filling the time when you don’t have any work, a recruiter asked me to lie, and more

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

1. What should you do to fill the time when you don’t have any work?

A coworker and myself are arguing about this. Our boss doesn’t really care, as long as all the work gets done in the day. Here’s the hypothetical situation: you are on the clock for your nine to five job. Part of your job requires you to sit in a seat waiting for another person to finish their task so you can do yours. There is no work you can do untill your coworker has finished their task. Here’s the question: what should you do to fill the time?

Read a book, crossword puzzle, mess around on your phone (not against policy to use your phone during working hours), talk with your coworker, take a nap, maybe do a little workout routine? Other options? And most importantly, are any of these options ethically wrong?

It depends 100% on what your workplace and your manager are okay with you doing with that time. There are some workplaces where it would be fine read a book, take a nap (less of them but they exist), or do a workout routine (same), and there are some where that would be really out of sync with what’s expected there. So if this comes up more than very occasionally, the best thing to do is to talk with your boss and find out how they feel. (You say your boss doesn’t care, but for a lot of bosses that could mean playing on your phone is fine but visibly sleeping is not. It’s smart to confirm.) If your employer is fine with it, there’s no ethical issue.

That said, there are a lot of jobs where being done with all your work … doesn’t really mean there’s literally nothing work-related you could do. Often you’d still be able to do something useful, like filling out expense reports, organizing your files, reading field-relevant publications, doing some optional check-ins with clients, brainstorming ideas for next quarter’s projects, cleaning out your email, and so forth. Ethically (and reputation-wise), you’re better off doing things like that before you consider reading a book or napping. But if there’s literally nothing you could be doing that’s work-related, then we’re back to: know your office, and know your boss.

2. A recruiter asked me to lie

I’ve been out of work for a couple of years now, after a layoff that I dealt with (or failed to deal with) by plunging into a serious depression. I’m doing much better now and finally looking for work, but I’ve been living off my 401(k) for too long and the money is nearly gone. I’m a little desperate.

A recruiter called me about a contract job earlier this week that seemed like an okay fit, so I agreed to work with her. She must have messaged or called me 10 times that day, asking the same questions about my availability and experience again and again. Several times she called to ask for the number of years of experience I had in various areas listed on my resume, and then she would ask me to update my summary with that area and the number of years. I think all told I updated my resume four separate times.

The last time she called, she asked about a technology I had never used, although it’s a common, open-source platform that is not difficult to learn, and I have used other similar systems. I told her I didn’t have that specific experience, but that I would be happy to learn it. She kept pressing me for a number of years with that technology. It was so weird! I kept saying, “No, I actually don’t have experience with X, but I do know Y, and they are similar, and I’d be glad to jump online today and teach myself X really quick because it’s not difficult.” But she seemed frustrated and I got the feeling she wanted me to give her a number of years of experience with platform X! If it hadn’t been a common, fairly intuitive thing, I wouldn’t have agreed, but I said that since I had used this other platform that was similar, we could say that I had one year’s experience with X. She then said, “Do you have two years of experience with X?” It was so weird: she was asking me to lie without actually saying it. Thinking that this was a small thing to get my foot in the door, I updated my resume to list two years of experience with technology X and sent it along. Immediately afterward I went online and familiarized myself with X, which is not difficult. Seriously, if I told you what it was, you would laugh.

The whole thing has made me so uncomfortable, though. I removed the reference to X from my resume on LinkedIn the next day. (I mean, it took me 10 minutes to figure it out, but it’s not real experience that should be on my resume!) Should I withdraw my candidacy with the recruiter because of her shady actions? Should I tell her why? I’m ashamed that I went along with the lie at all. And I really am desperate for work, but she flat-out required me to lie … and about such a stupid thing! If I were to get the interview, I think I would confess that I actually know the other technology, not the one she required me to add.

Yeah, she’s really sketchy! She’s sketchy both in asking you to lie and in the way she went about it. I mean, I’d still be uncomfortable if she’d said something like, “I know you don’t have a year of experience with this but I agree with you that it’s easy to learn and this client is really rigid about seeing it on the resume, so would you be up for adding it because of that?” But at least there she’d be being open about what she was doing, versus the silly game she played with you instead. So yeah, sketchy.

i don’t think you have to withdraw your candidacy though, not unless you want to. You should of course keep an eye out for other shadiness from her and will need to assume that you can’t fully trust what she tells you, but it’s okay for you to stay in the running for this job if you’re interested in it (especially given that you really need a job right now). Just know you’ll have to verify with the company anything she tells you that’s really important to you (about the job, benefits, etc.), rather than taking her word for it.

3. I’m really easily startled

My job recently moved offices. The new workspace is more open, and I’m in a low-walled cube where before I had an office with a door. An issue that’s starting to come up is that I’m very easily startled, to the point where it’s almost impossible to approach me at my desk without me at least jumping and gasping. Since we moved, I’ve found that I can’t wear headphones or listen to anything at my desk now, because I need to be able to hear if anyone’s coming up behind me. The rare times I do listen to something, someone inevitably walks up and surprises me. The way it’s laid out, people can approach me from multiple directions, which I think adds to my jumpiness.

My reactions seem stressful for my coworkers who try to talk to me, and I don’t want to be weird or disruptive. I’m worried that one day I’m going to scream or something! I’ve conveyed to people, usually after the fact, that it’s something that happens to me periodically and that they aren’t doing anything wrong.

How should I handle this? Should I keep addressing it in the moment? Is there anything I can proactively do? I think a “please knock” sign next to my cube wall would both be ignored and be out of sync with the office as a whole (and I’m not sure knocking would help, anyway!). I feel like I’m working very hard to mitigate this and it’s getting me absolutely nowhere.

I’m assuming there’s no way to change either your desk or the way your desk is positioned? If either of those is possible, that’s your best solution. And you could frame that to your manager as, “I’m finding I’m so regularly startled by people approaching me without warning that it’s distracting me and making it hard to focus.”

But if that’s not possible, you might be able to minimize some of this with carefully placed mirrors. It’s not uncommon to use small mirrors to deal with colleagues approaching from behind, and you’d just need a few more of them than most people do  … which yes, might look a little odd (or like you adored your own image and wanted to see it from multiple angles) but might be preferable to the current situation.

Alternately, yeah, I think you’re looking at giving up headphones or just continuing to explain, “Sorry, I’m easily startled” (which is fine to keep doing, if that’s what ultimately seems easiest).

4. My boss asked me to do a task I’ve already been doing

My boss emailed me asking me to do a task, but my problem is that i already have been doing this simple task since I started working here. How can I tell him I’ve been doing this task since the beginning without coming off rude and arrogant?

Think of this as information exchange, not correction, and you’ll probably feel better about it.

Just be matter-of-fact and cheerful: “I’m on it! I’ve actually been doing it monthly” (or whatever).

5. Putting sexual identity in a design portfolio

My sibling recently graduated with from college and put together an online portfolio of their design work. I noticed in their “About Me” section they put “I am an LGBTQ+ designer” as the first sentence. My immediate reaction was to recommend that they remove that entirely from their portfolio; my thinking is that is definitely information hiring managers would not care to know about (just like they don’t want to know a person’s religion or age). I understand this is a big part of their identity but it seems like sharing in this way will only hurt their chances. What do you think?

If this were a resume, I’d agree with you. But an online bio is different. It’s not uncommon to have more personal information in those. They’re more informal and they often contain information about who the person is, beyond the strictly professional. So I think your sibling is fine! (And yes, it’s possible it could hurt their chances with LGBTQ-unfriendly employers, but I’m guessing that’s intentional.)

{ 331 comments… read them below }

  1. Butter Makes Things Better

    OP3, I’m like you, but I have screamed and yelped in the office — even my husband in our apartment in broad daylight will startle me. I found that sticking to “I’m so sorry, I scare easily when I’m focused” went over fine
    no matter how many times I had to say it. The mirrors and talk with your manager sound like good lines of defense. Good luck!

    1. Wannabikkit

      I’m the same. Hubby finds it absolutely hilarious that I’m so easily startled! XD
      At work, I just laugh and say I’m easily startled. Workmates are fine with this.

      1. Triplestep

        Same here. I tell people that my husband stomps around the house if he thinks he might startle me because he’s had to peel me off the ceiling. That always breaks the tension after someone inadvertently makes me jump.

        Also as strange as it may sound, try magnesium suppliments. I did after hearing on some NPR show that a pronounced startle response is linked to low magnesium levels, and I think this has helped.

        1. river

          I second the magnesium supplements. I was leaping every time my roommates would enter the room, to the extent that they started to get a little offended. Magnesium helped me considerably.

        2. SarahTheEntwife

          Oh, interesting! I struggle with the same thing and it certainly couldn’t hurt to try. Heck, even if it’s just the placebo effect *I’ll take it*.

          1. BadWolf

            Double check the type/formula and dosage and maybe ease into it as it can act as a laxative.

            1. Dasein9

              It’s available as a lotion, too, which prevents the laxative effect.

              I use it on spasming muscles and it works beautifully. (Smells like a vanilla latte.)

        3. Ada

          Interesting! Come to think of it, my husband and I recently started taking magnesium citrate tablets for other reasons, and since then, I don’t think I’ve inadvertently startled him since (which used to be a near-daily occurrence). I guess that makes sense, since it’s helped tremendously with his anxiety in general.

          One thing I’ll add if anyone wants to give magnesium a shot: do your research on what kind of magnesium to take. You’ll see a lot of magnesium oxide on the shelves, especially in cheaper supplements, but from what I read, sounds like your body has trouble absorbing it in that form.

          1. londonedit

            Not to derail, but if you also have trouble with achy or restless muscles at night, especially after exercise, magnesium is amazing for sorting that out too.

          2. Michaela Westen

            When I was going to an acupuncturist she recommended magnesium glycinate and that works for me.
            Also I was told by more than one provider it helps with sleep, so take it in the evening. :)

            1. Easily startled LW

              Oh my god, I have terrible muscle ache/tension/spasm issues too, so that would be two birds with one stone! I’ve never thought about magnesium—thanks so much!

              1. Lily in NYC

                I know it seems crazy but rubbing apple cider vinegar on the muscle usually helps a lot too!

              2. Michaela Westen

                Another thing my acupuncturist recommended is magnesium lotion for muscle aches and tension. She said it does the same thing as soaking in warm water with Epsom salt.
                There’s also “magnesium oil” which is not oil, it’s brine. It’s rough on the skin and I got a rash when I tried it.
                With the lotion I can use it once or twice a week, more often I get a rash. I ordered the lotion from Swanson Vitamins.

            2. Amber T

              There’s a brand of powdered magnesium that comes in different flavors that you mix with water. I haven’t done it in a while, but I loved mixing it with hot water and drinking it like tea before bed… made me feel all nice and cozy and relaxed.

              1. Arts Akimbo

                Ooh, yes, I’ve done this! The one I had was fizzy, and I mixed it with cold water to drink like a soda! It was darn tasty!

    2. nekosan

      Another easily startled person. I’ve taken to explaining to all new hires that I’m easily startled; it’s not them, it’s me; and that it’s just part of me being me. It’s not exactly satisfying to do this, but I’d rather warn people in advance instead of in retrospect. (I have actually done yell/shrieks in the office when startled – to my manager’s manager, no less – but the pre-warning helps.)

    3. Jasnah

      Also easily startled, but I noticed it’s because I’m thinking about something else–as one TED talk speaker put it, the little operator in my head has stepped away from my senses and is in the back room looking for a file, so when I notice the person in front of me, the little operator goes “Oh crap!” and has to sprint back to the control room and veer me aside so I don’t bump into them. It’s that suddenness and unexpectedness that is startling.

      It can’t really be helped because of course you want to focus at work. But I’ve made more of an effort to be aware of my periphery vision and hearing, so I am vaguely aware of when someone is walking by, and then I’m not so startled if it turns out they want my attention.

      1. Shrieker in the Rye

        @jasnah, this really speaks to me! I am very easily startled, to the point where coworkers have made it a game to get me to shriek…which I have…many times. I have mirrors, moved my seating position, no headphones, but I get super focused in my work (hello ADHD?). There’s been times where someone has literally seemed to magically appeared next to me, when they’ve been standing there for a while.

        I need to have some words with this “operator” in my head, they need to start pulling their weight!

        1. Nanani

          If your coworkers are making a game of it, maybe it’s not 100% on you. You are working with assholes.

        2. Alli525

          Sounds like you also need to have some words with some rude coworkers who are making a game out of trying to scare you…

        3. Librarian of SHIELD

          I’m also easily startled, and I’ve got a coworker who has a little fun with it. I should point out that it’s consensual and that I think it’s as funny as she does. There have been other coworkers in the past who haven’t made sure I’m in on the game, and they’ve been given some very angry talkings-to.

    4. Asenath

      I have been startled, too. I second Allison’s advice to move your computer a bit if you can – after my last move, although I have an office, I also have a desk unit (ie with attached shelves) and I couldn’t arrange it so that I faced the door, since the bit with the shelves had to be up against a wall for support. I could arrange it so that I was about 90 degrees to the door instead of back-on, which helped a lot because unless I’m really absorbed in my work I can notice someone coming out of the corner of my eye.

      1. Easily startled LW

        Tragically I can’t move my desk setup or my computer at all (my computer is movable but it’s in the best place for this desk configuration, which is still not great). I would love so much to be able to have my back to a wall!

        1. Tiara Wearing Princess

          LW3 I think the mirror idea would be a good one to try. Unfortunately, I think you’re going to have to give up the headphones. I don’t know how often this is happening but it has to be distracting and maybe annoying to your coworkers.

          1. Easily startled LW

            I already don’t use headphones more than maybe once a week at my desk, although I sure would like to

    5. Seeking Second Childhood

      Hi OP3 – My former manager has this issue. Happily we worked in a section where she could have her back to a wall on one side, and the 5′ cubicle walls gave more advanced warning than you get. The most important part was to make sure that the people we work are told that it’s not under her control and it’s NOT funny to try and sneak up to her on purpose. One prankster needed repeated reminders from several team members before it got through to him.
      She taught me the phrase “hyper startle” , and apparently there are variations from nurture as well as genetics. If others in your family do the same thing, look up Hyperekplexia. If it’s just you, there’s a LOT on the web by now about how to decrease a hyper startle response, because there’s a strong overlap with PTSD.
      Good luck!

    6. sheworkshardforthemoney

      I have very little peripheral vision so I get startled a lot. Most people know this and will approach me from a wide angle and don’t come silently from behind. I think common courtesy when approaching anyone from behind, is if you can say, excuse me or make your presence known.

    7. SheLooksFamiliar

      Back in the day I worked in a cubicle farm WAY in the back, with tall walls and no line of sight to anything. The row I was in faced a wall, and it was fairly quiet. I got so focused on my work that someone just showing up caused a big response. My boss and co-workers began to tap on the wall as they walked. I heard the tapping and, yes, had an immediate arm-flail response. But by the time the tapper got to my cubicle, I was composed enough to greet them.

      I don’t startle as easily as I used to but, post-menopause, I don’t respond to a lot of things like I used to…

    8. ..Kat..

      In addition to mirrors, can you put a sensor at your cubicle entrance that beeps when people cross it?

    9. Gadget Hackwrench

      I have PTSD and I’ve found a rear view mirror has really helped avoid displaying my “exaggerated startle response”most of the time. If you google “office rear view mirror” you’ll find many products that fit the bill. The good news though is that when it doesn’t, most people just laugh. They find it amusing. Especially when I yelp at fire drills. I did actually have to have a bit of a stern moment with someone who found it so amusing he would do it deliberately, but no one has ever taken me to task for being “jumpy.”

      1. alacrity

        I had one of these before I was able to change my cube configuration so my back is no longer to the entrance. It did help.

    10. LuJessMin

      I also started very easily. One coworker made it his life’s mission to try and startle me every day. When I called him on it (by shouting, “Hey, stop that!”), he responded by pouting and NOT talking to me. I don’t miss those days at all.

    11. S

      Maybe OP3 can also ask their co-workers to instant message her before coming to her cubicle

      1. T. Boone Pickens

        Ehhh, I don’t love this because it can easily turn contentious if an IM doesn’t get seen, or a coworker forgot to shoot over an IM before approaching OP. Just seems like it’s putting up an unnecessary boundary.

        1. ChimericalOne

          It could only get contentious if the OP got mad at someone for not sending an IM first. If they just put it out there as a helpful way to avoid startling them — and didn’t expect/insist that everyone HAD to do this — plenty of folks would happily take them up on it & it could greatly cut down on startle moments.

          I’ve got a coworker who I’m never sure if I should IM her or just pop over to her cube when I’ve got a quick question. Guidance on how you like to be approached is usually appreciated. (Unless it’s super unreasonable.)

      2. Nanani

        This was standard practice at the last office I worked at. Partly to make sure the person you wanted to talk to on another floor was actually around before making the trip, and just generally make sure it’s a good time to interrupt, but avoiding jump scares is also a good reason.

      3. Easily startled LW

        Unfortunately only our smaller team and not the office at large uses IM here—my team members are generally really great about it, tho!

      4. Turquoisecow

        I mean, if I’m across the hall from her and just need to ask a question quickly, sending an IM makes this seem like more of a big deal than the quick question wants to be.

        Also this assumes that OP sees the IM, and also that her company has an IM system (mine doesn’t).

    12. Moray

      If mirrors seem too weird, anything reflective/shiny will help a bit. I have a plant in shiny glass pot next to me, and it’s enough to at least show movement.

      1. BadWolf

        I have some coworkers that hang a CD/DVD shiny side out — we were in IT so it fit right in. I suspect this was less of a “don’t want to be seen with a mirror” and more of “what do I have sitting around.”

        I had one coworker bring in power tools and he managed to rotate his desk so it was attached to a different part of his cube (we had cubes where your back was to the “door”).

      2. Izzy the First

        Framed photographs with shiny glass fronts also work, and don’t look as weird as a mirror. A former coworker kept one strategically angled to give her a view of our boss’ office door. Not that she was easily startled, but Boss liked to sneak up behind us on her little cat feet, and watch over our shoulders.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people

          You can also get big, shiny photo frames, or even mirrored ones. I have no idea if those are currently a “thing”, but they should be findable in thrift shops.

    13. facepalm

      My former manager started doing a funny little bird caw when she approached my desk (like literally she would say caw CAW, caw CAW!) because I am so easily startled. I heavily appreciated the warning and also it always made me smile because it was so silly. If your office is kind and has some humor, maybe a noise or announcement when someone approaches could help.

      1. dramallama

        I was coming here to say something similar! I have a coworker who leaves a little noise-maker toy near the entrance to her cube. That way, if she’s wearing headphones and you need to get her attention, you use the little noisemaker instead of having to tap her on the shoulder. YMMV though; if people frequently need to get your attention the people around your cube might get frustrated at hearing that noise-maker all day.

      2. TC

        omg my manager does this too. he’ll do it across the office, if i see him on the street… I love it.

    14. This Old House

      I usually say something like, “Sorry, I have an exaggerated startle reflex” (I don’t know if that’s exactly a real thing) because what can be disconcerting is not just that I was startled, but that I jumped a foot off the ground when I was startled. I remember a class in HS where someone sneezed unexpectedly during a test, and everyone was startled, but a minute later they were all laughing at me because of how over-the-top my reaction was in a room full of startled people.

      1. Easily startled LW

        Yes!! that’s honestly a huge portion of my
        issue—when I’m startled I often react pretty cartoonishly, usually with a big jump

        1. EmKay

          I’m just now remembering this happened to me once when a fan suddenly turned on near me. The combination of sudden noise AND feeling made me jump back with a grimace. By some stroke of luck, one of my friends was taking a picture at that exact moment. It’s… a terrible picture of me, let me just put it that way.

    15. Marley

      I’m part of the easily startled club! I’m in a cube with my back completely open, and I’ve learned to deal with it in various ways, but man, would I much prefer not having my back exposed! There’s just no way to set up the cube so it’s not.

      Learning I have ADHD and treating it has helped, as I can now understand the variation between distracted and hard to concentrate versus super focused and easily startled. Part of my adjustments involve using a break-out room or empty office for certain tasks.

    16. Phoenix Programmer

      I have the utmost sympathy for OP and other “lemurs” as my husband and I call him. I know many with PTSD are in this camp too, just like my husband.

      However, if your startle is loud you should know that it’s impacting everyone in the cube farm. Your reputation with staff you don’t work worth is that you are the office screamer. Our office screamer only did it once or twice a month, but that is all anyone in our department would talk about regarding her. She was on the same floor but not the same team as us.

      So yes – push for better configuration, use mirrors, whatever it takes to help. If your boss pushes back talk about how it’s a disruption to everyone and you want to minimize the impact.

      Good luck!

    17. Amber T

      I am by far the jumpiest person in my office. Have you ever opened the bathroom door and someone is on the other side, just about to open it themselves? Terrifying. I’ve been working next to the (loud) printer as it’s humming along and someone walks in and says good morning, and I jump a mile. The WORST was when I stepped out of my office for a few minutes and came back to find a coworker in my office writing me a post it… I actually semi screamed / squealed that I majorly startled her, and my office neighbor came out to make sure everything was all right.

      Anyway, OP, you’re not alone. It sounds like your in a worse set up than me, but yeah, it happens.

    18. The Man, Becky Lynch

      I startle easily too and I my uncle has PTSD from his time in Vietnam so my family is all to well aware of it being just “our thing” and know how to handle it. Both Unc and I have started just being very forward about it, he explains it any time he comes in contact with someone new because his version has the possibility to include swinging, whereas mine just makes me jump and squeak. Every time someone apologizes, I explain it’s not them, it’s me and it’s just how I am and my natural reaction! Thankfully most are just happy to hear that they didn’t do anything wrong or I’m not mad/upset/actually scared.

      The worse for me is that we have this large mostly empty office space so I spend a lot of time knowing that someone is going to creep into the kitchen and I won’t hear them until I turn around with a hot cup of coffee. So I keep my body turned so I can see the entrance whenever possible! That helps a lot for me.

    19. TootsNYC

      OP3 sounds like my best friend–she will startle if you’re standing across the room waiting for her to finish concentrating on something so that you can get her attention without startling.

      Those of us who’ve worked with her just get used to it. It’s not intentional, she’s not upset; it’s kind of funny now.

      Of course, it gives her an adrenalin jolt, but she apparently can deal with that internally.

      So just normalize it as a quirk, and treat it as something humorous.

      1. TootsNYC

        even she treats it as sort of funny.

        but the rest of us always DID try to minimize it for her, out of general goodwill.

    20. That Californian

      I had no idea when I got up this morning that I would find my community of easily startled people! I’ve had roommates lay their hand on my arm and gently say “I live here. It’s normal that I’m here” after the umpteenth loud gasp and hand to throat reflex from me. I tell people “For some reason I’m really easily startled and turn into an aghast Victorian lady in those moments. If I ever ‘get the vapors’, it’s me, not you.” Then when I’m startled we can do Victorian lady impressions back and forth, and that cuts the tension nicely.

  2. Fortitude Jones

    OP #1: is it possible for you to make up your own project while you wait for your coworker(s) to complete his/her tasks? In my last position, my team regularly had down time due to the variable nature of when RFP’s/RFI’s in our industry come out and the fact that we only really handled retention work – there were months where I had nothing to do, and it was painful. I started a content development project for a niche group in our company, writing and designing their boilerplate documents for Qvidian, and that eventually helped me land a new job that will for sure keep me busy and netted me a 26-27% pay bump to boot! Maybe you can find a task your department really needs done that no one else really wants to do (that was my content development project at the old job) and do that in your downtime unless you’re one of those people who’s cool with downtime – I’m not, so I have to find things to keep me busy or I’ll lose interest in a job quickly.

    1. Zombeyonce

      Agreed, this is definitely time you could use for self/career improvement. Taking the initiative to create a project that’s good for the company in some way in downtime makes you look fantastic to your employer and is a great resume booster.

    2. Jasnah

      OP1, one of the best skills you can pick up as a worker is the ability to find work to do.

      That means figuring out how to make best use of your down time so that you don’t die during busy periods, you have a smoother workload, your coworkers feel supported, your reputation is that of a hard worker, and you’re constantly improving at what you do.

      Maybe that means asking others what you can help with. Or googling questions you had from meetings online. Or taking a break to recharge on a fun site so you can tackle things more productively when they come in.

      Maybe someone will give you direction on what to do with your down time, maybe they won’t. But being able to think of good options is a super-valuable skill because not only do you reap the benefits of being more prepared, but also you can work in different environments under different levels of direction=more success in your career long-term.

    3. BookishMiss

      I had a job for a while with literally five hours of down time a day. Yes, I was bored out of my mind, but I also created procedure manuals, job aids, etc. My boss was thrilled when I handed her a binder of “here’s how to run the office and do the jobs.” Maybe you can do something similar? Documentation of job duties and institutional knowledge can be really valuable.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood

      I frequently get “hurry up and wait” points in a project — for example, a hot project delivered to the next review&approve person who promises to act on it immediately but from past history I can bet they won’t reply for a few hours. At that point, I go to my manager and offer my help on any short/hot tasks on the team before I move to my downtime projects. Sometimes there’s nothing short to do — but sometimes it makes a big difference to a co-worker being pulled in 3 directions.

    5. facepalm

      You could also learn job skills that will fill out your resume on sites like udemy, learn to code for free, read books on project gutenberg. I have tons of spare time and I like to do all these things.

    6. Sara without an H

      OP#1: Try using this time to pick up some professional skills or background knowledge. If I saw one of my llama groomers reading Llama Research Quarterly while waiting for the llamas to get to her station, I’d be much more impressed than if I saw her playing games on her phone.

      Your manager may say she doesn’t “care,” but at some point, she will. And it may be at the point when she’s thinking about promotions and pay raises.

    7. Librarian of SHIELD

      OP1, if you can’t think of any other ways to fill your time, check to see if your local public library offers free online classes. You could become the resident Excel expert, or improve your business writing skills, or any number of other things that could be great forms of professional development.

    8. JustaTech

      My job goes through sort of “hot and cold” periods so here’s what I’ve done to stay occupied:

      Made lists of half-day and full-day projects that I haven’t gotten to in the busy times.
      Written out documentation, especially for all the things only I know how to do.
      Built organizational systems.
      Taken classes on Coursera (these started really relevant but eventually got pretty far off-topic).
      Read technical journals.

      (These are the good things I would suggest. I also do plenty of futzing around on the internet.)

  3. Jimming

    I think it makes sense for #5 to put “I am an LGBTQ+ designer” on their about me page on an online portfolio. It’s not on a resume which is more formal where it might seem out of place. Usually designers/authors/freelancers/etc. put something more personal in their online bio to connect with their audience and draw in the type of customers they want to attract. I guess I’m also thinking more in the context of someone wanting to connect directly with their customers vs someone looking for a corporate job.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Aggh, I somehow answered this as if it were on a resume. I agree with you! It’s different, and much more appropriate in an online bio. I’ll update/correct the answer.

    2. Hermyown

      My only niggle is that I’m not sure that one person can be all of LGBTQ+ so I’d probably suggest they phrase it as ‘a designer from the LBGTQ+ community’ or similar. Might be splitting hairs though

      1. Falling Diphthong

        I think this is a genuine quiggle–are they from this community, interested in working for this community as the focus of their work, or something else? Is this “I train for triathlons in my spare time” or “I want to work on athlete-centered projects”?

        1. Ciara

          It’s pretty clear to me as someone who is a designer and a member of the LGBTQ+ community that they are a member of the community, and possibly that this facet of their identity informs their perspective and work.

          1. Karen from Finance

            Agreed. If you’re leading with “LGBTQ+ designer” it’s pretty clear it’s quite a huge aspect of your personal and work life.

            1. Op#5

              This pretty much sums it up.

              Which is the main reason I reached out for input – it *is* such a huge and important aspect of their life (and not mine) that I wasn’t sure that my instincts were leading me in the right direction.

      2. Ciara

        This is fairly common parlance in the LGBTQ+ and design community. “I am an LGBTQ+ designer” has the possibility to convey that their LGBTQ+ identity informs their work or approach, which can be valuable in certain areas of the field.

      3. General Ginger

        It’s funny you say that, because I know several trans folks who basically have IDd as each of the letters at a point in time :)

      4. Vermonter

        Somewhat tangential, but I know people who identify as L, G, B, T, and Q, either all at once or over the course of their lives. It’s not necessarily a contradiction.

      5. ChimericalOne

        It’s common to say, “I’m an LGBTQ+ designer,” and it’s both understandable & concise. You’re saying, “My identity is encompassed within the LGBTQ+ umbrella,” not “I represent every letter in this acronym.”

        1. Anon Anon Anon

          Yes, and it says something about your identity too. You’re expressing a connection with the whole community, as opposed to one or more groups within that community. You’re saying, “I want you to think of me as a member of this community, and I may or may not talk about the specific letters that apply to me later on.” I can think of a lot of reasons someone would choose to frame things that way.

        2. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw

          Exactly. Compare “I am an artist of color” (clearly not white but not specifying what race) and “I am a Latinx artist” (more specific).

    3. Op#5

      Thanks for the feedback and answer!

      I was really looking at this in a resume light – in my line of work there are no portfolios so I don’t have any experience with them.

      1. Anon Anon Anon

        Yeah, bio’s are more about expressing your identity. You say what you’ve done and a bit about who you are and what makes you unique. That tends to be professional stuff, but including some personal info in order to shed light on your perspective is fine. Demographics are fair game if it relates to your approach to what you do or what projects you’re working on. However, it comes across as more professional if you say something about the connection. Not just, “I’m an XYZ designer,” but, “As an XYZ designer, I bring a [fill in the blank] perspective to my projects, informed by ______ , and ____ is one of my areas of expertise.” I think the lack of a stated connection was why that sentence seemed a bit off.

      2. Cedrus Libani

        Also, for design work specifically, my understanding is that LGBTQ is a specific sub-type of designer. They make stuff for LGBTQ spaces and/or people. In that context, it’s not oversharing; it’s a descriptor, equivalent to calling yourself a “front-end developer” or a “heavy metal guitarist”.

        In my field, yes it would be weird to put that front and center in your profile. There are people who happen to be LGBTQ, but the work we do is…about as devoid of sexuality and social commentary as it’s possible to get. Design is a lot more personal.

    4. Boomerang Girl

      It would make more sense to me to say something even more personal, like “I live in the DC area with my wife Anastasia and our 2 dogs. We participate every year in the Pride Parade by handing out free cheese sandwiches to participants and protestors to show them the power of love.” Now I really have insight into who they are and what matters to them. But perhaps that is just me…

      1. Fieldpoppy

        OP I’m glad you asked — one thing that had me curious was your phrasing about an employer “not caring to know about” this aspect of the designer’s identity. Did you mean that being out shouldn’t be part of being at work? Or that it shouldn’t be part of how people frame their work? The phrasing could imply that people should be closeted in their work — and for many marginalized people, being up front about how their identity informs their worldview, their design lens, etc is integral to who they are. As it is for cis straight people, they just don’t notice it because it’s the dominant viewpoint.

        1. ChimericalOne

          I’m pretty sure that, giving the OP the benefit of the doubt, they simply meant that employers prefer not to see overly-personal information on a resume, not that the person in question should be closeted at work.

          1. BetsyTacy

            Agreed. I’m remembering seeing an earlier post where somebody asked if they could put on their resume that they’re a wife and a mother and they were told that that’s not really something that’s appropriate to put on a resume.

            I see this question more as ‘Hey, is this way out of norms that somebody puts this on their online portfolio? I don’t have a lot of experience with portfolios, but it would be unusual to me to see it on somebody’s resume.’

        2. Iris Eyes

          Who you choose to have as part of your family is irrelevant to your employer until you get to discussions about health insurance. Obviously everyone’s life experience shows in their creative work, whether its age, sexuality, parenthood, pet ownership, ethnic background or whatever. Those things are in most places protected classes however so there is concern about over emphasizing those aspects during the hiring process because it makes it harder for employers to evaluate things without having to worry about an anti-discrimination suit.

          Hopefully people hiring creatives would be looking for people who bring things that they don’t already have.

          1. Iris Eyes

            Actual advice. If it isn’t already I would think it would be best to have a content first approach to designing the portfolio. So the about me section would be in a side bar or another page/pop-up. Let them love you for what you can do, and then who you are can be a bonus.

          2. Working Mom Having It All

            But the thing is that, actually, it’s not irrelevant.

            Everyone might say “oh that’s irrelevant”, but trust me as someone who is indeed part of the LGBTQ+ community, it’s deeply important to me starting at the hiring stage that I know that I’m in a workplace where I can be myself and where, ideally, there are other people from that community working at all levels.

            Lip service to diversity by saying that it “doesn’t matter” doesn’t work well if you’re actually from a marginalized community and need to know that you’ll be safe being yourself at work.

            For the record I don’t put it on my resume, but I do take it deeply into consideration when I’m applying and interviewing. And if there was some cause to put it into hiring materials (for example a job on my resume heavily implies that I’m LGBTQ+), I would pause before altering myself to cater to an employer who might not be welcoming.

            1. Iris Eyes

              I wasn’t saying it was irrelevant to the person applying but it should not be to the person hiring.

              I’m still personally struggling with the validity and effectiveness of positive discrimination vs negative discrimination.

            2. fhqwhgads

              I’m not OP but if I’d said that in this context, what I’d have meant was, for example, if I’m interviewing someone and say “tell me about yourself”, that’s not intended to get at “are you married, do you have kids, are you religious” all those things I’d never ask. It’s an open-ended question but I’d expect applicants to answer in a relevant-to-the-job way. It doesn’t mean they should never ever talk about anything non-work around me. I’m not saying people need to be robots. But if I’m asking in a hiring context, I’m looking for answers in a hiring context, and if you’re straight or not is not a hiring context answer.
              So, expanding that, if someone writes their own bio on their website, I think it’s totally appropriate to indicate one’s outness there. On a resume? No. In a cover letter? Not really unless it’s less “I am LGBTQ+” and more “I’ve got experience with blah blah blah orgs” (which are clearly part of the community). People hopefully don’t feel the need to be closeted, but there is still a context in which it is indeed irrelevant. It’s like if I ask a physics question and get a response “well as a gay man, I…” I’d be perplexed. I am not a straight person, and I hear you on needing to know you’ll be safe being out with a given employer. But I still think there are some contexts in which, yes, it is irrelevant to bring it up. The context the OP was asking about isn’t one of them, but if it were on the resume or in the application itself, that would be weird, just as it would be weird to mention being a parent, or a dungeon master.

            3. many bells down

              I actually had to put it in a cover letter once. I was applying to a company that very specifically served the trans community, and as I’m not trans myself, it seemed necessary to outline my connections to it.

        3. Op#5

          I was looking at in the context of calling out protected class type information on a resume (though I know sexual orientation or gender identity isn’t protected in some/most places).

          I did not realize how different the norms were for portfolios and the impacts of personal identity in the creative fields.

        4. fhqwhgads

          It sounded like the OP just meant “I don’t ask about these things during the hiring process so I can’t be accused of improperly using the information to discriminate against someone during the hiring process” not that they’re saying people should be closeted.

        5. Massmatt

          I am all for being out at work but it seems naive to think that there aren’t Some employers who would view this negatively. Not every employer is Nancy Pelosi or Apple. Discrimination in hiring based on sexual orientation is legal in many states, and still common in many more. This is one reason being out is important, but it should be acknowledged that it carries risk.

          In this case the person the OP is writing about is probably well aware, and self-selecting for the kind of people they want to work with.

    5. John

      Is there any appropriate way to put the fact that you are a member of the LGBT community on a resume?
      As you touched on, as a member of the LGBT community, I do not want to work for a company that isn’t 100% on board with having a completely out employee. I would say for the vast majority of us the closet was a deeply unpleasant place and I have no intention of going back in it for a job and even interviewing at a company that isn’t supportive of the LGBT community, and I would especially stress the T, although I am cis myself, is a waste of both of our times.

      I was fortunate enough to find work in an industry that is known to be extremely LGBT friendly but it was definitely a factor in my employment search. When I was out of work it was mandatory for my unemployment to go to a class on finding employment and one of the questions was if there were any factors that would make it difficult to find a new job. I’m sure they were looking for along the lines of things like not knowing how to use Office, ect but I wrote “I’m gay” and it was not addressed, but it was a huge factor for me.

      1. Massmatt

        I would say it isn’t something that goes on a resume unless it somehow shows a relevant skill or experience. I.e. “Treasurer for Rainbow Alliance” or “coordinated housing for speakers at campus LGBTQ+ events”.

        I wouldn’t look at it as closeting yourself, but rather making the resume focused on why you are a good candidate for this job.

        You can definitely find info about how receptive most large and medium sized are to LGBTQ+ issues online in researching prospective employers. And it is certainly a good thing to ask about during the hiring process. Something to keep in mind maybe when the interviewer asks what questions you have about the company.

  4. Linzava

    OP #3,

    I’ve had the same issue. My solution was to hang a mirror on my cube, i was able to see anyone walking up behind me and it made the cube feel a bit bigger.

    1. Zombeyonce

      I’ve also used CDs hung backwards on a cube wall for this very problem when I didn’t have a mirror handy. Less of the “I look at myself all day” vibe a mirror may give, though you lose out in clarity. But it’s obvious when someone is there if positioned correctly.

      1. Just Employed Here

        I love this idea! Although it would look like I’m nostalgic for the 90’s… (so again, loving it).

      2. Seeking Second Childhood

        Oooo and I even have a set of them that I can’t use in the newest computer they gave me!

      3. Gadget Hackwrench

        There are convex mirrors you can get for this purpose, which also makes it clear it’s not for looking at yourself.

    2. Elizabeth the Ginger

      You can buy little stick-on convex mirrors for a couple bucks – depending on the desk layout, they could be helpful for catching movement from a bunch of different angles. And they’ll also be less likely to come across as “I like to look at myself a lot” than a bunch of regular mirrors.

      1. JM in England

        I’ve seen similar mirrors attached to ATMs. They allow you to see who’s behind you without making it obvious you’re looking….

    3. JSPA

      Low powered motion sensor? there are lights and chimes. Cover sensor until it doesn’t pick up your own motions at your desk. ( I’m sure there are also apps, but those raise the issue of privacy violations. )

    4. Damn it, Hardison!

      At my company, one of the IT groups distributed small branded mirrors that had a stand (think tiny picture frame) for this very reason. Everyone had them on their desks. I thought it was quite clever!

    5. Turquoisecow

      In my old office, people who hung mirrors on the walls of their cubes were seen less as vain and more as sneaky. The implication was that they were doing something inappropriate at their desk (not illegal or anything, just like personal web surfing or something) and wanted advanced warning of someone coming around so they could quickly hide their personal activities.

      This office was pretty paranoid and gossipy so maybe that’s out of the norm, but I’d advise that hanging mirrors be accompanied by an explanation of why you’re doing it. People might still doubt you, but at least you’ll have defended yourself proactively.

      1. ChimericalOne

        I once worked in a call-centric environment and was greatly amused when one day our (terrible) boss handed out mirrors to everyone, saying that a smile could be heard over the phone and that we should be “checking our smile” in the mirrors on every call. They were super handy for cluing us in to his approach & made it much easier to slack off. (Which was honestly probably a good thing for the betterment of the world, since we were recruiting students for a predatory for-profit school. Was happy to get out of there, and even happier when they shut down.)

        1. Temp anon

          I have done this! I managed people in a call center and read about this idea, I thought it was really corny at first but I had one employee who just sounded very low energy, think Eeyore, and so I got him a mirror. It worked! I got mirrors for my team and used one myself, at times I would catch myself scowling or rolling my eyes (long hours in a call center, folks!) and it helped me improve my attitude and delivery.

    6. Contracts Killer

      OP#3, if you go to a baby store, you can find rearview mirrors for cars that have suction cups. They are made to help you see into the backseat for a baby, but they’re convex enough I think they’d help here. And you could stick it to your overhead cabinets or the corner of your monitor.

      1. Moray

        I think they actually make some specifically designed to clip onto a computer screen. Which would be good because then you can leave the box out to communicate “this is totally a normal thing.”

    7. Lucille2

      I’ve worked in multiple open offices and mirrors are totally normal. So many people use them that I hardly notice anymore. OP mentions it’s a recent move, so maybe the jumpiness will tone down after awhile? Open offices are really hard to get used to initially, but over time the distractions start to fade a bit and you learn some coping skills.

      Also, if you don’t want to give up the headphones, consider using a larger set that are noticeable to others. The earbuds are harder to notice and I’ve been caught having a one-sided conversation because I didn’t realize the person I was talking to was wearing headphones. I don’t know if this solves the problem, but people will realize you’re not aware of their presence and they need to politely get your attention first.

  5. Aleta

    #5 – That is actually EXTREMELY common in the arts fields I’m a part of (a mix of illustration, comics, and games) – for any marginalized identity, not just LGBTQ. It absolutely has its uses – a publisher might be looking for artists for a nonbinary-only anthology, or an editor wants an illustrator from a specific background to do the editorial illustration for an article about that specific background. Even if you’re just looking for permanent inhouse work, which is usually much more generalist, online portfolios are seen by many more people than just hiring managers. Being out in your “about me” section – which IS usually an actual bio, unlike the about me section in a resume – is wonderful to raise the visibility of marginalized designers and artists if you’re willing to be out.

    1. tamarack and fireweed

      I’m not in the arts field, but I’ve actually increased the number of time I added an LGBT+ symbol (like a rainbow flag) or acronym to online blurbs and taglines that I have online, including some that an employer might consult. (Maybe not a totally-dry-as-dirt employment-only site, but wherever there’s an outreach vibe.) That’s in part because I reckon that visibility helps LGBT+ newcomers feel welcome and normalizes diversity efforts. It is also because I don’t even want to deal with people who don’t really want to deal with me.

    2. Bree

      Yes, this. And there are many roles where lived experience with a marginalized identity is a selling feature.

      Even where it’s not, the LW’s cousin may be trying to avoid homophobic/transphobic employers in advance, which is totally appropriate.

    3. BTDT

      Agreed. I think an online portfolio bio is the perfect place to state one is a LGBTQ+ designer. Everyone shares personal info there. Plus many companies are specifically looking to expand the diversity of their design teams in this area.

    4. Forestdweller

      Absolutely. I’m not in anything even remotely arts-related and I definitely don’t put it on my resume, but I always make sure a prospective employer knows I’m a lesbian (hopefully in ways that are professional, not awkward) and my public online persona makes it clear, too. I know the standard advice is to not even mention it, but I’d rather lose an offer than get one not knowing for sure there won’t be a problem. I know there are probably areas of the US where it’s less likely to be an issue, but here in the south, it’s a real concern. Also, visibility is important, especially in rural areas like mine. My current employer embraces a laid back dress code, so my rainbow KY hat gets to be a work wardrobe staple. :)

    5. MissDisplaced

      My initial thought was that it shouldn’t go on there, given it’s not really necessary to know that for hiring a designer.
      However, you’re right that given it’s an artistic field, there are cases where indicating one is LGBTQ is an advantage to getting certain jobs (such as a publication or agency looking specifically for that-or a designer who specializes in work related to LGBTQ issues or advocacy). So, I guess it’s fine if the person feels comfortable disclosing it. I still don’t think I’d put it on a resume though, unless you were applying to a company or organization where it was relevant.

    6. Working Mom Having It All

      Yeah, my husband is a freelance writer, and i from a marginalized ethnic background. When we got married, he was considering taking my (very WASPy) last name and decided against it out of concern that not having a surname that indicates his background might lose him writing jobs where the client is looking for a specific perspective.

      Since being LGBTQ+ isn’t something coded in your name or anything else concrete about you, it makes sense that #5’s sibling would want to make it clear in their bio for creative work.

      Also… anyone who would discriminate against you is probably someone you don’t want to work for anyway.

      1. Op#5

        ‘Also… anyone who would discriminate against you is probably someone you don’t want to work for anyway.’

        This is I think a big thing I was missing from this whole situation. I was thinking in the ‘you need a job and sharing this isn’t a professional norm and I don’t want it to hurt your chances’ vein that I overlooked that if it would have hurt their chances with a particular employer, they would likely be miserable working there anyhow and not getting that opportunity wouldn’t be such a loss.

        Despite my years reading this blog, I’m sad to say that I apparently still default to the idea that ‘job seekers should be so thankful for the opportunity to be employed’ rather than ‘hiring is a decision between two entities deciding to mutually work together’.

        1. JosephineTX

          100%. If there’s a chance I could end up working with an organization where I couldn’t be out/be myself, I also like to err on the side of letting them know I’m queer as early as possible. It keeps you from ending up somewhere you’ll be uncomfortable or where your employer will be uncomfortable with you. And, bonus points, it may cut down on the number of people you’ll have to come out to after you start the job. Many LGBTQ+ folks hesitate to change jobs just because of the burden of having to come out to a whole new bunch of people all over again. Even when it’s a friendly workplace, the coming out phase is no fun.

  6. Kopper

    OP #4 this happens to me on a daily basis and I always just reply to my boss with a cheerful “already done” and all is well. He just needs the reassurance that I’m on it. You’re not alone!

    1. ceiswyn

      Alternatively, some bosses do this when they’re spinning their wheels and trying to convince everyone they’re on top of things.

      I had a boss who asked me to do a task I was already doing on three separate occasions. The task? To track my work in a location that he had access to, so that he could monitor it.

      I sent him the link to said location multiple times. I don’t think he ever clicked on it. And yet he seemed convinced that the problem was that I wasn’t tracking, rather than that he just wasn’t looking.

      Stressed micromanagers are the worst.

    2. Dana B.S.

      Same – I have had many managers that are aren’t able to keep track of the multitude of tasks that I handle, so I get plenty of requests to do things that I’ve already done. Every time, I remember Lisa in The Room saying in her sing-song voice, “I already ordered a pizza!”

    3. L. S. Cooper

      #4– My boss has done the same thing, normally when it seems like she had “Remind Cooper to send the Llama Safety Report to the field” on her to-do list. She’s an eminently reasonable person, and her reaction to being told I’ve already done something is always positive, because now she doesn’t have to make sure it gets done. Hopefully your boss is like mine!

  7. Bilateralrope

    OP#1 I work in security. Lots of waiting for nothing to happen.

    We all develop ways to pass time. Anything that requires our eyes focused on it will cause problems if something happens and the guard doesn’t notice, as their eyes were on their entertainment. So you need to consider: when new work comes in for you, how will you notice quickly ?

    1. MK

      I think that’s key. If you are taking a nap, do you expect a co-worker to wake you? Is the work supposed to wait till you wake up?

      1. Wintermute

        yup, that’s my criteria in roles where I’ve done a lot of waiting. If you’re visibly doing NOTHING and your average-time-to-ticket a new alarm is 15 minutes it’s not a great look, even if it’s technically inside your metric limits, for a job like mine where I was waiting for incoming alarms.

        It depends on the job, for me I needed to be able to take my eyes off whatever it was and scan the e-mail box and panel every 15-30 seconds or so. For other jobs you’re waiting on a phone call so you will KNOW when you need something.

        But yeah, between the optics and potentially unresponsiveness I think sleeping is really the one thing I don’t know ANY workplace where the boss would be okay with someone sleeping, it’s too obvious, too visible and you’re too unresponsive and it just has really bad optics. For what it’s worth working out is probably borderline too, it just looks too non-work-related it’s a bit flagrant. This of course does depend there ARE places it would be okay but I can’t say I’ve ever seen or known of one.

        In general, especially if there’s outside visibility on you, potential for someone important to wander by, outside vendors, customers, clients, etc. then it should at least look to a casual observer that you’re hard aat work businessing or at least doing something casual while you watch your computer (playing with a rubrics’ cube while you read an article is probably fine in many places for instance).

        1. Eliza

          I’m familiar with a few industries and workplace cultures where it’s commonly acceptable to sleep at work, but they tend to be ones where you’re basically expected to live at the office and be available almost 24/7 for whenever there’s work to be done. In jobs like that (and you probably already know if yours is), the ability to get some sleep without going home is less a perk and more a requirement.

          1. Wintermute

            That’s fair. It’s also common in some cultures, like Japan, though that’s changing as the government tries to shift social attitudes towards the so-called “black companies” who are notorious for overwork. I’ve also seen people sleep on the conference room floor when they’ve had to do two shifts in a day (like 1st and then 3rd), but that’s quite a different case!

            You hit it on the head though, if you’re in one of those jobs you will know, I wouldn’t assume that in any industry that doesn’t have a “work is life” culture and where not going home for days at a time is the norm. And even then it’s not part of their workday it’s “it’s 2am I can get some sleep on the floor before we have our sales meeting at 6”.

            1. Julia

              My husband’s old job actually had a bedroom for people to stay in if they missed the last train. (Usually the office would sponsor a cab ride, but once or twice he stayed there because he had to back early in the morning anyway.)
              I don’t think most people even here (in Japan) would consider sleeping during regular work hours that normal. I had some people who did it in my last job (one higher up and one co-worker I shared job duties with…) but no one in my current office sleeps outside of our lunch hour.

          2. Gadget Hackwrench

            Night shift is allowed to doze at my job, as long as they answer the phone when it rings. We’re internal IT support for a hospital, which means we need 24 hour coverage, but there are some really dead times at night. We also have one nearing retirement fellow on day shift who’s been known to sleep upright in his chair, like old men do. As long as he answers his phone when it rings, it’s all aok.

          3. londonedit

            I used to work with someone whose partner was a lawyer in some crazy corporate firm, and if they were working on a major case then it was fairly common for the firm to pay for them to get a taxi home at 2am, which would wait while they showered and changed clothes, and then drive them back to the office again. Madness.

            In general, everywhere I’ve worked sleeping on the job has been an example of ‘gross misconduct’. Committing an act of gross misconduct is pretty much the only way you can be fired on the spot in the UK. In practice, I once worked with a woman who would often nip downstairs to the meeting room at lunchtime and have a half-hour nap on the sofa, and no one minded, but I suspect it would vary wildly according to the culture you’re working in.

            1. Emily K

              I was accepted to a graduate program where, as one of my current-grad-student guides cheerfully told us on our invited-students tour, there were showers and rooms with cots in the department building where faculty and grad students had their offices.

              That “amenity” may have been the single largest factor in my decision to choose a different program. If you put showers and cots in the building, what I’m hearing is you expect me to need to shower and sleep at the office. No thank you.

        2. Fortitude Jones

          For what it’s worth working out is probably borderline too, it just looks too non-work-related it’s a bit flagrant. This of course does depend there ARE places it would be okay but I can’t say I’ve ever seen or known of one.

          The insurance company I used to work for had an on-site gym that people went to when they had a lull in their schedule or during lunch, so their are companies that allow this out there. I would just say, if your workplace doesn’t have a gym, then you’re probably not supposed to be exercising during the day.

          1. Bortus

            My company allows “desk peddlers” and ball chairs (as well as standing desks) so its actually not uncommon for people to get a little exercise in here and there. We also have an onsite gym so there’s that. :)

            1. Fortitude Jones

              Yeah, I used to do chair exercising (admittedly very infrequently) at my last job, and we didn’t have a gym. I also used to work just a few paces from the president of the company’s office, so I tried not to do it when he was walking the halls or not in a meeting because my grand boss was the type who was always concerned about C-suite perception, and he assumed our president would not like seeing us not being busy.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood

            When I had a frozen shoulder, I used any downtime for stretching exercises. I did worry about mistaken impressions though, so I posted my PT stretch instructions on the wall. That way if anyone saw me, they also saw the medical reminder –and if they didn’t, management would see if they came to tell me it was a bad idea. An unexpected side benefit was that I did my exercises more frequently because *I* saw the reminder.

          3. ThatGirl

            I mean, we do have a small gym in our building, but it’s meant to be used before/after work or on lunch breaks, not so much when you have 10 minutes in the middle of the morning.

    2. sheworkshardforthemoney

      I worked in an “if you have time to lean, you have time to clean” workplace. So it was standard practice to clean the already clean over and over. I always looked for things to do that like organizing supply closets that hadn’t been touched in years.

  8. Herewego

    #3 – Could you listen with just one earbud in? Then you’d be able to hear if someone is coming up, but still also be abl to listen to something.

  9. JJ

    #1 What about doing some professional development? I like reading relevant websites and doing free courses on sites like FutureLearn.

    1. Richard

      Or reading Ask A Manager? I’m interviewing people all week and have have found reading relevant AAM posts a reasonable time filler.

    2. No Longer Working

      Agreed – Unless you’re a master at every piece of software you use – or want to use, doing/watching tutorials, practicing, & reading the manual are all ways to get better at your job and increase your value to the company.

    3. Sally

      I agree. There was plenty of downtime when I worked at a bank in the corporate office. This was back in the day when Windows was new, so I taught myself PowerPoint and Excel. The extra bonus was that I enjoyed learning new software.

    4. L. S. Cooper

      Thanks for the recommendation for FutureLearn! I have a lot of free time at work, and I need something to keep me occupied that doesn’t involve faffing about on my phone.

    5. raktajino

      Also check out what resources are available through your work or even local orgs like your library. My work has a training database (even customer-facing training videos would be useful), and my local library has a subscription to Lynda. I’ve definitely spent down time with training from both of those places.

  10. Laura H.

    Not LGBTQA, (and while I know from prior comments that the qualifiers of that nature are common in the arts field) how would one discreetly screen for “climate”factors like that- be it LGBTQA, or any other situation where one might not want to reveal something that might adversely affect candidacy?(invisible disabilities come to mind)- even though it’s illegal (or at the very least acknowledged as bad form- biases are a thing) to have those factors decide a hiring decision??

    I’d imagine you would likely get a canned answer (that may or may not be accurate) if you asked “How does [potential workplace] treat “group x”?” outright…

    1. JJ

      I wouldn’t ask about one specific group in an interview. You could ask a more general question about equality and diversity.

    2. Aleta

      If the group has a community in your city, with enough people in your field, you can ask around about that sort of thing, too. IME that stuff gets passed around. It’s not perfect – it’s unlikely there’s a current or former employee for every company in your field, but it’s not nothing.

    3. JSPA

      “Active commitment to diversity is important to me. How does Megacorp express its support of diversity, internally and externally?”

      1. Melba Toast

        I think this is an especially good way to phrase things because you’re actually asking *how*. It’s easy for a company to say it values diversity, but if they actually do then they should be able to give real examples.

      2. Forestdweller

        +1 This is the perfect way to ask.
        Also, I know sometimes we’re in situations where we REALLY need that job, and obviously that affects what we’re willing to accept, but maybe it isn’t that big of a deal if the way you ask DOES adversely affect your candidacy. From my point of view, if this is a workplace with an unfavorable climate for whatever reason, I’d rather they not make me the offer, because a lot of times interviewers will SAY the right thing, even if it isn’t true but then choose not to make the hire, which I consider me dodging a bullet. Obviously, this is more for things like LGBTQ-friendliness that in many places aren’t connected to a legally-protected class, rather than a disability, but still.

      3. Karen from Finance

        This is excellent and I may be using it soon, but I don’t think it will work on smaller businesses necessarily, where they work with more limited budgets. For larger companies, definitely.

      4. Flower

        Also, depending on the type of company “how well do the demographics of the company reflect the population it serves/is surrounded by” and if the answer isn’t that it does it well, try to find out why/if they’re trying to change that. Isn’t always relevant and sometimes the causes for not matching are big systemic ones that a company alone can’t address.

    4. Working Mom Having It All

      I’m nonbinary, queer, and in an interracial marriage/with a multiracial kid.

      For me (as someone who doesn’t present in a way that this is going to be a HUGE factor of every moment of my life there, for example I don’t have to worry much about which restroom to use), this is a culture fit factor. When I apply for jobs I always notice whether they have diversity/inclusion initiatives prominently displayed on their careers site. When I go for an interview, I notice how racially diverse the office is, and if I clock anyone who is pretty obviously out as LGBTQ+ at work. (For example I recently had an interview and happened to see someone in the office who uses a chest binder, which as a NB person is probably something only someone like me would notice.) If I’m interviewing with people who work at a variety of levels, I notice how the diversity plays out among everyone. Is the receptionist a woman of color while all the execs are white men? Is that person in a chest binder selling donuts in the lobby while everyone I actually interview with is a straight cisgender white person?

      I have friends who pass less easily, and who have serious safety concerns rather than my more low-key “is putting a photo of my husband and kid on my desk going to be a Thing”, and they have specific questions they ask and things they look for in interviews beyond what I do. But, yeah, this is the major culture fit question for me with any job search.

    5. MassMatt

      Good question, and it can require some digging to get a real vs canned answer.

      I would include LGBTQ acceptance in my research of the company. For large and medium size companies, do they have a score from the Human Rights Campaign or other sources? What does their website say about their employees? Do they have a non-discrimination policy? This is especially important for employers in states that lack protections. Do they have an LGBTQ employee resource group (ERG) or other affinity group? Do they sponsor LGBTQ charities? Is there buzz about them on sites such as Glassdoor?

      It’s a good thing to ask prospective/future coworkers about, especially if you need the job and are unsure whether asking the interviewer might damage your candidacy. Alison has a great article on how to find out about the culture of a workplace when job hunting, basically try to talk to people you would be working with if hired, they will often give more honest answers than the official interviewer. Look for rainbow flags. How diverse does the staff look? If everyone looks like the interviewer that’s probably not a good sign.

  11. Gleeze

    OP3 – I used to work with someone who was easily startled. Her desk was situated in a way that people would almost always come up behind her and give her a fright. Once I realised this, I was much more mindful and tried to approach her without startling her. I wouldn’t have thought it was weird if she had mirrors up so that might be a good option. Alternatively, if your company has an internal messaging system, maybe you can ask your colleagues to send you a message before they come to your desk so you are prepared and can turn around before they get there?

  12. German Girl

    #5 Especially for a designer it can be valuable to know if the person has experience with the LGBTQ+Community or other marginalized group that the hiring company is trying to reach out to.
    I wouldn’t put it in the CV of an application, because those tend to be very sparse on personal stuff like that in the US, but on an online resumé, go ahead. And if you know that the company is looking for that type of experience, it can be mentioned in the cover letter as well.

  13. Wintermute

    #1– I’ve faced this before because a lot of what I’ve done in some network operations roles is split into ‘daily checks” that take a few hours at best a day, and “waiting for things to break or a request”.

    My solution was “if my boss asks what I’ve been doing, can I justify it in SOME way or am I really just playing around?”– reading industry news, reading AAM, reading motivational and management books and articles, professional development, teaching myself the computer programming language used by our automation engineers, reading documentation and literature from vendors, studying for certifications, reading Wikipedia articles on technologies and systems we used, I got fairly creative with it.

    Another place was in the process of shuttering the center and I was a contractor keeping the lights on in the interim. There even the boss was watching movies and surfing e-bay on his PC, so I brought a tablet (I preferred to avoid the company IT systems just because, well, ethics, even if no one else cared that was my own personal line) and I worked on my 100% completion playthrough of Persona 3 FES. If you do play games I recommend non-real-time-combat RPGs, life sims and other genres that you can pause at any moment in an instant and can put down and leave for an hour without forgetting what you were doing, so the Persona series worked nicely. I was halfway through Persona 4 Golden when I found a job that would advance my skills and career far better…

    1. Seeking Second Childhood

      Yes — software forums! I used to be very active in the users group for our primary software, and I tracked it as software research on our internal time-tracking sheets. (We’re not directly billing customers.) Our template redesign was using some high-end features so the research needed to be done anyway, and I had a lot of hurry-up-and-wait at that point. By the end of that stretch of time, I was answering a lot of questions on the topic too — enough that I put together a presentation for the local branch of our industry group. And THAT went on my resume. :D

  14. Zaphod Beeblebrox

    OP4 – I’m reminded of Basil Fawlty’s response when Sybil phoned him with yet another instruction:

    “I’m doing it. I’m doing it now. I’ve just had to stop doing it, to pick up the phone to be reminded by you to do what I’m already doing. I mean, what is the bloody point of that? What is the bloody point? I’m doing it, aren’t I.”

    Accept that might not be the best response though.

    1. Retail

      Yesterday my partner was hacking off the top of the clumps of fountain grass and I was raking and cleaning up after him.

      Boss came to see how it was going and then turned to me standing still and asked what I was doing. I can’t clean up after him if we’re stopped talking to you!

    2. A Simple Narwhal

      LOVE me some Fawlty Towers! I was so sad when they took it off of Netflix.

    3. Sybil Fawlty

      Obviously I had to comment! I loved that show too! And yes my husband and I may have had that exact conversation!

  15. Akcipitrokulo

    OP2 – there are lots of ethical recruiters out there. You don’t need this one in your life. It’s OK just to stop talking to them or accepting their calls!

    1. Wintermute

      I second this. This person showed you their true colors. What are the odds that they behave unethically in other areas as well? If they’ll misrepresent a candidate to fill a position, they’ll misrepresent a job to get it filled too!

      Unless you’re truly desperate and are going in looking for trouble, and even then consider just how desperate you really are and if it’s worth working with someone with compromised ethics.

    2. Mookie

      This particular recruiter has reached her sell-by date with the LW. I’ve come across this kind of behavior before, and I find that one clarification is sufficient to determine whether a recruiter is unethical or just ignorant. I generally lead with something like, “oh, I expect an employer in this field to know that my proficiency and experience with X readily translates to software Y with very minimal training.” And, where applicable, “I can certainly familiarize myself with it prior to an interview but I can’t claim to have used it professionally when I haven’t.” At which point a well-meaning recruiter will accept that I know my field well enough to make that determination, whereas an unscrupulous one may not. Either way, the discussion is unequivocally over.

      1. Mookie

        And if it’s the employer pushing it as a necessary qualification, without a reasonable exception, they’re also not worth bothering with.

        1. Akcipitrokulo

          Yep.

          Only exception *might* be if HR has taken hiring managers reasonable “around 2 years with something like X package” to “min 2 years of X, no exceptions”. But even then… your manager might be OK, but HR is likely to cause you pain if that’s their approach.

          1. MassMatt

            This is reminding me of an article I read somewhere about a job requiring at least 2 years experience with a product that was only a year old. Sometimes the job requirements are written by people that have no real knowledge of the job. Or they are listing wishes not needs.

    3. Jules

      #2 I would also keep a sharp lookout for any…exaggerations…the recruiter made when representing YOU to the company. For example, if you casually mentioned to the recruiter that you speak a little conversational Spanish, and then in your interview the hiring manager says something about being very excited about your language skills, maybe take a moment to make sure the recruiter didn’t claim you were fluent in multiple languages!

      1. Akcipitrokulo

        I once had an agent convince me to go to an interview where I did not have some of the technical skills. I told them “they say I need X. I don’t have X.” and was told that they had discussed it with the employer; that they knew I didn’t have it, but were excited about my other qualifications and would be willing to consider training me in X if I were successful.

        So I went to interview. After a couple of minutes of my giving blank looks to very technical questions about it, we stopped, compared notes, discovered recruiter had lied to both of us (interviewer was expecting an expert) and ended interview there and then.

        One of worst interviews ever – only upside is that me and interviewer got on great, and there were mutual apologies for wasting each others time – I suspect they won’t be using that agent again. I certainly didn’t.

  16. LGC

    #5 – since your sibling works in a creative field (and this isn’t specific to creative fields, it’s just a thought), I’m wondering whether their identity informs their work. In my case, saying I’m an LGBTQ+ POC llama groomer would be inappropriate, because being gay and being black doesn’t have anything to do with my ability to groom llamas. I’d be less hesitant if I was – let’s say – a llama painter, and my artwork was influenced by 1) being black in America and 2) being queer in America. (And also, like, if one of my big projects was painting a herd of llamas in rainbow colors and riding one of them in a pride parade.)

    So in this case I’m a little less sure about the inappropriateness.

    1. Ciara

      As a designer, you hit the nail on the head. Particularly if they’re looking to work outside of very corporate jobs, their work and perspective may well be informed by their perspective. It’s also quite common for art directors to specifically seek out members of marginalized groups to do work pertaining to that topic — so if they are publishing an article on LGBTQ+ identity, it makes sense to hire a designer or illustrator who has lived experience with that perspective.

      1. londonedit

        Yep, I have a friend who identifies herself as a ‘queer photographer’ in her online bio, and I frequently see her posting requests on Facebook for LGBTQ+ models for particular shoots. It’s pretty common in creative industries, particularly where people are working for clients who aim their products at marginalised groups.

    2. Forestdweller

      Totally agree. One thing I would add, though, is that even in other industries, especially customer-facing ones, it may still be relevant in that people from marginalized groups might feel more comfortable working with someone who is familiar with those specific challenges. For example, being a POC and a member of the LGBTQ+ community may not specifically affect the way a candidate grooms llamas, but if I’m hiring a llama groomer and I know that I have a very diverse customer base bringing me their llamas to be groomed, I definitely want to hire someone who isn’t homophobic or racist (for that matter, non-racist and non-homophobic candidates should always be preferred, but i digress…). I’m not saying it belongs on the resume or anything, but I can see situations where it would information about myself I would want to highlight.

      1. LGC

        Okay, I can definitely hang with that, and I wrote a bit too broadly when I said that it’d be inappropriate to mention my race or my orientation full stop (it’d probably be most cases, but definitely not all). For me, I feel like it’s worth highlighting only if it’s somewhat relevant to the hiring process – and yeah, that’s a pretty subjective call. For example, if the company was running an initiative to hire people from a specific group, then I’d point out that I was a member (especially if I was applying through that initiative).

        Otherwise? Diversity is great, and should definitely be encouraged. (And like, to be real, people are going to see that I’m black the moment I come in for an interview.) But I think that’s only a starting point – what a company should really want to filter out is prejudice, and shut down prejudiced behavior immediately. I think that – absent other information – being a member of a group says little beyond whether you’re a member of that group.

    3. L. S. Cooper

      I would like to see a herd of llamas in rainbow colors.

      And you absolutely hit the nail on the head, especially as the arts move more and more towards valuing diversity!

      1. LGC

        I’m not going to lie, I just Googled “can you ride a llama.”

        (It did autocomplete, but it was the third suggestion, below “can you ride a zebra.” Apparently, the answer is “not unless you’re a child” – llamas can only carry about a quarter of their body weight, according to the first result.)

        1. StuckInRetailHell

          You can’t ride a llama but you can harness them to a cart and drive them.

  17. Liza

    #1: I work a job with a lot of downtime. We have one afternoon a week in particular that we are supposed to leave free for drop in appointments, but those days can vary from “run off our feet, running out of meeting space” to “nobody showed, let’s all go home early”.

    Generally we read the news, watch TED talks, poke at Facebook, do a bit of online shopping, etc. I’ve also used the time to create their own little projects to propose for the future, and to clean out the supply room.

    It’s all very dependent on the culture. (Wasn’t there someone on here who wrote in because they were worried about the optics of a worker browsing the web or playing a game while he waited several minutes for a computer to update?) It can be very difficult to adjust if you’re used to a “look busy, even if you’re not” kind of culture. My last job banned people from Facebook even though there were honestly shifts where there was literally nothing to do, but somebody has to be in the building for insurance reasons. The fact that I can now spend an hour scrolling through the MSN headlines is… bizarre.

  18. Asenath

    When I have nothing to do at work, I start off by finding something I don’t need right now – setting up and triple-checking spreadsheets for some upcoming project is good, or the never-ending job of creating and updating a desk manual for my job. Fortunately, my employer has no objection to the use of the internet for personal purposes if the work is being done, which is what I do when I’m really at loose ends. But at other times of the year, I’m in early and working late, so it all seems to balance out.

    And then there’s the situation in which you want to Make a Point. I came back from holiday once to find my office contents packed up and in storage (except for the computer and desk-on-wheels and my chair, which were in the corridor), someone else in my office, and nowhere for me to go. I sat in the corridor reading novels on the e-reader I had then, and telling everyone that I couldn’t do any work since there was no way to connect my computer to the network in the corridor. They finally found me a space to work. I’m surprised, looking back on it, that the fire safety people hadn’t complained about me blocking the corridor – they do check regularly, and the amount of stuff that can be placed along the walls of the corridor is extremely limited.

      1. Asenath

        Well, I’m still here, but that thought did occur to me, although I was assured it wasn’t true, and I was aware of the space problems, which continued until we got an additional building. I also tried sort of temporarily borrowing the office of another worker who was out of the office most of the time, but was quickly informed that wasn’t acceptable. And I thought of just staying home, but was afraid that would be interpreted as not reporting for work, which WOULD be a firing offense.

  19. Retail

    I have an hourly job where we don’t have scheduled breaks (we do have a paid lunch). We have random pockets of downtime and we talk about any random thing while waiting but sometimes when it’s just me waiting on my partners, I read a library book in my kindle app. Easy enough to stop and doesn’t kill the battery. With one coworker who takes smoke breaks, maybe it doesn’t look good to be on my phone but I’ve got nothing to do while she smokes!

    Of course if this downtime is in a different spot, I’ll open up pokemon go. No sense wasting this time next to a gym!

    1. Marthooh

      Yes library books, except Libby is much nicer than Kindle app: titles download directly from your local library instead of needing a trip to Amazon dot com, and they go away when you’re done with them instead of hanging around waiting to be cleaned up. /ebookenthusiasm

  20. Quickbeam

    #3: I share this problem. My company insists on inward facing orientation in cubes. I have a very high startle reflex. I bought a deer hunting mirror (like a rear view mirror in a car only on a gooseneck) that I put over my monitor. I can now see anyone coming up behind me. This got some push back until,I went to the powers that be and explained I had been sexually assaulted from behind when I was younger (true). They backed way off and I did not need to provide a medical accommodation request. It works for me, even with ear buds in.

    1. sheworkshardforthemoney

      That’s a good point, my startle reflex also comes from someone coming up behind me and placing their hands around my neck and choking me. I don’t feel comfortable sharing that though with random people, it’s a very long story…

    2. WellRed

      I think it’s ridic that they even cared about the mirror in the first place. Why are employers so petty?

      1. Works in IT

        It’s because mirrors can also allow lazy employees to see if a supervisor is coming to look at what they’re doing.

        1. Serin

          I get that this is the reality, but it pisses me off. If they’ve structured your work in such a way that the only way they can tell if you’re a slacker is by literally coming up behind you and looking at your computer screen (rather than, you know, looking at the goals they’ve asked you to achieve and seeing that you’re not achieving them), then it’s not your fault they’re bad at managing.

      2. yala

        Yeah, I’ve got a pretty high startle reflex and considered a mirror, but my Dad said it would look bad.

  21. Dollis Hill

    I think the best thing anyone can do with downtime is to work on career development and keeping up to date with news related to your industry, if there is any. I have a small amount of downtime in my current job – I’ve worked here less than a year and it’s an industry I’m new to so I spend the downtime reading industry related articles and familiarising myself with the fairly unique industry jargon that mostly went over my head when I first started, and I’ve found that really helpful to help me understand a lot of the aspects of my job and the jobs of my colleagues too.
    I’ve had downtime in previous jobs too and have managed to take my Excel skills from average to advanced thanks to Excel tutorials, which has in turn helped me towards getting a better job!

  22. Luna

    “I am an LGBTQ+ designer”
    …huh? Oh, they mention their sexual and/or romantic orientation in the portfolio! Sorry, I first read that as them designing LGBTQ+ characters or designs. I was wondering what kinda job that is.

    Yeah, I would remove that from the portfolio/resume. Not because of potential discrimination, though that could be a worry, too, but because… frankly, your romantic and/or sexual orientation is *not* important to the job.

    1. Wintermute

      A resume isn’t the same though. Your personal blurb on an artist’s website is a perfectly appropriate place to put those kinds of details. Like Alison said, it can serve as a screener, and like other people have pointed out, sometimes that is a qualification!

      The standards are totally different than a formal resume or even a portfolio.

    2. Mookie

      Nope. This is a cultural feature within certain fields, and I expect the LW’s sibling is well aware of their own.

      1. Mookie

        And as Alison and others have said, of course it’s important to job-seekers to weed out employers that will pose a risk to their well-being. Better never to enter toxic environments than to enmesh a good portion of your waking hours in one unknowingly (not to mention staking your living on navigating one).

        1. Anon Y. Mouse

          Yeah, 100% this.
          In my current position, I made sure my resume included volunteer work in LGBTQ+ settings, when I interviewed, if I had examples that could pull from those scenarios I did it intentionally to put that in front of my possible future employer specifically because I wanted them to know that that was important to me and I’d rather not move across the country to find myself in an environment where that would be an issue.

      2. Op#5

        Part of the reason I wrote looking for backing on my gut instinct was that my sibling is very new to the world of professional work.

        Turns out they know more about their field than I do already though since my gut instinct, in this case, turned out to be wrong!

        1. your favorite person

          I appreciate your ability to see this! It’s a good question and I’m glad you wrote it.

    3. Cee

      No, you’re out of touch with the design field and LGBTQ+ culture. As a designer this is normal in our field and particularly in certain areas where sensitivity to the LGBTQ+ community is paramount and valued. They might be slightly reducing their chances at getting jobs in an extremely corporate or conservative environments, but I’m guessing that’s a feature, not a bug.

      Also, mentioning that your orientation is something besides heterosexual is not inherently inappropriate or vulgar as you seem to be implying in your last sentence.

      1. Holly

        I don’t think that’s a fair representation of Luna’s comment – I don’t see anything framing certain orientations as vulgar. Lets try to be charitable in our reading here. I agree with the rest of your comment.

        1. General Ginger

          I am all for giving folks the benefit of the doubt, but it’s usually not the tolerant/accepting ones who tend to say I don’t care if you’re gay, straight or purple, it doesn’t matter to the job.

          1. Holly

            I agree with you conceptually, I just don’t agree with that reading of Luna’s comment. I read it specifically as “sexual orientation is irrelevant information to put on a resume/online bio” (which is well meaning but actually wrong in terms of industry norms in design and the LGBT community, as you pointed out). I did not read it as “saying you are part of the LGBT community is inappropriate” or “no one will care that you are part of the LGBT community in a workplace.” I’ll leave it there though, since if it came off as offensive as others it is worth noting.

            1. Holly

              Sorry, as Cee* pointed out, I didn’t realize I wasn’t replying to the original commenter.

            2. General Ginger

              The thing is, cis/straight people may think their orientation/identity doesn’t matter to the job, because they don’t give it a second thought. It’s a very privileged point to be able to make. I wish I could say my identity isn’t important to the job and absolutely mean it, but sometimes — really most of the time — it absolutely does.

              1. Jennifer Thneed

                Yup, because most of us work with other people. Who have Opinions. My job title says that I’m a technical writer, but I get my material by having meetings with … other people!

        2. Cee

          I interpreted “frankly, your romantic and/or sexual orientation is *not* important to the job.” as implying that it’s inappropriate to mention non-heterosexual orientations in a work context. The truth is that there are many ways in which your orientation is relevant to the workplace, from socializing with coworkers to working on projects where LGBTQ+ issues are at the forefront or diverse perspectives are needed. People just don’t notice it when they’re heterosexual.

          Maybe I was uncharitable, and I apologize if so — but this is something I have encountered in my workplace from people who claim to be tolerant so long as it stays out of sight, because it is viewed as something inherently sexual or vulgar, so I wanted to mention that.

          1. General Ginger

            Yeah, it kind of came off the same way to me. And frankly, as a trans/queer person, my orientation and my identity are important to the job, at least in the context of not wanting to work in another place that barely tolerates me, doesn’t offer insurance that cover trans care, supports causes that are antithetical to not only my morals, but my safety, etc.

          2. Holly

            For the record, I completely agree with you, I just wasn’t getting anything opposing that from her comment. Perhaps I was overly charitable based on my workplace experience! Regardless, I’m glad that it prompted a discussion because it’s important context for OP’s question.

    4. Forestdweller

      I understand where you’re coming from, and I suppose it shouldn’t matter, but it often does. We totally live in a world where people who aren’t straight face a lot of discrimination and poor treatment just because of who they are. It’s a pretty big privilege to feel confident that nobody at your job will care about your sexual orientation. For me, having an employer that is committed to diversity and will ensure I don’t get treated badly is very important, especially because I live in a state with 0 protections.

      1. anon4this

        “It’s a pretty big privilege to feel confident that nobody at your job will care about your sexual orientation. ”
        +1,000,000,000,000
        hit the nail right on the head!

        1. General Ginger

          Yup. Far too many times “nobody will care” means “as long as you just keep quiet about it, nobody will care”. Or “nobody here is actually going to say bigoted things to your face, but we as an org do support bigoted causes and don’t plan on stopping”.

          1. Forestdweller

            oh my gosh, YES. Or “most people are polite enough not to say bigoted things to your face, but if someone does, we aren’t going to do anything about it.” And I don’t want to work where those attitudes are normalized.

    5. Dahlia

      Except it sometimes is. For instance, I do ace and aro sensitivity reading. You need to share the marginalization to sensitivity read for it.

    6. Working Mom Having It All

      I don’t mean to be rude about it, but it sounds like if you read that and had no idea what it could possibly be referring to, you maybe aren’t the person to decide whether it’s important for them to have in their bio.

    7. Jennifer Thneed

      Luna, the bit you’re missing here is that I *want* employers to self-select away from me. That’s discrimination, yes, but I’d rather they do it before they ever meet me than after they’ve hired me.

      Now, I’m not the OP’s sibling, and I’m not an artist with an online portfolio, so it isn’t actually as easy for me to set this up. But I’m a woman married to a woman, and I *do*not*want* to work with people who don’t want to work with “my kind”.

  23. The Rafters

    #3, My former hard-of-hearing coworker used mirrors which worked most of the time for her, and I also used to stomp up to her and call out her name as I was approaching.

  24. Utoh!

    OP 4 – Is the task something that is not visible to your boss as having been done? Is there anyway to *make* it visible (even just a confirmation from you that it’s been done)?

    1. CupcakeCounter

      This. I get this all the time with my former boss, now grandboss.
      There is a lot of stuff I do directly for the VP (his boss) as well as the company that owns us.
      I can’t tell you the number of times he as called me into his office to tell me we need to start doing X. My response is usually along the lines of “I’ve been doing Y for VP for about a year now – would you like me to send you last month’s so you can review it and see if it meets your needs?” At least 95% of the time what I am already doing is what is required. My favorite is when I get the reply “Oh…I didn’t realize he’s already talked to you about that. I was trying to have something ready before he asked.”
      About 11 months too late for that.

  25. Project Problem Solver

    OP5: in a way, I have my sexuality on my resume, but not in my header. I include volunteer work I do for a local LGBTQ+ organization. The main reason for this is that I co-chair their annual convention. As a project manager, that’s very relevant to my work. But the second reason is, yeah, to screen out employers I don’t want to work for.

  26. Hereforthisonecomment

    OP 3. I have a coworker with the exact same issue. She jumps every single time someone approaches her cubicle no matter how cautious they are to not scare her. So about a year ago, I tacked a jingly bracelet to her cubicle wall as a somewhat jokey doorbell. She thought it was funny, but people started using it by lightly jingling it before they approach her and she doesn’t get startled anymore. So maybe a “doorbell” to attach to the outside cubicle?

  27. Crivens!

    My job often has a lot of downtime. And trust me when I say that I mean real downtime, when there is not other work I could be doing to help out, industry stuff I could be reading, or professional development I could be doing.

    What I do is get books from my library and read them through Kindle on my browser. Gives me something to do that doesn’t have to look blatantly like NOT WORKING, though everyone in my office accepts this downtime and doesn’t expect constant work.

    1. Colette

      Yeah, I think that if the OP truly has nothing work-related she can do (such as the suggestions others have made about writing process manuals, cleaning up physical or electronic files, and other work-related tasks), her best option is to do something that at a glance looks like work – i.e. something on the computer that is largely text or numbers. Update her budget, write a novel, read a web page that is largely text, etc.

      1. Amethystmoon

        In my spare time at previous jobs, I have both written fan fiction and worked on Toastmaster speeches, either the rough draft or the corresponding PowerPoint. But I also didn’t have my screen open all the way, so it didn’t blatantly look like Not Working.

  28. Squeeze of Lemon

    LW 1: Once I had a job where my contract was ending and the work was complete. For the final two weeks of the academic year I had absolutely nothing – not one thing – to do. Other employers were preparing for the following year, but I would not be returning. I couldn’t even do stuff for myself because I didn’t yet know where I’d get a new contract. But I still had to physically go to work and sit there in order to get paid.

    I ending up browsing dating sites and writing really long email exchanges with the person who is now my spouse!

  29. Ponyboy Curtis

    LW#2: find another recruiter. If they’ll lie to the employer, they’ll lie to you. Lying does nothing to help either of you.

    1. Uncanny Valley

      A few years back as my contract with a company was coming to an end, a recruiter reached out to me for a potential job. All was going well but then I was advised to tell the hiring manager that I was making about 30K more than I actually was. I was told this would make salary negotiations easier.

      I told the recruiter that I was not going to do that and if it meant lower pay or not getting the job I would live with the consequences. I strive to be a person of principle and I lost my last job partially through a series of lies by others. The recruiter backed down and although I should have dropped the recruiter then I pressed on since I was interested in the job and they really wanted me.

      I eventually got to phase 2 of the interview process and had a nice discussion with the person I would be working for. I decided to end the process after “potential boss” spend too much time bad mouthing the person who I would be replacing. According to “potential boss” this person was a bad fit and they were trying to get me in there quickly. A year earlier I left a job where bosses were bad mouthing me, and this revelation was timely and critical.

      Thankfully, the company I was contracting for hired me permanently a few weeks later. Over the course of several years, my pay has increased past the level that the recruiter suggested for that other job. So I got the pay anyway, in time and I still have a clean conscience. ;-)

  30. LaDeeDa

    I am very easily startled too! When I had a cubicle I had several mirrors up and they helped greatly. And I asked my co-workers, who would come to my cubicle often, to knock on the corner of the joining walls, that wasn’t at the opening. For some reason, I found that less startling that walking up to the opening of my cubicle. It is really unsettling to jump, gasp, and have your heart race– I had a hard time calming down after.
    Now if I could just convince my husband to wear a bell around his neck.

  31. HelloooooFriday!

    #1 – There’s always something to do work-related like what Alison mentioned above. When that runs out I’ve taken courses through sites like udemy, studied and passed certifications, etc. reading relevant articles. I figure my company is paying me to do work related stuff – so I do that in trying to further myself through education.

    #3 – Unfortunately this is me. This is something everyone is aware of and although they feel bad, I just laugh it off and say no worries which seems to calm them down. It’s just one of those things I live with

  32. Amethystmoon

    #3, this is why I hate open office plans. Many of them also force the workers desks to face a direction that is different from the direction in which people come from, such as behind you. You can try getting a little rear-view mirror for your computer, but it’s not always possible to keep that at all angles. I also had a rather mean woman in my past department who appeared to be not-so-secretly happy every time she startled me.

  33. AlexandrinaVictoria

    There is a horrifying Youtube video of a compilation of coworkers intentionally scaring an obviously easily-startled man. It is one of the meanest things I have ever seen.

    1. Michelle

      I have never understand why people get suck a kick of doing mean, cruel things like that!

      The worst one I ever saw was a young man and woman went on vacation with some friends. One morning the young woman was still asleep and her boyfriend explained (to the camera) that she was terrified of snakes, so he had gotten a box (yes a box) of non-venomous snakes and dumped them on his sleeping girlfriend,while their “friends” watched, laughed and filmed. All I could think while that woman was screaming in terror was if that was me, once they got those snakes off of me, I would goo 100% John Wick on them. Smash that huge mirror on the wall and slash them with the jagged edges.

      1. Blue Bunny

        Our pop culture glamorizes it. Look at crap like Ellen scaring the p1ss out of her guests in the dressing room, or Jimmy Kimmel having celebrities read mean tweets about themselves.

        1. L. S. Cooper

          Heck, look at America’s Funniest Home Videos. Or our obsession with watching hangings and bear baiting back in Ye Olden Days (or þe olden days, if we’d like to get pedantic). There’s… a terrifying lack of empathy shown by so many people when it comes to entertainment.

        2. Michelle

          The Jimmy Kimmel bit where he gets parents to tell their children they ate all their Halloween candy pisses me off. I can’t even watch his show anymore.

          1. Michaela Westen

            I never could. We’ve come so far from Johnny Carson in such a short time.

        3. Mr. Shark

          I would think that Ellen would lay off if the person specifically told her that she wouldn’t like that. In general, I think the Ellen scares are a little more fun than dropping a bunch of snakes on a wife/gf.
          But I agree, there are a lot of pranks on YouTube which are meant to scare random people out in the world, and not just more harmless pranks, but pranks that either the person who is getting scared could end up being harmed (running away from someone who is threatening, could end up running into traffic), or the person doing the scaring could end up getting harmed by someone who was scared (random guy in some weird mask chasing after someone could end up shot or stabbed). It’s unfortunate that there are people who enjoy frightening others to that extent.
          Back to the topic on hand, I think a mirror, a knock please sign, or some other more subtle indication that someone is approaching (as someone mentioned above, a dangly set of chimes or similar as a doorbell) would be helpful. But I also empathize with people. I can see being easily startled if your back is to people approaching you. I’m in a high-walled cubicle, but most people are coming towards me down the aisle from where I can see them peripherally.

      2. Anonanon

        A coworker was sharing what he considered funny YouTube videos at work. They were videos of women taken by their spouse or boyfriend setting them up to answer some simple riddle wrong. The whole point was: Look how dumb my gf/wife is! I was horrified. All I could say to my coworker was how cruel I thought these men were for making fun of their significant others online. Any man who does that to their partner should immediately be kicked to the curb. He started seeing my point and stopped sharing the videos.

  34. Long time listener, first time caller

    OP #3 – I agree with others about a mirror, I have a small one that clips right onto my monitor. I also put up a sign on my wall that is in my peripheral vision that says “If you need my attention, please put your hand here” and there is an outline of a hand. People think it’s funny but it works!

  35. 'Tis me

    I don’t even have low cubicle walls any more – just a monitor and drawers at a desk in a line of touching desks. The balancing act – especially if you’re on the end of a row like I am, so people can walk past along two axes – between blocking out your surroundings enough to concentrate and do your job without being distracted every time other people walk past, and not levitating when somebody actually comes over to talk to you and you suddenly realise they’re right there, is *hard*!!! I’m only actually in the office one day/week now too, and the first few times I was back in after maternity leave I found it quite hard to focus.

    I have reciprocally startled other people too though, going over to them and not wanting to interrupt their flow so they suddenly realise I’m waiting politely for them to notice me…

  36. Red

    #3 – I feel you! I’m also easily startled (thanks, trauma!), and it doesn’t matter if my desk is angled a certain way, headphones in or out, I’m just going to jump and tense up, and sometimes gasp.
    I’ve just kind of accepted that that’s where I am right now, and I’ve worked for a long time to be able to quickly re-center, so at this point it’s not disruptive to my workflow or productivity. (There were years where that was not the case.)

    Something I’ve been trying out with coworkers is asking them to not acknowledge it, but in a really warm and casual tone. I frame it as if, by not mentioning the startle response, they’re doing me a huge favor. So far I’ve found that this makes them feel better because they get the sense that they are doing something helpful, and they don’t have to feel guilty or worry about how to respond in the moment. And it’s great for me because I can pivot more quickly to what we need to talk about without having to take the time to care for their feelings about my reaction. I haven’t had anyone respond poorly yet, and have used it with supervisors as well as my direct reports.

    I also work in a helping profession, where a lot of people have strong personal connections to the work that we do, and I recognize that this wouldn’t work as easily in other settings.

    1. Potato Girl

      I’ve been using the same tactic for a couple years and it works well, especially on people who feel guilty about startling me. I usually say something like, “Please don’t be sorry, it’s just a reflex! It’s kind of embarrassing, so honestly the best thing you can do is pretend it didn’t happen. Anyway, what’s up?”

      Very rarely, I’ll have to add that I listen to headphones at a low volume so please call my name instead of touching me, and once or twice I’ve caused offense with my somewhat vigorous response to being tapped on the shoulder, but making a point to sound friendly immediately afterward smooths things over.

      Most people I meet are pretty decent and it becomes a very minor quirk like everyone else’s: Elia is clumsy, Kevan doesn’t talk much before 9:30, and Potato Girl startles easily.

  37. The Tin Man

    OP2 Does anyone else get the feeling that the recruiter both wants OP2 to lie but also to have deniability if it blows up? I just picture her building a defense that if OP2 gets found out that they don’t have experience in X the recruiter can say “OP2 told me directly they had two years of experience in X! It’s not my fault! They lied to me too!”

    1. boo bot

      “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?”
      “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go.”
      “I heard you paint houses.”

      “Are you sure you don’t have two years’ experience?”

      … yeah, I thought that, too. I kind of feel like OP#2 wandered into the middle of a movie where an ex-mob guy is in witness protection, and this is the part where he tries (unsuccessfully) to blend in with a day job in recruiting.

    2. Blue Bunny

      Maybe I’ve been in tech too long, but I thought the recruiter was hinting at the job description being one of those nonsense “ask for the world so we can claim there’s nobody qualified, then hire an H-1B candidate for a pittance” situations.

  38. The Tin Man

    OP3 I am yet another person on team mirror(s). They don’t need to be large – in my previous job where I was in a cube I used a blind spot mirror. For me it wasn’t a matter of being startled but that I was in a relatively high-traffic area so it helped me focus to not wonder if the people walking by are coming to see me or just passing by.

  39. Anon Here

    #3 – I’m a frequent contributor to a fairly popular industry blog, which I do in my work downtime. If I have some time I’ll start a post, and maybe work on it over the course of a few days in my off-times. When it’s done I post it. These posts are very topical to my field and are widely read by people in my field. The posts also get re-published in a couple larger blogs and news aggregator sites. I sort of do it for fun and to stay on top of my field. It also turns out to be inadvertent free marketing for my company, as lots of people will engage my company for relevant services and say they made the connection as a result of my blogging.

  40. gecko

    #3–If you startle when people are approaching you, a visual doorbell might help. The brand I saw is Desk Attention, I believe, so try looking up Desk Attention cubicle doorbell. This could both alert you to someone’s presence in a predictable way, and guide people to a particular approach position (so they can press the “doorbell”).

    If you startle when people just pass behind you, rearview mirrors might help–my mirror clips onto the side of my monitor.

    1. Laura W.

      When we moved locations, most of us lost our offices for cubes. My coworker wears noise cancelling headphones so she can focus. She got a doorbell for deaf people. The button is on the outside of her cube. The receiver sits under her computer monitor and flashes pretty colors when it’s pressed.

    2. CGW

      Seconding this! My coworker is similarly easily startled, so some colleagues bought a visual doorbell online and printed out a little sign directing people to ring the bell. Pressing it flashes a color where my coworker can see it, and now there’s no more startling.

  41. HailRobonia

    I used to work next to someone who was easily startled, and the setup was horrible for her (we were in cubicles and her back was to the cubicle entrance; this was not something that was easily changed because of how the desk, etc. were positioned).

    People would come in to her cube and startle her and her YELP would startle me… second hand startle. We had a colleague who I think though it was cute to startle her… he didn’t do it enough to be obvious about it, but more than once we both told him to be better about announcing his presence earlier. She got a mirror to put on her monitor but that didn’t help much.

  42. boop the first

    2. I’m really curious about what this technology is, and I don’t fully understand why it has to be kept a secret, dang.

    3. As someone who always works in noisy places, being startled by a sudden appearance of a person happens so frequently that I wish people wouldn’t make it into an issue. The person who gets startled usually continues like nothing happened since they’re so used to it, but the sudden appearing coworker?? They always hold everything up to have a whole conversation about it, how they feel offended in a moral sense, and how Startled Person must have some kind of personal failing, and on and on and on. It takes up a lot of time to the point where people have to write letters about this.

    1. Dragoning

      I suspect OP might find it too identifying.

      I suspect it’s part of google office suite.

      1. Working Mom Having It All

        My thought is that it’s an industry-specific proprietary software that would be too identifying for others who work in their field, and simultaneously mean nothing to people outside that field. For example in my work we use a platform called Scenechronize, which is literally a collection of random letters if you don’t work in my very specific niche area. But also you can’t get hired if you don’t say you have years of experience with it. Despite the fact that it takes four seconds to learn.

    2. Courageous cat

      I know. 1 is killing me too. If it’s common it shouldn’t be super identifying but who knows.

  43. Steve C.

    OP 2 could always put in a line in the form “x years of experience using word processing software (including OpenOffice, Microsoft Word)” That would probably tick the box the inflexible hiring manage wants to tick without inaccurately claiming x years on Microsoft Word specifically.

  44. Yvette

    #3 Since others have ventured into armchair diagnosis territory with the suggestion of magnesium supplements :), it is possible you have a slight hearing loss, and you don’t hear people approaching and then they are suddenly in your line of vision as though popping up out of nowhere? Not to compare people to dogs, but I read an interesting article once about Dalmations. They have a reputation for being high strung. Since Dalmations are prone to deafness, and many are hearing-impaired as opposed to profoundly deaf, the author theorized that was the reason for them being so “high strung” and easily startled. They could not hear people approaching, so they were startling them by suddenly being in their face or petting them from behind.

    1. Jennifer Thneed

      My elderly cat has gone deaf in the last year, and she is definitely more “high-strung” than she used to be. I try to make a point of letting her see me before I touch her, or sit down on the the couch she’s sitting on, or whatever. I feel bad for her when I startle her without meaning to!

  45. LindsayAerin

    Jump person this was me and I ended up getting a small mirror in my desk and positioning it so my peripheral vision would catch movement coming up behind me

  46. Hiring needs a selling edge

    OP 1, You have a unique opportunity to carve out special projects during your downtime. Are there any adjacent skills you would like to learn? Alison is on the money that you need to get your manager’s approval. Maybe your manager has some ideas for what you could do.

  47. Non-profiteer

    OP #3 – this is not an immediate or comprehensive solution, but if most people in your office just experience this change in physical office space, you might have an opportunity to try to change the norms. Do you have an office instant messaging platform, like Skype? You can try to get people out of the habit of making surprise visits to others’ cubes by using the instant messaging platform. If I’m going to talk to someone, I always try to IM them first: “do you have second?” or “coming your way to ask a question about x.” I find that some people follow me lead and do the same to me.

    For me it’s less of an issue with startling, and more an issue of being able to transition my brain from reading/writing to listening/speaking. But I really appreciate it when others do it, and I think we all have better interactions when they’re not surprise interactions.

    You could try just doing this yourself and see if other people catch on. But since everyone else has also just changed offices, it might be an excuse to bring it up in a more direct way. “I don’t know if anyone else has had a hard time transitioning to our new space. Since no one has a door to knock on anymore, I wonder if it would work to IM each other as a way to virtually knock before coming over for a chat?”

    1. Renee

      I do this in my office with our Zoom chat, it saves my nerves, especially since the opening of my cubicle is at my back, so people can ONLY come up from behind.

  48. TootsNYC

    I think all told I updated my resume four separate times.

    After one layoff, we were all sent to an “outplacement firm” to help us look for work. It was the most useless thing ever, except that it taught me several things to NOT do.

    The person working with me wanted me to redo my resume. Look, my resume was fine; it was the basic, boring format, easy to read, and had successfully gotten me jobs many times in the past on the strength of my actual experience. But no, she wanted a strengths list at the top, etc.

    Every single time I brought it in, she wanted me to revise it. And this was in the days before computers, so I had to literally retype the entire thing every single time. The risk of typos was SO high. Plus, every time I re-proofread it, the risk of missing a typo in a phrase I’d proofread before went up exponentially.

    About the fourth time, I got really pissed off and her and called her out on it. I’m a copyeditor, and a single typo would blitz me from even getting an interview (it would have destroyed people’s candidacy in a LOT of fields, but mine especially). Nobody was going to decide to not interview me based on whether I used one grammatical wording versus another.

    (the other thing I learned was to never ask someone to justify to you something that exists in the world that actually disadvantages them, and that they didn’t create: “Why wouldn’t Rodale have an in-house promotions department?!” Well, they don’t, and so she can’t apply there, and she is not the one who made it be that way, so don’t effing question or chastize HER about it, or put her in the position of justifying or explaining this to you.)

  49. HRTwinCities

    OP#3: I am also easily startled (my husband jokingly will yell “I’m entering the room now” because I startle so easily) and had a hard time adjusting to my office when I started this job 2 years ago as my desk faced a corner and my back is to my door and the front door to our office is directly outside my door. So not only was I being startled but constantly turning around to see the front door or someone walking by. I purchased a large clip on round mirror from Office Depot and placed on the top of my desk so now I can see anyone who enters my office, walks by or enters the front door. It works great and everyone comments on how genius it was! Good luck!
    https://www.officedepot.com/a/products/795037/See-All-Portable-Clip-On-Mirror/

  50. Brett

    #2
    I do technical interviews (for open source software developers even) where we get the resumes from recruiters. I would say about 90% of the time there is experience listed on the resume that the candidate does not actually have. Nearly half the time, the resume has a line like “10 years experience with TeapotServer” when TeapotServer was only released 6 years ago.
    The candidates did not put this information on their resumes. Technical recruiters are adding them. We don’t hold this against the candidates, but my boss will often call out the recruiters for particularly egregious examples of embellishment (like the resume that had 20 years of experience in a 10 year old package for a candidate who was probably in their 30s).
    I don’t know why this seems so to be so incredibly prevalent in Free Open Source Software recruiting, it might be because FOSS-experienced candidates can be more difficult to find than Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS)-experienced candidates. It is so prevalent though that I no longer really pay attention to years of experience other than as a guide for technical questions to ask.

    1. LabTechNoMore

      Yup, I caught onto this as a candidate when recruiters would emphasize that they needed resumes as a Word doc, rather than a pdf.

      Though I’ve also had enough recruiters who had atrocious communication that I’m also wondering if the recruiter was thrown off by OP softening the answering without ever explicitly answering “zero years experience”, even when pressed. (E.g. if the recruiter were filling out a form, and wasn’t savvy enough with business communication to realize the answer was a euphamism for 0 years experience.

  51. Interplanet Janet

    OP #1: I agree with Alison’s answer in terms of what’s ethical in the situation, but if you mess around on your phone or otherwise just kill time, you could be missing out on a real opportunity here. I came of age doing temp office work before the internet and smart phones existed, and when I had downtime, I consistently asked what else I could be doing and it led to some really cool stuff. For example, I was hired as a temp to create a mailing list (it involved tracking down local businesses and noting their addresses and who was the manager). I first offered to type it up (they’d given me a paper form to fill out), then put it into a spreadsheet (fancy new technology at the time!), then learn how to do a mail merge so it could be used to send out letters. Within about 4 weeks, they’d decided to keep me on as the marketing secretary instead of making an external hire. But even without that, I would have gotten on the job experience with some up and coming tools, and made an impression on the company folks.

    What are the people around you doing? Can you help? Can you do filing for the person in the office across the hall? Make photocopies for an overworked person in another department? If there’s a way to send up a “hey, I’ve got free time on the regular” flag, and indicate a willingness to do whatever, you’ll come off looking great and not be spending part of every day bored.

    1. TootsNYC

      I learned how to teach and how to edit by mentally critiquing my algebra teacher as he was explaining concept to kids who hadn’t picked it up on the first explanation the way I had.

      (Not trying to say I was so smart–it just worked with my brain.)

      So even just observing your colleague’s work, or thinking about it, and pondering the difficulties they’re facing, or second-guessing their procedures, or trying to figure out the advantages of the methods they’ve chosen, can be really instructive!

    2. Cheryl Blossom

      If there’s more work to do, this is good. But sometimes there really isn’t anything else– because of how workflow is, because of how jobs are structured, etc.

  52. HRTwinCities

    OP #3: I to am easily startled because I am so in my head and focused and I enjoy listening to music and podcast at work which makes it worse. My husband jokes at home by loudly stating “I’m entering the room now!” as not to startle me! In my current office my desk is in the corner with my back to my office door and the front door to our building is right outside. I was constantly getting startled by all my coworkers all of a sudden standing behind me and straining my neck and back from constantly turning to see who walked in. I purchased a round clip on mirror and attached to the top of my desk and now I can see anyone who walks in my office or who walks in and decide if they need my attention with out turning around. I got it off Office Depot for relatively cheap and everyone comments how genius it is! Good luck!

  53. lesbian

    OP5: Honestly, I’m a little weirded out that they described themselves using the whole acronym?

    It’s like the joke,
    “I’m LGBT!”
    “What, all at once?”

    I understand that some of the various letters can have overlap and it can feel weird to say what specifically you are, but tbh as a lesbian who has encountered a lot of cishet people who called themselves LGBTQ+ due to being “kinky” or whatever, I’d side-eye that vague statement a bit. It feels like if you aren’t comfortable stating your specific identity you should leave it off, because you get into weirdness otherwise.

    1. Phoenix

      I totally get your side-eye, I’ve seen cishet people inappropriately label themselves the same way. I wonder if it feels more “professional” – or less personal, which can overlap with “more professional” – to OP’s sibling to use “LGBTQ+” than any specific labels that apply to them?

      1. General Ginger

        It reads as a completely regular statement to me. “I’m a LGBTQ+ Llama Wrangler” makes perfect sense, and is understandable shorthand for “I’m a Llama Wrangler who is a member of this community”. Being comfortable or not has nothing to do with it, and I’d say nobody owes everyone their specific identity right off the bat in their materials.

    2. LGBTQ XYZ

      LGBTQ+ is a common way to clearly indicate a queer identity without explicitly stating what that identity may be, particularly as some people prefer not to use the other umbrella term “queer.” This way of phrasing it also places more emphasis on the designer’s connection to a larger community and culture, rather than their individual identity. I always prefer to use umbrella terms for myself, as my letter generally invites more nosy questions than the abbreviation as a whole.

      TLDR; I think it’s perfectly fine and normal for OP5’s sibling to use LGBTQ+ on their website portfolio.

    3. Ce

      Another lesbian here. I find that joke pretty judgmental and tiresome. I’ve known people for whom the entire acronym of LGBTQ+ has applied at some point.

      It’s possible to be one person for whom multiple aspects of the LGBTQ+ umbrella applies, and different aspects can be more or less personal, particularly when you get into the TQ+ territory. There can also aspects of those identities that are still unclear or confusing, and not being able to package it into one simple identity makes the umbrella much more succinct and accurate.

      Particularly in a professional portfolio, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to use the umbrella without going into detail about every aspect of your relationship to your gender, sexual and romantic attraction, etc.

      1. Jin

        Hard agree with you, Ce, and many other comments here. I’m one of those people who is arguably just about every identity in the acronym and I’m not about to break down every (or any) letter for some stranger who stumbled across my website.

        Frankly I also loathe the idea that we should change the way we talk about ourselves because of cishets. Like just because some straight kinksters put queer or LGBT+ on their dating profile, that means it’s suddenly off limits for us?

        Anyway it’s been said enough at this point, but I’m a queer illustrator/graphic designer/cartoonist/etc and it’s very, very normal to put these identifiers on your website or profile. Don’t sweat it, op #5!

      2. Dahlia

        I’m part of the + that people like to leave off, and honestly sometimes it’s just too much work going into it for people who are completely clueless.

    4. Working Mom Having It All

      Some people are more than one. Saying I’m LGBTQ+, or “part of the LGBTQ+ community” is often way easier than saying I’m bi and nonbinary. I also often say that I’m queer, as a catchall. And, hell, in college, before shit got complicated, I identified as a lesbian. The only letter in there that I don’t have any claim on is gay.

      Also, it’s not like a lesbian illustrator would be incapable of working on a children’s book about having 2 dads, or a trans graphic designer who has a hetero sexual orientation wouldn’t be able to design a website for a lesbian musician.

    5. Close Bracket

      “LGBTQ+” functions as a term similarly to “neurodivergent,” “disabled,” or “person of color” to describe membership in a group without going into specifics. The analogy to “neurodivergent” is a pretty good one as that term expands to include conditions that some people don’t fully accept as a neurodivergent condition. In keeping with that analogy, regardless of how anybody feels about whether neurodiversity includes neurotransmitters or should only be used to describe neurology, I as a person with not just a neurological condition but the very neurological condition that spawned the terms am still going to call myself neurodivergent (actually, I think that’s a stupid freaking term, but that’s another subject) even if somebody else thinks I might get into weirdness by not being specific. My take on the LGBTQ+ term is that you should continue having conversations aloud about how kink is not the same as orientation but don’t discourage actual queer people from describing themselves as LGBTQ+ bc it might be weird if they aren’t specific about their orientation and keep the side-eye when dealing with a given individual silent until they let you know how they specifically identify.

  54. learnedthehardway

    OP#1 – I spent a summer learning a foreign language at a job, when there was nothing to do. My manager was fine with that. There was nothing else for me to do, and I was too junior to be given free rein to do projects (there weren’t any to be done – I asked).

    In your shoes, I would try to identify special projects that would benefit the business, and would talk to your manager about taking those on. Alternatively, do you want to learn a new functional area – perhaps you’re in HR and would like to try sales or marketing – ask if you can job shadow someone in that department, and if you can try your hand at it. Failing that, I would focus on learning something – maybe something related to the business you’re in. Or take an online business course or a course related to your function (pursuing a designation is always good).

  55. Emilitron

    to OP#3 – People can be so quiet, even when they don’t mean to be, especially if your building is carpeted, and casual dress therefore quiet footsteps! Maybe you can put a hard mat at the entrance to your cube? (or better yet in the passageway just outside) I’m thinking like the rolling-desk-chair mats with the carpet spikes on the back. Just something to change the general sound of footsteps into a “footsteps at my door” different sound.

  56. learnedthehardway

    OP#2: I think you should tell the recruiter what you are comfortable with saying. eg. “I am not comfortable saying I have XYZ software package, but I do have ABC and DEF softwares. You can tell the client these are very similar to their software. I will read up on XYZ in preparation for an interview. If I get the job, I’ll commit to doing a course before the position starts.”

  57. Earthwalker

    OP3, our office had “bullpens” of cubicles instead of real walls. The standard design was to put the desk panel opposite the cube opening, so that the occupant’s back was to the entrance. Everyone hated the startle factor and a lot of people used mirrors. I was surprised to discover that it took just a simple request to the facilities team and a 5-minute job to move the computer desk surface beside the cube entrance. Then the occupant could see anyone coming near in peripheral vision. There was, it turned out, no rule or physical obstacle that required individuals’ work areas to be set up so that everyone sneaked up from behind. Can the OP have furniture moved in their cube or work area so that people coming up do not come up from behind? (Hey office designers: take the startle factor into account in planning office space! The blueprint looks kinda prettier if the desks are opposite the cube entrances, but a cute blueprint isn’t the point.)

  58. Tiara Wearing Princess

    LW3 I think the mirror idea would be a good one to try. Unfortunately, I think you’re going to have to give up the headphones. I don’t know how often this is happening but it has to be distracting and maybe annoying to your coworkers.

  59. Wells

    OP1, for killing time I work through Lynda.com courses on skills I want to brush up. I work in an area that’s very feast or famine in terms of workload. When it’s slow, I learn new excel tricks or watch series about jobs I’d like to move into in the future.

  60. Adaline B.

    OP #3: I intentionally faced my back to my office door so I can directly face my window and my office is also in a little alcove that has a lot of foot traffic to see other people in the alcove. I bought this little clip on mirror and it works really well at giving me a subtle signal that someone’s in my office so I don’t have to turn my head and look every time I hear someone in the alcove.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B074128T1B/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o09_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

  61. greenbeanies

    OP3 — Thank you so much for writing in about this! I deal with this too, but it’s because I have social anxiety disorder. It’s been stressful and embarrassing. If a coworker suddenly appears at my desk, I’ll jump and my head will tremor back and forth slightly. I’m also hypervigilant about people walking by my desk because I’m anxious that I’ll have one of these reactions. It’s exhausting.

    I’m mentioning the cause in my case in case it will benefit someone else reading this thread. I had no idea about social anxiety disorder for much of my life.

    I see others have covered PTSD above. Some people are just born with increased startle responses as well. Good luck!

  62. Krabby

    @OP2: Run away from that recruiter. If she is pushing you like that now, it means she will push you in other, less obvious ways in the future.

    I had to cut an external recruiter loose a few years ago because everyone we hired through him either didn’t have the right skills or would quit within a year. After 3 exit interviews in a week, I finally realized that this recruiter had been flat out lying to candidates about what they would be working on (think, “You will get to spend 90% of your time designing new teapot lids!” when in reality it was more like 3% and the rest of the time was spent making small revisions to the existing lids). Even people who would have loved the work inevitably left, because they were expecting something else. If she is telling you to lie, she will lie to you to get you to sign.

  63. Checkert

    I’m NOT easily startled and still keep a mirror in my workspace to see who’s coming up behind me.

  64. T

    OP5:

    There’s a lot of artists who promote themselves as queer (LGBTQ+) artists and it helps get work with people who are looking for queer/other queer artists to commission or hire for certain projects. In this situation it’s absolutely a benefit to have.

  65. Cheryl Blossom

    My only objection to “I am an LGBTQ designer” is that they aren’t. They are at most, two of those things.

    But people identifying as LGBTQ when they mean that they are one of the above is a pet peeve of mine.

    Signed,
    A nitpicky lesbian

    1. Dahlia

      Nah, you could be several. You can be trans, homoromantic, bisexual, and on the ace and aro spectrums. Not to mention not everyone uses a specific identity label. Plenty of people just identify as queer.

      1. Cheryl Blossom

        I know not everyone uses a specific identity label- queer is a very good, nonspecific word and umbrella term! It would make more sense to use that, imo, in this case than LGBTQ, which is specifically an umbrella term.

        1. Dahlia

          I use queer as an umbrella label, but not everyone does, and it’s certainly considered more… “advertisor-friendly”, we’ll say for lack of a better word at 6pm when I need to eat dinner, to use some form of LGBTQIA+.

        2. Rebecca1

          Some people have bad associations with the word “queer,” since it was still used as an insult as late as the 90s.

        3. Cee

          Queer is the word that followed me around and accompanied physical and verbal bullying for most of my adolescence, so… I would very strongly consider it to not be a very good umbrella term. People are of course free to reclaim that word if they like it, but I would consider LGBTQ+ to be a significantly better nonspecific umbrella term in every context but personal identification. If they considered themselves a queer designer, I’m certain they had the language to say so, but chose not to.

    2. Cee

      Coming from another lesbian: this really is nitpicky! I know people who have represented nearly all of the letters in that acronym across their life, and being pedantic about the way that people choose to identify themselves is not a great look. OP’s sibling may have varied experiences across the spectrum of LGBTQ+ identities, or simply not want to go into great detail about their relationship to gender and sexuality in their professional portfolio. Either way, the term “LGBTQ+ designer” is perfectly accurate and acceptable.

  66. anon for this one

    I know there are other commenters here with an adult ADHD diagnosis, and I’d be particularly interested in how you handle slow times at work or the situation described in question 1. Allison’s advice is great, but I’m interested in particular tips for people who really struggle with starting and completing the exact type of tasks usually recommended here (either because they tend to be boring and housekeeping-y, such as filing expenses, or because they don’t offer much urgency/clear deadlines).

    I work in a field that turns many of my ADHD traits into strengths — it’s deadline driven, creative, there’s a high sense of urgency, work is constantly reprioritized, etc. I usually have lots of urgent work to do that gives me momentum and motivation to carry me through the more boring stuff. But I really struggle when things slow down; if I have just one, non-urgent thing I need to do in a day, I procrastinate, get bored, push the deadline, beat myself up, lose motivation, get depressed… It can spiral pretty quickly. (I am medicated! It helps! But it doesn’t undo the 23 years of bad work habits I had built up before starting medication at age 29.)

    So ADHD folks: What do you do when it slows down at work? How do you push yourself to do things that don’t immediately catch your interest and don’t have any urgency behind them?

  67. SenseANDSensibility

    #3 I empathize completely! Like others have mentioned, I too was attacked from someone running up behind me & that trauma startle reflex never quite goes away, even decades later. My boss usually wears stealth quiet shoes so I don’t even know she’s entered my office until she’s right up behind me & starts talking; every time I jump & gasp, which sometimes makes me look like I’m guilty of doing something I shouldn’t have, it’s really frustrating. Not a welcome dose of adrenaline & cortisol several times a day. It’s sad so many of us are in this same situation. Hope mirrors or some of the other suggestions work.

  68. katherine

    I have a question that is sort of related to LW1.

    So I have the kind of job where either there is work or there isn’t. Either the work comes down the pipeline or it doesn’t, and when it doesn’t, there is nothing to do. I cannot influence the speed at which this happens, it depends on many steps in the process before getting to me.

    A coworker who sits behind me, on a different team reporting to a different manager, has apparently noticed non-work things on my desktop (it’s an open plan office, we have large monitors, she walks by my desk frequently) and presumably is trying to get me fired for it. She told my manager about it, who pulled me and another person on our team in a conference room and said that while she understands that either there is or isn’t work, to try to not have non-work related things on the screen just for optics.

    The situation is causing me tremendous amounts of anxiety, basically every day. I can’t talk to her because she doesn’t know my boss mentioned her by name. I wish I knew why being around me was so abhorrent that someone on a different team would try to get me fired, but I don’t. And I can’t do work that doesn’t exist, so I have no idea what to do.

    1. Lucille2

      I think it’s a little crappy of your manager to put this responsibility on you to look busy when you legitimately have no work to do just for optics. But I have worked in a similar environment and know the feeling.

      There are some things you can do on the computer that appear work related. Are there any industry blogs you could follow or job related training you can do online? Especially if your company offers any kind of e-learning resources, down time is a great way to expand your skillset. And it’s justifiably work-related.

      I also recommend raising this with your manager. Have you asked if there are any side projects you could work on, or are there some processes that could use some refining? Perhaps you could volunteer some time to work on things like process improvements, cleaning up shared drives, etc. Or just be honest with your manager that you feel a bit pressured to appear busy when there isn’t incoming work to be done.

      OldJob had some hourly employees in an open office plan. It was acceptable for employees to take their breaks at their desk and peruse non-work sites like Facebook and personal email. But they were required to have an open doc within view on their screens that said “On a break.” Personally, I don’t like this strategy because it puts too much emphasis on optics and the responsibility on the employee to maintain them, but I guess it worked for them.

    2. Michaela Westen

      I don’t think you should take it personally. I doubt if she finds being around you abhorrent generally.
      I think it’s one of two things – she is jealous or upset because she thinks she’s working harder than you, or – she’s the kind of person who has to be picking on someone, and you happen to be in her line of fire.
      People who are always trying to pick on or stab others in the back are unfortunately common. I wish I’d understood sooner the problem is with them and if they weren’t targeting me, they would be targeting someone else.
      At work they might think they need to hurt others to protect their job. Unless they’re working for incompetent or ignorant managers, they’re wrong.

  69. Lucille2

    #1 – Have you asked your boss if there are some tasks you could take on during your down time? I had a temp receptionist job early in my career that required me to be physically present, but the phones were usually really quiet in the afternoons. I didn’t have many side jobs outside of answering the phones and greeting customers in the lobby, so I was bored out of my mind most afternoons. Reading a book at my desk was not really acceptable. So my boss gave me anything and everything he needed help completing. My boss loved me for that.

    Alternatively, if there are projects/tasks that you see could use an extra hand, volunteer to do it.

  70. Kendra

    LW3, have you ever heard of bone conduction headphones? They sit in front of your ear and vibrate the bones of the ear through your skin, so they don’t prevent you from hearing normally through your ears. I got mine for bike safety reasons, but as long as the presence of music itself isn’t the problem they might let you be able to listen to music without getting as badly startled.

  71. SusanIvanova

    #2 – I’ve used terms like “4 years designing technology X, which is the precursor to tech Y” to get past the first level of screening that doesn’t really know what X or Y is but needs to tick a box, but I wouldn’t say “4 years of Y” if I didn’t have it. A good recruiter and hiring manager would know whether 4 years of X is an acceptable substitute.

  72. It's Friday!

    OP #3, my secretary has a big mirror in her cubicle to solve this issue! She can see anyone coming up behind her, works like a charm. And I don’t think anybody thinks it’s odd.

  73. Renee

    OP#3 I’m in a cubicle environment as well, and the way my cubicle is situated is in a corner with very little walk through traffic, so when someone pops-in I also get startled. What I found works, but it depends on your company culture, is anytime someone needs to ask me a question in person I ask them to IM me on our Zoom chat first. Just a quick “I have a question about the Starbucks project can I stop by?” It works two-fold, by allowing me to know when someone is coming by, AND it saves the other persons time by letting them know I am in my cubicle and not in a meeting, at lunch, in the bathroom, or on break. Try asking your co-workers if they would mind doing that.

  74. CorwinCat

    LW3: ooh, I feel your pain on the startle thing! It seems to run in my family – my dad is the same way; we react like prey animals to any sudden noise, or to people appearing behind us, etc. Anyway, my boss actually made a comment to me a while back that he needed a way to get my attention without startling me, as he’d been on the receiving end of a fair amount of involuntary flailing (which I was super embarrassed about).

    What I ended up doing was installing an LED on the bezel of my monitor (I just stuck it there with tape) and running power to it from a little switch box mounted to the entrance to my cube. Now, people can just press the button if they want to get my attention and I’ll know they’re there even if I’m wearing noise-isolating earbuds blasting prog metal or what-have-you. :) It works like a charm, and has the bonus of people thinking it’s super cool (I mean, who doesn’t love blinky lights?).

  75. Betsy S

    re #2 – I work in tech and sometimes recruiters or employers have unnecessarily narrow definitions. For example I am a UNIX and Linux administrator and there are HUNDREDS of Linux ‘distros’ that are in most ways alike. Every once in a while you’ll get someone insisting on experience in one particular flavor. It’s like, oh, looking for an “English” speaker and refusing to consider an American English speaker. (except I can think of a few edge cases where that might matter!)

    I won’t lie on my resume but I will push back on recruiters: “I have 10 years of real-world experience with X and I know what needs to be done with Y.” But, sometimes people get needlessly stuck on the specifics.

    I was once contacted several times over a period of months by a recruiter whose client was absolutely insisting on someone with 10 years of experience in a particular flavor of UNIX that was only six years old! They were having no luck for some strange reason, and meanwhile the client did not have anyone to get the job done. They must have waited a long time. Or, maybe someone finally lied, I don’t know how it finally worked out.

  76. Prole

    # 1: Don’t fee guilty about spending downtime on personal enrichment, recreation, or even relaxing. If your boss can’t be bothered to minimize inefficiencies in the workflow and ensure company resources are fully used to benefit the company, then why should that be your problem? Companies are good at tying up our time and then making us feel like we owe them more. Enjoy the downtime.

  77. Carina

    When I was an intern my entire office went to a convention event, and I ( 19 and the newby) was asked to stay at the office and mind the phones for the week. If 10 people called over the course of 5 days is a lot. And this was a 9 to 5. I cleaned out my personal email, re-arrenged a bookcases in alpabethic order , read a book and did a lot of google earth travel. This was before androids, so the only game in my phone was tetris.
    Its important to know how to fill dead time in a office.

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