open thread – April 19-20, 2019

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

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

{ 1,667 comments… read them below }

  1. Busy*

    I went on an interview a couple months ago, and I wanted to know what you would do when the interviewers are doing something you find awkward, distracting or uncomfortable.
    At the interview, both the woman from HR and the male CEO had these super lingering intense stares. They didn’t read like you’re normal, “I’m looking at you and listening” stare – but that “I am attracted to you so I’m going to devour your soul” stare! And I just want to clarify that intense, prolonged eye contact like this where I live (Northern East coast) is not normal in business interactions. Think somewhere between “Eye F___ing” and what they refer to online as “sociopathic eyes”
    And once they made eye contact, they Would. Not. Break. It. Not for anything in the world! Not when someone else started talking. Not when I would break it. Not at all.
    I don’t know if they both went to some weird Carnegie business seminar for cult leaders that taught them weird eye-contact practices or what. They both had the same last name too! So I don’t know if they were related or not, and neither one ever explained if that was the case.
    And when they started doing it, I COULD NOT RECOVER. Every time I would look at them, they would be staring directly at me with a smile, eyes intense, and “leaning in”. Neither one ever broke off from the stare!!! I could not concentrate on anything. All I could think about is why this was happening and trying to come up with a reason for the stares. I couldn’t get those thoughts out of my head!!!!! Haha I could not concentrate at all!
    I didn’t want the job after this, because this was a small company, the CEO would be my boss, and there was NO WAY I could handle that every single day.

    Regardless of how you feel about eye contact in general, what do you do when your interviewer is doing something you find awkward or exceedingly distracting? I will be the first to admit that I am so bad at Dealing when someone is doing something awkward, particularly when that person is totally oblivious to it, so I was wondering what other people have done to or would do to “recover” here.

    I will post some videos/photos for context in the comments – and it is apparently HARD to find a video that give an actual example of this because it is THAT intimate of a look.

    1. Murphy*

      I wonder if they were trying to make sure they looked extra attentive and went waaaay overboard.

      1. Marion Q*

        Yeah, this. I have difficulty in making eye contact, so I tend to overcompensate by not breaking eye contact when I’m listening. It definitely goes overboard at times.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yes, this sounds like the stuff done by people whose boss has berated them for not making sufficient eye contact in the past.

          And no, I don’t think there’s any way to say “Could we have less eye contact” in an interview. Or other social interaction, for that matter, unless you’re so clearly on the top that, as with removing green M&Ms*, people will do any weird thing to accommodate you.

          * Apparently this famous rider was added because the band had a lot of complicated instructions for stage set up so as not to catch fire during their act, so checking for green M&Ms was a quick way to check how carefully the contract overall had been followed.

    2. Bunny Girl*

      If the interviewer is making me really uncomfortable, I just try to end the interview as quickly as possible. Because if you’ve already made me uncomfortable in that small amount of time, I don’t really want to work with you.

      I had an interview at a hotel and my interviewer would not stop glancing at my chest. Like would not. I was like I’m not working with this creeper so I just picked up on something and said “Oh that doesn’t sound like it will work for what I’m looking for, so it doesn’t really make sense for us to continue. Thank you for meeting with me though!”

      In your case since you just met with two aliens I’d go home and burn some sage or something.

      1. Busy*

        “burn some sage” HAHAHA

        Have you ever heard those encounter stories about the “real” men in black? Like the ones that are supposedly just aliens in really poor disguises and behave and look kinda human, but do really awkward and weird things? THAT is exactly like what it was like to talking to these people. My mind panicked.

        1. Close Bracket*

          > just aliens in really poor disguises and behave and look kinda human, but do really awkward and weird things

          Those of us who actually are those awkward and weird people sometimes feel like we are in fact aliens on the wrong planet. In fact, there is a resource for people on the spectrum at

          As I said below, for harmless things like this, learn to get over it.

          1. Close Bracket*


            I’m on the spectrum, and I actually find your comments rather offensive, but sure, I’ll stop

            1. Close Bracket*

              I am sorry that I sniped. I will be more careful with my responses. It’s a hurtful subject, as I am sure you gauged.

        2. The New Wanderer*

          I interviewed with someone like this who would have been my direct manager. I had previously had a phone interview with her and that went awkwardly too, in that I felt like I was leading the whole conversation and had to do the entire wrap up at the end by myself. So I was prepared for the in-person interview to be more of the same and it was, with the addition of the unblinking stare. I didn’t find it that unnerving, exactly, but it was just more confirmation that I would find it difficult working for her.

          And I say that as someone who routinely thinks of herself as an alien on a long-term field study here, with the occasional missed social cues of someone who’s passing for human rather than *being* human. (I’m actually quite good in a work context because of all the effectively written rules to work! Except for the time I referred to humans as “you” and excluded myself from the category, whoops.)

        3. Anonforthis*

          Oh man, I had a similar experience a couple of years ago – the woman who was interviewing me had (I’m not making this up) pointy shark teeth and kept smiling at me like she couldn’t wait to eat my soul. I could not get out of there fast enough. It was like being interviewed by Pennywise the Clown.

      2. Batgirl*

        I was going to say cut it short too. Essentially is an interviewer is a stranger and if the chemistry isn’t right for any reason, they can remain a stranger.
        I used the ‘doesn’t make sense to continue’ line when an interviewer used the line “we’re like family!”. That’s not especially awkward but it wasn’t for me.

        1. Bunny Girl*

          I hear you there. “We’re like family” is a big no-no for me. Along with “we do a lot of team building activities and things when we get done with work.” That is an “Oh hell no” from me.

          1. froodle*

            There’s a company in my town that is constantly recruiting and advertising for staff and it uses both of those as a selling point in its ads. Every time it pops up on the job search I give it a long noooooooooo as I scroll on by.

    3. CupcakeCounter*

      What’s funny is that I just had the opposite happen! I could not get the interviewer (who was also the hiring manager) to look at me. No one else had any issues so I know I didn’t look weird or anything but she stared up at the ceiling half the time and at her paper the rest.
      I found out later she was recovering from surgery and on LOTS of pain meds which explains about half the odd vibes I got (no she did not drive herself to work) but still enough of a weirdness that it is giving me great pause over a position I was REALLY excited for.

      1. Bunny Girl*

        I had an interview where the opposite happened! I had just had relatively major surgery and went to an interview about a week after. They were about 40 minutes late to the interview (!) and they had no where for me to sit while I was waiting so by the time they finally called me in I was not in a good mood. And then to top it all off, they started talking to me about a seasonal position, which I had put on the application no less than three times that I didn’t want it and I was not ultra pleasant about it.

        1. Cup of Ambition*

          It seems fascinating how we are so obsessed as a society with having just the right amount of eye contact.

    4. Close Bracket*

      ” I wanted to know what you would do when the interviewers are doing something you find awkward, distracting or uncomfortable.”

      For this particular thing, I would recognize that my reaction to their look is about me and get over it. Lots of people have trouble with eye contact. It’s a particular characteristic with non-neurotypical people, but plenty of neurotypical people have trouble figuring out the right length of time to make eye contact, too.

      Harmless things of this nature, also including weird fidgeting or body language, I get over. The older I get and the more I understand the variety of human interaction, the less fazed I am by these things.

      1. Busy*

        My son is on the spectrum as am I. I am heavily involved in his treatment. And I will unequivocally say, stop trying to speak for all people on the spectrum. Telling people to accept it is like saying people on the spectrum have no self control. And they do. It is actually considered quite insulting.

        You have got to learn to control your interactions with other people. Not one, NOT ONE treatment plan doesn’t include self awareness.

        So, please stop on here, ok? You have really offended me.

        1. Alianora*

          I didn’t read their comment as speaking for autistic people. They said neurotypicals can have trouble with eye contact too.

          Since you were so uncomfortable with this, I think it makes sense to end the interview early. That’s true regardless of what the behavior is.

          But as someone who gives too much eye contact in interviews sometimes, I don’t think it’s reasonable to tell us “learn to control your interactions.” The reason many people have trouble is because we don’t have a natural instinct for how much is appropriate. It’s not because we’re trying to make other people uncomfortable, we just haven’t figured it out yet.

        2. Close Bracket*

          As I said above, I’m on the spectrum, too. Saying that trouble with eye contact is a characteristic of non-neurotypical people is not speaking for all people on the spectrum. It’s a well known characteristic. If you haven’t come across that yet, you should go back to your/your son’s care takers and find out more. Just as with all well known characteristics, different people exhibit it to different extents, including some non-autistic people.

          Having trouble with something is not a lack of self control. It’s not about self control. Eye contact in particular, for some people, can be about managing information input. That has nothing to do with self control. Your/son’s caregiver can tell you more about that, too.

          For me, learning I was autistic and learning which of my own weird, alien traits were spectrum characteristics made me *more* empathic to people who exhibit atypical body language, and I don’t need to know their neurotype to extend them that empathy. I’m actually ok with having offended you. It’s bad enough when non-spectrum people refer to my traits as “alien” or “psychopathic.” It’s even more hurtful with people on the spectrum do it. My advice remains the same: your response to prolonged eye contact is about you. Learn to get over it.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t see Close Bracket saying anything that indicates they’re trying to speak for everyone on the spectrum and this is getting strangely heated. Please leave this here.

      2. Batgirl*

        I wouldn’t tell people to ‘just get over it’ when they’re talking about any kind of feelings. Especially if it’s just feelings and their outward behaviour was appropriate. Telling people how to feel is going to come over as rude even if it’s well intentioned.

    5. RJ the Newbie*

      Oh dear. I’m willing to bet that team studied the Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs. He was infamous for doing that and this one of the many traits Elizabeth Holmes (of Theranos) copied from him. It’s been copied, written about and extolled on Inc. and Forbes but I find it psychotic.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        I’ve seen Elizabeth Holmes’s photos and videos. CRAZY EYE.
        I also got to see Steve Job at MacWorld twice, and while he was certainly an intense high-strung type, I never got a crazy vibe. I never met him in person though, and rumors are he was notoriously difficult to work with. Elon Musk on the other hand… Crazy Eye.

    6. Quinalla*

      It’s tough when interviewers act strangely. What I’ve done when I’ve had instances of it is first give them the benefit of the doubt in my mind – ie try and come up with a kind and generous explanation for why they are doing it. Does not need to be right, just really helps me to get past it and not be fixated on the weirdness. Second, I will imagine what the response I am expecting is and try and respond how I would to that imaginary response vs. whatever they give me.

      For example, when I had an interviewer who was acting like he had zero interest in talking to me (this was back in college when interviewers would schedule back to back stuff, so quite likely) and generally I have no trouble getting interviewers interested in me, so it was very much a strange thing. I gave him the benefit of the doubt that I was yet another college student in a long line he had been forced to interview, maybe he was there as a sort of punishment since no one else wanted to do it. Then I responded to him like he was interested in what I was saying. It at least made me feel like I did what I could in case he really was paying attention.

    7. Phoenix Programmer*

      Hmm. We’re they in NE as well? I will say that some pockets of the NE are super squeamish about what a lot of the rest of the country sees as nicities. Eye contact, small talk, etc.

    8. Anon Anon Anon*

      I think if you’re getting a creepy feeling, it probably is creepy and you should probably put that job on the “last resort” list. As other commenters have mentioned, there are possible explanations. But if it was done in a way that came across as really creepy, listen to that!

    9. MissDisplaced*

      I say you trust your gut instinct.
      There may have been plausible reasons for all that Crazy Eye going on, sure, but Crazy Eye is still Crazy Eye!!!!!

    10. cmcinnyc*

      I used to work with a guy who was a normal, friendly, business-appropriate person but who truly believed that in an interview it was a good idea to present as an absolute robot–no reactions, no smiling, none of the little verbal cues people make like “huh!’ or “mm” when they’re interested or agreeing or surprised. He explained that making people uncomfortable in an interview was good because of course people come prepared and put their best foot forward and he wanted to “disrupt” that. Supposedly then he’d see what they were “really” like. I thought it was a horrible thing to do and said so but I had absolutely no power beyond stating that opinion so I imagine he’s still doing it. I actually liked working for him but if he’d been my interviewer I would not have taken the job.

      1. That Californian*

        That’s so incorrect! If anything, you meet more of the person when you meet them halfway. An initial feeling of success (like getting a question correct in an oral exam) or connection (like an interviewer saying “I liked that book too!”) lowers the interviewee’s affective filter, allowing them to access more of the information they know, and present it more clearly. I always kept that in mind when I was giving oral exams in the foreign language I taught, asking a relatively simple question first, and then giving a smile and a nod to show they’d responded correctly. People who came in very nervous and stuttery would suddenly relax and the conversation would flow much better.
        It doesn’t help if they just don’t know the subject matter, but if they do a little bit of kindness makes it so much easier to access.

      2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        What a strange idea! How does being mildly hostile and manipulative help you get to know someone’s true personality?

    11. Free now (and forever)*

      I had an interview in law school for a summer internship with a large insurance company. The interviewer’s hair was slicked back and looked like it was coated with so much oil that it was practically dripping. I was skeeved out, to say the least (although in 1979, I hadn’t heard of that phrase). I sent the entire interview trying to decide if the interviewer had 1.) bad hygiene; 2.) an over fondness for Brillcream and forgot that “a little dab’ll do ya); or was doing it deliberately to see if he could distract job candidates. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job. Nor did I want it if I would have to work with him.

    12. Lilysparrow*

      I’m not saying this is the best thing – probably isn’t – but I tend to overcompensate and go into “hostess” mode, trying to put *them* at ease. Maybe it gives me an illusion of control?

      If it was something like the chest-staring mentioned upthread, I’d probably go with ending it early. But general weird/awkwardness tends to spark my “try harder!” instinct.

    13. Akcipitrokulo*

      I’m picturing being interviewed by Gowron…

      But yeah, it would creep me out. I don’t think I’d feel comfortable enough to say anything at the time – just direct my responses to the members of the panel that didn’t make me feel weird.

  2. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

    This happened two years ago, but I was thinking about it recently and was wondering people’s opinions. (And apologies if this topic has come up before! I’m fairly new to open threads.) I remember there was a letter by a LW who wanted to ask out an associate at a store she shopped at, but what about when it’s the other way around?

    I was waiting to be served at the deli section at the grocery store one night and, as usual, it took a very long time. There was one guy working who looked close to my age who was profusely apologetic for the wait and offered everyone samples. It was eventually my turn as the last in line, so there wasn’t really anyone else around. The deli associate was *very* chatty, but seemed friendly overall. He told me about how he was new to the area and planning on getting a master’s soon. (I live in a city with a well-renowned university.) I was receptive and talking to him was fine, but after the long wait, I mostly wanted to just get my cold cuts and finish shopping. (FWIW, he did a bad job with my cold cuts after making a huge point that he would do them perfectly…)

    After thanking him and going on my way to finish shopping, several minutes later, he follows me two aisles over to offer me a mint and ask me out for coffee. A co-worker was also in the aisle and encouraged me to say yes, which made the whole thing feel kind of awkward, but I figured why not and agreed.

    What are your guys’ thoughts? At the time, it felt kind of weird, but not so egregiously terrible that I wanted to run away or anything. But I also feel like if I was someone’s supervisor and found out they asked out a customer, I wouldn’t be thrilled about it. I feel like it’s particularly worse because we had never even met before that night, so it wasn’t like we had any kind of prior connection. I think he was more just looking to meet people in a new city than anything else, which I sympathize with, but I’m still not sure it was a great position to put me in, but please let me know too if I’m being too hard on him!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Customer service should not hit on customers while at work, and vice versa.

        Had the two of you run into each other elsewhere one of you could have asked the other for coffee, with the understanding that your future deli interactions might be weird if the other person wasn’t into you that way. (Though for this reason I am in favor of asking soon while the stakes are low and no one’s too invested, rather than after months of yearning and building up an elaborate vision of your future white-picket-fenced life together.)

      2. valentine*

        Also no. He didn’t even get your order right! You sound like you only said yes due to pressure and whose coworker it was matters. A good employee would get your order right, keep the interaction short because you had waited the longest (possibly this is different in the South or anywhere where you’d have to say goodbye to each other for 30 rounds before actually leaving), and not hit on you because you don’t bleep where you eat.

    1. INeedANap*

      Oh, wow, I would have felt very uncomfortable. Not necessarily just being asked out, but the co-worker urging me to say yes would have pushed this from “awkward but normal” into “this feels unacceptable”.

      I’m sympathetic the deli guy probably didn’t have any control over his co-worker, it’s not his fault, but regardless I would not be happy. I don’t think I would complain or anything, but it would definitely make me not want to shop there again!

      1. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

        Yeah, it’s not my normal grocery store, but I was driving around looking for something to eat and just figured I’d might as well get dinner and some groceries while I was at it. A new one that’s much closer to me opened up! I also use online ordering for cold cuts now so that they’re ready when I get there, though I’d estimate they’re only ready on time (or less than 10 minutes late) half the time…

    2. Plain Jane*

      If I was his supervisor, I’d ask him not to do that again. There’s too much potential to lose you as a customer if you’re not into it and feel awkward coming in after that.

    3. merp*

      Hmm. I’m not sure if this answers the question, but the issue to me with asking out a staff person somewhere is that they are basically a captive audience and their job requires that they be nice to you – I’m not sure it’s the same flipped around, because as a customer, there are fewer repercussions for saying no/acting less than thrilled.

      But that being said, if being asked out by a stranger made you uncomfortable, I am definitely not trying to invalidate that! Just that I wonder if his being at work had less to do with it? I’m not sure.

      1. merp*

        Oh also, was it his coworker encouraging you to say yes? Bc as a supervisor, I honestly think I would find that more worthy of talking to than the asking out, although it would definitely be fair to talk to both.

        1. valentine*

          as a customer, there are fewer repercussions for saying no/acting less than thrilled
          Not if Ms. Taylor Sailor is a woman. There was already the gross pressure from the coworker. Random people will jump in with “Just give him a chance!” It’s the nasty crossroads of sexism+Jumbotron, which abusers leverage to stalk their exes and make intensely pressured massive public displays about wanting them back.

          Also: I’d hate to have to avoid the deli or store because Bundy.

          1. merp*

            No, of course that’s true, I was coming at more from the direction of customer vs. staff power differential (i.e. who can walk out the door more easily) but it all intersects. I don’t want to sound like I think her discomfort is unfair at all, I would feel the same.

            1. LJay*

              I mean I think it can be.

              What if it was a pharmacy that was the only place she could get medication she needed?

              What if it was the only grocery store in the area so she had to go there to get food?

              You can just walk out the door as a customer. But you might need to come back.

              And if you’re afraid the person is going to retaliate in some way (like give you a hard time about getting your meds, or mess with your deli meat or similar) it’s problematic for sure.

              And even if you’re just uncomfortable being put on the spot I think rearrange your schedule to avoid the person who is making you uncomfortable, or decide to drive 10 miles out of the way to go to the next closest grocery store or pharmacy, or spend extra money to get stuff delivered I think can still be enough of an effect on your life to say that there can be a power differential.

              1. JunieB*

                I experienced something like this. I was asked on a date by a bus driver, and when I turned him down, he became icy and a little hostile. I was nervous about riding with him, and since I can’t drive, finding transportation downtown rapidly became a real headache.

      2. A.*

        Yes! An emt asked my friend out while she was riding in the back of the ambulance. Time and place. Not everywhere is “hunting grounds” for people to pick up dates.

        1. Penny*

          …seriously, an ambulance!? And it was meant seriously, not like a ‘just chatting to calm down an injured person’? What the heck!

          1. Scarlet Magnolias*

            That’s like the Carrie Fisher story where she overdosed and was asked out by the doctor reviving her

        2. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

          Oh boy. I’m pretty sure that’s not the type of “savior” she was looking for at that moment…

        3. Auntie Social*

          My EMT wouldn’t transport me because a cute female EMT had just pulled up and he went to talk to her. I finally said “it looks like I’m not going anywhere, so guy EMT, give your digits to girl EMT, and she’ll call you if she wants to, RIGHT?” to which girl EMT said “yep”, and I finally got transported. It was post-op to a rehab hospital and not an emergency, but it still P’d me off and I was in a buttload of pain besides. Still grrr.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            THIS one is reportable in my opinion. Customer waiting possibly in pain or under orders to do followup care? No excuse for delay.

      3. epi*

        That is where I fall.

        I can absolutely see why this felt uncomfortable. Ms. Taylor Sailor was kind of trapped in this interaction with him– she had taken the time to wait for service so she couldn’t leave without it being clear she didn’t want to interact with this guy anymore, specifically.

        I have also been a grocery employee asked out by a customer and it is so awful. It’s not like I could stop going to work, or even really leave the area when he came back, because I was a bagger. Same thing with subsequent retail jobs where I was just clearly being hit on even if the person didn’t ask me out– there is a power dynamic because you have to continue being warm to a customer unless they really cross a line. It’s harder to take the risk of offending the person.

        It sucks to be in the situation Ms. Taylor Sailor was put in, being able to see the one-sided interest coming but without a graceful way to acknowledge it and decline, or just end the conversation. But IMO it is social awkwardness that could happen the same way between peers, whereas asking out someone who is working also risks exploiting a power differential. It probably was inappropriate for this guy to ask out a customer, especially while he was working– but the transgression was against his employer. That’s who is hurt by his wasting time at work and potentially making a customer not want to come back.

        1. merp*

          I feel like you said this better than I did, thank you. I don’t want to minimize her experience at all, I would hate being in that situation.

          1. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

            No worries at all! I don’t feel like you minimized it whatsoever. I appreciate hearing the perspective of the different power dynamics.

        2. Retail manager*

          Actually no about being the bagger feeling like she was captive. Not no to your feeling but your manager should have handled this. This happens often and depending on the severity we would send the employee on an errand or a break. In the case of a customer who talked and talked to the customer we told him the cashier would get in trouble (she wouldn’t). In some cases we tell the customer to leave or bankaccounts them from the store. Zero tolerance for customers harassing the staff.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        The power dynamic is flipped but the awkwardness dynamic is not. If the approach is unwelcome then customers may decide not to shop there any more, thereby avoiding any awkward requests for pastrami by asking at a deli with married meat slicers.

        The bystanders weighing in was omg stop, inappropriate in all contexts.

    4. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Inappropriate, with or without the coworker.

      This was the first time you met him. That’s always creepy to me.

      Long time association with a service provider with friendly chatting that has continued to develop, well, that might be something ok. Coffee date next door or something.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I was once asked out by a jury cop on his last day working with us (I was on the jury). The trial wasn’t over but he had to leave for another assignment, and as he walked me out the door he asked if I wanted to get together. I told him to call me, he never did, but he was a pretty nice guy. I’m sure it wasn’t the most appropriate thing, but we had spent a couple of weeks in each other’s company and I didn’t feel weird about it.

        1. Nacho*

          Stories like this are why people keep doing it. It’s creepy 99% of the time, but everybody’s heard that one super romantic tale about the couple who met this way.

          1. Cedrus Libani*

            I think there’s a difference between asking out a person you’ve met in a public space (but there’s been non trivial, repeated interaction between you, enough to establish some level of compatibility) and asking out someone you literally just met. The latter is creepy. Dude, all you know about me is that I have tits and a pulse. If that’s all you want in a woman, then no, we are NOT compatible.

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              That’s exactly it. In the case of me and the jury cop, we had interacted very pleasantly for a couple of weeks and we were also at the point where we would likely never see each other again. I thought his timing was really good and his approach was appropriate, to be honest. It was the least creepy way to ask someone out.

            2. Ella bee bee*

              Yes to this. My sister is marrying a man who she met because she is a bartender and he was a regular at the bar, but he didn’t ask her out until they had known each other for a few months.

          2. Maya Elena*

            I’d probably push back on the 99% breakdown; I’d intuitively put it closer to the reverse. It takes a pretty small percentage of free riders to destroy a system based on trust. If even 5% of guys who do this do it in a way that is threatening or creepy, and make women frown at the practice (especially when described by a third party, rather than it happening to them specifically). Analogously, workplaces that feel threatening or unwelcoming to women aren’t that way because all, or even a majority of men are leering and groping them; it only takes a few to cast the pall.

          3. Lissa*

            I don’t even think it’s creepy 99% percent of the time! I think it probably doesn’t *work* 99% of the time, but I’d say that plenty of times it’s somewhere between “flattering but no thanks” and “annoying but not threatening.” Or like Avonlady’s story, both people are mildly interested but it doesn’t go anywhere. (Please note I am not saying it’s not often creepy, but that can also be subjective, ie where one person might find something creepy another might not, etc.)

            Personally I also think it’s just like, not usually a particularly great way to meet someone and has a pretty high chance of making them uncomfortable. Sometimes there genuinely can be an awesome dynamic/spark between two people, but it’s hard to know when you’re misreading that too.

    5. Anonariffic*

      Yeah, that might not be worst possible red flag but it’s definitely a yellow card. Asking as a natural next step after chatting for a bit would be one thing, but tracking you down in the aisles after your first conversation has ended and you walked away is a little creepy.

      Saying this as someone who did date my Starbucks barista for a while after he asked me out, but I was working a very early shift at the time and am NOT a morning person, so I probably knew him better than I knew a number of my coworkers.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I’m with you on this one. If you’ve had a ton of interaction prior and there seemed to be mutual interest, then maybe.

    6. MissDisplaced*

      I guess I’m kind of old school in my take as I’m a dating dinosaur from the days before online dating was a thang, but I don’t feel he was crossing the line or being harassing.
      Why? Well, it was a public place. The ask was to meet for coffee and chat, and then put the ball in your court as to the when/where and if you decided you were interested and decided to exchange contact info. However, your friend shouldn’t have pressured you to accept, and you certainly had no obligation to accept if you felt uncomfortable.

      Should DeliGuy have done this at work? Probably not, but Meh! It was a market not an office, which in my mind makes a difference–and as long it wasn’t done in a weird stalkerish manner (such as following you to your car). Actually, I kinda give him props for being so brave. Tone/politeness of the ask makes all the difference too, such as him giving you his number and letting you decide if you want to further the acquaintance. It’s difficult to meet anyone if you never open up and talk to people (even in nonsexual ways). Back in my day, a guy showing his interest in you in this manner wouldn’t have even warranted a blink, but I realize people have very different ideas about asking people out today.

      Curious though, DID you meet him for coffee? Because you sound like you were kind freaked out or not really interested. Which is fine. You definitely shouldn’t feel pressured.

      1. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

        I get where you’re coming from for sure! And I think it’s great when people have the courage to go for it and ask someone out. I’ve certainly done it and got turned down, but that’s how you find out!

        However, and maybe I’m just cynical, but in my mind, it’s weird to me to ask someone out while you’re working, particularly a total stranger. Like you’re at work to do your job, not look for opportunities to meet people. Not exactly the same, but there was a different deli I had gone to to get cold cuts. The wait was already bad enough, but the guy helping me would *not stop talking.* I’m all for small talk, but he moved at a snail’s pace all the while trying to carry on a conversation after I’d already been waiting for awhile. I eventually just got a little more curt with each answer while trying to be polite just so that we could move along.

        And yes, I did meet him for coffee. He overall was fairly nice and we had some stuff in common, but I wasn’t really interested or looking to date at the time and we parted ways after texting a couple times after.

        1. Maya Elena*

          That’s great! Sounds like nothing problematic here as far as I can tell. I’d say him not being attractive or dating material is separate from whether he should or should not have asked you out, or whether such behavior should be ABSOLUTELY TABOO FOR PEOPLE (or men specifically) in similar contexts. I think if he’d demonstrated behaviors more attractive to you – e.g. did his job better and not talked so much, you would probably have welcomed being asked out more. Or if he was more physically attractive.

          To summarize and bring it back into the work context, I would probably not have report it. :D

          1. I'm just here for the comments*

            I’m confused where physical attractiveness comes into all of this? The guy spent waaay too long doing her order after an already long wait, he seemed unable to read social cues where her answers became shorter and more curt the longer he took, and she didn’t enthusiastically accept the invite to coffee (it was accepted AFTER being pressured by another worker). Saying that she would’ve been happier if he was better looking is pretty insulting, it’s the kind of thing you read on incel (“involuntary celibates”) forums where guys complain that they can’t get sex or dates or women to look at them, solely because of their looks (and not, you know, because of their behavior). What we each find physically attractive is subjective to the individual anyway, so while his behavior was not especially egregious it was also the reason his advances were not welcome.
            On a similar vein, I think people are less thrilled by/ more aware that the act of following someone around a store and continuing to engage them when they don’t return the interest is not desirable behavior. While its not the level of flashing red lights and going “danger! danger Will Robinson” its also not a great way to get a date.

        2. Batgirl*

          I was going to say the same as Miss Displaced, that it’s not egregious to ask out a not-at-work stranger person in public spaces as long as it’s a simple yes/no question and there’s no hovering or pressure.

          I think there’s a few unacceptable variables in your version though. He asked you out semi-publicly which added pressure. While a customer technically has more power, no one is immune to social pressure. You were also busy and he hasn’t the awareness to have realised that. Following you isn’t great either. It’s not creepy, but rather more … unimpressive and hilarious that he asked you out after giving you terrible, thoughtless service!

        3. Le Sigh*

          I have been in a very similar situation. And what bugged me wasn’t being asked out (I declined for many reasons, everything about that situation was bad), it was that the guy dragged out what should have been a 10 min transaction into 30+ minutes. It was the last place to get food for many miles on a car trip and I wanted to eat STOP WASTING MY TIME TO BADLY FLIRT WITH ME YOU’RE HOLDING MY NUGGETS HOSTAGE.

    7. Canonical23*

      In theory, I don’t think a service worker asking a customer out crosses a line if both parties were chatting and there’s general interest – they’re at their job and you can easily leave to go to a different restaurant/coffee shop/store/etc. which is a different power structure than say, you asking out your waitress who HAS to be nice to you.

      But in actuality? The way the guy did it was really weird – the coworker pressuring you, the aisle tracking…that makes it way more odd then chatting at a check-out line, hitting it off and exchanging numbers.

      1. Busy*

        My reaction as a customer would depend on the vibes this guy gave me and if I felt we had a connection. If if he was creepy vibing it, I would probably just never go there again.

        As a manager, it would be a hard no, and at least a serious talking to. Like I don’t care if she said yes or you weren’t creepy about it, do not go out of your way to make my customers feel awkward coming here!

    8. Liz*

      Hmm. i have known situations where it DID work out, but this seems like a. he tried too hard, and b. the co-worker make it just that much more awkward by encouraging YOU to say yes. he may have some social awkwardness, which could account for his not so subtle asking you out, but i would have felt uncomfortable as well.

      in the instance I know where it worked out; i worked in a women’s store in a nice strip mall. next to it was a causal not-so-fast-food restaurant. one of my CWs thought one of the managers there was attractive, and i guess the feeling was mutual. he asked her out, she accepted, and they’re now married with 2 kids!

    9. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yeah in general, asking out a customer is not a good look and frowned upon.

      However in retail and service, they don’t have as many boundaries or are held to exceptionally high professional standards. I’m mostly worried if he didn’t clock out to go on break first or abandoned the massive line to hunt you down…

    10. Anona*

      Yeah, I don’t think he should have done that. If he was a fellow grocery shopper, OK. But it’s not cool that he asked you out on the clock. If I was his manager, I’d tell him not to ask out customers while working. Because it can make them uncomfortable– they’re just there trying to get their deli meat!

      If his shift had ended and he’d asked you out in the parking lot, it would still be weird, but more OK, in my opinion.

      1. WellRed*

        I agree about not asking out on the clock but highly recommend not tracking someone you don’t know down the parking lot.

    11. Nacho*

      This feels like one of those things that’s creepy unless it works, and that rom-coms have been telling us for about a century works way better than it really does.

      1. Liv Jong*

        I tell all my coworkers to not date customers, which is extremely hypocritical because I married one.

        He was a regular who had already dated one of the other bartenders and had a reputation for being a gueniene guy and a great tipper. The only red flag was how fast we fell in love, moved in together, and married. It did end up costing me that job, but it ranks 1 or 2 on my list of worst employer so it was actually a win.

        I know we’re the exception and not the rule, so my rule still is don’t date customers.

    12. Maya Elena*

      I think a non-threatening, non-sexual approach, in an open space before witnesses – where you don’t feel threatened if you say know – and especially after a friendly conversation, with “hey! would you be interested in having coffee together sometime” or an equivalent…. I think that’s perfectly fine.

      If he’d said something like “hey babe, I like your butt”, then that would have been inappropriate and weird. Or texted you on your phone number that he got because he was the cable guy. That would be legitimately creepy and – in the latter case – probably reportable.

      But for this guy though: sheesh dude, put in some effort with the cold cuts.

    13. LJay*

      Yeah, that’s definitely uncool.

      If I were his manager he would at the very least get a stern talking to about why you can’t do that.

      When you’re working, you’re there to advance the company’s interests, not your own. It would be uncool for him to try and divert you to his legitimate business. It would be uncool for him to try and sell you his MLM product or stuff from his kid’s fundraiser. And it’s uncool to ask you out.

      Also, putting someone on the spot and asking them out may make them uncomfortable/their trip unpleasant and thus less likely to shop there. If he were making the customers uncomfortable by saying rude things he’d get a talking to. If he were making the shopping experience unpleasant by being inattentive he’d get a talking to.

      I don’t think you’re being too hard on him. I think if you want to you can go and mention it to his manager. They probably would like to know that that was happening. But that’s also not something you need to do if you do not want to/don’t want to get him in trouble over it.

    14. Amethyst*

      I’ve worked in several retail stores over my career & this is very, very strictly inappropriate. I know that if this happened at any of the stores I worked at they would’ve had a Serious Talk over this incident, regardless of the customer’s answer.

      Story time:

      I had something similar happen once when I was about 20 or 21. I was working at a grocery store, & this old guy would always be around, so we’d chat for a few minutes before going on to whatever we were doing, which was usually me selling him some lottery tickets. It got to be a regular thing.

      Then the day came when he said something really fast & really quietly while I was working at the service desk, so I had no idea what he’d said. (Quiet/fast voices & I do not mix, particularly in noisy settings. There was also a speaker literally right above my head within the desk, which was constantly going off with a page or another.) He repeated himself about 4 more times, & I still hadn’t the foggiest idea what he’d said, so my default was to read his face & body language (which was extremely hopeful, btw) & nod.

      He got really excited & asked me when I’d get off work. “5.”

      “Great! I’ll pick you up at 5!”

      & it was exactly then that I realized what he’d asked me & all I could think of was, “F*ck. F*ckity f*ck f*ck f*ck.”

      He showed up at 5, a little more dressed up than usual.

      Turns out the guy thought I was interested in him as more than friends. (He was 63 years old for god’s sake! & I was only being friendly, which is what I always do when I’m around people.)

      To make things worse, I was dating my best friend at the time, so I had to figure out a way to let him down while he’s going on & on about “What will your parents think about our relationship?” & stuff while he’s bringing me home, anticipating his introduction to my parents.

      It was super awkward when I made him pull over at the corner of one of the streets leading to my house & informed him I was seeing someone else at the time, etc. I never saw the dude again.

      *massive facepalm*

    15. Lilysparrow*

      This was not a good move and yes, I can’t imagine a decent supervisor being okay with this.
      But ultimately if you weren’t terribly put off or scared or creeped out, then it doesn’t need to be a big deal.

      OTOH, you should bear in mind the things you have learned about him from this interaction:

      1) He is more interested in venting his feelings than in meeting other people’s needs – even when he’s being paid to meet those needs.

      2) He brags about doing things well but actually does them badly.

      3) He is oblivious to, or willfully ignores normal social boundaries like “don’t hit on customers” and “don’t make a public spectacle of asking someone out” and “this woman is here to obtain food, not to be hit on.”

      So the likelihood that your coffee date will be highly enjoyable or lead anywhere you want to go, is very very slim.

    16. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

      Just realized I wasn’t clear! By “a co-worker,” I meant HIS co-worker who was also working and restocking selves at that moment.

  3. Anon this time*

    I would love some help reframing a difficult work situation.

    I work in a medium sized tech startup. I was recruited about a year ago to develop some processes to streamline the client experience. I did this work at my last company, where our processes where tight. Things are a lot more haphazard in my new company. Different tasks are owned by different people and the client experience is really haphazard. It took me over six months to get my process change proposal approved, and I’m finally making progress in getting some improvements in place. But I’m getting a lot pushback from the old guard. Other managers feel like I’m encroaching on their territory, and people are really, really possessive of their old tasks. My manager is super supportive, and I get a ton of positive feedback. My colleagues are borderline hostile. People avoid eye contact, are curt, avoid me, pushback, and call me out in public. I do have a handful of colleagues who I have positive relationships with, but overall I feel like persona non grata. I was looking for a new job for a while, but this role is a good career move for me. I was a senior individual contributor in my last job, and in this one I’m building a process and buildingn a team. I need to be in this place for a while before I could jump to another company in a manager role. I’m not really interested in taking a step back to another individual contributor role. But the day to day is just so incredibly difficult. People tell me off in meetings, exclude me, or just plain cut me off. I’m committed to seeing this project through, but my interactions with my team are so incredibly demoralizing. I’m looking for ways bolters my emotional state after hostile meetings and negative interactions. I already share my frustrations with my boss, and I have a habit of walking to a nearby park to cool off, but I can’t vent to my boss or walk to the park three times a day.

    1. Would-be manager*

      Honestly? It sounds like you need to think more about your change management process. What are you doing to consult with people and get them on board? If you’re just trying to get them to change… that’s not usually ever how that works even in the healthiest of organisations.

      1. Busy*

        Well the thing about change management though is that it usually doesn’t work when the person making the changes in the only one managing change management. What it sounds to me like is happening here is that upper management that wants this to happen, has not been clear enough with the rest of the employees on their desire for this change and the role Anon this Time has. Top management is absolutely failing here, because it is extremely difficult if not impossible to bring people onboard for change when they are new, work on a similar level of other people, and do not seemed to have the heavy involved backing of top management.

        As a matter of fact, being an employee ALONE can make it difficult. A lot of businesses hire outside consulting companies to make changes due to this alone.

        I would talk to your manager, explain the attitudes you are getting, ask them what they think you could do differently, and then press them to make it known their intentions to the other employees.

        I would also recommend reading upon change management and the fears people have related to change. It won’t fix this, because upper management is the only ones who can, but you will at least get an idea of WHY people push back against change.

        1. Anon this time*

          Thanks Busy – you’re spot on in describing the situation. AFAIK, my VP hasn’t communicated anything about my role to anyone. My direct manager – director – has done a better job, but he’s new and getting push back as well.

          1. Busy*

            Exactly. My entire career has been change management. And if management isn’t going to be fully engaged, it will fail. I mean sure you might be able to introduce some superficial new process or system, but it will never really be used.

            Just don’t take it personal, know you rock at what you do, and explain to your manager that upper management is tying your hands. Research some of that change management stuff, throw it at your boss, and say we need to stop focusing on system change and start focusing on how to get management to express interest. And be very clear that if that doesn’t happen, this will all fail – as in you are setting the goals and objectives for what makes this a success or failure at this stage. And meanwhile, job hunt in the event they do not change, because they are setting you up for failure.

            1. Anon this time*

              Busy thank you so much. This is very validating. Also, I was thinking I needed to deal with my emotions, and you’re steering me in the direction of doing things better. Are there any change management resources you’d recommend for a newbie? My background is in project management and implementing project management processes. I haven’t encountered this type or resistance in previous roles.

              1. Busy*

                I cannot remember any of the books I had read previously, but if you google the psychology of change management, it brings up lots of resources – and most of them are free.

                These guys sort of sum up a good bit of it

                But if you want a summation, it is that people react with fear. All those no’s, and eye rolls, and passive aggressive behavior, and challenging you – all of that is fear. You can do this one or two ways to alleviate it for yourself a bit:

                1. find out what they are afraid of (hint: it is ALWAYS how it will affect them, their ego, and their employment. Sometimes it is because they are hiding a whole lot of unethical stuff, but its rarer)
                2. Figure out a way to present it that assuages their fears of the above.
                3. Know you will not get everyone on board, and decide now what you are going to do with those people
                4. Be constantly “there”. Like this project isn’t going away. Email reminders, meetings with objectives – put their peer pressure on to perform.

                At the end though, no one may get on board and it may fail if management doesn’t intervene soon and keep yourself grounded by that fact. Right now that is the biggest threat to failure – not anything you are doing.

              2. Wheezy Weasel*

                I’d recommend John Kotter’s 8 Steps to Leading Change (link in my username) as a good introduction and framework to explain it to management.

                1. Herminone Changer*

                  I second Kotter but have also found the Switch model useful for leading change from the bottom. The Hitchhikers Guide to Lean also has a really practical framework that you can use to engage leaders and set up other areas of success.

          2. Flash Bristow*

            You might appreciate the book Death March by Edward Youdon. It’s aimed at software developers thrown into car crash projects but I found it useful in general.

          3. President Porpoise*

            We’ve recently gone through something similar here. Mandatory MAJOR changes (reorganization, automation, staff hiring, new policies, etc.) to deal with regulatory failures. At first, people grumbled and not much was done. Our top brass was on board – because it could have crippled our business in a debarment sort of way – but we were having trouble changing company culture and managing the increased workload that came with the change process. What helped was more overt top leadership involvement, integrating examples of the needed change into all facets of corporate communication – newsletters, training, ethics vignettes, etc. – heavily funding the changes, and most importantly getting buy-in from the affected organizations wherever possible. If you want people to make changes, you need to try to take their input on the improvements they’d like to see, even if they’re in addition to what you have to do.

          4. Akcipitrokulo*

            I think there needs more communication – first, from upper management, and second, possibly from you – and you are in a position to insist that it is necessary for your work – talk to people, take their suggestions on board and convince them that you are listening to their concerns. I think it might be difficult now it seems to have been entrenched into an us and them (or us and her) situation – but still worth trying.

            1. Akcipitrokulo*

              And second point is not suggesting that you’re not good at that! It sounds like you’ve been unable to do it?

        2. Artemesia*

          This. When you have lazy management that things hiring someone and tasking them with change management will do the trick, you have failure. You cannot succeed against the pushback of old hands if the top management is not aggressive about the need for the change. I have seen this fail so many times. Either top management does what it takes and it may mean re-organizing and reassigning people and also firing people who are resistant or it fails. A newbie with low status and little history cannot make this change happen without this support. And effective change requires engaging everyone first in understanding the need for change, then in giving input on what might address the issues, and only then in making changes.

      2. Anon this time*

        To answer your question, I’ve been meeting with the team in groups and individually since last summer, much more frequently in the last 3 months. Things have gotten much better – people are hesitantly onboard. Yes, I can probably do more work on the change management, but right now I’m just trying to figure out how to get through the day.

    2. Workerbee*

      I’m so sorry you’re experiencing this! Very hostile, I agree.

      From your follow-up comment, can you get the VP to sit down and talk with these people? They will at least then realize that this is a Wanted Change, it’s a leadership directive, and that you aren’t doing this just to pass the time.

      The ongoing hurdle is, of course, getting past the hostility and any of the “Oh, we LOVE change! This is great!” that you may get after the VP’s intervention, which sounds wonderful until the point where you see that they’re not doing a damn thing differently. (I have this in my department. Great talkers! Great going-to-meeting-ers! Great doers? Nope.)

      Is there anyone within the old guard who you can start cultivating as an ally–such as in that handful of colleagues? I did some poking around when I first got brought in, and uncovered a crop of people who really did want change, but had been beaten down by the system/old guard and didn’t know what to do about it. I’ve been able to start making inroads by partnering with them and keeping my boss firmly in the loop, including telling him when he needs to make something happen because it’s gone to his level.

    3. Checkert*

      It doesn’t sound to me like your manager is very supportive, I wonder if they’re paying you lip service? Support in this realm would mean helping you advocate to leadership and/or using their position to influence their manager peers or higher. If they are not helping you mitigate these roadblocks when you go to them to ‘vent’ (aka ask for help), they are not supporting. Manager support in change management is not the same as managing individual contributors, it doesn’t end with ‘you’re performing to expectations’. If they’re not willing to advocate for you, then that is actually your first and foremost roadblock and they are becoming part of the problem. Can you go to them and be specific with what you need from them, such as advocacy?

      1. Anon this time*

        My manager – the director – is way better than my VP. At first I was on my own completely, then I started asking him to join committee meetings to throw his weight in with the other director. This has helped, at first, my manager was doing all the talking and running the meeting, and now, I’m doing most of the talking and running my meetings. I wish I didn’t have to borrow authority from him to get things done, because it undermines my own authority… I can ask him how much he’s advocated for me in private with the other director on the team. I can’t depend on my VP doing anything helpful to support me. He doesn’t remember things very well (sometimes forgets things that he said 5 minutes earlier), and tends to derail projects he’s already approved….

        1. Busy*

          Don’t look at it as borrowing authority, but as him asserting your authority with these people.

          Like saying “This Big Change is going to happen and Anon This Time is in charge of this Big Change.”

          But the VP needs to be making this clear to his reports that Big Change is going to happen and at least insinuate that there will be repercussions if they don’t get on board.

          Plus, making a project plan and including some kind of audit afterwards (under the important idea that anything new needs checked to see if it is working or not *plan-do-act-check* and all the other PM stuff). Include that this will be gone over with top management, and that any failures will require corrective actions. This obviously will make them realize they are gonna be followed-up with after implementation.

    4. Hillary*

      This was me at my last job. My department was supportive, but outside our team not so much. Honestly, I accepted that I was the bad guy, I did what had to be done, and I got a much better job a couple years later. I left my replacement with a better position.

      I also went to therapy and worked a lot on not taking stuff personally. It took a lot of work to get it through my head that the resisters were reacting out of fear and it wasn’t about me. With some people it doesn’t matter how good your change management is, they’re just idiots, jerks, or too self interested to see the bigger picture.

    5. CM*

      I think my main question is, what happens when people refuse to cooperate with you? Are they being told by their bosses that this is something they need to go along with or are they being told you’re annoying and they can push back?

      I ask because, I once worked somewhere really dysfunctional (with similarly diffuse responsibility where every manager did everything their own way) and only a few of the senior execs agreed that there was a problem and tried to hire people with expertise to come in and fix things. The other execs did not agree that there was a problem and actively encouraged their teams to be hostile and non-cooperative. If that’s what’s happening to you — if there’s a battle going on above you — there might not be a lot you can do.

      However, if you want to improve your day-to-day interactions with people and make it harder for them to show contempt for you, my advice is to slow down and not try to steamroll them into compliance. Instead, really, really gently and patiently talk through what’s bothering them, why they’re against your ideas, why you think this will be better etc — not because you should “have to” but because that might help defuse the situation. If they feel like you’re being really considerate of them and their feelings, it will be harder for them to justify being a jerk toward you and the tone of the conversation might change.

    6. OhGee*

      I echo what the others have said. I’m six months in to a role that is new to my organization, and very change management focused. I try to take the lead in rolling out processes, and I’ve occasionally run up against a historic tendency to include absolutely everyone in every planning meeting, but now that I’ve identified key players and reinforced when I need either backup from managers or for a manager to roll out a policy I’ve created, things are running much more smoothly. It’s still sort of a lonely position, because the rest of the team all do the same type of work and I don’t, but people understand what I’m doing and have learned that I welcome their input. Consensus-building and backup from leadership are huge here.

    7. Endurogirl*

      Oh man, I feel for you so much! Change management is becoming a huge focus in my career, and I’ve gone through three different organizations in the midst of big changes (two public hospitals and a private tech company). The hospitals were terrible and while reactions weren’t quite as terrible as you describe, the overall feeling was definitely bleak.
      The best program one of my bosses paid for our group to go through was the “Change Acceleration Process” from GE. I believe you can also find some of the material online, but it’s all about how to get everyone on board with wanting and driving change, not dragging people blind, kicking and screaming.
      Good luck to you, and remember, it’s really not about you: Change is hard for everyone, that’s why us rock stars make careers out of it :)

    8. The Other Dawn*

      I feel you on this. I started a new job last month and a big part of my job will be to make some big changes in my department, some of which will affect other areas of the company.

      After several not-so-good audits/exams, the company swung the pendulum too far to the right in fear of more poor audit/exam results. The problem with that ultra conservative approach is a lot of extra work that doesn’t necessarily need to be done. Or at least not to the scale to which it has been done in years past. The department is twice the size as the one at my previous company, and that previous company was twice the size, but still could use another person to cover the mountain of work that conservative policies and procedures has created. They now want to pull back in certain areas, which can be difficult in a regulated industry after having a few years clean audits and exams with the ultra conservative approach.

      Coming in, my manager told me I’d have an uphill battle in some areas, but that she and the CEO, and some other executive management were on board with change. They purposely brought an outside person on board because they wanted fresh eyes to assess the department, someone who didn’t have the history with the company and has seen the same things done in other, more efficient ways.

      What I’m finding so far is that most of my team is really on board and wants change, with the exception of one person who hates change, and is completely overwhelmed because of the conservative processes but won’t give anything up (this will be a separate situation to deal with). Other people in the company want change, but there are definitely some people–long-timers and other people who were trained by one of the very conservative people–who want things to stay as they are, either because “that’s the way it’s always been done” or they’re convinced that we’ll be open to huge risks if we change anything at all. I’m not yet sure about my plan of attack with those people, but I’m thinking of tying it into an initiative that’s been going on for a couple years, the gist of which is that we make things easy for the customer and ourselves. Many of the things being done now are contradictory to that. I’m thinking, too, that I will bring my manager in on one particular matter since she’s an EVP. From what I understand, this matter has been looked at several times to find ways to streamline in a way that still protects us, but also makes it easier for the employees and customers; however, nothing has changed because the person asked to look at the process (my predecessor) was one of the ultra conservative people.

      Good luck and I hope we can both make some impactful changes!

  4. Anon for this*

    We’re a heavy industrial construction company.

    The new D&A policy just came down from on high. This caught my eye: “Prescription Drugs. Any employee using a prescribed medication shall inform his/her supervisor prior to using prescribed drugs and must have written permission to possess these drugs while working on the jobs.”

    My $0/02 is a hard no.


    1. four lights*

      I’m not sure what norms/legalities are, but it sounds like this may be an issue with side effects. A lot of drugs warn against operating heavy machinery.

      1. Nacho*

        Was going to say the same thing, yeah. You might want to clarify with someone if it’s supposed to be all prescription drugs, or just ones with possible negative side effects. This might have been written broader than they intended it to be.

    2. Lena Clare*

      Hmmm my thoughts are hell no from a personal point of view, but also is there heavy machinery involved? They might want to know if there are any contraindications that would affect their health and safety policy… So it’s possibly legal. But I don’t know. I’d be interested in hearing the answer too. I wouldn’t like this policy.

      1. Natalie*

        Although from that article is sounds like, even in a safety situation, they can’t require a blanket disclosure?

        the nature of the medication required to be reported must be one that affects the employee’s ability to perform their essential functions, resulting in a direct threat to safety

        1. Busy*

          Yeah, I think they are trying to say this, but their wording is too vague. Like when they were writing it, they were thinking about opioids or other drugs known to make you drowsy and didn’t think to specify.

          Operating heavy machinery while impaired is a big deal.

          1. Anonariffic*

            Agreed. I definitely understand the boss wanting to be notified before someone like a forklift operator takes an Ambien or Oxycodone, but a blanket rule that requires me to have written permission to carry my birth control with me is overreaching.

            1. Justme, The OG*

              Agree. Especially since mine is on (in?) me at all times and the dosage is constant.

    3. MechanicalPencil*

      On the one hand, pretty much all of the medications I’m on have some warning about “do not operate heavy machinery”, so for a heavy industrial company, I can see wanting to know this information. However, everyone reacts differently to medication. I can take 4 ibuprofen and be perfectly fine. My aunt takes 2 and is loopy as can be.

      Regardless. You don’t need to know what I’m taking. You can reverse engineer the reasons why, and that’s an invasion of privacy. Then it could turn into a “well we don’t need MP anymore because she might cost us too much on the insurance”.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      Are they trying to say that if you need to take your medication while *at work* you’ll need permission? That’s what “permission to possess while working on the jobs” sounds like, to me.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        I worked at a day camp that officially had that rule for adults. If you needed to take medication during the work day, you had to have a doctor’s note and keep your medication in the nurse’s office, and you would need to go to the nurse and have her dispense it to you. Just like the campers. Even if you were 18+.

        No one followed it that I know of, but that was the official rule.

      2. Amethystmoon*

        To me, that’s pretty much unenforceable unless they’re going to stick cameras everywhere and hire enough security people to watch employees constantly. Besides, many medications must be taken with food, so what’s to stop someone from going out for lunch and taking it at lunch? Or just going to the bathroom and taking it there with no one watching?

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s about their random UA’s.

          It doesn’t mean they need to catch you popping a pill. If you’re hurt on the job or there’s a random drug screen that day, if it’s not listed on your prescribed medication list and hasn’t been disclosed, it’s too bad-so long to your job when you come back dirty, even if it’s a legal prescription.

    5. Zip Silver*

      Depends on the class of drugs. Being impaired, even on prescription drugs, can not be a great thing working with heavy machinery.

    6. Ali G*

      The language is kind of confusing – it seems like it could be interpreted that you only need to tell the employer about it if you are in possession of the drugs while at work?
      So if I take my meds normally before bed and only then, I would say they don’t need to know. But if I take something during the work day, maybe I do?

      1. Flat Penny*

        It might mean that you have to tell your employer if you have a prescription, even if you’re not a regular user…? Like I have a prescription for Xanax that I only take in somewhat extreme circumstances, and they would still want to know.

      2. Lucy*

        The wording is odd, using “possess” rather than talking about being under the influence of.

        So does it count if it’s in your locker? How about your car?

        I can see why the nature of the work implies a responsibility, but the wording is stupidly unclear.

    7. CupcakeCounter*

      Standard workplace – hard no
      heavy industrial construction company – I can see this as being important since the risk for injury is higher (drug interactions) as well as the potential side effects being concerning

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        I believe there are also financial/insurance implications for the company if they cannot demonstrate that they have such a policy in place. If someone gets into an accident on the job, the company needs to be able to demonstrate that they took reasonable steps to ensure that they were informed of all potential medication issues.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s more likely about staying compliant to the Drug Free Workplace requirement for government contracts.

          Workers comp in some jurisdictions may ask about it but I have never seen them do it. Nor does other major assorted insurance companies but perhaps cut-rate places would go down that road.

    8. Narvo Flieboppen*

      My gut reaction is “Hell no!”, BUT the OP’s description of “heavy industrial construction” is where I would say, maybe this is a badly written policy that has the safety of everyone involved because of heavy equipment.

      Were I in an admin position, and the heaviest piece of equipment I use is my chair, I would totally push back on this as an employee. If I was operating a heavy crane, this policy makes more sense, even if potentially poorly written.

    9. Liz*

      While I can see why they may have some concerns, as certain medications specifically state do not take while operating heavy machinery, to issue a blanket policy like that is a bit overboard. I use inhalers for my allergic asthma, and take another med for that as well. BOTH are prescription but neither of them has any affect on my mental “sharpness” etc. And while I don’t care since they aren’t anything to be ashamed about, it’s no one’s business but my own that i take them.

      1. BlueDays*

        Yeah. I’m not ashamed that I take birth control and use a topical prescription for acne, but it doesn’t affect me negatively at work at all (actually makes me feel better about my appearance and keeps my cramps tolerable), so I wouldn’t willingly tell my employer about them.

    10. Dankar*

      I have a family member who’s worked in industrial construction/inspection and this sounds like the policies he’s had to abide by. He also needed to disclose any medication he was taking off-the-clock, as he was sometimes pulled in for unexpected late-night work.

      Admittedly, I only have his stories to go off of, rather than having seen the policies, but this seems fairly typical to me.

    11. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      That’s industrial construction for you.

      It’s been in every policy I’ve ever seen, so I’m shocked it’s just now being added.

      This is due to the high amount of prescription drugs being abused and sold outside of the pharmacy setting.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Note: You only have to disclose prescriptions that may come up on a drug screen. It’s vague and I think everyone is reading it as disclosing your blood pressure medication or diabetes medication, etc. No. It’s only something you can be popped for, so that includes ADHD and pain medication more than anything.

        Otherwise unless it’s got an adverse side effect that may make someone think you’re high at work, it’s not much to worry about abiding by to the fullest extent of the rule.

    12. Not Me*

      They are most likely only covering themselves in the event there is an accident and someone is medicated. I highly doubt they honestly expect people to tell the boss what medications they are on. In the event of an accident they can say “We have a policy clearly stating we need to know about medication, they didn’t tell us, the side effects could’ve caused the accident, we aren’t responsible”

    13. Sushi*

      You need to contact an attorney in your area, your company may be able to hold you liable if anything was to go wrong. Construction heavy machine operators have different standards around these safety issues, I am not an expert on this so I can’t speak to exact standards nor do I know which state you live in or what you operate. My father retired from construction several years ago and this is immediate fireable offense and depending on if something has been of issue they do litigate over this. You likely signed that you would disclose this information when you started the job. I work in Health Insurance Sales and while we would not provide names (HIPPA protection) we do provide counts on subscribers by prescription to Employer groups when asked so they likely already know what prescriptions are out there (this is standard across all insurers).

      1. MatKnifeNinja*

        People have said more or less ignore it, which is fine until an accident happens.

        My father had heavy machinery jobs all his life, and drove truck at the end. What you don’t want, is losing a hand in a press accident, or on a table saw (insert nasty thing here), and get denied workmen’s compensation because of a non disclosure. Bonus round fired because your low dose of Adderall and the Xanax script you use one pill every 5 months was not declared on a medication list.

        My father’s buddy lost 3/4 of a hand in a press a accident. This was in the 1990s. The friend was on Percocets for back pain (?). It was a freak accident. He didn’t get workmen’s comp. He lost his job because eventually it was found out he was on pain medication he didn’t declare. The guy wasn’t abusing it. A doctor prescribed it. Did.not.matter. This was before companies were pee test happy on drugs.

        Medication disclosure for heavy machinery jobs is common where I live. Is it fair that Biff the office copy drone can take a Benadryl without a the 3rd degree, while you have declared your Proscar, birth control pills or ED medication? Life isn’t fair. Companies here will tell you you are free to look elsewhere for a job.

        The only places I know that let thing really slide are small shops that pay $15/hr. No disclosure. No drug tests. But you make garbage money.

    14. MatKnifeNinja*

      My father drove long haul trucks, and he had to list every medication he was on from the occasional Benadryl to his prostrate medication.

      If he had an accident (even a very minor fender bender), the DOT was on him like vultures on carrion. The would pull his medication paperwork.

      My welder relative is out of a job right now. He has a medical marijuana card. Tested positive (well duh), and was fired. The work place has a zero tolerance for booze, illegal narcotics and weed. It’s still against the Federal law to use marijuana.

      My guess is it’s legal under health and safety regulations, and maybe part of an insurance coverage prerequisite. The person who drives the forklift at my sister’s workplace has a similar requirement of disclosing all medications used.

      1. Alexandra Lynch*

        My ex-husband was a trucker. He was sitting at a stoplight, and someone ran into the back of his trailer. The police came and took him straight to get a urine test for drugs. Because he was in the accident, even though he was no more at fault than the lamppost he was sitting next to, and that’s the way it works.

        We spent years and years not visiting certain friends. We couldn’t afford any contact highs showing up in his urine. They understood, and we hung out together in public or at our house. It’s just part of the job.

    15. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

      I have several concerns. The first is that such a blanket policy is a violation of employees’ privacy. Secondly, if safety is the concern, not all prescription medications would compromise people’s ability to safely operate heavy machinery. Thirdly, not every employee at an industrial construction company operates heavy machinery! WAY overbroad and likely illegal, as least as presently worded.

  5. Discouraged*

    I’m struggling with my boss and was hoping to get some advice. Sorry this is long!

    My boss is incredibly smart and experienced, I’ve been at this job for about a year with 5 years prior experience in the industry. My work is creative and pretty independent, akin to large-scale solo design projects, without a client.

    My problem is that my boss is very dismissive and harsh. When I’m pitching him ideas, he tends to say things like, ‘that doesn’t work. I don’t like that. that’s boring. Come on, that just puts me to sleep.” I know what he doesn’t like, but he’s not being clear about what he wants. The nature of my work is subjective enough that it isn’t like there’s clear criteria for what is ideal, so I can’t ask him for specific advice for how to improve on X or Y process. I feel like I’m putting paintings in front of him and he’s rejecting all of them as terrible, but not giving me any guidance on how to move towards a painting he will like.

    I have found that sometimes when I push back a little and explain why I think something is a good idea, he will concede that I have a point, but I don’t have enough confidence in my own ideas to do that often/don’t know how often I should do that. Overall, our conversations always leave me feeling discouraged, worried that he thinks I’m really stupid, and anxious about what I’m supposed to do next.

    It’s hard for me to tell if (1) he’s like this with everyone, not just me, and there’s nothing I can do to change the way he is, so I should stay quiet and try to do my best (2) He does think I’m inadequate but there’s no point in talking to him about it, I should just do the best work I can and try to earn his trust over time. (3) He doesn’t think I’m dumb and doesn’t mean to be this dismissive, and I could say something (but what?) which would help me get more useful direction from him. I worry if I do say something, he’ll view it as complaining or that I’m not tough enough.

    I have talked to a few of his other direct reports. One feels exactly like I do, he’s also very new. The others are much more senior to me and are far more confident that they know what’s good work, so they just argue back at him, but they are way more experienced than I am, so I’m not sure I have standing to do as they do.

    1. gecko*

      Without knowing your boss, I couldn’t say what it is, but it’s jerky behavior.

      Luckily I think you have evidence that pushing back and arguing for your ideas would be a functional approach. Your more senior coworkers do it, and the times that you’ve done it, it’s worked out well. It’s hard to speak up for yourself when you’re already feeling discouraged, but it sounds like that’s what your boss is used to, so it may be worth trying to do that more.

      Again, though, it’s jerky behavior on your boss’s part. A big-picture conversation might help but I think speaking up for yourself more could do a lot.

      1. Discouraged*

        That’s a good question. I think they do eventually turn him around. It may be a bit of a compromise in some cases.
        Honestly, if it was a case of A or B and I wanted A and he wanted B, I would just do B… but my problem is that he’s saying A, B, C, D that I’m presenting are all bad, and not telling me what he wants, so I don’t know how to move forward, I feel like I’m trying to guess at what he wants in hopes of hitting the jackpot. (and/or he says well E would be great but it’s so idealized that I’m not sure I can deliver on it — as an analogy, it’s like him saying “well if we could borrow the crown jewels that’d be great” and yeah, it would be, but it’s unlikely I’ll get them.)

        1. Busy*

          Yeah. It sounds like he wants you to argue. Like it is some misguided way to get you to show your passion for it. My old boss was like this. Its annoying and draining.

        2. Fenchurch*

          It sounds like he’s giving bad feedback. Ideally, critical feedback is accompanied with concrete examples or suggestions for improvement. Perhaps you can push for him to give you more detailed ways that you could improve your work/make it closer to what he’s looking for?

        3. merpderp*

          I’m wondering if it would be helpful for you to respond to your boss’s “A, B, C, D are all bad and I don’t like them” declarations with more questions about what specifically he doesn’t like about them. Ditto with his “perfect world” E suggestions – what specifically is appealing about the crown jewels that he likes? And then use that info to guide your next iteration?
          One of my previous bosses had a very different way of communicating new ideas for programs: I prefer to have a rough sketch of the big picture, then I want to hear about the details. My boss was the opposite, she would have very clear ideas on certain details, then would build the big picture later. Initially I would just get super confused and frustrated when talking about ideas/designs but after figuring out what the problem was I found that having scrap paper on hand to sketch out ideas in real time was pretty helpful.
          If your boss is a “visuals” guy, I wonder if it would be helpful to put together a portfolio of work; both yours and the company’s ‘branded’ stuff. Then, if your boss says stuff like “I don’t like the color of B, it needs to pop more; just make the colors sound more like buses smell” or whatever random suggestion he has, pull out your design portfolio and point to specifics. Then use those specifics as new parameters.

      2. Auntie Social*

        No, Reince Priebus and John Kelly had problems with him, too. We are talking about #45, aren’t we??

    2. Bananatiel*

      I’m a designer and if your specific field is anything like mine– this is really terrible “mentoring” on your boss’s part and I’d keep that in the back of your mind as you navigate this.

      That having been said, it sounds like he enjoys debate/arguing. I had a boss that was a bit like this and I found that the only way to get anything approved by her was to ruthlessly defend my work. The extent to which I had to defend it was always uncomfortable to me but I got pretty good at saying blunt things like “Unless you have an objective issue with this concept I believe it’s the best option based on x, y, and z and I’ll be proceeding with it.” It felt aggressive, was aggressive, but alas, it was the only way I was able to get work done because her feedback was similarly useless.

      I’m in a new job now and my new boss is an incredible mentor– she provides feedback and explains why so that I actually learn things. But she’s also open-minded and supportive when I have strong justifications for certain design choices in my work. She’s never uttered the words “I don’t like it” or “That doesn’t work” and I’ve certainly never had to say “I’m doing this unless you give me a reason why not”!

      1. Bananatiel*

        Oh, another tip based on my experience in that workplace: I solicited feedback from peers and other people at the same level as my boss. And actually even from people outside my company when I could. That gave me the confidence to say that the concept I thought was strongest was actually the strongest. I was essentially seeking mentorship from anyone I could find that would assist.

        1. Discouraged*

          Oh, I really like this idea of getting other mentorship to build confidence. Thank you.

          I don’t think my boss wants to or thinks about mentoring at all. I think he just wants me to give him good work. (and I want to give him good work too!) Aggressiveness is very much not my personality but I think you may be right and I may need to step it up a bit.

      2. matcha123*

        Oh, god. I have a coworker that checks my work and she’s like this. I don’t like arguing with people. I was raised not to talk back to people in authority and I personally believe that if someone wants my opinion, they’ll ask for it.
        I deal with this with some friends, too. It is just so draining.
        At the office, I debate with myself over whether or not I want to go head-to-head over minor BS, and I really don’t. I just don’t.

      3. Quinalla*

        Yeah, I agree your boss might be one that just wants to challenge everything and have you convince him otherwise – whether he is doing it on purpose as sort of an exercise or it is just his style. And that can work, but he sounds like he’s not giving you any specific feedback you can work with which is not good.

        I too would see if you can run it by someone else before taking it to him for some real feedback and then take it to him and explain why you did it that way. Try to reframe it not as him criticizing, but that he is asking for you to sell him on your concept.

    3. CM*

      Right now, he’s controlling the conversation by having you present him with stuff that he judges. My advice would be to take control of the conversation back by asking him questions about his judgements. So, if he says it’s boring, ask what would be more exciting to him. If he says he doesn’t like something, ask what he doesn’t like about it, and then ask him why he doesn’t like that.

      Even gentle people sometimes have trouble explaining what they think about subjective work, so asking these kinds of questions is a totally professional thing to do (and what designers do all the time). Basically, he is not doing a good job of articulating why he doesn’t like what you did, so you need to steer him there through asking probing questions about it.

      In this case, he doesn’t sound like a super gentle person, so the conversation will probably be rockier, but the solution is still the same. Just remember, you’re not trying to trick him into revealing that he’s stupid; you’re trying to help him articulate what a successful outcome would look like. If he gets mad or accuses you of trying to make him look stupid (which un-gentle people do sometimes when you ask them questions and they don’t know the answer right away) just remind him that you need to understand his thought process so you can deliver something he likes.

      1. Discouraged*

        Thanks, this is helpful. I need to think about how to phrase the questions so he doesn’t just default back to “well it’s not good” — he also tends to cut me off a lot mid sentence so it feels hard to question him, but I will try to keep in mind “help him articulate what a successful outcome would look like”!

      2. LunaLena*

        Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. It just doesn’t occur to some people that other people aren’t mind readers and need more feedback than “I don’t like this, it’s boring.”

        I would honestly be prepared to sit down with him and go over everything and ask lots of questions every time you bring him work for approval. I work in graphic design, so if someone told me “this is boring,” I would respond with “Okay, I can fix that. What makes you feel that way? Is it the color scheme? The layout? The photos? Is there anything you LIKE about this that I should keep? Or would you prefer I try something completely different? Okay, you want something different? What kind of vibe are you looking for?” All this obviously does take a lot of time and energy and discussion, but it will make your work less frustrating in the long run.

        If you ARE in a design field (as others have conjectured), another thing that I’ve found works well is to Google examples of similar work and email them over with “are any of these the kind of thing you’re looking for?” or “I was thinking of something like this, except this instead of that, and X not Y. What do you think?” You obviously don’t want to copy another design exactly, but it will give you a general idea of what he wants without you having to do an entire project, only to have it rejected.

        It’s also completely not pushy to explain your own reasoning, especially if he is open to changing his opinion after hearing it (even if it may be grudgingly so)! I do this all the time with clients. Client will say “I don’t like this” and I’ll respond with “We can do A instead of B, but I think it would lessen the impact because [reasons]. Would you still like me to go ahead with those changes?” If they say yes, then, well… it’s their design. I don’t have to like it, they do. But if it involves major changes, I always keep a copy of what I originally made, since, after seeing the changes, clients quite often change their mind and ask to go back to the original.

        It also sounds to me like your boss may be the kind of person who likes people who stand up to him and defend their ideas. I would pay attention to his reactions when you push back to see if this may be the case.

        Hope this helps!

    4. AnonAcademic*

      My supervisor is like this. Here’s a few tips: if he gives you vague non-direction, try to boil down the options going forward into a binary choice, like “I’m hearing that you don’t like the shade of yellow I used because it’s ‘not yellow enough.’ Our options are to go with one of the three default yellows offered, or I could create a custom yellow, which I expect to take 1-2 weeks. What works best for you?” Since his conversational style is aggressive, you may need to mirror it a bit even if it feels uncomfortable. If he says “I don’t like it” and can’t/won’t tell you why, you can redirect by saying “How do you want me to proceed on that?” and if that still doesn’t get you useful guidance you can try punting it: “How about I come up with some other options and we can go over those in our call tomorrow.” I also second the suggestion to get outside expert opinions; sometimes a “Well Bob and Lucinda have worked in color development for 1o years and they said this yellow is the most popular” can redirect the focus from your work to the industry standards.

      Consider also that having to do this much emotional labor is a high cost of doing business and unless the job has other wonderful qualities you love, you might want to think about job searching because poor mentors like this lack the self awareness to improve on their own and it’s not your job to fix them.

      1. Easily Amused*

        It sounds like Boss is not a designer who supervises but rather a company wide boss who doesn’t know how design works. In other words, you have a client and your client doesn’t know what they want until they see it. A really important skill to develop is asking the right questions to get to what the client really wants (because they do sort of know. They just don’t know how to convey it). Others above have made really good suggestions – I just wanted to point out what (I think) is really going on here as it will be a useful skill throughout your career to get as much info from a client (internal or external) as you can before starting any project and throughout iterations. Though hopefully you won’t have to do it THIS much in other roles.

  6. Dry Spell in Spring*

    My position is that of an administrative/office support for my team. I have a wide variety of jobs that normally keep me very busy around the clock. The last few months however, I’ve had weeks of having little to nothing to do. I’ll have three weeks in row of lots to work on, then a week of nothing; two more busy weeks, then more quiet days.

    I’m not sure what to do with this downtime. If it was just a random afternoon every couple of weeks, I could do things I normally put off like catch up on meeting notes or update filing, that kind of stuff. But I still get those things done in a few hours and then have a few days of quiet until the next busy section. It’s not a matter of asking for more because my team knows to bring me their requests; they don’t worry about interrupting me, they just send me their requests and I jump on it or let them know there will be a delay. In my quiet weeks, the requests come in but spread out, giving me an hour of work at most and then nothing. My tasks all come from my team, that’s the nature of my job, so there not much that I can be a self-starter about and do on my own.

    I’m at the end of one of those weeks now and don’t know what to do. What should I be doing with this downtime, how should I handle these sudden dry spells? Do I need to scrounge desperately for something work related to do or can do personal stuff at my computer while still being ready and on hand for when a task does come up?

    1. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

      I’m in an admin position as well! My current one is much busier, but at my old one, it’d get *super* dead. If there’s nothing else you can help out someone else with (and don’t hesitate to ask around if any you support needs something), I’d recommend reading Kindle books or, if it’s not too disruptive, watch tutorials for skills or programs you could use in your job. I’ve had to do design work before, so I’ve watched plenty of InDesign tutorials.

    2. Flat Penny*

      I sometimes do surveys or data entry on Amazon Mechanical Turk, or pull up ebooks. You can find pretty much anything in the public domain on Project Gutenberg.

      1. Eleanor Shellstrop*

        Curious about this. I’ve thought about doing mechanical turk in my downtime at work, but worry that it would be considered time theft because you’re earning money elsewhere while at work – what do you think?

        1. Rosaline Montague*

          I agree with your concerns and wouldn’t go this direction. Whatever you do should be work related, or at least work adjacent, while you’re on the clock.

    3. The Tin Man*

      Step 1 is to ask your manager. There could be value is asking directly but openly”What do you want me to do with my downtime?” or you can think through the following:

      I know you said all your work comes from your team but is there anything supplemental you can take on with your time? I don’t know the full extent of your role but I usually have a running list of processes, spreadsheets etc that can be improved on that aren’t urgent but would be nice to have.

      In my list right now I have things like cleaning up a report I am responsible for, writing a macro to automate another report, archiving some 2018 reports in our shared drive, and writing instruction guides to some of the tasks that I do.

      Approaching your manager could look like “Hey boss, as you know sometimes there are quieter spells where there isn’t as much work coming to me from the team. I was thinking of taking archiving the 2018 TPS reports because sometimes we have a need to quickly reference those. I also want to make an easy-to-use guide of how I compile the XYZ reports as a ‘Dry Spell moves to a new position/gets hit by a bus/wins the lottery’ contingency. What do you think?”

      I think I would ask the open-ended question first but then have a couple ideas in my back pocket in case boss didn’t have any ideas.

    4. Taylor*

      Could you use your downtime to teach yourself some new skills? Maybe your office would pay for a subscription where you could take some Excel or Adobe Creative Suite courses, or classes in whatever may be related to your job.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I wouldn’t decide on how to deal with these dry spells on your own, you risk a lot if you don’t bring it up to your supervisor first. They may have tasks they don’t have normally regulated to you but that you could help with if you are out of the regular things. Perhaps the supply closet hasn’t been sorted in thirty-six years or there’s a scanning project nobody has ever had downtime to do that’s just rotting somewhere. Been there, done that.

      So be open with them and let them know. Some may caution you about letting them know because then they’ll think about cutting your hours, that’s really unlikely in most situations because most bosses know you’re not working at full capacity at all times because it’s meant to be that way so you don’t get too much on your plate.

      You need to know the policy about doing personal stuff on the computer and if it’s monitored. If they don’t know you have dry spells, they may assume you’re slacking off instead of just killing time until a request comes in. It depends drastically on the office culture and management’s expectations.

    6. ManageHer*

      Oooh from a former admin (and manager of admins), this kind of downtime can be so de-motivating, especially as an admin where your main job function is supporting others. I echo others’ recommendation for asking your boss how she’d like you to handle this downtime.

      That said, I didn’t see you mention working on documentation or SOPs, and it sounds like a huge missed opportunity. Try using your downtime to:

      ** Write/Update Documentation: Chances are you work on at least one processes that no one else on your team knows how to do (even if it’s mail merge). Write step-by-step guidance. This is hugely beneficial in a hit-by-a-bus scenario, and when you give notice it’ll be one less thing to stress about. If you support executive calendars or specific leadership meetings, there should be guides for each.
      **Create onboarding resources for yourself/your team: If your team, department, or role has regular turnover, think about what basic skills new hires need to know that are unlikely to be covered in orientation (i.e. what’s the copier code; where are office supplies; what kinds of tasks should they send to you; this is an office where everyone sends responses for calendar invites). As the team admin, you likely know the kinds of questions new hires tend to ask.
      **Create resources that are broadly valuable for your team: Organize your team’s shared drive or sharepoint site; create a hub point for shared documents; create a PTO management calendar, or regularly recurring calendar holds for those rotating tasks everyone forgets; write a cheat sheet for how to use the buggy projector in conference room A.
      **Look for areas where you can improve your own processes or data tracking, and put together recommendations for your boss.

      All of the above can result in resume-worthy deliverables, and process documentation is a key skill in many roles, so you’ll be positioning yourself well for more responsibility in your current role, promotion, or new roles down the line.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Another thought — project wrapup notes, especially if your group tried or reacted to anything new. Was there anything that went particularly well during the recently ended busy season? Feedback from customers to gather?

    7. Valentine*

      I work as an admin and have also experienced the occasional slow period. I work 100% remotely and enjoy a lot of flexibility, although this position can be very intense with long hours when we’re sold out (which is almost all the time these days).

      Last summer some of the team went parttime until school started, and requests really dropped off, so I asked my boss if on the off-chance I had a free moment, were there any projects she’d like me to pursue? I had some ideas for myself too, like some skill-building courses, because I didn’t want to be stuck with only menial or thankless tasks. I ended up doing a mix of data entry and database training, in addition to getting the rare haircut and catching up on the news! I also took some PTO, knowing that catching up wouldn’t be as difficult since it wasn’t as busy.

      There is the slight danger that someone will think you really don’t have enough to do and that might lead to you being given way too much work, so you’ll have to figure out how to present your downtime to your superiors.

  7. Would-be manager*

    Managers and people who have hired managers: could you please share examples of STAR/“tell me about a time when…” questions you’ve asked or been asked?

    I am prepping for my first time ever being interviewed for a management role. It’s an internal vacancy / promotion so perhaps less of a stretch than if I was applying somewhere I didn’t have a track record of working with others, forming cross-department relationships etc (which I do).

    I’m trying to think through possible types of scenarios I might prepare to talk about, and it would be great to hear real examples that people actually use to help me get thinking about the types of examples I might want to have ready.

    I would also hugely appreciate any general tips on management interviews! Thank you!

    1. AnonEMoose*

      Not a manager in my paid job, but I might consider asking “Tell me about a time when you had to share critical feedback with an employee.” And/or (if relevant) “Tell me about a time when you had to uphold policy with an angry/upset customer or client.”

      1. Ali G*

        In a similar vein, a good one to be prepared for is “how would you handle rolling out a change in policy to your staff you don’t agree with?”

    2. Canonical23*

      Couple one’s I’ve gotten:

      “Tell me about a time you had to improve an employee’s performance. How did you go about that?”

      “Tell me about a time you’ve had to have a difficult conversation with an employee about [dress code/body odor/etc.]”

      “Tell me about a time where you had to make a big change. How did you manage buy-in?”

      1. Would-be manager*

        Thanks for these.

        What on earth do you do if you haven’t had those experiences yet?

        1. AnonEMoose*

          If you haven’t had that experience as a manager, have you had it as an employee and felt that it was handled particularly well? Maybe you could go with something like “I haven’t had that experience as a manager; however, a previous manager I really respect handled it by doing X, Y, and Z, and I learned [specific things] from that.”

        2. Canonical23*

          You split the answer into three parts – acknowledging that you don’t have that experience, telling them how you would hypothetically respond and giving an example of a similar but smaller situation. For example:

          “I’ve actually never had to have a huge change that required managing buy-in, however, if I was faced with such an occurrence, I think I’d handle it by having a meeting about the change and following up individually with staff members to hear any concerns or give any extra training. I’d also notice which employees were positively responding to the future change and bring them in to help implement it. While I don’t have that experience, I did have to do something similar on a smaller scale – I had to make a very drastic schedule change in my department and handled it by meeting with employees to discuss the change…etc. etc.”

    3. Smooth Operator*

      I was a recruiter for a large firm who used behavioral-based interviewing in a past life, and my best advice is to print out the job description and glean key words that will give you hints regarding what they’re looking for in a top candidate. (e.g. critical thinking, team management, administrative skills)

      Then, identify 8-10 stories you are proud of (including at least one when you failed and learned from your mistake). Practice telling those stories, including specific details of how your action impacted results, and then don’t over think it. Practice practice practice your talk track until you feel totally comfortable.

      If I am really prepping hard for an interview, I would then match the stories with the competencies they are looking for, but I tend to do too much. You’ve got this. If you can take a sheet of paper into your interview with one-word reminders bulletted out (in 1 – 2 words only), that’s a great way to make sure you don’t *forget* to use your best example.

      Another tip – don’t wait for the perfect question to use your best story. You want to make sure to have the chance to tell it, and you don’t want to “run out” of questions!

      Last tip – use the words STAR stands for in your examples to stay on track. “I’m going to tell you about a situation when….the task I had at hand was… the action I took……the result was…..”

      Good luck!

    4. irene adler*

      If I were interviewing someone for a manager position, I would want to learn how the candidate plans to support their reports. I might ask how they would support during specific circumstances (new hire, under par performance(when to pull the plug), major mistake made, keeping a superstar engaged, the chronic whiner).

    5. Kathenus*

      Here are a few from recent interviews I’ve done for manager positions (ignore the numbers, just cut and pasted these from several documents):

      5. How would you deal with an employee who routinely disagrees with your decisions?
      7. What are the manager’s responsibilities regarding implementing management decisions that may be unpopular with staff and with which you may not personally agree?
      8. What feedback have you received from others about your communication style? What do you feel are your strengths in this area, and what areas could use improvement?
      11. What is the most useful work-related criticism you’ve ever received, and why?
      13. No one’s perfect. If you could wave a magic wand over your head and change something about your work skills or persona, what would it be? (wait for an answer). How would your supervisor and coworkers answer this question?
      14. In your experience, what is the key to developing and maintaining a good team?
      6. What do you like most about your current facility and position, and what aspects would you change if you could?
      7. When did you last receive feedback at work that made you feel proud? How about criticism that bothered you?
      8. How would you describe your management style, and how has your approach to management evolved over time?
      10. Tell us about an employee who became more successful as a result of your management.
      14. Talk about the balance between not micromanaging but still being involved enough to know what’s going on and catching problems early on if needed.

    6. Not Today Satan*

      I try to have a good number (5-10) anecdotes, that if necessary, could be massaged to fit whatever the question is. Just look up the most common questions (difficult relationship with a colleague, admit you were wrong, went above and beyond, or whatever) and use those to brainstorm. When I interview, I put a keyword for each story in the notebook that I bring with me. If they ask a question that I blank on, I run through my list of stories and pick whichever one is closest.

      1. Would-be manager*

        Thanks for this, of course I’m aware that I can look up common scenarios but I find a lot of online advice about interview questions to be hopelessly out of date which is why I asked to get examples people had asked or answered themselves.

      2. Would-be manager*

        These also aren’t sufficient for prep for a management interview, just for anyone else who’s reading.

    7. RandomU...*

      One I’ve asked before for a management role “Can you tell me about a time that you had a difficult situation with your employee? Can you describe the situation and how you approached it”

      If the person is new to management I’ll tweak it for relevancy. “Can you describe a time/situation where you’ve used your indirect leadership skills to achieve a work goal” follow ups include “What were some of the challenges” “looking back what would you do differently” “What were some of the things that worked”

    8. ManageHer*

      I recently interviewed candidates for a level 1 manager role.

      We asked a lot of hypotheticals, since none of our applicants had direct management experience: what skills would you look for when interviewing for X position; how would you handle someone on the team who was experiencing burnout; if you got a complaint about one of your team members, how would you address it?

      Not a specific scenario, but one thing I’ve noticed is that first-time managers often ascribe all performance issues to a lack of training or motivation. That’s a great first step. But one thing to think about as you prep for your interview is how you would handle performance issues that couldn’t be resolved by providing training or context. The really outstanding applicants I’ve interviewed for these roles proactively mention that.

    9. NW Mossy*

      I tend to ask a range of questions that poke at the candidate’s comfort level with uncomfortable conversations. How do they handle it when a colleague does poor quality work or has a behavior that drives them crazy? How well can they advocate for a position when the majority seems against it? How do they approach escalating something to a higher-up?

      In the answers, I look for key factors like addressing the issue in a timely fashion, being direct in describing the issue, being considerate towards the other person, and using the interaction to drive positive change and a stronger relationship going forward.

      Basically, I want to know that the candidate both recognizes the need to have tough conversations and the skills to actually pull it off. Many a manager has foundered on one or both of those rocks, but they’re skills that can absolutely be developed and practiced at the individual contributor level. I’d rather have a new leader that really got this concept in their bones than a 20-year veteran that didn’t.

    10. MintLavendar*

      I always ask prospective managers to tell me about their management philosophy. I think that can catch people off guard, because a lot of people don’t really think holistically like that, but everyone should be able to articulate, generally, what they feel their job is as a manager, what it’s goals are in the broadest sense, and how they approach it.

    11. Akcipitrokulo*

      Some general feedback I’ve heard – a lot of people fall into the trap of giving a great build up/detail about the situation or task, when it should actually be the shortest part of the answer. It should take a sentence or maybe two to explain what the issue was – if it takes longer than that, it may be including details that really, really don’t matter, and the answer can get bogged down with that.

      What you did, and, hopefully, an impressive result are where you want to spend the time!

    1. Nanc*

      I read breathing time as bathing time–which if you use the definition of bathing = swimming, that’s not a bad thing!
      Have a relaxing week and good luck with the new position.

  8. CuriousNewbie*

    I am curious to see what others think of this. I am not this person’s manager, but I am a new manager in a related department of the same company.

    The department in question has three employees whose jobs have no overlap; no one is trained in anyone else’s job. Sansa, who among other things manages registration for an important event happening annually, requested a significant amount of time off for a vacation during the pre-registration period. This is not awesome, either for the company or for the people trying to register (spots are limited and competitive, and this is a big event) – but the manager wants to be flexible and respect employee’s personal needs for time off. So they worked out a way to handle it in the short term and approved the vacation time.

    Then, with the vacation less than a month away, Sansa let her manager know she had scheduled a medical procedure for immediately after returning. She expects to take off the maximum amount of time to recover (4 weeks). That means that those trying to register will be left with no idea of whether they have successfully registered for the event until mid-summer. This is resulting in very frustrated clients who have no answers, no way to get answers, and no ability to budget the time or money they would need for this event without knowing if they even got into it or not.

    Obviously, management wants to respect both medical leave and vacation time, and management wants to be flexible. The debate is: should the manager have rescinded the vacation approval, since the company could finds ways to cover EITHER a two week vacation OR a four week medical leave, but not six weeks of both on such short notice (with more notice, it would have been possible). Management would not have approved the vacation, knowing the medical leave was coming but is it appropriate to un-approve vacation Sansa had already gotten approved?

    On the one hand, that feels like punishing someone for having a medical procedure, and that’s not okay by any stretch.

    On the other hand, this length of time creates serious problems for the company.

    What does everyone think?

    1. Would-be manager*

      I think it’s insane to have something nobody else is cross-trained on, and to be that reliant on one person.

      1. CuriousNewbie*

        I agree, but we all work under the conditions the company set up for us. Each position requires pretty complex/time consuming training, and each position is busy. Not overworked, but they don’t have the time to learn another job on top of their own core job. Managers are not given either the financial leeway to hire an additional employee or the work leeway to create time for the employees they have to learn another job.

        With more notice, we are all agreed that hiring a temp to fill in would have been what had happened. But the manager was not given enough notice to hire and train a temp.

        1. Would-be manager*

          You can hire a temp at a day’s notice so I’m having trouble understanding this.

          1. CuriousNewbie*

            We cannot train a temp in a day’s notice to do the position. It’s the training that’s the problem, not the hiring.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yeah. People love to make the cross-training argument whenever something like this comes up, but sometimes it’s really not practical. Sometimes the job is complicated and nuanced and it would take more time than makes sense to train a back-up just to prepare for very rare situations that may never even occur. Or sometimes if you train someone on it now, they’re not going to remember enough about it when they’re actually needed to step in 8 months from now. And sometimes there genuinely aren’t enough resources to have that kind of overlaps and it’s still reasonable to move forward with the work (hello, nonprofits). When you can cross-train, you should. Realistically, it’s not always going to be the case.

              I’d be straight with Sansa: Tell her you wouldn’t have approved the vacation time if you’d known the medical leave would be right afterward (and that it was already a big ask because it was around this key project but you tried hard to accommodate her), tell her that’s not her fault because obviously she didn’t plan the medical leave this way, and ask if she has any flexibility on the vacation dates. If she does, great. If she’s doesn’t, then all you can do is enlist her in training someone (maybe a current employee, maybe a highly skilled temp, depending on the circumstances) to cover the work while she’s out. But pulling the vacation time without her agreement that that’s the best solution is a good way to kick start her job search.

              1. CuriousNewbie*

                Thank you for this Alison! Luckily it’s not my department, I’m just trying to learn by observing – but this is really helpful to think about what I would if it was my department.

                1. valentine*

                  I’m thinking Sansa’s taking the piss. If her medical leave were an emergency or difficult to schedule, I assume she would’ve said, and expressed regret at leaving everyone in the lurch. Knowing the demands of her position, she could’ve handled this literally any other way, unless the employer isn’t communicating about how much notice they need for leave requests. I find the passiveness weird and off-putting. They should just tell you they need x weeks notice per y amount of leave and that back-to-back BS won’t be accommodated unless it’s a medical emergency.

                  Also, if this is six weeks of fully paid leave: Y’all hirin’?

                2. AnonEMoose*

                  Out of nesting, but replying to Valentine.

                  I think this is a very ungenerous perspective toward Sansa. A medical issue can not be an emergency, but still need to be taken care of for many reasons. And depending on the treatment needed (if specialists are involved, for example), Sansa may not have a lot of choice in the scheduling.

                  No, the timing is not ideal. But as other posters have said, this is a situation the company created for themselves by not having any backup for Sansa. That’s neither Sansa’s fault nor, really, her problem.

                  I’ve been somewhat in Sansa’s shoes…for quite awhile, I had no backup. And had an annual volunteer commitment that is very important to me, but was timed poorly for some of my work. I asked for someone to be cross-trained on at least some things for several years, but before that happened, I came back to a huge mess every year. It was far from ideal, but I made it work.

                3. Falling Diphthong*

                  I could easily see someone told “And we really should do this surgery sometime in the next two months” (for medical reasons, for insurance reasons…) and Sansa saying “Okay, Gruber Project, Llama Hat Workshop, then my vacation… I guess right after the vacation?”

                  It’s non-ideal, but like many others I think the real problem is that there is no “If Sansa were hit by a bus tomorrow…” contingency plan in place.

              2. Elizabeth West*

                Or sometimes if you train someone on it now, they’re not going to remember enough about it when they’re actually needed to step in 8 months from now.

                This is what procedural documents are foooooorrrrrrrrrrr

                *writhes on the ground in agony because she has written them for her last three jobs for exactly this reason*

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Sure, if you can capture it in one! But sometimes it’s more about nuance/judgment. (It doesn’t sound like that’s necessarily the case here, but who knows.)

        2. Snark*

          “Not overworked, but they don’t have the time to learn another job on top of their own core job. ”

          Well, here’s the thing: someone is going to have to learn to do that job on top of their own job now, it’s just not planned.

          1. Works in IT*

            My overworked coworkers and me also do three incredibly different sets of tasks. But we are all cross trained enough so that if one of us has vacation, the other two can cover.

            Except for the time when one coworker got sick the day before her vacation and wasn’t able to pull the report I needed to start setting all our automated stuff for the month. “It didn’t get done because coworker is the only person the people who run that system trust and she was delirious and not interacting with the world” is definitely a unique reason for not getting something done.

      2. Not Me*

        Agreed. It’s not Sansa’s fault management isn’t good at their job. They should have people cross trained to handle things like this.

        What if Sansa quit tomorrow? The event just would never happen again? No one else would be able to register?

        1. Lucy*

          Or if Sansa broke half a dozen bones paragliding on holiday?

          This is absolutely on management though I agree Sansa’s timing is unfortunate.

          Would it make any difference if she could come in for one day between vacation and medical procedure just to send out the confirmation/ rejection emails, or prepare two lists so a temp or co-worker can do it?

          “Thank you for your application for tickets to / event / on / date/. I’m pleased to confirm you have been successful. Full details will be sent out after /return date/.”

          1. Not A Manager*

            I don’t think these comments are always applicable. If Sansa suddenly won the lottery and quit her job, then the company would devote the resources to training someone in the expectation that they’d be at the job for a while. Investing those same resources in a temp, or in someone who will only do the job sporadically, might not make financial sense.

            1. Lucy*

              That’s a fair comment – though I’m not sure how much difference it makes to customers in the upcoming booking period. They’ll only see the result, not the cause.

    2. ThatGirl*

      I think this reveals a serious need for cross-training, personally. I am the only person who does a lot of my job functions on a daily basis, but you better believe I have backups. I think Sansa should train someone else to handle this while she’s out, and I think the company should be better prepared for absences or sudden departures.

      1. MintLavendar*

        Yeah, I mean, I get resource constraints, but if the plan is “cross your fingers and hope this employee never has an emergency and never wants to take a long vacation” then that is a … bad plan

    3. S-Mart*

      This sounds like a problem the company created by not having anyone else who can handle Sansa’s duties. Nobody should be irreplaceable. You’d only get two weeks notice if Sansa was quitting entirely (assuming US norms). I think the company should figure out how to cover the full six weeks. That probably means having Sansa train somebody (coworker, manager, and/or temp) how to handle her upcoming duties before she leaves.

      I would assume the medical requirement came up for Sansa after the trip was a done decision. Sure it’s possible she planned them back to back with full knowledge of both, but without further information I wouldn’t jump to that.

      1. CuriousNewbie*

        This is definitely a problem the company has created – no one thinks any differently. However, the department’s manager (and myself, which is why I am curious about this) do not have the power to change the way the company handles staffing. We can only work in the situation we are in. So that’s why I am wondering: given the context of the situation, which managers have no real power to address, what is the best way to handle the situation? Keep the vacation approval, and upset the clients? Or rescind the approval, and upset the employee?

        1. Not Me*

          Those aren’t your only options though. You can still have Sansa train someone to do her job while she’s out. It might require overtime, but it’s possible.

          1. JJ Bittenbinder*

            Yeah, this is where I’d go. I understand that under normal circumstances, the company staffing situation is such that it doesn’t allow cross-training, but these are not normal circumstances. If this is truly a signature event for the company, they should be willing to be more flexible on their staffing in order to make it work.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          This is why mid-level managers have such high stress levels.

          But: It’s not like the employees have the power to address the company’s poor planning practices, either.

          While I don’t recall how it came out, I know there was at least one letter along the lines “I have this once in a lifetime trip we’ve planned for years booked and paid for, and then work rescinded the time off because some projects had moved their deadlines around” and the advice was overwhelmingly “If you can afford to quit with nothing lined up, I would do it.” “Sansa pouts for a few days” is not the only possible reaction of Sansa to losing her vacation time after she’s booked and paid for a trip in her approved time off.

        3. Iron Chef Boyardee*

          “department’s manager (and myself, which is why I am curious about this) do not have the power to change the way the company handles staffing.”

          Is there any way to contact those who do have the authority to make changes, and let them know what’s happening?

      2. Bunny Girl*

        I have a co-worker that calls it the Mack-Truck Theory. If you were hit by a Mack Truck one day, your company would have to move on without you one way or another, so always be prepared. I’m not saying that everyone needs to be prepared to do every little thing someone does, but it would probably help to have some of the major things covered.

        Also, your assumption would be mine too. A lot of times when medical things are recommended, they can’t really wait. She might have had the trip planned before this came up. Either way, I think you should give her the time off she’s asked for.

        1. Amethystmoon*

          This is a great reason to document your job while you’re there. Updating documentation is also a useful thing to do on your down time. Type up your notes in Word or make a PowerPoint. Whatever, just have something ready in case you need to be gone for a while. You don’t have to share it with anyone until the time comes, but have it ready.

        2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          It’s also likely since she planned the trip (and paid for it) well in advance, she is already delaying her medical procedure by a significant amount to avoid losing the money she paid for the trip (hotel, flights.)

    4. Parenthetically*

      Yeah, I think it’s an issue, but it’s one 100% created by the company by failing to crosstrain ANYONE for the job. What if Sansa got the job offer of her dreams tomorrow and quit without notice? What if she got hit by a bus and was in the hospital for months?

      Also, I don’t understand why it’s possible to cover a two week vacation or a four week medical leave but not both. I understand you’re saying training is an issue, but I’m genuinely not understanding how they can train someone to cover the vacation but that person can’t continue through the medical leave.

      1. CuriousNewbie*

        Unfortunately in the past, when someone leaves a position, there ends up being a long gap before someone is hired and the person hired goes through a steep learning curve because there are little to no training opportunities available. This is obviously not good – but comes as a result of company-wide policies around staffing and hiring that each department has a limited (or non-existent) ability to address.

        As a new manager, I guess am considering a semi-philosophical question: when company policy limits your ability to address problems, do you go with prioritizing the employee (who deserves the time) or the client (who is getting frustrated/upset).

        1. Pescadero*

          “when company policy limits your ability to address problems, do you go with prioritizing the employee (who deserves the time) or the client (who is getting frustrated/upset).”

          Neither. You get a new job.

          1. valentine*

            I don’t understand why it’s possible to cover a two week vacation or a four week medical leave but not both.
            People are willing and able to come through in a crunch, bit not two back-to-back non-crunches. You might sacrifice so a colleague can go on a honeymoon, but not a honeymoon and then medical leave and then bereavement leave because you can only stretch so far without failing in your own work.

        2. ThursdaysGeek*

          If the company doesn’t care about coverage and cross training… well, sometimes managers and employees shouldn’t try to care more. That’s not a solution, but it sounds like the company is fine with work gaps and disappointed clients.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            This. If the company doesn’t care enough about happy employees and happy customers to have less wacky policies, it’s not really on the low-level employees to solve all the problems that arise from this lack of planning.

        3. JJ Bittenbinder*

          I feel like we’re not really answering your question, but I think that there is no one answer to it. Everything is case-dependent and a blanket approach isn’t going to work.

          I know we’ve preached the cross-training sermon to you in several places and you’ve stated that it’s not how your company operates, so I wanted to acknowledge your question and the difficulties thereof.

      2. Blue*

        It sounds to me that they weren’t going to train anyone for the vacation time – they were just going to let her tasks sit until she got back from vacation, which wasn’t ideal but fine for two weeks. Those tasks can’t be put off for six weeks – or, in my opinion, they absolutely shouldn’t be, if doing so will alienate a lot of clients. I think I would talk to Sansa to see if there was any flexibility on either of the dates, since I imagine having even a week in between where she’s in the office would help. Otherwise, someone (or someones) have to be trained to pick this up.

        Also, am I the only one baffled that she would ask off during a critical time for her role? I’ve been in a position like this, where I’m the only one who could do certain things, and I can’t imagine taking off for two weeks during a period I knew people would be counting on me to do something. My boss probably would’ve rolled with it if I had, but I don’t want my coworkers to hate me (and let’s be real – there will be some grumpiness from coworkers covering her, whether that’s fair or not.)

        1. AnonEMoose*

          Typically, there’s only one time during the year that I take off more than a day or two at one time, due to an annual volunteer commitment that is very important to me (and over the scheduling of which I do not have control). For a number of years, the timing of this was not ideal due to deadlines, and for a number of years, I had no backup.

          So stuff would just sit until I got back. Which was not ideal, but…I had asked for someone to be cross-trained to do at least the most critical stuff several times, to no avail. So…I kind of figured that management was deciding that the risk of some things not getting done was acceptable. After a few years, I did at least get some back-up, which helped a lot.

          It’s possible that Sansa’s situation is similar. Of course, I’ve also been on the other end of this. A coworker went on maternity leave (so it’s not like it was exactly a surprise!), and I was tasked with some of her work, with no notice and at one of my busier times.

          I was Not. Happy. For multiple reasons, not the least of which was that the work I was tasked with is work I worked hard to get away from doing, and I didn’t appreciate having it dropped in my lap at the last minute. And I REALLY didn’t appreciate having no opportunity to give any input on how much of this I could fit in with my regular work and negotiate some parameters around it. But I didn’t blame the coworker. I blamed Management, 100%.

        2. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

          I saw above that someone talked a little about how since this was a somewhat flexible time for the procedure, this was perhaps a little passive aggressive.
          I’m still holding management accountable, because they haven’t staffed/cross trained corretly, but it can be a bit passive aggressive. It was for me.

          I had an untenable work situation a few years ago, was doing the work of 2 people, and a SME that they did not appreciate at all. (They kept thinking they could lay me off and outsource my knowledge to a contractor at random intervals – I was supporting 5 development teams with specialty teapot formula knowledge, and production support for “final answer” on teapot breakage. ) I had been told I was “probably not needed” and new boss “did not understand what I did or why I was there.” (think – he had one “gather info and then forget it” person per team, just building, and did not think teapots ever needed specialty knowledge to build or maintain once built – and certainly, I had nothing to offer in terms of strategy or experience.).

          I had vacation approved and had paid (in advance) for a trip overseas – non refundable and “boss” was not a reason the trip insurance would kick in. About 6 weeks before that vacation , I had the opportunity to get a medical (I did not use the word elective, boss was a jerk) procedure done – I was paying out of pocket. It required me to be off my feet for over four weeks. I did work from home the fourth week. Boss actually tried to point out that I was “taking time off again” for the vacation, and I pointed out that a medical procedure was not a vacation and he’d previously approved the vacation – which I could cancel if the company would reimburse me for the lost money. Were they going to? They were not, I could not cancel.

          Truth be told, I wouldn’t have scheduled the elective when I did, if they’d been a good department/boss and had adequate staffing. I had two reasons. One, I had a lot of long-term disability saved up, that I lost if I left the company. So I wanted to take that time and get the procedure done while I had paid leave to cover my expenses while out. Second, I figured the 5 teams and production folks would turn to him, for help in addressing the gap, and they’d either cross-train, or at least appreciate me.

          The experience did scare me enough that I beefed up resume, and when I came back and he reiterated that “I should probably find another role as they didn’t need a SME” – I let grandboss know I was looking to move up and out of her group, and why… and said I’d appreciate a good reference to (name of her peer who was hiring). Grand boss freaked out, begged me not to go, and said they’d fix it. Created a position for me, got me support to let me cross train a couple folks in the teams to be SMEs as well (and provided help to document my brain), and a retention bonus, so that if I did not leave, I got an extra bonus at the end of a year.

          But… yes. I knew the importance of my work, but that some managers won’t move out of lethargy until forced. The other benefit was that the woman who had taken credit for part of my work for several years (and thus part of the reason new boss didn’t know my value) was absolutely overloaded because she had to actually do that part of the work, instead of just taking credit for it. (think, making decks to showcase the strategy on those teapot specialties). When she hadn’t done any of the deep thinking on it for several years, and I’d done the decks – and she (as an MA in English) had “honed” and presented them since she was a senior XX.

          It was karma.

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          FWIW Timing may not always be flexible — a family wedding requiring travel, a chance to tag along on a spouse’s conference and only pay food&airfare, winning a prize, or the scheduled time spouse’s company shuts down its facility for a period.

    5. New Here*

      This situation exposes the lack of cross-training and coverage in the company. That’s on the company to fix. Until they can get there – how is it Sansa was trained in the first place? Make those SOP’s or work instructions available or task Sansa to create something that a temp could follow while she’s out.

      There is never a good time to take a break for medical issues and it likely came up after her vacation request / the timing of the procedure isn’t flexible probably.

      I don’t think the manager should rescind the vacation approval. They should use this situation to actively attempt to fix their coverage issue, though.

    6. Hope*

      Sounds like at least one more person needs to be hired and trained as a backup to the parts of these positions that are crucial and no one else knows how to do. You need some redundancy built into your staff if these roles are that critical. Sansa could get hit by a bus (or just take another job) and management would be in this same position. The company created its own serious problem here.

      Since it’s not your department to manage, I guess you don’t really have to worry too much about it, but I would take a hard look at your own department and if at all possible, make sure you’re not boxed into the same lack of coverage problem in areas critical to your work. Training might take ages, but there’s no reason you can’t have people trained in at least some parts of it over a longer period of time (which would then shorten the overall training time to get them up to speed to fill in if needed). At the very least, people should have policies/procedures for their work documented. It also doesn’t hurt if management learns some of the ropes to fill in crucial roles if something happens.

      1. CuriousNewbie*

        It certainly has made me look at my own department to consider this, which is why I asked the question. I would not want to find myself in this situation as a manager (or an employee to be fair). Luckily my department is not quite so rigid in terms of job duties; but it is a good learning experience for me to observe.

    7. Mimi Me*

      No. It’s not appropriate to un-approve vacation that has already been approved. The company should have a plan in place for things like this. It’s not up to Sansa to create that plan for them. She should, if asked, train her coverage. Other than that, no, she should not have to reschedule anything.
      A while back a co-worker here at my company had a similar thing happen. She had taken a 10 day vacation just prior to our busy season, but typically it’s a black out time for PTO as there’s a lot of prep work. Our manager had given her the time off as an exception (it was a trip out of the country for a specific event only held at that time of year). The day before she left her father went into the hospital for a planned surgery. During the time she was away there were complications with his surgery and when she got back she went on FMLA for 6 weeks – straight through our busy season. I think a few people grumbled to our manager about it because we had a meeting about time off / FMLA / sick leave. Basically my manager’s position was that shit happens and sometimes the timing sucks but that we should always feel like we can use our sick time or FMLA when needed. And also that the employee in question would much rather have been at work than having to care for her ill father.

      1. Flash Bristow*

        That last sentence is a very good point. I’m sure most of us would rather be dealing with the day-to-day of work than having to have surgery / deal with a sick relative / plan a funeral, or whatever it is.

    8. CatCat*

      but is it appropriate to un-approve vacation Sansa had already gotten approved?

      No. I wouldn’t be surprised if the result of taking an action like that is that Sansa quits. Then where is the company?

      The solution here is to start some cross-training immediately.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        To be fair – if I were in her situation had had the time off un-approved… I’d start looking for a new job.

    9. PizzaDog*

      That’s genuinely not Sansa’s problem, but one that the company created. What would happen if Sansa found her dream job and quit with no notice, if she got into a car accident and needed a year’s recovery (god forbid), if she won the lotto and walked out with both fingers up. What would the company do then?

      I think now is the perfect time to change how things work in the company and to get some backup training.

    10. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Well that’s bad.

      I will say that I’ve seen this situation before and by trying to push back and remove her vacation approval, you run a huge risk of Sansa just quitting on you. Then how will you handle it?

    11. MoopySwarpet*

      Is it possible for Sansa to do any of this work remotely? I’ve had surgery before where I was out of the office for 6 weeks and then about 1/2 time ramping up to full time over the next 2 weeks. Recovery is hard work! However, I was able to do certain portions of my job remotely to help everyone else keep on top of stuff. I absolutely couldn’t drive into the office and sit for even a couple hours, but I could work for 30 minutes here and there up to longer stretches.

      I do think revoking the vacation is going to cause a bitterness that will make her immediately start looking if not quit on the spot. If she’s otherwise a good employee, I’d be much more likely to be as flexible as possible. If this is a long line of leaving you in the lurch, I’d be much more hesitant to approve inconvenient vacation time for her in the future.

    12. Argh!*

      Anyone could be killed by a meteor at any moment. If you don’t have a plan for how to deal with sudden employee death or absence, then you should have one. And then when they have a planned absence you and everyone else will know what to do.

  9. Transfer Salary*

    I posted a few weeks ago about salary when transferring (TLDR recap – I’m moving from high a CoL city (Emerald City) to a lower one (Kansas), Kansas is a really competitive market, and due to the timing of the move I’m skipping the annual raise)

    I had an interview that went GREAT, and received an offer this week to keep my “Emerald City” salary when I move to “Kansas”.
    When HR made the offer, she stressed how excited the team was about me, so I thought it couldn’t hurt to ask about salary, and countered with one of Alison’s scripts via email: “I am very excited to join the Kansas team! Do you have any flexibility on salary? Since I won’t be eligible for an adjustment until next year, I was hoping we’d be closer to $(offer +5%). If that’s possible, I’m happy to accept and can begin on XYZ. “

    IT’S WORKING. HR took all day to reply (and my heart was pounding each time I heard my email chime) and said they’re talking to the office leaders about my salary. I might get a RAISE by moving to a lower cost of living city!

    Thank you Alison and AAM Community!

      1. Transfer Salary*

        Nope – “Emerald City” and “Kansas” are just stand-ins for a high-CoL/large city (not Seattle) and a moderate-CoL/midsized city.

  10. Fishsticks*

    I was wondering if I could get some advice regarding interviewing potential hires. I’ve read Allison’s posts about it, but I’m still pretty nervous. I’m hiring my replacement in a two person company so it’s very important I select a good person since I’m conducting the phone screening and then deciding if they get an in-person interview. Also my boss is completely incompetent with technology and I literally have shown him how to find saved files about 15 times (he knows he’s not great at this either) so I’m not sure how to ask someone how they deal with the same repetitive question without making my boss look like an idiot.

    Honestly any advice would be very helpful! I’m posting the job today and going to start reviewing applications in a few weeks.

    1. Canonical23*

      Frame the repetitive questions as a need for patience and make it impersonal – “How would you handle a customer or coworker approaching you with a question that you’ve answered previously?” I work in library tech and I’ve been asked that question in so many interviews because the nature of my job often involves answering the same question for the same customer every day for a month. Good candidates will get what you’re hinting at and discuss their level of patience and empathy.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Okay, first of all, breathe and know that you cannot known someone is competent until you hire them and have worked to train them. You may have to hire someone only to fire them rather quickly if they don’t pick up very fast. How long are you giving to transition out of the company?

      You need to find someone who has worked closely in a micro-sized company or who understand the complexity of it. It also depends on what your actual role is and what you’re advertising it as? Are you the support to the owner?

      I won’t lie, this is probably the hardest thing to ever hire for but you can do it. I’d need so much more information about what you’re looking for exactly to give you any questions.

      I had to hire for my role before and it’s accounting/administration, so I need someone with EA experience and also accounting experience, we exist but my God depending on the job searchers at any given time, it takes awhile to find the right fit.

      1. Fishsticks*

        So it’s a bit complicated by the fact I’m two years out of undergrad and I’m going be hiring recent grads who probably are graduating next month. I’m direct support to the owner and basically do everything that needs to be done (except some of the more difficult accounting stuff that we outsource). The role includes writing memos, general assistant work, and billing clients. Also the transition/training will probably be a day of me training the newbie and then giving them a 20-25 page guide to questions they might have (the guide has saved me sooo many times). Also I’m not being fired or let go, I decided I wanted to find a new position but I need to find a replacement first.

        Thank you!

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Oh thank God, this sounds less stressful knowing the details!

          They’re going to be eager to learn and get their feet wet in the job market given their recent graduates. So I would just let them know that the support feature comes with needing to be the tech-savvy person in the office. Which is to be expected.

          Since you have a guide that’s going to be what they depend on, ask them how they learn and how comfortable they are with this training procedure being their go-to. I would frame it as a “learn as you go” set up instead of an in-depth training setup that bigger companies use.

          It comes down to the personality and fit factor most of all here. Most people who are coming out of school are equip for the job smart-wise so now you need to find someone who thrives on independence and the freedom to try things to make them work. They also have your old files to fall back on, so they should have solid research skills [which I pray that anyone just out of school would have!]

          Since you’re not leaving due to hating your boss and wanting his face to rot off ;) is it possible to be on call for awhile in case they have questions? Even if it’s just by email, sometimes that helps a lot in transitioning! If only so you can say “That’s in the manual actually” or “the boss can actually tell you that, he’s familiar!”. It gives them a safety blanket of sorts. I rarely ever get anyone taking me up on the option but you can see the sense of relief wash over them when they know I’m not just flying into the night sky. That’s only if you’re interested in it though, which I figure you may be since working so closely with someone for awhile, you usually at least have some kind of Stockholm Syndrome to fall back on in wanting the boss to succeed after your time is done but if not, I understand that too. I’ve had to cut apron strings a couple times because it was over the top but that was rare.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          And honestly if a grad isn’t ready to answer the same “how do I save this file again?” question 36 times, they need to re-think ever being in a support feature or management later on.

          I’ve hired tons of people at this time and the repeated questions are going to always happen. It comes with the territory of working for people with quirks. So they need patience and if they don’t have it, it’s hard to really know until it’s too late sadly. They’re always say that they’re patient if asked and are ready to go without any issues, until they’re faced with exactly how many times a day you get asked to save a file.

          PS All my previous owners were awful with computers. I had to work on one bosses iphone frequently and I kept reminding him I don’t use apple products but sure, fine give it to me. I tried so hard when I trained my replacement to let them know he needs some assistance with tech a lot of times and they were all “oh no problem, I’m a tech masterrrrrrrrr it’s all goooood.’ They couldn’t even use tech themselves, they were fired within two days of me being gone. So it’ll surface fast if they lie at least. I don’t expect lies when hiring but I expect over-exaggeration and that they’ll obviously be selling what they think I’m buying. Just be open minded and remember that there are no right answers and a lot of it boils down to that gut feeling you get about someone.

          1. Fishsticks*

            Thank you so much! I was planning on offering to the new person my email if they need anything (particularly since my boss just doesn’t have anything to do with the day-to-day so he often doesn’t know the answer lol)

            I’ll definitely ask about the tech stuff using the repetitive tasks. Yeah this is definitely a fit issue as well since if my boss doesn’t like someone, they won’t get hired since we have to work so closely together.

    3. MoopySwarpet*

      That’s a tough one! I’m personally fair to great (depending on the day and other deadlines) at being patient with someone higher up than I am who has consistent issues with all kinds of things with the same/similar solution every time (did you try turning it off and on again). It’s relatively easy for me to be kind and patient with his lack of technical skills.

      On the other hand, I have a much harder time being patient with newer/younger people who should be able to remember these kinds of things and just doesn’t even try.

      I think something you could ask would be how they are at breaking down and explaining everyday technology. Maybe ask them to explain how to [simple tech task] and then simulate how your boss might react. Such as with saving, a fairly tech savvy person could quickly follow go to file, save as . . . but your boss might interrupt and need to be told where to find “file.” (I swear I have had similar conversations regarding printing . . . especially if a different printer is needed.)

      1. Fishsticks*

        Oooh that’s a great idea I didn’t think of since that’s literally what I do, (me: click the refresh button him: where is it/what’s it look like). So I definitely will keep that in mind. Thanks!

    4. Sleepytime Tea*

      I was… perhaps extremely honest when I was bringing in a replacement for me at a job. I told them straight up about a few of my boss’s quirks. (Two person company, just the boss and an assistant.) I told them that she would refuse to remove people from her totally spammy mass e-mails, but that they should do it anyway (because respect people). I told them she might get ridiculous and ask them to do things like put away her groceries (home office, and they should absolutely feel free to refuse such things, she wouldn’t get upset about it). I told them that she would try to call them on holidays and ask them to skip classes (we were both college students) and things like that to come and respond to an e-mail for her (and that they should also refuse to do that, and she would get over it).

      I could go into a lot of detail about the weirdness of that job, but what I wanted to make sure of was that the person knew that these strange requests would probably happen, and also that they knew that she wouldn’t go ballistic if they set appropriate boundaries, which I had done (I was leaving of my own free will). The person hired was appreciative of me being honest and for the tips, and they ended up working out great.

      It might be kind of weird to dump what you see as your boss’s short comings on someone, but in some ways it’s actually better for everyone. “The person you’ll be working with needs a lot of assistance with technology, even very basic tasks. Do you feel comfortable being asked to support them more than you might normally expect to in an office setting?” is a perfectly reasonable question to ask, and you should expect an answer along the lines of “absolutely, I have worked with people who have trouble using the printer constantly and always am happy to help them with it.”

  11. Kate Corrigan*

    I work at a state university and I just applied to a job at a different state university (same state). It was one of those horrible applications where you upload your resume and then enter in your education/work history (i.e. everything on your resume) with some supplemental questions. The application specifically asked about your current or previous jobs working for any state agency. Your total time working for the state is important for benefit reasons. Obviously I have no problem listing my current job, but 7 years ago I had a job at another state agency. I was there for a few months and then fired. This job is not listed on my resume or LinkedIn. I did not enter it in the work history part of the application, but I felt like I needed to be honest in the part of the application asking about work for any state agency, so I put it in. I’m hoping only HR will see it and that the hiring manager won’t see that I’ve mentioned working at a place that isn’t on my resume anywhere. Should I worry about this?

    1. Antilles*

      I wouldn’t worry about it.
      First off, many hiring managers aren’t going to read every line of the application and usually focus most on the resume.
      Secondly, even if they do read the entire application and see it, they likely won’t think much of a job you were at for only a few months 7 years ago. Especially for a short stint so long ago, the HM would likely just write it off as something you didn’t bother to list on your resume for space reasons because really, that short of stay isn’t going to be worth much anyways. No sane person would think it’s some kind of lie or intent to mislead or something.

    2. gmg22*

      I think Allison’s mentioned before that there’s no rule that resumes have to be exhaustive, and that seems like a good guideline here. That said, I’d still be prepared for it to come up in the interview and just to give an honest answer.

      We are in a hiring process right now where the leading candidate left a short-lived but recent position off his resume, but because we work in a small community and the position in question was PR-related, a question about it came up through word of mouth among my colleagues. Our boss is very well-connected and asked around to get the scoop about this, and it was nothing that would sink this candidate’s chances (to the contrary, it happened because candidate was sold a bill of goods about what previous position would be). So it wasn’t a problem at all, but it’s a good reminder to be prepared to answer any and all questions about both things that are on your resume and things that aren’t.

  12. Anon for Layoffs*

    I need to scream this into the void because it’s killing me. We are laying off 10 staff in a matter of weeks. No one knows except us on the Exec Team. I can’t talk to anyone else about it and it’s eating me alive. I can’t stand to see the faces (or even read names in emails!) of the people I know are getting let go. It’s a necessary step. The org has been completely mismanaged for years and new leadership is doing what needs to be done to save us. But damn it hurts. And I have to personally deliver the news to one of my staff. Ugh.
    Has anyone else had to do this? Commiseration or advice??

    1. Save One Day at a Time*

      Sending you hugs and/or handshakes friend. So sorry. I feel like the amount of empathy you have here will be good. Allison has given a bunch of advice about this over the years, don’t make it about you etc, but I know you know that. I think it’s okay to practice self-care right now to manage your stress, even if it might feel indulgent because you aren’t being laid off, but it will help you focus and be in the present as much as possible.

      That just stinks though. I’m sorry

    2. Ellen*

      Not terribly helpful, but I’m so sorry you are feeling this anguish. As much as you can, stay clear in your mind about why it must happen- sounds like you are in agreement that the layoffs are necessary. Know it’s going to be terrible, but this is the worst part…dreading it. Once the news is out, at least you won’t feel like you are guiltily guarding a harmful secret. Hang in there. Your conscience is healthy!

    3. MsManager*

      I am in a similar boat! The company is probably going to be sold in about 3 weeks and a whole bunch of people could be laid off without warning when it happens. Only the exec team and myself know. It is making me crazy!!

      1. T. Boone Pickens*

        -Under no circumstances say how hard this is for you to do this. You still have a job, the other person doesn’t.
        -Don’t get emotional, the last thing the person getting fired wants to see is the person doing it getting teary eyed.
        -Clearly communicate all parts of the separation and mention all benefits that the separated employee is entitled to receive (this might fall to HR in your org).
        -If possible, explain why this is happening.
        -Don’t take it personal if the other person gets a little heated. You’re unfortunately serving as the vessel for this bad news.

        That’s all I can think of off hand, I’m sure other commentators can add more. Good luck.

          1. T. Boone Pickens*

            Oh, my apologies. I saw your line about you possibly being the one to deliver news to one of the individuals and assumed you’d be the one firing them.

              1. MsManager*

                Ah no worries! I am but a humble document jockey in my particular situation so I was a bit confused–but I’m in a similar boat of wanting to scream into the void. It’s weird going to meetings and walking around with the knowledge that everything is about to blow up and everyone else is unaware

    4. Kathenus*

      As someone who’s been laid off, please really think about how you do this in a respectful manner. If you have staff who are performing well in their jobs who unfortunately need to be laid off, if you can do so please consider giving them an optional notice period to work before their separation, in addition to an appropriate severance agreement. If the person chooses to not work the notice, that’s fine. But if they’d like to, whether it be to have a couple of extra weeks of pay as they begin to figure out next steps for their life, to tie up loose ends so that they as a professional feel like they are doing the right thing for the organization, or to be able to have a transition period with their colleagues – let them have this option.

      It is SO hard and demoralizing to be told – you’re a great employee, we’re sorry this unfortunate thing has to happen, and oh yeah leave right now because we don’t trust you to be a professional anymore. There may be rare incidences where this isn’t possible, but I often hear that people can’t do that because they’re afraid the employees will do something to sabotage things or some other unprofessional conduct. But if you trusted the person until literally that very day, please don’t throw all that out the window in this situation. And yes, I speak from experience regarding how destructive this is to the person being laid off.

      And afterwards, don’t act like these people don’t exist. I’ve been at two facilities that did significant layoffs. At #1, it was like they erased the people’s existence from all conversation. At #2 they were still discussed in professional contexts, and respectfully, as if they had moved on for another reason. It’s an unfortunate reality in many businesses, but it can absolutely be done in ways that are more positive and respectful, or negative and demoralizing. I’m sorry you’re in this position, I had to lay off one person once do to an unintended domino effect from a reduction in force and it really sucks. Just do everything you can to treat them right. And absolutely proactively tell them that you support unemployment for them.

      1. Anon for Layoffs*

        I am happy to say that the one thing I can hold onto in all this is that we are doing it right. Because the layoffs are for financial reasons (we don’t even have enough in the bank to make payroll without a line of credit), we are not able to keep people on after their layoff, BUT we are paying out all unused vacation and everyone is getting severance. So people will be getting a good 3 months or more payout as a cushion to figure out what’s next. We will not contest unemployment.
        Ironically, we have spent more time on HOW we are going to do the layoffs than WHO to layoff. The logistics of it all, what to do with remote employees, etc. From reading this blog, I said from the start I was going to make sure we treated everyone with as much respect and dignity as possible. Luckily the rest of leadership feels the same way. We’re a good group in an unfortunate situation for sure.

        1. Kathenus*

          Thank you for considering so strongly the HOW on this. People will respect this, even if it might be after the fact with the shock of the situation. And as Alison mentions, the employees that stay will see how this is handled and will view the organization with how well or poorly this is handled in the future. Best of luck.

        2. Snarktini*

          It warms my heart to hear your team cares about how you do this, and are making a real effort on severance. Thank you.

          I worked in a toxic ad agency that had previously done really shitty layoffs. We collectively expressed our disappointment and fear, and they promised never to do that again. The next person let go (for cause!) was given a generous package, living up to their promise. But then they hit harder times, and dropped 75% of us on the *31st of the month* with *zero severance* and *no health insurance* as of the following day. They couldn’t have even given us one paycheck, or a month of insurance? Sigh.

      2. Dasein9*

        Also replying as someone who has been laid off: if you can provide references or networking opportunities for the folks who have to go, that will mean a lot. Even if it doesn’t lead directly to a job, boosting the reputations of the people being laid off can go quite a long way, depending on the industry.

        (Almost three years on, one of the biggest sore points remaining for me is the utter lack of support from the people who were made to look good by my success.)

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Been there, done it. It’s awful, it’s a “dead man walking” feeling in the pit of your stomach.

      Just remember that the hurt for you is very temporary. Once they’re gone, you’ll be fine after a few days. It sound so callous to say that but it’s true. It’s the dreadful lead up to the plank that hurts the most for us who have to do that, it’s still forever worse for the person on the receiving end and just be compassionate and internalize your emotions as much as possible. Venting and seeking commiseration here is a great option *hugs*

    6. Marthooh*

      Maybe try to put together a list of local support services, how to apply for unemployment compensation, help available from the public library, and… I don’t know, maybe there’s a website somewhere devoted to helping people find the right job?

    7. Akcipitrokulo*

      Remember this is not something that you have caused, and if you have any influence, do everything you can to make it as least bad as possible -advocate for generous redundancy/severance pay, let people have garden leave or paid time off if they get an interview during their notice period, and treat people respectfully throughout.

    8. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

      It sounds like you’re handling it as well as it can be handled. What about any outplacement assistance? If your company can’t afford to do anything official, can you at least make a list of resources and offer it?

  13. BlueDays*

    Some interviewers are directly or indirectly expressing concern about how long I’ll stay in jobs I’m “overqualified” for. It’s getting frustrating because I don’t mention anything about specifically looking for part time work or wanting to be underemployed in my cover letter, so I don’t feel like I’m being misleading in any way and I’m not sure why they want me to interview if leaving for something better is a concern.

    I’ve been unemployed for a long time, so I need any job I can get, whether it’s only part-time or a full time job that’s a 60% pay drop from my previous job. If I got a job and was underemployed, I’d keep job hunting, but, at this rate, I might not be able to get a better job for years or maybe even never. How am I supposed to know if I’d stay long term or not?

    How should I address concerns about how long I’ll stay without admitting I’d leave if offered a significantly better job? Is there some way I could ask if it’s a deal breaker before phone screenings or going to interviews? Phone screenings and interviews are a huge stress and time suck for me (and the ghosting or rejections afterwards are depressing), so if I’m going to be rejected for being a flight risk I’d rather just skip them. I have a phone screening for a part time job scheduled next week and I’m dreading it.

    1. Ali G*

      Can you say something like: “I understand this position seems like a step back from my previous jobs, but I am really interested in learning more about X and getting back to doing Y. I hope this position can get me back on a path back to Z, which might mean my role is smaller than previously.”
      So basically you aren’t really answering the question, but showing you get it, and why you would want the job regardless (that isn’t I just need a job, any job!).

      1. BlueDays*

        I think this would actually work for the interview I have next week. I’ve been applying to position X type jobs that I’m really interested in, have the degree for and would be good at because of transferable skills, but that require 1-3 years of experience I don’t have so I never hear back from them. The part time job I applied to is basically the most entry level version of the job (requires no experience and no degree). So I could talk about how I’m interested in learning about it and trying to get on that career path. Thanks!

    2. Lucette Kensack*

      I think the only way to avoid this entirely is to not apply for jobs that you don’t want to stay in long-term (i.e., jobs where you’d keep searching after you accepted, because you were overqualified/underpaid/part-time/etc.)

      Being a “flight risk” is going to be a problem in most jobs. Nobody wants to hire someone and have them leave six weeks later, so any employer that has options is going to try avoid hiring someone who they suspect will leave. (It’s actually good hiring practice that they’re asking about it in interviews, rather than assuming it based on your application!)

      You’re in a tough spot, and I’m not saying that you can’t take one of these jobs and then leave it if you get a better offer. But I don’t think you can avoid being asked about the possibility, unless you avoid those kinds of jobs altogether. You just need to decide whether the stress of interviewing — and dealing with this question, and potential rejection as a result — is worth it.

      1. BlueDays*

        I would just not apply to jobs where I’d be a flight risk, but there just aren’t a lot of jobs I can apply to that I’m well qualified for or almost qualified for, and I feel like I have to apply to more than one or two jobs a week. Honestly, I get the most calls back about jobs I’m overqualified for. :/

        1. Meißner Porcellain Teapot*

          Eh, frankly, I’d like to push back on that. I think some of the worst job-searching advice I’ve ever gotten was “you need to apply for at least X amount of jobs per week/day”, because:

          1) The more jobs you apply for in a short timeframe, the more superficial your search, research and presentation is likely going to be. You’re likely to go sacrificing quality for quantity.

          2) Résumés and cover letters written from such a vantage point tend to smell of desperation. It’s like you can tell when people have been single for six years and are desperately trying to hook up and OMG YOU GOTTA SAYS YES I’M DYING HERE. Not a good look.

          I’m not saying that that’s definitely how your applications come across, but it’s a very real possibility.

          Honestly, as someone who once started working for a run-of-the-mill call center while having two Masters degrees on her résumé, here is what I can advise:

          1) Be very upfront about the fact that you are aware that you are overqualified. You can do this either in your cover letter or in the interview.

          2) Find at least one or two things to be really excited about regarding the job you’re applying to (or that you can at least fake enthusiasm about).

          3) Commit to a reasonable period to stay and then use that period to really search for jobs that you do actually want.

          For example, I was applying for a working holiday visa in another country when I appplied for the call center job. I mentioned that in my cover letter, explained that I did not expect to have the application granted and the visa issued sooner than within 8 weeks and that it would be valid for a year, so I was looking forward to spending at least a full year working in customer service and contributing skills X and Y that are not commonly associated with call center agents. I also pointed out that I really liked the fact that this call center was doing weekend and night shifts, because [insert reasons] (I don’t remember what I wrote, but the truth is that I was an introvert, single and fresh out of college, so I had zero commitments and night/weekend work paid extra). In the end, my interviewer still asked me about my over-qualifications, I explained my reasoning from the cover letter in more detail and in the end I was hired full-time and became one of their best employees. My working holiday visa was issued the week before I started and so I ended up leaving a little earlier than expected, but there were still no hard feelings.

    3. Mazzy*

      My biggest concern when hiring would be someone not being happy with the salary we offer and then accepting anyway, and always being resentful about it, and also not really being willing to do the lower level work that gets mixed into all of our roles. So if you expressed flexibility with those items and examples of doing work that was below the level of your previous level and liking it, or at least being OK with it, that would put me at ease hiring you.

      1. BlueDays*

        I’ve had low paying jobs doing lower level work before where I had to work extra hard because other people slacked off (they didn’t take the job seriously or didn’t care because they weren’t getting paid well), so I can understand the salary and lower level work concerns.

        I try to explain why I’m interested in the positions (I like tasks x, y and z) and why I’d be good at it (I have skills a, b and c). I guess maybe they just want someone who’s more passionate about it or has a specific reason to be doing it (wanting lower stress work, having to take care of a family member, etc), so I seem suspicious.

        1. Mazzy*

          Oh I think you’d be good if you’re explaining specific tasks you liked and why you’re good at them. I’ve had people in interviews just say “I’m Ok with doing that” type comments when I’ve asked about basic tasks, and that alarmed me.

            1. Mazzy*

              ONLY saying that is bad. “Are you OK doing data entry a few hours a week even though your previous role was higher level work.” “…yes…(silence).” Not great in an interview, in my experience, that basically means they’re not OK with it.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ve taken jobs that are a step back from what I’m actually qualified to do. I usually tell people that I’m interested in working for them and doing the job that’s being posted, that I’m a dedicated person that doesn’t have any desire or ingrained mission to hop around on jobs unless opportunity really presents itself. Thankfully my track record also shows that, so they can’t really question it.

      I also explain that I have many interests and strengths that work well across the board and that I don’t need to do X to be happy, that Y works just fine for me too. I try to drive home that I’m versatile and can be happy doing just about anything for the right company. Keeping pushing it back as a “for the right company, I’m happy to be a part of the team, wherever you can find a place to put me!”

    5. TL*

      “If I got a job and was underemployed, I’d keep job hunting” – this is exactly what the hiring managers you’re talking to are worried about. Because it’s a valid worry! It’s also totally valid that that’s what you’re planning to do.

      My advice would be to think of an answer that satisfies their question of why you’re interested in that particular role that expresses something other than “I need any job.” I interviewed a candidate like this a while back. She’d been unemployed for a while after a layoff and had been a Director previously. She was applying for a Manager level job, which she was overqualified for on paper. She told us she’d been a Director and realized that type of role wasn’t for her. She didn’t like sitting in meetings all day and dealing with the politics; she was much happier doing the work of an individual contributor. It was believable and we hired her. (I think it was genuinely true, too, but you can have a similar answer even if it’s not true for you).

      In my experience a lot of hiring managers think about where a particular job would fit in the logic of someone’s career trajectory, which I think does make sense to consider. That doesn’t mean you can’t make the case that a particular job is for you even if you seem overqualified, but you do have to actually make the case if it appears out of line with what a “normal” next step would be for someone of your level.

    6. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

      I “dropped down” (significantly) some years ago when I left toxicjob and interviewed for MONTHS before finding CurrentCompany. ToxicJob was with a high flying, well paying tech company, and a wonderful stock and bonus plan. But… I had an insane commute (5 hours to get home on my worst day ever), horrendous, long and sometimes erratic hours (think East coast coverage, so 6 am, but spiking to being there until 11:45 pm randomly on some proposal grinds), folks screaming at me…. and a mean boss (I did not mention the last one).
      Current job was known for being one of the 100 best employers, a quasi-non-profit with a mission statement and values that they (mostly) live, and honest leadership. And I could take public transit and still be there in an hour.
      I did an analysis of my hourly pay (door to door) and the pay broke out to the same, basically.
      More than that, I leaned heavily on why I was changing. It was important to me to not sound desperate (I was, but it is like my dating – the more desperate I sounded, the less attractive I was).
      My emphasis was on “I do my best work when I believe in the value of the company’s mission” and I “have done informational interviews with others who work here and understand that your company lives out it’s values and I would be honored to contribute my skills to furthering your mission.” In my case, knowing myself, I did add “I am not adverse to overtime and extra effort to ensure success, but I believe that a well run company has solid staffing plans and supports the health and well being of their workers… (I referenced my two anecdotes on the unrealistic expectations – including one about napping on the coach and getting back to work instead of going home, etc)
      I was hired. I rose up. I’m now double what I was hired at (granted, 15 years and much self-training and company-sponsored training and therapy later). I am about where I was with bonuses and stock value (which we don’t have) before, but I am sane and happy. And not dead from stress.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      This is hard. I have this problem–overqualified for most of the available jobs, but underqualified for the jobs I want. I never know what to say.

  14. SOAS*

    Reading yesterday’s discussion about bullying had me wondering a lot about this situation.

    We let go of an employee this week. They reported to me and 2 other managers. The employee claimed we were bullying them and putting them down. We let them go due to documented performance issues. I don’t think this was bullying or out to get them.

    performance wise they were alright (or so we thought) but their attitude was hot and cold and now we are finding that they lied about a lot of the work and it wasn’t done. (Ie things were marked as complete but then when we checked they were not filed at all).

    Things started out fine. They started as an intern and were hired FT to an administrative position but they wanted to be promoted to associate. We explained very clearly that they need X to be promoted. Typically other interns/admins have to get X AND be here for a minimum 6 months before promotions. The employee wanted a special schedule, which we never grant but did so for them. After the revisit period, Employee had not gotten X so there was no promotion. They then went above their manager’s head to our director and HR and CEO and said that we were discriminating against them and bullying them.

    After the promotion denial, over the next couple of months the employee would call out sick or came in late many times (we do not have flexible times or remote work, it requires them to be in the office). After the third call out, they were asked for a Doctor’s note which was not produced.

    During an extremely busy day, I assigned them a task that they is literally part of their job description that was part of the busy day. They pushed back, saying they didn’t want their numbers to be affected. When i gave them feedback, they said they get picked on. (to that point, whenever we saw anyone behaving a certain way, we nicely corrected them so it wasn’t a matter of turning a blind eye but we don’t announce “so and so was disciplined for doing this”). The thing that really irked me was that when I gave them the feedback, they tried to give ME feedback about MY behavior.

    They were hourly but automatically approved for overtime. So The final straw was that they were clocked out for several hours which one of the mgrs tried to talk to them about when they came back. When he brought it up, they screamed at him in front of everyone, saying that we’re out to get them And that everyone else gets a free pass to do whatever they want and they don’t get in trouble. They said “Some people go out for 2 hours and get their hair done and don’t get in trouble for it.” The mgr asked them who? and they pointed to me. Another mgr stepped in and we were taken to a room to talk. (Also that accusation is absolutely untrue and has no basis. I never did that).

    They ultimately were let go after that outburst.
    I feel like we did everything right — outline exactly what was needed to achieve a promotion, gave feedback when necessary. Documented everything from HR standpoint. It took several months and from what I heard, HR was talking to lawyers about this (b/c of the lawsuit threats).

    So… was this bullying? To be honest I liked them in the beginning and was supportive of them getting promoted. There were small issues beforehand but it amplified once the promotion didn’t happen.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Nope. Not bullying. Being held accountable is not bullying.
      Seems like a pretty well documented case of performance issues, many of which were quantifiable.
      Let it go.

    2. Amethystmoon*

      I would say no, as someone who has been bullied. True bullying would have been raising your voice to the employee in front of everyone, and belittling him/her for whatever performance issue it was. This was addressing problems that needed to be addressed.

      1. SOAS*

        You bring up a good point…. I wasn’t treated very well in t he start of my job and there was a short time last year where I felt like I was being bullied, but it never really occurred to me that that’s what it was. So I am having a hard time separating bullying from being held accountable.

        Forthis person, I definitely feel like we held the person accountable. On one occasion I was going to talk to them and they put their hand up and said “don’t talk to me, email me only.” That’s so extremely out of line in our office culture that I was shocked. I wasn’t manager at the time so I didn’t feel I had much standing to say anything and they apologized afterwards and things were “fine” so I let it go. On another occasion, they said “you only got promoted b/c you’re (boss’s) *friend*” (untrue as well).

    3. The Tin Man*

      What MissDisplaced said – they were being held accountable. I assume they were clearly told “You did not get the promotion because you did not achieve X. When you do get there we will of course revisit this”.

      Was the third day doctor note request for a third consecutive day or the third day they called in sick overall? That’s the only thing that sticks out to me if it were the latter. If it was three days in a row a note is pretty standard.

      It really sounds like this person felt that they were being held to a different standard while not having a realistic sense of what standard everyone else was being held to and achieving/not achieving. The thing that puts the behavior over the line was outright lying about you leaving for two hours for a hair appointment. Given the other behavior it almost seems like they noticed you leave for something pre-approved like a dentist appointment and just assumed that it was a hair appointment for no particular reason.

      1. SOAS*

        I’m really not sure how they were held ot a different standard. It was the outburst that put them over the line not so much the hair comment (which was just SO out of left field). They were clearly told what was needed for the promotion and others were held to the same standard. As soon as they achieved XX they were moved up. so there were examples of people being held accountable.

        And for the hair comment..which was so out of left field . I did talk to my mgr about it (we have a good relationship) and he said it doesn’t matter even if I did, I’m salary and dont’ get paid overtime so it’s no one’s business if i’m not at my desk for 20 minutes at a time or something… and… I dont’ know maybe this is a tangent but our director works from home for days at a time or comes in at different hours than everyone else. As someone who reports to her, I would feel it’s very inappropriate for me to point that out and say its unfair. (it’s also b/c work gets done from their end).

        1. The Tin Man*

          Sorry if I wasn’t clear – the employee FELT they were held to a different standard. They weren’t actually.

    4. BlueDays*

      Definitely no bullying. Everything was handled professionally, fairly and reasonably on your end.

      It sounds like the ex-employee was very entitled and had unrealistic expectations and perceptions about work place norms.

      1. SOAS*

        I suppose that was it. I try to be sensitive about the whole “millenials are entitled” stereotype and other things, reading things here makes me more aware of different perspectives and all. I also feel like there’s a level of accountability as well?

        Plus this person was constantly saying they deserved it b/c they had an internship at a prestigious company. Like, I think that was great experience to have, but I don’t think that gives someone license to look their nose down at everyone they report to.

        Many years ago, before I started working here and I wsa still struggling to get a job. I was let go from a temp assignment. I was devastated and crushed. I had a lot going on. The person I worked for said. “I can deal with lack of skills but I can’t deal with a bad attitude.” As loaded as a statement that was, it’s stuck with me all these years.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          I’ve had a Bully Boss in the past, and it definitely wasn’t like this. Bully bosses seek to undermine, belittle or berate you even if you’re doing good work and behaving along normal workplace lines. Or they gaslight by telling you to do one thing, and then lying and saying they never told you that.
          It doesn’t sound like this was the case w/your employee at all.

        2. Iron Chef Boyardee*

          “Plus this person was constantly saying they deserved it b/c they had an internship at a prestigious company.”

          “Then how come you’re not working at Prestigious Company full-time?”

          Appropriate response to such a comment? Yes or no?

          1. SOAS*

            Not gnona lie, I thought this but never actually said it out loud. It would’vefelt too mean to say.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      From the details you’ve shared, it doesn’t sound like it.

      Also even if they are bullied, you don’t respond like they did without getting terminated. They only complained about bullying when they were in trouble it sounds like, not during their good-attitude periods. Which is a huge flag to me.

      Yes some people can crack after awhile and snap if they are bullied but this doesn’t sound like the case. They wanted special treatment and don’t understand how the office structure works. Just because someone can get their hair done every so often or have a standing appointment even, doesn’t mean that Anyone Who Wants It just gets to decide to go ahead and go on with it. Most of the time that kind of thing is approved in some manner anyways, to assume you can just do it is not the right way to go about it.

      They can threaten lawsuits all they want. That’s why businesses have lawyers and it’s the right thing to do to talk to legal counsel as HR is doing. Don’t sweat it. If it boils down to you doing something wrong along the way, HR needs to retool the procedures somewhere but it honestly sounds like just a loose cannon who wants to steamroller you and not someone who is actually bullied or retaliated against. A LOT of people throw around “I don’t feel safe” and “This is bullying” to try to manipulate the situation.

      1. JunieB*

        I agree! When I was in a situation where one of my supervisors was constantly belittling me and I felt unsafe, I checked in with some higher-ups to make sure my performance was strong and my behavior was acceptable, and made every effort to follow through on the suggestions I was given. When the harassment from the supervisor continued, I talked to her, and when she responded with more insults, I talked to HR. But throughout the whole process, I made sure my performance was good, and that paid off. There was no question about the fact that I was looking for help, not making excuses.

    6. Argh!*

      If they really were punished for actions that weren’t punishable in that climate, yes, it could be construed as bullying. If an organization is relaxed about timekeeping but punishes one person for being relaxed about timekeeping, that person has indeed been singled out.

      Whether it’s *illegal* bullying would depend on whether the person is in a protected class.

      1. SOAS*

        Everyone is held to the same standard in their position. Now, The time thing, so we work on an honor basis I guess? If you say you worked 70 hours, we take your word for it, we don’t audit it esp during busy season. But if someone is caught doing it like they were, there’s consequences (I can’t say they were the only one caught, as I am not aware of what happens on others’ teams). Policy here is also that you don’t *have* to clock out for 10-15 m short breaks, as almost everyone takes a short coffee break daily. I don’t monitor people’s comings and goings, but we just happened to notice they were out of office for several hours but still clocked in.

        1. Argh!*

          Breaks are supposed to be on the clock. The issue would be if everyone else disappears for hours on end while on the clock on a regular basis, it’s bullying if only one person gets punished for it. Also, if someone just forgot to clock out one time and they were punished for time theft, that would be rather excessive.

    7. Sleepytime Tea*

      Some people think they are being bullied whenever they don’t get their way. I had two coworkers who would go find an empty conference room and knit for HOURS. Then complain about their heavy workloads and how our manager was asking too much of them. When they left, they filed complaints saying they were bullied by our manager. Our manager asked them to… do their work. Nicely, but repeatedly. They reacted like she was Amanda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada asking them to get a copy of the unpublished Harry Potter book.

      In reality, people like this are usually the ones who are the bullies. Screaming at someone? That’s bullying behavior, intended to intimidate to get what they want. They’re the bully, not you.

    8. Bagpuss*

      As others have said, this doesn’t sound like bullying, but like them being held accountable and not liking it.
      I had a similar issue with an employee who accused me of bullying him. In my case, what I had done was to check In with him about the progress of a specific, time-sensitive task he had, and make it clear that he needed to get it done, after he repeatedly failed to do it and lied about it. He accused me of treating him differently to other employees, and wasn’t able to grasp that he had been treated the same but then we had had to start to manage him more closely because of his performance issues.
      Some people react by attacking when they are held to account for their own actions

  15. merp*

    Classic nightmare – I found an error in my CV after applying to a few things. Think saying I started in March 2017 when I meant to say I started in March 2018. It was an honest mistake but I’m super worried that I now look like I am lying about how much experience I have (or am just careless, which is apparently not completely wrong)! Ugh, I’m so embarrassed.

    I asked someone else in my field (I’m in academia) and they encouraged me to reach out to correct it since I had a specific contact and an interview scheduled. I got back a reply that thanked me and that was it. I so hope I haven’t ruined my chances at this job :( Had fears about the interview being pulled but that doesn’t seem to be the case at least. Any thoughts here? If you were a hiring manager, would you forgive this?

    1. WriterNotEditor*

      This reminds me of when I was applying to editing jobs right out of college. Late at night and sleep-deprived, I blasted out applications to every company in town, stating that I had, and I quote, “a eye for detail.” Mortifying in any field, but especially when the entire job requires noticing that kind of typo! (I eventually did find an editing job and surprise surprise, I hated it! I’m more of a big-picture person than a details person. Now I’m a writer and it’s someone else’s job to fix my typos ;) )

      I think it depends on the job. It’s not a great look, but if you interview well and are the top candidate it’s probably not the end of the world. If it’s a communications-related job and that level of attention to detail is needed, it could count against you. But at the end of the day you’ll probably never know what’s going on in their heads. I would just revise and apply elsewhere, and use this as a learning experience that you can laugh about one day!

    2. BlueDays*

      Not a hiring manager, but I’ve had cover letters where I mentioned being “detail-oriented” and made some sort of stupid typo so I can commiserate. Soooo mortifying. I’d think a hiring manager would be forgiving about a single typo as long as it wasn’t for a writing or editing job. Hopefully they’ve job hunted before and understand that candidates are usually applying to many jobs where they have to write custom cover letters and fill out lengthy applications in a short time period, so little mistakes are bound to be made. (A lot of the e-mails I get from recruiters, hiring managers and HR have awkward wording or typos or other mistakes in them!)

      1. Wendy Darling*

        I sent two cover letters for two nearly-identical jobs at different (but very similar) companies on the same day, so I wrote a cover letter for one company and then edited it a little to use for the other company.

        Only when the second company scheduled me for an interview and I looked back at what I’d said to them did I realize I had *left the first company’s name in the letter I sent them*. I didn’t notice I talked about the entire wrong company in one line of this letter.

        Apparently they didn’t notice either!

      2. Dasein9*

        Using that phrase always seems to doom one to a typo!

        I have a theory that someone early on coded MS Word to create a small error in any document that contains the phrase “detail-oriented” 30 minutes after the document is saved and closed.

    3. whistle*

      I would forgive this. You corrected it, and it can easily be explained as typo (as opposed to fraud).

      Good luck!

    4. Works in IT*

      In my haste to scramble to get documents that are due Monday morning done in the next ten minutes I just realized I had set the date to “1/19/19” instead of “4/19/19”. And it’s for a massive evaluation of whether we can generate error free documentation, the results of which will determine if we can push for more manpower and an admin assistant.

    5. LJay*

      Absolutely. Everyone makes mistakes. This morning I sent one of our freight forwarders a tariff code for nuclear reactors when I meant to send the tariff code for seats. I noticed it, corrected it, everything was fine.

      If it were for a very detail-oriented job, I might have some concerns, but unless I saw other indications during the process of similar issues it wouldn’t be a disqualifying factor by any means.

      And proactively reaching out and correcting it would show me that you weren’t intending to benefit from a lie.

      If it were caught on our background check, it could be a problem. But even then usually you are given a chance to explain. (And this would be aided by certain things. If you were employed at another job from January 2016 until February 2018 we would be more likely to believe that it was a typo than if you were employed from January 2016 to February 2017 and then had a gap of employment that the typo conveniently covered).

      But being honest and proactive about it was definitely the right call. If it was going to be disqualifying, it would be disqualifying whether they found out about it immediately or didn’t find out until at the end of the process (or even after you got hired).

      However, if it wasn’t disqualifying in and of itself, the perception of dishonestly could throw it over into being disqualifying. Being open and proactive about it eliminates the perception of dishonesty.

    6. Darren*

      Even if I noticed such a date discrepancy on an applicants resume I wouldn’t have rejected someones resume over it. I might have asked for clarification during an interview to see whether they were working at two places at the same time (not impossible) or whether they just made a typo on the date.

      If you emailed me about it I’d have replied with, “Thanks for the correction.” removed the question from the list I would have been asking and moved on. The only role I could see it mattering in is one where absolutely no mistakes in such material is acceptable.

    7. GB*

      Are you me? I did the same thing but didn’t notice until I had an unofficial offer. I didn’t need say anything and it wracked me with guilt for almost the full first year I worked there. Props to you for mentioning it! I hope you get the offer and you’ll be able to accept guilt free.

  16. Bye Academia*

    How does your workplace handle paychecks during Leap Year?

    I get paid biweekly, and I noticed the gross pay for my last paystub was $10 lower than normal. I asked the payroll department about it, and it’s because the new fiscal year (4/1/2019 – 3/31/2020) includes Leap Day. They normally take my annual pay, divide it by 365, then multiply by 14 to get my biweekly pay. But for the next year they will divide by 366 instead. I understand it all works out mathematically, but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth that, in practice, my paychecks are lower for the next year. I’m exempt so my hours aren’t counted anyway, but it’s like I’m working an extra day “for free”. Is this pretty common?

    1. Elizabeth Proctor*

      That’s odd. I was under the assumption that biweekly pay was calculated by salary/26.

        1. valentine*

          it’s like I’m working an extra day “for free”.
          But you’re paid by the year. Wanting an extra day’s pay is like saying you want to switch to hourly for that day or year.

          1. Bye Academia*

            I don’t think I worded that the best way. The whole reason I like being salaried exempt is not having to nickel and dime hours/days. But it feels like that’s what’s happening in practice because this extra day is making my pay lower for the fiscal year (it’s still a 26 pay check year).

            The more I write about this, the more I think my issue is just with biweekly pay. I’d rather have my actual salary paid to me every year than getting less most years and more once in a while in a 27 paycheck year. I know I’m getting paid the correct amount in the end, but I’d rather it be more consistent.

            1. Not A Manager*

              Just be glad it’s not paid on Leap Day, because then you’d only get a salary once every four years.

            2. Iron Chef Boyardee*

              “I’d rather have my actual salary paid to me every year”

              As in, one single paycheck or direct deposit annually? You must be great at managing your finances if you can do that!

              (Not intended to be a criticism or a snark. It’s just that I know I couldn’t do that, and I’d wager 99% of everyone here couldn’t either.)

              1. Bye Academia*

                No, I mean regularly throughout the year.

                But right now, the way they calculate pay means that, in a 26 paycheck year, the total amount that ends up in my bank account in a given year only covers 364/365 of my annual salary. That’s what I don’t like.

      1. Bye Academia*

        I mean, there are 52 weeks and 1 day in a year, so that also has some issues. If payment comes consistently every 14 days, there will be times where you get 27 paychecks in a year.

        The moral of the story is that bimonthly pay makes way more sense for salaried exempt workers. Alas.

    2. Natalie*

      I don’t think I’ve ever worked anywhere that calculates a daily rate to determine what your paycheck should be. The more typical way, in my experience, is to divide annual salary by 26 and then set that as the biweekly pay, or divide it by 24 and pay semimonthly (2 paychecks per month.)

      (If you’re paid biweekly there are occasionally 27 pay periods in a year, but according to the internet that happens every 11 years rather than every 4.)

      1. silverpie*

        Actually five years per 28-year cycle have 53 of any given weekday (ignoring the century-end irregularity), which is one in 5.6; and it takes two of those to add up to a fortnight, so one per 11.2 is the actual figure.

        1. Natalie*

          I suspect the internet was suggesting every eleven years on the assumption that you’d only match up with the biweekly pay cycle every other occurrence. That is if you have a 53-Friday year and the first Friday of the year is payday, you’ll have 27 paydays. But if the second Friday is payday, you’ll still only have 26.

      2. Bye Academia*

        Yeah, biweekly pay creates all sorts of issues like this which I guess is why people create all sorts of ways to get around it. I think that’s their argument, that it all balances out in the end.

        Why they wouldn’t just pay salaried exempt employees bimonthly and save everyone the headache is beyond me.

    3. Laura H.*

      Yeah… if it’s truly biweekly- it should be salary/26. I don’t know if there’s ever a circumstance where a Leap day would lead to an added pay period….

      1. Bye Academia*

        A full year has 52 weeks and 1 day (52 weeks and 2 days for Leap Year), so there are some years where you would get 27 paychecks. I guess they figure it all works out if you stay here long enough….

    4. Alex*

      This seems incredibly weird to me, because it doesn’t make sense to break your salary up by the day and then multiply. It should be broken up by the number of pay periods, which is either 26 or 27.

      In a year when there are 27 pay periods, your pay should be your annual pay/27, which would be lower than a year where there are 26 pay periods, in which your pay would be annual pay/26.

      If this fiscal year sees you getting 27 paychecks, then fine. Otherwise, it seems shady business.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Salary is divided by pay-period and paycheck cycle. So a leap year doesn’t require any adjustments. It’s only those years that you have 27 paychecks in a year that we then adjust the salaried individuals to receive slightly less each check to make up for the extra check they’re getting.

      You usually divide by 26 but if there’s 27, then you divide by 27, simple enough. Paying by day is asinine and really unhealthy for morale, as you see here with you feeling like you’re working a free day! The important thing is that in the end if you’re slatted to make 100k, you get your full 100k by Dec 31.

      1. princesswings*

        We are paid biweekly. In our old payroll software, the employee record for a salaried person was designed to hold the biweekly amount, not the annual amount. So all the salaried people were getting an extra period’s worth of pay in the 27-period years. AND NO ONE NOTICED (I wasn’t here yet). The first payroll of the first 27-period year under the new system that calculates based on the annual amount, it took me a bit to realize why all the salaried employees were coming up short…serious Oh Shit moment. All my previous employers had paid semi-monthly, so the situation had never occurred to me.

        We ended up giving salaried employees the option of 27 smaller checks or 26 normal and just not getting paid the last period of that year (so as not to ruin the lives of anyone who budgets at two checks a month without any prior notice). I have a schedule of pay dates calculated out through my expected retirement year now so at least we’ll be prepared.

      2. JeanB in NC*

        I’ve never made any adjustments to biweekly pay. You divide the annual salary by 26 and let the paychecks fall where they do. There’s no adjustment needed.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Then you’re overpaying salaried individuals by a paycheck every eleven years. Which is fine enough and most places don’t even notice, which is also an issue with internal controls not paying attention to their wages…

          The point of salary is to do it on a fiscal year. So no, it’s not necessarily something every company is aware of or adjusts for but it’s very much a norm to choose to acknowledge it and adjust for it.

          However the key is to ALERT YOUR SALARIED EMPLOYEES don’t let them catch this themselves. At the beginning of each year, payroll should send out a notice to employees that it’s one of those 27 paycheck years and that it will mean and adjustment to their checks [if they’re going that route]. We go that route. Our offer letters state “we will pay you X amount annually, paid bi-weekly.” we aren’t locked into any amount bi-weekly that way. If there’s case law that starts popping up, so be it but as of 2014 there wasn’t any.

    6. Sleepytime Tea*

      You’re not working an extra day for free, you’re paid an annual salary. Your pay doesn’t change when there’s more weekend days in the year (yes, it varies, we have leap year because there are not exactly 52 weeks in a year, there are 52 weeks and 1 day), and it doesn’t change during a leap year.

      Your salary is annual and just divided up amongst the number of days, then since you’re paid bi-weekly they multiply that by the number days you’re being paid.

  17. Miss Fisher*

    Does anyone else have issues with work piling up right around 3 pm. It never fails to happen around here. Slow all day and then 3 hits and work comes piling in. Fridays always seem to be the worst as well.

      1. L. S. Cooper*

        And especially if things are slow enough that you wander off to do something else (with boss’ permission) and then come back to EVERYTHING IS ON FIRE OH MY GOD and feel just awful. (The fire thing is not entirely hyperbole, we did have a store that’s taken fire damage. Our store wasn’t on fire, but the one two doors down was. It’s probably a good thing for everything that our store didn’t burn, since my company sells a rather iconic style of molded clogs that are known for having a rubbery smell even on the best of days….)

        1. Works in IT*

          That literally happened yesterday. Slow day so I was investigating the source of a blown fuse with our interns, “hey, does this hallway feel hot…?” And the fire alarm went off. No fire, but apparently the heat from old musty building triggered it.

      2. Wendy Darling*

        I’m leaving on vacation tomorrow and people have just been piling stuff onto me since Monday. I’m on track to work 50+ hours this week even if I knock off early today and I’m so tired I no longer even want to go on vacation… I’d rather just spend the week at home decompressing from this week. (Not an option, we have nonrefundable things booked.) It’s like people realized I was gonna be gone so they tried to make me do all the work I would have done next week before I leave.

        On the plus side we’re coming back on Friday afternoon so I have next weekend to actually decompress.

    1. manuka honey*

      Yup, same here about Friday. They remember to submit the request Friday and then request for it to be done Monday…

      1. Dankar*

        Ha! So true. During the summer, things are pretty quiet in my position, but my boss would constantly call at 4:45pm to debrief since they were often in another time zone. Then I would have to stick it out for an extra hour at a point when work was so slow that they wouldn’t approve overtime.

        I got wise after week two and started coming in at 10.

    2. Mazzy*

      It’s logical when you think about it though, you need your position to be structured to expect that. For example, if you have Analysts calculating various figures and payments as part of their job and they need to pass them off to Accounting to book them, Accounting can’t expect the numbers at 10 AM Monday, because someone is spending their work week coming up with them.

    3. Liz*

      Not in this job, but a previous job where i was an admin in a corporate legal dept, and not just on Fridays. WE had set hours but the attorneys did not. One of mine lived a good distance away, and had small children. So she basically set her own hours, but the problem was, she would come in a good 2 hours after i did, and stayed late, which ok, but she’d hide in her office all day, and then, as I like to say “come to life” an hour or so before i had to leave. dumping all kinds of stuff on me she deemed needed to be done ASAP.

      While I was ok staying late once in a while, OT was frowned upon, so it was kind of a catch 22. I also didn’t have enough job experience or maturity to really push back. I finally did start pushing back a bit, and eventually got downsized which i wasn’t too upset over. But it really irked me that she thought it was ok for me to be at her bidding when she made up her own rules and hours.

      1. JulieCanCan*

        Infuriating! I have *so* been there! In fact where I am currently I get in first and everyone else trickles in between 9:30 am – 12 noon. Fine, they don’t really need to be in the office to do a lot of what they do, so it’s less crucial for them to have “face time” in our office. And those people are usually still working when I’m leaving around 5:30-6 pm. Yet for some reason I feel guilty or like I need to remind people that I got in at 8:30 or 9, as if they care or even think about it. I mean, maybe they do think I’m leaving “early “ but I try not to care too much, because I know I’ve worked a full day. It just looks like they’re the “late workers” and putting in extra time even though they arrived 3 hours after I did. If I could, I’d love to have a 10-7 or 10:30-7:30 schedule. Unfortunately my boss is really into someone (ie: me) getting in by 9 am. No real reason, I don’t have any work that requires a 9 am arrival. It’s just a “thing” with him and I don’t have the capital to try to change it right now. It’s fine, but I do love the idea of sleeping past 7 am.

    4. Zeldalaw*

      Yes! I was just talking about it with a coworker the other day. We have flex time and can come in at any time in a two hour window and then leave accordingly based on what time you came in. I always take the late time, mostly because I prefer to sleep later, but also because without fail, if I come in early, something invariably shows up at 3:00 and I end up staying way over anyway!

    5. Argh!*

      Work trickles up or down during the day as people clear off their desks by putting things on other peoples’ desks. It’s the way of the workplace.

      I have created a rule for myself to save Friday afternoons for clean-up at my desk and for anything that fell through the cracks during the week. If something arrives at 3:00 and isn’t an emergency, it goes onto the to-do list for Monday.

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Only in the case of having a firm cutoff time, so people are scurrying to put in orders by the cutoff.

      We have a “we can rush it if you get it to us by noon” deadline. So yeah, around 11:30 every day, you get the rush orders starting to screech in. [This is an internal deadline thankfully so it doesn’t really matter if it gets here at 12:05 but we wouldn’t tell the clients that of course!]

      But otherwise, no. Some days do pile up but that’s just the standard practice of work. But we’re in no way stretched thin or overworked in any aspect, so I’m constantly in a state of “zzzzzz something happen pleaaaaaaaaase.”

    7. OhGee*

      My colleagues stop by my desk with “just a quick question” at 4:57 pm, especially on Fridays.

    8. JulieCanCan*

      OMG last Thursday I literally spent 12 noon – 5:30 pm doing the least important “do these things when you have nothing else important to do” type of work then of course as I’m thinking of packing up for the day, my boss appears in my doorway to discuss and go over a systems issue that we ended up spending over an hour on. Why he didn’t ask me about it 4 hours earlier I’ll never understand. Finally I escaped around 7 pm but I was so irritated that I had that WHOLE day available yet the subject was not broached until I had one foot out the door. Sometimes I wonder if he does that intentionally or if he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it. I honestly cannot figure it out, but it happens at least once a week. I really want to believe he isn’t aware he’s doing it…..

  18. AndersonDarling*

    Has anyone found a way to successfully work with a bully? I generally hear stories of the bully being fired, or employees leave to get away, but those aren’t always options. I’m talking about a real “Biff” bully who teases and pushes people’s buttons. Like: “Hey can you pass me the TPS Report? Why don’t you have it? Only lame-o’s loose reports. Are you a looser lame-o? Because we fire pathetic lame-o’s, so you better keep looking. Oh look, here’s the report behind my back. I had it the whole time, how did you not know I had it!”
    Did anyone learn techniques to not let this kind of stuff get under your skin? Sometimes you just have to work with these people and it’s stressful when know you you have to, and it’s torture not loosing your cool when it happens.

    1. JunieB*

      When I had a coworker like this, I often pretended I was watching her audition for the part of the bully in a high school movie. I’d evaluate her performance—too over the top? Was her body language convincing? How’s the accent?
      It didn’t change her behavior, but it did make me feel a little better.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I’m sure you didn’t do this out loud, but I just imagined that you did. Very satisfying! :-)

    2. irene adler*

      Here’s what I can think of:

      -Avoid them whenever possible.
      -don’t get sucked in by their games. Keep it professional at all times.
      -Learn to recognize when he’s about to spring one of his antics on you. Plan ways not to engage when this happens.
      In my case, the bully started with an email, written about some topic to ‘get my goat’. He would accuse me of something that was blatantly not true. I know from experience that he does this because he’s looking for a fight. He’s hoping that I will respond to the email with argument. I have learned to ignore the email completely. I used to engage in argument over his untrue assertions. And I never won such arguments. Ignoring him works because it denies him the opportunity to escalate.

      -recognize that it’s their issue here. Bully needs to taunt people to make himself feel better. When I view the bully in this light, all I feel is pity for how pathetic he is. Doesn’t he see how obvious he’s making it that he’s got problems?
      -if you do have a ‘run-in’ with the bully, do what you can to curtail it quickly. The less exposure there is for you, the better.

      -practice some self-care when he does aggravate you.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Great tips! False accusations is something this bully does as well. In this case, he is making mistakes and trying to find a scapegoat, but the more you try to correct the situation, the more his power grows…like the end boss in a video game.

        1. irene adler*

          The false accusation bully is difficult. I feel for ya.

          They aren’t so much interested in the truth of the matter as they are interested in using the accusation as justification to bust someone’s chops in the most abusive manner possible (that they know they can get away with).
          It’s hard to do, but don’t let your emotions factor into your response to the bully’s accusations.

    3. Aggretsuko*

      It’s work, you have to fake like things are normal. Act like they’re a customer or someone else whose shit you have to eat. Smile, be perky and pleasant, and don’t let them see they bug you, because then they win.

    4. Flat Penny*

      Just remember, there isn’t much more pathetic than a guy who peaked in high school and let that set his personality for life.

      And since you did not peak in high school, there’s no more reason to let him get under your skin than you would an actual 15-year-old.

    5. Zephy*

      The hard part about this flavor of office bully is that their favorite tactic is gaslighting, so even if you document every game of Asshole Keepaway Wild Goose Chase that Biff plays with you, all he has to do is say “nuh-uh” and suddenly you’re either (1) a tattletale, (2) overreacting, (3) a liar, or (4) all of the above. These guys are also usually charismatic as hell and in good with the boss, too, which extra sucks.

      All you can really do is make it boring for Biff and hope he goes off to bother someone else. Don’t engage, and keep immaculate records of literally everything you touch – when you received it and from whom, what you did to it and when, and when you handed it off and to whom. Email is handy for this. Be in the habit of dating and signing everything. Try to encourage Biff to contact you only through written media (email, Slack/Discord/etc) – cut him off in-person or over the phone with “I’m in the middle of something right now, but send me an email and I’ll get back to you” and then disengage. It sucks that the only way we have to deal with the Biffs of the world is basically foisting him off on someone else ad infinitum, but maybe eventually they’ll get bored with being turds to everyone and start acting like decent humans.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        It may happen; I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I’ve never seen an adult bully stop being a turd.

    6. CM*

      Yeah, so I ultimately left the job were I was getting bullied but I was able to extend the time I could stand working there by 1) deciding that I didn’t care if I got fired and then 2) dropping any mask of civility toward that person at all. By which I mean, the response to “Ooo where’s my report” would literally be “Don’t fucking talk to me.”

      Like I said, I was okay with getting fired at that point — my game was just to try to stick it out as long as I could and keep getting paid while I looked for another job. I honestly don’t believe there’s a solution that would let you tolerate that long term.

    7. Earthwalker*

      Mom always said that if a middle school bully can’t get a rise out of you, they’ll get bored and give up. I’ve found that is not true of 50 year olds who act like children. You don’t want to give them the satisfaction of a reaction, but if they’re still acting like schoolboys/girls, brace up, because they won’t get bored and quit. I found the behavior a tad easier to take when I read that workplace bullies tend to pick on the person they find to be the most competent because that person is the most threatening to them.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        This is not true of middle school bullies either! They can tell when they’ve got a good victim and will just keep going until it becomes too painful for them to continue. Being quiet and ignoring it just makes it easier for the teachers to ignore what’s going on.

    8. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I yawn and tell them they’re boring AF. They get all flustered that I’m not falling into their trap.

      I’ve got my own asshole streak and I’ll let the flag fly if necessary. Know the limits of course but the whole “Bro, you’re a real idjit right now.” works on a lot of them.

      1. Lilysparrow*

        Yeah, I’ve found the attitude of silent staring and “Are you done yet?” can take the wind out of their sails.

  19. Plant Lady*

    Results from the poll I posted in the Friday Open Thread two weeks ago!
    (I apologize for not getting it up here last Friday – I was out of town.)

    If you’d like to see the poll and add your answers too, you can do so here:
    (As of my writing this comment, 102 people have taken the poll.)

    1) Do you get separate vacation and sick time, or is it pooled together? ||| About two thirds (64.6%) have separate pools. About one third (27.3%) have it all pooled together. A few people had different systems or could choose between the two options.

    2) Adding up all of your paid time off, including vacation and sick time, how much did you get in total your FIRST year at your current job? ||| More than 70% get between 11 and 29 days off including both types of PTO. 34% got 11-19 days; 37% got 20-29 days; about 20% got 30 days or more. Only one person had unlimited PTO and 5% got fewer than ten days. See the whole chart here:

    3) How long is your commute to work? (How long it usually takes you, using the mode of transportation you typically take.) ||| 47.5% have a commute that’s 30 minutes or longer. 33.3% have a commute of 19 minutes or less (including 5 people who work from home); 41.4% have a commute between 20-44 minutes; and 26.3% have a commute that’s 45 minutes or longer. See the whole chart here:

    4) HOW do you usually get to work? Check any method that you use at least once a week. ||| The most common methods were driving oneself (59.6%) and public transit (33.3%.) Not a single person bikes! 10% of people walk or jog; 3% carpool with a spouse or someone else; one person takes taxi/Uber.

    5) How long of a lunch break do you normally take? (If you work nights or another schedule, substitute your longest meal break here.) ||| 19.2% don’t take a lunch break and 8% take less than half an hour. 31.3% take a half hour and 33.3% take an hour. 7.1% said it was totally different every day.

    6) How do you feel about your current immediate supervisor, on a scale from 1 (terrible human being) to 5 (one of my favorite humans.) ||| 2% said (1); 3% said (2); 16.2% said (3); 50.5% said (4); and 28.3% said (5.) That means that 78.8% ranked them better than neutral/average!

    7) How many of your coworkers would you label friends or work friends? ||| The largest chunk (48.5%) said 2-5 of them (with teams larger than that.) 20.2% said More than 5 (with teams larger than that.) 8.1% said they considered their whole team friends. 13.1% said one person and 8.1% said no one. Two people don’t have coworkers.

    8) How much do you like your current job, on a scale from 1 (I hate it) to 5 (I love it.) ||| 2% said (1); 6.1% said (2); 16.2% said (3); 52.5% said (4); and 23.2% said (5.) Again, this means that 75.7% feel favorably or positively about their jobs.

    9) What percentage of your work day do you usually spend NOT working when you should be working (e.g. browsing social media; reading this website; writing personal emails; reading something on your phone; etc)? ||| 37.2% of people said they spend 11-75% of their work day NOT working (which means at least ~an hour a day if you work 8-hour days.) 27.8% spend 6-10% of their workday NOT working (~30-45 minutes of an 8-hour day.) 35% of people spend 5% or less of their day not working (5% said they never are NOT working when they should be.) See the full chart here:

    Any interest in another poll? What questions are you interested in?

    1. Gerald*

      Neat stats! I cycle, but only half the year as the paths are impassable in winter without fat tires, and I live too far away to do that (roads are often too problematic (not plowed wide enough) when sharing them in the winter). I would probably pick transit if I had one choice, but cycling is a close second.

    2. UKApplePie*

      Clearly you need some Londoners answering this – there are so many of us who cycle to work each day!

      Also, being in the UK our sick leave is complicated – I can self certify for x number of days, then I need a doctors note. And we also have long term sick leave which kicks in after y number of days (but pay is affected).

      1. Tau*

        I just answered to give OP someone who bikes to work (Germany here) and was a little stumped about the sick leave question. I ended up putting “separate pools”, but I don’t get “X days of sick leave” the way Americans seem to. Sick leave is effectively unlimited, but I have to provide a doctor’s note after three days and pay drops when the health insurance company takes over paying after six weeks.

      2. Awful Annie*

        Yes, I believe that I’d get up to 6 months sick leave, if that’s what was needed.

        The lunch break is an interesting one – I have a working lunch with colleagues every day. I can skip it, but it is very much part of the expectations of my role.

  20. CaseyJd*

    This week I had a call with an external recruiter who requested names and contacts for my references, with plans to contact them to learn more about me before submitting my candidacy. I’m just embarking on a job search and want to limit how often I go to the well of using my resources, so I’m going to pass on this role. Has anyone encountered this with a recruiter before?

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I find that this is generally a scam. If it wasn’t a well known company, I wouldn’t hand over anything. Sales companies would run fake job ads to get your references and then call them to make sales pitches.

    2. irene adler*

      Good instincts!
      Recruiters should talk to the references after the interview.

      No reason to talk to the references prior to the interview.

      IN fact, they might find one of your references to be a better fit for the role than you are. And try to talk them into interviewing for the job.

    3. Chocolate Teapot*

      I had an initial meeting with a new recruiter, who told me I had to give the details of 3 references before they would even start to submit my application.

      In addition, I had given a salary range and was told it was too high for the kind of jobs I was looking for. So how much was I prepared to ask for? I gave a lower sum, still in the range the recruiter had said was the range for the role. This was followed by a lecture on why had I given that figure!

      I decided I didn’t want to work with them after all.

    4. Organa*

      I’m convinced that many recruiters are just running scams. I applied to a posting once through a recruiter, interviewed, and was offered the job. The recruiter demanded to know my bottom salary before he would disclose the offer details so that he could negotiate on my behalf. No, buddy, you don’t work for me and I’m the only one who negotiates on my behalf. I also had questions about benefits that he refused to answer. Nope, nope, nope. I let the CEO know that I appreciated the offer, but I had no interest in working with a company that would use a recruiter like that.

  21. In Mourning*

    The best boss I’ve ever had is resigning in a few weeks time. :(

    Any tips for working well with a new boss, or experiences you’d like to share? I’m a little nervous about the new dynamic, especially since this past year I earned so much capital and trust from my departing boss, I feel as if I’ll be starting all over. I’m a little nervous that certain things I’ve already arranged (future professional development opportunities, a flexible schedule) will need to be re-approved, but my grand-boss does know about them already… Just a little nervous and looking for tips/past experiences, etc.

    1. Erin Withans*

      I’ve been there, and I’ve had it go well and really not. My main advice is to go in being open – I had a (great) boss let go a couple of years ago, and a coworker of mine was really obvious in how angry he was about it, and it poisoned his relationship with our new (also, it turned out, great) boss, who had nothing to do with the firing of our first boss.

      It also helps to be really explicit – I’m on (another) new boss right now, and I’m often saying things like, “I work best when I’m given a problem and left alone to chew on it a bit, and then come back with a solution. Does that work for you, or do you need me to be in touch more about my process?” It’s helped us dial in our expectations and communication. (Thank you, AskAManager! Reading this column has helped me a lot)

      Similarly, it’s good to check in with them about the things you have pre-approved so nothing is a surprise. Maybe during a 1-on-1 you can say something like, “Just to make sure you’re in the loop, I’m scheduled to go to X conference from the 3rd to the 5th, and I leave early on Tuesdays, but make up the time at home later. Here’s how you get in touch with me if you need something while I’m gone.”

      I’ve generally had things go well with that. The time it didn’t was pretty clear from the get-go that newboss was terrible, and I got out quickly.

    2. Policy Wonk*

      I work for the government, so get new political bosses with some regularity. Some of them are fantastic, some not. To me the biggest thing is to listen. What is important to this person? What are his/her priorities? Is this a person who wants details, or is this someone who gives you the big picture and wants you to figure out a way to implement it?

      Try not to constantly compare new boss to old boss, that’s not really fair (though it is natural!) If you can, start fresh – this is a new day, and the boss may have a new way of doing things. Be prepared to explain things that you think are obvious – they may not be so obvious to a newbie to your company, even one with lots of experience in your field.

      Finally, brush up your resume. It never hurts to be prepared if you just don’t mesh with the new boss.

      Good luck!

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I find the best way to handle a new boss is to stay open minded and to go in with the idea that things are going to change. Be flexible from the very beginning.

      A lot of my conversations with new bosses are “This is how I/we do it now but if you want me to change, that’s cool, I’m ready to roll whichever way you want to.”

      I have rarely ever had anyone want to make any massive changes/waves or whatever. But the open minded/flexible route will save you a heck of a lot of stress in the end.

      This is key really when any role in your department changes, just assume they’re competent and team players from the start, if they’re not, it’ll show sooner than later but just mentally prepare to be adjusting, that’s the best way to make it less painful and stressful to you.

    4. Spunky Brewster*

      My department has cycled through multiple managers in as many years. It’s been a nightmare. I’m now on the verge of being let go for performance reasons for not meeting Most Recent Manager’s expectations. I say this not to scare you, because I’m seriously looking for advice on how to cope with this upheaval myself. I guess I’m not great at dealing with this constant change.

  22. FaintlyMacabre*

    I inspect llama breeders and cover a large territory. I want to be able to map out where I visit, with notes about when I visited, and maybe a way to color code where I’ve bisited, where I’ve not visited, and places that need to be reinspected. Any recommendations on where to start? I looked at Google’s mapping program, but they wouldn’t let me do anything without a Google account. If I have to bite the bullet and use their system I will, but are there any other (free or cheap) alternatives out there?

    1. Save One Day at a Time*

      All the ones I know of, free or otherwise, you’ll need an account for. Google mapping would have been my first recommendation, maybe a free or cheaper GIS program would do the trick. There’s a free version of social explorer.

    2. PersistentCat*

      Try QGIS (free, open source) or see if ESRI’s online mapping bit has a personal use component that is free/affordable if you’re really against Google Earth or Google Maps.

      I believe what you need is under story mapping, and there are typically ESRI hosted webinars available for free, and QGIS has quite a bit of active forums and youtube videos available.

      Hope this helps!

    3. Canonical23*

      I took a GIS class in my masters program and Tableau and QGIS both have free options and are pretty easy to pick up if you’re tech-y.

    4. Close Bracket*

      You could do this with Python. You would have to learn a fair amount to get there, though.

    5. Kendra*

      This isn’t actually a helpful solution, but I can’t help picturing one of those policework/crazy person maps you see in movies with newspaper clippings, sticky notes, and pins with yarn connecting various places on the map. This would probably be relatively cheap, if less than convenient.

  23. Brooklyn 99 is a great show*

    I’m in a new role (started in February) and I’m still feeling so new. I eat lunch alone at my desk because that’s the only logical place I can think of. The others in my area are out of the office by noon. I feel so isolated, my last job was much more busy and social. I didn’t know it would be this different because I was doing a very similar job before but was at a different school, which was how I learned about this position in the first place. Because of that, I’m still in touch with my last school for professional purposes, and I can see how well my replacement is fitting in — which makes me jealous (I know that’s not the best) because now I don’t feel like I fit in either place.

    For context, I’m a non-teacher at a school.

    I have to tell myself that this was a good move for my career, but the isolation is getting to me. Any advice?

    1. Completely Different Name for This*

      I think you should find a way to eat lunch in a social setting, even if it takes some effort. Is there a cafeteria or diner you could go to? That would help a lot!
      I hate being isolated and go to trouble for social occasions. It’s worth the effort!
      Also if you’re alone in the afternoon, maybe move to a desk closer to other people?

      1. brooklyn 99 is a great show*

        I’m actually not sure where everyone else eats lunch. There is a tiny workroom in the front, but I was told yesterday that there might be a teacher’s lounge in the cafeteria that I can look for, though during actual lunch I need to be working so students can find me if the need to. My office is in the back so I can’t really switch spots unfortunately .

        1. Completely Different Name for This*

          I would find out where they eat lunch and go there. There must be somewhere.
          If it turns out you’re in the cafeteria by yourself or something like that, maybe a neighborhood diner? Sit at the counter, that usually encourages people to talk to you. :)

          1. valentine*

            Get out of the space for a chunk of time. Are the grounds nice? Is there a bench somewhere or are you able to go for a walk?

        2. Someone On-Line*

          Can you invite people to come eat with you? Any particular teachers or other personnel you need to work closely with? Just start rotating through names and pitch it as a way to get to know each other to make work run smoother. After a few months you’ll probably have made some connections, both personally and professionally.

        3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          My brain kind of broke. So someone says there’s a secret hidden teachers lounge someone that you can just simply ‘find’ and they can’t just say “it’s that door over there!” or give you actual directions!?

          Is this a pirate school, do they have secret treasure maps to each super secret room you need to uncover?!

          That’s such a bizarre setup. We give people a complete tour of the facility of “This is the break room, this is the kitchen”, but this isn’t a school, so maybe this is an academia thing. So truly weird that they’re kind of just leaving you to wander around and figure it out.

          I would just get to the point that I explored everything and figured out what each room was to solve this mystery of a secret hidey hole of teachers eating lunch!

        4. Iron Chef Boyardee*

          “during actual lunch I need to be working so students can find me if the need to. My office is in the back so I can’t really switch spots unfortunately.”

          Doesn’t that mean you can’t actually go out to lunch, as in leave the building, but you have to eat at your desk?

          If so, wouldn’t that preclude your ability to go out to lunch with co-workers?

          Or did I miss something?

          1. just a random teacher*

            It sounds like the OP has to eat their lunch at some specific time before or after the general “lunch” time that teachers and students get so they can provide coverage of some kind during “lunch”. This is pretty common for classified staff in a lot of schools, since lunch is when students can go get errands done with the secretary/bookkeeper/librarian/whatever without missing class. It’s also common for aides and other support staff to be supervising students at lunch (so that teachers can get their lunches) and given a lunch break during the academic period before or after lunch. (I once subbed at a middle school that made substitute teachers supervise the student cafeteria at lunch and eat their lunches on the prep period of the person they were subbing for. I avoided subbing at that school unless it was a last minute job and I had nothing else lined up for the day, because that’s awful.)

            All I can suggest for the OP is to try and find out if anyone else has the same lunch break they do (which would probably be someone else on duty during lunch) and figure out where they eat.

            1. Cats and dogs*

              I suggest looking for social interactions potentially not associated with the lunch break. During another break or right after Work? Maybe ask someone who seems nice to get coffee to get the inside scoop about the school etc?

  24. Mimmy*

    Is it a red flag if the job announcement lists one of the qualifications as experience with Microsoft Office 2010? If it matters, this job is at a state university in the Human Resources department. I would’ve thought a major university would at least be using Office 2016! Maybe 2013.

    1. Four lights*

      I don’t think so, especially for a state agency. Upgrading programs for big organizations is expensive and time consuming. And as long as the program is working well, they may not want to upgrade for every release because it’s another expense for the licenses. My law firm only upgraded everyone to Windows 10 last year.

      1. Toodie*

        I work at a software company and was finally forced to give up my beloved Dell so I could go to Windows 10, and that was in February.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          I work for a tech company and they’re gradually moving everyone to Windows 10 (all new hires have gotten win10 machines for at least 18 months, but existing people are being upgraded piecemeal) and we’re using a current version office but… Visio 2006. For some reason. My best guess is they got a site license for Visio 2006 and refuse to let it go.

          1. Clisby*

            And in some companies, they’re not so quick to move because the Windows machines are basically terminals to get to Linux or Solaris servers, where the real work is done. The Windows machines are basically for email, Word, the occasional Excel or PowerPoint document – no big deal which version you have as long as it works.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I used to also and held onto my Windows 7 machine until they started upgrading to 10. I wanted to skip Windows 8, haha.

          Now I’ve been forced to upgrade at home. Blergh. Oh well. I thought, At least I’ll be used to it by the time I find another job. Now just watch NextJob have Win 7!

    2. Kimmybear*

      I used to work for an association of higher ed professionals. Having departments or teams that were using software 5-10 years old was not uncommon.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      It’s possible that they just reposted the description from the last time they did a search, and no one noticed the discrepancy. As long as there aren’t any other red flags, like needing to use a facsimile machine or dictaphone, then you should be good.

      1. Four lights*

        Lol- I work in a law office and some attorneys still use dictaphones, because that’s how they’ve done it for the past 50 years and they aren’t changing now.

    4. Janteloven*

      In my experience it’s super, super common for big university and hospital networks to be using almost EOL products like this. They only upgrade when it hits that 10 year mark and their vendors won’t support it anymore..

    5. Admin of Sys*

      eh. I mean, I think it’s a signal that either they aren’t updating the job requirements very carefully, or that they may have a home built system that’s stuck on 2010 because it relies heavily on that version of Access or something. (If it wasn’t HR, I’d say that they have a couple of tenured folks that won’t let go of their technology. Universities are notorious for having to support out of date software for the good-at-grants vip professor who has tenure and has decided that they are going to use the pine mail client until the day they retire, gdi.)
      In any event, the UI doesn’t change much from 2010 to 2016, so if you’re confident in your office skills, you’ll be fine.

      1. SignalLost*

        I always enjoy being reminded that the college website I supported had traffic from IE 6 because one user would not upgrade. In 2015. I flat out told my boss that I wasn’t going to design anything that would accommodate that, and he could just continue to use badly out of date software to … not see anything anywhere I assume?

        1. TiffIf*

          For a VERY long time we had to support IE8 because many of our clients were still using Windows XP I think it was around 2017 when we finally cut off access to our app for IE8. Then it was another fight to get them off IE9 and 10.

          My clients are insurance companies. Like the big ones whose commercial jingles/tag lines you know by heart.

    6. CheeryO*

      I don’t think it’s a red flag as long as outdated technology isn’t a deal breaker. I work for a state agency, and my PC is at least a decade old and runs on Windows 7… we had some XP machines hanging out until very recently. We just got updated to Office 2016, and it was a huge to-do. You’ll get used to it!

      1. Cog in the Machine*

        Lol. We were still running a few MSDOS programs until we upgraded to Windows 7.

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      No. Most places with tight budgets are always going to keep a software until it has to be updated.

      People use the software until it’s not supported for glitches and bugs anymore is my experience.

    8. Mimmy*

      Wow thanks for all of the responses!

      I don’t think I’m going to apply for the job after all. Not because of the age of their MS Office though – I don’t have the level of experience they’re looking for or the preferred degree.

      But good to know that this isn’t too uncommon. I currently work for the state, and the student computers were upgraded to Windows 10 when I started two years ago; yet, the staff computers were upgraded just a couple of months ago to Win 10 – we’d been on Win 7. Now I think both student and staff computers have Office 2016 or 2019 – I forget.

      Now, if my state university would just catch up…. ;)

  25. Completely Different Name for This*

    Hi everyone,
    I’d love your thoughts about what might be going on with my employer. I work for a hospital that’s owned by a healthcare corporation.
    I don’t work in patient care, I work in the administrative office for one of the departments.
    My department is considered a loss leader – it brings patients to other departments, so the hospital values it.

    We have a corporate manager who has been over our department for a few years. She keeps trying to take over everyone’s administrative work and do it herself. She said she would give the physicians their productivity information (which affects their pay) but did not. It’s not possible for one person to do all the things she’s trying to take on.

    There have always been delays in the physician’s productivity information, and last year the corporation changed the way the physicians are paid without their input or giving anyone time to discuss and ask questions. It was this same corporate manager who handled it, and the way it was done upset the physicians very much. It was like she and corporate were trying to alienate them. They feel they are being screwed.

    After that it got worse. One of the physicians representing all tried to talk to a VP and was shut down with the implication she did not have standing to talk to the VP. Corporate is planning to cut PTO for senior physicians. It really seems like they’re trying to alienate the physicians and/or damage the department. Two physicians have given notice so far.

    Almost all of this has come through the corporate manager who’s trying to take our work. What she’s doing isn’t rational because it’s not humanly possible to do all these jobs by herself.
    It might be that she’s going rogue – but her bosses have not stopped her.

    For background, I’ve worked here several years and corporate finance has always sent us documents that were full of simple math and data mistakes which I had to correct. They have never seemed on top of things.

    We’ve all seen examples of corporations acting clueless when they’re doing something for a hidden reason.
    Why do you think they would be doing this? Is it the usual corporate cluelessness run amok, or is there a reason?
    Any suggestions will be helpful. Thanks!

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I’d guess that it comes down to one or two people with a power complex. I can’t imagine physicians standing back and letting this happen- I’ve seen physicians actually stamp their feet and threaten to quit when they don’t get their way. And wow, did management hear about it!
      I’m betting that a physician or two will eventually reach out to someone at the top and then the fiery hail will rain down.

      1. Completely Different Name for This*

        I hope so! My boss is also talking about going over the corp. manager’s head. He’s too “nice” – it might take him months to work up to it.
        The one physician reached out to a VP and was shut down – so maybe it’s a corporate thing? Or just a misunderstanding?

        1. valentine*

          They are embezzling. Where are the checks and balances? I’m reminded of the city worker who stole to fund her horse obsession.

          1. Completely Different Name for This*

            There have been many signs of penny-pinching – they’re always looking for ways to pay a little less. Typical corporate – they never make enough, and can never cut costs enough.
            But the pay is all documented with hard numbers and the physicians would take action if their pay was shorted – so I don’t think it can be literal embezzling. It would not be surprising if it’s related to money. Not surprising at all.

            1. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

              I completely agree with valentine. There is definitely something hokey going on here. There are a million ways to embezzle without shorting the physicians’ pay. Could they be raiding the physicians’ pension fund? Purchasing new equipment, charging it to your hospital and having it delivered somewhere else? Purchasing drugs, charging them to your hospital and then doing goodness knows what with them (which I will leave to your imagination)? Selling off assets and making the money disappear? Falsifying the records of how long patients’ hospital stays are? Filing false claims with Medicare and Medicaid? That last one can get them into BIG trouble because of a piece of federal legislation called the False Claims Act.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                Yes, I agree it seems like shady things are going on. But how would alienating the physicians and making them quit help corporate with any of this?
                All corporations seem to have this attitude of wanting to make more and more money and never being satisfied. This one definitely has it and has not been competent with the financial paperwork. But what does that have to do with making the physicians quit?
                The physicians aren’t involved in the finances, purchases or Medicare claims. Once they enter the bill for the service to the patient, they’re done.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      That’s wild. At all the hospitals I’ve worked for, everyone walked on eggshells to keep from bothering the physicians, to the point where documentation isn’t sufficiently billable but nobody will make the physicians give us enough information that we can actually charge for what they’re doing. The idea that the docs are low enough on the totem pole that the administration is jerking them around is totally foreign to me.

      1. Completely Different Name for This*

        That’s what makes it so strange! Don’t they know without physicians, they won’t have a department?
        Sometimes such cluelessness is really about a hidden reason, like decreasing the value of the business, but of course they never say so…
        I’m trying to figure out if a hidden reason like that is in play. I tried googling and got nothing.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Well, I mean, there needs to be SOME pushback on docs. We’ve been trying for literally years to get a requirement for our docs to put a reason on lab tests, because without a medical reason for the test we can’t charge for it, but the docs don’t want to, so we do five figures in lab tests a month that we can’t bill for. (I’m hearing they’re finally going to start mandating it at the end of May, and the docs are already pitching tantrums. I fully expect that we’re going to start getting lab orders that say “sick” :P )

          1. Completely Different Name for This*

            Yes, I think your physicians went too far the other way. We’ve been using EHR for a while and there are state requirements for documentation of certain cases, so ours are used to documenting everything. We also include the physicians in tracking billing and making sure it’s correct. Some like to be involved in that, others don’t and just ignore it.
            The problem with the way the pay change was handled is if corporate was *trying* to alienate the physicians and make them quit, they could not be doing better. I’m wondering why. I’m sure more will give notice in the next few months.

    3. Maya Elena*

      Maybe they’re trying to push out the senior, expensive physicians so that they can hire greener, cheaper ones who will get paid whatever they’re given?

      1. Michaela Westen*

        Maybe! But so far it’s not working. The ones who’ve given notice are the younger and less experienced ones.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s a power play move, they’re trying to restructure the back-ass-way of being sneaky about it. Trying to push out physicians who want to raise a stink, thinking their name and hospital standing will keep these highly skilled and sought after professionals in their grubby little hands.

      I don’t know why the woman is trying to do so much, other than to assume she’s inept and power hungry. Or she’s trying to figure out where to cut other staff because it really sounds like a bad bad bad bad shady re-structuring or overhaul underway.

      1. Completely Different Name for This*

        Thank you!
        Can you elaborate on what they’re trying to restructure and how it’s shady?

      2. Completely Different Name for This*

        “Trying to push out physicians who want to raise a stink”
        This would explain why they shut down the physician who tried to talk to them.

      3. Completely Different Name for This*

        I saw a friend today and asked her what she thinks. She sees doctors in a different company from the one I work at.
        She’s had to change doctors twice recently because they closed the office she was going to and her primary transferred to a suburb.
        She found someone at a different company, and that doctor is leaving to go to another company!
        She asked this doctor what’s going on, and it’s the same stuff. The corporations are jerking the doctors around and causing them to leave. My friend also thinks it’s a corporate power play.

  26. The Other Dawn*

    So, how are changes in pay grade handled at your company?

    I’m at a new job and have someone who wants to move up a pay grade (very new supervisor of one). While she is a supervisor now, her job is much different than that of others in the department, some of which have a higher pay grade. While she’s more on the systems side, their jobs involve a lot of analysis and judgement. I know it’s not simply a matter of changing it. There’s much more, I assume, that goes into other than “this is your title, you’ll be paid this much.” Although maybe it works that way at some companies?

    I plan to check in with HR at my company, but I’m curious as to how others handle it and what they factor in when changing someone’s pay grade. At my previous company this just never came up, and it was really HR that dictated these things.

    1. Would-be manager*

      We have a review process that is carried out by HR. You have to establish that the job has changed by more than a certain per cent of the duties.

    2. Ali G*

      Each employee here has a template that is filled out where their job duties are ranked on 1-3 scale. The rankings are weighted and the total “score” puts you into a pay scale range. The only way to move up a grade is to prove you have moved from 1 to 2’s or 2 to 3’s in many of your job functions to increase your score.

    3. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

      I work at a large state university. It is a basic 5% pay increase for one pay grade up. The range is 5% to 15% but 5% is the norm. However, as always, things can be negotiated.

    4. Earthwalker*

      I worked in a company that had pay ranges for each job title. They were periodically updated by HR, who did research to see how much similar companies paid. There were five bands on each title’s pay range that corresponded to the score on the employee’s annual evaluation. A chart showed the mandatory raise depending on the gap between the actual salary and the pay band. The manager would walk through that at each annual review: “You’re paid here on the chart, but with a review rank of four, you should be paid here. Follow this line over and – see? – we need to raise your pay by this amount. You’ll start seeing it in the paycheck on this day.” When a person moved from one title to another, often the chart indicated a large raise. My next company was less systematic. We got cost-of-living raises and anything else seemed to be a matter of manager’s discretion. A promotion might get a raise but the manager could say that it had to wait “until we see how you do,” which might not happen at all unless the employee asked for a raise and was successful in getting it.

  27. anon lawyer*

    I left a large firm a couple of years ago when I moved out of state, though I would have left that firm even if I stayed local due to mental health reasons (I was not cut out for that level of stress). I’m doing really well at my new firm and a lot of it is due the training I got from the partners at my old place. It’s been exactly two years since I left – would it be weird if I sent them a note letting them know how I was doing and thanking them for the training?

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I wouldn’t, no. I’d put my supervising attorney(s) on my end-of-year holiday card list, and I’d connect with some number of colleagues from the firm on LinkedIn, though.

    2. Boomerang Girl*

      If there is someone in particular who mentored you, I think that sending a note to him or her thanking them for what they did for your development is okay

    3. Policy Wonk*

      I have twice in my career received such “out of the blue” thank you letters. I really appreciated them – each made me feel like I made a difference to the sender. If you decide to do this, I would focus on sending a note to an individual who helped you, thanking them and noting the impact they had on you and your work. Keep the personal update short – and depending on your relationship with the person, I’d limit it to the professional.

      1. Cats and dogs*

        Agree. And while I think no one should be embarrassed about any mental health issues, I think it would change the nature of the letter sufficiently to include their mention here. So I wouldn’t divulge anything about it (personal or work related) That sounds like a good outcome- good for you Anon Lawyer!

    4. JulieCanCan*

      I think a note would be much appreciated. So few people take the time to thoughtfully put into writing their thanks, and I guarantee you the recipient will feel great knowing he/she helped you out in whatever way you indicate in the note.

      For some reason so many folks on AAM seem to be anti-thank you notes, which is so disheartening to me. I am a huge proponent of notes and have always been told that my thank you notes were very much appreciated and often the only note someone received after giving a party or whatever the note was thanking them for. It’s kinda horrifying and sad that note-sending seems to have gone the way of the Dodo. It’s like etiquette is no longer important. My aunt is one of the top etiquette specialists in the country so I have every book and article ever created on the subject, I’ll never give up having exceptional etiquette skills. It should never go out of style if you ask me.

  28. Someone On-Line*

    For those who do hiring, how do you make sure you are hiring for diversity? W’re in public health and these roles require a college degree and either four years of experience or a master’s degree and two years of experience, so we’re looking for some experience. I would like to ensure that the staff here come from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, racial and ethnic backgrounds, life experiences, LGBTQ, etc. It’s really vital in our work that the people doing the work reflect the communities they work in. But as a new manager I have no idea how to go about doing that.

    1. Would-be manager*

      You don’t hire for diversity – you recruit and advertise for it.

      What I mean is that you can’t do this after you have applicants to pick from. Think about things like the language you use in your ads, the requirements for the job, how upfront you are about paying for interview expenses etc.

      Do you absolutely need those qualifications or do you need a specific KIND of experience?

      1. Someone On-Line*

        Yes, good point about what we need to do. How do I do that? Ha! This is for state government, so there are no ads – it just posts to a website, though I am able to reach out to organizations, when I know they are there.

        To get through personnel we need some pretty specific requirements – sometimes we can argue that experience personnel doesn’t count really does apply, but it’s up to the applicant to do that. Yay state government?

        1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

          This is where strategic “signal boosting” comes in handy.

          Post announcements/links to people in the communities that you’re trying to reach. Email folks that who have connections that are more diverse. Add your commentary about the posting that emphasizes the need for people of many types to provide this service. Maybe mention any special benefits that state employment can provide beyond, say, not-for-profits.

          Ask your allies for help in getting out the word.

          Just because the boring post is buried in a boring civil service job board doesn’t mean you can’t get it out there.

      2. Glomarization, Esq.*

        Bingo. Ideas that come to mind off the top of my head: Advertise the jobs in forums where you will reach populations that are less often targetted. Recruit at HBCUs. Check the language of your job postings for words and phrases that (to paint with a broad brush) may discourage applicants who are not white males. Include language like a boilerplate “Employer, Inc., is an equal opportunity and affirmative action employer committed to assembling a diverse, broadly trained faculty and staff. Women, minorities, people with disabilities and veterans are strongly encouraged to apply.”

        1. AnonJ*

          This is good and I’d also suggest looking at how the physical requirements of the job are presented and if they’re truly requirements. Boilerplate language like ‘ability to lift 25 pounds’ or ‘able to stand for extended periods of time’ and the like are just thrown into job ads by some organizations, without consideration of whether they are really essential requirements for the job and whether accommodations can be readily made. That 25 pounds can likely be wheeled around in a carry-on type of bag or moved in some sort of cart, and does someone really need to stand for the job? Can they truly not do it from a sitting position or in a wheelchair? Pay attention to those physical requirements in the ad so you’re not alienating people with disabilities who may otherwise be perfectly qualified.

    2. TiffanyAching*

      All of our search committees have a “search advocate” whose job is basically to challenge any implicit biases that might come up. They try to make sure that candidates aren’t dismissed for not having the standard/expected experience, even if they meet qualifications; that all candidates are judged using the same metrics; that kind of thing. The goal is to widen the pool of qualified applicants, so you have a more diverse population to choose from.

    3. Lucette Kensack*

      1) Reconsider education requirements for these roles (unless its required by licensure, etc.).

      2) Consider why it’s important that your staff reflect the communities that they work in, and write that into the job description. You’re not going to describe specific identities, but instead the skills and experiences that are important. For example: experience as a patient in free- and low-cost public health systems; experience connecting with patients across lines of difference; etc.

      3) Review your job postings for coded language that subtlety suggests that you’re looking for a certain type of person. Words play differently with different people.

      4) Be intentional about how you share job postings. What job sites are they on? What networks are you circulating them through? Are there affinity networks that you can use to distribute job postings?

      5) Consider removing identifying information when you review applications (names, etc.) to avoid bias.

      1. Argh!*

        I avoid applying to places that advertise for someone “energetic.” To me, that spells “YOUNG!” and it also spells “WE ARE OLD-FASHIONED GAS BAGS!”

    4. epi*

      There are a lot of opportunities in public health that are specifically intended for, or at least prioritize, people from groups that are underrepresented in public health or other health professions. You may want to look into whether you can structure any jobs that way. In some cases, your organization may be able to be the site for a post-doc or fellowship program that is intended to increase diversity in the field at large. For example, I just got a program notification about the NHLB PRIDE summer training program which is for underrepresented junior faculty. But I know there are similar national and state-level fellowship programs for people with masters degrees or who intend a career in applied public health or government.

      You could also think about what skills are framed as essential vs. nice to have in your ads and interviews. I am at a particularly diverse and health disparities-focused school of public health, so your mileage may vary. But in my experience people from underrepresented groups are actually relatively well represented in public health practice areas that serve those groups. If you require experience in those areas, you will also be more likely to find the interpersonal skills you need, even if you end up with an ally who is not from an underrepresented group themselves. So if you plan to hire someone who will work in practice areas that involve gender and sexuality, consider requiring that people have some prior experience in that; possibly even community-based experience specifically. If you think Spanish language proficiency may be needed, consider bumping it up to a requirement or strongly preferring people whose first language is Spanish.

      In contrast– and I say this as an epidemiologist– I think sometimes technical skills requirements for public health roles could be treated as more negotiable. It is not that hard to pick up a new stats package if you already know a different one. If you’ve demonstrated an ability to apply biostat concepts that are not usually covered in MPH core courses, you can probably do it again with something else. If you have some exposure to GIS, you should be capable of digging into the documentation and leveling up at it on your own if needed. There just aren’t as many unknowns as whether someone can be effective and earn the trust of people from a group they haven’t worked with before.

    5. Bostonian*

      Take a look at your online presence, especially your website. Make sure that your organizations’ mission, values, etc. reflect your commitment to diversity.

      I work for a company that really showcases on its website the community work, charitable giving, and awards that we’ve gotten (best place to work-type awards, best place for diversity and inclusion, etc.). Those things don’t go unnoticed: When I was doing phone screens for an open position, many people said they were drawn to the fact that our company cares about those things. And the resumes with the best qualifications were people from a variety of backgrounds.

    6. Organa*

      I’ve worked in state government and been a hiring manager, and my biggest challenge was fighting with the awful job postings and screening system. If someone didn’t answer the application questions exactly right, parroting back the language of the question and adding a few details, then the entry-level HR rep doing the screening would kick them out as unqualified. I was only allowed to see the apps of the people designated as qualified. I know there were plenty of people who just didn’t check all the boxes properly and didn’t make it to my list. So make sure that you let applicants know how to complete the darned application properly!

    7. Elizabeth*

      Do some assessment of the team members you already have and work out what sort of a person you need to balance out your team. It is very easy to recruit “in your own image” and that gets a new team member who thinks like you, talks like you and works like you. No team works well if all the team members think and work the same way – but equally, all team members need to know that their skills are a valuable part of the way the team works. If you are very aware of this, you will end up with a diverse team with a range of skills – who will probably challenge you to the extreme because they all think and work differently to you and you will struggle to understand and connect with initially – but in the end, you will learn great staff management skills and will get some amazing results.

  29. Princess Deviant*

    So, I’m on my way to getting an autism diagnosis, I hope! The GP has referred me to a psychiatrist for an assessment although I don’t know how long this will take (UK, NHS, Waiting Lists).

    The reason I mention this is because my mental health due to sensory overload in work is getting to breakdown level. I don’t know when this assessment will be, I don’t even know if I’ll get a diagnosis… which makes the situation at work difficult.

    They’re hiring another 2 people for the team at the end of the month, and because there’s no room and we are all part time, we’ve been told we’ll have to hot desk. This has absolutely thrown me into a tailspin of anxiety because I need my own desk, and I can’t tell my boss why this is a horrendous idea for me without revealing sensitive medical/ disability information which I don’t even know will turn out to be officially the case. Obviously I hope it will be official and then I’ll be in a better position to ask for reasonable adjustments in work, but for now…

    Any advice on how to approach this?

    1. Would-be manager*

      Can you ask to be referred to occupational health so you can talk to them rather than directly to work about what you need?

    2. Yarrow*

      Oh hey, I’m actually doing an assessment soon for the same reasons! I’m in the US, so things may be different, but I’ve been told that if I go through an occupational therapist and get a formal diagnosis, I can get accommodations through HR without having to give details to my managers. I am not even sure if a quieter/calmer office is available for me but I might as well try. It’s so hard to work in a room full of people and I cannot imagine hotdesking and not having daily meltdowns.

      If you think you’ll have to start hotdesking before you finish your assessment, you may need to speak to your manager about your situation. Maybe you could say that you’re undergoing evaluation for a medical condition that makes it difficult to focus without being specific. Hopefully they will understand, but I bet you’ve noticed it’s common for people to brush these kinds of issues off. Especially if you’ve been masking how hard a time you’re having as a matter of survival.

      I really hope this goes well for you.

      1. Princess Deviant*

        Thanks very much and good luck to you too!

        In response to both your and world-be manager’s replies, I am seeing the OT as part of the assessment and so don’t think I would be able to see the occupational health without a diagnosis first. And then my understanding of it is that the recommendations can be made when the assessment is done so there would be no need for an occupational health assx after that anyway, but I could always ask for clarity from my GP who has been really good.

        1. Would-be manager*

          Occupational health is something you access through your employer, separately to any professionals you’re seeing yourself outside of work.

          They can write a report for your employer and make recommendations.

      2. Princess Deviant*

        Oh and I just read what you said properly duh! Thanks for the info – it’d be good to go through HR directly and not my boss at all.

    3. Akcipitrokulo*

      I know I say this a lot… but join a union. TUC website has a good resource for finding the right one for you. Before you talk to anyone at work in case it does go wrong.

      For the rest – I’ve struggled with mental health in the past, and it’s not fun. You don’t need a diagnosis of autism to qualify for accommodations for just general mental health and anxiety issues. If you trust your manager, or someone in HR, then have a chat (but please get union representation first) and you may find it will all go off without a hitch.

      If it doesn’t – can you have the *same* desk, even if it’s shared? Is it possible to talk to the other people with whom you’ll be sharing and work something out?

      It also wouldn’t hurt to get your MP to see if they can put a bit of a push on to get things officialised with diagnosis… depends on MP of course, but some can be awesome.

  30. Sue Ellen Mischkey*

    For the love of all corporate workers, PLEASE END TEAM BUILDING (once you have a feel that the general pop at your company doesn’t enjoy it). Granted, I just don’t like them. It’s annoying. I like my team and management. Interacting daily to execute work and company goals is team building enough. It seems the only staff that actually likes it is management. At almost every company I have worked at everyone has HATED these activities. Everyone let’s out groans and grumbles under their breath. If folks don’t like it then why do we continue to subject ourselves to this! Now I must endure yet another of these events and suspiciously a lot of staff have called out today. Rant over.

    1. L. S. Cooper*

      I think the way team building exercises work is they make everyone so miserable that they bond over complaining about it. That’s the only way I can possibly grok those bizarre and tortuous outings.

    2. ginger ale for all*

      I actually like one form of team building – the paid for lunch. No lectures, no games, no activities, just food.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah. My team is “well built” through working together and good management, so I think people do appreciate the opportunity to be social together — when it comes with free food!

    3. Earthwalker*

      The game ones give the overly-competitive and the bullies a sanctioned opportunity to make their coworkers miserable. Whoever doesn’t win a non-work-related competition is a Loser and Not a Team Player. I’d sooner see that if a team isn’t gelling on a project, that good management helps them to get over the hurdles and build teamwork on that project.

  31. Karyn*

    Freelance friends:

    Anyone have any recommendations for billing/time tracking software? I’m currently using Freshbooks and would like to transition to something new. Preferably something that will allow me to import my current data for the year, including clients/projects, rather than having to type it all over again. If it matters, I’m in the legal field.

    1. A Consultant*

      I’ve been using ZohoBooks for my accounting. I’d never heard of it before I researched options, and it was a full-fledged bookkeeping system that ticked some of my biggest boxes. It lets you set up clients, and then projects (i.e., multiple separate contracts with the same client). I found it had the most flexibility in customizing invoices to actually look like I needed them to (which was big for my work). And it has an integrated time-tracking system, with the option of a little browser widget so you can track time as you go during the day. When I set it up, I was able to import data from my old system fairly easily.

      I’ve hit bumps with it, but they’ve mostly been small. Overall it works for me.

    2. Beth Anne*

      I’ve used Harvest in the past but you only get so many projects for free. I’ve heard a lot about 17 hats but I haven’t tried it. I hate time tracking I’ve yet to find a system I actually like.

    3. MoopySwarpet*

      I’ve used Wave apps. I’m not full time freelance so I haven’t used it a lot, but it is free and functions. I’m not sure how it compares to FreshBooks.

      I really like ATracker Pro for time tracking.

      1. Madge*

        I use wave as well but you can’t import data. Well… maybe. There’s a new feature that integrates with google spreadsheets that says it goes in and out but I suspect it’s just out. I haven’t played with it yet.

    4. JulieCanCan*

      We use Bill4Time, it’s my favorite out of the 3-4 systems we’ve used over the last 5 years. I think it’s very user friendly and pretty much everything you need in a billing system. We’re not attorneys but bill the exact same way they do.

      It’s a bit pricey but if you value simplicity and good customer service, it’s totally worth it!

  32. That Girl From Quinn's House*

    Has anyone seen the commercial for Ashford University that’s running on Hulu, and is as annoyed by it as I am? It goes:

    Male Interviewer: This is international business, it’s very tough stuff.
    Female Candidate: [smugly]: That was my major.
    Female Interviewer: There are concerns about your readiness.
    Female Candidate: [spouts off a bunch of Business 101 textbook stuff about the secret inner workings of the company.]
    Male Interviewer: [looks at female interviewer significantly] When can you start?
    Female Candidate: [smugly] Monday.

    It drives me nuts. International business isn’t a job title! No one would bring someone in for an entry-level job just to insult them! Why would an entry-level candidate know a bunch of internal things the company is doing wrong, and also what company would be impressed by an entry-level candidate asking them to change their whole operations in an interview?

    It’s so gumption-y it drives me nuts, and even for a shady for profit college.

    1. Parenthetically*

      Oh my gosh I meant to come here and post exactly this! I’ve been dying to see if Alison would weigh in on it. Just ridiculous. So gumptiony, and not just that, but what on earth kind of interview includes “There are concerns about your readiness”?!

      1. valentine*

        This is just a candidate overcoming negging. It sounds like an internal interview and it’s why I hate classroom scenes in TV/movies. “And so Shakespeare was saying xyz.” *bell rings* Gumption would be if she Kool-Aid Man-busted into someone else’s interview and got the job.

        1. Parenthetically*

          It isn’t an internal interview, it’s an interview with a new grad from Ashford University (who the ad is for), insulting the interviewers and the company and being offered the job on the spot.

    2. Miss Astoria Platenclear*

      Cynically, the university might be purposely showing very unrealistic scenario to reel in naive people with little work experience who won’t realize they’re getting a a bad deal.

  33. Robin*

    My boss is defensive and insecure, and nothing I say is right.. you know the type? I find it so difficult to be around her. I need to spend four hours in the car with her next week. I am dreading it. It’s one thing to tell myself “stay positive, don’t let her get to you!” but FOUR HOURS IN THE CAR! How do I deal with this??

    1. Lena Clare*

      “Do you mind if we put the radio on and not converse? I can’t concentrate on driving unless I listen to (music/news/mindless silly ads/whatever). Thanks for understanding. I’d hate to arrive wiped out before we’d even started the work day!”

    2. No Tribble At All*


      You say “in the car” — are you just a passenger? Put in your headphones, claim you’re going to take a nap, and stay quiet.

    3. L. S. Cooper*

      Eat a lot of beans beforehand. Make her endure the bean toots for four hours.
      (Don’t do that.)

    4. Lovecraft Beauty*

      Headphones and fake napping, if you’re the passenger. If you’re driving, insist on controlling the radio and put on an audiobook, people tend to talk over those less.

    5. Ellen*

      You all are wonderful, thank you for the ideas! Yeah, it’s company culture to talk on these car trips, sadly. She is driving. Two hour trip each way (for a thirty min mtg…). Headphones wouldn’t fly, I feel sure, but I’m thinking audiobook or podcast could be good. Will arrived prepared!! Thanks again.

    6. Camellia*

      My boss is also defensive and insecure. I deal with it by simply letting her, nay, encouraging her, talk about herself. I do this in any situation, even our one-on-one meetings, because hey, she’s not much of a manager anyway so nothing much to say, and it makes her happy. And a happy boss leaves me alone and lets me do my work.

      And if I had to spend four hours in a car with her I would still do this. It would keep her ‘busy’ and ‘engaged’. If she slows down (talking, not driving), just start to say something about yourself, your family, a hobby, anything. It will spark a similar thought in her and then you just lean back and continue to let her talk. Make sure to nod or murmur something occasionally, to keep her going.

      1. Ellen*

        Camellia, thanks. I do like to employ this tactic and will remember it come car trip. The constant snippy snipes get old, don’t they? Le sigh.

        1. Argh!*

          The snipes may indicate that she’s not a people person & that it’s not about you. Do you think you could claim to have a headache or mild nausea and ask to sleep in the back seat? She might be relieved of not having to talk to you, too!

  34. Freelance Analyst*

    I’m seeking advice on successfully becoming self-employed doing analytical work.

    I’ve been in various analyst roles throughout my career, where I’ve done a lot in spreadsheets and databases, improved systems & processes to be more efficient or even automated, and also done a lot of research, created presentations, and written reports. After my most recent contract job ended, I got connected to a recruiter who specializes in my field, and he encouraged me to become self-employed because I’ve had so much instability in my career (8 jobs in as many years with several periods of unemployment, and I don’t really fit in the corporate world), and fortunately enough he connected with some entrepreneurs who are interested in working with me, starting next week.

    All that said, I’ve made some other attempts to do freelance work with mixed results, though in those instances it was just with 1 or 2 different people at a time, who hadn’t really worked with freelancers, whereas the entrepreneurs I’ll be working with are more established and have worked with other freelancers before.

    If any of you have experience doing analytical work on a freelance basis and/or working directly with other entrepreneurs and self-employed people, it would be great to get your input, particularly regarding unexpected challenges, frustrations, and the like.

    1. The Tin Man*

      I’m not much help to you, but I am very curious what/if anyone else has to say. It sounds like we have similar skill sets and I would like to break into being at least part-time freelance. The part of my job that engages me the most is improving and automating processes and reporting so everyone else can spend less time compiling and organizing data and more time doing value-add work!

    2. Phoenix Programmer*

      My experience with this is that it happens one of 2 ways for analysts.

      1 You built a website in 2010 that slowly gained traction and now you make $100k a year just teaching Excel tricks.

      2 You are a respected individual in the industry with big contacts. While you are between jobs a contact finds you and wants you to freelance for them. You make an LLC on Zoom and here you are 5 years later a full freelancer analyst.

    3. MintLavendar*

      You might try focusing on a niche; for instance, I could see services like these being really helpful for smaller companies and nonprofits, who often are starting to have enough data and systems that some automation would be beneficial, but aren’t quite rich enough to buy the off-the-shelf systems to handle that automation, if that makes sense? Like, organizations that do most of their stuff in Google Docs and Word and Excel but who have enough stuff that automating between them would be useful.

  35. MountainHire*

    I’m hoping I can get some advice, but part of me commenting is I just want to get this off my chest.

    I went to a conference out of town for work this week with my boss. We were got there a day prior to the conference starting so we had some time to hang out. We ended up going to lunch and doing some shopping. While we were out shopping, I had a seizure (Grand Mol). The paramedics had to be called and I had to go to the emergency room. My boss rode with me and stayed with me the whole time, even called my husband and booked him a flight out to take me back home. I didn’t go to the conference, instead came home with my husband and took a few days off. I came back to work yesterday after the doctor cleared me. I’ve never had a seizure before, and it was really scary. I don’t really remember what happened the day of my seizure or the day after. I’ve been pretty weepy at work, as well as just generally exhausted. Has anyone else experienced anything like this? How did you handle it? I feel ok today at work, especially since the weekend is tomorrow, but I’m worried about next week as I have 4 major events back to back (I’m an event coordinator) and I’m worried I might forget something due to the memory loss I’m experiencing or even having another seizure.

    1. NightQueen*

      I’m so sorry that happened to you! That must have been pretty scary. My mother (a fairly healthy middle-aged woman) had a seizure out of the blue last year. It came on differently than yours as she was in bed about to fall asleep, but same type. She was transported to the hospital and all, but they found nothing wrong. She was barred from driving for a few weeks. About six months later, she had another seizure under the same circumstances. This led to her being put on an anti-seizure medicine. She has no side effects from the medicine, but she did feel the grogginess you are feeling in the days after both seizures. I would definitely make an appointment with a neurologist to make sure everything is okay!

    2. Nanc*

      Yikes! Full disclosure: I haven’t had a grand mal seizure but my brother did 10 years ago and is doing fine now, but it took nearly a year before he felt like he was processing info the same way as before. They never did ID what caused it.
      I’m sure you’ve done everything I’m about to ask, but on the off chance, here goes:
      1. Has your doctor OKed you to return to work at full speed? While event coordination may seem easy and fun on the surface, it can be quite stressful and you may need to be on light duty for awhile. Which leads to:
      2. Can you step back from leading events and take on a support role for a couple of months? If you have 4 events in the next little while they must be close to being completely planned. If you can’t step back, is there an admin or intern who could also attend as an extra body to help keep details straight? Also, would it be possible to switch your hours or work from home so you have time to rest?
      3. Can you step away from stuff at home? Do you have someone who could help you take care of day-to-day things like laundry and dishes, grocery shopping, meal prep, etc., so you can have some extra down time to rest? If you can afford it, it might be worth it to hire a cleaner or send out the laundry for a month or so.
      4. If you’re on anti-seizure medication and you’re tired and weepy it could be a medical side-effect, let your doctor know. They may be able to put you on something else. On top of everything else, it might be worth getting some therapy to work through the stress and anxiety (as if you don’t have enough to do!)
      5. Don’t try to be your “normal” self. You had a big medical event and you’re going to have to figure out your new normal. Let your boss and colleagues know what you’re having trouble with (memory issues, etc.) and what you’re doing to compensate. Ask them for suggestions and help if you need it.

      Good luck with all of this. It’s scary and a lot to process but it sounds like you have a good boss. Take care of yourself and let us know how it goes.

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        All of those things.

        Hang in there. Ask for help … and accept it. It can be as stressful to deal medical unknowns as it is to deal with the medical stuff itself.

    3. Milly*

      Yes! I had my first seizure at 19 (car accident) and a handful more over the past decade. It’s super scary and really draining. Stress is a trigger for me. Prioritize getting enough sleep and hydrating/eating, especially since this is new. Good luck with the events and take care. I’ll be thinking about you!

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m so grateful that your boss handled this well, I was scared when I started reading it was going to swerve!

      This is a major medical “happening” and those take time to recover from. You will still need to have follow up doctor appointments to see if they can pinpoint what happened or if it’s a risk of happening again, etc. So try to be patient and kind with yourself. The exhaustion and worry is the normal response to this kind of thing.

      You still need to pace yourself and ask for help, you cannot jump right back into the deep end when you’re rebounding from a medical emergency!

    5. Isabekka*

      I’m sorry that happened to you MountainHire. My seizures started showing up when I was very young; about six I think. They were a frequent presence in my twenties and then less frequent in my thirties. Now at forty-six they haven’t been an issue for quite a while. Grand mal can feel very draining; it typically took me 1-3 days to recover and that was for seizures not requiring hospitalisation. For context I had what used to be called tonic/clonic seizures where I would loose consciousness and then crash straight to the floor foaming at the mouth. They must have been scary to witness. I sometimes did remember what happened but it took a while. You mentioned you felt exhausted, if you still do and you can afford to take more time off work then i’d do that. Beyond that try and it easy for while and don’t beat you yourself up.
      Much love, Isabekka

    6. KAG*

      Unfortunately, I have no “get back in the saddle” advice. I, too, had a grand mal seizure at work soon after I’d started a new job. I don’t believe I’d had one before, but given recent medical stuff, it was not entirely a surprise.

      I may or may not have gone back (I don’t remember), but I certainly did not remain employed there much longer (by mutual consent).

      So – basically no advice other than: figure out what’s wrong and work from there. If you have a good relationship with people there, and it sounds as though you do, they’ll likely be understanding and you won’t get a reputation blow-back, but also acknowledge that you might have to take a lot of time off to address the diagnosis / underlying cause.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is that only you have all the info on your situation, but just get ready to find out that all your options might suck, no matter how understanding your employer, insurer, family, etc.

    7. bunniferous*

      My daughter had adult onset epilepsy-she used to have the sort of seizures you describe (thankfully none for a long time though.) It is totally normal to be drained and wiped out. I also hope you are following up with a neurologist .

  36. Need a reality check*

    I’m on my first job out of college. It took me some time to finally land a job after graduating. I don’t have any other work experience, not even internship.

    My commute each day totals to 5 hours, 2.5 hours each trip (15 mins bus trip to the train station, 2 hours on the train, another 15 hours from station to the office). This is VERY normal. All my friends have the same commute. Most jobs are located in Big City, while most workers live in the surrounding small cities, like mine.

    I’ve only been in this job for around a month, and I’ve been sick twice already. My mother keeps asking me to quit because the toll it takes on me, but I don’t want to because of several reasons:
    1. I signed a contract stating that I’d stay in the job for a year, and if I quit before that, then there would be severe (financial) pinalty. My mother said that we could always consult my lawyer uncle, but I feel like this is another way for her to protect me from failure. All my life she’s been protecting me from failure and its consequences, and I don’t want her to do that now that I’m an adult.
    2. Quitting will be a big blow to my self-esteem, which is already in the rock bottom due to the long job search. I feel like the only thing I’m good at is being a student, which makes me feel like I’m still a child and not a freaking adult. I can’t keep running back to school every time I fail at adulting.
    3. Rough estimate puts the number of commuters to the Big City to almost 1 million people each day. If they can do it, why can’t I?

    Another option would be for me to rent a room in the Big City, but the CoL is so high the wouldn’t be any money left for me to save. I’m on an entry-level salary, and I have to help supporting my family, so I keep only 2/3 of the salary. If I rent, I’d have to pay for meals and laundry, which I don’t have to do if I stay at home. And frankly, the idea of renting makes me feel like I live to work and not the opposite.

    So, I don’t know, I guess I just need someone to tell me if this is normal and I just need to suck it up, or if this situation really is not sustainable.

      1. valentine*

        Consult a lawyer. At least then you’ll know if there’s a less painful third option.

        Really look into your demands on yourself. Don’t hate yourself for not being able to endure the inhumane five-plus daily hours of travel, complete with weird stop-and-go and boredom and carrying stuff and not having comforts. Your body begging you to stop isn’t failure, but, even if it were, you don’t deserve to pay for it in both health and money. Obey your body now before it shuts you down.

        I like the roommate ideas. Would two part-time jobs be more feasible? Anywhere with closer housing/jobs you can move to? Plan out what that would take. Is Mom’s help honest and no-strings? Is she just supportive and doesn’t throw things in your face? Sounds acceptable.

        1. Need a reality check*

          I’d love two part-time jobs, and I had applied for those jobs, but I never heard anything. I figure I’m in that weird place where I’m overqualified for retail jobs (where most part time jobs are) due to my degree, but under-qualified for office jobs due to my lack of experience.

          I believe in the bottom of her heart my mum thinks she’s helping me with the advice, but she only ever worked in retail and became SAHM the moment she married dad, so her workplace advice are wildly outdated (“No, mum, going to grad school isn’t going to make me a more attractive candidate, and no, as an entry-level candidate I can’t ask for mid-level salary”). She thinks I’m underpaid, but I’ve done my research and my salary is actually in the normal range for someone with my qualification (or lack of it).

    1. NotAPirate*

      I don’t think quitting sounds good. I think moving closer to work sounds worth considering more than quitting. Can you get a roommate or anything? I’ve had lovely luck renting out tiny apartments from older couples at below market rates. It’s worth poking around. Or is there anyplace to move to where you’re still commuting (so cheaper neighborhood) but the commute is only one train or such like? I find that wayyyy less stressful, just get on one bus and stay on it, rather than have to time transfers and move my stuff repeatedly. Regarding 3- don’t compare yourself to other commuters. What do you do during your commute? Would it feel less awful to watch netflix or listen to audiobooks or take up crocheting or find a friend who gets off at the same time and wants to text back and forth? Find something relaxing.

      1. Need a reality check*

        I actually enjoyed the commute, at least mentally. I should’ve specified this before, but I use the commuting time to catch up on my reading target for this year, so I actually feel productive and don’t consider the time wasted. Physically, though, the train is so packed I sometimes lose my footing, plus I almost always stand for the whole 4 hours trip, so it definitely takes a toll.

        When I started the job I’d done some cost comparison between commuting vs renting, and commuting cost significantly cheaper. Which is why I’m resistant to the idea. But I think it’s worth looking around, so thanks for your advice!

    2. Ali G*

      I think it depends. It isn’t out of the norm where I live either, but it wouldn’t be suitable for me! Everyone is different. Is the just the commute that is killing you, or is it the combo of commute, work, and sounds like tough times at home?
      Maybe make a list of what you need to be successful in this job and see what you can change to start getting you there. For example, if you can’t move, can you flex your schedule to shorten your commute, or WFH one day a week to give you some relief? I’m spitballing to give you some ideas.
      I think we all go through periods where we are struggling in one way or another. These are problems we need to solve for ourselves. It’s not easy, but I think you have head on straight – just put some effort into things you can change/control.

      1. Need a reality check*

        Thank you, especially the part about putting effort on things that I can actually control. It’s mainly the feeling that I’m trapped in a tug-of-war with me as the rope and my mum pulling in one direction and my office into the opposite direction.

    3. Hope*

      A 2.5 hour commute really *isn’t* that normal. Is there any way you could rent a room somewhere that’s only like, 30 minutes-1 hour from your job? That would be more sustainable, I bet, at least to get you through the length of your contract.

    4. Nicki Name*

      This is not normal, unless maybe you work in the SF Bay Area.

      This is not sustainable, regardless.

      Those other 999,999 commuters are not relevant. This is clearly not a good situation for *you*. That is all that matters here.

      The one-year contract with a severe penalty for early quitting sounds odd to me to, but maybe it’s normal in your industry.

      I get wanting to show that you’re a fully independent adult, but using the resources that are available to you when you have a desperate need for them is part of adulting too. Go ahead and talk to your uncle. And then, think about what a good job situation would be like for you. Is Big City the only place to go for people in your industry, or can you think about moving to a place with a less insane cost of living/commute time?

      That 1-million-commuter statistic doesn’t count all the people who’ve opted out! I work in tech, and tech in my city is full of people who’ve fled the SF area because they were trapped in situations like the one you’re describing.

      1. MsManager*

        I’ll just jump in and say I’m in the SF area and even here a 2.5 hour commute isn’t NORMAL. It’s not unheard of, but it’s definitely at the very long end of what people do. I bumped up from a 45 minute commute to about 1:15 earlier this year and am considering leaving my job because of it. Different people are affected differently, but I find 1:15 (so 2:30 for the day, half of OP’s) to be totally draining.

        OP, I would strongly strongly recommend moving closer to your job (even temporarily) and seeing how that affects you. You could event try to something more temporary depending how much time you have left (like a 3-month sublet, or even a long-term VRBO stay to spend a few weeks testing whether the commute is the real problem here) so you’re not committing to the change. It’s okay to NOT be one of the people who’s okay with 5 hours of commuting per day (to me, THAT is living to work and not working to live!), I have a feeling those who are “okay” with it are making serious trade offs or not being totally honest with themselves anyway.

      2. Need a reality check*

        Honestly, I’m in an industry that is only remotely connected to what I’m actually interested in. My current job is an admin/secretary job. I took it because I was desperate to get any job that’d pay me decent salary. My preferred industry is hard to break in, especially for someone with no internship experience and connection like me. I’ve sort of given up ever having a career in that industry.

        My small city is actually a great place to live. It’s the number one weekend destination for people from the Big City. It’s just that the employment opportunities are very limited.

        I’ll take another look on renting. And though it’s hard for me, I’ll try to talk to my uncle. Thank

    5. Mazzy*

      You have to support your family partially, but they want you to quit the job? And how do you not have to pay for meals if you’re gone from dawn to past dusk? And laundry is not a large enough expense to even be discussed when you’re considering a large life change. I think it’s time for a roommate. Yes, it will be tough, but everyone goes through that faze in their 20s. If you can afford to send a few bucks home, fine, if not, what is the other option? You have none. Your parents need to stop putting you between a rock and a hard place and should be happy you finally got a job.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, I think your mother is giving you bad advice. If all the jobs are in the Big City, quitting won’t put you in a better position, right? Also, one job for less than a year doesn’t give you a much stronger resume than you had when looking for this job. I agree with the folks who suggest looking for a better living situation (maybe somewhat closer, maybe with roommates, etc.)

        Good luck and hang in there! That sounds like an awful commute.

      2. DreamingInPurple*

        Lots of folks bring their food from home; if the parents are paying for the groceries then the poster may be bringing all their food for the day and not spending money on it. It’s a little flippant to say that their family can just do without their income – we don’t know that – but if they do move out, their parents might be able to rent out the room they were using and allow them to keep the rest of their check to pay their own rent with.

        1. Mazzy*

          My comments are meant to help the OP. They’ve only been a working adult for a month so I doubt the family is truly dependent on that income. I also doubt they bring a full days worth of food from home every day, without refrigeration for a minimum of two and a half hours on the way in, unless all they eat is fruit and nuts. In other words these aren’t reasons not to move

          1. DreamingInPurple*

            I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. I agree with you, moving is a good idea if it’s possible. The food bit just gave me flashbacks to a period where I did bring my whole day’s worth of food with me in a little cooler bag.

      3. Need a reality check*

        What DreamingInPurple said. I bring my lunch and dinner from home, so I only very occasionally shell out money for meals. Dinner is mostly pb&j, which doesn’t have to be put in a fridge. Right now my family aren’t dependent on my income, which is why my mum wants me to quit, but in the foreseeable future it’s a strong possibility, so I need to start earning asap.

        I should’ve said this earlier, but when I started the job I did a cost comparison between commuting and renting, and commuting was significantly cheaper. I think I’ll do another comparison.

    6. Flat Penny*

      You have my sympathy. My longest commute has been ~2 hours each way, often standing up on the crowded subway the whole time, and it was hell at first. And I was well into my career, with shorter commutes under my belt–it was still hell! It’s totally normal for you to hate it.

      But it gets easier! There’s a chance it will get easier only very slowly, and there’s a small chance that you will decide that it doesn’t ever get easy enough (which is completely rational and understandable), but it does get easier.

      Try not to compare yourself to other people. If you were picking out the best skills/abilities a human could have, would “good at tolerating long commutes” really be something to put near the top? And just because they can handle it now doesn’t mean it wasn’t a struggle for them to adapt, too.

      Play around with how you spend your train-time. Podcasts? Audio books? Actual books? Sleeping? Can you sync your commute up with a friend sometimes? Go as early in the morning as you can, and find a coffee shop or gym to decompress before work? Experiment.

      Do everything else you can for your health in terms of diet/exercise/sleep. Just like kindergarten teachers eventually stop being so susceptible to germy kids all the time, it’s my unproven theory that train commuters are the same, and you’ll stop getting sick so frequently.

      Leaving school for a first job, especially when it’s a job-job, is like being thrown into the deep end. Don’t feel ashamed for finding it tough. Most of your peers were able to adjust gradually with part time jobs and internships and that makes it way easier. You’re working in Big City, and you’re helping to support your family! In terms of actual accomplishments you’ve got way more adult points that most people your age. And in terms of being able to not feel so stressed, you will catch up. <3

      1. Need a reality check*

        *internet hugs* Thank you, it’s really comforting to hear from someone who’s been through similar thing and survived. I should’ve said this in the original post, but mentally I don’t find the commute that draining. I’ve been able to start reading again and catch up on my reading goals for the year. It’s the physical toll of standing for 2 hours and being pushed around every time the train stops and people rush to get in. It may sound over-dramatic, but my friends and I have been legitimately worried that we’ll break a bone one of these days. We haven’t reached the Japan-level of needing to be pushed inside, but our situation is only very slightly better. Sometimes I have to stand on my toes because there’s no space left.

        I actually know C-suites who take the same commute, and it’s partly the reason why I feel like a wimp if I can’t survive the commute. I mean, if these people with way more money than me still take the train, what rights do I have as the lowest person in the office totem pole to complain?

        Extra thank you for your last paragraph! That’s a very kind reminder, and I really need to hear it.

    7. Zeldalaw*

      Not normal for me, but I don’t live near a big city and I know that brings very different commuting issues. One thing I wanted to mention is whether getting sick could just be a function of being in a new environment with a bunch of new people. I know I often have gotten sick a lot when I’ve started new jobs, so that might be part of it that could get better once you get acclimated. That’s especially true since you’re not only with a bunch of new people (and new germs!), but also likely stressed and tired with all of the changes.

      1. Mazzy*

        Oh this is a good point. When I moved from the country to the city for the first time, I got maybe five colds in six months. I was almost never sick after that

    8. Liza*

      Firstly, do not feel bad about struggling. That sounds like a horrendous commute and I (and doubtless many others) could not handle that in a million years.

      1. Regarding the contract issue. Even if you choose not to quit right now, you should absolutely consult your uncle, or any other lawyer who knows about these things, because that contract thing sounds bizarre. Asking these kinds of questions of people is by no means a Failure to Adult – it’s actually the perfect example of adulting. It’s about using all your available resources to accurately assess all your options. This isn’t mom protecting you from failure, it’s her looking out for you to make sure your employer isn’t about to pull a fast one.

      2. I feel for you on the self esteem thing. I had been out of work for several years when I went back to school, and then it took another year after I got my postgrad for me to finally land a job. It does wear you down. It sounds like you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, and all you can do is assess which one is more damaging to your wellbeing right now? The commute or the prospective job hunt? Only you can answer that, and you might feel that changes over time.

      3. I’ll be very honest, I have absolutely no idea how those 1 million people do it.
      I know I couldn’t. If you want to try and adjust, all I can suggest is that you do all you can to make that 2 hours on the train feel like down time: take hobby projects with you, listen to music, relax, and don’t think about work or chores. Use it to chill completely. You may find it gets easier, or you may not. Just because 1 million people do it doesn’t mean it’s possible for anyone. Human beings are all individuals. Some can take a long commute in their stride and use the time to relax. Others have an upper limit of 30 minutes and no amount of money or prestige is going to persuade them to sit in traffic for an hour or more. Just because x number of people can handle it, doesn’t mean you automatically can, too.

      There is no definitive answer to your question, I’m afraid. All you can do is assess your situation and how it affects you over time and weigh it against other options. Being unemployed sucks, but it sounds like you are fortunate enough to live with family with minimal bills. That means you have the luxury of being a bit pickier when it comes to work. Would it be worth continuing to investigate local options? They may be less abundant, but it’s worth keeping an ear to the ground. What is it about this Big City job that makes it worth the commute? Is it the money? Is it a foot in the door into your desired field? Is it a nice white collar job in an office with air conditioning as opposed to flipping burgers? These are all important questions to ask yourself, and without judgement.

      From there, you can ask yourself: what elements of that job would you be willing to trade to solve the commute issue? For instance, working retail in Small City for less money, but commuting by bus for half an hour – would that be better or worse?

      Also ask yourself, how does this all fit with your long term plans? You mentioned that saving is a priority for you, so think about what your goals are for that savings pot, and what you actually need to get there. How long are you willing to stick this job out for? What’s the pay off you see at the end? Do you WANT to move to Big City eventually? Or would you rather go elsewhere? There may be places where the cost of living is lower but jobs in your field are more abundant.

      It’s really easy to get bogged down in present circumstances and think “I must do this because it is my only option!! I just have to suck it up because I’m a grown up!!” I was exactly the same when I was young, also because of over protective parents, and it takes a while to get the balance right. Sometimes being a grown up is about recognising your limits and asking for help.

      1. Need a reality check*

        Thank you – your comment is really kind and thoughtful, and helpful too! Honestly the only reason I took the job was because it was the only place that offered. I’d interviewed in 3 other places, applied to more than 100, so when this job called me I said yes right away. It’s not my desired job, not in my desired field. At this point my only thought is to earn money. I’ve stopped thinking about having any career or long term plans at all – I’d be lucky if I have a job. I definitely don’t want to move to Big City. The reason why there are 1 million people commuting every day is because many people have fled Big City due to its high CoL.

        Those are questions that I need to really ask myself, so thanks again!

    9. Policy Wonk*

      A month isn’t a very long time, and given your description of your commute, it’s not surprising you’ve been sick twice – lots of exposure to new and different germs on public transportation. Lots of other commenters have already given you sound advice – looking for a roommate or group-house situation, for example. And you could go home on weekends to do laundry and have mom pack you some of her home-cooking. Doing the five hour commute once on the weekend might be more manageable.

      You need to give yourself time to adapt to the new situation. Address what you can, but give yourself some interim goals to get you to that complete year. I will do x by month 3, y by month 6. And give yourself rewards for accomplishing those goals.

    10. EH*

      When I had a longish (~1.5 hrs each way) commute on public transit, I was hourly, and talked my manager into letting me do billable hours on the train. I had pretty portable work, though, and this was a common thing at the company (working on the train, I mean), so I don’t know if this is doable for you, but it made the job possible for me. I was getting increasingly destroyed by the super-long days that doing a full 8.5 hr day on top of 3 hr of commute. 6.5 hr plus 3 hr commuting was much more doable. Also, it helped me cope with the stupid commute by keeping busy.

    11. UKApplePie*

      I live in London, on a entry level salary so I feel this keenly. I could have lived at home – but it was a 2.5hour commute one way, involving walking, trains (bit guaranteed a seat) and the tube (at rush hour, definitely not guaranteed a seat). I did that for a month – my Dad did it for 10+ years.

      It. Was. Intolerable. I speedily moved to London (obviously renting a room in a house, not by myself) and have very little money, but my life is much much better (physical and mental health), and I’m able to perform better at work. If you can cook (or learn!), the food isn’t that expensive. I’m viewing this as a stepping stone to a better life. The transition from student to working adult is hard – I was also a much better student than I am a young employee. It sounds like your mum is a good egg, so maybe she will understand that you aren’t able to financially support them anymore/until you get pay rise? Could you wfh once a week? I wouldn’t quit – this year of experience will be so important for future jobs, particularly if you don’t have a lot of other experience. Hope it improves a bit for you :)

    12. blink14*

      This commute time is very common for people in the outer NYC metro area (not saying it’s where you are, but I have experience with it). Commuting by train is often 2-2.5 hours, including travel time to train. Commute by bus is about 1.5 hours, but less predictable with traffic.

      Have you looked at alternative modes of transportation or different routes? For instance, getting to a train station further down the line may actually save you time, or taking the bus + a train or another bus might shave off time. Do you have any friends living in the city who you could maybe crash with a couple of times a month or even once a week?

      In terms of getting sick – it makes a lot of sense to me. You’re on a major form of public transit, twice a day, when you probably weren’t before and then add in the stress of your new job and the commute time.

      I think you need to stick it out for 6 months, and it’s going to take adjustment. Any full time job is going to take adjustment. Once you put in those 6 months, start looking for something else if it’s truly unbearable.

      Also, let your uncle look at your contract. Don’t be stubborn and refuse help because you want to be an adult. Adults ask for help when they need it.

    13. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      First off, please learn to never compare yourself to the “millions” out there that can “hack it’ while you’re struggling.

      Millions also manage to live in poverty as well, so you’re not going to go deal with the fact you’re hungry because others have been doing it, are you? Please understand that not everyone is the same and everyone has different bodies that need different things and survive differently. So if you’re exhausted and diminished so much from the commute, you’re probably catching the sickness from being on packed commuter trains with people who are struggling as well, they’re going to work sick AF and spreading it because they do it to live and pay their bills, not just because “They’re able to handle the commute” better!

      It’s only been a month, that’s a short time to try something before you know it really isn’t sufficient for you. You may be sick frequently because of the stress your body was under for looking for work and finally “slowing down’ for that minute after the relief you felt from getting hired on! It’s a thing, I swear.

      You do not fail at aduling, many of us have to figure out how the world works once we’re out of school. You will fail at things over the course of life but no one failure ever defines you or your ability to take care of yourself or assist your family.

      I have a feeling that contract is because they gave you a signing bonus. That’s typical for places that offer it, they require you to commit to X amount of time or else you have to pay it back. It’s because why would they offer an incentive without a string attached, it wouldn’t benefit them at all that way, they’d get taken advantage of constantly!

      If you can move away from your parents home, with roommates or even just to remove that 15 minute bus ride, that’s 30 minutes a day you save and can spend relaxing in your home to re-energize. That will help you feel more independent and get you from your mother’s meddlesome ways. Your mom loves you and wants to protect you, she’s a mom. So try not to think of it as her trying to keep you a baby or coddle you and refuse to let you be an adult. You do have to fight and push against her desire to swaddle you up and get you out of any given issue that pops up, it’s hard but you can do it.

    14. Bagpuss*

      If you are only keeping 2/3 of your salary you *are* paying for meals etc now.
      You might need to look at the costs of house-shares etc and determine what proportion of your income you can afford to give your family- as you are just starting out you probably don’t have a lot of disposable income so may well not be able to give as big a proportion of your income as you are doing.
      I don’t think your mum’s advice is great .
      The first month or so in a new job is exhausting as you are learning so much, in most cases it does start to get easier as you start to find your feet, so give it a little bit longer before you decide if it’s sustainable for you

    15. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

      Here is my suggestion. I suggest that you find a way to stay overnight in Big City on Monday and Thursday nights, for example. I would suggest finding a bed in a hostel rather than a hotel room. You can read the reviews on any of the hostel websites, like You should also consider AirBNB, if it exists in Big City. These alternatives will save you the time and the expense of the commute several times a week. You can eat rather cheaply if you don’t eat in restaurants. Many hostels have kitchens where guests can prepare or at least refrigerate or microwave food. If you stayed in a place that had a kitchen, could your mother prepare you some take-away or reheatable meals? I think the commute is killing you. Good luck!

  37. RoseGrows*

    My manager seems to see his direct reports as one unit. I am frequently blamed for mistakes that were made when I wasn’t on the job. I don’t mind owning my mistakes, but about 65-75 percent of the things I get blamed for, I had nothing to do with. When possible, I have been pointing out that I wasn’t there. Sometimes it makes a difference in the moment and sometimes it doesn’t, but overall I feel like we are all conflated in his mind. Since I truly make fewer mistakes than my coworkers, I am getting the short end of the stick on that deal.

    He also frequently tells one of us information and expects it to just get dispersed through the group. (The group does not see each other every day.) Sometimes information doesn’t reach me and it impacts my product. I’ve tried pointing out that I wasn’t told certain things but I think he honestly forgets who he has talked to and who he hasn’t. Sometimes he accepts the explanation and sometimes he just gets annoyed. (He does usually ask for an explanation, I’m not just standing there making excuses when all he wants is a fix.)

    When I mess up, I absolutely own it. So he is not receiving a constant “not my fault” answer from me. But when I wasn’t a part of it, I am often confused and have to first determine the problem and then point out that I wasn’t there and therefore can’t offer an explanation. He often gets annoyed at that. Rarely, I don’t even catch that I wasn’t involved in that portion of the project until later, so I just take the blame, even if I’m confused about the problem. My confusion shows- so I think then it looks like I don’t understand how to do the job.

    The real issue is this: I think my managers perception of me has gone down, not primarily because of things I’ve done, but because I get grouped in on mistakes that weren’t mine. I’m afraid it has started to have a real impact on my job and possibly on my career.

    Can I do anything to make this better?

    1. Zephy*

      1. Do your coworkers also see this behavior from your boss?

      2. Can you, as a group, approach your boss with your concerns? There’s clearly room to improve communication between your boss and his direct reports; it would probably be more impactful if you could all sit down together to devise a better system and make sure you’re all on the same page. That’s how I would approach it – you can’t make him care about all of you as individuals, but you can figure out a better way for him to communicate with the whole group, if he insists on treating you all like a monolith. It could be as simple as setting up a team email quickstep or mailing list in Outlook, so he can email everybody all at once. Or setting up a team Slack/Discord channel.

      1. valentine*

        This is unsustainable.

        ~Stop taking the blame.
        ~Start an email group to distribute the crap he spews.

        1. RoseGrows*

          Job search was the only solution I could think of, honestly. I do like my job except for this, though, and changing jobs would probably require a move, so I want to try everything I can first. But, at this point I am quite worried about the impact on my reputation, and I don’t want that to get out of hand.

      2. RoseGrows*

        Thank you for your help!
        1. Oh yes, it happens to everyone sometimes. He’s not singling me out.
        2. We’re a small group, and a portion is on long-term assignment right now and will only sporadically report to him for the next several months. It doesn’t make sense to approach as a group right now. And the information is often project-specific, so it’s most often a problem when I take over a project from someone and all the little details and changes just don’t get passed along. (Switching projects due to scheduling is super common- which also might be part of the problem overall.)
        And, as I think about it now I realize, part of the problem is just that he changes his mind a lot, so it’s not often solid edicts. Due to that, a lot of the information becomes both project and somewhat time-specific. Maybe having everything in writing would help, though. I’m going to think about how to make communication better but that last point is a serious barrier.

    2. Argh!*

      Your boss sucks. Some bosses will “instruct” an entire work group when one person messes up because they are afraid of uncomfortable one-on-one conversations.

      re: information not getting to everyone, you can start by yourself by asking if it’s okay to send an email about something to everyone, and then hope that others decide to do the same. Option 2 is to have an uncomfortable one-on-one conversation about this. Remember that this is not about you and that the boss should care about things getting done. He probably just has poor communication skills or a habit of fuzzy thinking. Option 3 is to have this same conversation but include some coworkers who have similarly been impacted. “Thanks for meeting with us. We wanted to meet because it seems like information doesn’t get to everyone who needs it, and we want to let you know that we’ve noticed it’s a pattern, not a one-off. Is there something we can do as a group to be sure everyone is on the same page?” Something as simple as a shared google drive might be all you need.

      Good luck & please post an update!

      1. RoseGrows*

        Thank you!
        I’ve had bosses who did the “instruct everyone” thing. It was annoying, but at least I could understand that they just hated confrontation.
        This one is different and much more frustrating because he is doing it one-on-one. Sometimes I think he just blames whoever is closest to him at the moment instead of contacting whoever did the work. Or maybe he blames whoever worked on the project last. Or whoever wore the ugliest shirt that day. (He definitely knows who did the work- our names are literally written on everything we do.) Honestly, I can’t even find a pattern for that, so I’m just baffled.

  38. Em*

    If you know that your workplace is toxic came and you’re searching for other jobs, what’s the best way to prevent the toxic job from affecting your view of workplace norms? I’m talking the CEO telling you you’re doing a great job and then the next day screaming about how awful you are so that the whole building can hear it.

    1. Zephy*

      Knowing you’re working at Evil Bees, Inc. is half the battle. Naming the abusive and toxic behaviors that you’re subjected to helps. I’ve seen people recommend mentally adding “you think” before whatever abusive vitriol comes out of the Evil Beehive, to remind yourself that it isn’t true and mentally distance yourself from it. Reading blogs like AAM and checking in with the commentariat can also help give you a reality check for what is and isn’t normal.

    2. Argh!*

      I needed time away from LastToxicJob to have some introspection, therapy, and relaxation to destress in order to make a good impression to land CurrentToxicJob. (and I had PTSD nightmares for about five years afterward!) Now I’m applying for jobs and had an interview recently where the potential grandboss asked “How do you handle constructive criticism?” and I laughed. I don’t get constructive criticism here. I get nitpicks and insults and comparisons to my cousin Sheila. I tried to recover for an answer, but I realized reporting to a pedantic schoolmarm with a grudge against me has had an effect on my interactions with others.

      Plan B is to ask for a transfer to another unit. I am even willing to grant my therapist permission to share her notes about me with HR in order to justify getting away from ToxicBoss. I may stay in that other unit indefinitely (which would be an improvement) or just until I can find another job in my specialty. Either way, I need time away from ToxicBoss in order to recover from ToxicBoss in order to work well with NextBoss.

      I plan to enact Plan B after a few more conversations about this with my therapist.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Oh…you seem to be working for my former despicable boss. Literally “We love you and want you here forever and ever and take over the company and let us retire into the sunset and just collect paychecks we loooooooove you.” to “If you ever step out of line again and look at us with ‘those’ eyeballs again we will fire yoooooooou!’

      You have to remind yourself, constantly and forever that that CEO is a horrible evil person and doesn’t get to dictate how everyone and every other workplace is.

      Then remind yourself as you move on to always check yourself. It will take awhile for you after you’re out of the situation to bounce back and become less scared of the new boss from turning all crazypants on you. It took me a year to be honest.

      It’s all about keeping control of your mind and re-reminding yourself constantly that “This isn’t normal. This isn’t normal. This person is a monster, people are not regularly monsters.”

  39. Mrs. Krabappel*

    High school teacher here with a question about interviewing norms. My school is hiring for a specific department. A job candidate emailed every member of that department asking for specific information about who to contact, could they ask us some questions etc. None of the people contacted knows this candidate nor has any known connection to the candidate. It struck all of them as aggressive and inappropriate for a job candidate to do this, So I thought I’d ask the wonderful commentariat here. Is that an acceptable practice in the business world, or is it seen as too aggressive? What, if anything, would you do about it?

    1. Save One Day at a Time*

      No, that’s not considered standard practice. And you don’t need to do anything about it. If you want, you can say something short like “oh, as you know this is a busy time of year for all of us, so I don’t have that time right now, but I’m sure if HR isn’t able to answer your questions you’ll have a chance to get to them in your interview.”

      If it turns you off so much you don’t think they’d be a good fit, you can briefly mention that it happened to your principal or AP.

    2. Middle School Teacher*

      That’s not even acceptable practice for a SCHOOL. Unless you’re a single independent school (private or charter for example) the hiring and interviewing would be done by the board, who would assign the teacher to the school.

      1. Luisa*

        Or at the very least, it would be handled by an interview committee/panel, which would hopefully include at least one teacher from a relevant subject area, but would (presumably) not include every teacher from that department.

        LOL I can picture having a discussion with the weakest link in my department about why we should not campaign for the hiring of someone who, absent any other knowledge about them as a candidate, did this kind of thing…

      2. just a random teacher*

        Emailing around to various school people looking for the scoop on a job is not a thing here either (I have never had a job candidate email me, a random teacher at the school, for information about a job at that school), but in my state hiring is generally done by the school principal rather than the school board. The board/district office/HR/general district bureaucracy has final approval over hires, but my actual interviews have generally been done by the principal, sometimes with other teachers, staff, and, rarely, students on the interview panel. One very small district hiring for a multi-school position within the district had the superintendent do the interview instead, but I think that’s because the position was split between schools and he was the next layer up. This is probably one of those things that varies by location.

    3. Akcipitrokulo*

      Nope. Not normal.

      If they are otherwise good, it might be worth giving them the benefit of the doubt that they may just have been given some really, really bad advice from a careers centre or parent/other older relative… but no. It’s not good.

  40. Virginia Plain*

    I just handed in m final assignment for my MLIS (yeah, I know…) and I’m already stressed about the job search. So, I’m looking for a bit of advice!!

    I’m applying for an internship in an academic library and I feel really stuck regarding what to say in my cover letter. We’re supposed to write about our “career goals” and express interest in academic librarianship. It’s made me realize that I have NO career goals beyond “get a job in a library,” because of how dismal the job market is. How on earth am I supposed to articulate a reasonable/good sounding job goal when… my goal is to just get A job in the field. Obviously I have to write something compelling, but geez… where do I begin?

    Also, I’ve never worked in an academic library before (my experience is in school libraries), I think working in academic libraries would be lovely… but I also kind of counted that experience out. I never thought that academic libraries would take any of the work I do in a school library seriously, but I enjoy bibliographic services/cataloging/etc. in particular and it appears as though there are more opportunities for those positions in academic libraries, in general. Maybe I have no business applying for this internship because of my lack of academic library experience? Wouldn’t they think that if I wanted to work in academic libraries I would have gotten a position at the university library where I went to school? Instead of staying in my job at the school library? Gah. I haven’t even been finished for a week and I’m already in a tizzy!!

    1. Tomato Frog*

      If an academic library is advertising for an internship, and don’t say they want experience (and they shouldn’t require that, if it’s an internship!), they are quite likely looking for: enthusiasm, education, an interest in launching a career in the field, and — seriously, SERIOUSLY — that you actually read the position description and are interested in having the job they are hiring for.

      I’m hiring for an entry-level residency right now in an academic library, and we’ve been kind of put off by the number of applications that treat the position as a regular professional gig and just rattle off job qualifications when the position announcement is pretty clear that we’re advertising this as a learning opportunity where you could expand your skills. We want to know that applicants can do the job, but more than that we want to know that they’re keen to make the most of the opportunity presented to launch a career.

      I think you’re psyching yourself out with this job-market-is-awful, “I just want a job” stuff. You DO have interests in specific aspects of the field (cataloging, etc.), so you can talk about what appeals to you about those and how your career goal is to do that sort of work. Or if the internship focuses on other areas of librarianship, identify the aspects of the work that you think you would do best at or want to learn the most about and drill down on those. What skills do you want to develop so you’ll be competitive for the kind of job you want in the future? Then you can connect those areas of interest to transferable skills from the jobs you have had, so they know you can do the work.

      1. Virginia Plain*

        Thanks for the advice! I feel a bit better now!!

        I do have a question, the posting for the residency (well, residencies) is for 3 positions and each position is with a different department and are different from each other. Do I specify which position I’d be particularly interested in (best suited for) or should my cover letter be for ALL positions? I’m also confused by that.

        1. Tomato Frog*

          That’s tricky! I take it the applications all get submitted the same way, to the same place? If the position description breaks out each internship in detail — like each different internship has its own section in the posting — I would think you should write your cover letter targeting one internship. If there’s one big description for all internships, listing overall qualifications, and then just quick mentions of the different departments, it might make more sense to do a more general cover letter (but still being specific about what you’re interested in and good at!). This is just my best guess, though! Grain of salt.

    2. Canonical23*

      Everyone needs a job in Library Science, but if you’re not throwing out applications to every single job and then some, there’s a reason why you’re /drawn/ to specific postings. Why does this job feel like a good option for you? Career goals aren’t necessarily “what do you plan to do from now until you are 65?” they’re “how does this position fit in your life’s path?” Write about what you want to accomplish in a career – that’s your goal – and how you can accomplish that in this specific academic library.

      Hope this helps! I got my MLS last year and it’s an interesting job market out there for sure.

    3. Yarrow*

      Former public librarian/current law librarian here:

      A) Your cover letter is a marketing document and your goals don’t have to be perfect, real, or forever. Look at the description for the type of work you’d be expected to do (or find some old job postings for entry-level academic jobs) and use that info to mention a couple of things that appeal to you about the work or that you’d like to learn about.

      B) Think of how your school library experiences might impact working in an academic library and mention it. You can say something like “my experiences in this type of job have led me to be interesting in x thing about academic libraries” or “I’ve learned X in school libraries and I look forward to expanding my knowledge with Y.”

      C) Most librarians have worked in different types of libraries throughout their careers. They understand that subfields are different but there are commonalities like educating users about electronic resources, using catalogs, managing databases, instruction, reference help, etc.

    4. Tafadhali*

      I just want to echo that there are a lot of transferable skills and that it is very normal to work in different types of libraries during your career! As a solo school librarian, I’ve found that I have to do a bit of everything, so although cataloging (e.g.) may not be as all-consuming a part of my job as it would be if I worked in a cataloging role in a university, I would still have things I could highlight if I were looking for a role elsewhere. And, of course, if it’s an internship, they are likely not expecting you to come in an expert!

    5. magnusarchivist*

      I work in an academic library & can confirm internships are for learning, so don’t feel like you aren’t qualified! I have (not at this job but at others) turned down applicants who clearly wouldn’t learn anything from the internship. Like candidate A has 6 months experience working with our specific OPAC, but B doesn’t so this internship would clearly be of more benefit to them.

      But also — hiring managers know how bad the job market is and so assume everyone is just desperately trying to get a foot in a door. Any door. So concentrate on letting your personality and interests come through in the cover letter. And if there’s any skill you have that would make your manager’s job easier, definitely mention that. Like if you’re great at customer service and de-escalating complaints, say that! Or if you enjoy cataloging (you glorious weirdo), you’ll be a much more attractive candidate than someone who just took a required class in it.

    6. Marian*

      Academic librarian here, although I don’t hire our interns or do cataloging/technical services work

      If you’ve just finished your MLIS, and you have any library experience at all, you’re doing okay; no need to panic. And cataloging translates across levels more easily than reference; RDA is RDA.

      One way to connect school libraries to academic libraries is to talk about cataloging “special formats” – did you need to figure out how to circulate items like puppets or kits or other non-book items? That’s helpful knowledge that translates to all kinds of useful quirks in an academic library, like maps and special collections.

      Good luck!

  41. AnonAdminToday*

    For anyone who doesn’t know, this coming Wednesday is Admin Professionals Day. I used to be an admin in my office and have moved to a managerial role that is not directly admin related. I’ve been invited to the admin lunch on Wednesday and I’ve accepted, but I think this is the last time I’ll go. The admin group is a mess – we have 5 open positions right now, one just got let go and another is planning a ridiculously weird transfer, and the whole place confuses me. It used to be you learned the job over years, and now its 3 months and you’re gone for not understanding processes with a yearly cycle. We’re never going to attract quality staff with the low pay we offer admin and the lack of training we give, and the succession planning for our older admin is nonexistent. I’m not sure how I’ll keep my mouth shut at the blatant hypocrisy in the lunch, but I’m getting so sick of this revolving door of poor choices resulting in staff turnover and old guard admin pouting about new staff not knowing things. We’ve had 4 office managers in 8 years, and the only good one was forced out by head partner because she questioned the status quo. Trying to maintain my good relationship with some of them, be kind to the ones I barely know, and stay out of the politics when some of the choices are so very very odd…makes me tired just thinking about it. Ugh. /rant

  42. Mimmy*

    Not looking to solve this, just looking for perspective —

    I had an interesting conversation with my supervisor, Penny, yesterday. She sometimes vents a bit to me about our director–I know that’s another can of worms, but she and I have a close relationship.

    Anyway…she’s finding that instructors, myself included, complain to her about how our schedule is created; she then advocates on our behalf. Then, when the director asks us directly if we have any issues about the schedule during our morning meetings, we don’t say anything. So then Penny looks like the complainer. I suggested that everyone wants to seem like team players, because that’s what the director is always touting–“we work as a team!”.

    I was just curious if this is a common scenario? I’ll admit that I too am afraid to “rock the boat”, but I feel bad that Penny is being misperceived as not being a team player because we’re all afraid to speak up.

      1. valentine*

        You’re making her look like Chicken Little, a liar, or a power grabber. Treat it like an honest question. If he retaliates, deal with that. Until then, complete the circle and support Penny’s supporting you. Lead by example and speak up. Others will follow.

    1. S-Mart*

      It’s certainly not uncommon, but it’s a great way to get Penny to stop advocating for you.

      Working as a team does not mean never having complaints, as long as you can do it politely.

    2. Kathenus*

      Intentional or not you’re putting Penny in a bad position. You’re asking her to advocate for you, she’s being a supportive manager and doing so. Then when the director asks you (meaning the global ‘you’), Penny is left hanging because no one is willing to give honest information. It’s not complaining if you professionally communicate concerns with scheduling – such as ‘the schedule comes out so late that it’s hard to plan’, or ‘there seems to be inequity in how holidays are staffed’, or whatever. Sure, if you’re saying ‘we hate the schedule, it’s not fair’ or something else more whiny or not actionable, that’s not good.

      But you’re never going to get what you are looking for by giving one message to Penny and then another to the director when she is trying to be a good director and delving into peoples’ concerns. And as S-Mart says, you’re going to lose the support of Penny, and you could be hurting her in the eyes of the director. Thanks for asking this question, it sounds like you have a good intention but the way you are all going about this is, in my opinion, counter-productive to what you’re trying to achieve and unfair to Penny.

    3. The Tin Man*

      I feel like it’s pretty common for big boss to ask everyone if there are any problems and hearing crickets back, then middleboss hearing from people one-on-one about their actual thoughts.

      Does the director have a history of lashing out at people who speak up, or do people remain silent because they want to be seen as a team player? I know if I were the director I would do some introspective work if I ask my team if there are any problems and hear nothing, only to later learn that there were issues. That sounds like an environment where people do not feel safe being open about problems.

      Is part of it an issue that he asks the whole group and everyone thinks “I don’t want to hold up the whole group with my specific issue with the schedule, I’ll just talk to Penny after”? I could see myself doing that.

    4. Elaine*

      I’ve been in Penny’s situation. My whole team was complaining about something (validly) and I addressed it with my boss. The entire team – and I mean the ENTIRE team – denied that there was a problem. OK. You have a problem with how things are done, you’re on your own now for that kind of thing. Except that wasn’t the end of it. I was dinged on my next performance review for “trying to stir up trouble where there was none,” it negatively impacted my future performance raises, and I was permanently seen by some above me as a troublemaker. This was in spite of the fact I had previously been considered a strong performer for the past 12 years, and I was professional and low-key in bringing up the team’s issue. I finally left a couple of years later.

      Please, please don’t raise concerns and then deny everything when push comes to shove because you’re afraid to rock the boat. It would be better not to say anything to your supervisor if you’re going to let her hang when she tries to help you.

    5. Sleepytime Tea*

      You guys are doing her a serious disservice here. She is trying to be a good boss by taking your concerns up the chain and making things better for you, but then when your director asks you about it, to just confirm what is going on and ostensibly to talk about a solution, you all refuse to say anything? Why would you put her in that position? How do you expect her to want to go to bat for you on anything if you back down on it the second it comes up? If I were her I’d be extremely frustrated to be thrown to the wolves like that, when I was trying to do right by my team.

      Is this common? I would say it’s kind of common when it comes to a group of co-workers where one person decides to be the spokesperson and then everyone else shrinks down in their seats, but I have NEVER seen this happen when it was the team’s supervisor that spoke up for them and then had their entire team abandon them.

      If you’re going to do that, don’t complain to her about anything ever again. It is just so, so wrong of you to complain and want something to be done about it, have her go to bat for you like a good boss should, and then have you leave her hanging. There are SO many people here complaining about terrible bosses that never do anything to try and fix things for them, and here you have someone who cares about their team and tries to solve the problems, and you hang her out to dry. I’m sorry, but that’s terrible.

    6. CM*

      It’s not awesome if the director is tossing the question back at you in an intimidating way (that can be a deliberate strategy to get this kind of reaction and undermine your boss), but your boss is trying to be a good teammate to you by escalating this to him and if he’s being a dick about it or trying to make you too nervous to criticize you need to stand together. It doesn’t work if she speaks up and you guys act like she’s lying.

  43. El Caminope*

    My workplace is a dumpster fire of people leaving left and right, and it is likely that we are being acquired. In less than 2 years I went from a department of 4 to just myself as of last week when my supervisor quit, and she and I briefly discussed her job duties but our roles were parallel, so we worked alongside each other but w/ very different responsibilities. The conversation I had with our director and HR made it clear that I was not taking over my supervisor’s role (I had already absorbed another person’s duties when our dept went from 4 to 2 people) and that many of her tasks would either be shifted elsewhere or stopped altogether (with the pending merger this made sense).

    However, I don’t think this has been clearly communicated with staff, who assume I am taking over my supervisor’s role entirely and are bombarding me with calls and emails. I am doing my best to be responsive and say “I’m not sure but let me find out!” and following up, and also knowing “this should go to ___” and asking for help when I’m stuck. But I’m finding that people are not particularly helpful and are putting it all back on me when I have no experience or training for my supervisor’s role – not to mention I have not been able to focus on my own deadline-heavy work because of all these interruptions. I’ve also been tasked with running a large project that intimidates me because of all the moving parts involved and how much can fall through the cracks when only one person is handling everything, and with no support I feel like I’m drowning.

    I am actively job searching and interviewing (have a third round interview next week at a dream job!) but I don’t know how to handle the stress of all of this in the meantime. The acquisition, the expectation that I will now do the job of FOUR people with no assistance, the fear that it will all be meaningless if I am let go during the acquisition anyway, etc.

    Guess I’m just venting here. I try my best to be helpful, responsive, and professional even when I feel the stress getting to me but the frustration-tears are getting more frequent and I need a better coping mechanism (and a better job, but that’s a work in progress). And I find myself losing patience with people who refuse to be helpful or patient with me (the culture here has been toxic – no one trusts each other, a lot of good people have left and many disgruntled ones remain), but I don’t want my reputation or professionalism at this place to suffer because of that.

    And commiseration or advice?

    1. E*

      Instead of trying to be responsive to the bombardment of requests, I’d check with HR and see if you should refer requestors to HR or if HR will be communicating to everyone the temporary procedure in place (that should include not bothering you about x, y, z). You and HR may be on the same page, but if everyone else doesn’t know who is (and isn’t) handling supervisor’s duties, they won’t stop.

    2. Frankie*

      I’d flag this for your director and ask who should be taking on these tasks. Have examples of emails or requests, and maybe you can say “I know we said I’m not filling my supervisor’s role, so who would take this on?” Give them some awareness of how many of these requests you’re getting and ask specifically how they should be routed/addressed. And if there’s someone who is insisting you do things for them even after you’ve declined, maybe make that clear to the director as well.

  44. Lonesome*

    I started a new job a year ago. I joined a two-person department (so three with me) because they were overburdened. Previously, it was just my boss and my colleague Jane. Now, I report to my boss and so does Jane. Jane doesn’t report to me, but I technically outrank her because I have a qualification she doesn’t have (think like I’m a CPA and she isn’t).
    I really love my job, but Jane and I literally do not speak. As in, she doesn’t say hello and goodbye (I do). We sit next to each other in an open office space, so it’s super awkward. I’m not sure what I have done to annoy her except exist and do pretty good work according to my boss. She sometimes will email me (we sit next to each other! just talk to me!) to ask me if I’m handling XYZ in a way that feels incredibly passive aggressive, especially since I don’t report to her. She has been frosty from the start and I think she resents me coming in and changing the dynamic, but I didn’t expect it to be this bad and it’s not getting better. I’m an otherwise friendly person and had lots of friends at my previous job, but it’s been really hard to socialize here. Jane has been friends with the other girls I sit next to (who work for a related but seperate department) for years and they have a little clique. The other girls are polite enough at work, but then they all head out to lunch or coffee and have never invited me. They never initiate any kind of small talk either. They frequently talk over me to discuss their weekend plans or message each other on Skype and then laugh or snicker about things I don’t know about. People here usually socialize by department, so while I have friendly relationships with other departments we don’t hang out or anything. My boss is friendly but mostly hangs with the C-suite. I’m really tired of dealing with this, having lunch alone and never having anyone to talk to at the (multiple) social events thrown by my company. I know I’m a grown woman with other friends and interests and it shouldn’t affect me, but it all feels very mean girls in high school and is taking away the joy I otherwise feel here, to the extent that I’m considering looking elsewhere, which is unfortunate because this job is really great otherwise. No sure what I’m after here, mostly just venting.

    1. El Caminope*

      Oh man, I could have written this one 3 years ago. I feel you, especially on the solo lunches when you come from a place where you were friendly with everyone. Dynamics of three seem to be really tricky, especially when you’re the newbie entering a team of two who are also friends. I wish I had better advice for you, but chances are Jane is intimidated by what you bring to the table and the default reaction is to make you feel like an Other. The thing I repeated to myself was that other people’s rude treatment of me reflected on them, not necessarily anything I had done, although it’s so much easier said than done when you’re hearing coworkers laugh and ask about each other’s weekends and no one even acknowledges your presence. Stay strong! I will say karma catches up with everyone eventually – and even though there were times I wanted to call them out on that behavior, in the long run, the mean girls are noticed by others in more senior positions, and your ability to stay above it will be, too.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      This kind of thing wouldn’t bother me a bit as I’m an introvert and wired that way and never really expect work to fulfill my social or friendship needs.
      It’s understandable not to hang with your boss. But you know SCREW Jane–if she’s a jerk I’d avoid her anyway.

      The best thing I can suggest is that you try your best to forge more advanced work friendships with people in other departments, and START hanging out with them, even if it’s not as typical. Sure if might feel weird at first, but once you do it a time or two, it will begin to feel more natural.

      1. EH*

        This! I’ve made friends with folks in other departments, usually folks I interact with for other reasons. For example, I am still buddies with IT guys from a couple old jobs. (IT guys make GREAT interdepartmental friends, they know a ton about all departments and interpersonal stuff, and they see your fellow employees at their worst, so their reads on people are invaluable. Plus, I am a huge nerd, so we usually have stuff in common. :D)

        Small talk can be rough. At a previous gig, I made friends with folks from other departments by arriving early at events and then chatting with whoever else was also early. I’d make a joke about how weird/hard it is interacting with folks at work events, and 90% of the time, they’d agree and then comment about something that opened the way for conversation. That other 10% of the time, I’d ask them something or make a joke about small talk being tough and then offer something about myself. (If both of those attempts flop, I’d cut my losses and try again elsewhere.)

    3. Liz*

      This reminds me of my former job. I was hired as jr. position, under sr. position, who left on maternity leave shortly after I started and never came back. A replacement was hired for her position, but she was an internal transfer, so already knew everyone in our group. I hadn’t really worked all that much with sr. position or for that long before she went on maternity leave, so while we weren’t as close as everyone else, we got along and liked each other.

      For whatever reason, i never “clicked” with my new dept. As in I was kind of an outsider, and while people weren’t mean, i was always an afterthought. Never asked if i wanted to go to lunch with them, or coffee, or anything like that. I’m kind of an introvert anyway, but even so it would have been nice had they included me every once in a while. And Former CW would come in every now and then for lunch with everyone, and they’d all talk about it, out in the open for a couple of days leading up to it. So I could hear what was being planned, and then on the day she was coming in, usually just before, they’d say “OH so and so is coming in for lunch, do you want to join us?” yeah, um thanks but no. I don’t do afterthought invites. So I understand how you feel. Thankfully I left that job shortly after.

    4. Kathenus*

      I agree with other commenters that it’s not uncommon to have problems like this with a new team dynamic. Sometime’s it’s just lack of clicking on a personal level, sometime’s it’s got other components. One thing that might be a factor is the hierarchy you mention. You both report to your boss, but you also mention you technically outrank her due to a qualification. If you both work somewhat independently, and she doesn’t report to you, she might perceive you as peers; but if your perception is that you outrank her, this could be a root of at least part of the problem. If you don’t have any actual supervisory or lead role over Jane it might help if you reconfigure your thinking of her as an equal peer versus you outranking her. Everyone has different skills/qualifications and in some cases certifications, but these alone may not indicate a hierarchical structure, so maybe rethinking how your positions relate to each other could be beneficial.

      1. Lonesome*

        Fair point. I’ve tried really hard not to project that image. Mostly I feel like my boss reinforces this by occasionally saying “Jane, you need to turn this over to L for review since she is [qualification].” She doesn’t report to me so I certainly don’t tell her what to; we basically deal with two separate divisions and rarely interact unless our work overlaps, but my boss sometimes calls me in for reinforcements in her division since I have more clearance than she does for certain tasks. So the dynamic kind of feeds itself – I was really good friends with people in her position at my previous job and don’t consider myself above her in any way (but also won’t let her manage me). It’s a bit awkward as a setup and I should have considered that when accepting this job, but I was very focused on the other (very real) positives.

        1. Kathenus*

          I definitely see the challenges here. I work in an industry that’s changed radically in the last decade, and the newer people and longer tenured have had a lot of conflicts in the transition. One reason is that the new crop have these new tools/technologies/strategies that are changing the way things are done. Some of the longer tenured folks resist the change, but for a lot of them it’s the fact that their experience and knowledge sometimes isn’t noted or respected, especially by the newer staff. So maybe look for areas that Jane has a lot of experience in, use her for her institutional memory, and look for the aspects where she brings value that can help you to do your job; as well as being in the situations that you describe where your qualification is a necessity in her work. Maybe you can build a more symbiotic work relationship that way. Thanks for the response and extra context.

  45. BetsyTacy*

    I have a staffer who is going to be retiring in the next couple of months. I’ve only been his supervisor a few months, but he’s been here a long time and I want to give him a retirement gift.

    I’m planning on spending about $100 and looking for ideas. He’s a diehard golfer so I was thinking of a golf-related gift certificate? Or is this the type of a thing where it’s too easy to get wrong, so I should just give him a gift card to a nice restaurant. He’s the type of a guy who would also get a kick out of a funny travel mug and something absurd, like me getting him a case of (nice) golf balls.

    Also included will be a thoughtful card with a note talking about his impact to the department.

    1. Elizabeth Proctor*

      I would probably do a general gift card and the golf balls. Shows that you know enough about him but isn’t too specific.

    2. Flat Penny*

      I’d ask around with other managers to find out what is typical for people retiring after his kind of tenure.

    3. Laura H.*

      I’d offer maybe ask him? Because there may be something he’s planning to do during his retirement (like learning to cook a certain type of food that requires an inexpensive but special tool, or is wanting to take up a drawing class or something.) Added bonus of getting to know him a little better, and maybe making the card more heartfelt.

    4. KR*

      You can get golf balls that have things printed on them. If he likes funny absurd things could you do like golf balls with happy retirement on them or your company logo or maybe a work related joke – golf socks or a polo with fun patterns – a nice baseball cap to wear when golfing? You could possibly put together a nice little gift basket that’s golf themed

  46. Elizabeth Proctor*

    Curious about others’ perspectives and experiences here.

    My SO and I want to move our family to a nearby state where SO’s family is. We live in a major northeast city and where we want to move is much smaller (no major cities in the state…). I am transitioning to a new job in a couple of weeks where I’ll be working remotely. The salary is good, and even better for where we want to move.

    SO is having trouble finding a job in new state because there just isn’t their kind of work there and not a ton of opportunities in general. We are considering moving this summer anyway, staying with family for a while and figuring it out. SO is ready to move on from their current job for a lot of reasons. A bonus is that we wouldn’t have to pay for childcare while living in the new state until SO finds a job, so that’s a big cost savings.

    Has anyone taken this kind if leap of faith? How long did it take to find a new position? Did you have more luck when you were already living there? Did it turn out badly?

    1. valentine*

      Create a backup plan so you are not stranded with the relatives. Is there a third or fourth option, like moving to a nearby state where there are better jobs? Does it really make sense to prioritize the state/family?

    2. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

      Since you can work anywhere, in my experience, you should wait until he has significant prospects / pending offer. The lure of moving to a lower cost area near family is strong, but not every industry/ skill has employment opportunities in some areas… and IF your family needs his income at all (run the numbers), you need to be sure he can get a job there before you jump. Or be willing to have him switch industries or roles / be under employed/ live on your salary. Others will no doubt chime in, but I have family in a wonderful low-cost area – but no jobs within an hour of the family member I’d most like to live near, in anything near my area of expertise or any pay I could do more than subsist on. And I have no kids to put through school or dependents other than mom. YMMV. But 5-10 years out, what will the impact be on your family’s finances and goals? Don’t rush.

    3. SherBert*

      I’d do the math to see if you could live on one paycheck in the event that SO doesn’t find anything or if whatever they do get doesn’t pay much.

      We have made the move where only one of us had a sure thing for work and managed. And that was without a network of family and friends nearby. If you think you can do it financially with one paycheck, I’d def go for it.

    4. Sleepytime Tea*

      My SO and I did this. He got a job in a new city and I followed without having something lined up immediately. It all really depends on what opportunities are like in the area you’re moving too, so if they’re limited, it might take awhile for them to find something. That said, I ended up getting a ton of help from recruiters. I had never used recruiters before, but figured hey, I can keep doing my own job search but having someone else also searching for me can’t hurt. And it didn’t! I ended up with multiple recruiters working with me and bringing me a lot of options. I would definitely look into it for the area, because it’s an option to just multiply your efforts essentially. I mean not all recruiters are great, but particularly if you find a good one it can be extremely helpful.

    5. Triplestep*

      I think SO should consider changing fields if there isn’t a lot of opportunity for them in their current field in the new city. This is something that will impact them for the rest of their career in that city if they ever want to change jobs.

      1. Elizabeth Proctor*

        Sorry, wasn’t clear that SO is applying for things in other fields, it’s just hard to make a career switch.

  47. RunnerGirl*

    Hi All,

    I am working at the moment, but I want to make a step forward in my career. So, following the advice on this blog, I have been quietly job searching. And I have been getting some interviews.

    It’s my most recent experience that has left me feeling mislead. I applied for and got two interviews for a job that would be right up my alley. After the second interview I was made a verbal offer. The manager I would be reporting to gave me the salary and a starting date. They sounded enthusiastic about me coming on board. Assured me that they would be in touch with me by a date. After the date had passed with no communication, I tried following-up. No response. I tried reaching out to their HR department, and still no response. I was ghosted.

    Thankfully, I haven’t given notice at my current job and they don’t know I am job searching.

    I’m feeling let down as they got my hopes up and then ghosted me for no reason. Other companies I have applied and interviewed with would send a quick e-mail to let me know that they have decided to move forward with a different candidate. The last big company I worked at didn’t make me an offer then ghost me afterwards.

    Is it normal to be down after this experience?

    Thanks for listening/reading.

    1. Liz*

      While its never happened to me, i’d be down too! Unless the company completely vaporized and no one is left, that’s a really horrible and unprofessional thing to do!

      While its not unusual not to hear much or anything at all if you simply apply, and sometimes even after you interview, the fact they made you an offer etc. and then you didn’t hear back either from the manager or HR? Kind of makes me think you may have dodged a bullet!

      But good think you didn’t give notice at your other job!

    2. Zephy*

      It sucks to get ghosted but it’s increasingly common. :( Possibly silly: have you checked your email’s Spam or Trash folders? Gmail (IME) likes to automagically divert messages with attachments to Spam or Trash. For CurrentJob, after I accepted the offer, my boss said she’d email me a background check authorization that I needed to fill out. I spent all damn day refreshing my inbox, only to see that the message had arrived within minutes of that earlier conversation and been immediately routed to Trash.

    3. Pikachu*

      I was ghosted after an interview once too. The guy (VP of Ops) said “I need to pass your information to HR so they can handle the paperwork side of things, so you should hear from Person early next week.”

      Never heard from Person. Never heard from any of them ever again. Followed up a few times to no avail.

      The funny thing is, the guy left that company but we were connected on LinkedIn. About four years later he messaged me and said he wasn’t sure how we were connected, but he was interesting in doing business with my current company (the one I ended up at as a result the job search where we had our ghost-interview).

      Holy awkward.

  48. rldk*

    I’m planning to go to law school in the fall, leaving my job of about a year-and-a-half. How much notice should I give?

    Factors: I haven’t put down a deposit yet but will before the end of the month, and I will definitely be leaving the city. We’re in the middle of strategic planning, particularly for a new database/data-managing process, and I’m the primary database person for our team. My team is in the midst of ramping up for a huge initiative of which the database will be a fairly critical part, but we’re only just at the stages of ‘do we need a fully new system.’ Previous coworkers who’ve left have had overlap periods with new hires and been given a lot of flexibility in transitioning, but worked only part-time (by their choice).

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Your reason for leaving — law school — isn’t actually a factor here. What you want to think about are professionalism, politeness, the burden you’d be leaving for your co-workers, and whether you may burn a bridge by leaving everybody in the lurch. Does your team need just the ordinary American 2 weeks? Or do they need more? But honestly they shouldn’t need more than a month (if they do, that’s your workplace’s problem for not having succession plans, not yours).

      To add, between you and me, if you have the personal resources, I’d advise taking a couple of weeks’ vacation before you have to report to law school orientation. Your 1L year is a slog and you’ll appreciate starting with your batteries fully charged.

    2. Zephy*

      Can you create documentation for your role or update the documentation that exists? Alison has mentioned the concept before of a “Hit By A Bus Manual” – a document outlining all the processes that you’re responsible for or involved in, all the command chains you’re part of, who reports to whom, etc etc. Basically, everything someone would need to step into your role if you were hit by a bus tomorrow. Also handy for updating your resume when the time comes.

  49. ThrowingAway*

    I’m having a weird issue with my manager—typically we’ve worked together really well.

    Our team is going through a big transition right now and pivoting to different types of work. Let’s say we used to consult on teapot design with a particular type of customer. We’re now moving away from that customer group, and we’ll be focusing on research for teapot design, and we’ll be taking on projects that in general are a bit less exciting and creative, although the type of work suits our skills.

    I am more in support of this transition than a couple of others on my team. I don’t think it was handled in the most transparent way—they appear to have disregarded a lot of our feedback when early talks about this transition were underway. But in general, I’m on board.

    But since then, it seems as if my manager has been focused on improving the morale of those team members who are less satisfied. He’s been giving them projects I was also interested in without circling back to let me know—I find out after the project has already been given to someone else. I then need to take on a project I was really a lot less interested in.

    He also seems to be forgetting or disregarding our 1:1 conversations where I say I want to take on a particular independent project, he agrees, and then gives similar work to another team member.

    Just recently, we’re replacing an intern-type position on our team, and I had the idea to move it in a different direction given our new work. I said I’d love to be involved in the hiring of the new intern. I’ve been on search committees before and in general find search/hiring to be a cool process, and I think I’ve contributed strongly to the previous searches I’ve been on. Instead, he’s asked another team member to do this with him, without circling back with me to say he’d rather she handle it/any other kind of clarification.

    Now…I am not the type of person who needs to cherry-pick projects. But a large element of our previous work, and what I appreciated about this job, was the ability to have some say in what ended up on our plates. It seems like other folks still have this on the team and it’s growing less and less so for me, for some reason.

    Is this a conversation worth having with him? If so, how do I have it without sounding whiny? Again, I don’t feel as if I should get to work on whatever I want—I’m just confused because he will ask what I want to work on, not give me a yes or no, then go and essentially set up the opposite and I don’t find out until later.

    1. Kathenus*

      I think it’s worth having the conversation. I’d approach it along the lines of ‘I know that things are very busy right now and we all have a lot on our plates with the new direction and changes. I wanted to loop back on some past discussions about some ideas I’ve had and projects I’d like to be involved with if possible’. Then have a list of maybe 2-4 specific things you’d like from him – either actions you’d like him to approve (or not), or projects you’d like to be involved with. And during the meeting try to get some decisions and next steps so you can follow up with a specific action plan. Since you’ve worked well together in the past I’d chalk this up to him juggling all of the challenges and changes, and focusing attention on those who are still not on board while unintentionally taking those that are on board (you) for granted. So this could be a proactive way to help get back on track.

  50. I Work on a Hellmouth*

    Greetings from the Hellmouth! It’s been a pretty full week (awesome phone interview with Local Big University for an admin position with a boss that sounds really nice and normal! Boss having me followed and tracking my every moment, including how long I take to pee! Extreme weather! I got chased by a goose!), but the thing that has been taking up the most of my time has been talking to HR. I’ve been writing timelines, pulling documentation, taking pictures of cameras/microphones—aaaaaand I still have a lot to finish writing up (some of it stuff that I didn’t even mention here, because it sounds super crazy even in light of the usual Hellmouth stuff, but I have documentation that will prove it actually happened). I think Boss suspects something is up, and I am slightly terrified of what the fall out/actual results of all of this will be, but the way I currently see it 1) could it really get worse? and 2) at the very least, I probably won’t have to worry about being set up/terminated for a few weeks. And I have had some REALLY positive job hunt feedback/results, so even if I just stall everything here for a bit, I genuinely think I might have some decent job offers on the horizon (please keep crossing fingers and toes, lighting candles, etc). Oh, and for those that remember the War on Post-Its (which my boss had banned from the office, even after I told her that I actually needed them for my organization system due to being non-neurotypical and stating that I could bring in a doctor’s note for them)—the HR rep has said that SHE WILL GET ME MY POST-ITS. HUZZAH!

    So, if there are any updates on any of this, or if I manage to get everything sent off to HR and have time to write up being tailed by the maintenance supervisor, my Mission: Impossible exploits getting photos of my boss’ surveillance equipment, or The Great Goose Escape I will comment on this post. But guys! Maybe things won’t always be terrible! Maybe I’ll get out! Maybe my boss won’t be able to keep terrorizing people! IT IS A DAY OF HOPE!

    1. Peachkins*

      Aww, glad to hear things may be looking up. How awesome would it be to get a job offer AND get your horrible boss fired at the same time?

    2. Parenthetically*

      I CANNOT WAIT for the great and glorious day when we all get to settle in for the dramatic saga of how Hellboss got fired in humiliating fashion and you got to escape to a nice, normal job working for a nice, normal employer and now your most frustrating day involves internet issues and photocopier jams.

      Wishing you all the very very best! A day of hope!

    3. The Phleb*

      Oh…way to leave us hanging! Great goose chase? Being tailed? Mission Impossible?! AAAAA!

      1. Happy Lurker*

        Seriously, must hear more. But, good luck Hellmouth! I am smiling thinking about your escape.

    4. Nerdy Library Clerk*

      HOPE! \o/

      May HR come down like a ton of bricks on Hell Boss, and may you get the nice normal job you deserve!

    5. I Work on a Hellmouth*

      1) Thank you so much for all of the well wishes, everyone!
      2) Boss is now suddenly being astonishingly nice to me and even engaging in pleasant conversation (which is weird since she reiterated in this week’s team meeting that we’re not allowed to have idle conversation with coworkers, and that being chatty is actually stealing time/money from the company). I’m having some weird “Oh no, I am trying to get a person in trouble and that means that I’m a bad person!” emotional response, but I think it’s just my brain trying to trick me because I’ve been in a kind of abusive situation for awhile.
      3) Laying out black and white time lines of everything and pulling documentation and supporting evidence to go with it is really eye opening. Obviously, I knew things were terrible, but jeezum pete, looking at the sheer volume and content of everything is blowing my mind.

      1. kittymommy*

        – 2) Boss is now suddenly being astonishingly nice to me and even engaging in pleasant conversation (which is weird since she reiterated in this week’s team meeting that we’re not allowed to have idle conversation with coworkers, and that being chatty is actually stealing time/money from the company). I’m having some weird “Oh no, I am trying to get a person in trouble and that means that I’m a bad person!” emotional response, but I think it’s just my brain trying to trick me because I’ve been in a kind of abusive situation for awhile.

        No, do not fall for this trick Hellmouth-prisoner!! You stand strong against this trickery, we have your back.

      2. Peachkins*

        Yeeeah, please don’t feel bad. This woman sounds like a psycho that shouldn’t be in charge of running or managing anything. You’re helping the company itself by reporting her, and you’re helping countless other future employees by telling HR what’s happening.

      3. revueller*

        I don’t want to exagerrate the usage of the word, but you are correct to identify this as an abusive situation. Your response to your Boss suddenly being nice to you and the wake-up call of looking at the bare facts of what she has done to you and your office are reactions I’ve seen from friends and acquaintances in abusive relationships. I’m so so glad your company has an HR department and I wish you the best of luck for GTFO as soon as you’re able. Congrats on the excellent interview.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Yes! Classic abuser tactic — “Oh sh*t! I’m about to get caught! Better put on a good face!”

      4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Just remember that even The Devil himself can “play nice” if he wants to, it’s a manipulation tactic. Rarely is anyone so evil they cannot even play the trick of being pleasant. It’s how manipulation works, you lure the prey into your candy coated house and then at the right time you stuff them in the oven.

        Just remind yourself that this person is truly evil and it’s okay to be skeptical of anything seemingly “normal” or “pleasant” she does along the way. Assume it’s a trap. Trust. No. HellBoss.

      5. Blue*

        If she gets “in trouble,” it’s fully because of things SHE did and SHE caused, not because of you! I’m sure she doesn’t feel guilty about the hell she’s put you through and is only being nice in an attempt to lessen the consequences that she knows she deserves – maybe keep reminding yourself of that?

        Did HR approach you for additional information after GLC went to them? Hurray for them both! I really, really hope your boss gets what’s coming to her and that you have many awesome job offers with very normal bosses to choose from.

      6. I Work on a Hellmouth*

        You are all very, VERY right–we had some severe weather yesterday, so at about 3:30 my boss told me that if I was worried about the weather/my drive home I could leave for the day and make up my time today. So I went in a bit early and planned to stay late. Cut to 6:10, where my boss told everyone to go ahead and clock out because she wanted to submit payroll (it is due Monday morning). I reminded her that I was staying to make up time. She told me to take PTO. I looked at how much PTO I have (and thought about the job interviews that I want to go on) and stressed that I did not want to burn two hours of it. She pushed for me to just take it. I said that I would not have gone yesterday if I had known I would be burning PTO.

        So she coded it to sick time and sent me home.


        1. Arts Akimbo*

          I’m verrrry suspicious that she was doing something that she insisted you go home so you wouldn’t be around for it.

          1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

            That, or she wants to come in late on Monday and she can’t do that if she doesn’t submit it early. So, either she wanted to do something terrible, or she didn’t want me to get in the way of her sleeping in or whatever.

  51. Deb Morgan*

    I used to write blog posts for a small non-profit. The procedure was this:
    1. I write a short blog post.
    2. I submit it to the Executive Director for edits and approval. She either sends it back to me for edits, or she lets me know it’s approved as is.
    3. She sends it to the webmaster.
    4. The webmaster puts the blog post on the non-profit’s website.
    The problem lately has been that I send it to her for edits and approval, and then…nothing. If I resend it, there’s a 50% chance she’ll respond. I’m doing this work for free. Should I spend any more time writing these posts? I’m leaning towards “no”, but I’m curious what you think.

    1. NotaPirate*

      Can you have an in person conversation about it? Maybe there’s someone lower in the hierachy who can approve with a more responsive email. Maybe you need a different frequency of sending them, or maybe send several at once for her to approve and then let the webmaster stagger post. Or maybe they’re not interested in continuing. If you’re interested in it still then I’d try to get a conversation about it.

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Have you asked her directly if she’s still interested in receiving content from you?

    3. Deb Morgan*

      @ NotaPirate and Glomarization, Esq.
      I think you’re both right that I need to talk to her if I’m interested in continuing to write for them. My frustration at the lack of communication on her side is coloring my view on this.

  52. Zona the Great*

    I need help dealing with a woman who takes up 90% of my time and headspace when I should only hear from her rarely. She’s new to her job yet not as new as I am to mine. She works for an non-profit agency that receives funding from my state agency and who also helps us manage the program at her county level. I’m the program manager and she doesn’t report to me but reports information up to me.

    She is someone who abuses (perhaps not intentionally) her right to call me with questions. She has exhausted me to the point that I am burned out on dealing with her. She’s kind and everything but she does not have any hesitation in calling with any little question. She calls to find out what someone else meant in a group email instead of calling them. She even wants to discuss wacky hypotheticals and strange suppositions. She tells a five minute story as a lead up to a question when I didn’t need the lead-up. She takes long pauses and speaks in only semantic word maps using inaccurate buzzwords. “Zona, I’d like to discuss the locus of control vis a vis the blah blah blah”. First of all, that’s not how you use “locus of control” and who the hell talks like that? It’s hard to listen to a voicemail like that without rolling your eyes out of your skull and onto your keyboard.

    Also, she will not email me even though I have asked her over and over to stop leaving voicemail (because hers are empty with simply a request to call her back even after I told her never to leave an empty voicemail and to always describe in detail why she’s calling if she wants a call back). When I do get an email from her, it is simply, “Zona, can we discuss X? Thanks”. I spend an entire day just trying to get her to tell me what exactly she needs. If I respond to that email, I say, “We can probably connect if necessary. Please tell me what your question is” and she will pick up the phone to call me about the question instead of answering the email. I now won’t answer when she does that. I would have to take copious notes to make sure I understand her question while also not being able to multitask like I can with email.

    Because all her questions require much policy research, I cannot keep doing this. I need to get her questions in a succinct way and in writing. I’ve told her this. She won’t do it. From here, I will just be ignoring her until she learns. If I did this to my partner at the federal level, I’d get in trouble, my boss would be called, and I would have my access to that agency strictly limited and would only be allowed to communicate in rigid formats. This is what I want to do to her but we don’t have those sorts of systems in place.


    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I hear that you’ve tried and tried to get her to send e-mail and be succinct about her questions. But I wonder if it still isn’t a matter of just doing “lather, rinse, repeat” on it. If it were me, I’d answer every phone call with, “I’m sorry, I can’t answer that over the phone. I need you to put it in e-mail.” If/When she keeps going, “I’m sorry, I’m gonna have to stop you right there. I can’t answer that over the phone. I need you to put it in e-mail.” And every e-mail that isn’t complete enough, I’d reply with, “I’m sorry, I need more details. Please explain further in e-mail (and no phone calls, please, I can’t answer this over the phone).”

      You’re not refusing to be responsive to her! And there’s nothing in these replies that tells her to go away and leave you alone. You’d just be making it crystal clear to her that you can’t handle her business over the phone.

      1. Parenthetically*

        I totally agree with this. Give her a heads up: “It is no longer possible for me to address these inquiries over the phone. From this point forward, I will be unable to deal with requests X, Y, and Z over the phone and will redirect you to email.” And then repeat repeat repeat. “Again, Sally, I’m sorry, but it’s not possible for me to address this stuff over the phone any longer. Send me a detailed email with your inquiry laid out and I’ll handle it from there. Thanks!” *click*

        1. valentine*

          I don’t see the need to surrender your headspace. It’s a routine. Let it be routine.

          Unless it’s worth having your manager speak to hers, especially if they could establish those systems you want. But if you’re allowed to ignore her and to insist on emails, it’s better to keep this under your control.

      2. Akcipitrokulo*

        Very much this. Most of the time letting her go to answering machine and sometimes answering or responding to the call back on occasion will encourage it (it’s basically turning it into a gambling game).

        Simple, polite and consistent with wording above has best chance of working!

    2. RandomU...*

      Honestly, it sounds like you’ve been pretty clear on your expectations. I’d have no problems pulling way back on your interactions with her.

      If she emails you with no relevant question, then respond as you’ve been doing.
      If she calls you and leaves a long rambling voicemail. Email her back and ask her to reply with the question via email.
      If she calls you, don’t answer the phone. -then see previous
      If she calls you and you answer, then go with the “Oh hi, yes just running to a meeting. Please send an email with that question and I’ll reply when I have a chance to research it”

      Last thing I’d do is just give your boss an update that this is what you’re doing and why so they know what is going on.

      1. Peachkins*

        I’m inclined to agree. Give the boss a heads up on what’s going on and how you’re handling it to make sure it’s not an issue and in case the woman complains (make it clear how much of your time she’s taking up with unnecessary commentary and inquiries), ignore the phone calls or tell her to email you if she does get through, and respond to emails as appropriate.

      2. Bismuth*

        Yes to looping in your boss. I’d also keep a recording of a couple rambling voice mails, just in case.

        How do people like this get anything done?

      3. Blue*

        I’ve worked with some people like this, and these strategies largely worked! I particularly liked the, “I’m running to a meeting but send me an email with the details and I’ll get back to you when I have the time to look at it properly,” approach because it suggested “I care about giving you a quality response” instead of “get out of my face,” which is what I was actually thinking. Most of them eventually stopped bothering to call because I pretty much never answered and I always replied to their voicemails via email.

    3. Wishing You Well*

      This problem sounds big enough that it’s worth talking to your boss about it. Be sure you focus on how it’s affecting your job and make sure you propose a solution to your boss on how to handle it. Seriously, your boss needs to know this is taking up 90% of your work time.

    4. Rick Tq*

      Do you have a relationship with her manager or program director to discuss this?

      If Karen won’t follow your directions about these kind of questions/contacts her management needs to know about the problem.

    5. Kathenus*

      A lot of great comments on this already. One thing alluded to but I don’t thing yet addressed directly is that as long as you keep taking the time, answering phone calls, doing the research, etc. she has no reason to change her approach. Yes, if she was either more self-aware or professional she’d change her behavior based on your requests.

      But since she’s shown you that she has not been willing to do what you ask, giving her the reinforcement of doing what she wants despite her inappropriate methods is reinforcing her (in the scientific sense, meaning maintaining or increasing the behavior). You can’t change her behavior, but you can change how you respond, either by looping in your boss for support or simply not giving her what she wants until/unless she uses the methods you’re requesting. I commend you for not blowing up at her yet, I don’t think I would have been able to show the self restraint you seem like you have. Best of luck in dealing with this.

      1. Zona the Great*

        Thank you, Kathenus. You are correct that I am reinforcing her bad habits by giving her what she wants. I have serious anxiety around not providing good “customer service” even if she’s not really a customer. It’s been hard to balance anxiety about not answering with anxiety about answering, if that makes sense.

        1. Bismuth*

          Just remember — you have lots of other stakeholders who also are owed your time and attention — including yourself. Reining her in IS fair and focusing on the customers, and frankly it’ll help her in the long run if she figures out workplace norms. Maybe figure out how much of your time she’s trying to take as opposed to others in her position, so you can get an idea of proportion.

    6. Just us chickens*

      She needs you, you don’t need her. If she can’t follow your instructions on how to contact you, I say ignore her until she does.

  53. Resume*

    I was the main author of a grant we submitted and we actually won it! Can I put this on my resume? If so, what would be the best way to word it? And do I put how much the grant was or do I leave the money out of it!

    1. Save One Day at a Time*

      You can add your grant writing experience, sure! That’s a skill that people will want to know you have (in fact I’ve been told to leave it off my resume because of how desirable it is lol)

      You don’t need to mention the amount, but you can mention the type. “federal grant” is it’s own type of beast so if it is one you’ll want that on there

    2. Lily Rowan*

      Congrats! I think “main author of successful grant proposal to XYZ” would work, and if it’s an impressive amount, I would definitely include it. (But fundraising is my field.)

    3. BRR*

      If it’s a large amount you can put something like “secured $1 million grant to start llama grooming program.” Depending on your field, it might also work in your cover letter to accomplish “showing instead of telling.” (And congrats!)

    4. SciDiver*

      I’ve seen people include a section on either a CV or resume for “Grants & Scholarship” where you can list out grants you’ve been awarded (grant type, institution, some people will put $ amount but that’s more common in academia). Any scholarships, fellowships, grants, and monetary awards can go there! Or if you don’t want to make a new section, you can add it under the relevant job title.

  54. NightQueen*

    So I’ve provided a lot of context for this query that may or may not be important so TLDR; how can a group of workers politely “push back” to our superiors regarding a new process that we feel is unnecessary and a hindrance to productivity (& morale)?

    I work at an energy company as one of four accounting clerks. The four of us report to two AP managers. We’re all very close & very friendly because it’s a small office. We, as clerks, receive & enter vendor invoices on a daily basis into our database, which is VERY finicky and does not allow any kind of editing to an invoice once it has been posted (it must then be “reversed” or credited out and then re-entered if there are any errors or it needs to be deleted for whatever reason). Obviously there are going to be mis-key errors every now and then because there are multiple fields that must be manually entered, and none of us are perfect robots. This was brought up in a meeting yesterday after two errors were found on two January invoices (we process about a hundred invoices a day on the whole), so AP decided that the clerks should take the invoices they entered that day, run a report to show them all in Excel, and give the invoices & report to another clerk to have them check our work. We feel that this process is very elementary and none of us are happy about it. It adds another task to our already-busy day, and AP already checks our vendor statements on a monthly basis, where these errors would/should show up and be caught/fixed. The January mistakes should have been caught months ago, but they are “behind on checking statements.” We all understand that accuracy and and correctness is of utmost importance, but we think this process of checking each other’s work is frankly a bit silly.

    Are we justified in feeling this way? Doesn’t it seem infantizing and sophomoric? We may make about 5-10 errors over the course of an entire month, and they are typically caught & corrected quickly. None of our errors have ever led to incorrect vendor payments, so I feel like the handful of errors we make don’t warrant this process. How can we, as a group, push back on this and convince our superiors to allow us to simply be more careful and check our own work?

    1. TooTiredToThink*

      Since they currently can’t trust that the monthly process is working (because its not if they should have caught it months ago); then perhaps start there – come up with a plan – a real plan – to make sure that the monthly process actually gets done when it should and present that.

      1. Blue*

        I strongly agree with this. The occasional rare error is to be expected, and they already have a process in place for finding them. That process apparently works when they actually do it, so it makes sense to ensure that gets done reliably instead of adding an additional layer. That’s how you end up with unwieldy, inefficient bureaucracy.

        In a previous office of mine, they added an additional layer of review for certain kinds of paperwork – your boss had to sign off on it before it got submitted. They added this step because of a couple of people who didn’t care enough to review their own work. If I’d been one of the supervisors stuck reviewing all that paperwork because the higher ups couldn’t bring themselves to address performance issues in 3 or 4 people, I would’ve been unbelievably pissed. As it was, I knew I wasn’t part of the problem and it didn’t cause me any extra work, so I just found it incredibly dumb instead of insulting, but I fully get why NightQueen would be upset about it.

    2. Toodie*

      Can you estimate the time needed to do the new double-checking vs the time needed to do the corrections? Maybe if you show that there’s no ROI for the time needed, they would let it go.

      1. valentine*

        Also include the salary/wages of the people involved.

        I don’t know why you’re resisting proofreading. The lack of editing is ridiculous and a fresh set of eyes makes sense. If you can think of a better way to do it or if checking your own work in Excel helps you avoid mistakes, suggest that. Also suggest proper software would be a massive cost-saver.

        1. Darren*

          Lack of editing is pretty standard in financial systems it has to do with ensuring there is an audit trail.

          Typically even if editing is allowed it is restricted to higher-level employees and still basically looks the same at the database level as redoing the entire thing anyway.

          It’s to prevent people embezzling.

    3. Mazzy*

      It seems like overkill, spoken as someone doing similar work. Is there any reason that this needs to get done on a daily basis? It sounds like it doesn’t. I think there are economies of scale to doing these checks much less often, or designating one person as the checker.

    4. RandomU...*

      At the very least, I’d suggest to your supervisors that you only audit a percentage of the entries over a certain time period, and only for high impact errors such as price.

    5. London Calling*

      Are we justified in feeling this way? Doesn’t it seem infantizing and sophomoric?

      As an AP person who inputs several hundred invoices a month – yes and no respectively. 5-10 invoice errors in several hundred a month is a near invisible error rate and doesn’t warrant the sledgehammer solution they are taking to this. When I have input invoices the batches, with a covering voucher, are handed over to a checker for her to look at before they are handed to treasury for posting – that way any errors in inputting( such as a wrong tax rate) are picked up straight away and can be corrected before posting and eliminate the need for correcting journals.

      Seems to me that you are your colleagues are getting dumped with a load of work because another part of the department is behind. I’d be pretty miffed as well, not least because of the impression that my work can’t be trusted.

    6. Akcipitrokulo*

      I think it’s going to be difficult to push back on the grounds “it’s not that big a problem” – even if you’re correct – because what they will hear is that you are being defensive, not fully in touch with the realities of the situation and you don’t have sound judgement. None of which will help your case!

      Someone higher up sees it as enough of an issue to take action. They may be wrong! but that is how they see it.

      It definitely isn’t either insulting or infantalising. If higher-ups see an issue with accuracy, then it’s not unreasonable to put in some QA controls – it really isn’t criticising you or your work. It’s just recognising – as you have said – that you aren’t robots and that mistakes happen. Having a fresh pair of eyes is one of the best ways to combat simple errors.

      You might well be able to influence the way that this is done though, and that could really help your standing! Acknowledging that some kind of QA process would increase confidence, and then suggesting a streamlined way of doing it could work well.

      It may be that trying this way out for at least a couple of weeks will give you more data to suggest another way. Maybe even just having someone else check over the work instead of checking your own work? It is a very established principle that the *last* person that should check a piece of work is the one who did it! You don’t see your own mistakes. Whether that’s invoicing, or coding, or writing a blog or setting a table – if it’s your error, you just don’t see it as well as a fresh pair of eyes!

      Sorry, that got long! I hope it works out for you!

  55. AvonLady Barksdale*