open thread – September 13-14, 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.

{ 1,997 comments… read them below }

  1. ADHD, depression, or burnout?*

    I’m honestly not sure if my inability to focus and general distractedness at work are just a symptom of how much I dislike this job (AND I DO!) or if they’re some kind of mental health issue. I did not used to be such a terrible procrastinator or have such a huge internal unwillingness to do things that seem boring/hard/both. It’s not even something the pomodoro technique is working forbecause I don’t just have an issue “starting things” – I also give up on them quickly when I encounter the first difficulty, or get distracted.

    I know the internet is always going to say “therapy! therapy can’t hurt! it’s alwas good to go to therapy!” but a) it’s difficult to get an appointment with someone, especially when your issue is motivation! and b) I feel like an idiot when I talk to someone and don’t really have any kind of urgent problem to deal with. I’ve gone through it before and ended up not going back because I felt like my vague mild issues were just not worth the time.

    1. ZSD*

      Have you thought about seeing a coach rather than a therapist? I think professional coaches work with people with similar problems to yours regularly.

        1. twig*

          any chance you can elaborate on how you went about finding and ADHD coach?

          I think I may be in need of one but don’t know how to go about finding a reputable coach (or how to pay for it)

          1. ADHDer*

            Check out the CHADD directory!
            They’ve also got a bunch of other useful ADHD resources over there.

            I’ve been working with a coach off an on for a couple of years now and it’s been super helpful. I stumbled onto a great coach by way of a friend’s recommendation (and this was before I learned I had ADHD – I was just at a super low point at work and needed a trained third party to work through things with). I’m sure there are other life coach resources out there that aren’t specifically for ADHD coaching but would still be useful.

        2. Jadelyn*

          Seconding twig’s request – how does one find an ADHD coach? I’d like to see about that as an option for myself as well.

      1. MissBliss*

        That’s exactly what I was going to say! If you’re feeling disengaged at work, that can definitely cause focus issues. A coach may be able to help you identify things that you could focus on in your job that would be engaging, and maybe also create a plan to get somewhere that you’d rather be. I’ve been to therapy for serious and “vague mild problems” and I felt the same way as the OP when I wasn’t talking to my therapist about the Big Stuff. But I have a friend who is a life coach and she has tested out some of her workshops on me. I’ve always found them invigorating, even if I’m a little skeptical on the concept of life coaching.

    2. Celeste*

      Honest question–how long has it been since you had a vacation? A real vacation, where you had time completely away from work?

      1. ADHD, depression, or burnout?*

        TBH I knew I was in trouble when I came back from a week at the beach and it wasn’t any better. (Now, I know a week isn’t truly long enough but in my industry that’s about what you can reasonably take, two weeks is not very common and would mean you’re not going home for Christmas).

        I guess I’m wondering if other people have experienced ADHD or depression that looked like this, and if therapy/meds fixed it or if there’s anything else that was helpful.

        1. Thandie*

          Hmm…yes to depression, yes to burnout looking like this–the motivation, follow-through, etc. But this is where a qualified professional can help you sort through the mix of things and what’s at the root of it. (as someone who didn’t reschedule my last therapy appointment…I get not having the time or energy).

          All this stuff is so honestly YMMV. Therapy and meds have both helped me in the past. But what’s right for you could be either, neither or both.

          I like the idea of work coaches others have suggested, if therapy feels too big for this. But I would assert that if there’s depression going on, just because you’re mid- to high-functioning or not experiencing great emotional distress doesn’t mean it’s not a big issue that’s not worthy of therapy. It’s clearly impacting your professional life to the degree you’d seek out advice on it.

          My depression isn’t the “can’t get out of bed” kind…doesn’t mean it’s not a big deal–it still needs to be treated and addressed.

          It’s a little bit like not going to the doctor for chronic pain.

        2. Shark Whisperer*

          I posted below, I think, but I think my comment got eaten. I have depression. When I wasn’t getting treatment one of my biggest symptoms was the inability to focus. Finding the right meds and the right therapist (who focus on cognitive behavioral therapy) made a whole world of difference. Also, really limiting my phone time also helped, especially at home. When I got home from work and wanted to relax my brain I would mindless go through various apps on my phone. I was definitely training my brain for instant gratification. I really try to limit my staring at my phone time to an hour and not before bed. How’s your focus when you aren’t at work?

          1. ADHD, depression, or burnout?*

            That’s a good point, I do a lot of mindless scrolling / background TV in the evenings at home too, but I’ve kind of been chalking that up to “need to unwind from job I don’t like.” Hmm.

        3. The Other Liz*

          Yes, I’ve sought out therapy and help for this very thing. Whether you have ADHD or not, the motivation is a deeper issue to deal with. And if you ALSO have ADHD, that means your brain is wired to focus on what it WANTS to, not what it necessarily NEEDS to. I have found therapy helpful but in a limited way because I, too, felt like my problems weren’t bad enough to burden my therapist with them – I dont’ know if I always truly leaned into it. One thing I can recommend: Thrive with ADD, and their “Pathfinder” course, is an online coaching/learning system run by a professional who herself has ADD. So she “gets” us. And the beginning lessons, which are on demand, get at motivation. There’s a great flowchart about assessing what’s paralyzing you from getting work done – is it “this is boring” simple procrastination, some sort of fear, burnout, or something else getting in the way? I have found the program helpful to “level up” how I manage ADD, but I also did a year of therapy first. I just went for a normal therapist who took my insurance and who understands ADD – not an ADD coach or specialist. She’d had enough clients with ADD to have good working knowledge.

          FWIW I also find that my burnout and motivation problems ebb and flow. Things come in seasons. It makes it no less frustrating in the moment, but it’s helpful to have noticed a pattern over the years – I know that it’s not a failure in me and it’s not because of one particular job. Eventually, you’re someplace long enough for the honeymoon phase to end, or for the initial interest in a new job to fade.

          The biggest thing is to work WITH yourself – not fight against your nature. And celebrate EVERY step you take toward improving the situation, even if it’s a half hearted online search for a therapist, or the fact that you asked this question on this forum!

        4. Anon for this one!*

          Yes. I’m in the middle of a similar situation. I have lost all motivation and have become really dull-witted and slow. I can make myself work when the tasks are strictly physical and routine – say, house cleaning – but have a hard time doing so when the tasks require thought, which my job does.

          It’s scary (what if I lose my job?), and it’s shredding my sense of self (am I no longer a conscientious and hard-working person?).

          I’ve sought medical help, and gotten a lot of “I’m not sure what’s wrong with you, you don’t exactly fit in any of our diagnostic boxes, but I believe you and your situation does sound bad” from doctors. We settled on treating this as if it were depression, and seeing if that helped. I can’t afford therapy, but am taking medication and doing self-guided CBT. The latter doesn’t feel like it’s doing much for me, but the SSRIs actually, and much to my surprise, seem to be helping. It may just be the placebo effect, but it’s a start, and I’ll take it.

          For what it’s worth: depression can really impair your executive functioning (motivation, ability to focus, working memory) in ways that mimic ADHD or, for people with ADHD, exacerbate existing symptoms.

          I hope that you find something that works for you.

          1. RedLineInTheSand*

            I’ve been feeling the same way. Although I hate that other people are feeling this way, it helps to see that I’m not alone. Yesterday, I worked from home, hardly got anything done because I was in tears to the point where I called my adult daughter and asked her to come over.

            I can’t find the motivation to do anything, let alone work, and I’m so afraid that I’m going to lose my job. We are already in bankruptcy and if I lose my job we won’t be able to send that payment, and it barely leaves enough for us to cover living expenses.

            This is such a bad time for me to lose focus and motivation.

            1. Anon for this one!*

              You are definitely not alone! Losing focus and motivation is the way some of us (many of us!) react to prolonged, intense stress and adversity. It’s a part of human nature. The personality traits and tendencies that make us vulnerable to this are probably the same personality traits and tendencies that make us thrive in other situations, and that will help us do well again when things get better.

              Not that that’s much of a consolation when things are at their worst. Losing our abilities when we need them most feels like a cruel joke. (You mean that the more discouraged and scared I get, the worse I will get at dealing with and warding off the things I’m scared and discouraged about? Thanks. That’s just great.)

              One thing that’s helps me is to remind myself not to feel guilty about my lack of focus and motivation. I am doing my best. All I can do is recognize the problem, and seek whatever help I can get. And remind myself that I deserve that help.

              I hope that you can get the help that y0u need and deserve, too – whether that’s medical care or having your daughter sit with you when you need her (or all of the above). You are doing your best in what sound like incredibly difficult circumstances. Bankruptcy is a huge source of stress, and one that usually only comes after you’ve already been through a lot more stress and adversity already. (My spouse was in bankruptcy when we met. I got to see that it takes a lot of patience, courage and fortitude, on top of the administrative skills necessary to navigate the system). You deserve respect and support!

              I’m sorry that I can’t give you any useful advice: only solidarity and well-wishes. There are a lot of us in this boat. I am rooting for you!

              1. Tinuviel*

                I felt that exact way when I was burned out and depressed due to my terrible job. Sometimes it’s a chicken or the egg question.

              2. RedLineInTheSand*

                I just want to let you know that you’ve really helped me a lot with your comment, thank you for taking the time to respond.

        5. BlueHengineer*

          I ran out of my depression meds for about a week and I could NOT focus at all. I was constantly distracted and uninterested, even about things I liked. Lack of focus can be a symptom of depression, and low motivation is definitely a symptom of depression. Therapy definitely helped with motivation, but I needed medication to have any real motivation and focus. I do not have experience with ADHD though.

        6. AnnaBananna*

          You mentioned that you don’t have the motivation to even find a therapist, which can be both depression and ADHD. As someone who has both, it means my life can very quickly look like hell when one or more things start to fall apart.

          Be honest with yourself: are you currently miserable that leaving your current role sounds appealing? If so, does the thought of starting somewhere else excite you, or does it just seem like a lot of work? If the latter, then I think you may have situational depression. BUT, you know how in school it was a lot easier to organize your sock drawer than it was to start a term paper? Do that, but with your life. Meaning, pick up a new hobby, reach out to an old friend, join a non profit board, etc. Clean up just one aspect of your life outside of work and see how that affects how you view your overall life, and thereby affecting your view on work. Definitely couldn’t hurt, and just might be the impetus you need to finally figure out whether you’re ready to move on or give your role another try.

        7. Jaydee*

          I have ADHD. I have also experienced that deep, pervasive lack of motivation. Having come out the other side, I can say ADHD doesn’t help the situation. But ADHD sure doesn’t cause it either. ADHD just makes it a little worse.

          Is there anything in your life that you are motivated to start and motivated to continue with even when it’s hard?

          If the answer is no, then depression may be part of the problem. Depression tends to squash motivation across the board. Things you used to like doing just seem too hard and not worth it.

          If the answer is yes, then consider what things you can still feel motivation for. If your motivation is higher for personal life things than for work things, that suggests burnout is the main culprit. Assess what it is about your job that’s burning you out. Can these things be fixed so that you can regain motivation at work? Or is it time to look for a different job?

          If the answer is yes, but your motivation is inconsistent across multiple areas of your life (work, home, hobbies, relationships, etc.) that may be the ADHD. ADHD tends to make it harder to initiate and sustain motivation for tasks that aren’t interesting or urgent or both. So, if you can sustain motivation for the interesting (to you) stuff no matter how hard it is but not the boring (to you) stuff even when it’s really easy, or if you can get the work done when there’s a looming deadline or an impatient boss or client but not when you’re told “oh, no rush, just get it to me when you have a chance” that’s probably ADHD.

          Also, iron deficiency can mimic or exacerbate all of this stuff. I was diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia a couple years ago and saw great improvement in my motivation, energy, ability to focus, and perseverance once I was taking supplements and my iron and hemoglobin levels started going up. A friend was struggling recently and thought it was their depression getting worse. They found out their iron levels were low and started feeling better once they were on supplements for a few weeks. So if you also feel more physically run-down and exhausted, it might be worth a quick blood test to check your iron levels.

          1. Madam Sexr*

            So glad you were able to catch your anemia!

            Iron, vitamins B, D, and K. Even thyroid and cortisol in my case. There so many symptoms here caused by deficiencies, instead of or as well as depression and ADHD. High stress levels interrupt so many body processes that exacerbate. May consider seeing a holistic doc for bloodwork.

    3. Nacho*

      It could be both. I’ve got ADD and I can tell you it’s a lot easier to focus if I don’t dislike something.

    4. Youth*

      I’m honestly not sure if my inability to focus and general distractedness at work are just a symptom of how much I dislike this job (AND I DO!) or if they’re some kind of mental health issue.

      Why not both?

    5. Muriel Heslop*

      My doctor gave me a referral for ADHD testing a year ago and I still haven’t gone! My son got diagnosed with it this summer so I am finally (sort of) getting around to it. But it seems like a hard and annoying process, boring and bureaucratic. I’m shoving it to the side just like I do with the boring parts of my job (so am I bored or ADHD?)

      I am a special ed teacher! I should know better! But seriously: go. Go and do it. And know that you are not alone!

      1. ADHD, depression, or burnout?*

        ahh, we sound like kindred spirits. It’s not that i don’t know it’s a good idea, it’s just that it sounds like a lot of work and probably money, and possibly all for nothing

        1. Polaris*

          I’m in this boat too. I really need to go for testing, but I’m not sure if it will result in anything actionable or if it will just confirm my suspicions. I already take one of the common ADHD drugs for my depression/anxiety, and it hasn’t had any noticeable effect in terms of ADHD symptoms.

          1. ADHD, depression, or burnout?*

            From my friends who know they have ADHD, it sounds like they are confident in their diagnosis because a) they were really encountering a lot of difficulties in daily life before and b) the medications made a huge difference to them. I guess I’m just concerned I’m kind of “on the margins” or that my issues may be equally depression / inertia / being in a rut and I don’t want to get sidetracked with the wrong part of it.

            1. Triumphant Fox*

              I will say that my depression manifested like this (only worse than what you describe – I had extreme lethargy). My psychologist said that it was situational and understandable and that yes I was disengaged from what I was doing, but that a medication may help. And it did. Tremendously. She gave me something that didn’t have a calming effect – because I was seriously apathetic – but that ended up really kickstarting things for me.

              Ultimately I left what I was doing and as soon as I was in a new environment, I realized “OMG this is what my brain used to feel like!” Her help didn’t solve my root cause, but it really helped me get through it and get myself to a better place.

            2. Sounds Like Me*

              I have both ADHD and depression. They go hand in hand for a lot of people. Medicating for both helps a ton (it doesn’t fix the I hate my job part, but the other it does). Testing was annoying but it helped me cope a ton.

          2. Miss Mouse*

            I know that I had to try a few different ADHD drugs (diagnosed as an adult) before I found one that worked for me. Just because one kind is not affecting your symptoms, please continue to speak with you doctor about it and be open to trying different meds. I did not have to do any testing for my diagnosis. I spoke with a primary care physician who treats a large number of adult ADHD sufferers who diagnosed me and then sent me to a psychiatrist for a second opinion. It helped me tremendously to know why I had hit a wall and couldn’t seem to pull myself together even thought I’m extremely intelligent and high-functioning. Since the diagnosis I have also learned skills to work with my ADHD. My pomodoro timer is ticking away as I write!

            1. ADHD, depression, or burnout?*

              Did it get … worse? Or had you always been experiencing symptoms? I’ve always been kind of scattered but I feel like this lack of motivation is more recent, like in the last few years. Or at least has gotten worse.

              1. Marissa*

                In hindsight, I always had ADHD symptoms, but they got more noticeable when I hit grad school and had to start working on larger, more self-directed and open-ended projects.

                Lack of motivation for me usually happens when I feel guilty or like I’m failing at the thing I need to work on. I don’t want to think about it, and working on it just reminds me.

          3. LJay*

            If it’s Wellbutrin, that does nothing for me for ADHD symptoms.

            It does help with my depression a bit. It didn’t make me find things interesting or want to do anything, but it made me capable of doing things that I need to do like going to the grocery store, which previously seemed like an insurmountable task due to lack of energy.

            I’ve actually found that when my ADHD is treated with the correct medication, a lot of my depression symptoms go away, too, to the point where I can go untreated. But my depression isn’t the super-sad type, just the “I don’t have interests or emotions or want to do anything other than sleep ever type”.

    6. Annon for this*

      I can commiserate completely with your post A/D/B. I am feeling exactly the same way and am as lost and hopeless as you! Vacation is a dream, and although they used to be very helpful there is absolutely no way to go on one in the foreseeable future. I try to get some moderate exercise in and fun time with the family, but ultimately I find myself scrolling the internet more than working. It’s seems like a which came first, the chicken or egg scenario.
      Sorry you feel this way – I hope you find some relief.

      1. ADHD, depression, or burnout?*

        Do you dislike your job? Or do you feel this way in spite of being engaged and committed to your work? I’m kind of assuming it’s because i don’t like my job, but I do worry it won’t go away even if I’m more excited about my work

        1. r.d.*

          I felt that way when I hated my job and I got a new job that I loved and it went away… for a couple of years, but now it’s back. The thing is, that I still, generally, like my job. It was very easy to keep motivated when everything was new, but it’s also clear to me that the problem is me. The easy fix would be to switch jobs every 2-3 years or maybe to get counseling, but I am not motivated to do either one.

          I don’t know if that helps or not. Definitely leaving the job I hated helped me. I had 2 solid years of really great performance and even now, I feel better than I did before I left. And even if I have problems, one of those problems isn’t hating my job.

          1. ADHD, depression, or burnout?*

            “switch jobs every 2-3 years” – lo, the ghost of christmas future … yeah either way the job needs to go, I just wonder if tackling some of this other stuff would help make the search less draining. I don’t like my current job for real reasons, but also all jobs kind of sound like a lot of work. I just want to get paid a fortune to stay home with my dogs. Sigh.

    7. GigglyPuff*

      I’ve been in your position, and still am a little.
      I had a lot going on at once: realizing my job/manager sucked and wasn’t going to change, being an adult all alone for the first time (different state than my family), realizing I needed a life/hobby outside of work, etc. It took me almost a year to realize my depression was back and almost another year and a half to stabilize it. I also have ADHD but had been off meds for a few years, but all these issues, especially hating my job, spiked it to levels I hadn’t had before.

      I started off going to my GP (I realize states might have different rules), and they were able to prescribe me some anti-depressants and ADHD meds. But after six months I realized I needed more than what they could provide, so I ended up visiting a mental health nurse at a large mental health practice. I finally found an anti-depressant that helped enough to feel normal again, but unfortunately none of the meds are working for my ADHD now. I’m pretty much relying on caffeine until I’m willing to keep taking Strattera through the 24 hour long headaches it causes.

      I’m sorry, the situation is awful. You want to do more, feel normal, but you just can’t make yourself. I’d suggest starting with a GP to see how they can help.

    8. Lime green Pacer*

      Are you getting enough sleep? Lack of sleep can really exacerbate ADHD, and bring on ADHD-like symptoms in “regular” people. The period when I was at my worst for disengagement, procrastination, and just not caring, was when I had chronic sleep deprivation due to my husband’s snoring. His CPAP (and addressing other issues that disturbed his sleep) really improved my life.

    9. Nat*

      It seems to me that even if there is something else at play, the job isn’t working for you. Why not start job searching and see if a change is invigorating or not? Are there reasons you need to stay at your current job? (I know it’s not always realistic to job search)

      1. ADHD, depression, or burnout?*

        Oh believe me, I’m job searching. But I’m resigned that it’s not an immediate fix, and will probably take longer than I hoped – it was like a year to get this job. I’m not able to go without insurance or salary in the meantime. It’s actually gotten harder to find jobs as I’ve moved up because I’m only interested in making the same or more salary, and I’m relatively well paid for what I do. Also if it’s depression or ADHD it’s not clear switching jobs would help my focus issues, although it would hopefully fix my dislike-my-job issues.

    10. HarperC*

      I can only add my own experience, but when I was depressed, I lost all interest in my job. And it wasn’t that I loved my job before, but when I was actually depressed on top of it, I couldn’t force myself to do the job. I hope I’m making sense. In fact, for a long time, I just assumed I was just bored, but when I started to realize that I also wasn’t enjoying things I used to, I started to think it wasn’t just that.

    11. Sarah Simpson*

      I have absolutely been there! For me, I had to decide whether to start job searching or whether I should start finding a way to make work more tolerable. In the end, I decided to do both. I interviewed for a few jobs that didn’t seem like they would be any better, so instead, I changed my focus to making work tolerable. For that period of time, I decided I would plan to get done exactly what HAD to be done by the time it was due. I didn’t worry about impressing anyone with my excellence or my speed. I looked for ways to make tasks more interesting or came up with interesting tasks or activities I could reward myself with if I spent 20 minutes doing this other thing. There were some tasks that I could only do for 5 minutes at a time before stopping for a while. I also remember thinking that, given the work environment I was in, I just needed to care less about work – just something I had to do to pay the bills and then I could go home and read a book. For me, it was a phase, and things got better eventually, and then, down the road, I did find jobs that were more challenging and had a better work environment. I think this happens to people all the time, so find a way to make it as minimally miserable as possible and see if things change down the road or start looking for something better.

      1. ADHD, depression, or burnout?*

        Yeah this is where I am with this job. I don’t hate-hate it, like nobody’s yelling at me and I’m paid pretty well, I just don’t really like it. I do worry that not being an Ask-A-Manager-Style-Rockstar is probably not great for my career longterm though, and is probably habit forming.

    12. OhGee*

      I was diagnosed with ADHD, depression, and generalized anxiety earlier this year (I’m in my late 30s). I was aware of these things for a very long time, and like you, I thought my ‘vague, mild issues’ weren’t worth treating, though I did go to therapy for a few months at a time twice in the last ten years. I started to take things seriously when I got a new job that I was excited about and knew I could handle, but found myself distracted, struggling with focus more than ever, and procrastinating as I always have. It took months, but I got a diagnosis via a medical group that does neuropsych evaluations (usually for ADHD and other issues in children), started therapy again, and finally chose to try medication for the first time in my life. I take an antidepressant that is sometimes helpful for the inattention that accompanies ADHD, as well. I’ve been on medication for about 4 months and in therapy for about 6, and have recently started a more challenging exercise regimen. This combination of things has helped a ton, though my ADHD symptoms are still not totally under control. I highly recommend: calling a therapist and talking to a health care provider (your primary care doctor, if you have one, or a provider focused on mental health) to explain what you think is going on with you. If you have a hard time motivating to do it, enlist a buddy to bug you about it. I get it: it took me about 4 months between realizing my seemingly insignificant problems were a pretty big deal to me and actually getting the guts to pick up the phone and make some calls. It’s so hard when you feel unmotivated. I don’t want to diagnose you, but for me, lack of motivation turned out to be a pretty obvious symptom of depression! Funny how depression can make some of us feel like our problems aren’t worthy of treatment. Lots of people have access to phone/video-based therapy now, which might make it more accessible for you.

      Now, all of this is separate from disliking your job — you should probably switch jobs, too! But I recommend doing your best to seek help for your potential mental health stuff first. Getting a handle on that will help you figure out what you really need. Good luck.

      1. ADHD, depression, or burnout?*

        Thank you, I think you’re probably right. Even if it ends up taking a year to tackle each thing at a time, it’s probably a worthwhile investment, sigh. Versus just slogging through what should be the most productive years of my career.

    13. 877*

      I don’t have attention issues, but I do have life-long, drug-resistant minor depression, and what you describe sounds pretty similar to me. No short-term solutions that I know of, other than thinking incrementally as much as possible–like, avoid big-picture, “why am I like this?” thoughts, except when dealing directly with medical or psychological professionals. Instead, look at the field of sucky things in front of you, and fix one. Then take a small break, then do another. No end goal, so far as that’s practical; just keep going.

      My long-term solution was to go into a field where I am maximally independent and self-directed; I am not necessarily more productive over all, but I minimize shame and resentment this way.

    14. Jellyfish*

      I can’t speak to the ADHD possibility, but being at a job that I HATED coupled with other life issues at the same time brought on some low level depression, and this is how it played it for me too. I just didn’t care, especially at work. I know I could do the various tasks & projects; I just didn’t want to bother. I felt lazy and stupid, but couldn’t get over the motivation hump.
      When the apathy spread into the rest of my life, I realized something had to change.

      With the therapy / coach thing, I feel you there too. It seems like I’m wasting their time if I go in for something that isn’t a terrible, horrible, obvious problem. However, a friend who is a therapist says he’d far rather people come in early and take the steps to stay healthy than wait until their life is falling apart. Preventative maintenance for the mind.

      No real advice, but you’re not alone. I hope you can get some clarity and make positive changes!

    15. Midwest writer*

      My husband was diagnosed with depression a few years ago and I was surprised to learn how different the symptoms can be in men and women. For him, inability to focus (on work or home things) and follow through were really big signs that we missed until his depression was much worse. Getting counseling appointments CAN be hard (he had a month-long wait, which was awful considering how terrible things were at that point), so I hear you on that point. He ended up talking with our nurse practitioner who does all of our general health stuff, who was able to diagnose him, make some general suggestions, put him on some medication (which he wasn’t thrilled about, but really did make a huge difference) and get him a referral to a counselor. So if you are curious enough to see your regular doc, that might be easier and you can get some insight without going all the way to a therapist?

    16. Shark Whisperer*

      My focus problem was definitely a depression problem. Also, like you, I was bad at sticking to going to therapy. Here’s what I’ve found really helped me:
      – Getting on the right medication. It’s a sucky process to go through, but when you find the right meds, it’s amazing
      – Getting a therapist that specialized in cognitive behavioral therapy and really focusing in on what behaviors I had that I wanted to change. Sometimes you have to go through a bunch of therapists you don’t like to find one that works for you. The best advice I was ever give was to tell your therapist that they aren’t working for you and ask them to refer you to someone else. My current therapist was referred to me by a previous therapist and he’s amazing!
      – Finding other people that deal with the same symptoms and talking to them about how they got through it. You can do this in whatever way you feel comfortable with. I am in some online mental health groups as well as going to a support group in person. NAMI is a great resource for finding free support groups (if you’re in the US)

    17. Bertha*

      I’m in the “why not both?” crowd. I was diagnosed with, and started taking stimulant medication for, ADHD two jobs (8 years) ago. The job I was in at the time, in retrospect, was great for my ADHD. I had a variety of activities and never went a whole stretch of just being super bored all day long; I would do backup for the mail room, with reception, and in two different departments for my main job. My last job, even with medication, just didn’t work for me. I often didn’t have enough to do, or I had meaningless projects that I knew could be finished whenever. In fact, the kiss of death for me was always “You don’t need to rush on this.” Okay, let me put it off until.. well, you tell me it IS a rush. I didn’t have enough to do, and when I did have something to do, I’d put it off because I wasn’t in the mindset to do it. And, usually it wasn’t a rush. I was somehow much quicker than everyone at everything, and instead of that making me a rockstar that was given more work, my boss determined that I was “too good” for a lot of work and slowly seemed to take away tasks that were below me! Even though I told her I had nothing to do! She seemed to “value” me but, didn’t listen to me at all. I told her I could take more on, and she gave me an employee instead.. who I then had to figure out how to split work with, when I didn’t even have enough myself.

      My current job is a much better match, we have busy periods where I’m very engaged, but the slow ones? Oh goodness, like, right now. I took medication this morning, but that doesn’t mean I finished the documentation related to my last (finished) project. I know that it doesn’t “really” matter or have a deadline, so my brain isn’t engaged. But like I said, it’s still a better match when compared to a job that never had tight deadlines (or if they did, I was so good at what I did that anything with a deadline would take me minutes, and I’d be bored all over again). I also didn’t feel like I “fit in” at my last job. I think the combination of having too much time to think (overthinking=bad) and “not fitting in” made me more depressed than I realized, until I finally found a new job that paid more than my prior one. That was a challenge as well! Even with medication, if you have ADHD, you still have to set up the rest of your life for success.

      1. LilacLily*

        oh god reading this made me almost cry, we’re two peas in a pod!!! I’m also bored at my current job, I want to rip my hair out every day. I can’t wait to find a fulfilling job.

        1. Bertha*

          People don’t understand how demoralizing it can be to be SO bored at work! “Oh, I get paid decently, and I don’t have enough work to do” sounds like an awesome situation to be in to many people, but for people like me who are prone to overthinking or, say, going on Facebook when they are bored and don’t have other ways to preoccupy their mind.. it can be VERY bad.

          1. PaperTowelBattle*

            There’s a great post by tech blogger rands in repose titled bored people quit. I think it should be required reading for managers.

          2. Shiny alolan raichu*

            I had a job about20 years ago where I had about an hour of work to do a day. I still haven’t entirely recovered from that. (granted I also worked for a narcissist, but still)

            1. LilacLily*

              at my current job I provide IT support, and there are four of us in two different floors. this week we received the data for last month: we help an average of 3 customers per analyst per day on the lower floor, and 7 customers per analyst per day on the top floor, with an average of 9 minutes for each customer, which is pretty accurate from my experience. sometimes we do spend 30-40 minutes with a client, but even so, that still means I work between one hour and three and a half hours a day in a eight hours workday (that is, if I’m working on the top floor; on the bottom floor that number drops down to 30 minutes to one and a half hours).

              my boss wants to talk about these numbers on Monday, and I’m gonna be honest with him and tell him we don’t need four analysts AT ALL. three people could do this no problem. two, even. let’s see what he says.

          3. smoke tree*

            It is really important to find your job fulfilling in some way, if possible. It doesn’t mean your job has to be petting kittens and testing chocolate, or the sole source of meaning in your life, but it really wears you down to feel like you’re just killing time for 40+ hours a week.

      2. ADHD, depression, or burnout?*

        Wow, this does really sound like my problem. So you found this was more of an ADHD thing, then? And did you always have trouble with this kind of thing, like back in school etc?

    18. Anon for now*

      I don’t have a whole lot of time to comment at the moment (hopefully I can come back later), largely because I’m in a very similar boat and am currently feeling the sweet relief/terror of crunch time for a project I’ve been putting off, but can’t any more. I have anxiety first, but probably ADHD as well, and am definitely a little burned out and a lot sleep deprived (thanks to a baby). What I mean by all that is that you’re not alone, and it looks like you’ve gotten some really good advice here. I think a multi-pronged approach will be best, because it probably is a combination of all three. I didn’t believe the provider who diagnosed me with ADHD in my thirties, and I think don’t agree with how he wanted to treat it (for me, personally, treating the anxiety was more important), but just having that confirmation that I had a lot of ADHD-like symptoms, at least, has helped me reframe how I think about my attention and work issues. It hasn’t cured them by any means, but it does help me to cope a lot better. Good luck! I know how hard it is to seek help, especially if the first (or second) avenue isn’t successful, but there are lots of good options out there (be it a PCP, therapist, coach, or even just a book) and I’m sure there are some that can help!

      1. ADHD, depression, or burnout?*

        Lord I wasn’t really considering anxiety as a potential suspect. Hmm. You’re certainly right that people have been super kind and helpful sharing their insights though <3

    19. Koala dreams*

      You can have several things going on at once. There is no life fairy that makes sure everyone is starting on at the same difficulty level and gradually get challenged, instead things come at random — including heaps at once and long stretches with nothing.

      I do wonder though if your lack of motivation and your belief that your issues are not worth dealing with are connected. Depression, for example, can be very sneaky that way, those fraudulent thoughts slip past your rational thinking and make you think that it’s useless to do anything to improve your situation, that life is hopeless and you might as well play 2048 or sleep all day long. (Of course, depression can show up in many ways, this is just one example.) In my experience with depression, I had to start taking medicine before I could get some help from therapy.

      1. Koala dreams*

        Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that you specifically have depression, it was just an example. I chose it because I have had some experience in my life with depression.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I believe there is a situational type of depression?

          OP, if I were in your shoes I would described myself as depressed meaning saddened to the point of not moving around (my use of the word for my own setting). It would be like having my shoe nailed to the floor and I have to keep going in circles, never improving, never changing.

          It’s a basic human need (on the same level as food and water) to grow/contribute. People who feel they are not growing or are not making a difference can feel absolutely gutted on the inside. This is why it’s so important to allow people to make contributions and grow themselves.

          Instead of making lists of things that you can’t quite get to, why not pick ONE thing that you will do? Finding that first thing is a BEAR! Maybe a good friend will help you pick something out, bonus if the good friend helps you do it. But you go and do it anyway. I needed extra rest when I did this, it was that tough. So when you complete that first thing, rest, then you go and find a second thing that you WILL do. Do the second thing, rest. Then pick the third thing. Going one at a time like this you will be able to clearly see how that thing is helping you or not.

          This does not have to be hard. You could decide to take a ten minute walk every day. You could decide to organize your desk. It can be anything. Get that first thing in place and then think about the second thing you will do.

          Years ago my friend broke up with his GF. He was beside himself. He did not do much and just hung out around the house. This is so NOT my friend. We chatted about this and that. He said, “And top it all off my stupid garage needs cleaning.” I said, “There you go. Go spend 3 hours cleaning the garage today. Call me when you got the three hours done.” The next day we did the same thing, but he cleaned the garage for four hours the next day. (The garage is a hot mess.) By the third day he was moving around more and sounding a tiny bit better.
          This makes little sense, what did cleaning the garage have to do with anything at all??? See, in that cleaning he was taking back his autonomy, his own power over how his life went. And this is what you can try. Pick something you will do and just go do it. Then rest after the task. Tell yourself that you are going to find ways to bring back your power over your own life.

    20. LilacLily*

      I’m also in your shoes. I have ADHD (sorta diagnosed), I recently discovered I might have light autism, I have a huge tendency towards depression, and I am suffering from major burnout. I took 26 days off work in June and I was totally fine while at home, and then everything sucked again as soon as I was back to work. it may sound dramatic but I’m sometimes sitting at my desk and picturing myself lying down on my office’s carpet floor like a plank. it is truly tempting somedays. one time I hid under my desk when no one was around and curled up like a ball, hoping I could maybe nap a little. anyWAY

      I think ADHD surely doesn’t help, but burnout and depression walk hand in hand, and those three together is a recipe for major apathy towards work, especially if work is boring and meaningless and your coworkers and bosses are not doing much to help your case. I’ve been thinking about quitting my job and taking two or three months to decompress, and then start working again. lord knows I need some time off work so I can get my life in order. basically what I’m trying to say is: is it ADHD? depression? burnout? and my answer is yes, it most likely is.

      also, don’t feel like your problem isn’t urgent – sure, it’s not life-threatening, but it’s not insignificant either. talking to someone who might be able to help you put your thoughts in an orderly manner might help more than you think, and if you wait to go to therapy only when the issue is so big it is threatening to swallow you whole… well, let’s just say I don’t think that’s a good idea. remember, just cause other people have way bigger problems that require therapy it doesn’t mean yours are meaningless. if you have the opportunity to get a few therapy sessions I think you should get them for sure.

      1. Yarrow*

        Ooh, dang, this sounds like me, except it’s turning out to be autism and anxiety and I can’t imagine taking that much time off. I’ve experienced the thing where you’re functioning much better away from work and it gets worse as soon as you go back though. It’s a strong sign. I too imagine myself just lying down wherever I am some days (a lot of days). I second the advice for talking to some sort of counselor to help you talk it through and sort out what you need. I’m doing this right now and it’s making be realize that just because something isn’t directly life-threatening doesn’t mean it’s not slowly draining your lifeforce and turning you into a dessicated corpse (like, spiritually). Everybody: take your concerns seriously. If you’re wondering if you’re depressed and burnt out, you probably are. Start working on how you’re going to handle it before it gets even harder to deal with.

    21. SynergySixSigma*

      Wow. I would have written this exact thing just a little over a year ago so let me tell you what was MY turning point. I felt strongly that I was in a position that was not playing up to my strengths and I was overwhelmed with financials, career, relationships (family/friends), and I just felt like I couldn’t catch a break… UNTIL, instead of focusing on everything I WISH I could do in my position, I focused on something that I COULD do that I would also enjoy. Granted, my position offers a great deal of flexibility and autonomy, but my mental frame work of trying to meet expectations that just did not feel like they aligned with the version of me I was trying or hoping to achieve (however passively) was a BIG factor in making me feel unmotivated. Ultimately, NO ONE ELSE is responsible for how happy you are — that is YOUR and yours only. So my action item for you: find something, really outside the box, that you can contribute that you think you would like to do or that you know you would like to do… that will help you with the other assignments that seem cumbersome. THEN, if that makes your day(s) more passable, try finding things you enjoy doing and if this career position does not offer that THEN begin your search for something more aligned with your interests. It is relatively easier to become and stay engaged with something that you actually find interesting… PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS AND INTERESTS. Also, make sure you are taking care of all your needs: emotional, mental, social, physical, spiritual, and educational, and all their related sub fields. Do one thing for each category daily.

      I tried therapy, it was mediocre because I knew what I needed was something/someone between a therapist/coach/cheerleader.

      Recommended readings: “The Now Habit” by Dr. Neil Fiore and “Girl, Wash your Face,” by Rachel Hollis (I don’t care if you’re a guy or girl, read it) or “Get out of Your Own Way,” by Dave Hollis (her husband).

      1. Justme, The OG*

        Rachel Hollis’s work is full of fatshaming awfulness (there’s more to the awfulness than the shaming of fat people IMO). I hate when I see it recommended.

    22. Just a Thought*

      Never feel like an idiot for seeking therapy! I see someone on a regular basis, whether I have a “real” problem or not.

      It sounds like you might be really unhappy at your job and it’t just demoralizing, which sounds normal.

      Have you by chance suffered any kind of trauma recently? I’ve read a few articles that suggest that trauma affects cognitive abilities short-term. I recently left a long-term, abusive situation and I’m all kinds of struggling with my ability to process complex information and motivate myself.

    23. Combinatorialist*

      I had similar stuff when trying to write my thesis. I thought that I was just stressed/didn’t like my PhD stuff. Both of those were true, but I also went to a doctor and was vitamin B12 deficient. A simple blood test and then OTC supplement made a world of difference even though I was still stressed and still didn’t like my PhD stuff. So I would maybe see a regular doctor and see if you have some sort of imbalance that is contributing.

    24. Anon Librarian*

      * Responding without reading the other comments first. *

      I know what you mean about therapy. Like everything else in life, it’s not for everyone. That’s OK.

      What are your goals? What are your options?

      I hear two separate issues here. 1) You don’t like your job, but it’s unclear how bad that issue is and what to do about it. 2) You’re wondering if you have depression or ADHD and if your procrastination and feelings about your job could be affected by that.

      It can be hard to separate situations from possible mental health issues. I think the only way to find out is to change your circumstances for the better and see if things improve.

      In order to get assessed for ADHD or depression, you obviously would need to see a mental health professional. Unfortunately, they’re not all unbiased. Like all doctors, they’re subject to a lot of pressure from pharmaceutical companies to prescribe certain drugs. It can be challenging to find someone who won’t be influenced by that, especially if you don’t want a therapy type of experience to begin with. So it sounds like it should be a last resort.

      What else could you do? Can you job hunt? Are there any ways to make your job more bearable? What about things that would help with your overall health, mood and ability to focus? Like dietary changes, exercise, getting more sleep, doing more things that you enjoy . . . I’m sure you can think of more. What about going back to school? Making a career change? How’s the social side of your life and how could it be improved? Are there any negative influences that you’d be better off without?

      It sounds like you need changes in your life. You need things to get better. So, every day, or every week, change something for the better. One small thing to improve your health mood and/or move you forward towards a better work experience.

      Just my two cents!

    25. Feeling Better*

      I’ll start by saying I don’t know which it can be for you, but from personal experience I can tell you that about 15 years ago I had a medical incident that started out as a situation depression that turned chemical. I didn’t even realize it, though in hindsight not being able to get out bed and living in a fog seems like a pretty dramatic symptom to me. A wonderful therapist realized what was going on. went on an anti-depressant for about 10 months and it got me out of the depression. Many primary docs will write the prescription. That’s what I did. In most parts of the country there are severe shortage of psychiatrists, even when you have insurance. It’s worth looking at this is a possibility. As for the possible ADHD, I would look book ad try to figure out if this is an intensification of an old problem or something new. I am fairly sure that ADHD doesn’t just start in adulthood.

    26. LilySparrow*

      ADHD is a chronic neurodevelopmental disorder, so if you have it, you would have traits that have been consistent since childhood (even if they weren’t causing you problems back then).

      So in addition to procrastination and leaving things unfinished, you might have also had noticeable, not age-typical traits like:

      messiness, losing things, absentmindedness, being so engrossed in things that you lose time or don’t notice when someone speaks to you, awkward blurting, problems with volume control, difficulty remembering dates or times for things, figitiness/restlessness, sleep issues like insomnia or sleepwalking, and so forth.

      If you don’t recognize a pattern of ADH traits in your childhood, it’s probably something else.

      Are you getting enough sleep? And is it good-quality sleep? Sleep deprivation produces ADHD symptoms in neurotypical people. It also produces symptoms (or increases risk & severity) of anxiety and depression.

      So does stress.

    27. ADHD, depression, or burnout?*

      Thank you all for these kind comments, you have all given me a lot to think about. I’m going to reread these carefully – and I really appreciate the time and care in your responses :D

    28. Catastrophe*

      Have you been checked for an underactive thryoid? The symptoms that you mention can be indicative of low TSH levels. Even a borderline high could trigger the symptoms you mention. This may not be your problem, but if it is, the solution is relatively simple.

    29. Less than Anxious*

      I want to reach out because I have experienced the same. The first time it happened, I was in my first job in which I was reasonably successful. My boss gave me an important document and I sat on it, looking at it everyday, thinking “Nope. Don’t want to do that. Going to do something else.” I knew something was wrong with my unwillingness to do it.
      Not having any anxiety can be as bad as having too much anxiety. I know you don’t want to try therapy but a good therapist can help with meds, strategies (like the ones the commenters suggest) and maybe help reveal the root cause of this.

      Big love to you. You deserve better than feeling this way.

    30. StaceyIzMe*

      The point of talking with either a coach, therapist or group meeting around a particular topic (like procrastination, or improving work habits or whatever) isn’t that mild issues come up and that’s it. It’s that issues come up and you’re having an inner dialogue whereby you process stuff that’s getting in the way. Most of the time, you may have a general idea (or even NO idea) of what’s in need of processing. That’s okay. It does take time and engagement. If there’s a common denominator to avoiding therapy and avoiding difficult tasks, it’s a disinclination to engage. That can speak to dissatisfaction, fear of missing out on present pleasure for the prospect of future (and uncertain) reward, and residual baggage from childhood or even other issues in adulthood. DO get going on some personal work, whatever that means for you. There’s every flavor of it out there and it IS, generally speaking, helpful.

  2. Teapot Compliance*

    How have you guys figured out what your role is in different industries? I’m in manufacturing now, but would love to translate it to different industries that don’t have the same job title.

    Looking for Project Engineer kind of equivalent. Thank you!!

    1. Teapot Compliance*

      To clarify, I’ve had a difficult time finding parity in responsibility level and or pay, so I’m not sure if I’m targeting industries that pay lower or if there are better industry organization resources that I haven’t found yet.

      1. AH*

        I switched industries 3 times by searching job postings for my specific credentials, not the job title. My field has many job titles, so it was a natural way to find more opportunities. Another option is to browse through job postings at companies that are in the industries you are targeting to gain a better understanding of org structures and common job titles.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Absolutely this!

          I also recommend always searching duties along with titles because even in the same industry, titles are often skewed or just downright wrong.

          1. Exhausted Trope*

            So, so, SO true! I’ve seen job postings for say, “Llama Bathers” when the listed duties are much more specialized, like “give llamas pedicures, facials, and highlights.”

            1. Kiwiii*

              Yes this! I just left a company where Program Associate was sometimes basically an admin with some report monitoring duties, sometimes was more or less a receptionist and support staff role, and sometimes doing heavy suggestions and editing on policy and doing almost no admin work and there was no reasonable way to guess which it would be unless you looked at the description and qualifications (and they all got paid the same/not very much). At NewCompany, Program Associates are heavy travel roles who regularly meet with clients and do presentations. Their pay grade starts at about double OldCompany’s PAs did.

            2. The Man, Becky Lynch*


              I always am reminded how some “office managers” are actually literally receptionists [front desk coverage, phones and routing calls, mailings and maybe some housekeeping tasks in there]. Whereas my background out of the gate told me that OM’s actually manage the entire office, hire/fire the admins required and are on par with the other department managers.

              That can often be weeded out by salary listed as well in some aspects. Since it does usually skew if it’s a higher salary than what your entry level or experience are looking into, it’s probably more than just washing llama’s butts!

        2. LibrarianforThis*

          I also searched for specific credentials (not job title) and also browsed postings in general at companies. This was incredibly helpful and how I found some jobs that I would not have ever found otherwise. I find it hard to talk in hypotheticals sometimes or make everything about teapots ;), but basically, I was a librarian in corporate STEM jobs and managed to interview at law firms, universities, and in healthcare. I will say that it was easier to switch fields within the corporate world, as opposed to moving outside of it – meaning, I was able to get interviews at law firms and banks and a healthcare company, but academia had no interest in me unless it was VERY specific to the corporate STEM job I’d been in.

          1. Teapot Compliance*

            Thank you! I was struggling how to find the other titles, but my brain didn’t put together that I don’t need the title itself, thank you!

    2. Nerfmobile*

      Jobs in my field will always have a few key words, no matter what the title or industry is. Levelling terms can be tricky, so I always look at all of the possible relevant jobs and it’s easy to rule out the ones that are too junior even if they have a “high-level” title.

  3. Conjunction Junction*

    When I was at my last job, it was a toxic place. There was a new woman in a different department. She was lovely and awesome at her job. The other women kept saying that they “wish she would leave” and were just plain nasty to her. I would talk with her and can’t for the life of me think of why they would hate her so much. I’m guessing they were threatened and she didn’t fit in with them- as in she wasn’t mean and petty like them.

    This was a place that struggled to find people though, so why would they be chasing people away? The woman was great at her job, so wouldn’t you *want* to keep her in the position?

    I just don’t understand places where it’s based on personal feelings rather than performance, how people are allowed to bully, and why they think they can afford to lose people or chase people out when they struggle to hire/retain people.

    How does this happen? Why is it allowed to happen?

    1. JimmyJab*

      It’s wild how some entities allow certain behavior, but people are weird and not always professional. We have total problem people that pretty much everyone agrees are a detriment to any team they are on, yet they continue to have a job!

    2. LKW*

      Some people never mature past high school. So you have a combination of people whose own insecurities drive their need to put people down or make their lives difficult. Mostly to prove to themselves that they have a modicum of power they can wield. And you have management who either turn a blind eye or are too scared to combat it or simply don’t care.

      Strong leadership is needed in these cases along with clear and consistent expectations of behavior.

    3. College Career Counselor*

      Sounds like a combination of hiring good people into an entrenched bad culture and not rooting out bad apples because it’s difficult. I would be interested to know if the lovely person you mentioned is still there, or if she got the hell out ASAP.

    4. fposte*

      Because people are people, I guess. Attrition and retention are really more management concerns, so it’s easy for people who don’t have to do the work of hiring not to worry about the labor of that. What seems more significant here is that the management was out of touch with the environment that caused the problems. Your co-workers may have been mean, but the buck stops with the manager.

    5. JokeyJules*

      I worked at a place like this!
      Everything was very “status quo” and there was definitely a social/political hierarchy among coworkers and departments. If you’ve got enough people buying into it, especially if the people buying into it are in management, it won’t change. This facility was running on the bare minimum profit margin and wasn’t going to last another 20 years, but by then all of those people would have retired so it meant nothing to them.

      When we got a new administrator who started asking real questions, wondering why our daily morning meeting lasted for 2 hours, and started keeping people accountable for their job tasks, it was absolute mayhem.

      People buy into the status quo that they think serves them. Sometimes others will come in and shake it up, sometimes those others get cast out.

    6. Fortitude Jones*

      It happens because people are human and they often give in to their petty sides when they shouldn’t. It’s allowed to happen because some managers either don’t see it happening due to being busy with other administrative tasks, management is apart of the dysfunction, and/or the people doing this are stealth assholes who make sure not to do or say anything around management that will get them fired.

      There’s really nothing you can do about this other than what you’ve been doing. Keep being nice to your colleague and try to shut down any griping about her from others when you hear it. Stay away from the gripers as well because trust and believe, you’ll become their next target.

    7. Alternative Person*

      Been there, still there.

      In my experience its a kind of stalling out/gravy train riding, combined with management policies that don’t encourage better.

      As in people reach a point where for whatever reason they can’t progress in their career (lack of money for training/small org structure with few promotion chances/limited opportunities in locale and can’t move/etc.) and essentially bed down for the long term. Then, management (sometimes with a lack of knowledge about the staffs’ job and hiring/firing restrictions) doesn’t progress techniques/let’s bad feelings fester/standards slip/doesn’t change up the routine once in a while, and staff get nice and comfy in their little fiefdom of job security and pragmatic negativity.

      Eventually, someone new arrives, with a better attitude/new to the org ideas/more education/etc. and suddenly they can’t mosey on by anymore so they want to get rid of the new person because they’re making the long-timers look bad by association. Management (often hampered by poor policies) then doesn’t crack down on this/placates people/doesn’t back the new person up with their shiny ideas, and things don’t change much (sometimes the new person effects change by sheer force of will, but it is dependent on how much freedom they have).

      The new person, seeing the writing on the wall, figures out their preferred way of dealing with it and usually plots to get another job (whether this is short or long term depends very much on the person, the severity of the company/staffs’ problems, and how good the job market is).

        1. Bananatiel*

          So, full disclosure I eventually left– but I knew I was good at my job and it was impossible for me to really get blocked out of key projects because of my role. So I decided a couple of years into the job that I was sick of the drama and weird infighting/bullying– I started pushing back on it whenever I could in whatever small way made sense. “That’s a really unkind thing to say about someone”/”That sounds like speculation, I’d rather not hear it”/etc. I’m well aware that I was coming off as a goody-two-shoes and obviously the gossipers/bullies still did their thing– but I didn’t hear about it NEARLY as much. And because everyone knew I didn’t engage in the drama it actually allowed me to be closer to everyone and work better with everyone, save for a couple of particularly bad eggs that might have actually just been evil people, ha.

        2. Alternative Person*

          What the above person said is really useful, keep the negativity out of your orbit, lift people up where you can.

          For me, its my direct peers that caused the problem, so I basically started to and continue to leave them be as much as possible. It’s not ideal, but it means I’m not winding myself up about their attitudes, and the nature of my job means I don’t need to work with them 99% of the time.

          I focus on doing my job as well as possible, and not concerning myself too much about what they think/do. They’ve poisoned that well a bit by making me out to be the bitch who does things the wrong way to newer staff, but whatever, I’m not going to put energy into arguing about it, and frankly I do the job better and it shows.

          It kind of sucks, honestly having to be the bigger person all the time, but its how I win this one.

          Also, I try to make an effort to do nice things. Lunches out on weekends, doing fun hobby stuff, keeping on top of stuff go a fair way to keeping my mind of the BS at work. I’ve got a week-long holiday next month which I am very ready for.

          I’m on the path to leaving, but the local job market is such that next-level jobs are hard to come by so it’s a matter of waiting it out.

    8. Mbarr*

      I’m inclined to agree with the others – that it’s just stupid pettiness.

      BUT, maybe you’re having a completely different relationship with her than the other people. I ran into this at my old job – my manager and I got along great. We didn’t always agree, but I didn’t have problems with her otherwise. Other people on my team though? I know at least 4 people went to HR to complain about her, and she did eventually get demoted because of it. She was nasty to a lot of people… Just not me.

      Everyone would complain about her, then look to me to join in, and I’d have to say, “That’s not my experience with her at all.”

      1. Annonno Today*

        The running to HR with complaints… when it’s just personality dynamics… is rampant at the place I work.

        1. Windchime*

          At the place where I worked, all of us who went to HR to complain about our toxic manager were brushed off with the “personality dynamics” excuse. HR and our directors in IT were all convinced that our toxic manager was awesome, and that people just weren’t strong enough to deal with the chaos and rampant cruelty that she created. It wasn’t until a lawsuit became a real possibility that she was finally fired. The whole thing was weird because she had caused chaos in multiple departments before being dumped into ours, and apparently HR had even fought her promotion to manager in our department. And yet when we complained about her, we were patronized and blown off while she was supported.
          It’s very strange. I don’t know why it happens but I’ve experienced it first-hand.

        2. Mbarr*

          I don’t think it was personality conflicts. It was unreasonableness – but unreasonableness seemed to run around a lot in our department.

          A few people quit and gave 2 weeks notice, but the manager told them to just get out of the office, which meant that everything fell on the rest of us with no time to transition work. So that sucked.

    9. Annonno Today*

      Not exactly your situation, but this sort of thing is EVERYWHERE.
      I work in a place where some staff have been there 30-40 years and while the old boy network is dying, it’s still breathing. Staff is diverse/inclusive, but the downside is that management seem fearful of dealing with any problems caused by a minority/protected status employee, no matter how egregious the behavior.

      A person who bullied another on their team so bad that the bullied person resigned is still blithely enjoying their position.

      1. MsChaos*

        At my first school assignment, it was de rigeur to have lunch with other teachers and engage in bitch sessions about our principal and AP. After a couple weeks of this, I couldn’t take it any more, stood up and told them how immature they all sounded, that if they had real issues about their jobs, they needed to be adults and either bring things up to the admins or talk to their union reps and hope they weren’t laughed out of the room for it. I started eating lunch in my room with my students, and once my AP came in looking for me. He said, you aren’t eating lunch with the other teachers? Oh, right, if you want to bitch at me YOU’LL do it to my face. That was too funny. But I’ve never put up with cowardly bullying, and there are people at my school now who will talk behind others’ backs, but never to me and never about me. If you stand up for your values, most people will respect you, at least.

        1. Natalia*

          That’s a good thing to do! It’s so immature to talk about people behind their backs. Then again, some people are so petty and stupid and have nothing better to do or nothing worthwhile to talk about.

    10. Mama Bear*

      I think sometimes people are threatened by someone who does their job better than they do and rather than look at their own work, they want to tear the new person down so they don’t look lazy or bad. Women seem to be especially good at this catty crab syndrome behavior. I know companies where they lost half a team and were flat-out told it was a bad manager and the manager is still there. Above my pay grade to worry about their retention rate.

    11. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I think there’s a mentality in a lot of workplaces that your work skills are separate from social skills. So a boss who would reprimand someone for failing in their work skills might see a conflict between two employees and think, that’s a social thing and therefore it’s not mine to regulate.

      In reality, social interactions are part of almost every job, and the ability to maintain civil relationships with your coworkers should be held as an essential job duty.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        In reality, social interactions are part of almost every job, and the ability to maintain civil relationships with your coworkers should be held as an essential job duty.

        And if higher-ups ignore it, they’re not being good managers. Plus, eventually they’re going to have to deal with higher turnover and fewer quality employees because the good ones will not stick around a workplace like that.

    12. Jules the 3rd*

      Because tribes are a powerful, possibly biologically-based, social organizing principal. Being mean is a way to mark someone as ‘out of tribe’, and external targets are a way of uniting your internal tribe, increasing tribe loyalty and cohesion.

      See: rising nationalism across most of the globe right now, being used to distract and solidify power. The US is not the only country struggling with itself. It’s the same dynamic, on a different scale.

    13. Not So NewReader*

      Corruption explains this sometimes.

      I have seen groups identify with their martyrdom or victim-hood so much that if you, average outsider, interfere with that self-image then you will become THEIR victim.

      So how did they become martyrs? Could be toxic management and/or poorly run company struggling to make ends meet. Money is a weapon of sorts. “We have to keep Embezzeler-in-Chief on because we won’t make payroll without his connections.” Since the financial books are in a bad way, no one can get a handle on where the money is at. In my story here, once they got rid of Mr. Skimmer, they were able to meet payroll- ta da! Yeah he was taking that much money.

      So Skimmer had his VPs who covered for him. This put the VPs on edge and many of them made poor decisions that impacted the lower ranking people in a negative way. Hugely negative. In turn, middle managers were very jumpy and nervous. As this trickled down, the peons understood that it was every dog for themselves. And the cutthroat stuff rolled. All these people knew they were not being true to themselves, they had become less-than in someway. And that made everything WORSE.
      When the cutthroat stuff rolls like that people tend to hitch their wagons to the loudest voice. This would be the person who seems to be offering the most protection. If this is starting to sound like mob stuff, there is good reason. Let’s say a person speaks up and says “no, this is wrong”, they can be facing threats against their own lives. I have seen that one also. Sometimes the cesspool is deeper than one would think possible.

      For practical purposes: If you see a good worker being targeted and driven out, get yourself out. It could be that you are next, but maybe not. However, this is not a healthy environment and one person alone will not change it.

      So how does an employee become a threat to other people’s victim-hood? By doing a good job. By being happy, personable and helpful. This breaks the other employees’ theory that they are trapped. It makes them consider that they could have something better. This is dreadful because it’s work to get to a better place and “all places suck, anyway!”. And, “If we are not victims then who are we? That is going to be scary to find out!”
      These are people who relish failure, they love to watch people fall on their faces because it’s a confirmation that they were right, their work place sucks.

      If you need to protect yourself, be sure to agree with them when they say they are upset. “Oh, I can see that would be very upsetting.” Give a helping hand once in a while when they are actually stuck – this could be a misbehaving printer or their own personal car won’t start. When you can see the chips are down right now, then help out. Don’t talk about how much you accomplished today. Don’t talk about meeting goals in a timely manner. You can do these things, just don’t talk about it. Don’t talk about your review unless it is to complain. (In other words, say nothing.) Don’t talk about your education, your trips, or anything from home that sounds too much like success or too much like fun. Copy the things they talk about. Suppose they talk about their pets, then talk about yours or your family member’s pet. If they are talking about a tragedy in the news, you can chime in with, “Oh, I saw that. That was so sad…” Take clues from listening to them. And definitely, if you misstep somehow, apologize for it, but never expect them to apologize to you.

  4. The Swoonies*

    I’m an eLearning Developer and also a Graphic Artist. In addition to my day job, I also have a side business designing book covers. I would like to put this on my LinkedIn profile/resume, but I want to see what other people think about this first.

    My reservation is that I design exclusively for Historical Romance genre. I come from an arts background and I am drawn to the painterly quality of some of the nicer historical romance covers. Romance in general has a stigma attached to it, as I am sure many of you know. But my covers are great examples of my skills as a graphic artist. And they are downright beautiful. I also do graphic work for my regular job, but it’s obviously very different.

    Would it potentially damage my reputation in a corporate world to publicly link these two worlds together? Do I need to do this on a separate LinkedIn profile?

    I will note that the covers can be “steamy” but they are not erotica.

      1. The Swoonies*

        I hadn’t though of it that way. I am not planning to leave my job anytime soon. I just got a promotion, in fact. Which is very exciting. But I do want to grow my book cover business even though it’s separate from my day job.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          May I suggest you have a LinkedIn account for your covers separate from your corporate account then? I commented below before you posted, but if you’re trying to grow your side hustle, you should give it its own page so that your branding is on full display away from the company you work for. It will also keep your client recs for your cover design in one place instead of scattered among any recs/comments you’ve received for your e-Learning career.

          1. envirolady*

            Personally, I don’t recommend having two LinkedIn accounts. It gets very confusing and can throw people off. I think it might be good to create a web portfolio of this other work and link it to your LinkedIn profile (with a clear title that includes freelance to indicate that it’s different from your main work).

              1. LLG612*

                This is what I was going to suggest. I think a web portfolio linked to your regular LinkedIn would be perfect.

              2. LunaLena*

                Yes, this is what I was thinking. I’m a graphic designer myself, and when I interviewed I tailored my portfolio to the position. My portfolio is a binder, so I put different categories of designs on different pages, and just added or removed pages as needed. So for jobs that required creativity or drawing skills, I included more samples of illustrations and other artwork, but for jobs that were heavy in marketing, I put in pages of ad designs and campaigns I’d done.

                My online portfolio is all on one page, but it’s divided into four categories so the viewer can pick and choose what kind of work they want to see.

                My recommendation would be to keep at least one example of your cover art in your portfolio at all times, if only to show off your diverse skills. You never know who it’ll impress, plus it gives you a chance to talk about your side gig. In my experience, having a side gig like that is almost always a plus – it shows that you are proactive in improving your skills outside of your work, you have your own creative outlet (this is important because a lot of people worry that creative types will get bored with technical work like UI design), and that graphic design truly is a passion and not just a job for you. I usually also emphasized that my side gig is just that – a side gig that I do for my own fun and edification, and not something I want to rely on as my primary source of income, since a lot of people assume that the Big Dream for all creative types is to be a freelance artist (it is definitely not for me).

                Hope this helps!

                1. The Swoonies*

                  Very helpful. I do have a portfolio that is tailored to my elearning work and have so far kept everything separate. I like your idea of keeping one image in my portfolio just to pique interest. And then I can, of course, be strategic about which I use.

                  I love your take on having a side gig. I think a lot of people try to hide that they do things on the side from their jobs. In my last job I didn’t want them to know because I was worried they would think I wasn’t committed. But my current job is totally different. A couple people know about it but I’ve kept the specifics of the genre private because I don’t know what people will say. But I really appreciate this outlook on how it can be a positive thing.

                  I’ve been doing technical work in eLearning for a long time. My specialty is software, which is such the anthesis of romance novel covers. It can be very dry, but I’ve been lucky in that I have carved out a creative niche for myself and they let me get very out of the box with my training. I still need my cover design to break things up though. It’s satisfying in a way that technical work is not.

                2. LunaLena*

                  Haha, yeah, my Previous Previous Job was like that – lots of technical skill required, but very little creativity. As much as I love my current job, I do sometimes miss having lots of creative energy left when I get home. My for-fun creative output has definitely dropped since I left that job.

                  I think people won’t question your commitment to your job if you explain to them that your side gig is fun, but it isn’t your grand dream job in life. I usually tell people that, since I don’t have to rely on my art to pay my bills, it truly can be just for fun and I have the freedom to make what I want, not what the market demands (my side hustle is an Etsy shop, for context). Also, I can experiment all I want without stressing out if something I made doesn’t sell very well; I can just shrug, call it a failed experiment, and move on to the next thing. Selling stuff on Etsy wouldn’t be nearly as fun if I decided to do it full-time and had to worry about making it a success.

    1. Quill*

      Yeah, they’re book covers, they’re suitable for being seen in public with, you’re good.

      (Also the stigma for being hired to do work to produce a book cover is probably lower than the stigma of writing a romance novel.. and even that’s gone down.)

      1. The Swoonies*

        I have to admit, I’ve hit the job lottery. I love both my regular job and side job. They’re really fun!

    2. Fortitude Jones*

      It should be fine. When I had a LinkedIn account, I had the website that showcased my YA comedic mystery and horror novels linked, and I didn’t have a problem. People thought it was cool actually, and it helped to solidify my clout as a writer.

    3. Mockingjay*

      It’s funny; romance outsells every other genre combined, but you’re right about the stigma. Maybe because the audience skews to a certain demographic?

      That aside, do you have to mention the type of book? Emphasize the skills, not the genre. “Design soft and hard book covers for major publisher (indy publisher, etc.).” Describe the type of graphics you develop for these covers – photos, drawings, etc. Do you design title graphics and such? What publishing tools do you use? Industry standards or convention you follow?

      Treat it like any other work experience you have.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Maybe because the audience skews to a certain demographic?

        Yes. Anything that’s largely enjoyed and consumed by women is considered frivolous.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          Yup. Classics like Catcher in the Rye would be considered “Chick lit” if the protagonist had been a woman.

      2. The Swoonies*

        Oh, I know it outsells every other genre. It’s amazing really. But yeah, the stigma is ridiculous. People talk about it being trashy and overly sexual but it’s not like there aren’t classic novels with sex in it. Plus romantic movies are a thing and no one seems to have a problem with that.

        Anyway, as to your question… I don’t havve to mention the book type, no. But my business name is The Swoonies, which perhaps hints at the genre. And if I have to show work I would of course be showing what I create. But overall, I would do as you said and focus on my skills.

    4. Sloan Kittering*

      Hmm, are the covers the classic “lovers in a clinch” type? I’ve seen some lovely and artistic romance covers – a woman’s face, flowers, etc – that I wouldn’t be at all hesitant to share with one and all, but I think shirtless-fabio type would raise eyebrows depending on your main job.

      1. The Swoonies*

        They are definitely not the womans face and flowers covers. Honestly, those ones are hard to sell. Romance authors want eye catching covers. That said, they’re not really like fabio covers either.

        Here is a link to my site if you’re curious:

          1. The Swoonies*

            Wow. Thank you so much for the compliment. I wish I could design one for you too. LOL. Sometimes I give them away just because I love making them so much.

        1. LunaLena*

          Oh wow, your work is beautiful! Love the “Smelling Salts Pack,” by the way, hahaha.

          I think if you had the cover of Claret or Midnight Afterglow without the text in your portfolio, they could easily be assumed to be custom portrait commissions. I think you could totally show off your work without tipping people off that they’re romance novel covers.

            1. The Swoonies*

              I appreciate that. There are a lot of cover artists who do really shoddy work and it’s unfortunate because they get up and coming authors to buy them at low prices and then they get cheap quality. I try to keep my prices in line with other artists to remain competitive but most importantly I don’t want authors swindled. And I don’t want a trashy romance cover reputation so I am glad they don’t come off that way.

          1. The Swoonies*

            That is a really great idea. I hadn’t thought of that. They could go as sci-fi / horror and no one would know.

            And thank you. I had such a good time coming up with the package titles haha.

        2. acmx*

          Your covers are really great! Your people are all realistic looking! (Seriously, I see so many covers with people on them and they are not proportioned correctly and they are from publishing houses.)

          1. The Swoonies*

            I know exactly what you’re talking about. Sometimes I am appalled at what an author has paid for. They get swindled by designers on fiver who steal samples and claim they can do the work when they can’t. Several of my covers were recently stolen by someone who was presenting them as his own work to get sales. It was such a hassle to deal with but the worst was that I was so upset that people were being swindled with my covers.

            1. acmx*

              The woman in blue on the main page is excellent.

              I, too, would be really upset that someone was using my creative work to swindle people!

        3. Princess Cimorene*

          This is so interesting! Do you also do photoshoots for the models/stock imagery or do you have somewhere that sells this type of specific stock imagery? I don’t think I ever gave much thought to the fact that there is this whole genre for design work. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to include as part of your overall professional presentation.

      2. The Swoonies*

        I replied to you but I think my comment is caught up in moderation because I put in a link. In any case, sorry if this ends up being a repeat comment.

        They’re not the type of covers that are just a woman’s face and flowers or just scenery. I’ve learned that those don’t sell, unless it’s a custom order, but I do a lot of pre-made covers. However, they’re not exactly fabio style either.

        My site that has my covers on it is theswooniesbookcovers dot com or just theswoonies dot com, if you’re curious to see them.

        1. Windchime*

          I’m not in any kind of artistic or marketing industry, so my comments won’t be helpful. But I took a look at your covers and I think they are very beautiful and tastefully done. I wouldn’t see anything wrong with including them in a professional portfolio.

          1. The Swoonies*

            Thank you so much! I don’t think it matters that you’re not in artistic or marketing industries. Not everyone who would view my work would be by any stretch. So I think your opinion is valuable and I appreciate you taking a look.

    5. Cartographical*

      You’d be surprised at how the stigma (such as it was) is lifting on romance. As someone who edits the genre, I can assure you that there’s always someone looking for a good cover designer. Romance novels are big business and cover art isn’t just used for covers anymore, it’s often incorporated into website designs and social media accounts. If you’re great to work with, that reputation and any associated testimonials can speak well for you in any field and romance conventions are great networking opportunities. Nothing says you need to stick to the genre, either, as you develop that line of work.

      I feel that professionalism is professionalism and delivering what’s needed on time is a good selling point for anyone. You’re contributing to media that makes people happy, you should be proud of that.

      1. The Swoonies*

        Thank you so much for this comment! It’s really reassuring. I do know the stigma is lifting but I wasn’t sure whether it could be damaging. I like the way you laid it out that professionalism is professionalism. I think I am easy to work with and I will do nearly anything to make my clients happy.

        I’ve been teaching myself new skills to go out of genre. I happen to be very good at historical romance in particular and I enjoy it the most.

        I really appreciate your perspective as someone who edits this genre.

    6. Oh No She Di'int*

      Keep these two completely separate. Brand confusion is a thing, and you are actually trying to cultivate 2 different brands simultaneously. This can absolutely be done, but not if you commingle the two. There is a reason that Nestlé keeps Purina Cat Chow very far away from Haagen-Dazs, even though the same company produces both.

      I would keep the LinkedIn solidly focused on your eLearning work. Then create a separate web portfolio for your romance novel work. You can then direct different potential clients differently depending on what they are looking for.

      And by the way, this has nothing to do with stigma. This has to do with good branding and not leaving your prospects scratching their heads and asking “Well, who is this person really?”

      1. The Swoonies*

        I see what you’re saying. I’m wondering though, will people really be scratching their heads about who I am when graphic design is already a big part of my regular work? It doesn’t seem like a huge stretch that I would have additional creative outlets.

        I do understand what you’re saying about branding. Can I brand myself as a creative that is multifaceted?

        1. Oh No She Di'int*

          It’s impossible to say without actually seeing your work. I depends on how much overlap there is between audiences that would naturally be looking for one and the other. Only you can make the fine distinctions.

          The problem with branding yourself as a “creative that is multifaceted” is that no one is out there looking for “multifaceted”. They are looking for a romance novel designer (or a kid’s book illustrator or an annual report designer or whatever). Is it possible that the same person can do all of those things? Obviously it is, but potential clients aren’t judging you on how well rounded you are as a human being; they are looking for some specific thing.

          Nestlé could choose to become just a “food company” and combine all their promotions for Purina Cat Chow, Cheerios, Haagen-Dazs, Hot Pockets, and Gerber baby food together. I mean after all, it’s all food right? And it shows they are multi-faceted. Yeah, but if you’re looking for ice cream, why would you want to be distracted by baby food?

          1. The Swoonies*

            Well, I didn’t mean to literally use the words “creative that is multifaceted”. I just was using that to convey an idea.

            My entire career in eLearning has been founded on me being multifaceted. I have a different set of skills than the usual elearning professional and I have used that to my advantage by making the case that having an art history background does indeed make me a better learning designer. It’s not that I disagree with you about branding but I think employer, particularly in eLearning are often looking for someone who is diverse and unique. More and more they want people who can do things that in any other industry would be an individual job unto itself.

            For example, I could easily tailory my resume to apply for technical writer, graphich design, eLearning, instructional design, sales operations, sales enablement, and many other types of positions that would normally stand on their own. But in eLearning they want people who can do it all. And I am sure that is true of many careers out there.

            I do see your point, I’m just not sure that my cover designs would be a distraction. I have to think on it.

            1. Oh No She Di'int*


              But in eLearning they want people who can do it all. = “depends on how much overlap there is between audiences that would naturally be looking for one and the other.”

              So you’ve answered that question.

              The next question is what is the likelihood that someone is out there looking for a romance cover designer, but wants to make sure they also have eLearning design skills? My guess is that that’s not likely. But you would know better than I would.

              1. The Swoonies*

                I’m sure they wont. But my Linked in is not really for them it’s just to present myself and cover all my skills and experience. I send people who are looking for covers to my facebook group and website where I sell them. I don’t send them to LinkedIn.

          2. juliebulie*

            Unrelated – but Oh No etc., you just told me what I’ve been doing wrong with my resume. Thank you

            1. The Swoonies*

              Love when I have those moments on here. This site really helped me refine my resume and hone in on what I wanted to do career wise and it really changed everything for me.

        2. Nerfmobile*

          I am a hiring manager in a closely related area (UX design). I like to see candidates who have a breadth of design work in their portfolio – but I want them to show that they know how to draw distinctions between different kinds of work and the skills and perspectives needed. So, in my case I’d want a candidate to have a section in their portfolio for research, for strategy/visioning, for complex workflows, for simple UI designs…. whatever they have done that they can talk about meaningfully. If I was hiring a graphic designer for my team, I’d be happy to see one or more sections that cover your e-learning skills, PLUS a section for ad designs, a section for book covers, a section for mixed-media art projects…. Just because for right now I need a designer who can do an awesome job with knowing how to isolate UI elements for illustrating workflows, doesn’t mean that eventually I might not need other kinds of design work too. And knowing the breadth of your skills has value.

          1. The Swoonies*

            This is awesome advice and definitely something that I had to learn. My experience and skills used to be all over the place and I had to learn how to reframe it so I made all the proper connections to the job I wanted. It helped tremendously. This is great advice for any field. Showing the breadth of my skills is exactly what I want to do. Figuring out how to show the parallels will be key. Thank you.

    7. Meredith*

      I would add it in. Maybe it’s because I work in marketing, but I know lots of people who have their side businesses listed in their LinkedIn profiles. And LinkedIn won’t display anything – it’s a limitation of the platform – just a link to your business website and a description of your skills and accomplishments for that position.

      1. The Swoonies*

        Very true. It won’t show the actual work unless I link it. I was concerned that maybe my business name would give it away, but perhaps I am worrying for nothing.

    8. Fact & Fiction*

      Good for you on your side hustle! I write and publish mostly urban fantasy/paranormal and boy, do I know how people can stigmatize the romance genre. Well joke’s on them, because it’s extremely beloved by many and super lucrative. So they can poke fun all they want!

      I chose to write under a pen name because when I sold my first series to a big publisher, I wanted to maintain a separation between my “day job” at that time that was in a fairly conservative industry (law). When I quit working full-time for a few years to focus on writing, I did go ahead and add my three traditionally-published books to my LinkedIn account because I started freelance writing/editing on the side. When I did have to go back to a full-time “day job,” I made the transition to content writing so I felt it was worth it to leave those up as further illustrations of my writing skills and expertise even if it was in a different “genre” from online/content writing, so to speak. So I lean on the side of linking them if you feel comfortable–they are examples of your artistic skills.

      But ultimately only you can make the call on whether you think it will work for or against you in your specific industry/region.

      1. The Swoonies*

        I’m so in awe of published writiers. It’s an incredible accomplishment. I’ve wanted to write a novel for decades and I recently/finally started writing one. It’s purely for fun though. No idea if it’ll publish or if I’ll even try. But I’m 60K words in and I see how hard it is. Amazing that you did it on top of your other job. I know a lot of authors do that, but still I think it’s really cool.

  5. Foreign Octopus*

    I saw the news out of California this week about Assembly Bill 5 that moves to class gig workers (i.e. people who work for Lyft, Uber, and other platforms like them) as employees with all the same benefits. Personally, I think this is great as I’m a gig employee but based in Spain and am aware of how easy it is for these platforms to abuse the people working for them. I’d like to know what other people think about this bill (if it doesn’t touch on politics, obviously).

    Is there anyone out there affected by AB5?

    1. Nacho*

      Uber does a lot of things that don’t really translate into being an employee with full benefits and a minimum wage, and they’ll probably have to seriously change their business model to meet these new requirements. If drivers are earning money even when they’re not driving a customer, Uber will probably remove their ability to decline rides and might institute a limit on how many people can log in at once so they’re not paying everybody to just sit around waiting.

      1. Natalie*

        I’m not sure that’s accurate – this bill is based on a CA Supreme Court ruling that essentially finds that they are *already* employees by California’s rules. So they wouldn’t have to change much about how they operate, just how they pay people.

        Unless CA has different rules about on-call, they wouldn’t have to pay people to sit around waiting, either. The FLSA doesn’t consider you to be working if you’re “waiting to be engaged” and are otherwise free to go about your business.

        1. Le Sigh*

          Noting the part about the CA court ruling. I seem to recall that part of the issue the court took was that Uber was acting like an employer, correct? Creating work requirements/dictations that fell into the category of employees, but then trying to call them contractors to avoid the liabilities that come with that?

          1. Natalie*

            Essentially, yes. The Dynamex decision (which the bill more clearly codifies and adds a public right of action*) has a three prong test to be an employee: a) control of the work, b) centrality of the work to the firm’s main business, and c) worker actually customarily operates an independent trade in that type of work. It’s not an either/or situation, if the work situation doesn’t meet one of the prongs, it could potentially be a valid IC situation. That’s why Uber is trying to make their “technology platform” argument, if they can claim to not meet that criterion they don’t have to worry about the other two.

            * The public right of action is far more interesting, IMO, and getting very little attention. Currently most labor laws are only enforced by private right of action, aka a worker or group of workers deciding to pursue a complaint. It’s one reason labor violations are so easy to get away with. AB5 allows municipalities to pursue misclassification issues on their own.

            1. Oh No She Di'int*

              You seem very well informed Natalie!

              I’ve been confused by the Uber situation. I mean, I get that the drivers want the benefits of being an employee, and I hate to side with big, bad corporate business, but . . . my sister drove for Lyft and she most certainly did not behave like any sort of employee that I am familiar with. She started and stopped as she pleased. She absolutely took on “business” from other sources, and it’s not at all unusual for a rideshare driver to be driving for 2 rival companies at the same time (although my sister did not). That just doesn’t look like an employee to me. The fact that Uber dictates the parameters and guidelines of how to do the job seems no different to me than when clients issues a set of specs, which they expect any freelancer to follow.

              What am I missing?

              1. Natalie*

                Well, economies and labor markets change, and the law does have to change with them. So the fact that something is a little different from how employment has worked doesn’t *necessarily* mean anything about whether or not it should be classified as an employment relationship or an IC relationship.

                That said, as far as I understand the court’s definition of exercising control over the work is a lot more than just issuing specs. Gig workers have essentially no control over any aspect of their work except the hours – the algorithms that determine everything from what rides you’re offered to what you get paid to whether you get offered surge/bonus pay are a complete black box. The driver is basically playing a guessing game with a computer that is constantly tweaking the answer ever so slightly.

                Also, keep in mind that all three part of the test have to be met for CA to consider something an employment relationship. If you ignore the vagaries of scheduling, someone who’s labor is substantially controlled by the company AND is fundamental to the operation of the business AND who isn’t customarily in business for themselves sounds an awful lot like an employee.

                1. LJay*

                  And as it is you are penalized for declining rides as a driver.

                  If I could accept and decline rides as I desired so I could only accept profitable ones it would be one thing. However, if you decline too many rides they put you off-line for a certain amount of time, limiting your ability to make money.

                  A lot of the platforms also obfuscate a lot of data until after you accept the delivery, so you can’t decide “Oh I only want to take a short delivery because I am going to go home soon” or wait and take only a delivery that would pay $20 or more because you only want to do deliveries that feel worth your time. I would just get a ping that would show the restaurant it was for and have to accept or decline. Then only after I got to the restaurant and picked up the food would it show the delivery location.

                  And, while there are gig economy jobs that do better or worse with #1.

                  (InstaCart was the worst for me. I never even actually worked for them because when I went to the orientation they made it clear that you had to give them availability and they would schedule shifts for you (and pressured me to work the next day because the next day was a big sports weekend). You HAD to wear their uniform. [Most of the companies are smart enough to say that they recommend you wear their uniform because of blah blah blah that’s beneficial to you but it’s your choice]. You were not allowed to have another person assist you with the shopping or ride in your car with you. Etc. It made it clear that either they didn’t understand the restrictions on dictating things like that to dedicated contractors, or they just plain didn’t care and seemed like it was going to be a situation where I was clearly taken advantage of.)

                  However, I can’t think of any of the gig economy gigs that fit either of the second or third criteria. Uber and Lyft’s entire business model is getting people rides.

                  Uber Eat’s, DoorDash, PostMates, Favor, etc entire business model is delivering food to people. InstaCart’s entire business model is delivering groceries to people.

                  They could argue that they are just technology platforms, but then they wouldn’t be advertising to consumers that they can get rides or deliveries. They would be advertising exclusively to independent contractors that they could connect them with their customers. And they wouldn’t offer customer service to trouble shoot the orders, branded merchandise/uniforms for the drivers to wear or bags for them to carry, etc.

                  And the independent contractors are doing all of those main driver jobs (and usually the customer service portion as well).

                  And outside of certain cases (like Uber Black), the people were not in business as freelancers in the field before then, and are not really in the business as a freelancer now. If these apps didn’t exist, they wouldn’t be driving for pizza restaurants or for taxi companies. They were lured in by the promise of a wage for being an average person with a car, and outside of the time they’re logged into the app they’re acting like average people with a car. Most aren’t registered as a business with their states or localities. Most don’t have a bookkeeper that handles their finances and taxes for this, or even a copy of quickbooks they use themselves. They’ve never sent an invoice to anyone. They only do it because they were told by Uber or Lyft or DoorDash or whatever that it was easy money and all they had to do was have a car, download an app, and have a background check run, and a little extra cash made at times you have to make it is alluring for tons of people.

                  I’m a bit torn on the whole issue.

                  Because honestly, most of what I liked, and what I think most people liked, about driving for Uber or whoever was the parts that made it an independent contractor position. I didn’t have a boss. I could do it when I wanted to, where I wanted to. The barrier to entry was so low as to be basically nonexistent. If I wasn’t feeling it after an hour, I could stop. If I wanted extra money I could go longer.

                  I also know that Uber, etc, aren’t going to go, “Okay, now that you’ve won the lawsuit we will compensate you like employees and pay for your benefits like employees, but everything else will be the same. It’s not going to be a win for the drivers either way. If they win the lawsuit, either the apps will shut down completely because they can’t afford to compensate the drivers fairly and still be successful. Or they will find some other shitty loophole to maintain the status quo – limit the amount of time you can drive to stay under any requirements for benefits, pay absolute minimum wage for drivers and require you to be actively driving for a portion of the hour with no rejected jobs or bad feedback (they already do that in their promos when they promise $12 an hour for certain hours, etc), I dunno exactly what loopholes.

                  And I don’t know why I feel this way about Uber and Lyft, etc, because I would be appalled if it was a regular employer breaking labor laws and would be appalled if someone said this about the employees. But I kind of feel like, if you don’t like the way Uber or Lyft or whoever treat you, just don’t drive for them.

                  Honestly, most people who do it burn out fast. I did it a few months and stopped when I figured out that with how much I was paying for gas for my car, wear and tear on my vehicle, tax on my earnings, and for my own time and annoyance, I would be better off finding a side job working retail or in a restaurant. (But I didn’t want to consistently give up my time to do that or be bothered with the whole process of applying, being hired, etc. So instead I did nothing, which I realize is a privileged option to have.)

                  But maybe it’s because the gig economy as a whole is so new that I’m thinking like that. It feels like an added option to the jobs marketplace rather than something that has always existed and been has been relied on for someone’s ability to pay their bills.

                  And if everyone realized and stopped driving for them the companies would be forced to adapt and pay enough to make it actually worth your while, or they would not be able to and go away. Which really isn’t a different outcome to government intervention.

                  So I’m not sure why I feel torn about the government intervention in this case. Especially since I know these platforms are out to squeeze every last cent out of people they can which I abhor in a traditional employer.

          2. Former Church Lady in HR*

            I used to work for the “central office” of a large church denomination. Each separate church had a lot of autonomy but employment records were kept centrally for benefits, unemployment, and other purposes. It was not long after the FLSA was amended in the 2000s that a review of employment classifications was done. The result showed that a lot of the churches had misclassified their organists and choir directors as independent contractors, in most cases to save on social security taxes, etc. It became my job to contact the administration person at the various churches and explain how their organist had to be converted to employee status (pun not intended!) and the appropriate taxes paid going forward. A couple of places tried to push back but, using the ol’ three prong test, I countered that until things had changed so that the organist could play Christmas music on Easter at whatever time she chose AND brought in her own pipe organ, she was going to be classified as an employee. Worked like a charm!

            1. LJay*

              See, this is a weird one to me, because freelance musicians are very much a thing. And if I hire a freelance pianist to accompany me at a choral audition, he isn’t lugging in his own piano.

              And you can set parameters for independent contractors, and “play seasonally appropriate music” seems very much a legitimate parameter to me. If I hire a band to play my wedding reception I can tell them I want pop and dance music, not death metal, and that I don’t want the singer to sing any songs with vulgar language in them.

              I guess the real difference would be that the organists most likely are not playing the organ for other organizations during the week? And that it’s an ongoing commitment, not a one-off or sporadic thing? And/or that the organist can’t be like, “Sorry, it’s a busy seasons and I’m already booked for the next 8 Sundays so I can’t play your mass those weeks.” and expect that the church will go out and find another freelancer? And maybe that they were expected to be at rehearsals, etc, and receive and adapt to feedback rather than just show up on Sunday and deliver the requested music? And that things other than the instrument like music, music stands, etc, were supplied?

              Or are just pretty much all freelance musicians miscategorized in this way?

              Like I can see some cases where the musicians are clearly employees – I went to a piano bar the other day, and the musicians had to be up on the stage the entire time, they had to play pieces requested by the public and pieces from the bar’s selection, and it was a piano bar – the main selling point is that there is music there.

              But is there a specific tipping point that makes them freelance vs not or is music just another industry where contractor abuse is so rampant nobody blinks an eye at it anymore?

              I think I’m specifically curious as I went to school for music ed, and the need to bring a piano accompanist to auditions was treated as a normal, no big deal thing for the performance majors. And for that you would of course dictate what piece they were playing and what time they played. And of course they would not bring their own piano. (And you might even dictate how they dressed.) But these were always infrequent things, and the piano accompanist was in the business of being a piano accompanist and contracted himself out to many people to do this. So I’m curious whether my university was encouraging us to look at this from the wrong perspective.

              1. Former Church Lady in HR*

                Calling the church organist or choir director a “contractor” was, in 99% of the cases, a pretext for not having to pay FICA, unemployment, and benefits. (These positions usually exceeded 20 hours/week and pension plan eligibility was triggered at 20 hours.) In addition to being hired to play at specific hours on an ongoing regular basis, the music selected had to be related to the liturgies for the occasion and subject to the approval the pastor who can require certain selections to be played. The individuals were being treated as staff and there frequently has to be coordination with other members of the staff. They clearly functioned as employees, not independent contractors. Most of the affected workers were women; the churches often told me that “She doesn’t want benefits because her husband takes care of that.”!! I’m not sure but I think that the organization’s legal counsel first had concerns the law was being evaded and then that employee status would clarify control over the individual’s job performance, etc. that was absent form “1099 status”

        2. FindThisVeryInteresting*

          I think what Nacho is saying is that Uber will have to make changes to their business from a profitability and cost-saving perspective, not a legal one.

          For instance, since the new bill would likely make Uber (and others) pay a driver while they are not carrying drivers, it would make sense for them to limit the number of people who can be out on the road at any given time. It’s a capitalistic mandate rather than a governmental one.

    2. Alianora*

      I used to caption for Rev, classified as a freelancer, and I found out yesterday that they deactivated my account because I live in California and hadn’t captioned for about a month. (I don’t think they would have notified me if I hadn’t contacted Support.) They said it was in response to certain legislation, probably related to this.

      For online gig workers in California, I think this is more likely for the companies to cut us loose at the first chance than for them to classify us as employees. I’m lucky I haven’t relied on income from that job for a while (hence the lapse).

      1. Quill*

        I did Rev for a full day and hated it, can I ask if you left because you found a better side gig or just dumped it?

        1. Alianora*

          I actually liked the captioning work part of it (the company itself and how it treats its freelancers is another story) but yeah, I found a bunch of odd jobs and eventually started a full-time office job. Rev was more to fill in the gaps, it was nowhere near well-paying enough to make a living for long in the bay area. Ironic since they’re headquartered in San Francisco.

          1. Quill*

            The captioning would have been fine for me but the audio quality of EVERYTHING they had up? Yikes. I eventually figured I’d be making under $3 an hour.

            1. Alianora*

              Yep, it’s definitely a slog for a while till you get faster, train your ear, and make it to revver+. The only reason I bothered at first was because I was part-time at a minimum wage student job, so any extra income was better than nothing. Now that I make a better wage and have full-time employment, it wasn’t worth it unless I was bored or could find a really amazing file.

      2. Sophie before she was cool*

        Yep, this kind of flexible gig role is going to become nearly impossible to find in CA, if it isn’t already.

        I work (full-time employee with benefits, not a freelancer) for a similar company, and we haven’t hired freelancers in CA for a while — at least 1.5 years — because the labor laws have become increasingly strict on who can be classified as an independent contractor.

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

        +1 sort of. I don’t think they’ll whole scale cut people loose, because they’ll need workers in order to run a business and California’s 39+ million people are a large market to lose, but they will likely alter their pay or commission structure (for instance, Uber and Lyft will help cover the cost of getting the car cleaned if a passenger barfs — things like that might go away — if a driver is an independent worker, that liability is all on them), or pricing structure that consumers pay (if gig workers are truly independent, they should be able to set their own prices at whatever time they choose and not be held to pricing formulas set by the company), or other work rules in order to keep people classified as independent.

        1. Alianora*

          Yeah, I agree that won’t happen with Uber and Lyft. I’m really referring to online-only gigs, where they can have a freelancer in Kansas do work for a customer in San Francisco.

    3. MoopySwarpet*

      I think it’s great (in theory) because the Uber model pushes off SO much of its overhead onto its workers. Making them employees and giving them some benefits would help offset (or eliminate) that. However, I think it’s just as likely to make it harder for people who live in California to work for these kinds of companies. I would (personally) have to be pretty desperate to work for any of the big gig companies, but I know people who don’t mind the work AND are in need of the money. I think it’s a great part time or short term fix for a budget shortage.

    4. ArtK*

      A number of my friends are in the music business, and this could drive most film and TV recording out of the state. There’s a lot of concern about it. While I’m in favor of reducing the gig economy, that’s the way Hollywood has operated for decades and cutting it off suddenly will be a disaster.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        This is why so many films and shows are shot in BC now, California has been pushing them out for years!

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

          As someone who lives in California and has had 3 scripted TV shows, 1 reality TV show, 2 movies and about 5 commercials filmed within blocks of my workplace in the last 5 years (and many others over the last 30 years), I don’t think this is true. Location scouts look for places that fit with the script and have the ability to accommodate their filming, which takes a lot of space and time (1-3 city blocks closed to traffic, parking and pedestrians, large parking lots that they completely take over for their equipment and craft services, the ability to alter building facades or vegetation) so very large urban cities like downtown LA or San Francisco are off the list usually, but smaller cities can be altered to look like LA, and work just fine.

          1. Oh No She Di'int*

            I don’t get the impression that The Man is saying that there is little or now film production left in California. There’s obviously still a great deal there. But it is true that huge swathes of film production have indeed migrated out of the state in the past couple of decades. Georgia first surpassed California in film production in 2016, but then Canada outran them both last year. New York, London, Louisiana, and New Mexico are quickly rising too.

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

              But The Man did say California is pushing them out, and I don’t believe that to be true. There are incentives for filming in California, but if the script calls for 14th century France, or 2019 Chicago, they’re not going to find that easily here. So filming locations are chosen more by what scripts and producers are looking for and not by nebulous pushing them out. It’s the trope that California is so bad for businesses… and yet the economy grew by about 2.7% in 2018 surpassing the rest of the nation. For being so bad, we seem to be doing really well.

            2. Princess Cimorene*

              Michigan even had a good thing going for a short time with the film industry until a law wasn’t passed or changed. Then all the filming (and the jobs that came with it briefly) left. But if they had passed whatever law, there would have seen a huge boom in production happening in Michigan the way Georgia has seen it.

      2. Public Sector Manager*

        AB 5 excludes anyone working in the fine arts. So the film, TV, and music industries shouldn’t be impacted.

    5. Fortitude Jones*

      Like you, I think it would be great if gig drivers and such are classified as employees, but I can also see this going left should it pass. I used to work for a commercial insurer in a division that insured independent contractors in the trucking industry, and we constantly ended up in litigation in places like California, Chicago, and North Carolina that wanted to classify anyone driving for a company as an employee regardless of what the signed contractor contract said.

      The motor carriers who had workers’ comp with us for their in-house operations staff would be pissed when their contractors would sustain a bodily injury, get an attorney, and then file for workers’ comp because if they won (and they usually did in places like North Carolina), that meant that not only would that one injured driver have to be offered work comp insurance, but so would the hundreds of other drivers they contracted with. Then they’d also have to provide regular benefits to them as well (e.g., paid time off, holidays, etc. – basically, whatever benefits they gave their regular employees), which meant they’d have to buy a contingent liability policy to offset the litigation costs and any settlements against what was issued out under the work comp policy. What a lot of motor carriers started doing was pulling out of doing business in those states, so if they were headquartered in North Carolina for example, they’d move so they wouldn’t be subject to those rules.

      I think that could happen here. Those companies affected in California will do a cost benefit analysis, and if they think the potential for work comp claims will explode (which would then increase their rates and eat into their profit margins), they’ll just stop doing business there.

      1. Gumby*

        I’d be sad if Lyft/Uber stopped offering rides in CA, but if they perhaps wanted to move their offices out of state that would be not the worst thing ever for my commute… Or housing prices (though that would be a drop in the bucket in that respect)…

    6. QCI*

      I don’t know much about the bill itself, so I’ll just play devils advocate about the general idea. Making freelance jobs into employee jobs will probably just cause companies to remove as many employee’s as possible, charge more for their services, and do the bare minimum for their employee’s. I could see more people being hurt by this than benefiting and wouldn’t be surprised if the companies just left the state all together.

      1. LJay*

        Knowing how Uber and other similar companies operate, after having driven for them on the side for several months, I absolutely believe this is what will happen.

        Uber is not going to turn around and make life much better for the contractors turned employees. They’re just going to find shitty loopholes to cut corners somewhere else to make up for what they are now being legally obligated to provide.

        And they absolutely will leave the state. They already threaten to every time a city wants to do things like enact stricter background check requirements or do things to protect the existing transportation jobs in the city like require the drivers to get taxi medallions. And when cities call their bluff, they actually do leave. Austin TX is an example I remember off the top of my head. They also try to influence voting by telling people that if they vote “yes” on whatever proposition Uber and Lyft may “have to” leave. Honestly I don’t like their manipulative tactics in this area, even if I do like cheap rides. So I would rather them leave. Then other smaller companies pop up that either comply with the regulations in place, or that don’t and get run out as well when they get caught.

    7. CoffeeforLife*

      Except Uber is saying they aren’t a contracting transportation company…they are a digital platform and so don’t fall under the new law (made specifically for them!!). So, to quote @jamisonfoser
      Just last week as my wife and I were leaving a bar, I turned to her and asked “are you getting a technology platform for several different types of digital marketplaces or should I?”

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It’ll be interesting to see them duke it out in court because that’s what it’s all leading up to.

        But the Supreme Court of US overturned Quill Vs North Dakota last year with Wayfair vs South Dakota. So God Speed, Uber.

        1. Natalie*

          Thise cases both involved states attempting to tax out of state companies, so they were interstate commerce issues and thus under SCOTUS jurisdiction. I doubt the same is true for this bill, states are allowed to pass stricter labor standards than the FLSA for employees inside their state.

    8. Kittymommy*

      I was curious about this bill myself (I just heard about it on NPR). While I’m not in California and have not read much about it, I would be interested to see what the workers who it would affect say. I know some people where in at who drive for some of these companues and they do so (it’s a side hustle) specifically because of the independent nature of the job.

  6. Jan Levinson*

    Is there any way I can make myself less sensitive to noise? I have a new coworker who has been placed in the cubicle next to me. I am in no way suggesting that she should stop sneezing because that would be ridiculous, but she has the most HORRIFIC sounding sneeze I have ever heard.

    The best way I can describe it is an (extremely loud) horse’s neigh mixed with a horror movie scream. She sneezes numerous times a day, probably 10-15 times, usually in bunches. I find myself wincing and plugging my ears after the first sneeze to minimize the noise.

    I have no idea why it bothers me so much. I’ve never been particularly sensitive to noises before, but there is something about her sneeze that makes my ears bleed.

    Again, I know this is a ridiculous question. I just don’t know how to make the noise less awful to my ears!

    Disclaimer: I’m not in a position that I can wear headphones at work.

      1. Jan Levinson*

        Unfortunately not! We’re a small office and all of the cubicles are full. Also, our work has a bit of overlap, so it makes sense that we’re next to each other.

    1. MOAS*

      Oh lord I am so sorry that you’re going through this. But I LOL’d at horse’s neigh. I’m sure it sounds awful. I have a super loud obnoxious sneeze, and after a loud one I’m usually saying out loud “oh that hurt.” (it does.. a bit). Would it be worth it to offer them a claritin or something? Ofc they may not take it but wouldn’t hurt I guess. I did that with a coworker who would sneeze 10x in a row.

      I was on the bus going home this week and in that one hour, the passenger behind me sneezed literally every other minute. It was a small “cute” sneeze but the repetitive noise was irritating, even with my headphones on.

      1. Jan Levinson*

        Lol, it’s honestly the only way I can describe it. The problem is that it doesn’t seem to be just allergy-related, or an illness. She’s been here almost two months now and it’s still a daily occurrence!

        I can totally see how that repetitive noise would be disruptive!

      2. ...*

        i wouldn’t offer a Claritin. I’m sure she is aware that allergy medicine exists. I take multiple kinds daily and still sneeze all the time. I’d give literally anything not to have severe allergies. The idea that it hadn’t even occurred to me to take a Claritin would be adding insult to injury.

    2. JimmyJab*

      My husband has a very loud dramatic sneeze and after six years I still wince every time. Sorry, I don’t know if there is any way to alleviate that reaction, but I sympathize.

      1. Hamburke*

        My husband does too. And 30 startling sneezes in a row. After 15 years together, I made him go to an allergist. Now it’s 1or2 sneezes only during high allergy days or when he’s sick.

    3. MechanicalPencil*

      One of my in-laws has a sneeze like this. I’ve never found a way to describe it until your house neigh/horror movie scream, and I must admit I think I strained my abs trying not to cackle madly at it.

      In short, after about 15 years of it. There is not adjusting to it. There is literally just eye rolling and sighing heavily at it. If you can become aware of the signs that warn such a sneeze is coming, it helps. Like the deep breath, body tensing, hunch, etc. But essentially, you’re just SOL and I’m sorry for that.

    4. DrTheLiz*

      No help I can offer, but as a person with awful Dramatic Hiccups (I make this super distressed-sounding gaspy thing every time) I really can’t help it and would like to extend an apology on behalf of everyone with similarly Dramatic Body Noises.

      Can you get earmuffs and just put them on during the sneezing fits?

      1. Jan Levinson*

        To be fair to her, I too have dramatic hiccups (they seem to come from so deep within me and are physically painful). However, they certainly aren’t a frequent occurrence, or nearly as loud as her sneezes, lol.

        I could certainly try earmuffs and make an effort to quickly get them on when the sneezing begins. It’s just hard to anticipate when they’re coming on! They seem to happen both suddenly and frequently.

      2. New Job So Much Better*

        Have you tried swallowing a teaspoon of peanut butter? Finally found this to cure my long lasting hiccups. Swallowing it (no chewing first) seemed to calm those muscles (or whatever) right down.

      3. Mainely Professional*

        Science has apparently definitively determined that hiccups are caused by a temporary electrolyte imbalance– 60% of people with hiccups stop within minutes of taking a tablespoon of sugar and dissolving it in the mouth. The other 40% need a half teaspoon of salt (ugh) but as a fellow person with terrible hiccups it has always worked for me. Do the sugar first.

      4. DrTheLiz*

        They’re not upsetting (and I’ve always found conscious breathing sorts my hiccups out soon enough anyway) or even particularly frequent, just really loud/dramatic.

      5. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I’m happy to find another person with Dramatic Hiccups. Mine are extraordinarily loud and there’s nothing I can do to make them quieter. I feel so bad for everyone in the room with me until I can make them go away.

    5. RoseMai*

      Can you wear one earplug in the ear pointed in her direction? It will at least take the noise down a few decibels- while still allowing you to hear!

      1. Jan Levinson*

        I could certainly give it a try! They’re so loud though that I’m afraid my uncovered ear would still suffer. Lol.

        1. BetsCounts*

          Lol I also have a super loud sneeze and painful hiccups but I KNOW how annoying it is for my colleagues. Could you use a white noise machine Or something like Noisli to raise the ambient decibel level in the room, and then perhaps her loud sneezes won’t be QUITE so startling?

    6. CupcakeCounter*

      Find the humor if possible.
      My sister and I are adopted so we escaped the ultra-loud and obnoxious sneezes of our family (granted we have our own little funny sneezes – I sneeze how you would expect the 1950’s cartoon Snow White to sneeze and my sister will sneeze no less than 4 times in a row with each having the distinct “ah-choo” sound with the “choo” sound about 2 octaves higher than the “ah” but at a very low decibel). Our dad’s sneeze is very loud but low in the register so not really bothersome. Mom, however, seemed to have your coworker’s sneeze and due to lots and lots of allergies, sneezes often. My dad tells a story about nearly driving off the road when they just started dating the first time she sneezed. My husband also has once of those sneezes but luckily doesn’t sneeze often.
      My boss only sneezes every couple of weeks but the entire office will jump when it happens. No warning and extremely loud half-yell. My position in the cube farm gives my line of sight to his office as well as a very large, group that cannot wear headphones most of the time as they frequently get customer calls so when I happen to see him gearing up (the face) I look out at the group and can see the heads jerk around.

      1. Jan Levinson*

        “my sister will sneeze no less than 4 times in a row with each having the distinct “ah-choo” sound with the “choo” sound about 2 octaves higher than the “ah” but at a very low decibel)”

        Haha, this is such a great description. I know people that sneeze EXACTLY as you’re describing!

        Also, I’m lol’ing at your story about your dad almost driving off a road, and your warning to your coworkers about your boss’s sneezes. I think you’re right that I just need to try to find the humor!

    7. Anonymous for this*

      Next time she sneezes a bunch, ask her, with concern, if she thinks she might be allergic to something in the office. She may say, “no I do this 24/7,” or she may say, “hmm, maybe I am, what can be done?” either way, maybe she’ll take notice that her sneezing is disrupting and at the least, keep tissues at hand so when the attack comes on she can maybe muffle the sound even a teeny bit? Dull the sharpest edges of it?

      1. WellRed*

        Didnt mean to go anonymous for this. Anyhow, I have a boss who scream sneezes, sometimes with a foot slam, and a coworker who did the vocal ahhh-choooo! That second coworker I asked to please try and tone it down after sitting by her on a plane where she had zero problem sneezing quietly in that environment so no reason she can’t do it in the office.

        1. Jan Levinson*

          Thanks for the advice! I’ll definitely try asking her if she’s allergic to something. Me asking wouldn’t seem out of place due to the sneeze frequency!

          I too have a coworker who sneezes with the vocal ahhhh-chooo! It always sounds so forced, like she’s intentionally try to enunicate the whole “word”. Lol.

          1. Design Dork*

            Depending on where you are, it might be seasonal allergies. Which hopefully means they will disappear soon, but I think asking them in a concerned voice if they are OK is reasonable. Plus who knows you might get an answer and sometimes just knowing why something is happening makes it a touch more tolerable

          2. AnonnyNon*

            Good luck!

            I have a family member who dramatically vocalizes the “ah-CHOOOooooo!!!!” with the “choo” part at an ear-piercingly high octave that maxes out the decibels and eventually trails off. But only when they are aware someone is nearby. When they think they are alone, they sneeze like a civilized person who is trying not to blow people’s eardrums out. I hate it so much, but apparently they “can’t help it, sneezes, ya know?” Sure.

    8. Parenthetically*

      Oh no! I absolutely sympathize — OTT shrieking sneezes are particularly irritating to me, too — and also your description is AMAZING.

    9. Third or Nothing!*

      Sounds a lot like my husband’s sneeze. I have no advice, only sympathy. I can only deal with it because I love him so much.

    10. epi*

      I met one of my best friends through work and she used to do this during the two years we shared an office. I called them scream sneezes. It was like the “ah” in “ah-choo” was a literal screech.

      I was complaining (good naturedly, I do love her) to my now husband over gchat, and googling whether people can control this, one day after she sneezed and I nearly fell out of my chair. After she finished sneezing, she turned around and told me that Jane* complained about her sneezes, can you believe that, people can’t control how they sound when they sneeze! So I kept it to myself.

      More recently I worked in the same building as someone who had a chronic, incredibly loud cough. She also needed to use the restroom a lot, for a long time. So sometimes I’d be in there, believing I was alone because it was all quiet when I arrived, only to be nearly knocked off the bowl with shock when a huge hacking cough started bouncing off the tiles out of nowhere.

      I don’t think there is much you can do, especially in the latter situation, because people don’t always have much control over this and it’s really hard to tell from the outside. It gets less shocking and irritating with time, especially if you don’t indulge in getting irritated and blaming the person, and tell yourself each time that it is probably worse to be the one constantly stunt sneezing, than to have to hear it. However, I don’t think you need to worry too much about suppressing your natural startle reaction or anything. If you jump, you jump.

      *some friend of hers I knew to be kind of rude and a pain

      1. Jan Levinson*

        “one day after she sneezed and I nearly fell out of my chair. ”
        “I’d be in there, believing I was alone because it was all quiet when I arrived, only to be nearly knocked off the bowl with shock when a huge hacking cough started bouncing off the tiles out of nowhere.”

        Haha, I laughed so hard at both of these things. I can only imagine!

        I’m sure you are right. I think it’s just an, “it is what it is” situation.

    11. The Vent-a-lator*

      She may not know she has an allergy or what the allergy is. Every afternoon at work I would have a sneezing fit (series of sneezes, and I’m sorry, I cannot make them any quieter or less frequent.)

      Turns out, it wasn’t the HVAC system that I had been blaming, but rather a dairy allergy: up to two hours after eating dairy: I sneeze. Depending on the type of dairy product, I also would get an immediate runny nose, and migraines. This had been going on for YEARS before I figured it out.

      1. A Non E. Mouse*

        Depending on the type of dairy product, I also would get an immediate runny nose, and migraines. This had been going on for YEARS before I figured it out.

        Wait. WAIT.

        How did you figure this out, an elimination diet?

        Holy crap that could actually explain quite a few things…..

        1. The Vent-a-lator*

          I was sick, couldn’t keep anything down, and when I added the homemade garden salad with cheese back into my daily routine, the sneezing after lunch started back up. (Now when I sneeze at work, people ask me what I’ve had to eat. It’s not my only sneeze/runny nose trigger, but a definite correlation. Eat dairy > nose drip + sneezing.) Migraines were a bit trickier since it isn’t a one-to-one with the dairy, but 3 in a row in a short period of time after having cream rich food was a huge red flag. Fun times.

          1. A Non E. Mouse*

            Thanks for the reply!

            I’ve done elimination stuff for my migraines before, and have very few food triggers for those.

            BUT I have not done a food elimination for my sniffle/cough allergies and I’m now wondering if some of my “why am I suddenly hacking and sneezing at 2pm when I haven’t even gone outside?” is food.

            I’ll have to check. :) Thanks again!

            1. Zweisatz*

              I recommend looking into histamine for this one. Runny nose/sneezing and headaches/migraines are tell-tale for it. And Joghurt (probiotics) and cheese (especially if it’s not a young cheese) would track well with that.

    12. Koala dreams*

      Can you use earplugs? There are silicone earplugs that aren’t very noticeable, or if you can find foam ones in less bright colors. (For some reason I end up only finding pink foam earplugs.) You can still hear, but the volume will be lower. There are also special earplugs made for musicians that are supposed to preserve the actual sounds better while lowering the volume, but I haven’t tried them.

      1. Jan Levinson*

        I probably could, but I answer the phone quite often at work. I feel like I’d be having to take them out frequently just to pick up a call! Thanks for the suggestion, though!

    13. My Brain Is Exploding*

      Spouse has a loud sneeze which causes me to jump in alarm. Now he warns me (“I’m gonna sneeze!”) And it really helps. So maybe you could tell co-worker that her sneezes startle you and ask for a heads up. At the very least, it will prepare you for what’s to come, and it may cause her to think about how she sneezes and modify it a bit.

    14. Bananatiel*

      I know this sounds impossible but you MIGHT actually get used to it. At least, “used to it” meaning that it doesn’t actively anger you or distract you from your work. Years ago in my old job we had a new person that full-on shrieked when she sneezed. Almost like a tortured scream. The first time it happened I was terrified because I thought someone got hurt (or god knows what). I actually went to my boss’s office to make sure it wasn’t just me imagining things, and nope, she’d heard it too and actually went to the source of the noise to investigate. It was the new person, sneezing! But man, she did sneeze a lot and it was SO LOUD. I had interns: every time we had a new batch of them in I’d have to gently explain what was happening the first time they heard it since they’d come running into my office confused. I just want to illustrate that this was a noise that really caught everyone’s attention and freaked out multiple people.

      What surprised me was… I just started to get used to it. It’d definitely catch my attention every time but it just became a thing where I’d hear it and think “oh, just Susan again” and get back to my work. It definitely took time but… it’s crazy how the human mind gets used to things if you just keep reminding yourself that you can’t change someone’s sneeze and like another poster said, try to find the humor in it as much as possible. I frequently had to imagine myself in an office sitcom in that job anyway, for other reasons, ha.

    15. Sleepytime Tea*

      I worked with someone who made these horrible sounds. A cough mixed with the sound of clearing your throat mixed with the sound of gagging mixed with the sound of hawking up a loogie. It was ALL DAY LONG. One day I offered him some cold medicine or something like that. He then told me he had a medical condition (some sort of issue where the esophagus doesn’t close properly so stomach acid would constantly creep up his throat). Nothing to be done about it.

      After knowing that, it somehow bugged me less. I mean, he literally couldn’t do anything about it. I think that’s all you can do here. Your coworker can’t control the fact that she sneezes or that it sounds that way. Be sympathetic/empathetic instead. It’s your only cause of action.

    16. Orange You Glad*

      If you believe in/are into dietary supplements, I’ve had great results with a chelated magnesium supplement.

      When I have a magnesium deficiency, I am anxious and normal noises sound *MUCH* louder & more disturbing. Taking a chelated magnesium supplement regularly has increased my tolerance for my downstairs neighbors howling dog. I even stopped taking it for two weeks to make sure that was what created the difference and it did!

      Basically it makes me overall less “jumpy” and I don’t startle as easily and obnoxious noises go from 10/10 irritating to 4/10 irritating.

    17. smoke tree*

      Oh, I see that you work with my mother. I’m sorry, I’ve tried to get her to moderate her sneezes for years, but it hasn’t had any affect.

    18. Owler*

      This is a long shot, but can you try to sit in a different spot (in your cube) and see if a slight change in your position helps? I am particularly sensitive to chewing noises behind my right side. Picture a noise in the quadrant on a clock between 4:00 to 6:00, and that’s my sensitive spot. If I can move the noise out from behind me, it doesn’t bother me as much.
      Other suggestions: I chew gum so my ears hear my chewing instead of someone else’s. Also, sometimes wearing one earbud is less noticeable and leaves the other free for phone answering. Good luck!

  7. Awkward Moose*

    I started working for a company where I’m the only female on my team.

    I received a call from a company that needed materials. My co-worker Fergus was by his desk so I talked to him about it and we walked together to the warehouse.

    Fergus and I were looking for these materials in the warehouse. Archibald came over and claimed that he just wanted to say “hi”, but it felt weird for him to be there. He’s manager of another department, so I don’t know why he was there but whatever. He talked with us for a little bit, then left.

    A few weeks ago, my boss had Fergus and I go pick up something. It took forever. I heard Archibald tell Fergus, “I saw you two leaving around 2:15 pm”.

    Archibald only seems involved when Fergus and I are together. The thing is, Fergus and I have to work together, so it’d be weird if we didn’t talk. Archibald has never said anything to me about Fergus or anything, so maybe he’s just looking out, but Fergus is engaged and I’m single, but not interested in him. (I don’t date people that I work with.)

    I get nervous and tend to have a nervous laugh, plus Fergus is very funny, so maybe it seems like we’re flirting? If I stopped talking to him completely, I couldn’t get my work done.

    Is this weird or am I making a big deal out of nothing?

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Archibald is the weird one. If he says something when you’re around, maybe look at him and tell him that yes, you talk to your coworker, and is there a problem with that?

      1. Marthooh*

        It sounds a little defensive put this way. If Archibald brings it up, just ask him if there’s a problem. Let him explain his thinking, without jumping to potential coworker romance.

        1. I'm A Little Teapot*

          I think it’s in the tone. The way it sounds in my head, it’s very matter of fact and puts him on the spot that he’s out of line. If you can’t pull off that kind of tone though don’t take that approach. We’re all different, so I get it.

          1. Hello gorgeous!*

            If you think his tone is a question being phrased as a comment, return the awareness to sender, — “I’m sorry Arch, do you have a question.” Or “What an odd thing to notice,”. Or, “Oh, is I think part of your job to be a time lock, or just a hobby?”

    2. Zephy*

      Archibald is the one being weird about this. You’re not doing anything wrong by interacting with a coworker while female.

    3. Michelle*

      This is weird. I think Archibald is nosy or maybe he could be interested in you? I’m married but I have to talk to lots of male coworkers and even go on trips/lunches/meetings with them and it’s never been a problem.

    4. LKW*

      Either Archibald is weird or he has information that he’s not sharing. Like Fergus has had inappropriate work relationships prior.

      Keep doing what you’re doing.

    5. Marthooh*

      There doesn’t seem to be anything for you to do here. Maybe Archibald is being nosy, but he hasn’t brought it up with you yet, so don’t borrow trouble!

    6. CupcakeCounter*

      Archibald has assigned himself as the Propriety Police and it trying to protect the hapless Fergus from the Man-eating Seductress OP
      He’s a freaking busybody and needs to mind his own business. Ignore him and be your professional self.

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Archibald is a frigging nosy weirdo.

      This is not normal behavior on his part. You’re colleagues, you do things together at work because it’s a team effort. Just ew.

      Also do they even know you’re single? I assume everyone is coupled or not interested unless they are actively speaking differently.

    8. Liz*

      I agree that Archibald is being the weird one. It doesn’t seem like he has any reason to comment on what you and Fergus are doing, even IF it wasn’t work related. And you’re not making a big deal out of it, but if i were in your shoes, it would bug me as well. Archibald seems like he wants to stir things up, for whatever reasons he might have.

    9. Parenthetically*

      This has nothing to do with you. As a woman who married late for my community (I can think of a dozen people in my circle who got married before they could legally drink), I got really familiar with being cast as the potential seductress or being the target of “it’s inappropriate for men and women to talk alone”-type paternalistic garbage.

      Whatever you do, don’t stop talking to Fergus. Archibald is being a weird busybody and TBH I don’t think it would hurt to mention to his manager the next time you’re speaking to her. Just in an offhand, “Hey, does Archibald have some kind of advisory capacity over me or Fergus? He’s been keeping track of some of our departure times and monitoring some of our work and I didn’t want to push back if he does, since he doesn’t seem to do the same with anyone else.” This flags to Archibald’s manager that he’s doing something odd with the easy cover of the fact that you’re fairly new.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Worse than “departure times” to me that he’s been monitoring their trips to the supply warehouse. VERY weird.

    10. Lissa*

      This happened twice in a span of weeks? I think you are definitely free to keep acting normally and not address it – it might be a coincidence but if it’s not, it’s his own issue and I think addressing it would only make things worse. Trying to read the tea leaves and figure out why he’s doing it feels impossible; could be any of the many suggestions here (Archibald likes you, Archibald knows something about Fergus having inappropriate relationships previously, Archibald thinks you’re a succubus…) but at this point from the two interactions, I can’t see any way to figure out which it is and even if you did, it’s not likely that anything you could do would help.
      He’ll get over it or else make it so clear he has an issue you’ll have more standing to say something, I hope.

  8. Rosie The Rager*

    Need to have a direct talk with my boss: Any suggestions?

    Since January, I have worked for Missy, the sole owner of a tiny PR company with only us and a sometimes-present admin.

    Several instances of unprofessional behavior have caused me to evaluate the need to have a very direct conversation with Missy about how we can better work together. I am listing the issues below, please take a read.

    1. Missy hired a new part-time admin after the position had been vacant for three months. She only told me Friday that she was conducting interviews, not that she was planning on conducting reference checks and making an offer. Imagine my surprise at 11 a.m. Monday when I heard the doorbell, went to check and saw an unfamiliar woman at the door. I asked if I could help me, and she responded that she was the new admin. I was floored and completely embarrassed! Later that day, Missy left with me with the new hire and told me to address her questions. This meant my unpaid lunch break was interrupted four times, and I had to delay my own deadline-driven project to show Amy how the computer program worked. How do I explain to Missy that I believe Amy’s first day could have been handled better?

    2. Despite her husband having no ties to the company, Missy asked him to go into the company’s QuickBooks account and fix my paycheck after I was shorted more than an hour’s worth of pay. It made me uncomfortable that someone besides Missy or the bookkeeper would be looking at my hours, pay rate and tax status. What should I say?

    3. Missy frequently denies having received emails and asks me to resend them (up to three times, in some cases). This slows down progress on the issues at hand and leaves me frustrated. I have asked how she would like the subject lines worded, if there’s a particular time of day that it helps to send, and other questions to coordinate the best means of sending her emails so she can track them. What else can I do?

    4. Because she’s paranoid about either my position or the admin learning anything about client contracts, neither of us can attend client meetings, draft or read contracts, or otherwise be involved in the monetary aspects. However, Missy repeatedly complains to me that she has no money and is continually worried about losing any of her contracts. This genuine makes no sense to me! How can I help with money concerns if I have no involvement with the rates and deliverables agreed to in the contracts?

    5. Missy interrupts me an average of five times a day with non-urgent requests that disrupt the flow of my work and sometimes cause me to make mistakes. I have asked her about planning a priorities meeting to address anything timely weighing on her mind, but she immediately becomes defensive and informs me she has too many meetings to do this. Is there anything I can do?

    6. On several occasions, Missy will go on an “errand” and not return by end of business. This means I have no means of checking in with her about the status of my assignments at the end of the day. I have inquired about leaving a typed up status report, but she has declined and told me she has no interest in reading it. Is there a way to effectively update her, even though she takes off with no warning and isn’t back when I end my day?

    Thanks for reading! Please share any suggestions you have.

      1. Rosie The Rager*


        I’ve been applying and interviewing for positions for the past four months but am not getting any offers.

        For the time being, I am trying to keep this job so that I can pay my bills without eating into my savings and also to build up my portfolio.

        I just need to find a way of having some professional standards with Missy and maintaining at least the semblance of organization.

          1. Rosie The Rager*


            Missy likely has ADHD and anxiety. However, I ask that everyone refrain from using the term “nuts.”

            Mental health is a serious issue, and it serves none of our best interest to refer to it in flippant and dismissive terms.

              1. Design Dork*

                Sorry, I just realized your the OP and might have more insight it Missy’s background. It’s still not good to assume mental health problems about an individual

                1. Rosie The Rager*

                  Design Dork,

                  At this point it’s not an assumption. Missy’s pharmacy refills, her behaviors, and her therapist all make a firm case for a diagnoses of ADHD.

                  I would feel more sympathy for her if she would just address her need to have things explained multiple times, her aversions to both multi syllable words and long sentences, and her need to leave the office for distractions because taking calls, scheduling meetings, and overseeing projects overwhelms her.

            1. Kuododi*

              Point of clarification…I’m on a laundry list of meds for chronic health concerns as well as a new cancer dx. Using my need to go to the pharmacy, by what you posted, I should have a dx of ADHD. I do agree that on the surface, what OP relayed to us could arguably meet dx for ADHD. I can however, think of other dx which involve those listed symptoms. (That’s even without getting out my DSM.). There are reasons why people who serve in the mental health arena aren’t allowed to give dx without having evaluated the client in person. Afraid this is one of those situations where A +B doesn’t equal C. Best regards and I hope you have a great weekend.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Are you an at-will employee? Or do you have a contract?

          I’m only saying this because Missy is in a very powerful position. You can try to put boundaries in place and chat with her all day long but long story short, she’s going to just fire you if she doesn’t want to deal with you anymore once you start pushing back. That’s sadly how most people in a 2.5 person office operate, since someone in Missy’s situation doesn’t really care, you don’t even get to meet her clients…

          1. Rosie The Rager*

            The Man, Becky Lynch,

            At this point, I have enough in savings that if the position ended I could get by for a while.

            It’s my preference to keep the job until I can secure something else.

            However, no one has stayed longer than 9 months in 3 years, so I know I’m at the breaking point.

            Because Missy has dyslexia and has a very difficult time writing, I doubt she wants to go through the trouble of not having a writer on staff. It would mean she could not fulfill her contractual obligations, which would jeopardize her company’s financial well-being.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              You know that people like this will just hire someone to replace you behind your back…she’s already shown you that she hires people without giving you a heads up. So I’m truly relieved that you have a savings in place because I don’t trust this woman. Don’t let yourself be lulled into false security that she needs someone in your spot, since that can easily be fixed.

              She has went through staff so quickly because she hasn’t vetted correctly for her quirky needs. She’ll find someone one day but yeah, it’s a long tedious drive on her end.

              1. Rosie The Rager*

                The Man, Becky Lynch,

                If she chooses to go behind my back and replace me, well then that happens.

                It’s a part-time job. I cannot live my life being a combination of frustrated and paranoid because my boss lacks the skills to effectively manage.

                What is within my power is to speak up clearly and directly with suggestions on how to improve the systems in place and do work to the best of my abilities. That’s it.

                Missy’s tiny business has gone through staffers like tissues for several years. My goal is to get out before I’m there for an entire year.

                1. fposte*

                  It’s true that speaking up is within your power, but it’s not true that that’s it. What’s also within your power is making peace with this. Now it might not be worth it to you–you’re looking to move on anyway and you’ve got a financial cushion, so it could be worth it to you to leave if nothing changes after you have your heart to heart. But you absolutely do have the option of accepting things as they are if you can’t change them.

                2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                  Well no duh you are well within your rights to speak up.

                  I can go talk to the owners of the company I’m part of too and say whatever I please to them. They aren’t going to murder me or something obscene. But you’re really invested in demanding something from a woman, who you work part time for, who has a track record for not keeping employees and thinking it’s going to get you very far. The reality is you’re wasting your time.

                  You asked us for help and advice, we’ve given it and you dug your heels into the ground and fought even harder.

                  You seem like a handful and I hope Missy does fire you. For both of your sanity in the end. You fail to recognize that you’re going to probably lose your job, since this isn’t an even playing field or an organization in place that has any protection of your job what so ever.

                  Then do yourself a favor and never work for a one person show again, this is pretty typical for micro sized businesses to operate without a fully functioning system in place.

            2. Frankie*

              Important detail. Is her dyslexia being addressed? Is she using assistive software (voiceover, type-to-text)? It shouldn’t be your job to explore those for her, but those could help her get through her work and function better in daily tasks.

              Not saying this is a salvageable work situation–sounds like she may not have the right skill set to be an owner–but it’s something that might help.

              I’d say you might need to lobby her to trust you guys with contracts (not sure if that’s realistic). I suspect there’s a lot she doesn’t know/doesn’t do because the dyslexia is a barrier and many people are socialized to hide it/hack it rather than deal with it. If she opened up more on the work you guys could help.

              1. Rosie The Rager*


                She hasn’t updated the internal software in 5 years because of finances. So, I don’t believe she would invest in voice-assisted software.

                In terms of the contracts, I believe her husband, who is a CFO in his family’s business, provides oversight to those. I haven’t seen a single one, even to see the expectations of deliverables.

                When money is discussed, I am asked to leave the room. Therefore, I have no realistic idea of the scope of any of the projects.

                1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  Google Docs is free and provides basic speech to text. Schools find it a good to to help kids do assignments even while they’re having problems with keyboards.
                  If nothing else, it might give you something to edit more quickly.

            3. ...*

              Just curious how do you know so much about her prescription meds and psychological conditions? Does she share that? Seems like another huge red flag

      1. Rosie The Rager*


        I am second in command and oversee all external communication–social media, press releases, etc.

        1. Sunflower*

          I agree with ‘Me’ above. It sounds like you’ve given Missy a ton of opportunities to work better together and she’s not interested. It seems she wants someone who’s going to work around the way she works. I hate people like this but shes the owner and if she wants her company to not succeed because she doesn’t want to collaborate, that’s on her.

          FWIW, I really don’t work well in environments like that and I would be really unhappy working for her. I don’t think you need to find a new job tomorrow but I highly doubt she will want to change her work styles in anyway regardless of how good or easy of an idea you have.

          1. Rosie The Rager*


            I appreciate your feedback and am relieved to know that someone else finds an unorganized workplace difficult to navigate.

            My take on the matter is that if I directly tell her that the lack of clear communication and follow-through is a hindrance to my success in this role, then maybe we can collaborate on ways to improve, even slightly, our communication system.

            Then again, perhaps I’m being excessively optimistic!

            1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

              It sounds like you have already been pretty clear with asking for better systems, etc and she’s not responsive. Do you really think she has the ability or desire to be collaborative, or is it easier for her to just ignore the problems?

            2. Librarian of SHIELD*

              I think you might be right about being excessively optimistic.

              You can definitely have the sit down you’re thinking about if that’s what you really want to do. But if this is Missy’s working style and she’s happy and comfortable with how things are working, she might not be in a big hurry to change it for someone else’s preferences.

              All I’m saying is, be prepared to go in with your list of things you think she’s done poorly and suggestions for potential changes and hear “It looks like you’re just not a good fit for the company.”

        2. Owler*

          Second in command? From your own description, you are a part-timer working two days a week as an assistant to a sole proprietor. Unless you have bought in and have financial equity in the company, you probably should reassess that description of “second in command”.

    1. Yorick*

      1. I don’t think you should say anything now, until this admin leaves and she will presumably be about to hire again.

      6. I think you can just start to go home at the end of your day, as long as you have regular hours so that would make sense. Does she really need an update every day before you leave? Or can you just send the deliverable to her if complete/pick up on incomplete things the next day? If there is a significant update that she’ll need to know, you can send an email, leave her a document (though she may not read it), or call her (leave a message if necessary).

      1. Rosie The Rager*


        I typically only work Monday and Wednesday, so when I leave Wednesday all the social media, press releases and blogs need to be set through Monday morning.

        Missy has contacted me on the weekends about issues she didn’t address with me before the end of Wednesday. I hope to avoid such interruptions going forward.

        1. Marthooh*

          Are you hourly? If so, leave a status report on her desk when you leave on Wednesday, and if she calls or texts you at home, remind her that you will be charging for the time you spend on those requests. And do remember to charge, in 15-minute increments. It’s probably a good idea to discuss this with her first.

          1. Rosie The Rager*

            Marthooh, I have done status reports that go unread. She then asked me to stop clogging her inbox with them.

            Additionally, I have charged her for contacting me after hours. It hasn’t deterred her.

          2. Yorick*

            I’d probably call her an hour or so before you leave on Wednesday to give her an update and see if there’s anything else. She might still call on the weekend for stuff, and you can either be unavailable or do the work and charge for that time.

        2. Samwise*

          You’re part-time, so you do not need to answer Missy’s phone calls when you are not in the office, unless she is **paying** you for the time you spend on the phone with her. Don’t pick up. Set her ringtone and texttone to silent. When you leave for the day on Monday and Wednesday, leave your update printed out at your desk (and perhaps on her desk as well) and email her a copy. If you think she’ll pay more attention to a voicemail, call her voicemail and leave your update as a message.

          Then go home and don’t answer her calls. Unless she’s willing to pay you for them.

    2. Colette*

      I think these all have the same answer – they aren’t your problem. This is Missy’s company, and this is how she wants to run things. If she wants to interrupt you, she can do that. If she doesn’t want to know your status at the end of the day, it’s not a problem you need to solve.

      One note – it sounds like she doesn’t want to use email (or at least that you prefer it more than she does) – so when you need input from her, walk over and talk to her or call. You can still send the email, but expect that you will need to bring it to her attention some other way.

      1. Rosie The Rager*


        The thing is that she specifically asks for information to be emailed to her, then says she cannot find it. I then must print out a copy in addition to resending the email. She usually reads and edits the print out, rather than engaging the email at all.

        If someone asks you to share information in one particular format, and you do that. Shouldn’t the person actually use the information in said format?

        1. fposte*

          Yes, but you need to let go of “should” here. It’s doing you more harm than good. Missy is gonna Missy whether she should or not.

          You’ve made reasonable efforts at change. It’s clear Missy isn’t a change person. The question therefore needs to be shifted to “How do I work with the situation that I have?” rather than “How do I change her?” Additionally, as you note, another question is “How do I assess a potential position so I’m in a better place next time?” And that’s why it would be useful to hear about what process you underwent here.

        2. valentine*

          this is how she wants to run things.
          This is the bottom line. A lot of what you want to say is what you’d say to a subordinate. Missy doesn’t care what your preferences are as far as allocating your time (Amy; Missy treating you like a sitting-duck friend). It’s difficult when others don’t share your professional standards and just plain common sense. Think of Missy as the given in a math problem. The only power you have is over your response. You can detach so you literally care less when you have to email things repeatedly (in future, do it before she says anything; if possible, schedule them to send at intervals) and Amy needing stuff isn’t an emergency. You could have told Amy you’d go to her when you finished lunch and you can say to her, “Please ignore me during my lunch. If you email, I’ll see it when I’m done.” Lunch is sacred. Protect that time. I understand if you didn’t want to leave Amy idle, but that wouldn’t be your fault. You could have prioritized your priority assignment over her training need.

          If Missy’s the kind of person you can’t win with, you may as well please yourself, but the good news is it seems you have a lot more leeway than you think to make decisions, at least with Amy.

        3. Colette*

          So email her, print out the email you just sent, and drop it on her desk.

          It’s not efficient for the business as a whole, but it is efficient for you because it will help you get what you need to keep working.

          If I hire someone to mow my lawn and I want them to do 25% of the front, then 25% the side, then 25% of the back, and keep rotating between the three until they are all done, then that’s what I am hiring them to do, even if it’s an inefficient way to mow the lawn. Sometimes the job isn’t just the end goal, it’s how you get there. And if they refused to do it that way, I’d talk with them and eventually fire them because they are not willing to do what I want them to do.

          1. Rosie The Rager*


            I don’t have access to her office when she’s not there.

            It’s on a different floor and frequently locked up. Instead, I have left materials on the kitchen island that she claims never to have received. This happened once, and her husband ran upstairs to her desk, found the documents, and brought them downstairs. He effectively forced her to apologize.

            It was an awkward moment for everyone.

            1. Samwise*

              Tape it to her door. Seriously! Unless it’s confidential info, stick it right on her door. And email it. And read it into her voicemail.
              It’s ridiculous to have to give the same info in several formats, but this way you have sufficiently cya and if she complains, she can kya. (Not really, but that’s how I’d feel about it!)

            2. Colette*

              So you have 2 choices – find a way that works, or learn to live with the fact that she will claim she hasn’t received it. I don’t know which one is most appropriate for you, but getting her to read her email reliably is not one of the choices available to you, so those are the two you have.

        4. kittymommy*

          I have a boss that is like this. I just email it and state (in the email) I’m also leaving a hardcopy on their desk. A couple of times I have been told “you don’t have to do both”. I still do.

      2. Jess*

        I agree with Colette — except for the last issue of communicating at the end of day/week. You mention above that you work Mon-Wed, and so when Missy doesn’t connect with you at the end of a Wednesday, you sometimes get contacted on the weekend and wish to avoid that. I think this is something to discuss directly. Ideally you’d find a mutually-agreeable way to communicate status etc before leaving on Wednesday, since that’s a missing piece here that affects both of you, and that would cut down on her contacting you — but given the nature of PR, it’s possible that some contact before the following Monday may still be necessary, at least occasionally. If that is the case, it would be helpful to clarify that part of the role explicitly — and then set expectations that work for both of you, or decide to suck it up (it’s her company), or leave.

        Hope this is helpful.

    3. Jamie*

      1. If you are non-exempt you should legally be paid for the time you worked on lunch. Every company I’ve ever worked for had a terrible on-boarding process so I feel your pain, but have no advice other than to swear quietly out of ear shot at how such a simple thing gets messed up all the time.

      2. Nothing on this one. She’s the sole owner and she can have anyone go in and take care of things like that. There isn’t an expectation of privacy there.

      3 – totally get why you’re frustrated, but I don’t see anything beyond what you’re doing other than keep sending them at her request. As annoying as it is you can’t require her to be more organized.

      4 – she’s not asking you to do anything about it, she’s venting. IME when the owner of the company is openly complaining about cash flow to employees it’s a good idea to start looking because it doesn’t bode well.

      5 – This would drive me insane. I keep a running action list so when someone has an extemporaneous request I add it to my list and prioritize it accordingly. Tbh it sounds like your boss is pretty disorganized over all and there isn’t much you can do to change that, but I get the frustration.

      6 – sounds like she doesn’t want a status update so I wouldn’t worry about it. Anything you think she needs to know shoot her an email to cover your ass. I keep my own updates on stuff on my action list so I can give someone an update at a glance if asked about something I’m working on. Nothing that takes a lot of time to update just that on action item X I’m waiting for response from Jane and when I last followed up, or whatever. Something like that will give you info at your fingertips to update her when/if she asks for it.

      1. r.d.*

        Yeah, this.

        Don’t work on your lunch break or over the weekend if your won’t be paid for it.

        2 and 3 are non-issues and it surprises me that they bother you enough to bring up instead of labeling them the minor irritations that they are.

        4, 5 & 6 are bigger irritations, but not a sign of a dysfunctional workplace. Just maybe a sign that you don’t work well with your boss.

      2. Yorick*

        Yeah, #2 is not an issue. Think of it as a family business. The husband is connected to your company since his wife owns it.

      3. Mediamaven*

        Agreed with your wonderfully detailed notes. Particularly on number 2 – I have had my husband look at my company books before if there is something I have a question about. Nothing illegal or inappropriate there. They are Missy’s books and she can show them to whoever she chooses. She sounds like a terrible boss but not all of the things mentioned are out of line.

    4. fposte*

      All of these seem to boil down to “How do I make Missy be different?” in a workplace where Missy basically *is* the business. So the answer really is going to be “You can’t.” You’ve made decent good faith efforts on procedural changes in hope they’ll help, and they didn’t, because she’s comfortable working the way she does and that’s a priority for her.

      I’d be curious to hear about how you got this job. Was your hiring more orthodox? Did you have a lot of experience or is this a first or nearly first job? What’s mentioned here is a blend of wildly out of line and not hugely surprising for a small business, and I’m wondering if any of this was visible in advance.

      1. RagingADHD*

        If you search back in OP’s post history, yes this was all visible in advance.

        OP was extremely unhappy about the entire hiring process, which was exactly as casual and idiosyncratic as you’d imagine from the description “One-person PR agency”. OP was intensely frustrated that Missy did not follow corporate-style procedures.

        There was a good deal of discussion on how what is “normal” in a solo-professional firm is very different than a corporate environment, and that it probably was not a good fit for OPs temperament and work style. That seems to have borne out in practice.

    5. DaniCalifornia*

      Some of these things like #2 and #5 and #6 are life in extremely small businesses. It sounds like there is an owner and now 2 employees. Owners have a hard time giving control to others even when they complain about having no time. She sounds disorganized and she doesn’t have to answer to anyone. So she isn’t going to be thinking of whether or not you need her. I know this bc my current boss is this way. My boss has their spouse do the bookkeeping and we all have access to QB and can see each others pay if we wanted to. We are never sure if they will show up when there are no appointments on the calendar or if they’ll work from home.

      The other stuff sound like someone who doesn’t know how to run a company well or effectively. Making a profit isn’t the only way to run a business well. Personally I’d be looking for other jobs. Refusal to read emails after sending it multiple times is ridiculous. The way she handled the new hire is terrible. Limiting you from parts of the business and then complaining about it shows she has no clue. These little things add up into larger areas of concerns. She doesn’t sound invested in your well being at this company.

      1. Rosie The Rager*


        I appreciate you input and commiseration about how the unorganized nature of small businesses is oftentimes a disservice to employees.

        As an aside, you and other commentators fail to recognize that finding a decent-paying full-time job takes months and that I’m trying to go along to get along until I can secure another position. I have several resumes, have applied for dozens of jobs, and have attended many interviews. Not every interview leads to an offer.

        My concern with quickly finding another job is to find myself in a similar situation, only being stuck there 40 hours a week with even less time to job hunt.

        1. Degen From Upcountry*

          I don’t think anyone is failing to realize that. It’s just that the problems you bring up sound like problems you’d go over with an employee in a 1:1 or performance review, not something you’d bring up to your boss with any real hope of things changing. It is unlikely she will change any of these behaviors and is therefore probably not worth your time and effort to have the conversation.

          1. Rosie The Rager*

            Degen From Upcountry,

            I don’t know if and how Missy will respond to my suggestions for improvement until I have spoken to her.

            For the past 9 months, I have swallowed my anger and tolerated a great many unnecessary miscommunications.

            The title of post post is “Need to have a direct talk with my boss: Any suggestions?” This means I’ve already determined that the discussion is going to happen.

            1. Degen From Upcountry*

              You also asked for us to share all of our suggestions, but then accused us of not understanding that job searches take a long time. From my personal experience, having your planned discussion with Missy would only make me more angry, but it sounds like that’s a suggestion you don’t want, and that’s fine. I’ll bow out.

        2. DaniCalifornia*

          Rosie I completely understand. I think when people say leave it’s because they know, no matter what you try, your boss isn’t going to change. I have adjusted myself and my actions over the past 2 years that I’ve been unhappy in my job and I am still unhappy. I still don’t get results, and my boss is still a bad boss. I’ve certainly learned a lot about how to manage my own expectations and reactions/responses to bad things at work. But the emotional, mental, and physical toll it took were not worth it.

          “As an aside, you and other commentators fail to recognize that finding a decent-paying full-time job takes months and that I’m trying to go along to get along until I can secure another position. I have several resumes, have applied for dozens of jobs, and have attended many interviews. Not every interview leads to an offer.”

          I think many of the commenters understand that job searching is not always fun or fast. Many of the comments themselves are about how long people have been job searching. So we don’t fail to see it. I’ve been searching on/off for 2 years and am now only in the final stages for one job. I sent 85 resumes in 1 month alone recently and heard from 4 total, with only 1 leading to a phone interview and then nothing. A recruiting firm actually got me my current potential position. Keep on looking and you’ll find something! I have hope you will! At least with what you’re experiencing now you can be aware of red flags during interviews and you can research potential companies. You can determine what you like and don’t like about small/big companies, management styles, your field.

          1. Rosie The Rager*


            Thanks for your rebuttal.

            I do have a quick logic check for you: Your experience is NOT my experience. Your experience is NOT universal. Your experience is ONLY your experience.

            It’s unfortunate that you’ve been stuck in a job you dislike for 2 years. However, we are NOT competing in the miserable job Olympics. I wrote a detailed message to the AMA Open Thread for my specific issues.

            If you would like sympathy and strategies for your particular issues, I sincerely suggest you post a comment on the open thread.

            Again, our experiences are NOT one in the same, and your decision to compare them troubles me.

            1. Jamie*

              People who are commenting are trying to help you, including @DaniCalifornia and sharing their experiences is part of having a discussion.

              The level of control you’re attempting to exert over how other people communicate here in this thread is excessive and quite rude to people who were merely contributing to your discussion.

              Both with commenters here and with your boss, you can’t control how others choose to communicate, you can only control yourself and your reactions.

              1. BRR*

                All of this. Everyone appears to have read through your post and a lot of people, myself included, think this discussion with Missy will go over like a lead balloon. She seems awful to work for and I’m so sorry you have to deal with this. A lot of people have worked with/for someone like this and are sharing their experience that this type of person doesn’t see themselves as a problem and has no desire to change. Not only will Missy not change, you’re risking a lot by having this type of discussion with her.

                Honestly, beyond Missy being awful at her job, I am going to go out on a limb and imagine you’re preferred working style would have a lot of structure and you’re not going to be able to get this here. I wish you luck in your job search!

            2. AvonLady Barksdale*

              Dani was offering you support (very kindly, from where I sit). There’s no need to be rude to her. You can just ignore her, you know. And everyone else who offers you advice you don’t like.

            3. Degen From Upcountry*

              I agree completely with Jamie. This is getting a bit out of hand. What advice were you hoping to get?

            4. DaniCalifornia*

              Yikes! I was just trying to commiserate and agree that yes it seems like Missy isn’t doing a great job and yes job searching is tough and can take a while. Instead you chose to be rude. It probably seemed like a lot of comments said “Just leave” when as you point out that is easier said than done. I appreciate that you’re trying to have discussions with Missy but my point in sharing my experience was to show that we aren’t saying “You should find another job, it’s just so easy to do, why haven’t you left yet?” it was to say “Sounds like you need to find another job good luck in doing so, we know it’s hard out there.”

              I have gained tons of great advice (and sympathetic ears) about my own toxic job situation here on AAM. It is a great place to bounce ideas and ask for feedback. I’m thankful for those who comment back ideas/thoughts/opinions even if it’s sometimes hard to hear. It’s broadened how I think about work topics and how others can view a situation completely different from me. I wish you the best with Missy and your job search if you choose to keep looking!

              1. Michelle*

                I think everyone is trying to help Rosie the Rager but every suggestion is met with why that won’t work and she gets defensive. It seems as she wants the “magic words” that will make Missy communicate and work like Rosie wants her to and, in my experience, those words don’t exist.

            5. Quake Johnson*

              She was being nice to you and you tore her head off. I was sympathetic to your issues but now I’m wondering if Missy’s really the problematic one in the business…

            6. Elizabeth West*

              WHOA WHOA WHOA

              Dani’s comment was actually quite sympathetic; no need to be snippy.

              Look, you have a scattered and unprofessional boss who is not going to change. This is no reflection on you; her behavior is hers to control, and she doesn’t seem interested in doing anything differently. It’s not your responsibility to fix her, either.

              You could try to talk to her, but from what you’ve said, I doubt it will do any good. I know you feel like you need to stay for a while longer, but I don’t think it’s worth it, either for your peace of mind or your career. If I were you, I’d ramp up my job search and for now, just do your work and don’t answer her calls after hours. Don’t work through your lunch.

            7. Mellow*

              “I have several resumes, have applied for dozens of jobs, and have attended many interviews. Not every interview leads to an offer.”


              From the looks of things – your response to Dani, for one – I can see why.

            8. Librarian of SHIELD*

              I’m not trying to pile on. Really. I’m not.

              But here’s the thing. Every single person responding to this thread has told you a variation of the same thing. Missy’s the owner, she gets to decide how to run her company, and this is what she’s decided on. You going in with a list of grievances and telling her she should be different from how she currently is will probably not change her mind. There is no magical combination of words that will make Missy see the light and change every aspect of the way she runs her company.

              And I get that you’re frustrated. I would be too. But we’re all just here trying to be kind to you and help you cope until you find a place to work that’s more in line with your work style, and you’re biting people’s heads off left and right. It’s not cool to ask people for help and then shout at them that they’re not helping you correctly just because they’re not telling you what you want to hear.

              Missy isn’t going to change because you tell her she should. So find a way to deal with that in the short term and keep applying for jobs until you get one. That’s the advice. Take it or leave it.

        3. WellRed*

          “As an aside, you and other commentators fail to recognize that finding a decent-paying full-time job takes months and that I’m trying to go along to get along until I can secure another position.”

          No, we don’t fail to recognize that. Also, if you truly want go along to get along, that means accepting that none of this will change. Finally, please don’t let this totally bizarre situation warp your thinking. You’ll eventually land something and I sincerely believe nothing could match the situation you’re in now.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            All of this. Going along to get along means just that – do what Missy tells you to do (no matter how asinine) mentally disengage from this place so you don’t care so much about what happens and you’ll limit your own stress, and continue your own job search in the meantime.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Yeah, this. When OldExjob started sucking like a black hole, the only thing I could do was stop giving a shit. It was actually very freeing — I still did my work, but when I couldn’t get supplies, for example, I didn’t have to worry about it because I didn’t care. I just did what I could as best I could and left it at that.

    6. CAA*

      So mostly this is just the way things are when you work for a small sole proprietor who likes to communicate verbally instead of by email. Missy is who she is and she works the way she works. You can’t change someone else, so you really have to figure out if you want to and will be able to change yourself enough to be happy working for her.

      1) The next time you hear that Missy is interviewing, you can ask her to let you know before that person starts, even if she has to text you at night, so that you can arrange your schedule in a way that will allow you to help the new hire on her first day. You can say this was because it was difficult when Amy started. Otherwise, there’s no reason to bring it up now. If she only hires people twice a year, she’s not likely to even remember that you had a problem with what she did six months previously or understand why your having a problem should make her do something different in the future.

      2) You should definitely not say anything about her husband having seen your paycheck. Missy is allowed to show the financial information for her business to anyone she wants. This is true for every business. Even a major corporation is allowed to post your name and salary publicly if they feel like it, and many government agencies are legally required to do so. So this would be a weird thing to complain about.

      3) The email thing is annoying, but some people are like this. You can see that Missy is the type of person who is unable to organize incoming written information no matter how you present it, and she considers it to be part of your job to find and provide it when she needs it. Just keep yourself organized so you can quickly find and reforward your previous message when she asks for it.

      4) I think she’s just complaining because everything is expensive and running a small business is tough. It’s not necessarily on you to solve whatever money problems she’s having, and obviously she’s under no obligation to share contract info with you or anyone else. All you can do is offer alternatives when you’re working on projects — what if we reused this graphic from the last campaign for this client, or what if we placed ads here instead of there to save some money?

      5) She’s the boss, and she likes having an assistant that she can talk to whenever she has something to say. Asking her to wait for a pre-set meeting or email you probably isn’t going to work. She’s a verbal communicator who wants to communicate on her schedule. I think this is just something you have to adapt to, though if you say that she’s frequently out in the afternoons, maybe you could save the work that needs uninterrupted concentration for those times.

      6) No, there’s no way to update her every day if she’s told you she doesn’t want that information. Can you establish a project file, either online or on paper, for each project you’re working on and just stick the day’s summary at the top of that file? Perhaps you can train her over time that when she wants to know the status she should look in the file instead of interrupting you to ask for it.

      1. Rosie The Rager*


        Thanks for your comment. I disagree with your assessment that “this is just the way things are when you work for a small sole proprietor who likes to communicate verbally instead of by email. Missy is who she is and she works the way she works. You can’t change someone else, so you really have to figure out if you want to and will be able to change yourself enough to be happy working for her.”

        My belief is that until you directly address your concerns with someone and clearly outline how to improve the situation to be mutually beneficial, you haven’t done due diligence. I honestly believe that I need to address most of my concerns with Missy in a concise way that makes clear that changes to the system will make everyone’s life easier and the business more profitable. It’s the ultimate win-win. If she chooses to disregard my comments and concerns, then at least I know I made an effort.

        4. I am not paid nearly enough to serve as someone’s armchair therapist, especially when her very own psychologist has called the office four times that I know of. As an aside, life in general is expensive. Everything costs money. If one reaches 50 years of age and cannot comprehend this, then I don’t know what to say. As an aside, believe me when I tell you I can bellyache right alongside Missy about how tiny my paycheck is, and given that her husband has seen it I’m sure her family knows how little I earn.

        5. If a boss wants quality work completed in a timely fashion, then the she needs to provide a work environment conducive to success for employees. Near constant interruptions and circular monologues about what could be in three months does not move forward today’s work, and only adds unnecessarily to the workload. Also, when Missy goes off on a tangent it takes me longer to complete my work, which means my hours increase and my paycheck is larger. For someone who is terribly concerned about expenses, her actions appear counterproductive. Yes?

        6. The company has Dropbox and my computer has a “Hot Work” file that contains everything I’ve been working on over the past month. Missy demanded I organize my information this way, but she still won’t use it.

        1. fposte*

          The thing is, you have addressed some of the concerns and it hasn’t changed things. I fear you’re stuck in the place where you’re convinced if you just said it a certain way Missy would get it and change, and change to what you’re convinced is right. And that’s not how people work, and I think putting your energy toward that is going to make things worse and possibly put your job at risk.

          What if you focused on “This is how Missy is; what can I do to make it easier to deal with it?”

          1. Design Dork*

            It sounds like no matter what way you say it, it might be hard for Missy to change who she is. If you do decide to say something, focus on trying to make it a collaborative effort, rather than “you need to do X so I can do Y.” Also I wouldn’t hold out hope that of you do have this conversation it’ll be the end of all problems that you seem to be hoping. From what you said, Missy seems stuck in her ways and as her subordinate, it’s not your job or place to “fix” her

          2. Michelle*

            Agree. There are no magic words that will make Missy change. You have to do the best you can until you find another position.

        2. lost academic*

          It’s not your job to “fix” her. It’s her company. It’s not yours. I think this is a situation you have to realize that letting go of the need to make everything “just so” because it would be “better” is absolutely not your job, your responsibility, your moral imperative, or anything of that kind. You have contracted your time to her – you can make suggestions about ways you think things can be done better or more efficiently but that’s it and after awhile, not worth it.

          Do your work in the time available, go home at the end of the day and leave work at work until you find another job. You’ve already addressed most of the things you brought up in some way and they aren’t going anywhere. It’s time to let it go.

        3. smoke tree*

          I’m honestly not sure what kind of feedback you’re looking for here. No one has any advice to offer about how to make this conversation with Missy go over well, because based on the facts presented, that seems unlikely. It seems that you are determined to talk to her for the sake of your own peace of mind, which is your prerogative, but I’m not sure what you’re expecting to hear that will be helpful?

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Missy sounds like she’s probably not cut out to have employees, let alone anyone listed as a “second in command” role. She doesn’t trust you, therefore there’s no second-in command status in reality. Why doesn’t she have you sign a NDA with the contracts…that’s literally so basic wtf.

      To be honest about the paycheck and her husband seeing your info, he already knows how much she pays you and how much you work since they’re so intertwined. All my bosses spouses know everything about their financials because they share that kind of information with each other for their own personal safety and how much they can afford personally.

    8. Federal Middle Manager*

      Honestly, these all just sound like run-of-the-mill small business things. I’ve worked for multiple solo practitioners who exhibited all or most of these, and worse. You seem very rule and norm oriented, I’d recommend looking for a job in a more structured environment.

    9. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

      Hi. It sounds like Missy is in way over her head but doesn’t want to admit it. She’s definitely disorganized (and a little off the wall). What you need to do is work around Missy’s nuttiness. I’m dealing with a “Missy” where I work. (only it’s a Mister) and he’s always ‘TOO BUSY” when we try to tell him things and send him emails etc. and when stuff isn’t done, he wants to know why. And we tell him. Because you said you were too busy for such and such and this is the result. Meanwhile, we keep proof that we did OUR jobs. Maybe if Missy starts losing business and missing important things, she’ll realize that she needs to work WITH her second in command (You).

      1. Oh No She Di'int*

        Yeah, over her head.

        I’m going to second what many here have said: that Missy isn’t going to change radically soon, and she certainly isn’t going to do so as the result of a single confrontation/conversation.

        However, a broader context: Missy just hasn’t quite realized that she is running a business. I know that sounds odd to say, but I’ve been there myself. I’m wagering she went from being a sole freelancer to deciding at some point that she needed some extra help and so she hired Rosie. In her mind, she is basically still a freelancer, but just has an extra person or two around to help her out. She thinks of herself as a person doing PR with someone else helping her, not as a person running a business with an employee.

        It’s a difficult transition to make. Again, I have had to make that same transition. It took me longer than I care to admit to understand that my job was not to groom llamas or make teapots. My first and only job was to administer a business that grooms llamas and makes teapots. An important but subtle distinction. I don’t think I’ve ever exhibited behaviors like those of Rosie’s boss, but I certainly look back at those early years and cringe at some of the things I did do.

    10. Frankie*

      Just want to state again, since it’s kind of buried in the follow-up, that dyslexia is a huge barrier and if it’s going unaddressed/untreated, that’s likely at the root of her email/report issue and probably impacting contracts as well. This is a huge, huge detail. If she has workarounds in place to deal with her dyslexia, disregard this, but it doesn’t sound like she does.

    11. Jdc*

      I don’t know. I don’t find any of these to be insanely awful. Your boss is allowed to hire someone, interrupt you, have whoever she wants write a check and leave as she pleases.

    12. Jules the 3rd*

      You mention that Missy has dyslexia. That may factor into ‘not reading emails’. Can you set up something that’s easier than ‘wall of text’ emails, like a large whiteboard or calendar with color-coded tasks? I’m thinking something like,:
      Rosie must schedule updates Weds through Mon, and Missy needs to know the topics that are going up. Notification options:
      – Light green post-its on a physical calendar with the update headline on each
      – Computer calendar entries that read out the headlines when clicked

      Look for graphic or spoken ways to store / share the information as much as possible.

      On the interruptions: ADHD often goes along with dyslexia; if that’s in the mix, Missy’s got four things going on in her head all the time, and will need to tell you the one for you while it’s at the forefront. Asking Missy to write it down will not help; a 15 minute ‘touch base’ chat at the start of the day might.

      Missy may change if you find something that works better for her, but it will probably take more of your time and a lot of inventiveness.

      1. Rosie The Rager*

        Jules the 3rd,

        I appreciate that you see the link between dyslexia and ADHD.

        Yes, I am planning on asking for a 15-minute morning check-in at the start of my workdays. I hope that having an agreed-upon priority list will reduce Missy’s ramblings and allow me to be more productive.

        When I mentioned it Wednesday, she became defensive and said “Well, I’ve just had some many meetings this morning.” At this point, I feel justified in making my work a higher priority. Missy needs to update her schedule to account for what work needs to be done.

        Working with someone who zones out, easily becomes overwhelmed, and lacks basic impulse control is very challenging.

        1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          I can see that you clearly recognize solutions to make the work more effective, and that must be so frustrating! But what others are saying is that, in your role as an employee, you simply do not have the power to tell Missy what she “needs” to do. The nature of employment is, frankly, she’s the boss and she decides how the business will operate. Is her way ineffective and maddening? Yes! Is there a way you can make her open her eyes and see a more logical system? Unfortunately, no.

          It sounds like you’ve already discussed and suggested how to improve these issues, but she has a track record of not wanting to hear them. I fear if you insist on having a sitdown with her, your working relationship will erode even further and/or she will decide you’re not a strong fit for what she needs in the role.

          1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

            Hit submit too soon-

            I’m also concerned by your statement that “I feel justified in making my work a higher priority”. The reality is, as an assistant or even as second in command, your work will *never* be higher priority than the owner’s work. That’s just the way it is, and I know that’s frustrating to accept because it’s getting in the way of you doing a good job. But I think you need to reframe how you view your tasks in the context of the business as a whole and recognize that the way things are working is exactly how Missy wants them to be.

        2. EventPlannerGal*

          I would be interested to know if this job is a step down for you in terms of seniority from whatever your previous job was.

          The reason I’m saying that is because in all your comments here you kind of talk about Missy as though she was *your* subordinate – she needs to do this, she must do that, she has to make your work higher priority, she mustn’t interrupt you, she needs to read your status reports, etc etc. You sound like a manager looking for advice on giving a bad performance review to an unruly intern. That’s not the case. You’re a part-timer that she is employing, and I think it would probably be helpful to try to get out of this frame of mind where you’re viewing her as someone you can control and change. She certainly sounds like a very frustrating and difficult person to work for and the job does not sound like a good match for you, but that’s the way some bosses are and your attempts to change the situation haven’t had much effect.

          At this point, I feel like you should effectively check out of this job and focus as much of your attention as possible on getting back to a more structured, corporate environment.

        3. Jules the 3rd*

          Yes, it is challenging. But she’s your boss.

          You seem kinda stuck on ‘she needs to change.’ She’s not going to change. This is wired in, the only thing she can do is find strategies that work *for her*. Those strategies include dumping ideas on you when she has them (#5) and having others check important things (#2).

          Try visual reminders that require little reading. Try hard to not take this personally, or like she can / should change.

          I used to work with an ADHD boss. Did I feel like I was his mom / big sister sometimes? Yes, yes I did. But that’s what he paid me for – him for vision, me for execution. My flexibility and willingness to try new modes of communication until we found one that worked made it a good partnership.

    13. Micro-Business Owner*

      So… I wouldn’t classify these behaviors as “unprofessional,” as you have. When I saw that tag, I was expecting a ton of over-the-line ridiculousness. These are “not the greatest boss” type behaviors, but they’re otherwise fine. It’s her company, she can suck at managing people if she wants to. With the possible exception of 5, I don’t see how any of these greatly impact your work, but mainly your frustration because you believe that it could be done better.

      I also own a micro business (one employee besides me), and while I try hard to be a good boss, at the end of the day, if my employee came to me and said, “Hey, I think it would be way more efficient if we did X” (which you have already done), and I thought about it was like, “Nah, I’m not going to do that for whatever reason” … Well, that’s the answer. I don’t want you to keep explaining to me why I should do things your way. You can try to tell me how it impacts your work (not your feeling of frustration, but your work) — “It’s going to take me an extra day to get reports done because I have to wait for X to respond about Y because it’s not something I can access on my own.” And then I get to decide if I’m OK with that. And if I’m OK with it, that’s how it is.

      I’ve worked for bosses that I disagreed with their styles / organization / etc. The solution does sound like it’s looking for a position that’s a better fit for you long-term (and I would agree something with more structure would probably be better for you). But I would also say, in the meantime, think more along the lines of how you can adapt to be less annoyed by Missy, rather than how to change her. If you can let go of your idea of efficiency and just work day by day (privately rolling your eyes at Missy) until you find that better fit job, it really doesn’t sound like a toxic or abusive environment. Just disorganized.

      Sorry. I know it’s not what you want out of the situation. Just the other point of view.

    14. Yorick*

      The bottom line is that you can’t have a meeting with your boss and lay out what you want her to change about how she communicates with you. Especially in this situation where there are only 2 employees in her small business. These are things that you’re going to have to figure out a way of dealing with, even though they bother you. In some cases, you can have a conversation with her – that focuses on how you can best meet her expectations and preferences. Other than that you just have to do what she wants until you can find another job.

      This is most notable with #1. You absolutely cannot meet with your boss and tell her that she didn’t handle hiring/onboarding correctly. It’s not your job to evaluate her performance.

    15. RagingADHD*

      Missy sounds like a very concrete, in-the moment thinker, rather than an abstract, process oriented thinker. So I think you will get the best possible results by breaking these apart and addressing them separately instead of having a big talk to cover them all. She will tune out long before you’re done with your list.

      I think your best “targets” for change are #3 and #6. And I think your best approach will be to present a possible solution in a very concrete way. When you tell someone like Missy, “this is a problem you need to solve,” you are giving her a mental task she doesn’t want to do, to solve a problem she isn’t personally bothered by.

      Instead, I’d approach this by saying something like, “I wonder if we could try…”

      For example, establishing one physical location to leave email printouts (and status updates, but more on that later). Maybe a file sorter that hangs on her office door? Maybe a cubby near the stairs, or in the main office area? Maybe something with color-coded folders? Or a corkboard?

      I think if you could point to a real spot and say, “What if we made this the place you can always find your emails?” it’s going to go over a lot better than a sit-down talk.

      For #6, I’d suggest telling her (at a separate time) that you have some personal stuff going on, so you won’t be able to be responsive to questions over the weekend. Then ask where she wants you to leave project info if she needs it. (Hey presto – how about in the email spot?)

      For #1, I agree with others that it makes sense to leave this until it’s relevant again.

      For #2, if she’s the owner and he’s her husband, he is a de facto co-owner, especially if he’s consulting on contracts etc. There’s nothing really strange about him dealing with the books or payroll. I get why it feels hinky, but from the co-owner perspective it kind of makes sense.

      For #4 and #5, I sympathize. They sound infuriatiing. But I don’t see anything constructive you can do about them other than come up with self-coping mechanisms, like using notepads or postits to keep track of what you’re doing when interrupted.

      Maybe if you are visibly jotting notes when interrupted and say something like, “oh, one second, I don’t want to lose my place,” it’s possible she might back off slightly. Maybe not – it could go either way. But I’ve seen concrete thinkers adjust to seeing something like this, far more readily than if they are told things.

      These are just brainstorms based on the kinds of things that Missys in my life responded well to. You may have tried some of them before, or if not it’s worth a go.

    16. Navy*

      How much work experience did you have previous to this job? You claim to be a mid-career professional but most of your complaints are about perfectly normal things that happen with small family businesses. Annoying, perhaps, but still within range of normal behavior.

      I get the impression that you either don’t have any prior work experience to speak of, or you’ve been out of the workforce for a very long time, because your expectations are absurdly unrealistic. You’ve been in this position for what, 9 months? And you want us to tell you how to tell your boss how to do her job? ABSURD. You’ve said yourself that this job was a career change for you. If you don’t think you’re learning enough about PR or marketing from this position, then just leave. Go back to school and get a degree in marketing and you might be more marketable yourself.

      In the meantime, you have less than a year of experience *by your own admission*. You have no business trying to boss your boss.

    17. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I plowed through the thread and will stick to small concrete suggestions at the tool level.
      I mentioned Google Docs has built-in speech to text.
      Try keeping your status report in Docs or One Drive where your boss can always access your current work without having to receive an email.
      If you are getting too many after-hours requests, consider if you would be interested in working shorter hours more days–only suggest that if your reaction is overwhelmingly positive.
      Personally I’d rather be temping than working for her…she sounds a lot like someone I did work for, and I was not sorry to be laid off from his piece of chaos.

  9. Yogurt pants*

    Thanks everyone for the support and advice last week. 

    This week was relatively calm. George visited the office. We sat in 3 meetings together and they came around to chat with members of my team (they were all peers a while back and all have a good relationship with each other). I focused on my work. We were invisible to each other. George does not make any effort to reach out or initiate. Every time they come by, they say hello to everyone in my row except me. I’m not broken up about it, it’s just something I noticed. They never did in the first place—it was on us (us being people in the main office) to make George feel welcome and engaged since they work in another office. I learned that they constantly complain to the VP they work closely with that our management plays favorites. (ohh if they only knew!).

    I’m satisfied knowing I put my best foot forward with them and I want to just focus on my work and make sure my team is working successfully.

  10. Weirdest reason for an office closure?*

    Hello AAM! I am one of ~5 people at work today. There was a water main break and basically our entire downtown area is without water. I woke up to mine not working, assumed it was something up with my apartment and took it as a sign I should go work out, only to find that the gym and everything else was closed as well. Our office shut down shortly thereafter, but my gym and office are across the street from each other, so I came in anyway. The other guy on my floor also did the aborted attempt at a gym shower, and we are bad-hair twins today.

    This is all relatively banal (albeit SUPER annoying) and got me thinking that some people have definitely experienced some weird office closures – please share!

    1. No Tribble At All*

      We had an early closing because the nearby junkyard had smoke coming from it. So, a literal dumpster fire.

    2. Another Lawyer*

      I worked in an office in the same building as a bank, and one afternoon the bank was robbed! By the time we heard about it the person was long gone and police were on the scene, but management decided to send everyone home. The person was arrested after a couple hours.

    3. Muriel Heslop*

      A squirrel got electrocuted by a transformer and it shut down the building for the entire afternoon.

      Also, water line break will close a high school immediately. Fun fact!

      1. Enough*

        Actually broken water lines will close anything and everything. If there is no water you are violating health laws.

        1. Ada*

          I’d believe that. I’ve done a number of projects related to power outages in the past. I couldn’t count the number of times the cause of the outage was listed as some variant of “squirrel blew up the transformer.”

      2. Kimmy Schmidt*

        I’m in a fairly rural area and we’ve had more than one squirrel related electrical incident in the past year.

      3. emmelemm*

        I had that happen at our old office! Transformer goes POP! Coworker goes out, sees dead squirrel on the ground. Ooops.

        1. Princess Cimorene*

          I’d argue stupid people creating Squirrel walkways and jungle gyms with our wires and lines and need to cut down their trees to build our houses and condos and paving their neighborhoods… nd expecting squirrels not to use them lol.

          Stupid humans.

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      We had a transformer for the whole building blow, and it filled the basement with smoke, which seeped into the rest of the building in addition to the power being out. They couldn’t reopen the building until that was repaired, which I think took a couple of days! (I was actually off for a few days after that, so I don’t remember.)

    5. De Minimis*

      I used to work in a small complex in a rural area, which included offices for a couple of federal agencies. E. coli was detected in the water supply, and one of the agencies closed their offices. Seemed odd since it wasn’t like they needed water to do administrative work. My workplace remained open [a medical clinic.] We shut off all the drinking fountains and provided bottled water, and purchased distilled water to be used for patient procedures.

        1. De Minimis*

          I think they supplied hand sanitizer, or else we may have just used the water. I don’t remember.
          I believe it was a very small trace reading, but we were required to turn everything off.

    6. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

      My institution closed for a water main break, but we had a faculty recruitment visit that day, so we had to power through the talk and meetings all day with no running water. It wasn’t pretty!

    7. SaraV*

      How about “Should have been an office closure”?

      They were rennovating the second floor of the office building, our office was on the first floor. One of the workers had a long…something…that he was carrying carelessly, and knocked a sprinkler head off. That caused the whole system to go off. We had water coming into our office, which had a lot of specialized equipment, along with the standard office equipment, from the ceiling. Most of it came in ontop of my desk and computer. (Receptionist/office manager) Oh, did I mention this happened after 5p? Luckily, because of what we did, at least one person was always in the office. That one person grabbed my computer tower, popped the case off, and found a fan to dry out the inside of any water. The monitor still worked…until about a month later.

      If memory serves me correctly, I want to say the exact same thing happened one or two days later…sprinkler head knocked off on the second floor…but it was somehow stopped before there was any more damage to other offices.

      1. Kimberlee, No Longer Esq.*

        Hahaha, on the list of “should have been”… when I was working fast food, our vent hoods over the fryers stopped working, which filled the kitchen with unpleasant, thick and warm smoke(?) (not technically smoke I don’t think, but like, the vent hoods exist for a reason). They refused to close the store, and were super reluctant to even call someone to take a look because it was Thanksgiving and service calls were gonna be way expensive.

        So, yeah, that’s how I spent Thanksgiving one year XD

    8. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

      Oh, and my office closed due to a bad smell – in another building. They refinished the ancient wooden floors in a neighboring building with something that smelled truly vile (but according to the facilities rep, nontoxic), and people got headaches and stomach upset here, a whole building away, and eventually everyone was just sent home.

    9. hermit crab*

      My DC-area office closed for the rest of the day after the 2011 Virginia earthquake! There was actually a local election that day in our jurisdiction, so that was a fun day for the pollworkers/election officials.

      And few months ago, I was in an offsite meeting and the building was evacuated due to a bomb threat… not all that weird, I guess, but certainly out of the ordinary for me (it turned out there were no bombs & everyone was fine). It was kind of entertaining to finish up our meeting on the sidewalk down the street, while we waited to see if we could go back inside.

      1. CTT*

        Ahhh, I remember that earthquake! I think the place I was at probably closed as well? I mostly remember it happening and everyone looking out into the hallway and finally someone just said “…was that an earthquake?” It was so unexpected!

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

        My CT office also closed as a result of that earthquake, but mostly because one of our buildings was not safe and they were afraid the aftershocks would cause damage (????)

        It’s being renovated now, but I’d rather we just tore it down and started over.

      3. CatCat*

        My office basically closed that day because people in my office freaked out (we were given the option to leave for the day). I thought it was odd because I grew up in a place where earthquakes were not uncommon.

      4. The Other Dawn*

        I remember that earthquake. I was driving across PA/OH to go to a Def Leppard concert the following day. I was eating lunch in my car and felt it shake. I had no idea it was an earthquake. I thought it was the wind shaking the car. I only found out later that day it had been a quake.

    10. porpoise driven*

      A really tall wrecking ball crane malfunctioned and the construction company couldn’t guarantee control over it. Everything- including my place of work- in a ball-swinging radius was evacuated/closed.

      1. zora*

        Oh yeah! This wasn’t my building, but some close to my office. One of the cranes on the side of a skyscraper came loose in downtown SF. A lot of nearby buildings had to be evacuated until they resecured the crane. Being SF, it was a busy day on Twitter/Snapchat!

    11. LKW*

      We had an office closure because the city was covered in ice and the power company was afraid they wouldn’t be able to heat residential and commercial concurrently.

      On the opposite side, when a hurricane took out power for much of the area, my office still had power and the company reserved a room in the hotel next door so people could come and get a shower, do laundry, power their phones. They also supplied a pizza lunch in the office.

        1. Fikly*

          So my company recently expanded onto a second floor, and it may be possessed. Or the apocalypse is happening. There has been one disaster after another, from AC going out, to no power, to flooding through the ceiling, to mysterious “possible” puddles. The latest was the ceiling collapsing overnight (so everyone was fine).

          We have recently been allowed back onto that floor, and I was tempted to post a poll on slack for what the next disaster would be, but felt that would be too on the nose or make our office manager cry.

          A few weeks ago the NYFD was at the building because people got trapped in the elevator. I don’t know what is up with this building’s karma, but there needs to be sage burned or something.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            More proof that the hellmouth has moved. Be alert for rampaging squirrels and armadillos.

    12. RabbitRabbit*

      Due to too much water overwhelming the system, my office had “gray water” geysering up through the toilet when I came in, about a foot clearance of the spout over the rim. I was first in by a mile, so I got to run around unplugging computers (got shocked once), pulling file boxes off the floor, and so forth. There were a couple inches of standing water when I was done. I forwarded the phones to the department’s office, went home and threw away my shoes and scrubbed my feet.

    13. Partly Cloudy*

      Two jobs ago, we closed for a couple of hours two separate times because of a gas leak in the building.

      I’ve had days when I wished the office would close due to broken AC (in Florida) but had to keep working in the puddle of my own sweat.

    14. starsaphire*

      Ooo, I had a grandboss one time that tried to NOT close the office after a water issue.

      Long story short: Bottom story of our building was a parking garage. Someone ignored the vehicle-height sign and drove in a camper, and took out a water pipe.

      The Empty Suit in the Corner Office sent out a quick blurb (doing an end run around his admin) saying that the water had been shut off, so if we needed to “go” we could just run across the street to the IHOP.

      His admin, bless her soul, immediately sent out a retraction stating that the management was in fact aware that it was illegal to keep the office open without sanitation facilities, and that if the problem was not fixed within the hour, we could all go home.

      We went home.

      Everything was fine the next day, thankfully, but… y’all can imagine how we felt about the Suit after that.

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        I worked at a fitness facility where the water was shut off periodically, because there was a water main service point nearby.

        While legally we had to close, because it is a) illegal to have employees onsite with no restrooms b) illegal to have customers on site with no restrooms c) illegal to have a pool open with no restrooms d) illegal to have a pool open with no showers…we didn’t. Boss kept the place open and directed people to the gas station’s restroom.

    15. Jamie*

      Not an office closure story, but when my office was closed and I was the only one there after a power outage getting the servers back up I ended up spending over an hour looking for baby goose within the walls of my office.

      I kept hearing this high pitched “quack” sound that I was certain was a small goose, duck, or other bird somehow stuck within the walls. I was so concerned thinking of it scared and unable to save itself…pulled some vent covers off and was calling for it (like it would come to me…Idk what I was thinking…)

      Turned out it was the automatic air fresher from the bathroom. Did you know when empty they still go off regularly, but instead of the spray sound it softly quacks like a bird. I know that now.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Yes! I had that happen at our place. Although I didn’t register it as a quack, it was definitely birdlike in my mind. We have twice had birds get into the building through the factory’s delivery bay so it took me a little extra time to figure out what I was hearing.

      2. mdv*

        OMG. This reminds me of the “smoke detector incident” with a roommate long years past. He was on vacation for six weeks (I rented a room in his house), and I slowly went insane from the increasingly loud and frequent chirping of the smoke alarm. It turned out it was hard wired, so I couldn’t figure out why it would be chirping. So I turned off the breakers …. and it went off constantly! until I figured out it was actually the carbon monoxide detector in the hallway.

    16. Bilateralrope*

      I worked security at at office building tasked with keeping everyone out after someone didnt properly turn off the fire hose on the top floor and nobody noticed for a few days because it was over Christmas. 11 floors of soaked carpets.

      No idea why the hose was used in the first place.

    17. fposte*

      I lived in Chicago when somebody poked a hole in the river and flooded the below-surface infrastructure downtown; it closed most of the downtown, trading was shut down, etc.. I had friends and neighbors who got sent home and that was an amusing conversation.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          This reminds me of another should-have-been:

          The May 2009 Southern Midwest derecho (also on Wikipedia — you can look it up) spawned a ton of tornadoes, one of which hit OldExjob. We had no power and the roof was half-ripped off the other building (it was amazing; like a wadded-up gum wrapper the size of a bus) and there was insulation everywhere, but they didn’t send us home.

          Obviously, however, normal work was out of the question. A bunch of people went out and bought tarps to cover the plant roof (they were reimbursed). People kept calling, so I still had to answer the phone. They kept asking why their faxes weren’t going through. They were very sympathetic when I told them we’d been hit by a tornado, except for one woman. She said “Oh. Well when do you think I’ll be able to send a fax?” :P

      1. starsaphire*

        I think that incident made one of the Modern Marvels Engineering Disasters episodes! That was the one with the transportation tunnels under the buildings in the loop, right?

        1. fposte*

          That’s the one! It was right about the same time as a major street became unusable because of a drawbridge failure, and there was a joke about “Chicago, the city where the bridges fall up and the river leaks.”

      2. Eva and Me*

        I was there, then, too! My toxic boss didn’t want to close the office, of course, but once our building announced that the elevators would be shut off at X time, I left. No way was I walking down 22 flights of stairs if I didn’t have to! Boss was greatly overweight and not in good shape, so I guess his plan for himself was to hope the elevators got turned back on by the time he wanted to leave? Also, all public transportation was full leaving downtown, so I walked the 3.5 miles home, and was lucky that was an option.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, my neighbor walked home about 7-8 miles, and of course tons of other people were walking along with him. It was one of those things that couldn’t really have been prepared for.

      3. ThatGirl*

        Oh my goodness, I had never heard about this, thank you. I wonder if my husband (who’s lived around here his whole life) remembers.

        1. fposte*

          One of the early tells that this wasn’t just a water main break was when somebody in the basement of an office building spotted fish in the entering flood. Yeow.

    18. Plush Penguin*

      We’ve had our office closed for water issues before.
      The first time, the workers doing digging for a new building next door cut into the water main. Oops.
      The second time, something broke, and we had a water fountain coming up through the sewer entrance outside the building. I have video of it.
      Then there was… the incident. Our building was first open in December 2012, and this took place in early January 2014. It was cold that day (-20C + windchill). So it’s just after 1pm that day, I made myself a hot chocolate and was going to sit down… and the fire alarm went off. We don’t usually have fire drills in early January, and the building emergency people had no idea what was going ok. Ok, something’s up, so I get suited up in my winter clothing, and grab my purse and phone. I looked at my boots and thought, “Well, we’re going to be back up here soon, I don’t need to change my shoes.” So, I go down the emergency exit and leave at the rear of the building, heading towards the area we’re to gather. Along the way, I look down and see a stream of water. I thought, “Why is there a river going past my feet at -20C?” So I turn to look at the building… and the rear entrance of the building is flooding and spewing water. Apparently this brand new building had pipes built near the exterior wall, and they burst.
      This was a Friday, and I didn’t get my boots back until Monday.

      1. Mama Bear*

        We had a partial building closure because the water cooler for another office in the building leaked. Must have been one that filtered tap water because it was enough to flood the floor it was on, and damage the offices below. Some offices had to be closed and some hallways had the bottom foot or so of drywall removed. For days we had a small army of industrial floor dryers everywhere and some of the kitchens were closed for over a week. The ceiling fell in on the kitchen directly below the leaking cooler.

    19. Out of Retail*

      Not the office I work in, but a different office for my company had to close for a day because the building they work from had a dump truck drive *all the way in to* the Subway on the bottom floor. (They were back in the office the next day, because apparently “dump truck took out front wall” had somehow not compromised the structural integrity of the building?)

      1. Lalaith*

        This didn’t happen to me, but there’s a small shopping center near where my husband works where the entrance is a ramp over a parking area. A semi truck that should not have been there drove over the ramp… and fell through it. The whole shopping center has been closed for *months* because they haven’t fixed the ramp yet!

    20. CupcakeCounter*

      Water main breaks are a super common reason to close offices – I think it is OSHA/Health Department related since toilets and sinks for hand washing require running water.

    21. Cog in the Machine*

      My old office had a few “should have closed” occassions. The AC unit for our side of the building broke down during a heat wave. Last winter, the furnace for our side broke down and stayed down for a week, despite repeated calls to the landlord. (The office isn’t in an area where it’s overly cold, but it’s difficult to work when you walk in the door and can see your breath.)
      Thr worst things are smells! Vandals damaged the fuel tank of our office vehicles on several occasions. The vehicles are parked next to the exterior door, so the entire office smelled like gasoline.
      New office has skunks. It’s fun when they get under the building.

      1. Gumby*

        Work had better air quality than my AC-less apartment then so I was thrilled that we didn’t close.

        The one way to get us out fast is if the internet goes out. Not that it’s dangerous in the office or anything, there is just nothing to do! I mean, maybe you can come up with work to fill a couple of hours but it’s quite limited. It’s only happened once though.

    22. Aurélia*

      So. The building my office is in is HORRIBLY designed. The time the office was closed for two days was due to the server room overheating. The sprinklers went off and flooded the bottom two levels. If that wasn’t bad enough, the uninterruptible power source was interrupted.
      There have been mold issues. Most recently a garbage disposal got backed-up and smelled AWFUL until they fixed it ~two weeks later. The day they fixed it my manager let me go home a bit early b/c I got so pale and woozy.

    23. Jaid*

      The Pope visited my city.

      Wait, was my office closed or did our bosses just let us take PTO without quibbling? Now I can’t remember. I just know I wasn’t there, LOL.

      1. M. Albertine*

        My office closed down because Barack Obama was going to walk through the building to give a speech outside, and Secret Service required the time to sweep for threats.

      2. kible*

        Mr Pope visited my city too (or maybe we’re in the same one, idk), and my work closed cause we were just barely inside the “pope box”. but we just worked from home instead.

    24. KR*

      Not a closure but probably should have been. We had a major blizzard a few years ago in New England. Massachusetts shut down the roads for that storm except for emergency personnel, that’s how bad it was. The state I lived in is much more into personal freedom and did not shut down the roads, so I was one of two or three people working second shift at a Dunkin Donuts. We got various plow trucks, tow trucks, cops, and a trail trimmer through our drive thru. No one else came except for the other unlucky souls who’s supervisors had no regard for their personal safety. What was a 25 min drive took me almost 2 hrs as I drove home on completely unplowed highways in a few feet of snow in a sedan. All for $7.85 an hour. But we got a lot of cleaning done since no customers were out on the roads and got to goof off a bit, so that was cool. Power kept flicking on and off periodically. The storm was so bad it disrupted our supply chain so we ran out of creamer and sweeteners for a few days, half the people didn’t show up the next morning for 1st shift (to the managers credit he went to every one of them and offered to go pick them up in his big lifted truck if they thought they wouldn’t be able to drive in or switch their shift, but they passed on the opportunity and called out anyway), the plow truck hadn’t even plowed the parking lot yet when I got in the next morning because there was so much snow, and all the customers got mad at us because we were running out of things (disrupted supply chain) and busy because we were one of the only places open.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        One December we had 18 inches of snow in one day and my boss at the time called me and told me to stay home. I could totally drive in it, so I could have gone in; I did drive to school to turn in a paper, but I had to dig my car out, lol.

        He had someone plow the parking lot and they piled up all the snow at the back of the lot, where it froze solid in a little mountain that didn’t fully melt until May.

    25. theletter*

      The CEo’s dog chewed up the cable that hooked up our internet. CEO hated people working from home, so we were closed for the day.

    26. voluptuousfire*

      Hurricane Sandy. I worked in Manhattan and all power below 34th street was turned off. I live in one of the outer boroughs so I couldn’t get into the city anyway, but that pretty much shut down out office for a week. The ones that weren’t affected by power outages worked from home.

      1. Llellayena*

        Ah yes. Sandy closed my office for a week shortly after I had started working there…and I was not yet on the emergency contact list. I live close enough to walk to work, so each day I walked over until I ran into someone there who got my name on the list.

    27. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      My office got shut down early once because the construction they were doing on the building was so loud it was giving people migraines. Plus there was some weird chemical smell that just compounded the problem.

    28. A flaw in the system*

      Our building management office in downtown office building called one of the contacts from their list for our office and said there was a bomb threat. We did have a few governmental offices randomly interspersed in the building, like some branch of the IRS, who some people could feel strongly negative towards (although this was the only bomb threat I’d ever heard of). Unfortunately, for whatever screwed up reason, the contact person in our office was a partner who was rarely ever in the office. They did speak with him, explaining the situation, but he never told anyone! We found out from other offices in our building, of course, investigated the reason the information had stalled somewhere, at which point the partner was removed from the list of contacts given to the office of the building.

    29. Former Govt Contractor*

      I live in KY. Aside from the mundane reasons (bad weather, power outages, etc.) we close annually for KY Derby events (the Great Steamboat Race and the parade, both of which take place downtown) and KY Oaks Day. We also closed not long ago for Muhammad Ali’s funeral (procession went through downtown as it visited key spots relevant to Ali’s life).

    30. a*

      I used to work at Marriage Court (where people go for civil marriage ceremonies) in Chicago on Saturdays. The officiants were circuit court judges who had to rotate through Marriage Court approximately once a year – there was a full time judge during the week, but Saturdays, the other judges had to work (3 at a time, for 3 hours in the morning) and they were quite grumpy about it. The Marriage Court is in the basement of the County Building. One Saturday, a sewage pipe burst, and a bunch of water came through the ceiling in the last office, right onto one of the judges. The office didn’t close, but that judge certainly got to leave that day!

    31. twig*

      We SHOULD have closed, but didn’t on two separate occasions at a screen printing shop that I worked at (the place that will forever be my job from hell to compare all other not-so-great-jobs to):
      1. the owner decided to repaint the darkroom and turn it into an office — he painted over the dark pink paint in the room with noxious primer. I got high. not in a good way. my head hurt for 2 days.

      2. about a week later new carpet — with noxious carpet glue. I got high. not in a good way. my head hurt for 2 days.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        We should have closed last winter but didn’t… they moved us out of our area, and promptly began stripping out the 25+ year old carpet. Without putting up plastic dividers. You could SEE the dust in the air across that range of cubicles. Weirdly my side didn’t get the dust but got the reek worse when the new carpet got glued in.
        It was nasty for a lot longer than 2 days because first it was dust, then it was paint, then it was carpet glue… then it was carpet outgassing. They did this in the winter AFTER the holidays instead of before, when the building ventilation could have had a chance to catch up with the fumes for a week’s closure.

    32. Londoner*

      Pavement fire! British infrastructure has not been modernised in ages, so somehow old electricity cables underneath the pavement regularly catch fire. But this one was quite big and by the time they had found someone to switch off the electricity, the gas pipe next to the cables had caught fire and they needed to wait a few days for the gas to just burn off before they were able to fix anything.
      Our office building was closed for two days because they were worried about carbon monoxide having accumulated in the basement, which was a bit silly since most of the basement was a tube station and I think dead commuters would have been noticed.
      The fire fried all electronic systems in the surrounding courts and I had a fun hearing where there was no AC and after the other side and we had come to an agreement we sent the draft consent order to the judge’s private email system, since all court emails were down.

    33. Third or Nothing!*

      We’ve gone home for no A/C, no electricity, no Internet, and for particularly bad thunderstorms on the way (mainly hail and heavy rain). Nothing especially weird, although the frequency with which the building level problems occur might be odd – several times a year!

    34. Lalaith*

      Nothing super weird, but here are a few:

      1) At an office in Midtown Manhattan. There was a small electrical fire in a stairwell and we all had to evacuate, and since we didn’t know what was going on or how long it might take to resolve, we all went home. However, it was on an anniversary of Sept. 11, so while it wasn’t at all related, it had that tinge to it and felt really odd.

      2) Same office. I worked there during Hurricane Sandy. The office itself was fine – it never even lost power – but since I lived in New Jersey, I couldn’t *get* there for several days. All the buses and subways were shut down for a while. And I couldn’t work from home because I had no power there :-P Weirdly, one guy in our office who worked from home frequently decided to walk to the office the day after the storm. *shrug*

      3) I worked at a bank which didn’t like to close for much. If our computers were down or we couldn’t access the internet, we’d still keep going and process transactions later. But at one point the power for the entire street went out, and they actually let us close! (Security is something of an issue if you have no power). We didn’t get to go home, though, we had to wait around to see if the power came back until closing time. And of course there were still customers who wanted to come in :-P

    35. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

      At OldJob, we had an early office closure because of cold weather. I thought this was odd because we had heat in the office, the computers and other equipment weren’t affected. So why close?

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        For benefit of anyone taking public transit home? To avoid a rash of dead batteries in the parking lot? For fear of the power going out and/or pipes freezing? For anyone whose car might break down on the way home?

        1. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

          To “Seeking Second Childhood”-Granted, those are all valid reasons. However, this was in a Major City and we weren’t even closed during a snow storm.

    36. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      We had a fire!
      The fire happened before working hours, and only affected the lobby directly. So they didn’t close the building, and we all still came in. But the smell was *horrific*–not just smoke, but definitely the smell of just like…burnt chemicals or plastic or whatever the security desk had formerly been made of. Finally my boss decreed that this was Ridiculous and decided we could all go home; I don’t know if the rest of the building stayed open. But we did still have to work all the other days after that, even though the smell was still there, if slightly fainter.

      Another time, they surprise-replaced the floor tiles in one of our side-rooms. We’d been asking them to do that forever, but we’d expected a little more warning. The glue smell was atrocious so my boss again made a decree of this being Ridiculous and let everyone go home.

      1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

        It also floods every time there’s rain, but not bad enough to close. And besides, we need to be there to rescue the poor books.

      2. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

        I do love and value a boss who can recognize the Ridiculous. Such bosses are to be cherished.

    37. M*

      I worked for a particularly toxic and mismanaged NGO for about a year. Every time there was some form of office party – Christmas party, celebrations after a successful fundraiser, etc – the senior management team would get utterly trashed and then send an email to the entire office in the early hours of the morning telling us all that we had part of the day off. How late in the day we were told to come in was dependent entirely on just how drunk they had gotten – the latest I remember was 2:30pm.

      And, to be clear, “we’re giving everyone the morning off Tuesday next week to celebrate [achievement/holiday/whatever]” = lovely. Email at 4am when you have to be up to get to work “on time” at 7:30am and have alarms responsibly set? Not so much a perk.

    38. An Elephant Never Baguettes*

      We’ve had a lot if construction going on around our office building during the last years which means that every couple of months we’ll have to close because they’ve found an old bomb in the ground and our building is in the evacuation radius. The first times we hang around to see if we could go back in the office but by now we just go home – it always takes way longer than they think it will. At this point the weirdest thing is how used to it you become.

    39. anon24*

      What I wish was a closure but was not – our sewage system got destroyed in a freeze/thaw cycle. We had water but were not allowed to use it, so no using sinks or toilets. It was not a quick fix either, we had to get contractor bids, submit them to corporate, get permission from corporate (who were in no hurry because THEY had working bathrooms), then get permission from the township. For 4 MONTHS we got to use portable toilets and a hose to wash our hands. We were so miserable.

        1. anon24*

          This was Pennsylvania. They said it was legal and I have yet to find anything contradicting them. We technically had toilet facilities and running water, so legal.

    40. Tau*

      I have another “should have been an office closure”: ransomware.

      The entire corporate network got wiped out by it. Not only were all computers down for weeks, but the phones and elevators didn’t work either. We were told to try to do our jobs the way we would have in the days before computers and e-mail.

      …I’m a software developer.

      We’d come in in the morning, sit around, attempt to sketch system architecture on paper, twiddle our thumbs, play games on our phones… finally at 3pm or so they’d realise that the computers were not, in fact, going to come back online today and tell us that we could go home. But! We should still please come in tomorrow because maybe the IT department would manage to miraculously restore the company network overnight. Rinse. Repeat.

    41. Ed*

      its not weird in the “how odd” sense.. but it is weird that these things are a part of our society and the extent its been normalised… last year my office building got shut down for a couple of days because of a van attack. guy killed 10 people on the sidewalk, injured 16 others. google Yonge and Finch van attack in Toronto if you’re unfamiliar.

    42. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Scary not weird: I was working in Silicon Valley during the Loma Prieta earthquake. (1989, the “World Series” quake.) It hit after working hours, but we weren’t supposed to come again until our buildings had gotten their green/yellow/red rating. My building was a hardhat zone so I went in with a hardhat to retrieve materials and spent the rest of my contract working with whatever I could roll on a library trolley to another building.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Oh man, that was a terrible quake. I moved to Santa Cruz not long after and a year later, you could see people flinch when a heavy truck went by.

    43. dealing with dragons*

      the pump for the toilets quit working. technically I could have walked to the other building but we are allowed to work from home whenever so I peaced out.

      The men working on fixing it (bless their souls) looked like they were in the scene from christmas vacation with cousin eddie.

      sh*tters full!

    44. Fleezy*

      A woman combined some medications that she wasn’t supposed to, passed out while driving and crashed into our orthodontic office, which was full of children at their appointments! Luckily (?) she hit the electrical box in front of our building first, which knocked out our power and set her car on fire, but slowed her momentum enough that she didn’t crash all the way through the wall. She was only mildly injured but super disoriented, and nobody in our building was injured.

    45. Lemon Ginger Tea*

      I was working in downtown Boston when the marathon bombing occurred in 2013. Our office let out early that day because public transportation was obviously a nightmare. Amazingly, I happened to bike to work that day…

    46. Quake Johnson*

      Not a full on closure, but one time I was working in a store and somehow 1/4 of the stores power went out. Everyone else was fine but the bakery and dairy area was completely dark and those employees were just twiddling their thumbs for a while.

      Then when the electrician came, as he was working on the wires some lady was just zipping erratically around the parking lot and ended up smashing right into the electrician’s van. So then we had to call the tow truck.

      It was a weird day.

    47. Elizabeth West*

      Not a closure, but one that should have happened. While I was still at OldExjob, we had a winter storm hit right around closing time one day. The weather forecast was spot on, so we all knew it was coming. Well, the general manager was not inclined to let us go early even though we all pointed out that it would probably be safer (the plant people had all left at three pm, but the office stayed open until five).

      Five o’clock rolled around, and so did a massive amount of sleet. We were in an industrial park with ONE main entrance/exit. I lived a normally fifteen-to twenty minute drive (at rush hour) from work. That night, it took me TWO AND A HALF HOURS to get home. Half of that was just inching out of the park along with everyone else whose employers didn’t let them go early, plus all the semi-trucks!

      We were not happy campers. The next day was still a bit icy, and out of spite, I took my time getting to work.

    48. StarHunter*

      Random office closures at one job I had:
      – Raccoon fried itself on the mill’s 3 phase power transformer. Lights out for the offices, the mill, and the raccoon.
      – A piece of equipment caught fire in the mill. (Got to actually use the evacuation plan.)
      – The scariest was someone was digging near a phone pole next to the mill and hit a gas main. Whoosh, boom, pole on fire and lights out.

    49. Scout Finch*

      We had a horrible derecho (google Hurricane Elvis) that wiped out power to over 300,000 homes. Many were without power for the better part of 2 weeks. Cell towers were down – only land lines worked reliably. Had to drive to AR for ice for the cooler.

      Our office was out of power for about 3 days – we got a generator going until municipal power was restored there about 10 days in. Getting to work was wild – traffic signals were out for a good while. My home power was out for 10 days.

      Saddam Hussein’s sons were killed that day, so it never even made the national news.

    50. nym*

      We are an agency that investigates disease outbreaks. We had a norovirus outbreak onsite, which prompted both closing the building and being investigated by a sister agency. Those of us that weren’t sick, laughed. Those of us that were sick… many years later, laughed.

    51. nym*

      Not a full-on closure, but affected parts of three floors: someone on the top floor had stopped up a sink with paper towels and left the water running over the weekend; we came in Monday morning to find the ceiling of the floor below collapsed, and the ceiling of the floor below that not collapsed but bowing and mushy-looking. So we got to work from home for about two weeks while all three floors got a quick cleanup and repair job.

      That was obviously malice, not accident. And the room with the sink in it was keycard-access only, so security made real short work of prosecuting the perpetrator.

  11. a small success story*

    I wanted to share a success story I had this week during a phone screen, thanks to AAM.

    I applied for a “senior” job that I would not have normally applied for, because a friend who works at the company sent it to me. I wouldn’t have applied to it because I don’t have any official/professional certifications or degrees in this field, I don’t consider myself “senior,” and the company is a very large international corporation.

    As I researched, I was most worried about the salary question. I’m underpaid at around 45k, and through my research, I felt like the highest number I could reach would be something like 62k (which was already a stretch, but that’s some impostor syndrome for another post). I was hoping that he wouldn’t ask what my current salary is, because I knew that would be shooting myself in the foot.

    So he asked, “What are your salary expectations?” And thanks to a commenter from a previous Ask a Manager post, I had a script ready. I said something like, “Since this is my first step outside a small company, I’m not sure where the market is at. So would you tell me your budget first?” A little clumsy, but at least I said it.

    And he said “Sure.” (!) And he said the base salary would be 80-90k. (!!!) Okay, now I know it’s probably way beyond my current level, but at least I didn’t disqualify myself by suggesting an out-of-touch salary point. He said that a good fit was more important to them than experience, so I’m taking that as a sign that he didn’t toss my resume into the garbage right away and I decided to move forward in the process as much as I can, taking it as a learning experience.

    So THANK YOU to AAM and the commenter whose name I didn’t write down. Without reading this site religiously for the past few years, I wouldn’t have had the courage or even known it was an option to flip the question like that.

    1. rayray*

      Thanks for sharing! That’s a great way to get around that question because it can be awkward when you have no idea what the possible range is.

    2. Blarg*

      That’s great language … I’m in a similar boat but more “moved from rural tundra to major metro area” and don’t know what salary is normal. Nice work!

      1. On Hold*

        I used it in my last phone screen (“actually, I’m going to turn that around and ask what you have budgeted for the position?”) and it went over just fine.

  12. EPLawyer*

    URRGGHH. My husband just returned to work after being off on disability for a non-work related injury. He communicated appropriately with HR and his benefits were fine. He did not tell his supervisors any details of how the injury occurred. He returned to find out said supervisor had been spreading rumors about the how the injury occurred. Nothing bad, but still not his business to be telling people not affected by my husband’s absence anything let alone making up stories.

    Not the first time this guy has been a problem. I really wish my husband would get another job. But he says the pay and benefits are too good.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Argh, that’s obnoxious. But I see why your husband doesn’t want to switch jobs over it. If I switched jobs every time someone was just obnoxious and not overly malicious or harming my status in the company, I would never stay anywhere that long =X

  13. Professional Development*

    How much time do you spend on “personal” professional development, meaning skills and knowledge for your marketability and not just what you need to do your current job? Does your job allow you time during the work day to do it?

    I’m struggling to find a balance of how much I can realistically keep myself up-to-date and still have a life. My field can be overwhelming.

    1. Angwyshaunce*

      Whenever all of my work projects are in a holding pattern, I spend time learning or improving skills. This happens on average probably five days a month. I am usually able to apply these skills to create tools or better technology that directly benefits the company, so they seem fine with this.

      I am also fortunate to have overlap between my favorite hobby and what I do professionally, so whether I learn at work or on my own time, it benefits both. (This also makes it easier to do on my personal time, since I enjoy doing it.)

    2. Zombie Unicorn*

      A few hours a week. It’s allowed during the work day but hard to carve out time. I have a new manager who’s been talking about scheduling protected personal development time into our calendars which would be great.

    3. Fortitude Jones*

      I’m very fortunate that I’m in a brand new role to my company, so I can pretty much create my own tasks because I don’t have a ton of time sensitive work outside of editing technical proposal drafts (which are kind of slow right now). Therefore, I do a lot of professional development during work hours – in fact, I’m watching training videos right now, lol. When I did work in a role that was more structured, I had to do a lot of my professional development outside of work hours. I’d set aside an hour or two a night to study for a designation exam and do a couple hours on the weekend as well.

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      My employer has 40 hrs education every year as a goal for every employee. We can do this during the workdays, and they encourage managers to make sure we have time during workdays for it. They do schedule some required classes (4 – 12 hrs/year), but other than that, it’s our choice. So my Stats class last year, and the SQL class the year before, both counted, though only SQL was relevant to my current work. I don’t include all my non-fiction reading, but if I spend time reading current political moves around tariffs, I will record that.

      Nursing and teaching both require continuing ed too – I saw ’20 hrs / year’ for nurses, and ’35 hrs / year + 2 formal courses every 5 years’ for teachers.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        (ps: though upper mgmt does encourage managers to make sure there’s time, it has not actually driven any reduction in my workload…)


      My manager made it a direct order that I am to let our offshore resource do more of the work and I am to spend a good portion of my day learning new skills. It hasn’t balanced out well due to our work but I am enjoying that opportunity today! Woo hoo!!

      Having said that, though, my place is not known for letting the general staff learn new skills on the job, just the favored sons and daughters. We have Gen Y/Gen Zs, who go home at night and study new skills. I already spend 8 hours a day on a computer, why would I study stuff after hours unless I can use it to get extra pay or get on a team developing in that skillset? (Gen X here).

    6. Lemon Ginger Tea*

      I recently tussled with my employer over this, asking if the company would pay for me to take an online course during work hours that would directly contribute to my capabilities at work and result in a certificate. I timed it during the quietest season for our business and so I was able to keep up with my usual workload.

      It was initially received as if I was asking for a huuuuuge personal favor, but it was basically their jumping off point for negotiation. I made the case that professional development is a benefit offered by many employers and that it’s a great way to keep employees engaged, motivated, and fresh in their field. Ultimately the company paid for the course, we set a cap on how many hours per week I could spend on it during work hours, and we agreed that if I left the company sooner than a year after completing the course, I would repay the cost prorated. I’m pretty happy with how we worked it out.

    7. Alex*

      I spend probably about 8-10 hours a week outside of work doing that, but I think that’s probably above average. I really want to develop some skills to move to a different branch of my field.

      It is not expected that I would take time to do that during work hours–even if the training is requested by my company, they expect it done on my own personal time. However, I don’t feel bad doing some of it if I have a bit of down time during the day, which I sometimes do.

    8. Thankful for AAM*

      Oddly, my workplace limits us to 6 hours a year of prof dev; this is free webinars we find on our own. They also occasionally have some required training, maybe 3 gours a year.

  14. Pieska*

    Question about interview clothes- is a black suit too formal if the dress code will be business casual on the job? I’m a woman if that makes a difference, and this would be corporate but not conservative. I have a friend in the same industry who said business casual was fine when she interviewed, but that was at smaller, startup type places. So I probably need to dress up a little more, but I don’t want to overdo it! Any advice?

    1. Teapot Compliance*

      Do you mind mentioning what industry? I’ve found the answer to be really dependent on region and industry.

        1. theletter*

          I think you’ll be fine with the black suit. Healthcare analytics can have it’s ‘casual’ side, but your clients might be hospitals, and will appreciate formality and polish.

          1. Artemesia*

            I know health care businesses where people (including consultants) are not allowed to wear jeans on premises. I know a consultant who was fired for violating this norm. Health care is not notoriously casual. I’d wear the suit with a colored blouse, and scarf. Being a little more formal during the interview than once working is common anyway. If you were in software in California it would be different of course.

        2. Jaydee*

          You’ll be fine in the suit. The Midwest tends to be a little more conservative in general when it comes to employment norms. Business casual probably reflects the fact that no one expects you to own and wear suits on a daily basis. But owning one black suit and wearing it to the interview will seem nice and professional.

          But also feel free to wear a brighter or patterned top or to accessorize a little more casually than you might if you were interviewing for, say, a larger law firm or a financial services firm or something like that.

    2. CTT*

      I always err on the side of overdress for an interview, especially for a corporate position. Do you have a more colorful blouse you could wear with the suit instead of white/light blue?

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          That will definitely work to loosen you up a bit if you go with the suit option. Another suggestion I was coming to make was that you wear a cardigan with the suit pants – it’s still a nice, tailored look, but not too formal. A colored blazer can also help to dress you down for a more business casual approach.

      1. Mbarr*

        Agreed. Err on the side of caution. I don’t have a coordinating suit, but I always have my jacket on, but I keep it unbuttoned. Then I have a simple shirt/blouse beneath it. (My current fave has subtle black penguins on it.)

        1. Parenthetically*

          Love that. Subtle patterns on dress shirts make me think of Michelle Pfeiffer in One Fine Day who put on her son’s dinosaur t-shirt under her suit because she’d gotten… juice (?) on her original one.

          I have a really cute shirt with a subtle grey-on-grey owl pattern that looks awesome under a cardigan or jacket. It just reads as a texture unless you look really closely.

    3. Pidgeot*

      I’d make sure to wear a nice blouse and then potentially remove the suit jacket (or carry it with me). That will put you firmly in business casual on the nice side, but you can always put on your jacket if you feel under-dressed.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Do you already own the black suit? If so, I think it’s fine to go with it. It’s business wear. It will not stand out as worth remembering unless you go with full goth accessories. (Healthcare analytics being a field unlike fashion editor, where striking details could matter over unremarkableness.)

      If you were looking for the right interview outfit to buy, I might lean toward trying to get a bit of a poll of what women a couple of levels up from you wear, and maybe the forest green dress is what really builds your confidence while the black suit feels constricting, and you should go with the dress if that’s within the dressy end of local and industry norms. But if you already own this suit, and feel professional and competent in it (the interview version of “comfortable”) I’d just go with the suit. Unless you show up in a prom dress, no one is going to think “That’s too formal for data analysis.”

    5. LKW*

      Do you have a patterned or interesting shirt? A plain shell is going to be staid. A solid button down is going to be formal. A red & white patterned blouse is going to be funky and more casual.

      But there is nothing wrong with being a little formal at an interview.

        1. NotAPirate*

          No neon, but otherwise brights are pretty fashionable right now. If it gives you a headache to stare at it in sunlight it’s too bright is my rule of thumb.

          Prints are fine too. For prints, steer away from clashing colors, so like dark with light polka dots, or yellow+white, blue+grey etc, is cool but bright green with pink flowers is more iffy. Your jacket will tone down whatever you wear.

          Solid colors are fine too.

          Good luck in your interview!

        2. LKW*

          I work with a lot of pharma clients including mid-West. Healthcare Analytics – if with a start up – funky is fine. If with a Pharma company – funky should be fine. If with a healthcare company like a hospital network… I’d go more formal.

          1. Sunflower*

            I disagree – I work in pharma healthcare analytics on the west coast (I’ve been at multiple pharma companies) and “funky” would not be fine. A black suit with a bright colored or patterned shirt would be great. A sheath dress with a blazor would be great. I usually wear grey slacks with a black shirt and black suit jacket which has always been fine. So OP, your plan is great!

        3. Windchime*

          I interviewed in healthcare analytics three years ago, and I wore black slacks, a print shell (black, royal blue and white) with a royal blue knit blazer-type thing. It’s not really a blazer but it’s fitted and I think it has a zipper. This was in Seatttle. When I was called back for a second interview, I wore the same black slacks, a burgandy print shell and I think a cardigan of some type. I did get the job. Day to day dress code was business casual until just a few weeks ago, and now we are allowed to wear nice jeans.

          Hope this helps!

    6. hermit crab*

      I wore a black suit to interview at my current job, which is super casual (I’m currently wearing jeans, a fleece, and hot pink sneakers). I wore a brightly colored top underneath the suit. Seemed fine! I am based in the DC region, but the interview was at our national nonprofit’s midwestern office.

    7. Joielle*

      In a similar situation, I’ve worn the jacket from a black suit with a different color pencil skirt and rolled the jacket sleeves up a bit. It was dressier than what the interviewers were wearing, but not embarrassingly so.

      If you do decide to wear the whole suit, I’d go for a more casual shirt underneath – something colorful, or with a pattern. Or funky jewelry!

    8. Dr. Anonymous*

      I think the suit is fine but some blazers look good over a fairly “businessy” dress and that may strike the balance you are looking for.

  15. Email vent*

    Just a vent today: People in leadership positions / positions of power need to take more responsibility for answering emails in a timely fashion. I’ve sent several different emails out, to several different people on several different topics, and haven’t gotten a response back. Have followed up–politely! No response.

    I literally can’t move forward without hearing back.

    Answer. Your. Emails.

    Look, I get that you have a lot of things on your plate, but when people are depending on you for their work, you need to acknowledge that and make sure they have what they need to get their work done.

    1. Lizabeth*

      My work is like that too…get mostly crickets on a regular basis.

      What I do is send a “final call” email saying that unless I hear back by x time, this is what will be decided (whatever needs to be answered) in order to keep things moving in a timely manner and meet deadlines.

      As long as it’s politely phrased, I generally get the answers I need. Your mileage may vary…

      1. Swiper*

        This is how I’ve handled it as well, and has been the most effective solution. Only once has someone come back and complained to my boss that they didn’t get a chance to respond. My boss saw the multiple attempts at contact, the very clear message I’d be moving forward with X plan and told the other person that it was too bad and they should stay on top of their email.

          1. Swiper*

            That boss was fabulous and as Dwight mentioned below, I did have her blessing to do this as she was tired of having to get involved every single time to get an answer out of that particular person.

        1. Dwight*

          I think you need your bosses blessing for this type of approach. This could very well backfire. I’m not defending the lack of response from leadership, but sometimes the input is more important than getting the product out on time.

      2. Angwyshaunce*

        This is a great tactic that I use as well. If I don’t get answers, I simply pick the course of action myself and tell them to let me know if they want it done differently.

    2. Alianora*

      A lot of senior people at my workplace (including our HR person) basically have to be tracked down in person to get a timely response. It’s frustrating. I already try not to send them email if at all possible, but sometimes I need them to look at a legal contract or reply to someone else’s email inquiry.

    3. Mbarr*

      I circumvented this at Old Job by doing some of the following:
      – Put “Action required” in front of the subject line
      – Use Outlook to add a reminder to the email for the recipients. I put the reminder at odd times like 9:17am because too often, managers are in meetings and dismiss reminders. This way there’s a chance the meeting might be over.
      – Depending on the length of the email:
      – put the actions required at the top of the email (and list what actions/answers are required, and who needs to answer them)
      – Put a summary of the reasons driving the email after the Actions required section.
      – As someone else suggested, reply to all the day before your email is due and say, “If I don’t get a response by tomorrow, we will proceed with X.” or something to that effect.

      1. Artemesia*

        Very important for the action item to be in the first couple sentences and not at the bottom like some O’Henry mystery. All this is good advice including Action Needed in the header.

      2. designbot*

        Love these practical tips! Another one I do is use their name at the beginning of the email when they are the specific person I require a response from. This is because most in management are CC’d on a ton of emails, most of which will be responded to by someone else. But when they see their name in the preview line they key in to the fact that they are the specific recipient as opposed to one of a whole team.

    4. Aggretsuko*

      This is how my personal life is going lately. I’m trying to arrange several trips and not hearing back from almost all people (except the ones I can pester in person, but I don’t see everyone on a regular basis any more and that’s a problem) and I’m just annoyed. I’m about ready to say “fuck y’all, I’m going alone.” I did say something along the lines of, “If I don’t hear from you, I assume you’re not interested and will trouble you no more” on the last trip because I plan on going regardless of whether or not anyone else wants in my car.

      The other one involves ticket buying and I was ALMOST there and then heard “oh, someone else wants to go….” and I haven’t heard back about THAT one yet either. Come onnnnnnnnnnn, people. It’s a limited space, I told you this. I don’t want everyone to be all “I’m in” and then can’t GET in.

      As for work, I have to wait for high muckety mucks to approve things quarterly and most of the time they go past the deadline, which is a joy. I can’t nag them too much though, they hate us already.

    5. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

      I know how you feel. Especially when some decisions have to be made. If I don’t get an answer from the person via email, I’ll make a phone call. if I get the voice mail and a decision MUST be made, I will make an “Executive Decision” and let the chips fall where they may.

    6. LLG612*

      Yeah. This is how my board is. Infuriating. And I just got chastised for politely asking for clarification on when I might expect communications in the future.

    7. kittymommy*

      Wait, am I Ambien-venting on AAM and not remembering????? Hmm…

      Seriously, +1-effing-million. Also, do something with the calendar invitations! Call me, text me, anything, I don’t care. Just don’t make me guess as to whether or not you’re going to show up to an event depending on mood-of-the-day.

    8. NW Mossy*

      As a leader I try really hard to stay on top of my stuff and answer people timely, but I don’t always succeed. I’ve got 13 direct reports across 3 different teams, so just keeping on top of my core priorities is a lot right now. Here are the tips I’d give to folks in my org on Emailing Leaders Well:

      * Know that your email is competing for the leader’s time and attention against the hundreds of others they receive each day. Many of us are included on aliases that reach our teams, our processes, and our projects, so the inbox balloons FAST; doubly so when we’re in meetings where we need to be paying attention, not emailing and half-listening. Teach me that your emails are important by only including me when you truly need action; if you blitz me 10 times a day with low-content thanks emails, misdirected inquiries, and needless cc’s, you’re teaching me to ignore most of what you send. If you can get peers to do the same, all of you can benefit from the reduction in email overload for your recipients.

      * Make it easy on your recipient. I love emails where I need less than a minute to answer (“I approve,” “Sounds good, I’ll let Fergus know”), so see if you can tailor your email for a quick answer. If you do that for me, I will remember your thoughtfulness and pay it back by responding promptly. Also, get a sense of your recipient’s schedule so that you can calibrate your expectations accordingly. Expecting a quick response from a frequent traveler isn’t fair to them and frustrating for you, as is emailing someone during their off hours.

      * Know when to make it a meeting/phone call/chat instead. One quick way to tell is if you’re spending more than 15 minutes writing the email – if you’re spending that long setting up the topic, it’s too much, especially given how many leaders check emails on their phones with their tiny screens. I’ll gladly spend 5-10 minutes talking to you to avoid having to spend 30 figuring out what the heck is going on from your forward of a string 10 deep with “what should I do?” at the top. If you work with a leader often, a standing meeting can be a great holding pen for all those non-urgent things you’d normally email.

      1. Ginger Baker*

        Agree with all these points. One reason everyone knows to email me if they need a reply from BossMan is because he *reads my emails*. Partly at this point because they are from me, but also because I am super direct (and short!) about what I need from the email. It’s not unusual for the subject line to be something like “Can you get me your bio edits today?” [email has the attached bio]. Random “thanks” emails almost never come from me and I deliberately remove him from all scheduling emails etc. that he looped me into: the whole reason he sent them over to me is to keep his email from having 8 emails about scheduling that he doesn’t need to look at at all. And when I haven’t gotten replies on important emails, I pick up the phone (after checking to make sure he’s not in a meeting). (And non-urgent stuff definitely goes into our regular catch-up time.)

        When he left the previous firm, I was tasked with finishing sorting his emails – despite what I know was a significant amount of work he put into reviewing his inbox and filing into client-specific folders for records purposes in the lead up to his leaving, he still left me with an inbox of over 40 THOUSAND emails to sort and file. When I followed him to CurrentJob, I had an even stronger understanding of why he appreciated me following up and chasing him on certain emails!

      2. Lana Kane*

        I am co-signing this as well. I have 12 reports and 3 teams now, but very recently I had 19 reports and 4 teams. I absolutely try my best but I don’t spend all day looking at my email, and in order for me to keep up that is what I’d need to do. Truth is, email is becoming one of the least efficient ways for me to communicate because of the sheer volume I and others get.

    9. AmethystMoon*

      I agree 100%. Have a job where we’re required to ask questions if anything is remotely uncertain and we would get chastised/written up if we didn’t. So, I ask the questions and people don’t respond. If e-mail doesn’t work, I try phone, and vice versa. Still get crickets a lot of the time, and it irks me to no end. Then in my review, I get told I try too much xyz. Well, since we’re required to ask and not assume, and we would get in really big trouble if we assumed and it was incorrect, I basically have no choice but to ask. So, yeah.

  16. 0_0*

    TL:DR – Is it reasonable to ask my employer to bump my hourly wage or provide some other sort of compensation/benefit if I drop out of their health insurance?

    Full info: I was recently added to my husband’s health insurance plan through his employer, and at the moment our family of three is covered by both of our employers. This past year after raises were issued, I received a ‘total compensation worksheet’ which included my hourly wages but also assigned dollar values to my paid time off, short and long term disability insurance, 401k, etc. It provided a dollar amount for the medical insurance the company pays on my behalf, which is not insignificant (over $10k). Can I ask to be taken off the insurance plan in exchange for a higher hourly wage/more paid time off/more money in my 401k?

    I’m not trying to be a pill about it but I think if my employer is claiming that this is part of my total compensation and I should be aware of it and think of it as such, it’s fair to ask for this shift in how my compensation is paid out.

    What say you?

    1. Lucille B.*

      If your husband loses his job and you go back on company insurance, are you going to ask them to give you a pay cut?

      1. 0_0*

        Lucille, I don’t really expect my husband to lose his job (he’s been at his company 10 years and is well loved there)… BUT if he did then yes, I would expect that whatever agreement had been worked out w/r/t changing my benefits allocation would revert back if we suddenly needed health insurance through my employer again.

      2. College Career Counselor*

        I see your point, but sometimes companies will give you an (admittedly not equivalent) additional sum if you do NOT use the company benefits. Not sure whether that is then taxed as bonus income, OR if it becomes part of your regular salary.

        1. 0_0*

          This employer’s health insurance plan is above and beyond typical employer-offered plans. $1 paid per year by the employee and then the employer covers *everything* else except for co-pays. Like I said, it’s a not insignificant amount that the employer pays up front and they have griped about the cost a few times, trying to curry favor and make us feel indebted to them.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            WOW. If that’s in the US, that is a cadillac plan and yeah, $10K is about the right benefit; from my experience with my employer, that’s $4K – $7k of premiums that each employee is not having to pay. I would feel some debt about something that nice.

            If you are in the US, you might be able to get an increase in pay through an employer donation to a Health Savings Account (HSA). You could ask your employers if they would be willing to do the HSA as a second insurance option for employees. You or the employer can put money into an HSA account and use it for either current health costs (prescriptions, co-pays, glasses) or save it, tax free, like a 401K.

            My family switched to an HSA three years ago to save up for orthodontia, and my employer puts in about $1K / year per person to incentivize employees to use it. We have to do more paperwork, but we’re coming out with $4K / year more net income tax free, with $3K of that saved in the HSA and getting reasonable interest. I was nervous at first, but we’re up to $10K and it covers catastrophe (defined, essentially, as anything over $8K), so I now look at it as a way to increase retirement savings without much increase in current risk. (coverage: 45ish yo me, spouse, 1 minor child, mild long-term conditions, no smoking and regular exercise) Employees without coverage elsewhere would need to make sure the insurance does include catastrophic. I do not recommend it for people with lots of health problems, but it’s great for people who only need to see a doctor 2 – 3 times / year.

            1. 0_0*

              Yep, in the US. It’s unheard of (and the actual amount is a few thousand higher but I don’t want to get too specific here). But no dental, haha.

            2. Natalie*

              You can only enroll in an HSA if you are also enrolled in a high deductible health plan, which is doesn’t sound like this is.

              1. 0_0*

                It actually IS a high deductible health plan, but anything that goes to deductible gets paid out by the company’s pooled HSA which is funded entirely by the company. Not sure if I’m wording that correctly but hopefully you get the idea.

                1. Jules the 3rd*

                  Hunh – I was assuming that the company would have to start a new health plan option (which they may not be interested in). I also assumed that savings to the company would be mainly in the premiums.

                  If you’re already in a high deductable plan, the company value is going to be mostly in the HSA pool (probably averaged over all the employees), not the premiums, so you opting out isn’t going to save them much. I don’t think ‘hey, can I get a person HSA instead of participating in the group one, and can you put $x into it’ would go over well. That’s money that they would otherwise not spend.

                  With this new info, I think ‘pls provide a cash benefit to replace the insurance benefit’ would be a risk I would not take. There’s room for this to look like you taking money away from your coworkers and their HSA pool benefit. It’s not what would really be happening, but it could look like that. It would also open the door to ‘I didn’t use any health care / consume any part of that HSA this year, can I get money for that’ from other coworkers, and your employer is not going to want to do that.

                  Practical side: The amount your company doesn’t spend without you is premiums, which are small (like, $1K – $2K/year) and deductable, which will vary a lot from person to person. Unless you want to share, in detail, how much of the deductable you used, you can’t show the company how much less they’ll be spending. And I would *not* be willing to have my company that far into my health records for any amount of money.

          1. Natalie*

            Yes, it has to be. As a general rule, all money you receive from your employer under any circumstances is subject to income taxes (at normal income tax rates, there’s no special “bonus tax”) unless it’s specifically exempted. Certain benefits are exempted provided they meet various rules, but not any cash your paid in lieu of using the benefit.

          2. Clisby*

            In my opinion, any health insurance benefit an employer pays should show up in the W2 and should be taxed as income. It’s part of the compensation package. It’s part of the weirdness of the US system that this doesn’t happen.

            1. JeanB in NC*

              It’s not income to the employee. It’s an expense on the part of the employer. Do you really want to get taxed on another 5 or 6 thousand per year?

              1. CPA Liz*

                Unless your tax rate is 100% (and is is not) any increase in taxable income would still be a net increase after taxes! Please compare- 10,000 value insurance coverage which is of no benefit to you or 5000 after tax cash you can spend or save- or contribute to a retirement plan with no current taxation- which would you rather have? Taxes increasing means income is increasing more.

    2. Natalie*

      No, this really isn’t a thing. For one, the company can’t stop you from re-enrolling if something happens to your other coverage, or if you just feel like it next open enrollment, and most companies aren’t going to assume you’ll cheerfully accept the pay cut or whatever it was they were giving you.

      More generally, not every employee uses every benefit, and they’re not going to give anyone else cash because they won’t make use of the dependent care FSA or the transit pass or whatever. That’s just how benefits work.

      1. Jamie*

        This is exactly why no place would ever give me more money because I didn’t use benefits – because they can’t keep you from enrolling at a later date and no one wants the pay cut conversation.

        1. 0_0*

          My boss has been known to cut under the table deals… for better or worse. :-/ I can imagine approaching him with this and having me write up an agreement that if I ever needed back onto the plan, I would forfeit whatever other compensation we’d worked out.

    3. Nacho*

      No, that’s definitely not reasonable. People opt out of health insurance all the time, mostly for the exact same reason as you. It’ll look seriously out of touch with the business norms to ask them to compensate you for doing so.

      1. 0_0*

        Fair and understood.

        On the other hand, is it not seriously out of touch for an employer to provide their employee with a dollar amount of their ‘total compensation’ where (making up numbers here) they say to the employee: your annual wages are $45k, but with all the other benefits your “Total Compensation” amounts to $68k.

        I guess what I’m saying is that it struck me as odd when I received that form last year, and for the company to take that stance I don’t think they should be shocked for an employee to turn around and says ‘can we shift the allocation of those benefits?’

        1. Joielle*

          I don’t know if I’d call it “out of touch,” since it seems like a lot of companies do it. But I do think it’s kind of eye-rolly, and (I’m guessing) an attempt to make you feel better about being underpaid. They can say your “total compensation” is whatever they want, but when it comes down to it, your salary is $45K (or whatever) and that’s what you’d be comparing to the market if you were to look elsewhere… since presumably other, higher-paid positions also offer benefits.

          1. 0_0*

            Majorly eye-rolly. When my boss gave me the form, it was accompanied by a 15 minute lecture on why I was being naive and short-sighted to not be putting more money in my 401k. I had literally just enrolled and allocations were set to begin shortly so it was wasted breath.

        2. Lucette Kensack*

          It’s very normal for employers to show employees their “total compensation,” but I agree with you that it’s tone-deaf. I don’t care how much you pay for my health insurance; it’s not money that I see, so it’s not a part of my compensation. (Like, am I supposed to be more grateful for the extra $5,000 they spent if they did a bad job negotiating their contract with the insurer?)

          1. 0_0*

            Exactly my point. I’ve declined employer sponsored health insurance in the past without any sort of negotiation for the money saved by the company… but putting a number value on it and harping about how extraordinarily generous it is and how I should consider the $$$ attached to this benefit, changes things for me.

        3. ThatGirl*

          No, at least not in my experience, I got a similar “total compensation” rundown every year from my last job — it was a big Fortune 500 company and we were self-insured. There is a little element of guilt-trip to it but it’s not really reasonable to expect a company to pay you more for going without.

          1. Clisby*

            Agreed – but what should happen is that the people who do use the insurance should have to pay income taxes on whatever part the employer provided.

    4. Jess*


      It’s pretty common that not every employee will make use of every benefit offered. Also, the benefit is not just receiving the health insurance, but having the option to receive it if your husband’s situation changes.

      There might be some situations in a -really- small organization where you could negotiate around this when hired, but generally not.

    5. RussianInTexas*

      This isn’t really about your situation, but I have an amusing story related to this. My dad and my step-mom used to work for years for the same huge corporation (completely different divisions, but still). The company would give a bonus to everyone who did not utilized their medical benefits.
      So my dad would get a family plan that covered everyone, and my step-mom would not elect to get a medical plan and would get a bonus.
      They told about this to their benefits specialist and the reply was “we don’t care, we don’t have a system option set up for this kind of situation”.

    6. Rusty Shackelford*

      I’m surprised that so many people say this isn’t a thing. Many employers actually put some (or all?) of what they would have contributed toward your insurance into a flexible spending account for you to use instead. It wouldn’t hurt to bring it up. A small to medium employer who needs to keep their numbers up in order to get better rates probably wouldn’t consider it an option, but a large employer might already be doing it (Mr. S’s employer did it for a couple of years before we even knew about it).

      1. Elizabeth Proctor*

        I get $350/mo for opting out of my employer’s insurance. They otherwise contribute about $1000 (small nonprofit so their insurance is very $$) to people who opt in. We pay a $100/mo surcharge to put me on my husband’s because I do have employer sponsored coverage available to me.

      2. Dana B.S.*

        Never actually heard of this, it’s a cool concept. I have only heard of paying the employee a certain amount for opting out.

        The thing I think most people think is unreasonable is that OP is asking to have it be added on as a raise, not a separate payment. Which is entirely different. Even in the grand scheme of a total compensation statement – it’s more like “you’re missing out on our wonderful benefits if you don’t take advantage of this!”

        1. 0_0*

          If you go back and read my original comment, I’m not asking it be added on as a raise, I’m saying is there some other way to receive that monetary benefit that’s not having double health insurance coverage. I’d be 100% happy with it being a separate payment.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          In the US, look into Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). A lot of employers are using them as alternates to traditional accounts.

          Having now done both, I do more labor under an HSA, keeping track of the payment card and / or using it to pay bills when they come in, instead of having insurance pay it all for us. Deductables are *much* higher ($8K instead of $2K), but coverage above that $8K is similar. Individual charges are similar (ie, preventative care is free, an office visit is $100), but now I pay for the office visit from my HSA instead of the insurance company paying it. But, I’m only paying $200/mo, and then putting $200/mo into savings, instead of paying an $800/mo premium. So, I get the benefit of having the big company negotiate for me, but pay for actual health care consumed.

          I’d say it works ok for basically healthy people, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re not pretty healthy or are not well organized. It has, as predicted when people talk about this option, caused me to use less health care.
          – I try to lump issues together and cover 2 – 3 in one visit.
          – I have opted out on PT for hip tendonitis, trying to look online for good exercises

    7. Emily'smom*

      I would absolutely ask. We do this is my business ( Medical practice). If an employee opts our of our health insurance and has documentation that they are covered by another health plan, we give them around $2,000 for the year. It isn’t considered a pay raise or a bonus. I think it is very reasonable since they just saved us $7-8,000 by not enrolling inour helath care plan

      1. CheeryO*

        I work for a large state, and same thing here. Everyone jokes about getting a pay cut when they turn 26. I am confused by everyone acting like this is unheard of.

    8. Lucette Kensack*


      Think about it: If they paid more salary to people who decline the company-provided healthy insurance, they would be paying higher salaries to married people (who have access to their spouses’ insurance), young people (who have access to their parents’ insurance), and healthy people (who can go without insurance entirely).

      Is that a company you want to be a part of? I sure wouldn’t.

      1. 0_0*

        Come on, healthy people can’t go without insurance. We all need preventive care. I get your point but if my hopping off the company insurance is going to put over $10k back in their funds, that seems a very lopsided equation.

        1. Lucette Kensack*

          Healthy people go without insurance all of the time. That’s the whole point of the Affordable Care Act insurance requirement; encouraging healthy people (who might otherwise decide to skip insuring themselves) to stay in the insurance market, which makes the overall pool healthier.

          But that’s not the point, anyway. The point is that paying people who decline company-provided health insurance means that the company will be paying higher salaries to certain subsets of people, most of whom are already privileged in the workplace. That’s discriminatory and it’s wrong.

          1. Clisby*

            No – it just has to be computed and paid fairly. Whatever an employer pays for health insurance for an employee is part of that employee’s compensation. So if they’re paying $5000/year for an employee who opts in, and nothing for an employee who opts out, they’re discriminating against the one who opts out. Not only that, they’re paying the opt-in employee $5000 under the table (it’s not taxed).

            It’s completely fair to give some sort of rebate (not salary) to people who don’t use the benefit. Not the total premium amount, because part of the value of employer-provided insurance is that you have a right to it, and in the crazy US system we have, that’s definitely worth something.

        2. Health Insurance is Weird*

          You might actually make their rates go up if you’re young/healthy and raise the average age of the plan. The more healthy people on the plan, the more balanced it is for the “unhealthy” individuals.

        3. LawBee*

          LOTS of healthy people who have to pay into their insurance don’t use company insurance. Their reasoning is generally “I’m healthy, I don’t believe I need an annual checkup because I’ve never been sick, I don’t need benefits for my family (for whatever reason), I don’t take regular medication, the odds of me getting extremely ill or injured are low, and I would rather roll the dice and have those dollars in my savings account/pocket/whatever than through the employer plan with its restrictions.”

          1. 0_0*

            I meannnn this right here is a strong argument for Medicare for All / expanded ACA. What happens is that poor, healthy-ish people who would rather save the money than spend $$$ on health insurance premiums they think they’ll never benefit from, decide to roll the dice.

            But life is unpredictable and sh*t happens. Some of those people inevitably end up in the emergency room and their costs are subsidized by the rest of us who are adequately covered. It’s why hospitals charge stupid costs, like $60 for a single dose of aleve. They need to make up for the folks who show up uninsured but absolutely need medical attention.

            …immaterial to the topic of this comment thread, but, just saying….

          2. ...*

            This is crazy to me! Unless it meant the difference between food and rent OR insurance I would always add insurance. An uninsured driver hits you and you could have 100,000 in medical bills in a day. Yes you could sue and maybe get a tiny bit from them? But most uninsured drivers don’t carry around tons of extra cash that they’ll willingly give up! Like you could find out you have cancer or an aneurism tomorrow! It happens to “young healthy” people ALL the time. I know you didn’t say you necessarily agreed with this position I’m just shocked that anyone, ever goes without health insurance if at all possible.

      2. Lucette Kensack*

        (BTW, I say this as someone who doesn’t use my employer’s health insurance because I am covered under my husband’s. I work for a nonprofit and he works for a global company, so I figure that by using his insurance I’m helping put a little more money into my org’s mission.)

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              But they can share the savings if the employee is using less resources. It’s not an unreasonable ask in the US now. People are talking a lot about various configurations, like through parents or the ACA.

              My concern would be that it might be out of touch with company norms – if they are that proud of the insurance (and what’s described is some niiiiice insurance), someone might get a little irked at rejection.

              1. Tinuviel*

                I’m still a little nervous about allowing companies to set benefits-per-person based on how many resources they take up. Sounds like giving smaller desks to smaller people and bigger desks to bigger people–it’s one thing to make accommodations that are more generous to the employee, but it’s another thing to take away a benefit because “they don’t need it.”

    9. CAA*

      I worked for a company that did pay out a portion of what they would have spent on health insurance if you had other coverage. It came in as a separate line on my paycheck, and it was treated as ordinary taxable income. It showed up in the total amount in box 1 of my W-2 at the end of the year. If I had enrolled in their health insurance at any point, that payment would have immediately stopped.

      This is really the only way they can legally pay this money to you without making significant changes to their benefit plans. They can’t setup an FSA or a cafeteria plan for benefits or put more money in your 401K than everyone else’s or anything like that without modifying those plan docs, so you can’t ask to be paid out except in cash in your paycheck.

      If you want to ask for the money (and you’d likely only get part of it because paying you more increases their taxes as well as yours), you can say that you’ve heard that a few other companies do this and you’d like to know if they’d consider it as well since you’re currently getting no value from this “compensation” they’re providing on their summary.

      1. 0_0*

        Thanks, this is very helpful info and what I had imagined it would look like if it was a possibility for me employer.

        1. Margali*

          “I worked for a company that did pay out a portion of what they would have spent on health insurance if you had other coverage. It came in as a separate line on my paycheck, and it was treated as ordinary taxable income. It showed up in the total amount in box 1 of my W-2 at the end of the year. If I had enrolled in their health insurance at any point, that payment would have immediately stopped.”

          This is how my company does it, too.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        This is really the only way they can legally pay this money to you without making significant changes to their benefit plans.

        Apparently not, since my husband’s employer will put it into a FSA for you.

        1. Natalie*

          That’s presumably part of their existing plan documents and is available to anyone who opts out of the insurance. CAA is saying they can’t set up a special FSA or extra 401k contribution that only 0_0 gets.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Ah, I see. Yes, it would need to be made available to all employees, not just o_o. But it could be a huge benefit to the company, if people who are taking insurance because “why not” suddenly have an incentive to go on a partner’s/parent’s insurance instead.

            1. CAA*

              It’s just that it takes time and costs money to rewrite benefit plan documents because these things are regulated by federal laws, and they usually cannot be changed during the plan year. If they don’t already have an FSA plan that allows this kind of variance in employer contributions, then they can’t just decide to start putting her insurance premium in there next month. I wanted to set expectations that 0_0 might have better luck if she asks for “more money in the paycheck” rather than “more money in the 401k”.

    10. DaniCalifornia*

      I think this is something that could be negotiated when accepting a job but unless you’d be willing to sign something that says you’ll revert back to the old pay if you need their health insurance again, they probably wouldn’t go for it.

      My company pays for our health insurance (terrible plan bc we are so small <15) and the minute I got married I switched to my husbands much better insurance. I did have a coworker who asked if I had requested a higher bump in pay for switching off my boss' plan and I hadn't thought to ask. He said he would have. I told him I'd probably been denied based on how my old school boss deals with the requests between men and women.

    11. Lily in NYC*

      I think Alison might have answered a similar question once and said it was ok to ask. I’m not 100% positive though!

    12. TooTiredToThink*

      I know a lot of people are saying no, no, no – but interestingly I worked at a place (*years* before the ACA) that offered an incentive for people who signed up on their spouses insurance. I don’t remember the details but I think it was either a quarterly or yearly bonus. It wasn’t the exact equivalent; because they were trying to cut costs; of course.

    13. Artemesia*

      This is the sort of thing you can do if you are a partner but hard to negotiate if you are an employee. Most businesses assume some percentage of employees will get their health care elsewhere. You could certainly ask if the savings might be shared in an annual raise or bonus but I would not be wildly optimistic.

      1. 0_0*

        Yeah, I think given the mixed bag of responses I’ll approach it as “I’ve heard this is a thing at some companies, wondering if it’s an option here, otherwise I’ll just stick with the health insurance and be double covered. Please and thank you. :-D”

    14. Rachel in NYC*

      This came up at my office- I can’t remember why. I was told that some offices do this- or at least have done it in the past.

      (And no, my office doesn’t.)

    15. Lalaith*

      I’ve done this. To everyone saying “would you take a pay cut if you had to go back on your company’s insurance?”, well… yes. The way to keep this clear is to have the extra money be a separate line item on your paystub, or a stipend or something like that. Then, if you need to use the insurance at any point, the extra amount is removed, and it’s very clear why. You can even base raise percentages on base pay only. My last company did it this way (and at some point I think they wanted to phase it out, so they were going to just lump it in with my salary, but since they were also phasing out bonuses in favor of an across-the-board percentage of pay raise and realized how much more they were going to end up paying me… they didn’t :-P). When I joined my current company I negotiated a salary bump based on the fact that I had outside insurance, but honestly I don’t like that. I want my base pay to be separate, so I know exactly what would happen if I suddenly did need their insurance.

    16. CatChaser*

      I think it really depends.
      My coworker opted out of our insurance to be on his wife’s. Our company gives him some amount per paycheck for not using our insurance. It’s a separate line on the payslip, so if he needs to pick up the company insurance again, he just loses the stipend.
      My husband opts out of his company’s. In return, his company puts about $5K per year into his 401K. This makes it tax free for him & I think the company. I should note his company does not offer a 401K match, so this makes up for it. Again, if he needs to pick up his company’s insurance, they stop the payments to his 401K.

    17. Sleepytime Tea*

      No. So the deal is that employer’s are required by law to offer everyone the same benefits. You can tell them “I promise I won’t sign up for medical insurance if you give me a raise” but they have zero way to hold you to that. Not saying you would do it anyway, but it’s way too big a risk for them. You can’t sign away your right to have the same benefits as your coworkers.

      If you’re a man and can’t take advantage of maternity leave, you can’t ask for a pay raise. If your company covers your entire family under health insurance but you’re a single person, you can’t ask for a pay raise. If your company gives out public transit passes but you don’t take transit, you can’t ask for a pay raise. There is always going to be a benefit that you might not get to use, but it doesn’t mean you get paid more.

    18. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Our insurance carrier would drop our account if they found out we were cutting these deals. So that’s the risk they’d run if they decide to opt for it. It’s actively encouraging people away from their product and insurance companies and group policies don’t like that kind of game playing in most situations.

      Companies who do self insurance plans would be the ones who would be able to do this and probably get away with it.

    19. Lurker2209*

      I work for a small, faith-based non-profit and we get paid a premium for not being on the company health insurance. It’s not large—our insurance is very basic—about $100 a month. It is explicitly called out on my pay stub as a healthcare waiver. (I’m paid hourly.)

      However, with that extra money, we come out about even on paying the higher non-employee premium to have me on my spouse’s insurance—which includes vision and dental. My employee coverage did not. We’ll see how it works out tax-wise; health benefits are tax-free, but the waiver payment is not. So it will probably cost a bit more I overall, but be worth in for better benefits.

      To my understanding, it’s an unusual practice, but my company realizes they can’t offer great insurance. Many employees have another option; spouse, parent’s insurance, one coworker has VA benefits. So it’s nice for those of us in that position to get something.

    20. EggEgg*

      I don’t think this is normal, but for what it’s worth my employer (smallish non-profit in the Pacific Northwest) pays me $200 per month to not use their insurance.

    21. HBJ*

      Yes, I have seen this done including by major companies. Not as a pay raise but a separate line on your w-2 at the end of the year.

    22. Gatomon*

      I believe my company offers an extra week’s vacation if you opt out of the health insurance coverage. Not necessarily a pay bump, but it might be a nice perk to get if you think you would use it.

    23. Kuododi*

      You can always ask however in my experience, you’re very unlikely to get what you want. I’ve tried to get more $$$ and the like during multiple salary negotiation, since I am well covered on DH insurance from his job. The closest I ever came was one mental health center which hired me gave me a small signing bonus. (Small enough bonus that it was eaten up by taxes. ). Otherwise, I got diddly-squat!!!

  17. early careerist*

    Why can’t I get past the phone interview? I’ve applied to maybe 20 positions, gotten about 5 phone interviews which I think is good, but I never get to the next round. At the bottom line, I realize I’m just not what they’re looking for, or someone else has a little more of the thing they really want. I get that, but I’m worried that I’m not even getting to the second round since many have 3 phase hiring. Are there any tips I should be thinking about, questions I should be asking myself?

    1. RussianInTexas*

      I have an accent and that’s what I always think is the reason. It very well might not be, I live in a highly diverse city, but it always nags at the back of my head.

    2. Mama Bear*

      Have you tried having a colleague or friend call you and ask you similar questions? There may be something in your phone presentation that could be improved. For example, long pauses in person might not matter so much because you can see the person in front of you, but on the phone that’s dead air and may make you seem less prepared/knowledgeable than you actually are.

    3. JustKnope*

      Maybe look at the jobs you’re applying for? If you’re getting to the screen and there are certain qualifications or characteristics they ask you about at that stage or they aren’t seeing at that stage, that could be a sign you’re not applying for the right types of jobs!

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      First thing is are you in a highly competitive field and how much experience do you have? With your username, it sounds like you’re fairly young in your career, that’s a huge hurdle of it’s own to deal with, it could be just that!

      If you’re in a competitive field and say have 2-3 years experience, that’s great but you’re up against people who have much more experience, much stronger networks, etc. If you have even less experience, you’re even further down the list of people that will get the first bite at the job apple.

      A lot of phone screens are that last effort to really get the strongest candidates. So if you’re making it that far, it is a good sign but it’s most likely that you’re edged out by stronger candidates, which includes more experience or better communication with the interviewer.

      Maybe you come across well enough but are noticeably vague in your answers that they think that you should be sharp with. Maybe you don’t come across as excited enough or maybe you come across too eager, that’s all in the “eye of the beholder” and nothing you can do in the end on that side, which stinks. But in reality often it’s not you, it’s them.

      1. early careerist*

        Competitive enough that my 2-3 years of experience doesn’t seem to be quite enough for the jobs with the same title, so it looks like I’ll have to go down a level, which is okay. Thanks, everyone, for the replies. It’s always helpful to get perspective.

      2. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

        Yeah but don’t people with differing years of experience apply for different roles? Like, someone straight out of college isn’t going to apply for a senior role, and vice versa. Of course, we live in a world where true entry level jobs no longer exist, but experience can’t always be the factor.

        1. early careerist*

          Yeah, I’ve found that different organizations have different expectations for the same title, so a director at a local/state organization may only look for 3-5 years, but at a national organization, they want 5-7 years. I have 2-3 years of director experience in the field, and 3+ years of director level experience in a related field, so I thought it would be enough to qualify for positions seeking 5 years, and I’m getting to the phone interview stage so it doesn’t seem to be disqualifying, but I guess I don’t have exactly what they’re looking for within those 5 years. That’s the best I can guess, anyways.

    5. Locket*

      Are there background noises that are distracting? Are you typing during the interview? Some folks don’t like hearing typing for whatever reason. I second the suggestion of doing a mock interview over the phone with a friend. They might pick up on something that way.

    6. RetailRecruiter*

      As someone who does maybe 20 phone screens a week, I’d echo that you should have a friend ask you some of the questions you’ve been getting and give you feedback on the responses. If you have a common question/response that isn’t too technical maybe we can help in this thread more?

      I hire mostly for entry level retail, so maybe not relevant. My main thing that disqualifies me is when people sound like they don’t know who they are or what they want – like I tell them the shifts are evening and they say “oh, I prefer morning shifts, but I could do evening for a while I guess” or if they indicate that they really don’t like doing something that is an essential task of the job.

      1. early careerist*

        I’ve had my partner do mock interviews with me so I can talk through my answers. For example, when asked a question like why I want to leave my senior level looking position for a lower level role, I say either or both that I want to be able to broaden my scope of work beyond the local level (where I currently am) to affecting change at a national level, and that my current position was restructured to focus on job role A while I’ve realized I’m more passionate about job role B, which is what the positions I’m applying are for. I also try to be upfront about my need to work remotely because of my personal situation, but that I’d be open to relocating after that. (I’m applying for jobs that specifically state remote is considered, and it’s a line of work that is increasingly being done remotely.)

        I get positive verbal and non-verbal cues during the interview, and afterwards from recruiters and managers who say so directly and mention things specific to me so I know it’s not just a form letter. I’m guessing that I’m competitive but haven’t found the right fit yet, which is frustrating but I shouldn’t give up. I’m constantly improving though which each interview and have only been searching for about 2 months, so I’m still optimistic. I’m just trying to make sure I’m thinking it through now so I don’t blow it on the right fit when it finally does come along.

    7. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

      I’m currently stuck in the final interview stage, but I have made it many a past phone interview. Something that I really try to demonstrate in the phone interview is how much I know about the company and the role. I do a lot of research on the company before the phone screen, and incorporate what I know about the company into my interview answers. The reason I highlight this is because a couple of recruiters seemed like they were impressed with how much context I already had about the company and industry. My guess is that I was probably doing something that my competitors were not doing at that point.

      That being said, I’m not a hiring manager myself so I don’t REALLY know what it is that resonates with them. But if you aren’t doing in depth research on the company before the phone screen, it’s worth trying. Also, have really good examples prepared for “Tell me about a time when” questions.

      1. Formerly Arlington*

        I do a lot of phone screenings and the main reason why I don’t move on to the next stage is a disconnect between what the candidates skills and salary requirements are and what we need and are willing to pay. Like their resume implies, say, social media experience, but when asked to describe that experience, it turns out, that was a minimal part of their previous jobs. Our company doesn’t pit salaries on the job requisitions so that also causes a lot of wast d photo new screens. (Grr!) i would be really familiar with the job description and requirements before your call so you can demonstrate that at least in terms of experience and skills, you are a match.

        1. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

          Ah this is good information! In defense of job candidates, most companies suck at job descriptions, though. (And GOD WHY OH WHY can’t we post salaries in job descriptions???) I’ve lost count the number of times a job description had “llama grooming” in every bullet point, only for me to hop on a call and it turns out llama grooming is only 10% of the job and what they really need is a conference planner.

        2. early careerist*

          Is it disqualifying if someone’s salary requirements are at the top of your bracket? As far as negotiating goes and as a woman, I try to be aggressive when negotiating so I have room to come down, but I worry that I’m quoting so high as to be eliminated as out of their range.

  18. Anonymom*

    Happy Friday! I am especially interested to hear perspectives from those in education about an encounter that’s been bothering me. My son has an IEP with accommodations for ADHD and other issues. I was at work in a training when I got a call from his case worker. I wasn’t able to answer immediately, but I could see from her voicemail that she was calling to tell me my son had forgotten his homework folder. I called back as soon as I got a break, about 20 minutes later.
    When I called her back, she asked if I had a work phone number. I told her no, that I use my cell phone for work. Then she asked if I worked at Large Local Employer. I said yes, and she said she thought so, and when I didn’t answer her initial call, she had called my employer to ask if they had another number for me. (They didn’t.)
    I didn’t say anything about it during the call because it took me off guard, but I felt like this was boundary crossing. If there was an emergency or she couldn’t get a hold of me for hours, maybe I could see the reasoning. But for a missing homework folder, especially when school policy forbids parents from bringing missing homework and similar items? Seems weird and unnecessary. What do you think?

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      Special ed teacher. That case worker was being weird and has way too much free time. I would have left you a VM. If you had a hostory of being a super high-maintenance parent, or your son was highly emotional, I might have tried a second number or gone to greater lengths, but I wouldn’t have tracked you down through your company.
      Maybe this woman is new or has been badly trained? I would let her know that in the future, just leaving a VM is totally fine.

      1. LKW*

        Another potential discussion point is that you will try to return her call within x minutes or x hours but that unless it’s an emergency involving the health or safety of your child, then she should leave a voicemail.

      2. Anonymom*

        Thanks! I did tell her on that call that she would be better off to text me during her workday since I’m in meetings very frequently and can’t always take a call immediately. I’m all for being an involved parent but this seemed ridiculous.

        1. Double A*

          Just so you know, it can be difficult for teachers to text because we often only have landlines. Many teachers will use their personal cell phone but that was always a hard boundary for me personally that I wasn’t willing to do. But asking to leave a VM is fine!

          I’m a high school sped teacher, so the hand holding of elementary is not something I’m very familiar with. This seems overly involved but the teacher may deal with a lot of helicopter parents and is trying to preempt problems.

          1. Anonymom*

            He’s actually in middle school (6th), not elementary and we are actively trying to train him to be better about remembering this stuff on his own, which made the whole thing more weird. She was the one who mentioned texting first though, which was why I told her it was a better method, so I think in this case she’s using her personal cell phone. I would have been fine with email or voicemails as well. Just don’t call the place where you think I may work to find a different number when I’m very responsive!

      3. MsChaos*

        Another SpEd teacher here… I wouldn’t even have called. What she should be doing is logging how often he is missing his folder. After 2-3 times, then she should contact you and discuss what kinds of systems you have set up at home for him to remember his school stuff (giant print whiteboard checklist, packing the backpack the night before, etc.). The focus should be on him becoming independently aware of what he has to do and develop systems for fostering that. Especially with young kids, many times this kind of thing is the easiest difficulty to overcome by helping the student develop habits that will help him as time goes on.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      That’s ridiculous. My spouse uses his cell for work (I believe his office number is forwarded to his cell, because he is almost never in his office–in a lab, in meetings, etc) and often he can’t answer right away. It is normal to not answer phone calls, outside of situations like your mom is having surgery and your sister is going to call as soon as the doctors tell her something. Even if they are calling to tell you the kid is on the way to the hospital for X-rays, a call back in 20 minutes is not worthy of an eyebrow raise.

      1. Anonymom*

        That’s what I thought. I’m a busy professional, and I’m usually in meetings most of the day. I can’t answer my phone immediately a lot of the time. I would think that would be the case with most working parents.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I freelance, my kids are grown, and if I’m talking on a conference call, or in the bathroom, or shopping in the back of the grocery store, I’m not answering my phone. In the last case I have no reception.

    3. Zephy*

      It was a little weird and unnecessary of her to try and track down an alternate phone number for you, for a non-emergency, after less than an hour, I agree. And given that school policy means you couldn’t even do anything about this non-emergency situation, I have to wonder what the purpose of calling you at all in the first place was? Just so you know? That’s…that’s basically just tattling. The school policy is bizarre but that’s a separate problem; why bother you at work to tell you that? They might as well have called to tell you his shoe was untied.

      1. Anonymom*

        That’s what I thought as well. Couldn’t she have just emailed? I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who thought it was off.

    4. knitter*

      Special ed teacher here. I agree this is out of line. I would have just sent an email.

      Either now or if it happens again, I’d set some boundaries with her. Also, I’d double check there isn’t any language in the IEP that makes her think that she has to get in touch with you urgently for stuff like this.

      I’d also explore other options. Maybe you ask for a weekly report. Maybe have a google doc where she can log this info.

      1. Anonymom*

        Thanks–I thought email would have been sufficient too. I did ask her to text me going forward since I’m in meetings throughout the day most days and won’t be able to pick up immediately. We did review his IEP yesterday and I didn’t see any language around that. I like the idea of a google doc though. Thanks for the suggestion!

    5. Lemon Zinger*

      This isn’t acceptable behavior on her part. Tell her exactly what you want her to do next time and hopefully she respects boundaries!

    6. Voc Ed Teacher*

      I use google voice to text parents and figure they will respond if they need to and if not, the message went through. She’s being weird.

    7. Artemesia*

      This. It can be awkward or embarrassing for an employee having someone try to reach them this way for personal reasons. You may not wish to share your son’s issues or you may not want your personal responsibilities being seen as intrusive to your job. BIG boundary crossing. If of course your son was being rushed to the ER, fine. But even if he were sick at school, waiting half an hour or an hour to get through would be more reasonable. Forgot homework folder — absolutely not. I’d nip this one in the bud.

  19. Sydney Ellen Wade*

    Any recommendations on networking with employees at a favorite organization in another city? I’ve tried LinkedIn messages with mixed results.

    1. Lemon Ginger Tea*

      Maybe start with your college alumni directory and see if there’s anyone at that company or in the field in that city?

    2. rayray*

      Maybe see if you can find contact info for a recruiter at the organization, and send an email and ask if they could look at your resume and see if it might work for any positions in the future.

    3. Lily in NYC*

      I like Lemon Ginger’s advice. Try to only reach out to people who are willing to be contacted about this kind of thing. I work in one of those places that everyone wants to work and you wouldn’t believe how many people I’ve never met that email me trying to network. I’m not listed on my alumni directory or linkedin so I have no idea how these people are finding me.

  20. Amber Rose*

    How to gently explain that while a CEO/VP might not be a manager, they are manageMENT, and therefore need to fill out the manager documentation because they are still managing people and therefore manager paperwork applies to them?

    Because with the new company reorg, we no long have managers. Instead we have a CEO, some co-VPs, and then some supervisors, and then everyone else. Which makes the VPs… managers. By function if not by title. And I’m kind of tired of arguing about this with all three of them plus the new CEO. As far as the government is concerned you are managers! Upper management is still management. I’m not trying to reduce anyone’s importance or decide anyone’s position, I’m just trying to get the paperwork done. ;_;

    1. Free Meerkats*

      Send out an email blast laying out what the requirements are, and what the fallout from not fulfilling those requirements could be. Include that the responsibility for complying with those requirements is theirs. Don’t chase and nag them to do the things, just remind them of their responsibilities once or twice. Do all this via email so you have documentation that they knew both the requirements and the consequences. Then let them fail and suffer the consequences.

    2. LKW*

      Clarify that the requirement is for people who lead one or more people in the organization. If they are responsible for hiring, firing, budget whatever – then they count as “manager” and must fill out the form. Put it into words that appeal to their high-profile position.

    3. Lily in NYC*

      Change the terms! Instead of saying it’s mandatory for managers, say it’s mandatory for leadership.

  21. MOAS*

    This happened a while back so doesn’t really apply anymore but wanted to throw this out here…

    We were interviewing for remote positions a while back. 

    I had one candidate that I REALLY liked during the interview and was excited to move her forward. When it came time for the practical she did not do well. She explained why and to be honest, I wasn’t impressed with the answer–but my team and I were still on the fence about her. To give you an idea, she would have been at a level 4 while everyone starting would be at level 10. 

    I did talk to my boss at that time and he said it was my call–am I willing to put in the extra effort to train her? and take the responsibility for when things don’t work out with her? I ended up passing on her but it wasn’t easy. 

    Anyways, she emailed me afterwards with a thank you note (seriously, it is so rare that I got them throughout the process!) and I was really considering calling her and being totally honest and telling her where she can improve.

    I didn’t because 1) Im a new managers and I don’t want to act rogue, and 2) I’m not sure if this is something that interviewers usually do. If I draw on my own experience, I was certainly never told by an interviewer where I could improve. 

    We don’t anticipate hiring until after next ttax season (so April) so that may give me time to get better at this but what would yall have done? 

    1. valentine*

      Because you liked her so much and not hiring her was difficult (maybe because this was new to you?) I think it would’ve been okay for you to tell her where to improve.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Same. I probably would have done it, but it’s also possible she knows exactly why she was passed over if you were pumped about speaking with her in the first place and then sent a rejection.

    2. LLG612*

      In a few rare cases I have responded to thank you notes following rejections with the offer to discuss ways they could have been more competitive. Usually it’s when a candidate is earlier in their career or there was something very compelling in one part of their application and another area that fell super flat that would be something with actionable items to improve rapidly.

    3. dealing with dragons*

      it’s so strange to me that we hire based on already held skills rather than trainability! How long did it take you to fill the position vs having to get her up to speed?

      I am in software engineering and I am often amazed that people are only hired if they are “experts” in a language. My old team hired people if they knew the language vs finding people who were talented. It was hard since the former were probably near their max ability, but if we had hired for talent the sky is the limit.

      my two cents :)

      1. The Other Dawn*

        If I was in a bind and had my choice between someone who knows the subject matter and someone who doesn’t, but is trainable, I’d take the person with knowledge and experience. But if I wasn’t filling an immediate need, or didn’t have a lot of candidates with the skills I need, I’d much prefer the trainable person.

      2. designbot*

        There’s a lot of nuance to those judgement calls though. For example, I commonly hire people who don’t know a specific program but know adjacent ones, that’s an easy call. But what about the people who don’t know my sector of the design industry? They’re talented in their own ways, they’re interested, they’re engaging… but they don’t know how to get things built and that’s way bigger than knowing a program. Someone will take a couple of weeks to get up to speed on a program—it takes a whole year for even a very talented and motivated person to start to be profitable in my sub-field. And people in that niche are in short supply, so this is a choice I have to make pretty much every time I hire. And to add to that, people with 10 years of experience in an adjacent field want me to spend a year training them but don’t want to spend a year at a junior level salary. And I get it, because they’d have to take it on faith that we’d bump them up to the appropriate level after that training period, but it doesn’t make my project budgets any easier to reconcile.

      3. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

        It probably varies by employer. I know some people who like to hire inexperienced but talented people so that they can mold them in their own way. Some find already-trained people inflexible and unwilling to part with the way they are taught to do things. I think this is mostly the case in some tech companies who have their own software they want to train people on.

    4. designbot*

      I would have given her a bit of info on why she was not selected and where she could improve. If someone’s been interviewed and taken skills testing, they’ve invested enough in this that I think giving them feedback is appropriate instead of just rejecting them without reason.

    5. juliebulie*

      I think it’d be very helpful to her if you gave her that very specific feedback.

      But maybe don’t tell her that it wasn’t easy to pass her up. That would make me feel worse, knowing that I’d missed it by that much.

    6. irene adler*

      I’ve seen both sides of this situation.

      Suggestion: can you qualify what it is that you really liked about this candidate?

      Yes, a candidate who possesses the right skills is a great thing. So is finding a perfect ‘cultural fit’ who can be trained up to meet the job expectations. Be careful about those pleasing first impressions. Understand exactly what it is you like about a candidate.

      One time we hired someone who did well in the interview. She was very likeable. She was bright, smart as a whip, had excellent answers for every interview question. She was a genuinely interesting person. She had a number of accomplishments on the resume. She charmed upper management. They were falling over themselves, insisting that we hire her. We did.

      She turned out to be a frickin’ nightmare for me- her boss. I ended up firing her after spending a year dealing with a difficult personality, zero interest in doing the job, frequent absences, lying, anger issues, intimidation. Hated working with her.

      We interviewed a woman who was laid off from a hospital lab. and was working at a local retail store. She was older. She was pleasant, well spoken, happy to have a chance to interview for a lab job. Initially, I was lukewarm about hiring her. But she was willing to take the salary we offered. That’s what management felt was most important.

      She turned out to be an absolute joy to work with (everyone felt this way about her!). She took ownership of her responsibilities, always took an interest in doing her work well, wanted to learn new things, dedicated to always improving her skills. A rock star if ever there was one.

  22. Choosing a career path?*

    How do people decide what kind of work they’re interested in? My adult child has a BA in a non-remunerative liberal arts major. They had always planned to get a terminal degree like pretty much everyone else in the family. Now it’s clear that they probably don’t want the kind of career you get with a terminal degree.

    What I think they want is a job with predictable hours, where they can leave work at work and spend their free time doing things they enjoy. Working to live as opposed to living to work.

    We have the resources that they can get additional training without having to go into debt, but they need to come out with a skill that they are willing and able to support themselves doing. So something more like an office job and less like retail.

    I know this is a ridiculous question, but there are SO MANY jobs out there that are neither stocking shelves nor performing neurosurgery. I have no idea how to guide my adult child regarding career/job options.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I think you actually have to go to work to figure out what type of work you like. All the navel gazing and career interest surveys in the world won’t really answer it. Figure out three things you’re good at (exp-math, solving problems, customer service), an area you have interest in (exp-technology, animal health, fitness), get a job that sort of fits to start (exp-procurement entry level job at a biotech firm), and build on that. People make it too complicated. I know from personal experience. I think you also have to temper their expectations. Entry level jobs aren’t great. You don’t have responsibility. You get the grunt work. People boss you around. I had a professional entry level job (engineer), and it still sucked. You have to put in the time before you really learn what direction to take for the next job, and eventually you can build a career you enjoy.

    2. Lemon Ginger Tea*

      This might be a shot in the dark but consider a trade career like electrician or HVAC technician, etc? Those are good-paying jobs with an aging workforce eyeing retirement, and I’ve heard from many such tradesmen that it’s a great living, you get to set your hours, you aren’t stuck in an office all day long, and so on.

      As someone who has a liberal arts degree and is working a job that sounds similar to what you described (set hours after which I clock out and am not expected to check emails or be available)… it’s not especially fulfilling.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        So there’s a strong chance my kid will do this. He is getting his BBA, but he’s worked for my husband as an electrician and my husband wants him to take actual community college classes in the trade after he finishes his other degree, then work for him, then move into management of the family business. I can’t say whether I think any of THAT is a good idea, but what I would say is that anyone who does go into the trades needs an exit strategy. The trades do take a toll on you physically. There can be a ladder up to less physical superintendent roles, etc., but it does not always work out that way. Another thing about trades is they always talk about the high salary. If you’re looking at a 27 year old guy with a liberal arts degree working at the cell phone store and a 27 year old guy as a traveling industrial electrician, sure, the electrician is making a lot more, but there are guys wiring new houses that don’t make much at all. The salary growth curve is also different. You make more starting out, but the curve isn’t as steep as it is in more some of the sought after white collar careers. Most guys aren’t starting at $50k at 25 and going to $150k at 40. Or you might start at $100k in a boom market, but that doesn’t last long term. People just need to know what they’re getting into.

        1. Lemon Ginger Tea*

          This is true, but I think also worth factoring in that many (most?) trades have unions that generally address retirement/pensions/the physicality of the work. Considering most employers no longer offer such benefits and the contractor business is growing rapidly, trade careers are looking better and better these days.

    3. the other kind of $ problem*

      Usually career services are available to alumni; it might be helpful for them to go visit a career counselor so get a handle on what their interests might be. In the meantime, perhaps administrative work through a temp agency could provide exposure to different departments and industries that fall within the “office work” domain.

    4. Anne of Green Gables*

      First of all, sometimes colleges offer career counseling to alumni, especially young alumni. As seen here, how good they are may vary, but that’s one route to pursue and could mean talking to someone who knows various careers/jobs out there.

      Another thought is to look at a listing of programs at the local community college. Those programs tend to focus on job-ready skills and may give you/your child some ideas about areas that exist and need workers. Some of this might just be to identify possibilities, or could leave to a program at said community college. I work at a community college and we do get folks who have a BA from elsewhere but come here to get specific training; it’s more common than you’d think.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      If you can get local recommendations, a career coach can sometimes be helpful. Quality is all over the place–as with publishing surefire tips on how to get your resume noticed by printing it on tinfoil, there is no official barrier to entry–but the good ones can be really helpful at pointing you toward fields that would use your skills, fields you didn’t know existed.

      I’d also recommend volunteering in things that interest them, and the value of a job, any job, to help winnow down what tasks they do and don’t like. (My college jobs were unrelated to my major or eventual field, but they taught me that I like being given an assignment and then left free to complete it, rather than having to be in a given spot from 3 to 5.)

      1. PantaloonsOnFire*

        +1 for the volunteering recommendation. When I was fresh out of school, I had to take some entry level jobs I wasn’t especially thrilled by, but volunteering helped me to figure out my interests and boosted my resume to the point that I could get work in my desired field.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          And–I type this as an introvert–being in contact with a diverse cast of people is one of the best ways to learn things. Jobs that exist. Routes to those jobs. Bad things about those jobs that are not obvious to outsiders.

    6. Joielle*

      If I were your kid in this situation, I’d start by thinking of some places I might like to work. Nonprofits? Government? Corporation? Pick out a few places (maybe in one category, maybe several) and look at job openings. Pick some job openings that sound interesting and look at the qualifications. They’ll start to narrow down the types of qualifications that show up repeatedly.

      They might also consider doing a few informational interviews – perhaps their university can help connect them with alums in different fields who are doing jobs that might interest them. If they can get an informational interview with someone in HR, that person might have some suggestions.

      I think it might also help to frame this decision as “getting a job they like” rather than “choosing a career path.” The latter is really intimidating and can feel like if you don’t pick the right thing now, you’re doomed to a life of doing work you hate. That’s not the case at all – any job has transferable skills and they could end up doing something very different later on. Good luck!

    7. a former legal assistant*

      Has your child considered paraprofessional roles (e.g., legal assistant/paralegal)? Depending heavily on the office you work in, that kind of work can involve predictable hours, work you leave at work, and decent pay. I was a legal assistant for several years and while the work could be fast-paced, it was certainly manageable. I will say that it’s highly dependent on the office environment — I’m now a lawyer and I see that our legal assistants are saddled with WAY more work than they can get done in a 40-hour work week, to the point that sometimes they have to stay late or request overtime to get it all done.

    8. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

      Predictable hours jobs will possibly be less exciting, because more glamorous or exciting roles often have worse benefits/hours/etc. because more people are trying to do them. My job is unfulfilling and not particularly challenging, but I can shine on for my 40 hrs, collect my check, time off, health care, and payroll taxes and then enjoy my life evenings, weekends and vacations. Honestly the best thing to do is go temp and gain office experience, have a look around various places and see where they might tolerate working. A lot of new grads or interns have very rosy ideas of some fields (mine being one) and then are disappointed when the reality is processing invoices, dealing with irate people on the phone, hours on the spreadsheet farm, etc.

    9. MoopySwarpet*

      I think admin/reception temping is a great way to dabble in different industries. When I did that, I was just looking to pay rent, but I did get to talk to quite a few people in several different industries. The only one I “hated” was a call center.

      Another option would be to take a few random classes at a community college to see if anything strikes a chord. I took classes like psychology, criminal justice, anthropology, etc. Maybe taking a few classes that are unrelated to a degree or specific goal might help spark some interest. Although, with a BA in liberal arts, you would think they would have already taken a variety of classes that would give some kind of interest.

      Another possibility is volunteering at different places such as libraries, elder care, pet rescues, big sister/brothers . . .

      I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up (still don’t), but did come up with a variety of things I DIDN’T want to be. :P (Lawyer, doctor, engineer, retail worker, waitress, gas station attendant . . . lol)

    10. KR*

      Definitely recommend government – town clerks office, tax collector, permit processing, ect. Predicable hours, good benefit, not amazing pay but they sometimes have a union or good perks when you work there 5+ or 10+ years.

    11. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      If they like people and don’t mind traveling for a few years, colleges are always hiring grads to work in alumni outreach and fundraising (might also be called development, advancement, etc). It’s an amazing way to get experience and build marketable skills that can translate into just about any career….or if they like it, it’s a well-paying, very stable career field to stay in long-term.

    12. theletter*

      a lot of liberal arts majors are going into technology or technology-adjacent work. Product Managers and Project managers are often paid well and get to do very dynamic work with a combination of soft skills and general interest in the field they are in.

      I have a degree in music, and though I was never great at math (I think I might have the math dyslexia) I realized after college that I did pass all my math courses in high school without too much trouble. I put with some terrible, toxic jobs at the bottom rungs in some startups and was eventually able to teach myself some coding skills. I’m pretty happy with the work I do now, and I have plenty of time to sing and play guitar when the mood strikes me.

      If technology is an interest, there’s a lot of programming boot camps, but your graduate may want to try out some free online tutorials in SQL to see if that appeals to them first before committing to a 3 month program.

      1. Choosing a career path?*

        My adult child is in fact interested in coding and is considering a boot camp. Any suggestions about which programs to consider? I’m skeptical about ones that “guarantee” a job at the end. It sounds too good to be true. Also, my child believes that they will immediately come out of this 3 month boot camp and be equipped to get a “high five figure” job, which also sounds too good to be true.

        I understand that I can research this stuff myself, but I’m trying to provide some guidance and points to consider, rather than getting too involved in the actual decision process. So perhaps I should amend my question from “which programs to consider” (although I’d appreciate firm recommendations), and add “how do you think my child should evaluate various programs and claims?”

        1. spock*

          If a bootcamp is high quality and has good connections then high 5 figures is not ridiculous for the industry at all, at least in my city. They do seem to be hit and miss but my company has lots of interns from 2 local camps and many of them receive return offers. Definitely need to do due diligence but it’s not far fetched IF you have the aptitude for it. Probably will take more than 3 months though.

          Btw I agree about trying it out online first, in fact many bootcamps may require it, but SQL isn’t really gonna be the main thing here, you’re highly unlikely to spend a lot of time with databases compared to javascript and other front end technologies.

          Just in case your child is a woman and would be open to a move to Seattle, Ada Developers Academy is free and highly successful.

    13. QCI*

      technical degrees. Blue collar work. There’s nothing wrong with working with your hands and depending on the field would definitely allow the work to live ideal, and studies show blue collar workers tend to have more satisfying jobs, so there’s that.

    14. Choosing a career path?*

      Thank you so much to everyone who’s responded. These are wonderful suggestions, many of which I would never have thought of. I appreciate this community so much!

    15. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You’ve gotten a lot of great suggestions but I just want to say something regarding “how do you decide what you’re interested” aspects of things we ask college kids to figure out. There’s a possibility that even if it looks interesting to them on a school level and they can learn the necessary skills, they may still not like the job in the end.

      Try not to make it a “make a decision and stick with it, no matter what.” thought process. Temping is a great way to test drive places but even that doesn’t give you a full scope.

      I’ve seen so many people go to school for Something, thrive and kill it in school, only to hate the real-life job that it comes down to. Which is one of those things where it’s like “okay stick it out while you find another way to switch gears” but it’s daunting and makes people really stutter-step when you make it sound like “Oh you went through HVAC tech training, you’re forever a HVAC tech, suck it up!” scenario.

      When you point out the emergency exit does exist, in case of an emergency, people tend to make thoughtful decisions but at least aren’t paralyzed by the fear of making that next step if they’re of a cautious mindset.

    16. SI*

      If your child wants to learn a trade, have they looked into contacting local unions about apprenticeship programs? They would learn something that they might be interested in and get paid while doing it.

      1. Clisby*

        Or contact a local technical college to see if they cooperate with local businesses in apprenticeship programs. (I’m in SC, which is notoriously unfriendly to unions, but our state technical colleges do work with industries to place students in apprenticeships/internships.)

    17. Hillary*

      This was me fifteen years ago. I graduated from a liberal arts school, thought I was going to go to law school, and started temping. In my first couple years I learned that I like problem solving, I like fast pace, and I like hands on work where I can see the results. I ended up in supply chain, eventually getting my MBA and moving into the corporate world.

      Along the way I learned government isn’t the right pace for me, neither is real estate. I was a good CSR and could have made a killing at sales, but I hate doing it all day. Talking to customers is draining for me, but teaching and running trainings is energizing. I like working with data but don’t like doing it all day every day, and I don’t like who I am when I’m in compliance. I like negotiating, and I love finding win-win solutions for my internal and external partners.

      Temping still seems to be a thing, so if your kid wants to spend time in offices I’d suggest that to start. It’s an easy way to get exposed to a lot of concepts and find out what they do and don’t like. My other big piece of advice is to say yes (within reason). The single trait that’s most important to me in a new hire is curiosity. I can and will teach the technical skills.

    18. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Rita Mae Brown has written that she preferred construction jobs before she earned enough to write full time, because someone else paid her to get exercise, and she saved up her mental energy for her free time.

    19. Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins*

      I also have a liberal arts degree, and my goal was to get a job where I did my 8 hours and went home with holidays and weekends off. I found that the federal government was a great place to get exactly that. I got a job with with an agency that was tangentially related to my interests, did a year in a call center setting to get my foot in the door, and then moved into a job I don’t hate. I can’t say I am in my dream job, but I have plenty of time outside of work to pursue passion projects and hobbies. I get to help people at my job, but at the end of the day (which for me is 3 pm) I am done. I know the government may not be everyone’s favorite, but for me, the pay and benefits allow me to enjoy a good quality of life.

    20. Anon the Third*

      Have they considered library school? The job possibilities are more diverse than most people think, and there are plenty of corporate and government gigs that are a solid 9-to-5.

    21. Policy Wonk*

      Don’t forget government at all levels. We need people to process Social Security Applications, tax returns, passport applications. At the state level there is a need for people to work at the DMV, vital records office. Cities need people to handle inquiries from people on issues ranging from potholes to trash collection. Your elected officials have constituent services offices or websites and can be a good source of information about government hiring.

    22. Frankie*

      For me, it was all through exploring, all at actual entry-level jobs. My first job post MA was an admin assistant (temp to hire) and I taught myself how to build databases to help with a task that was entirely, and insanely, manual beforehand. My second job was a temp job filing–they brought me on permanently in a lower-level role where I explored analyst tasks. My next job, I got a job doing all those analyst tasks. Over the years this has turned into a very satisfying career, one that uses all those skills I was also using in my degrees.

      I truly, honestly don’t think you figure a lot of this out until you’re on the job and you experience a variety of places.

      And unless they have a very specific idea of what they are good at and can realistically do, I would say to hold off on training. On-the-job experience matters so much more for a graduate than a certificate or a few seminars. They’ll have so much information about themselves after a job or two.

    23. Sleepytime Tea*

      I mean, really, you have to just get out there and work and get exposed to things. It’s how you find out what you like. I started out in a call center, where I was randomly exposed to business analytics, ended up loving it, and made a career of it.

      There’s some pretty standard office job starting-out careers. Data entry. Receptionist/admin. Claims processors (medical/insurance). Things like that. One option is to just kind of start looking at certain businesses and seeing what they have available, instead of trying to search for a specific job title. So lets say big health care company A is in your town. Go to their site, see what they have posted. Maybe they have a front desk position, or data entry, or answering the switchboard, or whatever.

  23. SaraV*

    I have a question for those in HR or anyone else that might have knowledge of this…

    Why, on applications, do they ask if you have EVER been fired from a job? I can certainly understand asking if you’ve been fired within the past five, or even seven, years. I guess I’m asking because yes, I’ve been fired, but it was over 15 years ago. (I had some personal stuff going on in my life, and my lack of being able to deal with it well affected my performance at work)

    I’m just curious of the possible reasoning for it.

    1. fposte*

      My guess is 1) it’s just the template and it’s easier than deciding the difference between 5 years or 6 years or 10 years and 2) some reasons for firing still matter after a long time. They don’t know if yours is one of those until they ask you about it.

    2. Evil HR Person*

      Actually, I see it as a warning to the applicant. It’s the same as when you’re asked whether you’d submit to a drug test and background check. Most people wouldn’t dream to answer this in the negative, and it seems pretty obvious that these things will happen as part of applying. Anyway, these kinds of questions are meant as a warning to you that – no matter what you answer – we’ll be looking at this. Now, if your firing happened 15 years ago, and we’re only going to check the last 10 years (usually, unless we work in government), then you don’t have to answer it truthfully. You can mentally add “within the last ten years” to that question. The question does matter if you are applying to a government position (federal government, in particular) or to work in healthcare, police, etc. They do WAY thorough background checks that may go back further than 10 years, and then you have to be honest. You might not lose the chance at getting the job if you’ve been fired, but you WILL lose the chance if you lie on the application and they find out, regardless of what kind of lie it is.

      1. Anon Librarian*

        How do you find out if someone was fired? Are there really records of this that anyone can access? What if it was something like a summer job at an ice cream shop?

    3. Spreadsheets and Books*

      I was fired from a job 6+ years ago, my first real job in a career path that is adjacent to the one I have now but not the same. It was an awful company that lied to me about accommodating my grad school schedule and I stopped caring.

      Honestly, I say no on applications. I know the outcome of an employment verification from this company and they have been true to their word (confirming dates of employment with no reason for dismissal, re-hire contingent on circumstances) so I don’t know how anyone would find out. I’m a great employee, I work hard, and have had great reviews and a lot of support from employers at my last three jobs. I don’t find it to be relevant.

      1. Spreadsheets and Books*

        To clarify on the true to their word bit, they told me they would provide neutral responses to background checks and would not state why I left if asked. They have been true to that in two background checks and I have no reason to think that will ever differ.

    4. Just Another Manic Millie*

      I figure that they think that if you were fired, that means that you did something wrong, and they don’t want to hire someone who did something wrong.

      I was once asked on an application if I had been fired or if I had quit a job to avoid being fired within the past ten years. This shook me up very badly, because once I accidentally found a newspaper ad for my job, so I realized that they were looking to fire me. I gave two weeks notice immediately. By the time I left, I hadn’t been replaced, so I don’t know when I would have wound up being fired. However, that had occurred more than eleven and a half years earlier, so I had no problem answering “no.” But if I had been asked that question verbally, I would have freaked out, and I’m sure that by the time I was able to compose myself and say “no,” they would have been convinced that I was lying.

      I never had a problem taking a drug test. I had to take one in order to get a job. But I was turned off when another company offered to hire me, subject to my passing a polygraph test, which they said was necessary, because they didn’t want to hire drug addicts. I wouldn’t have had a problem with a more typical drug test, but I did not want to take a polygraph test.

    5. juliebulie*

      If they asked about being fired for cause, I’d understand it. But the one time I was fired (in 2003) was the end of my training period in furniture sales. The guy who had hired me was transferred on my second day, and the new guy had no use for a novice, so on the last day of my training period (while I was literally in the middle of writing up a sale), I was gone.

      I wasn’t allowed to explain this on my application to a very juicy long-term contract a few years ago when I was out of work, and I guess I’m still kinda mad.

      1. Deanna Troi*

        I would consider this to be a layoff, not a firing. When they no longer need someone in your position and it has nothing to do with you yourself, it is a layoff. If I were you, I would answer “no” to the question of having ever been fired with a clear conscience.

        1. juliebulie*

          Well, I called it a layoff when I applied for unemployment, and word came back that it was in fact a firing.

          Though I suppose I might be able to get away with calling it a layoff now, given that it’s 18 years later and the company no longer exists.

          1. Deanna Troi*

            I’m sorry about that. Frustrating that they didn’t call it a layoff. I agree it would be fine all these years later.

  24. wingmaster*

    This week, I flew out for an out-of-state interview! (For those who commented a couple weeks ago, the company did pay for my traveling). I think I did very well with the interviews. The hiring manger lost track of time, so our lunch went over 30 minutes lol. I had to be on the plane in the next 45 minutes! Luckily, it was a small town with an easy airport to get into.

    HM emailed me the next morning how it was great to meet me in person and asked me again what salary I would want. In our first phone interview, I was able to get her to state the range first. The top of the range was maybe $10k less than I want it to be. I replied back with a higher range at +$15k. She just replied, thanking me for my response and that she will get back to me next week. So…I think things might be going well.

    Thanks AAM community for all the help, from sharing your blind-move stories to flying out-of-state!

  25. Millennial Lizard Person*

    Y’all we had a going-away lunch for a mediocre coworker yesterday. But our boss (the team lead) didn’t attend because he was “too busy”. He’s full of it! Coworker announced his resignation at a group meeting, and that was the first time Boss heard about it. So Boss didn’t go to the farewell lunch out of pure pettiness. I’m somewhat impressed at Boss’s dedication to pettiness (it’s a nice restaurant! Free lunch!!) but also blindsiding your boss is kinda rude. And Boss is a pretty good boss, so it’s not like Coworker needed to be afraid to say anything.

    What’s a petty thing you’ve seen your boss do? Deserved or undeserved?

    1. Swiper*

      Oh man. Probably being so mad that a senior person was leaving and not sending out the official announcement until AFTER she was gone even though she’d given a month’s notice, making it sound like she’d been fired. The most annoying to me personally was that we used to get let out a few hours early prior to long weekends, always announced a surprise at the last minute (which caused a ton of problems, but that’s a whole other thing). One time someone had the GALL to ask if it would be happening and he was so enraged by that display of entitlement that he didn’t let us go early again for over a year. The other 100+ of us sure appreciated that.

    2. Peaches*

      A couple years ago, my boss was a PIP for various things (I shouldn’t have even known this information, but her boss who has since left the company inappropriately shared the information with me and others).

      Anyway, one of the main issues is that my boss would regularly (and still does, FWIW) show up 30+ minutes late, in a position where she needed to be in the office when we opened at 7:30. She also took 2+ hours lunches, ran personal errands several times a week, and regularly left the office 1-2 hours early. She’s a salaried, full-time employee, and was regularly working <30 hours a week.

      My boss's boss told her that if she didn't start showing up to the office on time, she would fail her PIP and subsequently be fired. So, she began to (for the first time ever) show up to the office by 7:30.

      I've worked here for 5 years, and have only shown up later than 7:30-7:32ish one single time. I happened to be watching the news that morning, and saw that there was a serious accident on my route to work, which is very unusual, as I usually have a 10-12 minute drive with no traffic. I made a point of leaving 15 minutes earlier than usual per work due to the accident. I ended up showing up at 7:38 A.M (my usual 10-12 minute drive ended up being a 38 minute drive!) This was on a Tuesday, during the time my manager was on a PIP, so she was actually showing up on time at 7:30. When I submitted my time sheet that Friday (with my usual 40 hours), my manager came over to me and asked me if I'd "made sure to shorten my lunches for being late on Tuesday." I literally could not believe she way saying that to me over EIGHT minutes. Especially considering I had never been late in my entire tenure. Not to mention, she was literally on a PIP for being chronically late all the time. During ANY OTHER TIME FRAME (i.e. when she wasn't on a PIP), she would have had no idea I was "late", because she wouldn't have arrived until at least 8:00.

      It still makes me mad thinking about it. At the time, my response was "you do realize I arrived at 7:38, right?" In retrospect, I wish I would have said something snarky like, "yep, I shortened Tuesday's lunch by 2 minutes, Wednesday's lunch by 3 minutes, and Thursday's lunch by 3 minutes!"

      Her pettiness (directed at me!) was not deserved. Lol.

    3. Petty VP*

      Oooo. I kind of have one going on right now.

      I was demoted (meh) from [job title] to assistant [job title] at my job several months ago. (I was hired into a position slightly over my head, right before the busy season of our industry, and I was lacking proper training) No hard feelings. So the new coordinator came over from a corporate position within the company. She and the VP over that department she came from a) Did not mesh well, and b) She left similarly, slightly blindsiding the VP (but still giving two weeks notice) So, I interviewed in early May for a position that would be underneath this VP. Didn’t get the job. Okay, no worries, someone else was more qualified. End of July, the same position is open. (There are many people that hold this position) I apply again, but didn’t attach a cover letter. Applications were closing on a Friday. On the Monday before closing, I receive a rejection email. Oooookkkaaaaay. So the newer person [in my old job position) was talking to someone later that’s in the know with a lot of things and confirmed that yeah, I didn’t get the interview/position because of my indirect association with her. o_O

      Oh! Guess what kind of position opening I just saw on Tuesday? She isn’t only petty, she appears to be severely lacking in people skills, too.

    4. Lemon Zinger*

      I have done what your boss did. The departing coworker was mediocre at her job and also terrible to be around (she hated everyone and the job, and made that clear every day at work). I was “too busy” to attend her going-away lunch and I have no regrets. She treated me with contempt and I didn’t want to spend anymore time with her than I had to.

    5. Also a project manager*

      At my boss’s goodbye party (she was taking a different job), Boss said a few words and then proceeded to go around the room and thank everyone for making it a good job. Everyone, that is, except those of us that worked directly for her. She prided herself on looking like The Best Employee Manager Ever whose direct reports loved her so much that when we were left out of the goodbye speech, it set off the inter-office gossip like you would not believe. (We did not love her. She was a micromanaging narcissist to the Nth degree who stabbed us all in the back and took credit for our individual work.)

    6. Former Govt Contractor*

      Mean attorney at OldLawFirm who abused his entire staff including other lawyers, had a dedicated paralegal (not me) who had worked for him since she was in high school, so for over 20 years. She was his right hand. She was one of the few people who could stand to work for him at all, much less for that long. She paid his bills for him. One day she made a comment about how high his daughter’s high credit card bill was that month. He didn’t speak to her again. Ever. She gave him about 2 years (!!) to get over it, but he never did. So she left and she has an amazing job which has provided rare advancement opportunities for a paralegal. So happy for her. He’s had a revolving door on that position ever since. Idiot shot himself right in the foot.

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Oh man, at least that departing employee got a going away lunch!

      My previous and only petty boss, had to be the one to initiate the going away lunch.

      Everyone had them, except for those who personally victimized him with their departure. There was no lunch for me when I resigned appropriately, to him directly. Then quietly let my team know afterwards.

      That said, if someone was so rude as to drop a bomb like that in a group meeting, not attending their farewell lunch isn’t petty to me. It’s justified and it’s also better than sitting there and seething or possibly making a scene. I’m of firm belief that if you don’t like someone, don’t attend their lunch. Just like if you don’t know someone, don’t attend their retirement lunch either.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        I’m of firm belief that if you don’t like someone, don’t attend their lunch.

        I’m torn because while I agree with this on a personal level (if we aren’t friends/friendly, don’t be fake about how much you’re going to miss me, lol), I kind of feel it’s different in the workplace and when you’re a manager. You should be able to suck it up and attend a farewell lunch (unless that person was highly disruptive/toxic in the workplace or personally disrespectful to you – then yeah, skip that mess) if only to show your team how to handle interpersonal challenges with grace and dignity. My last manager and I weren’t remotely close and didn’t really like each other, but she still took me to lunch on my last day and arranged for me to get a gift card. I thought that was classy.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          That’s fair enough. It reminds me of the person who wanted advice awhile back about if they had to invite their manager, they didn’t get along with and a main reason for leaving the company to their farewell lunch.

          However in this case it’s more cut and dry, since the manager was absolutely disrespected by not being the person who knew about the resignation prior to the resignation during a team meeting. So I really don’t think the manager here is doing anything wrong or really petty in the end there.

          But I really hate that these things that are for the employee leaving to get to say their goodbyes, along with their colleagues to say their goodbyes and such are just viewed as “free lunch” in ways. It’s not a free lunch in the end, it’s a very casual business meeting with a catered lunch more so.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            However in this case it’s more cut and dry, since the manager was absolutely disrespected by not being the person who knew about the resignation prior to the resignation during a team meeting.

            Yeah…this wasn’t great. But I don’t know that it was personally disrespectful either. I’ve seen some clumsy as hell resignations that weren’t intended to be a referendum on how someone felt about the manager, and I know I haven’t always handled it as smoothly as I would have liked for various reasons myself, but I see how you would view it that way given that the employee in question is described as not being that great to begin with so isn’t that much of a loss to the company.

    8. Phoenix Programmer*

      Oh man time to buckle up for wildly true stories of SM. Whose real initials match the way I always thing of her “Sucky Manager”

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        SM did not like to waste time before bringing out the petty. On my first day reporting to her, she “interviewed” me and asked why I applied to the position (she was transferred to our team).

        I told her I didn’t apply to this team, I was transferred during a reorganization.

        SM blew a lid – asking how I could possibly just be given a slot on this team. She was extremely loud about it too. Drawing a ton of attention.

        Tires of the BS and innuendo that I would not qualify for the team (I was a top performer at the huge multi nation company) I said “I’m not sure. My understanding was that Devon* specifically asked for me to be in his division.

        *Devon was her great grand boss and head of the division of which her tiny team was a small part.

        To make it better just as she incredulously snarked “Youuuu do work for Devon?” One of his aids came by and asked for me to come help Devon with his spreadsheets.

      2. Phoenix Programmer*

        A month after SM started I was 5 minutes late due to traffic accidents in the winter (I lived in a snow heavy region). SM was remote and once someone tattled on me that I was late, even though it was a first offense, she made me IM her each morning at 8am. She then was frequently not on at 8am, the first time I missed her check in was due to her not being on she threatened to write me up. So I started screen shotting my office clock and emailing her daily when her IM was off.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          Please tell me you also got the IM with her being obviously off-line in the 8 AM screenshot! So. petty. of her and the person who tattled.

          1. Phoenix Programmer*

            So funnily this ended because Devon called me into his office to work on reports for him. I missed her call in, so she called me to complain. Devon overheard her loud berrating and said “Hey SM I got a question for you call me now please. Phoenix let me know when you are done with those reports.”

            About an hour later I got an email to discontinue the daily IMs.

      3. Phoenix Programmer*

        SM would hold team meetings before the “real” team meeting to get other staff to complain about me. During these pre-team meetings she would goad them like “Really? No one has a complaint? Well I guess we need to talk about YOUR performance then…” and out of fear people would speak up.

        I found out about a year after leaving the team because a coworker called me crying that she felt pressured to say bad things about me.

      4. Phoenix Programmer*

        I was from TX. A position on our team opened up in TX just 3 hrs from my family. SM decided one of the MN positions had to go down. I volunteered, she sent the born and bred MN down instead even though she begged to stay with her family in MN.

        That person quit 8 months later and moved back to MN.

      5. Phoenix Programmer*

        I asked SM for a job description for (my job) II. I got called into an agendaless meeting with SM, SMs boss, and HR.

        I asked what the meeting was about and SM says “You will see.”

        SM launches into minor or vague complaints. Stuff like someone sometime ago said you upset them

        Finally I speak up and ask – am I being disciplined? What is this meeting about?

        HR rep gets really vocally uncomfortable – “you weren’t told what this meeting is about?”
        SM goes back into her listing of petty grievances. Then HR stops her “That is not what this meeting is about. It’s supposed to be a career progression meeting so let’s refocus.”

        Next 5 minutes is, keep doing what you are doing only without stepping on nameless people’s toes. Then they end the meeting.

    9. atacrawl*

      My last boss was a real piece of work… we had just wrapped up an 18 month project that dozens of people worked on, so the lead project manager sent out an email thanking everyone who worked on the project. She failed to include our boss, even though it was clear that this was meant as a high visibility thank you to the people down in the trenches (lots of VIPs were CC’d). Literally no one was like “oh damn, she didn’t thank our boss.” Well… our boss berated her in his office about how “betrayed” he felt by his exclusion. A real leader would have merely replied all and thanked the project manager. This idiot threw a temper tantrum. Glad to be gone from there.

    10. Lemon Ginger Tea*

      After I gave my notice at my last job (standard two weeks, no fireworks and it shouldn’t have been a shock) my boss LITERALLY did not speak to me the rest of the time. She wasn’t hostile, per say, but she had been pretty friendly toward me up until then.

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        Same. She also called out sick on my last day so she didn’t have to say goodbye.

      2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        Oh, and then she tried to torpedo me when I used her as a reference in a later job search. Didn’t work though so the joke’s on her!

    11. juliebulie*

      Not my current boss, but another I’ve griped about before:

      For employee anniversaries we’d get to pick something out of the company’s catalog of recognition gifts. I picked a watch.

      My anniversary came and went. I forgot about it for a while. Then I contacted HR to ask how I could get in touch with the company that ships these things. They told me that the gift had already arrived a few months ago and was given to my boss.

      When I asked my boss about it, he admitted that he just didn’t want to give it to me. (Cuz he didn’t like me. Once told me so, to my face.)

    12. Mediamaven*

      How is that petty? Sounds like the person wasn’t professional so the boss didn’t feel like going. A going away party is not a right.

  26. Grandpa Lawyer*

    I haven’t interviewed since the 90s – how long should I be waiting to hear back after a third interview? It’s for a senior position with a Fortune 50 company. Should I be expecting to hear back? I’m continuing to interview, but my expectations are mired in a pre-Internet world with a foggy memory. I know they aren’t obligated to let me know anything but I am so out of my depth here so my expectations are low. Thanks!

    1. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

      I think if you don’t hear back after a couple of weeks, you can let it go. I do think timelines are frequently stretched to weeks if not months for the senior positions (although I’m in higher ed so may be different). But keeping expectations low is key, so sounds like you’re on the right track already. I hadn’t interviewed since the 90s either when I landed my current position and the whole process was a real eye-opener. Thank heavens for AAM.

    2. LKW*

      There are so many dependencies it’s really hard to say. Given that it’s a senior position, I have to imagine the decision makers are fairly high up in the organization. Depending on their schedules, they may have interviews, conferences and critical activities that make it difficult to finalize any decision.

      I say, if you don’t hear back within a month, do a check in.

  27. Washi*

    Making friends with older coworkers question! I’m in my late 20s and when I meet someone at work my age who seems cool and that I want to be friends with, I’m pretty good at putting out feelers, inviting them to lunch, etc and developing the friendship.

    But when the person is 40-50+ I feel really hesitant to start that process because I feel like maybe they won’t want to be friends with someone so much younger, maybe I can’t pick up on their hints…I don’t know, I just get nervous. Anyone else made friends with a coworker with a biggish age gap? Anything I should do or not do?

    1. Aquawoman*

      What exactly is your concern? As a 53-year old, I’m sort of … just a 28 year old with 15 years experience. I have teens so I may even understand your slang :)

      1. Washi*

        I think I just get much more worried that they wouldn’t want to be friends with me! Like, I’m not super open to developing close friendships with high schoolers, and that’s, if anything, a smaller age different. I’m married and am, I think, relatively mature, but I worry that I seem similarly baby-ish to my older coworkers. And I think I have a probably-inaccurate assumption that other late 20s/early 30s are more open to new friends and people in their 40s/50s have all their friends settled and don’t want new ones. So the responses below from older folks who like being friends with people my age are reassuring!

        1. Emmie*

          You and your coworkers have something in common: work. This changes the dynamic a bit. You are their peer, or close to it. You probably do not have much in common with high schoolers. There’s such an experience gap there especially with you being married, and beyond that phase of your life. Now that I am out of my 20s, I realize I feel awkward reaching out to my younger colleagues, but I should get over that too.

        2. TooTiredToThink*

          I’m in the lower age range of the group you are talking about and awhile back I randomly connected with some women in the higher end of that age range …. and we have a blast together.

          A lot of times its more about life stages (kids/no kids/single/married) that allows people to connect to each other. If you are more into being out all hours of the night, drinking, etc…. then, sure you might find it harder to connect with someone who is no longer into that, but really its more about finding out what the common interests are. Do you both like books? Start a book club. Movies? Start a movie club? Foodies – go out to eat. Etc…

        3. juliebulie*

          I’m 51 and most of my “friends” have died, faded into the Facebook abyss, moved away, etc. I could use some fresh brains.

          Not to say that I wouldn’t like some new friends my own age too, but as long as you’re old enough to hold a conversation, that’s a good enough starting point for me.

        4. emmelemm*

          Honestly, as someone in the 40-50 range, that’s about the time where you’ve lost touch with a lot of friends along the way because life was fast and furious for a while and/or you’re just older and tireder and can’t party on the weeknights.

          Being friends with a coworker is a low barrier because you can do lunches with them etc. and they’re just right there! And maybe you don’t have a ton in common, or maybe you do. If you’re married and a little bit settled, at least, you may have more in common than you think. Just don’t Snapchat at us.

    2. miss_chevious*

      As an “older” colleague, just ask them to lunch or whatever you would do with your younger coworkers and take it from there. Many of us are delighted to be friends with people younger than us, and it’s nice to not have to make the “first move” because, depending on the roles in the organization, that can put a compliance burden on younger colleagues.