open thread – April 5-6, 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.

{ 1,807 comments… read them below }

  1. Small but Fierce*

    I have two questions about pre-interview contact etiquette.

    1. For an external role, is it appropriate to reach out to an internal recruiter on LinkedIn to let them know you have applied? What about a hiring manager? I’m connected with an internal recruiter who I have good reason to believe would be covering two roles I applied for (same location and function), so I’m wondering how it would look if I let them know that I applied. If it’s okay, how long after applying should I reach out?

    2. For an internal role, is it appropriate to email the hiring manager before applying to ask about their willingness to hire a remote employee? My manager currently lets me work remotely due to my spouse’s relocation. While I’d like to be promoted by the year’s end due to high COL in my new state, I’d prefer to stay within the company if possible. My internal promotion opportunities are limited since there is only one small office location in this state. Some roles have several locations listed, so I wondered if it would be appropriate to ask if they would hire someone if they’re not at a listed location.

    Thanks for your help!

    1. Fenchurch*

      Channeling my inner Alison, I’d say for the second question that it’s a bit premature to email them even prior to applying to discuss working conditions. If you reach the point of interviewing, that would be a good place to broach the subject.

      1. Small but Fierce*

        Thanks! My concern is that the recruiter may reject the application immediately when they notice I’m not based at any of the locations and assume I’ll need to be relocated. It’d be great to know prior to then if I can say that the hiring manager is okay with remote employees.

        1. Small but Fierce*

          Also, I believe I would need to notify my current manager if I apply to anything. I’d rather not put that on their radar unless I already know that the hiring manager would consider me despite my location.

          1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

            Small but Fierce, Alison addressed this topic the other day. Typically, you don’t inform your manager you are looking until you are actually leaving. Informing them now can lead to any number of bad outcomes for you (retribution, an early firing, loss of opportunities to get promoted, etc.). Why do you feel the need to notify your manager?

            1. Elle*

              It’s often different for internal roles – op may need their current line manager’s approval to even apply.

            2. Small but Fierce*

              For internal opportunities, it is our company policy to notify your hiring manager when you receive an interview at the latest. I believe the advice was referring to leaving for external opportunities, but I could be mistaken.

              1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

                Thanks for clarifying. If you’re applying internally, you should definitely tell your manager. However, I would wait until you get some feedback on whether a remote role is even possible, if you can.

                1. wondHRland*

                  If your current manager would be open to it, maybe they could ask the question? Sort of, I have an employee who’s interested if the role could be done remotely . If your current manager endorsed you to the possible new manager, would that maybe carry more weight, becasue they can speak to your work habits and reliability?

          2. Lily Rowan*

            In my job, there’s a pretty strong culture of internal applicants reaching out to the hiring manager for an informal chat before applying, but I think that’s going to be a “know your workplace” kind of thing.

            1. Small but Fierce*

              Yeah, it’s hard to tell with mine because it’s a national company with a lot of subsidiaries. The one time I did that in the past, it was no problem because I personally knew the hiring manager since we worked in the same subsidiary. I think I’d be more inclined to do it with someone I worked with in some capacity over a complete stranger, even if it is internal.

    2. Ellen*

      Also channeling MY inner Alison… Re: #1, there’s no reason to reach out to someone you don’t know on LinkedIn and let them know that you applied. They know that from your application!

      If, however, you know the hiring manager, absolutely reach out to them and let them know you applied. But it’s better to use email than LinkedIn.

      1. Small but Fierce*

        True! I’m feeling a bit burned by online applications. While my interview/offer ratio is great, I have never had success getting an interview without a recruiter or knowing someone at the company. Since we’re connected on LinkedIn, I figured that’s better than a complete stranger, but I’m sure that’s not the case.

      2. Karen from Finance*

        I have had success messaging a recruiter with whom I was connected on Linkedin, and telling them very briefly: “Hi X, I’d like to know more about the position of Llama Groomer, I have 5 years experience grooming llamas in 10 different styles”. I ended up never entering my application at all, they just contacted me for an interview based on my Linkedin. But this worked because the job posting lined up to the letter with my job experience and what it seemed they were looking for, they were in a rush to fill the role, and it didn’t look like a company that was flooded with requests.

        If it’s a huge company, then yeah, you’re better off just following the application process.

        1. Small but Fierce*

          Unfortunately, it’s a large company. A direct competitor of my current one, so I may be more qualified than a typical applicant, but I’m sure they get tons of applications.

          1. Karen from Finance*

            Can you try to gauge from their profile whether they are the type of person who would be ok being contacted? Some people post on Linkedin (on the feed/blog/whatchacallit), you can get some information there. HR people tend to use it to share job listings. So an HR person who is ok to be contacted may share it with a message saying “contact me for details!” while one who doesn’t will write “please apply through this link”, etc.

            1. Small but Fierce*

              Good idea! I checked and she has no description or recent post history to refer to. However, she does have her company email address listed in her “contact info” section. I don’t think I’d consider that enough of an indication that she’s open to contact, though.

              1. Karen from Finance*

                Yeah, based on that I’d leave it alone and follow the usual application process.

    3. Rat Racer*

      Hi – I don’t have advice on #1, but for #2, I’d reach out to the hiring manager, express interest in the position share your CV and get the conversation started before you mention the remote worker possibility. There’s always a tricky balance of when to mention a caveat/accommodation, but I think the second or third email might be the right spot. Another option would be to find someone you’re acquainted with who works on the Hiring Manager’s team and ask them what they think – i.e. get the inside scoop.

      1. Small but Fierce*

        I’ve definitely considered doing that as well, but I wonder if it comes off like I’m trying to circumvent the application process by sending the resume directly. While I also wouldn’t have any acquaintances in the hiring manager’s team in most circumstances, I think finding them in Outlook and asking them may be more innocuous than reaching out to the manager directly.

    4. Small but Fierce*

      wondHRland, I tried to respond to you directly, but the thread didn’t give me an option. I think my manager would be hurt if I left as early as I’d like to since she used some capital to let me work remotely. While I’ve reported to her for almost two years, I’ve also only been in this role a year. She would speak highly of me, but I could see it burning a bridge and being problematic for me if I didn’t get the first job I asked for her help with.

    5. PennyLane*

      1) I wouldn’t. Whichever person is handling the applications (and you don’t know) already knows you applied because they have your application. As someone who is often the recipient of applications and these types of messages, it makes no difference. I see your application and if I want to interview you, I will. The additional message is just more work for me.

      2) For an internal position, I think it would be fine to ask about working remotely. But you’ll want to respect how they feel and not push it if they don’t feel comfortable with a remote worker.

    6. Penguin*

      Re #1, if you’ve worked with the recruiter on placement stuff before and if it’s normal in the company/industry for applicants to initiate conversations with recruiters, then yes it might be appropriate to ask them if they’re handling those openings. Otherwise, I’d say no.

      Re #2, no. You /could/ (maybe) use your cover letter to highlight your stellar remote work and let them potentially just never contact you if they’re not interested in remote workers, but if you want a direct answer I’d say treat it like similar issues handled on an individual basis (like benefits, medical accommodations, etc.) and bring it up in an interview. Reaching out ahead of time is unfortunately going to look like you’re trying to circumvent the application process, even if you’re just trying to know whether you should self-select out.

      For what it’s worth:
      I recently distributed my company’s vacancy announcement to various listservs (I was involved in the hiring process but not the final decision-maker). Someone responded directly to me asking about working the position remotely. In doing so they ignored both the application instructions and the line that I had no further information. They came across exactly as if they were trying to skip the process (the line “before I go through the effort of applying” didn’t help.) My boss chose not to interview them.

      I can’t speak for full-time recruiters, but for those of us who only deal with vacancy stuff in addition to our normal workloads we want applicants to follow the directions because that’s the least-disruptive way for us to manage the process on our end. Someone doing otherwise is (I think) more likely to hurt them than help, if only because it means the hiring manager (or whoever) has to make a snap decision as to whether they’re going to invest (a small amount of) additional time into a particular applicant before they have any idea of said applicant’s qualifications, and so many of us are under such time crunches that even that size of investment just isn’t going to feel feasible and so the response will just be to discard the applicant.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        “Reaching out ahead of time is unfortunately going to look like you’re trying to circumvent the application process, even if you’re just trying to know whether you should self-select out”

        So it’s not cool for applicants to want to save time, just prospective employers….nice…..

    7. Public Sector Manager*

      For #2, I think everyone above has covered the subject nicely and I have nothing to add.

      For #1, I wouldn’t reach out to the person unless you know the person well enough to where they would take your phone call anyway. If you really don’t know them, please don’t reach out. LinkedIn connections are highly overrated.

    8. Small but Fierce*

      Thanks all! I think my takeaway for both scenarios is to not reach out, as tempting as it would be. Here’s to hoping the online application systems have mercy on me.

    9. ConstructionRecruiter*

      1. Please don’t. I’m the sole Recruiter for a 400+ person company- I get over 50 applications a day, if I was contacted by every applicant through another route, I would never get any work done.

    10. Lobsterp0t*

      Some places have the hiring manager’s information in the actual advert, and it says you can call for informal discussions, but for something like remote working, if it’s not already explicit that that’s something they would consider, I would just apply and discuss if I got an interview, I think.

  2. Need Advice*

    I work for a very small company, 10 employees. Throughout the year we help out a local charity, that also has a very small staff of 5 people. Most of our work with this charity is with their annual fundraiser. This charity is a cause that many in our small office support. Our boss is fine with us working on the fundraiser during working hours throughout the year; in fact part of our job description is to put in x hours a week working on the fundraiser. This fundraiser is our company’s way of giving back to the community. We’ve had a lot of success in the past. This is my first year at this company and I am really really enjoying being a champion for such a wonderful cause.

    Due to the fact that AAM is very popular in our small community I am changing some examples to protect the recipients of the charity. Say there is a cause such as Supporting an animal adoption shelter. The charity we assist helps raise awareness for a lesser known pet animal. There are a lot of other pet charities in our geographical area that champion for more well known/ common pets. There is no animosity between different charities; there is no competition.

    I do have to say though that our charity is the smallest in size and resources and probably the last in line during fundraising season. Despite that, our company and the charity have been able to “keep up with the Jones’”. We are often complimented on our unique spin to the fundraiser.

    For some reason this year, there is a lot of excitement about our fundraiser, but the RSVPs have been very slow. Now that we are in crunch time with three weeks to go, everyone is somewhat panicked. Yes we accept RSVPs at the door. Now our company and the charity are having brainstorming meetings that are going way over my head as the rookie. How do I come up with ideas to increase attendance, support our company and support the charity, make me seem professional and the ideas won’t seem silly.

    In the end it will be a success, but I guess I am more nervous than I need to be as the new person.

    1. Bubbleon*

      Do you have any idea why you aren’t getting as many RSVPs? Has anyone reached out to top regular donors who haven’t RSVPd to see if there’s another big event or if there’s some specific reason why they might not have said yes already? If you guys can get some feedback about why some regulars might not be on board yet, it might help you tailor strategies for less frequent/new attendees

    2. Temperance*

      I think the best thing for you to do right now would be to listen to what everyone else in the room is saying. Not knowing more about your org, or the nonprofit that you support, there’s a lot of context that might change the pitch of the conversation. It’s always easier to sell helping kids over helping inmates, as one of my colleagues put it.

      Event timing is a huge one. We joke about April being “Benefit Month”, and I always love the first one and am burned out by the last one, and I’m going to donate less at the last one because I spent so much time and money on other fundraisers (for example).

      1. Need Advice*

        I totally hear you about being last in line.

        Again I don’t want to give away the charity or cause to protect the recipients, but using your analogy we are on the side of helping kids.

        Because we are so small we have some of our larger needs donated, such as the location of the fundraiser. Since we are reliant on these donations, we have very little wiggle room with the timing hence we usually end up being the last fundraiser.

    3. Michelle*

      I work in a museum. When we have events that require RSVP’s, it seems like people wait to until the very last minute, even when we have repeatedly stated in all advertising that the cut-off time is X. It seems like they don’t understand that we have to makes sure we have enough staff, prepare enough food, etc. We always, always, always get people who call late or just hours before the event, begging to attend; “it’s just me, can’t you squeeze me in? “I need just one more ticket”, etc.

      I don’t know if that is what your company has experienced in the past, but maybe ask. We have changed the date of our fundraiser several times because we have 3 museums in our org and it’s like triple-dipping in the same pool.

    4. Fundraiser Here*

      During my years as a professional fundraiser i have noticed two trends…People wait until the last minute to RSVP and there is something about “turning the page on the calendar” that causes people to realize. “oh my. it is already April. dont we have that event soon?”. which is why whenever possible I don’t schedule a special event for the fist week of a month. I don’t think anyone who does special events ever stops worrying about the RSVPs until the event is sold out, which creates a new set of issues. Breath deeply. One way you can help is to reach out to your connections and ask them to attend. A personal touch works wonders Share info about the event on your social media and aks others to do so also. Consider making phone calls or sending emails to past attendees encouraging them to attend. You can even convey a sense of urgency that tickets are going fast and you dont want to miss this event. Put together a series of memes, releasing one per day on social media and email, on the Top 10 Reasons You Don’t Want To Miss This Event. Always include a link where people can buy tickets.

    5. Sleepy*

      Hmmm, fatigue from the giving community? I don’t know why, bit from time to time my org has had a fundraiser that turns out to be a bust. People who often attend just don’t want to that time and it’s hard for them to articulate why exactly, except for a sense of “it doesn’t sound enjoyable right now”. I find notice this has happened when we repeat the same format too often or ask the same people to attend too many events. Not sure what my advice would be but I do extend my sympathy to how difficult fundraising is.

    6. Existentialista*

      Some very good advice I heard from a company President a few jobs ago was that it’s best to offer something that’s inexpensive for you to provide but valuable for your donors.

      So, for example, a raffle of prizes such as they chance to meet a local celebrity who supports your cause and would be willing to donate their time, or a chance to play with a Lesser Known Pet, or something else unique but low-cost to you, could be an effective draw.

  3. Youth*

    I wrote on the Aug 10-11 and Feb 22-23 about my job being very stressful and adding pressure to a set of already overwhelming circumstances. I was looking for a new job but was having a hard time finding one.

    Well, great news! I’ve just accepted a new job in my field (writing). And as an unforeseen bonus, it looks like I’m about to start my first-ever romantic relationship. :)

    Not-so-great news: My immediate supervisor agreed to be a reference (risky, but I knew I could trust him) and was very gracious when I resigned. The head of my department, on the other hand, took it very personally, tried to counteroffer, vaguely insulted me for “not being able to handle stress very well,” and overall acted like I was doing something wrong. It was bizarre and made me feel really bad. I’ve tried so hard to be a good employee!

    1. curious*

      Congrats on the new job and the romance. DOn’t worry about what your former head of department is saying. You need to do what’s best for you. Everyone wants to work in an environment that they feel comfortable in. Enjoy this next phase in life

    2. dramalama*

      The great news is great! As for the not-so-great news, as somebody emotionally removed from the situation my reaction was “pfft, of course they would”. I would try to reframe it for yourself as validation that you made the right move getting out of there, because if that was their reaction Your Boss Sucks and [Was] Never Going to Change.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Good for you! Sounds like I’d keep in touch with that supervisor…but not the department head.
      There’s a difference between an employee who doesn’t handle stress well and an employer that creates unecessary stress. It’s healthy to be able to recognize the difference.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        There’s a difference between an employee who doesn’t handle stress well and an employer that creates unnecessary stress. It’s healthy to be able to recognize the difference.

        Well put. I will be mentally saving that for a days when I need to change up my Serenity Prayer or 10 deep breaths.

    4. College Career Counselor*

      So, the dept. head tried to guilt-trip you into staying someplace that was a bad fit because of the stress the place causes? Riiiiiight. Keep your head up, Youth! You’re doing the right thing for YOU, which is perfectly acceptable. The approach I try to take when saying goodbye to an employee or colleague is “I’m happy for you, but sad for us that you’re leaving.” I don’t get to be the arbiter of someone else’s career choices (you didn’t ask for her opinion or blessing), and just keep telling yourself that it’s incredibly petty of the dept. head to have done that. It says way more about that person than it does about your choices.

      Congratulations on the new job and the new romance!

    5. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      Bad employers always, always victim blame instead of seeing what they did/are doing wrong. They are *never* the problem, the employee always is.

      Congratulations on your escape!

      1. Zennish*

        “But we’ve underpaid, undervalued, and disrespected you for years… I can’t believe you’d betray us by leaving like this.”

    6. Emily S.*

      Congratulations on getting out of that place!

      And good luck with the romance. My advice is to take is slow. ;)

    7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I once had a manager who, when I resigned, told me that my sin (of quitting without notice) would come back to me. I admit he made me feel somewhat bad at the moment. 25 years later, it is a great story to tell at parties. As for his prophecy, I had a new job that was closer to my field and paid several times more three weeks later (I’d quit with nothing lined up), and as for him, I heard rumors that he was still looking for my replacement seven months later. He’d developed a reputation in our small town and no one wanted to work for him. Congrats and godspeed!

    8. designbot*

      You know, it can be a really powerful thing to realize that you *can* handle the stress, but you just have no reason to. If someone else can offer you better conditions, why on earth wouldn’t you take them? That department head has way too much ego wrapped up in this , probably because of all the mental gymnastics he has to go through to convince himself to stay.

      1. Youth*

        She’s been there for almost twenty years, so I think she has a higher-than-average investment in the company. Which, good for her! I just became un-invested after about three years of always feeling in a panic and have spent the last almost-two years job searching. I feel like they’ve definitely gotten a lot from me, and almost-five years is quite a good amount to spend at any company, in my opinion.

        1. Camellia*

          My goodness, yes! Looking back on my now-38 year career, I advise people to spend 4 to 7 years at a company – come in, make your mistakes, learn from them, then take that and move on to the next job with what should be better pay and respect.

    9. Argh!*

      I wouldn’t feel badly for that! I’d feel like it was confirmation that I’d made the right decision. I’d think, “Bon voyage, Bad Grandboss! Good luck with your next stressed-out employee! Or better yet, hire two people to replace me. Have a nice life!”


    10. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      Don’t feel bad. Your dept. head is a jerk. You can’t “handle stress very well,” but they take it personally that you’re leaving and want you to stay? Then again, maybe they want out too and they’re jealous of you. :)

  4. Middle Manager*

    Best tips for someone relatively new to hiring? Especially for government interview panels? What are the key things you look for in responses, etc.

    1. an idea*

      I had a boss once tell me, if a person has a basic background (such as a degree) you can teach anyone a specific job. It’s better to hire someone that fits in personality wise and teach the job how you want it done, than to hire someone that you won’t get along with 10 hours a day. Disclaimer this was for an entry level/ next step up job but it’s something that I’ve applied through the years and found great success making it one of the things I look for.

      1. irene adler*

        Agree- personality fit is very important.

        Listen to your gut- even if you can’t articulate what it’s telling you. If your gut says “no”, move on to the next candidate.
        You will not run out of candidates, so don’t let that become a worry. Or a reason to hire someone less than optimal.

      2. Bostonian*

        I’m going to offer a counter-opinion that putting too much weight on “personality fit” can be dangerous and counter-productive because it can lead to a homogeneous group of workers, and has the potential to let unconscious bias turn into downright discrimination.

        1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

          Thank you! My boss hires the applicants she clearly just plain LIKES the best, and they’re mostly used-car-salesman types, nonstop talkers with pushy personalities, usually pretty bright to be sure, but clueless about boundaries and with a good dose of ego. She sees these folks as energetic go-getters. More demure people who don’t blow trumpets and run up flags that say “I did my job!!!” are less likely to attract her notice or praise even if they’re doing the job just as well and hitting the same productivity goals.

          Sometimes there are frictions between people that she’s quick to brush off as “personality conflicts” (there’s that P word again), when it’s not about personality at all, but behavior.

        2. Dramatic Squirrel*

          + 1 you can definitely keep an eye out for red flags but hiring on personilty fit reduces diversity and creativity.

      3. Argh!*

        I make a point of hiring people who are different from myself. Why would I want to talk to myself all day? I want to hear about other ways of doing things, other ways of looking at the world, and I want someone who loves to do the stuff I hate to do!

      4. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        Don’t assume anyone can learn a specific job just because they have certain personality traits.

        And be sure of what you mean by “fits in personality wise.” In my experience, this leads to assembling a bunch of buddies–great for going out for pizza together but they don’t necessarily bring to the table everything that’s needed to get work done.

        I couldn’t agree more with Bostonian. I’ve seen so many managers hire the applicants they just plain LIKE the best on a personal, er, gut level, and wind up with not-so-great workers. The last example in my office, my boss just bubbled over about a young woman with whom I saw issues from her first interview. Boy did she think she was the cat’s meow. But Boss hired her practically on the spot. She was so outgoing and enthusiastic! So self-assured! Boss and other staff spent hours and hours training her–much more time and attention than anyone else ever got in that position. Cat’s Meow was an adept kiss-up who became an instant favorite. She came and went as she pleased, often away from her desk hanging out, er, networking and learning from people at the next level up. They just loved her and were eager to teach her. She was slated to train for the next level up; however, Boss finally spoke to her about certain ongoing deficiencies in her work habits. After she left (I was off that day so I don’t know if she quit or was canned, darn it), Boss had to scour Cat’s Meow’s computer for the time-sensitive work she was supposed to do and mostly found files about her personal activities. But she had a great personality!

      5. an idea*

        I probably should have gone into a little more detail when I said someone who fits personality wise. With my boss who gave me the advice I give this example. I found out that one of my competitors for the job I was applying to I happened to graduate with. I was an average B student, he was third in our class. My boss, in trying to break the ice during interviews asked if we had any hobbies, how we spend our free time. My competitor gave a general answer of I like to go out with friends. I on the other hand listed a few specific things I like to do and enthusiastically spoke about going to my first professional hockey game that weekend (hockey wasn’t common where I went to school). My boss said that because I could make “small talk” he was more inclined to hire me. I’ve tried to apply similar train of thought when I’m on hiring teams now. I do look at other things when hiring. I ask all the right experience type questions, but I also try to make sure it is someone I can have a conversation with.

        1. Someone Else*

          This isn’t the sort of thing I screen for when thinking of personality fit. I think of things that affect the work, but where there isn’t necessarily one clear “right” preference, but there is one preference that suits the way y’all work. For example: I prefer meetings to always start and end on time. I’m not un-personable, but I try to keep the hello-how-are-you chit chat stuff to less than a minute for the whole group before we jump in, and stay on topic, and end on time. Others prefer a much more loose structure, don’t care if the chatting goes to 5 min, might not have started right on time anyway, don’t necessarily end on time either. Plenty of people are chill with that, but it’d drive me nuts. I’d be a bad fit in an office like that. Other people might be driven nuts by the way I prefer it.

    2. Temperance*

      My biggest one is to go with your gut. I hired an intern even though she was overbearing and annoying in our earlier communications, and now I seriously dread whenever she comes in to the office. It’s my own fault for moving forward when I had reservations (she came with a recommendation from someone I really respect, and so I overlooked the obvious personality clash), and now I’m in an annoying, awkward situation.

      1. Minocho*

        Since it’s an intern, at least it’s likely to be a very temporary annoying situation!

        1. Temperance*

          This is ABSOLUTELY true. :) She asked to come back next year, and I told my boss that I just couldn’t take it if she did. LOL

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I agree with this. I was on a hiring panel where I had a really bad feeling about a candidate everyone else liked and wanted to hire. I didn’t have any concrete reason to advise not hiring the person, just a bad feeling, so I didn’t say anything. The candidate was hired, and it turned out to be a terrible fit and a really uncomfortable situation for a lot of our pre-existing staff. If you get a weird or bad feeling from a candidate, trust that.

        1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

          Mmmmmmmmm – maybe. I think a weird or bad feeling can be a helpful red flag to look into XYZ further, but we all have internal prejudices we’re unaware of. Guts aren’t rational or evidence based. Your gut can be cuing you to something you should absolutely be paying attention to, or they can be making you uncomfortable out of internal prejudice.

          Couple basics:

          “She just doesn’t seem smart enough, my gut says she isn’t up to the job. ” – you live in fast paced East Coast city and the interviewee has a southern accent. You may not consciously be prejudiced, but your gut might be.

          “IDK, I did not get a good feeling about her energy. She was fine in the interview, and has good qualifications, but I don’t think she can sustain the pace here. ” Interviewee is clinically obese and your gut correlates overweight with low energy without your conscious brain being aware.


          I use my gut to flag me to *things* to consider, but can’t go by overall vague “not a good feeling, pass”

          So that’s something to think about.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            Oh, yes. That’s actually how I intended that. I’m sorry not to have expressed myself more clearly.

            I meant to say that if you’re getting a bad feeling, you shouldn’t try to handwave it away just because you don’t have solid proof that things will go wrong. It’s something to bring up and talk through with the rest of the team and see if anything shakes loose.

            I think what I most regret about my past hiring experience is that I didn’t even mention my bad feeling about the candidate. I didn’t give the rest of the panel a piece of information we could have talked through to come to our best decision.

            1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

              Perfectly said. I concur. :)

              I think one example might be someone giving off “high maintenance” vibes in an interview. I’ve ignored that “gut” on a couple of occasions, to my peril. O.o Older, wiser me would say, okay I am getting this high maintenance gut feel here, but she seems bright and her qualifications are fine, and other people liked her, what can I do to push for more info here.

              High maintenance, shudder. You hire high maintenance and you are exhausted after the first week. (and no you may NOT have a custom stapler and YES a company juice bar is a great idea however can we wait 6 months before you make perq installation suggestions)

    3. DarthVelma*

      I have been involved in state government hiring for a little over 20 years – and wow I just blew my own mind. The positions I’ve hired for have a serious technical component, so keep that in mind if it makes a difference. Anyway, what I look for:

      1. Specificity and detail – in particular detail in answering experiential questions about how they handled/would handle specific situations or problems, and detail in describing the kinds of analyses they’ve conducted.

      2. Actually answering the question I asked.

      3. Not only do they have the technical knowledge, but can they describe what they know in layman’s terms. That has also been an important component of the jobs I’ve hired for – ability to explain our results to non-technical audiences. I always have at least one non-technical person on interview panels for this reason.

      4. Did they come prepared? There are some questions interviewees should expect in any interview – both general and job specific – but I was always amazed how many people interviewing for high level internal auditor jobs couldn’t answer “what is the purpose of internal audit?”

      5. Do they know anything about my agency? With some folks, you can tell they hit the website. With other folks, it almost even feels like they never read the job description, much less learned anything about what we do. I’m having this problem right now with applicants for a high level data job.

      6. This isn’t really about the interviews, but I still think it is important – how well written is their application. I just finished rejecting interviews with several candidates, all of whom indicated in their applications that they had “great written communications skills”. None of their applications were actually well written.

      7. Finally, also not really about the interviews, but relevant – how did they do on our written exercise. I want to see they have the technical skills to do the data analysis required, but I also want to see their ability to present and explain their process and results. And the higher up the position, the higher my expectations. For lower level positions, I mostly want them to show me they have the basic chops and are teach-able.

      Hope that was at least somewhat helpful.

      1. downtown funk*

        4. Did they come prepared? There are some questions interviewees should expect in any interview – both general and job specific – but I was always amazed how many people interviewing for high level internal auditor jobs couldn’t answer “what is the purpose of internal audit?”

        +1 million to this. We had a candidate once who did not know the most basic thing about our entire field. If we were making teapots, this guy didn’t know what tea was. And didn’t bother to look it up.

        1. DarthVelma*

          You’re welcome.

          I would like to second some of the comments about the importance of “fit” and trying to gauge that as well during the interviews. There is a person in my current office who has the highest emotional intelligence of anyone I’ve ever met. She’s not a technical/data person at all. I often pull her in as my non-technical person on interview panels because I know she’s really good at reading that kind of thing.

          So I guess that’s an additional piece of advice. Think about what you need from you interview team members and make sure you include the right people.

      2. only acting normal*

        2. Actually answering the question I asked.

        Not arguing with this (it’s a good point), but will add: make sure you’re asking the question you want answered unambiguously.
        My last boss (was a pretty good boss) told me about interviewees who didn’t answer his questions as asked, so I asked him what the question was – turned out he was asking a question *in the vicinity* of the answer he wanted, but I would also have answered the way the rejected candidates did. We are an R&D company and attract a lot of autistic/autistic-adjacent people, his lack of precision was accidentally screening them (and possibly others) out.

        1. Susan*

          And as an extension – look not only for people who can answer the question, but those who will answer when they can’t instead of trying to bull-shit it. Of course, this is within reasonable limits – but not always knowing the answers to all questions may be okay.

      3. Free Meerkats*

        I’ll add a 7a here. If there’s a component of the job that can be tested easily, build in time to test it. The ability to review reports and write is important to us, so prior to the interview, the applicants were given a fake typical report from one of our accounts along with the applicable limits and asked to review it and write a violation notice if warranted. The person we ended up hiring caught a violation I didn’t know was there.

        For lab people, we give them a simple solution preparation and serial dilution task and watch them do it. It’s amazing how people with advanced chemistry degrees can muck that up.

    4. Midlife Tattoos*

      I focus a lot on the behavioral aspect. One of the top things on my list: curiosity. I always say I can teach someone a skill, but I can’t teach them how to show up with curiosity. I also look for self-motivated people who are willing to give things a go on their own.

      I’ve learned the hard way that focusing solely on skills can leave some serious gaps in learning how a person works/thinks. I wound up with employees who didn’t get along with others and had to manage them out.

      1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

        This. I’ve never been involved in hiring, but have been involved in training new hires, and have found that the person’s curiosity and willingness to learn can be more important than anything else. Not to mention that if it’s a fairly low-level job, assessing skills in an interview can be difficult.

        I have one young lady as a trainee whose hiring manager mentioned that she had great computer skills (and indeed, the trainee boasted of her technical skills on her self-eval); but I had to show her how to make a PDF. Multiple times. That said, her approach to the work and attitude have been great, and I have no doubt that by the time I’m finished with her she’ll be a great employee.
        I also recently had a different trainee, who does in fact have the technical skills, but doesn’t seem to have the curiosity. He just doesn’t try, and doesn’t seem to be able to think up a non-standard way to find the information he needs – if it’s not specifically listed on his to-do list of methods to try (or if it is, but he doesn’t know what the terminology means) he just won’t – even if he hasn’t obtained the desired result yet.

        I’m sure this varies by position, but the ability to think through a problem, and the willingness to do so, seems more important than having specific knowledge before you begin the job.

    5. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      I was once told all interviews come down to three basic questions:
      1. Can the person do (or learn the job)?
      2. Can you put this person in front of someone important a customer, the Board, your boss) with no concerns?
      3. You’ll be spending 8+ hours a day with this person. Does that make you feel good or make you want to run away?

      Unless the job is super-technical, focus on the responses that answer questions 2 & 3. Those are the ones that, when done poorly, compel people to write into AAM.

    6. Observer*

      You’ve gotten some good advice. One thing I want to highlight. It is hugely important to find the right fit – but it is equally as important to make sure that “fit” doesn’t actually mean “looks like me / us” or “is of this particular demographic.”

      This can be very tricky as often these are decisions that are quite unconscious. It’s like the HBR study in which Harry was seen as “assertive and a good leader” while Harriette was seen as “abrasive and selfish” for the EXACT SAME BEHAVIOR. (Literally. The study took a case study and changed nothing but the name of the leader and asked participants to rate the person.)

    7. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Be on the lookout for people giving the answers they think you want to hear. For example, if you ask your candidates how they deal when they have coworkers that are hard to get along with, a lot of people are going to answer “Oh, that will never happen. I get along with everyone. I’m a real team player.” They think this is the answer you want, and if you’re new to hiring, you may also think it’s the answer you want. But it’s not. NOBODY gets along with everybody. Even the most easygoing of humans is eventually going to come across a person that will hit all their buttons. You want to hire a person who is giving you honest information about how they’re likely to behave in the workplace, not a person who is giving boilerplate answers because they think that’s what’s most likely to get them the job.

      1. Feds Hiring Feds*

        The corollary to this is DON’T ASK LEADING QUESTIONS! I sat through an interminable number of interviews where my boss would ask things like “If a coworker asks you to do something that seems unethical, would you assume it’s allowed because they’ve worked here longer than you or would you alert your manager?” There are plenty of better phrasings, like “Tell us about a time when you were made aware of a possible unethical action and how you responded…”

        And give people time to think and respond to the question. Don’t jump in two seconds after asking and say, “You know, like a time someone was using office supplies for their birthday party?” Let them think of their own examples. Silence is awkward but fight the urge to fill it.

    8. Frankie*

      Like others mentioned, fit and gut. Fit is really huge and even if someone could get the work done, if they’re a bad fit that will reverberate through the team.

      I always find myself trying to argue myself into wanting to hire someone in case I’m being too critical, so it’s always helpful to remind myself that you don’t HAVE to hire someone. Like, it’s better to go without a position than to hire a bad fit. Don’t bend over backward to fill the position.

      Sometimes charismatic people can hide a lack of knowledge or specific ideas…if you find yourself being impressed by someone, but it’s largely due to, say, presentation skills, composure, etc., try to ask specific questions about the work to tease out whether they really know their stuff.

      Fit, gut.

      1. Argh!*

        Beware of fit and gut, though, because having a hive mind is not necessarily a good thing. That’s usually what “good fit” means. If it means “We have this niche that only someone who is totally different from the rest of us can fill,” then yes, go for good fit.

        Surrounding yourself with carbon copies of yourself isn’t just bad management, it could also be illegal if it results in age, sex, or race discrimination. You don’t have to *intend* to discriminate to be liable if your process results in discrimination.

        1. smoke tree*

          To this point, I think it’s a good idea to take some time to think about what a good personality fit for the job itself actually means–whether that is enthusiasm for learning new things, flexibility to juggle several things at once, keen attention to detail, or what have you. I think focusing on concrete pieces like this will help you to be able to judge whether nebulous feelings of a bad fit are legitimate or based on characteristics that don’t actually matter (and could potentially be discriminatory).

          1. Anonforthis*

            I agree with this. I do think it’s worth assessing personality fit in terms of what you described, NOT “this is someone I want to have beers with/reminds me of a younger version of myself/validates everything I say.”

            Personality fit should be more about working relationships with others. Are they cooperative/collaborative? Problem-solving? Responsible? Fast-paced, if that is an important aspect of the job?

            Like, obviously no one wants to work with a total a-hole, but they don’t have to be your best friend either.

    9. Genny*

      If there’s anything abnormal about the position or your org (i.e. long hours/weird shifts, emotionally taxing, expected long-term TDYS, etc.), ask a question related to that and then see if the candidate gives a thoughtful answer as to how they’d handled the issue. I just interviewed for an inherently emotionally taxing gov job and I really appreciated 1) they acknowledged the stress and 2) were interested in hearing how I handle it/ensuring I could handle it.

    10. Zennish*

      I second (third, fourth?) going with your gut reaction. Remember that candidates will be on the best behavior they can manage, and any crazy ones will be doing everything possible to rein in the crazy for the length of an interview. If something still strikes you as off, it’s probably way off.

      Also, ask questions that show judgment, at least as much as questions that show technical knowledge. (“An angry customer wants X, you know our policy is Y, what do you do and why?” sort of thing)

    11. Argh!*

      Watch out for “tells” that signal they’re not truly interested. One interviewee responded to “Why did you apply for this job” by admitting it was a nice stepping stone before correcting herself. We hired someone who really wanted the job instead, and she worked out very well.

      I work in a very small specialty, and I haven’t seen her name come up in any conference attendees’ lists or announcements about new hires, so I think we made the right choice. I hope she’s having a good career doing something else.

    12. Ralph Wiggum*

      Can’t speak for government interview panels, but here are some techniques I find useful as an interviewer.

      * Whenever the candidate says something that strongly influences you, write down their words as they said them (or as close as you can manage). When reviewing that candidate, you’ll probably be left with general impressions. It’s really good to reference the specific quotes to check or reinforce your impressions.
      * Note your overall impression of the candidate several times throughout the interview. This lets you be introspective about what answers actually affected your opinion and why. It also lets you cull interview questions that aren’t productive in getting a reading on the candidate.
      * Form a specific recommendation (hire / no hire) with supporting points before discussing the interview with anyone else. Otherwise, you’ll be susceptible to being overly swayed by the other interviewers.
      * Unsure means no hire. A bad hire is riskier than missing out on a great candidate.
      * If reviewing a candidate as a group, start with positive points. We always seem to want to talk about the negatives more, which runs the risk of turning the review into a complaining session about something which might not actually be that important.

    13. AdhdAnon*

      I like my question sets for goverment panels to include questions that you can listen to find out how someone *feels* about a big piece of the job. (This is for people with previous experience in the field or type of position – not sure it works in all cases.)

      They way I was taught it (and still do it) is to use a ‘this position will involve a leading a lot of public meetings, please tell us about a time when you conducted a challenging public meeting and how it went’.

      Here we’re listening for 2 things –
      1. Does applicant have real experience with this skill? The person who responds about a time they were on a panel or supported a panelist isn’t as strong as one who talks about facilitating one.

      2. Most importantly, when the applicant talks about it, what language do they use? We were once hiring for a position that would involve organizing records for offsite scan and the applicant in talking about her experience with record systems said that filing was a ‘necessary evil’ and proceeded to talk about a project she was tangentially involved in.

  5. Orphan Brown*

    Does anyone actually have a job that they share with another person? Please tell me all about it! (I’d really love a similar situation m).

    1. Alex*

      I used to! Well, sort of.

      I was an assistant at a school, and I’d worked there a couple of years. They needed an assistant for X number of hours a week, and when I first started, I did all the hours. But then their needs changed, and they needed different hours, and they decided to hire another person. That worked for a while, but then that person decided to leave.

      At the time, my roommate was looking for a job, so they hired her to do the hours I couldn’t do. But since we lived together and did the exact same job, our boss said she didn’t care who came in, as long as one of us was there for all the hours they needed. So, we just worked it out at home, “hey, can you go in today? I’ll do it tomorrow.” kind of thing. It worked out well, because we were both in school as well.

    2. government worker*

      I work in local government and have the exact same job as the other clerks in my department. In other words, on any given day we do one another’s work. It’s pretty awesome — I can do things like take a long vacation and not be buried in work when I get back — but the downside is that it’s hard to distinguish myself as essential.

    3. MeTwoToo*

      I haven’t but I had two assistants who did. I hired a girl in her first year of her masters program. As we entered her second year she had too many schedule conflicts and was thinking of leaving. Instead I interviewed and hired her classmate who was on a slightly different schedule. They both did 20 hrs each and shared an office space. They kept a communication binder so each could keep up with an follow up. Worked great for another year and a half until they graduated and one took another job. They other went back to full time at that point.

    4. OhBehave*

      I did for a few years. The main thing we did was maintain a Google doc that was used to note happenings (comm binder). Since we managed three branches, everyone would know what happened. If we were sharing tasks (us two) such as making calls, we would make sure to note where we stopped.
      I always left my desk clean when I knew she was working. She had her own desk but we had one phone in our office.
      I have no idea what you’re looking for but hope this helps.

    5. CatMintCat*

      It’s fairly common in teaching, especially with teachers returning part time from mat leave. They “share” the class – often one works three days per week, and the other two, and sometimes they alternate so each has a five day fortnight.

      I haven’t done it, but if the pair mesh well, it can work really well for years. If they don’t, it can be a nightmare for all concerned, including the children.

  6. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

    How would you deal with a manager who asks at the beginning of a meeting if you’ve been to the toilet?

      1. CastIrony*

        In my brave persona, I’d ask this. In real life, I’d be silent and internally being weirded out.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          I think silence is a fine response to a weirdly invasive question. Make the person who asks be the one to do all the talking.

    1. voodoo*

      Every meeting? I’d probably bring it up more broadly and convey that you’re capable of being prepared for scheduled timeslots.

      One time thing? I’d just say “I’m ready to get started with the meeting, and know we’re scheduled for X minutes. Thanks” in a polite tone, but also with a touch of “I am not in preschool and you are not my caretaker”

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

          I can think of a few snarky ones though:
          “I’ve been fully potty-trained, thank you, I don’t anticipate any accidents.”
          “No, I’ve decided that it’s more convenient to use adult diapers.”
          “You mean, I’m not allowed to wet myself?!”

              1. Phoenix Wright*

                Just like JK Rowling’s 17th century wizards: I simply relieve myself wherever I stand, and vanish the evidence.

      1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        Or code for “mom” when you’re about to start a long driving trip…

        My inclination–can’t say I’d have the nerve to do it, but my inclination would be to blink with a bunny-in-the-deadlights stare and say, “Huh?”

    2. 5 month mommy*

      As the person who often runs out of the meeting because I have to pee, my boss saying this would probably be appropriate O_o. If that’s not you, I’d probably follow Allison’s advice of giving your manager the strangest wtf look.

      1. valentine*

        If you’re really rushing and you really do need to go pre-meeting, start blocking off five to ten minutes then for a comfort break.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Blink. Blink. “By which I presume you expect to go over the scheduled 30 minutes?”
      After that it depends on whether or not I have another deadline pending.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Is your manager secretly your mom?

      I would just laugh to be honest because that’s such a parental question, unless you have problems with people constantly in and out to use the restroom? Is it a 1:1 or a large meeting that they’re asking the group so they don’t have interruptions?

    5. LKW*

      Is this a one on one meeting or a situation where everyone in the room has likely be running from meeting to meeting and the manager is offering a “bio-break”?

      Because if it’s the former….whoohee. The latter… such a nice gesture.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Oh, yikes, I haven’t even thought of it possibly being a 1:1!

        In that case, I’d probably excuse myself to go pee and never come back ;)

      1. Forrest Rhodes*

        This is such a perfect response, Jamie, that I don’t even mind cleaning up the coffee-laugh spray on my screen.

    6. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Any chance said manager is new and previously worked with the 6 and under age group?

    7. Camellia*

      My instinctual replies to these, whether asking or telling: “TMI, dude!” In a reasonably exclamative voice and a good laugh. Then sit down/arrange your materials/do whatever that indicates that you are, um, ready to get down to business.

      They never say (or ask) that stuff twice.

    8. Emilitron*

      Ummm… did you recently have a meeting with this person that was filled with high-potency farts?

    9. KR*

      If she does it once, assume it’s a one off. If she does it a lot, consider whether you’re leaving meetings a lot to use the bathroom and it can reasonably be avoided by taking a bathroom trip before meetings. If you aren’t try “You ask me that a lot, Manager, and I got to say I find it a little funny! I try to take care of everything before meetings get started but please let me know if you think I’m leaving meetings too often please let me know.”

    10. CatMintCat*

      I teach six year olds. I have been known to ask this question of my husband and adult children. They laugh at me, as they should.

  7. voodoo*

    So, yesterday morning an HR-type human got in touch to schedule a 3 hour panel interview (3rd interview for me).

    I got back within the hour with my availability.

    I’m now just biting my nails wondering how long I can wait before getting back in touch to follow up. Monday morning?

    3 hours is a little long for an impromptu dentist appointment, so I’m trying to be a subtle and kind coworker to my current job.

    ugh. I know, just wait it out. just gotta chill. thanks for letting me vent, AAM crew.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      “an HR-type human” – I like this. I’m stealing it.

      3 hours is a long time – are you able to use a sick day in case it runs over? I worked from home last week when I had my scheduled two and a half hour in-person interview, and then it ran over so that it was actually three and a half hours – if I had been in the office that day and had to come up with an appointment, I totally would have been called out on it.

      1. voodoo*

        Yeah, I’ll take a day if I need to, everyone gets food poisoning, right?

        I’m just waiting on the person to get back to me and wondering what the normal time frame is.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Ah, okay. Give it until the end of the day – the HR-type human may be trying to coordinate schedules and all of the panelists may not be around for her to get back to you yet. If you don’t hear anything by end of business today, I think a brief follow-up Monday would be fine.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’ve well known for taking impromptu half-day vacations for spring fever, midwinter blues, harvesting the fruit at my motherinlaw’s place, etc. I plan to take full advantage of that when I start looking.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          LOL Literal fruit! My motherinlaw lives on 8 acres. Blackberries, raspberries, peaches, pears, and quince. And then there’s the nuts…

    3. Bee's Knees*

      As an HR-type human myself, although we use recruiters, I’d follow up first thing Monday morning. Or you could send an email on Sunday afternoon/evening so it’s waiting Monday morning. I could go from trying to schedule something like that, and typing out a response, to answering the phone, checking on someone’s pay issue, to getting someone a new hat because theirs got sucked up in the vacuum shaft, to directing people to shipping. Then it’s four hours later, and I still haven’t sent the email.

      1. voodoo*

        Thanks for the permission to pester. Lord knows we all get busy, I just needed a gut check from the community, since I know I’m emotionally overinvested and don’t want to push too soon.

        1. Bee's Knees*

          I mean, if it had been an hour, or even a couple of hours, it might be irritating. But if it’s anything like my job, stuff just gets forgotten. Not maliciously, or even procrastinated, just other stuff came up that needed to take priority. I would probably be glad to have a reminder that, oh yeah, I needed to confirm a time with voodoo.

    4. LadyByTheLake*

      If you mean Monday the 15th, that would be okay. Monday that is the next business day is way too soon.

      1. Zephy*

        I think OP means follow up to confirm the interview time – the interview hasn’t happened yet.

    5. Dragon Egg*

      Good luck! I’m an internal applicant waiting to hear after all the interviews, testing, screening questions, meetings with HR-type humans (love that), detailed thank you notes etc., etc., etc….

      The waiting is the hardest part… and my company loves to have people come for 3-4 hours of interviews… so offering support and I agree, Monday to confirm the date and time would be ideal if you haven’t heard by then.

    6. Anonforthis*

      I literally had this exact problem 2 weeks ago. They didn’t confirm the interview until the day before, so I called in sick.

  8. New Job So Much Better*

    For you younger workers….. Is it common to avoid eye contact or smiling/nodding when passing older or other younger coworkers in hallways? In the kitchen? I notice my coworkers aged 30-ish and younger are super friendly with work contact (smilies on emails, very helpful replies) but they stare at their shoes in the hallway like they don’t know you. Is that just weird to my office? We’re in a large cube farm.

    1. Murphy*

      I have social anxiety and I do this. I’m trying to get better. I don’t know if it’s “normal” for others, but it’s normal for me.

      1. Insignificant*

        I have social anxiety too. If I notice someone I know then I’ll wave to them, smile and say hello in the hall, and may even stop to chat with them. I often avert my eyes in the hallway to avoid being awkward with strangers and may accidentally ignore someone I know. (Having random people smile at me or say hello makes me worry that I’m supposed to know them, and the interaction just seems unnecessary. Sometimes being polite can turn into a hassle, such as when super friendly extroverts or guys can take politeness the wrong way.)

        1. Busy*

          Yeah. You’re last part? Dead on. I have some social anxiety. I generally avert eyes at strangers to avoid conversations, because while I can not be awkward normally, points of time where I am guaranteed to become That Awkward Person is trying to extricate myself from random strangers I do not want to engage with at all.

          And sometimes, I just want to get some water. I left my desk to have a mental break, and I do not want to engage.

          1. Insignificant*

            I like your last point. When I’m walking around at work I generally have a very specific task in mind (go get some water, go to the bathroom, go to a meeting, get some records, ask someone a question, etc.). I’m not wanting to engage in any way with the 5 or 10 people I pass on my way to my destination and back to my desk every time I get up. That would be exhausting.

            1. Combinatorialist*

              Smiling at the person as you walk by is exhausting? I totally get not wanting to have a conversation but even though I’m extremely introverted, I do the smile and nod thing almost automatically and it doesn’t even process as “engaging”

              1. Librarian of SHIELD*

                It’s not necessarily the “smiling at a person” that makes it exhausting. It’s the “this is the third time I’ve seen Bob in the halls today, were my first two greetings enough? Should I say something? Is he going to say something? Do I smile and wave? What if I wave and he’s not even looking? Can I pass that off as something that feels less weird? What’s the correct protocol in this situation?” of it all that makes it exhausting.

                1. Insignificant*

                  ^^^This!!! I have social anxiety so I tend to overthink even little interactions. Social interactions come somewhat easily with people I know well and am comfortable with, but with people I only know in passing or don’t know at all it gets tiring quickly. Maybe it’d be easier in a small office, but I’ve only ever worked at companies that have a couple hundred employees.

    2. WellRed*

      I don’t think it’s normal in an office, generally, but I have encountered this awkwardness with many early 20s.

    3. Small but Fierce*

      I’m in my 20s and I definitely look at the floor when I walk for some reason. That said, if I’m friendly with a coworker, I will acknowledge them if I pass them in the hallway. If we’re not particularly close, I may not acknowledge depending on the seniority of the team member. It’s definitely a thing for me, but I’m fairly socially awkward.

    4. Miss Fisher*

      I think partly it is the younger thing. With all the new tech, relationships are being built more online, so younger people are used to dealing with people over email etc and the actual face to face contact is going away.

        1. EinJungerLudendorff*

          Tech actually helps me to maintain face-to-face contact, because it helps me avoid my social anxiety.

          It’s also much easier to keep in contact with people, especially when they don’t live nearby, or we don’t normally run across each other in our day to day lives.

    5. Alianora*

      I usually nod or say hello to my coworkers. Some of my coworkers don’t, but older people are just as likely to do it as younger people.

    6. Anon For This One*

      My workplace has oddly dark hallways due to the building design. I have terrible eyesight in dim light and at a distance (but can’t wear glasses at a computer, so I don’t wear them during the day at work).
      I probably seem like I avoid smiling and eye contact in the hallway – but that’s because I literally can’t tell who it is until they are just a few feet from me. It’s super weird and awkward but I’ve just accepted that.

      1. elemenohp*

        Yeah, I think workplace design can have a big impact on this. My workplace also has very long, dim, narrow hallways full of blind corners and people are always literally running into one another. It makes saying hello incredibly awkward.

        It’s also a frequency issue. I see the same people half a dozen times a day. It becomes really time consuming to stop and say hello to everyone, every time I see them.

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ve had to force myself to make eye contact as I get older, I was certainly shy and quick to leave rooms a few years ago if others were around. A lot of it may be being new to the workplace or feeling out of place, they may think they’re getting “caught” out of their desk or something irrational/silly.

      It’s an anxiety reflex. It’s also why a lot of people hate using the phone. It’s not age related.

    8. Squeeble*

      My experience is that when I’m walking down a long hallway and someone is walking toward me, I don’t really know where to look. I don’t want to just stare at them the whole time–that would be uncomfortable for both of us. So yeah, I look down a lot but eventually look up and smile at them before we pass each other. Maybe that’s part of it?

    9. CheeryO*

      Hm, at my workplace, the 25-35ish set is generally friendly and will say hello/how are ya but will not chit chat the way that the older set does. We have a lot of interns, though, and I’ve noticed that many of them don’t say hello or make eye contact. I think it’s just that they don’t feel completely comfortable and don’t have the work experience to be able to fake it.

      1. Gloucesterina*

        The young folks may also be intentionally cultivating a work-focused persona. At least that was the case for me in my 20s. Now, per CheeryO’s observation, I better understand how (in many workplaces) it’s OK to interject a little small talk and still be taken seriously.

    10. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I’m in IT. I am also older. I don’t typically make eye contact in the hallways. I’ll say hello with a vague smile and look to the side. I figure most of my coworkers don’t want eye contact, so I’m doing them a favor by not forcing any. Unless it is someone I’m friendly with, or someone I know to be more social than the average, then I’ll greet them like I normally would a friend. But this is an interesting question and I now want to maybe observe my coworkers in hallways for a while to see what they do when they meet me in a hallway.

      1. BelatedReply*

        Also IT, but trying to change careers at 30.

        In my experience, people in the hallways only ever want something from me. “How’s my printer ticket coming along?”, “am I getting a replacement laptop yet?”, “did I get approved for a second monitor?”, and so on. No one ever really asks me how I’m doing or understands I’m likely busy or on my way to something else (from desperately needing to use the bathroom, or rushing a replacement cable up to a CEO’s office) – even if they start off with a “how’s it going” they quickly jump into a computer issue that needs to be submitted via ticket system anyway, and get pissy if I tell them to please use this system instead. There’s no winning.

        So it’s a balance of polite eye contact and…completely avoiding eye contact, depending. All that besides the long hallways and mild social anxiety discussed elsewhere.

        Funny part is I’m trying to maybe get a similar “help everyone” job but outside of tech, so maybe I just like the awkward hallway pressure.

    11. The Ginger Ginger*

      OMG, I HATE making eye contact in the hallways. Do I wave? Do I say hi? Even if I just saw you an hour ago in that meeting and said hello when I got in this morning? Do we have to stop and talk now? Am I rude if I do none of these things? Weird if I do all of them???


      1. Oxford Comma*

        I just make eye contact, slightly nod my head, smile, and move on, all without really stopping.

        I have had people refuse to look at me in hallways, and while I understand that might be the result of social anxiety, it always makes me feel like they snubbed me.

        1. New Job So Much Better*

          I agree, Oxford Comma, but I’m trying to not feel snubbed after reading these comments.

        2. The New Wanderer*

          It could just be a bad guess on the part of the person you passed. I try to make eye contact and smile/nod if I think the person I’m going to pass is going to do that too, and I try to avoid it if I think they’re going to avoid it. Usually what happens is the other person is making that same calculation and then both of us avoid eye contact, or both of us make brief eye contact. The awkward bit is if one or the other guesses incorrectly, but it’s only a second of awkwardness and then it’s over.

          1. Oxford Comma*

            I’ve thought about this a lot because this comes up a lot on this blog and people have made some great points about how they feel awkward or anxious.

            But for my part I think what happens is that once in a while the person doesn’t acknowledge you, I brush it off. They’re tired. They’re in their own heads. Whatever. But there are certain people who never make the eye contact and after a while it starts to feel hostile. Particularly when you’re in a shared staff space like the lunchroom or mail room and they can’t even look at you.

        3. MinotJ*

          This is a revelation to me! I also feel like I’m doing my coworkers a favor by not making eye contact. The whole golden rule thing – I hate the forced hello so much that I assume they must also hate it, and I’m treating them as we would both like to be treated. I never considered that somebody who I barely know from another department might feel snubbed because I didn’t say hello. I’m in my mid-40’s, so it’s not just a young person thing.

    12. LQ*

      I’m tired. I spend all day in meetings fighting to make an appropriate level of eye contact and be properly professional and jovial and upbeat and soothing everyone’s feelings and redocumenting the documents I already documented and I’m going to be here late, when it’s like a creepy well lit horror movie creepy and I haven’t had a day off in months. Let me stare at my shoes occasionally. I try very hard to smile at everyone, but me not smiling at you doesn’t mean I hate you, it doesn’t mean I’m not willing to help, it doesn’t mean I’m not professional or friendly. It just means I’m thinking about something else for a minute and this is how my face is and I’m not currently exerting the energy to make it something else.

    13. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Walking past coworkers in the workplace is super awkward for me. The first time I say hi. But I’m going to pass by this person seven more times before the work day is over. Do I say something every time? Do I not? Am I weird if I don’t acknowledge them every time? Am I even weirder if I do? It’s a hotbed of anxiety.

    14. BlueDijon*

      For me, walking to/from time is often my only brain shut-down time, so I’m completely zoning out and only focusing on getting to where I’m going, so it might be that. I know that at least 3 times my brain only registered that someone I knew was doing the half wave when they’re not sure if they see you thing after I was already past the person – it’s not ideal, probably, but also being “on” all the time does require some shut down/restart time, in my experience.

    15. CastIrony*

      I say hello and ask work questions or talk about it, but because I am both socially anxious and never learned anything having to do with society, I found out that I really hate it when people talk to me for longer than a minute or two because I feel like I have to be efficient (I was once told I was working too slowly.), and am thus wasting time. It’s not that I don’t like you, I truly do, it’s just that we don’t have much in common other than the work questions.

    16. ChimericalOne*

      I’m early 30’s. Social anxiety + Asperger’s, so I’m not a terrribly typical case, but I do think younger folks are more likely to be comfortable with over-tech interactions & uncomfortable with face-to-face ones. I use my phone as a crutch to avoid staring at my shoes or the carpet — I’d rather folks think I was reading my email / an important text than just being antisocial, but I also *really* don’t want to socialize in a “in passing” kind of way (the hardest way, for many of us!)

      1. CastIrony*

        This is a lot like me! I like to be able to think about my reply, and text and e-mail are the best way for me.

    17. Existentialista*

      I completely have this issue with a very smart and capable employee on my team. He is great on the phone or text, but in meetings scowls and looks down like he’s angry at everyone, and walks through the halls scowling and avoiding eye contact.
      My boss has made me work with him to appear more engaged in meetings, as a leadership skill that he needs to learn, but I’m torn about whether to raise the hallway behavior, since it’s not really part of his job, but still noticeable – people in other departments have commented to me about it.

      1. Insignificant*

        If people are commenting on it I think it’d be kind to say something. Being perceived as “friendly” or “nice” is important to being able to get work done sometimes, so it is indirectly related to his job.

      2. EinJungerLudendorff*

        What insignificant said, but I also think scowling constantly is a bit more serious than not making social contact in the hallway.

        Short moments of awkwardness can be worked around if you have even a moderately functional relationship.

        But if you look like you’re always angry at everyone around you, then you constantly make people uncomfortable, and make them not want to work withyou. That causes real problems for the whole workplace, which means it needs to be addressed.

        And I assume he doesn’t actually want to be feared by the whole workplace.

        1. Anonforthis*

          Idk – I’m one of those people with a “resting bitch face”, aka my neutral expression looks contemptuous/irritated for some reason. It may not hurt to point it out if people are seriously freaked out by it, but it will also likely make them very self-conscious.

          1. Insignificant*

            I have resting bitch face too. If someone told me everyone thought I looked angry, I would be horribly, terribly self-conscious about it. I’d be glad to know though. I don’t think you can really change your resting face, but maybe he can try to start acknowledging just the people he works with when he’s walking around or be extra friendly when he’s talking with them at meetings to make up for the scowling.

      3. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        Is he actually scowling, or could he be squinting? Might sound Pollyanna-ish, but sometimes vision problems begin small and sneak up on you.

    18. Penguin*

      30-something here. I look down when I walk; it’s a regional/cultural thing. I grew up in New England and it’s just… a thing that’s done there.

    19. copier queen*

      I’m 34, and I’ve always smiled or said hello to people in the hallways – even back in college. It seemed more awkward to avoid acknowledging them. Not sure if this is a Southern thing or what. We will say hello or smile to everyone we pass on the street, which I hear isn’t done everywhere. Of course, it could be genetic – my mother will literally say hello or wave to someone halfway across a parking lot.

    20. Anonforthis*

      I do this due to shyness/social anxiety. My shyness tends to be more around older people for some reason – probably because I still perceive them as impromptu authority figures (even if in an organizational setting, they’re not even if they are in senior roles.)

      From my understanding, this isn’t necessarily a generational thing or even age thing – more outgoing people than me have no problem with eye contact.

      1. Anonforthis*

        OOPS I just reread your question and realize I misinterpreted it! I was originally talking about not making direct eye contact during conversations.

        That being said, when I pass people in the hallway, I give them a quick smile and then look down. Idk why I do this, but it is the norm where I work. People aren’t very small-talk around here, and I also work in a cube farm. I work in a city in Northeast US so maybe that’s why?

    21. Dramatic Squirrel*

      Former army reservist and the rule was that you salute an officer the first time you see them in a day and not again. I still apply that to people. I will greet them if I know them the fist time and after that I might give a nod when I bump into them again. I generally give a small smile or nod to anybody as I am a HR type human and people need to know you are approachable.

    22. MissDisplaced*

      Well, I do that and I’m not younger. Some of it is just social introvert and some is just I’m busy and need to get somewhere. But I do try to do a sort of head bob to acknowledge I’ve seen them.

  9. Anon Nom Nom Nom*

    TL;DR: How do I respond when I hear accusations of sexual harassment that I doubt?

    About 10 years ago, “Joe” was the executive director of a nonprofit organization where I volunteer today. He was there for about a year, and has since moved on to work in the private sector. We met about 8 years ago, after he went through a messy divorce and while he was battling a substance addiction, and we dated on and off for 2 years. Now he’s married again and is raising a family. We have continued to stay in touch and see each other socially.

    Recently, I started volunteering at the organization. I was told that he was asked to leave because he had been sexually harassing a staff member. I want to believe survivors, let me be perfectly clear — but the accusation doesn’t ring true to me. He was always perfectly respectful to me. I knew him socially for a few months before we dated, and I have never, ever seen him act inappropriately or creepily with any woman. I was his intimate partner for a while and got to know him very, very well. I can confidently say that sexual harassment is just not in his character. How do I respond to this without (a) dismissing the story, or (b) disclosing his personal history? That is, if I say, “Wow, that doesn’t sound like Joe at all,” that’s dismissive and basically accuses the speaker of lying. If I say, “Oh, well you know his marriage was breaking down at the time and he had a cocaine problem,” then I’m sharing information that is not mine to share (as well as tacitly acknowledging the accusation and excusing the behavior he’s accused of).

    Thanks for any suggestions on what to say if/when this comes up again.

    1. Colette*

      I’d say nothing. As well as you know him, you don’t know what happened, and this is not your battle to fight.

        1. valentine*

          the accusation doesn’t ring true to me
          You don’t get a vote. Please don’t serve on a relevant jury. (I know this isn’t about Biden and I don’t know what he’s been doing to women, but he seems a good example of this, what with random people referring to him as Uncle Joe.)

          He was always perfectly respectful to me.
          Plenty of abusers cultivate protectors and defenders by being on their best behavior, which also serves to gaslight their targets.

          I have never, ever seen him act inappropriately or creepily with any woman.
          Not your call. Let’s say the Joe in question is a Hugger. That’s gross. I’m sure some people love it and think he’s the greatest person ever to person and they feel warm and fuzzy and he really makes their day with a big ol’ (possibly rocking) bear hug. If you’re one of those people, would you see the difference between people who just enjoy hugs and practice informed consent versus Huggers, who are oppressive, inappropriate, and flat-out assaulting people? (See: the OP who didn’t tell her coworker to stop touching/hugging/rubbing the kids they worked with and failed those kids by not reporting her.)

          I can confidently say that sexual harassment is just not in his character.
          How would you even judge this? I really hate it when people, especially cops, say, “(S)he isn’t a killer.” This is behavior, not character. (See: Jay Smooth’s “You stole my wallet” about how to coddle racists.)

          How do I respond to this
          As though you believe it. Because the only harm is in what you’re doing and want to do now, which is to champion Joe. You can say, “Why that’s awful,” “Thank goodness they got rid of him,” or “Please, let’s talk about literally anything else,” or leave for a place not associated with Joe.

          If I say, “Oh, well you know his marriage was breaking down at the time and he had a cocaine problem,” then I’m […] excusing the behavior[.]
          To me, this is actually confirming the behavior. Some people use major stressors as excuses to harm.

          1. EinJungerLudendorff*

            *Throws thumbs ups at this comment*

            Everything Valentine said! This is how sexual abusers get away with their vile behaviour.
            And remember, most abuses are never reported, and accusations are almost always true.

            There is just such a massive social cost to publicly accusing someone of secual harrassment, especially if the abuser was a powerful, well-liked man, and the victim was a little-known woman.

            It would take a very reckless person to make such an accusation lightly, and that would almost certainly be struck down by internal investigations.

            If a powerful, popular man was accused and fired, he probably did it.

          1. Dramatic Squirrel*

            Oops, that appeared in the wrong place, I was referring to Ingall’s post ‘Not your circus, not your monkeys’

      1. MsM*

        +1. “Well, he never did it around me” only means that he never did it around you. At most, I would say that you’re surprised and sad to hear that, since you’ve always thought well of him, and then change the subject.

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        Yes. These things do not make the accusation any less credible, nor do they exonerate him.

        He was always perfectly respectful to me.
        I have never, ever seen him act inappropriately or creepily with any woman.

        1. Observer*

          Actually, this does make a difference. Totally not proof, but the guy who knows how to be respectful to women is less likely to be a harasser than the person who is not consistently respectful around women.

          Which is to say that it’s perfectly legitimate for doubt the accusation, though not to dismiss it.

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            I’m going to actually you back, though, and say it doesn’t make a difference. And there are some harassers who wear their disrespect for women on their sleeves, and others who are very good at concealing it. Check out Hugo Schwyzer or Kyle Payne, for example.

            1. been there, done that*

              I ran into this exact situation–a serial harasser who was completely and totally respectful to women who were his peers or above him in the office hierarchy. Many women had the same reaction–“he’s never done this to/around me.”

              Over a very short period of time it became clear that the one or two incidents that had been reported were the tip of an iceberg.

              Other men began to offer the “he’s socially awkward” defense. To which my reaction was, well, if he’s socially awkward, why isn’t he socially awkward with everyone? Why is he only inappropriate with women who are younger or junior to him?

              I can, to this day, say that I he never harassed me and never harassed anyone in my presence. But he most definitely harassed other people.

              The fact that he knew who not to harass and when he had to be on his best behavior was pretty damning in the end. If he could make those distinctions, this wasn’t social awkwardness; it was predatory behavior.

              1. EinJungerLudendorff*

                Even if it was awkwardness, that only runs until the first time someone rejected him, confronted him, or made it otherwise blatantly obvious his behaviour was harmful.

                After that, he knew what he did and didn’t care, one way or the other.

          2. deesse877*

            Yeah, no. Your analysis relies on the assumption that harassment indicates a total inability to play by the rules. That’s incorrect. What it is, really, is a way to break the rules and get away with it–and targeting only one person while being great with everyone else is a great way to get away with abuse.

            Harasses aren’t clumsy or stupid or broken. They like hurting people.

          3. serenity*

            The thing is 1) you actually don’t know for sure the totality of any one person’s history with women, and 2) this is ridiculous because most high-profile harassers don’t indiscriminately target everyone.

            Thinking you know, for sure, someone’s true character and their sexual history is a fool’s errand. For one example, NY’s attorney general Eric Schneiderman had a history of publically championing women’s causes while assaulting and denigrating a string of women in his private life.

    2. 5 month mommy*

      Are you being asked a question? It doesn’t sound like you need to respond at all.

    3. Overeducated*

      I wouldn’t say anything. This is very old history. Why do you feel the need to say something about it, rather than just making a concerned “oh dear” type noise and not talking about Joe any further?

    4. Friday*

      That’s a hard one. If Joe is still your friend, why don’t you ask him about it? Listen carefully to his response both for what he says about it and what he doesn’t say about it.

      1. Observer*

        Why would she do this? While it’s possible that she might get some information out of this conversation, odds are not good. And what exactly would this accomplish?

        I agree with everyone who says that she simply doesn’t need to respond.

    5. Workerbee*

      Oof, I appreciate the difficulty in all this, and so I mean this very respectfully to you and your experiences with him:

      I think you should just stay out of it.

      People are multi-faceted. Someone who behaves like an angel to one person can be a total **** to another. And some people who behave like angels can know exactly the right things to say and the right face to present when they’ve got somebody in their thrall.

      Source: Me, who had a “but he was great to me!” non-sexual, close relationship with a coworker, only to find out after he left that he was a complete ***hole to everybody else…and actually had been to me, only I couldn’t see it at the time at all. Suddenly, I could. All the warning signs, all the behaviors I’d waved off, everything. Ugh.

      I’m not trying to put my experience on yours, just trying to frame it in a way that may only make sense when you’re not within that person’s sphere anymore.

      1. Workerbee*

        (After posting, I realized this may be a little too much projecting on my part; apologies!)

      2. MechanicalPencil*

        Exactly this. I have personally experienced the flipside of this. Someone who was a model coworker and friend to everyone else was harassing me. It was a long, hard battle to be taken seriously enough for anything to be done about it. And I’m now dealing with the “oh well that doesn’t sound like Wakeen at all. Are you sure?” comments. Quite frankly, it’s bananas that my experience is being discounted because someone else didn’t see that facet of Wakeen.

        1. boo bot*

          Yes, and it’s worth noting that this dynamic is not an accident. People who harass others are often careful only to show their harassing side to the people they want to harass, while maintaining the image of someone who “would never do such a thing” to everyone else, thus allowing them to continue harassing with impunity.

          1. Wishing You Well*

            This is correct. Harassers carefully choose their victims, the place and the time. It’s predatory behavior and predators aren’t stupid.
            On the original question, stay neutral.

      3. Insignificant*

        I was thinking about the “People are multi-faceted. Someone who behaves like an angel to one person can be a total **** to another” thing too. An older guy (more than double my age) that I worked with for a few years during high school seemed absolutely polite, kind and respectful, especially to women. I moved on but kept in contact with him since we’d become good friends and we chatted every day over instant messenger. When he got a new job where he had another teenage coworker, he started telling me sex fantasies of her and he started talking about female child actors in sexual terms. Seriously creeped me out and made me wonder if he’d viewed me the same way. I cut off contact. Never would have expected he was like that if I hadn’t experienced it myself.

      4. smoke tree*

        I think many people like to believe that abusers of various stripes are out of control, socially inept, at the whim of their emotions and so on. Maybe that makes it easier to justify their actions or something. In reality, many abusers are very socially adept and perfectly capable of being respectful, polite and charming when it benefits them.

        It can be incredibly difficult to reconcile what you know of a person with evidence of how they’ve mistreated others (I’ve been there, but in a lower-stakes situation) but I would advise everyone to try to reserve their judgment as much as possible. In cases like this, your intimate knowledge of the person doesn’t necessarily give you any substantive information and can seriously affect your judgment.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I would also say nothing. I have to point out that drug use can change people’s personality. He may have been acting differently at his office than he did when you knew him.

    7. a tester, not a developer*

      If ‘he was always wonderful to me’ was a valid indicator of character, there would never be any serial killers/rapists/armed robbers that were happily married or pillars of their community at the same time that they were committing horrible crimes.

      If this does come up again, you may want to mention that you see Joe socially, so that the person who was harassed can decide how to interact with you accordingly.

      1. EinJungerLudendorff*

        Yeah. Remember all the times someone murdered a dozen people, and all their neighbours go “he was always so nice, i never would have suspected him”?

        Yeah, murderers aren’t the only ones who do that.

      2. ..Kat..*

        Ted Bundy was extremely kind and courteous to Ann Rule. He would walk her to her car after they had worked a shift for the crisis center to prevent her from being assaulted by the serial killer who was in the area – he was the serial killer.

    8. NonnyNon*

      Substance abuse can cause inhibitions to be lower and people to say and do things they normally wouldn’t, so I wouldn’t assume you know him as well as you thought you did.
      Serial killers fool families and theur communities all the time.

    9. Jessica*

      A nonprofit asked their executive director to resign because he had been sexually harassing a staff member? That seems like a pretty unusual occurrence to me and not something that would have just happened due to rumors. My guess is that it’s your perception of Joe that isn’t quite in line with reality, not the sexual harassment accusations. But if you really want to try to square the two things, remember that this happened two years before you met Joe; perhaps he learned from his mistakes and changed.
      In response to your question: You don’t need to say anything.

    10. OhNo*

      The safest bet is to avoid mentioning Joe at all. If comments are called for (which they may not be – you don’t have to have a comment on every topic of conversation that comes up if you’d rather not), focus on the victim.

      “Wow, that sounds like a terrible situation.”

      “I can’t even imagine having to deal with that kind of thing at work.”

      “That must have been a rough time for Jane – I hope she’s more comfortable at work now.”

      Basically, pretend that they are saying these things about someone you’ve never heard of before. That removes the personal and emotional connection to the situation, and will help you respond with empathy for the victim.

      1. designbot*

        This. Something to the effect of, wow how awful, is your safest bet. You aren’t choosing sides, you aren’t getting involved deeper, you’re acknowledging that what they describe sounds horrible. You don’t have the information for anything more.

      2. Insignificant*

        “Basically, pretend that they are saying these things about someone you’ve never heard of before.”

        That’s a really good idea. Unless the OP is leaving something out, it sounds like no one would even be aware that she knew him let alone that she dated him. They don’t need to know that she knew him at all.

    11. Brogrammer*

      You weren’t there, you don’t know what happened. Harassers don’t behave inappropriately with everyone and they’re careful to not get caught.

    12. Traveling Teacher*

      “Oh, well you know his marriage was breaking down at the time and he had a cocaine problem”

      I think you have your answer right there. High people do awful things that are definitely”out of character.”

      And, do consider that none of us really knows what other humans are capable of. If you need to believe that he didn’t do those things to preserve the image of the person you “know” and dated, that’s fine. That doesn’t mean that the victim is lying, and it also doesn’t mean that it’s your fault that you didn’t know. Many perpetrators are experts at hiding who they really are from others.

      It’s also encouraging that you want to evaluate the conflict between your perspective on this man’s character with what you believe to be right (believing the victim).

      I agree with other commentators–no need to reply, only to listen.

      (Coming at this from the perspective of a person who was also told “he would never do that” by a perpetrator’s friends when, in fact, he most certainly did.)

    13. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Keep in mind that “I never saw him act like this” is not a very strong argument against the statement “He acted like this with me.”

      Many people are highly adept at presenting different faces at different times — and more to the point, if he was going through a divorce and struggling with substance addiction at the time the actions would have taken place… that’s kind of an argument in favor of him being a very different Joe than the Joe you know.

      It’s a little like saying “I’ve never seen it snow in Georgia” and expecting that to be a counter to someone saying “Hey, it snowed in Atlanta yesterday.”

    14. Temperance*

      So the man who sexually harassed me when I was in college didn’t harass anyone else. He made sexual comments to me and only to me. It meant that, when I tested the waters by starting to bring it up with someone, I was shut down because Frank is such a nice guy, would NEVER do that, loves his wife, etc. I can assure you that he used his management position to find my phone number and call me at home, so no one would believe me.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Yep. It’s recently come to light that a former prof at my university preyed on, groomed, sexually assaulted, and then “carried on an affair” with a student of his for many years. He was married, respected in his field, and had never done this to/with anyone else. She was his only target, ever. No one suspected anything until she finally brought evidence to his bosses (who, thankfully, terminated his employment immediately).

        It doesn’t have to happen to multiple people for the guy to qualify as a real sexual predator.

      2. SignalLost*

        Yep. My brother was in the same class with Mary Kay Letourneau as Vili Fualaau, thebstudent she assaulted and continued to assault. Just because she didn’t act that way with my brother doesn’t mean she didn’t assault Fualaau. (Locally famous thing here, probably, but you get the gist.)

        1. Temperance*

          Holy crap. That has to be such a mind fudge.

          FWIW, I live across the country, and am very familiar with the case. I’m glad she didn’t prey on your brother.

          As an aside, they’re apparently separating for Vili can go into the MJ business.

    15. otherOther*

      There is literally no possible way you can know that a certain behavior was out of character. You can’t prove a negative on this one. People who do this usually do their best to cultivate a reputation such that anyone who they are not targeting would come to the same conclusion you have. His respect for you does not make it impossible for him to treat someone else horribly.

      That’s not to say that you personally have to believe it. However, you have absolutely no standing to say “Oh he would NEVER have done that.” The best response in that case is no response– don’t justify/explain or otherwise give details about his life either. If he wants to “clear” his name by providing those details, he’s perfectly capable of doing so himself.

    16. Yorick*

      I’d avoid talking about it. But if people asked me about what I knew, I might say something like “I’ve always known him to be perfectly respectful (if that’s true), but of course I don’t know what he’s like all the time/with other people/whatever.”

    17. LKW*

      You know him but you don’t know if this was real or not. If asked, you certainly can say “I have known Joe for a long time and that sounds out of character.” But you don’t know what happened.

    18. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Say nothing.

      Just because someone doesn’t harass you or abuse you doesn’t mean they cannot do it to others. Your threshold may be higher than others as well, that’s what I’ve learned. I’ve learned that jokes/comments that do nothing but make me shrug or roll my eyes or simply ignore are huge issues for others and therefore I get why someone brings them up and pushes for the change.

      You have to remove yourself from the equation.

      This happens with abusers often. Everyone swears they’re the sweetest kindest nicest guy in the world he’d never ever hit his wife. You just don’t know him inside and out, despite a former intimate relationship.

      Distance yourself from the conversation. Don’t downplay or excuse.

    19. MicrobioChic*

      I agree with the general advice here.

      I had a professor in undergrad. Great guy, advisor to a club I was heavily involved with, never inappropriate to me or any women I knew.

      Several years ago, I heard that he had been accused of sexual harassment. My first reaction was to disbelieve it, think that the person misinterpreted it, etc. Friend would never do that! He’s a great guy! But guess what, it did actually happen, and he did do it. He admitted to it and lost his job over it.

      So coming from someone who has been in a situation similar to yours, you never know people as well as you think you do. Just because something is out of character for the person as you know them doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

    20. Nicki Name*

      If he never harassed anyone while you were around, that means he didn’t think he could get away with it while you were around. Take that for the compliment that it is. If you feel pressed to say something, how about, “Wow, I never knew about that side of him. I’m so sorry for (victim).”

    21. Dragoning*

      You say nothing.

      No one asked you.

      You don’t know what happened with this other person.

      You know nothing, you say nothing.

    22. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Having seen the creepy ish some of my senior-level male coworkers have done to other people at work (sometimes including myself, other times not) and gotten away with it, I’d say “he was asked to leave because he had been sexually harassing a staff member”, while he was an executive director no less, is an indicator that something bad did happen. I know this is a lot to process about someone one used to date and be emotionally close with. I second everyone’s advice to stay well out of it.

    23. anon for this one*

      You don’t know how he acts around other people.

      Personal example: a guy in my friend group tried to rape me. When I brought it up, I had some female friends say that it didn’t sound like him before, that he never acted that way towards them, or that my rape accusation “didn’t ring true”. One of them said “well, he’s a lonely and insecure guy, and worries about never getting married”, as if that justified his actions. It’s a really horrible thing to have people insist that someone couldn’t have tried to rape me because they didn’t think he was capable of it or because they had never seen him treat women poorly.

      You can’t genuinely say, “I can confidently say that sexual harassment is just not in his character” about anyone. Because anyone is capable of this. Doubling down on the fact that you don’t believe he’s capable of such a thing because you never saw it does invalidate the people he may have harassed.

      Honestly, don’t say anything. If you said either of your two suggested responses, I’d think less of you because that type of language is what lets men get away with bad behavior. Everyone is capable of doing bad things.

    24. Observer*

      It’s not clear why you need to respond at all. But, if you do have to respond this “ “Oh, well you know his marriage was breaking down at the time and he had a cocaine problem,” is something you should ABSOLUTELY not say. Because beyond acknowledging guilt you ARE excusing the behavior. That’s just wildly out of line.

      I understand why you doubt the allegations – you’ve seen his behavior in a lot of circumstances that do give you some insight. On the other hand, this happened before you really knew him. So, a lot could have changed. And if he was going through the breakdown of his marriage and was abusing drugs at the time, it’s far more likely that he did something that would be very out of character for him now. This is especially true of behavior that involves major boundary crossing, as drug use absolutely lowers people’s inhibitions.

      Before anyone jumps at me, I’m not claiming that all drug users are harassers, nor that not using drugs “proves” that someone is not a harasser.

    25. EmKay*

      “I can confidently say that sexual harassment is just not in his character.”

      Don’t be so confident.

    26. quirkypants*

      Honestly, I will echo all the above feedback.

      Past behaviour and treating one person with respect, doesn’t mean he’ll never do anything terrible ever.

      You don’t get to determine what even constitutes sexual harassment. I had a boss who sometimes rubbed my back and touched my thigh, he gave extra long hugs (even when I tried to avoid hugging), and he even tried to talk to me about what I found attractive in a mate a few times when were at social events with other colleagues. I HATED it. It made me uncomfortable. I wouldn’t have called it sexual harassment but when I told one friend, she said FOR SURE it was sexual harassment. Meanwhile, on the flipside, I worked with another woman I saw him act this way around and she seemed to LOVE the attention. And one more flipside, there were a couple people I told about this later and they were SHOCKED he had ever acted that way.

      Sometimes you think you know people and you really don’t.

      1. quirkypants*

        All to say, if it comes up I wouldn’t say anything at all.

        If someone directly asks you what you think, I would consider staying out of it and just say, “I would rather not speculate on what happened” or “I think I’d like to respect the privacy of all the parties involved and not gossip/talk/speculate about something like this!”

    27. only acting normal*

      You knew him socially for a few months, then you dated and were intimate partners. This suggests that you welcomed/were receptive when he flirted/made overtures. What if you *hadn’t* been interested?
      The person who was harassed may have experienced the same initial flirting and rejected Joe, since that was when you ‘accepted’ you didn’t have the same relationship path from that point on. Maybe he kept pursuing them despite their disinterest; keep that up long enough and it crosses into harassment quickly.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Thank you, this was exactly what I wanted to say but totally couldn’t figure out the words.

    28. Legal Rugby*

      I would stay out of it. You know nothing, except the behavior he showed you. You’d be amazed how often spouses are in my office protesting that THEIR spouse of 20 years would never do that.

    29. Public Sector Manager*

      Serial harassers, like serial killers, have a type. And if you aren’t their type, they can be professional, friendly, kind, warm, and observe all types of social norms.

      If you are their type, God help you. They will say things that they would never say to anyone else. They will do things out of their “normal” character.

      If your friend was asked to leave his employment, then he crossed a boundary that is unacceptable to the employer. Absolutely stay out of this one.

    30. BuildMeUp*

      I’d like to echo many of the other commenters – the fact that he didn’t harass you doesn’t really mean anything about these accusations. Think of how many murders and serial killers have been discovered years later, happily married with children. Bad people are often shockingly good at hiding that side of themselves.

      Power dynamics are an important thing to consider. As the executive director of this organization, presumably Joe had power over all the employees working there, right? Many harassers target people who are less likely to report their behavior, or less likely to be believed if they do report. So Joe may have targeted an employee specifically because he knew he could threaten her job or otherwise intimidate her into silence. Were you Joe’s subordinate when you met him? If he didn’t have power over you, he would have been much less likely to harass you.

      Additionally, most harassers target victims either in one-on-one situations, or when they know anyone they’re with will either be on their side or unlikely to intervene/report. So the likelihood of him harassing someone in front of you is small. The fact that you never saw him behave that way doesn’t really mean anything.

      1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        Yes yes yes.

        Years ago I worked for a large corporation and kept in touch w/ a coworker after I moved on. She told me the HR Director had been sacked for sexually harassment, mostly low-level clerical workers. It’s sure not easy now, but I have to think how brave those young women were then to come forward and speak out about an executive who had power over them and access to their personal information, including addresses and phone nos.

    31. Ariana Grande's Ponytail*

      I know there are already a lot of replies to this post, but since nobody has said this I feel really strongly that it needs to be said.

      Survivors have nothing to gain from reporting sexual violence and harassment.

      Nobody who has been through this, myself included, gets a kick out of it happening or out of having to share that it happened with other people. It takes a lot for many people to reach the point where they feel that they need to report it, whether it’s to the police, their family and friends, or to HR. Harassment and assault induce strong feelings of shame, self-loathing, and disempowerment.

      You don’t have to want to believe survivors, it is your *duty* to believe survivors. Unless presented with VERY blatant evidence to the contrary, you must believe them and take action accordingly. If your coworker came in and said their car had been stolen that morning, you would believe them, so why when someone says that their safety has been stolen do we not believe them? Please put your personal relationship with Joe aside and treat this person and their allegations as the serious issue that they are! It is a blessing for this company, and especially the employee who was harassed, that he no longer works there.

    32. Thrown into the fire new manager*

      I had a manager completely step up when I complained of one man being irritating… trying to ask me out… She spoke with hr and he was told to stop bothering the women (there were not a lot of us).

      When another man started completely creeping me out, I mentioned it to her and she responded “no, it can’t be, he is really nice”

      The first man I could handle myself..he was harmless and just irritating. The second man still gives me the creeps when I remember him

      Your impression is not necessarily what the other woman is experiencing and the best harassers dont do it in front of others. You shouldn’t get involved

    33. Lilysparrow*

      You say, “I’m shocked to hear that, how awful!”

      Or if you hear it more than once, you say, “I was so shocked to hear that, how awful!”

      And then you shut your mouth.

      If you have the kind of relationship where you could ask him about it privately, fine, see where it leads. But if you only see him on rare social occasions, that’s probably not appropriate or likely to get you any enlightenment.

      You defending him or casting doubt isn’t going to improve his reputation or get his job back. It’s just going to damage your reputation as well.

    34. Middle School Teacher*

      Yes to everything everyone has said.

      Also I feel like if a parent came to me and said “student A punched my son at recess” and I said “well, he’s never punched ME so, you know,” I probably wouldn’t get very far with that.

    35. Dramatic Squirrel*

      When I was 16 I worked in a supermarket. My mom worked in another branch of the store. Manager was a fine upstanding citizen. He started sexually harassing me (and other teens but never the older ladies). It was subtle at first but got to the point of attempted assault. I ran out of the store, went home and told my mom. She said I was lying and I should be ashamed of myself. He’s a lovely man. It wasn’t until somebody took the supermarket to court 10 years later and won that she finally believed me. Just because he seems okay to you does not mean he is actuly okay.

    36. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      Harassers seldom seek out witnesses. Your experiences with Joe won’t necessarily be the same as someone else’s, and there have been so many cases in which the predator was “such a nice guy” to everyone else.

      I would suggest not weighing in on this. You weren’t there to know what happened with Joe and this other person.

    37. Lobsterp0t*

      I don’t think your opinion matters, but also – everyone who abusive men didn’t abuse thinks they see the true side of abusive men. So, I would really keep it to yourself. It is unlikely that someone would be asked to leave – or dismissed – because of a totally spurious claim. He knows why he left. He doesn’t need your defence. You aren’t some how tarred by association – but if you say what you think, you would be.

      1. Ethyl*

        In fact, many victims of abuse think that the abuse is an anomaly and not “the real them,” and it keeps them stuck a lot. Abusers are extremely adept manipulators!

    38. wittyrepartee*

      Normal people can do bad things. Maybe you just say “He was someone I cared about for a long time, and hearing this makes me very conflicted. I’m so sorry for Sally.”

    39. tamarack & fireweed*

      Others have already made the main point, but to restate it from a harm-reduction perspective: First of all, it might be the case that you’re wrong in your judgement of what this man is capable of, or it might be that the organization was wrong in their judgement of the situation. How likely would either be? To an outside reader like myself, an a-priori guess of 90% in favor of the first looks good, but to you it’s probably more likely that you’re right. However, I’d very much advise of not relying on your gut feeling and personal experience alone: These can easily be wrong, and in any event, people are complicated and frequently act in ways that appear “out of character”. But whatever these percentages are, you need to start from the fact that at the very least these are two options to be taken seriously. Second step: you’re involved with the organization that made the judgement, and your attitude may well get back to the person who complained about harassment and certainly her/your mutual co-workers or volunteers. So I’d consider it a clear source of potential harm if you went on to publicly doubt the organization’s judgement and/or cast doubt on her statements. If she was traumatized, and even more so if she was victimized by your friend, then clearly there’s a large chance of doing harm if you proceed like this. This risk far exceeds, IMO, the risk you run by being non-committal and sympathetic.

      My approach would be to say something along the lines of “OMG, that’s really terrible”.

      If you are so close to your friend that you feel loyalty to him supersedes all other considerations then the clean solution would be to step down from your current role with the organization with no suggestion that you doubt their decision. (You can do this whether or not you believe him, BTW.)

  10. Fortitude Jones*

    Update on my most recent job search:

    My application-to-interview rate has gone from 6:1 to 4:1 – this is very new for me, and I’m excited. I didn’t think I had enough experience in my new role to get a new job soon (been a proposal manager now for 16 months with no prior experience), but I’ve had big name companies in various industries set up interviews with me, which is surprising. My cover letter and resume is finally doing it’s job! (Thanks, Alison!)

    Now, one of the positions I’m in contention for asked me to do a writing assessment where I had to re-write a short Executive Summary and a proposal’s Scope of Work section. I spent two hours on this last night, and I’m wondering if people think that request was excessive. I normally don’t do “work” for free (I put it in quotes because, technically, it’s not something they’ll use – the proposal was already submitted), but since this position is a new one for the company (a hybrid proposal writer/content manager), I figured they were probably smart to ask for a writing sample upfront – if they hired someone to write their boiler and serve as a technical editor on their proposal drafts who can’t actually write, that would be a disaster.

    I know people in the education field are used to doing long presentations as an assessment, but I’m curious – who else has had to do something like this, how long did it take, and did you think it was reasonable?

    1. Overeducated*

      Things I can only share on AAM: Wednesday I had a glowing midyear progress review from my supervisor and I was just like “man, I wish I could record this for when I’m feeling discouraged.” (Midyear reviews are verbal check-ins and don’t involve a formal written rating.) My supervisor is someone I admire a lot, and she’s leaving soon, so to have her say such positive things about my work capacity and skills, analytical capability, and contributions to the team were really affirming. She also gave me some advice for coming across more confident and assertive at this point in my career, which is definitely helpful since as a woman in a mid-level position I’m not always sure how to hit the right notes with peers and upper management.

      In other news, my one remaining co-worker who isn’t on a short term contract sent me a job listing he’s planning on applying for and asked me if I was too. Sigh…the exodus continues.

      1. Overeducated*

        I’m so sorry, the above was supposed to be its own level comment! I had started typing a response that I didn’t think your work sample request was excessive, but stopped because I wasn’t sure it would be helpful, and I guess the website thought my new comment was my abandoned draft.

        So anyway, I think two hours, and a starting point instead of having to write something fresh, is reasonable for an interview assignment. But I’m not a writer.

    2. Jules the First*

      As someone who hires proposal peoples, I usually send one or two exercises – a 250 word writing sample (I give you a document and ask you to write the introduction), and a sample RFP which I ask you to structure (but not write) the answer to one question. The two exercises together take a couple of hours, and are infinitely valuable to me when I’m assessing whether your skillset fits with the team. I’d say a couple of hours of work on samples is reasonable, a half-day or more is not.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      Two hours seems like a reasonable amount of time to spend on the assignment. And the assignment sounds focused and relevant to the job, I bet it weeded out a lot of applicants.

    4. Karissa*

      This comes up a lot in programming interviews, where sometimes they want you to spend 4-6 hrs+

      I agree that if it can be done in 1-2 hrs its fine. Also it’s better that it’s clearly a sample exercise, not something that could be used as part of their work.

    5. Fortitude Jones*

      Thanks everyone for your responses! I’m glad to hear that two hours isn’t too bad – I’ve never had to do this before, so didn’t know what was reasonable or not. Now I just sit and wait to see whether they still want to move forward with me or not. No, I’m not panicking at all (I am).

    6. Small but Fierce*

      I once wrote a 3 page proposal for an interview assignment. Between researching and formatting, it took me over 4 hours. And I was on vacation at the time. :/ That said, I also probably took longer than I normally would have since I wanted it to be perfect. I would have turned it down had I realized how long it would take me, but it wasn’t related to their company so it wasn’t like they were getting free work out of me.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Yeah, formatting was what took up most of my time – that, and making sure I used the right words on this 15 page document. Now I get to sit and wait this weekend until I hear back next week if they want to make me an offer.

  11. Fenchurch*

    In excellent news, I started a new job a couple of months ago that has completely changed my life. It is something I never thought I would do, and I am the newest person on my team to this area of work. I’d love anyone to chime in that has experience in adult learning and training at a corporate level.

    I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback so far on what I’ve done, but I want to do whatever I can to keep the momentum going!

    1. Nicki Name*

      Working for specialized tech companies, I’ve had to learn about a whole new industry every time I’ve changed jobs. The biggest thing is: don’t be afraid to ask questions! People know you’re the new person, word will get around that you’re new to this area of work, so most people won’t think it’s weird if you ask them to explain something.

      Does your office subscribe to some kind of industry newsletter? If so, make time to read that and look up/ask someone about anything you don’t understand.

    2. Clawfoot*

      There are a TON of Instructional Design blogs and industry forums — it’s a good way to keep a finger on the pulse of the industry, stay abreast of trends and new tech, and get great ideas.

      I personally like the TechSmith forums (they’re the makers of Camtasia and Snagit, among other software), and the Articulate forums (Storyline 2, Articulate 360). They’re super helpful and chocked full of great innovations and new ideas.

  12. Murphy*

    How many times do you keep raising the same issue with your boss?

    I’ve raised my issues with him several times and he either 1) listens and forgets about it/pretends to listen (not sure which), or 2) he just doesn’t see what the problem is. (Those specific issues being that he and another manager keep me completely out of the things I’m supposedly managing.) I’ve just stopped bringing it up because nothing ever changes an it doesn’t seem worth it anymore.

    1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      His not addressing the issue is his answer, and you’re going to have to read between the lines what he means by that. I’m sorry.

      1. Murphy*

        Yeah, I’m looking but I have some limitations making it hard. Only found one job to apply for so far :(

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It really depends on the issues. There are some that I ask and maybe follow up just once if he’s lukewarm on the first response but not a total shutdown/hard no. If it’s something I know isn’t his priority but he just needs to sign off on and I’m really invested in it, I will space out my followups but I’ll keep drilling it home.

      Sometimes you have to know which bones are worth digging for and which ones you have to leave in the ground in my experience. If you know he doesn’t care and isn’t going to change, pestering is not the solution because it’s going to wear on your professional relationship which is no good for you.

      1. Quinalla*

        Agreed it really depends on so many things, but a few thoughts…
        When the leaving you out of things is causing problems, make sure he feels the pain of those problems somehow. I’m not sure how it is affecting you, but make sure as immediately as possible when it becomes an issue to get him involved.
        Try coming at your request from a different angle. If you are presenting a problem and asking your boss for solutions, instead try to come up with a couple options for solutions and ask which he’d like you to implement. If you came with a solution, try coming with the problem and try and get your boss to assist with solving it. I do think though if you can make the problem at least partly his to deal with, he’ll be more motivated and believing there is a problem.
        You may want to sit down and figure out what is the worst problem right now and focus in just on that leaving the others aside. Sometimes if you come with what seems like a bunch of problems, it can feel like a big complaint list. If you narrow it down to one , maybe that will get it the attention it needs and you can tackle the next one after the first one is solved. Alternatively, you can focus on the problem that your boss seems least negative on, so something from (1) vs (2). If it is something your boss is just shutting you down on, I’d let it lie for awhile before considering bringing it up again if at all possible.

        1. Murphy*

          It’s only one problem: he and another manager leaving me out of things I’m supposed to be managing. Like I’m the blue teapot coordinator, and then I’ll get emailed a plan for a new teapot process that my boss and the large teapot team put together completely without my input. They held a meeting about it down the hall from where I sit without inviting me. I would say it’s causing minor problems process wise and has the potential to make us look bad, but major problems for me personally as I don’t have enough work to do as it is, and I’m left twiddling my thumbs while other people do my job.

          1. Not All*

            are you me????? Did I post this in my sleep?

            I raised it every couple months for about 2 yrs thinking they were just not used to having someone in my position (it had been vacant for quite awhile). I did ask my coworkers on other teams to please let me know what was going on rather than assuming my supervisor would. Most of them were pretty good about it. But honestly? At the 2 yr mark I both accepted that nothing here will every change and I might as well live with it AND I started applying for other jobs. There are only a handful a year in the entire US, so it’s going to take awhile.

          2. ..Kat..*

            Can you get yourself on the email list for these meetings? By talking directly to whoever sends out the meeting invite?

    3. LKW*

      If you can put the impact into terms that are finite, definitive and align with his performance goals you have a shot. If you can say “Based on not having information in a timely manner/kept in the loop, the following time was lost/wasted/burned due to uncommunicated change in direction/redundant work/misdirected work resulting in a a loss of $$$ based on average daily rate for the involved workers.” or “this project will be delayed by x days/weeks because of lack of communication resulting in overages of $$$”

      They don’t give a shit about your feelings, but if you can point to their behavior and say it cost money to the company and you are documenting it… then perhaps you can get through to them.

  13. Tathren*

    Not looking for advice, but I am curious to hear what others think of this situation.

    I’m a few weeks into a new job that I took knowing that I’d be working in a department of two (myself and my boss) and that my boss was relatively new to the company. Based on the interview and my own research I also knew going in that they’d had department problems and had lost a lot of staff recently. After being hired I learned that the department had very little turnover which led to, as my boss put it, “things running on inertia”. Then the old director died and people jumped ship, and my boss came in to fix the situation after the fact.

    There’s no written SOPs in our department, a lot of unnecessary outdated holdovers that need to be updated and/or cut out entirely, and we’re likely going to encounter ongoing problems in some areas because of sub-standard work conducted in the past. Personally, I like dealing with these sorts of challenges and my boss has said that he’s looking forward to the two of us working together to build new standards for the department so we can expand and add more staff again down the road.

    I am curious, though, if this is something that could (or should) have been raised in the interview process? Until I had an explicit conversation with my boss about this the other day, a lot of these issues were red flags and I was worried that I hadn’t done enough due diligence before taking this position. And while I’m actually a little excited about being able to fix these problems, I can easily see someone else being blindsided by it all. Anyone who had done research on the company should have been able to tell that there were problems with the department, but nothing was explicitly stated in the interview.

    If you were hiring someone into this situation, would you have been upfront about the problems and the long-term plans to fix them? And how would you raise this in an interview without scaring off qualified applicants?

    1. Celeste*

      In this situation, I would give the boss a pass for being new and walking into a mess. I wonder if he really had the full picture of what it would take to turn things around. I do agree with you that it would be normal and more effective to let the person know something about what to expect at this point. Fortunately it sounds like a good fit for you! I hope you can get it sorted and really shine.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        I was going to say – the boss is probably right there with you if he’s new. HR really should have ensured someone who had been with the company a long time was also around to interview you, that way you would have been given the full picture of what was happening in your department. Good luck with the job – it sounds like you thrive in this sort of environment, so you should be fine.

        1. Tathren*

          Thank you both for the responses! It hadn’t occurred to me that since my boss is also relatively new that he probably didn’t know the full scope of the situation when I interviewed but that would make a lot of sense.

          Also, it’s a small company and there’s no HR department. The company president sat in on my interview but I don’t think he knows the full scope of the mess that we’re uncovering within the department either. There’s literally no one left with in-depth knowledge of how the department was run, which definitely causes some problems but it also means that there’s no one who will be resistant to the changes that need to be made which is why I’m excited about the situation!

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Right. You get to put your own stamp on the role and basically turn this place around how you think it should be – that’s an awesome position to be in.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I’m in this situation now. I started about a month ago. I knew coming into this that there would be things I would be expected to change due to Issues and That’s How It’s Always Been, and I looked forward to the challenge. I was very glad to be told during the interview process. There are now other things coming up that I didn’t necessarily know the extent of, although I was told a little bit, and I’m trying to navigate them, but I feel they were pretty forthcoming in general.

      I would absolutely want to have my eyes wide open going in, and I would do the same when hiring someone. My last employer told me nothing of a certain issue facing us because he thought it would scare me off; however, it’s something I’ve dealt with previously and I wish I would have been told. They were so nervous I’d be scared off so they didn’t give me any hint. It turned out that it really wasn’t anything big at all. I mean, to them it was because they hadn’t dealt with it before, but for me it was “been there, done that.”

      1. Tathren*

        Can I ask how they discussed that there are “Issues and That’s How It’s Always Been” when you interviewed? I think in my case, as other commenters have pointed out, my boss might not have known the full scope of problems when I interviewed but I’m wondering, in general, how this can be discussed with an applicant without scaring them off. I’d be curious to hear how frank they were with you when initially discussing the challenges!

        1. The Other Dawn*

          That probably wasn’t the best way for me to phrase it. I was trying to write it in a way that wouldn’t be identifiable if someone at the company happened to read it. Let’s see if I can explain.

          There was a big problem years ago, which caused them to swing the pendulum too far and that led to a ton of work. That burned some people out and they left, but the issue of too much work for the size of the company didn’t get resolved. No one changed it because they were afraid of audit repercussions. The department is double the size of companies that are twice as big as them. But with so much work that has to be done because of how policies were written, it couldn’t be downsized. They finally decided they wanted external eyes, which is where I came in.

          I would say they were pretty honest about that, although maybe not the full extent of workload. But just knowing the size of the department vs. the size of the company, I knew that’s why it was so out of whack. They kind of minimized an employee issue, but I did at least have an inkling of it.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            I’ll also add that in my industry, banking, there are certain things interviewers can’t talk about since they’re highly confidential. Once someone is an employee, though, they are usually able to talk freely. So at my last job, I didn’t know there was a regulatory exam issue until I came on board. My former boss could have talked in a way that gave me some clues since I’ve been in banking a long time and would have picked up on them, but he didn’t.

            1. Tathren*

              Thank you for the additional details, especially the explanation of what can be discussed in an interview vs what needs to wait until after someone is hired. I don’t work with confidential information like that so I hadn’t considered the limitations that that would place on the hiring process.

              It sounds like for your current job the interviewers were able to give enough information for you to recognize the bulk of the problems going in. I think I would’ve liked to know more of the problems my department will be facing before I was hired, but I can see now that that information just might not have been there.

              Thanks again for the responses, and good luck with your new position!

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I think that knowing that there was already turnover and that there was a new boss, things already click as “oh things are probably kind of a mess right now” but I also realize that not everyone has been in this situation countless times before like I have. I specialize in cleaning up other people’s messes at this stage in my career.

      My job now is the least messy of all but I had to build SOP and create things from scratch because of the laziness others have always ran on previously. Despite it being a prosperous company with low turnover in most aspects. Other’s seemed to operate on their own notes but had no desire to leave a trail for someone who may come after them.

      We do make it clear that we don’t have written procedures for a lot of things in some of our positions but I’m not sure what else you can tell someone without completely coming across as a messy sinking ship that you need help bailing out? You don’t get into those gritty details until you hire someone and are building that action plan in my experience!

      1. Tathren*

        The reason I was caught off-guard is more the *scale* of the mess, rather than one exists at all. Also the fact that my boss is new and there’s a lot of turnover isn’t information that was volunteered during the interview, I found it out by doing my own research on the company and my new boss. (And I”m very glad that I did do that research so at least I came into this situation knowing that much!)

        “…I’m not sure what else you can tell someone without completely coming across as a messy sinking ship that you need help bailing out?”

        This is very fair. I was trying to think of how this could have been explained in the interview without scaring off applicants and was drawing a blank, so I can understand being hesitant to raise the subject for that reason.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Ah yes, you usually have to ask in the interview about turnover and how long someone’s been in their position in your “questions”, that will rarely ever be given to you by the interviewer! See interviewers want to keep you safe from the drama or craziness that they may hold within their systems. Just like an interviewee isn’t going to let the interviewer know about their turbulence/baggage either!

          It goes back to likening it to dating. You present your best self on both sides and the other either digs with questions and sees what answers they get or you just go with your gut and get on or off the ride at some point.

          It’s one of the things that makes switching jobs scary for a lot of people, it’s the “demon unknown” vs “the demon we know” scenario. If you’re too real, it’s a red flag, if you’re too vague it’s a red flag, it’s so damned if you do damned if you don’t!

    4. LKW*

      In my mind – Setting new Standards translates into “This place is a mess and we need to un-mess this”

    5. ProperDose*

      HA! I could have written this post myself. The only difference is that 6 weeks into my new job, the VP let my boss go. And the backfill for that position doesn’t start until May (it’s an internal person who lives in Asia and is moving back). So, boss that was let go….wasn’t very good….so there’s a large backlog of work, and very little process for how to do anything. Oh, and the guy before him was fired a year and a half before that. The problem with both was that they weren’t very proactive.

      I WAS blindsided, as of course I wasn’t expecting to be a department of 1 for 5 months for a global company. My new boss and I have had talks about updating all of our SOPs and trying to expand the department. I’m still left with this nagging feeling of ‘I don’t think I’m getting paid enough for all this, now’, which is a topic on it’s own…

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Oof I hear ya on lack of procedures. That’s another boat I’m in right now. We have them, but there aren’t nearly as many as I would expect and I’m surprised we haven’t been called out on that yet.

  14. Workerbee*

    Ex-Boss Only Contacts Me For a Job

    TL;DR: As bosses go, he was a good boss from three companies ago, and we got along great. He left that company years before I did, but social media kept us connected.

    But I’ve noticed that he really only gets in touch (over LinkedIn) when he wants to find a new job.

    I feel like he only remembers I exist when he has an agenda. Should I tell him this, or just accept that this is the norm?

    –The first time he reached out after a few years of silence was when I briefly worked at a talent management/staffing company, even though my role had nothing to do with recruiting. His opening salvo was along the lines of “I need you to get me a job.” He desperately hated where he was, but I still was taken aback by it.

    More years: *Pass*

    –Now he’s periodically pinging me about my current company, which is slowly expanding and has openings in a department I don’t work in.

    Last year when he reached out for one of those openings, it had again been several years since I’d heard from him. He used the stock LinkedIn message: “Would you share my LinkedIn profile with the hiring team?” but did add a more personal message with it. I could still recall that he was a decent boss back in the day; I thought, sure, I’ll pass it on.

    Nothing came of it and I didn’t hear from him after.

    I just now received a “What’s going on with you?” message.

    How nice, I thought. I told him what’s been happening and asked how he was.

    “I’m fine…got any job openings?”

    Sigh. Am I just expecting too much from an ex-colleague?

    1. Colette*

      I think only getting in touch with people when there’s a reason is pretty common. I also think that he’s doing it poorly – he should make an effort to build the connection before asking for stuff. You’d probably feel differently if he started with “Hi Workerbee, I hope you’re doing well. I see you’re working at YourCompany – I’ve heard really good things about them! I’m doing well – still busy with Sport and VolunteerWork. I’ve been working at MyCompany but am looking for a change. Would you be willing to pass my resume along to Hiring Team? No worries if you aren’t, of course! We should get coffee sometime soon to catch up!”

      1. valentine*

        Am I just expecting too much from an ex-colleague?
        Yes. You’re a professional contact. How would you prefer him to behave? Do you want him to get in touch to catch up or to ask to meet for coffee? Do you wish you were friends? Block him or don’t respond. Fly and be free.

    2. T. Boone Pickens*

      Hmmm, yes and no. I think your ex-boss would be well suited to learn to the read the room a little bit and try to make some small talk with you before getting to his ask. At the same time, it sounds like the two of you communicate pretty infrequently so he’s just getting right to the point as it’s a pretty low stakes ask for him. From his point of view he probably views it as, “If Workerbee has a job opening that fits my background, great! Maybe they’ll put a good word in for me. If not, no big deal.”

      If you thought he’d be a good value add to your organization I’d put in a good word for him with your company (which it sounds like you did). Honestly, I could go either way on continuing to communicate with him going forward. He seems pretty transparent in that he only reaches out when he’s job hopping so if you want to entertain that, feel free if not, no worries, I’d just ignore him.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I think that given your relationship is due to him being your former boss and therefore you’re connected on that professional level, it’s not odd that he reaches out in time of job searches. He just stinks at the social lubrication that should be happening here when you’re asking someone for a favor, which is why you’re feeling the friction when he just pings over “Hey, I need a job, hook me up?” instead of a little catch-up friendly chit-chat throwback.

      1. only acting normal*

        I almost feel false adding the ‘social lubricant’: “Hi, how’s it going? Haven’t talked in ages! Hope you’re well. PS can you get me a job?”
        I do see the need for it, but should the gimme wait until the second message? The third?

        1. Colette*

          I think it’s OK to ask in the first message, as long as you show concern for the other person first and make it easy for them to say no.

          1. Washi*

            I agree that it’s totally fine to ask in the first message! I think for me, when there’s a reason to reach out to someone (like a job search) it’s also a nice chance to re-connect a tiny bit and keep that relationship alive. If I liked working with the person, I want to hear a sentence or two about how they’re doing and I assume they want to briefly hear how I am.

            What would put me off about the messages described is that there’s none of that warmth, it’s treating the other person as a pure commodity, not a nice human they worked with, maybe for multiple years. Collette’s first message is a really good example of getting to the point without being so transactional.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      Meh. This is fairly normal with past work friends and acquaintances. I wouldn’t say your former boss is doing is particularly well or the most professionally perhaps, but it’s still pretty normal. Also, I’d say that Americans in general and men in particular tend to be blunt and forthright about these things while some cultures dance around this topic (I have former coworkers in other countries where, say, meeting for coffee is expected).
      Boss isn’t the best communicator, hopefully he has better professional qualities that recommend him.

  15. Miss Fisher*

    So how do you navigate certain time away. I just bought a house last week, so I have been taking off half days and coming in late / leaving early to take care of cleaners, carpet cleaners, etc. I am also moving this weekend and taking a couple days off next week, not to mention I called in sick one day this week (have been slow at work) to get some things done. My boss has been really understanding about the whole thing, but its making me feel a little guilty. I am not used to taking so much time off like this. So how do you navigate doing so while also not feeling bad about it or thinking your boss will think you are flighty.

    1. Miss Fisher*

      I will admit taking the sick day was a bit much, but I rarely ever use them and I actually did wake up with a sinus headache.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        If your work is cyclical like mine is, and this is not your busiest period, I think this is fine to do sometimes – you will pay it back during that crunch time that comes up later. It’s kind to acknowledge your appreciation to the boss and express that this is not your New Normal. But IMO it’s one of the perks that comes from being trusted and respected in your role.

      2. Lucette Kensack*

        I think the sick day was a bad call (if you have separate sick and vacation days, you should use sick days when you’re sick, not when you need a day to take care of new house stuff). But otherwise? You’re fine — this is what vacation days are there for.

        If you’re feeling nervous about it, why not have a quick chat with your boss? Depending on your relationship with your boss, you could frame it either as a check-in (“Hey boss, I know I’ve been taking a lot of partial days off lately as I get settled into the new house. I’ve been staying on top of my workload, but I wanted to make sure that you’re comfortable with how I’m managing this right now,”) or as a thank you (“Boss, I really appreciate the flexibility I’ve been able to take advantage of with the new house. It’s really helped me stay on top of my work and get settled into my new home!”)

      3. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I think it’s completely normal that you started to feel sick during a high stress time in your life. That happens to a lot of people. I’m of the opinion that if someone isn’t feeling well and doesn’t think they can work, they should take the day to rest. I’m glad you did that. The timing makes it feel worse than it is, I think.

        I’m also a person who rarely takes time off, and when several family issues happened all at once and resulted in me missing work, I felt really guilty about leaving my coworkers in the lurch. So I get it. But this is a one-time period of your life and it will be over soon. You’ll be able to get back to being the reliable coworker you’re used to being, and you’ll be around to cover the nest time one of your coworkers has a life event that takes them away from work for a while.

    2. Murphy*

      I feel like if you’re still getting stuff done, it’s not crunch time at work, and you’re staying within your allotted PTO, I wouldn’t worry about it. I’d maybe let your boss know that you appreciate them being understanding and let them know you’ll be settled. But I don’t think you have to do that.

    3. CheeryO*

      I think this depends on your specific benefits and office culture. I get separate sick leave, personal leave, and vacation leave, and as long as I give my boss a heads-up in advance, I can use personal/vacation pretty much whenever (but I can’t flex my schedule, so coming in late/leaving early is a no-no unless I’m charging time). I wouldn’t have used the sick day, but that’s also easy to say as someone with generous personal/vacation leave.

      It’s not clear if your boss knows that you just bought a house – if not, I would definitely let them know, just so they know that this is a very short-term thing.

      1. Miss Fisher*

        Oh she definitely knows the reasons. I have one of those office cultures where everyone on the team knows everything. We are all pretty much friends. They have been involved with the house search and all looking at the pictures online etc.

        1. CheeryO*

          I think you’re fine then! Try not to feel guilty, although I know that’s easier said than done!

    4. Hallowflame*

      Hello fellow house-buyer!
      I’m going through the same thing as you right now, but I decided to go about it a bit differently. My work is on a monthly/quarterly cycle, which means the first 10 days and the last couple of days are busy and deadline-driven (especially right now with the end of the 1st quarter), but the middle two weeks or so are pretty slow. Knowing this, I scheduled my move and most of my service appointments for the third week of April and booked that whole week as PTO. I also told my manager what was going on so he understands that these are unusual circumstances and my schedule will settle down soon.
      So, in your case, I would keep your boss updated on the general reason you’re taking these chunks of time off (“Hey Boss, I need to take off a couple of hours early tomorrow, I have some service people coming to the house to work on the Thing”) to highlight the fact that these events are not the norm, and your schedule will settle down once you’re settled in at your new home.

    5. montecristo1985*

      I personally remember the times when I’m working more hours. If you are worried about it, keep an excel sheet and time card yourself. I can almost guarantee that when it all comes out in the wash, you work more extra hours than you take off. Especially if you have feast and famine sort of jobs. Sometimes I go home early 3 days in one week, and sometimes I work 10 hours days and the weekends. Your boss understands that you have a life outside of work (or should).

    6. Ariana Grande's Ponytail*

      I just moved house (but renting so a lower-key version of what you are going through) and got a stomach virus and a cold consecutively during the middle of it. I’d say that, as other commenters have noted, taking a sick day might be a bit much if you weren’t actually sick, but if it isn’t a peak period then no harm no foul re: the other stuff. I’ve been making a point of coming in and leaving at pretty strict times and even leaving a bit early if I finish my work for that day. It’s helped me manage my exhaustion while keeping my work efficiency up. And when I had the stomach bug, I took days but then I stopped for the cold because I didn’t want to look like I was flighty. It’s a bit of a balancing act!

    7. Person of Interest*

      Most people understand that buying a house and moving is a huge deal and requires scheduling things during normal business hours. If your boss seems cool with it I would take that at face value and just be extra diligent about getting your stuff done when you are on the clock.

  16. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

    Question re: fairness: My workplace has an across the board no work from home policy (that is not uniformly applied, but I digress), but due to a minor disaster in our office, approximately 1/2 of our staff is now working from home temporarily until the office is restored. Because some of us (my division) weren’t impacted by the damage, and this has been a several months affair, management is going to have some non-displaced folks work from home one day a week to allow the displaced coworkers to come into the office. My boss has offered this wfh option to two people (division of 30) and those two people are under the impression that it is because they have children (I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what boss said, but they told me directly this was their reading of it). This shady? Note, working from home would be considered a perk by most of my peers.

    1. WellRed*

      Why not directly ask your boss if you can work from home or what you’d need to do to work from home? His answer could be telling.

      1. valentine*

        I don’t see the relevance of children. You might tell him about the rumor in case he wants to correct it.

    2. CatCat*

      I am not sure it’s shady so much as odd. I wouldn’t worry about it unless you wanted the WFH option too. If that’s the case, you’d just ask what you need to do to be considered for being able to WFH.

    3. C*

      It doesn’t sound like they handled it well, no. A better way to do this would have been a lottery-type system where they ask who wants the opportunity then draw names.

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

      Are there really only 2 people out of 30 who have children? If they are the only 2 who have children, then that certainly looks to be the case, but if there are 15 who have children, it’s probably a coincidence and maybe more likely that they are more trusted or the boss thinks they have earned a perk that others haven’t, but no one wants to say that.

      1. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

        No, there’s lots of others with children, but my boss got shut down by grandboss for the way he handled it (not related to the child thing – its a long story but all of upper management is pissed) so he didn’t get the chance to continue with the pattern (if there was a pattern). I can’t be sure of his motivations, but he made the folks he offered think it was because they have children, so I guess overall I’m asking if its shady to give a perk to people simply because they have kids. I didn’t express that very clearly earlier. Thanks for everyone’s responses.

        1. nj employee*

          That’s very shady, and clearly discriminatory. Also, it is typical to require WFH employees to have child care coverage, which can be hard to arrange on an ad hoc, part time, short term basis.

          1. AcademiaNut*

            I don’t think it’s illegally discriminatory in the US though – so not a good policy, but perfectly legal.

  17. To book or not to book?*

    I have been awarded a bursary that aims to help young professionals in my (creative) field. I plan to use the money to help me to travel to university interviews, as I am going to get a degree which is directly related to my work. My question is – is it ethical to use the bursary to book a nice hotel, rather than just a budget one? I’d still be well within the budget, and they don’t seem to want me to provide evidence of how I’ve used it, just an update on how the money has helped me further my career.
    I wanted to use it to book train tickets so I didn’t have to drive there, but, public transport being what it is here, it would have cost me almost the whole amount I’ve been given…

    1. CatCat*

      It doesn’t sound like there is a particular expense limit for hotels. Since you’re staying within the budget, I would not worry about hairsplitting over the class of hotel. Stay where you will be most comfortable within the budget you have.

    2. fposte*

      I think it depends on the history and terms of the bursary and what the difference to you (and to the costs) is between a “nice” and a “budget” hotel. For instance, if you stayed at my town’s Hampton Inn or Hyatt Place, those would be around $30 more than a Red Roof Inn or Econolodge and I’d consider it perfectly reasonable for you to stay at the higher-priced option there. If you’re talking a splurge to see what a really nice hotel looks like, I wouldn’t consider that a good use.

      1. To book or not to book?*

        I think I just want something central that’s not super-cramped or uncomfortable. Travel always gives me a headache so a comfy bed would be welcome. I’m not looking for anything really luxurious, just a step up from the cheapest options.

        1. fposte*

          I think a better location is absolutely a reasonable factor. I don’t know what “super-cramped or uncomfortable” means to you–I’ve stayed in high-end hotels with postage-stamp rooms–but I think as long as you stick to common affordable business chains like those I mentioned you should be fine.

        2. Vibey Vibes*

          It sounds like that’s precisely the intended use of the bursary! You received funds to help you further your career, and one of the uses to which you are putting it is getting a more comfortable, restful night’s sleep when traveling for interviews. Then you will be fresher and better prepared to give a stellar interview. To me, this all sounds like good choices, not indulgence.
          Also, good luck on your interviews!

          1. SignalLost*

            Exactly what I was thinking! Past a certain price point you’re just indulging, but staying in a Motel 6 out by the airport rather than a mid-price hotel closer to your interview has a cost as well, and the cost is to your health, to your rest, to your comfort, and to your time. You don’t have to shoulder all those costs.

            1. To book or not to book?*

              Thanks everyone! I booked a reasonable, central hotel, which should make things a lot easier :)

    3. LKW*

      Use your best judgement to make the funds last as long as you need them. You could book a room at the Plaza and make one trip or book at a Residence Inn and make 4 trips. Use it wisely and don’t put yourself at a disadvantage of being uncomfortable or unsafe.

    4. only acting normal*

      At work we have an exhaustive travel policy including assumption of a 3* hotel (ie that general level of amenities. Price varies hugely by location anyway, so it’s not set by price).
      You could make your own set of minimum requirements, whatever those are, and choose a sensible hotel option within them. So you don’t feel obliged to always go super-budget and also don’t get tempted to break the bank. ;)

    5. Mobuy*

      Totally fine. I wouldn’t book the bridal suite or anything, but a nice hotel? Absolutely reasonable.

      1. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

        No, there’s lots of others with children, but my boss got shut down by grandboss for the way he handled it (not related to the child thing – its a long story but all of upper management is pissed) so he didn’t get the chance to continue with the pattern (if there was a pattern). I can’t be sure of his motivations, but he made the folks he offered think it was because they have children, so I guess overall I’m asking if its shady to give a perk to people simply because they have kids. I didn’t express that very clearly earlier.

  18. Frustrated Today*

    I’m hoping someone might have some guidance for me on this.

    I’m in my new job and it turns out I have someone on my hands that is very sensitive and really takes things to heart; hates change; feels undervalued although I’ve seen no evidence of this (everyone speaks highly of her, gives her work she enjoys and she’s very sharp and knowledgeable, and she’s a new-ish manager; it appears to be something she’s internalized in regards to one specific hangup); is extremely overwhelmed yet won’t delegate anything; and everything is an emotional roller coaster…and I’ve been here only a few weeks.

    I was warned about this and I’m talking with my boss and a few with longtimers here who work/worked with her and apparently, it’s been a struggle for a long time. I’m not feeding into the emotions, though I’m letting her voice her frustrations. I just sit back and wait for her to finish and then try to talk through it with her in a logical way.

    Any suggestions on how to get someone to let the work go so they can move on to more important things? I need her to do that, but I want to give her a chance to tell me on her own what she can delegate since she is a manager and should be able to do this. I will, however, eventually force her if she doesn’t. That will be weeks, not months. I’ve also talked through all the pros of delegating and the repercussions of not doing it (burnout, people can’t learn and grow, she can’t learn and grow, etc.)

    1. Hope*

      Have you tried framing it as “part of your job is to delegate tasks, and I need you to do that part of your job”?

      1. Frustrated Today*

        That’s coming when we meet next, which is very soon. I’m trying to give her a bit of leeway (there were some things going on that I didn’t mention for anonymity’s sake); however, it’s been a struggle and seems it will continue to be, and I’m now at the point where I need to tell her she *has* to do it.

        1. valentine*

          You simply need her to do all these pieces, including not wearing her heart on her sleeve, not expecting therapy sessions at work, and not whining about feeling undervalued when there’s evidence to the contrary.

          I’m not feeding into the emotions, though I’m letting her voice her frustrations.
          Stop this. Cut her off and stick to the agenda. You’re not an appropriate audience for her venting. If she has concrete things she wants help with, sure, but she has to get and stick to the point: “Catharsis isn’t taking feedback well and I’d like your take on it,” not “Catharsis hates me and thinks I hate them and I’m the worst manager, ever, etc.”

          Pay attention to how the team is suffering under her. She would’ve lost my respect the second time she sadfaced and I’d be exhausted.

          1. Frustrated Today*

            Wow, that’s pretty harsh. I didn’t say she’s in my office sobbing for hours on end, multiple days per week. There’s nothing wrong with letting her tell me her frustrations a couple times. I’m a new manager coming into the company, and she’s new in the manager role on an established team. Part of getting to know my team was to sit down with each one and talk about their role within the department, frustrations, what they’d like to see change, etc.

    2. Steggy Saurus*

      I would love to hear the answers to this because as a relatively new manager, I really screwed up with an employee working for me who exhibited a lo of the same characteristics (to the point that she got another job and I was incredibly relieved). I would very much like not to let that happen again!

      1. Frustrated Today*

        It’s the general consensus from the longtimers and my boss that this actually may need to happen if she can’t move forward in a meaningful way. I don’t want to lose her, but I can’t continue on this path either. There’s only so much we can do. Some of it has to come from within her.

    3. LKW*

      I don’t know how well this is going to come out but part of this is “Your time is valuable, you need to delegate the less sophisticated stuff to people who’s time is less valuable than yours”

      It’s a hard thing for new managers (and some older managers) to break through. The company values her by paying for her time – and wants to get the most bang for their buck. So if she takes a hour to put together a spreadsheet – that’s $X. If she delegates to an employee paid less that’s $X-Y. As a someone who has a stake in the success of a company – she should, to the best of her ability, direct work to the person who can do it for the lowest cost and leave the more appropriate work for someone of her level – to herself.

      Not sure if that would work but maybe it takes some of the emotion out of it.

      I got nothing on the emotional stuff. I was going to recommend something to help adjust her point of view but that would likely cause her head to explode and you don’t need that drama.

      1. OtterB*

        Depending on the individual, the other thing that might help is to remind her that the win-win situation is when the lower-level tasks she delegates are learning/growth opportunities for the person she delegates them to. Sometimes new managers are afraid of overloading their employees and framing it as an opportunity rather than an imposition for the recipient can help.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Sadly I don’t see this working out with her, she’s not going to accept being forced to delegate, it’ll heighten her emotions even more. Been there, done that.

      So I would just go ahead and go through the motions, give her a chance and don’t count her out but don’t get your hopes up that this is going to end well.

      I found people who cannot delegate need to just have someone else do it for them. It’s a control issue in the end.

    5. INeedANap*

      I think just being super clear and honest is the best way forward. With someone who is sensitive, the natural impulse is to try and be gentle around that, but in the end she has to be able to do the work.

      I do not think you are doing her any favors by letting her voice her frustrations. That’s a waste of both of your time at this point. (Note: hearing employees’ frustrations is good and should be done! It’s just in this specific context, it’s a waste of time.) At this point, I’d lay out clearly: this is what the job is, this is what we expect of you, can you do it professionally?

    6. Observer*

      You need to push the delegation piece, as you’ve noted. But also, you need to cut down on the venting. She doesn’t want X because of Y. OK. Hear it out and make sure that you’re dealing with the legitimate issues she bring up. But, you need to limit how much time she spends on this, and don’t let her keep repeating the same complaints.

      If that means cutting her off, so be it, as long as you are not unnecessarily rude or mean. What I mean is that it’s going to feel rude to tell her “OK, we’ve discussed this and need to move on” or something like that, but that is perfectly ok. What you don’t want to do, eg is “OK, you’ve whined long enough. On to business.” As long as you stick to the former, you’re good.

    7. Frankie*

      My guess is that you can’t really do much about the way she emotionally processes her job, and sidestepping that to the extent you can is probably a good way not to feed it, as you say.

      When I read this I think the biggest standout is that she won’t delegate. That is never sustainable, and you really have to tell her to delegate, and enforce it. Teach her how to do it. Inability to delegate is about control, and she’s going to have to learn how to relinquish direct control over everything, which is currently likely how she sees herself succeeding at her job. Sometimes success is NOT doing something and handing it off to someone else.

      It might be an adjustment for schedule planning, too–if you delegate, you need to give others advance notice and plan around their capacity and schedule, instead of just doing something whenever you need it done.

      Another thing will probably be helping her understand not everything has to be done the exact way she would do it. That’s part of delegation, too–others will have their own approach. For example, if someone else handles some writing for her, she shouldn’t then give nitpicky line-by-line edits on the writing, or fully rewrite herself after she gets it. Again, the control thing.

    8. LQ*

      Is there stuff she doesn’t like to do? Stuff she wants to not have to do anymore? She may not (I’d guess won’t) say it, but if there are those items you can spot that she doesn’t enjoy that are delegatable, pick out those things first. You need to have Susan do the TPS reports.

      You can also give her more work. It feels odd, but I got someone who was a jealous guarder to let stuff go when he realized there was more than enough work for him and others. This train of work isn’t going to stop, you need to manage it, I will drown you in work… Now, not only is he understanding and actually delegating but he’s trying to be cognizant of how others are managing as far as their workloads.

      1. Frustrated Today*

        It actually doesn’t seem to be a matter of being afraid of running out of work (I once had someone like that), but rather feeling like it’s failure on her part and a lack of control.

        1. LQ*

          Can you be really frank about it?
          “Part of this job is delegation, if you cannot delegate x% of this work/these types of tasks, you cannot do this job. You doing this work yourself, means you are not doing (Job Title) job.”

          It’s kind of shitty manipulative but you could say directly what you’re doing, “I’m telling you this because you seem to be concerned about failing at this job and I want you to know that this is how you can fail at this job. You fail but not delegating the work. You fail by doing all the work yourself. Even if every single task gets done, but it gets done by you, you will have failed at this role. I want you to succeed and so I need you to do this task that I have asked of you.”

    9. twig*

      You say “everyone speaks highly of her” but does she get the positive feedback or has she only heard about what she has been doing wrong?

      (I’m totally projecting here — I see a bit of myself you your report, so take this with whatever grain/boulder of salt you need to)

      I just had my first annual review in 7 years. My supervisor is pretty communicative and has been keeping me abreast of what I need to work on — which is good, I need to know how I need to improve. But I’ve had very little feedback about what I was doing right/well over the years too. I don’t need a participation trophy, but 7 years of hearing what I need to work on/improve and not much about what was actually going well has done a number on me. I was surprised that my annual review was as positive as it was (almost completely positive!)

      Another thing: has she had any supervisory training at all? Supervising does not come naturally to everyone (does it come naturally to anyone?) it’s difficult to know what/how to delegate– especially when you have always been the delegatee. (and quite comfortable being the delegatee)

      1. Frustrated Today*

        From what I’ve been told by several people, she’s had a ton of feedback both positive and negative, the negative being the emotions and delegation. She even told me that herself. And yes, she had some supervisory training, but I don’t think it was enough–I believe it was a webinar (before I arrived). People typically need more than a webinar. I do plan to look and see what’s out there for her. I don’t want to give up until I see for myself that I need to; it hasn’t been long at all. (I changed the time frame a little in my original post so I can remain anonymous.)

    10. CastIrony*

      I’m like Sleeve- I can’t delegate well, though I am working on that. What I did was ask my supervisor something to the effect of, “Hey, I think I’m a bad student manager. I don’t know how to delegate because I don’t want to be rude or out of line (I had just escaped an overcritical boss that took things away from me when I was correcting my mistakes, and I really, really didn’t want to be like them.)” Then, my supervisor told me that they were starting a checklist on what needs to be done during that shift!

      The checklist has been a lifesaver because I can tell the students to look at the list and to pick a task. If they have any questions or issues, they can ask and come to me, and we can solve it together. If they’re new, I’m happy to train (I’m working on not being intimidated by new people at first).

      tl:dr: Having a daily checklist that Sleeve can show workers and having them do those tasks may help if the work is pretty much the same day in and day out.

  19. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    My coworker keeps creeping on me!

    She watches me all the time and even comes into the bathroom when I shower. I feel like she’s judging me!

    I mean, she’s a cat, since I am at home today. But still.

    1. Putting Out Fires, Esq.*

      Suggestion: fill her food bowl and stop starving her already.

      Signed, a completely disinterested cat

    2. Folkie*

      Mine too!
      He will also go through my bin when I’m out of the room, and has stolen my lunch on occasion.
      One look at his big, floppy ears and waggy tail and I forgive him everything, though.

    3. Tiptoe Through the Tulips*

      Haha! I’ll admit I was increasingly concerned as I read your post. Until the payoff, of course. Can I trade my co-worker for yours?

    4. Chicago Anon*

      Working in a truly diverse environment that includes coworkers of other species requires special sensitivity to cross-species sensitivities. Your feline co-worker has a different sense of privacy and personal space than you do, and there are times when she will need to supervise you closely, even in situations where humans normally expect to be alone, and other times when she will insist on her right to be left alone, even when in human body language she appears to be requesting attention. Her evaluations of you will be taken into consideration but they are not the sole arbiter of your performance, as we understand the difficulties of these multi-species work spaces.

      1. JokersandRogues*

        Mine watched very carefully from a corner of the counter as I plunged the toilet.

      2. Elizabeth Proctor*

        The answer to this, as to most AAM questions, is you simply must be more direct.

        1. Sacred Ground*

          Or, your cat sucks and isn’t going to change.

          And yes, in the US it’s totally legal for your cat to do that, though maybe not in California.

      3. LadyByTheLake*

        This. As the only human member of a feline-diverse work environment, I have had to take into account the cultural differences and be sensitive that I am in their space. While I would not usually state that the non-majority individual is the one who must always make concessions, in this one instance, I have had to make the necessary adjustments.

    5. CatCat*

      Bwah!! I laughed out loud.

      Just wait until she starts meowing incessantly during a conference call.

      p.s. She’s definitely judging you.

    6. CupcakeCounter*

      So my first WTF was why are your showering at work…then I read the rest. She loves you (and judges you)

    7. Rebecca*

      Oh, I love this! The only time I get to go to the bathroom by myself is at my office job! My cats follow me into the bathroom, and put their paws on my knee when I’m trying to, well, use the facilities. I say “hey, I don’t do this to you when you’re in the litter box” to no avail. Thank you so much for the smile today!

      1. Ktelzbeth*

        My cat brings me her fetching ball when I’m using the facilities (yes, my cat plays fetch).

    8. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      One coworker keeps wedging herself between me and the back of the chair, planting her feet in my kidneys and shoving. One is on the other side of our shared office snoring to beat the band. And a third totally came to work stoned and keeps coming to my office door and yelling at me about it.

      (Two dogs and a cat. And the human in the other home office fell down the basement stairs this morning and soaked the whole carpet with a double-size cup of coffee, interrupting my morning conference call with a ruckus of thumping and cursing. He’s okay, though now this whole end of the house smells like mocha. But it’s too Friday-before-vacation for this nonsense.)

    9. LCL*

      Well you can talk to her and explain how this is not acceptable behavior. As long as you don’t expect any results from your talk it’s all good. Isn’t that one of the reasons we keep pets, to have someone to talk to?

    10. Nonnynon*

      Maybe you shouldn’t do things without me overcaffinated!! Why do you need to have time by yourself? Why do your go to the bathroom without me? You know I enjoy our special times together in there. Why are you going in that weird thing and get water all over yourself? I’m just trying to help and watch over you. Don’t you know how much I love you!!!!!
      signed, your loving (obsessed) cat coworker

    11. Dasein9*

      IKR??? I had to go to the big office today, and my coworker made sure I had her hair on my jeans so I wouldn’t get lonely.

    12. E*

      My coworker today is my 3 year old, as he puked halfway to daycare this morning. I’m currently enjoying the quiet as he catches up on sleep and hasn’t been sick since thankfully.

    13. Earthwalker*

      Just ignore it. You only have to worry if she starts calling your boss with gossip about you.

    14. Marthooh*

      Your coworker is probably just socially awkward, in the special feline sense of making things awkward for others until they get what they want.

  20. OldcoBaggins*

    Can I use my old company branded items at my new job? I like the backpack my old company gave me better than the one my new company gave me. The only issue is that my old company’s logo is printed on half of the bag. The companies are competitors globally though do not overlap much in the US market. I will meet with internal clients while carrying my bag.

    I also have a superhero messenger bag I like. If I can’t use my old company’s bag, would this one be acceptable?

    My industry is biotech. People usually walk around in tshirts and Jean’s so we are very laidback.

      1. valentine*

        Don’t do it. You can use it outside of work? Go with the superhero one if images are allowed. If the T-shirts have to be plain/non-graphic (ha), I might not use any branding items.

    1. Rat Racer*

      I still have a pen or two from my old company, and use a backpack from my spouse’s old company, and don’t think much about it. But I think it depends on whether your former company was a fierce competitor with the new one. If you’re working for Coke, do not under any circumstances wear a Pepsi tee-shirt, for example.

    2. ThatGirl*

      I was going to say yes (I have a great coffee mug from my last job I still use) but then you said they were competitors. So. No, unfortunately.

    3. Dusty Bunny*

      Coworkers are wearing t-shirts and jeans? Then yes, use the superhero bag. And you can wear/carry/flaunt swag from tradeshows, even if it is not your company or brand.

    4. ClumsyCharisma*

      I wouldn’t use your previous companies, especially if your new company gave you one. It could make you look like you are not fully committed to the new company or still holding onto the old company.
      As far as using the superhero one I would just look around and see what co-workers are doing. Are they expressing their unique style? Then go for it. If they are all using the company branded bag, I think that’s your answer.

      1. OldcoBaggins*

        When I got my new bag (unbranded), they said everyone has the same one so I should make it min. They said some people paint their or add patches, though I haven’t seen that in my department. Most of my coworkers don’t use their company provided bag because EVERYONE has the same bag (black popular laptop bag). If you take public transit, you will see a handful of them around.

    5. MTUMoose*

      I had a company branded computer bag but I was able to remove the logo by using a seam ripper and an hour of time. Would that be feasible for this bag? Typically if they companies are competitors it is considered bad taste to have logo material when visiting customers, etc. If it is just internal it might be OK but it might raise some eyebrows.
      The superhero bag would be fine and most likely appreciated by many people.

      1. OldcoBaggins*

        No. The logo is screenprinted on the bag.

        Honestly, most people have not heard of my company. It’s kind of like In-N-Out and Shake Shack. They both sell burgers but are in different locations.

        1. ElspethGC*

          Could you sew a patch over it, or is that just too much effort for a slightly comfier bag?

        2. Rhiiiiiiannnnnnnon*

          I would see if you could find a large patch or something to cover it! Amazon and Etsy have lots of cool sew on and iron on options. I do this to most branded items I receive.

    6. StressedButOkay*

      I’d err on the side of caution here if the two companies are competitors, even if they don’t overlap much in the US market. Save the branded backpack for home and use the superhero messenger bag.

    7. AndersonDarling*

      Is the logo just embroidered or printed once? I’ve put patches over old company logos so I could keep using the swag. I have a cool beach bag that is now a Planet Express beach bag, and an old work cardigan that is now a “I Love Data” cardigan.

    8. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Don’t use it if others are going to be seeing it, they are still competitors and may cause confusion and conflict of interests. If you’d just be shuffling your stuff around where no clients or others would really notice, whatever but this is exactly the situation where branding is important.

      Use your superhero messenger bag, that sounds quirky and cute more than straight up just using the competitors branded items.

    9. AnonyMs.*

      My feeling on company-branded swag is that it’s ok to use stationery (especially if it’s personalized with your name on it– can’t waste it!) and pens, but anything in the clothing realm is a no-go. Double for bags; use your current company’s backpack. Even though your clients are internal, you should get in the habit of using your current swag so that if you go to an external meeting/conference, you won’t accidentally take the old bag.

      When I left a client to go to a vendor, I had some swag from other vendors– competitors with my new company. I used a notebook but left it on my desk at all times. Sad, though, because that was such a great notebook.

    10. Lora*

      In biotech, I’m going to disagree with others – we’re an incestuous field, everyone knows everyone else and the first question you tend to get after “what’s your name?” is often, “so, where are you from?” (meaning, what was your last job, not where is your hometown). Or people already know from LinkedIn, and want to know if you know their friend Wakeen at Other Site, sort of thing. They might chuckle about it being a competitor, that’s about it.

      I currently have a collection of mugs from previous companies on my desk. It’s fine. Boss and colleagues all have their company logo vests/ fleeces from previous companies, it’s also fine.

      Now if you want to talk subversive and snotty logos, wear/carry a Schering or Cubist logo to a Merck thing, a Wyeth or Warner-Lambert item to a Pfizer thing, or a Shire or Millennium logo to a Takeda event.

    11. Anonforthis*

      I wouldn’t use the competitor’s backpack, but I work in biotech too and just yesterday saw someone carrying around a metal Star Wars lunchbox, so I’m thinking pretty much anything goes (as long as it’s not offensive, of course).

    12. Going Anon*

      This brings me back. A salesperson brought back this pen & pencil cup from a trade show. It was a competitor’s and he dropped it off as a joke. It was quite well designed, with compartments so you could put your writing utensils in without them getting all jumbled up. My office was a cubicle in the back and we never had clients in that part of the office so I took the cup, put it on my desk. It wasn’t even that visible. This was my first “real” job. So I didn’t think anything of it.

      I got called into see my manager about it with a “what the hell were you thinking?

      I think he was taken aback at my love for well designed office supplies and was nice enough about it though, and let me keep it as long as I obscured the competitor’s logo. I still have it…

  21. Brownie*

    Any advice for dealing with a Peter Principle manager when you’re at BEC stage with them?

    My boss was moved from temporary to permanent boss about a month ago after around a year of temporary boss duties. He can’t keep up with his emails, can’t organize and assign tasks, and has a very black and white way of thinking. All that and more results in clashes between him and me on a regular basis as what I need from a manager in order to succeed is someone who keeps on top of things and doesn’t constantly forget about what’s actually going on with me/the team and communicates what they’re doing as well. He also does things like unconsciously imply that I’m not competent because I don’t have the completely optional and out of date skills he uses all the time on the technical side and now that we’re hiring to replace him on the technical side he’s doubling down with the comparisons and implications that I’m not good at my technical job. Leaving for another job isn’t an option at this point and I’m beloved by my direct coworkers (who all think I’m technically skilled where I should be up a pay grade!) and grandboss up to the C-suite. I just canNOT get along with this specific manager and it’s reaching the point where the sound of his voice is enough to send my shoulders up to my ears in anticipation of more conflict or belittling.

    1. LKW*

      Give yourself a paper trail
      Every week list out the summary of things that you’ve requested, when you requested them, when you need a decision or action and the impact of not getting that issue resolved. Prioritize it. Note when you’ve met with him, any updates.

      Send it to him once a week. When he lets things slip – you have x weeks of reminders that he owes you this – that you can pull out and show to the grandboss.

      But no -he sounds like an ass. I can’t stay on top of stuff so I have several different meetings to connect and go through my action items, and the actions of the team so I can have some semblance of competency.

      1. Brownie*

        I tried doing once a week check-in meetings as well as status reports with him and that failed miserably. One of the major conflict points with those is that I’m involved in several different projects with other departments and at the C-suite level, so I’d go to give him an update on those and he’d get very flustered and start questioning me about why I was going behind his back/over his head. I was specifically invited and assigned to those projects, either by previous managers or by the C-suite, but explaining that still left him in defensive mode. My work focus is incredibly wide, his is very narrow, and I seem to have far more interactions outside of his hierarchy than he’s comfortable with me having. So many things get him into defensive mode and then he doubles down on “my way is the right way” stubbornness and then bam, conflict ahoy! So I’m limiting the amount of interactions I have with him so I’m not seen as a conflict-provoker, which really does nothing but push the inevitable blow-up to later.

        1. Chopsington*

          Can you simply change teams? Transfer to one of these other groups you have better relationships with?

          At the end of the day your options basically come down to…
          1. Leave the company
          2. Change teams
          3. Change him
          4. Get rid of him
          5. Live with it

          1 and 3 seem not an option. So change teams if you can, or deliberately go over his head, which may or may not succeed, only you know that. Or live with it but you’re also saying you can’t do that anymore. So basically 2 or 4.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Sadly coping mechanisms rarely work when someone is such a jerk and you want to just leave.

      Continue to do your job with what you have been given. Document the processes taken. And limit time with this insufferable dillweed. Nothing will change him. Remind yourself he stinks and don’t take any stock in his BS barbs at your skills.

      1. Brownie*

        Yeah, I’m limiting time with him as much as I possibly can. He’s only a couple years from retirement, I just have to keep that end point in view. But in the meantime I’m starting to get neck/back muscle issues from tensing up every time I hear his voice and I’m starting to fantasize about switching work hours so I never have to ever interact with him without a paper trail.

    3. ten-four*

      UGH sympathy. I hear you on not wanting to get another job, but since you’re at the point where you’re getting neck/back problems from tensing up around this jag you might consider job hunting purely as a way to get some emotional distance. Telling yourself that leaving for another job *is* an option is a way to take power back in this situation. And you know what – you don’t have to stay. You might choose to, for all the reasons that you state – but you don’t have to.

      You don’t have to actually take another job if it’s offered but knowing that you have other options will almost certainly help put this dweeb in perspective. And shoot – maybe you’ll find an amazing dream job and decide it IS worth it to leave.

      Also probably you’ve tried this, but have you asked the C-suite/other execs you work with for tips on how to effectively manage your manager? Framing it up as wanting to succeed and being stuck on how to effectively support your manager demonstrates that you’re the grown-up in the room. And you might actually get good advice and/or back-up behind the scenes.

  22. Insignificant*

    In a recent Friday comment, someone said that answers to the “tell me about a time you solved a problem” interview question don’t have to be elaborate. I’m having problems thinking of answers for this question though because I’ve only ever been a low level employee where making suggestions would either be ignored or get me in trouble, so my examples are *extremely* small. Could you guys give me examples of small scale problem solving that would be appropriate? Or let me know if my examples below are okay?

    At one job I had to process large numbers of items from a group work queue and would end up holding 30-40 items in my personal queue that had to wait to be processed for various reasons. It was important to check on the items throughout the day because many were time sensitive. To save myself from having to open each item to look at the detailed comments I’d left, I figured out a way to tag them with keywords so I could just glance at them. This saved me a lot of time.

    At another job, I had a disorganized customer who was constantly asking about “missing” credits that they thought we owed them. These were often credit requests that had already been processed or that had been rejected from up to two years earlier. And they’d ask about the same ones again and again. I started to keep an excel sheet of every credit I ever processed for them and any they asked about. They started referring to the excel sheet instead of asking me, which saved me a lot of researching time.

    It feels like these examples are too small because they only required one step and only affected me.

    1. Colette*

      I like both of those examples, particularly since in both cases, no one would have thought anything of it if you had done nothing. That shows initiative, and your second example is about great customer service.

    2. voodoo*

      I think these are concrete and show initiative on your part. while they might not be big or structural, I think they’re fine examples.

    3. a tester, not a developer*

      Those are great examples! They’re appropriate to the level of work you were doing, and they helped others (the disorganized customer, and anyone who needed your processed items in a timely fashion).

    4. Blue*

      To be fair, if you’ve been largely in entry-level positions, I don’t think an interviewer will be expecting an example of a ground-breaking solution that transformed your whole office. What they probably will care about is you being able to recognize problem spots and roadblocks and taking the initiative to streamline or find work-arounds in order to make your own processes more efficient and better ensure that you are able to turn things around quickly, as expected. If you really only have control over your own work process and product, then show that you’ve done your best to improve those things and make them more efficient, and I think you’ve found some examples of just that.

    5. LKW*

      These are fine examples. You created something to make your work more efficient and enabled you to respond quickly.

      Other kind of problem: You were given a task with little instruction and no clear outcome -how did you get the answers you needed to do your work correctly?

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      These are solid examples and exactly what I want to hear about your problem solving techniques.

      I think you’re really downplaying your abilities because you’ve had so little wiggle room but when you see a problem that’s within your scope [organizing things for a customer into an excel sheet was really above and beyond, most do not go that far], it’s a great example of your dedication to customer service as well.

      Your organization tricks to keep things in a timely fashion is a great one too.

      Most people do not have great stories in their pockets, even those with a lot of autonomy and range. I’ve ran entire businesses and I still don’t think of great spectacular stories because at the time I was only thinking of getting a job done, not realizing I should be patting myself on the back and pocketing that story for later ;)

    7. Ama*

      Honestly I would love those answers when I was hiring because these are specific, concrete examples that show that you take initiative to solve inefficiencies even when you don’t absolutely have to.

      When I was last hiring for an entry level position I kept getting these candidates who were fresh out of college and had only done internships who kept responding to my “tell me about a time when” questions by giving me very high level descriptions of projects the employer they’d interned with had completed (we’re talking company-wide initiatives where they’d talk about the “overall strategic plan” even though they clearly couldn’t have been the decision maker on that level). I’d even clarify with them that I was looking for work they’d done directly even if it was a simple project and they would just keep saying the same thing about these big projects and not giving me any specifics about what they’d actually done. I couldn’t get any sense of what kind of work experience they actually had.

      1. San Juan Worm*

        These are great answers. As a hiring manager, I’m looking for folks who can a) frame a problem appropriately b) evaluate the resources and tools they can use to solve it and c) provide status updates to their coworkers and supervisors. You’ve done all these things with (what you’ve characterized as) low-stakes problems, but the competencies you’ve demonstrated work for high-stakes problems, too. You mention that these examples “only affected you,” but I could see a way that they’d affect others, too! For example, if 30 projects are in your queue and 25 are a certain type of project, you could use that data to analyze whether that product’s workflow could benefit from process improvements.

    8. JulieCanCan*

      I agree with everyone else here- these are all really great examples of problem solving and forward thinking that I’d be happy to hear about from a candidate! You’re selling yourself short if you don’t feel confident with these – I think you are doing great!

  23. JustaTech*

    Just an absurd situation I had to share. Today I gave $10 for a puppy shower. Yes, a puppy shower. My coworker “Christina” decided that since our other coworker “Terri” is getting a dog (not a puppy) and has been very excited about it, we should make a donation to the rescue that Terri’s dog is coming from.

    Normally I would be all for this and might have even made some kind of dog-themed snack. But Terri has been talking about this dog for a month solid. And showing me every text and picture that the dog foster sends her, which is at least 3-5 times a work day. It is driving me up the wall.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like dogs! But even when we’re not swamped at work I really can’t take the constant interruptions. It’s gotten to the point of a parody of the kind of person who has to show you 5 million pictures and videos of their kids. Except it’s not a joke, and the dog isn’t even here yet!

    Earlier in the week I was mad. Now I’ve moved through that to enjoying the absurdity. Let’s see how next week is in the immediate days before this dog arrives.

    1. Anonygrouse*

      Oh my gosh, I feel for you. I used to work with someone who used to send out emails “from” her dogs. When she got a second dog, she went to another coworker who had twin toddlers to ask 100% in earnest for her advice as another single mom of 2. Honestly surprised there was not a puppy shower too. I love dogs, but yeesh!!

      1. AJK*

        We did have a “puppy shower” for a co-worker of mine once – two of our co-workers who were big dog lovers had been trying to convince her to get a dog for years, so when she finally gave in and adopted a puppy they threw her a “puppy shower.” Said co-worker was older and single so it’s possibly the only shower ever thrown for her, and in that context I thought it was a really nice idea.
        (Also, said co-worker loosened up quite a bit and seemed much happier with life in general after she got the dog, which we co-workers appreciated – she’d always seemed a little grouchy before)

        1. valentine*

          to ask 100% in earnest for her advice as another single mom of 2.
          Okay, but this is really sweet. She just wants to be a good mom.

          I thought this was going to be about a baby shower for a pregnant dog. Somewhere, there is a party planner royally pissed off because someone (perhaps more than one someone?) asked her if she does puppy showers. (And they just called and asked as any potential client might. They weren’t rude; she is.) I mean, even if you’re not a dog person, how great would it be to say you do all of a family’s events and to get dog people supporting your business?

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            I have been to at least one if not two dog birthday parties. I love dogs and I want a dog, but for various reasons I currently do not have the time to commit to owning a dog. Going to a dog birthday party I was able to play with a bunch of dogs and go home. They were happy, I was happy it was awesome.

          2. JulieCanCan*

            As a long time resident of Los Angeles, I can absolutely guarantee you that MANY party planners in this crazy city have not only been asked whether they handle parties (baby/puppy showers) for pregnant dogs, but they HAVE planned puppy showers for pregnant dogs.

            Lololololol. I love dogs and have one of my own, but I doubt any pregnant dogs are feeling slighted for not getting a puppy shower. :)

    2. Middle Manager*

      Oh, sympathies. We’re getting increasingly asked for money for baby showers, retirement parties, promotion parties…on and on. I would absolutely draw a line at a puppy shower.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I would love to have a puppy shower at work. But my idea for that would involve actual puppies coming down from the sky on parachutes and then getting to play with them for the rest of thew work day.

    3. Bee's Knees*

      My question is how often she’s going to bring in/show pictures of the dog dressed in ridiculous outfits and looking like it wants to run into the nearest road.

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      oh geez. My boss just adopted a puppy this weekend, she shared pictures with our team, and I sent her a couple of puppy toys that were very popular with my girls when they were little via Amazon (we’re remote and live three hours apart), but that’s bonkers.

    5. Kesnit*

      I don’t really see the issue. I’ve dealt with expecting parents who gush about the impending arrival – which is a lot longer off than getting a dog. (Now if you react the same to expecting parents, that is a different matter.)

      If I read your comment right, the money is going to the rescue group, not to Terri? If so, it’s for a good cause.

      1. JustaTech*

        The funny thing is that the expectant parents we’ve had here never talked about their incoming kid this much!

        Honestly it’s just that I’m exhausted with all the dog talk (Terri’s been looking for a dog for 6 months and it’s been a constant series of ups and downs) and that it feels really hard to say “please stop talking about the dog you don’t have yet” without being impossibly rude and cruel.

        I’m cheerfully giving my donation, it’s just kind of surreal.

        1. valentine*

          You can say, “I love your dog and that you’re rescuing them, but I’m all talked out on this. Looking forward to you bringing them home, though.”

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I mean…do you have baby showers at work? If you do, I think a shower for someone so dedicated to adopting a puppy is a sweet gesture. That eliminates the stress of “how unfair, I don’t plan on having kids/getting married, I’ll never have any special milestones to celebrate as a department” issue. If you don’t do showers in general, then that’s annoying to have it for this occasion, that’s for sure.

      The constant chatter is an issue because it’s not the topic, it’s the fact you aren’t getting the time you need to concentrate and do your job or just feel good in your workspace. I would eliminate the subject matter when you think about it and just say “Teri, you’re being super chatty and I really cannot talk right now.” instead of just being in the “Stop talking about your dog” zone, be in the “stop talking, about anything.” zone ;)

    7. Bluebell*

      I once took a puppymoon one week vacation and my coworkers sent me a card. It was the sweetest thing ever.

  24. Justin*

    So finishing up from previous comments.

    I have mentioned a coworker I was working closely with who eventually got let go for being, well, bad at the job.

    I also mentioned she was annoying but that that doesn’t really matter in terms of competence.

    Finally, I mentioned she had some “racial blind spots,” and a commenter said not to feel bad that a “racist incompetent” had lost their job.

    And I was about to be like, “but lo, she is not of the racists! She is only merely an ignorant.”

    And I realized, that’s what we’ve been conditioned to say/think, right? How many people in marginalized groups have to downplay examples of racism/sexism/ableism/etc, so long as an open slur isn’t used, just to get by at work?

    In the case of this person, her “blind spots” included repeatedly warning me that a client I was set to speak to was impossible to understand (he was Nigerian, and spoke very clear English), slipping into a strange AAVE-mimicking accent to be “funny” (but how could I prove that’s what she was doing? other colleagues do this too…), and trying to play oppresion olympics with me (I didn’t want to play… but she really wanted to tell me how it wasn’t as bad to be black as it was to be a Jewish woman; I have no opinion on this other than thinking it would have been best for her to shut up).

    My point is: how many of you can think to times where you realized later that something more subtle than rank discrimination had occurred, after the fact, and how much do we think it really weighs on us without us knowing?

    In a way, I find this sort of nonsense, because it’s hardly illegal, is harder to deal with than the clear cut times I’ve heard slurs or whatever, because no one thinks it matters.

    Thanks for coming to my TED talk.

    1. Justin*

      Amusingly, her insistence that the Nigerian client was hard to understand may have tipped off our boss to her nonsense since our boss is a black lady and said, repeatedly, “I have no problems understanding him.”

      So… she’s the type of person who if told she was doing something wrong would have said she’d’ve voted for Obama a third time if she could, and then tried to serve me some tea.

    2. Sloan Kittering*

      Yeah, this person sounds bad on the merits. I’m glad they experienced consequences. It’s confusing when you know them as a person and they’re not like, monstrous, so it feels dissonant to be like, “X person is racist” but – those are the facts. Also consider that what was tolerable to you may well have been intolerable to someone from a different group or that they were worse behaved in a different circle.

      I feel ya, because i have made so many excuses for creepy creepy guys where I was like, “oh they’re just CONFUSED!!” and then it turns out they were not actually all that confused or honestly should have known better, and the parts I knew about where kind of the tip of the iceberg.

      1. Justin*

        Well, it wasn’t really tolerable, though, so much as I’m so inured to that sort of thing from more or less always being The Black Guy In White Spaces, you know? But yeah. I’m just glad she was… bad enough to be let go on the merits.

        And yeah, I’ve had a LOT of coworkers who have been lowkey, standard-American-levels-of-racist, and it’s just so normal it’s not worth the fight. I can imagine it’s the same or worse for women in that respect, though I can’t obviously speak to it directly myself.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I feel like it’s harder when you’re working with someone who has a pretty firm grasp on where the line for “HR must be told of this immediately!” lies. You end up second guessing most of what they say, because they know how not to cross that line. It feels like telling someone about it would result in them thinking you’re making a big deal out of nothing, but you know it’s not nothing, and the amount of documentation you’d have to do to prove the pattern would 1) take up so much time and brain space and 2) make you feel like a creepy stalker with a grudge.

          In any case, I’m glad you’re not working with this person anymore. I’m sure there are other ways that racism and microaggressions are still in play (because aren’t they always?), but at least this particular source of badness is out of your life.

    3. Anony-miss*

      I’ve experienced this with a co-worker before – she pretty consistently made comments that were just within the plausible deniability of “Well, I’m sure she didn’t mean it that way!” but I knew she did. Finally she said something that was overt enough, and I went to HR. They advised me to start recording everything to establish the patter of behavior, which I did. She started being much more careful around me after I called her out about the overt incident, however, so I never had anything to else to record. That reinforces my thought that she knew what she was saying and was trying to test how much she could get away with.

      In a way, I guess I consider that a small win – she got the message that our office, or at least me as a coworker, was not a place where people found her comments acceptable.

    4. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      And if it’s helpful, rephrase it as “this person acts in racist ways.” Which is, basically “being a racist,” but doesn’t let anyone (including your own brain!) argue. Racist speech is a racist act, whether it comes from conscious bigoted beliefs or covert racial bias.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        That is a great tip! I struggle sometimes to deal with the dissonance of calling out someone for bad behavior when I know other good things about them, this frames the issue in a helpful way to me.

        1. Justin*

          Yeah, this is what I’m trying to do.

          I’m actually studying race/racism in Englist Language Teaching in my school program (I’m busy!), and this gives away my identity if people bother to search but also I don’t care. And boy, people have a lot of FEELINGS when you ask about race.

      2. I Took A Mint*

        I find this really helpful too. It goes around all my feelings about “But I like this person and don’t want to think of them as Bad” “I think they just made a mistake, I don’t think they actually think that way” “Am I a bad person if…” “If someone was racist in the past can they ever change” “What magic phrase could I say to change their minds…”

        It’s much more helpful for me to focus on how they do/say/act instead of assuming what is in their hearts (which we will never know and it’s not for me to judge). But I can respond to what is said or done.

    5. Anonymous Educator*

      I honestly don’t expend too much energy distinguishing between malicious racists and ignorant well-intentioned racists. If they’re ignorant and don’t bother to educate themselves to be better, what does the ignorance excuse them from?

      I’m hurt either way. Or others around me are hurt. So there’s only so much (i.e., very little) I care if it came from malice or ignorance.

    6. fposte*

      I was just watching a Key and Peele thing with Paul F. Tompkins where they choose between “Racist or Really Need to Tell You Something”–some of the scenarios were Julianne Hough in blackface for costume, Gwyneth Paltrow using the soft n word on social media, Kanye West wearing the confederate flag, etc. And while it was a comic take, I thought it was interesting that they really seemed to reserve “racist” for intent, not just effect. And I think it’s similar to what you’re talking about–that there’s so much of the “ignorant”/”blind spot” racism/sexism/ableism that it’s ambient and it can take a while to put the components together in one person enough to say “Wow, that was actually really bad.”

      1. boo bot*

        I think that’s why it’s often so useful to think in terms of “that action is racist,” rather than “that person is racist.”

        Especially because, if one consciously thinks, “huh, that was racist,” every time coworker does or says something racist, one might find oneself forming a well-founded opinion that she is, in fact, racist.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          it would also help me to self-police better, if I was able to say that my action had a racist impact and I need to do better – it could undermine that ego-defensiveness / shutdown that comes up where I’m like, I’m not a bad person, I worked hard! etc etc etc.

          1. Sloan Kittering*

            (not that i am ever going around being deliberately racist, just that we are all committing racist acts all the time when we live and work in racist systems etc)

          2. Justin*

            Absolutely. I had this revelation re: sexism when I was in my early 20s, when a friend said I had things to work on. I was… defensive, because, early 20s, but I asked her to tell me what if she wouldn’t mind.

            I hope I have corrected these things, but we always need to re-up to check.

        2. fposte*

          Yes, I think there’s some confusing slippage on the word. I have white friends who were 1970s progressives and haven’t got much of the word since then; the racism they encountered in their activism then was hostile and overt. And between the fact that they’re not saying anything like what they’d heard from the 1970s racists and also the fact that they feel they’re on the right side because of their activism, they don’t realize that the stuff they’re saying can be, in 2019 terms, kind of racist too.

          1. ElspethGC*

            This comes up a lot of the time with homophobia and other LGBTQ-adjacent bigotry, as well. You seem to get a lot of people who were on our side during, say, the AIDS crisis or when it came to passing laws to make our sex lives legal, but who don’t like the idea of us being able to marry because we should just be grateful for what we have, it’s come so far since the 70s and 80s, they don’t want to beat us up in the streets, so why on earth would we ever call them homophobic?! Because to them, the homophobia that they’re so proud of opposing was, you know, out-and-out mob violence and beating people up in the middle of the street. That’s not what *they’re* doing, *they* just don’t understand why we can’t be happy with civil partnerships and feel the need to start infringing on marriage as well…

            We’re now getting the secondary version, where people support same-gender marriage but don’t understand that it isn’t the be-all and end-all of allyship and activism…

            1. Justin*

              Yeah, seems legit to me.

              I personally had to sit down and educate myself on trans rights and nonbinary issues when I was younger. I had no actual antipathy, I just was ignorant and needed to learn. I am sure I was defensive at first (because 23 year olds will be that way).

              It’s not comfortable to be wrong. But that’s kinda a big part of being an adult, right?

            2. fposte*

              Yes; the 2019 approach is more like “we’ve all got work to do in some areas.” As Justin and Sloan note above, it can be hard to hear information that what we’re doing is a problem and correcting isn’t easy, but being cool in some other area or in some other time isn’t a pass on everything we do.

              (I hope the people involved won’t mind my noting that there’s a really nice example of an interaction downthread–a commenter noted that somebody has a username that made a colleague uncomfortable, and the person with that username said oh, that’s not good, of course I’ll change it. All very civil and effective.)

              1. Justin*

                We’re all part of the problem but can be part of the solution if we so choose.

                But you get to the word “problem” and some people implode and then we have to spend time cleaning it up.

          2. Red Sky*

            This essentially describes my in-laws in a nutshell. They occasionally engage in what I call Casual Racism, nothing super offensive or obvious on the surface but if you dig deeper it’s definitely there. They get really defensive if you point it out, (believe me I’ve tried). They were active in the civil rights movement of the ’60s and ’70s but at some point stopped learning or listening and seem to think they’re earlier activism gives them a free pass and they couldn’t possibly be racist. I’ve been thinking about getting them (and myself) the book So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo recommended on Capt Awkward by guest columnist Lenee earlier this week.

      2. Justin*

        I remember that skit.

        It’s true that it’s all racist but that there’s a spectrum defined by intent or lack thereof. But to the recipient(s), it all hurts after a while.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, absolutely. I just think it was interesting that both you and, IMHO, Key and Peele (who don’t have to be the arbiters of anything; I just really like them) were at short notice more forgiving than I think we might be in light of the full picture and time to consider (and I also thought that was kind of a bogus dichotomy they got handed–the thing you can Really Need to Tell Somebody is that their costume is racist). I think that’s probably baseline human to some extent–if my co-worker for sure accidentally brushed my boob with his hand my life is *so* much easier than if it was on purpose.

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yeah, not all racist comments are the acts of klan members or other extremes/hate groups, most are exactly like this woman instead. They’re ingrained in our society and we’re having a helluva time flushing them out because of the pushback of “I’m not racist, how dare you ever say I’m racist, I’m going to dig my feet in and start my tantrum.”

      It’s their lack of emotional intelligence and exposure to the world in my experience, which sometimes can be fixed with more education and correction.

      However you say others mock other accents? No, that’s not at all acceptable and your other coworkers are kind of really horrible as well, this isn’t grade school. Do they also turn up their eyes when they’re mocking an Asian accent just for the additional fun jollies? Ick!

      1. Justin*

        “They’re ingrained in our society and we’re having a helluva time flushing them out because of the pushback of “I’m not racist, how dare you ever say I’m racist, I’m going to dig my feet in and start my tantrum.””

        The “I’m going to speak to the manager (of racism)” attitude.

        Well, more like put on an AAVE voice when trying to connect with our (adult) students. They think it’s okay because the students laugh, and I figure the students are, like me, just trying to ignore it. (It’s one guy. I’ve already brought up his insensitive comments on other things, so bringing this up seems like I’m being all BEC… which I kind of am with him).

        1. Penguin*

          Yeah, I had a “Oh s**t” moment when I learned that laughing is something we humans sometimes do as a “gotta move this circumstance along because it is (or might become) threatening” reaction (which can be different from “nervous laughter”) and not /just/ a “oh that’s funny” response.

          I hope your coworkers learn this sooner than later, and change their behavior.

        2. Lora*

          I’m not sure if I should be horrified because she’s trying to adjust her own speech to match how she thinks people of color talk or if I should be horrified because she’s making fun of how people talk but either way it’s just icky and depressing.

          I’m imagining someone trying to do a version of like… there’s this dopey voice I use to narrate my ex’s thought process, and that’s sort of what I’m picturing when you describe her trying to do an AAVE accent to socialize with students. It’s just…bad on so, so many levels.

    8. Canadian Natasha*

      I think your former coworker is related to one of my coworkers. Except the accent she uses for laughs is the local First Nations’ way of speaking and her other go-to offensive remarks involve talking about how hard Indian or Pakistani people are to understand (customer service work is part of our jobs) and *every single time she sees a person with african ancestry* making a point of mentioning to us (not in front of them) just How Very Black their skin is. She is absolutely convinced she is not racist and has blown off any remarks I’ve made to her about her comments. It isn’t enough that my managers will do anything about it either, unfortunately. #facepalm

    9. VioletCrumble*

      I’m generally not that sensitive to things but one time I was in a team meeting when our supervisor and a co-worker were going on and on about how they couldn’t tell the asian clients apart; they also couldn’t understand a word they said (of course they then went on to “imitate” them talking) Note- most of these spoke perfectly clear accentless english.

      I interrupted them saying that I was extremely uncomfortable with this conversation. As they were talking about individuals who were very distinct in appearance and who’s countries of origin ranged from Korea to China to Japan to Singapore.. that it seemed odd they couldn’t tell them apart.

      They kept going on with the conversation to the point where I was tearing up.. over the years there have been quite a few comments/asides like this and of course they always try to pass it off as just a joke… sigh… come on people it’s 2019.. It just amazed me that the others in the group weren’t also taken aback.

  25. Looney Lovegood*

    I work for a small, friendly, relatively close knit company, and I’m currently one of two most junior people on my team, both of us hired at about the same time. A position opened up at the level just above where I am and “Trish” (my fellow junior team member and my closest friend at work) and I both applied for the promotion. My boss interviewed a few external candidates, so there is a chance that neither Luna nor I will get the promotion, but our company has a strong preference for hiring from within, and Luna and I are both qualified for the job.

    We will likely find out the final decision next week, and I’m anxious about what will happen socially if/when one of us gets the job over the other. We currently share and office and spend time together outside of work, and even though we are both pretty chill people, I worry that it will be awkward and strange for our friendship if one of us becomes senior to the other. This is both of our first jobs out of grad school (we actually went to grad school together, though we weren’t as close then) and we’ve really been partners and support to each other as we have grown more into our roles and gotten a taste for our industry. I know this kind of thing is bound to happen when you have a corporate job, but any advice on how to best navigate your friend getting the promotion you wanted/vice versa would be much appreciated!

    1. Middle Manager*

      If either of you get it, it will definitely change your relationship. I was in the exact situation and got the promotion. My friend did not take it well at all. Looking back, I wish we had had a conversation about it before the decision was announced and agreed to support each other as the boss regardless of who got selected. I don’t know if it would have helped, but we didn’t talk about it until after the announcement was made and by that time she was super angry/disappointed, so it was really unproductive.

      Even if it goes well for the two of you though, you’ll probably need to cut back on out of office hanging out. You can still be friendly, but who ever is the boss will need some distance for holding the other person accountable, etc. And you wouldn’t want it to look like the boss was playing favorites.

      1. Looney Lovegood*

        I guess I should have clarified–whoever gets the position will not be in a managerial position over the other in any way. The way our team is structured, we have the manager and then a handful of other team members who all report to the manager, but none have any authority over the others. Trish and I are both assistants to the whole team, so the only thing that would change is that it’s possible that whoever gets promoted to an associate position may ask whoever remains an assistant to help out on projects. That being said, it’s not as common for the team members in the associate position to need help from the assistants, especially right after the promotion.

        1. valentine*

          Is Trish the same person as Luna?

          Be happy for her if she gets it and expect the same from her. It doesn’t sound like you have to change your behavior, but if it’s relevant, be wary of favoring her. If you get it (and I hope you get it; I really hope you get it) and she seems hurt or sulks, give her time to mourn, but don’t feel you have to hide your joy or to match her. Just carry on professionally. If you know her to not weather this sort of thing well, prepare for the friendship to suffer, but don’t feel bad. It’s her choice and you can always be friendly, if not friends.

          1. JulieCanCan*

            Yeah I wondered who Luna was – or where Trish went.

            Either way I hope that if an internal applicant gets promoted, it won’t effect the working relationship (and ideally the friendship won’t be effected).

            It’s hard to navigate this type of thing, especially being new in the working world.

  26. Counting Down the Days*

    I have been in the unfortunate position of counting down the days at my current job until I can leave. I’m trying to get to at least a year and then start job searching, meaning my tenure might be as long as a year and half or two years total. (They’re not hateful, I just don’t like the culture here or the work I’m doing, and it feels like a step backwards in terms of responsibility / growth. Also, they said they offered work from home but clearly do not. Morale is low.). They are a small nonprofit so I really want to get through a year for the benefit of our mission, I know they’ve had terrible turnover in the past.

    I haven’t really gotten through a month since I started without being tempted to search the job postings – I’m coming up on eight months now.

    Any tips to keep up good spirits as I get through this waiting period? I just try to focus on good things going on outside my job, show up and put in my eight hours as best I can, keep my head down, etc. I’m not really used to approaching my career this way and I worry I’m developing bad habits.

    1. Rat Racer*

      Just a thought: it can take a long time to find a new job, and if you’re close-ish to a year, I don’t think there’s any harm in starting to put some feelers out there. Especially if it makes you feel better than holding your breath until your 1-year anniversary.

      1. OP*

        You’re so right, it took me forever to get this job sadly (like, a year) – I’m just balancing the fact that I know 12 months is not some magical cutoff where now it’s all good to leave – two years would actually be better – and I worry employers will look at my resume and see that I’m searching before even a year is up and I immediately toss my application. But it probably doesn’t hurt to try.

      1. OP*

        Solidarity! I just keep telling myself that things could be worse! I’m not badly paid for what I’m doing, and my workplace isn’t abusive, and although I worry that my career isn’t progressing I don’t think this move has completely destroyed it. And there are good things in my life going on outside of work. I don’t dislike my coworkers. I just keep thinking of the ways I could have better used this year (or two years by the time I’m out of here!). Life is short, this is a waste of time.

        1. wondHRland*

          As long as you don’t have a BUNCH of short tenure jobs, one shouldn’t matter that much – if they ask why you’re looking already, you can say it wasn’t as good a fit as you thought, or the work at home opportunity wasn’t avalable after all, or something innocuous along those lines. Every one gets it wring once in a while, and we’re all entitled to a mulligan. Start looking now, don’t close yourself off from opportunities. Just try tobe doubly sure for the next job that it’s the right place at this time.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Screw waiting. Look at those job postings. You’re missing out by imposing a 12 month time. Be picky but keep your eyes open. Worse case you try and don’t get the job and you’re still sitting at square one.

      1. JulieCanCan*

        Totally agree with The Man – why hold out if you know you don’t want to be there? I would never question a candidate’s reasoning for trying to find a better fit or a place where they could be happier and more satisfied.

        Remember, the perfect job for you could be posted at this very moment – and if you’re not looking, someone else will get the opportunity YOU are supposed to land. Someone said this to me once and I really took it to heart. I immediately started putting out feelers and landed my current job, which I really like, and I almost missed applying for it because I didn’t think “it was the right time to be looking.”

    3. Small but Fierce*

      No real advice, just commiseration from another month counter. I turned on my “open to opportunities” option on LinkedIn when I hit a year and a half at this company (6 months in this job), but I don’t plan to look in earnest until year 2 since I didn’t make it to 2 years at my last company. Hopefully our next roles allow for more growth and opportunity!

  27. Laid off and feeling low*

    Well, it happened. I had suspicions for about a week but did not find out I lost my job and my company had shut down until I saw the news on Twitter. My boss (the President of our branch) made multiple calls to the corporate office that all went unanswered. We all received impersonal, form letters at the end of the day confirming the news and telling us we had been terminated. No severance and barely any warning. The whole thing was despicable and I still feel sick to my stomach thinking about how things were handled.

    Obviously I need to find a new job, but the truth of the matter is this whole experience has jaded me. I gave up a lot to come here – I had a decent job with great pay and benefits, and dropped it to pick up and move to a new city with my husband. I didn’t know what I was getting into, but my most recent job ended up being pretty cool experience. Regardless, I worked a lot of hours and weekends, did a lot of strange things that definitely fell under “other duties as assigned.”

    I don’t want the long hours anymore. I don’t really want any surprises. I want a decent job with a real 9-5 schedule where I can feel like it’s OK to take PTO if I need to. How do I find a job like this? I’m still fairly new to this city and all my contacts have recently lost their jobs, too. We just bought a house and at least my husband has a stable job, so we are staying put for now.

    I’ve already updated my resume and applied to a half dozen jobs yesterday, one of which has already turned me down. I’m feeling so dejected by this whole experience I don’t know how to proceed. I could use some advice or words of wisdom if anyone has been in a similar situation.

    1. T. Boone Pickens*

      I’m really sorry that you’re going through this. I’d take a bit of time to collect myself and really think about what I’m looking for in my next job and make a list (for whatever reason writing things down makes it more concrete for me, your mileage may vary). I’d use your husband as a sounding board as well to get his feedback. Kudos to you on getting your resume back updated! I’d also do some research on recruiters in your area that specialize in your industry and reach out to them as they should know what the market looks like for compensation, employers, etc. Also, depending on your industry, there may be some free networking groups you can check out at local coffee shops, etc that may help.

      Good luck!

      1. valentine*

        Finding out via Twitter is so awful. You deserve so much better.

        Jobs: Library or other government? Medical-office receptionist? What are you happy or content to do for 40 hours a week? Maybe you want to prioritize a short and lunch options. Take into account how all the pieces fit into how you feel about a job and the work.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      If you are in a biggish city, have you looked into the healthcare market? Their support teams (analysts, marketing, finance) have good benefits and regular hours.
      Good luck to you! And stay strong!

    3. Iris Eyes*

      When this happened to one of my loved ones they had a job “wake” with their former coworkers. I think it helped get much needed closure. Since they had relatively similar jobs they were able to help each other job search and provide references. I think they talked at least as much the first week or two as they normally did when working together. A couple months on and they don’t talk as much to my knowledge but I think it was generally beneficial. All that to say don’t discount you contacts just because they are out of work. They are more likely to come across open positions since they are looking. There are also times where a company is looking to fill multiple positions during a period of growth so once one person gets in the door they can bring multiple people with them.

      Yeah wanting a job that has hard start and stop hours is totally normal. And they definitely exist, but maybe not in all industries.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Invest time in yourself to find out what you really want to do and look into unexpected ways to use your skills.
      When I was caught up in a 200-person layoff, I was lucky enough that they provided us with outplacement services — more directed self-analysis & practice than I’d gotten working my way through things like “What Color is Your Parachute”. I was able to take a bit of a diagonal turn in career path by learning to discuss my experiences in ways that let HR/interviewers see their relevance to an adjacent role.
      Also consider finding a branch of Toastmasters — because nothing prepares you for speaking off the cuff than speaking off the cuff. And there are no winners&losers at Toastmasters, just people who want to get better saying things out loud. (I’m very new to it.)

    5. VioletCrumble*

      I’m so sorry that happened to you… A few years back, I was off on a vacation day and just happened to turn on the noon news and found out that my company had closed the office and laid off all staff earlier that day. Apparently corporate flew out, clocked everyone out, and informed everyone they were laid off and paychecks would be fedexed sometime in the next week… (We’re in CA and paychecks are due at the time of layoff…)

      But honestly, in hindsight, it was a good thing for me.. I was able to move into a new career path that is more stable and pays better!

      Take time to grieve… Take care of you… and Best wishes on the job hunt!

    6. Free Meerkats*

      If your goal is a stable schedule with no problems taking earned time off and you are willing to give some on pay, look at local government. Every city has it, almost every type of profession is needed, the benefits (especially PTO) are usually above average.

    7. ten-four*

      I am horrified on your behalf! What a foul way to manage people. I’ve been through something semi-similar – I was called in off maternity leave to be laid off in person when they shut down our office.

      Iris Eyes has the right idea with the “job wake” idea. I got laid off again maybe four years ago, and the key difference between that lay-off and the first one was that I circled up with my fellow layoffs. We had a wake (although we didn’t call it that), and one of my closest colleagues and I met up and basically coached each other through updating our resumes/portfolios.

      The resume partnership was really critical, because we were both super crushed by life but we had each other’s backs. So she’d feel try to downplay her work and I’d be able to say NOPE I was there, you did A and got to B outcome, you innovated C, and you won D. And then I’d get all self-conscious and down on my own work and she was like NOPE I was there you did X and Y and as a result Z.

      Based on the way you describe your job and your previous work I’d be dollars to donuts that there’s ways you could frame up your resume so that it would tell a really compelling story about your career. It’s awfully hard to do that self-storytelling in the best of times, and immediately after a layoff it’s the Worst Possible Time. Find a buddy! Make it easier on each other! Seriously, we did most of it in one afternoon at a coffee shop and it was a game changer.

      And yeah, feel free to just feel rotten too. And build in lots of time for taking meticulous care of yourself, as Carolyn Hax says. I had to work out some of that first layoff in therapy, and the second one too! My husband and I have both lost our jobs tons of times since the first big crash of our adult lives, and it sucks, and also we’ve both been able to go on and have really cool careers. You will too.

    8. Easily Amused*

      I’m so sorry! Not sure where you are or how big your company is but there are laws about laying off large groups of people (if it’s over a certain percentage of the company, they have to give 60 days notice and I’m not sure about severance but it might be worth looking into). I know of a company in Florida that went bankrupt and laid everyone off with no notice. Lawsuits ensued. I’m not a litigious person by nature but if you deserve severance, you should get it. I wish you the best of luck in your job search. For years I worked 60-80 hour weeks and wanted to find a job with normal hours. I had to switch careers to do it but I love the 9-5 job I have now. You can do it!

  28. Tips to help a coworker who I will manage one day be quicker not only in the speed their work but how they comprehend situations?*

    I will manage my team by the end of the year. I have a coworker who has been in this position for 2.5 years. He is very dedicated to the job and as we have high turnover in our department, it’s important to have someone with that dedication and loyalty. One of his weaknesses is that he’s about 60% slower than the rest of the team, cannot understand situations or new processes easily whether they be simple or complex, and does not have the ability to switch between tasks without taking an hour to gear up. We work 90% with the sales team and all day they have “urgent” requests and it’s important for relationship building and trust that we provide them with what they need quickly and efficiently. A normal request that is not complicated will take myself or the rest of the team 30 minutes tops to complete where my coworker will spend up to 2 hours on it. A complex report I request will take my coworker 3-4 hours to complete while it will take my coworker 1-2 days.

    This is the opposite of how I operate, and I don’t have any personal experience with this, so I am turning to Ask a Manager for tips on how you’ve achieved this from a manager perspective and how you’ve accomplished this from an employee perspective. My Ask a Manger voice says to hold them accountable for the work that they need to do a specific amount of time which yes of course that is necessary but what I am looking for is advice and tips on how to guide him to think and work quicker.

    1. NicoleK*

      He’s been in his position for 2.5 years and is slow, has comprehension issues, and etc. HE’S NOT GOING TO CHANGE. If he does make changes, it will be minimal. I work with someone like your coworker, soon to be direct report. My coworker has been in her role for 6 YEARS and counting. She is still slow as molasses, terrible at technology, slow to adapt to new systems, and takes 3 times as long to do her tasks.

      1. Soupspoon McGee*

        This. You can’t make him think or understand any faster. You can spell out what you need from him. You can ask him to write a manual, spreadsheet, decision tree, or something that spells out steps to take so he can see patterns in how to approach something new.

    2. fposte*

      If it’s because he struggles cognitively with producing faster, it’s going to be tough to speed him up. Give him (or work with him to design) processes and templates to follow as much as possible, to lower the cognitive load; they’ll also be helpful to get new hires up to speed. Identify what task transition should look like–what’s he doing in that hour between tasks? Can you work with him to identify the steps of transition between tasks?

      Additionally, Could you get somebody better in to replace him, and would you be able to do that? Do “dedication and loyalty” mean something more workplace significant than “doesn’t call out on short notice and hasn’t left yet”? Are they valuable enough to make up for an employee who isn’t delivering at the important task of providing the sales team with what they need quickly and efficiently? IOW, if the employee you see is the employee you will always get, what do you want to do?

    3. Joy*

      Agreed that he is not going to change. This doesn’t mean he’s bad at all work, but if 90% of your work requires rapid turnaround and task switching, unless there’s enough of the remaining 10% to make that his full-time job, he is in the wrong position and the only solution will be to move him out.

      I’ve worked on teams with a mix of “sprinters” (me) and “marathoners”, and the path to victory has always been to make sure work is divided in a way that suits those work habits. My most marathon-y colleagues were also generally much better than me at progressing long-term projects, or dealing with complex research tasks, or other such work where long periods of focus is beneficial, so it wasn’t a matter of assigning them “worse” work but assigning them the work that they’d be the best at. But as I said, it doesn’t sound like there’s a ton of work like that for your team.

      1. Super Dee Duper Anon*

        I do wonder if there might be some sort of creative way to slightly restructure the role to compensate for the coworker’s shortcomings – if replacing the coworker is 100% off the table. If requests could be sort of classified into a couple of different buckets or maybe urgency levels – then coworker could made the designated person for a certain type of request.

        I know this wouldn’t work for all roles/jobs, just trying to throw out ideas.

    4. Kathenus*

      Is there any way to find out what part of the task/process is slowing him down? It could be that he’s average speed for much/most of the task but there’s one portion that he struggles with. If you can figure out something like this it might allow either targeted training, modifying that portion or finding a process to streamline/facilitate that section, or a workaround solution (someone else helping with just that portion, for example, if feasible). Not knowing details it’s hard to say if this approach would help, but it’s worth considering in case it might be beneficial to help him improve.

    5. valentine*

      This would make a good standalone letter.

      does not have the ability to switch between tasks without taking an hour to gear up.
      This sounds like a killer. He’s overall just not a good fit. He seems suited to something he can hyperfocus on.

    6. Elizabeth*

      Having worked with a number of people who are on the Autism Spectrum, I wonder if this is the case here – the telling line being around struggling to switch between tasks.
      Talk to him directly about the time / speed differences. He may have no idea or may have a completely different take on it.
      Take some of the typical activities that he does too slowly and put the scenario and the outcome in front of him and ask him to talk you through how he does it. If he is on the spectrum he may be constantly returning to the instructions to make sure he is following the “rules”.
      Try not to have “rules”, even try to avoid guidelines. Give outcome goals and a time frame and allow all staff to work out their own processes – and make this a very overt part of your office culture.
      If you can’t do all of this, try giving him some timeframes and see what happens. He might find he can speed up when it is a clear requirement of his role.

  29. Lucette Kensack*

    How to handle the natural consequences of a flexible workplace?

    (I wrote this in to Alison last year and just found it in my email archive. I’d be interested to hear how folks respond!)

    I’ve been thinking about how managers should handle the natural consequences of healthy flexibility and respecting varied abilities and work styles.

    Some examples of what I mean, from my experience as well as other friends I’ve talked to about this:

    1) An employee negotiated a four-day workweek for health reasons and does not work on Wednesdays. Consequence: meetings that involve her are more complicated to schedule.

    2) An employee negotiated a flexible work-from-home arrangement and his colleagues can never predict when he’ll be in the office and when he’ll be working from home/a coffeeshop/etc. Consequence: This sometimes means that he has to call in to a meeting that the organizer thought he would be present for, or is difficult to track down for signatures/etc.

    3) An employee has to leave at 3:00 p.m. every day to pick up his kids from daycare. He logs back on in the evenings and works a full 40-hour week, but his role is one that often fields requests with quick turnaround deadlines from higher-ups in the late afternoons. Consequence: Because he’s never physically present at 4:30, he doesn’t help carry to load on these kinds of requests.

    4) An employee doesn’t use basic technology well. Consequence: the rest of the staff has to work around him in ways that make their work more complicated (he won’t enter notes into a customer database, so someone has to do his data entry for him; he can’t format a printout that doesn’t use standard 8.5×11 paper, so someone has to do his printing for him).

    5) A junior employee frequently works fewer than 40 hours a week – comes in between 9:30 and 10:00 (which is ok on its own), takes a 90 minute lunch, leaves promptly at 5:01 every day. He’s on top of his workload, but he’s in an organization where the senior leaders value face time and look askance at empty desks. Consequence: His noticeable absence degrades the overall impression that senior management has of his team and his direct manager.

    6) An employee whose team has been struggling with overwork and burnout establishes a strict 40-hour policy for her direct reports; they’re salaried, but her policy is that they won’t work for than 40 hours a week. Consequence: The hourly administrative staff that supports the team picks up the slack; they are paid overtime for their extra hours, but they have a different manager that doesn’t have the same 40-hour policy and they don’t have the capital to draw the same firm boundary that the rest of the team does.

    7) An employee establishes firm boundaries around the kind of work that she will do, and won’t agree to anything beyond that. Consequence: Other team members have to take on the projects that she won’t do.

    8) An employee has a challenging home life and is using FMLA to navigate some caregiving issues. The nature of her personal challenges mean that she often has to call out or leave immediately with no notice, and the amount she’s able to work in a given week varies significantly and won’t level out (or be at 40 hours a week) for the indefinite future. Consequence: Because she can’t be counted on to get anything done on a deadline, it doesn’t make sense to assign certain kinds of work to her, which means that other staff have to take on that workload with no sense of when it will resolve.

    There are performance issues at play in some of these examples, to be sure. But all of the employees in these examples are valued enough that – at least in theory – the flexibility they are offered is worth the tradeoffs if that’s what it takes to keep them on staff. But put it all together and it’s endlessly frustrating for the other people who have to do extra work or make complicated arrangements to accommodate this flexibility.

    How do, or how should, managers navigate all of this?

    1. Jimming*

      Good managers wouldn’t let the flexibility impact workload, or if it does, make it clear how it will impact other people. I once worked with someone who did the 4/10 schedule, which meant I took on more work Fridays when she was out. But she took on more work when she was in the rest of the week – so we were both doing the same amount of work but at different times. Also Fridays were the slowest day, Monday the busiest, so there’s no way they would have let her do this schedule by taking off Monday instead of Friday.

      The FMLA/unexpected leave is trickier. Coworkers don’t need the details, but if they know so&so is out due to an illness/caregiving I’d hope they’d a) have basic compassion for that person, and b) talk with their manager to make a plan for their workload. Maybe no one can step in to help, but a good manager would help them prioritize so they know what to focus on and what to drop when short-staffed.

      I also recently went thru this when two coworkers went on leave around the same time for different reasons – I went over priorities with my manager so I knew what to focus on, they knew what wouldn’t get done for awhile.

    2. Yorick*

      I think #4 is different than most of these others. “Flexibility” is usually in terms of schedule or allowing someone to work from home, not to make coworkers do the parts of their job that they don’t care to learn. This is a situation where the boss can give him whatever support he needs to get up to speed with the technology, but he does need to learn to use the note system and start doing it himself.

      1. Kathleen_A*

        Absolutely. Using those tools is a part of his job, so he *must* learn to use them properly or he’s not doing his job. It is truly that simple.

    3. C*

      I think, as managers and coworkers, it helps to recognize that us messy meatsacks are always going to have situations that make life less than ideal for others in our lives (and vice versa, from time to time) and do your best to roll with it. Corporate culture of squeezing every miserable dime out of employees to further enrich the shareholders and executives is far more of a problem than someone needing flexibility in their schedules as they manage whatever’s going on their lives outside of work.

      Practically speaking, take it case by case, and try to ensure no one person ends up shouldering the burden for the issues of the group. For the guy who leaves early but works later, what tasks can his coworkers leave for him while they do the more urgent requests? Can work be shifted that way? For the guy who is flexibly out of the office, just make sure everyone puts dial-ins on meetings he’s on, and maybe see if you can get him to commit to being in on, say, Wednesday mornings every week for things that require face time, or at least make it clear that “flexible” doesn’t mean “full-time remote” and he’ll have to let people know when he will be in the office.

      And so on. It can be annoying for those on more traditional schedules or whatever to work around this stuff, but the odds are very good that something will come up in their lives at some point that needs flexibility and it all tends to even out in the end.

    4. INeedANap*

      All of these things seem to be a problem with the manager, not the flex time.

      Complications for meeting scheduling does not seem significant to me, especially only one day. That’s just normal business in my experience.

      Flexible work from home – this is a performance issue, where the employee needs to have a system in place so that they’re accessible for meetings or signatures or whatever.

      Leaving at 3pm: if this role isn’t one that can support that, then again – it shouldn’t have been negotiated in the first place.

      The technology issue is just a performance issue, I don’t see that it has anything to do with a flexible workplace.

      Junior employee and the overworked team – these are both issues with mismanagement, not any flex time.

      The only thing that I see having to do with actual consequences of flex time is the FMLA one, and that’s one where I think the other employees have to kind of suck it up because it may be them out on FMLA next; that’s the nature of life itself, not flex time.

    5. Lucette Kensack*

      Hmm. I don’t think I did a good job describing what I’m really thinking about. I’m not asking whether the managers are doing a good job of handling these things, and I don’t mean to focus exclusively on flexible schedules.

      What I’m getting at is how we can best navigate the tension between managing each employee’s individual situation (their preferences about where and when they work; the kinds of work they do well and less well; how they manage workload and overwork; etc.) and managing teams of employees that work together.

      As I said, in each specific case here, the individual employee was valued enough that their specific requests were approved (whether that means a flex schedule or the ability to control what work they will or won’t do).

      I think what is happening in most of these cases is that the managers aren’t thinking comprehensively enough about the impact of that flexibility and what they need to do as a result.

      For example: Employee #4 is incredibly talented and valuable. There is no question that, even with his minimal technology skills, he important to the organization. Giving him support with basic technology is a worthwhile trade-off. But I think the manager of his team needs to think about who it is impacting and take some steps to address that — even if it’s just communicating really clearly about what is happening and why.

      1. KEG*

        I think the other commenters are making valid points, even if that’s not the crux of your question. Having multiple employees on different flexible schedules may be causing extra tension because it’s not in alignment with how your office works. Staff shouldn’t be spending a ton of energy coordinating standard work activities because of this. For example, with #3 if you have a lot of meetings it either needs to be ok for someone to call into meetings, or that person’s flexibility, to work from home/wherever, only applies to days they don’t have to attend a meeting. It’s great to accommodate people, IF it makes sense for your office.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It still boils down to the managers taking the easy way out and letting people do what they want in the name of ‘flexibility’ at the determent of the rest of the team. They’re not playing out the actual consequences, that’s why it’s ended up being so messy.

        They value employees so they give them the ability to shun technology and form schedules that make them regularly unavailable for meetings? That’s pretty ridiculous, it sounds more like they’re avoiding immediate conflict, not wanting to say no and don’t want to tell people they’re going to do the things they’re assigned to do, rather they like it or not because to take X off their plate means that others have to figure it out, which isn’t working well either.

        They seem to just rubber stamp requests for “accommodations” and therefore people take full advantage of them [sure why not?] and it ends up in a messy mess.

        If someone is on FMLA you figure out how to handle the sporadic absences, just like you should plan ahead for emergencies or planned absences.

        It’s the person’s fault that they’re damaging their own reputation by not understanding that they’re within a company that values face time. Yes you can show up at 10am, we won’t assume you’re dead but yeah, working less than 40 hrs in most places who are all working 40hrs unless you’re designated as part-time or a fill-in role is a thing that most places frown upon on a higher level. Not necessarily fair but that’s on the person choosing that life, they have to be the ones who teach themselves and learn about optics etc.

      3. Kathenus*

        We’ve recently been discussing a situation that has some similarities. People from one area are asked to help in another area at time when that area is short staffed, and vice versa. We’ve had to make it clear that if area 1 has a person go to area 2 for the day, that the whole team pitches in to pick up the slack, but that we – as managers – also realize that area 1 is down a half person that day so that we don’t expect the same work output. I don’t believe in the ‘make it work’ scenario, or the phrase ‘doing more with less’. You do less with less, or you look for efficiencies to increase the output with the same resources, but it’s unfair to employees and unrealistic to expect the same output with fewer resources. So I tell my team that if they feel I’m doing that, to call me out, because I don’t realize that I’m coming across that way. It’s my job to set realistic and clear expectations, and to give staff the resources needed to do the job. When resources are reduced, it’s my job to work with them to adjust expectations or find more resources. That’s my job as a manager.

        So for some of these scenarios I think the failure IS in management expecting the same result with fewer resources and not resetting expectations to the available resources, or finding more resources to fill the gap.

      4. The New Wanderer*

        I think it matters that #4 (lacking basic tech skills), #5 (not working 40 hrs), and #7 (refusing to do certain tasks) are not working with negotiated flexible schedules that should be accommodated. They are exhibiting performance problems that do not need to be, and should not be, accommodated, barring any deals they have with management on their specific instances. The answer is not to have people work around them if they’re not actually doing their full job and every other employee is.

        #4 = here is some training, you will be expected to know and perform these basic tasks by X date. If this person is valuable, then they can learn these basic functions. The other option is to remove those tasks from that role, but if everyone else in that role are doing them there’s really no excuse for enabling this.
        #5 = in this job, it is important to be available at your desk for 40 hours, during the standard hours of X am to Y pm, even if your work for the day/week is already complete.
        #7 = your role requires that you perform X, Y, and Z tasks. You can no longer refuse to perform Z tasks.

    6. Alianora*

      1) (4-day workweek) That doesn’t seem like such a big deal to me, I think the employee can just work around it.

      2) (flexible wfh) I think this employee should either let people know that he’s going to call in when he accepts the meeting invite, or come in to the meeting in person. Flexibility doesn’t mean that you automatically get to be unreliable like that.

      3) (3:00 pm daycare) That’s what he negotiated, so again I don’t think this is something that needs to be changed.

      4) (technology incompetent) Not good, manager needs to either train the employee or let him go if he can’t do basic elements of his job.

      5) (less than 40 hour week) If he negotiated for this, I think his manager should make that clear to the senior management. And they should also make sure to praise his work to them (as they should for all their employees who do good work.)

      7) (won’t do certain work) Sounds unreasonable from what you’ve said here, but I think more context is needed.

    7. Zephy*

      #4: lern2computers or gtfo – honestly, it’s 2019. Computer-based data entry and printing have been a routine part of the job in most fields for literally twenty years. It’s time to learn.

    8. BobbyBob*

      It might be helpful to implement “core hours” where everyone is expected to be available (except on actual days off or leave). Everyone can have the flexibility they need or want outside of the core hours. I’ve seen a couple workplaces do this and it seemed to balance the flexibility and scheduling/collaboration issues fairly well.

    9. JulieCanCan*

      As a person who once worked in a small department (3 people) where one employee had “flexible” hours which meant she was rarely in the office when it was necessary to be there, and for some reason she was allowed to get away with this for the entire torturous time I worked there, I can vouch for the level of frustration created within the rest of the group. I grew to despise this person, since not only was i in the office 50% more (we didn’t have any “work from home” abilities- she just managed to create her own ridiculous schedule and no one complained or thought it was an issue). I steadily grew to despise her and her lack of ability and accountability, which just made being there really hard.

      All I’m trying to say is that these kinds of things effect the workload and workplace more than just resentment and hard feelings. When people are becoming burned out because work is unevenly distributed and it grows to a head, bad things happen.

  30. Josine*

    Today I found out about HireVue’s use of AI and machine learning to screen candidates based on body language and intonation. I find this extremely concerning on an ethical level – frankly, I find it dehumanizing. I also don’t think it’s an effective way to find talent.

    I would like to hear from people who have used this tool to hire and what they think of it.

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      This reply is essentially a bookmark so I can find this very good question again easily. I had NOT heard of this and I really want to know more. :-/

    2. LCL*

      Wow. I just looked at their website. Their basic claim is that by using AI and machine learning based on proven criteria, whatever that is, they will be able to hire without bias. I’m skeptical. They claim it is better for applicants because the applicant can complete the interview/assessment on their own schedule, instead of phone tag. Which sounds great, it’s the AI assisted selection I question. If you wanted a workforce that was all similar culturally, this would be a way to get it.

      1. downtown funk*

        Their basic claim is that by using AI and machine learning based on proven criteria, whatever that is, they will be able to hire without bias.

        …Well, they clearly don’t understand software.

      2. gecko*

        Yup, this is an excellent way to get a workforce that looks a lot like the team that developed the product. Likely a big ol’ group of 29-year-old white American men. Nice way to offload your hiring discrimination onto a neutral third party :P

        1. Elizabeth*

          I was just about to reply that the “proven criteria” is based on algorithms, which are based on either on what the developers think is normal or on what you already have- which in turn means you either get an extremely homogeneous team who all think and work the same or you get a team of software developers to do all sorts of other roles.
          The idea of AI is that it will respond to and learn from feedback – but I doubt that we truely have enough input and enough feedback from all of our societies to have a truely effective and impartial selection process. And what happens if the AI selects the ideal person to fit into a team, because that person exhibits characteristics that are different from other team members and so will round out the team really well, but the manager doesn’t get that or can’t cope with someone who thinks differently to them?

    3. JokersandRogues*

      If it’s what I’m thinking of, AI/machine learning can be biased because the programmers unintentionally teach it biases (against different cultures that behave differently in similar circumstances). It would be consistently biased of course but I think it’s problematic to depend on it as the sole arbiter.

      1. Nancie*

        Not just programmers, but hardware designers. I know there’s been at least one issue somewhat recently with cameras that couldn’t distinguish the features of people with dark skin. That could skew the results of body language, if any of it was focused on the face.

      2. just a random teacher*

        The main issue with current AI bias is that since you’re feeding it a bunch of training data and letting the AI come up with its own criteria, it’ll bake in whichever biases are easy for it to detect in that training data, with no thought to whether or not those are “okay” things to screen on the basis of.

        (Some things are ok to screen on the basis of! Otherwise we wouldn’t have a job-seeking process with applications and interviews, just a lottery with a job applicant drawn at random for each position after typing their email address into the application form. However, an AI won’t distinguish between “ok” reasons to decide someone is better suited for the job than someone else, such as relevant experience doing x in another position, and “not ok” reasons to decide someone is better suited for the job than someone else, like their name and pronouns are more like the names and pronouns of previous successful hires.)

    4. gecko*

      I haven’t used this tool but I’m in tech and know a bit about AI. This does nothing to reduce bias in hiring. It may even increase it by reducing oversight on “top candidate” results.

      I would be surprised if the “top candidate” examples fed to the AI as training data are equitable examples across race, gender, neurotypicality, etc. I would not be surprised if the AI had statistically significant trouble reading highly-rated body language on non-white faces. I wouldn’t be surprised if the AI were even worse at giving non-Americans high ratings.

      Using this in hiring is a really bad idea, particularly if they’re not already talking about what they’re actively doing to prevent discrimination. I saw some claims on their website that this will prevent discriminatory hiring of only people who look like you, and while it may work a little bit in that direction, it will introduce additional significant and very subtle vectors of discrimination.

    5. I Took A Mint*

      This sounds like something we should combine with that AI that learned from Twitter to create a Racist Super-Robot.

  31. Anon for this*

    I have a variation on the “when to follow up” question. I currently work for a government regulator. While we are able to apply for jobs within the industry we regulate, we have to adhere to certain ethics guidelines, the foremost of which is to recuse ourselves from any matter involving a potential employer. In order to clear this ethical hurdle, I would either have to hear from the potential employer that they are not moving forward with me as a candidate or recuse myself from the hiring process.
    Five months ago (early December), I was contacted by an internal recruiter for a large company about a mid- to senior level position. I’m not actively looking for a job, but there were some things about this one that I found very interesting, including that this new venture was a big priority for the company. After some back and forth (i.e., salary range, seniority of the position, etc.), I applied. This is a fairly specialized niche position. In my town where they are hiring, I only know of a few people who would be qualified. I happen to have an additional qualification on my resume that only two or three other people have – two of whom have told me they aren’t interested. So I know I was a leading candidate, but that it was likely to be competitive between those of us who did apply.
    The recruiter told me they wanted to fill this quickly (by the end of the year), which seemed a bit aggressive to me. So I wasn’t surprised when that (obviously) didn’t happen. I had a lengthy phone interview in January and a month later I went in for a 4 hour in person interview where I met with several senior members of leadership. I was told they would be in touch within the next week.
    After three weeks, I’d heard indications in my network that the company was recruiting other people to apply. I hadn’t heard anything, so I asked the recruiter if they had an updated timeline. He assured me they were very interested, but between vacations and business conferences, he didn’t have any new information. He told me he’d be in touch in a week or so.
    That was a month ago. I’ve heard nothing and they took the job posting down from their website last week. I’m assuming at this point that they’ve hired someone else. That’s fine. I’m annoyed that they head hunted me so aggressively and I spent a number of hours on this, but I guess I’m not surprised that they haven’t been in touch.
    I’ve moved on mentally at this point, and if I didn’t have my ethics issues, I’d consider it done. My question is, to comply with my ethics rules, at what point do I reach out to them and “withdraw”. On the off chance they are just moving slowly (although at this point, they would exceed government hiring timelines), I don’t want to withdraw formally. On the other hand, I don’t want to unnecessarily recuse myself from something at work and out myself as looking for a job when I really wasn’t. But given the nature of my job, I can’t have this hanging out there forever. I was recently assigned two new matters are work (neither of which involved this employer), so I have some breathing room for now and can wait a month or two to reach out.

    1. BRR*

      I’d probably wait a bit to see if you hear either way. I think it would be ok to reach out and ask if they have an update on their timeline. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to explain that you’re interested but just need to know if you’re still being considered for ethics reasons. Also, is there someone you can consult at your current job who wouldn’t out you to your department? An ethics office?

  32. OlympiasEpiriot*

    Just need to share…my job requires that I juggle multiple projects as a PM (consultant firm in a specialty within civil engineering). I’ve had one particular job with a client I have/have had many jobs with (we have a master services contract) that has been insanely stressful due to their client setting unreasonable deadlines and then my main point of contact within our client apparently being at the end of their rope which resulted in me getting “ghosted” for all practical purposes. I only was getting contacted by them on this job to get castigated for not giving them things they say they needed, but they weren’t responding when I replied or called to get clarification or do other things to make sure I help them to help themselves. Yesterday, I wanted to find a soundproof room to scream in. Instead, I went to a more senior person on our internal team for this client and basically moaned to them for 10 minutes going over ALL that I had been doing to try to give them what they need.

    This morning I FINALLY had a productive phone call with the client with one of their higher-ups as well on the call (initiated by said higher-up, who also seems to be new to the firm…I think they’ve been going through some internal uphevals) which ended up with them getting it as to why and how I should have been and, going forward, should be more involved in the project with them and THEIR client.

    I feel like a great weight has been lifted. Now just to get the deadline met.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Just here nodding my head. My main project and other smaller projects have good clients right now, but I’ve had some terrible ones in the past. Sometimes it all seems like a lot of work for the ever-decreasing margins in some of our markets. (Don’t get me wrong–we have some really great work in great markets right now, just not the ones I am personally working in.)

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        In this case, I don’t think it has to do with the changing margin issue. There’s a big agency that had a bunch of its jobs for its consultants this year get issued late and yet they still want everything done by the same deadline. There’s lots of steps to the process and moving parts and my client has gotten squeezed. This particular project has had lots of sub-parts, too, which have increased complexity (things that were out of either of our hands, but needed to be done if the job were to be done correctly) and made it more stressful. So much has been submitted out of order just to keep up with the schedule. (Parallel submissions, essentially.)

        I had thought it was some kind of a fiscal year thing initially; after a conversation with a buddy in that agency (but in a different department who interacts with the project-issuing department) I have dismissed that hypothesis. It seems likely that someone within the agency dropped a ball or twelve and everyone is playing catch-up.

        And then the stress trickles down.

  33. Introvert girl*

    What do you do to counteract the exhaustion from working all day using your brain? I’m just too exhausted to do anything else but take care of my dog. Sometimes we go for long Wales but I’m still knackered.

    1. Grace*

      I read YA with a good cup of tea, or I take long soaks in the bathtub. Sometimes all three at once. Mainly try to do something that you enjoy, but that doesn’t require a lot of brain power (but that occupies you enough that your brain isn’t still thinking about work stuff). Knitting/crocheting with a favorite movie on might work, if you enjoy that. Adult coloring books are good, too.

      1. Introvert girl*

        Thanks, maybe I’ll do some cross-stitch. Did that a couple of years ago, it’s quite relaxing.

      2. TiffanyAching*

        I second doing something that gets your hands or body moving that doesn’t require a ton of effort + something that occupies your brain enough to push work-thoughts out but isn’t complicated. I personally crochet and binge netflix, or do light cleaning (folding laundry, wiping down counters, etc.) while listening to podcasts.

    2. Notinstafamous*

      Sleep more! And have hobbies that don’t require the same kind of active thought. I’m never going to learn another language after work but I can cook and listen to music and just accept that my brain is tired. If you were working out at the gym for a long day and exhausted, you wouldn’t come home and go to the gym.

      Also someone told me to eat good fats like salmon and avocado but I don’t know if that’s legit or if it’s just because they’re tasty.

      1. New Job So Much Better*

        I can relate. I used to write fiction (and publish) in my free time, but my current job (which I love) is so mentally draining I can’t focus on anything more than light reading or Wheel of Fortune in the evenings.

        1. Introvert girl*

          I’m still at chapter 3 of the book I’m trying to write but my job exhausts me. I translate teapots 8 hours a day.

      2. Introvert girl*

        I’m not getting enough sleep lately, that’s true. And maybe trying to learn how to code in the evenings is just to hard.

      3. Notinstafamous*

        I read somewhere (possibly here?) that if you’re too tired to do anything but watch TV then you’re too tired to watch TV and you need to just go to sleep.

        Also – why do you need to do something to intellectually stimulating after work? Is it something that inspires you and you want to? Is it something you need to do (passing a CRA exam or something)? Or is it just a feeling that you’re “wasting” time that could hypothetically be productive time?

        Because if it’s the first two you probably need a solution but if it’s the last one than I just want to say that relaxation (playing with your dog! Reading YA novels! Colouring!) is a perfectly valid thing to spend your time doing and you don’t need to feel like you’re always hustling if you don’t want to. Rest is important, balance is important, life itself outside of work and capitalism is important.

        1. valentine*

          Sleep two hours more than you are now, a minimum of 10 hours, for a while, then reassess. Or maybe moving your hours would help, especially if you’re a night person.

      4. Clever Name*

        Yes to the mindless hobbies! My boyfriend really really wants me to take up Dungeons and Dragons, and while it does look like fun, I just want to not have to plan ahead and analyze after doing just that all day at work. Same goes for playing chess. My 12 year old always beats me because I never care enough to actually think about strategy…

    3. Emily S.*

      Reading, lounging on the couch listening to podcasts, and watching far too much television.

      1. Introvert girl*

        I love reading, but I easily fall asleep when reading, so I try to do it in bed, after my last doggie-walk.

    4. The Ginger Ginger*

      I love audiobooks and knitting/crochet. Audiobooks mean I can “read”/consume some entertaining media, but give my eyes a break from screens. Knitting/crochet is awesome because it’s hands on, good for your brain (in different ways than working is), plus I find it very, VERY meditative and calming. You can make something as simple or complicated as you want. Plus there are some studies about how it helps cognitive function and mental health. That’s how I decompress.

      1. Introvert girl*

        At work I like to listen to BBC radio 4 extra “Words and music”. These are pieces of music (old and new), poetry and prose. Every episode lasts an hour ans is concentrated around one theme.

        1. The Ginger Ginger*

          This sounds delightful, I ‘m going to look into it! Maybe similar to Rufus Wainwright’s Take All My Loves: 9 Shakespeare Sonnets album (which I really like). It’s 9 sonnets performed in various ways with music and readers. Several of which are very recognizable, like Helena Bonham Carter and William Shatner.

      2. DataGirl*

        I only do audiobooks anymore, because then I can do something else with my hands while consuming the story (drive, cook, craft).

        1. The Ginger Ginger*

          Me too! That’s the only way chores, cooking, gaming, etc gets done. Slap on an audio book!

    5. Anonforthis*

      I crochet while watching Netflix or what have you, walk with my dog, and lately, I’ve been going to the gym a couple of evenings a week to work out, which for me just means 45 minutes or so doing some cardio. I’ve found that I’m sleeping better and generally feel better (even though no weight loss as of yet). I don’t go home first, as I’ve found that once I get home, that’s it.

      1. Introvert girl*

        That’s my problem too. Once I hit the couch, I just collapse. I do like my walks with the dog. They de-stress me mentally.

        1. JulieCanCan*

          I’m the same exact way. Walking my dog while listening to podcasts is my form of relaxation and enjoyment. But if I sit down after I get home from my after-work dog walk, forget it! I’m a lost cause.

    6. That Californian*

      I know it’s not everyone’s bag, but a ten-minute deep breathing and meditation session helps me a lot. It helps me separate my work day and my after-work day, and the deep breathing relaxes and re-energizes me. There are a ton of podcasts and other media for guidance, or you can just set a timer, close your eyes, and focus on breathing deeply and slowly for a while. If you fall asleep, maybe that’s a nice break too. :-) The timer will wake you up.

    7. Admin of Sys*

      Art! But not difficult art. (assuming, mind you, that you’re not in a creative field). I find coloring books work well, as does painting basic / formulaic things. Not like Bob Ross painting (though that’s fine if you like his style and have oil paints, etc) but more like – abstract ‘paint the canvas blue shading to purple’ type things. Nothing you can fail at, but something colorful and engaging.
      If you /are/ in a creative field, listening to music may be helpful? Put on something you can immerse yourself in while you take the walks. Basically, try to engage the parts of your brain that you’re not using at work, to let the work side rest.
      (I know current neurological theories say right / left brain split is a myth, but switching from analytical skills to a visual-input focused appreciation, or similarly going from highly visual processing to language or musical focus allows your mind to let go of the work topics and avoids getting caught in the ‘continuing to think about work’ trap.)

    8. DataGirl*

      mostly TV and stupid games on my phone. I always think I will do some knitting or other productive activity, but it never happens.

    9. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I think the dog walks sound like a great idea. For the months when I was swimming daily, I was sleeping better and feeling like I recovered more quickly.
      I’m trying to figure out how I can get back to that despite my changed schedule… Wish I weren’t away from the house too long to get a dog. Yardwork helps me some…especially repetitive heavy stuff with a visible result, like raking, shoveling, and cutting up storm-damaged branches.

    10. Elizabeth*

      Try to get some aerobic exercise before work. The before work is really important because it will set you up well for the day. Take your dog for a run in the morning before going to work. 20 minutes of heart rate higher than normal will make a big difference. You will also be physically fitter which will help with the mental work.
      Listen to audio books on the way to and from work. It makes the commute feel much more like leisure time.

  34. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Going to do some new volunteer work! Some people I know started a nonprofit, the Bitty Kitty Brigade, to volunteer to bottle-raise and vet orphaned kittens.

    Overall, from fostering animals and this upcoming, I feel I have learned some skills useful across the board at work. How do you all talk or not talk about that?

    Also, now I get access to the Facebook group full of TINY KITTEN PHOTOS!

    1. Grace*

      When there’s downtime at work, you share the itty bitty kitty photos with others at work who enjoy cats. definitely. Let the conversations flow from that. Just don’t force the kitty photos on non-cat people.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        Exactly in my office who is and who isn’t a cat person is widely known. Sometimes in bigger group meetings we might have some cat talk but will generally cut it short. The more in depth cat talk/cat picture sharing is kept between the cat people. But even though I am a well known cat person, on of my coworkers another cat person the other day asked me if I wanted to see some cat pictures before she showed them to me. I was “offended” that she asked if I wanted to see the cat pictures, because I am always up for cat pictures.

    2. ElspethGC*

      In this vein, TinyKittens (Canadian charity working with feral cats to TNR and socialise) has a new litter of kittens born via C-section on their livestream, and another litter on the way in a week or so! I suspect anyone reading this particular thread is 100% down for 24/7 kitten livestreams.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      AAAAH that’s adorable. I briefly shared a house with someone who had bottle-raised an orphaned kitten from the age she fit in the palm of his hand. She was a weird cat for having had no mama or siblings — but the dog was delighted to finally have a cat who didn’t ignore him.

    4. Zephy*


      If you haven’t fostered neonates before, and your day job offers an EAP, maybe take down that number and keep it in your back pocket. Hand-raising wee tiny babes is an amazing experience, but it’s really hard not to take it personally when one of them doesn’t make it.

      1. Anonysand*

        This this this this this. I spent several years fostering sick and abandoned kittens and while it is so rewarding, it’s can be incredibly emotionally (and sometimes physically) draining when every day is a test of survival. Make sure you have a support team around you who understands what you’re taking on, someone you can talk to if you do end up dealing with loss.

  35. Tiptoe Through the Tulips*

    Has anyone else struggled with putting up with a dysfunctional work environment after becoming “enlightened” by great resources like this site? I always knew things were a little off at my job (typical small business issues, poor management from an unpredictably moody boss, etc.). Since I discovered this site I find myself increasingly frustrated when I see how things should/could be with good management, co-workers, and practices. I’m sure it’s unusual to find all of those things in one place, hence why this site is so popular and useful, but it makes me wish I didn’t have so much material to work with that I could write a weekly letter to AAM asking for advice on the latest lunacy. I’m just curious to see if anyone else has had this same experience after discovering this site.

    I am job searching and hope to get out of here but am being picky, so it may take some time.

    1. Middle Manager*


      Since finding AAM and other resources, I’ve realized how dysfunctional our culture is and in particular how dysfunctional our management culture is.

    2. Teapot Painter*

      I had the unfortunate experience of finding this blog AFTER I left HorribleToxicJob. It helped me affirm that it was indeed as bad as I thought though, and that it will take years to adjust to this good stable job. For reference: OldJob was a houseful of angry bees. NewJob only has a handful flying around on occasion, but I can easily avoid getting stung. I only wish I had found out they were real bees earlier, instead of thinking they were only in my head.

      So, I would use the site to help with resumes, interviews, and cover letters. Keep on being picky!

    3. Michelle*

      Oh, I have. I see/hear things and think “Nope, that’s wrong. Alison & the commentariat say X and Y is never going to work”.

    4. KEG*

      Yes! I think I work for a pretty good company overall, but a lot of my senior coworkers could benefit from management training.

    5. Free Meerkats*

      Consider yourself an anthropologist observing a particularly interesting tribe while living with them. You are with them but not of them.

      Then write about your findings here.

      1. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

        +1. I have been passing this bit of wisdom on to the young one at his first job/ first boss. He successfully managed to not rise to the bait of a bad manager, and did not quit the bad job (yet). But I’ve had to explain this concept in depth, to help him learn to disengage while he job hunts. Next, to get him to read Allison’s book…

  36. Blue*

    A low-stakes questions, but the advising/student affairs-titles-on-a-resume question from earlier this week got me thinking about my own student affairs-related resume. It includes academic advising positions at three different institutions, two of which spell “advisor” the way you normally see it in higher ed, but the other spells it “adviser.” In the past, both spellings have appeared in my materials, with the -er spelling used only in reference to the position at that particular institution. This hasn’t proven to be a problem thus far, but I still wonder if it’d be better to be consistent in the spelling, even when it’s not technically correct. Thoughts?

    1. Anony-miss*

      I would pick one way or the other and keep it consistent on your resume. When they follow up to confirm your title/employment, I don’t think the change in one letter would come off as strange since it seems to be a stylistic preference rather than a totally different title.

    2. Less Bread More Taxes*

      I’d go with a consistent spelling, otherwise it may come across as a typo. And you’re not going to be penalised for spelling one job title incorrectly.

    3. LJay*

      My job uses Materiel for my department name, which is apparently a military thing.

      I spell it Material on resumes and such. I don’t think a reference checker would be like, “Well she said she is in the materials department but she’s really in the materiel department. She’s lying and I won’t hire her because of it.” The meaning is basically the same. People familiar with the term materiel will also be familiar with the word material. While people unfamiliar with the word materiel will just think I’m spelling it wrong.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Grammarly’s blog has discussed this. Summary at the top:
      -Adviser is a person who gives advice.
      -An advisor does the same thing—the only difference is in the spelling.
      -Adviser is the older and the preferred spelling.
      To avoid going into moderation, it’s grammarly’s basic URL then /blog/advisor-vs-adviser/

  37. Anony-miss*

    How do you know when it’s time to move on to the next thing? I recently dragged myself out of wallowing in a sort of professional crisis and now I’m started to be motivated again about my work and accomplishments. There’s a number of jobs I’m applying to at other organizations. I’ve only worked at one organization but for multiple roles, and I’m considered really successful and valuable here. So I guess I’m wondering, am I successful in general and good at what I do, or am I only successful here because I’ve been here for 4 years and figured out the system? How do I know when to take the leap of faith and try for something new?

    1. anonagain*

      I don’t have advice about the broader question you are asking, but I think you should move on. It is better to search for and start a new job when you are still motivated and positive about your work and your accomplishments. It is much harder to go through that process when you are in a professional crisis, even though that can provide the impetus to leave.

      This is advice I wish someone had given me. I started job searching when I was no longer motivated or feeling good about my accomplishments and it was a struggle to conceal how defeated I felt. My plan for the future is to look for new opportunities when things are still going well and I can approach the search from a good place.

      As to whether you are really good at what you do or if you just figured out your current organization, those things aren’t necessarily miles apart. You figured out how to succeed in this organization and you’ll figure out how to be successful in the next one.

      If anything, that concern is a reason to leave sooner rather than later so you can start getting more varied experience now.

      1. Anony-miss*

        Thank you so much for this! I was starting to feel like I should just stick with my current job because it was as good at things were going to get/all I deserved. I’ll definitely try to channel the things I’m feeling positive about into the next opportunity instead of seeing them as something to settle for.

    2. Reba*

      re: “figuring out the system” vs. general skill, while it’s true that many processes and whatnots will be specific to your workplace and not necessarily transferable, learning/knowing how to learn is hugely valuable, often hard to account for, and definitely transferable to other work.

      Congrats on hauling yourself out of a funk!

      1. Anony-miss*

        Thank you! It feels so weird to be on the other side of it and look back at how I was feeling then.

        Re: the knowing how to learn – that’s such a good way of putting it. My field pretty universally has lots decentralized and opaque systems, so maybe I can use learning how to navigate those as a selling point in my job materials

  38. Oh no*

    How understanding should I be of a new team/boss gossiping when their past supervisor was very difficult?

    I am a new-ish employee of 4 months. I’ve come to find out that my team and boss have a sour reputation, funny to some and evil to others. My boss and senior coworker were telling me this story about how they made fun of a supervisor because they couldn’t spell and misused big words (eg, they misused “copious” a lot so now they say “That’s a coconut amount of paperwork you have.” And played drinking games where they would take a sip of coffee every time the supervisor mispronounced in a meeting.) or make fun of her weight or how she’s “dressed like a hooker.” This supervisor (my boss’s boss) left before I came in. I’m the youngest, and apparently another person my age called my boss and senior coworker out on this behavior, in which they told them to mind their own business because they didn’t know what that supervisor put them through.

    I mean, from their stories, this supervisor did seem terrible and mean and toxic. But also, this is now breeding a toxic environment in my opinion! It’s all gossip and bad mouthing the old boss and if it’s not them, it’s someone else in current leadership. I feel awkward because I don’t want to participate and I don’t want to be associated with it (I think that’s too late.)

    But maybe I’m being too harsh in my assessment? Is it understandable to vent about this often because they survived the toxicity? This is only my second job and this didn’t happen in that role (besides complaining occasionally with coworkers on my same level about workload.)

    1. Rey*

      You’re not being too harsh. Yes, this is toxic for several reasons. 1) Their complaints sound like mean girls, not professionals. 2) The supervisor has left but they are still passing this on to new employees. 3) When they got called out on it, they became defensive.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yeah it’s the pettiness of the comments that loses them any higher ground here. It’d be one thing to say “Agatha was disorganized and that’s why we don’t have files for the audit, Agatha created a culture of fear among employees and that’s why nobody wants to raise issues, Agatha was embezzling and that’s why we don’t get raises, Agatha was inappropriate with the interns and that’s why we need you to sign this conduct document” – at least those are factual and relevant. But the stuff they’re still harping on is making them sound like snotty teenagers.

    2. fposte*

      Whoa, this is gross. And this is also why we often push back here when somebody is dealing with a frustrating colleague by being mean–because then you end up being mean.

      1. valentine*

        Totally gross, especially the bodily bit. I’ve always cultivated a reputation of not being the audience for this. I’d report them and, if they didn’t stop and were otherwise gross, I’d transfer or leave.

    3. Grassfire*

      I’m dying inside because you could be talking about me and my colleagues joking around (in a work social setting) with our new boss about our absurdly toxic old boss from a while back…ugh. I felt gross about it but this confirms it. So, how to professionally repair the damage? Just never do it again and move forward, or communicate with new boss and acknowledge that it was unprofessional? Yuck.

  39. GigglyPuff*

    After looking for another job for about 2 years (specialized area, not that many job applications), I finally got a job offer! Yay for validation. Unfortunately due to the amount of yellow flags, and the direction it would take my career, I’m not ready for or am sure I’d ever want, I’m turning it down. Luckily everyone in my life has been super supportive about it, even though in the past I’ve said I’d take any job to get out of where I am now. This has shifted in the last six months as my mental health got better, so I’m not as desperate to leave.

    I want to be excited about my next job and I just never was excited about this job, and no one there seemed to be excited either. Since I’ve been searching for a while, I’ve had a good amount of interviews and am fairly good as judging situations, this environment just seemed off. It’s been one of the hardest decisions of my life, but the relief I felt yesterday when I settled on the no, made me realize I made the right choice. Although that 10% of my brain that says “what if”, is having a hard time turning off. Thankfully I have great and supportive friends who know the right things to say.

    1. Teecha B.*

      Hooray for smart decisions! I’m going to chime in as a voice of the road not taken. I, too, work in a specialized area with very few openings. I have always jumped on job offers, every time knowing that I was not a great fit for the organization, and being very aware of lots of flags. My thought process has always been “I get to do what I love, and if that means doing it in a place where I will never fit in with the culture, oh well.” I’ve spent a lot of time being miserable, and I’ve moved jobs every 5 or 6 years in a 20 year career.

      Until this year! After 2 years on the market, the job that opened up was a terrific fit. For the first time, I’m excited not just for the work I do, but the environment where it happens. There were moments during my 2 year search where I stared into the abyss and the abyss started back into me, so I’m rooting for you. Stand up for yourself and what you deserve. You did something really brave, but it was absolutely the right thing. I’ve wasted too much of my life jumping into situations I was not excited about at the outset. Listen to yourself. Best of luck.

      1. GigglyPuff*

        Thank you, you have no idea how much this means to me. It was a really difficult decision because I know it would give me the experience I’m lacking that has kept me from the other jobs I’ve interviewed for, some I was excited for, and the money was great. But I’ve been forced to learn a lot about myself and what I want at, my current job. When I started where I am now, I moved somewhere new, basically just starting my career, and was so naïve. But the reality slowly set when I realized the job wasn’t perfect, I had no idea who I was or what to do with myself in my free time.

        It basically triggered a major depressive episode, which was really driving my need to look for a new job. I thought if I could change the situation everything would just be better, that’s so not true. For the past year, I’ve been building myself back up, finding life outside work, learning to navigate within the issues I’ve had at work, including building my work ethic back up which took a huge blow. The best thing, when my mom said, who I still get help with my bills from, that my mental health comes first, because I was afraid, with all the flags I saw, that the environment it was presenting wouldn’t be great for me.

        So again thanks, I think that’s why I kind of posted about it, I was hoping for someone who’d gotten to find that job that excites them again about their work, even if it meant the unknown first.

        1. JulieCanCan*

          You are smart not only to be able to see that the opportunity was one that you shouldn’t jump into, but to understand that there will always be that “what if?” after making a decision like that. And you know what? Almost EVERYTHING has a “what if?” attached – the magical part of dealing with “what if’s” is being able to accept and let go of them. I think we have an obsession in the working world to always believe the grass would have been greener, or IS greener, regardless of how happy we currently are, but I have a strong belief that the decisions we ultimately make are usually the best ones we could make at the time with the information we had, and to hold on to the regrets or feelings of missing out on an opportunity that might have been better is a solid waste of time. Don’t get me wrong, I am guilty of obsessing over “what ifs?” and most people are, but letting that go can be such a liberating thing!! Give your all to the position you currently hold, learn and grow as much as you can, and when the right thing comes along, hopefully you’re going to be able to feel it.

          I hope you are happy and successful in your current role. As someone who knows depression all too well, I wish you the best and hope you’ll continue to keep the upper hand in your fight with it. I’m in the same boat and I know it can be rough; acknowledging it and understanding it are so important – they hold the foundation of being able to really keep it at bay ( along with medication- at least for me!) .

          Good luck and keep up the good fight!

  40. Bee's Knees*

    I got suspended last week (paid) because I worked on my birthday and was apparently not supposed to. So that was fun. I did appreciate the long weekend, but I had like 60 emails waiting for me on Monday.

    Yesterday I got in to work a little before 6, which is not a time of day I would prefer to have meetings. I committed bird vehicular homicide on my way in, which made sure I was SUPER awake.

    And now we’re facing more layoffs at our plant. Not fun.

    1. Teapot Librarian*

      You got suspended for working on your birthday?!? That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard in a long time, other than the person who did not get to take her birthday off because she was born on February 29.

      1. Bee's Knees*

        We give all the hourly employees their birthday off, which they can either take, or get holiday (double pay) time for working. I thought it would be the same since I’m salaried, but it’s a use it or lose it. I would have carried the day to a different Friday, but it had to be in the same pay period.

    2. Tiptoe Through the Tulips*

      Wait, what?! It was an actual you’re-in-trouble suspension and not a, “Oh, you probably didn’t realize that we give every employee their birthday off. Since you worked on yours, go ahead and take this Friday off as our gift to you” deal?

      1. Bee's Knees*

        It was more a take Friday off, because otherwise you will mess up payroll, and you were supposed to have it off. With a little Why didn’t you tell anyone it was your birthday? for flair.

        1. Tiptoe Through the Tulips*

          Oh, whew. I thought you were legitimately in trouble or something. Sounds like some goofy payroll thing on their end and you needed to appease them to help things flow smoothly. I do get how it can be problematic when you haven’t had time to prepare for that day off, though. I hope you were able to enjoy your day despite the work that was waiting for you on Monday!

          1. valentine*

            Still, your supervisor or whoever this was should duel the one who’s birthday-shunning the Leap Day employee.

    3. I Work on a Hellmouth*

      Wait. What.

      Dude, that is dumb, sucky, and sucky (in that order). I’m sorry things are gross. :(

      1. Bee's Knees*

        It could be better. It would be easier if certain supervisors weren’t blabbermouths, and we had been able to keep the impending shutdown issue to ourselves. Loose lips and ships. But no.

        And the bird thing was awful. It made noises. No. Just, no.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I hear you on that…I know how bad I felt when I veered around a frog and the stupid thing turned around and hopped right under my car. And that was over fast.

  41. AnitaJ*

    How do I deal with my impatience while managing up?

    For months we have had issues with one department–the employee was not getting work done. I was not involved with this situation so I don’t know if it was because of her workload or her work style, but work was not getting done for months and people were irritated. She very suddenly went out on leave. Company hired a contractor to backfill while she is gone. Contractor is a lovely person who inherited a huge mess and is trying to dig her way out, and seemingly being given no tools to help herself by her supervisor.

    I have been working closely with contractor to ensure that things get on the right path with all of the projects that affect my department (her work is firm-wide). Things are still not getting done. At this point I’ve been directed by my boss to actually take items from her and do them myself just to ensure they get done. And yet, in the end, I do not have the authority to move things forward past a certain point. So all things bottleneck through her.

    I feel for this employee; she is trying to deal with so much work and very little help. I have sat with her over and over, given her tips and guidance, and now am doing a chunk of her job for her. (I’m fine with that by the way, I enjoy this type of work.) But in the end, things are not getting done and they need to get done. How do I balance my frustration with my empathy?

    1. downtown funk*

      At this point I’ve been directed by my boss to actually take items from her and do them myself just to ensure they get done. And yet, in the end, I do not have the authority to move things forward past a certain point. So all things bottleneck through her.

      Rope in whoever has that authority. It sounds like your boss is aware of this, but is her boss aware of it? I know things are complicated once you’re dealing with contractors, but whoever made the decision to contract this out instead of hiring for it needs to know, let alone project managers, etc.

      1. AnitaJ*

        Totally agreed! And yes, my boss’ boss (aka the big boss) is aware and not as concerned at the moment. Ultimately, the business is not going to implode if this work doesn’t get done in a timely fashion. It just makes things so much harder for everyone, and I really want to make the process as smooth as possible for people. Couple this with the fact that I’m going out on leave in 2 weeks, so I’m hoping to at least hit some goals prior to that, and my impatience escalates!

    2. Hamburke*

      Does the work really bottleneck with this position or is there another reason for the bottleneck (technology, resources, unclear next step, piling on of “prioritized” other work)? I ask bc you’ve had 2 people in this position that have the same issue.

  42. Teapot Librarian*

    Please cross your fingers for me. I may be doing a temporary exchange of employees with another entity in my overall organization. Hoarder will go to that entity to fix a problem there that he would be very good at fixing, and an equally problematic employee from the other entity will come to my office to do a long-standing backlogged project. I’m just waiting on approval from my boss, and then I’ll need to broach the topic with Hoarder. I don’t expect he’ll be happy about the exchange, though the role he would be filling at the other entity really is perfect for him.

    1. Bee's Knees*

      Good luck! I’m trying to coordinate something like this myself. One of our sister locations needs some help, and we have too much, so I’m trying to ship some people off so they don’t get put on layoff.

  43. at a crossroads*

    Hey everyone, I’m about to have a phone interview in a few hours and I’m a bit of a wreck! I’m not actually nervous about the interview itself, but I have a lot of conflicted feelings about this opportunity, and I’d love to get some fresh perspectives on my situation!

    1) I actually really love my current job. My colleagues are fantastic, my boss is a dedicated mentor, and I do work I feel passionate about. So I recognize that I’m already super lucky. One of the reasons I applied for this other job is that it is located across the country, very near where I grew up, where my parents live, and where I hope to return some day. Job searches in my academic field don’t come up that often, and they are always national, so it’s not as if I can just pick up and move closer to my parents whenever I want. I’d love to be nearer to them before something happens that necessitates it (they are currently in their 70s, and I would like to be closer to them if they ever have health problems). Is it terrible for this to be one of my main reasons for applying for this job?

    2) This new job is a great opportunity to advance in my career (it’s a director level role, and I am currently an assistant director). However, it feels like a few years too soon. I think I am highly qualified for the position, but I also think I have a lot to learn where I currently am, and this would be a perfect job for me in 3-5 years. I am thinking ahead to the possibility of getting into this high-level role before I have enough experience to succeed at it.

    3) I feel super guilty about even considering moving on from my current job! I’ve been here 3 years, and my director has invested so much in me, and I’m really committed to this institution and its mission. I feel like I’d be betraying people who have done so much to nurture my professional development. I think in 3-5 years, they wouldn’t be surprised if I moved on, but right now, they’d be blindsided.

    4) Seriously, the only thing wrong with my current job is that it is 3000 miles from where I want to be. But even that has its pros and cons – the quality of life where I live right now is high, and the place where I’ve applied has a much higher cost of living. I love my friends and the community I’ve made where I am now. I just hate being so far from my family and my home state. I also struggle with living in a small college town that has such a small dating pool. I’m mid 30s, single, but would really like to change that. But applying for and taking new job merely for the possibility of meeting someone in a larger population center seems absurd to me. I’m doing so well professionally – am I crazy to consider leaving right now?

    Anyway, I know I don’t have a specific question, but I’d love to hear your thoughts!

    1. WellRed*

      Your career could flourish in the area, you could meet someone, you’ll be near your parents (if they are in their 70s, those potential health problems could happen sooner than you think). Why are you trying to talk yourself out of it?

      1. OP*

        Because despite all of the very positive possibilities you mention, every time I think about it, my gut tells me no. It just doesn’t feel right, for some reason. I’m a cautious person, change averse, and fearful of being in a leadership position before I’m ready. Thanks for the input – it’s helpful to see it from the perspective of someone who isn’t emotionally wrapped up in it.

    2. Anony-miss*

      I’m also struggling with this! I’ve been trying to look at it a few ways, and maybe it’ll be helpful for you too.

      1) There’s no guarantee, right? You could apply to this job and end up never hearing back. It’s happened to me before in my current role, and it wasn’t as bad because I knew worst case scenario, I already love my job.

      2) The sense of betrayal is so real, but I’ve found in the past that I’m usually the only one who sees it that way. In my last job I had a great boss, and only took a new role because she was leaving. But in hindsight, if I had stayed for that boss I wouldn’t be where I am now, because she was managing 15 people and there was only ever going to be so much she could do for me, despite wanting to do more. And in my field at least (also academic) 3 years is a really common time to start looking at the next step from assistant director.

      3) I’d spend some time thinking about the feeling that you’re qualified for this role but why you’d be better at it in 3-5 years. What specifically do you think you need to grow on? If you have that laid out, and then you end up not getting this job, then you have a plan for what to work on in the meantime to get there and be a more competitive candidate.

      1. OP*

        1) – you’re right! I’m getting ahead of myself. I should just do the interview and see what happens. If I don’t get moved to the next round, I can think about what I need to learn in the future.

        2) I think I’d be better at it in 3-5 years because right now I have no real experience making strategic decisions about the direction of an entire unit. So at least I know what I’d need to work on!

        3) As a fellow academic, maybe you can help me with this: one of my qualms about the new position is the extent to which the institution supports the mission and values of the work I do. Obviously they support it somewhat, because they’re creating this new position for it. But I know that where I am right now is a very good place to be for the field I’m in – tons of institutional support and name recognition. I’m worried about taking on a leadership role at a place where the institutional politics might not align as much in my favor.

        Thanks for the input!

        1. Anony-miss*

          Weirdly enough, this is also something I’m facing. I work right now in a particularly well-funded functional area for higher ed, but want to move to an area that’s way more inconsistently valued. For me, that means I’m interviewing new jobs just as much as they’re interviewing me. I could go back to working with a tiny budget and no leadership support if I believe enough in the mission, but do I want to? It’s one of the weights that goes on the scale along with office culture, pay, etc. outside of the job duties themselves. So I have to ask myself what is the least amount of support I’m willing to work with? For instance, I’d deal with an administration that’s indifferent to my goals but not one that’s actively hostile to them.

    3. Teecha B.*

      Three years ago, I made a cross-country move to take a job that was inferior to the one I held because my mother had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and was starting to decline. I hated the new job, but I will never regret the time I spent with my mother, (and it turned out that my father needed more support in this tough time than I originally had thought.) I have always been a person who put my job first, so this was not an easy move for me, and it has been hard. If I had it to do over again, knowing how hard it would be…I would absolutely make the same choice, because I was there for the last good year, and I’ve been there for the hard stuff since. (And 4 years after the first big move, I landed my dream job at another school which is only 2 hours from my family.)

      Academic jobs are hard to get. You could throw yourself wholeheartedly into the interview process and still not get the job, so you have nothing to lose by trying. There are pros and cons to every choice, but in my experience, I’m so grateful to have made the move. Best of luck to you.

      1. OP*

        Thank you for your perspective! And my sympathy for the struggles you, your mother, and father, have gone through. Best of luck to you as well!

    4. Elizabeth Proctor*

      My husband and I have been trying to relocate for over a year, and we’re only trying to move 3 hours away. I would seriously consider taking this opportunity if you get it, because it is hard to relocate.

  44. SallyF*

    Just out of curiosity, when going into a conference room for a job interview and told “Have a seat,” which seat do you select and why? (Let’s assume it’s a long table and there’s a window on one wall.)

    Personally, I usually select a seat next to the head of the table with my back to the window. I don’t want to be distracted by anything outside the window, to keep my focus on the interview. And I wouldn’t sit at the head of the table because it feels presumptuous.

    Also, if you are an interviewer, do you consciously/subconsciously note where the interviewee opts to sit?

    1. Four lights*

      I’ve sat where everyone can see me and we can all converse easily. Usually across the table, but sometimes at the head.

    2. CheeryO*

      My instinct is to go for a seat near the head at the side farther from the door, since it feels more natural to let them file in behind me and take the closer seats across from me. I did just that at my interview for my current job, and my now-boss asked me to swap sides with him for no apparent reason. I still haven’t been able to make heads or tails of that one!

    3. Murphy*

      I interviewed once and they had me sit at the head of a full conference table. It was awful.

      I feel like they’ve usually gestured towards a spot, or there was someone already sitting at the table so I just sat across from them.

    4. S-Mart*

      If I have one or two interviewers: middle of one long side, probably with my back to the window. Reasoning – I can sit directly facing my interviewer(s) and am not distracted by the outside world.

      If I have three or more interviewers: head of the table. Reasoning – easiest to stay mostly facing all my interviewers.

      If there’s a whiteboard or easel in the room, I skew toward sitting near it, as I expect I will be standing up to use it to demonstrate/draw something at some point.

      As an interviewer I only ever note the seat choice of my interviewee if it’s particularly odd – far askew from the position of already-seated interview panel; choosing the one seat with a pile of AV paraphernalia at it and then struggling to find a place to put a notebook or portfolio.

    5. JustaCPA*

      I would never sit with my back to a window – they glare/contrast will make my face difficult to read/see. I would prefer to have my interviewers backs to the window so I dont actually have to see them (cue the social anxiety) but in any case, I would either take the seat proffered or find a spot one down from the head of the table with the light on my face.

    6. Not So Little My*

      I’m a software engineer so I always sit on the side that has a clean whiteboard, because I assume I’m going to be asked to write either design diagrams or code on the whiteboard. I usually state verbally up front, “I’m going to sit where I can get to the whiteboard easily” as I do. Usually that ends up being on the long side of the table, and the interviewer sits across from me on the other long side.

    7. Lilysparrow*

      Facing the door, near a corner of the table. That way the interviewer can choose to sit across or alongside.

      But I like to face the door whenever I can.

    8. Canadian Natasha*

      My vote: Same side of the table as the window (ie. with my back to the window) and slightly more than halfway away from the head of the table. I can’t look for a long time at anyone who is backlit or it gives me a headache so facing the window would be the absolute worst spot for me.

      1. Canadian Natasha*

        Although it would depend on the number of people present. I’d move closer if it was a small group.

        1. Canadian Natasha*

          And definitely not directly in front of the window since I don’t want to make them suffer either.

  45. Karissa*

    People talk about the importance of being detail-oriented, and I completely get it, and I know that it’s important, but I’m . . . just not. I do not do well in roles that require someone who is very detail oriented. I would make a horrible accountant.

    It’s frustrating to see a lot of early career roles completely require that. I get why it would be more necessary then, but there have to be some areas where people who are not detail oriented can succeed too. I have tried to become more detail oriented, and it’s worked, but I’m not as good at it as people who are more inclined towards it.

    Sorry this turned into a rant. I don’t know what I want out of this. It’s just annoying that somehow detail oriented gets associated with definitely being a good worker, and that not being detail oriented can hide other strengths.

    1. Insignificant*

      I’ve noticed that most job ads list “detail oriented” in the requirements, and it makes me wonder what level of being “detail oriented” is actually needed since it seems like such a generic term. I feel like a lot of times it’s probably meant it in a very basic sense, like “can fill out standard paperwork correctly on a daily basis” or “can remember to do task A every Friday morning” or “will not enter $1,000 instead of $100.”

      (Full disclosure: I’m very detail oriented so maybe I don’t quite understand not being detail oriented.)

      1. Karissa*

        I’m more “would lose my head if it wasn’t attached to my body”. I have a good memory and patience for somethings – I remember things anyone said to me or things I’ve read for a long time, but I really struggle with repetitive tasks. For example I was just downloading a bunch of files (about 5 – 10 files for about 20 topics) and accidentally put some in the wrong folder – but just fixed that.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          Is there anything with a lot of customer service? I am better at dealing with people than with spreadsheets, and I’m more motivated to do things right where there is a human face connected to things.

        2. Insignificant*

          That’s interesting. I’m very detail oriented and good at repetitive tasks, but I have a horrible memory and little patience, so we’re opposites. :) I have to write detailed lists and instructions to remember everything and struggle to muster empathy when I’m waiting days or weeks for someone to get back to me on something before I can finish a task.

        3. Washi*

          I mean, you caught the mistake! I am kind of an absentminded professor type, and never thought of myself as attentive to detail. But then I mentioned that I’m not detail oriented to my boss at my first job, and she was really surprised and said that she did think of me as detail oriented. I always thought that all the systems I had to put together for myself meant I wasn’t good at details, when really a lot of people are absent minded and need systems to keep them in line.

          So if you make a lot of mistakes but also generally good at catching them, maybe you’re not doing as badly as you think?

    2. Sleepy*

      I get that that would be frustrating. Most office jobs do require a lot of attention to detail, though—it’s not made up. However, as long as you can do some detailed work, if you develop your other skills to compensate you’re more likely to be valued despite not being detail-oriented in general. For example, I’ve seen people compensate by being an amazing salesperson, or being the person who’s willing to pitch in and help any time, or taking on the role of the public face of the company at events, and so on.

    3. Maya Elena*

      I think “excellent attention to detail” is up there with “excellent time management skills”, “ability to work independently and with a team”, and “excellent oral and written communication skills” – items that are in many job descriptions, but most likely they’d be quite happy with “adequate, given all the other things” – they just put it in because 1) “excellent” is better than “adequate” and 2) maybe it will keep away the “truly crappy”, or give them grounds to not hire these latter ones. So you can probably apply to most jobs with these descriptors if you’re “adequate”, rather than “complete crap”.

      That said, you probably want to avoid being a doctor, nurse, nuclear plant employee, or any other job where your attention to detail is the main safeguard against failure, and failure is very costly (like kill someone). More mundanely, you probably don’t want to be in a position where you are the only one with your skills and nobody to check it, or where you have no chance to check and correct. (For example, maybe don’t be The Sole State Compliance and Filing Liaison for a business.) This leaves a huge scope of analyst-type jobs, things with words like “strategy” in them, administrative jobs, etc.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yeah that’s the issue, there’s no way to tell from a job description whether they mean “adequate/average attention to detail,” which I can achieve if I’m careful and create enough backups for myself, or if they literally mean that being unusually attentive to details is key in the role. You can try to ask them in an interview what kinds of tasks they had in mind when they listed that. But I found that people are pretty ruthless with entry level admins, they want zero mistakes ever.

      2. boo bot*

        “That said, you probably want to avoid being a doctor, nurse, nuclear plant employee, or any other job where your attention to detail is the main safeguard against failure, and failure is very costly (like kill someone). ”

        Oddly, I kind of disagree with this? In a lot of the professions where the consequences for errors are deadly (surgeon, pilot, astronaut, etc.) checklists and safeguards are used precisely because nothing so important should be left up to the fallible memory of a human being, meaning that there’s less room for things to slip because everyone is forced to pay close attention to what they’re doing, regardless of their natural inclinations.

        Additionally I’ve found that – as someone with a similar “lose my own head if it weren’t attached” nature, the times I’m the most competent are often times of crisis. Sometimes the tendency to drift in that way is best combatted with work that inherently demands immediate focus. My grandfather had the same tendencies, and he had a long career as a cardiac surgeon.

        I’m not saying Karissa should go out and become an EMT/rocket mechanic ASAP (unless she wants to!) – I definitely don’t have that kind of job, mainly because I don’t want life-or-death responsibility. But I wanted to throw it out there that just because someone isn’t great at the kind of focus that accounting requires, doesn’t mean they won’t be great at something that demands a totally different kind of attention.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I disagree on the nuclear plant employee if Homer can do it for almost 30 years anyone can do it.

    4. boo bot*

      I think “detail-oriented” is kind of an ironically imprecise term, honestly – which details actually matter can vary widely from job to job.

      I miss typos in my own writing sometimes, and since writing is an enormous part of what I do for money, it might seem, at first glance, like missing typos would be a disqualifying flaw. BUT it turns out that in my particular job, the details that matter are more about the content, while the typos aren’t that big a deal, because everything goes through a few rounds of proofreading after I’m done with it anyway (although I do still try to have as few as possible!).

      I don’t know what kind of work you’re looking for, but it might be worth thinking about what “detail-oriented” specifically means in the kinds of roles that would otherwise play to your strengths. Job descriptions might sometimes include it as a kind of generic descriptor, because ideally, yes, we would all pay attention to all the details and notice everything and do everything right all the time, sure. But being detail-oriented as an accountant means something different from being detail-oriented as a dentist, or a dog walker, or a social worker, and so on, and you may find that in another kind of job, either the details matter less, or the details that matter are easier for you to manage.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yes, I am not detail oriented but I wouldn’t let that term knock a job out of the running. I have been successful in roles that included this language. But if the job is around finance or copy editing I would not be successful.

      2. Washi*

        Yeah, the thing is that a lot of job descriptions use attention to detail as a technical sounding way to say “conscientious”. So in that sense, no, you’re never going to find a job where you don’t need to be conscientious – every boss you have will want you to care about consistently getting things right.

        But the tasks can be so different – I really struggled with data entry, but now as a social worker, I have no problem documenting all my client calls consistently. It just depends on your particular strengths.

        1. Rainy days*

          Yeah, I think it comes down to: What kind of items do you tend to let slip through the cracks? What are the downstream effects of those slips? Are those effects acceptable in your job? Most people do let some things slip, whether it’s missing the occasional typo or forgetting to respond to an email. And I’ve also worked with people who obsess over details to an extent that they can’t complete big-picture tasks or make judgments about when precision isn’t needed, which is also Not Good.

          We had an intern whose main task was ordering food for a student group we were working with. About half the time, she forgot to order special meals for students with dietary restrictions. There were consistently 2-3 students who were left eating lettuce for lunch and often felt hungry and demoralized, which isn’t okay. On the other hand, plenty of people in my office let small things fall through the cracks, and because they’ve successfully prioritized and got the important things done people don’t mind as much.

  46. Mall Rat Anon*

    Okay, I need some help with a situation that may come up again with my boss. I’m an hourly employee, so I don’t have my work email set up on my phone. It came up in conversation with my boss this morning, and she brought up that I might need it in case of emergency. I really can’t see a situation arising where I would need access to my email outside of work hours. I’m pretty much at the very bottom of the hierarchy in our office, and really emergencies wouldn’t fall to my department anyway. My boss pushes boundaries on this all the time. She calls and texts me after hours and on weekends all the time, and it’s never been anything urgent. A few months ago I decided to not answer when she called me on weekends, and that resulted in her pulling me into her office and having a long conversation with me about how I’m “not being a team player”. She isn’t rational, and she tends to take everything personally. Anyone have any advice or word tracts I could use to address this when she brings it up again? I definitely don’t want to have access to my work email outside of work, especially not when I’m just an hourly employee and paid the least in my department by a landslide.

      1. Mall Rat Anon*

        I’ve tried this before, and she’s cited being “lenient about other things”, as a reason for not tracking my time on this. She takes huge advantage of the fact that her manager isn’t a clock watcher, and thinks that everyone else must do that, too. We work in a mall, so she’s talked about going to get a coffee in the morning or shopping while on the clock as perks. But, I don’t do either of those things while I’m clocked in. I’ve very much got the impression that she just wants me to do whatever she wants and not ask questions or make her life more difficult.

        1. Four lights*

          She can be as lenient as she wants, if you work you have to get paid–that’s the law. Is your bosses boss okay? Can you approach her, or HR? Not paying you for work is a huge liability for them.

          1. Mall Rat Anon*

            I’ve gone to my boss’s boss a few times with things. The last time I did, my own boss (let’s call her Heather) said I wasn’t allowed to go to her boss (Carrie) unless I talk to Heather about the problem first. From my experience the times I have gone to Carrie with problems, Heather cleans up her act for a little while, and then goes right back to her old ways. So, I don’t know that that would actually help.

            1. ..Kat..*

              Have you asked Carrie how to log these previously (illegally) unpaid hours? Have you asked Carrie how to respond when Heather pushes? Have you told Carrie that Heather retaliates when you talk with Carrie?

      1. Mall Rat Anon*

        That was an amazing read! My boss sounds a lot like the one described in the letter, except she isn’t the owner of the company, and we’re not a start up. I’m bookmarking that for future reference!! Thank you!

    1. Natalie*

      While I do think continuing to deflect is your best option, if for whatever reason this ends up happening, see if you can selectively turn off notifications by email address. I know this is possible on iphone and I imagine there is a similar setting for android. So, you would “officially” have your work email on your phone, but you would never get any notifications (including badge notifications, the little red numbers) because of a new work email. I had that setup at a prior job and it made it incredibly easy to ignore my work email when I wasn’t in the office.

      1. Mall Rat Anon*

        I have that setup for my personal email on my phone, so I may just have to suck it up. But, once she knows its on my phone, it’ll be a huge battle if I don’t respond to an email on a weekend or something. She’s big into delegating, so she’ll probably send me something that really she should be handling, and then be upset that it didn’t get done right away. I already know it’s a no-win situation, I’m just trying to figure out how to survive it until I can find a new job.

        1. Natalie*

          Sure, that’s frustrating. One thing I’ve observed, both with myself and with others, is that it’s easy to get overly focused on the goal of her somehow not getting upset about your (perfectly reasonable) boundaries. In my experience that isn’t really achievable – whatever reaction she has to your setting boundaries comes from her stuff, it’s not a referendum on whether or not the boundary is reasonable – and it can be freeing to let go of the responsibility to both manage your boundaries *and* her emotions. So take what you know about her behavior and figure out whatever strategy will feel most comfortable to you, whether that’s directly telling her no, or passively demuring and lying until she gives up or you get out of there.

          1. Mall Rat Anon*

            Yeah, I know that I can’t always manage her emotions. The big problem is that she’s a massive grudge holder and takes it out on people in other ways. She’s manipulated some of my coworkers over PTO before because she was mad at them, so I’m just worried about some really severe and unwarranted reactions from her. This really isn’t the hill I want to die on with her, especially because there’s clearly so many other problems here.

            1. Elizabeth*

              Start writing things down, Keep a diary. No matter what you do, this is going to blow up in your face. When you have enough evidence, talk to her boss or HR. I doubt that any organisation would be happy about a manager asking an employee to do unpaid work, or work off the clock.

      2. Elizabeth Proctor*

        I turn my work email off on my phone over the weekend. It’s really easy in the gmail app.

      3. Nancie*

        Another possibility is using a different app for your work email, and set it up to only check for email when you’ve opened the app.

    2. The Phleb*

      It is not legal for her to do this…you are an hourly employee…any time you spend outside of your work ON your work, you get paid for. BIG trouble no matter how lenient your boss might be (and I know you said you don’t take advantage anyhow.) I would ask her how to record this on your time card and if she gives you flak, “I’m sorry but we could get into so much legal trouble with the state so either I can’t work ‘off the clock’ or I have to be paid for it.” No ifs, ands, or buts. If she does have a hissy fit, HR, big boss, or even your state work board is your next step. At the VERY least, you should be paid for it!

      1. Mall Rat Anon*

        I keep trying to explain that to her, but she really isn’t getting it. I don’t think she really cares, to be honest. I asked our office admin, who’s also hourly, how I should handle this, and she told me that I should mentally keep track of any time that I put in answering her calls or texts on weekends and make up for it with a longer lunch while I’m still clocked in some day during the next week. That just feels icky to me, like it might set me up for a fall later.

        1. valentine*

          it might set me up for a fall later.
          Definitely, and Heather will use it against you. You can’t trust her to take your word and approve your timesheets. It would be a constant battle.

          Resist the email thing because, by emergency, she means her BS, and it’s easier to resist, as awful as she makes that for you, then to try to escape once you’re in. If you bring up payment, it sounds like you’re amenable to working all hours. What if you broken-record her with work-life balance?

          I’m just worried about some really severe and unwarranted reactions from her.
          Is this something you can tell Carrie? You can also tell Carrie that Heather backslides.

          Sounds like you need to get out, though.

  47. WKRP*

    Oh, the past few weeks have not been emotionally kind. I’m burned out. My boss told me I should take advantage of being a manager and take the projects that interest me (because I often don’t work on fun things) What she doesn’t realize is that when I told her I liked a project, she actually gave it to my direct report to work on. Inadvertantly, likely. Still.

    Our new person has been here 3 months and while they’re doing some things very well (and really why we hired them), their attention detail is really sorely lacking and managing that along with keeping them on task, correcting mistakes made because they’ve assumed something incorrectly rather than asking is really starting to drain my energy. (I am trying to have neutral and when possible positive communications, but I am starting to get irritated.
    All of this is coupled with the fact, that I don’t really want to be a manager. I just want to keep my head down and do my work and go home. I’ve dug myself into this position by supporting the department for years and now, I just feel like a used up, deflated balloon.

    I have vacation time. I’m taking a few days off. But, the truth is, I don’t think this is salvagable in the long run. I do not like my career and am dying to change. I have a masters degree in another profession, same industry. But, the opportunities available are few and far between.

    I guess I’m just sad and I’m sorry I’m venting all my frustrations on your screens. But appreciate the listen.

    1. Happy Lurker*

      No advice, plenty of sympathy. Internet hugs and good luck. Enjoy your couple of days off.

      1. valentine*

        Is there a non-managerial role you can transfer to or is this worth sticking with until you can leave? I think choosing either way, so that what you’re doing is what you want to be doing (for now) will help you.

    2. Stacey McGill*

      No advice, but also a lot of sympathy. I’m in a similar situation. I feel like my emotional reserves for work are running on empty at all times.

    3. Penelope Garcia’s glasses*

      This is so ironic to read after this mornings letter about someone wanting their employees to figure things out instead of asking.

  48. gbca*

    How do you handle thank you notes after an interview if you probably don’t want a job, but don’t necessarily want to withdraw in the thank you note? I had an interview earlier this week and it was pretty clear the job would be a poor fit. I would normally send a thank you note within 24 hours reiterating my strong interest in the job. But that seems disingenuous in this case, especially since I am likely to decline an offer, should I get one.

    1. Alice*

      “Thanks for spending time with me yesterday. I enjoyed learning about your organization. Having learned more about this role, I realize it’s not the right opportunity for me at this time. I wish you the best and hope that you find a good match for this position.”
      Maybe you add in “I remain an admirer of your organization” etc. if you think you might want to apply for other jobs there.

      1. gbca*

        That’s the part I didn’t want to do, withdraw my candidacy in the email. I got the interview via an external recruiter, so that communication really needed to go through the recruiter first as a courtesy.

        1. A. Schuyler*

          If you’re being put forward by an external recruiter, would you send a thank you note at all? I’m not super experienced in job hunting, but I had a few irons in the fire with an external recruiter about six months ago, and I never had any direct contact with the hiring organisations outside of the face-to-face interviews. The recruiter did all the scheduling, relayed all the feedback, and in the end he was the one to provide me with the indicative offers. It never occurred to me to try to reach out to the organisations to thank them formally.

    2. Four lights*

      You could just do something generic, like “Thank you for taking the time to meet with me and discuss the llama training role.”

    3. Insignificant*

      I just wouldn’t send a thank you note. If sending one is supposed to confirm or emphasize your interest or fit for the job, then it doesn’t really make sense to send one for a job that’s clearly a poor fit.

      1. Alice*

        Well, it’s not just to emphasize interest and fit. A thank you note can also serve the purpose of expressing gratitude.

        1. Insignificant*

          But why would you express gratitude? An interview isn’t a favor–they’re doing it to find someone to fill a role, so interviewing benefits them. Seems perfunctory to e-mail someone solely to thank them for taking the time to see if you’d be a good addition for them.

          1. Alice*

            Why does anyone ever express gratitude? I say thank you to my colleagues who proofread documents I write, arrange catering for my events, process my expense reports, etc. Those aren’t favors either.
            Saying thank you doesn’t have to be obsequious, and it doesn’t have to involve a power dynamic.
            But if GBCA doesn’t feel gratitude, she of course doesn’t have to send a note.

        2. Natalie*

          Sure, but regardless of the purpose it isn’t a requirement after an interview and lots of people don’t send them. It’s probably not going to register one way or another if the OP just skips it.

      2. gbca*

        That’s what I ended up doing. I feel weird about it but I got sort of paralyzed by not knowing what to do. I do a lot of interviewing of candidates, and thank you notes don’t really move the dial for me one way or another. But I do feel like it’s a think you’re supposed to do, thus the guilt!

  49. Alice*

    Interested in your suggestions:
    My colleague made an important mistake on a project. Really it was three mistakes: changing something, not testing it, and not communicating that changes had been made.
    We’ve figured out how to work around it in the context of that project, but I’m having trouble trusting this colleague’s competence going forward. How do I:
    – retain our existing warm relationship
    – continue collaborating with him
    – not feel a need to double-check everything he does on my projects

    I’m tempted to just do things myself, but doing things without any outside input is really the core of the original mistake! I know that collaboration leads to better outcomes than I could achieve on my own (this one case excepted).

    1. Soupspoon McGee*

      Does the colleague know he goofed up? Does he know not to do it again? Is this typical of him? Have a chat with him about the implications of his mistake and about his plan to prevent it happening again. Until you feel that he gets it and takes it seriously, you won’t be able to trust him.

    2. gecko*

      Is it just you two on projects, usually? Does your/his boss know about this mistake?

      Frankly, I would not feel bad about double-checking what he does. You’ll stop when he proves trustworthy or you get bored of the extra work, and you need to know that your projects aren’t being jeopardized. I think if you know he’s not messing up, it’ll be easier to collaborate with him.

      Also, have you spoken with him about it? When a colleague of mine made a similar mistake I sat down with her and basically said, you need to test things before you submit them so it doesn’t screw everyone else up. (I can try and remember the exact wording if you want.) I still double-check her work pretty closely, but having that conversation took enough of the frustration load off me that I could work with her a-ok after that.

      1. gecko*

        Figuratively sat down with, I should say–I wasn’t acting as a manager but as the “owner” of the project she was working on, and I casually talked with her about it.

        1. Alice*

          Thanks Gecko and Soupspoon.
          The tricky thing is that I haven’t done a postmortem with him, and my boss doesn’t want me to (I asked her explicitly).
          I don’t actually know if he knows it’s his fault. I know because I looked at logs, found out when the mistake was introduced, and observed that there was no testing after that. When we first discovered the mistake together, he didn’t take responsibility, but that could mean lots of things – he realizes his mistake but is embarrassed, he doesn’t realize it, he doesn’t remember it…. It’s hard to tell whether he’s learned a lesson from the episode.
          We’ve got the workplace culture and interpersonal relationship where I can say “lesson learned – we should always communicate about and test changes” but not “I learned this lesson from the mistake that you made.”
          Thanks for helping me talk this through.

  50. wafflesfriendswork*

    Not a question, but I finally started meds for my ADHD for the first time since high school–so this is my first time at work with them. The recent posts about working while not neurotypical inspired me to finally seek treatment again. I know they’re only a piece of the puzzle for my success and not a cure-all, but I’m feeling really good and alert and finally feeling confident! Hoping this gives me some of the drive I’ve needed. It’s been so easy throughout my life to feel like I’m not trying hard enough (which contributed to some anxiety I’ve felt all through college and starting my career). Also going to implement some of the strategies from the commenters in those threads, and I’m thankful for those posts!

    1. JokersandRogues*

      My spouse had great results from getting a diagnosis and meds to assist their focus. Honestly, it’s been like a miracle, their personality and intelligence shine through without the fog/mask of ADD/depression across them.

    2. Lilysparrow*


      You can accomplish so many more satisfying and important things when you’re not using up all your energy on basic functions. Enjoy the leverage!

  51. Amber Rose*

    Someone almost killed six people earlier this week. Because of complacency. I still struggle to understand how anyone can be like, “This is super deadly if I make a small mistake, but eh. Whatever.” So now NOBODY is allowed to use the dangerous stuff until I SAY they can. :<

    In other news, my new coworker is basically nice and we get along most of the time, but she's also often super obnoxious, if that makes sense? She'll talk in weird accents and then laugh loudly at how funny she is, talk about what an internet troll she is, talk loudly on the phone with her boyfriend and talk about the crap she pulls when she's drunk, to the point where even my other heavy drinking, bar fighting coworker was like "maybe you should tone it down." She also sings constantly. Less so than before I asked her to stop, but still quite frequently. And she's kinda passive aggressive about it, like, "Oh, but you don't LIKE my singing. Sorry!"

    I feel weirdly conflicted with my feeling that "she's not a bad person and does her work well" but also "is she a science experiment on how irritating a person can be before they become unable to function in society?"

    1. Enough*

      My nephewv’s wife was effected by a co-worker’s mistake. They worked in a lab and she got exposed to something that put her in the hospital. She is fine now but could have ended up with lifelong problems.

    2. ElspethGC*

      “I still struggle to understand how anyone can be like, “This is super deadly if I make a small mistake, but eh. Whatever.””
      ^ This. People are terrifying.

      My dad’s a senior chemist at an oil refinery that produces a lot of jet fuel, most of it getting sent straight to a local airport to be used for Europe-wide flights. A couple of years ago, someone in his lab got caught fudging results of the tests they have to do on the fuel every step of the way to make sure it won’t, y’know, blow up or anything, and that it contains under the allowed limit of pollutants and all that. Couldn’t be bothered to run tests on the fuel before they sent it out, so made up results. For *jet fuel*. For flights with *hundreds* of people.

      1. Amber Rose*

        It’s always the gases/fuels. In our case, someone in the lab was running percent level gas and didn’t bother to leak test his fittings before opening the bottle. Flooded the whole room. If you get a face full of that stuff you’re done for. He’s lucky everyone was far enough away for it not to be a huge threat. It’s heavier than air, but that’s not gonna save you if your face is right by the cap or if it fills the room.

        And of course, there’s the mustard gas-esque stuff I confiscated from R&D a while ago because we lack the appropriate equipment. It’ll melt your skin off. You really wanna play with that? 0_o

        1. LCL*

          How did the people in the lab find out about the leak? Do you use those portable gas monitors?

  52. Friday*

    New job time!!! I just managed to land a great opportunity with a 30% pay increase, direct path to professional licensure, and growth opportunity beyond that! Also, tons of PTO and work-life balance. Am over the moon about this.

    Interesting twist though – husband already works here! Small company, same department. He and I have been thinking through a lot about how to work this, maintaining professional boundaries, etc. etc. and we’ve separately addressed this with our boss too who also feels that we’ll work well together. Husband and I used to work together a long time ago, and have been in the same industry and on the same career path for many years, and are both nearing the peak of our careers. So we’re pretty confident that things will go well for us, but does anyone here have any direct experience with working with a spouse/serious SO? Anything advice for us?

    1. Hope*

      My spouse works for the same large company I work for, in a completely different department. So we’re at the same location, but in different buildings, which helps a lot, I think. We mostly don’t interact at work during work time unless there’s a company-wide meeting, but we will leave together to get lunch, and we do sometimes go get coffee together. We avoid PDA, obviously. Many of my coworkers know spouse (spouse’s job sometimes means he comes over to my department for stuff), and I know some of spouse’s coworkers (my job doesn’t require me to go over to spouse’s department, but I’ve met them because of after-work things). It’s not really been a big deal, but again, we’ve got more natural separation in our jobs than it sounds like you will have.

      I’d mainly be concerned about dealing with time off, since if you’re going on vacations together, your department will be down two people instead of just one, and that might have some negative impact on coworkers?

  53. Lucette Kensack*

    Hi all. Let me introduce myself. I’m a very long-time regular who, until today, used a handle that included my real name and some info about my sector/work. Over the past few months I’ve noticed that I’ve felt less comfortable using my regular handle (because I’ve revealed enough over the years that I think it would be pretty easy to figure out who I was in real life) and have been using temporary anonymous names. So here’s my new persona!

    1. Troutwaxer*

      I’ve felt the same need. Ten years ago I would have been posting here under my real name, but after ***** took office I started using “Troutwaxer” every place I post.

    2. Mr. Tyzik*

      I’ve had a few usernames since I’ve been here. When I first started posting when AAM was small, I used my real name. Once social media picked up, I switched to pseudonyms. Once I feel like I’ve shared too much, I change the pseudonym. I changed my pseudonym earlier this year.

  54. Need to think of a name*

    Handed in my notice, thought long and hard but decided to take a year off and do some travelling. (I received an inheritance so thought its now or never and my boss is getting worse and now going part time). I only have to give a month’s notice but due to being key to a small team I decided to give them three. My boss argued over how much notice I needed to give, and then later was quizzing to find out what I am doing after the time off.

    I refused to be drawn and said we need to sit and come up with a plan on what projects he would like me to focus on, but it looks like he is just going to ignore the situation and hasn’t really thought of all the implications. I’m not the only one looking for an out but I think I’m the last one they expected to leave.

    1. Scion*

      Three months notice sounds crazy to me. I’m sure you’re not in the US, but here 2 weeks is the standard/minimum. A month would be generous.

    2. fposte*

      Good for you. Advice in advance, just in case: they will still not be fully prepared for you to go when you go, and you don’t need to worry about it when it happens.

      1. Need to think of a name*

        UK based so would normally be a month, I’ve been here 18 years by the time I leave so I totally get they won’t be ready. If I was on a slightly different contract it would be three months notice anyway but think things changed in a previously TUPE situation.

        Will keep same mobile but won’t necessarily answering it for everybody!!

  55. psychresearcher*

    My team is hiring a new person, and (suddenly and unexpectedly) myself and my supervisor will be the one doing the lion’s share of the initial vetting, interviewing, etc. Neither of us have any previous experience doing that, and I’d like to do it the ‘right’ way as much as possible. I have a sense from reading this blog of the kinds of questions to avoid, but I don’t really know what questions I actually should ask, or at which stages of the interview process I should ask them. For this intro-level position, past experience is less important than qualities like being detail-oriented, conscientious, working well solo and with others, etc. So, I think interviews should be weighted fairly heavily, compared to resume info. Has Alison addressed this in the past, maybe? My search didn’t pull up anything, but if anyone remembers an article that might help, or has any interviewing tips generally, that would be much appreciated!

    1. fposte*

      There’s a ton of stuff in the archives and in Alison’s book; I would definitely dig through the archives rather than reinventing the wheel.

      In general, I don’t think of resumes vs. interviews in a weight sense–they’re both ways we find out about the candidate. Ultimately, you’ll be working with a person, not a resume or an interview. I think you should consider, though, how you plan to discern if your candidates are detail oriented, conscientious, and work well solo and with others beyond their merely saying that they totally do. That’s where you draw on a resume to discuss their past experiences with them–and also where, if appropriate, you have them perform a task for you (drafting an email, for instance, would be a perfectly reasonable thing to have an intro-level employee do on the spot–give them 15 minutes and a laptop with wifi disabled if you don’t want them to use any online templates.

    2. Penguin*

      It might help you (both of you) to ask yourselves “How can I tell whether a person would work well in the role?” Once you know what you need to find out, deciding how to learn that information should hopefully be more apparent.

  56. Mad Scientist*

    Hi, I was wondering how you guys would handle this situation!

    I have a coworker who thinks she is smarter than everyone because she went to a fancy school and has a million seemingly unrelated degrees. We are working together on a large project, and an SOP needs to be written for the procedure that we put together. My manager said this in passing in a meeting that we would have to work on it eventually, but since we’ve never done it before, she said she would sit down with us and give us more guidance before we had to actually write the procedure.

    Apparently ignoring my manager, she started to write the SOP without my knowledge. When our manager sent out the email for the meeting to go over this, she responded with something along the lines of “oh, I’ve already done MY part.” I responded all that I didn’t because I wasn’t familiar with what we were doing and waiting for the meeting.

    Her Boyfriend works in our large company too, in a different department from us. Our functions don’t overlap at all. There is a cabinet right next to her computer that I needed to get something out of, and I saw an IM message up on her computer (she wasn’t there) from her to her boyfriend, saying that “OMG I am going to punch MadScientist in her stupid, fat, ugly face.” She mentioned me by name. I took a photo of the message quickly on my phone, but haven’t said anything yet. This happened this morning.

    What do you guys recommend?

    1. Four lights*

      I would ignore the IM. It stinks to know though.

      I would approach your manager about the SOP and say something like, “I was under the impression that we would start work on the SOP after we met with you, which is why I haven’t done anything yet. I just wanted to clarify that that was the case, or if I should be working on it already.” Basically, you want to confirm you’re meeting your manager’s expectations. It doesn’t matter what your coworker does/thinks; she’s not the one in charge.

      Let us know if coworker did the SOP all wrong; it’s entirely possible.

      1. Mad Scientist*

        Thank you for your advice! I touched base with my manager and she said she was not expecting me to work on it until after we met, which is what I thought.

    2. bunniferous*

      That is so, so not cool. I have no words.

      I think I would go up to her and say calmly that if she has an issue with you you would prefer she come talk to you instead of IM her boyfriend. But I too like to live dangerously.

    3. Namast'ay in Bed*

      Oh that’s awful, I’m sorry about your terrible coworker. I might suggest meeting privately with your manager to a) just check that you are fine in waiting to start the SOP until your meeting (which personally, you are 100% right to do and your coworker is wrong to jump the gun) and b) mention that you are concerned about working with your coworker because of her snarky email and the awful message you saw, and you want advice in making this combined project go smoothly. I think the manager needs to be brought in the loop on this at the very least, because this definitely has the possibility to affect your ability to do your job, if it hasn’t already.

      And not that I support the terrible coworker’s behavior at all (they suck), but this is just another reason to always lock your computer when you walk away from it. I don’t advocate being a horrible person but if you insist on being a jerk maybe don’t just leave it out there for the world to see. (Or maybe do, so you get your comeuppance.)

    4. SciDiver*

      Not much for advice about what to do, but maybe helpful in thinking about the situation. Her behavior is 100% about her and not about you. Your manager scheduled a meeting to talk about how she wanted you to do this–you did nothing wrong by not charging ahead and doing it without any guidance or understanding like your coworker did. While you were getting a file you needed as part of your job, she was using a company system to trash talk a coworker. If she’s aggressive or rude towards you in a way that makes it difficult to work with her or get your portion of the work done, definitely bring that up to your manager so she can address it. You shouldn’t have to deal with your coworker’s ego and poor attitude.

    5. LCL*

      I actually wouldn’t ignore this. I normally suggest to ignore minor things. But she crossed a line by saying she was going to punch you, which takes this out of the minor category. Even if she is all talk and would never do it, you can’t make serious threats like this at work. Show the message to your manager.

    6. The Green Lawintern*

      If it was regular snark I would say ignore it, but threatening violence (even jokingly) feels like it’s so out of bounds that it warrants a talk with your/her manager.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Yeah, there’s a big difference between saying “OMG Coworker is so annoying” and what this person did. It’s entirely appropriate to bring a threat of violence to the attention of a manager; even when it wasn’t said to OP directly, it was left in a format that was visible to OP. Someone at my work was suspended for a week for using indirect violent language to another coworker (not a direct threat but a thinly veiled one), and the suspended person had been written up at least once prior for similar reasons.

    7. Hardcore parkour*

      There are a couple of issues here that should be handled separately. First, the SOP. There are a couple of possibilities. She might have done it all wrong, in which case you both will have to do the whole thing over. Alternatively, she might have done a great job, which wins her some points (boo!) but doesn’t necessarily make you look bad since you were going with what the manager said and the manager obviously didn’t think it was that urgent. Being super gung-ho about something when you don’t need to be sometimes backfires and makes you look crazy rather than smart. Anyway, nothing for you to do there except what your boss told you to. Leave her to her snooty ways.

      The IM is much worse, and I think that you would be justified bringing this to your boss. This is really mean and completely inappropriate workplace conversation, even in jest. If she found out you reported her, she might accuse you of snooping and invading her privacy and taking it all out of context. Which doesn’t excuse her one bit, but she sounds like the type to deflect blame aggressively and escalate hostilities. Stand firm if she does.

      1. Mad Scientist*

        You hit the nail on the head with this co-worker! I used some advice above and told her that I would appreciate her talking to me in the future instead of her boyfriend, and I did contact my boss about the SOP. When we talked I told her I was having an issue with the co-worker, I didn’t go into specifics but I just told her that she said something really nasty that I wasn’t supposed to see. At this point, she asked me if I felt threatened, and I told her that I wasn’t feeling threatened but I was feeling angry and hurt. She then sent an email to the entire department basically reminding everyone that we’re all adults and we need to be polite and civil to each other (because here a group of adults needs that, apparently.) She did tell me that projects are changing in the future and after this one is done, I won’t have to work with her anymore. :) Thanks for all your advice!

  57. Anon phd*

    Got a “how have you coped” question. I am a PhD student in a STEM field in North America (keeping it vague because my field/academic community is pretty small). I had my defense, passed it but, ended up with a major revision to the dissertation only (many reasons..though mostly I would say it was supervisor inattention/ineptitude). I also have a job (that I most definitely need!) that is between 35-40h/week. I have all the academic, editorial and friend/family supports needed, my supervisor is very hands off (and though this may sound bad, but his greater imvolvement at this point only complicates things). I have a good regimen and structured plan for getting thesw revisions done, I keep a good balance to ensure I get exercise and some fun and relaxation but there are still difficult, frustrating, “how will I ever get this done?!” and “when will this be over and I finally have my life back?!” moments. Has anyone been through a major revision? Any final stage survival tips? If you wanna commiserate, I am game for that too haha. Some days are just HARD.

    1. Darren*

      I had to do some pretty major changes to my dissertation after it was submitted (in part because there was an entire chapter missing that both me and my supervisor would have sworn was in there but clearly wasn’t but one of the reviewers particularly had quite a lot of problems with the dissertation as a whole). I think it took a good three months for me to get the revisions done around work, and it wasn’t really as good as I would have wanted but I just wanted it to be over with. The guy still wasn’t happy with the dissertation pointing out other flaws and issues but in my country a reviewer can only argue about the changes they pointed out initially, because he left them out of his initial comments I didn’t have to make any further changes.

      1. Anon phd*

        Oh man, your “one particular reviewer” sounds like my evil_reviewer, the guy sounds just like yours, chip on his shoulder, looking to prove something to the world..uggh. Thanks for sharing your story, made me feel a bit better. I have a formal revision letter so evil_reviewer shouldn’t be allowed to kick up any more major fuss for me, after I am done with my edits, only minor comments. For me I will get to the 5/6-month mark post-defense to complete all this. Already past the three month mark.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Well, how about this: you’ve just made me so optimistic, because my partner defends next month and I’ve been so worried (there are political issues), but knowing people pass even when they have to do major revisions makes me calmer.

      But enough about me. Can you take some PTO from your job? You might do well with a day or two of absolutely nothing so you can clear your head a little.

      1. Anon phd*

        Thrilled to make you calmer! :) if my annoying PhD experience gives somebody comfort that they will be ok that makes me happy.
        Thanks so much for the suggestion of taking PTO. I actually did that a few weeks back and it was great in helping me rest while I vegged out. I was so rejuvenated after a bit of netflix, a delicious brunch and a nature walk. I should do it again soon.

        People absolutely pass even with revisions. I was told mine isn’t even that bad (it always feels the worst lol, but perspective is important). Other friends know stories of folks having had to do extra data collection and those folks passed too. As for political issues, in addition to my supervisor’s ineptitude, political issues were also part of me getting that major revision. Evil_reviewer, mentioned above in response to Darren, had an axe to grind with my supervisor, which I found out about quite late in the game. But don’t worry! My story is not your partner’s story :) Always keep in mind, that since your partner passed their candidacy and is approved to do their defense, that means the school and their supervisor(s) have deemed them phd-worthy (for lack of a better term :D) . That is what my dear friends kept telling me as I stressed out before my defense and they were right :) Best of luck to your partner.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Thank you! The poor guy has been through the ringer and had another blow laid on him this week. Just trying to keep things pushing through for the next few weeks.

  58. ThatGirl*

    My manager has become increasingly frazzled seeming and is doing poorly at communicating things with us. She forgets to tell us if someone is out sick or running late. She sends me half-formed instructions and expects me to read her mind on the rest of it. We miss important or useful information. She seems open to feedback but how can I tell her to give me/us all of the information the first time?

    1. Zephy*

      Sounds like there’s something else at play here. I don’t know what the relationship is like between you, but maybe ask her how she’s doing, if she’s okay?

      1. ThatGirl*

        You probably won’t see this, she definitely has a lot on her plate at work and possibly personal stuff. Thing is, I can’t properly help with the work stuff if I’m missing info. I’m not mad but it’s a little frustrating.

  59. Job History Dilemma*

    Not sure what to do with a one year-ish job in my work history that in retrospect was a flustercluck.

    After graduating from college, I worked full time for the same company I had worked a couple of summer and winter breaks as a part time employee (still worked 40 hour weeks). I was there for 2 years, then left when I moved to get married. I had a new job lined up, but it was such a bad fit I asked for my old job back and worked from home for a year before being laid off when they redesigned my department.

    The place I had moved to is a small city and still lags behind in terms of economic recovery and I couldn’t really find anything similar, so I took a job with a small family owned company to train as a…lets call it llama cage installer. It was owned by a married couple where one was the main llama cage installer and the other did the marketing and back office work. The office was in their house. I liked their mission and thought I could be good at it. After a couple months, they let me know it wasn’t working out, but the administrative work I did for them using my old skill set was so good they wanted to make me a back office employee. Frankly, the way they did this was terrible and they told me they wanted to meet me while I was with family for thanksgiving and basically made me think I was getting fired without any “hey, we need you to do better or we’ll need to let you go” conversations. I needed the money, even if it was pitiful, so I stayed on.

    A few months later, the couple had a pretty nasty divorce and that definitely changed everything. I decided to leave and go back to grad school, but my boss may have taken it personally even though they really liked my work. I really should have left earlier when I started seeing red flags, but my spouse was a grad student and I couldn’t not work.

    We’re moving to a bigger city for my spouse’s job so I’m starting a job search. Now that I’m job hunting, I’m not sure what to do with this one. It was for just under a year, and while I was able to do a few good things, at the end it turned more into being another receptionist and didn’t really add much to my skill set. I also don’t trust that my former boss would provide a good reference and not try to get back at me for leaving during a difficult time. I would have a little over 3 years working for one place, a blank year, then 1 1/2 years as a full time grad student. Now I’m back in my original line of work and have been at my current job for a little over a year.

    Should I leave that toxic job off my resume but include it in my work history? Should I just remove it from the resume and work history? Should I highlight what I was able to accomplish on my resume, but not use them as a reference? What about on my LinkedIn? My first boss and my current boss would be willing to give me references – my current boss already knew that I might need to move but really likes my work and would definitely be willing to give a good reference.

  60. downtown funk*

    Can I just say, I do not really care if your dog is barking in the background of conference calls, but I honestly need two specific workers to stop screaming at their dogs already.

    I also need them to stop screaming at their kids, but at least their kids have language skills that the dogs lack. For god’s sake, your dog is not gonna stop barking just because you yell at them.

    1. Anne (with an “e”)*

      I **completely** understand your frustration. My sister always screams at her dogs, to no avail whatsoever. Her screaming is so much worse than the barking. Plus, her screaming useless and ineffectiv