open thread – May 10-11, 2019

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

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please do not repost it here, as it may be in my queue to answer.

{ 1,763 comments… read them below }

  1. Not So Super-visor*

    How do I get people to stop asking if I’m ok after not getting a promotion? I don’t want to come off as bitter, but I’m tired of people asking.
    I had a 24 hour head start on mentally preparing myself for the announcement and came up with some planned scripts. The first week, I was able to easily answer with a “I hear great things about Fergus, and his work in X,Y,and Z,” but it’s starting to wear on me. I was seen as a front-runner by a lot of people (which is flattering), and it was my only path for career development, so it’s left me with a lot of things to process (do I move to another department/role and start over, do I leave, do I stick it out,etc.) It’s been almost 2 weeks, and I still get at least one person who asks me a day. Added to the wear-and-tear is that I’ve had several people that I manage or that are junior to me in other departments express their dissapointment to me that this means that my job won’t be open and posted, and they view my position (only one like it in the company) as their desired career path. I had one person even joke that he’d have to return the tie that he’d bought for an interview. (I’m sorry?) I’m just struggling to keep up a positive front and manage other people’s expectations while managing my own dissapointment/future plans.

    1. Anony*

      Honestly it sounds like your coworkers are being a bit weird and unprofessional about this. I’d never ask someone how they feel about missing out on an internal promotion two weeks after the fact – why drag it up again?

      Sorry I don’t have much to offer other than to brush it off and change the subject in a breezy way. They’ll move on soon.

      “All good, thanks! Did you want to talk about X?”

      1. Life is Good*

        And, your employees who wanted to apply for your job are vultures! It must be weird to manage them. I’m sorry. Be good to yourself and don’t let these clouds get you down.

      2. Samwise*

        Btdt. Just keep responding, “Thanks so much for asking [because most folks are asking because they like you and think you’re good]. It was a disappointment of course, but I’m working on giant project which is keeping me busy!/ thinking about my next steps — is love to pick your brain! [for people who could be helpful to you]. So, how’s the new llama AI research going?

        For bozos who tell you how sorry they are that now they can’t apply for your job, pause, study them a moment, then say, I’m a joking/not joking way, sorry, I’m not dead yet [thats my Monty python go to, pick something jokey that also
        Makes it clear you’re not too amused].

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Two weeks at one person each day, minimally? You have a pretty good size workplace.

      Depending on your setting you might answer with, “I’m okay here. But people keep asking me, if you could help spread the word around that I am okay and I have moved on to other things, that would sure help.”

      I found that if I say that a couple times the questioning stops.

      1. Not So Super-visor*

        es, we have about 400 people here at corp HQ and 50 other regional offices. I’ve heard from people all over the company and had many drop-by’s from people that I’ve only met a handful of times.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Wow, that’s obnoxious. I’m sorry you’re dealing with that. Hopefully, something else riveting will happen at your workplace so everyone can quickly focus on something else.

    3. INeedANap*

      I would say something like, “Oh, it was a disappointment but I’d rather just move on now – no hard feelings.”

      In a weird way, I think people are seeking reassurance from you for themselves – they like you, they want you to be okay, and so they keep coming back to reassure themselves you are ok? So by making it clear that, actually, this isn’t a super fun thing to talk about and you want to move on, it might stop them from coming back to it so much.

      1. tallteapot*

        I was in your shoes about 18 months ago and it sucks. I am really, really sorry because these are sucky, sucky shoes to be in. Fortunately, my coworkers were kind and I didn’t have to deal with that aspect of the loss. I am still in the same job, but I have, at least, been able to add some new responsibilities to my plate, which has helped me feel a bit less awful. My suggestion to you would be to think about how you’d like to grow in your current role in ways that might better position you to move elsewhere (whether than be in the same company, but in a very different direction, or to a different company entirely). I’m hoping that in the next year or so, this strategy pays off for me.

        1. Not So Super-visor*

          This is honestly what I’m hoping for and the mindset that I started out with: what can I learn from Fergus that will make me more successful either here or at a different role?
          Current boss (retiring) is not great at development. He’s the kind of boss that you’re supposed to assume that if you haven’t heard from him that you’re doing a good job. Boss did let it slip that Fergus was hired for his experience in X,Y,and Z which is only semi-related to what our division covers and that Fergus will be clueless at A, B, and C which are the actual focus of our division. He made sure to emphasize that Fergus will really rely on me to show him the ropes in these areas. Sadly, the only way for me to get experience in X,Y, and Z are to leave my division and start over as an entry level position in Fergus’ old division. It’s not something that’s necessarily appealing to me, and something that would be looked at strangely at any other company that I can think of.

          1. Lucy*

            Ugh I once lived through “hey we appointed the other person who doesn’t have your skills/experience but would you consider contributing to those parts of the job you didn’t get without any of the recognition?”

            I was young enough to ask why on earth they thought I would be happy to do that, but that ended up being the solution and I learned a lot from the experience.

            Deep breath. You will prove yourself.

            1. On Anon*

              I’m living this right now, and without any decent chance of applying elsewhere. It’s hard, and perhaps Not So Super-visor’s colleagues are having the same hard time some of mine are: they believe we’ve been screwed over and put in a hard situation, and how they’re recognizing it and giving sympathy for the situation isn’t well-thought-out with respect to its (cumulative) effect.

              I usually give some sort of “I can’t focus on that, I still have a job to do” response. It is what it is, but it’s also not our job to reassure them. I’m also planning to make some above-and-beyond efforts and see what recognition I can get even though someone else got the position; there’s potential to redirect some of the verbal support into actual support for my efforts.

    4. Anona*

      This happened to me almost a decade ago, and it still makes me cringe. I ended up staying with the organization (and have sense advanced in other ways, just not in the original position I was aiming for). It’s such a rough, rough feeling. Hang in there! I hope you have a restful, rejuvenating weekend. No specific advice, I just remember how much it sucked. I guess one piece of advice– it made me feel less trapped to start applying to other jobs.

    5. LPUK*

      My Dad worked for an airline, so obviously operational on all special days. Their system was a combination of seniority and who had the time off in previous years, but they also had form of points system, where holiday periods and bank holidays were loaded with different levels of points eg 5 points for Christmas Day and Easter Sunday, 4 points for 24th and 26th, good Friday , 3 for other days in Xmas week etc. And everyone had a points allocation they could ‘spend’ across the year. obviously if you absolutely wanted Xmas day off, then you would bid more points to get it and accept you’d be working some of the other days, but if you didn’t care so much, you could spend your points on less loaded dates and be confident with getting more of them. Worked pretty well ( except you could never get holiday during the summer season of course!)

    6. Buggy Crispino*

      It’s almost like they want to drag this out and make you feel bad. How about a nice little quote from The Princess Bride … “thank you so much for bringing up such a painful subject. While you’re at it, why don’t you give me a nice paper cut and pour lemon juice on it?”

      1. Samwise*

        Nice one! Say it lightly… returns the awkward to the sender without making a scene.

    7. Your Alternate Reality Peon*

      Wow. You are almost me, or I am almost you. Same thing happened to me. I was the front runner for a promotion my boss wanted me for. It went to an external candidate. Unlike you, however, only one coworker asked me how I was doing. Everyone else congratulated me (because I did get a smaller promotion as a consolation prize). It’s a tough situation to be in. I feel for you. I think the script you have is a perfect one – Being honest that Yes, it’s a disappointment but then saying something positive about the successful candidate. Give it some time. It’ll die down as the new normal comes in — if you decide to stay in the job. But it’s also perfectly acceptable to start some slow job hunting if you decide the wound will remain tender for too long or you want different career options than your current role. At least you have the luxury of time – so that’s something!

    8. montescristo1985*

      I wonder if you are putting something out there that is causing them to question how you feel about it? It seems really weird to me that people are asking about this after so long unless you appear to be strongly effected by it.

  2. ThatGirl*

    First – a question: I have an internal interview on Tuesday. My company is very informal; the only dress code is “no gym clothes or club wear” and most people wear jeans daily. I’m not even sure if I have dress pants that fit. Any suggestions on what I should wear for the interview? I want to look like I made an effort at least.

    Second – a quick story. Monday we had a Town Hall meeting and I was given an award – basically we can nominate our co-workers for being extra helpful/living company values. Mine was basically for helping my team get through a bit of a rough transition project. I went up to collect my little certificate, hugged my coworker who nominated me, and the CEO (a woman in her 50s who is professional but very also approachable and warm) kinda put her arm around me and said congratulations and by pure impulse, I HUGGED her.

    And then 30 seconds later I was like wow, I just hugged the CEO in front of basically the entire company….

    luckily I don’t think anyone thought much of it but I’m still mildly embarrassed!

      1. ThatGirl*

        I can certainly wear a dressier top, I’ll have to see what I have in terms of blazers/jackets. I tend to wear dark jeans and heels/boots anyway.

    1. Not So Super-visor*

      I’m a big proponent of the “dress for the job that you want motto.” Think about what the manager/higher-up in the department that you’re interviewing wears and dress accordingly.

      1. ThatGirl*

        It’s a purely lateral move – the manager for the new team wears jeans too. Our VPs tend to dress a little nicer, but nobody’s wearing suits on a regular basis.

        1. KRM*

          Maybe one step up from normal office wear–nicer pants (if you usually wear jeans) and a blazer over a top you’d normally wear, or maybe a dress with a blazer?

          1. Take Me Home!*

            I agree with one step up, and I love dresses for that. a sheath dress and blazer or cardigan is appropriate in a wide range of situations.

        2. Mike*

          Our company is like that too the CEO wears jeans and a polo shirt or casual button-down shirt. We have one VP who wears a blazer but other than big events most people are pretty casually dressed. For my position I’m basically left wearing polo shirts or over-dressing and that means I can only order new work clothing once a year when we do a company clothing drive. I really envy the women for their extra range of clothing options (in winter I could wear sweaters but it’s often too hot for that).

    2. Sunflower*

      I would wear jeans, blouse, blazer. If your boss knows you’re interviewing, you could ask her what would be appropriate to wear also.

    3. 8DaysAWeek*

      Agree with the other comments. I was in the same boat a few years ago. I just wore black dress pants and a semi-casual blazer. You can easily acquire those at a second-hand store.
      You want to make the effort. It matters.

      1. The Jones*

        There are also charitable organizations that donate professional clothing to those in need.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I’m not in need! I know where to find and can afford a blazer if I decide I want one. But thank you.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m always in perma-casual offices and I would just wear a nice blouse with my jeans. It’s a lateral move within your own organization so they’re not expecting you to appear wearing a suit by any means, this kind of interview has a little less formality given your knowledge of their norms and you probably know the people interviewing you at least casually!

      She put her arm around you and gave you an indication of closeness, she probably wasn’t shocked by it or anything. I’ve hugged my bosses/owners of businesses at times so I’m just not shook by that lol. Now if she went to shake hands and you pulled her in for a hug without thinking, that would be another story!

      1. ThatGirl*

        Thanks! I will definitely at least wear a nicer blouse and jewelry, and possibly something over top. I’m meeting with four people and two of them know me moderately well, the other two I haven’t met formally.

        I don’t think the CEO was shocked, she is a pretty approachable and friendly person (we’ve had random conversations about tea in the lunchroom) and she did have her arm around me, but I still had that moment of “oh. oops. oh well.” :)

        1. Lime Lehmer*

          I think Black Jeans might be the best choice. Dressier than regular ones, but still casual.

          On the hug, I had a serious issue with a co-worker that mainly revolved around her bad mouthing me and throwing me under the bus on her project that I was merely supposed to offer assistance. The boss , the chair of a huge university department wanted to fire her and put me on PIP. I offered my resignation, twice, and told him that I didn’t need PIP, I needed grief counseling as my father had died only 17 days before. Then to my horror I burst out into tears. He ended up hugging me and referring me to EA.
          When it came time to the following year to work with this co-worker again, I realized I would retire rather than deal with her toxic self again. so I went looking for a new position at the university, and got a new, lower stress, higher paying position in a different department. Old boss recently told me how much he missed me. Toxic employee was forced to resign over some irregularities.

      2. ThatGirl*

        PS – your name always makes me smile because my husband is a huge Becky Lynch fan.

          1. buffty*

            My husband and I are both big Becky Lynch fans too, I also smile when your comments come across. And I think I saw in another thread earlier this week that you’re also a vegetarian? I suppose I am also a Becky Lynch fan fan!

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              I’m not a vegetarian! I’m just an advocate for those who are because I’ve seen how cruel it can be when people try to screw with your dietary requirements on whims ;) Let people live and free-will for all, etc etc etc. But mostly #BeckyTwoBelts4EVA

              1. buffty*

                Pro-veg still retains fan status! :) I’m so glad Becky has finally gotten the attention (and belts) she deserves, she was woefully underused and under appreciated when I first became a fan.

      3. Paquita*

        A few weeks ago I hugged the owner of our company. I was in passing through the lobby when he was leaving for lunch. I stopped him and hugged him. He said he needs more of that, I said come over to our area more often and you will get lots! Company/family is giving him a 90th birthday party next month.

    5. Karen from Finance*

      I’m a fan of black pants (dark or black jeans) with sandals or boots depending on the season. You can just throw on any top that’s nice, and you will rarely be over or underdressed.

    6. Fortitude Jones*

      If you have a nice dress, you could wear that – nothing too fancy since your office is more on the casual side of business casual. I like the suggestions above of nice top with jeans too – don’t worry about the blazer if you don’t have any. A nice cardigan can stand in as a substitute.

      And don’t be embarrassed about the hug – I bet no one will think anything of it.

    7. medium of ballpoint*

      I’d say do what you can to make an effort. I was recently in a difficult spot where we interviewed an internal candidate who thought she was a shoo-in for the job and we had to have some really uncomfortable talks because she was so blase she didn’t make the cut. At least in my industry, it helps for internal candidates to go a smidge above and beyond.

    8. Lilysparrow*

      Sometimes extra attention to the details can elevate an outfit nearly as much as the pieces themselves.

      A fresh manicure (even if it’s just clear polish), a scarf, nice belt, a slightly more involved or “done” hairstyle…it sends the message of extra preparation and effort without being more formal.

    9. Yuan Zai*

      I”m another vote for dress up just a bit – in addition to the blazer others have mentioned, there are some nice dressy cardigans out there and if you go for a color like black or navy blue, it’ll go with just about everything you already own. As a bonus, you’ll totally wear a sweater again at some point.

    10. MissDisplaced*

      I’d skip the jeans and go with a pair of black slacks, black flats, a nicer top or blouse and a relaxed blazer. You can shed the blazer later on for regular work. This is basically my daily work uniform, and it’s really nothing too complicated or too dressy, yet looks more professional than jeans if you have client meetings or in this case an in-house interview. The top could even be a black or white t-shirt that has a more upscale drapey fabric.

      If you don’t have any such separates, they’re easy to find at Target, JCPenny, Marshalls, Old Navy, etc., and shouldn’t be overly expensive. Plus, you can always wear these kinds of basics with everything later.

    11. Save One Day at a Time*

      If you don’t have any dress pants that fit do you have other pants or a dressier jean? Wear it with a more formal blouse than you’d normally wear. Look more formal than normal without going out to buy something new.

  3. Jan Levinson*

    I have a dilemma with vacation time around Christmas this year…

    My office has 4 interoffice employees – my boss, my two coworkers, and myself.
    This year, we have Tuesday, 12/24 and Wednesday, 12/25 as company holidays. On January 2nd this year (the first workday of 2019), I put in a vacation request in on our online system to have Monday, 12/23 off, and Thursday, 12/26. A few days later, my boss sent and email to my two coworkers and I saying this:

    Paid time away from work is something that we each earn and anticipate using. Holidays are a popular time to add a day before or after to extend out that break. While I would love for every individual to have their desired time away from work, it is important that we are able to staff our operations during these times as well.
    There is no 100% fair way to navigate time off … whether it be by seniority or first to request the time or a rotation of every other year who is awarded the time away (the rotation is especially needed surrounding Christmas).
    As you submit time this year, please keep all these factors in mind. We need to work as a team to ensure we have coverage during operating hours.
    Thank you in advance for your understanding.

    For what it’s worth, I am the most senior person out of me and my two coworkers, and I am almost certain I was also the first to request these two days off since I proactively submitted them at the first opportunity I had.
    However, my boss in the past has made comments about how she wants to make sure people who live out of town get time off to see their families around the holidays. My husband and I’s families both live in our hometown, which my boss is aware of. My two coworkers’ families both live out-of-state. I feel like I am at a disadvantage because I have the luxury of having family in town.

    My vacation request has now been “pending” for over 4 months. My husband and I are considering going on a short cruise over Christmas, so I’d like to check in with my manager to see if she has made a decision on vacation time around Christmas, but I have a feeling she will guilt trip me into volunteering to work at least one of these days because “Ned and Ayra’s families both live out of town”, even though it’s possible I won’t be in town over the holidays.

    I’ve always used the time around Christmas to have about 5 days straight off, and truly unplug from the daily grind. I really value that time. It hasn’t been a problem in past years when I’ve worked here, because Christmas has always fallen closer to, or on the weekend, and I only have to request one day off.
    Our office is always dead during the week of Christmas, so I assume only one of us three will have to work (Also FWIW, my manager always takes the entire week of Christmas off…it would be nice if she would volunteer to work for once and let all of us off, but unfortunately I don’t think that will happen.)

    I don’t mean to sound selfish, as I know my coworkers would like this time off too. But like I said, I do feel that it’s unfair if my boss defaults to me because I have family here, and can take a cruise at another time during the year.

    1. WellRed*

      (As someone who doesn’t live near family, myself), I think this is unfair to you. Ultimately, you want the time off and your boss is making assumptions not only about your plans but also your coworkers. It’s also not reasonable to hold off for months on your approval. Is she waiting for others to ask for the time off? Talk to her today.

      1. Jan Levinson*

        I don’t know, actually! When she sent that email, I just assumed the other two coworkers had requested those days off as well, but it’s possible they didn’t.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Can you offer anything in exchange?
      One place I worked, I had Thanksgiving off, I volunteered for a double on Christmas and I had New Years off.

      If I were you, I would see if I could offer one sweet deal that the boss would really want.

      FWIW, we had all the things you are saying here. Everyone had strong reason for wanting this or that- but I noticed they all wanted time off and NONE of them were saying that they were willing to work during a holiday time. I think you can distinguish yourself and your request by saying what you are willing to do to get this time you want.

      1. Jan Levinson*

        Well, we already get Thanksgiving off (and the day after), and I wasn’t planning on taking any days around there off anyway. We get all the standard holidays off. I just like taking extra days off before/after Christmas Eve.

    3. Murphy*

      There is no 100% fair way to staff holidays, but there are better ways than this! I’d ask her about it, because ignoring your time off request isn’t going to fix it.

      At my old job, we needed coverage all the time, and my boss would ask people for their holiday preferences. This usually (but not always) took care of it.

      1. Jan Levinson*

        Yeah, I think the problem is that being such a small office, no one bothered making a time off policy. Knowing how my boss is, I think the request would literally sit there pending until November or possible even December if I didn’t say anything.

      2. Clisby*

        It doesn’t sound like staffing holidays is the issue – if I understood the letter correctly, all of them get the 2 holidays (Christmas Eve and Christmas) off. The real problem seems to be lack of policy around scheduling vacation days. While it might commonly arise around holidays, there are other contexts, too – like all the parents in an office competing to have the same spring break week off so the whole family can take a trip.

    4. LCL*

      Given the information provided, it sounds like your small office doesn’t really have a system or rules for vacation requests. The boss and employees just work it out informally, which is fine until it doesn’t work. Part of the problem is the boss doesn’t consider herself part of the vacation request process, and is able to take her week off no matter what. She is also wrong to stall you for 4 months.
      I think you should talk to her and ask her to make a decision. Tell her you are also trying to book travel. Would you be willing to work the Friday 12/27? That can be a really tough day to fill. Point out to her, depending on your business, there might not be any customers to serve that Christmas week anyway.

      I’m so glad I’m retiring this year and wrote my last! Christmas! schedule! in February.

      1. Jan Levinson*

        Yep, that’s the problem – we’re a small office, so no one has even bothered to make a vacation policy.

        Yes, I’m planning on working 12/27, which I imagine other people will want off, so hopefully that will work in my favor.

        It will definitely be dead at my office all week. We thought our corporate office would make the 23rd a holiday since it’s a Monday and we already get that Tuesday and Wednesday off, but they didn’t…

      2. Southern Yankee*

        I live a good distance from my family and usually only travel once a year. I have also managed a group of 30 where we needed coverage and everyone wanted off for Christmas. We had a stated policy that made it easier to manage but it still was a huge source of conflict and hard feelings every year. As a boss, I tried to balance it so that everyone could at least take some holidays off and would rotate the “best” holidays although it didn’t always work.
        I think a lack of policy makes it harder, and your boss should not be stalling the request and should probably not always be the one that takes the entire week off if they can provide coverage. However, you also seem unconcerned about being fair to your co-workers. If your family was 500+ miles away, how would you feel about not being able to travel home for Christmas several years in a row because the person with the most seniority always got the days off? I’m not saying that you should automatically always have to work because you are in town, either, but compromise and empathy will go a long way here.
        I suggest you have a conversation with your co-workers and/or your boss about how you can all be flexible and each come out with something. Can you offer to work around Thanksgiving or other holidays, or offer to work next year on the odd days around Christmas? Or offer to work this year to have off next? It can be very useful to have someone offer to take the day before (Mon 23) but be willing to work the day after (Thu 26), then another person could take Thu/Fri and have the weekend after to make travel easier (or vice versa). If you go in with an entitled attitude, you are likely to be disappointed. If you realize everyone else also wants that time off for equally valid reasons, you can probably reach a workable compromise. In any case, definitely bring it up with your boss instead of just waiting for a decision that may take months to come.

        1. Jan Levinson*

          Sorry if I wasn’t clear in my original email…they’ve always gotten time off for travel in the past. As I mentioned, in 2017 and 2018, Christmas fell closer to/on the weekend (neither of them were there prior to 2017), so everyone got at least 4 days straight off without having to take ANY vacation (and I believe at least one of them took an additional vacation day. I’m certainly not unconcerned with them spending time with family. This is the first year all three of us have been here where Christmas and Christmas Eve were in the middle of the week, so there has never been a time off situation in the past to where I “always for the days off” because of my seniority. Please do not jump to conclusions that I am going in with an entitled attitude…if anything, I’m usually overly accommodating. That is part of the reason I’m hesitant to talk to my boss. She will guilt me into working both days without speaking to my two coworkers, and I’ll agree because it’s in my nature.

          1. Kelly*

            You’re an adult. Your boss cannot ‘make’ you feel guilty. No one is saying you’re acting entitled as far as I can tell.

            1. valentine*

              Your boss cannot ‘make’ you feel guilty.
              Many can and this one does.

              She will guilt me into working both days without speaking to my two coworkers, and I’ll agree because it’s in my nature.
              That’s behavior, not nature. Your nature is that you’re kind and thoughtful. You can learn to detach and resist*. Also: Is she manipulating you (“I bet January and Freon would like to see their families, especially with the [tragedy] and the [sadness]. Do you want to be a good coworker and only take one of these days?”) or just asking so she can run scenarios (“Do you definitely want both days? Is there a day you want more than the other?”)? Either way, wait her out. Don’t volunteer anything. (This may feel like death.) Ask if she can make a decision by x day this month so you can make travel plans (don’t specify). Later in the year, if it seems like it’s not going your way, offer to work Sunday and Friday instead (unless you’re only open weekdays). In the new year, suggest a strict rota with boss covering if the person calls out sick.

              *Emotional Blackmail and Toxic Parents may be helpful. (Be advised author Susan Forward’s obsessed with the gender binary and uses white USians as a default.)

          2. Southern Yankee*

            I wasn’t saying that you were acting entitled or would go in with an entitled attitude, just warning against it. Some additional comments have come in and you’ve added some details, so I’ll just add this. Definitely talk to your co-workers about what their plans/needs/wants are. They may not conflict at all and your boss was just trying to get ahead of it because of your request.
            Also, although this appears to be the first year at your job that Christmas falls in the middle of the week, it will be the case next year as well. So, this is a great situation for a compromise. If all three of you want 5 days off around Christmas, how can that happen? This year, one person takes vacation Monday, so gets Sat-Wed off, one person takes Thu/Fri off and gets Tues-Sun off, and next year the person that didn’t get to do it this year gets first priority next year. Figuring out which person gets which option is for negotiating with your coworkers and your boss.

          3. Mr. Shark*

            I think you just have to be upfront about it, and as someone already mentioned, go and talk to your boss and indicate that this year you had planned to take a trip and would be out of town, so you need to know right now if you can book travel.
            The offer to work on the 27th and before New Years Day may make it that someone else can take that time off instead of around Christmas. In either case, speaking directly to your boss is the only way that you can know for sure whether you can get that time off.

    5. medium of ballpoint*

      Holiday time is hard. But on the flip side, if I’m your coworker and you’ve regularly gotten five days off during the holidays while I can’t get one or two (which likely means I can’t travel to see my family at all), I’d be thinking it was pretty unfair to me, too.

      1. kittymommy*

        This is what I was curious about as well. Vacation around holidays is always a struggle around here as well and since it’s government we must have coverage. Generally, we all try to trade off and/or rotate major holidays.

      2. Jan Levinson*

        I haven’t gotten more days than any of them off in the past. Last year, Christmas Eve and Christmas were on Monday and Tuesday, so I took just Wednesday off (I meant 5 days off straight when including the weekend, and the days our office is already closed.) The prior year, Christmas Eve and Christmas were on a Sunday and Monday, so we got Christmas off, and the day after Christmas, so I didn’t take any days off then.

        1. medium of ballpoint*

          So then I’d say if you were the last person in the office to take extra days off around Christmas, it’s someone else’s turn to get Christmas this year, barring a better policy your boss implements. But yeah, I’d be a bit annoyed if in the absence of a policy there wasn’t some informal turn taking and compromising.

          1. Take Me Home!*

            Also, the fairest way seems to me to be to let one person have the one day before the holiday (and the friday before the weekend if they want more days) and a separate person have the two days after the holiday. That way two people can have extended vacations rather than only one person taking both sides.

            OP – I totally think that it’s reasonable for you to have one of the sides since you asked first and have seniority and there’s no real policy, but I think it’s pretty inconsiderate to try for both sides when there’s an opportunity for two people to get extended holidays! And in any case, your boss should really not have put this off for months.

      3. Cheshire Cat*

        I used to work at a library; most of the staff had family in the area and almost everyone wanted the week between Christmas & New Year’s off. I think we had the 24th-26th off, but the library was open (and busy) the rest of the time.

        Schools were closed for two weeks, so the director decided that half of the staff could take off the first week & the other half could take off the second week. The next year, everyone switched which week we were off.

        It wasn’t a perfect system, but it was the most fair one we had while I was there. It helped that we could plan for trips ahead of time. Maybe your boss could implement something similar? Whatever works in your office.

    6. RandomU...*

      One thing I would do is to talk to your boss (the email is the perfect opening) and let her know that you were thinking of a cruise this year.

      I typically wait until October before figuring out who gets to take time off during the holidays (but would move up the timeline if someone approached me with a special circumstance). I have one employee that will put in her request for Christmas on Jan 2nd or 3rd. Basically I sit on all requests until we start to get close, then plot them out. After figuring out the staffing needs, I’ll then put out the list who is planning to be out and who plans to be in the office. If there are more people who want off than we can handle, I ask the teams to talk about it. 9/10 times someone will come back with “Oh, I don’t have any plans, I can work that day… and I’ll take this other day off instead”. If the team can’t get to the needed staffing levels, then we talk more. It basically comes down to “Ok… what would be the plan if all the people were out and Wakeen’s the only one covering” This usually brings some creativity to the table… everything from people offering to be ‘on call’ to offers to work a half day, etc.

      Then after this is worked out, the managers in the team all get together and do the same thing.

      Is this way perfect, no. Does it more or less work out in the end? Yep. Is there a better way to do it, I haven’t thought of it, but I’m open to suggestions.

      1. LGC*

        Yeah, that was my read on it! Jan’s boss is being super passive aggressive in her approach, but also…what jumped out was that Jan put in time SUPER EARLY. I’d probably sit on it a while myself.

        I think I’d add in some elements of preference, if you don’t already – if someone took time off last year, their request has lower precedence. But that doesn’t sound like a bad system at all.

        1. RandomU...*

          “I think I’d add in some elements of preference, if you don’t already – if someone took time off last year, their request has lower precedence”

          This usually comes out in the discussion. Also things like special circumstances, travel, other holidays worked, etc.

          The teams work really well together and have been working together for a long time, so this process works with them. I’m sure this would be disaster in other teams so if stopped working or if I get a different team I might have to come up with a different approach.

          Honestly, vacation schedules are one of the least liked jobs of a manager. Most* want to say yes to everyone and don’t want to be in a position to have to say no. So it is likely to be one of those things that they get wishy washy about. I’m not necessarily wishy-washy, I just want the team to have the opportunity to figure it out between themselves first since I think that most* employees are fair minded.

          The one thing is I told them up front when I started with the team that this is how it would work and that I had no problem with making final decisions. I think that’s where most managers get this wrong. They don’t set that expectation up front and that leaves everyone guessing as to how things will be handled.

          *I’m not foolish enough to think that all managers and employees are the same :)

          1. Samwise*

            Hmm, if I read correctly, you’ve had this week off before — how recently and how often? Is it more or less than your coworkers? That’s something to consider.
            Are there other holidays at other times where you could take PTO to make five days in a row?

            1. Samwise*

              Oops, ok, just read your answer to my first point!
              Still can use the second point.
              How many people have to be in the office? If just one, it would be nice for the manager to do it! They can take vacay another time. Unfortunately that’s not something you can suggest !

          2. LGC*

            Then yeah, you have…basically the best structure I could think of for organizing time off! I’m in agreement that most people aren’t jerks (and it’s good to have guardrails for people who are jerks), so – yeah – it’s good to work things out.

            (For what it’s worth, I’ll usually ask my coworker if she has any plans before I put in for time off. Or I’ll take time off at a less common time – like, I did take the week before Easter off this year, but that was because that also happened to be the week of the Boston Marathon. And that’s not going to be the case next year.)

        2. Zennish*

          This. If you put in for time off 358 days in advance to try and get the jump on your coworkers, I’d probably give it the eye-roll, and sit on it too. Of course, given the situation, the boss needs to come up with an actual method for determining holiday time off, so I can’t totally blame the LW.

    7. Random commenter*

      I do think it’s unfair to decide based on who’s family lives where, but if you regularly have a day off around Christmas, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to deny the request so that someone else gets the chance.

      It would probably be worth letting your boss know that you have pending vacation plans, otherwise they might not realize that you need an answer sooner rather than later.

    8. Trout 'Waver*

      I think the issue here is that you’re asking for time off on both sides of the Christmas Holiday. If you’re doing an extended holiday, taking both sides screws over somebody. If you’re already planning on working Friday the 27th, why not just take Friday the 20th off and come in on Thursday the 26th?

      The person who covers also wants to take an extended break too. If they have to come in on both the 23rd and the 26th to cover for you, they can’t do that. There’s also the optics of putting in the request the very instant you first could. You knew it would be contentious and you went ahead anyway without talking to your colleagues about it.

      1. Tacocat*

        I had a colleague who used to put in requests for extra days around EVERY HOLIDAY as soon as the system opened for the next year. So on Jan 2nd she’d have booked off extra time at Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas… effectively barring her teams from doing the same thing. She was awful.

        Not saying this is the same thing, but responding to the “optics” that trout waver mentions.

        1. valentine*

          taking both sides screws over somebody
          The boss is the one screwing everybody over by not closing the office for the week (I assume no lives are saved there), not implementing a strict rota, and refusing to work during this time of allegedly important coverage.

          1. valentine*

            on Jan 2nd she’d have booked off extra time
            Couldn’t everyone have done this? If that’s her jam, why shouldn’t she get her days? Closed mouths don’t get fed.

            1. Fortitude Jones*

              That’s a dick move. People should take their coworkers into consideration when it comes to stuff like that.

              1. JulieCanCan*

                Lolol glad someone finally said it. I mean, if I were the boss I would sit on it til October, just because.

                I’m sorry, but either this boss needs to actually be a freakin’ manager and MANAGE rather than sending out a totally unhelpful and pointless email, AND/OR the 3 coworkers need to talk amongst themselves and figure out a fair game plan and compromise, deliberate and come to a conclusion that all 3 are semi-satisfied with.

                Maybe sit down and hash out the year from A to Z since the boss is essentially useless. Make it an inclusive and complete decision and then go to the useless boss and let her know you’ve done her job for her (kidding, don’t say that part) and this is how vacations around the important holidays will be broken down.

                Actually first and foremost I’d get the three coworkers together and go to the boss and ask for the week off, or alternate the two last weeks of December and one person be in one week and then the other 2 the next. Or whatever gives coverage for those 2 weeks so everyone can have extended time away. Contact other companies that do similar work, in the same industry, and ask what their holiday schedule is. Do they close for the whole 2-week stretch? Do they do skeleton crews? Gather as much favorable information as possible then present it to useless boss in a matter of fact, composed and business-like way. THAT would be my first step. Depending on how that goes, you know how to proceed.

                Stingy bosses suck but working with coworkers who aren’t willing to compromise can be a total bummer too.

        2. MatKnifeNinja*

          Did you work my hospital?

          Vacation stuff opened up January 3rd, and I worked on a floor where the full timers had their requests in on January second.

          No one would divide up Christmas week. People would not budge, and would call in sick if scheduled.

          So…I never got Christmas/Christmas Eve off because I was part time. Same for Easter Sunday. The manager would run all my six work days together over the holidays.

          It was the manager who threw all part timers under the bus. I don’t blame the full timers for gaming the system. If you don’t game, you don’t get.

          At this place, full time and early requests trumped anything else. That way the manager could throw her hands up in the air.

        3. Clisby*

          I don’t see what’s awful about putting in those requests as early as possible. If putting in the request actually is the same as “booking” the holiday, then it’s the company policy that’s awful.

      2. Malarkey*

        I agree with this. By taking time on both sides it means that others aren’t getting the “long weekend” benefit. If you get Tues/We’d off I’d suggest you either take Thur and Friday after or Monday and Friday before. That way you’re still getting a full week off, and others can also get a long break.

        Working just Friday the 27th isn’t much help since someone will have to come in for one day (Thur the 26th) and cant travel if they are off 2 days, on 1, and then off 3 (whether for family or a trip).

        1. Mr. Shark*

          Yes, this is a good point. Setting up the time off either before or after the holiday gives more flexibility to others who want to enjoy the extended holiday by bracketing the weekend.

    9. M2*

      It sounds like based on your statement that you have taken the time off around Christmas the last few years? Is that the case? Maybe if you have you shouldn’t take all those days off this year. Or maybe your manager realizes you have taken the time off the last few years and wants to see if your other team members want the time off. I for one can’t make Christmas plans until the fall (both my family and my husbands family live far away do we decide what works best for us with traveling or staying home in the fall).

      I also think offices need to be better about having people work during favored vacation times. I think companies should say if you work over these days everyone wants to take for vacation you get X number of extra vacation/ comp days so it’s incentivized. I have done that for my team not over Christmas but we have a very busy period and then when it is slower the team members get X number of comp days for their extra work during the busy period (for exempt and non exempt) and it really helps morale and is the right thing to do in my opinion.

      Personally my office is closed for Christmas but everyone must be on emails and come in if there is an emergency. Those who don’t celebrate Christmas get extra comp/ vacation over Holidays for them and also get that week from Christmas to New Years “off” unless some major issue (which has never happened since I have been here).

      I know it stinks but if you can’t take that time off this year maybe take a cruise a different time or can you take days off the week before maybe that Monday 23 and the Friday prior so you could do Friday-Wednesday off? GL

    10. BRR*

      Time off around Christmas can often be tough (see the numerous letters Alison gets). Honestly, I don’t like a first come first serve or seniority approach for deciding who gets the highly-coveted days. I also don’t like using who has family further away and depending on things don’t like that your boss is exempt from this. I think the least-worst solution is to first try and see if people do have the availability and if you are missing coverage then you try and divide up the days, including people not getting them one year and then getting them the next.

      All of that being said, I think you can say you’re trying to plan some travel and ask when a plan for Christmas might be decided. Mid-May might be a little early for your coworkers to have finalized their travel plans but maybe you can at least establish a timeline for deciding on things.

    11. Hope*

      Would it be possible for you to ask for the Friday before Christmas and the Monday you’ve already asked for, thereby still getting 5 days off, but leaving the day after Christmas free for someone else to have? Or, alternately, come in on Monday but take the Thursday and Friday after Christmas off?

      1. Jan Levinson*

        It would be, yes. If it comes down to it, I’d prefer to work that Monday and then take the day after Christmas off.

        1. Malarkey*

          I commented above too but I think taking Thur (26th) but working Fri (27th) won’t really help coworkers. Someone will have 2 days off (24/25), then come in 1 day, before being off for 3 days (including the weekend.)
          That’s a pretty crappy schedule if they were hoping to travel (either for family or a personal trip).
          And although it’s not “fair” necessarily preventing someone from being able to travel to see their family when you just prefer to be off will have some lasting affects on how they perceive you (and I TOTALLY get your viewpoint but sometimes it comes down to preventing really hard feelings)

          1. Hope*

            Well, some people do Christmas stuff the weekend before when it falls that way, so getting weekend+Monday+ChristmasEve+Christmas, come in Thursday, get Friday off is still a decent extended time to go see family. I mean, basically, one person gets the aforementioned break, one person gets weekend+Monday+ChristmasEve+Christmas+Thursday, come in Friday, and one person gets come in Monday, then take off ChristmasEve+Christmas+Thursday+Friday+weekend. It’s a matter of hashing out whether the weekend before is better for someone than the weekend after. And maybe whoever gets the coveted Thursday+Friday off this year agrees they get last pick for which weekday they have to work when calling dibs on dates next year.

            I mean, if I were the boss and it’s not retail, I’d just close all but maybe one day and be done with it given the way it falls, but that doesn’t seem to be an option here.

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              There’s no situation in which I’d work the Thursday after Christmas and then want to also take that Friday off. And I’d be pretty resentful of the person who made me come in for just that day.

              In a job that requires coverage, taking time off on both sides of a middle-of-the-week major holiday is a jerk move if it’s done without working it out with your colleagues. Doubly so when the person in question does it on the very first day the system opens up without talking to them.

              Asserting seniority is like asserting authority. You may get your way, but people aren’t going to like you for it.

              1. WellRed*

                It’s not a jerk move, but you might not be able to do it. If I had to work either the 24th or 26th, I can’t travel for Christmas. If that’s the case, so be it. but ugh! I like the idea of incentives someone else mentioned.

              2. Samwise*

                I’d do it, though. I wouldn’t mind getting out of the house and catching up on planning and so on while the office was quiet. But then I almost never travel over winter break, because the hotels and airports are crowded and people are cranky and I always always get stuck in some icy airport in the middle of the country. It’s gotta be mighty special (wedding, for instance) to get me on a plane on late December.
                Maybe one of OP’s coworkers feels the same?? Can’t hurt to ask.

                1. JulieCanCan*

                  Agreed – when I absolutely have to work around the holidays, I always end up enjoying it because it’s quiet and I get to catch up on the 500 things I’ve put in my “to do when I have some time” pile. Then when I’m done I can watch a movie or do endless internet scrolling and don’t feel guilty about it.

                  I also despise traveling around Christmas/Thanksgiving/New Year and if I were planning a cruise, Christmas week is the LAST week I’d pick out of the 52 we have available. Ugh – the minute I read that I felt a wave of anxiety and dread come over my body. Why do something that should be relaxing during one of the 2 most atrocious travel weeks of the year? I also believe it’s more expensive – OP you might want to reconsider the cruise, that might help everything settle into place.

      2. Tacocat*

        Or the first week of the new year even? A lot of my colleagues do that, and it’s actually kind of nice because they get a dead week and then a week off.

      3. Blue*

        Yeah, I was thinking this kind of compromise might work, but it would require a larger conversation. If there are just a couple of other employees and the boss is likely to be a roadblock, I might go straight to my coworkers, ask about their plans, and see what you can work out amongst yourselves.

        That said, as someone who lives in a different state from their entire family, I know it may be hard for them to commit to anything right now. I have three siblings who all have kids to juggle and in-law visits to coordinate, so they/I rarely know their likely availability until much closer to Christmas. But if a coworker came to me early because they were looking to commit to travel plans for Christmas, I wouldn’t make them wait for me. As long as there was still a built-in opportunity for me to go visit my family, I’d tell my coworker to go ahead with their plans and I’d work around them.

    12. Cowgirlinhiding*

      Talk to your boss. Let her know that you are trying to plan a trip out of town that requires you to book ahead of time (with money down), thus the early request. It sounds like from her letter that she is assuming you were just trying to get extra time off, not realizing that people sometimes plan things for that time of year.

    13. Ann Perkins*

      Have you talked to your coworkers about it? It stinks that there is no formal process and that your boss seems to be avoiding the issue. That being said, if you’ve been the one to typically get the most desirable days – i.e. the days right after or before Christmas – it sounds like it’s your turn to cover that awkward Monday. But if you work it out with your coworkers maybe you could do a New Year’s stretch instead.

      1. zora*

        This would be my suggestion, too. If there are only three of you can you just check in with each other and see what everyone wants, and see if there’s a plan that works for all three of you? maybe one of them would be willing to work around Christmas in exchange for more days off at another time?

        I always kind of hated flying before and after Christmas anyway, so I always liked waiting a little later to visit family.

    14. Evil HR Person*

      I guess where I’m getting stuck – and forgive me if you answered, but I can’t see if you did – is whether you worked those days in 2018 or not. If you did work them, then the “rotation” portion of your boss’s email would apply, and you should have the time off. If you didn’t work, then it’s fair to give the time off to one of your colleagues. Did your boss default to you because of your family being nearby, or because you had the time off last year, and should work it this year? Either way, ask your boss if your time will be approved, and tell him/her why you need to know this so early in the year – to buy cruise tickets.

      1. Jan Levinson*

        In 2018, since Christmas fell on a Tuesday, we all got Monday, 12/24 and Tuesday, 12/25 off as holidays. I took (1) additional day as vacation, Wednesday, 12/26. Another one of my coworkers also took the 26th off, and the other took Friday the 21st off. So, we all got 1 day around Christmas.

        I think she will default to me because I have family nearby, not because of any time off last year, since all three of us took the same amount of time off (1 day around Christmas).

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Have you talked to your other coworkers about their plans? There may be an obvious solution, depending on what they are thinking.

    15. Jan Levinson*

      EDIT: I am adding this because I think my original post did not have clarity about past years. I have never taken more vacation days off than my two coworkers around the holidays.

      2018: Christmas was on Tuesday, December 25th. Our office had Monday, December 24th and Tuesday, December 25th as holidays, so no one worked. I also took (1) vacation day on Wednesday, December 26th. One of my other coworkers also took the 26th off, and the other one took Friday, December 21st off.
      2017: Christmas was on Monday, December 25th. Since Christmas Eve fell on a weekend, we got Monday, December 25th and Tuesday, December 26th as holidays. I also took (1) vacation day on Wednesday, December 27th. Similarly to 2018, on of my coworkers also took the 27th off, and the other took Friday, December 22nd off.

      This is the FIRST YEAR where all three of us have worked here that this has been an issue, because Christmas Eve and Christmas both fall in the middle of the week. FWIW, in 2016 (before my coworkers started) I didn’t take any vacation days off around Christmas, as I was the newest employee.

      1. SS*

        Looking at your boss’ email in your original post, it seems like they’re placing the responsibility on individuals to “please keep all these factors in mind.” If it were me, I would approach boss to see what issues are arising (are there many other requests at this time?) and if so, perhaps there can be a group effort to resolve this by developing a system that everyone agrees to (like a rotation). I know he’s saying that no system is completely fair, but lack of system that is agreed upon can likely lead to arbitrary or less fair decisions. So if everyone’s bought into a system, then there will be less confusion/ unpredictability and the issue will be resolved long-term rather than for this particular vacation. However, I would also base the level of energy I exert into this based on my commitment to this place. In conversations with boss, I would also highlight sentiments you had here like that it wouldn’t be fair to make decisions based on who has family where (unless colleagues agree to that).

    16. Psyche*

      Would it work if you took off Friday and Monday instead of Monday and Thursday? If the length of consecutive time is what matters that might be a good compromise.

    17. Not So Super-visor*

      I am in your boss’ shoes every year when it comes to PTO requests and the holidays. I have a few employees with the most seniority who want all of the days before/after major holidays off and leave none available for other employees. They are unbending on this and phrases like “I always get this time off” and “I have the most seniority” are frequently used. What tipped the scales for me was an employee who had worked for us for 8 years who through tears admitted that she had NEVER been allowed to have time around the holidays off because someone with 6 months more seniority always got it. I had to put a rotational plan into place (ie – if you got the day after Christmas off this year, you can’t request it unless other employees don’t want it)
      If you’ve always gotten that time off and your coworkers have always had to work it for you, maybe you should consider your coworker’s feelings about it.

      1. Kat in VA*

        Every year around the holidays, I am forcible reminded that there are people who truly don’t care what happens to others as long as they get what they want. :(

        1. MatKnifeNinja*

          Worse is, the jerk coworker has to work Christmas Day. I got on call duty. Guess who called in, and I had to work anyway.

          Rage inducing.

          1. Kat in VA*

            People can be such jerks – and so insulting. Like you wouldn’t notice that he called in on that day?

      2. NW Mossy*

        I’m in a similar boat – I manage two small teams (4 and 5 people), and the holiday season is also our busiest. I have to have a certain number of people working, and it’s tough when those with long tenure (which translates to A LOT of PTO in our org) snipe the prime days when others have equally reasonable desires to take the time as well. To the extent that I don’t have to, I really don’t want to get into whose time off request is “more important” – how the heck can I judge the value of maintaining a decades-long tradition of gathering local family against someone else’s family coming in from another continent?

        One option I’m implementing this year is offering the option of working remotely to reduce the number of days off they take. It gives some flexibility to travel and/or spend time with loved ones but still get business needs met. We’ll see how it goes, but at least one person took up that offer.

    18. Animal worker*

      I work in a zoo which requires 365 day/year coverage. We use a combination of factors in deciding time off requests around the holidays – with a main factor being a rotation so that different people get to have it off. What we do is have a period each year where people can put in for time off around T’giving and Christmas/New Years. Then we get all of the requests and look at the schedule to see how many of them we can grant to keep minimal staffing to care for the animals. Some years we can approve them all – which is great. If we have overlap/conflicts, we look at the past few years’ history of who has been off, and prioritize those who haven’t had it as recently. If all other things are equal, such as the people with the overlap both had time off the same recent period, then seniority is a tiebreaker. My managers and I wrote up a policy for our team a couple of years ago for this – we ask for holiday requests during June, we start working on the schedule for that period in July, and we make approvals by August 1. If someone has a more time sensitive need, they let us know, and we sometimes adjust the time period as needed to evaluate that. It’s worked well for us. I don’t like straight seniority on this, or who asks first – the approach where everyone gets to put in requests in the same period and all are evaluated equally works for us.

      I wish that’s the way it was for me and my peers – some years it seems like it’s seniority, others it’s first come first serve. Some years they figure out who is covering the holidays then approve additional time off after that, last year the holiday periods were all blocked off by the time I got one of the holidays off so I couldn’t travel to see family. I think it’s important that whatever process you have is transparent to all and consistent.

      1. Everdene*

        This seems like a really fair way of doing it. My partners office will not approve any holidays for Christmas/New Year until mid/late November! Every year we can’t plan anything until its too close and therefore expensive. We also have to keep extra holidays aside in case he is approved for what we want, but then when the request is inevitably declined he is pressured to use them before year end. Both our dad’s have birthdays over the holidays as well as Christmas/New Year and our families are all in limbo every year because of his employers bad policy.

        (He’s also bottom of the request pile, yes he has seniority but we don’t have kids so the bosses are all BUT SAAAAANTA!)

    19. Me*

      It doesn’t sound like the boss is defaulting to you. You said you always take those 5 days. So you’ve been getting those days for how long? I think your boss is seeing the the issue is that you always have those 5 days. And really that’s not fair.
      Combined with the request going in first it’s hard for anyone else to have a shot at those days. I’m curious if you have more paid leave available due to seniority too?

      I was so fortunate that when my kid was little my coworkers were great about covering for me around Christmas. Now that she’s older, it’s my turn to repay the favor. I would like off sure, but I will be the last one to put in. I get over double the leave that my colleagues do – I could put in leave on the first of the year and have dibs on every major holiday and still have two weeks in the summer. But that’s not fair and not a great way to build good will.

      Frankly everyone should get the chance. If you got it last year, then someone else should get a turn if they wish.

    20. Celery Juice*

      Sorry, but I’m on the your being unfair taking the full week off so you can go on a Christmas cruise, when your co-workers most likely want to spend time with their families and their families are out of town. In your situation I would either take the days before or after off. Unless one of your co-workers doesn’t celebrate Christmas then you’re fine.

    21. LCL*

      I’m still wearing my scheduler hat, it’s hard to take it off. So I am pointing out that next year, 2020, is a leap year. Christmas Ever 2020, December 24, is Thursday and Christmas is Friday.

    22. Samwise*

      Hmm, if I read correctly, you’ve had this week off before — how recently and how often? Is it more or less than your coworkers? That’s something to consider.
      Are there other holidays at other times where you could take PTO to make five days in a row?

    23. CM*

      Your boss is probably right that just using seniority or first-come-first-serve isn’t always the fairest way to make these decisions, but I think you’re right to want to know how they ARE going to make the decision (and when, and if it can be sped up so you can try to make your travel plans).

      If the most important part of this for you is wanting an uninterrupted block of time (and not whether it happens at Christmas), and if Christmas is a hot commodity in your office, you might also be able to negotiate some kind of deal where you take one for the team by working over Christmas week but then get extra PTO days for your sacrifice.

      I think there might be a subtext in your question where you think vacation SHOULD be determined by seniority or first-come-first-serve and you’re frustrated that that’s not happening. If that’s the case, maybe think about whether you’re getting any other benefit from your seniority (e.g., more vacation time, more pay, better title, better assignments, etc) and, if not, or if it doesn’t feel like enough, maybe it’s time to try to renegotiate.

    24. Holiday Grump*

      if i’m understanding the situation, you and three others are the pool of people. you also say that you’ve historically always been able to take those holiday adjacent days off. doesn’t that mean that your peers have had to cover those days every single year? don’t you think the fairest thing to do would be to have everyone take turns? why should you be the only one exempt? this issue generally is a sore spot with me, because in my organization and role, i’m almost always the only man and the only person with no kids. so of course the general thinking is i should be the one covering the days around christmas. so for sixteen years i’ve maybe had one time when i didn’t have to work the days between christmas and new years (because i was on medical leave). and my two coworkers have had every year off except one. usually i dont mind, i even generally volunteer. but every few years i resent it a bit. be fair. take turns.

      1. WellRed*

        It’s on you to speak up though, not get all resentful. If you regularly volunteer what the hell are people supposed to think? Want this Christmas off? Request it.

    25. TGOTAL*

      Have you spoken with your colleagues about their holiday leave plans yet? If you can all work out coverage amongst yourselves and present your boss with a comprehensive proposed leave schedule, I’d think chances are good it would be approved.

      A few years ago in my old office, three of us had conflicting requests for leave after Christmas, and our boss told us to try to work it out ourselves. One coworker whined that she and her husband *always* took those days to go visit his family. The other two of us reminded her we had family to visit, too (both of us were singles without family in the area), and pointed out she was the only one of us who’d gotten those days the previous year. Fortunately, she agreed to take the week before Christmas instead, as I had done the previous year, and our boss approved our revised plan.

  4. Sunflower*

    Has anyone started a new job that should be great and challenging and for some reason, you just feel meh and unmotivated?

    I started a new job 5 weeks ago (I’m an event planner). The work is challenging, I get to develop events from scratch, and I LOVE the company. This should have me so excited to dive into this work…But I just feel unmotivated and annoyed at all of it. I should mention that during my job search, I was unsure if I wanted to stick with event planning but I was so burned out and overworked at my last job, I didn’t really have the time to explore additional options. I also feel intimidated since OldJob had set procedures/processes that I executed and I’m expected to develop these now- I’m nervous I’m not qualified and this is stressing me out more than exciting me. This leads to me slacking off most of the day and then being anxious about not doing good work. It’s a terrible cycle.

    This could be a result of personal stuff (don’t want to derail but my therapist said she’s seeing signs of depression) but the point is, I need to find a way to get motivated and get the work done. I know no one can answer whether the motivation issue is me or the work so I’m planning to take my newly found time outside of work to explore other industries and see if anything sticks.

    In the meantime, just wondering if anyone has felt this way, if it went away and any tips for getting through it?

    1. Been In Events Before*

      The procedures/processes development at this job – Was this explained to you in the job interview that they needed this done? Is there someone else you can loop in to help with this? What worked at your old job that you can also utilize at this job?

      What is it about event planning that you love?

      1. Sunflower*

        I did know I’d be setting up some procedures- I didn’t realize that I’d also be taking on events that other people were already doing and there is a bit of tension over this. It became clear to me that there are some procedures in place but my boss seems on a mission to prove we can execute better and she seems hesitant about me working with these folks which is really bothersome to me. The planning groups are disorganized and the consensus is that the events should be super easy to execute. That way of thinking is pretty common and one of the reasons I wanted to leave events- I’m tired of having to explain my job and defend it over and over and over again with 1000 documents. I don’t even know how I ended up in events tbh- I DESPISE being detail oriented and hate when people need every detail explained out to them and written down. I have procedures from my last job but they weren’t great and a lot of things don’t translate over.

        What do I like about events? Mostly the networking and meeting people. I also enjoy the strategy planning especially finding ways to get people in the room. I thought about a job in sales but I didn’t know how to suss out BD or sales jobs vs cold calling.

        1. Been In Events Before*

          It sounds like part of your frustration is that people think that your job is “easy” and not “valuable” which is certainly not the case. There are 1000 documents there because it’s needed. I’m not sure what type of company you work for, but would it make sense to transition to an event planning company vs being in an events division at like a non-profit or law firm, etc.? I would also look into conference or meeting planning, if either of those sound interesting to you.

          To transition into biz dev, I would look into biz dev at event planning companies so that you are selling the same services to clients that you find valuable, and they would value your event planning experience because you “get” what they do.

          1. Sunflower*

            You definitely hit the nail on the head with my frustration. I’m currently in consulting (I came from BigLaw) and interviewed at a few event planning companies but some friends in PR urged me to stay away from ‘agencies’. Thanks for the advice on some BD opportunities too!

            1. Been In Events Before*

              There is so much “politicking” around and bureaucracy involved in agencies so they aren’t wrong. However, most agencies have policies and procedures in place, even if they aren’t the most efficient. Also, be prepared to have no work/life balance.

              You will have to account for your “hours” in ways that you may not have to account for in consulting or BigLaw. Clients come and go – you may work on a one-off event for one client and never work with them again. The way that proposals are written in agencies are that the costs are based on the number of hours estimated per person.

              For example:
              Client A’s 2019 Summer Launch
              100 hours x Event Coordinator/hr cost = $Y
              90 hours x Manager/hr cost = $Z

              And if you go over the 90 hours as a manager, the company is essentially “losing money” on this project and you will have to explain to management why you are spending more time than anticipated. You also have to do things like “forecast out” hours your team is spending on each project.

              You will also be expected to:
              – “Promote yourself” within the agency – make sure higher ups know how you are valuable. It is not good enough just to go exceptional work. Nobody will notice if you don’t say anything.
              – Share industry trends, such as emailing out articles of interest from industry magazines
              – Participate in/plan company-wide events such as company happy hours, a party celebrating a “made up holiday” such as Taco Day or whatever else on top of your current duties no matter how much work is already on your plate.

        2. MissDisplaced*

          “the consensus is that the events should be super easy to execute”
          What the what? Like NO event is ever “super easy” to execute. Like ever! WTF!

          There are so many detailed things that go into them, from scheduling to shipping, and if they’re big events = big budgets. Booth design, social media… and on and on. I’m lucky in that I only have 2 a year, but I put a lot of work into those, aside from my other communications duties. If I had more shows or larger complex booths, I’d definitely have to bring in an agency.

          Google some of the booth manufacturers. I recall some had a webinar and planning deck that went over some common procedures and steps to event planning. It might give you a start. Some of the large shows I’ve exhibited at also had training on ‘how to exhibit’ and they were free to view/download.

          As for staying in the event planning business, you might want to think about a business development role if you’re more interested in sales, or a social media or demand generation role if you’re interested in the marketing side of events.

        3. Lizlicious*

          Sunflower, have you looked into account management roles? It’s within the world of sales but the focus is on building relationships with existing clients (vs “hunter” roles that are heavy on cold calling). Might be a good match for your interests and skills!

    2. Weegie*

      I think you’ve already put your finger on the heart of the issue – burnout!

      The feelings and ‘symptoms’ you describe are exactly what I experienced when I started the job I’m in now. I was suffering the after-effects of my previous awful job, and it took about six months to re-motivate myself. Even now, one year on, there are days I don’t do much if I don’t have a looming deadline. But I feel a lot happier overall, and once I do actually buckle down, I do good work.

      Give it some time, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Once you’ve had a few months of breathing space, you can start exploring whether other avenues would suit you better.

      Above all, breathe :-)

      1. Sleepy puppy*

        This. I started my current job 2 years ago and the first 6 months were a blur. I knew my previous job had been problematic but didn’t realize how toxic it had been until I was out. I spent a good chunk of time processing that. Add in some personal health challenges and, well, I was shocked to get a glowing evaluation. Be kind to yourself.

        1. Rezia*

          This. Got an amazing job after serious burnout at my last job, and it took a while to build back into my usual motivation/hard work at the new job. Take care of yourself for now.

      2. EinJungerLudendorff*

        OP, you spent a long time getting mentally, physically and emotionally ground down at your old job, then jumped to a new job with what seems like little to no break. Then you found yourself in a challenging position with a lot of pressure and some daunting tasks, for which you don’t think you are properly equipped to handle.
        And you also found that a number of big stress sources from the old job also applied to the new one.
        Oh, and you’re not even sure if you like most of your job. And you may or may not be suffering from a depression.

        Of course you’re not going to be bursting with energy and enthusiasm! You’re still in the fallout from your old job, and you already have plenty of issues in the new one! Why wouldn’t you feel unmotivated right now?

    3. Not a Real Giraffe*

      I work in events and while I have a job I love, I often feel this way after a really busy or stressful period. It’s definitely burnout and partly impostor syndrome. Think back to the processes you executed before – what did you like about them? What worked well and what did you always wish you could change? Implement what you know and adjust to your personal style, and remember that there was nothing in place before so no matter what you start implementing, it will be better than how it was. Allow yourself the room to make mistakes in a new job and improve upon things bit by bit. Good luck!

    4. knitter*

      So I’m just now coming out of a period of depression and one of the mistakes I made during this period was not believing that I was depressed (there has been a lot going on at work and with my daughter’s health that I attributed the feelings to, but I think most of the negative thoughts were provided by my brain all on its own). The thoughts you are having, like feeling unqualified, could be caused by your depression, so believe your therapist. I had similar thoughts and my current self wishes I had just done the work that I was stressed about.

      Because these cycles aren’t new to me, so I try to do a few things. Doing the below made this last cycle not as bad as it has been in the past.
      1. positive self talk: I remind myself of all the positive feedback I’ve received and think through how my work place deals with performance issues. This latter point is important when I don’t want to try something because I assume I’m going to fail. I think through what will ACTUALLY happen when I put a project together. I’ll get feed back a long the way and we’ll try things out and adjust them as we go.
      2. break assignments down in to very, very small chunks and set very, very small goals. So if my brain is setting me up for failure by thinking something has to be done perfectly and quickly, I’ll reset and just focus on one tiny part of the project and make myself sit in the happiness that that part was completed.
      3. Frequent communication with co-workers and supervisors. Not for reassurance, but I take time trying to figure out what is the rational anxiety I’m having and how to frame a productive question or statement of concern around it.

      Also, instead of thinking about what field you might be more interested in (ie work) during your free time, focus on what brings you joy. I go to my knitting circle and scour the family friendly events in my city to pick something I’ve never done before. Feeling joy in my off times makes me more resilient when I’m exposed to my triggers (ie work stress and daughter’s doctor’s appointments).

      Good luck!

    5. The Other Dawn*

      If I’m honest with myself, I’m feeling the same way. I started this job a couple months ago; however, I wasn’t looking for a new job by choice–my company was acquired and I lost my job. I really had no desire to go back into this industry, but the job search didn’t pan out the way I’d hoped and rather than risk a very long job search, I took this job in the same industry. I came into it excited about the fact that I would be kind of a change agent as well as being the department manager, but not excited about the job in general, if that makes sense. I cried like crazy the weekend before I started, mainly because I didn’t want to go back to work so soon, didn’t want to be in this industry anymore, and just unhappy that I had no choice about having to find another job.

      Two months in, I like the people, the culture and the company overall. The job, meh. There’s just SO much. The amount of email, all the different tasks that have to be done, managing a challenging employee, learning how things are done here (I know, that’s common), and dealing with the fact that some things that are done here are completely different that at previous companies and there has never been any comments by examiners or auditors (basically, it’s very obvious that the regulatory body tells some companies one thing and others something different, and auditors and examiners treat companies differently, which is very confusing and taking up a huge amount of mental energy–I’m spinning my wheels A LOT). It amazes me that I have no daily tasks, yet I’m always busy and feel like I’ve been beat up at the end of the day. Also, the company is VERY conservative from a risk perspective, which means that my department is twice the size of the one at my former company, and the company itself is 1/3 of the size of the previous one. That’s how much work there is because the former manager, and others here, are conservative, and that stems from being advised by a conservative consultant.

      UGH, sorry for the rant! But yeah, I’m feeling unmotivated and just blah. Even though it’s only been two months and I’ve done all this work before, I still feel overwhelmed and like I’m pushing a heavy boulder uphill most days. I also feel burned out from the industry itself.

    6. Smile-a-thon*


      Make lists as to what you’d like to accomplish in the first three months, what steps need to happen to make those accomplishments happen.

      And at the end of every day, reflect on what you did to move forward. Include any new people/networking that happened, etc.

      Measure the tiny steps forward and give yourself congratulations. Even a quiet, ‘way to go, me’ (which may someday grow to a fist-pumping ‘yeah!’ )

    7. Frankie*

      Yes–in a previous burnout situation, it took me months into my new (great) job to feel back to my old, productive, motivated self.

      I would definitely give yourself some time–burnout can take a long time to work itself out, and it might not be about the current job.

      Depression would be normal as a direct result of previous burnout, too.

      My current job requires a lot of independent thinking, coming up with new processes, etc., and when I was feeling unmotivated plus anxious about that level of autonomy and coming up with blanks, I would try to read research related to whatever project it was, and inevitably I’d get some ideas from that and get excited and feel like I had some structure to work with again. I don’t know if there’s a parallel for event planning, exactly. I’m also really motivated by lists, so I would try to throw down even some very basic stuff in a work plan and build from there. Like, I know no matter what these five simple things have to be part of this project, and simply writing them down would help as a starting point. Anything to get away from that feeling of starting from scratch. I also have a great manager so it’s easy to say, “here’s what I’ve come up with, what am I missing?” and he’ll have some really good ideas I hadn’t thought of. After a couple of years I feel way more confident that whatever I come up with will for the most part cover the bases.

      If you still feel like this after a year in the job or so, might be time to reassess whether you’re just done with event planning. But this sounds really familiar to me and it was really all about the previous burnout, in my situation.

    8. zora*

      Yeah, you’re still burned out. 5 weeks don’t fix serious burnout, it will be a few months before you get back to normal. Everyone above has great tips, take care of yourself and give yourself some time!

    9. Finally Back In A 'Proper Job'*

      I cannot tell you how comforting this post is. I’m in exactly the same boat and just can’t seem to find my mojo (and it is definitely not going unnoticed by my manager!).

      Not so much relevant to the motivation thing but for reference, I was in events (freelance wedding planner for 10 years) and am now in an account manager role. I changed careers because I really needed a change but the transition role I took before being with the amazing company I’m with now was toxic AF and really left its mark (burnout and depression).

      What I am trying to do to find my rhythm (and I’ll report back on my success!) is:
      – Be really honest with my manager about my journey to date, the toxic past environment and the knock on effect/what I need from her right now.
      – Check in with her as often as possible to get feedback. I specifically asked her to ‘big up’ the things I’m doing well alongside the developmental feedback so I can combat imposter syndrome
      – Set reminders for myself in Outlook daily to nudge my development areas (e.g. ahead of a client meeting, a reminder to do X or rein in Y)
      – Use a CBT cheat sheet daily to help the catastrophising that my brain does (1 mistake does not mean I’m gonna get fired).
      – Write long to do lists for the week, but then much shorter (really achievable) ones with the priority tasks each day
      – Interact with my colleagues at lunch, but actually sit a bit apart for periods of time to get things done (and keep me away from any office politics/drama)
      – Listen to guided meditations to fall asleep to so I don’t let depressive sundowning take hold
      – Do the best I can around eating well/exercise/being in nature/seeing friends (I am not great at all this!)

      I’d love to keep in touch on this. I’m really struggling with knowing that I have skills to bring to this brilliant company but not seeming to able to tap into them.

  5. Seifer*

    Is it weird to never talk about your personal life at work? My roommate will not talk about anything, to the point where his coworkers didn’t even know that we had moved. But the issue now is that my roommate is looking to change jobs and his biggest freak out is that the new people will ask him personal questions that he’ll be evasive about and he’ll immediately get a reputation for being frigid or that he’s hiding something. I asked him for an example of a personal question and he said, “‘where do you live?’ I don’t need them to know that about me!”

    Personally, I think he’s taking it way too far. And if he’s worried about people thinking that he’s frigid or hiding something… well. You can’t have it both ways. But what does everyone else think?

    1. Jack Be Nimble*

      I’m in the same boat as your roommate! I’m pretty introverted and private, and I’ve definitely had a hard time striking a balance between maintaining my privacy without coming across as secretive.

      1. LaurenB*

        Introverted and private have nothing to do with one another. One could easily be introverted, but also be just fine sharing details of one’s life / family with coworkers.

    2. Redundant Department of Redundancy*

      Is your roommate Rosa from B99?

      On a more serious note, I think your roommate needs to learn the are of closing the social circuit without really saying anything personal if they don’t want to. Most people are only asking to be polite, if he evades the questions that’s a lot more suspicious then just saying that he lives down the road/over the train tracks or something else benign.

      1. Seifer*

        Ahaha no, I’m Rosa with a side of Amy. He’s Captain Holt.

        Yeah, I’ve tried to tell him that. Vague answers are okay, but straight up like. I don’t live anywhere, how about that weather??? Is weird. “Oh, not too far, it’s like a twenty minute drive” is what people are looking for. But then he thinks that someone will start pulling up Google Maps and pointing. That’s… usually when I tell him he needs to chill, he’s met other people before and no one has ever done that.

          1. Seifer*

            I have tried that with him before, the talking through the anxiety response trick. It’s something my last therapist had me try to manage my anxiety disorder, however, it does not work for either of us.

        1. Gelliebean*

          Yep, that’s exactly right. In my experience it’s usually just an opening to commiserate about traffic routes/congestion/etc. as something that pretty much anyone can empathize with. They’re just keeping a casual conversation going, and I’d say it wouldn’t hit a sensitive nerve with most people.

          Now if someone did answer that question with their street address, or directions any more than “down south by X town” or “East side of the interstate” I’d be surprised and feel like they were not in line with social conventions.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            Seriously. Nobody wants the address, they’re looking for “North side, you?”

        2. Zennish*

          It would be hard to find someone more private than I am, who isn’t in witness protection. (I’ve been tempted to quit more than once over my workplace’s campaign to have every employee constantly on some social media somethingorother.) Still, if I’m asked where I live, I just say “Oh, outside of NearestBigCity. Nobody is going to Google Map the 4 million households in that area and try to find mine. There is anonymity in normalcy. If you start giving everyone the scary-eye and the “Why do you want to know where I live?” you’ll draw way more attention to yourself, and in a negative way.

        3. Sunglasses Emoji*

          I am literally in an address protection program run by the government. (I was a crime victim.) So I do not give my address or approximate location to anyone. “Oh, not too far, it’s like a twenty minute drive” +Subject Change almost NEVER successfully closes the social circuit for me. People press for details – ok, but a drive in what direction?? Are you actually in (city) or are you in (nearby suburb)?? What highway do you take to get here?? etc etc. I find that in order to close the social loop without being branded a “weirdo” I sometimes have to straight-up lie. I am okay with this because A) it’s for my safety and B) rude questions get rude answers. YMMV.

          People do not know how to mind their own business. It never occurs to anyone that there could be a logical reason for not sharing one’s address. Sure, my situation sounds serious than usual, but this program protects thousands of people just in my state. And there are thousands upon thousands more victims of domestic violence, stalking, etc. who do not want to tell people where they live. It’s so frustrating how stigmatized it is to be private about that.

    3. WellRed*

      I think it draws more attention to oneself to be so rigid about never ever ever answering basic personal questions.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I completely agree with this. I keep pretty strong lines between my personal and professional lives/personae, but I engage in small talk and that involves some personal stuff. The key is that I don’t share everything, and what I do share comes up organically. I also have some stock “cover” questions that I deploy regularly. For example, when co-workers ask me if I have siblings, I give them a not-the-whole-truth response and they’re satisfied.

      2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        Yes, and in the absence of information, people will make up stuff. And usually the stuff that’s made up is meaner and more outlandish than the truth. Sharing select information lets you control the narrative.

        Coworker: Do you have kids?
        Roommate: Why would you ask such a question? That’s my personal business!
        Whispering coworkers: He won’t talk about his kids but there’s a picture of one in his office. Maybe his wife left him and took the kids! Maybe he was an abusive husband and he doesn’t have visitation! Maybe he’s a deadbeat dad!
        Actual Truth: That’s my nephew in the photo and I do not have any kids.

    4. Bee's Knees*

      We don’t really talk about our personal lives where I work. It’s not that no one talks about their families or whatever at all, it just usually doesn’t come up. I also think your roomie might be focusing too much on the detail of the question. They’re probably not asking “What is your exact street address?” The neighborhood or part of town is likely all they want to know.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Yup — generalization and redirect. When I was working in NYC I’d answer “out on Long Island, but I’m tired of the commute. Where do you live? How’s the trip?”

    5. rldk*

      As long as he can be friendly without sharing information, I think he’s alright. The issue isn’t “why do they need to know” but “how can i still answer the question without giving out info i don’t want known.”

      I’d recommend he work on vague answers to common questions, like “oh, i live in the northwest part of the city” or even a neighborhood. And he should reframe how he’s reacting to them. There’s prying, and there’s just taking a general interest in knowing someone as a human, not just a coworker. If he’d rather be known for his work, he’ll be undermining that by becoming known as ‘the weirdly-private one’

      1. Southern Yankee*

        Yes, vague answers to common questions that don’t reveal anything private but still keep the conversation moving along seems the best bet to avoid the hiding something label.

      2. Secretary*

        Friendly without sharing too much info is right! It’s not about sharing personal information, it’s about building good relationships. It will probably help if he practices small talk and answers that don’t sound weird to others. He will get way farther with “I live in X city, what about you?.” than with “Nowhere, where do you live?”

        Also, he shouldn’t use being introverted as an excuse, because social skills aren’t a personality type. Small talk, building relationships, making work friends are skills to be developed, not something people are born with.

    6. Hufflepuffin*

      It’s weird except among AAM commenters who seem to be more obsessively private than most people I’ve ever met.

      1. Kat in VA*

        After having a recruiter literally Google my home address and then attempt to use that information as a leveraging tool to offer me less salary*, I’m starting to understand why AAM commenters are more on the obsessive side about privacy.

        * her reasoning was, “You have a big beautiful house and property, obviously you’re not hurting for money, so we want to offer you a lower salary than previously discussed” or something along those lines. I was honestly too shocked and then furious to really pay attention. That phone call ended swiftly.

        1. Hufflepuffin*

          That really doesn’t correlate to being frosty with your colleagues though.

          1. Kat in VA*

            True, but it’s made me wary about talking about things like vacations or large purchases (such as a car) with coworkers, because they can and do judge you.

        2. Lilysparrow*

          And how would being bizarrely secretive help in a scenario like that? Are you going to apply for jobs under an assumed name?

          Do you think a person like that would have made a fantastic offer if they thought you lived in a row house? No. They lowballed you because they are cheap. The house had nothing to do with it.

          1. Kat in VA*

            Understood – that was the reason the recruiter gave, though.

            There’s no way to be secretive when you enter your home address, but for a recruiter to Google it and use it as leverage to offer me less money (her reasoning, not mine) was just…bizarre.

          2. Clisby*

            Oh, no, if she lived in a row house then obviously she can support herself on a lower salary.

      2. Mr. Shark*

        Exactly. I think it’s strange how AAM commenters don’t want to talk about their personal lives and don’t want to socialize with co-workers. I’m not saying you have to tell them everything, but these are people you work with 8-10 hours everyday. I don’t see why you wouldn’t be willing to share some of your personal life with them.
        As far as socializing–some of my best friends have come from people I have worked with. You don’t always have to go to every social work function, but it seems bizarre to me that so many people avoid it like the plague and would be completely unwilling to socialize with co-workers sometimes.

    7. dealing with dragons*

      for “where do you live” no one ever wants your physical address, usually just a general location. I’m in a big city so only naming the sub-city is fine. Like living in LA and telling people you live in Hollywood. my team lead is the same way and it honestly puts up a barrier. you don’t have to be friends but it doesn’t hurt to be friendly.

      1. Auntie Social*

        Yes. It’s just cocktail party conversation–you like your new Trader Joe’s even more than your last one, there are more dogs in your neighborhood, new apartment has its own washer and dryer so you’ve got THAT going for you. I always talk about the cute things the dog did, or I made a new recipe last night. Safe stuff, but friendly.

    8. KR*

      I think your roommate might benefit from being reminded that people aren’t nessecarily asking for exact details. Like when they ask “Where do you live?” he doesn’t have to give them the address or even what side of town he lives in. He could just say the general town, region, or even more vague, “Oh about 30 mins south.” People probably aren’t even paying attention that much to the answers he gives. They’re just making conversation and trying to connect – so if he were to say, “Oh I live in Town A” they might say, “Oh I visited the drive-in there once. It’s great.” and great, conversation over.
      I know you know this but I think he might benefit from a reminder that no one cares about his personal business as much as he does. He could even decide on a few details that are his go-to to share when people ask. He definitely can’t have it both ways.

      1. NewNewbie*

        I’ve given the vague “I live about 30 minutes south” answer before, and some people ask a zillion followup questions. They want to know the town, what landmarks/stores I live near, what roads I take to get home, etc. Some of them have been people who turned out to be creeps. Maybe the roommate has had the same issue where some people aren’t satisfied with vague answers.

        1. MoopySwarpet*

          I usually say suburb off of X Ave a little south of Hwy 47. My boss pressed for more details because Google satellite images was recently discovered and google stalking my neighborhood was the goal. I gave a golf course in the same general area and that sidetracked it with “Oh, I’ve played there. I like ____ better.” and a 20 minute golf monologue during which the request for my exact address was forgotten.

          I don’t even actually care if Boss knows where I live (I am 99.9% sure I wouldn’t get a drop in visit, ever), but on general principal, I don’t like giving out my exact address. I don’t even get mail there. Unless a co-worker and/or boss is invited to visit, they have no need for an address.

        2. Sunglasses Emoji*

          Same problem – it doesn’t close the social circuit effectively because too many people are nosy and rude. Have you found any way of fending off these questions without being branded a weirdo or having to lie?

          I am not willing to share more than “oh, about 20 min away”+SubjectChange because I have a stalker. (More in my comment above)

    9. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Just be vague, bro. Seriously.

      “Where do you live?”
      “In the city.” “Just south of here.” “Ah over in neighboring city.”

      Otherwise yes, he’s going to come across poorly and quickly be left alone but not necessarily in a good way.

      If I’m asking where you’re from, it’s not because I want to swing by and steal your stereo or something. It’s usually because I’m being chatty or worse case, I want to know if you are aware that the Corgi races are going on, etc.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It really should be a national holiday, tbh. Move over my lanky greyhound friends, the short belly dragging friends need to shine too.

          1. Anonysand*

            As an owner of two retired/rescued greyhounds, those lazy couch potatoes would love for their short-legged brethren to take over the reins for a little while!

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              Awwww smootches to them because I know that there’s a lot of abuse that goes on in the “sport”, I’m relieved that many are rescued and get to live out their golden years with loving family.

      1. Kat in VA*

        yes also to the corgi races.

        People here generally use the “Where do you live?” question as an inroad to commiserate about commute times. I’m the greater DC area, so they all suck, but some are more suckier than others (mine falls into the latter category).

    10. Karen from Finance*

      I don’t think it’s weird to never talk about your personal life, if it’s in the case where you just don’t bring it up yourself because you’re reserved. I do think it’s weird to be so freaked out about having to answer questions, like your roommate is. Like.. it’s fine.

      But then again, I also think you should respect his anxieties, because this is clearly not easy for him. Be easy on him. You won’t be able to convince him that “he’s wrong”.

      1. Seifer*

        Yeah, I just keep trying to tell him that it’s totally fine. No one that I’ve told, oh I live in that big tower by the train tracks has ever just been lounging in my room when I got home.

        I feel you on the anxiety thing, I have anxiety disorder and it’s difficult when our anxieties don’t line up. I’m mostly just making sure that hey, this… is just anxiety talking, right? I’m not supposed to also be paranoid about the fact that I have told 3 coworkers that I live in X Suburb?

        1. Karen from Finance*

          As a chronic oversharer who is yet to be attacked, nah, don’t worry about it. Unless you have an actual reason to believe anyone you’ve told is actually a dangerous person, which is a whole other issue, because then you’d be working at an actual unsafe environment. That’s why my mind went straight to anxiety – I think if your roommate was just reserved, his natural instinct would be the vague answers, but he sounds downright afraid, and in this case it’s not a very rational fear. So… yeah.

        2. LaurenB*

          Being worried about the fact that 3 coworkers know you live in X suburb seems like a sign that it would be worthwhile to check with a professional over having paranoid personality disorder.

    11. NewNewbie*

      Why doesn’t he like to answer personal questions?

      I don’t like being asked “Where do you live?” anymore because I’ve had to deal with a few harassers and creepy guys at work. I remember HR telling me “Where do you live” is a normal, friendly question that everyone asks everyone else, but when it’s in the context of being followed around, touched and also being asked “When does your shift end? Do you carpool? Who do you live with?” it gets scary.

      So I’ve been wondering how to answer “Where do you live?” now. I also don’t want to answer any questions about my relationship status or who I live with or when I get off from work (unless someone I actually work with needs to know when I’m leaving).

      I don’t mind talking about hobbies or what I did on the weekend in order to be friendly with people I like since those seem like “safe” topics. If I don’t know someone well then I give generic “Just binge-watched Netflix this weekend” or “I’m doing good, you?” answers.

      1. medium of ballpoint*

        Great point. When I was a kid my family got a lot of negative media attention and it’s an ingrained habit to be super private about everything now. It’s more complicated to explain why I don’t want to give that information away so I just use it as a way of filtering. If someone feels a pressing need to know where I live or who I live with and can’t get the hint to drop it, that’s probably not a person I want to interact with a lot anyway.

      2. Seifer*

        I have no idea. I generally like to think of myself as a private person and even I am not that hostile about personal questions. In response to “where do you live,” I usually answer along the lines of how long it takes for me to drive to work. “Like half an hour away so the commute isn’t too bad, how about you?”

        I feel the same way about weekend stuff and hobbies. My roommate will answer, “nothing, what about you?” and then freak out when people are like, “really, you did nothing??? Not even watch Netflix??” I’ll say that I went out walking, it was so nice out! And no one asks me anything else. Vague answers are okay! Non-answers cause prying!

        1. Ashley*

          It is a fine line. My husband is super private and is a lot like your roommate. He literally talks to three co-workers in an office of about 50. If you are trying to help you just have to coach him on some normal responses. Most people are just trying to be friendly with the new person.

        2. fposte*

          While I am not him, I have been close enough to that in my past to understand, I think. It’s not that I was stalked or anything–it was just that it felt like any piece of information somebody had about me lessened me somehow and gave them power over me.

          It’s not a logical response but an emotional one. So I think the information about how you’re more successful keeping boundaries if you don’t erect them so dramatically might resonate, because what he’s doing is actually counterproductive to what he wants.

          1. Pippa*

            This is a good point. And it might also be helpful to use the tactic of turning it into a minor “my little quirk” with some self-deprecation. In his place, if someone remarked on my extreme personal privacy, I’d probably go with “haha, yeah, I’m funny that way. On a totally unrelated subject, did you know that people in the Witness Protection Program aren’t allowed to tell anyone they’re in the Witness Protection Program?” *waggle eyebrows, leave the room*

        3. NewNewbie*

          I can see how saying you did nothing over the weekend wouldn’t go well. If he says “binged Netflix” or “read a book” people might then ask what he watched or read (which would be bad if he was lying to be vague), so if he wants to avoid further questions he could just mention boring stuff, like that he cleaned his car, cleaned out his fridge, caught up on laundry, etc.

        4. Lily Rowan*

          I’ve literally never had anyone follow up with me if I say “Oh, just the usual stuff, what about you?” But right — a nice walk, errands, played video games, just pick one thing and you’ll be fine.

          Which you know! I don’t know how to convince your roommate that he should just make up vague or non-responsive answers.

          1. Seifer*

            Haha I don’t know either. I was mostly like. Someone validate me and make me feel like I’m not being weird. So I’m good there. Sometimes I just end up giving him some major side-eye when he comes home and is like, this person asked me where I went to SCHOOL how DARE they.

      3. Lilysparrow*

        The thing is, people don’t go from “Hi new person” to Full Creeper in one step. There are stages where you have multiple opportunities to steer or leave the conversation. The thing is to learn to identify those stages and shut it down before it goes there.

        Treating all new co-workers as Shroedinger’s Creeper from the outset is going to cut you off from potential allies & helpful people more often than it will repel actual creepers.

      4. epi*

        I have had the same thing happen to me. I didn’t give my street address or anything, but at the time I had just moved quite near work. So I often gave the cross street, pretty normal in my city since it’s a grid, or mentioned that it is right near a particular landmark. People expect a little more detail about locations right nearby that they will recognize, I find. And at the time, being newly able to walk to work *was* my innocuous work chat topic.

        Well, someone in my office did start to show evidence of trying to follow me around campus and possibly to my home. They started checking up on my hours and interrogating me if I changed them (we didn’t work together and this person 100% didn’t need to know). They started asking if they could come to my home without ever having been invited to even see me outside of work, and when I said no, asked if they could take a break at my apartment if they happened to be running in my neighborhood! This person doesn’t even live in my city, and I don’t live near a a trail or other destination for runners.

        I agree this is usually a normal question and I answered it in good faith assuming this person was normal. When their follow-ups got super weird, the response I got from HR was similar, that this is normal information for coworkers to share. As for the intrusive follow up questions and requests that I pointed out, I might as well have been talking to myself. The response was either that the original question was normal, or that it was my choice to share.

    12. Not So NewReader*

      He can’t have it both ways. You are right.

      “I don’t need them to know that about me”, really? It’s not about needing to know something. It’s about connecting with people on a basic level.

      I am not sure if you are in a rural area or a populous area. But here in a rural area that kind of response would stand out like a sore thumb. And people would definitely comment. So yeah, he can do as he wishes but people will think he is odd, stand-offish and, perhaps, weird. Over a long period of time, they will probably conclude he is hiding something or he is a shamed of something.

      People do have enough sense to give people space. For the most part, when people ask where I live I find that if I just say the name of my town then they are satisfied with that. They do not press for further info. And usually they respond with why they are asking, “I though you might live there, do you know so-and-so?” Then we chat for a moment. It’s used as a conversation opener often enough that it would be good for your roommate to have a little more of a response than what he has now.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        In a populous area it’s even weirder. I can name almost my cross-streets and people still couldn’t find me.

        1. Joielle*

          Ha, yes. I usually say “You know [popular restaurant]? I’m like two blocks from there.” And that still covers like 90 houses plus an apartment building.

    13. Ranon*

      It sounds like he needs a strategy that keeps him comfortable (because he’ll definitely come across as frigid if he’s also feeling uncomfortable) but also lets him interact with his coworkers in the getting to know you phase. Vague is a good approach, as is turning the question around. So, e.g. “Where do you live” “Oh, I live in (general neighborhood), what about you? [Answer] Oh, that’s (general positive impression about that person’s area of town), how’s your commute?” He can give a short answer and then mostly ask other people questions about themselves, they will feel like they’re bonding but he won’t need to share much.

    14. Lilysparrow*

      People don’t actually want or care about this information, most of the time. They are looking for topics to talk about.

      People learn more about each other from the conversation dynamics than from the information exchanged. So if he doesn’t want people to accurately learn that he is nervous and unusually freaked out by basic introductions, then he needs to craft and practice responses that he can use comfortably, and lead people into mutually interesting topics.

      Where do you live = what part of town, so they can possibly discuss good restaurants or landmarks, or local history, or aesthetics.

      Answering “On the Lower East Side” or whatever isn’t personal information. It’s narrowing down the universe of potential things to talk about to find some commonality.

      Nobody actually cares where you live or whether you have siblings, or what you did over the weekend. They just care if you’re pleasant to talk to and easy to get along with.

      1. londonedit*

        Definitely. Asking someone where they live is quite common in my experience, because people either live in London or they live outside the city and commute in, so it’s a natural conversation starter at work. But people don’t want details – it goes ‘I live in west London’. ‘Oh, nice – fairly easy commute for you then?’ ‘Yes, very – just one Tube line. I hate having to change!’ Or ‘Actually I live in Hertfordshire’ ‘Ooh, really? I bet it’s lovely out there – how long does it take you to get in?’ ‘Oh, it’s not so bad – less than an hour on the train and then I tend to walk to the office’. I’ve never had anyone pry into the details, and even if they did it’s easy to deflect with an answer that is polite and sociable but doesn’t give away information that you’re not comfortable with. ‘Yes, I’ve been out that way for about five years now – how about you? How’s your commute?’

        I don’t share a ton of personal information, but chatting about where you live and what your hobbies are is pretty normal, and people will find it surprising if you’re not willing to do it at all. No one expects every gory detail, but there’s no harm in sharing the odd bit about your personal life if someone asks. It’s easy to pick and choose what you share – ‘Oh, I’m going for a run on Saturday morning and probably then just hanging out with friends, you?’ is perfectly acceptable even though the real answer might be ‘I’m going for a run with my sister who is recovering from a long illness, then I’m going on a third date with a guy I’m really quite excited about, and then going over to see a friend who has just split up with her boyfriend and thinks she might be pregnant’.

    15. Anono-me*

      Your roommate needs to learn how to give boring useless socially acceptable answers. Can you practice with him a little bit? It should give him some scripts and some confidence so he doesn’t have to think of them on the spot.

      For example:
      Cw:Where do you live?
      Rm: I’m in an apartment on the south side of town.
      Cw: Me too. Where exactly on the south side of town?
      Rm: Not to far from the Llama Park. What about you?
      Cw: 123 Main St South.
      Rm: Darn, we are too far away to carpool. Hey did you hear that (very minor local drama that Rm is completely not interested in but can milk for hours of conversation with this coworker. )
      Cw: So are you married?
      Rm: No, haven’t found the right person yet. How about you? (Rm does NOT need to say how hard he is looking.)
      Cw: So where are you from?
      Rm: Oh, I grew up around here. (Or just say state name.)

      Roommate also might find it helpful to consider directing the conversation towards a favorite popular TV show or local sports team.

    16. Ethyl*

      If your roommate would find it useful to come at this from a scientific perspective, it could be helpful to point him towards some of the more linguistics-oriented writing on the topic of small talk. Googling “social function of speech” or “phatic communication” is a starting point, and here’s a good article that delves into it:

    17. Emilitron*

      He should really think about WHY he wants that privacy. It’s easy on his side to feel like they just don’t need to know, it won’t help them in any way, I don’t have to tell anybody if I don’t want to, not relevant, etc. It’s easy on the commenter side to say things like “they’re not trying to Google your address” and “people are just making conversation”. It seems like people are addressing the information-privacy and safety aspect of the anxiety, but for me it’s not that at all. I’m happy to tell anybody what town I live in, my university, where I grew up, etc – but I absolutely HATE questions about my media consumption. I will not answer “what’s your favorite X” type questions (band, book, movie, actor, TV, etc) and questions about what I did in the evenings or on weekends; I will sometimes volunteer info if it’s sufficiently mainstream (like that I’m a fan of Avengers and I went for Thai food last night). Anything else will put me on the edge of not-quite panic attacks, because I don’t want to explain the niche hobbies that I’m into, the very specific music I love that you are almost guaranteed to hate, etc. I think it’s a relic of growing up with weird parents in a tiny rural town and getting made fun of by my elementary-school classmates for (a) not knowing anything cool and (b) talking about things they’d never heard of. Old trauma means I’d get nervous saying I went out for sushi last night because I’d feel personally attacked if the person responded with “I don’t know how anybody can eat raw fish”. Lots of growth (hello, therapy!) and I can stop expecting the worst-case response and even reply to it with “nobody asked you to eat it” and eventually get over feeling judged. So anyway. I’m projecting, but I strongly suspect that he’s freaking out less about privacy and more about social anxiety, fear of them saying he’s doing it wrong.

    18. ZoeyF*

      It’s not weird to not volunteer anything when there’s a conversation around you but def weird when people ask outright. Esp when most people do that to try and be inclusive/ polite. Vague is totally fine ‘not too far’, ‘maybe 20 to 35 mins depending on traffic’, ‘west of here’ are all fine. If anyone asks more in depth than that, you can def push back with a ‘why are you asking’. But what happens if there is a legit reason someone asks something personal? Like ‘there’s a huge traffic pileup on road ABC and let me know if you will turn around and work from home or be late’. By admitting to working from home, being late, or not people would know if you live somewhere impacted by that road?

    19. Smile-a-thon*

      I think personal questions are code. Nobody really cares about your address, or what exactly you did for the weekend. They are either just making conversations, or trying to signal that they wish you well.

      You don’t have to go in detail, just answer in kind — “I’m in Andover county” or “Oh yeah, got outside this weekend to enjoy the sun – did you get to take advantage of the great weather?”

      And remember, if you feel like the questions are interrogations, always answer the question with a question. “I’m not that far away from the office, where do you live?” (or for rude questions “Why do you ask?”)

      1. Auntie Social*

        And it’s polite to flip the question—“i just cleaned out my pantry/detailed the car, what did you do?” Often when people ask, they really want to tell what THEY did.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          This is a really good point. They don’t want to know. They want to talk.

    20. Venus*

      I think it can be a problem to be paranoid about discussing anything personal. In my experience if someone is rigid in their personal life then it extends into their workplace. I have colleagues who are vague, as am I, but the result is that we talk about traffic and the weather rather than more personal details.

      There is a guy here who is obsessive about personal information (for example we are required to list Next of Kin before a trip, and he freaked out about it), and it extends into his professional interactions (he doesn’t want to share and is very difficult to work with). He pesters coworkers to support him when he gets in trouble, yet gets offended when we ask for details (although he probably doesn’t want to give details because he’s often the source of a problem).

      The irony is that he often asks people for personal details, so that he can criticize them. He asked me if my new apartment cost more than my last one (when I mentioned moving) and I said it did, at which point he grumbled about people in their 20s spending foolishly and being in debt forever. I gave him a raised eyebrow and then walked away so that I could laugh… he thinks I’m much younger than I am!!

      1. Lilysparrow*

        He does realize, right, that Next of Kin doesn’t mean you have to disclose details about your actual blood relatives?

        It means, “Who do we have your remains shipped to if the plane goes down?” Or “Who gets to make medical decisions if you get hit by a bus and wind up in a coma?”

        Nobody is interested in the state of your familial relationships. They just need your health care proxy & executor.

    21. Take Me Home!*

      I had an ex bf like that. Except he was worse, I couldn’t invite friends to his house because he didn’t know them and didn’t want them to know where he lived. In his defense he did work at the NSA, but low level analyst, not at the level of ‘someone has befriended me for a decade in hopes that I’d start dating ex bf and they could finally learn his address.’

      Most people talking to someone new casually will ask them questions. The point isn’t to find out your address (as someone pointed out, if you gave your address, people would find that weird), it’s to find a commonality you can talk about… starting with the most known thing (you probably have a living vessel somewhere commutable from our current location). So roommate can come up with scripts like “Oh I just moved and I finally have space for my woodworking!” or “I unfortunately moved away from this area with a great dog park for Duckie, my chihuahua mix.” This will come off as really warm, if they don’t want to talk about the woodworking or the dog, it leads into an easy “what do you like to do with your spare time?” Another option is to stay on the topic of living and say something like “Oh, about 30 min south on a good day, since the traffic is always so bad, though, it takes me an hour to get in most days, totally ridiculous!” or “Oh, I live about a mile that way, which is great because I can walk in” and then ask them about their commute.

      I think he will find it difficult to take the path of no socializing, and it will come off as frigid. And that might have professional ramifications depending on the field (I have a science background and people there are more forgiving of social ineptitude). His best bet is to practice exchanging social niceties and come up with vague but true nonanswers and then ask people about themselves.

    22. LunaLena*

      You should tell him to be like Fujin and just give one-word answers: “Did you do anything fun this weekend?” “FUN. SLEEP.” Do that enough times and people will just stop asking. Problem solved! :D

      Just kidding, mostly just wanted to respond because I loved FF8 and can’t resist making references to it. But I agree with the rest of the advice here, just vague answers like “I live on the west side of town” or “I was tired so I slept a lot” are usually good enough. I’m a pretty private person myself, so for me it helps to have a mental line drawn about stuff I’ll talk about and stuff I won’t. Like, I’ll talk to my co-workers all day about what video games I played or what cute thing my cat did, but personal issues (like medical problems) are off-limits. As long as I stick to the topics I know in my mind are safe, I’m fine with casual conversation and don’t feel like anyone is prying (and I say this as someone who is sensitive to giving out personal info because I was aggressively stalked by an ex years ago).

      1. NewNewbie*

        In college I definitely gave the “I caught up on sleep!” or “slept in until noon” types answers to inquires about my weekend sometimes. And it was true. :)

    23. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

      I get that he’s worried that he’ll be seen as hiding something… but that’s because he is hiding something! So he’s worried that he’ll be perceived as doing something that he is actually doing and which is 100% within his control to change.

      I dunno, I yo-yo between being an oversharer and being paranoid about privacy, but even I know how to talk about basic stuff like where I live or where I graduated from without getting too in-depth.

    24. montescristo1985*

      The easiest way for him to deal with this is for him to ask them the questions. People love to talk about themselves. Then you get the reputation for being a good listener, instead of weirdly secretive.

    25. iglwif*

      I tend to treat “where do you live?” as more like “whereabouts do you live?” Nobody wants your address; they’re looking to have some idea of how far away from the office you are, what area of the city you’re in, maybe if you’re a potential carpooling prospect (if there are people in your workplace who drive there), that kind of thing. It’s for general conversation purposes, not for stalking. (A stalker wouldn’t ask you directly, they’d find out the info by sneaking into the HR files or something.) (I mean, I assume lol)

      The only information I’ve ever seriously tried to conceal from co-workers for any length of time is medical stuff, and OMG when you don’t tell people things and they start to notice something’s off, THEY MAKE S*** UP. And it’s always, always weirder and worse than the reality.

    26. Former Retail Manager*

      Yeah…your roommate is taking it too far and he also probably thinks that people want more specific answers than they really do. Where do you live? Oh, near downtown…it’s great…lots of events are always going on. Or, oh I live about an hour away…the commute can be rough. I do think his current reactions make him appear frigid and like he is hiding something. He just needs to learn to be pleasant and make polite conversation without revealing anything too private. If he can’t get a grip on this now (I’m assuming he’s young-ish) this is really going to be a detriment at some point unless he’s in a highly technical field where quirkiness is accepted or he works mostly alone with no real need for interaction. His co-workers aren’t trying to stalk him on the weekends. They’re probably just trying to suss out if he’s an okay guy to talk about TV shows and sports with.

      If you want to help him, I’d really try to practice some scenarios with him so he’ll have a repertoire of potential responses at the ready when someone asks how his weekend was/where he lives/holiday plans, etc.

    27. LGC*

      To answer your direct question: One of my old bosses got married and went on a honeymoon and none of his coworkers knew until he came back. (I was his direct report at the time, so I only found out after I got promoted and I talked to the vocational counselor.) So it’s not that weird. But, as a lot of other people pointed out…it is “weird” that he’s having such an exaggerated reaction to any sort of personal question! I have a feeling he is hiding something – because it sounds like more than just anxiety behind it.

      Further, as many other people have noted, the real problem here is that he is…misunderstanding what people mean. I mean this seriously – does he take other things literally and expect full detail? Like, if you ask him, “how was your day?,” does he expect that he has to give a detailed account of what happened? So I think that…intellectualizing the panic he feels isn’t addressing the issue, because he’s having a logical response to an unreasonable understanding.

      This might be something that he needs to work out with his therapist eventually, but – yeah – in the meantime, he should remind himself that he just needs to be general (and stick with that!) Many other people have given good scripts to deal with it, so I won’t repeat them here, but – yeah – town or general area is fine. I won’t even give my exact town name a lot of the time, but that’s because I live in a small town and most people I work with wouldn’t know where it was.

  6. China Beech*

    Resume question – relevant experience: A few years ago I left my job in government in order to possibly switch to the nonprofit sector. For three years I worked part-time (retail) while volunteering for the non-profit at which I thought I wanted to work. The non-profit was not a good fit for me (although I was good at and enjoyed the work) and I returned to the government last year. I am working on a new resume and need some advice. I want to include only jobs relevant to my current sector, but if I do that then I have a gap of almost 3 years even though I was working in another industry. I got my current job without a resume because it’s the type of job that requires one to list every job, every residence, every detail since birth. Now there are some industry-related jobs I am interested in and would like to have a great resume. How do reflect that I was working during those three years without the jobs appearing as irrelevant or extraneous? Thank you much for your assistance!

    1. WellRed*

      I think it’s more important to show that you were actually employed, rather than having such a large gap to explain.

      1. China Beech*

        Totally agree; I was also curious if anyone had ever added that type of work experience elsewhere on the resume? If not, I will just add it in the traditional chrono. format. Thanks!

    2. Ms. Meow*

      For some jobs I’ve set up my resume with “Relevant Experience” and “Other Experience” sections. I’d put both the retail and the non-profit volunteering work in the Other section with the concurrent dates. Hopefully, any good hiring manger and/or interviewer should be able to pick up what you did, and if not they will ask good questions about it. Just make sure if they question it that you answer clearly and try not to seem defensive. Everyone’s lives take different turns than we originally expected.

      1. China Beech*

        Ms. Meow, I LOVE THIS, thanks! It’s elegant and functional. And you are right, I never planned to walk away from my career, as I had worked toward it and planned for it my entire life. I just accomplished all I could there and fell out of love with it (and it was extremely high stress to boot). Thank you very much and I hope you have a lovely weekend!

        1. Ms. Meow*

          I’m glad I could help! I also what it’s like to set up your career for one specific path and then it just… doesn’t work out. I wish you all the best in your job search!

        2. Southern Yankee*

          I also like this idea. I would definitely mention the reasons for the gap in your cover letter. That should take it from “what’s with this gap” to “ok, makes sense”.

          1. China Beech*

            100%! Even with the Other Experience section, the reader is going to see the gap first, and hopefully keep skimming to the next section. If it’s in my cover letter (and they actually read it) they will be on the look out for that. Thanks much for the responses!

      2. KAG*

        I’m concerned about how difficult my chronological resume is to read right now, because my timeline naturally lends itself to several sections: Education, Experience, Other Experience, Volunteer, Research and Publications. It seems as though it would be difficult to quickly get an idea of my timeline professionally when the dates are jumping around from section to section.

        Case in point – a recruiter recently asked me about why I left my summer MBA internship. This was effectively a “cold call” on the recruiter’s part, so I’m not putting *as* much weight on it, but it concerned me: I do have *real* resume gaps that I need to explain, and on top of that, I don’t want to have to justify my leaving my internship after three months because it was scheduled to end in time for me to go back to school.

        How have people handled this in the past? Particularly with the nebulous “Research / Publications” when those were independently performed (a lot of the Volunteer stuff, too, come to think of it)?

      3. WJan*

        This. I used “Relevant Work Experience” and I think just the heading makes it clear enough that it’s not my entire work experience, just what’s relevant for the job I’m applying for. It seems like most of the time you also have to fill out a work history form of some sort, too, so I include my whole history there.

    3. Clorinda*

      It’s probably better to have the non-industry job and the volunteering on the resume rather than a three-year gap. If anyone questions it, the explanation you gave here is perfectly reasonable: you tried it, it wasn’t for you, so now you’re doing this.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          If it’s in the middle of your experience, I don’t know that you need to get into it in the cover letter but be ready to talk about it in the interview.

          1. China Beech*

            Thanks much! I’ll play around with a couple of options and formats and see where I am at. Just the suggestion from Ms. Meow and all the kind replies has put my mind at ease! have a great weekend!

    4. Lilysparrow*

      I leave everything chronological, but only list company, title, and dates on irrelevant jobs. No need to get into accomplishments or details of the role if it’s not applicable.

  7. Lucette Kensack*

    Is it reasonable to be annoyed by this?

    (tl;dr: To avoid paying taxes on employee parking, our organization created a reserved parking spot for our CEO by hanging a “No Parking, Tow Away Zone” sign instead of a “Reserved Parking” sign.)


    I work for a large nonprofit that owns its own office building and parking garage. Last year’s tax reform included a change that makes expenses related to employee parking taxable (previously those expenses were deductible).

    Our parking garage is open to the public (we have a large event space in our building, so it’s used extensively by non-employees), so our lawyers determined that our parking spaces are not “employee parking” and as such are not taxable… except one: the reserved spot for our CEO.

    The solution? They removed the “Parking Reserved for [CEO]” sign and put in a “No Parking, Tow Away Zone” sign on the spot… which our CEO still parks in daily.

    Shady. I don’t care that the CEO has a reserved parking spot (there is abundant parking for everyone, and it makes sense to give her a close-by spot so she doesn’t waste time looking for a spot). But I’m troubled that multiple people at our organization – the CEO, the controller, the facilities head, etc. – all signed off on what is essentially a (very minor) tax dodge. Like, if we want the parking spot we should accept that we live in a society and pay our damn taxes.

    … or am I overreacting?

    1. WellRed*

      Your company is ridiculous. How much $ are they talking about? I live in a city where parking is at a premium which may be coloring my view of this.

      1. Cat Fan*

        You’re right. I’d love to know what the actual tax savings are for one parking spot. What masterminds!

        1. China Beech*

          He IS parked in a clearly marked spot that says no parking, tow away zone…..! #justified ;)

      1. Take Me Home!*

        This is what my first thought was. And then write about it in the petty thread.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      While not a hill I would die on, it would alert me to be watchful for larger signs of corruption. Granted this might be a one-off but I’d be wary.

      1. CM*


        It’s a bad sign that their response to a law/regulation they don’t want to follow is “How can we cheat our way out of it?” What else will they cheat their way out of?

    3. Auburn*

      It’s unethical. Likely pretty small potatoes overall. But If you feel like it represents a larger indifference to legal or ethical standards that’s worth noting. Especially for the CEO of a nonprofit. It’s possible that one person had a stupid idea to fix a problem they didn’t explain very well so no one questioned it. The new law is pretty confusing in how it’s worded and it took a little while to get clarification on the formula to use for calculating it so I could see someone just not really understanding it or understanding what was being suggested to them.

    4. Person from the Resume*

      I’m with you. Taxes should be for the benefit for city and the people there, and people and organizations need to just pay them and not do such a shady tax dodge.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      JFC, the taxes on ONE PARKING SPOT cannot be that high, that’s such a minor thing to dodge it makes me think about what less petty things they do to get out of taxes. It’s a non-profit, so I’m well aware they’re trying to keep costs low but if the CEO really feels so important that they need to save their sliver of time looking for parking and having a reserved spot, they need to pay the fee associated with it. They’re certainly shady and they are probably cooking the books other places and I would be leery of their practices.

      If I saw some dillweed parked in the tow-away zone, I’d think poorly of them. Then if I found out it was a CEO of some organization, I’d never donate or use those services honestly.

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        For me, it’s seeing the car parked in a tow-away zone that never gets towed. If I’m using that parking lot frequently, I’m going to believe that I can do whatever I please because no one’s watching, and that other similar activities might not be policed either. This sure wouldn’t make me feel like they have decent security, or possibly even TP in the ladies room.

        If I’m their “public”, I’m not impressed.

    6. boredatwork*

      This is a stupid rule that will likely have guidance issued to better interpret the law. The amount of logistical headache to calculate the value of that singular spot makes me side with the non-profit.

      I’m not well versed in non-profit accounting, but I can’t even see how this would generate a tax bill for the federal government, if accounted for correctly.

    7. Psyche*

      I would be extremely troubled that they are willing to do something blatantly illegal to save what is likely a negligible amount. It says very bad things about their ethics. What are they willing to do that is more subtle or to save even larger amounts?

      1. Auntie Social*

        Exactly—if local news found out then the IRS would find out, subject the whole org to an audit, etc. Nothing is worth looking bad to the public.

      2. auburn*

        This may be about dodging paperwork rather than taxes. This law was a real pain in the ass for nonprofits who aren’t used to having any “unreleted business income”. Biggest cost to us was $ in consultations with our CPA firm and staff time, not taxes. I’m hoping this is one that will get eliminated at some point soon. Nevermind that it’s just weird AF that an expense is considered non-business related taxable income for nonprofits. I understand that it’s how they felt they could make it more “fair” to for-profit business who now can’t deduct this expense but frankly, It’s a bit of headscratcher and the burden on nonprofits to figure it all out without any guidance early on was particularly frustrating.

        1. Psyche*

          Being unwilling to do the paperwork rather than unwilling to pay taxes doesn’t really make it better. If it is really that hard, let the CEO drive around for parking. That is legal AND avoids the paperwork. Otherwise they should either figure it out or keep the reserved sign and risk being dinged by fines.

  8. Bee's Knees*

    I have now injured/poisoned two people with the candy tub in my office. The first person was eating cinnamon candies, and wondering why they had sores in their mouth. A week in, they remembered they were allergic to cinnamon. And there’s these gross taffy like things in there, I didn’t think anyone actually ate them. One of the managers did. And then heard/felt a crunch. Pulled out the candy, and the crown came with it. So that’s fun.

    Our quality manager got in a fight with a stapler. The stapler won.

    And earlier this week, someone did drugs in one of the bathrooms. We don’t even know what it is. Someone brought what I’m assuming is a crack pipe to the office after they found it, and I got to call the cops. I had drugs on my desk.

    1. Jamie*

      You are clearly a threat to those around you, so you should be sent home early on Friday to get a headstart on your weekend and learn your lesson!

      1. Bee's Knees*

        I wish. I’d have to do something worse though, I have meetings scheduled (by someone who shall remain nameless and glared at) from three until five.

    2. I Work on a Hellmouth*

      My boss mixes those new spicy Starbursts in with regular Starbursts in our required desk candy jars. She does it specifically to burn the mouths of residents, and is especially delighted if kids pull them.

      I want to ask how one fights a stapler, but I don’t think the answer will be pleasant…

      1. Bee's Knees*

        I’m not really sure. I just heard shuffling and then cussing, and then him attempting to open the first aid cabinet with one hand, and when I went out, there were papers everywhere with… evidence on them. He got a sharps container of his very own for those, and I showed him how one uses the automatic stapler properly. And told him that the copy machine will do that job for him.

        And your boss is evil. But you know that.

          1. IrisEyes*


            I did this once as an object lesson for a group of kids who like to have “challenges” to see who can deal with spicy or sour candy best.

            That type of petty yet possibly sociopathic stunt is totally on brand for Hellmouth boss.

            1. Miss Astoria Platenclear*

              I didn’t know Cruella de Vil had gone into property management.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Annnnd that’s the Hellmouth’s boss who makes me glad I work for my crazypants corporate overlord.

        2. I Work on a Hellmouth*

          Oh, I work in the office of an apartment community. Anyone with a desk is required to have one out, and there are also several scattered throughout the office. It’s supposed to make residents and prospective residents find the place welcoming.

          My boss has also required that fruit infused “spa water” be put our daily. The spa water probably IS going to make someone sick… she doesn’t clean the fruit before cutting it up, and she doesn’t let us change it out daily. Barf city. I try not to mention it to people who come in, but she likes to force glasses of it onto people.

          1. No Green No Haze*

            “she doesn’t clean the fruit before cutting it up, and she doesn’t let us change it out daily.

            Oh. Oh God.

    3. Not So Super-visor*

      the toxic candy dish is cracking me up. put an “eat at your own risk” sign up!

          1. SignalLost*

            Go to the dollar store. Buy a nice bowl and a shark toy. Hot glue.

            I did this last Halloween with their spiderweb bowls and squeaky rats (per an Epbot tutorial) for a club event. Worked great!

  9. Jack Be Nimble*

    I’ve had a rash of applicants trying to come into the office to apply in person or talk to hiring managers ahead of interviews. The most egregious was a student who hid in the bathroom for over an hour after their class toured our offices, waiting for her chance to slip out and introduce herself around. They’ve all gotten a crash course in boundaries from myself or a coworker, but what the hell.

    1. MuseumChick*

      Sounds like something a local university might be pushing in their career center. Might be worth it to ask the people where they are hearing this is the right way to do things.

      1. Jack Be Nimble*

        Next time, I’ll have to ask where they heard it and be a bit gentler in telling them it’s a bad call. We had a really pushy/creepy applicant try to sneak in a while back, and I’m still jumpy, so I tend to shut them down harder than I mean to.

        1. MuseumChick*

          Of for sure! That sounds so creepy. What makes me think it’s a university career center is that it suddenly happening with a large group. Are the people doing this college age?

          I also think while you do not owe it to them in the slightest it would be a real kindness to tell them “Look, whoever gave you this advise is 100% wrong.”

          1. Jack Be Nimble*

            They’ve all been young, but mostly not university-aged. Of the most recent three, one was an undergrad looking for an internship and one was a recent-ish grad. The bathroom hider was in her mid-twenties and in an MBA program–even if she had limited workplace experience, I’d hope that a graduate program would be offering better guidance!

      2. Rainy*

        I actually work in higher ed career advising, and we 100% do not EVER tell people to do this kind of thing. Most of this kind of “advice” is coming from students’ parents and grandparents–I know, because they’ll come in and ask “Should I do [hideous boundary violation]?” and I say “What? God, no! Who told you to do this?” and it’s almost always either an older family member or else something they heard through the student grapevine worked one time so they try it.

        1. Amyiriel*

          Yep, my parents keep insisting that I need to do that kind of stuff, especially my dad…even though he has been working state and county government jobs for almost 30 years.

          1. Rainy*

            I have clients pretty regularly reach out to ask if their parents’ advice is actually good, and most of the time it’s really, really not. I always, always thank them for asking before they do it, because some of the stuff their parents are telling them to do is so bad. :(

            I don’t see undergrads much but I had one come in once and give me his resume. It was in purple comic sans and I was just like WUT. His dad told him to.

      1. Jack Be Nimble*

        There was one super chipper applicant who had applied online THE NIGHT BEFORE and wanted to give me her resume in person!!! No!!!!!!!!!

    2. Bee's Knees*

      Dang. I had a guy who got offended the other day when I told him we weren’t hiring, and even if we were, it was all online. He did not take off his sunglasses the entire time he was speaking to me.

    3. AnonymEsq.*

      So weird! We just had that happen here. Some young guy showed up in shorts and a t-shirt to follow-up on an application he submitted for an accounting job. Is this a thing now?

    4. Evil HR Person*

      OOOhh, me too!! It’s never been this bad. It’s coinciding with the end of the school year, methinks. It seems like the school career coaches all went to the same event with the same bad ideas and have been sharing these same bad ideas everywhere.

    5. For what it's worth*

      It was part of the first episode of GLOW, maybe that’s where they got it from. In any case, fiction based on what didn’t even fly back in the 80s probably isn’t the best way to go.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oooh, if you want to write in with a letter about this, I’d be very interested in printing it, especially if you include details about how you and your coworkers have handled it (because it sounds like you’ve handled it well, which isn’t always the case).

  10. PB&Jill*

    Curious what others think of this. No one in the office where I work is allergic to peanuts. Some of us (myself included) will occasionally bring in pb&j or peanut butter crackers for lunch or snacks. However, a new coworker just sent an email to the entire staff stating that no peanut products should be eaten at work because her 8 year old son is allergic and she is concerned about bringing home any “peanut residue.”
    This is the first I’ve heard of such sensitivity and, while I can easily do without PB at work, there is a bit of snark going on right now with the rest of my coworkers about snowflakes making up second hand peanut allergies.
    Is this a normal request in today’s day and age? If it makes a difference, this is not an office environment where children are permitted.

    1. ghostwriter*

      I would check with HR about this. It sounds definitely unreasonable (why not just NOT touch peanut butter if she’s that worried?) but for something health related it’s probably better to double check. Maybe there’s a middle ground where you can clearly label things with peanuts in the break room?

    2. Semaj*

      This is not a normal request. If this were, any adult working in a school would have to refrain from eating peanut products at home and restaurants, as would their family members, because then the school worker can transmit ‘residue’ to school where a kid might be allergic, no? Not encouraging you to disrespect the request, and I understand where it’s coming from, but.. not normal.

    3. Manders*

      I think there genuinely are some peanut allergies that can get that extreme, although I do wonder sometimes how people can cope with being out in the world where it’s just not possible to control whether the strangers you might encounter may have touched peanuts. It sounds very difficult and I have sympathy for that!

      Is almond butter, cashew butter, or other nut butter still ok? Peanut butter is convenient and cheap but there should be some similar substitutes.

      1. Manders*

        I should add that I don’t think this is “normal” but severe allergies don’t always play by the rules of normal etiquette. I also wonder why this woman went straight to emailing the whole office instead of asking a manager to make the announcement for her. The concern may well be valid but it’s a strange first impression to make on your new coworkers.

        1. PB&Jill*

          Yes, this email isn’t making a good first impression for her (the tone didn’t help- it came across as her telling us not to bring food made with peanuts, not asking). I don’t really care that much and can make my sandwiches with something else if it comes to it, but the coworkers sitting around me have been talking about how ridiculous this email is all morning. I wonder if maybe her kid was just diagnosed and she is being super cautious or if she is just a high maintenance snowflake (office opinion appears to be the latter, unfortunately for her).

        2. Jaid*

          Exactly. This should have come from her manager or HR.

          At my work, we have people with various allergies (citrus!), so you see signs posted around their unit reminding people not to bring the allergen around. But there’s no outright ban for the whole floor.

        3. ANon.*

          Agreed. Not all peanut allergies are alike in severity, so we really can’t compare whether her request is medically overboard or not, as some other comments have been trying to do.

          I get that it’s easy to see it as hyper-controlling since she obviously can’t control every person she comes in contact with, if/when they came into contact with peanuts. But who knows? If her son really is that sensitive, isn’t it better for the office to err on the safe side? Surely finding peanut alternatives is better than risking her son’s life!

          1. Manders*

            Yes! To be honest, I did once have a coworker who I suspected was exaggerating about some health issues, and I did my fair share of eye-rolling in private far away from her. But when a health issue so severe that a coworker’s child could die, I think taking precautions is reasonable.

            The real problem here is that by making an end-run around her manager to declare this a new office policy, she showed that she’s not very sensitive to the realities of office politics, and she didn’t leave any openings for people to bring up other possibilities like peanut-free zones. It’s possible that her child does really have a severe allergy and also she’s not particularly diplomatic.

    4. [insert witty username here]*

      I think this is going overboard. So does this person not go to any establishment where peanuts are present? (rhetorical question, I know you don’t know the answer) This seems rather extreme. I could see MAYBE requesting no peanut products in a shared breakroom, conference rooms, or at her desk (definitely the last one is OK), but people should be allowed to eat PB at their own desks.

      1. lilsheba*

        So it’s actually the opposite where I work, they don’t want peanut butter or any tree nuts at people’s desks, they ask to confine them to the break rooms.

    5. dealing with dragons*

      one of my old coworkers was (is? haha) super allergic to peanuts and his only request was that I either let him know I’m eating at my desk so he can relocate, or I eat the pb in the break room away from him.

      I’m not sure you can reasonably accommodate someone who is not an employee.

      1. Celeste*

        That’s more like it. I can see her asking to keep her immediate work area free of peanuts, but anything more is a reach.

      2. Mae*

        Right, I have a severe peanut allergy and I just ask people to let me know so I can remove myself from the area. I’m a librarian and a patron had peanut smell on their breath that made my mouth itch, so I just left the public area for a few minutes. (Why do people stand so close to me that I can smell their breath, but I digress). If she washes her hands she should be fine.

        1. MatKnifeNinja*

          To be fair, peanut butter reeks. I don’t eat it or have it in my home, but I swear I can smell a peanut butter sandwich across a room.

      3. Nye*

        Yeah, I worked with a guy who had severe allergies himself and he didn’t go as far as this coworker. He did ask everyone not to leave any dishes that had touched peanut butter in the shared sink (I think he had his own dishes / sponge), and to let him know if we brought anything with peanuts in for a potluck so he could avoid them. And this was a guy who couldn’t walk into certain restaurants because they cooked with peanut oil and he couldn’t even breath the air. I think the new coworker is being ridiculous. (As someone else pointed out, maybe this is a new diagnosis and she’s going overboard as she’s adjusting to it?)

        1. Mimi Me*

          I worked with a guy with a chocolate allergy that could be triggered by smell. One day a year our department did a “chocolate day” and he would work from home that day. It was always scheduled on a Friday to give the area time to air out over the weekend. He never asked us to cancel it though.

    6. Muriel Heslop*

      Your co-worker is completely over the line. Her request is akin to asking everyone in her son’s class not to eat peanut butter at home because they could bring it to school (that said, I always wipe my kids down if they eat PB in the morning for this reason. They both have allergic kids in their classes.) You keep the school environment decontaminated as much as possible and hope other parents are on board, but her ask is beyond reasonable.

      Tell her no. She is responsible for decontaminating herself. I teach school and I have a students with severe nut allergies. I feel for your co-worker – severe food allergies are scary and challenging, plus you really rely on other parents taking it seriously. Maybe she could connect with a support group for allergy moms.

    7. Incognite mode*

      that is really weird. I have no idea if the peanut residue is a thing however, I feel that if it is then she should be policing what she brings home herself. So long as you aren’t putting peanut products onto her desk or stuff, it isn’t hard for her to clean her dishes if she is taking some home and used the shared kitchen. Plus peanut products means a lot more than just peanut butter. A lot of thai curries have peanuts in them, etc.

      I have food allergies. Granted I am an adult. But its my job to make sure the things I eat are safe, not anyone elses. To me she is passing her responsibility on to everyone else so she doesn’t have to do the work of checking her stuff. It would be one thing if her child was going to be at your workplace, or if it were her childs school. But trying to control what HER colleagues eat because of her son is a bit much.

      That being said, I really hate your usage of snowflake. Its a term used by the majority to suppress the voice of a minority group. If you label them as snowflakes you can just dismiss people and (sometimes) legitimate concerns. Its dehumanizing.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Well, it CAN be… but generally that would only become an issue if she ate or touched the peanut product and then didn’t brush her teeth or wash her hands before going home. I don’t see how else other people’s PB or candy would get on her clothes in a normal office.

        Unless you guys work in bar or restaurant with peanut shells on the floor like Texas Roadhouse or something.

      2. epi*

        I am agnostic about the appropriateness of this woman’s behavior, but I really want to boost what you are saying about the term “snowflake”.

        I realize this is a recent change in our language, but that term has been used increasingly as a politicized slur to refer to young people, anyone more liberal than the speaker, and people who need accommodations for their physical or mental health. If the OP or their coworkers are actually calling someone they work with a “snowflake”, they are behaving very inappropriately at work– worse than someone who sent an email that is maybe clueless and high-handed.

        This is not such a widespread use that I am going to immediately assume ill of someone who says it. But the OP and their coworkers should know what company it puts them in to use that term at work, especially on someone making a medical request, and consider if this is really the message they want to send. I can guarantee that at least some people who hear that term, will hear it as a slur. I do.

        1. Lissa*

          Yeah, this term has changed in use a lot. I remember 10 or so years ago the term was used to describe entitled people who felt they should get special treatment in the context of things like, people who ask crafters to work for free, or expect to be able to flout the rules of the gym because they are THEM after all! “Keep your dogs on a leash? Oh that means OTHER people” or being rude to people working tech support for not bumping their request to the head of the line.

          I think some people probably still do use it that way so I wouldn’t necessarily assume in context someone who said it was trying to slur a particular age/political view but it has definitely taken on that tone lately.

        2. EinJungerLudendorff*

          Yes, that jumped out to me too.
          Dismissing medical accommodations with that term makes me suspect I wouldn’t want to work with OP or his colleagues.

    8. LibbyG*

      My kid has a peanut allergy, and I eat peanut butter stuff at work and all that. So I don’t perceive this request as medically necessary

      However, the thing about peanut/tree-nut allergies is that they are ALL considered life-threatening, and that message is being conveyed to your coworker multiple times a year. Last year a 13 yo girl died from anaphylactic shock even after getting two doses from epipens right after exposure (and her dad is a doctor).

      So, with this terrifying context, an over-abundance of caution is understandable. Sunbutter (made from roasted sunflower seeds) is a great substitute. It’s an easy thing to accommodate.

      1. EtherIther*

        The fact that it’s easy to accommodate doesn’t mean it’s fair for an entire office to shift their eating habits if it isn’t necessary.

        1. EinJungerLudendorff*

          True, but it’s also not OP’s or the coworkers’ place to decide what is medically necessary or not. That’s for the doctors to determine, and the managers to arrange.

          Which is another reason why this should’ve gone through management, but that’s another issue.

          1. EtherIther*

            I agree – hence the “if”! If it’s necessary, that’s one thing. If it’s not necessary, it doesn’t matter how easy it would be for people to change their behavior, it still shouldn’t be forced on them.

    9. AnnoyedAnon*

      I wonder does this same person tell anyone she comes in contact with (cashiers, servers, etc.) not to eat peanut butter for the same reason? Why oh why does it have to get to this level? I would happily continue eating my peanut butter sandwiches, Nutter Butter cookies, Snickers, Reeses, etc. Ridiculous!

    10. Bunny Girl*

      To echo others, I don’t think this is a reasonable request. I think it would be kind to try to avoid eating peanut products around the coworker or in their own personal work space, but unless the coworker themselves has a severe allergy, banning it all together is over the line. This woman cannot reasonably expect that every single place that she goes she’ll be able to tell people not to eat peanut products. If she’s out shopping at a store and sees someone eating a Reese’s is she going to slap it out of their hand???

    11. CatCat*

      I don’t understand why her washing her hands is not adequate. I am not understanding how she could encounter any such residue otherwise. Admittedly though, I am not familiar with how this allergy can be trigger.

      At any rate, the coworkers should just ask her for more information about it instead of talking about her behind her back.

    12. Media Monkey*

      a friend of mine’s son is so allergic to peanuts that he had to go to Er after his dad ate peanuts on a flight and then travelled another 4 hours home and kissed him goodnight, causing the allergic reaction. some people have these pretty severly, and treating them like “snowflakes” (god i hate that term) causes people to be flippant about genuine allergies.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        This. It is likely that the coworker doesnt’ need to be that cautious, but it’s not a matter of her being a “snowflake.” Peanut allergies can be very serious, and you can pick up peanut protein without realizing it (which is how you get episodes of kids having reactions after touching a public doorknob). I don’t know whether the request is reasonable without having more information (I lean towards thinking it’s not), but I’m just a little bit wary of your coworkers’ lack of sympathy. Thinking she is probably asking for something unnecessary is one thing, calling her a snowflake is another. Has anyone thought to ask for more information before deciding she’s a drama llama, or asking about alternative ways to help assure she’s not bringing peanut protein home with her?

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          To clarify, I don’t think it’s the coworkers’ responsibility to find a better solution. It’s not. But if nobody wants to or plans to comply with her request, but they do have some sympathy or compassion for her, then there’s almost certainly middle ground between refusing to change anything and completely banning peanuts on the premises. It doesn’t sound like they do have much sympathy, though.

        2. EtherIther*

          I suspect she would have gotten more sympathy if she hadn’t sent an office-wide email demanding her coworkers change her behavior. Even if it was totally required for her child’s life, that isn’t the best approach…

      2. Malarkey*

        Except the coworkers aren’t going to this home and kissing her child. She’s the one that can’t eat peanuts, but it would be impossible to police what every person yo come into contact eats.

    13. Lilysparrow*

      I think if her child’s allergies are so extreme that this is a real concern (which is rare but possible), she needs to bear primary responsibility for protecting her child. If that means she has to shower & change clothes after work before touching her child, then that’s her responsibility.

      If she wants *help* from her co-workers that would make things easier for her, it’s normal and okay to request that help and be specific about what actions would be helpful.

      Unilaterally issuing a fake policy dictating what your co-workers are allowed to eat is not the right way to do that.

      If she wants an official no-peanut policy in the office, she needs to go through proper channels. If she won’t, or it isn’t accommodated, then she needs to back way the heck up and remember that she’s asking people for a favor to make her own life easier.

      She is capable of keeping peanut residue away from her child without this. It’s just a lot more work.

      1. LibbyG*

        Well, but dangerous possibilities are usually managed with redundant layers of protection. So ostensibly, her child is even more protected from a life-threatening exposure if she does what she can AND peanut proteins in the office environment are sharply reduced. It’s not necessarily either/or.

        Yes, peanut butter is tasty and convenient, but it is really that big a deal to just eat something else at work? To help prevent a remote but devastating risk?

        1. Mimi Me*

          I’ve literally had weeks where peanut butter and bread is all I had to bring for lunch because I had no funds to purchase any other alternatives. So yeah, I would say that it would be a big deal if a co-worker created a no-nut policy for a person who didn’t work in my office.

      2. Lis*

        I, many years ago, had an interview in a company that processed fish. It was a generational business where the grandfather set it up. The owner mentioned that one of his sisters was deathly allergic to fish, like really bad because she had been exposed so much before they realised what was causing the problem. They had implemented a decontamination room in the house so everyone changed their clothes and showered before coming into the communal areas, sister never went into that room.

    14. Not So Super-visor*

      The peanut residue is a thing. The best friend of our neighbor’s 10-year cannot be around anyone who has consumed peanut products in the last hour. Every time they’re playing in my driveway (we’re the childless neighbors with a basketball hoop that the previous owners installed and are cool with letting the kids use it), I freak out and do a mental “when was the last time you ate peanuts” check.

      1. Maryanne is a Ginger*

        The last hour? It’s not like peanut toxicity has a half life. It is more likely that the amount on the peanut eater has been rubbed off, or saliva has broken down remains in teeth.

        Rather than wait an hour, you could probably get the same reduction in risk by washing hands, brushing teeth, changing clothes.

      2. Clisby*

        But surely this mother isn’t consuming peanut products at work. So any residue would have to be from co-workers’ consumption, or just from being around peanut products in general (peanut dust in the air?)

        If that level of secondary residue is really dangerous to her child, then she needs to decontaminate herself before she gets home (or, at least, before she touches the kid.) I, personally, wouldn’t mind not bringing peanut products to work, but how can she be sure everyone else is complying? How can she guard against co-workers going out to lunch and eating a Chinese or Thai meal that includes peanuts? If she has any contact with customers, how can she be sure they haven’t eaten peanuts recently?

    15. Smile-a-thon*

      It is one thing to make accommodations for the needs of a coworker. It is another to make accommodations for the needs of a coworkers family member that does not work in the office.

      While I sympathsize that this is a parent trying to reduce risk for a child, it is not a reasonable request.
      If she is worried about peanut contamination, it would be far safer for her to (1) thoroughly wash her hands before going home and (2) change her clothing.

    16. Frankie*

      Looks like some think this is overboard, but this can actually be a huge, huge deal.

      It’s possible that this woman is being overcautious, but it’s just as possible that her kid is one of the ones who is at risk of hospitalization or death if he contacts peanut residue. That’s a real thing that is separate from a more mild allergy to peanuts. I don’t know how common it is, but my dad’s friend had a son with this type of extreme allergy and it made their lives miserable. If she’s in this situation, their lives are already hell and the least you can do is not bring in peanut butter and expose her to it.

    17. Pnut*

      This thread is a good reminder of how much misinformation there is about allergies. Just because you know someone who had a certain tolerance or experience or requirement for their allergies does not mean that is standard across the board. Please be respectful of those with a life-threatening health condition that often gets brushed off.

    18. Creme Horns*

      This isn’t normal. My work BFF is highly allergic to Peanuts like if I eat a PB cookie and use her keyboard she will need to use her Epi pen soon after. Her office requests are:
      – no eating peanut products in the cubes in directly touching her cube
      -no eating peanut products during meetings when she is there
      -use hand sanitizer before we touch anything on her desk in case we have had peanut contact.

      1. Rainy*

        I’ve had to ask coworkers to stop eating a very popular fruit around me because sometimes–not always, but sometimes, depending on fruit varietal and other factors–if you eat that fruit around me I will be unable to breathe.

    19. Loux in Canada*

      Not really? I mean, I’m pretty allergic to peanuts and nuts. Some of them I can be around totally fine, I can practically breathe in the residue without problems, and some of them I have to stay away from completely (well, I don’t go into Bulk Barn for that reason). But if, like, someone was in Bulk Barn and then came to my house, it’d be fine unless they were touching a bunch of peanuts and then proceeded to rub it all over my face or something.

      I’m thinking that maybe she had a scare recently, like my example above, and is now being overly cautious. But as long as she’s being careful herself, I don’t foresee it being an issue. Her son could have been recently diagnosed and this is what’s causing her overabundance of caution.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        Isn’t there a big difference between peanut butter and peanuts, in terms of peanut residue? I wouldn’t think that peanut butter would cause much concern about peanut residue since it’s not in a form that you would expect “dust” or “residue” to come from. I can see the person not wanting people cracking open peanuts and dropping shells on the floor, and how peanut residue could easily get transferred to clothes in that situation, but not with peanut butter, which is pretty self contained.

        1. ..Kat..*

          For a severe peanut allergy (which this would be), even peanut butter is bad news. You handle the peanut butter jar when you make a sandwich. You get some residue on your hands. When you eat the sandwich, there is still the risk of getting peanut residue on your hands from the outside of your sandwich (0r worse, oozing out from the inside of your sandwich). This can get on the table where you eat or what you touch after eating, which can transfer to your coworkers items, that she then takes home to her severely allergic child.

    20. Akcipitrokulo*

      She should have been less antagonistic. And it does sound unusual – but by no means impossible – so I’d just go “meh” and avoid bringing peanuts to office. If she’s over reacting… no harm done. If she’s not… harm averted.

    21. Jasnah*

      Personally this is the kind of thing where how the coworker handled it makes a big difference in my reaction.
      Scenario 1
      Coworker’s manager or HR: Since Coworker’s child is severely allergic to peanuts, we ask that you refrain from bringing in peanut butter or peanut products if at all possible. If you do eat peanuts at work, please do it in the break room and be sure to wash your hands and wipe surfaces thoroughly afterwards. Thanks for helping to keep this kid safe.
      Me: Wow that allergy sounds tough. I’ll save my pb&j for at home.

      Scenario 2
      Coworker sends mass email demanding that nobody bring peanuts to work anymore.
      Me: Who died and made you the No-Peanut Queen?! You can pry this PB&J from my peanut-butter-covered hands!!

      So for me it’s not even about the allergies themselves, but that it’s a lot easier to accommodate someone’s request if they ask nicely.

  11. I Work on a Hellmouth*

    So, it’s been a very tense week on the Hellmouth. Another building got struck by lightning, the pervy groundskeeper apparently was taking pictures of ladies bending over to pick up dog poop (which my boss insists was probably work related—she actually told the resident who called to complain that she was “sorry if [they] were offended, but per the lease we can photograph residents if we choose to”), but I am more caught up in the reprecussions of going to HR a few weeks ago.

    HR talked to my former coworker (The Good Leasing Consultant) on Monday. He actually gave me a call and let me know that the HR rep asked a lot of questions about the camera/microphones and how often my boss is out of the office, and that he thought they were going to do something and everything was going to be okay. Later that day, the HR rep called my boss and apparently asked a few questions about TGLC, and I guess that’s when my boss caught scent of something in the wind. All of a sudden she was asking me all kinds of questions about TGLC and talking about how he was a “disappointment” and saying that he had done something and probably made himself ineligible for rehire. “What a shame, what will he do when he decides he doesn’t like it over at his new place and tries to come back?” was an actual sentence uttered, and thank GOD she called that out from her office and was not looking directly at my face, because it probably pretty clearly read WHO WOULD EVER WANT TO COME BACK.

    The next morning (Tuesday), I overheard her on the phone with the VP. The first thing I heard her say was “Well, apparently TGLC has been talking to HR rep, about which I know not what, but she was calling and asking me questions” before going into the most terrible smear job about the guy. Her formerly favorite employee. Who, by the way, had an amazing work ethic and basically kept the place afloat and was fantastic. And then after she was done with him, she tore into me. Among many choice things she said that I might claim that I was too busy to get to finish all of my work duties, but really, she was carrying all of the load for the office. After the call was over she came out, sweetly asked me about my weekend, then oh so casually asked me if I had spoken to TGLC since Friday. Not fun times. She also suddenly started picking up a ton of the work, which she has been leaving me to handle solo since TGLC left. She tried to “subtly” grill me about TGLC throughout the rest of the day, also. I finally emailed my HR rep and said that she was asking me a lot of questions, some of them pretty weird, and I thought that she might know or suspect that I had been talking to HR, to which the rep replied that she would have no way of knowing or suspecting that, that the rep was going to have a conversation with the regional VP next, and that it was all being handled. Meanwhile, my boss started blowing up TGLC phone as soon as the work day ended, and picked back up again at 8am the next day (he did not answer or respond to any of her texts).

    The next day (Wednesday), Boss was already in when I got there, which… was freakish. She is never in before about 20-30 minutes after we open unless the regional VP is in town, and even then she usually isn’t in before anyone else. my boss continued trying to cover most of the office work, but also kept slipping out for weird and easily-found-to-be-fake reasons, although I didn’t find out why until Thursday, when I came in early and the maintenance supervisor pulled me aside to tell me that my boss kept hunting him down and grilling him (even at the end of the day when he was clocked out and trying to go to his apartment) about ME. Did I seem weird? Was I mad at her? Did he think that I disliked her? What was I up to when she wasn’t around? And so on. And then when my boss actually came in she kept asking me all sorts of strange small talk questions (paraphrased: “How old is your dog? 8 years, how sad, he’ll probably die soon,” “Talked to TGLC lately?”). She was just being… bizarre. And really freaking me out. So. I loosened the plug on the secret microphone that she has up behind my desk while she was at lunch, because this has been going on for FOREVER and I am sick to death of being under a microscope and it just has to stop. The recording me just has to stop.

    And when she came back in from her break, she made a beeline for the plug (first having to wiggle in between the wall and my desk) and plugged it back in.

    So I emailed my HR rep. Because it has been three weeks since I went to her about this and I am still under constant surveillance and it is not okay. Here is the response I received:
    I will be asking her to remove the cameras tomorrow. I investigated further and learned the audio is not always on therefore she is not listening to your conversations at all times. I understand this can be uncomfortable therefore we will be asking her to remove the cameras.
    All managers are currently at a conference since yesterday so I have not been able to call her.
    Thank you, ”

    And I just lost it, guys. I mean, I’m OBVIOUSLY glad that the cameras and microphones will be going, but 1) they are on whenever she is not in the office, and 2) even if they weren’t, what difference would it make if she were secretly recording me for a few hours every other day instead of constantly? Also, even though my state has one party consent, that one party needs to be present. She’s not present when those things are on. And it sounds like telling her to take down her toys will be the only thing to happen so… vengence will probably be on her mind.

    On the plus side, I also got an email from the hiring manager for that job at Local Big University saying that they would be making their final hiring decision at the end of the week (so, today I guess) and would be letting everyone who interviewed know their decision. On the minus side, it doesn’t sound like any of my references have been contacted. But I’m off today because I worked last Saturday, so I’ll be doing another application round up. Because I do not know how I am going to make myself go back to that place on Monday.

    1. Avocado Toast*

      Aside from all the rest of this, I’m stuck on “Another building got struck by lightning”. I look here every Friday eagerly hoping we’ll have a good update from you!! Fingers crossed!!

      1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

        I have actually last count of the number of lightning strikes since I started here. Oh, and (I guess since it is starting to warm up) the mysterious wasps are back in the office, too.

    2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      Oh my god. I can’t imagine how it feels to be in that environment. Fingers crossed the LBU job works out!!!

      1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

        It kind of feels like being on fire, but also your stomach is frozen solid, and you have to be on constant guard so you don’t accidentally start screaming or—worse—telling your boss what you actually think of both her and of the whole situation.

        Thanks for the crossed fingers! I’m trying to manage my expectations, but if I do get an offer I will be taking it immediately.

    3. kittymommy*

      I am sooo praying that you have a great update later today about the university job!!!!!

    4. Troutwaxer*

      I’m sorry it’s so damn crazy. May Cthulhu bless you and diminish your boss (by sending a shoggoth to eat her.)

      1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

        A shoggoth or a Canadian Trap Door Alligator. Either would be okay with me.

    5. TotesMaGoats*

      Bless you. I wish this was a better update and fingers crossed for that job offer. This is one of the places where I would say nuke that bridge. Don’t just burn it. Thanos snap it.

      1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

        I actually have the Her Universe “gauntlet.” Maybe I’ll wear it when I finally get to tell them I’m quitting.

    6. Bee's Knees*

      I hope you get the job! And girl is bananas. And so is the HR person for thinking it’s ok, in any way, that that’s happening. They have offended me, and if I was you, I’d have gone to the HR person’s boss.

      1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

        I have some friends suggesting that I lawyer up, depending on what happens when I go in on Monday.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          I absolutely hope you lawyer up. The level of crap from this job is… just… I don’t think there’s a word strong enough. Particularly because it really sounds to me like she just threatened your dog’s life.

    7. Jules the 3rd*

      Really hoping on the university job, but just in case: can you take Monday off? Like, call in sick on Sunday evening?

      You deserve a break, and Monday would be a good day for it.

      1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

        I wish I could, but I need to save the PTO that I have left for interviews.

      1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

        I was incredibly offended/upset by that exchange. And hugged my dog extra when I went home.

          1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

            She does NOT. And I will definitely not be bringing him by the office.

        1. China Beech*

          Wow, I am so sorry to read all of this and that you are being subjected to (not so) surreptitious recording as well as the daily harassment and HR’s slowness to respond. I feel this is one of those rare cases (if you can afford to) to leave the job before having another one lined up. I worry about your safety and the general nuttiness to which you are being exposed. This is not a healthy work environment, and while the removal of the recording devices would be a slight improvement, I don’t think it’s good to stay any longer than you have to. Go have some quality time with your furbaby and positive vibes to you and your NEW opportunity!

    8. Drew*

      My gob is completely smacked. HR is totally OK with audio surveillance as long as video isn’t involved? And they aren’t going to send someone to make SURE the stuff is removed, just ask her nicely?

      Your boss is so bananacrackers she gives actual bananas and crackers a bad name. I very much hope for good news out of the current round of applications — but if this one falls through, keep plugging away, because you deserve better. So much better.

      1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

        I’m going to keep plugging for sure. I have to get out, before my brain is irrevocably broken.

          1. Kat in VA*

            This. I would turn this into a passive-aggressive escalation war. She leaves, you unplug, she returns and re-plugs, you wait until she leaves, unplug again.

            See if she’s willing to say anything, at which point you can say, “Oh, you mean the plug to the microphone you’ve been secretly recording me with for X amount of months now? THAT ONE?”

            Right now, the game depends on both of you pretending to not know the microphone is there. Petty, passive-aggressive, and ridiculous but…you do work on a Hellmouth and you have to savor your small, spiteful pleasures where you can!

            1. Fact & Fiction*

              Yep! And when she confronts you I would channel Alison: “Oh, I keep unplugging that when you leave to protect you! As I’m sure you know, in a one-party recording consent state, at least one of the parties must be present, so OBVIOUSLY when you’re not here I want to make sure that you don’t get in trouble with the law. It would be just awful for the company if that happened.” *blinkblinksmileblandly*

              1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

                When she leaves, dunk it in the vat of fruit water, so it stops working correctly.

      2. Catherine Tilney*

        “Your boss is so bananacrackers she gives actual bananas and crackers a bad name.”
        Ok, I totally snorted my lunch on reading that.

        Wishing you all kinds of job-hunting luck, Hellmouth. This cannot be healthy.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        Yes! I specifically look you up and hope each week that I will read you have given your notice. I will continue to do so and send internet good wishes!

    9. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

      Good God! I really hope I will read ‘I used to work on a Hellmouth’ next week.

      All my sympathies to you. Must be really stressful to work at a place that constantly surveils you.

      Btw: really compassionate boss you have *role eyes* “How old is your dog? 8 years, how sad, he’ll probably die soon”… even when it is paraphrased, it is still… AAARRRGG!

      And her defending the other dude upskirting young girls. Yikes. So creepy! (Both of them)

      1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

        Yeah, defending that dude is pretty awful. But she also got very angry when she was told that the same dude was reportedly watching porn on his phone in the maintenance shed… very angry with the people who reported it.

        1. IrisEyes*

          Ewww ewww ewww. I forgot about that part.

          Anybody think this might be a pattern of escalation? Anyone else concerned that he has access to people’s living spaces and probably knows or has the ability to know when they are home alone? I’m not saying it will happen but…

          1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

            Fortunately, as the groundskeeper he has no access to the automated key system. But the dude is just BAD NEWS. I actually caught him threatening to throw a little kid’s scooter into the dumpster about two weeks back. He was really mean and the kid was scared. It was NOT okay. There’s something really wrong with that guy.

            1. The Ginger Ginger*

              Not that you need MORE on your plate, but you may want to escalate that dude’s behavior, both the photography and the scooter incident, AND the boss’s handling of it to HR. Not that HR is a shining star here, by any means, but sexual harassment and regular harassment of tenants, and covering up of same, may strike them as much more serious/urgent than the recording since it’s “just” your boss doing it to you.

              It sucks, but you might see some traction that way, and it may do some good for those tenants as well.

      1. Bee's Knees*

        I work with some truly exhausting people, I’m pretty sure you aren’t approaching that.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Dang, Annoyed,
        I could have agreed that *Hellmouth’s Situation* is exhausting. But Hellmouth? Hellmouth’s posts fascinate many of us. The events have taken such strange turns it’s like reading a surrealist novel.
        May I suggest “Collapse replies”?

      3. BadWolf*

        I search for your update every week. And I totally believe all the bananas.

        Crossing fingers for good news from your interview!!!!!!!

      4. Psyche*

        Exactly. You aren’t cornered in an elevator being forced to listen. If you aren’t interested, skip to the next comment!

      5. kittymommy*

        I really hope something got lost in translation here, because not only is your comment incredibly rude and hurtful, it is also unnecessary as no one is making you read anything here. If you don’t care to have a weekly update from Hellmouth (that will hopefully end in an update of her winning the lottery and getting the hell out of there) then don’t read it. And certainly don’t comment. Not everything one thinks needs to be expressed.

      6. Kat in VA*

        Well, you’re boring. I’d rather be exhausted by the misadventures of I Work on a Hellmouth than bored by your attempt at a put-down where you couldn’t even be bothered to capitalize or use punctuation.


        1. Kat in VA*

          FYI I’m not replying to kittymommy, I’m replying to a comment that’s been removed (in case anyone thinks I was being that rude to kittymommy, I’m not I promise!)

      7. I Need Coffee*

        Wow. That is completely uncalled for. If you don’t like it, keep scrolling.

    10. Psyche*

      “the audio is not always on therefore she is not listening to your conversations at all times.”

      The correct phrasing would be “Sometimes she has the audio on and is listening to your conversations.” Seriously!!

      1. Mockingjay*

        The current cameras and mikes may be removed, but I wouldn’t put it past EvilBoss to sneak one or two back in…

        Fingers crossed and offerings to the gods that LBU comes through!

        1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

          I mean, if the current ones even GET removed—I just checked in with the awesome temp, and everything is still up and in place. Thanks, HR.

      2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        That is literally the psychological torture method known as the Panopticon. Apparently what’s considered too cruel for prisoners is just fine for Hellmouth!

    11. Veryanon*

      OMG. I work in HR, and I can’t imagine telling an employee that it’s totes fine that their manager is secretly recording them. We actually have a company policy that states employees cannot secretly record anyone, and have fired people for doing that. Can you escalate this to the HR rep’s manager? BC it is totally NOT FINE that your manager is secretly recording you!
      Also, I am sending you as many good vibes as I can from here on the East Coast that this will all work out and you will get a fabulous new job and tell those a**holes to f**k off.
      Hang in there.

      1. I Work on a Hellmouth*

        I’m not sure… I think there is only one other person in HR, but I’m not sure how to go about escalating to her (they are in a different state). I have a few friends who work in HR, and they’ve all been pretty horrified, too. Which at least lets me feel better about how upset I am, I guess? Like, it really is as bad as I think, so at least I don’t have to worry that I’m the crazy one…

        Thank you for the East Coast good vibes! I am looking forward to getting out and moving on. And possibly telling them exactly where they can put their recording equipment.

    12. Wishing You Well*

      I hope you’re out of there soon.
      Your workplace is insane. The surveillance issue seems illegal.
      Fingers crossed for a job offer!

    13. Batgirl*

      Good news: Your boss is seriously rattled. Habitual liars are always highly disconcerted whenever they sense a truth hunt. They have ‘seize power and keep people off balance’ play book. They know they don’t have one for ‘cards on the table time’. She’s now resorting to some pretty desperate measures like a) hoping you like her (!) enough to reject any dealings in the truth b) Belatedly doing her job c) Saying random mean things to rattle you d) Hoping there’s more dirt on you than on her and d) Slandering her accuser at way too late a point for it to be creditable.
      She’s so panicked however that she’s actually more likely to make fatal mistakes. For example there’s no way she’d unplug her devices now – even though she’s about to get caught!

      Bad news: Even though your boss is on her back like a flipped out tortoise, HR are apparently too lazy to simply bend down and scoop her up. After all the heavy lifting and risks you and TGLC (such a good guy!) took this is their response? Giving her a friendly tip off followed by no action? Disappointing. A score of minus 100 out of 10.
      You, however, are a force to be reckoned with.

    14. Karen from Finance*

      Damn, I was really hoping the HR lady was going to do more than that. Maybe she still is, but is not showing all her cards yet. Let’s hope.

      Please let us know what the University says!! Good luck!!!

    15. VioletCrumble*

      I “sign in” every Friday with my fingers crossed for you.. that your week was decent (given your boss – good probably is too much to hope for..) AND more than anything that you’ve received GREAT news in the form of an fantastic offer from Big Local U…
      Frankly, I’m amazed and impressed at how strong and professional you’ve been throughout this endless ordeal. Hopefully this is the universe’s way of exacting dues in prep for an awesome, high paying, fulfilling new role with a fabulous employer…
      Hang in there.. I’m sure there’s many other lurkers that are rooting for you out here in the internets..
      I second/third.. whatever.. the hope that when you do move on and the dust settles you think about novelizing your experience.. You have such a talent for putting things into words and so much of what you’ve shared is incredible and fascinating in a horrifying – I shouldn’t look but can’t help it.. type of way…
      Keep the faith… better things are just around the corner!

    16. MommaCat*

      So, ah, how sturdy is the power cord for that “hidden” microphone? It’d be a shame if it got run over a few times with an office chair, or accidentally kinked badly enough for the inner wires to break… Or maybe some krazy glue on the mic itself to muffle the sound? Whatever you do, make sure it’s invisible!

      1. MommaCat*

        Also, while I know very little about hidden mics like that, I do know actor mics, and there should be some kind of transmitter attached to it, like with an antenna or something. IF you can find an antenna attached to the mic, that can be another point of failure for the mic. If not, you’re back to the power cord. Right next to the mic itself and right next to the plug itself are common failure points for electronics. Or, if you want, you can just cut the cord right before giving your notice (unplug before doing any kind of messing with the power cord; I know that’s common sense, but it’s always good to remind folks of that!).

    17. ThursdaysGeek*

      Ok, I know you can’t do this, but I so wish you had some way to put in a recording device of your own – for after you are gone. Because I really want to hear your manager’s reaction when you give notice, and then in the days after. I do hope you get out soon.

    18. Nerdy Library Clerk*

      If only the lightning could strike Hell Boss or Creepy Groundskeeper. D:
      Here’s hoping LBU comes through so you can run screaming. (I rather imagine it all collapsing into a giant sinkhole as you flee.)

    19. Laura H.*

      So… I have a kinda stupid question… HOW on this good green earth did you manage to land in the Hellmouth in the first place??

      The idea of “Different manager hired you and then bailed” seems a little too hopeful. And current manager having a Jekyll when interviewing but showing Hyde once you were hired is scary to think about…

      I’m rooting for you, friend!

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          And now I’m confused, because Hellmouth had worked with her before, and thought she was one of the better ones. Or is that only in comparison, because it does sound like she’d had some pretty bad work experiences before this job too.

    20. ...Kat..*

      Given the cameras and microphones, I would caution you that she might put software on your computer that allows her to monitor your emails and all other computer activity. Just FYI.

  12. SOSonPIP*

    Any advice on how to deal with an employee who is about to go on a PIP and also fasting for Ramadan?

    Part of the problem I’m having is that she’s going on a PIP in part because of her failure to retain information and pay attention. I’ve noticed that she is even worse now while she fasts and another employee told me they’ve had to wake her up a couple of times.

    If this was a stellar or even average performing employee I could let this go, but I really can’t at this point, and I can’t wait an entire month plus to move forward at this point.

    1. dumblewald*

      What does fasting have to do with it? It seems like she is underperforming at her job, fasting or not. I’ve had colleagues who fast during Ramadan and it doesn’t impact their performance. I used to fast while I was in school but no longer as I don’t practice the religion, but my schoolwork was fine.

      1. Jaid*

        I think SOS doesn’t want the employee to use fasting as an excuse or be accused of targeting the employee during Ramadan.

        1. dumblewald*

          Yeah I didnt think about the PR aspect of it, but I guess what I’m saying is fasting isn’t an excuse for low performance, in general.

          1. SOSonPIP*

            To clarify, I agree, I just don’t want it to come off looking like I’m targeting someone. I also don’t want it to be an excuse, and I have noticed a further dip in performance since the fasting started.

      2. ghostwriter*

        If you already have ADHD, having low blood sugar intensifies that by 1000%. I agree OP shouldn’t assume fasting is a part of it, but I’m glad they’re considering how that could be a factor.

      3. I'm A Little Teapot*

        This. I’ve had coworkers who were fasting and I had no idea unless they said something. It’s a strawman.

      4. HR Stoolie*

        Ramadan fasting is from sun up to sun down, since based on the lunar calendar tjme time of year and geographic location can have a huge impact on how many hours they go without.

        I managed a large Muslim crew in Alaska during August, couldn’t break fast until 11:30 PM – 5:00 AM. Also learned fasting wasn’t just eating, but liquids too.

        1. Princesa Zelda*

          Oh goodness! I’ve had friends fast in Florida and Arizona and they basically didn’t go outside lest they dehydrate — I hope that wasn’t a serious problem for your workers!

      5. Gumby*

        For some people low blood sugar absolutely does affect performance. It mostly makes me cranky and headachy but also I am just… slower somehow at getting things. So it doesn’t have anything to do with under-performance to date, but it is a possible impediment to showing a marked improvement during the next month which you would hope would be the outcome of a PIP. (Other people seem much less sensitive to blood sugar fluctuations. I envy those people.)

    2. Troutwaxer*

      That’s a tough one, and I entirely sympathize with your problem, but firing an Islamic employee during Ramadan probably isn’t a good look for you or your company, and in the very worst scenario you could get thrown under the bus. I think I would carefully coordinate with HR (if you have an HR dept.) and/or whoever else might have to pick up the pieces if things go wrong and at least make sure everyone else at the company is aware of the optics and issues, then, if you absolutely must, move forward.

      Meanwhile, have a “state of the PIP” meeting with the employee and discuss all the ongoing. Take careful notes, so you’ve got some backup for whatever decision you make.

        1. SOSonPIP*

          The situation is that it’s unfortunately time for a PIP and it just happens to coincide. It’s not the best timing, but I think it would be worse to wait.

    3. ATX Language Learner*

      If she’s had issues before the fast, I think you’re good to go with the PIP. Fasting or not, she seems to have issues.

    4. Clorinda*

      The sooner you do it the better, because Ramadan just started, so you can reference things that hapened BEFORE she began fasting.

      1. dumblewald*

        Yes, PIPs are supposed to document concrete instances of underperformance. If these date before Ramadan (which just began), you should be good.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s about continued performance issues.

      So I would just make sure that you do it in the morning and not when she’s at her most fatigued stage of the day for when you bring her in for the discussion.

      Do not acknowledge that it’s worse during her fasting, don’t bring up her religion or her practices like that. It needs to be factual that she cannot retain the proper information and is being put on an action plan due to the continued issue. A lot of this is in your head and you’re conditioned to worry about doing things that may casually look like discrimination when really, it’s not closeted discrimination since you’ve already noted that if it were just during this time of year, you’d have no problem giving her more leeway. Just like you’d give someone who was grieving or ill leeway for a certain period of time but once it’s a perma-problem, it has to be addressed and fixed or she has to be let go.

    6. LGC*


      So, it sounds like your problem is that your employee is not performing, but she also has external issues that can lower her performance. (Like not eating during daylight hours.) Would you be able to put her on a longer PIP because of Ramadan, and set interim goals? (And even reasonable adjustments.) I’d address the sleeping at work first, then the retaining information as the longer term goal.

      That said, she was already a poor performer before Ramadan and she’ll almost certainly have those issues after. So yeah, don’t delay just because it’s a holy month.

    7. Malarkey01*

      I echo others that you should focus on continued poor performance and site instances that pre-date fasting. I am someone who is greatly affected by fasting (not for religious purposes but for occasional medical needs) and it would be difficult for me to. E put on a PIP during a fasting period. If you can I’d try to structure the PIP period to take into account the difficulty she may have improving right away.

      I would not mention the fasting at all. If she does bring it up, you could ask if she has any ideas on how to structure her day given her needs and make it something she addresses.

    8. Batgirl*

      What would you do with a non religious sleeper?
      Fasting shouldn’t be knocking her out unless there’s also a medical condition going on. I had a friend who was given a religious exemption because not only was she unfocused, it’s unsafe!
      I think this is 100pc a non-religious well being issue and I would be tempted to focus on long term job performance/possible long term explanations and say “Your job is in real jeopardy but some of the things we’ve seen this year- lack of focus, poor memory and sleepiness could be either a health or a personal stress issue. You don’t have to disclose anything to me but is everything ok outside of work? Are you only struggling in here?”
      You could add “You might want to seek some advice just in case there’s something that can be done”
      If she raises Ramadan because she’s noticed it more often while fasting say “I’m glad you’re starting to notice it yourself but these issues actually date from x”

    9. Finally Back In A 'Proper Job'*

      FWIW, I would definitely reference things that happened before Ramadan if it is essential that you start the PIP immediately, but also give them some slack/show you understand that Ramadan can be a tough time ref concentration.

      I know that is a bit of a mixed message (and would be interested to know what Alison would advise) when PIPs are supposed to be very clear and finite, but going without water all day really does have a huge impact on brain function.

  13. Alternative Person*

    I had a bad day at work today on top of a bad week. Got pizza after work and I’m feeling better, but I’m so tempted to take a sick day tomorrow because I feel awful.

    1. China Beech*

      If you have leave I don’t see anything wrong with taking it as recharging day! I’m sorry you had a trying week.

    2. Amber Rose*

      Yesterday was so awful I got sent home with instructions to take a mental health break. I wasn’t sick, just… really upset.

      It helped a lot. Feeling awful is feeling awful regardless of cause.

    3. wittyrepartee*

      Take it. Just say you’re not feeling well. And ouch- bad week and Saturday work?

    4. Bunny Girl*

      Go for it. You can’t perform at your best without feeling your best, and that means physically and mentally. I just had to take a relax and recharge day a few weeks back because I had a terrible week and then a terrible day Friday. I was getting so keyed up and anxious on Sunday thinking about having to go back that I really did start to feel ill so I called in Monday. That extra day really did help and I was able to go back Tuesday without going nuclear.

  14. SOAS*

    I got my offer letter this week and WOW it FEELS so unreal. I’m happy but holy crap I am nervous AF now but in a good way lol. I really didn’t want to leave my manager and my team, but this was a really good career (and financial – 17% increase) move IMO.

    FYI some of this is going to be more emotional than anything else.

    So, I was really down in the dumps about this a few weeks ago. We let go of an employee and they wrote a scathing review of us online. and the question in the first post today was great timing — in my case it was 99% personal attacks and 1% legit criticism but which was never brought to our attn. The personal attacks were hard to read. The other two people targeted weren’t as bothered but I really took it to heart b/c the comments were very personal, as well as just being untrue. I know a person whos fired has every right to be angry and can say whatever they want but we did our best with this employee. We were very clear about everything, but it wasn’t working out.

    I had my negative feelings about all of it and then decided to look forward now and learn from this. I’m excited to work on this new team and start building on to it with the tips I had from last week. I had a long meeting with my boss this week and it went well. She liked what I did with the job description and made a very small change which was actually to our benefit and I felt like my concerns were heard and not belittled. It will be a group interview, so I don’t feel as pressured now.. I’m sad to leave my mgr behind but excited to look forward.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Just remember that when an animal is wounded, it’s scared and often lashes out due to the fear. This is often what happens when a person is hurting as well. Thankfully a lot of us can reel it in and self sooth but this terminated employee looks like they’re lacking in judgement or a proper outlet.

      You have every right to be hurt especially since it’s untrue or at least tainted by a really slanted point of view. I bet your other coworkers sting by it too but they aren’t voicing that for self preservation purposes. I’ve been hurt a lot by other staff’s negative POV about things, mainly when I think they’re over-the-top and not aware of how wrong they are, etc. But have learned to internalize it and talk to my colleagues in that “oh Brad is just mad, you know he had his issues and of course he’s lashing out. We’ll overcome this, it’s no big deal, just a lot of hot air. Look, squirrels!”

      Congratulations on the offer and pay increase! Now is the time to allow yourself to be selfish and enjoy looking towards the future. The others will miss you but I’m sure that if they’re good people who truly care about you, they’re excited for you future opportunity too!

      1. SOAS*

        Thank u!

        Yes, I’ try to remember: they’re out of a job. I don’t feel guilty b/c we did our best that we could. But some of their accusations…. the one that hurt the most was that I got ahead b/c of my “friendship” with my boss. As a woman, I was/am extremely insulted by this. I got opinions of others (men and women) and they didn’t read the sexual innuendo in to it the way I did, so it kind of helped me feel better. But it still left a bad taste for me– And I’ll be honest, even though it’s a total lie, I’ve had that insecurity in the past.

        It’s so funny cz…..6 years ago, I had just been let go from a temp position after a month. It was a devastating b/c I had a string of bad temp jobs and all I desperately wanted was a place I could grow and a manager who would have my back and I FINALLY GOT IT–he’s the one who pushed me for this promotion even though I’d be leaving him. I took shit at this job, but I worked hard at it and it finally feels like it was recognized. It wasn’t overnight, and it took a LONG TIME but it finally happened.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I may be reading further into this but if it’s what I think it is and they insinuated that you were engaged in an inappropriate relationship with the boss, as a woman and doing the whole “Well we know how /she/ got where she is, nudge nudge.” NONSENSE, then I cannot fault you a single bit for being so upset about it. That’s vile and even if others didn’t read it that way, I get it. That says a ton about the terminated employee on a level to encompass ‘Oh so they were bad at their job and a bad person, great.” ick. That’s reeks of sexism and some kind of displaced jealousy. Again, it speaks about the person writing the review and not about you personally. A lot of people will lash out and attack others wrongfully because honestly, they’re bad people and you cannot change them.

          The more important you are in an organization, the more likely you’ll run into people who want to take you down. This is a sign that you’re important and they’re petty/gross. You know your journey and you know what you’ve put into getting there. Ef anyone who wants to downplay it or act like they know you.

          1. SOAS*

            No, that’s the exact impression I had. At least that was my take on it. I did bring it up to others that I trusted and they didn’t think that that’s what the former employee was getting at but could see why I read it that way.

            Sad thing is, this was someone who had been bemoaning the lack of female leadership in the company. I was her supervisor but she constantly said I dont’ count b/c I’m friends with boss, and ignored that prevoius managers & current director were all women.

            It’s like, it was your deepest insecurity that someone picked up on, and brought it out in to the open and people have that seed planted in their head.

          2. SOAS*

            “The more important you are in an organization, the more likely you’ll run into people who want to take you down. This is a sign that you’re important and they’re petty/gross. You know your journey and you know what you’ve put into getting there. Ef anyone who wants to downplay it or act like they know you.”

            >>> I love this. TY so much !!!!!!

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              YW YW

              As another woman in leadership, I’ll eat someone’s face for less. It will always still hurt to get those barbs but in the end, they’re scratching you because of ignorance and their own insecurities. Which is a shame. I choose to always try to feel pity because they’re really in the dark about things when they start playing with their internalized sexism in full view of others.

    2. Fortitude Jones*

      Congrats on the new job! As someone else starting a new job soon (Monday – eek!) with a substantial pay increase (26%, almost 27), I know exactly how you feel. It’s nice that you’re going to stick around long enough to help your team find the right replacement for the recently fired employee, and yeah, don’t take that person’s angry review to heart. Angry people vent and sometimes while doing so, the person says stuff that isn’t always necessarily true in reality, but is true based on their own limited perspective. All you can do is keep doing what you’re doing because you’re obviously doing something right.

  15. petty is as petty does*

    How much work would you put into transition documents knowing that the moment you leave all the work you’ve done is going to be ignored because you had the nerve to change things and implement some new policies (which were effective and praised but are disliked by the saboteur in chief who will take my role on)?
    I am tempted to leave the bare minimum because I don’t care but know the professional thing is to leave the detailed documentation I am capable of.

    I have 11 days of work left at my current job and I cannot get out of here soon enough. 11 more days of petty backstabbing, sabotage, poor management, low pay and lousy benefits. And a reminder to never work in Maryland again.
    I cannot wait to be free of these people.

    1. Alternative Person*

      I’d write up the basics-however many bullet points to summarise the key points, useful web-links, any vital paperwork- whatever’s applicable. Having been in the place of writing transition and cover materials that ended up ignored, then there were complaints, having the proof I did write something was a good CYA. I don’t know if that matters in your situation, but you can leave with the knowledge you tried.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        This is what I was thinking. Do something to show you tried and make sure everyone knows you put the documents together. No one will read them, but no one can say you burnt the bridge on your way out.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        That thread was super disheartening, to see how awful people can be.

        If you use ‘how petty’ as your yardstick, make sure you stick to a level that you can be not ashamed of later.

        1. fposte*

          That was really interesting on a lot of levels. I saw it as a window into how people can become “that” co-worker/employee in the right situation.

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I’d write up a fully professional set of documentation so that the co-workers I’m leaving behind don’t say, “And on top of everything else, Glomarization didn’t even leave us a decent set of instructions.”

      1. Finally Back In A 'Proper Job'*

        I’m with you on this.

        Dig deep, be the bigger person, do the best job you can and leave with your head held high.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I think that I would leave a list with the boss of what my next steps would be if I had stayed. Up to the boss to figure it out.

    4. Anono-me*

      I would leave good documents, and leave them several places.

      1. It is your character.
      2. The other person can’t throw you under the bus retroactively for not doing a good job.
      3 . Someone else might wind up doing the job fairly soon and appreciate your notes. (Especially if your replacement isn’t doing well. )


    5. MJ*

      Can’t blame you for wanting to be petty but it’s likely best not to do it.

      Having said that, I would find it hard not to GBBO-style instructions, like leaving off the oven temperature or how long to bake. ;)

  16. Rosie The Rager*

    Former workers want me to help them sue

    I began contacting my predecessor in my current job, and she told me that she and her co-worker frequently received their paychecks a week or more behind schedule. I’ve had this experience twice in my five-month tenure and have mentioned it to my boss.

    The former workers both resigned and remain upset about their treatment, so they suggested I contact the authorities about filing a formal complaint about the inaccurate pay schedule and the repeatedly late checks. Given that the job is a placeholder for me, and I am actively interviewing, is it worth the effort and fallout to do this?

    Has anyone encountered a similar situation? If so, how did you handle it?

    1. fposte*

      Are they asking you to report *for* them? Because that’s weird. They can file a report with the state as well as you can, and they should for their own stuff.

      You should be able to figure out what penalties your state would levy for late pay and how much additional, if any, you’d be owed as a result; that would help you decide if it’s worth it. It would be illegal to fire you for filing such a complaint, but of course it’s [likely, depending on the state] illegal to pay you late, too, and that didn’t stop them.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Is there some sort of statute that only a current employee can sue, not a former one, or something?

        1. fposte*

          It doesn’t sound like they’re really talking about suing, just about reporting to the DOL. In which case there’s likely a time limit, but Rosie’s reporting won’t help the ex-employees get money if they’re past it.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          No, it’s usually a X amount of years since your last paycheck. Around here it’s 3 years from when you noticed an issue to report it, it doesn’t matter if you are already gone, that’s the point of investigation. It would let employers get away with things by just firing employees as well!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      If you don’t want to be involved then don’t. You can just tell your cohorts that it only happened to you twice and you spoke to the boss directly. So you can say that you seriously doubt your experience will add much credence or weight to their case. What I like about this explanation is that it just makes sense and they will probably quit asking you.

      You don’t sound upset about it here, which to me is another reason for letting it go.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      They’re sketchy and you should feel empowered to report them if you want to. However if you’re worried about retaliation or you don’t have the energy to go through the reporting system, that’s reasonable. This is your choice and them pressuring you to do their dirty work or join them in their crusade is not acceptable behavior on their part. It’s your right to create your own waves where you want to.

      They’re trying to seek revenge by turning a current employee on these guys and it’s so selfish. If they cared so much, they have recourse. Even if it’s just leaving a scathing GlassDoor review.

  17. Cassie*

    For those of you who keep notes at work of requests, decisions, etc – what works best for you? Paper vs electronic? How much detail do you get in to? How long do you keep the notes for?

    I’d like to start keeping (better) notes at work so if someone asks “why did you do this this way?” a year later, I don’t have rack my brain trying to think of the reason. At the same time, I don’t want to keep track of stuff that won’t matter in the long run (but sometimes it’s not easy to know what will be important later or not).

    1. Alternative Person*

      For me, paper mostly. I have epilepsy, and my focus/memory can be flakey on bad days but paper based, easily accessible notes (there aren’t many computers at work) are the shorthand I need. I buy a super nice zip up page a day year long diaries and they keep me on track. I write my schedule, commentary on stuff, bits I want to remember and shopping lists in that thing. It has helped a lot. For longer notes, I keep a running word document where I dump write ups that I might want for later, but I only tend to need that when there are difficulties with clients. I add to the top so more relevant stuff is kept high, but I can search by date if I need to.

      At the end of the year, I transfer over any notes I think are relevant to a new diary and store the old one at home.

      I have a smaller back up in my back-pack that I update week to week with the basics but that’s as much my paranoia as anything.

    2. Karen from Finance*

      OneNote! Definitely. I have strong feelings about my notes to the point I get teased about them. One Note has been wonderful for me. I do use paper as well, most of the time because actually writing it down in pen helps me fixate the idea in my brain, but I type faster and keep more organized on the computer.

      I keep the notes forever, or as closest as possible.

      The nice thing about OneNote is that it has a nice way to organize the information in pages (which can be grouped together by topic, and I use this for my advantage to “archive” old stuff), by tabs, and you can create different “notebooks”. So the information is always very visually accessible and organized.

      Right now I have the following tabs: [Company Name]; [Job Aids]; [Finance]; [Meetings]; [Open Items]; [Month-End Comments]; [Personal] – and then within each, there’s a whole BUNCH of pages.

      Nothing gets lost. There’s a nice search function too, you can format, add graphs, make to do lists, the whole thing.

      1. This Space For Rent*

        +1 on OneNote. You can put emails, presentations, etc. directly into the pages. Very handy and you can be as detailed as you wish.

      2. Mockingjay*

        OneNote is amazing. My favorite trick is to insert a printout of a document or a brief, then take notes alongside it. Excellent for long presentations and conferences. For conferences, I set up a notebook for each day, then individual pages for each presenter/topic. I use the Tags function quite a bit to flag Action Items, Questions, etc. in my notes.

      3. The Ginger Ginger*

        One Note can also be keyword searched, so if you remember taking the notes but aren’t sure where you put them, you can search for them easily.

      4. Hufflepuffin*

        I wanted to like OneNote but you can’t select all, copy and paste on a page and that drove me crackers.

        1. The Ginger Ginger*

          Oh weird, I can do that in my version. The first ctrl+a gets everything in the box you’re in, but if you do ctrl+a again it highlights the whole page so you can then copy and paste it.

          1. The Ginger Ginger*

            Okay I just tried again and I missed a ctrl+a.
            Once gets the whole line, twice gets the whole box, the third one gets the whole document.

      5. Knotty Ferret*

        I take notes longhand, because I just don’t remember stuff I typed the same way. But then everything goes into OneNote, because I can organize, screenshot, and link to make everything easier. And it’s searchable. And it has reusable checklists. And if you need to share it, it tracks changes by user (though not a history of previous versions), so you can see that it was Jane who deleted something, or the last to add a detail.

        For shared conversations, I use email – please email your response, don’t just come by my desk, so I have a record of the final decision later.

      6. Raia*

        Another +1 for OneNote. The big thing is that it autosaves and is searchable. I recently discovered the tags function which is amazing for follow up questions I think of as I take notes during meetings, or to remind myself as a to do to stand and raise my desk!

    3. Ann Perkins*

      Email for all requests. I supervise a very operational person and it was the role I started in. If somebody stops by with a request, we always ask them to put the information in an email. It’s a finance related role and if there’s a discrepancy that ends up costing money, we need to know who was responsible for it.

      For decisions made during meetings – I take paper notes and put them in our electronic filing system.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I target the questions that come up repeatedly.
      For example: My boss always asks, if I gave X to so-and-so. I have a hand written sheet in each file. So on that sheet for that file, I would write “Gave X to Dave on Y date.”

      For questions that predictably come up YEARS later, another technique I use is to put information right where it’s logical to look for it. Want to know when that printer was purchased? The date is ON the users manual. If the printer quits I have probably pulled out the users manual anyway. I can see the date of purchase and quickly check how long the warranty is.

      It’s painful but many times I find out what to keep after the fact. In those cases the best I can do is not let that get past me again.

      Sometimes things go together in little “kits”. I have to burn a CD once in a great while. I have a little kit of information, including instructions on how they want it done, instructions that go with the CD to the receiver and other relevant materials. Since this rarely comes up, I put the phone number of who to call for questions on the folder that holds the kit. This is an example of puddling up information into one spot that is all relevant to only that one particular thing.

    5. Angwyshaunce*

      I essentially write “journals” for projects, tracking status, changes, requests, findings, etc. I write these electronically. It’s not unusual for me to have to remember thought processes from many years back. Even if it seems like overkill at the time, I’m always grateful when they’re there when I need them.

    6. Alianora*

      For my own tasks, paper. Easier to jot something down quickly. I do keep my work notebooks, but I rarely have to refer back to see when a particular task was done.

      For decisions & other people’s tasks, email. Easier to search and it’s usually helpful to have a summary sent out after a decision is made anyway.

    7. TiffIf*

      I work in software so we track projects in JIRA (we’ve used other tracking suites in the past) and I have learned to document EVERYTHING electronically in it. Even when we find an issue in the software and the product teams says we don’t care enough to fix it, we put an issue into the system and then an explanation of exactly why we have decided not to fix it or address it currently and then close it.

      This is sometimes a CYA but it has already been helpful in looking back remembering why we made a decision at that time and can reexamine if the reasons are still valid or if we need to revisit in light of something new.

    8. Ama*

      For long term, detailed stuff — i.e. processes that I know it will be at least several months, if not several years, before it comes up again, but it will still very likely come up again, I try to find time to write up a Word document. If it is for a process specific to a certain project I put it with that project’s other files, if it is more general (I manage grants for a funding non-profit so there’s a lot of random “hey here’s how to handle this super rare grantee issue” documents) I have a file for “Policies and Processes” on our shared server.

      For short term or one line notes, like “next year’s grant applications should have better instructions on X” I use Google Keep, which is what I graduated to after my system of actual paper post it notes became too difficult to keep track of. The nice thing is Keep has some color coding, so I can make all grant notes orange and all finance notes blue, and searchable, so if I know I made a note on what account code I’m supposed to use for this one annual expense, I just search it and it pops right up. Every so often I scroll through all my notes and clear out the ones that I either have already implemented or which are no longer something I need to keep track of.

    9. epi*

      My most common way for what you are describing is email. That way, the other person has it too.

      I spend about half my time on data management/analysis and half on research program evaluation. Both involve a bunch of little, subjective, decisions that we will need to be able to reference in the future. So when I email someone an important update or deliverable, I put a lot of information in the body of the email. I do this with no expectation that the recipient respond to the details or even read them all. It’s just for future reference. Helpful stuff to have in the email includes where I got the data or information I used, any definitions I used, the path to where my work is saved, and general non-technical descriptions of any obstacles I encountered, what I did about them, and why. Typically it takes a couple of paragraphs unless I am working on something very technical.

      I do this because it’s text searchable later, and everyone has their own copy and can organize it however they want. It’s also what people here tend to give me if they want to fill me in on a decision made before I got here. If you know up front you will need to referenece the email later, or if you find yourself going back to it often, then it makes sense to save it to a shared drive or something as well so it isn’t lost when you leave.

      I also usually make a documentation subfolder for my projects where I put anything that may come in handy– both documentation I was given, and documentation I produced. For data management and programming decisions, I use a mix of comments in the code and a readme in the folder with all the other stuff. If there was a specific issue that took extra investigating and that I think may come up again, I will create a document just for that and put it in the documentation folder, too. As the project progresses, I’ll create other types of documentation as needed. If there is a random piece of information I need to keep track of related to some project, I will just create a .txt file about it in the folder where the project lives, with a descriptive name.

      I write things down but nothing I expect to need more than a week in the future. I honestly couldn’t tell you what is on the last page of my current legal pad, before the page I am using now. For to do lists just for my own use, I sometimes use Google Keep, sometimes a paper list, sometimes my email inbox– I just switch if I find myself starting to ignore one modality. You don’t have to use the same thing forever for it to be a good system.

    10. Autumnheart*

      Do you have some sort of workflow management where you could add notes to a particular task or project?

      Actually, if you happen to use a Mac at work, the app “Punch In” would allow you to do that. I use it to basically time-track my projects, but it has a notes field and might do the trick. If you use Windows, I’m sure there is an app with similar functionality.

    11. iglwif*

      I mostly take notes on paper (in a notebook, so I know where everything is!) but also then transcribe important stuff into to-do lists / issue tickets / future notes / whatever on my computer.

  18. A.Ham*

    Shout out to all my fellow non-profit friends. It’s GALA SEASON! :-O (I know that’s not true across the board, but it’s true for a lot of us).
    My former employer’s gala is this weekend, and my current company’s is next weekend (and the random décor stuff strewed about the building is proof!). AND this past week or so all of my facebook memories seem to be from the many many galas I have worked over the years. I was thinking about it, and I have not had one spring without a gala to work (and in some cases help plan- depending on my job) since I got out of college.
    Who else has a gala planned for spring? How is planning going? Any big goals for this year? Whats your favorite auction item? For those of you that already had yours, how did it go? And most importantly… for those wearing dresses… who else has become best friends with Rent the Runway? :-p Let’s all commiserate about the stress and the fun that goes into planning a mammoth fundraising event!

    1. Cover me in velvet*

      I’m SO GLAD we don’t do galas. Instead, we’re hosting our 21st annual golf tournament. Here in Texas, it should be a good day (but it’s been really rainy lately). Our event manager is 6-mos pregnant, but rocking the prep/planning (her 2nd year doing it) but our new Dev Director is making things entirely too hard (for no reason but to learn and get in the way)


      1. A.Ham*

        that counts! I was once involved with a small part of planning/volunteer recruitment for a giant charity bike ride. whew that was a lot of work! good luck wit the tournament!

    2. Bluebell*

      My former employer’s was last night. I did some consulting for it- did the seating chart, a part I really enjoy. It was a good event, but last years seemed better. Probably because I was much less involved. My team put a lovely thank you to me in the program. I was really touched!

  19. Dead End Job Search*

    How does one deal with a dead end job search? I currently have a job, and have been job hunting for the past year and still haven’t found anything. I get interviews, which I thoroughly prepare for, and I know I’m qualified for the jobs, but I’m not getting selected in the final stages. I’ve already been rejected by my top 2 choices. I don’t know what else to do now or where else to apply. My current job is going nowhere, and is not exactly what I want to do long term. I’m afraid the longer I stay in this job, the more I will get pigeon-holed, which is something I want to avoid.

    1. Art3mis*

      I have been there. All I can say is just keep on trucking. If you’re able to ask about feedback for your interview, try that.

    2. 1234*

      Finding a job is a difficult process so I would consider giving myself some grace. It’s not you, it’s them. Maybe they thought you didn’t fit into their culture? Maybe they realized they needed someone who had Skill X and are now looking closer at candidates mentioning Skill X? I remember there was an AAM post about how a dream job can turn out not to be so “dreamy” and there’s no way to know. Keep on applying and in the mean time, you have a job and can be more picky about what jobs you apply for/take interviews for.

    3. Sunflower*

      How strict/stingy are you with your applications? My roommate is in a similar situation in that her current job is going nowhere. She just told me she’s been applying for a year and nothing has stuck so she’s realized she needs to drop a few of her requirements of a new job or else she’ll never get out. Not sure what your situation is but it might be beneficial to open up your search to more geographies, industries, etc.

    4. dealing with dragons*

      it might be due to them finding better candidates? that’s been my issue. my job is stuck in 2014 in terms of technology, so trying to find a new technical job is a challenge. I also have issues with trying to laterally move, since people already in that position are also applying.

      can you get any certs or take training in the meantime? that is what I have been doing. there’s saying “I do this on the side as a hobby since I don’t do it professionally” and “here’s the certificate, thanks”

    5. Sherm*

      Been there. Looked for a job for 18 months. At the current job at the time, I usually had absolutely zero to do. It’s not exactly a selling point to put “Figured out how to make time go fast by surfing the web” on the resume.

      But I finally got out. I freelanced a little, got certificates. If that’s not possible for you, perhaps volunteer or take a class. Some of the places that rejected you will have new openings and may be interested in hearing from you again. And remember that you only need one good offer to move on. If your success rate turns out to be 0.001%, that’s great — you’ve got a new job.

    6. LunaLena*

      Are there any skills you can work on that will help you get into the jobs you want? Depending on what field you’re looking into, you may not even need certification, just something you can show to prove you have what they’re looking for. I’d also suggest freelancing or volunteering in the field you’re looking into (again, if that’s an option). For example, I work full-time in graphic design and marketing, but I maintain a few online shops and galleries for designs and art I make in my spare time. It keeps me from stagnating and allows me to use skills I don’t get to use much in my day job, which in turn adds variety to my portfolio and keeps me trying new things and learning.

      TL; DR, I’d recommend trying to find something, even if it’s just a hobby, that you can do to show that you’re moving towards your chosen field, rather than waiting for the opportunity to break into it. Good luck in your job search, I’ve been there and totally understand how frustrating it is!

    7. Sunglasses Emoji*

      Have you tried using a staffing agency? I had a dead-end job search for 6 months. Same as you – I was getting to the second round of interviews, I knew I was qualified, but I just couldn’t quite beat out other candidates. So frustrating. But once I found a good staffing agency in my city, I had an offer within a week!! It was like magic.

  20. Karen from Finance*

    Had a good job interview, though I hate the condescending tone most interviewers from recruiting agencies seem to have. I refused to answer quite a bunch of questions, including my current salary (way below mkt value, followed AMA scripts) and they asked me to tell them which other companies and which role, specifically, I’m interviewing for. They justified the latter question by claiming that it helps avoid any “conflicts of interest with their clients” but I don’t believe them – is there any actual base for that claim? Or am I just defensive because I found the overall interview unusually invasive?

    1. Karen from Finance*

      An example of “the interview was invasive”. I took one year longer to finish my course requirements for my degree, which is not unusual in my country, and I’m still pending my final thesis. When asked about it, I say something like “I was well on my way to finishing my degree with 3 internships completed, then I started a full-time job, and… [looking down with a face that conveys “this is very personal”] things happened – and it didn’t go quite as planned, but I’m really looking forward to finishing my thesis this year so that I can complete the degree”. 95% of interviewers accept this answer. This lady asked me “what things happened?”

      Cancer happened but I would very much like not to disclose this at this point of the interview. So I gave a vague answer and she kept on making questions about the thesis for 10 more minutes, which no actual employer has ever asked me about as much. She made me explain the whole thesis to her. My thesis is not even relevant to my job experience or the job I was interviewing for, where my actual job experience is much more relevant.

      1. T. Boone Pickens*

        If a recruiter is asking you on the initial interview what companies you’ve applied with I’d be really skeptical. An effective recruiter/candidate relationship needs to be built on trust and the onus is on the recruiter to show the candidate they know what they’re talking about and can actually serve as a value added resource. When I’m talking with a candidate, I rarely, if ever ask a candidate where they have applied unless I have a role that I feel is absolutely tailor made for them. I will however, ask what types of positions they have been applying for so I can get a feel for what the candidate is looking to do as well as figure out if they have realistic expectations. If after a few interactions you feel the recruiter knows their stuff and you feel comfortable disclosing where you’ve applied, then I think that’s ok. The thing is…the better the recruiter, the more they know their respective marketplace and the more likelihood that the recruiter’s clients trust the recruiter to fill their jobs which means the client won’t advertise their jobs on their own. I’m always a bit dubious when I hear other recruiters ask candidates where they’ve applied.

        Good luck in your job search!

      2. Lilysparrow*

        Actually, I am trying to imagine the conversation, and I would probably ask follow-up questions about the “things happened” comment as well. It seems needlessly evasive, and could come off as being shady.

        Like, were you in prison? Did you drop out of school and join a cult? The questions about your thesis could just have been to get a sense of whether it was real.

        If you don’t want to talk about “a health issue that’s now resolved,” then don’t make space for it in the conversation at all.

        “I was on my way to graduate with 3 internships, then I got a full-time job. The timing didn’t work out as planned, so I’ll be finishing my thesis this year.”

        That sounds perfectly normal and doesn’t need more detail. I’m actually kind of surprised nobody else asks follow up questions. But if you’re interviewing a lot and not getting anything, it’s possible they are making note of it anyway.

        There’s just no need to draw a bright red circle around the thing you don’t want to talk about.

        1. Karen from Finance*


          – The tone wasn’t really drawing a big red circle around it. It was said in a more casual tone than you’re imagining. Imagine someone saying “shit happens” and replace it with “things happen”, adjust for language barrier (my country’s language isn’t English). It doesn’t land so far from the script you provided.

          But if you’re interviewing a lot and not getting anything, it’s possible they are making note of it anyway.
          That’s quite a leap you made there. I HAVE interviewed a lot, I’m just now starting my current job search, which is complicated because I’m being careful in planning my next move. But I generally do well in interviews. I’m leaving my current job after only 1 year because I’m miserable here (for reasons you can see in other Friday threads), but in my current job search I’ve been offered the only job I’ve interviewed for thus far, and I’ve rejected them because I had some concerns regarding their culture.

          And when I tell you I don’t get a lot of follow-ups, I don’t just mean in interviews, I mean in life, whenever the subject of the big C comes up that I don’t wanna discuss. “Things happened” :) And yes, if I went to prison or joined a cult… does that reflect on me as a professional? No it doesn’t, please and thank you so let’s keep this work-related. I

          1. Samwise*

            If an interviewer tells me “things happened” (or however you are phrasing it but then won’t give details and seems evasive, then yes I am going to consider that and it may count against you, depending on how your interview went and who else is a candidate. If you bring it up, and then wiggle away from it, that’s odd/off putting. Best not to bring it up at all

            1. Karen from Finance*

              You said I brought but up and then wiggled away from it, but the whole thing that I am saying to you is that I gave a non-answer ONCE DIRECTLY ASKED. And if you had been paying any attention at all to what I’ve been saying you’d have noticed that it’s not like there’s a mysterious gap in my resume, I’ve been working and progressing in my career the whole time.

              At this point you’re just being obnoxious.

            2. EtherIther*

              Really? I think that’s unfair. Lots of life events affect when people finish school, and you are NOT entitled to them as an interviewer. You shouldn’t be judging people on things like that.

              Even if she HAD been in prison, that would show up on a background check, and if she HAD joined a cult and gotten out, you’re a jerk for judging someone who was taken advantage of like that!

      3. Darren*

        Your answer is too open.

        Interviewers are trained to probe, they are looking for the things you aren’t telling them as in a lot of cases those things are going to be red flags. An example when this is normally the case
        You – Oh I was working at this job and everything went pretty well
        Them – Did anything go poorly?
        You – Well I did have some issues with other employees.
        Them – What sort of issues?

        And they are going to keep digging there. Your answer to the degree question is just begging for them to try and drill more into the why. There are many possible red flags (or learning experiences) that could be hidden by such a statement like the one you made that they would want to drill for:
        * Did you allocate your time poorly and end up getting behind because you tried to take on too much? If so have you learned from that?
        * Did something unexpected happen? How did you deal with that? Do you think you could have dealt with it better in hindsight?

        You need to close the loop on that question or any decent or better interviewer is going to ask you more questions there looking for those keys.

        How to close the loop is mostly up to you. Personally I’d go with the had some unexpected medical issues spring up that meant you had to take some time off, but you are better now and have been attacking it effectively since then.

    2. Sunflower*

      Some people are just jerks. I had someone from a recruiting agency tell me that she wouldn’t submit me for a job because I wouldn’t tell her my current salary- after she flat out admitted that she wouldn’t know how much to pay me unless she knew what I was making (jaw drop). I stuck to my guns and she told me she has never had someone refuse in the 20 years she’s been a recruiter. I bit my tongue and just said I wouldn’t disclose and if it meant not getting the job, I didn’t want to work there anyway.

      Also- the line about conflicts with clients is complete BS. She is just hoping to get paid. I wouldn’t disclose anything- just lie and say you haven’t applied to any if need be.

    3. irene adler*

      I don’t think you are being defensive.

      I try not to open the “where else are you interviewing” issue ever. At most I give them one name/position. Or, I’ll say that I haven’t interviewed much lately because of other priorities. My take: let’s talk about the jobs you have available right now that fit my interest and skills. Isn’t that the best use of our time together? THEN I’ll tell you if I’ve applied -recently- for a very similar-sounding position. And then we can talk about the identity of their client.

      I know that there is a problem when two recruiters submit the same candidate for the same position. And employers don’t want to sift through the same resume -yours and the one the recruiter submitted. BUT! If the recruiter is going to polish your resume for submission for the position, then why not?

      1. Karen from Finance*

        See, I have another interview on Monday and the other position is much better than the one I was interviewing for today. This is also why I didn’t want to disclose it, I don’t them to interfere. If they contact me about the same position, then I’d tell them.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Past salary is hugely irrelevant and we both know it’s often used to get us to accept a below market salary moving forward. Which is why it’s being made illegal and all that jazz. They’re trying to see if you’re willing to take any bones they throw at you. Instead of seeing if you’re qualified/interested in a position and then giving you a salary range to see if you’re in the same area.

      Recruiters are shady AF and you are not being defensive, you need to trust nobody until they earn it, even if they’re giving you a ‘service’ or assistance like a recruiter is supposed to be providing! It’s supposed to be a mutually beneficial setup.

      1. Karen from Finance*

        Oh I have actually seen this from my HR-lady-from-Hell. She set up a meeting on her google calendar for an interview, and set it as public, and put all the candidate info and notes in the meeting details. And I couldn’t help but snoop. She actually wrote in there: “She’s asking for $10, but currently she’s earning $6, so I think we can get her down to $8″. Since then I NEVER say my current, really low, rate.

        It’s disgusting.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          *stabbing noises*





        2. Kat in VA*

          In one of my interviews when it became clear, I didn’t exactly *lie* about how much I made.

          I simply told them the rate that the company was paying…which was my rate + the temp agency’s rate. I figured if I told them what my rate was, they’d feel justified in offering me a slight bit over that and not a penny more. So I added together the two rates and presented that, and figured I would play dumb if it ever came up (“Well, they told me I was making X an hour and the temp agency was making X an hour, so clearly the company I was working for thought I was worth XX per hour, so…)

          Later, I just sidestepped the question because I figured out that asking my prior salary was an undercutting tactic and I don’t play games. If you’re nickel and diming hard enough that a 10% differential in pay is gonna make or break your company/division/whatever, then I don’t want to work there anyway. I can only imagine what raises and promotions are like at companies like that. :(

      2. Kat in VA*

        Ya the past history thing is, “Wull, you were making $28/hour in your last job, so you should be thrilled to make $29/hour in this one” when the job is advertised at, say, $33-$38/hour or whatever.

        Undercutting folks be undercutting, I guess.

        Although you would think that external recruiters, at least, would want you as high as possible because the more *you* make, the more *they* make, right?

    5. dealing with dragons*

      the “conflict of interest” is so you don’t go to the company’s website and apply not through the recruiter. if they say “hey, I’m recruiting for X position at Acme, Inc.” you conceivably could skip them and go to Acme’s website and directly apply, thus denying them finder’s fees.

  21. NewNewbie*

    I’ve had bad luck with being hired for positions that are “new” (roles that did not exist at a company previously or roles that are an addition to a team). In one new job I got sent home early without pay when things were slow because there wasn’t enough work for me, and in another I got laid off because there wasn’t enough work for me. I really want to stay in a position long-term and have some job security, so I don’t apply to any jobs where the listing mentions that it’s a new position anymore.

    When I do phone screenings, I ask, “Is this a new position, or is someone that’s leaving being replaced?” If they say it’s a new job, I ask if they expect it to be a temp job or a permanent job, what the hours are like, if they expect the new employee to be busy, and if there’s other work the new employee can help with if they finish up with their own work. Sometimes their answers make me feel better about the job and sometimes the answers seem to be red flags.

    Are there better questions I could ask to see how secure a new position would be? Should I be waiting for an in-person interview to ask this stuff?

    I’m wondering because most people don’t seem to mind the questions, but I did a phone screening recently where they seemed irritated and defensive about it and pointed out that my resume was full of temp and short term jobs to explain my “confusion.” I’m not sure if I accidentally came off as rude or interrogative or stupid or what.

    1. 1234*

      The phone screening people – It’s them. If they were that defensive about their “new” position and seemed to point to your temporary jobs as a reason to interview you for them, it sounds like they aren’t really looking for someone long term.

      I agree with you. I once learned that a job was “new” at an organization while I was interviewing with them over the phone. I withdrew my candidacy even though they wanted to move to an in-person interview. I really didn’t feel a connection with that company nor did I get a sense of direction about what they were looking for in the role. The best part was, a few weeks later, they sent me a rejection email saying the role had been filled.

      1. NewNewbie*

        The job ad said it was a full time job, and didn’t say anything about being temporary, so I think they thought I was confused when I asked about the hours, if it was a temp job, etc. They probably thought it was obvious that the job was 40 hours a week and permanent, but it wasn’t obvious to me. (Sometimes companies say a job is “full time” when it’s 25 hours a week, or don’t mention a job is temp to hire, or say the job is in town A when it’s really in town Z, etc.)

        Yes! No sense of a direction for a role makes me totally wary. I feel like some companies have work that needs to get done so they just hire a new person without putting much thought into if the role will be sustainable or how it will grow. I don’t want to be the one to finish a backlog of work and get new efficient systems set up for a few tasks and then run out of work 6 months in.

        1. 1234*

          That’s why I would let someone else “guinea pig” the new position. If the position opens up again in the distant future, and if it still makes sense to apply, go for it. If they filled the position and it opened up again really quickly, I would have major hesitations and wonder why it didn’t work out for that person.

          And you’re right. FT could mean a lot of things. It could mean FT Freelance aka FT hours with no benefits.

    2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      Someone who is being shady isn’t going to be honest on this point. I had an interviewer tell me, “Oh we are creating this new position, we had some of the line staff helping out as leadership in the department but we decided we needed a dedicated leader to do that work full-time.”

      It turned out the job was *not* new. They had a dedicated leader for 8 years who took a promotion, then a dedicated leader for 18 months who that utterly psycho boss had tortured out of the position, and within 5 days of me being there she started in on harassing me out.

      1. NewNewbie*

        Holy crud! I’m so sorry. That’s terrible that they lied about the position being new to avoid saying the last person left because of a psycho boss. ): I hope you got a new job quickly!

    3. MissGirl*

      Sounds like you’ve had some bad luck that isn’t necessarily indicative of the larger market. We’re hiring five people into new roles this month, doubling our team. Our department is growing and we have a crazy amount of work. I might find your questions a little odd, especially the first one. Most companies are very clear if something is permanent, temp, or contract. Asking about the hours so soon may come as you not wanting to work hard.

      I would ask more about the department, what the position would entail, why they created the position, what they want to see the candidate accomplish. And, yes, it might be best to wait for the second interview, not the phone screen. The phone screen is more of a broad interview to see if there’s a basic match between candidate and the company. Also a lot of phone screens are with the recruiter, and they wouldn’t have the answers you need.

      1. Frankie*

        Yeah, I think sometimes a new position can be risky because the job can morph a lot if people weren’t clear about what they needed…but that kind of scope creep happens in established jobs, too…and sometimes that dynamic can be to your benefit because it means you get experience with more diverse types/areas of work.

        OP, it does sound like you had bad luck, but I’m thinking back now over my career and I’ve actually never once seen a new role hired for and then downsized that quickly. So I think you’re right to ask questions and be cautious, but I wouldn’t assume this is a standard thing. YMMV depending on your field of course. MissGirl, I think all your questions are spot on.

      2. JulieCanCan*

        Totally agree about the question about the hours. When I was in a position where recruiting was one of my responsibilities, that question always made my hackles go up. Definitely hold off. If you want a job badly enough I’d resist asking about hours, up until you land the role and need to figure out what time to arrive the first day.

    4. Hannah*

      I think I might pull back on those specific questions and just ask, “What lead you to decide to create this position” and then use their answer to launch into why you can solve the problems that they are trying to solve with having someone in the role (while also getting information about whether or not they have thought out the role fully and are clear about what they need).

      I think that would mask the “interrogation” feel of those questions while still getting you the same (or better) information.

  22. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

    Happy Friday to all!

    I’d like to hear from mothers who had their kid(s) while having a career which requires travel. (I say mothers because, let’s face it, fathers don’t experience the same physical or career repercussions from becoming a parent.) I’ve been in my current role as a university fundraiser for almost a year, and I’m thinking of having my first kid in the next 16-18 months. In addition to all the normal worries about becoming a parent, maternity leave, cost of daycare, etc, I’m really uncertain about how it will be possible to have a job where I’m expected to spend 5-8 nights away from home per month, while raising an infant. I’m married and my partner doesn’t travel, so at least I don’t have to worry about overnight care or transport to/from daycare.

    In particular, I’m curious to hear how folks have handled being away from the job for 3 months (or however long) in a goal-based environment, as well as whether/how the organization accommodated soon-to-be and new mothers who weren’t able to travel in the late stages of pregnancy and shortly after giving birth.

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Celeste*

      To me the hardest part is how many days at a stretch are you going to be out of town? I’m thinking about it in case you are considering breastfeeding. The logistics of trying to bank milk for longer trips while keeping up your supply are daunting with longer absences. Plus you’d have to travel with a pump. I wonder if you could negotiate shorter trips or no travel for a period of time after you return.

      1. blackcat*

        One of my colleagues uses MilkStork to deal with this–milk gets overnighted back so she only needs 2-3 days worth at home. It’s $$$$ but sometimes you can expense it.

        1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          What a great program! Unfortunately I highly doubt I could expense it in my current organization, but wouldn’t it be amazing if that became a standard benefit for parents!

      2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        Fortunately I set my own travel schedule and I can conceivably restrict it to 1-2 night trips for the first few months, but breastfeeding is one of my biggest concerns!

        1. Frankie*

          If you’re lucky enough to have a plentiful supply it might be less stress than you think. You won’t have to pump nearly as often. If you have supply issues the absences will make it trickier, but you could do a blend of breastfeeding and formula supplementing and still be able to sustain some level of breastfeeding.

          Honestly, I would still recommend restricting night trips to that level even without breastfeeding. I wouldn’t have wanted to be separated from my infant like that early on. Even the separation of day care felt like way, way too much for the first couple of months. And I’m not just talking cognitively or emotionally–I felt a bodily to be back with my infant that was hard to process when I returned to work. Not to say I didn’t do it or shouldn’t have done it, it just made it hard.

          If you feel any work guilt about it, I would frame it in your head as a medical need. If you are able and choose to breastfeed, then that’s a medical need for both you and your infant. And your infant has a medical need to be near you in those early months. That helped me compare myself more to coworkers who have various types of physical accommodations, for instance.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      Having a supportive spouse or partner is key. The work I do requires a bit of travel, and the amount depends on whatever project I’m working on at the moment. My daughter is 10, and my husband has always been great about handling things at home when I’m traveling. I know other women whose husbands give them grief for traveling, and it’s just horrible and stressful.

      My job now requires me to be away from home 3 nights every 3-4 weeks

      The upside: I enjoy the peace, quiet, and downtime that comes with having your own hotel room to unwind in at the end of the day. It’s nice not to have to worry about what to cook for dinner every night. I can watch whatever I want on TV. And, I work mostly from home so a couple days of human interaction is good for me. Plus I keep accruing frequent flyer miles and hotel points.

      The downside: I don’t usually eat very well when I travel, lots of takeout or heavy indulgent foods that I would normally only have once in awhile. And I’m not good about exercising either, even when I bring workout clothes with me. I realize those downsides are all on me, but they are downsides all the same.

      Hardest of all is accepting that you might not be able to be there for your kid when they need you, and not beating yourself up for it when it does happen. I live in Denver, and the school shooting there earlier this week is in our school district, about 5 miles from my daughter’s school. We know people whose kids go there. It’s been difficult not being able to be there for her except for video chatting on WhatsApp. We talked for over an hour the other night because she was feeling sad and scared about what happened. I’m glad that technology let us see each other while we were talking, but nothing beats a real-live hug.

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        Thank you so much for sharing! Fortunately my husband is very supportive and recognizes that the work I do (including travel) is the reason we can afford our mortgage ;P I’m so sorry for what you guys are going through in CO right now (I don’t live there but travel there often). I know I’ll feel guilty for being away from my kid(s), especially when stuff like that happens.

    3. NewWorkingMama*

      I was able to majorly negotiate a no-travel clause for a few months after I came back. It takes a minute to catch your breath and get back into the rhythm so that can be really helpful if you can do it! For the nursing, if that’s the way you decide to go, that can be super challenging but definitely check out Milk Stork for shipping milk back. I cut way back on travel, but I also do pickup and dropoff for daycare so the logistics are really complicated. The other thing I found helpful was talking to other moms at the company on how they handled things, it can be a really helpful guide for what your experience might be like! That being said, if you have a reasonable boss, you might be able to get away with saying….this is what I need. Good luck!

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        Thanks for your insight! I’m the youngest person on my team and the only woman of childbearing years, so I think I’d be the first person in a long time to become a parent in this role. Unfortunately I only know of two younger women with young kids who had them here, and their work is structured differently than mine so their experiences won’t necessarily translate…plus I’m afraid to start the rumor mill by asking anyone about their experience with maternity leave.

        That said, I’m a valued member of the team and I’m planning to bust my ass to bring in big numbers in the next year, so they’ll have no choice but to let me do what I want!

    4. Sled dog mama*

      Wow only 5-8 nights a month? I was on 50% travel a few years ago when my second arrived.
      My best advice is at your first dr appointment after becoming pregnant (or before if you’re happy with your dr) talk about the travel. My doctor was willing to let me travel a lot later into pregnancy because it was part of a routine that I’d been doing for months before getting pregnant. I was traveling between Ohio and Montana so I was flying with a short drive on either end, my OB and I came up with some ground rules like I had to pick 1 hour plus connections for my flights and I had to walk (no sitting around at a gate) between flights. Remember that your travel will almost certainly stop before the baby actually arrives so develop a plan with your supervisor for who will cover your out of town work starting then, but also you need a plan for if you get placed on bed rest or travel restrictions earlier. My company had one person who
      If you plan to breast feed after returning to work you’ll want to work hard on building up a stock pile of expressed milk while on leave and look into the milk shipping services. There are a few companies (I only know of US ones) that will provide a kit for shipping frozen breast milk home while on business travel. Alternatively if you are only gone for an overnight or are traveling by car you can carry a cooler and many cold packs and make sure you stay in hotels with room fridges.
      As far as the work/life balance aspects, I’ve got very little advice since I am lucky enough to have a stay at home partner. One thing I will point out is that you both need to make sure you get decompression time as the baby grows up. My partner and I had some trouble with this since he was home all day I would rush home to take over child care and give him a break then I would take care of evening an bedtime and Id spend all weekend with him and our daughter so he got a break to just do nothing but I rarely got the same time not having to be “on”.

      1. Sled dog mama*

        Ugh, my company had one person who was hired specifically to do coverage for our single person sites so that part was pretty easy for me.

      2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        Thank you so much for sharing! I’ve thought that I probably won’t be able to travel in late pregnancy, but it didn’t occur to me that some women are put on bedrest or travel restrictions earlier…yikes. If you don’t mind me asking, how far along were you when you told you boss?

    5. Ranon*

      Corporette Moms might be another site to ask for advice on, I know there’s a lot of folks with highly demanding jobs on there if you wind up looking for more input.

    6. Muriel Heslop*

      Having a supportive spouse who doesn’t travel is HUGE! The first four years of being a mom I regularly spent 4-6 nights away at a stretch (conferences) several times a year. I missed a few while on mat leave, but we planned my replacements several months out. My mom stepped in to help a few times but my husband did the bulk of it and it was pretty seamless once he got the hang of it (we split kid duty from the get-go so he wasn’t shouldering this out of nowhere.) Once he started traveling things were MUCH harder and I then transitioned back to teaching which has zero travel.

      My work was really supportive, which was surprising because so few people (and none of my bosses) had children. I found myself pregnant by surprise but everyone was really understanding. I kind of expected the best and for the most part, things were okay. You can do it! It’s not easy, but it can be done.

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        That’s so great to hear! Thanks for the kind words and the support :)

    7. FS*

      I traveled a lot starting when my son turned one, and haven’t stopped since. If you have a supportive partner this will go a LOOOONG way. But I also made it work here and there for longer trips by having my mom or husband join me with the baby. I don’t do that anymore now kiddo is older. Even with a lot of familial support though, significant travel is really challenging and you just expect a certain level of stress and juggling to accommodate, in my experience.

    8. Career mom*

      Originally my job involved occasional travel, but that has morphed into twice-monthly trips away from home. I had my son 18 months into my job, he’s 5 now. A few things I’ve learned:
      – having a partner who doesn’t travel and can handle daily pickup/dropoffs is essential
      – nearby family to pinch-hit in emergencies is also super helpful (my MIL is all we have and she moved closer to us, thank goodness)
      – the early years (breastfeeding, diapers etc.) are emotionally harder, but the primary school years are proving logistically more challenging. Infants don’t have karate practice or school plays, which you inevitably miss and feel horribly guilty about.

      My partner used to make more but now I do, by quite a lot, so he’s come to accept the travel as a necessity. Honestly, and I hear this a lot, it sometimes means one parent has to have a job and the other has a career. A career will ask more of you, but reward you with more in return. I don’t think we could manage as well as we do if my husband’s job was as demanding as mine.

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        This is such a helpful insight. It’s interesting, we already have the one career/one job dynamic; we’ve moved across the country and back for my career, whereas he is the kind of person who’d rather have a job that pays the bills and allows him to have a fulfilling home life. Hopefully that bodes well for when we start our family!

    9. snack_attack*

      I can’t comment from the mother’s side but I can comment on the child of a mother who’s career has required travel as part of the job. She was fortunate that she was at a firm which was very understanding and flexible to the needs of a working mother with 2 children, and she worked remote most of the time with occasional trips. Even when she had business trips, she was still able to schedule around many important events for us, like game days for sports teams and graduations. I am now a young professional myself, and she is now a high-level member of the firm with international travel on a monthly basis.

      This may not be useful to your question, but I hope that it can give you confidence that you absolutely CAN be a great mother and pursue a successful career!

    10. AcademiaNut*

      I don’t have kids, but I do work in a field that can be travel heavy.

      What happens here – travel commitments during the last few months of pregnancy are generally redistributed, or shifted to video conferences for meetings. These come with months of warning, so it’s easier to do than if someone had a sudden health or family emergency that made travel impossible. We also have some travel that cannot be done while pregnant for safety reasons (high altitude work), so that would be shifted to other people. When it comes to maternity leave – lots of preparation and arranging shifting of duties to other people, and in my field, making sure your postdocs and students are well taken care of while you’re away. It’s also pretty common to monitor your email while on leave, for critical, time sensitive stuff (if only to turn down requests in a timely fashion). Some of these things are linked to the person, not the position, so they can’t be responded to by anyone else.

      With the travel – one of the biggest things is having the father be an equal partner in caring for the baby. If you’ve got a situation where Mom takes care of the kids, dad ‘helps’ and Mom also travels a lot something is going to break (usually Mom). If the kid is used to being fed a bottle by Dad in the middle of the night, and being prepped for daycare, and put to bed by him, it will go a lot more smoothly than a sudden change in care when you’re away. If you husband has access to any sort of paternal leave, have him take all of it as you’re going back to work (also – can he take FMLA to be at home while you’re getting back to work?). Also, hire help if you need it while you’re away.

      The big thing, of course, is breast milk. If the kid’s at daycare, they’ll be used to bottles. There’s pumping and freezing the extra for while you’re away, supplementing with formula, and weaning earlier than you might otherwise. (A lot of our travel is international, so mailing back breast milk is not an option). For longer trips, sometimes women have a family member or babysitter travel with them, so they can take the baby, and the babysitter brings them to Mom for feeding, and looks after them in the hotel room during the day.

  23. BRR*

    How do you deal with the anxiety of your employer making a big change that is likely going to have large, negative financial consequences? It was announced this week that we are making a huge change in how we do things and I’m really concerned it’s going to devastate the overall budget. There aren’t many details right now (possibly because this decision was rushed and not thought through) but I’m worried that ultimately as a cost saving measure my job will be eliminated. I’m looking for a new job and have been for awhile but I’m in a more niche field. In the meantime, what have people done when their employer is probably ruining its business model?

    1. Auburn*

      Do they have a history of making rash poorly thought out business decisions? Is it possible they just haven’t communicated about the change we’ll and you can ask some clarifying questions?

    2. JokeyJules*

      The general advice i hear for dealing and coping with anxiety is to control the things you can control.

      So keep looking for jobs and doing the job your currently have as best you can, perhaps employ some extra strategies to save money. that’s all that you can control.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Remind yourself that the employer has a lot more wiggle room in that “budget” than you’ll ever know about.

      We have a budget, any responsible business has one but it’s a baseline of what to expect. But if a machine goes up in flames [not literally, since that’s covered by insurance], we’re going to buy one and it’s not going to mean laying someone off to be able to afford it. We have a reserve, we aren’t making any decisions that we’re not aware of the costs about.

      Unless you’re in an executive position, you’re worrying about something that you’re very unaware of the literal numbers and reserve banks.

  24. JokeyJules*

    Maintenance in my building just came over the fire alarm speakers to announce that there is a certain car parked in the building garage and they need to move it.

    is that legal? It legitimately came out of the red fire alarm speaker on the wall that they use to announce fire drills or announce testing of the fire alarm system.

        1. JokeyJules*

          It’s extraordinarily loud and disruptive since it is supposed to be used in the event of an emergency

          also, I don’t want that to become a regular thing, announcing that a Gray ford focus is parked in a spot assigned to someone else to the entire building with over 1500 people working out of it.

      1. JokeyJules*

        Because it’s the fire alarm system, not a general use PA system. They were using it as a general us PA system. The car was just in a spot that isn’t assigned to them, not in a fire lane or creating an emergency or obstacle to emergency services.

        1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          It sounds like it is both a fire alarm system and a general use PA system, then. Why can’t it be both?

        2. RandomU...*

          I’d let it go. Perhaps the guy made a mistake to what system he used. I can ask someone I know if it’s against the law, but even if it is, how would you use this information?

          In other words, if you have a general PA system and they guy used that instead of the fire system, wouldn’t it still be loud and disruptive?

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Yep. People use the system they know. Security may only have access to the fire system and not the PA system. Also, it could have been an actual emergency. The car could have been blocking a fire exit or the like.

        1. Auntie Social*

          And they’re doing the Ford owner a kindness by not just having the car towed. In my city that’s really expensive.

    1. Psyche*

      I don’t think that there are legal restrictions on what the speaker attached the the fire alarm system is allowed to be used for. That is most likely up to building management unless otherwise specified in the lease.

    2. Anono-me*

      I would be very surprised if it was illegal. However I understand your concern that it is disruptive. Can you suggest a new sop where an interoffice all email is sent when there’s something of this nature?

      1. Lilysparrow*

        If it’s time-sensitive, an email isn’t a good solution. Lots of people don’t check email while they’re in meetings or at lunch.

    3. Lilysparrow*

      In some jurisdictions there are regulations about when and for what purpose the fire alarm speakers can be used.

      But not because it’s loud and disruptive. The rules (where they exist) are about emergency equipment use, leaving it free for actual emergencies, that kind of thing.

      Occasional loud noises and announcements in the office that annoy people are not a legal issue.

      How long have you worked there? If it’s never happened before, it’s probably just a mix-up.

      If you’re concerned about your work being disrupted, I doubt that devoting time to track down applicable local regs or get the maintenance guys in trouble is a good use of your time.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      It’s a legal use… but equally fair to point out that they REALLY don’t want to train you to ignore it. And that the intentionally high volume of a voice evacuation system is disruptive to business operations, and potentially the decibel levels are high enough to make the system unsafe for use as the daily PA system.
      This is my industry.

  25. Fortitude Jones*

    Today is my last day at my current job and my 32nd birthday – the timing of this couldn’t be better. I think this is the best gift I could have gotten – on Monday, I will start working fully remote from home and making 26% more than I currently do! I’m so excited. I got my work laptop last night and everything seems to be set up properly, and next weekend, I’ll be flying out to Florida to join my new team at a conference in Orlando. I can’t wait for this new beginning.

    Good luck to all those still job searching – I know how much it sucks. It does eventually get better, though. Hang in there, folks.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Thank you, everyone, for the birthday and well wishes! I appreciate it – my day has been great so far :) I’m going to get drunk with friends after work and to a musical after, so I anticipate the rest of my day will be fantastic as well.

    2. The Ginger Ginger*

      Congrats! I’m always so jealous when I hear about completely remote jobs. I must be in the wrong field or I just don’t know how to search for those kind of jobs because I never come across them.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Thank you! I, too, had the hardest time finding fully remote jobs (I’ve been looking for years), but I’ve been seeing a lot more proposal development jobs posted recently from major companies, so I’m glad people are beginning to make that switch. Honestly, I write all day long – I don’t need to be in anybody’s office to do that. I’m glad that companies are starting to realize the potential benefits and cost savings of having their workforce work out of their own homes.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Thank you so much – it really was! I’m going to miss my close work friends, but I’m so happy to finally have the flexibility and freedom to do my work when and where I want to. As someone with various chronic illnesses, some of which are very nasty and require me to be in the bathroom for hours at a time, this is a godsend. I really hope this works out because if it does, that will be amazing. My new boss has been with the company for 21-22 years, she’s fully remote as well, so I have high hopes!

  26. Dr. BOM*

    Hey, all.

    I’m at a pretty good point in my career. I’m almost 5 years into this position, and given that I was the first person in my role, I’ve shaped things & set expectations in a pretty serious way. However, I still find myself rather lacking in regards to what is becoming an increasingly important skill: estimating effort.

    Up until recently, my department has worked in a semi-independent fashion from the computer engineers, mostly reacting to changes that they’ve driven. But in (what I believe to be) a positive turn, we’re going to be working much more closely with them. The issue is – they require pretty reliable estimates of effort that goes into work. In the past, I usually just try to overestimate and deliver ahead of schedule, but the engineering department needs more accuracy on that front.

    Can any of you folks recommend any good strategies for doing a better job of estimating how long it’ll take me to complete a task?

    1. Gem*

      Do you have a way of finding how long it took you to do tasks previously? If so you can use that as a base of how long certain tasks take and you can go from there

    2. Angwyshaunce*

      The two things I’ve learned about estimating time for my projects:
      1) Use experience as my guide to estimate roughly how long it will take; and
      2) Scale that estimate up by a factor to account for reality, the unknown, and the misguided optimism from #1 (my factor is x2).
      Tweak these numbers as needed until the estimates approach reality.

    3. Ranon*

      The best tactic I know of is to keep good track of your estimated time and then actual time used so you can continue to refine your estimates. It can be helpful to practice with small tasks or defined portions, too, so you develop building blocks you can put together for future projects.

    4. The Ginger Ginger*

      Take into account both time and complexity. Effort is technically both those things, though the calculation outcome you’re usually giving is time based.

      So you could have a VERY simple task that takes 20 hours of work, but it’s mindless and easy. So not a lot of effort, just a lot of time. Or you could have a task that will only take an hour but is ridiculously complicated or touches a ton of different pieces. Typically time and complexity go up together, but not always.

      Then assign values for both time and complexity to your standard tasks. How long does this task USUALLY take you? How complex a task is it? Use those known tasks as a benchmark for estimating new tasks. The more unknowns involved in a new task, the higher the estimate should be.

      Google around for articles on estimating effort/hours in Agile – agile framework does this kind of exercise ALL THE TIME. There will be a lot of tips out there, and you can experiment to see what works best for you.

    5. LPUK*

      I’ve got a lot better than this since I started consulting and had to produce timesheets. I broke down projects into smaller elements and made sure I reported time against those. On the same sheet I started keeping a running total by element, so I could see what time it took and from then on I had the building blocks for estimating any new projects eg stakeholder interviews – from 1 to 1.5 days depending on number. At the end of every job, I dump all the timings into an estimates file and it’s then all together and easy to review when I am planning a new job. Also, if your work product involves other people, add a healthy margin for holidays/ conferences/ meetings to the overall timings

    6. Akcipitrokulo*

      Break the task into its component pieces. List all of them. (And don’t miss the small bits.)

      Estimate how long it takes for the small bits and add/multiply it up. Use past experience where possible.

      Note any work which has a dependency on someone else and note as a risk to your timings.

      Finally, add contingeny and don’t credit yourself with full hours to devote! Devs in our sprint work 7.5 hours/day but burndown assigns work based on 6 hours/day, because that is realistic (100% impossible anyway, bau, meetings, etc).

  27. Latkas, please*

    So I am likely starting a job on June 24, but am supposed to be on vacation June 10-14&17. I have things I need to finish for a different department and my department and overall HR is known for being retaliatory to those putting in notice. When should I give notice? Any advice? I’ll try like hell to finish up my one project by June 7, including having it reviewed and approved in case they axe me for putting in notice but… what’s the best way to approach this knowing what I know?

    1. Natalie*

      my department and overall HR is known for being retaliatory to those putting in notice.

      Is there some particular reason you need to protect them from their own bad decisions? If they cut your notice period short and you can’t finish the project, that sounds an awful lot like a them problem, not a you problem.

      1. Latkas, please*

        Not protecting them. Protecting my former manager (I was a single type of employee in an organization of 200, so when I switched to a different department with her blessing, she and I became close friends and the item outstanding is something I am finishing due to my experience in my former capacity that came along well after we thought those issues came to an end).

        1. Natalie*

          That still doesn’t make it primarily your concern. It’s unfortunate if the organization’s overall dysfunction creates a problem for your former manager, but the responsibility for that lies at the feet of the organization. It isn’t necessary or even possible for you to take on that burden yourself. It is not something you can control.

          Assuming being walked early wouldn’t cause you a financial burden, take “finishing this project” out of the equation and give whatever the normal amount of notice for your field/level is.

    2. Auntie Social*

      Would your boss help? Can you say ‘I’m leaving on X date, I’ve already talked to Boss and she says we should be able to finish two projects”, and have boss promptly send HR a memo saying basically the same thing? “Latkes says she’s leaving and we have arranged to complete A and B projects, I dont want anything to interfere with her end date as these projects are important”.

    3. Zephy*

      You say “likely” starting a job on June 24 – does that mean you don’t have an offer in writing yet? Don’t give notice until you do have that, at least.

      Are you more worried about leaving work unfinished (leaving a bad last impression, burning bridges, making your former-manager-now-friend sad)? Or is your primary concern that if you give notice 6/7, HR will turn around and just terminate you on the spot, so the 6 days of PTO you had booked won’t pay out, and you’re counting on that money?

    4. AnonPi*

      You say you are “likely” starting a job on June 24th. If you don’t have a firm offer then say nothing until you do for one. And remember notices are a courtesy and to avoid burning bridges, there’s no time requirement for giving notice. If you can still get a good reference out of your former manager for instance, then I wouldn’t worry so much about the company and probably wait til June 18/19th to give notice if they’re likely to retaliate/fire you on the spot.

    5. The Ginger Ginger*

      I’d do June 2. If you’ve got health insurance coverage there and they walk you out the door that day, it may be effective through the end of the month – which would be better than having it cut off at the end of May if you give your notice earlier. And your vacation can count as part of your notice for sure. If they behave badly around accepting notice, they have no right to expect any better kind of notice from you. In fact, you could just give your notice the day before your vacation and let the chips fall where they may.

      IF you think your former boss can be trusted you could MAYBE give her a heads up first. But I would be SUPER WARY about attempting that.

      1. Latkas, please*

        It’s actually because of my former boss (Director) and her boss (managing director turned SVP) that I got this job. They were my references and this is a govt-to-govt transition. It’s been a rough five years here and I’m leaving because once I came into the department I’m in now, I’m like the company go-to person if that person never wants anything for being the go-to and they know that’s why I’m leaving. My former boss advised me not to put in notice (she’s been here over 15 years) just yet. I have, since this morning, accepted the position and got the ball rolling with the offer and paperwork. I stated “might start June 24” because I wasn’t sure if I’d ask for July 1 instead, which I didn’t do because they actually asked me for May 28 (too soon), June 10 (vacation) and then June 24. It was cool of them to accommodate that gap of time so I let it alone. I’m super excited about this position, and while I understand that what I’m worried about isn’t all on me, and I’m working on ways to make sure there’s no employment gap/missed paychecks, I can’t be sure and I worry about everything. Thanks for your advice guys. I appreciate your responses.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Well, since the new company has been extremely accommodating of your schedule so far, I wouldn’t push it again by asking for another extension – they already did so three times. Therefore, you need to bite the bullet and put in your notice June 10 at the latest so you give your current employer the proper two weeks. It sucks because you’ll be on vacation and will need to do this over the phone, then send them a signed resignation letter all while you’re supposed to be out, but that’s life – sometimes, things aren’t always convenient.

  28. Murphy*

    I’m in that awkward stage where I interviewed last week and then this week was given background check paperwork to fill out (which they don’t do unless they want you) but I obviously haven’t been offered anything yet. I’m keeping up with my work (and continuing to look at other jobs, because it’s not official til it’s official!) Here’s my question. My boss wants me to set up some meetings between he and I and 10 other departments on campus as “listening tours” where we can get feedback, suggestions about what we can do better, etc. I think this is a great idea, but since I’m likely leaving, I’m not sure that I should be the one doing this. These 10 meetings will take some time to set up especially since it’s a university and things can be slow in the summer. He’s given me no timeline on this. Should I go ahead and start setting up some of these meetings, or should I focus on other work and hold off so he and my eventual replacement can do this?

    1. RandomU...*

      Proceed as if you are staying for 100 years. As you say you don’t know what is going to happen so it’s just best to go on like there isn’t a new shiny job in your future until you get the offer.

    2. Anono-me*

      Seconding the proceed like this is your Forever Employer with planning the meetings and everything else. However maybe suggest times when you’re most likely replacement doesn’t already have meetings scheduled. For example if you know that Fergus is going to be the one to step up and fill your shoes when you leave and he has a 10 am meeting every Tuesday, don’t schedule new meetings then.

      1. Murphy*

        I mean whoever they hire next. I’m a team of one, so I have no idea who’s going to pick up my slack after I leave.

        1. Samwise*

          Don’t worry about it, then. Start the ball rolling — first step is contacting everyone to see what their prefs are, yes? You’re going to have to balance that out anyway. Then start working on the schedules. If you’re gone and the schedule doesn’t work for whoever is taking over, then they can reschedule. It’s the same as with anything that’s gonna happen when/if you leave. One thing you could do proactively is to write out your plans for how these meetings are supposed to go, drafting questions, procedures/follow ups, timeline, how you expect to analyze the data, format for the report, etc. Thats going to be useful for you if you stay, and for your boss and replacement if you don’t.

          1. JulieCanCan*

            Yes, just proceed as if you will be there for the next 5+ years. No need to put anything on pause or delay – just do everything as normal until you don’t work there. Even if you give notice, you’re going to be doing your job until you leave it – work doesn’t halt at the time of giving notice.

            Good luck, I hope you get a job that you really want!

  29. Miss M*

    Hello, I wrote a while back: Thank you for the encouragement on that post!

    I’m almost 6 months at this job and it hasn’t gotten any better (in fact, in moments it’s gotten worse.) I’ve applied for a few jobs in between now and then but it’s been a combo of my job being so busy + a bit paralyzed by fear. I have been really good about networking and finding supports in my new city. I started doing roller derby too for an outlet.

    The good side of things, my job duties itself are pretty great. If it wasn’t for the toxic culture and team, I would totally stay. I’ve written my first grant and won it (truly shocked), I’m leading a state initiative, and I’m getting to present at a conference next month.

    On the flip side, last night my boss and I were driving back to the office from a meeting and I mentioned missing my parents back home. She then said “God, if you say you’re leaving before two years I’m going to literally kill you, you understand?” *cue nervous laughter from me and quiet chuckling from her* I know she’s not serious but combined with everything else happening on my team, it’s a bit unsettling.

    If in the future I get an interview and offer (I feel hesitant that I will because I’ve been here for 6 months) OH I AM DREADING what to say to my boss. I’m truly afraid she’s going to throw something at me. Anyways. Just venting here. I’m so grateful for this site and all the commenters here!

    1. Rainy days*

      You don’t owe it to her to stay for two years if the culture is toxic. In fact, if you get another job you should feel extra good about leaving someone who makes death threats, even as a joke.

    2. Green Goose*

      It’ll probably be awkward, especially since your boss seems a bit dramatic and unprofessional based on the story, but it’ll be okay. I had to leave a toxic job about six years ago after only working there for five months when they hired me expecting me to work there for a few years. My coworkers made similar type comments after I gave my notice, like “you better sleep with one eye open” (they were joking but there was a hint of truth because they knew the owner would be so mad and it made me so anxious). And yes, telling her was very awkward and she was very passive-aggressive after I gave notice, but…

      Once I left I was so relieved! It was the best decision and any awkwardness, unprofessional behaviour by my boss during my notice period was worth not working there anymore. Good luck!!

    3. Someone Else*

      “Why are you leaving your current position?”
      “My manager said she’d literally kill me.”

  30. Kramerica Industries*

    How much can I push back on not wanting to work with a coworker on a project? The issue is not the coworker. My boss originally said he wanted me on the project with Joe because Joe is new (1 month) and I could be useful in guiding him. The thing is, I’m also new to the team (3 months), but have already proven I know how to do the work. On an assignment we just worked together, a senior coworker essentially blamed Joe for not following the process right, when it was actually a system bug and out of his control. I’m afraid that working on a project together will further this mistrust in Joe’s work and that he won’t get a chance to grow if they keep coming to me if things go wrong instead of having him work it out.

    1. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

      To attack the issue another way (rather than not working with Joe), could you (a.) ask Joe to try working things out before coming to you, or when he does come to you ask him if he’s tried to work it out first, and (b.) correcting the record to whomever is hearing senior coworkers complaints? I don’t necessarily think asking not to work with someone, for what sounds like a good reason (guiding Joe) in the first three months at a new job is a great idea, but perhaps others disagree.

      1. Kramerica Industries*

        He’s a competent worker. I’ve seen him ask the right questions and get through issues. I think my managers are quick to judge him when things go wrong instead of believing that it wasn’t his fault. I don’t want to get caught in the middle of this…last time, they pulled me aside to tell me about an issue with his work. I asked Joe and all the steps seemed right. It was only when I said that I didn’t think that this was a worker issue that they discovered it was a system bug. I don’t want to be a crutch for their control issues instead of them working it out with Joe directly.

        1. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

          Gotcha. Sounds like a sticky situation and I hope you’re able to resolve it.

    2. Auntie Social*

      Head it off at the pass by reminding your boss “remember when X went wrong and some people/Mr. Howell thought it was Joe’s fault? What do we do if that happens again? I know YOU give us the benefit of the doubt, but will you remind Mr. Howell and the skipper that it could just as easily be a system bug??” I think you should work with Joe–you two working together have more credibility than just Joe alone. And afterwards you can praise Joe’s qualities of X and Y to anyone who will listen.

  31. ell emm ess*

    Dress code question: how do you deal with the matter of “appropriateness” when your office has no dress code? My partner (a woman) is an executive at a tech firm with no dress code (although one male employee was once sent home to change into something other than sweatpants with a giant hole in the crotch). There is a young woman who works there whose clothing choices fall into the category of what feels like beyond inappropriately too short, too tight, too full of cutouts, should really be wearing a bra with that top, too much like club-wear, etc., for even an informal work environment. It’s sort of hard to quantify, but it’s one of those you-know-it-when-you-see-it things. And, to make matters even more fun, this employee tends to react to any sort of critical feedback with hostility. Any advice on dealing with a situation like this?

    TL;DR: How do you tell an employee, “If your pants are so tight that the outline of your labia are visible, they are not work-appropriate?”

      1. ell emm ess*

        I’m pretty sure a dress code won’t happen, but even if it did, how would you write it to address the – and I am being completely serious here – so-tight-I-can-see-your-labia pants?

        1. Semaj*

          Why would a dress code not happen when you obviously have a business need for it? Sending employees home to change because they lack the common sense to not come to work with holes in their crotch is a waste of everyone’s time. A bare bones, simple to follow dress code that only applies the common sense discretion your employees should have seems like an easy win. You’re not ruling out jeans or insisting they polish their shoes or anything.

          You will be hard-pressed to address this with her in any way if you don’t have any sort of policy to follow. To address something like this, I think it would fall under some soft statement like “Employees are expected to demonstrate good judgement in their business attire. We expect that your business attire, while casual, will exhibit common sense and professionalism.” If she continues to wear skin tight clinging clothes, it’s going to be an uncomfortable thing to address but at least you’ll have a policy to point to.

          1. ell emm ess*

            A dress code won’t happen because the ultimate deciders of such things don’t see the need for one and don’t want one because it’s not cool to have one at a tech startup and blah blah blah. They’re also rarely on the same floor as she is, and as good-but-also-sort-of-clueless-about-such-things dudes, they don’t really get it.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              She could point out that a dress code is the easiest way to avoid a sexual harassment lawsuit when Madamoiselle Tight Pants starts the big 2020 trend for “cold hips” to go with cold shoulders… Or when the male execs have an employee about whom they’re tempted to say “some people shouldn’t wear leggings.”

      2. Nanc*

        Ah, the big Introducing Our Dress Code production number from Ask a Manager: The Musical!
        In our current offices
        the state of dress permitted
        may vary from your previous jobs
        but when it comes to trouser fitting–
        no Camel Toe! No Moose Knuckle!
        Not even for a chuckle or a laughhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

        (brought to you by a Benedryl high and lack of caffeine. Curse you, allergy season!)

    1. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

      I’m not sure you need a formal dress code in place to ask an employee to adjust to work appropriate clothing, as long as you’re willing to give some guidance on what that means.

    2. Not a Real Giraffe*

      “Valencia, I know we do not have an official dress code policy, but I still need you to come to work in clothing that is professional, not better suited for a nightclub. The pants you wore yesterday are not appropriate for the office, so please do not wear them to work going forward.”

    3. Media Monkey*

      is she in a position where she could been seen as a sort of mentor? maybe take her for lunch or a coffee and suggest that although there isn’t a dress code, it can be hard for women especially younger women to be taken seriously, and sometimes being more conservative than the dress code can work well. with a “this sucks but it is the reality of work” attitude?

      1. ell emm ess*

        She’s not. She’s also a really difficult and defensive person in general, and tends to think that because she’s smart, she can do whatever she wants. I’d imagine she would not take kindly to being told that her outfit is in appropriate and even with a dress code would consider any such suggestion to be sexist and discriminatory, and by the way why was anyone even looking at her crotch/boobs/whatever – that’s harassment!

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      They need to have a dress code if they want to enforce anything or not start dipping their toes into “Why are you singling me out? This feels like discrimination.” territory. It’s absurd not to have SOMETHING written up.

      It can be really easy going like “Form fitting, revealing or noticeably decaying clothes are not appropriate attire.”

      This will kept them in the clear for jerks who walk in with their dongs hanging out like the sweatpants guy or anyone waltzing in wearing their scuba gear because they’re going for a dive after work. Because those aren’t acceptable either but try to get that to hold up in a termination case when you have no written policy or expectations.

      Without it written and enforced, it’s worthless and leaves their tooshies hanging out waiting for a lawyer to eat on it when the time comes that someone wants to make a stink about being discriminated against.

      1. Free Meerkats*

        I’m trying to imagine going through a day at work in a wet or dry suit. Nope; I’d pass out from dehydration.

    5. IrisEyes*

      With no power I don’t think you can do anything to address the issue directly especially if they aren’t willing to listen to constructive criticism.

      However, you could try positive compliments when she is wearing an outfit that is less obscene. If you have any social power there or any “cool” factor this can work. Women as a whole are generally pretty sensitive to the approval of external appearance from other women.

      On the other hand it doens’t sound like things could get a whole lot worse so addressing it and maybe if you can think of legitimate ways that dressing more professionally might benefit her specifically in your environment and spell out what that would look like. If you can point to a woman with a higher position that she might aspire to that would be a good idea, even better if there are several with different styles.

      1. Natalie*

        I’m not sure where you’re getting the idea they have no power to address it? OP says they’re partner is an executive at the firm, so they would seem to have plenty of standing.

    6. CatCat*

      It sounds like there is a dress code. Like, you don’t want worn out clothes full of holes or form-fitting attire. So just say that. Write it down and distribute it. Doesn’t have to be overly complicated.

      1. ell emm ess*

        I think what’s tough is trying to come up with any sort of policy that gets at appropriateness and what actually crosses a line (and doesn’t overly police women’s bodies). Like, “form-fitting” can mean a lot of things – it can mean a pencil skirt from J. Crew, it can mean skinny jeans, it can mean leggings, or it can mean the labia pants. And the same with “no holes” – what about fashionably distressed jeans?

        The subjectivity of it is where the difficulty lies, and that’s especially true with a person who would likely not react well anyway.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          So you’re okay with “holes” in jeans but not in tops…that’s kind of absurd and getting way too deep into this. Oh no, you rule out distressed jeans along with yoga pants, you cannot pick and choose like that because without some guidelines you’re asking for trouble.

    7. MissDisplaced*

      Most companies, even casual hoodie-wearing ones, do have a basic dress code of “business casual” which mainly means:

      >Employees should present to work clean and well-groomed, following basic levels of personal hygiene.
      >Clothing should be clean and neat, without rips, holes or tears.
      >Clothing should be appropriate for an office environment and cover the body appropriately without revealing excessive skin, body parts or undergarments: Examples of inappropriate clothing include: items being too short, tight, see-through, shiny or expressly revealing.
      >Shoes should be well constructed to protect the feet, be of leather or canvas material, and should not impede normal walking or working activities.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Other useful phrases ive seen… Undergarments worn and not visible past clothing. Any body parts normally covered by a swimsuit are covered by clothing. Skirts must be longer than your pinkies when your arms are held down at your side. (This from someone old enough to say that was the ‘cool’ length for microminis when she was in school and it was unarguably food short for office.) Manufacturing floor staff must wear additional safety gear as per their assigned tasks.
        I’ll have to go look and see how they updated for stretch pants–I’m not a fan of them so I didn’t pay attention to that detail.

        1. Kat in VA*

          Further complicated by Betabrand and their “work yoga pants” that look like work slacks, barely, but fit like yoga pants.

          Fine with a tunic top, less so with a short blazer or hip length cardigan.

    8. Free Meerkats*

      Have the guy who’s working out his notice period walk by her and say, “Nice labia!” By the time the investigation is finished, he’ll be down the road.

      I kid (mostly.)

      1. Jemima Bond*

        Reminds me of a job where our dress code was accepted as being v casual owing to nature of work. A female colleague (I am also female which is probably relevant) often had “whale tail” – that thing where your g-string underwear sticks up over the back waistband of your jeans – and then it started to show at the front too. I lost patience and said, “oh ffs Tangerina, get a belt, we don’t all need to see next week’s laundry”. This job had very relaxed attitudes re language and…attitude. So I could see myself saying to your colleague in private, “seriously Jane you have a hell of a case of cameltoe there, you might want to sort that out”.
        Also reminded of a phrase I read in a novel, a character described someone as having “jeans so tight you could tell if he was Jewish”…

    9. MaureenC*

      It sounds like they need an explicit one-sentence dress code: “Employees will cover their genitals in compliance with local business custom.”

      The rest, if the tech bros aren’t going to have a dress code because that’s so old (and because they like looking at Ms. Function), will just have to be lived with unless HR can come up with something.

      1. Ewesername*

        Our guidelines state:
        Due to nature of our business, tops must have sleeves. Bottoms must be loose enough to disguise the nature of your genitalia. No superfluous openings on either.

        In other words – no tanks, no tight pants, no holes. Goes for all genders, regardless of department – factory, warehouse, garage, office.

        Do people grumble? Yep. Does HR whip out the old code from 1980 with the “ladies are to wear knee length skirts/heels, gentlemen shirts and ties?” Once in awhile. Shuts the grumbling down every time.

    10. CM*

      Let’s say there’s no dress code, there’s not going to be, and the OP’s partner doesn’t have the authority to tell people how to dress. My approach would be this: ask yourself why this bothers you and, if you’re able to come up with a real reason that isn’t just “I think you look unattractive” or “I think you look ghetto” or “It bugs me that you’re not following what I think are the implicit rules of how people need to dress in an office” then share that reason with the person.

      So, if I guy I worked with wore loose shorts and I could literally see his balls, I would say, “I feel really uncomfortable right now because I can see your balls.”

      Or, if we went to a client meeting and he was dressed in a way that felt off-brand, I might say, “I don’t think what you’re wearing right now conveys [whatever it is we’re trying to convey]” Like, “I don’t think what you’re wearing right now reads as fun and casual” or “I don’t think what you’re wearing right now reads as stable and reassuring.”

      Or, if I had heard other people making fun of the way that person dressed, and I felt like it was holding them back from professional opportunities, I might say, “People around here try to dress more like Big Bird most days. It doesn’t always make sense, but sometimes wearing lots of yellow feathers makes them more favorably disposed toward whatever you’re trying to tell them.”

      But, if I didn’t have a reason besides “I think your body looks ugly this way” or “I don’t think you know how to buy clothes that fit properly” I probably would just not enjoy what that person was wearing and keep it to myself. Or maybe give them compliments on the days they wore something I did like, or that I thought fit them better.

    11. ..Kat..*

      Is there something that she wants (such as more respect?) that you can use to suggest clothing changes?
      Ms No-bra-tight-short-clothing: Joe never asks my opinion. Jim disregards anything that I say. No one respects my professional competence.
      You: Yes, I’ve noticed that. I wonder if you wore a bra and looser, longer skirts if that would make a difference.
      Ms No-bra-tight-short-clothing: I can wear what I want. I am just expressing myself. You are jealous of my breasts natural perkiness.
      You: Yes, you can wear what you want. It just saddens me that no one notices how smart you are. I wonder if it is related to your clothing. I notice that Jill gets a lot of respect. She’s smart and I think her clothing choices help her get the respect she deserves.

  32. confidante's inferno*

    This is timely! I have a quandary that’s stressing me out (i.e. I’m overthinking as always). Will try to keep it short but any opinions hugely appreciated.

    I’m in my first professional role post-university doing project mgmt. I kind of fell into it and took it because it was a good opportunity; I’ve been doing it for 18 months. The work itself is stressful and not what I want to do long term, but the team and its culture is amazing; close-knit, supportive, great work/life balance, good workload management from leaders, etc., and the nature of the role means I collaborate with tons of different departments, which is great for building up a network.

    I saw an internal vacancy for a role that would be more suited to my interests (numbers-focused, yay!) which is a grade above my current role. Somehow I managed to get an interview for it(!) because they said they’re looking for skills and enthusiasm rather than experience. Fantastic opportunity. However, it’s a newly created, smaller team, and the others in the team are in different offices across the country (same for my current team, but we have lots of video calls and a few of my team are in my office with me). So my worries are: 1) will the culture be as positive and supportive? 2) will I feel isolated, because my team won’t be physically around me and the nature of the role is much less collaborative? and 3) to a smaller extent, will I be able to cope with helping a new department to grow with new ideas etc? (I’m a small-picture, detail kinda person – not an ideas gal).

    I would really, really miss my current team – each and every one of them have been so willing to mentor and teach and give me guidance and encouragement, and there’s no guarantee of a similar environment in the other role. BUT I don’t want to be doing this job forever. The other option would be to stick where I am for a while, and wait for something to come up within a bigger/more established/more local team, which may be a bit of a pipe dream… I suppose what it comes down to is, what’s more important – the people you work with or the work itself?

    (Also, I have anxiety and am terrified of change generally, which may be clouding my thoughts. I’m interested to know whether a “normal” person would have as much hesitation as I do, or if it’s just because I’m catastrophising!)

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Changing jobs is always a risk, so you need to decide if you are in a mental place where the possible benefits outweigh the risks. Generally speaking, there will be some bits that are better than your current role, and there will likely be something that you don’t care for, like a repetitive task that you have to work of for 3 hours each week.
      This isn’t very helpful, I know. But you can have something that looks like a perfect magical job and it turns out to be terrible. And then you can have a “I just need to do this nasty job for a paycheck” and it turns out to be great. But it is absolutely acceptable to say that you don’t want to take the risk now and stay where you are. Something else will come up later and you may feel better about that role.

    2. periwinkle*

      After a reorganization last year, I ended up on a small, brand-new team with my boss far away, a couple others in the campus but different buildings, and the rest scattered around a large metropolitan area (4 different buildings). We added another team member so now we have the complete set of continental U.S. time zones. I knew two of my new teammate slightly, the rest not at all.

      We forged into an awesome team. It can be done! You need a super supportive manager plus team members who have a common vision even if our skill sets are all over the place. Webcams are very useful – it’s easier to bond when we can see each other. We meet very regularly, with team stand-ups twice a week plus longer meetings on a regular schedule (we work Agile, so we meet for sprint planning, sprint de-briefing, and a showcase of what we’ve worked on). We work on different projects, sometimes on our own and other times in collaboration with one or two others on the team. The team and sprint meetings are our chance to talk together, bounce ideas around, and socialize. We also use a collaborative messaging system similar to Slack; the team channel swings wildly around from work talk to general questions to silly memes. The more ways you can connect as a team, the more that physical distance fades away.

      As for not being an ideas person, that’s great! Companies are full of idea people. My company is terrific at creating strategy after strategy. The real value is in executing the strategy. That sounds like your strength. Details are important. A good manager puts a lot of value on someone who can execute those grand ideas and handle the practical details of launching and sustaining them.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Yes…if a group doesn’t have a details person, it will flop.
        I’ll point out that because this is an internal transfer, you’ll still have your close co-workers at your location for lunch breaks & etc.

    3. Fortitude Jones*

      I think you should take the job if it’s offered to you. First, you said the job you’re in now isn’t the one you wanted to be in in the first place, so you were obviously looking for a new challenge – this would be it. Second, you’re a numbers person and this is a job that plays to that strength – should you want to continue down that path, having this position on your resume can only help you going forward in your next job search. And yes, you may end up in an environment that’s not as ideal as the one you’re leaving – but you may end up someplace better. You never know, so you should keep your options open.

      I say this as someone who just left a job that had a perfectly lovely group of coworkers who were all willing to jump in and assist each other on any project as needed, but I couldn’t stay in a job I was bored to tears in and wasn’t challenged by just because I liked the people. That would just ensure my skills would atrophy, and I wouldn’t have any significant or impressive accomplishments to put on my resume for my next job search. I, too, am worried about my new role because it’s brand new to the department and my entire team is remote – but I really believe that what I’ll be doing (helping to create boilerplate language and implementing a new and better document management center) will be amazing for my growth as a writer and proposal manager, and the results will look fantastic on my resume. Since the potential rewards outweighed the risk, I took the leap – I think you should too if you get the chance. Good luck!

  33. Foreign Octopus*

    I’ve just started a new course in proofreading in the hope that a) it improves my English teaching for my students, particularly with regards to grammar and punctuation, and b) it’s another avenue for me to explore as I’ve been having financial problems just relying on English teaching.

    Any proofreaders out there? What do you enjoy about your work?

    1. irene adler*

      I know I’m not who you wanted to respond.
      I am interested in proofreading as a p/t job. But not sure how to start. Your post, and the reference to coursework in proofreading, has given me an idea of where to start.
      I’m writing today in the hopes you’ll post about your experiences in a future Friday open thread (If that’s not asking too much of your time. Hate to have this take up too much of your time)
      Thank you.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        Hi Irene, I’d be happy to post my experiences!

        I’ve just started today but I can definitely update once a week for you to let you know how it’s going. I recommend Googling Caitlin Pyle (that should take you to Proofread Anywhere) and Virginia Nakitari, who runs an excellent blog about earning smart money online and not falling victim to scams. There’s a wonderful post about 31 proofreading jobs for beginners and resources.

        Hope this helps :)

        1. I See Real People*

          I would like to follow your experience as well. I’ve always been interested in proofreading as a side gig to being an executive assistant, where I catch all kinds of errors in documents all day long! Lol. I’ve recently searched a job search engine with “proofreading”, which leads to some jobs, though oddly enough most of those are on-site.
          Thank you for the googling information. I’ll check it out!

        2. irene adler*

          Yes!! Resoundingly yes!
          I found UPworks where they have proofreader jobs (amongst a host of other types of jobs). Got me thinking. Then came your post here. Karma?

          Found Proofread Anywhere. Am exploring it now.

          And thank you! Look forward to reading your experiences(good and bad).

    2. Mephyle*

      You know those annoying people who will correct other people’s grammar? No one likes those, right? I would be in danger of being one of them. But I get to channel my obsession with correct grammar, spelling, format and punctuation by exercising it only when I’m getting paid to do so.

    3. Melon Soda*

      I proofread as a freelance/side gig thing, and I work directly with two companies on a project-by-project basis. I never had any formal training in it, just learned on the job and by having the reference materials (CMS, MW, house guide, series guide, etc) surrounding me at all times. I work in publishing already as my full-time gig, so I connected with these companies by hearing through professional connections that they were looking for more freelancers to add to their pool. Anyway, I enjoy it! The thing I enjoy the most though is that I work with material that I already enjoy reading, so it’s nice to know that I’m helping to make a nice final end product for the eventual buyer. It’s also something I can do remotely and around my other work, which is convenient.

  34. Anon for Layoffs*

    I posted a couple weeks ago about impending layoffs. Well, Monday is the day. It’s going to be a rough weekend. I think I am at the acceptance part of this process, but it won’t make Monday any easier. I have to get on my weekly call with one of direct reports in 15 minutes. It’s going to be tough because she doesn’t know she is losing someone on her team. I wish I could just cancel, but there is stuff we need to discuss.
    Anyway, just a vent because I obviously can’t talk about it.

  35. EmS*

    Omg I need to tell people about what happen to me with my boss. I am still mortified about it.

    Me and my boss both live in the small town and work 30 min away from it. So sometimes my boss is offering me a ride home. It is very generous of her and I appreciate it greatly.

    Earlier this week, I had a bad migraine and it often make me sick from it. After work that day, my boss offered me a ride home which I accepted. I was feeling really nauseous because of the migraine that day and during the ride it became worse. About 500m from my place, I started going from very nauseous to omg I will threw up now. I ask my boss to pull over and then I barely had time to open the passenger door before throwing up on the ground outside. At least I thought it was on ground, because as I rise back up, I see puke everywhere on the window and passenger door and the dashboard!

    My boss was super nice about it and tried to make me feel better as she gets motion sick herself a lot, but I wanted to crawl into a hole and die! I am still so mortified a few days later! I did clean up most of it and offered to pay if she wanted more thorough cleaning.

    1. KR*

      Oh my God! I would also be so embarrassed. I was visiting with an office that I don’t normally work in and I had to ask the manager there to let me sit in front as I was getting really car sick. She actually pulled over and asked me to drive instead if it would make me feel better (which it did) and I was so embarrassed but she was really understanding. I’m sure your manager wants you to feel better and is more concerned about you than her car. And you offered to pay for cleaning so you have covered all of your bases of being a good person here.

    2. ThatGirl*

      She knows you didn’t do it on purpose. You did the right thing, you thanked her, you’re human – you weren’t drunk or something, you were sick. It’s OK. Try not to feel too bad about it.

      My husband’s boss once drove him home because he was throwing up from a migraine. He didn’t barf in her car, but he came close.

      1. JaneB*

        I’m sure she was sincere – try and let it just become one of those things!

        That said, as someone who also gets throwing-up migraines, I’ve taken to always carrying a couple of plastic bathroom waste bin liners in my bag – they take up almost no room but are great emergency barf bags… they’ve saved my own car a couple of times when I didn’t manage to leave the office soon enough to get hone before the actual throwing up started…

        Much sympathy!

    3. Wishing You Well*

      I am sorry you were so sick.
      Would it help to remember that bosses have probably barfed in the past too?
      Your boss sounds like a kind person. I think this incident will fade with time.
      I hope your migraines fade away, too.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      It’s big to you and that makes sense. But it’s not big to most people. You were sick, stuff happens.

      Something I don’t see mentioned here much but as a supervisor I have had to deal with many odd situations including people getting sick or needing an ambulance. To me, this is what happens when a person takes on a leadership role, they agree to take on additional responsibility and sometimes what those responsibilities are can be things we don’t ordinarily think of.

      You handled this perfectly, you helped clean up and offer to pay for cleaning. There is nothing more a boss can ask for here because this is the best.

      I do know that headaches used to take away some of my coping tools. My suggestion is to decide to forget about this for a moment, get some extra rest and once you feel more rested then think about and try to reframe. It happened, you took responsibility and now it is over. I can assure you that she has at least 100 other things she is thinking about and she is not thinking about that incident at all.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Here’s one to maybe help you feel better… my husband’s friend once had to drive his drunk boss home from the restaurant. His boss tried to throw a lit cigarette out the CLOSED car window. Friend put on the brakes but it was too late…it went into the backseat snd birned a hole. The guy was SO drunk he hit his head on the dashboard in the process. Came in the next day not knowing why he had a huge bruise…and wouldn’t pay the repair bill.
      Migraine? Totally not your fault AND you offered to pay the cleaning bill.

      1. Kat in VA*

        Oof – not to one up, but my own mom did this.

        I smoke in my car. It’s a nice car, I keep it clean, I smoke in it. Carefully.

        Cue me telling Mom, “Yes, you can smoke in my car, but I have the windows rolled down, and when you’re done, do NOT throw the butt out the window, I’ve got a capped bottle with water in it that I use as an ashtray because throwing butts out the window is a dick move.”

        I thought the usual idea of “be careful with the cherry” was a given.

        So Mom is smoking, fiddling around, leans forward to do something, butts her cigarette out accidentally on the glovebox, and the cherry hits the floor. She then GRINDS IT OUT with her foot, burning a hole in my custom floor mats. I express dismay, and she snaps back, “Oh my god, it’s just a floor mat, get over it.”

        She didn’t smoke in my car for the rest of her visit here.

  36. ghostwriter*

    I started a new job as 100% teleworker a few months ago, The home office is having an employee appreciation luncheon and I’d love to go since I’ve been feeling a little lonely and wanting to get to know the in-house employees a bit more. But I feel nervous RSVPing… I kind of worry that no one remembers me or would think it’s weird I’m coming in. Am I crazy? Any tips for how to catch up without being awkward?

    1. RandomU...*

      Go! My default for nervous is humor and owning my awkward.

      When you get there, wander around and ‘introduce’ yourself to your coworkers. “Hey Fergus, it’s me ghostwriter, hah… I’m probably going to be known as the free lunch guy for only coming in when food is offered”

      “Lucinda, It’s good to see you. It’s Ghost, thought I’d introduce myself since I don’t look so much like my mugshot picture that someone picked for skype”

      “Wakeen, Don’t worry, I’m not a printer salesman. It’s ghost. Say did that email I sent about the llama migration help last week”

      In other words, no, not weird that you are coming in. And it’s a great time interact with your coworkers.

      1. Auntie Social*

        Head it off at the pass by reminding your boss “remember when X went wrong and some people/Mr. Howell thought it was Joe’s fault? What do we do if that happens again? I know YOU give us the benefit of the doubt, but will you remind Mr. Howell and the skipper that it could just as easily be a system bug??” I think you should work with Joe–you two working together have more credibility than just Joe alone. And afterwards you can praise Joe’s qualities of X and Y to anyone who will listen. And be funny—” you’ll see me from time to time when I run out of paperclips!”

        1. Auntie Social*

          Oh, pooh. Delete everything but the last sentence. I’m all run together.

    2. Emmie*

      Go! – From a fellow remote employee. If you need travel permission and reimbursements, ask for it ahead of time.

      Many people won’t know you. That’s okay. You’ve only been in the position for a few months. You are not weird for going. IME, people will love to see you in person. Introduce yourself to everyone. Ask what they do. You are at a perfect time to do this visit. No one expects you to remember their names!

    3. straws*

      I vote going! I’m not a remote employee, but we have a couple of remote workers and it’s exciting for us when they come in.

  37. Downloading my thoughts*

    HR have emailed, inviting me to download their colleague mobile app, and register with such-and-such code and department, etc. Great, except I don’t start working there for 6 weeks, and I haven’t met anyone but the hiring manager yet. Too soon? First impressions count. Should I do introductions by work-based social media 6 weeks early?

    1. Great Comebacks*

      It might be too soon to post, but lurking is a solid option. It could help you get a feel for culture or certain co-workers.

  38. Great Comebacks*

    We’ve all worked with jerks. Most of us would love to tell the jerk off without any repercussions, but those chances almost never happen. Usually we have to bite our tongue to avoid being fired or black listed or whatever. Anyone have any great “comeuppance” stories? When they do happen, they are beautiful to behold!

    I’ll start off. I was mid-level staff working on a high profile project. My job included interpreting complex contractual details. In a meeting of about 15 people with 4 or 5 VP’s, I answered a question about a specific process. VP Jerk goes off on a tirade screaming about how wrong and stupid I am. A few other people in the room speak up in support because regulations require it, but that just makes VP Jerk double down and start screaming at them. Finally he says “That can’t possibly be correct and I won’t believe it until a Certified Teapot Examiner tells me so.” I very calmly looked at him and said “Well, VP Jerk, I am a Certified Teapot Examiner and I’m telling you.” It was glorious – it completely shut him up as he had no idea how to respond. No repercussion for me as I was just stating a fact (not my fault VP jerk didn’t think it possible I had that credential!). VP Jerk was so universally hated that I had visitors all afternoon, including other VP’s, giving me high fives for putting him in his place.

    I know this was my once in a lifetime chance. I’ll never get another one that good. So now I need your stories to sustain me on a rainy day…off you go.

    1. irene adler*

      Can’t think of any right now…
      but your story sure is good! Thank you for posting it.

      1. irene adler*

        I remembered this:

        I work in a heavily regulated industry.
        One of my tasks is to be the ‘checker’ when a mfg. tech is performing certain manufacturing processes. Each step of these processes is documented by the tech and witnessed by me. It is a required procedure that we “sign as we go” for each step. No signing before the fact or well after the fact.

        I’m called to mfg. to do my ‘checker’ task. The tech has everything set up. But she’s already signed off the entire document! I then pointed to her signatures and said, “looks like you already finished the job. No need for me. How is it the checker didn’t sign off each step as you did?”

        Tech laughed. “I’m just trying to get ahead on the paperwork. So, I signed it all the way through.”

        I explained that this isn’t the proper procedure. She says that she’s too busy to follow that.

        I go to her boss (Mfg manager). He’s pretty much a shoot-the-messenger type. I explained about the sign-ahead on the document.
        “So?”, he says, glaring.
        “not proper procedure,” I explained.
        “So?”, he retorts.
        Clearly not going to get anywhere.

        I report this to my boss, who, explains that, once the document is complete, there’s no way to tell if we signed off each step one-at-a-time or all at once. Just sign everything and don’t worry about it.

        Except that we are not following the required procedure. He doesn’t see the bigger picture here.

        Weeks pass. This ‘sign ahead’ activity is repeated. I report this to my grand boss. “I see,” he says.
        Nothing changes.

        One day, while the mfg. manager is off on vacation, the state regulators shows up for an inspection of our facility.

        They find techs on the mfg. floor signing ahead on their documents. We are cited. Upper management agrees to take steps to correct this issue.

        Later, grand boss says to me, “I guess you were trying to tell us there was a problem“.


        1. Great Comebacks*

          Yeah, compliance can be a thankless task. Bet you had to hold in the “I told you so!”

    2. The New Wanderer*

      I have a similar story. Group telecon meeting, loud guy shares yet another opinion stated as fact (“I don’t believe X is true, X is just like Y, so X can’t be true.”). I don’t agree but usually find it’s a waste of time or too minor to disagree publicly with him, or I would be doing it alllll the time. But the third time he brings this specific thing up, I just started talking. I described in detail my experience with X, as the widely acknowledged expert, and broke down exactly how X and Y are fundamentally different, and X is absolutely true. Mic drop, total silence for a full 10 seconds. Loud guy changed the subject and we all moved on.

      1. Great Comebacks*

        Good one! Did you have video or voice only? I bet the face was as good as the silence if you could see it.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          It was only voice for me, but he was in a room with some other people (one of whom just left the team because of him) so I enjoyed that mental picture!

    3. Llellayena*

      Darn, I have a great non-work one. Well, it’s a work story for the cop involved, so maybe? Alison, remove if this is too far off.
      I’m merging onto a highway, guy comes from behind me where he has a yield sign (merge on the on ramp, then merge on the the highway) blazes past me, pushing me into the shoulder. Yes, I hit the horn. Fortunately, the car behind him was a cop car. Cop passes me, lights on, guy pulls over onto the shoulder. Cop just keeps going. Basically, he pushed the guy onto the shoulder just like the guy pushed me. :)

      1. Great Comebacks*

        Good one. I saw a commuter (in a gold Mercedes) fly by morning commute stopped traffic on the right shoulder. Minutes later a cop followed on the shoulder with lights flashing and Mercedes guy pulled over getting a ticket a few hundred feet later. So satisfying! (and morning commute is my dubious work tie-in).

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Hahahah, this never happens when someone does something stupid on the road around me, but I often wish it would.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        A few years ago my daughter’s bus stop was at an intersection too many people use to avoid highway traffic. We regularly had drivers honking for the kindergarteners to hurry.
        One day an impatient driver sped AROUND the school bus whose lights were still flashing. The parents & driver yelled…and a state trooper pulled out behind him and put on his flashers.
        The trooper lives four houses away and was glad for a chance to ticket one of the area’s speeders! The parents & driver were delighted.

        1. JobHunter*

          I witnessed a similar event. JerkJeep was aggressively passing other cars on the bypass. He passed me just after I had turned off the bypass (I don’t think my turn signal had even clicked off yet!) and onto a heavily-traveled street that began in an industrial section and ended in a residential district. JerkJeep decided to pass a slowing semi and trailer. I was far enough back to see the stopped school bus ahead of the semi. Semi Driver jerked the wheel and nearly pushed JerkJeep off the road! JerkJeep obediently pulled in behind the semi. I may have expressed some disapproval in some fashion, I don’t recall at this time…

    4. Art3mis*

      I used to work for an insurance carrier setting up short term disability claims. I didn’t adjudicate them, I just set them up or added documents to existing claims that came in. I had a claim form come in from a doctor’s office. No claim in the system, but also no employer listed. We didn’t always have employee information on file, in fact we usually didn’t, so I couldn’t look up who this person’s employer was to determine what policy the claim should be set up for. So I call the doctor’s office to see if they know. Sometimes they’d talk to us, sometimes they wouldn’t, sometimes they didn’t have the information. But this place would talk to me and she tells me that according to their file employee works for Large Company That I Know Is A Client. OK great. Set the claim up, send it off to the folks that work the claims.
      Following week we get more claim docs for this claim, this time from the employee and their employer, whomever got those docs attached them to the existing claim and went about their day, like they should. Then the team group email inbox gets an email from the specialist working the claim. It angrily tells us that the employer is wrong and that CLEARLY the employer should be Other Company and not Large Company as stated on the Employer and Employee claim forms. Group inbox sends it to me, because if I did it wrong, it counts against my quality score. I look it up and confirm the information, reply back to the specialist and tell her that we have to go on the information we receive, we can’t just pend documents, and if we can get the information by other means, we have a duty by law to start the claim in good faith and that CLEARLY the two forms detailing the other employer came in a WEEK after the initial form. I even included screen shots with red arrows showing the different dates. The person who operated the inbox came over and told me good job, apparently this specialist was known to be a bully and complain about everything, and she was glad that someone had finally stood up to her.

      1. Great Comebacks*

        Yeah for standing up to bullies and getting kudos for it rather than crap!

    5. Auntie Social*

      We had a group of civil practice attorneys in our office (we do family law). I told my senior partner that our pretrial motions for another case were ready, within earshot of their youngest looking associate. She jumped on me like she owned me, saying my docs were late, they were worthless, etc. It was really startling. I explained civil court and family court in our county had different cutoff dates and local rules altogether, and in fact my pleadings were a day early. Plus, my boss was on the committee that helped draft the LRs, so I really did know them. Her boss came down on her like a ton of bricks—“You assumed again and shot your mouth off, this proves you haven’t read the local rules from front to back, and you made us ALL look bad!” I said “Not all of you!” and gave him a smile. I heard she was gone soon afterwards.

      1. Great Comebacks*

        Know-it-all’s getting hoist on their own petard is an especially satisfying comeuppance!

    6. Uncanny Valley*

      Here’s a cyber high five to you! A “TAKE THAT!” like the one you described is worth its weight in gold plated platinum encrusted with diamonds!

      1. Great Comebacks*

        It really is. This actually happened about 15 years ago and still keeps on giving. I was at a retirement party last week and it came up as a legendary story that had to be passed down to anyone that missed it the first time around. Our enjoyment of it years later is what gave me the idea to share it with AAM!

    7. LadyByTheLake*

      I just had one last week. I was on a call with a bajillion people, working with a vendor who we need to have perform X because it is a regulatory requirement. The vendor keeps refusing, despite the clear requirement, and on this call was making the claim that Named Big Bank doesn’t do X, no one does X, and we don’t have to do X. What they don’t know is that I used to be the general counsel for the division of Named Big Bank that does X. So while I was on the call, I reached out to my former colleagues to ask if something had changed, and I was assured by them that nothing had changed. So I got back on the call and said “I just checked with the law department of Named Big Bank and they assure me that they still do X. They would like to know who is going around saying that they don’t.” Pin drop.

      1. Great Comebacks*

        Oh, I love this. It was genius to make the comment about Big Bank wants to know who is saying it!

    8. Interplanet Janet*

      OK, so this isn’t actually work, but …

      I went back to school when I was 30 for a second degree. Yeah, I was that conscientious “grownup” in the classes; I wasn’t distracted by all the things I had been at 18, and I was well known in the department for being trustworthy and reliable and hardworking and smart.

      There was a professor teaching an upper level class that was very much a “kids these days have no work ethic” kind of grouchy guy who set out to self-fulfill that prophecy by making the class impossible to do well in. He set assignments that were ridiculously hard and then did that thing where he implied that if we couldn’t do it we were never going to make it as software engineers.

      I was not having it. After about 6 weeks, I went to my advisor and said I was spending upwards of 20 hours a week on that class alone including going to office hours regularly and barely pulling a C and that my classmates were having similar problems. They PULLED the professor from the class, gave us all a pass/fail option and he never taught it again. HA.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Similar to IJ, here this one is not my work, it’s other people’s work.

        When my husband passed he had a couple small bank accounts. In NY small bank accounts roll to the surviving spouse because probate courts are clogged up enough.

        I brought the death certificate to the bank and asked them what needed to be done to roll the accounts. They said they could not do it. I went to another branch. They could not do it either. They too wanted me to go through probate. (Probating would have cost more than what was in the accounts.)

        That was enough for one day, I went home and regrouped. I contacted the lawyer. He shook his head in disbelief at such a mistake. When I stopped at his office he gave me a copy of the law. I went to the bank branch nearest his office. I showed them the law and they still would not roll the funds.

        We anticipated this and the lawyer said to have them call him.
        When they called for whatever reason the line was busy and the call did not go through. The employee gave up.
        I said, “Here let me try with my cell.” The call went right through.
        The employee told the lawyer they would not roll the accounts.
        He asked for the number for their legal department.
        When he called legal, the person in the legal department was incredulous that this was even going on.
        Legal said they would call the particular employee involved in my problem here.

        I went back to the lawyer’s while I waited. I started talking about his bill for all this and estimated $300.
        He said no and that 250 would cover it.
        I said to put that in writing.
        The lawyer said they will NEVER pay it.

        I went back to the bank. They rolled the money over to my account.
        Then I handed them the legal bill.
        THEY PAID.

        This was a nationwide company that was well known for not paying in situations like this.
        I went back to the lawyer and paid his bill. He said, they NEVER pay the bill!
        He was still laughing when I left the building.

        1. Great Comebacks*

          Oh they deserved to have to pay the legal bill in that situation. Good for you for giving them the bill in person. I bet your lawyer still tells that story!

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I said, “You have your story for the week.”
            He said, “NO. I have my story for the YEAR.”

            No doubt in my mind.

      2. Great Comebacks*

        You definitely had built up some serious capital to get that result. Go forth and use your power wisely ;)

    9. RobotWithHumanHair*

      This was back when I was running a university audio-visual department and was pretty much the sole employee, so I was also doing the day-to-day work getting faculty set up with projectors and whatnot. At the time, I was also rather young for a department head, perhaps 21 or 22 at that point, so I was often mistaken for a student.

      One particular day, I had to deal with a particularly surly newer faculty member who wasn’t at all pleased with department policies and such (need at least 24 hours notice to request equipment, etc.). As I tried to explain things to this faculty member as calmly as possibly, they rudely interjected with “Who’s the head of your department? I want to speak with THEM – NOW!”

      My response, very calmly: “I’m actually the head of the department.”

      What followed was the most glorious “Oooooooooooooooh!” in unison from all the students in the classroom.

      1. Great Comebacks*

        OMG, I have full audio and visual playing in my head of that Ooooooooh complete with students leaning back and holding up their hands like they just witnessed a smack down!

    10. They Don’t Make Sunday*

      I’m a reporter who sometimes covers shady/predatory landlord shenanigans in a city with high housing costs and rent control. (Landlords here—not all landlords, mind you, just the ones who decide to break the law—use numerous, often very creative legal pretexts to intimidate renters into vacating properties, which are then sold or rerented for $$$$$.) A tenant attorney told me about a case that sounded bad, but I wasn’t sure how bad it was, and how newsworthy it would be. But someone was about to lose their apartment (without the usual accommodations the law requires). So I decided to do some probing with the landlord attorney. I left a voicemail and sent an email and moved on, figuring it might be hard to get the details I wanted and turn it into a story.

      I never heard back from the landlord attorney. I followed up with the tenant attorney a few weeks later, saying I didn’t think I could do the story without info from the other side. The attorney wrote back was like, “Oh, we settled that! As soon as they got your call they decided to settle.”

      As a way-underpaid journalist, I never feel that kind of power. It was glorious. Just two
      minutes of my time on a random Tuesday turned into a fair outcome for someone in a powerless position. Best feeling ever.

  39. aryalistening*

    Well, I was just (about 20 minutes ago) on the receiving end of some hurt feelings over a department baby shower potluck next week… I asked to move the day to one that would be better for the team I supervise, and the person who said yes (who is technically at a lower level than me, but whom I don’t supervise), said yes without telling me it wouldn’t work for her team (including one person who is especially close to the baby shower honoree). Not sure if she felt I was directing her, rather than asking (I think my email was pretty clearly a request, but hey, I could be wrong). So, there are now upset feelings about this event that I and my team don’t actually care that much about. This is a team that tends to hold on to things like this, and ugh, I’m very over it. My response was to tell her I’d try to get it moved back, and going forward, I won’t request reschedules. I also plan to be just as warm and professional with her as I always am…any other suggestions? :)

    1. Expand All Threaded Comments*

      I would be warm and professional in my response to her, and gently remind her that if she needs to advocate for her teams calendar, she shouldn’t be so reluctant or shy to do so in the future. That your request was meant to be part of the discussion regarding dates, and that she should please feel enabled to contribute to that discussion as you certainly didn’t mean to make your preferences the default for all.

      1. Expand All Threaded Comments*

        Be gentle when you make these comments – it’s not an argument. It’s a cajoling to get a timid coworker to feel empowered!

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I think you’re doing everything correctly and it’s good that you noted that this person cannot seem to take requests as they’re intended. So it’s super important to just change your own MO moving forward. You cannot do anything now that the feelings are damaged, except continue to be warm and kind as usual.

      I’ve dealt with these delicate souls plenty before, it’s a “lesson learned” moment.

      This is why we ask all the department heads before scheduling things because we think of each other instead of operating as Us Vs Them nonsense.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      This right here is why some people get avoided and then later wonder why everyone avoids asking them anything of any importance.

      I would definitely make it a point going forward to ask just about anyone else, not her. This is a bit much because she said yes and meant no. My work day is long enough without people like this.

      If I got a lot of attitude about it, I might say, “If you mean NO, then you should not say YES. This whole problem was avoidable. When I ask a question I expect an honest answer.” But I would only go with this level of response if the incident dragged on and on.

  40. Jenn*

    I accepted a job in Chicago! I will be moving about 8 hours away. I know I will have to complete a background check before officially receiving the offer, so I’m waiting to hear next steps on that. I’m SO excited!!

    1. Sunny*

      That’s awesome! Chi-Town born and raised here ;)

      Any idea what neighborhood you’ll be living in?

    2. The Ginger Ginger*

      If you move to the city proper think really hard about whether you want to keep your car. The public transit up here is AWESOME. And it’s so great to not pay a car payment, insurance, parking, maintenance, whatevs. I haven’t owned a car in 5+ years, and I LOVE IT. You can chuck the saved money in a special savings account for a rainy day, or to save up to buy a car outright in a few years if you think you need one again, or you move somewhere you’d need one.

      1. Need a better name, CPA*

        Another Chicagoan here. The transit system is very uneven, depending on neighborhood. Check before signing a lease. Bus lines move but rail tracks stay put. Neither one necessarily runs on the stated schedule, but they do run through winter weather pretty well. Best service is to and from downtown; service between suburbs is very limited.

        That said, if you are in walking distance of an El stop (the El isn’t necessarily elevated; parts are underground, and parts run down the median of the expressways), you really only need a car for vacations or if you want to go out to the suburbs. You can even take the El from downtown to the airport. Lots of people just rent a car when they need one.

        If you’re considering living in the suburbs while working downtown, don’t even think of driving to work. Downtown parking costs more for a week than a monthly train ticket.

    3. pattm*

      Welcome!! Enjoy our spring and summer before hibernation season! Congrats on the new job!

  41. wafflesfriendswork*

    I have an interview today!! I’m feeling pretty good about my prep, as I already prepped some answers for the phone interview that they didn’t ask but I feel like they still will, but I’m *always* worried about the “tell me about a time when” questions–I can never think of anything in the moment or while prepping, and usually what I come up with feels way out of left field (but is maybe ok?).

    Hopefully at least it won’t be like years ago when I interviewed at a library and when I was asked about the last book I read my mind went completely blank. Eep!

      1. wafflesfriendswork*

        Well they had to reschedule me for Monday, bleh. Hopefully I’ll have something better to report next open thread!

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          So what WAS the last book you read? You got ME! It took me a good 10 seconds to put a title on the book. (A Neil Gaiman graphic novel recommended by my 12yo. “1602”, kind of fascinating Marvel universe twist.)

  42. Ellie*

    How many law offices really use paralegals? I’m graduating in December with my associates in paralegal studies, but I’m starting to get concerned that it’s not an easy field to get into. I plan to get my bachelors after my associates. Do most law offices prefer a paralegal with a bachelors?

    1. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

      Everyone I have ever worked with (I’m in government but work with oodles of private law practices).

      1. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

        Shoot, should have added that my govt. entity as well as the others I regularly work with also have paralegals (probably fewer per atty. than firms tho).

    2. Lucky*

      In my experience, every law firm employs paralegals. Experienced paralegals are especially valued as they can handle work that would otherwise be done by an attorney (i.e., not strictly admin work) and their time is billable. Also, (again, in my experience) an associates degree in paralegal studies is more valuable than a bachelors degree in another field like liberal arts, communications, etc. You may still have to start in a more admin role like Legal Assistant to learn the ropes, and maybe in a less prestigious/interesting area of law (think personal injury rather than mergers & acquisitions), but you should def. be able to find a job.

      And, as I have told more than a few friends who have gone the paralegal route, consider moving to an in-house legal department in a company at some point in your career. Paralegals in law firms can only move so high – you’ll never be promoted to a lawyer position – but in-house, you can end up as director of legal operations or managing a whole contract management department.

    3. Syfygeek*

      The legal departments of corporations use paralegals. The one’s I’m familiar with had paralegals with associates. And the larger the law firm, the more likely they will have paralegals.

    4. Ann Perkins*

      I used to work as a paralegal – in my experience even a small firm will have at least one paralegal. And in my experience they’ll take either an associates or a bachelor’s, but wouldn’t need both. I have a bachelor’s in political science… which was enjoyable but literally taught me nothing about actual work in the law field.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      As noted, they’re everywhere within all firms! Even solo practices want someone to do paralegal work because they don’t want to be bothered.

      I do want to caution you that it may be hard to find that first job but that’s the case with any degree. A friend couldn’t find anything within her educational background {BA} and then went to get her associates to become a paralegal. She couldn’t find a job in that field either BUT that was a few years ago and with the economy being less of a mess, I am hoping it was just a regional/timing issue. Just a word of caution for anyone in general who gets a degree for an otherwise decent career track. I’ve seen accounting degrees rot too =(

  43. Amber Rose*

    The time has come. I must develop safety procedures for safely using a biological warfare weapon that is also used for testing various equipment, dimethyl sulfate. It vaporizes to air and the vapors irritate your eyes and lungs in concentrations as low as 1 ppm. It’s a mutagenic so I’m concerned that even if it’s just irritation, the long term effects couple be a problem.

    The plan is to draw it through a resealable membrane with a syringe and inject it into another bottle with a similar membrane that will go into an enclosed system that will run through, cycle into another bottle, and then be used again. Excess vapors will vent to a substance that eats this stuff with an additional charcoal filter past that. Excess liquid is burned off to create less harmful gases we already use daily. So it’ll never really be exposed to air… except when the needle is drawn back out of the bottle, presumably there will still be some on the outside of the it.

    For all you folk who work with dangerous chemicals, if we immediately pop the syringe into a neutralizing agent, would enough be there to vaporize to cause problems do you think? A fume hood is not an option. The best I can do is give the guy a face mask and some goggles/gloves, and probably a rubber apron just in case. If that bottle breaks or spills on his skin… death, probably. :/

    1. Kate*

      I have worked with dangerous chemicals that are highly pyrophoric. My suggestion is to be very, very specific to good syringe technique. Our training for syringe technique was some of our most thorough in our lab. One misstep would get you put under constant supervision until you could prove you had the correct technique. Practice with bottles with liquid and the correct positive pressure.

      Also, does this kind of work meet OSHA (if you’re in America) requirements without a fumehood?

      1. Amber Rose*

        I’m not in the US. I think we’re OK because technically the documentation only says we need an independent air supply face mask if we do a risk assessment and determine it’s needed. But I feel like that’s overkill for the tiniest possible amount of exposed chemical.

        I don’t even know how to train on good syringe technique. We’ve literally never used them before.

        1. Kate*

          Speaking as an inorganic synthetic chemist just about every chemical I work with says it’s going to kill you. And I’m still alive, so that’s a good sign.

          As for the syringe there are a couple things to think about:
          1. If you are transferring from a sealed container (like a sure-sealed container, you are going to have to adjust the pressure in the container to stay neutral. You need to have a vent needle in the membrane with a flow of non-reactive gas (like nitrogen). Same goes for the transfer bottle, if it is a closed system.
          2. Get a syringe that allows for the needles to screw on! Some just pop on, some screw on. The pop-on ones just do not stay put! Every fire we had was due to pop-on needles (don’t worry, they were always small fires :) ).
          3.When using a syringe never withdraw the plunger close to or in the direction of your face. If the plunger comes out it can splash up at you. And if there is resistance do not continue to pull, this means the pressure in the container is very low.
          4. When we had contaminated syringes we would leave them at the back of our fumehood for a day to allow for the chemicals to dissipate before cleaning them, do you have a high ventilation area available?

          You could look for a university in your area and see if there is an inorganic chemistry research lab there, they would be able to show you proper syringe technique.

          1. Amber Rose*

            Hey, I think that’s the company we bought from. So yes, probably that. It’s in some kind of metal hazmat packaging right now so I haven’t actually seen the bottle.

            I’ll talk to the guys about the pressure.

    2. Name of the game*

      Are you seriously crowd sourcing the answer to this life and death question on AAM? This is quite possibly the most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen on this website. I really hope this is made up.

      1. Kate*

        They have to start somewhere! I don’t think they are going to use our comments to form their safety plan. But it is an obscure type of question and being able to get a starting point is important.

      2. Amber Rose*

        I have few other resources. You can hope it’s made up all you want but this was left on my shoulders to deal with and I don’t have any background in the safe use of chemicals. I failed my last chemistry class and that was 14 years ago.

        That said, it’s not quite THAT life or death. The odds of the bottle breaking are very slim, and the total amount of the chemical is very small. It’s about as risky as sending out the techs on cross-country trips in trucks. You CAN die in a car accident, but you can’t just not drive ever.

        What else am I supposed to do?

      3. fposte*

        Amber Rose is a regular commenter in an office that’s given her little support on safety concerns in the past as well. If you have other resources to point her to (keeping in mind she’s not in the US), I’m sure she’d welcome them.

        Amber, just to be clear, this is dimethyl sulfate (DMS/sulfuric acid) and not DMSO? When you mentioned it earlier I assumed it must be the latter, but it sounds like it really is the former. Is there a provincial authority you can consult on approved practice and training?

        1. Amber Rose*

          Yeah, DMS.

          Not too much in the way of consulting authorities. We do have a chemist in house now and I’m planning to run my rough outline of a safety plan by him when he gets back from his business trip. I also have someone who works in a hospital stealing their syringe best practices for me. It’s not the same but should give me a basis.

          My concern is more long term damage than short term, but there’s so much documentation and most of it goes over my head.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        That is not the biggest thing I see here. To me the biggest thing is that people here know what she is talking about and they are helping her. AR knew where to go with her question, she was right about asking here.

        I am not sure how long you have been reading here but we have people to explain just about anything. I remember one person who went to great effort to explain to me about the concept of memory cells. It was so fascinating.

        I am always amazed with what people share here.

      5. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I was more disturbed by her story of the delivery a week or three ago!

    3. JustaTech*

      I don’t have any suggestions (I only work with biologics) but I want to thank you so much for caring about getting it right! (And your company too!)
      I’ve seen way too many places (mostly universities) that have no plan or training. And I’m still working with people who are very “eh, it’s not *that* mutagenic/tetragenic”, so it is wonderful to see someone really care and want it get it right!

    4. Lora*

      Nope nope and nope again. That’s not how you handle that stuff. People have died trying to do the setup you describe with similar hazardous reagents.

      If you don’t have a fume hood AND the ability to do nitrogen pressure transfers, you don’t have the setup to handle it. End of. The proper way to handle it is via pressure bottles and you pressure transfer with nitrogen to the system vessel.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Yeah, the more I looked into it the worse it sounded. I talked to my boss about it and we’re going to attempt to outsource this process to a chem lab nearby.

    5. Amber Rose*

      Update: I attempted to outsource this process to a chemical lab who said (paraphrased) “no, DMS is way too hazardous, wtf.”

      So I printed that and gave it to my boss and now I think I have leverage to see if we can just totally get rid of it and use something less terrifying.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, please. Granted, I’m by no means a chemist, but that’s why I thought “Oh, I’m sure she’s talking about DMSO, and that’s pretty easy to handle safely”–I couldn’t really track that they were bringing in DMS.

        1. Amber Rose*

          Our R&D manager sent me documentation on the effects of DMS and I’m gonna have nightmares forever. I can’t believe either that anyone thought it was a good idea to bring this crap in.

          1. Name of the game*

            I didn’t mean to be so snarky earlier, it just sounds horrifying. Good luck.

          2. Agnodike*

            If this kind of thing is happening routinely, you could consider reporting your company to the relevant regulator. I don’t say this lightly – people need to work, I get it! – buy your job is not worth you life and the lives of others. This sounds like a dangerous place to work and it sounds like management isn’t invested in changing that.