open thread – August 2-3, 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.

{ 1,862 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Hi y’all. I may make a more formal announcement of this somewhere, but for now I’m noting it here: There’s been a real uptick in off-topic comments lately. Traditionally when I’ve removed off-topic comments/threads I’ve left explanatory notes (like “deleted an off-topic thread here about rhinos”) but I’m not always leaving the notes now because the increase is so great. I may move repeat offenders onto permanent moderation (where their on-topic comments will happily be released but their off-topic ones won’t). Please help by staying on-topic! Thanks.

    1. MysteryFan*

      Thank you Allison!!! One of the things I really like about AAM is that we’re all talking about the same thing..

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I apologize for my contributions to this issue. I’ve been a bit off kilter lately and my internal filters get all junky at times.

      1. JSPA*

        Same. I’m recovering from (minor but slow-healing) surgery, with all that entails (medication, boredom, itchy stitches, the sudden, sad realization that an uneventful trip to the bathroom and back to bed has become worthy of notice, uncharacteristic anxiety attacks and always the spectre of the sweaty, unstable litterbox scooping challenge). So I’ve been writing absolute essays.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Also to stay on topic ;)

          Alison, you’re too kind to even bother with explanations in the first place. I personally know if something disappears it’s because you vetoed it because it was against your rules.

          I do understand part of that also is to let people know that it’s been deleted and not to repost it thinking the internet ate it as well but if you start making it a habit to just delete things and let it known, perhaps a sticky in posts to remind people of that, it may save you the work.

    3. Mimmy*

      Good idea – the comments on some non-open threads can get unwieldy; maybe this will cut down on some of that. I’m probably a bit guilty of this myself.

    4. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Cool. I’ve noticed some stuff disappearing lately and it makes perfect sense as an editorial decision. Sometimes discussions wander organically but when your comments are in four figures I can see why you’d want to trim them to strictly on-topic only!

    5. BRR*

      Thank you! I know the comments is a small section of the site and your overall workload. I really appreciate you spending the time and effort to maintain its high reputation.

    6. Fiddlesticks*

      Thank you. This is not Carolyn Hax’s column, which is (somewhat clique-ishly) dominated by off-topic posts, and I love it for NOT being that way. I really do come here to get professional-level workplace and career advice and to check my opinions against that of others who are here for the same reasons; all the personal stuff is pretty well covered elsewhere.

  2. Peaches*

    Happy Friday, all!

    I shared last week about my new coworker who has done a really great job so far, but talks A LOT, and tends to share overly personal details. She wasn’t taking social cues about when to stop. I finally had the courage to kindly cut her off and say “sorry, but I really have to get back to work!” It was easier than I thought, and she didn’t seem to be offended as I’d feared. She still stops me when I’m walking past her desk to and from the printer, but I’ve found that slowly walking away while finding words to end the conversation has worked. She still is a bit kooky, but I guess we all are at times. One thing that happened last week that I found pretty funny, though—

    Her husband came to our office to take her out from lunch. She walked around the office and introduced him to everyone (“Hi Peaches, this is my husband Steve!”) About 45 minutes later, she returned from lunch. She went directly to my desk and said “so, I’m thinking about divorcing my husband. I’m just realizing we don’t have much in common” (she’s been married for over 20 years!) I had to laugh just because she had, not more than an hour earlier, introduced her husband to everyone in the office. It was definitely another one of her overshares, but I was able to cut the conversation off pretty quickly after that!

    She’s a great worker though and a nice person – both more important qualities than her oversharing!

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      She went directly to my desk and said “so, I’m thinking about divorcing my husband. I’m just realizing we don’t have much in common”

      LOL! She probably talks too much to even listen to anything he has to say to know whether or not they have anything in common.

    2. SaffyTaffy*

      I shared a desk with a woman who came back from her lunch-time therapy appointment and started reading me the list she’d written in therapy of why her husband was a bad husband. I was 17 years old. This had actually happened to me before once (when I was 11 and volunteering at a library auction, my adult supervisor had asked me for advice because “sometimes my boyfriend follows me to the bathroom and I don’t like it.”) and ever since that first incident, I had kind of been waiting for a 2nd chance to respond better. So I said, “I’m sorry, but this is making me so uncomfortable. Please don’t read this to me. It’s making me want to cry.”
      That ended really badly, but I’m still proud of myself for saying it.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Many jobs ago, I was introduced to a coworker from another department (we had both worked there awhile but not met because we’re in different buildings) who started off by telling me about her abusive ex who had stolen her identity, so she never knew if her taxes would be accepted or if he’d have already screwed something up for her.

        We had a lot of other things in common but a friendship never really stuck. I got a different job before I had to say anything to her, though.

        1. SaffyTaffy*

          Isn’t that funny, Dust Bunny, you can have lots of things in common with someone but one thing will make it all go off-kilter? I’m assuming it was the overshare part of her personality that made the friendship not stick, anyway. But isn’t that interesting? People are so complex.

      2. Darkened Meadow*

        I’ve a coworker whose kids have to see a counselor; and she openly talks about what’s going on with them in therapy. I find it horrifying that a parent would share such information with anyone. That’s private!

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Yeah, that is really not great. I hope her kids never find out she’s telling this stuff to outsiders.

        2. Ethyl*

          Oh my god this just reminded me of my previous boss who shared that his 13 year old daughter got her first period. Jesus I cannot believe I blocked that out. Insert screaming emoji here!

      3. Lynn Marie*

        I like the idea of cutting people off by telling them they’re making me want to cry!

        1. SaffyTaffy*

          Lynn Marie, right? Like, when self-centered people pull that stuff, it HURTS you. Why not just tell them?

          1. Partly Cloudy*

            I was on the verge of telling a co-worker that this morning. She was showing another co-worker right next to me a video on her phone and I could hear an animal screaming (in pain?). Normally I’m pretty good at blocking stuff out, especially if I’m really busy/concentrating – which I was – but this almost pushed me over the edge. Luckily it was over fast.

      4. CM*

        SaffyTaffy, I’m proud of you for saying it, too!

        Though both of these oversharing stories are making me laugh, they must be so uncomfortable when you’re in them.

      5. Purrsnikitty*

        That’s actually a very good reply to a very inappropriate sharing. Why/how did it end badly? :( Too much honesty?

    3. VLookupsAreMyLife*

      I’m a chronic over-sharer & I consider it a blessing when people enforce their boundaries. I usually try to give folks a heads up that I (a) AM trying to rein it in and (b) welcome them to pointedly tell me to chill when needed. I don’t mean that it’s other peoples’ job to manage my behavior, just a nod to the fact that it’s an area of weakness for me & I’m aware.

      1. Peaches*

        That’s good to know! I sometimes wonder if my coworker has that sort of awareness. If she did, it’d make me feel less rude to tell her to rein it in a bit.

    4. LizB*

      I have a few coworkers I need to physically walk away from to get them to stop talking, lol. They take it in stride, I think it’s what everyone in their lives does when they want a conversation to be over. Like your coworker, they’re great workers and lovely people, just chatty as all get out.

    5. Peaches*

      UPDATE OF ALL UPDATES:

      I was in the break room eating lunch this afternoon. I was watching a youtube video on my iPad (I watch a variety of things on my iPad during lunch – sports highlights, true crime shows, etc.) Anyway, my coworker comes in and loudly says “You’re not watching any porn on there, are you?!” I laughed uncomfortably and said no. WHO SAYS THAT? I cannot make it up. Man, I’m ready for the weekend!

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Oh Jeez! She’s KOOKY. I hope the office finds her kookiness to be endearing and funny or else I spy trouble ahead. I think it’s funny, but I have a very snark and dark humor, and I probably would’ve come back with:
        Kooky Coworker: “You’re not watching any porn on there, are you?
        Me: “Yup! Lot’s of dick. Makes me hungry for hotdogs.” or something equally stupid or sarcastic.

        1. Peaches*

          I sure hope so too! She truly has been a good employee from a work standpoint so far.

          Haha, I’m not bold enough to give that sort of response, but I’d love to see someone else fire back at her like that. But, the interesting thing is that she doesn’t seem to get nearly as chatty/kooky with others as she does with me!

        1. Peaches*

          I’ve been asking myself the same thing, LOL! Honestly, the rest of our office staff is so incredibly normal, I promise!

      2. Rainy*

        That’s something I’d mention to my manager, honestly. I cannot imagine that not being considered something seriously inappropriate.

    6. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      This could be your sitcom material.

      When I started my job years ago, I was horrified — yes, horrified — by how much incredibly personal information my coworker poured out to me. Like, I was a face in front of her so she knew she had a captive audience (hell, in a bar, you can take your drink and move) and she constantly talked at it. Her & husband’s money challenges. Kids’ medical issues. Job issues. It was tremendously uncomfortable. Once I made what I thought was an innocuous response to one of her long monologues about her kids and she made tracks to the boss’s office and complained that I was “talking about [her] FAMILEEEEEEE!” and I got Spoke To behind closed doors. Had to apologize. Lesson learned–tune it out as best you can and don’t get sucked into conversation about it.

    7. Shake it off*

      The worst is oversharers in a training/lecture context. I had one woman repeatedly interrupt the instructor in a training to overshare, including one extended anecdote about how she believed her son was gay because her hairdresser saw him at some kind of LGBTQ+ event. (A) cishet people sometimes go to LGBTQ+ events, and (B) even if your son’s gay, don’t out him to a room full of strangers!

  3. Karo*

    I need help managing my boss’s anxiety.

    Part of my job is to manage occasional events. Because they’re relatively rare, it’s not a well-oiled machine, so I have made spreadsheets and lists upon lists to help keep me on top of everything, and all of the events I’ve been responsible for have been great (based on feedback from my boss and her boss).

    I have another event coming up this month, and I know that my boss is going to start panicking about every detail, as she has with every other event. She will confirm 15 times over that we have everything we need, she will vacillate over whether our catering order is large enough, she will nitpick and second guess every. single. thing. It’s exhausting. And nothing I say or do makes anything better until the event is actually over.

    On top of this, I’m in treatment for my own anxiety (which she knows – I accidentally overshared), and this is starting to have an impact on my own mental health. I have double and triple checked everything and I am happy to share that info with her, but I can’t keep rehashing it. At some point it’s too late to fix things, so either we’ll have enough food or we won’t, the room will be big enough or it won’t, people will come or they won’t.

    Does anyone have any thoughts or advice on how to keep myself sane and/or how to ask my boss to back off?

    1. Super Anonywoman*

      Is there a way you can front-load the process and come up with checklists and confirmation notes that things are completed? Set up meetings with her ahead of time and keep her updated as things get done?

      I also have anxiety, and it helps me when there is confirmation from others that things are completed and taken care of as a project moves along.

      1. sacados*

        Seconded, and also the great advice from Jules the 3rd down below.
        Are you able to use a tool like Asana? It’s quite easy to use and allows you to set up a shared project with to-do lists, notes, you can attach documents and set due dates, etc.
        That way any time your boss starts panicking about if X is finished or how many mini quiches the caterers are bringing, she can just go herself and check the to-do lists and notes to confirm, without having to come to you every time.

    2. Nott the Brave*

      Reframing can definitely help – when she brings up a concern, don’t think about it as a problem that you have to fix – just some anxiety she’s having. If you can develop status documents or checklists, you can also refer them to her. Example: “I understand why you’re concerned about this, but we’ve already gone over it – here’s the status document/checklist”.

        1. Nott the Brave*

          Thanks! I’m catching up on campaign 2, ever so slowly. I like to joke that it’s my summer reading.

      1. Jenn*

        Giving this reply an enthusiastic two thumbs up. Her anxiety isn’t yours to manage. In fact, she is going to be stressed and micromanage regardless of whether you go through these things it seems. So do what you need to do to keep YOUR anxiety under control, and be the calm, collected one. Also, I find that when my micromanaging partner or boss get into overdrive, giving them something to actually focus on or obsess about helps. “Actually it appears that the whirlygigs are under control, but would you mind checking through the whooziwhats its? I’d love your feedback on that”.

    3. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      Have you let her know it’s too much? Sometimes it’s really hard to push back on your boss, but you need to let them know if something is really bothering you. Maybe “I’ve already double checked on the lama order, is there a reason you are still worried about it? When you ask me to re-check things I’ve already confirmed for you it’s really stressful for me and is taking me away from doing X and Y which need my time. It is also making me really anxious. Are you concerned about my organization? Is there another way we could address this?”

    4. JSPA*

      Is it possible that she hashes over things as a way to quiet her anxiety–that is, it’s a coping mechanism, not a symptom for her–and mistakenly assumes that it works this way for you, as well?

      I’m not sure how to broach this without oversharing further, or telling her how to do her job, which wouldn’t fly.

      First draft: “intellectually and by all past experience, I feel very solid about the current plans, which I have triple-checked. My one source of anxiety is that you’ll demand some last minute change. That fear comes up each time we hash through them. It’s leaving me a mess.

      If you find it helpful to familiarize yourself with the details a few more times, could you take the spreadsheets elsewhere, and page through them with someone else, having promised me that I’m not going to be floored with some hypothetical last minute change?”

      Or, “Re-reading this is wearing me down. It’s as perfect as it’s going to get. We need me to be fresh for the daily logistics, more than we need me to reconsider the options.”

      Or, “we’ve done all reasonable planning. The rest is not in our hands.”

      1. Shannon*

        This! I was trying to think of some clever ways to say please calm the heck right down, you’re making me much more anxious than I need to be about this, and if I’m completely fried, I’m much more likely to overlook X.

    5. SaffyTaffy*

      What has worked for me in these situations is doing what I want someone to do for me. I mean, really, what else CAN you do? So it might be different for everyone, but in my case, I’ll say flat out, “that’s not a rational worry.” Or, “We still have everything we need. That part’s done, so we can move on now.”
      Sometimes this works like an absolute dream. The few times it hasn’t “fixed” their anxiety, though, it still made ME feel in control and confident.
      So what works to manage your anxiety? Use that on her.

    6. Jules the 3rd*

      You have checklists, etc – can you store them someplace where she can check them directly? Something like Box (www.box.com)? If you can’t use a commercial cloud service, ask for an internal cloud server for shared documents. I like Box because of the control it gives over access, and that I can work with external companies.

      – Use this to store your working documents, so that what’s there is always current.
      – Make the logic behind decisions visible, and maybe adjustable so that she can play with what happens to the budget if she wants to add 20 people or a 4th entree. Some things to post might be:
      * $x per person for catering, Y people;
      * Y people is based on A invitations, B responses, C assumption about non-responders attendance rate based on prior events
      * A invitations list (so she can see if Some Important But Obscure Group like Amphibian Counters Of America was invited)(amphibians being important indicators of ecological health)

      – Then share the set of documents with her, tell her she can look at it any time. Maybe just read access for her, but she can download and play with settings if she wants.
      – Set periodic reviews where you walk through those posted files as a project update. Train her to go to the documents instead of to you.

      Good luck.

      1. Mockingjay*

        Coming to say something similar. What about a simple, printed binder? Some people like reassurance of paper.

        1. Marmaduke*

          That also gives the boss an opportunity to check things off herself during check-ins, which some people find very reassuring.

    7. The Ginger Ginger*

      Does she have visibility into the lists you have? Could you clean them up a bit into a shareable format and share them so she can have insight into status of things without having to come to you all the time? Let her obsessively check your lists instead of pouring out her anxieties at you.

      Other than that, maybe an end of the day/week email with status updates sent pre-emptively (you can start weekly in the early stages and get more frequent as the event gets closer). Or as you check things off your list, send a quick email with all your completed items and a callout of the newly completed item. If you can pre-emptively keep her really looped in maybe she’ll feel calmer and be less likely to seek out updates outside of whatever cadence you establish.

    8. Purt's Peas*

      Can you treat this as a work problem? As in, your current frame is, you have to manage your boss’s anxiety. Can you reframe it as, “my boss is taking up a lot of time double and triple checking my work and overconfirming.”

      OK, that’s a little easier to take to your boss. At the beginning of managing an event, you could ask to talk with her: maybe, “for a few events in the past, I’ve noticed that I get a lot of requests for information & confirmation from you about things like catering orders, rental lists, and things like that. I wanted to check with you because, while I have a handle on things like guest estimates for the amount of catering we need, rental lists, and backup plans, the confirmations make me worry that you’re seeing an issue with my work. Is there anything I should be doing differently?”

    9. Ra94*

      This isn’t a way of getting her to back off, but a way of staying sane: could you reframe her panic as a Her Problem and just give neutral, calm, informative answers every time? I have anxiety, too, and my dad is a tremendously anxious person who panics over every tiny detail. I’ve learned that treating it as routine- “yep, I checked the gas tank. Yep, it is still full. And yep, 15 minutes later, it is again still not empty.”- helps me detach from the panic and cuts me off from getting drawn in.

    10. Peaches*

      I don’t have much advice, but I’m sorry you’re dealing with this – I can very much relate.

      My company has an annual trade show every year that I tend to do most of the planning on (we don’t really have a designated person for this, and I’ve kind of become the unofficial event planner). While there is a lot of planning needed for this event, the show has always gone well with no major issues.

      A couple years ago, my boss (who had overlooked my planning of this, but was pretty hands off) was let go, and we had an interim manager from one of our sister offices in the meantime. The year he was our manager during trade show planning was AWFUL. I was stressed out all the time because of how anxious he was about it. He would call meetings constantly “to make sure everything was taken care of.” He made me do things that were super unnecessary in the planning (literally mapping out the room setup in Excel to make sure all the tables could be exactly 5 1/8 inch apart, or something like that, when it wasn’t important AT ALL). I was so relieved when we got a new manager this past year. The show went just as well without the micromanaging manager, and everyone was a lot less stressed about it!

      My best advice would be to say to your boss, “I’ve noticed that you’ve been following up with me quite often on the planning of Event Such-and-Such. Do you have any specific concerns? Just to clarify, I feel like I have a good reign on things, but I wanted to make sure we were on the same page.” She may not be aware of how her micromanaging is affecting you, and if you let her know upfront that you feel comfortable with how the planning is going, she may back off a little.

      1. Troutwaxer*

        “He made me do things that were super unnecessary in the planning (literally mapping out the room setup in Excel to make sure all the tables could be exactly 5 1/8 inch apart, or something like that, when it wasn’t important AT ALL).”

        Just thinking about that is making me SHAKE with rage. How did you keep from ripping his skin off?

        1. Peaches*

          Honestly, it was hard not to, haha.

          I had to constantly remind myself that the event would soon be over with and I could go back to not having his anxious self all over me!

    11. Quinalla*

      Can you preempt some of it with things like: “Our catering order is for 200 people, if we want to modify that is due by X date, so let me know by then if you want to modify or that 200 has final approval.”

      And yes, maybe offer a couple checklist check-ins at appropriate times (1 month out? 1 week out? day before/day of?) so you can both feel more comfortable that it is all handled. I don’t think you want to share all your spreadsheets and checklists with her (though that’s a possibility), but going over a checklist with someone else at critical points isn’t a bad things. It will help you know you are on it and it might help her channel her anxiety into those meetings instead of hitting you with it every day.

      1. Tomato Anonymato*

        Second this! It has worked for me to be preemptive with an anxious boss, and say “I got all this done, we are good on this” and then ask some sort of a question. The boss then focused on the question and felt “useful” having input instead of messing up and nitpicking all that’s been done. I seriously had to come up with fake problems for them to focus on. Distraction is your friend! :-)

        Also, I’d recommend you take into consideration if your boss responds better to hearing or seeing things, and report in whatever their preferred communication is. And having a repetitive system, i.e., always taking about number of guests first, then the menu. That tends to be calming ;-) Make that an agenda so they know they will get to hear about it:
        1. Guest – all on track
        2. Menu – finalized
        3. Question about policy on swinging on chandeliers

        Lastly, “blame” outside parties when needed: We are good with the menu and we cannot change it because the caterer’s deadline has passed.

    12. The Curator*

      I’m that person. Sorry. I do try to reign it in. The person in my department in charge of the details responds with an eye-roll and says got this, and reminds me of the long list of statistics, deliverables, emails, class prep etc that I am responsible for … I get the hint and return to my own work space.

    13. Bopper*

      I would have a tool (spreadsheet/MS Project/whatever) so you can mark off what is done and if she asks you just say, “See the spreadsheet for the latest”

    14. MissDisplaced*

      I do a lot of events, and I can say they can be pretty stressful, especially if you have nitpickers and last-minute people on your team.

      The best advice I have is to START EARLY. Like begin planning way, way early. It’s things running down to the wire and last-minute switches that rev up my anxiety so I try to mitigate that as best as possible. But on the other hand, you reach a point where you’ve done all you can do. I had one event go south because of a hurricane, which meant everyone left early or cancelled. What can ‘ya do?

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Wanted to add that it sounds like you’re doing everything right with the checklists and timelines for what needs to be done. I do the same.

        I think maybe once your boss goes through a few of these, things will become less stressful, you have a plan for them that works, and you realize that if you don’t get your order of cupholder swag giveaways, the world won’t end. LOL!

    15. BeachMum*

      I’m responsible for my husband’s company’s holiday party every year and he is exactly like this. I would quit except that I don’t get paid for it, he’s my husband, and no one else would do the job. Fortunately, I love him. He’s a terrible boss to me for this one event, but I’ve learned (over 12 years of throwing the party) that he’s going to need to know every detail so I overwhelm him with emails.

      You might try the technique of many, many emails about every detail. I then answer questions with, “I sent you an email about that. Did you get it?”, which tends to decrease (although not eliminate) the micromanagement.

    16. Grack*

      I think she might benefit from a visual cue of how repeatitive this is. I’d create a master list, of all the details (posted somewhere in your work area, if possible.) Every time she asks about something, note the date of the conversation on the list.

      So the first time she worries about catering, you can have a conversation. The second time you can say “We revisited that on the 28th, after we finalized the amount, and decided nothing needs to be changed. Unless the number of attendees has changed since then, are you okay sticking with that decision?” Then you can redirect her attention to something she hasn’t covered. “I can see we haven’t discussed the balloons yet. Let’s put our attention there instead.”

      The third, fourth, and fifth time she brings it up, say “looks like we’ve had this conversation on the 28th, the 3rd, the 15th, and the 26th. Every time the conclusion was to stick to the original number. Should we focus on X instead?”

      Yes, this is heavy handed, yes, you are actively managing your manager, but you’re also showing that you’re organized, that those conversations aren’t forgotten, and even if she is worried about something have things sewed up tight.

      This also allows you to say at some point “I worry a lot of my time is being spent going over these details when in the end no changes are being made. I just want to be sure you’re okay that currently, I am getting a lot less of X thing done, when we’re coming up on an event.”

      1. Grack*

        I’ve done this both with students with failing grades “On the 13th, I did this intervention, on the 14th, I offered make up work, on the 15th, I offered tutoring, on the 16th, I left several messages on your phone” By the end the parents were LIVID at the student. Yes, the note taking was a pain, but I did the work anyway, I was just taking one more step to prove I’d done it.

        Also done this with calling about medical bills that aren’t being resolved. “I called on the 13th and spoke to Michelle who said X. I called again on the 25th and spoke to Ian who said X. It is still not resolved. Can I have your name?”

        Man, did that get results fast.

  4. Sunflower*

    I’m about 4 months into a new job at a company that is WFH friendly (I’m exempt and my job sometimes requires long hours FYI). Most teams WFH 2-3 times a week- the 2 people above me on my team WFH once a week usually. The WFH day varies and isn’t on a schedule. You do not need a reason to WFH. At OldJob, you generally gave a reason when you asked/told your manager. I’ve had to WFH a couple times for doctor’s appts and my boss has always said ‘as long as you’re available/online, I don’t care where you work from’

    This is (while welcome!) hard for me to get used to. My boss can be a stickler about other things so it feels somewhat disingenuous but I’m in the camp of ‘she said, it, I’m taking it at face value’. Is it fine to just say ‘I’m working from home’ instead of asking? Should I stop providing reasons why I need to? I want to set this as a norm and not feel like I’m asking for a big favor every time I do it. TY!

    1. Ali G*

      You could ease into it by sending your boss an email ahead of time:
      Hi Jane,
      Just a head’s up I plan to WFH next week on Tuesday and Wednesday. The schedule looks like this shouldn’t be a problem, so let me know if there is anything else I should consider.
      Thanks!
      Sunflower

    2. ThatGirl*

      If the norm is just to say “I’m working from home today!” then yes, it’s totally fine – you’ve been there long enough to know the norms by now. The only thing I would add is if you’re sending out an email, note the time(s) you may not be available, e.g. 2-3:30 for a dentist appointment or whatever.

    3. Wearing Many Hats*

      Perhaps you can say something like ‘I will be working from home on Tuesday, please let me know if this conflicts with anything.” I’m in a similar boat–good luck feeling more comfortable with this!

      1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

        This is the culture at my workplace. You have to arrange WFH at least a day in advance, but other than that nobody minds or needs a reason.

    4. AcademiaNut*

      If everyone is doing this, I would take your boss at their word. Just be sure to keep the work from home in line with the use of other people in the office (like a couple times a week), and be responsive when you’re doing it. It might help mentally to think about when and why *you* want to work at home – particular days, when you’ve feeling under the weather, after/on a particularly long day. And it wouldn’t hurt to check in with your boss after a few months to see if they’re okay with your frequency.

      As an aside – it’s so weird to see the open thread with less than 100 posts!

    5. Fortitude Jones*

      If it’s making you uncomfortable to just take it and not worry about it, you can just give your boss a heads up the day before you plan to WFH, then remind her again the morning of. But really, if your company culture is that people WFH often and don’t ask for permission, take it at face value and don’t ask for permission.

    6. Mbarr*

      I miss WFH, my new company/team doesn’t do it unless you have specific reasons.

      Old company let us WFH whenever we wanted (within reason). For us, the key was consistency. E.g. Only WFH on the same day(s) every week. We also updated our Skype status to point out that you were working from home so people could see at a glance where you are.

      1. Mama Bear*

        This. I set my Skype up to automatically show which network I was logged into, so they knew if I was at the client site, main office, or home. That way people knew immediately if I was on or offsite relative to their location.

        1. Chaordic One*

          This was very clever. Good for you! I don’t think that I’m allowed to do this on Skype at my workplace (permission issues), but still, a very good idea for the people who can do it.

    7. Jules the 3rd*

      At my employer, the norm is for people to have a fairly set schedule of wfh vs office days (the office is *dead* on Fridays). We don’t tell people if we’re wfh on our ‘normal’ days, we may let team mates / mgrs know if we’re wfh on ‘odd’ days. If you want to wfh regularly, I’d aim for the day most people wfh and just do a check with my mgr, like ‘I see the office is very quiet on Fridays. Do you see any concerns with me working from home regularly on Fridays?’

      And then on one other day/week, just letting them know. If you go more than one other day, then ask.

    8. Interplanet Janet*

      I’d address it head on. “Can I clarify something with you about the WFH policy? I thought I understood you to say that if I want to work from home, I just need to let you know what day(s) and then I’m free to do it. Is that right? How much notice do you typically expect? Should I provide a reason? This is a bit of a change for me from my last company, so I just want to make sure I’m doing what’s expected of me here.”

    9. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Some good practices from the years I telecommuted:
      -We had two or three days telecommute depending on schedule, with the following restrictions:
      -Our department had one day a week when all of us were in for meetings.
      -Our department coordinated telecommute schedule so that there would be at least one person in-building between Monday 8am and Friday 4pm. (More if one of us would be in long meetings.)
      -We published our schedules as our Skype messages.
      -We were prepared to come in on a TC day if needed for meetings.
      -We set up our home desks in such a way that if videofeed was needed, our backgrounds were office-appropriate.
      What I’d suggest is that you ask your manager how long you should be on-site full-time for training before taking a day TC, and then do one day mid-week as a test to make sure you’re all set. (I say mid-week just for optics, so that no one thinks the “new kid” is extending a weekend.) Take your laptop home and log in as a test the night before that too.

      Good luck!

    10. Observer*

      Why do you feel like it’s disingenuous? Your boss asks for what she wants / needs and she’s made it clear that working from the office all the time is not something she needs. So, go for it.

      Just *tell* her, and make sure that you ARE on-line and available when you are supposed to be working. Go forth and WFH.

    11. Elizabeth West*

      I always read WFH as WTF. So in my head, it’s like “I get to WTF several times a week.”

      I don’t think you need to ask or give a reason if she’s already said she doesn’t care.

      1. Older & Wiser (Now)*

        I usually read it that way too, Elizabeth! In fact, I often WTF several times a day lol! :D

    12. OhBehave*

      Do others have set WFH days? Say, Tuesday/Thursday. If so, you could mirror those days or do alternate days (I loved working in a sparse office.). That way you can schedule appts on those days without checking. Your boss has already given their parameters for our WFH schedule. Go for it!

  5. BossLady*

    Any ideas for questions to ask in interviews when you are an internal candidate? I’m interviewing for a promotion in a neighboring team next week. We work really closely with them, so I’m pretty familiar with the position and most of the questions I’m finding on the internet make no sense. Or is it okay to just not ask any questions?

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Maybe something like “what skills that I’m not using in my current position will be most useful in this one?”

      1. AlexandrinaVictoria*

        I love the question I picked up from this column: “What will I have to do to exceed your expectations?”

        1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

          I like that one and the other one I got from AAM: What would set a “good” employee apart from a “great” employee in this position?

        2. Tom & Johnny*

          I’ve asked a variation of that question before and have had good results with it: “What is something someone did in this position in the past that failed your expectations / was a pet peeve / didn’t work / wasn’t functional / was a disappointment?”

          Sometimes you can tell more about a person, and what’s important to them, by what they profess to hate (tardiness, rudeness to board members, poorly worded reports) than by what they profess to love (being a team player, submitting deliverable by deadline).

          Because what ticks them off is far more likely to be highly specific. Whereas the idea of what the job looks like when it’s a good fit is nebulous and glowy. It can get you very valuable information if you know how to extrapolate it.

    2. Sloan Kittering*

      I would say it’s never a great sign to ask NO question. It makes you seem like you’re not interested. It’s better to ask something like, “what would an exceptional performer in this role look like to you” or “based on the work I do now, what do you think will present the biggest challenge in making the switch” (don’t love that last one though, it’d be better if you brought the idea to them vs asking). Or, perhaps you can get really detailed with your insider knowledge – “how are these changes likely to affect our relationship with X big client,” “how are we working towards the strategic goals the ED just released” – or something?

      1. Grack*

        Or say “What has been the biggest challenge you’ve seen people face in the past when they move up in the company internally?”

        Sometimes there are habits or culture in the company that make an outside hire more attractive, or it’s hard to manage people you used to work with. Realizing that being promoted internally has it’s own downside seems mature to me.

    3. ThatGirl*

      How about “what do you think will be the biggest change?” or “is there anything I need to know about the role that might not be obvious?”

      1. Mellow*

        “is there anything I need to know about the role that might not be obvious?”

        That’s a great question for an interview! Thanks, ThatGirl.

    4. Wearing Many Hats*

      Perhaps something like, “How do you think workflow/culture/skillset are different in this department than in my current team?” Good luck!

    5. RandomU...*

      Adapt your questions to things that you already know.

      “So how do thing things will change for the paperclip sorting team knowing that the company has been talking about moving to binder clips”

      “What are the biggest challenges the team has faced with the introduction of the new sorting application”

      Things like that, show that you are thinking of how current conditions that you know about will affect the internal team, etc.

      1. gsa*

        I like that.

        To the OP, there have to be things you completely understand and some things you don’t. Be honest and ask questions, even if you’re not so sure about the question.

        gsa

    6. irene adler*

      My suggestion: ask your potential boss “how do you support your reports?”

      Now, you probably have observed how the supervisor manages her reports. Maybe they are the first to roll up their sleeves when the workload is overbearing. Or, they have an open door policy. But have you ever formally asked this boss about how they manage people? Might learn something about your potential boss from this response-even though you might know some things about their management style already.

      1. Keener*

        I’d ask what do they anticipate to be your greatest challenges in this new role. It can reveal some insight about how they view you and/or aspects of the role/team that you hadn’t considered.

        Good luck!

    7. designbot*

      “What is something about working in your team that you think other teams here might not understand?”

    8. NW Mossy*

      As an internal candidate, you’re much more able to ask questions about strategy and anticipated changes in the organization, so do that! This position is open for a reason – explore why, and ask questions about what changes the hiring manager anticipates in the role/team responsibilities.

      In this situation, you know the role as it’s been done, but that’s not necessarily the same thing as how the hiring manager wants it to be done in the future. Asking the question shows that you’re aware of that gap and want to understand it, which neutralizes one of the biggest pitfalls for internal candidates – thinking they know everything about the job before they’ve ever done it.

    9. JSPA*

      apropos the recent comment/thread elsewere, about temps and coworkers who had no clue what the department actually does: “when my current team works with yours, the aspects we’re most aware of are naturally X, X’ and Y. I know this job also entails A, B, and C, and that more broadly, your team is also involved in Z. I’d love to have a clearer vantage point of other team functions and projects that I might not be as aware of, and other groups and people you regularly work with, that are not as directly visible to [current team].” Not only does it prompt for helpful information, it lets them know that you’re willing to see the job and team from new eyes, regardless of what it looks like from outside.

      If you’re really intermeshed, this may not be relevant, in which case, asking about upcoming challenges is about all you’re going to be able to reasonably formulate.

      1. BossLady*

        I really like that! I definitely don’t want to assume I know everything about the role, I’m sure there is stuff they are doing that we don’t see from our side of the hall. Thanks!

    10. Steady Eddie*

      Can you give me any insight into how the new team is different from my current team? What are you looking for from a successful candidate in the first six months in this role?

    11. T. Boone Pickens*

      What’s driving the need for the opening?

      What are the key deliverables you’d be looking for this person to hit in the next 30/60/90 days? (or whatever appropriate timelines look like in your org).

      If your role includes any direct reports, ask them about the team makeup/culture.

    12. CG*

      What about something like, “I know a lot about how this position has worked in the recent past, but are there any things that you’re hoping to change/add/improve as new folks come on board?” (bulked up with more specifics based on your knowledge)?

      I know when I have interviewed for internal positions, most of my questions have been about (diplomatically) getting more information about either 1) areas where I genuinely still have questions about how the job works or 2) some of what I heard to be pitfalls of the job (like in an office where the manager is inconsistent between team leads about whether his team leads get autonomy or micromanaging, I asked him how he envisioned the responsibility, authority, and day-to-day leadership of the role – the answer was pretty telling and helped me decide whether I wanted the job or not).

    13. Spreadsheet Zen*

      “What are your short and long term goals for the position/team?” or “If you had the power to change anything at all, what would you change about this role/organization?”

      Those questions tend to be my go tos for internal interviews since I get a feel for the boss’s real desires and goals, how high level versus detailed they are (are these big but reasonable strategic goals versus nicer TPS reports), what frustrations they have, their attitudes towards frustrations, how their team operates, etc.

    14. Kiwiii*

      Always ask questions, even if just that some interviewers will take it as a gauge of disinterest if you don’t. Feel free to ask questions directly related to why you might be trading teams (more flexibility, more work with a certain system, more money?) OR ask what you can do to excel in the role. I asked an AAM question of “what separates those who are great in the role vs. good in the role?” and “I would want to be ahead of sticking points, is there anything others in this role have struggled with particularly during the training process or first few months?”

    15. Emilitron*

      Ask question about the differences between your team and theirs. “I’ve worked with your team members closely when I was doing X and they were doing Y for the Jones project, and I was struck by the fact that [Jane and John tended to work all aspects as a pair rather than separating out tasks for each of them]. Is that typical of the way you [allocate teamwork]?” You’re asking about management styles, communications styles, differences in culture, etc…
      I once worked with another manager’s group that I was at first kind of jealous of, they were much more interactive, more sociable, biweekly cookie hours, regular meetings about the status of the group, etc. as compared with my group that has a meeting once a year, and nobody but you and your group leader knows what you’re working on. Over time I realized that I preferred the more hands-off management style, and all that social engagement was just cookie-bribery to make up for their boss’s tendency to sudden intensive bursts of over-management. But it wasn’t until I’d had a couple of explicit conversations about group culture that I started realizing this.

    16. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’d ask about transition/overlap. My company has a history of promoting people without reassigning their previous responsibilities. If you have seen that happen at your company, ask how they want an internal transfer to handle requests from previous department.

  6. Branching out Versus Digging In*

    So after sticking it out for a year at my current job, I’m ready to get serious about applying for a new one (yes, I understand that even a year’s tenure is still short, but I’ve been kind of gritting my teeth the whole time I’ve been here: it’s very disorganized and chaotic).

    My problem is that I’m most marketable in my current field, since I have developed some niche skills that are probably harder to find in the genpop. However, I’m kinda … bored of the type of work I do? The very skills that probably make me most in demand?

    Should I resign myself to a longer and more difficult job search trying to make a switch to something new – when I’m REALLY read to leave – or should I risk digging myself even further into my niche where I’ll likely be rewarded financially and with better opportunities?

    I want to hear about other people’s experiences. This must happen to everybody, right?

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      I left my last job after only being there for 17 months (that was the loooongest 17 months of my life) because I was bored with little to no work to do and I actually started my official job hunt at a little over a year in. For the first month or so, I heard crickets – I’m in a field I don’t have much experience in (I was a career changer), so I was worried I was going to be stuck there for a while. Still, I persisted and started getting more calls for interviews. I was offered a new job within four months of seriously searching.

      I think if you are truly over what you’re doing, get very clear about what you want your next step to be. That will help you target the right positions during your job search. Understand that it may take a while to find something else (it took 8 months of job searching for me to find my last position after spending four years doing something drastically different), but keep trying – all you have to do is get one yes.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Do you have a history of short stints at places? Or are you usually around longer at your other positions, just this one has gotten tiresome quickly? If it’s your first 1 and done job or you have an otherwise steady job history of not flouncing around from job to job, you don’t need to worry about the job hopper label! Lots of people have that one or two jobs that they just didn’t want to stay at very long and got out 12-18 months in but otherwise show steady employment otherwise.

      1. Branching out Versus Digging In*

        I think I’m okay there. I also have some concrete, neutral reasons why it’s the right time for me to leave when I’m asked.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          That’s good news! So honestly, I think you should start looking now, outside of your industry and try to get out if you want to. It’s also one of those things you can really explain away as “I have realized with this last position, I want to change career directions.”

          I haven’t changed industries but I left my last job after 11 months [6 of which were utter chaos], it was the best decision ever. When your heart tells you to go, you should go. Use your brain to navigate the departure of course but listen to your heart at first =)

    3. Boop*

      I faced a similar situation about 2 years ago and I decided to stay in my field/niche. I didn’t find that type of work particularly exciting but I knew I was good at it, so I stuck with it. This led to better and more higher-paying roles in the field, and I am glad I made that decision. Then again, I am not the kind of person who needs to be passionate about their work. I just need to not dislike it and be able to do it well.

      1. Branching out Versus Digging In*

        I think I would have said this about myself also, until this job haha.

    4. Been there, still doing it.*

      I’ve been here. I’m in a super niche field and every so often I get very sick of it.

      When I have contemplated switching to something else, I considered does New Field pay as much as Current Field? What are the barriers to entry in the New Field? How many people are out there doing it? How competitive is the market in New Field (lots of jobs or few jobs)? Do I need more training? How would I find time / money for more training?

      And finally, would I really enjoy New Field or is this just a case of hunting for greener grass?

      Fortunately or unfortunately, I’ve never switched out of current field. (I have switched employers. Multiple times). My career still drives me bonkers, but at this point, I am senior staff / senior management and I’m paid to put up with bonkers.

      1. tesserae*

        Another good question to ask yourself is, “How can I leverage some aspect of Old Field into New Field?” Regardless of what the connection is, if you can see clearly for yourself how those skills/how that thing you really enjoy doing will translate into the new field/new company/new focus, you’ll be able to clearly articulate it for your interviewer in a way that will make sense. (Don’t be like the people who apply to this very niche job I’m trying to fill – think querying SQL databases and generating reports – by failing utterly to explain to me how your skill as a barista/PA to celebrities will transfer over. I’m glad you know how to dissect small mammals. I’m just not seeing how that applies here unless you tell me.)

    5. Dreamer*

      Do you think having this ‘Niche’ will put you where you want to be once you are promoted to a certain level?

      1. Branching out Versus Digging In*

        Hmm, maybe someday, but no guarantee I would actually reach that level. But good thing to think about, thanks.

    6. epi*

      Historically, I have not really been good at communicating why specific skills I have are really very transferable. Even ones like project management where it doesn’t really seem like you’d have to connect the dots for people.

      But I do have experience with switching fields to get away from a terrible job!

      Based on your question– and the follow-up comments I can see right now– I would actually suggest that you try finding a new, less-terrible job in your field while you think about switching. A bad work situation can really poison everything about the work, without your even realizing it. You may not be as done with the field as you think, especially since you previously thought you could stick with the actual work regardless of passion.

      If you successfully switch fields, you may someday have an advantage: an unusual and nice-to-have skill set from your old career, plus competence and experience in the new one. But to set yourself up for that, you will want to find the sweet spot: where are your current skills valuable and a bit unusual, yet complementary to the day to day work and not impossible to convey to employers? Oh, and where is all that true that you think you would enjoy the reality of working there: pay, schedule, people, location, employment options? It’s a lot to think about! And if your current company is dysfunctional, you probably are not getting great information about your options, just from what you observe through working.

      Do an “easy” job search now, for something you know how to do, and get into a role that isn’t crushing you. It may cure you of the desire to leave your field. If it doesn’t, it will give you a much more stable and healthy position from which to think about your next steps.

    7. JSPA*

      When I’ve made decisions while in an unhappy place (whether personally or professionally) I found myself more susceptible to magical thinking in many directions, to wit:

      1. I hate the field, not just the job, a job in another field would almost certainly be better! (No, you can find chaotic, unrewarding jobs in all fields.)

      2. If I loved the field, almost any specific irritation would pale, because if the overall pleasure of doing something I love! (Um, yeah, no. If that were the case, we’d never have to leave a hobby group or interest group, and all our personal relationships could be based on “we love the same field.” The specific details and personalities always matter.)

      3. This job sucks so bad, if I had another job in this field, all would be well! (Eh, maybe not–you could be burnt out in general, or not like the field, in general).

      4. It’s all about the people; if I love my coworkers, I can deal with any degree of boredom, and the creeping sense that what I’m doing might be counterproductive to the good of humanity. (No, actually, turns out I can’t do the first one well, and I can’t handle the second one at all.)

      If you have the opportunity, the safest way to make a good decision is probably to take a good long time in your search–and include, as a criterion, the opportunity to take a fairly significant chunk of time off between current job and next job.

      No reason you can’t search both for an “easy fit” and for “something completely different” (and anything else where, when you hear about it, you say, “that sounds like something I could do well.”)

      Then you can make your next choice based not on a conceptual plan, but on the actual offer. Very explicitly including pay (that is, don’t take what you can’t live on, because it might be a stepping stone to a dream; if they see a fit for your skills, they’ll pay you appropriately for them). And if it’s same field, you can hold out for more challenge, and comensurate pay. That way, if it turns out that the field bores you, even when you’re well-rested, dealing with different people, not facing more chaos than is intrinsic to the field, and facing interesting / substantive challenges–at least you’ll be getting paid enough to set aside a significant chunk of cash to see you though a planned career change. And you’ll be making the decision before you reach the point where magical thinking sets in (even if you don’t start the search immediately).

      1. Branching out Versus Digging In*

        Hoo boy, I really see some of myself here too. Thank you, I will have to sit with this and think about it.

      2. Petunia*

        Wow. This comment rang so true to me, my head is still buzzing. Thank you for this perspective.

    8. MissDisplaced*

      Ask Yourself: Are you really bored with the work/career field or is it just the place you’re working at?
      If you hate the career you’re in, try to get some more transferrable skills before you jump and take your time with your job search. But if you generally like the career, it’ll be easier to go elsewhere and move up. And to be honest, you might get to see or experience other aspects of the field at better places of employment.

    9. Grack*

      Can’t you do both at the same time? Continue looking, but also commit to the fact that it might take another year to find a good fit, and in the meantime you want to continue building your resume and showing your track record as a good employee. Never leave without something lined up (unless it’s truly toxic in a way that is damaging your career or mental health)

  7. Not a Fed Apparently*

    Some disappointing news on the job front. I’ve been an institutional support contractor for a federal government agency for about 3 years. Meaning I am employed by a private company that holds a gov’t contract to provide staff to an agency. The office I support got some direct hiring authority, meaning they didn’t have to publicly post the job, they just networked to collect CVs and then handed the pile to HR and from there it proceeded like a normal hiring process. Since it wasn’t a posted job, there wasn’t a grade listing, but the job title is generally a Grade 11, 12, or 13 in this office. I interviewed in mid-June and got a tentative offer in early July. At a Grade 12/Step 1 with locality pay. Three of us on my team got the same offer. For me personally that represents a 33%/$41,000 pay cut and would take me back to what I was making in 2010 or 2011. So with the help of some amazing colleagues I put together my 4 page justification for a Grade 13/Step 9 ($10/month more than my current salary though I probably would have allowed myself to be talked into Grade 13/Step 8 which would have been about a $2.5k cut). In fact we all helped each other with our justifications. Last night we all got revised offers at Grade 12/Step 10. For my two colleagues who were more junior this is a good offer and does represent an increase over their current bases. But for me it is a 13%/$17,000 cut, and back to what I was making in maybe 2014. Other than my mortgage, I have no debt, but I just can’t accept that cut. It’s not just the money now, it’s the years and years of getting back to where I am now. I’m incredibly lucky that the opportunity to apply just sort of fell into my lap and my company has 5 years on their current contract so I have existing job stability. But I’m rather surprised at how devastated I am not to be able to take this job.

    1. Finally a Fed*

      Oh man, I am sympathizing with you on this so hard. I’m sorry. I have been through this two times under very similar circumstances and am looking at a third go around that will certainly result in a pay cut and returning to my agency at a lower grade than when I left. The difference between a GS 13/9 and GS 12/10 is $15-20K depending on locality, so totally understand not being able to take the GS 12 offer. Five years is a long time on your current contract – any chance competitive positions will open at a GS 13? Also, what are the opportunities for competing for hiring grade positions (GS 14/15)? One of the reasons I am open to going back at a lower grade than I left is that there are lots of opportunities to get promoted into a higher grade.

      1. Not a Fed Apparently*

        Honestly, I think there will be another direct hiring opportunity in the next year or so. This agency under pays people in my role compared to other federal agencies. It’s why there is massive turnover as people go to other agencies to get more money doing the same work (actually it’s less work because every other agency divides the role in two but my agency makes you take on both aspects). They are always short staffed which is why they require institutional support contracts like the one I’m on.

    2. De Minimis*

      Don’t forget the retirement benefits/pension in working for the Feds. I don’t know how close you are to retirement though–if you’re fairly far along in your career it’s less of a incentive.

      1. DCGirl*

        Yes. My husband took a pay cut when he went from contractor to federal employee because of the benefits. Having that kind of health insurance in retirement is a big plus for us.

      2. Not a Fed Apparently*

        I’ve run the numbers so there was some room to take a bit of a cut, but 13% is pretty huge. Plus I’ve heard some rumors that they want to increase the FERS contribution and get rid of the grandfathering. And because of where I am in my work life, I would have to basically commit the rest of my career to the feds to get full eligibility for the retirement benefits.

        1. De Minimis*

          Oh I hate to hear that about the grandfathering. I’m a former fed with two separate stints, and I’ve always been lucky that I was grandfathered from my initial service entry date which was back when the required contribution was super low. I’ve been considering trying to come back but having to contribute more towards FERS would make it less appealing.

      3. Former Retail Manager*

        Yes, this was what I came to say as well. There is also stability with being a fed that doesn’t come with most contract work. Not to mention the tax implications of employee vs. contractor.

        1. Not a Fed Apparently*

          Oh, I’m a full time, W-2 employee of my company so that’s not an issue. If I were younger, the retirement package might be more attractive because I would just have to put in my 20, and not necessarily in a row. But I’m at the point where I’m only going to work another 20-22 years so I wouldn’t be able to do anything else other than be a Fed. In which case, I’m not sure that it’s the right choice for me. I’m not necessarily worried about the work drying up. Institutional support contracts exist because the gov’t has done the calculus that it’s cheaper to go through contractors, even at “Beltway Bandit” prices rather than increase their labor line item.

          1. Finally a Fed*

            Is there a chance you want to take on more leadership roles at your agency that will be limited by being a contractor. When I was a support contractor, my employer (which was affiliated with a state organization) had better pay, medical, retirement, leave, etc. than the federal government. I could have (and would have) stayed as a contractor until retirement. However, it did become an issue when I took on roles that had more leadership tasks – e.g., leading teams, doing contract selections, etc., which meant I couldn’t ethically do the role as a contractor. Essentially, I maxed out my growth trajectory as a contractor. If you think this is a possibility for you, I would really start thinking about how to transition to fed even if there is a pay cut. That’s why I asked if competitive positions at higher grades come up routinely – either in your agency or ones that you’d be interested in moving to.

    3. Policy Wonk*

      Once one becomes a fed, there is more ability to move to other federal jobs. Many jobs are advertised only within the hiring agency, or only to current federal employees, particularly jobs that require security clearances. A GS-12 is a very mobile grade should you wish to move to another position or agency, and you should be able to move to a GS-13 position after a year in grade. Moving beyond GS-13 varies by agency, as there are fewer positions and people tend to stay in them for a long time. Others have noted the stability of government employment and the good benefits. You may want to take all this into account before you reject the offer out of hand.

    4. Fortitude Jones*

      Yeah, I couldn’t take a $17k paycut either even if I didn’t have all my debt – there’s no guarantee you’d get raises to get you back up to where you are now.

    5. SezU*

      It’s a tough one, but in a year you’d be eligible for the next level up. I took a lateral, no increase/no decrease, to become a fed. That was in 2012. In the last 7 years, I have moved to the top (next step is SES) and am making more than double that. So, to me, it was worth it. Can you get them to give you some credit years so you are earning more leave, at least (not even sure they can do that, except with military time).

      1. Not a Fed Apparently*

        I had actually included the request for the additional leave because I have been doing the government job for 3 years as a contractor (I have the .gov email address, the badge, the clearances, etc).

        1. Really Meh*

          I bet the Fed employess doing the same job working alongside you would feel cheated if they knew how much you made.

    6. Just stoppin' by to chat*

      I’m sorry you didn’t get the offer you were hoping for after all that work to document and justify. Good for you though for standing firm on your salary requirements, and for recognizing that you are worth more.

    7. Long Time Fed*

      Federal contractors make far more than their federal counterparts and as mentioned up thread it’s because federal benefits make up a large part of the full compensation package for feds. The problem is that it’s easy to fill GS-12 jobs and there’s not much incentive for the government to agree to such a high starting salary for admin positions.

    8. ADHDAnon*

      Another thing to think about – when is the contract you work on up for recompete and will it be changing types. For example, if you’re salaried exempt there’s nothing to stop a new company from offering you less $ and fewer benefits, like less vacation, in the offer. If it’s changing types, like from cost plus to fixed price, that can have a big impact on work life.

    9. MissDisplaced*

      A $17,000 pay cut is a LOT of money. I know it would be devastating for me. How are your other options?
      I mean, a $17k cut is still better than unemployment in most cases, however horrible. If you did have to take it, would you be tied to a contract? Are there any other reasons to take (benefits, PTO) that make up for the lower income?

    10. Really Meh*

      I feel for you, but as a longtime Fed, this is why we railed against contracting out. It was almost never cheaper than hiring federal employees. That said, I’m lookig forward to being a contractor after I retire.

  8. Fortitude Jones*

    Has anyone here taken the APMP foundation level certification exam? If so, how was it and how hard/long should I study for this? TIA!

    1. Vimes*

      Hi! I took the APMP Foundation test last year and it’s not too terribly bad especially if you’re actively supporting proposals and have taken a Shipley or Shipley style training recently – in fact they have a training specifically for the APMP foundation test which you might want to check into if you haven’t already. What I did was refresh my memory of anything from training documents I had but I also took the the practice test they have online on the APMP test website several times including right before taking the real test to help my nerves and I wrote down any questions I missed multiple times on the practice test and reviewed and tried to memorize those in particular. I definitely didn’t have a problem passing in the time limit and I’m one of those people who are really bad at taking tests and can bomb them even when I knew all the material. I probably studied overall a couple hours spread over several days leading up to the test.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        That’s good to know, thanks! Did you take your exam online, or did you do it somewhere in person (I see it’s an option to do a proctored exam)? If you did it online, did you have any connectivity issues? I’m so worried something may happen to my computer in the middle of the test and I won’t be able to do anything about it.

        1. Vimes*

          I did take it online and didn’t have any connectivity issues or technical issues the testing website is pretty bare bones and if I remember correctly they do say if something like that happens you can get with their help desk and reset the test. I did have a huge problem getting my payment processed on the credit card though because the testing company is out of Europe so you may want to call and give your credit card company a heads up! That stressed me out a lot when I was trying to take the test because that also screwed up my account registration because I’d gotten in the zone for the test then had to spend two days getting that sorted with my credit card company and then getting the account registered properly with their help desk.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Ah, okay. Thanks for the credit card tip! I had no idea their processing center was based out of Europe – my bank would most definitely put a hold on the funds, lol.

  9. RandomU...*

    There was some comments earlier in the week about people posting puns and things. I mentioned that I liked the idea as I was trying to lure my remote team to using MS Teams (recently introduced to my company).

    So 2 questions; what are the functions/things you use the most on MS Teams and Slack and the like the most; or suggestions for team channels/setups.

    and

    Any suggestions and resources for content that’s fun… pun of the day… joke of the day.. cartoons and things like that?

    1. Nott the Brave*

      No specific resources, but my team loves to use the inbuilt gif generator in Slack – type in /giphy and a word and it will give you a random gif on that topic. You can shuffle before you hit send and get a different one, so it isn’t a total lottery.

      1. AdminofSys*

        That’s one of the things we miss in teams, the gif options are really limited.
        But in general, the OneDrive and notes tie-ins make up for it, it’s very useful to just post the doc in the chat, instead of having to work having to pull it down and work on it locally or through Google.

    2. lemon*

      You can create an document in Slack and give permission to others to edit it, rather than always having to post a link to a shared Google doc. I thought this was common knowledge, but every time I’ve posted said document in a Slack channel, someone is always amazed and has never seen that feature before. So, thought I’d mention as a cool/useful feature.

      1. RandomU...*

        To get the team used to using it and some of the features I created a scavenger hunt.

        So things like:
        Post a file
        Add – specific text – to this wiki page
        Reply to a post
        Link a recipe
        Post about a function you learned about MS Teams
        Post a question about how to use something on Teams
        Answer a post about how to use something on Teams
        Schedule a meeting using Teams

        And other stuff. I think it helped… everyone did at least one thing on the list, which is pretty good participation for an optional ‘event’.

        I’m trying to push it’s use a little, without being pushy and obnoxious, IYKWIM.

    3. BelleMorte*

      We connect to our social media feeds, and have a to do list of sorts. The social media feed is nice since most computers are blocked from accessing social media sites.

    4. Eillah*

      Fun facts and quotes on Fridays!! I used to do that all the time on the hand written menu at the snack bar I worked at for many summers. Ah, memories….

      1. RandomU...*

        I did that today! I posted a Friday Funny on our team OT- non work channel :)

        In case you’re wondering it was a bad pun “Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off? He’s all right now.”

        That’s why I’m looking for other ideas… I tried inspirobot that someone mention, but I find them weird and not always work appropriate.

        1. Nessun*

          Our Teams now has a Water Cooler site which is strictly non-work postings. We’ve encouraged people to share photos of their pets (always popular) and since it’s summer, any gardening tips and pics (definitely enjoying that too).

    5. The Ginger Ginger*

      We use the teams meeting function a ton because we have a couple remote team members and frequently some folks are working from home. It’s best with an external usb microphone if you have a few people gathered in a room around 1 computer, but it’s very useful. It’s integrated with our outlook, so you can just click a button in the outlook meeting invite to add the meeting to teams, then click on the meetings tab and join the meeting right from teams when the time comes. It gets used multiple times a day in my office, and it’s extremely helpful.

    6. Princess Tayla*

      We have a pet channel where people can post all of the adorable photos of their pets. It’s a nice break to be able to go there and look at cute dogs and cats and iguanas as a little work break.

    7. Marion Ravenwood*

      When I had MS Teams in my last job, the things we used it for most were sharing review copies of documents for teams working on major projects (I managed the annual report, so had a channel on Teams that cut across a lot of different departments, and used it to share drafts, timelines etc), an alternative to Skype for meetings, and an internal email replacement, especially for quick questions.

    8. LKW*

      We just switched to teams and my favorite feature is that during meetings with shared desktop or applicaiton I can magnify shared content without having to ask the presenter.

    9. cmcinnyc*

      Just for a contrary perspective, this stuff is why I DON’T use our Teams channel much. It’s always full of nonsense. When I’m in a work convo and someone posts a gif or mentions they won’t be in tomorrow because they’re getting a dog (and then posts a pic), that’s great! But constantly getting pinged for junk got really tedious, really fast. I tend to turn it off and then someone will ask “Did you see the document I posted to Teams?” Uh, no. Sorry. Then I have to turn it back on.

      1. auburn*

        agreed. Stuff like this should be in a random/time killer channel that has separate alerts from actual work. I don’t know how teams works but on slack I only have alerts turned on for channels we use to do actual work. The random/time killer stuff I just look at when I’m sitting around waiting for a call to start or something. I like it and think it’s good for building camaraderie since we have a disbursed team. But it’s annoying if it’s mixed in with actual work. It should have it’s own place so people can check it only when they feel like it,

    10. 867-5309*

      I work for a company that builds a meeting management solution on top of Office 365. We find our customers who use it have higher adoption rates for Teams because there is a practical business reason for it. I would look for something like that to make it part of “how business is done.”

    11. sacados*

      My company uses Slack a lot — I’m still getting used to it, but one thing I’ve noticed that seems nice is that aside from the various project and team-focused channels, there is a #random channel (for, you guessed it, whatever randomness people want to talk about) as well as a separate channel for sharing news/articles about our industry. Those both get a lot of traffic and help keep the truly work focused stuff separate and on-topic.

    12. DaniCalifornia*

      GIFs, it’s nice to see the activity channel and it’s easier to contact all in a group. Skype for Business is going away anyways so we made our office switch over. We have an all office channel, and then an admin channel which is nice when you just need to message a few people.

  10. Eillah*

    Are there any regularly updated online spaces for career admins to swap stories/tips/techniques/etc?

    If no, career admins, roll call hayyyyy!

    I had to reformat a document to make it look nicer, which is not a skill in my admittedly varied wheelhouse, which is why I asked :)

    1. Nessun*

      The only one I’m aware of is the forum on the IAAP website, but that is members only (of which I am one). I’d be interested if there are non-member sites like this!

    2. Ginger Baker*

      Maybe this should be my prompt to finally start the blog I keep talking about! (I can’t be the *only* one that wants to talk about their favorite Word macros and which weird tasks they use excel to data-clean for, can I??)

    3. NothingIsLittle*

      Haha, I went to college for publishing, so I took a design class. It’s been one of my most-used skills since I started admining! The other major one is copy-editing. Gotta make sure all the external emails are perfect.

    4. JediSquirrel*

      I would certainly be happy to create one. (Web developer is one of my many hats.)

      Please let me know.

    5. FinePrint*

      I’ve set up an in-house MS Team for exactly this to keep our EA team connected and to motivate our informal catch-ups.

      I don’t know of a collaborative online space however I have (annual fee paying) membership of http://www.executiveassistant.com which has a chat room; and I follow several places such as http://www.practicallyperfectpa.com, http://www.legalofficeguru.com (though not legal) and http://www.allthingsadmin.com. I love all this stuff and get excited by collaborating with my admin colleagues and Sharing What We Know.

  11. Margaret Schlegel*

    Good morning and thank you Alison for everything!! I would love advice about an upsetting situation.

    How can I best support a family business during a family crisis?

    I work for a three-person law firm: two attorneys, Martin and Joan, and me, their paralegal/manager. Martin is Joan’s father. We have a high-volume, high-intensity practice that’s become unbelievably busy in the last six months. Recently, Martin’s wife and daughter-in-law were helping part-time with the expectation that we’d hire another paralegal in the next few months. I’m the only non-family employee they’ve had in years.

    Last weekend, they learned that their 2-year-old granddaughter/niece has a terminal illness. Her prognosis is dismal and it’s likely a matter of months.

    I’ve cleared the calendar and pushed out our deadlines and I’m holding things together as best I can. Obviously, they’re both overwhelmed and devastated and taking things a day at a time.

    Martin says he’s coming back to the office on Monday; Joan has attended a few necessary hearings this week but neither of them have been capable of much analytical thought (their words). I’ve scheduled a few appointments for Monday because Martin said he doesn’t want a total break in the practice, but I let the clients know that we might have to reschedule.

    I hired my friend to help temporarily with admin work since neither of the family members who had been helping will be coming back. I’m coping with the work (while taking multiple breaks every day to cry) but I can’t sustain this amount of overtime for long.

    I know Martin and Joan will need a lot of flexibility over the next few months. I want to respect them when they say they can do work right now but I know we’re going to leave a few things undone and have some unhappy clients.

    I was wondering if anyone has been through a similar situation, from their side or mine, and what helped you get through it or what you wish had gone differently.

    (also, I’m not interested in a discussion of the downsides of a small or family business. Martin and Joan are mentors and role models to me professionally and personally. I love my job and I love them and their family immensely and I’m focused on doing whatever it takes to support them.)

    Thank you all – I’ve learned so much over the years from AAM and Alison and this community and I’m grateful for any advice you can provide.

      1. tallteapot*

        There are paralegal temps, as well as attorney temp firms, especially in good-sized markets. You may want to broach the topic with Martin, as that will give them the chance to keep the trains running, at the bare minimum. If either it’s a smaller market without attorney temps nearby, possibly reaching out to other local firms to arrange for some coverage/assistance, etc.

        1. The Ginger Ginger*

          This sounds like it might be a great thing to mention or ask about! It’s definitely worth bringing up with Martin and Joan.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      Can you get permission/have the ability to hire a new paralegal or admin yourself? That would help with the short term non-lawyer part of the business. You can’t handle everything yourself for months at a time, and a steady employee would be more stable than various stopgaps.

      In the short term, you can handle the communication part – explaining what’s going on to clients, for example, so they don’t have that added stress.

      For the longer term stuff, I’m not sure how much you can do. They’re reeling from shock right now, but they may get back to work fairly quickly, if at reduced capacity. But if they’re distracted and unable to work for months, the business simply might not be able to survive – they’re the only lawyers, they bring in the money, and you can’t do their part of the job. I don’t know if it would be possible to hire a lawyer for six months, say, to handle some of their cases, but that’s not really something you can do.

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Before law school I briefly worked as a paralegal for a lawyer with a substance abuse problem. Very similar office deal to yours: two lawyers (who were siblings), and myself and one other paralegal. By the time I left, we had angry judges chambers calling, had to write uncomfortable letters to opposing counsel requesting deadline extensions for reasons we couldn’t give, and wondered if our next paychecks would bounce. If I could do it again:

      – Secure your own lifeboat. If they are “going to leave a few things undone and have some unhappy clients,” then prepare for the worst: some kind of malpractice situation like a blown statute of limitations that makes them have to lay you off. How are your savings? How long a period can you manage unemployed?

      – Secure your own lifeboat. Maybe Martin will decide that he’s in a financial position to suspend or even fold the practice and spend time with his granddaughter. Then he’ll decide to never come back. How prepared are you for that?

      – Dissuade Martin and Joan from taking on any new cases at this time. Try to get them to refer everything out. The more they take on, the more they may leave undone.

      – Hang in there! “The buck stops here” for lawyers. As you know, if you make a mistake, it’s on them because they are your supervisors. If they’re overloading you, that’s on them, too. Don’t hesitate to tell them that you’re getting too much, and you don’t want to risk dropping a ball (which would be their problem in the end, not yours).

      Good luck!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        This is what I was thinking — either an agency temp, or a retired lawyer they know personally. An outside contractor who isn’t on the emotional roller-coaster could help a lot if/when things get stressful.

    3. The Ginger Ginger*

      Schedule a meeting with yourself and Martin on Monday. You need to get specifics on how he wants things to go in the next months. I’d prepare a list of things you need to keep things together and any talking points you want to touch on. You can present this kindly and with a collaborative spirit, and if you come prepared, it’s less thought your boss has to put into it when he is understandably fried.

      Something along the lines of – “I want to make the next months as easy as possible for you and Joan while supporting the practice and our clients as much as I can. Here’s some of the steps I’ve taken, and where I need a little guidance from you to get your time as free as possible. I’ve temporarily hired another admin, but I think we need at least one more for X hours a week. I can’t do what was accomplished by 3 people without something key slipping through the cracks that would reflect poorly on the practice and I want to prevent that at all costs.” Etc Etc down the list. As Glomarization, Esq. mentioned, you can ask if they’re planning to take on new cases, and express any concerns or support of whatever answer he gives (depending on what he says).

      I know it feels like this is the last thing that they’ll want to be thinking about and it feels awkward, but a half hour or hour of conversation, that you’ve already done the leg work on so he doesn’t have to prep for, will likely get you what you need and make both him and Joan feel better about the state of the practice while they’re understandably distracted.

    4. WellRed*

      having never worked in law, I’ll let others answer that aspect. If you are crying several times a day, it might help with work overall, if you could work on that piece of it. Whether its through self-care or setting aside ONE crying break or a couple of therapy appts or a journal or whatever makes sense. You crying helps no one–not you, not the biz and most importantly not the family.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I have an ill family member right now whose prognosis is very much up in the air, so I speak from experience when I say you cannot plan your crying breaks, and you cannot tell your brain “we’ve already had our one allotted crying session today.” You will cry when you cry, and that’s really normal for a situation when people you care about are hurting and afraid.

        But take care of yourself as best you can, OP. And get your people to help take care of you. If you’ve got friends or family you can talk with while you process this, or who can take you out for dinner and a movie to get your mind off it for a little while?

        Pop back in and let us know how you’re doing with this in future open threads. We want you to be okay.

    5. Hi there*

      I have a somewhat similar situation in my office that I have been thinking about writing in about. In my case the other two people (my supervisees) are out on medical leave. I veer between panic about how I will get three people’s work done before the semester starts and serious worry about them. It sounds like you are having similar swings.

      I agree with the advice around prioritizing, etc. and just plodding through the work you can do. But you also need to give yourself space to handle the emotional parts of the situation so those don’t overrun every day. I don’t know what that looks like for you. For me it is running and giving myself all the Starbucks iced coffee breaks I want. I am also trying to see friends/colleagues a bit more since working alone is not something I enjoy and something that just reminds me of the situation. Hope this helps!

    6. JSPA*

      Set a timeline. Ideally, wait a week, if you can hold it together that long. Some people grieve (or, anticipation-grieve) by burrying themselves in their work (especially if they think of it as being “for the good of society” work).

      There will be all sorts of practical issues. It may end up making more sense for Martin to hire someone extra to help at home, and for him to put in time-and-a-half at work, while his wife does family support; or she may be the one who suddenly finds a need to lose herself in someone else’s case / someone else’s problems.

      It’s really hard to predict based on what you think you’d do in their shoes. (Actually, it’s just as hard to predict for yourself.)

      Given the family business set-up, and you being personally close with them…

      1. An open ended “how can I help” is never wrong.

      2. “I’ve looked up some highly-rated paralegal temp services, and also housecleaning and cooking services, and also nursing support services, in case engaging any or all of them can take some of the burden off of you” is a bit gal-Friday, but in this situation, might be warranted.

      3. I’ve seen lawyers offload clients to other trusted, qualified lawyers when faced with their own serious diagnosis, or that of their spouse. (Caveat: it’s less common to do so for child/niece. And in fact, having seen lawyers work well into their own terminal diagnosis–or through their spouse’s–best not to presume.) That said, if you have some newer, less complex clients whose cases could reasonably be treated as less pressing, it’s not always wrong for a lawyer to ask if they’d be willing to transfer to a different law firm that can give them the full attention they deserve. It’s often better to send them on a mutually-agreed trajectory to some other safe berth, than drop the ball on their case. You can build back from a contraction. You can’t build back from an implosion. Making a list of such cases, and having that list and the suggestion ready, may help to normalize the idea for them.

    7. Clementine*

      I wonder if Martin and Joan could come to an arrangement that one of them will handle family issues, and one of them will do legal work. They could hand stuff off to each other, and switch places, but always have a situation where one of them is fully on duty, and the other is clear for family responsibilities. That way neither has to feel guilty about neglecting the other aspect. Of course it will mean that they have to cut their total workload in half.

    8. LALAs*

      Does your state bar association have an assistance program? In Massachusetts, it is called Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers. It helps attorneys but also law students, paralegals, and legal assistants. They can give advice on a wide range of issues – how to keep the practice afloat, how to find a therapist, etc.

    9. Margaret Schlegel*

      Thank you all!
      I’ll plan to ask if I can check out a legal temp agency on Monday. I’m glad folks agree that encouraging them to refer as much out as possible is a reasonable response to this situation.
      I hate to consider the possibility that I’ll have to find other work, but I will get things on my end in order just in case.
      I’m trying to take care of myself – I’ve found a therapist for the short term and I’m eating again and trying to exercise – but it’s going to be a long road.
      The good news is that the child has come home from the hospital temporarily and I was able to see her. She’s in great spirits and surrounded by family, and whatever time she has is going to be full of love and fun.
      Thank you to everyone for your advice.

  12. Puppy SOS*

    I have an ethical dilemma at work that I am not sure how to handle.

    I work for a nonprofit and we are hosting a gala this fall. It is our biggest event and moneymaker of the year. We have a committee that consists of about a dozen members who are tasked with selling tickets/tables and collecting items and donations for our auction. Staff is in charge of all the event logistics, details and execution.

    Our committee and staff met this week to discuss how things are going and the committee brought up the idea of auctioning off a puppy. I’m an animal lover and worked with animals all throughout college, and I am horrified at the thought of doing this. Our Executive Director tried to push back on the idea, however the committee basically overruled her and claimed they will do things the right way. For ex: They want to use a puppy from a rescue, provide a year of vet care, all the necessities for a new pet such as a kennel, food, toys, etc.

    While I feel these provisions help, I still feel very uncomfortable with this whole process. A pet is typically a 10-15 year commitment and I know people sometimes get caught up in the excitement of an auction and bid on things without thinking them through. I also know (from working with an animal organization in the past) that animals that are bought on a whim are often dumped at shelters within a couple months.

    I tried helping our ED by doing research on ordinances in our city to see if auctioning off a live animal is prohibited, and unfortunately it is not. We are currently gathering news articles that show this could be a PR nightmare if any animal-rights groups or humane societies get wind of this event and want to challenge it. Unfortunately, I don’t know if this will help, and the committee for the gala also contains board members and they have the final say in this matter.

    If the committee proceeds with auctioning off a puppy, I am the individual who will be responsible in gathering all the items and coordinating with the rescue. Since I feel so strongly about this I really want to have nothing to do with the entire transaction. Can anyone advise me on how to speak to my boss about this? I don’t want to be difficult but I feel very strongly about this and don’t want to compromise my own morals or integrity by participating in auctioning off this puppy.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Oh my goodness, absolutely not! How horrifying! I don’t have a lot of advice, mostly commiseration, but I hold out hope that no rescue will ever agree to this. I know the one I adopted from wouldn’t.

      1. Wearing Many Hats*

        Yes, I agree with AvonLady Barksdale! I think you’ll have a hard time ‘procuring’ a puppy from a reputable shelter. Perhaps call a few to confirm and present these finding to the board?

        1. AnonAnalyst*

          Agreed. I’ve adopted a couple of rescued dogs over the years and each time the group has required information about me and, in some cases, a home visit, before they’d approve me to adopt one of the animals in their care. I’d be shocked if you were able to find a legitimate rescue group that would let you auction off one of their animals. Perhaps confirming that’s the case in your area and informing the board that no one will let you auction off a rescued puppy will put a stop to this idea.

        2. JSPA*

          Exactly this. Also, point out that if you pick the pet, the agency would still have to approve the adopter; and that if the pet of your choice were to bite someone, or kill another pet…eh, there are all sorts of reasons to have people select their own “best match” of a pet, not bid on the pet-of-the-day.

          In addition, though it might be thin ice (as fertility/family/adoption stuff is always fraught) but you could bring up the historical example of people who used to bid on (or purchase the right to adopt) orphans (many of them not actually orphans, but rather kids from poor families or runaways) from the “orphan trains.” The wikipedia entry on the orphan trains is surprisingly upbeat overall (“the root of the foster care movement”) but history has cast a jaundiced eye on the abuses, and also on the “slave auction” atmosphere as people picked up the child they’d ordered or bid on the spares.

          Perhaps you can suggest that instead of an actual individual living animal, they auction off an “adoption package” that will combine the cost of a future adoption (pending standard approval from the adopting agency) plus (say) a plush toy and/or a thank-you tchotchke or T-shirt from the Humane Society, a coupon to a local pet store, vet insurance, etc. Something that would be of value even if a family already had a pet, and didn’t want to adopt, or wanted to adopt a different pet. If you have pictures of “some of the kittens and puppies and cats and dogs now at the shelter,” you ought to get more interest, not less.

            1. Julia Pancakes*

              Adoption package! What a smart idea, JSPA. I never would have thought of that. Do this!!! Maybe they would be willing to have a few representatives from the shelter there, maybe with a few dogs JUST for meet and greet? But I don’t know if that would seem too much like those are the dogs being (ugh yuck) auctioned off, or if it would make people more interested.

          1. JSPA*

            To clarify, as someone seems to have found this troubling (though the comment may be gone, now)

            I think I flagged–hard–the point that child abuse/neglect vs animal abuse/neglect are problems of vastly different degree and magnitude, which however have one important point of similarity.

            But in case not…to clarify…

            Stipulate: The (well documented, horrific) child abuse and neglect suffered by too many children who were (e.g.) transported to Australia, or put on the early orphan trains, or generally shipped to any willing taker/bidder in the days before fostering included pre-screening or oversight–were a human rights violation of the first order. (Many other children were happily settled in loving homes. Which…is not prevented by screening.)

            Stipulate: The level of pre-checking and oversight reasonable for a dog is vastly different than the level that’s appropriate in human adoption.

            Argument: there’s nevertheless a point of commonality in that “no questions asked beyond, ‘can you pay’” is problematic in both cases, and for many of the same reasons.

            Two things don’t have to be “the same” for one to shed light on the other. If the original statement reads in some other way, for some readers, I’m sorry for causing pain.

            If, on the other hand, you think that only people can suffer, or that only children can be abused, we may not have a basis for mutual understanding.

            If you are sure that the history of parceling out children didn’t have some very bleak moments and bad mis-steps, google will handily supply copies of the primary sources, and you can do your own research on the topic, if curious.

            I’m pretty sure we’re all on the same side of not wanting to shuttle anyone or anything defenseless into a life of abject misery, while balancing that against the efficiency of getting as many beings in need of homes, into homes.

    2. ThatGirl*

      How about instead, a donation to a shelter that could be used toward a puppy?

      One of many problems with this is that one specific dog is not gonna fit in everyone’s household – even if you are completely up for adopting a dog, temperaments and sizes vary, for starters. I feel like most reputable shelters wouldn’t even go for this! I would probably talk to your boss from that angle – “it’s a huge commitment and I doubt a shelter would want to match a puppy with a household without an application, visit, research, etc”… would that help?

      1. Amtelope*

        Yes, I would try to set this up as “you’re bidding on puppy supplies + a year of vet care, and you can either donate them to this great rescue to help cute puppies, or contact the rescue if you’re interested in adopting a cute puppy yourself.” The rescue might even be willing to bring some cute puppies to show off. But no rescue is going to let you auction a dog.

        1. Alice*

          I love this idea. And maybe its close enough to the original off-the-wall one that the committee will go for it.
          But what kind of ED can’t/won’t overrule a committee that is doing stupid things?

        2. EddieSherbert*

          This is a great idea! I work in a rescue and we definitely have brought dogs or cats to events (usually with the expectation we’re getting donations or publicity or people will apply to adopt).

        3. Jill March*

          Puppy SOS: if you are in charge of it, you could probably just execute it this way and the committee that approved it wouldn’t notice that it wasn’t exactly what they asked for. If they do notice and say something, tell this was the only way the shelter would let you do it. (Which might even be the case.)

      2. Mimi Me*

        Yes, Perhaps a voucher that people can bid on that would cover the cost of application fees and the adoption itself. I adopted a kitten that required an application, a home visit, and an interview with my family. It was quite extensive. I don’t see many reputable shelters agreeing to just handing an animal over without at least a cursory review of the potential owner.

        1. Lilysparrow*

          Yes, this sounds like a much saner idea. The “Pick Your Pet” package includes the adoption fee, vet care, crate & supplies, and so forth…

          A shelter might even want to use this partnership as a promotion of their own.

          You can put lots of adorable photos of puppies (and kitties, too).

          I think you’d probably get better bidding with that kind of flexibility. The bidder could use it at their convenience, or as a gift, so they could take the gift recipient to choose the pet.

    3. Adlib*

      I can’t imagine any rescue being okay with this. It sounds like it hasn’t been brought up to the rescue that your org wants to use. I would be shocked if they went along with it so that may be your out right there. Maybe have the shelter explain as experts in the field that this is a TERRIBLE idea to your organization.

      I hear you on your concerns – as a fellow animal lover and rescue advocate, I’m horrified to be honest.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        This is a great point — rescues require applications and vetting before they adopt out. You might be able to get the rescue itself to squash it as soon as you explain.

        1. Puppy SOS*

          This was my thought too. However – one of our committee members works for a catering and event planning organization that hosts many high class events in our city. This committee member is already connected to a rescue that has auctioned puppies at previous events. I’m fairly new to the city so I’m not all that familiar with the rescue, but it appears this particular group is fine with auctioning off their puppies. :(

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Wow. In that case, I’d seriously considering contacting some animal protection groups and seeing if they’ll get in touch with your employer with a strong admonition not to do this (try HSUS, PETA, and others; I know PETA will do that sort of letter). Also, are there coworkers who agree with you? This is something where I’d push back strongly as a group. And maybe consider some pressure against the rescue group itself, which might have an effect.

            You do not need to out yourself to your employer as the person who’s organizing the push-back.

          2. EddieSherbert*

            That… seems extremely sketchy and also how on earth is there enough of a market for that to already have connections for “puppy auctions”?! Very curious about this rescue group O-o

            Note: In my are,a there’s a local pet store chain has an “adoption area”… but the dogs are from breeders known to be less-than-great. You have to dig 3 layers into their website to find that information and there’s no law saying they can’t call it adoption/adopting/etc. I literally know people who have bought dogs there thinking they were rescuing because they purposefully keep it all vague and use the shelter “lingo.”

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Our local PetSmart has adoption events through a reputable local rescue*. They do bring animals in from elsewhere — but they still start as shelter rescues. Just shelter rescues in regions that have a lower rate of spay&neuter.
              *the one where my co-worker adopted her last 2 dogs.

              1. Short & Sweet*

                Yes, PetSmart does have adoption events – my most recent dog came from one – but I still needed to fill out an an application, provide references, and have a home visit (not to mention write a pretty hefty check!). In that case, the pups came from a kill-shelter in KY to MA.

              2. EddieSherbert*

                Not adoption events with local rescues (like Petsmart and Petco do) – those are great!

                I’m specifically talking about where they have lots cages with puppies in them and the puppies live there until they’re bought. This is more like what you’d see with Petland’s (but I’ thinking of a local 3 store chain in my area specifically).

          3. JSPA*

            That’s…gross. You can still go with the practical argument, “different people value different things in a pet / we’ll have more interest if the exact choice of pet is left open.” And the legal risk, if someone’s bitten, has a massive allergy attack, the cost from the venue for dog pee on the carpet, etc.

            To be fair, a lot of pet stores have adoptable pets from shelters. I’m never entirely sure how much vetting goes on at the store, if you adopt from the store. And presumably the agency chooses the most “chill” puppy possible, so it’s not torture for the pup to be at the event, and so that the event isn’t a total fiasco. (That, or eventually someone gets bitten, and they wish they’d listened to you.)

            As for letters: PETA is not seen as a mainstream animal-welfare group in much of the country. If you’re someplace where farm animals are raised for meat, and there’s any way to trace that your brought a PETA protest down on your company, you can probably expect to be unemployed, unemployable, a social pariah, and possibly have your car keyed or egged.

            There are places where land is cheap, houses and farmsteads sort of mingle in the exurbs, adding another random dog to the household is taken as a matter of course, and the idea that you have to match a particular dog to a particular family is seen as a bit of a precious affectation. If you’re someplace like that, you may not find a lot of support, and have to decide how individually problematic it is for you to be in the middle of the process. Maybe focus on talking up some great alternative, rather than talking down the (really bad! I agree it’s bad!) plan. But in context, It’s less than 100 years since they stopped doing this with children, in the US. (The orphan trains ran from 1850 to 1929, and if it had not been for the depression, who knows how long they’d have continued.)

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Having worked at PETA, I can guarantee you they’re not going to protest this company for doing this. But they will send a letter explaining why it’s a bad idea for the animal.

              1. JSPA*

                They’ve become more thoughtful of their overall image than then they were in the 80’s (and I hope my posts above indicate that we’re overall on the same side of this issue?). But memories are long, and it feels like there’s been a fair bit of work done to keep any past excesses raw in the public memory, and to elaborate on them, and to conflate them with ALF and ELF.

                I’m afraid that there are still areas where the golem of PETA’s earlier reputation precedes and looms over their current, well-considered actions. That is, there’s a fair chance in some areas that any letter of disapprobation from PETA would be seen as an implied threat, even if they are not sent with that intent.

                As with all things, you can’t control history, nor can you control the experiences of your recipient, nor the past messaging they’ve absorbed. But you may be able to get ahead of those factors by figuring out what they are, and how they change the way the message will land.

                As the poster recently moved from one region to another, it would be helpful to get a fix on the local reputation of PETA, before (or concurrent with) alerting PETA to send a letter.

                1. Jill March*

                  Since the original comment said below that this shelter has done this before, maybe have PETA send the letter to the shelter? It would help preserve anonymity, since anyone from a previous auction could have done this. It may not be as effective for the immediate situation, but it should probably be done either way.

            2. TL -*

              Yeah, I grew up on a ranch and most of our dogs were random strays that were left at our rental properties or picked up off the street to “get them better and give to the shelter” (the latter never happened.

              We weren’t really concerned about fit – dogs that needed time to run or space from the other dog(s) or wanted to nap all day could all find what they needed on their own. The only concern we had was size, as small dogs weren’t likely to be seen by the livestock – but even then we had an 11-lb Chihuahua mix that was quite happy and never got close enough to the cows to be hurt.

        2. Murphy*

          Definitely this. I used to work at a rescue and we’d never adopt out to someone who didn’t meet the adoption criteria, even if adoption is free that weekend or it’s clear the shelters or whatever.

        3. Venus*

          Agreed: I foster puppies (and kittens) for various rescues, and with every single one it is *all* about finding the right match for the right family. I currently have a puppy who is ideal for a very active family, and anyone who doesn’t want to run 2+ hours a day will be miserable with her. She is loved and desired by everyone we meet, because she is such a well-behaved and adorable little thing, but very few people would actually want to live with her. Similarly, each kitten has a personality and some people want a more relaxed cat while others are keen for an extrovert.

          No reputable rescue will participate in this suggestion. If they do find a rescue who is at all interested then I would question their ethics.

          A few options:
          A raffle for those items (free vet care for a year and supplies like food), for people who already have a pet (I have seen auctions where vet services are offered and they do very well)

          A puppy- or kitten-social. Rescues will often arrange for animals to go to a location, such as a pet store or occasionally a yoga studio, in order to raise awareness (and they usually have baking and knitting for sale if it’s a public event). Perhaps it could be arranged that the winner gets a few hours of cuddles with a litter of kittens or puppies from a local rescue? The rescue could go to their home, or workplace, or wherever the person wishes?

        4. University Minion*

          I’ve lived in places where property seized as evidence had to, by law, be auctioned off. This included dogs from a puppy mill bust. What the animal shelter did was to hold the auction, but the high bidder won the right to be first in line to put in an application, and only once it was approved, could they get the dog for the amount they bid. If that application was denied, it rolled down to the next bidder until a suitable home was determined.
          That made the best of the situation, but I agree that live pet animal auctions are not a great idea.

        5. tyrannosaurus vet*

          Shelter manager here! The thinking on this is changing in our industry. Rather than coming from a place of “Prove to me that you are worthy,” we are moving to a much more inclusive view that if you’re coming to adopt you’re already a good person who knows far more about your ability to care for an animal than we are. More info here https://www.aspcapro.org/research/pets-gifts-0 and here https://www.aspcapro.org/blog/2014/05/27/go-ahead-try-it-open-adoptions :)

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Hmmm, that is counter to everything I was taught working in animal protection for years (although I recognize you also work in animal protection and have far more recent knowledge than I do). But I’d be concerned about the statistical significance of a study based on only 222 people! I’d continue to be very concerned, given how many people abandon animals when they become “inconvenient.”

            1. tyrannosaurus vet*

              I know, I’ve been in animal welfare for almost 20 years and everything I “knew” when I started has been turned on its head. For years we have taken in every animal that came to us and made it very difficult to adopt – and then wondered why we ran out of space and had to euthanize healthy pets. Now we’re practicing intake diversion and open adoptions and looking for ways to increase flow-through. And we’re saving lives! I love it, it’s such an exciting time and so rewarding to see our progress!

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Ha, that is a very positive and diplomatic response to my skeptical comment :)

                But I’d definitely be interested in a statistically significant study if there are any!

              2. anonagain*

                I hear you on the barriers to adoption, tyrannosaurus vet. I’m a volunteer at an old-school rescue and I’m not convinced that our current approach is better than a more progressive process with more support for people after the adoption. I would love to be able to test that out, but we don’t have good data. (I’ve tried to analyze it, because I am a little obsessed with these things.)

                That said, I am still opposed to auctioning off a puppy. I know that animals are legally property, but I don’t regard them that way. For me, auctioning off a living being with its own thoughts and feelings is deeply unethical, whatever the reason and whatever the outcome.

                But those are my own beliefs, which most people (even really great ones!) do not share. As a practical matter, at every charity auction I’ve been to, everything gets bid on. It is hard for me to imagine someone holding up a puppy at a charity auction and a whole room full of people just sitting silently. On the flip side, it is easy for me to imagine a room full of people who all already have the number of dogs they want.

                That mismatch makes this different in my mind even from someone getting a dog as a gift or impulsively getting themselves a dog. I don’t think people go to galas in order to get a dog, and still they could end up feeling a lot of pressure to bid.

                I’m in favor of increasing adoptions by removing ineffective selection criteria, etc., not by adding pressure on people to take animals they don’t want.

            2. carrots and celery*

              There’s been enough articles in the past five or so years about how adoption practices are absurd. I, for one, welcome rescues being more inclusive and less stringent about adoption because it’s incredibly hard to adopt a dog from rescues these days unless you pass their 100 ridiculous requirements.

              1. Susque-hanna*

                I gave up trying to adopt a rescue dog after I was presented with a “contract” that gave the rescue group the right to enter my home without warning at any time, day or night, for ten years AND demanded that I get the rescue group’s consent in the event I want to move. (Both of these provisions are almost certainly unenforceable but that’s beside the point.) The group refused to remove these points. I gave up and went to a reputable breeder.

          2. EddieSherbert*

            We’re definitely changing our approach as well to make it easier to adopt (no home visits, no requiring fenced in yards, no checking vet records for vaccines), but we still put *some* time and effort into finding the right fit for the family and for the animal. Like…. if the dog being auctioned off hates cats, we should probably make sure the family doesn’t have cats.

            So I personally still wouldn’t be comfortable with an auction where I hand off a random dog to a random person afterwards, even with some of the changes we’re seeing in rescue “rules” :)

            1. tyrannosaurus vet*

              Why don’t you just tell them that the dog hates cats and let them make their own decision? Even if they don’t have one now there’s nothing stopping them from getting one in the future.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Because it’s in the best interests of the cat not to be in a home with a dog who may terrorize, injure, or kill her! And because this is a situation primed for the dog being returned after they realize “oh, he really doesn’t like cats.” And because people are frequently enough terrible at making responsible decisions like this that the whoever is currently responsible for the animal should make the final call.

          3. Belle8bete*

            I am glad to hear that shelters are starting to realize they shoot themselves in the foot sometimes. I personally have adopted my animals from small rescue groups that were easy to work with. I wasn’t going to come in and jump through a bunch of hoops to get my cats. I’m not saying toss kittens to randos, but some groups have lost the plot.

      2. Willow*

        Yes, rescues and shelters generally have strict application processes before they’ll hand over a pet. I can’t see them waiving that–and if they do, they are not going to be an organization you’d want to be associated with.

    4. RandomU...*

      So, I’d spend capital on this. I’d tell the committee team that if they go forward with this, I’d be contacting PETA, the news outlets, and local rescue groups myself. (which btw would likely be the outcome if you did it or not they’d catch wind of it and there would be fallout). Ask them how they will deal with the protests and the bad press.

      If you’d like and they don’t back off of this idea… I’d create a burner twitter account and do it anyway… then I’d bring in the ‘evidence’ and say “OMG someone leaked this, I just saw this on twitter”

    5. HailRobonia*

      How about auctioning off the rest of the stuff without the puppy… a year of vet care, supplies, etc. would be a great gift for someone planning to adopt a dog… or someone who already has one.

      1. Bluebell*

        I was about to say something similar to this- auction off puppy supplies, a gift card for food, training services, and maybe an hour of counseling from a well regarded dog rescue org in your area. That would get good publicity for the dog rescue (or shelter) , and the bidder could use it on their own timeline. You could still use a whole bunch of puppy photos and the rescue or shelter could potentially bring a few doggy ambassadors to the event. My dog rescue always has them at our gala. They wear bow ties and it’s a huge hit.

    6. WellRed*

      Is your boss the ineffective ED? If so, you could try to decline based on your feelings about this, but your boss seems to be pretty powerless.

    7. BelleMorte*

      I totally agree, my eyebrow went into my hairline when I read this.

      If you absolutely cannot get them to change their mind, can you damage control at least? Perhaps auction off the pet care package instead of the puppy itself? i.e. the year of vet care/insurance, the kennel, toys, a voucher/gift certificate for food for a year etc. perhaps include enough to handle the fees or a voucher for adopting a puppy, without saying “hey here’s a puppy pre-selected!” that may or may not suit your family.

      I doubt any reputable rescue would be willing to give you a puppy pre-selected without vetting the adoptee’s family honestly.

    8. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      Maybe while coordinating with the rescue, you could tell them what the puppy will be used for and let them know your concerns. See if you can’t get them to refuse to give you one. Maybe with a statement about how they don’t want the bad PR. Outside opinion may open their eyes.

    9. mf*

      Your ED seems supportive in you pushing back against this idea, so that’s a good sign. Can you talk to him/her to see if there’s someone else who can manage this process in the event that the committee moves forward with the idea? You can even use the script you posted here: “I don’t want to be difficult but I feel very strongly about this and don’t want to compromise my own morals or integrity by participating in auctioning off this puppy.”

      (Also, thank you for pushing back and trying to do the right thing!)

    10. Joielle*

      What if you made it more like a “new puppy gift basket”? So like, a gift certificate/voucher to get a dog from the rescue, a voucher for a year of vet care, and then include some cute dog stuff like bowls, leash and collar, toys, and maybe a gift certificate to a pet store so the person can get other stuff they need. It would still be exciting and a cute idea but would give people the chance to think it through after the adrenaline of the auction and pick out a dog that would work for them – maybe they want an older dog, or one that’s small/big/active/quiet/good with kids/whatever. There’s so much variation in dog breeds – you’d hate to pick one out and then people not bid on it because they’d rather have a different type of dog. Plus WAY easier logistically than having a live dog at the auction.

    11. Ali G*

      You will have a hard time getting any reputable rescue on board with this. Why don’t you suggest that instead of auctioning off a live puppy, you show pics of all the available dogs (or cats!) at the local rescue and give a adoption certificate (basically pre-pay for it) to the person that “wins.” That way they can go pick out their own pet, and if they never do it, free money to the shelter!

    12. Tigger*

      OMG NO. Please don’t do this! This is just so wrong! If they really want to keep the puppy as a draw to help a shelter I know a lot of rescues will let you sponsor a dog to help lower adoption fees

    13. Tuppence*

      It might be worth leaning on the PR angle – you’re a nonprofit, so supporters are generally likely to be (or consider themselves to be) ethical people. If any animal rights organisations got hold of it the negative PR implications are potentially serious, not to mention time-consuming and generally distracting to supporters – does the board really want to be fighting a reputational issue in the wake of this gala? Also there’s a strong likelihood that no shelter is going to want to open themselves up to that kind of negative PR, so the idea may not get off the ground anyway.

    14. KR*

      I am SHOCKED. WOW. Could you guys auction off a sponsorship of a shelter puppo instead of the dog itself? The sponsorship could include updates from the shelter and/or a spot on a sponsor wall & perhaps a waived adoption fee pending approval of the application? That way the final say is with the shelter whether the dog actually goes to the person and the person still gets something out of it.

    15. an alternative to your situation?*

      Can you perhaps auction off finances to go towards a puppy…. for example work with Animal Society ABC; let ABC do the vetting and their normal proceedures, and your non profit will help with the initial costs. Or perhaps you can say we will buy puppy supplies, toy and a bed for the first month your puppy is home. Or you will pay for the first three months of vaccines. Or you will pay for one year of puppy grooming.

      Something where your not-for-profit company can help with someone who is considering getting a puppy but not having the puppy be the actual auction. Maybe ABC can bring some of the dogs to the event – a win win – ABC may get more people to help/ home more puppies and your company is not in a PR nightmare.

    16. Moray*

      Maybe the rescue group and committee could be convinced to do the year of care + toys thing and then something like “a personalized tour and special meet ‘n greet withall the puppies at the shelter.”

      That would still make the auction-winner feel like a special, puppy-winning A-lister, without just handing over a dog. And they could still bring an especially cute puppy to the auction as, like, a demo-puppy, just not plan to hand it over.

    17. Christine*

      I don’t have advice on what you should say to your boss, unfortunately. I just had to comment and say that I’ve been to a fundraiser for an organization before where a puppy was auctioned off, and it ended up going pretty well. The puppy ended up bringing in more money than any other auction item, and the person who “won” the puppy donated the puppy back to the organization. One of the members of the organization owns the puppy to this day, which became a mascot for the organization. Shelter pup got a new home, the highest bidder was able to make a contribution to the organization without committing to owning the puppy, organization had a mascot everyone loved, person who owns the puppy has a beloved companion.

      I understand that it’s not ideal, If you have to move forward with the puppy, I hope it goes well. I have gotten many dogs impulsively because of emotion and excitement, and taken care of then no less than a new dog that was planned to come into my home. Unfortunately, unsuitable people adopt dogs everyday that they do not remain committed to, but just because someone gets their puppy at an auction, does not mean they will be a bad dog owner. Maybe that puppy can still have a great life.

    18. benny c*

      Where are they going to even get a puppy? Are local shelters even going to have any available? In my (limited) experience they get snapped up pretty darn quick. So are you going to have to buy one from some rando off Craigslist? Or go further afield and spend time & effort sourcing them from a whole other state? Especially for a cute-looking dog that would be more popular at an auction!

      I’m just not seeing how this is going to make much money. I mean I don’t know what your auction crowd is looking like, but I’m expecting the cost of lining up a puppy is going to climb into the $300+ range pretty quick. (You have no moral incentive to drive that number down, either).

    19. Animal worker*

      Wow, I’m horrified by this like everyone else, and would personally spend political capital on it if needed, but know that this isn’t always possible for everyone’s circumstance. I love the suggestions below about focusing on a puppy gift basket that includes a shelter donation that could cover adoption fees if the winner wanted to adopt an animal. Another option would be an animal ‘adoption’ at a local zoo with a gift basket of zoo stuff that usually comes with the adoption fees.

    20. Puppy SOS*

      Hi all, I just wanted to post and say thanks to everyone for the feedback. I’m glad to know I’m not alone in finding this horrifying.

      I commented earlier, but want to mention our committee is already connected with a rescue that is willing to do this. I don’t know anything about the rescue or how reputable it is. It’s probably not a great group considering it has auctioned off dogs before. I will definitely find out who the group is and see if I can find out more about them.

      I will say I live in a city that seems to be pretty behind in the times when it comes to animal welfare. There is a lot of animal dumping and tons of stray dogs in the poorer areas of town. This has been hard for me because I come from a city where people care a lot about animals. While there are animals lovers here, it seems that the majority of the people in my area do not put in as much effort.

      I love the ideas of auctioning off a sponsorship for a rescue or a sponsorship + the pet care package instead. I feel these are great alternatives and will bring them up to my ED to pass on to the committee.

      My ED is a wonderful person, however there is currently a power struggle between the ED and our Board of Directors. She tries her best but is very limited because the board pushes back on a lot of her directives, and at the end of the day she reports to them. This is a whole different topic and issue for another day, though.

      Thank you again for everyone who has commented and provided their advice!

      1. EddieSherbert*

        Good luck; that is so frustrating!

        I think you could also research this group and verify if they’re a reputable rescue (I mentioned above, but most of the shelter “lingo” is completely legal for anyone to use and I know at least one store that works with breeders but use “adoption” terminology to mislead people). If the ‘rescue’ part was important/appealing, that could put a stop to it.

        I also think you should be able to let them at least tell them this bothers you and you do NOT want to organize this on their behalf. You may not be able to refuse if it’s part of your job, but you can still try to get out of it.

      2. Gidget*

        The fact they have auctioned animals before is a pretty scary thought. It is entirely likely this rescue has other violations which may indicate it is less than legitimate. If you can find out more information about the rescue, i.e. showing they frequently have violations, then you can show that it is a rescue you do not want your organization to be affiliated with which may help. I think you should also highlight your concern that if this gets out on social media your organization would very likely get spammed by humane activists and it would create a very bad PR environment for your org.

        I am so sorry you are in this situation. I hope it works out.

        1. JSPA*

          Seems that the boss is on the rescue board, or something like that, so this will not work…I’d be tempted to find out of the rescue is a listed charity, and try to find out where the money goes. Some are, as people have mentioned, basically fronts or dumping grounds for unscrupulous puppy mills. If they’re getting donations, doing adoptions at a profit, and paying for puppies (or taking the purebred puppies that are “defective” by breed standards), that might be of interest to an investigative journalist (or the IRS).

      3. Need Some Coffee*

        I wonder if this is a gala I have been to and supported as a volunteer. The one I am thinking if is a world-wide major non-profit, and every year at a gala they do a puppy auction. Now, from what I heard behind the scenes, they basically always pre-coordinated who was “winning” the puppy somehow, so it wasn’t a totally spontaneous thing. It surprised me when I saw it happen live, but apparently everyone agrees it’s a key tradition for the event. So, not sure if there are two of these organizations out there or we are talking the same group.

        1. JSPA*

          That…sounds like another, entirely different layer of illegal. Fixed auctions? Riiiight. Just because you’re working towards a mutually excellent outcome, does not mean you can do shady things along the way to get there.

      4. Another JD*

        Your boss and the rescue are on board with the plan, so all you can do is mitigate. Instead of bringing one puppy, have the shelter bring several for a visit (because the whole point of the puppy being there in person is people become irrational over small cute things and open their wallets). Have it BE KNOWN that no one is going home with said puppies, but the winner’s puppy of choice will be held by the shelter for X days to be claimed, pending the home check or whatever else they normally do. The shelter gets an adoption event, and you get money for your organization.

      5. Samwise*

        I’m so very sorry. You’ve been put in a terrible position.

        If you cannot stop the puppy auction, then you will have to figure out if you can tell your boss that you cannot be involved in this part of the event and she will have to find someone else to do that part of the planning. Understanding that it may cost you your job. Sometimes we have to pay a high cost to act according to our values.

    21. EddieSherbert*

      Well, there’s a decent chance they won’t be able to find a rescue or shelter that will agree to that – which might stop it from happening. All those groups have adoption applications for a reason.

    22. Career Tech Teacher*

      Board of Directors for an animal rescue. DON’T do it. We’ve had NFPs reach out to us to do this and even say “well they would have to go through your usual vetting process” and we still say no every time. A local private school did it with a breeder and they were skewered in the larger community. Just don’t do it. Please comment back and if you want email to reach out to me directly, I’ll post one in my gravatar. I’ve been on the other side of being asked a few times and our rescue says no every time.

    23. Gidget*

      Yikes. This is a terrible idea. I am certain any legitimate rescue will not provide a puppy for an auction. A couple people here have mentioned making it an auction for supplies and a year of vet care and I think that is a much better alternative to provide. It is much more responsible and still a pretty great auction idea.
      This would also probably appeal to more of your guests because pre-existing pet owners would be interested, whereas in the other case you would probably only have naive-not-actually-ready-to-adopt-a-puppy bidders.

    24. Mazzy*

      Oh no, I’m not easily offended but this disgusts me. There is nothing to discuss here, this is just a big “NO”

      1. b*

        Such a bad idea. I would worry that this “rescue organization ” is actually a puppy mill . Dogs from puppy mills around here often come with falsified health papers and lots of congenital issues. Bad publicity for your nfp if the word gets out that you auctioned off a “defective” puppy. I love real rescue organizations and would be sad if they got tarred with that same brush.

    25. Llellayena*

      First, check with the local animal shelter to see if they would even allow this. You can imply on the call that you’re not thrilled and ask if they have better ideas for similar results. If the NO comes from them, this could stop the idea in its tracks.
      Second, I’d be writing an essay length document about ‘why this is not a good idea,’ sign it and hand it to the ED so you’re on record as not agreeing.
      Third, I’d see if there’s some way to modify this to be ethical. Maybe the auction is either a dog and year’s supplies OR donation of those things to someone else who wants to adopt a dog? Have an adoption station and auction off only the years supply of dog equipment? Have the adoption station and have the dogs present other (small) items that are auctioned off with part of the proceeds going to the shelter. There’s probably ways to keep the spirit of the idea and improve the ethics.

    26. tyrannosaurus vet*

      I am a senior manager at a large, very old, very well respected shelter and we auctioned off a puppy at our gala a few months ago! It was advertised that we would be live-auctioning one puppy, which brought in about $4K, and then we brought out a second surprise puppy and that one brought about $5K.

      People who bid on and win are well off, probably have pets already, and are usually well known to our board and major donors. Both of those pups went to millionaires and they now live better lives than I do.

      (Of course, this was a gala for an animal shelter, so attendees were animal people. I don’t know about a non-animal nonprofit.)

      1. JSPA*

        You’re lucky that we don’t out people or their organizations here, as I’m thinking this is enough information to do so.

        I would feel really, really good never donating to the organization, and warning my friends not to do so, either.

        Pet auctions may be OK in the location where you did it, but if you’re large and national, I’m pretty sure the backlash from all the places where this reads as “entirely horrifying” would undo all the good (?) work that your fundraising arm has no doubt spent a lot of money effort time and tears, to do. More than that $9K.

        1. WellRed*

          Genuinely curious what your concerns are in this case? What is the ‘horrifying” aspect if you know the bidders, etc and have them vetted beforehand?

          1. JSPA*

            I can tell you why it shocks and upsets me, with no guarantee any of it will resonate with you. People are different.

            1. People being rich and donating to animal causes is not the same as being vetted.

            2. Being vetted is ideally whether you are able to care for a specific animal, not a random animal.

            3. Money and “we support the shelter” aside–as it should be–this is exactly the same scenario that has so many people horrified, higher up in this thread. If it’s horrifying when a third party does it, it’s also horrifying when the shelter does it.

            4. I also posted a link to an article about shelters paying big money to breeders for prime “auction” dogs in a way that really violates the entire concept of nonprofit rescue (not to mention, violating trust, and possibly violating IRS regulations). It’s not through moderation yet (links take a while).

            5. My stomach made that “yuck” sensation before I teased out any of the intellectual reasons, above; that by itself is enough of a reason for me to say, “that’s disgusting.” Feelings exist; explanations follow.

            If this isn’t a problem for you–if your stomach doesn’t twist–I’m not going to tell you that it should, and I’m not going to tell you that you should not donate. Me? I feel nearly as queasy as I would if i heard that really rich people with nice houses could buy kids for adoption at auction, and everybody clapped. People really are different about this stuff. (I’d paradoxically feel slightly better if they were going by lottery to someone with a farm, without a lot of money. But then, I’ve seen how some rich people treat their kids–let’s just say I would not wish the worst of that on any animal.)

            And I’m not even a “my pets are my babies” person. I have cats, I love them dearly, they gaze into my eyes, I scoop their poop, I cry bitter tears if one dies…and I never once lose sight of the fact that they are no more and no less than cats.

          2. Gaia*

            They auctioned off a live animal. Literally anyone could have come in and bid on that animal with no checks at all to make sure they were not going to harm the animal or put it in risk. That is deplorable that a shelter would do something. They KNOW the risks of putting animals in the hands of just anyone. This is why there are some barriers to adoption (and while there is a strong case to be made that some shelters and rescues have gone off the deep end in their restrictions, I’ve never heard a single good argument for having literally NO vetting at all)

            I am an avid supporter of my local shelter and if I ever found out they auctioned off a dog I would not only never support them again – I would do everything I could to make the public understand how deplorable this behavior is – and how it is the very opposite of what their mission states.

              1. JSPA*

                Livestock have value. That’s a strong incentive for some level of adequate care.
                Livestock handling has more regulations than the care and feeding (or not) of a pet.
                You have to have your act at least somewhat together to take possession and shipment of livestock, unlike a puppy which can come home in your car.
                If they’re being bought for meat, their lives are already limited; whether you’re pro- or anti-meat, chances are high that the animal will not be abused for a decade or more.

                That said, in many places, people do get banned from owning livestock if they’ve been prosecuted for animal cruelty, and I would not be surprised if they were shown the door if they walk into the auction house. Links to follow, because I’m still laid up with nothing better to do.

        2. tyrannosaurus vet*

          We’re not national, so we’re not the org you’re thinking of. They do good work though, so feel free to continue donating to them (assuming you have been). It certainly wasn’t a secret so there’s no “outing” to be done. In our case, there was no chance that whoever won the auction wouldn’t provide a good home. Our fundraising team and board were all happy with the decision. You’re right, $9K is just a drop in the bucket. But it’s big drop and a huge bucket. One of the reasons we’re so well respected is that we’re not afraid to do things differently but no one doubts that we have the best interests of our community’s animals in mind.

          1. JSPA*

            If they were all pre-vetted, I suppose you could know that. But hold on–you checked them all for other, incompatible pets? Lead paint, in that stately mansion? Kids below a certain age? Or did you make some of the following easy but questionable assumptions:

            That an expensive home is a safe home?
            That a rich family is a kind family?
            That paragons of the comunity are never abusive (to family members or pets)?
            That rich people who support shelters can’t be addicts nor animal hoarders?
            That “people I know socially” and “People who might do bad things” are two completely non-intersecting circles in a Venn diagram?
            That if there’s love + money, adequate ability to care for a pet will automatically follow?

            You’ve seen Grey Gardens? (And they were kindly; not all rich people who donate to animal causes are.)

            1. MissBliss*

              Valid points aside… I have never once had a shelter inquire about lead paint in the home. That does not strike me as something that is regularly checked for, at least not by any of the half dozen rescues I’ve adopted from.

              1. JSPA*

                I’ve been asked (but then, I’m in a neighborhood of pre-1900 houses in a humid climate). It’s not like they come and check, but they did ask about peeling paint, and if there was, whether it’d been tested.

            2. tyrannosaurus vet*

              Of course there are bad people everywhere. But assuming we are able to make better decisions about a person’s ability to care for a pet than they are themselves makes no sense at all.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                People regularly neglect and harm pets. They regularly abandon them. Surely you believe there should be some screening to ensure animals are going to safe and responsible homes?

                This is like saying that people can make better decisions about their ability to parent children than an adoption agency can, so we won’t screen prospective adoptive parents of kids either. Screening makes sense. Handing animals over to whoever asks for them, possibly on a whim, possibly with ill intent, is not in the interests of those animals.

                Having seen some of the results of cruelty from pet owners, hearing this from someone who says they work at a shelter is appalling to me.

                1. Argh!*

                  Rescues & city shelters have “Do Not Adopt” (DNA) lists, and breed rescues usually screen for vet recommendations, landlord permission & groomer recommendation. I have volunteered for several, and I could tell you a bunch of stories of animals I’ve personally nursed back to health after neglect from “loving” owners. There are also cases of “free” dogs from craigslist or other sources being “flipped.” The owner thinks they are good judges of character, and then the dog goes to a known flipper who charges $250 or more for it.

                  And then auctions that are public are a total nightmare – people bid to make themselves look good. It’s just a bad, bad, bad idea.

              2. Cranky Neighbot*

                Shelters, rescues and breeders typically vet prospective pet owners. Deciding whether someone ought to own a pet is both totally normal and typically beneficial to the animal. People can make some really serious errors in judgment when they, for example, want to give their kid a puppy for Christmas. These mistakes lead to neglected, abused, and abandoned animals.

              3. Belle8bete*

                I don’t think you sound nuts, Tyrannosaurus Vet. I bet your shelter is doing the best it can, and I think there are a lot of knee jerk reactions here (which happens with animals).

    27. ...*

      I truly don’t think any upstanding shelter would ever give a puppy to be auctioned off so that might solve your problem right there.

      1. ...*

        Didn’t read enough above apparently shelters auction puppies in some areas. I stand corrected.

    28. Seeking Second Childhood*

      The rescue agencies may nix this on their own because they often have to pre-approve adopters. How about this: make it an adoption *voucher* instead, and include a year’s pet health insurance.
      The rescue might be willing to host an hour’s “meet & greet” like they do for adoption events at pet-supply stories. (Heck, if they spin it right they might place more than one pet that way!)
      You can point out that this way someone could give the adoption voucher to a family member who won’t be in attendance. AND there’s always the chance that someone is allergic to dogs and would use the adoption voucher towards a cat or farm animal or…
      Good for you for caring.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        And I should have refreshed my screen because wow there were a lot of comments since I signed on earlier.

    29. anonagain*

      OP, I am so sorry you are in this situation. I have no idea what your board is thinking. I hope you are able to find a way to resolve this and they don’t end up going forward with auctioning off a puppy. (!!!)

      I don’t really understand what the fixation on this idea is anyway. It seems really strange. The puppy basket is a way better idea. And what about something like a pet portrait or a cuddle clone? I don’t know anything about organizing charity auctions, but that seems way more typical. Even something like pet supplies or services, just not the pets themselves.

    30. Been There*

      Don’t.do.this. This used to be done by nonprofits in our city. Total.PR.nightmare. People’s perceptions have changed over the years. Don’t.do.this. And I work for a nonprofit!

    31. Argh!*

      If you are the responsible one, you can reach out to rescues and float the idea. Chances are that they will refuse to cooperate. If this is something that will be done no matter what, you can ask the board to stipulate that the rescue has to approve the adoption via its normal route. If the rescue doesn’t approve, you should still get the money, because it’s really a donation.

      We had something like that shut down here recently, and then the city adopted an ordinance against it. The public & the rescue community will be on your side on this.

  13. halfwolf*

    If this is helpful to anyone else, I’ve come up with a way to kind of trick myself into writing cover letters that are personalized to a particular position and wanted to share. I copy a cover letter that I recently wrote for a position similar to the one I need to write a new letter for and paste it into a new document, saved with the new position title. Then I go through the new job listing and the old cover letter line by line, revising it to be more specific to the current listing. I change examples and phrasing to more closely match the priorities of the current listing, delete irrelevant examples, and add new ones until, ship of Theseus style, I have a totally new cover letter that is really tailored to what I’m applying for that day. I’ve always found it hard to start something while looking at a blank white page (plus it is always easier to revise than to write from scratch), so even though I’m still writing something that’s 100% new and specific to a given position, it feels way less daunting.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      It’s funny because I know every single job opportunity (basically, every situation where there’s a power unbalance – I also see this from literary agents, potential mentors etc) wants a very, very customized application. They don’t want to feel like you’re applying to any old thing, they want to feel that you’re only interested in THEM, that you really are passionate about their specific thing. This makes sense and all, but when you need a job, you probably are sending out a lot of applications – sorry. And since you don’t get a lot of courtesy in return (I feel like most cover letters go unread entirely if they don’t like the looks of your resume – and no response sent whatsover) it’s hard to motivate yourself to keep customizing a lot.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Which is to say, I appreciate that your comment is practical and addresses both perspectives!

        1. halfwolf*

          thanks! and i completely agree; i’ve written a lot of cover letters that i’m REALLY proud of and gotten almost no response. i’m applying for jobs in a pretty competitive industry, so it comes with the territory, but it still sucks. this has definitely helped me achieve some semblance of balance when it can feel like i may as well have written my beautiful cover letter out on a piece of paper and then set it on fire for all the good it does me (i know that’s not really true, but it sure feels like it sometimes!).

          1. Ariana Grande's Ponytail*

            I am seconding this. It feels so discouraging to write cover letters that are amazing, for a job I’m actually passionate about and then just….nothing.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            Same on doing all the work for a great cover and *crickets*. I do something similar to what you do.
            It does end up being a bit boilerplate, since most of the jobs I’m applying to are exactly alike. Sometimes it’s hard to find a thing that stands out.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Forgot to add: before I switched computers, I had several macros set up for the canned stuff. Now that I reloaded Word, I have to do them over. But it’s okay, since they’ll probably be better this time around. :)

    2. Anon Today*

      Yes, I do this too! I also keep a file of paragraphs that I can slip in for similar listings. It really helps me feel like I’m customizing things. I’m also in a very small, very competitive, very specialized field, so I kinda know what the “keywords” people want to see are.

      1. Ra94*

        Yep, I have a bank of stock paragraphs about things I’ve done, organized by skill: communication, attention to detail, organization, writing, editing, languages, etc. I’ll tweak them each time to make them fit the listing, and edit them for tone and flow so they work together, but I’m not starting from scratch every time. I also use that list to prepare for interviews, so that I know “what I’ve done”, so to speak.

    3. anonymoushiker*

      I’ve been struggling with the same thing! I’ve taken to creating a document of paragraphs for cover letters that are about a skill/work style. (e.g. time management, data management/quality, data analysis, people management, etc). It’s not perfect and after writing one or two I think I’ll need to finesse the flow from paragraph to paragraph but it takes the emotional labor of staring at a blank document and freaking out.

    4. AnOtterMouse*

      Another helpful tip…. paste the old letter in bold or italics, replace with regular font. This will prevent you from accidentally sending an email to Teapots Inc. that describe how much you’ll love to work at Tea Kettles Unlimited!

      1. Venus*

        I do this, except I use a different colour (that option works better for me). I use this in many different situations, as I sometimes write a few pages for work and I will take someone else’s format and add my own content.

    5. Some clever pun*

      Thank you for this! I’m the same; when I’m looking at a blank white page I just can’t picture having written something. This strategy is great for overcoming that.

      1. halfwolf*

        glad it’s helpful! the silliest part for me is … i’m a lifelong writer. and yet this still happens all the time!

    6. Marion Ravenwood*

      I am currently in the thick of applying for new jobs, so this (combined with Alison’s advice on cover letters) is massively helpful. Thank you halfwolf!

      1. Anonym*

        Yes, seconded! You are so kind to share! Perfect timing, as I’ve just shifted gears from “find listing, do research, take notes, I’m a great fit for this, excite excite” to “time to write the cover letter, this is hopeless, all is lost, they will never hire me, I wouldn’t fit in anyway, sad defeat”. Time to take a break, then come back to this.

        Thank you!

        1. halfwolf*

          very glad to be helpful to you both! as i mentioned upthread, i’m actually a lifelong writer, but cover letters make me want to break out in hives. before discovering AAM mine were truly terrible (i still have them on my computer and can’t even bring myself to just delete them), and while they’re now much better, writing them, especially from scratch, is still like pulling teeth. that’s why i phrased this as a way to “trick” myself into doing it.

    7. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I do something like this all the time, but I should probably go the extra step and start a file with paragraphs for all the different skills. Since I’m pretty much constantly applying for very similar jobs it makes no sense to try to start from scratch every time. In my field most employers use the “person specification” document, which lists all the essential and desirable criteria you must have in order to be shortlisted. They are often the same or very similar from job to job, so I am constantly copying and pasting from old applications, then tweaking.

      It still takes me days to write a cover letter or statement, though.

  14. L.S. Cooper*

    Does anyone have advice for finishing up a sentence quickly?
    I am very prone to rambling, and I don’t think it helps me. I can tell when I’m doing it, and it’s usually because I don’t have an exit point, which means I wind up rambling a little bit longer as I desperately try to find a place to end my thought. This is not great, and, of course, I do it more when I’m nervous, like, say, during an interview.
    I would really like to stop doing this, but I’m not sure how. Help?

    1. Anon Today*

      I do the same thing! For interviews, I’ve learned to tap my toes in my shoes (where they can’t be seen) and I tap out about each second I spend talking. If I feel like I’ve tapped too long, I wrap up my sentence. I know it sounds weird, but it works for me! My other trick is to practice, practice, practice interview questions until I have a concise answer I can give to most things.

      In meetings, I often write down the point I want to make, wait ten seconds to see if anyone else will make it and then bring it up. The act of writing really makes me slow down. I hope this helps!

    2. Sloan Kittering*

      I do this most when I haven’t thought about what I’m going to say before I start talking. I am a big one for “talking through my idea out loud” and I’ve had to completely shut this down in the work place. I have practiced saying, “interesting, let me think a moment” BEFORE I start talking. It sounds basic, but it helped me, a former rambler.

    3. fposte*

      I like ripcord phrases. “But let’s move on.” “Eh, I’ll end it there.” “Actually, we don’t need to get into that.” “But what do *you* think?” They’ve helped me minimize that “But I can’t leave until I find a door!” desperation in mid-ramble–sometimes you can just bash a hole in the wall.

      1. fposte*

        Sorry, I overlooked the interview part–some of those ripcords aren’t really interview suitable. “Does that answer your question?” is a useful interview one.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          Yes! *start to answer* – realize I am rambling. Pause. “does that answer your question?”

    4. Dr Dimple Pooper*

      I suggest practicing answering typical interview questions in a mirror or, better yet, recording yourself with your phone.

      You then can review your recorded answers and see what is hanging you up.
      Rinse and repeat until you have a crisp, succinct answer to the standard interview questions.

      Also practice the “tell me a time when …” style of interview questions.

      1. irene adler*

        Yes!
        And if you think your succinct answers are too brief, you can add something to the end like, “I can provide more details if you wish.” Let the listener decide if the answer satisfies their needs.

    5. VLookupsAreMyLife*

      These are all great suggestions – I’m a rambler & over-sharer, so interviews are a tightrope walk for me.

    6. 867-5309*

      I find if I slow down my talking and force myself to think about I’ll say next helps. Often it’s that my words are running alongside my thoughts so when I’m done, it’s like, “Wait. What. What now.”

    7. Federal Middle Manager*

      I think it helps to front-load answers with the most important information, don’t bury the lede. Then you can supplement your answer with either the most common caveats or a more generic list of common caveats, but no matter where you end, you will already have said the most important piece. Practicing answers and practicing giving quick relevant context is really vital here. Writing down answers first then practicing translating them into the more fluid spoken form works wonders.

    8. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I could see myself getting better at this when I was going to Toastmasters. The timed answer periods are a great training tool.
      (I plan to join, but the new chapter they were trying to start at my building fell apart due to scheduling issues. Phooey.)

  15. AlexandrinaVictoria*

    What is the next step when your company refuses reasonable accomodation for disability?
    I have mobility problems, and walk with a cane. Walking is very painful and tiring for me. I work in a large building with bathrooms at one end. When we first moved in, I was seated right by them, which was great! But my company moved us around, and now I’m at the opposite end of the building.
    I pointed out when they announced this that it would be better for me to stay near the toilets, but nope, I had to move with my team. After a couple of months, it became clear this wasn’t workable for me. I asked to be moved back. Nope, those seats were filled.
    Then I asked if I could work from home a couple of days a week. Nope, no one at our company was allowed to work from home. In desperation, I asked if they would provide a mobility scooter for me. Nope. I tried dehydrating myself and ended up with a kidney infection. I finally paid $250 out of pocket for a rolling walker with a seat (I’m fat as well, so needed a heavy duty one) and I STILL am in pain and have to sit down and rest on the way back to my desk from the bathroom.
    So. Lawyer? Disability rights group? If so, which one? I’m so tired.

    1. KR*

      No advice but I’m so sorry they’re being so unreasonable. Have you said the words “reasonable accommodation per the ADA” when requesting them? I wonder if that might remind them “Oh yup we actually have to do this!”

        1. WellRed*

          Hmm, are you saying those words to the right person? Maybe you’ve only asked boss when HR would be able to help. Or, ask boss if HR sucks. Escalate as necessary.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Lawyer time then. (They’ll be faster than the EEOC.) If you’re concerned about causing tension at work because you’re bringing in a lawyer (which is the unfortunate reality), you can tell them something like, “I’m very sure the law does require this accommodation but my sense is that it won’t be helpful for me to continue pushing that on my own. Given that, I’m going to ask a lawyer to get in touch with you about this, so that someone other than me is able to speak with you about it and hopefully reach a solution.”

                1. Ginevra Farnshawe*

                  Alison is right—the one thing I’d add is I’d speak with a lawyer *before* you have the conversation she suggests. They don’t need to know you already have one (“You will be hearing from my attorney, GOOD SIRS.”), but you don’t want them to lawyer up on this before you do, and a lawyer will be able to help you come up with a script that will scare them.

              1. ToS*

                What you might hear from an attorney is that mobility devices are considered “personal use”, so employers are not required to provide them.

                Yes, you do see them at grocery stores as a generous courtesy, not a right, and it confuses people.

                What has not been easily suggested is that you speak with your healthcare provider about this change. If your healthcare provider does not prescribe a mobility device (some consider walking as physical therapy, I wish I was joking, but HR is not in the medical profession, and providing a scooter might actually thwart the employees prognosis) OP may have to live with the reality of the move if her health care provider wants her to walk more. If she has a condition that suggests that she use a mobility device, they are covered by insurance, and can be claimed on flexible savings accounts.

                Don’t blast me, as this can be a no-win situation all around when people have pain. It’s hard any way you slice it. I’m part of a government agency that has a substantial 99 percent accessible campus for people who cannot use stairs. If your health condition mandates that you not walk substantial distances, please figure out your personal mobility device. HR can help you find space for parking it for intermittent use. If you need it for work, chances are you might need it for other parts of your life, too.

                Yes, it’s possible that HR dropped a ball somewhere, but chances are, people think that the accommodation process is supposed to work like showing up at the grocery store. We have auditors that look at how granted accommodations match up to limitations. If your documentation does not support your requests, your lawyer is going to send you back to your doctor.

                1. ToS*

                  Other aspects – yes, having healthcare providers fill out forms can be expensive. We provide an optional, basic form to guide providers to provide relevant information. Often the one form, plus an intake, gets enough information to move forward with a reasonable, effective accommodation. It may not be what the employee initially requests. The interactive process is how we get to that point. We do try to manage expectations. EEOC guidance states that mobility devices are personal use. Often someone who would benefit from one adapts their personal life (without a mobility device) by just not going out, and that has its own problems. Yes, some are quite large, but others are small enough that you don’t need a special vehicle to transport them.

                  We don’t know enough about the work to know if remote work is reasonable.

        2. fposte*

          Oof. And you’ve brought documentation from your doctor to HR? If so, I think lawyer/EEOC are the unfortunate next steps.

          1. AlexandrinaVictoria*

            Each accomodation request required a form to be filled out by my doctor. I’m paying for her kids’ college educations at this point.

            1. fposte*

              Oh, FFS. I can see not being able to fund you a scooter or being unable to arrange WFH, but they literally have desks that would work for you.

              EEOC/lawyer obviously has some serious downside potential, but you might start with eeoc dot gov to check for your nearest office and investigate a contact with them. Note also that some states (and probably even cities) have their disability commissions that you could contact; they’d probably be easier to communicate with so I’d try those first if they’re relevant.

            2. JSPA*

              You can bring in the lawyer because “this isn’t working, I’m out of ideas, nothing we’ve tried has worked, so we need someone to help us generate more ideas, and find a workable solution. A friend suggested that a disability lawyer would have much more experience than either of us, have a lot of practical experience as far as what works and what doesn’t, and as a bonus, they’d presumably know what the law requires.”

              That way you’re nominally going in very “we’re in this together to solve the problem.”

              In the meantime, there are worse stop-gap solutions than Depends. If it makes you feel better, astronauts and deep sea divers and other tough people in extreme jobs also use them. At the moment, your job is an extreme job. If it won’t bother you, get the bulky ones, and wear something tight-fitting over. If they don’t like the look, that may motivate their search for a better solution.

              (I’m assuming it would be shatteringly embarassing to just plop into someone else’s chair when caught short on your way to the toilet and soak it down, or pee on the floor, rather than dehydrating yourself to the point of UTIs. Now, I don’t know if I could bring myself to do that. Potty training is deep conditioning. But cost-wise, paying to clean or replace a few office chairs, or the disruption of needing to clean the floor, might bring home the problem for them. In fact, I’m surprised it has not just happened, given the urgency a UTI can generate.

              Right now, beyond the agony of UTI’s, you are also putting yourself at risk of kidney failure at a younger age than necessary. That’s a lot of pain. Where’s their part of the pain? You have every right to let them carry their fair share of the pain.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                That is fantastic wording in your first paragraph. I’d love to highlight it in a post of its own — any objection? (Totally fine to say no!)

                1. JSPA*

                  sure! Hope this also means I’m forgiven for over-posting like a maniac these past couple of weeks, BTW.

              2. ADA OTJ*

                Can we not use Poise/Depends, etc as a shaming device? They are a solution and routine support to many people who have disabilities. I’ve been called by someone whose co-worker would *not* stop asking them how they went to the bathroom, having muscular dystrophy, and was overheard opining on that person’s bathroom use/non-use in the lunch room. (This was not a matter of smell)

                As far as carrying the pain, it’s inappropriate for HR to dump the pain of having to say “no” when their hands might be tied by factors they have little control over, including having a consistent process that assures reasonable accommodation. You might not see the pain, but from personal experience, it gets carried.

        3. BelleMorte*

          Have you contacted HR, or written a formal request with a doctor’s note that you have difficulty with your mobility and require disability accommodation? (Details usually aren’t needed in terms of diagnosis. Sometimes they will want reasonable suggestions.

      1. anonymoushiker*

        Yeah seconding this. I would make sure you’re using ADA & reasonable accommodations. Maybe get a doctor to write a clear note that for your health, you need to be situated close to the bathrooms?

      2. Mimmy*

        You shouldn’t have to use specific words or phrases though. Employers should be well enough aware of the ADA to interpret your wording as requesting a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. The fact that you ARE using those phrases and they’re still not budging concerns me. An employer doesn’t have to provide an accommodation if it poses an “undue hardship” – significant expense or difficulty. Aside from the seats near the restrooms being full, has your employer given you a reason for denying the accommodation? An employer can’t just outright say “no” – they should show why an accommodation can’t be provided. Without knowing the size of your employer and the layout of your building, I can’t offer any useful suggestions.

        One thing to note: The ADA says that an employer doesn’t have to provide personal-use items (common examples are hearing aids or glasses), so they may see the scooter as a personal-use item.

        1. valentine*

          they may see the scooter as a personal-use item.
          That’d be rich, given they’re the reason AlexandrinaVictoria needs the scooter.

          An employer can’t just outright say “no”
          They’re betting they won’t face, or can outlast, a lawsuit, or a second lawsuit for retaliation.

          1. ADA OTJ*

            EEOC considers scooters personal use devices, even if someone only wants to use it at work.

            There are times when accessible parking fills, like at a minor league baseball game (ask me how I know). If someone is driving themselves, and cannot otherwise make it to their seat – do they go home? or roll up and ask fan services where they can park their device while they enjoy the game in their seat? Hopefully they choose the latter.

            Yes, the health care system can be grossly expensive, this is why everyone needs to vote to assure that we are supporting healthcare for ALL. In the US, each state has a department of disabilities. They can be a great resource for sorting out technical issues, especially if the health care provider is not too savvy on aspects of living with the disabling condition (they should be much better at diagnosis and treatment, though!). Often they try to help circulate items that are have been lightly used.

    2. mf*

      This is a good question. Would love to see Allison’s response since advice for these situations usually recommends just citing the ADA when asking for an accommodation (which assumes the company will comply with the ADA).

    3. Mbarr*

      No advice either, but I feel for you. I herniated a disc several months ago and ended up with a rare condition that made walking SUPER painful, and I’d dread having to get up and hobble to the bathroom with my cane. In my case, surgery relieved my symptoms, but I can’t fathom dealing with that on a permanent basis.

      I hope someone else can offer you solutions.

    4. The Ginger Ginger*

      So I see you’ve been working with HR. What’s your boss like, and does your boss know you’re going through this with them? Basically, can you enlist your boss’s help in this at all? Can/will they advocate for you with HR? And I think it’s lawyer time unfortunately. It may be enough to have a consult with one and then have them write a letter. HR may take that as enough lawyer involvement to scare them into doing the right thing, and it may not need to go any further.

      Other question – how big is your HR department? Does one person handle all the ADA accomodation requests and is a loon, but they have a boss who may not realize what’s happening and could be approached? Basically can you start running this up the chain and both yours and in HR and maybe get traction that way? Because, this is not an unreasonable request on your part!

    5. Jaydee*

      Lawyer. Might be worth contacting a disability rights group or your state’s protection and advocacy agency for a recommendation. Some might even handle some EEOC complaints, but at the very least they should know who who the lawyers are that do a good job on these cases.

    6. Jill March*

      Good lord. This isn’t even an accommodation that costs the company money! At my last job, we had to rotate which teams sat by the bathrooms because the smells would often waft out and NO ONE wanted to sit there.

      I’m sorry you are dealing with this.

      1. tangerineRose*

        I was thinking this too – wouldn’t the people who sit there now be pleased to move?

    7. Out of Retail*

      Nothing to add- just condolences and please do update us and let us know how this goes. This is pretty godawful on their part.

  16. Super Anonywoman*

    So, one of my “model train” designs was installed yesterday, involving several companies working to finish it at the last minute. It was my first time working with several parts of this design, so as a result some of my drawings were off and I didn’t know it. I now know what I could have done better, but I feel bad about adding stress and work to my coworkers as well as other contractors.

    How have you dealt with making mistakes and improving your work after things go bad?

    1. Triumphant Fox*

      I always appreciate an acknowledgement that something went wrong and then an action plan for how to fix it.

      I few months ago we had something go wrong when a few people were out of the office and our typical process couldn’t happen. My boss was understandably ticked, so I created a document outlining the issue, what I think was the cause, and what processes I will put in place to fix it in the future. I hope it showed that I took I not only seriously but am also taking steps to prevent it, not hoping for the best next time. In this case, I would create a document that outlined what exactly didn’t fit, what issues that caused, how it was fixed in the interim and how you can avoid it next time. What additional levels of review would have helped you catch those errors? Did someone with fresh eyes need to take a look at an earlier stage? Were you pressed for time? Should there have been a first run-through before everyone else was involved?

      1. Super Anonywoman*

        Thanks! Yeah I know all of the things I need to do now to not make the same mistakes again. And my boss isn’t mad at me over it, which is a new experience. At my other job in the same field, I was called out and/or yelled at for every little thing that went wrong. I’m still learning new mental habits. Healing from old jobs takes so much more time than anyone realizes.

    2. Denise*

      It doesn’t sound like you did anything wrong necessarily. I think with all work, especially if something hasn’t been done before, there will be things that have to be learned or hiccups. I might focus less on feeling bad about yourself and more on just expressing appreciation to the team for their patience and dedication in seeing the installation through to completion. (Sounds like a fun job, btw)

        1. JSPA*

          Individually thank those who picked up the slack, and ask them for pointers if relevant. They successfully did the troubleshooting, ergo they know how to troubleshoot. They may be able to point you to a sandbox that’s complete enough to do a fairly substantive dry run in advance, or they may be willing to help with that, so long as they don’t have to do it as overtime, when you’re supposed to be going live 5 minutes ago. Nothing says “respect” like giving the people one step further along, enough time and flexibility to do their jobs seamlessly, and still make it to dinner and bed at a reasonable hour.

    3. Llellayena*

      This is the entire definition of the architecture profession. Sometimes it’s your own mistakes/oversights you’re fixing, sometimes is someone else’s mistake. Basically, own the problem, apologize and collaborate on a solution that works best to preserve the design intent and accommodate construction possibilities (basically don’t redesign something that can’t be built).

    4. designbot*

      I remind myself that this is why design is called a “practice.” We’re always practicing, always learning. The feedback loop of concept to detail to built result to “oh shoot I don’t like how that turned out” is incredibly valuable, and even people who’ve been practicing for 30 years still learn from that feedback loop. Experience the feeling, learn from it, but don’t dwell on it.

      1. Super Anonywoman*

        Thank you!! Yes, I just wish it didn’t take making mistakes to learn all of this.

  17. Bee's Knees*

    We have some visitors coming next month. As a reminder, we make… teapots. These teapots are not anything fancy. Almost every person in America affords these teapots. We do not make luxury cars, private jets, or anything having to do with celebrities. This visit from a potential customer is shaping up to be the biggest dog and pony show I’ve ever seen. We’ve been told there is no budget for this. They’re talking about bringing them in on a helicopter. A helicopter! And I’m really glad that the VPs weren’t in the meeting when GrandBoss said that, because I snorted. Loudly. I was not the only one.

    So I’m working on putting together swag bags for these people. I asked one of the VPs what he was thinking, and he suggested shirts. I pulled out my list, and I could see the light bulb come on. We’re getting them shirts, and I thought a small tote bag (like a grocery one), baseball caps, pen, notebook, water bottle, mouse pad, key chain, and a sticker with the logo. Any other thoughts or suggestions?

    1. L.S. Cooper*

      Other useful things, maybe? I live in Colorado, so the two things I would insist on giving a visitor would be a big water bottle and some chapstick, so they don’t dry out completely. If there’s similar weather concerns wherever you are, maybe a nod to those?
      Personally, I always rifle through swag bags in search of A) stickers, and, B) snacks. Everything else is nice but secondary.

      1. Emily S.*

        I love the idea of snacks! As long as they don’t contain nuts, since a lot of people are allergic.

    2. fposte*

      Locally themed stuff can be good–either food or sports/university/town attraction t-shirts, especially if they’re known outside of your area.

      1. bookends*

        Seconding this! I work in Milwaukee and my organization had to put together something like this once. Someone went to a gift shop that sells local products and got a few things, including bars of nice soap made with beer (!!!), that people liked.

    3. TotesMaGoats*

      I would lean towards some tech things as well. Tablet protector thing. Power bank. USB. The multiple adapter things. Wall charger, adapter. Nice umbrellas. Luggage tags.

      You could also do a “local things” basket. I’m in Baltimore, so we do Utz Crab Chips (which are gross IMHO), Berger Cookies (which are delicious for about 2 bites and then sugar overload) etc.

      1. VLookupsAreMyLife*

        Seconding this! I’ll throw out SWAG that doesn’t have purpose, but I keep USB drives, power banks, etc. And, I love the nod to local businesses – especially if they’re small businesses or business partners.

      2. Nessun*

        Thirding (?) this! Tech items always go down well – power banks, USBs, USB port bars (is that what they’re called, lots of ports on one USB stick?). Also, we do golf balls and ball markers – but that’s a know-your-audience thing, and because we sponsor a few major competitors.

      1. Shelly*

        And all of the swag that goes with teapots, bonus points for local. For example, local specialty tea, local specialty honey, teacup from a local ceramics store

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          A co-worker came back from a convention and shared her freebies with us…. I picked the coffee measuring spoon.

    4. Not me... the other guy*

      Cash in on the anti straw movement? There are stainless steel straws that can be engraved with a logo. This is assuming you aren’t in the plastic straw business.

    5. LadyDisdain*

      As someone who receives and passes out a LOT of branded swag through my job here’s a few people seem to get very excited about:
      -branded nail files
      -Post it notes
      -mechanical pencils
      -highlighters
      -foldable reusable totes (the kinds that come in their own little pouch to put the bag back in)
      -GOOD water bottles or insulated cups (don’t bother with a cruddy one)
      -good hand cream/lotion
      -pashmina/scarf

      Local stuff like, honey, snacks, if your region has a super local soda, tea or coffee if applicable

      In my work, stuff like mouse pads, key chains, coffee mugs unless they’re particularly pretty/cute/unique, or clothing items other than scarves/pashminas tend to linger

    6. T. Boone Pickens*

      I can help you out here! I was just at a large industry conference in June and here is what people scooped up like starving jackals.

      Branded G2 pens…you would’ve thought I was giving out magic cancer pills or something. As someone who loves G2 pens..I get it but dang…people were…really enthusiastic. Apparently spending extra money for G2s was a good idea.

      Relatively high end 30 oz insulated tumblers. Not quite Yetti brand but the next step down. Also insanely popular.

      Softcover notebooks w/ company branding (I worked with Poppin—they were great)

      Company branded USB Flash Drives.

    7. QCI*

      Pen? maybe. Notepad, mousepad and keychain? Will they actually use that? I guess people like getting free stuff, but useful, quality stuff would stick out far more than generic freebies. Or really good food.

    8. LibbyG*

      I once got a pen as swag that looked like a person with a microfiber mop (for hair) and a tip that can work as a phone stylus. I loved that thing.

    9. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      How much stuff are you getting for each person? That sounds like quite a bit already, but I’ve never done an even like this. Do people still use mouse pads?

    10. Another JD*

      The mouse pad, key chain, and stickers will go in the trash. Put the stickers on food items. We have a bowl of snacks in the conference room at my law office and clients go nuts for it. It’s bizarre how much people love free food.

    11. La la laaaa*

      I’m a bit of a zealot when it comes to waste-free stuff, so I sincerely apologize for what’s coming….but just a plea to try to avoid plastic packaging/junky plastic stuff as much as possible! The best things I’ve gotten have been a nice umbrella in a cloth sleeve and a notebook with subtle, which both came in a cloth bag that I now use for groceries.

    12. Can't Sit Still*

      Something people are willing to fight for in my company are the large Dovana refillable journals. People absolutely love them. They’re very durable, the covers are sturdy, and everyone thinks they’re leather. The paper is very nice to write on.

      Make sure you order enough for everyone, though. Every time I get an order in for my team, people I’ve never seen before show up at my desk to make puppy dog eyes and plead to have one. I work at a company where we get lots of expensive swag and these are still extremely high value items.

    13. Alison*

      To run counter to some others’ responses, I would say no to USB flash drives. I throw out any freebie USB drive that I am given, as I don’t ever want to run the risk that someone, somewhere put something nefarious on that thing and now I’ve gone and plugged it into my or my company’s computer. Not worth the risk to me, although maybe I’m a bit paranoid.

      1. Jill March*

        Agreed. They’re cheap enough on their own. Unless you’re getting a dual-function one or something fancy looking. I wouldn’t use a free one either.

    14. Been There*

      My company always gives out notebooks – but I also work at a company that manufactures an integral part of the notebook. So it makes sense in that context. Still, notebooks are always useful, and people appreciate them when they’re nice.

    15. Tom & Johnny*

      I would kill right now to get a swag bag with a keychain penlight / flashlight. They’re small, relatively cheap, and so so incredibly handy. Even if the recipient doesn’t use them, they will give them to their co-worker, cousin, nibling, or child.

      You never realize how much you need a small penlight on your keychain until the one you relied on for two years breaks and you can’t find another one in all the typical stores!

      Yes while most phones have a flashlight function, it’s not the same as a light literally at your fingertips while walking in the dark.

      1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        +1 on the keychain penlight. I always take those when their offered and throw them in the car, gym bag, office desk, emergency/first aid kits and such. The one in my purse is great for reading menus in restaurants with “mood” lighting. I hate using the flashlight feature on my phone — it’s too cumbersome and I’d rather save the battery life on my phone for phone things.

    16. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Cheap but decent quality headphones if you can get them; the kind that a person might keep in their gym bag/car/desk as a backup to their primary nice headphones and wouldn’t be too upset if they crapped out after 6 months.

      Bags of all kinds always go quickly whenever we’ve stocked booths on my university campus.

      Also, those dumb stress relief squeezy toys that are made in a plethora of shapes for every industry — we had feet for a particular event and they were creepy (hello, bins of disembodied toddler-sized feet) and everyone loved them.

      1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        Thought of something else…branded badge reels or lanyards.

        1. Dancing Otter*

          Oh, yes, lanyards with reels! I nearly cried when mine broke.

          Major caution on the shirts, though. Sizes matter. One size does NOT fit all. Give a person of size a shirt that’s too small (or say you don’t have any big enough), and you have made an enemy. Especially if it’s the kind of event where everyone is going to wear the shirts. Do not humiliate people whose goodwill you are trying to cultivate.

          We gave out padfolios one year, with the logo pressed into the fake leather. (They weren’t expensive enough to be real, but looked good.) Very popular, and we saw a lot of them at later meetings.

    17. JSPA*

      1. something local. If there’s no famous product, a little nicely wrapped local mini brownie / blondie / piece of fudge will do nicely, or a locally hand-crafted small paper item or card.

      2. go back and cross out anything that’s culturally problematic, if they’re from another culture. Ditto the wrong number of anything. (Japanese, avoid 4 of an item / things divided in 4 parts; Korean, no cutting implements, handkerchiefs, shoe-themed items–unless, I suppose, you’re a shoe company etc.) Also remove anything that’ll drip, or not make it through customs, or whose humor may not work (chocolate or candy “[some animal] poop” is a common gag gift that does not belong in a gift bag for people coming in by helicopter).

      3. if there’s an outdoor sport that’s famous in the region, some nod to that (separate from the team sports)–could be as simple as a postcard or two with a map of the local ski hill or mountain bike track, or county fair.

      4. If it’s a USB or other electronics device, if they’re high up enough that industrial espionage could be a thing, I’d get a major brand name, sealed, and add a logo chain, not order an off-brand with logo added. (If I wanted to do industrial espionage, you know I’d offer USB drives with Your Logo Here at a price nobody can resist, and keep an eagle eye on any potentially useful orders.)

      5. if it’s in the budget, something that can double as a (kid-safe!) kid gift (e.g. small stuffed mascot) for the “did you bring me anything?” question.

    18. Gumby*

      I was at a networking thing and absolutely love the socks that one place was handing out. They were not just boring old white socks though – these had a blue hexagon pattern and were really cute. Possibly also the company name on the toes (or maybe just on the cardboard sleeve thing around the socks?).

      So cute / good quality socks or maybe the warm fuzzy slipper socks? Or maybe that just sounds good to me now because I am thinking longingly of the weekend and not having to be wearing shoes…

    19. MissDisplaced*

      Snacks, specifically local specialties of the candy type are nice. I wouldn’t do wine though, as it’s hard to take home on the plane (unless they’re not flying home).

      1. MaxiesMommy*

        Breath mints (branded) are always fought over. The flavors are SO good—orange mint, really nice flavors you don’t get in stores. And they’re in a reusable tin.

  18. Anon Today*

    I’m about to start a job at a company where there are a lot of layoffs and problems with the budget. My position is pretty secure (due to how it is funded), but a lot of other folks will be feeling the pinch. I have no idea how I should best navigate this situation and it’s really worrying me. Any advice?

    For context, the job is in a field where layoffs are very rare, so people are already on social media expressing intense fear/anger at just the possibility of layoffs.

    1. Bananatiel*

      I think I would generally avoid discussing it given that you are in a secure place– but if it does come up or someone corners you about it somehow I would be as compassionate and sympathetic as possible. I don’t think you can go wrong with kindness in a situation like this. Keep whatever you say fairly nonspecific as well– you don’t want to accidentally imply you have knowledge of anyone’s situation.

    2. Tom & Johnny*

      When I went into a similar job, I tended to let people vent. At least as long as it wasn’t too toxic.

      Inevitably you will need resources or answers from colleagues or from another team. As you learn who performs what function and where to go to get answers, people will tend to overshare while stressed by layoffs.

      “This function used to belong to Irma, but they let her go and I inherited it, but I don’t know what I’m doing yet. Plus they’re giving me Rodey’s work on the XYZ project and I have to learn that too.”

      Just make understanding noises, let them talk about their lost friends, and most importantly, offer no opinions or judgments on the matter whatsoever. Don’t defend the company, or agree with the company, or complain about the company. Relate to these coworkers as people in line with you at the grocery store oversharing about their day.

      That’s not to say let them shirk getting you information that you need. Just, don’t give them advice. Offer no helpful suggestions. Don’t talk about neat ideas. They don’t want solutions, they just need to feel heard by the new person.

      Plus you’ll get a ton of valuable information this way. A ton.

      1. Anon Today*

        True! Thank you. Yes, I usually try to go into new jobs keeping my mouth shut, but in this case, I think it is even more important.

      2. JSPA*

        Homilies, praise, thanks, and self care talk.

        “This must be rough for everyone. How are you coping?”
        “My dad always said that not knowing is the worst part, and I sometimes think he was right.”
        “be good to yourself.”
        “at least we can be here for each other.”
        “Whatever happens, I’m so glad we’ve had this chance to meet and work together.”
        “Your thoughts are so well-presented!”
        “I feel I understand this place a little better after talking to you.”
        “Hope, self confidence and self respect go a long way towards making turbulent times more bearable.”
        “I wish I’d always had coworkers like you.”

        Basically, you’re reminding them they’re valued as people, they’re compentent, they’re employable, you are glad they exist, you’re glad to know them, and that a good attitude may not preserve their job, but it can preserve their career. If they all stay, hey, they know you as the happiness guru (they can get to know your snark side later, if you have one of those). If they go, they go on a high note, as far as interacting with you.

        (Caveat, this won’t work if it is your job to lower the axe. Frankly, if that’s your job, you pretty much have to be paid in money for what it takes out of you in emotions and karma; the uplifting executioner isn’t atually a thing.)

    3. ..Kat..*

      Even if your job is secure, you will feel a lot of stress from the people around you at work. There will be venting that you will hear, and you may have people venting at you.

      I would suggest you do a lot of self care, including plenty of sleep, exercise, good nutrition, and work/life balance (i.e., do not work a lot of hours).

  19. Nonnonnon*

    I’m going through a divorce and I’m moving back home (multiple states away) to regroup and start a new chapter. I’m still employed (my employer has been really kind and has agreed to let me work remotely until I find a new job). What should I say when interviewing if I’m asked about why I moved back home? Should I say anything about the divorce or be vague about family changes? I’d rather be brief and upfront and mention the divorce (I’m matter-of-fact and not emotional about it), but would that be a mistake?

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      “I missed my hometown and wanted to be closer to family.” That would probably be your best bet. I don’t know if I would mention the divorce, because that just seems a little too personal to me and would require a response on the interviewer’s part. As in, I’m pretty good in most situations, but if someone said to me, “I got divorced so I’m moving back home,” I wouldn’t know whether to say “I’m sorry” or “congratulations”, you know? I would also wonder if they were moving home for convenience and might not be around for a while. You can also skip the “missed my hometown” part.

      Once you’re working in a place, you’re totally fine answering, “Why did you move back?” with, “Oh, I got a divorce and decided to come home.”

      1. Anon Today*

        Yes, I agree. Divorces are so complex that I never know what to say when someone I don’t know announces one. So, I would stick with- Wanted to be closer to family. People will understand that.

      2. Clisby*

        I agree. Anyone can understand that someone might like to move back to her hometown. (Unless it’s Hometown on a Hellmouth.) The divorce is irrelevant.

    2. Meese*

      Agreed about saying, “I wanted to be closer to family” or something like that. I would not mention divorce, as that’s too personal for a job interview and the person won’t know how to react (congratulations? I’m sorry?) so it’s a conversation-ender. I moved back to my hometown after having a baby, and that’s not something I want to bring up in an interview, so I would use the family line. It’s great! People take it at face value, and sometimes it leads to a nice ice-breaker conversation about the city, growing up here, etc.

    3. Alex*

      “I moved to be closer to family” is really all you need. It’s true, and normal, and won’t raise any questions.

      Not that you need to keep your divorce a secret, but it’s not that relevant in that it doesn’t affect your ability to do your job. In other words, it’s none of their business!

    4. 867-5309*

      I’m in the SAME situation. I live abroad in Norway and am returning the U.S. I plan to stay at my current employer as long as the remote things works. However, the old standby, “I want to be closer to family,” always works. Hang in there.

    5. caffe latte*

      Also, depending how far you’re moving: “I missed this part of the country and really enjoyed living here”, “I missed living in a small town/big town/etc, and I’m looking forward to enjoy the quiet/amenties the town has/etc “. Focus on positive things: If you were leaving a bad job, you wouldn’t say in your interview “I want this job because I hate my other job”, you’d focus on positive things to say. Do that, if asked.

    6. Tom & Johnny*

      I’m with you, I hate being vague. I much prefer being matter-of-fact and I’ve usually found interviewers appreciate it. Which is not to say oversharing of course.

      “My husband and I mutually ended our marriage, which gave me time to evaluate where I want to be, and I realized that was here near my family. I have a great family and I’m glad to be home!”

      The trick is to be relentlessly upbeat about the facts, whatever they are. Short, sweet, simple, and positive. You can avoid the big bad D word if you want to. Or use it, if avoiding it feels too circumlocutuitous. What you want to avoid is a change in tone or verbiage that makes the answer feel like a sore spot. It has to be authentic to you.

      Most importantly, give the interviewer NO NEED to feel like they need to reassure YOU, whatsoever. You’re on top of this! You’ve got it handled. This is a refreshing new life! (Even if those things are not literally true every single minute.)

      I think in general, people who are most naturally matter-of-fact people, find being vague extremely difficult and burdensome. So they end up putting too much weird energy into it. Which makes the thing they think they must be vague about look like a bigger deal, compare to when they’re allowed to simply be matter-of-fact and be themselves.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        I’d probably go even shorter.

        “I’ve decided to relocate back to my home town following a divorce.”
        “I’ve decided to relocate back here to be closer to family.”
        “I’m originally from x town and I’ve decided I wanted to move back to this area permanently.”

    7. JSPA*

      “A relationship took me elsewhere, but that that’s over, and I get to come home. It’s honestly such a relief to be back!”

      I don’t stress family (just as I would not stress kids) in that employers may see it as hinting not at you having a support network, but at you coming back to be support for a family member needing extra support. They should not hold it against you, but they could.

    8. Librarygal30*

      I was in this exact situation! I simply said, “Changes in my personal life required a move back home. I’m excited to start the next chapter of my life”. Of course, that was after the interview where I told them about the divorce, they stopped me, told me I couldn’t say that, and then I re-phrased the answer, and the interview continued.

  20. lemon*

    How soon can you start pushing for change in a new job?

    I started a new job about a month ago. I haven’t been given a lot of work to do yet. My role was previously vacant for a few years before they decided to reopen the position. So, my manager has been working solo for a while now. I think it’s an adjustment for them to be managing someone again. They keeps saying that they’ll figure out what projects to hand off to me, at some point, but nothing substantial has been given to me yet. Most of the tasks I’ve been given have been incredibly simple and only take me 15-30 minutes tops to complete, which leaves me with nothing else to do all day. In previous jobs, I’ve done what I can to fill that time productively, such as by reading and updating training manuals/documentation, or brushing up on skills by doing Lynda courses. But because my manager has been working solo for so long, nothing is documented. Everything is in their head. They’ve been periodically training me on things as requests come in, but it doesn’t seem like there’s a structured training plan. One of the things I was hired to do was to start creating some documentation, but again, I haven’t been trained enough yet to start doing that. And I’m kind of maxed out on Lynda courses/brushing up on skills– I’ve got tons of skills and info and knowledge in my head, but no work to apply any of it to.

    I know I should have a talk with my manager about wanting to take on more work/speed up my training. But I’m afraid that speaking up too much or too soon will cause tension between us. I think I’m once bitten, twice shy because I just left my last job because my relationship with my former manager turned into a burning dumpster fire of mutual distrust and dislike. Former manager was not very good and was very arrogant and generally difficult to work with, but I think what started us off on the wrong foot is that I started out pretty early suggesting changes and improvements and this rubbed them the wrong way. I tried to make sure I was suggesting things that were actually useful, and tried to do it respectfully, and made sure that I actually had plans for implementation (and then implemented independently when possible). So it wasn’t like I was making dumb suggestions or wasting their time. They just… didn’t like it.

    So anyway, I want to avoid rubbing my new manager the wrong way by pushing for change too soon. So, is one month too early to start asking for more work/more clarity on my role? Or should I wait it out a little bit longer?

    1. Nott the Brave*

      I don’t think it’s too soon, but I wouldn’t necessarily ask for clarification. Rather, try looking for a specific task or two that you could create the documentation for, and ask for the go-ahead on that. “I notice you do X a lot, and would love to document that as a procedure. Do I have your go-ahead to start on that?”

      1. lemon*

        By clarification, I mean… what is my job actually? What tasks/processes do I have ownership over? What projects will I eventually be responsible for? I feel like I still don’t know exactly what I’ll be working on longer-term.

        So far, the only work I’ve done is incredibly simple like… upload a video to a social media site, crop and upload a photo, copy and paste text from a pdf into a form on the website. I want to ask for clarity on what is my job because I want to make sure that these incredibly simple tasks aren’t the only thing I’m going to be doing six months from now. (For context: this is not an entry-level role. I have eight years of experience and am also in a pretty specialized master’s program, which is why I thought I was being hired.)

        So, I don’t even have things I can propose documentation for yet, because these tasks as so simple that they don’t need to be documented. And I don’t have a clear enough picture of this role yet to know what other, more complicated tasks do exist that do need documentation.

    2. Fortitude Jones*

      You need to ask for clarity on what your role is supposed to be if for no other reason you are and will be evaluated by your employer based on what you accomplish. If neither you nor your direct manager knows what that is – or worse, she knows what your goals are and you don’t – you’ll almost be guaranteeing yourself a negative review. And if you sit down with your manager to try to get clarity and she doesn’t even know what she wants you do be doing, then that’s a data point for you to consider as well. Do you want to continue working some place where there’s no clear path for what success in your role looks like? Do you enjoy sitting around twiddling your thumbs all day without having anything worthwhile to do? You may need to leave this place if ambiguity is not your thing and you don’t feel comfortable taking initiative to create your own projects.

      As to whether a month somewhere is too soon to be suggesting changes, well, that depends. Some positions, like the one I’m currently in, was created expressly for that purpose, so it made sense for me to start developing training guides and holding training sessions after only being in my position a month. But if your role isn’t intended to be a change agent of sorts, then yes, you may rub people the wrong way by coming out the gate trying to change things. Right now, you don’t even seem to have a firm grasp about what you’re even supposed to be doing, so your suggestions for change could end up being tone deaf due to you not having the context behind why things are done the way they are in the first place.

      Ultimately, your new boss’s lack of communication with you is problematic. I’d focus on trying to improve that first before trying to improve anything else at this place.

      1. lemon*

        Thanks– your comment is definitely articulating some of the concerns behind my initial post. I’m definitely worried that without having a clear idea of this role and what I’m expected to accomplish, that I’m setting myself up for a negative review. I think I’ve been worried about having this conversation with my manager, because I really am afraid that the answer is that they’re ok with the lack of clarity and they really *don’t* have a clear path for what success looks like in this role.

        I think you’re totally right that any changes I propose right now would be completely tone deaf. I am usually very comfortable coming up with and leading my own projects, but the reason I haven’t done so is because of the complete lack of clarity. I don’t know enough to be able to propose anything that won’t be completely off-base/ineffectual.

        The only change I’m really focused on right now is in regards to communication and getting clarity on the role. Definitely a conversation I need to have with my manager.

        Thanks again for your perspective!

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          You’re welcome! I hope you get a clear explanation from your boss on what you should be doing – this kind of situation is frustrating.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s all about the “light” push, the nudge motion.

      “I’m out of work, boss. Anything I can take off your plate for you?”

      And “Oh just curious but when I came on board, you were interested in me creating procedure docs, can we revisit that or should we circle back in awhile? What are you thinking?”

      This kind of stuff should only take a few minutes and just keep putting it in their mind that “oh yeah, that thing!”

      I’m used to the casual, kind and gentle reminder. Most appreciate it. I would also throw in a “I can stop bringing it up if you want me to!” if they seem like they’re over it.

      You’ve been there a month, so they should be getting comfortable with you by now. I would just stay soft about it and throw some soft pitches first, you know? Feel it out and then be ready to retract if necessary. Tone and keeping it short tends to be the key!

    4. Adlib*

      I’m in a slightly similar position. My position is brand new to the company, and for the first couple of months, everyone was so busy they didn’t have time to show me things or hand things off so I started looking elsewhere internally. I went to other departments where I also had knowledge and offered to help with things that related to my current job. For example, I work with data, but I have a marketing background/experience so I went to the marketing department here to offer my advice/help on their data-related items. They’re so happy I’m here, and my boss is happy that I’m helping other departments as well as my own. I don’t know if that’s at all possible with what you do, but it’s the strategy that’s worked well for me!

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Yup – finding other opportunities if you can’t create projects in your own department are a great way to build skills, network, and stay busy (while also making your boss look good).

    5. Tom & Johnny*

      I’ve had good results in jobs like this by doing almost a ‘value added’ thing with each ridiculously small assignment.

      So you need a set of packages sent out today via FedEx? Okay, great, lets do that. Welp it’s the end of the day, here’s your spreadsheet of what we sent out, to whom, at what speeds, at what cost, and with their tracking numbers. We’re talking a five column spreadsheet of data copied and pasted from the work already being performed as you go. This is nothing. Does it impress a new boss? Eff yeah.

      That’s a low level example but the principle applies more to more complex work. When they’re not giving me enough to do, I do or say something during the project that demonstrates my understanding of how it fits into the bigger picture. Which demonstrates that I’m capable of more than they are giving me.

      We want to form a corporation in Delaware. Okay, great. Do we plan to apply for S-Corp status with the IRS? What about checking the entity name? Will we foreign qualify the entity in our home state? Then we need to perform a name check there also.

      If your’e not that deeply familiar with the industry you’re in yet, you can still demonstrate understanding of general business principles that apply. Where are we tracking this? What budget are we working with? What is the turnaround time for the larger project this is a piece of?

      The point is that you want to leave your boss with the feeling that, “Lemon really knocked it out of the park with coordinating those FedEx deliveries.” The next part is below conscious thought, “I am underutilizing them and I can clearly trust them with more.” You will get more, and most importantly, you will be given things that you are entrusted to start figuring out on your own.

      Basically, earn your boss’ trust by demonstrating capability with the little piddling crap they’re giving you by knocking it out of the park. Give them a value-added component to everything they give you. Which isn’t to say they think you are untrustworthy, only that they’ve been doing it by themselves for so long they’re not consciously aware they don’t trust other people with the work. Show them they don’t need to hold your hand nearly to the extent their fears of training someone might lead them to believe.

      You do have to be careful when you’re doing this not to go over the top with it. You’re demonstrating capability. Not begging for an assignment to be the person who now tracks all incoming and outgoing FedEx shipments forevermore. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t be comfortable repeating with each instance of the assignment.

      1. lemon*

        This makes sense. This is usually how I approach things. I just haven’t been given any task yet where I even have the ability to demonstrate extra competence. I can’t create a spreadsheet of the two videos I’ve posted to YouTube. There was one task I was given where I could put some extra into it and I did. It was just one thing, so it hasn’t made a huge difference so far.

        Unfortunately, this strategy hasn’t gotten me great results in the past. To use your example, the follow-up to “Lemon really knocked it out of the park with coordinating those FedEx deliveries,” hasn’t been “I am underutilizing them and I can clearly trust them with more.” It’s been, “So, let’s be sure to always have Lemon do FedEx deliveries,” when previously, deliveries had been a minor part of my job that I wasn’t particularly crazy about.

        1. Tom & Johnny*

          Would returning the metrics on those two videos be valuable? “Here’s an update on video X and video Y. It looks like they’ve been viewed 300 times. X is more popular than Y by a slight margin, because Y is too long probably. They are most viewed late at night in [this region]. And they are most closely linked as suggestions on [these other videos]. Do you want me to keep tracking this kind of information so we can improve our YouTube submissions? What else do you want me to track about these?”

          I completely hear you about self-assigning work you don’t want to keep doing. You do have to be careful about where you pop up with awesome new value added tasks. If you’re always the eager beaver, you can get overloaded with BS and not gain any substance. You have to add value where it’s strategic for YOU to add it.

    6. JSPA*

      You can’t suggest changes to the process, but you can ask what process(es) they’d like to start documenting first, and how he feels about agreeing on one task, each day, that he’ll do “out loud” with you at his shoulder, taking notes as he free-forms.

      Be clear that it does not need to be a linear process–if he gets where he’s going circuitously, that’s fine.

      And then, if it’s meandering, don’t assume that there is a purpose to the route, but also don’t assume that there isn’t.

  21. Employee Engagement ideas!*

    I have been put in charge of improving employee engagement in my company.
    I’m generally looking to improve general happiness in their jobs, improve communication with managers from top down and then from staff and upward as well as cross-teams.

    I have no ability to improve wages/benefits/Vacation time unfortunately as this is union-mandated.

    I thought you brilliant folks might have some suggestions! I’m not opposed to social events, but that is not the primary purpose of this project. What works for your company or you? What doesn’t work? Any resources that are recommended?

    1. Dr Dimple Pooper*

      My last company would occasionally have ice cream socials in the afternoon around 2 p.m.
      It was nice to get out of the office, go outside and enjoy the afternoon with some cold ice cream (with all the toppings) and chat.

      1. Mimi Me*

        My company does this but they only do it at the main location. Those of us who work at the smaller (necessary!) branches or from home miss out on the treats and it sucks. Especially when some thoughtless organizer sends a company wide email letting everyone know to head on down for treats. If your office does have a similar set up, make sure you think of those outside of the office as well. Around the first of the year the company sends a gift out in hopes of it being a morale booster. This year it was a gift card to a movie theater and some microwave popcorn. I kind of liked that.

    2. WellRed*

      What does the company do to ensure employees feel heard and valued? That, if they have a suggestion for say, improving a process, it’s not ignored?

    3. Mbarr*

      At an old company (it was massive), we had something called Top Tips. Anyone, ANYONE, in the company could submit a suggestion/concern as a ticket. The suggestion would be routed to the appropriate department for evaluation/thoughts. The thing is, the person who submitted it was kept apprised of its status at every single stage of the process. It let them know action was being taken, and the reasons why it was/wasn’t adopted.

      (As I type this, I suddenly realize that my old company did this too in a more modern sense – people could submit suggestions and then up vote/down vote everyone’s ideas. If an idea got enough votes, it was routed for evaluation.)

    4. Sparkelle*

      Engagement is a top down thing. Unfortunately, organisations think they can bypass the hard work by holding pizza parties or “ice breakers.” Nope. It boils down to the trust you have in your manager. How do you increase that? Make sure the manager cares and has the power and discretion to show they “have the back” of their direct reports. Make sure they are managing the way Alison models on this website. Because it involves managing managers, it can’t be delegated. If you have the power to do this, then great. If you don’t, then it doesn’t really matter what you do because it’s just window dressing to allow some executive to say they are “doing something” about the engagement problem and check that box on their performance review.

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        That’s an important bit. Make sure that management is showing up for the ice cream social or whatever, at least for a little while. If mgmt isn’t participating, then there’s the edgy feeling that builds up around how long an employee can stick around at such a thing.

      2. Employee Engagement Ideas*

        This has support of the CEO to develop an ongoing plan to improve things, so I’m hopeful it’s not just window dressing. I am definitely not looking at pizza parties and icebreakers, as I totally agree it just covers the underlying problem. Improving trust is a great point.

        1. Aphrodite*

          Given that what I would love to see is supervisory/management opportunities for those who are normally overlooked such as admins at all levels from reception to executive assistant.

          I’ve mentioned this before on here, but admins tend to have, and use on a daily basis, excellent skills in communication, prioritizing, working with diverse people and demands, and many, many more. In fact, if i ran a company to them first to fill a project management or any other type of management role before I’d look for a grad degree.

        2. Tom & Johnny*

          If the company is not already doing 360 reviews, see how far you can get with opening discussion on just the barest suggestion of 360 reviews. These are reviews where the employees also review UP. As well as review their peers. It’s 360, not just top-down.

          Many companies that have never used them are deeply uncomfortable with the idea. “You mean my employees would be reviewing ME? I don’t know if that’s fair.” Which of course, why wouldn’t it be? So it can take time to reach the comfort level that it improved employee morale and engagement to know that they have a voice, even though the company is obviously not a democracy.

          The trick to 360 reviews is that the up-reviews and peer reviews have to be thoroughly anonymized. And that top management has to read and participate in understanding the final results. There are companies that will come in and help you perform a 360 review, which can be crucial to having them implemented fairly, correctly, and the results taken seriously.

      3. Eleanor Konik*

        Thiiiiis.
        Look to things like “how do you train your management teams” and “how much oversight is there for how well your managers actually manage.”

      4. Employee*

        This.
        If people don’t feel like their manager cares about them and their career, ice cream parties and other gimmicks won’t help.

    5. Kathenus*

      Ask people. The best way to improve engagement is to include employees in the efforts. You can keep suggestions realistic by framing the question specifically. Instead of ‘What would people want to see improve or change about the workplace’, ask something more like ‘Within current staffing and budget resources, what ideas do people have for changes or improvements in the workplace’.

      This approach has worked with my teams in the past because you’re setting clear and realistic expectations of what the resources are. I’m actually doing a similar exercise with my teams right now and they are providing two lists – one of ideas that are feasible within our unit within our resources and purview, and one that are realistic within normal operation (meaning that they might involve increased resources, but in line with what might be budgeted for in the operating budget for the next year) or that may not require resources but need approvals from outside of our unit to proceed (for example schedule flexibility).

    6. Nott the Brave*

      My office has great engagement policies that don’t necessarily depend on the benefits (which are great). Here are a few of them:
      -Everyone is expected to work from the office, but there are no restrictions on WFH if you need it.
      -Each supervisor is expected to conduct a 1:1 meeting once a week to check in (I have one once a week with my boss, and one once a week with my intern).
      -We have an open culture about 1:1s – anyone can request a 1:1 from anyone else in the company, dependent on availability (the CEO doesn’t have much time for 1:1s from people other than direct reports).
      -We have a 15 minute meeting each morning to communicate our team focuses for the day, with Monday set aside for focuses for the week.
      -Decisions and priorities are communicated once they are set.
      -We have a low-key social activity 1/month or so – usually a game night. Attendance is truly optional, with no weight placed on attending.

      One caveat – our organization is extremely small, with 15 full-time employees and about the same of interns supporting us.

      1. Asta*

        “We have a 15 minute meeting each morning to communicate our team focuses for the day”

        This would actually drive me complete insane. Weekly? Fine. Daily? Aaaarrghhhhh.

        1. Tom & Johnny*

          Their meeting maybe an offshoot from Agile development, which when implemented correctly, can be really effective and engaging. I know I’ve had days where I’m not 100% clear on what my bosses priorities are for that day until the afternoon, and not necessarily for lack of trying to find out.

          A 10-15 min standup where someone says “My team is getting the Johnson project out the door today” and someone else says “My team is doing intake on the Cameron project today” can be a tremendous help.

    7. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Our employee engagement team schedules food trucks to come and park outside our building on a fairly regular basis.

    8. AcademiaNut*

      I think the first thing is to listen. Ask employees for input (truly anonymous input! use paper and a box) about what they do and don’t like about how things work and any suggestions. I’d list categories, to make it clear that you’re not asking about big things (money, vacation, health plans, etc) Maybe things like communication, supplies and equipment, office atmosphere, professional support/growth – others might have more suggestions.

      Don’t underestimate the power of employees knowing that their concerns are being heard and taken serious (and acted on when possible). If there’s something that’s a common issue or request that can’t be handled, explain why (eg, “against union rules”).

      Beyond that, a lot depends on how things are generally. If your workplace is dysfunctional, a social mixer won’t make up for bad management, and you’ll need to address that first.

    9. QCI*

      Better communication from top down, like why certain changes are happening. Big bosses being seen AND approachable. (Just seeing them isn’t engaging). Everyone grumbles about decisions that management makes, so being as clear as possible and maybe even open to discussion could help.

    10. Some clever pun*

      When my new great-grandboss started he set up an email address for suggestions relating to ‘time wasters’ in people’s daily jobs. He waited a month or so then assigned specific people to address specific problems from the emails. That system really helped because it’s not always clear who to take a problem to or whether they will get round to/be able to fix it. There is also a yearly staff satisfaction survey processed by an outside organization to remain properly anonymous.

      1. BelleMorte*

        To build on this, a similar repository for “small petty annoyances” might also be worthwhile. Little things that grate on people daily but never get fixes. i.e. lack of a garbage cans or lighting outside the building, or the fact that the toilet in the upstairs washroom always runs, or never has paper towels, etc. Especially if you are a big organization without anyone specific that deals with this stuff onsite. Tiny, easily fixed things that decrease overall happiness around the office.

        1. JSPA*

          Raffle prize for turning in problem tickets. Divide into BelleMorte’s “petty annoyances and recurrent stocking problems” vs “procedural issues that block work flow frustratingly” vs “requirements or situations that leave us PO’d for no clear reason” vs “great ideas they keep not doing, why not.”

          Every novel item gets posted with a response. Additional submissions of same get tacked on. One prize in each category is drawn from the list of novel responses (You can’t stuff the box fifty times with the same complaint, to get 50 bites at the apple). A bigger prize in each category is awarded by vote of the employees. Do this quarterly, for each category in which there are [some number] of substantive suggestions.

          So maybe the small things category is awarded every quarter at first, then drops off as problems get dealt with. The “higher” categories may take a while to ramp up / may require a certain level of trust. Allow people to have some back-and-forth. Can’t do X as a solution for Y because Reasons? They can propose Z as a soultion for Y, next week.

    11. Anono-me*

      Every couple of years we have an engagement 1/2 day. It starts with a rah rah speech and bagels, but the best part is where coworkers offer mini training sessions and schedule mini shadowing sessions.

      The hour long training sessions will be for advanced skills in things like Excel and PowerPoint and for internal programs that most coworkers use.

      The shadowing sessions can be for either a Department you might be interested in transferring to, or for Department with which you have co-ownership of process.

      I personally have found shadowing co-ownership departments to be very helpful. For example it doesn’t matter to the end result if form 173 is on top of the file or if form 398 is. But the department that does the next step in processing the forms needs a number that is very clear and easy to locate on form 173. Now everyone uses 173 is the top form.

    12. pcake*

      Free pizza for lunch and gift cards are all very nice, but nothing beats having a manager who really listens, fixes issues, doesn’t threaten or bluster and who understands their own job. Having a manager who appreciates and respects you makes all the difference at work every single day.

  22. DC*

    I got a new job this week! Thanks to AAM, I aced all their interviews, got myself a 40% raise, and am really looking forward to starting.

    But I’m still very nervous about getting my motivation back, and making sure I set and maintain work life boundaries at the new place. Any suggestions for either would be great!

    1. Bananatiel*

      I was REALLY burnt out coming from my old job and couldn’t take time between jobs for irrelevant reasons. I was SO excited to start the new job but my motivation was incredibly low going on. I was a weird rollercoaster of emotions and I think it took me longer than normal to really feel excited going into work because of it. I would say to make sure that you’re really kind to yourself and nonjudgmental of whatever you’re feeling in the first few weeks, especially if it doesn’t feel like what you’re “supposed” to feel. Doing that helped me get my work done without much issue/a lot of procrastination, especially when I coupled it with reminding myself I wanted to set a good first impression.

      1. DC*

        Thank you! This is exactly what I needed- I’m definitely worried that I’m both excited but also not excited, if you know what I mean, haha.

    2. Emily S.*

      Congratulations and good luck!

      Re: the work-life balance thing, I’d say just keep up with your hobbies, exercise, and seeing friends regularly. Get plenty of sleep too — you’ll need it!

    3. Clementine*

      How much of a break can you wrangle between the two jobs? I hate losing out on the pay, but I think it might have been a good idea for me a couple times. If you do get a break, consider something that is completely not computer or device-using–a total technology hiatus. At least that is what I would do.

      1. DC*

        I managed just under a week- and it does involve a weekend in a cabin with friends, so a full break! Glad to hear that helps!

  23. PLEASE HELP ME! Board President Calling This Morning*

    Oh dear God do I need help today. I work for a non-profit of 7 people and my boss (Dave) is an absolute tyrannt. He treats his staff absolutely awfully and belittles everyone. Well, Dave is currently on vacation and the board president (Carlos) has heard about some of Dave’s actions and behaviors and is going to be calling every single staff member to discuss THIS MORNING. I have only been in this job for seven months at this point and while I agree that Dave is horrible as a boss and a leader, I have literally talked briefly to our board president twice. I am stressed about it and have absolutely no idea what to say or what to do. Some people are telling me to talk about overall themes that could be improved on (like overly aggressive behaviors, not valuing staff time), some are telling me to try to “play dumb” and keep it as positive as possible, and others basically just want me to hang Dave out to dry. I just don’t feel like I have been here long enough to speak with that much authority. So basically, I need help as soon as possible because he is going to call this morning (no idea when) to talk.

    1. DC*

      Don’t play dumb and keep things positive. If the president is calling everyone to talk about this, it’s because they are actually trying to take responsible actions. Playing dumb won’t help anyone.

    2. Corky's wife Bonnie*

      Carlos is calling because there is a problem, and he needs to know how to fix it. The best thing you can do is answer his questions honestly without being unprofessional.

    3. mf*

      I would be honest (don’t play dumb) but also be frank about your misgivings: “I just don’t feel like I have been here long enough to speak with that much authority.”

    4. Heidi*

      Instead of going with broad themes, I would stick to describing very specific interactions and letting the president decide how problematic it is. If Dave is nice in his interactions with you, you can say that. But if he did behave really badly and you saw it, describe it in detail. Employee one did this, and Dave said, “Direct quote here.” I think it’s hard for a boss to understand the scope of the problem if everyone just generalizes with statements like, “He doesn’t value staff time.” Something like, “He didn’t give Sansa time off to go to her own college graduation” has much more impact. It’s also harder to defend against a very specific description.

      You could also go with the, “I just got here, so I don’t know Dave well.” And this might be the best option for you if Dave doesn’t get fired and you end up having to keep working for him.

    5. ALT*

      I say be open and honest, remind Carlos you have only been there a short while but this is what you’ve experienced. If Dave is a tyrant he doesn’t deserve any loyalty. And if you play dumb you’re just letting Dave continue to be a bad boss. Carlos is the one who has the power to make Dave either change or fire him. Answer Carlos questions and open up a conversation with him.

      I say this as someone who’s spent the past 6 years in small non-profits. If a Board member is reaching out to staff they want to make changes. And Carlos is also doing this in the right way where Dave is on vacation and won’t over hear these conversations or even possibly know about them.

    6. Daisy*

      I’ve been in a similar boat – it’s not *quite* as terrible as it seems – take a beat and breakdown what you’re comfortable doing. That’s going to be key

      You have a couple of options

      A) answer the questions you’re asked truthfully and clearly and without speculation. Don’t speak for other people or allow them to put words in your mouth. Avoid generalizations, specifics are your friend.
      B) go with the route about themes etc.
      C) be positive and brush his actions under the rug.

      I went with option A when I was in your shoes. I was not comfortable with the way things were going at work but also didn’t want to be involved with a coup which is what was attempted.
      Being overly positive also presents a risk because it leaves you open to later questions of “why didn’t so and so tell us this” and can create an unintended consequence of them questioning your judgement.

      Good luck! If you can write down some items that help you frame your thoughts (egregious or otherwise) that will be good

      Overall – focus on the truth and being factual and you’ll make it through the call.

    7. PLEASE HELP ME! Board President Calling This Morning*

      Thanks everyone. I was super nervous. My main points that I plan to bring up (from my own experiences) are that Dave is/has: bullying behaviors, overly aggressive, takes credit for the work of others and scapegoats staff for his own mistakes, never admits fault. I like the idea to include a caveat about only being here for a short time, can’t say definitively if these are constant patterns during his tenure or recent.

      I am lucky to have some great coworkers. We have all discussed what we are going to talk about and all came up with the same recurring issues. They are telling me to just do what makes me most comfortable at this point so I am thoroughly appreciative to them for being so nice.

      1. Heidi*

        Thanks for the additional detail. For what it’s worth, I would maybe downplay the taking credit for others. If he is the boss, he theoretically gets some credit for managing the work of other people and he could defend it this way. On the other hand, scapegoating someone else for your mistakes is far less defensible for a boss, so you could bring up specific examples of this, like, “Dave didn’t sign the expense report, and he told you that Sansa hadn’t given it to him, and I know that she did.”

    8. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      Stick to what you’ve observed directly and use neutral language. Describe actions or events you’ve observed not impressions. Let the board president know that, as you’ve only been here 7 months, there’s a lot you don’t feel qualified to remark on. Just as you said to us.
      Let him lead you, and if he asks open ended questions don’t hesitate to ask him to clarify.

    9. Bluebell*

      Good suggestions here. I’d echo be honest, but definitely frame everything with the fact you are new, so may not have experienced everything your coworkers have. You can cite examples, but don’t always have to name each coworker. If you came from a well regarded nonprofit before this, you could make a few comparisons, if you think the leadership at your previous position was doing things in a more professional way.

    10. OperaArt*

      Be truthful, but limit your comments to your personal experiences. Let the board president guide the conversation.
      Don’t play dumb. The president knows there are problems, and playing dumb could backfire and hurt you.
      Most important, the president is actually trying to fix this big problem. That’s fantastic. Help them, your colleagues and yourself by cooperating.

    11. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Don’t play dumb. You can all also tell the board president you’re concerned about retaliation from Dave and ask what protections there will be from that.

      1. auburn*

        Yes! This is a crucial question to ask any time you are reporting the behavior of a supervisor but doubly so when it’s the ED since there is no one higher up in the org day to day to directly supervise the ED’s behavior after these issues are brought up, which means retaliation may be harder to police. Asking at least makes sure they have register it as a concern.

    12. PLEASE HELP ME! Board President Calling This Morning*

      Thanks everybody. I am trying to keep calm and not get emotional. I wrote down my main points (categorized by theme) with specific examples. The more prepared I am the better it is I think for me and my brain (I tend to overthink). He hasn’t called anyone yet, but I will keep you all updated! Luckily there’s beer in the fridge for after

      1. LKW*

        You can admit To Carlos that you’re nervous and have not been through a process like this before. It’s a stressful conversation and Allison brings up a good point about retaliation.

        1. Lilysparrow*

          Yes, the more transparent you are about things like nervousness or uncertainty, the more you can have an authentic conversation – which will both increase your credibility and help to make you less nervous.

          If you’re trying to hide your jitters, you come across as insincere. Which won’t help the situation.

    13. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      One thing I think is worth keeping in mind, is that because you are new, your viewpoint might actually be MORE valuable to the investigation than someone who’s been there awhile.

      I was in a disaster job where my boss was put on a 60 day PIP in my first 30 days, and I was asked to provide a written statement of things she had done to interfere with my ability to do my job, as well as ways she had mistreated me. I was really nervous about doing this because I was new and didn’t want to be the person who complained. But apparently, because I was new, it was more helpful to HR to have me say she did X, Y, and Z to me and has prevented me from doing my work through A, B, C, and D. A person who’s been there awhile might have a history of performance issues, or interpersonal gripes, or connections to the previous boss, or be desensitized to the bad behavior, but a new person is new on the scene and doesn’t have that history.

      A new person is almost a neutral third party, so your corroboration of Dave’s behavior is going to be very, very helpful to the board’s investigation, because you have no reason or ulterior motive that needs to be taken under consideration.

    14. QCI*

      7 months is more than enough time to have an informed opinion of SOMEONE YOU WORK WITH EVERYDAY.
      Be honest, you’re not the one in trouble.

    15. JSPA*

      “I am finding working under Dave to be emotionally challenging. I have had a hard time reconciling his process with the attitudes and goals of our organization, and with the mutual respect and professionalism demonstrated by the other employees. However, I have not been here long. I hope you will give more weight to feedback from people who have seen Dave’s leadership process over a period of time, because I don’t know if this is his normal behavior, or a passing aberration. I know people are not always their best selves. I can’t tell if Dave’s attitude is intended as some sort of motivational technique, or if he’s truly unhappy with us and disappointed in us. I would love to make him happy, but I’m not sure if that’s a reasonable goal.”

      Mean people are mean, but hurting people can also become mean, and some people are mean because that’s how their boss treated them, and they think they need to do the same. The mean needs to stop; there are a lot of ways for that to happen. Dave may need a vacation, Dave may need therapy, Dave may need a new job, Dave may need a new relationship, Dave may need to go on the waggon. That’s not your call. But “yeah, it’s not good here now” is legit feedback.

  24. Qistina*

    DISCLAIMER

    My actual comment is posted as a reply to this comment. Before you read that, read this:

    1. I describe a scene and include some paraphrased dialogue from an episode of season 7 of Orange Is The New Black. I mention no names or identifying context and IMO it’s not a spoiler but if you’d rather not even know about the scene/dialogue, please click collapse.

    2. Trigger warning: Sexual harassment. Nothing graphic though.

    1. Qistina*

      Personally, when do YOU call out sexual harassment / inappropriate comments (about your appearance, for example, like a letter Allison answered earlier this week) in the workplace – immediately? Or do you give them a chance and let them get away with it until at least after the second time? What do you wish to do differently, if any?

      In an episode of season 7 of OITNB, an older female in a leadership role makes a comment to her young male assistant about how she “loves” watching him walk away. Without hesitation, he purses his lips and replies calmly, “That’s harassment.” To which she says, dismissing him, “Oh, you love it.” He looks away for a second, sighs, and walks out.

      Knowing her past behaviour, I’m sure that has happened before. But as that was the first time we see it on-screen, let’s pretend that that was the first time she makes such a comment to him. Her retort to him notwithstanding, I love the fact that he called it out as it happened! Most of us (me included) let our offender repeat their inappropriate behaviour until we reach breaking point before we stammer (or shout) something!

      I’ve been on the receiving end of sexual harassment and/or inappropriate comments a lot at work (all past jobs) and I still cringe when I recall how I barely reacted to any of this nonsense:

      1. The guy who tickled my feet. The below is what I wrote on my private blog about the incident:

      “I was seated on my chair with shoes off and both legs tucked beneath me. So my naked feet were sticking out from one side of my chair, in his direction. After the conversation ended he suddenly said, “You know, I have a temptation right now.” I thought it sounded a bit weird, but I asked anyway: “What?” I really shouldn’t f—ing have. Guess what he did next? He bent down and tickled my feet! My hands immediately flew to my feet to push his hands away and I simultaneously pulled my feet away as I nervously laughed a “NO!”. But my hands of course touched his, and he lingered, and he’d already managed to do what he wanted to do anyway, and I felt so dirty afterwards.”

      2. When I told my boss, he said, “You had your feet up on the chair – he probably couldn’t help himself! Anyway, you seem to attract trouble.” I asked him to clarify what he meant, and he said, “Well, this isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened to you.”

      He has a baby now, a girl, and one day when she experiences sexual harassment as an adult (or even as a child – God forbid) – and you know she will – will his reaction be the same? I’ll never know, but I’m hoping that he feels ashamed of his former victim-blaming self.

      3. The guy who could not stop staring at my chest. He was in the middle of a sentence when I stood up from my desk and he was so hypnotised he literally stopped talking.

      4. The guy who said, “I’ve worked with you for two years and you’ve never had a boyfriend this whole time – what’s wrong with you?” I was, in fact, seeing someone at the time, but of course he didn’t know as it’s not my habit to blab about my private life at work.

      5. The male MD who said, “Well, you don’t drink, so of course you don’t understand,” after I informed him that one of our colleagues was recorded on surveillance coming back to the office with his non-work friends one weekend and drank all the alcohol in the office, trashed the pantry, and even broke a chair. He went on to say that the chair-breaker “works hard, and probably needed to de-stress. So he broke a chair – it’s the sort of thing that happens when you’re drunk”.

      AFAIK dude was never directly spoken to about it. MD just made a general announcement at standup “to take care of the office property if you come back on weekends”. Whereas *I* was looked at with disdain for doing my job as the Office Manager to care about the security and property of the office – all because I am a teetotaller. Sod’s law – HR was away when this occurred and didn’t return till a week later, which by then, she said, was “too late to say or do anything”. So she did exactly that.

      6. The guy who caressed my right ring finger as my hand was resting on my computer mouse while he sat next to me.

      7. The female COO who told me, “He says it wasn’t a caress, it was just a touch,” when we were discussing the guy above.

      The first four incidents occurred in the same workplace where I was the only woman.

      The sixth one was committed by the co-owner. I actually did approach him later to try and talk about it (rightly or wrongly) and he freaked out and flat out denied that it meant anything, and to cover his ass, went to our female COO, told her that while he did make skin-to-skin contact with me, that he “touched” my finger, not “caressed”. Since when is slowly running your finger up and down another person’s finger a “touch”???

      I was mortified. The COO’s solution was to forbid him from sitting at my desk ever again (it was an open-plan office and he was always moving around while I tended to stay put) and he complied with that rule. I was never offered an apology. He and I didn’t speak much in the next two months I worked there before I left for unrelated reasons.

      Btw, this was all before #MeToo. When #MeToo happened, I really beat myself up when I recalled the abovementioned incidents and my inadequate reactions. I’d like to think that the #MeToo movement has inspired me and empowered me to nip this sort of behaviour in the bud – either by promptly calling it out right to the offender’s face (if it’s safe to do so) or report it early and to escalate it if my initial report is ignored. But I know that when it does happen, I tend to freeze and/or rationalise it.

      And then there’s also that thing of not wanting to make a scene, or make the offender feel uncomfortable (which is plain ridiculous and really needs to stop), or more seriously, lose a job. The prospect of losing a job is very real in these situations and I respect any decision a person chooses to make in order to continue to put food on their table – as long as they know that they have to try and get out of the job at some point. But the first two “fears” are more irrational. Women especially – it’s ingrained in us to think that other people’s feelings are more important than our own, so we ignore our discomfort and outrage at our own expense.

      So I ask my question again, but a little differently: What should we do?

      If you got this far, thank you, and I appreciate any input.

      1. Purt's Peas*

        I’m sorry all those things happened to you! For the small amount it’s worth to hear it from an internet stranger, I don’t think you did anything wrong by not inventing the perfect thing to say in those situations. You’re not responsible for any of it because you ‘barely reacted’–extend the same forgiveness you’d offer others to yourself.

        Your question is tough because the answer is…well…it wouldn’t be a problem if it were easily solved, and it wouldn’t be harassment if the victim of harassment had their pick of easy options to shut it down.

        I think some of the best things you can try to do are, support other people who have been harassed; when you have authority and a bit of power, take risks with that power to help people who being harassed; as much as you can, hold other people accountable; get used to speaking directly with people so you find it doable to hold them accountable.

        1. Qistina*

          “extend the same forgiveness you’d offer others to yourself.”

          You hit the nail in the head. I definitely have a harder time forgiving myself than I do others. I always think, ‘Qistina, you should’ve known better.’ But I’m a normal person like everyone else. I get tongue-tied when I’m caught off-guard, like most people.

          And, I actually find it easier to support others too, but when it comes to myself I take a longer time to speak up.

          Case in point, last year on a vacation to Morocco, I happened to be walking behind a fellow woman traveller who was walking by herself. The guy whose shop we’d both made a brief stop at to look around, said hello to her, then asked her where she was from and whether she was travelling alone (she was). Then he flat out asked her, “Are you married?” She hesitated, and I was the one who answered for her: “You can’t ask someone that. It’s private.” She found her voice and said, “Yeah, you shouldn’t be asking me that.” The shopowner, seemingly unfazed, asked why not. I raised my voice: “Because it’s rude! Ugh! Stop asking women if they’re married! Just say hello, where are you from, and stop there!” Then she and I walked away together. I was really pleased with myself. But…the next time that question was posed to *me* (Moroccan men ask that question a lot to foreign women walking alone), I answered “no” very calmly, without trying to educate them like I did that shopowner. What’s up with that?!?!

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        1) You should go read Captain Awkward (just search, you’ll find her). Certainly the last two weeks, but the archives have a lot of fun stuff. 2019: the year of the emotional labor strike.
        2) Practice. Practice practice practice practice. Even if just in my head, it helps when the time comes to say it out loud. So go back to those events, think about what you wish you’d said, and imagine yourself saying it.
        3) Be kind to yourself and others who don’t push – as you say, there’s real economic risk to pushing back.
        4) Vote, get your friends out to vote, and look hard at Emily’s list. Getting women in positions of visible power will help normalize women standing up for themselves in the workplace.

        1. Qistina*

          I’ve found those Captain Awkward posts I think you’re talking about. Wow, that’s some good advice I need to absorb.

      3. ELWM73*

        Speak up in the moment. EVERY TIME.
        1. I given up caring about causing a scene.
        2. I am pleased this tactic is proscribed in this year’s corporate harassment training.

        1. Pippa*

          Speaking up in the moment is great, and I think sometimes we don’t do it because we think we have to find the exact wording that will (1) communicate our objections, (2) explain the reasons our objections are valid, (3) forestall a bad reaction from the offender, and (4) withstand scrutiny about our tone/professionalism/sense of humour/attitude/whatever other sexist nonsense.

          So – and I wish I’d learned this a lot earlier – I often just say “Nope.” Bob puts a hand on my lower back? “Nope” and a slight twist away. Carlos makes a joke about my love life? “Nope” in the Tina Fey shut-it-down voice. This works for an amazing range of things, including racist jokes, voices raised in anger, and many varieties of sexism. The “nope” can be delivered with a chuckle, or a firm gesture, or a biting crispness. It’s always clear, and anyone who wants to pretend not to understand has to ask for a clarification, which (to their dismay) they then receive. But it ends a lot of things right on the spot, no one can complain about the language, and you can take it farther if you feel like it or leave it at one word if you don’t.

          1. Qistina*

            Omg, nope is perfect! You’re right, we get so lost inside ourselves trying to find exact wording when “no” or “nope” is a complete sentence and VERY quickly gets the message across! Thank you for this. I’m going to remember this and learn to say no more often!

        2. submerged tenths*

          Please, look up the definition of “proscribed”. I think it is the opposite of what you meant – “prEscribed”.

      4. Tom & Johnny*

        FWIW, if you work in medicine as it sounds like you do, there is a certain deference to the head honchos / rainmakers that comes with the industry. Especially if those honchos are partners or have otherwise paid for entry into the business entity. Which I’m sure is not new information to you. The only people who can discipline such partners are other partners. And when they decline to (as they often do) the only thing that will get the attention of the practice as a whole is a lawsuit or EEOC complaint. No it shouldn’t be that way. I’m not making excuses for it or saying it’s okay. I work in a similar industry and put up with three years under an abusive manager no one would do anything about because their work was paying some of the bills.

        My point is that some of what you’re dealing with is a consequence of the industry and environment, not a consequence of you. I’m saying it’s not your fault, but in a systemic way, not in a nice, huggy, feel better way. Systemic meaning the way some industries have second-class employees who are never taken as seriously or heard out as thoroughly as the first-class employees, simply as a consequence of the way things are organized. It’s not personal, it’s them. They choose to venerate the rainmakers / honchos, so by extension they can’t acknowledge your information without challenging their belief, and their job too. Systemic meaning being the only woman in the office group and assigned the burden of carrying that. Systemic meaning being given responsibility without authority. Such as responsibility over the premises and contents, without the authority to discipline those who cause damage.

        Harassment can leave a person feeling gross, victimized, revolted, revolting, and sick at their stomach. Exactly as you said above. Anything you can do to remind yourself that these incidents did not take place in a vacuum, but occurred *within the context of systems and environments which gave the harassers the idea that it was okay to move from thought to action*, can go a long way towards reminding your spirit that it wasn’t your fault.

        1. Qistina*

          I’m not in medicine, I’ve mostly worked in tech while having nothing to do with it. I do office management, people-related stuff. But your theory is applicable everywhere, I reckon. People at the top get away with all kinds of nonsense simply because they’re at the top. They make jobs available. Nobody wants to rock the boat. It’s all just really unfortunate.

          I’m going to try harder at forgiving myself. Thank you.

    2. A Tired Queer*

      A few months ago, one of my (older, female) co-workers smacked my butt with her notebook. It happened right in front of our boss, so I felt like I had the backup to say “Why did you hit me?” immediately.

      In other situations, although it has taken me a lot of practice to get there, I’ve gotten into the habit of just saying “Wow, what?” or “Wow, that is/was really uncomfortable.” or “Wow! Please don’t do that!” with an expression of discomfited bafflement in response to inappropriate touches, looks, or comments. Thankfully it hasn’t happened a lot, and it did take a lot of practice to figure out how to get the words out past the massive block of awkward, but it’s been so worth it.

      Those scripts came from Captain Awkward, so I join other commenters in recommending her writing on this topic!

      1. MaxiesMommy*

        She may like you. Remember grade school, when a girl liked you and gave you a little shot? I wouldn’t take it as someone not liking me, they’re just being playful.

        1. Hrovitnir*

          Wow. Please understand that hitting people because you’re attracted to them is not in any way better than hitting them because you dislike them.

          Affectionately striking people is for friends who are explicitly OK with it, not for coworkers who have in no way consented to be touched at all.

        2. Qistina*

          Wow. I do hope you’re trolling. If you’re not, this is what I mean by we rationalise. We make excuses for inappropriate behaviour in adults because in grade school being hit by someone is interpreted as a sign of being liked by them. Thing is though, all of us reading this are no longer in grade school now, are we? So why are you still using that grade school excuse for fully grown adults? Please, stop.

        3. A Tired Queer*

          You know, politeness is telling me to say that “I appreciate this perspective”, but the fact is that the other commenters are right: the behavior that my coworker displayed is not appropriate for the workplace or for our age group. I would argue that it’s not even appropriate for children, but it’s definitely not OK for grown adults. Regardless of whether she likes or dislikes me, regardless of whether or not she was being “playful”, it isn’t appropriate to hit a coworker – especially not on the butt. It doesn’t matter if one is male, female, or otherwise; that kind of thing has no place in a professional environment, or anywhere else where the person one is smacking hasn’t confirmed that they are OK with it. This is especially important in the #MeToo era, when so much of the defense offered for harassing behavior has been “oh, they didn’t mean anything by it”. I hope you can take some time to think about all that. It’s pretty important.

        4. MsCarter*

          Yeah, no.
          I had to deal with a coworker hitting me on the bum when she liked my wardrobe choices last year, and she ignored me saying “no” “no, don’t do that” and eventually me escalating to my line manager who took her aside and the outcome was “she understands why you’d not like it but OK”.

          It started up again last week and I went straight back to management at the first recurrence and they’re taking it seriously. As in, going to our director to say “This is happening but it stops, now”.

          It doesn’t matter we’re both women. It doesn’t matter if she thinks it’s not inappropriate or not. It damn well is inappropriate, I hate it and she will stop.

      2. Qistina*

        What did your coworker say/do to that?

        Yes, Alison also advocates for expressing disbelief at someone’s inappropriateness and telling them to stop. I just need to be better at remembering to do this as it happens and not three days later. :-/

        I’m going to read CA more regularly now. Thanks.

        1. A Tired Queer*

          My coworker looked to our boss to rationalize and explain herself, saying things like “Oh, I didn’t use my hand, just the notebook!” and “It was just a friendly smack!”. To my utmost gratitude, my boss looked just as shocked as I felt, and immediately responded with “You did WHAT? Why would you think that’s an acceptable thing to do? Did you ask them if that was okay? Because it sounds like you didn’t, and that makes it not okay!” The two of them were off to a meeting at the moment, but when I walked by boss’s office later, I overheard her having a very stern conversation with this coworker about boundaries and appropriate workplace conduct. The coworker came by my desk later that afternoon to offer me a half apology (“I want you to know I didn’t mean anything by it, and I didn’t use my hand, just the notebook”); I told her that I didn’t want her to do it again, and that was that. Things were a little tense between us for a while, but we can work fine together now and there hasn’t been a repeat issue.

  25. MAB*

    I have a bit of an application conundrum. I missed the deadline by literally 6 hours (the website I found the job on did not have an application window) and still applied through the email provided at 6 am. I didn’t expect a response as that seems to be how my state works (I have friends who also work for the state in multiple agencies). Yesterday I saw the job posted but through a group who is aiming to get women into agriculture. Should I apply again through them, contact them and see if they can tell me if my original application was accepted or do nothing and play the waiting game?

    1. Joielle*

      Do nothing! Definitely don’t apply again – if it’s the same job, I assume the applications will end up going to the same person, no matter who posted the listing. And I really doubt an outside group would be able to tell you whether your original application was accepted.

    2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I’d do nothing. More than once I have applied for a job like this when I technically missed the deadline to email my application, and it was not a problem. I didn’t always get the job but I was not specifically rejected for that reason.

    3. The Rat-Catcher*

      I work for a state agency too, although odds are not in your state, and I have done some of the admin work of hiring. It sounds like the deadline was midnight, but it is HIGHLY unlikely that anyone was going through applications at midnight. Probably, whoever came in the next morning put together whatever information was received from everyone. I’d say odds are high that your nake made it into the ring

  26. Bloopmaster*

    TL;DR: Anyone have advice on requesting unpaid pregnancy leave when I won’t be eligible for FMLA?

    Longer version:
    I’ve been interviewing with multiple orgs, and since I’m only 4.5 months along, it’s been possible for me to strategically hide the bump. I know that legally in the US no one can refuse to hire me simply because I’m pregnant, but that doesn’t mean they won’t so I definitely don’t want to announce this fact until I have an offer. However, if I start a new job, this August/September, I certainly won’t be eligible for FMLA when I’m due in December and will have to ask for some time off after only 3-4 months on the job (my state also doesn’t guarantee me any unpaid leave for childbirth). Assuming one of these orgs makes me an offer, what’s the best way, and the best wording, to use to inform them of my pregnancy and request a reasonable amount of time off (unpaid) to physically heal and adjust afterwards? I figure I would do this after receiving an offer but before accepting the position. Should I take this directly to HR (rather than my hiring manager)? Is there any advantage to doing this in writing? Should I explicitly negotiate for maternity leave instead of salary? Should I just approach it as “of course you are reasonable people who will allow me to do this reasonable human thing”?

    1. fposte*

      The last. “As you may have noticed, I’m expecting, and the baby’s due in December. I know you’re a small organization and FMLA doesn’t apply, but I’d like to plan for eight weeks [or whatever] out on unpaid leave before I return. Will that be possible?”

      1. DCGirl*

        FMLA doesn’t apply in her case because she won’t have been on the job long enough. She said nothing about it being a small organization.

        1. fposte*

          Good catch–then you change “you’re a small org” to “I won’t have been there long enough.”

      2. anonymoushiker*

        Or insert other language on why FMLA isn’t applicable (e.g. hasn’t worked log enough). Just noting that it’s not always that the org is too small. I agree on approaching as if it’s reasonable and they are reasonable.

    2. DCGirl*

      Unless your new employer is minuscule (under 15 employees), it is covered by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act which means that they can’t treat you any differently than any other employee who needs unpaid leave for a serious health problem. So, they would give non-FMLA-eligible Dave two months of unpaid leave for emergency back surgery they would be required to give you two months of unpaid leave for your pregnancy.

      My take would be to approach it as though they are reasonable people, but that’s just me.

      1. JSPA*

        Unless it’s a c-section with major complications, you’re not likely to be able to get the same amount of time as would be needed for minimum recommended rehab following emergency back surgery, though. Yes, it’s good to know that if you’re indeed in dire straits from the birth itself, you’d have that, but for an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, california teacher’s association (presumably pretty generous) says that 6 weeks is the norm. Short term disability insurance also uses 6 weeks as the standard, for uncomplicated vaginal delivery. (There are, t0 be sure, societies where women are back planting rice or fetching water within 48 hours.)

    3. Dr. Sarsar Mommy*

      If I were in your position, I would tell HR first and learn your rights. I would also ask HR to be in on the conversation with your hiring manager or boss next. I would think that doing it in person first, rather than in writing, would be a bit safer. I would like to say that you should assume they’re reasonable people and this is a reasonable request (honestly maternity leave is a right, but many businesses disagree). The thing I’m stuck on is your decision to let them know that you are pregnant before you accept the position. I guess you could see that as fair, but I don’t think anyone needs to know until you’re hired. Again, maybe that’s my idealism, but I think if you’ve accepted the position and then go into negotiating for unpaid leave as an employee, you might feel and actually be more secure.

      FYI I interviewed for my current position when I was 6 weeks pregnant, so much earlier along, and I didn’t tell anyone until after I started (around 14 weeks). I was in the same position where I wasn’t eligible for FMLA. I talked to HR first to be sure, and they reassured me that I was going to be able to take some leave even if it wasn’t covered my FMLA. When I told my boss, though, I did it in a one-on-one conversation, and that was a mistake. He accused me of lying to him and trying to take advantage. He said he knew he wouldn’t have been able to discriminate if he had known, but he “had to be honest” that he wouldn’t have hired me. This was my third day on the job. So, not a great start. He kind of apologized later and was supportive, but I learned the hard way that I should not tell him things without HR present, and that I have ammo if I ever want to file a complaint against him. Hopefully that isn’t what happens with you. Good luck!

      1. fposte*

        The thing is, they’re not legally required to give her time off for the baby. They’re legally required not to discriminate against her, but unless they’ve given unpaid time off to others for non-pregnancy reasons, it’s not discrimination to refuse to give it here. I think she wants to avoid a situation where she gets hired and finds out that they can’t keep the job for her if she takes time off in December.

        I’m glad that, as DCGirl pointed out, it’s not a small org, because there’s likelier to be precedent of leave whether FMLA or not, so this is likely to be just considered a normal part of business.

    4. Trogdor the Burninator*

      Somewhat similarly, I’m interviewing while waiting to adopt. So there’s no bump but there’s the unpredictable possibility of becoming a parent during the first year on a new job. Haven’t gotten an offer yet but I plan on, once an offer is made, negotiating for paid family leave. And even if it’s a place too small to have to follow FMLA, that doesn’t mean they might not offer paid leave as a benefit (after all FMLA only promises UNPAID leave). It’s a dealbreaker for me – if I can’t have the promise of some paid leave I won’t take the offer. Anyone else have experience with that negotiating?

      1. fposte*

        Do you know what’s standard or common in your field for parental leave, and would what you’re asking for fall within it? I’d style my negotiation accordingly. I’d say this differs from the FMLA question because FMLA is so standard and paid parental leave so not (sigh) that you really need to know whether you’re asking for a purple unicorn or the equivalent of extra pens.

        1. Trogdor the Burninator*

          Ha! I love that analogy. Purple unicorns or pens. Well, I work in nonprofit land, where the only thing that’s standard is following up a low salary offer with “we ARE a nonprofit, so….”

          But I think I can use your advice to find out what the leave policy is and work from there. Do they offer FMLA? If yes, would they let me take leave of any kind if an adoption happened before the first year? That’s a must-have because I could get a call literally any day about a baby. Do they offer paid family leave? If yes, same question maybe – can they waive the probationary period or shorten it?

          But it really is a dealbreaker for me – financially I’m better off staying in my current job, where I can take some paid leave, than a new job – even with a higher salary – where I’d be in a bind if an adoption placement came through.

          1. Clisby*

            Yes, I worked with a woman who had 3 weeks’ notice that she was going to be able to adopt. I think she was just asking to switch to part-time for a few months, and the company said no. She quit.

            (Love your Trogdor the Burninator username).

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Just approach is as “of course you are a reasonable person who will allow me to do this reasonable human thing.”

      If they want to make a big deal and make it all about “the letter of the law”, then that’s fine too. That will show them for who they are and that you don’t belong at that company.

      Around here we’d be fine with it, if we liked you to extend an offer, we’d make accommodations for leave. Since it’s something we can plan for in advance and what’s the difference between you needing it at month 4 and month 12, not that much, then you have more on your plate to redistribute than at month 4. At least you’d get the chance to bond and train for 4 months, you know?

      Laws are fantastic and I support them fully but really, they’re so bare bones and don’t do that much in the end unless you have a solid case and evidence. There’s still a lot of relying on common decency of humans involved.

    6. Schnoodle HR*

      Even if you’re not eligible for FMLA due to tenure, you still have the ADA and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act rooting for you. Also…most companies will let you take some leave for pregnancy, and hopefully follow the FMLA 12 week rule if you want it.

      If you have Short Term Disability as well, you’ll have that putting you out (and paying you) for 4 weeks for a normal birth, maybe up to 6 for C Section (the latter has been less and less common, I had a C Section and they put it at 4 weeks now, used to be 6).

      Hopefully this will be a civil discussion and easy. Don’t assume they’ll be aghast, babies happen! Remember you’re also protected to pump afterwards if you choose to do that.

      I know at my company, even if tenure hasn’t been met for FMLA, they follow FMLA anyway.

      1. DCGirl*

        Short-term disability is not a form of leave; it’s how you get paid while you are on leave that would otherwise be unpaid.

  27. Some clever pun*

    Hello wise and wonderful commentariat! I need help brainstorming possible career changes. My current career (charity retail manager) suits me in a lot of ways but my biggest problem is that while I’m competent at it, I don’t think I’ll ever be really good. It nags at me that I’m settling for just ‘ok’.

    The most important aspect for me is that I have the constitution of a border collie: I get bored super easily without constant change of activities and locations. Something with both desk work and frequent site visits would work well for me (I’m thinking estate agent for example). At my current job I travel between a few different locations that I support and the work is quite physical, which also suits me.

    Can anyone recommend career options with this sort of variety?

    1. Incantanto*

      Shift into training or health and safety as a specialty? Health and safety managers in industry get a lot of travel and time on site as well as desk time.

        1. Incantanto*

          Yeah, general mid level documentation based jobs are probably a reasonable side shift for you, and things like H and S, QA, maybe sales get travel

    2. irene adler*

      Auditing. Not the bookkeeping kind.
      Auditing of quality systems. Businesses- like biotech, pharma- have auditors who travel to different sites (their suppliers, divisions) to audit quality systems. And they also audit their own sites. So you’ll have travelling and you’ll have different projects at a regular basis (auditing a supplier for a quality problem related to their product, then auditing a manufacturing division for process improvements. ).

      Visit ASQ.org to learn about auditing.

    3. 867-5309*

      Event, trade or conference management. You’ll do strategic planning, creative brainstorming, logistical execution and onsite at events.

  28. Poptart*

    We have an all office retreat on Tuesday. We just got the specifics about it today. It includes indoor and outdoor volunteer opportunities that are mandatory in the AM. Reading AAM has me shuddering about how it’s been handled, though the actual opportunities aren’t terrible.

    1. VLookupsAreMyLife*

      Sounds delightful (sarcasm font). Hopefully everyone is able to participate or have worked out accommodations in advance. Are you thinking of following up with organizers to share your concerns about accessibility?

      1. Poptart*

        They actually have options for all accessibility levels. It’s the timing people are up. in. arms. about. We knew a retreat was coming but today is when we learned it included volunteering.

        Lots of whispering, lots of closed-door meetings. Some refusals. I’m glad it’s Friday.

        1. JSPA*

          If they’re paying for your work hours, I’m pretty sure ou can be volun-told what to do for those hours (so long as there are disability acommodations).

          Most people have been complaining here about weekend days without pay/evenings without pay / day-off-but-not-really / I was promised days off to volunteer, but not told that some of them would be sucked up by volun-told duties / etc.

          If the organizations upset you, that’s a different issue. But “your job today is something different from usual, which you already knew because it’s the retreat, and we could be asking you to do trust falls or watch powerpoints or fire walk, so stuffing envelopes isn’t so bad”? That seems fair enough.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Yeah, Poptart’s employer clearly doesn’t know what the word “voluntary” means.

  29. Incantanto*

    Do people have any tips for dealing with the effects of massive economic uncertainty on their job?

    I’m in chemical research and manufacturing and the current UK political climate is hitting us hard. Chemistry takes a long time to bring to market and not knowing what our regulatory status will be in three months is a strain on the business, so every decision is slow atm.

    1. Mazzy*

      All I can offer is to be sure to have an emergency fund, or have one in the works, even if it’s small. This is especially important if you own a home or are in a cyclical industry

    2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      Brexit stash and make plans to move to Ireland. That’s about all I’ve got right now. If we end up with the worst possible scenario I doubt that my industry will survive for very long. In a bonfire of regulations and a race to destroy and snatch up as much as possible for short-term, disaster capitalist profits I doubt that polluter-pays archaeology will last.

      Have you put out any feelers on moving to another company with offices elsewhere?

      1. Incantanto*

        This company does have offices in other countries, but most of them are continental EU or the states. States is not a work life I’d be that happy with and I’m about to lose EU citizenship cos of this crap. I tried applying to jobs in germany when I got this job but nobody was even slightly biting.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Are you concerned that Brexit (I assume) is making it difficult to do your job due to slow decisions and so on – or worried about job security?

      1. Incantanto*

        Both. The uncertainty is starting to stress out both any relations we have with customers, leading to slow decisions and removal of a lot of the more blue sky research that was interesting, in order to start hunkering down, and the fact I’m the newest so first back out is stressing me more than I realised it would.

        Add that to the fact I’m a young remainer surrounded by old leave voters with long tenure at the company and paid of houses who keep going “oh it will be fine,” and I’m really struggling not to get into a serious political argument at work. Any advice on dealing with that greatly appreciated.

    4. JSPA*

      Benelux? If there’s still time to get residency? Or assume your company will be doing a buyout (in one or the other direction) to have a foothold / market access there?

        1. Jaid*

          JSPA was using shorthand…

          “a collective name for Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, especially with reference to their economic union”

        2. JSPA*

          Dutch news sources (and to some degree, the BBC) suggest quite a number of English / UK firms are forming partnerships, buying or being bought by firms in the Netherlands (or Belgium, but English is practially a national language in the Netherlands, and the multiple layers of government and the interlaced language zone borders in Belgium render the situation extra confusing and probably less agile?).

          That way, patents, materials and to some degree employees can be strategically relocated to or from the continent while still being paid “at home.” Or intellectual rights stay on one side of the border, while production happens on the other. Or something like that. I suppose they’re doing that in part because nobody knows what’s going to happen without a “backstop” in case of “no deal,” so Ireland is a more ambiguous option than it might otherwise be.

          (BTW, I’m looking for scrupulously dispassionate terminology here, so as not to betray my rather firm feelings or violate the politics ban; please allow some latitude if I don’t quite succeed, as we don’t talk about in in as much depth in the US as you presumably do, there.)

          Quite a few people seem to be trying to cement their residency rights (or even switch citizenship), but I don’t know if that window is now closing / closed. My guess is that anything science-adjacent that’s also even minimally academia-adjacent will have loopholes for fairly unlimited R&D or specialist type visas, but…who knows. (That last presumption is not at all Brexit-specific, it’s from dealing with visas for conferences and collaborations elsewhere in the world.)

          I’m guessing that if import of essential materials is slowed, research and early development in the UK will still largely stay in the UK (using stockpiled materials you have) while commercial-scale development may shift to a dutch subsidiary or Dutch parent company (under regulations similar to what you’re using now, as they’re still going to be EU).

          (The “Lux” part = not relevant, but “BeNe” would’be been even more confusing.)

  30. Fabulous*

    What do y’all do on days (or weeks) where you don’t have a lot of work?

    I finished my last project on Monday morning. I had a few smaller things pending, so I did them, but I had basically nothing to do the rest of Monday and Tuesday. My supervisor is away at a conference all week, but she was able to send me one more project to help her with. Another co-worker sent me a project yesterday but it only took a few hours to complete. I’ve been dragging out Sup’s project for the last 3 days, did some HR related tasks, and also some personal development research. I’m out of ideas short of online shopping!

    I know I will be getting some more projects next week, but aside from reorganizing our server folders, I’ve got nothing until then. What do you do to keep busy?

    1. geiger*

      If I’ve finished all my projects and no one has anything they need help with I either learn some work-related skills online or I work on automating reoccurring tasks.

    2. Mbarr*

      I read AAM… Then I run out of AAM and bang my head against the wall out of boredom.

      But legit, if I’m trying to do something work related, I watch training courses on LinkedIn (I get free access to them through my public library). Lately I’ve been looking at online forums related to my job to see what issues people encounter and how the community responds to them.

      1. SezU*

        Read AAM, Dear Abby and all the other advice columns I can find (they are my vice). Then I listen to podcasts.

        As with you, if I feel it should be work related, I do some online training, read periodicals or articles related to my work. Or just clean up old files.

        I know that this current lull won’t last, so I don’t want to create a big project for myself just to have it get derailed when the Next Big Thing comes along…. soon.

    3. Not me... the other guy*

      I have a ‘work hobby’. I ended up admining a bunch of Sharepoint sites. So I save up all the requests that I get for improvements for my slow time. I also then use that time to research and try new functionality (have a list of those too) as well as cleanup and other things.

      I also keep a list of “want to dos” and I work on those. These are improvements or whatevers that aren’t mission critical that I generally don’t have time for.

    4. Admin of Sys*

      Sorting email, cleaning up projects, and concatenating various notes into sadly neglected documentation take up a lot of my time, but I also try to figure out what I want to work on. List projects I think would be useful, figure out skills I want to gain, figure out tools that would be helpful, then organize them into workable lists.

    5. Gwen*

      Read/keep up to date on local or industry news. Clean out my inbox. Clean my actual desk. Read articles/listen to podcasts that are relevant to my work tasks or things I would like to learn more about. Make notes of things for my performance review (we have a system we’re supposed to put notes into year round on goals and projects).

    6. Emily S.*

      I read a lot of news articles and blogs. Lots of food/cooking related ones, plus gardening stuff. I also like advice columns such as Ask Amy, which I think is great. Also the New Yorker cartoons are online free, that’s something fun every week.

    7. Gumby*

      I work in a sciency field so I can totally claim that the 3 hour trip down the xkcd / what if? rabbit hole was work related…

    8. nekosan*

      1. Documentation. Write out all the details possible about some task. In the future, if anyone asks questions, you have something ready-made to point them at.
      2. Learn new skills. Such as, “how do you do this automatically in Excel?” (Often, it’s something like “Oh, Janet does X using tool Y. Y would be something useful to learn.”)
      3. Maybe the same as above, but automation. If there is some annoying picky task I have to do, I try to figure out a way to automate it – auto fill data, error check, merge data, split data, whatever.

  31. MOAS*

    How do you ask the people who report to you if you’re doing a good job without coming across as insecure or needy?

    It all started with a former who recently left and left a review online and I am wondering if one of their comments is about me. They were never on my team but I was senior to them–we had a mutual interest and would have friendly conversations about that hobby from time to time. When I became manager I learned from my peers that they were underperforming and after conversations, were put on the PIP.

    Now some of their comments were legitimate and I sympathized to a point but what got me was where they said one of the managers was not very intelligent, a failure in past leadership positions, a burden, and didn’t deserve to be there. I thought ti was about me b/c they mentioned past positions.

    Others who read this and were close to the employee said that that specific complaint was about their direct managers, but I can’t shake that it was about me even though– I was on good terms with this person and they were happy I was promoted.

    Whats making me feel the most awkward — and I know this may not be rational — is that this person is bffs with people on my team. I like and trust my team, and I want to promote one of them to a higher level. However…..after this I am worried. I am not treating my team any differently, but I am a little wary (and they will still be promoted, that’ wont be affected). I have gotten feedback from my manager, and I LIKE to think that my team is happy with me but I am not sure how to ask about the latter.

    I know that as a manager, it’s common for people to not like the person in that position, and I should not take it personally. However, this feels really personal. The employee on my team has not given me any reason to distrust him and my feelings will not impact how I treat them.
    But for some reason, I am just really worried. and about what, I don’t know.

    1. fposte*

      “How do you ask the people who report to you if you’re doing a good job without coming across as insecure or needy?”

      Short answer is that you don’t. You can’t look to them for validation. You can check in more with your own manager, and you can make sure you’re asking your staff if they have what they need to do for their job and giving room for the answer, and encouraging them to grow whether it means they leave or stay. But this sounds more about reassurance than information, and, ironically, turning to your staff for that is likely to make them less happy.

      You can control what you do. You have no control over they feel.

      1. MOAS*

        That’s what I thought — turning to them may backfire. I didn’t think there was a distinction but now that you point it out, you’re right. As a manager, I DO want to know what I can do to make sure they have a good experience here. My own manager does give me feedback. My team is 2 in house and 3 remotes, the remotes are in their 2nd week with us. The in house team is doing well and the new people are promising. I guess I just want it so that whenever someone moves on, they will have good memories of us, and won’t speak about me like people talk about horrible managers. I don’t want to be horrible person/manager

        1. carrots and celery*

          You can’t control how someone feels when they move on or whether their memories are good or bad. It sounds like you have a lot of insecurity about all of this, to the point that it’s making you over worry. Perhaps talking with a therapist might help pinpoint why some of these things are impacting you so significantly?

          1. MOAS*

            I am seeing someone thanks, but I also don’t think I need to go to therapy to figure out why I don’t want to be a horrible manager that people talk about here all the time?

            1. The Other Dawn*

              Not wanting to be a horrible manager is a good thing and something we should aim for; however, taking things personally or seeing issues where there’s no evidence of any is a separate issue. That’s not “I don’t want to be a horrible manager.” That’s insecurity. I think that’s what carrots and celery is getting at, and I agree. As I said below, I say this as someone who has a direct report who says/feels exactly the same things you’re describing and she’s told me she has self-confidence issues.

              1. MOAS*

                Oh I get it now. Yeah, I do have insecurities. I’m just thinking of what happened with the former employee who left that review. They were never under me but I was senior to them; their first 3 managers didn’t really manage them, and the last ones who did put them on a PIP and they quit. So, it was kind of like a volcano bubbling. And I want to avoid that happening. But my team is pretty good, so I want to make sure we continue to have a good working relationship from the start

                1. Fortitude Jones*

                  You’re personalizing an experience that had nothing to do with you. As you stated, you didn’t manage the departed employee and you guys were on good terms when she left. There’s nothing in what you wrote that indicates that the review had anything to do with you, so the fact that you’re this concerned about it is, well, kind of concerning and why people are saying you need to take a step back and chill (and talk to a professional).

                  As everyone has said – you can’t control how others think of you. I have only liked maybe three or four managers in my entire working life, but that doesn’t mean the rest of my managers were all awful (they weren’t – I only had two of those) and I hated them, it just meant I didn’t connect with them on a personal level. It happens. The fact that you read this site and you seem open to wanting to do a good job leads me to believe you’ll be fine as a manager, so relax.

            2. carrots and celery*

              That’s not what I meant. You seem to be obsessing over an issue that has absolutely nothing to do with you and then turning it around and making it about yourself and panicking. The things you want to change – make sure everyone who leaves has good memories, that they never think of you negatively, that someone anonymous comment isn’t about you, etc. – aren’t really things that are in your power to change.

              Being a good manager is completely different to some of the concern you’ve outlined here, which are more personal issues than work related issues. It’s a little concerning that you’re working yourself up over a comment that you don’t even know was about you, and asking if you can seek validation from your employees to ensure that they never feel that way about you.

              It’s making a problem where there isn’t one.

            3. Eukomos*

              You say that logically it probably isn’t you, other people in the office think it isn’t you and in fact is specifically another person, and yet you can’t shake the worry. Being worried about being a good manager is rational, but being unable to shake the fear that a comment that manifestly is not about you could somehow be you anyway is totally worth bringing up with your therapist. It seems like it’s really making you unhappy, and that’s all that’s necessary to make it worth your therapist’s time.

            4. JSPA*

              1. Why am I stuck on the idea that I’m the one they’re talking about?
              2. Actually why am I stuck on the idea that they’re talking about anyone?
              3. Let alone, “all the time”?
              4. If someone’s unhappy with me, don’t they have the right to feel that?
              5. If they’re temporarily unhappy with me, why should I let that affect me?
              6. If I’m giving them the ability to give me feedback, and they choose not to, why might I feel obligated to push for it? Or even, allowed to push for it? or for that matter, justified in pushing for it?
              7. I’m the manager. I’m following a reasonable path. I supervise reasonable people. If there were to be some once-in-a-blue-moon personality conflict, why do I feel I should try to patch it over, or failing that, to judge myself–or for that matter, them–rather than letting people choose to move on, if we’re a bad match?
              8. do I think that my people’s success, in their broader career path, is primarily my job, rather than primarily their job (with me facilitating by promoting where qualified, praising where justified, and encouraging broadly)? Why would I do that?
              9. How would I feel if my boss turned me attitude onto me?
              10. is there something I am looking for from my boss that I should ask for, that I’m trying to do for my people (with no indication that they want it)?
              11. Am I conflating being a good manager, being a good friend, and being a good person?
              12. Is “being a good manager” something I aspire to, or am I trying to get to “successful manager” via the “good person” and “good friend” routes?
              13. if so, what might be the pitfalls of using those alternate routes, and could they actually backfire, or make me more problematic as a manager, than just prioritizing “good manager’ up front?
              14. what are my “tells” when I shift into one vs. another version of “being a good______________”? Can I learn to notice them, and substitute some other behavior or thought pattern?
              15. Do I feel bad when I choose to do [fill in essential manager-ish priority] over [fill in some other “good person” priority]? If so, is this a gut-level thing, a learned belief, a philosophical issue?

              Some of these are more CBT, some of these are more talk therapy…could be your therapist would not be a good sounding board for all of them, in which case, some other therapist might be. It’s like cars, sometimes you need bodywork, sometimes you need a new tie bar, sometimes your ignition switch is funky, and sometimes you just need new wiper blades, and you can go to different people for each of those things.

        2. fposte*

          More broadly, I think it’s okay to use this moment to reflect on your own managerial practices–do you want to regularize more input from your reports somehow? How do you support your staff, and are there areas you’d like to do more in? Those would be helpful whether this comment was referring to you or not, and they don’t have to happen immediately–they’re about improving your managing practice, not dealing with a response to an online comment.

          1. MOAS*

            More broadly, I think it’s okay to use this moment to reflect on your own managerial practices–do you want to regularize more input from your reports somehow? How do you support your staff, and are there areas you’d like to do more in? Those would be helpful whether this comment was referring to you or not, and they don’t have to happen immediately–they’re about improving your managing practice, not dealing with a response to an online comment.

            Yes this is really helpful. Thank you.

    2. Sparkelle*

      Ask, “Is there anything I can be doing to better support you in being successful in your role?” However, be prepared that if what you hear is something reasonable and actionable, you need to do it. If it involves advocating up the chain for them (within reason) then you need to do it.

    3. Kathenus*

      It can be hard for people to be honest about this, but sometimes you can draw out good information with specific framing of the question. First, though, is to make sure that you are always modeling an environment where you are open to feedback, positive and constructive. And make sure if you are going to specifically ask for open feedback that you take it positively, no matter what it is, so that people feel safe and comfortable being honest.

      For framing the question, it’s sometimes helpful to ask people to give examples of two things that they think are your strengths, and two areas where you can improve. This specific request for both positive and constructive feedback gives people the ‘freedom’, for lack of a better word, to actually say what they think could be better. And asking for a specific number also can help people versus it being more vague or open ended.

      And when you do get feedback, take some time to digest it before taking any actions or responses. Then you can build a lot of respect from your team if you follow up with them later and say something like – ‘thanks for providing the feedback on my management, I’ve taken your information to heart and here are one or two specific things I’m going to be working on to continue to improve’. Ask for their help by continuing to give feedback on how well you’re doing in these specific areas, both in the moment and with some follow ups later.

      Good on you to want to pursue this, but try to think of it as a good way to open communication and continue to improve in your skills, not just as a way to deal with this specific situation and worry you have. It’s a skill that can help you for years to come if you get to the point where teams feel comfortable having open dialogues in this area. Good luck.

      1. carrots and celery*

        Most people are going to be really uncomfortable giving their managers areas where they can improve, though. I’ve had managers ask it of me and my coworkers and no one was ever comfortable being honest, even when the manager in question was generally positive or open to feedback.

        Ask for their help by continuing to give feedback on how well you’re doing in these specific areas, both in the moment and with some follow ups later.

        I disagree with this. It’s going to create a weird dynamic if a manager keeps telling their employees updates on their situation or keeps asking for additional feedback about the issues they’re trying to improve. Employees should recognize the changes by a manager’s actions, and verbal follow ups could quickly get annoying and actually lead into the neediness and validation OP is trying to avoid. I’d start avoiding any boss who acted like this since it’s not on me to manage their issues and provide them with constant feedback on how they’re progressing. That’s for their manager to handle.

        1. fposte*

          Yes, I agree. It’s different if it’s part of a company-wide protocol, with structures and formats all in place, like a regular 360 review, but this isn’t that; this would be an individual effort and it’s born out of a personal discomfort, which shouldn’t become a staff problem to solve.

    4. Nous allons, vous allez, ils vont*

      Other people have responded with some good advice, but I’d like to add this:

      It sounds like you’re taking this review quite personally without any confirmation that it’s about you. As others have said, being a manager means that not everyone is going to like you. But in this specific scenario, you don’t know for certain that you were criticized at all. And even if you were, unless your direct reports or supervisor are bringing up issues with your managerial style; or your team is struggling/disharmonious/underperforming/etc., a negative online review is not something you should be focusing your energy on.

      1. MOAS*

        You’re right, there’s no confirmation it’s me–it’s my own insecurity. I definitely do not want this to negatively impact my team, so I’m hoping just talking it out is nipping it in the bud.

        I was moved up to this position in May so I consider myself still very new to this all. My team is 2 people; they are doing well and get along. The team’s numbers are good and I’ve tried to show that I’m very receptive to feedback and helping them with what I can.

        I think I just needed to talk/write my thoughts out to channel this energy productively.

        1. Nous allons, vous allez, ils vont*

          Talking things out can be very helpful! You just want to be careful that you’re not obsessing over/ fixating on things. But I understand that it is easy to feel insecure when you’re in a new job title, especially if you’ve never had managerial experience before

      2. MOAS*

        I know I shouldn’t take anything personally but when someone who was friendly to you might be saying you’re an idiot — it’s hard not to take it personally. My team is not like that, at least I don’t think they are.

        1. Natalie*

          might be

          Aside from having fixated on it, you really don’t have any strong reason to think this is about you at all.

        2. Nous allons, vous allez, ils vont*

          “but when someone who was friendly to you might be saying you’re an idiot”

          But again, you don’t know this was about you. There is no evidence to indicate that. They MIGHT be saying you’re an idiot. Or they might be talking about someone else entirely. Or maybe it IS about you but they were just frustrated that day and wrote something they didn’t mean. Or someone else entirely wrote it. There a ton of possibilities that don’t include them and everyone on your team secretly resenting you.

        3. JSPA*

          Eh, everyone’s an idiot in some way, looking from the right (or wrong) angle.

          If you feel you’re a terrible fit for a particular job–if your job is always rubbing up against something that’s hugely harder for you than it is for most people, and it’s not making good use of the ways you’re talented–then you have to decide whether it’s worth putting in outsided efforts to work your way, by brute force, to a place where you can adequately produce a reasonable facimile of average competence in that thing. Could be yes, could be no. (Also depends whether another job is likely to fit better, or not.)

          But, “this person’s weaknesses and my weaknesses add up to them not feeling I’m competent in some way” is just…something that happens. You could be the best manager ever, and this would still happen. But your job isn’t paying you to be “the best ever.” They’re paying you to do the job decently. Bonus for also being a decent person, in the process. But straining for evidence of perfection is just going to run you and your people ragged.

    5. She's One Crazy Diamond*

      I don’t think you can directly ask them about your performance, but at your 1:1s, you can certainly ask them if there is anything they need that they haven’t been getting from you, or if they have any concerns they’d like to address with you. Now, because of the power dynamic, they might not be completely honest with you, but if you’re a good listener and haven’t violated their trust before, they might open up.

    6. Denise*

      I think it’s beneficial for managers to at least ask themselves if they are doing well. Your higher ups aren’t going to know what it’s like to be managed by you.

      At the same time, it sounds like you’re approaching this from a place of insecurity and seeking validation that you really are good enough because you’re worried that you aren’t. (If you weren’t at least somewhat concerned that the comments from the former employee validly described you, you wouldn’t be worried about them, especially since you don’t know that they are about you at all). Approaching your direct reports from a place of self-doubt isn’t going to work.

      But if you do want to ensure that you’re doing well as a manager, just focus on asking your team if they would change anything about the team dynamic or if they need anything more or different from you to do their work well. Basically make it about the job and about what your reports need from you, but not about yourself.

    7. MOAS*

      Ok so super quick update haha. My boss & I actually sat down with the person on my team that we’re planning to promote. We had actually planned to talk to him before this happened b/c our evals are taking way too long and we wanted to let him know preemptively that we appreciate him. It went well I think. Alot of the things said here were said in the meeting–if ther’es anything that we can do here to help them do their job better, please don’t hesitate to come to us. And there is track record to prove this. We scheduled regular check-ins and made it very clear that we are always here to listen to their feedback & concerns, and that we want him to be transparent with us. He was really appreciative, and all in all I think it was a productive and good conversation.

      1. JSPA*

        That’s great! Sounds like the process works. That should get you (and the team members, and everyone else) over any momentary crises of confidence. Or overheard trash-talk, for that matter.

    8. The Other Dawn*

      I think you can ask this of your team only in certain circumstances. For example, at my previous company I went through a leadership training program. One of our tasks was to get feedback from our direct reports. It was optional, but I love feedback regardless of whether it’s good or bad so I jumped right in. I asked my senior person to talk with the others (there were five direct reports total) and to put together something. I told her it can be completely anonymous and they don’t have to participate if they’re uncomfortable. What I got back was a Word doc with their comments, no names attached. They were great, constructive comments. I took them to heart and made some improvements, which helped them and made me feel good about myself. But the only reason I asked them for feedback was because it was an assignment as part of my training.

      Another instance in which I think it’s OK to ask is when things are not going well and you’re just can’t figure out what’s going on.

      I think asking when there’s no evidence of any issues (and there doesn’t appear to be) runs the risk of making you appear very insecure in your role as a manager and you could undermine yourself.

      My advice here is to work on your self-confidence. I mean REALLY work on it. I say that as someone who has felt quite insecure at times over the years, and as someone who has a direct report with self-confidence issues (she is also a manager). It totally undermines her at times and as a result, people don’t take her seriously and tend to try to work around her because they don’t want to manage her feelings–and they shouldn’t have to manage them. We’ve had some good talks and I’ve offered to help where I can, but those changes need to come from within her. It’s not really something that can be accomplished through a one-day seminar. It can help, but this is something for which therapy would be useful and probably and more appropriate solution. Self-confidence, to some extent, comes from experience, too.

      1. MOAS*

        I liked how it was framed above — keep communication open, be receptive to feedback etc. I was hired to do a job of managing my team, not the other way around. I’m not going around asking my team “hey am I doing good?” but I know there was a professional way to frame this and that’s why I asked here. I’m glad I did.

        I do like what your company did and I do wish our company would do some kind of management training for new managers. We frequently promote from within–when new people begin (in entry or mid levels) we provide them with a very thorough training. It would be a good idea to have something similar for managers who are newly promoted.

      1. fposte*

        That’s an appropriate series of questions for your own manager, but I wouldn’t ask it of my staff, at least not in those words. Managing isn’t just doing what your staff wants, and this frames it as if it is. It’s fine to ask if there are processes and practices they find valuable or those they have questions about or those that they think might be improved on, but a straight out “What do you want me to do?” question isn’t for reports to answer, and it’s a pretty awkward thing to be asked by a manager.

    9. 867-5309*

      When I wanted feedback, I asked my manager to do a skip-level with my direct reports. Usually around annual review time. It was a natural forum for it and my manager could share general themes with me. I also made it clear to my team that I wanted us to have a feedback-rich culture, which meant everyone should be able to share constructive feedback with each other, including me.

    10. JSPA*

      If you gave in to your fear, you’d perhaps risk becoming the sort of manager that was being talked about. But you already know you’ll proceed by promoting the people who deserve to be promoted, and by trusting them to make good decisions. That should be the core reassurance that you in fact are at no risk of being that sort of manager. While you’re at it, staying away from Glass Door might be smart; you’re not doing yourself any favors by reading, if you’re in a state where you’re tempted to project, fill in blanks, or take things personally.

      Plenty of people are BFF’s with folks whom they love, but whose failings they understand all too well. Even if the line was about you, that’s a big, old “So What?”

      Someone who was not good at their job was let go. Someone who likes them a lot is still there. Fine–So What? That happens all the time.

      I’ve worked with lovely people who were not great at that particular job, and people have worked with me at jobs where I was not particularly great. We did plenty of bellyaching at the time (blessedly before blogs and job reviews were a thing). We did not try to shaft each others’ boss, out of some misplaced sense of loyalty. We didn’t generally think ill of them, either.

      I can think of a couple of people I would trust with my life, but I would not hire to build a porch or write code for me (their respective jobs). Those things are, and should be, separable. Keeping that separation firmly in mind may help. Keeping people in a job they do badly isn’t great for them, either; you keep and promote people out of decency and out of appreciation for their abilities, not because of who likes whom. And you’re allowed to be pissy when fired, even if you’re not the best person for the job.

      And FWIW, if you do eventually leave or get fired, this will almost certainly not be because you did not create adequate personal connections or manage your team members’ emotions or make them all like you personally.

    11. MOAS*

      Thank you everyone for the responses <3. I got slammed with work later in the afternoon so didn't get much chance to come back lol. I know I was fixating on this too much but it helped to talk it out and get the feedback here.

  32. Tigger*

    Hi guys! If you have been giving advice to me these past few weeks because I was so burnt out cause my boss has been out of office during the busy season thank you! He is out again today because the weather is nice. I have finally caught up on most things (pulling 12 hour days! Yay!) but my boss told me that he and other leaders at the main office are disappointed in me for not stepping up enough during his vacations and other time away. This doesn’t ring true to be based on conversations I had with the other leaders and the fact that I was given a raise based on my performance on my 1 year anniversary in June. Is there a tactful way to ask the other leaders if this is true?

      1. SezU*

        Could you frame it as coming from you (not from boss)? Reach out and ask if there are any areas where a different level of assistance or coverage would have been helpful during this time? You can make it more about the position (yours) than the person (you). Sort of an after action type email?

        1. JSPA*

          yep-

          “Hi all, it was a busy July–now that the mad scramble is over, and the essentials are covered, I wanted to check if there’s anything I’ve lost track of that’s at risk of falling through the cracks. Any updates or feedback would also be great. Thanks.”

          If you’re as great as you sound, this may end up as fishing for back pats (but that’s OK, you’re doing it for the right reaons). I concur with the likelihood that this is a big joke / boss is impressed / you’ve got a mini attack of imposter syndrome / it’s all good. But if there’s anything left unfinished, this should roust it out.

    1. Interplanet Janet*

      Are you certain his comment wasn’t a joke? Like funny because it’s so obviously not true?

      I think I would send email to whichever leader you feel most comfortable with and just say, “Before he left, Boss made a comment that made me think there might be concerns about my performance. He’s not in today, and I wondered if you’d have time for a quick phone conversation with me. If there’s something I need to be doing differently I definitely want to know about it and address it immediately.”

  33. Pamplemeow*

    How do y’all deal with telemarketing/solicitation calls at work?

    I work for a small business with 12ish employees. I recently got roped into being the person who answers the main office phone (which deserves its own post at a later date) and I’m already tired of these calls. I’d say anywhere from 50% – 70% of daily calls are either robocalls (easy enough to deal with, since I just hang up) or solicitors (much more annoying to deal with, since I don’t want to be rude but also don’t want to waste time talking to them).

    How do you deal with solicitors and let them know that we don’t want new internet/phones/whatever without the conversation going on too long or being rude? Also, is it normal to get so many robocalls?

    1. Jasmine*

      I engage them in increasingly silly conversations. A few years ago we had a spate of a few dozen a day from some scammy energy company, and I starting telling them that I was doing a poll of telemarketers’ favourite animals. Zebras won. Of course, there was also the time that I snapped and asked the guy if his mum was proud of what he did for a living. He hung up, and then 5 minutes later someone phoned back and said that I’d made his colleague cry. I pointed out that maybe they should take me off the list like I’d asked and I wouldn’t be able to do it again. It worked, for a while…

      1. Thatlady*

        I understand the compulsion to do something like this, I do. But I think it’s important to remember that on the other end of the phone is an actual person just trying to do their job. Yes, robocalls are annoying. Ask to be taken off the list and either keep repeating that or hang up if they call again. Makes no sense to be rude to someone who is just trying to make a living.

        1. Makes sense to me.*

          Sorry up-front for all the words. I feel *very* strongly about this. : )

          Their choice to “make a living” by trying to scam me/my business out of legitimately earned money or information or time doesn’t exactly compel me NOT to be rude. In fact, it kind of does the opposite.

          * they will tell me I have a warrant out for my arrest. They are banking on an irrational emotional reaction from me that will work in their favor.
          * they will tell me this is the LAST CHANCE to renew my car insurance (?)
          * they threaten me with fake “debt”. Uh, no?
          * they HANG UP ON ME! Before talking! Before I’ve even had the CHANCE to mess with them!

          If you are polite to me, I am polite to you, but I’m still going to hang up.
          If the crux of your job requires you to repeatedly, aggressively, condescendingly waste my time, or to miss an actual business call, I’m going to attempt to make myself laugh at the expense of your time and energy. You just attempted to make yourself some money at the expense of MY time and energy, so why not?

          1. Makes sense to me.*

            If it counts for anything (though I doubt it, judging by how adverse to the idea of jerking around jerks most of yall seem), lately I’m trying to turn to humor rather than spite – because I actually, really, LOATHE these bottom-feeders. They know what they are doing. They know that it’s wrong. They don’t care. And they got me involved – I didn’t seek out to be an awful human, in this scenario; the throne was thrust upon me. (Added plus, if I make them laugh, we both get to go home and have a shot and a chuckle. Win-win. And if they decide this is a stupid way to “earn” money, double win for me. Plus, I always could have been worse – so it’s already an automatic win for them. I could have just blown into the receiver until they hang up.)

            Some of my less-vitriolic options?:
            * tell them they really need to talk to Mr. Wayne, and then start talking in Batman voice.
            * play dumb. “What’s a business owner? Okay, and how do you spell that?”
            * “I’m pretty sure they’re married. But I’m ‘available’… what are you wearing?”
            * I pretend I think they are a recording with pre-programmed responses, and demand they sing me a complete song as proof before we go any further.
            * just keep saying “okay” and “sounds good,” but don’t actually transfer or say anything else.
            * “Okay I’ll transfer you, but first will you pray silently with me?”
            * “Got plans this weekend?”
            * “Want to hear about my plans?”
            * transfer the call to our fax machine (not really funny for them – oh well.)
            * “Wow, great timing. Have I got a business opportunity for YOU! I just need a bank account number and PIN. YOU IN!?”
            * hum. I just hum.
            * test your endurance by putting you on hold….. ……………….. …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
            * transfer the call to a different number. Like this one: 1-877-FTC-HELP
            * bad jokes: “Did you hear the one about the zombie telemarketer? They say he was a DEAD RINGER.”

            Some of these gave me a laugh/inspiration:
            https://www.inc.com/kevin-daum/21-funny-and-effective-ways-to-shut-down-telemarketers.html

            For what it’s worth, I get what yall mean; basically don’t be rude for rudeness’ sake.

            I *don’t* get not messing with someone who is doing something illegal, thinks it’s a good enough way to earn money and expects zero consequences of interacting with people in such a reprehensible and irresponsible way, and above all, has it coming because they started it and I’m not required to be, nor do I get satisfaction out of being, the bigger person in every single aspect of life. You may think differently, and I respect that. But, I’m just a flawed person who needs to get my kicks, too. I see what they are doing as an absolute attack and a prolific problem. I can’t state my belief on this enough; they absolutely have it coming.

          2. JSPA*

            Some of them are prisoners on work release (a form of de facto parole tied to employment, and sometimes to a particular employer) or as a condition of probation. They literally do not have a choice. And that’s just the ones calling from the US–there are places where it’s worse than that. A chipper, “Hi, put us on your do not call list, bye” (speaking over their spiel) takes even less time.

            1. Makes sense to me.*

              But it’s ineffective. Making myself laugh, is not.

              Did you miss where I said, if you are polite to me, I am polite to you? I thought it was clear we were talking about a) too-aggressive telemarketers, or b) people who are engaging in *current* criminal activity by trying to scam me/my company, not legitimate businesses. I make minimum wage to answer the phone. I’m not laughing at them from some high and mighty perch. It’s not like I’m cussing people out, or trying to ruin their day with an offhand comment about their current career choice/station in life/whatever.

              You can be a telemarketer. You can be a criminal. You can be someone who was falsely accused, but spent time in prison and are now trying to make a living, albeit in a bottom-feeding, dishonest kind of way.
              You can’t be a jerk to me with zero lash back.

              I had a follow-up comment with some of the funnier options I have thought of, but it disappeared into the internet when I pressed submit.

              Like,
              “No I think they are married. But I am available; what are you wearing?”

              “Oh for that you need to speak with Mr. Wayne.” *goes into Batman voice*

              *You called just in time! There’s a Prince overseas with a great opportunity, and if you give me your full name and bank account number, we can split the proceeds!”

      2. Cows go moo*

        Wow. If you don’t want to engage, you can say no thanks and hang up.

        I’m not sure what’s worse. That you caused pain to another human or that you think causing pain to another human is amusing.

      3. Tom & Johnny*

        You’re getting a lot of pushback here but I completely understand where you’re coming from.

        I ask to be removed from their lists, and ask to wait on the phone while they confirm to me they are removing me from their lists.

        If they can’t or won’t do that, then make someone cry.

    2. L.S. Cooper*

      Once I’ve determined someone is trying to sell me something, I cut them off with my firmest “stern teacher voice”, which is icy, carefully enunciated, and quite smooth, and say something like “I’m not interested in X product. If I ever am, I will contact companies first, but I will not be contacting you, because you have waisted my time. Do not contact me again. Goodbye.”
      And then the phone goes down. It’s a liiiittle rude, sure, but they were rude first, with their unsolicited calls.

      1. Nous allons, vous allez, ils vont*

        Telemarketers are people too, and they are literally just doing their jobs. If you want to use your “stern teacher voice” on someone, use it on the companies who employ them.

        1. Tom & Johnny*

          Which she did. By using it with the telemarketer who called her from that company, as a representative of that company.

          After your company gets on certain lists, especially lists that seem to get sold to particularly scummy companies, this is the only way to communicate it clearly and effectively.

          By the same token that telemarketers are people working jobs too, well telemarketers can get other jobs too. “But economic uncertainty and stuff!” Yes. Both are oversimplifications of the facts and pressures at hand.

    3. KR*

      I tell solicitors/telemarketers that they have called a business and I’m not authorized to speak with them or purchase anything. Jokes on them as I literally am in purchasing but they don’t know that.

    4. Joielle*

      I think as long as you’re not actively mean, hanging up on a solicitor isn’t horribly rude. I don’t want to waste my time or theirs. Personally, as soon as I realize it’s an unsolicited sales call, I jump in and say “oh sorry, I’m not interested” and then hang up. If the same one has called a few times, I’ll say “I’m not interested and I don’t want to receive these calls anymore, could you please take me off your list? Thanks” and then hang up. Rarely, if they persist after that, I’ll resort to calling a solicitor back and having a stern conversation about taking me off the list.

      Alternatively, can you just… not answer the phone? I don’t get many phone calls at work anymore, but when I did, I’d let everything go to voicemail unless I recognized the number, and just not call back solicitors.

      1. LSC*

        Another option, in case you don’t want to let every call go to voicemail and assuming you have caller ID, is to google unrecognized phone numbers as soon as the phone starts ringing. Not all spam/robocall numbers are online, but plenty of them are.

        If you are quick enough, you can do this within the first couple of rings and still have time to answer the call if it appears to be legit.

    5. Amber Rose*

      Just be firm. “I’m sorry, we’re not interested. Have a nice day.” And hang up without waiting for a response. You don’t need to argue with them.

      I’ve been doing this for five years, if you’re not at least that firm half your day will be wasted arguing with them. As for robocalls, yes, that’s the new normal, due to a lapsing law about it. Google it sometime, it’s pretty interesting actually.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, this is key–novices want to wait until the caller agrees with them before hanging up. You can be perfectly chirpy, even, if you like, when you say your closing line, but it’s up to you to close.

      2. Natalie*

        Absolutely. I didn’t even say that much – just “No, thank you” before hanging up – but I wasn’t a great receptionist so this may or may not be good advice.

    6. lemon*

      You can just tell them you’re not interested, and ask them to take your phone number off their list. In the US, they’re legally required to do so if you request it. Don’t feel bad about being rude– they’re used to it. And often, *they’re* being rude, because a lot of telemarketers try to push past the first “no,” and keep pressuring you for info.

    7. Policy Wonk*

      If it is something that is not business related – e.g., life insurance, I just tell them this is a business line and I am not allowed to conduct personal business on it, wish them a good day, and hang up. (I do not give them time to respond – that just encourages them!)
      If it is business related, but you aren’t interested anyway, more or less the same: I am not interested, good day, hang up.

    8. Glomarization, Esq.*

      “I’m sorry” (I’m not sorry, it’s social lubricant) “but we’re not taking any new vendors at this time. Thank you, good afternoon.” Then I hang up. It’s not rude.

    9. Jules the 3rd*

      Set them up for legal repercussions.
      1) Get their org name (“Oh, who are you with again?”)
      2) Tell them to stop calling (“Please put this number on your Do Not Call list. Include the entire X company.”) (They usually hang up on me around ‘this number’ but it counts)
      3) Document Org, Date, Time – write it down. Leave room for hash marks after.
      4) Every time they call back, confirm the org name, tell them “We asked to be put on your Do Not Call list on X date. We will start legal proceedings now.”

      I never get a third call from the same orgs. But if you do, file complaints on the org with the FTC, or if your company is interested in making this an income stream, search “ABC do not call list suit” for some suggestions.

      1. Clever Name*

        This works for legitimate businesses who are cold calling/telemarketing. Unfortunately, lots of the calls I get are scam calls. As in they have spoofed a local number and are trying to get my social security number or extort money (like the IRS scam calls). I’ve been getting some kind of weird “we’re calling about your job application” phone calls lately, and I assume it’s some sort of scam as I haven’t applied for jobs in years. The first time they called I thought it might be a wrong number, so I asked who they were calling for. The guy repeatedly said, “This is soandso calling from scammymcscammer” when I asked who they were trying to reach. It was weird.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Oh, yeah, get rude af. ‘This is a business, we don’t do personal calls to this number, don’t call back.’

    10. Fortitude Jones*

      At my last job, I just let the phone ring, lol. I’m now getting these same annoying robo calls from telemarketers on my work issued cell phone, and I do the same thing, then block them. I never engage.

    11. carrots and celery*

      Honestly I just hang up on them. It feels rude but they’re more than likely used to it if they’re cold calling. It’s no different than how I mark solicitors sending emails as spam and delete them without a second thought.

    12. Applesauced*

      the worst is headhunters who have the gall to call you at work to ask if you’re interested in another job.

    13. MoopySwarpet*

      When I had time, I would explain to them how our business works and why we don’t need their particular service. Then, I went the “I’ve told 3 people from your company we don’t need this in the last week. Why are you wasting my time and yours?” route. Then, I started wasting their time to a significant level with no payoff at the end.

      Now, I transfer them to an unattended extension where they can leave a message (or not). This has been, by far, the most effective solution. I do ask enough questions to be sure they aren’t legit services we’re already using or potentially interested in, but the janitors, hotels, trucking, magazines, office supplies, etc. all get the “One moment, please” transfer to a dead end extension. Once in a while they will call right back and tell me there’s no answer. “I’m sorry, they must have stepped away from their desk, you’ll have to leave a message.” Transfer.

      1. Pamplemeow*

        We have an unattended extension too and I’ve thought about doing the same exact thing

        1. WellRed*

          Ouir company does this. The extension even has a name, as in, “Fergus handles that. Let me transfer you.”

          1. MoopySwarpet*

            I might add that to my transfer. Then when someone calls and asks directly for Fergus, I’ll know it’s BS. lol

    14. anonymoushiker*

      I get these calls and I have *some* influence over the things they’re calling about-technology related services/products but not final decision-makers. I usually default to “We’re happy with what we have right now, thank you.” That’s usually enough to get them to end the call (Rather than me hanging up on them) but if it isn’t, I say thank you and hang up.

    15. Artemesia*

      I don’t get why you are concerned about rudeness in this situation. No one has to listen to an unsolicited sales call. when I get them at home and answer the phone I just say ‘I don’t do business with unsolicited vendors, thank you’ and hang up. Or ‘I am not interested, please remove my name from your list’ and hang up.

      At the front desk it is ‘We don’t do business with unsolicited vendors, have a good day’ and then hang up. You don’t have to engage in conversation.

      1. Pamplemeow*

        I guess I just feel bad for the people making the calls. They’re just trying to make a living, probably paid barely anything, and doing what I personally would consider my nightmare job (making calls to people who are going to be rude to you all day? That’s a big ol’ nope).

        1. Tom & Johnny*

          You can feel bad for them, and still be firm and matter-of-fact.

          Think about it this way – they are evaluated based on their calls to sales metrics. Staying on the phone longer with them, when you already know you’re not going to buy anything, wastes time they would be using to make other calls and does a disservice to their metrics.

          It’s better for them if you are clear about the fact they will make no sales with you that day, and release them to make other calls. I mean, don’t say it exactly in those words. Just be factual and let the call go.

          I have told callers, “I understand you have metrics on appointments made but I am NOT making an appointment with you for a sales pitch today. You can email me at name@company.com” But ONLY and I stress ONLY if I am actually interested in hearing further about the product. Which is about 1 time in 50.

    16. ...*

      Yes v normal to get robocalls those I just always hang up on. I haven’t read the other answers so I might come off harsh here but with solictation I just say no we’re not interested and we request you not contact us any further. Then they give a rebuttal and I say no, there is no one else to speak to and we are not able to forward you to any other party, please remove us from your list.

    17. New Normal*

      “Thank you, we’re not in the market for that right now but thank you again for calling and have a wonderful day!” And hang up. That’s how I handle it for my current small business. Super cheerful and just act like you were the one calling and wrapping up the conversation. I think just taking the lead, giving the ‘ending call’ script, and being nice but not open help a lot. We do get a few repeat calls but not many. And robocalls are HORRIBLE though (silver lining?) I don’t feel bad for hanging up on them.

      I miiiiight have had more fun with them when I worked with Big Company. It was a Fortune 500 and a veeeeery well-known brand so I always thought it funny when someone would call into our tiny branch of the whole and swear they could offer us better healthcare or such. One very persistent and earnest-sounding young man was starting up his website business and wanted to know if we wanted to switch from our own internal department employing I-don’t-even-know-how-many people to him. Just him. I don’t think he ever really understood why I wouldn’t transfer him to my manager (who has NOTHING to do with IT beyond calling them when things break) and just advised him to stick to maybe slightly smaller businesses with his cold-calling.

    18. MeganTea*

      With solicitors, I’m rude. I say something along the lines of, “Thank you, but we’re not interested,” and hang up. It gets the message across (for the most part) that calling us again would be a waste of their time.

    19. Mellow*

      I used to get calls that asked for a name that doesn’t exist where I work. Right after I hang up, I’d get another four or five calls of the same kind in an hour or less. Word get around, I guess.

      I requested and received a new phone that shows the number of the person calling. If I don’t recognize the area code, I just let it ring. If I do pick up and find myself trapped in another scam call, I say “Sure, just a moment,” and play the sound of a toilet flushing from a website I have at the ready.

      Those calls have subsided substantially.

    20. Dancing Otter*

      My father got fed up with calls from a basement waterproofing company that wouldn’t take “I don’t need it” as an answer. So he finally let them send someone out for an in-person quote.
      Our house was built on a slab.
      We never heard from them again.

  34. AwkwardTurtle*

    I am doing an interview next week without a job description. I applied to a position in March for a “Technical Research Analyst” role and my application got transferred to a different “Project Analyst” position that is no longer up on their website. I have already asked for a JD from the person handling correspondence but they said that my interviewer will go into more detail about what the role consists of. I have reviewed their website, the interviewer’s profile, her research projects, and talked via a friend to a former employee. I’m also preparing answers to standard interview questions and my own questions to ask the interviewer. I could ask for a JD again but worry that could be a mark against me. What else can I do in this situation?

    1. irene adler*

      Look up the LI profiles of those who hold the job title Project Analyst at this company. See what backgrounds they have.
      ARe there any on-line reviews of the company- Glassdoor, Indeed, and the like?

      Be ready for the interviewer to grab anything from your resume, and then ask, “tell me about skill X, here on your resume.”

      1. AwkwardTurtle*

        Thanks for the tips! I did look at reviews on Glassdoor and Indeed but they only gave a general idea of the company.

    2. MoopySwarpet*

      The problem might be that the person you are corresponding with doesn’t realize you haven’t seen any job description for the position and thinks you’re asking for more details or clarification. If the last correspondence was just that the interviewer would go into more detail, I don’t think it would be annoying to send one more email telling them that since the listing is no longer on the website, you don’t even have the basic job description.

      It sounds like you’ve covered enough bases that you’ll be fine in the interview itself. If the opportunity presents itself, you could bring it up early in the interview (like if they ask why you want the job) and just tell them what you wrote here. “I applied to a position in March for a “Technical Research Analyst” role and my application got transferred to this position, which is no longer on the website. I asked for a copy of the JD, but I think there might have been a misunderstanding in what I was actually asking for. I do know that . . . ” and then mention what you like about the company/mission/general analyst work/etc.

      Good luck!!

    3. JSPA*

      some sites are cached well enough that you can do a “search as of date” and maybe find the listing. google “how to browse an old version of a website” and find one that matches your browser and OS.

      Sometimes you can find it by putting the job title, date and company name (each) in quotes.

  35. I am Samuel*

    Happy Friday everyone! I’m new to working in management and a possible issue has come up with one of my employees. I don’t know if this is something I should leave alone or if I need to do something about it.

    The industry we work in provides support to clients. Similar to a call centre but not really. As such, we have to be available during business hours. We are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. We are not open on weekends and holidays. Also some of the information we handle is confidential so we aren’t allowed to bring work home or anywhere outside of the building. We don’t have company issued phone or laptops and can’t access work, voicemail or email outside of the office. This is to ensure the privacy of our clients and to follow the laws around having the kind of information we have.

    Since we support clients, employees have to be here at 9 a.m. and can’t be late or have an earlier or later start time. Home time is at 5 p.m. because after that there are no clients to help. We aren’t open on weekends, holidays or outside the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays because there aren’t any clients to help and therefore no work. This is for all who work here, including management and executives.

    Everyone (including management and executives) are hourly, not salaried. We all start at 9 a.m. on the dot and leave at 5 p.m. on the dot. Due to laws here around breaks, half of us take unpaid lunch from 12:30 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. and the other half from 1:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. If it’s not lunch and you are not using the washroom, it is expected you will be at your desk or otherwise doing work. It’s the nature of the industry, very in-your-seat/working in the office. We don’t have all company meetings and smaller meetings about client stuff are rare, short and done in the building. There is no travel, site vists or conferences. Work is done in the office. Since we can’t offer things like working from home or flex-time, the industry standard is to offer at least 15 days off for new employees with increases from there and unlimited sick time (no comments on use unless there is suspected abuse). Days off cab be taken in full or half days only, not by the hour (ie coming in one hour later or leaving for an hour in the day due to an appointment). There is also an industry standard where everyone takes one full week off once a year that isn’t part of your days off to help with fraud detection.

    When I became a manager 11 months ago I moved to a new company. I inherited an existing team, with one new person who started at the same time I did and was hired by the old manager and his boss. The new hire is professional, well liked and works hard. I have never had an issue until now.

    Last week the new hire came to me with a presentation/business case. She asked that she be allowed to have a later start time (11:00 a.m. or noon) and as such a later home time. She also wants to be able to skip her unpaid lunch and leave 30 minutes earlier. She wants to work from home and be allowed to “flex” her time (ie work 5 hours one day and 11 hours the next to make up the time). She had a booklet, a PowerPoint and a presentation she wanted to give me to make her case. She said it took her months to put together. She had charts and stats and all kinds of stuff.

    I am floored she thinks this is possible in our industry. I realize this is her first full-time after college and second job ever but she has worked here for 11 months. She has had all the training. She was told and knows why we have set start and end times, why there’s no overtime or working on weekends or holidays, why days off are in half day (before or after lunch) and full days only, and why work can’t be done outside of the office.

    I was shocked when she came to me with this. I have never had a problem with her or her work but given she is so touch of touch with how things are done industry wide I am wondering if I missed something. I am not sure if I need to talk with her or leave this alone. I’m also not sure if this is something I need to discuss with my boss. He has only worked here for under a month and I don’t know his style well enough to know if he would get her in trouble even if this isn’t actually something I need to worry about.

    I also don’t want to speak to another manager outside of my team because I don’t want to violate my reports privacy by talking about her with other managers. My employee said this was for her work life balance, not a medical or ADA accommodation. But even a medical or ADA is not possible because of the laws around us and how the industry works. I don’t know why she thinks she can make these changes as an new employee when even managers and execs don’t get these things. After 11 months you think it would be clearing, especially with the training she got when she started.

    Is this something I should talk to her about. Bring to my boss? Or leave alone. I’ve never had an issue with her work, neither did my old boss so I’m not sure where all this came from.

    1. Wearing Many Hats*

      You should respond to her and let her know that due to the nature of the business and industry, this is not possible. This may or may not be a concern, but she is probably a flight risk given this request. You should let your boss know that you had this conversation with her just so it can be documented–you don’t want her complaining to higher ups that you won’t listen to her and have a mark against you. It sounds like her work has been good and she hasn’t created any issues in the past, but I’ve dealt with too many people who love drama!

    2. Ali G*

      What did you say to her in the moment? I think you just need to politely shut it down, give your boss a head’s up and then watch for any other red flags. Keep in mind she will likely move on if she’s that committed to having a flexible schedule.

    3. Amtelope*

      It does sound like it’s a request that’s out of step with how your industry works, but I wouldn’t penalize the employee for asking if she accepts being told “no.” And I don’t see a reason to involve your boss. I would tell her clearly “What you’ve requested isn’t possible. Our hours aren’t flexible, and because of the nature of our work, that isn’t going to change.” If she accepts that, then I think that’s all you need to do. If she continues pushing, it’s time for “These are the hours for this role. Knowing that, is this still a job you want?”

      1. Artemesia*

        When someone makes an elaborate case for something and you turn it down, you MUST alert your own boss as this is someone who will be end running you and you want your ducks lined up on this. Worst case would be a newish boss who decides to ‘think outside the box’ on this and leave you hanging. The boss always needs a head up for anything that might blind side him or her.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          This. You aren’t “violating your report’s privacy” by explaining to your boss that the report is asking for impossible benefits as the report said this is NOT a request for ADA accommodation but a personal request for better work/life balance. She is very, very invested in this happening and I agree that it will not stop with you even after you tell her it’s not possible (and you should, immediately and clearly).

          I mean, she had a booklet. A booklet. She really should have channeled that extra energy into finding a job that fits her w/l needs, if she hasn’t already.

    4. Joielle*

      I’d start by just telling her no, that’s not possible in this industry for the reasons you outlined in your comment. If she pushes back, I’d say something like “I hear your concerns, but as I said before, because of the nature of our work that’s just not possible. Knowing that, does it make sense for you to stay in this role?” If she really won’t be happy with structured hours, it’s better for her to just find a different job now (and that would be better for you too).

    5. Dust Bunny*

      She’s probably been reading a bunch of stuff about it online.

      You just tell her, no, it’s not possible in this industry/workplace. Which should be obvious if she’s been there for almost a year as it is, which makes this kind of weird. I don’t think you need to escalate it unless she pushes back.

      My job can’t be taken home, either, although I can access email after hours (but am not expected to). Some jobs are just like that. If it’s not working for her, it’s on her to look elsewhere.

    6. Kathenus*

      Previous commenters are all spot on. My only addition is to make sure that all of the things that you describe above about the needs of the position, privacy concerns, etc. are in writing so that everyone knows that they can’t take information out of the office, work at home, etc. If it’s passed on verbally/anecdotally versus in a written format in a protocol or employee handbook, you’ll both have back up for saying a simple no to things like this, and have a written document to point to that the person should already know about, to use as a reminder.

      1. Another Sarah*

        OP needs to have a serious talk with her ASAP. There is training before the job starts and it’s made clear to everyone that there are laws to follow. In addition to the training the fact no one can access work outside of work should be obvious. It’s been 11 months. Even if this is her first job after this much time and all the training she should understand. It has been spelled out and made clear. That she does not get it is worrying. She spent months on her business case for something that can never be. OP needs to loop in their boss as well because of how out there the report was on this.

        1. valentine*

          the fact no one can access work outside of work should be obvious. It’s been 11 months.
          If it’s not in her presentation, I’d say the answer is no, then, for each reason, ask her why she thinks a workaround is possible.I’d be astounded if she thinks you can just exempt her from the security protocol and the fact that you serve clients who aren’t going to go to her house.

          She spent months on her business case for something that can never be.
          This really stood out for me. That’s far, far too long, and not just because her dream was never a possibility.

    7. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      Did you tell her outright “no” when she asked, and did she accept that answer? If she’s accepted it, even if disappointed, I think you can probably just let it go. But if she’s still pushing to give you a presentation on why she should get to do this, then it would be necessary certainly to talk to her and make the situation clear.

      And like…I’m a huge fan of work life balance. But it sounds like, by having no overtime and A MONTH of PTO, that’s sort of a better work life balance than the large number of jobs that expect like 60 hours a week. Now, maybe she needs more flexibility in her life (and maybe your org could see if you could flex like…half an hour to accommodate commute weirdness or child-care pickup), but then that may mean she needs to be in a different field (just like I, with my love of stable schedules will not be going into a field where I’m never “off”)

      1. Kau*

        and maybe your org could see if you could flex like…half an hour to accommodate commute weirdness or child-care pickup

        Did you even read the OP’s at all? They listed all the reasons why flexible time is not possible, and they were very clear on that.

    8. SezU*

      Just to give you some possible background on why she would do this, given the industry…. I tell people that the answer is always no if you don’t ask. So she asked. The answer is clearly no, but she felt she had to ask.

    9. Troutwaxer*

      I’m just speculating here, but I’m wondering whether your report came up with this idea on her own, or whether she is being pressured by a spouse/partner/family to bring this up? (I’ve had similar experiences w/family, so thought I should bring it up.) So you might ask, in the most pleasant manner, what’s going on with this?

    10. Mazzy*

      Don’t be thrown off by the time it took her to do that presentation and stats. If you want to bring that up, you can say that they should be challenging that energy into actual work andn not such out of place requests.

    11. sacados*

      Agree with what all commenters have said. 11 months into the job is a bit long for this, but I think it is more naivety and/or getting advice from career sites without understanding how those techniques really don’t apply in your industry.

      If you wanted to, I think you could also add something (kindly) about how you would have hoped that after nearly a year in the position she would understand why this could never be possible but was there anything unclear and/or something that gave her the impression this was something she might be able to negotiate.

      But I don’t think there’s any need to bring this to your boss, unless something escalates from here.

      1. Blue Boss*

        Agree with commenters saying that this needs to be shut down, however, one possible option might be to offer her the ability to work part time, within the established 9-5 hours.

    12. Elizabeth West*

      I’m struggling to understand why she thinks she needs work-life balance with a Monday-Friday, 9-5 schedule with weekends off. 15 days of PTO for new people, and unlimited sick time.

      It’s not really a demanding schedule even if there were a health/family/partner situation going on, in which case it would make more sense to take FMLA or just look for another job.

      1. C*

        Right?

        It sounds like she might be hearing from others or whatever that work life balance means flexible schedules and WFH when it…doesn’t. A 9-5 job with zero overtime (paid or otherwise) and a month of PTO out of the gate has screaming work-life balance.

      2. Nous allons, vous allez, ils vont*

        Some people really hate being in an office 40 hours a week (me included). 9-5, Mon-Fri may seem like a good deal, but in my opinion it’s only because culturally we tend to work WAY too much. I see 40 hours of my week spent working as a huge waste of time. I don’t think we should work more than 36 hours a week, and even that seems like a lot to me. But I recognize that with our work culture being the way it is, this opinion isn’t a popular one.

        However, this employee does seem pretty out of touch with how her industry works.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          If that’s a thing for her, then she needs to find a job that jibes with it. It’s already been made clear to her that this industry and this position is not that flexible.

          She reminds me of the dress code interns (or shoes, or whatever that was).

          1. Office Gumby*

            That’s exactly what I was thinking! It’s exactly like the dress code interns.

            I am curious as to why she thought flexibility in her schedule was a doable thing. I would love an update on this.

            Also, as she’s gone through so much effort to choreograph a dance (really, a booklet, a ppt and more!?) to present her case, I do think you, OP, should clue in your boss. There’s some serious thought going on in the employee’s head, and after all this sunk cost, I doubt this will be the end of it.

            P.S.: If she does quit, can I have her job?

    13. MissDisplaced*

      Based on what you’ve described here about your work and your industry, deviations from the standard work times are not possible, and not accommodated for anyone.

      In a way, this makes it much easier for you. You can feel free to reject.

      “What you’ve requested is not possible. In this business, our start and stop hours are not flexible, and because of the nature of our work, this is not going to change. If your personal circumstances have changed, that is understandable, but these are the hours this job requires, and knowing that you would have to decide if this is still a job you would want.”

    14. Gumby*

      Clearly the right answer is to say a clear and immediate “no” and warn your boss.

      But I am fascinated by such an out of step request and would start asking all sorts of questions. Like:
      * So you are going to start at noon and presumably work until 8:30. What exactly are you going to be doing between 5 and 8:30?
      * As you know, we cannot remove work data from the building. How do you plan to overcome the lack of work computer, phone, or client data from your home office to do effective work?
      or
      * I see you plan to circumvent the law regarding information security. What is your plan to deal with the consequences of breaking those laws? Have you already engaged your lawyer?

    15. JSPA*

      You don’t have to treat it like a demerit or a sign of her being strange or unaware or strangely unaware. Some jobs that were “absolute” in this way 10 years ago, no longer are. In each case, at some point, things changed. You don’t know if that’s possible unless you ask.

      I would call her in to say that you were sorry to see her have wasted so much time, analysis and initiative on something that’s completely impossible, due to regulations in your industry as well as standard practices in your firm. But first–as you’re in a new firm– re-verify that you are right, and are not merely treating the hard line of your prior company as something required by law, or by your current company.

      Next, especially if you did not look at any of her documentation, ask her to tell you, in two minutes or less, what gave her the idea that this might be possible. If she says that a third competitor does this, and that they use the late hours to service clients in a different time zone, you can say, “thank you for the information, I don’t believe it’s likely to be possible for the forseeable future, but I will bring up this alternative way of doing business with my boss.” If she says, “my friends in another industry did this”? “Well, and now you understand the essential difference between our highly regulated industry and theirs! We have no ability to do this, and I’m afraid it’s a collosal waste of your time to have pulled this data together, without having first considered that one defining fact of our industry.”

      If she’s excellent: “As you know, we have a generous sick leave policy. We trust people not to abuse it. If the stress of the job creates a circumstance where it could affect your mental health to come in, and you therefore–rarely–take an occasional half-day off to re-balance, this would not be an abuse of the system. We however have exactly zero ability to reset your start and end times, and especially, to have someone here past the closing hour.”

      Finally: “Given that this is explicitly covered in training, I’m surprised you thought that this could be open for discussion. I hope that if someone suggested this course of action to you, you will not continue to consider them as a good source of relevant information and guidance. Acting cavalier about something so core to our function is not a good look. Some people would take your request to go around the fraud prevention laws as s priori evidence of improper intent. A one-time mistake of thougtlessness can happen. But I need to know that you understand there’s no room for exceptions in our guidelines, and that you will not be hoping or expecting that some future exception will be made, if you’re good enough or ask for it in the right way. Neither you nor I nor anyone else in this building have that freedom or ability, any more than I could flap my arms and fly to the roof. Nor should we.”

      1. NACSACJACK*

        I would not say this, “any more than I could flap my arms and fly to the roof.” Lets be clear without making weird out of context comments.

    16. The Other Dawn*

      The cynic in me wonders if she’s doing this as a way for her to justify looking for another job. Maybe she wants to move on, but feels guilty, so she’s making a request that she knows won’t be approved. Probably far-fetched, but being that’s she’s been there 11 months and knows how the industry and your company work, this request seems odd.

      I once had someone do something like this and it turned out she did it as a way to justify leaving. Rather than just saying she wants to leave an go to school, she came up with a request, which turned out to be a demand, that she knew wouldn’t fly. And when it didn’t, she gave her notice and said she was going to school and that the work schedule isn’t doable (it boiled down to not wanting to work four hours on a Saturday when that’s what the position required, and it was already a part-time schedule, at that).

  36. darlingpants*

    I just had an interview for a temp-to-perm PhD level position, and I’m curious how people feel about them. My thought in general is they are exploitative ways to keep a contingent workforce working without security or benefits, but also this job looks interesting, I could swing the 90 days without benefits financially and my post-PhD job search has taken way longer than I expected. How do you all think about the pros and cons of a temp-to-perm contract, especially for higher level positions?

    1. Denise*

      It seems to be mostly a question of opportunity cost for you, completely separate from any opinion about the merits or demerits of temp to perm contracts in the abstract. What other opportunities would you be forgoing? If it doesn’t become permanent, will it still further your professional goals? Are the terms of employment satisfactory to you?

      Also, there’s a reason that it’s temp to perm rather than permanent. If anything it seems to signal that they either aren’t sure whether they will need someone in this role longterm or are maybe hesitant to make a permanent hire outright, and so are offering it as a temporary role first. In any event, I’d probably ask whether they anticipate the role becoming permanent and based on what contingencies.

    2. TCO*

      I think it’s important to separate your feelings about the practice as a whole from the reality of whether you are interested in this job and would be able to take it. 90 days doesn’t seem that long to me–it’s similar to some permanent jobs where there’s a probationary period and/or a 1-2 month delay before benefits begin. It doesn’t seem as exploitative as the long-term “temp” jobs that make people live through years of uncertainty and poor compensation (and even those work well for some people!).

    3. Merci Dee*

      Granted, my current position isn’t at a PhD level, but my job was a temp-to-perm arrangement as well. The initial temporary portion of the job was supposed to last 6 months, but I was hired permanently half-way through the temp stage. I’ve been here for just over 9 years now, so it really worked out in my favor.

      The only thing about my job that might be different from what others experienced — I worked as a temp for 3 months before they converted me to a permanent employee, but then I was still treated as being on a 90-day probationary period for certain benefits to comply with company policy. So you might work a temp period, and then still have to wait after you get hired to perm for some of your benefits like 401(k), insurances, etc. to kick in.

  37. Amber Rose*

    Oh man, I need some guilt advice. I made a minor mistake on Monday when I told a customer that we could ship an order that turned out to be complicated so it didn’t go, and then due to some confusion and me forgetting to follow up, it actually didn’t ship until Wednesday. Normally this would have just been me and my own problem, but the owner of said company is apparently now the owner of 40% of our company, both he and his wife (who placed the order) are unreasonable and rude, and my email blew up with a bunch of “everyone complains about you all the time, you’re the worst” type messages, and more importantly, both of them called in to tear a strip off our shipper… who wasn’t even HERE, he was away those days.

    He’s a good kid who tried really hard to smooth things over, but like… he took the heat that I should have taken. That wasn’t fair, and aside from my guilt over the mistake, I now feeling immensely more guilty that this kid just sat through like an hour of brutality that should have been mine, and if not mine, particularly not his since he was away.

    My boss and manager were both cool about it, we talked it over, came up with a plan so this doesn’t happen again, and they both told me that mistakes aside, this dude was way out of line and a huge jerk, but I still feel like crap and there’s still the fact that jerk-dude is now technically… my boss. As he owns a plurality of the company.

    I just don’t know, I feel awful and I’m having a hard time shaking it.

    On the small bright side: the lady who stole all that money from us has been charged and her lawyer was told to advise her to turn herself in. I know that her continued cheerful posts on FB has been making my boss furious for months now, so that should cheer her up.

    1. Purt's Peas*

      Can you go to the shipper and say, “Hey, I know you took a lot of heat for X mistake. I wanted to thank you for handling that so well, and also I wanted to apologize for the way it was misdirected onto you–you were in no way responsible for the screw-up.”

      An additional thing you can do is tell the shipper’s boss that you heard he did a good job handling that new 40% owner on the phone.

      I’m not surprised you’re feeling torn up about this. I’m a regular commenter/reader (just changed my handle) and I’ve read your posts about your workplace for the last little while. You would need to be made out of very stern stuff (diamond hard stuff) to not feel bad when 1) your work is the way it is, 2) you receive a ton of very nasty nastygrams (!), and 3) when you have a work ethic and you make a mistake that affects other people.

      1. Troutwaxer*

        Definitely this. Do something nice for the shipper. It doesn’t have to be expensive or even cost any money at all, but do something nice for the poor guy.

      2. T. Boone Pickens*

        Yup, came here to say the same. Thank the guy who took the bullet for you and apologize.

      3. Amber Rose*

        I did apologize to him but he waved me off and said it wasn’t my fault. But it was. :(

        My boss and his boss are the same person, he’s already heard from her.

        1. Purt’s Peas*

          Well it DEFINITELY was not your fault that a guy thinks that the appropriate response to a mixup—a mixup in his own company, nonetheless—is to call someone and spew vitriol for an hour (!).

          You made a mistake, that probably had a lot to do with flaws in the workflow; you brought it to the attention of your boss; you resolved it; you have a plan to avoid similar mistakes going forward. That’s an ideal chain of events and is the extent of your responsibility.

          Things you aren’t responsible for: prostrating yourself in penitence; anticipating that a grown adult who has a stake in your and your coworkers’ morale would react with sheer poison; preventing a person with more power than you from an unpredictable and irrational act.

          I think you’re good if you apologized to your coworker already! If you feel the urge, I think you could say to him, “Thanks again for dealing with that call the other day. I owe you a coffee or something for it, and I’m going to head to Starbucks soonish—what can I get you?”

          But I think the last thing you can do before you’re asking him to manage your guilt for you; and throughout please keep in mind that it wasn’t your fault.

    2. JSPA*

      chocolate. a BIG Toblerone or something similarly nice (but not romantic-y) and a “thanks for taking the pointy end of the verbal spears for me” card.

  38. Anon for this one*

    The sexism post really spoke to me yesterday. I’m currently trying to evaluate my own situation with a sexist boss. The short version is that my boss is an in-denial sexist, but I’ve worked with him for 9 years. The trade offs were always worth it. He’s retiring next summer, but the sexist comments toward me are getting worse and I’m now struggling with those trade offs.

    What I mean by in-denial sexist is that I really think he believes he’s respectful and supportive of women in the workplace. He references articles he’s read and talks about how supportive he is all the time. But he’ll then point out an example of his support and it will be related to being understanding of women’s emotions, or something equally as frustrating. Some examples:
    – He frequently assumes my position on something due to my status as a woman. He’s typically wrong and I then have to spend time “proving” why that’s not what I believe.
    – There are 4 directors under my boss, 2 men and 2 women. The men are typically referred to in emails as “Director of X”, the other woman is “Dir. of X”, and I’m generally referred to as “X manager” (side note: the 3 of them are slightly younger than him, but I’m his daughter’s age, so there’s an ageist thing sometimes too).
    – When the other female director and I make suggestions, we have to provide supporting data/info (that’s fine!), but the 2 male directors are frequently taken at their word and their research is assumed (not… as fine).
    – He addresses any sexism concerns in a direct and timely manner (good!), but typically brushes them off in the end due to a lack of evidence and sometimes saying it was an emotional overreaction (ugh).

    There are other examples of this type of behavior, but I don’t want to this to get longer and I think that illustrates the situation. As I said, I’ve put up with this for a long time. I have a medical condition that restricts my driving hours and length of commute, which this job is extremely flexible about. The work is also great. My position combines 2 areas that aren’t typically found in the same job, and because they’re areas that my boss doesn’t enjoy I’m able to learn and grow in these areas mostly as I want to. But, he also restricts my resources, so I’m not fully versed in either area well enough to make a lateral transition elsewhere. And, a job doing both, close enough to home, during the hours I would need, would be tough. I do keep an eye on job listings, but in the past couple of years, I’ve only ever seen positions pop up that I’d apply to if I truly needed just “a job”.

    So, I feel stuck. The person slated to take over next year (one of the male directors – shocking!) is actually great. I don’t want to move up from my current level, and he’s fantastic to work with. I think he’ll do a lot of good. But I also think my boss is getting worse because of his pending retirement, so I’m worried it will continue to escalate (when it’s already so frustrating!) or that he’ll possibly even decide to cancel his plans (I’m not sure that’s an option for him at this point, nor do I think I could ask and find out).

    1. Mbarr*

      I’m mainly here to offer my sympathies.

      It sounds like you don’t want to directly confront him. I assume there’s no HR you can go to?

      I can imagine Alison would recommend cutting him off directly. E.g. when he assumes your point of view, “That’s not my opinion. Please don’t assume that.” (And then don’t bother trying to correct/prove things to him.)

      As for stuff like you having to provide research and the males not, maybe start asking for it, but in a roundabout way. “Thanks for suggestion X – can you provide the background research as per this template so we can document it?” – I’m sure if you keep asking, they’ll get tired of it and you’ll be able to stop too?

      1. Anon for this one*

        All types of support are welcome :) Sometimes it’s enough to step out of the situation and recognize that there’s a problem, even if I can’t change it.

        Without getting into too much detail, I handle most of our HR and my boss handles any escalations (figures, right?)

        I’m a pretty matter-of-fact and direct person, so I’ve pointed these things out in the past. He’s fine with me speaking my mind, but he’s also quick to shoot me down with a look of “that’s cute, but I know better” (blech). And then it’s generally brushed off as me overreacting or misinterpreting his intentions. I used to then point out that intentions and perceptions aren’t the same, etc., but there was never much reception to that so I stopped. At this point the interactions typically go: he gives me an opinion, I state that it’s not actually my opinion and present what my opinion actually is, then he either lets it drop and we move on or he pushes and I repeat myself until he gives me a “sure that’s your opinion, wink wink nudge nudge” look and I internally roll my eyes and move on.

        I do want to point out that it’s just my boss that has this issue. The other directors (male and female) are great, so the male directors are doing their job (and thus the required research/documentation). Sometimes we need their data and other times not, but they’re not being challenged to provide it in order to make a suggestion. So it’s easy to ask for, but not an especially big deal for me to do so.

    2. no, the other Laura*

      Because he is a short timer and because you said you’d have a real challenge finding a role with comparable flexibility that you need….my vote would be to stick it out and smile vacantly, respond “uh thanks for sharing! Now about those TPS reports” and be REALLY HAPPY when he retires. Focus on interactions with the protege/Anointed Heir and try to make those as positive and forward-looking as possible. Take a “bless his heart” attitude with the incumbent pig.

      This is basically what I’m doing with one of the harassers at CurrentJob, who has not harassed me but has harassed other people, was reported to HR by men who witnessed his behavior, and then the reporters were the ones who got in trouble. But, that guy is not even a manager of anyone, much less my manager, and not in a group I need to deal with, so I don’t owe him anything more than a “go eff yourself a-hole”. So it’s very easy for me to ignore him. It’s different when it’s your direct manager who you have to deal with every day. Only you can determine what your personal line is and what you would walk out over.

      On the one hand, being there nine years gives you a decent amount of capital. And the guy is retiring, how closely will he stick with the industry after he retires? Would there actually be much blowback if you gave him a piece of your mind and then he fked off to The Villages to drive a golf cart the rest of his days? Or is he going to stick around in a consulting role?

      On the other hand, after nine years the experience of finding out that someone you thought agreed with you/was loyal to you actually really dislikes you is a bit like getting mauled by your nine-year-old dog who has never hurt a fly. And you do know this is a person who thinks of you as not-quite a fully paid up first class human, but an emotional, slightly stupid, half-a-person. He’s either going to blow you off as having a Lady Brain Moment or be horrified.

      I don’t know, it just sucks out loud that we have to do this calculus, doesn’t it?

      1. Anon for this one*

        I do think he’s considering a consulting role, so I’ll probably cushion anything I say. I’ve never had a problem speaking up to him, and I’ve been lucky enough to not run into problems doing so. It’s just… never effective, so not worth the effort/nerves!

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      That’s incredibly frustrating. I wish I could say that was rare, but unfortunately it’s quite common for sexist men to be in denial about it. They often have misguided notions of being champions of women just because they have daughters and are champions of their daughters, but then these men will still work against the adult women in their workplace. Yikes! I wish I had something more helpful to add here.

      1. Anon for this one*

        This is very spot on. Frustrating situation, but it’s encouraging to hear from others!

    4. LW from yesterday*

      I just wanted to say, sorry, I know it sucks, and no, you aren’t imagining things. Sexist boss I mentioned yesterday started with things like this. They even stayed at this quite tame level for over a year. Things that on their own you feel silly making a big deal of…. But as a whole, paint a big picture of “woah, it is this guy’s core belief that women are less equipped to do this job than men.”

      –And ultimately, that’s the rub. As he gets closer to retirement, I bet he’s becoming more and more worried that you’re not up to manage things without him, because no one else *understands and accommodates* the *special handling* a woman *requires* quite as well as he does. And, sorry to say, no amount of evidence to the contrary or hard work on your part is going to change a belief that is so deeply rooted, he doesn’t even realize he holds it.

      So I’ll give you some more details about my story to hopefully serve as some kind of… I don’t know…. Commiseration?

      I particularly felt you on your second part. Boss would always refer to the men as the “___ lead” but would refer to women as “the ____ person.”

      Later, when our project became particularly stressful, it escalated to red-faced screaming in our faces over little things that were often his miscommunication/fault.

      But wait, it got worse. The more stressful work got, the less patience he had for hiding his true feelings.
      In meetings, women were no longer allowed to voice their opinion. He’d cut them off with his trademark “Here…” Dismissal. On 3-4 occasions I can recall, the only way we actually got through a conversation was when a male spoke up and said “why don’t you let her finish her thought.”

      But a tyranical boss also spreads stress and fear down the ranks. And the young guys took their lead and social queues from this jerk (in your case – I can totally picture boss giving tips to your colleagues all about how to handle woman folk’s unique needs).

      At one point, a female coworker asked a male coworker a question about something he had messed up. He replied by running over into her cube, grabbing either side of her chair while she was still sitting, and screaming in her face until a manager from another department heard and came running over and physically put his hand on this guy’s arm and dragged him backward out of the cube. Other manager dragged him straight to our boss, who never took any action and did not report it to HR.

      The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I was in a meeting with boss, several other managers at bosses level, and many colleagues. My boss mimicked my other female coworkers voice. Literally, “Oh, yeah, I bet Sue will be all ‘But Boss, I can’t make that timeline, I’m too busy booking my Disney vacation'” in a whiney baby voice. That’s what finally brought me to HR. And after they launched an investigation all 9 people in our group (except the coworker who got physical) came out (in a group meeting) and said they lived in dread of going to work. And confirmed his pattern of sexism (there were only 3 women in the group, so 5 men confirmed it with varying levels of exuberance).

      Then HR told me nothing would be done about him, but don’t worry, they wouldn’t be putting new hires in his group anymore because we “didn’t want them thinking this is what Company is like.” I pointed out that if the company allows the behavior, anywhere in the company, then it IS what the company is really like.

      Anyway, sorry, that got really long. The point I wanted to make was:
      1) Sue still works for him and is still working really, really, really hard to prove to him that she is just as smart and capable as the men. Honestly, she’s 10x better than the men, just in experience level alone before you factor in her natural talent and dedication. But he still doesn’t see it and because of that she’s been stuck in the same position for 3 years with no promotion.
      2) I made it very clear that I would not be working under that man any longer. They gave me a transfer (and a month later, a mysterious raise).
      And I guess my question to you is: what are all the possible outcomes, accepting that Your Boss Sucks and Isn’t Going To Change…. And which one sets you up for the most success and happiness?

      1. Anon for this one*

        Thank you for this. I think it helps just to know that I’m not crazy, that this can get worse, and that it’s ok to think about upending things if it does! I’m lucky that there IS an end in sight next year, and hopefully it remains around where it’s at until then. Fingers crossed! All of this is so frustrating, but I have to say that your story is very inspiring. Speaking up can be intimidating. I’m lucky (again) that I’m able to speak up when I feel it’s necessary, and it’s strengthening to hear stories like yours.

        1. LW from yesterday*

          I think you’ve got a great attitude about it! Just because my situation got worse doesn’t mean yours necessarily will. It sounds like the odds are stacked more heavily in your favor on this one. But just keeping the knowledge in the back of your mind that it’s real might help you feel empowered to take action before (if) it hits a point of no return

    5. JSPA*

      Don’t feel the need to debate or defend–“not actually true, but also not relevant, so moving right along” is fine. Do that, and the rest of the standing misery and mental poking will probably shed off your back better.

      If he asks about it, say something borderline nonsensical that sounds like a saying, and say it with a smile. “Just keeping my emotional powder dry.” “With age comes brevity.” “with brevity comes levity.” Just roll them on by. They’re not rude, they’re cheery and conversational and in-control, and they’re not all about him pushing your buttons. Which seems to be the biggest beef, right? In a job you otherwise want? And with an incoming manager you suspect will be better.

  39. Lady Jay*

    Vent: I wish there were coffee shops where quiet was the norm, not the exception.

    Tried to work in a coffee shop this morning, and a noisy interview (a lot of that loud, polite laughter) moved in RIGHT next to me. I’ve also tried to work in coffee shops and been privvy to first dates and to people’s detailed descriptions of medical procedures. [insert shocked emoji]. Had to leave early.

    If I ever decide to switch industries, I think there’s a real market for coffee shops with a quiet/independent work room, no-social-meetups allowed.

    Okay, end vent.

    1. Grace*

      I’ve always found that the quietest cafes are the ones in bookshops – not sure where you live, but most Waterstones in the UK have a cafe attached. It’s usually patronised by people that have just bought a book and want to read it rather than people looking for somewhere to have a coffee (and especially not families with small children – the bookshop cafe up a flight of stairs isn’t the obvious choice), so it’s pretty quiet.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I am the complete opposite of you– I like to work in coffee shops because there’s chatter and noise. When I need to concentrate, I stay in my home office. We have a bookstore near us that serves coffee and is generally quieter; it’s mostly a matter of finding a spot that works best for you. There’s the library, for example. But if you feel the need to work in coffee shops, I’d recommend investing in a good pair of headphones.

      1. Lady Jay*

        I am not actually looking for suggestions, just a spot to vent, but thanks!

        (And for what it’s worth, it’s not like I don’t know anything y’all are bringing up. I’ve tried it all: headphones, five different coffee shops around town, trying to breathe through it, everything. In each case, I get somebody noisy moving in next to me, like I’m cursed with this, and headphones are never enough to cut out the noise. Ultimately, I go to coffee shops very rarely because of the noise, but today, there’s work being done in my primary office that made it equally/more noisy to stay there.)

      1. Lady Jay*

        Ha! Unfortunately mine is 1) freezing and 2) actually kind of loud, since they don’t enforce a quiet policy.

        Really, what I’d love is a coffee shop vibe (bagel, good coffee, nice spot to look out the window) without listening to people’s interviews or medical procedures. But I guess that’s not a thing these days.

        1. Lovecraft Beauty*

          Academic library, if you have access to one. They’re silent and often have cafes attached.

          1. Lady Jay*

            Yes, my library IS academic. In fact, the cafe in the library was what sparked my venting. I promise, I am not looking for solutions. If there were solutions, I would have found them. There is only venting.

    3. Glomarization, Esq.*

      TBH I’ve found that bars during the day can be pretty quiet, and your bartender won’t mind filling you up with Cokes so long as you tip as if you were drinking beers.

    4. Rey*

      My bookstore’s coffee shop always has these people pitching their MLMs! Every Saturday morning they are in there with a new couple explaining how much money they can make, etc. Smh

      1. Lady Jay*

        Ooooo, that also sounds annoying! You may have my “detailed description of medical procedure” beat.

      2. Artemesia*

        I once did a camp weekend with a bookclub on a quiet mountain lake cabin and the cabin not far from us had an MLM training going loudly on all weekend on their deck, bouncing off the lake and filling the air with ridiculous nonsense. So much for serenity in the wilds.

    5. epi*

      Several years ago, before paid coworking spaces started to really take off, I was sure this was going to become a thing. I used to work near Next Door Chicago which is part cafe, part community space, part weird State Farm outreach project. Around the time it opened, I remember reading articles about similar concepts. I’ve also been in cafes– mostly in San Francisco where there is a way to reserve a table if you plan to really camp out there and work, and I’ve found those spaces quieter. It seemed like people there to work gravitated towards the same long, shared tables and were kind of their own section of the cafe.

      I spent a lot of time trying to find the “good” Starbucks when I was briefly living with my parents during grad school, in a suburb where seemingly everything closed at 9. It was like my silent reading was a magnet for animated Bible study groups to sit down right next to me. Then we’d each spend the evening learning about character in our own way. :)

      Anyway I feel your pain! I would check out your local library– more of them are starting to have cafes somewhere inside and to soften on bringing covered beverages– or a more casual or unusual coworking type of setup, like Next Door. They’re still out there!

    6. Elizabeth West*

      This is why I don’t write in coffee shops. I tried it once when my power went out (the day I was pushing to finish Secret Book, which turned out to be a complete failure anyway). It was so loud even headphones didn’t help block anything. And of course, all the coffee shops here seem to be in either modern or refurbished turn-of-the-century buildings downtown, with hard surfaces (brick walls, wood floors, echoing high ceilings, tile, etc.) that amplify noise. Although I did manage to finish a chapter, it was under duress and very stressful.

      I can’t imagine having an interview in a coffee shop, unless it was off peak hours and the place was mostly empty.

    7. Puffle*

      Oh, I’m totally with you here, I don’t understand how people can work in coffee shops. The chatter, the laughter, the yelling children, the sound of the coffee machine running- a lot of my local places are so loud the baristas have to shout to each other to be heard.

      Yesterday I went to a coffee shop with an upstairs section, totally empty… I had blissful quiet until someone brought their two very loud, very obnoxious children upstairs and sat at the table next to me >< luckily I was just there to read a book and kill time until I could pick up my car from the garage, but still annoying!

  40. Heidi*

    Here’s something really random that happened. I came into my office one morning to find my chair gone and a different one its place. Not a new chair, just a different chair. I suspect the cleaning crew was pulling all the chairs out of the offices to vacuum and didn’t sort them back into the right offices. Now I have no problem with the new chair, but I can’t help but wonder if someone else in the office misses it and would prefer to have it back rather than use my chair. However, it seems bizarre to go around to everyone’s office (I don’t know the people on our floor well) and ask if they have the right chair. Should I wait for someone to come around looking? Might they think I stole their chair? It’s a generic chair, but someone might be attached to it.

      1. Heidi*

        My floor isn’t one centralized group, but a hodgepodge of people from different departments. About 40 offices total, and I only know the people in maybe 3 of them (some of them are very senior to me). There’s also a lot of people moving in and out, so no one keeps an email list of everyone on our floor, unfortunately.

        1. Nott the Brave*

          If there’s a break room on your floor, you could post a sign there explaining that your chair has been changed, and while you don’t mind, you’re happy to return it if someone misses it.

          1. SarahKay*

            I like Nott’s idea of posting a notice.
            My chair looks fairly unimpressive but supports my back perfectly. If it went AWOL I would seriously consider wandering around the office looking for it – and probably wishing it was a dog so I could call for it: “Here, chair, good chair, come to heel”.

        2. Dr. Anonymous*

          Is there a common break room? Maybe you can post a picture of it with the caption, “Is this your chair?”

    1. Owler*

      Stay late and try other chairs to find yours? And then put it sticker under it for future recovery.

    2. Artemesia*

      I suspect the truth is that someone stole your chair. That happens all the time in offices.

    3. JSPA*

      Note on front door or by elevator, formatted like lost cat, but “is this your chair? do you miss it?” small text saying, “I like this one fine, and if you have mine, you can keep it. But if anyone misses their chair and wants to help coordinate an un-shuffling of the chairs that were randomized in the cleaning last month, please email [email or other favored mode of communication]. complete with little tear tabs that say ChairBlink and your email.

  41. Jasmine*

    Hey everyone! So I’ve given my notice to da boss (as I’m off to do an MSc in Library Science- actually spurred by a discussion on a Friday open thread about 18 months ago!), and am now trying to write a ob advert for my replacement, as da boss is panicking that I’m leaving (which is flattering, I suppose?).

    I’m really struggling to articulate the job role. Supposedly it’s Operations Manager, but really is General Dogsbody, Problem Solver, Changer of Fuses, Barrier between Difficult Boss & Oversensitive Staff, Occasional Courier Yeller and Sympathic Nodder.

    I don’t know know what question I’m trying to ask y’all, but… help?

    1. Qistina*

      How about People & Office Manager?

      (I’ve done all that (+ recruitment!), and my title was just Office Manager. -_- I would have liked Talent Acquisition and Office Manager, because I recruited *a lot*. Gah.)

    2. Narvo Flieboppen*

      I was looking an Office Manager position recently and then I read the job description. Here are a couple of stand outs which I would consider as a guide of ‘Not To Do’. I also took some of these as enough of a red flag that I didn’t apply for the job. They sound disorganized and I’m not looking to be the fixer (again. Even though it seems to be in my nature.) This ad was from a company which declares that it does business globally, their entire staff are based out of the one local location, and this job pays all of minimum wage.

      The listings for job duties of the ‘Office Manager’ position were:

      Responsible for ordering/shopping for food for daily company lunches. Food prep.
      Must process AR/AP transactions daily. Also payroll and financial statements. And other reports.
      Bank accounts. Monthly.
      Responsible for ordering office supplies and equipment. Also, staffing.
      Maintain office equipment/computers in working order.
      Must be available evenings/weekends for phone calls and Skype conferences.
      Valid drivers license required for running errands throughout the day.

      The wording of the job duties was enough to put me off. I really enjoyed that being responsible for staffing was basically a quick addendum to the ordering of office supplies and equipment. Because those are not completely different skill sets. Nope, not at all.

      This is basically the worst of the worst, but those job duties as listed are nutty and poorly written.

    3. MoopySwarpet*

      I think that Operations Manager (or Office Manager) is basically expected to be the hodgepodge of duties that need to be done. When I was creating job titles and descriptions a couple years ago, the main difference (I could find) between the two is that the Operations Manager is also involved in some of the accounting and books where an Office Manager would stop just short of that.

      I don’t think you have to line out every single task in the job advert. Someone looking to be an Operations Manager likely knows what that entails. If there are some tasks that are more of a focus (Administrative support, Liaise between staff and upper management, Coordination of maintenance, etc.) you could line those out. I would think there are at least a few duties that are more specific to your company and/or industry that you could line out as well (compliance? regulations?). You could also list specific positions that might normally be their own job (HR, logistics, etc.).

      I think when you actually start interviewing, you’d probably want to break it down to more specific tasks and the amount of time spent on them.

    4. JSPA*

      Operations manager. Requires varied people skills, practical problem solving including a smidge of general maintenance, own car for occasional errands, the (metaphorical) ability to herd cats and unflappable good humor.

  42. Eleanor Shellstrop*

    I have a coworker who, while above me in the department, isn’t really my manager. But they desperately want to move up to manager. Our bosses (CEO and COO, it’s a small company) have told them that they needs to demonstrate leadership in order to get promoted, but they are… not good at it. They make decisions just to make them, and even a little push back generally nips their ideas in the bud. They’re very good at the job they actually DO, but their constant “managing” of me and the other person in my department is derailing everyone and wasting time and energy on all fronts.

    In what feels like the straw that has finally broken the camel’s back: they have been trying to push last minute work on me despite: 1. knowing the schedule I had already created for this particular task and 2. not checking last year’s timeline for this task. His insistence that I start this off with 1 day’s notice is due to the fact that we “started on it last August” when, in fact, we didn’t ramp up this promotion until November. It’s frustrating and I’m worried my bosses are going to think I’m overly negative/not team oriented because I keep having to shoot their ideas down or push back.

    1. Eleanor Konik*

      As long as you’re not “overly negative” or forced to push back a lot with your actual bosses, I think you’re fine. To me, the phrasing “you need to demonstrate leadership” means that they know your coworker hasn’t actually demonstrated any of those skills, aka lacks them.

      If it’s really interfering with your work, though, can you go to your boss and basically say that if she’s being given this quasi-authority and encouragement to push work on you (even though they aren’t your boss), she could use mentorship and training in leadership? Like, they’ve encouraged her to demonstrate leadership but doesn’t have the tools, and you’re not in a position to teach it?

      I’m sure there’s a more politic way to phrase it, but that concept.

    2. Mazzy*

      Omg I’ve watched this from afar and thank god have not been subject to it, but I still wanted to kill they guy! I talked about it with my boss and he’s given me free reign to say what I want to push back, even if it isn’t specifically against them trying to be a manager. And I’ve been “rude” at times but it probably smoothed things over in the longer term

    3. Troutwaxer*

      Mainly sympathy posting, but it seems they don’t understand that “leadership” isn’t just about giving orders. It’s about not getting in the way while your staff does what they already know how to do, and knowing when to jump in and give instructions and when to quietly act like you’re confident in your staff’s training is the essence of being a good leader. (Real captains don’t gesture at the helmsman and say “thataway.”) I don’t know whether there’s any way to drop that particular hint or not…

    4. WellRed*

      You either need to practice a script to shut this down in the moment every time or you need to get clarification from your actual manager that coworker is, indeed, supposed to be giving you work, etc. My bet is they are not.

    5. Artemesia*

      I’d be giving some thought about how to sandbag this employees chances at promotion. How can you let your manager know that this meddling micromanaging approach is derailing productivity. If you can’t do this, you will end up with Fergus as your manager. It might be a frank conversation with a big focus on ‘I am really concerned about being productive and getting things done and I am having a repeated problem here with Fergus derailing progress’ Or you might need to figure out ways to showcase this problem more subtly. But you need to be figuring out how to take this guy out of the running for a promotion or it gets worse. I have always succeeded in getting changes I wanted by focusing on needs of the organization and improved productivity (as opposed to my being annoyed, or personally impacted or in a more personal assessment of the person I needed to thwart.) Position yourself on the boss’s team focused on organizational success not on personal grievance and then get crystal clear about a pattern that is inhibiting success.

    6. JSPA*

      I think you can go to the boss and say, “i love coworker as a person, but I think they’re trying to demonstrate leadership for your sake by getting between me and my already existing schedule for X. It’s a huge distraction. Even if coworker were clear on last year’s timeline and other relevant details–which they’re not–it would still be unhelpful. Could you please give coworker more specific direction on what you mean by “demonstrating leadership,” and point them away from what they’re doing now?”

      In short, you want boss to give coworer a path to success that doesn’t lead through you. (Let your other coworker as for themselves; you speak for you.)

      Boss may ask for suggestions, in which case, “Maybe coworker could work up a proposal for a new project. I would be glad to participate in something new, if it might be helpful. I’m not happy with counterproductive attempts to rejigger a perfectly functional plan. Unless, of course, you are not satisfied with the plan, and actively want to see changes, in which case, please let me know, so I can also be proactive and involved in the process.”

  43. Murphy*

    tl;dr We are not allowed to tell our internal clients that the department is dealing with a large volume of requests or is understaffed.

    I’m relatively new at my job at a university (but not new to this type of role). We were understaffed due to some turnover/medical leave, but there are also some new positions that have either started recently or will be starting soon. My department had been trying to get new hires to deal with just the sheer volume of work that there is for my department to do. New hires need time to get trained, and most of us are not able to do the largest most complex type of requests until we have more experience. Only a few people can, and they also have to train us newbies.Due to this, the backlog, particularly of the largest most complex requests is quite long, longer than people have come to expect.

    I and several other new hires are alternating answering the department’s email box. A lot of the emails are people asking the status of their request. Our standard answer is supposed to be 15-20 business days. But a lot of these are going to take much longer. We’re not allowed to change the estimate when answering clients, and we’re also not allowed to say that there’s a large volume of requests and/or that we are understaffed, all of which I think are reasonable responses. At my last job, I would have been allowed to say stuff like that. What should I do when I have to give a standard answer that is overly optimistic, if not flat out untrue, and I’m not allowed to give any reasonable explanations for the delay?

    1. Alice*

      That sucks. I don’t have any advice, just commiseration. For you and for your internal clients.

    2. Troutwaxer*

      For the moment, at least, I think you need to believe that your superiors know how to manage the other departments. If this isn’t true you’ll learn about it in time, but meanwhile I think you just need to assume that your supervisors understand the politics involved.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          I feel you. I had this same issue at a job many years ago except we were supposed to lie to our external customers. One day, I gave the company line to one of the bank reps who called asking for status of their recorded deed (i.e. It has not recorded at this time. Please allow two months for this county’s filing.) – the rep actually had said recorded deed in hand. It had been mailed to the bank and our firm a couple weeks prior, but our deed paralegal who was supposed to be checking for it and then notating our file with the information just didn’t, so I sent the rep over to my supervisor to explain why we hadn’t notified the bank immediately as is proper protocol and why we were lying when all we had to do was look at the recorder’s website for this information.

          Do you think us constantly getting caught in lies made management rethink this company line? Nope. They told us to keep doing it, so anytime I did, if there was pushback, I’d send that call or email right on over to my manager to deal with – they could account for their own deception.

        2. Troutwaxer*

          I totally hear that. 3-6 months from now you’ll have a better idea what’s going on, but meanwhile…

    3. Alianora*

      That sucks. I hate having to lie to clients. So much better to set accurate expectations early instead of misleading people only to let them down later.

      When I’ve had to deal with a similar situation, I sometimes added something like “please feel free to follow up with us if you don’t hear back within the estimated time frame.” It maybe gives them a hint that there might be further delays. But realistically if your department is blocking you, there’s not a whole lot you can do.

    4. Nicki Name*

      If they just ask for the status, and don’t specifically ask for a timeframe, can you give an answer that omits any timeframe? E.g. “I can see that we did receive your request and it is currently in our queue, waiting to be picked up.”

      1. Murphy*

        Unfortunately, they’re always asking for the timeframe of when they can expect a response.