open thread – September 27-28, 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.

{ 1,902 comments… read them below }

  1. Kimmy Schmidt*

    How can I learn to better prioritize my work?

    I’ve been taking on more projects and more responsibility, but I struggle with effectively prioritizing everything. I work on the projects that I’m interested in, while the more mundane tasks go uncompleted for a week, then a month, then three months. This is compounded by the fact that most of my work doesn’t have true deadlines, it’s just a “this isn’t a top priority thing, you’ll work on it whenever you get to it”. But I never seem to get to it and I don’t know how to improve my skills in prioritizing.

    1. Watry*

      I block off so much time for those kinds of tasks. The amount of time changes depending on our workload, what needs doing, etc., but right now I’m devoting about two hours a week to office tasks (filing, shredding, etc.) Keeps stuff from sitting on my desk forever.

    2. nhb*

      Hi Kimmy! What I’ve done is ask my supervisor/boss or whoever is the one giving me the work how to prioritize. Or say “this is how I plan to get all of this done, but let me know if you need me to make any changes”.

    3. ThatGirl*

      Set aside a certain period of time every day or week to work on those things. Like, put it on your calendar if you need to. An hour a day? Couple hours on a Tuesday? Whatever you think works best, but stick to it, and just whittle away at it a little bit at a time.

    4. Norm*

      Google “eisenhower matrix” and find all kinds of videos and articles about one of the best approaches to prioritizing work in general.

      1. Clever Name*

        I was going to suggest this. If you’re not junior level, delegating those tasks that you just don’t want to do is magic. :)

    5. R*

      I tend to do a daily to do list. And if I realize something has been repeatedly on the list without getting done, it goes at the top of the next day’s list and as a result gets done first.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I ran into an interesting twist on this recently. They say call the big nasty important task an elephant not a frog….because we all understand we have to break up an elephant into smaller parts to be able to eat it.
        Break the big task up into smaller steps. List the action plan. Set time limits for each piece. Be realistic. And don’t let yourself get interrupted on the small pieces.
        Link in a reply so at least part can get into people’s thoughts.
        Now back to my nasty little elephant.

      2. OhNo*

        Same. I also add in some external accountability, because that really helps me when there’s something I just don’t want to do. For me, that just means asking one of my coworkers to ask me about the status of the project at some point randomly throughout the day.

        Something about having to look a person in the face and say, “Actually, I haven’t done it yet” spurs me on more than any personal need or desire to get things done.

    6. Susan K*

      I’m not sure if this directly answers your question, but I use a to-do list app called Todoist to remember/organize everything I have to do. I think this app or something like it could help you because it allows you to organize your tasks in various ways. You can have different categories (color-coded) and also different priorities for each task. You can create tasks and then split them up into sub-tasks. You can schedule each task and then view a list of everything that’s due for the day.

      I use this app a lot to schedule the routine, mundane tasks I have to do, and spread them out over the course of the week. There are things I schedule for every Monday, every Tuesday, etc., the first day of every month, the 15th of every month, etc. I can also schedule individual tasks, so if I have a low-priority project with 4 subtasks, I can schedule one subtask per week.

      1. Atara*

        I use TickTick, which is like Todoist but better (and if you go premium it’s cheaper) as you can add notes and checklists.

    7. LGC*

      What I’ve done is to ask if there’s an ideal time for a turnaround! I’m not exactly the same – my initial response to a higher up asking me something is to DROP EVERYTHING IMMEDIATELY ALL HANDS ON DECK – but a lot of the time people just…don’t think about that.

    8. designbot*

      I try to give myself deadlines for these. Like I believe an email shouldn’t take more than a day to reply to, a quick sketch or rfi no more than 3 days, etc.

    9. Fortitude Jones*

      Can you do your mundane tasks during periods at work when you’re just not feeling it? For example, I usually start my mornings off with simple things like responding to emails and doing boring stuff I don’t have to think too much about and then work on the fun stuff when I’m fully awake and have energy to expend (so basically, during the mid-morning/afternoon).

    10. Artemesia*

      I worked on a list/reinforce system when I struggled with this as I had so many things to do and many of them had no deadlines or distant deadlines or could have been shirked altogether with only a long run negative impact on me i.e. they enhanced my career but were not required by my job — often writing projects.

      Big miserable projects were broken down into small bites and I would require myself to get a couple of pieces done before moving to the items on the list that were less odious to do. Once you have done 6 of 10 pieces of a big ugly project, it is soo0 much easier to get it done in a burst of energy.

      I find it really true that crossing things off a list makes me feel good and so when I am particularly stuck, I make sure I have lots of things that I can easily do so I can cross lots of things off. And making the list is a thing to cross off.

      You can assign a time of day — the hour before break and coffee for example to tackle the most difficult thing to get moving — or you can choose to alternate the easy and the challenging. But the key for me was identifying the specific things that had to be done in manageable steps and getting something, anything done.

    11. That Would be a Good Band Name*

      I have a task that I hate that I was putting off as long as possible (an entire quarter). I added it to my calendar as as a “must-do” for first thing Friday mornings as Fridays are a lighter day for me. I still only report on my findings quarterly, but now the report is built slowly over time so I’m not having to dedicate 1-2 days doing it at one time. It’s made it a lot more manageable. I’d try putting everything that tends to get put off on your calendar and make yourself work on it. Even if you just schedule 30 minutes a week, it will be more than you were working on it and then you can build as you need to from there.

    12. Cinna214*

      Eat the frog! Do the least favorite tasks first thing in the morning- then enjoy the rest of your day feeling accomplished and guilt-free.

      1. Autumnheart*

        I’ve found this to be a good weapon against procrastination. It not only takes care of the task, but it puts me on a more productive roll.

    13. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I schedule and put a deadline on EVERYTHING, even if it’s not something that has a real one. So you should take those mundane tasks and put either say the 5th of the month or Mondays or whatever works with your flow the best.

      Then I have a daily to-do list, so that this stuff doesn’t pile up either.

    14. Kiwiii*

      I figured out at my last job a couple hours x2/week blocked off for the “do eventually” tasks was enough to make sure nothing slipped off the list. And I only needed the time x2 week because it was inevitable that one of those days would have a new, high priority, short deadline task that would erase the organized time anyway. It sounds like you’re prioritizing everything fine, it’s just that you never do the things that aren’t a priority.

    15. Third or Nothing!*

      I like the ideas to set aside a time specifically for the mundane tasks. I’d also add that if you add a positive motivator to the tasks, it can help you want to do them. For example, you might find an interesting podcast or audiobook and only listen to it while you’re filing or archiving emails or whatever. It’s called temptation bundling and can be pretty effective.

    16. WellRed*

      I block off time for what I think of as “housekeeping” tasks. usually Friday afternoons when my focus is on the way out the door (things like updating website).

    17. Ali A*

      Much like others have mentioned, I block time off on my calendar. Anything on my to-do list (which for me, is Trello) gets 30-60 mins on my calendar – no matter how quick/mundane the task – and even if I know it’ll get moved around a bunch.

      I also have time reserved regularly for reoccuring tasks, career development (ie webinars, research). This has really helped my productivity and prioritization.

    18. Liz*

      I struggle with the exact same thing, except NOW I was just promoted so I do have certain tasks and responsibilities that have to be done in a timely fashion. Add to that we went from three to two staff, and its been tough. What I try and do, is make lists, on paper. May sound old fashioned, but i’m VERY visual, so if i see something on the list, it gets done. I also set up a bunch of outlook reminders for monthly and other tasks. and even the other stuff that really has no concrete deadline, I try and schedule as well. I do better with structure, and by trying to schedule everything, even the smallers, piddly things. its kind of helped me, although we’re still early in the whole process.

    19. AyBeeCee*

      I’ve told my boss that I don’t function well for stuff like that so I appreciate it when she imposes a timeline on me. We (my team) have developed general timelines for various tasks so she’s not having to spell it out for every little task, but other times she’ll say she needs out of the ordinary requests done by X date. Sometimes it’s a real date that she needs so she can do something else with it, sometimes it’s probably made up just for the sake of actually getting it done but I don’t know when it’s made up.

    20. zora*

      Someone posted this idea here recently, and I am totally stealing it! I didn’t save the name of the commenter who posted it, though, so thank you to whoever you were.

      Assign each day of the week a ‘category’ of work you have trouble getting to. And then on that day of the week, if you have any downtime, you know exactly what to fill your time with.

      Like Monday is expense reports and budget tracking/updating, Tuesday is updating documentation, Wed is database cleanup, etc.

      Then if I have a super busy day, I might not get to my backup work that week, but at least every couple of weeks I will have some time, and can keep that moving forward a little bit, instead of it falling through the cracks for months.

      1. Kimmy Schmidt*

        I like this suggestion! This could work really well for me because my schedule is never consistent and I often have last-minute things to do, but not always and not consistently.

        Thank you to all who have commented!

    21. Product Person*

      Here’s my suggestion:

      Get an answer for the following question:

      When will this deliverable be needed?
      Even if it’s far away (for example, it’s September and the task is to create a report that will only be needed in January), there should be a date by when the deliverable of your task will be used. Then, subtract a week from that date, and put it on your calendar, ‘Generate report XYZ’. If the tasks is going to take more than an hour, add several entries to your calendar, each with a 30min or 1h slot: ‘Collect data for report XYZ’, ‘Create template for report XYZ’, ‘Enter data in the template’.

      If the answer to the question is “we don’t know”, or “never”, they I’d just ignore the task until it become relevant and has a deadline assigned to it. Do what the folks from Manager Tools say, “delegate to the floor”. No point in completing a task whose deliverable is not going to be used!

      1. JSPA*

        For open ended tasks, where you have to do interim updates, but there’s no outside schedule, you can borrow the terminology from financial reports where there’s an “as of” date and a “postmarked by” date and a “due by” date.

        Say I’m having trouble writing: it helps me cut through the procrastination and tidy up what I have “as of.” Say I can’t decide what data to include: that’s solved by the “as of.”

    22. wittyrepartee*

      Bundle the bad tasks with something you like.
      “I get a yummy snack every time I do ___”

      I also like to keep certain tasks for when I’m tired, especially if I can wear headphones while doing them.

    23. Public Sector Manager*

      I do all my heavy mental work in the morning, and for the more mundane things, it’s the last 2 hours of my day (depending on more important work).

      If other projects have a higher priority, then it seems like a work assignment problem because you don’t have the time to work on the mundane. But if you’re just interested in the other projects more, then you do need to schedule time for the less exciting duties. Eventually, your supervisor or manager will notice.

    24. Hamburke*

      My uncle showed me how he organized himself and I copied it: in a notebook (I used a disc notebook), start a dated to do list – it can be organized however you like – I had a “priority/must do today” section, a “by the end of the week” section and a “long term” section. Take any and all notes in the notebook after your list – phone calls, messages left, meetings, things that you think of but can’t do at the moment, etc – check off things as you go and spend the last 1/2 hour or so of your day synthesizing the notes and making the to do list for the next day. Sometimes things would be be important but not need to be copied so I’d put a Post-It tab on the page.

      I like this method but to keep me in sync with my team, we use an online program called ToDoIst, which is fine but I’m losing my daily notes and it’s organized how my boss likes it, not me. I also find the “today” section to be a jumbled mess that causes me stress – I look at it first thing in the morning, late afternoon and before I leave.

    25. CM*

      I’m not sure this is a prioritization issue so much as a motivation issue. I know I always have an easier time doing tedious tasks that I actually want or need to get done, or tedious tasks that will really help someone else, as opposed to tedious tasks that also seem pointless. If you’re able to think of some reason why it would benefit someone to have these tasks done, it might be easier to convince yourself to work on them. If it honestly doesn’t seem like it benefits anyone, maybe see if you can cancel it.

      If you do think that the tasks benefit someone and you still can’t work up the motivation to do them AND the reason is not that you have anxiety about it or something, then, yeah, I agree with everyone else: you just have to decide that you’re going to make it happen and arbitrarily pick a day when you’ll do it.

      If you have a lot of them building up and they all seem equally un-pressing and uninspiring, you can also use a random number generator or something to just pick one from a list so you don’t have to try to decide which to focus on.

  2. Sunflower*

    Can someone recommend some books/resources similar to What Color is Your Parachute and Do What You Are? I’m looking to make a career change but am a little unsure on what exactly I want to do next. I’m trying to ultimately figure out which careers/jobs will work with my personality, my strengths and exclude as much of the kinds of work I hate doing. But first I need to figure out what those things are and I’m hoping to find something that will help guide me to those answers.

    1. lisalee*

      I have been reading Designing Your Life and I really like it so far. It is more general-life-direction than strictly for your career, but it’s really helpful in figuring out the kinds of things you really like to do and what will make you feel fulfilled. It has a lot of activities you do to hone in on strengths, likes, dislikes, etc.

      1. Belle of the Midwest*

        I’m a career counselor and would add my agreement to this suggestion. The Designing Your Life workbook puts all the activities into an easy-to-use format. I personally did not “get” the life design concept until I got the workbook.

    2. Urban Coyote*

      I did a Strenghts Finder test (through Gallup) and it was enlightening (as was my DISC assessment). It won’t necessarily help with job specifics but it helped me better understand my strength so I can focus on the right position as well as when I do get into a job with undesirable tasks, I can use my strengths to finish them

      Input – Learning – Analytical – Harmony – Connectedness

      1. Melody Pond*

        Seconding StrengthsFinder 2.0! I found it really helpful to understanding myself as a worker, especially in retrospect – why I’ve succeeded or struggled in past roles.

        My talent themes were:
        Maximizer – Analytical – Empathy – Relator – Responsibility

      2. Tedious Cat*

        Input — Woo — Communication — Positivity — Empathy

        StrengthsFinder helped me see the benefit of the particular strengths I can bring to the table (6 of my top 12 are Relationship Building) instead of knocking myself for not being the more stereotypical hard-nosed super-assertive worker. It’s such a relief to embrace what you do well instead of beating yourself up over the stuff you don’t have a knack for (and when I say you I mean me).

      3. Filosofickle*

        Strategic
        Context
        Intellection
        Individualization
        Input

        Mine made me a little sad — apparently I’m just a strategy/analysis machine! Which…is totally fair. But I would have liked something with a more human dimension. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        1. Emilia Bedelia*

          What are your top 10, though?
          Those next 5 are also very important! Even though these might be your “signature themes”, the next 5 impact how you use those strengths.

          My top 5 are Learner, Responsibility, Analytical, Input, and Achiever, which make me sound like a Type A goody two shoes know it all (…not disputing that). But #6 for me is Harmony, and I think number 9 or something is Relator. So, even though I care about getting things done and being right, I am also good at working with people individually and making sure that we’re all on the same page.

          1. Autumnheart*

            My 6-10 were Responsibility, Ideation, Futuristic, Activator and Maximizer. Still totally a strategy machine, which I embrace! I’d love to get into a more strategic line of work, really.

            1. Filosofickle*

              Ooh, you have Futurist and Activator! Activation should make you an especially good strategist. I get a little stuck in the frameworks and theory and don’t tend to care much what happens next.

              My title is literally Strategy Consultant so at least I’ve got that covered ;)

              I can’t find what mine are beyond top 5. My documentation only includes those. I’ll see if I can dig anything else up…it has been a bunch of years, though.

          1. Filosofickle*

            Me too!

            I used to be more of an INTP but it’s shifted over time; I have cultivated a practice of acting on feeling/empathy over my natural thinking instincts. It’s still a bit inconsistent (I’m close to the center on all 4 variables) but INFP is the most common.

        2. Tedious Cat*

          YMMV, but I really believe just because something’s further down on your list doesn’t necessarily mean you’re bad at it; it may just be that it’s not expressed as strongly compared to other traits.

          1. Filosofickle*

            Agreed! I have very strong skills in the more relationship / feeling realms. Just because they aren’t my top 5 doesn’t invalidate them.

    3. new kid*

      I liked Finding Your Own North Star for thinking about both work but also general life direction. Curious if you didn’t find What Color is Your Parachute helpful though? That would have been my first suggestion for what you’re describing.

      1. Windchime*

        I used to own this book and I loved it so much. I read it probably a dozen times. Thanks for the reminder; I should go find it!

    4. Lora*

      I’m really glad you asked this. I have a couple of colleagues who need these recommendations desperately (STEM is definitely not their forte), and I’ve been trying to find something to suggest to them.

    5. ninabee*

      I second the Strengths Finder one, quite illuminating (it’s paid but . Also relatedly the 16personalities.com test for further personality type insight.

    6. Even Steven*

      Oooh, oooh, oooh – I know I am late to the game, but maybe you will check back and see this. I got so, so, so much out of a little book called Career Match, by Shoya Zichy. The quiz at the beginning helps you define the kinds of environments where you flourish, the kind of structure you expect, and so much more. It really clarified my needs and preferences for me, and helped me really craft good getting-to-know-company-culture-and-processes in interviews, and feel really confident about accepting my current job. The updated edition is well worth getting – if you check it out, I hope it helps you as much as it did me.

  3. Middle Manager*

    I’m currently thinking of applying for a lateral move in my company. Until now, the only way you could be at my paygrade was to be a supervisor, but they are creating a few new positions at the paygrade now that aren’t supervisory. I’ve been at this paygrade as a supervisor for about two years now and I really don’t feel I’ve excelled at being anyone’s boss. There were some complications, but nothing that doesn’t happen all the time (supervising my former peers, including those who also interviewed for the position, some long standing unprofessionalism that had been let go by previous supervisors and needed to be addressed). But the end of the day, I was definitely happier as an individual contributor and I would say better at the job (although my boss is perfectly happy with me as a supervisor).

    My biggest concern is if it would be seen as a step back. Even if they are the same paygrade, at least in my setting supervisors are clearly seen as ranking above non-supervisors. And this new non-supervisory position is now going to be the highest you can go as an individual contributor. Given that I’m only in my early 30s, I’ll almost certainly want to move up at some point, and then I’m going to be able to need to supervisor again. I can give them a legitimate reason for wanting the lateral move other than not wanting to supervise, the subject matter the new position is focused on is a genuine area of interest to me, but still, I’m worried that I’ll be setting myself up with a reputation as “can’t hack being a supervisor” and seal my long term fate in my current company to never be promoted again. Any advice?

    1. Norm*

      Are you a reader? If so, read FIRST BREAK ALL THE RULES by Buckingham and any of the FIRST 90 DAYS books by Watkins. Before you decide “never again,” make sure supervising/managing is not something you want to get better at. If you had more success at it, you might enjoy it more.

      If you’re sure you don’t want to boss anybody, then make the lateral move into the sole-contributor role at your company. If that skill is something transferable, even if the people at your current employer are disappointed that you don’t want to supervise others, you can prepare to move to other companies where that skill has enough value for you to move up by changing jobs.

      1. TooTiredToThink*

        I’ve not read these books but I also fully agree that you should exhaust all thought processes before making the jump. I worked at a previous job where after someone decided they couldn’t be a supervisor anymore and wanted to step down that they made a wide announcement that they would no longer allow people to step down (i.e. you’d have to find a new company); I’ve also seen where if you step down you can’t step up again at that job.

        I say all of this because I had people around me saying I’d make a great manager but I just wanted to be an individual contributor; but now, a few years later, I realized they were right – that I would be a good manager – and now I’m trying to take on duties so that I’ll have the experience when its time to move on.

        Basically – I believe you when you say you don’t want to be a supervisor anymore; I just don’t want you to shoot yourself in the foot *at this company* if you change your mind a few years from now.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Is the new subject matter different enough that you could say “I wanted to move into teapots, and I felt like I needed to be an individual contributor for a while before I became a supervisor in that area,” or something along those lines?

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        I like that – it focuses the discussion on what you’d like to do versus what you don’t like to do, the latter of which could derail promotion opportunities at your current employer.

    3. Kiwiii*

      supervising takes a completely different skillset than other work. I think it would be fine to say “while i’ve enjoyed my time supervising and would be open and excited to do it again should the right opportunity arise, I’m really interested right now in pursuing This (optional because of X).” Then you just have to find an X that makes sense, if you want to include it.

    4. CL*

      I would recommend that you also look at whether you can advance from the lateral move at OTHER employers. Because while Teapot Twirler is the highest you can go as an individual/non-supervisor in your company, another company might have Teapot Twirler Trainer or Manager of Teapot Twirlers that would give you the chance to move up in salary and responsibility.

    5. Fikly*

      Why are you wedded to the idea of staying at your company if the only progression is being a supervisor, which you have identified as something you do not want to do? Are there other options for progression outside of your company?

    6. Mama Bear*

      Really depends on the company. Years ago I worked with a guy who had been there forever, made it clear he was not a manager and just kept doing his awesome work where he was happiest. We more recently had two people swap roles – one wanted to be out of management and one wanted in. Here no one cares. The former manager is an expert in his thing and still highly regarded. He just doesn’t approve anyone’s timesheet anymore. I’d discuss the optics with my boss before making the change, but if you’d ultimately be happier in that role and it’s new to your company, go for it. You didn’t have that option before.

    7. JSPA*

      Being recognized as higher-level individual contributor isn’t peanuts. You’ve nailed down “supervisory experience” for your CV, in case you need it later.

      You only get one life. And no guarantees about the economy, the longevity of your employer, or anything else. If you’re yearning to step back from supervising right here and right now, and it’s no financial pain, you might as well be happy.

      Regardless, don’t project your inner landscape outwards. You can be pretty sure that, unless you come in every day and yell, “so glad I don’t have to do supervisory shit anymore,” nobody but you needs to know that you actually kinda hated supervising. (It’ll also feel way more natural if you re-enter the supervisory path either after a break, or in a different company.)

  4. Ricky Rick*

    Hey guys, spin on an old question.

    I started a new job 3 weeks ago, and it was not what I was told it was. I’m a software engineer and I prefer to work in “back office” roles where I’m working on an internal product, and where I’m not fielding feature or support requests from the people outside the company. I know that’s what I’m good at, and I specifically ask about it at each stage of the interview process. This company said it was a back office role, but that was pretty much a lie; it’s more of an engineering support role where I handle lots of support requests from engineers at other companies who use our public APIs.

    I tried talking to my boss about it, but his response was basically “sometimes we all have to do things at work we don’t like.” So that’s a no go.

    Here’s the options, as I see them:

    * I am open to emailing my old boss and asking for that job back, but I don’t know that I’d be okay with working there for another 12+ months. I could always represent it as June 2018 – whenever I leave again, but that might not stand up to the scrutiny of a background check.
    * I could also just resign, send a “I am resigning today, thank you for this opportunity” note. I live pretty modestly and live in a city with a lot of software engineering jobs, so job hunting full-time isn’t a terrible idea.
    * I could job hunt while collecting a paycheck here. It seems dishonest and I’d rather not have a firing in my employment history, but they were also dishonest to me.

    What should I do? And how do I present it if I walk out? I was thinking of just directly saying that I was lied to, and specifically outline what I’m looking for, but I haven’t been on too many interview panels in the past and I don’t know how hiring managers, HR, or recruiters would take that.

    1. Picard*

      Its not a firing if you resign. And if there as many jobs as you report, you should be able to find something quickly and then just leave this job off your resume. I would collect a paycheck and ramp up my job search and get out of there as quickly as possible.

    2. Muriel Heslop*

      Is it dishonest to job hunt while working? If you were doing it on the clock, of course it is. But how is job hunting in the evenings dishonest? I don’t think it is. My advice is keep looking, keep doing your job, and make a change when you realize that you need to job hunt full time OR you get a new position.

      Good luck! It sounds like you are getting a raw deal.

      1. londonedit*

        In my experience it’s perfectly normal to job-hunt while still working somewhere! People don’t often resign and then look for a new job. Yes, there are some bosses who’ll take umbrage if they find out someone is looking for a new job, but it’s fairly easy to keep job-hunting to evenings and weekends and not mention anything at work. Everyone does the odd ‘doctor’s appointment that’s really a job interview’ thing, that’s just how it works.

      2. Ricky Rick*

        In my rush to get the original post out, I ended up being unclear by saying “job hunt while working.” I mean that I’d basically devote much of my time and energy to job hunting while working. The expectation here is that you work 11 hour days and eat lunch and dinner at your desk, so I’d be making tons of disappearances throughout the day for phone calls and face to face interviews. This’d definitely put me on the cut list with management so I’d be out of the job eventually.

        I’m trying not to let the bitterness show through, but I was lied to by multiple people about a part of the job that’s IMO critical. So while I don’t feel bad about it, I’m concerned about how it’ll look to colleagues and in the future. There’s plenty of jobs in my field and city where you can work on a completely internal product, and at the least the people asking about new features are the same people you see in the office and grab lunch with (say, an internal analysis tool for an insurance company).

        1. Parker*

          Gotcha. Man, your current job seems like a raw deal for a lot of reasons. If I thought I could pick up a new job within a month or two, I might just quit. Perhaps you could consult part-time with your old company for a paycheck in the mean time.

        2. Fortitude Jones*

          With this information, if you can swing it financially, you should quit and devote your days to looking for your next job. That’s ridiculous that those are your expected hours each day and the bait and switch they pulled on you to get you to accept in the first place.

        3. Brett*

          ‘This’d definitely put me on the cut list with management”
          You are working 11 hour days without real breaks. You are taking on tasks outside your job in the first few months.
          This all points to a serious serious staffing problem. They are not going to be interested in cutting anyone.

          1. Derjungerludendorff*

            And honestly, this job doesn’t really sound sustainable anyway.

            If you’re going to be out of a job soon either way, you should definitely start job hunting.
            Perhaps you can offload the pre-interviewing part to the weekends or something, but I would definitely take some time out of my workday to do interviews and such.

          2. ...*

            We fire people while being quite understaffed to the point it’s causing serious problems. If mgmt is mishandling one part of the job they might mishandle it all

        4. Observer*

          If you’re really expected to work 11 hours a day, it’s fine do job hunt while on the clock.

          Also, I agree with the others that say you’re not getting cut so fast. If you are as good as you say and the jobs in your area are as plentiful as you say, then you’ll probably find a job long before they are ready to cut.

          1. Consultant Catie*

            I agree. Them expecting you to work 11 hours a day is insane, so I think that gives you the leeway to take some liberty with how you spend your time there.

            However, if you’re uncomfortable job hunting while literally at work, you could also start pushing back on them and only working 8.5-9 hours a day, which would then give you time to job hunt off the clock. If you’re planning to leave anyway and not concerned with your reputation there, why put in the extra time?

            Good luck!

        5. Turtlewings*

          This job sounds miserable and presumptuous as well as being not what you were told. I don’t often think it’s wise to quit without a new job lined up, because you never know how things will really go, and I’m still hesitant to recommend it… but boy would it feel satisfying to just say “nope, you lied, I don’t want this job, I’m out.” I wish to goodness more people could afford to quit on the spot when a dealbreaker occurs, more bosses would actually make the connection between their behavior and their turnover!

        6. Anita Brayke*

          I’d recommend giving two weeks’ notice if you can stand it at at all; then you’ve done the decent thing which is good karma. Yes, I know they lied and were not decent to you, and I understand why you’re upset, but still…we don’t want to sink to “their standards,” as my mother would say.

        7. Notinstafamous*

          Are you in a high enough demand role you can outsource this to a recruiter? That’s what I did when I was looking – found someone who specialized in my industry, gave them my resume and my timeline and let them do the legwork of finding roles. You only have to step out for the actual interviews (“appointments”). Keep the pay check rolling for as long as possible, try to not get fired and land something new.

        8. wittyrepartee*

          Start the job hunt on the clock. Resign when you have a decent number of apps in or start to field interview requests.

          That’s awful. I’m sorry.

        9. JSPA*

          They misled you, despite intense attempts on your part to suss out the reality. You don’t owe them half as much as they want you to believe.

          in job hunting:

          Do not use their network.

          Do give the parts of the job that conform with what’s in you job description full care and attention.

          Do an honest minimum-and-a-bit of work on the aspects that violate both the job description and your “hard no’s.” (They told you that about 20% of the job was interactive, and it’s 90%? Spend at least 30% of the day on the interactive aspects.)

          Duck out exactly as much as needed, within those constraints, to job hunt.

          Do be honest, however, whether “back office” could have meant something different to them vs you. (Are the engineers elsewhere the “end users,” or are they an intermediate layer between your company and the true “end users”?)

          In an interview, don’t sound angry or sour about the job being “not as described” but do feel free to present it as fact. “Company A and I have a very different interpretation of what constitutes a ‘back office / engineering’ role. I excel in situations where someone else fields, collates, considers and passes judgement on necessary changes, and presents me with a list of improvements and features to incorporate. Handling front line support requests, including fielding support and feature requests from external engineers, are not my thing. Fielding [approx X number of] external requests daily, as I am now, uses 110% of my mental energy–it’s not sustainable. Ideally, I would never get an external phone request, and only rarely, an external email request. I believed I had made that clear at Company A, but either we failed to communicate, or their needs changed. I don’t blame them for having different needs, but I am committed to finding a role that allows me to excel by consistently and reliably allowing me to spend entire days working with [tools / code] to produce an agreed list of goals, and where my secondary duties involve internal meetings, not external support.”

      3. Kiwiii*

        I Always job hunt while employed, and usually only take about a week off between jobs. It might feel a little strange since you’re new-ish/presumably still learning the position and everything, but if you already know it’s a bad fit (bc they did a bait and switch!), I don’t think there’s anything dishonest about it. And tbh if you find a better fit in the next couple months, you could probably just leave this job off of the resume in the future.

    3. New Manager, Who dis?*

      Job hunting while working still is not dishonest and I am not sure why you think you would be fired for it. Its what i would do in your position, especially if i really didnt want to go back to my old company

      1. Ricky Rick*

        What I mean by “job hunting while I work” is basically just collecting a pay check. This job isn’t what I was told to do, and I specifically asked if it was client/general public facing, was told “no,” then found out that wasn’t the case. I’m not going to make a scene about it at work, but I’m unhappy that I was lied to.

        We also work ridiculous hours; 9-8 nonstop basically. So job hunting while working here would involve taking a 2 and a half hour lunch to pop out for an interview.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          ugh – well, ditch those hours for sure. They are in part a ploy to keep you from having time to look around for better work. If you’re willing to leave, then you really don’t care what your current bosses think.

        2. Natalie*

          11 hours a day? PASS. Given that you have a low cost of living and aren’t too worried about finding another job, I’d quit. Heck, you might even try filing for unemployment based on the job being misrepresented – worst thing that happens is they say no.

        3. New Manager, Who dis?*

          Oh, yea its hard to job hunt under those conditions. If you can financially handle a few months no pay then I would quit, especially if you hate it. Just apply heavy during your notice period, so hopefully you have interview lined up after your last day.

          1. Madame Tussaud*

            Yes, this for sure. Do as much as you possibly can during your notice period, and as much as you can leading up to it – start putting feelers out, looking online, calling old contacts, etc. Then once you start getting interviews set up you can put in your notice period and it won’t matter if you’re leaving throughout the day.

        4. Happy Lurker*

          I would absolutely job hunt while at work. I would give it a couple weeks to a month of job hunting and wait until I was either fed up with your employer or I find a new job. I wouldn’t go without a paycheck unless the position is crazy toxic. Once you are at toxic level and you feel comfortable money wise, I would run.
          Ten and eleven hour days is unreasonable compounded with the blatant lie regarding public facing position. I am seething for you.
          Good luck!

        5. JSPA*

          Other engineers, even if external, are not commonly considered the “general public.” So mentally, I think you need to leave room for them having used a different definition of that term, rather than a pure “bait and switch.” (It’s not like you’re dealing with “is the computer turned on” levels of PEBCAK.)

          Spelling out more precisely what your ideal day and your minimal tolerable day would look like, might serve you well, and you can probably get away with that, if your skills are in demand.

    4. samecoin*

      if you hate the job that much, and can afford to live while you search for a decent amount of time, quit now, don’t make yourself miserable if you do not have to

    5. Blob*

      Start job hunting again, and do not quit until you find another job. Please keep in mind that you need to be happy, or at least comfortable, in your new job. They will find someone else. When you quit, tell your boss that this is not the job that you were expecting, even though you are grateful that they gave you your chance, but that you won’t waste their or your time anymore, and that you are sure they will someone else.
      We need to stop feeling guilty about not being happy in our jobs! Your employer will find someone else, and you will find a more suitable job for yourself!

      1. designbot*

        +1
        And see if any of your legwork from the prior job hunt might be useful to you as a starting point. Was there anyone you turned down that seemed like a high quality option? Reach back out to them and let them know that your situation is unfortunately not working out and ask if they are still looking to fill the role.

    6. rayray*

      I’d suggest job hunting while collecting a paycheck, so long as the job isn’t truly miserable. It could be super risky to just quit with nothing lined up. I think too you can talk about it in future interviews just saying the job wasn’t what you had expected or been told it would be. Try to stay neutral though so you don’t come off as aggressively bad mouthing them. I think this happens to people a lot, and I’m sure they will understand.

    7. CoffeeForLife*

      A lot of people job hunt while employed; unless you are doing it AT WORK you shouldn’t be fired for cruising employment listings. Best of luck finding a position that aligns with your needs – make sure you ask all the probing questions during interviews to suss out the jobs that aren’t good fits!

    8. noahwynn*

      Personally, I would continue working and also look for a new job. It is not dishonest. You’ve expressed your desire not to do certain tasks during the interview process and you’ve mentioned it again to your manager. Sure we sometimes have to do things we’d rather not at work, but when the role evolves into you doing only the thing you hate there is zero wrong with moving on.

    9. ThatGirl*

      I think you’re being a bit black and white on this; you can definitely still job hunt while working there, though I would recommend trying to do the job to the best of your ability. If it’s a very short-term job you don’t have to put it on your resume, and it’s not dishonest to keep looking because the job you took wasn’t what you expected it to be.

      As for future interviews, if the current job does come up, you can just say “it turned out to be more engineering support than I was expecting,” no need to say you were lied to.

    10. Mama Bear*

      I agree with resuming the job hunt for something else. As long as you aren’t wasting company time on it, this is what most people do.

    11. rayray*

      One thing to remember also, because it seems you feel uneasy about job searching while employed-

      Just as much as an employer can decide if someone is a good fit for them, you also get to decide if the company is a good fit for you. If you messed up or were just a bad employee in general, they probably would consider firing you and maybe eventually let you go. You have just as much right on your end to make the choice to cut ties with them.

    12. Mama Bear*

      I agree to look for a job while keeping this one. If you are asked about it, you can simply say the role ended up being more customer facing than first represented and not what you were looking for. The world is small and I think that the less you try to throw them under the bus when interviewing the better. Remember that they are evaluating how you will work with their team, too, so you don’t want to immediately be seen as unfriendly and adversarial. When you get an offer in hand, give your 2 weeks’ notice. That’s pretty standard. I think it would look better than walking out/quitting on the spot, even though it’s only been a few weeks.

    13. Artemesia*

      I’d find a job while working there and then resign because the work was not what you signed on for. Drop it from your resume after you are re-established. I’d not resign and then search; even when things seem like they would be easy, stuff happens and it is harder to catch on somewhere else when you are unemployed. Obviously if you are so terrible at this new job that you are about to be fired, that would be different — so don’t be terrible — be good and then be gone.

      1. Ricky Rick*

        When I say “job hunting while employed,” I don’t mean the regular stepping out to your car or an empty meeting room to take a phone interview. I mean mentally checking out of the job and just having my butt in the seat so I don’t get fired for not showing up. We work crazy hours here, so I’d be taking a lot of suspicious long lunches and doctor appointments if I job hunt on the clock. I’d bet money that management is going to realize I’m not actually going for 3 doctors appointments a week (or even taking my grandpa to the doctor) and terminate me eventually.

        1. OperaArt*

          You’ve said this in several spots now. Yes, you’d have to take oddly long and/or frequent breaks, but why would you have to mentally check out of the job? You seem to be approaching this as all or nothing. Start job hunting, take time off when you need to, do your current job as well as you can when you’re actually there.

          1. Ricky Rick*

            I suppose it would be more accurate to say that I’m demoralized after the conversation with my boss where his response was “we all have to do things we don’t like at work.”

            1. Observer*

              Which has nothing to do with job hunting per se.

              Job hunt, but keep doing your job. Not for 11 hours a day, every day – that’s unsustainable. But most of the time.

            2. Jaydee*

              I mean, it sounds like you’re basically at the point where you’re not wanting to do the work anyway. So if you’re going to be physically present but not doing any work, yeah, you should at least fill that time productively by job searching. Because it won’t take long for deadlines to get missed or customers to complain and for you to be fired. So it’s better to have a head start on the job search in that case.

              But I would encourage you to rethink this. You’re the only one who stands to get hurt from this plan. Your employer is not going to learn from this. Your employer is not going to be hurt by this. And if they get to the point where they fire you, they’re not going to care a bit about how upset you were or how you were impacted by their bait and switch. They’ll just see you as a bad employee who slacked off at work and who they were justified in firing.

              A better plan is to still come to work and do your job. Don’t put in any extra effort. Maybe don’t even do your best work. But do an acceptable job 75% of the time and job search 25% of the time.

              You’ll also present better in interviews if you have the mindset of “This job turned out not to be what I expected in some ways that are a real dealbreaker for me, so I’m going to cut my losses and try to move on quickly to something better” instead of “My employer lied to me and I’m too demoralized to even do any work.”

              Now, your current employer won’t learn the error of their ways from you giving notice a few months from now either. But you’ll at least be able to smile in smug self-satisfaction knowing you were the bigger person in the situation. And you might empower some of your coworkers to do likewise.

            3. JSPA*

              That may be true. (It’s broadly true, sometimes.)

              If he’d made the case that this was an exceptional circumstance (which it could be, if you joined the day some major new product went live, and in which case, it does make sense to power through for a couple of months)…or if taking calls 15% if the time is throwing you off, to the point where you can’t do the 85% of actual engineering that you expected to do (in which case, you still need to leave, but it’s nobody’s fault that they didn’t grok the full extent of your aversion to distractions)…he might have a legit point.

              Unless you had said, prior to hiring, “I do not want and can not stand to get so much as one or two outside communications per day, as it breaks my concentration.”

              But deciding whether or not you were lied to; dealing with being demoralized; and deciding how and when to job search, are three, separable challenges. Divide and conquer.

        2. WellRed*

          You sound pretty checked out already to the point I’m worried it will affect your attitude at work. You know you don’t want the job and the hours suck. Don’t wait to be fired if you can afford to quit. Getting fired could hurt you; resigning with your head held high will not.

        3. Mockingjay*

          I’ve been in your situation – it’s the one time I job hopped after 4 months.

          You need to let go of your anger. Yeah, what they did sucks and it would piss anyone off. But a calm, rational mindset is needed for two things: 1) to thoroughly investigate new jobs so you don’t end up in the same situation. You won’t interview well if you’re seething with frustration. 2) to do the job you currently have to the best of your ability. You may hate it, but that job could end up on your references one day. And, they ARE paying you. So don’t burn the bridge.

          Leave an hour earlier each day. Build that time into your evening for job searching and resume work. Save the long lunch hours for actual interviews.

          1. wittyrepartee*

            And being that angry isn’t good for you. It’s work, you’ll leave soon, the anger isn’t serving you.

        4. wittyrepartee*

          So, I think the first thing you need to do is to start taking better care of your mental health. This job is clearly wearing on you, you should leave it ASAP, but while you’re still working there you should do medium quality work. You should do this partially because it’s a matter of self respect.

    14. OtterB*

      If you can afford to do it, and there are lots of jobs in your field around, I’d say go ahead and quit and just leave the job off your resume. Continuing to work to the best of your ability while also job hunting is one thing; clearly slacking off is another, and it seems to me it would be bad for your own attitude. If you leave it off your resume you won’t need to spin it to recruiters/hiring managers, but if for some reason you need to, I wouldn’t use the phrase “lied to,” as it makes you sound angry/bitter. Which you are, justifiably, but you don’t want to sound like it. I suggest instead saying that the job turned out to be much more customer-facing than you expected and didn’t use your strengths.

    15. macaroni*

      I’d do number 3 for some limited time, and then go to #2 if your finances can take it. Overall I recommend against staying in a job like this. I’ve been job hunting from a job that isn’t what I thought it was and as time goes on and on and on, my resume just gets gappier and gappier with the skills I want to be doing, which looks pretty terrible. I try to highlight how I’m “keeping up with the industry” but it’s now been two years since I did any work in it and it’s very frustrating. Don’t be me.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Bingo. The longer you’re not doing the work you want to be doing, the harder it will be to get back to it later.

    16. HowIMetYourFather*

      Wow, you sound like the kind of software engineer that we are looking for at my organization. Have you or would you ever consider working for a non-profit organization? We have an opening up on our career page right now! The work is exactly as you described, building and improving programs for internal company use (and we’d keep you busy for sure!). Let me know if you’d want to take a look, I’ll send you a link to our website.

    17. Heat's Kitchen*

      I didn’t read the other comments, but here’s my take.
      First, it’s going to be an extremely personal decision.

      – If you actually WANT to go back to your other company, you certainly could reach out to your old manager. A lot depends on why you left. And they might not take you back, you have to be prepared for that.
      – It isn’t dishonest to look for a new job while working. That’s what everyone does. Yes, ideally, you wouldn’t do it after three weeks, but sometimes bad fits happen.
      – I personally wouldn’t ever leave on my own without having another job lined up. I don’t think you’d get fired unless you actually suck at your job.
      – In the end, I think the question you need to ask yourself is if you can handle working there for the next period of time until you find something else. If the answer is “nope, i want to be done yesterday” then maybe job hunting is the right thing for you.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Some people are very fearful of ‘the man’ and big corporate.
        But what this company did was very dishonest! It’s a two-way street people.

      2. Lilysparrow*

        If you read the comment replies, OP is talking about using work time to job hunt *instead of working.*

    18. Engineer Girl*

      There are always parts of a job we don’t like. The difference is that there are substantial parts of the job that are different than advertised. You even asked about it! Do not ever feel guilty for leaving under these conditions.

      It is OK to job hunt while employed – just do it on your own time (don’t steal from the company).

      If future employers ask why you are leaving then tell them the truth “the job was substantially different than advertised. They advertised a development position and then put me in tech support.”
      They’ll get it.

    19. MissDisplaced*

      I’m sorry, but this company sucks! And ESPECIALLY given that you were hired only 3 weeks ago for what you thought was something very different. The management saying “sometimes we all have to do things at work we don’t like,” when confronted with your VERY LEGITIMATE concerns is basically saying they don’t give a crap they pulled a bait and switch.

      I would leave ASAP.
      Depending on your finances, I would leave without notice, but if you need the money to survive, work it out for a paycheck. You might also approach them with this concept: This job is not what I interviewed for and I do not intend to stay in it long-term. However, I will agree to work contract for X amount of time. I was able to do that one time, but it is a risk they may let you go.

    20. Not So NewReader*

      What to say when you do leave: “I asked repeatedly if this was a back office role and repeatedly I was reassured that it was. It turned out that the job is not a back office role, it’s not what was described to me and not the type of work that I excel at.”

      If they object or try to pooh-pooh you, just repeat, “The job turned out to be something very different than what was described to me on the interview.”
      Here instead of saying “I was lied to” you simply show how you were lied to. They can figure it out or not. Most likely they will bamboozle the next applicant also.

      1. Koala dreams*

        The advantage of this script is that you can weed out future employers that expect the same thing. If they know up front that you would rather quit than do this other work, they can save both you and them pointless 2nd interviews and negotiations.

    21. fhqwhgads*

      I would start with the third option, but if you’re well and truly miserable and can’t take it any more while you search, switch to the second. It’s not dishonest to work for them and continue looking if you’ve decided the job is not a good fit.
      The fourth option is to raise it with your manager: hey when I interviewed we’d discussed X, but this seems be a lot of Y, is there any way to get the Y off my plate so I can primarily do X like discussed? If they say yes and actually do it, problem solved. If not, well, no one should be shocked you’re looking elsewhere.

    22. voluptuousfire*

      Resigning without having anything lined up is OK. Sometimes you ‘re given a false bill of goods with a job.

      If you’re a software engineer, you will find something much more quickly than the average person. Definitely look into some decent local recruiters (go a boutique agency if you can) and see if they can hook you up with some contract work. Better to work at a few contract gigs and build up your resume vs. stagnating at a different company and potentially being booted out.

      1. North Wind*

        I’ve stayed in bad-fit jobs for long periods of time while deciding what to do next, and it really stalled me out and ground me down. So personally, I would give two weeks notice immediately (not for their sake, for your own reputation) and get out of there. 11 hour days don’t give you the time or energy to job hunt (even if you’re checked out, it’s a hassle). And it sounds like you have a bit of a financial cushion and your skill is in demand. The caveat is, I know some people have very little tolerance for any hint of financial risk, which is understandable (and often wise), so they may be more stressed by being jobless than by being in a bad job. The decision is really subjective. But if I could swing it at all, I would definitely give myself the luxury of focusing solely on finding a great job.

        As for future interviews, if you ever need to speak about this job, I would be open that it was a bad fit and why. I wouldn’t speak bitterly about it, but I would matter-of-factly explain the situation. It could lead to a good conversation and will underscore to your interviewer that you are serious about this aspect of your next job. This just happened to me…

        I freelance, and this week someone (“Ed”) got in touch with me on LinkedIn and asked if I would do some subcontract work for his client. I had the sense that it was not the right fit and mentioned it, but Ed said he thought it was and did I at least want to have a conversation. I said sure, I was open to learning more about it. He sent my resume to the client, and forwarded back to me some additional questions they had.

        From the questions, I again had the sense that this wasn’t a fit. I wrote back to Ed and very explicitly (and good-humoredly) laid out the differences between how I work and what his client seemed to be looking for. At this point I turned the opportunity down and said I would be happy to stay in touch with him, but this particular project was not the right fit.

        Well, he came back and asked me to at least have the call. Sigh. I haven’t been busy this week, there is always a chance that I don’t have the full picture from our emails, and a call isn’t committing to anything, so I agreed.

        The call ended up being with a panel of three people. As an interview, it went great. We had a lovely conversation about their project and my background. I definitely have the skills and experience needed. After nearly an hour, we got around to talking about the part that I thought wasn’t the right fit, and… IT WASN’T THE RIGHT FIT. lol.

        I told them that I had expressed concerns about this earlier and I think they were vaguely aware of that. One of the guys actually said we should have discussed that aspect first. They then started to talk about compromises (like, if a potential employer tried to get you to do support if it were only 50% of your job). I responded that I didn’t want to try to force this to work or down the line we would both be unhappy. They seemed surprised I said that, but thanked me for being so open. The conversation really opened up after that and they became very curious about how I *do* work and excited about the possibility of maybe working with me in the future – but for something other than this project.

        Ed would have been happy to push me through whether it was right or not. I still don’t think he understands why it wouldn’t work. He’s hyper-focused on being the supplier to his client, no matter what he supplies. But his client cares a great deal how it will pan out, and was definitely grateful to have this “fit” issue out in the open so they can make a good decision.

        Anyway whatever you decide, maybe consider leaving a review for the employer on Glassdoor about the bait and switch.

    23. Lilysparrow*

      Job hunting on the side and making no attempt to invest in work relationships or perform at a “rock star” level because your mental energy is elsewhere? Totally fine.

      Job hunting on the clock *instead of* doing work for the company that’s paying you? Not okay.

    24. CM*

      If you’re willing to quit, you have nothing to lose by trying to force the issue. If you end up having to leave, you can just leave this job off your resume when you job search (if you’re worried that they’ll say something mean about you should somebody call them).

      If this is truly unacceptable to you to the point that you’re going to leave, tell them that in a normal tone of voice. Go back and be like, “Hey, so I thought about what you said, and I’m not sure I conveyed how much of a deal-breaker this is for me.” Explain that your understanding had been that this wasn’t a customer-facing job and that you wouldn’t have taken the job if you knew that’s what it was going to be, and you want to get a sense of whether this is going to stay a big part of the role because, if it is, then, thanks but this didn’t work out.

      You don’t have to pretend to be glad about it, as long as you can stop yourself from seeming rageful about it. You can say something like, “To be honest, this is pretty frustrating, because I thought that we’d discussed this during the interview.”

      They might be willing to back down or they might not, but, like I said, if you’re willing to walk out already then you have nothing to lose.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        CM, if the OP goes this route, I would, in his or her place, explicitly cite the fact that they were TOLD in the interview ‘no’, while the reality is ‘yes’ about the part of the job they don’t like. They were misled, and would not have taken the job had they received the truth.

        The ball needs to be in the employer’s court.

  5. nhb*

    Ergonomics Question
    I have a lot of back and neck pain. I’ve been to physical therapy, been dry needled, take anti-inflammatories, take muscle relaxers…basically been through the gamut of options for muscle pain. Can anyone make any recommendations for ergonomic office solutions? I’ve heard the word a lot but I’m not really sure how it looks IRL. Specific recommendations or references would be extremely helpful to me. Thanks so much, AAM Community!

    1. Sharkie*

      A nice butt/ lower pack support pad works for me. I also have my screens on a little stand so I am looking straight ahead instead of down.

      1. SarahKay*

        The monitor stands can be surprisingly pricey for what they are. If your company won’t pay for them (they should – ergonomics is important!) and you don’t fancy paying for them yourself, a ream of paper (block of 500 sheets, which is the usual standard for office paper supplies to be sold in) is an excellent substitute. They’re cheap, sturdy, and unbreakable; you could even use two blocks if you really need lots of extra height.
        My company would pay for proper stands because it takes ergonomics (and thus, HSE) seriously but I used a block of paper temporarily, found it was the perfect height, and just never bothered to order a stand.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          Hardcover textbooks also work well for this, if you have some handy. I joke that I use precalculus every day in my job…

    2. Future Stay-at-Homesteader*

      My experience has mostly been with sciatica and lower-body issues, but I also have TMJ, which causes some neck/head stuff. My top recommendations are:
      1. Stretch as often as you can (you probably know this, thanks to the PT)
      2. Make sure your desk fits you. You want your feet resting comfortably on the floor (I am unusually short, so I use a footstool as well as a lumbar cushion that ensures I’m sitting forward in my chair but still supported).
      3. Make sure your monitors are at the correct level so you’re not straining/looking down at them.
      4. Get wristpads for you keyboard and mouse, and an ergonomic mouse. Having a vertical mouse can really help with wrist/elbow/arm pain.
      5. Set an reminder every half hour or hour or so to look up, stretch a bit, and recalibrate your posture.
      6. Google “office ergonomics” and check out Mayo’s guide for these things!

      1. nhb*

        I also have TMJ…forgot to add that to the list :)

        So when you say my desk fitting me, what does that mean specifically? I am actually reasonably tall for a female (5’9″). In my desk chair when I sit up straight, my feet are flat on the floor, and my elbows are bent at maybe a 100 degree angle with my forearms on the desk itself, where my keyboard and mouse are. My monitor is too low…and I only have one…so I can fix the monitor height, but I’m not sure what to look for as far as the desk itself.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Think about any classical pianist you’ve seen — that’s the seating & arm posture you want.
          Your forearms should actually be slightly above the desk — those “wrist rests” are about the right height, but if you lean on them you’re doing yourself a disservice.
          Swimming has been the best thing for ongoing “body maintenance” that I’ve found. Especially noodling around with the introductory synchronized swimming exercises I learned in a college PE class. Look up “feet-first sculling”, and scroll for the version where your arms are over your head.
          Is your company big enough to have a safety officer? My company actually has a contract with an ergonomics consultant come in , and it was eye-opening. I thought I knew where the monitors would be — and I was still too low. (I’m a hair under 5’8″ myself.)

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Oh and be very careful of where you put any reference materials — too low or way off to one side, and your neck is doing a lot of extra work.

      2. Duckles*

        I’m petite so always have the problem of desk is too high, so arms are at kind of a 70 degree angle, but if I make my chair any higher, there’s no room for my legs under my desk? Anyone solve this?

    3. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

      I’ve also had to go to PT for back of neck issues. I always try to make sure I’m always facing straight ahead while keeping my arms right down my sides for posture. For this, I keep my laptop on a platform. I’ve also been advised to keep a rolled up towel between by back and the chair around where my bra line would be. I still haven’t done this but I think I should as it would help.

      1. nhb*

        Thanks so much! Would the towel be horizontal or vertical? I’m guessing horizontal based on the bra line, but just want to make sure since I’m not entirely certain what that would resolve.

        1. International Holding, Unlimited*

          It helps prevent you from curving your spine back into the chair – you sit up straighter. If fussing with a loose towel is obnoxious, look for a ‘lumbar pillow’ that straps to your chair. I’ve been using one for a few months and it helps, although I keep mine a little lower – just at the bottom of my ribs.

          If you can get one (my last office wanted a doctor’s note before they would cough up), get a standing desk and a squishy floor pad to stand on. I had a major back injury a few years ago and the difference between standing and sitting for 8 hours a day was magical. Once I was out of my brace, I went back to mixed sitting/standing.

        2. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

          Yes – I agree with what International Holding says. It doesn’t matter which direction it’s facing as long is it closes that gap. It also doesn’t have to be a towel, but that was what my PT suggested since it’s more likely for people to own one.

          Another thing I would recommend – if you don’t feel too self-conscious using it at an office – is a theracane! (Google Image it). It helps you massage out knots on your back.

    4. noahwynn*

      Many workers comp insurance companies offer free or greatly reduced cost ergonomic consultants. Might be something to ask HR or whoever handles your works comp claims about.

      1. BeeGee*

        I definitely second the comments on making sure your desk and monitors are at a level so that you’re not constantly looking down at your screens. You can get a variety of different stands that can elevate the monitors so you can look eye level at them. I found out this is the reason I woke up one day with severe tightness in my neck/shoulder area!

        A desk chair with some sort of lower back support is a blessing as well, and if you can’t get a new chair, they have attachable lower back rests that are a good back up option.

        My last suggestion is also trying to add some sort of basic core workout into your routine, because boosting your core strength helps to keep you from slouching and strengthens your back muscles. (Note: if you have more severe/chronic pain, make sure you check with your doctor first and always start slow and work on proper form!)

    5. nhb*

      Thanks everyone! So for a little more detail: I have fibromyalgia and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. So while I can stretch some, I’m not supposed to stretch very often because of the EDS. I also have ADHD, so I often get very absorbed in my work and tune out everything else…until I suddenly look up from what I’m doing and realize I’ve been looking down, hunched over for 3 hours. I’m really grateful to hear about the placement of the monitor and the chair! I will ask for the ergo mouse and see how it goes :)

      1. BadWolf*

        Does you email or calendar program at work let you add alerts or reminders? Maybe add some to remind you to move?

      2. Anona*

        I’ve heard that fitbits buzz every so often to remind you to move. I’m not sure if you can program it to buzz at a certain interval, but that may be a solution if you want something to remind you to get moving while at your desk!

          1. Tort-ally HareBrained*

            You may find the reminder once a hour is enough. I often don’t stretch but walk to the bathroom or water fountain when mine buzzes.

        1. JustaTech*

          There’s also a device that you wear on your collar or shoulder that buzzes if you hunch over. My old safety officer wore one for a while to address some upper/mid back problems she was having.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          My boss sets her alarm on her cell to remind her to get up and move about. She too will become totally immersed in something and look up to find that hours have gone by.

      3. theoneoverthere*

        I am not sure if this would be something you cold given your conditions, but sometimes I do like 5-10 quick yoga moves. Enough to help me stretch my muscles and refresh my mind. I have an office so I can shut the door. In the past I have found a secluded spot in the building I worked in.

      4. Future Stay-at-Homesteader*

        Even if you don’t “stretch,” getting up and moving around a bit is a good idea. My husband also can get engrossed in work for hours at a time, so he sets timers (as mentioned above) to remind him to just stand up every once in a while.

      5. anonagain*

        Look up Lisa Howell from Perfect Form Physiotherapy on youtbe. Specifically episode 2: hypermobility hacks how to sit when you are hypermobile.

        My own PT taught me to give my neck /upperback stabilizers a break break by moving my head back and forth a bit when I start to tire. I’m not sure if the reasoning holds up, but it feels good. Moving a lot is the single most useful intervention for me. Both in the moment and as a broader life strategy.

        Even my really nice chair starts to hurt eventually. I change up where/how I’m sitting at home a ton. You won’t have as many options in the office, but experiment with doing what you can. I had one of those wobble cushion things that I put on my chair for a little bit and then took off the chair, so that’s two variations.

        The hyper focus thing is a problem and you just do what you can. With all of this. I find when I’m not absorbed in what I’m doing I fidget a lot. I tried to channel it into fidgeting that was nicer for my body — rocking back and forth when I am alone, rolling a ball under the desk with my foot, swinging my legs. (I have a rocking chair at home which is great for this.)

        Paul Ingraham’s writing at painscience.com has also been very useful to me. I find understanding more about pain very useful and his site helped me think about how I was trying and evaluating different pain management strategies. (That’s where I got the idea of using a wobble cushion to change my chair instead of putting it down and sitting on it forever.)

        Good luck. And, please come back and let us know what you found that works! I’m always looking for more things to try.

        1. nhb*

          That video was so great! Thank you for the recommendation. She had a lot of good tips on how to sit and help reduce the muscle stress.

      6. Paladin*

        I’m hypermobile and still struggling with all the aches and neck pains too…but I’ve found a sit-to-stand desk helpful to keep changing things up throughout the day.

        Could also be worth checking out The Trigger Point Handbook, and I really love my Supernova massage ball for rolling out those traps, also lacrosse balls. And regular massage if you can, heating pads/beanbags for the neck especially.

        1. nhb*

          I love the Trigger Point Handbook! Super helpful. I only have a cubicle, so I can’t really do any of the massage at work, although I can do minor stretching at my desk. I do have a heating pad at my desk. I can’t do regular massage, but I do need to ask about more dry needling.

      7. Seeking Second Childhood*

        If they’re willing to buy office equipment for you, look into a sit/stand desk. When I remember to stand it up it’s a good variation.

      8. Alexandra Lynch*

        Also fibro and ADHD. Set alarms to move, and definitely work in some low impact exercise, since you can’t stretch.
        I stretch formally twice a day and informally several times a day when my right hip gets tight. I have lordosis and if I don’t keep my hamstrings and deep hip flexors loose, I wind up with intense pain.

      9. Not So NewReader*

        I cannot say enough for regular hydration. Measure it out in the morning if that helps you keep regular amounts going into you daily. Not a cure all, by any means, but if you know you can knock out one or more annoying discomforts by doing this it might become worth the effort.

        I looove my track ball mouse. My wrists got messy there for a bit. I dragged out an old track ball I had and what a difference. At work I have a wireless regular mouse, that makes a difference also because I have greater flexibility in where I can put the mouse and in turn where I can put my arm. Anyway, with these two changes my wrist problem is a shadow of what it used to be and I thought I was heading for surgery.

      10. Q without U*

        I would also go for hours without remembering to take a break, but I found a solution that really works for me. There’s free software called “Workrave” that lets you set intervals for breaks – something pops up on the screen reminding you to take a break. I have mine set to take a 20 second mini-break every 8 minutes, and a 5 minute rest break every hour. You can also postpone the breaks if they come at a inconvenient time, but I try not to do that too often as it defeats the purpose.

      11. Nesprin*

        Honestly, if you have EDS, you have ergo needs which are not typical… This would be a good thing to talk over with your doctor or a physiotherapist instead of us ignorants on the internet.

      12. Cartographical*

        I really recommend one of those sculpted seat cushions with the tail bone cut out, especially if subluxations are an issue as with EDS. You might want to ask around about an appropriate one for your condition, of course. For me, one of those cushions made a huge difference to my neck/back pain even though it’s under my butt. I think of it like having a good foundation: if the pelvis is well-seated and the coccyx not compressed, it’s easier to maintain good posture all the way up.

        Some people also find a split keyboard can open up the shoulder girdle and reduce stress on the joints of the arm and hand. Good luck!

      13. Another Zebra*

        I am also EDS. I put a standing desk on my desk side table and alternated between sitting and standing – made a huge difference. I built my standing desk from a cheap IKEA end table with a keyboard shelf at the proper height, but you can ask if they will buy you one. I disagree with an earlier poster about keyboard height – your arms and wrists should make a straight line with hands slightly below elbows (I learned after permanent injury to both hands). I also suggest keeping ice packs, a heating pad and a TENS unit at work and take breaks every hour or so to stand, apply ice, heat or TENS if needed. Set a timer or get a Fitbit with an hourly reminder. And see if your company will do an ergonomic assessment. When I hurt my hands at work, my boss sent the environmental workplace officer and I got a new desk, a fantastic chair, and adaptive technology to keep me working.

    6. LadyTesla*

      You might want to try a standing or a tilted desk. Having my back be straight while working really helped me. You can get the desk adjusters for like $20 on Amazon that are basically a shelf. I also have seen people get foot stools or biking tools under the desk.

    7. BadWolf*

      Another desk jockey, no medical training.

      If you are on a laptop, I would suggest getting a docking station and full keyboard, monitor/s and a mouse. Don’t be crouched over a laptop all day.

      Where are your monitors? Make sure you’re not staring off the side — your main monitor should be in the middle. Make sure it’s at the right/recommended height.

      Where’s you keyboard and/or mouse? Bad placement of those could pull your shoulder which will pull on your neck. A couple years ago, I actually swapped to mousing left handed because my right shoulder/neck/etc was one big bundle of pain. Moving the load to my left hand for mousing really helped (I have some scoliosis issues, so still some right side issues, but this did help). It was a rough two weeks to transition, but now it’s totally natural (the brain is amazing).

      Are you able to access a sit/stand desk? Swapping between sitting and standing might help (I wouldn’t swap to 100% standing). We have desks that are motorized and have heights you can preprogram so you can set a “sit” and “stand” height for yourself and then it only takes a couple second to raise/lower your desk. But quality sit/stand desks can be pricey. There are some mods/DIY options out there.

      1. nhb*

        Thanks! I do have a laptop, but a docking station, monitor, mouse, and keyboard at my desk. This desk isn’t set up well, and I don’t have a keyboard tray. I need to face the entrance to my cubicle, so it’s a bit of an odd set up. But oddly, while I’m right-handed, my left shoulder and neck is where I’m the most painful.

        If anyone is considering dry-needling, but having hesitations, let me say that that was the most helpful thing for me. I would honestly get it every single day if they’d let me. I get a lot of muscle knots, and “crunchy” muscles, and I love deep-tissue massage (that’s the only kind I get because the other types I’ve had don’t really do anything for me). The dry-needling is like a deep-tissue massage for each muscle knot. It feels a little odd, but so good.

        1. Paladin*

          See if you can get a physiatrist who can do a trigger point injection – it’s like dry-needling except with a syringe. Ideally without the lidocane, since it’s the needle doing the work and not the drugs, but that can be harder to get someone to do. If you thought dry-needling was amazing (and I’ve done it too)… this is so much better.

          1. nhb*

            I’ve done injections before, of lidocaine and of cortisone (with lidocaine), but I have an adverse reaction to cortisone now (had WAY too much of it). The lidocaine helps, but I found dry needling to be much more helpful for me. I wonder why though, since it’s essentially the same thing…but dry needling me, the PT pistoned the needle in and out of the muscle knot, making it contract multiple times, whereas with the injections, they just do it once, and basically numb it for me.

            1. Paladin*

              Weird! I get allll the muscle twitches with the injections (no drugs), and not always with the dry needling. But glad it works for you! Unfortunately the only solution for me to really ever solve this is probably to get stronger, but that’s just so hard and so slow. Best of luck!

    8. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m not sure how your other conditions will appreciate it but my back/neck pain has been pretty much erased with my standing desk adaption. It’s one of the dohickies that lets you change positions. Sitting all day long is death on the skeletal system, we’re not built to do any one position for long periods of time.

      I also echo to talk to HR. They may have it through workers comp or another association they’re apart of. We’ve had access to the actual specialists before that can come in and measure your space and distances for you, then recommend the right equipment.

      1. nhb*

        I work for my state government, so we definitely do have a lot of wellness programs. However, my specific employer is rather tight with their purchases. I have a coworker who has had two back surgeries since she’s been here, and they denied her a new chair…she finally just bought a lumbar cushion herself. We don’t have anything like the consulting, although on the next employee survey, I will definitely recommend that! So in the meantime, I’m just trying to figure out what will help, and then I’ll ask my boss what (if anything) work will do to help, and then see what I can afford to get myself after I get her response.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Ew. That’s awful.

          I would suggest getting yourself a doctors note then. Press the fact that it’s going to turn into a work place related issue and will jack their workers comp up when your condition deterioration can be linked to your employer not accommodating your requirements.

          1. nhb*

            Ooh, thanks for that! Luckily my boss is great, so I know she will advocate for whatever I need. I guess I’m just trying to figure out what will be the greatest bang for the buck, so to speak, for relief.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              I hate asking for things, I had a whole “proposal” put together about why I should get a standing desk going into my bosses office. Needless to say I was over prepared, he just approved it pretty much instantly, lol.

              But yes, you can always push back when it’s a medical issue like this! It’s not “I want this fancy looking keyboard because it matches my eyes!” it’s “This will save my body and also your pocketbook”

              It’s like I could start working somewhere tomorrow, after 17 years of working towards carpel tunnel. And if I’m diagnosed while on their payroll, they get the workers comp claim hit. So it’s in their best interest to not make me beg and plead and act a mess to take care of my wrists, you know? Just something to keep in mind when requesting accommodations when it is in your healths best interest :)

    9. san junipero*

      I work with an amazing yoga teacher who specializes in working around injuries, chronic conditions, etc. as well as posture. I slipped two discs in 2010, and in less than a year I’ve gone from being unable to sit in a chair comfortably for more than 15 minutes to typing at my desk for three hours without a problem.

      One thing she frequently suggests is a soft posture corrector — basically a fabric/elastic brace that keeps your shoulders back and your neck straight. There are hard-back versions as well, but I think the softer versions are probably better, especially with fibromyalgia. It might hurt a little at first as your muscles get used to it, but you should feel a lot better with time.

      Also, I know you said you’ve tried everything, but I had also done basically everything for my back including physical therapy and this has been the only thing that’s gotten me from 75% healed to almost 100%. If you live somewhere there are likely to be specialized yoga instructors, give it a try.

      1. nhb*

        Thanks so much, that sounds amazing! What kind of specialization is it, though, that I should search for? “injury specialized yoga instructor near me” or something like that…?

        I am very willing to try new things! I just listed what I’d been through as some background so those things weren’t suggested, since I’ve already done them :)

    10. Mockingjay*

      There are furniture stores specializing in ergonomic furniture for office and home. Many of them offer fitting services in which they come into your office or home and determine best fits for chairs, desks, and table heights.

      I have no idea what these services cost (probably not cheap), but if you are in a long-term environment (home or office), it could be worth it. I had a coworker with severe back injuries who got a special ergonomic chair, and a technician came to the office to custom adjust the chair and her cubicle worksurface height. She said it gave her immense pain relief and helped her heal.

    11. YarnOwl*

      If you work for a large company or one with any kind of manufacturing or factory setting involved, you probably have a risk management team that include someone with industrial hygiene experience (which include ergonomics) and they’d probably do an adjustment for you. There’s also a chance that whatever broker handles your company’s commercial insurance has someone who can do that (I work for an insurance broker with a safety team and one of them did my ergonomics adjustment). Kind of a long shot but worth looking into! From what I understand, it’s kind of different for every person depending on your desk, chair, height, etc.

    12. Usually Lurks*

      The things that have helped me the most have been a fully articulated keyboard platform (has a heavy-duty swing arm that is attached to the underside of the desk), a copy stand that is directly in front of me (hangs over the edge of the desk between monitor and keyboard), and something called Contour Rollermouse. The Rollermouse takes some getting used to, but I’m a graphic designer and I’ve adapted and wouldn’t go back (I’m actually on my third one) . This all lets me keep my arms/hands in a neutral position in front of me. (my problems are in the neck/shoulder, and started when I was holding my arm out awkwardly to access my track ball.)

    13. Clever Name*

      Specific recommendations will be difficult to give without knowing more details of your body type (height, general size, torso length, leg length, arm length) and the current set up of your workstation. Is your company big enough to offer ergonomic evaluations? I have similar issues with back and neck pain, so I definitely feel you. My main issues are I am a small person with a very short torso. Most office furniture is simply too large for my frame. My current set up is a desk that is mounted one inch shorter than standard, a keyboard tray, and a chair that lowers enough so my feet rest on the floor, and the chair does not have arms. Oh, and I have ergonomic wrist pads for my keyboard and mouse. The chair having no arms has been key for me. Even chairs with arm rests that adjust are just too tall for my frame, and I end up hunching my shoulders to put my arms on the arm rest. I also switch mousing hands, which I realize not everyone can do. It really only took a couple of hours to get used to it the first time I did it.

    14. Fikly*

      It’s going to depend on your specific frame and orthopedic issues. I would honestly meet with and get evaluated by an OT and get them to recommend something specific to you.

    15. Lobsterp0t*

      So the one thing I wonder, assuming you do all the PT and do some sort of exercise outside of work, is whether you’ve been to the doctor about it again?

      This is a bit left field but I know two people who described similar complaints and finally ended up diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis!

      Making sure that you exercise and do some gentle stretching is really important though. I have noticed small changes make the most difference – I pause and do a quick check in to relax my neck, shoulders, tongue, and also do some work on paper or a standing white board instead of my computer. My wife likes a standing desk, as well. And my friend with a hamstring injury liked her kneeling chair (though I’m not sure she can use it now that it’s been officially diagnosed).

    16. only acting normal*

      A lot of recs for lumbar support and sitting up straight (which are absolutely the correct solution for most lower back problems), but you mention your neck and left shoulder.
      If you have upper back problems, then a properly supported reclined position *might* be better for you (it’s so you use your chest muscles to support the weight of your head, taking the strain off your neck and upper back).
      Get physiotherapist advice about your specific issue, not just generic “sit like this at a desk” advice, because it may need adapting for you.

  6. NYC Nonprofit*

    Project management people out there – what systems / tools have you found effective at keeping organized? Especially for those that have a lot of different conflicting tasks.

    I’m in a role where I’m sort of an informal project manager. I provide executive support, manage ad hoc projects, but also coordinate with team members at different levels to manage contracts at different lifecycle stages. I grew into this role so I don’t have access to any of the formal tools or trainings out there – would love to know what everyone else is doing!

    1. nhb*

      I’m not a project manager, but I do have a number of projects to keep up with at any time. I use spreadsheets and physical files with brightly-colored sticky notes on them to keep up with my tasks. A coworker of mine used a white board and had all of her projects listed, and would put the latest update on the project so she could easily see where any of them was at any time. I hope this helps!

      1. Ree*

        Seconding the white board to list all the projects, with a short detail of what they are and a contact(internal and external, if applicable)

    2. RavenclawShorts*

      Microsoft Project is helpful but complicated. Once you get the hang of it though it is a very helpful tool.

      1. peg*

        Trello, seconded.
        If you’re a more physical/visual person (like you prefer a paper notebook over Evernote), you can draw a kanban board on a white board and put your tasks on colored post-its! I can’t work that way to manage my complex projects themselves, but sometimes a physical board helps me wrap my brain around higher level project planning. Am going to follow this comment up with a link which’ll probably go to moderation but hopefully will show up soon.

    3. Future Stay-at-Homesteader*

      We use Basecamp at work, and the people who use it most intensively really love it. I’m on the fence (more of a spreadsheets-upon-spreadsheets kinda girl), but I also don’t have as much to keep organized. It’s definitely intuitive, though, and offers a lot of options and syncs across a lot of platforms.

      1. peg*

        yeah i wouldn’t recommend JIRA or Azure for someone who provides executive support and manages contracts. I use them at work as an agile PM but it’s kind of dependent on our whole team using them. She’s looking more to organize herself, sounds like. :)

      1. Tomato Anonymato*

        I am using Asana too. Once I figured out it doesn’t have to email me about each task which I dislike, and that I can highlight and move a deadline for a whole group of tasks with one click

    4. Kimmybear*

      The one other people will use. Seriously. If it’s for your personal use then see what works for you: MS Projext, Planner, Trevor, Excel templates, DevOps. If you need people above to get reports and updates or people below to provide updates, fit the tool to them. If no one else will use it, it’s not the right tool

    5. Ali A*

      Also an “informal PM” here – and Trello is my go-to. I also use a paid version of Boomerang for Gmail which bounces emails back up to my inbox at a time of my choosing, or if I don’t receive a reply in X days, and let’s me preschedule emails and follow-emails. Couldn’t live without it!

    6. ChemMoose*

      We use Smartsheet mostly at my work. It’s nice because you can access it from anywhere and link between projects. It’s not as powerful as MS Project but it works on all operating systems. In addition, we use Confluence to host our meeting minutes – it’s a decent wiki but can be really confusing and it’s not a great searchable platform. Otherwise it’s all gsuite. In addition, I use a hard-copy planner that is color coded in which types of meetings etc. where I can also take notes and list to do items.

      Finally, I use Timeular to track time on various projects so that I can log my hours for PMI certification, allocate my paycheck appropriately between projects, and also check to see if I’m spending too much time/ too little time on the various projects.

      1. peg*

        Love Smartsheet!! Couldn’t live without it honestly. If I had to go back to using MS Project I’d lose my mind – Smartsheet is everything I need!

        Confluence stinks. I had to use it for 4 years and we finally abandoned it. Good riddance!!

        1. ChemMoose*

          Confluence is a monstrocity really. But if I know where I’m going, I can usually find what I am looking for. It’s easy to link pages together and JIRA tickets too.

          I’m starting a class on MS project today, so hopefully I’ll become a master of the program in a few weeks! The instructor references mpug.com as a great learning site… we’ll see. There is a membership required – $129/year I think. Discounts for students. Free one week trial.

      2. HowIMetYourFather*

        Smartsheet is my go-to as well! Simple to learn and extremely helpful. Plus you can give others access to your spreadsheets without them requiring paid accounts. I’ve found it super useful for everyone to reference, but allow me to be the only one to edit.

    7. Nott the Brave*

      We use Monday.com! It’s got a lot of neat little features that come in handy, and is flexible enough to manage a lot of different types of workflows.

  7. ICantWrite*

    I have a small (not profitable) business – I make jewelry/silversmith.  I know I struggle with branding and content delivery because I don’t think I have an authentic voice/pov when describing my products.  It’s all fear based (what if I sound stupid? maybe I’m not good enough) and I have a difficult time “selling myself.” I can champion other people but I feel like such an impostor.  

    I have a website and I KNOW the product descriptions are all over the place.  Some are factual – size, material, price.  Some are story based, some have bullet points, some don’t. I’d like to use a writer to help me develop my message and give me a template for writing future product descriptions.

    How do I go about doing this?  What do I look for when web searching (freelancing website? what do I look for in the person I hire?) Can anyone give me a general estimate on what I would spend – I don’t want to waste someone’s time if it’s more than I can afford.  If it’s completely out of my reach then I can muddle through but I was hoping you all could give me a starting point.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I agree that you need a copywriter, the good news is, there are plenty of freelance copywriters out there. I would look around and maybe get a few quotes, rates are going to vary, but a copywriter worth their salt should be able to look at your existing site and give you an hourly rate and estimate of how much time it would take.

    2. Looks Like Tomatoes*

      I’m in a similar position– in addition to the copywriter suggestion, can anyone recommend some examples of websites like this done well?

    3. k8isgreat*

      Hi,

      Hope this is appropriate, but I would be interested in working on this project with you. I’ve done some freelance writing in the past, and while I do work a full time day job, I am looking for something to keep me busy in the evenings and make a little extra money. I could take a look at your website and we could talk about your budget. I think this would mostly involve deciding on a format and then updating everything to match that one format. It would really depend on if you want to spend more time (you do the work after the format is decided) or money (I would do the work after the format is decided)? Anyway, if you’re interested email me at 2k8thompson at gmail dot com

    4. Oh No She Di'int*

      You have already correctly identified both your problem and the appropriate remedy: hiring a copywriter.

      In terms of what to look for, I would go about it this way: Scan the web for writing that is in your general area (jewelry/arts/etc.). There will be loads of articles written by freelance writers with an affinity for the subject matter. Start there. Contact those people and ask if they take freelance assignment and if so, do they have a portfolio of writing that you can look at. If not, do they know someone who does take such assignments? I strongly recommend referral as the safest way to find a freelancer.

      At the same time, you might also contact your local writer’s club or writer’s group. Nearly every medium-to-large size city has one. Again, ask around for who takes freelance assignments in your subject matter.

      When reviewing writing or portfolios I would look for someone whose voice sounds like the one you want on your website. I cannot stress that enough. It is a common mistake to think: “Ah, this writer seems competent at writing in style X. I’m sure they could be convinced to write in style Y!” No! Good writers have voices; do not assume that they are interchangeable. Find someone for whom it would not be a stretch to achieve the style and voice you need.

      If at all possible, I’d also screen for subject matter familiarity. This is more to save your own sanity. If you get someone who already knows something about jewelry, you will save endless hours explaining why they can’t say that such-and-such a setting goes with such-and-such gem, or what have you.

      Finally with regard to price, I mean, generally you do get what you pay for. You can find someone you will charge you as little as 5 cents per word. But that person will likely not give you the product that someone who charges $1 per word would give you. If I have to guess, I’d say you should aim for someone in the 10 to 20 cents per word range. Someone else may have a better grasp on that than I do.

      But overall I would say this: I urge you to think of it as an investment in your business. You ask whether you can afford to hire a writer. From what you’ve said here, the better question might be: can you afford not to?

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You know who to look for now with the other comments.

      My only advice is to get quotes and look at your local options. Don’t feel like you’re wasting someone’s time by asking them if it’s a project they are interested in, this is standard practice when hiring any kind of contractor to help you out. It’s business! If it’s not something they can do for a price that you’re able to pay, then you shake hands and part ways. If anyone acts like you’re wasting their time, do not hire them, ever.

    6. ContentWrangler*

      My first job out of college was writing product descriptions for an e-commerce website. I was paid about $15 an hour, worked 8 hour days, and typically completed about 20 product descriptions a day. The descriptions had set stats in bullet points and then a 100 word max description/marketing language (why is this work boot better than all the other work boots). Edits or multiple drafts rarely happened – usually only if a factual inaccuracy was discovered.

      It sounds like this layout could fit your descriptions well. Put the facts up front in simple bullets (people want to be able to skim the size and price) and then take your story based descriptions, create a consistent voice and tone, and highlight the unique aspects of your designs.

      I found the job advertised on Indeed, had a brief phone interview, and completed a single product description as a writing sample. They required me to be in office, but for your job, remote work will give you a lot more flexibility in writers.

      Jewelry/Silversmith sounds a lot more interesting than some of the products I wrote about. It’s definitely a job posting I would notice and be interested in.

      1. Al*

        +1 to this format of product description! It’s the best of both worlds – combining relevant facts with more engaging descriptions. And your copywriter can create a basic template for it so there is consistency amongst your listings.

    7. littlelizard*

      Hire a copywriter! I freelance sometimes, and lots of people are looking for exactly this: website content, product descriptions, other branding stuff. How much it will cost will depend on what exactly you’re looking for (do you want someone to write a bunch of website content for you once, do you want someone who will update your brand awareness channels, are you often needing new product descriptions?). If you do choose to muddle through, consistency can be pretty important. At the very least, decide whether or not you’re using bullet points (I would lean toward not).

    8. Kiwiii*

      I wonder if figuring out where you’d like to come from isn’t first necessary. If you don’t have an authentic voice yourself, what about the people you envision buying your jewelry? What would they want to see when thinking about buying something (likely a combination of the factual and story-based descriptions). Addiontally, it might be worth it to find similar brands and see what their product descriptions are like. Are the really descriptive? only factual? very story-based? somewhere in between?

      A copywriter is a good option, and prices will super vary, but if you don’t know how you’d like to market it, you might just get more of the same confusion from them.

    9. TooTiredToThink*

      I’m a bit into jewelry making and I LOVE checking out what artisans do. But as much of a wordsmith that I am; I always notice the photos first. So first of all, I hope your photos are good. The tone of the photos should match the tone of your jewelry (like if it is fantasy/fantastical based, the pictures should be dreamy/if they are classical pieces – then the pictures should be no-nonsense, etc…). Also, please make sure you are on Facebook and Instagram.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      I think other people have covered what to do very well.
      I just wanted to comment about authentic voice. I have often thought that it’s a cruel irony that we have to sound convinced about ourselves when we actually aren’t so sure.
      My suggestion is to quote your customers and quote your friends. Yes, borrow someone else’s voice until you find your own. So perhaps the easiest point to jump in would be quoting a friend who told you that you were great with color or you have such creative ideas. Then you can move to what your buyers are telling you. “I bought from you because I knew I could get something that was unique, not a copy of what someone else was also wearing.”

      I hope you chuckle. I had one friend who actually asked me for comments. I said that I would be very happy to do that for her. She divided my comments up so it looked like she was quoting more than one person. I did not have a problem with this because she was actually doing the work she said she did in her ad. It wasn’t until I saw her do that, that I realized that a person could separate out comments and use the sentences individually.

    11. ...*

      That’s awesome!! I’m trying my hand at some jewelry creation as well and I’ve done jewelry and accessories copywriting as well. I would totally want to work with you but it would violate my current non Compete LOL! I think this is an easy fix though by hiring a remote freelance copywriter or even just brushing up on a few copywriting classes online. I never get why people need to hire copywriters because I’m like well just write a good description with appropriate brand voice that takes no time at all which is probably how people who actually understand things like math feel about me….. it’s not everybody’s forte and that’s sooo totally ok!

    12. Laura H.*

      I’d also add look at company websites that do jewelry too- they’re usually uniform and include pertinent info but also have descriptions.

      I work seasonally for a jewelry store and have never been unable to find what I was looking for on their website, on or off-season. That comes in handy.

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

      When you hire a copywriter, they will probably want a list of keywords to use, since that is a big part of making your product searchable online. Pay attention to making the “voice” of your written descriptions match the style of the photos and the jewelry — for example, if the pieces are boho, the photo should be styled that way with props or background, and the description should use keywords like boho, bohemian, eclectic, hippie…

  8. Anon for this*

    Part of my job is to review documents and reports submitted by other people in my department.  I recently discovered an error in one of these documents that resulted in a minor regulatory violation.  The managers in my department, as well as our branch VP, believe there’s a loophole in the wording of the regulation that would allow us to justify saying that it’s not a violation.  I believe it was a violation of the intent of the regulation, but I’m not a lawyer, so I told my manager I would defer to the legal department’s interpretation.

    Our branch’s legal department looked at the regulation and said (by email) that we did, indeed, violate the regulation and are therefore required to report it to the regulatory agency.  The managers did not like that decision, so they went to the corporate legal department.

    My manager told me verbally that the corporate legal department said we did not violate the regulation.  I asked him to forward their justification to me so I could file it with the document, and he said that they just said this verbally, over the phone.  I asked for the name of the person he talked to so I could get in touch with him or her, and he said he didn’t know because it was another manager who actually talked to the corporate legal department.  The other manager didn’t remember the name of the person but said that they expected us (i.e., me) to write up the justification for the file, as they were just doing us a favor by giving us a second opinion.  He said the branch VP agreed and would stand behind the justification for it not being a violation.  I kept asking for something in writing and my manager finally sent me the investigation of the error, but that was just about how and why the error occurred and had no information about whether or not it was a regulatory violation.

    I am being pressured to write up a justification for not considering this a violation, but nobody will give me anything in writing.  The only thing I have in writing is the email from the branch’s legal department saying that it was a violation.  I don’t want to be paranoid, but I feel like I am being set up to take the fall if the regulatory agency finds out about it and calls it a violation.  I’m puzzled about why management is so desperate to avoid reporting the violation, because it is a very minor violation, not something that we are likely to get fined or penalized for if we report it voluntarily.  It would be much, much worse to get caught covering up a violation.  I could literally go to jail for that.  But I also fear it would be career suicide to report the violation after management, all the way up to the branch VP, told me not to.  Likewise, if I were to report the situation to, say, the company ethics hotline or the ombudsman, it would be pretty obvious it was me, so that could also have bad consequences for my relationship with management.  How do I get out of this without going to jail or torpedoing my career?

    1. Picard*

      Nope. Don’t do it. Reach back out to branch legal folks, say youve been told that corporate legal doesnt agree with their interpretation and can they please review and get back to you.

      1. Ama*

        I like this solution. You can even say you aren’t sure who in corporate legal said this because you are only being told this secondhand. That way if they come back and say “well we’d need to know who said it in order to confirm” you can forward that to your manager, and if they say “well if corporate legal said it is fine, it’s probably fine” SAVE THAT EMAIL just in case this all falls apart later.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          I like this too. And provide your reasonings as you did here.
          >It’s a minor violation.
          >It is unlikely to cause a fine or penalty if reported willingly
          >It would be much worse to not report the violation or try to get out of reporting it

      2. Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.*

        “Reach back out to branch legal folks, say youve been told that corporate legal doesnt agree with their interpretation and can they please review and get back to you.”

        As a Legal Type Person, I agree with this 100%. Throw the fight their way and have them sort out – they need to be communicating with each other.

      3. PennyLane*

        Maybe another option is to write up the justification and tell your manager that you’d like him to sign it since you have not been told this directly by legal and they cannot provide you a contact to confirm this. If he isn’t willing to sign it, I’d let him know you’re just as unwilling to file it without a manager signing off on it as it could come back to hurt you if it ever is found as a violation. And don’t let him fall back on telling you he’d cover you if that happened; you can’t guarantee he’d be around at that point (or that he really would protect you, but I wouldn’t mention that).
        Disclaimer: I have no legal experience

        1. valentine*

          write up the justification
          No. This plays into the setup. Anon for this should not make any moves toward breaking the law. What’s going to help is documentation (either way, though it’s obvious TPTB only have it the one way) from legal.

      4. Lilysparrow*

        Yes, this is a good approach.

        I believe you are 100 percent correct about being set up to take the fall.

        Management probably doesn’t *intend* to set you up, because they are so busy denying everything and pretending it’s fine. But this story about the anonymous legal opinion from corporate, where nobody can remember who they talked to on the phone, reeks to high heaven. Super-super shady.

        If this is the way management operates, they are going to screw up something really serious sooner or later, and there’s going to be some kind of regulatory audit. And even if this particular violation doesn’t get caught, the next one will – and then it’s all going to wind up in your lap.

        I have had situations with bosses who liked to get all hand-wavey with the rules because “it’s going to be fine.” And on occasion, I have had to tell them, “Yes, it’s going to be fine for *you.* I’ll be the one going to jail. So I need to make sure this gets done right.”

        FWIW, that has always worked to make them back off and let me do my job properly.

      5. Free Meerkats*

        I write and enforce regulations that affect major corporations (you’ve likely flown on their airplanes and eaten the food they make) and am subject to a different layer of state and federal regulations myself. In short, I can send people to jail and be sent to jail for violations, not to mention fines that can range into millions of dollars – either way.

        You’ve received direct advice from your legal team and have second-hand information that a different set of lawyers disagrees. You need to take this directly to your local legal team and let them know what you’ve been told, then follow their advice; I expect they’ll be in contact with corporate legal before you’ve hung up the phone.

        And a bit of advice from a regulator; if you report a possible violation that turns out to not be a violation, you’re in the clear. If you don’t report a possible violation that turns out to be a violation, and I find out, you’re in for a world of trouble. If it were one of the places I regulate that did this, at a minimum I would impose a 5 figure fine for failure to report a violation you knew about. Then I’m going to come in and do a full, in-depth inspection and audit of all your records to see what else I can uncover. But before I scheduled the inspection, I’d contact Region 10 EPA criminal division and they’d get involved. I’ve done this with a company that wasn’t reporting violations they knew about; the owner spent time in the federal pen and they are out of business.

        As should be playing out soon, and Nixon and Clinton discovered, it’s not the violation, it’s the cover-up. To protect yourself personally, you need to document the Hell out of your actions. and store that documentation off-site.

        1. Kat in VA*

          My company is the same way with regard to reporting/non-reporting but with ITAR/EXIM violations.

          If you even think something is an ITAR violation, you best get on the horn/over email with Compliance or the FSO (or both) pronto. We’ve all had ITAR training, and we’re taught that when in doubt, ask.

          If it turns out that it is an ITAR violation and you didn’t report it…guess whose name goes on the DHS investigation?

    2. nhb*

      Can you make it clear that you cannot file a justification when the information you’ve received in writing is that it is in fact a violation? Or recommend that since the corporate legal department doesn’t seem to be able to provide you with something in writing, that perhaps you should submit the information to the regulatory agency and have them decide?

      I agree…feels like you’re being set-up. I’d push back on this, but I don’t know your full situation. Will any of the supervisors/VP put it in writing for you? That way then at least you can show that you were going off what they said vs. deciding it on your own.

    3. Urban Coyote*

      You say this, “Why are you desperately avoiding reporting the violation, because it is a very minor violation, not something that we are likely to get fined or penalized for if we report it voluntarily. It would be much, much worse to get caught covering up a violation. Why are you ok with me possibly going to jail over this?”

      If their answer isn’t “We care about you. We will fix this.” Then you move to leave. Their risk management meter is broken while yours is working fine. THis will not be the first or last time this happens.

      You can write your own memo documenting their avoidance and omission, re-ask your manager for the verbal instruction they believe they received from legal and then ask them to sign it. If they don’t sign in, for inclusion into the file, then write, “Manager FIRST and LAST NAME refused to sign in” and file it.

      Then go to legal and let them know what transpired and what you did, documenting it all the way.

      DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. That is all.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        No, you really can’t ask your management ‘why are you avoiding this?’ about regulatory violations. You really have to stay focused on ‘I need written documentation.’

        Anon, you’re doing the right thing, just keep on it. Picard’s advice is best – document ‘My manager told me he’d been told that corp legal said it wasn’t a violation, but couldn’t give me the name of the person who said it since it was second hand.’ and maybe ‘Could you check with corp legal to see if they’ve got a different take?’

        1. Urban Coyote*

          “” No, you really can’t ask your management ‘why are you avoiding this?’ about regulatory violations. You really have to stay focused on ‘I need written documentation.’””

          Why can’t you ask them? They’re humans, not gods. They can be confronted with their own mistakes. Why are they avoiding this? Make them own up to their preference for risk WHILE re-iterating written documentation as a requirement. Anon might find out that they’re avoiding it for a reason that is a pervasive issue affecting other parts of the organization. Or they’re just lazy and don’t think it’s a big deal.

          Stand up and be heard, all the way to the back row. Be the squeaky wheel before the carriage your attached to rolls off the hill.

          1. Yorick*

            You just can’t tell your boss what to do and make them explain themselves, as though they’re a subordinate.

            1. Anon for this*

              Yes, exactly this… I could raise a big stink about this in a lot of different ways, but I specifically want to resolve it without being (or coming across as) a troublemaker.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              I can if my boss says it’s okay for me to face jail time. Gloves off. Ask politely once or twice then go with, “I am unwilling to go to jail over this so what are the next steps here to make this right?”

              I found a question that did work sometimes. “This really isn’t that bad. All we need to do is A and B then it’s fixed. And NO ONE gets in trouble with government. What would you like me to do here?”
              Or I have gone with, “I am not going to sign this as is. I can’t. Do you want to sign it?
              No job is worth going to jail for and no boss is going to force me to give up my personal freedom.

          2. QCI*

            The way you phrased sounds very confrontational. Instead, just flatly say “I refuse to sign off/ send this in without written justification from legal/management”

            1. Derjungerludendorff*

              Or perhaps lay out the potential personal consequences for your managers: “We have no written guarantee from corporate legal that this isn’t a violation, and a written statement from our branch legal that it IS a violation.
              If the regulatory agency finds out and decides that it is a violation, then it looks like we faked approval from corporate legal to cover up a violation, which could at worst land us all in jail.

              If I have a written justification from corporate legal, then they will be held responsible instead as a faulty interpretation of the rules, which seems much less risky to the company and us personally.”

    4. Norm*

      If you’re looking for options, here’s another one: Send an email to yourself documenting the conversation, including the phrase “My manager told me verbally that the corporate legal department said we did not violate the regulation” and name that manager, and include other details that fix the conversation in context.

      This is kind of middle ground that might or might not work. It will depend on how things develop, It’s certainly possible that the branch VP has this right and you can rely on his good-faith assurance that you’re on solid ground. Documenting the conversation could be useful later if someone accuses you of covering up.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        With regulatory violations where one legal team has given a clear (hopefully written) opinion, this is not enough of a response. You really have to go back to branch legal, making it clear that your manager has gotten a different opinion elsewhere, and ask if branch legal can go up the chain to clarify this for you in writing.

        Branch legal needs to know that there’s resistance.

        1. LadyByTheLake*

          As an in-house banking attorney, I completely agree with this. It looks like someone went forum shopping, and when that happens and someone claims that another attorney gave a different opinion, it is almost always because different facts were presented. Go back to your branch legal, tell them that your manager said that they got a different opinion from corporate legal but couldn’t provide details, and let branch legal handle it.

          1. Anon for this*

            Yeah, that’s my suspicion — if someone actually talked to corporate legal (which I’m still not completely sure is true), maybe they didn’t give the full story and phrased it in such a way to make it easy to agree that it wasn’t a violation… “The regulation says X and we did Y, but since the regulation doesn’t explicitly say Z, we’re still good, right?” And maybe corporate legal said, “Yeah, that sounds right, but we’d need to know more if we’re making the decision,” and the manager who talked to them just heard, “Yeah…” and rolled with it.

      2. Consultant Catie*

        Could you also document your conversations with your managers and local legal branch in a follow-up email after you hang up? I do that occasionally anyway after conversations and meetings to keep everyone on the same page, so I think it would still seem ordinary to your managers. It would also hint to your management that you know something is shady and you’re taking steps to make sure you’re not liable. Something simple like, “Just wanted to summarize what we discussed on the phone today at 2pm. You have talked to [corporate legal, local legal, etc.], who said _____. My next steps are to confirm with local legal and then ____. If you have any questions, please let me know.”

    5. AnonAnon*

      I hear you. I work and have worked in this kind of environment for almost 15 years and have had to talk to a regulatory agency and justify things that were done. Your red flag radar is correct.
      I would go to the Ombudsman or Ethics Office. I had to do that once for something at work and I was terrified I would be found out. They were very professional and the situation was taken care of. Do you have any kind of anti-retaliation policy at work? If so, you would be protected.
      In the mean time, document the heck out of this and keep pursuing legal maybe on your own. And in the meantime say your manger you can not ethically write this up without the (accurate) information from corporate legal. If you have that conversation face to face or over the phone, I would send a follow up email re-documenting that conversation so that if this ever goes to legal and they pull the email records, you will be on record not conforming to this.

      1. Anon for this*

        Yes, we have anti-retaliation policies, and there are anti-retaliation regulations in the industry. I have never fully trusted these, though, because it’s very easy to punish someone without making it look like retaliation, and extremely difficult to prove retaliation unless the manager is stupid enough to say it is. For example, if I’m up for a promotion, they could come up with any reason that someone else beat me out for it (e.g., someone else did better in the interview… no way for me to know or prove otherwise since I wasn’t there for the other person’s interview). They could give me “good” instead of “excellent” ratings on my performance reviews so I get a lower raise.

        Part of the problem is that they are not outright telling me to cover up a violation. They are vaguely claiming that someone else told them it’s not a violation, and I don’t even know what to believe. For all I know, nobody ever even talked to the corporate legal department about it. Of course, I also can’t go around making that kind of accusation. I have never known my own manager to be unethical, but he also doesn’t particularly like rocking the boat, so I can see him going along with someone else telling him that corporate legal said it wasn’t a violation.

        1. Derjungerludendorff*

          Not a legal person, but being unable to produce any written evidence or details when they are dealing with something this important seems really suspicious.

          Right now you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place: Either you go along and do something legally shady with nothing to deflect responsibility, or you refuse direct orders from several layers of management and basically accuse them of lying.

          I would try to get this issue out of my lap and hand it to someone with more authority than me, or at least someone who can give definitive and legally provable answers. Going back to the branch legal as mentioned above seems like a good plan.

          And you have a good excuse: your local legal experts were apparently wrong about something important, and should be told this (apparent) mistake happened. If they still disagree with corporate, they need to figure that out before you can act. After all, two teams of legal experts are telling you opposite things on an important decision, can’t act rashly and get the company in big legal trouble.

          And if corporate legal does turn out to agree with local legal, that should trigger the legal departments to start investigating.

          1. Derjungerludendorff*

            TLDR: This is shady, get someone higher/the legal departments involved to clear things up one way or another.

        2. CM*

          I agree with you 100% on all fronts. You can’t trust them to follow the anti-retaliation policies, and there’s something really shady about this phone call. Either it didn’t happen, or someone from legal told them to do something illegal over the phone so that there wouldn’t be a record. Either way, it’s really bad.

          But I like the advice farther up to circle back to your own legal department — the one that told you this was a violation — and ask for clarification, given that you’ve now been told the other department disagrees. It’s not without risks, but it’s probably less risky than reporting them or writing the document.

    6. Kesnit*

      Is there a reason you cannot contact corporate legal yourself? Just say you are following up on what you are told. At a minimum, find out who your management spoke to so you have a name.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        This is the route I would go. If you want to give them the benefit of the doubt, call the legal department and inquire what happened. The legal team is going to have documentation if the conversation occurred and you can contact the representative that said everything was OK. If anything got back to your managers, I would feign that I was just doing everyone a favor since they all (mysteriously) forgot who gave the okay, and you are just doing the legwork to put your file in order.
        But, if the managers are making this all up, the legal team will pounce on it like a puma. Businesses that report to regulatory bodies do not want people who sweep violations under the rug. The OP is absolutely in line with standards that reporting violations is what you do. Most of the time it isn’t a big deal, it’s just part of what we do in the business. But hiding violations is wrong, wrongy, wrong wrong. Frankly, all the managers involved should be fired on the spot if that is actually what happened. If they hide a small violation, then they will (and may already have) hide big violations.

      2. Anon for this*

        I’ve thought about this (and that was why I tried to get a name out of my manager), but I don’t know anyone in corporate legal, or even in branch legal for that matter. I’m not sure how well it would go over if I just cold-called people in the legal department to go over my boss’s and great-grandboss’s heads. I’m a nobody and I have a hard time getting people to respond to even non-controversial inquiries, so there’s a good chance that I wouldn’t get any response out of the legal department. Of course I’ll do what I have to do to not go to jail, but I’d rather not make myself out to be a troublemaker in the process.

        1. san junipero*

          At a bare minimum, I’d think getting in touch with the department would help cover your own ass (document the contact in some way, obviously, if it’s not via email). I think going to them is absolutely your best bet. Isn’t there a general point of contact you could reach out to?

        2. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

          Do you have the contact email from the branch legal department saying it was a violation? There’s your contact point to go back with the “Corporate legal says it’s not” argument.

        3. AnonAnon*

          If you don’t know how to contact corporate legal, that is what the ombudsman or ethics office is for. When I had an issue, they did all the leg work for me and came back with the results contacting the appropriate people. In my case, it went all the was serious enough that it went way up to the head of the department (ex: legal) and it was taken care of. I was called into a brief interview with that person where I could present my evidence (emails, screenshots, etc). It was not intimidating at all and I am very anxious worry-wart :)

          Maybe you take a different approach. Contact Ethics and say you have an ethical dilemma that you feel legal needs to be involved with but you are not sure who to contact and are not getting responses.

        4. Lilysparrow*

          Who signed the opinion? There has to be a name on it somewhere, even if it’s only in the email chain.

          Print everything out and go talk to them in person, don’t email all over the place until you have more information.

    7. M. Albertine*

      Do you have an SOP on violation monitoring and reporting? There should be guidance on resolution and documentation requirements there. From your question, I’m assuming there isn’t, but if you’re dealing with regulatory bodies there should be. Maybe you can push back that way? That there is no clear procedure for documenting and if you were ever audited, that might become a problem.

      1. Anon for this*

        There is an SOP on violation reporting, but it doesn’t cover a situation where it’s not clear whether or not there was a violation. It’s more along the lines of, “If a violation has occurred, here’s what to do.”

        1. M. Albertine*

          I think you can still push back on the grounds of the inadequacy of the SOP. On our last FDA audit, we got dinged for flagging something, but not having the justification documented for not escalating it. In my career, I have found that borrowing the threat of auditors is VERY helpful in making my case to get things done.

    8. Myrin*

      Oh my, that sounds sketchy as heck – I don’t know whether they’re specifically setting you up to deal with a fall but at the very least they seem to be really, really intent on pretending this violation doesn’t exist in the first place which is Not Good.

      As for what to do now: I might be missing something, but what’s stopping you from contacting the corporate legal department yourself? Doesn’t need to be anything confrontational or something that would make them suspect you’re assuming funny business, just a formal, questioning tone along the lines of “Regarding [situation], I was told by Manager 1 and Manager 2 that you found that we didn’t violate any regulations. This was done by phone but in order to file it properly, I’d need a written justification – can I ask you to write something up for me?” or something like that.

      If everything happened like the managers told you, wonderful, then legal will be able to send you a written justification. If not… well. I assume it will stop being your problem very fast.

    9. Anona*

      I’d respond by email with a summary, and send it to the people involved. I’d also forward a copy of the email (or BCC?) to my personal email, just to have backup.

      Something like “There’s been a lot of movement around the recent issues with X regulation. I wanted to confirm that my understanding of the situation is correct. Branch’s legal department indicated that X was a violation. Per my recent conversation with Manager, Manager indicated that she had received verbal confirmation from another manager who spoke with the corporate legal department and confirmed that X regulation was not actually violated, and has indicated that it does not need to be formally reported. Manager has also indicated that Branch VP supports the understanding that the regulation was not violated, and does not need to be reported. I’m happy to type up this for the justification; please let me know if there’s anything that needs to be changed before I do.”

      1. Anon for this*

        The more I have looked into the issue, the more strongly I believe that there was a violation. I asked a couple of respected experts in the field (two consultants we have used for past projects, one of whom used to be in the job I have now) and they both unofficially said it is definitely a violation, and one of them even brought up a second regulation that was indirectly violated in the situation. They are also not legal experts, but experts in my field, and they said they would report it if they were in my shoes. So, I would really not be comfortable typing up a justification. If I’m not reporting this, I want someone other than me to put the explanation in writing.

        1. Anona*

          If I wrote a justification, I’d basically just write the justification that i listed above, making it clear that you’ve been instructed by XYZ people that this is OK. So it’s clear that you’re not justifying it (even though you typed it), it’s your manager. But definitely listen to the other people about ombudsmen/contacting the legal department! This was just to give you a way to CYA if you’re not going to to do that.

        2. CL*

          I suspect their reason for not wanting to report this violation is that it gives the authorities a reason to come in and check everything thoroughly for any other violations. That’s SOP for government oversight agencies (for a good reason, because if there’s one issue, there’s more likely to be more). And it is disruptive to business usually, whether or not anything else is found and whether or not anything in the way of fines or charges result, but them’s the breaks. This is why someone needed to be more careful that there wasn’t a violation in the first place.

          Also, if one of the people who is trying to cover this up is the person responsible for the violation in the first place, they are absolutely not to be trusted as a reliable reporter of what anyone else said about it.

        3. Mr. Shark*

          Based on your additional responses to this, I think I would definitely go to the ethics office or Ombudsman, and say what you’re saying. “I was told that corporate legal indicated this was not a violation, but I do not have anything written and was not given a name. I am not comfortable typing up a justification for this file, which is what I was told to do by my manager. What should I do here?”

          If you trust your manager you can go back to them, and basically say the same thing, “I am not comfortable typing up the justification without something written by corporate to verify this is not a violation,” and your manager would have to take action.

          But this is what Ombuds and the ethics office is for–to go to them and report an issue when your manager does not act after you have reported it to them. There are also laws against retribution on you in any way, if you report this.

        4. Owler*

          If you have to push back on writing up a justification that you don’t believe in, I would use your junior status on this to your advantage. Since you were the one to originally document the issue and bring it to your superiors, it would look (shady, unethical, not appropriate, etc), and you shouldn’t be the one to document the retraction.

          However the issue plays out, I hope you are able to keep your name out of it while getting attention to the issue.

    10. Public Sector Manager*

      If this documentation is something that you’d have to send to a regulatory agency eventually, then it should always be vetted by legal anyway.

      If this is your office’s own internal documentation, there is nothing that prevents you from sending a confirming email to your boss laying out the fact that they instructed you do to X. Also, as other as said, there is nothing that prevents you from reaching out to legal yourself.

    11. Jeffrey Deutsch*

      Consider this: Once you give in to something like this, management now has a blackmail hold on you. The illegal demands are likely to escalate and lock you in — good luck blowing the whistle down the road after having assisted in a cover-up.

      Sure it’s a minor violation — the thin edge of the wedge. The camel’s nose in the tent, if you will.

      Reminds me of a case I read about many years ago. An agency for teenage girl models offered them the “opportunity” to do bikini shots. Extra money for them…and their parents wouldn’t find out.

      Then it turned into nude shots…and ended up hard-core porn.

  9. New Manager, Who dis?*

    Any tips for a new manager joining a high producing team? What are the first things I should do? I am in the final stages of interviewing for a management role in a new company. My direct reports will be highly knowledgeable consultants located in multiple countries. although I have consulted for a few years and feel confident in the other aspects of this role, I am nervous.

    1. IL JimP*

      I would lean into your high performers. As a leader your job isn’t to manage but do what you can to make your reports being able to do their job the most effectively.

      I would even tell them that you’re going to be relying on them and that you value their experience.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        +1 gazillion

        The thing I hate most is managers who come in saying they’ll change things before they understand the processes (ie, we do that because Regulations, no I can’t just stop doing it!). Listening to your top performers, asking what their pain points are, asking what’s been tried in the past to fix it… these will get your team on your side, and will help if you do need them to change or put in special efforts.

        1. New Manager, Who dis?*

          Same! I have made a list of everything I hated about previous managers so I dont accidentally become like them. Ant that is on the top of my list.

      2. New Manager, Who dis?*

        Thank you! Any Tips for managing a global team or would you say its exactly the same with virtual check ins?

        1. International Holding, Unlimited*

          There’s lots of ways and cadences to stay in touch with your team members – ask them what they prefer. Phone, video call, email, task boards; daily, weekly, monthly. Obviously, set whatever boundaries you need (someone can’t ask for a once-yearly checkin and never speak with you outside of that), but within reason, try and work with their preferences.

          1. IL JimP*

            I agree with all of this, although I lean heavily on video calls because I seem to get better engagement in 1-on-1 conversations and during team meetings. People tend to drift on phone calls lol

    2. nhb*

      I’m not a manager, but I’ve had a number of new managers over the years, and one thing I’d recommend to do quickly is to get to know the team. What each of them likes/dislikes about their work, what their strengths and weaknesses are. Keep a log of this information if you can’t remember it all. Find out if there are any ongoing complaints amongst the team. Show them that you are there to support them in their jobs vs. showing that they are there to make you look good. I hope that makes sense, and the “you” is generic for whoever is in the manager’s position.

      1. theoneoverthere*

        Yes, get to know you team. Know about their work, but also know a little about their personal lives (obviously not too invasive). Ask how their weekend was and where they are going on vacation (if applicable). Its nice to know, management knows I am a person and not some bot that arrives at 8 and leaves at 4.

        Also if you have support staff, don’t forget about them. Treat them kindly, say thank you. make sure your team treats them well, too. If you do team building stuff, don’t forget to include them too.

        1. New Manager, Who dis?*

          This is great! I planned to ask them on their preferred management style so I can customize my leadership (within reason of course).

          1. Federal Middle Manager*

            I’m a little wary of this for two reasons: 1) Unless you’re in an area where everyone is fluent in corporate-speak, people may not be able to usefully articulate their preferred management style; and 2) people often push back against their own weaknesses, so someone may say they hate being micro-managed because they have a history of being micro-managed because they have a history of NEEDING to be micro-managed.

            However, there are lots of other ways to get at this same info, you’ll be able to figure out pretty quickly preferred communication methods, who speaks up in meetings versus who brings you their good ideas one-on-one, etc. Best of luck!

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

        I agree on this. Be sure to meet each team member individually (phone or video conference if face-to-face is not possible) and ask a lot of questions at first. Don’t assume that you know anything about any of them, even if your boss or predecessor has given you a rundown. Be wary of the person who wants to immediately be your right-hand person or tell you ALL about problems (personal or job-related) because sometimes they’re the problem.

        1. New Manager, Who dis?*

          |Be wary of the person who wants to immediately be your right-hand person or tell you ALL about problems |(personal or job-related) because sometimes they’re the problem.

          This is the real gem! I have seen this happen so many times, I never considered this from the other side of the curtain.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      This is going to sound simplistic. Read their resumes, read their files and find out what they have done so far in their professional life and at work.
      I worked with a guy who had experience in X. Suddenly we needed a person to do X. My bosses went all over creation looking for someone who could do X. My cohort would not tell the bosses he could do X. Weeks turned into months of finding someone to do X.
      While I don’t agree with what my coworker did, I do understand that his point did have some merit. The bosses had no idea what our backgrounds were. They never looked. We worked with them for ten years and they never looked. When I went to leave I mentioned I had Y experience. The bosses were shocked. They did not know that either. (Y experience had no bearing on my work at that place.)

      For me, I landed on this conclusion, “If Cohort won’t tell them that he does X and just turns this whole thing into a head game then maybe he should not be doing X anyway. That’s not playing a fair game and is showing poor judgement. Maybe this is all for the best that someone else did X, which required good judgement. It was absolutely critical.” So I never said anything to the boss and I told my cohort he was acting foolishly, “Either you want the job or not, period. Who needs all this avoidable drama???” And I told him to stop telling me about it, he was making his own problem. If it were me, I would have just gone in and said to the boss, “You’ve never looked at my resume or file have you?”
      They ended up hiring someone to do X and that person was a Hot Mess. But, hey, he could do X.
      Know your people, get a good handle on their talents. experiences, education, training and other credentials.

  10. Second Jobs/ Side Hustles/ Passive Income/ etc.*

    I have been contemplating some kind of side business or just taking on a part time job somewhere but I’m having a hard time deciding if it’s worth it. I would prefer to invest in something but I don’t feel like I have enough I would be willing to put in (maybe $10-$20k for the right opportunity). And… I just don’t feel entrepreneurial enough.

    For those of you who have mastered side hustles and specifically passive income through investing in something or setting up a side business-How much time/ effort / money did it take? How long before it became profitable? If there were any times you thought about quitting before it became profitable, how did you motivate yourself to stay?

      1. Second Jobs/ Side Hustles/ Passive Income/ etc.*

        I think in this day and age, you have to have money coming in from multiple sources to achieve true financial independence. I would be willing to consider gig work if it allowed me to invest more traditionally in the stock market and that ultimately was the best solution, but I would prefer other multiple options.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Passive income that takes no extra work = stock market index funds, *maaaybe* bonds in a year or two. Other incomes like house flipping or landlording take work, and / or paying someone else to do that work for you, cutting into returns.

          You’re missing some questions here, too, like ‘how did you find your side hustle’ – turning something you enjoy doing into money will be a lot easier than doing something you don’t.

          My husband’s got his own business. It took about a year to be profitable, at about 20 hrs / week. He kept going because he didn’t like the alternative, and he could see the solid things that his income brought. We pay the bills / save for retirement / college with my income, but special trips and experiences for the kid are mostly from his income.

          1. Sloan Kittering*

            Yes, this. A LOT of people start a side hustle because it’s something they love to do – an artistic venture, a creative outlet, whatever – and they would love to do it full time but aren’t sure the market will allow it. They plug along for a few years watching the numbers and waiting to see if they can make that a full time job. Some do, some don’t (ok, probably most don’t). But maybe they add creativity/excitement to the worker’s life and resolve their curiosity about “what might have been.” You’re asking a very different question so you’ll have to watch the responses carefully to filter out this type of side hustle if your real goal is diverse income.

    1. Drogon's sister*

      I don’t have any personal experience but when I’ve expressed a desire to have more than one income stream to others, someone recommended The Side Hustle Show podcast. If you’re a podcast person, it may be worth checking out and seeing if any of the episode topics would be of interest. Best of luck!

    2. AndersonDarling*

      For 8 years, I worked PT at a spa. Two evenings a week and on Saturdays. I made an extra $200-$500 a month, and it was at a time where that made ends meet. I would have no problem picking up a PT again, but I would make sure it was something I really enjoyed doing. I’d have no problem working at an Aveda store, or a Bath & Body Works over the holiday season. Employee Discounts!!
      It’s hard to get started with PT work because it completely changes your schedule. But once I got used to it, it felt like two jobs was just the same as one job.

      1. Liz*

        I worked PT in retail for just under 10 years. a couple evenings a week, Saturdays, and sometimes more around the holidays etc. I got into the groove, but then didn’t need the extra $$ and had some other things going on so it wouldn’t have worked out trying to do it all. At this point, i couldn’t go back. BTDT.

        what i do do is sell online. Started wth my own clothes, bags etc. and branched out to thrifting to resell. I love it. i make a decent amount, enough to pay for extras and save, but if i don’t feel like doing anything with it, i don’t have to.

    3. Kiwiii*

      I mean, if you do an index fund or something, $10-20k is plenty to invest in a thing and the sooner the better. As for the platform, check out what NerdWallet or other investment reviewing companies are saying about them/the fees? There are some app-based ones that are really cheap and take a flat fee rather than a percentage.

      1. Second Jobs/ Side Hustles/ Passive Income/ etc.*

        The thing is, I already have index funds… But I don’t feel like they are bringing me the multiple income streams I need for true financial security. I’m totally willing to put in the work on something else, IF I knew the right way to evaluate them. That’s my main issue….

        Maybe I asked the wrong question… If you have 10-20 hours a week you are willing to put in and/or $10-$20k, how do you best decide where to invest your energy or money for additional income opportunities?

        1. LawBee*

          Well, a side hustle is by definition a part-time job, really. So go get a part time job and throw every penny you make there into your index funds. If your goal is to get more money coming in, an additional paycheck will do that. But if you want passive income (aka money coming in that you don’t actually have to do to much work for), then your index funds are already in place.

          And get a financial advisor to help you figure out what your goals are and how to achieve them. You don’t NEED multiple income streams if the ones you have already are working.

    4. M. Albertine*

      Do you have any local Angel Investor groups? I think the requirements to join are varied, but it might be a good opportunity to join forces with other like-minded individuals and learn some things in the process.

    5. Ali A*

      Side hustle has to be something you absolutely enjoy, or any financial independence you may achieve will not outweigh the emotional and physical burden the extra hours/commitment bring.

    6. theletter*

      if you don’t have a 4o1k or Roth IRA, you should set that up immediately. Compound interest determines the size of your retirement yacht.

      If you have that settled, just putting extra cash you have into the stock market is always a good idea, assuming you can leave it in there long enough to manage the ups and downs of the market. It’s not a bad idea to just put that cash into something very reliable (like a big tech firm) while you research other investment opportunities.

      There’s a lot of side hustles you can do that don’t require much investment at all. Babysitting and pet sitting is just a matter of your time. If you’d rather sit at home on a saturday, you could be making money sitting at some other person’s home while they go out. I’ve had babysitting gigs that started late, the baby stayed asleep, I seriously wondered if there even was a baby (I checked, there was a baby) . .. . still got paid, baby!

      I hear stories of writers who’ve been able to set up some passive income with online platforms like Amazon, but I hear it’s pretty competitive.

    7. nicotene*

      I think if I had a bunch of extra money, I might look at real estate, like leasing property for businesses. In my area (DC) it seems like it’s just going nuts. I might stay away from rental housing or maybe that appeals to you but it seems like there’s a lot to be made there.

    8. AccountantWendy*

      You could look into Lending Tree or Lending Club or similar. You out in capital, they lend it out, you collect a return.

    9. Consultant Catie*

      I’ve recently started thinking about this – I’ve started microinvesting with Acorns, putting $15-$20/week into a moderately aggressive portfolio. Once that hits ~$2k I think I will pull it out and invest it somewhere real, and continue trading up that investment until/through retirement. Currently my portfolio is only up about 2%, but that’s still more than it would have grown sitting in my savings account so I see it as a win.

  11. How to be more charitable towards a new employee*

    I’m a second year associate at a law firm, training a first year, who started about ~4 weeks ago. In these past few weeks, I have learned that I am awful at training! I get way too frustrated with him when he makes mistakes. I get that a lot of the mistakes he makes are either because it’s a new concept to him, or something I or the partner forgot to explain because it’s second nature to us. But for every two of those mistakes, there’s one that is due to him being sloppy or not reading instructions, and that’s when I want to lose it. Any advice on not letting those minority of mistakes get to me?

    1. Lyys*

      I would keep in mind that he is probably equally as frustrated. If I started a new job and 2/3 of my mistakes were due to my trainers neglecting to tell me something important I’d be losing my everloving mind. I’d also be suspicious that any mistake I made that was purely my mistake might not actually be my responsibility. I’m hurting for this guy right now because this is pretty much my nightmare scenario. I’d start by creating standardized training materials and sitting down with this guy and explaining that this has been frustrating on both ends but now that you have these materials everyone is going forward with a clean slate.

      1. Mbarr*

        Agreed with this!

        Maybe having him start documenting everything he’s learning in a User Manual or Standard Operating Procedures so that:
        A. He has a set of written instructions that he can follow line by line. You can work with him to update the instructions when you realize something was forgotten.
        B. When you go through this with another new hire, you don’t have to start from scratch and are less liable to forget things

        1. Dusty Bunny*

          Mbarr – you took the words right off my keyboard! Document the process, but let the first year fill in to the granular level.

          My first thought was – Just because you know how to do something, it does not mean you can effectively and efficiently teach it to someone else. (Flash backs to my father helping me with algebra homework)

          1. Paquita*

            Yes! My father was an electrical engineer and I learned to NEVER ask him for math help. Also I can’t teach/train, I have no patience.

      2. littlelizard*

        Yes, this! Training that isn’t fully planned and thought-out can be very frustrating. If you can use some of your non-training time to write things down for training, it might help the whole thing go smoother.

    2. M. Albertine*

      How about using this process to develop a training manual/topic checklist/process documentation? If you are working together on something that’s going to be super-helpful for training the next new person, it will help the both of you put mistakes in the correct box as well as put you both on the same “team” toward process improvement, both for the new person and for the firm as a whole.

    3. ACDC*

      I think if you can remind yourself that at one point you were him will help a lot. There was a point when you were also making similar mistakes and it’s not reasonable to expect him to follow a process correctly when it was never explained to him. As for things related to not reading instructions carefully, that is an easy conversation to have where you just let him know that next time reading the instructions more carefully will be better for everyone involved. You also need to make sure you are approachable enough that he will come to you with questions along the way. If he feels like he’ll get chewed out or snapped at every time he has a questions, he won’t ask the question, and the final product won’t be what anyone wants.

      1. Jane of all Trades*

        I think you need to consider that at 1 year and 1 month, you’re probably not a great teacher right now (because that takes experience) and that you were in his shoes just a year ago. So before you instruct him, come up with a full plan of what that will look like. Do you have a 100% grasp of the project? Have you thought through every step of what you’re asking him to do? Have you communicated every expectation? You can certainly ask him to be more diligent, but do be open to the possibility that you’re still learning the job and are learning how to manage.

    4. LGC*

      So I have a question for you that might help provide the answer: what’s annoying about those situations? Do you expect him to know better? Does he make a lot of those kinds of mistakes, even though it’s not the majority by volume? Is he a slow learner overall? Are there other issues with him?

      And for your part, do you have any “baggage?” Are you a fast learner relative to him? Are you a perfectionist? Does he annoy you outside of his mistakes?

      I’m asking because thinking of myself, a lot of the time when I’m annoyed by someone’s specific mistakes, there’s something deeper going on. For example, I get a little annoyed by one of my employees who never stacks the boxes for our project correctly (for whatever reason, he stacks the last few in reverse order). But…he doesn’t take feedback well in general, and I’ll admit that I didn’t handle him well at first myself. (Basically, I was overly critical of him at first, and while I’ve backed off and make sure to give him compliments and let him know I appreciate his work, he still stonewalls me and sulks when I do give him critical feedback.)

      In this case, my annoyance is REALLY caused by me being a bad boss at first AND that he’s a bit unprofessional. (Well, more than a bit. But it’s a hazard of my job. And yes, we ARE working on this.)

      1. International Holding, Unlimited*

        So much this. What else is going on?

        One thing that I always tried to keep in mind is that very few people are doing the wrong thing out of malice. It’s either because they don’t know better (you didn’t tell them, it’s not documented anywhere, or you did tell them but they forgot and don’t have anything to reference), or the wrong thing is dramatically easier, or the wrong thing *is* actually documented somewhere and they were following instructions.

        Four weeks is still incredibly new and this person is trying to absorb a huge amount of info. Especially if you haven’t been very organized and are showing your frustration, they’re frustrated in turn (because of the disorganization) and probably scared that they’re just going to get canned. That’s going to make anybody’s work suffer. Find some empathy, let go of as much frustration as possible, and express the rest of it to someone else. For your trainee, you’re calm, friendly, helpful, and willing to repeat yourself – to a reasonable degree, and especially while you work on documentation.

        Two things that will really help are praise for successes and explanations. Feeling like your successes are recognized and valued is huge for combating some of the frustration. I wouldn’t give false praise, but find something(s) you’re genuinely pleased with and start remarking on that. Explanations also really help (especially when someone’s been told the right thing and forgotten) because it helps provide a framework to hang the rest of the knowledge on. Sometimes it’s “this is the process and here’s why we need to do it that way,” sometimes it’s “this is the process and I know it seems weird but this is the background of how it evolved/where it came from” – either one will give them more context and help guide them away from the wrong action.

        Start having this person document the stuff you’re training them on. You’ll need to have a more experienced person review it for accuracy or to provide more context, but the newbie perspective is actually really helpful because they will remember to include elements that you, with more experience, just do without thought. This will also help with forgetting, because they will have somewhere to reference (rather than just relying on memory).

        If the wrong thing is dramatically easier than the right thing, work on making the right thing easier, or on signposting that the wrong thing is wrong. This is going to be very dependent on the work, but the easier you can make it do to the job right (in terms of clarity, speed, number of clicks, information bottlenecks) the more it will get done right.

        As an illustration, my old company deployed a new internal program for building travel itineraries. In order to send a customer’s itinerary right, the initial version was something like twenty clicks and you got dropped back at the starting point halfway through for no good reason. The fast way just cut off that whole first loop where you organized the itinerary, and took about 5 clicks. I’ll let you guess how many people on our team took the shortcut and sent disorganized itineraries out to clients.

        We asked IT to route directly from the itinerary organizer straight to the invoice sender, and compliance jumped dramatically. Even though it was still a few clicks longer, the fact that you could now go from point A to B to C, rather than Point A to B, click OK and wind back up at A, then click over to C – it made all the difference.

      2. LGC*

        …by one question I mean SEVERAL. (I’m just as fun IRL.)

        I forgot to mention a huge thing – OP, you mentioned you were “awful at training!”, and that’s a really negative way to think about it. You’re new yourself, as noted, and you’re not handling this the best…but I don’t know if you can just say you’re bad at training people, or that it’s all your “fault”. (You might be bad at training this guy, but that’s not the same thing.)

        Definitely see where you could improve your training, but also – don’t put yourself down because that will make things worse. I’m sure you’re not THAT bad.

    5. LALAs*

      I use to train new attorneys, so I feel you. That being said, you are a second year associate – can you remember what you didn’t know when you started? The farther you go from being new the harder it is to remember the basics. Using this experience to write up a training manual is a great idea. It doesn’t have to be a big formal thing – just a word document: To run X report, go to Q, type in DJ, save in B folder, send to K(position name not person name), etc. If a client comes in with Y type of case, your first step is to A, then B, then C.

      In addition to helping you with future associates, you can use it when you are asking for a raise or promotion. Of course you can ask the newbie to slow down, read instructions, re-read documents before they turn them in (or whatever the sloppiness is). But you will lose a lot of credibility if you don’t own that some of the mistakes are because they are not being given the information they need.

      1. Federal Middle Manager*

        Yeah, as a second year you feel like you have VAST experience compared to the guy with 4 weeks, but really you have about a year on him, which is next to nothing in the trajectory of a career. Be generous. Take a deep breath and hope someone will be as generous with you the next time you are learning some new practice area.

    6. Coverage Associate*

      My advice would be to talk about any assignment before you give it to him. Don’t just email instructions.

      Give him edits in redline by email, then when he’s reviewed them alone, have a calm, short chat about how his work could have been better. Be as specific as possible.

    7. LawBee*

      Is there anything more terrifying than being a month into your job as a first year associate at a law firm? Yes, obviously, but probably not for him! So when you get something back with those sloppy mistakes (like bad case citation or misreading the memo requirements) just send it back to him with a brief note on the error itself (“please review the memo requirements, you’ve missed the boat here” or “Please review your citation formats, you can get a copy of the Blue Book from the firm library”), check it off your list, and go get a cup of coffee.

      I’m serious about that one. Leave your desk and office and take a stroll down to the kitchen or go wash your hands in the bathroom. Physically remove yourself from the space where you are on the verge of losing it, expend a little of that energy, and then go back to your desk. This also lets you go into your email later to see if this is really a pattern that needs addressing (this dude just does not know how to blue book, omg [neither do I, thank god I have a paralegal who was on Law Review]).

    8. Not So NewReader*

      I hate saying this but your frustration maybe adding to his tenseness and then he makes more mistakes.

      I do think that you are too close in seniority to him and that is part of the problem. Just my opinion and not helpful EXCEPT for the fact where you say you are awful at training. You might be okay at training but it is too soon to tell and you are probably jumping the gun when you say that. Give yourself some space here. Ironically by letting up on yourself, you may also find it easier to work with the trainee.

      On what you have here you have several types of mistakes that you have identified. I don’t think you realize how huge this is, you are doing great to be able to see things by groups.

      New Concept mistake. I am not in law so I am not sure what the correct answer is but you can talk to him about mentioning to you more often when a concept is unfamiliar to him. And you can do spot checks such as, “This case involves XYZ concept. Are you familiar with that, if not we can go over it.”

      You forgot to explain. Okay this one I can WELL relate to. How many times did I forget to explain? I can’t count that high. What I did was I apologized for forgetting. From what I saw it did help to ease tension/concern when I owned my mistake. People who are less tense make less mistakes. I worked at remembering stuff better. So what is your plan to help yourself forget less often?

      Sloppiness. Pass the mistake back to him and tell him not to hand you anything he has not checked and then checked again.

      Not reading instructions. Do a double check and just make sure that the problem is NOT misunderstanding the instructions. From what friends tell me, law can be a real brain drain. At the end of the day 2 plus 2 equals 5 and they cannot see the error. (Bonus points to those who caught that sentence!) Perhaps ask him if he had trouble with the instructions. When he says no, which he might do, then point out the errors and send him back to rework it. In my jobs I had that luxury that most of the time I could send people back to redo bad work. IF you find that you do not have time to make him rework it then consider padding your timelines so there is additional space for him to rework stuff.

      Now this one is for you personally: training is EXHAUSTING. People have endless ways of botching a job. Just when you think you have seen everything the latest trainee will show you a new and different way to botch a job.

      1) Get extra rest. A rested person is less apt to lose it over some small potatoes.
      2) Deliberately look for the things the trainee did right. You don’t have to praise them like they are 5 years old. You do have to say, “You got this part. You nailed it.” or “This over here is good, keep doing things this way.”
      3) If possible take them with you to do something new, or let them see inside your thought process such as how you break down New Task into doable parts.
      4) Use stories to teach. Most people love stories and will follow along quite willingly. They will remember your story of what you did in a tight situation much longer than if you just give them instructions on how to handle the situation.
      5) Let the trainees teach you how to teach. So far I guess you have this one person, so that does make it tricky. Watch his questions. If you can find patterns in his questions, those patterns may indicate something that you are routinely missing/not explaining well/ or other problem. I have trained a lot of people. When two or three people asked me the same question, I realized I needed to change my explanation to anticipate the particular question. The people may be random people but the questions have patterns. When two or more people ask the same question that is happening for a reason.
      6)Breathe. The world will not stop revolving if he makes a mistake. It’s his mistake, refuse to wear his frustration for him.

    9. CM*

      People get frustrated when something turns out differently than they were expecting, or differently than they wanted it to. One way to try to be less frustrated in this case is to adjust your expectations about new employees. A lot of the time, I think we all kind of hope that people will hit the ground running and immediately lift some of the burden off of us, and then we discover that, for the first few weeks or months, they’re sometimes MORE of a burden because now we have to train them and check their work in addition to doing everything else.

      It’s great if you get someone who helps you right away, but, most of the time people take a while to get settled. So, if you adjust your expectation so that you no longer expect him to be a real coworker for the first couple of months and instead expect that he’s going to be much less productive and much more dependent than you’d normally want him to be, it might be less frustrating.

      I used to train my new coworkers in a completely different field than law and, FWIW, the first month they were basically not helpful. The second month, they knew enough to be more independent, but they kept making mistakes because they didn’t know everything. The third month, they started to be a real teammate and do stuff on their own without any issues.

  12. Future Stay-at-Homesteader*

    Today is (almost) my last day of work! I’m leaving to stay home with my baby (who is actually now my toddler). I’m a little bit scared but mostly just super excited. I have no idea how I’m going to feel come next week, and especially no idea how I’m going to feel in five years or so or whenever it’s time to return to the workforce, but…it’s so weird to contemplate not having a 9-5 job for the first time in over a decade. I don’t even really have a question or a topic, I just…I don’t even know! I just don’t know anything and it’s freeing and exciting and also terrifying but also I’m happy!!?!

    1. Mama Bear*

      ENJOY! I left a FT job for a while when my kid was 18 months. Not working, freelancing and/or working PT got us through until kid was in 1st grade when I returned to FT work for various reasons. Things I do suggest are to remember to get out of the house without the kid sometimes, and to have very clear expectations with your partner re: household things, childcare, personal spending money, etc. When I spent all day chasing after a kid who was potty training and then got quizzed about “what did you do all day?” my head nearly exploded. But other than that I really enjoyed being home and am grateful for my overall supportive spouse.

      1. Future Stay-at-Homesteader*

        The advice is much appreciated! I’m definitely nervous about how this is going to play out, relationship-wise. We’ve talked about it a lot, so now all that’s left is to jump in and see how it actually goes!

    2. Kiwiii*

      I’m so glad you’re excited!! My sister recently quit her job to have baby time and the thing she found most helpful was to still give herself some sort of schedule, even if it was a walk with the baby every morning at 9AM and then play dates tuesday and thursday afternoons.

      1. Future Stay-at-Homesteader*

        Yes, I’m working on this! Going to spend the next month checking out all the local play groups and libraries. :-) Thank you!

        1. Mama Bear*

          I am still friends with some of the parents I met at the library or via a playgroup Meet Up, and our kids are in middle school. Great way to meet likeminded people.

    3. OhBehave*

      YAY! You will not regret this decision. It’s gonna be so fun and so hard some days.
      You’ve already got a plan to get out with your baby. Be purposeful about your days. The days will fly past and before you know it, kiddos are in school. Teach them how to play by themselves. This is huge and fosters imagination. If you are a joiner, Google moms groups in your area. Some groups are organized with speakers and sitters while others are informal. You can find your tribe here. Nothing better than PBJ and play dates.
      Make sure to have adult time. Have fun and be kind to yourself.

    4. Lilysparrow*

      Congratulations!

      I really liked “Heaven on Earth” by Sharifa Oppenheimer for ideas about building a child-paced but orderly rhythm to our days, with lots of emphasis on exploring nature and finding learning opportunities built into normal household tasks (like making food or tidying up).

      It’s a precious time.

        1. Wren F*

          Nature centers also have awesome programs for kiddos—generally starting around the 2yo stage.

          Also, are you someone who enjoys crafts? Some of my son’s happiest moments were when we’d sit down together with those watercolor sets (you know, the ones in a plastic case that have a brush and are non-toxic) and paint. Often on the same paper! He loved it.

          I also liked “The Toddler’s Busy Book” and “The Preschooler’s Busy Book.” These contain tons of activities (games, crafts, physical things, nature stuff) and we did a lot of them. These books gave us fun things out of the ordinary to add to our days that I wouldn’t necessarily have thought of on my own.

          Enjoy! We have very happy memories from those years (our boy is a senior this year!).

    5. Hamburke*

      Congratulations! I loved being home with my kids and went back when my youngest was heading to middle school (albeit, part time and in a different industry).

      I left full time employment when my first was born (gov job in an already lowpaying industry = not enough to pay for daycare). I was shocked at how both busy and bored I was. It got better as I found playgroups and activities to do with my little one and made plans with other adults. But those first few months made me question if I made the right choice for my mental health (and that’s coming from government where it’s not fast-paced).

    6. Anonny*

      I’m home with a baby now. Agreed on a routine and getting out. One thing that’s been great is the joining the local YMCA. They offer free daycare for a couple of hours everyday so I can get a workout and shower. They also can provide financial assistance for the membership if needed when you’re down to one income.

  13. So so anon*

    I just wanted to thank the people who recommended “Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams.” It was fascinating. I would have liked more of a spectrum of the middle class as I think this skewed toward the upper class, but I kept on having revelations as I read it.

    1. Future Stay-at-Homesteader*

      Oooh thanks for mentioning this! I’ve been wanting to read it but forgot to write it down anywhere.

    2. The Beagle Has Landed*

      I read it, too, after the recommendation. It made so much sense to me, because it’s about me. Blue collar parents, living in a white collar world.

  14. Bee's Knees*

    Removed because this turned into a mess and I don’t have time to sort through or fully moderate the responses. Sorry, OP! – Alison

  15. Overtime Ripoff*

    Earlier this week we were notified that we are “moving into a cycle of intense expense management”, and effective immediately management will not be approving any overtime. My department has a weekly on-call rotation, where the person on call takes support calls at home that come in after hours. We’ve been told that the extra hours we accumulate taking these calls will be comped as time off the following week in lieu of overtime pay. We also rotate a four-hour Saturday shift which will be comped the same way. Obviously we all know this is not legal. I’ve already asked my manager to verify/clarify via email, which she has, so I have it in writing that this is what they intend to do. Where do I go from here?

    1. Picard*

      Your states DOL once it actually happens. (I dont think you can do much until they violate – plans to violate dont count)

    2. Psyche*

      If you have a union, you can take it to them. If not, depending on how much overtime pay is at stake, you could consult an employment lawyer.

    3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I think you should see how your state calculates overtime – some are over 40 hours in one week, some are 80 hours in two weeks, and in CA it’s anything over 8 hours/day. If your comp time comes in the same defined workweek as the extra hours, that should be within the law.

      1. Natalie*

        some are 80 hours in two weeks

        Federal law uses single work week basis in most situations and is the rule at play here, unless state laws are more generous to the employee. Overtime Ripoff’s employer is virtually guaranteed to be engaging in what the court’s consider interstate commerce, and thus subject to FLSA.

      2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        If I recall correctly, my state’s rule is 40 hours per pay week before you become eligible for overtime. When I worked a job that required rotating Saturday coverage (it worked out to about once a month per person), we would get one weekday off in the following week. This was because our pay week was considered to run from Saturday through Friday (mostly because the company wanted to end the pay week on Friday).

        So, I’d not only check your state’s rules, but also when your company considers one pay week/pay period to be, since there is no obligation for it to line up with anything on the calendar.

    4. AndersonDarling*

      The big problem is that this will create a snowball of under-staffing. All the comp time from the first week will be used in the second week, so the second week will be understaffed. The people that stepped up that week will use their comp time in the third week. Comp time from the first, second, and third weeks will all be used in the fourth week? Did anyone calculate the overtime and see if this is even possible in a comp time scenario? Eventually there will be weeks where everyone needs to use up their comp time and no one will be answering phones.
      In the meantime, make sure the comp time will be recorded in payroll, and not on some random spreadsheet that can mysteriously disappear if there is an investigation.

    5. halfwolf*

      you said you asked your manager to clarify – did you mention that this isn’t legal? if not, that might be a good step to take, provided you don’t think it will get you in trouble (if you think this will risk your job, obviously just report them to the DOL when they start this practice. employers who will fire you for politely pointing out that they’re breaking the law don’t get the benefit of prior warnings). alison has given language like this to use before; something to the effect of “as i’m sure you know, this is actually against federal labor law and we could get in a lot of trouble for this!” note, as alison has mentioned, the use of “we” and “as i’m sure you know” to make it less adversarial and more like of course they’ll want to rectify this obvious mistake. if that still doesn’t work, then the DOL is definitely your next step.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Actually, normally I say assume they *don’t* know — “as I’m sure you know” makes it sound like they’re intentionally breaking the law, which is more adversarial. In this case they probably are, but in most situations I’d recommend something more like, “Actually, we’re required by law to blah blah.”

    6. Overtime Ripoff*

      I sometimes get the feeling with leadership in this department that employees who point out laws and workers’ rights get stuck with the “not a team player” label, so I wasn’t comfortable mentioning directly to my manager that it isn’t legal, no matter how gently. I decided to forward the email to our HR manager “Beatrice”, whom I have dealt with before, and included this at the top:

      Beatrice,

      Would you mind taking a look at this announcement that was made to the teapot support desk this week? I thought I remembered from the eLearning course on the Fair Labor Standards Act that this isn’t actually legal, so I reviewed the course and I remembered correctly – time worked in excess of 40 hours in a given work week has to be paid as overtime and can’t instead be given as time off the following week. Could you please advise?

      Thanks,
      OT Ripoff

      I don’t think the company as a whole wants to break the law, so I’m hoping this will prompt HR to tap manager on the shoulder and say, “Uhh, you can’t do that.”

      1. just a small town girl*

        That’s great!! I’m a huge fan of how Alison always suggests people phrase it; “this is concerning because it could mean we break the law, and of course I don’t want us to do that!” because the we feels less adversarial and more like you’re concerned about the company getting in trouble and now how it affects you directly.

  16. MsMaryMary*

    I finally put in my two week notice on Monday to move to a new job I’m really excited about. Waiting for everything to be finalized with the offer and the background check almost drove me insane last week! I feel so much better now.

    NewJob does not provide a company cell phone, they expect people to use their own. This is a position with a lot of external client meetings and local travel, so I can expect to use my cell phone a decent amount. I still have the same phone number as I did for my first ever cell phone, many years and several states away. I don’t want to get a new number, but I don’t want to confuse people with an out of state area code. Does anyone have experience setting up a google phone number for work? Would calls from the google number look any different coming in?

    Thanks!

    1. Mama Bear*

      I think that it’s much less of an issue now. Many people keep their phone numbers and long distance isn’t the problem it used to be. I’d just make sure that you have all the relevant numbers on your business card. I don’t even look at the area code anymore.

    2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      Congrats! I have a similar role and have always used my personal cell phone (usually with a monthly stipend from the company). I try to use my desk phone as much as possible for initial calls, and always provide my cell number via email. If I know I’ll be calling someone from my cell I warn them that it’s a “4XX area code”.

      Honestly, I find that with the amount of phone number spoofing these days, people don’t pick up even when they recognize the area code. I always leave a voicemail (which a lot of people don’t listen to) and initiate the conversation and/or follow up via email.

      I’ve never tried a Google number, but I remember an old colleague got IT to set one up for her and it was very complicated to have her outgoing number show the Google number. It might be more complicated than it’s worth!

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      Google numbers do often have an out of state area code, but it really doesn’t matter these days. Since we’ve been able to port numbers across carriers, tons of cell phones are out of state. Google numbers don’t look any different coming in from my experience.

      Use a google # so that when you leave this position, people won’t still be calling your real cell.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        I was able to get a local area code Google number, and I was able to pick out a snazzy number too.
        I don’t know if you can change the settings, but all my google calls went through a robo screening process. The caller is asked to say their name, and then my phone rings to say “George Smith is calling.” So it would be annoying to regular callers.

    4. Kathleen_A*

      I agree with everyone else: I really don’t think the out-of-state area code will confuse anybody at all, at least not anybody who has experience with cell phones (that is, almost everyone). So I think you’re fine.

      A google phone number might not be a bad idea, though, just so you can keep your personal and work calls a bit separated. Or so I hear. I use one number for everything, but I’ve often thought about setting up a google number because I have a company-supplied cell phone, and when I leave here, I think I lose my cell number when I turn in the phone.

    5. Anonymous Phone Caller*

      I wish I had thought to get a Google voice number. (I may still.) Recently, my company moved us to temp offices while our new, larger spaces are built out. Rather than port our phones to the temp space, we have to use our personal cell numbers. Our VoIP office phones will be restored when we move to the permanent space.

      I have been beyond irritated about this. First, they didn’t ask, they assumed it’s okay. Second, they aren’t paying anything towards usage. Third, I do a lot of conference calls and I don’t have a headset (phone is bluetooth only). I asked the company to purchase a wireless headset; no, they don’t provide headsets for personal phones. (No, I’m not buying one; I don’t need a headset at home.)

      Overall, my company is really good to its employees, especially pay and benefits. It’s small, which is why they look for cost savings where they can. I think my main objections are a) a phone should be paid for or reimbursed the same as any other office equipment, b) I work in an industry in which can be subject to BYOD restrictions, which means personal info on my phone can be wiped or viewed.

      I’ve learned to let a lot of things go at work, but personal cell use – it hits all my buttons for some reason. (no pun intended)

      1. Bird Person*

        Can you pick up a cheap pay-as-you-go phone? It would have the same headset issues, but at least you wouldn’t have to worry about the data access issues.

    6. Product Person*

      Get your google phone! I give my cell phone to personal contacts and Google number to work contacts, and the advantage of the Google number is that I don’t miss any calls even when I’m a place with bad cellular connection, as long as there is WiFi.

      There is nothing different with Google number calls; you or your callers won’t be able to tell the difference.

      1. WheezyWeasel*

        You may need to initiate the call from your cell phone via the Google Voice app to have your Google Voice number show as the caller ID. I also recommend logging into the Google Voice website every few months to see what new features they have and to make sure checkboxes aren’t clicked by default when they update the software.

    7. just a small town girl*

      Definitely use a google number, but IIRC google will let you select a local area code when you’re setting up the number. Or at least a local-ish area code, depending on where you are. But I agree with others; out of state area codes aren’t that big of a deal anymore. I work with several people who have far-flung area codes for their cell phones and it isn’t an issue at all since cellphone plans no longer charge for long distance.

  17. What’s with Today, today?*

    I’m a reporter so this is work related.

    Our City hired a new City Prosecutor last night to prosecute municipal court cases. The hired the First Assistant from our county’s District Attorney’s office.

    In your opinion, wouldn’t that be akin to double dipping? Getting paid by City taxpayers to hold municipal court during the workday, while you are simultaneously being paid by the county to be the second in command at the DA’s office seems like double dipping to me. In addition, I’m thinking it’s a conflict of interest to prosecute city cases, where a city defendant (usually traffic & code enforcement tickets) might have more serious pending county cases.

    Opinions and thoughts please as I begin lining out this story…

    1. Alana Smithee*

      Are you sure that they will be paid double? If I heard they hired the First Assistant my thought would be “they were formerly at the District Attorney’s office, and are now the City Prosecutor,” like most job moves, not “They are now the City Prosecutor AND an ADA.” If I move to a new job, I’m not keeping my old one.

      1. What’s with Today, today?*

        I’m 100% positive. She’ll be paid $36,000 per year by the city, and makes about $78k from the county. The new position is in addition to the existing one.

    2. Miss Astoria Platenclear*

      Check with your state’s prosecuting attorneys council, or the state attorney general ‘s office. Some states may allow “part-time” prosecutors.

      1. What’s with Today, today?*

        City prosecutor is definitely a part time job. The issue I’m seeing is that the part time work hours at one position are during the full time hours of the other, and are both tax payer paid.

        1. What’s with Today, today?*

          Traditionally, this job has been held by a local civil attorney. Not one of our prosecutors.

        2. WellRed*

          “The issue I’m seeing is that the part time work hours at one position are during the full time hours of the other, and are both tax payer paid.”

          THIS aspect sounds like the problem. Which I realize is what you asked but it’s clearer here stated this way. (I am also a reporter).

    3. LGC*

      So my question is…what’s the arrangement with the new DA? Is this allowed under ethics laws in your state, and does this have precedent in other well run municipalities?

      From first glance…yeah, this does seem shady. But if the city switches to a night court and it’s common for other assistant DAs elsewhere to be city/town prosecutors, I don’t know if there’s a story there. But I’m not a reporter, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      It does seem this moves into what is essentially “moonlighting” territory at the very least. The part-time job should not be conducted during the same working hours of the full-time position.

      Now, if both positions were part-time roles, OR the one role was only temporary until someone else is hired to fill it (like for 90 days), I suppose it could be arranged to do both, but you’re saying that is not the case.

      So, yes, it’s double dipping, and there is also a potential conflict of interest.

    5. CL*

      The first thing you need to find out is if this person will, in fact, still be working full time for the County DA’s office. They may be switching them to part time there or getting ready to retire or leave and officials just haven’t announced it yet. There should be no problem with getting an answer to that question, I’d recommend asking the County DA’s office, since they’re the ones who would be (presumably) making the schedule adjustment. You need to ask that specific question, so you don’t get caught with egg on your face if you write an article implying that this person is double-dipping when, in fact, they aren’t.

      You also need to find out what the law is on filling the prosecutor position. The law may state that hiring someone who is simultaneously a county employee is OK or it may be silent on the subject, but you need to find out if any rules or regulations are being violated and how. You probably want to check both city and county law, it could be in violation of one and not the other.

      The other thing I’d look into is what the normal salary is for both positions. If they are taking a pay cut for one or both positions, that might also solve any double-dipping concerns.

    6. AnonJ*

      If one or the other or both are salaried positions, it wouldn’t seem like double dipping to me. When you’re paid a salary, you’re being paid to do the job in whatever hours are required to get it done. As long as this person is getting both jobs done in the way they need to be, I don’t particularly see a problem with them holding both positions.

      I think I might be more concerned about the crossover of taxpayer resources being used. If the prosecutor is doing work for the city while in their county office, using the county’s resources, for instance, that might be a concern.

      As for the conflict of interest concern, the local/state bar rules would guide whether the prosecutor needs to recuse from a case due to a conflict.

    7. Lazy Cat's Mom*

      Maybe there’s a lot of overlap in the jobs. They could be trying to streamline things. For example, are the courts in the same place? Do many cases involve both? In some municipalities, some tasks are handled by local government while others by the county, though I’m thinking more of schools, etc.

    8. Sue*

      This seems very problematic to me. Prosecuting requires a lot more work than the actual court time. There is a lot of paperwork, interviewing witnesses, negotiations, trial prep. It’s not just show up in court.
      I would expect the DA to have rules on outside work as well, as the chance for conflicts could be there and often if a deputy is conflicted, the whole office might be as well.
      You need to find out what the DA has agreed to on hours/salary/potential conflicts and what the city was told to have them agree to this. With what you’ve said, it sounds bad but there may be more to the story…

  18. Anon anon anon*

    How to know you’ve read too much Ask a Manager…

    I’m a librarian, and I was doing an instruction session today for first-year college students, and when explaining why google is not the greatest starting point because of the vetting you have to do for everything you find, I used the example of finding a page by the National Association of Llama Groomers.

    So then you have to look up the NALG, and then you find information that they’re a splinter group of the North American Association of Llama Groomers, and they split over proper hoof care, and the NALG is considered radical and not scientifically sound and bad for llamas, while the NAALG is considered the authoritative source, so now you can’t use that site you found.

    If you use the library resources, you wouldn’t have found the NALG at all, it would only have been the NAALG… (the whole explanation is a little simplistic, but I only have them for 50min and we’re all doing our best here…)

    1. Derjungerludendorff*

      Excellent example!

      If this is what reading too much AaM does, then we cannot possibly read enough of it!

  19. Jan Levinson*

    I have a positive update!

    I wrote in about a month ago in the open thread. I had brought up the issue that I was having with semi trucks parked up and down both sides of the street that I work on. I felt very unsafe driving to and from work, as cars coming from both directions would blindly drive through the middle of the street, hoping no one was coming from the opposite direction. Often, cars would be coming from both directions, and one car would essentially have to back up, pull behind the semi parked on their side of the street, and let the other car pass before proceeding through the middle of the street.

    Many of you suggested I contact local law enforcement to see if ‘no parking’ signs could be put up due to the unsafe driving conditions. Before I even had a chance to do so, several ‘no parking’ signs were put up all over the street less than a week after I had posted on here. Now, the street is clear and no semis have parked on the street since.

    It’s so nice being able to drive to and from work without the fear of getting in an accident!

    1. Natalie*

      What a timely update! I drove by a truck parked in an unusual spot earlier this week, and thought about your situation. Glad to hear things got resolved!

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Now I’m wondering which of the regular commenters is the secret identity of a fantastic law enforcement officer.

  20. Duke*

    Should a boss spend his/her personal money (that is not reimbursed by the company) for the benefit of the employees or department? Such as buying lunch, paying for parties, buying gifts/cards, or buying office supplies?

    Is there a difference between what is expected of a Team Leader, Manager, or VP?

    1. rayray*

      I feel like it might be okay to a point. When I worked at a law firm, sometimes the attorneys would buy us pizza on their own dime. It was very kind of them, and we appreciated it. One of the attorneys also gave me and at least one other person $100 bills as a little bonus/thank you for our hard work, an unexpected and untaxed bonus!

      BUT I also remember that letter a few weeks ago where the boss was spending lots of money all the time, and I do think it can go overboard. I think if a boss wants to treat or reward somebody, it’s up to them to do so, but it shouldn’t be done to bribe or favor anyone over others.

    2. Enough*

      It is not a case of should. In your example office supplies or any items needed to preform duties of the job are the responsibility of the company. The rest is up to the manager and their motives of doing so. As an employee I do not expect my bosses to gift me with any item. We are work colleagues not friends or family

    3. rageismycaffeine*

      I think it depends on the boss and the workplace. Mine spends his own money on this kind of thing happily, but we’re also a public university and don’t have a lot of “company” money to spend on that kind of stuff.

    4. Oh No She Di'int*

      Look in the sidebar (toward the bottom) and click on “my boss spends too much personal money on us”. You’ll find lots of opinions there.

    5. CupcakeCounter*

      I think it depends and should be quite limited. At my job, Boss will usually do out of pocket for our team Christmas lunch (usually the 2 bosses will split the bill), the first round of happy hour, donuts once or twice a year, etc….
      Lunch was expensed for the people who showed up to work during the polar vortex and a coworker who just had surgery was sent flowers on the company dime.

    6. Wulfwen*

      I think it depends on what you are buying. One of your examples was “office supplies.” Most office supplies should be paid for by the company – it’s a normal operating expense. I think people should only pay for their own if they have very particular and expensive preferences that the company won’t approve. Most common example I see is pens. If the company buys pens that are less than a dollar each, and the pen you like is five dollars each, you would buy that.

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

      No, for office supplies because that should definitely be a business expense, but the rest is discretional so if a manger wants to buy food or gifts in order to thank or treat their employees, and the company won’t reimburse that, then it’s fine. I know my university will allow petty cash for buying a card (for instance) but not a gift.

    8. tink*

      I think it’s fine for occasional small expenses (like bringing in a card or snack for someone’s birthday), maybe okay for a very rare non-working lunch (i.e. Lucinda’s been with the company for 25 years and is finally retiring, Frank’s been promoted to management at a different branch after being at this one for a long time, etc), and not okay for office supplies unless it’s something they want specifically that the budget doesn’t normally cover.

      My current manager usually buys a dessert to celebrate people’s birthdays, and we do a potluck once a quarter that everyone contributes towards.

    9. Alianora*

      Our director does from time to time (not office supplies, though!) and we do appreciate it. It isn’t expected, though.

    10. MissDisplaced*

      I think the office supplies ought to be provided by the company, as it is their expense.
      Personal niceties for your team are a bit different. For example, treating them to lunch or snacks or birthday cards/gifts on occasion as a thank you might be personal money. The holiday party ought not to be.

      I think there is a limit to this though. It’s one thing to spend an occasional $20-30 on pizza or Chick ‘Fil-A versus a large party that might cost hundreds. Holiday gifts may depend on size of your department and how many you manage. When I managed a team of three, I gave each a $50 gift and holiday card, and that was in addition to the company party. For birthday’s we just did potlucks that day.

    11. Person from the Resume*

      I agree with most people that sometimes being a manager includes spending money for lunch, party, or small gifts for your employees. It’s because its a thank you for being on my team, doing a good job, making me look good kind of thing. Gifts can flow down; they should never flow up.

      Office supplies, though? No. your company should provide the tools you need to do your job. Maybe fun, quirky office supplies could be a small gift, but not just needed supplies.

    12. Lilysparrow*

      Taking employees to lunch to build relationship = yes, appropriate for manager to pay personally if there is no dedicated budget for that.

      Bringing in lunch or dinner so everyone can stay in and work through a deadline – company pays, not manager personally.

      Parties – at manager’s house, after-hours? Manager pays. Cake in the breakroom? Could go either way.

      Gifts and cards? Could go either way.

      Office supplies – not appropriate for manager to pay, unless it’s something very specific as a personal gift to an individual (jokey stuff, sports team logos, things like that.)

    13. CM*

      I wouldn’t do it except in absolutely extraordinary circumstances. If you want to reward people at work, you should use the resources you have as a manager or VP — i.e., company resources — not the resources you have as a private individual. If your company doesn’t have any way to reward people, that’s a problem you should try to address.

      That said, if you’re particularly close to your team, and you all feel like you want to go out and celebrate as a group while everyone pays for their own meal or drinks — or even if you buy a single round of drinks and don’t pick up the whole tab — I think that’s fine.

      But, basically, the more formal it is, the more the company needs to be paying for it.

    14. stampysmom*

      No they shouldn’t. I expect nothing but I do appreciate when my manager buys my coffee sometimes when I see him in the office. I also get his coffee sometimes too. My team all work remotely and don’t see each other very much. So whoever gets to the register first pays when you grab a coffee with someone. Its a race!

  21. Stephen!*

    I am employed by my state’s government and a small portion of my job is to provide a service to a population that tends to skew conservative and have no compunction about bringing up their beliefs, completely unbidden and frankly undesired by me.

    That I can deal with. What drives me crazy is that they often complain about all the “free stuff” everyone gets and expects from the government, that comes directly out of the wallet of hardworking tax payers like themselves. Regardless of your political stance- they are saying this to me, a government employee providing them with a free service that comes out of the wallets of other hardworking taxpayers. Is there a good way to push back on this?

    1. JimmyJab*

      As a fellow gov’t employee, you probably can’t! It sucks, but I’m willing to bet learning to ignore it is your only option. I don’t even work directly with the public and we are very restricted as to what we can say to the outside world.

    2. Mama Bear*

      I think that other than reminding them occasionally that you are paid for by taxes “happy to help – your tax dollars at work!” there’s little you can do. I’d deflect and redirect as much as possible. “So, Mr. Smith, we were talking about YOUR tree, yes? Let’s get back to setting up that appointment.”

      1. Anongradstudent*

        Also a govt employee here! I really like the “happy to help – your tax dollars at work!” statement. Only if they bring taxes up beforehand, but that’s the kind of passive-aggressive response I like to see.

      2. juliebulie*

        If you happen to know the dollar value of what you’re providing to them for free, it might not hurt to mention that they’re getting a $xx service from you right now.

    3. Mainely Professional*

      I’m consistently amazed at how old grumpy conservatives complain about TANF and WIC and other government benefits but when it comes to their Medicare, it’s just their due.

      1. Derjungerludendorff*

        Well obviously they DESERVE it!
        They actually worked for it you see, unlike all those lazy good-for-nothings who all yada yada yada.

        A lot of people’s beliefs aren’t nearly as fair or just as they claim to be, especially when it comes to when they are held to the same standards that they hold other people to.

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      You probably can’t say anything because of your position, but you *might* be able to get away with some mild truisms.
      – Maybe joking about something that most people see as valuable, like ‘I know what you mean! Firemen and police too! It’s like fires and crime might affect more than just the people whose houses are burning or something!’
      – Or ‘we are all actually paying – everyone pays sales taxes’ (if that’s true in your area).

      Me, I’m not a govt employee, and I tell my farming cousins ‘oh, like those farm subsidies you get for the fallow front 40?’ All The Time. I have also been known to tell old people ‘you mean, like Social Security?’

      This has sadly failed sometimes relative to public education, because some people do not see this as benefiting them if their kids are not currently in school. Because no doctors or nurses or other service posts have ever come out of public education or something?

      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        AEh, Social Security is earned. People pay into it. They are getting their money back.
        (Government employee as well)

    5. tink*

      No, because people like that only hate “free stuff” when other people they perceive as not contributing “as much” as they do are the ones receiving it. It’s a level of cognitive dissonance I’ve never been able to fully wrap my own mind around.

      1. Zona the Great*

        Right. I live in Arizona. Full of people needing and using really great social services but also complaining about other social services “others” need.

    6. Rusty Shackelford*

      No, you’ll never convince them they’re wrong, but it might make you feel better to say “Yes, that sounds frustrating. But on the other hand, if the government weren’t able to provide free things to people who need it, I wouldn’t be here giving you this free service, so I guess we all benefit in the end.”

    7. Cog in the Machine*

      Probably not, but I feel your annoyance. I get a lot of the same at my federal job, and we do a bunch of finsncial aid programs. The best I’ve ever come up with is to smile and nod and try not to roll my eyes.

    8. LKW*

      Unlikely to have an impact. A family friend was railing about the healthcare act and how the government shouldn’t be involved in health care. My dad asked “Oh, so you’re going off of Medicare? Good for you!” to which said family friend “No, I’m not! I earned that!”

      Cognitive dissonance is an interesting thing.

    9. QCI*

      I like to joke about how social security wont be around anymore by the time I get to their age, and then sigh and die a little bit inside.

    10. Sharrbe*

      I know a person who is profoundly disabled with a condition that has him confined to his house for the rest of life. He is on state assistance for his medical care – which he absolutely should be because there is zero way his family could pay for that level of care – it is extensive and it is costly. He’s also receiving disability. He’s also very very very conservative. And complains about how much of our taxdollars are being wasted on welfare programs. And how we shouldn’t believe those sob stories from the border, or people on welfare, etc. The level of cognitive dissonance is astounding.

    11. just a small town girl*

      Oh god, I would so want to say something like “Yep! Just like (X service they’re receiving), taxpayer funded programs can help a lot of people like yourself!”

      1. Auto Generated Anon*

        When Obamacare was being passed, my FIL proclaimed that the federal government better keep its hands off his Medicare.

        Nothing you can say to change them, but you can always amuse yourself by maintaining total pleasantness and offering that you *dont understand* do you mean this free service?

        1. just a small town girl*

          Yes! I do seasonal tax work for VITA and will occasionally get people who harrumph about how much taxes are taken out and how it goes to those f***ing *insert racial slur* blah blah blah and I just smile and say “oh yes, it’s so nice that taxes go to help people in need, like the people who need the VITA program!”.

          Nothing pisses those people off than someone politely disagreeing with them in a way they can’t shut down.

    12. Gatomon*

      I used to take those situations as an opportunity to discuss how the programs I worked with were funded, what the general eligibility requirements were and what factors went into benefit determinations, and how long you could receive benefits. If they were still grumpy, I’d give them the number for the fraud investigation department to report any fraud they were aware of and remind them that their government representatives would be the avenue to start with if they had ideas for reforming the program or felt that it should be abolished.

      I liked to plant the idea that government assistance is generally meant to be an investment: we would like to support John Doe with SNAP benefits for a year or two and connect him to other government programs that can help him train for a job that will pay better so that he get a better job. That increase in tax revenue from John Doe a few years later will cover the money spent on food and training for him and then some, because his earning potential is higher now that he has a desirable skill.

      Now if someone is giving you a bad vibe, I would just ignore the conversation landmines they lob out, but for those who come across as fairly reasonable, I think just letting them spew nonsense unchallenged further undermines the role of government.

    13. Windchime*

      I have a relative who used to work for the State Welfare department. His job was to speak with clients over the phone and help them iron out issues with their Snap (food stamps), rental assistance, etc. Some grumpy, mean person called and was yelling at Relative to “fix it; I am a taxpayer and I pay your salary!”. Relative replied, “Actually, right now I pay yours.” *

      * Don’t say this.

  22. MissGirl*

    I’m starting a new job next week! It’s a different environment than I’ve worked in before. Any tips on the following?

    –Working as a consultant with external clients?
    –Working for a mature start-up that’s growing rapidly?

    1. Kiwiii*

      I’m interested in this as well. I just joined an Old nonprofit that restructured significantly 20 years ago and then again about 3 years ago and has been Rapidly growing since the recent changes (it’s about doubled in size since then — and is slated to keep going at about the same rate as we just gained three new large contracts)(I only really realized this properly when I asked why everyone seemed to either have been here for 10-15 years or under 2.5 years.)

    2. WheezyWeasel*

      Startups: I like to say that it’s an interstate with a fast lane and a median, but no slow lane. Things either get done right away (fast lane), or they fall by the wayside and aren’t picked up again (median). The slow lanes are building processes to ensure consistency. It can be bewildering and frustrating to come from a company where there are lots of processes and documentation to a more freewheeling culture.

      – Be sure you can advocate well for what you need and are prepared to do it many times and to many stakeholders without getting frustrated. You may need to tweak your message slightly for each audience. If you don’t advocate for yourself and there are no established ‘slow lanes’ of procedures, it may not get done. This can be something as simple as getting your parking pass renewed up to why your 401K hasn’t been matched in a year, and anything in between.

      – Flexibility and adaptability to change is prized in some startups and rapid growth modes. If Procedure Y was in place last week and now Procedure Z is in place, forget about Y, the amount of time it took to get up to speed on it, whether it was a good or bad idea….etc. I’ve found it way easier to not try and pick apart why Procedure Z might have deficiencies, but start implementing it right away, then bring up those deficiencies weekly when you have data to back it up. “Procedure Z led to an increase of 5 hours of work for my team, meaning Procedures E and F were incomplete and affected Team Lamda”

      External Clients:
      – Client work expands to fill the time allotted :) Start setting up firm boundaries about when you will respond to them (hours of the day) your response time (24 hours min, even if it’s to say you are still working on it). If your company culture allows, do not send emails to clients on nights and weekends, program the email to auto-send when you are in the office.

      – Examine how you react to client criticism of the product or your own work effort. This is my weak zone, I feel the need to defend myself a lot about ‘why’ things didn’t get done, a bug that isn’t fixed, a functionality that doesn’t exist. I have reframed it to never say the word sorry on a call. I focus on acknowledging their frustration, explaining the next steps and what I’ll take back to my management team. Doing this consistently will keep your blood pressure down.

  23. Morning Glory*

    What are the fundamentals of being a good manager of relatively inexperienced recent grads or current students who will typically work on independent projects?

    I’m interested in how much explanation to give for projects, how much oversight during projects, how to give significant feedback without being demoralizing, and how often to do standing check-in meetings?

    1. Marion Q*

      (I’m six month into my first job after university) I realise this is probably more of a ‘me’ issue rather than ‘recent grads’ issue, but the one thing that I really wished my manager had done in my first month is for him to have explained the big picture/the reasons behind the tasks.

      To illustrate, I’m a llama groomer. During training, I was only trained on how to feed the llamas, how to brush their coat, etc. But I wasn’t given the explanation of why I had to use this brush only, or how my work will impact other llama groomers, things like that.

      It may seem obvious, but for someone who doesn’t have any prior experience working, it wasn’t. Especially because in school you’re only responsible for your own work; what you do only affect you and no one else, it can be relatively difficult to understand that someone else depends on you doing a good job on your part.

      Hope that helps!

      1. halfwolf*

        seconding this with the caveat that you want to do this kind of explanation on a rolling basis rather than all in the beginning, or it becomes way too much for a new person to absorb. i’m not a manager, but i’ve trained several people in my position and have had to try to strike that balance between giving context (that will ultimately be helpful but may be too much to remember all at once) and making sure the person knows how to do their portion correctly. one of the ways i’ve handled this is: i show the new person how to brush the llamas, focusing only on what they need to do rather than why. the first time they do it solo, i swing by to see how it’s going and ask if they have any questions, and use that as an opening to give the further context of “you have to use this brush because other brushes may damage the llama’s fur, and since we’re going to shear the llamas and sell their wool to a high-end company it needs to be as pristine as possible.”

      2. LKW*

        Also seconding (thirding?) this. Context. I’m working with a team now that is showing clear signs that they don’t understand the industry they are supporting. I start with, “Are you familiar with this process/concept?” and then pick a starting point based on their answer.

        But sometimes it’s just a reminder that if they don’t understand something – Google is a friend.

    2. ACDC*

      You can probably vary how often you do check in meetings. I’ve had times where I do a daily check in if I’m working on something really important/time sensitive. I’ve also just had weekly or bi-weekly check ins. It could be something where you start off doing them more frequently and then scale back later on.

    3. Anona*

      I try to provide written instructions that are really clear, so they’ll have something to refer back to. I then go through the written instructions with them in person. We then try a task together, ideally letting them “drive” (or do whatever on the computer themselves vs them watching me click through stuff). I make it clear what they need to do if they have questions. And then have them try a task on their own/meet with them briefly after the task to make sure they’re still OK, and let them know what was good, and what they need to work on. I would assume that they’re not going to get it right at first, and also tell them that. Tell them that it’s a learning process.

      This takes a long time, like sometimes initially a couple of hours for their initial training. I’d allot 1 hour to train, at least, for each new task. I would’t do more than 2 hours of intensive training a day. I’d do some training, and then let them do something independent (either practicing the task or doing some reading/own studying).

      I’d then meet with them at least once a week.

    4. Kiwiii*

      Re significant feedback without being demoralizing — framing it as though “of course you wouldn’t know, let’s work through what happened and what should happen next time” instead of framing it as “this is where you went wrong” is really helpful. They don’t have a work history yet and so they don’t have a lot of experience with office norms, how to research things on the job, or even sometimes how they’re expected to problem solve.

    5. Platypus Enthusiast*

      I did two internships at the same time- one was a perfect fit, while the other was a valuable experience in a work environment that doesn’t work for me. I agree with what Marion Q mentioned (actually, I’m also less than a year into my first career-related job out of university) about having the context behind a project. Indicating which tasks should be priorities and deadlines was pretty important to me- actually, clear communication is really, really important to develop people who may have less experience. In terms of feedback, be very clear on what they did well and exactly what areas they need to work on. When I worked retail, there was a supervisor in a different department who would come by and tell people “I don’t like how you did that”, and walk away. We’d have no idea what she wanted from us, and she always refused to elaborate.

      Please demonstrate good workplace practices! I’m still startled to think about toxic behaviors that were normalized at some of my previous workplaces.

    6. MeganTea*

      I work in a university office, and I supervise multiple graduate assistants (GA) and student workers. From the very first interview, I emphasize that working in our office means acquiring a lot of institutional knowledge, we know that it takes about a semester for students to get up to speed and learn the foundational info, and because there is so much to learn, and certain events/processes only occur a few times per year, we expect these students to have a lot of questions and even occasionally ask the same question again as they are picking up all this info.

      This does a pretty good job at setting the stage for encouraging new hires to ask me questions. The new hires also get to see the more seasoned student employees ask me questions, so when I do assign a project and end with “what questions do you have,” they don’t seem to worry about “looking stupid” when they ask questions.

      For each of our positions, we have a “manual” that outlines regular projects and processes for that specific position, as well as the important info for the person in that position to know. Whenever someone graduates and gets ready to leave, I ask them to update the manual, and I go through the manual, too, to to make sure info is up-to-date. Having this documentation helps a lot in getting the new hires going and doing projects/processes for the first time.

      Typically, new hires need a lot more hand holding and oversight, but as they settle in, I’ll back off and start asking more for them to use their judgement. However, from the beginning, I’m giving a lot of feedback — but it’s mostly a lot of small pieces of feedback and a lot of “let me give you the context” for how things work or why things are the way they are. Since this is how I work in general, and new hires can see this is how I manage everyone, it’s very rarely embarrassing or demoralizing for them. I mean, occasionally, they do mess up, but when they do, my attitude is “how can we correct this or prevent it from happening again?”

    7. AcademiaNut*

      I’ve worked a fair bit with research summer students (undergrads or recent graduates). Typically we get them for about two months, so it’s a fairly compressed schedule.

      – Start out with meeting daily, to talk over progress and provide feedback. Some students will be able to work fairly independently (good problem solving skills, reasonable judgement), others will need a lot of hand holding, and help learning how to solve problems, some will be overconfident and inclined to veer off in weird directions without checking first. Typically, I expect to adjust the project based on the students’ capability.

      – I usually start out with assigning background reading for the project (in our case, it would be some papers, and maybe a chapter or two of a graduate level textbook for some of the technical background). Students are often better at the finer details (do X then Y), than understanding the context of the project, so I make sure to explain what the project plans to accomplish, an overview of how we’re going to do it, and how it’s going to fit in with the larger research plan.

      – I don’t generally dump the whole project on them at once. I start with a manageable chunk (something that should take about a week), then work from there.

      – A lot of the feedback can come during the daily check ins. Having it in small chunks makes it more manageable than dumping a week or two of corrections and suggestions at once. If there are general trends, address them as you notice them – like, being more careful about details, showing up on time, getting them to search on stack exchange before coming in to ask me. If a student is demanding too much of your time, address it.

      – Go in knowing that they may be missing very basic things that would seem obvious to you, and be willing to explain stuff in a matter of fact way. Sometimes you have to explicitly tell a student that showing up for work hours or checking their email regularly during the work day are mandatory (really!) or explain basic workplace hygiene and dress standards (yes on deodorant, no on lounging pyjamas, ripped muscle shirts or short-shorts).

      – Give them a chance to ask questions, and ask them questions to check their understanding of their work. Some students will be shy about admitting they don’t know something, others will be inclined to bluff and make stuff up if they don’t understand, so watch for that.

    8. CM*

      From your question, I think that when you say “significant feedback” you mean “negative feedback,” but it’s worth considering that feedback can be negative, positive, and neutral — all it is is sharing your reaction to what someone did.

      However, if we’re talking about negative feedback, I think the rules with new grads are the same as with anyone else.

      1) Don’t wait until it’s all the way done to start giving feedback, and don’t parachute in unexpectedly. Mutually agree on a couple of milestones or check-in points that make sense, where you can have a look at the work as it’s progressing and give feedback on specific aspects of it.

      2) Use feedback as an opportunity to describe the issue you’re seeing and not to tell somebody how to fix it. If they ask how to fix it, you can suggest things or explain the thought process you’d use to figure it out, but don’t lead with a solution. So, instead of saying, “You need to go back and paint all the roses red,” you’d say, “The problem I’m seeing is that the roses don’t seem to match the Queen of Hearts’ aesthetic, which makes them look off-brand.”

      If the issue is more like “I hired this person as a writer and I think they are a terrible writer” … that’s not something that’s likely to change, but my advice in that case is to step through the difference you’d like to see one piece at a time, in order of priority, as an experiment to see if the person is actually capable of doing what you want. So, in the writer example, if you say, “I’d like the next draft you send me to be clean, with no grammatical errors,” or “I’d like the next draft you send me to be in the same voice as these other promotional materials” or whatever, and they literally can’t do that, that’s information you need to know, and you can get it without telling them the whole list of 500 reasons you think their copy sucks.

  24. Liking your coworkers but not the company*

    I like my team. I like my boss. I like my boss’s boss. I like other people at my level and a step above. But the senior leadership / direction of the company, not a fan (bad financial decisions leading to layoffs, rolling out required tools that prevent you from getting work done, etc). How do you decide to leave the company if the work, pay, colleagues are good / decent but you don’t like the corporation as a whole ?

    1. MissGirl*

      If the leadership is shoddy and makes bad decisions, your job isn’t secure. The status quo of everything else can change on a dime. Will your managers want to stay if they have to deal with bad leadership, your coworkers?

    2. Kiwiii*

      provided you’ve been there long enough to gain anything from it, i’d say it’s time to start looking selectively.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      It’s not an easy decision.

      If other aspects of your job are good, and you don’t have to interact with the upper levels, you can probably live with working there and taking your time to find a company you’re more in line with value-wise.
      But if the decisions impact you directly, and hinder your growth or job security, you might want to be more active in a job search. Ultimately though, you have to decide if you can live with the direction the company is going in.

    4. International Holding, Unlimited*

      I was here earlier this year (although steadily growing more frustrated with my grand-boss as well). I’d been there almost 7 years, climbed as far as I wanted to (any further up and there weren’t a lot of positions, plus I’d be getting much closer to upper management and wanted nothing to do with them), and the pay wasn’t great although the benefits were nice. I got out, but I was very particular about where I went.

  25. Quiltrrr*

    I am very frustrated with my workplace. My manager has been on medical accommodations since I’ve started here (about a year and a half). I’ve worked with him before, and I know he’s a good boss…very knowledgeable, low drama, supportive. But, he’s not been working at 100%, and he’s rarely in the office (he is allowed to work from home, and he usually is not contactable in the afternoon). This is very much a butts-in-seats place, and I know that his lack of being in the office plus his lack of focus is…not good. I don’t think it’s putting a very good light on our team either.

    I have no idea what to do anymore. Part of me is sympathetic…he’s in constant pain. Part of me is very frustrated because most of the time, I have no direction and our projects are not getting completed like they should be. I don’t want to talk to his boss, because we don’t have any relationship (this place is also very hierarchical). Have applied to other jobs, and had some interviews that the time to have heard about getting a job has probably passed (coming up on 2 months with no word back), and this is a niche role that only large companies would have.

    Any ideas to deal with the frustration?

    1. Kathenus*

      I understand the frustration, but my advice would be to focus on what you need to be able to do your job. For example, you need more direction – OK, what does that look like to you (written instructions/specifications, more deadlines, work assignments clearly spelled out, etc.). So that’s what you focus on, not that your manager is not physically there or his situation. The reason you’re not getting the direction you’d like doesn’t matter, what’s important is finding a way to get the direction you need.

      Also, for the bigger picture, look at the positives. Your company is supporting your manager with flexibility and accommodations during a difficult time. In spite of the challenges, this is largely a good thing about your company which might benefit you some day if needed. Instead of thinking that it puts your team in a poor light that he’s not there, look at the perspective of a supportive workplace.

      It’s absolutely reasonable to find ways to solve the problems that hinder your work, which also might involve building a relationship with your grandboss if that’s going to be a contact when your manager is out, but look at the bigger picture of what you need to be able to do your job well and ask for that, and not get lost in your manager’s specific situation. Good luck.

    2. ACDC*

      No advice, just sympathy for the situation. My previous boss (just moved to a new team internally about 3 weeks ago) hasn’t worked a full week since December or January and has been on FMLA off and on for about 6 months of this year.

  26. Goldfinch*

    I think I inadvertently trash-talked my husband at work yesterday.

    A pregnant colleague and I were walking to a meeting, and she was (jokingly) complaining about how her mother-in-law is obsessed with astrology and is predicting things about the baby. Another colleague, Jane, made a disgusted face as she passed us in the hall, and I made a mental note that Jane must not care for astrology. It wasn’t until later that I realized, based on her timing, that Jane probably only heard me say “My husband is a cancer” with none of the context. Oops.

  27. SwirlPencil*

    I got a master’s degree in llama care and did some llama grooming internships several years ago. I was never able to get a llama job, but still apply to related positions occasionally (ones that only require a year or two of experience) because it’d be great if all that time/effort/money I put into learning about llamas didn’t go to waste. I applied to two llama grooming jobs recently. I already interviewed and got rejected for one.

    The recruiter from the second company sent me a list of questions two weeks ago asking about my understanding of/familiarity with/knowledge of various llama topics, and my experience with specific grooming tasks and equipment (which I obviously only have from my grad school classes and internships). She left me a voicemail a week later saying to call her back ASAP, which got my hopes up, but she just wanted to know if I’d ever worked at the company before because the hiring manager thought I sounded familiar. (Wouldn’t I have mentioned that in my cover letter or listed it on my resume?!?!) Haven’t heard from her since then, so it’s not promising.

    All this is making me wonder: Should I stop applying to llama grooming jobs? I assume candidates with recent degrees and professional experience will always get picked over me, so maybe devoting time to applying, doing phone screenings, and going to interviews is just a big waste of time. If someone was going to hire me for a llama job, that would have happened by now, right? If I’m asked to interview, is there any questions I can ask first to get a feel for if I’m a serious candidate or not? I wonder if the only reason I get asked to interview is to fill interview quotas (like if they need to interview at least 5 candidates with the llama care degree).

    1. Norm*

      If llama grooming is what really makes you happy, you should keep trying to get into it. I wanted to be a llama groomer since I was about 10, did it as a amateur for a decade, majored in llama grooming and got my first job in a grooming-adjacent field.

      But I never caught on and decided after a while that llama grooming wasn’t really more fun than journalism and administration, so I moved along and I guess now I’m happier?

      The key thing I see in your post is that you never say you LOVE llama grooming and wish you could quit your soul-crushing job to make llamas your life’s work. If you’re really not that interested in it anymore, there’s nothing wrong with moving on.

      1. SwirlPencil*

        I do LOVE llama grooming and if I won the lottery I’d quit my soul-crushing job and find somewhere to volunteer with llamas.

        But I’ve already spent two years volunteering with llamas, invested 2 years and a ton of money into getting an advanced llama degree, did three unpaid llama internships, have been applying to llama jobs for several years, and I have nothing to show for it. And I don’t have the time or money to invest more into that career path (like getting a third degree, volunteering, or doing more unpaid internships).

        I’d still jump at the chance to work with llamas, but, realistically, am I just wasting time still applying to llama jobs at this point? How do you know when to give up on a dream that’s tied to your aging degree and experience?

        1. Mrs_helm*

          I don’t think you ever have to give up on it completely. But if you don’t have time to pursue it (volunteer, take more classes, do it PT/freelance) then…maybe don’t? How would it make you feel if you said ‘I’m gonna back burner this while I do this other job that supports my family…and maybe come back to it later.

          I say this as someone who got pulled into programming in the late ’90s – after getting a degree in English Lit and most of the quals needed for a teaching certificate. I do not regret it, because I feel good about the work I am doing and about supporting my family. Would I maybe like to teach Shakespeare at community college someday? Sure. Maybe I will! I just came back to musical performance after 18 yrs also. It could happen.

          But it isn’t a crime to do what is working and not what isn’t working. (Especially if you don’t have time to fix the unworking thing, assuming there even IS a fix.)

        2. AcademiaNut*

          The two reasons I can think of for giving up

          – pursuing it is taking away from time and energy you could spend doing other fulfilling things in your life, with little chance of getting anything in return.

          – pursuing it is keeping your disappointment at the front of your mind, and keeping you from moving on with your life.

          So I’d ask yourself the question – if you knew that you would never get a Llama related job, what would you do? Particularly in the context of not liking your current job. Then, even if you decide to keep on with it in the background, you can be working towards a happy life without Llamas in it.

    2. SwirlPencil*

      I reached out to the recruiter about the second job and they said the hiring manager thought my skill set was not a match for the role. This is the first time I’ve ever gotten any sort of feedback about my candidacy for these kinds of jobs, so maybe I should just take it to heart.

      1. Owler*

        I’m sorry. I’m sure that was hard to hear, but I hope that maybe it would help you crystalize your thinking?

        My only contribution is to think about whether there is a time limit to entering your llama career. Perhaps there is value in giving yourself time to step away, pursue something else, and reevaluate in a few years. I realize that there are certifications that can expire, so this path is not realistic for all interests. I like AcademiaNut’s advice above.

    3. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

      I’m literally in the same position as you in my own version of llama grooming. Did a degree, unpaid internships as well as a couple of short-term contracts, volunteer consulting, and I’ve made it to the final stage round of several interviews only to lose out to people with yet “more experience”. My understanding is that the field is very saturated, where there are far more qualified candidates than job openings. My current strategy is to continue applying (because applying never hurts!) but not to put all my eggs in one basket and pursue other alternative opportunities as well. I’ve made peace with the fact that I may never truly work in the llama grooming industry, but will still continue to contribute to the industry through volunteering and other ancillary activities. And you never know what those could lead to! If it’s your passion, I don’t recommend giving up totally – you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

  28. EmilyG*

    I have been approached about doing some consulting! I’m excited because I feel solid on the subject matter and my experience. Also have a sense of what I should charge and how to document the steps. But as I try to write the proposal, I’m getting stuck on things like how much background work is just mine to do, versus what I charge for. Like do I specify time for “thinking of questions to ask Person X when I interview them” and “looking stuff up on the web.” That seems a bit silly, but I don’t see how anyone makes money if they don’t charge for their time. Does anyone have any advice or resources?

    1. DataDiva*

      Congratulations! I started consulting for a university professor about a year ago, and I charge for everything, even research time (because that’s what you’re doing! Not just ‘looking stuff up on the web’ haha). I didn’t have to write a proposal up front; instead I just invoice monthly with a brief description of each time entry on the invoice, and I only bill in 15 minute increments, so I’ll try to roll a few short tasks like research and thinking up interview questions together so I’m not overcharging or shorting myself.

      Unsolicited advice: charge more than you think you should! One, you have to pay your own taxes and unemployment and such, about 30% of your income. And two, as an independent consultant you’ll still be cheaper than if they hired McKinsey or whoever to consult. For reference, I charge $50/hour for remote stats consulting, and that’s definitely low. If I were charging a corporate account (not academic or nonprofit), I’d say at least $75/hour, maybe more.

      1. EmilyG*

        The first thing someone told me was figure out how my salary works to hourly, and then double it. And yes, that has an immediate “?!” reaction from me, but I’m going to stick to my guns.

      1. EmilyG*

        I think my first mistake was getting too granular. I can make a list like that for myself but I don’t need to put it all in the proposal. In fact they said it would be easier to pay me a flat fee so I’m just doing this for estimation purposes, really!

    2. Filosofickle*

      I don’t charge for time per se but I do charge for what value / deliverables I create for them, and that includes a lot of time! Everything you have to “do” to do the work is part of what they’re paying for. Including background work!

      In proposals I always list a Phase 1: Planning that includes some of those background things.
      A. Project plan – Outline the process and schedule…
      B. Kickoff – meet as a group to align expectations…
      Content review – Review client provided materials and perform desktop research…
      Something like that. Your fee must account for all this time

      Further, I don’t typically document the minutiae because it’s not necessary, plus it avoids any arguments about what things cost. For example, simply saying “Review existing documentation and get up to speed on client context” covers a lot of ground, they don’t need bullets more detailed than that most of the time. They need to see enough to understand what they’re buying, and possibly to build confidence that you have knowledge/processes in place, but more words is not always better.

      I’m not sure if you mean the same thing by “interviews” but I do a lot of formal research interviews. In a proposal, I would not list the embedded sub-tasks, like creating interview questions before or typing up notes after. It’s more important to describe the purpose & process. What kind of conversations (group, 1:1); number of sessions and duration; what you want to learn; who, specifically, or what types of people you’ll be interviewing.

      1. EmilyG*

        Thanks for these helpful examples. I think I just needed some plausible verbiage to get the juices flowing. Overall it seems like I was getting too granular and that’s why it was beginning to sound silly to me. I won’t be doing research interviews–it’s more like management consulting–but I’ll need to talk to a bunch of different stakeholders and synthesize.

  29. Anon reader*

    Does anyone have any recommendations for where to buy women’s suits in store? Issue, I’m a size 18-20, so places like Express and H&M don’t work. Also, preferably, places with a younger style and not matronly?

    1. Coco*

      Have you looked at j crew, Ann Taylor, banana republic? I have liked suits at Ann Taylor Loft’s outlet in the past. Good luck. Suit shopping is not fun

    2. JimmyJab*

      Loft has plus sizes and while I don’t buy suits from them, they do sell suiting and I like the other clothes I’ve purchased there. Some of their things can be a bit matronly, but you can find youthful things as well! Good luck!

    3. DataDiva*

      I’ve heard good things about Zara and Asos suits, and I just checked and both have some extended size options. I know you said in store, but both are free shipping over $50 in case there’s not one near you. Definitely fresh, non-matronly cuts :).

      1. QueenoftheCats*

        Just to note: i think zara tends to run on the smaller side. Other than that, their clothes are nice and durable

        Maurice has a nice professional/work line of clothes and has a extended sizes.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      Torrid has been awfully suity lately. The selection on their website is better than their in-store selection, but they’ll definitely have something for you.

      1. A tester, not a developer*

        I was just going to recommend Torrid! Even in store they’ve had two different cuts of jackets. And I’m in Canada, where we get the dregs…

      2. Filosofickle*

        “Statement Suits” have really taken over, especially in plus sizes. This is your moment if you like that sort of thing!

    5. CupcakeCounter*

      New York and Co has extended sizes that also come in petite and tall. I have found their tall jackets to be a godsend! I have very broad shoulders and large breasts with a small waist and with the tall jackets I don’t need to buy 2 sizes up just to be able to move.

    6. Fabulous*

      Agree with Coco that Ann Taylor LOFT is a great option – I got my most recent suit (that I’ve already unfortunately grown out of) from LOFT. You might also try Macy’s.

    7. CoffeeforLife*

      I bought a ton of suits at Macy’s -this was Las Vegas so it might not apply to other locations. Love Banana Republic but don’t recall them stocking past size 14 in store.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        Dress Barn is going out of business, though. I have a Dress Barn credit card, and I’m told it will become useless sometime in October.

        1. nym*

          I bought a pair of work pants at Dress Barn in 2005. I’ve worn them at least weekly for 15 years, and the only thing I’ve had to do is replace a button. They are amazing and I am very sad at the loss of sturdy work clothes.

    8. macaroni*

      Talbot’s saved me last year. I went to a bunch of different places and had some extremely wtf interactions with sellers who didn’t seem to understand that, yes, I wanted to buy a suit _today_ and not have it special ordered. Then I walked into Talbot’s. Ten minutes later, I walked out with a suit that fit me.

    9. Mop Head*

      I love JC Penny, they have nice suits and separates, like jackets and pants, in those sizes, and are not outrageously expensive.

    10. Em from CA*

      If you’re near a major metro area, check out MM LaFleur. They are my professional go-to, and they have a great range of items in the sizes you mention. They’re pricey, but the quality is great. (They also do one of those “we send you a box of items for you to try on” programs, if that appeals.)

    11. Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.*

      Macy’s and JC Penney have good stuff. Also, RIP Lord & Taylor, I always had good luck there (but they’re no longer in my city).

    12. DaniCalifornia*

      Second Torrid. I’m the same size and got a great blazer and pair of pants that were the same black and roughly the same material (pants were stretchy too so they are way more comfy than other pants I’ve had to wear.) And they are always having great sales!

    13. Coverage Associate*

      Macy’s. If you can learn your brands and sizes, I like to get them on eBay. It doesn’t save a whole bunch of money because of misses, usually with color or sleeve length, but it saves time and the selection is better.

    14. Ms Ida*

      If you are near NYC or Seattle Universtal Standard has some suiting. They are also online of course but theose are the only two store locations. I highly endorse as non matronly.

    15. voluptuousfire*

      Torrid! I’m roughly anywhere from a 16-20 and Torrid has some really cute suiting this year. Although some of the cuts may be a bit “sexy” for a more conservative office (i.e. very slim fitting suit bottoms in some cases), I think they’re worth a look. They also usually have decent sales so you can get a really good looking suit for around $80 or so. Not cheap but def better than other places. Sign up for their Insider. You get 5% off every item you purchase in addition to whatever sales you may get.

      I should also mention I’m a Torrid fangirl. :)

      The Avenue may be an option. Some of their stores are being closed down so you may find something. I also bought a few nice black ponte knit sheath dresses from Old Navy’s plus sized section for a song. Can’t go wrong with a LBD for $20.

      1. HoundMom*

        Dillard’s is wonderful for suits. Sadly, I do not have one near me, but my MIL finds me amazing clothes there and they have fabulous sales.

  30. Lizzy May*

    I have a coworker who came in sick two days in a row and I’m just very frustrated about it. On Wednesday she tells me she isn’t feeling great and I say to her “if you still feel like this tomorrow, stay home.” We’re short staffed right now, but I can handle it on my own. I get in on Thursday and she walks in coughing, sneezing and barely able to talk. I tell her to leave and I can process whatever she has one the go. She decides to stay until after lunch. On her way out the door yesterday, I again say “if you are still sick, don’t come in tomorrow. Stay home, take care of yourself.” I get here today and she’s worse. She left for the day about a half hour ago.

    My four month old nephew was born a preemie and has serious lung issues. He spent the first two months in the NICU and is still on oxygen. I was supposed to see him tomorrow. Now I can’t because I will not take the risk that I could have caught something and I’m not exhibiting symptoms yet. If you are sick, stay home people. I know jobs can make that very difficult sometimes, but this sort of thing is the reason why. You don’t know who you are putting in danger by spreading your germs around.

    1. DAMitsDevon*

      Uggh yes, I had to undergo treatments for a kidney issue that suppressed my immune system (and technically it won’t be back to normal until next month, though it has likely improved since I went off steroids), and in the past two weeks, a few of my coworkers have come in sick. Luckily, I didn’t catch anything, but I’d rather not see what happens if I catch something with a weakened immune system.

    2. Earthwalker*

      Some honestly sick people come in because they assume their boss will think they’re malingering when the boss never stated a position on sick time one way or the other. I had a very cranky boss whose one saving grace was that he insisted that anyone with an illness must stay home to protect our one team member who was on immune-suppressant drugs for his organ transplant. Is it possible that you could confess your situation to the boss and the boss might offer clear and open support for sick people staying home?

    3. Monican*

      In an ideal world, everyone would stay home when they have a cold, but you can’t control how your coworkers choose to use their time off. She may have reasons for choosing to work while sick. Also, you can pick up a cold virus anywhere at anytime. Being around a sick coworker does increase your chances a bit, but you could also easily pick up a virus at the grocery store, on public transportation, or anywhere else you go. A person can be contagious without showing symptoms, so even a seemingly healthy coworker could be a risk. If you want to keep yourself from getting sick, wash your hands frequently and wipe down surfaces you touch frequently.

    4. Former Govt Contractor*

      I hate, hate, hate this. On Monday, co-worker had been talking to me for about 10 minutes in my office before she says she’s still feeling SO sick, had been throwing up for hours right before she came to work! I got so mad, I told her to get out of my office, what the hell is she doing here! We get TWENTY sick days a year (plus vacation plus personal days plus holidays etc. etc. etc.). Two others in my small office have now come down with stomach flu. Seriously.

        1. Derjungerludendorff*

          Or seriously hesitant to take sick days for some reason.

          Either way, they should have stayed home, and management should have sent them home if they didn’t.

    5. Anona*

      I’d explain about your nephew, and also that you can handle stuff on your own. Something like “I don’t mean to overstep, but if you’re sick and have the leave, it would mean a lot to me if you could stay home. I try to visit my preemie nephew, and I have to skip visiting with him when I’ve been around people who are sick”

      1. ACDC*

        This is a good point, your coworker certainly has no knowledge of your schedule outside of work and the conditions around that. You are annoyed because she has compromised your ability to do something outside of work that she has no idea about. She can’t do anything about it when she doesn’t know about it.

        1. Lizzy May*

          I did explain, both yesterday and today, that I would have to miss my visit with my nephew if there was a chance I was sick. She also knows my sister, who she has worked with in the past, and knows all about my nephew and his circumstances. I get that my annoyance is mine to deal with, but I also just think we all need to do better about staying out of public spaces when we are sick and especially if someone expresses a clear reason for you to stay home.

    6. ACDC*

      Is this person eligible for sick time or PTO? Or does she not get paid if she doesn’t work? I’ve come into work sick at any job where I wouldn’t have gotten paid for taking a sick day. At that time, I couldn’t afford to miss a day of pay. I’m sorry you can’t visit your nephew though.

      1. Lizzy May*

        We get 5 sick days and 3 personal days that can be used as sick days if needed. I don’t know where she stands in terms of days remaining because I don’t count other people’s time away.

          1. Lizzy May*

            I’m sorry if that came across as snippy. Not my intent at all. Just wanted to add details to this specific situation.

        1. Mama Bear*

          8 days a year isn’t that much, so maybe she’s out or knows she will have to use them. Frustrating to be sure (we had a guy – HR no less! – who was always bringing plague to the office). I’d talk to the parents and see if there’s any precaution you can take for a visit. Sometimes we’ve worn face masks if we or they can’t be around germs. I’d also be upfront with the coworker “I can handle this on my own and I’d like to not get sick so I can see my premie nephew.”

          1. Lemon Squeezy*

            Agreed, and we don’t know if that PTO is already obliged to something else, so it’s only safe to assume the five sick days are available. (A family wedding, a vacation, etc.) You can be direct, but sometimes people have used their sick days and need a paycheck. Still sucks for both parties, tbh. (Companies, give your employees actual workable time-off policies!)

          2. AcademiaNut*

            Honestly, with a total of 8 days off for sick and personal, a lot of people are going to save it for something more than a cold. That time has to cover illness, personal day stuff like dealing with plumbers, doctor’s appointments, plus any care-taking responsibilities for ill children – a couple of days off for a cold can mean not being able to take time off for more urgent stuff later, or having to take unpaid leave.

            The only way you can really expect people to take stay home for run of the mill colds is to offer a *lot* of sick leave without any penalty for taking it (and having to catch up after you get back is a penalty) or to freely allow people to work from home when they feel under the weather.

            Also, keep in mind that the contagious period for a cold is about a week, and starts before symptoms show, so avoiding cold germs without avoiding people in general is really hard.

    7. JB*

      I was sick and my manager used very similar phrasing as yours to tell me to stay home. But, because she is unusually generous and kind and loves to give me opportunities to have little bits of personal time, I didn’t realize her true (very reasonable) motivation, that she was afraid of contagion. And all my previous jobs were super stingy with sick time and assuming workers were malingering, so we were discouraged from staying home when sick and expected to tough it out. You need to be much more explicit and clear in your directions to her, e.g., “Please stay home when you are sick; I don’t want to risk contagion in the office.”

    8. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I hear you on that one. I have immediate family on immunosuppressants, and it’s yet one more reason I truly miss our revoked work-from-home policy. We had a *LOT* less general illness in the office when people who were coughing could be productive off-site when they were sick!

  31. ES*

    I’m newly salaried and have some questions about work/life balance. I’ve worked with a few other people at my level and most of them work 7-6 5 days a week with no breaks, while I was told at hire that the role would typically be 40 hour weeks. The workload really doesn’t support these kind of hours, but when things are slow and I let me codirector know I’m heading out for lunch she always seems surprised! I know she’s working these hours in part to train me, but how can I get us both working more reasonable hours? Is there a way to do that as the new hire? For the record, it should be one of us working 7-4 and the other 9-6, but we’ve both been 7-6 for the past two weeks!

    1. CTT*

      Do you know for sure they’re not taking breaks? When you’re salaried it’s not “and here is your official one hour break.” Some people do do that, but others take 5 minutes here, 15 there, etc.

      1. ES*

        We sit in the same area, she’s definitely working through the entire day. We’re codirectors in a child care setting so sometimes we’re in classrooms but mostly we’re up front covering phones while working at our computers.

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      It sounds like that’s the culture of the place (though it’s too bad they seemed to misleading about that when discussing it as a 40-hour position). You could ask your boss, “How normal is this schedule? Do you think this allows down or is this pretty typical?” I don’t think you have the standing to change it.

      I also wonder if your codirector is surprised because she thinks you’re asking permission versus just an FYI? Or maye she’s just feeling distracted from what she was doing?

  32. Tattletale*

    In my company, we  have a department of about 20ish CS/admin reps to support 5 teams (we’re about 100 or so in office employees). Hierarchy wise, they dont’ report to me directly but because I am a manager of another dept, I am allowed to give them tasks, and little bit of feedback herea nd there. The company has multiple depts and all pretty much intersect with each other so everyone’s pretty familiar with each other. 
    I sit next to the CS/admin manager and we have a pretty good relationship. He has made it clear that I (and other managers) can talk to them and assign them tasks directly but most of us always end up talking to him first though, as a courtesy.

    So what happened was that a ticket was created and it came into my depts queue. I looked in to it and it was supposed to go to a different dept. The admin who created it was on another task, and his mgr sits right next to me so I just talked to him. It was along the lines of “hey just want to confirm that this ticket goes to this queue, and not this queue right? I see this often and I’ve been communicating this to the other teams–I can talk to your team directly or–?” 

    So he called the admin over and the guy got offended saying I tattled, why did I tattle, I could have just talked to him directly. I’m like, “its’not tattling, this is what happened–” I kept getting cut off (again lots of joking and laughing) at the end I rolled my eyes and went back to my work. He just said “oh i’m just joking/teasing.”

    Given teh way our office is, this is def not something anyone would get written up for or even a “serious conversation”–he’s not my direct report, I wasn’t “tattling” and it’s all good. I tlk to the mgr like 50x a day about work and non work stuff, so it really wasn’t a “hey your guy messed up!!!” conversation. 

    What did raise my shackles was that after that incident, he (the admin) immediately reminded me of someone who I worked with several years ago. (The short version of that is that I was senior to him [but not a team leader/manager/supervisor] and we got along great until I told him to cut something out that might land him in major trouble. He got mad and things got really nasty after that. Eventually he quit and I got promoted but it was an eye opening experience). This guy gives off those vibes to me.

    1. International Holding, Unlimited*

      Sounds like your current guy really was just trying to have fun, but it didn’t land right. I would try and let it go. If it’s still eating you next week or if he seems weird towards you, send him a note or grab him for a sec and say something like “hey, I just wanted to check in about last week – you made a fuss, and I think it was in a jokey way, but I just want to make sure you aren’t upset.” And then see what he says.

      If he’s like ‘well, it was jokey but also why would you tell on me?’ then you can have a conversation about how it’s really not a big deal or something he’s going to get in trouble about, but also sometimes you as a manager are going to need to talk about mistakes with other managers. If he’s like ‘oh yeah, I was just playing, all good,’ then you can rest easy.

      1. Tattletale*

        I think he was just joking. I’ve let it go, it’s not really bugging me but just wrote this here to get other opinions. He’s behaving like he normally behaves, which is fine. He is young and I’m guessing this is his first office/corporate job, and he’s taking cues. from the people around him. I dont’ want to be too quick to write him off but I don’t want to ignore any vibes I get.

    2. Lilysparrow*

      Eh, I believe in reading vibes, and when people remind me of others it’s usually for a very good reason.

      There’s really nothing to be done here, but keep an eye on him. Don’t change what you’re doing, but if he starts this nonsense again, I’d be pretty direct with him about shutting it down. You’re a manager, you’re not in his department, and he’s being an ass.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I agree here – people who are actually joking or even trying to defuse tension with humor don’t usually interrupt other people repeatedly, especially managers. People who are passive-aggressively trying to deflect blame do that, and then claim it was a joke. I’d have made serious eye contact with the admin’s manager while this was going down – I’m surprised the manager didn’t shut it down in the moment, but either they were caught off guard or they’re used to this guy’s attitude. But if the manager isn’t going to shut it down, then you should feel free to if it happens again.

  33. Rebecca*

    Warning, rant ahead about email subject lines – oh, why oh why can’t people just be clear? I’m not talking about standardizing them, but seriously, if I get one more email with a blank subject line, or copied in on a formerly blank line “Re: ” or “Fw: ” and that’s it, I truly feel like my head will spin around on my neck. I am so frustrated with vague or obtuse subjects, and having to scroll down through pages of back and forth to determine if it’s something I need to address or not. And, since no one here seems to follow any rules about email etiquette, just because I’m on CC doesn’t mean it’s not an action item for me. And if I’m in the “To” field, again, it doesn’t mean it IS an action item. And sending an email with the word “Order” in the subject line is useless. No matter how many filters and rules I set up, I can’t catch every possible permutation. Which order? Just a few more keystrokes, like “ACME Anvil Order” would clear so much up. Oh, I don’t handle ACME, not for me.

    I realize I’m jousting at windmills. But it feels good to type this out.

    1. nhb*

      I also have a lot of annoyance about this. What I have found to be semi-effective is to reply with question after question after question until I get all the information I need. I don’t deliberately send one question at a time, but, for example, say in your ACME Anvil Order example: get the “Order” subject and then the sender asks a question about “the order”. My reply: “Good [morning/afternoon, Sender], I received this email but I’m not sure which order you’re referencing. [Department] has different people assigned different vendors, so I need some clarification to make sure we can get you the answers that you need.” Sender replies: “Oh I need to know the status of the anvils.” Me: “Thanks, [Sender]. Which company is the order with? Do you have an order number or any additional information so that we can look this up for you?” Etc. If you do that every single time, some of them will eventually start including it in the emails. But yes. It’s very, extremely annoying.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        It is annoying. One of the people most guilty of sending emails with blank subject lines is the person who’s supposed to be the floating Digital Resource Specialist. She’s (eventually) supposed to go from branch to branch, helping patrons with computer probelms.

    2. MOAS*

      Honestly, anything that’s FW or Re and blank? I delete it. It could be spam/fishing, whatever it’s called. It goes right in to my trash.

      If it’s from my boss/coworker, I’ll dig deeper and ask verbally if they sent something, but from an outside source…nah. Trash.

    3. Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.*

      This is SUCH a pet peeve of mine. If people would send me emails that talk about the specific Llama I’m training for them, it’s easier for me to organize, but I constantly get ones labeled “Llama Training”. Each sendee seems amazed that they’re the only one who thought to title their email in such a fashion. A few are changing, but jeez. What is even common sense anymore?

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      LOL I’ll join you in that rant. I’ve seen three different threads going this week where the subject line is ….oh let’s say “Approval”.
      -Fergus got approval for project A and is asking for help with release steps for project A.
      -Jane wants to know how to submit project B to the approvals department. (FYI, I’m not in the approvals department.)
      -Cersei is asking for my department to complete Project C for approval. (FYI we’re still waiting for content from a third department and she knows it.)

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

      I’ll joust the windmills with you. Why, oh why, do people start a new email rather than reply to the email I sent them? which has a subject line… and when I need to double check what’s been decided for a project I can just scroll down the back-and-forth. But no, they start a new email AND don’t put anything in the subject line.

    6. AnonJ*

      Oh, I hear you loud and clear. I have one colleague whose standard subject line is “Question”. This does not help me prioritize how I read the 100 or so emails I get per day.

      Worse though is I have clients who will respond to an email from weeks, months or literally even years ago with an entirely different topic in the body of the email. Then they will keep it up. They only EVER respond to emails, never initiate new ones with new subjects even when it is an entirely new topic. It makes it soooo hard to go back and find prior emails. I almost think they do this on purpose to make it harder for me to find the emails where they said they want to move forward with “thing A” but are now asking why we didn’t do “thing B”. With them, I’ve learned to change the subject line in my response to be the current issue at hand so I can more easily find things going forward.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Yeah I used to do support and there were 3 or 4 clients who literally always emailed in with “question” as the subject. No variation on capitalization – never anything that specified what it was a question about. Once on a whim I checked and it was consistent across something like 5 years? Every. Single. Email. from those people.

    7. Stornry*

      Worse – I work in HR and we have one employee who, no matter the topic, uses his name as the subject line, literally, “From Bob Llama”. as though Outlook wouldn’t tell me who sent it. He does it every single time – for years.

      1. min*

        I’m in HR and one employee always emails be replying to whatever previous email chain of mine he can find. Most recently it was a question about his vacation time with the subject RE: Pension Contributions. Drives me insane.

  34. Parenthetically*

    Has anyone done a certification-based IT program online? A relative of mine just got accepted to one — it’ll end up after 2ish years with her getting a B.S. in IT but at each step along the way she’ll get a certification that can actually go on her resume! It seems ideal for her situation — single full-time working parent — but I’d be very interested to hear from folks who’ve done something similar!

    1. OtterB*

      What’s the institution? I would be careful of for-profit bachelor’s degree programs, but there are a lot of state universities and so forth with online programs now.

      1. Parenthetically*

        It’s definitely not a for-profit! I can’t remember the institution but it’s all fully accredited and seems very legit.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      Is it a WGU program? I received many certificates in my programs there. The certificates fill out my resume but the substance of the certs can be questionable. My COMP TIA certs were so outdated that they were laughable! My SAS certifications were brutal, but I can’t write a single line of SAS. I learned what I needed for the exam, and never wrote a line of code. So you get out what you put in.

  35. Watermelon M*

    Question: considering a long commute for a way to escape toxic job?

    Sad to report that work hasn’t gotten much better, but I’m hanging in there. I have a consistent workout routine to relieve stress. Karen still insists I call her ma’am, but I have now just employed the “Ok.” And go about not doing it later. Twice she has said “You people” to me now when she’s frustrated about something, and when I asked for clarification, she said “Oh, you know what I mean.” In an exasperated tone. I stopped talking to her unless I need something related to work. No more saying hello or goodbye in the morning/evening. She’s complained to my boss that I don’t talk any more, but my boss doesn’t care thank goodness.

    Anyways. There is an opportunity for a job that seems like a good fit and pays a bit more than I make now. I thought about jumping ship to temp work because there’s nothing in my field in my current city, but I’m waiting until I cannot take one more second here. I’m afraid that will set my resume back and I won’t find a relevant job. This position is an hour-1.5 hour commute one way in a bigger city. I currently commute 45 minutes one way. I know other people in my city commute to bigger city but they do say it’s not fun. I’m so ready to be out of this awful workplace. The other workplace is diverse too. Would I be trading a different kind of misery for a long commute? Anyone here drive that long for work?

    Moving down to that city wouldn’t be an option for another year, as my partner and I renewed our lease last month.

    1. Watermelon M*

      On a slightly related work, one of my ways to remind me that this time in this job won’t be forever and helps me laugh through the tears—I’ve changed my passwords at work to be motivational so every time I log in, I’m telling myself positive things. Phrases like “better things to come” or “nothing is forever” or “here for a good time not a long time” but you know, shorter and with random numbers.

      1. Arielle*

        Haha, at prior jobs I have absolutely set passwords to coded versions of things like “I need a new job” or “get me the eff out of here.”

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        A former co-worker used “FireMe!” ….and because of Murphy’s Law, that’s when her computer froze and she had to call in IT to help her and they needed her password…
        Luckily that IT guy had a good sense of humor.

      1. Mama Bear*

        It’s a lot out of your day, honestly. I used to have a commute that would easily stretch that long, if not longer. I did do an hour commute before this job because it was only 2 days in the office. If you can sometimes WFH, that would help balance it out.

        I also like the idea of moving if there’s more opportunity in the other area.

        1. Mama Bear*

          To add: You said you couldn’t because of the lease but I think the suggestion of trying to find new tenants might help. OR if it was an awesome job and you knew the commute was temporary, it wouldn’t be so bad.

    2. Donkey Hotey*

      I used to have a 90-minute commute. I got a -ton- of reading done with audio books. However, I had just moved to a new city and had -zero- social life and no family obligations. I can’t possibly imagine trying to do that now that I have a wife and friends (and no kids).

    3. Psyche*

      Would you move in a year? I have a very long commute (1.5-2 hours one way) and the only things that makes it bearable is that I love my job and there is an end in sight. A long commute indefinitely would be much more should sucking.

      1. Watermelon M*

        Possibly? I’m also just considering moving back to my home state in a year. But if I like this new job a lot, I could see myself moving to that city. Maybe it would look better on my resume to bear my toxic job for another year and up my therapy sessions, so then I could have two years at this position. Sigh.

    4. Elenna*

      Hmm… that’s about the length of my commute to my high school (I was in a specialized program) and it seemed fine then, but since then I haven’t had a commute longer than 45 minutes and over one hour just seems ridiculously long. So I guess there’s a possibility you’ll get used to it? (Either that or high school me was just better at working on little sleep.)
      On the other hand, in high school I was taking the bus to school, and I could at least nap on it and didn’t have to worry about driving, traffic, etc. If I were driving that long I’d be worried about being too sleepy to drive in the morning, but YMMV.

    5. A. D. Kay*

      Could y’all move if you could find someone to take over your lease? That’s a pretty common thing to do.

      1. Watermelon M*

        I think we could! It’s just that my partner couldn’t move at all for the next 3 years because of grad school and I think what’s keeping me here is loving living together. I’d have to go find a random roommate in new city. But we are still talking all this out so breaking a lease and finding a subletter may be something we could do.

        1. Mama Bear*

          Is there a city in the middle that would work for both of you – not too far for him, but shorter commute for you?

    6. OtterB*

      You know how you feel about your current commute. How would you feel about adding to it? Are there any vanpool sort of options that would mean you didn’t have to drive it yourself? Would you like audiobooks? How will it affect things you do outside of work, e.g., would you have trouble getting home in time for a weekly meeting of some organization?

    7. LawBee*

      First, apply for the job – don’t talk yourself out of it yet. Leases can be broken and it’s not something that should ding your credit score. It happens! People sometimes have to move. And long commutes are something that you can get used to, if the payoff is worth it. Audiobooks, podcasts, chill time in the car where your only responsibility is getting to where you’re going – those can be great. If you can handle a shorter evening at home before you have to go to bed, so you can get up earlier to get to work on time, then it could be worth it!

      And apply now while you’re still able to tolerate your current workplace so you’re not absolutely desperate later.

    8. ArtK*

      Does the new company have any commuter support, like vanpools? Is there public transportation available? Either of these can make the commute much more bearable. Being able to relax and read while moving is a lot better than having to stay focused on traffic if you’re driving by yourself.

    9. Parenthetically*

      Well, just to put a different spin on the advice — I know around here AND where my husband grew up it’s common for landlords to allow you to break your lease if YOU do the work to find someone else to take it over. You might lose your deposit but you’re going to be losing that much money in gas and wear and tear on your car in the next year anyway. Might be worth checking into.

    10. Sister Michael, Black Belt*

      I did this. I went from a horribly toxic job where my short commute was the only benefit at the end. I traded it for a job that I love and excel at, but my commute now runs anywhere from an hour to 1.5 hours. I’ve been doing that commute about a year, since we also rent and our house is close to where my spouse works. We’re in the process of buying a house that makes us have a more equal commute time.

      Commuting that far sucks, BUT my new job is so so so much better than where I was. And knowing that there’s a general time frame on how much longer I have to do this commute helps. My boss also let me flex my hours to be off of major traffic times, and lets me work from home when there’s bad weather. It helps that I feel appreciated and respected at my new job.

      Apply. You don’t know what will happen, but you won’t get the job if you don’t apply.

      1. Windchime*

        I did the same. I left a toxic job with a 20 minute commute for a great job with a 45 min – 1 hour commute (45 in the morning, 1 hour home). I used to take public transportation but now I drive. Because Seattle traffic is horrendous, I leave the house at 5:20 in the morning and work from 6 till about 2:30. I am NOT a morning person but it’s worth it to me to work with good people and great benefits. I eat a simple car-friendly breakfast on the road and listen to interesting podcasts and it’s really not so bad. I also work from home 2 days per week, so that definitely helps.

    11. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Is it a drive or public transit? I currently drive 45 miles one way, and it’s a mind-number. There’s only so many repetitions of that one NPR article and pop song you can hear in a day. In another part of my life I commuted on the train 75 minutes one way, and I could read, knit, write letters, etc. (I don’t recommend embroidery or hand-sewing unless you’re safer with a needle than I am.)

    12. E*

      So I do this commute daily. I spend 3+ hours in the car a day. I was planning on relocating, but quickly found out that this job and I were a very poor fit. Which means I haven’t relocated and am still doing this trip. I think if you do consider this position you need to do a really good job of interviewing the workplace and making sure the job and the people are a good fit for you. A terrible commute on top of a terrible job is soul crushing.

      That being said, you will get a lot of time to listen to audiobooks/podcasts/music if that is of interest. Everything else in your life you will have way less time for.

    13. Sandman*

      I had a commute this long years ago, and it was pretty wearing – but your work situation sounds so toxic that I would make that trade in a second. This sounds miserable; I hope it improves for you soon.

  36. You can call me flower, if you want to*

    I am a middle level employee working for a small SaaS company. We are growing rapidly and working on recruiting new employees. I think that if we added some additional benefits (we have health insurance and a few other little things) we could recruit more people. One benefit I really want my company to consider offering is paid family leave. However, I’m nervous about bringing this up. I’m a young woman (with plans for a family in the future, not now) and I don’t want to risk not getting big projects because “she’s going to be out for awhile.” I know it’s illegal but it happens.

    I did bring up paid leave to my boss and she mentioned that we have FMLA (we are owned by a bigger company with many more employees) but I thought FMLA was unpaid? (I know we need to take our PTO first and that’s paid but we only get a couple weeks and FMLA is 3 months right?)

    My question is should I try to fight for this? What is the best way to do that? Am I way wrong about FMLA?

    Thank you for your help. This community is awesome.

    1. Art3mis*

      You are right about FMLA. It guarantees your job if you’re eligible, it does not pay anything. You could also suggest offering short term disability for employees. That’s what most employers I’ve been at have vs a flat out parental leave policy.

      1. Mama Bear*

        We had Short Term Disability, but you had to use 2 weeks of your own PTO, then the disability kicked in. My last 4 weeks out were unpaid AND I had to pay extra for my health insurance because there was no check for it to come out of. Covering any of that with real paid leave would be a good benefit for folks, I think. This is probably something to clarify with HR instead of your boss.

    2. Mbarr*

      Canadian here who doesn’t understand American mat leaves… But do you have a friend at the company you could get to ask your questions on your behalf?

      E.g. At my company, we’re doing a benefits review and we were asked to submit our wish list for better benefits. No one knows yet, but my friend who works here too is pregnant, so I slid “Top ups for parental leave” into the middle of my wish list on her behalf.

    3. Margaret*

      FMLA is “unpaid” – but it runs parallel to PTO, parental leave, or other methods of having paid time off.

      E.g., FMLA means if you return in 12 weeks your job is protected. It doesn’t have anything to do with whether or how you get paid.

      While you’re out for those 12 weeks you’re not paid by anything having to do with FMLA, but you may be paid for that time via other things: if you have parental leave (my firm does two weeks – so dads/non-birthing parents take that, for birthing moms that covers the waiting period until short term disability kicks in). If you have PTO/vacation/sick leave. If you have short term disability insurance.

    4. Parenthetically*

      I think framing just as you have here could work, especially if you bring in information from comparable companies (or companies that are comparable to where your company is aiming). You could go to to HR and say something like, “Hey, as we are growing rapidly and wanting to attract quality new hires, I think adding a few things to our benefits packages could make us more competitive in the market. Similar Company A offers 6 weeks paid family leave, and Similar Company B offers 4 weeks paid family leave plus up to 3 months work-from-home benefits after that. I’d like to see us be able to attract people who might otherwise choose Company A or B.”

    5. AnonJ*

      Correct, FMLA provides for job protection during qualified leave but no pay. As your company is trying to grow during a time where the job market is really competitive for employers, not employees (at least where I am), adding benefits is a great way to go.

      At my small company (20 FT, 20-25PT employees) we’ve added company paid STD, LTD and life insurance, an EAP (via the STD/LTD insurer), 3 weeks of paid parental leave (not great, I know, but most companies of our size offer zero), and a gym membership reimbursement. (We also offer paid bereavement leave and jury duty leave in addition to our standard paid time off)

      But what I’ve found potential hires are most interested in are training and career development opportunities. We budget for each employee to go to one industry-related learning conference each year and encourage them to choose the one that best fits their interests, as well as offer a career development allowance of 3% of salary/year for employees to put towards a class/conference/training of their choice, on company time, in addition to the conference budget.

      I think it is the combination of benefits that works best. People associate paid family leave with having a baby and not every potential hire is in that boat. Offering a broad range of benefits that appeals to people in all stages of life is the best practice in my opinion.

  37. Anonforthis*

    Taking any suggestions or tips on how I should prepare a working paper/research design for a conference. I’m submitting one for the first time ever. I currently work in industry but do a lot of research, and conducted a lot of research during my M.A. program.

    1. OtterB*

      This is really field dependent. Can you look at papers that were submitted to the conference the previous year? Can one of your industry colleagues or your previous academic supervisor help with guidance?

  38. A Messy JD*

    How do you keep files organized in your workspace? I’m an attorney and my desk has exploded. I have 7 redwells, 6 pleadings binders, and 4 books out, not to mention 12 post-its, 15 legal pads, and piles of discovery.

    1. CTT*

      Also an attorney – I have a big bookshelf that I sort by assigning attorney so my files have some sort of organizational system. My desk also explodes, but I try to clean it off every other day (or if things are really crazy, just at the end of the week). Regular cleaning helps me from having too many things pile up to the point that it’s insurmountable.

      1. A Messy JD*

        I don’t have a bookshelf, but I have a wraparound work station so I treat half of it as storage. I try cleaning on Fridays, but that doesn’t always work.

    2. LawBee*

      The only way to stay organized is to stay on top of it. Are you using those books every day? If not, shelve those suckers. Are you looking at each one of those those binders every day? Shelve them. Redwells can be shelved. Basically, if you don’t need it right then, put it away. If you need to refer to one for a random call, pull it out, refer to it, put it away.

      Why do you have 15 legal pads!? That’s way too many. Even if it’s one per case, you’re not working on every case all the time at every moment – shelve them and curb your legal pad habit, haha. It’s ok to flip pages, you don’t need a new one every time, like the Former Coworker of Mine who had TWENTY-SEVEN legal pads in his office with two pages used on each one.

      Also a credenza or some other flat-top furniture behind your desk is a godsend, if you can do it. Keeps everything accessible but your actual workspace clear.

      1. A Messy JD*

        Good point on the books – I put away everything but the Rules. I don’t really have available shelving, but my workstation is wraparound so half of it is storage. I’m trying to figure out the most efficient way of using it. My office is “paperless” so we don’t have filing cabinets I can use. I find it easier to do some things on paper when a case is ongoing, then shred when I’m done.

        I use legal pads like your coworker, using only the top page. Multiple pages get buried and I forget about them. Same with the post-its. I did just condense all my to-do lists into one electronic file so we’ll see if that works.

        1. LawBee*

          Can you buy a small filing cabinet for yourself? I’m a handwriter and paper user myself, the person who pulls up the case on Westlaw and prints it out to read, so I get you there.

          Whatever you decide to do, the key to succeeding at it is committing to it for a set period of time. “I’m going to use an X system for four weeks religiously, and then evaluate” and sticking with whatever system you choose (Remember the Milk, Getting Things Done, Bullet Journal, whatever appeals to you). I found success with a hardcover notebook like a moleskine or leuchtterm that lives on my desk for my to-dos and mental notes, a legal pad (8.5×11, I hate legal-sized paper) for drafting, and a dedication to clearing off my desk at the end of every day. “OK, I’m done I can’t wait to get out of here – AFTER I CLEAN MY DESK”.

          (Why does the hardcover book work better for me? Index pages, easier to rifle through, looks tidier than a stack of legal pads which leads to a calmer state of mind for me, when I write down something I 100% need to get back to I can flag it with a small post-it, and the satisfaction of literally closing the book at the end of the day. YMMV.)

    3. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I try like hell to keep only one matter at a time open and on my desk. Everything goes away when I’m done working on a piece of work. “Away” means off the desk into a filing cabinet or on a shelf or whatever.

      I keep a continuing scratch pad for notes-to-self if I get information or an idea that deals with a matter that is not the one that is open on my desk because I’m working on it.

      Maybe you need to up your electronic case management software and/or calendar game? I keep a running Excel spreadsheet of where I am on various matters, and my calendar is full of ticklers. With these tools I don’t need to keep files open on my desk to remind me of my next steps.

      1. A Messy JD*

        I shift my attention between 6-7 cases a day as the deadlines/phone calls/emails come in, so having one open at a time isn’t really practical for me.

        I spent 2 hours cleaning my desk and pulling files to shred as a result of this thread. I converted all my paper to-do lists into an electronic file, so we’ll see if I can keep that up.

    4. LadyByTheLake*

      Pleadings Binders go back into the file IMMEDIATELY. I used to only look at pleadings binders standing there with the file drawer open. If I need a copy of something in the binder (like a copy of the brief I’m responding to etc) I make a copy, but the binders live in the file cabinet.

      1. LadyByTheLake*

        Same with most books. If I need a case or a statute, I copy it (or most are online these days). I am also a stacker — each matter had its own stack.

        1. A Messy JD*

          You can take the paper code from my cold dead hands. I hate having to click “next” to get to each section of the code when I need to read the whole title. I did put away everything but the Rules which live on my desk.

    5. Coverage Associate*

      I write the matter name and number in marker on a blank sheet of paper. The papers for that case go under the paper when I am not working on the case. Things look kind of neat this way, and privileged information is covered.

      Do you need all that at your desk? Like, if you’re waiting to hear back about something, can you still file the earlier parts? My boss keeps a clean desk by having files with just the key documents for each case by his desk. Everything else he files. If he gets a call, all he needs for the call is the key documents.

  39. MsMaryMary*

    Funny story about the background check for my new job. I got a copy of the report. About a year ago, I was cited for a noise violation for my dog. I let him out at night, accidentally fell asleep on the couch, and my neighbor called the cops because he barked until I woke up and let him in. Obviously, not my proudest moment as a dog owner, but I was awake and the dog was inside and quiet by the time the cops arrived. I had to go to mayor’s court and paid a fine.

    The noise violation is a minor misdemeanor and showed up on my background check. Except it just said “excessive barking or howling” and did not specify it was pet-related. Luckily my new job does not appear to care if I howl at the moon sometimes.

    1. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

      Hahaha I love this. I wonder if the employer is wondering if you will suddenly break out into barks.

      1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

        “Oh don’t worry, I’ve changed flea meds so the barking only happens after 10 pm”

    2. Llama Face!*

      Well, believe it or not, someone actually barked repeatedly at someone else at my workplace one time. It was an intimidation thing. Working with the public is so weird sometimes.

      But I’m sure you were barking in a perfectly friendly way. ;)

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      OMG I’m trying so hard not to bark with laughter.
      (There are a couple of bigwigs having a chat in the open area behind my cube…must not laugh…)

  40. No Tribble At All*

    Y’all, how do I deal with a coworker who doesn’t stay in his lane? Yesterday I led [big complicated event] that lasted several hours. Coworker was in a supporting role, implementing something I directed. At first it looked like we caused some customer problems, but it later turned out those were unrelated to our activities. After we finished troubleshooting, we confirmed to each other out loud, multiple times, in Coworker’s presence, that we didn’t actually cause any customer problems. Coworker does not have the technical background to troubleshoot these problems; we are the subject matter experts.

    And yet, at the end of the normal work day, before our SME team declared the event a success, Coworker sends out his email to his implementation team saying “the event is done, there were only a few minor customer problems and we fixed those quickly, good job guys.” He also cc’d his boss, grandboss, and great-grand-boss — who is also my team’s great-grandboss. Not only am I pissed he stole my thunder (on the success announcement) and didn’t credit our team, he sent factually incorrect information to our bosses. We weren’t even cc’d on the email — I only found out because I’m friends with someone on the implementation team. Now those bosses are going to harass us about those customer problems that didn’t actually exist. He also doesn’t have the technical background nor the authority to declare an event a success.

    We finally decided to reply-all to a forwarded copy of the email saying “actually there were no customer problems, please correct this for the records.” So how do we have this conversation about him staying in his lane? (His direct manager is a lunatic and is no help). I don’t want it to sound like “you don’t know anything, stop acting like you do” but that’s really what I’m feeling right now. Thanks!

    1. Witchy Human*

      That’s super irritating.

      If nothing else, “I know you were excited to share about our success, but it’s important that the only person who sends a wrap-up and end-of-day evaluation email is the event lead, because it’s important to make sure that every department is getting complete and consistent information.”

      1. Kathenus*

        I think this is great wording to use. You’re getting your point across that you should have done the summary email to make sure it’s complete and correct, but using the ‘presume positive intent’ angle for his intent in sending one out this time.

      2. The New Wanderer*

        I think Witchy Human’s wording is probably best for what you’re looking for. In the moment, though, I would treat his email as only pertaining to his participation, not the project as a whole. So I would definitely make a point of sending out my own project wrap-up email giving appropriate credit and an accurate recap, and cc up the chain without reference to anything that coworker sends out.

        As it is you have plausible deniability that he sent anything at all, since he didn’t include you. If there’s a discrepancy between the two versions, like with the fictional customer problems, and the bosses ask about it, you can say that you don’t know what he’s referring to, as you didn’t have any problems that affected customers.

  41. ramonaflowers89*

    Should I bother to follow up on a phone interview for a staff position at a state university since it’s been over 3 weeks since, 2 weeks past the deadline the HR person gave as to when he would get back to me? I have his personal email, so I would just shoot over a quick email asking what his timeline is. Part of me is annoyed I have not heard anything despite me giving him an additional two weeks to get back to me while part of me is just saying to leave it, they’ll contact me when they contact me. I don’t want to bother him, but at the same time, I want an update so I know if I should cross them off my list.

    1. rageismycaffeine*

      Work at a state university here: I see no reason not to give him a poke. I don’t know which state you’re in, but in my state HR is absolutely notorious for moving slowly – we often say that hirings “move at the speed of HR.” There could be all kinds of thins going on. Email him. :)

    2. k8isgreat*

      I would send the email. I’ve been a staff person in higher ed for about 8 years now and staffing can be ridiculously slow. There’s an excellent chance that for whatever reason a bunch of faculty/higher level staff with crazy busy schedules have decided they must be part of the interview process and someone is now trying to find times when fifteen different higher-ups will all actually be in the building to hold interviews. Or you didn’t get it, I also personally took part in a full day interview and after it was over the school didn’t bother to send me a rejection but just reposted the listing. Welcome to higher ed!

    3. Ali A*

      I would absolutely follow up once. If no answer, then you can probably assume they’ve chosen another path – but at least you can say you did everything.

      As rage said, HR/Sr. Leadership moves slow – even when they have the best intentions to stick to a timeline.

      1. Lurker*

        I’d follow up. I had a university reach out to hire me a job after 3 interviews followed by 6 weeks of radio silence. They are ridiculous!

    4. BRR*

      I wouldn’t follow up and assume I didn’t get the job. I think it’s annoying and rude when places ghost you but following up doesn’t really do anything the vast majority of the time.

  42. Hopeful DON*

    I just applied for a Director of Nursing position in a nursing home. What kind of questions can I expect?

    1. Kaitlyn Westlet*

      Check with the Health Care Association in your state. I bet they can give you some guidance on the day to day role of DON would look like. You can look at NADONA.org too. Good luck!

  43. See no evil*

    I’ve been back at work a week after being off a month for recovery from a detached retina. My vision is still not great and I have made some frustrating mistakes this week. So ready for this to be over!

    1. Fikly*

      I’m two weeks into a return to work after 7 weeks on medical leave for a concussion. I am also frustrated with making mistakes that I would not have made before.

      I have a great manager, and lots of safety precautions in place so my mistakes don’t cause problems, but it’s super frustrating.

  44. BirthdayBlues*

    My birthday was Tuesday of this week and my current firm does not celebrate birthdays. I don’t think anyone knows anyone else’s birthday and I have never seen any birthdays acknowledged. In general, I think this is a good policy, as it ensures that no one is stuck planning things, no one is left out, no one who doesn’t like birthdays is singled out and no awkward or problematic situations arise, as we have seen happen so many times before on this page. But on the other hand, I like birthdays because it’s fun to have a day to celebrate, and I honestly appreciate a verbal happy birthday because it helps me feel less alone in the world. My last firm did a simple card that everyone would sign which I think is cost-effective and thoughtful.

    My question is: what does your office do for birthdays? Do you like it or not, does it work or not? What have you seen work really well or totally implode before?

    If I had it my way, everyone would get the day off on their birthday without having to take PTO, or even just getting to leave a few hours early would be so nice.

    1. Donkey Hotey*

      First up: Happy birthday.

      – My current employer posts a sheet by the time clock every month, listing all the birthdays that month. (Month and day only). It’s ok, but not amazing.
      – Former employer would usually do things by department. Usually brunch snacks or sweets (shudder) and the obligatory half-hearted singing of Happy Birthday.

      I’ve never seen or heard of a place that gives birthdays off. But then again, I’m the weirdo who thinks veterans should be the only ones who get veteran’s day off.

      1. Retired SMSgt*

        ooooh–YASSS to the Veterans Day for us veterans… my current company doesn’t recognize that as a holiday.

        1. Donkey Hotey*

          Same here. Back when I had four weeks of vacation, I’d intentionally take it off every year. My new company, I only get two and I’d rather have new year’s day off.

      2. CupcakeCounter*

        My mom worked for a hospital and all of the employees got their birthday (or the regular working day closest to their birthday) off.

        1. BirthdayBlues*

          Awesome to know that some places do this! I feel like it would be such a great perk, even if you don’t celebrate your birthday, everyone likes a day off.

    2. Blob*

      Well, if I like my colleagues and if I enjoy afterworks with them, or in general if we have that kind of relation where I know I would enjoy hanging around with them outside of work, then yes, i would love for them to wish me a happy birthday. But if I have a cordial and “officy” relation with my colleagues, then I don’t really care, and I don’t even think that I would disclose my birthday date. I have been in my current job for 8 months, and I never heard anyone wish another someone a happy birthday (I am in a very very BORING office, and I don’t think I am going to remain here).

    3. MOAS*

      At my company, we have a monthly celebration where a card is passed around, and we have cupcakes in the breakroom. Our office manager is responsible for ordering and stuff. Takes about 15 minutes out fo the day. Our HR management website announces birthdays, so anytime someone comes to work and logs in they see the “it’s __ birthday/work anniversary today!”

      We used to give gift cards as well but I guess enough people complained (“I pay $6 a month only to get back $20 in a year!) that we got rid of those.

      Fun story, we used to be a smaller office, and birthdays were celebrated individually. Literally 5-10 minutes out of the day.

      6 months later, it was time for my birthday and I’d never had a birthday at work so I was excited. Right at that time, a new rule was put in to place that birthdays are a monthly thing now. A few days after THAT, a separate birthday celebration was done for our CFO. My boss said he’s C suite so..

      1. The Blue Marble*

        My friend’s birthday is Dec 24th. After celebrating all year long everyone else’s birthday (and yes, having to “donate” monthly toward the expense) her birthday went by with… nothing. After being butt-hurt as hell about it, she finally said something and was told because her birthday was so close to Christmas they felt it didn’t need to be celebrated. She quit contributing after that.

    4. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

      Every week, the HR dept sends out company wide “Happy birthday to the following people..” shout outs. Nothing else. I like it because it makes you feel special but it’s not too over the top. If you’re one of those birthday people who likes more celebration, you can always organize something yourself. I bring in cupcakes for mine.

    5. DAMitsDevon*

      Last year, we tried to celebrate birthdays on a monthly basis, but it stopped because it ended up that a few people got stuck with having to buy the cards and the cake and do cleanup, and they got sick of it. Also, my team moved to a different building from the rest of the organization, so there are less birthdays happening each month now in our space. We do get cards to pass around and sign though, and decorate the person’s desk.

    6. SwirlPencil*

      The week of someone’s birthday (on a day that isn’t actually their birthday so it’s a “surprise”), my manager buys a cake, tells everyone except the birthday person to go to a meeting room, sends someone out to get the birthday person, and then everyone sings happy birthday and eats a slice of cake. The birthday person brings home leftovers. It’s nice if you’re into celebrating birthdays, but I find it humiliating to be the center of attention and haven’t personally celebrated my birthday in at least a decade, so I don’t care for it and would request they skip my birthday if I didn’t think it’d look bad.

      Would requesting that we celebrate a historical day of my choosing instead of my birthday look less bad?

    7. rageismycaffeine*

      The department head’s admin has a birthday list. A helium balloon appears on your doorknob on your birthday, and people are acknowledged as having had a birthday at our monthly staff meetings. We didn’t used to send cards around, but it looks like that’s changed with our leadership change. That’s pretty much it. I like that it’s super low-key, personally.

      I always take my birthday off as a personal holiday. :)

    8. CB*

      We have an employee morale/fun committee that keeps a master spreadsheet of MM/DD birthdays and work anniversaries. Each person gets a signed card from everyone in the office for each of those two occasions, and sometimes a small food gift (like a package of their favorite snack or a fancy cupcake). I personally like this because it doesn’t make a huge deal. My team (fundraising), of course, also got me balloons for my birthday and took me out to lunch. That was appreciated but not the office norm.

      My old job at same employer used to do a full birthday celebration for everyone. Each employee had a “birthday buddy” that planned their party, including paying out of pocket for a dessert and refreshment. I loved that team but hated those celebrations. They were so incredibly awkward and in months where more than one person had a birthday, it was so excessive. I think they moved to doing quarterly celebrations shortly after I left, with refreshments purchased out of the office budget.

    9. Jules the 3rd*

      Large office, we do 1x/mo birthday party for everyone who submits their birth date to the coordinator, as part of a 1x/mo in office lunchtime ‘event’. Paid for by the company.

      imho, this is the only way to do it.
      1) Purely voluntary and no pressure to join
      2) Paid for by the company
      3) With a person whose job it is to coordinate

      If someone objects to bday celebrations, they can step away for the singing and forego the cake. I like this procedure so much that I don’t even complain that they do it in our open office cube farm, I just make sure I take any calls during that time in a conference room.

    10. Nicki Name*

      Current office: An e-card gets created for people to sign a few days before a birthday. The link is emailed to the whole office and it’s up to you to sign or not.

      Past offices have included:

      * Nothing at all
      * Monthly cake, with people who had birthdays that month getting to vote, and people who wanted treats on their exact birthday would bring their own
      * “Birthday holiday” that was really a floating holiday that you could schedule any day you wanted

      At one job, the person who had to cover for me if I took a day off, and who I would cover for if she took a day off, turned out to have the same birthday as me, so neither of us wanted to take it and leave the other person with extra work.

    11. LawBee*

      We pass around a card, sometimes order in a lunch that is put on the firm’s card (but not always, it depends on who is around at the time), and our admin picks up these delicious little cakes from a local bakery and leaves them in the kitchen for everyone. (also on the firm card). Very low-key but nice.

    12. OtterB*

      Small not-for-profit. We used to have a cake at monthly staff meeting covering birthdays for that month and circulate cards, but we mostly don’t do that any more. I think the number got to be a bit much for the admin.

      A previous job, also a not-for-profit, had a tradition that if you wanted to celebrate an event – birthday, graduation, Groundhog day, whatever – YOU brought in treats of some kind and left them in the kitchen. I liked this a lot.

    13. Mop Head*

      I have always hated my birthday and I hate having a big fuss made in general. I’ve gotten worse since my identity was stolen. Where I currently work they pass a card around with your date of birth printed in large font so everyone knows when your birthday is and they have a party on a specific day. In addition, a few years ago we got intranet and they put everyone’s birthday there. I specifically asked to not have my birthday included, but the mean office manager refused. A few years ago I was dragged to the party when I was busy with work and said something mean to someone and the mean office manager finally relented and has respected my request. Can I come work in your office please?

      1. Reba*

        I don’t hate my birthday, but I do feel like making a deal out of it is odd. Some people in my office know each other’s birthdays! People tend to send out email acknowledgements of others’ birthdays, though not office-wide. I was very happy when I skated by my day without anyone noticing :)

    14. Mama Bear*

      We don’t do anything at the corporate level.

      I might, if I feel like it, take someone out to lunch or bring in birthday treats.

    15. CheeryO*

      State government here. No birthday cards. Cake only if you have a very nice supervisor or buddy who takes it upon themselves. People sometimes bring in their own treats, although that’s more often to celebrate work anniversaries or promotions.

    16. Anony pony*

      Our company gives us the day off, paid.
      We also celebrate once a month for all the birthdays in that month with a card & a treat at either staff meeting OR some random afternoon when all BD people are in should they choose to have a non breakfast type treat. My birthday month there are 7 of us and we all send the sunshine club organizers what type of treat we’d like & majority rules.

      The paid day off is awesome though and we can choose to take it any day that month. I have a holiday in my birthday month so I always take them together for an extended out.

    17. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      We’re a small office, and we’ve tried various things over the years: social committee decorates your workspace, birthday treats on actual day, monthly birthday treats, quarterly birthday treats, nothing in particular but a few ad-hoc cards, and probably things I’m forgetting. Nothing works well because we have busy times of year and slow times of year, so no one (including the one with the birthday) wants to do one more thing during certain months and it will never come out evenly for people with birthdays at different points in the year.

      I never get to do anything “fun” for my birthday because I’m always up to my ears at work that time of year and so is the rest of the office. The only way that would change would be to switch fields, so I really rather than we just didn’t make a big deal about birthdays in general. I’d be fine with occasional “cupcakes for no particular reason” days during the slow parts of the year as a substitute.

    18. Seeking Second Childhood*

      When I worked at a place that had a “birthday holiday” it was called that — but pretty it was expected to be used for “that holiday that is not on the standard western Christmas calendar that you don’t want to miss.”
      Be that Yom Kippur or Eid al-Fitr or Lunar New Year or Orthodox Easter or Samhain or the day after the Big Game.

    19. Beatrice*

      We sing. Everyone gets a chorus of ~50 people singing to them for their birthday. It does not matter if you ask for it not to happen or clearly are embarrassed. We sing for everyone. Everyone claims to hate it but we still do it.

      We also have a morale committee that organizes things (the ratio of gender on the committee is consistent with the ratio in the department, y’all!), and they make sure everyone gets a birthday card signed by just about everyone on their birthday. A big envelope full of cards is routed around every month.

      1. SwirlPencil*

        OMG. I’m used to birthday celebrations restricted within teams of about 10 or less.

        50 people (presumably many of whom would be strangers) singing to me would be terrifying.

        1. Donkey Hotey*

          Just wait… My old boss was her church’s choir director. She gave direction, drawing out the last tooooooo yoooooouuuuuuuu.

    20. AnonJ*

      I actually worked at a place once that gave people their birthday off (or a day nearby) as an additional holiday. People liked it.

      Where I work now we have a monthly luncheon. We rotate through doing potluck, catered or a combination and we rotate through who coordinates the luncheon – everyone gets the job at some point. The coordinator, in addition to coordinating food and time/date, acknowledges every person with a birthday or work anniversary that month during the luncheon. We keep a spreadsheet of birthdays/work anniversaries that is accessible to everyone and also contains a summary of dietary restrictions for current staff (not at the person level, more like ‘2 vegans, 1 gluten free, no seafood due to allergies’) so we can be sure we’ve got everyone covered. Most importantly, the admin who maintains the spreadsheet asks every person we work with whether they want to be acknowledged for either/both dates and leaves people/dates off according to people’s preferences.

    21. Thankful for AAM*

      Mine does birthdays – but only one department in the large, open workspace does them. My department and the other one in the large shared space do not. Everyone can partake, just not everyone is feted.

      This means that on my birthday, a coworker in the birthday celebrating department with the same birthday as mine, has a party, but I don’t. I get to go and eat stuff, but the cake says “Happy Birthday other person” and there is awkward, happy birthday to you too Thankful! They all know it is my birthday and the person who shares my birthday brings it up a lot (in a fun way, I enjoy the comments) and there have even been comments all week like – hey, Thankful and Other Person both have a birthday on Friday, how amazing!

      I regularly fill the office candy bowl and bring food on all birthdays and events so it is not because I don’t do my part. Its just a weird thing about my office.

    22. Asenath*

      My employer does nothing. The small group of 7.5 women collect $2 every two weeks for birthdays and gifts for sickness or a death in the family. We have a little snack at coffee break – we do not normally take coffee breaks. It’s often a cake; when a diabetic joined the group, we started having something else instead sometimes. And that’s it – even I, never find of birthday celebrations, don’t mind it. We chat for a bit, remember to say happy birthday, and go back to work.

    23. Owler*

      My favorite workplace had a tradition of the birthday person hosting their own treat at the weekly Wednesday Fika (mid-morning coffee hour). You choose what you like (sweet or savory), how much you want to spend on a treat to share, and really, if we even acknowledge your birthday.

      It can feel weird at first that you have to bring something for your own birthday, but I think it’s a great way to avoid the favoritism or snese of unbalance that sometimes happens when a workplace tries to do a celebration as a group.

    24. Ron McDon*

      My new boss has instituted reading out upcoming birthdays in our weekly briefing, and – I noticed this week – including them in the briefing notes sent to all staff after the meeting.

      I hate this! I am very private, wouldn’t tell my colleagues when my birthday is, and don’t like everyone wishing me a happy birthday all day.

      Other people seem to love it, so I think it’s here to stay, unfortunately!

  45. Amber Rose*

    So I posted late last time, but my new title is Safety and Administration Specialist. Is that better than Safety Coordinator or does it still sound entry level? There’s still room to ask my boss to change it.

    That aside, I have a success story! My boss asked me if we have a procedure and policy for dealing with harassment, and the short answer is no. So she asked if it would be possible to set one up, and I said I could do it but I would very much prefer if I could take the course on it that’s offered. And she said yes.

    So instead of sadly googling lots of OSHA stuff that is completely useless to me and getting frustrated like I usually do, I now get to take an actual class and base my work off of real training. Huzzah! Ask and sometimes ye shall receive.

    1. Derjungerludendorff*

      Specialist definitively sounds like someone with a good deall of expertise. I would certainly not assume an entry-level role with that title.

  46. Mimmy*

    TL;DR – Looking for tips on functioning during meetings and conferences when you are prone to sensory overload

    I’ve dealt with sensory issues my entire life – my ability to filter out external stimuli can be quite terrible. I don’t function well in meetings due to all the distractions around me, both visual and auditory as well as tactile on occasion (e.g. if someone rests their feet on the back of my chair at a lecture). At my regular job, I have a really hard time during meetings when multiple people are talking at once or having side conversations while I’m trying to hear whoever is speaking. Another thing I recently noticed is that I cannot speak when others are talking. The weird thing is, when I did an outreach activity in a cafeteria with my internship supervisor, I didn’t feel overwhelmed, although I did have trouble hearing (I also have a slight hearing impairment).

    Any suggestions for managing my reactions to distractions would be so helpful. I really want to grow professionally but I get really discouraged when I can’t even function during a volunteer council meeting :(

    1. san junipero*

      This might be a weird suggestion, but I have similar issues with hearing, and I actually find that earplugs can be a big help. Not fully plugged ears, obviously — you want to be able to hear the things you need to! But I use the wax ones and put them in without fully sealing them, so that they muffle things without actually blocking them out. That allows me to focus on the sound I need to focus on.

      Also, have you considered counseling? Cognitive behavioral therapy might help you manage your reactions when you feel overstimulated.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      ooog – I get overstimulated with tactile stuff (eg, that feet on your chair – RUDE!) but audio / visual so I don’t know how much help it will be, but:
      1) I do better if I have a fidget / outlet. They make silent spinners / fidget cubes.
      2) I do better at different times of the day, so see if you can get large meetings at your better times
      3) Sit closer to the people who will do most of the speaking
      4) For meetings where you’re not presenting, ask if you can do some of them (eg, 10%? 1 or 2 / week?) via phone.
      5) Cupping your ear – ie, palm under your thumb on your jaw, fingers up around your ear. Use it to block out people on one side (3 – 4 fingers), or funnel sound in (2 fingers). You have to sit at a table to do this discretely.

      If there’s repeating meetings where you notice a lot of side chatter, those would be good targets for #3 / 4.

      The ‘can’t speak when others are talking’ is something you’ll need to talk to a professional about, and / or practice with friends and / or a speaking group like Toastmasters. You will need to be able to do that to be effective in professional settings.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Also test out your reaction to small bits of caffeine. I do much better while my ‘1/4 oz dark chocolate in the mornings’ is still buzzing through my system, to the point that if I have afternoon meetings I will sometimes grab choc at lunch. When I’m tired, I am way more prone to tactile and auditory overstimulation.

        (Above – I meant to put a ‘less so for’ in front of ‘audio / visual’. My tactile sensitivity is daily, audio / visual is maybe 2x/mo unless there’s illness or lots of stress / tiredness.)

    3. Trisha*

      Bring a notebook and start writing down as much as feel comfortable writing (i.e. as much as you can without looking like you’re trying to transcribe the meeting). It has been a game changer for me – I find I’m more focused during meetings and able to recall more of what was said. I create my own shorthand so I can denote a change in speakers or where’s there’s a question and answer. I am rarely distracted by others on their phones or giving looks to each other (or snarky side comments) because my mind focuses on the listening/writing actions.

      1. Auto Generated Anon*

        I’m also easily overloaded in a big room of people. For meetings/sitting events, I try to sit near a door or window wall. Or a aisle if that’s not possible. Knowing I can escape helps.

        Also, if it’s not something I need to be at the table for, I often stand in the back of the room for a bit, as though I have back problems with sitting too long. Best part of being a grownup is that you can get up and leave your chair whenever you want.

      2. juliebulie*

        Writing/doodling helps me a lot too. Notes, if there’s anything worth making a note of. Otherwise, I’ll make lists: grocery lists; animals that begin with each letter of the alphabet; Star Trek episodes; elements of the periodic table…

        If I’m sitting where someone can see what I’m doing and I don’t want them to see me listing Star Trek episodes or whatever, then I draw random shapes because that’s less likely to be judged as “not paying attention.” (Ironic that we have to do something like that in order to pay attention!)

        That doesn’t help much for concentrating on (or even discerning) one voice amid a lot of cross-talk, or speaking when others are talking.

        I often fantasize yelling “SHUT UP!!!!!!” on those occasions, but so far I’ve managed not to.

        1. Mimmy*

          You’re better than me – when too many people at work are talking during our morning meeting, it takes every ounce of discipline to not say something. I’m not always successful.

    4. LQ*

      For the side conversations something I’ll do occasionally is say, hey, I really want to make sure that everyone hears what Jane has to say. Or I value both Jane and Wakeen’s input but I can’t listen to both at once.

      The other thing to do is pull aside the meeting organizer or facilitator and just say that you’re really struggling with the side conversations. Everyone knows it is bad they just sometimes need a kick to shut it down.

  47. Donkey Hotey*

    Hello Commentariat and happy Friday.
    As background, I work for a small teapot assembly plant. Morale is hovering right around “gallows” level. Recently, our summer intern (Arya) left to return to school. At the same time, our office reorganized. Not in the “change of command” sense but in the “shuffling deck chairs” sense. I’m personally happy because now, no one can walk up behind me and my obnoxious, talkative, right-wing co-worker is now in a different room.

    Yesterday, one of the men on the assembly floor asked me how I liked the move. In a hushed tone, I said, “I dunno, man. They played music as we shuffled the desks around. When the music stopped, we all sat in our new desks, and you’ll notice that Arya’s not around anymore.” And he believed me.

    We are officially in the worst timeline if “Musical chairs” is seen as a valid force reduction technique.

    1. Kathenus*

      Awesome thinking on your feet, what a great response. Maybe not so good either about this person or the situation if he believed you, but it gave me a Friday morning laugh anyway. Well done!

  48. Marion Q*

    Thank you to everyone who advised me to ask for reimbursement last week! I took the advice and sent an email to the CFO asking for access to the reimbursement system (don’t ask me, I don’t really get it myself). We’re a relatively small company, around 500 people, which is apparently why we need approval from the CFO herself.

    Anyway, I sent the email on Monday … And I haven’t heard anything. *sigh* I’ll try sending another email next Monday, but I’m not crossing my fingers.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      A co-worker just got out of a product-training training class because her project is behind schedule. (And it’s totally documented that it’s someone else’s fault too.)
      What boggles my mind? THERE IS NO TRAVEL BUDGET. They wanted her to drive 140 miles to an all-day class and then turn around and drive back. This was acceptable for the other co-worker attending, but SHE is only driving 20 miles!
      First time we’ve been glad that our Fergus missed a deadline and made one of us miss ours.

    2. International Holding, Unlimited*

      Dude, both my current and previous jobs were 150-170 people, and we had direct access to reimbursement forms. That’s not a small company problem, that’s a bureaucracy problem.

      Good luck getting reimbursed, though! I don’t think I commented, but I definitely was a silent vote for “request reimbursement.”

  49. Umbra Lup*

    I’m trying to get better at interviewing recent grads for our entry-level positions in a fairly analytical profession. Everyone we interview is already good at math – what’s more difficult to discern is stuff like attention to detail, project management, willingness and proactiveness in adhering to Q/C processes instead of cutting corners, strong writing, and actually learning the field, which involves a combination of legal knowledge and its own type of mathematics.

    The learning curve is pretty steep and it takes about six months to a year before we get a real sense if someone’s going to work out or not, so it’s important to hire well. We never give any exercises, math or writing, to candidates – I would, if it were up to me, but it isn’t. I’m not the hiring manager, just one of several members of the department who will participate in interviews.

    The people we interview all have bachelor’s degrees in our field or adjacent, have passed at least two professional exams, and typically have had an internship or even 1-2 years of previous work experience in an adjacent field, so there are things to ask about, but a track record of accomplishments isn’t really what we’re looking for. I usually ask about concrete examples they can point to that demonstrate how they learn and communicate, but I’m wondering if there’s more that I could do. Any ideas would be helpful.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      One of the most effective interview questions I was asked was “Tell me why you like working with ____?” where the blank was the main software I used. You could also substitute the field you work in, or the department’s work.
      This started a rolling conversation and I really had a chance to shine with my knowledge, experience, and some good stories. The interviewer would ask some prodding questions to steer me in specific directions. And it was a great chance to show off my communication skills and passion.
      Asking something open ended will separate the folks who just want a job and the people who really enjoy what they do.

    2. macaroni*

      I’d pull a bit on “how they learn” and ask “what do they turn to for help”. Do they look to the textbooks? Do they ask google? Are there various website forums known in your field? Do they ask people? There’s not necessarily a right/wrong answer here, but it would speak to their process.

      1. Umbra Lup*

        Thanks macaroni! That’s actually exactly what I do – sorry I didn’t explain that well! Good to know I was on the right track with that one.

  50. in the file room*

    I’m a Canadian fed, and I have just HAD IT with Phoenix issues. I became a permanent / indeterminate employee in December last year, and I’m still trying to get them to pay my MSP premiums and stop overpaying me fot something else. I call every week just to hear them tell me that even though my case is “assigned” nobody has taken any action. It’s enough to frustrate even the most patient person. Thankfully I’ve been granted a hold on my insurance billing by MSP, but it’s beyond absurd at this point.

    And all the while, you hear stories about how everyone employed by the pay centre is a temporary employee, that turnover is high, that they won’t hire more people to get through the 220 000 existing pay problems. I’m full of rage, and there’s hardly anywhere to direct it. Certainly not at the call centre employees, who probably have to take a wild amount of abuse over this while not being able to fix it. I can’t even really even be mad at the compensation advisors that are supposed to fix it, since they’re so overloaded. I’ll be taking it to my all-candidates meeting, but I’m not hopeful.

    (For those unfamiliar, I’ll reply with a link to the monthly backlog update.)

    1. paperpusher*

      I hear you. :( I haven’t had any major problems, but it’s such a big stack of minor ones that I just feel overwhelmed with the thought of trying to figure out what exactly they owe me. Last year I was hit owing a lot in taxes and I have no idea where that came from. If I enjoyed doing this stuff, I’d be an FI and make more money than I do.

    2. Canadian Jessie*

      Write to your MP. Copy your Ministers office. This has solved a few issues for people in my department. It doesn’t solve the huge backlog issue, but it may help solve *your* issue.

      It’s ridiculous that it needs to come to that, but, well.. paychecks are kind of important!

    3. Asenath*

      My sympathy. I’m not a fed, but I know a couple people who are. It’s absolutely appalling that they not only chose such an inadequate system, but that they can’t seem to solve the problems it’s created even now.

  51. Two week Holiday as an American?*

    My family is thinking about planning a solid 2-week vacation this coming summer. I’ve checked with the two co-workers who would be covering for me while gone and both said if I have the time I should take it. I’m still concerned with how this will look to co-workers and supervisor. My job is split across two sites and my schedule is inconsistent so most co-workers are actually not likely to notice that I’m gone that long since they’ll think I was at the other site for part of the time, but as an American how this looks still nags at me.
    Any advice or outside perspective is much appreciated!

    1. JimmyJab*

      I’m quite sure it will vary by work place. Personally, people do it here (US) and no one bats an eye! We have pretty generous vacation and it’s pretty common for folks to take a 2 week vacation.

    2. Donkey Hotey*

      Friend, I will respectfully offer to you that it has nothing to do with “being an American.” I’ve been lucky enough to take solid two-week vacations many times over the last decade and no one bats an eye. But that’s the jobs I’ve worked. It has everything to do with specific corporate culture.

      1. Mizzle*

        It actually has a lot to do with being American, because other countries have completely different norms for this. I’m “on the other side of the pond”, so to speak (i.e. Europe), and two weeks is seen as the minimum for a summer vacation. I believe there’s even a law stating that companies must allow their employees to take two weeks of their vacation consecutively at some point during the year.

    3. Anonymous Water Drinker*

      Do it! I take off 2 weeks every year and no one has ever said a word about it. Other employees do as well and again, no one says anything. (We are American company)

    4. ACDC*

      If you want to do it and your boss approves it, just do it! There’s nothing to worry about in regards to “how it looks.” It looks like someone is taking a vacation that they are entitled to.

    5. Mama Bear*

      If you have the time and Rome won’t burn without you, do it. We have managers here who take 3 weeks in the summer. Set up your backups/contingency plans and then check out of work entirely so you can enjoy your break.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      American. It’s been a long time since I’ve managed to have a two-week holiday — but I’ve known people here long enough that they took THREE week vacations. I’m considering adding the first two days of January to my Christmas vacation which WOULD give me two weeks out of the office.
      DOOOO IT!
      The Europeans will say “why so short?”

    7. Lilysparrow*

      I think it’s less about the country and more about the field/industry.

      Two weeks off in a row has not been unusual in a bad way (though occasionally draws good-natured envious comments) anywhere I’ve ever worked (mostly law firms). My brother in tech does it every couple of years. My dad in banking/finance did it every couple of years. My husband in nonprofits does it less often, but has done it from time to time. Many of my inlaws in the auto industry do it fairly regularly, except the one guy whose entire identity is built around demonstrating how stressed he is as an excuse for his anger issues.

      The only obstacle or drawback has ever been making sure the work gets done, so it’s a crunch before and a lot of catchup after.

      I don’t know if norms in your industry are very extreme, but I really don’t think it’s a general expectation in American culture that a 2-week vacation reflects badly on you. I have been in the work world since 1993, and I have never seen it reflect badly on anyone.

      Enjoy your vacation!

    8. Asenath*

      Take it. I’m not an American, but I had such a habit built up of not taking the leave I was entitled to, that I was a bit anxious when I decided to take about five weeks for a trip to Australia. I did my planning – booked the time, got as much work done in advance as I could, typed up a kind of desk manual for my co-workers to use (my employer has a habit of never replacing anyone who’s away but leaving their nearest co-workers to figure out how to manage). I had a marvelous trip, the place didn’t fall apart without me, and no one even implied that I should have been taking my vacation time in smaller increments like everyone else does.

    9. LGC*

      Just because American laws allow employers to treat their workers like trash doesn’t mean they’re obligated to.

      My first hunch is that it’s fine to take that time if you have it available! Two weeks every so often (like every year) isn’t a big deal. Even your coworkers are saying it’d be fine. But that’s the general rule.

      I’ll speak as a supervisor – I’m fine with a two week vacation if I have coverage (which you do). I can’t speak on your specific company culture, but I don’t think that it’d be excessive for the vast majority of jobs (hell, in finance they MAKE you take two weeks off, right?).

  52. embarrassed strawberry without seeds*

    Just curious to see what people think of this.

    I read one of the last weeks’ posts about joking about abortion in the workplace–we have a similar work culture where people chat and joke around a lot but are for hte most part friendly.

    As a manager, where do u draw the line of what’s ok and what’s not ok to talk about while keeping the greater culture in mind where people DO talk and will joke around? 

    As a coworker/manager, I’d have no issue with people talking about whatever in their off time. But in the office, I’m a little stumped where the line is drawn. is it a personal decision? if someone is around to get offended?

    I sit beside a group of people who don’t report directly to me but I am a manager. Sometimes I join in on their non-work conversations and it’s all good, but sometimes I overhear their convos and i’m like WTF? A recent example is that one of the guys started talking about his favorite pornstar, and I was like…dude cut that out! He did back off and change teh topic but I can easily see this turning into something bigger where someone would get defensive and challenge their manager.. “if ABC is OK to talk about why not XYZ?” I’m questioning it myself (why was THAT uncomfortable to me?) but…I don’t know, it’s tricky.

    1. Emi.*

      Honestly, I think anything a reasonable person would classify as “edgy” is not a good fit for the workplace.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Basically: religion, sex, recreational drugs, bigotry and violence have no place in a professional work place that does not deal with these issues explicitly (eg a cannabis dispensary or porn website builder), though you can make *small* allowances for religion.

      The abortion stuff last week included punching a pregnant woman or throwing her down the stairs to cause an abortion, so you have both sex and violence. Porn star = sex.

      One thing to remember: when people push back, think before you respond about whether they are pushing in good faith or not. In good faith, engagement / explanation is ok, but bad faith and rules lawyering? You’ll never win, or even get to a decent resolution. They’ll only push the goal posts / boundaries until they trip you up or find a line that justifies doing what they want. For them, the response is ‘because I say so, and I’m the boss.’

      How to tell good faith from bad? The response relative to the egregiousness of the initial behavior. Porn star / ‘stop that!’ / questioning would be bad faith, as everyone should know porn references are not appropriate at most work places. Religion / ‘let’s not go there’ / questioning could easily be good faith in the US, where religion is often part of daily life. (My grocery store clerks often tell me to have a blessed day, US South…)

      1. embarrassed strawberry without seeds*

        One thing to remember: when people push back, think before you respond about whether they are pushing in good faith or not. In good faith, engagement / explanation is ok, but bad faith and rules lawyering? You’ll never win, or even get to a decent resolution. They’ll only push the goal posts / boundaries until they trip you up or find a line that justifies doing what they want. For them, the response is ‘because I say so, and I’m the boss.’

        How to tell good faith from bad? The response relative to the egregiousness of the initial behavior. Porn star / ‘stop that!’ / questioning would be bad faith, as everyone should know porn references are not appropriate at most work places. Religion / ‘let’s not go there’ / questioning could easily be good faith in the US, where religion is often part of daily life. (My grocery store clerks often tell me to have a blessed day, US South…)

        that’s a really good way to look at it! FWIW the one who brought up the porn star wasn’t an ass about it. But I have def seen others who are like… “well your cat pictures are offensive too so you should stop taht” (that was said in jest, but I can see someone really thinking that way).

      2. Fikly*

        Politics should also be on this list. Simply because it’s waaaay too divisive, and unless you’re working on a political campaign or something, it’s not work relevant.

  53. NeonDreams*

    I can not wait until I have a job where I don’t have to be on the phone dealing with the public all day. It’s so stressful. Unfortunately it’s about to get much busier because of multiple events. I’m still applying to other positions, but waiting to hear back is maddening. (Sigh). Just feeling impatient right now.

      1. NeonDreams*

        Love the play on words in your screen name!
        Trying to hold on as best I can. I’m on year 5, combined between contracting and full time at the same company. I’m bored out of my mind because it doesn’t challenge me in ways I want to be challenged. I’ve figured out the ins and outs (except in one department but that’s a story for another day.) I go on auto pilot almost. I just want to have work assignments and be left alone to do them.

  54. annoyed at my core team and need advice*

    The other day I completed a work assignment. I am under no obligation to get it approved by anyone except 2-3 stakeholders. however i asked people on my core team, ppl with the same job as me, for feedback on it. they gave me feedback. i usually don’t, but since this was a high-stakes assignment, asked additional people on our greater team with different but very related expertise too. and i showed one of the stakeholders. after all their feedback, i went back to my core team as a courtesy and said i showed it to a few more people and here’s where I netted out. one of them was clearly annoyed that i went in a direction she didn’t agree with but said “the train left the station after all those final approvals.” they were all annoyed that i went to a few more ppl than usual and said this is not the way our work should get done. they were acting like i needed their approval. their opinion runs counter to the culture our leadership is trying to foster; one of collaboration, mutual trust, and assuming positive intent. i was so annoyed and now i feel like they put me in the doghouse. they want to talk about this in person. allllll the other ppl on our greater team and partners in other teams really like me and say i’m collaborative and i push for what i believe in at the same time.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      well, if you’re going to ask for feedback, it does make sense to ask for it when it could be included in the final product. Asking after seems like you just wanted their time for a check off.

      1. annoyed at my core team and need advice*

        their final thoughts still could’ve been included in the final product if it didn’t change it fundamentally. i only got “approval” from the one stakeholder but it was far from being set in stone/delivered. it was closer to being done but they could’ve looked again at the next draft.

  55. Operation Glowing Symphony*

    I quit my job on Wednesday! Want to know what chaos and lack of leadership look like? People quitting!

    Background: I was hired in Oct and knew the Ex DIrector would retire at the end of the year. From there so many changes, chaos and unknowns arose that it became hard to do my job and connect with the mission. My co-workers are awesome and I love my responsibilities, but leadership challenged my desire to stay.

    Dec: ED retired
    Jan: Hired new ED whose nonprofit experience is only in marketing/communications (we’re a $1.8M nonprofit).
    March: Hired new Dev Director (after a 7-mos vacancy and during an ED transition). Has no fundraising or non-profit experience.
    May: Staff participates in SWOT assessment. It never referenced again so why did we do it?
    June: Coworker goes on maternity leave
    July: ED emails us that we’re losing 3 offices to downsize and save money. I volunteered to move to a smaller office to start the ball rolling. We don’t receive notice of the move until a Saturday email lands in our boxes noting we’re moving on Monday as the landlords will build a wall later in the week. We then realize our coworker, on maternity leave, isn’t allocated an office. Where will she sit? To say the least the transition didn’t go smoothly.
    July: Began a major fundraising event, for my coworker on maternity leave, that I’d never managed before (it’s hard – kudos to Event Managers)
    July: office manager retired; Program Director resigned (we’re down to 5 staff, 4 in the office)
    August: Office Manager not replaced, instead I’m asked to take over duties until they decide what they want to do (I negotiate a nominal hourly raise). Yet, I’m not able to do many of the tasks as I’m working on a major fundraising event. ED and DD help out
    August: Hire Program Director (has previous brand and program experience)
    August: wrap up the fundraiser
    September: Go on a week vacation
    September: Coworker returns from maternity leave. ED suggests she takes a newly created office in the storage room, but the coworker needs to pump and hold phone calls for her job, so I offer my office and move to the front waiting area (2nd office move in 2 months).
    September: I attempt to resume office manager duties but by that time the ED and DD, who have been doing some of the tasks, decide to hire a contractor instead and ask me to train her (* breaking point *)
    September: A coworker has a job offer

    The ED and DD formed a strong alliance, probably because they must rely on each other to get through the organization’s history and move forward. Unfortunately, this causes a wedge between them and the Program Director and staff. They don’t include the Program Director in leadership meetings/discussions until it’s too late (and she resigns) and now they’re treating the new Program Director in a similar manner. The DD and PD are often at odds with how things will be done while the ED fades to the background and doesn’t lead.
    We lack plans, direction, goals, and focus, something I asked the ED to focus on when she asked for her 90-day assessment in March. It never materialized. I’ve said the same thing to the DD so this isn’t new news. These things are important to me to be successful (I’m not the only person to be frustrated by this). Background note: I’ve been in non-profit for 20 years and worked every role to include ED and DD. My expectations aren’t high or out of bounds, but I know what it takes to join a new organization and lay the foundation and the foundation is missing here.

    While we’ve all voiced our frustration in staff meetings and one-on-one, we turn to each other for support which exacerbates the wedge.

    On Wednesday, I asked for a meeting to discuss the hiring of a contractor – they say it’s a ‘virtual admin’ but she works in our office and uses our computers? I’m sure my questions came across as investigative, but they want me to do something I’m don’t feel is appropriate for my role and responsibility as a part-time/hourly employee. I asked about the contract set-up. Based on their responses, I felt the risk was too great and I said I wouldn’t train her or spend time in that capacity. They were shocked as up to this point, I’d been their swiss army knife and team player to show them how it’s done since they weren’t doing it themselves. Yes, I went insubordinate and I knew it could lead to being fired or quitting. I also knew that if said yes, the situation would get deeper and murkier – it always did. Note: The virtual assistant has the authority to approval hourly staff online time submissions, access to online fundraising platform and donor database as well as our internal documents. She has an open-ended contract, an hourly wage that doesn’t reflect expansion or contraction of services provided, uses our office/resources, and requires ‘training’ to use our systems. That all negates contract concept and if she wanted to, she could file misclassified and the organization would be liable for the back taxes and/or fine if it were proven we did it with intent (but I’m chalking this up to the ED and DD’s naivete).

    So that’s when I said, ‘This isn’t working anymore. I can’t continue to work in this chaos. My last day is next Thursday.” Why not 2 weeks? I wanted them to experience the chaos we have. Yes, I thought about my coworkers but the one who would be taking up most of the slack has a new job but hasn’t announced it yet while waiting to sign the contract.

    Statements that stand out
    – ED: Well how many contractors have you worked with? Me: I’ve been a contractor three times, hired them, worked with them and prepared their taxes so I’m familiar with misclassified employees and the risk that comes with that. ED: Well you haven’t worked with the contractors I have! (That explains why we’re in this situation).

    – ED: You’re military, you know ‘need to know basis’ (um ok? What part is classified information?)

    – ED: If anyone wakes up every day in chaos, it’s me. To which I responded, You get paid 6-figures to manage chaos (and I turned to the DD) and you get paid a high 5-figures to manage it too. We (staff) don’t get paid to manage chaos (and the Prog Director gets paid a lot less than the DD and is a program manager and program director in one)

    Neither has talked to me since

    1. Operation Glowing Symphony*

      OH and we were also presented with our new job descriptions (in development) and mine is nothing like it was. While I expected it to change in order for me to do the 40% part which is communications (marketing, social media) I would need some training investment to improve and know the latest greatest. Apparently of the staff development budget (we don’t have a budget for individual professional development?), half has been expended on the ED and DD conference attendance and the ED’s year-long city leadership/networking course. Yet the remainder is allocated already and no one knows what it’s for.

      Worse for my coworker who went from primary event management to donor stewardship? She’s perplexed (but on her way out :)

    2. Auntie Social*

      I am SO proud of you!! And I’ll have cake and champagne for you next Thursday, so you can tell us the details about your last week.

    3. WellRed*

      Yes! I’ve been following this saga. I’m only sorry your coworker came back from maternity leave, I was hoping she wouldn’t.

      “If anyone wakes up every day in chaos, it’s me.”
      Spare us all from the managers who tell us how difficult they have it. As you pointed out, that’s what they are paid for. And hers is obviously her own fault.

      1. Operation Glowing Symphony*

        Hey there- yes you have seen the saga (once titled under highly adjectived fruit and veg)

        She has a 2nd interview on Monday (but the job is a lock) and could give notice as early as next week (and I want so much to be there, but of course it’s not in my decision).

        Our new Programs Director, only been with us a month, wants to leave but knows she’ll have to stay on for a bit in order to successfully do that. Our most established coworker has been wanting to leave, too.

    4. fhqwhgads*

      I’m still stuck on how the hell did this happen?
      Hired new Dev Director (after a 7-mos vacancy and during an ED transition). Has no fundraising or non-profit experience.

      1. Operation Glowing Symphony*

        We wonder, too. Theories are
        1. New ED didn’t know how to hire or what she needed.

        2. DD knows a Board member (we know this is true) who might have pitched her hard.

        3. A veteran DD applied for the job, but was passed over because she lived in a nearby city but didn’t know local players and didn’t have local area netwrok. FYI – the ED has been in this city all her life and has the contact list that the experienced DD could have used.

        4. Bamboozled: current DD pitched a glowing plan she can’t execute (I’ll give her that this place had some hidden gems to uncover and she had the business background to unearth them to discover we had over $100k in unfunded programs we were paying for).

        She doesn’t even know what AFP is and showed this when my coworker asked to renew her AFP membership in order to do her new job. The DD said she didn’t know enough about AFP to make a decision; so she’s not a member of AFP! ?!

        She also wants to outsource grantwriting and events because she doesn’t know how to do them and would rather focus on things she likes to do. Wouldn’t we all!

  56. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

    Any tips for surviving early pregnancy at work, specifically in a travel-heavy, client-facing role? I just found out last week and while I couldn’t be happier, I have no idea how I’m going to push through this fatigue and morning sickness and keep up a brave face at work!

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Lovely news!

      Honestly, though? The first trimester is The Worst. Stock up on ice, gingernuts and hard mints. When you find out what you can eat (for me it was one specific sandwich from one specific deli, or pears, or plain pasta) Eat That Thing, even if spouse is bored with it and it isn’t perfectly balanced. Go to bed early. Take weekend naps. Take trains instead of driving, if you can doze on trains.

      And I’m reminded by an earlier comment of vapour rub products under your nose to block out triggering smells – that would definitely apply on public transport, but also in meetings with people who wear All The Cologne.

      Layers of clothing, if temperature makes things worse.

      Best of luck!

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        Fortunately I’m not having too many food aversions yet, and I’ve learned I need to just literally be constantly eating to keep the nausea at bay. Layers of clothing is a good idea, it’s cold already here so I work a thick sweater yesterday, then had a 90 minute meeting in a sweltering conference room.

        1. Bloopmaster*

          Needing to eat constantly to keep the nausea at bay sounds just like me (and it’s awful). As someone who put off using drugs for the nausea for much longer than I should have, I definitely think it’s worth trying unison+vit b and requesting the prescription version if it’s not doing the trick. Another thing: if you are traveling frequently, I’d take extra steps to prevent motion sickness (for me this make nausea much worse and at one point triggered unstoppable vomiting that got me hospitalized): those wrist band things or special glasses or anything else you can think of.

    2. Another JD*

      If you can nap during lunch, it helps. I ended up asleep on the couch by 8:30/9 most nights in my first trimester.

    3. Parenthetically*

      I:
      — kept a bottle of peppermint oil and dabbed it under my nose and on the back of my neck.
      — drank a caffeinated drink at lunch (it had to be COLD and FIZZY) to help me power through the afternoon
      — took a nap at every opportunity

      First trimester is so hard. Sending you lots of energy and persistence to power through it!

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        Thanks! So far I’ve found that lime sparkling water is the only beverage that helps!

        1. Arielle*

          If you have a Trader Joe’s, they have a lemon ginger sparkling water that was an absolute lifesaver for me in the first trimester! I also took B12 for nausea which I believe helped a lot. Best of luck and congrats! As someone sitting at 38 weeks, first trimester really sucks, so be gentle with yourself and take it easy.

        2. Parenthetically*

          With my son, I could literally only drink ice cold fizzy things! It was mostly sparkling water, but I’m telling ya, a frosty Coke or Dr. Pepper at lunchtime tasted like HEAVEN.

    4. Dealtwiththis*

      I’m going through this right now too so you are not alone! I have found that Starbursts work for me and I’m buying them almost in bulk. I put one in my mouth when I feel I am about to vomit and it distracts me for a while. Just looks like I’m snacking on candy to coworkers. The preggie pop drops also work but are much larger and hurt the roof of my mouth after a while.

      Lemonade sipped through a straw also helps and I try to have it constantly with me. I also constantly have ritz crackers and dry plain corn flakes with me and force myself to eat them when I feel I am going to be sick.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      A friend figured out that when she thought “everything” was making her queasy, it was one particular spice. I’m not going to name it because power of suggestion is real. Just if you find yourself at that point, there could be a common element.
      Plan quiet time for yourself on the road, even if it’s as simple as keeping a snack & your knitting in the trunk so when you find a highway rest stop during rush hour, you can sit out the worst at a picnic table.

    6. Lilysparrow*

      When I was having a lot of nausea, my midwife looked over my food diary and told me that I needed more meat in my diet to stabilize everything (blood sugar, maybe? Not sure now). I was getting plenty of protein, but tended toward dairy and plant sources.

      I don’t know if you’re a meat eater or not, but if it’s possible for you, it absolutely worked. Drastically reduced the frequency and intensity of my nausea. I have heard since from many other people this also helped.

    7. Policy wonk*

      Congrats!! I used sea-bands (accu-pressure wrist bands developed for sea sickness) candied ginger, saltines, and kept a personal fan at hand. (Moving air made a difference for me.) Good luck.

  57. Simply Confused*

    My boss has a terrible habit of committing faux pas (ranging from belittlement to serious policy violations) and then asking me how I feel about her actions. I’m new to her department and in a very competitive field. I know this isn’t sustainable, so I’m job hunting everyday. In the mean time, how do I handle this bizarre behavior to make my life at work more tolerable? The more I challenge my boss, the more vicious she becomes. Help!

    1. Margery*

      You know you’ll be getting out of there – so meantime make it easier for yourself – agree with her all the time, kill her with kindness etc etc. I was in a similar position a few years ago and it was fantastic when I left. I still see her sometimes in town and I’m always nice to her face but she’s a manipulative, nasty woman. There’s no point in showing your hand though.

    2. juliebulie*

      Have you any idea what her goal is in asking “how you feel”? Does she seem insecure and looking for validation, or do you think she’s challenging you to disagree with her?

      (I just realized that “how do you feel” would be harder for me to answer than “what do you think.”

      Of course, “hungry” is a feeling, so maybe that’s an option too.

    3. Thankful for AAM*

      Can you just repeat her question?
      You want to know how I feel? or You want to know how I feel about what you just said/did?
      Answer: some version of, I don’t have feelings about work.

  58. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

    Techniques to reduce nerves while answering questions during a job interview — what would you suggest?
    I interviewed for a promotional opportunity last week, and my excess nervous energy definitely came through while I was answering the questions. I stammered at times, I spoke too quickly at times, I was overanxious at times. Even though I’m confident my actual answers were on the money, I could tell I lost the interviewers pretty quickly, and I didn’t get the job.

    I know that for prominent positions, my library system looks for people who are really self-assured and can present themselves well. I’ll be the most prepared person in the room every time, but definitely not the most confident! Every opportunity for promotion is going to go through these same people, who (like most interviewers, I guess?) might be more concerned with how I deliver the message than the actual message itself. I need to do better next time. But how?

    1. Overeducated*

      Being really exhausted or so positive I won’t get the job that I’m not even nervous has helped me in the past…ymmv, better luck next time!

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

        I kind of like that… for better or worse, I didn’t sleep much the night before this particular interview!

    2. Kat*

      I have the same tendency to come across as jittery even when I am feeling confident so I’m interested in tips too! Its very frustrating. I do LOTS of practice which helps somewhat. I practice out loud answers to the questions I think they’ll ask but trying to talk about 20% slower than I feel is necessary. And it still only helps a little.

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

        I’ve done mock interviews and they’re helpful to practice answers to common questions! The problem is that I almost never am able to correctly anticipate exactly which questions I will get. And you identified the exact boat I am in — I inwardly feel confident but still come across as jittery.

        1. Kat*

          Its like a purely physical response right? My hands shake, my face/neck turns red (I literally wear turtlenecks to give presentations) and my voice gets high-pitched and wavery as soon as I start talking. Emotionally I feel confident, prepared and often am even looking forward to the interview/presentation/training/whatever but my body decides to go into “nervous wreck” mode. I wonder if there is some kind of cognitive-behavioral therapy or hypnosis or something that could help?

          1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

            Yes, you nailed it exactly!
            Yikes though, I was kind of (naively?) hoping there might be a simpler answer than therapy or popping pills before the interview.

            1. Kat*

              I took a public speaking class in college and practiced and practiced my 6 minute minimum presentation. It ended up being like 3 1/2 minutes I talked so fast.

    3. Sassy Spacek*

      Personally I got very nervous in library interviews and had to ask the doctor for beta blockers. With their help I could finally focus on looking confident and outgoing which is what they really look for.

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

        Interesting. Somehow I didn’t know about beta blockers, even though I am unfortunately developing high blood pressure (probably from work stress). I learned something new. Thank you.

        1. Business Librarian*

          I totally agree with beta blockers. My doctor was very familiar with writing a prescription for a small handful for just this reason.
          I think your body is betraying you and then your anxiety spikes when you feel your face get red, etc., then you’ve got a feedback loop. I had to do a presentation for a very large crowd and I got the beta blocker because my voice will tremble under stress. I’ve given hundreds of presentations and had no worry about it going well, I just was worried about freaking out if I heard my voice tremble! I actually didn’t feel any different so it’s possible it was more me relaxing when I knew the voice thing wasn’t going to happen.

    4. LivingMyLife*

      Think about the common questions that are asked and think of examples for each one from my personal experience. That way you have a short answer and then a story for each question. This works for me. It shows that I have experienced this situation and was able to handle it successfully.

      Also, tell yourself that you already have a job, and this new job will be great to get, but that you are not desperate. I mentally distance myself and then see it as an exercise in communicating well. Good luck! I just got a job offer a week and a half ago. It was my first interview for this round of my job search.

      1. LivingMyLife*

        Another point, when I am asked to tell about myself, I create a five point answer focusing on what the position is requiring. Each point is short, but to the point. (Just realized I used too many “points” here. LOL)

  59. Emi.*

    So, new overtime rules! I had been waiting and waiting for the open thread to ask you all to help me explain Vox’s flowchart, which didn’t make sense to me at all, and discovered this morning that they just printed it backwards.

    Is this affecting anyone here’s pay or workplace? I remember some people saying they had gotten raises back when it was a proposed rule but some hadn’t, and some people were maybe going to get their raises pulled.

  60. Kat*

    I have my first student employee (work-study) and am wondering if anyone has tips for managing student workers. She works for me 10 hours a week. My job is a very low-level but very busy support position in an administrative department at the university and my employee is learning to help with some simple but time-consuming tasks – printing documents and tracking down signatories, compiling mailings, etc – as well as some database research. So far she’s been awesome – quick learner, asks good questions, very reliable. I’m just not sure what I should be doing beyond training her in the job duties. We are pretty much in constant communication about work when she is here, but should I also schedule regular check-in meetings as her manager? Something else? I know some of my colleagues become very close with their work-studies and serve in a mentoring role, but I don’t know if that is appropriate because, again, I’m very low-level and this is not a field that she would be interested in career-wise.

    1. macaroni*

      Regular check-ins are great. These can be low-key where she just asks questions and be short (15 mins if you don’t have much to talk about), but it can give a space to ask things that aren’t necessarily related to anything else or might not come up in the regular course of things.

    2. WellRed*

      Eh, not everything has to be all mentor-y. Model professional norms and check in with her, but even or especially with work study, sometimes a job is just a job. It’s not an internship.

      1. Kat*

        This is where I was leaning too. I love my job (because it is easy but interesting and requires 0% of my mental energy outside of a 40 hour work week) but it is nothing anyone would aspire to! These extremely bright talented students we work with should honestly be aiming much higher! I’m hoping that she has a good experience because she is earning a paycheck by doing work that is greatly appreciated in a pleasant environment with friendly co-workers.

    3. Long-time AMA Lurker*

      Something that helped me in college was having my supervisor model how I could describe my work on a resume so it seemed more appealing. Give her the best verbiage possible when she’s done to describe her time there, and be EXPLICIT that she can use you are a reference! Asking for references can be scary, and knowing that you have a fan honestly means the world, especially when you are looking for your first job out of college.

      1. Kat*

        This is a great idea. I’ll start a list of things that she learns and accomplishes so that she can walk away with great resume bullets.

    4. OtterB*

      Don’t go overboard with appreciation, but be sure to tell her, with specifics, what she’s doing right. Even if it’s not the field she wants to pursue, it’s still office norms.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Suggest she keep track of the tasks that she masters, things that were difficult, PEOPLE who were difficult, etc. That notepad (or text file) will be a resource to use in future “tell me about a time when” questions.
      Another thing that I wish I’d done is to work on time estimation: when assigned a task, write down how long you think it’s going to take, and then check your watch when you start & when you’re done. Write it down — and see if you can get better over the semester.

  61. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    Writing a cover letter for an internal application: I have a talent acquisition contact name for the role. Do I do “Dear John Q. Hiring” as listed in the job req? “Dear John Hiring,” which seems less weird and formal? (Also, my company loves putting everyone’s middle initial everywhere, so I don’t know that John Hiring actually goes with the Q by preference.) “Dear John” as most coworkers address each other in emails? I’m overthinking like a champ here.

    1. Anobymous Coward*

      Sympathize — in the job req for one of my first temp jobs, “Margaret O’Hoolihan” was listed as the supervisor. When I showed up on my first day and asked for Margaret, I was greeted with blank faces all around. They actually took me to two different managers before someone said, “Oh, Peg!” Yeah, if you go by Peggy-o to everyone in the office, try giving the temp agency a heads-up.

    2. nym*

      When I wrote a cover letter to my current boss, I addressed it “dear hiring manager”. She told me later that she really appreciated that, because she had someone redact the names/signatures from cover letters and resumes before she saw them, and she would have known it was me if I’d used a name (we never publicize hiring managers’ names, and she knew I was in the applicant pool).

      Your workplace culture may vary.

  62. Overeducated*

    I think a coworker managed to pull something when I was on a work trip to take over our only interesting, high profile project entirely, leaving me with the routine messes and backlogs. This only became clear to me this week, as things appeared to me to be hold during a management transition earlier in the month, and now it’s a fait accompli.

    I’m so pissed off, and I’m afraid coworker is going to take my upcoming maternity leave as an opportunity to cut me out of more, given that I was only out of the office for two weeks this time! What’s worse, we’ll probably have a new manager come in during my leave, and who knows, maybe it’ll be that coworker. I need to figure out how to talk to my newest boss who hasn’t even had a full week on the job yet without sounding totally paranoid and petty. This project is probably too far along but I’d like her to know that before my trip our previous manager presented it as joint, and I am concerned about not being part of workload decisions that will be much longer term than the actual time I’m out of the office.

    Five former coworkers warned me about this person or had major issues with them, we’ve worked well together for over a year and now I’m like “….oh, maybe they weren’t all wrong.” Argh.

    1. WellRed*

      Five people warned you? Yeah, the coworker is a problem even if it took a while for them to reveal their true nature.

      1. Overeducated*

        Well, two said “coworker is lazy and takes credit for stuff” (not wrong, but not really my problem up until now as it hasn’t been hard to make it clear to my managers what I was getting done), one seriously disliked this person on a human level that I never learned the reason for…but two actually said words like “watch out” and “backstabbing.” I thought that was melodramatic, especially given that those two were both in a position of power over this person before they left. Now….

  63. Full of Wonder*

    I’m a professional who has a lot of skills that I’m good at, but I’m not specialized in just one thing. I’ve been reading about renaissance people, “humingbirds” and generalists, and am curious to know the best way to promote myself as I job search. From waht I’ve been reading, there seems to be a bit more of a need for generalists vs specialists, and I want to be able to really sell my strengths.
    Thanks!

    1. Nela*

      There are jobs that require a wide range of skills, so definitely aim for those when applying, and don’t bother with jobs that are clearly written with a narrow role in mind, or you will go bonkers in a job like that.

      The key to presenting yourself as someone with a wide range of skills and still being taken seriously is to have a dominant skill that you excel in. If you haven’t chosen which one that is, choose it now, learn as much as you can to improve, and lead with it. Demonstrate that you have plenty of experience and success with this skill. Then as you talk more about yourself, hint at your additional skills. Don’t leave the impression of someone who performs many different things at a mediocre level. Even if you’re good at many things, people may be skeptical of that.

      Small business, start-ups, and non-profits typically need folks who can wear different hats more often than corporations or governmental organizations. Having many skills is also very beneficial when starting your own business, if you’re at all interested in that. However even then, clients prefer to see you as someone really knowledgeable about one thing, with an added bonus of other complementary skills. That’s my experience, ymmv.

      1. Nela*

        To add: if you can’t decide what your dominant skill will be, don’t overthink it, just pick any one that you’re already very good at. You can change your mind and organically switch to a different thing. I know some folks of the older generation may think it’s flaky, but it’s not so strange in today’s economy.

      2. Filosofickle*

        Nela’s advice is right on.

        Here’s an example of the “dominant skill” suggestion:
        I used to be a visual designer. Later on, I moved into brand strategy, picked up content and research skills, then got an MBA. When I graduated and started looking for work, I said I was a Designer / Strategist / Writer, a “triple threat” I thought was a valuable combination. Nope! The response was usually…ok…but what ARE you? Being multiple things confused them. So I reframed the story to put one thing at the center and support it with the others: I’m a strategist (my dominant skill) and one of the reasons I’m great at strategy is I have experience with the business inputs to strategy (business, research) as well as the creative implementation of it (writing, design).

        So then I was “one thing” and everyone understood me a lot better.

        1. Nela*

          Great example! :)

          I too started my career off as a designer and front-end coder (a common combination among early website designers), whereas now as a part of my client work I do brand identity design, WordPress websites, brand strategy, content marketing strategy (not implementation as I only have two hands…), and training teams on these topics. However I still lead with the identity design role because it’s my top skill and I have the most proof that I do a great job in this area. Once you show them you’re really good at one thing, they believe you that you’re also good at the other things you claim.

          1. Filosofickle*

            Ugh, I remember a conversation with an agency guy. First, he said I had “potential” (I was 37 with 15 years of experience and a new MBA.) F- off, dude. Second, he said it’s “not credible” that I do all three things well. I could back it up with references and portfolio, but you’re right that people will not readily believe you can do lots of things very well. It was a frustrating conversation, but worth it to learn that something may be true but that doesn’t mean people will find it credible.

            1. Nela*