open thread – May 24-25, 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.

{ 1,722 comments… read them below }

  1. Higher Ed Admin?*

    I’m a recent-ish grad who’s looking into a career in higher education administration, and I’m interested in learning the AAM community’s thoughts about the field. Hearing people’s likes or dislikes about the field as well as words of advice for those considering it (or perhaps words of caution!) would be helpful. For what it’s worth, I’m a fairly introverted person who enjoys writing, research, and record-keeping, and I’m wondering if any roles in higher ed admin would work well with those qualities. Thanks in advance!

    1. tesserae*

      Institutional research and accreditation! The work is interesting, there’s a lot of writing and data analysis involved, and you’ll work with a wide constituency. Along those same lines, research development, which is typically the department that supports the grant-seeking academic departments (at universities that do research. They all do institutional research/accreditation).

      1. Gene Parmesan*

        I was just coming to comment this! I’ve worked in institutional research for 3 years and I love it. The work is interesting and varied, and it plays a meaningful role in decision-making. I am also an introvert, and I like that it’s not a public-facing role. I do have to talk and present to stakeholders such as college leadership and the board of trustees from time to time, but I don’t mind that. There are some tasks which have the potential to be repetitive/more of a grind, but I approach these with a problem-solving mindset and work towards becoming more efficient and automating them to the extent possible. I have also been able to maintain engagement with the academic research community (my background is in education policy), which is important to me.

        1. Oh So Anon*

          Hey, we’re twins! One of the things I loved about working in institutional research (I’m in an IR-adjacent role now) is that it provided opportunities here and there for doing things that are more public-facing without necessarily having them be a core part of my role.

    2. Not my usual name*

      Research Administration or Research Development could be good! There’s a lot of different types of positions in those areas that could work for those interests.

    3. Lovecraft Beauty*

      I love working in higher ed. As you get higher in management, the work-life balance gets worse and the pay isn’t going to be great, but the benefits are generally as good as you’re going to get in a non-union job (including some stuff that you won’t get anywhere else, like access to research libraries, if that’s something you care about — I do), and it’s really nice to be working to make the world better.

    4. Rainy*

      I work in higher ed :) I have a lot of direct student contact because of my role, but that’s definitely not always the case.

      There are a lot of roles in research administration that involve writing, research, and record-keeping (NCURA is the professional organization). If you have grant-writing experience, most unis have an office solely to serve as consultants to help faculty and grad students write grants. I think there are a lot of place you could find a home in higher ed. If you have a target city, look for all the colleges and universities in the area and then hit their individual career pages and look at what’s available. That will help you narrow your search and give you an idea of what’s out there!

      1. Not my usual name*

        SRAI is another professional org for research administration

        Research Development’s org is NORDP

    5. Hermione*

      I’ve been in the field for over 7 years at two large universities in the Northeast US, starting as a department admin/undergraduate advisor and eventually ending up in course scheduling in the registrar’s office. A registrar’s office role might be a good one for you, especially in transcripts or archives/records management.

      My current role has very little student interaction, but plenty of interactions with faculty and staff (many of my colleagues speak to students much more often). I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.

      1. Catwoman*

        I’ve worked in higher ed for just over 5 years. My biggest piece of advice is to decide if you want to work in a student-facing/serving environment (like advising or student recruitment) or a more behind-the-scenes environment (like institutional research, course scheduling or grants). There are also some roles that are more of a balance between those two extremes.

        1. Hermione*

          Agreed, though I know of people who have switched very easily between the two during their careers. I lean towards introverted, but I (almost) never minded the one-on-ones with students in an advising role.

          Many entry-level roles in the field lean student- or faculty-serving, though, so my advice, OP, would be to keep in mind that if you don’t love your first job in the field not to be soured on the field as a whole. For me, I would never, ever, ever want to go back to a full faculty-support role (dept admin), but don’t mind having to communicate with them in my current position (for the most part, anyway :)).

    6. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      My sense is that there is a big backlash brewing against higher-ed administration. It has been bloated for a while, and you hear rumblings from many quarters about its role in driving up tuition and indebtedness.

      Academic administration covers a lot of ground, so depending on what interests you, I would focus on developing transferable skills you can use in many sectors. If you like data, for example, you can work in institutional research or go private sector.

      Avoid the temptation of graduate programs in academic administration. They are not respected, and they are not transferable.

      1. Rainy days*

        Agreed. Any skill you can use in the private sector, you can use in higher ed administration.

        My husband works in communications and digital strategies at a graduate school and he overall really enjoys his specific position, but there’s been a lot of turnover among his coworkers due to a combination of: the top-most person at the school being kind of crazy and horrible, people moving into the field from the private sector with zero understanding of what the differences will be then getting frustrated and leaving, and bullying of staff by the students (upon the slightest disagreement with any of the staff, certain students won’t hesitate to create social media and email campaigns disparaging them).

      2. Oh So Anon*

        This depends on the program and your prior work experience, though. Transferability is certainly more of a challenge for the people who’ve built up careers on the student-facing side of academic admin, whereas lots of institutional research folk I know with MEd degrees didn’t struggle to leave for the private sector, for example.

        Maybe this is specific to the region I live in though, but one thing I do find is that public policy/administration degrees (and to be perfectly honest, anything related to government relations) tend to be misunderstood within higher ed admin. It’s a big part of why I decided against the MPP/MPA route – it would likely leave me in a position where I’d still be fighting an uphill battle to establish the credibility/relevance of my subject matter expertise within higher ed but also make me an outsider in most public policy circles.

    7. Ruth (UK)*

      I work in admin in a university in the UK. I’ve been in this job for over a year and mostly enjoy it. I’m based in an academic school but in an admin role (so I give administrative support mostly to academics, as opposed to being based in a non-academic or administrative department like finance, marketing, recruitment, hr, timetabling, etc).

      For my role, it helps to be extroverted. It’s quite busy in a shared office space where academic staff, students (undergrad and post grad), visitors, delivery people and so on are frequently coming in and asking for help, information, etc. However, there are other roles within the uni where that may not be the case. However, at least where I am, having one’s own office in an administrative position only tends to happen very high up the hierarchy and sharing at least 3 or more to an office is the norm (with sharing in large open plan offices is very normal). My office has 5 desk spaces and is used regularly by 7 different people (due to some part time people and hot desking) and on occasion by other people.

      I find my role is quite varied and is mostly desk based but not sitting down all day.

      I do a bunch of record keeping, finance tracking, form checking, etc.

      I often find there’s quite a lot of form filling in, procedures, ‘red tape’, authorisation needed, etc. But not as bad as when I worked in the NHS.

      I get slightly more annual leave than is standard. My workplace is also quite good at accomodating needs for flexible working and is quite an inclusive workplace (for example, very LGBT+ friendly/inclusive etc).

      Overall, I think the pros outweigh the cons but also, it may depend a lot on what particular role, department, and institution (and country) you’re in.

      1. Fr Spodo Komodo*

        I’m also in HE in the UK – was in London and now in Scotland – and can echo much of what you said, especially leave, flexible working and inclusivity. It does, in my experience, take a lot of energy to be in a role which is directly facing both academics and students, partly because of the reasons you mentioned (and especially the open-plan bit!). I also find that the work is incredibly varied, meaning that I get to wear a lot of different hats in one week (in fact, I find focusing on one task for the whole day week means I get a bit antsy sometimes!).

        In my experience, some of the more centrally-located roles (rather than roles within an academic school or dept) can leave more space for things like writing and research, and would support the suggestion of looking at research-focused positions rather than student-facing. Depending on the structure of the organisation, there might also be roles within whichever department is responsible for academic regulation and policy which could suit you.

        I definitely think there are elements of HE admin which are challenging, but what job isn’t? I came into HE immediately after I graduated, just after a massive recession, and I’ve been here for the last 8 years, making steady progress into management and getting tons of opportunities along the way, even managing to complete a masters alongside study. Basically, give it a shot!

    8. Sabrina Spellman*

      I work in a registrar’s office at a University and generally, I love the work! I am introverted as well and I don’t always have to communicate with people often as I spend most of my time working in the student information system. Happy to answer any questions you have!

    9. Wordnerd*

      You can take a look at the kinds of jobs available at higheredjobs.com. Jobs with “Assessment” anywhere might be up your alley. Echoing registrar and institutional research recommendations from other comments.

    10. Higher Ed Admin?*

      I’m thrilled to have received so many responses so far! It’s sounds like there are definitely opportunities that would fit my personality and skills, which is exciting. Something else I wanted to ask about is grad school…I’ve seen a lot about Master’s degrees in higher education administration. Would it be useful to have this degree if I wanted to pursue this field?

      1. Minerva McGonagall*

        A master’s in HEA or something similar are often used by people working directly with student populations. I work in Student Life and my master’s is in Education. Some HEA programs will have more focus on Institutional Research, or the admin side of things, but many will focus on counseling skills or student life.

        Our registrar actually has her master’s in history, and that was because she needed a master’s degree for a promotion. So for some positions, any master’s will do.

      2. Zephy*

        If you’re trying to break into the field, you probably won’t need a Master’s degree, and in fact that might make you more difficult to hire if you’re applying for lower or entry-level positions (they will assume, likely rightly, that you’ll want more money because you’re paying off graduate school loans). If you want one, working for a university means you’ll very likely get some kind of tuition discount or reimbursement benefit. The best advice I ever got regarding master’s-level degrees is to get someone else to foot the bill for it, if you can’t afford to pay 100% out-of-pocket.

        1. Libervermis*

          Could I tack on a question about this? I’m also interested in higher ed admin, particularly things like advising, study abroad, grant/program management, etc, but just graduated with a humanities PhD and haven’t gotten any bites on my applications. Could just be a numbers/fit thing, but of course I worry that the PhD and lack of HEA Masters makes everyone assume I’ll jump ship for a faculty job in a year. I try to address that in my cover letter, but does the commentariat think an HEA Masters might be a good move? I’d love to avoid yet more schooling if I could, and I worked hard during grad school to do things like advising, student conduct boards, organizing big cross-university events, etc, but I know that’s not the same as years of job experience.

          1. Alphonse*

            I work in a student-facing role in a mid-size university in the Midwest and have an M.Ed. in Student Affairs/Higher Ed, and having just recently gone through a job search for my first full-time role in the field, I think it’s helpful to note that these types of advising/study abroad/ etc. positions don’t open up all that frequently, especially if you are focused on a specific geographic region. I wouldn’t jump into a grad program unless you get funding through a Graduate Assistantship in one of the functional areas you are interested in, which most of the time will cover most if not all of your tuition and provide a modest living stipend (which I’m sure is a concept you’re already aware of having just gone through a PhD). It’s a small field with what tends to be a long hiring process, so I’d give it a fair bit of time (at least 6 months searching) before you consider going for a master’s on top of your other credentials.

          2. Awkward Interviewee*

            In my opinion, no the HEA Masters would be a waste of time and money. For many of these positions, they want a master’s level degree (or higher) plus experience, but it doesn’t necessarily matter what the master’s degree is in. It is very possible that the PhD is turning search committees off depending on the level of job you’re applying to, but a HEA Masters wouldn’t fix that. It also can take quite awhile to break into a University, because they tend to do a lot of hiring from within. I’m an academic advisor with a completely unrelated Masters degree. I had one job search take 1.5 years (but that one was during the recession in 2009-2010) and a later search when I wanted to relocate took about 6 months. For that second search, my rate of getting at least a first round interview was about 50%, even without the HEA Masters.

          3. Wells*

            I did the career transition you’re aiming at–finished a humanities PhD and then went into admin. I did have to push against the assumption that I would leave for a teaching job. What helps is having a clearly articulated vision of why the staff side is right for you, and to be able to share that in a compelling way in cover letters and interviews. Once you find a hiring committee that believes in you and you get some work experience under your belt, you won’t be seen as a flight risk any longer.

            I strongly advise NOT doing more school. Too often, PhDs who are leaving academia fall back on additional education as a means to change careers, since education is a comfort zone for them. Work experience in the field will be worth so much more than additional education at this point.

            1. Libervermis*

              Thank you all, and particularly thank you Wells, always nice to see that someone managed to walk the track I’m trying for. I’ll revisit cover letters with a more narrative angle and see where that gets me. I’ll think I’ll be more confident that it’s just a numbers game if I can get even a couple phone screens/first-round interviews. The total silence makes me think it must be something wrong with me, but I also know (intellectually and first-hand) that there just aren’t a ton of positions anyways and they have longer hiring processes than one would think.

              1. Wells*

                Hang in there! After landing my first term position relatively quickly it took me many applications with no responses to snag something permanent. Now that I’ve found the right landing spot, I’ve really flourished and moved up.

                Literally one of the first questions I was asked in an admin interview was “you have a PhD–why do you want this job?” I was very relieved to have a genuine and positive answer.. something along the lines of “I love working with students and being part of a community campus! This job lets me continue using the skills I’ve learned as an instructor, and it would give me more stability than an academic job search can offer.” Plus a joke about how I don’t want to leave the super cold winters to pursue a job in another city… I think partly they wanted to know that I wasn’t a snob who saw this job as below them, or who really hadn’t thought through the difference between academic and administrative roles.

                One thing that really helped me was talking through my career situation with my non-academic friends and acquaintances, and then stealing the language that they used when they mirrored it back to me. It was great practice for polishing that narrative, and it helped me shift my language and mindset out of the ivory tower.

          4. Not that kind of doctor*

            I also moved from a humanities PhD to admin fairly recently. I had worked a couple years as a department admin before grad school (where realized I didn’t like being the de facto personal assistant to professors…), so that may have helped a bit, but the interviewers for my current position definitely pressed me to see what my real interests were and make sure I wouldn’t leave right away. On the plus side, it really resonated with them to say that I want to be surrounded by smart people doing good work that matters, and I want to help make things happen.

            I got in the door on a 6-month part-time hourly contract at not-ideal pay, which I supplemented with another part-time gig. My group continued to like my work and have more for me to do, which kept me going until something more permanent opened up. I now have a title and salary that should be a strong position from which to build my career. You may be already doing this, but use AAM’s advice to highlight the organizational work you did during your degree as relevant experience. Plus, you speak the language of academia, which is a plus if you’re going to work with faculty, grants, events, guest speakers, and such.

            As others have said, once you’re in, it’s easier to move around within the university, and the benefits are pretty amazing, even if the salary is fixed in bands. I keep my hand in the game of academic conferences and such, so I love using the library, not to mention the gym, fitness classes, matching retirement contributions, etc. For me personally, I found that I prefer working mostly with other staff rather than serving faculty directly, since they can be a bit imperious: they want X to happen and don’t understand/care that it’s logistically impossible.

          5. Cassie*

            I don’t know anything about an HEA masters, but my suggestion would be to simply apply for staff positions within an academic department rather than go for a degree.

            For example, we have 3 staffers who work in the grad student affairs office, 1 person who is considered the graduate advisor (not an academic advisor). The grad advisor does not have a college degree, but has years of experience as advising students. She started out many moons ago as a clerical worker in a different dept, and then when the student affairs position opened up in that dept, she applied for it and got it. And then a few years later, moved on to our (larger) department.

            The trick is to network and make connections with other people around campus. One of the advantages of working on campus is that you’ll inevitably interact with central departments and/or other academic departments, so there’s plenty of opportunities for different jobs.

        2. blackcat*

          Yes, someone I know who is lower level in my university administration is pursuing a masters in education (not MAT or masters in higher ed, just an MA in educational studies). She said she needs the degree to move up. Without a masters–and it sounds like any, vaguely related masters–there’s a ceiling.

        3. Mimmy*

          I too have a question: I am interested in one specific component of higher education: disability services. There is a Masters degree for this, but as far as I know, only one school offers it. It was created in collaboration with a major professional association in the field and has only been around for about 3-4 years but people I’ve talked to seem to really like it. Hopefully more schools will follow suit.

          Would I be shooting myself in the foot if I pursued this? I am not currently working in this capacity but the curriculum entails everything I want to learn about. I’m just concerned because 1) only one schools offers this degree and, thus, is probably not well-known yet and 2) although the director said some of the course content has broader applicability, it might be too narrow to transfer elsewhere if working in this field doesn’t pan out.

          1. Janey-Jane*

            One of my grad school peers works in disability services, and that was his goal during school. He GA’d in the DS office for two years, and then interned for a semester at another school, if I recall. If you can also apply to schools that have grad assistantships in that department, you’ll be well covered in experience. It’s a really small field, but once you get experience in it (and I assume are flexible in location), the jobs are there, because you’ll get hired over someone with experience elsewhere in higher ed.

          2. Ella*

            I think work experience, like a grad assistantship or internshipin accessibility services, would be much more attractive than just a degree. If you want a higher ed degree, I’d look for one that offers or requires grad assistantships/internships vs one just specializing in that one topic. I work in higher ed, not in accessibility services. When we hire a degree is a plus but experience is a must.

      3. Eeyore's missing tail*

        That can be tricky. I’m in high ed administration and am working on an MPA right now. The way I view it, if I choose not to stay in higher ed, this degree will more likely give me skills that I can transfer to other areas, such as non-profit or government. But, I know know that the for-profit world isn’t for me. I know a lot of people who earned a master’s in high education, adult education, and college student administration. It all depends on what you want to do.

        And if you’re working in higher ed, see what they’ll pay for! My institutions pays for my program tuition and fees, but they are particular about which programs they pay for. And learn the ins and out of the policy. Higher ed does seem to love complicated policies.

        1. Gimme Shelter*

          Eeyore, I too work in higher-education administration and have an MPA degree. It’s true that higher-ed institutions are bursting at the seems, and that the field is ripe for a shakeup. I would choose a master’s degree that is broader such as education, public administration, or business administration.

    11. Weegie*

      Echoing others that have suggested supporting grant writing – it can be really interesting exploring others’ research. You might need a master’s degree for that, though, and a PhD doesn’t go amiss (depending on where you are located in the world).

      Also consider knowledge exchange or business development (that’s what they’re called in the UK; not sure about other places). You would still be supporting researchers, but in disseminating their work to business, industry, NGOs, etc. If you’re the sort of introvert who extraverts really well, this is interesting work as you get to interact with researchers and loads of people outside the academy.

      Downsides: some faculty members can be a bit snotty about and towards administrators. Upside: this gets you lots of experience in *dealing with tricky people* :-)

    12. Minerva McGonagall*

      Higher education is great! I started right after I graduated from my undergrad. My master’s degree was free because I got it at the school I worked at. For the most part, you’ll need a masters to move up in the higher education world. There are also a number of other benefits (libraries, fitness, possible summer hours).

      There can be a lot of politics involved, and there are always dysfunctional offices. If you see an office that has had a significant amount of turnover, it’s certainly worth further investigation as to why.

      I agree with tesserae about IR and accreditation for someone with an interest in writing and research! At larger schools, there may also be positions in development research, so you’d be looking at trends in fundraising and developing.

      1. Higher Ed Admin?*

        Thanks so much for your comment! Is a Master’s degree specifically in higher education administration generally what’s expected in this field?

      2. Researchalator Lady*

        There can also be lots of politics involved in IR — leadership asking for reporting to further their agenda, or not being able to change terrible practices (pie charts, eugh!) that were being used before you came on the scene. So that can be very frustrating.

    13. College Career Counselor*

      Operations/prospect research in development and fundraising come to mind! As do grant-writing and research, registrar’s office work and project management for academic research!

      For me, at least, the best part of the field is working with students, and I like working with people who are pulling in the same direction to make the student academic and co-curricular experience as rewarding as possible. We all do different things, but they’re all in service to the education (in one way or another) of the student population.

    14. twig*

      I’m classified staff at a state university. (admin assistant) I love it here.

      Pros:
      -The Mission (how can you not get behind the mission to educate people?)
      -Pension
      -Diverse population (not just ethnically or culturally — we have all sorts of different people with various interests)
      -Education benefits (I can take up to 2 classes per semester as long as it doesn’t interfere with my work — some managers will allow you to make up the hours if you take a class during work hours)
      -Also, it’s nice to work somewhere pro-education that is willing to pay for training
      -Job Security (this will not always apply) I live in a “right to work” state, which means that you can be let go for any reason at any time. This does NOT apply at my institution. (probably because it’s state job), we have to be formally warned and cannot be fired on the whim of a grouchy supervisor
      -Its a pretty place to work. if I need a break, I can go walk around campus for a bit
      – The campus is like a small town — my work is a community (more so that I’ve ever felt working in industry)
      -Good leave policies (I get 2 weeks PTO and 2 weeks sick leave per year and can save those up, we also have generous bereavement and civil leave. I didn’t have to use Sick leave to got to my aunt’s funeral 2 states away and I didn’t have to use PTO when I had Jury duty for 2 weeks)
      – Just the Energy on campus when things are happening is fabulous! we just had commencement last week, the joy, relief, pride emanating from the students and their families was amazing.
      – Once you’ve gotten a job on a campus, it will be easier to get other jobs on campus, especially if you have occasion to interact with other departments and build up your reputation.

      Cons:
      -Pay — will not necessarily be as high as it would be for similar positions in industry and, for state institutions, anyway, raises can be held at the mercy of the state legislature when the economy tanks (our state still hasn’t fully restored educational funding back to pre-2008 levels)
      -Some departments are better run than others (I’m lucky with where I landed, I’ve heard nightmare stories about other departments)
      -Its harder to fire crummy workers (this is the other side to the “Job Security” pro above) however, it can be done with the proper documentation and processes.
      -Academic departments can have the problem of people being promoted to chair/head of the department due to seniority, but have little leadership or management training
      -Academics can be single minded in their pursuits focusing only on their research/topic without regard for how to make things work logistically speaking, which can make it difficult, at times, to work with them — but it’s really just a matter of understanding what is important to them and figuring out how to work with them individually
      -Things move more slowly than in Industry — more decisions are made by committee (this can also be a “Pro” you have a little more time to get up to speed. When I’ve started new positions in industry, it always feels like I need to hurry up and get good at my job so that I can make the company money. In academia, it’s more a matter of getting up to speed to be able to help people and do your job more efficiently — which is a different kind of urgency)

      I could probably go on and on, but I HIGHLY encourage you to pursue a career in higher education. Even landing a classified (as opposed to administrative faculty) position will get your foot in the door and you will be able to explore and learn more about the options around campus.

      1. Higher Ed Admin?*

        Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a detailed pros and cons list! This information is really good to know.

    15. Joe Smoe*

      I graduated 3 years ago and have been working for a university. During this time I have learned that higher ed really does have great benefits and work-life balance but the two downfalls for me are: not very high or competitive salaries or even the ability to negotiate higher pay, and you cannot move up very fast as everything is standardized – aka just being very excellent at your job will not move you up as quickly as you hoped. There are more policies and regulations put in place that a university has to be careful about compared to businesses. Just my thoughts!

    16. Kimmybear*

      Higher ed administration is incredibly diverse and can cover a wide range of areas. Someone above mentioned NCURA for research administrators but also check out some of the other associations (NAFSA for international student and faculty support, NACUBO for business officers).

    17. kj*

      I got a call this morning with a job offer that is a 20% pay bump!, I’m also the final candidate at an amazing company for a position that would give me a lot of opportunities, hopefully by the end of the day I will have 2 offers. :) Thankfully it’s a holiday weekend so I’ll have time to decide.

      1. kj*

        So I got my second offer end it was 50% more than I am making now! plus amazing benefits.

        1. Candace*

          Congrats! I too work in higher ed admin, in a pretty upper level position – a Dean. Pay does suck early on, but if you move up, it can be very good indeed.

    18. ThinMint*

      I work in higher ed, in a business office but not a student facing role. For the most part, I really really love it.

      Pros:
      mostly relaxed atmosphere
      great benefits
      pretty good work life balance
      i like the excitement of the new class coming in. it’s wonderful to feel connected to a larger mission

      Cons:
      my position is much more butt in seat than i want it to be
      bureaucracy abounds
      some employees have gotten into the system and are coasting until retirement with unprofessional behavior that goes unchecked
      pay is lower (but again, benefits for me make up for that)

    19. Mimmy*

      No advice as I have no experience but I am following along as I too am interested in higher education, specifically, disability services and/or ADA compliance.

      I will echo the recommendation for HigherEdJobs – you can search jobs in a variety of categories. You can save your searches so that you get an email alerting you to postings with your specified criteria. The site also has articles on job searching and career development in higher education.

    20. Marie*

      I work in higher ed in a student facing role. I agree with what others have suggested about positions to consider. One other thing I would suggest looking into would be to see if your university has any temporary staffing services as that can be a good way to get your foot in the door, learn the systems, and then figure out more about what role would best suite you.

      As for getting a Master’s, I might wait on that until you have an idea of what role you might want to pursue on campus. Some positions require them, some don’t.

      Also as another reader noted, higher ed is facing a lot of pressure from rising tuition costs. Because of this, many institutions are restructuring and/or downsizing. Ours is currently restructuring and while people have not lost jobs, many are being expected to take on additional work without a pay increase. So just be aware of that as you’re job searching. Good luck!

    21. Megasaurusus*

      I’m echoing a lot of the comments here, but the more consistency you see in responses the more accurate I think it is to the world of higher ed. I work in Financial Aid and have a lot of contact with students, but balance that with a lot of close the door and do introverted excel spreadsheet work – which makes for the perfect balance for me.

      One thing people haven’t mentioned is the difference between working for a private university or a public university. I think this makes a huge difference in terms of the volume of work, regulations, and culture. I prefer to work for private universities, because if you are aligned with the culture and mission you have more autonomy and agency to makes positive changes.

      Pros: work-life balance – there are no emergencies in higher ed, you leave the work at work and go home. Tons of time off for holidays that people in other professions don’t get. Good benefits. Absurdly great 401k (my university requires 5% and then matches 8%). Manageable work load, and easy communication with supervisors who are genuinely open to improvement, opportunity to do volunteer and service work within your paid working shifts. Very positive work environment.

      Cons: low pay, no clear path for promotion within a department, if you want to move up, you usually have to change departments or schools, consensus driven culture means changes are watching-paint-dry slow, faculty that doesn’t understand how strict regulations are and has animosity toward administration for things beyond our control, Slow periods with nothing to do, followed by oppressively busy rushes according to the academic calendar. Lack of performance driven incentives drives a poor cultural fits into apathy and resentment.

      It’s really about a culture fit – there’s no room for ambitious people, but it’s a great place for people who enjoy a simpler life, a slower pace, and the peace of mind that comes from doing a good day’s work that you can easily put behind you to spend time with your friends, family, and hobbies.

      1. cactus lady*

        I definitely agree with your assessment about public vs private institutions! I have worked at both and definitely prefer private. One thing to keep in mind though is that some private institutions are struggling, since enrollment is going down and the amount of tuition they need to subsidize is going up. Since they rely mostly on students for income (rather than grants or other sources of funding, which were a large portion of income for the departments I worked at in public institutions), I’d say it would be a good idea to look into how an institution is doing financially as best you can when considering to apply there.

      2. Catsaber*

        “because if you are aligned with the culture and mission” this is absolutely true in terms of any school. I worked at a small private university first, and hated it. I was not in line with their values, and so I didn’t fit in, and didn’t last long. I’m at a big state school now and while it definitely has its problems, I have enjoyed my time here, and hope to stay until retirement. But that’s just me. I’ve heard from a lot of colleagues at other state schools that it’s just awful. Being aligned with the culture makes a huge difference!

        “faculty that doesn’t understand how strict regulations” oh my lord, yes. I’d be a millionaire if I had a dollar for every time I told a faculty member “that’s actually illegal”. It’s not that they’re actively trying to break the law, there’s just a BUNCH of laws and codes and they feel like all of these rules hamper them.

        1. blackcat*

          I am the only person in my department who thoroughly enforces the policy of only sending emails to students’ institution emails. Everyone else replies to student emails that come from Gmail addresses and the like.
          But FERPA is a thing! No one seems to understand this!
          Just me, the lone child of lawyers in a sea of scientists.

          1. Catsaber*

            I’m currently a data warehouse developer who came here from data analysis. Believe me, I’ve fought the FERPA battles!! With high level administrators! who have been here longer than I have!!

      3. Cassie*

        I would slightly disagree that there aren’t emergencies in higher ed. For those in the non-academic side of things, sure – when it’s quitting time, you leave work behind and go home. For those on the research (or research-support) side, you may have to work late or over the weekend to meet deadlines. Some of which you don’t find out about until the day of.

    22. cactus lady*

      The benefits are fantastic (I get 6 weeks vacation a year and can actually use it!), the pay isn’t great, most places are pretty good with work/life balance.

    23. fundraising person*

      Just wanted to put in a plug for considering fundraising research. There are entry-level positions, you don’t need to have gone to grad school, and it is a great fit for people who are introverted but good at writing and research (the research being people). It’s helpful if you ever want to branch out most non-profits with large development staff have at least a few researchers as well. Just something to consider!

    24. Catsaber*

      I’ve spent my whole career in higher ed, mostly IT. I’ve worked at a small private school and a large state school in the DFW area. The pay in higher ed tends to be on the low side, but they often make up for that with great benefits (often, but not always). Also, because of the low pay, there’s just never enough people to get all the work done – which can drive you nuts sometimes, but you can also gain a lot of skills and experience you’d otherwise never get.

      Like most jobs, it comes down to the manager. I’ve had great ones and horrible ones at both schools. Overall I still prefer the big state school over the small private one, because it’s more diverse and inclusive, and I feel like they are making a difference in the world in terms of research.

    25. AnonNotmyNormalName*

      I work in higher ed but not in the US so some things may be a little different; however, one thing that I see that hasn’t been fully noted is culture with regards to faculty. In my experience (worked in both support units and departments) there is a huge culture difference once you’re in a department. The culture shock between industry and a support unit isn’t that great, but its a different world once you’re in an academic unit. Staff can very much be treated as second class citizens. I don’t fully agree with the ambition comment above that seems to depend a lot more on the department and the person. But I do agree that career paths aren’t always obvious.

      I do think it’s important to think about transferable skills to the private sector if possible when looking at jobs. And this may not be popular (and I realize the US may be different) but I also see a lot of value in someone having industry experience before working at a university.

      1. From My Seat in An Empty Academic Unit*

        I completely agree with this. If you are going into an academic unit or other position where you interact a lot with faculty, you are entering an alternate universe. Faculty are not bad, but they are certainly different.

        I’ve seen some people who care a lot about “fairness” have a lot of difficulty being a staff member who interacts with faculty – there are a different set of rules governing faculty.

    26. unigirl*

      I work in Higher Ed. It’s a great field and very interesting. A lot of Universities, especially private ones have wonderful benefits. My word of warning– there are LOTS of politics involved in EVERYTHING.

    27. Higher Ed Admin?*

      Thank you everyone for all of the wonderful comments! I really appreciate the detailed, thoughtful information you’ve shared.

  2. Peaches*

    I’ve been waiting since Wednesday for this thread!

    My problematic coworker is officially being let go. Her boss sent the following email on Wednesday:

    I have let (problematic coworker) know that we have decided to go another direction for the Teapot Specialist position. She has agreed to stay on as a temp while we look to fill that position until she finds something else. Please keep this in mind when asking her to help you with anything, it is entirely possible that she finds another job and leaves before she is finished. Do not make any promises to customers that this could affect. I will post this position today and I already have 2 candidates in mind so hopefully we will not have a long gap.

    I think by the time I sent her the email on what she needed to improve on, I think it was simply too late. Many of our sales people had already complained to her boss that she wasn’t working out. I think her boss figured they should let her go while she is still under the temp agency that we got her from.

    While I think this decision is for the best, I’m definitely frustrated that I’m going to invest so much time and effort in training another person for this position. I know that things like this are part of the job, but selfishly I wish she could have turned things around and worked out.

    Here’s to hoping the next person in her position is a better fit, more trainable, and excels at the position long term!

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Aw, that sucks. I remember your posts about this, and was hoping for both your sakes that she would get it together, but apparently your intervention didn’t come soon enough. I hope she will land on her feet somewhere she can actually excel and that you get a more coachable candidate the next go round.

    2. Peaches*

      Also wanted to mention that I don’t think Problematic Coworker realizes that our boss gave us a heads up about her upcoming departure. She has acted totally normal, and has been talking to our sales people about her future plans for certain Teapot jobs.

      1. Good luck with that*

        Oh, dear, I hope she realizes that “until she finds something else” does NOT mean they won’t let her go as soon as they find someone else.
        I could totally see her dilly-dallying on a job search because she thinks there’s no hurry.

    3. CatCat*

      Well, this seemed inevitable once she failed to turn things around after your email to her. Your company is being pretty generous keeping her on until she finds something else.

      Sorry this will mean more work for you. I hope the next recruitment will lead to a successful fit!

    4. WellRed*

      I know it sucks to start over, but I think you’ll be so much better off in the long run. As long as the right person is hired, it’s easier to train a better (smarter, better fit, whatever) person than someone with the issues she’s had.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It is waaaaaaaaaaay better to let her go while still under a temp agency contract, that’s for sure! Also I’m flinching at the fact that this was a temp placement [I haven’t followed your story, so I assume that it’s a temp-to-hire position] because that’s really typical for that kind of setup. I say that as a former temp who found permanent placement through the agency years ago and have had awful experiences with trying to use the agencies to fill spots throughout the years.

      It’s frustrating when someone doesn’t work out, don’t feel bad or selfish about that. When we hire someone, we always want them to work out and click because it’s a lot of effort to onboard! Now you’re back at square one. Best of luck with the new person when they arrive, hopefully soon!

    6. Myrin*

      Whew, glad it’s finally over!
      And while I understand the frustration, I think it would be better to think about the outcome in the long term – yeah, at the moment it’s a lot of effort and time to train a new person, but if they turn out to be great (or even just “normal”), the time and effort will only be short-lived; with your old coworker, it sounds like the time and effort essentially wasted never would’ve stopped.

  3. Llama Wrangler*

    Short version: When a colleague is being unprofessional, when is it better to address it directly, versus ignoring it and focusing on the substance of the work?

    The full story: We collaborate with another department (let’s call them teapot painters), and things have historically been somewhat tense — they tend to be a bit territorial, and ultimately senior leadership has advised we need to make nice with them. A Junior Teapot painter, Jane, is working with my direct report (John, also a teapot painter) on a project and she hasn’t been an asset — she only puts two hours a week in on painting pots with us, when we do it full time, she clearly lacks depth of training, and her communication to the tea cup painter is unreliable. However, she’s the only one who can place orders for pot handles, and we see above re: departmental relationships — we can’t get rid of this partnership, even if we wanted to.

    Four weeks ago, seemingly out of the blue, she sent an email to me and John, cc’ing her manager, and my manager, that had a clear CYA tone, along the lines of “We haven’t met to touch base on project progress all year [FALSE], and I’ve received no requests for pot handles from you.” At my coaching, John, responded to her just saying “Since we last checked in two weeks ago, here’s the new updates on the pots. I look forward to meeting next week during your project hours.” [Let’s just say in this story that pots take a long time to get to needing handles, and its not unexpected that we haven’t ordered any.]

    When next week came, Jane came, but then left before John could meet with her. He followed up with an email, which she never responded to. Then she missed the next two weeks without saying anything. So yesterday I dropped a note to her supervisor asking when we might next see her; supervisor responded just “She’ll be there next week.”

    Then Jane sent an email (again cc’ing me, John, and both of our supervisors) saying [actual language] “I have provided this information several times throughout the project, please pin or save it in your email. Below is information on how to submit orders to me for pot handles.” This was not what we needed to check in about. My best guess is that Jane’s supervisor said “they’re asking for information about pot progress, why haven’t you given it to them.”

    So, this is obviously something that is better addressed in person, but Jane almost never comes in person. Jane’s supervisor is notoriously unreliable, and again see the challenge of working with this department. Part of me feels like I need to have a meeting to get everyone on the same page (again; this has happened many times between our two departments) and part of me feels like we should just ignore it and keep doing our own work.

    What do you think? Is it better to address their unprofessionalism? Or is it such a losing battle that we should just let it go?

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I’m a petty, petty bitch so I would reply all with something like:

      Hi Jane,

      We are familiar with the process for ordering the pot handles. Our weekly meetings are to discuss [whatever the purpose of the meetings is] and we are concerned that you haven’t attended since [date of last meeting she was at]. These meetings are vital for the success of this project. If you have a scheduling conflict, please let us know so we can find a more convenient time to schedule them.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I don’t think this is petty at all. This is actually the best way to address her behavior – by laying out the facts. You don’t have to use the word “unprofessional” at all.

      2. Jadelyn*

        +1 I’d recommend this approach or something very similar.

        Alternatively, OP, can you talk directly to Jane’s manager and clarify the situation?

      3. It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s SuperAnon*

        I did this a week ago, but replied all to a condescending email response that didn’t answer my question.

        “Thank you for the summary but I asked for the name of the team lead for this effort.”

        1. Not So NewReader*

          “The team lead is Betsy Jones.

          And I am sorry to be unclear.

          I wanted to know if there was a better time for our meetings so you could be sure to be there.

          Please get back to me with a couple days and times that are good for you. Thank you!”

          People like this make me write very short emails. Verrrry short. Meanwhile you have an email trail that you can show your boss to illustrate the difficulty you are having getting a simple answer.

      4. ChimericalOne*

        I think that’s a perfectly appropriate response. You need to be clear that you’re not checking in about X, that you’re familiar with X already, and that you’re actually checking in about Y. You also need to be clear that these check ins are important (I assume they are?) and make it clear that you’re willing to be flexible to make them happen (so it’s on her if they’re not happening).

        All of the above needs to be communicated clearly, not just implied. Detective Amy Santiago’s sample text does so perfectly.

        You might even add something along the lines of, “Pots are typically ready for handles around 6 months after the initiation of a new teapot line, after X, Y, Z, and quality control reviews. These meetings assure that we will be prepared to order handles at that time,” so that she gets that you’re not just farting around (as my dad used to say) — you’re doing your work at the expected pace & you expect her to be available so she can do hers.

      5. Parenthetically*

        Yeah count me as another who doesn’t see this as petty at all, just smart!

      6. VLookupsAreMyLife*

        Agreed – I don’t see this as petty at all. I actually find it to be a great script, and I plan to squirrel it away for future use.

      7. OhGee*

        Yeah, YMMV but I’m with the Detective on this one. Flaky supervisor and crummy employee = be REALLY direct.

      8. Anon Anon Anon*

        +2. Not being petty. Just standing up for yourself. She’s the one creating the issues. You’re just responding. Stick to the facts and you’ll be fine.

        Also, start documenting your meetings if you aren’t already. Keep good old fashioned minutes with an attendence list and a bulleted list of topics discussed. Then, if this keeps happening, you can compile those docs into one PDF (so it can’t be edited) and attach it to an email about this. “Please see the attached meeting records. Let me know if I can answer any questions. Have a great day!”

    2. Rey*

      I personally vote for not addressing the unprofessionalism head on, especially because it sounds like their department as a whole is unprofessional in many areas. Instead I would focus on spelling out norms/expectations for this specific pot handle collaboration. I’m imaging a conversation that sounds like, “We’ve had some miscommunication in the past, so this meeting is just to get us all on the same page. We want to schedule a meeting that happens with X frequency to accomplish Y tasks. Does that work with Jane’s schedule? And what should we do for meetings when Jane isn’t available? (Will Jane be in charge of rescheduling at least one day before? Will Jane’s supervisor attend the meeting instead? Will Jane call into the meeting if she’s working from home/a different location?)” And if you sense some pushback you could add something like, “Can everyone commit to this for the next month so that we can see if this meets everyone’s needs? We can make changes at that point if needed.”

      If after you’ve set firm expectations that everyone agreed to, they still can’t pull it together on their end, I would compile a report for your supervisor. It should list exactly how Jane hasn’t met the expectations that were established, exactly what isn’t happening as a result, and exactly what the bottom line is (because Jane hasn’t met with us on X and Y, we failed to meet the deadline for so-and-so’s contract and lost $$/had to pay $$ in overages).

      1. Llama Wrangler*

        Thanks! The worst part is that we did this already, 3 months ago. I think we need to go to Jane’s grand-supervisor this time, but also, this iteration of the project is about to end, so I wonder whether we should just have the conversation in the context of a post-mortem.

        1. Rey*

          If you already did this 3 months ago, and you’re still dealing with missed meetings, etc. then it’s definitely time for conversation with grand-supervisor. It might depend on your culture if it should be included in post-mortem or a separate conversation, but that gives you a complete project timeline to spell out exactly where she failed and the exact results/consequences of her failure.

          This sounds so frustrating! I hope grand-supervisor is able to move forward with a real solution.

          1. Bobbin Ufgood*

            since you’ve already done so much work here, I 100% agree with everyone else that it’s time to go up the chain

    3. Flying Ghoti*

      I think you need to start documenting everything in e-mail as well. When you have a meeting with her, type up the minutes afterwards and send them out to her and her manager so expectations are clear. It’s a pain, but this way when issues come up its harder for her to try to deflect and make your department seem like the ones dropping the ball.

      1. cmcinnyc*

        Yes, this. Also, you say she came to a meeting but left before John got there? Does that mean John was a few minutes late and she bolted? If so, I’d address that upfront, too, as in, “Sometimes one of us is late for the Teapot Status Update Meeting due to other responsibilities. We ask that you allot the full 30 minutes to the meeting as requested and not leave after 5 minutes if John hasn’t arrived. Last week he was helping reconcile the paintbrush account and it took longer than expected. When you leave, we don’t get to follow up for two more weeks.” Or some such. I know people hate to wait, but if you have the time on your calendar, you can.

    4. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      Actually, Jane has done you a favor by copying your manager and hers. You (or your manager) now can go straight to her manager without concern that you are the one escalating the situation. I suggest you do so without Jane in the room if possible. Have a concise brief of the situation and if at all possible, a proposed solution. Then follow-up with a summary email to document everything. If her manager is unreliable, then take it up a level. Again, you are not the one escalating the situation since Jane, in her CYA mode, already has done so.

      BTW, if both your manager and Jane’s manager report to the same person, you can go straight to that person. Again, since both managers were dragged into the situation by Jane’s emails, it’s the logical next step.

      1. Llama Wrangler*

        Yeah, I think you’re right. My manager likely needs to bring Jane’s manager and Jane’s grand-manager into the room together. Jane’s manager is definitely unreliable, and (like Jane) will go right into CYA mode.

    5. De-Archivist*

      It’s time to roll this up the food chain. I’m not sure where you are in the hierarchy in relation to Jane’s manager, if he’s your peer, you need to address this specific issue with him specifically. If you’re not his peer, then you need to bring it to your manager who *should* bring it to Jane’s supervisor. If you’ve brought it to John and it hasn’t helped, then it’s time to go to your manager (presumably who’ll speak to Jane’s manager).

      However, I wouldn’t frame this as a lack of professionalism, per se. I mean, it is unprofessional. But you need to look at what the results of Jane’s inattention are on the project. Do you have concerns about deadlines being missed? Is your time having to put in overtime/additional hours to complete the work that Jane misses? Is there a cost impact? Think about how you can frame this as concerns about the work and not about Jane personally. This makes it harder for more passive managers to chalk this up as a personality conflict.

      Likewise, I’m coaching you to coach John to be more explicit in his emails. E.g., “Jane, since we weren’t able to meet for the last two weeks, I have the following questions/concerns/requests …” and then lay them out. Then, you/he can say, “If you’d rather discuss this in person, I’m available at the following times …” and then schedule it. Same with her attempt at a vaguely passive-aggressive email, “Jane, I appreciate at info about ordering processes, but there must have been some miscommunication about our needs. Actually, we have questions about” whatever it is.

      And finally, I’m pretty gutsy personally (YMMV), so if you’ve got the political capital to spend and you’re not getting the results you need, you can always say, “Boss, as you know, we’ve had repeated issues with getting Teapot Painting to assist with our part of the process. What I’m proposing is finishing up our portion of the project and passing it on to Jane when we’re done/dropping Jane from the project entirely and requesting someone different from the Painting Department/whatever works outside of this metaphor.” Tread very lightly here, though, because you don’t want to blow up your own career to spite Jane. Only do it if it makes sense in context and you would be insulated from the fallout (or wouldn’t care about fallout).

    6. designbot*

      I think I’d be pretty direct with something like:
      Jane, it seems we’re talking across each other a bit here. Our desire it to touch base on the project overall, including (aspects X, Y, Z) which we’d been collaborating on, not just handle orders. Let’s the three of us plus (herboss) set down sometime in the next week to get on the same page. I’ll check schedules and follow up with a calendar invite.

      1. Llama Wrangler*

        That is more or less what I ended up going with, though we’re leaving Jane’s boss out of it since both of them tend to get defensive. My boss is going to see how she responds and then elevate it to Jane’s grandboss directly as well.

  4. Sunflower*

    Who out there has a job where a large part of your job is showing/proving your value to the organization? I work in event planning for professional services. In my last 2 positions (biglaw and big consulting), my team was constantly battling to prove our worth. I’d say 50% of my job was doing things that weren’t actually necessary for me to perform my job- it was to prove to someone else simply that I could do it. And it’s not just partners or stakeholders I had to do this for- it’s other people in similar support functions as well.

    I wrote in 2 weeks ago about being unmotivated at my new job and thanks to ‘Been In Events Before’ for hitting the nail on the head that I’m frustrated working somewhere that my job isn’t seen as valuable. As I explore different career paths, I’m curious how many other people are in this boat.
    Do you think it’s your company, job function, industry or everything?

    1. Ella*

      I’ve been in that position before! For me, it was job function in the industry. Also, until people put on large events, they have NO idea what it takes to put on events, since it’s one of those jobs (like a graphic designer, copywriter, whatever) that people think they CAN do.

      I did ultimately move on from that role, and they downsized my team shortly after I left. You might enjoy working for a specialized events agency more.

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

        As a graphic designer I can absolutely cosign this. No one really knows what we do even within my own larger umbrella department of public affairs and marketing — it’s not just make things that look pretty, and there isn’t a magic computer button that does all the work for me. I have an extensive knowledge of printing processes, ink, varnishes, paper, etc. and how to bid out jobs to vendors so that what we receive back is exactly what is expected and it stays within budget. If a project is going to mail I have to know postal regulations — I am a certified Mailpiece Design Professional — otherwise that piece may get rejected by the Post Office or incur exorbitant postage. I need to have a basic familiarity with some laws such as copyright and fair use, especially within academia. People think they can learn a few basic skills in Photoshop and be “creative” and they are a graphic designer. I’m constantly feeling like others are getting credit for what I do since I can’t exactly sign my name at the bottom, like Monet. I’ve had people hand me samples of my own work and ask if I know anyone on campus who can do stuff like this — they think IT does that because computers = IT.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Yes, this. I work for a large company in a somewhat newish department. I spend so much time making presentations for internal audiences, both executive and regular departments. While some of this is indeed necessary, it’s overkill.
      I also have to do a lot of “proving” as to why other departments should help me get even the most basic work completed. These departments hold the keys to the technology, and I’m not given access to it to do the work myself. It’s a huge time suck and frustrating. Time would be better spent getting new business and customers, not justifying why we’re doing it.

    3. Fortitude Jones*

      Well, I’m currently in a job that’s like this, but it’s because it’s a brand new role that was created in my department to provide more professional quality writing to some sales folks who aren’t writers, but are expected to participate in the proposal writing process, to write compelling content to level up the submissions that go out the door so win rates improve, and to serve as kind of a QA step of approval before anything is sent to customers for evaluation. My boss and grandboss knows they need this role (and they’re smart enough to be hiring another person to assist with this), but some of the sales team, and even my grandboss’s boss, are still kind of skeptical, so I’m going to reach out to great grandboss and get his feedback on what more he thinks my department should be doing and how he’d like to see my role progress to ensure we’re all on the same page. I’d hate for great grandboss to decide six months from now that they don’t really need this role, and then I’m out of a job for the first time in eight years.

    4. Rainy*

      My department has been doing stellar work for so long that we’ve literally just fallen under the radar to divisional leadership, who are now convinced that because our wheels don’t squeak, we’re not doing anything, not that we’ve got our shit dialed in.

      We implemented a massive tracking project over the last six months to give absolute specifics to divisional leadership about what our office is doing, and the super-specific data has changed the tenor of the conversation, but where before it was “you aren’t actually doing anything at all” now divisional leadership is like “well, if you’re doing this much you can definitely all do more” when honestly, many of us can’t.

    5. WellRed*

      “I’d say 50% of my job was doing things that weren’t actually necessary for me to perform my job- it was to prove to someone else simply that I could do it.”

      I don’t actually see how spending half your time doing unnecessary stuff proves value, but I can certainly see how you would be unhappy in the position if this is the case.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Eh, I can remember a point in my life where I found myself repeatedly in conversations that involved, “The superficial things I do are more important to people than my real work.” One woman commented to me she sees the same at home. She can spend the day organizing a new family budget on the computer and what gets noticed is the mess that is still on the kitchen counter/coffee table/whatever. So yes, there is some sexism going on in her story but there is also an overarching problem where we (society) do not value what we cannot see, leaving the worker to have to explain it to us.

      A huge example I see in NY is the failure of municipalities to keep up maintenance on their infrastructure. Everyone wants pretty parks, no one cares about maintaining sewers until things get nasty. We don’t value stuff that is not immediately apparent to us.

      Suggestions:
      You can be a part of the rebellion against this norm by taking an interest in what others are up against.

      For me, I found it helpful to weave noticeable things in between the real work. This way I appeared to be of value and on the private side I personally KNEW I was of value. But those things happened by the means of two different activities.

      Going into a different perspective, we live in a very complex world. No other generation has seen this level of complexity. It becomes part of the job to explain to people why what we are doing is of value. You can craft go-to explanations that are brief yet informative. As an example, one group I am in just met with a team of engineers. I was SUPER impressed about how they broke down their complex work so we could follow along. Their patience was exemplary. Additionally, they were able to talk about the human impact side of the project. “Yes people get concerned about costs. And it’s also true that nothing is free. However, in the past here is what we have done with that concern…..”

      They talked with us for an hour in a similar manner. It was super impressive. My group of people are not engineers and we cannot even come close to faking it. Our questions betrayed our lack of understanding. But our group needs this work done. The engineers want work. So here we are.

      I am seeing this technique more and more and I am starting to believe this will be a norm in decades to come.

      Now. Here’s the kicker. Once you explain what you have done or will do, are the people happy/grateful? You know, I can work with the idea that not everyone is up to speed on everything. But I cannot move through the thanklessness. I don’t need much. A “Hey, that looks great!” and I am all set here. But when I see attitude/whinny/griping/etc. I start to think, “Why bother!”

      It could be you just worked for a bunch of ungrateful people. And by extension you don’t see value yourself.

    7. designbot*

      Yep. My job is one that would often be a consulting function to the primary stakeholders in my office. They do one sort of design and I do another more focused sort. They often think that anyone with any design background could do my job, and put out some really terrible stuff that reflect badly on our department, though we had no idea the terrible things were happening. So I spend a lot of time trying to prove that we can do our jobs better than they can do our jobs, but of course nicely without offending anyone.

    8. Gumby*

      I used to work as software QA and while I don’t think people thought the job wasn’t necessary, they definitely thought it was something *anybody* could do and that it was less important than anything else.

      Like, “we have a summer intern who has no experience and mostly uses computers to play games” = send them to QA.

      Like “We want to be intentional about hiring people from [disadvantaged community] so we plan to waive the normal things we’d look for in hiring” = hey, they can do QA! (Actually, I thought it was a really really great program and we got one excellent hire from it. Also several who were less-than-excellent in the role who didn’t work out long-term. I do agree that removing barriers to entry in tech is worthwhile. The “any random person off the street can do QA” is what rankled.)

      Like “We’re totally behind schedule but you can do all of your testing in 2 days instead of a week so we’re not moving the release date.”

      1. Bostonian*

        As a user/software SME, this is maddening. I would so much rather wait the extra 3 days for the new software update instead of getting the release with a bunch of issues and having to: 1) troubleshoot why my staff is suddenly having all these problems they never had before 2) interacting with an unresponsive support team to fix said problems 3) having to send out messages to my team describing the bugs and the workarounds 4) waiting until the *next* update 4 months later that will supposedly have all the bugs worked out.

    9. Formerly Arlington*

      So, I have been in social media/content related roles since 2008, and I’d say the first half of that time largely required explaining why our work was valuable and hoping I didn’t get cut. The second half, my opportunities really skyrocketed. But, I also went through a nasty reorg last year where I had to prove that my team was a better investment than an agency. I lost. I was downsized and now I am at an agency that specializes in that field. So anyway, YES. Both because the actual work I did was at one time questioned and then because of corporate cost-cutting. And even now, at the agency, you never know what is going to happen. It’s super stressful, but I have a lot of passion for what I do and I try to keep that in mind as I spin wheels demonstrating relevace!!!

    10. Not A Morning Person*

      No real advice, just commiseration. “Everyone” (not really everyone, but enough) thinks they can be a trainer, everyone thinks they can write, everyone thinks they can record a video, everyone thinks they can speak on camera, everyone thinks they can be a manager, or teach ( or just insert whatever skill you worked hard at and now looks easy to people who don’t have that experience).
      I sympathize. Years ago I was in a creative role and was in a meeting with our corporate artist when our new manager came in to speak to us about some assignment and in our conversation chose to say to us, “Anyone can do your jobs.” I’m not sure either of us or our supervisors were ever able to change his viewpoint. He was brought in to get experience in “corporate” because his entire career had been in operations and he was considered a high potential. He never got out of the mindset that there are hard and fast rules, like how he was judged by numbers in operations, and he didn’t like it when other departments chose to change their decisions and impact our schedules and priorities. For example, Dept. A asked our dept for support on a teapot program management training video, but then changed their mind, his reponse was always, “But they have to! We agreed to their request and we have to do that!” Even though it no longer fit their plans, because they had asked us for support and we had agreed to work with them, we better force them to continue to work on something they no longer want to do, or else! Several times I was threatened with a poor performance rating because another department’s priorities changed. Like any of us, including our VP would have any influence over that. I don’t know what happened with him, but I got out of the department when it became apparent that we were the training ground for people who had no experience in a corporate office and needed to learn how to work with other departments. It was quite frustrating.

      1. DerJungerLudendorff*

        That sounds infuriatingly stressful. Someone really screwed up by putting that guy in that position.

    11. Accidental Project Manager*

      My CEO has actually suggested I should get a pay cut because ‘Project management isn’t valuable.’ As background, I was hired as a do-it-all person with the understanding most of it would be somewhat technical and also political, so me having an MD was necessary. My CEO is incredibly unorganized, so I’ve been doing more do-it-all and less technical work, largely a ton of sophisticated project management.

      It is incredibly frustrating and I’m taking it as a sign that I need to move on.

    12. Cymru*

      Talk to any librarian and you will get a whole community of people who understand this woe.

    13. Inamina*

      I had a job like that – I had provide photographic evidence and signed papers to prove that I’d been doing my job, whilst everyone else’s there could pull their figures from the system.

  5. Bubbleon*

    I’m struggling with how to work with an impossible coworker and I’m out of ideas and at my wits end. This person thinks all internal support and quality assurance teams are hers to command (they aren’t) and gets combative and defensive if you push back on anything she says, even the most innocent things. She just seems determined to take everything the wrong way or find something wrong with something in every step someone else takes.

    I’ve told my team not to take it personally, we’ve spent hours editing emails to take out any hint of what she might read as argument, and I’ve flagged multiple things to her manager that were really inexcusable levels of attitude about things she was actively doing wrong. That’s helped for a few minutes at a time but overall I’m just exhausted at the though of having to work with this person, and unfortunately because of the company structure there’s just no way we can get away from it.

    Heeelp.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Can you make sure all communication with her is via email so you have a written record of everything?

      1. Bubbleon*

        It pretty much already is, but even when I have piles of examples her manager hasn’t really pushed back on her general attitude much.

    2. Rey*

      It sounds like you’re trying to mediate things (spending hours editing emails? that’s nuts) to try and not make her combative and defensive, that no managers have truly handled her poor attitude, and that you’re exhausted. Since none of your extra work has changed her response, what if you just stopped trying to mediate it? Write emails that normal people would agree are polite, and then she’ll still get combative and defensive. I don’t know that it changes much, but at least you would have hours back to do something else…

      1. Bubbleon*

        Unfortunately, we tried this and it ended up with us spending hours afterwards explaining ourselves and clarifying why we’d taken one action over another (nearly always because it’s our SOP and not something she really should’ve had to question), so we try to front load everything as much as possible to avoid the back and forth after she misreads something and starts asking people if they understand key parts of their jobs they’ve been doing for years.

        1. embertine*

          And that’s the time to push back more firmly. You can explain that this is the SOP, and then decline to explain further. If she continues to ask questions, simple say that you’re busy and refer her back to the procedure. Be very boring about it, refuse to engage, and she will eventually learn that it doesn’t get her the attention she wants. Be prepared for an extinction burst initially though, where she gets even more disruptive and complains about your team to higher ups. Don’t worry about that – it will be obvious to anyone sensible that she’s acting out.

        2. Kathenus*

          So, the next step is to stop spending those hours clarifying and explaining, and I mean a full stop. She’s in control right now and you are responding and continuing to play defense. Just stop doing so, treat her like you would anyone else, and let her rant and rave to her hearts content. Come up with a stock response – ‘we’re following normal protocols’, ‘thanks for your feedback but this is the course we’re taking’, or whatever.

          Stop worrying about her attitude, just ignore that part completely and don’t play the game. Be unfailingly professional, in writing so there’s documentation, but you need to stop reinforcing her behavior or she has no reason to continue. Also suggest that you loop in your manager on the issue and how you are going to (not) respond going forward, so hopefully they’ll have your back.

          1. Kathenus*

            Sorry, typo, meant ‘you need to stop reinforcing her behavior or she has no reason to STOP’.

        3. Psyche*

          Explaining yourselves to her or someone else? Because it might be worth it to simply reply that it is your SOP and if she has a problem with it she needs to go to (insert someone higher up the chain). Then she either has to back down or waste someone else’s time who probably won’t be willing to put up with it for long.

        4. Rey*

          Yep, at least in my office, we’d just say, “You can read the specific SOP here: link” and call it good. On the other hand, you said above that she thinks she’s in charge when she’s really not. So another approach you could try is, “Actually, so-and-so oversees/manages/approves this.” And that has the added benefit of pushing her up the ladder to someone beside you, ideally someone who has more authority and gets paid more than you to deal with dumb garbage like this.

        5. NW Mossy*

          You can dial back on that back-and-forth too!

          “Why did you put green-and-yellow blankets on the llamas?!”
          “Because that’s standard when we send them to Packers games – it’s all in the documentation. Have a great one!”
          “That’s ridiculous – are you sure you understand the llama-blanketing process, Bubbleon?”
          “Yup, got it down – hope the clarification helps!”

          The idea is to be cheerfully short and sweet, rather than letting her draw you into crazy-making debates that leave you wondering if up is down and left is right. You’re still greasing the skids of the relationship by being kind, but without rising to the bait of her insistence on having everything Her Way.

          And also, her manager sucks. If you have a good relationship with her boss, or a good relationship with someone her boss trusts, it’s well past time to tell them what you’ve told us. It is particularly valuable to do this if you can quantify the costs of her behavior (extra time in meetings, delays, etc.) and tie those costs to stuff that her boss cares about deeply.

      2. WellRed*

        yes, this is way too much handholding and managing of her emotions to put on your staff. I’m guessing you don’t have standing for a come to jesus talk with her or her manager?

        1. Bubbleon*

          I’ve already had a mini one with her and I think her manager had one with her earlier this week, so I’m hoping that one might have started to sink in but not getting too optimistic about it.

    3. embertine*

      My advice would be to stop tailoring your emails to remove any hint of what you think might offend her. If she is the kind of person who is fueled by righteous indignation instead of the more sensible choice of coffee, it is never going to be enough. She wants to be offended. Communicate to her the same as you would to any other colleague, make sure to get as much of it as possible in writing, and trust that any reasonable person reading your exchanges is going to see where the problem is. Chances are she has already got herself a reputation among anyone who has to work with her regularly, especially her boss. Can you imagine trying to manage this person!

    4. Dr. Doll*

      Seems like you need to at least stop putting such effort into editing emails, since she’s going to take everything wrong anyway.

    5. cheese please*

      So so sorry you have exhausting coworkers. Just like with rage road drivers, remind yourself regularly that their attitude and feelings are THEIR PROBLEM. You are not responsible for making them feel good. They’re the ones having a crappy day and getting hurt because of an email, and with practice, you can choose to let it slide.

      When I’ve worked with really defensive people (we’ll call him Andy), and if it had no effect on how I was perceived by my employees or manager, I would take ownership of whatever Andy thought was my fault and move on. Instead of trying to reason with Andy about why my team missed a deadline, I would just say, “Yep, Andy, it’s all my fault, it will finish X days late. Let’s move on” and since he just liked the energy rush from arguing with people in meetings, it diffused the situation pretty quickly. His attitude was highly unprofessional, but management found it easier to take his side than to control him.

      Not sure if that helps much. Really I just worked hard at not letting the “Andy”s in my job bother me. When it got really bad I would tell myself “At least that person isn’t my spouse/parent/child/uncle etc.”

      1. Bubbleon*

        I think we’re sort of halfway to that point. Everyone knows it’s a her problem, but we still feel like we need to manage the actual work parts. The biggest problem is that she’s right about 1 in 500 things she’s questioned, and that’s what’s given her the steam to go on. and on. and on.

        1. cheese please*

          Ahhhh. SO hard. Also, I can see how it’s easier to put in mental effort into crafting an email than expending emotional effort in managing her reactions. So, maybe just set limits. “I will spend X minutes crafting this email” etc.

          Re: SOPs, maybe have written documentation that she agreed to follow X and Y and hold her to that in the future. ie “Per our email in March, we agreed to follow the teapot paint pattern laid out in SOP 31. I expect us to follow the same pattern for the August teapot. I’ve attached the project overview documents as reference for the team”. It’s most effective if this comes from a manager, but may still be effective.

          Good luck!

    6. De-Archivist*

      Don’t engage. Be polite, professional, and firm. You manage work. You cannot manage someone else’s feelings.

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      If her manager can’t get her under control, is there someone else to escalate the issue to? She needs to be retrained and taken care of, this isn’t acceptable and by allowing her to keep going, holding her hand and over-explaining things, you’re creating more of a monster. She’s being allowed to create a toxicity for some reason, do you have any reason why that is? Is her boss just too hands off for the task?

      Stop holding her hand. Follow SOP to the letter and do nothing else. Let her spin her wheels and burn herself out. It’s like a child having a tantrum in many ways. And in the end it’s the company’s job to make sure these attitudes are kept in check and dealt with!

      1. ChimericalOne*

        Agreed that this needs to be escalated. This person should be put on a PIP, at a minimum, or let go (ideally). She’s wasting your time and your energy — both valuable resources of the company — and likely decreasing both employee engagement and employee satisfaction. You’re going to start losing people (if you haven’t already) because of her unprofessionalism, and you need to make that crystal clear to her manager and, if need be, someone above that. (Your own manager?)

        Attitude problems are worse for productivity than simple incompetence, in many cases. A culture starts to form around it, and that’s hard to shake.

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

      I realize this will depend heavily on your senior management and how much you want to play a long-game here, but like everyone else, I think you should stop editing emails and walking on eggshells, specifically so she’ll have outrageous reactions…lots of them…lots and lots and lots of them. At first management might try to calm her down and tell you to smooth everything over, but if she keeps going to them, her drama will eventually get too much. So far, you’ve been shielding MANAGEMENT from the worst of her behavior and attitude — yes, yourself too I realize, but mostly them because they aren’t hearing the maddening “squeak” nearly as often as you do.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      I would go back to her manager and say, “Since every communication upsets Sue, we will be sending our email to you and asking you to interface. I cannot ask my team to continue going through what they have been going through with Sue.”

      I think you can see by now, that no matter how nicely you word it Sue is not going to be happy with you/your team. She has already decided to find a problem, if there is no problem then she will make up a problem. You will not win here. EVER.

      Part of what we are being compensated for is our willingness to get along with others. I would say that exact sentence to the other manager. Sue is not willing to get along with others.

      You can’t change her, you can only change how you respond to it.

      When you say combative, do you mean actual fists/gestures of physical harm? If yes, please report this to your own boss immediately. Don’t make your crew keep coping with this.
      If you mean it as “extremely argumentative” then my suggestion is do the above with directing all Sue-type questions to her boss.

      You did not ask but I have to share: My wise friend told me “any time you see a behavior three times then you probably have a pattern. And you need to address this pattern.” So while you may never encounter another Sue you will see other things. Look for the pattern of three, then address it. The longer something like this goes on the bigger a nightmare it is. People’s sense of entitlement only grows and by the time you do try to correct it then you have a real hot mess. The earliest intervention is the best. I had a Sue get me once and after that I was older and wiser.

      1. MassMatt*

        I agree, great comment/suggestion, but I would extend the wise friend’s saying not just to the problem coworker but to the organization as a whole. So far you say you have brought this issue to the problem coworker’s manager and they have not appeared interested. Either the message was not communicated strongly enough or you have a problem manager and possibly a problem organization, not just a problem coworker.

        If everyone is tiptoeing around this problem employee like a missing stair and “oh well, that’s how she is!” Then the whole organization will suffer. All because a manager lacks the guts or interest to deal with her problem employee.

    10. Hedgehug*

      I used to be her, the girl you are having so much trouble with. Any slight correction, criticism, etc., I would get very defensive. It’s not you. It’s her. Speaking from experience, this is severe self-doubt, fear of not being in control, fear of failing, lack of self esteem, and self-hate. When I would get a critique, I hated myself for not having done something right/perfect the first time and would try to defend my way out of the criticism to protect my ego. What saved me from my own self-destructive attitude was my boss calling me out directly (in private) over my attitude. She handed me the harsh truth that people were scared of approaching me, my behaviour was cloaking me in an angry shell no one wanting to come near and when they HAD to approach me it was nothing but dread on their part. She challenged me to consider privately why I was acting that way and that my mistakes were ok. This talk needs to come from whoever her supervisor is. It was the “your coworkers are afraid of you” line that really drove into my heart and changed me.

  6. straws*

    Our company anniversary is coming up and we want to have an event. We’re small (20 employees), but pretty diverse in preferences, so I want to get as much feedback to try and make this as enjoyable as possible. What are some questions I can pop into a survey to help guide us to a good decision? Right now I’m thinking about preferred time of day, guests or not, type of activity (meal, purely social, games, physical activity). Anything else I can include?

    Also, our CEO is about as far on the extroversion scale as you can get, while most of the rest of us are in the middle at best. So any tips on how to rein that in and/or balance it out are appreciated too!

    1. Excel Slayer*

      If there are different location options (e.g. close to work, in a town centre near you etc) then that can really affect attendance

    2. Sled dog mama*

      Could you just send the survey to the “rank and file” and not CEO that way when CEO gets super excited over X you can point to the survey that everyone else isn’t going to enjoy X.

      I think also pinning down what the CEO wants people to get out of the event would be good that way you can steer CEO back to things that meet those goals.

    3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Could you also consider doing a series of things? Not 3 different parties, but maybe a little branded item swag bag (coffee cup … some chocolates … card on card stock from the CEO saying “woo hoo 20 years) on every desk; special treats on Friday morning (not just the same donuts you get all the time); half-day outing to a local Place of Interest That We Never Go To Because We Live Here on Friday afternoon that could morph into a Let’s get drinks or food after for those who care to.

      That way everyone’s included, it’s interesting but not overblown, and introverts or people with things going on can slip away having participated, and no one thing has to spark ecstasy in everyone.

      1. Wells*

        This is absolutely perfect. I work in an office of about 80 people that includes extraverts (from all the customer service teams) and introverts (data processing and support). Our social committee has done a great job over the last few years of doing this kind of scattered celebration for holidays…. a card and a treat on everyone’s desk, a few low-commitment games or challenges that are really truly optional, and a potluck that people can drift in and out of. I love having the ability to adjust my level of participation to my mood, health, and level of busy-ness.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      My best way of reeling in Super Excited Pants Execs or in my case Super Cultured and Kinda Dorky Execs who are among a bunch of ragamuffins who would rather go play laser tag than to go to the museum, is to just remind them that “this is for the group and the group leans this way, I asked around, the survey says /this/ not /your improv idea or whatever/”

      Submit them with facts and push gentle. Say “Great idea boss but we’re actually thinking low-key is better for everyone’s tastes, let’s not pressure them, this is a celebration and we’ve made it this far due to our great staff, we should really try to be doing what they best respond to!” So don’t say “Dumb idea, everyone here likes chicken salad sandwiches not a deep sea fishing trip!” [Not that I think you’re leaning that way but just to drive home my point of keep the ego intact but steer towards the preferences of the staff side] Like steering the kid bee-lining to the dessert table first towards the entrees.

    5. Stephanie*

      I would say just to remind the CEO that the event is to celebrate the employees. If he really wants something super social/high energy, perhaps you can have other activities as an option.

    6. Alex the Alchemist*

      Perhaps have the option to say if there’s an activity that you would absolutely NOT want to do/be able to participate in (so long as the survey is anonymous). That way, for someone who is prevented from doing physical activity or any other activity, you can be sure to include them in whatever you do.

    7. R2D2*

      Maybe close the office early on a Friday for a nice lunch with drinks? Then everyone gets to leave from there for the weekend. :)

    8. zora*

      My suggestion for a survey like you are discussing is to put some as multiple choice, with a blank spot for “Other”. Some people have trouble thinking of ideas out of nowhere, but having a few options to bounce off of helps a lot.
      So, put exactly the examples you put as multiple choice under “Type of Activity” , but then have a blank spot for those who do come up with their own ideas.
      Same for location: [In the office] [at a park] [at a restaurant], etc.

  7. Kramerica Industries*

    Looking for advice on how to deal with a coworker who has a mental illness, but is also generally not a good person. My team has 5 people, the newest is Wanda. Wanda has openly disclosed that she sees a therapist for a mental illness, and we’re all very receptive and supportive of this. This includes ensuring her that we’re open to talk if she’s having a bad day. However, now that we’ve all gotten closer, it seems that Wanda has dropped her filter and when she’s venting or making comments, they tend to make us uncomfortable. For example, she has made homophobic comments about people in her personal life. At work, if you ask her to do something, she’ll say “I don’t like when people tell me what to do” or “Why should I listen to you? Were you hired to be Teapot Designer? No, I was.” Pushing back by saying something like “You’re definitely the expert! I just thought I’d share my idea” returns a response of something sarcastic like “Well doesn’t that make you special”. She also seems to be the kind of person who likes the focus to be on herself. If another coworker is telling a story, she’ll insert her own experience, then when you try to say “I wanted to hear what Bruno has to say”, she’ll retort with how rude it is to interrupt her/not let her finish talking.

    My big trigger for not wanting to talk to her anymore is her story about how she was at the airport with her emotional support dog (she said she bought a certificate off Amazon) and her dog bit another dog. She told it as if it was a funny story because she thought it was cute that “other dogs don’t know how to handle [her dog’s] big personality”. I just can’t be around someone whose emotional support animal bites other dogs! So I told my other coworkers that I wanted to stop giving her the validation by laughing at her stories or letting her bad “your voice doesn’t matter” attitude continue. However, my coworkers are genuinely concerned that because of the mental illness, if we stop giving her the validation in the way she wants, she may feel unloved and trigger a really bad response. I should mention that on her bad days, she’s really noticeably low. So, I get where they’re coming from, but there must be a way to handle a crappy personality while still being sensitive to mental illness. I personally haven’t witnessed her saying anything like this to other people, so I’m not sure if this is just her sense of humour or security if she sees us more as friends instead of coworkers.

    1. Not Me*

      Have you talked to her directly about it? Or her manager? Having a mental illness doesn’t give someone the right to be rude and a bigot at work. It’s totally possible to have a conversation with someone about unacceptable behavior that has a mental illness. If she isn’t capable of handling that type of thing her doctor should excuse her from work.

      1. Moray*

        Yeah, saying “I faked having a service animal” is pretty much the same thing as saying “I’m truly a bad person” IMO.

        1. designbot*

          Or at very least “I don’t mind calling actual emotional difficulties into question by taking advantage of breaks meant for folks with them.”

        2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          ESAs are not service animals–they are support for people who need them and have some protections like in housing but they are not granted service animals status. You don’t need a certificate for an ESA or service animal but ESAs often require doctor notes for housing, travel, etc.

      2. Venus*

        It generally results from someone who has a dog who would *never* qualify in an honest process. It’s awful of her because it also makes life a lot more difficult for others with support dogs (I know someone who had to retire their guide dog because of aggressive untrained dogs).

        1. Jadelyn*

          Considering that her “support animal” *bit* another animal…I’m going to go ahead and say yeah, that’s a dog that would never be permitted to qualify as a legit support animal.

          1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

            Her dog may very well be a support animal–they’re not service animals. (And service animals can bit too, just like people can lash out despite thei rtraining. Because they have rotten days/traumas/issues as well,)

    2. ThatGirl*

      Mental illness is not an excuse for being an a-hole. You can correct her and challenge her on her views without it being about her mental health issues. If SHE takes it that way, frankly, that is her problem. You don’t have to let bad behavior go unchecked, and you can encourage her to handle any problems on her own/with her therapist/doctor/etc.

      (I say this as someone whose husband is both a licensed therapist and also has his own mental health struggles.)

    3. CatCat*

      You can totally correct rude behavior in the moment. Being rude is not acceptable. She may “feel unloved”? Please! It is not the coworkers job to coddle her or put up with rude behavior!

      Some things to say:
      When she says homophobic things, “I don’t want to hear comments like that.”
      Stories about her biting dog, “I don’t think it’s funny that your dog bit another dog.”
      Snapping at you when you ask her to do something, ignore any snide remarks, “So are you going to be able to do [thing]?”

      I don’t know if having a mental illness contributes to her lack of filter here, but even if so, that may be an explanation, but it’s not an excuse. She needs to behave professionally in the workplace. This is true of everyone.

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      sooooo: Mental illness is not an excuse for being an a$$hole. Says a person with a mental illness.

      There are some old posts here and at Captain Awkward about how to navigate work as a person with a mental illness, or working with people with mental illnesses. Google Captain Awkward #188 for the most popular one, but CA 1116 and 450 are also good ones. 450 is a classic.

      I lean strongly towards just treating them as if they don’t have a mental illness. Respectfully, of course, but call that stuff out as it happens (“homophobia is Not Ok” and “Your right to have a dog with you ends when you let your dog harm other peoples’ dogs”). Your ‘stop laughing at horrible statements’ is a great reaction. If you are not her manager, you probably don’t have standing to have a ‘big picture’ conversation with her, but you always have standing to tell someone ‘that was unkind. Please don’t say it again.’

      It is your job to be respectful and pleasant; it is not your job to manage her mental illness or accept her bad behavior. It is her job to manage those.

      Polite but firm. Consistent. You can be extra warm when her behavior is good, but you don’t have to jump in to comfort her if she cries at your boundaries.

    5. Kuododi*

      I’m going to hold off attempting to comment on the specifics of your particular job situation as well as Wanda’s mental health diagnosis…(lack of specific information as well as being out of my frame of reference.). What I can say from years of experience in the mental health recovery community is despite your coworker’s good intentions…noone is responsible for Wanda’s behavior except Wanda.
      By that I mean there’s no way to externally manage whether or not she has a negative response to any given situation.

      All of that is to say I would recommend firm but kind behavior toward her, maintaining professionally appropriate boundaries and holding her accountable for deviations. I’ve never heard of a circumstance where a mental health diagnosis was license to behave like a “brat.” (Lacking a more accurate description at the moment.). At the end of it all, I would argue not holding her accountable for inappropriate behavior does her no good bc it keeps both Wanda and management from evaluating if she’s even able to fulfill the requirements of the job.
      (Of course if her circumstances fall under ADA, my suggestions may need to be modified however the overall idea would not change.). Hope this is in some way helpful. Best wishes.

    6. LJay*

      It’s not you or your coworkers job to manage her mental illness.

      Handle her like any other coworker with a crappy personality.

      If she feels unloved she needs to get love from the people in her life who should be loving her like her family and friends, or get help for her mental illness in the form of therapy and medication, etc.

      The most role an employer should have in helping an employee with mental illness is making reasonable accommodations for them (having to laugh at homophobic jokes is not likely to be a reasonable accommodation) to enable them to do the job they were hired to do, having a decent health care plan that covers mental health, and having an EAP and referring the employee to the EAP when needed. (And obviously not bullying them or singling them out or treating them differently than other employees).

      The rest of it – people with mental illnesses are adults too, and are responsible for their own behaviors whether they ultimately stem from their mental illness or not.

      And ensuring your coworkers don’t feel unloved isn’t a requirement, whether they’re mentally ill or not. Like, being generally kind to them or at least polite is a requirement. But emotional validation goes beyond that and isn’t something that a job needs to or should try to provide in my opinion.

      I have severe depression and anxiety and honestly I would feel more than a bit patronized if people were tip-toeing around me and allowing me to be a jerk because they were afraid that calling me out on it would cause me to go into some sort of downward spiral. (And honestly that’s one of the worst/most insidious lies that my anxiety tries to tell me, “nobody likes you and they’re just putting up with you to be nice.”

      1. Jadelyn*

        Having to laugh at homophobic jokes is not only not likely to be an accommodation, it’s absolutely definitely NOT an accommodation, and depending on where you are is violating your (hypothetical, if you have any) queer coworkers’ rights to a workplace free from harassment and discrimination.

        1. MayLou*

          At a stretch, it might be a reasonable adjustment for a person with Tourette’s that causes them to uncontrollably say the least appropriate thing to acknowledge that it’s involuntary and they can’t avoid it, but even then a) you wouldn’t be required to laugh and b) they’d be very apologetic and aware that it wasn’t acceptable to say those things. That doesn’t sound like it’s the case here.

    7. irene adler*

      Mental illness doesn’t give Wanda the license to say unprofessional things or be rude to others in the workplace. That needs to be made clear to her. She’s at work and she needs to follow professional norms.

      My sister is bipolar. She’s very good about following her doctor’s instructions- meds, appointments, lab tests, etc. She worked at a hospital for over 20 years. There was never a special allowance made for her to be rude to others. There was allowance made for her to make her appointments, lab tests, fill prescriptions, take time off to manage unpleasant side effects from the meds.

      It’s not your place, or your co-worker’s place, to have to ‘manage’ Wanda’s mental illness for her by censoring their talk (assuming it is professional and within the norms of the workplace). Or by assuming her rudeness is an attribute of her mental illness and must be endured. She’s seeing a therapist- fine. So allow the leeway for her to make her scheduled appointments, if needed. And any other thing she needs to do to manage things.

    8. WellRed*

      What mental illness causes homophobia and rudeness? Right, NONE of them. It’s also a big ask to expect coworkers to make her feel “loved” (WTAF??) Stop walking on eggshells around her, stop trying to boost her up and tell her to do HER JOB. Frankly, since she’s new, I think it’s a good time to let her go.

    9. smoke tree*

      This approach shows your colleagues’ lack of understanding about how mental illness works. It’s not your collective responsibility to try to insulate her from the consequences of her own behaviour, nor is it in her best interests. Just treat her like you would any other colleague, including holding her to the same standards for basic decency and politeness.

    10. Jadelyn*

      Wow she sounds like a super gross person! With bonus gross-person points for the fact that she’s pretty clearly using her MI as cover to justify her shitty behavior! As someone with multiple MIs myself who has worked *hard* to be able to interact healthily with other people, I have absolutely zero tolerance for that.

      The biggest thing I can say is STOP LETTING HER USE MENTAL ILLNESS AS JUSTIFICATION FOR HER AWFUL BEHAVIOR. Hold her to the same damn standards of behavior (in terms of politeness, civility, etc. – not stuff like eye contact, or keeping to herself, or innocuous weirdnesses of whatever variety) as everyone else. Being mentally ill is NOT a free pass to be an enormous asshole, which is what she’s using it for.

      Also, not sure if this is you or your coworkers speaking re the concern about validation, but…stop. It’s not your job to make her feel loved at work. It’s your job to make her feel like a full and valued member of the team, yes, but letting a rude jerk reap the rewards of their rude jerk behavior is not required to “validate” and support someone. If she’s genuinely in such a bad place mentally that she can’t behave herself at work, she needs to not be working.

      1. animaniactoo*

        All of this. The limits of YOU working to manage her MI are to make sure that you are as compassionate as you can be in drawing boundaries. But making sure that you DO draw boundaries – because quite honestly, allowing her MI to rule the day and supersede boundaries is not helpful for her in understanding the limits she has to live within and work to manager her MI. So if you need ANY backup in drawing boundaries and pushing that they need to be drawn to those who want to have compassion for her – this is your argument. Drawing the boundaries *compassionately* is the most useful thing you all can do in helping her manage her MI in a healthy way.

        Note: She does not have to agree with you on that. A licensed therapist who is not necessarily her therapist will be able to substantiate this for you all if you need to take it to that level. But if you have to take it to that level in order to be able to draw boundaries as far as your higher ups are concerned, you should start looking for another job – because it’s very likely going to get bad and ugly before it gets resolved.

        1. Jadelyn*

          “allowing her MI to rule the day and supersede boundaries is not helpful for her in understanding the limits she has to live within” This. So, so much this.

          I had a string of partners whose concept of “supporting” was more along the lines of enabling – and I don’t really fault them for that, they were doing what they thought I needed in our relationships, and I honor the intent, regardless of the results – and that caused a Serious Issue when a partner at one point let himself get burned out to the point where he developed his own mental health issues. We separated for awhile and it was a Hard Growth Period for me, realizing that I needed to find other ways to manage my MIs because what I was doing wasn’t working. If we’d had the hard conversations earlier about setting boundaries then it might not have gotten that bad and we could’ve both saved ourselves and each other a fair bit of pain and struggle.

          Sometimes, the kindest thing you can do for someone in the long-term is allow them to experience the consequences of their actions instead of shielding them from it. In this context, what happens when Wanda moves on to a new job where her coworkers aren’t willing to enable her bad behavior? She’s going to get fired, posthaste. She’ll then have that on her employment history forevermore, which is not great for anyone. Maybe setting some good boundaries now might teach her enough self-management that she can avoid that outcome down the line.

      2. OhGee*

        100% agree, as both a person with MI and someone who has seen coworkers with MI who also happen to be awful jerks ruin a workplace for their colleagues.

    11. fposte*

      In addition to what other people say, “This includes ensuring her that we’re open to talk if she’s having a bad day” is very inappropriate as a workplace action. It’s not insensitive to mental illness to recognize that colleagues shouldn’t be drafted as therapists.

      Who is Wanda’s actual boss? It sounds like it might not be you, but I’m not seeing anybody else mentioned. Can you loop the boss in? And if the boss is you, it’s time to change your tack big-time. While the ESA thing may disturb you the most, that’s the least of the problems here because it happened out of the workplace and doesn’t require a workplace response. What does require a workplace response: homophobic remarks, rudeness to colleagues, and a practice of allowing Wanda to use work as therapy. The last is not her fault, but I’d put a hard stop to it. And then if you were the boss, I’d meet with Wanda and say “Wanda, it’s a workplace expectation here that you get along with your co-workers and communicate with them respectfully. That means we will not tolerate any more homophobic remarks in the workplace and comments such as ‘Well, doesn’t that make you special’ are not acceptable. If they don’t stop, your job here with us is in danger. Do you think you can change these behaviors?” If Wanda wants to talk about her mental illness, you point out what the office *can* offer: “We offer FMLA, time off for doctor’s appointments, an EAP, short term disability [whatever, you get the picture] to support you. We still require that all our employees meet professional standards for respectful behavior.”

      1. Jadelyn*

        This too – I was so focused on the bigger picture I didn’t directly address the “we’re open to talk” thing, but you’re absolutely right that that’s a really boundary-crossing thing to offer as an “accommodation” for someone’s MI. OP, you’re not her therapist, nor are any of the coworkers. If she’s having a bad day, she needs to have her own coping methods, such as texting with a trusted friend or posting to a supportive group chat, going for a short walk, putting on her headphones to shut out the world for a little while, or even going home early if it’s a really really bad day. “Expect your coworkers to act as unpaid therapists” is not a reasonable coping method for a bad mental health day.

      2. Kramerica Industries*

        I’ve brought interpersonal issues to our (same) boss before, and the first question is always “Did she say that to you as a friend or as a coworker?” Because if there’s a chance it was said as a friend, management won’t touch it. And I’ve got to be honest, Wanda is professional around everyone else, so I feel like this wouldn’t pass the boss’s “friend or coworker” test. Suggestions?

        1. fposte*

          That your management is craven, and I’d encourage you to step up your boundaries for friendship. “Wanda, I think we’ve been spending too much time on these discussions, and it’s not good for me; during work hours I’m going to focus more on work. Thanks for understanding.” “Wanda, please don’t talk to me like that. That’s not appropriate.” “Wanda, that’s a really offensive and hurtful thing to say.” (And if she tantrums, let her tantrum.)

          BTW, if you think you have scope, especially on the homophobic thing, I’d push back with your manager on the “as friends” thing–“I’m not her friend, and I don’t want to hear bigoted comments at work. I would really hate this to be a workplace where it was okay for people to be homophobic or racist or sexist.” Extra points if you’re in a state or other jurisdiction where sexual orientation is a protected characteristic; you can insert “illegally” in there.

        2. Not A Morning Person*

          At work, she is ALWAYS A COWORKER. That friend vs. coworker divide is BS at work.

          1. MassMatt*

            Yes, this comes from the manager wanting to shirk responsibility for managing Wanda.

            This is another case of a dysfunctional employee managing to get everyone and everything revolving around them. It has to be stopped, the sooner the better. The longer it goes on the more everyone else’s perspective of normal behavior gets warped until you are all having to line up at the bus stop by ascending height because otherwise it might upset Wanda.

            And yes the line up according to height thing is from an actual letter to AAM. Don’t let your workplace go down this road!

        3. Perse's Mom*

          “Wanda and I are not friends.”

          “Wanda and I are friendly in the same way I’m friendly with all of my coworkers, but we are not friends.”

          “I’m not friends with people who [insert example(s) of her terrible, terrible behavior].”

        4. Quandong*

          I think your boss is trying to get out of an unpleasant task for themselves and leaving the difficult work to you.

          Seriously. Does this boss think you are friends with Wanda rather than a coworker? Do you show any signs of having a friendship outside the workplace? It sounds like Wanda selected you as the recipient of completely inappropriate behaviours in the workplace.

          Tell the boss you are not Wanda’s friend. BTW this ‘friend or coworker’ test is intensely aggravating to me. Seems as though your boss could do with some extra training in how to manage people.

          1. Quandong*

            My suggestion is to tell your boss that you aren’t Wanda’s friend, and that you need Wanda to stop doing F, G, H behaviours.

            Tell the boss that you have tried strategies A and B already, that Wanda has not responded as hoped, so you need boss to remind Wanda what is expected from her as far as appropriate work behaviours.

        5. Jane of all Trades*

          What a weird cop out from your boss. I think in that moment your response has to be “since she is not my friend, but my coworker, and I am speaking to you as our boss. I am talking to you about things she said as my coworker.”
          Also, regardless of if she felt like you are her friend, homophobic comments create a hostile workspace for other people, so it makes no difference at all how she felt about you when she made that statement.

    12. Anonfortoday*

      I’d recommend separating the bad behavior from the mental illness. Lots of people have mental health issues and still manage to act appropriately in a work setting. If I were her manager, I’d probably say something like “Wanda, when you act X way, or say things in a Y tone, it’s perceived as very negative. I need you to commit to acting and speaking professionally. Can you do that?” and then if she doesn’t, hold her accountable.

    13. Batgirl*

      Blank check validation isn’t support. A true friend will tell you straight when you’re being an arse. Not laughing, saying ‘I dont think that’s cool actually’, or simply saying you don’t agree with her read on something, are all perfectly non jerky, reasonable ways to be around someone who’s in dire need of reality checks. I wouldnt expect everyone at work to help; lead by example.

    14. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Focus on her horrible behavior and attitude, her mental health doesn’t need to be brought into it.

      A reasonable accommodation doesn’t include “Let people be bigots!” and “Let people talk to others rudely/snidely/crudely, etc.” She needs time off for therapy or other docs, that’s great. She needs some quiet space or some extra time processing or things written instead of spoken, she needs special equipment, etc.

      But if you’re just straight up being an horrible person and buying fake certifications for your dog [this dog is most likely abused and not trained, this is also on her as well, it’s no excuse to have an ill trained and dangerous animal in public, that’s a person problem, nope nope nope], you need to have this taken care of on HR level. They need to tell her to fix her attitude and how she interacts with others. End of story.

      Do not take responsibility for her illness. Don’t make excuses for bad behavior, it makes those of us with mental illness continue to be faced with a lot of bigotry due to starting to think Wanda is the “norm” or something in that case =(

    15. L.S. Cooper*

      So, here’s the thing: if her bad behavior and general selfishness (seriously, I would be furious if someone told me that dog story) means she feels alone and unloved… That’s not a problem. And it sure isn’t one at the workplace! Mental illness is not an excuse for being awful. She is behaving in an unacceptable manner, and she needs to be called on it.

    16. Not a dumping ground*

      I think your office’s first mistake might have been telling her that you’re open to talk if she has a bad day. This seems like making yourselves more emotionally available to her than she deserves, and you run the risk of becoming an emotional dumping ground. I know that I would personally find this kind of emotional dump triggering. People need to manage their own emotions, including those with mental illness, and the person who should help her with that is her therapist.

      You should commit yourselves to giving her time off to see her therapist and help cover her duties, when possible, when she’s seeing said therapist…but no more than that.

      1. Kramerica Industries*

        There’s actually training on how to deal with mental illness with compassion and openness. Scripts given are along the lines of “I’m sorry to hear you’re going through X, I’m here to listen”. I get where Corporate is coming from, but I definitely understand now that it could be boundary-crossing very easily. And unfortunately, that’s the can of worms we’ve opened.

        1. irene adler*

          This loops back to your prior post re: did Wanda say this as a friend or as a co-worker?
          I’m thinking the answer to this is- not sure. No one’s given you guidelines to determine this.

          Looks like management wants to show compassion to those who struggle with mental health issues. But, that is taking the form of burdening the workers with the work of doing this.

          See, if management wants co-workers to be “here to listen” then they have to give co-workers some guidelines on how they want you to do this. Co-workers are not mental health professionals! Are they expecting co-workers to function as such? Bad idea.
          Is enduring the constant rudeness, snide remarks, difficult to work with, all part of this “listening” management wants you to do? Is there a limit to what co-workers are asked to endure? And, for how long must they endure? Is management going to be supportive of the co-workers who become stressed out over time? In what form is this support going to be?

        2. Quandong*

          This training sounds like it will cause a lot of problems, and if you have the reserves to do so, I’d bring it up with the appropriate person. Being compassionate and reducing the stigma around mental illness doesn’t equate to saying ‘I’m here to listen’ to people like Wanda who have mental illness and push boundaries.

    17. JediSquirrel*

      Is she actually mentally ill, though, or just using that as an excuse to be terrible? If she bought a service animal certificate fro Amazon, I suspect she may be fake in other ways, as well.

    18. Kramerica Industries*

      Thank you all for the comments and reassurance. It’s weird how easy it can be to get caught up in wanting to be “nice” or “polite”, regardless of whether it’s actually the most healthy course of action.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Match what is coming at you. That is what my wise friend used to say. If a person can be blunt enough to say something crass then it is okay for you to be blunt enough to end that particular topic of conversation and hopefully shut it down forever.

        Have a few go-to sentences for when you hear something that is inappropriate.
        “That’s. NOT. Cool!”
        “Don’t go there!”
        “Shhh, you can’t say stuff like that here. You could get written up for it.”

        This works easier if you think about your own wording that you would prefer to use, but you see the general idea here.

    19. Hedgehug*

      It sounds like she “openly disclosed” her MI and seeing a therapist so her bad behaviour wouldn’t be threatened and to make you all feel too guilty to call her out on her crap.
      I work in non-profit, so I encounter a lot of…unconventional people who are comfortable saying unconventional things to me because of my work environment. And I’m also fascinated by what makes people tick and human behaviour (I am not a therapist, counsellor, or anything related). Because of this, the shock value of outlandish statements tends to not affect me anymore, I can see through it. If I had of been present in the room when she told her dog biting story, I can say confidently I would have just given her a blank stare, put my hand on my chin, and replied, “Hm. I find it very interesting that is how you choose to describe the interaction between the dogs.” “why’s that?” she might ask. “Because, you also have a ‘big personality’ that other people around you seem to have difficulty handling.” Then I would have dropped my proverbial mic and left, ha.

  8. Fortitude Jones*

    Today, I’ll be flying back home from a weeklong conference that took place my second week of my new job. This was the first time I actually saw my manager, her manager, my dotted line manager, and my teammates – I work remotely (as does most of my team), and my interviews were all conducted over the phone (no Skype, Zoom, or any other video calls were had). I was nervous going out, especially since my team is global, and I had no idea if there were going to be cultural issues or not.

    Well, I’m glad to report the conference went well, and I gelled very well with this group! One of my new coworkers even said that they had been talking at one point when I wasn’t around (I got sick one day and had to skip one dinner with them to rest), and everyone agreed that I’m super brave for coming out here to this new city and meeting all of these new people after just starting a job. She said, “We all think you’re awesome,” and that was great because everyone on the team is older than me and in totally different phases of life, so I didn’t know if they would “get” me as such, but they did.

    While at the conference, I was able to be a part of a very important project call, and I impressed my grandboss with how I conducted myself and the questions I asked. Grandboss and I also discovered that we’re both foodies and love the same kinds of music, so we bonded over that. The whole team reiterated several times that they’re happy I came onboard, and you know what? So am I. This group is so supportive of one another, and I’m truly excited about the work I’m about to start doing. I hope the good vibes continue because I could see my self staying here for at least three to four years.

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      It’s nice to read good workplace news. Thank you for sharing.
      As for you and the rest of the group being at different stages of life, common interests (food & music) and common experiences (work) go a long way to bridge the gap.

    2. Fortitude Jones*

      Thank you, everyone! It’s such a relief to finally be treated like an intelligent, competent, and integral part of a team again. My last job, my manager acted as if I couldn’t handle larger projects, and that really pissed me off because I came from a much more complicated industry and role before I moved into proposals – it was demoralizing for me to come to work everyday and know I was getting the stuff no one else wanted or cared about. Now, my dotted line manager told me he and my direct manager spoke about how my time would be best spent, and they both agreed I will be brought into all of the high level projects with large contract amounts and company visibility to QA our proposals and rework the executive summaries while also helping him to develop our new document management center (e.g. writing content, implementing software, etc.). I feel respected again, and that’s the most important thing!

  9. Anon for this*

    I manage employees in a job that involves recording readings from meters and gauges. Some of these are analog gauges that have thick tick marks with numbers in increments of 5, and four thin tick marks in increments of 1 between the thick marks.

    I noticed that one employee always records multiples of 5 from all of these gauges. Once, right after she took readings, I checked the gauges and compared my readings to hers, which confirmed that she was rounding to the nearest multiple of 5 (e.g., if the needle was on 33, she recorded 35). I told her that she needs to record the actual reading to the nearest 1 without rounding, and she swore that she was not rounding, but that she records “what she sees” and the reading is subjective. She suggested that she might have looked at the gauges at an angle and that was why she saw the readings differently than I did. I told her to read the gauges from directly in front of them as she was trained to do.

    The next day, all of her readings were again in multiples of 5. I took pictures of some of the gauges and showed her one on which the needle was on the mark for 33 but she had recorded 35. I asked her to look at the picture and tell me what the reading was. She looked at it for a long moment (much longer than I would expect for someone who reads gauges every day) and said “32.” I asked how she arrived at 32 and she looked again, this time touching her pen to the screen as she counted the marks, “30, 31, 32, 33. Oh, I mean 33.”

    This employee is not a strong performer — she’s unmotivated and has poor attention to detail. I initially assumed that she was recording multiples of 5 because she didn’t bother looking closely enough to get the actual readings (which is consistent with her overall performance), but based on the way she seemed to struggle with figuring out the reading from a very clear photo, I can’t help but wonder if she has a vision problem or some kind of learning disability that makes her unable to read this type of gauge. On the other hand, she is argumentative and unreceptive to feedback, and it would be just like her to feign difficulty with reading the gauge photo because she didn’t want to admit that she was rounding a reading of 33 to 35.

    I am not sure how to approach this — as a disciplinary issue or a potential disability. I haven’t noticed any other indications that she might have a vision problem or learning disability other than these particular gauges. Should I require her to get an eye exam? What if she does have a disability that makes her unable to read gauges? Reading meters and gauges accurately is an important part of the job, so I can’t really avoid assigning her to read gauges.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      She got it right when you made her do it in front of you and required her to actually pay attention to it, so I think that points you toward disciplinary issue — as does the argumentativeness and resistance to feedback.

      1. alphabet soup*

        But.. she got it wrong when she performed it in front of Anon for this. She initially said “32” (which took her a long time to figure out), but the correct answer was “33.”

        It’s possible the defensiveness and argumentativeness might be a cover for an undiagnosed learning disability. I tutored a lot of students with learning disabilities in philosophy, which is a difficult subject to tackle if you don’t have strong abstract reasoning abilities, which a lot of these students didn’t. I noticed that they would argue with me about assignments and reading materials as a defense mechanism.

        1. alphabet soup*

          Part of the argumentativeness was due to frustration, and the other part of it was because they didn’t feel comfortable admitting how much they were struggling.

    2. RandomU...*

      I have some experience with this. I used to employ people to do the same type of work. Think reading dials.

      We did training for everyone and each person had to achieve a certain accuracy. We then would audit a percentage of their readings and they had to again maintain an acceptable accuracy rating. If they fell below that, we would put them through training again. If they failed to achieve and maintain the rating we would have a discussion about what they were having problems with. If they couldn’t maintain their accuracy they were either moved to another position or let go.

      No you can’t ask any of those questions. And I honestly wouldn’t even jump to poor eyesight or other reasons. I had many people who just didn’t click with how to read the dials and there was nothing else going on. The only thing you can really ask is what they think the problem might be.

      1. RandomU...*

        That should have read, moved to another position if one was available. We generally tried to do this if they were otherwise good and reliable. Sometimes we didn’t have any other work available and had to let them go.

    3. Emmie*

      Approach it as a work performance issue and not a disability issue. She has given you no indication she has a disability nor has she requested accommodations. You don’t want a de facto disability accommodation on your hands. I would also address her receptiveness to feedback and her overall attitude. Her performance issues are serious and result in customer overcharges. It’s not your job to change it for her, or to avoid giving feedback because she’s argumentative or unreceptive. She sounds like someone you need to manage out barring any significant performance and attitude improvements.

      1. Anon for this*

        Yes, she is a problem employee I inherited, with many performance issues that I am documenting (rounding the gauge readings being one of them). Unfortunately, this is a case where it will not be easy to let her go. It is a union job with a progressive disciplinary process, and she is very good at making excuses and finding loopholes to stay just below the threshold for disciplinary action. It is also a difficult position to fill and we can’t really afford to lose even a bad employee right now.

        1. RandomU...*

          Do you have a meter reading test or any accuracy requirements for the position?

          If it helps, meterpro is the software that I’ve used in the past and it’s a good one. If you don’t have any of those subjective measurements in place, I would prioritize that. It’s not impossible to terminate a union employee, but it is more difficult and having a subjective set of requirements and results will help now and in the future.

          1. Anon for this*

            No, there’s no meter reading test. It is just considered a basic skill like being able to tell time or do basic arithmetic. I know not everyone can do those things, either, but we generally assume that people can, and I haven’t seen any other employees have a problem reading these gauges correctly. This employee has been doing this type of work for over a decade, so I never would have expected her to have difficulty with a basic skill like this. This job actually requires some work that is much more complex and requires training and higher-level technical skills than gauge reading. I haven’t found any other employees having problems reading these gauges, so I think this is just a matter of insubordination (I told her to record the readings to the nearest 1, and she continued to round to the nearest 5), but it is so odd that it made me wonder if there was something more to the situation.

        2. ChimericalOne*

          Hmmm. Given that that’s the case, my advice would be twofold: 1) audit her & document the inaccurate readings. Use it to initiate disciplinary processes if possible. If not currently possible, see if you can advance a policy change (or interpretation of a policy) that would make it possible. This will put you in a good position to let her go if/when you’re able to (business-wise), assuming she doesn’t improve.

          2) Do what you did before: take pictures of the gauges and have her correct each one you catch being rounded. In the short run, this will be time-intensive. In the long run, it will teach her that she can’t lessen her workload by being sloppy with reading the gauges. If she has trouble eyeballing the lines and needs to count each one to be accurate (as certainly seems possible from your earlier one-to-one), then she does. But if you make it clear that you’re actually going to hold her to doing this, she’ll eventually stop trying to bypass it. (Or, if you can’t take pictures of all her gauges, you could require her to do so & to submit those pictures as supporting documentation because of her past inaccuracies. Pretty much any phone can take pictures and email them.)

          1. willow*

            I thought the same thing as your ending idea – make her take photos and submit them. If she knows you are monitoring her this closely, she may improve. If she does not improve, it’s evidence for disciplinary action.

        3. Batgirl*

          But surely you can go through the process with this knowledge of her loophole and excuse finding ability accounted for? So, make sure the paperwork says she has to stop rounding up and any future failures to pay attention to detail, or take feedback, will move her along the firing process.
          Be really confident that that’s the problem (not caring enough to pay attention) and move her along the process every time she slacks off on readings, makes excuses or gives attitude.
          No, the union aren’t going to like it if you speed up disciplinary or even just say ‘The excuses being made here are really unconvincing and is actually making me feel more like termination is inevitable than otherwise”; because defence is their job, but they will get it.

        4. NW Mossy*

          I’m going to push back on your statement of “we can’t really afford to lose even a bad employee right now,” because I’m concerned you’re falling into a trap.

          It sounds like you’re drawing a comparison between your employee and an empty chair, and concluding (in essence), “Well, getting 50 correct readings out of 100 is better than getting no readings at all.” But you’ve already made it clear that the accuracy of readings is really important! So knowing that, the comparison you really need is if inaccurate readings are costlier to deal with than no readings at all.

          In a lot of cases, work that’s wrong can be much worse than work that was never done at all. Fixing bad work is often really time-consuming – you have to be able to find the bad work (as you did only because you spotted that this employee’s data had unexpected patterns in it), isolate it from the good work, and then determine what, if anything, you can do about the bad work. In your example, I could see you having to scrap all her readings, because you can’t figure out what ones are truly a multiple of 5 and which ones aren’t when it’s after the fact.

          You might actually be in a better position if she’s not doing the job anymore, even if you can’t replace her. It means that all the time you spend on cleaning up bad work goes away, and you can trust that the readings you do have meet the accuracy standards. That’s a big boost to productivity!

          Think of your employee’s poor performance as if it were a literal weight on the shoulders of you and your team. If you set that weight down (either by correcting the performance problem or managing her out), you and others can stand taller, move faster, and take on additional work that adds more value than clean-up. I can speak from experience that after I fired a poor performer and didn’t replace the position, the team got dramatically more productive and so did I. Don’t assume your hands are tied – this is a big enough benefit to be worth fighting for.

          1. Probably actually a hobbit*

            NW is right. A problematic performer left our office a while ago. I was so desperate when I realized that they were leaving because we were already severely understaffed (we have had two positions open for YEARS and it usually takes more than a year to hire if you can get anybody at all in our job because there are so many more positions open than qualified individuals). We had to split this person’s duties over our very small staff. We provide 24/7 coverage, so going from 5 people to 4 was NOT TRIVIAL.

            Life is so much better without this toxic person at work — I’d do even more nights and weekends if I had to to keep this person away.

            Listen to NW — bad work by a toxic colleague is making your life harder in so many ways that you don’t even realize — don’t fall for the “hard to fire” “hard to replace” trap!

          2. Anon for this*

            Yeah, I agree that bad work can be worse than no work at all, but she is doing enough acceptable work to be a net positive. We would still be better off replacing her with someone who does good work, but that takes time.

            At this point, though, the main issue is that we have a requirement for a minimum number of certified teapot makers, and we are there. There is actually another employee who has received a promotion and we are holding her back until a junior teapot maker gets certified. After that, we can’t afford to lose any more certified teapot makers until another junior teapot maker gets certified. We have a few more junior teapot makers working on their certifications, and once they are certified, I will have a lot more flexibility.

        5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s paperwork and a long journey but firing a person like this in the end is going to be worth it. You may not see it now and may just want to try to suck it up or try to fix it in-house so to speak but it’s just never going to work out the way you want to. You have a square peg in a round hole right now but that square peg is really really really talking back to you and making it even more frustrating all around.

          Go through the steps. Let her try to save her skin and talk with her union rep if she wants to. But just now what you expect from her and the job requirements are.

        6. MassMatt*

          It stinks to inherit a problem employee and it’s no fun firing people but this is absolutely what you need to do. Start the process, however lengthy it may be. She cannot do the job, she literally cannot do it. Presumably accurate readings from these gauges are important (if not, why take the time to read and record them?) and she doesn’t care. She has a terrible attitude, is argumentative, and sloppy in work that requires precision. In fact, the only thing you have said she is good at is evading disciplinary action. Maybe she can find a job utilizing that skill.

          I get that her behavior is odd but stop trying to explain it or rationalize it or think up an excuse for her and start the process for getting rid of her. Document everything and make it about her performance, or lack of it.

    4. Alice*

      If the employee hasn’t requested a disability accommodation, I think you can rule out the potential disability angle. It could be that she has a disability and is keeping it hidden for whatever reason, but that’s on her, not you. You can ask her “why do you think you’re struggling with reading gauges” but unless she outright tells you she has a vision impairment or other disability I would assume it’s a performance issue.

    5. LCL*

      Ha ha ha, the gauge interpretation/accuracy problem. I feel your pain. I can laugh because I can write pages on this issue, and what I believe to be the psychology behind this issue. It’s only going to get worse as analog gauges are replaced with digital gauges. This isn’t a discipline problem, and it isn’t a disability. It’s a lack of skills problem, which you can ask her to work on. Before you go any further, read up on the parallax effect, which you neatly described in paragraph 2.

      What has the best chance of working is for you to make a couple cheat sheets for the different types of meters. On this sheet, show the meter, and the numerical value of each division. From what you describe it sounds like she doesn’t realize each increment is usually an equal amount. And note the accuracy and value you want read and noted. (here, the majority of meters are round up or down to the nearest 10. eg. We should never see a value of 65, it should be 60 or 70.) You may have to add some tape labels to your panel to say ‘record to nearest 1.’ And you may have to redesign your form to mention ‘record to nearest 1.’ Then you have to take her around and show her, using the cheat sheets.

      There are a few tricks for reading meters. One is to carry a little, very bright flashlight with you and shine it on each meter. I think everyone in this group who is middle age + carries a penlight for this reason. Or uses an LED headlamp, there are ones out there that are easy to fit on hard hats. Another is to carry a plain white piece of copy paper in your off hand, the same hand that is holding the clipboard. Hold the paper just under the meter or counter, enough ambient light will reflect up to make it easier to read.

      1. RandomU...*

        Sorry but what?! On what planet is rounding a meter dial to the nearest 10 acceptable?

        Again trying to wrap my head around this… but my experience is that the the only dial that is acceptable to get wrong is the farthest right and only +/- 2 increments/digits. So you’d be ok reading a 4 as a 3 or 5… maybe as 2 or 6, but I’d be side eyeing even that.

        1. LCL*

          What is acceptable meter rounding is COMPLETELY situation dependent. Rounding by 10s is perfectly acceptable in many of our applications, where the first scale mark is 0 and the second scale mark is 100, and the meter may go up to 500.

          Some factors that decide what is acceptable rounding are but not limited to: the value being measured, other measuring devices looking at this measurement, what the measurement is used for, are production decisions based on these measurements or some other measurements, are alarm and emergency responses based on this measurement or other measurements, or both or neither, what is a bad reading, what could a bad reading mean or indicate, and on and on.

          1. RandomU...*

            Whew… I was really concerned there for a minute and mostly wondering why my feet were always held to the fire for accuracy if this was acceptable! I had my read blinders on there for a second and forgot about some of the other types.

            Yeah, when I was in this game… we had someone read the meter, then another blind audit read, then we had to audit the audit readers. And yes +/- 1 digit was really the only acceptable variance.

            1. LCL*

              Yes, I just realized you were referring to the dial type of unit/hour meters used to measure consumption of gas/water/electricity over time. I have to compile a report pulled from some of those types of meters, and I end up correcting mistakes myself, because a mistake of one on the 10,000 dial is glaringly obvious.

        2. Anon for this*

          I am pretty sure LCL is referring to gauges that are marked in larger increments. The gauges my employee is reading go from 0 to 100 and are marked in increments of 1, but there are gauges that go from 0 to 1000 and are marked in increments of 10; i.e., there is a tick mark at 60 and the next mark is at 70, so one could not read 65 on such a gauge.

        3. smoke tree*

          It sounds weird, but I can understand where this is coming from. For some reason my brain has a hard time filling in the gaps on rulers, dials, anything like that. I really have to concentrate to do it properly. I’ve never had to do it for a job, so maybe with practice I would get better–but it seems just as likely that I would still have to read each one super slowly to avoid mistakes, which doesn’t seem ideal.

          1. VLookupsAreMyLife*

            I don’t think that sounds weird at all. We all have areas in which we perceive & interpret differently.
            But, I’m assuming you wouldn’t choose a job where reading a dial was an essential function if you knew that was a challenge for you… at least, not unless there was some type of accommodation or work-around?

            1. smoke tree*

              It’s never occurred to me as something that might be a barrier in a work context (doesn’t really come up in my line of work), but I mostly just wanted to point out that while it may seem incredibly simple, some people may genuinely struggle with it.

          2. Gatomon*

            Yes I get it too, I struggle in the same way and this wouldn’t be a good job for me. I have the worst time with clock faces, they’re basically meaningless to me.

      2. Yorick*

        I disagree. I think it sounds like she isn’t taking the time to do the correct reading, which is a performance issue. First she rounded to the nearest thick mark. Then she tried to eyeball it and got 32 instead of 33. When she actually looked at the meter with enough focus to get the right answer, she got it.

    6. cheese please*

      Having been a supervisor in a union shop (aero manufacturing) I hope to offer some advice.

      1. Point out how critical accurate readings are. For example, are records audited externally? Is there a limit on other operations where 45 would be bad but 43 is ok? Remind her that X department relies on accurate readings to do their job. Etc. This is so she knows that the reasons you care about this isn’t an attack on her personally but because of hard black and white reasons.

      2. Let her know that you want to make sure she’s properly trained in this role, and that while it may be easy to read the larger tick marks, the dials aren’t changing to digital ones and she needs to give accurate measurements. Can you assign a lead to work with her for a few days and sign off that the readings are accurate? Create a training document with a test that she signs and dates?

      You can’t require anyone to get an eye test as far as I’m aware, but you can ask if they need more lighting in certain areas. In some unions, disciplining apathetic employees is particularly frustrating, but just document everything and slowly work through the process if the employee is indeed violating procedures or not following directions.

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

      If reading gauges accurately is an essential function of the job, then it doesn’t matter if she has a disability. Employers need to make reasonable accommodations if it’s possible — as an analogy if someone is blind, they can’t be a school bus driver. However, if you have someone else that can read and record the gauge accurately, but she can do the rest of her skilled job, then maybe that is the solution. You don’t even need her to ask for an accommodation to reassign one part of her job unless reading the gauges is the hard-to-find skill that would be impossible to replace.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      I do have problems reading gauges from time to time, middle-aged, bifocals, so yeah.

      That said, I think your solution presented right in front of you. Tell her she has to count the lines each and every time. Give her a small flashlight to make it easier. This is what I have to do, it takes me a few seconds longer than it use to and I hunt around for a good light to assist me. Make sure you tell her that you are asking no more of her than you are of everyone else. Everyone has to make sure their readings are accurate, no exceptions.

      At the same time go to her union rep/steward, ask the rep if this is the type of worker the union wants to be known for backing. Explain the problems, first. Explain how it would impact the company if everyone did this. (This is a good talking point if it means loss of jobs because the numbers were skewed.)

      Do you have a company policy about falsifying documents or failure to correct erroneous records? If so maybe you can work that into the mix here. If you can be sure to point it out to the union rep.

      Yes, it’s work. But there is a tipping point, do you want to spend the rest of your time there discussing her accuracy with her? It might be worth haggling with the union for 6-8 months rather than face years of this.
      Once you learn what will make the union think twice and work with you, then you can reapply that learning if ever you have another instance.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        PS: Look at the union hand book. There might be a section that says, “all employees shall….” and it lists off what employees must do for the employer. It would be helpful if she was in violation of one of these baseline agreement points.

  10. Ella*

    Suggestions for interview dress for a tech company in Silicon Valley? I’m struggling a bit! I’m a mid-20s woman, and interviewing for a management, not tech/engineering position.

    1. Kenzi Wood*

      Can you creep on their social media at all? That’s what I do before meetings. Look at how they’re dressed and dress up just a little bit above that. ie.

    2. wandering_beagle*

      In the past, I have asked what the office dress code is like when I am scheduling the interview. Dress code varies so much from company to company, and even within tech companies it can vary.

    3. Anax*

      Oh, hey – I’ve also recently been interviewing at tech companies in Silicon Valley, though I’m in IT. :)

      I’ve been seeing a ton of sheath dresses, sometimes with a blazer or cardigan – obviously, leaning more professional than evening/cocktail, like Nordstrom’s “work dresses for women”. Blazer + buttondown/blouse + slacks is also always solid.

      I think that a full tailored pantsuit might read excessively formal for a lot of middle-management positions here, as long as you’re not interviewing for a public-facing executive position.

      You should be able to see from social media, websites, or even driving by during lunch what sort of office culture you’re working with – a lot of tech companies here skew toward informal dress as a job perk, so I’ve seen everything from ‘buttondown and slacks’ to ‘hoodie, printed t-shirt, and jeans’ as typical office attire for the IT folks. Managers are usually about half a step up. Anything more formal would be unusual; it was actually startling to interview at a business casual workplace!

      If you’re not local and you’re interviewing soon, you should also know that we’re having super weird weather in the Bay Area right now – it’s Seattle weather, chilly, rainy, and foggy, and there are more road delays than usual. You will probably want a sweater, unless the weather shifts soon!

    4. Anon Anon Anon*

      When I worked at a Bay Area tech company, there were different norms around how people dressed based on their field. For example, jeans and t-shirts were normal for tech roles whereas the marketing and finance people dressed up more. But we were pretty relaxed about what candidates and new hires wore. The only things that would potentially make a bad impression were going too casual or too formal. If you wear something like stylish dress pants and a stylish button down shirt or sweater, you should be fine. People got points for keeping things simple and understated yet also personalized and interesting, although that probably goes for any workplace.

    5. ten-four*

      For men the Silicon Valley wardrobe is:
      Blazer
      hip t-shirt/button down
      dark jeans
      Super fancy sneakers/hip dress shoes.

      I always translated this into:
      Blazer
      nice blouse
      dark jeans/hip pants
      trendy heels/flats

      It’s been a while since I moved away from SF though, so I endorse the social media creepin’ suggestion!

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Since you’re interviewing for management, even if day to day you’re going to be pretty casual, you still are safe to show up in a polished professional wardrobe. They’re not looking that far into it and believe me, being over dressed for an interview is never an issue. I wear suits for interviews and I’ve never in my life had a job that required anything but “wear clothes that cover your bits” in my life, in a very relaxed manufacturing world! Nobody blinks at it, they know it’s an interview =) Even my laborer positions often show up in formal attire, not usually suits but slacks and a sweater/jacket, etc.

    7. Bend & Snap*

      A year ago I got hired (from the Boston area) at a tech company in Silicon Valley. The company is pretty casual so for my interview I wore a sheath dress with a fun print, a black blazer and black heels. It was perfect!

    8. Alanna of Trebond*

      I’d go with something that looks polished/professional but doesn’t have to be as formal as a suit. Dress pants (like the Old Navy Pixie or JCrew Minnie or Everlane Work Pant) + non-cotton tank top or shell + cardigan. Dress pants + button-down shirt or print blouse or nice sweater. Pencil skirt + print blouse or shell + cardigan. Blazer + silk top + black or dark blue tailored jeans. Sheath dress + cardigan or jacket if it’s sleeveless. Flats.

      The basic idea is one formal workwear thing + one slightly less formal thing. You’ll probably be more formal than people are every day in the office and that’s OK; it communicates that you want to give a good impression without being totally out of step with the culture.

      I work in a tech company, but not Silicon Valley. (I’m in Washington DC, which is notoriously conservative when it comes to workwear, but our office dress habits are VERY non DC.)

  11. Changeover*

    Pros/cons to working in a nonprofit?

    I am interviewing with my first nonprofit organization. Great people, great mission. I have own personal pro/con list for accepting this job if offered, or staying put in my current job & continuing my search.

    But I would really love your anecdotal experience to help me form a more complete picture for what is a completely different environment for me.

    Things such as:
    –How rigid/flexible such orgs tend to be with work hours / remote work?
    –If it’s a family-run foundation, are there particular pitfalls to watch out for?
    –If you see changes that could be made for positive gain but they go against What’s Always Been Done, do you just toe the line?
    –What if they refuse to tell you the salary range even during the second round of interviews? (Which did happen, and reminds of the question posted May 23.)
    –Anything else!

    1. Llama Wrangler*

      In terms of the first and third question, I think there is so much variation between non-profits, just as I’m sure there’s variation in for-profits. I think you need to ask questions during the interview and assess the culture for each place; I don’t think someone can give you a blanket “here’s what to expect” for non-profit culture. (Saying this as someone who has worked for 5 non-profits with 5 wildly different cultures.)

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Keep in mind that questions 1 and 3 will vary widely by organization. There’s no one single culture in nonprofits! Some are well managed and rigorous, others are not. Some encourage new ideas, others don’t. (And some ideas are better than others, of course!) Some are flexible on remote work and hours, others aren’t. Just like for-profit businesses. And broadening it beyond your questions but to a stereotype that often comes up: Some will expect you to work crazy hours “for the mission” and others won’t. You’ve got to pay attention to what you’re seeing about this nonprofit, and do your due diligence on what things are like there.

      Sorry, pet peeve.

      1. pegster*

        As someone who has worked in for-profits and non-profits, I share this pet peeve! Variation within both exists and there’s a bias in a lot of cultures that non-profits are by definition inefficient, lazy, and emotion-driven and that for-profits are the paragon of efficiency. I’ve seen both in both.

        And I think it’s a powerful belief that can have some very severe political implications.

      2. JR*

        Agreed – the only thing “non-profit” tells you is that they have to reinvest retained earnings back into the organization, rather than paying them out to shareholders. Basically everything else can and does vary organization to organization.

    3. knitter*

      I think a few of these points are really dependent on the organization, which is true with for-profit too. When I worked at a non-profit, I had a lot of flexibility around whether or not I had to go into the office and was able to update programs. So I’d make sure you ask questions that get at these things.

      I think the idea that is most endemic to non-profits is the idea that you are working for a specific mission you believe strongly in. As such, you might be guilted in ways to work longer hours or take on responsibilities that are outside your skill set or work for less pay/not get raises “for the good of the mission”.

    4. Miss Vaaangie*

      I dictated this post. I apologize for errors, grammar or general writing anomalies)

      20 years and 8 nonprofits later there might be some common themes but in general they vary and require a lot of research to understand who they are before going into the interview.

      Questions I ask:
      1. Is this a grant-funded position or in the budget? Grant-funded meet me that it has a hard end dates and a lot of reporting requirements. a budgeted position means that they should be fundraising to keep the position with the intent that the position will carry on. But the position could be kind of course is sufficient fundraising hasn’t been met.

      2. It’s okay to ask about flexibility regarding working from home. Many nonprofits are family oriented and would like to keep good performers. we’re having this discussion our office and I’ve decided that is probably going to be an unofficialand as needed rather than written into the employee handbook. if this is a family foundation there is possibility you will have to work evenings for board meetings, or grants reporting timelines, or other committee responsibilities. It’s okay to ask a question, but know that when they say they offer flexibility but not work from home that you probably may not get a work-from-home concept implemented anytime soon.

      3. I’ve never encountered a nonprofit that didn’t provide a pay band in the job position or within the first interview. they too want to maximize their return on interviewing and don’t want to interview people who may not want that lower level of pay.

      4. Every nonprofit has its ‘we’ve tried that and it didn’t work’ response. However any changes in process and procedure need to come after you’ve had a thorough engagement and indoctrination into the organization and programs and know that what you’re trying to do will have a positive gain and not just help your resume. nonprofits 10 to lean on concepts that are innovative but realized that ** funding ** policy, strategy of the board and the executive director do guide an influence how change, improvements, and innovation will be received and implemented.

      1. Miss Vaaangie*

        OMG. I will never dictate a post while hanging out at the dog park ever again! Kudos to anyone able to read it with any sense of coherence. Next time I’ll wait until I’m home. Thanks

    5. Changeover*

      Thank you for your responses!

      In my haste, I may have messed up in how I worded things. I do realize every org is different no matter what their basis is. I didn’t want anyone in that org to see this and connect it with the real me, so I left out some more concrete details and things I did ask them already. I didn’t mean to trigger any pet peeves. This is so wildly new to me that I feel out of my depth, and worried I’ll turn down what could be a great opportunity. Or take what could be a not-great opportunity.

      I sincerely appreciate your answers, and am really taking to heart the ‘any changes in process and procedure need to come after you’ve had a thorough engagement and indoctrination into the organization.’ The corp I’m in now tends to gallop away with any new hire’s ideas. :)

      1. ChimericalOne*

        As someone on the board of a nonprofit, I would add: they might give lip-service to not expecting you to work crazy hours “for the mission” (or even genuinely think they’re committed to work-life balance) but still have a culture where everyone does it, anyway (which can be just as bad!). If you get a chance to talk to the people who work there (other than the folks who are hiring), you might ask things like, “How often do you find yourself working on your days off? Is that pretty common around here?” and “Do people generally answer emails from home?” etc.

        1. ChimericalOne*

          To be specific, I’m the president of the board of a progressive religious institution that talks about all sorts of worker’s rights issues… and yet that employs a skeleton staff (‘cuz, as with most religious institutions in America in 2019, money’s tight) and runs our minister & office admin ragged trying to do All the Things… *sigh*

          I’ve been trying to change this ever since I took this position, but it’s not easy when your culture says “work, work, work” and “nooo, we can’t afford to hire anyone else!”

          1. Miss Vaaangie*

            “talks about all sorts of worker’s rights issues… and yet that employs a skeleton staff” You’ve just described 90% of all non-profits… ugh.

            Whether it’s paying employees such that they’re income eligible for your own services or not providing workplace flexibility when your non-profit advocates for working parents, sometimes non-profits are our own worst enemy.

            Kudos, as a Bd member, for tackling these issues that Bd’s tend to not think is within their purview. Tackling the ‘overhead myth’ is everyone’s responsibility. The worst was hearing a Bd member say, “We’re a non-profit, we can’t pay well.” I almost lost my footing and lunch on that one.

        2. Washi*

          Yeah, I worked somewhere where people said they only worked crazy hours during the “busy season”…which in practice was August – January, almost half the year!

          On the other hand, several of my coworkers would probably describe our current job as intense and fast-paced, but as far as workload goes, it’s the easiest and most lowkey job I’ve ever had. It’s really hard to judge from the outside what the workload will be like!

        3. Changeover*

          I did manage to ascertain that they have strict in & out hours and one designated lunch hour. They also said that when quitting time rolls around, everybody bolts and doesn’t take work home (generally). I didn’t get a feel for how often this is not the norm, though.

    6. CoffeeOnMyMind*

      I worked for a nonprofit for 7 years. I have MANY memorable moments, but here are my favorites (nonprofit work is a weird and wild world):

      – flexible hours often translated to working late at night and on weekends (in a very dark, very old Victorian mansion)

      – job duties tend to expand based on the organization’s needs in the moment. For example, I became a repair man, electrician, plumber, lawyer, lighting expert, weather man, and ghost whisperer in addition to my regular duties

      – expanded my creativity when running a program from the ground up with no budget

      – securing the property’s perimeter and pathways so patrons wouldn’t accidentally fall into the fountain during an on site event at night

      – opening an event during a hurricane

      – coming to work and discovering the bottom floor covered in water from a burst water heater

      – hosting an event with no AC in the building during the height of summer in the South

      – chasing the squirrels living in the attic so they don’t scare patrons

      – Pointing out potential legal/ethical violations to the Board

      – figuring out ways to make money so the budget isn’t constantly in the red (see: running events above)

      – discovering an original handwritten signed document by President Thomas Jefferson in an old file cabinet

      – discovering an entire room painted in a kaleidoscope of colors by a local painter in the 1920s (the room was used for storage, had no lighting and so seeing the entire room – walls, door, ceiling – painted like Van Gogh was amazing)

      – fielding phone calls from paranormal groups wanting to spend the night at the property

      – fielding phone calls from people who thought their homes were haunted and they wanted me to call the ghost busters or a priest (this happened a lot)

      1. CoffeeOnMyMind*

        Oh and when interviewing for another nonprofit I was asked the following: “What would you do if you encountered poisonous snakes and rabid raccoons?”

        What a nice snapshot of life at that place. lol

        1. Miss Vaaangie*

          THIS could be a great topic “Weird non-profit interview questions that glean insight into the job.”

          I was asked, “How do you feel about carrying toilets and moving lumber by hand?” (which may give away the non-profit brand) I’m ok with cleaning toilets, but carrying them was a whole other ballgame.

      2. MissBliss*

        I have to ask what happened to the original handwritten signed document by President Thomas Jefferson!

        1. CoffeeOnMyMind*

          The Board got it framed, I added it to the property archive inventory list, and then we put it in a large, flat filing cabinet with other oversized artifacts. We didn’t have a lot of space … most artifacts were stored in unused rooms. I was hunting for another lost artifact when I stumbled on the kaleidoscope room.

          I used to pull the Jefferson document out to show third graders on field trips. They loved it. It was also signed by James Madison when he was Secretary of State.

      3. Changeover*

        Not being the one having to do it, the squirrels and the paranormals, the kaleidoscope and original document signed by Thomas Jefferson make me want a job that has these things. :)

    7. Rainy days*

      I’ve been in nonprofit work for about five years, and my experience has been:
      – Not telling you a salary range most likely means it is way below market value.
      – You can actually wring a LOT of flexibility out of nonprofits, in a way that can be very beneficial to you if you need that flexibility in your life. If they know that they are paying you a below-market salary and are lucky to have you, USE that. They are likely not flexible at all on salary, so negotiate more vacation time, and take it.

    8. Good luck with that*

      When I had a project at the archdiocesan school office, even the nuns had to use a time clock. Of course that was three cardinals ago, so things may have changed. Still, don’t think non-profit is necessarily going to be less rigid.

      Also, with a few notorious C-suite outliers, salaries in non-profits never match what the same position would pay in industry. There must be exceptions, but I don’t know of any. If they’re not disclosing, it sounds as though they know they’re underpaying even more than usual.

      I had colleagues who worked with some large regional (not religious) non-profits, and said the administration was as professional as anywhere else. I’ve been on the board of a couple of small non-profits, and am so grateful to be out. Passionate amateurs. Sometimes I wondered if I was the only adult in the room.

  12. CatCat*

    Do you eat breakfast at work?

    I do and have for as long as I can remember. Lunch too. Because of this, I realized I eat the majority of my meals every week sitting at my desk at work.

    1. Amber Rose*

      Usually no, actually. I try to have some yogurt and a banana at home before I leave. I know we have a lot of people who come in every morning and make a full breakfast though. I see them making toaster waffles and chopping fruit.

      1. CatCat*

        Interesting! I do not prepare breakfast at the office. I bring it in a container from home. Around here, some people prepare a breakfast, but it’s simple stuff like coffee in the coffee maker, toast, or adding hot water to instant oatmeal.

        1. Rainy*

          Yeah, my husband makes me my preferred breakfast (yoghurt and müesli) in a small container and I eat when I get to work while I’m checking email and settling in.

          Most of the time people in my office who “prepare” a breakfast are making instant oatmeal, heating up a breakfast burrito, or toasting a bagel.

    2. Llama Wrangler*

      I do, too! I didn’t before this job, but this office has a strict “get here after 9:05 and you’re late” policy, and I realized breakfast was the variable keeping me from getting out of the house consistently on time.

      1. Alice*

        Yeah, me too. I used to have breakfast at home and arrive at 9:30, but my office changed its rules so now I arrive at 9:00 and eat shortly afterwards. It’s usually coffee and a croissant. I tried having breakfast before leaving the house but with my new schedule that’s too early and I’m famished before lunchtime.

    3. londonedit*

      Yep, breakfast and lunch at work. I’d never really thought about it but I suppose yes, I do eat the majority of my meals away from home! I’d rather spend the time it would take to have breakfast before I leave the house in bed, plus if I ate breakfast before 7.30am (which is the latest I leave to get to work) then I’d be starving by mid-morning. So instead I buy a coffee on the five-minute walk from the station to the office, have that when I get to work at 8.15am, and then wait until 10am to have my proper breakfast. That way I don’t get too hungry again before lunch at 1.

    4. Dragoning*

      Yep! I hate mornings a little too much to wake up early enough to eat at home.

      Besides, my workplace actually serves breakfast in the cafeteria.

    5. CTT*

      If I work out in the morning, I do. I now have a drawer that’s just a Costco box of oatmeal.

    6. Susan K*

      No, I eat breakfast at home before I go to work. I have several coworkers who eat breakfast at work, and I have to say it bugs me a little that they spend their first 20 minutes on the clock making and eating breakfast when I did so at home on my own personal time. (I’m not talking about people eating a granola bar at their desk while working — I mean people who are in the breakroom cooking and eating breakfast while not doing anything work-related.)

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Unless they’re hourly, they’re not really “on the clock” per se. And if they are salaried employees, as long as they’re completing the work they were hired to do, it shouldn’t matter if they spend 20 minutes in the morning eating breakfast and not working.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Yeah, then that’s not great. I’m surprised their manager hasn’t said anything about it. I haven’t been hourly in almost a decade, but when I was, our managers were always on our asses about stuff like this.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              It depends on the job. My role at Exjob was hourly and I didn’t need to be butt-in-seat, so nobody cared. As long as I got my work done (and I did, on time), I could do whatever. I always addressed my inbox before I went to the kitchen anyway.

              I was such a creature of habit that if anyone needed to find me, they always knew where to look. “Oh it’s 9 o’clock; Elizabeth is probably in the kitchen. Oh, it’s 3 pm; Elizabeth is doing her break time stair climb,” etc.

    7. ThatGirl*

      Not currently, but I have – for awhile at my last job I stashed instant oatmeal in my desk and made it after I got to work. Our cafeteria also had breakfast if need be.

    8. Been There*

      I don’t, but that’s mostly just because I can’t wait that long to eat. I do eat my morning snack and afternoon snack at my desk, but make an effort to leave my desk for lunch 4/5 days a week.

    9. Peaches*

      I eat breakfast at home (usually a fruit smoothie) around 6:30 A.M., but have two peanut butter dark chocolate chip protein balls around 10:00 A.M. every morning at my desk as a morning snack.

      I eat lunch at work about 2-3 days a week. The rest of the time I go home for lunch since I have the luxury of living close.

      1. EmKay*

        Would you mind sharing the recipe for the peanut butter dark chocolate chip protein balls? They sound delicious!

        1. Peaches*

          YES! They are seriously the best. My husband and I make them every Sunday night and eat them throughout the week. They’re a great filling snack, and aren’t too terribly unhealthy.

          1 1/2 cup steel cuts oats
          1/2 cup peanut butter or other nuts butter
          1/4 cup maple syrup (we use 100% pure maple syrup)
          1 tsp ground cinnamon
          1/4 tsp sea salt
          2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips
          1 tbsp flax seed (optional)

          1. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper
          2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except for the dark chocolate chips in a large bowl and mix (it’s actually really easy to mix with a spoon – you don’t need a mixer or anything!)
          3. Gradually add in the dark chocolate chips and stir once the other ingredients are well combined
          4. Using wet hands, roll the mixture into 1-inch wide balls. Place them on baking sheet (the wet hands part is REALLY important – the mixture will fall apart in your hands if you don’t keep running them under water every 4 balls or so)
          5. Refrigerate the balls for at least 1 hour so they firm up. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

    10. Fortitude Jones*

      When I used to work in an office I did, but I was also close enough to my apartment that I’d try to go home for an hour lunch each day to get a break from my desk. I’d also take a walk late in the afternoon for that same reason.

    11. Liz*

      I wouldn’t say that I have to spend time showing or proving my value specifically, but I do run into instances more often than I’d like, where the higher ups want something and a. think its just push a button and done, when in reality, it takes research and time or b. they don’t communicate clearly exactly what it is they want, so i do what they ask of me, give them the results, and get back “no, i didn’t want a, i wanted b! yet they never communicated to me that B was actually what they were looking for.

      Because I am the “peon” in my dept, i really don’t think they have any clue at all what I do. BUT, and i like to joke, if i ever left, they’d be so screwed.

    12. epi*

      I go through phases where I do, or don’t.

      I like it because I don’t have to get up as early, and I can eat during a time of day when I am typically not that productive anyway– just checking email, settling in, and reorienting myself to what I am supposed to that day. Plus I am usually not hungry *right* when I wake up so sometimes the timing just makes more sense.

      Usually when I quit it’s because it is turning into a more extended break, the coffee is better at home, or because if I will sometimes be tempted to buy breakfast just as I sometimes buy lunch. When buying treat breakfast gets to be too frequent, I just switch to eating at home for a while. Plus in the summer it is easier for me to get up early enough to enjoy coffee/breakfast/book at home.

    13. Dasein9*

      Both breakfasts, yes.

      I get up at 5:30 to do my part-time job, which is remote. By the time I get to the office, it’s time for second breakfast, and I eat that in my cubicle. Frequently have lunch in the cubicle too.

    14. Liz*

      Yes. I can’t eat right after i wake up. I need to be up for a while. So I have coffee before I leave but then breakfast at work. At my desk, WHILE i’m working.

    15. Rainy*

      Yup. I don’t like to eat anything as early as I’d have to to eat before I leave for work–it’s bad for my digestion.

    16. Workerbee*

      Does second breakfast count? I get in by 6:30-ish, so even though I ate an actual breakfast around 5-something, by 7:30, I’m starving again. Oof.

      I have a drawer and mini-refrigerator dedicated to sustenance.

      1. Ann Perkins*

        Same here! I have overnight oats and coffee at home. And I keep frozen breakfast burritos and fruit at work for a mid morning boost.

    17. Ellex*

      I do! I literally can’t eat too soon after getting up or it tends to upset my stomach – I need at least half an hour before I put anything in my stomach, so I ate breakfast during home room in high school, too.

      But I also don’t eat much more than a granola bar for breakfast at work, so I don’t really consider it a “meal”.

      From what I’ve seen in various workplaces, it’s pretty common. I know some people who have breakfast at home and then have a snack when or shortly after they get to work.

    18. Hello!*

      I usually make a breakfast sandwich at home, english muffin with egg tomato and avocado (and Trader Joe’s bagel seasoning) and wrap it in foil and take it to work with me. I have a little breakfast sandwich maker that I got off of Amazon that keeps dishes to a minimum as well. It is the perfect thing for me in the morning with some of my health issues since it contains whole grains, protein, and fat.

    19. Dust Bunny*

      I do. I have to leave the house around 6:15 to get to work on time, and I’m not hungry that early; plus, if I eat then, I will be ravenous by 10:00 and end up eating like five meals a day. If I eat when I get there at 7:15, I actually want breakfast *and* I’m OK until lunch.

      We have a kitchenette with microwave, fridge, toaster oven, real dishes, etc. Not extravagant but totally adequate for most cold or reheatable meals.

    20. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Quart of yogurt lasts for a week in the office fridge, plus a jar of granola in my desk makes for a perfect breakfast. I like eating at work because it keeps my morning time management in check, and besides, I’m at my office 40 minutes before start because of my transit schedule. But not at my desk. I eat in the break room to keep the stickies at bay.

    21. Zephy*

      I have to be at work an hour earlier on Fridays than on other days of the week, leaving me with just 20 minutes to get up, get dressed, and get moving. I don’t want to wake up earlier on Fridays, so sometimes I will pack a breakfast along with my lunch, if I don’t want to buy a breakfast sandwich from the on-site coffeeshop. I have a plastic sandwich-size container that perfectly fits a smaller plastic sauce cup inside it, so I’ll fill the sandwich container with cereal and the sauce cup with milk, and eat the cereal at my desk. This morning I threw together a quick PB&J sandwich and just inhaled that over the sink before darting out the door, because I’m a classy and functional adult human person.

    22. Lalaith*

      Yes. I just don’t think I’d get myself into the kitchen at home with enough time to eat before I had to leave. These days I eat oatmeal, but I used to have yogurt. Nothing too time-consuming to make.

    23. Blue Bunny*

      Absolutely, I always eat breakfast at my desk. I start work at 6:30 AM, have an hour commute, and have to take medication on an empty stomach and wait an hour to eat. If I ate at home, I wouldn’t get lunch until eight hours after breakfast. I can’t handle that.

    24. Batgirl*

      I make overnight oats in a kilner jar and in the morning decide whether I’m eating it on the couch or taking it to work.

    25. ChimericalOne*

      I never have time to eat breakfast at home (thanks to ADD + Asperger’s + my husband being night owl & it being hard for me to go to bed before him to get the sleep my body apparently needs to function in the morning (which is — sadly — like, 8.5-9 hours)).

      So, if I eat breakfast at all, it’s a work. Often I just eat the main portion of my lunch early (like 10:00) and then don’t have anything for lunch. Maybe snack on pretzels in the afternoon or whatever’s left over.

    26. Parenthetically*

      I used to, yep! I made mini frittatas and heated them up (and sometimes made a slice of toast) while the kettle boiled for my tea, and then ate it while I got the computer fired up and looked at my lesson plans.

    27. iglwif*

      I work at home now, so I’m not sure how to answer this question XD

      When I worked in an office, though, I always ate breakfast at my desk. I started my workday at 8, I had to get my kid to bef0re-school care (which would feed her breakfast) in the opposite direction before work, there was just nooooo way to make that happen and also eat breakfast at home.

    28. Delta Delta*

      Before I worked for myself I usually ate breakfast at work (and now with the job I have self-created I’m basically always at work). I’ve never been able to eat first thing in the morning and I prefer to eat later in the day. It just worked out that way for me.

    29. CoffeeOnMyMind*

      Yup – both breakfast and lunch. It’s pretty typical for people to eat at their desks; it’s the only way for us to get through the work we have to do (hurray for 9 hour days).

    30. Polaris*

      Generally, yes. Mostly because I value my sleep to a very high degree and don’t get out of bed until right before I need to be out the door.

    31. Leah*

      I leave my house at 5am, so unfortunately I have no choice. I usually prepare a sandwich the day before, along with my lunch, and when I arrive in the office I fill up my water bottle, make myself a cup of herbal or black tea, and then sit down on my desk to eat and drink while my computer’s booting and I’m reading my e-mails. Some people suggested I do this at home before I leave, but that would mean waking up at least fifteen minutes earlier, and then having to wait about six to seven hours before I can eat anything again. No thank you!

    32. DAMitsDevon*

      I do! I’d rather know I can get to work early or on time and then eat without having to rush. Also, our office is in a WeWork, so there’s a really big kitchen space where I can sit and eat if I get there early, so I don’t have to eat at my desk and can decompress before starting the workday. It does restrict what I can eat, but I mostly just stick to heating up homemade instant oatmeal in the microwave.

    33. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Absolutely.

      With me, I don’t do a lot of “hangtime” at home in the morning. I’ve always been a “get up and go” person and I’m not hungry until about an hour or so after getting up anyways. [Part of this is also due to my former long commutes too of course!]

      So I am ready to eat by the time I land in my desk. It works great for my schedule.

      I only eat dinner at home.

    34. Dollis Hill*

      I eat breakfast at work, because I find it hard to eat first thing in the morning and by the time I’m feeling ready to eat it’s time to leave. I usually have some porridge heated in the microwave and some fruit, and on payday I treat myself to a coffee and a pastry from the bakery near my office.

      At my last job (which was completely full of bees), my manager banned our team from eating breakfast at work because she thought it was unprofessional – her logic was that it apparently looked like we had got up late and were completely unprepared for the work day. Even if we got in early and ate in the kitchen before our contracted start time! So I used to wolf down a cereal bar or croissant on the bus to work, which was not ideal. She was totally fine with us eating lunch or afternoon snacks at our desks, she just had this weird “breakfast is for home” thing. I’m really enjoying working in a place where no one bats an eyelid if I eat breakfast at work, whether it’s in the kitchen before I start work or at my desk while I check emails go through my post.

    35. anonforthis*

      I do this. I keep toast and jam at the office, while some of my coworkers keep cereal and milk. We call ourselves the “breakfast club”.

    36. NoLongerYoungButLotsWiser*

      Maybe I’m unique in my “more meals per day is not a bad thing” approach, but since I’ve lost more than half my highest body weight (and kept it off for years), the “eat when I’m hungry, not by the clock” and “small meals more frequently” has served me well.
      I have a veggie Frittata in the morning. (Sometimes I make these in advance; or on a calmer morning, make a bigger one and save half for the next morning). Or a couple egg /veggie bake cups (these are like muffins, but egg and filling; bake,freeze, reheat.). Sometimes I eat them in the car (I have a 35 min drive) on rare occasions.
      Yeah – I’m hungry by 10:30-11. So I have packed a protein bar, Edamame, or sandwich (double meat, whole grain, or lettuce wrap), and a salad. I spread this out. I also have a sunflower seed kind of trail mix, and a banana, mandarins, etc. for my 3 pm. If I think it’s a grim day and I’m likely to run late, I also have more “stuff” (cheese sticks or mini-cheeses with crackers, sliced ham to wrap around the cheese – good heated, soup/bowl, etc. Leftovers at noon if possible. It’s really hard to be out of the house 12 hours… so I pack and plan to be hungry so I can keep thinking.
      Just wanted to encourage folks (if their jobs allow it) to have that apple and peanut butter, or whatever snack they need, every few hours. Snacking for me keeps the blood sugars level and my brain functioning – I see it as small, healthy meals…not as snack as junk.
      YMMV. but I do try to take walks away from my desk to have these in the kitchen (if possible) or sitting outside for 10 minutes to have the trail mix and decompress. (or even in my car). It’s helpful.

    37. Jaid*

      Yup. I wake up at 4.00 am, leave at 4.30, and get to work at 5.45. I have enough time to pick up a cup of coffee and the paper.

      I eat a packet of peanut butter crackers around 6 and then eat breakfast at my 8 am break… sometimes a bowl of grains, sometimes a kitchen sink eggs/veggies and a couple slices of scrapple. I also bring in a green smoothie to supplement that.

    38. Elizabeth West*

      I did at Exjob, mostly because I could. I was not on the front desk and it was no big deal for people to come in and then fix themselves a cup of coffee or a snack. I always had my coffee at home before I came in, and then I’d spend the first half hour at work getting caught up with anything in my inbox. Then I’d go into the break room and make a cup of tea (in my AAM mug!) and a little food.

      And I’m rarely hungry first thing in the morning. Even with a giant coffee, it takes time for me to wake up enough to want to eat. That could change if I start walking earlier in the day, but for now, it’s just the way it is. If I moved and had to commute, I guess I’d have to get up earlier and eat then.

    39. CL*

      Yes. I’m not a morning person and it takes every ounce of my will to get up early enough to fit in a run, get myself and my kids ready, and get them to daycare before I arrive at the office by 8:30 (very lucky to live in a rural state with a 10-minute “commute”). My breakfasts are usually prepared the night before and don’t take prep time once I get to the office, such as oatmeal, smoothies, granola bars, etc, And lunch is at my desk, unless I have to go home to let the dog out.

    40. Betty*

      I have a smoothie during my commute (I drive). I start work earlier than my spouse so I like to minimize how much time I take getting out the door.

    41. The Other Dawn*

      Yes. I typically bring hard-boiled eggs, or yogurt and peanuts, stuff like that. I might heat up my leftover diner breakfast from the weekend. I don’t have enough time to eat at home. I have all I can do to get out of the house on time. I have no excuse other than I’m not good at preparing for work the night before, other than to make my iced mocha latte. Clothing, food and anything else gets dealt with in the morning.

    42. NACSACJACK*

      Yes I do and have for a couple months now, maybe longer. I used to eat fast food, but started getting sick having the same foods over and over. Then because we now have a daily meeting every morning and then more meetings after that, I discovered that I couldn’t take meetings from home in the AM (nothing in the fridge/meetings ran past 1030am when most fast food joints switch over to lunch) and I just made a change and started getting to work 15 mins before the meeting (enough time to walk to the cafeteria and back). Then because of Lent, I discovered how cheap a veggie omlet is at our cafeteria and how less ill I felt afterwards. Wish I could do it at home, but no time.

  13. Partly Cloudy*

    Hiring managers: when you’re interviewing to replace someone you’re planning to let go, how honest are you with the candidates about why the position is (will be) open? I want to be honest, yet not over-share. I figure whoever gets hired is going to find out the whole truth anyway.

    Thoughts?

    1. Emmie*

      Good question. I would be matter of fact about it, but not share more than others on your team will know. “I have someone in this role now who will be departing.” Or, “I am terminating someone in this role due to performance issues. If I offer you this role, I expect you to keep this information confidential. I’m telling you this so you have historical knowledge relevant to your role. I need someone who can x, y, and z. This person will also have to improve relationships with the teapots team because….”. You may want to include training information too.

      1. Not Me*

        I would not tell a candidate about the performance issues of another (just like I wouldn’t tell an employee about another employee). That would be a huge red flag to me that the manager cannot keep information confidential and I’d be worried they’d talk to others about my own performance.

        Unless you’ve already told the employee being terminated that they are being terminated I’d keep that to myself also. Having someone find out they are going to be terminated by a third party is incredibly unprofessional.

        A simple “we have a position open on the team” should suffice.

        1. irene adler*

          There is the issue of candidate asking follow-up questions-
          Is this a new position or am I replacing someone?
          If I am replacing someone, why are they vacating the position? (Did they leave on a positive note?)

          So while I do agree not to bring up performance issues of others (yes! A manager demonstrating a lack of confidentiality is very troublesome!), there will be need to answer follow-up questions.

    2. Sled dog mama*

      As long as your response isn’t a hostile “I’m not going to answer that” if should be fine. Getting that was a big red flag for me at an interview.

    3. RandomU...*

      I would try for ‘not specific but leaves it open to read between the lines’

      “We currently have someone in the position, but we don’t expect them to be with us much longer, which is why we are working to fill the upcoming vacancy. Right now their are some gaps between position needs and the person filling the role that we’d like to address with the successful candidate”

      I figure something like this would be truthful and doesn’t necessarily call out performance issues. But does indicate there was something not right with the fit. In other words you want to be as truthful as possible, but you don’t want to leave the candidates thinking that you are/would badmouth employees.

    4. Spreadsheets and Books*

      I asked this question in an interview for my current job. I was told that the last hire “didn’t work out.” I feel like that was adequate explanation and doesn’t necessarily imply anything bad about either the employer or the employee. Jobs don’t work out on both sides for any number of reasons.

      1. Partly Cloudy*

        But is this a safe answer even if the person who isn’t working out… is still working? Or am I overthinking this?

      2. Joielle*

        See, whereas if I got that answer in an interview, I’d need more information – Was there something about the position that the person didn’t like? How long were they in the position? How often have you hired for the position recently?

        1. Partly Cloudy*

          Yeah. This is how I’d be – how I was – as a candidate too. It never crossed my mind that these questions are potentially awkward for the interviewer until I became the interviewer.

    5. Federal Middle Manager*

      From the interviewee’s perspective, what they likely want to know is 1) will they be overlapping/training with the outgoing person, 2) will they be able to rely on the going person’s work as examples of how to do their job, and 3) if the outgoing person is leaving for due to lack of success, is it because the outgoing person genuinely wasn’t capable/a good fit OR because the position is impossible and future employees are equally being set up for failure (unrealistic expectations, project not supported by management, etc.).

      You can and should be able to address all these concerns without getting into the details of the outgoing employee’s departure.

    6. Clementine*

      Have you told the person that you are planning to let them go? If not, definitely do not tell the candidate. What if they are friends or otherwise know each other? In any event, don’t say anything to the candidate you wouldn’t say directly to the person currently in the role.

    7. Alanna of Trebond*

      I would just say “They’re leaving the company” and leave it at that. It’s possible they just want to know if the person got an internal promotion, got a cool job elsewhere, etc.

      If they’re really pushing on whether the person was fired, you can say something like, we can’t discuss specific personnel decisions, but I can tell you about how we handle performance issues more generally, if you’re interested…

  14. Dino*

    What do you do when you just hate your boss? Like, to the point where you have no respect for them and actively avoid them at all costs? I know get a new job is the actual solution, but until then how does one cope?

    1. Ditto*

      As a coping mechanism, whenever I feel angry at my boss I go look at job postings and send off a resume. Very therapeutic.

      1. Super Dee Duper Anon*

        I took a similar approach when I was stuck with a boss that I just could not work for! I was actively job seeking, but whenever I got particularly frustrated I would bring up the LinkedIn Jobs app on my phone and find a couple of posting to quickly hit the EasyApply button for. Something about applying for jobs while sitting 10ft away from her somehow helped me keep my sanity long enough to get out.

        1. valentine*

          Focus on the things you control. It’s like with the manager who insisted his typo of the wrong year was actually a deliberate choice. You accept that and move on. You do your work as well as you can within the BS constraints they may impose.

    2. Partly Cloudy*

      Try either thinking of them as a TV/movie character or observe them as if they’re an anthropological experiment. They’re not magical solutions, but they help. Sometimes.

      1. VLookupsAreMyLife*

        I may or may not have started writing a fictional short story with Boss as the evil villain and me as the protagonist who avenged herself…

    3. Jubilance*

      I tried to limit my time with them as much as possible, and I focused on the things that I could control.

      And of course, job hunting and networking.

    4. Workerbee*

      A devious tactic is to send your boss’s resume out to headhunters. Mind you, I have only thought this, never actually done it.

      1. MsChaos*

        This sort of is what I did. Not a boss, but an extremely annoying person who taught with me in a middle school. She often talked about a certain type of position she really wanted, which was to work in Transition Services for our school district (helping students with special needs prepare for work and life after high school). I have to admit that while I was driven by pettiness, I also understood that she was unhappy as a classroom teacher, so I called a couple people I knew as well as searched the district websites every other day for openings in this office. Got a line on a couple, told her about them, she applied and got one of the desired positions. She was very, very happy, but made jokes about how I “got rid of her” to other teachers. I mean, even if you can’t stand someone, you can still be concerned that it’s the result of work unhappiness and try to help.

    5. epi*

      The last time I couldn’t stand my boss, I left for grad school so I had a period where I was leaving but no one knew. (I still gave like two months’ notice but I had known for like three months before that.)

      I reviewed my benefits and put in for anything useful that I had kind of overlooked before. For example, we had an employee computer purchase program and some discounts at businesses that were helpful in preparing for grad school. I also quietly put in for any PTO that was important to me in my final summer there. Between summer holidays, a few weddings, and a couple of mental health days, I arranged to have all my final weeks be four days. (Obviously since I’d known for months I was leaving, things were in good enough shape I could do this. Giving them more than two weeks helped too.)

      Other than that, have you ever found out you’ve been behaving inappropriately or alienating someone for a while, and they never told you? They just went on, letting you make an ass of yourself and silently resenting you? It sucks! And it’s what’s happening to your boss right now as your ride out your remaining time with a smile on your face. My last day was coffee and unwanted life advice with one boss; giving my notice involved a hug from the other. I get a weird satisfaction out of that, that they never understood how I really saw them.

    6. De-Archivist*

      Don’t tell anyone, but I pretend that they don’t exist when I can’t see physically see them. I don’t say their name aloud. I don’t talk about them. I try not to think about them. I imagine that I only have a job to do and no boss to monitor me, so all of my work has to be exemplary because there’s no one there to catch my mistakes.

      If they appear, then I’m in the moment and respond normally, and if someone says, “hey, boss wants you to do X,” I’m not like “who?” I just mean that I play a quiet mental game of totally avoiding their existence when I can.

    7. LadyByTheLake*

      Working remotely whenever I could helped (as did concentrating on getting out of there). Constant mantra “this too shall pass, this too shall pass.”

    8. BeeGee*

      I just exited this situation, here are some of my tips and tricks:
      1. Set meetings/discussions with the boss so that you get as much information up front about any projects so that you have to talk to them less often. It’s a win-win in that you are still doing work, you just have to interact with them less!
      2. After frustrating discussions with my manager, I would admittedly write down or type a bunch of mean stuff I wanted to scream out loud (how dumb/incompetent/irrational they or their ideas were etc etc) but of course be sure to delete/destroy these things so they never saw the light of day ever.

  15. Geheim*

    Recently, the contractors at my US company were all brought on full-time. They worked together to learn how to negotiate compensation, shared strategies, and proofread each other’s letters. They all successfully negotiated packages they are happy with. (Woo! Thanks, Alison!)

    Now formerly model employees in this cohort are suddenly getting a lot of “complaints to HR” about small things that have never been a problem before. At least one manager has tried to claim there is a company policy against discussing compensation with colleagues.

    If the aim is to work together to improve the workplace before resorting to nuclear options, what would you advise?

    1. Troutwaxer*

      Perhaps someone can speak more competently to this than I can, but it is legal to discuss your compensation with coworkers (and probably illegal to tell employees that they cannot.)

    2. Not Me*

      Discussing compensation is generally considered protected concerted activity, so I’d advise that manager to stop telling people not to do that.

      What are the small things they are complaining about? Just because they weren’t a problem before doesn’t mean the new employees should, by default, be ok with them.

    3. Liane*

      I’d tell HR & managers some version of this: “We don’t want to run afoul of the Nation Labor Relations Board, which forbids companies from restricting employee discussion of working conditions including salaries/wages. So, if this is a company policy, we need to stop enforcing/referring to it and start the process to remove it. Also, these constant minor ‘complaints to HR’ about employees who negotiated their compensation here may be construed as retaliation, which is also against the law.”

  16. Amber Rose*

    I’m on a pretty carefully designed meal plan right now to deal with some health problems and an eating disorder. One of my rules is NO sugar treats at work. Period. I can’t have any, because I can’t control it the way I need to and I’m an all or nothing sort. I can’t have a piece, I need the whole thing or my control collapses and bad things happen.

    We’re doing a lunch time training on some new software next week and to get us to show up at lunch, they’re bribing us with cake and ice cream. Although at this point I can actually say no when I’m offered like donuts and things, I’m less confident about my ability to sit in a room with 40 people eating cake and ice cream for an hour.

    I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. Can I just skip it, do you think? Make something up about a very important lunch appointment and run away?

    1. Bee's Knees*

      You could always use the excuse I do when I don’t want a donut/whatever someone brought. I am hypoglycemic, and I usually just say something about how I can’t have that much sugar, and most of the time people will drop it.

      1. Amber Rose*

        It’s not about what other people say. It’s entirely about me, and my ability to be around food without snapping and going on a sugar binge.

        1. Bee's Knees*

          Ah. Then yes, I think you need to go to the dentist/doctor/whatever, and would be fine to miss the cake eating. And good job trying to stick to rules that will get you healthy. That isn’t easy.

    2. Anonysand*

      You might be able to get away with stepping out for an “appointment” or some errands, but could you also pack your own safe-to-eat treats for the duration of the cake and ice cream? That way you get something acceptable/healthy to eat that can fill you up (and maybe not make those treats look so tempting?) as well as still be around in case you need the face time.

      1. Amber Rose*

        It’s the sugar though. I have no self control around sugar. I can say no to donuts I don’t have to see, but I’m concerned I will definitely lose control around that much sugar for that long.

        Being full has nothing to do with it. Part of my problem with food is that I must eat all the food. I’ll eat until my stomach is screaming in pain and then probably still eat a little more. I’ve only been working on this for two months. My control is not that great.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          If you really can’t control yourself, your best bet is to come up with a sudden appointment and skip it entirely. Putting yourself in a situation that’s going to make dealing with your eating disorder just shouldn’t be an option. Ask them if you can do the training remotely from your desk since you have an important call you can’t miss.

          1. Anonysand*

            Yep, agreed. I wouldn’t even risk it if that’s the case. Definitely have a sudden appointment or excuse yourself with a headache and step out for the duration to go buy some advil/take a break/etc.

        2. londonedit*

          I’m not sure whether you’d have enough standing in the company to be able to ask for this, but could you ask that the cakes and ice-cream are set out on a table outside the training room? Then you’d just have to walk past on your way in, and you could try and sit a little bit away from everyone else (assuming they’re literally going to be eating cake while the training is going on). Another option is to maybe ask for the cake and ice cream to be set up outside while everyone’s in the training session, and then they get it as a reward once the session is over? That way might work even better, because then you can just scoot off back to your desk straight after the meeting. But it depends on whether your bosses/whoever’s organising would be happy to accommodate those requests, if it’s just one person who’s asking.

          1. Commenter*

            Ooh great idea, asking if the treats could be brought out at the end as a “reward” so you don’t have to watch others eating during the meeting!

          2. VLookupsAreMyLife*

            Third-ed!

            If this doesn’t work, could you set a timer on your phone to step out & call your sponsor/friend/accountability person? I don’t know what supports you are currently using as part of your recovery program. But, maybe telling some in advance & having a pre-scheduled “check in” before/during/after the session would help?

            Sending good thoughts your way!

          3. zora*

            This was my thought, I would ask who ever is organizing if the treats can be set up after the training is over, for people to take back to their desks. I am the one who organizes these things in my office, and if you asked me this privately, I would 100% do it. It wouldn’t really matter either way to the other people, they still get their ice cream, so I’d be happy to reorganize things!

        3. smoke tree*

          That’s a tough one. Do you think your manager would be understanding if you laid out the situation for them? Maybe there are some supplementary training materials you could get instead, or see if someone could take notes? Or maybe they could structure it so the ice cream and cake are kept separate from the training itself? Otherwise, if the training isn’t super essential, it might be time for a scheduling conflict.

        4. Probably actually a hobbit*

          You’re it a touchy spot in your eating disorder management – I’d have a doctor’s appointment then. That’s best for your health anyway — could you actually schedule an appointment with whoever helps you with this for that time?

    3. AbaxSC*

      Could you take some cough drops, and keep one in your mouth the whole hour? It will combat the cake smell, and maybe the sweets won’t be as appealing?

      1. Moosic*

        I second that, and pick a flavor that you know will be awful with cake. Or, if they don’t mind gum as long as you chew with your mouth closed, try that, which I what I pop in my mouth when I’m desperate. Maybe a strong tea, like a vanilla rooiboos or Daydreamer’s Tea from Labrang which have a sweet taste without the sugar, and you’ll feel you get a treat too.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        In the same line, I was going to suggest chewing gum. There are some natural gums out there without cane sugar, you can find some at health food stores.

    4. CupcakeCounter*

      I have a coworker who is on a medically ordered diet at the moment and our manager has allowed him to skip events with food he isn’t allowed to have. For one meeting he joined via Skype from the floor above.
      Talk to your manager and say that per Dr’s orders you cannot have the cake and ice cream but are having a hard time with your personal will power at the moment and is there any way you can do the training at another time. Good news is most people will assume that you are on an elimination diet for allergies.

        1. Amber Rose*

          It might actually be possible to do that as part of the training. Maybe I’ll talk to the presenter.

    5. Emmie*

      It sounds like you’re looking for permission to skip the training, and that’s something your manager can decide. We cannot tell you if that’s okay. I don’t intend to be cruel. I say this as someone who struggles tremendously with food control and sugar issues. If you are receiving help or support with your health problems and eating disorder, perhaps you can work on coping mechanisms for future meetings.

    6. I Just Work Here*

      Can you bring your own snack that would fit in with your meal plan? It could even be a special treat kind of meal. Or just a fruit bowl that you’ve hyped yourself up for.
      Also, just because cake and ice cream are offered doesn’t mean everyone will be eating. There could be people who are lactose intolerant, gluten-free, or diabetic, that you just don’t know about. And will there be a trial period on the software or are you just watching a webinar kind of thing? There may not be an overlap between the eating portion and the training portion. You could check in with the meeting organizer to ask about the schedule.

      Don’t miss out on professional development because of something that already makes your life more difficult.
      You can do it!

    7. CM*

      I don’t know if you’re comfortable saying this to your manager, but you could explain that you’re dealing with an eating disorder and feel it would endanger your health to attend the training. Or, first you could just say you have a conflict during the training and ask if there’s an alternative, and then if you get pushback, you could give that explanation (and to explain the “conflict,” you could start, “I had hoped not to have to disclose this, but…”

      If you’re not comfortable saying that, you can still certainly ask if there’s a different time you could do the training. You might also want to check online to see if there is an online version of the training you could do at your desk.

    8. CatCat*

      Can your bring your own food? Like, pack in a bowl of whatever your meal plan allows and take that to the training and maybe also have a beverage on hand. So you will have something to eat while other people are also eating. This tactic has worked for me during birthday celebrations. As long as I keep my hands occupied and have something to put in my mouth, I find I can skip the sugary treats that people around me are eating.

    9. What She Said*

      Is there a drink you can have that will distract you? I love warm water and when I want to avoid snacking during meetings I take a drink instead. It’s not always perfect but it helps the majority of the time.

    10. Commenter*

      Might it help if you were able to eat something healthy during this time (as a distraction of sorts, so you aren’t just sitting there watching everyone else eat the treats)?

      If so, could you suggest they could offer some “real food” along with the treats (since it’s *at* lunchtime, I imagine there’d be others who would want to eat a real lunch before indulging in ice cream)? Or could you bring your own lunch to eat to keep your mind off the treats? If it wouldn’t be a slippery slope, could you allow yourself to eat something “on plan” but maybe somewhat more indulgent than you’d normally allow yourself, like putting extra yummy dressing on your salad, or something?

      Not sure if that idea necessarily translates, but just thinking of ways you could “reward”/”treat” yourself in an alternate way to help calm the temptation/stress of the moment.

    11. CheeryO*

      Any chance you could convince them to record the session and make it available to anyone who isn’t able to attend? I’d be shocked if everyone who needed the training was able to attend – that’s a lot of people to wrangle.

      1. valentine*

        I think a recording you use on a different day (to further divorce it from the food) is the best possibility. You can say you have lunch plans you can’t change, then go out for long enough that, if you were, say, meeting someone who canceled, it still wouldn’t make sense for you to join the training. It sounds like the bribe is an all-you-can-eat training session. If asked to delay, I think they’ll say majority rules. If they did have the sweets post-training, though, might you spend the entire time plotting to grab some on your way out?

        Might your manager be willing to help you avoid office sweets by exempting you from future in-person attendance?

    12. Kuododi*

      Speaking as a diabetic, I have found packing snacks to be personally helpful in helping me stay out of the desserts/away from Starbucks frappucinos. ;) (I’ll bag up fruit slices, raw veggies, a protein bar to help keep my sugars on balance for the day.).
      You mentioned eating disorder as part of the reason why you are on your current meal plan. Are you seeing an eating disorder specialist or involved in some type of support program? If so please reach out to them as they will have ideas for this situation that are outside our field of reference here at AAM. My very best wishes to you.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Not yet. It’s hard to get support right now because of the other issues. Basically, I don’t have any doctors I can trust right now. My husband is working on that one for me since he works with doctors. But everything takes time.

        Snacks don’t help because over eating is my problem. I have to control portions more than content. I weigh it all out. I’m trying to re-train my brain to understand what an appropriate amount of food looks like.

    13. WellRed*

      personally, I think you should see if you can opt out this time, but are you sure people will actually be eating for the entire hour? It’s software training, how is that even possible?

      1. Amber Rose*

        It’s more like a software presentation. Everyone in a room watching someone do stuff on the projection screen.

        We’re doing this whole huge overhaul of all our software since the older members who objected have retired.

        1. Sara*

          I would definitely check to see if you can attend virtually or have it recorded and watch it later. They should be able to either do a live video conference or record it for you – I’m in a professional org that frequently does hybrid in-person/virtual meetings with screen sharing and everything. If it’s something necessary for you to attend, that seems like the best solution – otherwise, I agree that suddenly having a very important appointment can be good as well.

        2. iglwif*

          That really seems like something you should be able to do remotely, IMO. Would your workplace be open to you skyping or zooming or whatever instead of being in the room with the cake & ice cream?

        3. WellRed*

          In that case, I second the idea above about skyping in or whatever because it sounds like you are at a delicate stage in your new eating plan.

    14. Not A Manager*

      “We’re doing a lunch time training on some new software next week and to get us to show up at lunch, they’re bribing us with cake and ice cream.”

      It sounds like attendance isn’t very mandatory, if they need to bribe people to attend. If that’s the case, and they are offering cake and ice cream to lure people in who just can’t be assed to attend otherwise, then I think you’re perfectly safe to just skip it.

      Make up an appointment or some urgent work if you need to, but keep it casual. It doesn’t sound like you need special permission from your manager or a conversation with HR. Just pick the easiest, lowest-kay way to not attend (like everyone else who isn’t bribable with sweet treats), and learn the software some other way.

      Good for you for prioritizing your health right now.

      1. Reba*

        Agree with this.

        If you really need to be off-premises while the cake is going on, I think “healthcare appointment” works as a reason — it’s actually true in this case, since leaving the office is for your health! ED recovery can be so hard, best wishes to you Amber Rose

    15. Lucy*

      If it’s about your internal conflict, could you create external pressure? That is, if you knew that someone else you trust would be in each one of these meetings, could you arrange with her to hold you accountable or run interference etc as necessary?

      I don’t think I’m explaining this at all well, but if you thought that you’d be letting Susan down by eating a doughnut that might be more compelling than the idea of following your own rule. Similarly, the idea that Susan would be proud of you for resisting might be more tempting than some stale greasy frosted bread that everyone else has been breathing over for however long. Susan doesn’t need to know precise chapter and verse about why you need the backup.

      Eating disorders are very difficult to navigate, and even harder on your own. That’s why I’m wondering if there’s someone external you can recruit to support you.

      Best of luck.

    16. Delta Delta*

      Sounds like the training itself is at lunch time and the cake and ice cream is also at lunch. Maybe ask the facilitator if the cake and ice cream can come out AFTER the training so you can make an exit (and maybe go outside?) and not feel tempted?

    17. Hedgehug*

      Brush your teeth before the meeting!! Nothing tastes worse than eating or drinking something after brushing your teeth with a super minty toothpaste.

    18. Not So NewReader*

      This may not be helpful right now but I reached a point if I just had something I could do with my hands that was enough to distract me from the fact that I was not eating sugary things with everyone.

      And another suggestion that does you no good for the immediate, but it might help over the weeks to come is to try to get more rest. When I came down off of sugar I found I had super energy, like 24 hour energy. It was hard to rest. But rest does allow us to have more control over our thoughts and impulses. So what I had was a designated bed time with an hour before that I could use for reading. See, this is a sly one, I read stuff that would fill up my brain so I had other things to think about. Sometimes I read about whole foods and what food helps what problem. Other times I read about making natural cleaners, because I discovered I was very interested in that. This hour of reading gave me new material to distract myself with and helped me wind down so I could get to sleep sooner. Once I started sleeping more I was able to control my impulses better. Again, not an instant solution, but of some help over the long run.

  17. epi*

    Has anyone else had an office that they just can’t seem to look their best in? I am very happy that I just moved out of building that seemed to hate me personally.

    The air there was so dry, I had to change up my products and wash my hair less frequently or else I would look like a ball of frizz and flyaways within a few hours. Flyaways aren’t even a big problem for me normally, except there. The lighting was terrible– literally every window was inside a private office or conference room with solid walls, and I didn’t get an office. My makeup, which looks fine everywhere else– it is sheer “you but better” stuff e.g. Benetint– would somehow fade yet look clownish under their bathroom lighting by the afternoon. Either the lighting, the dry air, or both consistently made my skin look sad. About once a year, some allergen would get in the building and make me miserable there for a couple of days. I don’t normally suffer from allergies.

    If you worked in another building from hell, what did you do? Change up your products/routine until you found something that could withstand the environment? Change nothing and stop trusting the fluorescent-lit bathroom mirror? Just get out?

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I actually left. Not solely for this reason, but it was a contributing reason.
      We moved to an inner-city location. Parking sucked, talking like human poop in the stairwells.
      Open office plan, with weird pendant lights that hung down very low over the desks. You couldn’t adjust or turn off individual lights… so they were on and glaring right on my monitors and in the eyeline. These gave me such headaches! I could not stand it. I once even put up a black umbrella to block them.
      Was so glad to leave that place.

    2. blink14*

      I’m currently in what used to be known as a “sick building” by the previous occupant. I’ve had offices on multiple floors, and no location makes a difference. The air is either incredibly dry (lack of humidity makes it hard for your body to fight off bacteria, allergies, etc) or swampy. The air temp and humidity varies from office to office, suite to suite, floor to floor, because the office spaces have been redesigned so many times that the duct system in most areas no longer makes sense. Some spots have multiple vents, some have very few or even none. Working in this building has triggered pretty severe chronic sinusitis that seems to finally be calming down some, but the worst sinus infections of my life have all been while working in this building.

      Things I’ve done – use a humidifier (this only goes so far in a cube, but it does help a bit) and ask for an air filter. Again, being in a cube it only does so much, but I keep it on the floor right next to me. I also try to do a nasal rinse at least a few times a week (ideally it would be daily, but I find it painful sometimes). Antihistamine nasal spray, Flonase, and allergy medication are all in use at some points during the year for me, the allergy meds daily.

    3. Errol*

      Yup – my current job! it also doesn’t help that we usually don’t wear make up here either (safety issue) and can’t wear our hair down (even though I’m in the office). I make a point to not really look at myself in the mirror in the bathrooms here or it makes me feel real crappy about myself. Just a glance if I got something way out of wack or on my face or something. I use my phone in my office (it has a giant window) on meeting days when I’m actually wearing make up

      I use a bit of dry shampoo after washing my hair that helped with the frizz, but my poor face is so dry it’s flaking and has been for the last year-ish I’ve worked here. Nothing works to help how dry my skin is. I’ve tried everything short of getting prescription stuff to try and help. Nothing.

        1. ChimericalOne*

          Maybe Errol works in a chemical plant? Flaking makeup could contaminate something, I guess?

      1. Errol*

        Welding and machine shop. There are tiny bits of metal that fly around, and they get under your safety glasses sometimes – not much you can do about it. We also work with a ton of gasses, dangerous chemicals, and have a plasma table. So consistently at risk for flash burn or bits of metal in the eye which all make up will aggravate and require longer to heal and could potentially cause infection.

        TBH – I think someone a long time ago was a dummy and they got an infection in the eye from not wearing proper PPE and now it’s a blanket rule.

      2. Inspector Cramer*

        I tend to be really dehydrated and sometimes have face flaking issues. If you haven’t yet tried this, can I suggest adding Aquaphor (or Vaseline) to your routine? When I have bad days, at night I put on a generous layer of really moisturizing face lotion that sinks the most into my skin, which is currently Derma E Hydrating Night Cream. Then I give that a couple of minutes and do a thin layer of Aquaphor on top all over. It’s occlusive, so it doesn’t so much sink in itself, but it makes sure the cream underneath is sealed in tight so it has the best chance to full moisturize. It’s a weird feeling at first but stick with it and see how you feel in the morning.

    4. Troutwaxer*

      Find someone who looks good while working there and see if they’ll discuss their hair/makeup routine?

    5. Moray*

      I try to remind myself: there are times when you can care about your appearance, but work is not one of those; nobody is really paying attention to the fine details of your appearance. So it’s totally cool to fuss a bit about how you look, but you can save your energy for dates/outings/whatnot where people will actually notice.

      1. MOAS*

        But makeup/hair/appearance etc isn’t really for anyone’s benefit, it’s for one’s own. I’m hoping that more and more people are getting away from the idea that caring about your appearance is for others to notice.

      2. epi*

        I really don’t think that is right. In most office environments, it is inappropriate to not care about your appearance. I am talking about having crazy, unkempt hair, distractingly unnatural makeup, and looking ill. Of course that is inappropriate to have going on all the time at work. It’s also unpleasant to work in a desert-dry office that periodically sheds something you are allergic to.

        Since you don’t know anything about my personal grooming, I think it is weird that you would assume my problem is that I “fuss” about my appearance or am putting date-level energy into dressing for work.

        1. Autumnheart*

          No, you talked about “looking your best” and about the way your skin and/or hair look in specific lighting or humidity. It would be one thing if one were in a business-formal, high-value client-facing workplace, but for the average desk worker, this is way more attention than anyone is paying to your skin and hair. Nobody is noticing how you look in certain lighting, any more than you’re noticing how they look. (Unless you are, in which case, quit it.)

          As someone who started working at my current job in my very early 30s and am now in my mid-40s, you just have to learn to forgive yourself for having flaws. Eventually those eye bags and crow’s feet and weird hairs are not going to be because the lighting is bad or the building is dry—it’s going to be because you have eye bags and weird hairs that stick up! In the end, you’re at work to work, even if you spill mustard on your shirt and have a bad hair day. Keep a little kit of travel sizes handy and touch up in the afternoon if you really feel that it’s necessary, but otherwise…that’s life.

    6. CheeryO*

      This is me at my current job. Our building has terrible lighting, terrible HVAC, and some sort of mold or extreme dust issue that is hell on my sinuses. I’ve given up on caring about it. My hair ends up in a bun most days, and I just wear my normal light makeup. Once in a while I get a “you look sick/tired,” but I really think most people don’t pay that much attention, especially if you’re polished otherwise.

    7. Blue Bunny*

      Yes, current job is like this. The company uses chemicals that seep odor everywhere, and my eyes and nose are constantly irritated, so I’ve mostly given up on contact lenses. Plus my office is always freezing, so there’s no point in bothering with nice work clothes, since every day is “gray cardigan I leave at my desk” day.

      If it helps, I’ve used this opportunity to drastically overhaul my eating habits, use of supplements, and skincare routine. I may be a frumpy mess on the outside, but I’m paying immaculate attention to the inside!

      1. epi*

        One time I ended up in the elevator with the former occupant of my office. “Sometimes it is hot…. Sometimes it is cold,” he told me. By that time, I knew all too well.

        I have recently changed my skincare routine quite a bit, and I wonder sometimes if it would have helped in my old building. But I’m fine with never knowing, and working somewhere even the little people are allowed to know if it’s raining. :)

    8. HS Teacher*

      I worked in a classroom where the temperature on the thermostat was controlled by Central Office. Three classrooms were on the same thermostat and the air did not distribute evenly. Furthermore, one wall was large windows that had a western exposure so we got the afternoon sun. We were not allowed to put up curtains or blinds because of the outside aesthetics of the building — they wanted a uniform, neat look. My seventh period had thirty students. According to my classroom thermometer it was usually ~78-85 degrees Fahrenheit everyday. I tried fans, one in the front of the room and another in the back. The main result of that was that no one could hear and the fans moved the hot air around the room. Once a Vice Principal visited. She spent the entire time near the open door fanning herself. She left after about five or ten minutes. The teenagers complained ever single day. Oh, yes, I was also dealing with hot flashes. Every day after school I was drained and sick. I often had a headache. I got a haircut and purchased an new, lighter weight wardrobe. However, mainly I was miserable.

    9. Overeducated*

      …stop making an effort?

      It’s sad but true. I upped my game when I moved to a nicer, more formal building. Got sent back to old building for a short term assignment and it’s amazing how fast things have gone downhill. The thing is, nobody looks amazing here.

    10. BeeGee*

      I feel your struggle! I have combo skin (dry but oily/acne prone in some areas). My favorite foundation is a medium but buildable foundation, Estée Lauder double wear. I swear by it, it looks good all day and doesn’t melt off mid day like others I have tried. I use that in combination with tarte shape tape concealer to make sure any acne and dark circles stay covered! Buying an eyeshadow primer has also been a game changer to making sure my eyeshadow doesn’t melt off. To combat the dryness for your skin, I like this clean and clear morning burst gel moisturizer which is water based and oil free, so it doesn’t clog pores! Be sure to drink lots of water throughout the workday and I like any of those refreshing mist sprays which don’t affect your makeup. I use the Mario Badesceu (sp?) rose water. I have almost pin straight hair but I sometimes use a serum to help smooth the ends down, like the sleek and shine products from garnier fructise (again, probably butchered spelling). Hope that helps!!

    11. I See Real People*

      Yes, this +1000! I can’t figure out why my hair and makeup look horrible in three bathroom mirrors in my office building, yet when I get to my car and home, I look normal. They say it’s the lighting, but I swear, I’ve never looked worse to myself than when I’m in this building.

  18. Dragoning*

    So how does one put in a written request for a raise?

    Context: I’m a W2 contractor/leased employee, whatever you like to call it. My contract is coming up, and instead of extending it like they have for the past two years, labor laws now require me to take a 30 day furlough. When I come back (and they have already announced my new start date and scheduled me for projects post-return, so I’m not especially concerned about that), I will have a brand new contract, and quite frankly, I’d like a raise.

    They did not give me anything last year, even a COLA. Gross. Last year one of my coworkers had his furlough and received a raise afterward under the same conditions–but he does do a different job than I and likely works for a different contracting company.

    When I put this information to my recruiting contact, he asked me to send over things to justify the raise, only I’ve never done this before and am I not entirely sure what to say.

    It took about 5 months for me to be fully trained and qualified to do all the ins-and-outs of my day-to-day job. I’ve been assigned to projects (do those count as things to put in a raise, if they went reasonably well? I was assigned as project manager to one, but it was a baby project and I likely wouldn’t be in the future). I have taken on new duties, but my description in the system and what I was really hired to do don’t match up that well, so it’s hard to really nail down what are “expanded” duties.

    And I really don’t know how to format/word any of this in an email to my recruiter.

    1. CynicallySweet*

      Bc ur job description doesn’t match what you really do it might be helpful to instead think of how your job was initially described and the duties you were initially assigned to do, and then talk about how the role has grown since then. Baby projects totally count BTW (I just maybe wouldn’t stress them as much as bigger ones).

      It might also help to think of it as listing off all of the ways that you have been an asset to the company rather than just as an expansion of the role itself.

      This is from someone who’s never been a contracter, but I went thru a very similar process last year for my raise so I’m hoping it can still help (and my job description is also way off from my actual job)

      1. Dragoning*

        I’m told they’re gonna retool my job description while I’m away and hopefully when I’m back it will actually…resemble my job. The title the contracting firm gave me isn’t even the same as what everyone here calls my job title.

        I guess I’m struggling, because all I was “assigned to” initially was…training? I work in pharma, so it’s a heavily regulated industry and I needed a basic level of qualifications to be able to do much of anything productive. For the first month I was here, I pretty much didn’t do anything but read documentation, and then I got started on my main qualification process, and it took months before I could do any of it so it “counted” (didn’t need to be redone by someone fully qualified).

        1. CynicallySweet*

          But you did get those qualifications, which you didn’t have when they initially hired you and therefore you weren’t getting paid for having them! I can’t really tell how new you are from your post. But I would definately mention the qualifications in the email.

          If u feel weird about that bc they’re necessary to do the job then think of it this way: if you leave they’ll have to wait 5 months for someone else to get trained up b4 they could start working (or more idk n ow typical the 5 months r). You’re saving them that wait time.

          I would still maybe tie it more to the initial job duties than the description, esp bc it’s getting rewritten after you’ve done the work for awhile and the changes you’ve made might be included in the new description (tho “impacted the duties described in newly re-written job description” could be a point in ur favor to mention)

  19. MOAS*

    I was just recently promoted to a manager. I have 2 people under me, 2 people “on loan” and we’ll be adding to the team eventually. I’ve been at my company for almost 5 years now. I have 2 co-managers who have their own reports, one is in office and the ohter is remote.

    I’m ending out the 2nd week in my new position. It’s been mostly clean up of the process and a lot of meetings but so far so good.

    next week we start interviewing for remote people.

    I did ask a few weeks ago but now it’s a reality. I’m going through the open threads & Archives about interviewing. These will be video interviews, and i think I’m more nervous as the interviewer. I’ve done phone calls and a few in person, but something about video just makes me nervous lol.

    1. Federal Middle Manager*

      My number one piece of interviewing advice is to ask open ended questions and then let the person answer.

      It sounds simple, but it’s really important: 1) If you ask questions with obvious answers, you get obvious answers; and 2) nervous interviewers will often try to fill the pauses by modifying the question, giving rambling examples or just talking from their own experience, which means you don’t get a feel for the candidate, who is just left there nodding along rather than supplying their own insights.

    2. K*

      Never ask what they WOULD do in a hypothetical situation. Instead, ask them to tell you about a time when they handled something similar in the past.

  20. Bee's Knees*

    Ugh. Ok, I have an English degree. I haven’t had a math class since high school. I took extra so I could be done. And I’m doing my second pay audit in a month. One of the people that works here hadn’t had a raise since 2016. Unacceptable. I think he should have said something to someone, instead of just letting it bottle up inside him, though. Because what happened when he snapped is he came up to my office or Boss’s, or his supervisor or manager, twice a day, every day, asking if it was fixed yet. I don’t think he realized how complicated the process is. It took me six hours. I had to figure out what he was making when, how much he was paid, how much he should have been paid, and the difference. Plus calculating overtime in all that. And I had to do it week by week, looking through his timesheets. He was not properly appreciative when I showed him my spreadsheet. Every time he asked me something, very rudely, I might add, it was all I could do not to yell “Suck it, punk!!!” but that’s not acceptable workplace behavior. And the accountant gave me a gold star on my spreadsheet, so I know it’s right. Well then he comes back, and insists it’s wrong. He was waiting for my boss this morning when he got in. Practically with his nose pressed to the window. And was it? No, cause I’m awesome. And if they’re going to make me do math, it’s going to be right.

    And now I get to do another audit, cause previous HR wasn’t worth a crap. This one’s only since July of last year though, so it’s not that bad. But if the manager tries to rush me on behalf of his people, he’s going to get to sit with me while I work it up.

    And boss says we’re not allowed to get a whack-a-mole game for the office. I think it would be very therapeutic.

      1. Bee's Knees*

        I’ve thought about it, but I’d end up smacking it against the desk, and next to my office door is a door-sized window into the hallway, so I don’t think it would work out.

      1. Bee's Knees*

        My aim is truly terrible. I probably could get a dart board, but the likelihood of me ever hitting it is slim.

      2. VLookupsAreMyLife*

        Oops, sorry, Brian! I didn’t mean to shoot your eye out with a dart 37 seconds after you sent me that SUPER sucky email… honest, I really do just have bad aim!

        More importantly, KUDOS to you for being awesome & rocking something that’s not a natural area of strength for you. I offer the highest of fives…

        1. Bee's Knees*

          Thanks! I was irritated that we had the issue in the first place, but I’m really proud of myself for coming up with a way to fix it.

          Yeah, we got some cooling towels to hand out, and I called it my Oprah moment. (You get a cooling towel, you get a cooling towel, everyone gets a cooling towel!) And a couple people suggested I throw them to people. I would completely unintentionally hit some people in the face had I done that, and it would end up being the people that don’t usually deserve it. Saying that devolved into several people talking about experiences with tshirt cannons, and it went downhill from there.

      3. I Work on a Hellmouth*

        Or one of those inflatable punching bag toys that re-rights itself? I think they make a John Cena one. His face is pretty punchable.

    1. Emily S.*

      You are awesome. Sorry you had to deal with such ridiculous bs.
      Hope you have a really fun holiday weekend, BK!

    2. T. Boone Pickens*

      How big of a pay adjustment are we talking about here? One one hand, I’m certainly sympathetic that you had to bear the brunt of this worker’s frustration even though you had nothing to do with it. On the other hand, if we’re talking about thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars I can see why this employee was certainly chapped.

      1. Bee's Knees*

        The second one that I just finished *fist pump* is a little under $500. The first one was about $5000. I’m not at all arguing that they should get paid what we owe them. I’m just saying I don’t think you should not mention for three years that you haven’t gotten a raise, and then breathe down the people’s necks that are trying to fix it for you, and weren’t here when it was going on.

  21. Weekend.Almost.Here.*

    I was wondering if anyone has tips for using up PTO when you are planning (read: hoping) to leave a job, but the issue is your employer makes you ask off 30 days in advance. I don’t have separate sick or vacation time – everything is in one bundle. The benefits at my current position are horrific (PTO is paltry as well), so I don’t want to waste a single hour of PTO since there is not much else I am getting from them. PTO can’t be cashed out, unfortunately, so if you don’t use it, you lose it. However, I am hesitant to book time off now, because what if I don’t end up getting a job offer for another 6 months or a year? Then I will have gone through most/all of my PTO and won’t be able to use time off later in the year around the holidays. My job is absolutely exhausting, and my normal strategy is to conserve my PTO so I can keep some on hand. I am hesitant to use up my PTO unless I absolutely know an offer is coming through. I worry by then however, it will be too late for me to request off due to the 30 day rule.

    The only option I can think of is providing new employers with a start date that is more than 30 days out . However, at least in my field, most employers try to onboard very quickly so they may not be open to me taking that long to come aboard. Anyone have tips for handling a situation like this?

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I think you’re in some relative of the sunk costs fallacy. If you get a better job and haven’t used all your PTO at this one, you will still have a better job.

      This is sitting on the mountain of a crappy job, clinging to the molehill of your accrued time off. You have to let go of the molehill to get off the mountain.

      1. Troutwaxer*

        This. I’d suggest taking a pleasant vacation and enjoying yourself. Then you can go back to work/job seeking after some relaxation.

      2. Fortitude Jones*

        Yup. I did the same thing as you, WAH, and held super tight to my PTO at the job before my last one because I figured my job search would take forever and I didn’t want to use up all of my time off in the event that I needed to use them for interview days. Well, I ended up getting a new position much faster than I anticipated with two weeks of PTO still left on the books (I had already taken three weeks off earlier in the year, but was burned out by hurricane season – I was an adjuster), and I ended up losing a week when I left since my company had a policy of only paying out leave up to five days. Bleh.

        Take your PTO. You may end up getting a job much sooner than you think with no real break in between jobs, so you want to be as refreshed as possible. Also, you can use part of your time off now to look for other, better jobs.

        1. Weekend.Almost.Here.*

          I literally only have three days of PTO right now, so that I think is why I am holding on to it so tightly. I will accrue a week before the end of the year, but right now I only have the three days.

          1. ChimericalOne*

            If you only have 3 days, I would save them up & use them for interviewing. Even a week isn’t honestly that much time to lose. If you had more like a month, I’d say start taking days off here & there and use them to apply for jobs, network, etc., but with just 3-7 days, you’re better off holding onto them.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Or for getting sick. If you had a month accrued then I’d go for the one week vacation option, but three days is one job interview and a bout of feed poisoning.

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Three. Days. Three. Days. I have never in my life heard of such a random number!

            I see why it’s creating stress for you about leaving that behind but if you do use them, then you get sick or something comes up, it’s just not worth your stress levels at that rate either. I hope you’re free of that nonsense soon, my friend.

            1. Fortitude Jones*

              Yup, I get it now too. Three days isn’t much to work with, especially if you end up getting sick. I revise my advice and say hold on to those days, lol. You may need them.

    2. Quiet Observer*

      I would use the PTO towards interviewing to get out of there. I don’t like leaving PTO on the table either but it sounds better to get out of there than spend too much mental energy trying to strategize it. When you have a new job lined up, if you still have PTO left, I would recommend getting some ‘food poisoning’ on a Monday or a Friday.

    3. Clementine*

      I don’t think the OP can use PTO for interviewing, because OP has to ask 30 days in advance for permission.

  22. Open Office Lolz*

    HAHAHA today my boss, who has her own office with a door, came to sit with us in the middle of our open office and kept remarking how “fun” it is to be part of the team – plus she chatted at us continually for the entire two hours so all work stopped all morning while we just paid attention to her. This must truly be an extrovert things: all of us who actually have to sit out here detest the open office and dream of murdering each other to get some peace and quiet to actually concentrate on our actual jobs.

    1. Dragoning*

      Not even an extrovert thing–she has an office with a door, so visiting the open office for two hours was a vacation for her, functionally. And she could leave at any time if she wanted or needed.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      It’s fun when you only have to do it for a few hours. Like how other people’s kids are fun to take places and then you can give them back.

      Tell her if she enjoys it so much, that she should give you all an hour a week to trade places and use her office for tasks that require quiet/concentration :)

    3. Rainy*

      I’m an extrovert and I hate open office schemes. I can imagine nothing more horrifying than not having a door to close when I need to.

    4. WellRed*

      I just read the transcript of a WeWork podcast about how they “decided to give up their desks.” But even in the interview, she’s admitting it’s not a popular change, the private phone booths are popular (duh!), but hey, it’s awesome!

      1. londonedit*

        Where my sister works, they moved to a new office last year and the bosses were in raptures about their newly renovated office and how much more efficient it was going to be – everyone was going to hot-desk! They intentionally bought fewer desks than there were people, because it was going to be such a fast-paced, collaborative environment! People could make use of digital networking – who needs face-to-face?? So modern!

        Do they allow people to work remotely? No.

        1. WellRed*

          It’s so fast paced and collaborative they can run between the desks, collaborating! Who needs to sit?

        2. only acting normal*

          The rationale for hot desking where I work is that some people are on leave, some are at meetings or otherwise offsite, etc so *on average* we only need 80% of the desks… guess what it’s like the first week after Xmas break? (The same reasoning applies to the car parking at our middle-of-nowhere office which isn’t served by public transport).

    5. LGC*

      I don’t know if it’s an extrovert thing so much as it is that your boss has a terrible case of Boss Brain. (That is, she has completely lost the ability to see things from her underlings’ perspective.) The president of our organization is the same way as your boss seems – he’s an extrovert, and a little oblivious to how things on the ground play out. (I mean, I like him, he’s great, and he’s had my back on things. But there’s that one thing…)

      I can imagine from her perspective, since she has her own office, she feels a little isolated. So, being able to chat for a couple of hours with everyone would be pretty cool! (Especially if she’s normally a bit more remote from you guys, figuratively speaking.) Except, since she has her own office, she doesn’t realize that all of y’all are on top of each other 40+ hours a week, every week.

      That said: you have more self-restraint than I because I would have given her SO MUCH FACE. (I give face in general, which is a bad thing at work and something I’m working on.) Hopefully, she doesn’t make it a tradition (or at least she plans it out better so she doesn’t just swan in and grace you with her demands for attention).

    6. alphabet soup*

      I’ve yet to find the ideal office setup. My previous job had an open office plan and in my current job, I have my own office. At first, I was so excited for the quiet and ability to concentrate! But after a while, it started to feel super isolating– I sit in a room, all day, alone… there are days when I don’t talk to a single person because I get so wrapped up in work, and no one stops by my office. So, I get the desire to have some variety. I think the ideal setup would give everyone a private office/cube, but still have one or two open areas where people could choose to go work on a laptop if they need to mix it up. (But totally agree that your boss talking about how “fun” the open office is makes them look woefully out of touch.)

  23. Lovecraft Beauty*

    I’m (hopefully!) expecting an offer from a institute of higher ed soon. I am not faculty, this would be for a mid-level technical administrative staff position. I’m trying to figure out what I want to negotiate — cash compensation, if they offer me less than $dollars, and relocation assistance, and a confirmation about flexible schedule/telecommuting (this is pretty normal at this place), but I’d also like to see if they’re willing to change the title of the position to reflect my field of expertise, rather than the specific technology used. Is this appropriate/normal?

    For example, the posting is for a Clay Teapots Developer, but I am a Spout Developer. They know this is my specialty, and have been enthusiastic about adding a SME to the team.

    1. Admin of Sys*

      (assuming US) If it’s a state school, higher ed usually can’t change up titles like that. Those sort of things have to go through the state allocation and job banding and many many other levels of process. Similarly, a state school is going to be locked into their hiring salary range, though they should have room within that range. However, a lot of states require the salaries to be published, so you can see exactly what other folks with your title and band are making.

      1. Lovecraft Beauty*

        Nope, private! I know the range, and my salary requirements are solidly within it.

      2. De-Archivist*

        Seconding this. I work in an administrative position at a four-year public university. The titles are predetermined as a part of our contract with the state legislature and Board of Fancypantses. Changing one would take an act of a deity. There’s a pay range, but that’s usually very dependant on your education level. Say $4X for no degree, $4Y for a bachelor’s, $4Z for a master’s, etc. You can ask to be brought in at the high side of the range because of experience or whatever your reason, but even that might be impossible.

        Anecdote, I got brought in on the high side because my university hasn’t given raises in a couple of years and no COLA for the last 2. My argument was that I’m not likely to get a raise in quite some time, so it made sense to start slightly higher knowing I might never make more. That said, my boss and I have a good relationship, so I didn’t feel this was a risk.

        Do be aware that if you’re brought in at the top of the pay scale, that position may never be able to pay more, so there may be no room for a raise. That works fine because you’ll still be making more money that you would at the bottom of the scale, but public university jobs are pretty rigid in what they offer for administrative positions … All bets are off if you’re about to be a Vice Chancellor or Assistant Provost of something or another. :D Make that state school work for you.

      3. Catwoman*

        I work at a public and I will add that it’s common practice for us to have an internal “HR title” and another title approved by your supervisor that you use on your email signature, business cards, etc…HR title never changes, but I have successfully gotten the “working” title changed to better reflect my actual job duties/external market.

    2. fposte*

      I think you can inquire, but it may not be negotiable. The bigger and more state-funded the school, the less likely title is to be negotiable.

    3. Gene Parmesan*

      I’ve worked in higher education for several years. I would certainly try to negotiate the points you mentioned, but think through what your response will be if they say no. I recently accepted an offer where I found the university’s HR department to be extremely rigid. I successfully negotiated a higher salary than the original range, and after they approved it, they made the hiring manager re-post the position for a certain amount of time, with the salary range going up to our higher number. Although I didn’t ask for it, I don’t think they would have changed the job title. This is for a public university, and they may be more inflexible than private colleges.

    4. JanetM*

      Some places may allow a “vanity” title as well as an official title. My official job title is Coordinator I and my vanity title is Project Manager.

    5. CJ*

      Hi,
      I lead a small tech group at a private university. In my experience, job titles are VERY heavily vetted before posting, so you likely won’t be able to negotiate a change there. I also doubt they’d be able to offer relocation. I’d suggest focusing on telecommuting/flexible hours. They probably also have a bit of wiggle room for you to negotiate salary.

    6. Betty*

      For faculty roles (the only side of higher ed I’ve worked in), it’s pretty common to be able to get “professional development funds” that can be used for professional travel/memberships, extra tech (e.g., getting a tablet in addition to the standard desktop machine), books, etc.. If they can’t budge on salary they might be able to set something like that up?

  24. second chance at an interview I bombed*

    I work in government and two years ago I applied for a higher position than the one I currently have. There are two rounds that determine an eligibility list for hiring, a written test and an oral exam, which is an interview panel. Last time I did well on the written portion but bombed the interview portion so badly that I didn’t make the list.

    I applied again and did very, very well on the written test, and I have a lunch date next week with someone who holds the role I’m applying for. There were some situational questions last time that were *extremely* specific, unusual scenarios and I really struggled with those. I’m wondering if it’s gauche or like, cheating, to straight up ask the person I’m meeting with what he would answer. My work culture values information sharing and mentoring but I’m wondering if I should be more general. The questions were more about protocol when things go sideways and I’m wondering if I should focus on that rather than the situations, specifically.

    Anyone out there with experience in government panels who could help me out?

    1. Dasein9*

      I do not have experience with government panels, but do have experience with comprehensive exams in an academic setting. It’s common practice to permit test-takers to use previous years’ test questions in order to study for their own exams. The questions would not be exactly the same, but would give an idea of how much detail was expected, trends in how the questions were asked, etc. This is really valuable for studying. You can ask whether old tests are provided for people to prep with.

      If you were to say “Obviously, you can’t give me answers to current test questions, but can we talk about your experience taking the test? It would be a big help to hear about the types of questions you encountered and your logic in answering them,” then you should be just fine.

      1. second chance at an interview I bombed*

        Thank you so much for this response — super helpful and I’ll definitely ask about what he encountered, too. I really want to nail this and think I’ll be able to prepare accordingly having done this before and knowing what to expect.

        1. DerJungerLudendorff*

          I imagine that they want you to have a similar level of information as you would have on the actual job.
          It’s not actually in their interest to keep a lot of information about the questions a secret, because it wouldn’t give accurate information on how well you would do the job. As long as you can’t just copy the answers directly, I imagine you should be fine asking deeper questions about the style, complexity and so on :)

    2. Kittymommy*

      Check to see if the panel scorecard/notes from your last interview are public record. If so, request them from whomever holds them (likely hr) to see if any comments might help. Also see if you can get the other interviews as well. Where I’m at, also government, this is very common to do, especially with internet applicants. HR doesn’t even have an eye, which I know since I used to work in hr.

      1. second chance at an interview I bombed*

        That’s a great idea. I know the materials are owned by a third party (HR contracts out a service that creates the materials and runs metrics to rank candidates against one another, kinda like a bell curve, but more granular) so I’m not sure if I’d be able to review them, but I will absolutely contact my HR rep and see if there’s any way I can review my file. My interview score was very high for the position I am holding now (39 out of 40), and I bet at the very least they’d let me see the feedback for the panel when I was successful. Thanks so much and have a great Memorial Day weekend!

    3. Reba*

      I feel like I would be taken aback by someone asking me how to answer test questions. It does smack of cheating to me–but you know your field/workplace better than I do of course. Then again so much of gov hiring is BS that working through the system is something everyone develops tricks around, so they might be happy to share what worked for them.

      I’d prefer an opening like, “last time around I really struggled with the situational questions in the interview. Do you have any thoughts on those?”

      That opens it up to the person without asking for answers as such. They might be comfortable going into more detail from there, they might not.

      1. second chance at an interview I bombed*

        For sure going to feel it out and get a vibe from my colleague on how much information he’s willing to divulge/what is appropriate to ask.

        I am new to government so I’m still figuring it out! This meeting was suggested to me by my old union rep (who has since been promoted to management). She has been very supportive of me since joining my agency and she recommended my colleague to help me role play and otherwise prepare for this interview. I get the feeling this is all above-board but it feels kind of weird and unfair to me? So yeah, I agree that it kind of seems like cheating to me, too. But like I said, this all seems totally by the book so who knows? I just want to do well on the interview based on my own merit and preparation, not because someone fed me answers or told me what to say.

    4. Policy Wonk*

      In my experience such questions are more to see how you respond/think on your feet, than to elicit a specific answer. There really is no right answer, though there might be a right approach to finding an answer. I went through similar testing twice myself. The scenario questions were completely different the second time, so I expect you will get different questions than your colleague did, as well as different from your last experience. But it doesn’t hurt to ask what questions he was asked and how he approached them.

      I caution that every agency is different, so my experience may not be relevant.
      Good luck on your orals.

      1. second chance at an interview I bombed*

        Thanks for your insight and the well wishes, I really appreciate it. I get the impression that they’re not necessarily looking for a right answer, but more how you handle a problem that’s new to you/you’re not entirely sure how to solve. That’s why I think I’ll approach the situation more broadly with my colleague. Thanks again, this was so helpful!

    5. CoffeeOnMyMind*

      I’ve worked in government and have been both the interviewer and the interviewee. My experience has always been with a 3 person panel, where they hand you a list of questions they will ask. Then each person on the panel takes turns asking you a question, and then they all write your response.

      I’m not sure if the department you’re interviewing with has a different approach, but I see no harm in asking your contact what their experience was like. Good luck!

      1. second chance at an interview I bombed*

        Yup! The process is exactly as you described, albeit a slightly larger panel (if I recall correctly it was 4 or 5). Thanks for your support!

        1. TT&E*

          My experience is that government panels are often looking for well organized and solid examples of performing a task, or similar task when you answer. Also, assume the interviewers have NOT read your resume (or if they have, remember more than some basics). Super common for govt panels to have 10 minutes between candidates – that’s so little time to score the previous, run to the bathroom, etc.

          When I prep I look at the things listed in the job description and answer how I have, or have related experience. I try to pull from a different jobs/projects.

          For example – job description includes ‘teapot inventory and ordering’ and ‘coffee cup purchasing’

          Question – What is your experience with coffee cup purchasing and what software did you use?

          Answer. I have not specifically purchased coffee cups, but I know they are similar in nature to tea cups and generally come from the same manufacturers. At old job I purchased 30 % of the annual teapots. In April I would begin the annual inventory of teapot needs for my department, create a projection for the next year by getting non-binding quotes from vendors, then make sure the teacups budget was included in annual gov budget for next fiscal year in May/June. As soon as we were funded in July I’d start ordering teacups. To track this we used the HotPots System, however, I am also familiar with PotsTepid.

          That was way longer than I meant it to be.

          1. TT&E*

            Also the timing seems weird because my state, and most local government use a July – June fiscal year.

            1. second chance at an interview I bombed*

              Thanks for this! Our fiscal year is also July-June. :)

  25. instant coffee*

    At my work people don’t say good morning when they walk in and don’t say goodbye when they leave. Despite that everyone works well and there’s no office drama. I just wanted to know if a no good morning/goodbye practice would bother anyone.

    1. Murphy*

      I would 100% love that (assuming I don’t need to know if certain people are leaving)

    2. Unknown*

      I’m not a morning person and I’m shy, so I don’t go out of my way to say “good morning” or “goodbye” to strangers at all, but I will say it to coworkers or people I like if the situation makes it easy to because it feels friendly to do it. So situations like if I go to ask them a question first thing in the morning, if I’m waiting in line for coffee with them, if I sit across from them, if I’m holding a door open for them, if they ask me a question and I’m leaving after I answer, etc. I don’t make an effort to talk to people if they’re just passing my desk or if I’m passing their desk, and I don’t go to peoples’ desks to specifically say anything. I don’t want to needlessly interrupt them and interrupt my own work.

      So, no, it wouldn’t bother me not to say it. I’m not opposed to saying it to some people in some situations though.

    3. JR*

      That’s how it is in my office. I enjoy it because I can save my “dealing with people” energy for work interactions.

    4. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius*

      Ugh yes I would be bothered by this. My office is highly collaborative so if someone came up to my desk in the morning and launched into work without a “hello” I would be annoyed.

      Luckily we do always greet each other in the mornings! We’re a small office, basically one hallway of offices and desks. The door is on one end and kitchen on the other end, so with the walking we pretty much see everybody within the first hour and that’s when greetings occur.

    5. Rainy*

      Nope. This would not bother me in the slightest. In fact, I often sneak in the back way to avoid the difficult to avoid greeting from reception.

    6. Avocado Toast*

      Definitely depends on how the office is set up. At my last job, we were in a semi-open office with some cubicles and some desks, and there were fewer than ten employees, so it was weird to walk in and not say anything (at least to the people you sat next to or had to pass to get to your desk)

      At my current job, the office admin has a desk at the front door and everyone else has their own office. I say good morning/goodbye to her if she’s at her desk. Other than that, I only say a specific greeting/goodbye to people if they are between the door/my desk.

      1. De-Archivist*

        That’s what I was thinking. If we were all in a big space, a general, “Good morning, all!” addressed to the group would be enough. In my office, I would have to walk down a couple of different hallways to drop by their offices to say hello, which would be a little strange in our office, if I didn’t need anything. I do greet our office secretary because I pass by her to my office, but I don’t make it a point to seek my coworkers out to say hello.

    7. a*

      We had to have a long discussion about this because I don’t want to talk to anyone in the mornings and my coworker feels rude not to greet people. Buuuut, he didn’t want to “bother me” by saying good morning. Finally, I was all “It doesn’t bother me if you do or do not say good morning – if you say it, I’ll respond. But I certainly will not initiate it, so don’t be offended. It’s not personal.” Good night or have a good weekend or whatever is pretty optional. Since I sit in the farthest cubicle away from everyone in a mostly empty (but large – future planning!) office, it’s easy for everyone to forget I’m here. :)

    8. Fortitude Jones*

      Nope – I totally was that person for the most part at all previous jobs. I work from home now, so the only person I have to talk to is my reflection in the mirror, lol.

    9. Lime Lehmer*

      It is the practice in my current office not to say good morning or goodbye. It used to bother me, but this is the nicest calmest group of people I have ever worked with, so I chalk it up to office culture and open floor plan.

    10. Nous allons, vous allez, ils vont*

      I would be bothered by this and I’m suuuuper introverted.
      It just seems weird and unfriendly to mandate a “no good morning/ goodbye” rule in an office. Does it really take that much out of people to utter a total of three words in a day? Again, I appreciate how draining small talk can be, but “good morning” takes almost zero effort.

    11. CoffeeOnMyMind*

      In my office it just depends on the person; some people say hello/goodbye while others don’t. I always say hello or goodbye to people, but it doesn’t bother me when others don’t. It’s just a personal preference.

    12. coffee cup*

      I think it’s a bit rude if it’s someone you sit near or next to, because it takes 2 seconds to do it and it’s just pleasant. I wouldn’t expect someone on the other side of the office to do it, but in my pod of four it would bother me if no one bothered to say hi and bye (but then inevitably wanted my help with something half an hour later). I’m an introvert and I am happy not to chat for long periods but to me this isn’t that. It’s just a quick courtesy.

      To be clear, I’d never make a big of it, but I’d still find it a bit rude.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Same here. I make a point of saying good morning/good night to my team members–I’m the department head so I think it would be rude to not acknowledge them. I also say it to people I happen to pass on my way in or out. I think it’s just common courtesy. I don’t go seeking other people out, though, just for the sake of saying hello or goodbye.

    13. Not All*

      The person in my current office who Must Say It To Everyone Every Day drives most of the rest of us absolutely insane. The “good morning” “good morning” “good morning” as person after person trickles in/out each day is so freaking irritating. Because he makes such a point of it, most of us actually have shifted from “he’s just friendly” to “it’s a total passive-aggressive power play” over the years…though unsurprisingly there are other places where he clearly demonstrates that he cares much more about the appearance of We’re All Family than actually getting along & respecting each other. We will start talking to each other as we get settled in and start working. We all get along, we will greet each other nicely as we interact during the day.

    14. Purple Jello*

      Most of the time, I either smile, nod or wave. Occasionally I’ll say hello, good morning or hey. As long as. We acknowledge each other, I’m good.

    15. Alanna of Trebond*

      My office is the same — we’re an open plan office with about 25 people who come and go at different times (we’re very flexible on remote work), and it would be very odd and disruptive if everyone called out “good morning” or “goodbye” when they left. I’ll sometimes say good morning/goodbye to seatmates if I’m the first one in (and see them arrive) or the first to leave, but it’s definitely not expected.

      When a new manager started a few years ago who was a good morning/goodbye person it made me almost feel like I was being called out for what time I got in/left! It took a week or so for me to remember that in some offices it’s normal.

    16. Lilysparrow*

      Depends on the layout. If someone walked or sat in close proximity and direct eyeline to me without speaking, I would find that strange and a little disconcerting.

      If the workspaces are arranged so that isn’t happening, not strange.

    17. Cog in the Machine*

      It would only bother me in the sense that I like to know who else is in the office since I’m in the very back and can’t always hear the front door open.
      In old office, people tended to get pretty grumpy if no one said good morning or goodbye.

    18. Even Steven*

      We have a general no-greetings vibe like that at my office, and no one seems weirded out by it. We might say toodle-loo at the end of a Friday before a long weekend (as we did, a bit, for some, today) but overall, it’s the just the way the team is – we’re near silent bean counters. Easy going, no drama, but very quiet. I love it! Now, the livelier departments (like sales and HR) sound like they are regular greeters and toodle-looers, so maybe it varies by environment? I just know that it works for me, and works for everyone in my department.

    19. The Rat Catcher*

      I work in an office with about 40 other people, and I’m in child welfare which is a field that is high on social expectations. Even we only have one or two people who greet everyone they pass in the morning or when they leave, unless they are leaving at an unusual time in which case they might explain that (but even that isn’t really expected unless, as others have said, people might come looking for you.

    20. iglwif*

      I think it would depend on the setup? If saying good morning to people when you walk in means a vague wave and a general “morning” to a whole group in an open space, that’s one thing, and I think it would feel a bit weird if no one did it, since everyone can clearly see you arriving and leaving.

      If on the other hand saying good morning to people when you walk in means sticking your head in at a dozen office doors or around a dozen cubicle walls, then IMO doing it is way weirder than not doing it (not to mention super disruptive).

  26. Unknown*

    I’ve typically bought my own office supplies for work to make my job easier or my workspace more comfortable since my employers only provided things like cheap pens, paper pads and a basic computer set up (tower, monitor, and standard keyboard and mouse). Unfortunately, my office supplies have been stolen before, and one job didn’t send them to me after laying me off even though I asked for them, so I’m thinking I should only buy things I can easily take home every night (like nice pens, post-its and a notebook).

    I’ve heard that nicer companies will let new employees order some office supplies, so if that’s the case in my new job, I was wondering what and how much is appropriate to ask for? I’m not sure what I’ll need yet, but things that I would like at pretty much any job are a foot stool, wrist rest, trackball mouse (the $25 Logitech one), and a binder with dividers. I feel kind of weird about asking for office supplies since I’ve never had that option before, but it would be nice if they did provide some!

    1. Llama Wrangler*

      I think all of those things are within the range of reason, especially since they promote proper ergonomics (except for the binder, of course, but that falls in the range of normal office supplies that most jobs would order). At my job, I just spoke to the person who handles ordering and said “I need these things in order to be able to sit comfortably at my desk and do my work; what’s the procedure on getting them.” For us, it turns out anything above $100 needs special approval but otherwise its fair game.

      1. Auntie Social*

        I’d add a box of your favorite pens–gel, trac ball, fine point Flair, etc. Everyone has one they love.

    2. Rainy*

      Check with your new manager. My office has an official policy around start-up costs (new employees get much much more money for supplies in their first year of employment with the reasoning that for the first year you’re still figuring out what you need) and then an official policy around how much money in personalized office supplies we get per FY. This doesn’t count computers, furniture, and common office supplies like paper goods, the pens that are usually stocked, etc, which come out of the common pool.

    3. Susan K*

      A binder with dividers is definitely a reasonable request almost anywhere. The other stuff… maybe, maybe not — depends on the company. I would suggest looking around at your coworkers’ desks to see if they all have basic supplies or if any of them have a foot stool, wrist rest, or special mouse (or other non-standard office supplies). If they do, you can ask where they got it, and if you’re lucky, they’ll say, “Fergus ordered it for me. He orders all the office supplies and he’ll get you whatever you need.” If everyone just has the basics, you might get some side-eye for making special requests, so I would find out who orders office supplies and start with the mouse (since everyone needs a mouse and you just want a different type of mouse) before you ask for the foot stool and wrist rest.

    4. CynicallySweet*

      All of these make sense to me. My Co supplies office equip we need. We have a closet with extra stuff should we ever run out. If ur office has a closet of some type I’d suggest checking what they have/provide and then trying it out before asking for stuff to be ordered (tho honestly nothing ur describing here sounds like it would be crazy out of bounds to order)

    5. OxfordComma*

      Everything you mentioned would be in the realm of possibility for you if you worked here (academic library). I would just ask what the policy is in your new office. Definitely, the binder with dividers should be a go.

  27. Sunday Morning Fever*

    I should just call my direct reports, Double Trouble. I supervise two associates, one junior, one senior.

    The senior one gets defensive and territorial.
    The junior one doesn’t like to admit they don’t know something and talks A LOT about everything.

    There are some days where these quirks in their personalities are “enhanced”. Those are the days that I regret accepting my promotion and long for the glory days of being an individual contributor. Honestly, I will take less money to deal with less BS.

    1. WellRed*

      As their manager, you have standing to discuss these issues with them, the impact it could have on their success.

      1. Sunday Morning Fever*

        I’m aware, it’s just not an aspect of my job that I enjoy and to be honest, I’m surprised that some of it exists, because the level of quirk is sometimes simply unprofessional.

        1. ChimericalOne*

          Yeah, it’s definitely not the most pleasant thing! But it could greatly improve your life (and theirs, too) to handle this.

      2. ChimericalOne*

        I second this. Talk to each associate about the pattern you’ve noticed after the next incident and the response you’re looking for from them. You have the power to either shape them into better employees or show them that this job isn’t going to be a good fit for them.

        1. WKRP*

          My coworker goes by a nickname, think Dany in lieu of Danaerys. Dany calls everyone by their full name. Dany calls everyone by their full name even after she hears others call a person by their nickname. She’ll continue to call Betsy, Elizabeth — even after I’ve called her Betsy, emailed her (with Dany cc’ed) as Betsy, and never every use the name Elizabeth.

          It’s super odd. Because Dany goes by Dany professionally, but her email is Danaerys, so I find it extremely odd that she wouldn’t take the cue. I had one person ask me why she persisted in using their formal name and I had to mention to Dany that no one uses that name and she should call her by her nickname.

          Dany is not always the sharpest tool in the box, decent enough at some things. But I find this behavior really odd.

          1. DerJungerLudendorff*

            I would be so tempted to get petty and use her full name and title in ever single interaction.
            “Daenarys Targaryan-Stormborn, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Lady of Dragonstone, Breaker of Chains, Mother of Dragons, The Unburnt, Queen of Meereen, could you hand me the TPS reports?”

  28. Gene Parmesan*

    I recently accepted a new job that I’m really happy about. I’ve given my notice at my current employer, and am working on writing documentation for my replacement. It’s a lot of responsibility, and there are technical details that I need to convey.
    Unfortunately, it sounds like they’re not going to hire a replacement for my position due to financial constraints (worries about finances/long-term sustainability of the organization are one of the reasons I’m leaving). I feel pretty good about the person who will be absorbing my duties, but I know she can’t do everything and the least-urgent tasks are not going to get done. But, it’s out of my hands. I’m going to do my best to train her and then the organization will just have to deal with things themselves.

    1. VLookupsAreMyLife*

      That sounds tough, but you have a good attitude about it. Congrats on the new opportunity!

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Your last part is critical and I’m so glad you’re telling yourself that. You’re doing everything you can to ensure the person taking over/absorbing the duties is as prepared as possible. That’s awesome and exactly the right thing to do!

      I’ve been there. Oh woah, really I could have written this a few years. However I was too emotionally invested and didn’t let it roll off my back as easy and it took me a bit of a personal “breakdown” to really have my partner tell me point blank “It’s not your problem anymore. You are leaving for this reason, remember?”

      Congrats on your new job, it’s going to be such a great adventure!

    3. ContemporaryIssued*

      Sad to say my organisation has done this several times. One awesome co-worker, Margot, left in February and she handed off about a third of her duties to a recent-ish employee Janet (two months into her job) and then some of her tasks she gave to me; some she told her boss she couldn’t find anybody to do. Her boss said not to worry, they’d figure something out. (Narrator from Arrested Development: They didn’t figure anything out.)

      Unfortunately Janet’s boss Greg decided to usurp the tasks Margot had given me, and lay them all on Janet. (I didn’t fight it because I have enough on my plate and Greg is a manager while I’m a secretary.) Janet worked late nights and, dropped the ball on a couple of things, so she was let go. Now a new assistant to Greg, Julia, is trying to stay on top of learning everything so she’s coming to me for advice, which I don’t know about because while I was given guidance by Margot, I didn’t actually do the tasks so I don’t know what Greg or Janet did.

      Enjoy your new job and don’t worry about leaving a mess. The organisation should figure it out themselves.

  29. Lady Jay*

    Earplug advice needed!

    I’ll be headed to a conference on the East Coast later this summer. We’re staying in a beautiful historic hotel that’s actually a reasonable price–but I just found out there’s a bar down the street, and the hotel can sometimes be a bit noisy. The problem? I can’t reliably get earplugs to fit in my ears. I’ve practiced, I’ve had other people help, it’s just really a no-go.

    What recommendations besides foam earplugs do you have for shutting out the noise and actually getting some sleep? I’m ideally looking for solutions that don’t involve dropping $200 on noise cancelling headphones.

    1. KatieKate*

      Wax earplugs!! They’re in the same section of a drug store, sometimes labeled “swimmer’s earplugs.” They fit over the opening of the ear rather than inside and work even better for blocking out sound. I too have trouble with foam earplugs not fitting in my ear so I’d recommend giving these a shot!

      1. Commenter*

        THIS!! :)

        Example: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B003LZQGN6/

        I had to start wearing earplugs to sleep next to my snoring partner, and had so much trouble with foam earplugs I ended up giving myself a massive double ear infection. I saw these at the drugstore while filling my antibiotic prescription and have been hooked ever since! :)

      2. LPUK*

        Another vote for wax earplugs. Not only are they mouldable but after having them in for 30 minutes or more, they soften even further so you can push them further in and really block out the sound. Don’t worry, you can get them out just as easily the next day!

    2. Bee's Knees*

      Have you checked for the small size of earplugs? If I could attach a photo I would. I have little ears, and there’s only one kind here at work that I can use. I made the guy who restocks them give me like 20 pairs. They’re the 3m push in’s, if that’s helpful to you at all.

      1. Anonysand*

        This x 10000000. I have extremely small ears, apparently, and regular earplugs actually bruise my ear canals and I’m in pain for days after trying to wear them. Finding smaller earplugs (and also testing out the different shapes) did a world of difference. The was earplugs as well are a good solution if you still can’t find anything. Also- have you considered a white noise machine or a fan? Those won’t eliminate all the noise but it can help. I’m an extremely light sleeper and won’t travel without those or my sleep mask.

        1. Llama Wrangler*

          I never thought I had small ear canals but my ears definitely hurt if I wear ear plugs for more than one night in a row. Is that not normal?

          1. Anonysand*

            Nope! That means you’ve got the wrong size or shape of earplugs. I found ONE type I can consistently wear without pain and they’re smaller sized and thinner, with flared ends like a bell. Typically they’re bright green, but it can vary on the brand. Those pink ones that are fish-shaped and marketed towards women? I will be in excruciating pain for days afterward.

    3. Alleycat*

      Download a white noise/fan/nature sounds app on your phone. I have one for when I’m traveling and it’s a life saver!

      1. Quiet Observer*

        This! I have a free app on my phone called Relaxio. You can choose different white noises, nature noises, even car noises.You can also set a timer so if you just need it for a period until you fall asleep it will turn itself off.

        1. Zephy*

          +1 for Relaxio – I just commented about it below. It’s free, there is a paid version but all it does is remove the banner ad at the bottom. I never had a talking ad come up when I had the free version, as I’ve seen in the reviews of other white noise apps.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Someone here ages ago recommended the Lectrofan Micro and it has honestly been one of my all-time favorite purchases as far as working exactly as advertised and being excellent value for money. It’s the size of a jar of eye cream, lasts ages on a charge (and forever if plugged in), and has an incredible range of sounds and volumes. Plus it works as a bluetooth speaker. Such an awesome little product.

        1. Competent Commenter*

          I absolutely love mine. Good recommendation! We always take it when we travel and use it every night at home.

    4. Teapot Compliance*

      I find the triflange ear plugs a lot easier to insert, but if you’re a side sleeper, you’ll have to check and see if the little handle is an issue.

      I’d also recommend watching a couple videos on ear plug insertion, because I have a similar issue with small ear canals and figuring out the shape of mine. I kind of have to pull on my ear in a big way to straighten the canal.

    5. Zephy*

      I use a white noise app on my phone. The one I have is called Relaxio. There’s a free version and it has 16 options – weather, nature, traffic, static, etc. I use the electric fan sound. You can pick one sound or make a custom mix, and adjust volume levels for individual sounds and global volume level.

    6. L.S. Cooper*

      I blast a white noise app on my phone that’s rain noises with faint music. For me, the issue isn’t noise, but noise that my brain is trying to process– music and talking, as well as irregular sounds (like snoring) get my brain’s attention and make it hard to get to sleep. The white noise sort of evens it all out and “absorbs” the ambient sounds. Now, if the outside sounds are too loud, they break through, but it’s normally enough. (The only times I’ve had issues have been: roommates watching a loud movie directly below me, people across the street having a party out on their lawn complete with blasting music, mom with severe sleep apnea snoring in the same room.)

    7. CynicallySweet*

      I also can’t fit any ear plugs and make them stay in! I’ve found ear muffs (like you’d wear in the winter) work pretty ok n you can get some fer pretty cheap!

    8. Joie De Vivre*

      My husband travels a lot for work. Based on recommendations from posters on this site, I got him a LectroFan micro white noise machine. It has really helped.

      You can get them on Amazon.

      Hope you find something that works for you.

    9. Admin of Sys*

      I hate wearing earplugs of any type. I’ve found that white noise apps work well, but also in really loud environments, wearing winter ear wraps can help if you can handle the extra warmth. The kind that look like knit headbands, but are designed to go over your ears. The thicker ones do a great job of muffling sound but aren’t uncomfortable to sleep in.

    10. Fergus, the one from GoT*

      I had a decent pair of ear buds that stopped working and I cut the wires so they’re essentially ear plugs but far more comfortable.

    11. Competent Commenter*

      To go in a completely different direction, I listen to a sleep podcast to help me go to sleep at night, and I bought cheap headband earphones to wear when I sleep so I can listen to it. You could use those with white noise or music or a podcast. The little circular speakers in the headband are pretty flat, I’d say they’re about a third of an inch thick and about 1.5 inches across. Granted, I often find the headband around my neck (not scary like it sounds, it’s stretchy, soft, not tight) or beside me on the pillow when I wake up. My husband snores loudly, and we use a white noise machine (the Lectrofan Micro recommended below), but honestly it’s not always enough because he’s just as close to me as the white noise. I listen to my sleep podcast and the person’s voice plus the white noise cover up all but a tiny bit of the snoring. Occasionally I’ll wake up in the middle of the night because the headband fell off and the snoring woke me up, and I’ll put it back on and load up another podcast, but mostly once I’m asleep the snoring doesn’t bother me.

      I originally bought a headband with a plug-in cord, and that was ok—quite a long cord and a good test of the tech. I then bought a bluetooth version. I think I spent about $20 on the first and no more than $40 on the bluetooth. I wish I could remember my brand, but there are a ton on Amazon. I wore my headband to run a 5k recently and it was great for that too.

      And if anyone’s interested, the podcast I use is Sleep with Me. I love it. My mind tends to race as soon as I get in bed and this has been so helpful. My 11-year-old son loves it too.

    12. Jarissa*

      https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B07F59HQRC/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awdb_t1_k1n6CbB700RH9 should be a link to the Bluetooth sleep headphones that I use for my tinnitus. Nothing goes inside the ear canal except sound. Next to me, my husband hears nothing at all. Download to phone a white noise app or one of those 8 hour sound effect videos from YouTube, turn on airplane mode and reactivate Bluetooth connection, hit “play” and crash. I sleep in various positions, no trouble or discomfort. I can disassemble this thing every other week and wash the not-electronics bit with baby shampoo during my morning shower. Heartily recommend.

  30. Rowdy Rutabagas*

    Clash of the Directors – part drei (and its getting serious)

    S1, E3: “New staff pushing out competent established staff.”

    Our new DD, who has no fundraising experience, seems to have it out for established competent staff.

    Does the new development director (DD) have it out for the events manager? according to the events manager (EM) she had to sit through an impromptu two hour feedback session (during which the DD had notes but the EM was not able to prepare). The DD said our recent annual golf tournament was a complete fail other than the golfers had a good time. As a new employee to the event, I can’t concur. It was well organized even though the ED and DD threw in a lot of last-minute changes despite neither having participated or seen this golf event in action; this is the second time this EM has produced this event.

    When the EM explained that there was no need for the DD to be involved in the details, except to learn about how the EM does her job, the EM would greatly appreciate that the DD focus on her fundraising responsibilities. Except the DD mentions she wasn’t exactly hired to exclusively focus on fundraising bit to also assume business operations, per convos with the ED. We have a brand new ED and DD, and given how long both positions were essentially vacant, it’s going to take us a good year or so to start making financial in roads. They need not bother themselves with the details of other people’s jobs.

    This comes on the 4-week approach to the EMs maternity leave and she’ll be gone for 12-weeks (which the EM changed from 6-weeks when the DD sent an email – on the EMs day off- requesting her to create a 12-week schedule of tasks so the DD and I will be taken care of.

    IMHO that email should have been from the perspective that we want to make sure these responsibilities are taken care of so the EM doesn’t worry while she’s gone. Instead the DD wrote it from the ‘I expect to be taken care of and that’s your responsibility.’

    And yet, for some reason the DD doesn’t treat me like this. Why? Although she’s still trying to get me to tell her when people are dissatisfied. “So that thing that we talked about last week have you heard anything from anyone? Is anybody let you know they’re not happy?” To which I reply, ‘Nope’ and she says, “Ok I’m just trying to be cognizant of what’s going on.” No- you want me to tattle on people. Be aware, yourself.

    Whose next on the DDs hit list? As the world turns!!

    1. DerJungerLudendorff*

      Excuse me while I break out the popcorn, complain about overused petty villain cliches and anticipate the climactic scene where our plucky EM shows up the evil villains in front of the company and the board of directors and receives a standing applause while the villains are fired on the spot and promise vengeance as they are carried off by local security.

      1. Rowdy Rutabagas*

        Not sure how to read your post, but there’s a 90% likelihood that the EM will not return from maternity leave. and there’s a 90% likelihood that the DD will continue to badger the EM during maternity leave.

        And as the most recent hire before the ED and DD arrived, without deep roots and particularly developed passion for the organization partnered with two decades of nonprofit work my empathy is with the EM; I’ve never seen a DD do this.

  31. Incoming Intern*

    Hello! I’m beginning a summer internship in a week, and this is my first proper work experience (I’ve only held very casual part time jobs before this), so I’m really nervous! I’m also on the autism spectrum, so do people have any advice for specific social dynamics I’ll really need to make sure I won’t miss and/or general advice and things they wish they’d known? Thank you!

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      I’d say just try to hang back and observe as much as possible. You are there to learn, so nobody is suggesting you to be super pro active right away and jump in with suggestions etc. If you find your supervisor trustworthy it might be helpful to disclose what you would need from their to succeed (“I don’t always pick up hints so I would be super grateful if you could be explicit about anything I need to do differently” maybe?).

    2. revueller*

      If someone gives you verbal instructions, repeat what you understood back to them to double-check what they want from you. Asking questions shows diligence, but there’s a point where asking too many “why” questions will sound like you’re questioning the person and their authority. It’s a stupid reason for them to get upset, not everyone will be like that, but it is something to watch out for.
      I’m still very bad at this, but if you have an office where people eat lunch together (instead of at their desks), try to eat with them for at least part of your lunch break. You can step out and fake a phone call if you need to go sit by yourself and decompress.
      Best of luck, friend!

      1. Incoming Intern*

        Thank you, this is all very useful! My tendency tends to be more that I have to ask a lot of clarifying questions because I’m overly literal, so I’m just praying that won’t crop up too badly

        1. londonedit*

          It’s perfectly OK for you to tell people that when you start. Just frame it as ‘Oh, something you should know about me is that I tend to ask quite a few questions. It’s important to me that I make sure I understand the information I’m being given. Just so you know! Let me know if it gets too much’.

          Or, you could ask whether they’d prefer you to ask questions as they go along, or whether they’d prefer you to wait and ask questions at the end. It’s also perfectly OK to take notes – again, you might want to give people a heads-up (just so they don’t think you’re not paying attention) and you want to make sure you’re not spending so much time note-taking that you actually miss out on what’s being said, but it’s totally fine to jot down some reminders or questions when someone’s giving you information on a task.

          1. Sloan Kittering*

            Honestly since you sound very self aware about this, I’d just try to keep a limit on it! Wait till people finish the entire explanation and then you can ask your top one or maybe two questions, or plan to write down all your questions and come back later after you’ve digested them.

          2. Cog in the Machine*

            If it isn’t too much info to share, you might also tell your supervisor that you are overly literal. I’ve found that helps when you’re asking a lot of follow-up questions.

    3. AnonyMoosewithTea*

      Have you had coaching on making eye contact? If your boss or someone else is explaining something to you and talking for a while, it’s normal to make eye contact. Staring out the window behind them is considered rude. Normally what folks do is quickly make eye contact, look away for a bit, and look back again. I don’t know what the actual coaching techniques are for someone on the autism spectrum but just something to be aware of. If you’re comfortable disclosing your diagnoses, you can let them know that just because you’re not making eye contact doesn’t mean you’re not listening. (And then follow the advice above me on repeating their directions–that will confirm that you ARE listening!)

      1. Incoming Intern*

        I was actually told in middle school that I was pretty good at making eye contact by the speech pathologist, so hopefully, that won’t be an issue!

        1. AnonyMoosewithTea*

          That’s great! From your comments here, you seem like a thoughtful, conscientious worker. Best of luck in your internship!

    4. L.S. Cooper*

      My experience with office conversations is that they’re all weird and superficial. You know the conversations background actors have on TV shows while setting a scene? That’s… basically all the conversations at the office. For example, two exchanges I’ve had today:
      [Coworker comes over to the microwave as I’m getting my breakfast burrito out of it with a burrito of her own]
      CW: Ooh, it’s breakfast burrito time!
      Me: Haha, yep!
      [I exit stage right.]

      [I end up walking alongside a coworker I don’t really know for a little bit]
      CW: Got any fun plans this weekend?
      Me: Nah, just hanging out. Uh.. you? [Pause added for accurate awkwardness]
      CW: No, not really… No plans, actually, which is kind of nice. I’m gonna sleep in tomorrow!
      Me: Well, that’s a plan in… and of itself. [Pause here was while I remembered how the phrase went.]
      [We part ways.]

      Painfully awkward and shallow? Yes. But I read somewhere– maybe on here?– that the purpose of conversations at the office doesn’t have to be to make best buddies. The purpose is to remind your coworkers that you’re a pleasant person that they like.

      Observe how your office does it, but at mine, all the stereotypical conversation topics (kids, weekend plans, what you’re eating, weather) are fairly safe for office chitchat. It kind of sucks because I end up seeming very reserved here because nobody in my department shares my interests, but I’ve managed to make myself likeable, I think.

      1. Alianora*

        Those conversations are fine for office small talk, but tbh it does sound like you’re shutting them down pretty quickly. Might be why you’re finding all these conversations weird and superficial. Getting a conversation going is the hardest part.

        Just saying “haha yep” and leaving says to me “I don’t want to talk.” Same with “any weekend plans?” “Nope.” There’s nothing for the other person to grab onto as a conversation starter. Even talking about sleeping in is *something* but if I don’t see you making an effort, then I’m going to assume you’re not interested in getting to know me. Which is fine, to be clear, I wouldn’t get upset or anything.

        (I’m being this specific mostly because of Incoming Intern’s question about social dynamics.)

        1. only acting normal*

          Hmmm. L.S.Cooper didn’t really shut CW down any more than the CW shut L.S. down. L.S. asked in return about the CW’s plans and CW gave them “sleeping in” to work with? That’s hardly a conversation with momentum.

          1. Alianora*

            Yes, it’s absolutely possible that the coworker in that case didn’t really want to go beyond weird and superficial either. But the way the conversation was described as “nothing,” awkward pause, then “you?” really comes off as someone who is not interested in talking, but is asking to be polite.

    5. VLookupsAreMyLife*

      Take some time to observe “how things are done” in your office (not all offices have the same “rules”):

      – Do people say “hello/good-bye” to one another when /leaving for the day?
      – Do people lunch or take coffee breaks together?
      – What communication methods do people prefer (email/Skype/Slack/phone calls/in-person drop-bys)?
      – Do people generally interact informally (first names, joking, casual non-work related conversations), or more formally?
      **Special note: just because a senior level employee uses swear words does NOT mean it’s okay for you to do so. If in doubt, keep things more formal/professional.

      General Suggestions for Training/Receiving Instruction

      – Limit yourself to 2-3 follow up questions, and try to reserve them for the end of the session/instruction. Only interrupt if you are not able to follow the process as it is being explained.

      – Take notes whenever you are being shown HOW to do something, but not about non-work related information.
      Example: Take notes when your are being shown how to create invoice packages, but do not write it down if your trainer tells you that Sally from Accounting is always late because of her kids. If they say that Sally prefers her invoice packages set on her chair and not in her inbox, that you should make a note of because it relates to an action you need to take. Does that make sense?

      As far as social dynamics, understand that not all “rules” will apply in all situations – this will likely be your trickiest hurdle: recognizing the social setting & applying the appropriate social response.

      Good luck to you & remember… internships are about LEARNING. So, give yourself permission to do just that & don’t expect to know it all or be perfectly prepared at the outset.

      1. Rosaline Montague*

        It can be really hard to navigate a new job, for anyone! I just made a huge career shift into a different part of my industry and it was humbling that 20 years of experience didn’t always help me with new tasks or requests.

        Here are two things that helped me a lot:

        1) asking for general protocols from my colleagues and boss for tasks I hadn’t done before. This lets people think-talk you through the steps they would take. Make sure to take good notes.

        2) if I got a request I was unsure about, i’d say, “let me check with Boss about the protocol for X, and then I’ll get back with you. What’s your timeline?”

  32. Karen from Finance's Work is Full of Bees*

    I’m the one who wrote last week about a psycho new hire who hurts animals and doesn’t respect boundaries.

    Good news: I’ve managed to avoid her this week, and she’s more or less keeping to herself, like sheno longer joins us for lunch. She pissed WorkFriend off too much and got told off on Tuesday, she’s retreated for a bit. We didn’t report on it (more on that below) but we have been telling people about her on watercooler conversations, just so they’re aware. It’s.. Okay I guess.

    As I was mulling over whether I should report her, something possibly more insane happened. The (male, 40-yo) CEO/owner has devolved into greeting me by putting his arm over my (27, female) shoulder and saying “hi baby”, and then just hanging there in a side-hug. In public, while I’m speaking about work in an oppen office to other people, who do not react at all. “That’s just him”. The first time he did this I was visibly confused and I just kind of stared into nothing, moved awkardly (he didn’t remove his arm) and vaguely said something work-related before getting back to what I was doing before. That day my mind broke, that was my “this is it, I’m done” moment. I had a meeting right after where I spent the whole meeting thinking whether I should just impromptu quit, but didn’t. And then the next day he did the exact same thing but with me and a male coworker at the same time – like, one arm hanging on my shoulder and the other arm over the male coworker’s one. He does this to everyone, he’s just recently started doing it to me. I’m not ok with it but I don’t have the emotional energy to fight the entire company (HR lady is his friend and former boss) over this right now, I need the energy for my escape, but as a feminist it’s conflicting. And there’s also the fact that I’ve heard of situations of actual sexual misconduct that people here just think are normal part of a company hookup culture. I don’t think I can win this one.

    ….

    So I decided I don’t give a crap anymore. I’m slowly starting to throw out of the window everything I’ve learned about behaving professionally, because clearly I’m the only one in this place who cares about that. I’m losing my mental filter and I’m actually starting to say what I think about people and people are agreeing with me. To me, rule n°1 is “you don’t talk shit about people’s bosses, ever”. But today I broke that mental barreer and she was like “oh you finally figured it out” – and we’re getting shit done. It’s insane.

    And this whole thing is creating a mental fog for me that is handicapping my job search. It’s been going well. I’ve been getting interviews, callbacks. I’m waiting for a response on the most exciting possibility (which would still take at least a month till final decision) today. But I’m so confused about everything that at this point I don’t even know what job I’m supposed to be doing.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Make sure you read some of Alison’s articles on dysfunctional workplaces and how not to carry that with you to the next job. And good luck getting out of there, sounds awful.