”
        “Whoops, I have a call, talk to you later!”

        For your own peace of mind, remind yourself that you want to be surrounded by people who sincerely like you. If she does not sincerely like you, that is okay. Being mean is not okay therefore she is not an actual friend to you. You don’t need her.

        It took me a while to decide that I just wanted people around me who were kind most of the time. I want people in my life who are considerate of others. If you can set similar goals for yourself you may find some assurance there also.

    3. Gumby

      Something that you can store in your brain and not necessarily use, but that I found helps me let go when a friendship… isn’t anymore is “friendships have a lifespan” (a variation on the whole reason/season/lifetime thing that I picked up from Sars of tomatonation fame). I used to have the unreaslistic idea that once you were friends with someone you were obligated to keep trying to be friends on some level. So if something like that is holding you back or making you give her more chances than you should – give yourself permission to not be friends any longer. It sounds like you have, but I want to reinforce the idea. It’s not a fault or a weakness to give up the friendship.

    4. Lilysparrow

      “Huh. I’m not sure how to take that.” (Or “I’m not sure how to respond to that.”

      “What are you hoping will happen here?”

      “Uh, is everything okay? It seems like something’s bothering you.”

  38. Not Maeby But Surely

    So, I have been having problems getting things done at work. A recent post here made suggestions for dealing with that sort of thing, and making lists was a solution that spoke to me. I’ve been using lists this week and it has made a world of difference! I used to always make lists, jot down ideas for later, etc., years ago when I first started this job. I’m not sure why I ever stopped, but I am absolutely making it a thing again! It is so helpful to refer to and even more satisfying to cross things off the list when I complete them. I can look back through this week and see actual accomplishments again. Woo-hoo!

    1. Folkie

      Sometimes I put a thing I’ve already done on my list, just so I can cross it off. On days when you’re feeling super-unproductive, putting very easy things that you do every day on your list is good, too. Then you can look back at all the things you did with pride!

      make list = tiny mission accomplished

    2. TootsNYC

      I’m not sure why I ever stopped,

      On a recent comment thread, someone said they have ADHD and will switch from one coping strategy to another as the first wears out.

      That resonated so hard with me! And the idea that it’s OK to switch tactics was really encouraging.

  39. curious

    I have a few very trustworthy teenagers that help out with a few things at home here and there- walk the dog if we have to work late, babysit once a month, collect the mail or water the plants when we’re on vacation etc. This might seem silly to ask…. How do you present the idea that if they do something extra, you’ll pay more money. I don’t want the teenager to feel obligated when they were hired for something totally different. For instant when they babysit, if you clean the dishes in the sink or take the dog out to do it’s business, we’ll pay extra. These are little things that overall help us a lot, but are little things we can manage on our own. Do we wait and see if they take the initiative on their own; or do we have a conversation hey if you want to earn a few extra dollars when bringing in the mail, can you do this for us?

    1. CTT

      For things like taking the dog out, since it is something that the dog needs to do, I would frame it as “Please also take the dog out X number of times while you’re babysitting; of course we’ll pay you extra.”

      For things like dishes, getting the mail, etc.; when I was a babysitter, I would do that if I had time but couldn’t always get to it (depending on number of kids, how long I was there, if I was there after kids had gone to bed, etc.). I think you’re right not to want them to feel obligated to do something extra. Could you maybe recognize it quarterly? Either pay them extra in recognition of the past work, or get them a Starbucks/wherever they like to go giftcard as a thank you. It’s recognizing the work without building in an expectation that they must always do it.

      1. curious

        We always recognize when something extra is done plus we always recognize our sitters on special occasions – Christmas, birthdays, prom, school trip. We’ve been told by our “helpers” one of the reasons they are so loyal to us is because we are fair and go above & beyond with compensation. They’ve earned it. I like your phrasing of “of course we’ll pay your extra”. I have one sitter who doesn’t want to deal with dogs (fair enough), but another who will make a babysitting activity of taking a walk and bring the dog. I feel that second sitter deserves a little extra.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger

        Yeah, our petsitters have always taken in the mail and moved the garbage and recycling cans to the curb and back when applicable as part of their job. For smaller tasks, I would just give them a bonus or gift card for “going the extra mile” once a year, or even smaller ones every month or two. For tasks you normally pay for separately, I’d gently insist on paying them, because they shouldn’t devalue their work.

        1. curious

          Usually what we do is when we pay them, we will include extra money and tell them they did more than we were expecting, we pay for doing double duty, here is your total pay. Our sitters do not usually carry change around with them, so it almost “forces” them to be compensated for two separate tasks.

    2. TooTiredToThink

      They are teenagers and most teenagers want money. You said they are also responsible. But they are also teenagers. For most of them you’d need to be really explicit and say – hey we are paying you x for this job but if you do job y as well you can earn more money.

      Quite frankly; as not a teenager – if I was being paid to walk the dog – I would not then put away the dishes unless we had previously agreed that I was to do light house keeping chores. Even if I saw it as something that needed to be done; I wouldn’t do it.

      1. curious

        I totally agree. Please know we are not trying to take advantage of anyone. I should clarify that something like putting the dishes away, is more that when babysitting they had a snack… instead of leaving the plate in the sink, please put it in the dishwasher or rinse it off. I guess I have to be pretty clear with how we present it.

        1. TooTiredToThink

          Oh! Yes! A babysitter should always clean up after themselves. I thought you were talking about them putting your dishes away (like after they dried). But yeah; that’s just common decency in any work place and should be expected.

      2. BottleBlonde

        Yes, I was frequent babysitter as a teen, and I’d say pretty responsible. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to do any housework other than cleaning up after whatever I was doing with the kids. Probably because my mom was so particular about cleaning, if a babysitter ever did any housekeeping at our house she probably would have considered it kind but a nuisance!

        1. valentine

          They may be afraid of getting in trouble for doing things you’ve not asked for. Send them an email listing bonus tasks and their pay rate and invite them to suggest more. Be explicit about how and what they’re allowed to do and what you want them to do.

    3. BugSwallowersAnonymous

      I think you can just ask! I would have loved any opportunity to make a few extra bucks as a teenager. I think you just have to be prepared that they might say no.

      1. curious

        We’re fine with whatever they decide. We want their main focus to be what we’re hiring them for. It’s more for example, while babysitting if you want to take the dog out of the crate he’s been in for the past few hours you can. If you do take him out, he is crate trained hence might have an accident outside the crate having been cooped up, but my child and the dog love to play together. I’m fine if they say no, the teenager was hired to babysit, not dog sit.

    4. Canonical23

      Just frame it as “X is the base rate. If you have time to do [dishes, sweeping, etc] we’ll pay Y instead, but don’t feel obligated if things are busy.”

      1. Où est la bibliothèque?

        I would establish their interest in the additional work upfront. “Do you think you’d be interested in also doing [X]? We would change your pay to [$X]. I wouldn’t have them decide whether or not to do the additional work while they’re doing the main job.

        1. curious

          Agree. We also try to make it their choice. For example if you are watering the plants, if you want to let the dog out to stretch his legs that’s fine but please clean up after him if there is an accident. If you want to leave him in the crate, where he is crate trained, we have a relative coming over in an hour to let him out. It’s your choice how you want the afternoon to go. We try to present it as all angles are covered.

    5. Overeducated

      I’d just ask them outright. When you’re working in someone’s home people have different ideas of what’s ok – for example, when I babysat as a teenager, some people liked having dishes in the sink and other such minor cleaning done, and some people didn’t because they wanted 100% focus on their kids and thought clean up took away from that. (I learned that the hard way by taking initiative.) It has to be helpful to set those expectations clearly instead of hoping teenagers will guess correctly.

      1. curious

        Agreed. We’ve always told the teenagers we’re hiring you for x but do whatever you feel comfortable with. We just never really said we’d pay extra (reading that, it sounds unprofessional). We’ve always compensated. I guess I just don’t want anyone to think we are asking for something for free but don’t want them to feel obligated either.

  40. Ms. Meow

    TL;DR: Is there any reasonable way to get more/different people to volunteer for events and committees?

    My work site has ~500 employees in varying roles. We have long running committees on site (events, new employees, etc) and smaller one-off committees for special events. I got started on this path when I was volun-told to help with an event committee, but I really enjoyed it and now I’m on one long standing committee and help out with several of the one-off committees throughout the year.

    The thing is that it tends to be the same roughly 20 people who are on all the committees. I would love to have new blood, and we’ve had a lot of new hires and transfers so there are plenty of people who may want to help. What is the best way to go about this? Recruitment meetings? Ask functional managers to bring it up during group meetings? Asking the new employee committee to give a list of groups/events/activities that they can join? Any other suggestions?

    1. CBH

      I’d definitely have as many of the commitments that can be done during the day, done then. I find that people don’t mind the 1-2 times a year helping outside of their normal business hours, but expecting organizational meeting upon meeting done on their own time really had a negative affect. Can you company make it a requirement? All employees must volunteer for one event a year or so many hours per year? Also how receptive are managers too these committees? If someone stays late to help at an event, is the manager upset they didn’t stay late for their own department another day? Is there a way to offer an incentive to join? Maybe a signup list on an internal signup board? Good luck!

      1. Ms. Meow

        Thanks for the suggestions!

        None of the committees meet outside of business hours. The only thing that happens on evenings or weekends are planned happy hours or family activities with lots of notice, advanced sign ups, and voluntary participation. The company definitely won’t make it a requirement, but I was thinking of asking managers to bring it up during 1:1 goal setting meetings that are going on during February. It’s a great development and networking opportunity, so I think that might be my best angle.

      2. CBH

        Do you have newsletter or company email where you can give specifics… on sunday we are looking for 3 volunteers for 1 hour to do XYZ? People may be nervous that volunteering means for every event and every task.

    2. DolphinFeels

      I’m interested in feedback on this as I see the same trend where I work (and I’m one of those 20 who is sitting on about 8 committees right now)!

    3. londonedit

      Argh, I think this is an issue with just about every group/club/etc! We have the same with my running club. Hundreds of members, yet we struggle to fill committee positions every year and it’s always the same 20 people who volunteer to help lead sessions, run with our beginners’ group, or anything else we need occasional help with. I ended up being on the committee for three years because I’m an ‘Oh for heaven’s sake, I’ll just do it myself if no one else will step up’ sort of person, and I’ve had to consciously step back!

      We’ve tried having ‘volunteer drives’ as part of our monthly social night – encouraging people to chat to existing volunteers and committee members about what different roles involve (as a lot of people are worried about getting roped into something that will take up a ton of time) and generally trying to get people a bit more enthused about volunteering. We also have to remind people on a regular basis that the club is staffed entirely by volunteers, as sometimes people don’t actually realise that and have extremely high expectations.

      I think having a list of things that people can sign up to do is a really good idea – people can get overwhelmed by ‘Hey, sign up to volunteer!’ and seem less so by ‘We’re looking for 5 people to make cakes for after Sunday’s race; please sign up’. We also issue regular reminders about things we need volunteers for – it might seem like you’re always banging on about it but sometimes people do just need that constant reminder so it doesn’t slip into ‘Oh…yeah, I’ll get round to that…’ territory.

      1. Philosophia

        TL;DR: Whether in the workplace or outside it (although this screed has turned out to be more about volunteering in the world than in the workplace), is your group perennially asking too much of its volunteer pool?

        As one with experience on both sides of the recruiting table, as it were, I endorse several of londonedit’s suggestions. Explaining what different roles involve—and offering, say, a deputy position to start—is a very good way to help people realize that yes, they could fill those shoes, or no, they won’t have the time during the coming year to do the position justice, but check back with them the next time it opens up. It’s also valuable for an organization to be open to splitting a role or reallocating responsibilities. And breaking out specific and time-limited tasks is more productive than demanding ill-defined and open-ended commitments.

        It’s a problem, though, when leaders fail to recognize that they are asking for more than the volunteer pool can provide. Their ambition and enthusiasm can blind them to the reality of the group’s resources—time and money and energy and skill—and the extent of the group’s interest. They become disappointed and even resentful when the response is insufficient to carry out plans they have unilaterally made, and the overly dedicated members of the group who take on too much in an effort to please them eventually burn out.

        So my advice is that before asking whether there’s any reasonable way to get more/different people to volunteer for events and committees, determine whether they care about all those events and the work of all those committees. If so, are there enough people with enough resources to produce all the events and fill all the committees? If not, which events and which committees matter to them most, and who can and will volunteer for them? Do few things thoroughly rather than many things skimpily, and build from there.

    4. AMA Long-time Lurker

      I appreciate you asking this question! I’ve been voluntold for several committees myself, and it has been a huge turnoff to see the same people organizing these events and resources that everyone else takes advantage of. If this is useful, I’m no longer on these committees for the following reason: I was always told that committee work would reflect well in my performance review – demonstrating competencies like team-work, collaboration, forward-thinking, etc. – but all in all, they turned out to just be a good way to meet people and to be heaped with a lot more administrative responsibility that doesn’t result in raises/promotions. I have put in so much work outside of my core job function (I had the bandwidth) hoping it would reflect well in my reviews, but it really didn’t play a role. So, IMO, the best way to make these committees attractive is to make them have REAL professional development and career advancement opportunities. Don’t make the activities fluffy – let them be real opportunities for project management and interfacing with upper management so the people putting in the work will be rewarded down the road.

    5. Pescadero

      Make it somehow beneficial to volunteer.

      You’re asking people to do extra work – for what benefit?

    6. writelhd

      go directly to the newer blood you’d like to recruit and pitch it to them. The personal touch can help.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Yes, this works in rural communities, too. The direct personal invite is effective. The bonus here is you can pick people who seem to have the skill sets the committee needs.

    7. Gumby

      Ask directly. People might think “that sounds like it might be fun” but not take action to volunteer, but just saying “sure” when directly asked is easy. But, obviously, ask in such a way that no one is pressured.

      Give specifics. Let people know the time commitment and days/times of meeting (or if it’s flexible).

      Let some balls drop. If the monthly social outing looks to be in danger of not happening, more people might find the time to join a planning group. (Also, your current volunteers should get a rest. So if some balls drop and no one picks them up, maybe they didn’t need to be in the air to start with.)

  41. Mbarr

    Any advice about not getting your hopes up about a job interview? I have an interview on Monday that I’m SUPER excited for, and have multiple referrals for. Now I keep catching myself zoning out at my current job, mentally disengaging, already assuming I’m getting the job. I need to be realistic that there’s a chance I might not get the job… But it’s just so hard to keep getting work assignments and being all, “Nyah, nyah! I’m not going to have to deal with this!”

    1. CastIrony

      Allison’s free interview guide has tips on that*. I have some of my own:
      1) Imagine your “new job” being the one worse job than your current one (This happened to me once.)
      2) You don’t want that job.*
      3) Start planning on what you will do once you get rejected.
      4) Accept the warmth of temporary hope and use it to be extra productive (easier said than done) and warm at your current job so that they can say you left in good terms if you get the job.
      5) No interview means that you will get the job. You can do everything right, but a better candidate or their favorite one can get the job you hope for so much.
      6) It’s okay to be bitter over a job rejection. However, you still have to be courteous at work.

      I hope this helps a little. I apologize for the tone of this comment. Good luck at your interview!

      Sincerely,
      A Job Search Pessimist in Disguise

    2. writelhd

      Let it be over the fact that you’re job searching and it’s likely to eventually succeed so you don’t have to deal with this anymore, but not about “this particular” job. Look at it like a distance race, not a sprint, where this is progress and preparing is valuable work you can be doing to move on, but it’s not a guarantee or a sure thing yet, and it’s better to not think of it like it is. Think of it as a productive thing to be doing to help get you out without fixating it as THE ONLY THING that can get you out. Just be excited it’s something that *could*, but if it doesn’t, it’s productive practice for whenever the something that could does actually come, and it will! You just can’t know when at this point in the race.

  42. Diatryma

    What tips do you have for when you’re new at a job and there’s nothing to do?

    I’ve just started a new job and am being trained on the various tasks. But between the weather and a few unrelated things, we just don’t have work– people left early, but I didn’t have personal time accrued yet, and I wasn’t supposed to do personal things like write this question or read or play Pokémon. For the most part, I ignored that, because a couple hours to myself with one or two people dropping in, sometimes with a quick task, is kind of unbearable… but optics, and I want to be visibly ready to work (while not springing up like a golden retriever every time someone entered in hopes they’d have something for me to do). What else could I have done? I read and reread training materials, but when your job is cataloguing llamas and the haven’t come in yet, there’s not much to do.

    1. merp

      In this situation I’ve done things like work-related (ish) research. Industry or academic papers about what others are doing in my area, designing fake projects based on the work those people were doing and what would look like at my organization. If there’s any new systems in this job for you (for me, it’s been a data viz software), you could improve on that and do practice projects.

      Hard situation to be in though! Hope you get to be busier soon!

      1. Diatryma

        Thanks for the ideas– that’s a lot of what I’ve been doing, but I’ve been limited by not having the capacity for practice in our system. It’s real or nothing, basically. My scope widens each week in terms of what I’ve been trained to do, but it’s hard to be trained when there’s nothing to train on.

    2. Admin of Sys

      Related research, as stated – industry articles and such. But if there’s not much published or relatable specific to your job, then try any sort of ‘better employee’ type training or studying. Read tips on how to be a better presenter, try out a new project management technique, get better at excel or other tools used for the job, write a wish list of the type of employee you want to be and how you think you can get there, etc. Basically, do things that count as making you better at being a good employee, even if they’re not specifically ‘your job is to sort llamas.’ Heck, if there’s any chance being bilingual is useful in your job, language studies work too.

      1. Diatryma

        Oh, that’s a good plan. It’s also one that justifies me checking this site so often (I try not to, but there really isn’t enough work, and I get really stressed after a certain point.) Thanks!

        1. ..Kat..

          Do you use any software for your job? Training in that software could be helpful. And anything related: llama foot care, llama lullabyes, famous llama herders, etc.

          1. Diatryma

            For the first week, I didn’t have access to it fully, and what I do with it is so specialized that there aren’t a lot of useful guides– I needed hands-on practice to really see what I was doing. I did end up on a subreddit related to one aspect of it, so that worked. Thanks!

    3. MonteCristo85

      Can you just start poking around in what will be your job? Don’t know how to translate into llamas (lol), but when I started my accounting job I just basically spent a few weeks looking at every single account and all the transactions and reports in the system. Just to familiarize myself with the goings on. It really helped once things got going.

      1. Southern Yankee

        This! In the only job I ever had with nothing much to do for about 3 months, I traced every GL account into the cost statements so that I knew how all the detail information rolled up. It was extremely helpful down the road when I need it and didn’t have to take the time to trace it all. I also took over all the testing of our part of the system (mainframe at the time) and I soon knew a lot about how that worked.

        So, if you can translate accounting into the equivalent in llama, maybe that would work. You said your system is real only, no practice, but there might be a “test” system even if there isn’t a training version. Good Luck!

        1. Diatryma

          Well, the weather’s getting better, so maybe the llamas will come in from the moors. Only in less ridiculous analogies. *Everyone* has been remarking on how slow it is, and how little work, and how they wish there were more for me to do. Maybe we’ll be swamped next week and I’ll feel great. Thanks!

  43. AnonEmu

    One week till I move to Australia! Thanks all for your advice re leaving the last job, and re interviewing at this one. Does anyone have tips re culture moving from US to Australia? FWIW I am going to be working at a university and there’s a lot of expats from different countries in the department.

    Very excited for this new journey, and for all the exciting science I will be doing there! Thanks so much to everyone who advised me to leave my old job and helped me find this one.

    1. Foreign Octopus

      I’m so excited for you!

      No advice except to have a great time and don’t be freaked out by a Golden Gaytime (Tagline: it’s hard to have a gaytime on your own). They’re a type of ice cream but I didn’t know that when I was offered one by someone asking “fancy a gaytime, mate?”. So maybe actually Google Australian food first, just so you don’t have a near on heart attack when they ask you if you fancy something to eat.

      1. AnonEmu

        Any time I’m having is a gaytime ^^ but now I have a fantastic pun to use! XD I snickered like mad the first time I saw one of those tbh. Thanks!

    2. It's Business Time

      Which city are you moving to and from which US City? I moved from Melb to the Bay Area and while it has not been too difficult, there are always things that pop up, I always use the wrong words to describe things and the accent sometimes gets in the way. I believe there are some groups on facebook for US expats in Australia, we have the same for over here and I find it very helpful to connect to fellow Aussies here in the US as we have similar experiences.

      I hope you love it there and have a good experience!

      1. AnonEmu

        I’m moving from the Bay Area to a rural area to do some research on livestock. It’s not going to be a very big town, but I’ve lived all over the US before, I’m from Miami originally but I went to college in the Midwest. Thanks for the suggestion of Facebook!

        1. It's Business Time

          Ahh ok, there may be some adjustments for you just with not having so many conveniences (and internet may not be the best either, as I hear alot of complaints even from the capital cities as well) but you will probably be able to get the best coffees anywhere you go! People are pretty friendly and it if you are an outdoors person you will probably enjoy it alot more too! Hope it all goes well for you and make sure you bring alot of sunscreen and a good hat!

          1. AnonEmu

            Yeah it looks like the town goes dead on Sundays except for grocery stores, so I may make that my day to do cooking, watch TV, etc. There’s a lot of NBN providers in town, so I just need to find which ones service my place (which will happen once I find an apartment). I am amazed at how cheap cell phone data is! I pay way more for less with Verizon atm. Looking forward to having weekends off for the first time in forever, too, so I will have -time- to cook.

            Definitely an outdoors person, looking forward to biking everywhere ^^

    3. Electric sheep

      I am Australian! Let me know if you have any questions. *tries to think of useful info* Apparently Australians are way more chill about swearing than most countries, fyi. Also tipping isn’t really a thing here, the service is part of the bill. Oh and the tax is in the bill too, so what you see listed as the price is almost always what you’ll actually pay.
      I hope you enjoy your stay!

      1. Approval is optional

        Australian here too, I live in the city now but lived in a rural area for many years. Don’t forget to drive on the ‘correct’ side of the road! Keep in mind that when confronted with a risky situation while driving, we tend to react before we think, and we tend to steer to the side of the road our instincts tell us we should be on. And watch out for kangaroos on the road – they can do an incredible amount of damage to your car. I second the sunscreen and hat. It’s summer here at the moment – and the hottest on record in some(most?) areas, so brace yourself for heat.
        We are definitely more chill about swearing – you’ll probably hear the ‘c’ word more than you are used to.
        And don’t say ‘fanny’ for backside – different thing here. :)

        1. Electric Sheep

          Oh yeah! And we don’t ‘root’ for our sports teams (it also means something different!). Try support or barrack instead.

          1. AnonEmu

            Good to know re driving/instincts – I’m kind of a nervous driver here in the US anyways so I’m actually planning on biking everywhere I can and taking public transit the rest of the time, but I will be careful of drivers and kangaroos. Is it best to bike facing traffic or with traffic?

            Totally used to heat – from Miami originally but currently experiencing Snowmageddon here in the Midwest. Heat will be a relief, and hopefully I can find a nice tower fan for wherever I wind up living.

            Noted re rooting – I am not the biggest sports person (unless Eurovision counts), but good to know.

            If I’m in northish NSW, what do I need to be on the lookout for re snakes/spiders? I got some new hiking sneakers that come up over my ankles, but I admit I’m used to US snakes and even the ones back home in FL tended to be not very aggressive, and my reaction to black widows out in CA was “immobilize with hair spray and then kill it by throwing something heavy at it”.

            1. Approval is optional

              If Miami is humid then the heat in NSW might actually be more bearable.
              I’m pretty sure bike riders have to follow road rules in NSW(not my home state), so ride with traffic. Helmets are compulsory which I gather isn’t always the case in the US.
              Most Australian snakes are ‘timid’ and will avoid you, and I don’t think the more aggressive ones are common where you’re going – if you stay out of long grass and stop moving when you see one so it can move away, you should be fine: they rarely want to waste venom on a non-threatening non-food object. I currently have a big eastern brown living in my garden – we give each other space while I wait for someone to relocate it for me, and it hasn’t been a problem.
              Funnel web spiders I don’t know about so perhaps a NSW person could give you tips on those – red backs are like black widows I think with regard to places they like to live and so on.

            2. Electric Sheep

              Not sure about biking in the country, but be prepared for aggressive drivers (some Australians are impatient towards cyclists, sorry to say) and think about wearing high vis. Legally you are a road vehicle and must follow most of the same rules as cars including riding on the left with the other traffic, but how that applies to local roads I’m not sure. You also must legally wear a helmet, not sure if it’s compusory or not in the US.
              Note also that we stick to the left on footpaths and when standing on escalators, btw!

              Eurovision! Australia is competing this year again. Hopefully you can find some fellow enthusiasts.

              Snakes, mostly just keep an eye out and give them space. Very few people get bitten and they tend to be handling the snake at the the time.
              Spiders, be more wary of them hiding the the garden. Here’s some info from the NSW state govt, although again your overall risk is low. Your local colleagues can give you some region specific info! https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/avoiding-tick-spider-bites.aspx
              We also have huntsmen spiders, which are harmless but quite large and black.

              Total subject change, but one thing that some non-Australians don’t realize is that Canberra is our capital, where the federal govt sits, not Sydney. ‘Those idiots in Canberra’ are always politicians. Also our conservative/right wing party is called the Liberals. (Lower l liberals are left wing though!)

              Both regional areas and more northern areas of Australia tend to be more right wing, and are more likely to be white. People may try to tell you Australia has no class system, but they are wrong, we just have one and try to pretend we don’t. As you would expect, it’s a bit of a conversational minefield.

              1. AnonEmu

                US it’s compulsory or not depending on where you live – I’m paranoid about wearing mine regardless. I admit I am hoping that living in a town where there’s a research center people will be a bit more liberal, but from what I’ve gathered even Australian conservatives are more liberal than the right wing of American politics? In the US scheme of things I’m a flaming liberal but idk where that’d map in Australia.

                What are some mines to dodge re class? I admit I am unsure how to map US to Australian socioeconomic views, etc, and money and such is something I’d discuss with close friends but would feel very uncomfortable discussing with people my parents’ age or older, or even casual acquaintances. I also admit I don’t tend to discuss religion or politics at work, either (for the most part).

                1. Approval is optional

                  University towns do tend to liberal compared to the rural areas that surround them I’ve found. And I think you’re right – a flaming liberal there won’t be at an extreme here (I was so far left when I was in the US they didn’t really have a word for me (well, some people did but they weren’t polite words), and I’m not at the extreme here (close of course).
                  I think social classes in Australia are mostly built around jobs, (and by extension income, location of residence, education etc). You will be ‘defaulted’ into a class because of your employment (simplification but mostly works). The difference from the UK (and thus why we tend to think we’re classless as a society) is that one can move through the classes and it is (largely) unrelated to ‘caste’ -eg in the UK you can be an unemployed drifter and still stay upper-class if your father is the Earl of X. The minefield is actually saying we have classes – do as we do, and pretend they don’t exist, and should be cool.
                  Australians rarely discuss religion in my experience, because we’re not a particularly religious society (even those who identify as religious are often not regular church goers for example) so we’re not that interested in it. Politics we do talk about – but more to say how ‘crap’ all politicians are :) – at work though, it’s generally not discussed much with people who are ‘only’ coworkers. I think, sadly, you might run into some anti-American sentiment from some people – unlikely to be coworkers though. It has always existed, but post-Trump it’s probably more noticeable (according to my friends who still have ‘American’ accents.) And conversely, some right wing ‘yay, we want to make Australia great again too’, folks.
                  Australian by and large aren’t big sharers of personal information, so you won’t be seen as strange if you don’t discuss religion, politics, money etc.
                  Oh – watch out for magpies when you’re out and about – we fear them more than any snake or spider.

                2. AnonEmu

                  Thanks for all the advice! I have been warned near magpies – is bribing them preemptively a good idea or was that more of a joking suggestion? Because if tossing them hotdog slices before swooping season buys me protection, I will totally do that – I’ll be biking to work daily and I am fine with bribing the local wildlife.

    4. Quandong

      Not a culture tip, but a health & safety one: take sunsafe recommendations seriously, especially if you’re going to be doing fieldwork.

      I hope you really enjoy your new job! And lots of excellent coffee!

      1. Quandong

        I’m also Australian and happy to answer questions.

        Don’t say ‘rooting’ when you mean ‘barracking’, the meaning here is different!

      2. AnonEmu

        Weird question, but know of any gluten-free high SPF sunscreens? In the US I buy target store brand, but idk re Australian brands, and at least in the US, gluten tends to pop up in skin stuff a lot bc of using wheat as a vitamin E source. I lost a grandfather to skin cancer complications and I’m paranoid about protection in the sun.

        Not a coffee person but I am addicted to tea and have been assured by my new boss there is a lot of good tea to be found in stores. Are Australians really that horrified by microwaving water for tea, btw? I saw an electric kettle in the office canteen, at least. And I am excited to try all the new kinds of honey!

        Very excited re the new job, it will certainly be an adventure!

        1. Electric Sheep

          Microwaving to heat water is unusual here! I understand that kettles in the us aren’t very common due to the low voltage, so you might be pleasantly surprised by the faster boil time here.

          On that note, we have 240 volt power, so check to make sure any electronics are compatible/ what adaptors you need.

          There is lots of nice tea and tasty local honeys. I like yellow gum, if you see any.

          You might find that there are fewer brands in general than in the US, and that shipping takes longer and is more expensive – Australia has a much lower population and is a big country so the market isn’t as large and postage costs are higher. Free returns are rare, too.

          But ultimately it’s still a British heritage, English speaking, western country! So not that different.

        2. Quandong

          I use Moogoo Natural Sunscreen SPF40 – it’s zinc based. The complete ingredients list is available on the Moogoo website, it seems to contain no gluten.

        3. TL -

          not sure about gf sunscreen, but keep in mind same brands have different ingredients down under, so don’t assume you can eat brands you can in the states – wheat often replaces corn in Aus/NZ manufacturing.

          Some of the weirder stuff for me (in NZ, spent last summer in Aus): talking politics here is much more socially acceptable and generally less heated. People will often want to talk/criticize American politics to you; they will generally assume you agree with them/think American politics should look more like Western European politics, and they generally know very little about American politics beyond major headlines and specific policy decisions that affect their country. (But someone who is well-informed generally makes for fascinating conversations.) This may or may not bother you, depending on your political outlook and sense of nuance. Also, people tend towards a Hollywoodized view of American culture – we export a lot of our media and people’s take aways from it vary a lot.

          Americans are highly self-critical and have (thankfully) very prominent minority voices that consistently call attention to the issues they face in our country – some of that is numbers, as 10% of our country is more than the entire population of Australia – which is not the culture down under as much. My experience has been that while lots of people are quite comfortable talking about American issues, there is not the same level of comfort talking about the issues within their own country. There are exceptions (and those are again fascinating conversations to have) and it is much more pronounced in NZ than Aus, but it’s a bit of a weird thing to see in action.

          Also, the Australians call difficult subjects “confronting” as in “Many people find this exhibit on the AIDS crisis quite confronting.”
          Flip flops are sometimes called jandals, which is a shortened version of Japanese sandals – you can decide your own comfort level with that. People use the c word a lot. It does not have the same significance it has in the USA but literally everyone I have asked not to use that word in conversation with me has been really respectful and understood why I didn’t like hearing that word. Also, that is the C in “they’re a good C” or “GC.”

          The health system in Australia is great; I had a massive drug resistant kidney infection in Sydney (literally for 1.75 of the two months I was there) and got really excellent, reasonably-priced care. It might be a little different in a rural town, but I felt really secure even though I was very sick and on my own. All 5 doctors I ended up seeing (it was A Thing) were great.

          Work/life balance is really important and encouraged. Health and safety regulations seem a little extreme at times, but nothing that prevents you from doing things, just can be frustrating in the moment.

          Travel if you can! Australia is full of lots of cool things you can’t see anywhere else and there is a love of experiencing life in their culture that is amazing. And try a flat white – their coffee is so much better/different than ours that you may like it.

          1. TL -

            Oh! Do not miss flights – you have to buy a whole new ticket, no matter the reason. And if you miss the first leg of an international flight, you will have been booted from the return flight as well. They are often not clear about that when rebooking and it can be a really unpleasant surprise at the end of an international trip.

          2. AnonEmu

            My new job seems like they take work/life balance very seriously which is great – I am looking forward to actually having a life for once. There’s a lot of nice bike trails near where I’ll be and I am looking forward to biking more.

            My mom is worried that if I discuss politics at work I’ll suddenly become a lightning rod for any anti-american sentiment, but also that I’ll be viewed as disloyal because I’m willing to say negative things about US politics – is that a legit thing to worry about? FWIW I’m pretty vocal with my friends here in the US re my views on current politics, but I wouldn’t dare make comments about Australian politics as I don’t really know much about them. I’m not usually a discuss politics at work sort of person, but at the same time, idk the best way to respond if I am directly asked?

            Also looking forward to traveling once I get settled – I’ve been to Sydney before, but I’d love to see more of the country (and see wombats again, they are my favorite Australian mammal and I love the little tank bears).

            Thanks for all the advice!

            1. Quandong

              I think if you gauge the tone of your workplace, and get to know people there before you engage in discussions of politics, that you will be okay. My guess is that you’ll be more likely to encounter people outside of work who will want to talk about politics with you!

              It’s extremely unlikely that you will be viewed as disloyal if you say negative things about US politics. In Australia we tend to be cynical, we have a low level of trust in politicians, and you will notice a Lot of negative sentiments expressed about our government and Prime Minister.

              1. AlsoAussie

                I agree – most of the Americans i know here want to vent about US politics, and most Australians would be sympathetic to that I think. Universities here also tend to employ quite a few Americans, and we have so much of your TV that Aussies won’t be fazed by accent, word choices etc. If you’re interested in learning about people and places, you shouldn’t have any trouble.

                I’m in Brisbane, and if you’re in the university town in northern NSW that I think you’re talking about, it’s got a reputation for being a leftie hippie area – especially Nimbin and Byron Bay. Also pretty gay-friendly I’d say. Apparently the Northern Rivers Rail Trail is very good for cycling, and the coastline of NNSW is gorgeous.

                1. AnonEmu

                  Noted for vacations! Hoping to travel to Brisbane at some point as I have a colleague there I’d like to visit. I admit I am so excited to see all the new wildlife – at some point I want to go further south so I can see a wombat in its natural habitat, rather than in the “pay $20 and take a wombat in a doggie harness for a walk and pat it gently” I did at the zoo on my first trip to Australia (which was totally worth it, wombats are blessed little tank bears and my favorite marsupial). Looking forward to seeing all the new birds as well!

                  I am definitely interested in learning more about Australia and its people – very excited to take the new job and not only do exciting research but to explore a new continent ^^

            2. TL -

              You won’t be viewed as disloyal. Most people I’ve met have assumed that I am 100% for changing American policies to look more like Western European socialist policies without asking me what I think at all.

          3. AlsoAussie

            we don’t call flip flops jandals in Australia – that’s a kiwi thing – we call them thongs. And yes, we’re aware that they are also skimpy underwear. Somehow we cope with the double meaning!

  44. TooTiredToThink

    This week my supervisor comes up to me and says “Hey Tired, you doing anything? Can you come with me to this interview?”

    What. Just what. I was like – um, ok. I suddenly became so thankful for this site. Cause I’d never been on that side of the interview process before.

    1. TootsNYC

      tell us more! Did you come away with any interesting insights? Did you learn anything?

      Did you contribute to the questioning?

      1. TooTiredToThink

        I actually did have a question that I ended up asking. Mainly I ended up keeping most of my thoughts to myself because this wasn’t a first interview and I wasn’t sure what they had already answered previously. But my main takeaway was because of this site I was able to not just panic and knew how to stay calm and more professional (I tend to have a lot of anxiety when something is new). Also, my hiring process was MUCH different than what they were hiring for so I actually didn’t know the process at all. So I didn’t want to step in it either.

        Mainly I was there to have a second person more than I was anticipated to contribute.

    1. Anonysand

      My husband is a 1099 contractor and we just put his 1099 details into our software- without inputting expenses, mileage, or my W2s, our owed tax is just over $9k. I know that we can get it down to a more manageable number (like we do every year), but it’s enough to keep me awake at night until then.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch

      I kept track of all my payments received with a spreadsheet while doing my contract work and put the taxes away in a separate account. It saved me from any hell come tax time.

      But I’m an accountant and make spreadsheets for everything.

  45. Middle Manager

    Update on my low performer who wanted new projects (https://www.askamanager.org/2018/08/bad-morale-points-of-no-return-my-office-book-club-is-always-late-and-more.html).

    I completed a very honest annual performance review and gave it to my boss and his boss at the very start of the review period. They were still very resistant to going forward with it and made us run it by HR. Luckily, I found an ally in HR who very much supported me in holding my employee accountable. She was given a poor annual performance review and put on a performance improvement plan.

    On the down side, my two bosses are never going to support me in letting her go if she doesn’t improve. They made that pretty abundantly clear in the days after we started her PIP and they immediately started trying to cave to her demands to lower the expectations of her. But on the positive, she is taking the PIP very seriously. I don’t think she’s going to be a great employee, because she fundamentally lacks some critical skills that are beyond my supervision to provide her (think she is a bus driver who is can barely drive). But if she at the very least gets the minimal work down that she is capable of on time and with any improvement, I think that’s the win I have to take out of this.

    Also, I’m looking for a new job. I like my bosses personally, but their refusal to manage and to let their managers manage is really contributing to a poor culture and this experience made that really clear.

    1. Shark Whisperer

      Thanks for the update! I love updates!

      It sucks that your bosses won’t let you actually do your job, but you should be proud that you tried to actually do a good job, even if your were hamstrung.

    2. Binky

      Have you asked them why they won’t support you, when they clearly see the issues in her performance? This is purely for my curiosity, I’m fascinated as to why some bosses are so resistant to managing.

      1. Middle Manager

        I really struggle to understand their reasoning. My immediate boss just doesn’t seem to want the hassle of firing her and is really worried about her accusing us of racism. My opinion on that is she is an incredible hassle to have on staff already and let her accuse me, everything is incredibly well documented, she’s going to lose that fight. His boss seems to just want to be seen as “the nice one” by everyone to the extreme. Both of them appear to have fully bought into the “you can’t fire anyone here” myth. Honestly though, my employee is just not a problem for them, they get me as a buffer.

        It’s a great case study on why managing is important. They are bending over backwards to keep an incompetent employee happy and that will result in her staying until she retires. In doing so though, they’ve so frustrated me, an outstanding employee according to my performance review, that I’ve got a foot out the door now.

      2. TootsNYC

        some people just don’t like firing anyone. It yanks the person’s income out from under their feet; it feels mean sometimes.

        1. Middle Manager

          True. I don’t like the idea of firing someone. And the idea makes me feel terrible for anyone personally. But at the day, the work is the point at work. If someone can’t do the job, even with additional training and support, aren’t we responsible as managers to the company (or in my case to the tax payers).

  46. Où est la bibliothèque?

    My office is so wasteful, and it drives me nuts.

    Plastic straws in the kitchens (in a city that’s working to ban them). Disposable cups, plates, cutlery. We barely recycle paper, and recycle nothing else. A Keurig, of course. The norm is that anytime someone prints a chart or a memo for herself, she prints one for everyone on her team, whether or not they need it. They’re constantly ordering new little bits of unnecessary branded plastic junk (pencil holders, keychains, stress balls, etc). And people throw batteries in the trash! We’re a lefty educational nonprofit, so it all feels hypocritical.

    Do I try to swim against the tide and object to all the waste?

      1. valentine

        Even if they are problems, they’re not yours to fix.

        My understanding is disabled people need plastic straws.

        1. SavannahMiranda

          The plastic straws thing is utterly mystifying to me.

          Well not utterly. I know about microplastics and the oceans and food chains and all that. Save me the sermon for the love of all that is environmental and holy.

          But seriously, straws? It’s a bizarre and precise fixation. It’s so narrow and blinkered. It’s a little bit like the tired old edict to turn off the water when brushing your teeth. Which yeah, sure. Why not.

          But that’s not where our national water waste is coming from. It’s just not. It’s a nice value add. But it’s not actually going to change the world. And plastic straws are not the utter height of deviltry.

          We have more important issues people.

    1. Bunny Girl

      I feel like a lot of offices are sort of wasteful and use a bunch of disposable stuff because there’s a lot of people who won’t work to keep the kitchen clean and will let dishes and mugs pile up in the sink if that’s the option. I think it depends on your office whether or not you want to start that war. Maybe look into recyclable stuff instead?

      1. angrywithnumbers

        My office got rid of the disposable stuff and it has been awful. We have a dishwasher but most people ignore it and it does a terrible job of cleaning stuff. The office has broken down into three groups, people like me who bring their own stuff in and take care of cleaning it. People who individually or as groups bought their own disposable stuff and the people who use the stuff provided and make a huge mess in the kitchen.

      2. MattKnifeNinja

        My breakroom went from marginally livable to room size petri dish when disposable utensils/plates/cups were banned.

        Our dishwasher is beyond gross (unusable?) because a certain jerk loaded up the dishes with food on them into the washer. Didn’t run the machine. The smell is ungodly. I thinks it’s going on week 2 that the dirty dishes are still there.

        Remember everyone will say they care about that sea turtles are not strangled by plastic rings, doesn’t mean they’ll do a damn thing to clean up an breakroom.

        You know your less tidy coworkers. If it’s a semi pit with disposable, it will be full dumpster with kicking it old school.

    2. Folkie

      I would find this annoying AF too. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with raising it but you may not get very far. I would still try, though, especially if I could align it with the mission of the nonprofit in a way that wasn’t too tenuous.

    3. fromscratch

      With Earth Day in April, maybe start a discussion about some things you could do and use Earth Day as an “excuse” – educational campaigns, recycling efforts, etc

    4. Shark Whisperer

      I am biased in that I work with marine debris, but I think you can do something. I wouldn’t try to tackle all the waste at once. Here are my suggestion for first steps:
      – Can you form a sustainability committee for your office? That might help get the ball rolling on thinking about disposables when having events or not ordering plastic junk
      – Are the disposable plates and cutlery for people in the office to use? If you want to incur a cost yourself, buy some plates and cutlery from a thrift store and put them in the kitchen and let everyone know that they are there for everyone to use
      – If you want to take on the responsibility, set up a bin to collect batteries. Either just a cardboard box and transport them to a collection site yourself. Or get a bin through Call2Recycle or similar service
      – Is someone in the office supplying the plastic straws? If so, talk to them about the ban and make sure they don’t stock any more

      1. Où est la bibliothèque?

        We actually have real dishes and cutlery, people just don’t use them. (And if they do, it seems like they always leave them sitting in the sink, and then there’s a cycle of indignant your-mother-doesn’t-work-here emails).

        I will actually put out a box for dead batteries, that’s probably the easiest step to start with.

        1. WellRed

          we have this at my work. One of my coworkers then occassionally takes it when she goes to the local wherever she goes to dispose of them.

        2. TootsNYC

          I just started washing everything that was in the sink while I waited for my coffee to brew, or my lunch to microwave.

    5. Foreign Octopus

      Instead of objecting to all waste, why don’t you choose one thing and work on that? I’d go with the straws first because that’s the easiest win and then, hopefully, you can ride the wave into other change.

      1. CastIrony

        No, not the straws! Straws are necessary for people who can’t hold a cup properly for whatever reason. One that comes in mind is people with Parkinson’s Disease or someone whose dominant hand is broken!

        1. Shark Whisperer

          Fair point, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable for an office to not stock plastic straws. I don’t think Foreign Octopus is suggesting banning straws from the workplace, just not actively providing them. I have actually never worked in an office where straws were actively stocked.

          I totally understand that straws are necessary for people with certain disabilities, but if no one has specifically requested them, I don’t think the office has an obligation to provide them.

        2. TootsNYC

          this is also an office, with a predictable set of people. If someone really needs a straw, they can probably (a) provide their own; (b) request an accommodation.

        3. Observer

          As others pointed out, you don’t need to stock plastic straws for the entire office because someone with a relevant disability might be hired.

        4. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser

          They make biodegradable, eco friendly straws. Ask them to be stocked. And wooden stirrer sticks. Also, SF Bay coffee company (and possibly others) make a biodegradable coffee pod.

          Those are good places to start.

    6. WellRed

      I would at least push back on getting hard copies of every thing. “Please don’t print me a copy.” repeat. Recycle when they hand it to you.
      Also, since you are a nonprofit, can you push back on the plastic junk? What a waste of $.

      1. Common Welsh Green

        Most people in my company have some sort of reminder – Be kind to your Mother; don’t print what you don’t need, that sort of wording – incorporated into their signature line. We also have fairly draconian rules governing how long various types of printed documents have to be tracked and stored, and at what level of security: locked desk, locked filing cabinet, locked filing cabinet in a locked office, locked strongbox in a secret vault under a mountain in Colorado (okay, maybe not the last one). No one wants the trouble of tracking anything more than we have to, and it really reduces the amount of paper we waste.

    7. Garbage People Living on Garbage Island

      My office has recently undergone a green initiative! They invested in getting anyone who wanted his/her own reusable utensils, plate, bowl, lunch bag, mug, etc. They also posted instructions on how to recycle a K-cup (peel foil lid off, compost contents, recycle the rest). Perhaps you can print out the instructions and post near the Keurig? I believe you can also collect used K-cups and mail them to be recycled (https://www.groundstogrowon.com/keurig/home.html;jsessionid=02AC1BF9E2BBB2ED0DC7B6C73BA94775.worker1).

    8. Garland not Andrews

      One thing you could do is put out a bin for “GOOSE” (good on one side) paper. Then people can dump unneeded paper in there and everyone can pull some out for scratch paper.

      1. Où est la bibliothèque?

        I already do that, and people make fun me for it in some less-than-PC language.

        1. Zweisatz

          Wow, what a crap bunch. This won’t change who you have to work with, but I for one want to express my appreciation to you for trying.

    9. Kittyfish 76

      My office is similar. The best I can do is take home whatever does not have sensitive information on it and put it in my own personal recycle bins. It may not make a big impact, but it makes me feel better.

    10. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Why aren’t you recycling?! Most places it’s free service.

      I would push against the grain in terms of asking to head up a crusade to get recycling bins. Get a bin for batteries and set up a pickup if that’s possible or whatever.

      Ask about paper straws. Ask about stocking cheap washable dishes…but without a dishwasher you’re probably not going to get far there.

      Suggestions and offering to help is huge. Don’t ask to fix it without a plan of action to share. Otherwise you’re not doing it right and are easier to tune out as a nuisance.

      I wouldn’t die on the hill but try fighting it to a reasonable extent.

      1. ThursdaysGeek

        We used to have recycling, but then it was no longer offered. Not that the company didn’t want to use it – there isn’t anyone who will pick up recycling anymore. I’ve been recycling cans on my own, but there’s no money in anything else, and not really enough in cans to make it worth my gas.

      2. Observer

        Recycling is actually NOT free in many places. In NYC, for instance, businesses have to pay for trash colleciton, including recycling. Also, sometimes the rules are such that it becomes impractical, especially if the organization doesn’t want to invest a lot of effort.

    11. Lena Clare

      I take it home with me to recycle, and turn of lights when not in use etc.

      More people in work have noticed and try to make an effort too, and several will ask me if I want to take rubbish home to recycle – before they would have automatically thrown it away.

      So it is worth trying to change people’s habits :)

    12. Anono-me

      People are lazy, people are gross, and companies care about the bottom line. You’re probably not going to change that. You have a much better chance of getting changes made, if the changes are easy and don’t cost money.

      I would suggest researching cheaper and more eco-friendly alternatives to the straws and disposable products that are currently being offered for your co-workers. Using shared real dishes would be the most ecofriendly, but it sounds like your office won’t do that.

      Can you investigate what it would take to set up some recycling bins for other materials in your workspace and the cost of having your hauler pick those up? Many haulers will do it for free due to local incentives or the aluminium recycling.

      Can you find out what having an energy audit of your building would entail? This is often a big money saver both at work and at the office.

    13. welcome to friday

      There is nothing wrong with plastic straws and banning them is an overreaction that hurts more people than it ever helps.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch

        Riiiiiiight, human made waste is bad for the environment we share with other creatures. You sound like someone who also refuses to believe in global warming as well.

        1. Yet another Kat

          It’s possible to acknowledge that plastic waste is harmful to the environment, and especially to marine wildlife, while also being aware that plastic straw bans are not some sort of environmental back-patting panacea and that they have an overwhelmingly negative impact on accessibility.

      2. Shark Whisperer

        There are people that need straws. That is true. But over 600,000 straws were picked up at the International Coastal Cleanup last year. I don’t think the vast majority of those straws were used by people that need them. It is not unreasonable to suggest that people who don’t need them stop using them.

      3. Où est la bibliothèque?

        Getting rid of plastic straws isn’t exactly about helping people. It’s about helping the planet. And none of the bans, even in super progressive cities, mean that restaurants don’t have them if they’re requested. They just aren’t freely available or automatically delivered with your drink.

        Also this stupid office stocks plastic coffee-stirrers too, is there nothing wrong with those either?

    14. Alfonzo Mango

      Do your personal best and work toward changes in small ways. Have you been working there long?

    15. Clever Name

      So I’m really curious. What do you do with your batteries at home? Like the duracell AA batteries and not Li ion batteries from hand tools etc. I have never seen any way to recycle/dispose of AA/AAA/C/D batteries. I know of people who collect them in giant bins, but I don’t know where one would take them.

      1. Shark Whisperer

        I used to work in an office that had a collection bin, so I took all of my household batteries to work. Now I take mine to the local home depot. There are also grocery store around me that have collection bins. If you go to the Earth911 website, they have a handy recycling locator tool that you can use to find battery recycling near you.

        1. nonegiven

          alkaline batteries
          2 places, 75 & 80 miles away, both state for residents of that city, only.
          a bunch of mail in programs.

          office paper
          the closest place that isn’t residents only is 68 miles.

    16. Observer

      Before you start going to war you need to figure out what the alternatives are.

      eg “Ban disposables” sounds good, but who is going to make sure that the dishes get washed? (This site contains some really good discussions about the difficulty of keeping shared facilities clean.)

      1. Où est la bibliothèque?

        My dream would be to give everyone a plate, a cup, and a set of utensils. You write your name on them. You use them, you wash them. If you leave them on the counter/in the sink, someone else is free to move them as-is to your desk. If only I was in charge of everything…

        1. Observer

          I hear you. Do you want to be right or effective :)?

          Realistically speaking, you’ve gotten some good suggestions. On the dishes thing, I’d suggest suggesting paper rather than plastic plate and / or going to lighter weight dishes. Still disposable, but paper is at least technically biodegradable, which is a good thing if it winds up in the environment. Also, lighter weight means less of whatever it is.

          From what you said about the paper thing, it sounds like you have a bit of a culture problem as well. You’re going to need to navigate this a bit carefully, for your own sanity.

          One winner is finding things that actually save the organization money and mentioning it up front. For instance, if there is a lot of use for the scrap paper pile, you could point out that this reduces the paper cost for the org by x%, where X is a significant amount. Unless someone believes that we should “eat teh rich” or some such, that’s kind of hard to mock as being “too PC” or “eco crazy” or whatever.

    17. Koala dreams

      You can try bringing up the upcoming plastic straw ban in the break room and see if you can find some allies. It’s easier to bring things up as a group. If that doesn’t work, you can still be a good role model by using non-disposable things, refusing plastic junk and saying “no, thanks” to the memos.
      If you want recycling set up at the company, it usually takes some effort for the set up (the bins, new waste collection schedule and so on), but sometimes even disposable cups and such can be recycled (depending on where your live).

      The amount of trash would multiply if we used disposable everything at my small company, so I understand how you feel.

    18. Approval is optional

      Depends on your office culture: in some offices you might as well just hit your head against a wall as try to implement change!! But if you decide to swim, I’d suggest a business case: pick one or more areas that savings can be made in and present numbers – cost of implementing, dollar savings – short and long term etc-, ‘PR’ impact, if relevant – can the business attract new customers/grants/donations by promoting their ‘greenness’ etc-, how it relates to business mission. Most important will be, in my experience, savings, business owners/boards like to save money!

    19. Even Steven

      Yikes! That sounds frustrating, but I agree with the folks that it may not be a hill worth dying on. That said you might be able to suggest to marketing that if they are ordering branded swag, that they order sturdy plastic lidded tumber cups that come with a permanent straw. One suggestion a hill does not make! We did this in my office and stopped buying disposable ones entirely.

      Also, HR sent an email suggesting that we all keep real cutlery and a plastic plate/bowl or two in our desks. They took too long to order them, so I brought in my own. I had a whale of a time in the Japanese dollar store picking out fun office lunch dishes. We still go through bales of paper napkins and paper coffee cups, and that dang Keurig! – but one fight at a time.

      1. Even Steven

        And should add – my company strongly encourages people to speak up about things to improve. We actually have a Suggestion Box on our intranet home page, and people are rewarded with recognition and gift card points for ideas that are implemented. In this environment, this would not be a hill to die on, or even a slope. Depends on company culture, I think.

  47. Sally Sparrow

    I am so excited; I got called last week and offered the job for which I had been interviewing. It is a huge step up for me in just about every aspect. The new organization is much larger, well-known, the pay is better, and it is in the geographic location I had been hoping to eventually end up in. And on the smaller scale of the job duties itself, it is exactly what I would like to pivot and focus on in my career.

  48. merp

    This might cross a border between work and non-work open threads but there’s a lot going on in my personal life and I find it’s really distracting me at work. Any tips (other than therapy, currently doing that) for not letting thoughts about whatever difficult personal thing is going on drag you away from work? Kind of wondering what works in the moment for other people.

    1. Bunny Girl

      Do you have some PTO built up? Take a couple days. Have a long weekend. It won’t distract you from work thoughts but it will give you a recharge so when you go back to work, you should have more energy to get back into the swing of things.
      Also, maybe try listening to podcasts. Having other people’s thoughts in your head might be distracting enough to help.

    2. Justin

      I (also in therapy) make a lot of lists and allow myself to briefly celebrate each time an item is crossed off.

      So, like.

      1. Thing
      (short break to appreciate)
      2. Thing

      etc

      Good luck

    3. Cartographical

      Worry can be reduced, in my experience, by reassurance that you’ll cope no matter what happens. Journaling is great for that — as a chronic ruminator it’s helped me stay on track. If you set aside a little time at the start of the day to list your ongoing concerns and jot down how you’re dealing with them, or if you have to wait or whatever is the case or even “I don’t know but I’ll figure it out ask a friend, etc.”, then write out a reassurance like a little contract with yourself that you will deal with it and take care of yourself, your brain may be willing to let you off the hook.

      I really recommend writing by hand in a dedicated journal for this. Once I’ve acknowledged it, and it’s recorded, I find my brain settles down and trusts me to get on with my work. If necessary, scribble worries down on something convenient and tuck it away to put in your journal later. I find there’s a bit of a backlog when I start after a hiatus, then it settles down to where it’s a quick check in every morning. And make sure you note what you have resolved: letters sent, tests done, arrangements made so you can concretely acknowledge that you are taking care of it and your worry brain can go have a nap from 9 to 5.

      Hope your personal situation improves!

    4. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

      I don’t think it’s possible to 100% compartmentalize personal things from work. But one thing that helps me (and it’s advice I’ve given others) is to reframe your time at work in your mind.

      Sometimes it’s enough to allow yourself to leave the personal at the door and use work as the escape from it. Just like it’s fine to leave work stressers in the office to keep it from affecting the personal time.

      What works in the moment… find a nice juicy project that takes a lot of thought. Or a rote task that gives you mental time to wander. Otherwise I’ll acknowledge the personal thought… but mentally redirect myself back to work.

    5. WomanOfMystery

      I find that physically interrupting myself when I get in a worry spiral helps. I make a point of forcing my shoulders down, taking a deep, slow breath, and relaxing my hands gets me to be able to put worry down and focus on what I need to do right then.

    6. Combinatorialist

      For me what is helpful is to get really organized at work. If I have very clear direction of my goals for each day and what I plan to accomplish, then it is easier to not get caught up in my personal stuff. Also trying to get as much sleep as possible, and being nice to myself. But specifically the work stuff is the more rigid I can make my structure the better I do with it.

    7. Clever Name

      I’m not sure I’ve got great tips on being more focused, but I’ve been through some super distracting personal stuff lately, and I’ve been letting my manager and my mentor know what’s going on. Being like this is uncharacteristic of me, and I think it helps that they understand why. I should probably take more mental health days too.

  49. Seifer

    My boss wants me to meet with him and his boss about adding another role to my job. My boss used to be my coworker and we used to kvetch about our salaries together. So I told him if he’s going to be having me cover two positions, I’d like my pay to reflect that. We both… like, squirmed a little, since salary talk is awkward, but he promised he’d talk to his boss about it, since he agrees with me.

    But now, I know what I want to ask for, but at the same time, I’m in a weird position. I have more experience than another guy we hired last year that gets paid more than I do, but he has a Bachelor’s degree and I do not. The guy that was doing the position they want to add for me was also paid more than me. He was terrible at it, but he had a mechanical engineering degree. I do not. I was hired at a rate that was much higher than I had at my last company but now with shifting responsibilities and an expanded role… I definitely want more money. I just have no idea how to ask for it because I don’t feel like I’m going to get a positive answer. Ugh, anxiety!

    1. NACSACJACK

      There is a point in everyone’s career where experience and ability matter more than having a degree. However, not having a degree will always be a drawback. That said, ask for what you feel you deserve, not what you think you can get. The result will be a dialog and maybe you and mgmt can meet somewhere between. You may not get all you want, but they will get a dedicated employee, if they can meet you part way. All you can do is ask.

    2. irene adler

      Just a suggestion: its what you can do for the company that counts.

      I’m sorry, just having a college degree shouldn’t be the sole arbiter of your salary. There’s plenty of educated, inept people out there. And there’s a can-do person, YOU!, who can carry out the tasks needed. I’d say the can-do person is worth more than the degree-holding person.

      So if they think the degree-holding persons can do the tasks you are being asked to do, then give the extra work to them. Otherwise, let’s see some respect for your abilities via a beefed up pay check.

      1. Seifer

        Thank you for the kind response! And yes, that’s what my original boss decided when he hired me. I was actually pre-med when I started college, but I just… did not want. Like, any of it–being a doctor, student loans, college in general. So I dropped out and started working. When my original boss interviewed me, I had frantically googled what exactly the position I was interviewing for about two hours before I left to go to the interview. I was able to relate my life and work experience to the job requirements and got hired and have been impressing him ever since with my can-do attitude.

        Thankfully, they didn’t debate between me and those that hold degrees. Rather, my current boss said, Seifer will be able to do it. My grandboss agreed and said, yes, she’s fantastic, let’s talk. And that’s so flattering, but my worry is that they will forget those things that they said once I say that I want my level of compensation to reflect my expanded role, because of my lack of credentials. It happened to me before at my last job, and even though my boss in my last job was a completely different person from my current boss and grandboss, I’m still nervous! It’s hard to walk it off, you know? But your response was just the pep talk I needed!

        1. ..Kat..

          If you can find market rates for the job you do for your area, it is easier to back up your salary request. Good luck.

    3. Finally Back In A 'Proper Job'

      Have you read ‘Feminist Fight Club’? It’s geared towards women (obvs) but the chapter on salary negotiations is definitely relevant for all.

      One bit of advice is not to be nervous. After all, the worst they can say is ‘no’ to the figure you want. You can then make the decision whether you’re willing to take on the additional duties at the salary increase they do offer. You are in control here.

      Another tip: since it is pretty normal for the boss to negotiate down from whatever figure you state, you’re better off starting at an even higher figure (as long as it’s not insane). So if you want a £10k increase, ask for a £12k or £15k one to start with so you have some room to ‘come down to look like a willing team player’ but you actually got what you wanted from the get-go.

      Come prepared with a script, backed up by research:

      ‘I’ve always been an enthusiastic employee as evidenced by X and am keen to continue to perform whilst expanding my skill set by taking on these additional duties.’

      ‘My performance in my current role has been consistently strong as evidenced by X, Y and Z and I know I can continue to perform well.

      ‘I am suited to the new role as evidenced by A, B and C’

      ‘I am keen to learn and develop but balancing two roles will likely mean additional hours as well as [training, learning, more business travel, whatever else] so I want to be compensated accordingly.’

      ‘Market value for the new role is [range]. I feel I fit at X along that scale because [evidence] so that is the salary I feel is appropriate’

      Finally, your lack of a degree is completely irrelevant so don’t let any doubts or insecurities you have about that creep in to the negotiations. The other guy’s knowledge, experience, qualifications and therefore salary negotiations are between him and the company. This is all about you, what you bring to the table and what that is worth.

      Good luck!!!

  50. DaffyDuck

    DH got a job offer in his field, the contract has a 1-year non-compete clause that basically covers the whole USA and no severance pay (both for him leaving and if he gets laid off). This seems pretty extreme to me, and I think it is definitely a section to negotiate. It is a pretty specialized field and companies get bought out fairly often. But not being able to work for a year (and no compensation if they lay you off). Anyone else in markets or know of places that do this?

    1. BelleMorte

      IANAL but non-competes that limit your ability to work at all generally aren’t enforceable in most jurisdictions. Your husband my want to do a quick free consult with an employment lawyer to see if this would actually be enforceable.

      1. DaffyDuck

        Thanks! This company has a headquarters in one state, offices in another, and we live in a third (all a plane flight away from each other). These pages look boilerplate and tacked onto the end of the contract, he is finding an employment lawyer to check it out.

    2. Anono-me

      I would worry that even if the attorney says the non-compete is probably unenforceable, the company may try to enforce it anyway, which would be expensive to litigate. Also, I would worry that the noncompete and possible attendant drama may scare off other employers who just don’t want the hassle.

      1. DaffyDuck

        Yes, this is why it is something he wants to negotiate down/away. A long-past job had something similar, under the original owner it wasn’t a problem (and the guy said go ahead and have HR change the contract – but DH never followed up on it), but when old owner retired and partner decided to sell out DH got screwed. Drove home that what your contract says matters, no matter how well you get along with the boss.

    3. Rick Tq

      Non-compete agreements are unenforceable in California, they can only apply to principals in a company.

      That is black-letter law in the Business code, and the employment lawyer I talked to said the courts in CA have held the clause non-severable and fatal to the entire contract as a matter of public policy.

    4. Audrey

      Wow, I’ve see non-poaching clauses for a year, but never a whole year of non-compete. That doesn’t seem tenable at all!

    5. DCR

      It’s highly unlikely it’s enforceable, but most companies wouldn’t want to take the litigation risk unless your husband is very senior. Best advice is to negotiate it away

  51. Snark

    My coworker is a kindly elderly man who I have no personal beef with, aside from his tendency to ramble really pressing my buttons. But after having most of his workload redistributed to the rest of the team, he still is so perpetually overwhelmed and shut down that he…doesn’t….do…..shit. He had to prepare a continuity binder for his program, which I am now taking over, and he delivered it to me fully assembled with all the appropriate sections…but zero content. None. I have to do it all.

    I understand that he has severe anxiety, to the point of occasional panic attacks, but the amount of his work I am already doing is insane, and I am finding myself intensely pissed off at having to do yet more that he’d already agreed to do.

    1. fposte

      Oooh. Is he hanging on until retirement with management’s blessing, or is this changeable via management?

          1. valentine

            Do whatever you would do if he didn’t retire, in case he doesn’t and so you don’t feel helpless.

        1. Queen of Cans and Jars

          Not sure if my link will reappear sometime, but my only suggestion is google “countdown calendar.”

  52. Winifred

    Wondering how to reframe for management the fact that staff get cost of living adjustments only, that are referred to as “salary increases” in the annual salary letter we all get. I work in a religious nonprofit and almost no one ever gets a raise. (Having said that, I am the de-facto HR person and do know some of the staff *have* received real raises over the past few years.) I used AAM’s script last year (after 5 years of employment) to advocate for a raise, and was denied (“not in the budget”, no explanation of what I could do to merit a raise).

    I thought of saying casually, when the letters come (usually the volunteer board president comes to the office to sign them), “thanks, but this is actually a cost of living adjustment, not a salary increase,” just to see where that lands.

    We are part of a larger religious order with salary “guidelines” that do not need to be followed, and most of us are underpaid. I’ve been here 5 years so my salary has been flat this whole time. However, there are many perks such as an easygoing environment, I work part-time in summer, and get 4 weeks of vacation. So I have plenty of time to pursue my outside interests but am just irked at a COLA being framed as a salary increase. TGIF!

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

      Does it matter what it’s called if the end result is the same?

      We get merit increases, HR is adamant that we don’t get COLA. Call it whatever you want as long as it means more money I don’t really care.

    2. Someone Else

      Where I’ve worked the distinction is between “cost of living increase” and “merit raise” (or just “raise”). The phrase “salary increase” covers both of those things. They’re two different kinds of, or reasons for, a salary increase. Your irritation with the phrasing might be due to the norm/use at your specific place of work, but in general, unless these are one-time bonuses and not a permanent increase, I don’t see a problem with referring to a COLA as a “salary increase”. It is one, just based on COL, not merit. If they’re calling it a “raise” I’d probably push back on instead calling it a COLA, but just calling it an increase is vague but not wrong or misleading, to me.

  53. Phone interview

    I have a phone interview today for an e-learning analyst position. The scariest question would be what are your salary expectations? I’ve done some research and I think I have a good range in mind. I was wondering if anyone here would have an idea what they would think this position would pay?

    My background – currently 5 years as an LMS administrator, intermediate level Lecotra user, video and graphics editing experience, formerly in tech support/help desk, bachelor’s degree

      1. Phone interview

        I’ve checked Glassdoor, Payscale and Salary websites. It seems like a good median salary is 25% more then I currently make.

  54. fromscratch

    This week in “I think I made a mistake taking this job” – my boss told me not to talk to HR if I have concerns in the future. I only talked to HR b/c he was on vacation and I needed an answer to an urgent $$$ related question.

    Also, thanks to everyone who provided feedback on my expenses related question last week. I spoke to HR about my financial concerns and they are working on a solution for future work travel. Still haven’t been reimbursed for my last trip though.

    1. valentine

      If you’re the one who had to wait for a hardcopy check, this is outrageous. Can you take PTO until they pay you?

    2. ..Kat..

      For your first paragraph, your boss is being ridiculous.

      For the second, with this much travel, I don’t understand why they are not using a company credit card or a cash advance. Next time you are up for travel, can you say, “I haven’t been reimbursed for my last trip.” and/or “I don’t have the cash to be able to go. I can’t afford the interest charged on a credit card until I am repaid.” Technically, your company is forcing you to give them a short term, interest-free loan.

  55. Preggo but leggo my job

    I left a great but underpaid job at a financially unstable, small company to take the next step up in pay and responsibilities at a more stable, slightly larger company. It’s been a hot mess since I’ve joined less than a year ago, deteriorating to the point where global is shutting down the company in our region. I will be laid off next month. I am and have been actively looking for a while now with no luck so far, and by the time I lose my job, will be obviously pregnant in a male-dominated industry. We won’t be thrown out of our home, but it’s going to be a struggle living on an income we had circa 10 years ago. While I am still excited to become a parent, and will be grateful for some time off with the baby, I wanted ultimately to go back to work and am concerned that my promising-and-engaging career has just gotten effectively mommy-tracked. Any advice from folks who’ve been in similar situations?

    1. Kaitlyn Westlet

      A very similar situation happened to me when I was pregnant with my first child in 2009. My best advice is just don’t worry about looking pregnant in job interviews. Wear clothes that deemphasize it if you can, but since they aren’t allowed to ask, you don’t have to volunteer the info. The thing that I did helped me most was work with a temp agency. They were able to pre-screen me for jobs that I actually was interested in and would excell at. Most of them were temp to hire positions and I wound up getting a great job that I liked starting from temping there. The temp agency was able to get me back to work right away so even if I was just doing admin work for a short term assignment, I still had money coming in. Congrats on the baby and good luck!!

    2. CupcakeCounter

      I second temp work – it will keep money coming in until the baby is born and will get you back out there pretty quick. Plus maybe you’ll get placed at a great company that loves you so much they’ll offer you a permanent position either before or after the baby is born.

    3. Grace Less

      For anyone who has had a career gap due to family (or other reasons), I’m seeing a promising trend (in industries that need to encourage diversity and are facing worker shortages) of companies offering “re-entry” programs for people who want to resume their careers after time away.

  56. EnfysNest

    I had training this week, and while the training itself was actually pretty interesting, I was super done with a few of my fellow trainees by the third day (it lasted 4 days). A few of the most notable ones:

    -The Jokester, who had to make a witty (or not so witty) joke every time the instructor paused long enough to take a breath. (The trainer was already including a sufficient amount of humor in his presentation – The Jokester just kept taking things too far or derailing with his own jokes or comments.)
    -The Storyteller, who had a personal life story for every topic. Always started by saying it was a *quick* story. It never was. Usually only barely related.
    -The Expounder, who had to elaborate on every point and explain the things that he felt the instructor missed. “Well, actually, I read recently that…” or “Isn’t actually more important to…” or “Shouldn’t you talk about how…”
    -The Challenger, who didn’t think this training was necessary and thought that his way was best and was quick to say that the instructor’s method was excessive and unneeded. “Why should I…” and “I’ve never been hurt doing it that way before.”
    -The Whisperers, who were not nearly as quiet as they thought they were. (Annoying, but not as bad as the couple of other guys who weren’t even trying to whisper.)

    Bonus: Not annoying, but still memorable – The Water Dude, who brought in a full plastic gallon container of water and drank nearly all the way through it every day, drinking straight from the jug throughout the day.

    Like I said, the training itself was really good, but after 4 full days locked in a small conference room with 20 other people, this introvert is definitely very happy to be back behind her own office door again. :P

    1. No Tribble At All

      Enjoy your quiet office! My (least) favorite is the But What About Me Guy, who always asks questions about how changes will affect him, even when they clearly won’t. It’s become a running joke. Such as “We’ll be introducing process X to replace methods A, B, and C,” “I use method D. Should I use process Y now?” It’s like he never learned to only ask questions if they benefit the group.

      1. valentine

        In future, you can ask the trainer to rein them in and interrupt with “Why don’t we get back on track” to the trainer, if necessary. This came up here recently and I think the person gave feedback at the end of the day and the trainer shut down the nuisance the next.

    2. Folkie

      I go to quite a few music workshops, and my favourite is the person who asks the really technical or niche question, in a way that is obviously trying to catch the teacher/leader out. Like, why did you come if you think you know better than the person running it?!

    3. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

      The Sky Is Falling Person or What If? Person who acts as though all changes are the end of the world as we know it or they need to go through all of the disaster scenarios? I just sat through a meeting with several of them yesterday because there will be some changes to the parking lot for our building and the “what if” scenarios were getting c.r.a.z.y. The different speakers had to reiterate over and over and over that there was enough parking for everyone who currently has a parking pass, no one was losing their parking pass, there has been and continues to be security in the parking lot, etc. etc. “What if I’m here until midnight?” You can remain parked in the parking lot until midnight and security has a 24hr escort; “What if (a business adjacent to us) has an event…on a weekend?” Parking in our lot is by permit and we have security to patrol…even on the weekend. “What do we do if there’s trash in our lot from the other businesses?” So again, the lots are patrolled…and we do regular groundskeeping. Honestly it’s like they’ve never been out in the big bad world before.

    4. froodle

      Maybe Water Dude was making his own drinking challenge, chugging whenever one of the other trainees after out? “Oh good An unrelated personal story,” : :swig::

      Seriously though as.an introvert with some extremely loud and boisterous co-workers who think they’re a whole lot more entertaining than they are, allllll the sympathy

    5. ..Kat..

      A good instructor will learn how to shut at least some of these down. Can you put this info into a course evaluation?

  57. Returning from Medical Leave

    Looking for assistance with scripts!
    I am currently on extended medical leave. My coworkers know this but (with the exception of one person who is a close family friend and was before we worked together) they don’t know why. I’ve been very appreciative of my company’s respect for my privacy. So no concerns about boundary steppers at the moment. However I’m anticipating when I go back I will likely get a lot of “how are you doing/feeling” etc type small talk, either out of genuine concern or perfunctory human social contract.
    I don’t want to say “ok” because I’m concern it’ll be too brief and/or sound evasive, even if “ok thanks for asking”. But I also don’t want to say “well” (which is what I might normally if this were a normal human acknowledgement”how are you”) because at that point I will not actually be well. I’ll be well enough to work per my doctor, but not 100%. I don’t want to extend the conversation beyond what’s necessary but also don’t want to give the impression I’m completely back to normal when I am not, for practical reasons.
    So….what’s a short, reasonable, breezy-ish response that doesn’t get into details, acknowledges the social contract of someone asking after my well being, but doesn’t mislead?
    Keep in mind they pretty much all know I’ve been unwell, so this is definitely not the normal “they’re not really asking how you are; it’s just a greeting” situation. I’m looking for help responding to those who know I was gone for health reasons and are asking how I am in that context. Thanks.

      1. Parenthetically

        Yeah, I like a breezy, “Headed in the right direction/recovering as expected/trucking along, thanks! How’s (work project) coming along?”

    1. fposte

      It’s not that far removed from “just a greeting,” though–it’s a check-in, not an interview question. So I’m with Lilith in that you can say “I’m a lot better now, thanks” and that’s likely to cover it just fine.

    2. Grandma Mazur

      I always say “not too bad thanks” (where you can change the intonation as applicable depending on how much “truth” you want to convey – sounding cheery, resigned, surprised, weary, etc) and quickly follow up with “how are you?” and, if I think they might want more detail, I have a specific question ready for them – eg: “not too bad thanks, how are you? How did that presentation to company X go?”

    3. DaffyDuck

      How about a quick acknowledgement and then change of subject “Happy to be back at work, how is project X coming along?”

    4. Lavender Menace

      I’ve been in this situation before and I go for honest but upbeat:

      “Not so great, but we’re working on it” *smile smile* “How are you?”
      “I’ll be better soon, thank you so much for asking.”
      “Rebounding quickly, I hope! Thanks for asking!”

      I use the “thanks for asking” or “how about you?” to signal that I am done talking about me and ready to move onto something else.

    5. Sleepytime Tea

      There is nothing wrong with “ok, thanks for asking.” We feel a sort of obligation to give people information when they ask, but there isn’t really any need for your to expound on your situation. When I came back from medical leave, I said things like:
      Doing better, thank you. (You are better than you were, so not implying everything is perfect now)
      Things have improved, thanks for asking!
      Still getting back to normal, but almost there.
      Feeling better than I was, for sure.

      And in those occasions where people seemed to be truly concerned I was getting the care I needed, I would say something like “I have great doctors and we’re still working everything out, but it’s definitely getting better.”

    6. Daughter of Ada and Grace

      I like “Oh, as well as can be expected.” Pleasant, accurate, vague, and useful in a variety of situations where you’re expected to not be well, but no one actually wants to discuss the details.

    7. Natalie

      I really like “Oh, you know” for this kind of question because it’s so vague as to be meaningless. “Oh you know. [beat] Happy to be back! How are you?”

    8. Cartographical

      “Improving, thanks! Glad to be back.”
      “Better and looking forward to getting back to normal, thanks.” (hint, hint)
      “Happy to be back to work, how have things been?”
      “Getting there, thanks! What did I miss?”

      I have extended absences for something that won’t kill me but won’t ever get better and people really struggle to understand that last part — not everyone appreciates the “I’ll be better when I’m dead!” joke.

      If you know people well enough to remember what projects they were on, classes they were taking, what their kids were doing, asking something specific is a fast way to catch up AND deflect. If you have an office ally, at least get some updates on the very nosy types so you can put the questions back on them. “I hear you’re a grandma now, how’s it going?”

  58. Zona the Great

    I’m looking for advice on how I can, or if I can, respond to a frequent issue I come across which is other people wasting my time at work with meaningless meetings, collaborations, etc. So often, someone calls a meeting with me or the whole team, and I walk in to find the host hasn’t prepared for the meeting so we are all waiting and watching as they boot up and gather themselves. I would understand if we ran from meeting to meeting but that is rarely the case.

    Other times, and more annoyingly, someone calls a meeting with the team to discuss a task, challenge, review work, etc. So so so often, these meetings are just us watching one person brainstorm ideas out loud, proofread and edit work on the big screen while we all watch, or its just something that didn’t require interrupting our work for a meeting, like to discuss what bullet points should be included on a powerpoint slide we will present soon. All of that can be done on email.

    I have one coworker that has a bad habit of turning away from me with her finger raised (like, “hold on while I look”) while she spends 10 minutes googling the question I came to ask her. I did that myself before I asked her which I always tell her but she still expects that I have the time or desire to sit and watch her google things. Can I just say, “I’ll be in my office when you’re done?” That seems rude considering I came to her to ask the question.

    How do you all advocate for your time and respond to these types of things?

    1. Susie Q

      For your last one, maybe email people a question instead of wasting time by asking it in person, then they could respond in their own time. Especially since you seem so concerned about your time being wasted.

      1. ..Kat..

        Also, tell them, “I could not find the answer on Google, in Work Manual X, (and whatever else you tried).

    2. Lavender Menace

      Hoo boy. I feel you, Zona.

      As for the first situation – I don’t know, I kind of allow that some leeway. As long as the booting up and gathering oneself doesn’t take more than 2-3 minutes, I figure that’s just part of the meeting – you’ve got to project, pull up your slides or whatever, etc. However, I am in a culture where we *do* run from meeting to meeting, so maybe that’s just part of our culture.

      For the second thing, are you in a culture where you can ask for an agenda ahead of time? It doesn’t have to be ‘please complete this agenda template in advance’; it can be a sort of ‘hey Jane, can you let me know what you’d like to discuss in this meeting?’ with a touch of ‘I’d like to make sure that I’m prepared for it.’ Jane’s response can help you decide whether or not it’s really something that could be done in a email or it’s going to be people brainstorming at you, and then you can decide what to do. I have some stock phrases I use to decline meetings – “Sorry, I don’t have the bandwidth for this today; I’ll touch base with you later to catch up” (in which ‘touch base’ is ‘I will send you a mail with thoughts’). Or “I have a conflict, so I’ll follow up with you afterwards.’ (Doesn’t matter if the conflict is that I want to eat lunch quietly by myself.)

      I’m introverted, so it took me a while to understand, but I have also recognized and accepted that some of the extroverts on my team really need to do that out loud brainstorming and proofreading and editing in meetings for them to get their thoughts together. I allow for a certain amount of it to be a good team player, but I bring my laptop and get light tasks done. (I always have hundreds of emails I could be responding to!)

      As for that coworker in the last, I don’t think it’s rude, just depends on the delivery. I usually wait about 2 minutes or so until it’s clear she’s going to be deep in it, then say something like “Thanks so much for looking into it Cassie! Looks like it’ll be a little more complex than I thought, so I can circle back around with you later” and then back away.

      If you’re on the kind of team where people just throw meetings on your calendar, block off some chunks of time for you to get focused work done. Make sure that you do leave some open times when you’re willing to meet. I’ve found that this helps me control my meeting calendar more, and I can decide to set aside certain days for meetings only or I can spread them out across the week as I please. People with non-essential asks usually think twice about whether they really need me if they have to wait 2 weeks to meet with me. People with non-urgent asks usually just find the time on the calendar in the week or so, and people with actually urgent asks (or who think they have them) will ping me to ask if I have some time – but that means they are forced to explain what they want to meet with me about first! Win-win-win.

    3. Sleepytime Tea

      At one point I shamelessly started declining meetings with a particularly egregious coworker, but before you get to that point, what I started doing was before accepting a meeting asking what the agenda was or even asking for a copy of it. If they couldn’t provide this and said it was a brainstorming meeting or “oh I just wanted to chat about xyz” then I would use that information to determine whether or not it sounded like my presence was actually necessary or valuable. If I didn’t think that was the case, I would decline the meeting and say something like “it sounds like you still have a few things that need to be worked out before I will have any action items, so how about after the meeting you update me on the status and we can go from there.”

      I recall a particular situation where when I asked what the meeting was to be about it was that they wanted to hash out how something used to be done because they wanted to create a new process. Well… how it used to be done in this situation was really irrelevant. I told them that when they had plans for a new process and wanted to discuss, to go ahead to invite me to that meeting, but my workload didn’t afford me time for this one.

      Sometimes we feel obligated to accept every meeting just because it’s sent to us. Use the decline option with the “edit response before sending” option in Outlook (if that’s what you’re using) and just write a note that says “it doesn’t look like I will have much value to add on this subject and my current workload is pretty high so I’m afraid I won’t have the time to attend” or whatever, and leave it at that. If the person has a good reason for you being there, this is their opportunity to spell that out for you.

      But really, ask for agendas. And don’t be afraid to step in and take the bull by the horns. If people start getting into the minutia of something and it isn’t productive to your meeting, then pipe up and say “how about you guys discuss this offline.” If someone is taking 10 minutes to look up an answer, say “it sounds like maybe we don’t have everything we need to continue the discussion right now. How about you find out xyz and set up a new meeting when all the information is available.”

      You are not a hostage!

    4. Quinalla

      We have a culture of no agenda, you aren’t required to attend the meeting. Now the agenda doesn’t have to be all formal for quick meetings, but I have zero problem pushing back a bit when invited to something that I’m not sure is something I am really needed for. So I will ask for an agenda or at least the purpose of the meeting and if it doesn’t sound like something I’m really needed for, I have no issue declining.

      I agree with others that you do need to give some leeway to folks that need the verbal/group processing of ideas, but they need to give you the same leeway to decline things as well when it isn’t going to be worth your time and you aren’t going to contribute.

      I too would mostly let the 2-3 minute technical difficulty at the beginning of the meeting go. Bring something to do while that is going on or catch up on something with others in the group. If it is longer than 2-3, I’d speak up to someone about it as that isn’t acceptable.

  59. it_guy

    Got a problem with my W2 and wondered if are any options.
    In mid year, my office moved from one state to the other. It was only 15 miles, moves happens a lot, so now I live in one state and work in another.

    The problem is that my company changed payroll companies around the same time. Bottom line is they screwed the pooch and have totally messed it up for all of the folks who moved with me. It was a group of about 10 IT folks who were shifting locations to be closer to the new server room.

    In my W2, it only shows one state, which is the second state I worked in that year. But 3/4’s of that money was actually sent to the first state in their quarterly payments.

    Any suggestions on what to do on this? I’ve already talked to HR and they swore they would get me a revised W2 in 8 to 12 weeks. But I really don’t want to wait that long. I would like to just use the numbers for my last pay stub of the year, but I really don’t want to get audited.

    Any suggestions?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Use your paystub.

      You won’t be audited, your company is playing fast and loose by giving themselves 8-12 weeks to fix their nonsense. They’re going to be audited, not you.

      Did you move to the new state??? You only pay taxes to the state you live in…not work in.

      1. tax hell

        Be careful assuming that not paying taxes means not filing tax returns though – I live in DC and this is a pretty common scenario here. I work in MD and have to file a tax return in MD saying I don’t owe them money. Not pay them but confirm the income was earned.
        It’s possible the two states in it_guy’s scenario have similar rules.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch

          Right, you do need to fill out non-resident forms. I should have mentioned that. Which means you still means you use your pay-stub for all the information needed.

          Because your SSN is being reported to the state as you’re working there and they don’t have your home address liked to it often. They need you to tell them that.

      2. Natalie

        Really, really unlikely they would audited for this. IRS & SSA don’t start comparing notes until August, so as long as they submit correct W2s between now and then they just have to pay a penalty per correction.

      3. it_guy

        The federal numbers are correct, but I live in MO and _now_ work in KS, and even though they’ve paid 3 quarters of the state money to MO, they are reporting it as all going to KS. So if I file a return with KS saying they have to pay all this money, it won’t be all there.

        I have to actually fill out two state returns and an additional form telling KS to pay MO.

        1. valentine