open thread – May 17-18, 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.

{ 1,836 comments… read them below }

  1. University of Trantor*

    A big thank you to everyone who gave me great advice on how to do lunch/dinner jobs interviews when I asked about a month ago in the Friday open thread. The meal interviews went well, and I received and accepted a job offer!

    The new job pays almost 70% more than my current job, and I’ve finally arrived in six-digit land. The benefits are great…and arguably better than my current job. I get rid of a horrible commute and acquire a much more generous travel reimbursement policy.

    I gave notice at my current employer and didn’t tell them what the new job is paying. Current employer counter-offered me with a 25% raise and a boatload of lofty promises and guilt (including how hard they had to “fight with HR” to secure the 25% raise) during a 45-minute don’t-leave-us meeting.

    I declined my current employer’s counter-offer to their great shock and surprise. And I admit there were a few times during the meeting in which I had to stifle a chuckle. Many of the things they were saying sometimes bordered on being melodramatic.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      EXCELLENT news for you. I would however have told them exactly how much you’re getting — as a service to my soon to be former co-workers.

      1. University of Trantor*

        Thanks, that’s a great point. I agree with wanting to help my co-workers (who are great and are greatly underpaid). I did tell them during the meeting that my new job offer’s pay was substantially higher than their counter-offer, after they brought up the 25% raise.

        But current employer also has established and ongoing issues with compensating people appropriately…it’s a harsh thing to say, but being a straight white “family” man will do more for your compensation and promotion potential at my employer than almost anything else, including actual job performance/accomplishments. I’m only 1/4 of those attributes, and none of my co-workers really fit the aforementioned description either. I don’t think it’s always a deliberate/conscious decision by senior leadership, but…the outcomes speak for themselves.

        They have an outside consultant group looking into staff diversity issues here, particularly with regards to compensation/promotion. The consultants are interviewing a number of staff members. My great-grand-boss, however, has explicitly told me not to meet with the consultants “since you’re leaving anyways.” So, I’m not sure how sincere senior leadership is about actually changing how things are.

        I am telling the co-workers whom I close with about the counter-offer (annual raises here tend to be ~2%, supposedly all “merit-based”) and my new job. This has encouraged a few of them to pressure senior leadership for more/better pay raises and/or launch their own job search.

        The latest I’ve heard is that they’re planning to increase the pay of most of my coworkers on my team 5% to 15% to prevent further attrition. It is annual review/raise time, so I’m certainly not taking full credit for instigating the change, but I imagine my impending departure might have made them more amenable to reevaluating my co-workers’ compensation. I’m pretty sure this will be the largest single raise any of them have ever received from my employer.

        1. R. Daneel Olivaw*

          Whether pay discrepancies are “always a deliberate/conscious decision by senior leadership” at Former Employer may well be irrelevant. Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, members of protected classes may need only to demonstrate a disparate impact without having to prove actual discriminatory intent.

          1. University of Trantor*

            Great username. You are right that disparate impact, without intent, may be enough in employment discrimination cases, and I think it would be challenging for them to come up with legitimate business justifications to explain practices that result in the disparate impact.

            That said, I don’t know of any employees who want to get engaged in a protracted legal fight with them on the issue (which is understandable).

    2. Fortitude Jones*

      This is FANTASTIC! A 70% raise?! What do you do and is your company still hiring? Lol, no seriously though, that’s amazing. I’m almost done with the first week in my new position, which was a 26-27% salary increase (depending on how you round), and I’m paying eight cents less a month for my new benefits (medical, dental, vision, accident, and critical illness) than what I was paying in my last company (where I only could afford medical, dental, and vision) and my deductible went from $2700 a year to $1750 and I almost doubled my HSA contribution. Then, my new company pays short and long term disability at 100%, they offer paid parental leave up to 4 weeks at 100% of your base salary, their employee EAP program not only gets you in touch with mental health and financial counselors, but they also negotiate your health payments with medical providers at no cost to the employee, I get 10 paid holidays, 10 paid sick days which can roll over with no cap, 2 paid personal days, and 15 paid vacation days that also roll over – my last company only gave us 9 paid holidays, 5 sick days that don’t roll over, and 10 vacation days as new hires. I work remotely full time (as does most of my team), and it was a struggle to get my last employer to let us work from home – after putting in my order for a company-issued iPhone yesterday, I thought to myself, “Nope – not at all regretting leaving!” Lol.

      So that was my long-winded way of saying, I’m right there with you, UoT (seriously – 70%?! I need to learn your ways, lol).

      1. University of Trantor*

        Congrats on your new job, too! The benefits sound great. It sounds like your first week went well.

        Honestly, I was paid only-slightly-below market rate at my current employer based on my job title and the responsibilities typically associated with that title. The problem was I was severely underpaid in relation to my actual job responsibilities and accomplishments, which were well beyond the scope and level of my job title (and have been for a few years now). And when I would ask for a meaningful raise (based on all those accomplishments), they’d tell me how much they valued me and saw a great future for me but would plead poverty and that “HR won’t let us increase your pay.”

        Their narrative is undercut by the fact that they somehow found me a 25% counter-offer raise in just four hours after I gave notice.

        The good news is that those accomplishments didn’t go unnoticed in my industry either. My new job will be the first one I obtained through “networking.” My new employer was looking for someone with my background/skills to fill a new position, and a number of their own employees (and a bunch of their industry contacts) said, “You should definitely talk to University of Trantor. Just look at all he’s been doing at [his current employer]. He’d be a great fit.” The rest (including the meal interviews), is history.

        I’m looking forward to being able to max out my annual 401(k) contribution, and still taking home more money than before. I have good vacation days/holidays at my current job, but the increased pay (and still good vacation/holiday policy at my new employer) means I’ll finally be able to take some nice vacations without worrying as much about the expense.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          This is great – seriously, congratulations. I’m inspired all over again since I didn’t read previous threads where you talked about this, so didn’t know your backstory. I always love to hear about people who were underpaid and undervalued for their roles moving on and getting what they deserve.

          And when I would ask for a meaningful raise (based on all those accomplishments), they’d tell me how much they valued me and saw a great future for me but would plead poverty and that “HR won’t let us increase your pay.”

          I hate when companies say this. I worked for an insurance company in a division that brought in $268 million dollars alone in 2016, and they turned around and told me and my coworkers that they didn’t have enough money in the budget to give us decent raises in 2017. WTF?! Needless to say, I was the 11th person in 12 months to leave that division, and this was a division that never saw that kind of turnover. I hope it inspired them to pay my former colleagues fairly going forward.

    3. Captain of Taco Tuesdays*

      Why are casual Fridays a thing? If the way we present ourselves to clients matters so much, why does it only apply Monday-Thursday? At my office in particular we see MORE, not less, clients on Fridays. So, while I appreciate a jeans day, I don’t understand how it makes any sense.

      1. Captain of Taco Tuesdays*

        I am apparently New At The Internet and replied instead of creating a new thread. CONGRATULATIONS University of Trantor!

        1. University of Trantor*

          Thank you!

          As someone who is fine wearing a suit and tie to work (in an office) everyday, I confess I am with you about casual Fridays. Like you, the likelihood I meet with clients/the public is actually higher on Fridays.

          But, since other people seem to enjoy it, as long as I still get to wear my suit and tie on Fridays, they can wear their t-shirts and jeans on Fridays. =)

      2. AnonEMoose*

        It’s a simple to give perk that costs the companies nothing and that employees enjoy?

        Where I work, the dress code is basically “dress however’s appropriate for your day.” Which I think makes a lot of sense and really enjoy. I almost never have meetings with executives or outside folks. But those who do should dress accordingly, and they do.

        I think it would be great if more companies did something like that. If you’re not meeting with clients, wear your jeans (or khakis or whatever)! If you are, dress however is appropriately for that, based on your industry and company culture. Give newer employees some more detailed guidance, handle any problems that come up, and otherwise treat people like adults.

        1. Kat in VA*

          At the risk of derailing with this thread-within-a-thread, my company does it that way too. Big government customer coming in? Everyone dresses up. Most of the execs are out of town and it’s slow? Dress down. They treat us like adults and it’s fantastic.

        2. Quinalla*

          Ours is like this too which I think makes more sense. Essentially casual every day unless you are meeting with clients.

          For people that never meet with clients, but big bosses still want a more professional atmosphere the rest of the week, I think casual Friday can make sense. But I honestly like our way of doing it better where those that never meet with clients can dress casually all the time. It is a perk a lot of people love at our place.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      six-digit land

      Woooooooo!!!!!!!

      Have yet to hit that myself, though I am inching closer.

    5. Liz*

      Congratulations! And yeah, I probably would have had to stifle some giggles too. Like ok you make this huge production of offering me more money, but ONLY when I say I’m leaving. yeah, no, thanks but no thanks.

  2. Interviewing with visible disability*

    I know Alison says you don’t disclose your disability/ADA accommodations until you have an offer. But what if your disability is not an invisible kind and you are invited for an interview? And the company can see your disability? What do you do?

    My sister has an auto-immune disease and her previous job required on-site presence (a lot of walking, climbing and standing, etc). This position was structured so that she would spend maybe close to 60-70% on-site and 30-40% in the office. Since the diagnosis, she was put in the office full time doing basically all of the “behind the scene” computer/paper work that the field supervisors would normally do (she supports several field supervisors at the moment). She’s doing everything a field supervisor would do minus the on-site presence.

    Now the situation is that because she can no longer do what she was hired to do (being out at job sites), the regional director downgraded her position to an admin with 60% pay cut. The regional director wants all the field supervisors to do their own office work (yeah, good luck with that) or the director seems to think an admin with no background/experience in this field could easily do what my sister is doing. She was willing to take 30% pay cut but not 60%. My sister said no thank you (there are other issues with this regional director who has been at this position less than six months and has no qualified background in this field prior to being hired by the company). Now my sister is moving to a new city (moving from HCOL to LCOL where she can buy a place outright so her new/lower income there would still be sufficient for her).

    She is very qualified in her field (she has earned the highest & hard-to-attain certification offered in this field) except she just can’t be on the field anymore; she wants to interview for a similar office-only position in her field at the new state.

    My question is: When my sister is invited to interviews and the employers can clearly see her disabilities, what can she do? What is she supposed to do?

    Thank you for reading.

    1. Clorinda*

      Maybe strongly emphasize how she adapted to the change in her circumstances? After all, you say she’s applying for jobs that are exactly what she has been doing since her disability occurred, so it should be obvious that her disability will not affect how she performs.

    2. Holly*

      From a legal standpoint (*not* speaking from the experience of someone in that situation) there really isn’t anything to do other than make it very clear in discussing her qualifications and skills that she is confident of her ability to do the office work. If the work required field work she is unable to do, it wouldn’t be illegal for them to not hire her based on that – but that doesn’t seem to be the situation, she’s specifically looking for office work which she would be fine with.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I believe it’s good to be upfront–I can do A, B, C; I cannot do X, Y, Z. And maybe to practice getting those as concise as possible.

      It seems that for these roles it’s a natural question the interviewer will be thinking, even if they aren’t sure how to ask about it legally, and this way they can quickly determine the position doesn’t actually require X, Y, Z but they really need someone with a lot of experience in B, so yay it fits. I would make an analogy to the interviewer knowing you drove two hours to make this interview–preemptively offering that you are following your partner to this city and will be renting an apartment much closer than 2 hours says that you know X could be a problem and have a solution for it.

    4. Bree*

      Presumably, she’ll be interviewing for office roles where she can do the majority of what’s required. If so, I don’t think she needs to say much. Just talk about how she succeeded in a similar role in the past to demonstrate she can do so again. If there are pieces of the job she would need accommodations for, she could mention that, but again in the context of what’s work well for her in the past.

    5. Ra94*

      I don’t know the legal standpoint of this at all, but practically- if they can definitely see her disability, is it worth her potentially mentioning that she used to work in the field but stopped due to a condition (no need to be specific), because it’ll demonstrate first-hand knowledge and experience that other candidates might lack?

    6. fposte*

      When you say “can clearly see her disabilities,” what exactly do you mean? Do you mean she uses a mobility aid, or more that she has symptoms like a tremor that might be mistaken for something else? In general, I think a visible inarguable disability can either be ignored as being so obvious as not to need discussion if there’s nothing obviously relevant to the job (a cane user being hired to be a programmer) or can be a tacit way to lead in to a useful point (“My vision is too impaired to drive, but I’ve been an effective programmer using native screen magnification”).

      1. Interviewing with visible disability*

        She wears a leg brace for stability which helps her with walking. When she wears pants (she always wears pants), you can’t outright see the brace but if you looked closely enough, you might notice there is something underneath (plus it makes a clicking noise when she walks & if you were close enough, you might hear it as well). She also uses a cane for stability (just to be on the safe side). When she’s outside walking around, she will take her cane just in case; when she’s at home or in the office, she doesn’t always have to use it since she has walls/desks/countertop that she can gently touch to stabilize/guide her if she needed it. She is afraid of being too dependent on the cane so she tries not to use it.

        1. Clorinda*

          Based on this, it sounds to me like she needn’t mention it at all. What you describe sounds like the kind of thing where the accommodations she’d require are simple and not at all onerous for an employer interviewing for an indoor desk job.

        2. JSPA*

          Eh, a brace and cane could be for a temporary sprain, or all sorts of things? Maybe put a new tip on the cane, so it doesn’t look as well-used.

          I’m wondering if, with (say) a rugged, fat-tire electrical trike (not a power chair or scooter, but something that can navigate uneven terrain) combined (perhaps) with a cooling vest, she could actually do some field work (unless the climbing part is non-negotiable). They’re pretty new, so she might not have considered that option (which, as well as being maneuverable and steady, is far more bad-ass than most official assistive mobility options).

    7. Psyche*

      So I have an invisible disability but I tend to disclose it during the interview. I have always been lucky enough to have the luxury of choice, so I haven’t needed to worry about scaring off potential employers. I just address it head on. I lay out the limitations and why it shouldn’t be a problem for that position. If there is something that my disability affects, I tell them how I get around it. Your sister could probably bring it up when explaining why she is switching jobs. Since it doesn’t sound like her disability will actually affect an office job, that might be the way to go.

      1. Tau*

        I have a visible – well, audible – disability and this is basically how I handle it. I stutter, and my experience is that people react very well if you address the elephant in the room and basically give them a framework for how they should think about it. In my case, I’m not in a career role that has much in the way of public speaking or client-facing duties so I generally don’t talk about it in relation to the job since I figure it’s obvious there’s no major issues with the job duties; if that were to change, I’d probably do what you do in terms of explaining what the limitations are and aren’t and how I expect to work around any problems that could occur. I might also end with “I’m happy to answer any questions if you have any” or the like.

        Obviously, legally you’re not required to do this at all, but personally I’ve found that when left to their own devices people will often assume the disability is worse/has a wider impact than is the case in reality. And that will have an impact on your job chances, one that may not be legal but that you’ll have a difficult time proving. Talking about it openly can defuse things a lot.

        1. LCH*

          i’m interviewing someone soon who disclosed to me when accepting the invitation that they have a stutter. i don’t know what to do with the info beyond just knowing about it ahead of time. do you have anything you wish an interviewer would do beyond giving you time to answer (which i would do anyway)?

          1. Tau*

            Hmm… mainly just adhering to basic politeness standards for stuttering:
            – don’t look away during the stuttering (I’m not that fussed about this one but it’s important to a lot of people who stutter)
            – don’t interrupt
            – especially don’t interrupt to finish what they’re trying to say
            – don’t say anything along the lines of “slow down”, “just relax”, “take a deep breath”, etc. (I wish this went without saying but…)
            And just, try to remove any noticeable time pressure from the proceedings.

            It might be a good idea to see if you can pencil in a little extra time for the interview, in case it overruns. I’d expect in most cases it wouldn’t be necessary, but if the stutter is quite severe during the interview it might be and knowing you have the extra time might serve to relax things a little.

        2. Kat in VA*

          I have a speech disorder also (spasmodic dysphonia) and along with my vocal cords slamming uncontrollably, sometimes I stutter. I usually tell interviewers on a phone screen that I have a speech impediment*, and to not feel bad if they have to ask me to repeat myself. Most of them say something like, “Oh, I can understand you just fine!” which is nice, but is almost immediately belied by them saying, “Pardon?” or “Can you repeat that, please?” or my personal favorite, “I think your cell cut out for a second there…”

          *I say “impediment” rather than “neurological disorder” because it opens up a lot of questions that I’d rather not get into at first blush.

          1. Tau*

            Speech disorder high five!

            I also tend to go for “speech disorder” when explaining, because a) it communicates all they really need to know b) “stuttering” is sort of unfortunate as a term because it’s also in common use for fluent-speaker speech dysfluencies. People have been confused on that front before, especially in my more fluent phases, so I like to underline from the start that this is a disability (causes unclear but looking increasingly likely to be some sort of inborn neurological defect) and they should throw any comparison with their own dysfluencies out the window.

            or my personal favorite, “I think your cell cut out for a second there…”

            Ahahaha I have definitely been there! I’ve had someone go “um, the connection is really bad, should I call you back?” I’m sorry, the connection is innocent, I just talk like this! I find in-person much easier than the phone because it’s more obvious that I’m trying to talk. As part of the stutter I have occasional bouts of long silence which can be really awkward to manage if someone can’t see me (as I’m sure you know!)

            1. Kat in VA*

              I get that “bad connection” comment often enough that I’ve got a pat answer of, “Nah, it’s a good connection, that’s just my voice!” which always leaves people floundering and (for some reason) apologizing.

              Don’t apologize, it’s not your fault!

              I have issues with vowel sounds (of which my primary language is mostly comprised of, urgh) and the literal hardest number/word for me to say is EIGHT. Naturally, every time I need to read off a phone number, address, whatever (including my own cell number), that pesky EIGHT is in there!

              And yes, in-person (or even Skype/Zoom interviews) are so much better because of facial expression, hand motions, even the subtle lip reading that folks don’t know they’re doing all contribute to a better understanding of what I’m *trying* to say. I don’t feel like I have to speak louder, which has the unpleasant side effect of making me sound even more garbled on bad days.

              On a related note, I work as an Executive Assistant and everyone is aware of my issues. The best part is I work for a company where my division deals almost exclusively with the federal government. Because of that, literally all the people in the leadership positions are…ex military. Personally, I’d have to say it’s a toss up whether the Air Force guys or the Marines have the worst hearing. :P

              1. Wild Blue Yonder*

                Marines. The likelihood of them working with something that could blow out their hearing is a bit more than the Air Force. I’m an Air Force veteran, my brothers are Army and Marine Corps veterans and my husband’s Army retired. I have the best hearing and I worked on the flight line. Maybe we have better ear protection :)

                1. Elaine*

                  There’s actually a whole class action lawsuit about the ear protection issued to servicemembers. My partner is former Army and can’t hear voices well.

          2. Former Employee*

            Senator Susan Collins has spasmodic dysphonia. If you can work that into the conversation, it might make people more comfortable because if a person can have that disorder and be a Senator, then someone else who has it can probably do almost anything.

    8. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I think the problem is going to be that she’s applying to positions that require field work, so going in as a new hire, they are able to easily not hire her if she clearly states “I’m qualified for 60% of the job but would have to work around the 40% field work!” Is there a reason she’s not applying for administrative only jobs and cutting out the issue of her being put into this spot and rejected? Keep in mind what is a reasonable accommodation for one employer isn’t always going to be a reasonable accommodation for the next.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I’m a dimwit. I didn’t see the part where you mentioned that she’s applying for office only.

        If it’s office only, I don’t see why it will matter! You just ignore if someone for an office job that doens’t require a lot of standing/walking applies. If she shows up with a mobility aid or even a wheelchair, they’re not going to think twice since it’s administrative and she has her certifications/experience.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          You’re right, I went back and reread afterwards and realized my error *face desk*

      2. Fortitude Jones*

        OP said her sister wants to interview for office-only positions similar to the one she’s in – presumably, the sister’s biggest issue is the massive pay reduction she took when being sent to the office after her disability manifested. I don’t blame her – 60% is huge.

    9. AngelicGamer, the visually impaired peep*

      I don’t think there’s anything she can do but sing her own praises as confidently as she can. Good luck to her!

    10. Juli G.*

      Most decent companies won’t really care about mobility issues in an office job. We interviewed someone for a job with a mobility aid. He was upfront and said “From the job description, the only accommodation I will need is around travel. I like to pay to select my seat so I can have room to stretch my leg and I need to give myself time to lay down after international flights so I can stretch before sitting in a conference room.” Those were easy enough and not essential functions of the job so we didn’t bat an eye (however, hiring manager and I are both decent people).

      1. Interviewing with visible disability*

        She had to take a leave of absence for a few weeks and she went back to work earlier than planned because her immediate boss needed her desperately; my sister was up front that she can only do the office work and her immediate boss said ok. The only two accommodations she asked for was that the elevator is turned on during her office hours (going up and down the stairs is hard for my sister) and that she needs a designated parking spot near the entrance. Both were granted so things were fine…until this regional director showed up with her intention of revamping the department.

        Anyway do you think those two accommodations my sister asked for are reasonable?

        1. Clorinda*

          Frankly, the idea that the elevator would ever NOT be turned on is a little weird. Why isn’t it just on all the time? You never know when an otherwise able-bodied employee might sprain an ankle or just not feel like walking.

          1. Interviewing with visible disability*

            The current office’s elevator hours starts at 7 or 8 am, I believe. She starts work early like 6-6:30 am so she asked that the elevator be turned on when she arrived which the immediate boss made happen.

            But I understand that if she were to interview, it would be during the normal business hours and elevators should be working.

        2. C*

          Does your sister have a handicap parking permit? It’s super weird to me that she had to ask for a close parking space (as it seems like she should easily be able to get a permit and businesses are legally required to have handicap parking) or the elevator be turned on (seriously, WTF?).

          Neither of these would even be accommodations at my work place. I wouldn’t bat an eye at someone interviewing with a cane, but if they asked about elevators & parking, it would be an easy yes.

          1. Interviewing with visible disability*

            Yes, she has a handicap placard and there is one handicap parking at this building. This building does not have enough parking stalls for all employees so many have to find street parking and far from the building. Plus if you came early enough to get a stall and left the building during the day for a little bit, you would have to be extremely lucky to find a stall again. She couldn’t take a chance of far away parking and needed a guaranteed stall; her immediate boss gave her the handicap stall which stated that it is reserved for her during her office hours.

          2. Mockingbird 2*

            I have a handicapped placard and had to ask for a spot at one hospital during medical school because there were no handicapped employee spots. I needed permission to park in patient parking without having to pay. They actually redid the parking lot the next year and added employee handicapped spots! I like to think that was partly because of my request :)

        3. Juli G.*

          Incredibly reasonable. I do work for a large company with a private lot so these things are standard and she wouldn’t even need a formal accommodation.

    11. Pinky Pie*

      If I were in your sister’s place, I’d contact vocational rehabilitation to see if they could assist her. Because the state agency specializes in dealing with people with disabilities, they would be able to give her practical, in person and free advice. They can also follow up with any assistive tech she may need to maintain the job.

    12. caffe latte*

      I think it makes a good story for why she’s switching from fieldwork to office/management – I have this *advanced* certification that makes me really good, so I understand the ins & outs of all the job. However, I can no longer work fieldwork due to reasons, so I’m applying for management/office jobs. If the companies she’s applying to aren’t totally new, this is a perfectly standard career transition. Most people can’t do field work their whole lives. She might be transitioning younger than some, but chances are they’ve seen it. Maybe get some project management certificate to back up her new plan?

      1. Interviewing with visible disability*

        It is her concern how to write her cover letter to explain her need for the transition from the field to the office. The office position would be basically at the bottom of hierarchy in that specific department. She’s worried how to convey the need for the transition without fulling disclosing her auto-immune disease which impacts her physically (that she cannot absolutely do the field work anymore). If the employer were reading her resume holding the higher positions she held in the past but now looking for an admin job, won’t that raise an eyebrow?

        1. Bree*

          I think something along the lines of “Due to a medical condition, I transitioned from field work to an office position, where I excelled. I am interested in continuing that work.” is a perfect explanation for that resume.

          1. caffe latte*

            Yep, I think this is a good one. Also, without knowing exactly her field, is there a reason she’s trying for admin roles instead of stretching up? My own biases are showing, but I know fieldwork from mostly a biology/geology point of view, and there’s a lot to be in “in an office” – data analysis, reports, grant writing, experimental design etc that require in-depth knowledge that aren’t “admin” work.

            1. Interviewing with visible disability*

              The role she’s looking for is an admin for a very specific department within the company; she won’t support anyone outside of this department. Next level up for this department will be called a coordinator but this coordinator role usually involves field visits (maybe not as extensive as a supervisor but some field visits will be expected) and giving trainings/long public speaking role to groups.

              Her disability makes her feeling tired all the time and she has noticed that when she was giving trainings in the afternoons, her speech was impacted negatively (really slow, not very clear pronunciation, slurred speech). Early mornings trainings were doable but those were rare and most trainings had to be scheduled in the afternoon.

              So in order to reduce stress, she is just looking for desk/computer work, using industry specific softwares.

        2. Elizabeth*

          I wouldn’t disclose it as an auto-immune disorder – that can sounds big and scary and unknown (how bad is it? Does it affect her job performance? Will she be out sick a lot? Etc). I have 4+ auto immune disorders, some are super minor and some can be more serious. “Auto immune” is a vague and unhelpful term in this situation.

          Instead, frame it as a mobility issue, matter-of-factly: due to a leg issue I now require a leg brace and thus field work is no longer a good fit for me. I want to use my extensive knowledge from x years in the field to transition into office work in y industry. (Then transition into talking about your qualifications and how you can help solve the potential employer’s problems).

          Basically, limit the scope of the revelation to concrete, actionable info – a leg problem prevents field work.

    13. OhNo*

      Wheelchair user here – she doesn’t need to do anything at all during the interview, just be her best self and interview like the respected professional she is. She may get asked about accommodations, but I’ve found it’s best to be breezy and not specific during the actual interview itself. Anything too detailed may cause issues, so it might be best to leave that until she’s gotten an offer.

      If she wants to disclose before the interview (which is something I personally do, so my interviewers aren’t surprised by my wheelchair), she can ask while setting up the time if there is an accessible entrance/disability parking, which works as a subtle heads-up. This might also help if she’s worried about an inaccessible office, like if she needs an elevator but worries that they may not have one.

    14. Everdene*

      I use a crutch when walking distances/going somewhere new and last year hired a wheelchair user.

      Your sister doesn’t need to mention anything at all in the interview, unless she uses it for an example or her cv narrative. Ie “I loved building up my skills in the field and became an expert in x area. Now I can’t get out so much I have found it fufilling to do x, y and z in the office to increase our team’s performance. I’m excited about this role as it will allow me to use that expertise…”

      I would also consider not selling herself short, ok she can’t be in the field all the time anymore, could she be a manager? A trainer? A holder of technical expertise that her new colleagues refer to when stuck in the field?

      1. Mockingbird 2*

        Agree with this and the other comments about framing it as a shift in her career goals due to the disability. I have not brought my (invisible) disability up during a job interview but in other areas of my life I tend to agree that being upfront in a positive, breezy way tends to be the best approach.

        I have actually had more trouble professionally with my soft voice which I never considered a disability before but… it’s due to a medical condition so *shrug*! I have had problems with people senior to me thinking I am not “confident” or am not speaking up on purpose then getting frustrated when I can’t. I bring this up now when I am leading any type of presentation.

    15. A tester, not a developer*

      It can be helpful to emphasize how this can be an advantage for the company as a whole: The field supervisors get to focus on the outside work (if that’s billable time, talk that up) instead of the office work. And she has the experience to be able to identify problems, see trends and patterns, etc. for the organization as a whole instead of each field supervisor being in their own silo. An inexperienced admin certainly can’t do that!

      (I have a disability that is best dealt with by working from home one day a week. I’ve turned it into a good thing for my people – on a WFH day they know I can respond to things more quickly, and it enables me to have time to focus on things like documentation that are tough to do in a busy office. That means I usually get that stuff done more quickly than my co-workers. There was a lot less snarking from management once they saw there was something in it for them).

      1. BelleMorte*

        As someone with a very visible disability (deaf, and a noticeable accent), I find that sometimes it’s a blessing in disguise because you can weed out the workplaces that will NOT be supportive or will be problematic, if they start being concerned about it right off the bat.

  3. Curiosity thrilled the cat*

    I went in for a job interview and there were 2 members from HR. Once we finished up questions, the one asked,”What burning question do you have? If you could ask anything/knowing something, what would it be?”

    What exactly are they looking for? They’re HR! How “wild” can you get? Is it like a freebie question? Am I missing something? (I asked a job-related question, but I don’t know if that was the right thing to do.)

    Any thoughts/comments are greatly appreciated!

    1. Wendie*

      Sounds like they just wanted you to ask the questions you really wanted answered and not feel like you had to beat around the bush. But the phrasing is kind of funny. That’s my guess!

    2. Rabbit*

      I think this is probably just “Do you have any questions for us?” phrased a bit more enthusiastically . Presumably the fact that they were from HR means that they should be well placed to answer any questions about benefits and process.

    3. ATX Language Learner*

      Hi! I think they are just asking a general question but the wording is off. From my perspective, just because they’re HR doesn’t really limit the kinds of questions you would ask normally in an interview versus let’s say a hiring manager. You could ask things about culture, remote policies, how the company invests in their employees, does the company change as work trends change (for example, remote policies, more casual work attire, things like that).

    4. Delta Delta*

      This feels like they wanted you to ask the hard questions. How do people get along? What’s the office culture? What does a typical day look like? That’s how I read this.

      1. Cat Fan*

        See, this is the kind of question I would expect to ask the hiring manager or whoever would be my direct supervisor, not someone in HR.

    5. fposte*

      Yeah, this is just a variant on “What questions do you have for us?” I think your question was probably fine.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      You did what I’d have done — used it as an opening to ask a question about the job that I wanted answered.

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      They’re just trying to be overly friendly and encourage you to not be shy just because they’re HR. I don’t speak that way but I go out of my way to tell staff and candidates alike that I’m not an ogre to be feared and I’m actually very much on their side, it’s not a “protect the company” position in our organization. It’s “protect us all and help us all” department.

      1. Jadelyn*

        +1000 People have this idea about HR and tend to assume they need to have an adversarial relationship with you unless you can set them at ease and head it off preemptively. I agree, this sounds like it was just those particular HR folks’ way of doing that.

        Re the actual question itself, I’d assume they did still mean work-related, but expanded past just questions directly related to the work you’d be doing – things like benefits, PTO, employee engagement programs, stuff that HR would be particularly well-positioned to answer for you.

    8. Ethyl*

      I agree with everyone else. They were probably just feeling a little punchy and went overboard with being “cool” and “friendly.” Especially if the interview was today (Friday) :)

      1. Juli G.*

        Yes, I am socially awkward and this is the sort of dumb thing I will say and be internally humiliated for saying for the next two months.

    9. TootsNYC*

      maybe they’re looking for “why DID the last person quit?” or “how late are the late-nights, really?” or “what’s the truth about work-life balance here?” or “What kind of evaluations does my would-be boss get from his employees?”

      1. Kat in VA*

        All questions I would LOVE to ask in an interview.

        “What was the main reason the last EA quit? The one true real reason they cited and I know it wasn’t an “opportunity” somewhere else.”

        “How does the exec act when things go completely pear-shaped? Does he yell, go quiet, blame people, get nasty, cry, lash out, double down on meetings?”

        “How hard are you going to give me side-eye if I have to work from home or leave early to pick up a sick kid?”

        “Do you REALLY mean it when you say you have a good work-life balance or are those just some cool buzzwords you picked up off the internet?”

        “I see you have 25 days of PTO awarded at the beginning of the year. Will I actually be able to USE that vacation, or will I be subtly discouraged from doing so because I’m so overloaded I can’t fathom turning off my laptop for one day…or my executive will give me static any time I try to take more than one day of PTO for myself?”

        “Do you have any processes, runbooks, SLAs, SOPs or anything of that nature, or is the general work culture one of fire drills?”

        “I have a hella strong work ethic. Will you recognize that and assist me in avoiding burning myself out, or will you take advantage and then get annoyed when I realize I can’t give 125% of myself seven days a week and dial back?”

        I could go on for DAYS with all the reeeeal questions I’d like to ask (but am too afraid to).

  4. Murphy*

    Is anyone familiar with CastleBranch for third party background checks? They’re supposedly ” one of the top 10 background screening and compliance tracking solutions companies in the nation,” but I’m going through a check with them now and I have some serious doubts about CB.

    The process of entering info into the form was clunky and weird. Some pages actually had no questions on them. They send me emails and the links to login and check my status don’t work (404 error). I can still login and check, they’re just sending me bad links. The email address they list to contact for help doesn’t exist. And when the background check results came back, they couldn’t verify my degree. There’s absolutely no reason that this should be the case. The whole thing feels really sketch, even though the employer is completely reputable.

    1. noahwynn*

      A former employer used them. I had the same issue with my degree and had to provide a copy of my transcripts to my employer. The HR dept said it happens all the time. I assume they have some database and for whatever reason our schools were not in there.

      I worked in safety and security and we had to complete a fingerprint based criminal history check through TSA anyways for most of our employees. So the CastleBranch thing was rather pointless in my opinion. I would agree though, they don’t seem to do much besides run a credit history to look for previous employers and addresses, somehow (not) verify education, and look through public records for criminal history.

    2. Dawn Catron*

      We use them all the time and have for years, they can be slow as molasses but they do eventually get it done.

      1. Murphy*

        Good to know. My “results” came back pretty quickly actually. They just couldn’t verify my degree.

        1. Checker*

          Where I work, we use the National Student Clearinghouse to verify degrees. Some schools don’t participate, sometimes they do but the degree still isn’t in there. Not sure what CastleBranch uses but I assume they don’t do the check physically themselves but subscribe to a database. So not terribly strange or alarming to hear it couldn’t be verified.

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

      I imagine for the degree that they are contacting the National Student Clearinghouse or other similar third-party organization to verify a degree, rather than go directly to your college or university. If your alma mater doesn’t contract with whomever they use to verify degrees, then CastleBranch just says they can’t verify it rather than go the extra step.

  5. Anon anony*

    My (awesome) boss retired last month. On job apps, when it asks for the name of my boss, can I still put her name, or should I put the name of my new boss? (Old boss was my boss for 5 years; new boss just became my boss this month.)

    1. Delta Delta*

      Could you say:
      Susannah Stringcheese (2014-9; retired)
      Wilberforce Wifflebat (2019-present)

      Seems like if you’re applying now you might want to include both since Susannah was your boss longer and could potentially have more to say.

      1. Lucky*

        This, but after a while I think you would want to list current boss as boss, and old boss as a reference if she’s willing. Bonus: you have a reference that knows your current work duties & performance, but you don’t have to worry about her knowing that you’re job searching.

    2. Laura H.*

      I would it old boss down (after okaying with them) and make a point to do “still good as a reference/ info checks” on them maybe every 3 months if you usually update that info semi annually.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Yup. The new boss hasn’t been around long enough to properly assess your skills.

    3. TootsNYC*

      I would put new boss in the company section, and when it asks for references, put old boss.

      Old boss doesn’t work at the company.

    4. Government Peon*

      To tag on this question, what if you left before boss retired, boss left for another job or opportunity (say decided to become a stay at home parent), or boss is now deceased? In some cases, I worked with the current person in that role, say I was the intern and the person still there was an assistant. In other situations, it’s a new staff and the shop is too small to have an HR department. This is not for the references section, but the job history part of the application.

  6. Flying Ghoti*

    I have a weird title situation and I was hoping for some advice. Basically I have an “HR title” that is on all of my HR docs, but which is basically a random jumble of terms related to my industry. Say I’m a chocolate teapot painter who also assists with handle design and my “HR title” is “Painting, Teapots, & Chocolate Assistant.” Because the “HR title” is so strange I have always used a more descriptive title for my day-to-day work communications (business cards, e-mail signature, listing on our website, etc.). This title has evolved slightly during the course of this job from “Teapot Painter & Handle Design Assistant” to “Teapot Painter & Handle Specialist” but the job itself has not changed and I’ve had the same “HR title” the entire time. My boss is aware of and approved the title I use.

    I am job searching and I have been listing the position on my resume as “Teapot Painter & Handle Specialist.” Since reading this AAM post: https://www.askamanager.org/2019/04/my-coworker-brags-about-how-rich-he-is-application-assignments-when-youre-on-vacation-and-more.html (#5 at the link) I have also added my official “HR title” in parentheses. However, I now have a phone interview coming up for one of the resumes I sent out before I read that post, so it only has my unofficial title. Should I address this in the phone interview? Just explain that my “HR title” and practical day-to-day title don’t match? Or should I leave it be? If it matters this is in higher ed, where I think this kind of situation is somewhat common.

    1. Wendie*

      Not every title is taken so serious, it depends on the company. I doubt it will come up but if you think you are nearing the reference stage you could email the hr person and let them know what your formal title is. Maybe something like I call myself this for clarity but my technical position is this. But really this is small stuff so don’t sweat!

    2. University of Trantor*

      At this stage, I think I would let it be unless it somehow naturally comes up in conversation. You’re already putting the official title in parentheses going forward, and, as you noted, official HR titles and public-facing job titles often don’t quite align in higher ed.

      The only slight glitch I would see is that specialist is usually considered a level or two higher than assistant, but still, I wouldn’t worry.

      1. Going anonymous for this one 2019*

        The levels vary too — we have an entry-level techpubs person starting in another region and they gave her the title of “editor”.
        (To anyone with a journalism or publishing background, that’s so wrong as to be upsetting. And it’s particularly upsetting because I’ve been laying the groundwork to get them to create that title here as a technical-specialist track promotion option instead of having to go into management. )

      2. Ally A*

        It can really vary. In my higher ed environment, “specialist” is lower than “assistant” – in fact, it’s usually a student worker position.

    3. Tom & Johnny*

      Use the title that fits the work you were doing.

      For a number of years I was a Case Assistant at a law firm. That means a paralegal in training. Unless you work in law firms you don’t know what that means. It was a nonsense term.

      The fact is I was a Junior Paralegal. I reported in to a Senior Paralegal and not to the attorneys, whom she reported to. Which makes obvious sense when you use the straightforward title of Junior Paralegal.

      To this day I title that role Junior Paralegal on my resumes and LinkedIn. No one has ever batted an eye, including legal-specialty recruiters who know very well that the HR title for those roles is typically something like Case Assistant.

      If I’m applying to a position where I feel the reviewers are incredibly particular and exacting, I will put the HR title in parentheses.

      Junior Paralegal (Case Assistant)
      2006-2008

      Law firms are doing this to Legal Secretaries now too. They call them everything now from Professional Assistants to Executive Legal Admins, to Administrative Legal Assistants (but not ‘Legal Assistant’ as that’s a crossover title for Paralegal). Anything but the straightforward title of Legal Secretary. Ugh it’s too complicated.

    4. pamela voorhees*

      Some terms in academia are fixed, like the difference between associate and assistant professor. If you don’t have a position like that, and it sounds like you don’t, I think it’s fine to just mention when it would be practical “my technical position title is XYZ, but that doesn’t fully communicate what I do, so I use ABC with my boss’s blessing.” If you treat it non-nonchalantly and as useful but not pressing information, they’re likely to treat it the same way.

    5. Cats and dogs*

      I would not bring it up because you are not being deceptive and not choosing to not disclose something important so bringing it up could be confusing or a inadvertent red flag.

  7. Foreign Octopus*

    Last week I posted that I was taking a proofreading course, and a couple of people asked me if I’d be willing to update them on my process, so here I am! Irene Adler, and I See Real People, this is for you.

    I’ve done one full week of the course that I can take at my own pace, which I’ve discovered is a good thing as commas have been kicking my ass. I never knew there were so many rules around when to use a comma and when not to, but there are, and it’s all awful. I had to pause my movement through the module, optimistically titled “Proofreading Basics”, to spend three full days trying to wrap my head around comma usage. I think I’ve got it down now, but oh my god it was hard. One thing I enjoy greatly about the course is that they followed the Chicago Manual of Style, which itself uses the Oxford Comma, and it’s nice to be with my people. The Oxford comma is clearly the superior form of comma.

    Despite the difficulties, and it being harder work than I expected, it’s been really interesting though. Mephyle noted last week that they have a slight obsession with grammar, which is something that I’m coming to appreciate. This is definitely a job for people who enjoy English grammar, or who at least don’t despise it.

    I’ve already noticed that it’s improving my own writing, which I do for fun; and when I’m correcting my students’ writings, I’m able to give them a fuller and more comprehensive reason as to why something is wrong, so I’m improving in my day job, which is brilliant.

    I haven’t started doing any official proofreading yet. I’ve done some online exercises that can be found simply by typing “online proofreading exercises” into a search bar, and that’s helping me find where I’m going wrong and what I need to revisit. I don’t think I’m going to try for proofreading jobs until I’ve finished the course as there’s just so much to learn, but this isn’t a get rich quick scheme, this is training, and I think that’s important to know going in.

    I should be finished with the rest of “Proofreading Basics” by next week, so I can give another update for those that are interested but the basic premise of this is:

    Proofreading, hard but fun.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I wish I could find a course like this. I don’t have any expertise in the commonly used style guides like AP or Chicago Manual of Style (I did manage to get an AP stylebook but it’s outdated by a couple of years and the subscription costs money. Everything costs too much money.)

      The annoying superior relative was all like, “You write; get a proofreading job.” Well I’ve been looking, but I don’t have the required experience for those jobs. This is the same person who told me once to lie on my resume and in the next breath told me she had to fire a writer who lied about her credentials. Seriously, how can you have a degree in marketing and not know what the qualifications for a proofreading job are? Most of them are in very high-COL areas anyway and pay almost nothing, or are contract.

      I might look around for a course. From your description, it sounds like it could be helpful, even if I have to sell plasma to pay for it. Also, Oxford comma for the win! \0/

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Community newspapers at least used to have *part time* proofreaders & copy-editors. That’s how I got formal editorial credentials on my resume in the early days when I changed my mind about my first career choice. It was part-time/evening, so I could keep job-hunting during the day.

        1. Bee's Knees*

          True! I was a full time copyeditor when I worked at the paper, but I did lots of other stuff besides editing. We had a lovely older man that proofed for us as well, and other than writing a column for the Sunday edition, that’s all he did.

      2. jmart*

        You might find something useful on Poynter’s News University site? They offer a bunch of online courses, from free to cheap to hundreds of dollars for the really comprehensive ones.

      3. Foreign Octopus*

        The course I’m taking is $497, but I paid $397 because I booked it straight away after watching an hour-long video and I got a $100 discount. If you pay an extra hundred, then you get a graded exam, but I didn’t want that.

        To be honest, I love the course, but a lot of it is simply just pointing me in the right direction. I have to do a lot of research, and finding my own sources, outside of it, but I do find it a really helpful guide, and I’m glad I’m taking it. It also provides me the Chicago Manual reference number to corrections, which is helpful and saves time, but it can be done without that; it’ll just take a little long. Money is an issue though, I get that. I’ve spent my last few hundred on this, and I’m hoping that it pays off.

        Yeah, I’m an ESL teacher, and people thought this would be an easy job for me. It’s not; it’s an entirely different skillset, so studying beforehand (not necessarily training) is essential.

        I’d be happy to send you some more information about it, although I’m not sure how to do that. Maybe go through, Alison?

        Let me know, and I’ll put some stuff together. The same goes for anyone else who’s interested :)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Oh yeah hell no, that’s completely out of reach. I can’t pay anything or very little.

        2. Same here*

          I would like to learn more. Can you post the name of the course or is that not allowed..?

      4. CC*

        I was surprised to find a proofreading course at my local community college. May be worth another look and see if they offer summer courses in this!

      5. Hermione at Heart*

        FWIW it doesn’t matter that much if an AP stylebook is perfectly up to date. Some styles do change from year to year but the big ones usually get a lot of attention (dropping the hyphen in email, dropping the capital I in Internet, allowing you to use % instead of percent(!)). Most publications also vary a little bit from AP into whatever their “house style” is, which you’re not expected to know without working there. The core grammar guidance doesn’t change. I’d say you’d be fine with any stylebook from the past five years. (The 2014 version is $8 on Amazon.)

        If it’s a field you really want to break into, freelance proofreading is probably the way to go — try Upwork or other online job boards.

      6. Lilysparrow*

        You can take free qualification tests on Upwork and/or Guru in editing, proofreading, grammar, etc. (Or at least, this used to be a thing a couple of years ago. I assume it’s still the same). You can choose whether or not to show your score on your profile, and I think they have training modules as well.

        The pay rates can be obnoxiously low, but if you’re looking to get some experience for your resume, it’s free to find gigs. (They take a commission after you get paid).

        It wasn’t overnight, but I’ve parlayed the first few sucky jobs into some much better ones.

    2. Blue Bunny*

      The Oxford comma is clearly the superior form of comma.

      Anyone I work with who waves away the importance of the serial comma now gets a link to the Oakhurst Dairy “comma lawsuit”. Is your preference worth five million bucks? I’m guessing no. Everyone thinks pedants are a pain, until we save them a boatload of cash.

      1. Jadelyn*

        That is always my go-to defense of the Oxford comma! For want of a comma, the lawsuit was lost…

        1. General Ginger*

          The judge actually opened his statement with the phrase “For want of a comma, we have this case”!

    3. Lena Clare*

      Haha! I feel you.

      I did a proofreading course, even did some jobs after then, but it didn’t pay enough to be a regular gig (YMMV of course). I still enjoy doing it now and then, and I proofread for an author in exchange for their ARCs though.

      Good luck with it!

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        That is my problem with proofreading. I LOVE it. If I didn’t need heat and food, I’d do it all day for free. I just love to read. But it pays so little that I would need to have around 200 clients all writing books throughout the year to make any kind of living out of it. I had several regular clients, but they could only produce one book per quarter, at most, so that left a lot of gaps in my income.

    4. Hepzibah Pflurge*

      I will gladly fight and die on the Oxford comma hill. Oxford comma FTW! Love everything about your post. Thank you for sharing.

      1. Works in IT*

        Oxford commas just make sense. “Color options for the new phone: blue, red, gold, black and white” is not the same as “Color options for the new phone: blue, red, gold, black, and white”

      2. Alli525*

        I wish I COULD fight and die on your hill! I work in PR, which means half of the stuff I write (editorial content) can use it, but everything else (press releases) cannot. It’s such a pain because the Oxford comma and I have been BFFs since I learned what it was.

    5. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

      Oh my god, the commas! the COMMAS!
      I think my English is excellent, all things considered, but the commas kill me *every* time.
      The rules are completely different in Swedish and in English, and I don’t notice until I go back and reread it and discover I’ve used a billion more commas than any native speaker would.

      It sounds like a useful course though!

      1. ThatGirl*

        My husband was an English major, he’s very smart and a good writer and a native English speaker and he still gets all screwed up with commas :)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Same, and I still get dinged in Word by the grammar checker (and it’s all maddeningly inconsistent to boot).

    6. Close Bracket*

      I’d love to know which course it is. I used to be an editor for Cactus Communications. I’m now back to engineering, but I’d love to upgrade my editing and proofreading skills in case I need to go back in the future.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        It’s called General Proofreading: Theory and Training. If you just type it into Google, it should come up first thing.

          1. Foreign Octopus*

            There are some terrible reviews, but there are also good reviews as well, and it’s finding the balance for me; I’m waiting until I finish the end of the course to have a full review of it (so nobody go out and do anything until I can report back!), but it has been helping me. It’s not a course that you use as a certificate, but rather something you use as guidelines to push yourself forward.

            Part of me thinks that if you’re really proactive, then you can learn all of this without the course, you just need to know where to start.

            I’m not very proactive though, and I need the kick in the bum that a structured outline gives, so this is good for me.

            I’ll see how I feel about it at the end of the course though.

    7. irene adler*

      HI- Sorry for the “late to the party” response.
      Thanks so much for taking the time to share this.
      (Okay, I had to look up the Oxford Comma you mentioned. Never knew that was a thing. But it always bugged me when the comma was omitted. So- I learn something!)

      I found copy editing courses near me. Yeah, not quite the same thing. Found it interesting that the program starts with ~$500 for a course of weekly exams to test one’s grammar knowledge.

  8. King of an Island*

    My small office added new staff this week (2 new people to a team of 4, now 6) and I think we’re struggling with the transition. We’ve probably become a little cliquish without realizing it and we’ve gotten comfortable chatting about topics that are probably too controversial because we know each other well. How can we re-set without people feeling like we “lost” our close knit team because of the “new people”? I have already heard pushback and grumbling.

    1. Dragoning*

      Maybe try focusing on talking to the newbies and getting them to open up a little first? It might, at least, be a distraction from not being “able” to talk about what they want to talk about. You have new conversation topics!

      1. Coffee Bean*

        Yes! Just talk to them, get to know them. Maybe even do a team lunch or two over the next few months?

      2. King of an Island*

        Yes, we definitely did a team lunch, but I think we need some “next steps”

      3. Wannabe Disney Princess*

        As someone who came into a new, smaller team recently I second this. It can be intimidating to try and edge your way in on a conversation if there’s a clique-y feel.

        It doesn’t have to be any big thing. I’ve appreciated when they were discussing GOT (which I don’t watch) someone throwing out, “Wannabe Disney Princess – favorite characters. Go!” I couldn’t answer the question, but it was nice to be included.

    2. aryalistening*

      We’re adding someone to our team of 3 (soon to be 4) next week. I’v already set the expectation with the team that we’ll want to be alert for cues that the new person doesn’t share some of the views/habits we’ve become more comfortable sharing with each other–whether it’s political discussions or simple music preferences. I told them that while it’s been nice to be so similar to/comfortable with each other to this point, it’s also very normal in the workplace (and will be fine) if we have to ‘pull back’ a bit on those topics when the new person starts; our first priority is that everyone is professional/pleasant with each other, and then we’ll see what’s possible from there. I do plan to encourage that the other two, who are good friends, still take lunches together, etc. so that they’re still able to bond as friends–that way they’ll hopefully feel better about reining in the cliquish-ness during actual work time.

    3. merp*

      I’m not sure how easily this translates to a work setting, but when I joined a friend group that known each other a little longer already, one of them was particularly really good about noticing when a story happened before I was around, and would briefly give the background so I could be in on the joke. Never condescending, just inclusive. Making a mental note to pay attention to any insitutional knowledge that gets talked about without background might help.

      1. Jordijojo*

        ^This. At my previous job my coworkers were pretty cliqueish and I generally struggle with knowing how to break into discussions. If somebody would’ve simply acknowledged my presence while they were talking (our desks were all next to each other) it would’ve made it so much easier to feel comfortable chiming in. People who try to include everyone in the conversation are saints for us shy people.

    4. Owler*

      Identify the change out loud with the original staff. Many people shy away about talking about the loss of closeness, but I think if you give the old people the benefit of the doubt and give them a chance to talk about it, it might ease the transition.

    5. Federal Middle Manager*

      It’s hard to include new people in old habits because they will always feel a bit behind in a “you had to be there” way. A better approach is to do NEW things with everyone. Instead of going to the same old lunch spot, try a place that just opened up. Open meetings with ice breakers where everyone share new information (rather than “Newbies, tell us about your last job” try “Everyone, go around the circle and tell us about your first summer job.” This puts people on a more even footing, and new and old coworkers can have something to bond over (“I worked at Dairy Queen in high school, too!”).

    6. pamela voorhees*

      Maybe assign one of the old guard as a social mentor to the new people? It really concerns me that there’s already grumbling of the new people ruining everything – you don’t want to turn into that office where they’d run off anyone new with “that’s not how Tricia did it!” or whathaveyou. If you can get one person to be directly responsible for integrating them into the group, it might go better than everyone thinking “well, I said hello and said ‘how about that weather?’ to them when I walked in, and now I can safely ignore them for the rest of the day and go back to what I did before.” It’d be tricky because you don’t want someone to feel like a babysitter, but pulled off well I think it’d be much easier for them to join the group if they have an advocate, so to speak.

    7. Spooooon!!*

      The book Managing Transitions by William Bridged has excellent advice regarding any sort of change. His main credo is that too many people try to jump into the new way of doing things before allowing people to accept the change
      He says a neutral ground needs to be reached first. This can apply to even seemingly small transitions.

    8. China Beech*

      I’m glad that as part of the established group you can acknowledge the sometimes “cliquish” atmosphere. Last year I joined a similar small team and it is STILL very cliquish, even to the point that the supervisor that has worked with the other three people gives THEM all the “good” work and the two of us “new” folks have to fight for scraps. To add to the “fun” we are getting another new person soon. I don’t really see away out of this other than out, since I already asked the boss for more work in addition to the next-level boss. That was a long winded way of saying good for you, thank you for your efforts, and I wish you and your group all the best!

  9. Wunderment*

    I’m pretty sure I was a free consultant disguised as an interviewee.

    I went in for a four hour interview with a highly reputable company. I ended up blabbing on for hours about how they could improve the product they’re working on. They never asked me any questions about myself, I tried to redirect the conversation that way, but just little nods here and there and then back to their product.

    I was told I would hear something by the end of the week. Never heard back. Two weeks after the interview, I followed up and heard within the hour they are going to reach out to more candidates. I see on their website and on LinkedIn they reposted the job.

    I am so embarrassed. I wasted so much of my time and I feel like they were never interested in me anyway. This was after two phone screenings. I flew across the company for this opportunity (they paid, luckily).

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      I don’t think embarrassment is necessary here! It sounds like you were genuine in presenting your ideas, the interview was kind of weird, and they just decided to go a different way. I didn’t hear that they actually implemented any of your changes so I don’t think they (paid to fly you across country) to just use you as a “free consultant.” It sounds like it just wasn’t a good fit.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Agreed. I could see if the company hadn’t paid for the travel and the OP saw her work had also been implemented afterward, but it sounds like for, whatever reason, they didn’t ask you a ton of questions about yourself because they didn’t think you’d be the right fit for the role. And don’t beat yourself up over that, either. Everything isn’t for everybody – you’ll find a company that will appreciate your enthusiasm and work ethic soon.

    2. mark132*

      My old manager would actually stop an interview when we were getting too much “free” consulting from a candidate, with a comment to the effect that anymore advice and we would owe the candidate a consulting fee.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      I wanted to post today on a topic of a similar note.
      Because I’ve had a few job interviews where it felt more like I was being pumped for market intel and the maybe the job wasn’t even real. I wanted to ask HR people if their company makes them do that.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m so sorry that you were treated like this!

      I know it’s easy to feel shame or guilt when we’re taken advantage of but you didn’t do anything wrong. They are the jerks.

    5. Mellow*

      It’s like you’re there because they’re out of ideas, and not because you’re actually interviewing for a position. I don’t mean to sound glib at all, but you’ve probably dodged a bullet, though I know it feels like such a time-waster. I ‘m sorry it happened to you.

  10. Rosie The Rager*

    How to effectively tell boss I don’t want more hours or more responsibility?

    Since January, I have worked part-time as a PR specialist for a tiny PR/marketing firm overseeing external communication such as social media, press releases, newsletter submissions, etc. I work two days a week for about seven hours each day and spend the rest of my time scheduling doctors appointments, job interviews for full-time positions and self-improvement activities.

    My supervisor, the business owner, approached me last week about working more hours and stating that I “needed to be more flexible” with my schedule because of a possible contract to create blog posts and other materials for a local hospital. I don’t want to work more hours and want to relay this without being unkind.

    I also have concerns about my boss’ communication style, particularly as she has some type of learning disorder and cannot manage her time. This has caused serious issues meeting with prospective clients and onboarding for the new administrative assistant. When the owner is unavailable, I have stepped in to the extent I can. However, I have both limited knowledge and time to address the issues outside of my direct responsibilities.

    Consequently, for the time being I am happy to work about 14 hours weekly and collect my small paycheck twice a month. I have adapted to living modestly and spending my free time trying to better myself through online education and in-person volunteering. The extra money for the additional hours is insufficient to compensate me for the lost free time for appointments, interviews and other obligations.

    What would your recommended script be to tell her about my preferences without making it feel like a rejection of her kindness or the job itself?

    1. Interplanet Janet*

      “Our current arrangement is actually the perfect work-life balance for me, and I’m really not interested in changing it. I’m of course willing to help out if there’s a specific temporary need [if that’s true], but my preference is to keep things the way they are now.” Maybe?

      1. Rosie The Rager*

        Interplanet Janet, I really like that phrasing, particularly the “work-life balance.” Thanks for the helpful suggest script.

        1. Interplanet Janet*

          Thank you! I’m a newer reader/commenter and it took me a little time to find something I liked :)

          #galaxygirl for those of us of a certain #schoolhouserock age :D

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            A solar system Ms. from a future world…

            I might have DVDs of School House Rock that I might have played obsessively for my kid’s first 5 years… Screen time limit? What screen time limit?

    2. SpellingBee*

      I’d just cheerfully and matter-of-factly tell her no thanks to the extra hours, that the current schedule works well for you and you’re happy with the way things are. You can frame it as appreciating her offer, but really she’s asking you to expand your schedule for her convenience, not yours. If she takes on more work than she and the available staff can handle, that’s her responsibility and she’ll have to figure it out; you don’t “need” to do anything other than what you’ve been hired for.

      1. Rosie The Rager*

        SpellingBee, I normally would agree with you. However, given Missy’s learning disability and her tantrum about six weeks ago that involved screaming at me “I respect the hell out of you” and throwing her jacket on the floor before stomping upstairs and slamming several doors and declining to speak with me for three hours before dropping an assignment on my desk and leaving.

        The incident has never been addressed since, so I’ve tried to put it in my rear view mirror. Still, it has affected my trust and comfort level with her.

        1. Marthooh*

          Hmm. I think it doesn’t really matter what script you use; you can’t force her to be reasonable and polite. “No, I won’t be able to do that” along with, maybe, “but thanks for offering!” or “I’m sure you can find someone else to help you with that!” And then if she reacts badly, remind yourself she’s responsible for her own behavior. It will be unpleasant, but not as unpleasant as spending more time every week with an out-of-control boss.

          1. JulieCanCan*

            Yeah, I wouldn’t really worry about the phrasing or presentation – or any kind of negotiation. If she reacts as you described then there isn’t a tone or inflection “light” enough. Someone that irrational won’t like what you have to say regardless of how much consideration you put into it.

            Sorry, she sounds kinda atrocious. Stick to what makes you happy and feeling good, that’s all that matters. Maybe you would want to work more if you worked for someone NOT like that. : / (unfortunately you can’t say that to her)

        2. IndoorCat*

          Whoa. That’s intense. I… I wouldn’t keep working there any longer than I had to. That’s so out-of-the-norm of acceptible behavior from a boss that I worry that most sensible scripts won’t be able to prevent an extreme reaction.

          Also, for what it’s worth, there are a lot of people in professional fields who have learning disabilities, and they don’t throw things, slam doors, scream or give people the silent treatment at work. I know some neurological issues affect, say, spatial awareness and mood regulation, but even the people I know who have those issues, like, they’re more prone to tearfulness, or needing to step back and take a breather when stressed, they don’t have temper tantrums and blame their disability.

          I only bring this up because when people use their disability or mental illness as an excuse to treat others poorly, it further stigmatizes disabled / mentally ill people, like myself. It confirms the worst stereotypes in the minds of abled / mentally well people who may have subconscious biases already (as almost everyone does). Stuff like that makes me so frustrated.

          I guess I encourage everyone to separate the crappy things people do from whether or not they have a disability. Missy sounds like an awful boss, and she probably would be awful even if her neurology or learning style was more typical.

    3. Not A Manager*

      Why can’t you just say, “I’m sorry, I’m not available to work additional hours”? I don’t see why you need any explanation or backstory.

      I’d start with that. If she pushes, which it sounds like she will, I would still be as bland as possible. “I have other commitments,” “it just won’t work for me,” etc. I think referring to “work-life balance” sounds a lot like “I have other things that I prefer over working here,” which, while true, is probably not what she wants to hear.

      1. Rosie The Rager*

        Not A Manager, I have tried that twice and it didn’t go as planned. Missy, the owner, takes everything personally, and her automatic response is to get terribly defensive, curse and sometimes storm out of the room. It’s neither pretty nor professional.

        Still, as I responded to InterPlanet Janet, I will reiterate the work-life balance angle and see what happens.

        1. Ethyl*

          Are you able to just let her be mad? Sometimes (SOMEtimes) unreasonable and demanding people will change their approach if they realize you can, actually, live with them being mad, even mad AT you. I know it’s really hard, if you can even fake it till you get home, it may help.

          1. valentine*

            I’m surprised you’re not looking to leave the chaos and abuse. Does she want you stepping in for her? I’d stop that.

            Be prepared for her to want to replace you with someone who can work more hours. Maybe look for other part-time work in case that happens.

        2. JJ*

          It’s not pretty, sure – but it’s survivable. Let her have her hissy fit. You’re not available.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I really like the first script. This conveys that you’re happy and the arrangement works well for you. If pressed, I would explain that you took the part time job because it fit well with your schedule and the work/life balance that suits your needs best.

      If she’s grumpy about it or whatever, that’s on her. You do not owe anyone more than what you signed up for. Yes, part time jobs may grow to bigger closer to full time positions but that isn’t a given, nor should it ever be banked on! So she needs to be flexible too and reel in her expectations and dreams. It’s unfair and unprofessional to pressure you after you have expressed that you don’t want to or simply cannot change how things are done.

      I suppose the most you could do to compromise is to say that you cannot add extra hours but perhaps you can change the days? Would it be possible to work the same hours but spread them through three days instead of two? Or would that drain you just as much for the same pay? That’s some flexibility without giving up too much more free time, depending on your commute and the cost of it.

    5. PhDinTraining*

      Given your additional information, I’m wondering if part of this is a Captain Awkward “reasons are for reasonable people” situation. Your boss doesn’t sound reasonable, so the less reasons the better? I’ve found that some people scoff at work-life balance, so I’m a little skeptical that will work. Maybe, “unfortunately my current schedule doesn’t allow for more hours or other days.”?

    6. Auntie Social*

      Explain why you’re not the droid she’s looking for: you have limited knowledge of ABC process and it shows, the last time X and Y happened, those aren’t your responsibilities, etc. Really, you’re doing her a favor by not meeting with clients when Lynn is right down the hall and does it so well, etc.

  11. Millennial Lizard Person*

    Our IT department is so innovative. I got back from a week’s vacation and noticed I only had 100 emails. Turns out IT somehow removed me from all my list-servs. I’m not the first person this has happened to, but let me tell you, it’s way more difficult to get caught back up when you don’t have any emails of what’s happened!

    1. JustaTech*

      Oh, the joys of “helpful” e-mail systems. Ours has randomly decided to not allow any emails from several of our vendors. Like, companies we’ve been working with for years will suddenly be unable to send us emails. It’s hard to figure out when it’s happened (gosh, Widgets general sure is flaky all the sudden), it’s hard to fix, and I ended up having to get work emails sent to my personal email for half a week!

      Yay email!

  12. Academic Newbie*

    Seeking advice for a friend… “Sansa” is an Assistant Professor at a US university and a PI on a grant funded by an agency of the US government. Her co-PI “Arya” works at the same institution but is planning to immigrate to Canada because her spouse got a job there. Is there any way that Sansa can keep paying Arya to work on their grant even though Arya will be in a foreign country and will no longer be associated with an institution?

    1. Holly*

      This sounds like a legal question for university attorneys to handle, not a job advice question.

    2. Not my usual name*

      That’s going to highly depend on the agency and what costs they consider allowable. It might move Arya to contractor status instead of a PI, Sansa should talk to her research administrators who would know more. (I am not a research administrator but am RA adjacent.)

    3. RR*

      Compliance person from a USG-funded non-profit research organization here. It really depends on the terms and conditions of Sansa’s grant, as well as her University’s requirements. USG Agencies typically designate PIs as “Key Personnel,” which means that changes here may well require their approval. A lot of organizations require that a PI be a regular staff member. That being said, Sansa may be able to hire Arya to continue work on the grant, but she should consult with her office of sponsored research.

    4. Justme, The OG*

      If Arya can be employed by the university still, then yes. We had a research associate move across the country and still pay her. Just make sure she can be still employed by your institution – ask HR.

    5. Asenath*

      Sansa and Arya need expert advice. University hiring and funding practices are arcane – throw a resident of a foreign country into the mix, and it just gets worse. They need someone who knows both the University rules AND the rules for the grant. It wouldn’t hurt to look into taxation issues for Arya, especially if she’s a US citizen. The US it almost the only country in the world that collects taxes from its citizens when they’re abroad. I am no expert, but I think there’s US/Canadian tax treaties that mean if an American working in Canada pays Canadian taxes, they can deduct those from their US taxes, but they MUST file for taxes in both countries (due to US laws) and that can get complicated and, if you need one of those accountants who specializes in international tax law, it can get expensive too.

      1. Psyche*

        I agree the weird rules and hoops to jump through. Additionally, there will likely be university politics involved. If there is another PI doing similar research at the university as Arya, there may be pressure to have that PI step in instead.

    6. Not in US*

      Is Sansa getting a job in Canada at a University? If she is, it’s probably doable but there will be some hoops (and may depend on what capacity she’s hired – research staff vs faculty). I have seen sub-grants from various US government agencies come to our institution but they have to be held by a faculty member (normally tenured or tenure-track).

    7. Nesprin*

      There is an office of grants people at every university who should answer this question, since grant policies are about as complex and arcane as tax law. IMHO- prob not for DOD/DOE grants, possibly for NIH/NSF but Sansa’s grant office and the granting agency can answer this question. Occasionally for profit companies can be hired under grants- Sansa’s collaborator could essentially be a company/consultant if unaffiliated and if okayed by grant people on both sides. .

    8. money fairy*

      I work for a federal grant program and our grant agreements are legal documents between the agency and the university, not the PIs. A change in PI would require approval of the awarding office, but it’s up to the university to propose a strategy and make sure it meets their legal obligations. Possibilities I’ve discussed with recipients have included ideas like keeping Arya on as a research associate or adjunct research professor eligible to receive grant funding but not benefits through the university, or moving the cost of her salary from the “personnel” category to “contracting” and giving justification for sole-source procurement of her services. (This could potentially be complicated with her working outside of the US, I’m not sure, I haven’t run across that variation before.) I don’t say this often, but the limits may come more from the university/HR side than the federal.

    9. Ama*

      Seconding everyone’s advice on this — Sansa’s best bet is to be completely upfront with the funding agency and let them know ahead of time what is about to happen and ask whether it is possible to keep Arya on the grant. I work for a funder (not-government) and it is so much worse for everyone involved when a PI does not disclose a change to the structure of their grant until after it has already happened.

      Sometimes if the PI discloses upfront the situation the funder can work with them to find a compromise (or sometimes it is allowable within their policies anyway) — but if it is discovered after the fact that Arya had a chance in employment status that was not disclosed Sansa and the university could be in big trouble and the funder may have no choice but to cancel or rescind funding.

    10. Natatat*

      Seconding some of the other comments that this is a question for the grant funding agency, not AAM. I work in Awards and Scholarships at a university and general advice can’t be used for awards/scholarships/grants, you have to consult the specific grant funding agency for your specific grant to get the correct policy. Policies vary widely between awards/grants etc, so general advice won’t be useful. If it’s anything like the grant funding agencies up here in Canada, the funding agency are used to getting questions like this and respond pretty quickly.

    11. Interplanet Janet*

      This is *NOT* advice, per se, but reminds me of a story.

      Many years ago, I had a campus job as an athletic trainer. We were salaried, year-long employees; the hours varied greatly, but were definitely more hours per week during football season than any other time. One year I got really sick right at the beginning of the spring semester and wound up dropping out and having to go home, two states away. When I told my boss, he was worried that not paying me for the second half of the year would mean there wouldn’t be a budget for me for the next year. He tried to see if he could split the pay up between the other trainers, but he couldn’t, and the whole rest of that year, twice a month I got a paycheck mailed to my school mailbox. Where it was forwarded to me at home.

    12. Kimmybear*

      Agreeing with everyone here that you need expert advice. Talk not only to your school’s grants office but also the international faculty advisor/team. Depending on where the work is completed and her legal status in Canada, her visa may be a limiting factor more than the funding mechanism. (I’ve worked on USG grants as well as with international scholars so have seen the many ways things can go sideways.)

    13. tamarack and fireweed*

      Sansa needs to talk with her fiscal officer. If that person is too junior in the office of grants/sponsored programs/whatever it’s called in her institution, she needs to talk with an experienced grant administrator. They can sort it out if it can be sorted out.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        (Note that these are the people who can talk with the fiscal officer on the other side of this grant – the funding org. All depends on the rules that apply to that particular program. Given that they started as co-PIs, all sides have an interest in figuring out a way to make the grant successful. )

  13. NewGlassesGirl*

    Add to the weird list of things that have happened to me at work: Intern from different department serenaded me while I was trying to make my 9 AM coffee.

    1. Coffee Bean*

      LOL… I just spit coffee on my keyboard. What a wonderfully odd thing for the Intern to do.

    2. Rosie The Rager*

      NewGlassesGirl, I’m not sure whether to be envious of the morning serenade or worried for you! I hope the intern could at least carry a tune and sang something you didn’t mind hearing at 9 a.m. before having your coffee.

    3. knitter*

      I have been serenaded several times in the hallways by a 60 something male who is a former actor. So at least the singing is high quality. I just take it as another indicator of his perceived self-importance.

      1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        I’m picturing Heath Ledger (RIP) singing “Can’t Take My Eyes off You” to Julia Stiles…

        Though if that’s the case, your intern is creepy…

      2. NewGlassesGirl*

        Wish I knew, I was in utter shock and could not pinpoint the song. I started fake coughing to try to avoid laughing.

    4. Bananatiel*

      I just had a flashback to a coworker that did that to me once years ago. He was on the glee club in college and made sure everyone knew lol.

    5. Zona the Great*

      I’ve totally had this happen! A guy kinda cornered me in the break room whilst at the fridge. I literally pretending it wasn’t happening, nodded blankly, side-stepped him and walked out! I listened as the singing sort of faded out as I walked away. Gold.

    6. Happy Lurker*

      I worked as a teenage cashier and one of the baggers used to serenade us in the early mornings when it was quiet. He was so funny. He would show up 3o minutes to an hour late and simply say “I was watching a movie” and then start to sing.

    7. CDM*

      I had a delightful moment at OldJob, when for some inexplicable reason, two of the (male, college-aged) lifeguards burst inexplicably into “I Enjoy Being a Girl.” Both were very good singers, I have no idea why that happened at that moment, and I never heard either of them sing before or since. And why were two guys who graduated high school circa 2008 familiar enough with that song to be able to sing it well and a capella?

  14. I don't want to have to leave*

    TL, DR: I am worried about having to start reporting to a very difficult personality. As it is now, I have to work with him, and it’s very unpleasant.

    The long, long story: My company recently hired Oscar, who is in the process of transitioning from male to female. Right now he wears male clothes, with full makeup and lots of jewelry. He has told us to use male pronouns for the time being. I mention this to illustrate that this was how Oscar appeared during the hiring process and to say that I am grateful to work at a company for whom his appearance and his journey are irrelevant. He was hired on his skills and experience, which are genuine. I don’t think that that would be true for all employers.

    I would also like to believe that the fact that Oscar is transitioning is irrelevant to the difficulties I and other employees are having with him, but it doesn’t seem to be the case. Oscar brings a lot of good experience to our company and currently has the ear of the senior leadership for his new ideas and energy. For the people below senior leadership, there are issues with his communication style. Here are a few examples.

    He exaggerates his accomplishments, his experience, his entire back story. The exaggerations are internally inconsistent, so you don’t know what to believe. Prior to coming here, he had his own consulting firm that, to hear him talk, was wildly successful. His story is that he had to give it up because the cost of health insurance for a small business was too expensive. That’s understandable, but our health insurance is really not great. It’s a high deductible plan that is hugely unpopular with employees, which shows up in online reviews on job search sites. Repeatedly saying he came here for the insurance raises eyebrows, but maybe any company-paid insurance is better than no insurance.

    Then stories about how his company was not that successful soon surfaced, and it required zero Google Fu to find the Go Fund Me where he and his spouse were asking for money to pay for basic living expenses (rent, utilities, etc.) as well as a site where they sold one of their cars to stave off eviction. Per the Go Fund Me, he lost a bunch of clients and was facing bankruptcy. But, no, it was the most successful consulting firm that ever consulted, except for that pesky insurance issue, and he tells us that every day, in a way that implies he’s slumming to be working here.

    Oscar submitted his resume through a current employee, Constance, whom he’d met several times through a professional association. This turned into, “Constance begged me for years to come work here. I kept saying “no,” but she finally wore me down because she knew how much I was needed, and I agreed to apply.” Constance says that Oscar emailed his resume to her while networking for a new position, and she passed it along to our recruiters. No begging whatsoever took place.

    He’s rigid. If something isn’t filed in the online folder where he thinks it should be filed or the file isn’t named according to his naming convention, he’ll send out an email to all and sundry about how he’s identified a gap in our process because X isn’t being done. The response is always that the company is doing X and here’s the location where you can find the file. He’s done that more than once, because, I guess, asking your coworkers is more time consuming than copying all of upper management on an email in order to make himself look good by identifying a gap that only he can resolve. When he reorganized an online project site another employee, Nancy, had set up, he deleted the files he felt were unnecessary. She lost work. IT was able to recover it, but she now feels she has to keep copies of her work on her hard drive to protect herself.

    Then there’s the temper tantrums. If someone disagrees with Oscar or pushes back on an issue in a meeting, he will close his notebook with a snap, say something like, “I guess I’m done here,” stand up, and exit the conference room. The first time it happened I was stunned. Now it just another Thursday.

    He has told people here that he has experienced discrimination and harassment in his life since he started transitioning, and I have no reason to be believe that it’s not true. We don’t live in a perfect world. So, there’s a part of me that feels enormous sympathy for him.

    But, if you ask him to stop exiting meetings when someone disagrees with him or to ask where a configuration management plan is before sending an inflammatory email saying that the company must not be doing configuration management, his response is that because he’s transitioning he has to be extra assertive and his own cheerleader, so to speak; that he’s not going to apologize for being who he is; and that he’s going to keep on speaking his truth. If you ask him to stop the disruptive behaviors, he’ll tell you that you are not accepting him as the person he is now. Whereas the general feeling among the rest of us is that, if someone routinely disrupts meetings or deletes someone else’s work, it doesn’t matter who they are. The behavior just needs to stop. We feel like we walk on eggshells every day, never knowing what’s going to cause another event.

    The question (finally): Wow, that got long. As I said, he has the ear of upper management, and there are rumors that a reorganization would have me and a couple other colleagues reporting to him. I really like this company, and I don’t want to have to change jobs, but I think if I had to report to him, I’d have to. It seems really unfair to me, but so much of work like is unfair. Does anyone have any advice about how to handle a coworker like this?

    1. Wendie*

      Leave his gender out of it for sure. Even reading it in your comment which is intended to be transparent makes me wonder if there is some implied relationship. But I think you can ask as you would for any other person or situation. Good management likes happy people.

      1. Wendie*

        I used the pronouns you supplied but rereading I am not sure that those are oscars. My apologies

        1. NotMyRealName*

          OP says that Oscar has indicated that males pronouns are preferred at this point.

      2. Asenath*

        Well, it sounds like Oscar is responding to complaints about his office behaviour by referencing his transition – and that it means he must be “extra assertive”! (As for the pronouns, they’re apparently Oscar’s choice.)

        I have no advice that I wouldn’t give to anyone dealing with an unreasonable co-worker who might become a boss – work around the situation as best you can and start looking for somewhere else, because it sounds like Oscar isn’t going anywhere if upper management really likes hiim.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Does upper management really like him, or are they concerned about reprimanding him for his behavior and how that would look alongside his transitioning process? If they’re afraid of discrimination claims, and Oscar has full out told people at this company that he’s faced discrimination in the past due to his transition, maybe they’re being overly accommodating so as to not upset him and have those accusations thrown their way? Just a thought.

        2. I don't want to have to leave*

          Yes, he does respond to complaints about his over-the-top behavior with references to his transition, which is the reason I included it in my post. And I think, to some extent, that upper management is bending over backwards for him because they don’t want to be seen as being insenstive.

          1. Artemesia*

            This kind of crap needs to be dealt with strongly by management at the start. They hired him knowing he was transitioning; I think they are basically good on the discrimination front. His manager needs to come down hard on the behavior which is a separate issue. If they haven’t the courage to do this then you need to start looking for a new job. It is always easier to deal with this at the start; 6 mos from now they won’t have a chance.

    2. Media Monkey*

      wow. have upper management not got anything to say about the flouncung out of meetings if he gets any mild criticsm and him deleting people’s work?

      1. I don't want to have to leave*

        He’s flounced out of one meeting with his boss that I’ve been witness to. I don’t know if anything has been said to him or not.

    3. Master Bean Counter*

      Oscar is an ass. A self-absorbed pompous ass. As far as I know there are no treatments for that. But boy how I wish there was…..
      Onto the good side Oscar will probably either flame out or fly away on his own hot air shortly enough. On the bad side Oscar is setting a terrible precedent for other who may come along after him who also are transitioning.
      In the mean time try to separate the fluff from the work and push the fluff aside as much as possible.

    4. Zephy*

      Oscar is an asshole, and that has nothing to do with his gender identity or ~personal journey.~

      If you ask him to stop the disruptive behaviors, he’ll tell you that you are not accepting him as the person he is now.

      Oscar, the person you are now is an asshole. Your behavior is unprofessional and needs to change.

      Whereas the general feeling among the rest of us is that, if someone routinely disrupts meetings or deletes someone else’s work, it doesn’t matter who they are. The behavior just needs to stop.

      You’re right. It does. Are you, as a group, able to talk to upper management about Oscar’s behavior?

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Oscar, the person you are now is an asshole.

        This actually really made me laugh out loud. I imagine Lorraine Bracco as Dr. Melfi on The Sopranos saying this in the calmest most deadpan way, and it amuses me.

    5. PhyllisB*

      I have absolutely no experience with transitioning, but I assume if he’s transitioning to female that he is taking hormones? Perhaps he’s having a bad reaction to them. Now before everyone lambastes me for sounding old-fashioned and sexist, it’s a well-known fact that hormone fluctuations do cause extreme mood swings. PMS? Pregnancy? Post-partum depression? Menopause? All of these can cause distressing temperament changes. Now having said all that, it’s not okay to use this as an excuse to mistreat co-workers. I don’t know if this would be acceptable, but if there’s someone in the office who is particularly close to him they could suggest he consult with his doctor(s). If this would be a no no, then y’all are going to have to keep calling him out on his behavior. The exaggerations you might not can do anything about, but when told to stop being disruptive and he counters with you aren’t accepting him as the person he is, you will have to counter with it has nothing to do with accepting him as the person he is, but he’s being a jerk and it needs to stop pronto. Maybe in more polite terms, but you get my point. Ideally, management would address this, but if he has all their support, is there anyone else who can be enlisted?

      1. Jadelyn*

        I’m going to chime in with “no, absolutely not acceptable” re suggesting Oscar talk to a doctor about transition-related hormone issues. Just…don’t. Keep the focus narrow and tight on Oscar’s behavior issues, not any hypothetical transition-related medical whatnot. If Oscar wants to talk to the doc about the behavior being potentially related to hormone stuff, great, but that’s not something that other people ought to be suggesting.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Right, especially since being a lying liar who lies isn’t typically a hormone issue.

      2. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

        Well, i can think of very few situations where mentioning someone’s potential medical issues as a cause of bad behavior would be okay.
        I have terrible PMS but my god would I despise a colleague or boss who tried to talk to me about that.
        Really, WHY Oscar is behaving like this is irrelevant. The behavior needs to be addressed regardless of cause,

      3. Not So NewReader*

        “No, Oscar, anyone who deletes someone’s work would get spoken to about the incident. This has nothing to do with transitioning and everything to do with deleting someone’s work.”

      4. JokeyJules*

        I mean, the hormones thing means that essentially Oscar is going through a second puberty, on top of the huge changes they are making in other aspects of their life and the stress that comes along with it.

        That is a possible explanation but not an excuse. Oscar is still wildly out of line acting as unprofessionally as they are, and that is what needs to be addressed. Why Oscar is like this is moot in regards to OP.

      5. Lauren*

        That is a horrible idea. Can you imagine saying to a woman “I think you might be having PMS / PMDD and you should speak to a doctor about it?” Or to a pregnant woman “I think your take on Meeting X might be off because of your pregnancy hormones?”

        1. JaneB*

          As someone who used to be regularly asked if I had taken my anti depressant whenever I disagreed with my colleague because I was “just being SO negative, clearly it was due to my mental issues”… leave the medical stuff out of it. The suggestion inevitably made me want to start really acting up…

      6. designbot*

        The part you’re right about is that any hormone changes can really impact a person’s behavior and general outlook. I’m on a totally different sort of hormone that my body doesn’t make enough of (or, it makes it, but my immune system destroys it, whatever), and whenever I adjust dosage I get paranoid AF. Generally for around 2 weeks or so every slight to me becomes So Important™ and indefensible and oh no the sky is falling. Then my body adjusts and I come out of the clouds and can’t figure out why it all even mattered so much.
        The part where you’re wrong is, that’s not the office’s business. What IS the office’s business is “hey, the way you’re acting isn’t cool and we need you to treat your coworkers better than this.” It’s on Oscar (and in my case, me) to hear that, figure out why they do what they do, and do what it takes to fix that, whether it be medical or emotional or whatever.

        1. PhyllisB*

          Well, I agree with all of you who are saying it’s not the office’s place to get involved in medical issues; but I just thought maybe if someone close to him could kindly confront him it might help. No, I would never ask a woman if she was PMSing or anything like that, but if a close friend of mine was acting this way I would hope I could mention that something was going on and they might want to look into it. (Maybe not in an office, though. I do see y’all’s point on that.) I only mentioned it because this is new territory for him. However, that doesn’t give him license to be a scumbag and I hope there is a solution. And please give us an update when you have one.

          1. CooKoo*

            Literally no one can “kindly confront” him about hormones without it being painted as a “hostile workplace” when he decides to sue his employer.

      7. Lilysparrow*

        If Oscar wrote in to ask, “I’ve been having trouble dealing with normal criticism at work. Everything seems like a personal slight, even when logically I know it couldn’t be. Last week I flounced out of a meeting! I’m so embarrassed, but I can’t seem to get a handle on it.”

        Then it would be appropriate to offer speculation about health issues causing mood swings.

        OP should not offer any kind of health advice to a colleague who hasn’t asked for it.

    6. Psyche*

      I think you need to talk to your manager (and possibly Oscar’s manager) about it, preferably as a group. Leave out the changing backstory since that is not particularly relevant to job performance. Focus on how it is impossible to work with someone who will leave the room if you disagree about something, emails everyone if he can’t find a file and DELETES other people’s work.

    7. Bananatiel*

      Before I read anything about Oscar transitioning my eye went to “He exaggerates his accomplishments, his experience, his entire back story” which is why I dove into the story. Every person I’ve ever worked before that had this kind of attitude and penchant for, frankly, lying– it eventually doesn’t end well for them but in my experience, it takes way too long for leadership to realize what’s going on so I’d say to just keep an eye out for opportunities just in case.

      At oldjob our Oscar is still there– he was part of the reason I left and I just found out another person on our team left yesterday because of him, too. How long ago did he get hired? 4 years ago. From what I’ve heard there are finally signs that leadership is not putting up with it anymore but… he’s still there!

    8. bunniferous*

      He is acting like an ass but I am guessing this is coming from a place of deep insecurity. As far as you are concerned, the strategy I would recommend is not taking any of this personally. I had a boss in the past who was a nightmare-he would misunderstand something, not wait for an explanation, and start yelling-literally YELLING at you. A lot of people quit because of him. I needed the job. Once I realized what was really going on (and it helped I had a great relationship with the other owner) I just quit taking it personally. He would literally yell at me that I was fired, I would tell him, I am not going anywhere and you need to quit yelling. Thankfully he was not in the business that much but after we started standing up to him it got better. He too was insecure and displayed it by trying to treat the rest of us as if we were all idiots. I wound up eventually getting along with him just fine. But boy howdy what a journey that was.

      In your case if you can disengage and not take it personally I feel like this problem will probably resolve itself sooner or later.

    9. Librarian of SHIELD*

      This comes down to something that gets said here a lot: Behaving professionally and getting along with your coworkers (at least on a surface, not shouting or flouncing level) is part of the job. It is an essential job duty, like showing up when you’re scheduled to be there. An employee who is not performing an essential job duty needs a talking to, and probably a PIP.

      Everybody has something about their personality that has to be toned down a little at work. I myself am something of a Susie Sunshine, and I know that can be irritating to some people, so I dial it back to a 7 in a professional environment. Same goes for grouchy or jerky tendencies. They may be a person’s go-to reaction, but they’re not good for professional relationships so they need to get dialed back.

    10. Drax*

      Gender seems rather irrelevant to this.

      The consulting thing, I’d leave it. No one wants to admit their personal venture failed and some people cope with it by making themselves feel like it was something else. Annoying yes, but let them have it. I’m sure anyone would be devastated to lose a dream like their own company. I wouldn’t want to admit my venture went so sideways I nearly went bankrupt and lost my home and I don’t think you would either. This is just Annoying Thing About Oscar but I’d leave it.

      But the other stuff like walking away if someone disagrees or jumping the gun, I think you’re going to have the best like actually bringing the transition into it. When he says he has to be his own cheerleader and aggressive assertive because of it you can say “your transition has nothing to do with this. That’s not the issue, the issue is you walking away from people instead of having the conversation / jumping the gun. This has effect X, Y, Z on me/persons”

      I also just noticed you may be reporting to him not him to you, so maybe the best thing would be to hand it off to his manager but approaching it in a gender-less way to that manager. By that I mean just say “when someone disagrees with him he storms off and refuses to talk about it/ with no explanation and that’s problematic because of A, and B”

    11. LGC*

      This is your daily reminder that even minorities can be jerks. I’m so sorry you have to put up with him and his behavior. I’m not trans, but his temper tantrums at work are Not Okay even if he’s going through transition. There’s a line between being assertive and being aggressive, and Oscar is well on the aggressive side of that line.

      So, the question is – do YOU (or the team) have the ear of management? Because he seems like the kind of boss that punches down, so management might not see his abusive behavior. (And…okay, he might not necessarily be an abuser, because that term is weighted and has meaning. But routinely throwing tantrums is an abuse of his position.) They might not know how bad his behavior is (or they might be afraid that he’ll sue if they take corrective action).

      This is a situation where you should probably go to his boss, preferably along with others.

      Other than that, treat him like he’s a curious sitcom character. It’s easy to say from a smartphone screen, but your boss is ridiculous, and I hope everyone can see him for the toddler he is. (I imagine him to be like a two year old that got into her mom’s jewelry box and is having Big Feelings about being caught.)

    12. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

      From what you write this has nothing to do with Oscar’s gender and transition. Just ignore that completely.

      Oscar sounds like a exasperating coworker and a worse boss. It doesn’t sound that it’s set in stone that Oscar will be your new boss, so fingers crossed it doesn’t happen!
      How big is your company? Are there other possible managers and teams?

    13. RR*

      Can you and a group of your fellow concerned colleagues arrange for a meeting with your current supervisor to discuss concerns re work environment? Then focus solely on observable behaviors that impact your ability to work productively such as the refusal to engage in discussions during meetings if someone disagrees with, the rearranging and — much worse — deletion of other’s work, etc. As you correctly note, if someone is routinely disrupting meetings or deleting someone else’s work, it doesn’t matter who they are.

      Sadly, I’d also recommend you have your resume in order and start looking if you are fairly certain about the upcoming restructuring. You don’t have to take another job if you don’t want to, but a job search can be a lengthy process. Looking is not a commitment to accept a new position; it’s checking out one’s options.

      Good luck!

    14. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

      Oscar’s an ass (said before, but I’ll say it again). If you removed all the transition discussion in this question and replaced it with “ongoing health issue” or “ongoing health event”*, he’d sound like an ass (still), full stop. Lying and manipulation (the dramatics) are flags.

      Regardless of personal issues you are still expected to behave professionally and civilly at work. His actions reflect none of that.

      How to deal? If you have a good rapport with the current boss or the committee making the decision I might try a discrete word in someone’s ear to see if the rumor is based in fact. It might be completely false. If it’s not (and you have a REALLY good relationship with someone that is making the decision) talk to them about it. Let them know your concerns. Possibly (if they can be trusted) ask them to ask some other colleagues to get their feel for Oscar. (Don’t use names of specific colleagues.)

      If he’s really someone you can’t work under–start looking. That way if he does get promoted you haven’t lost any time getting out of there. Prep for an internal transfer if it’s possible. They may lock down the transfer option once too many people leave the team and then you’d be stuck leaving the company. :(

      I had an Oscar, but her issue was pain management and older age declines. She was a jerk without the complication of being in pain–and if you are in pain you are still expected to be a civil and professional person. After I got burned I worked with her by not working on anything she was messing with and CYAing everything I was required to work with her on until she left.

      * I couldn’t think of a better word I wanted to use here. If someone knows a preferred word/phrase let me know. Truly asking because I don’t want to denigrate anyone’s journey–it’s tough enough.

      1. Kat in VA*

        I am in pain 24/7. A lifetime of extreme sports and a general addiction to adrenaline have seen to that.

        I’m not an ass. I’m also almost 50 and feeling every tear, break, shatter, and snap. Still not an ass.

    15. Easily Amused*

      Dear Oscar,
      WHO you are is not the same as the things you DO.
      You be YOU while you stop doing the things you DO.

    16. LCL*

      When you call him on something and he brings his transition into it, don’t let him. “Oscar, I didn’t ask you about that, we aren’t and won’t be discussing that as it is not my business. We are discussing you walking out of the room when someone else is talking.”etc

    17. Nesprin*

      Oscar is a bad employee and also transitioning. These two things are unrelated. Treat him as you would any other bad employee- by documenting ongoing problems, raising them with your superior and maintaining a cordial demeanor whenever you have to deal with him. If you cannot maintain a poker face when dealing with him, switch to IM/email (which comes with a bonus of a paper trail!)

      Keep gender out of it, and if he suggests that a reasonable request is offensive due to his life situation, tell him you’re sorry he feels that way and leave it. And for the love of all that is holy do not suggest that he see a doctor to work out hormone things- imagine how that will play out in the eventual wrongful termination suit.

    18. Not So NewReader*

      One of the problems I see is that he brings his transitioning up when ever there is a problem and no one has planned what they will say when this happens.

      Since you can see that this is his response for many situations, you can build a planned answer in anticipation of his response.

      “Oscar you can’t leave meetings in the middle of the meeting.”
      Oscar: “….and that just because I am transitioning….”
      “Oscar everyone here would be told the same thing, NO ONE can leave meetings in the middle of a meeting period. This has nothing to do with transitioning and we need to focus on talking about staying at a meeting until the meeting is concluded. Can you agree that going forward you will now remain in attendance at every meeting until the conclusion of the meeting?”

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Problem is, OP’s not Oscar’s boss, so she has no standing to say this to him. Management needs to get off their behinds and handle this.

        1. pamela voorhees*

          Absolutely agreed — that message absolutely needs to be said, but it has to be said by a manager, otherwise it carries no weight. They can even say something like “I understand you’re going through a difficult time, and we support you, but you must maintain basic professional norms” if they’re concerned about coming across as insensitive or bigoted. If he was going through a divorce, or had lost a family member, or any other major life event, there would be sympathy but also rule enforcement. They need to deal with it in the same way.

        2. designbot*

          My boss is an Oscar, and I just said pretty much this to him. At the end of my review, when our grandboss had told us that we needed to work extra hard to communicate better, I cut in with, “while the lines of communication are open, can I tell you something? It feels really disrespectful when you leave meetings without saying anything. The rest of us are left not knowing whether you’re coming back, whether you expect us to wait for you, it gets really awkward. Can you at least say whether you’ll be back when you leave?” It went over fine, he’s making an effort. Therapy language really is the key. When you do X, I feel Y, it has Z impact. No blame, no equivocating, just lay it out and even really difficult people often respond pretty well.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            And that worked because, in functional workplaces, employees can and probably should give feedback like that to their manager. But when you’re peers? The peer probably isn’t going to listen to anything you say.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Yep, by saying “no one has planned”, I meant management.
          Sometimes we have to talk with bosses and give them the wording they need to get through something. I have no clue how many times I have done this or seen other people do it. When the boss says, “Well, Oscar will say something about transitioning”, then I would point out that “this has nothing to do with transitioning and is simply something that is required of everyone who works here.”

          It can feel awkward to explain obvious things to people so it’s a good to prepare what to say.

    19. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s common for jerks with a complex to fall back on the “oh it’s because I’m XYZ, isn’t it? Yeah it’s always because I’m XYZ!”, they love playing that up and stroking the fires of our fear of being pegged as a bigot or having discrimination in our veins.

      So you have to keep cool about this and understand that’s a manipulation game on their part. The transitioning and the trans issue comes with a lot of difficulties, you still cannot be a raging dbag and just go “This is who I am, you have to accept me because I’m transitioning and have faced discrimination!” Nope, doesn’t work that way, Oscar.

      Complain about their personality, their reactions, their lies and their inability to work as a teammate. Flouncing out of meetings is BS and unacceptable behavior. It’s okay to disagree with, dislike and not be able to work with someone with these issues, it has nothing to do with anything but their personality.

      It sounds like they’ve been working so long alone and struggling that they’re not used to having to work as a group, so they are always in charge and demands it stays the same now that they’re in a company structure. Not acceptable unless they’re made a manager at some point, then it’s completely going to destroy the place since this kind of personality is a horrid manager to ever put into a place of power.

    20. cmcinnyc*

      I managed to negotiate “hazard pay” once when I was forced to work with a really difficult person. It was one of those office re-orgs that are basically take it or leave it, and I couldn’t afford to leave it. I was really upfront with HR, and direct, but respectful. Hellish Coworker has a habit of sabotaging others and I knew she’d do it to me. I had no leverage to insist on a raise (I had, in fact, just gotten a raise right before the change happened), but I asked anyway. I specifically tied the ask to working with Hellish, and noted that she’d be undermining me in no time flat. HR had no reaction to that statement, but I got the raise! So, I know what you really want is to not work with Oscar at all. But if it comes down to take it or leave it, and you want to stay, you could simply ask for more money. It sucked working with Hellish but I would remind myself about my newly fat paycheck and get on with it.

    21. NW Mossy*

      The main point I take from you is that you are not Oscar’s boss, and therefore, it’s not explicitly your job responsibility to coach him on how to behave professionally without your workplace. It’s not on you to fix this, much as it disrupts you right now. Your role is different – you and your peers are the ones that can provide the first-hand observations of his behavior and articulate the impact on the work.

      What you can do, though, is start the conversation with your own boss about how this is impacting your ability to work effectively. You can absolutely discuss Oscar’s behavior in a professional way that only acknowledges his transition to the extent that it’s directly relevant. In the examples you gave, you wouldn’t mention it when discussing how his meeting walk-outs make the meetings less productive, but you certainly can when relaying his defensive reaction to requests to modify how he works with colleagues because you’re providing the context that he gave for his actions.

      The way you phrased the last few sentences in your second-to-last paragraph is spot-on, and what I’d suggest taking to your boss. I particularly found “walking on eggshells” powerful, because it gets straight to the real issue: Oscar has crappy professional relationships with his colleagues, and it makes his colleagues view him as someone to mistrust and fear, not someone to collaborate with effectively. I sincerely hope that both your boss and Oscar’s can see that when you’ve got one person determined to go scorched-earth on everyone they work with, it deeply damages everyone’s ability to get stuff done, not just Oscar’s. Eliminating this behavior (either through Oscar dramatically improving or removing him from the organization) is going to be essential to not sink the larger ship.

    22. I don't want to have to leave*

      I want to thank everyone who responded. I think I was starting to feel very beaten down by what’s happening, and it was good to share it. I will keep trying to get senior management to intervene, but one of the challenges is that there’s a bit of a vacuum in senior management right now.

      1. LGC*

        That’s…interesting. So you have two problems, really – Oscar is out of control, and it sounds like you think no one is there to control Oscar. I actually would advise looking – not only for the possibility that you’re stuck with Oscar and his wild behavior, but also because it looks like management is a bit shambolic in general.

        But also, I re-read your post, and you’re really minimizing one key detail:

        My company recently hired Oscar

        He’s the new guy! It doesn’t matter whether he has bRiLLiAnT iDeAs or what his gender identity is. He’s a relatively recent hire, and may still be on probation (you didn’t say how recently he was hired). And he’s still acting like a toddler.

        Actually, no, that’s an unfair assessment. I’ve known a few toddlers and you can generally get them to calm down and shut up if you play Frozen or Cars or something.

        But anyway, reading it over, it seems like you’re convinced that just because Oscar talks sweetly to senior management he’s untouchable, and that’s far from the case. (Or hopefully, it should be far from the case.) I think that you have a decent chance of agreement if you go to senior management and tell them he’s a jerk.

    23. Llellayena*

      “Oscar, part of your job is to be professional in your interactions with coworkers. This means not walking out of meetings when you disagree, not deleting or reorganizing files without asking first, (add other examples as needed).”
      “But I’m transitioning and need to assert myself.”
      “This has nothing to do with whether you are transitioning or not, we require this professionalism from every employee and it is an issue that may impact your employment here.”

      And document this conversation (record it if you’re permitted). Summarize this in a print-out or email and save it so if you do need to fire him and he brings up discrimination, you can point to that conversation. OY.

    24. Observer*

      Ignore the fact that he’s transitioning. It’s not relevant, it’s it’s just stinky that he’s trying to pretend that it is.

      When someone brings up issue X (Please ask about documents before assuming a process is not being followed; please don’t interrupt the speaker) and he start blathering about “not apologizing for who he is” the response ALWAYS is “This is not about your gender or who you are. This is about your behavior X”. And stick to it. “This is about this specific behavior.” Lather, rinse repeat. On an infinite loop.

      If your leadership is smart they will begin to see the problem.

  15. Writing Samples*

    Asking for a friend who just graduated from college. She is applying to entry-level positions and paid internships which sometimes require writing samples as part of the application. These are policy analysis jobs located mostly in Washington DC.

    What kind(s) of samples should she submit? And how long should they be? Thanks in advance for any advice/insight/perspective!

    1. I don't want to have to leave*

      Personally, I think one to two pages is enough for a writing sample. For that reason, if all she’s got is college papers, I’d distill the best of them down to two pages. If she has other writing samples (club newsletters, the school newspaper) she could use those as well.

      1. Writing Samples*

        That’s a great idea! She was a Poly Sci major so I think she has plenty of papers she can choose from and condense.

    2. Holly*

      Hopefully she wrote papers in college or a prior internship that show her analytical skills. Usually job postings specify the length of the writing sample required – over ten pages is way too much unless otherwise specified.

      1. Writing Samples*

        Unfortunately, the job posts she’s seen so far don’t indicate the length. I completely agree over ten pages would be overkill. About 2 pages seems right, as ‘I don’t want to have to leave’ wrote.

        1. Holly*

          I wouldn’t purposely cut, say a 5-8 page paper down to 2 pages, though. It needs to show her full analysis of an issue. I would put a cover page that contains a brief one paragraph synopsis to assist the reader.

    3. Lady Jay*

      I’d ask the employers/hiring people, honestly. A college paper demonstrates how to write . . . wait for it . . . a college paper, and they may want to see her ability to work in other genres, such as a report on a particular policy move or a brief analysis of XYZ. It would not be amiss to politely email the hiring people and say, “Do you have any guidance on what you prefer that I submit for the writing sample?”

      1. Lady Jay*

        Also, please do NOT distill a college paper down to 1-2 pages. While Don’t Want to Leave is right that you don’t want to submit a super long writing sample, the paper becomes something else altogether if you reduce 15-20 pages to 1-2: either it becomes a new genre (an abstract, say), or it becomes a really bad paper. A good 20 page paper cannot be a good 1-2 page paper.

        1. I don't want to have to leave*

          If it has an executive summary, you can distill it. I used the two-page executive summary of my senior thesis as a writing sample when I graduated.

          1. Lady Jay*

            Sure.

            The point is, it’s not a paper any more, it’s an “executive summary”–or put another way, an “abstract,” as I said. That could be fine, but it depends on 1) employer expectations, which is why I suggested reaching out to the hiring people, and 2) the writer’s awareness that she is writing in the genre of “executive summary” and not “2 page paper”. Knowing what genre(s) you’re working in is everything.

            1. UK Civil Servant*

              An *good* 2 page Executive Summary of a longer more detailed paper is exactly the type of writing that will go down well in a policy analysis job application. *If she can nail it.*
              It is the hardest thing to write one well (with impact while retaining nuance) and I know 20+ year veterans of this type of job who struggle with it.

        1. New ED*

          There is no harm in asking, but I’ll be honest that my organizing would be unlikely to respond. We get lots of applications for internships and we don’t have dedicated HR because it’s a small organizing. For an entry level internship I honestly don’t care about the length, I’m just going to skim it quickly to get a basic sense of writing ability. For a high level position it would be quite different.

      2. Holly*

        If this is an entry level internship geared towards college students they likely would expect a college paper and not a policy report necessarily. Just my two cents, it depends on what kind of experience they are looking for and the prestige of the internship/position.

    4. Alexis Rose*

      A briefing note. 2 pages max, it highlights an issue. You want to follow the “What? So what? Now what?” format. What is the issue, why do we care (what are the implications), and what are some recommendations or options for addressing the issue (addressing doesn’t necessarily mean “solve” it could also mean lessen the effect of a negative thing).

      Source: i am a policy analyst with the Canadian government.

    5. MissDisplaced*

      Shorter pieces. Not term papers. It could be an academic paper, but only if the job actually involved research.
      This could come from a number of areas, even if it was college.

      Website copy
      Newsletter or Newspaper stories
      Social media posts (if done for internships or the college)
      Press releases
      Blog or Article posts (for the school or volunteer agency)
      Advertising copywriting for brochures, onsheets, etc.

      Academic papers (but only if the job is in research or academia or policy where it’s more accepted)
      I wouldn’t generally go for this–but I have been asked for them on occasion.

      Hopefully, she had a communications class where she wrote “sample” items like this. I know I did as part of my master’s degree. In fact we had to create a whole portfolio of writing samples showing a range of business communications. It need not be “real” or published items to do this and show your ability.

    6. Hello!*

      I am in a very similar field. What I have done in the past (also a Poli Sci major) is have a condensed version and then have an online portfolio with the unabridged version of my research papers as well that I did while I was in school. I also worked in a legislative office so any correspondence with constituents that went above and beyond (i.e. explaining the intricacies of a particular bill or government program where I needed to “dumb down”(I don’t have a better word for it so please no one be mean to me) the policy for the average reader).

      Good luck to your friend!

    7. KayDay*

      When I was looking for entry level jobs I had 2 writing samples I used (depending on what was asked for or the nature of the job). The first was the closest thing I had to a 2-page brief, in whole, and I included an brief (2 sentence) explanation of the assignment for context. The second was a sample from a long research paper– not distilling it down into a new, shorter paper, but instead selecting a couple of really good sections, with the aim of demonstrating my research skills. For example, I kept the intro, conclusion and one of the main sections, but deleted the rest with a short explanation.

      1. AdhdAnon*

        If she has a sample that seems like something she might write at that job use it.
        Otherwise 2-10 pages of a paper. (Sole authorship, not a group project.)

        I will say this – don’t submit a paper that has only been seen by a professor, even if you got a good grade. Sometimes they grade on content, not organization or writing. If I’m asking for a writing sample it’s because I need to know if they can write well.

        Tangent- once had a candidate bring an unsolicited writing sample to an interview. The paper, written for a class, was not good. I can’t remember the topic, but I do remember the poor organization, grammar and ‘damn’ instead of ‘dam’. They did not move on to the next round.

  16. Ella Vader*

    Is there a polite way to tell a coworker to stop smacking/slurping. It’s driving me nuts to listen to it all day long. I can’t use headphones or earplugs, and I’m not sure how to bring it up since coworker has been here longer.

    1. Emmie*

      I’m sure you’re looking for language suggestions, which I don’t have right now. In case you needed to hear it, the most polite way is to tell her soon, and not wait until you get more upset about it because your irritation may come across in your message.

    2. londonedit*

      It could be a situation that merits one of Alison’s ‘Hey, there’s this weird thing about me…’ approaches. The technical term for being excessively bothered by sounds like this is misophonia, so you could use that if you wanted it to sound ‘official’, but otherwise maybe something like ‘Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I have this weird thing where I’m really bothered by people making sounds near me when they’re eating. I know, it’s a pain, but would you mind trying to be super quiet when you’re eating and drinking at your desk?’ Frame it as a thing that you know is weird, but would they mind trying to accommodate it.

    3. Not Me*

      Can you kinda joke about it? Something like “What on earth are you eating?? I can hear it all the way over here!!” with a genuine smile and small laugh? Obviously, the smile is the most important part.

      1. Spongebob WorkPants*

        Seriously? Way to make someone feel self-conscious and singled out for going about their daily business. This is OP’s problem, not the coworker’s.

        1. Lauren*

          Spongebob, for most people, slurping/smacking noises are considered rude. Perhaps you come from a culture where they aren’t (such as in some Asian countries where burping is considered a compliment to the cook), but in mainstream American culture, it’s considered rude.

        2. Not Me*

          It’s both of their problems. It’s the OPs problem because it’s impacting their ability to focus and do their job and it’s the co-workers problem because their actions are impacting the ability of those around them to focus and do their job.

          It’s a workplace, not a restaurant. Slurping and smacking noises aren’t an expected part of the acoustics.

    4. gecko*

      Maybe, “I have a weird thing about eating and drinking sounds. I don’t want to make you self-conscious, but would it be possible to eat/drink less at your desk?”

      If you can you wear headphones that’s great. I had a problem with a cube neighbor making horrible throat-clearing noises and I couldn’t always wear my headphones–just mentioning the problem to him helped me, personally, even though to be honest he didn’t make much change.

    5. Iris Eyes*

      #1 you have to train you brain to ignore/dismiss it as much as possible. Humans are weird noisy creatures.

      #2 Seniority really shouldn’t factor into it. The current situation is that you are sitting together.

      #3 Combine “weird thing about me” with suggestions that you think might work. Could you put in a white noise machine or ask for the ambient white noise to be turned up (from my impressions most office buildings would probably have that)? I have a tiny desk humidifier that provides both much needed moisture and some background noise. If the noise is still an issue maybe you could negotiate for time periods when there is no eating slurping?

    6. Llama Wrangler*

      In addition to what everyone said above about how to address it, I’ve found that if someone is smacking/slurping sounds and I can’t do anything about it, I feel much, much better if I start eating or drinking something myself. Even just a mint or tea will trick my brain into silence on this.

    7. Close Bracket*

      Lay the awkward on the table since you know it’s there:

      “Coworker, this is a little bit awkward [or maybe sensitive is a better word], but did you realize that you are noisy when you eat? Eating noises are really distracting to me, do you think you could work on being a little quieter when you eat?”

      I feel like you need to throw in specifics rather than “be a little quieter when you eat”, but I’m having trouble with wording that. I don’t think a point by point list of their noises would endear you to them.

      In case they take it badly and complain about you to a supervisor, maybe have a preemptive conversation with your boss. “Boss, I’ve noticed Lindsey slurps a lot when they eat. Have you noticed this? I asked them to be quieter bc it’s so distracting to me, but I’m afraid I may have upset them or offended them! I’m just letting you know in case I ended up causing a problem. That certainly isn’t my intent.”

    8. Auntie Social*

      It’s odd but if the eater can’t see you, he thinks you can’t hear him. Sort of the “I’m in my car with my window rolled up so other people can’t hear me”. You can try “Bob, are you enjoying that apple?” or just a simple “Can you eat quietly? It’s very distracting.” I sat by a guy who sounded like a Great Dane—my sympathies.

    9. Lilysparrow*

      Hey Bob, this is a bit awkward, but the sound of your eating and drinking carries right into my cube. It’s surprisingly loud – maybe the acoustics in here are strange?

      I hate to say it, but it’s really distracting. Could you please try to keep it down, or maybe eat at your desk less frequently?

      I’d really appreciate it.

  17. Contract question?*

    I’m doing some contracted work for a side gig. We agreed informally on the terms (payment, deadline, etc) at the end of April/beginning of May and I was told a contract was forthcoming. It hasn’t come yet. Should I check on this? The project is due relatively shortly, and I anticipate spending 30-40 hours more on this before I turn it in.

    (For what it’s worth, I’ve contracted with this group before, & everything worked out just fine. I also learned of the gig/group through a network I trust.)

    I’ve written a short script of my own up, to ask about this, but suggestions are also welcomed!! (I don’t want to actually include the script here, as that would be identifying.)

    1. Easily Amused*

      Do not start any work without a contract in place. Even though it’s worked out in the past, you need to protect yourself legally.

      1. valentine*

        Stop work and send them your own contract. Perhaps they will respond with theirs. Is it possible they think you’ve not started because you’re waiting on the contract?

    2. IL JimP*

      I would definitely check in, because I wouldn’t do any work until I had the contract in hand. You never know they could have decided to cancel it or have someone else do it or even have it done in house.

      I would call though and follow up with an email if you get a VM

    3. LunaLena*

      I agree with Easily Amused, don’t do anything until a contract is in place. If the deadline is coming up and you’re concerned about the timeline, I’d contact them and say something like “Just checking on where we are at with the contract. As far as I know, the project is due on X, and I estimate that it will require at least 30-40 hours of work, so it would help to know so I can plan ahead and make this happen on time.” If they respond with “it’s coming, why don’t you just get started, you know you can trust us, etc” I would respond with “I’m sorry, but I cannot start without a contract. It is my standard policy and ensures that we’re all on the same page, so it protects you as much as me.”

  18. Totally Not Interested*

    This week my boss handed me a resume to set up a screening call for him. I glanced over the resume and, at the bottom, the candidate had listed his interests: soccer, surfing, video games, and Reddit.

    I cringed so hard, I think I strained something in my neck. It took everything in me not to add a PS to my reach out email that said ‘Dude, remove your interests ASAP! They are not relevant!’ Obviously, my boss is impressed enough to still reach out but that one line… ugh!

    1. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

      Wow. The list of interests is cringing enough on its own, but Reddit?!

      I’ll assume this is not a social media job, but that’s literally the only circumstance in which I could at least fathom why he thought this was a good idea. I also wonder if he’s a moderator on there and he’s thinking of it in terms of an accomplishment (which is still not worth putting on a resume), but if no, he’s just someone who goes on Reddit a lot, then that’s mind-blowing.

    2. hbc*

      I love a short interest section, especially when it adds unexpected breadth to a person who might look a bit narrow in their resume and accomplishments. Heck, I’ve been given a job offer for a supervisor position because the hiring manager interpreted that my being a referee meant I could take a lot of people being angry with me.

      But geez, this guy. Might as well read “Hire me if you’re low on Dude Bros,” and no one ever has fewer of those than they need.

    3. Maya Elena*

      They might not be particularly relevant or interesting, but they’re also so vanilla, and such a small part of the resume, I’d let it go. Since every resume will have imperfections – objective statement, missing comma, what-have-you, “Dear Sir or Madam” in the cover letter…. It seems reasonable to let these go.
      (Now if he had put anything like “BDSM, cannabis farming, anarcho-communism, and Flat Earth society” – that is definitely more interesting.)

      1. Ra94*

        Now I’m curious- how would you start a cover letter to someone whose name you don’t know? I always thought Dear Sir/Madam was the convention.

        1. NaoNao*

          “To Whom it may concern” is the traditional opener for someone whose name you don’t know in business situations :)

        2. Darren*

          Addressing it to the Hiring Manager would be the preference (by that title if you don’t know the name). In lieu of that you could just address it to the company.

          To Whom It May Concern also used to be popular but I think that’s fallen as out of fashion as Dear Sir or Madam.

    4. pamela voorhees*

      Well, if his goal was to make an impression, he sure did. Let him leave them in. Listing “Reddit” as an interest speaks volumes about a candidate.

  19. No Tribble At All*

    Acronym nonsense for the week: I’m an engineer, and we have about seven thousand acronyms. Someone emailed me to check “all the ODD” widgets. Spent a few minutes trying to figure out what O.D.D. stood for before I realized “odd-numbered”.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I hear ya on that one! We are also acronym-heavy, and our newest employee asked us to set up a list because English isn’t their first language so figuring out “product name” vs “common acronym” can be aggravating.

    2. Mr. Tyzik*

      Ya down with O.D.D?
      Yeah you know me!
      Ya down with O.D.D.?
      Yeah you know me!
      Who’s down with O.D.D.?
      Every last homie!

      1. Blue Bunny*

        My brain chants this every time someone at my company references VPP (the OSHA Voluntary Protection Program).

    3. Bananatiel*

      The company I work for uses so many acronyms that they’re starting to get nested within each other. Makes total sense! ha!

    4. WellRed*

      All the drug commercials on TV now seem to acronymize conditions: it’s not metastatic breast cancer, it’s MBC. And Weight Watcher is now WW. Which makes no sense and frankly, takes longer to say. Sigh.

      1. valentine*

        My Two Dads had a character famous for turning magazines around by changing their names to acronyms. Her streak ended when she went to Financial Update.

    5. Clever Name*

      Heh, I’m a biologist and I’m working on a project where they will be impacting habitat for a mouse listed as “threatened” by US Fish and Wildlife. We have to compensate for destroying habitat by creating/improving habitat somewhere else, and one idea for doing this is basically making fake beaver dams. The project is calling them Beaver Analogue Dams, or BAD for short. So I’m reading emails with sentences like, “Cindy is presenting the approach to Tammy, and I think Tammy will like the BAD idea” and “this will be at the BAD location”. LOL

      1. La Marni*

        LOL indeed! Are you excited to work on this BAD project? And add it to your accomplishments?

        Future cover letter: “I am moving on from this BAD job because….”

    6. Gumby*

      We not only have acronyms & initialisms endemic to the field, but all of our individual project names are also acronyms. Though, frankly, I am frequently unclear on what the full name of those are. “The TeaPOT project? Teleportation and…something something Transportation.” (not a real project name) (at my job)

  20. Wendie*

    I am looking for a pair of work shoes that will help with some toe pain I’m having. Office is not formal but I like to look polished and “classic”. Trying not to break the bank but i like to go by cost per wear too. Any tips ladies?

    1. merp*

      Unsure if these would help the pain you’re having, and they’re not cheap, but I just got rothy’s and they are incredible. Super comfortable, professional, washable, waterproof, recycled, etc, etc. I love them.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        I’ve thought about getting Rothy’s or Tieks, but they’re just so expensive! Are they really worth the price tag?

        1. knitter*

          I LOVE my Rothy’s. They are not perfect, but as a working mom, the ability to throw my shoes in the washing machine is invaluable (they’ve been vomited on and I can still wear them!). Very comfortable and since they are woven, I feel like they adjust a bit to foot shape.
          IF you do buy a pair, check the reviews regarding fit. Often people need to go up at least a half size.

        2. Blue Bunny*

          I have Rothys and like them. Go up a full size if you have anything other than a narrow foot. I wear a 9 extra wide, and a 10 fits me comfortably because the knit material stretches nicely. That will also leave space for insoles tailored to your needs.

          Go to the comments section at Corporette for a $20 off coupon code. People post them there often. I’d link mine, but it shows your real name.

        3. merp*

          I’m a big fan. First pair of flats I’ve ever had that didn’t require a breaking in period to be comfortable, and they feel durable, so even though they were expensive, I think they will last.

        4. Fortitude Jones*

          I have three pairs of the classic Tieks, and yes, they are worth every penny to me. They’re made specifically so you can fold and unfold them (which makes them perfect for travel), they’re 100% Italian leather, so they’re very well-crafted (no insoles coming unstuck, which happens in a lot of my flats), and they have the blue soles at the ball of the foot and the heel so you don’t feel like you’re walking on the ground. I dig them.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Oh – and they’re true to size and have free shipping and returns in the US.

          2. iglwif*

            Those look so nice! I wish I could wear ballet flats–every pair I’ve ever tried on has hit my feet in exactly the right spot to cause pain across my big toe joint :/

            1. Fortitude Jones*

              I’ve had that happen to, but two of the three pair I have didn’t do it at all! (Don’t know what was going on with that third pair, but it quickly stopped after two wears.)

        5. Tedious Cat*

          Cost per wear-wise, Rothys are totally worth it for me because I have really sweaty feet and being able to wash my flats is a game-changer. I also get tons of compliments on them. Just make sure you go up at least a half-size if you get the Point.

        6. Anonymousaurus Rex*

          Another vote for Rothy’s here. They’re expensive, but I think worth it. I bought them thinking I just wanted to try them on to see if they were as comfortable as everyone says and I’d return them…I didn’t return them. I now have two pair and am just about to buy a 3rd. They’re really comfortable and give the right polished look, I think.

        7. CDM*

          I normally wear a 9 1/2 and bought a 10 in both Rothy’s ballet flats and Tieks. Love the Rothy’s, and now have three pairs. My feet do sweat in them slightly, but I rotate pairs and wash one pair every week or so. (I just throw them in with a regular load of laundry and then air dry).

          The first pair of Rothys were a 9 1/2, and I wear them without discomfort, but they are slightly snugger than I like. That knit makes the fit pretty forgiving.

          My daughter and I both packed them for our last vacation and wore them for full days of sightseeing and walking.

          The Tieks aren’t as comfortable for me. I might need to go up another half size. But they just haven’t broken in enough to not bother me across the tops of my toes after ten or so wearings. I wear them rarely and mainly for short stretches.

      2. Luna*

        Re Rothy’s: Are they pretty supportive? I recently had ankle surgery and find myself needing something that is more supportive than traditional flats.

      1. anonymous penguin*

        I have those in the plain (no cutouts) style. I’ve been wearing them for about 3 weeks. So far very comfortable: no rubbing on the back of my heel and enough sole that I don’t feel every pebble outside. I’m thinking about adding sock liners because my feet get a little sweaty in the heat.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Yes! I forgot to mention that as a bonus to the Tieks mentioned above – they don’t run across the back of your foot (and every new pair of shoes I buy regardless of material does this). I’ll have to check these out as well.

    2. Emily S.*

      I have serious foot issues, and have found the best shoes from a company called SAS, San Antonio Shoes. They are pricey since they’re made in the US, but they have been life-changing for me. Check them out.

      1. Cedrus Libani*

        My dad’s family has been Team SAS for decades. They’re high quality, have classic styling, and are great if you like a more supportive shoe. We’re also clown-footed people who need to have our shoes custom made, and they will do that for us without complaint.

        I’ve found that I prefer a minimalist, barefoot-style shoe, so I’ve been wearing Softstar Shoes. In a conservative color, they really are suitable for business casual wear. They don’t draw attention to themselves, which is what I wanted, and isn’t easy to find in this type of shoe. They aren’t cheap, but they hold up well.

    3. philosophical_conversation*

      I have to second SAS. They’re expensive, but are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn and they last forever.

      1. BunnyWatsonToo*

        I third SAS. I stand a lot in my job and SAS are the only shoes I can wear comfortably. I believe that you can finally order them online directly from the company.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          I am also on Team SAS for comfortable, foot-friendly work shoes. They were my go-to brand for office-appropriate shoes that would fit my wide feet and complicated orthotics when I held jobs where I needed to wear office-type shoes.

    4. Willow*

      I had plantar fascitiis for years and now have a few go-to brands for shoes: Earth, Keen, Taos, Vionic. None are cheap, but they all provide the support I need.

    5. Deryn*

      My comfiest work shoes are the Lucky Brand Emmie ballet flats! I’ve currently got three different colors (black, navy, and nude) so I wear one pair or another almost every day. I’m not sure how they would be for toe pain specifically, but they’ve got a soft, almost memory foam-esque insole. Also, I just did a quick Google and it appears Macy’s has them on sale “Deal of the Day” today – $41.30!

    6. The Rain In Spain*

      I really really like goldcup sperry’s if the style works for you. They are definitely not super formal, but they are SO comfortable. I find them more affordably priced at a nearby outlet from time to time. I also find Cole Haan loafers to be quite comfortable. Both hold up very well. I used to wear keens all the time, but I think the sperry and cole haan shoes are a bit more attractive. Also, depending on whether you like the looks, many of the skechers shoes are comfy and I often use those when traveling.

      Glad merp said the rothys are good! I’ve been thinking about taking the plunge and trying them even though they are even more expensive than the ones I currently love! Also thinking of trying allbird but will only try one expensive shoe at a time.

    7. shoes*

      Ooh, I have so many foot issues that I can relate to this one. I’m not sure what is causing your toe pain, so these brands might not be appropriate, but I love Naot (especially their Dorith sandal and their Kirei mary jane.
      I also own a lot of Clark’s, and I have heard great things about Taos.

    8. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Have you been wearing soft-soled or hard-soled shoes? It was counterintuitive to me, but a friend whose part-time retirement job put him on his feet for hours at a time quickly developed foot pain — and his co-workers insisted he try hard-soled shoes. For him it worked – he’s speculating it’s because his foot doesn’t flex around the shoe, I’m wondering if it’s that soft soles wear out before the shoe’s upper is visibly older.

    9. Lily Rowan*

      I feel like feet are so personal! A lot of the brands people say are comfortable don’t work at all for me, but Clarks are usually great.

    10. Harriet Vane*

      I have had great luck with Clark’s! A lot of cheaper shoes make my toes hurt and I haven’t had that problem with Clark’s. They last a good long while, too.

    11. Mockingjay*

      I wear Coach leather loafers. I get them at TJ Maxx or Marshalls. Lots of colors as well as basic black, browns, and taupes. I wear with slacks, jeans, skirts, and dresses. I’ve bought them over time. They run about $60, but the leather polishes beautifully.

    12. Jadelyn*

      I’m a fan of Skechers – they’re not like, Payless-cheap, but they’re not super expensive either. Usually somewhere around $50-80 depending on the style. They have some simple, classic flats, and they’re very comfy for walking, for me anyway.

      1. Smiling*

        Ditto on the Skechers, but make sure you get the ones with the goga mat technology. The ones with just memory foam are better than average, but the goga mat stuff has such wonderful padding that I could almost say the shoes make me happy. Macy’s has some gowalk evolution on sale for about $40 online this week.

    13. Kay*

      I have the Eastland “Sadie” Saddle Shoes in both brown and black, and they have a generous layer of memory foam on the inside. I wore them daily to an office gig in NYC (so lots of walking) and they were always so comfortable! The exterior is also flexible enough that after a few wears it starts to conform to your foot for extra comfort.

    14. Drax*

      Crocs.

      Seriously, they are amaaaaaaazing. They do not just do clogs. I have a pair of flats and some cute open toe sandals from there and they are heaven on my feet.

      Also Adidas Cloud Foam shoes. I have very high arches and narrow feet so I struggle with shoes but man they are godly. Just make sure they are the cushy ones, should sink around your finger when poked.

      1. Drax*

        Oh an old lady shoes. There are some cute flats and full shoes that are for the ‘stylish mature woman’ and they are just comfy to the max but tend to be ~$100 CAD

      2. L.S. Cooper*

        Crocs also has some booties that everyone at my office owns, and I’m extremely tempted by. High-ish wedge with a (fake?) suede upper– you’d never know if you were guessing.

    15. Eleanor Shellstrop*

      I was pleasantly surprised by a pair of lace up brogues from the brand Aukusor, on Amazon. They offer wide sizes and seem to have a good amount of room for toe comfort, might be worth a try – I think they were around $40.

    16. Policy Wonk*

      Nurse Mates if you need to be on your feet a lot, otherwise recommend you look on line at FootSmart. They have some decent styles. Ordering on line gives you a wider variety of sizes and widths, too.

    17. iglwif*

      For work-appropriate shoes I’ve had very good luck with Clarks and Naot, and reasonably good luck with Rockport and Bare Traps. For reference, my feet are in the 6.5-7-7.5 US range (but I’ve always worn size 35 Birks, so who knows) and roughly triangular in shape, relatively narrow heels and wide toes. I get toe pain when I wear shoes with high heels and/or pointy toes and/or stiff soles, but YMMV!

      I have learned never, ever to take shoe recs from people who routinely wear heels, because they will say “oh these shoes are so comfortable!” and it turns out they mean “more comfortable than the shoes with pointy-ass toes and 4″ pointy heels that I normally wear”. And like … wear heels if you want to! But not everybody wants to.

      I’m always attracted to ballet flats and then try them on and find that they hurt my feet in a very specific place (the lack of heel is lovely, but the edge of the upper hits the top of my foot right where the big toe joint is, I guess? and the result is OUCH). If there were ever a situation where I actually needed to produce the appearance of ballet flats, I think I would go round to the dance wear store my kid shops at and buy a pair of black ballet slippers XD

        1. Leah*

          I’m just writing down the names of all these brands! I need some comfy flats for work like I need breathing tbh, especially after I found out I have flat foot and need a special insole on my shoes

    18. Hello!*

      Definitely agree on the Rothys, although I did get little half-size insoles since they were completely flat. But I have never had a pair of shoes that didn’t rub my heels. They felt like they were pre-broken in.

    19. The Other Dawn*

      I love Rockport’s Cobb Hill Paulette. They’re more expensive–around $100 US–but they’re worth it. They’re extremely light weight and so, so comfortable. I’m a size 12 Women’s and sometimes a wide width, sometimes not, and these fit perfectly. I have one in black and one in brown. They’re not super pretty, but the comfort is why I bought them. They go well with pants.

  21. merp*

    Last day at this job! New job starts Monday. Wish I could add firework emojis or something here. Finally got that librarian title!

    That being said, the work day is barely started and all I really have left to do is clean my desk. It’s been a very efficient transition week. Soooooo I hope you all have some good stories in this thread today to keep me busy!

    1. FuzzFrogs*

      I’m so happy for you!!!! Fireworks abound!!!!!

      Can you beam some of your luck my way? I’m on that interviewing grind for becoming a librarian–hoping the latest opening is The One, because it’s for my own supervisor and I’m literally Doing it Anyway.

  22. Murphy*

    Curious to get your opinions on this thread I saw on reddit (link in follow-up comment).

    Summary: Company has one single person bathroom. There was a poo smell that supposedly resulted from someone not turning the fan on when they went. The manager made an announcement to all employees telling them to turn the fan on/use air freshener when they poop. Nothing happened, so she then went in the bathroom after each employee used it to figure out who it was leaving the smell and not using the fan. She emailed the employee with no response and then spoke to the employee directly to no avail. Then she asked reddit if she would be the a-hole for firing their employee. Apparently other employees who sat near the bathroom complained about the smell also.

    I’m personally pretty horrified by her checking the bathroom after every use.

    1. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

      I’m curious though how the confrontations turned out. Did the employee just ignore her? Give a reason why they weren’t using the fan? Say they would and just never did? The manager is off the wall for going to these lengths to find the employee and is an a-hole for wanting to fire them over this regardless, but I’m curious how the employee responded. Even though this manager went about it terribly, I would probably be mortified enough to just start using it (though I wouldn’t blame anyone for wanting to spite her at this point either).

      1. Murphy*

        I think she said the employee got upset when she confronted her directly. Employee said she would use fan, but didn’t.

    2. Psyche*

      Why can’t anyone else spray air freshener? Or get one of those plug in ones that sprays automatically? It seems like that would be the easiest solution. I mean, the employee is a jerk for refusing to spray it themselves, but it doesn’t seem like they should be fired over it.

      1. Mockingjay*

        Some air fresheners are toxic. In a small bathroom, a couple of sprays can leave a fog. The fragrance is overwhelming and you breathe in particles, as well as getting itchy eyes.

        Regardless of whether they spray, the employee should have the courtesy to run the fan. No excuse for not doing that.

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

          I’m going to guess that the reason for not running the fan is that it’s a clue that she’s poopin’ in there right now! to anyone who can hear the fan turn on, and she wants to be able to poop and leave without anyone knowing it was her. People are so weird about having to poop.

    3. Not Me*

      I’ve dealt with issues like this. If the employee doesn’t comply with standard office etiquette and it’s impacting others (like those sitting near the bathroom) that’s definitely something I’d terminate someone for. I’d be curious to know what she said to the person and what their response was. Just from the summary you posted the issue (to me) is the lack of complying with a direct and reasonable request from the manager.

      My most recent situation of bathroom issues, the guy stopped the strange and disruptive bathroom behavior, but had he continued it definitely could’ve gotten to the point of termination.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Like to hear you explain that one to the EEOC. You can’t fire someone for stinking up a bathroom in the normal way. People need to poop. It stinks. Fan or no fan. Spray or no spray. Go figure.

        And while it sucks for those who sit near the ONE bathroom… HELLO move their damn seating!!!!!! Like, I’m so sure they want to sit by the toilet.

        1. Not Me*

          The EEOC has no jurisdiction over someone “stinking up a bathroom in the normal way”. Regardless of that, you definitely can terminate someone for refusing to follow a reasonable request and in doing so negatively impacting the workplace. Which is what this employee is doing.

          Also, not everyone can just pick up and move their work space.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            This is a performance issue. If the employee had a medical condition that would be different. But they haven’t disclosed. So yes, the employer can fire the employee for failure to follow a direct order.

        2. Close Bracket*

          Non-fan users are not a protected class. You *can* fire someone for not using a fan if fan use is required of everyone.

        3. Parenthetically*

          An employee refuses to follow direct and specific instructions? Absolutely it can be a fireable offense.

    4. Long Time Fed*

      If you’re running into the bathroom after the fact, how do you know she wasn’t running the fan during it?

      Let’s pretend the employee in question has a health issue that makes her poo particularly pungent. She would then have some protections and the company should tread lightly. Stinky poop is not a reason to fire someone. The company could put air fresheners in the hall if the smell is seeping out.

      1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        Exactly what I would have said. Human bodies are weird and make different doors depending on people’s biology, health, intestinal microbiome, diet, whatever. The employee probably can’t help it.

        The solution would be to ignore it or hire a contractor to put in a better exhaust system. IMHO living in a house full of humans, your average bathroom fan doesn’t do much.

        1. Murphy*

          I suggested it was a problem with the bathroom, and someone called me an idiot. Gotta love Reddit!

          1. Federal Middle Manager*

            Right? Maybe make the fan come on automatically with the light switch or run all the time at a low level? There are other solutions.

      2. Not Me*

        According to the poster on reddit the employee is purposely not turning the fan on. Refusing to follow a reasonable request is definitely something you can terminate someone for, it really has nothing to do with the smell at that point.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Yeah, if the employee isn’t complying with the simple request to then the fan on after using the toilet after being asked to do so twice by the manager, I think that’s insubordination at that point.

      3. Engineer Girl*

        Stinky poop is not a reason to fire. Failure to mitigate the circumstances is. And if it is a medical condition then the employee has to disclose to be protected.

      4. A tester, not a developer*

        Yep – longtime IBD sufferer here. My output laughs at fans. Sprays merely make it seem as though someone draped a lemon wedge or bouquet of roses over a heated dumpster. I feel bad for my co-workers, and try to find a more private place if I have the warning time, but it’s not always an option. But IBD is a disability, so I’ve made sure the right paperwork is in place to keep the sh!t from hitting the fan. :)

        1. JulieCanCan*

          Ok not laughing at your IBD – I’m literally in the same boat – but “my output laughs at fans “ and “ draped a lemon wedge over a heated dumpster” OMG I cannot stop laughing.

          You have an amazing way with words.

    5. Middle School Teacher*

      Why can’t the fan just stay on all the time? Is it really that loud?

      1. silverpie*

        Or at least tied to the light—when one is on, so is the other. “Every problem has an engineering solution.”

      2. Lana Kane*

        The Reddit OP says that it’s a manual 15 minute timer, and they are asking the landlord to change it so it can just be left on.

    6. Utoh!*

      Can’t the fan just be “left on” at all times? I’ve noticed that is what happens here in our one-stall (women’s bathroom). Or one that is automated to go on when someone goes in there and turns off after 10 minutes or so?

    7. hbc*

      This is solved by putting the fan on the same circuit as the light, thereby:
      1) Ensuring the fan runs every time someone poops.
      2) Covering up any bathroom-related noises that might not be directly tied to pooping.
      3) Not making employees essentially have to signal when they’re pooping.

      Also, related to 1 & 2, I read somewhere that most bathroom fans aren’t designed so much for odor removal as white noise machines. The smell effect might be imaginary.

      1. LCL*

        This is how my house bathroom is wired. Heck, if the company wants to do something for energy conservation, put the light and fan on motion detector switches. Such switches are available with adjustable time intervals. The boss doing the odor patrol work has other troubles with setting priorities, I bet.

        1. Easily Amused*

          I’ve had motion detector lights turn off on me while using a company restroom and I wasn’t even taking my time or pooping! I ended up feeling my way, arms out, to the sinks only to have the lights suddenly turn on as someone else came in. Someone from a different company so instead of laughing about it, she looked st me like I was crazy. Pretty mortifying.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        Most bathroom fans are designed to mitigate the condensation from running a hot shower. Newer ones are quiet enough they don’t function as white noise machines.

    8. buttrue???*

      The solution is to have the fan connected to the light. Light goes on, fan goes on. this was not uncommon in the past in homes when the bathroom had no window.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      Some businesses have an air freshener system- it’s not just a fan there’s also a device to help clear the air. It runs on a motion detector I think??? I am hoping someone knows what I am talking about and can chime in.

      I have worked in some pretty strange situations and, yeah, if there is someone routinely making the bathroom unusable for others this is a problem. If the company cannot afford some type of automated technology to relieve the situation, then the employees have to pitch in and do their part. To my way of thinking, it’s no different than at home, you wipe the seat, turn on the fan, what ever is necessary so the next person can use the bathroom comfortably.

      While not possible in all settings the boss could move her desk to be by the bathroom and move others away.

      I can understand people thinking that the boss is horrible for watching others come out of the bathroom. But I would only have to hear it one time that there was a problem and I would make darn sure it was not ME. So while the boss is not looking great here, neither is the employee. At least she is not scolding the entire group because of one repeat offender. And, frankly, the woman is refusing to turn the fan on, what did she think was going to happen next. It’s so simple, turn. the. fan. on.

    10. Fresh Smell*

      I am someone that sits where the smell is bad. I went to the dollar tree and bought poo be gone. The cost is worth not smelling floral spray over poo!

    11. Policy Wonk*

      Have an electrician re-wire the bathroom so that the fan is automatically turned on when the light is turned on.

    12. Not Me*

      I think it’s funny so many people are suggesting hiring an electrician and re-wiring the bathroom instead of just…turning on the fan. Since the OP is both the manager and HR and they only have 1 bathroom I can’t imagine it’s a very large company. The cost of changing the way the electric is wired because 1 person is refusing to flip a switch is really pretty absurd.

      1. Murphy*

        I do think the employee should just turn on the fan, but I still think that’s a silly reason to fire somebody. Also more importantly, the stalking the bathroom after each use is creepy.

        1. Not Me*

          Would it have been better to ignore the problem and complaints from employees? How else should she have figured out who the problem was caused by? If someone complained about a really strong perfume would it be “creepy” to walk thru the office and see who was the one wearing the perfume?

          These kinds of things are not fun to deal with, but they still need to be dealt with.

          I agree it’s a silly reason to fire someone, not being fired for it is the employees responsibility though. She’s said she is purposely not turning the fan on, even after being asked multiple times.

          1. Lilysparrow*

            Why? Why does the manager need to know who is pooping? The whole thing is completely unnecessary.

            Just turn the fan on and tape it there.

            The employee’s poop schedule is not causing a problem. The fan not being on is the problem.

            So fix the actual problem without acting like a preschool teacher doing diaper check.

            1. Not Me*

              The fan has a timer and will shut off. Which means leaving it on all the time would require paying for an electrician to re-wire it. That’s ridiculous when there’s an easy solution everyone else in the office is using.

      2. LCL*

        Our electricians are ex.pen.sive and worth every penny. This would be a quick job, and total cost expended would be much less than all of the labor hours spent checking the bathroom after each user, documenting, getting HR involved, etc. Not to mention the hit to the manager’s and the company’s credibility and reputation wasting any time on this. I am amazed at how many posts make it to ask a manager that are a variant of “my office is dealing with some broken down piece of junk and I won’t/can’t/coworkers won’t and can’t manage the workaround. How can I micromanage them to work the piece of equipment exactly correctly so we can all be happy?” I work with people whose job is making critical equipment work, mistakes can be destructive and fatal, and control interfaces are always a consideration. This control stuff isn’t easy, there is a whole science behind it, and the simplest, safest and cheapest solution usually starts with fixing what isn’t working well.

        1. Not Me*

          “the simplest, safest and cheapest solution usually starts with fixing what isn’t working well”

          Totally agree. In this case the simplest, safest, and cheapest solution is the employee turning on the fan just like all the other employees.

          1. Close Bracket*

            Except that they were asked to, and they aren’t. Getting someone to do something when they won’t is really complex, whereas rewiring a switch is simple. So, when complex and cheap fails, go with simple and expensive.

            1. Not Me*

              Right, and that’s when you terminate an employee for being insubordinate and telling you they’re being insubordinate and don’t appear to care at all. You don’t re-wire the electricity.

              No one else in the office is having a problem using the fan. This employee is purposely refusing to do what is asked of her. That’s not ok.

    13. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      If I sit next to the pooper and it’s wafting, I’m going to get my butt up and go flip the fan on myself. The person whoh’s complaining is also a huge stinker of her own because you can handle it yourself…you don’t fire someone over this.

    14. designbot*

      This is an ESH. It’s a sucky reason to fire someone, but it’s also a sucky thing to do in the first place.

    15. Boomerang Girl*

      I would call in an electrician to connect the fan to the light. Every time the light is turned on, the fan runs.

      But more on point, not following a basic request is something for which a person can be fired. However, manager should document the crap (sorry) out of the multiple requests and lack of improvement.

  23. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    So, after a month and a half, four interviews and an reference check without my permission (they called someone who doesn’t work with me)… The external recruiter sent me a one line email telling me I didn’t get the job. I’m sad because this was the first time after a long while I got to the last stage.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      They called someone who doesn’t work with you!? It kind of sounds like you dodged a bullet!

      1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

        Yeah, apparently they went to LinkedIn, found someone who listed my current job in their profile and sent a message. The guy they reached knows me but never worked with me, so I wouldn’t asked him to be my reference. Luckily they didn’t chose my team leader, who is in cahoots with the owners (and obviously not to be trusted).

          1. T. Boone Pickens*

            Ahh, the old backdoor reference trick. Some recruiters still use it. It’s a little too fear mongering for my tastes.

            1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

              Yeah, it could have costed me my job if they messaged my team leader (who outed someone he found taking a phone interview at a nearby junk food place).

          2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

            No, I didn’t. In fact, I haven’t been asked for references since I interviewed with Big Consulting Company That Starts With A, about… six years ago.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      So very sorry.
      You did get to the last stage though, so maybe the tide is turning and your new job will come up soon.

    3. SecondChoice*

      Oh my god that’s awful. I’m job searching now (after a layoff) so I understand the soul crushing pain of this kind of rejection.

      I’m so sorry you went through that. They are the assholes here, not you. I hope you blast them on Glassdoor.

  24. Deb Morgan*

    People who work at or have worked at summer camps, give me your tips! I’m going to be a summer camp counselor (overnight for just one week) and I want to make it awesome for the campers.

    1. Blue Bunny*

      Set all your social media to private before you go. The kids will try to dig up dirt on the counselors. If the organization allows you all to go by nicknames, choose one that isn’t already associated with your identity.

      Take a truckload of sunscreen, poison ivy soap, and bug spray.

    2. JB*

      Some of my favorite memories as a camper and as a counselor were spontaneous activities (our camp was a bit regimented in how we ran normal programming) – you can’t leave HUGE blocks of unstructured time (it’s a great opportunity for kids to get homesick or bully each other) but giving them a nudge toward something to do goes a long way! As a camper, I remember our counselors once idly suggesting we build “gnome houses” and another time letting us run around the woods playing superheroes. As a counselor, another counselor once brought her kids to me for a “Dead Poet’s Society” poetry reading by the pond while the rest of her unit went to the farm for a night visit.

    3. Rainy days*

      Try to spend a little bit of time with each camper, including the quiet or awkward ones–if you eat meals together, sit next to a different person for each meal.

      I’m not sure how old you are and how old the campers are, but if you’re young I think the hardest part of these kinds of roles is finding a balance between being an authority figure and being a cool older sibling type of figure. Too strict and they won’t warm up to you–too permissive and they won’t respect you and won’t feel safe. Figure out ahead of time what boundaries you’re going to set in terms of revealing stuff about your personal life, and also what kind of rules you’re okay bending. You might be cool about staying up talking an hour later than lights out, but everyone is going to stay the heck on the path if you’re hiking.

    4. Iris Eyes*

      Have a funny bedtime story to two to tell. (The Tale of Contradiction is a great one) A “scary” story is also great to have in your back pocket (at a Christian camp going with The Valley of Dry Bones from Ezekiel was a pretty decent choice)

      If you are with girls knowing how to braid hair is generally enough to make you pretty popular.

      Be there for the kids, if a stomach virus runs through camp don’t ignore sick campers under your care and leave the clean up to others. Try not to spend time with other adults/counselors when kids aren’t present (unless its after bed time, then epic card games are encouraged) It can be a hard and exhausting week but it can also be some of the best times of your life.

    5. Auntie Social*

      Bring food/a snack for your first night that you “smuggled” in—making it feel illicit makes it taste twice as good.

    6. Aleya*

      Keep in mind that some kids are introverts/have sensory issues and need down time to chill and process. When I went to summer camp, it was actually really stressful because it felt like I was being pushed from one activity to the next with no choice to sit things out or be alone. Also, when deciding on activities as a group, don’t assume that just because no one said “no” that everyone actually wants to do it.

    7. Eleanor Shellstrop*

      -TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY. Being sick as a camp counselor is just miserable. Eat as balanced of a diet you can, try not to stay up too late if possible, and stock up on cold medicine/other sick supplies before you leave.
      -Losing your voice is very likely, my go-to drink for this was hot water and honey mixed with apple cider vinegar. Super weird tasting but effective.
      -Have a “thing” that distinguishes you that will make being in your cabin special. I always brought my sticker collection and would have sticker decorating parties with my campers, and would play guitar and sing them lullabies every night. Makes great memories and helps foster a sense of community.
      -Have a repertoire of silly games and repeat-after-me songs in your back pocket for transition times – walking to meals, waiting for instructions, etc.
      -Enjoy!! Summer camp was one of my all-time favorite jobs, there’s really nothing like it :)

    8. Not So NewReader*

      I liked my camp that I went to as a kid. The one big misstep that stands out in my mind was the 20 mile hike over rugged terrain. It took me the rest of the week to recuperate from that one. I will never forget the river and the counselors forming a human chain so us kids could get across. I was so scared and it seemed like such a breach of trust to be foisted into this situation. I might have been less scared if we had not gone down a cliff to get to the river below. The counselors did a human chain for the cliff, too. You could see the river at the bottom so you knew that was the next hurdle. The smaller kids had to be passed from one adult to another. Lucky me, I was tall enough to walk on my own. I am not sure which was worse.
      Between the length of the hike and the challenges of the trail I was ready to go home.

    9. AnnieK*

      Several years camping, few as a counselor (overnight, cabins, in a forest). Not sure how old you / your campers are, or if it’s a skills focused camp or a general one, so some advice may change. Seconding “back pocket games”. Downtime is the killer, and weather makes things hard to plan, so you might have long periods of being stuck inside with scared kids during thunderstorms / tornado warnings / etc. Back pocket games are great distractions for that. Black Magic (semi-convoluted guessing game) is great. Spies is a fun travel game for walking from place to place without losing people (walk normally and then yell “Spies” and everyone has to run together to safety (usually the nearest building). These can be pretty age-dependent though–9 year-olds like spies, 14 yos will be less enthused.

      You’re on the kids’ time: if they need you to walk them to the bathroom at 2 am, you go. Relatedly, learn the layout of your camp REALLY WELL–you’ll only be there a week, but the kids won’t know that and will expect you to be the expert. Rely on your co-workers as much as you can, be creative, appear to have fun even when you’d rather be sleeping in.

      The most important thing I can say though: pick your battles and let the kids discover natural consequences for themselves. Early on, I lost a lot of face with one of my campers and possibly the whole cabin by trying to enforce too much. (Mid-August, 14yo wanted to wear velour pants all day. I (only a little older, in fairness) pushed back on that because she’d get too hot. She got angry, and I was less patient than I should have been, and by the time she wanted to leave the cabin without shoes [MASSIVE NO, we were in a FOREST, all kinds of likely injury scenarios] I had no authority left. My co-counselor had to step in; camper eventually wore shoes and the velour pants and then went back after morning chores and changed into shorts–which she would have done if I hadn’t pushed in the first place. But my credibility and relationship were blown. Don’t be me.)

      Good luck and have fun!

    10. Hermione at Heart*

      Second what everyone else has said, particularly making sure you spend time with all of the kids (even the ones you might not warm to immediately), limiting time with other adults around the kids, and, especially if you are close in age to the campers, figuring out your boundaries (or learning what the camp’s are) around what you can/should tell them about your life.

      In addition to that:
      —Enthusiasm and energy go a long way. If you are prepared for whatever activity you’re leading but also bring the conviction that it’s going to be fun, it will be fun! The fact that your goal is to make it awesome *for them* is super important. (Also, some kids, especially younger ones, find enthusiasm/energy/wackiness from strangers kinda scary at first. If you’re not a natural extrovert that’s OK. Plenty of counselors will fulfill that role and it’s also good to be steady and stable!)

      —Get in the moment. Participate in activities. Dress up funny. Do stuff you wouldn’t do at home. BUT don’t lose sight of your responsibility to step in if something’s getting out of control. The magic of camp is that it’s a liminal space between childhood and independence, home and school, etc. Having “adults” who have the good part of adulthood (make you feel protected and safe) while still being able to be silly and fun in a way that typical adults or teachers might not is a big part of this.

      —Encourage campers to talk and tell you about their day, whether that’s at dinner or right before bed. Have them go around and say one thing they enjoyed, or play “roses and thorns” (one good thing/one bad thing), or ask what they’re looking forward to tomorrow.

      —Be with the kids. If you aren’t around kids 24/7, counseling is exhausting and you are going to want a break. But as much as you can, especially during unsupervised/unstructured time, be with the kids.

      —Kids are going to look up to you like crazy and they pick up on everything. Doesn’t matter if they’re 8 or 18. One thing I always try to do, but especially around teenage girls, is to think about how I’m talking about myself, my body, and what I eat – not saying “I shouldn’t, but I will!” or “It’s OK, I’m running around all day!” when I eat dessert, for example.

      —Be proactive. If something seems off to you in a group dynamic, a kid who seems uncomfortable/alone, in an interaction between another camper and a counselor, you hear kids planning to sneak out, etc., say or do something.

      —Especially if you are over 25: take care of yourself. You’re gonna be tired and germs rip through camp like crazy.

      —HAVE FUN! Camp is so special and wonderful. I was a camp counselor for years, long after I should have abandoned it, and I love it so much.

      1. Hermione at Heart*

        Oh and YES to back pocket games. A few off the top of my head that work with almost all ages:

        –masking tape guessing game: put the name of a celebrity (or a fellow counselor, or, IDK, a kind of food — you decide the rules!) on a strip of tape on someone’s forehead, they have to ask yes/no questions until they guess who it is. (great for mealtimes when no one’s talking)

        –everyone stands/sits in a circle. pick one player to walk away. designate one person in the circle as the leader who has to start an action that everyone follows (clapping, snapping, waving their hands over their head, etc). when the leader changes actions, everyone else follows. the person who walked away has to guess who the leader is.

        –everyone stands in a circle, giant ball in the middle, goal is to hit the ball through another player’s legs BUT it must stay on the ground the whole time

        –duck duck goose. honestly. little kids already find it fun. big kids find it fun to pretend to be little kids.

    11. Brunch with Sylvia*

      You have some great suggestions here. I worked two summers in college at a sleepaway camp where the campers changed weekly. Age range 7-18, so each week was a little different and much of your experience will depend on the campers’ ages and the structure of the camp.
      Regardless of age, I recommend that you are warm and friendly with each camper as your first meet but be a stickler about camp rules at the very outset. Hold a cabin meeting and be firm. It is really is okay if they think for a few hours that maybe you are a stick in the mud.
      Try to have warm, personal interactions at the first meal and evening events, sit or walk by different campers, making sure you have at least 1 positive encounter with each of your campers.
      Every evening at bedtime, I would say goodnight to each camper at her bunk—even the teens. I would ask them a question or two about their day, try to make some positive observation and tell each that I was so happy that they were in my cabin.

    12. vonlowe*

      Be really big on privacy – they had managed to find his mobile number and started texting them. Also keep track of hours – I ended up working nearly 110 hours in the first week because the camp manager wasn’t doing any part of their job and we also had to do stuff like get coffee for her.

  25. ThatGirl*

    Update from last week: I had my interview Tuesday and wore dark jeans, heeled boots, a dark shirt and a more structured cardigan that has a sort of blazery feel. It went well, though I was caught a little off guard when the HR guy who was my last interview actually asked behavioral questions (how I get along with coworkers, etc) instead of just “so, any questions?” I mean – they were good questions, I just wasn’t quite expecting it. He did indicate that I am a strong candidate and that they haven’t had many, but I won’t hear anything until next week I’m sure. At least.

    Here’s another random question – how much do you think I can push back a little on hours? the manager indicated they mostly work 9 hr days (I assume with an hour lunch) and I would much prefer to work an 8.5 hr day and only take a half hour lunch – I don’t want to be pushy or demanding, it’s not a deal breaker, but it’s something I negotiated with my manager when I started.

    1. Holly*

      Can you remind folks who didn’t see your prior post what industry this is in? My industry doesn’t have structured lunches like that so it would come off as insane to ask, but this could be a totally different field and job that does have a 1 hour lunch in which case I figure there’s no harm in asking as long as you frame it as being OK if it wasn’t possible.

      1. ThatGirl*

        It was an internal interview within the same company — I work for a baking and decorating (cpg) company – lunch culture seems to vary a bit from department to department. Currently I work in customer service and most of us work an 8.5 hour day with the option for an hour lunch (1/2 unpaid, 1/2 hour combining two 15-minute breaks). I’d be moving to Creative and it’s not weird to me that they would have different ideas about what constitutes a working day. But I don’t need an hour for lunch and would rather have a slightly shorter working day.

    2. Psyche*

      I don’t think it would be weird to ask about taking a half hour lunch to leave a half hour early. That isn’t pushy at all. If they say that they don’t do that and you keep trying to negotiate, then it could come across as pushy.

    3. CupcakeCounter*

      I wouldn’t make it a hill to die on but you could mention that you worked out X schedule with your current group and would it be possible to still work those core hours. There might be a reason for the 8-5 with 1 hour lunch vs 8-4:30 with a 1/2 hour lunch but it won’t hurt to ask if it is something they will consider.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Well, that’s the thing, the hours are somewhat flexible anyway – some people work 7-4, others 8-5, so it wouldn’t be a coverage issue (also new position is not customer facing). I would definitely not make it a hill to die on – especially since I live close enough that rush-hour traffic isn’t a huge problem – but it works well for me, my husband and my dog to keep the same schedule.

    4. IL JimP*

      you could ask for sure, I would bet they would still want to set the begin or end time to make sure of whatever coverage they may need

  26. Foot in the Door*

    My friend previously worked in IT/Systems Administrations. He just finished an intensive programming bootcamp and is now looking for a full-stack Web Developer job. He’s struggling to get interviews because he doesn’t have any professional work experience as a Web Dev yet (even though he has portfolio work, that’s the feedback he’s getting). There is a local company he’s very interested in and there is an IT position open. He is going to apply and wouldn’t mind working in that capacity to get his foot in the door. If he gets an interview, at what point should he talk to them about wanting to move over into programming? Should he be up front and bring it up in an interview as a longer term gaol? Or should he wait and if hired, give it a few months and then bring it up? Any insights or stories of past experiences would be helpful. Thanks in advance!

    1. gecko*

      IME it’s really not welcome in many tech companies to get hired and then only use it as a foot-in-the-door for a programming position.

      I will say that larger companies may have programs to train people and move them into development roles, so that’s probably a better bet–at my last company, folks in other roles could take company-paid computer science courses at a nearby university and move into a development role.

      Still wouldn’t say in the interview that he’s planning to move on soon. They’re looking for people to work the job they’re hiring for. I think he should either keep looking for a development job or look for a company with education programs like that.

      1. Tau*

        Agreed – I’d expect the company to be looking for an IT person, not a new developer. Junior positions in a larger team might be a good bet, they generally won’t mind training someone up a bit.

        I also wouldn’t look for “full-stack” as a keyword as I think that often carries the connotation of at least a few years’ experience.

        1. Foot in the Door*

          Really appreciate the feedback though I’m not sure why the term “full-stack” would have anything to do with level of experience. I am also a developer with many years of experience but my career has focused on front end technologies. At this point, my friend is way more comfortable with back-end implementations that I am only vaguely familiar with so he is a full-stack developer (front-end and back-end).

          1. Tau*

            Maybe it’s just me, then? I’ve always felt like “full-stack” has the connotation that you’re decently experienced in a broad range of technologies (back-end and front-end, probably also databases, maybe also infrastructure) – like, at my current job I do back-end, front-end, some database work and some devops but wouldn’t call myself full-stack because I don’t think my front-end skills are up to par. But now that you mention it I’m not sure if this entirely aligns with industry norms.

            1. gecko*

              I think it doesn’t quite align–it just doesn’t mean as much as if you have less experience overall, but I think it’s still useful to say because it doesn’t _just_ mean “experienced”; it distinguishes you from someone who really only writes javascript or builds out more static websites, and also from people (like I used to be) who come out school only knowing academic programming. Basically I think there’s some understanding that “decently experienced” does mean different things based on where you are in your career.

          2. Darren*

            Full-stack has the connotation of level of experience because it requires it. A full stack developer has to be familiar with:

            – Front-end technologies (JavaScript, HTML, CSS, etc)
            – Back-end technologies (Databases, etc)
            – Middle-ware technologies (CMSs, etc)

            And able to confidently debug and resolve issues across that entire stack. i.e. it’s slow to get results to the customer order query is that an issue with the front-end taking too long to display entries, or the database in querying due to a poor key design.

            It’s not a matter of years (you can build up both front-end and back-end experience at the same time), but it is a matter of experience (you expect a lot more knowledge in a full-stack developer than in a front-end or back-end one).

        2. Clisby*

          What do you mean by an IT person? I was a computer programmer for 25+ years – we were all part of IT. Just like the systems administrators, the network people, the security people …

          1. gecko*

            In most tech companies, IT departments are separate from R&D departments. Someone looking for a full-stack web development position is probably going for a more R&D type of role, developing the website or service that the tech company sells. IT in those cases usually handles internal system administration, security, internal website development, dev ops, etc. Usually with development roles being paid more highly than IT roles.

    2. Foot in the Door*

      This has gotten a bit derailed on what is meant by “full-stack” which was not the question I submitted. I would still be interested in opinions on expressing longer term goals of moving from one department to another. I do appreciate that people have responded though!

      1. GreyNerdShark*

        Generally it isn’t a good idea to spring it on them… but he can say “I am trying to move into development, is that likely for someone in this job?”

        Also, don’t know what portfolio he has, but he should get him some open source chops. Contribute to projects. Any kind of programming helps and the energy to do it counts for a lot. Of course he wants to find projects that do things he wants to do, but there are a lot out there.

        1. T. Boone Pickens*

          A way to ask about promotional opportunities without asking about promotional opportunities that’s worked for me is to ask, “What are the long term career goals for this position?” It’s open-ended enough that your friend should hopefully get some good info.

        2. Easily Amused*

          Thank you! Both helpful responses that I appreciate! I was thinking the same but wasn’t sure if I was off base – that he could ask about growth paths within the organization from the role he’d be applying to. (As opposed to just saying, I want to code but I’ll do this if I have to).

          GreyNerdyShark – he has a GitHub with several projects he did during the bootcamp and he’s currently working on a larger app that he treats as a full time job while he submits applications. He is checking in code all day every day.

          Also, for context, I work in software development (I work in mobile front end dev/friend is looking for full-stack Web dev) and my company has been saying that they can’t find anyone here with experience. There is a tech college and another major university right down the street and I’ve heard a lot of complaints over the years that once students graduate, they leave. I get that companies want someone to come in and hit the ground running but they’ve sort of created their own probelem by not giving new tech students a chance. So instead of helping to foster a home grown tech community fed by these local schools, they’ve been bringing in contractors from out of state. It’s pretty frustrating to see.

  27. Cloudshadow*

    My work is extremely stressful and my work environment highly toxic; I am looking for a new job but the search is taking a long time. I had started therapy a couple months ago to deal with my work stress and try to figure out my next steps. My boss generally disapproves of any and all time out of the office, so I was only going every other week, on a schedule that just required me to take a slightly longer lunch break. However, last week my boss told me that these absences were too disruptive and that, unless it was a life-threatening emergency, I was no longer allowed to take time off for medical appointments. (My boss is the CEO, and the only HR-related person in our office handles payroll/benefits but no actual personnel matters.) I tried an Allison-like script (“I appreciate that me being away from the office isn’t ideal! However, given that this is a necessary medical appointment for me, how should we proceed? My thoughts are…[offered ideas for minimizing disruption and for full work coverage]”) but was told that how “we” would proceed is that I would do as ordered and cancel the appointments, or else I would be fired. My work schedule requires me to arrive early (around 7:30 – 8 am) and work until 8 or 9 pm each night, so it would not be possible for me to find an appointment outside of work hours (none of the therapists covered by my insurance have weekend hours). What should I do? I am really badly in need of mental health help, and I’m not sure I will be in a great position to present myself well in a job search unless I can get some help, but I can’t afford to be unemployed.

    1. Interplanet Janet*

      Do you get a scheduled lunch break? Some therapists can do phone or video chat sessions.

      1. Sherm*

        +1. My friend who is a therapist works entirely over the phone, in fact. If you can only escape to a phone for 30 minutes, perhaps that would be more or less equivalent for you as is going in for an hour every other week.

      2. Fortitude Jones*

        I was just about to say this. My therapist and I have had phone and FaceTime calls when I couldn’t physically make it to her office.

      3. Cloudshadow*

        Full lunch breaks are strongly discouraged – it’s okay to run out for 10-15 minutes to grab something, but most people eat at their desks. Workspace is almost all open plan so no privacy for an extended call – the boss is usually okay with people stepping into a conference room for a quick personal call (less than 5 minutes), but a 30+ minute call wouldn’t work. I appreciate the ideas though!

      1. Cloudshadow*

        The company is too small for FMLA, sadly. I know I could still request a disability accommodation but that would require me to disclose something about why I need medical attention, and as the boss has been extremely unkind in the past to employees with mental health accommodation needs, I would prefer not to go there, even if I’m legally in the right.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          You don’t ever need to disclose WHY you need the accommodation. You just need to have a doctors note that says “Cloudshadow is in my care and requires weekly/bi-weekly appointments that last X amount of time.” They have no right to your medical information. Just that it’s a “medical” Issue and you’re being treated by a doctor.

          1. Cloudshadow*

            Unfortunately, in this case, the boss requires more information – a generic doctor’s note isn’t accepted and he demands to know the type of doctor being seen and at least the general reason for the visit. Saying “that’s private” or “I’m not comfortable disclosing personal medical info” doesn’t fly and gets the employee accused of lying or hiding something. Whether or not he’s “allowed” to behave this way, we don’t have an HR person to tell him otherwise, and he’s said that people who act “sneaky” by not disclosing the requested info don’t have a place in the company.

    2. Lena Clare*

      Well, you could take sick leave, if you get paid for your sick leave that is.

      I’m pretty sure your boss can’t prevent you from getting necessary medical attention, but I’m not sure who you’d see about it. In the UK you can go to the Equality Advisory Service and ACAS for work support. Is there anything like that for you in the country (I’m guessing the US?) you’re in? Also, try a mental health charity for advice.

      Sorry your boss sucks.

      1. Cloudshadow*

        Unfortunately we don’t have sick leave or PTO, per se. The boss will sometimes allow people to be off (with pay) for medical or personal reasons but the approvals/denials seem pretty random and not tied to any consistent patterns of discrimination.

        Our industry actually has huge issues with mental health due to the stress and long hours required. I gently brought this up with the boss in the past but he is determined to believe that mental health issues are just a result of some people being “weak” or not being able to hack it in a tough environment, and he said he wasn’t open to discussing it further.

        1. Lena Clare*

          Oh no! Well you could go the route of treating it as a disability (a mental or physical impairment, that has a significant impact, on day-day activities (work is one!), in the long-term.) That is the legal definition of disability so if you can get your GP to confirm that your condition meets all four points then your employer must legally make reasonable adjustments to support you. You could then easily prove that having some time off every other week is a reasonable adjustment, as opposed to actually being off work – which, if it is for a disability is not counted as sick leave. I think this may be the same in the US, with FMLA?

          Having to go through all this stress and your boss being awful is a whole other kettle of fish though, I am sorry you’re going through that.

          1. JJ*

            That’s the UK equivalent of a disability. It might not apply in the US.

            The people you need there are the EEOC I believe.

          2. JJ*

            Also, reasonable adjustments = still UK. I know you mean well but I don’t see how it’s helpful to give advice that isn’t necessarily correct in another country, so it’s probably best not to.

        2. Bortus*

          You work in an office full of bees. This place is toxic and you need to be looking for another job.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Cloudshadow clearly states that they ARE already looking for another job. They’re looking for a way to keep it together in impossible situations, so that the next interviewer will snap them up.

    3. Jimming*

      If you’re in the US, ask your therapist/doctor to sign a short-term disability form. I don’t remember what it’s called exactly, but in the past my doctor approved me to have 4 hours off per week for therapy appointments. It was unpaid but it protected my job.

    4. Moray*

      If you feel like you need to give an explanation, someone in this forum a while back suggested using physical therapy as a cover for ongoing medical appointments. You could say that, explain that it’s for a limited time but your injury is only going to get worse if you don’t do it.

      People sadly tend to be more understanding of physical injury than mental health, and maybe you could even hint that if your injury gets worse because of your job it would open a can of workman’s comp worms that she doesn’t want to touch.

    5. Veryanon*

      Wait, what? You come in at 7:30 or 8am and are there every day until 8-9pm every night? I’m getting stressed out just reading that – is that normal for your field? Additionally you have no PTO/sick leave and you’re apparently never supposed to have medical appointments????? I think I would take my chances on being fired and continue with the therapy appointments. At least if you get fired, you can get unemployment until your next opportunity comes down the pike.

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        Yup – my thoughts exactly and then file for unemployment benefits. If they fight it be sure to have good documentation of your hours (which are not in any way acceptable), the timing of your appointments, and the conversation you had with boss about how to work it out and the lack of compromise.
        Basically call his bluff.

      2. Fortitude Jones*

        I would do the same thing. And when you get asked in interviews why you left your last job, you’ll be able to say your CEO fired you after you asked for a reasonable work accommodation. Anyone would be sympathetic to this, unless they’re related to your boss.

      3. Cloudshadow*

        Yes – those hours are pretty normal for the field – I’ve actually had jobs that required even longer hours in the past, although those jobs allowed sick and vacation days at least. I wouldn’t mind the hours if I could take breaks now and then, particularly to attend to my physical and mental health!

    6. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

      That’s really tough. My first thoughts were FMLA or sick leave or vacation days but I saw others had already suggested that.

      Could online therapy be a possibility? I see more and more video services popping up and it might be better than nothing?

    7. Bananatiel*

      I’m going to piggyback on framing this as a broad health issue since mental health issues aren’t usually taken well by toxic bosses (ask me how I know lol).

      As someone that has navigated some serious health stuff– keep emphasizing that these are non-negotiable and that if you are not able to make the appointments it would *most definitely* mean increased absences from the office for health reasons. Try to get her to see that her options are “gone for an extra half hour once in a while OR gone for whole days once in a while”. That worked okay on toxicboss for me. The other winning strategy was to point out that I had no scheduling control with my appointments. This was actually true in my case– my specialist was so in-demand and busy in my area that appointments are made six months in advance and scheduling sounds something like this “We have two appt slots on x day, six months from now, one at 1 and one a 3, which would you prefer?” I once got into a minor argument with my boss where I literally repeated that line back to her to demonstrate that I really had no choice and that we had six months (!) to prepare for my one-hour absence.

      Not sure how effective this would be in your specific workplace but my toxicboss actually respected the opinions of some people in my company– I had to use this in my favor. If the nature of your toxic office includes a healthy and thriving rumor mill– don’t be afraid to twist it to your advantage. Especially since you already know you’re working on getting out. I knew my boss complained about me to other people and I managed to get a few people she respected on my side enough with some issues that they would defend me and she would relent, much to her chagrin. When she started to get really out of hand about health issues I managed to get her back in line this way a couple times. I’m really not proud of having to do any of that but it made my last months easier.

      GOOD LUCK in your job search! I’m in a much better place now and I wish the same for you because your boss sounds horrific.

    8. Spunky Brewster*

      Are you eligible for intermittent FMLA? That might provide job protection for therapist appointments.

    9. JudyInDisguise*

      Is it possible to use an online virtual doctor/therapist? Some insurance companies cover Teledoc or Doctor on Demand.

    10. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Would you consider calling a help line and asking them for advice? You’d be able to give them more detail than you can put on the internet, and that might make all the difference for getting specific, helpful suggestions.
      Mental Health America dot net is just one I’ve heard about online.
      Good luck – I’m glad you recognize this place is awful and are already looking for a new job!

      1. Mr. Shark*

        I know it’s not ideal, but can you have shorter sessions so they fit in your lunch break? It seems like there’s no leeway with your boss, no Allison-izing that you can do, unfortunately.
        I’m not sure how you are managing those hours–that’s ridiculous, and I”m not sure what industry would require those hours.
        But maybe the shorter sessions will work in your schedule and avoid you being out of the office for longer than your lunch. The only other alternative is to push it, record everything, get fired, and then get unemployment or sue him for wrongful termination.

        1. Easily Amused*

          I worked as a Visual Effects artist and those hours were the norm so sadly, there are industries out there that demand it. We were unlikely to get time off requests approved even though we had PTO as a benefit and if you went to an appointment, you had to make up the time but not being allowed to go at all? That’s really terrible. I’m sorry OP. I hope you find a great healthy place that treats employees like real live human beings soon!

    11. WellRed*

      Unfortunately, it sounds like he knows it’s for mental health and he doesn’t believe in it.

    12. Not So NewReader*

      Do you have a therapist now? If yes, does she realize the severity of your situation? I think I would email her and tell her what you have told us. Ask her if she sees any solutions/options here.

      If you do not have a therapist, perhaps you can call the therapists who will take your insurance and ask if they make exceptions for people whose time is severely constrained, yet have an urgent need for help. (I was going to say “… for people who have soulless bosses” but probably that won’t motivate the therapist to accommodate your schedule.)

      1. Cloudshadow*

        I actually didn’t love the therapist I was seeing for a couple months (she wanted to rehash my childhood, while I really wanted to focus on practical strategies to manage current life stresses) so I’d prefer to find a new one. My insurance does have a referral service (who will help locate providers when the individual policy holder is having difficulty finding the right specialist) so perhaps I can check that out.

    13. sheep jump death match*

      Bosses who need you in the office for 12 or 13 hours a day and can’t spare you for an extra hour every other week are bosses who DESPERATELY NEED YOU. He can’t get along without you from 12:00-2:00 every other Tuesday; what’s he going to do the day after he fires you? Just implement whatever you laid out for coverage, keep going to your appointments, and wait for him to fire you. He won’t.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        Agreeing with Veryanon and Sheep Jump. Cloudshadow – I feel very bad for you. Working 12 hours a day non stop with no kind of break is terrible. Of course you need a break and therapy.
        It feels callous to post that you should let the boss fire you for 30 minutes every other week and then try to collect unemployment, but it seems like the only thing for you to do. Your boss is not going to change, so try to get your finances in as best order as you can to prepare for no job. I truly hope you find a better job quickly.
        In the meantime, don’t apologize to crazy boss for any and all absences (mental health or interviews). Take care of yourself.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Eh, I don’t know about that. I mean, you’re theoretically correct, but I’ve worked for someone who would have made the same statement and then fired me if I didn’t comply, even if the next day he was left completely lost.

      3. Cloudshadow*

        He does need me; however, he is also extremely impulsive and has fired people for less than what he would view as disobeying a direct order. I would have to assume he would fire me, insist it was for cause, and deny my unemployment claim, so I would prefer to just line up another job. I have a lot of financial family responsibilities and being out of work for anything other than a very short time would be a hardship, not just for me but for others I support.

        1. valentine*

          You’re in a real bind, since the help you need depends on a job that won’t allow you to access it.

          Assume he’s going to fire you or you’re going to resign. Now what? Between appointments and income, which can you go without the longest? Are there no predawn or night hours available? Any online resources? Maybe ask your primary doctor/GP how they think you should proceed.

          This will be too much at once, but your dependents are a place to chip away because it’s not sustainable and possibly doesn’t serve you. You shouldn’t be stuck with this abusive fiend who won’t let you have a proper break even to eat (and so your compensation isn’t fine because of that, no time off, and now denying your medical benefits) just because other people rely on you. What other resources can they access? Can you contact social services for them?

    14. kestrafalaria*

      File for an ADA accommodation. You are not required under ADA to disclose the nature of your condition. Your employer, no matter how small, should have processes in place for this. If you have ADA approval, your supervisor can’t tell you to not go to your appointments.

      If your company has any kind of disability you might want to look into that. Also, does your state have a version of FMLA?

      NB: I am not a lawyer, you may want to discuss it with one.

      1. valentine*

        The boss can deny the accommodation for whatever reason they demand Cloudshadow be in their chair for 12+ hours without a proper break and fire them for insubordination (like the Reddit bathroom story above). Cloudshadow does not have the time, energy, or money to sue.

    15. Observer*

      Are you exempt? If not, make sure you are clocking ALL your hours. Seriously – your boss is being a major jerk, and asking you to work ridiculous hours. At least make sure you get PAID.

      1. Cloudshadow*

        Yes – definitely exempt, sadly! My compensation is fine – or at least it would be if I could take (paid) leave occasionally.

    16. Autumn Wind*

      What about an on-line or phone therapist in a different time zone? If you’re west coast, maybe an east coast therapist could meet with you at 6 AM your time before work, which would be 9 AM their time. Or if you’re east coast, then vice versa with a west coast therapist.

    17. Jane of all Trades*

      Hi Cloudshadow –
      I’m a bit late to this conversation but maybe you’ll still see it. To be able to function right now, until you find a job that treats you more like you deserve to be treated, can you either ask your therapist if they’d be ok doing remote sessions, via FaceTime or Skype? If that doesn’t work, you could look for a therapist who does do remote sessions. I’m sure there are other resources but if you google psychology today they have a listing of therapists and indicate those who will do remote sessions. I personally use talkspace, because my work set up is similarly crazy to yours, but it is not covered by my insurance. But my therapist, outside of doing talkspace, also does a lot of remote counseling and I have found it to be very helpful. That would allow you to still do a regular session but with much less travel time. Best wishes!

  28. anony-Nora*

    Early last year our company switched us all from hourly to salaried, since it was easier and cheaper than replacing our worn-out time clock. Our boss came around to tell each of us individually about the change, and at the time I asked her what would happen if we had to leave early or come in late for doctor visits or something. At the time, she said it was fine as long as the work gets done.

    Now though, sometimes when certain people ask to leave early/come in late, she’ll tell us we need to make up the missed time. The work is getting done just fine, so it’s not a question of that; I think she’s just trying to exert control. But health problems happen, especially when you’re under a lot of stress, and people need doctor visits.

    We have nothing in writing, and never have. The only copy of the company handbook I’ve ever seen here is decades old, and one of the managers keeps it like a curiosity. Can she make us make up the time? How do I know whether we’re exempt or non-exempt employees, and would that make a difference? Pennsylvania is an at-will state but even so, it doesn’t seem right that they can just change their policies with no warning (and only apply them sometimes, to some people).

    (Really, REALLY hope to get a better job soon)

    1. Mediamaven*

      This doesn’t sound abnormal to be for salaried positions at all. The idea is you work 40 hours or whatever is required for your particular space. Salaried doesn’t mean that you don’t have to work the time.

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        Sometimes it does…
        The point of salary is that they pay you for X amount of work not hours. If the work needs 50 hours to complete, you work the 50. Seasonality sometimes means you have lighter periods so maybe you can get the work done in 35 hours so can flex a late arrival or early departure to catch your kids game. It isn’t “we are paying you for 40 hours so you have to be here 40 hours”

        1. Judy (since 2010)*

          I have not yet, in getting close to 30 years of working in engineering at large and small companies, had a job that allowed that. Salaried has meant 40 or more hours a week everywhere. With defined core hours.

          Summer hours has always meant that we could ignore the core hours on Friday afternoons, so if we’d already worked 40 hours by noon, we could leave.

          1. Natalie*

            And in contrast, I’ve worked multiple places where salaried employees were not required to work a minimum of 40 hours, nor were they even keeping track of their time in such a way that anyone would know how many hours they were working. It’s going to vary quite a bit from employer to employer.

          2. Spreadsheets and Books*

            I’ve been salaried in finance for a few different companies and I’ve never had any kind of hours tracking. At my job, you show up around 9, you leave around 5 or later if there’s still stuff to do, you step out during the day for an appointment or to run an errand as needed, and employees are treated like adults who can manage their own schedules and workloads. How many hours are expected and how they are managed is unique to an employer; there’s no uniform approach to all salaried employees everywhere.

            Summer hours where I work mean you get Fridays/Friday afternoons off in the summer, regardless of what kind of time you put in during that week.

          3. Ethyl*

            If you are billing hours to clients that may be part of it — i.e., there’s no real way to “get the work done” in 35 vs 40 hours because you are billing your clients. That’s how it was when I worked in environmental consulting. Contrast that with working as an event planner, where it was much more “whatever needs to get done this week gets done,” or my spouse in IT which is similar.

            1. Mr. Shark*

              Yes, where I’ve worked, it’s been largely you work your 40 hours. Now, if you have an occasional appointment, you don’t have to make it up, but on a regular basis, you are planning on a 40-hour work week, and no consistent leaving early or anything.
              And yes, even with summer hours, the idea is that we are supposed to complete the 40 hours prior to leaving early on Friday. I have a feeling that is very loosely enforced for the most part, unless managers want to enforce it.
              How is she tracking that you make up the time? It seems like she is saying that, but probably not really taking care to track that one way or the other.

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      Could you ask her to confirm the policy? “When we switched over to salary, you said that as long as the work gets done we wouldn’t have to worry about leaving for small amounts of time for things like doctors visits. However lately you’ve been asking us to make up the time, even if the work is getting done. Has the policy changed?”

      Something like that, in a breezy hey-just-wanted-to-confirm way, not accusatory or anything. And if you do this in person, 100% follow up in an email (“…to summarize our conversation about making up time…”) so you can refer to it in the future.

      It’s 100% reasonable if you do need to make up the time, but it’s super annoying if she originally told you that you didn’t.

    3. Zephy*

      Who qualifies as salaried/exempt and who is hourly/non-exempt isn’t a thing your boss can decide on a whim because the time clock is broken. There are actual rules about what kinds of positions can be salaried and what kinds must be hourly, they vary by state. There isn’t “making up time” for salaried employees – your pay isn’t tied to hours worked, that’s the point.

      1. Psyche*

        I would look at whether you still get paid overtime if you work over 40 hours. If yes, then it sounds like they are treating you as salaried but non-exempt and they can expect you to make up the time. If you don’t get paid overtime if you work over 40 hours then they are treating you as exempt.

      2. Fortitude Jones*

        There isn’t “making up time” for salaried employees – your pay isn’t tied to hours worked, that’s the point.

        This is really employer specific. I was salaried and exempt at my last company, and we were still asked to make up time if we were out of the office for appointments and such because our grandboss values face time over everything. My previous salaried exempt positions before that didn’t have that expectation.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          Yes – exempt means you aren’t eligible for overtime. Your employer can demand 9-5 butts in seats and require overtime without extra pay, or require you to make up time after normal office hours. From what I understand they can demand unpaid overtime *and* require you to use PTO for doctor’s appointments or errands. But they can’t dock your pay by part of a week.

        2. JulieCanCan*

          Yeah my current boss (new-ish job for me) went into a long explanation about how he’s very laid back about managing people and he’s fair, blah blah blah. Then the next sentence out of his mouth was that if I needed to come in late to go to a doctors appointment, he just asks that I make up the time I missed on the other end of the day (I come in 2 hours late, I stay 2 hours beyond my normal time). I just agreed with him but in my head I was thinking “Huh??” since as an exempt, salaried employee I’ve worked a minimum of 3-4 hours “overtime” every week (3-4 hours beyond the 40 hours I’m being paid but not technically “overtime” since I’m not paid for it and I’m Exempt and salaried) If we add all of those hours up since I started, he’s gotten over 50 “free” hours of work out of me. I’ve worked over a full, 40 hour week week for free since beginning my job 4.5 months ago. Do any of those “free” 50 hours I’ve worked beyond my standard 40 hours weekly count against the 2 hours I needed for a doctors appointment?

          I didn’t (and still don’t) have enough capital at this new job to say any of this to him, but I plan on bringing it up at some point once I’ve been here for a while. There are a lot of great things about my job but this just hit a weird note for me. Also, we worked on 2 federal holidays- our office was open for work (despite there being no reason to be), we don’t do anything that requires daily face-time and we don’t work in the public sector. Literally there was nothing I did in either the of those holiday work days that couldn’t have waited. It was kinda crazy. Again I didn’t have enough capital to gripe – I was brand new at the time these two holidays hit, so I just gritted my teeth and went to work. Never in ny 26+ years working as a professional adult have I worked on either of these two Federal holidays. It was bizarre. I actually thought I misunderstood him when he said we didn’t have the day off because it was so out of sync with any corporate and professional norms I’ve ever experienced.

          I think the issue in my boss’s case is that he’s very smart and has a profitable, growing company, but he doesn’t necessarily manage perfectly

      3. Auntie Social*

        Yes, it has to do with supervising other people, how much managing you do. Obviously everyone at a company is not exempt.

    4. Not Me*

      The FLSA decides what positions are exempt and what positions aren’t, your boss doesn’t get to decide that. You might want to do some research on whether your job duties are exempt or not.

      Regarding changing policies, yes, they absolutely can change policies with no warning. It’s not a great way to do business, but it’s legal. But again, FLSA status isn’t a policy.

  29. That Girl From Quinn's House*

    This week, Slate had a letter to a sex advice columnist asking for advice about a work situation. Their coworker had a previous career in the porn industry, and their other coworkers had found out about it, and were constantly referencing it and watching said videos at work. The columnist advised to give the coworker a head’s up on the situation, but I thought AAM was a better venue for the question. What do you all think?

    https://slate.com/human-interest/2019/05/co-worker-secret-porn-past-advice.html

    1. Grace*

      Replying to read later – I thought the same thing when I saw it over there. Forward it to Alison! Do a collaborative answer! Ger her expertise!

    2. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I read that too. Obviously the cat is out of the bag, but there is no reason for the coworkers to continue be jerks about or be discussing/watching it (WTF?) at work. The coworker who wrote in should shut that stuff down with the other coworkers for sure. I would give the coworker who is being harassed a heads up, and ask if I could bring it up to management that coworkers are watching porn on company time/computers.I don’t think there is any reason that management needs to know that the porn features one of their employees (it shouldn’t matter), so this could be a discrete route, although I wouldn’t put it past the crappy coworkers to use as their defense that other coworker is in the porn. But, I would absolutely wait to get permission from the coworker before bringing it up with management. There is always the chance that management sucks and this would cause more problems, so whether this is a good option is going to depend on the management/culture too.

      1. Darren*

        As a manager if a co-worker tried to justify watching porn during office hours because it contained a co-worker I would be walking them to the front door (as they are now no longer an employee) while reminding them about our sexual harassment/bullying training which makes it MUCH WORSE than if they were just watching general porn.

        1. Quandong*

          yes, me too

          The LW should be documenting what coworkers are up to and going to HR

  30. Interviewed Today*

    Had an internal interview this morning. Hopefully find out soon, they want to fill the spot quickly. I didn’t leave feeling overly great about it, but it wasn’t a bad interview either. Idk? It could go either way.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Do you mean not overly great about your interest in the position or about your performance in the interview? Or some other option. One positive spin: even if you decide you aren’t interested in the potential transfer – it’s still interview practice!

  31. Attorney With Questions*

    I’m an attorney and have a question for other attorneys:

    What might entice you to move to another state to practice? I am very involved in my state’s bar association, and one issue we see (which many other states see) is a “graying” bar. We’d like to invite and encourage people to come here to practice, but we also recognize there are logistical barriers. We know we can’t offer big city salaries, but there are other things we can offer (generally collegial practice, different pace of life, etc).

    I’d love to hear people’s thoughts, and be able to perhaps lure some good lawyers to my cool state!

    1. The Rain In Spain*

      Reciprocity! I never want to take another bar exam again (I practice in a state that does not offer reciprocity to others, unfortunately). I think the benefits you’ve identified are great draws but I don’t know how people would learn that if they aren’t already interested in moving there?
      For example, my spouse is a doctor and regularly receives ads for positions in harder-to-fill locations (that do, usually, involve a higher salary due to demand) but having never considered moving to state x/knowing anyone there/having visited, we don’t really even look at them as more than just an interesting piece of mail that gets recycled.
      Maybe advertising more for fresh lawyers would work better? Ie making sure jobs are posted on law school sites (not just limited to your geographic area)? Curious to see if others have more useful ideas!

      1. LCH*

        yes, my attorney dad moved states later in life. so he had the time, money, and contacts to follow through on all of the new state’s requirements to be licensed in that state (DE), but it was a huge PITA. it required a clerkship (or something) along with taking and passing the bar all over again after practicing for over 30 yrs. if there had been reciprocity from his state to the new one, that would have been great.

        1. Attorney With Questions*

          I wish there was something that I could do about bar reciprocity.

          We are thinking about how to attract fresh lawyers. It’s hard, though, since so many new grads have mountains of debt, and uncertainty isn’t easy to add to the mix. On the other hand, it’s also a giant pain for someone who’s established to uproot, move, take a new bar, etc. There’s a lot to consider.

          1. MoopySwarpet*

            Are you in any kind of area you could possibly qualify for a new lawyer to receive some student loan forgiveness if they work there for a certain number of years? I have no idea how that works, but have heard rumors of programs for doctors and teachers and such. I suppose since you’re talking about a whole state, there might be areas of your state that could qualify.

    2. Ra94*

      As a just-starting-out attorney, one idea that comes to mind: does your state have any good/decent law schools, and do those schools have strong links with local firms and organizations? I know a lot of my friends chose their laws schools based on career opportunities in that area, and a school renowned for its great work experience ties to local firms would be a big draw.

      1. CTT*

        I’m less than a year removed from the bar so it’s hard to imagine moving and taking it again, but I think showing that you have a robust local and state bar would be helpful. If I’m moving somewhere I don’t have existing contacts, I’m going to be concerned about making friends! So I would look at the state and local bar’s websites to see what sort of events they’re having, how often, and most importantly, what audience they’re targeting – not just in terms of age (although if it’s mostly sit-down dinners and speeches, that will emphasize it’s a graying bar) but also practice area. I do transactional work and it sometimes feel like my local bar doesn’t know that non-litigators exist.

        tl;dr, show people from out of state that if they move, they’ll have a built-in community.

        1. Attorney With Questions*

          This is good feedback that I can take to our bar association. The association has a good website and I’m friendly with our programming/web person (who also is concerned about the aging demographic of our state’s bar) and maybe we can talk about how to make it more visible to people who might want to make a change.

      2. Attorney With Questions*

        We do have some law school/firm links, which certainly helps. It’s also helpful that in my area a lot of lawyers are graduates of the closest law school, which sort of helps to self-perpetuate hiring of attorneys. Maybe it would be good to encourage firms to build relationships with more schools, too, to sort of widen the net.

    3. Koala dreams*

      Are there similar problems for other types of employers and organizations? I sometimes see job fairs and ads that focus on the breadth of jobs available in the area, as well as the general quality of life. If you can cooperate with other employers, schools and maybe the board of toursim you could show candidates that there is also a chance for their spouse to find a job and there are schools for their kids, etc.
      (I’m not working as an attorney or in law)

      1. Attorney With Questions*

        This is also good! Maybe one thing to do would be to partner with other professions to team up on recruiting. Interesting…

    4. CatCat*

      In my view, the biggest barriers are taking the bar and relocating. Why should established lawyers in another state take the time, experience the stress, and spend the money to study for your state’s bar exam and then travel to your state to take the exam? Why should they then expend the resources for a state-to-state move?

      For me, personally, “big city” salaries are unnecessary as long as the salary is a good one for the geographic area and I can still meet my financial goals. But I just shudder at the thought of taking another bar exam and the enormous time investment involved in that. I would have been open to another state while I was in law school, but once I was studying for my state’s bar exam… forget it.

      1. CatCat*

        And I actually did move from one place to another (and then eventually back to my home state), but that was because I was working for the federal government and the federal government accepts ANY bar so I didn’t have to take any additional exams.

    5. Coverage Associate*

      If my tiny religion already had a congregation there.

      More usefully: If I didn’t give up the professional advancement I have earned in my home state. Will these graying partners offer me partnership in 2 years or 7? Will the judges home town me for the next week or 10 years? How easy is it to adapt to your local rules? How important and complicated are judges’ standing orders?

      1. Attorney With Questions*

        These are interesting things to think about. Maybe one idea would be to identify firms that might want to hire (I have no idea how this would work) and somehow incentivize them to advertise widely. and you make a good point about adapting to local practice/custom, etc. I observe that generally our bench and bar are pretty welcoming to everyone. Perhaps that’s something we can try to make more obvious.

    6. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      Can you offer supports for people just starting out? I live in an area with a glut of lawyers, and I know it’s hard for new people to get some kind of practice started here that actually gets enough clients to pay the bills. I’d imagine some of these new-ish grads who are having trouble getting a practice off the ground would be open to moving if the move came with a clear on-ramp to getting their practice established. (Bar reciprocity would be a huge help, obviously, but also things like offering mentoring and networking opportunities, maybe even law-specific co-working spaces so they’re not tasking on the risk and expense of trying to open their own office while just starting out.)

      1. Attorney With Questions*

        I wish I could fix bar reciprocity. Alas. But with the UBE, I believe the scores are transferrable for a few years (I’m enough of a dinosaur that I hand-wrote my bar answers, so I’m not 100% sure how the UBE works). I like your ideas about networking, mentoring, and co-working spaces. That would require participation by other attorneys at large, but I’d imagine in some communities something like that could work.

        I also know there are a few states that have practice-launching programs (there’s a neat one in South Dakota to help get lawyers into rural communities). My state has something like that, too, although I don’t know if people have moved here specifically for that.

    7. Bar*

      Highly recommend posing this question on Corporette. The significant majority of their readership is lawyers.

      1. Attorney With Questions*

        Good tip. I don’t usually read Corporette but I’ll check it out!

    8. Federal Middle Manager*

      Here are some ideas:
      – Bar association sponsored / low cost malpractice insurance.
      – Bar association sponsored job posting and help matching seekers with firms/associations in their field areas (honestly, “collegial practice” and “different pace of life” scream “you must know somebody to get a job here” to me, so help overcoming that).
      – Low/no cost sponsorships to area networking events. Tons of lawyer networking happens at political and nonprofit fundraisers that are cost prohibitive to new grads with debt. Could the bar association buy a table at the local zoo gala and give the tickets out at a reduced cost to new/new-to-area lawyers?
      – Bar association sponsored transition planning for the graying bar. Talk to your current members about the importance of giving new people opportunities, how to plan to sell their practice, etc. rather than letting them shrivel up and fade away over time.

      1. Attorney With Questions*

        “Collegial” was the best word I could come up with for “far less soul-sucking than big city practice and we treat each other like human beings.” Hm. Maybe we should just say that.

        1. Auntie Social*

          Can you get older attorneys to mentor a younger one? Not take on as an associate, but mentor them. I know I came from a slow, polite southern state. . . to California. I would have liked knowing that you have to confirm every casual conversation at the courthouse in writing, because that wasn’t necessary in my old state. Every state practices differently. Maybe one-on-one mentoring, maybe a one day class of “how to find the courthouse and what to do when you get there”. Mentoring with some experienced litigators and a copy of the local rules would be a nice welcome.

    9. Anon with law degree but not practicing*

      Some things to consider:
      * So many women leave legal practice. What can you do to make your environment friendly for women lawyers who might otherwise give up? “Collegial” sounds more like “good old boys” to me.
      * Does your city/state have good educational opportunities for the children of lawyers who might move there?
      * You aren’t going to compete with candidates who get top NYC law firm offers. What are you doing to go after less traditional candidates?
      * What is the political environment of your state? Many people are ruling out states like Alabama, for example, at the moment.
      * Can you offer summer positions to law school students who might have a connection to the area, and thus might be willing to return?

    10. Hello!*

      I live in Wisconsin so you don’t have to pass the Bar exam in order to practice in the state! I believe that we are one of only two states (maybe Washington?) that don’t require Bar exams.

  32. Free Meerkats*

    At a workshop Wednesday through today. Close enough that I can’t get hotel paid for, but far enough that it wasn’t worth driving back and forth every morning. So I got to pay for my own hotel.

    But it’s worth it to me, I learned things to put us ahead of the curve.

    1. pharmacat*

      I did exactly the same this week. It was a 3 day workshop, so I did the long drive one day. then paid personally for a hotel the other night.

  33. NicoleK*

    My employer employs about 800 people. I’ve been here for 2 1/2 years and am interested in doing something different. My current position is pretty silo and hasn’t given me much opportunities to network with colleagues in other departments or learn about positions in other departments. I’m looking for tips and suggestions on how to successfully navigate moving departments. Is it okay to reach out to colleagues (you’ve never met) for informational interviews? Do you reach out to the hiring manager (you’ve never met) when a position you’re interested in becomes available? I know a lot of this is dependent on the company and culture, but I’d like to hear about what has worked for people. TIA

    1. HappySnoopy*

      Is there any interdepartment committees or open to anyone internal training you could do? Thinking of this primarily as forays into networking rather than “cold calling” colleagues, but could also have a secondary effect of letting you see, learn the types of issues and skills needed in other areas and even how to traslate it from your current position.

    2. Candida*

      Absolutely reach out to your colleagues! People love to talk about themselves. I get these requests often from new-ish employees or interns at my org (500ish people) and usually try to make the time. If you’re contacting someone that you truly don’t know, I might not position it as an informational interview – more that you’re curious about other parts of the company and want to learn more about what they do/their department does. If possible, offer to take them out for coffee – most people will say it’s not necessary but it’s nice to offer something in exchange for their time. (And don’t take it personally if some folks don’t respond, or take a while in responding. Different people, different priorities.)

      1. JJ*

        “If you’re contacting someone that you truly don’t know, I might not position it as an informational interview – more that you’re curious about other parts of the company and want to learn more about what they do/their department does.“

        See, this would annoy me. Personally if you just want to know about my department I can do it on work time. If it is because you’re interested in a job, that’s not work for me. I’m happy to do both but I need to know what I’m agreeing to and choose for myself.

  34. Birch*

    Lunch woes. I’m currently in a tiny office working elbow to elbow with two other people, and currently really regretting not requesting a “no hot lunch” policy for eating at our desks when the others first arrived. Even with the window open, the office smells like hot lunch every single day from noon on, and it’s always the exact same thing, which is good in some ways, and it’s not a BAD smell or anything, but I’m also rapidly approaching BEC stage with one person who always brings hot lunch (the other usually has a sandwich or something). This person also cracks open the lunch box again at 4pm everyday, so it’s pretty much all afternoon, every day. We don’t really have a designated eating area, so most people eat in their offices. I feel like I can’t say anything now because it would be clearly targeting one officemate, I can’t join them because honestly the smell in that tiny room and all the eating sounds cut through headphones and put me off, plus I’d look like a hypocrite if I mention later that it bothers me. So now I’m avoiding the office a lot of the time, but there’s only so much work I can do mobile and I do need to be around. When I have to, I try to have my own lunch on a bench outside while the others are eating, and then eat a lot of strong mints for the rest of the day to try to numb my sense of smell, or work my schedule around avoiding that officemate, which is not really effective. That officemate is leaving at some point for an extended work travel in another team, so I’m looking forward to that. Not really sure what I’m looking for… advice? Commiseration?

    1. Ra94*

      Oof I really commiserate, both as someone who hates food smells that stick around, and who brings a hot lunch every single day. This is only an occasional solution, but could you invite office mate out to lunch- either to your bench if the weather is nice, or to a lunch out? It might help in terms of getting to know her (reducing BEC feelings) and would keep your office smell-free, without singling anyone out.

      1. Birch*

        Yeah, I realize this is entirely on me, and I’m kicking myself because when she started she even asked if I had a preference for lunch. I just didn’t realize at that point that not voicing my opinion would mean hot lunch 2x every single day. We did have a period of time to get to know each other before the 3rd arrived, and the problem is….. I honestly don’t want to spend more time with her. She’s totally nice, we just don’t jive, and there were a few occasions when she just started that we had issues because she ignored some stuff that I told her and made decisions that created problems for me that should not have been problems, so the BEC vibe started pretty early. There is a common room in the building, but I know it’s not always available and is kind of in the middle of things, and I did suggest it when she started but couldn’t say definitely whether people use it regularly for lunch. I was thinking about starting to invite both officemates there for lunch, but then again it’s about how much time I want to spend working up to “hey can we make this the official lunch room instead of the office,” plus the fact that I really want to just eat my own lunch alone!

        1. Ra94*

          I feel your pain, but I suspect you may end up having to choose between eating lunch alone and having a nice-smelling office. It sucks, but there’s really no polite way you can suggest the coworker eats elsewhere without the context of an invite to join you.

          1. valentine*

            there’s really no polite way you can suggest the coworker eats elsewhere
            Of course there is. The worst-case scenario is the coworker never leaves or, when they come back, Birch feels like this mountain has grown exponentially insurmountable. But, unless she is leaving tomorrow, it’s not too late.

            Birch: Llewellen, it turns out the smell of your lunch really carries.
            Llewellen: You said it was fine to eat here. Why don’t you pick on Trinity?
            Birch: I’m just as surprised as you are. Would you mind not eating hot food in here?
            Llewellen: There’s no place else to go because reasons.
            Birch: I can think of a couple of places where you can eat, but I can only do so much work elsewhere. Can we agree that you won’t eat hot food in here going forward?

            It’s not on you to sort alternatives and she can eat wherever she can fit a chair, but be ready to suggest the common room (she could have asked around about it; it’s not on you to have researched), a bench far away from yours, and other places you may have seen.

            If you can, smear some lip balm under your nose and keep a scented cloth to hand to breathe in every so often. A fan might intensify the awful, but I might try scenting the blades and hanging a baby wipe in front of it so that smell comes to me, too.

    2. Lucette Kensack*

      I think you need to reframe this in your mind — maybe that will help with your frustration.

      The problem here is that your employer isn’t providing a place to eat lunch (other than your desk). Your coworker’s lunch choices are not a problem. She’s allowed to eat whatever she wants for lunch.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Of course you can say something — and since it’s just one person who’s eating lunch, it can be a casual request just to that person. Use a variation on Alison’s “this is just something weird about me” script: I’d suggest something like “I never realized it until three of us were in a small room together, but apparently strong smells distract me from work. I’ve tried to find workarounds but I’m still distracted. Would you be willing to eat your lunch outside now that it’s warm enough?”

    4. Bananatiel*

      So for like five years I sat in the first cube nearest the microwave in my old job. What an honor and privilege lol. It was just a constant carousel of smells from like 10:30-3, with a brief break from 3-4, and then it restarted at 4 because 10:30 lunch guy ate dinner at 4. So I get it! Is the smell really lingering that long? Even the fish eaters and other-VERY-strong-smelling-food eaters in my office wouldn’t leave an hours-long smell and I was in a pretty small space. Maybe there’s honestly an issue with the circulation in the building that can be addressed because that seems crazy to me.

      What strikes me as interesting too is you say the smell isn’t bad but you’re also at BEC stage with the hot lunch person– is there ANYTHING else going on with that person that you might need to address? Either with them at work or maybe they’re just not your favorite type of person?

      If not and it’s really just that you don’t like the food smell in the afternoon– I think it’d be reasonable to wait like a half hour after they’re done eating and ask if you can spray an air freshener for the lingering smell. And maybe that just becomes part of the afternoon routine so that you can actually work at your desk. I’d take care to swear up and down that it’s not the food itself, it’s just that the *lingering* aspect bothers you. Blame it on poor ventilation, whatever!

    5. WellRed*

      I commiserate (more on the eating sounds), but I don’t know why it’s so surprising that someone would want to eat a hot lunch every day. There’s also no guarantee a cold sandwich also won’t smell. Is there something else going on here?

    6. LCL*

      What you might push for is a no eating at the desk policy. Cold lunches can be just as stinky. My personal preference is hot lunch 100% of the time. Cold sandwich or other cold lunches are hardship food, eaten when poor or out in the wilderness. I’m telling you my preferences to give you an idea of how strongly partisan the hot lunch crowd will be.

    7. Need a better name, CPA*

      Is she putting lunch refuse in the office paper basket? I ask because that could make the smell linger, or even get worse, all afternoon.
      Of course, with no designated break room, I don’t know where to suggest she throw it away instead.
      As a CPA and a consultant, I worked at a lot of different company locations. In 45 years, I only recall one that didn’t have a place for employees to eat lunch.

  35. Moray*

    What do you do when your position was a mistake? I’m in a newly created role with a very specific (and, it’s apparent, impossible and kind of unwanted) goal, and it’s pretty clear they shouldn’t have created it without a lot more structure in place. The powers that be are notoriously fickle and impulsive and the idea of the position was a shiny new toy that they’re already disinterested in, which means I’m not going to get the buy-in I need to accomplish anything. When I leave, I seriously doubt I will be replaced. How do I tamp down the frustration until I get out?

    1. Crylo Ren*

      I’m afraid I don’t have any real advice here, but I’m in a similar situation. I’m spending my time taking courses in something else that matters to me and will hopefully give me skills that I can leverage elsewhere when I can move on. This helps distract me from how terrible I feel about my current job, because at least I’m still improving myself and doing what I can to make sure that I’m in a good place skills- and knowledge-wise when I do get the chance to leave.

      1. Moray*

        That’s a good idea. I’ve been doing a lot of reading on job-hunting best practices, but I’ll start looking for educational or skill-building stuff as well.

    2. Fortitude Jones*

      That sucks so hard. I think you should do what Chrylo is doing and take courses in something that interests you until you can leave.

  36. Karen from Finance*

    I think our new admin is a psycho – and I’m honestly sorry for the problematic term, I just can’t find a better one.

    On her first week, she has already talked multiple times about how she enjoys hurting animals.

    CW/TW: I’m going to describe what she said, it’s not nice.

    The first time, it was after I mentioned that I have 4 pets and another lady mentioned her husband is a dog trainer. New girl started talking about how she likes to throw shampoo in the eyes of her brother’s dog when her brother’s not looking. The second time it was after I aww’ed at a dog at the street and she suggested she’d like to make it go crack (?!?!). The third time was shortly after that, when she started talking about it again, saying it’s not that she doesn’t like animals, she likes … to hurt them…. and I had to flat-out tell her “stop telling me about it” to get her to stop.

    I’m a bit scared. We don’t even have anyone decent to report her to because this company is insane on several levels.

    (Also, not scary but annoying af, she keeps asking everyone if we have kids and for those of us who don’t have any, she goes “… yet ;)”. And keeps. At it. Lady won’t catch a hint.)

    1. ghostwriter*

      Oh jesus. I think being really direct is the only option here if you don’t have an HR or boss to turn to… maybe something like…

      “Hey Cersei, it really upsets me when you talk about harming animals like you just did. I don’t know if you realize, but you talk about this subject frequently, and I need you to stop. It is frightening and creates a toxic work environment that could cause you or the company issues in the future. I know this sounds rude, but I’ve tried to hint at this previously and you keep bringing this up.”

      1. Cascadian*

        I wouldn’t say it’s upsetting, because she probably enjoys upsetting people. I’d probably ask if she’s practicing to be a serial killer and if that has anything to do with her interest in other people’s children. Maybe ask if she’s been contacted as a person of interest in relevant crimes.
        But that’s just me.

        1. AnnieK*

          I think you’re right that “upsetting” wouldn’t work, but I don’t think dark sarcasm will land right here either. If she thinks she’s being edgy and funny, she’d see your retort as edgy/funny right back and not realize you’re asking her to stop. If, god forbid, she isn’t trying to be funny but is, like, ACTUALLY, a proto-serial killer–that’s not something to joke at.

          I’d do a combination of reporting it up–as people say below, it’s disturbing enough that even an office of bees would probably be horrified, and giving her a flat look/no reaction/possibly a “Please stop saying that. It’s not appropriate in an office environment.”

        2. SignalLost*

          I mean, yeah, I don’t think engaging with how it affects you emotionally is going to reach someone so far out of touch that they joke about (and apparently do) hurting animals. I would tip HR a heads up so they have context, and then I would do exactly what you’ve suggested in your comment, with total dispassion, sort of “the sky is blue, the grass is green, you’re totally a serial killer in practice, the TPS reports are due today” sort of thing.

    2. Holly*

      YIKES!! That’s terrible. I know you say your company is insane, but I still recommend you document and let someone in HR or management know even if they don’t do anything about it for your own protection.

      1. Moray*

        Seconding, It’s probably worth reporting–even the most ineffective managers can be animal lovers, and that might be enough to get them off their asses even when caring about their actual employees wouldn’t.

    3. Lalala*

      …that’s disturbing AF.

      Stuff like this makes me wish there was some kind of way to warn animal shelters/law enforcement about people like this, because enjoying hurting animals is both horrifying and often a precursor to serial killing.

    4. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

      Wow, maybe your descriptor is accurate . . . this is insane and I personally couldn’t stomach working with someone who says things like that. I would straight up call the police if she mentions a specific incident in the future, honestly. Jeez. Can’t believe someone would think these things, let alone say it outloud to someone!?

      1. Karen from Finance*

        That’s the part that’s… well, insane. Is she that far removed that she not only thinks and does these things, but she actually thinks it’s okay to go through life talking about it? Has she never met a human before? She actually seems to find it kind of amusing… ?!?

        How does someone like this get hired??!

    5. Asenath*

      For the animals – say directly and briefly – “Don’t talk to me about things like that”. Include “disgusting’ if you like, and repeat forever, if needed – she doesn’t sound like she takes hints – being short and crystal-clear each time. For the babies, since she’s done this already – “You already asked that” following immediately by something work-related.

    6. irene adler*

      I cannot imagine any circumstance where one would welcome talk about hurting animals. She’s got to have a screw loose in her head to think that is considered polite, work conversation.

      Please document-as others have advised. Let HR know situation.

      Had a next door neighbor who was a little “off”. After I’d adopted two small dogs, I’d found that they were a bit trying as they liked to get up about half a dozen times throughout the night. So when neighbor asked me about how I liked having the dogs, I said that they were exhausting me.

      His response,” Too bad you just can’t kill them if they are giving you trouble.”

      What kind of response is that?

      From that day forward, I always accompanied them when they were in the back yard. Wasn’t sure if neighbor would try something or what. I don’t think he ever did. But better safe than sorry.

      1. TheRedCoat*

        Had a similar problem with my neighbors! I have two big dogs, and when we first moved in they had a tendency to bolt (which hadn’t ever been a problem before). One day, when I was dragging one of my boys back to the house, she stuck her head out of the door to say “I hope he doesn’t get hit by a car! :)” It’s… hard to describe the tone. Sarcasti-happy?

        I immediately stopped hiring her husband for yard work (which sucked, because he was really good and very thorough), and even now that our yard is fenced I don’t let them out unsupervised.

    7. Ra94*

      Uhhh you appear to be working with Villanelle from Killing Eve, which doesn’t often end well for anyone. I don’t really have any work-related advice because you say your company is insane, but as for general ‘maybe is a psychopath advice’- don’t challenge her. Be very boring to her. Don’t trust her, don’t leave your stuff around her, and don’t be alone with her. And document the crazy shit she says in emails to yourself in case the police ever comes knocking (kidding, but only partly?!)

    8. TheRedCoat*

      I once read an article about how there are very few things that most people agree on, and “not hurting animals” is kinda one of them. I’d float it up to HR anyway. Even a weird and toxic company is probably populated by animal lovers.

    9. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I think the phrase you’re looking for is “possible sociopath”. Because seriously that’s potentially criminal behavior.
      Who hired her and who does she report to? THAT is the person to discuss this with. It’s definitely something to warn them to watch out about — enjoying hurting animals is not normal.

      1. Karen from Finance*

        My colleague hired her but he’s out on vacation for the next 2 weeks. And I don’t trust him in general, on grounds that everything works much better without him than with him.

        I might bring this up with my boss but I need to be very careful with my wording. If I’m too serious I’ll be treated like I’m the hostile one, or like I’m exaggerating. Because again, this place is insane.

        1. LCL*

          At most places, saying you are scared of a coworker usually gets some response from management. For specific instances of animal cruelty, either call the law or your local animal protection group.

        2. Natalie*

          Can you just relay her exact words to you boss? It doesn’t require that much explanation as to why you’d find that disturbing.

        3. MMB*

          Definitely document these conversations and if you are comfortable doing so please contact Animal Control in the area where you live and report the abuse of her brother’s dog. This can oftentimes be done anonymously. Throwing shampoo in the dog’s eyes is a legitimate form of animal cruelty that they can take action on and investigate. This serves multiple purposes. First, it helps protect the dog. Second, it puts her on their radar and gets her name in the system in case of future incidents. Tell them EVERYTHING you’ve told us. This type of behavior is typically a precursor of more serious problems and violent behavior. I wish I could offer more constructive help on the work aspect, distance yourself as much as possible.

    10. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is literally a sign of psychopathy. Holy crap.

      I would fire someone for this kind of thing. They move from animals to humans over time, this shows lack of empathy and emotion. It’s one thing to be all “Eh not an animal person” and “Oh I like the PAIN of animals.” Next she’ll tell you about how she poisoned her brother’s dog or something. This is escalating!

      I would honestly just find a way to fire her and get her away from you so you don’t have to deal with that nonsense. I wouldn’t play nice, there’s nobody there that cares, what are they going to do, fire you for telling her to shut her GD piehole? Probably not.

      1. Karen from Finance*

        I wouldn’t play nice, there’s nobody there that cares, what are they going to do, fire you for telling her to shut her GD piehole? Probably not.

        Well, this is very true. Huh.

    11. Karen from Finance*

      So my work friend who is in charge of training her is really mad at her because New Girl keeps hugging her, and WorkFriend is reeeally not the touchy type. She’s not ok with being hugged after you haven’t seen her for a while, not when she’s crying over her ex husband being a jerk, not when she’s just done you a huge favor, just not. But New Girl keeps overstepping her personal boundaries.

      They also had a conversation that went like this:
      NG: so are you my boss?
      WF: no, James is, but he’s on vacation
      NG: oh so when he’s not here you’re my boss
      WF: no
      NG: why don’t you want to be my boss?

      This is all her FIRST WEEK FFS.

      I’ve come to the conclusion she enjoys making people uncomfortable, so I’m doing my best to react at her with a raised eyebrow and not show how creepy I find her. Because the truth is also that I don’t think she’s smart enough to be an actual danger and I’m already job hunting.

      But still.

      1. valentine*

        This came up last week. Someone’s coworker enjoys grossing people out and showed everyone a pornographic video. Some of the advice there might work for you. Also, the letter where the coworker showed OP some horrifically violent video.

        1. Karen from Finance*

          Thank you, I’ll check it out again. I never thought I’d end up relating to some of our weirder letters but here we are.

  37. La la laaaa*

    Very small work issue — I’m being sent to a conference for work in big US city where my sister (and half my friends) happen to live. This is my first full-time position, and my first time being sent for work travel. I’m planning to extend the trip by a few days, work from there (I work remotely), and spent some time with friends/family. My managers are fine with this. The plan was to train up the evening before the conference, stay in a hotel that night, go to conference all day, and then either train home or stay with my sister for the rest of the week.

    However, when I clarified the plan, my manager asked if I can just stay with my sister the night before the conference as well. Is this strange? He wasn’t pushy about it at all, and I feel like I could easily say no, but the whole thing feels a bit weird. I’m the youngest person at the company, and I feel like I wouldn’t be asked to essentially sleep on my sister’s couch for a work trip if I were older/more distinguished.

    So what should I say? It would be fine for me to stay at sister’s, honestly, but I feel like refusing on principle. On the one hand, it would be mildly inconvenient: she is younger than me, lives with roommates, doesn’t have a spare room, and lives about 25-30 min commute from the conference. But on the other, I am genuinely quite young and hardy — I’d surely be fine and well-rested sleeping on a couch and was planning to do so the rest of the week anyway. I can’t tell if I’m mildly annoyed because of the actual inconvenience/principle of the thing, or if I’m just being bratty because I was just excited to stay in a hotel for a night.

    1. TCO*

      I think it’s fine to say that you’d like to stay in a hotel the night before the conference as is your company’s custom, because staying in the hotel will help you be better-rested for work and closer to the conference. It’s kind of unusual, especially if you’re working for a for-profit, to be asked to cut costs by staying with family members for work travel. It’s not bratty at all to want the basic comforts that make work travel more comfortable and productive.

      1. valentine*

        Did you explain you’d be on a couch? It’s fine to say no, thanks. Start as you mean to go on and maybe give fewer details next time (unless you have to explain where you’ll be working from).

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I would really insist on the hotel, especially if it’s in or near the conference area. I honestly don’t think that you would get the level of rest you need in order to be on top of your game if you sleep on your sister’s sofa. (You don’t have to furnish any details about her living situation.) Conferences are exhausting. Plus, the hotel is right there; it’s silly to stay thirty minutes away.

      I realize your manager might want to save money, but this is part of the cost of doing business.

    3. A Simple Narwhal*

      I agree with TCO.

      Perhaps they’re under the impression that your sister’s place is closer to the conference than it is. If you get push back, you could clarify that while she is close enough to visit after the conference, she’s not actually close enough that you would feel comfortable commuting from it the morning of.