my office is obsessed with my professional athlete fiancé, I don’t have career goals, and more

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

1. My office is obsessed with my professional athlete fiancé

My fiancé plays professional baseball for the city in which we currently live. He is on a minor league team, which means that he makes less than minimum wage and might not ever be awarded a spot on the “big league” roster. However, this does not stop my boss and coworkers from acting like he’s a celebrity and almost harassing me at work because of it. I enjoy my job, my coworkers, and my boss, but everyone seems more interested in the success and potential super-stardom that is my fiancé rather than asking me about, well, me.

My coworkers are routinely (I’m talking 4-5 times a day) stopping by my desk to ask for updates on my fiancé. What team is he on right now? How fast is he throwing these days? What does he think about this player? What are his chances of making it to the major leagues? I have some that go as far as to Google search his name and send me news articles about him, and others that follow him every time he pitches just to report back to me on how he did, as if I didn’t already know.

It’s gotten to the point that it is completely distracting me from my work and making me cringe when I walk into work, for fear of who will stop by my desk today. I want people to take me seriously for the work I produce, and not try and befriend me because of what they think my fiancé could someday be. I tried talking to my boss, but he is unfortunately, a huge baseball fan and thus a contributor to the chaos. He even asked me once if my fiancé could pitch to him sometime to see if he could hit a baseball off of him. HELP!

Do you have the kind of relationship with your coworkers where you could say, “Y’all, I get asked about Xavier all day every day, and it’s to the point that it’s distracting me from work and making the relationship weird. So going forward, I’ve got a Xavier ban while I’m at work.”

And then when people ask you about him anyway, be a boring broken record: “Xavier is off-limits while I’m at work because it got so weird. What do you think about (work topic)?”

Personally I’d also be tempted to set up a Xavier equivalent of a swear jar and make them put a dollar in every time they talk to you about his pitching stats.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Employee resigned and gave me a scathing letter about my business

For the last three years, I have been running a consulting company which grew off the back of a long career in my industry. Last September, I took the plunge and hired an account manager to free up my time for business development. He is new to my industry but has relevant experience in another field and was full of ideas which I loved. He has never owned a company.

He recently handed in his notice along with a scathing personal breakdown of everything he feels I do wrong with the business. Things that I’ve included him in and we’ve actively discussed together at length — project management, workloads, outsourcing etc. The catalyst for this is that we’re advertising for a part-timer to help reduce burnout and it’s made him feel undermined as he feels he can take on that work. This decision was discussed before advertising the role and no concerns were raised. The tasks that role will cover are very junior and I want his focus elsewhere. He is my only full-time employee (there are four of us).

I don’t want to end our relationship negatively, but his response was so unexpected and rude that I’m truly taken aback. I’m by no means perfect but I felt like we’ve had a great working relationship up to this point. How do I acknowledge his feedback while also letting him know that the personal criticism is totally unfair and uncalled for? Ultimately he’s leaving and this response feels very emotional so I’m not sure if I should respond to this at all.

A bland “Thanks for sharing your thoughts” can convey an awful lot. If that feels too chilly, there’s also “I wish you’d raised some of these points before you decided to leave so we could talk them through. In any case, I of course wish you the best in whatever you take on next.” I realize you might want to more directly address the rudeness, but I don’t think you’re going to get much that’s useful out of that.

That said, it’s worth considering the points he making, if you haven’t already. Someone who spews out all their grievances in a letter when they’re leaving has shown their judgment is … not great, but it’s still possible there’s valuable insight in there (even if it’s just insight into how things might be misperceived). That doesn’t mean that you should get into back and forth with him about each point — he’s leaving, after all — but if nothing else, it’s more useful to see this as “insight into what was going on with Cecil” than “bizarre, unprovoked attack.”

3. I just want to do my job without having career goals

How do I get across to my company that I enjoy my job and don’t foresee needing anything to change in the future? We have a quarterly review process where I get stuck trying to explain measurable goals and career trajectory BS ad nauseam.

I just want to show up, quality assure the work assigned to me, and then go have a beer. I have no career goals beyond being able to pay my bills, have a boss I don’t actively hate, and go on a vacation every once in a while.

I want to be able to express this and do so in a way where I won’t be looked down on for just wanting to continue the status quo. I know I’m already known as someone who isn’t a go-getter, but I show up early every day, complete all my work on time, and rarely take days off or work from home. I don’t understand why that isn’t enough.

Have you ever said that explicitly? Managers do tend to default to assuming everyone wants to move up, but a lot are receptive to hearing something like, “Honestly, I am really happy with my job, and I get satisfaction from doing my work well and being reliable. I’m not looking to move up; I value having a stable role doing meaningful work, and the best reward for me would be an understanding that this is where I want to stay.”

If you’re willing to say that you do want to keep learning and growing, just within your current role (i.e., getting better and better at what you do, maybe becoming a subject matter expert who’s a resource to others), that’s helpful too.

(One thing I’ll note is that there’s probably a salary ceiling with this approach. You generally can’t stay in the same role for years and years but continue to get salary increases; there’s a ceiling on how much it makes sense to pay someone in a given job, even if they’ve been in it for years. You sound like you’re probably fine with that, but I wanted to flag it as something to keep in mind.)

4. How do I tell my employer they’ll need to pay me for any help after I leave?

I am currently studying for a career switch to become a teacher, and I’ve reached the point in my studies where I need to be a student teacher. My current employer has been aware of this process, and knew this was coming up. In April, I let my boss know that I could stay through the end of August, which should give them enough time to find my replacement and for me to train them. But I was recently told that my final day would be at the end of the fiscal year, in June (in order to save money).

In the case that they need to reach out to me after my final day, I want to make sure they knew that any contact will be subject to consulting fees. Should I put this in my resignation letter, or should I submit it separately? I want to leave well, but since I will now be without pay for two extra months, I want to be sure that they know that I cannot assist them without compensation for my time.

Have they indicated they’ll want your help after your last day? If not, it would be a little weird to preemptively announce “if you want to contact me again, you’ll need to pay up.” But you could say something like, “By the way, if you think you might want any help from me after my last day, I’d be glad to help if we could figure out a consulting fee.”

But don’t put it in your resignation letter. That should be really short — one to three sentences — and isn’t the place for anything additional like that.

Also! Depending on your state, you’re probably eligible to collect unemployment for the two months between your resignation date and the date they’re actually having you leave. So be sure your resignation letter doesn’t give the earlier date; it should say something like, “This is to confirm I submitted my resignation, to be effective August 31, and that you’ve asked that my last day be June 30.”

5. When should you disclose an invisible disability in a hiring process?

When should you disclose an invisible disability during the hiring process? I have a medical condition that causes a severe hand tremor, which affects my fine motor control. My disability affects my work by slowing down my handwriting speed and causing me to appear nervous all the time. The only accommodation I require is to do most of my work electronically and not to be asked to take handwritten notes.

Complicating matters, the disability I have is unusual and only noticeable if you pay close attention to my hands. In the past, I have been advised by career centers to only mention the disability if I require accommodations to avoid discrimination. When do you think you should mention invisible disabilities during the hiring process?

Not until you have a job offer. It’s not relevant before then because it’s illegal for an employer to consider a disability when they’re assessing your candidacy (assuming you can do the job with or without reasonable accommodation, which you can). So it’s not relevant earlier, and you potentially risk illegal discrimination (whether conscious or unconscious) if you raise it earlier.

In fact, with something that requires such minor accommodation as your situation, you don’t even really need to raise it at the offer stage. Those accommodations are minor enough that you could just explain what you need once you’re on the job. But some people get more peace of mind from explaining it once they have the offer, and hearing “yes, we can do X or Y to accommodate you.”

{ 338 comments… read them below }

  1. WoodswomanWrites*

    #4, Alison is spot on about checking to see if you’re eligible for unemployment in your state. I once gave my notice at a job because I was going to start a new position in a different state. Because I was a term employee in a one-year position that was renewed every year, my employer decided to terminate me early, before the date I’d given to leave, so that they could align the vacancy with the fiscal year for hiring my replacement. This qualified as a layoff rather than my quitting, and I got unemployment for that period.

    1. Hufflepuffin*

      I’m having trouble understanding why a resignation letter is needed if you’ve been given an end date already? Isn’t it better not to send one at all in that situation?

      1. Weegie*

        If you’re on contracts that are routinely renewed, you have to resign if you don’t intend to stay after the end of the current contract so that the employer knows they need to hire a replacement.

        But even if you’re on a fixed-term contract with no intention on either side to renew, you generally have to send a letter confirming that you’ll be leaving on such-and-such a date as agreed in the contract. In a large organisation this allows HR, payroll, pensions, etc to start their closing procedures; in smaller ones (even a single boss & one employee), it means there’s a paper trail when references and/or employment history are being checked (for benefits purposes, job searching and related reasons).

        1. Hufflepuffin*

          This doesn’t quite answer my question – the letter writer has been told by their employer when they are leaving, so do they still need to write a letter?

          Wasn’t asking in general, just for this specific situation.

          1. Sorrel*

            Again for the paper trail – it shows that they were intending to leave, and that the employer didn’t just randomly let them go. (it doesn’t really prove anything – just gives an extra bit of process in there in case anyone ever looks into the case).

          2. Cygda*

            Personally, I would. Though it would be less of a traditional resignation letter and more about documenting that it was a mutually agreed separation and a confirmation of a firm ending date so there is less of a chance of a ‘lost in translation’ error occuring. YMMV on that depending on your field and type of job (and functionality of your workplace).

            The other possibility is that she already wrote a resignation letter previously, and with her employer requesting that she leave earlier than planned, the ‘new’ resignation letter is about amending the initial end date projection. (ie: a letter that basically sums up “As per our discussion, my amended date of resignation is June __…”)

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              Except that LW is not amending their date of resignation, their employer is asking them to leave earlier. As AAM pointed out, that may be relevant in terms of being able to collect unemployment during the interim.

              1. Ethyl*

                Right, but something still needs to be in writing. As far as unemployment goes, it may be necessary to show that they are asking you to leave before when you offered to leave.

                It’s worth remembering, too, that in the US, contracts are the exception and not the rule. So any discussion of resignation and when and how

                1. Ethyl*

                  Shoot my fat thumbs posted before I meat to!

                  Anyway in the absence of contracts most discussion of resigning in the US is about being professional, not burning bridges, and eligibility for unemployment. There’s usually nothing *required* as such.

          3. singularity*

            I interpreted this as she turned in a resignation letter before the contract was up with an end date that she came up with. Her employer responded by giving terminating her employment earlier than the date she provided to them. So she sent them the letter before the employer told her she was leaving.

          4. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

            I may be wrong but I imagine it’s a paper trail in case the employer tries to dispute the unemployment, which may or may not even happen.

            1. Emily K*

              This is the biggest reason IMO. You want to be able to prove you were pushed out earlier than your resignation date with something more than your word against theirs – it may never come to that but it never hurts to document critical details like that, which an income source could hinge on.

          5. Librarian of SHIELD*

            Some employers require it, even if you’ve already verbally given your end date.

      2. Sarah N*

        I was asked to send one in a previous employment situation. (I was on a one-year contract and was offered a renewal, but I found a more permanent job so I was resigning at the end of the original contract.) I think it’s just for their records to make sure everything on paper confirms that there wasn’t an issue with your performance, etc. that is why you left.

  2. M from NY*

    OP 1 If Allison’s approach doesn’t work I’d either lie and say you broke up or start looking for another job where you don’t tell anyone who you are engaged to. If your coworkers are like this now I can’t imagine how they will behave when he moves up to major leagues (& all the additional temptations to sell access to players). It’s not fair but life with someone in public eye is already stressful enough without those that should be part of your safe space acting like teenaged fans.

      1. Just Employed Here*

        Almost as terrible as how I first read it: That the OP *should* break up with the fiance over this…

    1. Brother Michael, Antigen*

      You’ll have to carry that lie all the time you work there. And never be seen with him. It’ll be exhausting. But nipping the conversation in the bud will work (probably sooner rather than later) following Alison’s script.

    2. Lena Clare*

      Hard disagree with this advice.

      Why should the OP make such a radical change to their life (never be seen out with him, tell a major lie!, have people interfere in her personal life – I mean a ‘break-up’ will INCREASE nosey questions) when it’s other people’s lack of boundaries that are causing the problem?

      Alison’s script is easier and allows OP to remain authentic.

    3. Discocat*

      This reads like the plot of one of those ditzy (rom-)coms where the main protagonist tells a stupid lie to get out of awkward situations, lots of avoidable, tiring shenanigans ensue with even more awkward situations… A lie only begets bigger lies, imagine the consequences the others have already listed: never be seen out together, never mention him again… Oh no! Straight forward nipping in the bud is the way here!

      1. M from NY*

        The point is to never mention him at work. This doesn’t require a bunch of new lies but rather a new approach of not discussing her personal life at all in order to create hard line between her professional and personal life. So as far as anyone at office is concerned they are not together. Hard stop. Do not pass go. Do not entertain any other inquiries.

        One does not have to discuss their personal life at the office. No friending on social media and definitely no wedding talk.

        If entire office is obsessed to the point of distraction then the soft approach isn’t necessarily going to end the constant talk.

        1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

          They’re engaged. She’ll probably want time off for the wedding. This would then require her to lie about her reasons for the time off.

          It’s also just… weird, to not discuss your personal life at all. She’d have to lie/be really weird about not answering every time she was asked “What did you do this weekend?” You don’t need to get into details about your personal life, but refusing to answer basic, friendly questions or engage in idle chatter is weird.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Actually, not discussing your personal life except in very bland terms is perfectly ok. “Worked around the house. What did you do?” is pretty normal and still friendly.

            But the ‘lie to them’ advice won’t work, because OP will always be ‘Xavier’s ex’ and will get tons of ‘here’s what he’s doing now’ updates. Far better to ask them to stop, directly.

            1. Mookie*

              The LW is not name-dropping her fiancé and neither of them are the problem. She’s allowed to have a personal life that might intrigue her co-workers and she’s also entitled to as much privacy as she likes, within reason. There’s no tension or contradiction there. Her co-workers need to exert some self-control rather than overwhelm her with unwanted questions, correspondence, and requests. She doesn’t need an elaborate accommodation but, as Alison says, a simple, firm, and blanket policy that her office should find easy to respect and abide by once they get used to it, and I think the Muckety-Muck Sportsball Jar idea communicates that quite well while striking just the right tone. Whereas lying, for example, makes it look like she’s doing something wrong that needs to be concealed, and the proposed alternative of behaving in really unfriendly terms in a more congenial office will unnecessarily mark her as out-of-step. She isn’t. She is perfectly normal and her reaction to this kind of unflattering attention is also perfectly normal.

              1. EPLawyer*

                I like the jar idea too. Either it gets the point across, or you can use it to pay for the wedding. Win-Win.

                I kid. You need to do the broken record thing, Xavier free zone here until they get a clue by four.

                1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  I think the jar idea sounds good in theory but who is going to enforce it? If a coworker told me you have to put a $1 in this jar every time you do xyz… I would probably laugh in their face thinking they were joking. The only person that could enforce this would be the boss and they are a big culprit of the baseball talk. But even if my boss came to me and said you have to put a $1 in the jar every time you do xyz, I would not laugh in their face and not listen to them. I would work to reduce the behavior the boss was trying to avoid but I would not pay up if I slipped and made a mistake.

                2. Eloise*

                  The jar is a joke (but hey, if you make a few bucks, why not?), but it’s also a lighthearted visual reminder that might save OP some tiresome reminding of slow-to-get-it co-workers.

                3. Librarian of SHIELD*

                  Either the jar, or OP can make a handheld sign (kind of like those fans on a stick you see ladies using in old fashioned movies) with her fiance’s face in one of those red crossed out circles. Somebody starts talking about Xavier, and she holds up the sign. “Xavier is not a topic of conversation here.”

                4. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

                  Replying to CmdrShepard4ever since we’re out of nesting: the point isn’t to enforce it. No one is suggesting the LW actually require her coworkers to give her money. It’s a way of lightheartedly making it clear to her colleagues to not keep bringing up the boyfriend, without sounding like a killjoy.

                  (Not that straightforwardly enforcing a boundary is being a killjoy, but people might take it as that)

                5. Teapot analyst*

                  I had a jar years ago for something and it essentially quickly became “Oh great, I can talk about this without guilt and it only costs me $1”

                  If you do the jar then be careful what you have as payment

            2. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

              Yes, it’s more that there’s so many ways that your significant other is central in your life, it would be difficult to maintain the lie without adding more lies. And again – it’s just plain weird to lie to your coworkers about breaking up, there’s just so many ways this could bite her in the @ss. (And if, by some long shot, he *did* make it to the big leagues…. surely they’d notice? People who care about such things pay attention to something like “Major league player getting married.”)
              Lying wouldn’t make the problem go away, and would introduce new problems. And would also make your coworkers think you were incredibly strange if (when) they found out.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                I’ve been married for decades. Trying to picture how it would go at my spouse’s work if he decided to pretend we had divorced, and then carefully edit all his speech to not suggest that I was still in the picture. And to make sure he and I are never seen together around town…

                This is advice that only works in a rom com.

                1. anonymous 5*

                  TBH I’m not sure it typically works in rom-coms either…isn’t the plot often centered around the ruse unraveling? Only difference I can see is that the rom-com is written so that hilarity ensues. I personally don’t need that much “hilarity” in my professional life.

                2. Emily K*

                  Yes, even something as basic as: Is the LW wearing an engagement ring and planning to wear a wedding band? If she went down this road she’d have to remember to take it off every day before work – and not only not be seen in public with her soon-to-be-husband, but not be seen wearing her ring in public! She’d effectively have to decide not to wear one at all for no other reason but to ensure this charade was maintained.

              2. JJ Bittenbinder*

                Lying wouldn’t make the problem go away, and would introduce new problems. And would also make your coworkers think you were incredibly strange if (when) they found out.

                Yeah, if your “solution” creates multiple problems downstream, it’s not a viable solution.

          2. Cyrus*

            “It’s also just… weird, to not discuss your personal life at all.”

            In general I’d agree with you, but in this workplace? Complete seclusion deserves consideration.

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          This is… kind of extreme for a lot of people. It doesn’t have to be so black and white. It is perfectly possible to set boundaries while still sharing some bits of information. (Personally, I do it all the time.) I really don’t like how this advice seems to blame or punish the OP for simply saying, “Oh, yeah, I’m engaged. His name is Xavier. What does he do? He’s a baseball player, actually, we met because he’s in town playing for the Norfolk Tides.”

          I think Alison’s advice is good. I think the OP just needs some ideas of how to get the obsession to stop. She shouldn’t have to pretend to have broken up with the guy to do this! And besides, can you imagine the weird sympathy she would get? I doubt that extreme approach would make any of this stop.

          1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

            Hi! Norfolk Tides fan here, too! It’s a Mets thing.

            OP1, I could see myself being one of your clueless coworkers. I love talking about things I love, and I can see myself missing cues to shut up already. You shouldn’t have to redirect idiots like me, but I want you to know I’d accept that redirection and think highly of you for giving it.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              Ha! I had no idea they weren’t the Tidewater Tides anymore, but I see they changed decades ago. Man, I’m old!

        3. Beehoppy*

          If people are this obsessed over a minor league baseball player, it’s likely a fairly small town where they could conceivably be seen together out on a date. And then she can’t have any personal photos in her work space, or as background on her phone? What does she say when she needs time off for a wedding/honeymoon? Does she never wear her wedding ring to work? Can’t add her then husband to the company insurance (which I’m sure would be a huge perk for a pro ballplayer)? What if he gets injured while playing and she needs to rush off to the hospital? Or they do get married and he makes the majors where his personal life will be more visible? It’s just not sustainable.

        4. NotAnotherManager!*

          So, are she and her fiance also not supposed to have a wedding website or discourage any sort of PR (either the team releasing a congratulatory statement, if such thing is done, or any sort of human interest news article)? It’s not just maintaining a lie at work, it’s maintaining it in her entire life.

          You know how I always got caught in a lie? Totally by accident. Like my mom talked to so-and-so’s mom at a chance meeting at the grocery store and found out I wasn’t where I said I was. Life’s paths cross in weird ways and there’s no way to hermetically seal in the lie to just coworkers.

        5. Observer*

          Please. This is NOT a reasonable expectation. It may not even be possible. For instance, hiding the fact of a fiance is only practical if they keep all of their finances separate, they aren’t going to be on each other’s medical coverage and they don’t put each other as their emergency contact. What’s more, for most of this, you’re actually going to wind up disclosing the identity of your SO.

          Beyond that, you’re totally ignoring the reality of how normal social interaction works. Even in the workplace, and in workplaces where people are not all over each others’ business, making sure that no one knows who your SO is, is HARD. It takes a lot of effort. And it’s ridiculous.

      2. Jasnah*

        This is what I thought. This will get OP lots of “whyyyy did you break up? Did he cheat on you??” “I saw You Know Who lost last night. I bet you’re real happy about that.” And other continued nonsense as these coworker continue to be bizarrely star struck. I think it’s best for OP to just point out how frequent this is and how weird it feels, so each offender realizes how it comes across and better understands exactly what OP wants.

      3. RandomU...*

        This sage advice seems to come in more handy here than anywhere else…

        “If you find yourself in a situation (or contemplating it) that makes your workplace resemble the plot of a movie or tv show get out or don’t do it”

      4. Fieldpoppy*

        This idea is bonkers to me, for all the reasons others list. It’s another one of those “how can I get people to stop doing something without telling them to stop doing it” patterns. Don’t do something complex and bonkers to try to circumvent just saying Stop This, it Bugs Me.

    4. Wintermute*

      yeah I can’t recommend this. You shouldn’t have to lie about who you are or your life for your co-workers. Plus what if you ever want to bring him to a work christmas party or something? Okay I admit that might be low on the list because of how they act but even so… what if you meet for lunch one day. Living a lie is exhausting and backfires easily

      Plus there’s practical matters. If they think you’ve broken up but he’s still listed as your emergency contact. What if HR decides to remove him from your life insurance because “they heard you broke up and figured you forgot”? I mean there’s a lot of practical workplace things that involve them knowing who you are (soon to be, I presume based on the title fiance) married to!

    5. That Redshirt.*

      I don’t expect the OP claiming that a break up had occured would bring her any relief. Online celebrity articles often mention relationships status, or show a partner at sports events. People at work already dead Celebrity Sportsdude articles. Coworkers would notice very quickly that the OP was lying.

    6. Beth*

      Hiding who you’re in a relationship with is actually really difficult and wearing. Even if you’re not the type to talk about personal life much at work, it makes it difficult to do even basic “What are you up to this weekend?” level small talk. It means you can’t have a photo on your desk or your computer desktop, you can’t tell a coworker who you’re going on vacation with, you have to worry about how you’ll explain it if you happen to run into a coworker while you’re out with your partner, etc. It means that you can’t mention if you’re getting married, because people will ask to whom. It puts you in a really hard position if your partner or in-laws have an emergency and you need time off or other support from work. If you end up having kids with your partner, it means either not mentioning your kids ever or dancing around their other parent. It’s not a tenable situation to maintain long-term. (This isn’t just applicable to famous partners either; it’s why “I don’t care as long as I don’t have to hear about it” is a homophobic attitude to take towards LGBT+ people, for example.)

      The actual solution here is to tell the coworkers to back off, and to escalate to a manager if they continue to disrupt OP’s work or harass OP. It is not for OP to pretend to be a robot with no life outside work.

    7. Observer*

      You’re seriously suggesting that she keep her fiance a secret? That’s insanity. It’s always been hard to keep a SO a secret, and it’s gotten worse. To the point that it’s pretty much not possible if you want to have an even semi-normal life as a couple.

  3. HannahS*

    OP5, I agree with Alison’s advice on timing, but Alison, I don’t understand your caveat “assuming you can do the job with or without reasonable accommodation, which you can.” Do you mean that if you were only able to do a job with reasonable accommodation, you’d have to disclose it earlier? Doesn’t that open you up to a greater risk of discrimination? I’m not American, so I might be missing something about the ADA, but I never disclose until I’ve been hired, provided that I think that the local human rights laws/precedents would consider what I’m asking for “reasonable.”

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No, if you need accommodations, you’d disclose it at the offer stage or once you started (basically my answer to the OP).

      If you can’t perform the essential duties of the job with reasonable accommodation, then the ADA does not require them to hire you.

      I think you’re being thrown off by the “or without” right? That’s the wording the EEOC uses to explain that there are two scenarios where an employer can’t discriminate against you for a disability: when you can perform the essential duties of the job with reasonable accommodation, and when you can perform the essential duties of the job without needing accommodations at all.

      1. HannahS*

        Yes, that’s exactly what had me confuse! Thanks for explaining it. What an odd wording choice on their behalf.

        1. Lucy*

          It is odd, but I understand why they’ve decided to put it in explicitly, as they want to emphasise that a decision to hire you must be based on your underlying ability to perform the required duties, and not on any disability or any accommodations required to facilitate that. “With or without” could perhaps better have been expressed as “regardless of” but ho hum.

        2. doreen*

          I think the wording might be taken from other contexts where it’s easier to understand – I see vision requirements written as “20/40 in either or both eyes, with or without corrective lenses. “

    2. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!*

      I’m really interested in the responses to this one. My former co worker finally got a job, but was fired after a week due to her vision problems (macular degeneration, blind in one eye, the other eye is going but slowly). She actually can work with her special computer and magnifying aids. I don’t think she ever told them about her disability at any point… she was desperate for work.

      1. RainbowsAndKitties*

        I believe that it is the responsibility of the person with a disability to disclose that they need reasonable accommodations (a.k.a. the special computer and magnifying aids for your former coworker) in order to perform the duties of the job. If the person does not indicate that they need those accommodations, then the employer is not breaking the law if the subsequently fire someone for not being able to fulfill their job duties.

        1. JJ Bittenbinder*

          This is absolutely right. I used to work in Vocational Rehab, and it was a case-by-case basis of if and when to disclose a disability. The points that I used to make to my clients:

          1. Your goal is to be employed, so take the action which will support that.

          2. Disclosure is best accompanied by suggestions of what accommodations will enable you to perform the essential functions of the job.

          3. There’s no way around the fact that you need to be able to perform the essential functions of the job. Most of the time, changing the role is not going to be a reasonable accommodation.

          4. Disclosure isn’t a “hail Mary” to try to forestall getting fired once discipline has begun.

          5. No, you probably can’t sue. Talk to the EEOC if you feel that you have been discriminated against, and they’ll advise you on whether you have an actionable case, but most people do not.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            #2–But WHEN are you supposed to do this?

            If I tell people I have an LD, they won’t hire me. If I don’t, then when I get the job and they give me something to do that I cannot do, which often falls under “other duties as assigned,” then I risk getting fired for not doing my assigned work, or being “difficult” when I ask for accommodations.

            My only solution so far is just to avoid jobs that have things I can’t do, but that isn’t always apparent. And it leaves me grossly underemployed. Invisible disabilities suck. so. effing. much.

            Also, yeah on #4.

        2. fposte*

          Responsibility for disclosure is more nuanced than that. The employer isn’t supposed to quiz employees whether or not they have disabilities or guess at their medical challenges, but they’re also not allowed to pretend they don’t notice (“Sure, she uses a wheelchair, but since she never mentioned it to us we didn’t have to put her in a wheelchair-accessible office”). In Move’s former co-worker’s case, it sounds like something a new employer wouldn’t necessarily have noticed unless they were literally watching her screen work. However, just to split hairs, that would mean she was fired for working too slow, not fired because her vision was a problem, since they didn’t know about her vision. It’s a real pity she didn’t raise the issue of accommodation, because what she needs isn’t that hard to provide.

        3. A Fed Guy*

          You’re right, it is the responsibility of the person (I just went through training on this) to ask for accommodations. I as a supervisor can’t assume that because I possibly see what I think is a disability in an employee that I need to request the accommodations. That’s a no-no because then I’ve just singled out that employee for their disability.

          What I can do however is if I notice their performance may not be up to par, I can at least start by asking if there’s something that the employee needs that would help them with their job so they can work at the expected level of performance. It’s at least open ended enough that if they need an accommodation they can ask for it there.

      2. RandomU...*

        Not knowing the full chain of events, but it sounds like your former coworker didn’t ask for accommodation? If that’s correct then the company didn’t legally do anything wrong.

        This is one of those situations it sounds like that is common when someone needs lots of time off for a medical thing, but they don’t arrange FMLA until after their performance has suffered due to excessive absences.

        1. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!*

          I don’t know all her details. But I don’t think she did tell them.

      3. MK*

        Eh, what actually happened? Did they fire her once they found out about the disability? If so, she would have legal resource, even is she never disclosed the disability, though it might make proving it more difficult, if they try to claim they never knew and fired her for something else. Or is it that she was so afraid to ask for accommodations that she tried to work without the special computer and couldn’t perform adequeately? Or was she too slow?

        1. Observer*

          If they fired her once they found out, they might still be legally clear, unless she told them that there are ways to to mitigate. If they don’t know of any reasonable way to mitigate it, and she doesn’t speak up, then she’s going to have a hard time proving a case.

        2. Figgie*

          My spouse has benign essential tremor (also called benign familial tremor). As his neurologist has said…it is very far from benign. My spouse has hand tremors, head and neck tremors and his voice shakes. He fortunately, is ambidextrous and can mouse with either hand and can use the hand that is most stable that day.

          He did request a mouse that helps compensate for the tremor and that has helped some. Like many people with this condition, he learned to hide it and most people weren’t even aware of how bad it was. Since his tremor is an intention tremor, if he is not doing anything with his hands, there is no visible tremor.

          My guess is that the people doing the hiring won’t notice it and if they do notice it, will assume that it is from being nervous. It is much more obvious to the person who has it than it is to the people who don’t know about it. I’d follow Alison’s advice and only mention the tremor and any accommodations you need after they offer you the job.

          (When my spouse’s tremor worsened to the point where he couldn’t dress himself or feed himself and all of the medications that he used became ineffective, he had brain surgery to implant two deep brain stimulators to treat his tremor. It has been life changing for him, as the amount of tremor he has now with the DBS is about 2% of what it was before the surgery. Now he doesn’t need any accommodations at work or in the rest of his life). :)

          1. Former Employee*

            So glad it worked out for him.

            If I’m not mistaken, that is what Katharine Hepburn had.

  4. CaVanaMana*

    What about when you’ve done #3 and you wake up and find it’s boring, you feel trapped, you hate your working hours, 5 o’clock cannot come fast enough and you are tempted to break something with a blind fold on just so you can fix it? How do you say, now that I’ve convinced you I was right, I was wrong? Asking hypothetically of course. It did not happen and if it did, it was not me.

    1. Marzipan*

      Assuming that the, uh, hypothetical person’s change of heart didn’t happen literally five minutes after convincingly arguing that they weren’t looking for career advancement, I’d say there’s nothing wrong with, again, just saying how things are now. “Albertine, thanks for being so understanding when we spoke about X. I wanted to let you know that my priorities have shifted since we spoke previously, and I’m now in a place where I’m hoping to focus more on my career.” Or whatever.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        And some people really aren’t ever interested in constantly setting new goals, constantly trying to get promoted, etc.

        Lots of people want to just go to work and go home without the pressure of always doing —more, more, more.

        Learning more as Alison suggested is always good. I encourage it. But one can do that and be ok without any particular desire to keep climbing ever upwards.

        1. Anonyna*

          I’m at a point in my life where I’m one of those people so I get where OP is coming from. Ten years ago I was all about moving up up up but now a couple kids later and one of them having some challenges, work is just a means to pay my bills and make sure my family is looked after. I actually quite enjoy my job and my coworkers, my family lives quite comfortably, and my current role has a nice level of manageable stress that keeps me interested. I’m quite content to stay right where I’m at for a long time so I can focus on the more personal goals I’ve set. There’s something to be said for realizing you’re happier not trying to scramble ahead professionally all the time.

          1. Emily K*

            Yep, I really feel like I’m in a sweet spot in my company’s hierarchy. I’m senior enough to operate very autonomously – 90% of my work is self-directed with me just keeping my boss in the loop and only about 10% is work that he specifically assigns to me or weighs in heavily on – and to have a tremendous amount of flexibility in my hours and work location.

            But I’m not so senior that I’ll ever get called to the carpet and dressed down by the executives, and 95% of the time if I’m working on an evening or a weekend it’s by choice to voluntarily get ahead on a project or to make up for time I lost taking a long lunch earlier that week–not because I’m obligated to stay late or work through the weekend to get something done for an executive.

            I’d love to make more money – who wouldn’t? – but for now the pay bump I’d get if I moved up a level wouldn’t be worth the added responsibility I’d have to shoulder to get there. If that means I will just get a COLA every year without a merit raise, I’m OK with that.

            1. AKchic*

              I’m in a sweet spot myself, with a few exceptions.

              I am routinely asked “why are you even here? You are so smart, you could be anywhere else!”
              I know the line for what it is. The bosses don’t like me, and I’m an inherited employee from the previous project manager, but they can’t get rid of me. I do my job (well), and they have no reason to terminate my contract.
              This job is easy. It’s dull. They’ve taken so much of the little bit of work I do that there’s actually even less work for me to do, and after a decade of non-profit work where I was severely underpaid, overworked and burnt out – I’m okay with the change of pace. I can volunteer in my off-hours to keep my other skills relevant (and I do).

              1. Liz*

                Sounds a lot like my job. But for me, its ALL about the benefits. which for a company the size of mine, are amazing. And as I’m also less than 15 years out from retirement, is REALLY important. And they’re flexible. i can work from home when needed, and even take a few hours in the middle of the day if I need to do something either for myself or my mom.

                Health insurance is pretty much company paid, tremendous match to my 401K plus an extra company contribution, so even if you just do the minimum, you put close to 25% of your salary in, plus generous vacation. And a bonus where teh base is 10% of my salary, but we usually get closer to 15%. And its not far from home. so all that means I am pretty well compensated for doing not a whole lot. and I’m ok with that.

            2. Cassie*

              I’m in a similar situation, where I have lots of autonomy and only have to answer to my bosses who are technical people and do not care the least bit “how” I get the work done. They don’t care how I manage my schedule because they know I’ll work late or over the weekend when an unexpected deadline pops up. I’m pretty knowledgeable about my job (I’m the “go to person” for a lot of coworkers, even when it’s not my field) and people frequently ask why I don’t apply for manager positions or promotions. I like my job and the work (most of the time), I like the freedom my bosses give me, and I like being comfortable. It’s not going to last forever – I’m paid on soft money, and when my bosses eventually retire, I’ll have to look for something else. We’re not close enough in age that I can retire when they retire. So why not enjoy it while it lasts?

              If I did seek a higher title or higher paying job, I’d most likely have to supervise people. While I have some good theories about how to manage people (treat them like adults, first of all), that means I’d have to be responsible for them and their work and I’m not sure I want that.

        2. Mockingjay*

          My company does quarterly check-ins with goals. The check-ins are good; as Alison frequently states, it’s valuable to have ongoing feedback on your performance. But the goals are a little too much. Usually nothing’s changed in that short period. A yearly benchmark for training or accomplishment would be more feasible.

          1. Rebelx*

            My company also has a quarterly process, but the goals we submit can be quarterly or annual. Maybe even if the process is quarterly, LW’s boss won’t mind if the goals are longer-term (that is, reusing the same goals through various iterations of the process).

            It’s also not clear to me from the letter if the goal-setting process is explicitly tied to career advancement in LW’s company, or if that’s just implied/assumed because that’s how many people approach their careers and goals. I think regardless of whether you have aspirations to move up in the company, you can still have goals. No one is perfect, so would it be possible to think of some ways to work towards improving in your current role? Like if you have any ideas on how to improve certain existing processes, or see if there are ways to brush up on some technical or soft skill that’s relevant to your job. Unless you’re already way exceeding expectations for your role, I think most employers don’t want their employees to settle for just “okay” or “good enough”, and so that’s what they are looking for with asking employees to set goals. Like, you don’t have to want a promotion, but it’s good to demonstrate self-awareness about the areas in which you could improve, and then make some good-faith efforts to make those improvements.

            1. it's-a-me*

              My employer regularly asks me how I want to improve, yet can find no faults whatsoever in my work. I keep saying I don’t want to improve anything because I’m as good as it gets at what I do, and they can’t really argue with that (but boy do they try, anyway)

              1. it's-a-me*

                (BTW, in case it came off that way, I’m by no means saying I’m 100% perfect, but what I do is pretty easy and I have had maybe 5 minor errors in the last year.)

                1. RUKiddingMe*

                  It didn’t come off that way but I know what you mean. Don’t be falsely modest (advice I keep giving myself). Own your competence!

        3. managing is the worst*

          In my field (I’m sure it’s similar in others) “moving up” means becoming a manager. If you like the actual substantive work you do and don’t want to give that up to manage other people doing it, it makes a lot of sense that like the LW they just want to come in and do that work without working towards promotion to a job they’d hate.

          In CaVanaMana’s example, it’s probably helpful to think about what specificially it is that feels different. Has your work changed, or are you just bored with it over time? Are there other projects or opportunities you can take on that are still within the purview of your current position and you’re just not going for them, or has the job itself stagnated? What does the path for promotion look like, and does it entice you or do you want something substantive but different? It’s ok to change your mind, just be clear why.

      2. Jasnah*

        Exactly. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying you’re happy with how things are now, and then, months or years later, changing your mind. In fact I imagine that’s what happens to most people. If you do an immediate aboutface however, you’ll have to explain what changed your mind.

      3. Penn&Teller of Letter #3*

        Also in reply to the good Dr, I’m not really in a role where work would ‘dry up’ the work just goes to who has the least in their bucket.

    2. Doctor Schmoctor*

      Yep. While there’s nothing wrong with being comfortable at a “basic” work level, the problem with that is that you will become invisible, and you will actually get less and less responsibility, until you’re basically just sitting at work, with nothing to do. If a project comes up, something that you are qualified to do, and perfectly comfortable with, your boss will rather give it to the more ambitious guys, and you end up just “helping out”. Career regression, if you will. And when you talk to your boss about it, he says something like “we can find something for you to do.” And what he finds for you to do is really the scraps.

      Once you’re in this, it’s insanely difficult to get out of it. And it’s damn hard to get another job, because you’re 40, with very little experience.

      Totally hypothetical situation, of course.

      1. MK*

        That really has not been my expierience. People who are great at their jobs and not interesting in moving up are prized by employers because they can get the job done at a standard others could never achieve in the few years they stay at each role. When I was through a similar phase in my career, my supervisor actually cleared me from all the secondary tasks most jobs have so that I could focus on producing the results they needed uniterrupted. Possibly it helps that I am not from a culture that values ambition as a virtue in and of itself. Caveat: you actually do need to be great at what you do, not adequeate and passing time till it’s time to go home.

        1. Lucy*

          I agree that there are definitely roles where “being excellent at this set of tasks” is welcomed and people will happily reach retirement having done broadly the same thing for decades.

          Those are typically not highly-paid roles, however, as Alison notes.

          1. MK*

            Alison is right that there is a ceiling if you stay at the same role, but “highly-paid” is relevant.

            1. Emily K*

              Yep – as a middle manager I’m pretty sure I’m at or near the ceiling of what I can reasonably expect them to pay for the work I do, but I am also well-paid and though I’m not swimming in cash, I don’t have financial hardship either.

        2. Doctor Schmoctor*

          The company I work for is pretty much obsessed with goals and career progression.
          If you’re happy to do what you do, they still think you’re not good enough. Then they will rather give that task to someone else. They seem to think that lack of ambition = incompetence or laziness.

          I am actually very good at my job, when I get the chance to do it.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            It sounds like you might need to leave if you want to work for people who are happy with you and what you do now.

          2. RUKiddingMe*

            That kinda blows IMO. Some people just want to go to work, have a personal life, hang out not doing work on the weekend, and eventually retire… all without having to reach yet another goal forward.

        3. RUKiddingMe*

          I hate the whole ambition as a virtue culture we have here.

          I’ve said gor years how lots of other places, most of Europe for example, work to live instead of living to work…and they seem happier overall. Coincidence?

          1. Seifer*

            Seriously. I’ve always hated that question in interviews, too. “And why do you want this job?” Be… cause I have rent? Bills to pay? I like to eat? But of course, the answer they’re looking for is, “I’ve always been interested in llama analytics and I aspire one day to move up into llama farm analytics management, and I believe that your company is the best place for me to grow into that kind of role.”

            Gag me. I don’t want to grow. I want to make enough money to pay bills and eat out once or twice on the weekends. And maybe fund a passion project.

            1. College Career Counselor*

              Sure, absolutely, you have rent/bills, and I agree that question is often a pain to deal with as a candidate (although it’s not as bad as “why did you leave your previous job”). But as an employer/interviewer, I do ask the person why they are applying to the job and the organization because I want to get a reasonable sense that the person is actually, you know, interested in the position and the area and has done some research into us and how we operate. This is especially important where I work because it is a very rural, remote area (we’re 3 hours from everywhere, as the saying goes), and

              I do not want to see the person move on after year (because they didn’t fully grasp the job requirements, didn’t do their due diligence on the area, or the organization was a cultural mismatch) and leave me having to conduct a search all over again just as they’ve come up to speed. Sometimes, though, that’s the cost of doing business, as Alison says.
              Recently at my organization, the successful candidate negotiated a delayed start (couple of months) to transition work at their current employer and then called the day before they were to start and said, “I am not taking the position.” While I’m glad we didn’t on-board them and have them leave in six months, I wish they’d communicated with us more transparently during the interview and acceptance process. We might have saved everyone a lot of headache.

              1. L. S. Cooper*

                I think sometimes it can also be a litmus test for basic good sense. My mom was interviewing people for a position at her church, which is downtown in a very popular city in a very popular state. Several people said they wanted the job just because they wanted to live in the area!
                Especially considering that the only reasons people come to this area are weed and skiing, it’s not a good look.

                1. Mockingdragon*

                  But why is that (or rather, should that be) considered poor sense? Wanting to live in a popular city is a perfectly good reason to look for a job there. I don’t think this counters the point that people have lots of great reasons to want a particular job that may have nothing to do with the job itself, and that shouldn’t disqualify them from it.

                2. RUKiddingMe*


                  Agreed. I live in Seattle. I couldn’t even guesstimate how many people are happy to take any job here, even one at the mall just to get “in the door” so to speak, living here. Lots and lots do though.

                  Of course our minimum wage is (way) better than most places. I think it’s like $15/hour now. My lowest entry level staff starts at $19/hour.

                  I’ve actually hired two separate individuals (qualified!) whose primary motivation was “move away from Current Hell Hole Town (TM) and live in Seattle.” They’ve been with me 5 and 7 years.

                  I see wanting to live here as just good sense TBH. It’s a great place! Also weed is legal and skiing close. :-)

            2. Emily K*

              I ask that question of candidates but I don’t particularly care about their growth ambitions. I assume that a successful candidate who made it to the interview stage isn’t resume-bombing, and has therefore chosen to apply to our posting and not others, so I’m trying to learn what the criteria were that they used to distinguish “jobs I would do” from “jobs I won’t do.”

              On the candidate side, I’ve answered that question without mentioning advancement and gotten the job on more than one occasion. Once, I focused my answer on looking for more stability when I was leaving a place with a lot of turnover.

              When I was leaving a job at a start-up where I had to wear about 9 hats and interviewing for a highly specialized 1-hat-role, I told my interviewer I was interested in the opportunity to focus on the part of my then-current work that I loved the most without having to fit it in around 8 other jobs, and that I was also eager to join an established company with a real HR department, established HR policies, established IT policies and real IT experts in charge of infosec and system maintenance, etc., instead of just flying by the seat of our pants and putting inexperienced people in charge of figuring out how to do things outside their area of specialization.

        4. Hiring Mgr*

          You can do this in sales.. If you do the job well and enjoy it, it’s often fine to stay in that type of role without having to want to move up, or to management

        5. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

          Not my experience either, but specifically within a government union role which includes annual raises and COL increases and has very little opportunity for advancement. Perhaps that is uncommon outside that specific type of job, though.

        6. Loux in Canada*

          My last position was like that. It’s not extremely highly-paid, but they need people who are good at that work. The learning curve for the job is a couple of years. That being said, I stayed there for 2 years and I was a high performer at the end, but I couldn’t stay – I got to the point where it was boring and I was no longer challenged so I recently moved to another area in the same organization that has different work and new challenges.

      2. Rez123*

        There are many jobs where you cannot progress or the progression stops after entry level. This can either be due to nature of the work, structure of the company or personal limitations. For some of us a job is just a job. It pays the bills, no need to build a career and only reason we have it is that we can fund our free time. With career progression comes reponsibilities that can affect other aspects of life. Not wanting a career is ok and I do think that most people are this way but they don’t get spoken about since career is something we all “should” aspire to have since otherwise we get labeled as not havnig aspirations or ambition.

        I also think that companies appreciate consistent employees that are happy in their position and not looking for advancement opportunities the whole time. I’d even say that these people really make the company.
        Also not all “basic” work is repetative and boring. It can remain interesting and challenging. My colleagus that have worked here 10 years at the same level get the most challenging workloads cause they can handle them. Newer employees cannot.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          “Not wanting a career is ok and I do think that most people are this way but they don’t get spoken about since career is something we all “should” aspire to have since otherwise we get labeled as not havnig aspirations or ambition.”

          This. I’d add “get labeled negatively…” for not always, always wanting more more more.

        2. Aggretsuko*

          I’m in a dead end job. I don’t want to be a manager and that’s the only way to “move up” in anything. I don’t particularly want to be stuck forever, but I am a clerical worker and that is just what happens to them and my best skill is typing, period.
          When it comes to the “goals” crap (not that it matters, since I was not allowed to move out of being a clerical worker) , just write down that you want to get better at certain skills in your job and take some classes.

          1. Massmatt*

            This is really common in sales, and good sales jobs are not dead end, you can have a very lucrative and rewarding career selling.

            I managed a sales team and we had this same career path emphasis. One of my guys was an excellent producer and had no interest in going to management or a lateral move to something else, he wanted to stick with sales. Which makes sense, he found his thing and he’s doing it.

            He said early on that there will always be more to learn to get better at his existing job, no one would ever be able to master it completely, which is true.

            If you are really good at sales, and liked it, why would you want to do anything else? Managing people is completely different and often less lucrative.

      3. Magenta*

        I dream of hiring people who want to come in and do the basic role well! There are only so many promotion opportunities and whilst I love helping people progress and develop their skills there comes a point where there is a bottle neck. Hiring someone who will come in every day and get the work done without getting bored and looking for the next new shiny thing is fantastic, it means I can trust and rely on them, they are happy and not feeling pressured to develop more than they want and other people can take on the more challenging tasks.

        1. JJ Bittenbinder*

          Yes! When hiring for support positions, it’s very frustrating to get someone in the role only to find out after 60 days that they thought of it as “a way to get my foot in the door” and they’re already looking at the internal job postings. I’m all about career development, but there needs to be a balance with getting the job that I hired you for done.

          1. Aggretsuko*

            hah, yeah, we had a coworker who immediately got another job after 2 months. 400 people applied for it, she got it and then immediately got a better one.

      4. Overeducated*

        Not necessarily. There are a lot of careers where if you want to be in a particular kind of role, there’s a ceiling where you have to stop if you want to keep doing that work, because further advancement means management, and that’s a qualitative change in the type of work you’re doing and the kind of skills it takes. A lot of people in my organization have chosen to stay in one position for 10, 2o, or even 30 years, and their managers look at them as the top subject matter/technical experts despite their “staff” status.

        1. delta cat*

          This is my industry exactly. If I want to advance one step higher than where I am right now, it would mean a management role, which would take me away from the clinical work that’s been my ultimate career dream since I was a teenager and that required years of schooling and multiple degrees to qualify for. I know a lot of people aspire to management roles, but not for me, thanks. My ambition is to continue doing the work I do now, to be really, really good at it, and to be able to act as a mentor and support person to new staff coming in.

        2. Jaybeetee*

          Same here – in my industry, nearly all positions above a certain level are managerial, so if you already know you don’t want to do that, you cap out relatively low on the food chain. I’m in my early 30s now, and I get the sense that I have one, maybe two, promotions left before I’d be hitting that managerial ceiling – and I’ve also seen clearly enough that managing in my industry (government) is a *royal pain* that I don’t want to take on. I can easily see myself hitting my “career max” before age 40, and not wanting to move up any further.

        3. Rez123*

          Also, there is limited ammount of management positions. Not everyone can be the director of the department. Also, in many places there are not enpugh companies for everyone with certain experience to be a manager. Additionally, you cannot keep adding the word “senior” to your title after the first one and eventually you reach the top of the pay scale, even as a manager.

      5. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Yeah, I can really only see that happening with a boss with really screwed up priorities. In most industries, the junior level work is just as important as the senior level work. In my field there’s no way the higher level employees could do the work they do if our junior staff wasn’t there, and wasn’t performing very well at their job tasks. It takes an incredibly short sighted manager to ignore the value an employee adds to the business even if they’re not interested in moving up. And short sighted managers exist, but they don’t equate to all managers ever.

      6. Emily K*

        I think this might be very role-dependent or maybe company-size-dependent. My department has around 30 staff, and there’s very little overlap in what anyone does. I’m not going to have projects dry up and given to other people because there is no one else here who does what I do. I manage a small team (2 + me) within our department and there are no other teams that do or could do what my team does. The main path to a promotion for me would be to manage more people – either a larger team, or a group of small teams.

        As manager of my team I get to spend a lot of my time on strategy and creative and people management doesn’t take up a lot of my time. So I told my boss that I’m not especially interested in people management, that I have capacity to add a third person if my team needed more capacity, but beyond that I’d rather delegate management of a junior hire or two to one of my more senior reports than manage more than three people myself and have to delegate the creative/strategic work I specialize in and enjoy so much.

        I could see it being a different situation if you’re doing something like code development where a whole team of people are doing similar work and projects get doled out by a manager, but a lot of jobs aren’t like that.

      7. Autumnheart*

        I’ve been on the same team and in at the same level for many years, and where previous managers appreciated my contributions and were happy to give me extra work when I asked for it, I am currently under a manager who has done just what you describe, so I’ve been riding the bench for the 2-odd years I’ve been under him because…I don’t even know why. “Helping out” and “we can find something for you to do” perfectly describes it. Luckily, there are currently openings for lateral positions on the team under different managers, so I’m going for one of those.

        1. Autumnheart*

          (And the worst thing is, I *do* have career goals and want to advance! But my manager clearly sees me as a “worker bee”.)

      8. Elise*

        I think this is a great reason to provide career goals that are not about promotion. I had a period of time in my previous role where I thought I’d just do it forever, no problem. However, I didn’t tell my boss that and made all of my goals related to training or progress in the role I was in. When I realized that if I had to answer one more question about the same thing again or implement another version of the same type of software I’d been administering for years I would flip, I had shown drive, whether or not that drive was for moving up. So I would caution against falling into the trap Doctor Schmoctor describes as well and continue to show initiative in your role and build experience for the chance that one day you will change your mind.

        You may not ever get to that point, but I had truly reached the end of my rope as an individual contributor and wanted to be able to move the organization forward in different ways. I’m so glad I didn’t let myself go stale in the role when I thought I didn’t want to ever change.

      9. Dust Bunny*

        This very much depends on the job, though. My job doesn’t have anywhere for me to go unless I earn at least one more degree and a specialized certification. Either I stay put or I quit, no matter how many new skills I learn.

    3. nnn*

      “I find I’m beginning to develop an interest in X, and I would welcome any opportunities for development or advancement in that direction.”

      X can be people management or strategic planning or whatever it is that the career opportunities you’d previously declined involve that your current position doesn’t.

      When people don’t want to advance, it’s not just because they’re happy where they are, it’s also because the next step seems less appealing to them than where they are right now. So you can present it as your interests evolving, which is a thing that happens to many people over their course of their life, and has nothing to do with being right or wrong.

    4. Penn&Teller of Letter #3*

      Haha, I can understand that feeling to a point, but honestly I tend to lean a bit into the spectrum when it comes to routine. I love nothing more than to zone out, the fact that a lot of parts of my job I can do on auto pilot while listening to an audio book is a huge plus for me. Think of that person who when the waitress says, “Enjoy your lunch!” I will invariably respond, “You too!” *Eyeroll* Every. Time.

      I have thought about the pay increase issue and really its just not as important as my comfort. Am I making as much as I could within my role, no. However I do make well over the average for the area I live in. I have no needs that aren’t being met. It’s just so weird to me that being content is seen in this way, perhaps its just the industry I’m in, or it’s an American thing, I don’t know. It’s probably my own spectrumy mind that’s tripping me up when I’m asked, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” …. “Umm, here?”

      1. JSPA*

        Two additional issues:
        1. Some companies have a strong “move up or move out” process. It pays off by making sure underperformers are not tolerated at a low level, where they fossilize the culture and make hiring higher – stakes, by forcing the company to do almost all their hiring higher up (and creating a situation where the low status oldtimers can stonewall their new managers). If there’s such a policy, the excellent lower level people also too often get forced up into roles they don’t enjoy, and which don’t suit them. It may help to discuss these issues directly, rather than letting them fester in the subtext.

        2. Depending on the size of the company, it can be a legit turnoff if someone hired a level down from you has their own, more ambitious career path blocked because you’re there for life. (If there are easy lateral moves or go-arounds, this may not be relevant.) However, if you fancy yourself as a talent- spotter (and are actually good at it!) you might be able legitimately to say, “I love my current job and want only to continue to improve, within my current job description. But if you’re looking to promote and develop someone with overlapping skills but higher career goals, take a look at Rodgeranna– they’re recently returned to the workforce, absolutely excellent, work well with everybody, and eager to climb the ladder.”

      2. RandomU...*

        There’s nothing wrong with wanting to go in and do your job without plans for advancement. As a manager I love people like you. You’re dependable, consistent, and I don’t have to wonder what kind of performance I can expect from you.

        My problem as a manager (and note I said my…not your) is when a team becomes unbalanced and I end up with a team full of ‘worker bees’. That creates havoc with my succession planning and I’ve found that I can’t expect as much churn with people who don’t want to move up or around. It becomes hard to bring in people who do want to move up. This becomes harder when I have advanced functions* I need to fill and a team full of people who don’t want to fill them.

        All that being said, yeah, there is a culture thing where some people don’t understand that not everyone is blazing a path to the CEO’s office. Also it’s hard in fields like IT and Engineering where nobody has seemed to figure out an individual contributor path that means advancement without management.

        *Nothing outside of the scope of the job, but more than the basics if that makes sense.

        1. 1234*

          In you case, wouldn’t it make sense to hire 1-2 employees like OP#3 and others who are more of the “go-getter” type? that way, you have the dependable and consistent and someone to do the advanced functions part of the job.

          1. RandomU...*

            Oh most definitely, and that’s what the team started with. I’ve got a unique problem in that the average tenure on the team is 15+ years with no turnover on the horizon. Being restricted to headcount, I’m not able to hire until I have an opening. And the people who want to advance/move have, so I have a new person, who will eventually fill that advanced role, but currently she’s still in learning mode.

            It will eventually get worked out, but leaves some functional holes and vulnerability in the meantime.

    5. Emily K*

      You’re allowed to change your mind! Just keep your boss in the loop so they can support your development in whatever way you need.

      Before I was promoted to my current role, I asked my boss in my annual review each year to help me lay out a path to this promotion and suggest what I needed to take on and achieve in order to justify a promotion. After a year or two (during which time it would have been too soon for a promotion regardless of my goals), I told my boss during our review that I’m happy where I am and I’m not interested in taking on significantly more responsibility, that I really enjoy the type of work I do, which is a continually-evolving field, and he can best support my development by helping me stay on the leading edge of my field through training opportunities, allowing me to try out new things in my job, giving my team the technology budget I need, and things like that.

      We also have regular biweekly check-ins and quarterly check-ins on progress towards annual goals, so the lines of communication are always open for me to speak up if I’ve changed my mind and want him to once again lay out a path to my next promotion.

    6. Michaela Westen*

      Is there a way your friend can take on new duties or training to make the job more interesting? Not necessarily a move up, just a little growth in the position?

  5. Sami*

    OP #4– If you’re going to be starting student teaching in August or September, you’re going to be way too busy to consult at your former job. You might be able to over the summer, but there’s a ton of things you should be reading and working on to prepare for student teaching. Good luck!

    1. blackcat*

      I thought she was asking about July/early August (doubtful she starts student teaching before Aug 10 or so).
      Agreed on student teaching being too busy a time! I was EXHAUSTED. Full time teaching + not knowing what I was doing + coursework to go along with it all = SO MUCH WORK.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        Schools in the South start as early as last week of July, so local calendars vary!

        1. StillWorkingOnACleverName*

          Yep; I go back on July 25, and the kids come August 1. Having grown up on the East Coast, where we started school the Monday after Labor Day, it seems way too early, although it’s nice to finish in May.

      2. Clorinda*

        There’s a ton of preparation, and before-school meetings and faculty training can start two weeks before school starts, especially for first-year teachers. Teaching is more exhausting than you think, OP4. Don’t assume you’ll walk out at 4 pm all ready for a second shift at your old job. They’ll be fine without you, anyway.

    2. Lynn*

      I disagree-it is difficult if you need to work during the student teaching year/semester, but it is not impossible.

      My husband worked though his student teaching year. He currently has a student teacher, who is also working through her year. It wasn’t easy for him 20+ years ago, and it certainly isn’t easy for her now. She has the added issue that she has a job lined up for next year (yay), which means she is attending orientation and planning meetings for her new school. It is, however tough, possible to do-and sometimes necessary if you want to be able to have a roof over your head.

      That said, DH would not recommend it-both he and his padawan both found it stressful, tiring and generally a lot of trouble. If you do it, you end up with 2 time consuming and often difficult jobs plus the one you get paid for: the teaching job, the schoolwork “job” and the one that keeps a roof over your head. His student teacher also gets to add that she was the assistant coach for girl’s soccer this year-so she really has had a LOT on her plate.

  6. Marzipan*

    For #5, though, is there an argument for disclosing prior to interview? She’s mentioned that her disability causes her “to appear nervous all the time”, and while to an extent that’s to be expected in job interviews it would be unfortunate if interviewers noted it and assumed that it indicated a level of general nervousness which would be a bad fit for the job.

    #5, you’ve also said this is “only noticeable if you pay close attention to my hands” so if you’re confident this won’t be an issue in interviews then obviously ignore me. But if you think it might be evident to interviewers, it’s maybe worth thinking about? (It sucks that you might have to balance this with thinking about whether people will discriminate against you, and I’m sorry.)

    1. Hufflepuffin*

      Eh, I think it’s very normal to appear nervous at interviews and no reasonable person would assume you’re equally nervous all the time.

      1. Marzipan*

        Well, no reasonable person would discriminate against a candidate for having a disability, and yet here we are.

        (I am possibly slightly biased because I have a friend who missed out on many, many jobs purely due to (in her case actual, not assumed) interview nervousness. She finally got hired after an interview where she arrived after such an awful journey – her car ended up in a ditch, if I remember rightly – that the panel had a context for why she was coming across in that way, and could see past it.)

        1. LSC*

          I don’t know the specifics of your friend’s situation, but I wonder if, in her case, the issue is not so much having her nervousness show as it is having her nervousness affect her interiew performance. I am in a career that involves lots of public speaking, and it is normal for people to be nervous in the beginning – but there is a big difference between the person managing to speak clearly even though their hands are shaking from that anxiety and their constantly stammering, losing their train of thought and generally not managing to speak effectively due to their nervousness.

          Since OP’s hand tremor is not even due to nervousness, my guess is she is performing well in an interview setting, and so I really don’t see any advantages to disclosing her condition then.

      2. only acting normal*

        I’ve been dinged for appearing nervous in interview (as in that was literally part of my feedback from internal interviews). Ironically I wasn’t nervous. Due to ASD when I am nervous I shut down and appear calm.

        But arsehole interviewers are going to be arseholes regardless of you being nervous or disabled.

        1. fposte*

          It’s not arseholery to consider whether a candidate who’s overstressed by an interview would also be overstressed by the job, though. In your case it was an incorrect read, which sucks. But most of the time when “nervous” is noted it means “nervous above the candidate baseline,” and while it shouldn’t be automatically disqualifying, it’s not something simply to be disregarded either.

        2. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I don’t think dinging people for appearing nervous is outside the norm in hiring. Yes it is understandable to be nervous in an interview, but someone who is able to present themselves as cool calm and collected when inside they are really nervous I think is a valuable skill. If I have two candidates with all things being equal and one appears to be nervous and one does not, I am going to hire the one that does not seem nervous as much.

          1. only acting normal*

            Except we’re discussing invisible disabilities that give the false appearance of nervousness, combined with the dilemma of disclosure/not before getting the job.
            It’s a choice of don’t disclose and risk an interviewer mistakenly writing you off as “too nervy”, or disclose and risk an interviewer writing you off as “too disabled”. So which to choose?

            1. fposte*

              I don’t think that’s the choice the OP describes, though–that’s something we’re setting up in the comments. However, low-key explicit handling of an atypical visible presentation is often a good way to steer between the two sides, just as you might do with a temporary injury, and it doesn’t require full disclosure. “Sorry about the sunglasses, but I got poked in the eye by my cat last week and it’s still healing.” With a tremor so distinctive as to be unmissable, you could choose to say “Please don’t be distracted by my hand tremor–it’s never been a work problem.”

              Yes, there are hiring managers who are out to pounce on any kind of weakness, but most of them aren’t, and if somebody with a hand tremor is otherwise cool and capable, they’re likely to take it at face value.

    2. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      I also have a disability involving small motor function, and… I just don’t disclose at all. I’m in a line of work where I don’t need to use my hands, other than for typing. Nobody notices. The only way it’s ever come up has been, awkwardly, during interviews, where I’m sometimes asked to do some kind of skills testing involving handwriting – but as the point of the exercise is not ‘show me your handwriting’, I just laugh if off with a “I apologize for my atrocious handwriting” comment, and no more is said of it. It’s never been a problem.

      1. Graciosa*

        I was thinking something similar. I have a family member with a disability, and the accommodation needed would be to be able to type instead of handwriting – if this ever came up at work. It never has.

        I literally can’t remember the last time anyone was *asked* to take handwritten notes at any of my employers. If notes are needed, they will be shared by email, so there’s not much point in writing something you then have to type later.

        I have had employees with disabilities disclose that to me, and we do have a process that we follow with HR that meets ADA requirements. Honestly, though, I think of it as something we do to protect the employee in case one of us changes jobs. I have (so far) always had the ability to grant whatever accommodations were requested on my own authority, and have always done so immediately. As a manager, I respond to these basically the same way I do to any other sensitive employee situation (meaning “Of course you can,” and “Is there anything else I can do to help?”).

        I realize that there are some jerks out there – and managers who are just bad at managing – but there are some who are genuinely decent people. I wanted to offer anyone who is discouraged at least a bit of hope that they might find a good one.

    3. fposte*

      That’s an interesting point. The OP may have not so much a visible disability as a disability that’s easily misread. It does sound like it’s simply the hand tremor that might be visible, though, and that it’s not usually noticeable (she does say it’s only if somebody’s paying close attention). So maybe hold in your back pocket a quick phrase for if somebody does seem to be noticing or if it’s a particularly bad day: “That’s a bit of hand tremor; sorry if it’s distracted anybody, but as you can see from my resume it’s never interfered with my work.”

      1. Rebecca1*

        I like this.

        I never ding for apparent nervousness, FWIW. But my interviews are more skills-oriented.

  7. Myrin*

    #1, in addition to Alison’s advice, do you have someone in your office you’re close to who you could enlist in deterring the offenders? Or even just someone who doesn’t like baseball/sports in general who might even be annoyed by the constant barrage themselves and would be willing to voice that annoyance along with you?

    1. Kes*

      Actually, agreed with this approach – LW1’s coworkers may just think they’re being supportive, and this is a thing they know about her so it’s what they talk about. If LW1 has someone they’re close to in the office to whom they could drop a hint that it’s getting a bit much and they’d rather hear less about their fiance, the friend might be able to spread the word for them in a more casual way without her having to reject the conversational advances of her coworkers herself in the moment

    2. Person of Interest*

      Yes, and maybe find out more about your coworkers’ non-sports interests that you might share, like cooking or whatever, maybe that would help you have an easy go-to topic for changing the subject if something work-related isn’t readily available.

    3. Dust Bunny*


      At my former workplace, which was the kind of job where clients came in to have a specific service done and might be handled by any of a dozen employees, we had a major-league sportsball athlete come in. Who also happened to be young and attractive (our employees were mostly young women). Employees acted so silly that they couldn’t agree on who would get to handle this until I just rolled my eyes and did it, because I don’t care about sportsball and had no idea who this guy was. It was mortifying, and our managers reprimanded us en masse later on (which we collectively deserved. I didn’t, I guess, but staff in general were completely ridiculous about it.) Enlist any coworkers who don’t give a hoot to help you block this.

  8. Cygda*

    As someone who’s disability teeters on the visibility scale (deaf) do not disclose your disability until after you have accepted an offer, unless it could be dangerous if your needed accomodation is not set in place before you start (or you know that employer has experience with working with disabilities). Quite frankly the ADA is barely worth the paper it’s printed on until after being hired, and even then it’s a little less helpful than people would like to assume.
    For what it’s worth, that advice comes from a career counsellor that specifically works with people who have disabilities. There are certain exceptions to the rule, as is true for most things, but generally, after hiring is your best bet.

    1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      Second. My various disabilities are all invisible, and the accommodations needed don’t raise an eyebrow in most offices (computer, headphones, proximity to bathroom, lots of liquids & some dietary rules) so I just plain don’t disclose.

    2. CmdrShepard4ever*

      Yes unless they company hires a candidate that is extremely less qualified than a person with a disability it is almost laughably easy to find a “reasonable business” excuse why a person with a disability was not a good fit for the job over someone else.

    3. Tammy*

      Concur. I’ve disclosed my disability (ADHD/ASD) in my current workplace because I’m a valued high performer, and because the accommodations I asked for (a laptop with a touchscreen and stylus, because taking handwritten notes helps me focus) were not a big deal cost or impact wise for the company and aren’t so visible that they call attention to the disability. If I was starting a new job at a different company, I’d probably keep my mouth shut and make do without the accommodation until I had a better sense of how the company culture rolls. If my disability was something that I couldn’t do that with, I’d definitely delay disclosure until as late as possible in the process.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        > because taking handwritten notes helps me focus

        Yup, this. I just do it the old-fashioned way, with a pen and paper. I’ve tried the stylus/tablet thing and I found it pretty awkward, but everyone’s mileage may vary, you know?

      2. Grapey*

        How does the touchscreen/stylus help where a traditional notebook would not? Do you use some kind of handwriting to text program that lets you quickly share those notes out, like to a meeting notes page or something?

        I’d love to argue for one for myself but I can’t think of what benefits it would be give me over a plain old notebook (which I do use, which also doesn’t have lag like all other e-writing devices I’ve tried).

  9. Zombeyonce*

    OP1: Alison’s advice is spot-on and I’d add the recommendation that you practice some of these deflections before using them to make yourself comfortable saying them, espetto people like your boss. You want to be sure saying the equivalent of “shut up about it already” to people comes across as a bland, non-emotional response that is matter-of-faxt rather than exasperated.

    Once you get used to responding in a way that shut it down, you’ll get plenty of practice to keep people from asking since this ingrained habit is going to take time for them to break. Also keep in mind that if he gets more successful, the mania will likely start up again each time he hits a career milestone. You may need to mentally prepare yourself whenever this happens since you know people will have a hard time helping themselves after big announcements. Practice your gracious acceptance of their congratulations and a quick change of subject to something work related.

    1. JJ Bittenbinder*

      Practice your gracious acceptance of their congratulations and a quick change of subject to something work related.

      I like this. I have a friend whose brother is a musician in a band I’d expect that probably 75% of you have heard of. They have an unusual last name, too, so it’s very easy for people to make the connection. (That and the fact that they look so much alike). She’s used to people wanting to be friends in order to score tickets or an introduction or whatever, and has become very adept at the bland shut-down.

      Note to rabid fans everywhere: I was once gifted with VIP tickets, probably because I never once asked or even mentioned her brother beyond a passing “How’s the family?” Less is more, people.

      1. pentamom*

        On that last point, albeit a smaller scale: a school friend of my son’s won a bunch of free prom tickets as part of a school fundraiser promotion. A couple of weeks later, he offered a pair of them to my son, because he was the only one of his friends who hadn’t asked for them.

        It’s amazing what not acting like you’re entitled to what other people have to offer will get you.

        1. JJ Bittenbinder*

          Yup, it’s the micro version of the lottery winner or heir who suddenly hears from long-lost family who never had the time of day for them before.

      2. Alli525*

        Exactly this. I have known some children or siblings of extremely famous people (household names) and all of them have felt they need to lie about or obfuscate their connections, among both friends and coworkers. One is an actress and chose a new name so she could know that she was getting auditions and roles on her own merit… another flat-out lied to our faces that he wasn’t related to his sister until paparazzi photos of them together hit the internet. It’s really tragic, honestly – they grow up with so much anxiety about who their real friends are.

    2. JSPA*

      Many aspiring pros have a thoughtfully – composed and frequently -updated web presence. If spouse doesn’t, encourage him to do so. Then post the URL (or twitter handle) on your cubicle wall, and have some cards made. Any questions get an, “oh, he updates all his info here!” with a gesture to the wall, or profferment of a card. Yes, at first, you’ll be offering a card to the same people repeatedly. They will learn, before you run out of cards.

      1. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

        Even this isn’t necessary in my opinion. Baseball is a stats-intensive sport and it’s easy for fans to follow their favourite minor-leaguer on the team’s website, Facebook, and/or Twitter.
        I think OP1 nailed it when she mentioned the celebrity aspect because if they were simply big fans they would watch his games and leave his wife alone. I’m a huge baseball fan and minor league ball is absolutely tremendous to watch so this issue is more about the “Ooh he could be the next Randy Johnson” aspect of this.
        Alison and JJ’s advice is spot on. If you become a boring broken record about this they will have to get their celebrity fix somewhere else.

  10. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

    The problem with #1 is that I am a huge baseball fan and I now want to know the name of the letter writer’s finance so I can google him and have a conversation with her about it right here in the comment section.

    Baseball fans! We’re a bunch.

    Just tell ’em. I am usually socially aware but the chances that I’d be THAT co-worker in your situation are high. You would need to tell me. And then I would behave. <3

    Best wishes to you and yours!

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      And it’s worse when you live in a market that is only served by the minor leagues. Don’t know if that’s the OP’s case, but where I live, we looooooove our AAA team. The players seem much more accessible, even though they do tend to leave us regularly. (I am still crushed by the departure of my favorite first baseman when he got called up, and I am disappointed that our current third baseman has been on the team for so long without getting called up. Complicated.)

      I would be the co-worker who would roll my eyes at you and tell you to leave the poor woman alone, she’s probably tired of talking about Xavier and his batting average. OP, if you can find someone to do that for you, it might help!

      1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

        Developing pitchers are catnip to me.

        SO. I promise I would behave if it was pointed out to me. I promise.

        (The larger issue here is whenever someone becomes disproportionately more interested in a woman’s SO’s career than the woman herself. That’s the real issue. It’s impolite and often sexist, even if unintentional.)

        1. JJ Bittenbinder*

          Yeah, I commented above that I have a close friend whose brother is famous for his music. Lots of people trying to befriend her in the hopes of concert tickets or a backstage pass.

          1. valentine*

            I promise I would behave if it was pointed out to me.
            You could just behave in the first place. She’s not his fan the way your kind of fan is and, if she behaved the way her colleagues are, I would expect the opposite letter: “OP1 just will not shut up about her locally famous fiancé. What is a professional way to tell her to zip it?”

    2. Emmie*

      People don’t realize they do this, and you make a good point. I also understand why OP does not want to be known for her fiance, but her work. When OP shuts people down, I recommend she tell people what she likes to talk about. I like hiking. I hiked the Grand Canyon. Provide another conversation topic. Also, I recommend that she asks people to tell others.

    3. Combinatorialist*

      My cousin is recently married to a pitcher who just got called up the major leagues. Nobody in my immediate family knows this cousin that well, none of us are that in to baseball, and we still discuss his pitching statistics every game he plays. We don’t do it at her, but we still do it.

      1. kitryan*

        My sister’s husband’s brother is publicly known and is dating someone very famous. I’ve spent some time w/my kind of brother in law but I’ve never/not yet met his SO. I swear, I am so tired of hearing about them (in the context of endless talk among my parents and sister about their new projects and the vacation they took and what happened the last time my sister hung out with them…)
        My family’s not particularly starstruck normally but celebrity in most any form is something people will discuss incessantly. I’m happy with a brief rundown on the news with them, just as I’d be interested in the general activities of someone I’m sort of related to and pretty much like but enough’s enough.

  11. Ms. Cellophane*

    Allison’s comment in #3 about not being paid more once they hit the top of their pay scale hit a nerve with me. Without going to law school, I can’t progress in my job. But I am also at the top of the pay scale. Despite being evaluated as an exceptional employee, my raises are not great. Less than 3% for years now. Shouldn’t I be rewarded for a job well done? What is my incentive for doing an exceptional job if I am getting mediocre raises?

    1. Wintermute*

      Employee compensation depends on a lot of things– fair market value, replacement cost and the utility you bring to the business are all legitimate things that should go into salary determination.

      That’s going to mean that lower-level positions are paid less, and while yes loyalty to a company does matter, at a certain point a business finds it hard to justify paying a large amount more than the prevailing wage. Plus when you look at value of labor, how much money a company makes that they wouldn’t make if you weren’t there (or avoids spending that they would have spent if you weren’t there) if you kept giving someone more-than-cost-of-living raises for years and years someone in a lower-level position would eventually end up costing the company more than the money the company makes by having them in that role (or for positions like IT, HR, etc, the costs of the risks they mitigate for the company by their work).

      The incentive is continued employment and stability in the role (being unlikely to be selected for layoffs, etc), potential for advancement if you do qualify or potential for lateral transfer, the benefits of good references if you want to look elsewhere, possibly fringe benefits and/or bonuses, and, ultimately, the employee’s own work ethic. Now, I agree that it’s not an incentive to really bust your butt, but at the same time it’s not like doing a good job has no benefits, at least in an ideal world and an ethical employer.

      1. Aveline*


        People often get so focused on what they want to be paid and how good they are doing their job, they forget that their job has delineated value (upper and lower) to the company and that they are replaceable by someone else whom they can pay a salary within their value band.

        No matter how well a worker performs and how loyal they are, there is always an upper limit on salary. If an employee reaches that upper limit too soon, there are diminishing psychological returns to them in terms of salary.

        Part of this has to do with how we treat children with allowances and how many schools handle performance and work. We expect to be praised for doing our jobs. We expect more and more “affirmation” for loyalty and seniority and time expended. We expect it to be persona, because to us it is.

        The market and the employer operate based on a very different set of metrics.

        It’s very hard for humans to realize “you get $100 because the job is worth $100” irrespective of how enthusiastic or loyal or how many years you are doing the job.

        It may help OP above to think of it this way: If I’m a lawyer charging for a will, there’s an upper limit for my area that the market will support. This is true if I’m super enthusiastic. This is true if I’ve been serving the client for 50 years. This is true even if Ruth Badger Ginsberg moved in and set up a practice. Most people aren’t going to pay her $1000 for a simple will just because she’s RBG. The cap is the cap unless…it’s an extensive will with lots of additions/modifications or I’m offering something beyond the basic requirements.

        Actually, in most industries, the only way to get paid more than the cap is to do more of value to the company. That’s either taking on more duties, an additional role, or moving up in terms of the job hierarchy. The only types of situations I’ve seen where longevity and constantly doing a good job were union shops or tenured positions. In those, I always felt that the younger/newer employees were being paid too little relative to the older/more established ones. This is not to say that unions or tenure are bad as I support them both in many cases. I only wish to point out that paying people for longevity and continued good performance can mean the new employees are paid less for the same work. If they know it – and many do – it disincentivizes them.

        I do think some of this is an issue of where you stand on the pay band/pure objective criteria v. mushy salary based on individual employee situations. I personally think most jobs should be based on a pay band/worth to the company/pure objective criteria. You don’t move up in pay simply by your age or tenure. You have to have met the criteria laid out for the position. Once you hit the top, it’s the top. It may hurt individuals, it would cause more equity in society.

        Of course, when it comes to all of us as individuals here, we all want that praise and the extra cash. That’s human. This is why you do something other than salary as a reward for high performers. Bonuses and perks are a good start.

        1. Aveline*

          Also, it’s very, very easy for many of us to confuse our worth as a human with our worth as an employee.

          Couple that with the capitalistic POV that money is the only reward one can give…

        2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          Problem is, that’s not necessarily true. Companies shell out gobs of money and benefits to useless, even dangerous executives. They shower them with stock, cash, perks, etc. The vast majority aren’t worth it and may cost the company. Who can forget bailed out companies giving millions to their executives–the very same people who destroyed the world’s economy?

          1. Hodie-Hi*

            Oh I want a like button for this! It’s immoral that incompetent and dangerous execs are rewarded at hundreds of times what employees make. They float from one company to another, bailing each time with their golden parachutes, leaving chaos in their wake.

            Back to the topic at hand, this is why some organizations use bonus programs tied to goals and objectives that connect front line employees to the top line of the business. Or award stock. If you’re maxed out in your role and at the top of the pay scale, you can still earn bonuses and stock.

    2. Colette*

      There are two reasons why paying you above the top of the scale isn’t a great idea.

      First of all, if I can get a solid performer for X, it’s better for the business to have 2 people doing the job than to pay you 2X to do it alone. Vacations and sick time require coverage; one person won’t be able to do that. (And if the team is bigger, paying one person considerably more for doing the same job leads to resentment.)

      Secondly, if the market rate is X but you are getting paid 2X, you’re stuck in that job forever, no matter what management does or where you want to move or how bored you get. I mean, you’re not really stuck, but are you going to want to take a significant pay cut to leave?

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        I saw this up close when I worked for a hospital which was heavily unionized, and had some sweet, sweet contracts for nurses that allowed them to get salary and step increases twice a year.

        We had 30-year nurses who stayed not because they were passionate about the work or the patients, but because they were making $20-30/hour above market rate. It was also the case where staying in role made far more sense than becoming a nurse manager. All of the nurse managers were salaried and making less money than their reports. Same for some of the allied health positions, like respiratory therapists or rad techs.

        (To be fair, we had tenured nurses and other staff who absolutely stayed for the right reasons and were very committed to the population we served. Just illustrating your point).

        1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          Why is staying for money bad? As long as they were competent, what is the deal? It’s not like doctors are working ‘for the patients’! Many want the cash.

        2. That GS Life*

          This is a big reason why I avoided BigLaw firms after graduating law school. I lived in a very high COL area and knew if I took a job with such a big salary that I would end up buying too expensive of a house and be stuck at a stress factory.

      2. Aveline*

        During the tech boom in the late 90s/early 00s, I saw so many people get into IT consulting. They were making 2-3 times their old salaries as newbies in the industry. It was very difficult for them when those jobs evaporated.

        Their pay was not in line with market. No one wanted to hire them because they looked overpaid and “spoiled.”

        I heard the later term used wrt to a 50 year old man who had made $80,000 as a middle manager prior to the boom. As a consultant, he made 2-4 times for a lot less work. When the company went under, no one wanted to hire him b/c they all felt his expectations were out of whack with his value. Unfortunately, he thought the increase in salary was forever. He lost his shiny new car, his custom-new built mansion and his prexisting wife and kids.

        It absolutely does happen. The results can be devastating.

      3. Plain Jane*

        Your second paragraph happened to me. I was working in finance as an admin and the only things I liked about the job were the salary, retirement plan and that we got paid lunches every few weeks. I became more and more miserable at the job but kept telling myself I was crazy to look for a new job because I’d almost certainly not get paid as much for my level and skills.

    3. EventPlannerGal*

      Well, it’s pretty unlikely that a company would just keep giving someone significant raises infinitely for being good at their job if they aren’t taking on the additional responsibilities that come with advancement beyond their current job. In your case you can’t take on those additional responsibilities because of the law school thing, which is unfortunate. But regardless, your company presumably values the type of work that you do at a certain dollar rate, and if you’re doing that work they probably won’t pay you significantly above that rate just because you’ve been doing it for a long time.

    4. Asenath*

      Only your own values provide you with an incentive to continue doing an excellent job. There are plenty of jobs that can provide interesting and satisfying work, but which will never pay above a certain level – mine is probably one of them, too. Often that’s because the employer can find lots of people to do the job for the salary range that they pay for that job.

    5. Doctor Schmoctor*

      “Shouldn’t I be rewarded for a job well done? ” That’s what bonuses are for

      Your salary is based on what you contribute to the company. How much money does the company make because of what YOU do? I can be the best, most hardworking dishwasher in the world, but the chef will get more money. It feels unfair, but it really isn’t.

      1. Aveline*

        Bonuses and other perks.

        If she’s at the top of her band, she can ask for non-monetary acknowledgement as well. Or things that aren’t direct salary or bonus.

        Maybe more vacation days or flexible work schedule. Yes, the former has monetary value. But it isn’t the same in terms of negatives as straight salary bump.

        1. Emily K*

          More vacation days is a great one, because you may never be able to contribute significantly more value beyond a certain point, but you may get good enough at creating that value that you can do it in less time without outcomes suffering, so why not reward you by letting you actually have back the time you’re saving by being so good at what you do?

    6. Karou*

      At my company even if you get an exceptional rating the highest yearly raise is 2.5%, barley more than inflation. They also recently made it harder to get an exceptional review. I still do a good job but it’s definitely put a damper my desire to go above and beyond my role, and there’s no possibility of a promotion right now. I’d be job hunting if I wasn’t content to stay where am I for now for other Life reasons.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        That setup is incentivizing people to leave.
        Maybe watch to see if they seem to be actively trying to drive people away. It could indicate deeper problems like financial.

      2. Aggretsuko*

        Yeah, exactly. I am putting off writing my performance evaluation because really, what’s the point. I pretty much just recycle it from year to year. Nobody will ever get a raise and if I’m lucky I get “meets expectations” like everyone else.

    7. quirkypants*

      The incentive is really keeping your job, enjoying your work, perks, etc. Unless you can find other ways to add value.

      Without getting the law degree, are there other things you can do to be valuable?

      If you’re not happy with the payscale for your job, are there other jobs or industries where you can move up?

      It might seem unfair, but there are just ceilings where it doesn’t make sense to pay more because the role isn’t worth that much in terms of money made for firm/value offered, etc. Think about services you pay for… Even for the very best babysitter you’d eventually reach a ceiling where you don’t want to pay more.

    8. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      I’ve had conversations with some employees over a similar issue. I had two (fantastic) employees who, full time, did a job that was mostly done by part-time frontline staff. They were great, and neither had much desire to advance their careers, which I understood and respected.

      But one was in his 30s and the other 45, and the reality was, the longer they stayed in that role without growing their skills, the more likely they were to be unable to transition to another role if their life changed. The job had a physical competency component, so if they became injured or disabled due to an accident or aging, they would not be able to work. To compound this, the job paid poorly, so if they came to a point in life where their personal circumstances required more money, they would need to leave and find themselves unable to, and saving for retirement was difficult and would likely require them to work until they physically couldn’t, which due to the physical competency requirement, could be much younger than expected. And capping it off, that company ran on thin profits, so they were at risk of being pushed to part-time (lower pay no benefits) or replaced entirely by part-time entry level employees.

      I respected their choices and greatly appreciated their excellent work and reliability, but I also wanted them to be well-positioned to stay employed 10 or 20 years down the line.

      1. Aveline*

        Thank you for caring and trying to help them.

        Employees often don’t know how the company sees their career trajectory. If there’s a disjuncture between that and the employee’s POV, it can lead to heartbreak.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        I know someone who worked just enough to get by and didn’t save for his old age. He said he would work till he died. His work is physical also.
        He ended up disabled and living on government assistance.

    9. Justme, The OG*

      Ugh same. I work in Higher Ed and I can’t be promoted without a Masters. So that was literally the only reason I got one, but joke is on them because I love it and want to leave my job because of it.

    10. Beth*

      If your only incentive for doing exceptional work is the promise of a good raise, then maybe there isn’t much incentive anymore. Maybe you’d be fine showing up, doing an average job, and then clocking out and focusing your energy on your hobbies and home life. Maybe your boss would be fine with that too–if you’re good at what you do, then your ‘average’ might meet their needs without you needing to go above and beyond. There are plenty of people in the world who manage their careers that way.

      Or maybe it’s time to either go back to school to open up new doors, or start a job hunt to see if you can get better pay elsewhere. Those are options too–sometimes it’s time to move on, not because you or your employer necessarily did anything wrong, but because your needs and theirs don’t fully line up anymore.

      But I’m betting you have incentives that aren’t financial somewhere in there. It sounds like you haven’t been happy with the raises you’re getting for years–yet you’re still performing at an exceptional level. Why? What’s motivating you to keep it up? Sometimes other things (a friendly, collegial environment; flexible work hours; a short commute; good health insurance; feeling satisfied with our work; etc.) are just as powerful a reward as a monetary raise. Not that any of us would turn down extra cash…but at some point (once you’re reasonably financially stable and have your needs met), happiness in life is about more than money.

    11. LegalBeagle*

      I’m a lawyer. But plenty of paralegals and legal secretaries at law firms make more than me, because I work for a legal aid. I work extremely hard, at a high-stress job, and I don’t get annual raises. At all. Not even mediocre ones. So why do I bother showing up and doing my job well? Because I care about my work. Money isn’t the sole motivator. Also, a law license represents a huge investment of time, effort, and money that makes someone qualified for a job that a non-attorney isn’t even legally permitted to do. So, it’s a qualitative difference.

    1. Myrin*

      Not to mention nothing to wish for – being obsessed with a person is never a good thing!

      1. Cynthia*

        Teachers? Doctors? People who actually make the world a better place?
        “Obsessed” isn’t the best term but you know what I mean – I wish we valued these types of people more.

        1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

          I kind of doubt you read the letter. The OP’s fiance makes minimum wage. If you did read the letter and chose to scrooge on a guy who is working his butt off at minimum wage and entertaining a whole bunch of people (who pay low ticket prices, accessible to virtually anyone), I’d ask you to think a bit harder on your position.

          Minor league baseball is nearly everything that is right about egalitarian entertainment and accessible community events in the USA.

          1. blackcat*

            As a someone with a minor league player friend, +1 to this.
            He drives for Uber/Lyft to make ends meet.

            Also, knowing multiple pro-sports players (in the NBA), a lot of them are good people who use their fame/money to do good things! Some totally aren’t, but many are, and it’s unfair to judge all pro athletes.

          2. CDM*

            I don’t even like baseball and totally agree. I had an absolute blast at the one minor league baseball game I attended. Local food vendors galore at reasonable prices. Music. Mascots and local arts groups providing entertainment. Swag giveaways. Happy kids everywhere. Fireworks. For a slightly higher ticket cost than the chain movie theaters, most of which went back to local people and local small businesses. Accessible by public transit, located close to a low income urban area but also easily accessible from the surrounding wealthy suburbs.

        2. Myrin*

          Oh, I absolutely agree that people in these professions should be valued more, especially the healthcare field! However, that’s not the same as being “obsessed” with them, so I’m not sure why you even connected the two issues (I mean, I do know why you did; the same way people get extremely passionate about, e. g. their favourite football team losing, when that same passion would be much better served by supporting a local orphanage applying for funding, for example). Obsession is unhealthy no matter what and doesn’t apply to teachers etc. either, and I do agree with Jasnah’s point that your comment, while certainly well-meant on a wider societal scale, is pretty unkind toward’s OP and her fiancé.

        3. Colette*

          I think there’s room for enthusiasm and passion that would be lost if we only allowed “useful” jobs. I understand teachers in the US are undervalued financially, which is a definite problem, but that doesn’t mean no one should have fun.

        4. EventPlannerGal*

          I mean, sure, but I have no idea what that has to do with anything. And I seriously doubt that you don’t value or have any interest in anyone other than teachers.

        5. kittymommy*

          And you know for a fact that this man or the LW does not do something “to make the world a better place”? He may be a minor league player who also is a nurse, or a first responder, or in law enforcement, or work with a charity…. we have no idea. Regardless, classify an individuals worth based on their job alone is repugnant. People are more than what they do for a living.

          And amazingly, it is actually possible to value a baseball player and a teacher at the same time. No need to be rude and dismissive towards the fiance or anyone who happens to enjoy being a fan of something that might be considered “entertainment”.

        6. Genny*

          Even if professional sports were outlawed tomorrow, that wouldn’t increase teacher pay. Dan Snyder, Jerry Jones, Jeff Lurie, and the Mara family aren’t going to redirect that money to increasing salaries of other professions. Even if they did, how much would that be offset by ushers, security, trainers, nutritionists, grounds crew, parking lot attendants, food and beverage sellers, coaches, players, scouts, managers, journalists, press officers, accountants, HR professionals, lawyers, agents, etc. being out of work?

          It’s not a zero sum game. Valuing entertainment doesn’t mean you don’t value teachers, doctors, and other important roles. The fact that teachers are underpaid is a systemic problem that has little to do with professional sports (the only overlap I can think of is when public money is diverted to subsidize stadiums or when wealthy people are able to game the tax system, which is a problem beyond sports).

      1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

        If only you put your time to better use instead of using it to make unkind and unhelpful comments.

    2. Antilles*

      Yeah, it’s strange to call out “people who play a game for a living” when there are tons of other ‘undeserving’ things that society wastes time on. Following sports is no more or less useless than watching TV, watching movies, reading fiction, video games, celebrity gossip, most social media usage, like 98% of stuff available to read online, etc.

    3. thestik*

      As someone who doesn’t watch Game of Thrones (or owns a television), I think part of the reason we rail against these things isn’t because they’re frivolous. It’s because they blot out other topics or ideas that aren’t practical but still are fascinating. Personally, I have no problem abandoning all practical things and watching three hours of whitewater canoe racing, but I don’t have a whole lot of company. Some of us want to see more equal press for a greater variety of leisure/entertainment topics.

    4. Antilles*

      I don’t think that’s specific to pro athletes though. I think the overall equation would be pretty much the same even if it was a job that’s widely considered necessary to society.
      Wouldn’t it be equally frustrating if he was Superintendent of the local school district and all people wanted to talk to OP about was what the schools happened to be serving for lunch that day, the millage rate, and teacher lesson plans? Those topics are obviously more important to society than a minor league player’s batting average, but I still think that would get just as irritating very quickly.

      1. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

        Agree. His profession and it’s necessity to society are pretty irrelevant.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Oh sure. I can just see where it might be slightly less irritating if it was about something that mattered.

    5. londonedit*

      I’m a huge football (soccer) fan and I work in book publishing. I guess I’m just a terrible, frivolous person?

    6. JJ Bittenbinder*

      Yes, how can people like this thing that I do not like? It makes no sense.

      They must be wrong.

    7. JJ Bittenbinder*

      Please submit a 500-page essay on how you spend your free time and what charitable organizations you support. Please also provide 3 references, and the committee (of 1) will get back to you with a judgment.

    8. Ana Gram*

      I’m a huge Real Housewives fan and a police officer. Oh and a volunteer EMT in my free time. And I’m learning ASL. I will happily discuss the latest drama on a Housewives show and then save your life. People aren’t black and white. They’re not either valuable to humanity or totally frivolous. While I agree that the LW’s coworkers are pretty annoying and being a baseball player seems silly, it doesn’t mean that people who have hobbies or careers that seem silly aren’t also people who are worthy of admiration.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        I will happily discuss the latest drama on a Housewives show and then save your life.

        Yeesh. Can you make sure the life-saving gets done first? I’ll talk TV with you from the recovery bay.

        :) j/k

    9. Aveline*

      I’ve worked in some pretty hardcore depressing situations (e.g., sever assault of children). Sometimes silly and frivolous are what keep us sane.

    10. CmdrShepard4ever*

      I have to disagree about being able to get by without pro athletes, maybe certain sports, but like you said they are entertainers. Most societies through out history developed/develop some form of entertainment. Gladiator fights, theater productions, oral folktales almost everyone likes to be entertained. I don’t think society could get by without entertainers in general.

    11. wittyrepartee*

      Not owning a TV is a silly thing to brag about in the age of ubiquitous laptop ownership and streaming services.

    12. Librarian of SHIELD*

      The problem is the “obsession,” not whether the person being obsessed over is “worthy” of it. If LW’s fiance was famous for saving babies and kittens and doing good works, LW’s coworkers being this level of fascinated with him would still be a problem because it’s interrupting her work day, disrupting her concentration, and preventing her from doing the best work she can do. Your comment here has zero to do with helping the LW with her problem and everything to do with virtue signaling, and we’re not here for that.

    13. boop the first*

      I wouldn’t bemoan people who get paid to do things I wish I could get paid to do (because then I would be a hypocrite for wanting to be in that position!), though the situation there IS kind of a downer. OP is the breadwinner, working a job that MAYBE isn’t that personally fulfilling, but hard work anyway. Fiance gets to devote most of his time to something he enjoys and is passionate about, and doesn’t have the burden of supporting a family (apparently…) and is otherwise living his best life while OP does the grind. But it’s the fiance who is admired and appreciated, not OP. I would be pretty resentful, personally. Maybe not at first, but down the line, absolutely.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        I really don’t see where you’re getting any of that from the letter. The OP says she likes her job, nothing about it being unfulfilling or a grind – it’s just this one issue that she’s asking about. This feels very speculative about their relationship.

  12. Calrissian Explains It All*

    #2 (the employee who left and wrote a scathing letter). I’m intrigued that the LW says they discussed all of these issues at the time and the employee didn’t voice any concerns. This to me suggests a few possibilities:

    a) Employee is non-confrontational to a fault, so this is on them
    b) Employee didn’t feel able to voice concerns (LW2’s attitude possibly suggests they are not that open to feedback, so I wonder if the employee felt steamrollered into agreeing)
    c) Employee did try to voice concerns but LW2 wasn’t listening

    Might be worth giving this some thought and possibly checking in with other employees to see if they think the criticism is founded.

    1. thestik*

      Yeah, I admit I’m hoping for an update from the OP after some time has been taken to reflect on the content of the letter (versus the tone).

    2. dumblewald*

      By the OPs accounts, the letter does seem totally out of left field. However, if the OP is anything like my managers, they might be super oblivious to how unhappy their employees are. Of course, working employees don’t want to display their discontent full on because they still need a job. It’s when they quit that the beans spill in either the exit interview or in a Glassdoor review.

      1. Anonymousse*

        I agree with this. In my instance, the ED takes any criticism as an affront to his personal ego and has came to physical confrontation with former staff due to voicing of those concerns. I’m not saying OP is as bad as my ED but just keep in mind that perhaps in the past the employee has tried to push back and was met with hostility or just plain ignorance. Either way, I think the best approach in this instance is to reflect on the scathing comments and see if the criticism holds any water beyond how hurtful it is to hear criticism. If the concerns still stand, be a good manager and address them. Just please don’t be like the management at my work and play the victim when 50+ people responded critically of the org in complete candidness in a 3rd party evaluation.

  13. Jaid*

    BBC Business Daily had an episode this morning – “Disabled on Wall Street ~ Getting more disabled people into the workforce. Manuela Saragosa speaks to Richard Donovan, a trader who forged a successful career on Wall Street with cerebral palsy. Alice Maynard, a business advisor on inclusion in the UK explains the challenges still facing disabled people at work. And blind skateboarder Dan Mancina talks about his career. ”

    I’m just sad that they used a voice-over for Mr. Donovan, because his speech is slurred. But the parts I could hear were still coherent. Oh, well. Radio.

  14. I coulda been a lawyer*

    I’m sorry fiancée, I could be a coworker. Or at least I understand their viewpoint. It’s so exciting to see someone working their way up to the bigs. If we ever knew a kid who played sports, we knew someone who “coulda made the bigs” but never did, whether it’s a money sport or the Olympics. I’m not sure we can control ourselves but perhaps telling us we are boors might help. Good luck!

  15. Wintermute*

    #2– Getting this kind of feedback can be really rough! It feels like a personal attack because you’re personally invested in your business, but remember for them this was just a job. You have a lot more of your identity tied into your business than he does. You mentioned personal attacks but I don’t have a context for that, I don’t know exactly what he said, if he’s saying things like “you’re an idiot” then yeah, there’s nothing actionable there, but I think you should try really hard to determine if the attacks really are personal, or if they’re business-oriented but feel personal because of how invested you are in the business. I’m reminded of an anecdote where someone working at a big tech company just finished a presentation, it went really well but the boss mentioned he said “uh” too much. He was like “well yes but it went well!” until the boss was perfectly blunt, “when you say ‘uh’ every third word it makes you sound stupid and it will hold you back”.

    Is he saying, metaphorically, you are stupid? or that your speech pattern was making you sound stupid and could hold you back?

    If you otherwise trust his judgement, unless he was making truly personal attacks, he took the time to write this out when he could have said nothing. He went to you, personally, not just your glassdoor page or venting to friends on social media, so he wanted you to know. The way he did this is obviously less than ideal, but it shows on some level that he does care about you and this job and has some investment in your future success– if you don’t care if someone fails or not you don’t bother. In such a small business it’s unlikely that he just doesn’t have the perspective to see all that’s going on, one reason people’s feedback on exit interviews and the like is often way off-base.

    It’s very possible that when he didn’t feel the need to try to preserve a working relationship he felt he was able to give you the unvarnished truth. So I would put a lot of stock into what he had to say, while understanding that it is only one person’s perception and worldview, you should view it in light of what you generally know about him. If he generally showed sound judgement and good ideas and was invested in the company emotionally, then he might be trying to throw you a lifeline. Remember that “I can’t take it I’m out of here!” and “I’m telling everyone there’s a monster on the wing of the plane and no one is listening to me!” can look similar from the outside. He might be trying to communicate the best way he can, with candor he felt he could not before.

    That said, speaking of people’s identities being tied up in their work some of it may stem from anxieties about having some of his own job given to someone else, that can make anyone feel insecure especially if they felt they were handling it well– of course you had a bigger strategic picture in mind but I wonder if the fact you wanted him to focus on more high-level things was clearly communicated, because that spins the entire thing in a different way (“my boss wants me to take on bigger things with more value for him!” as opposed to “my boss thinks I can’t handle my workload!”)

    At the end of the day, I would view it as any other work product he did, taking the totality of what you know. You’re free to disagree of course but if someone has generally good input then you usually look into what they’re saying and spend some time on analysis.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      “Is he saying, metaphorically, you are stupid? or that your speech pattern was making you sound stupid and could hold you back?”

      I think it’s safe to take a straight read on that. The boss said, it will make him SOUND stupid. Granted the boss could have said something like, “you are losing the attention of your audience” which would have not involved the word “stupid” as the use of “stupid” is distracting and devalues the advice.

      Since this is a widely known and widely observed effect that verbal ticks, repeated words and so on distract the listener and some times derail the value of the speech, I’d go with the straight read here.

      FWIW, “stupid” can be a very cutting, hurtful word, especially if the person was/is in an abusive relationship.
      I tend to use “silly” or “frivolous” in place of “stupid” for this very reason but mostly avoid it entirely. The word stings people and causes them to lose the main message, as in your example with your friend here. There is a certain way of speaking if one wants to be sure the listener can absorb the message rather than throw up walls of of protection/defense.

      OP#1. I have a saying I use. “If I wait until I am angry then I have waited too long to say there is a problem.” Your employee waited too long to say there was a problem. Some people just rage quit and they will do that no matter what. I would read through the letter and try to see if I could find one or two things of merit. Once I identified them, I would try to make some changes. See, the things is that just as very seldom is a person totally correct, it also goes that very seldom is a person totally wrong.

      If the rage letter said, “Oh and on top of everything the parking lot policy is a huge problem”. WTH. Okay, so this one is pretty easy, go to the remaining employees and ask them if the parking lot policy needs rethinking or is not working the way intended. Check it out, this is an easy one, it’s just a parking lot. So you collect up feed back on that point and make amendments if necessary. Maybe you can find a couple of easy things to correct buried in all that rambling on.

      For the bigger picture maybe you decide that you need avenues for people to come tell you things. “The way we handle the issue about the bathroom key is not working out, here is why [reason].” So you tweak that OR you empower your employees to make minor adjustments as necessary.

      I did end up telling my crew, “If you wait until you are angry then you have waited too long to come tell me that you are having difficulty. You know yourself, you know what types of things bother you. Let’s talk before it gets BIG.”

  16. Luna*

    LW #1 — “Xavier is doing fine.” in a very pointed I-am-not-discussing-anything-further voice. Even if that may not be an answer to specific questions (how fast is he throwing, etc), it is your go-to answer. Stonewall them. You are not his broker, his manager or anything; you are his wife, and you aren’t even that while at work. At work, you are (your name), and an employee of the company. You discuss only work stuff.

  17. Hiring Mgr*

    On #4, I don’t quite get the last part of the answer regarding the unemployment. If the OP here was unscrupulous, could they then just pick a resignation date say in December instead of August to get a few more months of unemployment? I know it varies by state anyway..

    1. Colette*

      But she’s already resigned, with the August date. (And I doubt she’d qualify for unemployment if she’s in school.)

    2. blackcat*

      She resigned, with an effective date in August.
      THEN they said she’d need to leave 2 months early, effectively firing her.
      If she had said December, maybe they would have said “Oh, great, we’ll keep you on until then” then when she would have to quit for real in August, she wouldn’t be eligible.

  18. Roscoe*

    #2 With this being your business, and him your only employee, you may be taking it a bit more personal than its meant (although I’m not sure how much was saying YOU are bad vs. the way this is done is bad, so I could be wrong). Every policy that sucks is YOUR policy. Every decision he disagreed with was YOUR decision. So he may really like you personally, but just be finding that things there are bad. I’d just look at this like an exit interview where you got information you weren’t expecting. I feel like often people do exit interviews but don’t “really” want to hear bad things. But, as Alison said, maybe see how much does have merit

    1. valentine*

      I suspect OP2 is a woman and this is a sexist tool who thinks his every opinion matters.

  19. AyBeeCee*

    #1 Please do the swear jar thing! The money can go to a local charity or to buy donuts for everyone some Friday or something.

    #5 I don’t have a disability like you described but I can’t remember the last time I needed to hand write more than a couple of words. I could probably get away with doing everything electronically. I know different jobs have different requirements, but as long as you find the right job/workplace you should be fine waiting to disclose until after you have your offer.

    1. Aveline*

      I would do a Xavier update newsletter and point to it and charge a few bucks per copy. Point to it anytime someone wants an update.

      1. valentine*

        or to buy donuts for everyone some Friday or something
        This would reward the behavior she wants them to stop. It would become “I’m not being sexist and annoying to OP1 and wasting her time. I’m getting us treats!”

    1. Emily K*

      As much as people sometimes complain about having to do higher-level work for a while before they get the formal promotion and pay increase, it’s a good way to make sure you don’t promote someone to their level of incompetence and end up having to fire or demote them (or, in some dysfunctional companies, keep them on and let them hamstring your operation). People shouldn’t be stuck doing higher-level work without the pay for an unreasonable amount of time, but I think somewhere around 6-12 months is reasonable to demonstrate that you’ve actually got this and can perform at that level, perhaps with a one-time bonus awarded when the promotion is given as retroactive compensation for doing the higher-level work at your previous pay rate.

      1. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

        Up to 12 months of – in effect – getting the extra work done for free?


  20. RecentAAMfan*

    How about an official once weekly Xavier Update?
    And no Xavier talk otherwise

    1. Aveline*

      Agreed. Do it as a print out newsletter. Charge for each copy.

      Do this in a lighthearted way.

      Here’s Xavier at practice.
      Here’s Xavier with his dog.
      Her’s Xavier with the cat sleeping on his head.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        I’d make it as detailed as possible:

        Here’s Xavier taking out the recycling.
        Here’s Xavier weeding the garden.
        Here’s Xavier tipping the takeout delivery person.

          1. valentine*

            She doesn’t want to be his spokesperson or host a live fan chatroom. This is creating more work for herself, is a weird way to monetize the relationship, and photographs will be worth more money than she can charge her colleagues.

    2. 99 lead balloons*

      Ha! I was going to suggest something similar, like having a white board that preemptively answers everyone’s questions that lists stats etc. in addition to the swear jar that could be updated monthly. She could also threaten not to bring him to any company holiday parties/happy hours where plus ones are allowed/encouraged if people don’t behave in the office and at those events, too.

    3. AlmostRetiredLady*

      these ideas are all hitting what, to me, sounds like the perfect tone! Lighthearted but pointed, and amusing in their own way, so not likely to offend anyone. Brilliant suggestions, commentariat!

      1. Aveline*

        I also thought a “Wheel of Xavier” with her standard answers that she spins when people want one.

        How’s Xavier playing? = quotes from baseball movies.

        There are so, so many ways deal with this light

        1. Carlie*

          With all of the quotes coming from “A League Of Their Own.”
          “How’s Xavier doing this week?”
          “He said there’s no crying in baseball.”

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            “Hitting the cutoff man . . . that’s something I need you to work on for next season.”

    4. Working Mom Having It All*

      I think this is a great idea. If it were me (I work in a cubicle with a bit of wall space), I’d put up a dry erase board and write “Xavier Updates” at the top, and maybe stick on a silly picture of him or something. Then, very occasionally/as you have time/when something materially changes or an interesting thing happens, write a simple bit of info that people might be interested in. Stuff like “batting average is .352 now!” or “the Isotopes are on the road this week!” or… I don’t know, whatever the greatest hits are that you tend get asked. If it’s a lot of repetitive stuff like “How’s Xavier doing?”, “When is Xavier going to make the big leagues?”, etc. you could even make the board more of a FAQ type of thing. You could also make it funny, sometimes have something like “none of your business!” or “Xavier ate cheerios for breakfast this morning” or the like if there are no real updates.

      I have a boss who travels a lot, so people in my office are constantly checking in asking where Boss is this week, is Boss working out of our office tomorrow, when is Boss coming back, etc. I now have a mini dry erase board entitled “Where In The World Is Boss?” with his location listed below. I realize this is actually work related and not social life stuff, but it decreased the number of times I get asked about this enough that I bet it would work in your situation.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Little pre-labeled columns for categories:

        “Current ERA” “Next Start” “Feelin’ Good?” “Call-up?”
        3.02 Friday Stubbed toe No news

  21. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#2:
    I was struck by this part of your letter:
    The catalyst for this is that we’re advertising for a part-timer to help reduce burnout and it’s made him feel undermined as he feels he can take on that work. This decision was discussed before advertising the role and no concerns were raised. The tasks that role will cover are very junior and I want his focus elsewhere.

    I sounds to me as though your soon-to-be-ex-employee was trying to tell you something here, and you either didn’t hear it, or dismissed it. Why did he feel undermined? Did he understand what you wanted him to focus on? Did you ever discuss his future with your firm? Or did you discuss it with him and not listen to his response? You probably have a very clear vision in your own head about where you want your company to go. Have you found a way to clearly convey that to employees, so that they have a clear sense of their own role in that vision?

    It sounds to me as though you have trouble hearing what employees say when they voice concerns, or that you don’t make it easy for them to raise issues with you. I know this can be hard to hear, but trust me, it’s a fatal flaw in a manager, and you need to give some serious thought to the possibility.

    Admittedly, your description of his letter sounds as though your ex-employee dumped the kitchen sink on you and, yes, there’s probably a lot in it that’s trivial and can be safely dismissed. But you really need to take Alison’s advice and give it a close reading for anything that really is actionable. (Pour a drink first, if you need to.)

    1. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

      The letter said that she and the employee discussed the new position prior to posting/hiring for it, which seems like an appropriate time for employee to have raised this issue. Or even after, anytime, but he just quit and threw that in there. I don’t get that LW ignored employee, but employee never previously raised the issue.

      1. Roscoe*

        Or a combination of both. At my last job (sales) they made some changes that would be really damaging to the more senior staff, but good for the new people they hired. Me and a couple of other more senior people raised this issue, managment kind of ignored it. Within about 6 months, all the senior people left and they didn’t seem to understand why, even though we made it very clear how unhappy it was making us. Sometimes you can raise an issue, but management doesn’t take your objections seriously or they “listen” but don’t really hear you

      2. Ethyl*

        I agree. I’m admittedly seeing this from the LW’s side and not the employee’s side (see my comment below), but it’s equally possible that the employee just doesn’t understand the ins and outs of how a smaller business is run, so things that seem silly or wrong might have solid reasons for being done that way. I mean sure yeah, take into account whether there’s anything actionable, but I’m leaning more towards there probably isn’t than that this employee has many great points they never brought up before.

  22. straws*

    OP2 – If you can take Alison’s advice to take a hard look at the letter’s ideas and suggestions, please do! I used to work with someone who was a terrible communicator. He was brilliant, but brash and I’m not sure he knew how to speak without insulting everyone within earshot. He also had big opinions that he needed to make known at great length and by the whole company. After awhile, no one wanted to hear anything he said any longer. It took a lot of effort, but I started parsing out his words after conversations. Sometimes it was all opinionated fluff, but other times there were really valuable ideas and suggestions inside of all the negative, irritating sentences. He was still highly annoying, but it really helped our working relationship when I could see that he provided value and was able to take action on some of his suggestions (that were otherwise being ignored by offended coworkers). So, see if you can parse out the ideas from the words. Potentially there’s something of value for you.

    1. Delta Delta*

      Yeah, I worked for one of these, too. He was a smart guy and had generally good ideas. But had no idea how to communicate them without being insulting. Here’s an example: he wanted to help a particular employee be more efficient with her time. She worked on certain files that periodically would have large events that she had to participate in. Boss, not fully understanding the files, perceived that she would participate, but that her participation was basically to show up. So he decided to tell her that he would have someone else cover the events because she was “just a warm body who had to show up.” His thought was this would free up more time for her to do other things. This was incredibly insulting to her. The events took a lot of time, and her participation wasn’t necessarily as much as others’, but to say all it required was a “warm body” deeply undermined a huge part of her work.

      I say this because I don’t think the intent was to be insulting, and in fact, it might have been a good idea to share this particular workload in this way. However, the way it was phrased really came out wrong and hurt a work relationship.

  23. Ginger*

    OP # 4, definitely do not preemptively say that you will charge consulting fees unless they actually do contact you after you leave. We had someone do this a couple of years ago, and it still something of a running joke. I know your situation may be different and they might actually need your help, but in our case we definitely did not. He was the president of the company and we were happy when he announced his retirement because all he ever did was make bad decisions and create a negative environment. We were pretty floored and bemused when he assumed we would need his input at some ridiculous price per hour.

    Coincidentally he called me last week with questions about his 401(k) which would be perfectly normal if he still had his balance in our plan, but he rolled it to a different plan after he left. He called me instead of his current plan administrator for some reason. I was so tempted to tell him he owed me $50 or so for my 20 minutes of consulting time.

    1. WellRed*

      People don’t realize they are replaceable and the business will go on without them.

      1. Ginger*

        So true! We have someone else retiring at the end of this month and she is convinced that we simply will not be able to function without her, and has actually said so multiple times.

      2. Iconic Bloomingdale*

        This is so true. I work in HR for a municipal city government agency and so many employees (at all levels) believe they are irreplaceable, will be sorely missed, the agency will fall apart without them once they resign or retire. In my 30 years with the government, it hasn’t happened yet.

        Yes, there are employees with loads of institutional knowledge, who are subject matter experts or specialists, who are popular with colleagues/oversight agencies/vendors, etc. But in all cases, the show goes on once they leave city government. And in numerous cases over the years, I have observed improvement, correction or streamlining of work product and processes, enhanced collaboration and increased employee morale after the employee’s departure. lol

    2. lulu*

      Agree with that. Work under the assumption that they will not contact you after you leave. If they do mention that they expect you to keep helping out, then you can bring up the fact that it would be for a fee since it will be after the end of your employment here. But if not, don’t bring it up.

  24. MissDisplaced*

    #1 Wow, that’s annoying! I’m sure they mean no harm and that it’s just exciting and different from their humdrum lives, but enough is enough! Plus, it’s one thing to ask how he’s doing… to asking if he’d play a game of catch w/them!!! Some people have no boundaries! I used to work with a woman who was married to a drummer in a (now very famous, but they were just getting known then) band. It was cool to meet him and all, but I would’ve never presumed to ask for back stage passes or anything!

    #2 Congratulations, you’ve been hit by a gunny sacker! I don’t have much advice to add, some people just simmer and explode this way, and they shouldn’t. But yes, do think REALLY hard and honestly consider whether or not any of his issues ring true. Could he have felt uncomfortable discussing any if them with you openly and constructively? It sounds like you were very open and honest about the business, but do a gut check here.

  25. ThatGirl*

    For LW#3, one thing I think is important to note is that you still might need to have measurable goals for the year. That doesn’t necessarily mean career change or growth, but many companies require goals to be set in order to do performance reviews. If your job is metric-driven then it shouldn’t be too hard to set those, and they don’t need to be tied to “I want to grow professionally” so much as “I want to achieve these specific things as part of doing my job well”.

    1. Southern Yankee*

      This has been my experience. I’ve been both the fast-climbing and the good-here-for-a-while employee and my annual goals have reflected personal development goals and job performance goals in various mixes as relevant to the specific job and year. If you’re in a stable place, a reasonable manager will want to know that and appreciative that you do have performance related goals.

  26. Delta Delta*

    #1 – I love the idea of a Xavier Jar like a swear jar. Or OP could institute a “No Xavier Week” sometime, and enforce it. Then, as much of a habit it is for the colleagues to ask about Xavier, it becomes a habit not to ask about Xavier. Another idea – Maybe OP can enlist her closest work-friend and casually mention that it’s enough about Xavier already, and express that it’s a downer that all the work conversations are always about him. A smart work-friend will work on OP’s behalf to help quell the Xavier-talk if they understand it’s a bummer.

  27. LaDeeDa*

    LW#3 – there isn’t a problem with being a solid employee who doesn’t want to advance. There are different types of goals- there are your current goals within your job, i.e. projects, hitting “numbers”, etc. Then there are career goals and development goals. Development goals don’t have to mean education/training to be a leader – they can be development as in staying up to date in your current role. If you are happy in your role, you don’t get to be lazy- you still have to make sure you are current with your skills. There aren’t any jobs that stay 100% the same forever- there are new technologies, new trends, etc… and if you want to be a good solid employee in your role, then part of your responsibility is to identify areas in which you can continue to learn, so you can be competent in that role for years.
    It can be problematic for managers to have a solid employee who doesn’t stay current, so that is your challenge, and that is the conversation to have with your manager during the performance review and goals setting. You need to reassure them that you are engaged in your industry and interested in keeping your skills and knowledge up to date.

  28. OP #1 / Fiance Here!*

    Hi Allison and fellow AAM readers! I loved reading all of your suggestions thus far. Thank you. The swear jar is a great idea. I definitely think it could work in this situation, and my co-workers will probably get a kick out of it. I don’t want them to think I don’t appreciate their well wishes and kind words, so I am hesitant to take a harsher approach. However, some days, I just want to scream!

    For those who asked or are curious, we don’t live in a small town. Quite the opposite, actually. We actually live in the city where the MLB team that “Xavier” plays for is located. The upper level minor league affiliates are fairly close by (within 1-2 hours) so moving here made sense. Of note, I was never a baseball fan before I met “Xavier” so I wasn’t aware of just how passionate people could be, even regarding minor league players. I guess that comes with all sports, though.

    To whoever suggested that we needn’t be “obsessed” with sports stars – I agree, to a point, and I used to have the same outlook, before meeting “Xavier”. At the end of the day, you can look at it as “They’re just hitting a ball.” or “They’re just throwing a ball.” However, baseball (and I think hockey?) are different in the sense that after players are drafted, it’s not immediate gratification. (I know there are challenges with other sports as well, but I am just speaking on behalf of what I know from personal experience.) Unless you get a hefty signing bonus from the MLB draft or come from a wealthy family, it’s a struggle each and every day in terms of compensation. I’m the “breadwinner” in our relationship. I pay the bills. My fiance makes less than minimum wage during the season, if you equate the hours he spends at the field everyday as “office” hours. He works three part time jobs in the off-season: coaching young players, Ubering, and shifts at a retail store. It’s not all guts and glory. We can all look at the jobs we are doing and say “At the end of the day, I’m just __________.” It’s not the jobs themselves that should be classified as worthy of praise, it’s how we do them! All jobs are great jobs. American culture just tends to elevate some careers others, but that doesn’t mean athletes are unworthy of praise simply because of what their “job” is.

    To all, I welcome any additional advice and hope you have a great weekend. Cheers!

    1. YouCanBrewIt!*

      I honestly had no idea anyone would care, until I read your posts and the comments. Once I was in the same town car from bob hope international airport as a mlb players wife and the town car drove us right up to a side gate at dodger stadium. The gal seemed super perplexed that I wasn’t interested in who her husband was and only was interested in learning about her. This post sheds new light on that moment for me, so thanks.

      Feel free to work with me OP, I won’t ask about your husbands career in any sort of detail!

      1. DatedProRugbyPlayer*

        I dated a professional rugby player in a country where rugby is very popular. Not only do I not know anything about any sports, but I also wasn’t from that country, so I had no idea how well known those players are.
        When I met him and started dating him it was insane, we were mobbed when we went places, women would try to literally push me out of the way so they could be next to him, men at my job wanted me to arrange for them to meet him and hang out with him. It was an entirely different world that I had no clue about.
        The men at my work I would tease them “you are a grown man asking for me to arrange a playdate with another grown man…? Maybe you should get your mom to call his mom.” LOL! But this is a country where people can “take the piss” as they say.

    2. bookwormish2018*

      Another somewhat humorous approach–say your Xavier updates are in such high demand that you can only entertain three questions about Xavier per day and still get your work done. Post a sign-up sheet. After you’ve responded to 3, just direct additional askers to the sign-up sheet. This could be cute, while simultaneously letting people know just how often you are fielding these questions. Good luck!

    3. MoopySwarpet*

      Maybe a white board for updates. You could start each one off with some mundane things like what color his socks are for the day or a “fun fact.” Others could add stats.

      I’m thinking somewhat in the style of boards they have at state and national parks where people write in their bird and wildlife sightings.

      If shutting it down doesn’t work, maybe you can embrace it in a way that minimizes your disruption while letting the office feel like they are a part of the great game.

  29. Ethyl*

    LW 2– I had a similar thing happen when we had to let a volunteer go some years back in Old Job, only it happened in person(!). Most of his issues fell into either “don’t know enough about the rules/regulations/policies we need to follow to understand why things are done they way they are,” or “these are things we are working on but that is happening outside/above what he could see.” So he had some salient points for sure, and my boss and I did discuss those after he was done ranting and raving at us for close to an hour.

    As far as how we handled that meeting, my boss and I kept carefully neutral faces, said a lot of “I hear what you are saying,” and let him basically tire himself out. Since you have to work with this person for the remainder of their notice period, I would say to just try to be as professional and neutral as possible and if the employee wants to bring this stuff up in person, maybe (maybe) have a conversation about it ONE time (otherwise I could see this taking over the notice period tbh).


    Definitely reflect on the bones of the information and try not to take it personally, but also bear in mind that he may not have been operating with all the information that you as the boss/owner had. It could be worth and thinking about being more transparent with the next person in that role. Or with everyone? Anyway, good luck!

    (Epilogue: the reason we had to let this volunteer go was for some addiction issues that were showing up at events where he was meant to be helping to represent the nonprofit. We offered him access to our EAP but he refused. Anyway a couple months later he ran into me at a restaurant and apologized extensively for everything, and he looked a LOT healthier and happier, so I guess he eventually got some help, so the story has a happy ending, although he never came back to our events.)

  30. Black Bellamy*

    #2 I did that! I was young and stupid and pissed off and I walked right out of the job after leaving a long detailed list of grievances and criticisms. That was not my finest career moment.

    However, a year after I left the company flamed out for the reasons I spelled out in my letter, which I guess was disregarded as the ravings of a disgruntled employee.

  31. Cartographical*

    LW #1, is there a place to focus your co-workers’ enthusiasm? An office chat channel, a forum on a fan site? Maybe someone from work, or lots of them, would be interested in setting something up, an “Xavier Enthusiasts” Facebook page at the least. It sounds to me as though this is office culture and they love feeling involved. If you had a way to shift that off of you and onto another focus, maybe that would help.

    Or, is Xavier invested in some charity out another? You could deflect with, “Yes, he pitched a great game and, by the way, he’s hoping for a good turnout for the charity bbq/raising money for a children’s ward/looking for food bank volunteers!” That not only gets you past the baseball aspect and re-centers the conversation, many people will only be interested in receiving so many brochures and donation opportunities before it becomes less fun to pounce on you. And, hey, if whatever cause he endorses gets a few new friends, it’s a bonus.

    You could also say, if you haven’t, “I know you guys love Xavier-the-pitcher but we focus on Xavier & LW #1-the-fiances at home and I’d like to do that at work as well — he’s an athlete to you but to me he’s just this guy I fell in love with and he still will be long after baseball.” Going forward, you can just defer to that idea as much as possible. I don’t know if it would help to get your manager on board first — sometimes people forget that there’s just this guy behind the jersey but they do come around when reminded. I came from a hockey town and this is something that cropped up at times with friends of mine related to rising stars.

  32. redbug34*

    Thank you for question #5! I also have a (fairly invisible) disability and never bring it up in interviews because I am very aware of possible discrimination, and it does not affect my work/require accommodation, but I am expecting an offer any day now and I have been nervous about when to bring it up. Some days I do feel better wearing the (very visible) leg braces it requires and I want my employer to be aware of that.

    This was very helpful, Alison!

  33. I AM a lawyer*

    I’m a big follower of minor league baseball and know some of the players and their significant others. So often the significant others are in the shadow of the player or can’t build their own lives because of constantly having to uproot themselves for trades or reassignments and the like. I feel so bad for OP #1 that she is trying to maintain her own life and career despite all that and her co-workers won’t let her. I think Alison’s scripts are great. Any reminder that OP is her own person with her own life is useful.

  34. Fiddlesticks*

    OP3, it’s perfectly fine to enjoy a job without having lofty career goals or a desire for advancement. But, a job that just “pays the bills” and an unwillingness to think about the future is probably not going to get you any type of secure retirement. It may be okay to work just enough to get by and “go have a beer” in your 20s, but if you’re still doing that in your 40s or 50s, and if you’re not saving for retirement, you may well be working into your 70s at a job that’s no longer so fun any more. You don’t have to become a corporate bigwig, but you should be planning to achieve financial stability long before injury, illness or ageism takes you out of the workforce.

    1. KeepIt*

      Genuine question: how does staying in the same position at the company mean that OP3 is not saving for/won’t have a secure retirement?

      1. Working Mom Having It All*

        I think this answer is actually different depending on what job OP has now, and how serious they are about their lack of ambition. Also probably depends on exactly how young OP is.

        In my early 20s, I made the mistake of staying in the same job for too long (both company and position). My parents both have jobs where there’s not a lot of scope to move up/built in promotions, so it just didn’t occur to me that I needed to make hay while the sun shone, network with people, work hard to grow my role, etc. I liked my job and the people I worked with, and it seemed like I had all the time in the world. That did really hinder me when, staring down 30, I still had a relatively entry level type of job title and pay scale to match. I’m still paying for that in a lot of ways a decade later.

        That said, now that I’m in my late 30s, yeah, wanting to keep your head down and do your job without being especially ambitious seems fine and not like it’s a huge career hindrance? Obviously you want to be in a role that pays enough to live well and save for retirement if possible (a LOT of people don’t have that privilege whether they’re ambitious or not), and if this is what you want you should probably make sure that your career is stable enough to make this realistic.

        But the idea that you have to be rigorously ambitious to the point of being mercenary or cutthroat about it just isn’t true in my experience. Of course you can “go get a beer” sometimes without worrying that it’s going to ruin the rest of your life!

    2. Penn&Teller of Letter #3*

      This is exactly why I wrote in, thank you Fiddlesticks for illustrating my point. People assume that I’m not serious about the job I currently have because I have no plan beyond showing up and doing the job well. This is not the case. I’m faced with negativity and told I have “an unwillingness to think about the future” simply because it doesn’t differ significantly from where I am now. And then get slammed with speculated lack of financial planning? Not sure where all that came from, but I can assure you that my job offers a 401k of which I take full advantage, I’ve paid off all my student loans, drive a new car which I own free and clear and pay a mortgage that is less than what I was paying in rent. Perhaps I was flippant on “I just want to pay my bills” but c’mon man, you know what people say about assuming ;)

      1. adk*

        Naw, I’m 42 years old and feel exactly as you do. I pay my bills AND max out my 401k. I have a savings account with six months of expenses in it and zero credit card debt. I’m such a high performer at work that my boss continues to give me new tasks and allows me to learn new things while still staying within the confines of my job description and capabilities. I’m happy spending half my days doing the same-old-thing and half my days learning new things or doing larger projects. I never want to be a manager of people, do not promote me to that. But if you want to give me more money to learn something else, I might be okay with that.

      2. That GS Life*

        You da real MVP, OP! Picking a career that limits stress and living well within your means sounds like the perfect framework for happiness and a fulfilling life. Are we the only ones who paid attention to kids movies where the plot was about Dad regretting spending all his time at work and not with his family?

        1. JM in England*

          The song “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Ugly Kid Joe also nicely illustrates the OP’s point too.

          1. WellRed*

            I’ll bet the Harry Chapin song “Cat’s in the Cradle” illustrates it better ; )

  35. Richard Hershberger*

    #1: apart from Allison’s advice, which is good, you need to come up with a way to deal with this in all walks of life. The sad truth is that his being a professional ball player will always be a topic of interest. This will be true even if he is released tomorrow and spends the rest of his life selling insurance. His having played professional will be the most interesting thing about him, and for that matter about you, to a lot of people. The further his career progresses, the more this will be true. Even one game in the bigs and that will be the salient fact about your life for many people.

    The same thing happens in music and film. I used to live in California and knew a few people in various branches of film: think costuming and lighting. The most interesting was a stunt man. But even for the guy doing lighting, this makes asking about his day more interesting than most anything I am likely to have done that day.

    So the important thing is to have a strategy to deal with it. Because this will be with you the rest of your life.

    1. Working Mom Having It All*

      Huh, weird, I work in the entertainment industry in LA and find that the ubiquity of that sort of thing makes it much less interesting, and less likely that anyone here will care.

      I have a coworker whose mother is a former sitcom star. This almost never comes up at work. I can’t imagine the entire office coming to her and being like “OMG how’s Phyllicia Rashad* doing? What did she eat for dinner last night? Is she booking any new roles lately? Do you think she’s going to win any awards this year?” regularly. It’s more like “your mom was an answer in my crossword this morning, how funny!” from close coworkers she’s friendly with. If even that.

      *That’s not who it is, but same general ballpark of fame/relevance.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Nobody would care in L.A., but here in the boonies, I guarantee they would. I live in an A-lister’s hometown and it makes the paper when he just shows up to visit family.

  36. Elle Kay*

    OP #1: I would be likely to make a list of “commonly asked questions” and post it on my door/wall including:
    -Xavier is playing for X
    -The team schedule is Y
    -His stats are Z
    -I either attend or watch all his games (or whatever) so I don’t need an update on recent games
    -He may or may not move up; that’s his career and nothing I’m involved with. Please don’t ask me.
    Then I’d start referring people to that list with no other engagement. They’ll stop eventually.

    OP #5: Unless you have some reason to believe that typing over handwriting I don’t know that I’d mention it at all. even bringing a laptop to meetings to take notes is completely normal so I’m not sure it would raise any flags. You may be able to disclose directly to HR during hiring and then be ready to file for an accommodation if it’s needed?
    We just hired some new summer help & one of them checked the “I’d like information on accommodation” box on the disability disclosure form. I send all the hiring paperwork to our HR dept at headquarters & that’s all I know. If they are pursuing accommodation with HR it won’t be disclosed until necessary… which I think may never actually be needed for you

  37. Silicon Valley Girl*

    I strongly identify with #3. I’ve been doing different versions of my job for 20+ years at various companies in several industries. With my experience, I could have become a manager or director but I don’t want to! I just want to do the actual work, do a good job at it, & go home & not think about it. I’ve been very direct with my managers every time these ‘career development’ convos come up (bec., yes, some companies are big into them, thinking that it’s a benefit for employees, & of course, that it’s better for the company to promote from within). I focus on how I want to sharpen my skills within my job & industry but I don’t want to be on the management track. I want to be a high-performing individual contributor. I want to work on projects that challenge me & contribute to the company’s goals. That kind of spin usually is enough to distract from my lack of interest in moving up the corporate ladder.

    1. That Redshirt.*

      Oh, I love the idea of phrasing career development as being a high performing individual contributor at work.
      Like the OP, I’m in a role that probably will meet all my life needs for the next 5, 10, or 30 years. The idea of “moving up to management” sounds quite unappealing. In my opinion, the skills needed to run a program well vs manage other staff are quite different.

  38. JKP*

    I really don’t have any interest in sports. If I had a coworker with a sports fiancee, I would probably not spend a lot of time chatting with them beyond work necessities if I heard constant sports talk coming from their cube. And yet, that would make me the perfect coworker to talk to the LW, because I would definitely not ask about anything baseball-related.

    Maybe the LW can reach out and strike up conversations with other coworkers that haven’t been constantly talking baseball. If the LW has more non-baseball related conversations with non-sports fans in the office, maybe that will help redirect the obsessive coworkers to other topics.

    1. MommyMD*

      My husband died a few years ago. I say zip about my love life at work and no one ever asks. They do ask about my kids whom I bring up every so often. When you open up a conversation topic at work, people are going to ask.

      1. Christine*

        They don’t need to harangue the woman because she’s marrying an athlete, though. That’s ridiculous.

  39. Amethystmoon*

    #5, I wouldn’t even say anything unless your job would require taking notes by hand, for some odd reason. Unless it’s an administrative job, most jobs wouldn’t even require that. Most companies give employees laptops or tablet computers these days, so you can take that into the meeting and take notes on it. Also, most companies rely on e-mail or IM these days quite a bit.

    1. A Fed Guy*

      It definitely comes down to the job description. If it’s vague enough to say “Keep notes of meetings” then that could go either way.

  40. MommyMD*

    The second response to Xavier is mean spirited. “It’s weird that you think about that” (when many people ask about spouses or kids or significant others) is meant to make someone feel embarrassed and stupid. Someone who otherwise may be a good work friend and employee. It’s too sarcastic and catty.

    Better just to give a quick answer and then say politely you have to get back to work. The reason anyone asks about him at work is because you first mentioned him and his career otherwise they would not have known. It’s nice to give otherwise solid coworkers a little break.

    1. Roscoe*

      I typically agree. If I heard Jane in accounting’s husband was opening a restaurant, I don’t think its rude to ask about it. Essentially it seems that OP is frustrated that a lot of people are doing it. But i agree that asking about a spouse or child is normal in an office.

      1. MommyMD*

        I agree. I don’t think a snotty response is warranted here. No one means any harm.

  41. A Fed Guy*

    #5 Is interesting because it is supposed to work differently for Federal hiring. There you can disclose your disability at any point during the hiring process or after. However, I don’t know if more applicants do disclose or not compared to private industry.

  42. Super Anon*

    So, I actually have experience with LW1’s situation. And I suspect that it’s the “almost famous” thing that’s causing the colleague’s behavior. I wonder what will happen if her fiance makes it to the majors or becomes a household name; based on my experience, I suspect that many folks will self-police and back off.

    Years ago I dated an athlete. When we started dating, my then-partner was unknown outside of their sport. Then there was a super-public turning point, and suddenly they were famous. It happened basically overnight, and it was really weird. Most folks (who didn’t know us well, like colleagues) were mostly silent about it after an initial “OMG! That was so amazing!” immediately when it happened — I think they felt awkward.

    For a while, my partner was famous enough that it affected how we lived our lives. Like: I didn’t bring my partner to weddings I attended, because it became a weird distraction. In those cases I was super direct about it, and recruited my close friends and family to help spread the message about why my partner wasn’t there. I think that could work for your situation. “Yeah, X isn’t coming. It just becomes a hassle, you know? Can you let Aunt Nosy know?” or, in your case, “Yeah, X is doing really well. He’s hoping for a call up soon! But waiting for it to happen is sort of taking over our lives. I’ll let everyone know if there is any news [note: you don’t actually have to do this], but for now I’d love to keep work a baseball-free zone.”

  43. Burned Out Supervisor*

    OP #1, I’d start replying to people as if they either a) asked about you personally, or b) asked you a work related question:
    CoWorker: “How’s fiance doing after that intense game?
    You: “Oh, I had a really quiet weekend, thanks for asking!”

    Manager: “Do you think fiance would give me some pitching tips at the company picnic?”
    You: “I’m almost done with that report you asked about. I should be done before the end of the day.”

    Make it super obvious that you’re not going to answer any question about him, except for something completely non sequitur that’s either a pleasantry about yourself or work related. Make sure your voice is up beat.

    I don’t know if this is practical for you, but it’s what I would do.

  44. MadLori*

    I could be LW #3. I am a high performer in my job and have been encouraged to apply for a management position more than once – however, if I were to become a manager, everything I love about my job (and there’s a lot) would go away. No thank you. Happily a lot of people at my workplace stay in our job description for their whole career – there are pay grades within the same job description so one can be “promoted” without one’s job actually changing – so I’m not unusual. My workplace still wants us to develop, but it has recently started using “competencies” as development tools, not just job responsibilities, so it’s possible to have a development goal that has to do with your time management skills, say, or your interpersonal skills, or expanding your knowledge base, or whatever else. My own development has to do with writing and implementing training materials, something I enjoy and am good at.

  45. Kenneth*

    LW#3, sounds like you’ve innoculated yourself against the “disease of more”, wherein you’re not constantly striving for the “next level”, whatever that might be. Mark Manson, the author of “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***”, wrote an article on it a little over two years ago that you might find interesting:

    1. JM in England*

      I loved this article!

      Especially agree that no matter where you are or what you have, there will always be that “next level”: people definitely need to learn how to appreciate/ make the most of what they already have…..

  46. Beta*

    @OP2, Your employee might have felt very undervalued, as he probably needed much more appreciation and recognition in words, action and raise/bonus than you were able to provide. It might also mean that you might want to work more on your communication skills and management skills – adapting to every employee to:
    – Understand their needs / skills / expertise / gaps
    – Communicate & Coach & Appreciate
    – Have weekly 1-1 not just for status update but to get to know them as people and manage them.

  47. Beta*

    Btw, Coaching isn’t just required for technical part of their work; but also for coaching employees to communicate their needs, work on their soft skills, conflict management etc

  48. Kettles*

    #op3 can I just say I think employees like you are incredibly valuable and I wish there were more of you? Heck, I wish I was like you. Doing a good job well, with no premature aspirations, no peddling in petty office politics, no drama? Perfect. Employee.

  49. Trixie, the Great and Pedantic*

    OP3, if it weren’t for the beer, I’d be sure that you were me. I take pride in my work, it’s refreshingly reassuring to have a boss who isn’t a paranoid control freak, and there are plenty of opportunities to rack up teh moniez with OT. We just had the review process at our place, and I’m reading this like… “Uh? Goals… read more friendship reports gooder? Measurables? Don’t y’all have those numbers, not me? Stop asking me stupid questions, I have 30 reports in my queue.”

    I don’t want a ~career~. I don’t want to be a manager or a supervisor. I just want to clock in, do all the work, and clock out.

  50. Jigglypuff*

    While I don’t think it’s a big deal to not have “career goals” re: OP 3, I wonder how long a person can reasonably expect to stay in a role with that sort of attitude. My company is sizeable enough to allow for a few people content to “do their jobs” without interest in development/advancement to slide through, but that margin is growing smaller. They are the biggest source of push back on improving processes, using new technologies, that sort of thing. Because they don’t want to change and are content with everything staying the same for forever. It makes the rest of us have to work even harder to compensate for lost time, lack of adoption, retraining, etc.

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