open thread – March 22-23, 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.

{ 2,051 comments… read them below }

  1. Fortitude Jones*

    I am very fortunate to have gotten past the phone screen phase of the recruitment process with two software/technology companies and will interview with both next week. One of the jobs is okay salary-wise, but after reading their Glassdoor reviews again, I’m kind of concerned they have a wonky pay schedule (e.g. they pay biweekly, but also hold a percentage of your salary until X time, which is when they give you the balance). I would want to ask them about it and, if that review is true, ask that if I’m the candidate chosen for one of the two roles they’re hiring for that we agree in advance, so in my offer letter, that they not do that. Is that the sort of thing that can be negotiated, or do you all think that it’ll be a total non-starter from their end? I’d hate to have to completely write them off since this job is fully remote, so I’d get to work from home full-time which, for medical reasons, would be ideal for me right now. But withholding some of my pay until some arbitrary date is something I just can’t do – too many bills for that.

    Also, I think I’m having imposter syndrome with the big interview I have coming up for the $80-90k position (and by calling it “the big one,” I’m probably not helping myself, eh). I know I do fantastic in in-person interviews (several of my managers, past and current, have said so), but then I think, “Okay, so you get the job, and then what? What if you’re not really as good as you think you are/can be, and you suck at this job (even though it’s the same as the one you’re currently nailing in another industry), and they get rid of you before you’ve had enough time to save up with this very steep salary increase?” I get extremely nervous. I can’t afford to lose a job, and I’ve never been fired for performance issues in my life – I wouldn’t know how to come back from that. How do people interview for these kinds of high paying jobs without going insane beforehand?

    1. naptime*

      You can totally try to negociate when you get paid to get paid fully. I’d be wary of a company doing that, however. Even if it is spelled out in your contract that is so bizarre, I’d worry about other things.

      The other thing… it’s easy to think of how much you get paid – especially if you’re going for a big bump – as a measure of your worth somehow. Try not to do that. Try to just focus on the job itself, doing good work etc. Imposter syndrome is quite common, but that doesn’t mean it’s actually true. If you get the job, just focus on doing the best you can.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Thanks for the reassurance. In my mind I know I shouldn’t tie pay to worth, but those little thoughts just won’t creeping in my head, lol. The job has a lot of moving parts, which I’m used to, but also another smaller component that I don’t currently do, but that I know is time consuming (e.g. setting up conferences) and a different job altogether – it makes total sense why the salary range is so high. I need to remember that.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      If it’s only one review there’s a good chance that was some weird one-off circumstance that isn’t well explained–it could even be withholding that the writer didn’t understand.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        There were several reviews that mentioned the pay structure’s name (I didn’t list it here in case they’re the only company that does it – don’t want to out them), but only one review that really broke down what it was and how it worked. I was astounded – I’ve never heard of such a thing. But you make a good point – maybe this person doesn’t fully understand how it works? So I’ll ask about it.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        My employer (fortune 100) does a % match on 401K and Healthcare Spending Account (HSA) donations, but pays that % at the end of the calendar year. It would be easy to misunderstand that benefits arrangement as applying to pay, I think.

        Because it’s illegal to hold off on actual *pay* past the pay period, in the US.

    3. Darren*

      Percentage of your salary? Or percentage of your bonus? A lot of financial trading companies will do a deferred bonus where you get 50% now, and 50% in 6-12 months (to encourage retention) if you quit before the deferred part comes due you can still get it if you obey the non-compete clause otherwise you forfeit it.

      I don’t think being concerned about being fired is entirely imposter syndrome, it’s a legitimate concern but you have to remember you are good, you’ve done a lot in the past to prove that and even if you have issues and get fired for not meeting expectations there is a lot you can get from that (sometimes it’s learning things you aren’t good with and need more support so you’ll do better in future, sometimes it’s learning how to operate more effectively/safely, etc) and that is typically how you come back from such a thing calling out those learnings.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        The review pointed out that it’s not bonus money, but actual salary owed to the employee – but like suggested above, it could be that the reviewer wasn’t too clear on the pay setup? I don’t know…it just gave me serious pause.

      2. Faith*

        I think you are referring to variable pay. A small percentage of salary is held and paid out at a later date and but it is considered part of salary. However that amount of that payout can go up or down based on various performance factors.

          1. TechWorker*

            That sounds a lot like a bonus regardless of what they call it – I guess you would want to basically take it out of the equation and make sure you’re happy with the base salary without it?

    4. CupcakeCounter*

      First of all, wonky is one of my most favorite words.
      Second, that pay schedule sounds borderline illegal in several US states based on some of Alison’s advice over the years.

    5. she was a fast machine*

      Are you sure that’s a legal thing wrt pay? Most states have laws stipulating how often employees should be paid and that employers cannot withhold pay beyond that.

      1. T. Boone Pickens*

        The bi-weekly pay piece is totally normal. The withholding of the pay until ‘x’ date is a little weird. As Darren mentioned, retention bonuses are pretty normal but if this is a regular salary thing versus say…a commission draw type setup it would definitely merit a further conversation with the company. Good luck in your interviews!

        1. Niki*

          I worked for a company in the UK that had this – it was basically a guaranteed additional sum (anything up to about 7% of total salary depending on role) which was paid in December of every year. I think it had once been a variable bonus, but at some point they started guaranteeing it and it was essentially part of your salary just paid on a different schedule. If you left mid way through a year you got it pro rated for the number of months you’d worked in your final pay cheque too.

          I was HR/recruitment there and explaining it to new hires was an absolute nightmare – did feel quite good to get the big pay cheque just before Christmas though!

    6. Not A Manager*

      Why would you try to negotiate your pay schedule before they offer you the job? Doesn’t Alison usually suggest waiting to negotiate those kinds of things until after the initial offer?

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        That’s what I meant – I would try to negotiate at the offer stage, should there be one, but I want clarification of this schedule sooner rather than later.

        1. Anne of Green Gables*

          I feel like that’s a reasonable thing to ask about at the “what questions do you have for us” part of an interview, though I’d be sure you have other non-salary questions to ask as well so it doesn’t seem like that’s all you care about.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Absolutely – I have a whole slew of questions for them since the position is a newly created one, so sliding that one in there won’t be a problem. Thanks for the feedback.

    7. Jules the 3rd*

      How to interview high-stakes without going crazy?

      Dig in and go crazy, but only to yourself or in ways that you can use to demonstrate your skills.
      As you’ve clearly already done, spend time researching the company’s public info (totally reasonable!).
      Write down questions you have, about the pay structure, job responsibilities, etc (totally reasonable!).
      Practice interview questions with a friend (totally reasonable!)
      Plan your interview outfit, try it on, take it to the tailor / cleaners now if it needs it. (Sure!)
      Draw little maps between your current role / tasks and the role as you understand it (ok, a little much…).
      Read some articles on the new industry – bonus points in an interview if you can ask how your role ties to some challenge they’re seeing in the industry (eg, ‘I’ll be doing base metals procurement; what are your company’s methods for dealing with conflict commodities?’) (srsly? yes, srsly, I totally did this)
      Meditate on affirmative, supportive statements (“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”) because, you totally are nailing a similar job. Industry matters, but tasks matter more.

      Do not:
      Draft a business card for yourself with the new company’s name / logo
      Pre-write a thank you note with lots of hearts and flowers
      Search for every possible company contact on Linked-In and send them puppy pictures (send those to us tomorrow!)

      Good luck.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        If you have puppy pictures, that is. I will also enjoy cats, reptiles, bugs, flowers, sunny fields, or pretty much anything. If there’s even a way to post pictures here. I’ve never checked.

        Ugh. I think I need lunch.

        Good luck to you, and let us know how it goes!

      2. Fortitude Jones*

        Hahaha! I definitely think your list of Do Nots is solid – how creepy is the first one? Lol. Although, I guess one could say they were making the cards as another type of affirmation and putting it out into the universe for good luck. Anyway, I planned to do a lot of what’s on your Do list, but thought I may be going a little overboard. I’m glad to see others do similar things. I’m even going to do a test run of getting to the location just to see how long it takes to get there and what places are nearby that I can hang in until my interview if I show up too early.

        I just can’t believe I’m still in the running for this one, especially since I asked to work remotely when it wasn’t advertised as a remote position. Ah! Thanks for your well wishes – I’ll provide an update next week.

      3. JJ Bittenbinder*

        Draw little maps between your current role / tasks and the role as you understand it (ok, a little much…).

        I do this for every interview, in a fashion. I copy and paste the job description into a word document and, for every bullet point, I add an example of where I have done the same or similar tasks, including achievements/metrics. So, if it says, “design and deploy marketing strategy for X”, I write out “In my role at Y, I created and implemented the “Very Excellent Marketing Strategy”, which generated a Z increase in ABC” or whatever. Just the act of documenting it on paper really helps me develop a fluency around explaining my qualifications and makes it stick in my brain better.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          I may do exactly this so that I won’t forget my more impressive stories during the interview. I can usually think of something to say when I get asked behavioral questions, but it’ll be nice to at least have bullets to follow if I can’t remember everything in the moment.

    8. Jennifer Juniper*

      For the first company: If you’re in the US, AFAIK, it’s illegal to withhold a portion of your salary. The whole paycheck must be paid within a certain time.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        I am in the U.S. – so the variable pay thing some mentioned above, which is what I think the reviewer was talking about, isn’t legal? Excuse my ignorance on this – I’ve never seen anything like it.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          It’d likely be fine if it isn’t actually part of our true and real base salary, but is an extra, variable performance pay you can earn depending on certain criteria. People think about it as part of their salary because that’s how it is kind of explained. But it’s much more akin to a bonus or commission – assuming, that is, that the amount you get is variable and based on factors that occur over a period of time.

          That can make it legal – because your base salary that you get in your biweekly paycheck is the part you earned, and the % that you get on a later date is something you earn over a longer period of time/based on different performance factors. But it perhaps is “sold” to people as salary.

          Also possible they are just violating wage laws, of course, and simply designating certain % of your salary as not payable when you earn it. So definitely dig into details at the offer stage.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Ah, okay – your explanation sounds reasonable and is something I’ve seen and understand. I get a variable commission now as part of my job, and it’s dependent on how my team performs and how many contracts we get signed in a quarter, so I would be okay with this set up as long as it’s not truly money owed to me from my base salary being withheld.

          2. Observer*

            Also, some types of commission also need to be paid on the same schedule as pay.

            So, yes, absolutely dig in.

          3. Autumnheart*

            My compensation package includes a bonus that is, at my level, equal to 10% of my salary, and tied to various performance metrics both based on my personal performance, and on the company’s performance. It’s not part of my *salary* in that they’re not holding onto a chunk out of my paycheck, but it would be included in a description of overall compensation.

            Hopefully that company is referring to a similar package, and not the “hold onto a chunk of your paycheck” borderline illegal version. And that when they say “salary” they mean “total compensation”.

    9. Person from the Resume*

      I would not expect to be able to negotiate a different pay schedule than everyone else in the company. They have systems and business processes and are unlikely unable to pay a individuals on a different schedule.

      It’s certainly worth clearing up that wonky schedule so you understand, but I still don’t think you can expect to be paid differently than everybody else.

    10. Staja*

      The odd pay structure could be position dependent – in my company, our sales reps get base pay bi- monthly, but commission checks once a month. And, not all of them of them have the same pay plan, so reps on the same team could be part commission/part bonus, all bonus, all commission, etc. And bonuses get paid quarterly. Oh, and huge commission checks? We pay half, while they go through an internal audit process to ensure they’re correct…so, anything is possible. (Source: I’m a commission analyst)

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        That makes sense too. I didn’t note which positions were talking about the structure – it could have been the actual sales reps or the engineers. I’ll check again to be sure.

    11. Observer*

      You are in the US, no? I’m pretty sure that this illegal.

      Besides the Federal laws, which simply require “prompt” payment, most states have laws with fairly stringent pay schedule laws. And this would never pass muster under those rules.

    12. DreamingInPurple*

      It’s worth asking more about their variable pay setup. I work for a place that has variable pay, but the way ours works is that it’s an additional bonus paid out at intervals as a bonus tied to the company hitting certain metrics. I have no idea how it works at your potential employer, but it’s worth asking them about it and getting the run-down of it from them officially.

        1. Darren*

          So in financial trading basically how it works is there is a pool of money (basically a percentage of profits) and then based on role, level and performance everyone gets a specific share of that pool. With usually 50% of it deferred for 12 months.

          In some cases your share of the pool might be more than your salary (if it’s a good year, or you are high enough level) sometimes multiple times more. Given the size of this the company always talks it up (which it sounds like they are doing here) as it’s a potentially significant portion of your remuneration.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Ah, okay. I need to get more clarification from the HR rep on this. Re-reading the reviews did not help, and the various suggestions here sound reasonable, but I want to make sure it really is.

    13. Anne*

      It sounds like there are a couple of things the “hold a percentage of your salary” could be – a big one is misunderstanding how paid behind pay periods work, especially if they’re coming from a previous job where everyone was paid to date, or if the company changed their pay periods while the person was working there. A lot of people think companies “hold back” their first 2 weeks of pay, to pay out on termination, because they don’t get a paycheck for their first few weeks with a new employer due to how the pay period lines up. There’s also the variable pay that someone already mentioned.

      I don’t think anyone else has mentioned this yet, but I have another possible candidate – when non-exempt employees receive bonuses, their overtime for the bonus period has to be recalculated at a rate that includes the bonus. I could easily see that being interpreted as “holding back” overtime pay. A salary deferral to purchase extra vacation time or similar would also fit this description.

      Essentially, there are a number of things that the poster could be describing that are normal and legal, as well as the potentially illegal stuff. I would just mention the Glassdoor review the next time you get an opportunity to ask them questions, either in another interview or when you get an offer, and ask them to clarify what it was referring to.

  2. Proud University of Porridge Graduate*

    Does anyone have policies for employees handling explicit materials? We are currently developing tech that requires developers to work with graphic images/videos and will eventually have moderators reviewing flagged material daily. I have a pretty good grasp of what is needed for the moderators, but I’m not sure what best practices/policies we should have in place for the developers as they use and share the material for work purposes.

    1. complady*

      I would just treat it like someones SSN –

      You wouldn’t forward that sensitive information as a joke, you wouldn’t leave it lying around unprotected (digitally) for unsuspecting people to find, you would caution people via email that what you’re forwarding contained sensitive information and should not be shared, ect.

      I deal with the compensation of basically everyone’s boss (thousands of people). I keep things as private as possible, don’t gossip about the content, warn people it’s sensitive info, put passwords on everything, ect.

    2. JediSquirrel*

      Specify how they should share it: via internal network only, etc. Is email okay, or is there a plave on your network to store/fetch those materials from? (And I would seriously think twice about email, unless it is all internally handled.)

      Also, be sure to spell out that copying material to jump drives, CDs, DVDs, etc., whether personal or company-owned, is forbidden. It should go without saying that sharing to social media is forbidden, but take a close, hard look at your team and judge whether that is necessary to add.

      If they are allowed to alter images, be sure to specify exactly how they are allowed to alter them, and under what conditions.

    3. Writerboy*

      I’m not sure what kind of explicit materials you’re referring to, but you might want to consider making sure your employee assistance program is equipped to help people who start feeling disturbed by what they’re seeing day after day, and advising those employees that they can call their EAP or speak to their manager if they find it difficult to continue working with it. If you don’t have an EAP, you should. If any employee reports feeling emotionally distressed by having to work with explicit content all day, there should be a way to transition them to a different role that is neither punitive nor gives the appearance of being punitive.

      1. Proud University of Porridge Graduate*

        My team won’t be working on this material until the summer at the earliest, and I’ve been working on this aspect for a couple of months now (in addition to when we hired, because we knew even then that we would eventually have this content). I’ve been working with all offices (in different countries) to be sure they either have EAPs, and working with employees to prepare them for how to handle the stress that will come with this job, and what steps they can take when it gets overwhelming.

        1. Tarra*

          I don’t think the EAP is actually going to be sufficient here. I work with some difficult material and we have an independent practitioner who comes into the offices for regular reflective supervision sessions. Please consider providing this.

          1. Georgia M*

            Absolutely agree. I led the community team at an online photo sharing site you may have heard about. The company I worked for didn’t do enough for the team who worked on this content and routinely put us in harm’s way. You need to manage the long term emotional and psychological impact that this work will have on anyone who comes into contact with this content.

      2. Not Today Satan*

        Agreed, I’ve read a lot of articles about flaggers at sites like Facebook getting PTSD from all the stuff they see.

    4. Zephy*

      NB: I’m just a layman. But I think it would be good to set up counseling services and be very up-front from the very beginning that the services exist and employees are encouraged to use them. The work they’ll be doing sounds (1) important, and (2) psychologically taxing. Secondary trauma is real and treatable, and IMO it’s just good business sense to anticipate those needs and foster a culture of taking care of one’s mental health from the get-go. And, there’s a greater-than-zero chance that at some point, someone working on this project will have some personal experience with the kinds of things the mods are reviewing, and it’ll hit them harder than they think it will.

      1. Troutwaxer*

        I’d go a step further and note that management should sit down at a desk once a week and do 3-4 hours of moderation. I think in a case like this that having some experience of what your moderators are going through is really, really important. Another useful strategy is that moderation should be a part-time job for full-time people; that is, everyone gets a break from the ugliness while they go about other duties.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yes, and PLEASE do not use low-paid contractors in sh*tty call-center environments to do this kind of work like Farcebook does. I read that article.

    5. gecko*

      I’d recommend using placeholders as much as possible. I was told for instance that web developers at PH use cat videos/pictures as their testing items in place of the explicit videos that will obviously be in there eventually. If you can’t use placeholders, maybe try using a redaction tool if the graphic materials are disturbing or could make onlookers uncomfortable.

      Apart from that’s it’d probably be helpful to have training about all sorts of procedures–confidentiality, and also exactly what steps to take if the work requires viewing graphic materials but the developer isn’t willing or able to that at the time.

      1. CAA*

        Yes, this. It’s entirely possible to develop software in this way as long as the properties of the placeholders are sufficiently similar to what’s in the production system. Unless you’re building some kind of AI that analyzes image or video content, your devs don’t need to be working with the actual files. They just need to have files with the same formats and sizes as the ones used in prod.

        If you’re going to be copying your prod data into QA and Dev environments, build a scrubbing process to replace sensitive material with innocuous information before releasing it to your QA and Dev users.

    6. Tarra*

      The Headington Institute has some good stuff on vicarious trauma – it’s ostensibly aimed at aid workers but is relevant here too.

    7. Rex*

      It might be a good excuse to do a more general workplace / quality of life check up:

      Do people have enough PTO (and feel like they can take it when they need it)?

      What’s the workload like? Is it overwhelming? Are people punished when they don’t make quota?

      Is there trust between staff and management, where people feel like they can bring up problems as they arise?

      Etc. Not an exhaustive list.

    8. miss_chevious*

      When we did something similar at my old job, we had all employees sign an acknowledgement that did two things: 1. had them agree that the viewed of the explicit images within the scope of their job duties did not constitute a hostile work environment or sexual harassment and 2. prohibited them from saving or distributing the explicit material for their personal use.

      Whether 1 is enforceable or not is a legal grey area depending on your location and the location of your employees, but it made clear to prospectives the nature of what they were going to be seeing and served a prophylactic purpose against claims.

    9. Anon Mod MGMT*

      I’ve worked in this field for years at all levels, so there are a lot of core things you’ll need to consider —

      Where are you? What are the local laws about the content you are viewing/using to develop AI? In other words, do you have proper escalation paths to law enforcement? Is there a chance child endangerment cases will arise from the content you are asking the moderators to view? Do you have a proper partnership with NCMEC and/or the FBI (or your areas equivalent)? What is your businesses risk with this content? Do you have a proper workflow for encountering terrorist images?

      If you don’t have to worry about that specifically (for example, if the disturbing content is “pre-screened” to some degree and therefore already handled as it needed to be by LE, then you have other things you need to worry about instead)

      Have wellness/resiliency training in place for all moderators. This training should be mandatory and occur on at least an annual basis. Make sure all agents have wellness plans in place after the wellness/resiliency training – these plans should be accessible by direct management in the event the particular employee is unwell enough to access their own plan – that way management can walk them through. Depending on how disturbing the content, I do recommend making sure there is an in-house counselor available to agents on demand. Make sure wellness breaks are included and separate from normal breaks. (For example, lets say your particular state requires 15min breaks every 4 hours – these are NOT wellness breaks. Wellness breaks are completely separate and used as needed based on if the agent saw triggering content or not.)

      When it comes to workspace – are they working near other departments that don’t regularly see problematic content? if yes – they need their own offices where screens cannot be seen. If they work in an open area they need their own section preferably by a separate badge through. Privacy screens encouraged if they need to work in an open area.

      As far as sharing content – again – make sure you are in compliance with local laws. When something is saved to a cloud, it is effectively saved on multiple computers (laymen terms but that’s basically how cloud sharing works). That means that if you are requiring they view CSAM content as part of the graphic imagery, any cloud sharing is considered distributing. (Again, local laws depending). You’ll want to make sure you are in compliance with laws when handling this content. Our legal team helps us out here so I wouldn’t consider myself an expert – hopefully you have some access to a legal representative to help with some of these requests.

      Lastly, I recommend checking out some of IAPPs information on content moderation as there is a push to make it a formal job type (which would mean regulations are standardized). Right now different places do content moderation in very different manners, which means agents get radically different levels of support from their employers. Don’t skimp on agent support just because content moderation isn’t a regulated profession yet.

      That’s basically all I have for this.

      1. Anon Mod MGMT*

        I will add though as someone else mentioned it and it’s a good point – if you’re just developing tech for agents/moderators to view said content, you don’t need to expose the devs. I’ve worked with devs building various in house tools for a variety of moderation teams and we never exposed them to content. It was more “Can an image move from A to B and branch of to X or Y as needed?” or “Can we add a black and white option here for agent wellness?” but the test images we used had nothing to do with the content. So basically, if the devs have no legitimate business reason to be exposed to harmful content, don’t expose them. Let them focus on developing the tools.

  3. Mandy Rae*

    There have been rumors going around my workplace for a while that our superboss is involved with one of his direct reports, the manager of a group I often work with. Superboss (male) is otherwise a very good manager who has treated me well and supported my career, but he has a blind spot when it comes to this manager (let’s call her Achillea).

    Achillea is not good at the hands-on aspects of her job (actual chocolate-making), nor is she a good manager or a responsive coworker. I don’t make chocolate, but part of my work is dealing with the aftermath and suggesting better ways to go about chocolate-making that will help the other teams and the company. Achillea ignores suggestions, blows off meetings, acts rude on occasion, and just does what she wants. Superboss hired her back from another company with a significant promotion (she started here as his assistant originally) and put her in charge of building this new complex chocolate product, and he ignores all feedback about her incompetence and bad behavior. It has gotten so bad that other people have stopped trying to tell him about it, they just do workarounds to not deal with her, and then complain and share gossip.

    Superboss and Achillea were both married to other people when she started this position, and she is at least a decade younger than him. I sincerely don’t know if that matters or not.

    I have been trying to ignore the rumor mill (which also says that one or both of them are getting a divorce) and the gripes about Achillea, but I can’t for three reasons:

    First, and most importantly, Achillea’s incompetence and rudeness directly impacts MY work, and neither I nor my boss (who reports to Superboss) have found an effective way to deal with that.

    Second, Superboss commented to me offhandedly about his divorce, so I know at least one of the rumors I’m hearing is true.

    Third, a coworker I absolutely trust, who is a manager in our group, just reported seeing Superboss REACH OVER AND TAKE ACHILLEA’S SHOE OFF HER FOOT during a meeting. That is such a weirdly intimate act! And to my mind, it confirms that there is truth to the rumors that they are involved.

    What do I do??

    I have lost so much respect for Superboss since hearing about the shoe thing, which alone isn’t a good thing for my career—but is that even something I could ever confront him about? And regardless of that specific incident, dealing with Achillea’s incompetence, Superboss’s blind spot, and the perpetual gossip are making it a lot harder to get work done, as well as ruining overall morale.

    ps. If it matters, Superboss’s boss is pretty high up the food chain, but also works out of a different office, so most of the team doesn’t have contact with him.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      If you have any kind of confidential ethics hotline or similar, I would absolutely send this there. A boss being involved with one of his direct reports is IMMENSELY shady and most companies take a very dim view of that sort of thing — especially since, given the power dynamics in play, there’s no way to say for certain if Achillea is actually into this or if she’s being exploited. (And her bad attitude isn’t really an indicator either way.)

      But I absolutely would not confront either of them directly about this. There’s no good way for that to end.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        This is the safest option.

        If you don’t have an ethics hotline, I’d suggest mentioning the rumors to HR and outlining how they are effecting productivity and morale (if you think you can trust HR).

        1. valentine*

          Report the work impact and rumor to HR. Calm down about the shoe thing. Don’t gossip; refuse to receive gossip.

        2. Gumby*

          Just so I can enjoy the gasps of horror: when I was in a similar but not-quite-so-bad situation (the two carrying on the blindingly obvious affair were both executive-level but one did not report to the other) one of the participants? Was the head of HR. Which, come to think of it, did make it sort of work-relevant because we didn’t really trust HR with sensitive info because of that. I mean, I trusted them to pay me on time and do recruiting, etc. But I would not have gone to them about, say, an accommodation.

    2. Guy Incognito*

      If you have issues with this co-worker, then address it outside of the rumors. Right now they are just that – rumors – and you don’t need to run around the office pretending that’s the issue when there is a real issue.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        * Document the issues and the business impact.
        * Document that you have sent those issues / impact to Achillea (great name) and SuperBoss, and their reaction / lack thereof.
        You can do these retroactively – a note to your boss, reminding him ‘I talked to Ac & SB about X in December, here’s what has / hasn’t changed’ is a good starting point. However, you may need multiple instances to build a good case, and that can take time, so be very very patient.

        Once you have 2 – 3 instances, send to SB’s boss, in a ‘this problem still exists, how can we fix it’ note.

        Separately, if you have a confidential HR system, then yes, use it to report the relationship. But build the case for Achillea’s incompetence separately from the possible affair.

    3. foolofgrace*

      I can’t advise other than to say that whatever you do in regard to Achillea, keep it about the j-o-b. Wbat exact things is she doing or not doing that makes the workload difficult for others? Don’t get muddled in with interpersonal things, although I appreciate that that background makes things even more difficult.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It boils down to is this something to lose your job over? I suggest leaving unless you have a direct line to an upper boss who you know cares. It’s going to cause you more pain and suffering trying to chase the rats off that ship.

    5. Fortitude Jones*

      I have lost so much respect for Superboss since hearing about the shoe thing, which alone isn’t a good thing for my career—but is that even something I could ever confront him about?

      No – it has nothing to do with you or your job. You can be personally disappointed in him, but again, that has nothing to do with your job. Stick to the facts about the actual work problems with Achillea if you must confront him about anything, but be prepared for him to blow you off if what you think is happening between them really is true. You can also contact your company’s ethics department, but I also wouldn’t advise going into detail about the shoe thing with them either – I’d just say that I’m concerned his personal relationship with her is impacting his ability to be an objective assessor of her work and, therefore, you are concerned that he’s not appropriately managing his team.

    6. Observer*

      I’m going to disagree a bit with the others. It’s true that while the shoe thing is not really a work issue, it is relevant in that it indicates that the rumors are true and also shows some pretty bad judgement because it’s such an inappropriate thing, regardless of whether they are having an affair.

      The only reason to bring up the affair is to explain why you are bypassing the boss. And that’s where the shoe thing comes back up. ie Grandboss clearly has a relationship with Achilea that is so different from most work relationships and so publicly intimate that you realize that it pretty much doesn’t matter what you say to GreatBoss about her.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        The shoe thing is a red herring – at my last job, one of my male coworkers lifted my foot, licked his finger, and wiped dirt off the front of my shoe when I kept whining about a scuff mark on it (some drunk guy stepped on my brand new Chucks). From an outsiders perspective, yeah, that would look pretty intimate; however, this guy and I didn’t even speak to each other outside of work.

        OP needs to focus on what’s provably true – people have reported Achilleas’s bad behavior several times to the boss, and the boss has done nothing about it. As a result, OP’s team can’t get what they need from her, which is negatively impacting the company. Let the company determine the appropriateness of this relationship without adding fuel to the fire.

        1. Observer*

          You’re certainly right that the key issue is that Achilea is not doing her job and boss is ignoring it. DEFINITELY the thing to focus on.

    7. 3 PM Slump*

      Dang, I came to AAM to distract myself from the little voice in my head asking for chocolate; now I read this whole scenario and all I can remember is that they were involved in chocolate-making! Time to go get some chocolate —

    8. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I sat on ther pun as long as I could…
      Your boss sounds like a real heel!

    9. Batgirl*

      I was thinking that this sounded very much like an infidelity dynamic before you got to that part. It actually matters more than you would think. You’re questioning big bosses’ judgement in being involved with her,and you are right to; when people are married and sleepwalk into an unplanned affair they very often end up with much more unsuitable partners than if they were single and looking, because they don’t spend much time together or assess each other as potential partners.
      Then comes the cognitive dissonance. People who never expected to be cheaters start to lose a grasp on their former characters and start doing highly questionable out-of-character things (like giving your girlfriend who you don’t know very well a job. This is small potatoes after betraying your spouse).
      My experience is that this only gets worse and for some reason ends up being extreme in other ways (untrustworthy with finances etc). Don’t rely on your former experiences of his character because that character is in freefall right now. There might still be time for him to pull back if his boss puts a hard stop to it all and fires him. If he remains in place, you should look elsewhere.

  4. a little bit Alexis*

    I have a new-ish coworker (she’s been here for about 6 months) who is driving me a little crazy. She’s perfectly nice as a person, but needs way too much validation and struggles with social cues. I’m not her supervisor, but because of how our schedules line up, I work with her a lot and I did train her on certain tasks, so when our actual supervisor isn’t in she tends to come to me with questions. Which was fine at first, but now it’s just turned into her frequently telling me very long stories about basic patron interactions to see if she made the right judgement call.

    We do have gray areas where we have to make judgement calls on our own, but we’re not dealing with anything serious, so even when I would have handled something differently it doesn’t even mean she was wrong. She also apologizes all the time. She apologizes for asking questions, for eating her lunch, for “being annoying” which is another issue.

    I don’t know how to deal with her randomly saying things like, “I’m sorry, I must be so annoying to everyone” when she’s legitimately been annoying. At first I would brush it off, but now I don’t to know what to do. I like her personality, but I sometimes avoid talking to her because like I mentioned at the top she doesn’t know how to read social cues when someone wants to end a conversation. I have two examples from just yesterday. The first time she wouldn’t stop talking and I had originally initiated the conversation, so I said, “Alright, I’ll let you get back to what you were working on.” And started to walk away, but she kept talking. The second time was the same conversation 20 minutes later when I said, “I’m sorry, but I really need to go to the bathroom.” And as I was on my way out the door she continued talking!

    The last thing that I’m annoyed about is there’s one day when we open together and I’m always a good 15 minutes early, but she arrives even earlier and does all of the work to open before I get there and before we’re even getting paid. I tried to do one thing last week, which was to turn on our two main computers, she came over when I was waiting for the second one to boot up and was like, “Oh, I can turn that one on!” and proceeded to turn it off. I’ve tried to curb this because if there’s anything left to do when I arrive, she’ll offer to do it and I’ll say something like, “I can do it since you got literally everything else done.”

    I don’t want to go to my supervisor because all of these things seem pretty petty, but do you guys have any ideas for how I could kindly try to address these things as they come up?

    1. fposte*

      Oh, she’s annoying, and oh, I feel for her because she seems really anxious.

      So this is one of those situations where you move to the direct. “Jane, I have to stop you now. I need to catalog the vintage Penthouses; please go back to the archive dungeon.” (You can do that no matter who initiated the conversation.) “Jane, you’ve said that about being annoying before. What are you hoping for from me when you say that?” You can even lay the groundwork with a general “Jane, I don’t have a lot of mental room for conversation at work, so I’m going to stop you in future when I need to go back to other work. I’m letting people know ahead so they know it’s not personal.” And then mean it and do it. You’re not saying this to hurt her, but you also don’t have to strain yourself to avoid her feelings being hurt. It’s okay for her to be a little hurt that she can’t have what she wants; what she wants isn’t reasonable for the workplace to provide.

      On the last, though, I’m not sure of what the problem is (aside from the possible problem of working off the clock if you’re non-exempt, but that’s both of you, not just her). Is it that you really like starting the computer? It sounds more like you’re just kind of Jane’d out, but this seems like a feature and not a bug–if she wants to do startup, let her do startup.

      1. a little bit Alexis*

        Yeah, the computer things was getting closer to BEC territory than an actual problem. I just couldn’t get over her physically reaching over me to “turn on” a computer that was already on, just loading slowly.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Argh… I agree with fposte on the scripts. This one isn’t just BEC, reaching over you to do a thing you’ve already done signals that she doesn’t trust you. I would definitely try ‘hey Jane, we are a team, and share the work. If you do things that the team has already done, it signals you don’t trust us, and it’s frustrating to me.’

          Now, I say this as someone with OCD (yes, diagnosed, no one has to say ‘don’t use that casually’): I have a couple of times been Jane and physically could not stop myself from hitting the button in a similar situation. My hand moved faster than my conscious mind could switch gears. Whatever drove it, overriding someone else’s work is *my* / Jane’s problem to work on and address, not yours, and you / my coworker have every right to be annoyed. Direct evidence / feedback of my coworker’s annoyance was embarrassing but helped motivate my brain’s retraining. Be kind, but be direct.

        2. valentine*

          ~Stop her a foot away with a raised hand and “Too close” or “Personal space.”
          ~Ignore when possible, including when she’s done all the work. She seems like she needs to-the-letter instructions, so asking her to save some for you or trying to split it formally will probably have her droning on about how she did z and wasn’t sure if you’d rather do that sometimes because it’s less boring or did she do y right.
          ~Keep walking away. Let her keep talking. Might feel rude, but so what? She’s the rude one, as she won’t shut up.
          ~Warn and/or report her for working off the clock.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          “Please don’t reach in front of me when I am standing close to something.”
          I have seen people actually say this. I think the hard part here is feeling like “This is pretty basic and how do I explain something so basic?”
          Well, here is a person that needs you to explain these types of things. Target the recurring things and have a go-to instruction for those instances. Use and re-use your go-to instruction each time until change happens.
          So each time she reaches in front of you, “Please don’t reach in front of me when I am standing close to something.”

          What I like about having the go-to instructions is this does help with BEC stuff. I can tell myself, “I have a plan and I am working on my plan for this recurring issue.”

          With the problem of ending conversations, you can say, “I know you want us to keep talking but I really have to get some stuff done here, so I have to leave this conversation.”

          I have a friend who uses a certain word that I do not like. I settled on saying, “oh, that’s not cool” each time he said the word. I think we went through 2-3 more instances and then he stopped using the word. It’s a similar pattern, pick out what you will say, keep it to one or two sentences and say the same thing each time.
          It’s also okay to say how to handle something going forward. For example: “Instead of just pushing the power button, ASK me first if I have turned the computer on. If I am close to the computer it’s likely that I have turned it on.”

          Oddly, by speaking directly like this you might help her to calm down some. It will take time so if you decide to adopt an idea like this you will need to use it consistently so she gets the message.

    2. Weekday Warrior*

      Great user name! “What would Alexis do?” In this situation is fun to consider. Something crazy but kind! Best to go with fposte’s good advice.

    3. MsM*

      I’d tell her that you understand that she’s anxious, but you don’t think these detailed rehash sessions are actually helpful at this point, and she should either talk to her supervisor about setting up regular check-ins for this type of feedback or just start assuming that no complaints mean she did okay.

      Also, it’s okay to be a little more direct. Instead of, “Okay, I’ll let you get back to what you were working on,” go with, “Okay, I need to get back to work now.” Or, “Jane, when I say I need to go, that means I can’t keep talking. Please don’t follow me out the door.” If that results in a flurry of apologies, tell her that’s not necessary; you just need her to work on not doing it in future. And if none of that helps, then you should go to someone in charge to let them know you’re having trouble figuring out how to guide her and would appreciate suggestions or support.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        At some point, OP, you might want to say, “You don’t need to apologize so much. You just need to let me go back to work [or whatever it is you would like her to do differently].”

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      This calls for being direct. Don’t put it on her “I’ll let you get back to XYZ.” Put it on you. “I’m need to finish my work.” If she follows you into the bathroom tell her to stop – that’s just rude. I know being direct is not an easy task, but with someone who doesn’t pick up on social cues, it’s the only way to handle it. Any type of hint or passive aggressive behavior will only make her question herself more.

      As for the last part when she does everything when you open together, let her. Unless she’s going to your boss and complaining that you’re not doing your part when you open together, I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

      1. Argh!*

        I agree about being direct, especially with someone who seems to be oblivous to what are meant to be social cues. People often think they’re communicating when in reality they’re being obtuse. If subtle communication isn’t working, stop doing it and try a more honest and direct way.

    5. Not A Manager*

      I think when someone who doesn’t understand social cues says “Oh I must be so annoying,” what they are really saying is, “I wish you would help me not annoy you.”

      I really believe she wants kind, direct feedback. You don’t have to say, “Jane, you’re annoying me now,” but you can name the behavior (kindly) and ask her to stop it.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Yes! There are so many people who can pick up on someone’s annoyance but genuinely do not know how to/do not have the spoons to address it, so the best they can do is name the annoyance. Totally agree that it’s a plea for help.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Her:”Oh, I must be so annoying…”

        Me:”Coworker, you say that a lot. It would be in your own best interest to stop saying that.”

    6. Adminx2*

      For the sorry for annoying you my trick is “Me teaching you is not a favor. The more I make sure you know what you’re doing, the more I can take a vacation and not be bothered by stuff because you’ve got it covered. Best you can do is ask questions and then implement things confidently.”

      Then just keep reinforcing the better they do, the LESS you have to worry. Since they are already wrapped up in how everyone else feels, this turns it back to them and clearly lets them see why doing good work is about being annoying or favors.

    7. Argh!*

      Her supervisor needs to give her more feedback, and then tell her that if she’s not sure about something to come to the supervisor. She also needs to hear from an authority figure that she is not to undo someone else’s work (turning on a computer) and that she needs to keep conversations short.

      It’s not fair to her for everyone to keep quiet about these things, and it’s not fair to the supervisor not to know how a new hire is doing.

    8. Lissa*

      “I don’t know how to deal with her randomly saying things like, “I’m sorry, I must be so annoying to everyone” when she’s legitimately been annoying.” This is a MOOD. I’ve been on both sides of this one, unfortunately. When I was younger I struggled a lot with anxiety that manifested as constantly wanting reassurance, feeling like if I could just get enough of it it would fill the hole of my insecurities – but it never did. And the feeling was awful – it was like I couldn’t stop myself. I partly believed that if I kept acknowledging I realized I was annoying, the person would be less likely to be annoyed by me. And also wanting reassurance I wasn’t actually annoying.

      I’m in a much better place now and don’t tend to do that – but I’ve been on the other side of it with people now, and while I feel sympathy I also realize that there’s very little that *I* can do to really fix the situation overall, and giving constant reassurance just isn’t always possible, or desirable even. Sometimes it can be like you “feed” someone the way that seems kindest “No, of course you aren’t annoying!” but it ends up increasing the behaviour, which isn’t good for either party.

    9. AnonAcademic*

      I have had this coworker, and I really regret not being blunt with her sooner, before it reached BEC. The brief awkwardness of having to be blunt is a much lower price than ongoing constant annoyance. Others have offered great scripts; I will just add that body language (putting your hand up in a “stop” gesture, raising your volume and making your tone less soft) all help and you may need to be prepared to talk over her briefly or repeat yourself (got to go! leaving! bye now! ::walk out of door::). Its kind of like launching yourself off a diving board, you need some gusto or momentum to interrupt someone who is so caught up in their own anxiety/awkward spiral of doom.

    10. JJ Bittenbinder*

      I see that you’ve already gotten some great advice. With the very long stories, I’d see if there was a way to interrupt her and say, “Sorry, Jane. I don’t have a ton of time. Can you jump ahead to the part you have a question about?” I tell long stories sometimes, and it really does help to be redirected, not just in the moment but in terms of training myself to think, before I even approach someone, what is the real question here? What’s the BIQ (behavior, impact, question)? I think this has helped me cut down on unnecessary details.

      As for the rest, yeah, I’d saying being very direct is paramount. Maybe even if she gives you an opener like, “Do you have a minute? I have a question” you can say explicitly, “I have 3 minutes right now.” Get it the habit of kindly setting limits.

    11. Batgirl*

      Oh the still-talking-as-you-are-walking-away thing! I have one of those! I keep walking and leave the area mid sentence. I honestly thought if she would see that I wasn’t going to halt for her she would quit trying to extend conversations. I kind of wish I’d nipped it in the bud by stopping each time early on and saying ‘why are you talking to me as I’m walking away, it’s really distracting and makes me feel I can’t leave’. But my b/f, whose mother does this unrepentantly, says the only solution is to walk away faster.

  5. Folklorist*

    Has anyone ever applied for a writer’s/artist’s residency before?
    I’ve had a novel in my head forever that needs to come out, but between my full-time job and my part-time job and general life stuff, the pockets of time I’m able to carve out for writing and research aren’t enough. Starting this week, I’ve been at my full-time job for 4 years, which means I now get 6 weeks of paid vacation per year. I’d really like to use four of those to take some time and write.
    1) How do I ask for this huge chunk of time off? In years past, I got 3 weeks of vacation and I’ve barely used any, and now I’m close to burnout.
    2) I have an extremely kind and understanding boss who’s been a huge supporter of mine, and who just went through hell to get me a merit raise (something my company rarely does outside of major promotion). It’s enough money to keep me at the company, but not enough to make me not need a second job. I’d like to ask him to write my letter of recommendation for the residency, but it seems like I’m asking so much of him that makes it seem like I’m not invested in the company—I am! I just really need a little space to un-burn-out and expand my horizons creatively.
    Any advice on any part of this? Thanks!

    1. Dragoning*

      I would start by looking up residencies or retreats you are interested in. A lot expect you to already have something to work on. Especially ones that will take four weeks–that’s a lot of investment, and typically they don’t want to accept someone without something to work on.

      Not sure why you want your boss to write you a recommendation letter. Usually when you apply to these things, you submit your writing samples or projects you’re working on—whatever you have of it, or perhaps a synopsis, that kind of thing.

      It is possible you are thinking of entirely different kind of thing than I am used to, but I think you may want to research the retreats/residencies more first.

      1. AnonAndOn Original*

        Some of these residencies do ask for letters of recommendation, but they tend to want them from people familiar with your writing.

          1. Folklorist*

            Thanks, yes! I’ve already found a few I’m applying to, and they ask for recs. I’m already a professional writer/journalist and my boss knows my work very well. He’s also well known and respected, which is why I would want him. I already have a project with some research and writing…. it’s a novel, so it will definitely fill up four weeks!

    2. Lily Rowan*

      As with everything, you know your work culture, but a place that gives 6 weeks of vacation has got to have at least some people taking large chunks occasionally. I think you can just ask for the time! You should go in prepared to talk with your boss about how you’re planning for a slow time at work (if that’s possible), thoughts about any needed coverage, etc., but they will figure it out. If you went on maternity or other medical leave, they would figure it out!

      Good luck — that sounds great.

      1. valentine*

        Go in assuming you won’t get more than three weeks off in a block. Don’t say why, as you’re essentially saying you want a different job. Boss does not want to subsidize your dream.

    3. Hold My Cosmo*

      I have twice taken four-week stretches of PTO to pursue something personally meaningful. Both times, I was downsized out of the jobs within three months of coming back from leave. I would not do it again.

      1. KatieKat*

        A counterpoint! I also have twice taken four-week leaves and was downsized neither time! Just offering a counter-example, it doesn’t always turn out one way or the other.

    4. Fortitude Jones*

      You can absolutely ask your boss for a letter of recommendation and say what you did here: you appreciate everything he’s done for you, you look forward to continuing on with the company, but you also have creative needs that aren’t necessarily being met during your regular work hours, so you want to do this retreat to have an outlet for said creativity and you’d be honored if he could write something on your behalf. If he went hard in the paint for you to get you a merit increase your company typically doesn’t do, he likes you a lot and wants to keep you. So if you’re asking him simply for a letter, and you’re not asking for any time off that you didn’t already earn, AND you’re not asking the company to pay for your participation in the retreat at all, I can’t see him saying no. I’m not a people manager, but I’ve had great ones in the past who would bend over backwards to make sure I got whatever I asked for so I wouldn’t leave.

    5. Reba*

      Some residencies are anytime, pick-your-week kind of affairs, while others occur during set periods. Sometimes there is structured interaction with a cohort of people, other times getting time in isolation is the point.

      It sounds like an opportunity with a flexible time range might be better for fitting in with your job — you could schedule the sabbatical to be as kind as possible on your team based on the work volume (if that’s predictable). OTOH, a residency with a fixed term might be useful for making the case for the time off, like this is a unique opportunity and it only happens at this time–so the length of time is justified and it’s a priority to make it work.

      Also, I think your point about hardly having used vacation and feeling yourself nearing burnout is exactly the rationale you use for asking for the big chunk of time.

      I agree with others that think a letter from a former prof or teacher or someone who knows your creative side would be better than a boss letter. I suppose boss could speak to your time management, but it’s hard for me to imagine how he would attest to your ability to write a good novel?

      Good luck!!!

    6. sheep jump death match*

      I think you should not be this loyal to a company that put your manager “through hell” before giving you a raise that STILL isn’t enough to live on. You’re worth more than this.

      1. Folklorist*

        Yeah, I know–I’ve thought about leaving because the pay really isn’t great. The benefits are amazing, though! 100% employer-paid health insurance, 6 weeks vacation, 3 weeks sick leave, employer IRA contributions (not matching, just straight contributions), extreme flexibility and teleworking when we want, etc. Also, a great team, a great boss, good ability to grow and develop. I’ve worked in some super-toxic places before, so even though the money itself isn’t great, everything else has made up for it–up to this point. I get what you’re saying, and I’m starting to get there, but it’s been really ideal for the past few years, stability and development-wise. Not to mention, finding a great, stable staff writer job at a magazine isn’t exactly easy these days!

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          You’re a journalist and you get all that?! Yeah, I wouldn’t leave either (says the ex-journalist). I’d try to freelance on the side if possible, bartend, whatever – your benefits are fantastic and very rare.

          1. Folklorist*

            Exactly! Believe me, I know how lucky I am! I freelance and coach axe-throwing on the side, but all of that doesn’t leave time for creative endeavors. So I can live fairly well, but I’m trying to carve out time to work on the things I really want to work on. If I could just pay off these damn student loans (from journalism school, hah!), I’d be able to jettison a lot of the extras and get down to writing.

            1. Fortitude Jones*

              Ugh, the loans – I so feel you. That’s why I’m constantly looking for newer and better positions. I’m going to die with this debt if I don’t find something else soon.

              1. Folklorist*

                Haha, yes! As far as part-time jobs go, it’s pretty fun and profitable, but exhausting. A lot of it can be like herding drunken cats (because yes, people drink while doing this!). But it’s REALLY cool when you get some people who are really not confident in themselves at all and think they’ll never be able to do it, and then just see them open up over the time that they’re there. Not to mention, I’ve become a lot more confident in myself and my own leadership abilities (not to mention performing/public speaking!) since starting this job. Axe-throwing is becoming more of a thing around the States and is a great stress reliever! Check out your city and see if there’s a range (or three) there.

        2. JJ Bittenbinder*

          Yeah, those are some amazing benefits. Good for you!

          Bear in mind that I know nothing about journalism or residencies, but is there any way you could combine this and have a work assignment come out of it? Do a piece or a series about your experience? Just spitballin’ here…

    7. Lucy*

      Six weeks’ leave is fairly standard for the UK (statutory minimum PTO is equivalent to 5.6 weeks) but it’s very common for companies to have policies preventing anyone from taking more than two weeks at a time. Taking four weeks at once would usually need special permission and might well be termed a sabbatical rather than a vacation/holiday. That would seem to fit quite well with a residency.

      … what happens if you can’t bear to come back?

    8. Arts Akimbo*

      Yes! I had an attack of Why Not Me, Why Not This Year, Do All The Things and applied for a spot in a highly coveted artist residency program in a country that has long been on my bucket list to visit– and I got in!! (My application was very passionate, haha!)

      Here’s the thing I found out after getting bitten by the apply-for-residencies bug– many of them are for just a week or two! You could easily do them without even taking an extraordinary time off work. That might not help you with this particular situation, but you might be able to find others that aren’t as long for future excursions! Best wishes, and happy creating!! :)

  6. Folklorist*

    This is your It’s-Officially-Spring!-Get-Up-And-Do-Stuff! ANTI-PROCRASTINATION POST!!!! OK, so it may not feel like spring here, but still…take anything that you’ve been putting off—those emails you need to write; those invoices you need to file—and do them. Right now. I know, it sucks. But get it over with. Then come back here and brag about it!

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        I had to Google ‘pomodoro’, but it looks like a great technique! Definitely something I semi-do now, but the extra structure around it seems super helpful. Thanks for mentioning it.

        1. Anax*

          Thank the commentariat – they suggested it last week, actually, because I’m bad about taking real breaks. :) This being said, there’s a lot of phone apps for it – I have Productivity Challenge Timer on my phone now, and because I like the aesthetic.

    1. Iris Eyes*

      Thank you I sent the email to get started on doing the thing. I’ve only been putting it off for 50 days or so. lol

    2. HDL*

      Bragging because I already did those things! My spring resolution: take 5-10 each morning before checking email, etc, to clean my desk. It’s not completely clean, but much of the old paper piles are now filed, recycled, or shredded. Anyway, thanks for the visual caffeine!

    3. Parenthetically*

      I got so much done yesterday — THANK GOD because my kid is sick today so I’m getting zero things done — that I don’t even have procrastination material to work with! I suppose I could do another load of laundry but I don’t know if I can be arsed.

  7. Anon for this*

    I need some advice, lovely commentariat.

    I’ve been offered a position with a new org that seems exciting and is in line with my current 5-year plan. I am so happy to have gotten it, and I have accepted it.

    However, I am very concerned about giving notice to my current boss. She truly is a lovely person and an amazing boss, but she takes things like this very personally. For context, my colleague told her that he would be moving in 3 months because his spouse got a new job in a different city, and my boss made him cry because she would not relent. I know some of it is concern because our team is short staffed and the organization is in a hiring freeze. But some of it is just that she doesn’t take these things well.

    Another layer of complication: I’m only giving 2 weeks notice. I’m asking for 3 weeks before I start the new job because I really need a week to recalibrate after spending the last three years in a pretty toxic office (which is leading to high turnover in general – when I leave, my team will be down to 3 including her). I’m afraid she’ll see this as a personal affront. I’ve also had lots of doctor appointments over the past three months – partly in anticipation of being without insurance for three months at my new job, and partly because I’ve had conditions I’ve needed addressed.

    How should I approach this? I’m at a loss. I’m generally anxiety avoidant, and I don’t want to hurt her. But this is happening – it’s guaranteed – and I want to pull the bandaid off sooner rather than later.

    1. Less Bread More Taxes*

      You are leaving this job. It sounds like no matter what, she doesn’t give references for anyone who leaves. So that actually takes some pressure off – you have nothing to lose! You’re leaving, you get to choose to be professional about it, and after that, things are out of your hands. If she throws a tantrum or tries to make you cry, let her or leave the situation. “This isn’t helping me move my work over to Jane. Can we please focus on that?” or “I’m going to head back to getting my work moved over to Jane, but thanks for the concern” are good replies to have on hand. At the end of the day, you don’t owe her anything.

      1. valentine*

        She truly is a lovely person and an amazing boss […] my boss made him cry because she would not relent […] pretty toxic office
        Anon for this: When you are free, I hope you’ll reflect on the contradiction here because she is neither truly lovely nor an amazing boss. Even a pedestrian boss would be happy for you and wouldn’t have you worrying about their reaction. She doesn’t even deserve two weeks. Be prepared to broken-record her. Don’t defend or debate. If she tells you to leave immediately, consider it a gift. Better to lose money than more of your health or life. I wonder if just leaving will have an immediate positive impact on your health.

        1. Observer*

          Yeah, really!

          “Lovely” people do NOT behave like this, even people who have a good reason to be stressed.

        2. JJ Bittenbinder*

          Seriously. made him cry??

          Congrats on your new job, Anon for this. I left a job a few months ago that I hadn’t been in for long, and giving notice was very difficult. I have anxiety anyhow, but my then-boss was neither lovely and nor amazing, and I seriously needed to take a Xanax to do it. She didn’t react horribly, but she didn’t react well, and pushed back a LOT on the length of my notice period (she wanted 4 weeks, I eventually caved and gave her 3).

          The good thing is, it’s a situation with an expiration date. You do it, you work your 2 weeks, and then you are free. One thing that helped me was making a list ahead of time detailing my proposed transition plan. I’d also been quietly documenting my processes and work outputs to save time on the other end. It allowed me to go into the meeting with a clear set of talking points, which I desperately needed because my mind goes blank when I’m very anxious.

          You can do this! At the end of the day, she can’t tell you that you’re not allowed to quit, right?

          1. JJ Bittenbinder*

            Wow, I should have scrolled down more to see that many people had already made the transition plan suggestion.

            I will add this: you will be amazed by how great you feel when it’s done, your notice is complete, and you have that week off. It’s the feeling of being light and free and in control. It’s fantastic!

    2. Ama*

      One very important thing to remember — you can’t control (nor are you responsible for) how your boss acts as long as you deliver the news in a calm and professional manner.

      If she starts being unprofessional after you tell her, maybe consider saying “It seems like you need some time to absorb this, I’ll give you some space” and then leaving the room.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        This. You are not responsible for other’s emotions. Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty or bad about how she handles it. As long as you’re not rude about it, it’s honestly not your problem.

      2. Bernie*

        I agree with this. You are only responsible for your own actions. Her throwing a fit would only highlight one of the reasons you’re leaving the position. Also, you are totally normal for wanting to take a week off in between jobs.

      3. Jules the 3rd*

        +1 You are not responsible for other people’s emotions, especially not in a professional setting doing a normal professional thing with a normal professional timeline.

        Might help to have a plan for her to review, as in ‘I’m leaving, this is my 2 weeks notice, here’s my projects and the way I propose to wrap them up or hand them off.’ Maybe giving her a series of professional decisions to make will distract her from an unprofessional response.

    3. Kathenus*

      Congratulations on the new position! I know that being worried about the reaction to giving notice is pretty common, but it shouldn’t be. Please don’t overthink this. It’s a normal part of business, and your only responsibility is to do this professionally – give an appropriate notice, work with your current boss on what the priorities are for your notice period to ease the transition, and act professionally during the last weeks. That’s it. You are not responsible for your boss’s feelings, and you should try to get in a mindset where you don’t let her control yours.

      Practice the script with a friend ahead of time. Have your typed letter (as many HR departments require this) ready and just let her know that you’ve accepted another position, your last day is XX, and that you’ve really enjoyed your time at this organization. That’s it. You don’t need to tell her your start date at your new job, and even if she somehow finds out you do not need to justify taking a week off between jobs. If she tries to push back, just repeat that the decision is made, and what can you do to make the transition as easy as possible during your last weeks. Rinse and repeat.

      Do not give her power over you by taking on her emotions, toxicity, or unprofessionalism. And don’t get into a cycle where you try to justify leaving, your notice, or anything about what you do once you leave. Just do a great job for the rest of the time you’re there and let her deal with her own part in this of setting the plan of how to move forward. Congrats again.

      1. sange*

        This. I went through this once. a truly toxic environment where my boss openly wept when I gave notice. I gave 3 weeks notice and I regretted it. She became worse than usual, wouldn’t speak to me and would only communicate by email even if we were in the same room, and I really wanted to just GTFO. Why waste another week of your life there? Congratulations on your new job!

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          I had a manager cry too when I gave notice – it was the most bizarre reaction I’d ever seen until I found out later that my leaving was one of the last straws for HR. She’d run too many people off, and HR ended up forcing her boss to demote her.

    4. Alex*

      Steel yourself with a few responses to her expected bad reaction, and repeat as necessary.
      One trick I’ve used is to signal what behavior I’m expecting from the other person. For example, “I’ve accepted a position as Teapot Designer, and my last day will be April 5. I hope you’ll support me in this transition so it can be as smooth as possible for everyone.” Hopefully that will tell her brain to go “Oh, yes, of course I need to behave that way…” instead of going with her knee-jerk reaction of “NOOO DON’T LEAVE ME!!”

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Along with this, I’d prepare a transition plan and present it to her when you give your notice.

        Use Alex’s suggested script and then tack on something like “Here’s a list of everything I’m responsible for and my suggestions for transitioning it. After you’ve had some time to review it, we can sit down and go over the best course of action.”

        1. Bluebell*

          Yes – this – the more transition materials you give, hopefully the calmer she will be. This really helped when I departed my last job, with 2.5 months notice. Good luck!

    5. MonteCristo85*

      I wasn’t afraid of my boss acting crazy or anything when I gave my notice, but what I do is I go give notice in person, with a typed official version of my notice in hand. So when you are ready for the conversation to be over, either because it has naturally come to that point, or because you just need to walk out, you hand them the letter version and go. I’m pretty sure I also had sort of a transition plan in my notice as well (ie what projects I was working on, where the files and procedures were located etc. So technically if they wanted to walk me out the door that instant they could have.

    6. Natalie*

      Specific suggestion for the conversation: say what you need to say, and then STOP TALKING. She sounds like she may have an intense reaction, and the best thing for you is to avoid getting sucked into trying to reassure her with extensive explanations or promises. Stay focused on what you need to do to wrap up within the next 2 weeks. Practice a few redirecting or deflecting sentences enough times that you once you get the first three words out, the rest of the sentence comes automatically. If you know you are going to feel really anxious, don’t go right from this conversation to an important meeting or anything, plan something like a short walk or a debriefing phone call with a friend so you can let the anxiety move on.

      1. ChimericalOne*

        That’s really good advice. Don’t let yourself get sucked into inappropriate conversational trees. Expect her to blame, cajole, etc., and plan to only redirect, not react.

    7. Beatrice*

      Don’t tell her you’re taking a week for yourself before starting the new job. That’s none of her business. You hereby have permission to lie about that and tell her you’re starting the new job the Monday after your last day. If there are social media or other personal reasons why she might know that’s not true, this is your trigger to start aggressively limiting what information she has via those avenues.

      The hiring freeze is not your problem. The company is able to lift the hiring freeze anytime it wants to, or make exceptions to it – if she has a problem with the hiring freeze, she can talk to her superiors. The department being short staffed is also not your problem. Nor is the probable fact that two weeks’ notice isn’t enough time to solve her problems and figure out what she’s going to do without you. She’s probably screwed, it’s true, but that is not your fault or your problem to solve. Leaving jobs is a normal thing that people do, that normal companies with normal managers handle as part of their normal jobs, with a normal two weeks’ notice. You’re doing all the normal things, and the parts that aren’t normal are hers and the company’s to fix, not you.

      Congrats on the new job, and on taking a week off to detox!

    8. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You can’t change her. She’s a monster if she makes a person cry guilting them when they leave.

      Cut your losses. You need a detox week, that’s all I need to know to confirm she’s a beast and you’ve got some Stockholm Syndrome!! *hugs*

    9. Jennifer Juniper*

      Count down the days until you leave. And remember she won’t be your problem anymore.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        I understand where you’re coming from, but I’d never do that. It’s really unprofessional to leave the rest of your team in the lurch like that, and it ends up feeling crappy. Even if the boss won’t be a reference, she can try to torpedo Anon’s reputation, plus common courtesy says to be the bigger person and have a decent hand-off.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      She made him cry because she would not relent.

      It would be good to know what exactly she said/did that was considered relentless.
      It could be that you will walk right through what the other person thought was difficult. Differences in people, perhaps you would not be fazed by her “relentlessness”.

      Perhaps you can come up with something that would be a preemptive strike. “I have given this long and serious thought, and I will not be changing my mind.” If she babbles on, you can repeat it and add, “I would like us to talk about what is needed for me to make the transition easier for everyone, here’s what I have so far [A, B, C…]. What else would you like, do you want me to do E and F also? I probably have time to finish those two things.”
      Here you have a plan to redirect her conversation.
      Her: “oh this so awful what will we do, blah, blah, blah”
      You: “Yes, I am sad about leaving also. Getting back to E and F, would you like me to take care of that, too?”

      Have a plan of what you want her to know by the time you exit the conversation. Keep circling back to your several talking points that you want to cover.

      Know for yourself how much you will take. If she hammers on you are you ready to walk out today? This is good to figure out BEFORE you start the conversation. I had the worst boss of my life. I went to give notice and I decided before the conversation started, I would work through my notice just because I have to know I tried to be as fair as possible. She tried several angles and because I had thought it through how I wanted to handle my resignation, her attempts did not faze me. And I think because I remained so calm and matter of fact she could see it was pointless and she did not pull any real crappy stunts.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        This is all such excellent advice! I wish I’d had it a few months ago when I left my last job.

    11. Observer*

      You do know that she doesn’t actually have the power to “not relent”? What I mean is that you CAN refuse to JADE (Justify, Argue, Defend, Explain) – You can keep on repeating one or two lines that you have decided on beforehand, like a broken record. And you can even walk out if you need to.

      The worst she can do is tell you to go on the spot. And while very few people can afford to lose two weeks pay, most people can manage that if they know they have another job in the wings. And also, it’s quite possible that your new place would be happy to have you come in earlier that originally planned.

    12. iglwif*

      Congrats on the new position, and also on leaving the toxic office behind!

      I hope you won’t take this the wrong way … but from what you describe, your current boss doesn’t seem like either a lovely person or an amazing boss :( But I also used to work in what became an increasingly toxic office, and there was a lot of bad stuff I didn’t recognize as bad until I was out of there and looking at it from outside. I also have anxiety, and I took waaaaay too long to leave that job because as much as it sucked, it was familiar, I didn’t want to leave my team in the lurch, the resignation conversation was a scary prospect, etc., etc.

      All this to say: I sympathize SO MUCH!!

      You will have to tell your boss you’re resigning, and experience suggests she will probably behave badly. It will probably be super awkward! But you don’t have to participate in the awkward. All you have to do — and I realize it’s not actually easy! — is remain professional, because
      – your boss’s unprofessional reactions are her own, and it is not your job to prevent them
      – you have nothing to lose, right? you’re leaving anyway, and you already have a new job!
      – if she wants to take your leaving as a personal affront, she’s going to have that (unreasonable) reaction no matter what you do, so just … let her
      – other people in the office know what she’s like

      Good luck, and all the best in your awesome new job!

    13. willow*

      Remember that this is a job, you are quitting a job, not breaking up with your boss. People leave jobs all the time. She, as a boss, needs to get a handle on this aspect of work. You owe her nothing.

    14. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Re: being without health insurance for 3 months
      Doesn’t COBRA cover the in-between? Expensive I’m sure but for me would be worth the not worrying about something unforseen.

    15. Anne (with an “e”)*

      I don’t have anything to add to the wonderful advice that others have posted. I just want to send you encouragement and internet “hugs.” Please update about how the resignation goes with your boss.

    16. Batgirl*

      So when I had a similar situation, I made sure to de-centre the needy boss so that it wasn’t possible to misread it as a ‘I am quitting YOU! I reject you personally!’ situation.
      So for example, the letter I handed in was addressed ‘Dear all’ and was cc’d to HR and to the grandboss with my reasons for going (a debatable inclusion as reasons are for reasonable people), and crucially, my official leaving date.
      I threw the boss a bone too. I put in something about being grateful for the opportunity overall and ‘the amazing mentorship of boss’ which is just a cliche but definitely made her less pouty.
      It also kind of took her out of the position of acceptor. Any attempt on her part to negotiate notice period, I met with “I’ve already told HR”
      Letting the grandboss know also made it more of a fait accompli. Lots of times managers who react to people leaving with angst are worried their own boss will consider them poor at retention, but if grandboss already has a cheery letter this is alleviated and it is too late to do anything anyway.

  8. Anon anony*

    Is it bad to eat an apple at your desk? Is it “too loud”? My coworker is at BEC level with me- though I don’t think that she ever really liked me to begin with- and seems annoyed if I eat an apple at my desk. Of course, it’s okay for her to eat carrots, nuts, and other crunchy things….. but the sound of my apple literally drives her away. Any thoughts?

    1. Crivens!*

      Nope, in most workplaces where eating at your desk is okay, this shouldn’t be an issue. She’s going to have to get over her annoyance.

    2. CatCat*

      It’s totally normal to eat an apple. If it’s bugging her, she needs to Use Her Words. I wouldn’t worry about it otherwise.

    3. alphabet soup*

      Eating an apple at your desk seems 100% normal. Especially if your co-worker is eating carrots. What a strange complaint to have.

      1. CC*

        I was about to say! I feel very self-conscious about eating carrots. But honestly a great deal of food is either crunchy, smelly, or otherwise slightly unpleasant for those around you. Most people have learned to deal–the coworker is being unreasonable.

    4. Alice*

      Driving her away sounds like a feature, not a bug….

      I mean, ok, you shouldn’t eat an apple at her ostentatiously, but keep eating the occasional apple.
      Depending on how closely you work (physically and in terms of collaboration), and how she got to BEC stage, you could try and rebuild the relationship. But refraining from eating apples isn’t going to make her non-BEC. So, rebuild or not, but keep eating apples.

      1. JeanB in NC*

        I’m picturing picking up the apple and eating very slowly with loud crunching all while maintaining full eye contact with the coworker.

    5. Karen from Finance*

      It’s perfectly normal. BUT if you want to be less noisy, you can bring a small knife (even a plastic knife) and cut out little pieces of apple as you eat instead of biting right into it? I do this already because I have sensitive teeth. I don’t think you need to, though, only if you decide you really care about your coworker’s pet peeve.

    6. Dollis Hill*

      Totally reasonable to eat apples at your desk, especially since she’s eating crunchy foods too.

      Sidenote – can someone explain what “BEC” is please?

      1. Pebbles*

        “Bitch Eating Crackers”

        It’s the stage someone gets to when every.single.thing someone else does annoys them…like breathing.

          1. Gumby*

            I have to consciously translate it in my head on this site because in my work-life it is much more likely to be Bose-Einstein Condensate which puts a much different spin on things!

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        “Look at that B over there, eating crackers like she owns the place!”

      3. AnotherKate*

        It’s short for “B**h eating crackers” and comes from an internet meme about how sometimes if you don’t like someone eventually they could just be having a snack and you’d be like, “look at that B, eating crackers like she owns the place.”

        It’s also a common acronym for bacon-egg-and-cheese, so. Context is everything.

        1. LisaL*

          Thanks for explaining the acronym. Apparently I live under a rock bc I’ve never seen the meme. Going to look it up now!

    7. Antilles*

      1.) An apple seems completely reasonable.
      2.) Even if not, your coworker lost the right to complain when she ate a bunch of crunchy things. An apple is quieter than crunching carrots and certainly quieter than nuts.

    8. Anna Canuck*

      Her problem, not your problem. Headphones were made for this if an apple being eaten truly offends her.

    9. Aggretsuko*

      I’ve been there. It’s not worth the drama it will cause to eat the apple if you are someone’s BEA.

    10. Janet*

      I don’t entirely agree with a lot of the other commenters on this. In a small, quiet office, apples, celery and carrots are the loudest possible food options. I had a former colleague who ate a bag of celery every day. Even though he was the nicest man in the world, I was just climbing the walls after months of this. We all eat at our desks where I work, but a lot of my colleagues seem to have sort of quietly decided to avoid those three options for the most part, although no one has talked openly about it. Or many of us will walk away with our loudest food and read a document in the lunch area for a couple of minutes, or in seating away from the main desks, until we’re done. It isn’t required, nor something anyone would ask anyone else to do, but there’s just a basic sensitivity about unusually loud crunching noises in a very quiet space. It feels thoughtful to me — not required, or mandatory, but just a collegial thing to do.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        The thing is though, that different minor things annoy different people and I don’t think it’s reasonable to be expected to not do anything that makes a noise above a certain decibel (or to remember that Jane doesn’t mind if I eat celery, but it really bothers Joe). Unless it’s something that’s really loud and is going to distract me from doing my work, it’s my responsibility to deal with any extraneous noises.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Eating that much celery just made me clinch a bit. It sounds like living in rabbit hutch without the bunnies to cuddle :'(

      3. Dust Bunny*

        My coworker, who is a really nice person whom I genuinely like, ate the loudest apple in the entire world at her desk yesterday. Yes, food can be too noisy. (We have a break area where food can be eaten, so we don’t need to eat at our desks, although we can.)

        But in this case, it has to go both ways: Either both of you can eat crunchy foods or neither of you can. I think the real issue is that she’s doing the same thing.

      4. JJ Bittenbinder*

        Yeah, I kind of see your point. I used to have a coworker who ate baby carrots every day and she crunched SO LOUDLY that I would quite literally be in tears of frustration. We weren’t supposed to wear headphones and I couldn’t always go somewhere for the 30 minutes it took her (she would eat at a very leisurely pace, while doing other things, so it was very unpredictable how long it would last) and it was the worst.

        It does sound, however, like OP is trying to be quiet, which my coworker never did. Plus OP’s coworker loses the right to side-eye if she herself eats lots of crunchy foods.

        1. Autumnheart*

          I recently started just eating my baby carrots in the car on the way to work. That solved both the coworker-annoying factor, and the recurring issue of eating everything in my lunch except the carrots. Probably be a good solution for apples too, if I sliced them first.

      5. OhBehave*

        Yeah. There’s eating an apple and EA(crunch)TI(slurp)NG an apple. How do you know she’s at BEC stage? Ask her about it the next time she seems peeved. “I’m sorry that my eating an apple bugs you. I thought it was OK because you eat crunchy stuff too. I’ll try to be quieter.”

    11. Ellie*

      I can’t handle the noise of people eating, but you know what I do when I’m at work? I deal with it, because that’s what you do in shared spaces!! Make sure to get apples that are huge, like honeycrisp, and go to town.

    12. Anonymous Educator*

      Maybe your co-worker has misophonia, and the apple-eating sound is a trigger for her.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        But that’s not on Anon anony to manage. Apples are a normal, common food.

        Shrug it off, Anon anony – she’s managing whatever reaction she has, by leaving. Don’t guess at her level of offended. Eating an apple is normal, and if someone needs you to stop doing a normal thing because of their discomfort, they need to ask you directly for a change, so that you can evaluate what you want to do about it based on words, not guesses.

      2. Ltrim Press Club*

        This is true for me. Apples are a huge trigger. If I don’t have headphones available, I get up and leave for a few minutes to take care of other errands. It’s not the crunching so much as tearing the Apple away as another poster mentioned.

        Someone in my workspace eats an apple every day for lunch. That’s great! Not sure I would ever feel like saying anything to the coworker as I eat food too. Another lady has chips and really crinkly bags that make a ton of noise, but that bothers me less.

        Apples are the issue and will cause me to tense up so much that I start to become manic and want to shut down (scream, cry, flee, get GET OUT). Yes, all because of an apple. Once my spouse decided to eat an apple while in the vehicle and couldn’t understand why I needed to stop and get out. To some people, including me, it’s THAT significant. I didn’t ask for this, I don’t want it, but it’s really that impactful.

        But back to work – This is why I need and use headphones. With them- no issues at all!

    13. Mediamaven*

      I think it’s totally fine but I actually get where she is coming from – the sound of someone biting into an apple actually bothers me tremendously and I don’t know why. It’s like nails on a chalkboard. But it’s not fair to expect people to acclimate to that.

    14. LCL*

      Apples are the worst to listen to someone chomp through. The worst! It’s not the crunching, it’s the indescribeable noise of biting into then ripping a piece away. I think because one’s mouth has to be partly open to eat them this way so the sound projects. Same reason someone eating a carrot slice or whole baby carrot is fine, but chomping on it like Bugs Bunny is annoying. If you wanted to be courteous, just cut slices off and it eat that way, that negates most of the noise. You are right that she has little standing to complain because she is sitting there eating crunchy things too. But the noise of someone going through an apple is much worse than the eating sounds produced by most other things.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I keep one of those apple slicers in my desk drawer so I can quickly and easily cut my apple into wedges which makes them easier (and I think quieter) to eat.

      2. Parenthetically*

        I reeeeeally agree with this, and bringing a knife or an apple slicer and eating the pieces was my first thought!

      3. Dust Bunny*

        The slurp.

        Mouth noises are often worse than food noises. My former supervisor would bring breakfast tacos every morning and she sounded like a horse when she ate. I could hear her two offices away.

      1. Lilysparrow*

        Exactly. You are doing a reasonable thing (eating a normal food). She is doing a reasonable thing (walking away from something that bugs her).

        This sounds like everything is working out the way it’s supposed to.

      2. Cherry Sours*

        Dang you, just spewed hot chocolate and mini marshmallows onto my phone. oh well, the laugh made it al worth while!

    15. Susan K*

      I don’t see a problem with eating an apple at your desk. If you are constantly eating crunchy things all day long, yeah, that might be kind of rude, but how long does it take to eat an apple? People can deal with that for a few minutes.

    16. Muriel Heslop*

      Listening to someone eating an apple everyday would make me nuts. I hate chewing sounds! Maybe you could slice your apple as a compromise? That’s not nearly as loud. And your coworker should be demonstrating the same care as you are – she needs to drop the carrots!

      Good luck!

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        After reading this thread, I’m so glad I have mild hearing loss! Such things wouldn’t bother me at all.
        Now, listening to Fran Drescher, on the other hand….

    17. Autumnheart*

      I would say that it’s normal to both eat loud crunchy things, and be annoyed by said crunch.

      I think my coworkers in the immediate vicinity like me well enough, but I still feel self-conscious if I’m eating loud crunchy things day after day. I’ve taken to eating them in the break room, or even in the car. If it’s an occasional thing, I don’t feel nearly as bad.

    18. Mel*

      I snack on apples throughout the day, and regularly worry about if it could be annoying to nearby colleagues. I have started using an apple slicer, as I figure it’s quieter to eat slices than chomping into a whole apple.

    19. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’m fascinated by this entire discussion. I’m more irritated by foods I know are likely to generate crumbs. I’ve had to work at computers where the previous user ate at the desk and tipping that keyboard out was gross. I’ve worked in midtown Manhattan in a ~60yo building over a restaurant that had a mouse problem. I’ve worked in a drought area where ants were desperate and coming into buildings in droves.
      So food crumbs and unemptied wastebaskets worry me.

    20. Cartographical*

      I have misophonia (a facet of an auditory processing disorder I’ve had since childhood) and the stress of other people making noises that tweak my nerves often leads them to think I don’t like them. I do! But managing my responses can make me seem flat or cold and I can get tired/cranky quickly around some people through no fault of theirs. I 100% accept that people make noises and I don’t really want any accommodation because the issues are so complex (being congested or tired changes my trigger profile) that no one should be expected to try to manage it but me.

      I would absolutely leave my desk or go to a different room if someone was doing something short term (like apple eating) that was a high-impact noise for me. I do it when my partner is eating oatmeal or soup (spoon scraping on bowl = internal screaming).

      I don’t know if this is your co-worker’s problem but it’s certainly not yours. It’s not personal and I’d just keep to your life as you’d normally live it. If you were closer, I’d suggest giving her a heads-up or eating your apple when she’s at the photocopier or in a meeting but until/unless you have a connection with her enough to discuss it, I’d just let her manage herself and enjoy your noms, guilt-free. Personally, the last thing I want is to drag the people around me into this auditory minefield. I actually feel better knowing that the effort I put into managing myself allows others to carry on normally.

  9. PM TM*

    Dear Alison,

    I started a new job about 2.5 years ago. It was a competitive process and a lot of egos (of people who are quite influential in this field) got hurt along the way but in the end they decided I was the best fit for the job.

    One of my main duties in this job was to complete a project my predecessor pitched. To be honest it was an ill-thought-out project and had it been up to me should never have been given this go ahead. In fact, as soon as he saw what a mess it was going to be, my predecessor quit.

    As I said, there was a lot of competition for this role, and one of the reasons I got this job was that I promised to carry out this project and that I had the ability to do it well.

    Well, it’s been one roadblock after another. It turns out that a lot of the things my predecessor put in the project proposal was either wildly exaggerated or just plain wrong. All the people he said would collaborate with us have refused to do so bit cause they were not actually formally consulted beforehand.

    Now there’s only a little over a week to the deadline. I’ve asked for an extension but there’s still no clear plan in place. Those people whose egos were hurt have come back out of the woodwork to gloat about how much better they could’ve done this.

    No one is happy and a lot of people are calling for the whole project to be cancelled, but that would be a betrayal as this was the main platform on which I got this job.

    There have been other issues during this time as well, but this is the most urgent one that has to be dealt with. What would you advise in such a situation?

    1. laura*

      Cancelling a terrible, badly thought out project is not a betrayal…it’s making a good decision.

      1. MsM*

        Exactly. Sunk cost fallacy. Present what you’ve discovered in the time between your interview and actually trying to implement this mess, and lay out what you would need to complete this. If those requirements aren’t compatible with reality, then acknowledge that reality. And if one of the backseat drivers wants to take it on anyway, let them have it.

        1. Weekday Warrior*

          Your advice is still great and just common sense. Too bad it won’t be heeded where it could really help.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Ah. You know what? It’s still the practical answer.

          Just watched Fyre, the business variation of “We have no actual workable plan–but we sold people on having a secret plan that just needed minor details ironed out. So let’s charge ahead and someone will solve it all and reveal a great secret plan if we just act confident” that plays out so often in governing contexts.

          1. JJ Bittenbinder*

            As an aside, for a very long time I read that as Frye, not Fyre, and thought that the boot company was putting on a festival.

    2. Mrs. Badcrumble*

      Just hold the second referendum already. (I can’t stop giggling at this letter, it’s brilliant.)

    3. she was a fast machine*

      Dear Prime Minister Theresa May,

      For the love of god, hold a second referendum before the entire world loathes your guts more than they already do..

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          It’s called ‘check with the stakeholders and revise or discard the project per their new direction’

      1. Flash Bristow*

        please! I voted remain, only one person I know voted for – and he’s the kind of person who makes racist or leery remarks. not at *you* tho, obviously *you’re* different, but everyone else, yeah?

        Another referendum, PLEASE. This time remainers who didn’t vote before will be sure to, my younger friends who weren’t old enough before will vote remain, and some brexiteers have changed their views.

        If we get a “leave” result again I’ll believe it. It was SO close last time and I don’t think anyone believed we’d seriously go leave.

        Argh, I hate it.

    4. Sammie*

      I totally did not get this until I saw the other comments. I LOVE this (I’m Irish so, yeah…) Well played.

    5. Ama*

      Can I just say I really love the idea of Alison solving all the world’s political problems solely through the lens of workplace advice.

      1. TechWorker*

        Loool agreed. My response (despite being British I did not get it immediately ;)) was ‘how the hell have you got to 2.5 years and you’re only raising it a week before the deadline’ ?

        Knowing it’s about Brexit this is still basically my response…

    6. Lobsterman*

      It’s been 2.5 years; that’s long enough that you can plausibly claim that circumstances have changed.

    7. MaryHS*

      Hardest part on this Dr. Who fan is that she looks like Harriet Jones.
      “Don’t think she looks tired?”

  10. alphabet soup*

    TLDR: What do I say when asked why I’m looking for a new job?

    Long version: A recruiter from a very well-known, well-respected company reached out to me about a position that aligns really well with my long-term goals (let’s say… project management for a teapot production team). I have a call scheduled for next week to talk about the role. Very excited!

    However, I’m struggling with what to say when asked why I’m currently looking for a new position. I’ve been at my current position for a little less than 2 years. I took my current position because I was told I was going to be doing very similar work—project management and writing/design for a teapot production team. However, that’s not what the role has turned out to be. It’s been mostly administrative work with a tiny bit of writing/design. Since I started, business goals have shifted so that the company is not very interested in producing teapots anymore, and has moved on to different products (which I’m not that interested in).

    So, my concern is if I explain this situation to new company, it’ll seem like I’m complaining about my current company (which I know you’re not supposed to do). I’m also concerned with making it seem like I don’t have what it takes to get teapot production up and running, which I think is going to be important to new company.
    Am I overthinking this? How do I explain (what feels like) failing to do what I was hired to do at current company? How do I show that I’d be better able to handle this at new company?

    1. Spreadsheets and Books*

      I recently went through this process and start my new job in two weeks! My reason was growth potential. Due to the nature of my old team, there wasn’t really a way for me to break out of my current role so that was easy to leverage into an explanation for job hunting. It’s a pretty all-encompassing description and it sounds like it could fit you, too – your current job has taken a turn in a direction that’s not a good fit for you so you’re looking to grow and develop elsewhere.

      1. alphabet soup*

        That’s really helpful language to use, and true! I am looking for growth that’s not possible in my current role anymore.

        Congrats on your new job!

        1. JJ Bittenbinder*

          “I am looking for growth that’s not possible in my current role anymore.

          That’s perfect.

    2. ThatGirl*

      “The role turned out to be a different kind of work than originally described, and I’m more interested in the writing/design than the administrative aspect.” Don’t overthink it. :)

      1. alphabet soup*

        That’s very excellent, simple language and very reassuring.

        I’m just super nervous due to the (very good) reputation of the company.

        Thanks for the reassurance!

        1. ThatGirl*

          Even the best companies have roles that change sometimes, and you’re not a bad person or bad employee for wanting to do the job as originally advertised. You’re also allowed to change your mind and say “I thought I was more interested in X, but it turns out I’d rather do Y” for the flip side of this. It’s all very normal and understandable. :) Good luck!

    3. Lily Rowan*

      If the recruiter reached out to you, you don’t have to explain much — you can say you’re not actively on the market, but are excited enough about the possibilities of this other position to consider it. Even if you’re ready to run screaming, if they came to you, they don’t need to know that!

        1. Lily Rowan*

          It really starts you off in such a strong position that you should try to hang on to as long as possible! “I’d barely consider thinking about the position you have to offer!”

      1. naptime*

        Yes, this is exactly what I said in a similar situation. It’s really the perfect answer.

    4. Natalie*

      So, my concern is if I explain this situation to new company, it’ll seem like I’m complaining about my current company (which I know you’re not supposed to do)

      The general advice is not to bash or badmouth your current company, not “never say anything with even the mildest possible hint of criticism in it”. If you think about it, by this interpretation even the stalwart “looking for new opportunities” would count as complaining since you’re implying opportunity doesn’t exist at your current firm.

      As long as your delivery is factual and more or less unemotional, and you don’t dwell on what’s wrong with your current position, it’s perfectly fine to say that the position has changed significantly from what you were hired to do.

      1. lulu*

        Exactly. You have a very good, objective reason to look for a job, just explain it as you did here and don’t overthink it.

      2. alphabet soup*

        That’s a really good perspective on that advice. I think part of the reason I’m overthinking it is that I am, internally, very disappointed about how my current role has turned out, so I’m very self-conscious about letting that emotion slip out.

        1. Natalie*

          I totally get that! I had a similar experience the last time I was interviewing. If a little disappointment creeps into your voice I really doubt it would be a problem – your interviewers are presumably humans who have had disappointing jobs before. It’s more about coming across as tactful or politic (in the noun sense of the word).

          Also I found it helpful to practice a little bit, just so I had a skeleton of what I as going to say and didn’t ramble.

    5. wittyrepartee*

      They reached out to you! You say: “oh, I’m happy with my job, but this job seems like it has amazing growth potential- so when you reached out to me with it I couldn’t say no!”

  11. Toxic Waste*

    The past couple of phone interviews that I’ve had, they’ve asked *when* I’m looking to leave my current position. I’m in a toxic job, but I can’t blurt out, “Right now!”

    Should I say something about giving a 2 week notice at my current position? I’m not sure how to word it. Any thoughts/suggestions?

    1. Spreadsheets and Books*

      I had a few phone interviews ask me this recently. My response was always “as soon as necessary; I don’t have any upcoming obligations that would stop me from giving notice.”

    2. Less Bread More Taxes*

      That’s what I’ve always done! “I need to give two weeks notice to my employer, and ideally I’d have a few days to think about an offer before accepting, so two and half to three weeks from the offer date works for me!”

    3. Murphy*

      Haha, I hear you.

      I think they’re just asking about a possible start date in case there are any vacations, big work events, etc. I think a standard “I’d be prepared to start a new position 2 weeks after receiving a written offer.”

    4. irene adler*

      You should indicate that you’ll need to provide Current Job with a 2 week notice. That’s being fair and professional to Current Job and shows that you are being considerate. New Job will appreciate that.

      If you indicate that you can start today (i.e. without any notice to Current Job), then New Job will wonder if that’s what you will do to them should you ever leave.

    5. Sammie*

      I’ve been saying ‘I need to give two weeks notice, of course, but other than that I am ready to move.’ I take the attitude that maybe they’re asking if you’re finishing up anything so important at your current work that you would have to have a longer notice period (or perhaps your work/industry has a longer notice period as standard).

      Even if you think you might not need the two weeks, it might be good – if you can afford it – to take some time to yourself, especially because the place you are now is toxic. Decompression is important. IMO future employers shouldn’t be pushing you too hard to start sooner than two weeks. You could maybe say something along the lines of ‘this company doesn’t always make people work the full two weeks, so there might be some wiggle room on when I’m available to start at a new place’ but I’d start with the idea that you’d be giving this very standard notice period.

      I hope that helps/makes sense – I’m only part the way through my morning coffee…

    6. A CAD Monkey*

      When that comes up just say, “I will need to give a “X”-week notice to my current employer upon acceptance of an offer.” The “X” being 2 weeks + time to recover/recenter yourself from the toxic environment. That’s what I was doing up until the day I just decided the toxicity wasn’t worth the pay and turned in my letter of resignation.

    7. CupcakeCounter*

      Going through this now.
      I’ve been saying I want to give at least the standard 2 weeks notice but depending on when the offer comes in and is finalized that it could be a little longer because of the cyclical nature of my work (corporate accounting with high involvement in month end close) I wouldn’t want to leave or start a new position during the month end close. I provide a bit more detail as to why and have gotten really positive responses along the lines of “oh that makes a lot of sense” or “I hadn’t thought of the timing on that”.
      You could also indicate after your 2 weeks comment that your current employer/manager has a history of not allowing people to work during their notice period so depending on how that goes you may be available a week or so earlier.

    8. JOdiRoady*

      The recruiter is just making sure you are ready to go in a normal time frame of 2-3 weeks. It’s to make sure they don’t follow through the process with someone who is waiting to finish their Masters Degree, waiting for their end of year bonus, or anything else that would push the start date months down the road.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        What about waiting for a month end bonus? I have an interview Wednesday (the first in-person – not sure if there will be a second one required), but when the HR rep I spoke to asked when I would be available to start, I told her after April 15 because I have a project shipping that week I can’t bail on. She said that sounds good and would probably be around the time an offer would be made to the successful candidate anyway – good, right? Well, I forgot that I get my quarterly commission bonus at the end of April. If I leave in the third week of the month, it’s unlikely they’ll pay out my bonus. If they bring up my availability on Wednesday, do you think they’d care if I asked to start the second full week of May? I really want to put in my notice (should an offer be extended and I accept of course) on the 29th so the check will already be cut and sent to my bank for deposit, lol.

        1. A Reader*

          I think you could say that, but be prepared for the company to decline to offer a job. By saying you’re now not available until the second full week of May (which I am assuming means May 13-17), you’re delaying your start day by about one month. And they may ask why there is a delay, too, so be prepared for that question.

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

      They might be asking if they have a longer time frame in mind for the hiring process and they want to make sure that you aren’t expecting to start in the usual 2-4 week timeframe. They don’t want to go forward with the process if you are likely to withdraw because it’s taking too long. For example, they know they don’t want a new employee to start until the beginning of a new budget year and that’s still 3+ months away. Years ago I interviewed at a place like that and I finally had to withdraw my application after the third round interview because it was going on 4 months and I needed to move on.

  12. bassclefchick*

    I’m looking for part time work, but have realized retail is no longer an option for me. Any suggestions on where to find part time, work from home, data entry type jobs? Thanks!

      1. bassclefchick*

        I have a full time job, so I don’t think a temp agency would help me. I’m looking for a 2nd job to supplement my income. Sorry I wasn’t clear. Thanks!

        1. HeyNonny*

          I would still look at temp agencies. I used one as a student with a strict schedule and they found a couple of evening things for me.

    1. wandering_beagle*

      Have you ever looked at Upwork? They’re a website for people who want to do (mostly) smaller, remote jobs. I don’t know how hard it is to break into, though.

      1. Hold My Cosmo*

        Upwork is consistently turning away applicants now, even established writers with plenty of clips and bylines. Freelancers are up in arms about it. Either they are saturated, or there’s shenanigans going down behind the scenes.

        1. wandering_beagle*

          It’s not just for writers, it has all kinds of remote office work. Data entry, project management, transcription, etc. But, like Hold My Cosmo says, it sounds like they’re turning away applicants, so probably not an option.

    2. Emily S.*

      I’ve heard great things about a site called FlexJobs, but I think there’s a fee for it.

    3. bassclefchick*

      I should point out that I’m looking for a 2nd job. LOVE my day job, just need some extra money. I don’t have the funds/desire to go back to school for something like medical transcription.

      Thanks, everyone!

    4. bassclefchick*

      I should clarify that I’m looking for a 2nd job. LOVE my day job, just need to make some extra money. I have no desire/funds to go to school for something like medical transcription.

    5. anonny*

      Measurement Incorporated is a part-time, seasonal test scoring company. I work for them in the evenings every summer from home. There are some states that are excluded, so check their list.

    6. Snow* is from home work , transcription so like data entry – it pays per minute so only works out if you’re a fast typist but is fairly easy to do.

    7. My Brain is Exploding*

      We have known a number of people who did part time gigs at car rental agencies.

    8. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      If you like to work out, I’d recommend community fitness centers. I’ve worked at them in the past and they’re a bit of a disorganized mess for a full-time career, but they’re usually shorthanded and if you’re a grown up who shows up when you say you will and does the bare minimum, you get pretty good freedom of scheduling. Plus you get a free membership, which if you’re paying for one already is a good savings.

  13. Sydney Ellen Wade*

    Thank you to everyone who commented on my post several weeks ago! My boss, Leo, has since met twice with Susan to discuss the mistakes she’s been making and the steps she needs to take to prevent mistakes in the future. I spoke privately with my co-worker Janie to establish that we should no longer correct Susan’s mistakes during our “double-check” but email her what needs to be fixed and copy Leo. Fingers crossed going forward.

    In other news, I had my quarterly review last week, and Leo asked where I see my career progressing in the department. I said I had planned to apply for AJ’s assistant’s position when she retires in a few years. Leo said that would be a lateral move and asked how I would feel about taking over for him when he retires around the same time as AJ’s assistant. I said I would be open to it but would want to have a more in-depth discussion about what that would entail, as a couple of my co-workers have seniority and would not take my promotion well. Leo understood and said he was mentioning it now so I could start thinking about it and he could come up with a transition plan.

    I have worked in an (administrative) assistant capacity my entire career. This promotion would make me a first-time manager. Any book or article recommendations for me possibly taking that leap? Questions I should bring up in my next conversation with Leo? I am most concerned about my co-workers’ reactions, as well as my work-life balance changing. (I currently have a very flexible schedule that lets me leave early for doctor’s appointments and errands; as a manager, I would feel pressure not to do that.)

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    1. AliceBD*

      I don’t have any work advice, being in the earlier part of my career, but I love your username!

    2. Teapot Librarian*

      Hello Sydney Ellen Wade from Virginia! Like AliceBD, I don’t have advice, but wanted to comment on your awesome username.

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      Well, doesn’t Alison’s book have some recommendations for new managers? I would *definitely* go back and look at letters in the ‘advice about your boss’ and ‘advice about your coworkers’ categories, I suspect the _Ask A Manager_ book is mainly a distillation of those.

      Flex schedule – you may want to limit errands, but going to drs appts signals to your employees that it’s really ok, that you are more focused on work output than on ‘butts in seats’. You might ask Leo about how he measures work output, if others on the team have different tasks. Also ask Leo where he thinks you’d need to grow / learn, and if there’s management classes or seminars through the company.

      But the current job holder knows your work and thinks you would do his job well, that’s *huge*. Co-workers may not even *want* the position (I did NOT want my team lead’s), and if you have a couple of years to train up, they’ll have lots of time to get used to the idea.

      1. SherBert*

        Like you, I didn’t want the boss’s position when she left. People seemed surprised when I wasn’t named as the next Boss Lady. I was equally surprised they thought I wanted it. I didn’t go into detail with them but my reasons were: I have been a manager and didn’t particularly enjoy it and there was no pay raise for me since I am at the high end of the scale… so… why would i want it?!?!

    4. Samsoo*

      I went from admin to management mostly based on my ability to work well with people. As you’ve noted, the work-life balance is often less balanced when you’re in management, but I would say that if you’re interested in Leo’s position, you should definitely consider it.
      I am a fan of From the Trailer Park to the Corner Office for just a general good read on stepping up. David Novak is a great leader and you can learn some style stuff from his book.
      I don’t think it hurts to candidly discuss your concern about your co-workers’ potential reactions.
      In my first management gig, I was brought in from the outside to a company where long tenure was very normal. I had to make some in-roads with people who had been there for decades and were on my team. But I think that all goes back to style… see above book rec.
      I’m sure others have other book recommendations, such as Ken Blanchard’s books, which are more specific, but for general leadership guidance, I really like the one I mentioned (three times now!) Good luck whatever you decide

    5. Lazy Susan*

      Ask Leo about stretch assignments, where you’d start working on/contributing to his projects/work now, rather than when he is gone. This will give you time to ascertain what the job requires, as well as give you time to try/be advised by Leo.

    6. Auntie Social*

      I would tell Leo that I really admire his light touch in managing people, and ask him how he does it. The best managers, IMO, are ones who tweak, fine tune, etc. Start the conversation by talking about Susan The Mess, and go from there.

    7. JJ Bittenbinder*

      Some books I found helpful (in no partuclar order):

      The First 90 Days, by Michael Watkins. Amazon has a package deal with this and an HBR article of “How Managers Become Leaders” that looks good.

      The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, By Patrick Lencioni. Quick read.

      The Speed of Trust, by Steven Covey. Same guy who wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

      Emotional Intelligence 2.0, by Travis Bradbury. I feel like EI is kind of a buzzword, but is still highly important (as many letters to AAM will show!)

      The One Minute Manager, by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. (There’s an updated version, but I can’t vouch for it. Amazon reviews are very positive, though).

      Servant Leadership in Action, by Ken Blanchard and Renee Broadwell.

      I like to read. :)

    8. MaryHS*

      A few years ago my manager retired. My company asked if I was interested, and I said absolutely not. So did another co-worker. The third did want it. She came to both of us individually to make sure wed not have trouble working for someone more junior. We reassured her….She’s interested in people management and we are not.
      Good luck whatever you decide!

  14. Crivens!*

    Quick question about asking for a title change:

    I don’t plan to do this soon because I’m coming towards the end of my first year, but I’m still curious. Right now I’m a “coordinator”. I don’t think that accurately describes what I do, as I am essentially in charge of my department of 1. I report back to my supervisor and to one other person about final budget items, but I make the decisions for the department as it is, I create the budgets and schedules, and I do the work. I’m not even unhappy with my title, I just know it’s not accurate to what I’m doing and that it won’t serve me well to have a title lower than what I’m actually doing in the future.

    What are titles above “coordinator” that might apply to this?

    1. Amber Rose*

      Hey, no advice just commenting to see what comes up. I’m also a coordinator in a department of one where I do all the work.

    2. Silver Radicand*

      As you don’t manage or supervise anyone else, supervisor or manager doesn’t make sense. Maybe project manager? Other common titles might be specialist or generalist. Maybe senior coordinator might make sense as the title. Without knowing what exactly you do to know if there are any department specific titles (such as controller, etc.) that might make more sense, I’m not sure exactly what else would apply.

    3. Silver Radicand*

      Possibly project manager or some variation of that, as that title doesn’t necessarily imply managing other employees?

      1. JOdiRoady*

        I was also thinking this…some companies have a set title structure. Clerk- Coordinator- Specialist- Manager…so the title doesn’t really reflect the work, it is a means of differentiating pay scales.

    4. WakeUp!*

      How is this not a coordinator? It sounds like you *coordinate* all the activities in your department.

    5. SadMidwesterner*

      I just asked for my title to be changed from Coordinator to Manager, and I’m right at the one year mark! So it might not be too soon. I felt like I delegate tasks to the other coordinator the vast majority of the time (which he also agreed with) rather than collabing and manage all strategies, and with the addition of an intern I supervise I felt like my title was no longer accurate.

    6. Ama*

      So at my employer, we would use “manager” to describe what you do (it actually sounds very similar to what my role was a few years ago when my department head left and they split her responsibilities between me and my new boss). But my org also has a distinction between “manager” (a step above coordinator, with more *project* management/financial responsibilities) and “senior manager” (manger duties plus management of other staff), where at many places manager is just for those who manage people. It might be worth looking at how coworkers who do things kind of similar to what you do are described even if they are in other departments.

    7. overeducated*

      I’m a little confused by this question and curious what you think someone who is “really a coordinator” does.

      1. ChachkisGalore*

        Just my personal read (I’m sure this is highly industry-dependent).

        I think of a coordinator more as the person who does the leg work (“coordinates”) at the behest of someone else rather than as someone who actually makes the decisions (or at least high level, directive decisions).

        Again, I’m sure this is very much dependent on industry. So no offense meant to anyone in industries I’m not as familiar with – from what I understand this might be pretty different in the non-profit world. In my industry though, the only time you would really see a coordinator title would be in a junior (possibly even entry level) HR role or maaaayyybbeee a department specific role that will most likely be responsible for a combo of administrative tasks and some junior level dept. specific tasks. While unlikely, it would be possible for a firm to end up with a junior level employee with a coordinator title as the only employee devoted to that dept. EG: if the COO handles to the HR functions, and manages it fairly well but decided to bring on someone junior just to assist with with the day-to-day of those functions rather than an experienced HR professional to take them on fully. If the coordinator excelled in the role and ended up taking nearly all of the work off of the COO’s hands I could see the thinking the Coordinator title no longer being appropriate.

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

      What are the titles of those above you in the hierarchy — if the person who you report to is a manager, you might ask to be an assistant or associate manager or “specialist” if that title exists in your organization. If the person above you is a director, you could be a manager or assistant/associate director. Manager is a pretty nebulous term; it can mean “manages people” or “manages projects” or “manages operations” like in the title Office Manager who may or may not have any direct reports.

    9. WellRed*

      My tiny company has multiple 1-person departments. Almost all of them call themselves “director of department.” Which makes me roll my eyes. What is it you think a coordinator does? Maybe that will help you?

      1. knitter*

        In my first post-grad school job, I was the director of a department of one. They still do this…I’m pretty sure it is partly to mask how inexperienced all the staff is (because there is such high turnover)

      2. Steggy Saurus*

        What’s really great is when all those “managers” get to be on the “management committee” and then you’ve got a 50-person organization with a 30-person management committee!

    10. Come On Eileen*

      My title used to be “communications coordinator” because I coordinated communications from our company out to clients. When I moved to a new company doing much the same role, I found they called this a “communications manager.” I don’t manage people, but I do manage projects, and I feel like it’s an elevated title that more accurately reflects what I do.

    11. AnonResearchManager*

      How is your role different from that of a coordinator (or other coordinators at your company)? The duties described sound like coordinator tasks, but maybe they could also be called administrator alternatively? Perhaps, for example Marketing Administrator or Accounting Administrator rather than coordinator.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Yeah, I think the Administrator title makes sense mainly because that’s what my current company calls people who do what OP does.

    12. Polymer Phil*

      Is “coordinator” a thing now? I was super-disappointed to find that it isn’t a synonym for “manager” when I interviewed for a “lab coordinator” job. I was hoping for an increase in my level of responsibility, but it quickly became clear that they were really looking for someone more like an admin assistant.

    13. all the news that's fit*

      We’re typically paid for the responsibilities in our job description, NOT for our job title. Your compensation team determines your pay based on comparable industry experience and job duties, regardless of the title.

  15. ThreeStars*

    If you can’t think of an answer to a “tell me about a time when…” type question during an interview, is it okay to e-mail the interviewer an answer later?

    I’m wondering because when I couldn’t immediately think of an answer to a situational question in an interview last Friday, they told me we could come back to the question. The question didn’t come up again, but I thought of an answer on the drive home and I e-mailed one of my interviewers the example. They didn’t respond at all, and they never e-mailed me information about the job that they promised to send me after the interview. I’m feeling like I may have made myself look bad by e-mailing them an answer. (If it’s not that, then I guess they weren’t super interested in me as a candidate anymore for other reasons.)

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think it was likely to have hurt you to email it later; it’s just that it may not help you all that much, either. I think that that wasn’t the factor here and that you just got beat by somebody else. Sorry.

      1. ThreeStars*

        Yeah, I probably wouldn’t do this again unless I thought of something super compelling. Time to move on mentally from the job. :)

    2. Kathenus*

      I can only speak for me, but I don’t think at all that you’d make yourself look bad by emailing the answer to the question. I don’t think you had to do so, but having been on both sides of this – both providing some additional information in a follow up email after an interview and getting this as a hiring manager – I’ve never viewed it as negative, for me it was neutral to positive. So don’t worry! I don’t think it was a problem at all, and could be seen positively as you closing the loop on that question. Good luck!

      1. ThreeStars*

        They stressed in the interview that they needed the person who was hired to be able to keep track of many ongoing things and make sure they were taken care of since stuff was getting forgotten and slipping through the cracks. I thought in this case following up with an answer might help show how I make sure to “close the loop” and don’t let things get forgotten. :)

    3. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      I think you can add it into a thank-you email, but I wouldn’t send it as a stand-alone message.

      1. ThreeStars*

        I don’t send thank-you e-mails anymore (the last time I was job hunting the only time I got an offer was after the interview where I didn’t send one so it doesn’t seem worth the effort). I can see what you mean about how it would have made more sense with a thank you e-mail though. Thanking them for their time and reinforcing my interest probably would have made my follow-up e-mail about the forgotten question sound better.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Thank you emails are still a good idea even if you don’t get anything out of it immediately because you never know if it could help you later. Plus, it’s just good to get in the habit of thanking people for their time.

        2. MaryHS*

          Conversely I once got a job because I was the only one of their top three who DID send a thank-you note.

    4. Shark Whisperer*

      I have done a similar thing twice and gotten the jobs both times. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but I think you can do it if you frame right. For my current job, they asked me about experience in X thing. I gave an answer, but completely forgot about a project I had worked on that directly dealt with X. I remembered on the way home. When I was writing my thank you letter, after all of the normal follow up stuff, I said something along the lines on “On the way home from the interview, I realized I completely left out a project I worked on dealing with X. Since we didn’t get a chance to talk about it, I thought you at least like to see some of the work I did for that.” And then I included a link because it was a public facing document.

      1. ThreeStars*

        Being able to include a link to an actual example of work does sound worthy of a follow-up e-mail. :)

    5. Anonymous Educator*

      If they said they’d come back to it and then didn’t end up doing so, I would just leave it alone. It probably isn’t that important to them for you to have to follow up with an email about it.

      1. ThreeStars*

        Good point that it probably wasn’t an important question if they didn’t come back to it. (They had a list of 25 questions they were skipping around through, so maybe there also just wasn’t time to get back to it.)

    6. Blinded By the Gaslight*

      I have a great response to these types of questions! When they ask you, for instance, “Tell us about a time you and a colleague disagreed about the best way to solve a problem,” and your mind goes blank, do this: say, “Hm, that’s a great question, let me think about that for a moment,” pause to think or take a sip of water, then say, “I’m having a hard time coming up with a specific example, but if faced with a similar situation, I would do X, Y, Z . . . ” and tell them how you WOULD handle that situation. I’ve seen this done, and used it myself, and it’s very effective! It saves you the embarrassment of sitting there in silence, panicking as the seconds tick by because you can’t come up with a slam-dunk example, and it allows you to give an ideal response, show off your ability to strategize or think through a problem, etc.

      1. ThreeStars*

        That’s a great idea! Maybe I could have even asked them to give me an example of the type of situation they had in mind. It’s hard for me to answer vague questions because I’m not quite sure what they’re looking for, but if they gave me a specific example of what they meant I could give a detailed explanation of what I’d hypothetically do. (The question asked for an example of problem solving. I couldn’t think of any elaborate problem solving off-hand since the problems I deal with are usually straight forward.)

        1. Blinded By the Gaslight*

          I do a lot of interviewing, so from my perspective, it’s about listening for the skill/ability they need in a certain situation that is behind the question. So your answer may not need to be elaborate or your example may not need to be about a Big Impressive Project in order to impress them (a mind-trap we all get stuck in!), you just need to demonstrate how you think about and approach certain problems, how you conduct yourself interpersonally, and how you use your skills to get the job done. Using your own hypothetical also gives you some freedom to think through something you may not have experienced yet but do have the skills to tackle.

          Also, you can help yourself a great deal by prepping for the interview by anticipating the kinds of questions they might ask, and jotting down some examples for each type of question in a little notebook that you should take with you to the interview. Most interviews include questions around: problem solving, communication, projects, resolving conflict, diversity, etc. If you listed 2 or 3 examples for each of those topics, when an interview asks you, “Talk us through a project you’ve lead and how you managed it,” you can scan your notebook for the best example you have or say something like, “I haven’t had the opportunity to lead a project, however I worked with a small team on Big Teapot Project, and I was responsible for coordinating XYZ people, communicating the team’s plans with ABC stakeholders, and managing the budget reports. If I had been the team lead, I would have done blahblahblah, considering XYZ factors . . . ” etc.

          Having said all THAT, I have also used my post-interview thank you e-mail to refer back to something I said or didn’t say in the interview if I think it’ll help, but only if I’m e-mailing the hiring manager, not someone from HR.

  16. Allergy at Work*

    I am allergic to my workplace. It has been allergy that has developed over time. Basically my ear clogs (especially after some sneezing and sniffling) as soon as I get here and takes nearly two hours and a hot shower to get rid of once I get home. It doesn’t happen anywhere else I go.

    I work in pharmaceuticals if that explains anything. I have been doing this line of work for nearly 10 years but as of late this allergy is now about every day. It used to be once in a blue moon particularly on cold winter days; it doesn’t matter the season now it seems.

    I read an old post on AAM from 2011 and it said to address it with the boss. However I’m afraid to say that I’m allergic to his store and then be told to find employment elsewhere.

    Any suggestions? I’m at work now and it took about an hour for my ear to clog. I don’t go home until later and so I won’t have full proper hearing until maybe 7-8 tonight!

    1. Dragoning*

      Honestly, I’m concerned that something is wrong with your workplace–mold is growing somewhere, dust has built up over time in the vents, etc. I would explain this to your boss because the workplace likely needs a deep clean.

      1. Allergy at Work*

        The place is dirty. He pulled something off a top shelf yesterday and the dust bunnies came raining down on me. That was after my ear already clogged.

        They are also doing something in the back room to fumigate against rodents. They have mice traps around as well as a poster on the wall that says when the pesticide company was here.

        1. Dragoning*

          Yeah, I think that’s definitely your answer, then. Dust allergies are definitely a thing. My mother has one–she says exercise helps, but mostly you just gotta keep it cleaned.

          It will get worse when things are stirred up and aggravating you, but once it’s clean again, things will (hopefully) settle down.

          1. Tarra*

            I don’t think you can diagnose someone over the internet, however good your intentions. Think a trip to the doc is a good idea.

            1. Dragoning*

              I wasn’t attempting to diagnose–I just meant, they said they were probably allergic to something–not me. I just meant to point out that you can just be allergic to dust and offer some (very low-effort) solutions to test that might help if that’s the case.

              Besides, that much dust can set off people who aren’t allergic, too. Gross.

              1. fposte*

                FWIW, people are allergic to dust mites, not dust per se; as you note, though, there are also non-allergic responses to airborne particles.

        2. MaryHS*

          You could also be allergic to the rodents themselves. That’s sounds like the ear issues I got when I had a pet rabbit.

    2. fposte*

      I think you can address it with the boss if you have a specific accommodation or remediation you’re seeking. But right now you don’t–you have a response, you don’t know what it’s to, and technically you don’t even know if it’s an allergy (non-allergic rhinitis is very much a thing); if there’s a request, you forgot to mention it :-).)

      If the request is “Could I work remotely?” I’d only ask that now if it’s a place where lots of people work remotely and it’s NBD. If you haven’t gone to the doctor yet, consider going, or at least consider trying OTC remedies for rhinitis to see if they help.

      1. Allergy at Work*

        A family suggested seeing an ENT doctor. I might do it.

        The only thing is it is always here at work! Never anywhere else! That’s why I suspect it is an allergy. There has to be something here, such as all the pill dust, that I’m reacting to.

        1. WellRed*

          And, are you literally breathing in pill dust?? Is that normal in such a setting? It can’t be healthy and seems like violation of…something.

        2. fposte*

          You can have environmental reactions that aren’t allergies. And you can have allergies/environmental reactions to any number of things in your workplace, so that remediating one doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. If it’s to the cleaning fluid they use once a year, cleaning the place out more isn’t going to help you. The symptoms you describe also aren’t likely to rise to the level of an ADA claim, which means it’s probably not your manager’s legal obligation to change up the workplace to keep you from having it–especially if you haven’t taken any steps to find out what might be causing it and to mitigate the symptoms yourself.

          I think you’re coming from the theory that if something at work affects you negatively, it’s up to work to make sure it stops. And that’s not true, and it would be a little naive to bring this up as if it were. Take some steps on your own, see where where you are then with allergen identification and your own symptom relief, and then decide what might be worth asking your job for.

    3. Alex*

      It would be hard for your boss to respond usefully if you don’t know what you are allergic to. What requests or accommodations are you requesting?

      I’d actually start with a visit to the doctor to see what she suggests before going to your boss.

    4. BlueWolf*

      Have you had allergy testing done? It would probably be helpful to know specifically what you’re allergic to in order to address the issue. For example, if it is mold, then there may be moisture/humidity problems that need to be investigated and resolved.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        I was going to suggest this also. I don’t think it makes sense to tell your boss until you know the underlying cause.

    5. Ama*

      So this is kind of random — does anyone in your workplace have one of those plug in air fresheners installed near your desk? Because your symptoms sound very similar to what started happening to me in my own apartment years ago, and it was only when I sat right next to my plug in one day and almost instantly got a clogged sinus and splitting headache on the side of my head closest to the air freshener that it occurred to me what the problem was. This was also later born out when I mentioned it to my boyfriend and he noted that there was a plug-in air freshener behind his couch — I’d been sneezing a lot over there but we assumed it was his cat (because I knew I was allergic to cats).

      If not an air freshener has anything else changed in your work environment recently?

      1. only acting normal*

        Seconding this suggestion.
        Plug-in air fresheners are the work of the devil and should collected up and shot into the sun.

        1. Kuododi*

          Oh absolutely yes!!! I was working retail a couple of years ago to get some extra $$. One of the things we sold was plug in wall air fresheners. I was helping a coworker clean our the display case where we kept the the different options of wall freshener replacement scents. Long story short I discovered one of the glass plugs containing the scent had broken and leaked scent oil in the bottom of it’s clear plastic drawer. After cleaning the mess we realized the scent oil had eaten a hole in the bottom of the plastic drawer causing it to drip all over the place. My thought was, if the oil does that much damage to a plastic drawer….what would it do to my lungs??? (The mind shudders!!!)

    6. Jess*

      So there’s a few parts to this:
      – diagnosing what you’re reacting to
      – figuring out what can be done about it
      – making choices based on those options

      Worst case scenario, it’s an environmental allergen that can’t be eliminated regardless of how much money your boss is able and willing to throw at it, and you have to find another job. Other worst case scenario, it’s the dust, and your boss isn’t willing to have the place thoroughly cleaned — once, or ever. (OSHA and/or the ADA might come into play in that case, I’m not sure, but if it comes to that you might prefer a job search anyway.)

      Personally, I’d start by talking to your boss and enlisting help in diagnosing the source — first in brainstorming all the different things that may have changed over that time (e.g., air fresheners, cleaning products/services, new medication dust), and second in requesting a thorough cleaning. This will both help to solve the mystery and give you a sense of how accommodating your boss is likely to be once you get to the second part of figuring out what might be done, especially if a fix would be technically possible but expensive, like recarpeting the store. Good luck!

    7. Achoo*

      Have you thought about purchasing an air purifier? They can be pricey, but can also work wonders.

    8. The Rain In Spain*

      I work in an old building that had some environmental issues remediated in the past. I was having cold/allergy-type symptoms. Instead of bringing it up with my chain of command (because I feared how they’d respond based on the stories they’d tell about my predecessor who caused the remediation to be performed), I bought myself an air purifier and keep it running 24/7 in my office. I don’t know if that’s an option for you, but it has GREATLY improved my symptoms. I change the prefilter every few months when it alerts me and the primary filter about once every 9-12 months. Well worth it!

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

      Do you think that wearing a mask of some kind (dust mask, surgical mask, etc.) will help with your symptoms in the short term; or mask and gloves? Finding out what you’re allergic to may take a long time — if indeed it is an allergy — so if you do approach your boss, it would be beneficial to have an “action” you can take that will help the situation.

    10. Lazy Susan*

      I had similar issue and it turned out to be the spray the pest control guys were using on their monthly treatments. It wasn’t an issue when I was first hired; but apparently there was ‘saturation point’ where it became a huge issue.

      I wonder if having the carpets deep cleaned, or having floors power washed would help.

    11. Always a nurse*

      Have you tried OTC allergy medication? That seems the simplest solution. Finding the specific allergen (with allergy testing) would be most beneficial if you were having frequent problems in a variety of settings, but it’s time consuming and expensive for a single issue.

      1. WS*

        +1, I’m allergic to dust mites and while I keep things clean, my control at work is limited. Daily OTC antihistamines plus a steroid nasal spray helps my sinuses.

    12. Cartographical*

      I use N-97 masks (you can get disposable or ones with changeable filters — tip: date it when you break out a new one so you’re changing it before it loses effectiveness) if I’m around dust or animals. A VOG-style mask is slightly less effective in my experience but will come in stylish colours and patterns. Both reduce particles entering your lungs and increase humidity in the air you breathe to improve the condition of your respiratory membranes. Your workplace sounds like it would make most people congested right now.

      OTC antihistamines and decongestants are a short&long-term solution and worth trying asap if you can — generics are available for most of them. Saline nasal rinse used during the day (I prefer the sealed, sterile solution in a spray bottle to the neti pot or reusable squeeze bottles, which have some issues) is almost magical in its efficacy in dealing with allergens and other irritants. I would absolutely be using this if there are pesticides and pest particles in the air.

      IMO, your next trip should be to your GP or wherever you can get a steroid-based nasal spray to reduce inflammation if they deem it appropriate (I use an antihistamine/steroid combination nasal spray) and possibly a note that you need to wear a mask to work until the environment clears. I know people who wear the “fashion” masks full time out of the house. After that, allergists or ENTs will help identify the source of the problem and have longer term solutions. Shots or sublingual drops have proven effective in treating many allergies.

      Good luck and stay well!

  17. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

    Any success stories out there from former librarians who changed careers and now do something completely different?

    I think the time has come for me to consider a career change. Right now I’m a bad combination of bored and stressed out. I’m also not on board with a number of the trends in the library world. In short, it may be time for me to go.

    If it matters, I’m a public librarian now. I’m not interested in academic librarianship; my school days are over and done. I’d consider corporate librarianship, but there are no such jobs in my area and I absolutely will not move. (Yes, I’m making it difficult!) I’d love to be an archivist, but there are few, if any, permanent full-time archive jobs that pay adequately.

    So that leaves exiting the profession completely, I think. Any success stories from people who have done it? Thanks in advance!

    1. Alice*

      Development can involve a lot of research, I think — finding out the backgrounds of potential donors.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      No personal experience, but I had a coworker who had his MLIS. He worked a field job with my company (Construction), moved into a market analyst role, then director of research, and is now the competitive intelligence manager at a law firm.

    3. Canonical23*

      No personal experience but I’ve been toying around with consulting jobs – a lot of the skill sets they look for are ones that I commonly use as a library assistant director.

    4. Marion the Librarian*

      I also want to second fundraising / development. I just accepted a job as a development and outreach coordinator for a non-profit and could point to my experience as an archivist/librarian during the interview. Prospect research, grant writing, and volunteer supervision were all transferable skills.

      It was a hard decision to move out of library/archives but I was also getting burnt out and knew I needed to make a change.

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

        Congrats on your new job! I always envisioned fundraising/development as just making cold calls and begging organizations for money – the thought of which makes me shiver – but I have a feeling my preconceived notions are wrong.

        1. Marion the Librarian*

          Thank you! I’m very excited about the change as I was also getting bored with library work.

          From being detail oriented so you can manage databases, to synthesizing information when doing prospect research, I found a lot of overlap when I was looking at job descriptions. And it definitely isn’t about cold calling and begging (which I assumed as well before I started). A lot of research goes into fundraising!

          This article also helped when I was looking to branch out of the library/archive world:

          1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

            Thanks for this, I will check it out! And good luck again.

        2. The OG OOF*

          As a successful fundraiser, I just want to share that I never beg. I give people opportunities to give to a cause that matters to them. And yes, I may be a little sensitive about this language. ;)

    5. Loopy*

      Not quite a librarian but I had an MLIS and worked as an archivist. I actually left for the reasons you cited about not being able to transition to working as an archivist! I did it very well for about 3-4 years….but was able to succeed only when I could move for a job! I successfully transitioned to being a technical writer have have been doing that for the past four years at a few jobs now.

      I am happy to answer more questions if that’s a jump you’d be remotely interested in!

    6. Tedious Cat*

      I never got my MLS, but I worked in libraries for many, many years. Getting out and trying something new was one of the best decisions I ever made. My new job is more intellectually demanding, but leaves me with emotional energy for the rest of my life, which libraries didn’t.

    7. Anon librarian*

      I’m in records management/documentation, though it’s not by choice…. just sort of happened after I received my MSLIS, but couldn’t find a library job. Still looking for a librarian position, but I am so far removed I doubt it will ever happen.

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

        I’ve actually never heard of that before, so I will investigate that. Thank you. It’s funny, we interviewed several people at our public library in the past year who had a corporate library background and were escaping due to layoffs or burnout, or both — so I’m not sure I’d have high hopes for corporate librarianship even if there were jobs available here, but I think I’d have the skills for it.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Try looking into corporate librarianships in insurance companies. The ones I used to work with loved their jobs and had great job security – us claims people were often too busy to look up our own case law and precedents. They were always happy to help with stuff like that.

    8. Not So Little My*

      I got my MLIS in 2000 but never worked in libraries, because I had really gotten attached to the technology aspects while I was in school, it was the dot com boom, and I was able to get jobs in the tech industry building websites with no experience except for building and maintaining the ISchool student association web newsletter and a few school projects. I built up a career in the industry, mostly self-taught, and am now a senior software engineer with nearly 20 years of experience. I was fortunate in my timing, this would be a more difficult path the way the industry is today, but I still think there’s a lot of room for librarians in tech, but they would need to be more strategic instead of just falling into it the way I did (I’m not a very strategic person).

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

        Thank you. I agree, but I definitely need to build my tech skills to be more marketable. Thankfully we have some free resources at our library to get me started. :-)

    9. Former Librarian*

      I burned out on higher ed librarianship and made the move into publishing. Specifically, I was an electronic resources librarian and at the publisher I was hired to license the content that we put in the books. There are number of ML(I)S holders in the department – the skills in working with databases and metadata are very helpful. I took a slight paycut but didn’t have to move, and oh! The lack of drama is AMAZING compared to academia.

    10. Lobsterman*

      Lots of staff jobs in academic librarianship which do not particularly require scholarship and like people with MLIS’s — or so my academic librarian faculty spouse says.

    11. Bibliovore*

      If you want to be an archivist, what are your passions? Do you have a specialty? Are you able to move? These are really hard and rare positions but every once in a while one might come up that is a good fit. It is a completely different job than public, academic, and school librarianship. Ask me how I know.

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

        Photography, transportation and museums would top my list but honestly I’m just fascinated by archive work in general. I am trained in it, although after 13 years I need a refresher. But I absolutely, positively, cannot and will not move, which is severely limiting professionally but some things are more important than work.

    12. Mellow*

      >I’m also not on board with a number of the trends in the library world.

      As an academic librarian with my own set of protests on that topic, I’m curious what yours are, if you’d like to share.

      One that bothers me is emptying shelves to make more space; university library buildings are being transformed into study halls – the Stabucksification of academic libraries, if you will. Another is the makerspace phenomenon.

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

        In public libraries, or at least in mine, it seems the rights of drug addicts and mentally unstable patrons take precedence over the safety of staff. A patron recently got into a fist fight with another patron in our space. He wasn’t banned. Security is being removed from our libraries because the powers that be think it’s unwelcoming to patrons, and we’re being left to fend for ourselves. I am not, and don’t want to be, a social worker.

        The extreme de-emphasis of books. Our only programs for teens are video games. I became a librarian, as cliche as it sounds, because I love books. I could go on, but those are the most pressing ones.

    13. Dr. Anonymous*

      Not all academic library systems require a subject masters—Georgia and Wisconsin come to mind—if that’s what you mean by , “My school days are done.” I left the library world, but became a physician, there was definitely school involved. It was probably worth it for me.

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

        That’s partially what I meant but I have no interest in being an academic librarian anyway. I know several people who are or have been in the field, and briefly worked in an academic library myself — it seems there are virtually all the negatives of the public library, plus the neverending drama of professors and the pressure to “publish or perish.” Not for me. :-)

        1. Dr. Anonymous*

          Ah. I worked in the “back” (Automation and Tech Services don’t deal with a lot of faculty) and we had a non-tenure-track “indefinite status” option (which is basically tenure) with NO publication requirement. Different world. I served on some faculty committees, though, and of course academic librarians can’t go to the bathroom without having a committee meeting about whether we agree with how the Library of Congress thinks we should all be unrolling the toilet paper, so it may well not be for you AT ALL. I hope you find a low-bureaucracy option that brings you fulfillment and joy.

  18. Philanthropy Anon*

    Does anyone here work as a program officer?

    I’m a finalist for a program officer role at a local foundation, after two decades of nonprofit work. I’m excited about the opportunity but not entirely sure I want to make the leap from grantee to funder.

    I’d love to hear the challenges and downsides. What’s hard about your work? What makes you exhausted? If you moved from nonprofit to funder, what do you miss?

    1. money fairy*

      I am supposedly on the program side of a granting office (we don’t use the “program officer” title), but the distinction between program and finance is VERY blurry in my organization, and since we’re also understaffed, I spend a huge amount of my time on tasks that are technically finance rather than program. These are things like drafting agreements, progress and financial reporting, modifications and extensions, and working with our budget office to actually get the money out and then close out at the end. I came in as a PhD-level subject matter specialist, and I am sad about what’s getting neglected on the program side so that we can keep the financial mechanics running.

      So that’s the one major warning I’d give you – my advice to you is to ask a lot of questions about daily tasks and distribution of workload so you don’t get caught in a similar situation. I do think the way my organization handles this division is more of the exception than the rule, and more of a struggle to make things work for now than the actual ideal of any of our leadership.

      Of course, I also miss being out in the field and doing the work, but the other side of that is that I get to see a much wider variety of work in the field and feel like that is keeping me up to speed on new developments more than when I was doing pretty traditional work in my niche area.

      What I do like? I like not having to apply for grants all the time! Seriously, the stress of chasing funding, and the resulting anxiety about job stability and advancement, was one of the worst things about being on the recipient side. My current is much lower stress because having that security matters a lot to me. And when you have money, people love networking with you at conferences!

      1. money fairy*

        Oh also, on the “what makes you exhausted” question – for me, with the rhythm of the funding cycle, there are pretty time sensitive deadlines where you have to get a lot done in a relatively short of time, and having delays from outside the program (e.g. waiting for actions from budget) can make that really stressful. But again, most of the time, it is still less exhausting than actually applying for funding on top of a full time job. My particular role involves a very manageable amount of travel, as we don’t do monitoring via site visits and we have someone above the program level who spends around a third of their time traveling to make those appearances, but I can imagine that would be exhausting if that were heavy in the position you’re looking at.

    2. theguvnah*

      I’ve thought about this move a lot. I think what keeps me from it is actually missing out on doing the work. Like, sure, you might give guidance and of course make funding decisions but…you’re not actually doing the work. So I’m not sure I’d be comfortable being that far removed from the changemaking aspects of my work (policy/advocacy at a nonprofit).

      But for some that would be a feature not a bug! So it’s obviously a personal decision.

    3. Brynna*

      Yes! I worked in the nonprofit space in program development, as well as fundraising and I made the switch to Program Officer about a year ago.

      I work at the state government, so our grantmaking is very technical and somewhat prescribed. However, I love this side of the work and I find that having a background in nonprofit benefits me IMMENSELY when working with grantees. Having the deep understanding their day-to-day increases my credibility with grantees and allows me to advocate for them as necessary in my own organization.

      I find the relationships I’m able to develop with grantees and their organizations is satisfying and since the work is much less stressful (in my experience), I’m able to spend time volunteering for causes that I want to support, without making it my livelihood.

      This has been a fantastic switch for me and I’m happy to share more, if you’d like!

  19. Alice*

    I decided not to worry about the overall quality of a program I’m doing with some internal collaborators. I’m going to have great content for my bit, and so are the colleagues who have been preparing, and the one person who has been blowing things off, ducking phone calls, and replying to email only in the wee hours is going to have good or bad material but it’s not my problem.
    I feel great!

  20. Shark Whisperer*

    I think I already know the answer, but I want to know what the hivemind thinks:

    Are overalls appropriate for casual Friday?

    1. Amber Rose*

      Depends where you work. I once audited a company where most of the dudes showed up in pajamas most of the time.

      In most places though I would say no.

    2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      Well, my boss has said (in an all-hands meeting, no less) that Carhartt’s style overalls are appropriate office wear.

      Of course, we’re a tech company with a casual dress code, so his answer is not necessarily applicable everywhere…

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      It depends how casual your casual Friday is.

      At my firm, absolutely not. Casual Friday means you can wear jeans — period. Nothing else changes from our standard dress code, which is on the high side of business casual. At OldJob, where casual Friday meant jeans, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and sneakers… yeah, you could probably get away with overalls, depending on what shirt you wore under them and how far they fell to the fashion side of the fashion/utility matrix.

    4. AnotherAlison*

      Not unless you are at a construction job site.

      I saw someone on the street wearing overalls with one strap down the other day. Brought me back to junior high. I can’t believe this trend is back.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            It’s the way you America with an “accent” that’s usually a derogatory slam at right wing Good Ol Boy

            1. LCL*

              That’s what I thought. Had to stand up for my peeps, Carhartt overalls are specifically part of our dress code.

      1. KayEss*

        Oh geez… I remember that trend. Mostly from the perspective of being a kid who wore overalls a lot but was too uptight to not fasten both straps.

        Overalls in an office setting would read to me as childish, not adult-casual.

      2. Antilles*

        I think this is a bit far; a *lot* of non-construction workplaces wouldn’t raise an eyebrow at all at overalls. I can personally say that several offices I’ve worked at, including my current one, wouldn’t even notice.

      3. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I saw a bunch of overalls at Kohl’s a few weeks ago and cringed hard at this trend coming back.

          1. Jennifer Juniper*

            %$#%#%# That should read “wear,” not “wear.”

            Also, where I live, overalls would read “down on the farm,” not “casual Friday.”

      1. valentine*

        Those are awful. They look like a bag. OshKosh B’gosh and Carhartt’s are several cuts above that.

      2. Autumnheart*

        Yowza, those are hideous. And let’s just imagine the wardrobe malfunction you could have if one of those straps comes untied.

        1. Jennifer Juniper*

          There’s already a wardrobe malfunction. The model forgot to wear an actual shirt, and possibly underwear as well. If I were a manager and an employee came in wearing that, I’d give her a stern talking-to and send her home to change. I would also inform her that the time spent out of office would not be paid.

    5. Arielle*

      I think sadly no. I work in a very casual office and even here I’ve never seen anyone in overalls on any day of the week. It is a shame because I wanted to get these cute maternity overalls and realized I would never have anywhere to wear them because I can’t really wear them to work and on weekends I’m in leggings 24×7.

    6. Rhiiiiiiannnnnnnon*

      Depends! Are they dress overalls? I’ve seem some very classy looking women’s jumpsuit/overalls mixed with collared shirts that I would say fit a casual Friday. Or even black tailored overalls that fit the bill.

      Jean overalls would be a hard pass from me though.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I guess you could wear dressy overalls on casual Friday, but now you’re dressy. I would still argue this is something someone who is 25 might pull off, but I would think a 40 year old would look silly. Maybe not in a very fashionable office, but definitely in my office.

    7. Not Today Satan*

      People at my office literally wear sweat suits on Friday so… it depends on the workplace.

    8. Half-Caf Latte*

      I will take this opportunity to share my objection to romper-style outfits, which are similar:

      Most public bathrooms, including those at my workplace, are lacking in sufficient privacy, not to mention sometimes cleanliness, for me to be willing to disrobe every time I need to pee.

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        There’s a photo of me wearing a flowered shorts romper outfit when I was 20. I somehow got away with that, but would no longer be caught dead in that. Not to mention my wife would rip the thing off me and make me change!

        1. valentine*

          Not to mention my wife would rip the thing off me and make me change!
          Your body, your rules. Time for a floral-romper sit-in.

          1. Jennifer Juniper*

            My wife is far more fashionable than I am. Also, I no longer wear shorts, since I am fat and 44. The sight of me in shorts is something even I can’t stand, much less want to inflict on others.

            1. I Took A Mint*

              Oof. Wear whatever you feel comfortable in, but I can’t get on board with this level of self-deprecation. There’s nothing wrong with fat and/or 44 year old people wearing shorts, or having legs. If it’s hot and you decide you want to wear shorts, go for it!

    9. Nanc*

      I’d say no just because of restroom logistics. Raise your hand if you’ve ever worn overalls, gone to the restroom and managed to land the straps in the toilet! Ah the 1980s, when cropped overalls were considered appropriate office attaire.

      1. Syfygeek*

        I think that’s why people left one strap hanging down- that was the strap that got wet.

        Mine were bright yellow, and I wore them with a green Hawaiian shirt. My then roommate says it was an accident they were thrown away, but I think it was for the greater good.

      2. Kuododi*

        Overalls, no however I did have a fairly epic disaster with a jumper while slogging through the fashion challenged ’80s. Those things are a nightmare for the anatomically female when needing to get to the bathroom in a hurry!!! AAACCK!!!!

    10. Boop*

      Dressy overalls were trendy a few years ago, usually in linen, silk or another high quality material. They also usually involved drawn-in hems instead of boot cut or straight leg. Rompers, basically overalls with shorts, were also popular a few seasons ago. I personally don’t think I could wear something like that without feeling like a total impostor, but if it fits with your overall style and office vibe you can give it a try.

      In most office environments denim overalls would not read well. I would avoid.

    11. Jules the 3rd*

      Maybe in some areas / industries, but I would not choose to be the first to wear them.

    12. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      For an office that presumably wears business attire regularly? No.

      Farming,mechanics or manufacturing office,all the darn time.

      My dad wears bibbers now that he can’t wear jeans due to his colostomy and urology bags. They serve a great purpose for staying clean but are for utility purposes not fashion.

    13. only acting normal*

      Well, that confused me!
      In the UK the jeans-with-a-bib-and-straps would be “dungarees”, and “overalls” would be a boiler suit (literally over *all*).

      You might be able to get away with a more tailored style – as a smart jumpsuit is to a boilersuit – but the regular jeans type would be too casual for most offices.

      1. TechWorker*

        Agreed, though the actual boiler suit type overalls are currently ‘in fashion’. Or at least, on catwalks and in fashion week, I can’t say I’d wear one to my office :)

    14. Grace Less*

      No, but wouldn’t “Casual Friday mis-steps” be a great holiday open thread topic?

      There is a person in my building who wears track suits every day of the week, and we’ve only been allowed to wear jeans on Fridays since January. I wonder what dirt they have on someone in the C-Suite…

    15. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

      If you have to ask, probably it’s a no.
      But… I wore a pair once, for “Cultural background day.”
      Grew up in a flyover state with too many vowels.
      Paired with boots, a t-shirt and red bandana…. it was a hit.

      Anything that works for a costume party maybe isn’t great for casual Friday. But your office may vary.

  21. Unidentified*

    Would you offer advice in this situation to someone who’s job searching?

    My team at a university has a graduate assistant who just graduated and is looking for corporate jobs. Before academia she came from a field where there’s virtually no dress code. The jobs she’s targeting now would likely be business casual, possible emphasis on the casual.

    She is going to interviews in very casual clothing that does not remotely read “interview” to me. Chunky lace-up heels, mismatched socks, exposed shoulders, casual tops, etc.

    She will ask us offhand on an interview day, “do I look okay?” But then will say things like “I wouldn’t want to work at a place that won’t hire me because I expose my shoulders, mismatch my socks”, etc. She doesn’t actually ask for advice in advance.

    In general she’s talented but also is typically pretty sure her perspective is the right one. When she didn’t vibe with one interviewer, for example, she told us that the interviewer (who had a lot of professional experience) was threatened by her degree.

    She’s been getting a decent number of interviews but no offers. So…would you offer advice in this case? I think she just needs to understand that the cultures of the places she’s applying to are pretty different from the ones she’s experienced. But I don’t know if I should just let her figure this out on her own.

    1. Less Bread More Taxes*

      I’d be tempted to respond to her “Do I look okay?”s with “Are you actually asking for my opinion or do you want me to validate your choices?”

      But seriously, maybe ask her sometime when she’s not interviewing what she wants? Something like “Hey, you always ask if you look okay before your interviews and you seem frustrated that you haven’t gotten any offers. Are you looking for advice or would you rather continue doing things on your own?” She might say she’s fine or she might actually ask your opinion in which case I would absolutely say something about her clothes.

      1. Kathenus*

        Yes, this. I think it’s one of those where she’s asking, so you can take one shot at giving her honest, constructive feedback. If she chooses to take it, great. If not, then you move on and don’t engage on the topic again.

        1. valentine*

          Tell her the interview is like the Olympics Opening Ceremonies. The athletes wear their tracksuits. When they compete, however, that is the time for the uniforms. It is like following baking instructions the first time, then customizing or improvising.

      2. Oxford Comma*

        I think you could actually use the basics of that question as long as your tone was not sarcastic. You could also just take her aside one day and ask if she wants advice. If she says no, just wish her the best of luck and move on.

      3. The New Wanderer*

        This. She might be asking for real, but from the rest of the context it sounds like she’s deliberating choosing a “look” and wants validation, not an honest critique. If she wants a job where she can bare her shoulders, it’s likely not going to be an office job. The mismatched socks and casual tops (assuming that means t-shirts and tops that offer typical coverage, not club wear) might be okay but even the most casual business casual doesn’t usually go for exposed body parts*. Or she may get a job but not be taken seriously if she continues to value her look over office standards. And definitely not if she believes and acts like her newly acquired degree makes her a threat to existing employees, particularly those senior to her.

        * Okay the cold shoulder thing is debatable as office appropriate – I admit to bias against this.

        1. Anononon*

          I guess the cold shoulder issue is also related to whether your workplace accepts sleeveless tops.

          I know Alyson hates these but I am generally uncomfortable in tops with sleeves (unless they’re sheer/airy in which case also not office appropriate in general!!). I basically immediately sweat and feel uncomfortable (possibly some of this is psychological since I do, you know, wear jumpers). I get that dress codes for men are different here (ie it’s basically never even business casual appropriate to wear a sleeveless shirt/top) but at the same time men’s clothing isn’t generally as fitted. Plus my sizing means if i bought a t shirt to be loose at the armpit it’ll be absolutely massive at the waist and thus definitely not read as ‘smart’. If sleeveless tops are ok then cold shoulder stuff isn’t really much different, IMO.

    2. Dragoning*

      I have so many questions about why she’s intentionally mismatching her socks in general, but especially on interview day if her socks are so visible.

      I’m not used to seeing my coworkers’ socks.

      1. Dragoning*

        Also RE: exposed shoulders, etc: have you tried explaining to her that most places of business expect you to be more formally dressed during an interview than during the normal course of work? Might help.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I mismatch my socks purely for self-entertainment – and on weekends, I also mismatch my Converse for similar reasons. When little kids very earnestly point out to me that my shoes don’t match – which they do, regularly – I ask them why they think that might be, because their answers are way better than mine ever could be. (One little boy at the zoo last summer was POSITIVE that I’d been wrestling the bears in the bear exhibit and they stole one of my shoes, so I had to find another one to replace it. Hey, why not!) Also, it reduces laundry time spent in matching socks. They’re all the same style, just different colors/patterns, so I just huck them all in the drawer and grab two at random.

        But … nobody ever SEES my socks in work clothes, especially not at an interview.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Yeah, mismatched socks is a fun quirk. (I go for funky stripes, myself)

          Bare shoulders in an interview is pretty seriously unprofessional. If it’s my kid or a close friend, I’d try a discussion on code-switching uses and examples, and how ‘interview’ is a slightly different situation than ‘regular work day’, but I’d also get into ‘unless you’re in the arts / media, bare shoulders are unprofessional with everyone.’

          But I’d have to know them well and like them a lot.

          1. Jennifer Juniper*

            When I read that she was baring her shoulders in a job interview, I shuddered. An older woman should take her aside and tell her that her interviewers might make nasty assumptions about her character.

            1. Tim Tam Girl*

              ‘Nasty assumptions about her character’? Because she bared her shoulders? You have got to be kidding. Please tell me you’re kidding.

              I fully agree that she isn’t dressing professionally enough and is probably shooting herself in the foot with this attitude. But to insinuate that interviewers would want to brand her with a scarlet ‘A’, and that this would be a **normal and acceptable response**, is victim-blaming misogyny and utterly bananacrackers to boot.

              1. Argh!*

                There are a lot of religious sects that are against this, and they dominate some pockets of society. It’s wrong, but it’s a thing.

                1. Jennifer Juniper*

                  @Tim Tam Girl:

                  No, I wasn’t kidding. A lot of conservative interviewers would do precisely that. (Don’t worry, I wouldn’t automatically make those assumptions.)

                  However, I wouldn’t hire her because I’d know her judgment was atrocious.

                  @Agrh: Thank you for pointing that out.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            At one point when I was at Disneyworld, three little kids came up to me and asked me if I was allowed to have mismatched shoes. I said “Absolutely, I asked Mickey when we had breakfast this morning and he said it was fine.” They turned around and ran back to their adults and all sat down on the ground and started trading shoes around so they didn’t have matched ones either. Uh, sorry, adults? (The adults looked greatly amused, at least.)

      3. Temperance*

        One of my nieces is obsessed with mismatched socks. It’s her favorite way to dress (she’s 7) and she loves when we do it, too. Of course, I wouldn’t go to work like that (said by the person currently wearing Captain Marvel socks at a law firm).

    3. Murphy*

      Since she’s a student, and because she’s asked how she looks, I’d 100% give her advice.

      1. alphabet soup*

        Yes, give the advice once. If she fails to heed that advice after that, at least you’ll know you’ve done your part.

    4. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      I have a feeling she’s self-sabotaging. I suspect “I wouldn’t want to work at a place that won’t hire me because of [X sartorial choice]” means “a part of me just doesn’t want to get hired.”

      So sure, go ahead and mention that even casual workplaces have different expectations for interview dress, but I wouldn’t hold out much hope or feel too invested.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Even if you’re just interviewing and that’s not how you dress the rest of the time on the job, you are kind of socially expected to spiff it up a bit for the interview. It sounds like she is not doing that.

      2. Unidentified*

        See, that’s my thing, and why I hesitate. On some level she must know it’s not great interview attire if she’s immediately making disclaimers like that.

    5. Syfygeek*

      A professor I know has his senior students research companies they would like to intern/work for, and that includes office environment and culture. One of the questions they answer is what would the sales team wear to call on clients.

      He said it’s been a wake up call to some of them, and the information can be found by some creative google-fu. Maybe you could suggest she takes a deeper look into the “About Us” section of the company website. Normally that area will include photos of employees, that may be staged, but are indicative of what is normally worn.

    6. Tipcat*

      Her life is not your circus. Also, unsolicited advice is rarely appreciated or followed. The info is available to her (here and other places), if she wants it.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Possibly at some point the need to get a job will outweigh the need to find a place that fits her dress style.

    7. Anonymous Educator*

      I think you can weigh in once (don’t keep reminding her) to just let her know it’s okay to dress slightly differently from your normal attire just for a job interview. And if she shrugs it off, hey, you gave her your opinion, and then she can learn on her own from there.

      I’ve actually worked in places where I was able to dress very casually, and I felt very comfortable there. But for those job interviews, I dressed up slightly. No big deal.

    8. WellRed*

      She’s not going to figure this out on her own (bare shoulders?). And a PSA to all you freshly minted grads: it’s highly unlikely an interviewer will ever be threatened by your degree.

      1. Unidentified*

        Yeah, I think the possibility is slightly higher when it’s a PhD, but it’s still unlikely. I think what happens more often is a recent MA or PhD assuming their degree qualifies them more than job experience would.

      2. bunniferous*

        There is a type of blouse popular now that has a hole/bare space right at the shoulder yet covering most of the upper arm.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      I would tell myself that this is not actually a clothing issue.

      In my out loud voice, I think I would say something like, “We can hear our own drummer OR we can be solidly employed. We have to pick which one we want.”

      There are plenty of people out there that have their own thing going on. They pay a price for that, perhaps they are always looking for work or they end up in some weird or even nasty work settings. Some how they manage. Sometimes I tell myself, “If I tried to do work/life in that manner I would fall flat on my face. I just don’t have much luck with being free-spirited. My luck is so poor that I even got yelled at for littering AT THE DUMP.”

    10. Autumnheart*

      If she’s asking you if she looks okay before she heads out to an interview, then you need to tell her “No, that outfit is totally inappropriate for an interview. It’s too casual and unprofessional.” You’re doing her a disservice if you are not telling her, in plain language, that her outfits are not appropriate.

      Otherwise, let her figure it out. If she can get a master’s degree, she can google “What should I wear to an interview?” or she can enjoy being unemployed. At some point the baby birds have to leave the nest. Mid-20s is old enough to be responsible for the consequences of their choices.

  22. More Anonymous Than Usual*

    My boss is really an amazing manager, but they’re also very in denial about the salaries in our department.

    Whenever I mention anything that might indicate we (the people in our department) are getting below market rate, they get very defensive and insist we’re very competitive with the market and they’ve done all this research to make sure we’re even with our peers. But then in other conversations I’ve had with them, they’ve complained about their own salary being too low. And I recently put in notice, and they’ve now been complaining to me that the applicants for my position have been backing out once they hear the salary range, because the applicants aren’t willing to take a pay cut.

    I feel a bit bad, because I know they’ve worked really hard to get me huge raises (and even then I’m still not making market rate), but we’re just all underpaid as a department. It’s a systemic issue.

    I’m leaving (as I mentioned before), so it’s not really that big a deal to me, but I almost wish my boss would leave for a better-paying job themselves, because they totally could. I think they have some kind of weird sense of loyalty to the organization, though.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      If they do exit interviews, you may want to mention the salary problem again, but it probably won’t do any good. May also be worth suggesting they offer other benefits if they can’t compete with salaries. I’ve always thought that jobs aren’t always about the money, but if a company pays low AND doesn’t make up for it in other ways, they can’t expect to retain their employees.

      1. More Anonymous Than Usual*

        Well, I do think there are actually many benefits to the place apart from salary, which is why I stayed as long as I did, but no matter how much my boss complains about their salary or mine (or anyone else’s in our department), if I mention that we aren’t being paid market rate, they suddenly get very defensive about our salaries being competitive. Cognitive dissonance…

        And, unfortunately, there isn’t much they (my boss) can do about the salaries, so I don’t think an exit interview mention of that will help. They can already see there are several great candidates turning down the position once they find out the salary range.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      In the current economy you cannot get away with low salaries. There’s too much competition and its a job seekers market.

      You’re nice to like them enough to feel for their situation but yep, they’ll get bottom of the pool results with low rates. Welcome to a recovering economy.

      1. More Anonymous Than Usual*

        It’s going to be tough for them to find a replacement. I’m trying to help as much as I can with the hiring process (and I’ll be involved with training the new person), but the salary they’re paying is definitely going to thin the candidate pool, and already has.

  23. Anon for this*

    I have a coworker who has a 6-month old baby. She took a 3-month maternity leave, during which she used all of her PTO, plus some donated PTO, and some unpaid leave. Since she returned to work about three months ago, her (retired) father has been living with her and providing childcare while she and her husband are at work.

    Last week, her mother needed surgery on short notice (a few days), so her father went back home to take care of her mother, and therefore couldn’t provide childcare all week. My coworker just took the whole week off to stay home with the baby. Of course I don’t know the details of her PTO situation, but just doing the math, I know she couldn’t possibly have enough vacation time to cover the whole week. By coincidence, we had a huge crisis last week that directly affected our department, and the rest of us worked 60-70 hours last week dealing with the crisis, so it was just about the worst possible time for her to take a week off.

    I don’t have kids, so I am just wondering, isn’t it usually expected that people will have alternate childcare arrangements for situations like this? I could understand if maybe she didn’t have anything lined up yet on Monday, but surely she could have taken the day on Monday to call around and find a daycare that would take her child for the rest of the week? Or she could have split the week with her husband, not that division of childcare within her marriage is any of my business, but I was just pretty shocked that she didn’t even try to make childcare arrangements so she could come to work during a major crisis.

    (And I know any time this kind of thing comes up here, people go on and on about how terrible maternity leave is in the US and mothers should get more time off, etc., but that is really a whole different topic that I would rather not get into. My question would be the same even if she got a year of paid maternity leave and her baby is a year old and she just took the week off because her regular childcare was unavailable.)

    1. laura*

      I’d say no, no one has backup childcare available for an emergency like this. The nature of an emergency is you never know when it’s going to pop-up. Plus it’s impossible to have someone on-call for an unexpected situation that may never crop up.

      Could she have found someone to take her kid for part of the week? Maybe, but depending on where you are, daycares are generally at capacity. And maybe she did try.

      1. Temperance*

        My office has backup childcare, for free, as an employee benefit. I don’t think it’s that uncommon.

        1. Natalie*

          It’s still exceedingly uncommon to offer any kind of on-site childcare, much less free, drop in care. That sounds like an awesome benefit but it’s definitely a rare one.

          1. valentine*

            Your coworker is not the problem. Cancel CSI: Coworker. If you don’t want to work 60 hours, don’t, and discuss your workload with your manager.

        2. laura*

          How interesting, that’s never something I’ve heard of. I’m fascinated as to how it works. Is there a local daycare that’s obliged to keep X number of spots free for your employees on a moment’s notice? And how does that work for the variety in staffing requirements and care required for a 6 month old vs. a 4 year old.

          1. GRA*

            Yes. I have NEVER heard of anything like this at an employer before. What a great benefit, but very very rare.

        3. Frankie*

          Wow, I’ve never seen that in any workplace ever, that I’ve worked at, temped at, visited, etc.

          My university has an onsite day care but it’s one center for thousands and thousands of people, they don’t accept anyone under 15 months, it’s just as expensive as any other day care and there’s no backup or drop-in anything. So might as well not exist for most of us.

        4. Anon for this*

          That would be nice, but our workplace definitely does not offer any kind of childcare, so it was not an option for her in this case.

        5. Parenthetically*

          backup childcare, for free, as an employee benefit. I don’t think it’s that uncommon

          I have literally never heard of such a thing in almost two decades of adulthood and employment in any of the towns or cities where I have lived.

          1. iglwif*

            My spouse’s company offered this as a benefit (like, a certain number of days per year). Not sure if they still do, since it’s been many years since we’ve needed it! I’m also not 100% sure how it worked–daycare centers here tend to be at capacity at all times, and you have to get on the waiting list well before you actually give birth even though most people take minimum 6-8 months’ leave–but I guess if you have enough money you can like … keep a couple of spots on retainer??

            His company is a huge multinational, and they offer a lot of other stuff that probably 90% of employers can’t, like an on-site gym. I’ve never heard of this anywhere else, and I would guess that how common or uncommon it is varies enormously based on company size, going rates for daycare in your city, city size, etc., etc. Definitely not something everyone, or even most people, can count on!

          2. ten-four*

            It exists! We have it through my husband’s company, a tech/consulting company. The way it works is that we get 10 days of service through a temp child care service. We call when we know we need someone, and they send us a person. We’ve actually only used it once so far, and a supervisor came along with the caregiver to meet me and give me her card. The temp person was perfectly fine! I work from home, so I have the additional benefit of not worrying about leaving my kiddo alone with a perfect stranger in my home all day. It is a Very Nice Benefit.

        6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Our form of this is just bringing your kid to work but not at 6 month, yikes!

          You have to have staffing for X amount of Y age group…so I’m shocked your employer can provide that kind of service unless they’re constantly stocked with aids!

    2. Ali G*

      In most areas you really can’t just call up a daycare and ask them to take your kid for a week. People are on waitlists for literal years in a lot of areas. Daycare is not emergency back up.
      However, I do think a “back up” policy of just taking off work is not sustainable in the long run. But that’s on your CW, not you.

      1. GRA*

        “However, I do think a “back up” policy of just taking off work is not sustainable in the long run. But that’s on your CW, not you.”

        But isn’t that one of the reasons we have PTO? To take time off when there are family emergencies, for sick days, etc.? Not all PTO is planned!

        1. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

          Anon for this doesn’t mention how they know this (and is possibly incorrect if they don’t have the full story), but they said at the top that the co-worker had run out of PTO. Whether or not that’s the case, Ali G has a point regarding coming up with a “back up” policy, including possibly allowing unpaid days off.

          1. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

            I just reread it in full and co-worked did take unpaid days off as part of her maternity leave! So it’s a possible option then and I can only see it becoming a genuine issue if it starts happening too frequently, but that’s still ultimately between co-worker and their manager.

      2. Always a nurse*

        Re: “emergency” day care. There are such services. There was at least one in Tucson about 12 years ago. They had certified, bonded, child care specialists who would come to your house with a bag of toys, games, books all appropriate to the age group and provide in home service. The company got some financial support from the local large employers – the University of Arizona, a couple of optic tech firms, perhaps one of the aerospace firms in Tucson at the time. It was offered as a employee benefit for those companies, and other parents could use it, but not at a discounted rate. The idea was it could help keep critical employees at work despite outbreaks of the flu, chicken pox, etc. It was primarily designed to be “sick child” care, but it could be used for short term emergency coverage when other arrangements collapsed. It was particularly nice for school age kids that were sick, but not old enough to be home alone sick.

    3. Marge*

      “but surely she could have taken the day on Monday to call around and find a daycare that would take her child for the rest of the week?”

      No. I literally have never heard of a daycare center that has last minute drop in availability like that. Maybe it’s different for people who live in larger cities than I do, with more variety/availability of childcare?

      It’s really really hard to find reliable trustworthy childcare with short notice and/or find a regular person who would be available just whenever during business hours for when stuff like this comes up. Especially for an infant. All the people we use for occasional babysitting work during the day, and the other option is students, who are also not generally available during business hours. At least not for entire days/weeks.

      1. Marge*

        Sorry, didn’t mean to pile on. There were no other comments when I started typing.

        I know so many women who left careers when they started having kids. Affordability and availability of childcare is an immense problem. I have certainly gone through period where I wondered if it would just be easier if I quit my job. You kind of have to get into a mindset that you will lie there and take whatever the universe throws your way, and deal with the career consequences later. Even if that means potentially losing your job. It sucks.

      2. Dragoning*

        Especially since this child is not in daycare typically, and is under a year yet. I know daycares around here that won’t take anyone under 18 months–and they would be an emergency backup for people already registered, for a day they wouldn’t normally come. But not for someone who is functionally a “stranger.”

        I understand you’re stressed right now, but this is not your business, I’m afraid.

    4. Murphy*

      I don’t know the details on this person, but I would have a hard time finding alternative child care for my child for an entire week on short notice. I’d split this kind of thing with my husband, as we do when our daughter is sick, but that’s not always possible.

      Also I know know where you live, but where I live absolutely no daycare could take your child on short notice like that. Absolutely impossible. Plus the time you’d need to tour and vet the place is no small thing.

      1. Arielle*

        Yeah, I am not due until October and people in my due date group are already saying that they’re on waitlists for daycare a YEAR from now.

    5. Rusty Shackelford*

      Actually, it would be astonishing if she DID have backup daycare that could take her child for a week. That part’s not odd at all. But yeah, I’d wonder why her husband couldn’t take some time off as well.

    6. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Echoing what everyone else said; daycares aren’t child kennels, and you can’t “phone around and find one” that will take a kid on short notice for the rest of the week. Were there other solutions than that one? Maybe, but that’s between your coworker and your/her boss, not you.

      I have a coworker who’s been on a LOA for the past two months. We’re in the middle of tax season and cruising close to our SLAs. Having him out for so long has been a major hardship — but them’s the breaks. I’ve got no clue what’s going on on his end, aside from some scuttlebutt about a possible divorce. But our boss approved the LOA, and I’m sure CW would rather be here and working and NOT dealing with whatever he’s dealing with right now.

      1. Natalie*

        Hell, I’m not sure I’d be able to find a place to kennel my dogs for a week on super short notice.

        1. Zephy*

          I worked for a hot minute at probably the sketchiest doggy daycare you’d be likely to find anywhere, and even we would at least need you to bring shot records.

    7. Asenath*

      She might or might not have been able to split the week with her husband, depending on his work situation, but in many places day-care spaces are at a premium, and you most certainly do NOT find 0ne, particularly for an infant, on a moment’s notice. In fact, many day cares don’t take infants at all. Finding someone to come into her home might also be chancy – locate candidates, interview them, hire them…it would take longer than a week. If her husband couldn’t swing some time off, I’m not sure what else she could have done than stay home. It might be possible in some situations to have alternate day care available, but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that it isn’t. A lot of young parents’ emergency backup daycare IS a relative – if they have relatives who aren’t living halfway across the country, caring for a sick spouse, or working full-time and unable to take time off.

    8. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      Did she make any effort to to help where she could? Could she have worked remotely or come in for a few hours in the evening?

      As other commenters mentioned, she had limited options, and I don’t blame her for prioritizing her family…but I would want some kind of demonstration that she was aware of the unexpected burden placed on her coworkers and at least made some kind of effort. I’d be feeling sour about it, in your shoes.

      1. Anon for this*

        Obviously I don’t know all the details of her life, but as far as I could tell, she didn’t make any effort. She found out about the surgery sometime during the week before, and she just told the boss and one other coworker she’d be taking the week off. I had to cover some of her duties and she didn’t even tell me she was going to be off — I didn’t find out until she didn’t show up on Monday. And she didn’t do any work from home (not even responding to e-mails) or come in during the evening after her husband got home from work. She never said anything to me to indicate that she was aware of the burden from her unexpected absence.

        1. Kathenus*

          This sounds like a failure of management more than your coworker. It’s her responsibility to tell her boss about her schedule and it’s your boss’s responsibility to then communicate about how to get the work done. If she was off, she shouldn’t have to do work or respond to emails. I know that many, including me, are in the habit of doing so, but this is about your organization not handling it well, in my opinion, not the coworker who had to do the emergency care.

          1. Anon for this*

            I don’t know, if I’m planning to take time off and I need some of my duties covered, I try to provide some information to those who are going to be covering my duties and tell them in advance if possible, even if I have already cleared it with my boss. My boss was just as involved in dealing with the crisis as the rest of us (actually even more), so I don’t blame him for not being totally on top of unexpectedly-absent coworker’s workload while he was completely swamped.

            1. Natalie*

              Okay, but you say in your initial comment that her time off was short notice (a few days), and then during the week she was out some kind of crisis came up. You’re analyzing what she might have done differently based on what you know this week, but if we go back in time two weeks with only the information she had then, at the time she had to make decisions, it doesn’t seem like she did anything particularly carelessly or cavalierly.

              There’s a reason people came up with pithy sayings about hindsight.

            2. motherofdragons*

              It’s nice that you give your coworkers a heads up when you’ll be out, but I don’t think that’s a standard you can reasonably hold your coworker to. That’s not something done in our office, for example; I only let my boss know I’m out, and trust her to coordinate any kind of conversation between myself and my coworker(s) who may be covering for me. That’s her job to determine who and how those duties are covered in my absence.

              I’m also wondering if you could apply that same understanding you feel towards your boss towards your coworker, who was dealing with her own crisis? Something like, “I don’t blame her for not being totally on top of notifying everyone who could’ve been impacted by her unexpected absence while completely swamped [with personal stuff]”?

            3. GRA*

              Your co-worker did not have “planned time off”. This was an emergency situation – her mother had emergency surgery and she has a 6-month old infant that needed to be cared for. No matter what job I have, my children and family are always going to take priority when there’s an emergency.

              1. Anon for this*

                Although it was not planned very far in advance, she did know about it by the end of the previous week, so she could have given the rest of us a heads up that she was going to be out the whole week and we would need to cover X, Y, and Z for her.

                1. Dragoning*

                  I understand you’re angry and are trying to justify it, but honestly, I would say let this one go. It doesn’t appear to be an on-going issue, and if it is, ask you manager about it, not your coworker.

                  You don’t need to go looking for things your coworker did wrong.. You can just be angry that life sucked for you that week and be glad it’s over.

            4. Dee-Nice*

              It makes more sense for your boss to have a protocol for this sort of thing and to be able to execute a notification plan for employees’ unexpected absences than it does for your coworker to be able to plan for her mom’s needing unexpected surgery and extended recovery time. Your coworker was also completely swamped, just in a different and less-visible way from you. She had an emergency and the office had an emergency at the same time. It’s not an ideal situation but I don’t think anyone is at fault here. It sounds like your week sucked as a result, and I really am sorry to hear it. It sounds miserable. For the record, I have also had to cover for coworkers who left me with little to no notice or instruction and I wasn’t happy about it, either. I think the best thing to do here, for your peace of mind, is to assume she really had no other choice and it was all unavoidable.

            5. a1*

              This is what we do where I work too. It would be completely odd not to at least send out an email to those covering for you while you’re gone. Even if you miss something in haste, no one holds it against you when have made the effort. When I know I’m going to be gone for more than a day or two, I send an email to those involved in my projects and cc my manager with a list of those projects and at least a quick on liner after it (e.g. Llamas hiking report – will be fine while I’m gone; Llamas shoe project – need to do X by Wed, follow up with Ted; etc). In many offices would even be seen as rude not to do this. So if Anon is in this kind of office I can see being annoyed. We get approval on being gone from manager (and any accommodations associated with it like being unpaid), run by our plan with them, then email out said plan as outlined above. It takes about 30 minutes total, usually, even with a lot of projects since you tend to know where you are on each of them.

            6. Observer*

              Your ok with your boss dropping the ball when he was swamped, but not with your CW not doing your boss’ job when SHE was swamped? Why?

              Keep in mind that she was not only losing her childcare for the week, her mother needed emergency surgery! That tends to have a LOT of ramifications, and it is certainly easy to understand how work was not at the top of her radar.

          2. Oxford Comma*

            This is on management. They’re responsible for the coverage. It’s not on your coworker.

            1. Jerry Vandesic*

              Need to be careful about asking management to solve the problem. Not long ago I worked at a company with a good amount of PTO. New mom needed to take much of that PTO early in the year for several family of family emergencies. She ran out of PTO by summer, and then tried taking unpaid time off. After the first unpaid day she got a warning. The second unpaid day was her last; manager fired her when she came in the next morning. This upset some of the employees, but many were glad to see her go so that the manager could replace her with someone they “could count on.”

        2. DataGirl*

          If she was taking the days unpaid and not PTO, I can understand not wanting to do any work for free.

        3. LCL*

          She calls out Monday morning for the whole week with no apology for the extra work? That is some bull, but she’s got other things on her mind. Not acknowledging the burden to the other employees, if you have that type of job where everything fits together and she knows it, is rude. Deal with it when she comes back.

        4. Observer*

          You actually don’t know what kind of effort she did or did not (or could) make.

          Does your company have a WFH policy? Depending on how your company is set up that way, that may not have been an option.

          Now, the fact that she didn’t say anything to you is not OK. But the fact that she didn’t come in after her husband came home is not something you have standing to comment on – you know nothing about his schedule of why they made that decision.

          What I would really like to know why your boss didn’t give you a heads up about this. It doesn’t seem like they were taking this seriously at all (which may also play into the WFH part of it. Like, if they were really worried, they would allow it, but since they don’t want to allow it need to act as though it’s no big deal.)

    9. Frankie*

      All kinds of math involved in this, and the math can be different for every individual child, family, location, etc.

      1) If grandpa is childcare, they may not be able to afford daycare or a sitter. Full time care for an infant is very, very expensive. I currently just barely afford day care and I have a reasonable salary for my area and a modest lifestyle. I would not be able to pay for a week of babysitting (and at a week of all-day caregiving, that’s a nanny, not a sitter). It would be more affordable for me to take unpaid leave than arrange a nanny for a week. And what nanny is just available for temping? A backup sitter is for a couple of hours on a random day, not a week.
      2) Day cares have waitlists. I can’t imagine a “drop in” day care for all kinds of reasons–people wait for months or years to get spots at good day cares. Day cares need to do their own intake–does the baby have vaccines, what’s the baby’s routine, who’s the doctor, etc etc etc. That’s not something you do for a baby you’ve never seen. Imagine the legal liabilities involved.
      3) You don’t just hand a 6-month infant off to anyone who is available. You have to vet them, and be sure they’ll be around a good while, because it’s really, really bad for an infant to be passed from one caregiver to another.
      4) She couldn’t call around on Monday–she was taking care of a 6 month old. Staying at home with a baby is not a day off.
      5) My husband has very little PTO and had no paternity leave. He takes a day off when he needs to but there’s 50/50 split with us, because it’s not how his job works.
      6) Sometimes the best thing for the baby is for mom to be home. If the routine is getting disrupted with grandpa away, that may be the best option for the kiddo. Some babies hate strangers that young.
      7) Maybe she’s also stressed about her mom being in surgery and can’t handle another thing?

      1. Anon for this*

        I appreciate the info and thanks for being informative without biting my head off, haha. I went anonymous for this because I figured people were going to think I am being callous about this, but I honestly was not aware that it is that hard to find a daycare. We are in a medium-sized city, so I’m sure there are plenty of daycares around, but I have no idea how full they normally are, and based on the replies, it is quite possible that she might not have been able to find one with an opening. I guess things have changed since I was younger, because I thought most daycares would take “drop-ins.”

        I was surprised about what happened because I don’t recall ever having a coworker who took an entire week off because of childcare issues. Maybe a day or two, but not a whole week, so I guess I assumed that most people planned for it and had some kind of backup arrangement, whether it was a daycare that accepted drop-ins or a babysitter (or a few babysitters) available on short notice.

        1. catsaway*

          I suspect that backup daycare is often family so if her regular daycare is family and she has a family emergency involving sugary of another close family member she and her spouse were probably out of options.
          I don’t have kids but from coworkers/bosses with kids I know infant daycare is $$$$, heavily regulated and there are often wait lists. There are probably after school care programs for school aged kids but not for babies.
          A while back there was an ask the readers thread about a woman who was thinking/planning of getting pregnant in the near future with or without a partner. Many of the recommendations were of the nature to have 2-3 daycare backups.
          This isn’t your fault and you can feel annoyed to have to have worked extra hours but situations like these illustrate why so many American women drop out of the workforce after having kids.

        2. Much too young to feel this damn old*

          You’re pretty far out of line on this, and I’m honestly having a hard time not being upset with you. Think of it from your coworkers’ perspective:
          1) She’s just returned from maternity leave is already exhausted, running on fumes, and trying to keep up with work and her very new familial responsibilities.
          2) Her parent has a health crisis.
          3) Finding backup care for any age of kid isn’t easy, but so much harder with an infant. And you have no idea what her husband’s situation may be, but I wouldn’t assume she’s “failing” to have an equitable workload in her marriage.

          This woman is enormously stressed and is spending all her time on caretaking at every level. No wonder she isn’t checking in with her workplace; when would she have the time to do that? I’m sorry you’re overworked, that sucks, but she’s dealing with a much more stressful situation.

          1. Dragoning*

            And if she doesn’t have an “equal” workload shared with her husband–she really does not need her coworker going off about it; she has enough problems.

          2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

            She has a spouse, Nothing stopping him from helping out.

            1. Hylium*

              We have no idea what her spouse’s situation is. Maybe they were on a work trip out of the country. Maybe they have health issues. Maybe they had to be dealing with the daily health crisis. Maybe they’re a jerk who refused to do anything helpful. Who knows!? Point is, OP is being a jerk about someone who is having a really crappy stressful tine. That’s a pretty sh1tty thing to do.

              1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

                I don’t blame OP at all for being frustrated with a co worker who knew she was going to be gone and did not update the person picking up her workload with at what point her workload was at.

              2. I Took A Mint*

                Yeah I thought it was pretty easy to make the jump from “family medical crisis” to “husband is probably also busy with that,” not “husband is probably lazy and not pulling his weight with childcare.”

                Anon, you are making so many leaps and assumptions about how your coworker “should have” handled it, when you yourself admit that you don’t know how childcare works, you don’t know the details of her life, and your manager also dropped the ball on managing the team because they were stressed. It sucks that her absence caused more work for you, and it sucks that she was not more apologetic about it. But you are making a lot of assumptions and taking this very personally. Just chalk it up to “people make bad decisions when stressed” and move on.

        3. Overeducated*

          For context, my day care closes two weeks a year (summer and winter holidays), and I and most of the other parents literally plan our vacation around that. Even with notice, a week of backup care is a big deal. With no notice, my husband and i split the days, but we already pay so much for day care we don’t have a second babysitter on call and our family isn’t local.

          1. VelociraptorAttack*

            This is where my husband and I are. Our son is 6 months old and we’re already trying to figure out who takes what time during the week between Christmas Eve and Jan. 2nd when daycare will be closed. We don’t have family that is local and able to care for him. We’re lucky to be in jobs right now where we can do some remote work when he’s sick but mostly we just split it up depending on who has what going on if he needs to stay home sick.

        4. Midwest writer*

          Until I had kids, I had no clue how hard it was to find good child care and then keep it. Much of this would have shocked me before I became a parent.

          1. Frankie*

            Yeah, as a new parent, it’s easy from the outside to assume reliable, affordable childcare is not tough to find given a little due diligence. Or that if one family does X then every family could do X. Etc etc.

          2. CMart*

            Same. As a parent I was also really surprised by the reality that “idk probably generally trustworthy” is really really not good enough when it comes to finding someone to watch a <1 year old.

            I wouldn't be comfortable with it, but I would deal with leaving my 2.5 year old with a neighbor, or a friend's college aged cousin who babysits regularly if I really needed to. I would not prioritize my job absent the risk of losing it over leaving my 6 month old with anyone but a thoroughly vetted, highly trusted known entity. The risks are just too high. Babies die in the care of well meaning people who make unfortunate mistakes. I know I would foster ill will among my colleagues and probably harm my work reputation if I had to take a sudden week off, but it's a price I'm willing to pay before putting my baby in an unknown situation.

            That is not something I understood until I had my first baby and very little local support and found myself and my husband essentially housebound for the first year of her life.

        5. DataGirl*

          Many people’s back-up babysitters are family. She may be like me and have no other family that could come. In my case, our family is international and the closest is several states away. We don’t have any friends who could take our children for anything more than a couple hours. Whenever I have an emergency me and my husband are the only ones who can do anything.

        6. Wow.*

          I’m sorry people are being snippy with you. Your coworker not having reliable backup childcare should be her problem and not yours. It stinks that your team had to suffer because of this.

          1. Observer*

            It also stinks that her employer is so short staffed and that the manager could manage to communicate. But somehow that’s ok.

        7. Observer*

          It pretty much doesn’t matter how big the city is, backup childcare is EXTREMELY hard to find.

          I think it’s gotten a touch harder to find emergency child care because today anyone who is not working full time is not someone you are likely to just leave your child with without vetting in advance, and no one is letting a teen take off a week, or even a couple of days, to take care of your kid so you can go to work. When I was young it did occasionally happen that someone might let an older HS student do that.

      2. Pink Shoelaces*

        Just want to back you up that cost would absolutely be a consideration even if she could find a daycare that would take the baby for a week (something that is almost certainly not possible).

        My monthly daycare bill for two children is higher than my mortgage.

        1. DataGirl*

          When mine were little, I worked minimum wage nights at a grocery store- when my husband could be home with the kids, rather than take a job that paid twice that but was a 9-5, because after daycare costs I would have actually had less take home. Back then it ran $45/day/kid. That was in 2005, I bet it’s more now.

    10. Maya Elena*

      It is prudent and advised to have a backup sitter on retainer of some sort for short-term emergencies. Many people cultivate these – 4 hrs a week, or trades with neighbors, etc. These aren’t usually sufficient to cover a whole week full time though (e.g. the backup person works part time or is a student).

      However, she might have taken time unpaid, is borrowing from future vacation (depending on how it is accrued), god knows what arrangement she made with the boss. With children as with all other emergencies, there will always be a class of situations that don’t fall under “covered” emergencies, however generous the policy – getting more sick than you have sick leave, your great aunt’s death that doesn’t qualify you for bereavement leave, whatever. At some point shitty stuff happens and those it doesn’t happen to have to take on some of the slack and it sucks…. But it evens out in the end.

      Also she will be that much more grateful in the future, especially if people don’t all act resentful for her desertion on this particular week.

    11. xyz*

      On my area, you get on a list for months to agree to permanently enroll your child in a daycare. So, there would be no way to use this method to solve her problem. Babysitters don’t do week long requests without any notice because the individuala usually have their own jobs/classes/etc. They do a few hours at most. And you’re right, her division of labor with her husband isn’t really your business. Also, you don’t sound like you know her well enough to know that she didn’t try other methods. This end result could be after she already tried everything.

      Forgive me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like there is a lot of frustration and blame in your comment. A 70 hour week sounds awful and I’m sorry that your job pushed you to do that, but I’m not seeing how it will help you to judge your coworker for trying to make the best of a lot of crappy decisions. It seems like that would just breed more frustration and resentment.

    12. Beatrice*

      Echoing that it’s pretty normal to not have a backup plan in a case like that. The nice thing about having a retired grandparent as child care, is that she’s unlikely to need days off to care for a mildly ill baby, or a sudden weather-related daycare shutdown. I promise you, most parents of newborns in daycare take more than 5 days off in the first year for that stuff.

    13. Kathenus*

      Others have addressed that day care is hard to find so alternatives for a week with little notice might not be as easy as it might seem. On another part of this, as Maya Elena mentioned, you don’t know what she worked out about the time off, whether it’s paid or unpaid, and that’s between her and the organization. I get the frustration, I’m about to enter a period with two people on simultaneous maternity leave in my department and it’ll be a struggle to figure things out. So focus on the work part, what can (and can’t) you do extra to help take up the slack, and then communicate with your boss what’s realistic and ask for prioritization or other resources. It’s definitely not reasonable to just expect someone else to do double work, so be proactive on discussing this so that your boss knows the realities and can help be part of the solution.

    14. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I realize the timing was not ideal for you and your team for her to be out unexpectedly for a week, but the same thing could have happened if she fell down the stairs, broke her leg and couldn’t work for a week. In other words, take the fact that she’s a new mother out of the equation. I see a lot of non-parent people writing in about how unfair it is that parents seem to get special treatment when they need time off. But honestly, as long as your work provides the same leniency to non-parents (or people with chronic illnesses, etc.) when unexpected things come up, it shouldn’t matter. Anything can happen to anyone at anytime, and sometimes the timing sucks.

      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        But most works don’t do that. Alex has a house emergency and can’t work and Chris’ kid is ill. Who do you think gets the time off?

    15. R*

      Sounds very frustrating for everyone. But backup care of any kind is very expensive. In my neighborhood, when my child is sick and can’t go to daycare, I pay $17-$20 an hour for a babysitter. For an entire work week, that adds up to $800 ish. Also, if it is your first kid, and they are very little, you just may not know who to call. It’s taken me nearly 2 years to get a backup and then a backup to my backup. And then another backup because no one wants to come out in the snow.

      1. DataGirl*

        Good point. Babysitters aren’t cheap any more. When I was a teen I’d charge $2/hr… now teens want $15-25/hr, even if it’s older kids and the sitter is just sitting on the couch, watching TV (this is a sore point for me).

        1. Autumnheart*

          That sounds like a pretty reasonable rate. I mean, when I started working at 15, minimum wage was $3.85/hr, but what exactly would that buy today? Inflation is a thing. Nobody’s going to watch anyone’s anything for $2/hr today.

          1. DataGirl*

            If it’s a nanny, it they have special skills, it they are cooking, cleaning, providing transportation, caring for infants/toddlers then yes: more responsibility =more pay. But for a date night or a couple hours after school with older children where all they do is sit in the couch, play with their phone, and be a physical presence in case of emergency, I don’t think they should be paid double minimum wage. Particularly when many minimum wage jobs are much more difficult.

            1. KX*

              Teenagers have very little free time these days. Very little. Their free time is very valuable. Rates go up.

              Babysitters have always sat around watching tv or talking on the phone, too. It’s how every horror movie has started since the 1970s.

            2. Observer*

              The fact that it’s a date night is not the concern of your babysitter. And if you’ve never had a babysitting job blow up on you, you’ve not done much babysitting.

              I did a lot of babysitting when I was a teen. And let me tell you that although there were plenty of times that I didn’t do much, I simply could NOT risk baby sitting when I needed to get something done. Because plenty of times I earned my pay – and then some. And even on the non-cray times, I couldn’t be sure I’d have the kind of uninterrupted time you describe.

              And this is for evenings after the kids are in bed. When you talk about daytime? Forget it.

              1. DataGirl*

                I did a ton of babysitting and I worked as a nanny for a year and I’ve done home daycare. I have had my share of troubles and while I anecdotally shared my 80’s wages, I wouldn’t expect sitters these days to earn less than minimum wage. I just disagree about them earning double minimum wage. Anyone who has worked retail, or as waitstaff, or in any number of low paying jobs knows how difficult they can be, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Childcare is no where near as hard.

        2. I Took A Mint*

          You should have charged more! 15 years ago I charged $10 an hour as a teen. I was paid to be there in case of emergencies and put the kids to bed. As an older adult today with more specialized skills and higher expectations (cooking/cleaning, etc) I’d charge more.

        3. iglwif*

          My teenager charges $15/hour for babysitting at someone’s house. She makes $14.something babysitting kids during services at our congregation, but that doesn’t require travel since it’s literally down the block.

          I don’t think she should be paid *less than minimum wage* to be responsible for someone else’s children, even if it is just for a few hours in the evening. (And wow, she is definitely not just sitting on the couch watching TV, even though most of her evening babysitting kids are 8+.)

    16. xarcady*

      A large metropolitan area will probably have some sort of emergency, drop-in daycare. It will be very, very expensive. You probably will have needed to register with the day care agency prior to needing the drop-in service. The day care may not be conveniently located or have hours that work for a given family’s schedule.

      Just the cost alone for the emergency or drop-in day cares would probably make it a better deal for your co-worker to stay at home with the baby.

      1. blackcat*

        Yes, there are centers near me that do drop in (Boston area)

        Generally you have to register/be on a list. And it’s at least $120/day which, while cheaper than a sitter, is crazy expensive.

      2. Observer*

        And you may not actually have any available in a location that is available to you. Most of NYC does NOT have decent backup daycare options.

      3. CMart*

        And I personally wouldn’t leave a 6 month old at a drop-in daycare, if they would even take a baby that young. They’re still so fragile, SIDS is still a concern, and positional asphyxiation still a risk that I’m not having anyone but someone I really, really trust watch my infant.

        If I won’t lose my job over it, I’d be choosing pissing off my coworkers over the low-but-still-real risk of my baby dying due to improper care.

        1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          Tere is a husband there, He could take time off you know, Maybe for his kid?

            1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

              Why not? Wife is on unpaid time off. He could have done the same so she could work.

    17. American Ninja Worrier*

      I don’t want to contribute to a pile-on, but I suspect this situation actually would have been easier to handle if the baby were, say, a year old. Infant care is more expensive and harder to find than care for older children, and she’s had less time to recruit and vet potential backups.

      It really sucks that her emergency coincided with your office’s emergency, but it’s probably unlikely to happen again. If she took a whole week off unpaid, it’s safe to assume there weren’t any better options.

    18. Kiki*

      She may have been taking that time unpaid or something? And if I weren’t being paid, I also wouldn’t be responding to emails or doing anything work-related.

      I think for babies under a year, it is extremely, extremely difficult to have alternate childcare arrangements. The options that do exist are usually very expensive or depend on having close friends and relatives nearby who have no important plans. It wasn’t an ideal occurrence, but I also don’t know if it’s worthwhile to speculate what she could have done better.

      1. Observer*

        In fact, if she was taking the leave unpaid, she is probably NOT ALLOWED to do stuff like email.

    19. LCL*

      A local story that has been making the rounds here is that the wait list for daycare is 2 years…
      From what I have read and been told, I don’t have any firsthand knowledge as I have no kids, is that there effectively isn’t any such thing as instant drop in daycare.
      It sounds like your office, like many offices, works bankers’ hours only. At some places she would be expected to come in after the husband was home to take over the childcare.

    20. motherofdragons*

      I could be wrong, but I’m sensing some resentment/blame you might be having toward your coworker, which I really understand. I’m just wondering if there’s an opportunity for you to take this concern off your plate. You say that you don’t know her PTO situation, and her division of labor in her marriage is none of your business. Truly, none of this is your business, and I say this with kindness! I can just imagine that stressing out about this, and doing work to figure it out, is adding on to your existing stress and frustration caused by your work crises (and by work I mean, you say you did the math about how much vacation time she had left…I assume you’re speaking figuratively, but that’s still brain power used).

      I’m trying to put myself in your shoes and just keep thinking, where was your boss in all of this? It’s their responsibility to manage workload issues that arise when an employee is out, not the employees themselves. What was your boss’ contingency plan? It sounds like it didn’t work out well for your team since there was so much stress involved. Maybe that’s just how things worked out, or maybe there was something that could’ve been done differently at the management level to even things out for everyone while still providing room for an employee to be out dealing with an important life issue.

    21. Madge*

      You know how they say it takes a village to raise a child? Well that village can be frustratingly hard to find, especially when you have an infant. Often preschool is the first chance a parent has to form a network. She could also be the first of her friends to have a child, or new to the area, or any number of things that make connecting with other parents and child-centered resources difficult. There just isn’t enough childcare in the US, very few drop-in centers that aren’t sick-care (and very few of those), and all of it is expensive. Infants need a lot of care and require the highest child to teacher ratio so infant care is the most expensive and hardest to find.

      This isn’t really about childcare, though, and that’s good because you can address it without sounding callous. She took a week off without notice to the people who would be covering her work. Her being gone caused you all to put in significant overtime to cover for her share in a crisis. She didn’t check-in at all or work during the evening or quiet moments. These all don’t have anything to do with the baby. Maybe you can talk to her about how you can coordinate next time something like this happens. You could also let your manager know how you all were affected by her absence.

      1. motherofdragons*

        “You could also let your manager know how you all were affected by her absence.”

        I would actually start (and end) there. Why didn’t the manager have a (better) contingency plan for an employee’s unexpected absence?

        A few more things that came up for me:
        – In my workplace, it would be unusual for someone with an unexpected absence to communicate directly with their coworkers. We communicate with my boss, who then puts a plan in place and communicates accordingly. This situation would not cause hard feelings at my office because that’s just not protocol.
        – It’s not clear that coworker’s absence CAUSED everyone to have to work overtime. It’s not an unreasonable conclusion, but not a foregone one. It also doesn’t have to be the coworker’s “fault” even if it is the case – it could just just be chalked up to, “This is sometimes what happens when we hire people with lives.”
        – Someone above made a good point that especially if the coworker is taking unpaid leave, why would she be checking in or doing any work? I’d take it further and say, if she’s taking time off in general, why would she do that? Frankly, I’m knackered after a day looking after my kids, so unless my boss is calling me up saying “We NEED you to log in and help with this, motherofdragons,” I wouldn’t be checking in either. We don’t know if the boss asked her to help, and she declined (which would suck). Or maybe she offered to, and the boss said “No, we’ve got this” (in which case, this is not her fault). There’s too many unknowns here to draw the conclusion that the coworker is at fault or needs to have done something differently or change something in the future, in my opinion.

        1. Observer*

          Good point on whether the absence was really the cause of the overtime. It sounds like people needed to work a total number of extra hours well over her workweek anyway. So, it sounds like the office wasn’t properly staffed to start with.

          Also on the calling in – a lot of people do it, but it’s often not a reasonable expectation.

    22. Jules the 3rd*

      I can not imagine a reputable child care center that would take a child on a week’s notice. Doubly so for an infant or toddler. Or a parent who would give their child to strangers based on a few calls. That is not a reasonable expectation. Depending on the area, commercial child care takes weeks to months to arrange. NYC has on average a 1-year waitlist for infants (I guess you sign up at the 1st pregnancy test and they take them at 3 / 4 months? It’s stunning, but true)

      Now, division of the week with her husband – that’s very reasonable. Or some kind of part-day work from home – 2 or 3 hours after her husband gets home. At 6mo, you may even be able to do some work during nap times, but it would be unpredictable.

      1. Humble Schoolmarm*

        Is it fair to assume that child care was her only responsibility during this time? If this was a serious situation and she doesn’t have other siblings close by there could have been a big need for her to spend time at the hospital, support her Dad, help with insurance issues, prepare her parents’ house for her mom’s recovery, order special equipment etc. I guess I’ve had a little too much experience with senior health emergencies lately, but they involve a lot of work which, in addition to taking care of a six-month old, might have made it difficult if not impossible to deal with work, even via email or coming in in the evenings.

        I also do have to put out there that, while it is unfortunate that you and others in your office had to shoulder an extra burden because of this, it troubles me that your coworker is being judged fairly harshly for putting her family first during a challenging time. I’m not sure that it’s right, on a broader scale, to say definitively that work emergencies should be prioritized over personal emergencies.

    23. Grandma Mazur*

      This is a really interesting question (it’s not one I would have thought about at all before having a child!). Sadly, even the nursery our elder (18 months) is enrolled in doesn’t typically have space for him on a day he doesn’t usually go (he’s there three days a week), and they won’t take anyone under 6 months (when they first opened the lower age limit was 12 months).

      When first starting, settling in days were required (3 sessions across two weeks) — not to mention the waiting list is now more than three months to get in. And we didn’t get our first choice of sessions/days.

      Babysitters who are available during the day are typically also booked up a week in advance (or more). And, although in a crisis either of us could take time off if really necessary, the truth is that my husband earns more than I do, and it’s a very small firm so his absence is even more impactful. Both of which mean that it makes more sense for me to take the time off if it’s going to be unpaid…

    24. iglwif*

      Yeah, no, the odds of being able to call around on Monday and find childcare for the rest of the week for a six-month-old baby are … very, very poor.

      Legally, caregiver:child ratios have to be much higher for infants than for older kids. Daycares fill up fast and stay full — they’re not keeping spaces open just in case. For a preschool-aged kid, you might be able to get a friend or family member to fill in, or get someone’s nanny or home daycare to stretch the ratio a little, but babies are a lot trickier! (And tbh I have trouble even finding *dog*-sitting on a day’s notice, never mind babysitting for an actual baby.)

      You can certainly argue that parents *should* have backup childcare plans in place for this kind of emergency, but (a) that is way less easy than it might sound, (b) in reality, most people don’t, and (c) when they do, they tend to plan for like … relatively predictable emergencies. (In this situation, if anyone in the family had expected Bubby to get very ill, presumably Zaidy wouldn’t have relocated to be caregiver for your CW in the first place, so it’s fairly safe to say this was not a predictable emergency.)

      I do agree that ideally, parents should plan to share the work of staying home with kids when they’re sick or the childcare falls through.

      Emergency on-call nanny services do exist in some places, although these tend to be pretty expensive.

    25. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

      I want to know why Dad didn’t do half the week.

      1. DataGirl*

        Maybe his work didn’t allow him. Maybe he didn’t have any PTO banked. Maybe mom wanted to be with baby. Maybe mom needed to be the one home so she could concurrently help her parents during the emergency. Lots of possibilities.

        1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          So she can screw up her job and he can’t do his? It is his kid. I imagine he could take off as easily as she could–probably easier as she was out of PTO.

          1. Ash*

            You are doing a LOT of imagining here, based on eff all. I get that it’s frustrating when fathers don’t pull their weight, but you are basically ranting about a situation you have very little information about, making wild unsubstantiated assumptions and generally just making sh1t up.

            And ultimately, it makes no difference to the actual question so is unhelpful and pointless.

            1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

              Plenty of people are imagining here–that this woman had no family nearby, that day care isn’t close, that Dad may have no PO, etc. So why get upset when I ask about dad?

              1. Observer*

                No one is “imagining” anything about the day care situation – we’re all talking from experience. Short term, backup daycare is pretty much impossible to find for infants unless your work happens to provide it.

                1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

                  There is another parent here. We have no idea if there’s family who could have done it, etc, We are all imagining what could be. We talk about our experiences but have no idea of the situation. My imagining is no different than anyone’s else’s imagining that co worker has no family, that her Dad needed help, that there was no one around to help, etc.

          2. Doug Judy*

            He could have also been out of PTO too, or just started a new job or a million other reasons. If one of us needed to take unpaid time off it came down to math. I make more than he does, so he stays home. When he made more, I stayed home.

            As a working mother for the past 13 years, the guilt we feel for missing work due to childcare issues is real. And this post is why. We are judged for not handling it they way other people think we should. You aren’t her boss, you admit you don’t know the details of her life, so stop judging this, it is in no way your place. It was a sucky week. Sucky weeks happen. She had stressful and sucky week too.
            Extend her some grace. Some day you might have a crisis and I’m sure you’d appreciate your coworkers giving you the benefit of the doubt. Even if you are lucky enough to never have an emergency that requires you to miss a week of work, you can never go wrong in being empathetic to others. Let it go.

            1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

              Parents are given far more leeway for their emergencies than most. Someone needs time off because babysitter is ill, they usually get it. Someone needs time off to care for an ill pet, people judge far more harshly. Someone wants a day off because Johnny’s in the school play, they ask the non parent to cover them. Non parent wants an afternoon off for their activities, parents often don’t return the favor. Are all companies/parents like this? No but many are. (Recall the company allowing parents to take holidays and made the non parents cover and then it was creeping into weekends). That’s not uncommon.

  24. ThreeStars*

    Sorry for double posting. Just thought of another question I had about interviews!

    How do you guys answer the question, “What kind of manager do you like to work with?”

    All the manager’s I’ve had were never around much (always in meetings or away from their desk for other reasons), so I don’t know what kind of manager I would want to work with since I really haven’t been exposed to different management styles. I explain this and just say I’d like a manager who I can get in contact with if I questions or if something urgent comes up. I feel like the interviewers are looking for something more specific though and I’m not sure how to answer.

    1. irene adler*

      My take: are you going to require a lot of hand-holding or can you operate with minimum supervision?

    2. Competent, I swear!*

      If you haven’t had much experience with different management styles, I would turn this around into an answer about *your* skills. For example, just off the top of my head:

      “I haven’t had a lot of experience with different management styles, but my personal working style is to be able to work independently without too much supervision, while being able to raise issues for escalation when appropriate. I communicate well, and can be quite innovative at times, so having a manager open to change, that I can occasionally bounce ideas off, would be ideal. Ultimately, I’m looking to develop my skills in [teapot design], so I work be thrilled with an experienced manager who I could learn from.”

      ….that type of thing?

      1. ThreeStars*

        That’s an excellent script! Mentioning working independently is very true for me (I like to be able to just get things done without having to spend a lot of time waiting on other people for approval, input, etc.). And wanting to be able to “raise issues for escalation” and “occasionally bounce ideas off” someone sounds much better than my “be available to contact with questions or emergencies.”

      2. VainaLoca*

        I love to ask this question in interviews!

        I ask it for a few reasons: 1) I think it gives insight into how an employee works in practice (do they need a lot of individual attention?; are they a team player?; are they organized?; do they go on a rant about a bad manager they once had?) A lot of people will offer up valuable information about themselves when responding that I maybe wouldn’t have gotten by asking “Are you organized?”; 2) At my organization specifically, a person can have a direct supervisor but work with a lot of others who are their managers on specific projects. So, sometimes I want to know if they can work with many different styles of managers.

        Aside from ranting about a terrible boss, you can’t go too wrong on this question. If you’d had absentee managers, that’s a real strength, because you’re typically independent. If you’re craving a manager who’s more involved, you can say you like a manager who’s collaborative and willing to “talk ideas through.” And exactly what you wrote above is a fine answer.

  25. Stephanie*

    I’m working the booth for my company at a big conference next week. Any suggestions or tips? What footwear would people recommend?

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      COMFORTABLE. I like Skechers slip-on shoes (Go Walk or whatever they call them now.)

    2. AliceBD*

      Your two most comfortable pairs of appropriate shoes, if possible. Alternate days: pair 1 day 1, pair 2 day 2, pair 1 day 3, etc. I’ve found it helps keep my feet less tired than wearing the exact same pair every day.

      Also, if you can bring a ball or a water bottle or something to roll your feet on at the end of the day, that’s super helpful. My mom introduced me to using spiky dryer balls, which are very similar to the purpose-made devices for rolling your feet on but are more readily available and dirt-cheap.

      Unless you are the biggest extrovert ever, hopefully you’ll be rooming by yourself. Give yourself time to go back to your room and sit in silence every day. This will probably be necessary for your mental health, even if it isn’t something you have to think about the rest of the time.

      1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

        I second the switching out shoes. It’s amazing how different parts of your feet get tired. Even adding/removing socks or insoles during the day can help.

        1. Wishing You Well*

          Yes, bring back-up socks, too. Switch out socks and shoes mid-shift every day, if possible. Let the first pair of shoes rest until the beginning of the next shift.
          I hope your booth is a BIG SUCCESS!

      2. Syfygeek*

        Please give yourself a few minutes to decompress. I’m more extrovert than introvert, but at these things, I have to have some alone time.

        If in a hotel room, I like going into the bathroom, cutting on the fan and turning on the water to create white noise for a few minutes. Plus you can use the water bottle or something on your feet while you’re in there.

    3. Emily S.*

      I recommend some good insoles, such as Dr Scholl’s gel ones, in whatever shoes you go with.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Or stick some moleskin pads to the part of your feet that tend to get sore… it’s surprisingly helpful.

      2. Auntie Social*

        Dr. Scholl makes good thin orthotics, too. And Syfygeek is on to something when he talks about rolling a bottle of water or soda can under your feet. The cold feels great.

    4. Kat in VA*

      Oof, I’m doing the same – working all day at a conference but since it’s super formal, I have to wear a suit and heels. I found some good wedge heels that are very comfortable but I’m definitely going to have to get insoles. Not looking forward to it (starting around 06:00 and then probably ending around 22:00 with the afterparty!)

  26. Amber Rose*

    OK, I know gifts are supposed to only go downhill. But for the last two weeks, everything around here has been going to hell, we’ve been unable to actually do business for days at a time, and we’ve lost weeks worth of sales data that had to be located and re-entered. It’s been a nightmare and the majority of the work related to it has landed on my boss. I think she’s been crying. We found a thing online we think would help cheer her up a little. It’s not a big thing or a very expensive thing, it’s a silly cardboard decoration thing. We were thinking we might chip in and order it for her. Would that be super weird?

    Aside from that, any ideas on how to not show my despair on my face? As part of this whole nightmare, because I was getting an error message nobody else was, they decided (falsely) that my computer was the problem and did a complete wipe, then wouldn’t let me install anything back on. I had to only use online apps all week, I lost a ton of stuff that I didn’t have time to back up and I’ve had to kind of rebuild from scratch. Also my computer is new and everything else is old and I spent an actual whole day just trying to get my printers set up again. It’s frustrating and upsetting and hard and I’ve been trying to shrug it off as business needs and go with it but it’s basically been making my life hell all week for no reason (my computer was not the problem, obviously) and I’ve been struggling very hard not to cry myself.

    1. dramalama*

      Damn that sounds awful. I think part of the “gifts only go downhill” thing is “gifts that are kindof a bribe”. This silly cardboard thing sounds like it’s as much to cheer everybody up as it is for your boss. If you have unanimous approval from the whole team (and not just a few people pushing everybody else to go along with it) I think it would help you all get over how lousy it’s been.

    2. Working with professionals*

      I think in this situation, go ahead and get the thing for the boss and give yourself whatever “fluffy extras” you can – a nice hot chocolate with extra marshmallows, some of your favorite brand of chocolate (you can see I’m a chocolate centric person) or whatever else makes you feel happy. Maybe sneak in some fuzzy slippers for under the desk. Whatever feels like a little pampering at the office and if possible, add some at home too. Hang in there!

    3. Ama*

      That sounds so hard! I think the cardboard decoration sounds more equivalent to a card or a nice note, not like gifting something expensive, and I bet it would mean a lot to your boss.

      As far as despair face, I have NO poker face so I’m probably not the best person to ask (there is a reason I’m super grateful to be in a tall cubicle where people can’t just walk by and see my face) but one thing I try to do when things are super stressful at work is take things one at a time and then allow myself a break — whether that’s to get up and walk to the water cooler, take a leisurely stroll to the bathroom (ours is far away so it is excellent for getting a few minutes of exercise in). When things are really bad I’ll go on a coffee run so I can get out of the office entirely for a minute. It helps keep me from getting overwhelmed by the full impact of the situation.

    4. SarahKay*

      Definitely go for it with the gift, it sounds like a lovely thought.

      With regards to your despair over the (unnecessary) computer refresh, I’m afraid I have no advice, but sending you lots of sympathy.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t think this is the kind of gifting-up the rule applies to. It would be a very nice thing to do for her. And I echo the other advice to treat yourselves as well to something that will lift your spirits.

    6. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      As someone that’s been the boss in a similar situation I’d feel insulted at receiving a silly cardboard thing “to cheer me up”, would have made things better if you (team) had offered to help out instead of letting it all fall on the boss!

      1. Amber Rose*

        We obviously did offer to help out, we’re not assholes. But fixing it is a one person job. Adjustments can only be done by one person in single-user mode, and she’s the only one aside from the accountant who knows how to do it so it doesn’t eff our books. The most help we were able to give was to stay out of her way and not be distractions.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        You sound…easily bothered.

        Amber Rose, please don’t think of a light hearted “cheer up” kind of thing that you’re thinking about as “gifting up”.

        Novelty gifts are always okay in these situations. It’s nominal, nobody is pressured to chip in, etc. It’s the same as a card or a coffee mug with some candies stuffed in it. It’s on par with a heart felt thank you or when kids give their teachers apples or other gestures.

        I’ve been there before and having a staff who understands I’m stressed and is clearly sympathetic is very much appreciated. I have had some bad days that sound similar and a staffer who brings me some candy from their candy dish and a “I know you’re swamped, I just wanted to let you know that you’re appreciated” kind of thing makes a world of difference.

        Some things simply cannot be farmed out. As an accountant who has had books crap the bed, I am all too aware of that nonsense.

    7. Cartographical*

      I would totally get it. Gifts should go downhill because power creates obligation where there should be none. This is more a one-time gesture that says you see your boss as a *person* who is doing their best in a hard time and that you appreciate them. Your boss is probably feeling isolated and overwhelmed and a small, non-practical, “novelty” gift like that is really a physical manifestation of the kindness and support you feel for them — the person, not just the boss.

    8. Observer*

      Oh, and by the way, your IT setup stinks!

      But if you don’t mind, I’m going to keep your story as part of my “war stories” repertoire.

  27. Happy Friday!*

    I have a question that is somewhat related to work. How do people find the time to exercise while they are working a full time job? I work 9 hours per day+1 hour commute+1.5 hours getting ready in the morning+1 hour cooking and eating dinner+8 hours of sleep… just how do people find the time/energy? Once I am finally done for the day, I just plop down on the couch and that is just where I am until bed time since I feel so drained.

    1. It's hard, I know*

      I go approx. once a week to a barre studio within walking distance from my job. I used to go to the gym early on weekends when I was working insane hours just to get in some type of workout. I wish I had the time and energy to go more.

      Would meal prepping help with eliminating the 1 hour cooking you do most nights?

      1. Happy Friday!*

        Cooking is just kind of my way to unwind at the end of the day, I have been trying to make more of an effort recently to cook every night just because it is one of my favorite things to do. That is a good idea though, maybe I could meal prep like 2-3 nights a week and workout then then cook every other night?

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          plus 30 min prep + 30 min eating is really reasonable.

          I’d look harder at the 1.5 hrs getting ready. Can you cut that down at all? A different haircut to minimize styling needs, or a work look that needs less time? Hanging up clothes or prepping lunch the night before?

          Look for ways to build exercise into your day, of course – a few flights of stairs at work every day is surprisingly helpful. Walking faster, standing during phone calls, etc .

          The other thing is maybe a ‘light exercise’ option instead of the couch – my mom rides a stationary bike while watching TV. It’s not cheap and takes up space, but you could do resistance stretches with bands – inexpensive and small space. Strength work, not aerobic, but both help, and this plus aerobic on weekends, maybe it’s enough?

          I used to do pilates in my lr before / after work, 10 minutes 2x/day, and it was pretty good, but then we got a dog who thinks anything on the floor = play time.

    2. De Minimis*

      I couldn’t really do this on a consistent basis until I had a shorter commute time [also earlier working hours can help.] As long as I can get home by around six I can exercise an hour.

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I do home exercise with some hand weights and aerobics. It’s easier to crunch in around the edges, and as long as I can get in some more intense workouts once or twice a week, just doing something every day is a huge help, even if it’s only for as long as the pasta water takes to boil.

    4. alphabet soup*

      A lot of people in my office go to the gym during their lunch hour, and they’ll grab food and eat at their desk while they work.

      I just don’t see how it’s possible to squeeze it into the day otherwise.

    5. AnotherAlison*

      If I go to the gym in the morning, I spend 30 minutes getting ready. At home, it’s usually an hour, but I’m just faster there. I certainly don’t spend an hour cooking/eating, and 8 hrs sleep never happens. I’m not trying to be snarky, but the reality of a demanding job and trying to have a life just kind of sucks and something will give way.

      My youngest kid is 14 and shouldn’t need support in the morning, but he does, and my husband is there to take care of making sure he gets on the bus and the pets.

      Sometimes I do work out at night, and the trick is to go home, change to workout clothes and start doing something. I don’t eat or plop on the couch till after.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        +1 to your last paragraph. I’m the same way. I come home, take my makeup off, change into my workout gear, and head for the gym. I don’t give myself a chance to get settled in my apartment or I would never go run or to yoga/Pilates.

    6. Dragoning*

      I go for walks, etc. on lunch break.

      Also I don’t spend that long getting ready in the morning because I personally don’t need to, which helps.

      1. Happy Friday!*

        I keep trying to cut down my morning time, but I have to shower in the morning (my hair is a holy terror otherwise), full makeup is the norm for my office, then feed and play with my cat for a while in the morning so he gets a little attention in.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Look hard at shorter routines / shortcuts for full makeup (maybe online tutorials? Makeup Geek has some tips, but I bet there’s others).

          On the shower, are there any comfortable / appropriate do’s that would let you skip the shower, like braids the night before, done while you’re on the couch? And would you be able to parley that into usable time, by going to work earlier / getting out earlier / going to the gym OR by gymning in the evening / sleeping later?

          Don’t skimp the sleep.

        2. TechWorker*

          I’m not sure if you run at all, but if you considered taking it up then morning runs are great (I can’t claim to do this *often* but I’ve done it sometimes!). If you’re going to shower etc anyway then you can get a decent run into 25-30minutes – even if you do that only once or twice a week you’ll def see an improvement in fitness levels! Plus motivation is way easier if it’s the first thing when you get up, and you get to feel virtuous all day :p

    7. dramalama*

      Two of the people in my office have just gotten under-the-desk elliptical machines, which isn’t perfect but they’ve really loved it so far. If that’s not workplace appropriate where you are, I can also testify that getting a machine where I could workout at home cut down on the time commitment of going to a gym way more than I anticipated, and makes collapsing on the couch way more satisfying.

      1. Happy Friday!*

        I do actually have the under-desk elliptical as well but it just doesn’t really do much for me exercise-wise other than preventing a sore back from sitting all day.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        This is my plan if I end up back in an on-site position. It’s not a heavy duty workout, but a little bit for several hours is still better than nothing.

        Similarly, I have a mini-stepper at home and my tendency is to try to do 20-25 minutes on it most days, even if I can’t fit in anything else workout-wise. Mine was under $100 on Amazon and fits under my coffee table when not in use – I use it in the living room and watch TV or listen to a podcast while I’m on it. It can also be turned around and pedaled like an exercise bike, if one is sitting down.

    8. INeedANap*

      I have a similar set up – normal 8 hr day, an hour commute each way, 45-50 minutes to get ready in the morning.

      I usually get a 30 minute walk in at lunch; I eat at my desk before/after. Then on the weekends I make a point to do something active both Saturday and Sunday – a hike, kayaking, if it’s winter and all I can do is walk laps at the mall then that’s what I do.

      I wish I had the time and energy for more, but I just can’t make it work for me.

      1. Happy Friday!*

        I do try to go for a walk every day at lunch, unfortunately I have been having some issues with the muscles in my ankles recently so I had to cut back.

    9. AliceBD*

      I go to the gym before work, because I can’t make myself go after. Also, it takes me WAY less time to get ready at the gym than at home, for some reason. Like half the time.

    10. Mashed potato*

      I used to workout in the morning at 5-6am before my work wants me at work earlier with the new changes. Though I would sleep at 10-11pm a couple months ago. Now I go workout in the evening after the evenjbf crowd ends so maybe like 8-9 pm sound ideal but I been arriving to gym at 9. I would recommend cooking a bigger portion if you bring food to work so you can also microwave dinner early and do evening work out. Or go early af in the morning. My commute to or from work is 40 mins to an hour dependnf when, for one direction.
      Imo it’s mental energy from work that drains you. But I’m a broke person and I paid for my gym andget my money worth and i have other motivations for going to gym so haha. Honestly just do some physical activities when you can. having some, maybe shitty, workout is better than no workout. If you have spouse or partner maybe they can help with motivation or planning

    11. ANon..*

      Two words: Meal prep.

      Make three large-batch meals on Sunday. (I usually do one in a crock pot to make it easier.) This can save you a ton of time as well as the mental energy of figuring out what to have for dinner that night.

    12. MlleJennyfair*

      Exercise is completely related to work – your work output correlates with your health, energy level, and mood, and exercising boosts each of these – it hits the trifecta!
      Please, o please try to use one of those 9 hours for YOU. It sounds like you’re on a path to burnout – be kind to yourself and start taking a lunch. Besides being entitled to it, lunchtime is the best time: doing some type of activity gives you a huge energy boost for the afternoon and it breaks up your day. Go outside for a walk, find a nearby gym and use a cycle or elliptical, walk up and down the stairs in your building – anything to get your blood moving. You’ll hate the first 5 minutes, but love how you feel when you’re done – and you won’t believe how ready you’ll feel to take on the rest of your day.
      Start small and short – 2 days for 20 minutes – then 3 days for 30, 3 days for 45 – commit to this for a month and see if it affects your work, your attitude, and your bod.
      You deserve a mini-vacation each day! Zone out, get some oxygen, listen to your fave music, and be nice to you.

    13. gecko*

      I don’t work, commute, or get ready for as long as you do, and that’s how.

      I think taking walks on your lunch break and finding some chair yoga could be good additions to your workday, but it sounds like you’re probably resisting adding an exercise habit to your after-work routine because it’s just too much, and that’s completely ok.

      If you can cut down on any parts of your routine, that might help, but I know it might not be possible (or welcome). For instance spending less time getting ready even if it means having less-polished hair. Moving closer to work or changing your commute so it’s more restful. Just, being drained all the time stinks, so don’t beat yourself up for not finding the time to work out. Good luck, and I hope your schedule improves soon.

      1. Happy Friday!*

        Unruly is a nice word for my hair, it takes about 10-15 minutes to get it somewhat tamed for work, unfortunately everyday cannot be a ponytail day. I own a home on the outskirts of town, I live in a capital city so moving closer to work (which is in the heart of downtown) isn’t really an option.

        I just keep gaining weight since I graduated from college because I feel like I have no time (even though I know I do) and my metabolism just plummeted.

        It just makes it harder because my mother is basically an energizer bunny. She is up at 5 am to work out for an hour and a half, comes home and works out for another hour and a half… then bemoans that I am not taking the time to take care of myself.

        1. ANon..*

          Yikes, that sounds tough. :( But keep in mind the differences between your situation and your mom’s. Commuting in and of itself, although sedentary, can be very draining/tiring, and could be a huge difference in your energy levels!

          Also, if you’re finding that it’s just to much to get yourself to the gym, you can get some dumbbells and exercise at home using Youtube videos (I love Bodyfit by Amy!)

          1. Happy Friday!*

            Thanks! Sorry if I sound like I am trying to have a pity party. My mom also works 20 hours a week so she has quite a bit more free time. Traffic is usually a disaster so you are definitely right there, clutching the steering wheel white knuckeled for an hour a day gets to be a lot.

            1. Autumnheart*

              If it makes you feel any better, I have a similar schedule and a similar problem trying to figure out where the workout should happen. I get up at about 6, leave for work at about 7:45 (and I’m not exactly dawdling while getting ready—maybe 10-15 minutes each for shower, hair and makeup), leave work at about 4:30, get home between 5:30-7 (I try to run errands during my evening commute, so I’m not making separate trips on the weekend), do chores and prep my lunch for the next day, get ready for bed at about 9 and try to be asleep by 10.

              Ideally, I would a) get up at 5 and go to the gym near my house, or b) go to the gym at my work at 4:30 and save some time in rush hour, but either way, I’m looking at having literally 1-2 hours a night to get everything done at home if I want to get 8 full hours of sleep.

              Once it warms up (I live in a region with a long winter), it’ll be easier to go do outdoor stuff on the weekends, so I tell myself. I also work on a large campus, and do get several thousand steps a day by taking walks around the buildings a couple times a day.

        2. gecko*

          Right, it’s definitely sometimes not possible, or not possible at this time. I certainly don’t mean to suggest, well, you can “just” do these things and it’ll all be fixed! What I do want to suggest is that even with the scope of your question just limited to “how do I exercise” you sound pretty tired and bummed, and it may be worth seriously thinking about whether you want to make sacrifices in some parts of your life to gain back some time. Not an easy thing to do because sacrifices are sacrifices.

          I don’t think you’re trying to have a pity party (kinda subtweeting your other comment here) but it sounds like you’re kinda bummed out and you haven’t found something that works for you, and possibly that you’re getting pressure from your mom to lose weight & live your life differently. You’re not going to start exercising again until you find something that makes you feel good and that fits into your life. Asking yourself to sacrifice parts of your life for exercise won’t work–but it might be worth it to see if you can give yourself more of a work-life balance even if your life right now will change.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            +1 to this.

            Also, I don’t want to derail / discourage you on exercising, but weight is usually 80% diet and only 20% exercise. So exercise because it makes you feel better, more energetic, more alert, but separate that from any concerns you have about weight.

            1. Autumnheart*

              Weight is primarily diet, but strength and cardiovascular health are definitely based on exercise. My aching back would like to offer a PSA about not neglecting your core and flexibility if you have a sitting job. Brb going to do some planks.

    14. Emily S.*

      Good question. Strenuous workouts are reserved for weekend mornings.

      I also do short walks on lunch hours – 20-30 minutes of brisk walking outside, or in nasty weather, in some large stores nearby.

      1. Ama*

        This — I try to get in a few 20-30 minute workouts during the week and save any longer workouts for weekends. I also do all my working out at home because it saves me time getting to and from the gym.

        I’ve also found I respond well to short term challenges — I’ve done six week yoga programs, the burpee challenge, etc., because I’m better at sticking to the schedule if I know there’s an endpoint than if it is just some nebulous routine I’m going to have to do forever.

      2. CM*

        I struggle with this too, but having a weekly running date with a group of friends is super helpful. We get together at 8 a.m. Sunday morning and go for a 3-mile run in a local park — there are 8 of us total, but usually 4 or so on a given day. It’s fun, it doesn’t interfere with work or family stuff because of the timing, it doesn’t require planning because we do it every single week, and it’s a great way to start off the new week. I also have a weekly yoga class that I try to attend. That’s 2 workouts a week, one on a weekday and one on a weekend — some weeks I do better, but even on really crazy weeks it feels manageable to carve out those two hours.

    15. MonteCristo85*

      I do it a couple of ways, the biggest of which is I meal prep on the weekends. Also, I’ve trimmed down my morning routine to an hour, but then I have an total 1.5 hour commute so it balances I guess. I have a stand up desk at my office, plus I get out an walk around the building once or twice a day (morning and afternoon breaks). I kind of go back and forth between an easy and a hard workout each day, so one day may be 90 minutes, and the next only 30-45.

      The thing is, as easy as it is to plop down on the couch at the end of the day, after about of week of regular exercise you will actually have more energy. Its that first 7-10 days of getting in the routine and working through the tired that’s tricky. You have to make sure you are eating good healthy food too, and drinking plenty of water.

    16. Minerva McGonagall*

      Following along to get some more tips!

      Going to a gym/class didn’t work well for me year round. In my old job, which I lived really close to, they offered fitness classes during the lunch hour and right after work, and that was nice to do over the summers when it was lighter work-wise. I now have a stationary bike because I liked the spin classes and I’ll put on a show and just pedal away. I haven’t been as consistent since starting a new job farther away from home so I’m trying to break the couch habit too!

      Something that helped to keep me accountable was a to-do app called Done. I’m pretty goal driven so meeting my monthly or daily goal is an added boost for me.

    17. Hold My Cosmo*

      Good question. I’m already getting up at 4:45 to make it to work by 6:30, and I absolutely refuse to get up at 3:00 to work out. Not doing it. I’d rather die young.

      I have stopped cooking dinner, though. It’s just habit and tradition that makes us think we have to sit down to a hot meal at night. There’s nothing wrong with a large salad or a sandwich for dinner.

    18. Zephy*

      I joined a gym that was on the way home (or at least, not too far out of the way). If I went home first, it was a lot harder to talk myself into going back out again than it was to talk myself into making a stop on the way. I do laundry on Sundays and pack a week’s worth of gym clothes in my gym bag. (Non work-related aside: If you wear long pants/leggings to work out, you can roll your workout kit into a convenient sausage for transport: Fold the pants in half hip-to-hip, then lay them out on a flat surface. Fold your shirt and lay it on top of the pants, aligned with the waistband. Lay a pair of socks, a sports bra if you wear one, maybe spare underwear if you need on top of the shirt, then start rolling it all together from the top. About 8-10 inches from the bottom, flip one leg over the roll and turn the other leg inside out over the outside of the roll to hold it together, similar to how you would ball up a pair of socks, if that makes sense.)

      Knowing that I was paying $x/month for access to the gym helped me shame-motivate myself to actually go, but that doesn’t work for everyone.

    19. Not A Manager*

      Since you value the cooking time, and you also want to work out, could you compromise by alternating cooking evenings and workout evenings? Maybe you could make extra one night for dinner the next, or prep something easy that you can make the next night. On the “cooking” nights, you could so some simple stretching for 10 minutes.

    20. Natalie*

      It sounds like it isn’t just a time issue, but also an energy issue. You might find that going before work or between work and home allows you to fit in a workout before you’re totally wiped out.

      Could you change how you do dinner one or two nights a week? Maybe take a class and then pick up dinner and eat it on your way home?

    21. ContemporaryIssued*

      Look for high intensity work outs that basically back a lot of stuff into 20-30 mins. Then a quick shower, go on with your evening. You can usually do these at home with minimal equipment since they use a lot of bodyweight exercises. Super efficient as it gets your heart rate up.

    22. Anonymous Educator*

      Honestly, I don’t know. I used to have a long commute (1.75-2 hours each way), and I got zero exercise then. Now I take one bus to work (no transfers) in less than 30 minutes, and I get my exercise by walking halfway home on the way home and then taking the bus home the rest of the way.

    23. American Ninja Worrier*

      It’s very hard! Meal prep (or just eating a PB&J instead of cooking some nights) could help — cook two or three nights a week, then work out the other two or three nights a week. Finding a place close to work could help, especially if you can squeeze exercise in over your lunch. Or, what if you shifted some of your getting-ready activities to the evening so you could work out in the mornings?

      Personally, I make it a point to work out every weekend and then try to squeeze in another day if I can. It may seem like people who work out regularly are magic, but most of them are just making some real sacrifices somewhere.

    24. San Juan Worm*

      I take transit and work long hours most days. I try to walk the first or last mile-and-a-half of my commute home to get in some physical activity. I aim for three days a week. If traffic is congested, walking can actually be faster than sitting on the bus — earlier this week, I walked three miles before my bus caught up with me.

    25. yup*

      If you can find a gym on your way home from work, that would probably be the easiest way to fit it in. Otherwise, YouTube workout videos that you can do from home are awesome.

      Also, I recently gave up eating dinner as a form of habit – I only eat/cook if I am hungry. It took a couple weeks for my body to adjust and I’m not saying this is right for everyone (so please don’t jump on me), but I have actually found that I feel better on just two meals per day unless I am hungry in the evening and it’s given me a lot of time back to be productive in other ways. Working out tends to be a good distraction – I know some people are starving after workouts, but for some reason I am the opposite.

      1. DataGirl*

        I am similar in that I usually want a snack right when I get home from work, then have no desire for dinner. I can’t wait until my kids are grown and out of the house so i don’t have to cook anymore.

    26. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)*

      I joined a gym that was a couple of blocks from my office, and exercised on my lunch hour (and then ate a container of yogurt at my desk and let that be lunch).

      On some days I went after work instead — work, exercise, shower, take the subway home–but I admit that it helps if you can find an exercise that helps you relax instead of winding you up or feeling like a slog.

    27. Coverage Associate*

      I don’t. I try to do a walk on Saturday and a full gym workout on Sunday, but that’s all I get in. Very occasionally I can have a quick dinner and workout in the evening, or find the time on a work from home day.

      I have a Fitbit, which I set to remind me to get up and just take a walk around the office every hour during the work day.

    28. Chaordic One*

      I hope this doesn’t derail the conversation. We used to have an onsite gym at my workplace. (It’s a federal agency.) And several other gyms in the area complained about it being unfair competition and so it was removed. We still have the locker rooms with showers and they are used by employees who bike to work (and on the down low, they are used by employees who are, for all practical purposes, homeless.) Since we only have half hour lunch breaks having an onsite gym would sure be convenient. Sometimes you just don’t have an extra 10 to 15 minutes for the admittedly short commute to an offsite gym.

      There was a similar situation with the vending machines in the break rooms where area businesses complained about them. It ended up that the current vending machines are operated by an organization that donates all profits to a charity. (I think it is for blind people or something like that.)

    29. Aggretsuko*

      You don’t work out on weekdays is probably what you’ll have to do. I’ve given up on weekday workouts myself. I try to walk around as much as I can during the day during break times + lunch.

    30. Elizabeth West*

      Well, when I was working, I’d just change into workout clothes as soon as I got home and take a walk. During winter, it was also very dark out, which made walking less safe since there are a couple of places without sidewalks. There was a gym right next to Exjob so I could just use the indoor track during very bad or cold weather. I walked three days a week and did Pilates at home the rest of the time–same deal, change and put in the Pilates DVD as soon as I got home (after feeding the cat, whom I no longer have).

      I’ve been really lazy this winter since it was so wet. I have cold gear, but no rain gear.

    31. CheeryO*

      Honestly, unless you can work out at lunch or find a job with shorter hours or a shorter commute, you just have to brute force it into your schedule, whether that means sacrificing a little sleep, spending less time cooking or getting ready in the morning.

      My schedule is generally: 7:00-7:40 get ready (I shower at night and eat breakfast at my desk), 7:40-4:45 commute/work, 5:00-6:00 run or yoga, 6:00-8:00 prep dinner/eat/clean up, 8:00-10:30 TV/reading/whatever. I have a short commute and no kids, so I feel like I have it pretty easy, but it still takes some conscious effort. One thing I would try to separate out is the energy piece – once it becomes part of your schedule, it doesn’t really require energy (either mentally or physically) the way it does when you’re in the habit-forming stage.

    32. epi*

      Four ways: spend less time on other stuff somehow; join a gym that is on your way home, or else work out from home; go with a friend to motivate you and also so you are multitasking by seeing them; find something you like to do and that you will make a priority.

      Honestly, it can be hard to fit in. I have never found a long-term goal related to exercise that motivated me to keep sacrificing the time. But I found it very effective to pick my favorite cardio machine at the gym and just try to get a little better at it (faster/longer time/more consistent/whatever) week over week. Or do yoga just because I knew the more I participated, the better the meditation at the end would feel. For a while I was into just really pushing myself, knowing the more warmed up I got, the more awesome my shower would be at the end. In my experience, when you find one exercise you like, even if that one gets kind of boring, you will be motivated to replace that feeling. Expect exercise to feel good in some way because it truly can. Those barriers in our schedules have a way of seeming less set in stone when it comes to things we actually want to do.

      Both the exercise and the time for yourself may also help you in those time consuming areas of your life. A commute takes how long it takes, but you may find that sleeping or concentrating better and just feeling better will make some of the other stuff easier.

    33. Midwest writer*

      I changed jobs about four months ago, which coincided with winter starting and holiday eating and I was just feeling really blah. I had added a 30-minute commute and wasn’t able to come home for lunch anymore and I just felt way stressed, exhausted and kind of gross. We have a treadmill, so I decided I’d just try to carve out 20-30 minutes to use it. After about a week, I decided to try in the mornings. I’m getting up at 5:15ish now and walking or running. My energy level is up, even with getting less sleep, and I find myself eating a little healthier, because hey, I went to the effort to exercise, now shouldn’t I focus on eating better, too? What’s worked for me is allowing myself the leeway to skip a morning if I feel too exhausted (I have three small kids, one of whom still wakes up to nurse at night, so those nights happen at least once a week), but I have noticed that if I get up even three mornings a week, then do a little more on the weekends, it’s making a real difference.

    34. tcro*

      So, I feel your pain, as it’s HARD to find a way to fit ALL the things into 24 hours.
      My tips:
      -first thing in the morning… it will be early, so you’ll have to mentally be prepared not to hit snooze everyday. even if it’s only 25-45 minutes, that’s better than nothing and you could save longer workouts (if you want them?!) for the weekend
      -I have a road bicycle… over the winter, it was in the spare bedroom on a “trainer” (allows you to ride YOUR bike inside vs. buying a stationary bike) in front of the TV… so even when I was half-assing it, I still got to decompress and watch a show, but always feeling like a little workout was better than none! If you have a bike with gears, I think this would work, and you can always find used trainers… search Triathlete groups online or ask in your local bike shop if they know of anyone looking to get rid of one.
      -I know you mentioned your hair is kinda tricky… not knowing ALLLL the details… you might think about finding a stylist who is a cutting expert and see if they can help you find a style that’s easier to manage. My hair is thick and heavy… I found a new stylist about a year ago and now instead of spending a SOLID 20 minutes to fully blow dry, I can pretty much towel-dry and put a little product in and the air-dried version still looks put together
      -Also… i enjoy cooking too! But sometimes it’s just too darn much…. can you mix in some quicker meals (eggs for dinner, loaded baked potatoes, etc) and save the longer amount of cook time for weekends/a couple nights per week? I also highly recommend Trader Joe’s… they have lots of stuff in the frozen/fridge sections that make it quicker to get dinner on the table… pre-cooked meats for tacos/salads/etc and I love some of their Fried Rice options and then I just add more veggies and an egg on top.

      Good luck!

    35. Katy*

      Check out the Nerd Fitness blog – he has a “beginner body weight workout” that takes 10 minutes and doesn’t need any special equipment. The blog also has a supportive community and quirky nerd-themed posts like “How far did Frodo walk to destroy the ring?”

    36. Fortitude Jones*

      I’m very fortunate that I a) live down the street from job (it’s a 6-10 minute walk depending on traffic), b) have a gym in my building, and c) get free yoga and Pilates classes as a complementary service for paying rent (my apartment community is awesome!). I also only run three times a week in the gym for 30 minutes at a time, so while I do end up kind of tired after my workouts, since I do it almost as soon as I get off work, I’m not too exhausted to do things like cook something light and quick. Can you try to carve out just 30 minutes at a time to work out, even if it’s just in your living room? That was the only way I was able to do it.

    37. Jane*

      Well, I only work an 8 hour day, but I also do ALL of my cooking for the week on the weekend, and I spend 30 minutes getting ready for work, including hitting the snooze button at least once. I eat breakfast during my commute. I’m also lucky that my hours can be slightly flexible.

      A typical workout day for me is either with a workout in the morning or the evening.

      Morning day:
      Wake up 5:45
      Leave at 6:15
      Get to the gym at 7:15
      Leave the gym at 8:40
      Get to work at 9
      Leave at 5
      Get home around 6:30
      Heat dinner and am eating by 7
      clean up and get ready for the next day 7:30-8
      work on my online class 8-10
      bed by 10, asleep by 11

      evening day:
      get up around 7
      leave around 7:30
      get to work around 8:40
      leave work around 4:40
      get to exercise class around 5:45
      leave exercise class at 7
      home by 7:30
      heat dinner and eating before 8
      shower, get ready for the next day 8-8:30
      work on online class 8:30-10
      in bed by 10, asleep by 11

      I try to do one of these options three times a week, plus I also exercise once on the weekend.

      1. DataGirl*

        I need about an hour in the morning but I have longish straight hair so I only have to wash it about twice a week, so my shower is very short. I find if you have curly hair or a short cut that requires styling every day that takes more time. I am with you on needing cat time in the morning.

        For working out I go to a 2 hour class first thing Sat morning so it’s out of the way for the weekend. I have chair yoga at work Monday, then sometimes a bare class Tues night. Probably would be better to spread things out over the week but that’s just when the classes I like are held.

        On my barre night I either cook something really fast like pasta, or we order out. I have tried meal prepping on the weekend so many times but my family is just weird, once something had been cooked and stored in the fridge, no one wants to eat it. But if you don’t have issues with leftovers or eating the same thing a few times in a week a crock pot or instant pot are great ways to make big meals with minimum effort.

    38. pcake*

      do you spend any time watching TV or chatting with a roommate or S/O? if so, you could pedal with a mini peddler or use a mini eliptical as you do. for that matter, you could also use a bullworker or resistance bands to work on while watching TV or chatting.

    39. Dr. Anonymous*

      I do short Fitness Blender videos the moment I get out of bed. You could wave the Cat Dancer around during the cardio intervals. And I can get a pretty decent full face on in about three minutes. It would be two minutes more if eye makeup didn’t make me itch. This may be a time to try a new hair stylist to find a lower maintnance do as a gift to yourself.

  28. De Minimis*

    I’m finishing up the first week of my two weeks notice, and I feel like I’m walking through mud. I can see why people often don’t give notice or give shorter periods than two weeks.

    Also, everyone has been nice enough since the news was made public, but it’s weird being here. I’m a contractor so I’ve always sort of felt on the outside anyway during my time here, but this has just reinforced it.

    1. Wishing You Well*

      I’m glad you’re almost done. You might feel better once you’re outa there!

  29. Person of Interest*

    For your amusement: I’m reviewing student resumes for our spring internship, and came across this tidbit under a position that sounds like it was sort of a short-term study abroad experience:

    “Supported sustainable businesses and lifestyles by contributing to local economies”

    Meaning…. went shopping?

    1. Competent, I swear!*

      I reviewed a resume the other day which included a section on ‘personal interests’ and had the line “I’ve recently taken up golf and have really got into the swing of it.” – I asked my manager if we were allowed to fire someone we hadn’t even hired yet. ;-)

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Okay, that would put that person at the top of my “to interview” list, no lie.

    2. Can't remember my first 2 usernames*

      This sounds like a line from one of the Shopaholic books. I’m laughing on the inside at this.

      1. Reba*


        When I was a kid I went shopping with my grandmother a lot when she cared for me. When asked what we got up to, she taught me to say “supporting the local economy.”

        1. The New Wanderer*

          We use “support local business” as code if we’re talking about going out to get ice cream in front of the kids.

    3. Chaordic One*

      It it’s an internship in the marketing department I think you’ve found your candidate.

  30. No name*

    My department brought in a consultant for some kind of future planning effort. We started with an anonymous brainstorming website, where people are supposed to leave ideas for improving our department and the whole institution.

    That’s some of the contribution. A lot is saying things to the effect of upper management needing to realize that their underlings don’t trust them, don’t feel valued by them, and that management needs to be held to high standards as well.

    It’s true, and also exceptionally biting. I’m in one of the few truly engaged divisions within the department and some of my colleagues are reading this list like it’s an unhinged Twitter rant.

  31. Environmental Compliance*

    Got in an argument yesterday with a coworker that was arguing against putting in a piece of equipment that would prevent *another* a OSHA/EPA potential violation (as in, explodey type serious violation). Basically, engineer a huge risk out of the equation. Their argument was that putting in a very common, very standard piece of equipment was going to inconvenience someone, maybe.

    Not proud really that I ended up walking out of the meeting, but I did stand my ground until the completely unreasonable “but then where do you stop?? redundancies after redundancies after redundancies? WHERE DOES IT END, EC??” Okay, we’re putting in a two step process instead of a one step, calm the eff down. I am not going to put up with 30 minutes of pointless straw arguments from someone who doesn’t have one iota of say in this decision.

    I guess someone must have said something to them as they came up and apologized to me. I would have more appreciated our manager shutting the person down at the meeting itself before it got to the point of a 30 minute diatribe about whether EHS should be purely convenient, but baby steps, I guess.

    1. A CAD Monkey*

      As someone who lives near and is effected by chemical plant “mishaps”, redundancies are a good thing. This person is an idiot. “Inconvenience” in a possible explosion hazard situation is a good thing, when the thing causing the inconvenience can possibly save lives. This guy needs to F-off and re-evaluate is outlook on the job he’s supposed to be doing if a standard piece of safety equipment is a inconvenience to him. (Sorry, the recent plant explosion/fire/benzine leak here has me a miffed.)

      1. valentine*

        As Compliance, do you not have the standing to shut them down? Or say, “We’re not going to let people slice off extremities because you don’t want them to push a second button”?

      2. Construction Safety*

        IIRC, even PSM only requires one level of “What if?”

        FWIW, you wont find “inconvenienced” in the OSHA dictionary.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Yeah, that’s what I ended the meeting with – EHS does not require anything to be convenient, EHS requires us to be SAFE. We’re done here.

    2. LCL*

      Engineering controls are virtually always preferable to adding PPE, or making changes to work practices. If those engineering controls use something already standard and available to the industry, that is a win for everybody.

      1. jack*

        Exactly! If I could put an EC (or remove the risk) for a hazard in my facility with an ESTABLISHED fix I’d do it in a heartbeat.

      2. Environmental Compliance*

        Exactly! Coworker’s option? Just tell the truckers NOT TO DO THAT. Okay, sure, but THAT HASN’T WORKED ALREADY, YOU MORON. That’s why we’re here, having this discussion! Coworker was literally arguing with everyone else in the room (including our supervisor) that putting in a single piece of control, most likely <$15000, that is standard everywhere else in the industry, was 1) too much money and 2) too confusing for the truckers to use. Except it's not coming out of his budget (as he has none, and guess what, EHS does), it's only $15k, it's a HUGE hazard, and there'd be no change to what the truckers do.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        The facility manufactures a flammable/combustible chemical that this individual is in charge of selling.

        1. Observer*

          But still. Why does the sales department have any say in manufacturing or even delivery (which is what I assume the truckers do)?

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            No, the truckers are our clients, who this person is selling to. We have no deliveries onsite of our product :)

  32. Something Blue*

    Hi! Several people have posted here about getting MLIS degrees and then going into other fields such as records management or data management instead of libraries. I was wondering how to go into those fields without training to be a librarian?

    I like the idea of being a librarian, but it’s such a hard field to get into that I was wondering how to get into the “data adjacent” fields without an MLIS degree.

    I’m currently in publishing in managing/production editorial, and I think I’d like managing information or records and hopefully have a higher salary. I assume I’d need some kind of classes to do this, but when I try to google about this, I get info about being a manager or hardcore math classes.

    Does anyone have any suggestions for what kind of classes or certificates I’d need or a better way to search for it?

    Or if any librarians made the switch from libraries to corporate jobs are reading this, what kind of job listings did you look for to find them?

    1. Booksaregood*

      Yes, there is a certification for records management. I don’t know how useful it is for jobs, though – I worked in records management for about 4 years and everyone in my department either had an MLIS or was working toward it, but none of us had a CRM. ARMA is the professional group for records managers, so that might be another place for you to do research. However it doesn’t have a fantastic reputation (or at least doesn’t among my colleagues), not in the way the ALA or SAA do.

      So on that note, maybe courses through ALA/SAA are another option for you? I’d look into classes about classification and taxonomies, handling electronic records (like, how to scan, how to organize emails, how to deal with different types of file formats), cataloguing, retention, and maybe databases (not so much programming as just how to use them) (though programming was definitely helpful for me).

      My job title started as record analyst, so maybe try that as a job-search term?

      Hopefully that’s helpful! If there’s anything you’d like me to clarify, let me know!

      1. Something Blue*

        Thank you! That is helpful!

        I do have a follow-up question: For the co-workers working toward an MLIS—were they planning on switching to library jobs or did they need the info for their jobs and MLIS was the main way to get it?

        1. Booksaregood*

          Hm, well, we specifically hired people with an MLIS/working toward one because we wanted professionals with a good background/foundational knowledge in data and metadata organization. Even our interns were grad students working toward their MLIS.

          My experience is definitely not universal, but at least at my school the MLIS program is not limited to library work. It was about information: how to classify it, how to access it, how to preserve it, how to help other people with it. I took a variety of classes, like on human behavior, cataloging, programming, and archiving.

          I took the RM job because it was steady and permanent work (which I was having a hard time finding), not because I specifically wanted to go into RM, and I think my co-workers had similar motivation. People left the department as they found better jobs elsewhere; some stayed in RM, some went on to archives, and some to libraries.

    2. DataGirl*

      Well there’s the IT way of going by taking classes in database design, administration, etc. I have an MLIS but it was my classes in database administration that got me a foot in the door with IT and I’ve been on that path since. If you are interested in a specific field like healthcare there are programs just for ‘ health informatics’ and I’m guessing there are similar things for other specific industries.

  33. Nervous Accountant*

    I’m responsible for a time sensitive project that needs to be completed every day during tax season. It’s not difficult but it needs to be done every day and I am allowed to use interns.

    I have had one intern who has been pretty amazing… proactive, takes ownership of it, is quick and has a good atittude.

    Would it be appropriate to give him a small gift card (like starbucks or something) at the end of his internship? (it goes w/o saying that I will also offer my contact information for a good reference)

    My only hesitation is that I’ve had other interns and they’re OK but he stands out so I don’t want them to feel… like it’s unfair? Idk. I’d rather be overcautious than not. I’m not friends or even overly friendly with him either so I don’t want it to feel awkward.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        True. The company did a lunch around the holiday season b/c they wouldn’t be invited to the holiday party (underage). I am not sure if they will be invited to teh post-tax season party but I doubt it. The gift card would be coming out of my own pocket ($20-30). I once got one when I was an intern, but I think it was from the company, not from ayone personally. I just thought it would be nice.

        1. valentine*

          No? It’s income. Get him a formal bonus or raise. The others would do well to learn now that we don’t (and shouldn’t) all get the same thing all the time.

          1. Nervous Accountant*

            Lol I wish I could but I have 0 control over pay and compensation.. plus it’s seasonal and internship ends soon.

            “The others would do well to learn now that we don’t (and shouldn’t) all get the same thing all the time.”
            I like this point.

    1. BottleBlonde*

      I’ve done this before for interns and I think it’s appropriate (even standard in some places). If I was supervising several interns during the same semester I would probably feel uncomfortable only giving one of them a gift card so I’d choose to gift all or none, but that’s me. If I wasn’t their direct supervisor then I think I’d feel more comfortable singling out one intern who went above and beyond to help me.

      1. Friday afternoon fever*

        I agree with all of this. And I’d put the gift card inside a small greeting card. As an intern I would have really appreciated that.

    2. Dragoning*

      I am pro-“being nice to your interns”

      Not sure if the other interns would have any way of finding this out.

    3. Susan K*

      I think it’s pretty common at a lot of companies to give gift cards as recognition for someone who went above and beyond for a project, so yes, I think that is appropriate. Don’t forget to recognize the other interns for the things they did well, too, but it is fine to reward one person who contributed significantly more than the rest.

    4. LuckySophia*

      It sounds like this intern has gone “above & beyond” what others do/have done, so yes –I would give him a small gift card, but more importantly, I’d deliver it along with a brief but formal “business letter” that says something like: “Dear Intern, I want to express my appreciation for the professional contributions you’ve made during your internship here at (Company). You’ve been [e.g. what you cited –proactive,/takes ownership/quick etc. ]. It has been a pleasure to work with you, and I wish you continued success. Please let me know if you ever need me to provide a reference for you.” (I think a letter like that would mean even more than a gift card, although I’m sure the gift card would also be appreciated!)

    5. foolofgrace*

      If the other interns would know about the gift, and wonder why they aren’t being recognized, I would skip it. Just offer to be a great reference.

    6. Something Borrowed*

      Not weird at all! You can be discreet about giving him the gift card at the end of his internship if you’re worried about other interns seeing it happen.

    7. Not A Manager*

      Do you currently have other interns? If so, it might be weird to personally gift him something and not to them. But if you’ve “had” other interns in the past, and might in the future, but you only have this guy right now, I think it’s fine to give him a nice thank-you note with a Starbucks gift card.

    8. Reba*

      I think it would be less weird, and possibly very nice! to take them out for a goodbye lunch or coffee than to fork over the gift card. A former boss did that for me and I remember feeling like it was a nice acknowledgement.

      I don’t think the gift card it wrong, either! But I think I personally would have felt a little weird about it if I were in the intern’s shoes.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        I like that idea! but I tend to be a little closed off & awkward being around new people :[ If I were different, or had a closer, more friendly relationship with them I would do that. Good idea for next time.

        1. ..Kat..*

          I think a gift card is a nice idea then. I have gift cards from similar situations that had a short note of appreciation with them. These meant enough to me that I still have them.

  34. Loopy*

    I am about to enter an extremely busy period at work and have zero people who can do what I do to help with the workload. It’s not forever, but it is for about a month of lots of extra hours. And it’s not just the time, it’s very stressful work that leaves me drained. I’ve already really struggled with not letting this bleed into the time I do have that I’m not working- eating habits, home productivity, moods, etc.

    Does anyone have tips for surviving really intensely stressful bursts without gaining 50 lbs from coping via cupcakes and having the house become buried under laundry and dust bunnies?

    1. rocklobsterbot*

      can you throw money at the problem? send your laundry out, get healthy food delivered?

    2. Minerva McGonagall*

      YMMV, but I love getting my groceries delivered. I’ve been using Peapod for over a year and it has saved me so much time. There’s a small delivery fee involved, but I’ve saved money from not making random purchases and it’s way easier (for me, personally) to buy more healthier foods when I’m not staring at the bakery section IRL.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Seconding this! I started having my groceries delivered (via Instacart) and it has saved me so much time and also helped me make healthier food choices.

    3. Susan K*

      My workplace goes through busy periods once or twice per year, during which I have to work a lot of extra hours for several weeks (a bit different from your situation because the busy periods are busy for everyone here), and I find that it helps to prepare in advance. I try to start the busy period with my house cleaned up, my pantry and freezer stocked, personal stuff taken care of (e.g., if I have a dental cleaning due or need something fixed at my house, schedule it before the busy period), taxes done, etc. I like to make meals in advance to freeze so I don’t have to do actual cooking during the busy period. And if you can swing it, it might be nice to give yourself a break by using a house cleaning service during this time.

      Also, it might help to let your friends and family know in advance that you are going to be really busy at work, so they won’t get offended if you’re not available during the busy period.

    4. Coverage Associate*

      Seconding all of the above. If you can’t afford house cleaning, also consider lower standards, doubling the time between bathtub scrubs, etc.

    5. Blinded By the Gaslight*

      Something I’ve been trying (and which seems to be working!) is setting my bar really low in terms of “getting things done” around the house, and removing things like household chores from my to do list. Instead, I have an agreement with myself that if I’m leaving a room, I look around for something that belongs in the place I’m going (or trash, dishes, etc.) and take it with me. When I come home from work, I leave my shoes/work clothes on for 15-30 minute and get quick tidying done like taking out the trash, loading/unloading dishes or laundry, etc. I clean as I go when I cook, and I have a new rule that I have to empty my kitchen sink before bed every night so that I can wake up to kitchen that is free and clear for me to make breakfast. So, instead of using up my whole Saturday or Sunday for chores, I just do a few minutes here and there, and that keeps the filth and clutter at bay.

      I also second grocery delivery. It’s great, and usually there are ways to save on delivery fees like scheduling a “green” delivery window. Not everything you want may be available, and sometimes prices can be higher, but once you figure out what works best for you, it’s pretty great to not have to make a trip to the store.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Don’t buy the cupcakes.
      Seriously, if I buy the cupcakes I will eat them. All of them. Just don’t buy them.
      But do understand that sugar is energy. What matters is where we get the sugar from. You can buy individual yogurts, pre-cut fresh fruit etc. I even keep a canister of raisins around for when the fresh stuff runs out.

      And this is going to sound odd, go to bed on time every night. Set a time and commit to that time. We get energy from sleep or from food. If we don’t sleep, you see what that leaves us with: FOOD. I have gone through busy spells where I have made myself go to bed at a particular time every night. It felt so. damn. good. It was my excuse to stop doing things. And I found that I got more done because I knew for a fact that the day would end and I would go to bed at my scheduled time.

      Of course, there is a learning curve and I had to sort what is important to me and what is not important. I wanted some fresh fruit. I did not need to cut it up myself but I did need the fruit. It would have been nice to save the bucks by cutting it myself but it was not that important. It was more important to have fruit on hand. And I looked at other things in a similar manner. Some answers are not ideal and some answers are not what I would do ordinarily. I had to make those trade-offs.

  35. Karen from Finance*


    I want to tell you a story. A story of a tech startup. I’ll try to keep these short because there are so many problematic things that I’ve started to lose track. I’m hoping keeping this list will help me keep perspective.

    – The company is about 80 people. About 15 of them have some type of personal connection to the CEO (who is one of the owners) including both this siblings in law and his former boss.
    – There are several people who are or have been in relationships. Two heads of departments are ex-partners and therefore can’t really be near each other.
    – Every so often there are company parties, sometimes IN the actual office, and they are wild. There is a lot of alcohol involved, and people hitting on each other, and people going home together. I’m told at least once there was a party on a Thursday and people went to work the next day hangover/still drunk, without having slept.
    – Once after a company Christmas party, the CEO’s recently-divorced brother-in-law (who is an employee) didn’t go home (to his parents’). So the CEO’s mother-in-law starts to bother the CEO about it. So the CEO decides to text the entire company group chat to ask where the guy was. Of course, he was with another employee.
    – The following year this exact scenario played out almost exactly the same, except CEO didn’t text the group chat, but people individually. Brother-in-law was with a different employee this time.
    – Our lowest paid employee tried to negotiate a higher salary with one of the owners. Things escalated. She proposed “they take this outside”, and when he refused, called him a chicken (to thim, and then to me when telling me the story). She’s still employed 3 months later.
    – Two of the owners frequently argue with each other. They like to get into pissing contests in the middle of meetings, and it gets ugly. It’s fine for them because they are friends, but it’s very ugly for the rest of us. They once got in an argument about exchange rates and ended up betting on it more money than they pay me, in front of me.

    You might be wondering at this point, what’s up with this company’s HR department? Well, it’s composed of the CEO’s former boss. She used to have two employees, but they just quit simultaneously last month. HR lady is very prone to picking up fights with people and bringing out the worst in all of us through responding very agressively, finger-pointing and with a liberal use of ALL CAPS. Overall poor management, and unnecessarily escalating situations. Examples of situations involving HR:
    – Our payroll and roster data are an absolute mess, she has no idea how much people are supposed to be making. She has 2 separate files and she doesn’t even have the same names for people in both of them (JOHN SMITH in one vs Smith, Jon A. in the other). I’ve been fighting her on this all week so just.. Trust me. It’s a mess.
    – They do not pay OT, you’re supposed to take time off instead. But they don’t track OT. They do track time off. To take time off, you need to fill out a form that gets sent out to leadership, where you are required to give detailed reasons for the absence (“personal matter” or such will get pushback). She tracks this time extensively, and assumes one never makes up for flex time. She calls this “unproductivity”.
    – This is still an improvement on the old way of managing PTO, which was emailing the entire company (AFTER your manager had already given approval). It was put to an end after someone was sick and HR replied all asking “Oh but is it just a cough? What did the doctor say?” and the employee replied-all back with an extensive, detailed list of all of her symptoms. Not all heroes wear capes.
    – I’ve seen people with bottles of booze by their desks, that have progressively fewer content. I’ve seen booze in the fridge in my floor quite a few times on Fridays. As long as they’re charging their timesheets and coming and leaving on time, this is not considered unproductivity by HR.
    – Company reimburses mobile phone expenses for leadership. HR decided they would only do this for one particular cell phone provider, by pretext of wanting to keep control over suppliers. An employee refused to change carriers for his personal line, saying that if they want to control “suppliers” they should give him a company phone, otherwise he controls which company he has to his name. HR responded by stopping reimbursing his cell phone bill.
    – After I started putting together the first decent financial reports this company has ever seen (not tooting my own horn – this place is a MESS) they cut the milk out of the break room to save money. They also refuse to give us a shelf to put our stuff or a coat rack. They do, however, still find that there’s room in the budget for paraphernalia with the company logo, because it “boosts morale” because it apparently helps people “identify with the company”. Saying nothing of random senseless expenses from HR and leadership.

    This is long enough already so I’ll stop here. Survival tips welcome. Have a good weekend, everybody!

    1. What?*

      o.O ….the weirdest bit of this whole story is you asking for ‘survival tips’ at the end. I would be actively out job-hunting.

      1. Karen from Finance*

        I’m casually job hunting. Casually because up until the point where I wrote it down in a list just now, I always convince myself that it’s “not that bad”. I currently have a lead, we’ll see how it goes.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          You have already started to go through the distortion in thinking that comes with being in such a toxic, polluted, filthy environment.
          Okay, let’s look at this way, when we HAVE to tell ourselves that “it’s not that bad”, that is probably a very strong indicator that it actually IS that bad.

          You are talking about the health of a company. This is not a company that will last. It will go under if it continues to operate this way. Think of human health. Suppose a person wrote out a list as long as what you have here showing all their nagging and on-going health issues. Would you decide that this is a healthy person? Probably not, right? Likewise for companies, lists that look like this indicate the company is not healthy. This company is probably not a reliable source of income from you because it is barely surviving from one day to the next.

          You can do better than work here. And you deserve to have a better employer than this one. I would recommend making it a goal to be out of there within the next few months.

          1. Karen from Finance*

            This is very thoughtful, thank you.

            I think I came into this with an open mind, too willing to accept everything as my new normal.

            I used to work at this huge company, HUGE, almost-Big-Four-huge. It’s a very hard environment, I think it is possible to thrive there but definitely not for everyone. In 2017 I had to take a leave of absence for medical reasons (fine now) and when I came back I saw the culture for what it was, because I had this shift in perspective. It was a very toxic environment for reasons at the other end of the spectrum than the ones I’m describing here, it’s so exploitative.

            So when I arrived here, everything was so easily framed as “oh, it’s just so chill here”, “oh, people are so relaxed”. I like the phrase from Lisa Kudrow’s character in Bojack Horseman “I guess when you see life through rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just look like.. flags.” So this is all to explain why I was so easily duped into the “it’s not that bad” but, you’re right, it probably does not have a future and I really need to start updating my profile on them job sites.

      1. Karen from Finance*

        I’m not from the US. Because we’re not unionized and because they technically offer to let you the time off (despite the tracking of one and not the other), it would be very hard to enforce anything legally here.

    2. ContemporaryIssued*

      Have you read the book Disrupted? The writer’s style is a bit haughty but it’s a very similar startup situation and story, and digs into other problems with startup culture. I read it recently and really enjoyed it.

      This may not be a survival tip and honestly, being in a toxic environment like this might mean the last thing you want to do at home is read about it, but maybe once you’re out of there you can pick it up.

      Maybe you don’t need to read the book but write your own instead.

      1. church lady*

        I think the poster should write her own book. You cannot make any of this up. Good luck with your job search.

      2. Karen from Finance*

        Might be worth checking it out now to remind myself that This Is Not Normal. Thanks!

    3. Llellayena*

      Start writing a sitcom based on your office (bonus points if you’re able to write it during office hours), sell it to Hollywood (or your country’s equivalent), and quit spectacularly when the royalties start coming in. Oh and add the spectacular quit into an episode of the sitcom.

      More practically, get out. Soon.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      Unproductivity when you’re genuinely sick but getting shitfaced at work ia A-ok? Priceless!
      Run and don’t look back!

  36. DC*

    This week I became the only LGBT member off my office. In the last six months we’ve gone from a significant number to just me. I freaked out. I left the office that day with a panic attack, and took today off to think.

    On top of everything else, this was my last straw. I’ll be looking in earnest now, as I no longer feel safe.

    Thank you to everyone who offered advice the last few weeks.

    1. Karen from Finance*

      I’m sorry :(

      How unfriendly are the cishet people there? Are they very hostile, or is it just the prospect of being the only LGBT person there that is making you feel this way?

      1. DC*

        My direct coworkers (the ones I sit with) are incredibly supportive. As is my boss. It is the upper management, and the fact that when they started firing the others I mentioned my fears, and was waved off, just to have the next one come down a few weeks later. I’ve felt constantly on guard with certain departments (I’m one of the only one who works across all depts.) including upper management. The culture in the office has shifted.

        1. Karen from Finance*

          Oh. I’m glad it’s not actively hostile in your direct environment, at the very least. But that’s still not good.

          I hope you find somewhere that is worth having you soon.

        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Yeesh, I don’t blame you for feeling exposed. Even if your everyday environment is supportive, that’s a deeply scary trend that seems awfully unlikely to be pure coincidence, unless it’s somehow coming in the context of massive layoffs? Which it doesn’t sound like.

          Good luck to you, and I hope you land somewhere much more genuinely safe.

    2. Willow*

      I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I have no advice, but instead will just send you a virtual hug and wish you luck in your job search. You deserve to work in a place where you can feel safe and thrive.

  37. Pay Equity*

    I work at a nonprofit in a program management role. It’s budget season, which means that I’m looking at every one of my colleague’s salaries as I build my program budget… and there’s a clear gender disparity.

    What should I do? I mean, what are the steps I should take?

    1. Jess*

      This really, really, depends on the politics in your office, I think. Who has the power to make a difference on this issue, but doesn’t have the information, and how can you share the key information and encourage them to support the cause, while respecting your responsibility to confidentiality around individual salaries?

    2. The Rain In Spain*

      I would flag this to the appropriate parties- HR/board/etc. It’s often helpful to couch these things in a way that gives the company more credit- “Part of the annual program budgetary process involves a salary review. There appear to be significant pay disparities based on gender, and since I know pay equity is important to us, I wanted to bring it to your attention. Obviously I understand there may be other factors to explain the disparities and I’m sure we would never intentionally pay someone more or less based on their gender, but I felt this was worth flagging for you.” Could use some polishing and the last sentence may not even be necessary, but I err on the side of over-explaining in general!

  38. Semaj*

    What are everyone’s thoughts about accepting the occasional personal phone call in the office? Things like confirming an appointment or scheduling an appliance delivery.

    For context, I’m in an office with paper thin walls with two other coworkers, one being my boss. My boss accepts personal calls all day every day, which I don’t begrudge her, but she’s several rungs above me on the hierarchy.

    Should I ask point blank if the occasional personal call is okay? Give my boss a heads up that I’m expecting a call and try to step out to take it? I wouldn’t take a sensitive call about a doctor’s appointment of course, and they’d be brief, intermittent calls.

    1. Texting works better*

      I just have people text me instead or leave a voice mail. I try to schedule any calls that I must take after 5PM. If someone calls during the day, I text them back saying I am at work, can you tell me what this is regarding? 9 out of 10 times, whatever is needed can be addressed through text.

      1. Semaj*

        I like the idea in theory, but I’ve got to disagree on this one. No doctor’s office, dentist, pharmacy, etc is going to text me, they’re likely calling from a landline anyway. Same with most appointments of any nature.

        1. Lilysparrow*

          I get all my Dr appointment confirmations by text or email. Every practice I’ve been to in the last 10 years has this ability, it’s generated by the calendar software.

          Even the nonprofit free clinic I volunteer with has this.

          1. Friday afternoon fever*

            Confirmations maybe but not scheduling. Depends on your office culture but I don’t see why this wouldn’t be fine.

        2. Kuododi*

          As long as the appropriate consents are signed up front, Drs offices will call or text regarding routine issues…scheduling, billing, etc. I have never encountered a Drs offices which would deliver test results, discuss detailed medical concerns and the like over the phone.

          Two of our major healthcare systems in my city have version of a MyChart app which allows PT access to certain areas of medical records, ability to set appointment online, email provider regarding concerns etc. Additionally Walgreens has an app where a person gats email/text info regarding perscription refills, other issues. I can’t speak for other major pharmacies in US. I have been a Walgreens customer for years.

    2. Amber Rose*

      Just ask, nobody’s gonna get upset at you for asking. Everyone in my office does it from time to time. As long as you’re not on personal calls for ages every single day, I don’t see why it would be an issue, but I don’t know your boss.

    3. Less Bread More Taxes*

      Unless you work at a place where it’s important for you to be at your desk all day or you have an office culture where you could be pulled into a meeting at any time, I’d assume it’s okay to take a personal call here and there. A lot of life happens 9-5 when you’re working. It’s unreasonable to expect that you never take care of those things.

      My job now is one where someone could pop in at any time for an impromptu meeting, so I usually email my boss at the beginning of the day if I’m expecting a call so she knows I may have to leave a meeting for a few minutes.

    4. AliceBD*

      It’s always been totally fine in every office environment I’ve been in, even when I was a summer intern in college a decade ago, to occasionally take a call or place a call like you’re describing here. I think you’re OK, as long as it’s something you’re OK with others hearing about (so like you said, nothing sensitive you want to keep private).

    5. Karen from Finance*

      I think it’s reasonable to take one call every once in a while. I’d step away from my desk if it’s for something very personal, which is also reasonable.

    6. Auddish*

      I consider taking a personal call to be like stepping away from your desk to refill your water bottle or grab a coffee. It’s not really an issue unless it takes 30 minutes (in which case you might have to use your break time?) or happens so often that you’re never really at your desk doing work. Sometimes you just need to take care of stuff.

    7. MissDisplaced*

      Generally, occasional brief calls of this nature are acceptable. Some places, such as doctors may only be open 9-5. But be quick. Hang up if you get on hold

  39. ExceptionToTheRule*

    I’m considering a career change & right now my job requires a lot of informal project management, so I’m considering getting my CAPM. For those who work in project management – is that plus 20 years of experience in small-scale project management enough to get my foot in the door or would you recommend anything else?

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Project management means something different to everyone, so I would say it depends more on the experience you have and what you’re trying to move to than the certification.

      I am a PM in engineering consulting and just got my PMP this year. No one really cares that I have it, and I wouldn’t have gotten this job 5 years ago because of the certificate if I did not have 15 years of engineering experience. Internally here, people’s demonstrated ability to get things done and manage themselves and others really drives whether someone can get a PM role.

    2. Mr. Tyzik*

      From a tech standpoint, pursuing a CAPM or a PMI-ACP is a good move. Your project management experience will translate in some ways, but Agile Project Management focuses more on continual planning than following a fixed plan. You’ll need to release control of the project to the team and take a more supporting role than in Waterfall or conventional projects.

      I highly recommend it. The certification will help you make the transition as it will show you’ve invested in the management style change.

    3. JanetM*

      I was moved into a project manager position with no formal PM experience or certification — it was very much sink or swim (although I was given a lot of support getting started). Also I now have a CAPM, and am logging my hours in hopes of taking the PMP in five years.

      If you have 20 years of experience, and can document it, why not go for the PMP? And as Mr. Tyzik said, if you can document Agile experience, go for the PMI-ACP.

      Good luck!

    4. ProjectManagerandITassessor*

      If you’ve done small-scale project management for over 20 years I’d recommend just going for your PMP. Project management does mean different things to different people/companies. That said, having your PMP does help open up doors in my opinion.

  40. FriYAY*

    One of my employees got upset when I asked her to come into the office (one particular day) instead of working from home. She came in but with a plan for bitter revenge. She used that day in the office to make a complaint about me. Basically that I’m mean and tough and that I upset her.

    She complained to the CEO and he was extremely annoyed. Said she is too high-maintenance and emotional and wants to fire her so I don’t have to be stressed about co-existing with her.

    Her work is good, not great. She does seem to be emotionally unstable and requires as excess of flexibility with sick days, mental health days and working from home and that is not working for us.

    If we let her go, not sure how to go about it. She knows I’m not thrilled with her work because she’s disorganized and always falling behind but she feels her excuses are valid and I am trying to give her some slack to get caught up. The termination is not performance related, it’s personality.

    When the owner didn’t react to her complaint, she said complained to HR that I didn’t “get in trouble.” We all that was really a red flag. The owner and HR see what I see, I’m appropriately “tough” and she’s too sensitive.

    We’re leaning towards a general “not a fit” or the flexibility you require is not longer feasible as a reason for termination. But it’s not sitting well with me, not sure why.

    1. Less Bread More Taxes*

      I think you owe her a serious conversation before terminating her so she has a chance to fix things. If you already know the working from home schedule isn’t working and she’s not able to budge on that, you can of course fire her for that alone. But if it’s personality, I think you need to explain exactly what the issues are. Give examples, explain how negatively they impact others, and explain thoroughly what you need to see from her. After a few weeks of no improvement, then you can fire her.

    2. HRAwry*

      Is it maybe because terminating someone after they’ve issued a complaint against you may look like retaliation?

      1. FriYay*

        Not at all. She made comments about me as part of a long crying fit. She complains and cries about a lot of minor things, only difference was this one she didn’t bring to me.
        The complaining has been a theme so I have been trying to coach her on curtailing the negative comments. I believe she said those things about me out of retaliation for me asking her to come into the office.
        I brush them off but it’s made the CEO despise her, he just wants her gone.

        1. valentine*

          Just fire her. Take yes for an answer. And it is performance-related. It’s behavior, not personality:
          ~always falling behind
          ~constantly complains
          ~childish ideas about meanness and getting in trouble

          You could fire her for the crying, alone. You simply need someone who absorbs and acts on feedback calmly.

          That said, in future, just tell the person to stop xyz immediately; decreasing the comments is more like therapy. It seems like this comes up every week, with employees debating their usually female managers to death. Maybe you have soft-peddled everything and said yes to too many leave requests? Be unambiguous and set maxes.

    3. fposte*

      I agree with Less Bread–this sounds like a small business that’s operating a little more seat-of-the-pantsy than maybe it should be.

      However, performance and personality aren’t neatly divisible; part of her job is to be pleasant and professional to other people in the workplace, and if she’s failing at that that’s a performance fail same as if she kept pasting .gifs into Excel formulas. So meet with Trouble and put her on a PIP: lay down some clear expectations about organization and behavior performance and make it clear her job is at risk if they’re not adhered to; reframe working from home as a perk, not an entitlement, and put